Thursday, April 19, 2018

A Solo Trip to Paris, Part 2

My first day in Paris started with a nice buffet breakfast in the hotel. I learned to boil my own soft boiled egg in a portable boiling pot by hanging my raw egg in a nifty little wire egg holder. I sat at my breakfast table with my guide books and maps. It was a rare feeling to have no one else's ideas or opinions to take into consideration. I was on my first full day of deciding everything all by myself.

Knowing that jet-lag was most likely going to arrive by the afternoon, I choose to walk to the two islands in the Seine, which were the first settled area of Paris. As I left the hotel, I kept my eyes open for the landmarks that would be necessary for me to make my way back to my room. It was a short walk to the Fontaine Saint-Michel. Built in 1860, it shows the work of many artists and was largely criticized at the time for its multi-colored stone work.

I was just yards away from one of the six bridges that would take me across the Seine River to Îll de la Cite, site of Notre Dame.

Near the entrance of the Gothic Cathedral is a beautiful statue of Charlemagne (1878). It avoided destruction during WWII because there is a strong connection to Charlemagne in German history.

The fabulous exterior of Notre Dame is covered with such amazing art. I was especially enchanted with the delicate city scapes above the heads of the saints.

Inside there is much unidentified art, but all amazing!

I especially enjoyed the gold leaf religious icons and . . .

the large carved relief that one could walk around to see the entire story of Christ.

The stained glass was actually removed from the Cathedral to preserve it during WWII.

After a long walk around the interior, I sat for some time just trying to absorb the beauty and history of the place. How did they build these amazingly tall Naves in the 1200's? The architecture received quite a bit of destruction in the French Revolution (1790's) but has been greatly restored.

Returning to the outside, I had to walk around to the back of the building to find the wonderful flying buttresses.

Then I simply wandered around the 2 islands which are rare Medieval streets and buildings. The rest of Paris was mostly leveled and rebuilt with its grand boulevards and monuments under the rule of Napoleon III (1850's.)

The Palais de Justice sits on the site where Marie Antoinette was imprisoned and executed.

My guess about being hit by jet-lag was about right. By late afternoon I strolled back to my little hotel on my little street (this time knowing just how to get there) and took a nap before going out to dinner. Lobster dinner was just around the corner!

Wednesday, April 18, 2018

A Solo Trip to Paris, Part 1

So many friends have seemed surprised and impressed that I chose to travel to Paris, France on my own this past February. There are two background stories that influenced my decision to do so. 

Three years ago, my husband and I traveled to Egypt and France with our thirteen-year-old granddaughter. By the time we landed in Paris, we had traveled the Nile, roasted in the desert, ridden camels, camped in the Egyptian desert, ridden horses in the desert, visited the pyramids and much more. On arriving in Paris, my two companions were pretty pooped out. But I was in the city of museums, and I so wanted to spend time in The Louvre. Our visit at The Louvre was quite disappointing. Neither Mike nor Angelica wanted to fight the crowds, nor did they show any patience for finding our way through the miles of hallways to see much of anything. Of course I was disappointed and pretty much brought it up to my husband many times (sorry, Mike) over the last three years. "Some day I'm going to Paris and I will spend as much time as I want in The Louvre!"

Under the Christmas tree this year I found a large envelope. In the envelope was a cashiers check, a proposed budget for an eight day stay in Paris, some travel information, and a gift card reading, " To Margaret Sue, From Her Love."  Needless to say I was speechless and emotional. It was the most surprising gift I have ever received. Mike told me that it was my choice to go on this trip alone or to ask a friend or relative to accompany me.

I mulled over various scenarios for the next few days while searching the internet excitedly for hotels, mapping out the area of Paris I wanted to stay, and looking at the museums and monuments that called to me. All the while, the second backstory that helped me decide to go alone, kept popping in and out of my brain.

When I graduated from high school, I followed a dream to go to New York City. (I had lived my first 18 years in a small town in Oregon with very few adventures.) I applied to several colleges in New York and accepted a large scholarship to attend Mills College of Education in Manhattan. I knew no one there and had no experience getting around in a large city, yet I "cowgirled up,"  got on a plane, and arrived at JFK, on my own for the first time.

So as I quandered the decision to go alone or invite someone, I kept thinking about the courage I had at 18 years old. Could I muster up the same adventurousness I had back then? The personal challenge was one I couldn't say no to, so on February 11, 2018, I got on a plane by myself for an experiential journey.
I found my hotel.

Once landing in Paris I had a decision to make. My hotel, Hotel Dauphin Saint Germain, had sent me an email prior to arrival giving me options for traveling from the airport to the city. The easy ones were cab, shuttle, or Uber. The more challenging was to take public transportation--a 30 minute trip, dragging my luggage through the terminal, through the unknown streets of Paris, not speaking or reading French, to find my new residence for 8 days. I thought about my 18-year-old self charging through the streets of Manhattan, and accepted the challenge. After all, this was in a way testing myself. After a good cup of coffee at Charles de Gaulle Airport I began asking for directions. I was told to walk 15 minutes in a certain direction and I would see a train sign. So for 15 minutes I walked and  kept hoping I was headed in the right direction. The CDG is a huge airport with several terminals and so many ways I could go wrong. But I made it. I figured out how to get a train ticket and boarded the train to central Paris. I carefully watched the stops. I knew where I needed to get off the train. I was able to have a bit of a conversation with 2 men and began to see that all Paris was possible. I eventually saw the evidence of a city, and got off the train at the appropriate stop. But then another challenge--there are many exits from the underground station to the streets, and I did not see the exact street exit the hotel had mentioned.
My 5th floor street view.

I picked an exit sounding close and headed to daylight from the underground. Ah Paris! But where was my hotel? It turns out Rue Dauphine, the street where my hotel was, is only 2 blocks long, so no one I asked knew where it was. I had just an inkling of what direction to walk and eventually found a very small hotel on a very small street. I was home! (At least for awhile.)
Where I had my first meal in Paris.
My French bed--so quaint. 

Monday, April 2, 2018

Pear Blossoms: Step by Step

It's been awhile since I posted a "how to" blog. For one thing, I have to have the camera out in my studio ready to photograph each step. Even then, I sometimes forget, as I joyously continue painting only to remember I missed taking a pic of a step later.

This particular step by step includes almost every part of this process. Enjoy!!

Step 1: I begin by creating an interesting abstract shape to break up the rectangular paper. The shape has certain qualities: all corners are different sizes, the lines are a dominance or either curvilinear or straight, the design leaves the paper on all 4 sides and all exits avoid leaving at the middle of the paper. The abstract shape is then cut out from contact paper and applied to the paper

(Here you see the shape attached to the paper and a light wash has been applied. One corner with a cool color and three with a warm color. 

Step 2: I had spring and blooms in mind, so I broke my abstract into some blossom shapes. After outlining those blossoms with a sharpie (on the contact paper) I cut around those to reveal a new shape which I then reapplied to the paper.

(I had two rectangular pieces I was working on at the same time.)

Step 3:  After cutting out my floral shapes, I put my 2 papers on a surface to use my mouth atomizer to spray with a warm color over the warm corners, and a cool spray over the cool corners. 

(I use paper towels to protect the parts as I spray.)

Step 4: Now all the contact paper is removed, and the results of the 3 previous steps is revealed. 

Step 5: The the fun begins! I mix one color with several hues to apply around the left white. Since I'm thinking blossoms, I'm also thinking leaves.

Step 6: More colors are added to the outer portion.

Step 7: More deep colors are added as well as some line work. 

Step 8: Now to add some understanding to the white shapes. I added pale grays to the petals first, then chartreuse in the centers with some lines for stamens, and finally dots of red. 

Step 9 and 10:  The final steps--first to use black ink applied with a small brush to push back areas behind the organic shapes. Then I used both black and white ink to add more line work. 

I'd love to get feedback on both the process and the paintings.

Pear Blossoms I
Mixed Media
11 x 14

Pear Blossoms II
Mixed Media
11 x 14