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Showing posts from September, 2019

Albi on the Tarn

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Having arrived by train from Toulouse in early afternoon, I was greeted by a peaceful ambiance that belied the bloody history of this river town. Albi was an active center of Catharism in southwestern France in the 13th century. The Catholic Church considered their beliefs heretical and was challenged by their existence. In 1209, Pope Innocent III launched a crusade against the Cathars led by Simon de Montfort. The Albigensian Crusade as it was called, was a ruthless 20-year war that extinguished the Catharis until they no longer posed a threat to the Church. In the aftermath of the crusade, the King of France solidified his stronghold in the Languedoc by taking the estates of the Counts of Toulouse and the independent princes. The Catholic Church reclaimed their hold of Albi with the construction of the fortress-like Cathedral of Sainte Cécile which started in 1282. Sainte Cécile is the largest brick built cathedral in the world. The Cathedral's 78-meter (256 ft.) steeple served …

Suite Dreams

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When someone wishes you “Bon Voyage” and they really mean it. You arrive at the gate and they give you a boarding pass listing your seat assignment in first class. You are the first to board the aircraft and when you get to your suite, the flight attendant asks you if you would like champagne, mimosa or orange juice. Pretty soon it’s time for cocktails. Delta Airlines warms up the mixed nuts they serve. Can’t get enough of it. Then a four course dinner paired with the right wine from a list drawn by a connoisseur follows. After the dinner service you may close your door and enjoy a movie or two. When flying across the Pacific I indulge in Japanese movies with powerful stories about ordinary people. It’s a long flight home and you wish to lie down and stretch your tired, old body. The seat reclines to reveal a bed. You have a warm comforter and fluffy pillow. Suite dreams.

The spacious first class cabin of Delta Airlines.

Delta amenity kit in a Tumi bag, slippers and bottled water.

How to…

The Aura of Calm

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On a recent unexpected layover in Tokyo, we were lucky to find a hotel in Shinagawa with a beautiful strolling garden. I would have missed it had I not caught a glimpse of greenery from the lobby after my morning walk. Since there was not much time before checkout, I skipped to the back door to discover this secret garden in the shadow of towering buildings. I wanted to learn more about Japanese gardens after this trip and found that there are several elements  defining a Japanese garden. 
First of these are the trees and plants which are especially chosen to provide texture. Various types of shrubbery, grasses, moss, conifers and trees are carefully selected depending on the type of garden. There are no shade trees. Subtle use of color is achieved with flowering trees and shrubs like azaleas, camellias and hydrangeas. A stone pagoda lantern completes the picture. Water and carp. The Japanese garden is a refuge of calm especially for city dwellers weary of the daily grind and water has …

Marc Chagall Museum in Nice

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In 1966, Marc Chagall donated the group of paintings collectively known as “Biblical Message” to the French State. These paintings were exhibited at the Louvre and became the inspiration for the Musée National Marc Chagall in Nice which was inaugurated in 1973 and attended by the artist himself. This biblical series of 17 large scale paintings form the core of the exhibition. 250 works were initially donated by Chagall. Aside from the paintings, there are sculptures, bas reliefs, a ceramic piece, lithographs and copies of his illustrated books. A mosaic wall called, The Prophet Elijah, presides in the courtyard.

Every Chagall painting has more than one story to tell. I learned to watch for the little vignettes scattered throughout his canvases so I wouldn’t miss the rich narratives that define his works.

The Creation of Man, 1956-58 An angel carries Adam from the ocean where animals thrived prior to the creation of man. The rays of a swirling sun evoke the artistic style of Delaunay (who…