Monthly Archives: August 2012

Horsies and Duckies At The Louvre

When I started this blog to record what I am learning about France, it seemed like I had such a long time to read all the books on my list, to watch the DVD’s and to create a detailed itinerary of what I want to see.  However,  the urgency of busyness and my health problems caused a lot of my plans to be shelved. Presently,  I feel like I am a student cramming for exams as I watch lectures on the Louvre, skim through guidebooks, read a few more memoirs of people living in France and watch just a few more French movies.  However, I am becoming increasingly aware that my objective to be really knowledgeable and informed needs to become more realistic as I only have three weeks before departure.

My frustration that I didn’t absorb as much about France as I would have liked stems from my ignorance when Greg and I went on an European bus tour when we were in our twenties.   It’s embarrassing to admit that I had no desire to go to the Louvre as I didn’t even  understand its significance.  At any rate, Greg and I chose to walk along the Seine River while friends of ours went to the Louvre.   Ironically, we had a really relaxing time and they returned despondent since it was closed.  It must have been a Tuesday!!  Anyways, I thought I should be a little more culturally astute this time!

Besides knowledge, I am aware that some travellers also have epiphanies about themselves as they interact with their new surroundings.  I finished reading  Traveling With Pomegranates which is a memoir by mother and daughter who described their travels to Greece and France and how each one of these women explored themes of identity.  Sue Monk Kidd reflected  on aging and looked closely at all paintings that included Anne the Virgin Mary’s mother.  Ann Kidd examined her lack of self-worth and had the epiphany that she wanted to be a writer as she reflected on paintings and icons of Mary, Athena and Joan of Arc.  Their intense journal reflections made me think of an old Charlie Brown Comic Strip that I found in its entirety on the following web-site:

Van Pelt: Aren’t the clouds beautiful? They look like big balls of cotton. I could just lie here all day and watch them drift by. If you use your imagination, you can see lots of things in the cloud’s formations. What do you think you see, Linus?

Linus Van Pelt: Well, those clouds up there look to me look like the map of the British Honduras on the Caribbean. [points up]  That cloud up there looks a little like the profile of Thomas Eakins,  the famous painter and sculptor. And that group of clouds over there… [points]  …gives me the impression of the Stoning of Stephen. I can see the Apostle Paul standing there to one side.

Lucy Van Pelt: Uh huh. That’s very good. What do you see in the clouds, Charlie Brown?

Charlie Brown: Well… I was going to say I saw a duckie and a horsie, but I changed my mind.

In other words, my reflections as I travel are not always that serious or that personal or that revelatory.   Does this mean that my holiday will not be as significant or as meaningful?  Does it mean that because my knowledge of the history of France is very elementary and my knowledge of the French language is that of a preschooler my appreciation for France is lessened?    Well, undoubtedly the answer is yes.  However, as I read the dialogue from the Charlie Brown comic strip, Charlie Brown still saw something in the clouds, didn’t he?  He may not have been able to see what the more intellectually informed could see, but had he not been intimidated by them, he could still have appreciated those clouds and the images that he saw in them.  It’s like watching a basketball game.  Greg understands all the complexities of the game and I only understand that the object is to get the ball in the basket.  My enjoyment may be more “child-like”  but it still exists.

 Therefore, when I go into  a famous building like the Louvre,  I know that my appreciation for its many paintings  will  be limited since I don’t understand those fundamentals of art such as its composition, colour distribution or the author’s manipulation of pictorial space.  And yet, like Charlie Brown, I can look at the image before me and still see something that may give me pleasure.  And fortunately for me, I have guidebooks that may also point me toward a more intellectual response so that when I gaze at the “Fete Champetre,” I will see more than two well dressed men and two naked ladies sitting outside on the grass. As I have begun watching the lectures about the Louvre through Teaching Company, I need to embrace what Professor Richard Brettell says about our tour of the Louvre and for me my tour of all of France:   “Relax, you can never know it all.”

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Posted by on August 28, 2012 in Books, France, Paris, Travel, Uncategorized



I may be “Bound for France” but it sure  hasn’t been in a straight line.  I’m not sure why I write that in surprise since Greg and I were not sure even when we purchased the airline tickets if we would definitely be sitting on that Air Canada airplane preparing for lift off to Paris.  My constant health problems has made our decision to go on this trip really  difficult. Besides dealing with constant fatigue due to Fibromyalgia, I have been coughing for 9 months that has been diagnosed as asthma.  This cough has greatly improved but  hopefully, when I see the lung specialist at the end of October, he will suggest something that will get it under complete control.

Why then am I a little discouraged since I haven’t been walking those miles every day to become physically stronger?  Part of the problem is that  I have a rather naive optimism that no matter how often I have setbacks they  surprise me.  For example, for the past 15 years, my body temperature is always warmer than other people’s and when I am exposed to great heat my body just “melts” and I turn into a lifeless rag doll whose legs aren’t strong enough to walk  on her own.  And yet, as Greg and I sat in a stifling room that had only ceiling fans to circulate the hot air, I still hoped that I would be able to withstand the heat and stay at least long enough to hear the wedding speeches after the dinner.  Surprise!!!  Greg had to drive me home early.  Two days later,  my body is still in the recovery stage.

To continue my rant, since a car accident in 1978, I have had constant neck pain that can flare so that my mobility becomes more limited and my headaches become a vice where I think if I could just poke a hole in my head, some of the pressure would ooze out.  Since the new year, I have aggressively been trying to stabilize the pain by getting massages, acupuncture, laser and presently, intra-muscualr stimulation.

And no, I haven’t finishing lamenting as I think about the torture I receive every night since I seldom  get into a deep rem sleep.  A good night’s sleep is around 5 hours.

And yet, I also know that I have much to be grateful for.  There have been years of health symptoms where we couldn’t even consider this kind of holiday. We did go on a lovely trip to Greece with our daughter but there was still too much emphasis on, “Okay Gayle, you can do this.  Put one foot forward and now the next.”    My heart’s desire is to be fully present on a holiday or for that matter anywhere!!   And that is where I am very hopeful for this trip since one of my doctors has really helped me come out of what we Fibromyalgia and Chronic Fatigue Sufferers  call a “brain fog.”

I do not succumb to self-pity very often since I have never found it particularly helpful to me and it certainly isn’t enjoyable for others to witness.  I think it has occurred today since we are 27 days away from heading to France and that destructive emotion called fear has surfaced.  And yet, I know I should rebuke this fear and recall how far I have come since the day that  Greg and I began spending  thousands of dollars looking for answers for all of my health symptoms.  Some of those dollars we have lost, other dollars at least gave us hope when we needed it, and still others actually strengthened my body.  For that I am grateful.

Interestingly, fear slithers away when I put my attention on my progress.  I am particularly thankful  that last week after  yet another CT scan, my oncologist tells me that I am doing well.  She wants me to continue seeing her every four months especially since I have had two bouts of cancer in one year and the probability of its return is then higher.  I am not as afraid of its return as I am afraid that I will not have experienced fully all the abundance and goodness that this world offers to each one of us.  And as I close my eyes recalling how ill I was last summer and fall due to the radiotherapy, and then how the new year began with an extremely debilitating and exhausting cough,  I know that this setback shall also pass.   I may not be that eagle soaring in a straight line to its destination but even zigzagging gets me eventually to where I want to be and presently that is to France!

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Posted by on August 20, 2012 in France, Paris, Travel


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