Memories of 1969

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In 1969 my parents and my siblings and I went to Europe for the first time. I was 13 yrs old. My father was an hotel executive and worked for a large hotel chain linked then to United Airlines. The itinerary was Ireland, France and the UK.  My younger siblings were 10 and 7 yrs old. It was very exciting, back then very few people travelled to Europe unless you had the means to do so, the age of mass tourism was yet to come.

I remember Ireland was still an impoverished country, very green and agricultural, lots of sheep everywhere. Apparently to this day there are more sheep 5.6 million in Ireland than people 4.8 million. We flew from Montreal on Aer Lingus to Shannon and then drove to Dublin.

We then flew to Paris and stayed at the Hotel du Palais d’Orsay which in 1969 was part of the old Railway station of the same name, located across from Le Louvre and the Tuileries gardens. The original old Palais was burned by the Communards in 1871 like so many other buildings and Palaces in Paris during this period of revolution to put an end to the Imperial regime of Napoleon III, a vain man who came to power in a coup with lots of populist ideas, it all ended badly for him. He fled to London with his wife Empress Eugénie. The Communards wanted a Republican regime so that the goals of the revolution of 1789 would finally come to pass instead of having one royalist regime after another. This is the period of Les Misérables from the famous book by Victor Hugo.

The Gare d’Orsay was built in 1899 to accommodate the rail line from Orléans to Paris and with it came a grand hotel. The new buildings had to match the grand buildings around them like the Palais de la Légion d’Honneur next door and the Louvre across the Seine river.

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The Musée d’Orsay today formerly the gare and hotel. The hotel portion is on the right of the picture.

My father booked us into the Hotel, he wanted to see it because his company was in negotiation to purchase the site, the railway was being discontinued and the French government wanted to get rid of it, sort of a modernizing craze for Paris. The President then was General De Gaulle who would resign, pushed out by demonstrations. The Minister of Culture was André Malraux (1901-1976) and he was against modernization. Malraux was a novelist, author of La Condition humaine which won him the prestigious Prix Goncourt. He became famous in France for his anti-Fascist and anti-colonialist views  and for being an adventurer.

Le Corbusier was the architect hired to build the new convention centre and hotel. Very different from the whole neighbourhood and I disapproved of this plan, I could not understand why anyone thought this was an improvement but it was the 1960’s.

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My father thought it was a fantastic idea, who needs all this old stuff anyway. He also famously said: Once you see one cathedral you have seen them all.

A few months after our trip to Paris we learned that Malraux idea prevailed and the whole concept was shelved for good. The Gare d’Orsay became this beautiful museum with its important collections and the old hotel transformed into more museum space while preserving all of its architectural details and famous chandeliers.

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The front door with its 1950’s look.

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The entrance Hall lobby with its grand staircase back then, it was impressive.

24346186090_5ac4d7ceb5_b.jpgThe former hotel, Salon des Fêtes with its garland chandeliers.

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These great spaces are used for exhibits and for receptions, keeping intact the beautiful decor.

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the former restaurant of the hotel with modern furniture to serve the public in the museum.

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The great clock in the main hall of the former railway station, now the central exhibition hall of the museum.

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I am glad that André Malraux prevailed I think it would have been a mistake to demolish this beautiful building.

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Listening

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This week CBC radio host Paul Kennedy retires from Ideas after many a years. Ideas as the title indicates is about discussing topics about our world, it is well done with many scholars, writers, philosophers who present their views based often on books or research they have done for years on a topic which affects how our human society functions and evolves. Paul Kennedy has a relaxing, pleasant mature voice, easy to listen to.

Today the topic was Climate Change and was part of his acting as moderator of the Muskoka conference in Ontario. The question was: Are we doomed?

Currently, if several polls are to be believed, some 84% of Canadians are very concerned about Climate Change and what is happening all around us. Here in PEI in the last 12 months we have seen changes with rapid erosion of the soft coast line, projection show that in 50 years the City of Charlottetown and surroundings will have disappeared under water. The Island at most stands about 30 feet above the sea level in some areas and as little as 3 feet in others. The Winter started early in November and ended late towards end April, the Spring Fishing Season was delayed 2 weeks due to storms and the planting Season for agriculture was also delayed to mid-June. The Summer so far has been cool and rainy. This has an impact on fishers, farmers and the tourism industry. The Chamber of Commerce says that tourism is down 50% this year due to poor weather. I believe it, it is abnormally quiet.

All around the world, if you care to read, it’s one big heat wave and huge storms, more unusual than the next. Nature is dying all around us, it is much more than melting ice caps or rising water levels. Entire species have disappeared, over fishing has depleted the oceans, plastic pollution everywhere. The statistics are frightening and still politicians and the public dither.

Despite all this, most people pretend it is not happening or simply cannot cope with the magnitude of the crisis. Some experts in the field believe it is too late to save ourselves. There is no Planet B.

On Ideas, some of the speakers said that if extreme measures are taken we  could slow down the process or reverse it, an example the town of Sudbury in Ontario, pop 164,000 where 100 years of nickel mining had by 1960 transformed the entire area into a moon scape with a strong odour of sulphur, people still lived there. However in the last 40 years an aggressive program of cleaning and reforesting involving intensive action by several groups with the support of the local authorities have turned the tide and now despite having some 50,000 hectares still to be rehabilitated, Sudbury has been transformed for the better. The City has 300 lakes over 25 acres within city limits, natural beauty which is being brought back.

But is is not the case everywhere, in most places there is resistance to doing anything at all. Here in PEI constant resistance against electric cars, the City of Charlottetown turned down the opportunity to develop a bike path through the city core, bought diesel buses instead of electric, allows cancer causing pesticides to be spread to keep lawns green, City Councillors cannot see the importance of saving bees, are putting an asphalt plant in a semi rural residential area, etc.. The easy justification is jobs, it seems that jobs trump every other concern, obtuse thinking rule.

How do you educate a population who refuses to listen, should we just let the crisis take over, it seems human nature learns better when a catastrophe strikes.

Last Thursday the Legislature of the Province passed a bill to reduce CO2 emissions by 1.2 megatonnes by 2030, instead of the Paris Accord agreement of 1.4 megatonnes. Still 6 conservative members of the government refused to go along, they collectively simply do not believe in climate change, it’s a hoax. The majority in this case got its way, now we have to figure out how to achieve this target, won’t be easy. How do you bring on-board towns and settlements when our politicians don’t understand the gravity of the problem.

As it was pointed out on Ideas,  you can build infrastructure to stop flooding and erosion, you cannot save nature when irreversible trends are happening, this we do not control. So maybe we will avert the worse but there is no guarantees and I am not hopeful.

At my age this is not really a concern because if I have 20 years to live, I will be dead and gone by the time the crisis is irreversible. What is sad is for children or anyone under 40 they will live through it.

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Photo; Alberta Tar Sand exploitation and the environmental disaster it creates. Yet some people see nothing wrong with this picture. A picture of death near Edmonton.

Portrait

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Marie Antoinette and Louis XVI had four children. They could not have been born at a more problematic time for the French royal family.

Marie-Thérèse Charlotte, known as Madame Royale was the only child, named after her grand-mother Empress Marie-Therese of Austria to survive the French revolution and reach adulthood. Eleven years old when the revolution erupted, in 1789, she was particularly close to her father the King.

Louis-Joseph, the first born son of the royal couple was spared the pains of revolution. He died of tuberculosis, at age seven, on the 4th of June, 1789. By all accounts a sweet child, the prince’s death added immeasurable grief to the lives of his parents the month before the revolution began.

After the death of his older brother, Louis-Charles, born in 1785 and sometimes referred to as Louis XVII, became dauphin. Subjected to the most cruel treatment by revolutionaries, the young prince was ten years old at his death in 1795.

Sophie-Beatrix was the family’s youngest child. Born in July of 1786, she died the following year – age eleven months – also of tuberculosis.

 

Because of the scandal of l’affaire du Collier, the ministers of the King ordered Vigée-Lebrun to do this propaganda painting, a tableau about family devotion and parental love. Though the Queen was cleared of any responsibility in the affair of the diamond necklace, the vicious press and a largely ignorant public hounded Marie-Antoinette. We know now that King Louis XVI brother, Prince Louis Stanislas Xavier, Comte de Provence  was also plotting against his brother, he was encouraging rumours and did little to help his unfortunate relatives. He was able to leave France with a false British Passport for a 23 year long exile around Europe, living on the charity of various Sovereigns. Returning to France in 1814 to become Louis XVIII.

This family portrait was painted at Versailles in what is today the Salon de la Paix at the end of the Galerie des Glaces, it was then a private salon used by the Queen. If you look closely at the painting you glimpse at the Gallerie des Glaces in the left corner. See picture below as it is today.

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Le Salon de la Paix, the Queen is seated to the right of the door, she is surrounded by her children. Her eldest son is pointing to the empty crib of his sister Sophie-Beatrix who died a few months before this painting was done. He is already sick with tuberculosis and will be dead in just a few months after this painting is completed. Truly a painting of tragedy. The cabinet in the background to the left of the tableau represents a strong box keeping locked up the jewels of the Queen. This is a reference to the alleged extravagance of the Queen. Marie-Antoinette herself only wears a pair of pearl hearings. This piece of furniture is almost in shadow and tucked away, not very important to the tableau, another message in this composition.

The composition of this painting also refers to a famous story in Greek antiquity of another mother and her children, who is asked what is most precious to her. Despite being wealthy, she presents her children as a reply, this is my wealth. This is the obvious symbolism of this painting. There is no doubt that the Queen was devoted to her children this was her wealth and this message had an impact on the French public at large. However by the time this painting was shown, it was too late. In 1793 at the 2 day trial of the Queen, she did not stand accuse or charge with any crime, the tribunal was divided on what to do. The revolutionaries were well aware that it would be difficult to pass a death sentence on Marie-Antoinette 37 yrs old. So without proof it was decided that she was guilty of treason, a farce by any judicial standard.

She was a mother and the public was against executing the mother with small children. On the day of her execution as she was brought to her public execution the streets were very silent and the mood of the crowd was sullen. The troops on hand were nervous and feared violence against the tribunal and the revolutionary government.

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1787, Château de Versailles, la Reine Marie-Antoinette et ses enfants.

By Court painter to the Queen of France, Louise-Elizabeth Vigée-Lebrun

Louise Élisabeth Vigée Le Brun (also known as Madame LeBrun) was the most-famous female painter of the 18th century.  So impressed was Marie Antoinette with Vigée Le Brun’s work that she had the artist create more than thirty portraits of the Queen and her family. This large painting, remained at the Palace of Versailles after the fall of the Monarchy and only left the Palace 4 years ago for the first time ever to travel to the National Gallery of Canada in Ottawa for a retrospective exhibit of Lebrun’s paintings.

 

 

PRIDE

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June was Pride month and in PEI PRIDE week is 20-27 July with the usual big parade, everyone joins in, it’s the thing to do.

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I was in the Parade here in Charlottetown last year and we had a lot of fun. Come and celebrate PRIDE in PEI www.pridepei.ca

This year marks the 25th anniversary of the first pride parade on P.E.I. Pride P.E.I. is planning 12 days of events and learning opportunities for Islanders, beginning on Saturday, July 20.

The theme of this year’s parade is ‘shapes + forms’. The organization says love comes in many different shapes and forms. Inspiration for the theme comes from the vibrant spectrum of gender and sexual diversity visible in the province.

For something completely different here is PRIDE TOKYO. Japan has a lot of Festivals and Pride is another one. I love Tokyo, visited the city on 2 occasions for several days each time and travelled in Japan also. Very impressive place, just love it.

Summer evening

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I was listening to Radio-Canada this evening and they were playing La Rondine by Puccini. The music brought me back to our Summers in Rome, it seems like such a long time ago.

We had Season tickets to the Opera di Roma, in the Summer time the company would move from the main theatre to an open air one at the Baths of Caracalla, the famous ruins were the second largest Roman public baths, or thermae, built in Rome between AD 212 and 216, during the reign of the Emperor Caracalla. Today they are splendid ruins set in a beautiful park.

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I will always remember these Roman Summer nights, it was so much cooler in the open air and the moon during the performance would rise above the ruins. We saw quite a few operas in Rome during our many years.

The 4th July

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To all my American friends and my family in the USA, Happy Independance Day and wishing you better days ahead. I chose this song by Kate Smith because it is a favourite of mine and it represents to me an America before the current difficult period. Canada’s diplomatic and trade relations are in a difficult bind and you have to wonder why really. We need to return to better days for the good of both Canada and the USA. My faith is in the American people to take action and change what is wrong now.

Wishing you all the best.

Finally Summer

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Well Summer arrived on the 4th July, yesterday and last night was still cold around 16C and cloudy, wet. We had a cold, very wet April, May and June.

In 24 hours, so Canadian, we are now into hot and muggy, we have, in Island speak, the muggies, 25C hot and humid with a small breeze. We have a hear warning for the coming days, with the humidity factor temperatures could soar to 31C. I am not complaining, I will take it.

I am not complaining, it is now warm enough to go to the Beach and just enjoy the sunshine, a nice lobster and some fresh oysters.

Here are some shots of today, it is also Lupin time, they are everywhere you look, on the road in rural area and in gardens, they grow wild here.

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Lavender in the garden of the Confederation Centre.

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Wild Lupins in my neighbours yard.

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Price Flag on the marquis of the Holman Grand Hotel, downtown Charlottetown. Despite the 100 year old facade this is a modern hotel with a very good restaurant.

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Road kill by Gerald Beaulieu, on the terrace of the Art gallery of the Confederation Centre. Was created 2 years ago make entirely of recycled tires.

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Lupins in the wild at French River in PEI with potato field of course in the background.

 

Le premier Juillet

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Aujourd’hui c’est l’anniversaire de mon pays le Canada. Un jour de réflexion sur notre pays et ses bienfaits.

Today it’s Canada day and a time to appreciate what we have and be thankful. Ours is  the second largest land mass in the world, we have 6 time zones, 3 oceans, 38 million people, two official languages and the rule of Law.

 

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Sea Cruise

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We have been on vacations taking a cruises for about 20 years now. We took cruises with Azamara, Holland America and Star Clippers . Will travelled on his own on Crystal Symphony. We loved each cruise and have wonderful memories of them with the exception of the Cunard, Queen Mary II (Carnival owned) crossing of the Atlantic which is not what is advertized, never again.

Our most memorable was Star Clipper around the Greek Islands and the Anatolian Coast.

A sail ship is something completely apart from any other cruise ship, there is a certain magic when the wind blows into the sails and the ship glides over the water.

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Star Clipper 

Azamara also is a favourite of ours, they offer quality, distinction and very good cruise packages.

Yesterday we looked on YouTube a promotional video about all the new ships coming into service in 2019 and 2020. They all claim to be super luxurious, starting at 4500 passengers to upwards of 6500 passengers.

When we book a cruise our rule of thumb is less than 2500 passengers per ship is best. Usually around 1300 passengers on board is very pleasant. We are going on a cruise in September to Norway starting in Amsterdam on a very new ship, the Holland America, Nieuw Statendam.

The  new ship 2019-2020 video on YouTube was quite hilarious, companies like MSC who has had several accidents and mishaps in the last 10 years and Carnival are into gigantic ships with activities like rock face climbing, GoKart racing, a trampoline above the water on a moving ship, a glass walkway again above the water some 14 decks up in the air, daring water slide which gets you to slide yet again way up and over the ship’s side, it is all about thrills, chills and spills. On the new Carnival ship restaurant’s are franchises of known brands. Do you really need 17 restaurants on board?  As one commentator wrote; imagine an accident on a ship with 6000 people on 14 decks, it would make the Titanic look like a row boat accident on a pond.

The new gimmick in 2019 is offering dining on your stateroom balcony for certain larger and more expensive stateroom. Other new ship offer duplex suites with large terrace/balcony like the new Enchanted Princess cruise ship with 1500 sq. feet of space to entertain your friends, this would mean that you boarded with a very large group of people, otherwise what to do with such a huge outdoor space. As for dining on your balcony, let me tell you that on a Ocean crossing voyage, it would be too cold and or windy to do so, also at night the waters are black it can be quite sinister. Even on an inland sea like the Mediterranean,  the ship’s speed and movement makes it far too windy. But it is all about marketing and selling a dream. These promo films have a manic sense that there is so much to do on board that you will not have time to think. Words like luxurious, finest amenities, attention to detail comes back all the time, again trying desperately to tell you that you are getting the best, but are you? There are quite a few YouTube Channels doing a pretty good job of giving you the facts for each cruise ship, number of passengers and staff and what to look for and what to be aware of.

Often in the promos it is not about relaxing and enjoying the trip, it’s about being excited 24/7 which can be exhausting. One new cruise ship that looks appealing coming in 2020 is Virgin’s Red Lady with 850 passengers, selling the idea of a private yacht cruise, no kids, all adults and just quiet time.

All this to say that you have to do your research before you book a cruise and read various comments on what people liked and disliked. There are enough cruise companies to choose from and remember that the well priced cruises, those that offer a good drink/wine package, Free Internet, low service fees are the best ones. If a cruise is cheap look for the additional cost not mentioned, recently Norwegian which is now owned by a large Indonesian company offered reasonable cruise prices, however once paid in full usually within 30 days of booking it is non refundable, the daily service charge was several hundred dollars and the wine package price required that you drink at least 2 bottles of wine per person each day, this did not include any cocktails you might have during the day, something almost impossible to do if you want to remain sober.

For us so far in our cruises Azamara, Star Clipper, Holland America was the best choices overall.

 

Things in life

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The old song says “The best things in life are free”, I wonder if many today still think this way in our hyper consumer society. This song was very popular back in the XXth century written by the songwriting team of Buddy DeSylva and Lew Brown (lyrics) and Ray Henderson (music) and published in 1927 but it continued to be popular up to the 1960’s and you can still hear it today on some radio stations, a classic you could say.

This week was the opening of the Summer show at the Art Gallery of the Confederation Centre and since I am a guide there, as always I make a point of attending all the lectures with the curators and artists.

This year the theme is about life and its transitions from birth to death. The artists are all emerging young artists funded by the Royal Bank Of Canada (RBC) for the last 10 years. This program in cooperation with the Curator of the Art Gallery gives an opportunity to young artists to work with a gallery and curators in a professional setting, organize an exhibit and get exposure. In PEI  the Art Gallery is the only venue offering such an opportunity. All the art is Canadian as per the mandate of the Gallery.

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The funny thing is that people are not always comfortable with the idea that we all die one day, it is the human condition can’t escape it. We have two solo shows one by Philippa Jones (Perpetual) of St-John’s, NFLD. Perpetual brings together a selection of recent work by Philippa Jones that explores ways of dealing with loss and mortality through the neutralizing effects of preservation, aesthetic arrangement, immersive ritual, and ultimately recognition of a natural continuum, the temporal cycle that encompasses all being. Catalyzed by the untimely death of close friend and collaborator, Newfoundland curator Mary MacDonald, the artist’s explorations of the processes of extraction from the everyday world, common to art and science, take on a heightened resonance.

The other solo show by Inuit artist Shuvinai Ashoona (Mapping Worlds) from Kinngait (Cape Dorset) Nunavut which celebrates its 20th anniversary this year as an Inuit territory in Canada. This gigantic area of Arctic Canada is 1500 miles North of PEI with a population of 33,000 mostly young people.

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The other shows are group exhibits and explore the transitory aspect of life, Split Images: Truth and Fiction,  something that also disturbs a lot of people.  

In the concourse of the Centre is the exhibit of Ian Funke-Mackay: Serpentine Signs, an artist from Halifax, produces images and signs for a new visual field in which past energies resonate within the present. His colourful and faceted arrays and forms echo the worlds of computer-generated imaging and video-game animations, aspiring to fuse the future-oriented legacies of abstract painting.

 

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I do like Philippa Jones work because it is challenging and offers a chance to listen to what our visitors have to say and see their reaction. So this is the show for this wet and cold Summer so far in Charlottetown. Let’s hope it warms up!

In closing I have added this video of a favourite singer of mine Peggy Lee with Benny Goodman sextet and the famous song On the Sunny Side of the Street. Right now we have no Sun in PEI.