Wednesday, August 16, 2017


Usually I don't have a potty mouth but perhaps travel exposes one to a lot of different bathrooms. Please don't think I have some sort of weird obsession with bathrooms but culturally they can be very different and even add memorable stories to your trip's experience. 

Sometimes it's the bathroom's style which catches my eye like the stalls in the CDG airport, the Avignon's train station's lavender field's toilet stall/ middle eastern restaurant's beautiful tiled walls/ the space age themed hotel room's in Marseille.

 But it is the commodes/ toilets which also fascinated me. Shockingly I never did see a bidet the entire time we were in France but there there were a variety of toilets most equipped with water saving buttons dependent on whether you had a little/ lot to flush. Some were more obvious than others, with legible symbols but mostly it was a 'crap' ( sorry, I couldn't resist) shoot as to whether it was for the big flush load/not. Guilt abounded if I wasted flushing water in such a time of drought too. The half and half buttons definitely were indistinguishable. 

Picking the correct room was sometimes more of a challenge than others. The universal signs helped if folks are familiar with them but once inside you might wonder as a woman if you were in the correct space due to the commode. You see many times the seat was missing. I wonder if it was missing in the men's.

Maybe this is the reason women go to the bathroom together? You know group consensus on the room's labeling as to gender. And yet some bathrooms were super accommodating with 2 sizes of toilet seats like the one below One for adults see it's down and a child sized seat is up. Very clever. 

I'll be truthful all of these beat the hole in the floor memories from my European visit in the 60's.

I do have a special potty story to share. Some restrooms were a challenge to find as such was the case in a Marseille out door restaurant. After a 5 minute French conversation of how to find it which included go through the door opening to the left of the window across the walkway, traversing the hall, turning left into the bar, 2 steps up continuing through the kitchen, taking the back door stairway down into the basement (in the dark no less), I found a sink lit with 2 doors flanking it. Relieved indeed that 2 women had followed me, I was first to use the facility. Yet, when I was ready to depart the lock would not unlatch. The lower screw was missing from the lock plate and moving with the turning action.  After numerous attempts, jiggling, uselessly propping my foot against it trying to hold it in place to be able to counter push with both hands to make it catch. It was time to use all the high school French I knew including some bad words. Hence the potty mouth. First simple sentences that began to get longer as I added adjectives and more verbs. Luckily, one of the women was still there. She said something from the other side of the door and I heard footsteps going up the stairs followed by what seemed like an eternity before more footsteps. Eventually I would gratefully discover the female cook on the other side with a screwdriver after she worked on the lock for about 4 minutes talking to me all the while. I have no clue what she was uttering but didn't care until I heard the lock catch and door open. I was almost in tears as I threw my arms around her in appreciation. As I thanked both women I told the lady entering the room, No matter what, don't lock it." She smiled at me and laughed adding in French I understood, "Don't worry I am not going to lock it. In fact, I am not even going to close the door." 

These are the memories that stay with one after a trip. And no, I did not even think of taking a picture of that bathroom...

Tuesday, August 15, 2017


One past outing my Dad speaks highly of was his visit 5 years ago to the Chaseburg Horsepull. Fortunately for us this year instead of being held at the end of July, it took place this past mid August weekend while the Birthday Boy was in town. Of course, it was on the agenda!

The event has changed a bit as the American Legion is now the main sponsor. It's still held in the same ball field on the ridge with the cornfield as its backdrop.

2017 Chaseburg
We watched the lightweight teams competing. So even though Dad is standing in the foreground of this photo behind him is a 'very' big horse. In fact, the horses in the light weight teams weigh about 750 lbs each. That's a lot of horse.

The winning team this year pulled 10,000 lbs. Yep, 10,000 pounds. Here is the last cement block being added for the team to pull.

Each team of horses has two tries to pull and the moved distance of the blocks is measured. In the pic above you can see the seat where the driver must sit as he holds the team's reigns.

The efforts of these teams is truly unbelievable.

Team working hard to move the 10,000 lbs of cement blocks 
 This year I shot a short video of the attachment process.  Precision is needed to maneuver the team into place in front of the sleighlike cart as the man team places the wooden yoke into the hitch while the driver jumps into the seat with the reigns and gives the horse team the verbal command. It sometimes takes a couple of tries before the hitch is attached. And the driver has to be ready to jump off the seat if it doesn't attach.

The Anderson team pictured in the video was this year's winners. 

After the competition the  2017 magnificent Winning Anderson team 
One of the Andersons goes home with a trophy.
Here's an entry describing the horsepull event 5 years ago. 


Monday, August 14, 2017


After horrid white supremacy reared its evil head in view of the entire world this past weekend in Charlottesville, Virginia maybe this is just a good time as any to clarify why going to France had never been on my radar. It doesn't take a history buff especially if you are Jewish to remember France has never been a friend of the Jews. 

In July of 1942 in Paris there was a systematic round up known as the Vel d'Hiv (Rafle du Velodrome d'Hiver) where police systematically temporarily confined over 13,000 Jews, 4000 of those children, in the city's bicycle velodrome and stadium before sending them off in cattle cars for extermination in the concentration camps. Anti-semitism persists even though France elected a Jewish president Nicolas Sarkozy.  Since 2010 there has been a large exodus of Jews from France as anti-semitism has been on the rise. (Can I draw a parallel here where the U.S. elected a Black president and look what's happening now?)

Suffice it to say I was especially hesitant going near Paris's Jewish district, Marais, a couple of weeks ago. Why be a sitting duck? I know life goes on and what are the chances, right? When a comment I made about stopping in a deli was misinterpreted (I meant let's pick up some cheese, bread, sandwich meat, etc... for a picnic lunch/dinner), I found myself in the Jewish district with a well intentioned host scouting out a restaurant for lunch and wouldn't you know the Tour de France was ending that very day in Paris... A lot of people.

So here are some photos of our visit to Marais.

The Jewish 

 Wedding Venue & Catering ,

 Boys School

The popular Middle Eastern Felafel stands and patrons 

and an extra Rebbe to look after us all...

OK, nothing happened but living in fear is not a good thing no matter where you live.

May our country/world find its way back to civility. If history teaches us anything, it's to not remain silent.

Friday, August 11, 2017


FOTO FRIDAY: I know you don't doubt that from almost 1200 photos taken during the 2 week French adventure I will be set with subject matter for a while. Amongst all the architectural features were many doors but those that left the biggest physical memories were the stairs. A lot of stairs: stairs up/down levels to the metro/train/vistas/museums/ bathrooms. And even stairs greeted us the the beginning and end of our days to our lodging.  I want to share our first lodging stairway in an AirBnB, a lovely Parisian flat with a magnificent stairway. I am happy to say we only had to go one flight up to reach our apartment's doorway...

Do you have a stairway to share? You know I'd love to add your photos. Just send them my way.

Click on last week's PARISIANS AND THEIR BIKES  for one of my favorite FOTO FRIDAYs

Thursday, August 10, 2017


Throw back Thursday is really just about the first Thursday we were in Paris.  I won't get to say that too often. LOL.  

After finishing our visit to the DAVID HOCKNEY retrospective, we had some time, not enough, of course, to savor another floor in the Pompidou Centre before closing time. 

What an amazing contemporary collection backdropped with the city. 

Best probably just to post some pics and let you also enjoy the vistas and a sampling of the collection. 

Views of Montmartre 's Sacre Coeur through the sculpture.

And zoomed in... 

Candy for the soul...  

A terrific ending to end Day 2 in Paris. 

Tomorrow, more art. 

What else?

Wednesday, August 9, 2017


The Pompidou Centre in Paris is known for its unusual architecture grid like scaffolding on its exterior creating unusual geometrical views as escalators transport visitors to its different floors in a gerbil-like encapsulated tube. 

It was here where we came to view the touted 'incomparable' collection of contemporary and modern art, specifically the David Hockney retrospective.

Something I should probably mention is the amount of security now in France as any public building we visited would have at least one security checkpoint.  A simple opening of bags usually satisfied the security guards.  The lines moved quickly but unfortunately, it's just a part of the times. 

Anyhow, our second set of tickets after the morning in the Louvre was in the evening for David Hockney, one of the only museum stops which would 'not' allow photography. Interestingly, I only saw a couple folks sneaking pics. So, his works posted here are from internet images.

It was worth being privy to the breadth of 60 years of work in celebrating David Hockney's 80th birthday.   This retrospective included drawings, prints, paintings, videos and photography which illustrated the artist's curiosity and exploration through the different medium and techniques.  160+ works divided by rooms. (BTW there was a download phone app to walk you through the exhibit.) 

In his 20's Hockney questioned artistic dogmas and was influenced by the Kitchen Sink school of politically and socially active artists. This social realism was ever constant in his life work. "Painting has a role to play in society." Everything is political, isn't it? 
Room 1:Works of Youth
Room 2: Abstraction &"Love Paintings" Early 60's series in London caused a stir as his abstract paintings reintroduced narrative and a sexual dimension borrowing elements from great artists. He used photography although he distrusted it for fear of it replacing painting in room 5's double portrait depictions of friends and collectors.
 Room 3:Demonstration of Versatility
Hockney merged both disciplines of
photography and painting. Remember cutting up a magazine photos in squares in elementary school and then reassembling them?

Room 4: California. When thinking of Hockney I always thought 'pop art' and its sharp lines. The late 60's in LA and the influence of the novel 'City of Night', introduced light and a pleasurable type of life style for Hockney. Swimming pool life. Affected by the fashionable movement of the time he created these Pop Art paintings with California modern houses and swimming pools replacing the brush with a roller and use of acrylics.

The Portrait of an Artist.
The exhibit's brochure provided 5 ways of looking at the Portrait of an Artist (above) as a
1. Double portrait: Is the observer seeing the swimmer/ is he     seeing himself?
2. Photographic montage: juxtaposition of two photos
3. Love Story: the observer is Hockney's lover of 5 years with whom he had just broken up.
4. Pool painting: Transparency, diluting the paint with water and washing up liquid applied directly to the raw canvas
5. As a lengthy labor: 18 months to complete with its first version destroyed . 
Let's continue.
Room 5: Double Portraits
Room 6: Confronting formalism
Room 7:Towards the reinvention of space
Room 8: Paper pools, abstraction influenced, 29 pressed pulp 
Room 9:Joiners and Polaroids Finding himself in the 70's leaving obsessive naturalism.
Room 10: Emancipation with 'Enveloping Landscapes.'
Room 11: From Utah to Yorkshire Cubist exploration, representation of space.
Room 12: The Four Seasons

So you get the 'picture',  David Hockney is a very versatile artist with an amazing life of art and social commentary.

My favorite? His portrait of his parents speaks to me.  

So, if you find yourselves in Paris, this exhibit will continue until October 23/ if you have the opportunity to see David Hockney's work, go. 

Happy 80th Mr. Hockney and thank you for your addition to the art world and your advice...

Tuesday, August 8, 2017


Our first full day in Paris had definites on our schedule starting with what would be the ritual croissant and museum visits. Day 2: the Louvre followed that evening with the Pompidou Center for a special David Hockney exhibit.

A lot of scandal of this modern
addition to the historic Louvre
Whether one has limited/ unlimited time one might want to anticipate how much time to allow to stroll/visit any museum. BUT when one is tackling the Musee du Louvre, Europe's oldest and largest, one could easily spend an entire day on just one floor/in front of just one painting.  So a suggestion might be to pre-decide which pieces of art are on the 'have to see' list.  Our top choice and everybody else's apparently is the ever popular Mona Lisa by Leonardo di Vinci which once graced Napoleon's bedroom and gained notoriety when it was supposedly stolen by Picasso from the Louvre. (BTW the robber ended up being an Italian carpenter.)

Our game plan was to arrive early and head straight to see the infamous smile of Mona Lisa. She even has her own guide signs to find her. And wouldn't you know all these other folks beat us to her?  I found it much more entertaining to snap a picture of them taking pics/selfies with the famous lady. Isn't this a hoot?

Don't forget to look up!
The bottom line is this 16th century U shaped palace is overwhelming with its humongous halls and countless stair cases. The Vatican is the only other European museum whose guests outnumber this Paris landmark. 

Famous Renaissance to Romantic artists line the walls one after another. Knowing we would have the opportunity to see other examples of their work was comforting. 

SO much to see.

I hope this guy realized he didn't need to jump that he could return another day. Some folks just plan on returning over and over again.  It's wonderful if you have that luxury. Most of us never do. 

Leonardo di Vinci never thought much of this later piece of his art. Don't tell that to the throngs who flock to see her. Wink, wink. In fact, I zoomed in on her and I swear I saw her wink at me.

Most folks allow 2 hours as their max for a visit to any museum including the Louvre. If you have the time, take breaks, eat some lunch and give yourself the ultimate gift of enjoying the treasures of the Louvre.

Do you remember Nat King Cole's rendition of Mona Lisa? Take a listen :MONA LISA followed by Unforgettable which Mona Lisa has become throughout time. Who knew?