Category Archives: Travel

V is for Virgin Gorda, British Virgin Islands (AtoZChallenge2018)

 

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The Baths on Virgin Gorda in the BVI – can you imagine a better combination? Bouldering, beaches and swimming in balmy waters… Oh, yes! 

 

One of my favourite places in the world is the island of Virgin Gorda in the British Virgin Islands. I was last there in 2015, just before I met Fabio during my fateful wander around Skaha Bluffs looking for climbing partners (you could say that worked out rather well!)

 

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It’s shoulder season here in the Rocky Mountains – the waterfalls are melting rapidly, so ice climbing season is likewise fast running out. But at the base of plenty of crags it’s still muddy or slushy, so it’s not perfect yet for rock climbing (though, that’s changing fast as well). Solution? Snorkelling! Of course, there isn’t much of that to be done here even on the hottest days of summer, but in the BVI… different story!

 

You can’t imagine how delighted and excited I am to be able to say that very soon I’ll be hopping on a plane and heading back to the Virgin Islands with Fabio and Ally in tow! Yay!

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For the moment, I’ll leave you with these photos of fond memories… Keep watching the blog for more photos coming soon of our next trip together!

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S is for Slug, Snow, Spindrift, Spring and Street Art (#AtoZChallenge2018)

 

 

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Spindrift [Fine snow that blows off a mountain… well, I guess it could blow off anywhere, but this was snow blowing around above the Bow Valley]

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Snow is melting away before our eyes as spring finally, finally finds its way to the Bow Valley. This year, it seems like winter has been here for a very long time. 

 

S, it turns out, is full of potential when it comes to this month’s daily blogging challenge! It seems everywhere I look it’s all about transformation (the theme this month is Travel, Transformation and Transition…).

Over the past couple of weeks I’ve been receiving updates on a watercolour painting from Dad’s studio…

 

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In an artist’s studio, ideas are transformed into drawings, paintings, prints, lino cuts… 

 

The subject matter? Unusual, to say the least!

 

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Slug, slowly making his way to completion… 

 

 

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Slug on the Camino by E. Colin Williams (2018)

 

 

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Stormy Seas… by E. Colin Williams (Oil on Board) I don’t think that’s actually the real title, but today is day so I’ll leave it for now… I’m sure Dad will let me the correct title. 

 

When I travel, one of the things I love to photograph is the street art I come across. Somehow, even the roughest of neighbourhoods, most rustic back alleys, decrepit sheds, and ramshackle fences are transformed when someone takes the time to add a little art… Here are a few pieces of street art spotted while wondering through Paris earlier this month…

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And, of course, I can’t leave this post without mentioning Rodin and this piece of sculpture featuring a great stone… Oh, I sure did enjoy myself in Rodin’s garden!

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Oh, one last thought… sometimes the stones themselves become works of art as in this installation not far from my place here in Canmore.

 

 

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Portal XII by Lucie Bause, 2011

 

I could keep going for hours, but it’s been a very long day staring at the computer as I work my way through the draft of the new manuscript and my eyeballs are getting more square by the minute! So, away I go to slip off to SLEEP so I can transition into T is for tomorrow!

 

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Sleep by Abbott Handersaon Thayer, 1887

 

 

J is for Jumping Jehosephat! (AtoZChallenge2018)

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This morning I was hanging out in my jammies listening to Dolly Parton (what’s not to love about Jolene, Jolene, Please Don’t Take My Man, right Sheryl McFarlane?), wondering what on earth I was going to write about for the letter J when I started Jonesin’ for a blog post topic. Yeah, I’ll admit it, I was feeling jittery when I considered jumping online and reaching out on social media to see if I might score a hit of inspiration. I typed up a Facebook post asking for help and hesitated before thinking, hell – Just do It!   (Thanks, Jenny…)

 

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Sorting through my myriad options proved to be a juicy task… The word juice reminded me of our recent journey to Spain where sipping freshly squeezed orange juice was one of the (many) joyous experiences along the Camino. 

 

Jesus! The response was overwhelming! Before I knew it I had a list a mile long and my dilemma had switched from being desperate for a single idea to a thousand possibilities jostling for position. How could I possibly do them all justice? At some point I said I would cut off the submissions and would use every word suggested in this blog post… a promise I soon realized was both foolish and optimistic. How to juxtapose juniper (something you’d likely catch a whiff of in June or July) with joggle? Joggle isn’t even a word, though it’s such a good suggestion (from writer Dayle Gaetz) that I couldn’t resist including it. As Dayle explained, it’s what happens when a jogger jiggles while underway…

 

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I like to include relevant images whenever possible, so though I was a bit short of photos of jellybeans, I did find this one of Fabio jumping from one boulder to another on a climbing journey a couple of years ago… I confess I experienced a surge of joy when he made it safely to the other side of the chasm. 

No longer in a jam, I found myself with options in not one, but two official languages (thanks, Dad).

 

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The Juggler by Marc Chagall, 1943 (Original title Le Jongleur)

 

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The original title of this horse head on a yellow background by Fernand Leger is “Tête de cheval sur fond jaune” (1953). Joli, n’est pas?

 

 

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And while we are on the artwork section of the blog post, how about this jester? The painting dates from 1442 and is called Portrait of the Ferrara Court Jester Gonella and is by Jean Fouquet. 

 

Feeling pretty joyeux at this point (I mean, look at all those Js!!!!), I took a break to julienne some root vegetables for dinner and then joined a couple of ice climbers for a quick chat at a local watering hole (I had to retrieve an ice screw that had inadvertently made its way into someone else’s gear bag). After a bit of verbal jousting about whose ice tools are superior, I decided to leave the guys to their dessert and head for home, but not before seeing a few photos from what looks to have been a great day of skiing not far from here. It’s hard not to be jealous when you see such glorious images of the kinds of places you can only get to with a Jeep, some time in hand, and a decent pair of skis.

This post could have been a Jeremiad (look that one up, I had to), in which I complained bitterly about the paucity of worthy words beginning with J. Instead, no joking, I was about as far out of this world with joy as Jupiter (sorry, had to reuse joy and tossing Jupiter in definitely feels a tad awkward…).  Maybe after a cup of jasmine tea I’ll be able to come up with a better final paragraph. On the other hand, I may find myself distracted by the Jets (of Winnipeg fame) who are playing their hearts out on their way (we can only hope) to the Stanley Cup!! Maybe I shouldn’t write that here… it might jinx the team…

 

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Donkeys or Jackasses? You decide… (Franz Marc, 1911)

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

G is for Goya, Guernica, Gaugin and van Gogh (AtoZChallenge)

 

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This portrait of the Spanish painter, Goya by Vicente Lopez Portaña was completed in 1826. Though it’s in the collection of the Prado Museum in Madrid, I don’t remember seeing it… Hardly surprising considering just how overwhelming that museum is. 

It has been said that Goya was the last of the great masters and the first of the modern painters which makes him a transition, of sorts. (If you haven’t been following along this month, my theme for the AtoZ Blogging Challenge is Travel, Transitions, and Transformations… ).

 

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I’m including this painting by Goya because of its title, The Second of May, 1808 (my birthday is on May 2nd… and isn’t a birthday often a time of transition?) The French invaded Spain and the two nations battled during the Peninsular War (1808-1914). The painting is rather gory, gruesome, and grim…

Goya, like a number of Spanish painters, spent time in France (he hung out in Bordeaux for a number of years). Picasso is another with strong ties to both nations.

 

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Picassos’s Guernica (1937)   Guernica is a Basque town in Spain that was bombed on April 26, 1937 by Germany as a means of lending a hand to the Spanish Nationalists.                                                                     (La exposición del Reina-Prado. Guernica is in the collection of Museo Reina Sofia, Madrid.Source page: http://www.picassotradicionyvanguardia.com/08R.php (archive.org), Fair use, https://en.wikipedia.org/w/index.php?curid=1683114)

While I was in Paris I went to a lecture which I thought was going to be about Picasso’s painting, Guernica. I imagined slides that would focus on specific details and then describe how and why Picasso chose the imagery he did.

The talk (in the basement of the Picasso Museum) was all in French, so I only caught bits and pieces, but it seemed to be more about Picasso’s role in the Spanish ex-pat artist community in Paris and his involvement with bringing what was going on during the Spanish Civil War to a broader audience than it was about deconstructing the painting in great detail. Despite the fact I struggled to follow along, it was a pretty cool experience to attend the lecture and doing so made me all the more determined to PRACTICE MY FRENCH between trips.

 

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Jug in the Form of a Head, Self Portrait by Paul Gaugin

I am including this jug by the French artist Gaugin because of the macabre story behind its creation. Gaugin had been visiting with Vincent van Gogh when Vincent lopped off part of his left ear. I’m not sure why, but Vincent left the ear at a brothel both he and Gaugin liked to visit. What does seem to be clear is that all of this ear-lopping upset Gaugin, who left town shortly after the incident. Back in Paris, Gaugin was unfortunate enough to witness the beheading of a criminal. This jug/self-portrait makes reference to both these traumatic incidents and goes to show that no experience in life is wasted when one is an artist. It’s a great example of transforming trauma into something compelling (I was going to say beautiful, but I don’t find the jug to be beautiful… but yes, compelling).

 

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Vincent van Gogh painted this portrait of Gaugin in 1888  ( Man in a Red Beret)

 

 

I hadn’t planned to include so many works of art in these posts, but art really is transformative in the way it can make us take another look at pretty much anything we experience (or can imagine). From some initial spark or idea or observation, artists create something worthy of our attention. Then we consumers of art respond and dissect and analyze and are moved by the product of their labours, which is a strange kind of alchemy indeed.

 

 

 

 

 

F is for Feet, Fine Friends of Wanderers

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Detail from the Plaza de Dali in Madrid. 

Walking. It’s a great way to travel, even though we don’t often think of our feet as a legitimate means to cover lots of territory. One of the things I love, love, love about Paris (and, there are plenty of things…) is the fact it is such a walkable city. Every day while I was there over the past couple of weeks I walked – miles and miles and miles.

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I passed this piece of sculpture while cutting through the Tuileries in Paris … I could have stayed underground, I suppose, but it wouldn’t have been nearly so much fun.  

Yes, I generally started out on the Metro, hopping on at the local station and heading somewhere close to my destination. But once turned loose in a neighbourhood, as often as not I would start roaming, knowing that at any point when exhaustion overtook me (and my feet) I wouldn’t be far from a Metro station and could always drop down below the streets and head for home.

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This piece of sculpture in Santiago de Compostela in Spain honours the work the feet do when it comes to transporting pilgrims across Spain. My feet felt every step of the 120 or so kilometers we walked in October as we travelled from Sarria to Santiago. (Want to see some photos of the journey I took with my father and daughter? Come follow us on Instagram: @thelastlegbook) 

I might not have thought to honour my feet with a whole post if it weren’t for the fact that they are starting to grumble and complain (you know, squeaky wheel gets the grease and all…). I am developing arthritis in various joints, but the one that causes me the most grief is my right big toe. It sounds ridiculous (big toes are somehow unfailingly undignified), but my goodness, I sure appreciate all the years of uncomplaining service I’ve had from my tootsies.

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Rodin had a thing about feet… well, I guess he had a thing about bodies and getting their various bits to look right… This display is in the Rodin Museum. 

 

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Detail from one of the sculptures in the sculpture garden at the Rodin Museum in Paris. 

Next week I have an appointment to see my sports medicine doctor who will be repeating a treatment he did about 18 months ago – injecting a soothing dose of cortisone into the problematic joint space. I was dubious last time, but after feeling the relief that followed the first injection, I am sold. I’d been told that I’d need to repeat as often as every 4-6 months, but I’ve managed to hike a lot of miles over the past 18 months before feeling the need to go back.

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Not that long ago I was lucky enough to find myself on a beach in the Caymen Islands… the first thing I did was to free my feet from the confines of my sandals. There is nothing like the feeling of warm sand beneath bare feet… There is something positively soul (sole?)-rejuvenating in the act of connecting directly with the earth, the ocean, the beach… Cramming my feet into heavy winter boots is just not the same… 

And on that note, I now need to load my computer back into my backpack and walk home. I’ve been out and about running (well, walking) errands here in Canmore, making good use of Shank’s Pony. The sun is blazing out there, reflecting off the snow. It’s cold and crisp but still suggestive of spring and I’m happy to be moving. We had a crazily long trip back from Paris – almost 24 hours of being trapped in too-small airplane seats or trying to get comfortable in airport waiting areas so it feels good to be breathing unfiltered air and able to get up and go when I feel the need.

Until tomorrow when we meet again over the letter G…

 

 

 

C is for Community (#atozchallenge2018)

 

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Carmine’s downstairs… the pizza joint in the ‘hood

 

It wasn’t that long ago that I wrote a post over on my author blog about this year being all about community. It is, after all, the year in which my book Better Together: Creating Community in an Uncertain World came out so the subject has been on my mind. But it struck me, during this past week or so in France, that creating and maintaining connections has never been easier. Yesterday I was lucky enough to share a lovely lunch with writers I met during last year’s visit. The plans were formulated while I was in Canada, the host was in Paris and one of the attendees was in Menorca. Others who couldn’t attend touched bases, someone new to me joined the group – new connections were forged while others were strengthened.

Though this type of thing is passé for young ‘uns it still strikes me as slightly miraculous that a quick bit of typing and the goodwill of friends makes it possible to enjoy a chat over cheese as we swap stories in Paris before scattering again.

What is also interesting in this new, fluid, international world is that it was in an apartment near the Bois de Vincennes (location of said lunch and gathering of friends) that I first heard of the Canadian mezzo soprano Marie-Nicole Lemieux from a choral music enthusiast (and our gracious host) Anne. Granted, Marie-Nicole Lemieux is from Quebec and sometimes I think Canada is really bizarre in the way in which we in the west remain too often are ignorant of the talented musicians, singers, and writers who do amazing work in Quebec… Anyway, for your musical edification, here is Ms Lemieux singing L’amour est un oiseau rebelle from the Opera Carmen…

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Today was my last day in Paris where it has been a delight to plug in to the local community for a short time. In the morning (way too early) we begin the long journey back to Canmore and my lovely community there. Which, as it turns out, is more accurately described as a series of overlapping communities – the mad band of climbers who help keep me fit, challenged and engaged with endless problems to solve on rock, in the gym, and less often, on ice. I’m just beginning to dive into the theatre community, which has been a fantastic way to engage with a whole new circle of friends and explore another dimension of my creative life.

 

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Theatre selfie – Ally Lacentra playing a heroin addict, me as a grumpy old woman during Theatre Canmore’s recent 10-minute Play Festivus (can’t wait for next year!!)

 

Alas, it’s getting late and I have yet to pack, so that’s where I shall leave the letter C (there were actually a bunch of them sprinkled throughout the post… go count if you don’t believe me). More tomorrow as I wend my way back to my home in the mountains!

Ciao!

B is for Bordeaux, Beds (in art, in the flesh), Bourse (broken), Rue de Banque, my Blue Book, and a Bunch More (including a big brass band)! (#AtoZchallenge)

 

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Warning: This post fueled by Bordeaux and sardines (the latter not shown, though they were consumed from a bowl)

 

There’s nothing like a quest (and/or the promise of a freebie) to get a girl up and out of bed on a Sunday morning. As I mentioned in my post yesterday, the Musée d’Orsay was free today (as are many of the museums in Paris, Sunday falling as it does this year on the 1st day of the month… no joke!), and I was determined not to miss out!

 

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Musée d’Orsay – I promised myself I wouldn’t use this particular word even though it’s day today… but, I gotta’ say it – even before one starts roaming around, gawking at the abundance of stuff to be found here, the space itself is BEEEEE-autiful! Sorry. And, I promise – even though I saw a lot of beautiful things today, I won’t use the word again…

 

I didn’t wind up getting a super early start, which was a mistake. By the time I arrived at the museum the lineup was around the block and it took forever to get inside. The space is glorious – a former railway station – and, like all the great museums of the world, a tad overwhelming. Where to start?! My stomach answered that question for me (no, not the bathroom…) – lunch!

 

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My table was back near the big, see-through clock… sort of at 5 o’clock.

 

I was so hungry I had no option – so off I went waaaaay up to the 5th floor where I sat at a table beside a massive clock, mostly transparent so I had a pretty good view of Sacre Coeur across the way while I ate. And what a feast it was!

 

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This is what I didn’t eat… bread in a basket (yeah, being gluten free in Paris is a special kind of torture…) But the rest of the meal – ooh la la! Beans (green), breast (duck), baby greens, blue cheese… and walnuts (don’t start with B, but oh so good!).

 

Fortified and with a plan (while I enjoyed my meal I had a chance to study the museum app I’d downloaded in the loooooong line outside), I came up with a list of things to see that started with B. Arbitrary, yes, but when faced with a HUGE collection and very little time, one has to narrow the options down somehow. Here are some highlights.

 

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Babes in a Bateau (or, Boat – works either way). By Claude Monet – more commonly known as La Barque à Giverny

 

 

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Ballerinas by Edgar Degas (Le Foyer de la dande à l’Opéra de la rue Le Peletier)

 

 

 

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Oh I love this ballerina… Small Dancer: Aged 14  by Degas.

 

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beach scene by Gustave Courbet (La Falaise d’Etretat Aprés l’Orage)

 

 

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This pleasant scene in a bower… except you just know that because it’s by Gustave Courbet, that Bambi in the water has probably been startled by a horde of hunters…

 

 

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Baying, bloodthirsty hounds bring down a buck… also by Courbet. Brutal.

 

 

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Where the bourgeoisie go to play… the racetrack. Several paintings by Edgar Degas depicted scenes from the track.

 

 

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This barnyard scene was typical of the Barbizon School… (this one by Constant Troyon)

 

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There was LOTS of sculpture, including this bear by François Pompon.

 

 

 

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I was surprised how much I enjoyed the Art Nouveau furniture display… this bed was impressive… can’t imagine carrying it up six floors to my Paris walk-up, though.

 

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Speaking of beds, this is a great painting by Frédéric Bazille. This poor guy with the broken leg (in traction) is none other than Claude Monét. I’m not sure what the bucket and bowl are for… bedpan options? For catching drips in a leaky ceiling? Official title is L’Ambulance improvisée (1865).

 

 

 

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Then there was this blue vase. This is an unedited photo, btw – that thing positively glowed!

 

Of course, there was lots more… but I’ll try to be somewhat respectful of bandwidth and stop there, though that wasn’t the end of my day.

After the museum finally spit me out, it was back to the Metro to find the station known as Bourse on Line 3. That was a bit of a joke as that whole section of line is out of commission for the weekend. So, I walked from the d’Orsay to Rue de la Banque in search of one of the famous covered passages of Paris. I had bought a book on my first day here, a slim guide to said passages, and this one sounded cool (and was on a road beginning with B).

 

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Galerie Vivienne is gorgeous… I probably should have saved this for the letter V because I’m pretty sure nothing I’ll see on V-day will be as interesting. An L-shaped passe built between 1824 and 1826, it’s now home to small shops and cafés.

 

 

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One of the fabulous finds in Galerie Vivienne was this bookshop. Sadly, it was closed today – all the more reason to come back!

 

 

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Bonus! Bicycles!

 

I hadn’t actually intended to buy The Covered Passages of Paris. My intention was to pick up a copy of this little blue book

 

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Small enough to fit in a pocket, this guidebook is invaluable, well worth the five Euros I spent – and, blue!

 

I had a maroon-colored version that went missing on the last day of our trip here last year and I’ve missed it ever since. Sorry, Google maps are just not the same. Especially when your phone dies… Or when you are spatially dyslexic, as I am, and find it difficult to twirl the world around to match whatever orientation Google maps is spinning at you.

Back at the square beside the shuttered Bourse metro station, I stumbled upon a market selling all manner of random things including:

 

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… a bistro set and a birdcage… 

 

 

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…and this adorable baby buggy… 

 

At this point I could have gone home happy with my bulging bag of B booty (and, by this point, my feet were killing me), but as I approached Opera and the Metro station there, what did I hear but a Brass Band!! I kid you not…

 

 

After that, what was there to do but head home on Line 8, direction Balard…

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And that, folks, is all she wrote for B-day. 

For museum hounds, what’s your all-time fave museum? I know, it’s like picking a favourite child, but let me know what’s on your must-see list! you tomorrow!

I didn’t film it, but I was one of many people who walked over and dropped a few coins in the open trombone case on the pavement… I mean, musicians have to eat, too… I’m sure you would have done the same thing! While you are in a ‘support the arts’ kind of mood, consider becoming a patron to support the creation of these blog posts, photo essays, and short videos. In return, you’ll have my undying appreciation, but you’ll also get access to Patron-only content, advance peeks at works in progress, and more – all for as little as a buck a month! It’s easy – head on over to Patreon to have a look at how it all works.