Saturday, 30 October 2010

Drunk In Church

I mentioned in my last travel post that I went on a day tour of Paris. After seeing the Louvre and a few other snazzy things, the group went on a lunch cruise along the Seine. I'm sorry to say, but that was the only time I had really quality food in Paris. I read a few months ago that most native French people very rarely eat out because they can cook better food themselves. I'm increasingly of the opinion that you have to know someone to get good food in Paris. Or know something about where to find it. Or not be totally clueless like we were, anyway!

Anyway, so we were on this 2-hour lunch cruise up and down the Seine. The food was excellent. For starters I had Caponata style vegetables (the only vegetables I had in Paris - and they were pickled!). For the main I chose the Chicken with Cous-Cous and Lemon Sauce. It was delicious. There were wines matched with each meal. We were supposed to have one glass with each course, but there was some kind of mix-up because it was the first week that the company was running lunch cruises (they had previously only run dinner cruises). The upshot was - there was too much wine. Oh dear! So we ended up getting one bottle per couple with each course. Yup. The waitress seemed quite horrified that Anth was drinking Red with his prawns and the same with me and my chicken. But it was right there on the table and we didn't want to waste it!

Before I'd drunk too much, I managed to get these photos:

The Pont Alexandre III with random cruisers in the foreground

The Eiffel Tower as it appears when I'm tipsy.

Then we stumbled off the boat and back into the mini-bus. Our tour guide helped us back on like he'd seen it all before. Which I'm sure he had. Then he drove us to Notre Dame de Paris Cathedral. Now, I'm not religious so a visit to a church has a different meaning to me than it does to many people. I did however, study Romanesque and Gothic Architecture at university. It was one of my favourite subjects, and ever since I've been itching to see a real, live Gothic church. (Not one of those knock-off, 19th-century Neo-Gothic ones we have at home. In fact, any building constructed before approximately 1850 is something I'd never seen before this trip.) So I got to see a real Gothic church, and not only that, but one of the most iconic examples ever built - but I never thought I'd do it drunk!

I did manage to get a few pictures, though:

The North transept (side entrance). Wow!!

Exterior of one of the aisles. Detail of the flying buttresses.

That is one gorgeous archivolt! The statues on the jamb aren't half-bad, either.

The Interior. My camera doesn't do so well in low light, so it's a bit blurry. Still amazing!

Perhaps the dizziness that comes from being drunk adds to the sense of awe on entering a sacred space. I certainly felt awed at being in a building with such beautiful art and architecture, that's so old, that so many people put their heart and soul over 100 years into building, that so many people feel compelled to visit even 800 years later. I've read that there are some who believe drunkenness brings one closer to the divine. But that's getting a bit off topic. =)

Tuesday, 26 October 2010

Technical Interruption

I was going to treat you-all to another installment of ApartmentCat in Europe: The Blog, but I can't tonight. I don't have the text I wrote because I emailed it to myself and Hotmail thinks the attachment is suspicious and it won't let me unblock it.

I emailed it to Myself!

In the meantime, here's a random picture from We Heart It. I've known about the site for some time, but in the last few weeks I've become increasingly enamoured with it. Instead of reading the news online in the mornings before I start work, I want to gaze at pretty pictures and ❤ them. It's a ditzier past-time perhaps, but more relaxing.
Tonight I installed the add-on that allows me to contribute to the site while I'm roaming blog-land. yay!

I chose this picture because it's nearly bed-time. =)

From WeHeartIt

Wednesday, 20 October 2010

An Hour in the Louvre ... by Stealth

So, while Boy and I were in Paris (I'm really trying not to sound too blasé about it!) we went on a tour of the city's highlights. It included an hour in the Louvre to view some of the most famous artworks there. Turns out, you have time to see 3 in one hour. Also, we had to wait in the foyer for what seemed like quite a long time while the tour guide sorted out our tickets. There were 8 of us in the tour group, but apparently he only had authorisation to bring in a maximum of 5 people. He managed to get tickets for all of us, but then we had to pretend we weren't together while we went through the barrier. Not quite as thrilling as The Da Vinci Code, but I still felt vaguely naughty. The guide assured us that we'd be able to see everything that was promised, because he knew the 'secret' back ways to get from one area to another.

First he showed us this:

The Venus de Milo

Then we whizzed past this:

The Nike of Samothrace

Which is quite a shame really, as the Nike of Samothrace is one of my favourite sculptures and I was very much looking forward to seeing it. It was displayed at the top of a grand staircase and was really quite impressive. However, I spent most of my viewing time trying to get up the staircase without tripping over, running into anyone or losing the tour guide. It was still wonderful, though. We got hurried through a series of rooms which contained things like this:

La Grande Odalisque

"But, but, but ... wait! That's the .... by ....!! I studied that!"
But there was no time, because this awaited us:

Mona Lisa

Oui, the big one! Or the small one, actually. There was a barrier about 10 metres in front the painting and the gallery was absolutely chockers with people. I can't believe I managed to get a shot without any other people in the frame whatsoever! I'm quite impressed with myself.

It's just mind-boggling to think there are 12 miles of galleries at the Louvre! I have to go back! And on the way out, our tour guide - a deliciously typical Frenchman - pointed out the little-known entrance where there's never a queue, so I'm all set for next time.

Monday, 18 October 2010

Books Are People

From WeHeartIt
Or at least, they have many of the same characteristics.
Because I welcomed 8 new books into my life on the weekend, I decided that today my Declaration of De-Cluttering would focus on books. Of course, you would never just throw a book in the bin. That would be even worse than, say, covering it with paint and sticking bits of paper all over it. Ahem. Or ripping pages out of it and sticking them in your art journal. A-HEM!

No, I don't plan on doing anything that drastic, don't worry! I either give my books away to the Salvos or I put them in the Information Centre's book swap stand at work. I have an especially hard time letting books go. It's very rare that I would get rid of a non-fiction book - I might need the information again one day. And with novels, there might just be a chance that I want to read it again. About 5 years ago, I joined BookCrossing. It's that thing where you leave books in random spots for other people to find and read and pass on themselves. I released a few books myself, but I missed them too much and wished I'd kept them. A Wizard of Earthsea - that was a really good book. I wish I'd been able to re-read it before I saw the movie. It was a really old copy that smelled good, too. And Music and Silence by Rose Tremain. I might have read that again. Later I found out it was nominated for a Whitbread Award. I would definitely have kept it if I'd known that.


This morning before work I thought I'd choose a book to give to the Information Centre book swap (I actually owe them 3). I stood in front of (one of) my bookcase(s) trying to decide for about 5 minutes before abandoning the whole undertaking. I chose the wrong bookcase, obviously. Perhaps I'll throw away something easier today. It's only Day 3, after all.

There's one book though, that my mind keeps spiralling back to. I have a bit of a dilemma surrounding this book. I won't tell you what it's called - that would be a bit mean. You'll see what I'm talking about. This book was sent to me for free on the proviso that I post a review of it on LibraryThing. This is easier said than done. I received the book nearly a year ago, and I haven't been able to get past Chapter 3. It's a junior book in the vein of Harry Potter, mixed with some Alice in Wonderland. Sounds easy, right? Well, every time I open it up, I feel like my brain is melting and sliding out through my ears. The plot is derivative and stale. The characters are lifeless. The storyline plods heavily along. There are enough typos and grammar errors to give me an aneurysm. I don't think they even used spell-check. I'm serious. And the writing style ... imagine you're walking down the street and every two steps you stub your toe on a broken piece of footpath. That's what reading this book is like.

It's quite obvious that the publishers of this book were fishing for some good reviews by readers grateful to receive a free copy. But I don't even want to finish it, let alone review it! The whole thing is made even yuckier by the fact that there's a positive review of the book on LibraryThing already - written by it's author. That's just trashy.

Of course, you would never just throw a book in the bin, right? But the thought of a young child reading this book when they could be reading Ursula le Guin, Philip Pullman or even J. K. Rowling, sends cold shivers down my spine.

I don't know what to do!

Sunday, 17 October 2010

30 Days of De-Cluttering!

Right. I decided yesterday on the spur of the moment that I'm going to do some spring cleaning around the flat. Getting home from a series of well-organised and minimally decorated hotel rooms to my little abode last weekend was a little ... how can I put it ... disappointing. I love my home beyond words and I love spending time there, but it's never been at all how I'd like it to be. Boy and I just have so much stuff! I get very attached to things, and I find it really hard to throw things away (not to mention saying 'no' when things are offered to me ... hello 8 new books!).

Yesterday I went into the hobby room to find that the cat had knocked over one of my oil burners and broken it - thankfully it was empty at the time. My first instinct was to keep it and try to glue it back together. Then I remembered that the bowl had already broken years ago and I'd bought a replacement bowl which didn't match the burner. Then I remembered that, between us, Boy and I have 3 other oil burners! So I decided to chuck it in the bin. It felt good. I decided to do a bit more. It's kinda scary to a hoarder like me, so I thought that one item per day for a set period might be manageable. A month is good. We're already half-way through October though! (As an aside - um, how did that happen?!) Oh well, I'll just start where I am. That's all we can do, isn't it? So I declared 30 Days of De-Cluttering!

So, on Day 1 I threw out the oil burner (yeah, yeah, I know it was broken, but a girl has to start somewhere!). And on Day 2 I'm throwing out a pair of sneakers. They're old and dirty and yucky and I never wear them because I have a new pair now. There! That felt good!

This picture is not my house, sadly. I chose it because it's full of stuff, just like my house. But the stuff is arranged artfully, all the ornaments are on display and the artwork hung with some kind of sense. It helped me to realise that I can have a well-ordered, aesthetically pleasing space without having to emulate a blindingly-white Scandinavian box with nothing in it.*

* If you like Minimalism, that's fine. I have no problem with it. It's just not to my taste. I'm a Maximalist. =)

Saturday, 16 October 2010

She's Back!

I went to Europe and I can prove it!

And now I'm back. Actually, I've been back for exactly one week, but I've been mostly focussed on getting back to work where we're going through a lot of changes at the moment, while staving off first-time jetlag. An interesting experience! Mental note: don't go back to work after only 1 day's rest after a 22-hour flight. Got it!

The upshot is, there's been no art or craft or anything except mindless TV watching after-hours at casa de la Apartmentcat. But of course there's my trip to tell you about! Now, I don't know about you, but I find blog posts with too many photos in them to be almost as annoying as ones with too much text (however you may define that), so I'll only treat/subject you to a few at a time. First up is Paris. Boy and I spent 4 days in Paris and it was an experience and a half! The Nature of Paris is chaotic! They say it's the City of Love, but I say it's the City of Trying Not to Get Run Over and Not Have Your Pocket Picked at the Same Time ... While Searching In Vain for Anything Resembling the Quality Food I'd Heard About.
Art-wise, Paris is triangular. It stubbornly defies expectations. It's bright and colourful, and old and dusty. It's a glimpsed red-lipstick pout, and a small child excitedly tugging his mother to school. Everything in Paris is the same, yet at the same time, subtly different - because it's Parisian.

Anyway, enough waffling. Here are a couple of photos:

The Eiffel Tower like you've never seen it before, with (many, many) random strangers in the shot. Boy and I practiced the fine art of enjoying a soft-serve on the grass while simultaneously fending off street vendors and artists with a suitably Parisian disdain. I don't think we mastered it in such a short time.

Here is the Arch de Triomphe. Not a bad shot seeing as it was taken out of the window of a tiny tour bus as we were lurching sickeningly round the busiest roundabout in Paris. We weren't allowed to stop, we were only allowed to go round and round. Then back down the Champs Elysee at a creakingly slow pace. It was quite surreal.

More photos and perhaps even some craft content: Soon!