Monday, September 30, 2013

From Medieval religious art to Roy Lichtenstein -- in one day

This morning I headed off to visit the Cluny Museum, an incredible collection of art from the middle ages housed in a 15th century mansion attached to ancient Roman baths.  Sadly the famous tapestries of the Lady with the Unicorn are in Japan being restored, but the rest of the collection was stunning.  Here are a few pieces that caught my eye.

Mary from an Annunciation sculpture on the left and an unknown angel from a glowing tapestry on below.

After a quick visit to see the Eiffel Tower we headed over to the Marais district and visited the Pompidou Centre, the largest collection of contemporary art in Europe.  It was featuring a show of Roy Lichtenstein's work featuring blown up comic figures complete with the dots.  I wasn't able to photograph any of these but you  probably know them.  Quite a ccontrast to the very realistic and finely wrought medieval imagery. Compare this piece of contemporary figurative work. It's completely in a different realm.

Don't get me wrong.  I love contemporary art but the contrast is startling. The older works show technical skill and sensitivity, while the current material is more conceptual.

It's kind of like this photograph of the skyline of Paris taken from one of the escalators at the Pompidou.  

A contrast of old and new that boggles your mind and reminds you of the incredible variety of energy and ways of being in this world.  It symbolizes Paris for me.

Sunday, September 29, 2013

Along the Seine

This morning we tried out Paris's Velib system, which provides bicycles that can be picked up at one spot and dropped off somewhere else. It's such a great idea. We paid about $2 each for a one-day pass that allows us go take a bike for half an hour for free. After that you're charged for the time you use.  We biked over a bridge to Notre Dame, then around Isle St. Louis and along the right bank of the Seine. When we were tired of riding we dropped the bikes at another station and headed off on foot. How cool is that?

Today being Sunday, it seemed like all of Paris was out walking or bicycling. We spent some time exploring the Tulleries and walked past the Louvre (it may be as close as I get to the Louvre as there are other museums that interest me more). 

Then we walked then along the quai beside the river before dropping back into the Left Bank area to find La Palette, an atmospheric Paris cafe that lloks like it hasn't changed since 1920.  

After a glass of wine we walked back to our little apartment, stooping at a little grocery store for a few supplies. Harrry's resting now to recover from his jet lag before we head out for dinner. 

Saturday, September 28, 2013

Photo problems solved

Oh Jamie would be so proud of me! When my blog writing app stopped working I found another one that works.  Here are a few photos from our first full day in Paris

in the Luxembourg Gardens.

One of the side streets off the Seine that allow only pedestrians and bikes.

An arte deco subway entrance on Boulevard San Michelle.

View from a cafe where we had an early supper.

Something sweet that caught my eye in a patisserie window.

More to come tomorrow.

A walk around the neighbourhood

The best thing to do on your first day in a new city is to walk around the area. We waked out and headed north across St Germaine for a little breakfast of juice, croissant and cafe creme. Then we walked up to the Seine for a quick look before heading south to visit the Jardins de Luxembourg. This is a favourite spot of Parisiennes.

On a Saturday morning they were walking and jogging and most of all sitting and resting in the chairs scattered around.  Now we are off to the Latin quarter to find a French phrase book. Somehow I neglected to get one before we came and my French seems to have drained out of my head overnight.

- Posted using BlogPress from my iPhone

Boulevard San Germain

We arrived in Paris yesterday and met up with Victoria friends Jane and Tanya who happened to be staying off the same courtyard near blvd San Germaine.

We took a little walk around the Latin quarter before heading off to bed for a 12 hour sleep. 

Thursday, September 26, 2013

On our way

We are sitting in the Air France departure lounge at Montreal's airport, just hanging out for an hour or so with our fellow passengers. It's 6:00 pm Victoria time and 9:00 pm Montreal time.  Our flight leaves at 10:55.  Last night we had a nice dinner in Yaletown with Jamie and spent the night an airport hotel.  I will try to post a photo from last night but I'm having some problems with that.  Not sure if it's the wifi here at the airport or something else.

Tuesday, September 24, 2013

One more sleep

All is ready for our trip. Peggy, the house and dog sitter is here and oriented, the bags are packed, the house is clean, the itinerary is complete.  We are antsy because everything is ready and we're still at home.  But tomorrow we'll take the ferry to Vancouver and have a nice dinner with son Jamie, and then fly out on Thursday morning.

Vancouver-Montreal-Paris.  It still feels like a dream.  I never in my life thought I'd actually get to Paris. But if all goes well that's where my next post will come from.

Sunday, September 22, 2013

A day with Alessandro

Isn't it great when somebody you meet on a holiday becomes a friend?

That's what happened to us when we were in Italy last year. We met Alessandro in the village in Abruzzo where we stayed for a month. Alessandro speaks excellent English and has a strong interest in North America.  We were surprised how much he knew about Canada and the United States.  He also has a passion for the lovely historic towns and villages and buildings in his country.

Alessandro has a law degree and has worked at several jobs but what he really wants to do is be a tour guide to share his love of Italy with people from North America.  A woman from Saltspring Island who also visited the little village is now working with Alessandro to develop some tours of the area that focus on historic sites, cooking classes, wine tasting and Italian lessons.  So two days ago Alessandro arrived in Canada for a visit and to promote these tours.  He was thrilled to be in North America for the first time. We were thrilled to show him around Victoria yesterday and had a great time visiting the Empress Hotel, Beacon Hill Park, Spinnakers Brew Pub and the neighbourhoods around town.

We only had the one day because we're getting ready for our own trip but it was so fun to spend time showing him our city.

Saturday, September 21, 2013

Switching gears

All summer long while we've been renovating and coping with family illness, the trip to France has been simmering in the background.  We planned it on the spur of the moment when my friend Peggy, who lives in Mazatlan in the winter, wrote me suggesting she might come to stay with our dogs and explore our part of the world.

So we decided to take the opportunity and plan a trip to France.  I've never been there and always wanted to go. And way back in April I put together an itinerary. We start with a week in Paris, then take the train to Bordeaux where we pick up a car for two weeks to explore the Dordogne region and Provence. We'll stay in a little Bastide village called Monpazier and then move to a Medieval town called Uzes. The last leg of our trip will see us drop the car in Nimes and take the train to Barcelona for five nights before flying home.

Then our tenants moved out at Yukon Street in June and we jumped into the renovation so the trip went on the back burner. Now it's time to switch gears and get organized for the trip. Peggy arrives on Monday and we're packing and cleaning and getting everything together.

Just today I'm starting to get excited. This time next week we'll be in Paris!

Friday, September 20, 2013

The kitchen's installed

Great excitement the other day when the new kitchen was delivered and installed.  It looks as good as we had hoped.  There will be white subway tiles in the space between the counters and the top cupboards, so just ignore the patchiness in those areas.

Sue chose the chocolate brown colour for one wall to tie in with the brown stain on the island. The counter top is an arborite called Roman Travertine that looks a lot like stone.  It also has some tones of brown and white as well as shades of soft grey.  We think it has a nice contemporary yet classic look.

The fir floor was revealed briefly for this piece of the work, but it has now been covered up again as we continue to paint and finish trim and woodwork and other details.

Well, it's actually being handed over to Sue and Harry's son Ben for a few weeks as we are off on a planned trip to France. I'll let you know about those plans in a day or so.  Meanwhile I'm busy tying up loose ends and getting ready.

Sunday, September 15, 2013

Stressed out by life and its losses

So much has been going on this week.  We've lost two people close to us, both of who have been living with cancer for a long time.  Sue, my sister's life partner for the last 35 years succumbed to lung cancer after a three-year journey with the disease. And our friend Aaron who has been part of our life through flyball and had become a close friend has been fighting a blood disease for even longer. Shockingly they both died on the same day, Monday September 9th.  

Although we knew that both Sue and Aaron would be leaving us soon, we were simply not prepared for the shock of their actual passing. It's left a big huge hole, and at the same time has put pressure on us to support the ones left behind. It's just hard to keep stepping forward when these two lovely people are no longer here.

The week also included an event with Jane on Friday, a whirlwind trip to Ikea in Vancouver, and ongoing renovations at Yukon Street, plus dealing with my dog Maggie's seizures.  No wonder we're both so tired. 

In loving memory of Sue and Aaron I'm posting some images from my neighbour Peter's garden, taken a couple of weeks ago.  Peter is in his 80s and spends most of his time tending a two and a half acre garden full of flowers, vegetable and fruit trees.  Suitable healing images for the stresses of life and death.

Monday, September 9, 2013

Hundreds of shades of white

We've decided on a white on white kitchen for the upstairs apartment: white cupboards, white subway tiles, and white walls, except for one feature wall.  Picking a white sounded easy enough until we tried to make a decision about which white we wanted.  The cabinets can be painted any colour from a couple of paint stores palettes. And when it comes to white there are literally hundreds of shades.

Just take a look here. This is from the Benjamin Moore white selection. There are 157 whites to choose from--some warm, some cool, some toned with grey or other tints. It's fun to scroll over the colours to find out their names.  I love the different names on paint chips. In fact I've always thought I'd love to have the job of naming paint colours. Maybe in my next life!

In any case I spent the afternoon trying to track down a particular shade of white, called Designer White, to match the cupboard door colour we choose. And to be as close as possible to the subway tiles we've chosen for the backsplash. It turns out that the colour we wanted was taken from a colour fan of a company that isn't represented any more here in Victoria. Finally I found the old colour chips only to find that the particular chip I wanted had been cut off!

Thankfully the kitchen design company let me take the sample door to my favourite paint store where we were able to match it to a colour appropriately called Snowfall White.  It's about as pure a white as you can get, and I think it will look beautiful against the refinished fir floor.

These photos show the walls now that they're primed. The Snowfall White won't be too much different actually.  It will reflect the light nicely.  We're working to deadline now, getting ready this week for the kitchen to be delivered and installed next Monday.

Thursday, September 5, 2013

The tomato thief

This has been the best year for tomatoes that any of us can remember.  Sue and I planted beefsteak tomatoes (usually not a good idea here on Vancouver island) and they've done just beautifully with the long stretch of sunny weather.

This is one we picked last weekend.  It was huge and absolutely delicious.

But just as they were ripening something began to eat them.  Since last week we've found several of these big beauties on the ground with great big bites out of them.  We thought it must have been a racoon and I picked some of the almost ripe ones to keep them away from the thief.

But today we found out that is wasn't a racoon at all. It was one of my sister's dogs. Charlotte, the Sheltie and her sister Zoe are staying with us for a while. And Charlotte is crazy about food.  So crazy that she goes out into the garden and jumps up to bite at the ripening tomatoes. We caught her in the act this evening.  Here's the proof on the ground.

And here's the culprit looking the tiniest bit embarrassed

Needless to say, Charlotte won't be going into the garden unsupervised until all the tomatoes have been harvested.  Who knew that dogs would eat green tomatoes off the vine!