Tag Archives: travel

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…

 

 

 

A is for Abbesses, Amelie, Artists and More (#AtoZ2018)

Well, I thought A might be for Art but that was three days ago before I had spent some time on the Paris Metro. When we were here last year I thought it would be great to do a journey to all the stations which are, conveniently, listed in alphabetical order here. The first station on the list is Abbesses, a name which always seems to me to have too many double letters…

 

Amelie at Abbesses Station AtoZ

This is the platform in Abbesses Metro station as depicted in Amelie. (That’s Amelie over on the left)

 

The deepest of all the stations (118 feet below street level), there are a lot of stairs to climb to get out of there. Reading a bit about it, I discovered it was used in the movie Amelie. Well, sort of… the set was made to look like Abbesses, but in fact, the filming was done at an abandoned platform at the Porte de Lilas station.

 

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Abbesses during my visit today… the actual, real Abbesses. 

 

This tidbit led me to try to remember the movie Amelie, which I thought I had seen. Thanks to the miracles of modern technology, I found it on iTunes and watched it in my BNB (closest Metro station to where I’m staying is Lourmel on Line 8, named after General Lourmel who was killed in the Crimean War).

 

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Between the tourists, the garbage can, the shipping container and construction zone, it’s pretty hard to get a decent shot of the exterior entrance to the Abbesses Metro station. So, here’s a cinema-style letter box crop in an effort to make the best of a difficult photographic situation…

 

Turns out either I haven’t seen the movie or my memory is way worse than I could have imagined. I think the former as there are so many odd moments and bizarre scenes that something would have rung a bell, even if dimly…

As a result of watching (and thoroughly enjoying) the movie (and because I love my Navigo pass and any excuse to ride the Metro, particularly if it means a trip to Montmartre – location of Abbesses station), off I went to have a quick peek before heading to the Rodin Museum for my daily… oh, there it is… Art fix!

 

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Do I share my ‘argh’ moment, or not? Ok, why not… I foolishly purchased my Rodin ticket twice! Once online in the wee hours of the morning and then again when I arrived at the museum. What can I say, I thought I was going to go to the Musée d’Orsay… which I am going to do tomorrow… And, since it’s the first Sunday in April, the d’Orsay will be free, so I won’t actually be out of pocket. Not really. But seriously, argh. 

What a bonus to find not one but several pieces of sculpture by Rodin that featured artists!

 

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For the sake of today’s A-themed post I will pretend I am not in Paris where this is obviously a peintre. Sadly, I will be long gone before the letter arrives!

 

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This is not a great photo for various reasons (it’s not sharp, for one thing), but I include it here because of the scale. The hands really were massive… 

 

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Art students hard at work sketching Rodin busts… How they managed to concentrate with all the tourists peeking over their shoulders and obnoxiously taking photos, I don’t know… 

 

 

While I was in Montmartre, I took my time wandering back downhill to jump on the Metro at Blanche. On my way I stopped in to poke around in the Montmartre Cemetery. There I found the grave of Endre Rozsda, a Hungarian-French artist who died at the age of 85 in 1999. I found this self-portrait online:

 

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Endre Rozsda – born in Hungary in 1919 – this self-portrait dates from 1939

 

 

 

What’s your favourite movie set in Paris? The Red Balloon? Midnight in Paris? Let me know in the comments below… If I have time before I head home I might just go on another jaunt to a cool location captured on the silver screen. And, since we are also talking about A for Artists, who is your favourite artist who spent some time in Paris?

(Here’s a p.s. of sorts… the reason I may have been a little groggy at 2 am when I finally went to bed and bought that extra museum ticket is that I might have been slightly distracted by all the ads I was reading for Paris apartments. Ahh, dreaming. It’s always fun to fantasize about things like going shopping for a Paris apartment, though doing so right before bed resulted in some peculiar nightmares about buying an apartment and not having any money left for furniture.)

Nurture Your Inner Medici! 

Enjoy the blog? 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. And, if enough (like a gazillion) of you all sign on, maybe that Paris apartment will be mine some day… and then you can come and visit and we can take photos of art together!! And then sit in a quaint café and talk about how we met right here at the end of a blog post about artists and Amelie and Abbesses and stuff…

 

Ah, Paris…

In the interest of sparing you the details, just let me say my ability to sleep on airplanes is greatly diminished these days. Are the planes really getting that much smaller? Or am I getting that much older and less bendy? Maybe a bit of both… What is not getting old, though, is arriving in Paris in the evening and heading out for a stroll around the block in order to see the tower sparkle!

At the top of each hour after dark, the tower twinkles as tour buses pull over and selfie stick-wielding tourists grin and snap photo after photo. I would have done the same except my selfie stick had not yet been unpacked, such was our haste to get out into the streets and take in the sights.

 

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Booksellers along the Seine… Just strolling by makes me happy!

 

Today has been a day of fighting jetlag, running errands (in the rain), and sticking close to home while trying to stay strong and not nap. I’ve also been making lists – both for work and for pleasure. On the work front, I was busy this morning (wide awake at 4am I eventually gave up on the going back to sleep project, and instead had a shower, breakfast and worked on the book about assisted dying). After reworking a rather cumbersome section that deals with definitions of suicide (surprisingly more complicated than one might think – while jumping from a tall building is pretty obviously suicide, if a very sick patient decides to stop eating and drinking, should that be called suicide? After all, the end result is the same…) I started working my way down the list of people I am planning to contact with questions relating to some aspect of the subject.

 

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As darkness falls at the BNB, I write… (and sketch in my notebook… one day maybe I’ll be brave enough to share those primitive efforts…)

 

Lists, Lists, and More Lists

With work out of the way, it was time to start making a list of what I’d like to try and see and do while I’m in town. I’m very much looking forward to a lunch with writing friends on the weekend and tomorrow am also hoping to meet up with a bookbinder/writer friend for coffee… I’d really like to get to the Rodin Museum this trip as well as pay a visit to the Musée d’Orsay. I’m not sure where the best place is to go to see portraits… I don’t think Paris has the equivalent of the National Portrait Gallery, though all the major museums will, of course, have some portraits in their collections. I’m particularly interested in self-portraits at the moment, in part because I’m intrigued by self-portraits, but also because of what’s been going on with Dad’s artwork ever since we did our Camino in the fall. Because I’ll be doing the AtoZ Blogging Challenge, I’ll save the details for one of the April posts…

Meanwhile, though, the list of possible museums to visit is long… As is the list of possible live performances I could take in. Comedy… musical… drama… And then there’s the English language cinema club… and the Shut Up and Write Group… and, and, and…

Because I have promised myself that I will continue to push ahead with this draft of the assisted dying book, I do need to allocate a certain number of hours a day to work, as well… All of which to say, a week in Paris is not enough!! Not nearly long enough…

Spindrift Near Banff

Being back here I am having one of those moments where I really wish I could clone myself. I love my home back in the mountains (I mean, what’s not to love?), but I really love this city, too…

Love Paris? 

When we were here last year I tried to come up with a list of reasons why I like this place so much… If you missed that post, here’s a link… 

Edith Piaf Alert

In case you are curious, the soundtrack in the background here this evening (actually the evening of my second full day here… I’m already way behind on ye olde blogge…) is an Edith Piaf playlist courtesy of Spotify. I have to make do with this as all tickets seem to be sold out for the Edith Piaf show I had wanted to see… Le sigh. Not sighing at the playlist, I hasten to add… at the dirth of tickets.

Patreon

…and, in case you feel like supporting an artist… head on over to Patreon. If what I am up to doesn’t interest you, there are lots of other filmmakers, artists, writers, and other creatives to check out!


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Enjoy the blog? 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.

Theme Reveal: Transitions, Travel and Transformation

This will be my fourth year attempting to blog every day for the month of April as part of the AtoZ Blogging Challenge (details here, if you want to learn more about how the challenge works and who else is participating). Each year I’ve bogged down somewhere in the Q, R, S, T region of the alphabet. I could consider these past efforts to be abject failures (I mean, the rest of the alphabet is just as worthy of posts, no?). But I’m a glass half full kinda gal, so I’m choosing to look at the 50+ posts I have managed to write as part of this annual challenge to be posts that I wouldn’t have written otherwise.

This year I’m keeping my theme pretty general because, hey, there’s lots going on and I can’t quite predict which of several potentially interesting developments will become the major focus for the month ahead. I know some people pre-write a bunch of posts and then release them over the course of the month. Other people come up with a list and then write and post as the days come and go. I’m going to try and write pretty much every day and tie the topic of the post to something that’s reasonably current.

 

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Frog legs in the Latin Quarter… a lot of work (I had no idea how many little bones there are in each leg…) for very little return. And, yes, sort of tastes like chicken. 

 

Given that I’m heading for Paris on Monday, at least some posts will fit neatly into the travel category. Transitions and transformation are related, but subtly different but will allow me to write about works in progress (there are several at the moment), progress on the job search, what’s going on with my efforts to become more involved with theatre, TV, and film, setting (and reaching?) climbing goals, and maybe even a bit about my ongoing quest to be healthier (so I can live longer and have half a hope of getting a few more of the outstanding items on my To-Do list done). Art, photography, friendships, family, yoga, and a change of seasons will all likely get some love during April.

 

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Working on my crow pose… a contender for C-Crow, B-Balance, Y-Yoga, F-Frustration

 

There won’t be a list in advance – this will be a seat-of-my-pants month, but as always, it will be fun to take (and share) snapshots of what’s going on. Equally fun (and inspiring and stimulating and intriguing) will be reading what other participants will be sharing.

This year, each day I’ll also post a link to another participant who has caught my eye. Today’s pick: The More Than Words blog – theme this year TRAVEL.

Climb aboard and enjoy the ride!

Curious about topics from previous years? Here are a few links to posts from the past.

From the Climbing Year:

M is for Munter, Mountains and More…

F is for Fancy Footwork, Flights, and Fortitude…

From the Writing Year:

Ordinary Day at the Office

From the AtoZ Farming Year (when I actually made it to the letter Z)

Catching Some Z’s

From the Farming Year (a slightly different 30-Day challenge back when I had my farm)

The Pros and Cons of Farm Life

Portrait of a Pilgrim

The Plan

We are on our way back to North America after having spent about five weeks in Spain, most of that walking the last 120 kilometres or so of the Camino de Santiago. What was the point of all that, you might ask? Why did we feel the need to drag ourselves, and in the end, a wheelchair, across a chunk of northern Spain? It would be great if I could say something glib like, “Because it was there” or “Because we like to go on vacations with a bit of a twist” but it’s a bit more complicated than that.

Santiago de Compostela, Spain

For one thing, we can’t really afford to just jet off and wander around the Spanish countryside for weeks on end. Usually, we either need to find a way to keep working on the road (Internet access makes this possible, though it can also create huge logistical challenges when connectivity is not quite as good as we need it to be). Even better is when we can find a way to tie a project to a travel destination. Sometimes it’s as simple as writing a destination travel article about a place we want to go (or, happen to be going anyway). Sometimes it’s using a destination or activity that takes place in a distant place (climbing, for example) in a book. Taking copious notes, reference photos, or conducting interviews to gather information is a way to write some of the travel costs off as long as the material is used somewhere down the road.

Digital nomad at work in a small cafe in the middle of nowhere.

In the case of this trip along the Camino Frances, though, the intention all along was to write a book about the trip and to find a way to integrate art (Dad’a art in particular). Not only is Dad’s work integrated into the written project, he is also beavering away on a series of works exploring the idea of creating a portrait of a pilgrim to be presented in an exhibition of work.

At the end of a long day of walking, Dad works on a drawing of the Castillo de Pambre

One of the the good things about being a writer or an artist is that all of life becomes a potential source of inspiration. That’s also one of the tough aspects of this type of job. There isn’t really a way to shut life off, close the office door and go home. Everything is raw material and holds the potential of the next great bit of writing or amazing painting. For someone in the arts, each day could be the one where our desire to create something worthwhile is realized. Just the act of living life becomes a pilgrimage of sorts, full of challenges and roadblocks to overcome on the way to coming up with something decent.

When we set off on the road to Santiago we knew we wanted to create something (visual art on Dad’s part, written work from me and Dani), but beyond that we weren’t exactly sure what our story would be. After all, we had plans, but plans never exactly correspond with reality.

The good news is that post trip we have plenty of raw material for a book and Dad is well on his way to creating some very cool pieces unlike anything he has ever done before. The walking together, the conversations in the evenings, the time spent looking at art, watching Dad create art, listening to conversations among other pilgrims, reading about the act of pilgrimage, visiting museums – all that input, that raw material provided a massive amount of information, stimulation, and inspiration. The creative wheels aren’t just turning, they are spinning fast.

We knew that part of the challenge after a trip is coming back and being thrown into real life distractions, so we decided to spend a couple of weeks together after we finished walking to Santiago in order to focus on the project. The process has been as challenging as anything we faced on the journey.

Sagrada Familia in Barcelona

Some of our conversations have been predictable – like comparing notes about various high (and low) points of the trip, but we’ve also talked about mortality, what inspires us, surprises like how much we all liked the Segrada Familia, Gaudi’s ode to nature and God in Barcelona, and what makes a great portrait. We’ve asked ourselves a lot of questions about the nature of pilgrimage and what a real pilgrim looks like. We sought out images of pilgrims in art and now, as we begin to write (and Dad continues to work with pen and ink and wax crayon and tempera paint sticks and watercolours) what is emerging is a story about our pilgrimage, but also a meditation on what it means to be a pilgrim – in words and images.

We collected dozens of pilgrim-related images on our trip… this one from the Pilgrim Museum in Santiago.

Dad is also exploring juxtapositions of self portraits with ancient depictions of pilgrims. He’s playing with stylistic twists and bold colour, taking fresh inspiration from time spent in the presence of Gaudi’s work, Picasso’s ever-evolving approaches to art and portraiture, and the many, many pilgrims we have seen in carvings, sculptures, murals, painted, drawn, and etched into stone.

We have been privy to Dad’s creative process in ways that have never been possible before now – living in close quarters for so long there is no way to avoid seeing how he comes up with ideas, starts sketching, restarts, scribbles, and polishes. At the same time, Dani and I have been clicking away on our keyboards.

The artist goes shopping – finding art supplies was easy in Barcelona.

I’ve been working on recreating our journey, integrating notes about art and history found along the way. I’m also trying to figure out the best way to share the conversations Dad and I have had over the past six weeks or so that we’ve been travelling together. Dani is digging deeper into the many moments that make up a pilgrim’s journey, writing a series of reflections and information essays that take the reader behind the scenes on subjects as varied as bedbugs and courier systems. The more we write and draw and talk and question, the more we discover to explore, describe, question and discuss.

Leaving Sarria…

“Is that where we are going?” Dad asks, pointing up.

“Unfortunately,” I answer.

“Oh my God. I haven’t trained for this.”

At one point we all worried that we wouldn’t have anything to say about our trip, that our three creative wells would simultaneously run dry. In fact, the opposite is happening. We all have found so much to explore I’m thinking our bigger task will not be thinking of what to include but what we will need to eventually trim out.

No fears about not having enough reference material!

Dutch Power!

Dani and I were trucking along today and about the 6 kilometre mark after leaving our hostel in Salceda a couple of Dutch guys slowed down and insisted in taking a turn in pushing Dad. For a couple of kilometres they stuck with us, chatting away and helping us on all but the steepest of downhills.

Then, it was better for us to hook up our patented “D-brake” system, with Dani behind and connected to the wheelchair with the laundry line and me hanging on to the handles of the chair. As soon as we hit level ground again, though, the fellow from the Netherlands (I can’t believe that throughout the entire time we spent together nobody mentioned names!!!) took over again and kept pushing.

We made excellent time and found out about a documentary film called “I’ll Push You” https://youtu.be/W7gKD3q0-V0 about two friends, one in a wheelchair, who do the CAmino together. Turns out one of the Dutch brothers is a Camino-phile. This trip along the French Way is his fourth, his seventh Camino in total. In 2013 he happened to see the guys on their wheelchair trip, stopped and took a photo. Then, recently, he saw their documentary film and (I think) watched it with his brother. And, when the brothers saw us, they immediately wanted to stop and help.

It was pretty cool to hear their stories and share a bit of the journey with them. One of the things we have really missed in our journey so far was the camaraderie so many pilgrims speak of. Our Camino family has been limited to the three of us as moved so much slower than everyone else. Now, though, people don’t pass us nearly so quickly and when they do, it doesn’t throw them off schedule too much to walk with us for a short while and have a chat.

After a couple of kilometres it was time for us to stop for lunch, which was lovely in the warmth of a late autumn afternoon.

The Dutch brothersa continued on their way and then Dani, Dad and I finished up the day here in O Pedrouzo. As soon as I get somewhere where I can stream video, I’ll have to watch “I’ll Push You.” From the trailer, though, it makes our little jaunt look pretty cruisy!

That Way!

I am famous in my family for my ability to get lost. Spectacularly lost. Like, in Canmore (a cute town with half a dozen streets, town where I now live, town in which, yes, I still get lost). Before we set off on this trip there were quite a few jokes about how if anyone could get lost on the Camino it would be me.

Ha! I LOVE how incredibly well marked the route has been. Ever since we spotted our first arrow outside the albergue in Sarria we have never faltered. Occasionally there are a couple of options (a slightly more rural path versus following the road for a bit) but mostly every place where one could possibly get confused has a bright yellow arrow or a stylized shell or an official marker or all three…

Where the path crosses a road, motorists are warned to slow down.

Though we are tracking our progress closely using both google maps and the Nike+ Run app (Dani is using the latter to let her know exactly when she reaches each kilometre mark, at which point she snaps a photo – no people and within 10 steps of the km mark) there is really no need for technology when it comes to figuring out where to go.

Of course, the string of pilgrims stretching as far as the eye can see is another indicator we are heading in the right direction!

Now all I need is for the rest of the world to catch on to the idea of superb way-finding assistance… and maybe I need to figure out where in life I want to be going so the yellow arrows will start to appear whenever I need to see one!