Artnotes Italy Daily

Monday, April 03, 2006

Artnotes: This or THIS?

"Why does everyone in Paris have such a sour expression?" a friend, visiting from America asks. On the way to the airport to meet my friend, I had been thinking exactly the same thing. So, I put a pleasant thought in my head and a pleasant expression on my face. The man sitting across from me on the train thought the smile was for him, and tried to seduce me, with his eyes, for the rest of the voyage. I laughed right out loud after he left the train.

No matter how long I stay in France, there is always something new to learn, to discover. A new word or expression pops up every other day.

We took our friends, S and K, for a mini-tour of Northwestern France. Normandy D-day beaches and cemeteries, Mont St Michel and in Brittany, Pont-Aven. We splashed in the icy waves of the Atlantic and visited the 800 megaliths from Druid times. Somehow the weather cooperated, or at least we didn't notice the rain.

This took our mind off a failed plan to interview for a job in Hong Kong. The last minute our prospective boss reneged on his offer to pay our passage; then he diminished the salary for the job. "He was just bottom fishing," a friend tells us. I withdrew to my octopus's garden.

We covered hundreds of highway miles on the trip, the French countryside unrolling in green sheets to the left and right of us. I prefer the highway to the secondary roads, where every other village has a commercial center, a study in ugly architecture, punctuated by advertising. This is a new, and continuing development, undoubtedly part of the recreational shopping craze that is sweeping the western world.

I set aside my worries this trip, and take heart in a number of painting sales of late (thank you!). I only start one painting on this trip, a view from the hotel window to the Virgin Mary beacon at Port-en-Bessin. The maid interrupts my devotion, and I finish the painting at home. I painted today's painting from memory.

Out the car window, I love the look of spring, before the trees have their leaves. The round clumps of mistletoe provide a polka dot background to forsythia and green fields. At Christmastime, enterprising individuals shoot the mistletoe from the trees and sell it at the markets. Today, daffodils burst from the earth. Horses run in their fields.

The north is never touted as the most beautiful part of France, but I beg to differ. Big waves crash onto the sandy Brittany beaches, unpeopled except for the high rise haven of La Baule, easily avoided. We go out to Port Maneche, where the oysters are gathered, and continue to the "big ocean". Scrambling along the rocks, the surf splashes up a good twelve feet, trying to douse us. The light peeks in and out, and I feel as if I am at the optometrist: "which looks better, this or THIS?"

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