Arrival in France

I enjoyed the ride on the ferry. It was the first time in my life that I’d taken a large passenger boat. I had brie cheese while I was on the boat. My mind had been in a French mood since before I’d left Ireland and I had been trying various types of French cheese, and my favourite was brie.

I arrived in Roscoff, Brittany, France. There was a man at the entry to the port. He seemed surprised to see a young Asian girl come off the ferry because all the other passengers were white people. The man casually said with a surprised tone, “Where are you going?” I guess it was an unusual way to arrive in France.

As I got off the ferry, a young boy around my age who had been on the same boat asked me if I wanted to share a taxi with him. I said that I did and we took a taxi to Nantes where the closest train station was. He was French and he recommended that I go to Bordeaux as it had a university and there were many young people living in the city. I was planning to visit a few cities in France first and, after that, I was going to head for Paris, the centre of the art world. So, as the boy suggested, I decided to visit Bordeaux as the first stop and bought a train ticket. There was a lot of time before the train arrived, so I made some sketches outside the train station while waiting. There was a sprinkle of rain.

I arrived at Bordeaux, but I was not impressed by the city. There was a lot of litter on the streets and buildings near the train station were not very attractive. I went back into the train station and looked at the map and I decided to go to a town called Arcachon. I had never heard of it, but I just picked something that was close to Bordeaux. Arcachon was located on the coast, west of Bordeaux. While waiting for the train to Arcachon, I bought a new watch in the train station. The one I had brought from Japan had been broken after using it for many years, which was my favourite watch made in Italy.

 

Arcachon

Street in Arcachon

The train to Arcachon was a slow local train. I arrived in Arcachon in the early morning. It was still dark and most of the places were closed. So, I waited near the train station for a few hours until it became brighter.

apartment hotel

Shortly after walking around in the town, I found a nice apartment hotel. I checked in. I had a beautiful spacious apartment with a balcony. After that, I went out to the beach. Arcachon seemed like a resort town and there were many beautiful buildings and hotels along the coast. It turned out to be a beautiful day and the sand was golden and it shone as it reflected the sunlight. There was someone drawing a machine that was constantly smoothing out the sand on the beach.

beach

I was also able to see the beach from the balcony of my room, slightly in the distance. So, I made a sketch from there and painted it on the balcony. It was a watercolour painting with a sunny ocean view including a merry-go-round.

I bought brie cheese, a few other kinds of cheese and fresh vegetables from a store and I made sandwiches for every meal. The baguette with cheese was so delicious. I really enjoyed the stay in Arcachon and I was glad that I had chosen to come there. However, I found that not everyone spoke English there. I stayed there for a few days.

cheese

The next place I headed for was Marseille. The train passed through southern province which Van Gogh and other impressionist artists had been attracted to. The view from the train was so picturesque and enchanting and I felt it was just exactly like their paintings. I was getting excited about the trip in France and my inspiration was coming back.

 

Marseille

I arrived in Marseille in the afternoon. I was impressed by the modern look of the train station. I walked down the gently descending roads with my heavy bag, looking for a nice apartment hotel to stay in. It took me a while until I found a place. As soon as I checked into the hotel, I went down to a harbour area and found a spot to sketch.

Marseille harbour

While I was sketching, a young boy spoke to me. He looked around my age. He asked me some questions and he mentioned that we could hang out together later. I wasn’t so interested but he continued to sit next to me until I finished sketching.

It was getting close to evening. The sunlight was so bright and it shone on all those boats with their tall white sails and also on all buildings around there. There were many people sitting and dining on patios by the harbour. I tried to speak to people in French, but nobody understood me. So, I decided not to use French, but just English. But it was still useful that I had studied French as I was able to understand some street signs. I said goodbye to the boy who had been watching me sketch and went back to my hotel.

Painting of Vieux-Port de Marseille

Vieux Port de Marseille by Chiho Yoshikawa, 2001

I worked on the sketch I had made and finished the watercolour painting in my hotel. While I was in Marseille, I bought some soap that was made from natural ingredients. Also, I bought some navy-colour pants, a light grey sweater and some other clothes. People in Marseille were friendly. I often saw their clothes hung to dry on long lines outside apartment buildings or in the windows all over the city. Also, I saw a group of people who looked like street people, or Bohemians, in the city. I felt that the city had a distinctive atmosphere.

Before I left Marseille, I decided to leave my old clothes and my self-portrait on canvas board in the hotel room because I wanted to lighten my luggage. I didn’t want to leave the portrait as that was nicely made and I liked the work, but I had to leave it as the luggage had been getting too heavy for me to carry around.

 

Monaco

Roscoff harbour

Next, I went further east to Monaco. The reason I went there was just because I had remembered the name from somewhere. The train station in Monaco was also really modern and gorgeous. I found a hotel and I made a sketch from the balcony in my room. There was a French window in my room to the balcony. I made a painting of the beautiful mountains and the blue water of the Mediterranean Sea. The weather was also gorgeous.

mountains and blue water in Monaco

I found that Monaco was an expensive city and people seemed to have more pride in themselves than in other cities. I also saw Chinese tourists and their bus at a tourist spot near the ocean. People I saw near my hotel were friendly and said, “Bonjour” whenever they met someone in an elevator.