ADG Creative Director Joel Anderson Travels to France!
Much of Anderson Design Group’s art centers around a love for travel and an inspiration to display the world’s beauty in original illustrations and travel posters. With that in mind, ADG artists and staff have prioritized traveling across America and the world in search of inspiration for future art. This autumn, ADG Founder and Creative Director Joel Anderson traveled to France with his wife Patty to visit family, tour the French countryside, view art in Paris, and sample the incredible food and wine France is known for.
Joel and Patty met at Ringling College of Art and Design in Sarasota, Florida. Joel graduated in 1986 and married Patty that same year, and the couple moved to Nashville shortly after. Joel grew up moving about every 2-3 years, so it's hard to say where he is from, but Patty is from… France!
Patty was raised in Paris. After she came to the U.S. to finish high school and attend art school, her parents moved back to France. After they retired, they moved back to her mother's home town in the Bordeaux region.
Since the 1980s, Joel and Patty have taken frequent trips back to France, the last time being with their whole family in 2018 for a big celebration of Patty’s father’s 80th birthday.
But when the pandemic struck and international travel shut down, the frequent trips back home were put on pause. Just this past September, Joel and Patty traveled to France for ten days, enabling them to visit with Patty’s family and friends for the first time since 2018.
As an artist, Joel will take any reason he can get to travel the world and find inspiration for new posters, illustrations, vintage-styled art, and travel art!
Details of the Trip
Shortly after Joel returned, we had a chance to sit down with him and catch the highlights of his adventure. This is what he had to say about his journey to the Land of the Franks, the City of Love, the country of his wife’s birth, and the nation of “Liberté, Egalité, and Fraternité!”
ADG: It must have been so great to visit Patty’s side of the family for the first time in years. Can you give us a day-by-day outline of your trip?
Joel: Sure! We flew from Nashville to Atlanta to Paris, landing at the Charles-de-Gaulle Airport. Patty’s brother picked us up. He lives in a small village about 45 minutes outside Paris called “Us.” We were greeted by Tipi the family dog, and Patty and her brother Philippe got right to work on a dinner of fresh trout.
We stayed with Patty's brother and his wife Celine for about a day and a half. While in the area, we toured this beautiful castle built in the Medieval Age (and part of it was built in the 1800s). It was something else. At that castle, there was a fair every weekend with vendors in the castle courtyard—honey, olives, wine, and cheese, all locally grown and made.
On Day #3, we headed to Bordeaux, where Patty’s parents live. Of course, we had a feast with aunts, cousins, nephews, etc. and of course, a special old bottle of Bordeaux wine was served!
We had reserved an Airbnb in Cap Ferret, a coastal community outside of Bordeaux, alongside some beautiful dunes, the Atlantic Ocean, and several farms and fishing villages. We stayed there for four days!
ADG: What did you do in Cap Ferret?
Joel: In typical French fashion, we ate, drank, and were merry! France has such an interesting and unique culture. The food is incredible, and many days are planned around when the meals will be held and what type of food will be prepared for those meals. France, especially in the countryside, has local markets in every village where residents buy food for the week. It’s not uncommon to go to the market two or three times per week to buy all-fresh, all-local, all-organic food. So we did a lot of hopping from market to market, buying food supplies and bringing them back to the Airbnb to make great meals. Meats, cheeses, seafood, produce, fruit, wine, you name it. We could get anything we wanted at the local markets.
ADG: What stood out to you about Cap Ferret?
Joel: It’s a big seafood town. We ate at local places, too, and we could sample oysters that had been pulled out of the ocean that day. I was also surprised at how affordable all the food was. Croissants for less than one Euro. And very high quality. Getting around was pricey if you’re traveling by car because petrol is expensive. But the food was the same or less expensive than American food and much higher quality.
ADG: How about the landscape of the region? What was that like?
Joel: Stunning. Incredible dunes with restaurants butting up right next to the dunes. Beautiful beaches, huge pine trees, lots of walking paths, very dog-friendly, even in the restaurants! The Dune du Pilat (the dunes) reminded me of Sleeping Bear Dunes here in the U.S., just incredible sand formations lining the coast.
Even though we fit a lot into our time in Cap Ferret, the overall experience was incredibly relaxing. We rode bikes, ate at local cafes and restaurants, cooked, shopped at markets, walked on the beach, planned meals, and socialized with Patty’s parents, brother, and other family members. When you’re on “French Time,” it’s amazing how much you can fit into one day while still having that day feel very relaxing, mellow, and restorative.
ADG: Sounds great! What did you guys do when you went back to Paris?
Joel: Our last couple days we spent with Patty’s brother again, in his little village outside of Paris. We went into Paris to visit the Musée d’Orsay, which is known all over the world for its rich collection of iconic Impressionist art. The museum is also famous for the place itself, which is a former railway station inaugurated in 1900 for the Universal Exhibition.
I’d been to Paris several times, and Patty grew up there, so we didn’t feel the need to do many of the touristy things we’d done before, but touring that museum was well worth it and was super inspiring for me.
ADG: What’s Paris like this time of year?
Joel: Well, when we were there, it was VERY busy. Paris was hosting the Rugby World Cup, so the city was even busier than it usually is. Besides visiting the museum, we stayed outside of the city and toured some of the historic villages by car and got to see some of the sights that way. We also toured the village that Patty’s brother lives in, which was especially fun because these old French villages were made before cars were invented, so they’re often not big enough for cars. The streets and alleyways are extremely narrow, so you must get out and walk or ride a bike. It was nice this time around to focus more on the countryside and see some of the historic architecture ubiquitous to France.
ADG: How much time do you reckon folks need to get the full France experience?
Joel: Honestly, you need to plan multiple 1-2 week vacations. It’s a very diverse country, and there’s so much to see that’s not close to each other. You have the French Alps on one side of the country, the French Pyrenees on another, castles throughout the country, Normandy to the North, Bordeaux along the Atlantic, the French Riviera along the Mediterranean, etc. You’d need at least three trips to see the main features of France.
ADG: What advice do you have for people going to that region? Maybe something you know now that you didn’t know before?
Joel: Airbnb operates in France, so I highly recommend deciding on what part of the country you want to see first, then securing your lodging in that area, and then building your plans around that location and how much time you have in that area. That makes it easier to plan a fun and interesting trip with many different activities and points of interest.
ADG: What stood out to you most from your trip? What was most inspiring to you about it from an artist’s perspective?
Joel: The architecture never ceases to amaze me. The buildings, roads, and other structures are often older than anything in the United States. And you can’t fake old. You can’t reproduce it. So, from an artist’s perspective, it’s inspiring to see structures that have been there for centuries, covered in patina, algae, lichen, moss, etc. And the French like to juxtapose old with new, too. Their kitchens and bathrooms may be brand new, but there will be other aspects of the house that haven’t been changed in centuries.
Photos from a charming hillside village called Rocamadour in south-central France
Also, the French love their food, relaxation, and vacation time. They know how to unplug and unwind. They live for it. Vacations and holidays are super important. Good, fresh ingredients in their food are super important.
Fresh baked goods every morning, preserving history, remodeling and restoring old homes and buildings, maintaining good fashion and design, etc. The French working class labors skillfully and hard, but they also maintain many of those values of good food, relaxation, and holiday. Visiting another country and getting a glimpse into a totally different culture is always fascinating and inspiring.
ADG: If there’s one piece of advice you have for folks traveling to France, what would it be?
Joel: If you can, talk to someone who’s been there, or better yet, stay with someone who lives there. I’m very fortunate to have family in France, Patty is from there, and she speaks the language. It makes such a big difference for us because we can talk to family and friends who can recommend things to us we never would have found otherwise. So, if you can speak with someone who lives there or has spent time there, I highly recommend it.
ADG: Sounds great, Joel! Thanks for filling us in!
Joel: My pleasure!
More Art is On the Way
Joel and Patty were thrilled to see their family for the first time in years, but the trip sadly had to come to a close. As the French say, “C’est la vie!” (That is life!)
The trip may be over, but Joel’s mind is already racing with new ideas for poster art of the Bordeaux wine country, its coastal beauty, and the historic architecture ubiquitous throughout France. So keep an eye on ADG’s World Travel Collection for new art of France in the coming months!
In the meantime, if you’ve gone on a special trip this year or done some traveling that you’d like to cherish and remember forever, the World Travel Collection features original renderings and vintage travel art of 192 countries. Or, if you’ve traveled domestically, the American Travel Collection, the 63 Illustrated National Parks Collection, and the American National Monuments and Natural Wonders Collection comprise about 1,000 original illustrations and posters, any one of which could be the perfect souvenir.
Hope to see you out there on your next journey,
Anderson Design Group Staff Writer