Sunday, May 29, 2011

Italy 1994 - the beginning

In June of 1994 Susie and I jumped off the deep end of travel, so to speak. For our first trip abroad together we decided to fly to Europe, rent a car, rent not one but two houses, drive around for about a month, experiencing what it might be like for two strangers living in a strange land. For nearly half of that time we were joined by Susie's brother Dick and his wife Dorothy, avid travelers to Europe also willing to try out this idea of tourists living abroad.

We flew into Zurich, rented our car (a VW Passat), headed south and drove the back roads over the Italian Alps,dodging the insame motorcyclists, to the Italian city of Merano, staying the Castel Freiburg perched on one of the hills overlooking the valley, then down to Umbertide in Umbria for a a week, and on to Vagliagli just north of Siena for two weeks where Dick and Dorothy joined us from Rome. Susie and I ended our trip in Bellagio on Lake Como for the final few days in Italy before crossing back into Switzerland.

Over 5,000 kilometers of incredible food, wonderful wines and an experience that defined the very concept of travel for the two of us and set the tone for every trip we've taken since.

So, here's a quick peek at those heady days of cheap lira, inexpensive Brunellos and no mobile devices:

Sunday, May 22, 2011

Provence in 1999

Before tackling two weeks of intensive Italian in Siena, we spent several days with friends in a wondrful B & B near St.Remy in Provence. Things change, of course, people move on, buildings come and go -- but in our mind's eye we see the past only as bright or dark as our memories allow. This was a wonderful time spent in laughter, enjoying the moment, fleeting as they ever are.

Pont du Gard
Where are the roman engineers now, eh?

Mas de Cornud, St. Remy

Susie and Steve

Mas de Cornud

Thursday, May 12, 2011

Italy's Liberation Day and Mine Too

Just to recap: April 25, 1945, Italy is freed from the fascist yoke of Mussolini thugs and the Nazi terror. Three years later I'm freed as well. A coincidence? Maybe . . .

Anyway, on that Monday, April 25, I took the day off from work, tinkered with a book project I'm working on (a series of Photographer's Guides to the Sculpture in Paris Cemeteries) and Susie and I caught an early afternoon matinee of the movie "Hanna."

Tense, tight, with incredible music -- think "Run, Lola, Run" for tweens - and if you can picture Jason Bourne as a 13-year-old girl you get the idea. Top it off with gorgeous locations (right below the Arctic Circle in Finland), and Cate Blanchett playing a "brush-your-teeth-till-they-bleed" heavy who gives new meaning to the concept of female villain. (Remember Henry Fonda as the bad, very bad gunslinger in "Once Upon a Time in the West"?) Graphic in some parts but here's a link to the trailer on Apple:

On Mayday Susie left Boston for Grand Rapids to spend some quality time with her mom -- and see family, of course. After I dropped her off at Logan Airport I headed west toward Cambridge and Mount Auburn Cemetery, where I spent a gorgeous afternoon strolling the grounds, taking photos before sitting on a short presentation about preservation projects at the cemetery. Colors seemed to come at me from every direction:

Susie came home Wednesday, none too soon as far as I was concerned.

And speaking of the Pastry Queen, she continues to spread the gospel of quality French pastries through teaching. Yesterday she wrapped up another class, this one focused on the magic of making croissants and pain au chocolat to four French women (rather preaching to the choir, I suppose).

It also looks like she's about ready to close on a commercial kitchen space. Nope, not the one downtown but a bit further out , but still near home -- where she'll have more control and more independence.

She's met with the developer a couple of times now, and has the floor plans in hand to start plotting the kitchen layout. She even popped up to Worcester, MA, this past week with Mary and Dorothy along for input and moral support, looking at commercial appliances at Westerman's. That was both eye-opening (in a good way) and enlightening -- and the folks she met there were helpful and ready to assist any way they can. Lots of good used equipment is readily available as well and overall pricing was better than we thought.

I hope to post some photos of all this business before too long. Stay tuned!

My digital archiving work is going well and, as I said I'm working on the outline  series of little guide books specifically tailored for photographers who want to locate and capture the fantastic statuary and sculpture in the major Paris Cemeteries. I anticipate no more than five short books, one each for Montparnasse, Montmartre, Passy and Pere-Lachaise. In addition to providing the standard helpful information about each cemetery, the guide would also highlight the sculpture and artwork themselves so that the photographers have visual signposts of what to look for.

And speaking of photographs about graves,  I have a much more ambitious cemetery project in play as well:  a series of books detailing nearly all the notable sculpture in Paris Cemeteries that I have photographed over the past several years (running to several thousands of images). So far I've put together a total of 10 volumes of photographs of the art in Pere-Lachaise alone. Each of those volumes is about 200 pages of busts, statues, and medallions. The idea is that each piece of artwork will be accompanied by a short bio of the deceased and/or the sculptor who produced it. Anyway, my hope is to follow up Pere-Lachaise with studies of the sculpture in Montparnasse, Montmartre and Passy Cemeteries.

As I said ambitious . . . But hey, I have the photographs, the spreadsheets, the information. . .  So, Marie and Philippe, what do you think?

Life is pretty good right now here in the grit 'n grime of the Ocean State. But life has a funny way of being very short. And I understand anything, the idea is to NOT fritter it away. . .

Take care, be well and, as always,

Wish you were in Paris,