Archive for the ‘Visits Outside the US’ Category


Tuesday, May 5th, 2009

annecyfloristOf the many eye-catching attractions in Annecy, France,  the shop fronts and shop windows in the old part of town are quite beautiful and always interesting.  Annecy has medieval construction (if you like, you can refer to my previous posts Annecy.1, Annecy.2, and Annecy.3), and is built of  thick grey stone walls with cobbles everywhere.

This flower shop was brimming over with fresh spring blooms for Easter time last year.  The shop opens into a very small courtyard chock full of blooms and attractive displays, which spoke to me of a very careful, artisan-like approach by the owner of the shop.  It was extremely welcoming and drew me in.

I couldn’t resist taking a few close-ups of a few colorful blooms.

This red one – can you guess what flower it is?  Yes, a tulip with hints of yellow inside.

There were buckets and pots everywhere full of daffodils.

And then there were some other colorful daisy-like blooms:


yellowflowerIn a sea of grey stone, these flowers brightened a small corner of this beautiful old town.


Curtains and Windows

Tuesday, March 10th, 2009

You may find it odd that I write about curtains and windows. But I guess it’s my quirky art eye that finds attraction in such mundane things.

For instance, this first curtain I show here is one that caught my attention. I was sitting near it in the Vesancy restaurant in France where they serve hearty lunch fare for the workers and residents of the area.

I just loved the bright light shining through the pretty orange curtain. It provided such cheer in an already cheerful, humming place: people chatting nonstop in French, plates clattering, utensils banging, wine being sipped, laughter and good-natured banter.

The curtain on the right, on the other hand, was found in a relatively quiet tea room in the Gex patisserie where scrumptious chocolates and freshly-baked bread were offered for the customer. I like the delicate design and sheerness of the fabric with the light shining through.

Moving on to Annecy, France, the day was quite cold in March and the early spring sun was still weak. But how lovely it was to see it streaming in through these pretty windows.

This was a creperie that also served hot drinks and simple lunch fare. Looking through the window one can see the Bastion in the canal that flows into Lac Annecy.

The mood inside was mellow, low murmuring voices, appreciative thanks for delicious snacks to fuel the travelers. Everyone seemed relaxed and happy.

But there are windows. And then there are windows! This window needs no explaining. Chocolate has its own universal language…

A Statue Lost and Found

Tuesday, February 10th, 2009

While I’m on the subject of Nurnberg, Germany, here is another photo to show you.

During World War II, my stepfather was an MP (Military Police) and was stationed in Nurnberg during the trials held there after the war. He, like other military fellows, would do some sight-seeing during time off.

The Allies destroyed about 90% of the old part of Nurnberg during bombing raids in 1945 because this city was considered to be so historically important to the Nazis. It defies belief – first, to see the extent of the devastation of the deeply loved buildings and cathedrals, and secondly to see how they were lovingly reconstructed out of such rubble.

My stepfather was also present when the concentration camp at Dachau was liberated. He told us that that experience defied belief too, but I need say no more on that subject.

On my first visit to Nurnberg, I brought with me the image above. I wanted to see if the statue still existed. My friends were unfamiliar with it, so we would show it to some oldtimers in the old city. Finally, a little gnome of an elderly gentleman recognized it and explained where it was – and not far away from the center of town.

The statue represents Kaiser Wilhelm I and it stands directly across from a church called Saint Igidien. I had no idea of the size of the statue from the old image, as the bombed-out buildings around it made it hard to find a reference point for size.

I was glad to have found the statue, bringing to a close a circle begun by my stepfather. But there was no real joy in it. The bronze statue was riddled with holes where mortar hit it during the bombing. That is how it is in Nurnberg: such beauty juxtaposed with the scars to remind one of the past and its terrible human costs.

The Amazing Albrecht Durer – Part 1

Sunday, February 8th, 2009

As a teenager, I was greatly inspired by Albrecht Durer’s art, especially his handling of very small creatures and natural objects. For his time, he seems to have been a forerunner of still lifes and nature studies.

According to Wikipedia: His watercolors mark him as one of the first European landscape artists, while his ambitious woodcuts revolutionized the potential of that medium. Durer’s introduction of classical motifs into Northern art, through his knowledge of Italian artists and German humanists, have secured his reputation as one of the most important figures of the Northern Renaissance. This is reinforced by his theoretical treatise which involve principles of mathematics, perspective, and ideal proportions.

“His prints established his reputation across Europe when he was still in his twenties, and he has been conventionally regarded as the greatest artist of the Renaissance in Northern Europe ever since.”

The painting above is called “Blaurackenflugel” – or, Wing of a Blue Roller. The detail and coloring are marvelous. This piece was painted in 1512.

This sketch of “Papagei,” or Parrot, was sketched circa 1500 and was used in a drawing of “Adam und Eva.” Apparently, a close friend of Durer kept parrots, which made Durer’s rendering so accurate. (Those parrots would have had to endure a lot of cold in the winters of Germany!)

The “Das grosse Rasenstuck” – or Large Piece of Turf – is a masterpiece of realism.

I had the opportunity to visit Durer’s house and studio in his home town of Nurnberg some years ago. I’ll include some photos from that visit in my next post.

Nurnberg Treasures

Sunday, December 14th, 2008

I mentioned in a previous blog that some of my Christmas ornaments came from Nurnberg, Germany. These tiny hand carved animals were actually hard to find. I searched all over the old town to find them and was quite happy when I did.

Even though they are carved in a blocky style, they capture the essence of the animal portrayed.

Hope you enjoy them!

Rothenburg ob der Tauber

Friday, December 12th, 2008

Well, I’m starting to feel human again! After running through all the upper respiratory itis’s I can think of – laryngitis, tonsilitis, pharyngitis, bronchitis – I think it’s time to stop.

Meanwhile, the Christmas season moves ahead, and I managed to put up my tiny tree, loaded with my favorite treasures I’ve found through the last several decades.

Some of those treasures are handmade by local artisans – local, that is, to a couple of cities in Bavaria: Nurnberg and Rothenburg ob der Tauber.

Rothenburg is a fairy-tale medieval city, preserved, then bombed during WWII, then restored again. It is well-known around the world and very much loved for its charm and its year-round Christmas shops.

The walled town is remarkable and really allows the imagination to recreate what it may have been like in its heydey.

Although I liked wandering the cobbled streets and ogling the too-expensive items, I preferred exploring the countryside in the Tauber Valley, below the city.

The last time I visited Rothenburg was in mid-October. The leaves were changing fast, the vineyards golden in the late afternoon sunlight. It was beautiful.

Here are a couple ornaments representative of what you’d find there:

Odds and Ends

Tuesday, September 16th, 2008

On my walks and various travels, I tend to notice odd things or interesting patterns — things that intrigue me, make me appreciate nature, or tickle my funny bone. These are a few images I recently came across.

I thought this was a very sweet combination. It is new life in the form of a grass stalk poking up among all that feeds it: fox hair, acorn, pine cone, and oak leaves.

Someone wanted to leave his or her mark on the world (or at least on a tree). I wonder if “F” stands for the carver or the loved one to be remembered? And I wonder if the madrone tree felt pain as this perfect initial was carved into its living tissue? One thing for sure, the madrone tree may have the last word. It’s starting to heal over the carving.

Then there are sometimes very odd things one comes across.

When I was walking through a mall in Annecy, France this spring, there seemed to be some sort of “spring fashion” display.

I loved the colors, but what about this fashion? So far, I have not seen anyone wear such an outfit! (Thank goodness…)

106 Degrees Fahrenheit…

Thursday, August 14th, 2008

Summer is roaring through here at 106 degrees F. Too hot to think. Therefore, for my own sake, I needed to blog about something cold. To remind me that snow does still exist, and can exist again…

Here is a photo of an outing we took to the Jura Mountains in France in the spring a couple years ago. My friend is actually RUNNING with snowshoes, he was so happy to be out on the pristine snow that had recently been wiped smooth from a wind.

This one is of the chalet off the parking lot where people regroup to either start their snowshoeing or Nordic skiing; or to end their journey. No one was there that day as the season was over – except that the snow came back while no one was expecting it.

And one more shot at the end of our excursion, with the sun shining low through the beautiful snow-clad pines. It was such a fun outing because we had the entire place to ourselves.

Ahh, I think I feel slightly cooler now…


Tuesday, July 22nd, 2008

This is another view of Lac Annecy in March. (It’s really hot here, so images of snow and coolness seemed in order.) The day I took this photo, the wind was very strong and made the water ripple. You can see how fast the water in the Canal Thiou was running into the Lac here.

There is another interesting landmark: The Basilica of the Visitation, and home base of the Visitation Order of nuns, founded by Saint Jeanne de Chantal and the more well-known (among Catholics) Saint Francis de Sales.

I enjoyed walking up a steep hill to get to the imposing church and the surrounding old buildings.

But that type of trekking does whet the appetite and makes for thirsty returns. So back to the creperie for a light repast. As I sat inside and watched the sun set through the windows, I loved how the light shown through these beer glasses. It summed up the end of the day: mellow…

Vesancy Chapelle

Friday, July 18th, 2008

Of all the marvelous places I’ve seen in France (limited to east middle of the country), so far I think this quiet little rural spot above the small village of Vesancy is my favorite. There is a small chapelle located on a steep foothill leading to the Jura Mountains. I just finished a painting based on a late spring storm swirling around the chapelle.

Except for a restaurant in the town, there doesn’t seem to be any other viable business except for the buying and selling of real estate, which is priced for the very well-off. But if you follow a track leading out and above the village, you wend your way through grassy meadows bordered by pine and deciduous trees. At the top is the chapelle of Notre Dame de Riantmont. Cows pasture here and wild hares and birds abound. There is a forested area near the higher slopes and invites further explorations.

I’ve actually never gone inside the chapelle, I don’t even think it’s open most of the time. But it isn’t necessary. Somehow, there is a comforting peace there, as if the chapelle provides a protective arm about all below and around it.. And what views can be seen there! On one side you can see a large part of Lac Leman and the Alps with Mont Blanc; another viewpoint shows the city of Divonne Les Bains.

So far, I have been unable to find a history of the chapelle, and it’s obviously been renovated from the ground up.But it’s been there for quite awhile.

For me, this hilltop is a place to regroup and rearrange the mind.