Delight and Awe = Inspiration

A sample of Little Cotton Rabbits, Fox, and Elephants by Julie Williams

A sample of Little Cotton Rabbits, Fox, and Elephants by Julie Williams

Is it just me or do find these creations irresistible? It is like Beatrix Potter took up knitting!

I am enjoying all things Little Cotton Rabbits today. I woke up feeling a little under the weather and in need of a little comfort. I found this artist and blogger on Pinterest and have dedicated my lunch hour to reading her gentle blog.

I need the inspiration. I have not picked up my knitting since I got home from France. And I needed some whimsey. Dare you to look through her creations and not smile.

 

 

Robin Williams Still Making Me Laugh

http://thedailyshow.cc.com/video-playlists/99z8qi/remembering-robin-williams

I wish we could have had a Robin Williams Week (like Shark Week only funny) before he died, when we could have watched his old clips and laughed out loud. Instead it took his death to appreciate what a truly talented person he was. I also remembered I have a lot in common with him. We are both politically liberal, Californians, cyclists and huge bike racing fans. 

Of course his fame made it possible to ride in the team car behind Lance Armstrong when he was tearing up the Tour de France.  (He subsequently expressed his disappointment in Lance and still loves cycling.)

I am enjoying old interviews with Robin Williams because 1) he talks about cycling, 2) he shares my disdain for France. (My recent adventure has confirmed that I have had enough of France and French attitudes for a lifetime.) For example, on Fresh Air they replayed a 2006 interview between Terry Gross and Robin Williams and this line almost took me off the road, “When I speak French in Paris they say to me ‘Stop speaking French. No. Speak englais.’ Then they give their baby a cigarette.”

He really lets loose on The Daily Show. Check out the second interview where he riffs on the French for much longer. 

And go ahead and laugh out loud. It is the best way to honor Robin Williams.

War Horse as Act of Remembrance

Winding up my Tour de France adventure, I enjoyed my last 24 hours in London. I stayed at the exquisite Ampersand Hotel in South Kensington. They sent me an email a few days before my arrival asking if there was anything they could do to enhance my experience. My friend suggested seeing the stage production of War Horse. The concierge efficiently fetched tickets and after an afternoon of fossicking around bookshops in South Kensington, I duly trundled off to New London Theatre on Drury Lane to see the play.

I tried to read to the book by Michael Marpurgo and got emotionally swamped. It is told in the horse Joey’s point of view. And like Black Beauty it is gut wrenching. I may have seen about 5 minutes of the Steven Spielberg movie and could not stand the idea, again, of horses suffering even if make believe. Afterall, they did suffer cruelly in World War I, as did people. So I was a little nervous about seeing a stage production. I was also curious about how they would handle the staging and the horse characters. 

Wow. I mean WOW!!!!  Just the puppetry was worth the admission price to witness. It is amazing. I have since found an awesome Ted Talk that describes how they created Joey. Please watch.

The play beautifully illustrated the complete stupidity of World War I. While it is not unique among wars (all wars are stupid), it is the first where technology completely bamboozled strategists. I can understand sending the cavalry in once against machine guns. But again and again? Stupendously stupid. It was all the more poignant for me because of my Grandma Hazel Olson’s beloved horse sold to the US Cavalry. I can only hope that he never made it to Europe–that maybe his high spirits made him too difficult to work with or too attractive to some officer who was on active duty at the Mexican border. 

It is a very moving production, even more thrilling seen in a smallish theater with actors running by right in front of our seats. I realize War Horse has been on stage and travelled the world already so I am not on the cutting edge of theatre. If you have not seen it, make the effort. You will be richly rewarded.

Researching and honoring my great uncle Frank Denham on Le Tour Adventure was worthwhile and added some emotional depth to my experience. I am not going to stop learning about the war either. My favorite conversation on the topic was with my cabbie who gave me a lift from the train station to the Ampersand. With his East End accent he held forth on a number of topics. I told him about my interest in World War I and he said the machine gun was invented by an American living in London, but the British officers did not want to use it (at first) because it “wasn’t cricket.” (meaning that as gentlemen it was not the proper way to conduct warfare). I responded, “But the Germans have never played cricket.” We both shared a rueful laugh. 

All of this remembering while the conflict in Ukraine results in a civilian jet liner shot down, and Gaza rages on; it is a wonder to me that mankind has not wiped itself off the earth yet. Perhaps the reason we yet remain is found in the sparks of creativity that still ignite in puppeteers and writers and many others who choose to spend their energy creating beauty and celebrating truth rather than the dark arts of war. This is the path I choose.

World War I Memories Everywhere in this Part of France

World War I memorial and cemetery for allied troops in Arras.

World War I memorial and cemetery for allied troops in Arras.

You cannot travel far in this part of France without seeing World War I memorials large and small. The graveyard and memorial in Arras was especially moving. 

IMG_1285I was able to go to the Cathedral in Reims (another Notre Dame) and meditate on Uncle Frank Denham for a few minutes. He is not forgotten. 

The Tour television coverage in France includes many quiet moments with the helicopter camera hovering over World War I memorials. I hope the coverage in the US is doing the same. IMG_1288

 

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Ready to Go!

It is 7:45 a.m. and I am all ready to go. I do not actually need to leave for my last meeting with the tunneling engineers until 8:30 a.m. I leave for the airport at 11:00 a.m.

My bags are packed, I'm ready to go. One month with Rick Steve's luggage. The elephant bag will fold back up and be stowed away once my Trek bike ride is done.

My bags are packed, I’m ready to go. One month with Rick Steve’s luggage. The elephant bag will fold back up and be stowed away once my Trek bike ride is done.

I feel like I did on my first big trip at 16 when I spent the summer with Teen Missions. Excited, a little sick to my stomach, and easily emotional. (Keep all Hallmark ads away from me!)

I spent a lot of time on the phone with Air New Zealand last night trying to address the extra baggage charges, since I am no longer taking my bike I no longer need the extra bag. Fran let down the Air NZ side with very poor service (no call backs as promised, and poor communication skills). They have a nonrefundable policy on the extra bag charge; however, when I called to inquire before booking my ticket I recall the agent telling me that I could always change my mind when I got to the gate. Ultimately the usual excellent service prevailed and I was refunded for the bag one way. Guess that means I can haul home A LOT of souvenirs!

I will mainly be blogging from http://americanjulie.com for the next month. See you over on that blog. Encourage your comments.

Fun and Easy Zone

Mara challenged me to keep my Le Tour Adventure fun and easy. Here is an update.

I took K2’s advice and ordered the Rick Steve’s luggage: both the daypack and the roller/backpack. The size forces you to pack light; however, I will not miss the second pair of jeans when I am carrying it from train station to my hotel and back. Still to do: a practice pack and walk around town this week.

July 1918 World War I; Wikipedia; Google Images

Wikipedia; Google Images

My friend Jim narrowed down where Uncle Frank likely died. I will double check on any available websites I can find. The Germans made a big push into France in Spring of 1918 and the French and American forces pushed back in July 2018. He likely died in Chateau Thierry and the Second Battle of the Marne.  When I am in Reims I will be as close as I will get to the area where he likely fell. If time and bus schedules allow I will go to Chateau Thierry. And if they do not, I will light a candle and remember him at the Cathedral in Reims.

Dust in the Las Vegas area kicked my sinuses up. And this weekend I have had tummy troubles. So I have some training to do on Trixie the road bike to regain some form.

Jens Voigt winning a stage after a breakaway.

Jens Voigt winning a stage after a breakaway.

Ray helped me clarify my stake for the trip: Enjoy a once in a life time adventure and meet amazing people.  Some people I would love to meet: Mark Cavendish, Jens Voigt, Fabian Cancellara, Greg Lemond, and any amazing person Providence puts in my path. Like the Canadians I met in Givors last year who inspired this trip.

I discovered the Imperial War Museum will reopen its galleries with a special exhibit in London July 19. I will make time to visit on my way through London at the end of July. Right after I tour Buckingham Palace‘s state rooms.

I discovered a great author–Australian John Baxter. He is the author of many books on Paris. A exemplar storyteller, his books are a delight to read. What I really love is he encourages you to be a “flaneur” — to walk without necessarily any purpose. So instead of making lots of notes while reading Paris at the End of the World, or The Most Beautiful Walk in the World, I am going to let go of an agenda for my free day in Paris.

Bill Reid shooting photos at Ag Art day.

Bill Reid shooting photos at Ag Art day.

Yesterday my friend Bill Reid gave me a photography tutorial during an Ag & Art at Chowdown Farms in Esparto. His help was greatly appreciated after giving up in frustration with the official “Blue Crane Digital” instructional video. It may have well as been in French.  There are also many excellent videos on YouTube. (Hooray YouTube!)

With just a little over a week before I leave, I am getting very excited. I cannot let my mind wander yet! First there is some more consulting work to do and some more prep.