Art on the Street in Paris

Dear Liza,

There is a lot of art in Paris’s gardens and art galleries, famous museums and even rich people’s apartments. But what I noticed a lot this visit was the art on the street. Grafitti, stickers, and commercial installations give a lot of flavor to a city like Paris, where politics and art is as close as the street corner.

These stickers are on many lamp posts, encouraging us all to eat a plant-based diet. The slogan at the bottom says, “Nothing is more powerful than an idea whose time has come”. Having recently changed to a more plant centered diet myself, I would encourage this, as well.

I like this small, pale sticker attached to the traditional street sign. In the equivalent of a whisper, it says, “I exist.”

We found this Sharpie message on the Pont Neuf. It is a disapproval of the French President’s new retirement policies and a play on an old piece of absurdist art. It says ,“This is not a macron.”

And then there is this five-story fiberglass statue of artist Yayoi Kusama, standing in the median strip of the Rue du Pont Neuf on the Right Bank. In a promotion for Louis Vuitton, an expensive fashion designer, she stands outside their main store, painting her signature polka dots… on everything!

You just never know what you’re going to run into on the streets of Paris.


Grandma Judy

…And Onward to Paris!

Dear Liza,

After a very full three days in Utrecht, with more adventures than I had time or space to tell (I will save those for a slow day sometime in the future), we caught the TGV (train grand vitesse, or Very Fast Train) south to Paris.

We needed to take the regional train back to Amsterdam to switch to the TGV for Paris. We had some time to play with, so we stepped out of the station to find some pastries. I’ll tell you, in Europe, train stations are like cathedrals!! Have a look.

Our trip to Paris took a few hours longer than planned, however, because of a back-up of train traffic. I thought it was because of the general strikes that have been happening in France, but the official story is that there was a wire that got damaged somehow. Whatever the reason, we had time to get to know some of our fellow passengers. Thanks, everyone, for making a long trip fun!

We took the number 4 Metro from Gare du Nord to the St. Germain de Prés neighborhood and walked just a few blocks to the Crystal Hotel. The lobby is very stylish, with this horseback warrior woman keeping us safe. Tristan checked us into our small but comfy room.

We were hungry and tired. Our old favorite place from long ago visits, Le Café de Beaux Arts, is just down the block. French Onion soup and a few glasses of wine put us right.

Auntie Bridgett’s new traveling buddy, Miffy, got into the act as well. Miffy is the creation of Utrecht designer Dick Bruna and is exactly as old as Grandpa Nelson, being created in 1955. She is now world-famous, fits in a pocket, and is fun to pose.

Once we were fed, we realized how tired we were, strolled back to the hotel, and crashed. Exploring Paris would have to wait for tomorrow.


Grandma Judy

Visiting Vincent

Dear Liza,

Vincent van Gogh, one of our favorite artists, only lived to be 37 years old. He didn’t even decide to be a painter until he was 32! Most of his paintings were done in the last year of his life, many at the mental hospital in Rémy, France. He would sometimes paint more than one painting every day.

We found this early work called “Portrait of a Farm Woman”. I can see that Vincent was still painting mostly in the browns and grays he had learned from his uncle in the Netherlands.

Later, after his time in Paris, Vincent used more and brighter colors. He did this colorful, animated “Portrait of a Man” in 1889. The way the fellow’s head is on crooked makes me wonder what sort of character he was!

This is my new favorite Van Gogh painting. The bright blue sky and pink blossoms are so pretty, and you can see the sunshine and shadows moving on the ground under the tree. It is like seeing a breeze.

I love this painting, as well, because I have crossed little bridges like this in Amsterdam. The style of bridge that is very popular in the Netherlands. Since the land is so wet there and the people make canals to help drain the water away, bridges are designed to be both inexpensive to maintain and easily opened for boats to go through.

I also like the blues of the water and sky, and how he shows the ripples in the water where the women are doing the laundry. The ripples sort of tie the man in the wagon to the ladies washing, saying “they are all a part of this place.”

There were more works of art than I could photograph, and more than I can tell you about here. Maybe you and I can travel to the Kröller-Müller Museum some day and I can show them to you. I’ll even buy you lunch!


Grandma Judy

Heading to the Kröller-Müller Museum

Dear Liza,

Our first adventure in Utrecht was getting out of the city and heading to a tiny town called Ede (pronounced ‘Ada’), by train.

Then we took two different busses to the De Hoge Veluwe Dutch National Park to find the Koller-Muller Museum. These works of art are all in the private collection of the late Helene Kröller-Müller, who bought art all over Europe. Price didn’t seem to be an object.

We were there to see an enormous private Van Gogh collection, but we saw a lot of other things first.

Surrounding the museum are many wide acres of green space, which Mrs. Koller-Mueller filled with dozens of major sculptures. This one, Meneer Jacques, would re-appear later in the day.

The wind and rain were impressive as we waited with other chilly folks for the museum to open.

The featured artist was Fernand Léger, a French artist who studied with Paul Cézanne and Pablo Picasso. He had a cubist style that was different from either of his mentors, and I found it charming and playful.

We also found a few rooms with Piet Mondrian’s paintings. This Dutch painter has always been a favorite of mine, because so much of his work looks like delightful patchwork quilt.

His early works are more pastel-ish, and his later works become more primary-color oriented. I like them all!

We discovered a new artist (for me, anyway), Charley Toorop. She was a Dutch woman who painted bold, unflinching self portraits. They were not “pretty” or feminine. They were simply beautiful, at all the different stages of her life.

I love her image of herself as young soldier, just after the First World War, where she lost many friends. Later in life, her hair has greyed and is worn longer, but she still looks straight at the viewer. She looks like a very honest person.

By this time we were a bit footsore and very hungry, so we stopped at the cafe (named after Meneer Jacques , the sculpture out front) for chicken wraps and salads.

Before we ate, I lined up the flower vase, a candle, and my wine glass. Seeing art always puts me in the mood to make art!

We had more arty adventures after lunch, and I will tell you about them tomorrow.


Grandma Judy

5,002 Miles in 9 Hours

Dear Liza,

I’ll be seeing you in Horsens in a week or so, but for now, we are in Utrecht, The Netherlands. We caught a flight that went directly from Portland to Amsterdam, so we didn’t have to change planes. That meant that for 5,0002 miles, we sat.
And sat.

And sat some more. There was a dinner, (better than expected), and lots of movies to choose from (“The Lady Eve” was disappointing, “Babe” was adorable.) Sleep was difficult.

But this morning, ready or not, we landed in Amsterdam. After walking for what felt like miles down corridors, getting the luggage and presenting our passports, we were well and truly in the country!


But we didn’t want to be still. We wanted to get to Utrecht, where we had never been before, and see what there was to see. Grandpa Nelson and Auntie Bridgett figured out how to buy train tickets from the machine, and we enjoyed the modernist vibe as we headed down the moving ramp to the platform.

The train ride was totally quiet, as we had accidentally chosen a “Silence Stilte”, a quiet car. It was probably for the best, anyway. We were exhausted and the scenery filled our brains.

We disembarked at Utrecht Central and, following Grandpa Nelson’s directions, we ambled past the farmer’s market, hip shops and yummy-looking restaurants to find the Leonardo Hotel, our home for the next three days. We stretched out (I even napped a bit) and then headed out in search of adventure.

We discovered that Utrecht is a wonderful mixture of buildings from the 1600s and the early 2000s, ancient bricks and stone overlaid with neon and cartoons.

The canals that help drain the soggy soil and deliver goods to warehouses now provide homes for ducks and ambiance for visitors.

We found Meneer Potter (Meneer means Mister) and had delicious salads and bread and wine. Our night’s sleep was bumpy because our body clocks were still mixed up. We all woke up about 3, were awake for a few hours, then dropped back off to sleep.

Saturday morning we woke up groggy, but ready for a whole ‘nother adventure.

Stay tuned!


Grandma Judy

The Tibbetts Family : New Friends at Lone Fir

Dear Liza,

Now that the weather is less awful, we are getting out for walks. We stopped by Lone Fir Cemetery on my birthday, to visit the dead people and get some perspective.

We visited our favorites, of course. Dr. Hawthorne, who treated the patients in his mental hospital with uncommon respect, the Fleidner family, who built a building that still stands Downtown, and Lou Ellen Barrel Cornell, who lead an unconventional life.

(Photo Credit : Find a Grave website)

And we met some new folks. This tall monument has always caught my eye because the family name, Tibbetts, was used by local author Beverly Cleary for one of her characters. This time, I took pictures of the stones around the tall marker and did some research on my favorite research site, The Historic Oregonian.

In his obituary, we learn that the patriarch, Gideon Tibbetts, was familiarly known as Father Tibbetts. He was originally from Bangor, Maine, and married his wife, Mary, in Indiana. Their company of wagons took nine months to cross the country from there.

They rafted down the Columbia and originally settled in Corvallis, then moved to Portland.

They started their family, but childhood diseases took four of their six children between 1853 and 1859. I cannot imagine the sadness.

Gideon bought and developed property east of the Willamette, creating Tibbetts Addition, which covered the area from the Willamette River to 20th Street and between Division and Holgate, just south of Ladd’s Addition. This area is now known as the Brooklyn neighborhood. Two streets in that area, remember him: Gideon Street runs along the railroad tracks, and Tibbetts Street runs east-west between Powell and Division Streets.

Mary outlived Gideon by 14 years, living well in their family home. I am still searching for information of her two surviving children. Her daughter, whose name I haven’t found, married a Judge Kennedy from Walla Walla Washington.

As much as I appreciate the entrepreneurial spirit of early Portland, the practice of individuals (Like Ladd, Couch, Tibbetts, and others) organizing their own developments within the city is what lead to our weird street numbering system, which needed to be adjusted in the 1930s.

Every time I get to know about a previous Portlander, I learn more about the city and how it grew. And there’s 180 years worth to learn!


Grandma Judy

A Fine Day at the Zoo

Dear Liza,

Since we had such a nice day Friday, Grandpa Nelson and I took the Number 15 bus and the Blue Line train and went to the zoo. This was a very popular idea, and even on a weekday morning, there were a lot of happy people there.

The animals seemed happy, as well. The Spoonbill pair was nesting, with herself sitting on the nest and himself bringing leaves to make it better. He seemed like a clumsy, but dedicated, workmate.

The African porcupine was having his lunch, right up by the fence. We got as close as I ever want to get to one of these stabby dudes.

At the Charles Darwin statue, someone had put a knitted hat on the little girl, maybe so she wouldn’t get chilly as she listened to the great man speak.

As we were heading out, we saw some other changes.

The Africafé, where we usually have lunch, has gotten a facelift and a new name, The Aviary Café. The menu is the same, and lots of families were enjoying a lunch and sit-down.

The mountain goat statue that I have posed grandkids on for years has been moved closer to the Mountain Goat enclosure, to celebrate some new arrivals.

These goats have gotten onto the Olympic Peninsula where they are not native, and are causing habitat problems. Some young goats who have been orphaned are being placed at the Zoo. Adults are being moved to the national forests.

Isn’t he handsome?

And just because I can’t resist including a picture of cute kids, here’s a five year old shot of Cousins Jasper and Kestrel on the goat statue.


Grandma Judy

And the French Just Keeps on Coming!

Dear Liza,

This past week, I passed a new milestone: 1200 straight days of French lessons on Duolingo! I started being diligent about it after I retired and moved to Portland , and Auntie Bridgett makes sure I don’t skip a day.

I like learning on Duolingo for many reasons. I am on the FREE program, so it doesn’t cost me anything.

I can learn silently if I’m sitting near someone and don’t want to disturb them, or turn up the volume and hear how the language sounds.

The little green mascot owl, called Duo, is always encouraging and never appears to think I’m an idiot, even when I’m sure I am.

And now, because of my streak, I have three days of cool extra French lessons. I have also had fun learning a bit of Danish, so I can read menus when I visit you.

Seriously, I wish I could have gotten my students as pumped about learning as I am right now. I did try. But I’m not as cute as Duo.


Grandma Judy

67 and Having Fun

Dear Liza,

Yesterday was my birthday, and my lovely people turned it into a two day celebration. Saturday was predicted to be the warmest, sunniest day of the year so far, so we went out and about. We drove about 20 minutes east to McMenamin’s Edgefield resort to enjoy their St. Patrick’s Day celebration.
It was so warm, I didn’t even wear a coat!!

Like most of the McMenamin’s properties, Edgefield has a history. Back in the early part of the last century, it was the Multnomah County Poor Farm, where folks with no resources would go to have food and a roof over their heads. After it closed, it was empty and vandalized for many years, until the McMenamin brothers found it and brought it back to life.

I love all the McMenamin’s places, but Edgefield is the largest and most creative. We started in the Black Rabbit Room, with murals, smiles and good food. In keeping with my healthier diet, I had a tofu tikka masala instead of a hamburger. I did enjoy a fine birthday stout, however. I’m only human.

Wandering around in the early spring sunshine, we enjoyed people watching and the art-y , country-ish nature of the place.

There was traditional Irish music on the lawns and corn-hole players. Barns, bars, and happy people were everywhere.

Outside the Distillery, we watched well-equipped golfers practice tipsy putting and joyful little girls following a St. Patrick’s Day pony.

And of course, Harold came along. We have really missed having our stuffed friend on our adventures. He always makes things more fun.

I think I’m going to like being 67. I have lots of adventures planned!


Grandma Judy

Warm Spring Sunshine!!

Dear Liza,

Today was the first day in months that I have gone out without a coat, hat, scarf, and gloves. It was in the 50s, sunny, with just a little breeze. Spring is on the way!

The cherry trees are getting ready to bloom!

The teeny tiny Heather is blooming!

The roses are getting leaves and the crocuses are blooming!

And this afternoon, when I picked up Cousin Kestrel, we ate ice cream from Cheese and Crack in their delightful, warm, sunny, OUTSIDE seating area! Just like honest to goodness not frozen people! It was wonderful!

Once we got home, Kes worked on embroidering her jacket and I water colored a new map of Paris, to help me remember the city. Later, I used the map to show Auntie Katie where things are in Paris.

Life sure gets interesting when we get together!


Grandma Judy