Tag Archives: holidays

The City of (Christmas) Lights

The day after Christmas 2013, we packed up and headed for an adventure in Paris. Theo wasn’t feeling so hot, but truly, he had had some sort of cold or bad allergies since before Thanksgiving, so we just pressed on. We stayed at a Hilton at Orly Airport, which was pretty cheap with big rooms, but very, very tired and nothing like picturesque. However, the breakfast was good, it had great access to the metro, and kept us from having to drive into Paris traffic.

It's best feature is size.

It’s best feature is size.

That night we took the metro into Paris, and our first view of the Eiffel Tower was at night (quite fitting for Christmas).

Sort of like a Christmas tree.

Sort of like a Christmas tree.

up close

An up close view. We went back in the daylight so Stoney could see the engineering, of course.

We took a boat tour aboard the Bateaux Mouches, although we didn’t go past Notre Dame, due to the Seine River being so high it affected our clearance. The night was quite cool and damp, but the boats were heated.

The Christmas Spirit, Paris-style.

The Christmas Spirit, Paris-style.

Ready, cap'n!

Ready, cap’n!

What would become my favorite museum, the Musee D'Orsay.

What would become my favorite museum, the Musee D’Orsay.

Lights at night

Lights at night

The Paris lady liberty

The Paris lady liberty

...and up close.

…and up close.

After the tour we had a delicious dinner at an Italian restaurant nearby. And yes, all the French folk in Paris seem capable of a functional English. Tomorrow, Versailles.

Advertisements

Leave a comment

Filed under France, Travel

Holidays in France 2013

I definitely wanted to document our second year of holidays in France. For one, we made an American Thanksgiving for people here who made an impact on us and made us feel very welcome. It was a big meal in a small kitchen, but every person there was a gift we were thankful for!

A lively table of food and conversation.

A lively table of food and conversation.

We weren't just thankful for us old fogeys, either.

We weren’t just thankful for us old fogeys, either.

And I was super especially thankful that my oldest daughter had arrived from the States to join us for more than a month!

And not just thankful for the help washing dishes. Folks were pretty amazed we had no dishwasher here.

And not just thankful for the help washing dishes. Folks were pretty amazed we had no dishwasher here.

My friend Brigitte brought adorable little costume additions that we photographed the group with. I added them to our centerpieces!

A centerpiece with extra oomph!

A centerpiece with extra oomph!

We had a quiet Christmas at home, but left the next day for Paris. I’ll include the Paris photos another time.

 

Joyfully celebrating the Christ-child's birth!

Joyfully celebrating the Christ-child’s birth!

The big reveal. I am sure Theo was grateful his sister came. His dad and I are sort of boring on Christmas morning.

The big reveal. I am sure Theo was grateful his sister came. His dad and I are sort of boring on Christmas morning.

New Year’s was celebrated early, with Italy, and minimally, with a toast of sparkling pear juice. Party on, people!

So that was our Bonne Année, and I think next year we will get to have some of it back in the good ol’ USA.

 

 

 

 

Leave a comment

Filed under family, France

The Last Painting Projects of 2013

I am pretty sure I never posted my acrylic interpretation of the Swiss lake that I did in watercolor. Here she is…

I still see things I could improve, but I am trying not to mess with it.

I still see things I could improve, but I am trying not to mess with it. Mostly I learned how to make the water look more like the dense pool of color I saw while there.

I also painted a Christmas gift for my secret prayer sister here, which they call a Sonflower. She is a lovely French lady who has a real heart for Michigan, an area of the States she has visited in the past and where she has friends. I also have visited Michigan, so I chose a lighthouse I have actually been up in! (I am pretty sure I have photos here somewhere. I’ll have to see.)

first layer

first layer

A lot of my paintings I seem to work in circles. I’ll rough in some color, highlights and shadows of the background, then move to my subject and do the same. I’ll return to the background, moving around the composition, and bring up more detail and mostly finish it before focusing on my subject more completely, and then clean up the background again. For most of my projects, even landscapes, that results in these spiraling circles from out to in and back out then in again.

Not here. This painting firmly declared it would be worked in layers. I pretty much completed the background here first, and did most of my subject, the lighthouse, as well. Then I moved to midground and pretty much worked it up, too.

Other than touchup in lighting, what you see is mostly what you get in the end in the midground.

Other than touchup in lighting, what you see is mostly what you get in the end in the midground.

This the final painting, although I added a short verse along the snow, bottom right. I enjoyed this one, too, and might even make myself a print of my photo of it for myself someday, if the photo holds up. I didn’t really shoot it for printing.

My final painting with its reference image.

My final painting with its reference image.

I found a photo from that 2009 vacation, in a rather odd spot, but for proof that I have been in this lighthouse, check here.

Lastly, I wanted a gift for the lady who had been praying for me, but I had very little time. Both of these paintings really did need to be done before Thanksgiving. So, I took my waterfall study from years earlier, cut it free from all the positioning work I had done with text playing around with it, and attached it to a canvas board. I printed the verse it had been inspired by (chosen by my Kansas friend) and attached it as well. I then painted a unifying color and texture around them. It doesn’t have the elegance of the original, but for a quickie, I think it works.

Well, actually, looking over the digital image I’ve changed my mind. *sigh* It’s amazing what looks ok when you are rushed compared to what you like when you can really examine something. C’est la vie. I don’t think I’ll even post it.

Leave a comment

Filed under Art

Easter in France

Our first Easter in France has been interesting. It is noticeably more low-key than in the States, with the exception of the chocolate. The section for Easter chocolate is at least as big as the Christmas chocolate, and definitely more artistic and creative. Sure, there are your bunnies and your eggs; but the chickens and roosters were a little surprising. I love the hens ON eggs! But why all the other farm animals? And why the FISH? I was so mystified, I went looking online for an answer…

I found some here… but also asked my Thursday French teacher, who explained the link to Lent and the fishes. But she also confirmed the strange April Fool’s prank of the paper fish on the back of an adult, with much giggling and calling of “poisson d’avril!”

Theodore’s Easter chocolate:

These are his chocolates from us. Notice the chocolate pig is atop a pile of fish.

These are his chocolates from us. Notice the chocolate pig is atop a pile of fish.

The piggie with his fish collection.

The piggie with his fish collection.

When the neighbors came for dinner, they brought us these bells. (See the website for why bells.)

When the neighbors came for dinner, they brought us these bells. (See the website for why bells.)

Inside Theo's little bell...surprise!

Inside Theo’s little bell…surprise!

Our bell had a surprise, too!

The Lindt bunny is from the grocery, but the bells were from a chocolaterie in our ville.

The Lindt bunny is from the grocery, but the bells were from a chocolaterie in our ville.

I like the quieter Easter. The yards of the homes in our neighborhood ring with the sounds of children playing, as friends and family gather together. I only wish we could marry the simplicity and relationship-orientation of the French observation with the purpose and depth of the true purpose of the holiday I experience at home. In the States, there is a clamor of opposing observances, and even sincere followers can become distracted.

This holiday, this holy day, is a measured walk from death to life, from dark to light, and from hopelessness to hope and joy realized. Our church had set up a stations of prayer for Friday and Saturday, with guided reflections on the hands of Christ. It wsas profound and beautiful. It would be a perfect marriage with our Kansas church’s Good Friday service, worshipping and reflecting through song and Scripture from light to dark. Without the garish circus surrounding this day, I really got to grow in my gratitude. Thank you again, my Jesus, for taking my place.

 

 

 

 

Leave a comment

Filed under celebration, France

Wrapping up Barcelona

For my final post (of 6? NO, NINE!) on Barcelona, I’ll just leave you with a sampling. Don’t forget to click for bigger photos.

Stoney and the girls browsing an antiques street-marche.

Stoney and the girls browsing an antiques street-marche.

Katie, my former barista, in front of one of the MANY Barcelona Starbucks. We don't have these in Toulouse, or southern France at all, and so we were daily visitors here.

Katie, my former barista, in front of one of the MANY Barcelona Starbucks. We don’t have these in Toulouse, or southern France at all, and so we were daily visitors here.

We found it odd that a sidewalk tent-shop would be selling birds in the cold winter. They sold EVERYTHING in the sidewalk tent shops.

We found it odd that a sidewalk tent-shop would be selling birds in the cold winter. They sold EVERYTHING in the sidewalk tent shops.

Just like in Toulouse, there were a ton of street performers, and after these guys finished playing their piano and saxophone, they pushed it where ever it came from. I definitely wondered as they past me at the 3 Cats.

Just like in Toulouse, there were a ton of street performers, and after these guys finished playing their piano and guitar, they pushed it  back where ever it came from. I definitely wondered as they passed me at the 4 Cats.

more Barcelona here

2 Comments

Filed under Art, Travel

Shout It From the Rooftops!

That Jesus Christ is Lord!

At least, that is what I thought at the end of our elevator ride in the Barcelona Cathedral. Right after I heaved a sigh of relief for making it up unhurt, seeing as how the little box was stuffed quite full and actually heaved twice on its trip. Meet our view upon exiting the mysterious elevator (with a reminder that many photos enlarge for detail if you click on them):

ta-da!! That's right, the elevator spits you out right on the roof. This is the spire of the cathedral, at eye level.

ta-da!! That’s right, the elevator spits you out right on the roof. This is the spire of the cathedral, at eye level.

I am sure the bumpy elevator and shaky, bouncy catwalks are meant to grow the Believer’s faith in the Good Shepherd amid the inspiring points heavenward.

Note the flimsy walkway. I am not sure I actually breathed while walking up here, and definitely did NOT linger. Call me wimpy if you want.

Note the flimsy walkway. I am not sure I actually breathed while walking up here, and definitely did NOT linger. Call me wimpy if you want.

The view of the city really was amazing, though. It was a little Mary Poppins-ish (in the scene with Dick Van Dyke on the rooftops?) if Mary Poppins had been Catalonian instead of English.

over the rooftops

over the rooftops

and the other way

and the other way

And that is all of the cathedral I’ll share. I do try to edit, honestly. Unfortunately, there is still a ton of Barcelona left, even if I only walk you through half of what we saw and experienced, so I have a few more Barcelona posts to go. I’ll get back to France though, honest.

Leave a comment

Filed under Art

The Barcelona Cathedral

There are really only a few buildings in the heart of Barcelona that can be truly said to command the city, but the Barcelona Cathedral is one of them.

The very impressive front facade of the medieval Barcelona Cathedral.

The very impressive front facade of the medieval Barcelona Cathedral.

The exterior alone is a marvel. It was built over a span of the 13th through 15th centuries, with most of the outer front facade being more recent.

These are a few of the apostles along the front face.

These are a few of the apostles along the front face. Also note the dress code posted for those who wish to tour the cathedral.

the amazing details up close.

the amazing details up close.

Only Theo and I went in the Cathedral. It was pretty funny, because they don’t start charging until you turn 13, and the lady at the payment window asked (told) Theo how old he was, as he began telling her he was 13…”How old are you? You are 12, aren’t you? Right? You are 12, I am sure. Just nod…” She wouldn’t hear of anything else. Inside would have been well worth tickets for us both.

inside the Cathedral here

1 Comment

Filed under Art, Travel

Beautiful Barcelona

With our daughters here for Christmas, one of whom speaks fairly fluent Spanish and the other basic conversational Spanish, the best gift we could imagine was a trip to Spain. The fluent student also has beginning French under her belt (better than mine, to be sure), leaving the younger sister feeling a little overwhelmed in this country where she can’t communicate at all. Seeing this made me especially glad we planned a 5-day vacation in Barcelona. Our little jaunt into Costa Brava earlier in 2012 did not prepare me for the striking architecture and beautiful sights of this city. In truth, there was so much to see and I have so many photos, I’m not even sure what to share or how.

I’ll start at the beginning. We stayed at a lovely little boutique hotel downtown in the very nice and less busy Gracia district of Barcelona called The Petit Hotel. The staff was very helpful, especially little Petit, a terrier who let us rub behind his ears. They recommended the best Catalonian breakfast at a little spot a block away: omelettes called tortillas (which had no tortillas) served with split baguette pieces brushed with a tomato dressing and all drizzled in olive oil. Very tasty!

cat eggs

The district was loaded with interesting shops.

Incredibly adorable Christmas cookies!

Incredibly adorable Christmas cookies!

Sweets for Christmas

Sweets for Christmas

An incredibly innovative stationary bike. Design seems like a HUGE part of Barcelona.

An incredibly innovative stationary bike. Design seems like a HUGE part of Barcelona.

Italian in Spain

Italian in Spain

Everything is in Catalan, so we really didn't know what these things were.

Everything is printed in Catalan, so  it’s really helpful to see something in English, even if you don’t know what a turron is.

I’ve got lots more to show, so stay tuned!

Leave a comment

Filed under family

Merry Christmas and Happy New Year!

I intended to post this BEFORE leaving for our family Christmas present: a vacation in Barcelona (of which many photos and postings will follow). Oops. But better late than never?

The reason for the Season...our baby Jesus doesn't appear in the manger until Christmas morning.

The reason for the Season…our baby Jesus doesn’t appear in the manger until Christmas morning.

We enjoyed a merry Christmas with our college-age daughters, who flew in to celebrate their holiday with us. We were so happy to have them all with us for Advent!

Our magi are still traveling to Jesus.

Our magi are still traveling to Jesus.

Our traditional Christmas dinner has long been ham, not turkey. In France, not only is it turkey, but you can pretty much only buy turkey in December, short of special ordering. The thing is, French hams don’t look like American hams, for the most part. I cook a Southern brown sugar ham with pineapple, cloves and maraschino cherries, like my good Daddy taught me. We perused the charcuterie counter at the store quite awhile before deciding on the end piece of what I am sure must have been a lunch meat ham. This is a place where you can easily buy a whole pig leg ham, and I have no idea how to ask for just a certain section of it. Still, it worked. Except for the cherries, which I have never seen here, we had a delicious ham for dinner, with potatoes and carrots and salad and sweet potato pie.

Sweet potato pie is easier here, because I don't have  easy access to sweetened condensed milk, which is how I make my pumpkin.

Sweet potato pie is easier here, because I don’t have easy access to sweetened condensed milk, which is how I make my pumpkin.

Christmas does seem a bit foreign and strange here. The lights are all in pink and purple, and they often have a dripping icicle element. Many houses have ninja-skilled Santas climbing the house, instead of arriving on the rooftop via reindeer. We sang carols to the neighbors on our little dead-end street with a few friends from church, and we gave THEM a surreal experience doing so…it is all but unheard of here. Most welcomed our short seranade, though. But the insanely crowded malls were very familiar!

Still, Christmas is Christmas for its spirit, not its red and green, its striped hooked candy canes, its carols blaring from every public speaker for weeks, as the Grinch found (I think I’ll need to see if that’s on Hulu…missed it, too!). Having my daughters with us for Advent, singing together, unstuffing stockings and devouring ham and pie, all made Christmas warm and cozy and comforting.

I’m curious what essentials keep Christmas cozy for you, wherever you go?

Leave a comment

Filed under celebration, France

Toulouse Christmas Market Part 2

The Christmas market is sort of like a gi-normous, very festive version of Toulouse’s weekend market. It is also in the Capitole plaza, and is row after row of vendor stall. In this case, though, only a few are for produce, meats and breads. And many of the stalls seem to be for handmade items.

Vendor booths fill the whole Capitole square.

Vendor booths fill the whole Capitole square.

doghat

macarons

These little meringue sandwich cookies are VERY popular here. Some vendors even have savory flavors just for the holidays!

pretzels

spices

Fresh spices to the fore, and fresh tea mixes to the back. My youngest son loves fresh, looseleaf tea mixes!

I wish I had taken some photos of the scarves and wood carvings. Find the rest of the market here

Leave a comment

Filed under celebration, France