01 August 2021

Art House Summer - and the Tour de France

 So - here we are - in a HOUSE. 
In the south of France.

We bought a house in the south of France. 
A bit - unexpected. 
But - cool.

And - in spite of covid, we've even been able to have family visit. 
Visitors! Family! It's been a LONG time. 
They get to check out the new place.

First, son Erik and his wife Ray arrived from Thailand. 

It wasn't all that easy, between visas and documentation, covid tests and cancelled flights.
Obstacles all the way. Stressful.

But the day they arrived, France opened up a bit more - restaurants and cafes, venues. 

Even the curfew was lifted a week later. 

That meant:

Our best food photos are always taken by Ray


Lunch on the Mediterranean.

Then, Mikey and Noah came from Berlin. 

(Iris stayed in Berlin. She had to work. But she didn't sound too sorry to have the entire place to herself for a while. A good birthday present, she called it.)

The pool - functional, but unfinished -  got LOTS of use.

It definitely looked a bit like old times.

With multiple trips to the grocery stores.

SO GOOD to get together again after so long! 

The last time we were together was in Morocco. 
Christmas - a year and a half ago.

Noah lives in Berlin. 
He's a city boy. 

(He was excited about coming. Counting the "number of sleeps" before the trip.)

So - obviously, we had to build sandcastles. 
Jump waves. Chase the tide.

He even learned how to swim! (kinda) 

Caught REAL fish-!

Even wore shoes - WITHOUT socks. 
In the river.

The River Cesse in Bize. The fish are VERY small. But - we caught some!

Stan kept everything going with great meals. 

Caught wild plums from our plum trees. 
Collected and ate loquats. 

Intrepid explorers, in search of the wild plum...

Went to Maggie May, where Noah got to take the helm.

We don't really have a guest room, but an air mattress on the floor seemed to work out ok.
(We still don't really have our furniture thing together yet.) 

And the neighborhood cat who has adopted us? 
She LOVED all the activity.

She was pretty sad when they left. 
She even slept out in the road where they had parked.


We were sad to see them go, too. 

However - several days later - the Tour de France passed right near our village! 

I went out with 4 fun female friends and we made a day of it. 

We had reserved a spot at a super little restaurant in Aigues-Vives. 
Right on the route. With shade. 

Everyone was all excited about the Big Day. 
Lots of laughter - and plenty of good food. 

Photos: Lynne Garell, Laura Weston, Kate Dunn - and a kindly random diner..

We had to get there HOURS before the race, since the roads were all closed. 

A friend of ours, Lynne Garell, did this blog post on the events of the day. 
It's worth reading - she has great pictures - and does a fine job of describing it. 

(Most of my photos came out like this - with people's hands and arms in them. 
The whole race goes by so quickly!)

I think this was about the best photo I took of the race!

And there you have it.

Summer - in the south of France.

15 July 2021

Plan B - The Art House

 We bought a house-!

In France. 

Wow. In retrospect, that went fast.

Last year, sitting on the aft deck of Maggie May - month after month, watching the world deal with covid, it was clear that travel - as a sort of lifestyle - was becoming less desirable. 

We began to consider houses. 
All over the world, in fact. 

From Hawaii and Oregon to Laos and Thailand. 
Back to New Mexico. Various Caribbean islands. 

An old château. An olive farm. 500 year old stone houses. 
Beach houses. Glass houses. Tree houses. 

Eventually, we realized - we like it here. 
The boat is here. We have friends here. 

Why not - here? 

So I made a little book. (I'm always making books-)

I wanted to identify exactly which elements were important to us. 
Which were "needs" and which were "wants". I was very specific. 

As usual, I had a list. 

It took a LOT of searching - mostly online. 
We almost gave up a few times. 

But - it happened-!

Here's what it looks like: 

Even online, we fell in love with it. 

It's easy. Simple. A bit quirky. 
Unusual, but still - kinda French.

Just big enough. 
But - there's space for a music studio for Stan - and an art studio for me. 

Of course, compared to Maggie May, it's quite large. 

It's about 20 minutes from the boat. 

(Oddly, the boat has MUCH better storage! There are NO closets in this house.)

We're still in the south of France, between the Mediterranean and the Pyrenees. 

The area is beautiful. 
Full of flowers and birds and markets.
Good food, good friends and wines. 

We're on the edge of the village, just below a pine forest.

Bize is a great little village - we'd stayed here once before with the kids in 2014.
A river runs through the village. 

The atmosphere is completely different from the Canal du Midi. 

After signing the documents in December, we had to wait 3 MONTHS to get the keys. 

We had NO furniture. No dishes, towels, linens, tools, containers. 
No house stuff. Nada. 
Starting again from scratch.

In March, we went into lockdown for the third time. 
About the same time we got the keys to the house. 
So glad we decided to get the house!
Stores were closed, but we could order things and have them delivered.

So - first thing we did was - put in a pool. 
Yikes! What a project. In May.

Cranes and tractors and what a mess. 
But - they started on Monday. By Friday - we had water in the pool. 

Okay, it's not really finished. 

They're all booked up over summer, and will come back in autumn to make it look pretty. 
Lay the stone surround. Finish the wall. 

However, it's fully functional, if not super attractive yet. 

It works. - And on hot days, man, it's great. 

In the last few years, there were some VERY HOT days on the boat. 
We DREAMED of - jumping into a pool.

Now we have one.

We're also gardening. 

That was the main thing we missed on the boat during the confinement. 
Not TV. Or a freezer. Not being on the grid. It was - puttering in a garden.

(Ice cubes came a close second.)

 The soil here is absolute clay. 
Terrible stuff and full of rocks! 
(How do they grow anything here?) 

But - plants seem to thrive.

We even planted tomatoes in May. 
By June, we were harvesting them!

Stan - looking for loquats...tomatoes in front.

Plus, in our garden, we have olive trees.
A plum tree.
An apple tree.
A loquat tree. 

Even banana plants.
And a "strawberry tree".

These are loquats. Who knew?

And a cat - who seems to think he (she?) belongs here.

So - it looks like Plan B is working out just fine. 
It usually does. 

Again - we got lucky. 

"Won't you stay - we'll put on a day? 
And we'll talk in present tenses..."

- Joni Mitchell

20 June 2021

Why I love India

Did I ever mention how much I love India?  
It's the best travel destination.

It's not the easiest.

In fact - it's pretty crazy.

This is their everyday attire. At the Pushkar Camel Fair, Rajasthan.

It's exhausting, exasperating, energizing.
But it is certainly - the most rewarding.

It's colorful and chaotic and totally over the top. 
A complete feast for the senses.

The flowers - the fabrics - the food.
The sounds, the smells - the spices. 

And the COLORS -!

But what impresses me most is - the people.

They pay attention to everything going on around them. 

And those smiles -

The fellow with the red turban is just holding back a huge smile that erupted just after I took his photo. So many Indians are so surprised that we'd want to take their photographs.

Hard to believe, but - we seem exotic to them.

India is just so FULL of LIFE.

Sometimes I wonder why we travel.

It's challenging, uncomfortable, uncertain.
Things are beyond your control - or even your understanding.

Often, you can't read anything (India has 22 official languages, with 13 different scripts)

And you only have a basic idea of how things work.

Everything has to be constantly figured out.

In some places, you really don't even trust yourself to cross a street.

It's dirty and confusing and - the noise!

Barreling through chaotic Delhi traffic in a decrepit tuk-tuk.
The decibel level is amazing. 

And yet - I remember thinking: there's no place I'd rather be.
(At least for a while.)

Even in incredible traffic, there's a rhythm and an awareness of those around them.

It's almost like a dance. 
It feels totally chaotic.

Yet - everything (including the odd camel or cow or elephant) weaves in and out. 

No road rage. Nobody bumps into you. 

They're all in it together.

The women - are so beautifully dressed.

Even in small villages, they wear necklaces.
Bracelets. Scarves. Saris.

On a public bus, a woman beside me was traveling with her 2 young daughters. 
(Of course, we stirred a bit of attention, riding on a local bus.) 
She leaned over and said kindly,

"Excuse me, but - you really should decorate yourself a bit more."

The lady making the bangles - which I bought.

She reached into her purse and gave me a dot on my forehead.
A string of jasmine for my hair.

Her daughters looked pleased.
Then she told me to buy some colorful bangles in the next town.

Which I did, from the woman above.
Who made the bangles there by hand. From scratch.

Once, someone handed me a goat as I walked through a village. 
Nobody ever handed me a goat before.

At least, before we were introduced.

Like women all over, she asks me how many children I have. 

Another fellow invited us to eat his fresh pakoras.

(We did. They were super delicious.)

The odd discussions we had.
The abstract conversations.

The brief connections with people who normally never meet foreigners.

It's magic.

A dentist waiting for patients explains his tools.

The markets!

How can you resist - all this color and incredible attention to detail?

And the vehicles-?

All the myriad weird and wonderful ways things and people are transported in India.

Handpainted trucks.
Handcrafted tuk-tuks.
Motorcycles with sidecars.

Buses and bikes and oxcarts and "head transport".

(That's when people carry thing on their heads.
They even have their own union.)

It can be very creative.

Handmade truck. Completely - handmade. 

I didn't mention all the animals.

Monkeys walking along city walls.
Oxen pulling carts.
Elephants and camels in the streets.
Peacocks and piglets.
Eagles, kingfishers, crocodiles and cobras.

  Like this wonderful camel at the Pushkar Fair.

There were another 30,000 camels there.
Although I'm not sure who counted them.

Are we in India now? No. 
We're still in the south of France, on the boat. 

But - I spent over 20 years working with weavers in India.

It was often frustrating, maddening, difficult. Like India.
But still.

And after a business trip, there was usually time for a bit of exploration. 
It's a huge country.

I've only visited a few corners of it.

Stan and I were sitting on the aft deck of "Maggie May" last night.
Here in the south of France, on the Canal du Midi.

I pulled out the photos of one of those trips.
Over a glass of wine, we went through the folder.

From the northern border with Nepal - down to the tip of Tamil Nadu.

I've only ever done one small blog post about India - this one.
About the Pushkar Camel Fair. And it's pretty minimal.

I mean - where do you even start on the stories?
Or the thousands of colorful photos? The many experiences?

It always seems impossible to explain.

What impressed me was - how happy I felt there. 
Yes, it was exasperating. Exhausting. And yet - so exotic, so different.

Truly another world.

Surrounded by ancient culture.
Gods and spirits and cows and camels.

Music and musicians.
The crazy electrical wiring and such confusion.
And in the photos - 

I look just - delighted - to be in the midst of this whirlwind.

There's something odd and wonderful about travel.
It keeps you marvelously off balance. 
The world feels fresh and new.

There's just no better way to gain perspective. 
Empty your mind. Learn about the world. 

Maybe just learn to appreciate our fortune at being born into the lives we lead. 

And - I haven't even mentioned the whole "spiritual" side.
 Thousands of temples. Shrines, festivals.

Or the architecture.
Intricate palaces and unbelievable ancient stonework.

But - that's enough for one post. Another day.

"And at the end of the day, 
your feet should be dirty, your hair messy 
and your eyes sparkling."

– Shanti