Some of you may know that I have been in France for the past few weeks on a writer’s residency in a magical chateau-turned-artist-residency not far from France’s Champagne region.
If you’re imagining that the lord of the manor behind this ambitious enterprise is a noble Frenchman who struts around in a velvet waistcoat twirling his goatee and quoting passages from Diderot and Voltaire, you couldn’t be farther from the truth. The man behind the vision is Israeli-born American artist and entrepreneur Ziggy Attias, whose duties include Goat wrangler, Plumber, Lawn Maintenance, and Janitor. Ziggy’s long-term dream reaches beyond the grounds of the gorgeous Chateau Orquevaux to the sleepy (and largely abandoned) little village of Orquevaux nestled at the foot of the chateau.
The grounds here are truly magnificent. From the steps of the chateau you see cows grazing in the distance, a church spire rising up to the clouds, forests that once held plentiful boar and deer and a gushing river spanned by wrought iron bridges. There are several smaller buildings in various stages of repair – gatehouses, goat house, boat house, fantastic old stables, etc. I can’t really do justice to the ambiance and beauty of a French chateau so I’ll resort to a few additional images and you can always check out more on my instagram.
I managed to tear myself away from the natural beauty of the French countryside to dig into my second novel, and I did a number of small studies and sketches including a live model session by the banks of the river. I felt like I was living inside Manet’s Luncheon on the Grass!
Now, lest you think that one can go through life without the good AND the bad, I will wrap up this post with the unhappy news that amidst all this beauty and natural wonder, I contracted COVID. Yep, I’m fully vaccinated. I am writing this in isolation at the chateau. Four of us tested positive and like an ant hill that someone kicked over, everyone who tested negative fled the scene to return to their respective domiciles. So four of us have been left to recover here in the chateau, wandering the grounds and doing our best to overcome the symptoms – no picnic, I assure you. Ziggy and his partner, Beulah, are doing a great job of looking after us from a distance but it’s a really bizarre and emotional experience to say the least. It can be looked at as a blessing, or equated to the unnerving scenes from The Shining with Jack Nicolson!! Hopefully I fly back home soon. Fingers crossed!