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Posts tagged ‘Inspiration’

Two Weeks In Paris

Paris holds a special place in my heart because it is the city where my grandmother was born. I remember my first journey to Paris; I was in awe of the gardens, the lights, the perfect symmetry of the city and the beautiful bridges that cross the Seine….Well, really I was in awe of everything that gives Paris that unique atmosphere which transports you to a different time and place.

I also remember seeing the monuments of Paris, such as the Eiffel Tower and Arc de Triumph, and knowing that my grandmother must have seen these sights too as they tower visibly from several vantage points across the city. I still feel a little more connected to her each time I return to Paris.

These past two weeks were even more special because I was able to share her city with my mom and aunt. This was my aunts first time in Paris and it was fun to watch her face as she saw the famous sights that are bigger, brighter and more amazing than mere photographs can capture. And when you see these sights for the first time you can not help but look up and mouth… “Wow”, as you try to take in all the details.

As I look at the photographs from our Paris trip, I notice that my mom and aunt are often looking up or pointing out something to each other. Making sure that each of us doesn’t miss some detail that could go unnoticed or that photographs can’t capture. Either the photo is in full zoom and you miss how large the structure is or you take a wide angle photo that will not capture the detail in what we are seeing. In several of the pictures, I can just hear my aunt say to her sister, “Marcelle, look at that.”

That is the way it is in Paris because there is so much to see everywhere. Every time I return I make new discoveries and see something that I may have passed by on a another trip and not noticed.

We went to all the big sights. There was a “to do” list on the mirror in the living room of our apartment. Anyone could add to the list and I made sure we got around to the requested sights. Every evening the three of us gathered around a map, also posted in the living room apartment, as I highlighted where we had been that day in relationship to what we had already discovered in Paris.

We spent a day in Versailles, we went to several churches and at least five museums including Musée d’Orsay and the Orangerie. We walk in the Garden of Tuileries, and spent time walking in the laid back and artistic Montmartre and Latin Quarters. We went to evening concerts at Norte Dame and St. Chappell. We had dinner and enjoyed a show at the famous Moulin Rouge and also enjoyed a Mother’s Day dinner cruise on the Seine.

Since we had so much time in the city, we were able to leisurely take our time and absorb our environment. We enjoyed going to the nearby produce stand nearly every afternoon for the freshest fruits and vegetables. Then we would go next door to the bakery to get fresh baked bread. The other specialty food stores would round off our shopping. It is the Parisian way to buy fresh food daily rather than “stockpile” for a week or more. We found this was a fun experience to share together. However tired we were from a day of museums and touring we always seemed to have energy to shop for groceries.

Yes, we indeed had a packed two weeks while in Paris. What surprised me is that upon returning to a couple of museums, I turned the corner and saw a picture of a favorite artist and I thought, “Oh, there you are.” Like an old friend who had been waiting for me to return again. I found this city still had surprises for me and still leaves me in awe at her magnificence.

I loved walking around and taking in the city at a slower pace. I loved watching the stain glass turn colors as the sun set during an evening concert. I loved the outings for crepes or creme brûlée which seemed to become a daily event. I loved our latte breaks to discuss all we had seen that morning and late night conversations which made morning coffee a requirement. But most of all, I loved this special time together with my grandmother’s two girls. I know that I will cherish our time in Paris my entire life.

Attached is a link to a video of our time in Paris. The black and white photo is of my grandmother and great-grandmother before they had left Paris at the end of the First World War. I made this video for my mom and aunt as a reminder our incredible time together. I can’t wait for the next trip. Enjoy!

















Masada, Ein Gedi and the Dead Sea

An hour south of Jerusalem is an historic flat top rock mountain with cliffs on all sides called Masada. The first fortress built on this mount was completed in 150 BC by Jonathan the Maccabee. The same Maccabee’s that were the force of the Jewish revolt at that time.

Later the Maccabee’s ruled during the Hasmonean Dynasty and are still remembered today during Hanukkah celebrations. Herod the Great decided to rebuild during his reign, just over a hundred years later, in the only way he knew how….with total exuberance.

However, what Masada is most know for is that second revolt. The one that occurred after the second temple was destroyed by the Romans. (Yes, the same second tempe that was incidentally built by Herod the Great.) The group that was left from this revolt fled to Masada. About one thousand men, women and children were able to survive as long as they did with the provisions that Herod had generously left behind. It took three years before the Romans were within reach of the top of the cliff. When they arrived they found their enemy, dead. The massive group suicide left a message….Better to die than live as slaves. To this day Israeli’s vow that Masada shall “never fall again.”

Many hike up to the top but I choose to ride the cable car in both directions to maximize my time on the mountain. I was so glad I did. I purchase the audio guide and walked through the fortress but the two hours I was given was not enough. I was surprised to learn how large the surface area of the top of the mountain was and I was even more surprised how much Herod actually built here.

I continue to be impressed with this man that left so much behind. However, after seeing his reconstructed sarcophagus in the city museum, I am not sure he realized that he would end up like everyone else. In the end, historians, not himself, would describe in their own terms who he was as a man.

After leaving the mountain we visited the nearby peaceful spring in the desert called Ein Gedi. Water bubbled and fell from the death of the desert to bring life. Beside the water was green grass and trees in the middle of nothingness.

This area is mentioned several times in the old testament. In Joshua, Ezekiel, Samuel I, Song of Songs, and Ecclesiasticus. However, the highest falls, named David Falls, is said to be the place mentioned in Samuel I, where King David hid from King Saul.

We walked to the top of the falls and I thought that if I had to hide out for a while, this would not be a bad place. We stayed longer than anticipated but decided that we could have lunch any day but to be in this calm; This was not easily left behind.

Soon after we were in the van headed for the jewel that was “just in view” all day: The Dead Sea. We bobbed like a fishing bobbers in the water and laughed at the feel of it. It was easiest to just lay back in the salt water and rest form the early morning. The water had healing power, or so they say, so what else was there to do….Well, maybe one thing.

One by one we scooped up the mud and cover our bodies in the clay that would be an expensive treatment in any nearby spa. Some of us put more effort than others on applying the thick substance to our skin. We laughed as the waves lapped on our legs and we had to redo our handiwork.

It seemed like forever for the clay to bake into crust in the hot summer sun. When we could not stand it anymore we were back in the Sea or nearby showers. Some hoping for the miracles that they claim. All I noticed was, whether the sea or clay, my skin felt so much softer than it had earlier.

And thus ended my day in an area that was a symbol of martyrdom, reconciliation and hedonism. What a combination!






























Phnom Pen – Rising From The Ashes

The capitol of Cambodia is a raw and bustling entanglement of street venders, vehicles, businessmen, bicycles and sidewalk restaurants. Motorbike and tuk tuk drivers ask each passerby if they need a ride. Police sit in corner restaurants or stand by street intersections and observe the daily chaos.

As I walk around the city there is an unmistakeable friendliness that fills the air. Despite the poverty and long working hours of the people there are smiles everywhere. People want to get to know you. As I walked to the river one tuk tuk driver asked if I wanted a ride, “Tuk tuk?” “No, I am walking.” As point my index and middle finder down and move them back and forth as legs walking. “Oh….. Walking!” The driver pauses smiles and adds, “Walking is good too.”

Highlights in Phnom Pen include visiting the Royal Palace, National History Museum and walking by the river. It was a meaningful experience to visit the museums and memorial for the the victims of Pol Pots reign. Above all however, I enjoyed attending two Cambodian Living Arts (CLA) performances at the National Museum.

The CLA was formed in 1998 by Arn Chorn-Pond, a survivor of the Khmer Rouge genocide. About ninety percent of Cambodia’s artists were killed during the reign of Khmer Rouge and the traditional arts were at risk of extinction. The CLA was formed to keep the traditional Cambodian arts alive with a focus of providing opportunities for under privileged children to learn the arts and further pursue their educational endeavors.

My time in the capitol city proved that people are resilient and where there is a spark, a flame can be rekindled in the human spirit.








Dancing in Bali

Watching at least one traditional Balinese dance is well worth your time. I thought the styles were as unique as any I have seen before and thought these events were worth there own post.

The stories of the dances are as ordinary a tale as in any culture. Stories of good, bad, right, wrong and love. The subjects are of demon kings, witches, gods, goddesses, prince and princesses and as in any Disney tale the good guy always seems to win. Many of the dances are also performed in a series of acts. However, the unique aspect of Balinese dance is the music and the dance itself.

The music for the dance is made from one of two sources: The first is sounds made from men who play and instrument which looks like a short xylophone bench. The men sit cross legged at this instrument and use a small pointed hammer to strike the keys on the instrument making a “ping” sound. The second form of music is made from a choir of voices. These men sit in a large circle in a trance-like state with the dance happening in the center of the circle. The men each say one word syllables like “tutt…tutt…tutt” at different speeds and octaves creating a soothing sound.

The performers wear elaborate costumes and make-up. Evil demons seem to always wear scary masks. The movement of the dancers is more deliberate that I have ever seen. Every foot, every finger, every head movement has a precise location for every poise. The women somehow made their head move side to side in an inhuman looking manner. When their head slid one direction, with there face straight out toward the crowd, their eyes slid the opposite direction. The speed at which they performed this movement must have taken years of practice to perfect. In one act, two women danced this style of dance in complete synchronization with their eyes closed the entire time.

My favorite dance was something that took me completely by surprise. I did not even have my camera ready to shoot a picture. A man in a grass skirt was dancing around a flame as all the dancers had been doing most of the night. Then out of know where he started jumping on the hot coals and stomping on them. Then the “helpers” sweep the coals in a circle again and he did it two more times! I was sure it had to be a trick so when he sat down I took a close up photo of the dancers feet. Sure enough, there were coal marks on his feet. What a way to earn a living!?!