Thursday, October 18, 2007

Meeting Egon Schiele

The world is full of mediocre art, made by even more mediocre artists, and it is beyond me why they even bother. A waste of perfectly good pigment, I say. Scores of artists painstakingly apply their paint so it looks exactly like the object or scene they are painting. This is not art, it’s clever replication. Those daubs of red and blue slapped on a canvas don’t give me a clue about the intrinsic nature of the artist, don’t communicate anything more than what I already know. I’m sure this art has its place, but I’m not sure exactly where. Possibly a bank or a motel lobby in either of the Dakotas. But lest you think I’ve lost faith in the creative arts, I will share with you something I love, something worth seeking. I love a piece of fine artwork evocative enough to shake me off my footing. Rare, I know, but there are a few instances when a painting has grabbed me so tight that I have to remind myself to breathe.

For over two months I immersed myself in the art and architecture central to our human heritage. I made it a priority to visit as many historic edifices and art museums as my two little feet could endure. In Paris I spent heavenly lost hours in the Louvre and the Musee d’Orsay. In Nice I ambled around the Matisse and Chagall museums. In Spain I strolled along an outdoor median in Barcelona, showing the bronze sculptures of Igor Mitoraj. I was able to see a collection of Picasso’s earliest sketches and the fanciful tile work and unique architecture of Antoni Gaudi. In Florence I gushed over the ancient frescos and religious triptychs in the Uffizi, my mind whirling and my spine tingling to be standing only feet away from the earliest magnificence of the Renaissance.

The last country on my tour was Austria. In Vienna, there is an area called the Museums Quarter. According to my tourist brochure, The Leopold Museum seemed to be my best bet. I read about a movement in the early 1900s called Austrian Expressionism. I knew next to nothing about it, but was curious to discover how this period played into the bigger picture of European art. What I wasn’t expecting was to be introduced to Egon Schiele, a man whose artwork knocked me right off my feet.
As soon as I walked into the room filled with his larger-than-life-size canvases, I knew I was looking at something that inhabited a completely separate domain than anything I’d seen up to that time. Schiele’s use of planes, shapes and layered pigments exposes a world that is at once raw and beautiful. His subjects are either somber cityscapes or people (frequently in twisted and graphic positions). His men and women, whether clothed or nude, have an uncanny way of revealing themselves. There is a piercing sadness that held my gaze, that whispered to me in a language without any words. These were human beings filled with pride and desperation, secret desires and resignation.
Schiele had an uncompromising determination to share his interpretation of life and death, no matter the repercussions. I learned he was imprisoned once because his work was considered pornographic. There is something in the way he painted the eyes, the hair, the flesh and particularly the hands, that touched me profoundly. His figures were solid and transparent at the same time. They conveyed strength and vulnerability; fear, innocence, raw sexuality, and deep loathing. Even though Schiele died from the Spanish Influenza at the age of twenty-eight, he left a tangible spirited part of himself in his paintings. By giving himself completely to his art, he gave me a moment I will never forget: a reflection into my own fragile humanity.

Saturday, July 21, 2007

Here I Come, Right* Back*Where* I Started From

Hey all you girls and boys out there!

Heads up, cuz I'm heading back on the big 'ol silver buzzard tomorrow. I get all itchy and squirmy when I have to sit in one place for that inhuman amount of time it takes to fly a cazillion miles...feels a bit like a straight jacket to me. Maybe I'll have to resort to the pharmaceutical industry.

So, I can't believe my time is up. My traipsin' time is over for now.

I've seen so many places and had all kinds of various and sundry experiences that I think I'm going to need some time to sort the whole thing out in my brain in order to write it down. But, I will be happy to be back in touch with many of you. Also, back to my own chosen eating habits, sleeping habits and possibly even one or two nasty habits. No telling what's to happen after taking myself all over Europe, seeing buildings older than the moon and listening to Italian opera, Vienese Mozart, various street musicians and one surly organ grinder. But just hang in there and I will post the continuing adventures of Ms.Wynne along with some of the photos that show off the wonders I've seen.

Safe Travels to All, and don't forget to check in again in about a week for "the rest of the story." Good-night,
Candice, Mom, Nana, Friend, Traveler

Monday, July 16, 2007

Memorable Snaps

Just thought you would all appreciate a few more photos to see where I've been. Let your mind do a little wandering along the streets and waterways and interesting sights I've discovered. First two in Italy, next two in Barcelona, last two in Paris.

Sunday, July 15, 2007

The Hills Are Alive

I am now in Belgium visiting with Kellee. And, if you checked, you will see I have added a few photos to my previous posts. More to come. I went to Salzburg, Austria for a couple of days and wished I'd planned more time there....great city-smaller than Vienna, but with a lot of charm.

I took a train and then a taxi to a small area south of Salzburg called Hochkonig...the specific mountain range in the Austrian Alps. My place was great and I explored the surrounding area by foot, with tones of the Von Trapp family encroaching on my mind, as hard as I tried to push the cliche away. I know you've heard me go on and on about gorgeous places along the way, but this is yet another one of those unbelievably breathtaking places...right out of a storybook....check out the Gnome and ducks I met along the path.

A saturation of color. Greens of fields and trees, pristine blue of flawless sky, brown cows ambling down the mountain at milking time and red hats on Gnomes and in the molten sunset I happened to catch from the balcony of my room.
I think the photos say the rest.

Thursday, July 5, 2007

Melk Stift, aka: the Humongous Golden Abbey

Hi Everyone,
I just spent two days in a small town called Melk (look it up on the web for more info). I heard about this giant Abbey, with a long and convoluted past, so I just had to go. You know, everything is just a train ride away here. So, I stayed in a cute little hotel smack in the center of town and the next day I spent several hours wandering around Melk Abbey. First, by myself, and then with a group tour given in English. The library was what impressed me the most. About 100,000 volumes in several rooms, only one of which the public is allowed to visit. But, believe me my camera was working overtime. Seems there´s got to be some juicy stories behind this Abbey. I was told that it was the Abbey that was prominent in Umberto Eco´s "The Name of the Rose." Wow. It´s been all dolled up now, very Baroque....tons of gold and marble and the chapel alone would be worth enough to feed at least three starving nations in Africa. So much for my take on the opulence of the Church. The Benedictine Order has been here for centuries, along with the benevolence of the Babenburgs and the Hapsburgs. Church and State, hand in sweet white hand. But, that´s in the past, right? We´ve solved all our social/economical problems, haven´t we? Hmmm....

Okay, so, after leaving Melk (and a wonderful view of the Danube...not Blue by the way, but a murky soft green) I took a relaxing train ride to Salzburg...a mere 2 and half hours. But, the green rolling countryside was a welcome sight. And, the houses and fields dotting the hills on each side were something out of a storybook, like Hansel and Gretel. Really. Think of deep woods, then fields of sunflowers and wheat, then an old chapel set high on a green hill, throw in a few white and timber two story houses with red geraniums hanging off the windows and you have the Austrian countryside. Voila!

I will be heading off to Ubergossene Alm Spa tomorrow...the last three nights of my journey before I head back to Belgium to spend time with Kellee, my daughter. If you want to eat your hearts out, just Google the name of the Spa. But, you will also see that it isn´t that expensive, specially because the price includes all the food I could possibly eat.
Love to All my Friends and Family....till my next post.

Monday, July 2, 2007

1st-Gay Pride Parade, then Mozart

On June 30th, I arrived in Vienna, Austria late in the evening. I have learned several things on my far flung journey, and one thing I cannot over emphasize is to not be shy about asking strangers for help. As I was waiting outside the airport, trying to decide which bus would take me where I wanted to go, I saw a man who looked like a possible local and asked him about the buses. Roman, a perfectly groomed and friendly Vienese (sp?), was pleased to inform me which bus to take and that he was heading in the same direction. A Gay man to be sure, he informed me that the next day was the Vienna Gay Pride Parade. Am I living right, or what? When we got off the bus, Roman actually went out of his way to walk me almost all the way to my hotel. That saved me wandering around for who knows how long in a strange city.

I checked into the Hotel Post, an old but respectable hotel not far from the Metro, which they call the "U" here and all the weiner and pizza and gelato shops anyone could ever ask for. Personally, I'm done with gelato....give me an American ice cream. The beds in Europe are harder than any I've slept on, and so my first night's sleep wasn't the best. The weather is hot, something I totally didn't expect in Austria. But, for the last few days I've been perspiring buckets, but not letting it slow my sightseeing. Anyway, I woke up the next day and sure enough, about a block or so from my hotel is the main boulevard of the city, the Ringstrasse. That was where the polizei blocked off all traffic and the big giant loud and oh so colorful Gay Pride Parade happened. And, it was a happening, folks. I am so frustrated that I haven't been able to upload any photos, cuz these Vienese Gays and Lesbians really know how to put on a show. In about a week I will put a ton of photos up on my blog...then maybe you will get a better idea of what my eyes have seen.

The one thing I knew I wanted to do in Vienna was to attend a Mozart Concert. And, that happened on the same day as the Gay Parade...such contrast. Every night, yes, that right....EVERY Night of the week, there are Mozart and Strauss (King of the Vienese Waltz)concerts in several of the old and opulently designed concert houses. The cool thing was I paid for the least expensive ticket, 29 euro, and got a seat on the sixth row. My ticket had 72 euro printed on it. I guess there are a few perks for traveling solo. The 20 (or so) piece orchestra was dressed in full costume from the 18th century, brocade overcoats, lacey shirts and wigs and all. The sound was superb, and the audience even got to clap along with one of the more lively pieces. I was in Mozart heaven. There was more than a little night music...

Well, there is so much to say about Vienna I will have to take another opportunity to post at a later time. It is cleaner and more civilized--think traffic and dog poop--than many other cities I've visited. The people are friendly and most of them can speak English. Am I a lucky dog.

Wednesday, June 27, 2007

Bella Bella Bellagio

Most of you know how crazy I am about my home state of California, especially the Central Coast and Big Sur. Well, I think I have found a place on earth to match the natural beauty of Big in the Lake District of northern Italy. Bellagio is a tiny little town that sits out on a point in the middle of Lake Como, in the Italian Alps. The lush green and forested mountains come spilling down into the lake, joining its tranquil blue watery surface. Along with Bellagio (its notoriety increased as soon as George Cloony bought a villa here), there are other towns dotting the hillsides along the lake, with red-tiled roofs and facades painted in warm shades of ochre and salmon. And, at night, the lights of the towns twinkle across the lake, with the sounds of the water lapping gently at my feet and the moon shining down on this little piece of Goddess' sweet earth.

The townspeople are friendly, similar to Vernazza, yet while Vernazza was a beach town, Bellagio is a bit more upscale, but not stuffy in the least. Flavio (surname not essential and left undiscovered) is the man who owns and runs the apartment I've rented and he has been helpful in every way, giving us his recommendations on restaurants and such. I have the pleasure of sharing this part of Italy with my oldest daughter, Kellee and her two sons, Taylor and Gavin (8 and 4). Enough room for all of us. We found THE yummiest place for our morning cappacinos and afternoon gelatos. Speaking of gelato, there are more gelato shops per square kilometer here than there are Starbucks in the States. Yeah, believe it. And the flavors! Oh my, fresh peach, melon, lemon, strawberry, and my favorite, caffe. Been walking up a storm, but this gelato is going to do me in. And, I have learned that ordering a quarter liter of house wine is cheaper than either water or a soft, guess what I've been drinking? Yep.

Right now I'm sitting in a groovy wine bar slash Internet cafe just outside our apartment door, playing what kind of music?? American jazz. Taylor is playing a game called Runescape on the other computer, keeping him quite occupied. Planning on going to the lake beach later today and tomorrow we will be taking a long ferry ride to explore the rest of the lake. If I could organize a writer's conference here, I would do it in a heartbeat. Anybody out there who has any inclination for seeking out the world's most beautiful and tranquil spots must come to Lake Como. I'm thinking that organizing a writer's retreat or workshop in Bellagio would be a most spendid idea. Hmmmm....wheels a turning, wheels a turning.

Saturday, June 23, 2007

It's a Small Small World

Just a quick hello as I am leaving beautiful Vernazza by the sea this morning. Some of you know I used to live in Santa Cruz area and went sailing every Wednesday with a man named Curtis and his partner, Maryann. Well, I jumped out of the sea yesterday, enjoying the cool salt water and heading up the one main street to my apartment, when out of the corner of my eye I saw two people sitting down, sipping on beers. They looked awfully familiar, and I called out, Curtis? Well, by cracky, it was him and Maryann and I'm telling you, there's nothing like running into some old friends when you are traveling by yourself.....we enjoyed a scrumptious dinner together and ended it with a shot of lemoncella. Never had a shot of lemoncella? Well, we will all have to have a party of Italian food and lemoncella when I return.

Off to Milan and then to Lago Como and Bellagio. Arevederci, your traveling fried

Wednesday, June 20, 2007

By the Sea

Anyone out there checking in? I would love to hear from you, really I would.

It took me a whole day to make it to the Cinque Terre, on the Liguria coast side of Italy...other side of the top of the boot from Venice....left side. Several train stops and I arrived at one of the 5 towns, Vernazza, around 6pm. I found a place to stay in grandma and grandpa's house, but only stayed one night, as it resembled a either a cave with no window or a tiny jail cell....needless to say, I found a new place to stay tonight and for the next two nights. As I was walking around the town, Sergio asked me if I needed a place to stay. Sergio is no spring chicken, but at least he can climb the steps without appearing to have a heart attack at any moment. I looked at the room, with windows that open onto another part of the same building, but the room was spacious and I felt my spirits lift, especially when he accepted my offer of 55 euro a night.

Took a swim in the Mediterranean today, jumping into the blue water from a rock above. Now I'm in an oh so cool local bar, using their internet system. guess what the Italian boys are rocking out to?? the Beatles! I think it's funny.

Oh, by the way, for all you English people out there....if I spell something incorrectly, I beg you a thousands I am usually in a rush and frankly, my dear, I don't give a damn.

Ciao to all my blog readers!

Tuesday, June 19, 2007

A Duomo With A View: 463 Steps Later

I am about to bid a fond farewell to Firenze and venture to yet another wonderful Italian location. Yesterday, I was overcome with insanity and decided to pay 6 euros to climb the 463 steps (think dark spiral musty stone steps)up to the top of Bruneleschi's Duomo. After a pause at the narrow ledge that leads all around the inside of the dome, thereby offering a view of the paininting on the ceiling, which included a wild and wicked rendition of Dante's inferno, I continued up up up till I squeezed my body through the opening in the top to emerge onto the top of the Firenze world. Three hundred and sixty degrees of Firenze, just imagine all the red tiled roofs, the views of the other famous structures and the tuscan hillsides beyond. Not a place for anyone afraid of heights, but it was a moment I will never ever forget. And, the walk back down was quicker than going up, but it made my head swim going step after step around a spiral.

If you have never had any inclination to go to an opera, well folks, Italy is the place to get over it already. Two days ago I was walking around the city and noticed a few posters of the opera La Boheme being performed that very night. But, it was in a church that wasn't on any of the tourist maps, an Anglican one called St. Marks. I thought, oh, if I could go to an Italian opera while I'm in Italy, well that would prove to me that my fairy godmother does exist. After my dinner I happed to be aimlessly ambling along a street on the other side of the Arno and what did I see? A big sign that said "Concert." That's all it said, but I walked into the front door (the church was completely covered in a 'mask'of scaffolding and protective material) and there was a lady and I asked if this was where the opera was being performed and if I was too late. "Yes, and No" No way!!! So, I paid a measley 19 euro to get in, and realizing I had only 40 minutes before show time, I ran back to my hotel, changed out of my jeans and t-shirt into opera attire, well at least I got a chance to wear my girly clothes, and ran back in time to find my seat. The setting was quite intimate and I'd have to say there were maybe 100 people in attendance and the mc gave the introduction in English. You must come to Italy to hear Italian opera, YOU MUST. There was no amplicfication of any type, yet these singers practically raised the roof! Rodolfo and Mimi were sublime.

Must leave you now. Love to all.

Saturday, June 16, 2007

Falling in Love

As you know, I've been hither and yon for a month now...a whole month! And, I've mostly enjoyed my adventures. I'm learning much about myself, as long distance travel does to anyone paying attention. I know I like people, but not hordes of them at once...smoking, ignoring your personal space and speaking a mile a minute in twelve languages, none of which I can understand. I enjoy meeting other travelers, hearing about their journeys and picking up travel tips. I do like seeing how people relate to one another, their sweethearts, their children, their elders. I enjoy the anonymity of solo travel, being a fly on the wall, yet I admit there are times I do feel lonely and realize there are moments where having a companion would make the experience even better. I love the open countrysides dotted with little villages, selling their local goods and sending out mysterious odors of delicacies to be tasted.

But until a couple of days ago, I haven't found a lover. Now I'm beginning to think I'm falling in love with an Italian beauty, full of life and warmth and grace. Although she's quite mature, she hasn't lost her youthful charm. She is lyrical in her movements, both day and night, with a rhythm all her own. She has a river running through her and a golden bridge that spans the centuries. Her children take after her, living life to the fullest, with a gracious appreciation for diversity and an acceptance of those who come hoping to share in her magic. She is mother to the greatest masterpieces of all time, yet she remains humble in offering the world her treasures. Her name is Firenze, Florence to us Westerners. You mustn't leave this world without coming to meet my new love, my Firenze.

My day at the Uffizi Museum was spectacular. I didn't know how I'd react to all the very Catholic artwork, but I viewed it in an historical sense. Looking at a painting that was created in the 2nd century or the 12th century requires more than a brief nod to Mary, Joseph and Jesus. It asks the mind to time travel back, to ask what life was like for the artist, for the wealthy Medicis, for the common people. It requires the mind to ask about oil and pigment and canvas and brushes and ladders or scaffolding for the massive size of some of them. It asks the mind to think how a cold piece of marble can resemble flesh and drapery and hair and expression. My mind and thoughts are overflowing, full to the brim.

And, oh, now on to more mundane, but oh so heavenly a topic....L*E*A*T*H*E*R.
Oh yeah, oh yeah, Italian leather. Florence knows how to woo me, yes she does.

Friday, June 15, 2007

Planes, Trains, Automobiles and then...the Duomo!

After a whole day of traveling, beginning at 5am and taking buses, trains, planes (first to Frankfurt, layover, then to Pisa) and then more trains and a taxi ride, I was, to say the least, exhausted. But, as my train pulled into Florence from Pisa, what did I see out the window? The red tiled dome of the Duomo! I was floored.

I will be posting a little more often in the next few days, as this Internet place is close and convenient to my hotel. While I was walking around Florence last night, just trying to get my bearings, I was totally taken by the close proximity of all these Italian antiquities that were right before my eyes. More to come.

Must tell you about Allessandro. A young man at the Pisa train station was standing by the train and I think he noticed the confusion on my face. He kindly offered to help me on my way to Florence, as that was where he was going also...his home town. I accepted graciously and as he lifted my bag onto the train, I already felt welcomed into Italy. We chatted along the way. He was happy to practice his English and I was more than happy to tell about the Bay area and the beautiful coastline we have in California. As we were approaching Florence, we both stood up and looked out the train window (picture arms on the window ledge--just like the movies), and I could feel the hospitable Italian sunshine entering my mind and body. And, then...the red tiled dome of the Duomo appeared and I just about dropped to my knees. Wow. it's just that I've heard and studied about this place all my life and when it suddenly appears, it almost doesn't seem real.

Anyway folks, I'm off to my reserved slot at the Uffizi now. Love to all...

Wednesday, June 13, 2007

If It´s Thursday, It Must Be...

I know, I know. It´s been a while since my last post. What can I say?

I spent another week in Provence, most of it really terrific. In Nice, my daughter Kelle and I found ourselves in a downpour in old town Nice. But, we spotted two men who set up a little table outside their shops and were pouring champagne and nibbling on some cheese amidst it all! It´s the Life!

I left Kell at the Marseilles airport to take my little rental car into the hills of Vaucluse. That´s just north of Provence and full of small towns and rolling hillsides. I was fortunate to find a chambre d´hote...that´s a bed and breakfast, at an old 18th Century farmhouse with a view to die for. I really appreciated the laid back pace and pastoral atmosphere. Took a walk in the ochre hills, where the color √≥chre´actually first came from. So cool. Traveled over hill and dale to discover all sorts of small towns, shepherds with flocks of, what else, sheep. I went to Lourmarin to find a bustling street market with, of all things, a hot 4 piece jazz band. Bought salami and cheese and was lucky to be invited to dine with a couple that were also staying at the same b and b as I was. Must admit, it was great to be able to speak my own language with a couple of people from England.

I am about to leave Barcelona, Spain. Spent 4 and a half days here and I think it´s a great city, yet it doesn´t hold the charm of the French countryside for me. I think it´s a place for the young(er)crowd, the ones who don´t mind staying on their feet for hours at a time. Las Ramblas is nothing more than a very long wide sidewalk with souvenir vendors and flower shops, and restaurants lining the sides. It is a stream of bodies from morning till evening. My dinner tonight was cheap¨..cut up melon from the produce market, one euro...3 slices of the special ham they all rave about here, cut directly from the leg of pork from a very special to come, 3 euros...and then I wandered some more till I found a gelato stand, double scoop for 3.30 euro...that´s about 7.30 euro for fruit, meat and dessert! Hey, I was satisfied, okay!!

Also went for a little boat ride along the coast here in Barcelona. A little lackluster, to be honest. I think I´m spoiled with the Central Coast of California. Really folks, you can´t beat it. But, there was a moment of fun when about 4 guys in a little motor boat waved enthusiastically to the tour boat and upon waving back, they all (well, what do you think?) dropped their shorts for a lovely bare assed good bye! Don´t panic...I didn´t return the favor.

Flying off to Florence tomorrow...extra early...whole day of travel...wish me well.
Adios Amigos!!

Sunday, June 3, 2007

Dordogne Valley aka Heavenly Valley


I have been traveling for a few weeks now and I have been over and through the French countryside, hill and dale, fortress and castles, rivers and tiny cobbled streets.

The Dordogne in the middle of France is now on my top 10 of most spectacular places on earth. Yes, that sounds like hyperbole, but it's the gosh darn truth, folks. Again, I am working on downloading my photos...your patience will pay off. I visited several tiny towns. Beynac, Castelnaud, Domme and Sarlat. They were a several giant steps back in time. The prehistoric museum in Beynac was impressive, yet all in French...the findings there are an anthropologist's gold mine. In Castelnaud I visited an ancient fortress, complete with trebuchet (spelling is atrocious, so sorry)**giant stone throwing weapons, used way before canons were invented. I also took a short boat ride along the Dordogne river, crossing under an old bridge. Domme is an old Bastide town high on a hill, barely looks like it left the 12th Century. On to Sarlat, another town steeped in history. My evening meal consisted of the region's delicacy--foie gras...fatted goose liver, on rustic bread toast. I figured if I was to have an authentic experience I better eat the food of the region, even if it included poultry innerds.

I left Brive and drove to another town in the Dordogne area...Rocomadour. This destination was full of Catholic mysticism. A mysterious black wood madonna and child enshrined in a darkly lit chapel. And, a brass bell hung from the ceiling. This bell supposedly rings whenever a sailor is saved out at sea because he calls on the madonna of Rocomadour. Whatever works, that's what I say.

Leaving Rocomadour, I picked up my daughter, Kellee, in Marseilles on May 31 and we headed for a lovely place in the hills above Nice. The proprietors were happy and beautiful people, who happened to know how to prepare food to die for. Kellee was brave (or foolish) enough to try the after dinner "digestive" ...homemade hooch, basically, made from herbs and stored on a high shelf with a piece of aluminum foil for a stopper. Needless to say, she felt it in her head all the next day. What fun!

One of our favorite experiences was when we drove up to a small town called Vence. We wondered the small streets on foot and came upon an art gallery with a woman sitting inside, painting an oil painting. Caroline (pronounced, Car o leen) stopped and had a lively conversation with us, in English. She had worked as a restorative artist in the Louvre for 20 years and now runs this little exquisite gallery. Oh, the tales she told! More later on Caroline.

I am in Aix en Provence right now and will be staying in Southern France until June 9th when I take the train from Marseilles to Barcelona. Kellee and I met a couple from Australia at the bed and breakfast we are staying in. They look to be about in their mid 60s, and they are on a 4 month trip all over the world. What travelers! They told us to find the little out of the way restaurants away from the city centers for the best food. Yes, sounds like wise advise.

I hope you are all doing well and enjoying the beginning of your summer. I will post more soon. Love to all.

Monday, May 28, 2007

Loire Valley or the Valley of the Kings

I am in Brive now, a small city south of Tours, where I've just visited opulent, gimongous chateaux. The French aristocracy really knew how to live, although I wonder at whose expense. As I deboarded the train in the Tours Gare (station), I walked up to a kiosk and found a man only too happy to sell me two afternoon tours of the local chateaux. Since I still cannot find a place to download my photos, go on the web to find Chambord, Cheverny, Amboise and Chenonceau. In Amboise, there is a place completely dedicated to Leonardo Da Vinci...I actually took a photo of the chapel and name stone where he is buried. Amazing architecture, grounds only fit for a King or Queen.

Yesterday, I rented a car and used my daughter's GPS unit to find my way around the French countryside. Quite amazing the way the scenery is no less beautiful than all the postcards put together. The old farm houses, fortresses and rolling green hills are beyond descrition. History shouts out loud at every turn. It has definitely given me a greater sense of historical perception, especially the way we view it in the U.S. So very different than in France. We are mere babies!

There are no Internet cafes in the town I'm in, so the Hotel (Chapon Fin) manager has been kind enough to let me use the office computer for free. I have found the French quite lovely, really. Although, I'm a little surprised at the high prices of everything, yes, even a coke is about 3 dollars.

Off I go to Rocomadour and then to Provence in southern France....till then my lovelies!

Tuesday, May 22, 2007

Ahhh, Paris!

Seems like only a day or so since I last posted, yet since I've left Belgium and spent a few days in Paris it feels a bit longer. Maybe it's because I've seen so very much; the wonder-filled art museum's of the Louvre and the Orsay (pre-Impressionists to post Impressionists). I've seen the beauty of Notre Dame Cathedral and St.Michele. I have watched boats going along the Seine and walked over the many Ponts (bridges) romantic. I have taken the elevator up to the top of the Eiffel Tower and the view was positively...lofty. I have walked and walked and WALKED the streets of Paris, watching the people, eating the bread and drinking a bit of wine. Personally, California wines are better, but what do I know...I favor my home state.

I think the Parisians are nicer than they are made out to be. The men are dressed to perfection, no beards, black suits and shoes. The women wear dresses, scarves and fatties here. The cars are all small and I have found that we don't really appreciate the bumper the way the French do. I've seen more bumps on bumpers than anywhere else...but no bumper gauche!

There are fountains and statues and gardens everywhere....a historical paradise. I hope to find a way to download photos to share soon. Hang in there till I figure a way. I must leave Paris, hoo. But, the Loire Valley calls me...all those opulent Chateaux and the Chartes Cathedral to explore. A tough job, I know.

Stay tunes for the rest of the adventure...hopefully, I will be able to find Internet places along the way. Au revoir!

Saturday, May 19, 2007

Belgian Countryside

I won't bore you all with the torture of jet lag, but the extra two hours sitting in the plane before take-off in Washington DC made the twelve hour flying time into fourteen. By the time I got to Brussels at 9am the next morning my body didn't know day from night. But, now that I've had a couple of days to adjust, I'm starting to feel almost normal. Sitting still in one place for that long goes against all things natural for a body. Let's just say I was a wee bit exhausted by the time I arrived. A terrible price to pay for two months abroad, heh.

My daughter, Kellee and her husband David have been wonderful to me. Their house is like a castle and seems my two grandsons, Taylor and Gavin, have adapted to life in Belgium without much trouble. They enjoy the space they have here and find living without television makes life more interesting. Their imaginations are growing along with their boy bodies.

The Belgian countryside is lush and green this time of year. There are fields of grain and newly sprouting vegetables, cows and sheep dotting the hills. The buildings are mostly old with red brick the standard building material. Yesterday,Kellee took me into Mons, a small city in the south of Belgium where we walked around the Grand Place (city center where there are no cars and people are sitting outside eating and drinking beer). The flower market was big and the variety of flowers and potted plants and vegetables was impressive. I had a for real Belgian waffle and man oh was to die for. (nothing like we have in the states)

I will be leaving for Paris tomorrow. Taking the train and trying to locate my first hotel by myself!

Friday, May 11, 2007

First Time for Everything

This is it! My First Big European Adventure begins in just a couple of days. I'm starting in Belgium for a couple of days with my daughter and her family. Then off to France, Spain, Italy and Austria. I've planned and schemed. I've struggled with balancing my Grad school responsibilities with my out of control anticipation. I've probably spent at least a hundred hours on the Internet, chasing the right hotel in the right location, searching air and land travel schedules. I've poured over stacks of travel books, DVDs and watched Rick Steves and Rudy Maxa on the travel channel more times than I'd like to admit.

So, stay tuned. If you want to see where I've been, then log onto this blog. I'm about to explore all the places I've only dreamed about until now.
Hang on to your hats, because it's gonna blow your mind! Anyone with travel tips, must-see places, or anything of interest, please feel free to add a comment. I will be posting and checking in whenever I have a chance to visit an Internet Cafe.