Tuesday, July 19, 2011


While at the first farm, at the beginning of our travels to France, I was taken by all the colors spring had to offer.  That got me thinking of doing a colors post, dedicated to the beauty of our surroundings.  My goal was to capture interesting pictures while attempting to isolate a color or groups of colors.  It was a nice challenge to give myself throughout the trip.  Here it is.

Monday, July 11, 2011

Bonjour Strasbourg...Au revoir France

After leaving Paris, we spent our last week in the northeast of France, right on the border in a town called Strasbourg. Knowing it was the headquarters of the European Union, we had heard it was a charming town popular with European travelers. It did not disappoint.

Strasbourg is the perfect mix of old and new Europe. There are old, gothic churches and medieval buildings, still standing and still exposing their wooden, foundational beams (like the ones in the picture up top).

There are newer buildings with art nouveau and midcentury modern influences. And running through the city and across the numerous canals is a very convenient and modern tram system.

By far, the most impressive thing in the city is this cathedral, completed in 1439 and undoubtedly handed over from German to French hands a number of times since. It is striking with its peculiar orange-brown stone and its magnificent towers full of gargoyles, saints, archways, and pretty much anything else they could fit on the walls.

At this time of day, this picture is pretty true to color. With the rich blue sky behind it, it’s hard not to stop and stare.

At night, starting on our third night there and going till the end of summer, is a light show on the face of the cathedral, synchronized and choreographed with classical music. It’s a beautiful thing to watch on a warm night in Strasbourg, and a great example of the city’s influence on tourism and quality of life.

Another example of this was a show in the main square of traditional, Alsatian dances. Backed with a full horn band, it was a great way to start off our Sunday.

Another public event was this parade we stumbled upon. It was a bit strange and the whole purpose for it wasn’t quite clear. But it was entertaining nonetheless.

We used Strasbourg as a base for a couple day trips. The first was to Nancy, a town just west of Strasbourg and known for its art nouveau. If you know me, art nouveau is one of my favorite art movements, so it was definitely a treat to walk around here. While this fountain is in keeping with the art nouveau style, the arched gateway was pretty much just outright gaudy.

They, of course, had a beautiful cathedral. For me, this is my kind of cathedral It’s ornate and full of interesting details and decorations, but not overwhelming enough that its hard to look at. In the mix is oxidized and bronze sculptures and large, wooden doors intricately carved.

This is St. Epvre, the namesake for the cathedral and the square it resides in. It's also the namesake for a traditional cake made in Nancy. We got a little one, and although it was delicious, didn’t quite live up to the title of “best cake you’ll eat in your life,” suggested by a friend who lived in Nancy. Still, it was a nice treat!

The other day trip we took was to Germany! A nice walk from the furthest tram station, across a bridge is the Germany town of Kehl. Being so close, we figured why not? This is the bridge that crosses the Rhine river which separates the two countries and has defined the shape of these countries since the French-German war.

We hopped across to see the town a bit, get a taste for German culture and people, and for lunch. Happily, we discovered that a lot of stereotypes of Germans are true, including how much they like beer! It’s the best way to wash down a heavy meal of meat and potatoes.

We’ll, now we are in Hawaii and are parked here for three weeks. My phone works now, so give me a ring and lets catch up!

Friday, July 8, 2011

Paris: The Last

We spent our last week in Paris visiting some lesser known museums, picnicking and enjoying days without much planned.
France, in my opinion, has an excellent department of culture and gives incentives to the public to view art. They have free admission to all museums on the first Sunday on each month, give generous discounts to students and people under 25 years old, and even have collections of art to view for free. We took advantage.

This is an awesome piece by cubist Alvert Gleizes titled Les Baigneuses that we saw in the modern art museum. The top picture is from there as well and we got to see the impressive and thorough collection for free. Seeing so much classical French and Italian art, it was refreshing to see the bold colors and free thinking ideas of modern art.

Just a short walk down the Seine was the Petit Palais, sister to the Grand Palais where we saw the Monumenta exhibition. Inside the Petit Palais is a fine collection of 17th and 18th century art. This painting was striking because of its skillful execution and interesting subject matter.

It held our attention and our eyes stay glued on it as if we were actually watching the circus. These two parts of the painting are just the main part of the long, panel painting, but sums up the character of the piece. The painting is called La Parade des Humbles by Fernand Pelez.

Taking advantage of free museum time, we also made a last visit to the Louvre. We visited the interesting, but not at the top the list, rooms and were quite pleased to see 18th into 19th century French paintings, and Egyptian artifacts including sarcophaguses, mummies and this giant sphinx. Seeing this side of the Louvre really showed how awesome (and I mean that in the powerful sense) it really is. They had giant statues and columns from Egypt housed there and even reconstructed the base of a pyramid in the bottom floor. Impressive.

The last museum we visited was the MuseĆ© d’Orangerie made famous for housing Monet’s last works. Now, up until this point I had been a fan of Monet. I admired his paintings, thought he influenced the Impressionist movement immensely, and loved looking at his work. But until I saw these long, panel paintings, I had no idea how great of an artist he was.

Never before has a painting captured me how this one did. I gazed at, contemplated and truly felt this painting, probably for a good 10-15 minutes. It’s hard to describe how it made me feel, but it was as if I completely understood what Monet was trying to do and express in this one. Without perspective, I was allowed to swim through this painting, seeing the surface, below the surface and the reflection of what was above the surface. Taking a closer look exposed Monet’s hand, The dry brush strokes, up close, are just colors on top of colors that don’t mean anything but expression until you step back and see the scene. This painting, called Green Reflection, reminded me why I love paint and applying it. I still can’t get over this painting.

I think one reason why his work hit me so hard was because a few days earlier, we took a day trip to see his estate and the garden he painted from. On the hottest and most humid day of our trip, we spent it in the over-crowded, plant-filled garden just outside of Paris.

As miserable as I was with the climate, I did really enjoy walking around his garden and this pond, picturing him waking up to and painting this. With this in mind while looking at his art, you really are allowed to see how he felt. And that is something pretty special.

Here’s Casey in front of the pond. Ain’t she so pretty?
These next ones are a bit all over the place, but I think it gives a good idea of Paris. Think of it as a selected virtual tour.

This is the Stravinsky Fountain in the middle of the Marais, a trendy and young area of Paris popular with the gay community. It is such a cool juxtaposition of modern and antique, with the old medieval chapel behind a very large piece of street on the building perpendicular to it and an area full of modern and pop-art fountains.

I’ve wanted to see this gypsy for two years! I first saw her on a live, music video I saw a few years back. She was sawing away at this broken, out of tune violin while the singer-songwriter played his song. Then, while I was in Italy, a few of my friends went to Paris and randomly took her picture in the same square she was in in the video. After disappointedly not seeing her in that square when we first visited the Marais, luck shined on me and I found her on a street. I wonder if she knows she’s famous.

After a long day, Casey and I treated ourselves to a beer and a pastry in the Tulleries, a larger garden-park adjacent to the Louvre. There was a nice big fountain with chairs all around, so we sat and enjoyed the sun with these guys chasing their boats.

One of our last days was gay pride in Paris. Casey went to the parade and said it was similar, but not as crazy, as what we’re used to in San Francisco. I explored a different part of Paris and was surprised to find celebration everywhere. This stage, with its afros, polyester clothing and head scarves, really reminded me of San Francisco.

Being out in the 19th arrondissement (on the outer ring of Paris) we caught the metro a lot and were subjected to a lot of advertising. This one always made me chuckle. To me, it’s completely ludicrous to use sex appeal to sell watermelons.

Well, we’ve said goodbye to Paris. Having spent a good amount of time there, which felt way longer than the actual time we were there, we were pretty bummed to leave. It is really a great city and even with just a few days there it’s easy to understand why so many fall in love with it. Au revoir Paris!

Our next destination was Strasbourg. We’re actually heading back to the States right now, and hopefully a post on Strasbourg soon will catch us up.