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Thursday, July 26, 2018

Got to Get Back to the Garden

Back in the garden again, second and last night in Rastoke,

It is a beautiful place to write.  Loring is wandering around the garden, out of my sight, taking lots of photos. It is hard not to, it is so picturesque at every turn.

This morning we headed up the hill to the village above, in search of breakfast. There are numerous cafes here, but most serve only coffee and other beverages.  The restaurant where we ate last night did not serve breakfast. The cafe down here didn't either. The pizza place had only pizza and lasagne, which they were apparently willing to serve at any time of the day. I am not a big pizza fan, and in the morning it seems even less appealing than later in the day. So up the hill we went to the larger village above, which we wanted to visit anyway. Bea had told us that the weekly market was today.

In Sludj, though, we could find no breakfast either. Plenty of cafes, with plenty of people in them, but no food. I wondered what the tourists like us do for breakfast. We eventually noticed that a number of people had crumbled paper bags on their tables , and realized that they had bought pastries and brought them to the cafe. But we couldn't find a bakery either. We decided to go to the supermarket,, where, right inside the door was a bakery, with a separate cash register, perhaps a separate business located inside the store.

The young woman behind the counter spoke no English, although most young people here seem to, but another customer offered to help us. I wanted something with chocolate, and got a croissant, Loring wanted something with meat, and got something that had some, plus a second thing. We sat in the cafe and ordered our coffees, and tried to linger and drink them as slowly as possible, as the Croatians do. That isn't easy, especially with an expresso.

A man about our age guided a frail older man,  clearly his father, into a seat opposite us. We tried to make room for the son, but he indicated that it wasn't necessary. He left, but came back a few minutes later, with a package of cigarettes for his elderly dad, then left again and didn't return. We wondered if this was a form of  elder day care,  that the son would return for his father at the end of the day. When we left, I smiled at the man, and he smiled back wanly. Or maybe it was happily, it was hard to know.

We've now moved from the garden back to in front of the house, where we still have a nice view, and can dash inside if it begins to rain. It is already thundering and lightening. Did I tell you that you get to and from the garden by a secret door? Well, it's not really secret, but feels like it. You go thru the garage to an old wooden door, which is pretend locked, and covered with a broom.  It makes the place feel even a bit more special.

On the way back down to our village, we stopped at the market and bought peaches and plums, which we have been eating throughout the day. They were incredibly cheap, just as Bea had told us. The plums, about 20 of them, cost about fifty cents, total. 

Later, we went to the swimming spot, a calm section of the river with grass banks on both sides, a bridge crossing from one side to the other, and steps at intervals leading down to the water. There were a number of people in and around the water, but it was by no means crowded.  There were a few little changing booths, material around a frame, and a small snack stand. The water was clear, with lots of little fishies, and pretty warm. Loring did a few lazy laps up and down the river, and I floated around a bit with my favorite toy, my underwater mp3 player.

After a nap, a trip to the second restaurant that we had not visited the night before.  It was perhaps five or six o"clock, hard and unneccesary to keep track time in places like this, Dinner is served until late, about 11, but there seem to be customers patronizing the places at all times of day.  I had mushroom soup, and then a pasta dish with smoked trout. The trout was actually blended into the sauce, and it was delicous, though rich.  I asked the young waiter what was in the sauce, guessing that it was cream and a little tomato sauce, plus the trout. He didn't know and went to ask in the kitchen.  He came back, said it was smoked trout plus secret ingredients.  I don't know if they really wanted to protect their recipe, or if it was made from something packaged or was ketchup or something like that. It was rich, as I said, but I managed to eat it all.  

Only problem, after all the delicous rich food, I had no appetite saved for the dessert I had envisioned, back up to the second restaurant. So back it was to our little house, and our little room, amidst the running falls and streams.

Rastoke, a fairyland of waterfalls

This will be our second night in Rastoke, an amazing little village. Just a couple of closing comments about Avignon, then I am going to  write about here, and eventually backtrack to Paris.

I just wanted to mention that all the events I attended at the Avignon festival are part of what is called the "Off"  I never even came across the On or figured out what it is. I imagine the On is, or partly is, the events that take place within the Palace of the Popes, the impressive building that was once the Pope's summer residence. (medieval times, if I remember right.)  That is where I saw the Bejart Ballet company's incredible performance of Stravinsky's Rites of Spring, which stays with me still, 50 years later.  I have seen several other performances of that piece, but nothing that compares to that. The program for the Off festival is like a telephone book, well, one for a small town, anyway.  Performances, which start at 9 am and go to about midnight, are listed by venue, alphabetically, then crossed referenced by time, type - theatre, circus, music,dance, mime, comedy, humor(not sure about the difference between the last two), appropriateness for children (by ages), appropriate for people with limited French, etc. They also list by country of group, altho the vast majority are French, and probably a few other categories.  I looked mostly at the music and dance ones, and even so, there were many more than I could have seen in a few days, or even if I had more time.

Well, that's enough about Avignon, although there's more to tell.  As I said, I will now write about where I actually am, for a change. And if I ever catch up, can't think of a better place to do it than right where I am.

We are in a room in a woman's house, Bea, in the tiny village of Rastoke. As far as I understand, Rastoke is a section of the larger village of Slunj, which is a short hike above us. The major attraction in this part of Croatia is not far from us, the famous lakes and waterfalls of Plivice, which are I think about a half hour away, at least without traffic. But from what I have read, they are mobbed with visitors, especially in the summer, and you have to wait in lines even inside the park, and hike with constant traffic, and we assume the car traffic getting there. So we have decided not to go, although from what we have seen in pictures, and been told by friends who have been here, they are spectacular. So we chose here instead, in our trek through Croatia, into Bosnia-Herzevovina, and back to Croatia for our last few days.  We didn't even realize it was this close to Plivice when we booked it.  Bea said to us, in her limited English, yesterday, "tomorrow, Plivice?"  She seemed a little surprised, but perhaps pleased, when we said no, we were staying here.  She is warm and welcoming.  She showed us her garden,  but not until towards evening, because there were snakes and she doesn't like them.  We did see a posting later about  venomous snakes, so I guess it's a good thing. But we are sitting here in her garden nonetheless, in the middle of the day today. I am sitting at a picnic bench, with the falls all around me. At least if I see a snake I can lift my feet up or stand on the bench! 

This place is enchanting.  I picked it well. You are never sure until you reach your destination if the place will live up to your expectations.  I pictured Bea's garden as a patch of vegetables and  perhaps flowers.  It is more a meandering path through foliage interspersed with streams and  falls, everwhere, and little wooden bridges over some of them.   Bea's garden is a series of little patches intermingled with the water, lettuce, cabbage, zucchini, strawberries.  Across one of the streams is a private park, with an admission fee. I think we have the better spot. In fact, I think we may have the best spot in town, although there are several little islands that I think belong to residents, and maybe a few other gardens that we can't see, like ours can' t be seen. There are, though, a lot of visitors who walk down the path to our house (it took us a little while to find it) because it's so picturesque. Until they see the private sign and the log across the driveway. We even have a parking spot inside Bea's garage, and parking seems to be at a  premium. There are cars parked all along the road up to Sludj.

The place is so small that pretty much everything is on the map, the few restaurants, all the places with rooms to rent,  the museum ( have yet to check that out but will)  the swimming place, the souvenir shop (which is just a small cart.) Yesterday, we went to one of the three restaurants for a drink, sat in a swing seat for a beer, and a grapefruit beer.  Then decided we were hungry and decided to order an appetizer to share.  Smoked trout seemed the specialty, there was a smokehouse and also a pen with numerous fish waiting to be called for dinner. We were puzzled by the price of the smoked trout meal, it was something like $100 a kilo, but we didn't know how much a typical dinner weighs.)  The smoked trout appetizer, though, was reasonable, and we ordered that. It was delicous, came garnished with lettuce and tomato and served with what seemed like an entire loaf of bread, sliced, and one shared serving almost satisfied our hunger. We ended with an also shared apple strudel, also wonderful.







In Rastoke, Croatia, still writing about Avignon!

We are now in a tiny town in Croatia, our second stop in Croatia. Carolina commented on Loring's fb photos that it looked like a fairytale, and she is right. We are here for two nights, which is our modus operundi for this trip, including Paris for Loring. It is a different way from how we usually travel, and so far it seems fine, except that we never get to unpack our suitcases, and that makes it harder for me to find things!

So, hopefully to complete writing about my French sojourn, or at least the Avignon part of it.  I wrote about some of the group, now I'll mention a few more. We were mostly American, aside from Deborah and her daughter, Denille. But even that's complicated. Deborah is, or was, Australian. She's lived in Michigan for many years. I think she's an American citizen. Denille was born in the US, but is an Australian citizen. She lives in Qatar with her husband, and has worked at a university there teaching graphic design for seven years.  She is in her forties, but looks like she is in her twenties. She was of course flattered when I told her so. A little later, one of the others said the same thing to her.

Now, that is only the beginning of the complexities of their relationship and their relationship to Laurel, the mosaic teacher. Laurel's mother and Deborah were each married to the same man. Laurel's mom was wife #1, and Deborah was wife #3.  He is now on wife #7. Got that?  Laurel and Deborah met once before at a family reunion, but Denille and Laurel had never met before.  Denille's father was not the man married to both women, her father died, Deborah married again, and has a half brother by the second husband. Got that?! 

A couple of the others:  Su is from Newburyport, and teaches Spanish at Masconomet. She came on this program last year, and liked it so much she came back.  Heidi lives on the Cape and is a personal chef.  Martine is from New York, lives on the Upper West Side, and is a psychologist.  She and Su met at another mosaic workshop, in Mexico, also run by Laurel. That's probably enough about folks for now, altho there's still a few more. 

So, to wrap things up, if I can, about the workshop week, we actually only did mosaics on four days of the week. When I first saw the schedule I was disappointed about that. In retrospect, it was a good balance. The first day, we mostly rested from all of our travel and adjusting time zones. On two days, we had a bus and did excursions. One day we went to a couple of towns inclulding St. Remy, where Van Gogh lived at various times, having instituionalizing himself. Martine, Su, and I walked up to the place and took a little tour.  He had painted a lot there, and they had reproductions of many of his paintings and said where the originals now were. They also had some situated at the spot where he had painted them.  We also went to Les Baux, where bauxite was mined, and named. Loring and I had been there over 30 years ago, and found it way overtouristed then.  It was, of course, even more so now, although it's at the top of a hill and not room for much expansion.  I could have skipped that. But, nearby,   in what had once been a quarry, there is a spectacular program called something like Ateliers de Lumiere. It's an indoor sound and light show, and they do different shows. Ours was about Van Gogh.  And then followed by a shorter hippyish one - Beatles and Donovan and like music with very hippy bright illustrations. The impressive part is the space, it  is huge, with many corners and grottos, and images on every wall, as you walk around.  I believe the concept for these programs began here.  There is now one in Paris, in an old converted  building,  once a factory, I believe. The current show there is about Klimt. 

Now I will move on to Avignon proper, and the festival. I had booked a room on a site called Wimdu, similar to Airbnb.  It was a room in a home in the old town, which was important to me.  I wanted to be able to walk around the festival easily, and be able to   go home in the middle of the day. The location was perfect, although it took me a while to find it. One of my missed connection misadventures. The other one, later, was finding my Paris apartment.  All I had was one of the "Portes", entrances thru the ancient walls of the city. The taxi dropped me off,  sent Su off to the train station on her way to Marseilles, and, I later found out, worried about me.  She had suggested I go to a cafe with wifi, a smart idea, and contact Sarah, my host.  Problem,  the cafes all said no wifi, not sure why. They said it had something to do with the ancient walls.  Hmmm. I finally prevailed on the   woman at the desk of a hotel, after much pleading she contacted Sarah on her computer and I got the address. It was only a block or two away from where I'd been let off. 

My room was on the second floor of Sarah's apartment.  She, her 25 year old daughter Mia, and MIa's boyfriend lived on the first floor. The bathroom was on the first floor,, along with the kitchen. My room was just a mattress on the floor, or maybe a low futon, and a bureau and a fan, much appreciated. The weather has been brutally hot, in Avignon, Paris, and now here in Croatia. There was a little alcove with a desk, where I left my suitcase.  It was perfectly adequate, especially since I didn't spend much time there  except for sleeping. (At night, and also for almost daily naps in the afternoon.)

Mia was a singer, and her boyfriend a guitarist, and they were planning to play on the streets, but weren't sure where.  I'm not sure if it was their decision, or if it's licensed and/or scheduled. I heard them practicing in the apartment.  She has a beautiful voice, very jazz like and belying  her quiet demeanor. I really wanted to see them perform, but never was able to schedule it.

In all, I saw five performances in three days, one the first day when it took me a while to find the place, and then to relax before venturing out. This is the third or fourth time I've been to Avignon. The first, my original trip, exactly 50 years ago this summer. I was there once with Loring in the 80's I believe. We were only there for a few hours.  And a few years ago, I came down overnight from Paris during the festival, and stayed in Marseille because accomodations are tight in Avignon during the festival. That time, I just walked around and watched street performances. I remember trying to find my house from 50 years ago, unsuccessfully. The time with Loring I did find what I thought was the place, and I think considered ringing the bell. Or maybe I did ring the bell and someone answered and pretended she remembered me. I'll have to ask Loring.

This time, I had no expectation of remembering the location, but as soon as I looked at the map, the name of the street jumped out at me - Rue Violette!  It was an old house with a large enclosed garden.  What I remember is a huge bedroom with swords  hanging on the wall, that had been her husband's.  And her serving me biscuits with butter and marmalade, and coffee in a bow.  And her daughter and son-in-law, or it may have been the other way around, who came to visit with their two huge dogs. 

There is only one house  on Rue Violette that matches the description.  I could only peer into the garden through the large metal doors, and see that it was now apartments. There are some newer buildings on the street, which is only one block long.  But  I couldn't say for sure that the others were newer than the 60s.  It's funny how some things stay with you, like biscuits with marmalade and butter, and other, more recent memories, like what you did yesterday, can't be recalled. 

Let me describe the five shows I saw.  The first had been recommended by my mosaic teacher, Valerie. it was a kind of musical comedy and discourse between Beethoven and  jazz guitarist Django Reinhard. That show played in alternation with one about Bach and  some other musician. It was the other that was playing the first night.  It was four incrdibly talented musician/comedians.  Even though there were many jokes I couldn't understand, there were many I could, and a lot of the comedy was physical, After the show, Bach and cohort served wine to the showgoers, out on the street. I told the non Bach guy, in French,  how much I had enjoyed the show, even though I couldn't understand some of the jokes. He responded that that was ok, he didn't understand some of them either. Funny guy!. Next night, even though there are 100s, maybe 1000s of performances, I went back to see Beethoven. Also just wonderful, although I must say I think I preferred the Bach one. Am glad I saw  both.

Another show was called Speakeasy Hip Hop and the flyer showed  guys dressed in 30s style. It began with four men dancing,  not just hip hop but tap and a real combination of styles. After a bit, a fifth dancer came out, a woman. The guys were great, but she was phenomenal.    From then on, the performance went to a whole nother level.

I had seen a group in the street, two women singing,  Chatanooga Choo Choo, I think, in classy short red outfits, and a man tapping. Based on that, I went to see their performance. Their singing and dancing was great. There was a little plot line, that involved some competiion between the women, but either I didn[t understand it well enough, or it just didnt add much to the show. It was definitely fun to hear songs like "It's all about the Bass" sung in French.

The fifth show I saw was the only one that was rather a disappointment.  It took me a while to recognize that it was based on The Little Shop of Horrors.  I had seen "Broadway,  Music"  something else in their ad and that caught my eye.  The problem was that the actors werent very good, it seemed more of an amateur production than any of the others. They were thrilled, though, when I told them afterwards that I recognized the show.  I  wonder if they knew that Jack Nicholson was the  dentist in the orignal movie, early in his career.

I am going to stop here,  only because I am having trouble with internet and  computer, and don't want to risk losing all   i've just written.  But I will continue on writing with another post. Who knows, this may be the day I catch up!


Monday, July 23, 2018

On the way to Croatia

We had a nice two days together in Paris. More about that later.

Now are at the airport waiting to depart to Pula, Croatia where we will spend the next two days. As after that we've got two days booked in each of several places, in Croatia and in Bosnia-Herzegovina.

For now, though, back to Avignon,  then Loches, then Paris.

Saturday, July 21, 2018

Encore un matin


Another morning. Actually, morning is over, I just looked up at the clock, it's 12;10. I am awaiting Loring 's arrival. He was due to arrive right around now, but his plane was delayed about 45 minutes on takeoff, last I heard. Update, just this minute heard that he's waiting for the bus at the airport.

Plan A: he has the code for the outer door and the name on the buzzer for the dinner door. He rings and I figure out how to buzz him in.

Plan B: I look out from the balcony and see him and go down to let him in.

Plan C: I don't hear or see him so go downstairs to let him in or sit in the cafe next door and  wait for him.

It's always good to have a plan B, and in my case even a C. I've already had two miscommunicated rendezvous' this trip, including one right here trying to find this apartment . She'd sent me the code and name,  but I never received the message and had no connection. Someone let me in the door, and I sat in the hallway for more than a half hour trying to figure out what to do. Finally decided to take the elevator to the top floor and start ringing bells. Miraculously, she was only the third or 4th bell I rang, and the first to

So, back to Avignon, where I spent a month 50 years. go, and a little more than a week a couple of weeks ago.We were  a group of 14, would- be and actual mosaic artists along with 1our two wonderful teachers, Valerie , who lives here and  at whose studio we worked, and Laurel, who is American and who has worked around the world, on projects large and small. I first came across her work in Haiti, where she has a still ongoing community project.

Later... I  was sitting on the balcony when I heard a familiar sounding whistle. Looked down and there he was, according to plan A, but couldn't see me. He later said someone did wave at him from a floor, below; I assume that was Magali.  I finally caught Loring's attention I went downstairs to let him in. He  had already let himself into the front hall, since I had given him the code.

So, back once again to Avignon, and I will continue to try to catch up,(and probably never will, until possibly on the plane home in a couple of weeks.)  But I'll try.

I arrived in Paris on the morning of July 3, and immediately took the fast train to Avignon without having to go into the city. It was a seamless transition, and took a mere three hours to get from Paris to Avignon. It's not the first time I've done that. I once went to Avignon  for just an overnight, when I was working on the mosaic project here in Paris, nine years ago. I actually stayed in Marseille that night, as things were all booked up during the festival. That time I merely  wandered through the streets, and thoroughly enjoyed myself, not feeling the need to pay for any indoor paid visit during that brief visit.

I was one of the last of the mosaic group to arrive in Avignon.  Laurel and Valerie were there to greet me, as well as Martine, who had arrived on the same train. She had missed her original train after her flight from New York was delayed. She was rather frazzled, as one might expect. I was quite relaxed, as my trip had gone flawlessly, aside from the woman next to me on the plane who had elbowed me constantly during the six hour flight.

Well, I'm going to stop here for now, as Loring and I are about to head out for dinner for our last night in Paris. We leave tomorrow for Pula, Croatia

To be continued, somewhere, sometime.

Friday, July 20, 2018

And yet another Parisian morning

My last entry  with that title, a couple of days ago, has vanished. Cant figure to where, I guess into thin air. And, sadly, I don't remember what I wrote about.

So it's on to another day. And in ,many ways, each day is like the one before. Which is a good thing. What I was attempting to say last night is that I don't feel the need, this time around, to run around visiting as many museums and doing as much as possible. Even though I'm
only here for five days, and then two more when Loring arrives tomorrow. I am as content to sit on my balcony writing, or  in my living room/kitchen eating biscuits with butter and marmalade as going out gallivanting.

I was planning to visit the flea market, the marche au puces, today. But I remembrred wrong, it isn't open on Friday. Good thing I checked first. It's really too high end and pricey for me, more of an antiques market. But there's one store where I've purchased eyeglass frames in the past. Dont need any now. What I'd really hoped to get this time around was old stock hair combs, the kind I wear  every day. It's hard to find nice ones in the states. And I'd left my bag of them somewhere along the way, either at the hotel in Villenueve d'Avignon or in Avignon in the room I rented there. I've got to try to track them down. I could go to the market early tomorrow before Loring arrives, but sometimes in July they haven't been open, and I can never remember the name of the place.

Enough of my travails, which of a minor sort anyway. yesterday I got a typically late start. Decided to go to the Pompidou. It's always a lively spot, tourists but also local hanger-routers. It took me quite a while to get there. Walked first thru the Marais, once the Jewish corner, in recent years a much more trendy place. There are still some old world ,traditional Jews,  and some stores selling Jewish foods or Judaica.

Some of the old storefronts with their beautifully tilted signs, still remain. But most now house fashionable clothing or design stores. On one wall is a plaque commemorating victims of  a bombing in the 1980s. I remember when that happened. But I doubt that many do, or even notice the plaque. I've written a before about the other plaques, in this neighborhood and others, on buildings from which people were deported durIng,, World War Two, usually never to return. On a previous visit, some years ago, I came across one on what had been a Jewish school. It's still a school, and I wandered in to the courtyard where parents were. Picking up their children,  before getting stopped by the protective guard. The plaques here predate the more recent stumbling stones in Berlin, where they began,  and other cities to which they spread. I first stumbled upon one, strangely, in Oslo, in front of an antique store, a couple of years ago.

I have been to Auschwitz and Daschau, some of the most disturbing places I have ever visited. But in some ways, It's the everyday places, where people live and work and kids go to school, that haunt me the most. The places where people live their lives, and nearly no one remembers or notices what once happened there.

Well, on that somber note, I'll stop, and return later, recount more about the Marais and the Pompidou. Will I ever catch up to my life in real time?

Now for some bread and cheese,and the last of my dellcious melon, while I decide what to do today.

Thursday, July 19, 2018

Back to Avignon

It's almost midnight and almost time for the Eiffel tower to do its thing. Its been one more day in Parisian paradise. I've gotten to the point where I enjoy the little things,  like having my breakfast of yogurt and fruit, and the the typical French packaged biscuits, which I eat with butter and orange marmalade. Or trying to understand the news in French.  I am content to look out the window and not get going until later. I don't feel the need to cram in as many museums as possible, even though I am here for a week this time, not a month like my last visit. I just like being here.

I never eat crackers with butter and jam at home. But I always have it when I am in France. It dates back to my first trip to Europe 50 years ago. I travelled with a small group of girls. We went by train from Paris to Rome, Florence, and Venice, and then spent a month living in Avignon with host families. By host family, I mean in my case an elderly widowed woman. I realize that in saying elderly, i mean a woman who was likely younger than i am now. FIFTY years! It feels more like a dream to me now than something that really happened.

I have a few memories of that trip, one of which is eating crackers  with butter and orange marmalade for breakfast, along with coffee in  bowls, rather than cups or mugs. I know some people here still do that. As for the biscuits with butter and jam, I don't know if that is very typical or just happened to be what my host grandmother served. The biscuits themselves, though, are readily available in the supermarket.

I called this entry Back to Avignon to refer both to trying to get back to writing about my great week, last week, with the mosaic project, and then for an additional three days in the city during its famous theater festival. But I am also referring to returning  after so many years.  Although my memories of my original time there are rather foggy, that trip certainly had a powerful effect on where my life took me in the next few years.

So I am going to write a bit more, about my original trip, and my recent one in and around Avignon, before I return to chronicling my present adventures.

When I was seventeen, my father traded his public relations services with the owner of a small student travel agency called Students Abroad. I spent two months in Eurpoe. The owner ran two trips, one coed and the other just girls. Even though I went to an all girls school (or maybe because of it) I chose to go on the all girls trip. There were eight of us and our leader, who was very knowledgeable about art and history. Both groups went to the same places, but in different order, and we all spent the second month in Avignon. This was before it was fairly common for teens to travel abroad. It was the first time I'd been away from home for that length of time, the only other having been for three weeks at summeEurope.

 Many years later,my mother told me that they'd decided to send me on the trip to help me break out of my shell, because i was painfully shy. I hope she was happy with the results! I remember being somewhat shy, but not painfully so. I know I preferred staying home and reading to playing out on  the street with the rest with the neighborhood kids. But by the time I was a teenager I was going to school outside the neighborhood and most of my friends didn't live nearby. I wonder if the pain in being painfully shy was my mother's more than mine. I also wonder what, if any, pr work my father did for the company.

So, after a month of travelling to beautiful places, visiting many museums, etc. We arrived in Avignon. we had daily French classes. I also remember tutoring a local high school  student in English, and that an article about that appeared in the local paper. The combined groups went on some trips together, to the famous Pont du Gard aqueduct, to Arles, The Roman amphitheater in Nimes, and probably some other places.

Bu t  the events that had the greatest effect on me had to do with groups performing at the theater festival. The Living Theatre was a radical, political company from the U.S. They had  exciled themselves a few years before from the country because they did not want to pay taxes to support the Vietnam war. They`d been travelling around Europe and had become quite the international group, adding members wherever they went.


This was just a few months after the student and worker demonstrations in Paris and beyond, and protest was in the air. I am sure a number of students and young radicals followed the group to Avignon. I remember scores of hippie types hanging around the main plaza, which these days is filled with musicians, breakdancers, mimes, all kinds of performers, during the festival. The Living Theater wanted to provide additional free performances. The festival organizers didn't let them.

All this happened before we arrived. The group's performances were already over. But they were still around, and I met some of them at the municipal pool. I also met some of the dancers from the renowned Bejart Ballet company from Belgium, and saw their amazing performance of Stravinsky's Rite of Spring, which had been scandalous when it was first performed in the early 20th century. I was very impressed and moved by their performance in Avignon. I've seen the dance performed several times since, but never did it affect me as strongly  as the first time, in the courtyard of the Palace of the Popes in Avignon.

I did not see the Living Theater perform in Avignon. But not too long after that summer, the mayor of New York, who apparently appreciated their talents, declared some kind of special dispensation that allowed the group to return to the US. They performed in New York, and no doubt other places, although some of them were arrested in several cities, for performing nude. Their performances were provocative and interactive. I was smitten. I spent parts of my senior year of high school following them around. I had gone from a Broadway groupie to a radical theater one in short order. I have no idea what my parents thought of about my activities that year.
In the spring, after I'd applied and been accepted to a number of colleges, I saw an ad in the back of the NY Times for the American College in Paris, I decided that was where I  wanted to go. My infatuation with the group had not abated, and my decision go to school there was largely influenced by the fact that the group was heading back to Europe. I thought at the time that my mother was taken with the idea of having a daughter go to school in France. To this day,  I remain astonished that they let me go. They may have come to regret it; I don't know. But there is no doubt that decision affected my life in ways that still influence me today.

This year is the 50th anniversary of my original trip to Europe, when I spent a month in Avignon. When I heard about Laurel and Valerie`s mosaic workshops there, t seemed meant to be, as they say.  I needed no further motivation to sign on. 

Well, that's gotten  me almost up to present time and last week in Avignon. It's almost 2 am and the tower has stopped its flashing. So I will stop here, and continue on tomorrow am. Oh, it already is tomorrow am. So I'll go to bed, and hopefully get enough sleep before they start hammering and drilling in the morning.

Wednesday, July 18, 2018

An art-full day

I am puzzled because my previous post, titled  A Parisian morning, shows as blank on the blog, although it shows as published on my own screen. Too tired to figure it out tonite. It's almost midnight. I'll stay up for one more round of the Tower flashing, and relate a bit about today's adventures. Eventually I will, I hope, get around to describing my sojourn in Avignon.

 Today's mission, which I did not accomplish (and that's ok, I often don't]
Was to try to find the housing project where I worked on creating a mosaic mural nine years ago. I remembered the general area, but it is an area with many developments, and I think there are many more now than there were  almost a decade ago.What I did stumble upon,  to my delight, was the 104 artspace, which opened when I was there in 2009. It was wonderful then, and has expanded since. I just happened upon it. It may be better than having located the project, because  if I found it and the mural wasn't there, it would be a terrible disapointment. We had left without knowing if they'd found the space to mount it.

What I did find was a lot more art than I remembered being in the housing projects before, as well as a lot of street art. The neighborhood looked better than I remembered. It wouldn't surprise me if the 104 had had an effect on the surrounding area.

The exhibit on display was terrific. Even better was the activity happening around it. The space is open to anyone who wants to use it as a practice space, and there were many doing just that. So surrounding the major installation there were people doing breakdancing, tango, swing.  And a juggler, and a hula Hooper. And also a group of children visiting, all in their neon vests, some of them imitating the moves of the dancers.

The installation was a huge conglomeration of discarded items, from cars to refrigerators to typewriters to tires, aall assembled into a massive display, and all painted white. Around the perimeter of the space were about 6 rooms that you needed to pay to enter, each with a smaller installation by the same artist, Vhils.  His pieces include videos,  sculptures made of layers of discarded posters, another comprising polystyrene pieces to form an urban landscape., The exhibit is called Fragments Urbains.

There was a cafe where I stopped to have a drink in sight of some of the dancers. It was a concoction I hadn't come across before - fresh ginger with lime juice and sugar. Pretty good but a bit strong; I asked for extra ice as I also always do with my much loved citrons presse - basically lemon juice served with a carafe of water and sugar. It must be at least 4 or 5 lemons worth of juice, and i always ask for extra water and ice cubes. It makes them go much further . I honestly can't figure out how they like them so strong.

To my surprise and delight there was also a thrift store within the art complex. So I spent a good while there, but was good and didn't buy anything.

To see some pix of what I encountered today, take a look at my Facebook post. It's almost 1 am and I am going to try to wind down and rest up for tomorrow.
Did I say it gets dark around 10pm? I was wrong, it's more like 11. I think I'll stay up for one more round of Eiffel lights, and have a little more wine mixed with soda water, which is an absolute no-no in France, according to Valerie, my mosaic teacher. So don't tell her.

Tuesday, July 17, 2018

Lots more pieces

Am now in phase four of my French sojourn. Lots of adventures and a few misadventures, mostly missed connections. After a wonderful week in Provence, making mosaics and exploring the countryside and the cuisine with an interesting group of people, I spent three days on my own in Avignon, a place that played a significant part in my life many years ago. More about that in a bit. Then went on to Loches in the Loire valley , chateaü country, where I visited with old friends Marie and Tim. When i say Loches, I actually mean Beauliue, a tiny village outside Loches, where they have lived for many years.

They now live in a charming house that was once part of an abbey. Once meaning in medieval times. There are now many small houses in parts of what was once the Abbey. , modernized  to diferent degrees. They rent out the house where  they previously to a man who raises mushrooms, and his family. I'd hoped to see his operation but we ran out of time. This area is replete with caves that were once quarries for the stone that built many of the churches, monasteries, and I assume chateaus around the area. The caves are the ideal places for growing mushrooms.

So we had several meals featuring mushrooms, along with local cheeses, eggs from a neighbor,  melons, etc. Their house sits right on a canal, part of the reason they bought that house. We are most of our meals on the little terrace overlooking the canal. My room overlooked it too.

The house is a wonderful jumble of rooms and a little courtyard. They've recently renovated what was an attic storage space into a kind of guest suite. That part of the house doesn't have running water. They 've set up a toilet, the kind old people have when they can't make it to the bathroom. Good practice,  I guess.  It worked out just fine, and I used their bathroom during the day  and to brush my teeth,etc.

Marie and Tim are both avid gardeners. She grows beautiful flowers, and he grows vegetables in a community garden plot just down the road. The garden is more than just a garden, it is interspersed with sculpture and other art made of found and repurposed items. There's a bicycle wall made of a row of rusty bicycles whose baskets, spokes, etc are planted with all types of flowers. And all kinds of innovative scarecrows.  And a big sideboard in the middle of a small grove that was stocked with a number of books and a sign that said something like libraries in the woods. And many signs with poetry and sayings throughout  the garden. Marie and Tim chatted with a number  of neighbor gardeners while I strolled around.

I'm going to stop here and post this, although there's still tons to tell. But I'm hungry and it's time for a stroll around town. I'm going to attempt to find the area and the mural I worked on with a group of volunteers a number of years ago. I don't really expect to find it, in fact don't know if it ever got installed. But its worth a try, and a good basis for a walk in an area most visitors don't get to see. And walking is what I like best to do here anyway.

A bientot/see you later.

Saturday, July 14, 2018

Piecing it together

 I started out with this title about ten days ago, then never got around to writing more. I was either too hot and or tired, or had no time, or wrote and didn't remember how to post. Oh well, ca va.

So now I am on the train from Avignon to Loches, where I will meet up with friend Marie. But the train is about to come into St. Pierre, where i will change. I am also running out of juice, so will have to see if I make the connection and then find a connection.


At which point i will try to write about Avignon, and then backtrack to the week of the mosaic workshop, which was,  after all, the major motive of this adventure.. I don't often seem able to proceed in a linear manner. Just trying to put the pieces together. To be continued shortly, hopefully.