Traveling to Europe

Barcelona and Paris

I need to blog.  I need to blog.  Blogging is advanced.  People will give a shit… Oh!  Hey.  I’m writing about my recent trip to Europe.  I was lucky enough to go to Spain and France with my wife, who happens to be a fancy dignitary for a local Arts College.  After the recent disaster that was the election of an American president, getting away to somewhere that would grant a reprieve from the news was welcome.  Sarah had spent time in rural Spain as a teenager,  and my close homie Eric had told me about the architecture and vibe of Barcelona, but my experience in Europe is pretty limited, so I had no idea what to expect.   I did remember my brother disappearing to Barcelona a few years ago.  He came back and immediately applied for his European passport through our father’s side of the family, and made plans to move there immediately.  I can understand that sentiment now.  Barcelona is the most enthralling, romantic city I’ve ever visited.  I think I may be partial because of my love for the coast, but my interest in the arts and the history of the architecture made it more endearing.  Sarah is serious about staying in Bed and Breakfasts.  She feels, as I do now, that being on the ground in a new city is instrumental in getting its feel.  We stayed in the Gothic Quarter, which is a gothic revivalist neighborhood near the coast in Barcelona.  The details and history of these older cities makes them mysterious.  One’s curiosity is sparked by the small, descriptive elements laid into the buildings that have lasted past their builder’s life.  I was lucky enough to get a rare haircut in Barcelona, and make a few watercolor paintings.  After three full days, we left the following morning to Paris.  Again, being with a savvy international traveler, taking the train along the coast of Spain and through the southern wine regions of France, was a good call.  Sarah knows her shit, and can speak Spanish, which helps in most cases, in most places, unless they speak Catalan.  The vineyards in France are expansive.  The Peekinies, which I’ve misspelled, run along your left side in the distance, and all that you see in the foreground on either side of the tracks are rows of grapes in different colors.  I’m not historically into wine, but having such a visual experience with the region made me interested.  Paris was previously my favorite city, before having met Barcelona, and even after 10 years, there is an aching in that happens in the eyes when I see the sophistication of Paris.  The consideration.  Much like Barcelona, Paris is a testament to time and to time tested design decisions.  It was raining or grey in Paris, which was ok, except at sunset, when I missed the orange that sunlight makes on the white and cream facades along the streets.  I was able to make a few more watercolor paintings.  I hit up the Tuilleries at the Chateau de Luxombourg, the balcony from our host’s apartment, and Notre Dame Cathedral.  I don’t really consider myself to be a Plien Aire painter, but I keep finding myself outside painting.  The Gothic architecture of Notre Dame is legendary, and to make sure I memorized every detail of her design, from the apse angle of course, I sat out along the edge of the Sienne and had at it.  I made 1 C when I was in college, by the hands of one Lee Hoffman.  Lee was about 7 ft tall and resembled an Ent from the Tolkien mythology.  He was a renowned Plien Aire watercolorist in Mobile, Alabama.  He told me, as he smoked cigarettes, that perspective was something I could learn, but that I’d never be a watercolorist.  I think about Lee often when I’m painting with watercolors outside, and it makes me wear a hat, so I don’t die of skin cancer that way poor Lee did.  Our host, who goes by Robert, was probably the most fortunate thing I’ve ever encountered abroad.  He was a sheer stroke of luck, and made Paris seem accessible and familiar, even though I spoke no French, and largely relied on the graciousness of Parisians.   I loved being in Europe, and while dealing with my depression, and that of my wife, upon returning, I took one thing from the Europeans both Spanish and French.  Both of these cities have dealt with totalitarian dictators, monarch, petty thieves, and inept demagogues for centuries and yet here they stand, victorious.  Is the fact that I’m worried America can’t do the same a testament to my lack of historical context, or my lack of faith in the way our country is constructed?