The Abbey Studio
Calligraphy & Design Studio

© 2012 & 2018 The Abbey Studio
Marblehead, MA

Calligraphy Classroom Abroad 2012 in France with Maryanne Grebenstein

Above: Illuminated manuscript at Musée des Lettres et Manuscrits, Paris

On September 20, a group of 13 calligraphers and book artists of all skill levels boarded a plane to Paris. For the most part, we were all strangers from different cities with different backgrounds. But we had one thing in common – a love of calligraphy and the book arts.

The trip had been planned for months and the excitement and anticipation were appropriately high. The itinerary was planned so that we would begin our adventure with three days in Paris. A little museum-hopping in that incredible city would whet our appetites and inspire our work for the classroom abroad portion of the trip. The classroom abroad was to take place in the south of France, along the Côte d’Azure – one of the most beautiful coastlines in the world.

Paris did not disappoint – we saw illuminated manuscripts and other medieval and Renaissance art. We visited the Musée des Lettres et Manuscrits which was hosting an incredible exhibition of manuscripts and incunabula. We also visited Musée de Cluny, the museum of the middle ages, housed – appropriately – in a Renaissance mansion in the heart of Paris. After savoring the sites, food, shops, museums, architecture and culture in the city of Paris, we boarded a TGV train to the south of France.

Above: Musée de Cluny, Paris

Even the beautiful photos of Château de La Napoule did not prepare us for the incredible place that was to be our home for the next week during our Classroom Abroad. The thirteenth century structure is in the lovely town of Mandelieu - a town with the good fortune to be geographically situated between Nice and San Tropez. The Château sits just at the edge of land, positioned directly on the Mediterranean Sea. Each member of our group had a spectacular view of the Mediterranean from their room, our meals were taken in the Gothic Dining Room of the château, allowing us to view the Mediterranean through stained glass windows as we sipped our morning coffee or evening wine. The lapping of the sea lulled us to sleep each night.

Above: View of the water and marina from Château de La Napoule.

During the mornings, the group gathered in the skylight-filled gallery of the Château, which served as our classroom. The curriculum for the week was calligraphy, manuscript gilding and page layout. Our days were planned so that the mornings were spent in the studio with instruction from Maryanne including demonstrations, presentations, and work time. The afternoons were unscheduled, allowing participants to either continue working independently in the studio, or explore the local surroundings.

One afternoon, we traveled together by train to Monaco. It seemed hard to imagine the view from the Château could be improved upon, but Monaco is beautiful, immaculately clean, and has a harbor that makes the heart skip a beat.

Above: The entrance to the château.

Left: Students mingling during studio time in the gallery.

Below: The harbor in Monaco.

The entire trip seemed like a dream. How could living in a thirteenth century castle perched on the Mediterranean and spending our days practicing our craft be anything but wonderful? The hardest part of the trip was prying ourselves out of Château de La Napoule when our 10 day excursion to France came to an end.

For information about upcoming trips, or to be placed on the mailing list for future trips, contact The Abbey Studio at or 781.740.9000. To download a registration form for the September 2014 Classroom Abroad trip, click here.

Above: The Château as seen from the water.