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Provence and Painting

Today I am going to try to satisfy two itches with one scratch: I am posting travel photos AND a painting. So there. A couple of weeks ago, Stoney and I took a weekend in Provence. Ish. We revisited the Pont du Gard, the highest and one of the best preserved Roman aquaducts surviving.

The water was too high and swift to permit playing in it, thus squashing all hopes of canoeing under a Romant artifact.

The water was too high and swift to permit playing in it, thus squashing all hopes of canoeing under a Roman artifact.

We stayed in a truly lovely little hotel north of Arles, between the Pont du Gard and St. Remy, our other destination. I can recommend the Hotel Mistral. Although the proprietor spoke English, he willingly conversed with me in French when I asked for help practicing. Very lovely location.

The only availability on short notice was two twins.

The only availability on short notice was two twins.

My goal was a pilgrimage to St Remy and the steps of Van Gogh, sort of a completion of the one begun with Sherry in Arles. The difference here was a cleaner, prettier, more touristy town, with a LOT less connection between the photos and the actual scenes. To some extent this is the fault of much growth for St Remy, but some is just that they little placards were placed to lead you up to the sanitarium where Van Gogh convalesced more than to inform his paintings.

This one is actually more connected than most.

This one is actually more connected than most.

The St. Paul Asylum/monastery was well worth the trek up the hill on this trail, though. It is still a working art therapy center, and had not only giant tableaus of Van Gogh’s paintings on the garden walls and elsewhere, but also paintings and other artwork by modern patients. We were greeted by a bronze statue of Van Gogh titled “The Sunflower Thief.”

Cool, isn't he? And somehow sort of tortured-looking.

Cool, isn’t he? And somehow sort of tortured-looking.

Stoney posing with the gentlemen at the hospital.

Stoney posing with the gentlemen at the hospital.

Me, attempting the pensive intensity of Van Gogh.

Me, attempting the pensive intensity of Van Gogh.

We also got to see, supposedly, Van Gogh’s room at the asylum, or at least one made up to be. It very well could have been, as the views of the gardens from the windows on that floor seemed kind of familiar.

The picture on the easel is clearly a Van Gogh, while the one on the wall is a portrait by a modern patient.

The picture on the easel is clearly a Van Gogh, while the one on the wall is a portrait by a modern patient.

We had a lovely time, bought interesting chocolates at a renown shop that still couldn’t compare with Cocoa Dolce back home, and was only spoiled a little by the girl who didn’t understand or care that I really CAN’T eat wheat flour in my sarrasin crepe galette. I only ate the insides, but was still sick enough the next day that I almost lost my breakfast in the car on the drive back.

And speaking of the drive back, we made a detour to see the famous Camargue wetlands. What we saw were a LOT of horses and lovely salt-grasses, and rice fields, but no flamingoes. A little disappointing. But we walked the beach at Saintes Maries de la Mer, where the sun was risen but low, and the clouds were low, toying with the sun, wispy and kind of like cheeks filling and emptying, blowing long and softly. The sun sparkled on the sea like diamonds that were floating above the water, just out of reach. And the rocks and sand were so solid, anchoring us to the ground, very different in feeling. I tried to paint this scene, but all the greys turned purple and blue for me, and the dark, dirty sand turned almost golden for me, and I love the painting. It is really reflective of the way the morning made me feel.

"Sparkling Sea from Saintes Maries de la Mer"

“Sparkling Sea from Saintes Maries de la Mer”

And there you go. I had fun with this. I hope you like it, too.

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Not All I Expected

I had really been looking forward to visiting Florence. What had I been expecting? I’m not really even sure. I am sure I probably expected too much…the birthplace of the Renaissance, covered in the fingerprints (sometimes literally) of the greatest artists of the time. Architectural innovations developed here that spread the world over. A city whose misty history is steeped in intrigue and murder and, well, Machiavelli.

What I found was a chunky, heavy city (sometimes even gaudy) with very narrow sidewalks overflowing with people who also tugged luggage. As crowded as the city was, I am so glad we didn’t go at the high season. Lots of buildings and things were covered and being refurbished or renovated or restored. We heard English as much as other languages, quite surprisingly, and rarely ever encountered someone who couldn’t speak to us. We found mostly mediocre food, with occasional bright spots, probably because our price range dictated mediocre restaurants; it was very expensive almost everywhere.

We also found occasional jewels, a few masterpieces, and some fun moments, and consistently the best cappuccinos ever.

This had some beautiful details, and like so many things in the city, was also being refurbished. Note plenty of people, in the rain, early in the morning.

This had some beautiful details, and like so many things in the city, was also being refurbished. Note plenty of people, in the rain, early in the morning.

The tourists were truly from EVERYwhere. And groups of 15-20 or more clustered in tours all over the place.

The tourists were truly from EVERYwhere. And groups of 15-20 or more clustered in tours all over the place.

I discovered that narrow streets make for a darker city.

I discovered that narrow streets make for a darker city.

But the view from the Piazza Michelangelo was very pretty, even in the rain. And amazingly, I could see the old city walls, reminding me that this was once a fortified city, often having to defend itself from other armies.

The Piazza was a long way up. This is about halfway.

The Piazza was a long way up. This is about halfway.

Our trip to the Piazza Michelangelo

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