I'm back at home in Saint-Aignan this morning. Yesterday we started our drive in Auxerre [oh-SEHR] in Burgundy and drove down to Varzy [vahr-ZEE] in the area called La Nièvre. It was raining.
Our first real stop, after quick coffee in a café in Clamecy [klahm-SEE] was in the village of Varzy (pop. 1350), which I had never heard tell of before. There's a museum there, and in its collection is an 1867 painting by CHM's grandfather, Charles-Henri Michel (b.1817–d.1905). The curator of the museum had agreed to show it to CHM, even though the painting is not on display for the public.
We arrived in Varzy in a steady, chilly rain, and we were about 45 minutes early. We decided to go look around in the church, a gothic structure built between 1230 and 1280. There was a priest officiating at mass for about six people, all women. They weren't in the main part of the church, but up front in a little chapel off to one side. We could walk around and look at the rest of the building, quietly, without disturbing the service.
A few minutes later, we went and found the museum, after a little bit of searching. It was still raining. We arrived at the museum 15 minutes early for the appointment CHM had agreed to, and it wasn't yet open for the day. We found a place where we we were protected from the cold rain and stood and waited. I took a couple of pictures of the Hôtel de Ville, which is on the same square as the museum.
The curator drove in from Nevers, the main city in the Nièvre, arriving right at the appointed hour. After some small talk, he went into the museum storeroom, brought out the unframed painting, and unrolled it on the floor for us to be able to see it. It's big, nearly 2.5 meters tall and 1.75 meters wide. The figures depicted are perhaps not quite life-size, but very close.
The museum director didn't fit my stereotype at all. He was probably 45 or 50 years old and dressed in rumpled and faded blue jeans, tennis shoes, and a faded red zippered jacket of some kind. His head was shaved, and both his head and his face were covered in a three-day growth of stubble. There was nothing stuffy about him at all.
We didn't stay long, and then we headed off for the three-hour drive back to Saint-Aignan.