Thoughts on France and the French people

Here are some thoughts I have on France.

The French drive like crazy people. They run red lights at major intersections while people are crossing the street. Stop signs are optional. Stoplights are, too. You better get out of the way or they are going to run you over.

That strange two-toned sound that ambulances and the police use in countries outside the US is disturbing when you’re actually there. I asked Emily why she thought that was and she said she thought it was because of the movies. Every time in the movies when you hear that siren there’s a car chase or something else is going wrong.

Hotels

We stayed in four hotels while we were in France. The first one, the Kyriad, was in Lyon. Emily’s company set that up as part of the conference she was attending. The Kyriad is like a Comfort Inn without the comfort. I saw them in Paris, too, so I’m assuming they’re a hotel chain. The best part of it was the restaurant for those nights we didn’t feel like going out and the free breakfast. Breakfast had a good variety of croissants, pastries, scrambled eggs and some kind of sausage. It didn’t resemble the breakfast sausage we have in the States and I didn’t try it but it looked gross to me.

Next, we spent almost a week in Paris. Ah, Paris! What an incredible city. Our hotel was on Montparnasse avenue, on the Left Bank of the river Seine. This is where the artists’ lived and worked in the 19th century.

Our next hotel was the Place de L’Horloge in Avignon. This was my favorite hotel. Avignon is a small, walled village and the hotel is in a great part of it. It’s located a half block away from the main square with restaurants and bars on all four sides. It’s a short, quick walk from there to the Palace of the Popes.

The people working in this hotel, in particular, were amazingly polite and helpful. The free breakfast was a good way to start off the day. We wandered around the town enjoying the relaxing time together, and when it was dinnertime we had many places to choose from.

Our last hotel was an American chain out at the airport. It was just an overnight; a chance to get some good sleep before we headed back home. The difference in the level of help between this hotel staff and the other places we stayed in was remarkable. It was as if this hotel staff was from the US and just doing a tour of duty in France

Overall, I loved France. I had heard the horror stories and I was a bit nervous but the people were incredibly friendly and helpful, the food is everything you’ve ever heard about and the sights and historic landmarks were amazing. Of all of the places in the US and the countries we’ve visited outside the US, France is my favorite. I can’t wait to go back!

 

Provence and Quarry with Vincent Van Gogh

Sunday, Oct, 21

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAWe took a half-day tour today based on Vincent Van Gogh’s last two years of life. We stopped in Arles, Les Baux de Provence and St. Remy. He checked himself into an asylum in St. Remy where he lived for a year. I won’t bore you by writing a biography of Van Gogh although personally, I find it fascinating.

The small, two-street, village of “Les Baux” which means, “The Rocks,” didn’t interest us that much. The area is known for its limestone quarries. Our guide said there was an unusual Van Gogh and Gauguin event in a limestone quarry a few minutes away from the village that we shouldn’t miss. The shows in the quarry change periodically so we were fortunate that the Van Gogh show was running while we were there.

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Photo showing how large the stones are compared to the two people standing there.

She dropped off the two other people we were with and took us to an old, inactive, quarry.  We paid the entrance fee and stepped through black curtains. I have never seen anything like it. It was absolutely one of the most amazing things I’ve ever experienced. This photo was taken from the website GoWorldTravel.com

You can feel an immediate temperature drop when you step inside the cavernous room. We happened to come into the room during one of the periodic, short, breaks when the lights were out. We literally could not see our hand in front of our face. We had no way of knowing what was in front of us so we stood still until the next projection started.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAWhen it started, and the soft, beautiful, classical music began, it looked like we were standing in a gentle snow fall which was part of a Van Gogh painting. It was so realistic that I thought I could reach out and touch the snowflakes.  Then paintings by Van Gogh and Gauguin appeared on monstrous limestone columns ranging in size from 20 to 60 feet. Each painting morph into a new one with a constant shift of art in front of our eyes.

The was a smooth wide walkway that took us to the top so we could look down at the art. No one spoke; there were no crying babies or children out of control. I just stood there and became absorbed in the experience. My new camera took amazing photos in the dark with no flash.

We didn’t want to leave but our time was up and our guide was coming to pick us up. I reluctantly left this magical place, but I will never forget it.

Susan L Stewart

Avignon, Provence

Avignon City Street

Avignon City Street

Saturday, Oct 20 Tom and I are in Avignon, a small, walled, town in Provence. It’s a beautiful, very old town. It takes about 25 minutes to walk across the town from the two furthermost points. Our hotel is inside the walls. It’s a very nice hotel with a large comfortable room and the staff is wonderful. Actually, almost everyone we have met in France has been great.

Avignon Papacy

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

“The Avignon Papacy was the period from 1309 to 1376, during which seven successive popes resided in Avignon, rather than in Rome.

Two Palace Towers

Two Palace Towersresided in Avignon, in modern-day France, rather than in Rome.This situation arose from the conflict between the Papacy and the French crown.

“Following the strife between Boniface VIII and Philip IV of France, and the death of his successor Benedict XI after only eight months in office, a deadlocked conclave finally elected Clement V, a Frenchman, as Pope in 1305. Clement declined to move to Rome, remaining in France, and in 1309 moved his court to the papal enclave at Avignon, where it remained for the next 67 years. “This absence from Rome is sometimes referred to as the “Babylonian Captivity of the Papacy.” A total of seven popes reigned at Avignon; all were French, and they increasingly fell under the influence of the French Crown. Finally, on September 13, 1376, Gregory XI abandoned Avignon and moved his court to Rome (arriving on January 17, 1377), officially ending the Avignon Papacy.  

Susan

Paris, Oh how I love Paris!

Me trying to torch Creme Brulée

Me trying to torch Creme Brulée

Today is our last day in Paris. I’ve loved every minute of it – except for the escalator disaster. Our hotel is just off of Montparnasse, a huge boulevard located on the Left Bank of the River Seine. This is the area in Paris where the creative community – artists and writers – met in the 19th century. I found an art store just a few doors down from the hotel and bought a real box of Conté crayons. The box is in French.

Photographing the Ace de Triomphe

Photographing the Arc de Triomphe

Emily had us scheduled pretty tight. We had about two hours in the Musée d’Orsay, the museum of modern art. I could have spent four or five hours there. We went directly to the two connected rooms with paintings by Van Gogh and his contemporaries. There is no photography allowed in the museum. After fifteen minutes, Tom and Emily were bored and went off to explore the museum. I spent an hour and a half in those two rooms, most of it spent sketching a painting by Gauguin.

From there we rushed through Paris, getting on and off the underground and finally arrived, five minutes late, at our French cooking class. Emily is a co-owner of a wonderful bakery and when she asked what we’d like to learn to cook, I told her to just choose something that she wanted to learn. She did a good job. We learned how to make little plum tarts, Madeleines, and creme brulée. I took a turn with the torch to caramelize the tops but it scared me. I’m not fond of fire.

The instructor was wonderful. She spoke very good English so we had a delightful conversation. I mentioned that the stereotype of the thin, elegantly dressed, French woman wasn’t a stereotype. I don’t remember seeing one overweight woman in Paris. She assured me that this was only in Paris. The rest of the country was more “normal.”

The day we went to see the Arc de Triomphe, I was having trouble getting a good photo. The Arc is in the middle of a gigantic traffic circle with multiple streets leading to it. Finally, I took my life into my hands and crossed half way across the eight lane avenue. I stopped in the tiny space between the lanes to take some photos not realizing that Emily was taking photos of me taking photos.

I will miss Paris.

Until next time,

Susan L Stewart

Four Naked Men & the Louvre

You can’t take flash photos inside churches or museums, although many people don’t care, or maybe they don’t understand what a flash, times thousands of people over the years, does to ancient paintings and murals. I saw so many people look around to locate the guard in the room and then hold their cell phone up and take a photo anyway.

I was standing in front of a Van Gogh painting and watched a woman take a flash photo of it. I wanted to shout to get the guard to come over

Four Naked Man at the Louvre

and then point her out. Honestly, that would have been slightly more appropriate than tackling her to the floor. I guess you could say I feel a little passionately about this issue. Thankfully, my new camera does an excellent job of taking photos in low light.

The other thing people don’t understand is that you can only take photos of artwork owned by that museum if they allow photos at all. Visiting exhibitions belong to the lending institution and, normally, there are clear rules against any kind of photography including video. If you are in a museum and would like to take a photo (without a flash) simply go up to the guard in the room and ask if it would be all right to take one.

This is one of the funniest things I have ever seen in a museum. Archeologist believe that at one time this was a fountain and the men were the legs. They are huge, easily eight feet high, and each man is standing there looking at his penis – or maybe just the floor.

We were allowed to take photos (without a flash) at the Louvre in Paris. The Louvre displays ancient art up to roughly the mid-19th century. The Musée d’Orsay is responsible for modern art including that of the Impressionist painters – Monet, Renoir, Seurat and Cézanne among many others.

The Impressionists changed art forever in the 1870s and 1880s. They were not

Marcel Duchamp Urinal: Fountain

considered artistic geniuses, rather as crazy people making ugly art. They got their name when an art critic wrote that these were not real paintings, only impressions. The Académie des Beaux-Arts in Paris was the official art establishment and determined what was “proper” art for more than a century. They organized the annual or biannual Salon de Paris art exhibition. The Impressionists were repeatedly refused entrance to the Salon. If only the unbending and closed minds of the Académie could have seen some of the modern art that came after the Impressionists, they would have been outraged.

As an example, in 1917 French artist Marcel Duchamp entered a porcelain men’s urinal to the Society of Independent Artists’ exhibition. He

named his “artwork” Fountain. The committee refused to include it in the exhibition but the famous photographer, Alfred Stieglitz, displayed and photographed it. It became well known despite the art community’s opinion.

The work of Impressionist painters, and the artists that came after them, are considered modern art and can be seen in museums like the Musée d’Orsay in Paris, the Tate Modern in London, the Museum of Modern Art (MOMA) in New York City and the new Hamilton building in Denver.

Until next time,

Susan L Stewart

Notre Dame: Our Lady of Paris

These are some of my favorite gargoyle photos.

 

Notre Dame de Paris was a larger cathedral than I expected based on photos I’ve seen. Building began in 1163 and the cathedral was finished in 1345. The building suffered great damage during the French Revolution in the 1790s.

From Wikipedia:

In 1793, during the French Revolution, the cathedral was rededicated to the Cult of Reason, and then to the Cult of the Supreme Being. During this time, many of the treasures of the cathedral were either destroyed or plundered. The statues of biblical kings of Judah (erroneously thought to be kings of France), located on a ledge on the facade of the cathedral were beheaded. Many of the heads were found during a 1977 excavation nearby and are on display at the Musée de Cluny. For a time, Lady Liberty replaced the Virgin Mary on several altars. The cathedral’s great bells managed to avoid being melted down. The cathedral came to be used as a warehouse for the storage of food.

Emily did some research and found that we needed to be at Notre Dame before they opened at 10 a.m. to get in line to climb the steps to the top of the church and get a good view of the gargoyles. The gargoyles were built as a system to drain rainwater from the roof. They extend out, away from the building, to keep rainwater from washing down the sides of the church and eroding the mortar.

When we got there about fifteen minutes to 10, the line was short. As we stood there, I kept looking up at this huge tower and wondering how many steps there were. I finally decided I wasn’t going to try it and it was a good thing I didn’t. I went inside the church and sketched for forty-five minutes while Tom and Emily made the trek. The stairs, all 387 of them (774 round trip), go around and around in a narrow, tight spiral to the top. So many people have climbed the stairs that the individual steps are worn down in the middle making them uneven and difficult to navigate. These photos of the Notre Dame gargoyles are from our daughter, Emily. There is also a photo of the green statues of the 12 Apostles on the roof.

I had a wonderful time sketching the  round and rectangular stained glass windows at the very front of the church. I’m a slow sketcher but have really enjoyed the opportunities to do so. Someone was tuning the gigantic organ – which is a pretty boring activity. He would press a single key and let it play for a good 15 to 20 seconds and then go to the next one. Occasionally, though, he would actually play a few chords or a small piece of a hymn. Magical!

Until next time,

Susan L Stewart

We were scammed in Paris!

October 16

One of my favorite Paris skylines. I think the church at the top of the hill is Sacré Coeur.

Yes, it’s true. We fell right into a scam but I have to give the guy credit for creativity. And we were only out about five Euros.

My gold Parisian ring

The three of us were crossing a very busy street. As we got to the other side, I glanced down and saw a man’s gold ring on the edge of the road. There was a man standing there. He was small, not very well dressed but didn’t look homeless or poor. I didn’t pay attention to him at the time because there were so many people walking around. As we

Tom & Me at the Luxembourg Gardens

walked past the ring I asked Tom if he had his on. He looked down and said yes.

About that time, the man came running up to us smiling and excited. He spoke a little broken English. He held out his hand to show us the gold ring. He introduced himself but Emily said what I thought was his name, was actually Kosovo, where he was from. He pointed to the inside of the band where something was stamped. Jewelers sometimes put a stamp on the inside of a band indicating what percentage is gold or silver. I couldn’t tell exactly what it was, but he was trying to tell us it was real gold. Of course, it didn’t mean anything – anyone can stamp whatever they want on the inside of a ring.

He showed us that the ring didn’t fit his fingers. Then he turned to Tom, picked up his hand, and tried the ring on his fingers but it didn’t fit. Then he picked up my hand and it fit on my middle finger. He was very happy about that. Everybody was happy, happy. We said Merci Beaucoup (thank you very much) several times and turned to walk away. That’s when it got interesting.

We were trying to move on but he stopped us and asked for a few Euros for a sandwich. It wasn’t nearly that clear, and he had to say it several times before we understood. Tom reached into his pocket and pulled out a handful of change, about five Euros. We turned to go, again, but he stopped us and asked for more. “One more Euro.” That was enough. Tom said

I love photographing architecture. This door is beautiful.

no, I said no and Emily said no. He was still talking while we walked away. I can’t wait to hear what our jeweler will have to say when I show him my new, gold ring from Paris.

The next week, in Avignon, an old woman approached us at a stoplight with a cup in her hand. She spoke fast French but apparently no English. We shook our head, “No,” and turned away from her. All of a sudden, she could speak a little English. As we stood at the light, she stood behind us saying, “You’re so cheap, you’re so cheap, you’re so cheap.” We just laughed.

There are always disabled people, mostly women, sitting on the steps of a church or against the door leading into the church with a cup or basket by their side. I think these are people with legitimate needs. Knowing when to give someone money and when to keep walking is often difficult whether you’re in the States or away.

I think the worst scam we were ever a party to was in London in 2004. We were coming out of Harrods, an incredible,

Whether it’s Boston, London or Paris, I haven’t been in an Underground or Metro I haven’t loved. Just something about it…

huge, department store. Mohamed Al-Fayed owned Harrods at that time. He was the father of the man Princess Diana was dating. His son died with her in the car crash. Al-Fayed built a shrine to them in the store. He’s Egyptian and there are huge Egyptian mummies and lions all over.

We had just left the store when a Muslim woman dressed in all black approached us. She was carrying a small baby with a bottle in its mouth. She asked if we could give her some money to buy food and diapers for the baby. I asked her about her husband and family. She said her husband had left her and her mother was in the hospital. Tom gave her a pound, she said thank you, and we walked on. A block later, there was another Muslim woman with a small baby talking to some tourists. I still don’t know what to think about that. I could draw some conclusions but they would be based on pure speculation since I know next to nothing about the Muslim culture. It was just shocking to see women in their burkas begging on the streets of London.

Until next time,

Susan L Stewart

The Luxembourg Gardens

Monday, Oct 15

Luxembourg Palace

Our first full day in Paris.

Tom & Emily at the Luxembourg Gardens

Our hotel in Paris, the Villa des Artistes, is a Best Western located on the Left Bank where artists lived and worked in the 19th century. It’s just off Boulevard Montparnasse and Boulevard Raspail, both very busy street with easy access to the Metro. We found some great restaurants for dinner. The room was nice with very comfortable beds. The only thing that gave it big demerits was the pile of human poo five or six steps from the hotel entrance. Disgusting. Emily and I slept in and then went downstairs to have some breakfast. The selection was smaller but we got there at 10:20 and it closed at 10:30. The breakfast room is cute and comfortable. Emily got two croissants for her

Luxembourg gardens column

dad and a baguette and some fruit. I tried some high fiber/fruit cereal and yogurt. Then we hung out until Tom got in about 11:00. He was exceptionally tired – hadn’t slept on the plane – and had a bad cold. I could tell he was miserable but he didn’t want to sleep, so we walked around the neighborhood. From our hotel, it was an easy walk to the Galleries Lafayette, a huge indoor mall like one of the thousand malls we have in the States. One of our tourist books said it is the second largest tourist attraction after the Louvre. I don’t believe a word of it. I did find gloves and a scarf so I’m finally warmer.

Emily has an amazing sense of direction and is an excellent navigator. When Tom and I travel, this is usually my job so I hung back and let her do her thing. She got us to places I never would

Arcade leading to the palace

have found and picked up the Paris Metro very quickly.

Under Emily’s directions, we made it to the Luxembourg Gardens. I was tired and found a chair just inside the garden gates to sit in. The wind was cold but I found a spot in the sun. Tom and Emily went exploring. About a half hour later, they found me and said I was missing the actual gardens. Sure enough, I’d been sitting and resting in a small garden on the outskirts of the Luxembourg grounds. I followed them, we turned a

Queen Marie de Médicis, Reine de France 1573 – 1642

corner and there it was. Absolutely beautiful! Such bright yellow flowers that looked a little like mums. The Luxembourg Palace is exceptional. Apparently, the queen’s son built this hugh palace for his mother. When he found out she was plotting against him, he imprisoned her in it. We didn’t go in, but I doubt it was much of a hardship.

I know a bit of English history and now I’m looking forward to learning some French history.We walked down a long and wide arcade

Sea Horse Fountain

with grass and a path in the middle and very tall trees that have been pruned to look like boxes lining both sides. At the end there was this amazing fountain of sea-horses. The fronts looked just like horses but instead of back legs they had a fish tail. It was a great day and I think it was the only one where it didn’t rain.I was very tired this afternoon so we walked back to the room and I took a nap while Tom and Emily found a little bar and got caught up over Sangrias.

Until next time,

Susan L Stewart

Train station in Paris my worst experience

October 14

The River Seine

We got to the TGV train to Paris and found our car. The most difficult part was taking all of our luggage up a very narrow, circular, set of steps that went straight up. There were train employees standing around but no one offered to help us. I couldn’t lift my 50 pound check-in suitcase so Emily had to make two trips to get hers and mine on. I was able to bring up my lighter carry ons. By the time we got to our seats, we were both panting. The seats were very comfortable and could be adjusted to lean back. There was a slide out tray on the back of the seat in front of me so I was able to blog during the two hour train ride. Riding the TGV is quite enjoyable. In what seemed like no time at all, we arrived in Paris.

I mentioned in an earlier post that the osteoarthritis in my hands has gotten very bad. My great-

Paris Skyline with Eiffel Tower

grandmother, grandmother and mother all lived with the same problem so I guess it’s heredity. I saw a rheumatologist before we left and she took x-rays of my hands. I have a large bone spur on my left thumb and a smaller one on my right thumb. She talked about seeing a hand surgeon. That’s a scary thought for me. As a full-time artist and writer, if something went wrong, and I lost the use of my left thumb, it would be difficult to paint. I told her I’d make an appointment to see her after I got back from France.

When we got to the Paris train station, it was cold and raining softly. My hands were very sore. After we got off the train we found that we needed to bring our suitcases down a level. Emily spotted an escalator and headed for it. To be perfectly honest, I have been uncomfortable around escalators all of my life. I’m not afraid of them any more, but I’m very careful around them; there’s something about the timing to get

A Paris Church

on and off that makes me a little nervous. I have a large, heavy suitcase, a small carryon with wheels and a small, but heavy, bag with my laptop that can be hung on the pull up handle on the carryon.

I went first; that turned out to be a good decision. If Emily had gone first I probably would have killed her. The problem was I didn’t think it through so I had the large suitcase on the step below me, then me and then the roll along, with the smaller case over the handles on the step right behind me. If I had carried the lighter weight suitcase and pulled the heavy one behind me I think everything would have been fine.

I could have predicted the outcome. When the first suitcase hit the bottom of the escalator it got its wheels stuck and fell over away from me. The escalator didn’t miss a beat and I fell down over the suitcase with the carryon coming down on top of my feet. I used my hands to break my fall and, in the process, hurt both of them – especially the left one – worse than they have felt for some time. I also did something to my left shin and right ankle. The fact that I hadn’t pack my new gloves or a scarf – only a sweatshirt and umbrella -and my hands were getting colder and colder, didn’t make any of it any better. I knew Emily was right behind this disaster and I was trying to get my feet under me and out of the way so she wouldn’t get hurt. There was a train station attendant standing right there who didn’t move a muscle.

Looking down on Notre Dame

By the time we made it outside, there was a long line of of people waiting for a taxi. There were also a lot of taxis waiting for people. We got in line and stood in the rain waiting for our turn. There was a “facilitator” keeping people and their luggage moving along and pointing to the taxi they were supposed to go to. Finally he pointed at a taxi for us. The driver put the luggage in the trunk and got in. Then he started talking to us in fast French. We told him we only spoke English and didn’t understand what he was saying. I asked if he spoke English and he just let out with a blast of more French that we still didn’t understand.

Then he said, “This taxi is not for you! Get out.” While Emily and I were sitting there, stunned, he got out of the car, opened the trunk and put our luggage on the street in the rain. I was cold, in a lot of pain and furious and still didn’t know what was going on. The facilitator came over but when he heard us trying to argue with the driver he retreated.

We stood there for a few minutes when a mini-van pulled to the front of the line. The facilitator pointed at us and the mini-van and we headed in that direction. It was only five or 10 yards but when we walked up to it, a group of four people with all of their crap pushed in front of us and started loading their stuff into the van. Emily tried to tell them that it was ours and they just laughed at her. When we got to the hotel room I had a complete meltdown. Thankfully, it was the only one I had on the trip.

We’re heading to bed. I’m exhausted. Tom is on his way and should be here by tomorrow at 11:00 a.m. or so. I can’t wait to see him. It’s been a very long week without him. Since we have been retired, we haven’t spent much time away from each other.

Until next time,

Susan L Stewart

On our way to Paris

Sunday, October 14

City of Lyon

We’re leaving Lyon this morning on the TGV – the fast train to Paris. Lyon is a big city but it has some interesting things to see and do. The Basilica is beautiful and the square with the Musée des Beaux-Arts is amazing. But there are so many things that I didn’t have time for. They have a wonderful park, Park de la Tete d’Or, that I didn’t find time to see but Emily went. It has botanical gardens, a huge lake, walking paths and a zoo. The Old Town is a maze of interesting shops and street performers. These are just some of the reasons I would like to visit Lyon again. If you’re thinking of going to Lyon, I’d recommend spending some time on Only Lyon, the online site of things to see and do.

Our train didn’t leave until the afternoon so we slept in. Once we pulled ourselves together, we walked four blocks to pick up something for breakfast. Of course we could barely understand the signs. Emily pointed to a sign describing a sandwich with a list of ingredients including mozzarella cheese and ham. The shopkeeper shook her head, “No.” Then she rattled off a list of cheeses that we didn’t recognize. So Emily ordered a sandwich avec fromage [with cheese]. To keep things easy I nodded when she pointed at me and asked if I wanted what Emily was having. We thought it would have some ham on it, but no.

We ended up with a hard baguette – the French truly know how to make bread! – with a long, thick slice of Brie and butter – just in case the brie didn’t have enough fat in it. Nothing else. I don’t normally care for Brie but this was very different from the Brie I’ve eaten in the States. Not too bad for breakfast. I also ordered a pastry of some kind. The sign said pommeswhich are apples but inside the flaky pastry was applesauce. I took half the

Lyon Train Station

sandwich and the pastry on the train. I’ve never eaten so many pastries and so little ice cream before. But overall, the food and desserts are amazingly good. I’ll give myself a week back home to get back into a routine and then it’s time to lose some (a lot!) of weight.

I don’t eat sandwiches very often at home but when it’s made on a French baguette, it’s really good. if you don’t want to sit down in a restaurant for lunch, and pay a lot of money to do so, your only option is a boulangerie. The only lunch things I’ve seen here are ham and cheese sandwiches, chicken and cheese sandwiches, tuna salad sandwiches, cheese sandwiches and disgusting small pizzas – unless you want pastry in which case you have an almost unlimited choice.

On our walk back to the hotel, we passed a very shiny, black, motorcycle parked on the street with a pair of ladies panties in the corner of the wind shield. Someone had a fun night!

We got packed this morning and took our luggage down to the front desk. When we asked her to call a taxi, and told her we wanted to go to the train station she told us the station was only a few minutes of walking away. We knew that, having walked to the train station several times, but we both had luggage, carry-ons and purses. On top of that, many of the streets and sidewalks were made of cobblestones. We assured her we needed a taxi but when it arrived, the taxi driver gave us look like we were nuts not to walk.

Until next time,

Susan L Stewart

Our last day in Lyon

Saturday, Oct 13

The Basilica Clock

This is our last day in Lyon. You will notice the blue skies in the Lyon photos. That’s pretty much the last blue skies we saw on the trip.

Emily had to go to work for a few hours but now we have the rest of the day to go exploring. Lyon is the second or third largest city in France. Walking is a dream because the streets are flat. This is one of the best cities I’ve visited for public transportation. They have city buses, a trolley, and an underground – called the Metro.

Since we don’t know where we’re going, we are taking taxis. It’s more expensive but safer in the long run, I think. Here’s the thing about the taxis in Lyon: It is not unusual to be picked up in a new

The blue door

Mercedes or other luxury car. I’ve had a few taxi drivers who spoke English and one of them said that taxis are for upper middle class and rich people. They expect to be picked up in a nice car that is spotlessly clean. He said his car cost 150,000 Euros, In dollars, that’s basically a $240,000 dollar car. Maybe I misunderstood him. He spoke excellent English but, really? Can you actually spend $240,000 to buy a Mercedes? Mind you, this car was not gold-plated. The taxi prices reflect the cost of the car. I’m hoping they have “normal” less expensive taxis in Paris. We could go broke just paying for transportation.

As Emily and I walked around Old Town we noticed that there is a cathedral  – or what I would consider to be a cathedral – on almost every corner. Kind of like Dunkin’ Doughnuts in Boston. Did you know that Boston has more Dunkin’

What a great porch!

Doughnuts per capita than any other city in the US? I’m certainly not comparing a French cathedral to a doughnut shop but you get the picture. I guess in Denver it would be a Walgreens.

Finally, I was exhausted from walking around so much. With my fibromyalgia, I have to be careful not to overdo any activity. The problem is that it’s so much fun and interesting to be in France that I don’t want to miss anything. With her work, this is the only day that Emily has to explore Lyon. She wanted to stay out and walk around so I took a taxi to the hotel. I didn’t realize it but it the hotel was only 12 blocks or so from where we were. When

the taxi pulled up to the door of the Kyriad, the fare was 4.20 Euros. I handed

The Fountain Man. I couldn’t stop laughing when I saw this!

him a five and he said, “No, No, No. 6.40 Euros” and then a string of French I couldn’t follow. Finally, he explained it well enough that I could understand – 6.40 Euros is the base pay.

I’m suspicious of taxi drivers. Sometimes they will show up with 4.20 Euros on the meter – before we even leave the hotel. Other times they start out with 6.40 or more. OK, 6.40 is the base pay, but the meter starts ticking as he pulls out onto the street. It appeared to me that the taxi industry in Lyon is not regulated.

Not knowing French is a hinderance, but not impossible to overcome. Emily and I decided the most important phrase to know in France is not “Where is the bathroom?” which you have to know if you’re in Mexico. In France it’s “Parlez-vous anglais?” Do you speak English? and then, if they say “Yes” you let out a sigh of relief, even if they only know a little. They say total immersion is the best way to learn a language and I agree. I took two semesters of Spanish at our junior college but it wasn’t until we moved to Mexico for four months that I really got the hang of it. I was in France for 2-1/2 weeks and came home with a much better understanding of the language and pronunciation than when I left.

Until next time,

Susan L Stewart

The Place des Terreaux in Lyon, France

Friday, Oct 12

Beaux Arts Court Yard

I took a taxi to Place des Terreaux, a huge public square where I could visit Les Beaux Artes (Museum of Fine Art), the Lyon City Hall and the Bartholdi Fountain. The museum takes up

Happy Boy

most of one side of the square. When you walk in, there is a large courtyard with statues, lots of flowers and trees and places to sit. I call one of the statues “Happy Boy” although I don’t think he should be quite that happy considering where his dog is. A covered walk way goes around three of the sides. They reminded me of the art school building in San Miguel de Allende, Mexico. The museum features old paintings. I was also able to see Rodin’s The Kiss and The Thinker.

The Circumcision of Jesus

Covered Walkway

The Sisters of Jesus and Mary commissioned an Italian artist, Barbieri, to paint The Circumcision of Jesus, for their main alter. It was

Lyon City Hall

finished on January 1, 1646.

Another side of the square is what the taxi driver told me was the Opera House but is actually the Lyon City Hall. Can you imagine that as your city’s government building? Amazing. It’s gold inlaid and one of the most beautiful buildings I have ever seen. There are gods and goddesses carved at the roofline. I didn’t have time to go inside but I can guess its beauty.

The other two sides of the square are made up of a hotel, galleries, restaurants and shops. On one of those sides is a gigantic sculpture of a woman, naked from the waist up, driving a chariot pulled by four huge, grotesquely violent horses. The sculptor created them in such a way that water sprays out of the horses’ nostrils making it look like they’re snorting steam. The woman is looking down at a child on her right side while another child at her left side looks like he’s trying to reach up to her

Bartholdi Fountain

but is on the verge of drowning. Hundreds of gallons of water pour down over the intricately designed fountain. This fountain/statue was not meant to

Bartholdi Fountain Horses

be pretty, or at least I hope not, because in truth, it is quite frightening.

To quote an article on Wikipedia: “The fountain depicts France as a female seated on a chariot controlling the four great rivers of France, represented by wildly rearing and plunging horses, highly individualized but symmetrically arranged, with bridles and reins of water weeds. It weighs 21 tons and is made of lead supported by a frame of iron and was presented at the Exposition Universelle in1889. It has been classified as a Monument Historique since 29 September 1995.”

The French sculptor, Frédéric Bartholdi, also designed the Statue of Liberty standing in New York harbor. The original name of this statue was “Liberty Enlightening the World.”

I visited a lot of museums in my 2-1/2 weeks in France. As a full-time artist, I happen to like museums and I had enough alone time that Emily didn’t have to come along to all of them. She and Tom went to the two museums in Paris: the Louvre and the Musée d’Orsay. Just on this page you can see a painting from 1646, a fountain that was unveiled in 1889 and the City Hall dedicated in 1891. One more thing about Lyon – actually there is so much more about Lyon! – is that it was the home of Antoine de St Exupery who wrote The Little Prince.

Until next time

Susan L Stewart

ECTRIMS, the Basilica and Paul Bocuse

City of Lyon

Thursday, Oct 11

Emily is a medical editor working at the ECTRIMS conference, an annual event where doctors,

30-story Orange Man at the ECTRIMS conference

researchers,vpharmaceutical firms and others gather to discuss the newest research on the treatment of people with

Multiple Sclerosis. ECTRIMS is in Chicago next year. Not quite as exciting as France, but Chicago’s nice.

I’m on my own for the next few days which is very unusual and very liberating. There’s a certain freedom to exploring an unknown city by myself that I enjoy very much. After 38 years of marriage, Tom and I travel very well together, but I’m enjoying my solitude.

I took a cab to the shopping part of town. The streets are closed to vehicles so people are walking around everywhere. I very rarely buy

The Lyon Basilica

anything on vacation – not even a souvenir. But I found two stores with large discounts. I bought a beautiful black sweater with silver threads and a rain jacket that I looked for in Denver but couldn’t find before I left. A woman from Russia ran the store with the jacket. I especially loved the stacking dolls from Russia that she had in the shop. You open the doll and there’s a smaller version inside it. You open that one and there’s an even smaller one inside. This goes on until you have a row of dolls from large to miniature.

After shopping, I took a taxi up to the top of a large, very steep,

hill where the Basilica is. The church takes up all of the top of the hill. It isn’t possible to walk around to the front that faces the city because it’s on the edge of a sharp drop. The interior is covered in scaffolding but I was still able to take

Mary at the alter of the Basilica

some photos – without a flash. My new camera does a great job in low-light situations. I

took some of the exterior, too. It’s a beautiful building standing guard over the city. On the other side of the courtyard, in front of the

Mural inside the Basilica

Basilica, is a Jewish temple.

Lyon is a flat city which makes it easy to walk around. I didn’t see people jogging in the city, but I saw many joggers running up that huge hill to the Basilica. I guess there’s no challenge in running on flat ground. Emily is a runner and

she said it’s not fun running in the city while trying to navigate the crowds and having to stop when the light is red, and the traffic is crazy; if you don’t watch out they will run you down.

 

Later that night we went to “Le Sud” [The South] restaurant. The chef/owner is the world-renowned

Paul Bocuse. I had heard of Paul Bocuse but didn’t know his restaurant was in Lyon. Emily and Linda had Ossobuco, a veal dish with

The Basilica

risotto that they liked very much. Since we were in a nice restaurant, I decided to be brave and ordered something completely different, a Moroccan dish – chicken tajine with lemon and couscous on the side. I’ve seen tajine dishes, usually lamb, on the Food

Network but I’ve never eaten it and didn’t know what to expect. Unfortunately, the very first bite tasted just like Pinesol smells.

Completely disgusting! Emily and Linda laughed at me. “How could something taste like Pinesol smells?” I don’t know so I gave Linda a piece to try. She gagged and said I was right. Emily declined to be our third taste tester – smart woman. The couscous was good as well as the broth so I ate that and the carrots and squash I could identify. I think the Pinesol vegetable was something they did to the lemon.

Until next time,

Susan L Stewart

Lyon, France: A Neighborhood Church

The neighborhood Church a few blocks from our hotel

 

Jumping girl with waning moon

Wednesday, October 10

Emily and Linda had to get to the conference early. I slept in the first morning, and missed the complimentary breakfast. I got dressed and started to walk, looking for a petit déjeuner [breakfast]. As I did, I came across a beautiful old neighborhood church and took almost 200 photos of it. You will notice the beautiful blue skies. This is the only time we saw the sun on our trip. Here are some I found very

Woman playing the harp

interesting. The first is a person getting ready to jump off the spire to her death. On the other side, there is a dog on the roof and a woman playing the harp. I wonder

Dog on the roof

who decides what sculpture is going to be placed on the roof of a church? Do they get a committee together? Can you imagine the discussion? I found some gargoyles, too. I think by the time I get home I could probably do a photo essay on the Gargoyles of France. We’ll see.

I’ve always thought of flan as a Spanish/Mexican dessert but I’ve had the best flan here. There are boulangeries, [bakeries] on almost every corner. They carry bread, quiche, sandwiches, and an assortment of pastries, a sugar-holic’s dream. Tried the quiche – not something I particularly care for. It isn’t that much better in France sorry to say.

Until next time,

Susan L Stewart

British Airways to France

Monday, Oct 8 – Tuesday, Oct 9

Another church in Lyon. There seems to be one on every corner.

I’m trying to blog every day but it’s been difficult. Every time I sit down, I want to take a nap. Actually, the jet lag over to Europe is not nearly as bad as coming back. The last time we flew back from Europe was from London many years ago and it took me about two weeks to get my body rhythms in sync again.

We flew on British Airways. It’s my second time to fly with them and they are great! If you have a chance to fly British Airways, I highly recommend it. The flight attendants actually seem to enjoy their job; they’re very accommodating and the seats are roomy and comfortable. The seats lean back a little more making sleeping easier. There were two crying babies in our section and I didn’t pack ear plugs. I asked if they had some and she said she’d check. She came back with a pair and didn’t even charge me. The food is better than other airline food, too.

Lyon is a big, fairly easy to navigate, city with an Old Town, a shopping area with a lot of stores offering discounts, and the Basilica.

One thing has changed as far as traveling goes. I have used my beloved Canon 40D camera with an excellent lens for years. It’s gone with me to Mexico and, last year, through the Panama Canal. But the pain from the arthritis in my hands has doubled and tripled this year and I found that, at 3+ pounds, I couldn’t pick it up anymore, let alone take photos. So I purchased a new Olympus EM-5 OM-D that weighs half the amount. I think I like my new camera although I received the lens three days before we left so I only know how to “point and shoot.” I have it set at fully automatic for now so I don’t need to figure out the various settings. I think it takes very nice photos, though.

The food is pretty good. Our first night the three of us – Emily, her co-worker Linda who we met up with in London, and I ate at the restaurant in the hotel. We were just too tired to venture out. They only had menus in French so we asked the waiter to translate. When he got to “tete du veau [veal’s head] served in a nice veal broth with … ” I tuned out. That was after a whole day of flying and, I don’t know, chewing on the head of a baby calf just before bedtime didn’t seem like the best way to go. I settled on a cup of vegetable soup.

I passed out before Emily had time to turn the lights out.

Until next time,

Susan L Stewart