Once Upon a Time, She had New Eyes

Once upon a time, a French man took a quill in hand and became the father of the fairy tale. Charles Perrault, inspired by the magical towers and pinnacles of Chateau de Usse wrote, La Belle au Bois Dormant (Sleeping Beauty) in 1697.

The spires of Chambord can easily cause the imagination to hide a sinister spinning wheel in one of them.

While visiting the Loire valley, home to endless chateau, I was stunned with an “Ah Ha” moment and can clearly see how he could create not only Sleeping Beauty but also Cinderella, Little Red Riding Hood, Blackbeard and Puss in Boots.

Chenonceau could inspire anyone.
Azay le Rideau was most certainly inspiring to me.

Charles was born into a home with royal connections in Louis XIV’s court.  Roaming the halls of any of the French chateau in France, I can easily imagine a wicked step mother, a small child in a red cloak or a cat in a snazzy pair of boots.

Azay le Rideau
Chambord

Traveling in a foreign country or distant land can truly be the spark that ignites an artist’s imagination. For generations, France has been the muse for countless artists, writers and food lovers.

The gardens that Monet created in Giverny just north of Paris, inspired his greatest works. I was awed by the massive Water Lily painting by Monet in Kansas City’s, Nelson Atkins Museum, but it was his garden that overwhelmed me. Oh, to spend a day strolling the garden paths and staring at the water lily pond without the distractions of tourists. I know I could create a masterpiece if only I could spend one day in Claude’s studio staring out the wall of windows.

Monet’s studio window.
Monet’s studio
Monet’s famous water lily garden.

His kitchen could easily inspire a gourmet French meal and I would delight in cooking with all his copper pots. The conversation around his table would be cheery, how could it not, surrounded by such happy yellow walls.

I loved Monet’s copper cookware.
Monet’s kitchen

Julia Child fell in love with France at the first bite of Sole Meuniere, a magical, buttery fish meal. That first French dinner changed the course of her life. “The whole experience was an opening up of the soul and spirit for me,” Julia remarked about that first meal. French cuisine became her passion and her life’s direction.

After searching for a French cookbook written in English, with no success, she was moved to create her own. Julia said, “Find something you’re passionate about and keep tremendously interested in it.” She lived this philosophy, as it took her years before her hard work paid off and the world was blessed with, Mastering the Art of French Cooking.

The famous bookstore where Julia searched for a French cookbook written in English.

As an American who is guilty of preparing quick meals and slapping them on a paper plate, my eyes have been opened. Julia was right, French cuisine is like an angel chorus singing with each bite. I’m ashamed at the tasteless meals I am guilty of preparing. I will never be a French chef, but I am inspired to crack open Julia’s book and give my family’s taste buds a little dance.

The joy of French food does not end with the palate. I’ve lost count of the cafes that have kept our taste buds delighted, but before even a morsel is set on the table, the art of dining begins. At each and every café, the silverware is set, piece by piece, purposely for each guest. You won’t find a napkin rolled set of cutlery here in France. Dining is a delight and it too has inspired me to return home and be creative at mealtime.

The list of well-known people who found their inspiration in France is endless. Writers have flocked to this country for generations and some of the greatest names in art were so inspired they created new ways to paint and portray the countryside.

The French are known for their cuisine and they have exalted cooking to an artform.

Our worlds can be very small. My hometown only boasts 50,000 Midwestern souls. It’s a comfortable and pleasant place to call home, but the world is vast. There is so much to see outside of our own little worlds. There is so much to taste, experience and be inspired by.

Not all of us have the opportunity to travel to foreign places, but I do encourage you to find somewhere new that can inspire you. Find that thing that can create passion in you and that will enable you to keep tremendously interested in it.

If traveling is not an option for you remember, Charles Perrault, wrote in the region he lived in. Monet spent years creating his magnificent gardens before he painted them, and Julia just looked for something to do while her husband was at the office. You too can be inspired by traveling to a faraway place or by dreaming of one, or by opening your eyes to the life and world that is around you every day.

I’m thankful that I’ve been able to travel to France, but I’m excited to return home and look at my world with new eyes and be inspired.

Monet was inspired by the gardens he created.

I’d love to hear about what inspires you. Where have you traveled that changed your life? What about your home is your muse? Inspire us with your comment.

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3 responses... add one

Oh, my dear friend, I cannot wait to see what you create with all of this new inspiration! I must say, I have always loved Monet. I find such joy in seeing inside his world through your eyes. And I find great delight in seeing his cheery yellow dining room! I feel somehow connected to him through a simple choice of paint colors. LOL

I travelled more as a child than I have as an adult. When I was a teen, I subscribed to Victoria magazine. I devoured every square inch of it, and I still can smell it’s scent in my memories. It was my connection to beautiful things in the backwoods of Arkansas. One month, I saw an ad in the back for an Impressionist Art exhibit at the Philbrook Museum in Oklahoma City. I ask to go see it for my 16th birthday. On the walls of that beautiful mansion, I came face to face with the works of Monet and Van Gogh that I had long admired in books. That trip has inspired me to this day! Whisps of it creep up in my photos, like the ones I took of Emily in the pink dress.

Have fun exploring Europe! I can’t wait to sit on your patio and hear your stories when you get home!

Yay! You are having such a wondrous time! I would say my home and my family inspire me. One of my greatest pleasures is preparing a meal that blows them away! I love the pictures of Monet’s house. I love the vision he had for building his garden:) That made me feel a connection because I have that desire with my garden and home;)

I have so enjoyed your photos of France. I felt like I was there with you experiencing the views and cuisine. I never realized what a beautiful country it is, but as an artist I should know better. It is a wonder my ancestors left it in the 1800s. I am guessing that at the time they could not worship the way they wanted to. I am so drawn to experience the area for myself one day. Thank you for sharing your experiences.

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