Tuesday, August 8, 2017

Bonne Maman

Acrylic on gessoed hardboard, 7 x 5''
painting #246, 2017

This small painting was a hospitality gift for my friend Françoise and her husband Michel who generously offered to pick us up at the airport in Lyon, France and welcomed us into their home for a two night stay in Annonay. On May 8, my wife Suzanne and I would embarked on the ''Puy Way" (GR 65) part of the greater network of trails of the Camino leading to Santiago the Compostella. The moderately difficult hiking trek from Puy-en-Velay to Saint-Jean-Pied-de-Port, France is 720 km in length, with an elevation reaching 1300m in the Aubrac region of the Massif Central. The whole journey should have taken us about 26-28 days to complete. Françoise did join us for the first day and hiked with us until noon before we said our goodbyes. 

Everything was going well until day 8, then Suzanne started to have pain in her left knee. By the end of day 9, the pain would turn into an injury. I continued solo for an additional day, while Suzanne took a shuttle bus in order to rejoin me in Figeac. After 3 days of rest, she saw very little improvement. So with heavy hearts, we decided to leave the trail and remain in Europe for another month as tourists. Not having to carry an 18 lbs backpack or tackling mountainous terrain permitted her to slowly recover. It would take 18 days for her to walk without a limp. I was able to hike 270 km during our 10 days on the GR-65. With this said, I feel I have unfinished business. I will be returning to Figeac by myself to complete the Puy Way hiking trek to Saint-Jean-Pied-de-Port next year.

After visiting the tourist information center in Figeac, a very kind lady helped us map out a new itinerary. We travelled by bus or train visiting Cahors, Toulouse, Bordeaux, Biarritz, Bayonne and St-Jean-de-Luz in France. We then crossed the Spanish border and made our way to San Sebastian and Bilbao. From there we boarded a plane to Barcelona where we stayed for 3 days, then flew to Rome for an additional 3 days before returning home. We swam in the Atlantic Ocean and Mediterranean Sea, visited 21 museums plus countless historical landmarks and churches. Some of the museums included the following: 

  • Musée des Augustins and the Bemberg Foundation in Toulouse
  • inaugural art exhibition held at La Cité du Vin in Bordeaux 
  • the jaw-dropping Guggenheim Museum in Bilbao 
  • Fine Art Museums of Bordeaux and Bilbao 
  • Picasso Museum and the Antonio Gaudi masterful architecture in Barcelona 
  • Vatican Museums with the Sistine Chapel in Vatican City 
  • Galleria Nazionale d'arte Moderna in Rome 
  • but my hands down favourite was the Museu Europeu d'art Modern in Barcelone, dedicated to figurative contemporary realism 

The whole trip was a wonderful whirlwind. 

Bonne Maman means "Good Mother" in English. Symbolically, the image is in memory of my mother Emma, and the painting will remain in the country of her ancestors. Since her passing in 2006, during our travels, we often see her name or it will just come up in casual conversation with others, a reminder that she is watching over us. This trip was no exception. This always brings me comfort and a validation that I should live out my dreams.

-private collection France