Monday, March 28, 2011
Walking out of the hotel, we hit the streets in the early evening light.
We are on a serious mission.
That mission involves food.
But why rush into things?
We want to live in the moment and soak up the beauties of Bordeaux.
Heidi starts the conversation as we stroll:
"That hotel room would be a great place to hide out after you pull off the heist."
All of us burst into laughter.
John chuckles and says, "Maybe we should think about experimenting with that theory."
I can't resist adding, "Hey, people, those rooms where the villains meet in bad TV shows are hipper, jazzier and probably cleaner."
Bob throws in his two cents, "That may not be saying much."
Whoever said laughter is good for the soul was spot on.
Our moods are lightened as we walk and talk.
Eventually, our attention is drawn to a dramatic fountain directly in front of us.
Roaming around its perimeter, each of us is intrigued with the sculptor's mastery of his art.
The stunning angel on the top of the column looks as if she is within seconds of taking flight?
Everything about her is poised for take-off.
But where is she going?
A plaque near the fountain reads: "Monument aux Girondins"
The word "Girondins" triggers something in my history major brain.
Unfortunately, it doesn't trigger enough.
Bob and John dig out their cameras and start clicking.
Heidi, our resident researcher, goes over the fountain with a fine tooth comb.
I am excited by every piece of art on this structure.
Should anyone be shocked?
My eyes travel to the happy head of Bacchus whose portrait is carved within a beautiful clam shell motif.
Beneath his head, a pair of petite but sturdy dolphins support his merry mood.
His eyes dance and his mouth exclaims...... something - but what?
It makes me happy just looking at him!
I love this busy bird!
He's flapping those feathers like crazy.
The sculptor has captured him in mid-squawk.
So he's definitely crowing about something.
Maybe he wants me to stop staring at him.
He seems a little out of place on this fountain though.
Why is he here?
If there is a woman alive who can not relate to these chatting ladies, I want to meet her!
Women seem destined to communicate with each other, don't they?
And these stone lovelies are no exception.
Just look at these magnificent steeds!
Check out their "hooves."
And their "tails."
These guys mean business!
Look at that watery spray spewing from their nostrils!
Can we say "hyper-vigilant?"
* * * * * *
Bob, never one to waste words, says: "I've got enough pictures of this thing to last ten lifetimes. Let's go eat!"
I've been in a state of frenzy over this fountain for at least 30 minutes.
Our tummies are empty and can no longer be appeased.
Even by the mysterious wonders of art.
We amble into a lovely area of neighborhood restaurants.
Studying the sidewalk menu boards, we casually select the evening's winner.
Little do we know what gustatory delights await us inside.
NOTE TO MY READERS: UNRAVELING THE MYSTERIES
(The mysteries I should have recognized and remembered from my college history classes!)
1. The angel represents the spirit of liberty. That makes sense, doesn't it? She is perched and ready to fly off to freedom.
2. "The Monument aux Girondins" is a richly adorned fountain commemorating the Girondists who were sent to the guillotine by Robespierre during the French Revolution's Reign of Terror.
3. Bacchus is the Greek god of wine. Drinking wine in France is nearly a religion. No wonder he seems so happy!
4. The rooster is an unofficial national symbol of France. Although the bird has been associated with France since the Middle Ages, his popularity blossomed during the French Revolution.
5. The stunning steeds are creatures called "quadriga horse-fish." They represent "Happiness."
Well, I'll be! I know it made me happy just to stay out of their way!
Ain't knowledge grand?
Many thanks to my own stunning steed, the Bobster, who definitely out did himself with these amazing photos.
The shot of the quadrigi horse fish is contest - winner worthy!
Posted by Merry at 5:00 AM
Monday, March 21, 2011
(Chicago Interior, J. Theodore Johnson, 1933, American Picture Gallery, Washington, D.C.)
Suddenly, a golden glow springs to life on the left wall.
I see two figures walking toward me in the near darkness.
My eyes focus just enough to see that those figures belong to Heidi and John.
Heidi greets me and says: "Welcome to the Hallway of Horrors!"
"These walls are painted BLACK!!!" I say, stating the obvious.
"I can't believe this!" I exclaim, adding, "what are the owners of this hotel thinking?"
John chimes in, "Who's thinking? Enjoy the ambiance!"
"Ambiance?" I ask.
Heidi says, "That glow is coming from motion sensors that light up every time someone walks by."
"I know it's good to conserve electricity but motion sensor lights in a hotel hallway?" I ask.
"COME ON!" I hiss dramatically.
The elevator brings Bob to our conversation.
"Can't somebody turn on a light?" he asks.
This - from a man who holds the world record for "fastest light turner off-er."
John says, " Forget the hallway. I'd like to know why everything in our room is black. You've got to see this."
Something tells me I'd rather not.
Seconds later, we are standing in the most depressing hotel room I have ever seen.
And I've seen more than a few depressing hotel rooms.
The ratty carpet is stained with white spots the size of golf balls.
Hygienic and attractive.
The walls are painted a lovely designer's hue called: " Pitch Black."
The bedspread is a deep charcoal gray.
Tiny specks of orange are sprinkled all over the bedspread.
Dyed fabric threads?
cheese doodle droppings?
You'd need a microscope to seriously determine that.
Everything in this room is either dank, dark, depressing or disgusting.
"disgusting" holds the trump card.
Surveying the decorating damage, I decide that the last time this room was updated Marie Antoinette was serving cake at Versailles.
John appears anxious as his eyes scurry across the room.
He looks at Heidi and says, "I can't sleep in that bed tonight. We're going to have to look for a room in a different hotel."
The three of us hurry to his rescue because we all know exactly how he feels.
Bob, The Sensible, begins:
"We don't have time to search for another hotel tonight. We're going to miss seeing a lot of the city if we do that."
"Let's face it. This place needs a total gut job. But it's just for one night. There's even a good chance we'll live through it."
Heidi smiles brightly at John and wins him over with these encouraging words:
"Honey, think about all the funny stories you're going to get out of this!"
John is a great storyteller and he knows good material when he sees it.
He stares at one of the carpet's golf balls.
It's busy mutating into a baseball as we speak.
He looks at us and says, "I guess I can stick it out for one night. But I'm sleeping in my clothes. On top of the bed. And I'm not touching anything."
Heading toward the door - which Bob kindly opens for him - John turns and says, "Let's get out of here."
Then he pauses and adds, "Do you think there's a restaurant around here that serves dinner?"
He doesn't have to ask twice.
Posted by Merry at 4:00 AM
Monday, March 14, 2011
(Hotel Lobby, Edward Hopper, 1943, Indianapolis Museum of Art)
I adore European elevators.
Particularly the ones in small, quaint hotels.
They almost always sport one of those sliding gate doors.
The metal parts crisscross and fold like an accordion over the elevator opening.
I'm no expert on 1940's movies.
But I'm pretty sure you're going to see Cray Grant use these puppies in at least one of his films.
After the "accordion" gate is closed - by you, of course - the solid outer door slides across the elevator opening for a final lockdown.
Our personal experience has proven that nearly every one of these elevators is teeny-tiny.
We spoiled Americans love our wide open spaces, don't we?
* * * * * *
The desk clerk hands us our room keys and speaks to us in English, "Please enjoy your stay with us!"
John quickly sizes up the elevator in the lobby.
Heidi and I are busy studying destination brochures at the travel kiosk just steps away.
Bob is definitely in the "photo zone."
He is flipping through the day's picture gallery on his digital camera.
John returns to Heidi and says, "It looks like I'm going to have to send the luggage up by itself. You know the drill."
John parks a huge suitcase on the floor of the elevator.
He pushes the third floor button.
Seconds later, the door clangs shut.
John hightails it to the stairs.
He attacks them like a crazed criminal running for his life.
Meanwhile, the luggage is enjoying a luxurious ride in the elevator.
With any luck, both John and the bag will arrive on the third floor at the same time.
Before we know it, the elevator door opens.
John steps out and says, "No worries. I got to the elevator in the nick of time. The bags are safely settled in our room."
Heidi and John are computer people.
Heidi is a prolific writer who is attached to her computer the way I 'm attached to chocolate truffles.
John is a master web designer who is a whiz as a computer artist.
Their computers go everywhere they go.
It's no small sacrifice for them to part with their laptops.
They carefully lay their computer backpacks - which are chock full of a million other necessities - on the elevator floor and back away from the door.
John rises to the occasion by taking a second breathless run up those three flights of stairs.
Minutes later, he descends from above with this news: "Our computers are tucked away in the closet."
Grinning at Heidi, he adds, "You don't have to worry."
At John's insistence, Heidi takes her turn in the elevator.
She ascends like a phoenix rising out of the dusty earth.
John's adrenaline kicks in at just the right moment.
He hoofs it up the stairs like the storm trooper he is.
Bob and I look at each other with an attitude of resignation.
We're no strangers to this process.
Gentleman that he is, Bob insists that I go up first.
I enter the elevator with a sense of trepidation.
That's because I was born with a basket of brains the size of Florida.
I hand my sizable purse to Bob who is left holding the bag.
There is no way it and my body are making this trip together.
Closing the accordion door behind me, I push the third floor button.
I squirm as the elevator begins its rickety ascent.
"How do people stand standing in these airless coffins?" I wonder to myself.
I conduct a quick visual survey and determine that the elevator can not be more than four inches wide - front to back.
"There is no need to panic," I tell myself, "all you have to do is keep calm and carry on."
Then, suddenly, the elevator makes a jerky pit stop on the second floor.
I hold my breath and pray that the doors actually open.
Miraculously, they do!
Strangely, no one is standing there waiting to board.
"Why did this mobile tomb make a stop on the second floor when it didn't even have to?" I ask myself.
My anxiety is accelerating faster than a Boeing 747.
"There is no need to panic," I tell myself, "all you have to do is keep calm and carry on."
I'm no dummy.
I've seen the movies.
I've seen people eat each other for dinner after a 12 hour stretch on a stuck elevator.
"There is every reason to panic," I tell myself, "just stay crazy and pass-out."
Wait - I think I hear angels singing!
The squeaky elevator pulls to a halt at the third floor.
I step out and stare into the hallway.
But I can't see a thing.
NOTE TO MY READERS:
"Keep Calm and Carry On" is a poster motto originally produced by the British government in 1939 during the beginning of World War II.
Its intent was to raise the morale of the British public under the threat of invasion.
The designer of the poster is unknown.
Posted by Merry at 2:07 PM
Monday, March 7, 2011
(Going to Business, James Jacques Tissot, 1879, New Orleans Museum of Art)
They say the third time is the charm.
I don't know about that.
I do know this:
Two charming people flew with us on our third trip to Europe.
Our bright and beautiful daughter, Heidi.
And her own Prince Charming, our loving and lovable son-in-law, John.
We arrive in Bordeaux toward the end of our French adventure.
After another spectacular morning in Paris, the train finally brings us into town around 4 p.m.
John wastes no time hailing a taxi for the departure to our hotel.
"Come on!" he waves to us at the head of the taxi line, "I've got a live one but he's not gonna wait forever!"
He is right.
Taxi lines in Europe are not places where you want to dawdle.
Especially at train stations.
I always love the first taxi ride in European cities.
That's because I am no longer sitting on a stuffy train while my bottom bumps along on the rock hard seats.
This is what I really love:
You get speedy glimpses of what each city is made of.
And Bordeaux - if nothing else - looks architecturally promising.
In this case, we are getting super speedy glimpses.
In fact, the glimpses are so speedy that I am about to lose the contents of my stomach all over the back seat of the taxi.
To add to the fun, our driver obviously enjoys trying out the reliability of his brakes.
Slam 'em harder!
Slam 'em into the Trevi Fountain.
Which is located in the middle of Rome.
Why am I complaining?
That's exactly where I need to be to wash off the intestinal debris from the front of my jeans.
Seconds later - which, by the way, would normally be minutes - our driver slams into the curb in front of our hotel.
He leaps out of the taxi and pops open the trunk.
With lightening speed, he pulls our bags out of the car and drops them like hot potatoes on the sidewalk.
This is a guy who does not believe in slow motion - at least not while he's on the clock.
Bob reaches into his pocket and pulls out enough euros to start a new country.
He thinks to himself, "I've got to pay him off for not killing us."
I glance at John.
Every hair on the top of his head is standing at attention.
Heidi's eyes are as wide as Frisbees.
My mouth hasn't closed since we stepped into the taxi.
And it's not what you're thinking.
I'm too scared to utter a syllable.
Stunned into silence, we wave good-bye to our driver.
But he doesn't see us.
He has just jerked and slammed himself all the way back to the train station.
Unaware newbies stand in the taxi line waiting for what is about to become the thrill of their vehicle riding lives.
The four of us trudge into the hotel lobby.
Everything looks good in here.
In other words......
Posted by Merry at 10:28 AM
Thursday, March 3, 2011
(Summer Day at the South Beach of Skagen, P.S. Kroyer, 1884, Hirchsprungske Art Museum, Copenhagen)
My heart goes out to this little lady.
Humanity swarms all around her.
But she stands alone.
Her feet are planted firmly in the sand.
We can't help but notice her gently bowed head.
But it's those tiny hands that grab me.
They are clasped resolutely behind her back.
The summer sun blazes down upon her heavily clothed body.
We don't have to be geniuses to know what she is thinking.
"Why can't I join the party?" she seems to be asking herself.
Ten boys - all naked as jaybirds - romp in the waves.
An eleventh darts out to the water just behind her.
Someone has told the little maid that she won't be included.
So there she stands.
Bereft of joy.
A man once said to me, "You are very opinionated for a woman."
He was partially right.
I am opinionated.
My gender has no business being factored into that truth.
Some say it's a man's world.
only if we as women count ourselves out of the running.
Only if we choose to be silent.
My life has been all about needing to be heard.
I have talked.
I have screamed.
There have been times when I have bowed my head in deadly silence.
Too many times.
Now that I am old I know better.
I know that it is my God-given duty to speak up.
It is my sacred privilege to speak out.
I speak often.
I speak boldly.
And, yes, my opinions flow freely.
I feel driven to use my God-given power.
The power of my woman's voice.
I cherish my voice.
It is unique amidst all human life.
I speak so that one day something wonderful will happen.
When that day comes......
our little lady will be splashing gleefully in the water.
Smack dab in the middle of those pesky little boys.
And there will be no question.
She will certainly be invited to all the parties.
Posted by Merry at 10:48 AM