My wanderings with Sab did take me off the Left Bank via the Pont des Arts. Sab asked me what I thought of the love lock bridge. Well...it was a sweet idea once, but in my opinion, its time has passed. How special are a gazillion locks which are now destroying the bridge? As we photographed these eye-sores, an older man proudly pointed out the one he and his wife had just locked on...Vincent loves Cynthia. Sab was glad he hadn't muttered his derogatory comments about the locks out loud!
This is what the weight of the locks eventually does...rips big holes in the fencing. Enough holes and the whole section is removed and replaced with an ugly wood panel.
But hey, I'm not un-romantic! Enjoy this love lock video from YouTube!
I love living in France. And there's not much about French life that I don't enjoy. I've learned to tolerate and work with the bureaucracy. I've adapted to everything closing down over the lunch two hours. I've learned how to read the road signs and gotten used to round-abouts and yielding to traffic on my left. But, I have to admit....sometimes the French get it wrong. In my opinion, of course, which no one really cares about. I feel as if I have to complain about this, though Not the fact that Notre Dame is celebrating her 850th birthday, but rather what the city of Paris has done to her parvis. If you've visited Paris, you know that the big square in front of the church is usually wide open. You can easily find the pretty stone star that marks ground zero...the place from which all distances from Paris are measured (unless a tour group from Taiwan is standing on top of it). Tourists and the faithful wander, mix, mingle, and queue in the parvis...usually, but not this special year...
Stadium seating, food and trinket dealers, tourist information and a satellite office of the mairie of Paris. Can you say 'tacky?' In my opinion, of course!
As promised, here is Sab's favorite photo of our morning wander around the Latin Quarter last week. You saw this street art by Miss.Tic yesterday. Here's a bit of her story: Miss.Tic is a rather mysterious street artist who has been 'decorating' the walls and buildings of Paris for years. Known for her sexy and provocative feminine characters and her brilliant word-play epigrams on love, her work can be seen all over the City of Light. According to Sab, she's been caught and prosecuted for her 'crime.' If she's caught again illegally sharing her art on public buildings, she will be sent to prison! Really? These Parisians take their graffiti seriously! Not to worry, though, as Miss.Tic's fame and stunning graphic art has garnered her legitimate sources to display her talent...in galleries, exhibitions, and by commission, on the walls and windows of Parisian buildings. Sab and I saw one such example on the window of a little bistro in St. Germain.
I took several shots of this piece of Miss.Tic's work. Sab showed me how to focus on a subject and then wait for movement to come into camera view...in this case, a woman riding a bicycle. By snapping at the right moment, you obtain an interesting blur along with a crisp, sharp image. I have to admit...this was a lucky shot! I took several others that were snapped either too soon or too late for the proper effect. But, then, photography isn't always about proper skills and technique; sometimes it's all about luck!
Part of the package for my photo-wander tour with Sab was his critique of five of my photos from our morning. If you're interested, here is what he put together for me including his critique of the Miss.Tic in Motion photo. I had so much fun learning from Sab. I'll never take photos quite the same as I did before our time together. I highly recommend his tours whether you're a beginner, point-and-shoot photographer like me or a more seasoned professional... Sab has good things to share!
Graffiti by famous street artist, Miss.Tic. The man in profile has been added by another artist.
Faces of a Left Bank street sculpture
And whose face is this popping up in the mirror? Sab Will, of course, my photography guru and guide for this fabulous photo-wander through the Latin Quarter. How could you not have fun hanging out with this guy?
Tomorrow I'll share Sab's favorite photo of our morning together and a bit more about the street artist, Miss.Tic.
More figure decals this time stuck high on the wall at the corner of my hotel. Not sure what that thing is that looks like a camera...maybe it is a camera! I thought it was spotlighting the boys, though, so I included it in the photo.
"Vote the Darkside" is the signature icon of another graffiti artist. We saw it several places on our walk, but only this time with a scary monkey!
Yarn graffiti on a statue. What do you think? Does it enhance or detract from the artist's sculpture?
Sab and I wandered through the Latin Quarter and into the more trendy and upscale St. Germain neighborhood. As we walked, he began to point out various bits of street art/graffiti. Once you see it, you see it everywhere! The writing and drawing on this wall along a tiny side street in St. Germain is obviously graffiti...
But what about these decals of naked bodies stuck on those metal posts that line the narrow streets of old Paris? Art or graffiti? You decide.
My friends and I visited the Marc Chagall exhibit at the Musee du Luxembourg as well as the Murano glass exhibit at the Musee Maillol. One nice thing about us all having visited Paris several times is that we felt comfortable doing 'non-touristy' things on our own as well. I opted to spend four hours with Sab Will, a Paris street photographer, who took me through the Latin Quarter on a photo-op adventure. He taught me so much about using my simple point-and-shoot digital camera! And pointed out lots of photo-worthy subjects. Like this cute car hop. The HD Diner obviously caters to Americans as the sign is in English and the car hop is definitely a relic from our old A & W root beer drive-in days. She even had on roller skates! What do you think? Would you like a root beer float? Sounds yummy to me!
Look for more of my street photos in upcoming blog posts....
You've probably noticed that my last couple of blog posts have been from Paris. I'm home now, but spent the week there in the capital city. The woman on the far right is the reason I made this trip. My friend, Marie (aka Mickey in our high school days) was there for a visit, and what a perfect excuse for a trip to my favorite city. We had such a good time! And over dinner this night, we did the math. We've been friends for fifty years!! How can that be? This photo was taken on rue Christine outside the restaurant,La Rotisserie d'en face it's a wonderful place to eat, by the way. I had my first taste of sanglier...oh yum! You'll be seeing more of Paris in the upcoming days, but Paris this time was more about friendship. And I wanted you to know that!
I was walking along the road by the cemetery in my village trying to practice contemplation as Christine Valters Paintner describes it in her book "Eyes of the Heart." I thought I heard whispering behind me. I turned and BEHOLD...all these little wildflowers raised their tiny voices in a single word: Abundance! How joyful they were, and they begged me to be joyful as well. Receiving their blessing, I continued on and spent the rest of my walk pondering the abundance in my life and offering up gratitude for it. Thank you, sweet wildflowers, for reminding me that my life is truly overflow(er)ing with blessings.
If you want to know more about Christine's book and the practices she offers for deepening your spiritual life through photography, you can find information by clicking HERE. Who knows what might whisper to you on your next contemplative walk!
Friday evening's vernissage was held in the Salle Capitulaire of the Abbey ruins in Marcilhac-sur-Cele. This is also where the five artists representing England, France and Germany created their beautiful prints on stone. We were intrigued with the lithography process of painting designs on flat stone with water-repellent drawing tools and then treating the design with chemicals to allow ink to adhere to the stone and then transfer onto paper. The drawings and designs were lovely, and it was fun to visit with the artists and learn their stories. This lithography print course is a yearly workshop given by Peter who owns the Galerie ApART in the village.
Jean admiring some prints
The ambiance in the vaulted room of ancient and sacred stones adds an aura of mystery to the works of art created here.
Things are already beginning to gear up for the busy summer tourist season here in the Lot. My week has been a perfect example of the variety of things to do in my neighborhood. Last Sunday I explored a medieval village full of pilgrims walking the chemin towards Santiago de Compostelle, photographed a beautiful 10th century castle, and took loads of pictures of the most magnificent wisteria. Wednesday was our village WWI commemoration. Last evening I attended a vernissage with friends. Monday I leave by train for Paris! And Thursday evening found me here at Ferme de la Hulotte, a local goat cheese farm.
We arrived in time to see that goats being milked. The herd gathers here in the goat barn and the girls wait their turn in the milking room. It was open house day, and the barn was full of visitors watching the goats and feeding them handfuls of hay. The girls have done this enough that they know the drill...they wander up a ramp into the milking room....
where they line up in stations at eye level with the goat guy. He attaches an automatic milker to their udders. He feels each goat's bag to determine when it's empty, detaches the milking device and the goat wanders down another ramp back into the barn to be with her companions. It takes only a few minutes to milk each goat.
Through a series of plastic piping, the goat milk is delivered here into a large stainless steel vat. It can then be processed into the lovely goat cheese the producer sells every Saturday at my local market. It's very yummy!
This farm is part of an association of produces who are "AB" certified and have banded together to market their special local products. Each producer will hold an open house at their farm this summer where they will all have their goods on sale for visitors. We bought walnut bread, sheep cheese and little pie pans of stuffed snails ready to heat and eat. There were also sausages, crepes, wine, honey, and couscous on offer The "AB" designation that these farms hold means that they adhere to a rigorous set of organic food production standards set by the EU. It stands for Agriculture Biologic, BIO (bee-o) for short. I've already marked my calendar for a visit to the snail farm. Maybe I can learn how to turn my garden pests into dinner there!
May 8...a national holiday in France. It commemorates the end of WWII in Europe...Victory in Europe Day...V-E Day. An important day to remember here. In villages all over France the same scenario is played out...
In my village 30 or so people gathered at 11:45 am. Madame Gentou, our mayor, read a speech. In it she spoke of devastation, capitulation, occupation, collaboration and resistance. She spoke of the hardships and the deaths. She reminded people of General De Gaulle and the brave men of the Resistance, of sabotage and finally of liberation.
Two young village girls laid a bouquet of flowers at the foot of the war memorial.
Then Madame Gentou read each name on the memorial, men from our village who died during WWI, WWII, and the Algerian War. After each name, the crowd intoned...'mort pour la France.' At the end of the ceremony as people made their way up to the mairie for a drink, a young man, whom know one seemed to know, knelt in prayer in front of the memorial. It was quite moving. I was reluctant to intrude with either a photo or conversation, but I can't help but wonder...is one of the names his grandfather, an uncle, a cousin? War is very personal here; it's not just something you read about in history books.
Early on in Christine Valters Paintner's new book, "Eyes of the Heart: Photography as a Christian Contemplative Practice," she suggests this exercise. Find an object in your environment that is always there, but is not something that you pay attention to every day. Then let it show you fifty different ways to perceive it. In other words, take fifty different photos of the same, ordinary, every-day object. This is harder than it sounds, trust me!
I chose a blue and white striped pitcher that sits on my kitchen table. I occasionally use it for milk. I see it every day, but most days don't 'behold' it at all. The poster you see above is what came out of this exercise....fifty different images. A few are good photos; most are not. What I found happening as I worked through the process was initially an urge to make pretty pictures. But after the first few, all I could think about was finding more ways to visualize the same thing! I feel as if this really loosened up my approach. It made me forget about pretty and simply think about volume. As I viewed the fifty images in my camera, I drew some interesting conclusions about my particular way of seeing...where I'm most comfortable, which kinds of light and color appeal to me, which things repel my eye. And with some additional thought, I translated those conclusions into some equally interesting life lessons and insights into myself.
I think this is a practice that I will do on a regular basis or any time I feel as if I'm frustrated with myself because my photos aren't as beautiful as I'd like them to be. For me, it was an experience of having permission to not produce something pretty and that is freeing.
In case you're curious, here's what the little pitcher looks like. Another benefit of this process: I fell in love with it all over again. I really should use it more often!
If you are interested in purchasing the book or learning more about its author, please click here.
I made a Sunday drive yesterday on a mission to photograph wisteria. You'll see more of that later in the week. I found lots of other things to photograph as Lucie and I wandered the 'neighborhood.' Today I simply want to share one of those things.... the lovely Chateau de Saint-Dau which is less than 20 kms from where I live. This is not a 'McMansion' or someone's 'starter castle;' this is the real deal. Parts of it date to the 10th century. It's now owned by some Australians who have both renovated it and are cultivating a distinctive rose labyrinth on the grounds. While it's not generally open to the public, there are events such as horse competitions and concerts held at the Chateau to which the public is invited.
And yes, I know that I am both lucky and blessed to live in this beautiful place!
World War I was devastating for France. When troops and civilians were mobilized to fight against Germany in 1914, almost everyone thought the fighting would be over in a few short months. But the war dragged on and on, eventually killing or wounding almost an entire generation of men and leaving hundreds of thousands widows and orphans to re-build a shattered economy. You can read all this in the history books. But Philip Hoyle's book "Les lettres des freres Blanc" (Letters of the Blanc Brothers) gives you an intimate view of what life was like for the soldiers...the hardships, the terror, and the abject boredom between battles.
When Philip bought his farm on the Sauliac-sur-Cele causse over 20 years ago, he came into possession of 250 letters written by two brothers, Emile and Leopold Blanc. They faithfully wrote their parents who remained on the farm trying desperately to take care of the 80 hectares without the help of their two boys. The letters, written in simple, schoolboy French, describe life in the trenches and poignantly reveal how each brother remained attached to the land, asking about the crops, the livestock, the weather. Both boys became disillusioned with the war effort and even talked of deserting...something to which their parents strenuously objected. They remained with their respective units, however, and continued to fight. One, Emile, became radicalized politically while the other, Leopold, sank into despair developing a severe drinking problem. Both boys were killed in 1917 within weeks of one another during WWI's bloodiest battle at Verdun. M. and Mme Blanc were left childless and without help; their farm was eventually rented out in pieces to neighbors. M. Blanc was killed in a riding accident a few years after the war; his widow remained on the farm 30 years longer. With her death, the family line stopped. I can only imagine how lonely life must have been for her. How many times might she have read and re-read these letters...her only link to her dead sons?
The story of Philip's research into the letters is as interesting as the letters themselves. I think he should write a book about that! Here's one piece of the story that isn't in the letters. Philip discovered that Emile...the good-looking brother...had a sweetheart when he left for the front. She vowed that if he didn't return to her that she would take holy orders and go into the convent. He didn't return. She became a nun.
If you're interested in purchasing Philip's book which is written in French, you can contact him via email at email@example.com.
The war memorial to those 'who died for France' in Sauliac-sur-Cele. Every French village has a memorial, and every one has several names listed for World War I. As I learn more about World War I and now know the personal story of two of its dead, these memorials and their names become so much more meaningful touching to me.
This is Philip Hoyle, an acquaintance who lives on the causse above Sauliac-sur-Cele. One of the reasons for my trip to the Cele Valley last weekend was to not only swap some books at the village book swap, but also to purchase a copy of Philip's newly-published book "Les lettres des freres' Blanc" (Letters of the Blanc Brothers) Philip, an Englishman, owns a large farmstead up on the causse and divides his time between this old farm and Budpest, Hungary. Beginning his career as a social anthropologist studying Arab cultures mostly in the northern Sudan, Philip switched mid-life and finished his working career as an English teacher. Retired now, he works at the restoration of the old farm and its many crumbling structures including a huge old barn. He has a passion for building dry stone walls and sleuthing out the history of his farm. He's discovered three holes in the earth beside and under his barn that lead to narrow fissures and openings in the limestone causse. Both animal and human bones have been recovered from these small underground caverns.
But Philip is most interested in the people who lived here in the early 20th century. This is what his book is about...the lives of the Blanc family during the years of the first World War, 1914-1918.
More about the book and its stories in my next post.
Blossoms on a Judas tree in Philip's yard. We have a variety of this tree in the US which we call the Red Bud tree.
One of the openings into underground fissures in the causse. I would never go into this, but Philip has had a team of local speleologists who have and who have done some excavating. This is where the animal and human bones were found.