TRAVEL with pat and lew

Archive for the ‘… 2011’ Category

* the magic of Venice … Sept 2011

Posted by Lew Weinstein on November 5, 2011

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Just say the word “Venice” and the mind conjures images of romantic canals and the slow passage of gondolas.

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St. Mark’s Square during the day is so jammed with cruise boat tourist groups moving like large herds that it’s best to stay away. At night, it is gorgeous, with music and (very expensive) open air bars. 

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At 7:00 am, it is a perfect place for a morning run.

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It’s also perfect for kids and pigeons … and dancers???

Perhaps an explanation is in order. A band was playing, and Pat and I danced. When we finished, a group at a nearby table applauded. So we asked them to join in the next dance.

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The Galerie del Accademia … a superb collection of art taken from the churches of Venice on the order of Napoleon.

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the saga of Ursula by Vittore Carpaccio

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Pat has arranged for herself a threefold course in Renaissance art … preparing before our trip to Italy, viewing the art, and then reviewing her course materials with the new appreciation of personally seeing the works. And I got to have my own personal art docent.

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And also to amuse myself by finding a mirror on the stairs up to our apartment.

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Sights of Venice

a door handle, music museum, lladro tango, dali’s clock

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thousands of great store windows

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What’s new on the Rialtro? Plenty! We find a tiny cafe tucked into a corner of the bridge at water level. Once we had coffee, the next time bellinis. And we watched the action, an ever-changing mosaic of water taxis, gondolas, ferries, and UPS boats conducting an intricate dance, never colliding.

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the Rialto Bridge

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and of course there are some shops on the Rialto

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The world’s first ghetto was established in Venice, at the site of an old foundry (ghetto means foundry). Our tour of the remains of a once vibrant Jewish community was fascinating. Several small synagogues. Stories from the period of Nazi occupation. “Fortunately,” our guide says, “the roundup of Jews was conducted in the Italian manner. Inefficiently.” He told us the old Jews in nursing homes were shipped off to Auschwitz and most of the rest, dispersed throughout the city (no longer living in the ghetto) survived.

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exterior of synagogues

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the skylight above the bima corresponds to the cuppola in the photo above

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There is an altarpiece by Giovanni Bellini at the church of San Zaccaria that was painted in place so that the light from the window sweeps across the painting and at one point in each sunny day illuminates the heads of both St. Peter and St. Zaccaria. It was truly an incredible experience to watch this happen, and appreciate just how fast the earth rotates on its axis.

Bellini’s altarpiece at San Zaccaria

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We had eaten a large lunch and wanted only a prosecco and dessert. It was surprising to us that restaurants with mostly empty tables would not take us, insisting they would only serve full dinners. It worked out fine. We were finally accommodated in an otherwise empty courtyard where the atmosphere of an ancient time surrounded us.

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You don’t take a taxi to the airport. You take a water taxi, winding first through the interior canals and then gaining speed across the wide bay. A great way to end our three weeks in Italy.

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* just another day in the Jardin de Luxembourg

Posted by Lew Weinstein on July 16, 2011

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a performance of the Northern Ambassadors of Music

The Jardin du Luxembourg (Luxembourg Gardens), located in the 6th arrondissement, is actually the garden of the French Senate, which is housed in the Luxembourg Palace. Both palace and gardens are the legacy of Marie de Medicis, the widow of Henry IV and the regent for the King Louis XIII, who in 1611 decided to build a palace in imitation of the Pitti Palace in her native Florence. It is one of the most beautiful places in Paris, and one of the most beautiful parks in the world.

Walking in the park, we followed the sounds of music to a bandstand where we came upon an ongoing performance of the Northern Ambassadors of Music. Comprised of over 300 students from North Dakota and Montana, the high school and college students were in the middle of their 16-day 2011 European tour through England, France, Switzerland, Liechtenstein, Austria, Italy and Germany, including performances at Buckingham Palace, St. Paul’s Cathedral and Luxembourg Gardens.

The group, each of whom pays roughly $6,000 for the trip, is put together on recommendations of music teachers. They played a combination of classical, show and patriotic music, and apparently had their first rehearsal as a group just three days before we heard them. Their rousing Sousa marching music and a moving rendition of America the Beautiful were extraordinary, especially given the short time they’ve had together.

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views from a walk around the Jardin du Luxembourg … note the Statue of Liberty, one of two in Paris … a plaque next to the statue is dedicated to the memory of those killed on 9-11 and to the long spirit of friendship between the French and American people

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* impressions of Paris … July 2011

Posted by Lew Weinstein on July 14, 2011

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Of course it’s a cliche. But you see it everywhere and it is beautiful, especially at dusk.

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We had a wonderful dinner with our friends Marilyn and Bernard, and on the way, Marilyn took this picture of us … the church in the background is one of the great shots from Woody Allen’s new film, Midnight in Paris, which of course we saw in Paris.

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Paris is a city of beautiful women … a photo shoot at the Opera … coffee at Starbucks … Madame Lenny emerging from a delightful passage … a classic lady on a bike … some younger women assaulting the studs at Abercrombie & Fitch on the Champs Elysees

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Strangers having dinner with Jim Haynes … he’s been organizing these events for 30 years or so every Sunday night … The cost is 25 euros, more or less … his friends cook the dinner … the location is Jim’s house and the adjacent garden area, in the 14th arrondissement … people learn about this from Jim’s website (http://www.jim-haynes.com/) and sign up until the guest list has filled the available space (less can be accommodated in winter than in summer) … the food and wine were excellent and plentiful … and the company was delightful, mostly English speaking, although from many different countries … everyone there was looking to meet others in Paris, for a variety of reasons … the result – a unique and entertaining evening

Jim is the guy in the apron … next to him are a couple who met at one of these dinners 13 years ago and have been married for the last 12 … lower left corner are  a professor at Queens College and a student at the same college, who had just met

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A fabulous experience at an afternoon auction at the Drouot Hotel … as many as 8 rooms operating at the same time … art, books, coins, cooking appliances, and a whole roomful of Louis Vuitton bags going for 250 or so euros

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Paris is loaded with great old passages … stunning architecture, beautiful shops, sometimes even bargains, espcially during July’s annual sale days

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Pat planned her trip to the Louvre for months … she had a list of the art and the details of each work she wanted to enjoy … on the way, I bought a sketch pad, two pencils and an eraser … I found a chair near this Greek fellow … I will NOT post my sketch!

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Adrian Leeds is one of the busiest Americans in Paris. She posts a blog (http://www.parlerparis.com/) which Pat reads regularly … very high content about what’s happening in Paris … Adrian also buys, renovates, sells and rents apartments in Paris … and she runs a monthly (2nd Tuesday) get together which features a speaker … this week that was Jeffrey Greene (author of French Spirits) who spoke entertainingly about living in the Burgundy area of France … we had a delightful afternoon and met many expats living in France including with our new Queens College friend from Jim Haynes’ dinner

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These are the steps where Owen Wilson waited for F. Scott and Ernest … up a hill and just below the Pantheon … there was no magic transport available at noon … but we did go to see the movie, for the second time … it is a marvelous, cultured fairy tale that is really a love story … for those who love the enduring beauty and eternal aura of Paris … thank you, Woody

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FOOTNOTE: after we we returned to Collioure, I was sitting on our terrace, looking out at a glorious panorama of white clouds floating above the Pyrenees Mountains. Suddenly, there were the same blue, white and red smoke trails I had seen in Paris. Nine powerful jets put on a display of precision flying that took my breath away. Rapid turns. Dives straight down from rather low altitudes. Soaring out over the Mediterranean Sea in broad swoops, at what seemed like barely a wing length apart. Turning on edge so it seemed as if there was but a single plane. It was just spectacular.  A private show just for me.

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Bastille Day … crowds along the Champs … an impressive military parade … jets overhead … Nicolas Sarkozy, the 23rd president of the French Republic … and the very real presence of Charles de Gaulle, the 1st president whose unique combination of arrogance, grandeur and political skills seem to infuse France as much today as they did in the aftermath of WWII

… but Bastille Day ??? … honoring a day when 6 criminals were set free and a process initiated that ultimately became one of the bloodiest episodes in civilized society, a time when nobody’s head was safe … I have read and read about the French Revolution and I still don’t understand what happened and what results it accomplished … but we nevertheless enjoy the day and wish the French well

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