Monday, August 21, 2017

Eclipse



We've had our eclipse glasses for weeks and weeks. 



There are lots of eclipse parties going on all over town but we decided to have our own ... just outside the back door.  After all, the forecast was dreadful.  Everyone feared it would be correct ... cloudy, overcast, a ruined experience for the total solar eclipse.  Yet, our luck with the weather while visiting England and France (also in the face of less-than-ideal predictions) continued.  The clouds parted.  The sun shone ... until ...



... it was overcome by the moon on its orbit.  All the security lights came on.  The temperature did drop.  It really was DARK outside.  Birds flew.  For over two minutes the world was the most eerie ever!


I'm sure NASA, professional photographers, and people employing tripods and fancy equipment and lens got better images, but I took this one!  AMAZING!

Recapping the Adventure to England, France, and the Festival of Quilts


(Above:  Annabel Rainbow and Laura Kemshell in the Through Our Hands: A Portrait Exhibition with Saint Anastasia.  Click on any image in this blog post to enlarge.)

About two months ago, Steve and I learned that shipping my piece, Saint Anastasia, to England and back for the Through Our Hands: A Portrait Exhibition was going to cost somewhere in the neighborhood of $550 to $600.  We had frequent flier miles and decided to hand-deliver the work and pick it back up on the final day of the Festival of Quilts.  After all, this show is really, really important.  Being an affiliate member of the "invitation only," international Through Our Hands group is quite an honor.  Plus ... we could spend the intervening time in FRANCE ... getting to see the Bayeux Tapestry!  Our plan probably won't have worked if it weren't for the super talented Annabel Rainbow and Laura Kemshell.  They made the exhibit possible ... and made our plans work perfectly!  Thank you, Annabel and Laura!

(Above:  Another section of Through Our Hands: A Portrait, showing the work of Sue Stone and Dijanne Cevaal.)

Over the four day run of The Festival of Quilts, thousands visited from all over Europe and beyond.  Of course they do!  It is a fantastic show.  Steve thought so too.  He even insisted on buying a pair of hand-crafted Ernest Wright & Son scissors.  I've coveted a pair since seeing various videos on how scissors are made.  (CLICK HERE for one of the videos ... even though this isn't the Ernest Wright & Son video ... it's prettier and shorter! LOL!)  I've already started using them ... HEAVEN!

 (Above:  Dover Harbor ... including one of the many ferries.)

Yet, Steve and I didn't go to the Festival until the final day.  After dropping off Saint Anastasia, we took a train to Dover ...


... and boarded a ferry to France!


The crossing was lots of fun and we watched other boats, the white cliffs, and even a view straight down to the water.


The white cliffs really are WHITE!  The view from the ferry was great but not nearly as wonderful as the time we spent on our return trip.  At that time, we had a day to hike two miles into the next town.  Most of the land is part of England's National Trust.  The day was so beautiful that lots and lots of people were out enjoying it.


I even managed the best selfie ever!

(Above:  The building now housing the Bayeux Tapestry.)

But I don't want to get ahead of myself!  Let's back up to the first ferry trip ... on our way to Calais, France ... where we picked up a rental car and drove to Bayeux.  Bayeux has been on my "bucket list" for seemingly ever!  It is the home of the Bayeux Tapestry ... which isn't really a tapestry at all!  It's a lengthy embroidery, stitch after stitch, a narration of William the Conqueror's successful invasion of England in 1066.  No photography is allowed in the the viewing area ... but I didn't mind.  The audio tour was very, very good and I got to spend plenty of time just LOOKING!  It was grand!


Now Bayeux is a charming town with cobblestone streets, interesting architecture, fashionable shops, and views of the little creek running through town.


Many antique features have been preserved like this old mill.


On one of the other bridges, I spotted something moving ... flying ... stationary in flight ... a moth hummingbird!  It's in the photo above!  Steve and I have seen many hummingbirds but never one this close or this small!


We rented a fabulous efficiency apartment with a loft bedroom within two blocks of the cathedral.


The cathedral was open early and had its doors open late.  It is beautiful outside ...


... and inside ...


... and even in its gift shop!


Yet, we thought it looked best on the evenings when the Cathedral's courtyard presented its light show called "Tree of Liberty".  The word "freedom" was projected in dozens of languages onto the structure, the side walks, and people passing by.


During the day, this two-hundred+ year old tree dominated the courtyard, but at night it was simply stunning!


This is my collage of images.  To get a better impression, CLICK HERE for a YouTube video I found.
 

Of course Steve and I purchased the museum ticket that included more than the Bayeux Tapestry.  We got the one including admission into the Memorial Museum for the Battle of Normandy and also the Art and History Museum of Bayeux.  We generally go to EVERYTHING!  Believe it or not, the photo above is NOT a modern art installation.  It was part of the way historic chairs were displayed!


This ultra contemporary setting featured antique lace!


Including this elaborate piece of Chantilly Lace, ....


... the details of which were mind-boggling ...


... almost as mind-boggling as the number of bobbins needed to create such treasures!


Most of the displays were artful, interesting, and truly showed the importance of the area.


The 2D work was often hung as if a conversation was going on between the paintings.  (The stories behind these two pieces have NOTHING in common ... but what possibilities!  This is the stuff of imaginary movie plots for when the place closes and the images come to life ... or not!)


Because we rented an AirBnB apartment, we shopped local ... including the weekly street market of fresh fruit and vegetables, fish, and cheese!


Bayeux is the closest city to Omaha Beach and the other four beaches of the WWII allies' invasion.  Bayeux was the first French city to be liberated and amazingly experience none of the devastation like nearby St. Lo which was almost entirely leveled by bombs.  The day Steve and I went to Omaha Beach was almost surreal.  The weather prediction called for the skies to be overcast and for rain.


But this is the view we had.  Surreal in its beauty.  Surreal that this was a place of blood shed.


Many American tourists visit several of the nearby American cemeteries.  Anyone who knows my work and me, knows I haunt cemeteries.  Yet, we didn't go to the resting places for the fallen allies, we went to La Cambe, one of the German cemeteries.


Over 21,000 Germans killed during the invasion rest at La Cambe. In Block Two, Row 10 we found the marker listing Peter Ochs, once a nineteen year old from Hungary and former cousin to my father.  Thanks, Wanda (my sister who had been here before) for the location information.  La Cambe is peaceful, serenely beautiful, and as devastating as each of the museums, beaches memorials, and monuments erected to remember World War II.  (Can you tell I'm a pacifist?)
 
Thankfully, Steve and I had a much happier day trip to follow up our time mourning a terrible past.  We went to Mont Saint-Michel, UNESCO World Heritage site!


This island town has been a fortification since ancient times and a monastic seat since the 8th century.  It is situated just over a half-mile from the Normandy mainland and is a major tourist attraction.  More than two-and-half million visit annually.  Thankfully, Mont Saint-Michel is ready!  All traffic is directed into enormous and affordable parking lots.  People are directed into lines for the frequent, free shuttle buses across the recently built causeway.  (The horse drawn carriage aren't free but are quite attractive!  We went by the shuttle bus and made friends with an English woman who took our photo!)

(Interior of the monastery church at Mont Saint-Michel.)

We took a guided tour of the monastery.  It was very, very good.  All tours (whether guided, using an audio-guide, or just walking through) go by "one-way traffic".  Yet at the end of our guided tour, we were allowed to start all over again ... just by ourselves!  That gave me time to snap loads of photos ...


... including this view down the pulley system that hauled food and supplies to the monastery.

 

 The pulley system is not in use today ... except by the pigeons!


Due to humidity and salty air, past of Mont Saint Michel are always under restoration.  Currently one of the interior cloisters is getting an overhaul.


Mont Saint-Michel is famous for its monastery but there are two other churches on the island, including St. Peter's.  (Amazing, since the population of Mont Saint-Michel is generally listed as under fifty people!)
 

There is also a very well maintained cemetery ...


... with many very elaborate metal crosses.


There are over fifty tourist shops, lots of hotels, quaint staircases, and terrific views ... especially at low tide.  Steve and I didn't have time or the appropriate footwear to follow a guide out to a further, uninhabited island.  Guides are necessary.  Why?  Well, the tide (which can be up to fourteen feet in depth) can come in quickly plus the area is notorious for quicksand.  It was fun, however, to see scores of people out on the sand and to read the public bathroom signs prohibiting the sinks to be used for "foot washing".


Steve and I both decided that we would love to return to France.  Our time in Normandy was too brief.  We had a date with a return ferry to Dover and a train trip to Birmingham to collect Saint Anastasia.  We had two days after the Festival of Quilts ended before our flight home.  We were given no reason to stay in Birmingham, so we went to London.  I adore the V&A. 


I love how artwork from earlier centuries is mingled with modern, new acquisitions ...


... like Rachel Kneebone's 399 Days.  This porcelain tower was amazing ... right down to every finely detailed toe!


Another, totally fantastic work is this suspended installation of squished Salvation Army brass instruments by Cornelia Parker.


Although Steve and I have both been to the V&A before, this time we took a guided tour of the British art history area.  Then, we went to one of the special exhibitions:  PLYWOOD.


It was great!  We learned all about plywood, an often overlooked material!


The history, uses, and examples of plywood designs were grand ... and as varied as these ultra cool chair and ...


... these early skateboards.


On our final day in England, we went to Hampton Court Palace.  Again, the weather was supposed to be a typical, gray, overcast one with the potential of rain.  Again ... we got lucky!


The audio guide was outstanding and we went EVERYWHERE we could until closing time, including the kitchens ...


... the kitchen's accounting office ...


... and various dining rooms fitted with the most elaborately folded napkins imaginable.


We went through Henry VIII's apartments and the later additions ...


... past many ceremonial beds ...


... and past absolutely stunning tapestries (all nicely cleaned and restored) ... so that every figure and animal looked almost real ...


... even elephants!


We also attended a terrific performance at the BBC Proms in Royal Prince Albert Hall.  The entire trip was wonderful.  We returned to plenty of work ... which accounts for my pause in blogging.  I will, however, be posting either later today or sometime tomorrow.  Why?  Well, since returning home I've made another large Stained Glass piece, poured epoxy over my fiber comet and all its "comet dust" particles, arranged another installation, and prepared everything to be delivered to Waterworks Visual Arts Center in Salisbury, NC for my upcoming solo show.  I'll be taking my laptop with me to Utah.  Yes!  Steve and I are leaving again.  Originally, we didn't plan two trips in August but that's what happened.  The trip to Bryce National Park, Zion National Park, and the northern rim of the Grand Canyon was planned months before the trip to England and France.  It's just crazy but life is an adventure!