Winter? Schminter!! In August 2012, twenty one quilters, and one husband, took off for Europe and a tour full of history, fabric, textiles, shopping, sunshine, food, great company and maybe just a little shopping!
The tour starts in Paris, straight off the plane , for a city tour of this gorgeous place in brilliant sunshine. The wrought iron balconies and worked doors are superb, and provide inspiration for numerous craft designs. The Eiffel Tour is bathed in sunshine, with crowds milling around the base to ascend to the top. With lunch at the Louvre, it is a wonderful way to start the tour. We are staying in the Opera district, which gives us easy access to terrific shopping areas and the metro to anywhere else in the city.
This tour is full of highlights, and our first occurs the next day. We board our coach to head out to the Musee de Toile de Jouy. Situated in a 19th century chateau, it has displays of vintage printing techniques from the Oberkamp factory in Jouy-en-Josas, as well as historic, finished examples of the florals and toiles in garments, furnishing & quilts. The history contained in the building is counteracted by a display of modern quilts and textile art by the group Patchwork France. Far from the romantic figures on the vintage textiles, this exhibition has pieces made from plastic, wool felt, lace, embroidery and is enjoyed for it’s diversity. Before we leave there is a rush to buy the limited fabrics available at the museum, first in, first served!
To top off what has already been a brilliant day, we head to the markets in the city of Versailles for tasty baguettes, before we head to the Chateau de Versailles. As it is summer, the crowds are plentiful. But as a group we get to bypass them and enter this stunning palace very quickly. Each year an art exhibition is displayed within the buildings and grounds and this year it is artworks by Joana Vasconcelos. An oversized patchwork textile piece hangs from the ceiling as we enter. A huge pair of stilettos is made from shiny saucepans and a funky, iron lace teapot sit amid the summer flowers in the gardens. From the opulence of the 18th century castle and gardens, to the fascination of the modern art, it is a memorable visit, and we are sad to leave.
Paris has so many highlights, and the next day we head out to Sacre Couer to visit the basilica and the shopping area of Mont Matre. It is another beautiful day as we photograph the city from this fabulous vantage point. Then the girls head down for a fabric fix in the shops below and we already start to worry about those luggage allowances! The afternoon we spend at the Musee de Arts Decoratif. It has displays of all types of decoration including jewellery, advertisements, period rooms, trompe loi , Babar and the designs of Louis Vitton and Marc Jacobs. Wow! We have not even left Paris yet and we have seen so much!
Our 1st patchwork shop is on the itinerary next day. Ines Boutique de Patchwork has expanded since we first visited, but still as friendly as ever. Everyone finds something they can’t live without, before heading over to the little bar on the corner for a little liquid fortification. The evening sees many of us cruising the Seine River, enjoying the twinkling lights of Paris at night, while eating a tasty meal ( and maybe a dessert, or two!).
Alas, we must leave Paris, and the next day we fly to the south of France, landing in the historic city of Avignon. Often referred to as the “City of Popes” because of the presence of popes and antipopes from 1309 to 1423, the Palais de Popes is still standing , as is the rampart wall around the acient city centre. We explore this place on foot, while eating excellent gelatti in the summer heat. The following day we head out in our coach to two very different markets. The first is a small trash & treasure style market in a carpark, with tables covered in a wide variety of fascinating goods. We fossic through the items, discovering many treasures that come home with us. It is with reluctance that we board the coach again, but at least we are off to another market, this time on the village of Uzes. It is very different and very crowded as it is held in the narrow, winding streets of this old village. The stalls sell an abundance of local, fresh food, Provencal napery, clothing, hats, etc. We sniff out 2 stores that sell patchwork and other craft goods. Lunch choices abound, the food in the south of France is mouthwatering. Again, we are sad to leave the picturesque village of Uzes, but we must head back to the hotel. On the way we stop and see the magnificent arched roman aqua duct, The Pont du Gard.
The french are very civilised and the next day is Sunday and most business are closed. We have organised for a famous Provencal fabric shop to open especially for the group. What a treasure trove! Not your traditional shop, it had dress fabric, patchwork fabric, upholstery, ribbons, T-towels, tassels and trims, ready made items. I do not think that Gregoire, the owner, knew what hit him when we started to shop. Lucky for us he had shipping , and the boxes that were sent home saved the extra weight in our luggage.
From Avignon we head to Nice, stopping at Aix-en-Provence along the way. Is every village in the south of France so picturesque! We wander the beautiful streets, heading to another fabric shop in the heart of the village. It is located on a square , with markets in the centre and numerous shops and restaurants. We have to shop fast, as this little village closes for 2 hours in the middle of the day. We are so used to 24/7 shopping in Australia that the shop closures in France can be a little disconcerting. Later in the day we explore the French Riveria from our hotel in Nice.
What can I say, but next day, another gorgeous village in Provence, Grasse. We have chosen it as a destination to visit a little museum , the Museum of Costume and Jewellery. Size is no indication of quality, as it has a fabulous selection of vintage, Provencal clothing. They are displayed under glass cylinders, allowing you to see all sides of these fascinating pieces: the fabrics, the closures, the trims , the stitching. Next door is a perfume factory where we learn the intricacies of making the sweet smelling liquids. Lunch is on the run , while trying to shop and photograph Grasse, before we head to Monaco for the afternoon. A walking tour gives us an idea of this pretty place, with many of the older builings painted in soft , gelatti colours. A visit to the church where Princess Grace was married and is also buried is included. Dinner that night is a farewell to France and held in a restaurant on the famous Prommenade de Anglais, on the French Riveria, Nice. Do we really have to leave?
England is our destination the next day, Birmingham to be exact. Our tour manager Lyn, has researched and found out that Jamie Oliver has a restaurant nearby. Twenty of us go out together to explore the culinary delights of this famous chef. Alas, he is not in the night we visit, but the food is incredibly fresh and tasty. The following day is the first day of Birmingham Festival of Quilts. The quilt show has a multitude of interantional quilt displays, with a wide variety of stands and demonstrations. Many famous quilters are in attendance, including Pauline Burbidge and Kaffe Fasset , who is busy signing books. Muscles are being tested, just how much can we carry? To break up the shopfest, we take the group back in time , to the 1760’s, and visit the magnificent Kedleston Hall. This neo-classical mansion and surrounding landscaped park can be seen in the movie “The Duchess”, starring Keira Knightley. It is an insight into how monied people lived in earlier times.
Our last stop in England is York. Another walled city, this is a very interesting place to stay. Our walking tour explores the history, the Minster, the Shambles and lands at the York Castle Museum. Free time allows for each of us to further investigate the city, and the shops, of York. The following day we visit the Quilt Museum and Gallery in St Anthony’s Hall. On exhibit is “Celebrating Diversity” by the European Quilt Association, and a collection of miniature quilts in “Small is Beautiful”.Our Farewell dinner that night is held in an olde pub. Amongst the laughter is much sadness, as this is our last meal together. Tomorrow some of us head home, while others stay in Europe , traveling on to other exciting destinations. Another fantastic Travelrite tour has, unfortunatley, come to an end.
In 2013 Travelrite have a new and exciting program of tours. The first, in August , will visit Long Beach Quilt Festival, Seattle, cruise the Inside Passage to Alaska and finish in San Fransisco. We will also be travelling to the USA in October 2013 for the Houston Quilt Festival.
For a further information check www.travelrite.com.au.