My travel hobby – Discovering French culture

A visit to North Carolina to stay with friends for a few days confirmed, once again, how French culture is often surprisingly evident, wherever we happen to travel.

Recently, we were hosted by our friends the Dubays at their lovely North Carolina home. Don Dubay is a Lewiston, Maine native and his wife Gail is a high school friend. During our stay, we were treated to some North Carolina French immersion, thanks to their hospitality.

As a travel hobby, I’ve been able to find French culture, even in the most unlikely places, like Cambodia and in Hawaii, among many other locations. Although I’m not surprised to find French culture in North Carolina, it was a pleasure to tour the North Carolina Museum of Art (NCMA) and find the impressive Auguste Rodin gallery!  A large collection of the French sculptor’s work are on display in the museum’s beautifully designed Rodin Court and the Rodin Garden.

It’s a permanent exhibit. During all seasons of the year, the Rodin Garden is an open, and scenic arrangement, consisting of several large sculptures framing a picturesque and peaceful outdoor reflecting pool.

This was a particularly enjoyable exhibit, because my husband and I have also had the privilege to visit the Rodin Garden and MUSÉE RODIN in Paris (French sculptor Auguste Rodin: 1840-1917.)

Rodin Museum Burghers of Calais

Several years ago my husband, Richard, and I visited Rodin’s Museum in Paris, pictured with his extraordinary sculpture the Burghers of Calais

In fact, the North Carolina Museum of Art created an impressive companion exhibition arrangement, comparable to the one at Rodin’s home. In my opinion, the lay out is consistent with the aesthetic beauty of the Paris museum, located on the grounds of the sculptor’s home.

In the beautiful gallery there are 30 sculptures arranged in the indoor and outdoor exhibit.

On the NCMA website, this history is posted:  In 2009 the Iris and B. Gerald Cantor Foundation donated 30 sculptures to the North Carolina Museum of Art, making it the repository for the most extensive Rodin collection between Philadelphia and the West Coast. Featuring works from all phases of the master’s career, and beautifully installed in the Museum’s Iris and B. Gerald Cantor Court and Garden, the collection offers visitors the opportunity to experience the depth and breadth of Rodin’s formidable genius and a world renowned sculptor.

It is easy to lose sight of how innovative and revolutionary Rodin’s work was in its own time. His conception of sculpture and the creative process were radically different from those of any sculptor before him. Rodin was not just the first modern sculptor, he transformed the art of sculpture.

The Cathedral

The Cathedral

Rodin sculpture in the NCMA permanent exhibit. Title: The Cathedral

Date: Modeled 1908, Musée Rodin cast 1955
Artist: Auguste Rodin


It’s equally interesting to realize how the history of this particular North Carolina (NCMA) museum began, with a citizens’ initiative in 1924,  and received state funded support for its administration.

History of the Museum on the website ~  The North Carolina Museum of Art serves the people of North Carolina and visitors as a premier destination for followers of the preservation of arts and culture.  The Museum’s history began in 1924, when the North Carolina State Art Society was formed. Its mission was to generate interest in creating an art museum for the state. In 1928 the society acquired funds and approximately 75 paintings by bequest from Robert F. Phifer, a North Carolina native and businessman. In 1929 the first in a series of temporary art exhibition spaces opened in the Agriculture Building in Raleigh. In 1947, the state legislature appropriated $1 million to purchase a collection of art for the people of North Carolina. The appropriation, which was unheard of at the time and drew national attention, was in response to a then-anonymous challenge grant from noted philanthropist Samuel H. Kress of New York, through the persuasive efforts of Robert Lee Humber. Humber was an international lawyer and native of Greenville, N.C.

The Miracle on Morgan Street  North Carolina Art Museum

In April 1956 the Museum opened in the renovated State Highway Division Building on Morgan Street in downtown Raleigh, the state’s capital. Local media dubbed it “the Miracle on Morgan Street.” It was the first art museum in the country to be established using state funds. Since the initial 1947 appropriation that established its collection, the Museum has continued to be a model of enlightened public policy with free admission to the permanent collection, including the Rodin exhibition hall.

Coquette menu

French dinner menu “bienvenue” Coquette ~ a French Raleigh restaurant located in North Hills. (L’Heureux photograph)

Our enjoyment of French culture in North Carolina quite naturally continued into our dining experience at Coquette Brasserie, where the slogan is “bienvenu a coquette” and the menu was “bon appetit” delicious.  My “coq au vin” was superb!  Moreover, my husband enjoyed seeing “Maine mussels” (moules)  as a dinner special. Of course, we each enjoyed ” la soupe à l’oignon”.

An on line subject search revealed French Huguenot history dating back to the 18th century colonial settlements in the North Carolina region.

Merci beaucoup à nos amis les Dubays nous avons apprécié notre visite!

Certainly, we can say how much we enjoyed the Franco-American connection between Maine and North Carolina, with friends. I’m delighted to mark yet another travel destination where we discovered French culture.