Episode (1) Through the eyes of an artist
Almost on an annual basis in September, Eleanor and I motor on up to Montreal, or for the past 10 years, the area in Quebec called Mont Tremblant. The purpose is to visit with Eleanor's cousin Richard Vaskelis and his girlfriend, Danielle Ste-Marie. In Mont Tremblant, we have the added benefit of a wilderness countyside to explore as well as some nice little towns, like nearby St. Jovite. Tremblant Village is an expensive shopping and restaurant area built for the tourists and skiing enthusiasts. We usually make one stop in Tremblant Village just to stroll around, enjoy the European style atmosphere and maybe take a cable car to the top of Mont Tremblant. But mainly we go the Lac Gauthier area to have relaxing conversations over a glass of wine and a nice meal. Reading lakeside or canoeing on Lac Gauthier are other options. Usually Richard and I go out into the countryside to his favorite spots for painting and possible photo opportunities. He points out scenes that have a good composition for a photo or painting.
Total driving time to Mont Tremblant from central New Jersey is about 10 1/2 hours. The traffic through Montreal is horrendous. This year, to avoid the rush hour traffic, we overnighted in Plattsburgh and continued our drive the next morning after breakfast. The traffic wasn't much better even at mid-morning. But the drivers are courteous. There is no horn honking. We arrived at the main House at about 12:30pm.
Richard took us on a tour of the house, which he and Danielle recently renovated. This tour included our first encounter with a chipmunk named Ratatouille, who was in the process of stuffing two grapes in his cheeks from a bowl that could have been the subject of Richard's next still life painting. Later, we made friends with him. Every time we would walk onto the deck, he would show up. I was an easy pushover. He took many, many nuts from my hand or even the bowl. Once, he knocked over the bowl scattering nuts all over the deck. He scooted off, and got about 10 feet away before he realized that nut heaven was back in my direction. By the time he got back, I had scooped up most of the nuts. The few remaining nuts I covered with my hand. That didn't stop Ratatouille. He squeezed his little head under my palm and grabbed what he could.
This side of the house faces Lac Gauthier.
Richard did the painting of the main house, which included still life scenes over the windows and doors. We saw this house before the renovation. It is unbelievable what he and Danielle have accomplished.
The Living room. The fireplace is to the right of the photo. Richard's work area is in the corner to the right of the photo.
Richard's work area
We couldn't get over the still life details he added over the doors and windows.
Even the key rack did not escape his artistic eye.
The deck was a good place to relax and enjoy a glass of wine or beer. Richard always makes sure the beer he gets for me is around 5% alcohol. On our first visit years ago, we arrived late in the day, tired and hungry. Knowing that I like beer, Richard had purchased a liter bottle of Quebec beer. He poured me a glass and kept refilling it while we talked. This particular Quebec beer has an alcohol content of almost 10%!!! Before I knew what happened, I had consumed the whole bottle on an empty stomach. Dinner for me didn't occur until an hour or so later when I could finally walk a straight line again. Ever since then Richard's orders are to buy beer with an alcohol content of around 5%. Nevertheless, I still check the label before any beer touches my lips.
We settled down for a nice lunch of salad, smoked meat, and fresh baked bread to go with some red wine.
Next came dessert: bananas flambe!
Totally relaxed, we drove about 50 feet down the hill to the lakeside house called La Brunante. Danielle rents this house to tourists during skiing season. Her and Richard also use this house for "house-swapping". The Europeans love a house situated lakeside.
This was to be our residence for the next few days. All meals however were to be back at the main house. Richard had also renovated and painted this house years ago. Until the house up the hill was renovated, all four of us stayed in this house. It displays Richard's artistic talents as well.
La Brunante kitchen
Main bedroom with view of Lac Gauthier. Danielle, a talented seamtress, made the matching bedspread and curtains.
The Living room.
To the right in the photo is a view of Lac Gauthier.
View from the deck at sunset.
The rear deck is a similar design as on the main house. A sidewalk leads down to a small dock and Lac Gauthier, which becomes a mirror at sunrise.
Eleanor spotted this scene one early morning and told me to hurry before the fog lifted. I managed to get some clothes on and run outside with my camera. It was just me and the lake. The silence was broken only by some crows and a red squirrel who made a ratatat machine gun sound followed by chirping. They were upset that I had invaded their territory.
Mont Tremblant, at the other side of the lake, was barely visible through the foggy mist. Early morning and evening near sunset are the best times of day to photograph. Several years ago we visited Mont Tremblant the first week in October, and were greeted by spectacular fall leave scenery. Richard took me to an overlook with a view of Lac Tremblant.
Once when Richard was doing a landscape painting, a tourist came by, saw him painting, asked him "How much?", and bought it on the spot. This was one of his favorite spots with a million dollar view.....literally. He can't go there anymore. Someone purchased that piece of land and built a Scottish style stone mansion complete with a wall and wrought iron gates.
Back then, Lac Gauthier was even more breathtaking. Only a lone duck disturbed the surface of the lake.
The exterior of La Brunante was also Richard's work, including still life paintings of flowers on the shutters. I asked Richard if he had repainted the shutters. His reply was "No! I used acrylic paint for the shutters". The shutter still life flower scenes still look new.
Ordinary furniture becomes a work of art before leaving Richard's hands.
But Richard's real passions are still lifes and landscapes.
To be continued.....