Saturday, December 31, 2011

Trip to NYC and the Met

This past Wednesday Susie and I took the 6:30am Peter Pan bus to America's own peculiar version of Never, Never Land: New York City. The motivation for the day trip was to see the French Impressionists at the Met, especially Degas and Manet. We also hoped to stroll Fifth Avenue and check out the lights and windows in the bargain.

Times Square - ready for New Year's Eve
We arrived in Gotham a little after 10am and upon leaving the Port Authority bus terminal plunged into the wilds of 42nd Street and Times Square, that latter being mostly closed off for the upcoming New Year celebration.
Late afternoon, Rockefeller Plaza
We then headed in the direction of Fifth Avenue and soon found ourselves enmeshed in a throng of what appeared to be thousands of Europeans looking to have their pictures taken in front of Rockefeller Plaza. I suspect some of those people are still waiting in line to get onto the skating rink:

Anyway, we strolled up Fifth Avenue past one designer store after another, paying our respects to the most outrageous of American consumerism. After passing the Plaza Hotel and keeping both FAO Schwarz and the Apple Store at a safe distance on our right we headed into peace and tranquility of Central Park. We stayed on the eastern side of the park until we reached the Metropolitan Museum of Art, although we did stop and say hi to "Alice" and her friends along the way. . .
Central Park
Alice in Wonderland and friends, Central Park

Standing in line to get into the Metropolitan Museum of Art
Apparently all those tourists we passed through at Rockefeller Plaza had beat us to the Met -- we had to wait about 20 minutes or so to get inside the building, pass through security and then more than a half hour in line to get tickets. The place was, in a word, packed. Using the handy map we found our way to the second floor (rooms in the 800s) -- although curiously the stairs were all cordoned off and every had to take elevators. Odd, we thought. (And of course, there were long lines of women waiting to use the bathrooms. What's up with that anyway? Why don't they simply double the size of women's restrooms?)

But it was a wonderful experience.  We got the chance to spend a few choice minutes with some of the world's greatest art -- how cool is that, eh?

Anyway, one young woman who wasn't waiting for the loo was, however, waiting to be seen -- Faustine Leo, cousin of the painter Karl-Heinrich Lehmann who, coincidentally, painted her portrait when she was just 10 years old in 1842:
"Faustine Leo (1832-1865," by Karl-Heinrich Lehmann (her cousin), 1842

"The Little Dancer" by Edgar Degas
This is now the 3rd copy we have seen out of, I believe, 14 copies worldwide, of Degas' "Little Dancer." (The other two were in the Musee d'Orsay in Paris and The Clark in Williamstown, MA.)
That's Victorine Merine dressed as a matador in the far center painting, right by the arched entryway

"Young Lady in 1866" by Edouard Manet;
that's Victorine Meurine, again; she would also pose in Manet's scandalous work, "Olympia"
"Saint-Philippe du Roule" by Jean Beraud - I swear the woman holding the little girl's hand was staring right at me
"Fishing," 1862-63, by Edouard Manet
"The Monet Family in their garden at Argenteuil," 1874 by Edouard Manet
After leaving the Met we bundled up before heading out into the biting wind. Once outside we thought, "hey, let's cross Central Park to the west side." In fact, we got lost a few minutes later in that part of the park known as "The Ramble" -- which is exactly what we did for about a half hour or so until we found our way out again. What a place, though! sculptures seemed to abound everywhere we turned -- we saw busts of Schiller, Beethoven and even Victor Herbert, all seemingly scattered around with no rhyme or reason.

As we were about to pass out of the park onto Central Park West I caught sight of this statue put up in honor of the men of the Seventh Regiment (presumably from New York) who died in service of the Union during the American Civil War.
Memorial to the Seventh Regiment, Central Park
And just at the corner of the park where Broadway crosses Central Park West and 59th Street, where the park joins Columbus Circle is this incredible memorial to the dead from the USS Maine.
Memorial to the dead from the USS Maine, Central Park, Columbus Circle
As we passed the Maine memorial and walked along 59th Street we recalled with fondness the grand times we had in this neighborhood quite a few years ago -- and thought to seek out a restaurant somewhere in the area that we had remembered being quite good. All we could remember was that the name began with "Red". . . And sure enough as we turned off of 59th down 7th Avenue, after about a block and a half we came to the "Redeye Cafe."
Redeye Cafe on 7th Avenue, just south of Central Park
We found a quiet booth near the front overlooking 7th Avenue, and enjoyed a wonderful late and leisurely lunch sitting in front of a spectacular Peter Max painting.
Peter Max painting in back of our table at the Redeye
Leaving the restaurant we cut back over to Fifth Avenue where we hoped to get a glimpse of the holiday windows and lights. As we walked south we found the holiday decorations rather disappointing. The windows all seemed so pedestrian and lifeless, at least compared to past years when we've strolled through this part of Never, Never Land. No lost boys, no Wendy, no excitement -- just thousands of tourists, cheek-by-jowl, each one with a handy-dandy little digital camera fused to the palm of each hand, snapping off photos in the twilight. Even when we sought escape inside Lord & Taylor, the hordes passed through with us -- but the decorations were nicer to be sure:

Our time here was at an end and we headed back to find our bus. No sooner had we returned to the Port Authority and found our gate than we learned that Peter Pan had overbooked the one-day excursion fares it was offering on its website (the reason we took the bus in the first place). But the company did the right thing -- it had no choice, I suppose -- and arranged for an additional bus to make sure everyone got back to Providence. In fact, not long after we got to the gate, we got aboard and tucked ourselves into two seats as the bus pulled out into commuter traffic some 45 minutes early.

I found myself gazing out of the window, relishing not having to drive through snarling New York traffic and find my way off Manhattan Island in the dark, watching hypnotically as the lights of the Great City come on. we sped north up through Harlem, over the Triboro Bridge and eventually onto I-95 pointed north to Rubetown, capital of Gritworld (where the state motto was recently changed  from "Creatively stealing your money since 1639" to "making a bad situation worse").

Funny thing, though. With all of our walking up and down some of the fanciest parts of the Big Apple we didn't come across one pastry shop, nor one bakery.  And that seems explains so many things, we thought. . . . so many things.

Have a wonderful New Year!

Susie on the porch in Westborough

Friday, December 30, 2011

Strolling through Downtown Providence

Just a few things you might see this time of year. . .

From Blog photos 2

Thursday, December 29, 2011

Susan's new space in Hope Artiste Village?

Tomorrow Susie meets with a contractor and his plumber and electrician to work out the details of modifying a space in Hope Artiste Village just across the line in Pawtucket, RI. Hope Artiste is one of the hot new developments in the Greater Providence area with a growing list of artisans and artist studios as well as home to the winter Farmer's Market.

Anyway, I hope to post more details to come over the next few weeks, but in the meantime here are a few images to give you a sense of the space:

Far end behind the glass

Space is behind the three windows

Space runs from the far right column left to the white wall

Back to the RISD Museum

Well, I suppose I should warn you, now that I'm a member of the RISD Museum, in the months to come I'm going to be posting quite a few notes and images from my visits there. And, I think it's safe to say, there will be an awkward repetition in some of the photos posted because, quite frankly, I plan to visit again and again my favorite paintings and sculptures.

It is, after all, a wonderful place to visit, especially during the day when there's hardly anyone else around. In fact, I've started walking there on my lunch hour from work; I can get there in about 15 minutes, leaving me about 25 minutes browsing time.

Anyway, here's a short slideshow from my trip there Thursday and Friday, December 22-23:

Wednesday, December 28, 2011

Carolus-Duran by John Singer Sargent

From the collection of the Sterling and Francine Clark Art Institute.

Carolus-Duran painted the wonderful portrait of Edouard Manet that sites happily next to Berthe Morisot in the RISD Museum collection.

Tuesday, December 27, 2011

Modeling for Degas

From the collection of the Sterling and Francine Clark Art Institute.

Monday, December 26, 2011

RISD Museum - feed your mind

Now that we're officially full-fledged members (I've never joined a museum before), I hope to share an occasional photo every now and then from my foray into those hallowed halls, those quiet spaces where the mind wanders among so many imaginations, where the soul is lost without suffering anything more than a momentary uplift in the spirit. Try the European Room on for size (5th floor, right next to household notions and ladies undergarments)

Saturday, December 24, 2011

Penichette 1022FB from Argens-Minervois

We took the plunge -- in a manner of speaking -- to cruise the Canal du Midi in Locaboat's 1022FB. I contacted Roger Van Dyken, one of Locaboat's stateside brokers, to confirm our reservation for next fall. 

We'll pick up our  Penichette 1022FB at Argens-Minervois, but we haven't yet decided which direction to go: up canal toward Carcassone or down canal toward Naerbonne and Beziers. But the trip will be out and back. Any suggestions?

View Larger Map

The 1022FB is virtually identical to the 1020FB:

. . . except that the second, rear sleeping cabin has been replaced by a second sitting area, making this an ideal cruiser for two people:

Oh, and FB stands for "flying bridge," which provides a second steering position "up top," in addition to the one inside (located in the middle or midships main sitting area). The other two styles of penichette are the classique and the aft deck.

The Singing Traffic Cop

Nope, I have no idea what this is about but it probably has something to do with the holiday season. Anyway, for the past several days, every so often, at the corner of Dorrance and Westminster Streets in downtown Providence, there is a whistlin', dancin' traffic cop:

Friday, December 23, 2011

Thursday, December 22, 2011

Strolling through downtown Providence

The weather being sunny this past Thursday I walked downtown for some fresh air and exercise. Euphemistically referred to as "downcity" (there is no "upcity"), I walked from our condo on Westminster Street to the RISD Museum entrance on South Water Street. As I was walking across the city's central bus stop on Exchange Plaza (also known as Kennedy Plaza), I quickly skirted those individuals who had their hands deep into their pants scratching themselves or who were wandering in concentric circles babbling about Armageddon.

But right across from the numerous queues of people waiting for their bus is the Federal Building and Court House. Although described as "beaux arts" style, the building itself looks pedestrian, and if it were not for the two groups of statues facing the plaza, it would be devoid of any character at all.

Designed by J. Massey Rhind of New York, the first group, on the left, represents "Providence as Independent Thought," flanked by "Industry and Education."

The second group, on the right, also designed by Massey, represents "the Nation as Sovereign Power," flanked by "Justice, and Law and Order."

Wednesday, December 21, 2011

Boat availability and which direction to go

I just heard from Roger Van Dyken a week or so ago and me informed that our first choice of boats, the 1022Fb is available the first week of October, not for either of our September dates, and only from Argens-Negra. On the other hand, the 1020FB is available for either one of our target dates: beginning September 17 or 25.

The thing about with 1020 is the wasted space on an additional bedroom and bath.

Alternatively, there is the Europa 400, a more traditional-style cruiser, which is a couple of meters longer than either the 1020 or 1022 Penichettes.

While it does have an extra bedroom forward, the rear "master" bedroom is nicely configured and would meet our needs for a week of lazy traveling down a French waterway.
As for trip itinerary, we're  going to be flexible regarding one-way versus round trip. The former might be a bit more ideal for two of us since it's a tad easier handling the locks going down canal than up but it's certianly not a deal breaker.

Also whether we begin at Argens or Negra is not crucial. Cruisin' is the key, eh?

As we finalize the precise boat style and trip direction over the next couple of weeks -- and lock in our early bird discount --  I hope to identify a few places, magical or otherwise, we hope to visit some while en route. Think Carcassone. . .

For those of you who just love to cut n' paste:
The 1022FB:
The 1020FB:

Sunday, December 18, 2011

Lady in Pink by William Merritt Chase

Lady in Pink, 1888, by William Merritt Chase
From RISD13Nov

From the collection of the RISD Museum.

Saturday, December 17, 2011

Elizabeth Ann Linley by Thomas Gainsborough

From the collection of the Sterling and Francine Clark Art Institute.

Friday, December 16, 2011

Madame X by John Singer Sargent

Quite the scandal when the painting was exhibited in Paris, here is the original version of Madame X, Mrs. Pierre Gautreau, followed by the public version - it's all in that little strap. . .