Saturday, April 27, 2013

Idle Thoughts (and Photos)


"The use of travel is to regulate
imagination by reality, and instead of
thinking how things may be, to see
them as they are."
~ Samuel Johnson

I can't believe it, but we left Las Vegas a month ago today. I'm floating in that state where it feels like I've been here forever. . . like we live here.  I was thinking last night and today about what I expected, what actually has gone on, and what I've learned.  I thought I'd look back on the past month today and touch on a couple of things....

                                       Monet's Grave

One of the things that excited me about the river cruise portion of this trip was the visit to Monet's home and gardens in Giverny.  Monet truly loved color, light, flowers, and his home.  I like several of his paintings and so looked forward to seeing all of those and the garden at his residence.  What I didn't take into consideration (except for a little bit), was the fact that we were going to be there at the end of March.  The garden was still residing in its dormant, winter state, and it was very cold.Also, there are NO Monet's in either the museum nor in his residence.  :-(

The weather and season were nothing anyone could control, and we survived.  I would have liked to see his paintings in Giverny, but at least we got to see them at the D'Orsay in Paris.  The best part was that I discovered the work of Paul Signac, the painter whose work was on display at the museum in Giverny.

The photo above is of Monet's grave and includes members of his family.  I thought it was interesting that someone placed a paint brush on the marble slab.

Market in Rouen

                            Market in Rouen on Easter

We arrived in Rouen the night before Easter, and we were able to leave the ship to walk through town for a couple of hours.  We headed for the market which the cruise director said would be open.  It was.  The people were very friendly, and the produce was absolutely lovely.  I took a few photos of the oranges and lemons at this stand, and the owner asked me to take his photo.

Markets are, by the way, one of my favorite things to attend no matter where we are.  Most towns in France and Italy have "market days," and some even have a daily market under a permanent roof. 


                                             Van Luc

The day we went to Normandy, the bus dropped us off in a small town near the Canadian and British landing beaches, and after we toured the museum, we walked around the town.  One particular gallery caught my attention.

"Let's go in here," I said to Mike when I saw the cow paintings and metal sculptures.  He agreed (most likely due to the fact that we were frozen and needed to thaw out).  There were a number of posters, paintings, postcards, etc. with varying poses and sayings of the cow.  For example, one read "Vache de Amour," and another was "Vache du Normandie."  I forget all of them, but there were a lot.

"What is vache?" Mike asked me.

"Beats me, but I suppose it's cow in French," I replied.  "I have no idea why they're all "vache du," though."  I asked the clerk, and she told me the artist was in the next room.  We walked down, met Van Luc (above), and heard the story of the cows:  Vache is indeed cow in French, and in Normandy, "Vache du whatever" means an excess of something.  

I certainly wasn't expecting to meet an artist on the day we went to Normandy, but it was a great 30 minutes. You can read more about Van Luc here.

Dogs and Europeans
                              Gaston in Starbucks

We were sitting in a Starbucks in Paris when a woman walked in with the most adorable terrier puppy.

"Look at that baby!" I exclaimed.  Mike turned around and looked at the floor knowing instinctively that I was talking about a puppy.  The little guy was relatively well-behaved although he was constant motion.  "I love that you can bring dogs in here."

"Hmmm," Mike replied.  "I guess it's okay sometimes."  The lady paid for her order and moved to the bar.  Gaston sniffed around a bit, sat, sniffed a little more, and lifted his leg and whizzed on the leg of the bar.  "That is not okay anytime."

He's right. The owner snapped Gaston's leash, but she didn't say anything to the barista, and she didn't clean up after the dog.  It drives me crazy to see that so many people do not pick up after their dogs (in the States or in Europe), but it seems to be a huge problem in some cities.


When we went to Marseille last week, I mentioned that it was not quite what I expected which was a sandy beach outside of the train station. What we found, instead, was a huge city (second largest in France after Paris) on the sea. The train dropped us in the middle of what we would consider downtown, and as we walked, I stared at the buildings.

"This reminds me of the Montparnasse district in Paris," I mentioned.

"It's certainly similar to parts of Paris," Mike said.

We eventually found the harbor, took a tour around the city, and got to see the sea on one side and the large. crowded city on the other. It's not Marseille's fault. The city is just as presented in literature. I'm just glad we spent five hours there and not five days.


If you ever go to France and decide that you want to take the trains, know this: You better not be late.

Unlike the international airline industry, the train industry in France (and Italy, I guess) runs smoothly and basically when scheduled. We have taken a number of trains in the past month, and every single stop in France has been on time. If the stop was a quick one, the train basically stopped, opened the doors to let people on and off, and was on its way again within a minute. Often the train started moving before people got their luggage stowed away.

Remember the old saying about how one can set his/her watch by the trains? In France, that's still true.


The photo above is one I took from the inside of our flat in Avignon looking out to the courtyard which we faced.

"Our neigh-boor, he eez vay-ree nice," Amaury said to us when we moved in. "Deez colt-yahr, she eez heez. We cannot use eet." In other words, keep your butt inside the flat when you're not out exploring the town.

You can't tell from the photo, but there are four or five flats that look onto the courtyard. The man who actually owns the courtyard lives in a flat that is on the second floor and not even centered over the courtyard. To get to his house, he comes in a door on the street behind, crosses the courtyard and goes up the steps and across a small walkway to his house.

Amaury and Giles own the flat in which we stayed as well as the one directly above us. There is a door that opens to the courtyard, but technically, we could not go out into the courtyard since it wasn't theirs. The had to get permission to put a few plants out there, but the guy refuses to let them put a chair or table outside even though he uses the courtyard only to walk to and from that staircase to his flat.

What about the gal who owns the flat on the other side of the courtyard?

"She eez wee-aird," said one of the guys. "Foof. We don' like hair."

On Being Here

I can't believe that we've been here a month already. It seems, as I said above, like we've been here forever.

"I could stay a lot longer, you know," I said to Mike the other day. "Of course, I'd have to consider Jason, Riley and the cost."

"You think?"

"Maybe we could all just move here."

Dead silence.

I do wonder how I'd adjust to living here full-time, though. It would be interesting, but I guess that's a pipe dream.

Tomorrow i'll tell you about our trip to Assisi. It was, shall we say, a rather unholy experience.

1 comment:

  1. These are wonderful memories! I hope they will all be part of your book!