Day 14 was sunny again! I took a midday walk around the village to appreciate the weather, and as I was walking by a house, Erica (a transplant-turned-local orginally from Mexico) popped out to tell me about her bikes and how we at La Maison Verte should feel free to use them. I then decided to pretty much invite myself into her garden to see it as the glimpses from the exterior of it were enticing, and then once in her garden her husband Morgan proffered some wine, and lunch... before I knew it, I'd spent the whole afternoon there, and gotten to sample homemade yogurt and rhubarb crumble (as well as veggies and salad) to boot. Morgan then told me they were going to go wade around in some flooded road puddles later on and that I should come. To be honest, it didn't sound that appealing but when in France... I went. At first we were supposed to walk but then everyone decided to ride bikes. I am not great at riding bikes; I have one that I can just about get around on if I'm riding mostly flat streets, but it's a cushy bike that's been measured to my body, and I also haven't ridden on it for a few years now. The bikes that are here are of random heights, hard seats, narrow wheels, and the terrain is variable. I was not interested in riding a bike. I thought I'd just bow out gracefully from the puddle-wading, then, but Morgan decided I would ride sidesaddle on the back of his bike instead. It was hilariously awkward but moderately functional, so I just went with it. The flooded road had a series of "puddles" that escalated quickly into pools and then frankly effectively turned into a stream. We had a good time for a bit, but then the skies opened up and started raining hard. And lightning followed, which freaked everyone out because we were all in water, surrounded by metal bridges. So we all raced back. The rain started to turn into hail, then rain, then hail. It was a crazy but weirdly enjoyable end to the afternoon.
Day 15 was back to poor weather and I stayed inside working on artwork.
Day 16 Mathilde needed to go to Troyes to pick up some materials for the café she's constructing in the town (which will be the sole shop once it opens next year), so she brought us and Patricia along for the ride. Troyes has a number of medieval churches, a tool museum that Patricia really likes, and is generally a nice small city. We went to the biggest church, toured the tool museum, wandered about for a little while, and then all headed back. I wanted to explore it more so I decided to head back soon. Then I checked the weather forecast. The only probably nice day was the following day; all the rest of the days in the extended forecast projected a lot of rain.
So on Day 17, I worked in the morning but went in the afternoon back to Troyes just to wander around for myself. While at the train station, Mathilde was waiting to pick up some people from the other side of the tracks and we chatted across them talking about my visiting Troyes and my future plans for Paris until my train arrived. I got on, and saw her through the window signalling NO, GET OFF! I was so confused; I asked people on the train if this went to Troyes, and they said yes, but Mathilde was doing acrobatics on the other side viewable through the windows so I got back off, ran to the end of the train where there was a gap we could yell across, and she yelled, "That's not the train to Paris!" as the train made a noise that indicated it was about to leave. I yelled back, "I'm going to Troyes!" and ran back to try to get the last door on the train to open. I was in luck - I think perhaps the conductor saw the drama happening as I got a door open, stepped in, and the train immediately took off. Since I'd been so cooped up in Marnay, it was nice to get to explore a new city on my own (and pop into some actual shops!). Unfortunately, the prices on things here are really high. I kept seeing things for 30 euros that would probably go for around 5-10 dollars in the US.
Day 18 was rainy again, as predicted. Nonetheless, a British expat-turned-local named Andy had promised me he'd take me to a gorgeous botanical garden/greenhouse in a park in a town about an hour away called Sens, and we decided to go that afternoon. Melanie joined us. When we got to the park, there was about a fifteen minute walk inside to get to the greenhouses, and Andy was worried they'd be shut due to the weather (there was already some flooding in the park) but we figured we'd see when we got there. Along the way, we got to see some white swans, geese, ducks, and then a black swan. The black swan was such a character. He knew he was beautiful, and wanted to be appreciated. Once he saw us, he swam back and forth on a patch of stream like it was a catwalk, and he'd slow down and pirouette when he came to where we were to turn around. We enjoyed the show for a while, and then tried to leave, but he moved the show up along with us like he didn't want us to go - but still with the overall affectation that he was deigning to display for us. It was hilarious. Melanie and I had to use the toilet, though, so we eventually left him and made our way to the WC. I believe this was my first squatty potty. I know I've seen them before, but I think I've never had the courage to use one until now. They're actually quite easy to use, luckily! Then we went into the greenhouses which were thankfully open. They were really, really well put together. There was an outdoor cactus and succulent section, a semi-tropical outdoor garden, an indoor cactus and succulent section, and a winding indoor tropical section. I'd be happy to have the whole greenhouse transported to my house. I knew more about all the plants than Andy and Melanie, so I told them trivia and then spotted some Mimosa pudica. Neither of them had encountered the plant before (which I thought a little odd of Andy since it's a moderately common European houseplant) so they were thrilled to experience its sensitivity. On the way back, Andy took a detour and showed us two local dolmens (one up close and the other from afar) dating back to the early Neolithic period. They're like mini-Stonehenges, and it was really interesting to get to see them. He also drove us past a menhir, which is a monolith from the same era. This whole afternoon was a pretty much ideal excursion to my taste, so I was pretty satiated with my somewhat more eventful week and returned to the studio feeling much less cooped up.
Day 19 was entirely a studio day. I sculpted with QCC on the door, which I'd finished preparing a few days earlier after finally getting Leo to fix the bottom of it, getting Kinga to loan me her scrapers, and after spending a long, hot afternoon myself scraping all the old paint off the door.
Day 20 was also committed to artwork.
Day 21 I mostly worked in my studio, but in the evening we took a quick trip over to the neighboring town of Saron-sur-Aube where we'd be participating in the Art & Jardins 2016 festival exhibition and sale. We got to see some of the sites some other artists would be exhibiting in, and then got to visit the house we were displaying in so we could discuss who wanted what space and how we planned to exhibit. I brought quite a large stack of my greeting cards with me since I knew I'd be participating in this, so hopefully they sell well!
Day 22 was another studio day.
Day 23 was primarily another studio day, but at 8pm we all went over to Mathilde's house for apéritifs and entrées (the latter of which, in French, means appetizer and not the main course) with many of the core group of friends (Erica, Guillon, Abril, Leo, Kinga, Patricia) and some new faces as well. It was a lot of fun, and I learned I like prosecco!