Paris in 1976

Dan and I first visited Paris in 1976, arriving at Gare de l’Est on May 31. Our first day was stressful because our lodging arrangements made in advance by correspondence somehow fell through. On a limited budget, we were unable to afford a hotel. Fortunately, people at the Society of Friends office in Paris were able to arrange a room for us at guest house in a convenient location on the left bank.

Years later, I recall walking along the Avenue des Champs Élysées from the Place de la Condorde to Charles de Gaulle-Étoile, and I remember how hair-raising it was at that time to be a pedestrian trying to reach the Arc de Triomphe.

Image by Anton Lovász from Pixabay

The Arc is surrounded by a traffic circle that’s typically filled with fast-moving cars. The technique for getting across was to wait until a large group had gathered so that everyone could venture forth together.

Today there are two pedestrian tunnels that go under the traffic circle, but the technique for crossing still applies for other busy streets where there are lights to stop traffic while pedestrians cross.

In 1976, Paris was a great place for students on a tight budget. One of the best bargains was the Metro, which provided quick and convenient transportation.

Image by Rayman78 via Wikimedia Commons, distributed under a CC-BY-SA 4.0 license

Although the buses routes were more difficult to understand, we had a memorable ride that took us through the Bois de Boulogne which appeared to be under the protection of a large tribe of cats.

Photo by Nick Zefish, distributed under a CC-BY-SA 3.0 license

We stayed in Paris for about two seeks. Although full summer had not arrived, the midday heat was sometimes oppressive. So we adopted the habit of lounging under a cafe table umbrella and sipping anise-flavored pastis diluted with cold water.

For breakfast we’d visit a cafe for a croissant or brioche and strong, hot coffee. Lunch was usually a snack from a boulangerie (bakery) or street vendor. One day we visited the MacDonald’s restaurant on the Champs Elysee to see how if the hamburgers that chain served in Paris were better than those served in the USA (they were). Another day we purchased attractive saffron-colored Moroccan pastries that turned out to be so intensely sweetened with honey that we were unable to eat more than a few bites.

By carefully conserving our centimes and francs during the day, we were able to splurge on dinners at neighborhood restaurants where waiters used creative methods, including making sketches on table coverings, to explain the prix fixe menu choices.

Until 202, when the Euro was adopted, centimes and francs were the currency of France. I still remember the look and feel of those earlier coins. I was also stuck by the colorful banknotes.

Coins of France prior to adoption of the Euro

We were not able to afford notable vintages, but we enjoyed the house wines served with our meals. Coming from California, though, we were partisans of Napa Valley. As it turned out, even French experts gave high marks to California wines in the famous tasting that’s come to be known as The Judgement of Paris that was held on May 24, 1776. Decades later, however, I have a growing preference for French wine. Competition can be a good thing.

For those interested in further exploring the Paris of 1976, I’ve embedded some YouTube videos from the period.

This first video below, has accompanying music but no commentary. Jumping from place to place, it gives glimpses of what Paris looked like in 1976, but it doesn’t provide an organized tour or overview.

Archival footage shot by a filmmaker while visiting France in 1976.

The next video below is a documentary made in 1975. It focuses on the changes that were occurring at the time. The dialog is in French.

1975: The old Paris that is disappearing

The next video below focuses on markets in Paris. The dialog is in French.

1975: The markets of Paris

The first minute of this video will give you idea of the Metro experience, both in 1976 and still today. Once caveat I’d offer is that many older Metro stations have only stairs rather than the more modern escalators. The video continues with more in-depth information about the Metro. The dialog is in French.

Behind the scenes of the Metro in 1975

This video has no dialog, just the sounds of the car from which the video was taken during a fast and furious drive across Paris.

This video focuses mainly on historic conservation work, but it has some footage from working bakeries of 1978. The dialog is in French.

1978: In the historic bakeries of Paris

Rome in 1992

I first visited Rome with my mother in October of 1992. Soon after we checked into our hotel, we were met by cousins and taken to a birthday party. We’d gotten off a plane mere hours before and had not slept for over 24 hours. To stay awake, I drank many cups of espresso. When the party ended, sometime after midnight, our cousin asked as we walked to his car what sights we particularly wished to see in Rome. After I described our wish list, he declared that he would take us on a tour right then, as it was absolutely the best time for driving in Rome. As I recall, it was about 2 am. So the photos I’ve selected for my slideshow, courtesy of other photographers, are an attempt to capture my first experience of Rome while in a somewhat altered state of consciousness.

I returned to Rome in December of 1993, accompanied by my husband Dan. We were once again embraced by my Italian cousins, who welcomed us into their home and organized another party. The wonderful staff at our hotel then helped us to organize a party of our own so that we could say farewell to everyone before returning to the USA to celebrate Christmas with family.

For many years, we’ve wanted to return to Italy. We were scheduled to do so in May of 2020. At that time, however, the world was in the grip of a pandemic that hit Italy especially hard. So until I’m able to visit Rome again, I’ll enjoy my memories of that amazing city.

Visiting Pebble Beach

In June of 2011, I visited Pebble Beach with my youngest brother and his dog. The dog had a great time, and so did we.

There’s a scenic road, known as the 17-Mile Drive, with many turnouts where you can park your car, stretch your legs, and admire the scenery. Spanish Bay, towards the northern end, has an excellent beach as well as a picnic area and walking paths through mounds of large pebbles and dunes meadows. There are some other beaches as well, but most of the coastline is impressively rocky. Depending on where you stop, you can venture out onto the coastal rocks or view them from a higher vantage point.

At Bird Rock, various seabirds congregate along with sea lions, grouping themselves together by species along both horizontal and vertical lines.  At Fanshell Overlook, the beach below belongs to harbor seals, who looks sleek and elegant while sporting in the water, but haul out here and cover the white sands like an array of giant slugs.  During the spring pupping season (April 1 – June 1) this area is closed.  The pups must grow fast.  We came in late June, and all the seals we saw were fairly well grown.

South of Cypress Point Lookout, the coastline has more trees, including the living Lone Cypress* and the dead Ghost Tree.  Continuing south past Pescadaro Point, the 17-Mile Drive turns inward and loops back through the Del Monte Forest, habitat for a number of rare and endangered plant species.

The 17-Mile Drive is a private road, maintained by the Pebble Beach Company. While you can freely hike or bicycle into the area, driving along the road requires payment of a toll. At the time of my visit, the fee was $9.50 per car. If you keep the toll receipt, you can get the the fee deducted from the cost of a meal at a number of restaurants in Pebble Beach. We took advantage of this and enjoyed lunch at Sticks, which probably offers the best vegetarian choices.

If you have a chance to spend a day exploring the 17-Mile Drive in Pebble Beach, I highly recommend it. Take along a jacket, as there can be chilly wind and fog, and don’t forget to bring your camera.

*While the Pebble Beach company objects to commercial use of images of The Lone Cypress as infringements upon its trademark, it’s OK to photograph this tree for personal use or artistic purposes.  A natural object such as a tree cannot be copyrighted.

Art by J. M. W. Turner

During trips to London, I’ve had the opportunity to see many works by J. M. W. Turner. The Tate Britain, which has an extensive collection of works by Turner, provides a unique opportunity to see the range and evolution of style for an individual artist. The National Gallery on London’s Trafalgar Square also has a good sampling of Turner paintings.

Seen at the National Gallery, London

In a poll conducted by the BBC in 2005, The Fighting Temeraire was overwhelmingly voted the greatest painting in a British art gallery.  It was also a favorite painting of Turner himself, who painted it in 1839.  It is one of many paintings bequeathed to the British nation by the artist.

Turner's painting The Fighting Temeraire
The Fighting Temeraire tugged to her last berth to be broken up, 1838
Image from The National Gallery – distributed under a CC BY-NC-ND 4.0 license

As if often the case with oil paintings, online reproductions do not fully capture the range of colors or luminosity of the  original works.  In the case of this painting, it’s interesting to look at a few other examples to get an idea of the limitations of such online reproductions:

Image courtesy Wikimedia Commons
Image courtesy Web Museum
Seen at the Tate Britain

The two works below were presented by Turner as a complementary pair at a Royal Academy exhibition in 1842. A computer screen cannot do justice to these paintings, which provide examples of Turner’s ability to evoke mood as well as his use of imagery to represent abstract concepts.

Peace – Burial at Sea, 1842
Photo © Tate – released under Creative Commons CC-BY-NC-ND (3.0 Unported)
War. The Exile and the Rock Limpet, 1842
Photo © Tate – released under Creative Commons CC-BY-NC-ND (3.0 Unported)
Seen at the Metropolitan Museum of Art

Although London provides enduring opportunities to view Turner’s works, I first came to appreciate his significance during a trip to New York. In 2008, I saw a special exhibition of works by J. M. W. Turner at the Metropolitan Museum of Art, which included over 140 paintings and watercolors by the artist. Most of the works in this exhibition were on temporary loan, but the one shown below is part of the Met’s permanent collection.

Venice, from the Porch of Madonna della Salute (also known as The Grand Canal- Venice)
Image courtesy Metropolitan Museum of Art.

Again, it is instructive to look at the variation across online reproductions:

Image courtesy Wikimedia Commons
Image courtesy Web Museum
Links to more info on Turner:

Keeping Sheep in Ohio

Ohio has many rural areas in which folks practice farming on a small scale, more for enjoyment than for profit. In addition to being able to harvest your own vegetables is the dream of some, a small farm will often have space for some animals. For those so inclined, keeping a small flock of sheep can provide satisfaction in various ways. It also can bring a mixture of both joy and sadness.

The Birth and Death of a Lamb

While I was visiting my brother’s farm in March, two new lambs were born on a cold morning.  My niece, who had gone out to tend to the farm animals, discovered them right after they had been born.  We allowed some time for the mother to be alone and bond, then went out for a look.

The lambs were lovely, but they had not been born at a lucky time.  The temperature had dropped the day before and the air had a sharp bite.  As we approached the barn, a lamb that had been born several weeks earlier during mild weather was frisking about, kept warm by her new growth of wool.  The new lambs, however, looked very cold, and one of them looked distressingly fragile.

Work commenced immediately to help these cold little lambs.  Extra straw was placed in their stall.  Warmed water and enriched food were provided for the mother.  The lambs were bottle-fed a supplement.  Additional heat lamps were installed and other animals brought into the barn to generate additional warmth.  Even so, one lamb did not make it.

The picture you see here was taken during that morning visit to the barn, when the lambs were no more than a few hours old.  The one you see here is the lamb that lived.

London: Hampton Court

Hampton Court Palace

Travel from central London to Hampton Court can be accomplished in 3-4 hours via boat or in 30-40 minutes via train. While the boat trip would have been scenic, as well as the method of travel used when the first palace was built by Cardinal Wolsey (chief minister to Henry VIII) around 1514, we always opt for the shorter train trip. This gives us a full day to enjoy the large palace and extensive grounds. If you are visiting Hampton Court Palace for the first time, I heartily recommend planning to spend a full day, including a lunch or dinner at one of the on-site venues.

The palace comprises the original Tudor structure, enlarged by Henry VIII after the property passed to him, and extensive additions in the Baroque style commissioned by William III of Orange.

Starting with the grounds, we strolled through the formal gardens which date from the time of William and Mary, visited the maze and wilderness garden, enjoyed watching the swans with their new goslings on the lake, walked through the hornbeam bower, admired the pond gardens near Banqueting House, and checked out the Great Vine — a remarkable grape vine planted in the 1700’s which now yields over 500 lbs of grapes each year.

Within the palace walls, we visited the Great Hall (where Shakespeare’s company performed), the richly appointed Chapel Royal, the Clock Courtyard, the Tudor-style garden in Chapel Court, the ancient oak spiral staircases, the royal apartments in both the Tudor and Baroque sections of the palace, and William’s Guard Hall and Dining Rooms. We also enjoyed viewing artwork from the Royal Collection, which included ceramics and furniture, as well as tapestries and paintings. In particular, the portraits of Henry VIII and his family painted by Hans Holbein and others, were interesting both historically and artistically.

The highlight of the interior palace for us was Henry’s Kitchens, replete with engaging actors in costume and food historians happy to share their knowledge. In these rooms, meals were prepared for banquets seating up to 600 in the Great Hall and for the approximately 1200 people who lived in the palace during the time of Henry VIII.

London: 2101 Butterfly House

I was at Kew Gardens during the Summer Festival that was held May 29 – September 5, 2010. During this time, there was a Butterfly House located in the Princess of Wales Conservatory. This provided an excellent opportunity to observe and photograph a variety of butterflies.

butterfly perched on flower

You can see more photos from this visit in my Kew Gardens slideshow.

London: 2010 Elephant Parade

Kingdom Elephant
Elephant Kingdom by Rebecca Campbell

During our 2010 visit to London, as we were walking across St. James Park, we saw several large, colorful statues of elephants.  These were part of Elephant Parade London, an event designed to raise funds and increase awareness of the endangered status of Asian elephants, whose numbers have declined by 90% over the past 100 years.  The 2010 London Elephant Parade comprised 260 elephant statues that were on display for two months in various locations around London.  The parade ended with an auction of the top 30 elephants held on the grounds of the Royal Hospital Chelsea.  Additional elephants were sold via an online auction.  In the process, approximately 3 million pounds were raised for Elephant Family, a British charity dedicated to saving the Asian elephant from extinction.  Above to the left is Kingdom by artist Rebecca Campbell.  We spotted this elephant at Sloane Square in Chelsea.  To the right below is Gaia Elephant, who we found nearby on King’s Road.  Gaia is the creation of artists Carolyn MacLeod, Kevin Darke, and Carlamaria Jackson.

Gaia Elephant by C. Macleod, K. Darke, C. Jackson

After spotting various elephant statues around London, we found small replicas from past Elephant Parades for sale in Selfridges. We became the fond owners of a miniature “Tomato” by artist Kongchan Thanom, which appeared in the Amsterdam 2009 Elephant Parade.

You can visit the Elephant Parade website to learn more about past, present, and future Elephant Parades.  There’s also a webshop where you can purchase miniature replicas from past Elephant Parades. 

Copenhagen: SMK

Statens Museum for Kunst Exterior – Image courtesy Wikimedia Commons

The SMK (Statens Museum for Kunst) is the National Gallery of Denmark. It has an interesting collection of works from various times and places. The interior space of the museum, giving a wonderful sense of space and light, is in itself an aesthetic experience. In addition to paintings and graphic arts, the SMK provides dimensional variety with displays of sculpture. The thoughtful layout of rooms also provides ample opportunities to sit and contemplate, something I find sadly lacking in many major art museums.

Statens Museum for Kunst Interior Room – Image courtesy of Wikimedia Commons

Image courtesy Wikimedia Commons

The SMK is a particularly good place to learn about the history of Danish painting, and to see works from the period referred to as the Golden Age of Danish Painting.  In particular, one can see paintings by Christoffer Wilhelm Eckersberg, “the Father of Danish Painting,” and of the artists he worked with and taught.  It’s interesting to compare Eckersberg’s work with that of the English painters Sir Joshua Reynolds, Thomas Gainsborough, J. M. W. Turner, and John Constable.

The painting to the left is Det russiske linieskib “Asow” og en fregat til ankers på Helsingørs red ( The Russian Ship of the Line “Asow” and a Frigate at Anchor in the Roads of Elsinore), painted by Eckersberg in 1828.

Copenhagen: Amaliehaven

The Amaliehaven (Amalie Garden) is a long and narrow park that runs parallel to the Inderhaven (Inner Harbor) between Larsens Plads and Toldbodegade. At each end of the long axis is a water feature sculpted by Arnaldo Pomodoro. These are connected by paths with a large fountain and four pillars (also sculpted by Pomodoro) at their center. From this center, where Frederiksgade intersects the park paths, there is a great view of the Operahus (Opera House) across the water to the east and of the Amalienborg Palace and Marmorkirken (Marble Church) to the west. The strict geometrical design of the Amaliahaven is complemented by the softer shapes and textures of trees and other plantings, which have been arranged to create a peaceful, enclosed space. The Amaliehaven is said to be most beautiful in the spring when the cherry trees are in bloom. However, we found the this little park also attractive in November, with dry fountains allowing us to examine their sculptural details, and with autumn leaves, bare branches, and bright berries set against evergreens and a restless sky in the slanting light of the approaching solstice.