Florence, Italy

Florence….light and romance…history…Botticelli…the smell of leather…open piazzas where people gather…a Duomo that is so beautiful…a sense of spirituality everywhere.  We stayed at Michaelangelo’s Campground…an awesome venue within walking distance of central Florence.  I attended the Uffizi gallery and wasn’t disappointed to wander and see so many of the works I had studied in University…initially I had decided against this, but do not regret the decision to plan for and manage the three hour line. 
I loved weaving in and out of leather market alleys…the smell was so yummy!  We also strolled along the Pont Vecchio where the brilliant gold jewelery is displayed….looking at the sad state of the Arno River made me ache for home although I tried to capture it in evening light where the quality of the water wasn’t evident and one could imagine the stunning beauty of the river before human consumption.
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What a ‘magical’ experience to have the opportunity to stay for even a short time with friends in the countryside outside of a small perched village, Casole d’Elsa situated between Volterre and Siena! When I got home I was disappointed in the quality of my photographs simply because IT IS TRUE what they say about the light in Tuscany!  It is ethereal and rose-coloured…it is absolutely beautiful!
We were hosted by a wonderful Berlin family and their friends and they gave us such a warm and ‘real’ experience…I will never forget their kindness and how they opened up their summerhome to us.
Having traveled by bus from Florence our first morning, we were picked up in the small town of Colle di Val d’Elsa, just to the west of the famous Chianti region of Tuscany.  Our friend took us via the winding narrow roads past many fields of sunflowers, golden grain and cypress trees to a short tour above the countryside and then off to his home.  All of it…his hospitality, yet another gelato and the true experience of the countryside was refreshing…a time to take pause.
I attempted quick little sketches in watercolour although one of my fingers had been broken back in Cinque Terre…and I’d love to complete a significant painting in the studio of my remembrance of such a special place. I will never forget the expanse of the night sky and the cool Tuscan air (doors and windows wide open) and the brilliant stars, their light reaching deep into my happy heart. Thank you to our new friends for this happy time!

Venice, Italy

Venice…a surreal city…a place of dreams.  Homes, places of business nestled on top of the water…an unbelievable situation.  Every step I took, I was in awe of the buildings, streets, plazas and grand churches being built in such a precarious situation.
No, I didn’t go out onto a gondola…but did have one evening ride on a waterbus.  We wove through very narrow passageways (streets) and took many sorts of bridges and eventually found our way to La Biennale di Venezia.  I could not believe that our timing was such that I could attend an exhibit of this caliber, one that I had heard about for years.  I will include photos of some of the pavilions we visited…very exciting indeed!  Thanks again to my daughter who helped to make so many of my dreams come true!  She was so patient and she had such an ability to communicate in Italian.  I am so proud of her.


Paris…a beautiful exploration of monuments, gardens, bridges and a return to the Musee D’Orsay…one of my favourite galleries!  I will write more extensively about my experiences after I read over my journals and formulate a brief summary that will serve this blog.
The city of lights and romance!  Everything about Paris smacks of beauty.  The women are absolutely gorgeous in a very classical way…they are dressed in the most remarkable clothing…they even seem to stand taller than Canadian women.  Paris is a spiderweb of Metro ‘lignes’ and narrow ‘rues’.  I was happy about how I navigated us through and around both streets and menus because I know that in Italy I relied very much on my daughter for those very things.  I felt more independent in Paris and was swept up in the art, the food and the lovely walks by the Seine.
The exhibit Cezanne to Picasso was a wonderful surprise and the paintings, an unfamiliar collection, were exceptional.  The most breathtaking was a small painting of two sunflowers done by Vincent Van Gogh.  It was delicious in it’s ultramarine blue background and gorgeous stippled yellows of the flowers.  I stood and cried in front of that one and was grateful for traveling to Paris for that single moment. 
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I have returned to Calgary safely and I’m celebrating our big blue Alberta sky and the embrace of my two teens, the dog and the cat.

I begin the story of my summer travels with things that I saw and experienced most recently and will make entries backwards to July 12th and my arrival in London, England.  It is appropriate that I should begin with a dream come true…a very intimate and soulful visit to Giverny where Claude Monet lived and painted…a meander through the footpaths above the town to see the views he would have experienced, a tour of his home and the excitement of vivid colours and Japanese woodblock prints…French foods and wine…connections with local people and sleeping in a Medieval stone home…many experiences that I will add here as I go.  The photos will also be titled differently as I continue to forge through the 3000 photos I took on this journey.  This is just a beginning.  I am filled with gratitude and fond memories of a journey to Giverny in Normandy with my artist friend from art college 1998-99.

When I was in University, I’m sure my friend and I had a special place in our hearts for the Impressionists and especially Claude Monet.  Her mother and father had sprawling country gardens on their farm property outside of Barons, Alberta and my own parents had been serious gardeners for as long as I could remember.  In 2001 I attached a small calendar image of Monet’s water lily gardens to my fridge door, thinking that perhaps if I was very positive and projected the possibility of a journey to Giverny onto my life map, perhaps it would happen.

Just one week ago I stood on a bridge in that very garden all alone. Because of a very special circumstance…on a brilliant blue day…I had gained access to these peaceful gardens and painted two small sketches.  The memory as I write this morning gives me chills.  It was an unbelievable situation, place and time!

Giverny Waterlilies12