Impressions of Claude Monet

The paintings and sculptures of Monet, Manet, Renoir, Degas, Cassatt, Morisot, Pissarro and their contemporaries exemplify the Impressionist movement which began to flourish in the Paris of the 1880’s.  Likened to the glimpse out the window of a moving locomotive, these artists strived to convey light and movement and its effects on gardens, landscapes and vignettes of people; to get out of the studios and paint in the open air capturing the natural beauty of its subject.  For Monet this was key; it was the excitement of painting as directly as possible the visible, contemporary world that fired his imagination.

Though their paintings sell for millions of dollars now, when they had their first show in Paris the staid art society of the time scoffed and ridiculed them.  It is one of the ironies of history that their paintings were received with incomprehension and derision by many of the same sort of people who today find them so appealing.  Though Edouard Manet is regarded as “the father of impressionism” it is Claude Monet whose works are more familiar today.  His water lilies series alone are more renowned but Manet was also a master of the style and Degas’ ballerinas are superb.  You would be hard-pressed to say that Renoir was any less a painter than any of the others.  They all deserved and still do the accolades bestowed upon them then and now.

Since I have been following in the footsteps of my extremely lucky sister-in-law while she travels through Europe, I am focusing on Monet as she recently visited one of the towns in which he lived.

Less than 2 hours by train from Paris, Giverny is a village in the region of Normandy in northern France.  Impressionist painter Claude Monet lived and worked here from 1883 until his death in 1926. The artist’s former home and elaborate gardens, where he produced his famed water lily series, are now the Fondation Claude Monet museum. Below is a link to the organization.

http://giverny.org/gardens/fcm/visitgb.htm

If you are in France and have the opportunity to visit this quaint little village, I would recommend you go and see the inspiration for many of Monet’s masterpieces.  A great day trip from Paris.  C’est marvielleux!!

The Magical World of Jules Verne

If you are lucky enough to travel through France and have time to visit other cities as well as Paris and Versailles then I recommend Nantes, birthplace of the renowned author Jules Verne and Amiens where the “House with the Tower” is located and where he wrote many of his works.

Jules Verne is often described as the “father of science fiction,” and among all writers, only Agatha Christie’s works have been translated more. He is such a successful and popular author worldwide that many people forget that he was French.  Verne wrote numerous plays, essays, books of nonfiction, and short stories, but he was best known for his novels.

Part travelogue, part adventure, part natural history, his novels remain popular to this day.  You might even say that he was one of the first travel bloggers of his time.

Many of his novels have been made into movies, television series, radio shows, animated children’s cartoons, computer games and graphic novels.  

Jules VerneJules Gabriel Verne was born February 8, 1828 in the seaport of Nantes, where he was trained to follow in his father’s footsteps as a lawyer but quit the profession when he visited Amiens to be the best man at his friend’s wedding, he fell in love with the bride’s sister (and the city). And as the story goes, the rest was history – he died in Amiens on March 24th, 1905 of diabetes mellitus). Verne rests in the serene Cimetière de la Madeleine, beneath Albert Roze’s sculpture of him, which is titled “Towards immortality and eternal youth”.

After major renovation works, the “House with the Tower” in Amiens, where Jules Verne lived from 1882 to 1900, turned into a museum once again offers visitors a space where the imaginary world and the daily life of the author mix. This luxe 19th century mansion witnessed the success of the writer, who wrote most of his “Extraordinary Voyages” there.  The house reveals the personality, sources of inspiration and memories of Jules Verne and is well worth a visit if only for a small glimpse into the fertile machinations of his brain . Verne’s most famous and enduring novels were written in the 1860’s and 1870’s, at a time when Europeans were still exploring, and in many cases exploiting, new areas of the globe.  Exploiting cultures and land is still a popular pastime for many today!  Pity!

 


 

The first nuclear submarine, the USS Nautilus was named after Captain Nemo’s submarine in Twenty Thousand Leagues Under the Sea. Just a few years after the publication of Around the World in Eight Days, two women who were inspired by the novel successfully raced around the world.  Nellie Bly would win the race against Elizabeth Bisland, completing the journey in 72 days, 6 hours, and 11 minutes.

Today, astronauts in the International Space Station circle the globe in 92 minutes. Verne’s From the Earth to the Moon presents Florida as the most logical place to launch a vehicle into space, yet this is 85 years before the first rocket would launch from the Kennedy Space Center at Cape Canaveral. Again and again, we find the scientific visions of Verne becoming realities.


 

In 2007 a combined art installation and steampunk amusement park on the site of a former shipyard opened.  Île de Nantes is a 337-hectare island in the centre of the city of Nantes, on Brittany’s western edge.   Les Machines de L’île is a 21st century mechanical wonderland where visitors can catch rides on twirling sea creatures – Participants can choose to ride on three levels of mechanical creatures: squid and crab on the lowest level, suspended fish on the second and boats and jellyfish at the top – a breathtaking juxtaposition of old, new – and weird.

The island’s biggest showstopper, however, is a 48-tonne mechanical elephant. The creature, which carries 50 riders, stomps the entire length of the park – from the entrance, across the shipyard and past an old warehouse to the carousel, before looping back to discharge passengers and wait for new ones. The wild ride takes a half hour.  When this majestic beast emerges from its steel cathedral, it is a moving piece of architecture that sets off for a walk. The passengers on board can see what makes the engine and moving feet tick. A machinist will welcome you on board, tell you about its life and set off its trumpeting. As part of the crew, this is an invite for timeless travel in the birthplace of Jules Verne.

Mechanical elephant in Nantes

Quotes from Jules Verne

I believe cats to be spirits come to earth. A cat, I am sure, could walk on a cloud without coming through.

Science, my lad, is made up of mistakes, but they are mistakes which it is useful to make, because they lead little by little to the truth.

We may brave human laws, but we cannot resist natural ones.

The sea is everything.  It covers seven tenths of the terrestrial globe.  It’s breath is pure and healthy.  It is an immense desert where man is never lonely, for he feels life stirring on all sides.

The sea is only the embodiment of a supernatural and wonderful existence.

Either of these cities would be worth a visit but both would be fantastic.  Happy Trails!

The best selling author of all time

Who is the greatest selling author in the world?  If you said William Shakespeare you wouldn’t be wrong as he is tied with Agatha Christie for that distinctive honour according to Google.  This forty years after her death in 1976.  Of course, William has been dead a few centuries longer than that (1616).

Why do I bring this up at all – because my sister-in-law has been gadding about Europe for the past two years mostly in France, Spain and Italy but with a few exotics thrown in for good measure like Morocco.  To say that I am livid with envy would be an understatement.  Naturally I comment positively on all the photos she posts on Facebook but the whole time I’m wishing it were me.  I am very proud of her for leaving the rat race, storing all her stuff and taking off to see all the places she’s read about for years… unlike her fine arts family member she is a history and literature buff so some of the places she has chosen to visit might not have occurred to me.  For instance, visiting the summer home of Agatha Christie as mentioned.  After seeing the pictures I decided to do a little research and thought I’d share with you.

Agatha Mary Clarissa Miller was born on September 15 1890 in Ashfield on the northern edge of Torquay, a seaside town in Devon, England. The Victorian villa was demolished in the Sixties – a blue plaque marks the spot – but the town is replete with sites associated with the author’s life. Educated at home by her mother, Christie began writing detective fiction while working as a nurse during World War I.  It was due to this avocation that she developed a knowledge of poisons which she used quite liberally in a lot of her novels.  She did not like violence – a side effect I’m sure of seeing it first hand during the war.  When she married Lieutenant Archibald Christie, they honeymooned at the Grand Hotel.   Her marriage to Archibald did not last, perhaps yet another casualty of that devastating war. In 1930, Christie married noted archaeologist Max Mallowen.

She travelled extensively with both her husbands, and owned many houses during the course of her long life – including several in London, important homes in Oxfordshire and Berkshire, and even one in Baghdad.

QuoteHer first novel, The Mysterious Affair at Styles (1920), introduced Hercule Poirot, her eccentric and egotistic Belgian detective;  Poirot is one of Christie’s most famous and long-lived characters, appearing in 33 novels, one play, and more than 50 short stories published between 1920 and 1975 before returning to Styles, where, in Curtain (1975), he died.  Believe it or not, this fictional character had his obit published in the New York Times, that’s how popular he was.  The Nicaraguan government put Poirot’s face on a postage stamp.

The elderly spinster  Miss Jane Marple, her other principal detective figure, first appeared in Murder at the Vicarage (1930).  She featured in 12 of Agatha Christie’s crime novels and in 20 short stories.

Dame Agatha Christie is in the Guinness Book of World Records as the World’s Bestselling Author.  Her books have sold over 2 billion copies in 44 languages.  Royalties are about $4 million per year.  Agatha Christie is also one of the world’s most prolific writers, or authoress (as she called herself).  She was created a Dame of the British Empire in 1971.

Agatha Christie’s play The Mousetrap has the longest theatrical run, according to the Guinness Book of World Records. It opened at the Ambassadors Theatre in London on November 25, 1952. It moved next door to the St. Martin’s Theatre on March 25, 1974, not missing a single performance. It continues to this day.

3,000,000 copies of Murder on the Orient Express (published in 1934) were sold in 1974 alone when the Albert Finney film adaptation opened!  Recently, Sir Kenneth Branagh brought the fussy detective Poirot back to life in his movie adaptation of Murder on the Orient Express which also starred Johnny Depp and a certain other grand Dame — Judi Dench and an all star cast.

Later on I will post some of my sister-in-laws photos of Agatha’s summer home with information on where and how it came to be on the National Historic register.  Right now I will leave you with a few quotes from the great authoress herself.

An archaeologist is the best husband a woman can have. The older she gets the more interested he is in her.

Good advice is always certain to be ignored, but that’s no reason not to give it.

It is a curious thought, but it is only when you see people looking ridiculous that you realize just how much you love them.

Five days on the Cote D’Azur

The following notes are taken from a trip I took some years ago……

I decide to locate my base of operations in Nice which is somewhat in the middle of the French Riviera (or the Cote D’Azur) and then take day trips on the train to Cannes, Monaco, Antibes, and Villefranche.

In Nice, I find a cozy little room near the station with bath and shower for 100 francs per night.  I have a shower, do a little hand laundry and then map in hand I walk to the top of Colline du Chateau where you can get a panoramic view of Nice, which does not disappoint.  It is a beautiful, sunny day and the walk itself is pleasurable with most people you meet nodding or smiling as you pass by.

Colline du Chateau in NiceCastle Hill, or Colline du Château as it’s called in French, is more “hill” than “castle.” Most of it has crumbled away, but travelers and travel experts alike recommend climbing the nearly 300 feet of stairs to the top of the hill for the sweeping panorama of Nice and the Baie des Anges (Bay of Angels).

After lunch, I buy some fruit and water on the way home and decide to have a relaxing night with a good book before an early start in the morning; not sure where to begin first but will let the train schedule decide.  The Nice Carnival runs from Feb 13 to March 1st but I have just missed it.

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Monte Carlo

I am off to Monaco as this is the train leaving at the time.  I walked all day.  Went to the exotic gardens high above the town of Monte Carlo (like a suburb) of Monaco.  I am super stoked as this place has been high on my bucket list for years and I am now finally drinking it all in – and majestic it is – not to mention tres expensive!  I walked through the underground caves, had an orange, then walked along the harbour to a Musee National where they have the world’s largest collection of dolls, mechanical and otherwise.  I did not check out the casino but walked past the Palace.

Monaco is a constitutional monarchy run by the Grimaldi family.  Prince Albert II, son of Prince Rainier and Princess Grace who were married on April 18, 1956 (the original Prince and the Showgirl) is the current head of state.  Monaco is the second smallest country in the world, after the Vatican.  It is approximately 77 square miles or 1/2 the size of New York’s Central Park.

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The next day I take the train to Beaulieu sur Mer at 9:30 am and walk around there for an hour and then take a 10 minute train ride to Villefranche sur Mer just down the road.  Villefranche-sur-Mer is a very picturesque Medieval fishing village on the beach just a few km east of Nice.  If you enjoy walking it’s an easy 30 minute walk to or from Beaulieu sur Mer and the Kerylos villa or else to Cap Ferrat, allow about 2 hours to get to the tip of the peninsula and the spectacular lighthouse.

Beaulieu-sur-Mer.12

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When I reached Cannes I headed directly to the beach.  It was another glorious sunny day and I was prepared  I had my bikini on under my slacks and I walked along the boardwalk till I found a likely place; some people were playing what amounted to table tennis or paddle ball without the net and I parked my derriere for the day.  I enjoyed the warmth that spread through my limbs immensely.  I soaked it up while watching people and trying valiantly to understand their conversations.  My grasp of French is pretty pathetic though I can manage to make myself understood in it for the important things….like the toilet, restaurant, glass of wine, etc.  I had packed a picnic lunch of cheese, fruit, salami and bread so around 4:30 I sat out on the rocks and ate dinner while I watched this old fisherman prepare to fish.  It took him forever, especially since people kept coming down to the dock to talk to him.

Cannes

Note:  Every year the population of Cannes triples from 70,000 to 200,000 during its annual film festival, and in exclusive hotels such as the Hotel Martinez, rates typically double.  The penthouse suite at the hotel is one of the largest in Europe at 1,000 square feet, and rates rise to $52,000 (£31,000) a night during the event.  The hotel was sold in 2012 and joined the Hyatt chain on April 9, 2013 and was renamed the Grand Hyatt Cannes Hotel Martinez.

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As I sit here getting bombed on Spritzers I shall attempt to describe my day’s activities.  I slept in till almost 10 am.  Not usual for this trip but it is my vacation after all.  It was cloudy and dreary so I decided to stay in Nice for the day and visit museums.

I started with the Marc Chagall Musee which is definitely worth seeing.  The stained glass windows at one end and the mosaic at the other are worth the price of admission alone. If you are there on the first Sunday of the month you can get in for free!  The Matisse Museum is just a 15 minute walk further uphill.  You can also see Roman Bath ruins, a 2000 year old olive grove and a Franciscan Monastery with fabulous Italian-style gardens which are open to the public.

Chagall mosaic

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Antibes is another coastal gem where I happened upon kindergarten children all dressed in fancy hats having a parade outside the chateau where Picasso spent a year painting and drawing and making ceramics.  Antibes children

This has been turned into a museum and I can see why he would have been so productive when you look out over the water and take in the beauty of the surroundings.  I am not a big fan of Picasso as I tend to favour his drawings over his paintings but the ceramics on display here are beautiful.  He was certainly a prominent artist of his time.

Museum Picasso in Antibes

It helps that I have an Eurail pass so that I can hop off and on trains at will.  You can purchase them for different periods of time.  The one I had was good for three months and was guarded much like my passport – neither of which I wanted to lose.  Five days wasn’t nearly long enough to absorb all that is the French Riviera but as a tapas it was delectable!

The WOW Museum in Nelson, New Zealand

While my husband and I were travelling through New Zealand in 2012 we happened upon this world where the lines of fashion and art blur and merge as one… the WOW museum which stands for the World of Wearable Art.

For a peek into this imaginative cirque du solheil of choreographed human art, please go to                                          www.worldofwearableart.com 

The museum provides visitors with the opportunity to view the permanent collection of past winners of the awards show (held in Wellington in September each year and celebrating 30 years in 2018) in a unique setting.  We were not allowed to photograph the garment displays but there was a travelling show in Christchurch where we were able to take a few photos.

 

Wed. 28th March, 2018 Step 1 (intention to enter) closes
Step 2 entries close for ALL international entrants
Sun 9 Sept Second Judging (provisional)
Mon 24 Sept Final Judging
Fri 28 Sept 2018 Awards announced
Sat 29 Sept Entries open for 2019 WOW Competition

Unless you are particularly motivated to show your own creative talents, you might possibly have to wait till this September to come up with a proper theatrical spectacle worthy of consideration as you only have till the end of March for entry to 2018 Awards show.  A kaleidoscope of dance, colour, movement, art and drama, the WOW awards show in Wellington ‘takes art off the wall and onto the moving body’.

If you are planning a trip to New Zealand and can attend the show in September in Wellington or going to Nelson anytime of the year, you have to stop in to see the WOW.  An added bonus is the world-class Classic Car Gallery in an adjacent building.  Over 50 cars and motorbikes on display.  My favourite was the Excalibur parked out front though the 1937 Cord was none too shabby.

 

Bruno's Sculpture Gardens

Must-see Gardens in Marysville, Australia

Lady of ShallotOn our travels within Australia one of the places I wanted to visit just outside of Melbourne was the Bruno Art and Sculpture Gardens.  Unfortunately, we never made it there.  It is the one regret I have as getting back to Australia isn’t likely at this point.  If you are one of the lucky ones to traverse Australia and you are in the neighbourhood you should definitely check it out.   Please google for link to their site for a glimpse into a magical world.

South American artist Bruno Torf’s eclectic sculpture garden near Melbourne began with 15 life-sized terra cotta sculptures set in sub-alpine forests, and a gallery of smaller artwork. In 2009, the sculptures just barely survived devastating local fires, while the artist’s home and gallery were completely destroyed.  Bruno has painstakingly rebuilt his sculpture gardens and a bigger gallery.  Nature and art at its best!