Friday, January 8, 2021

looking forward (2)

What are you looking forward to in 2021?

This was the question that I asked members of my Toastmasters club via e-mail on January 1.

Below are their answers.

Friday, January 1, 2021

the moon's song

The Moon's Song by Olivia Fern.
After I learned about it thanks to my friend Joy and listened to it, it was destined to be the discovery of the year.

The year was 2019 and it would have received the honor, if not for The Mastery of Love.

So it had to own 2020 instead.

And the truth is that this song accompanied me many times throughout the year and I don't think that it would have been any different even if we did not have a virus to worry about.

The sound is one thing (don't get me wrong, the guitar play and the singing work together to create a mellow and joyous).

The lyrics are another. I find myself totally enthralled EVERY TIME the last lines came on. They represent the voice of the moon to whom one has come to ask for guidance, and they go deep.
And she sang "Child, be unafraid to shine. Be bold and bright, reflecting the light."
She sang "Child, be unafraid to shine. Be bold and bright, reflecting the light." 
Be unafraid to shine
Be unafraid to shine
Be unafraid to shine
Be unafraid to shine
And listening to the following version of the song featuring Ayla Nereo on vocals and Green T. on percussion is nothing but pure bliss.


happy new year (3)

Saturday, November 7, 2020

souvenirs niçois

Traveling to Nice is always a treat.

I remember the first time, some seventeen years ago. I was going to hang out with my friend Danielle. I flew into the international airport, either from the United States or from the United Kingdom, I can no longer recall which. But what I do recall was the bus ride into the city center. We rode along the Mediterranean coast, and I had never seen a sea so blue. I was mesmerized.

I had a chance to relive the same memory five years ago, when I went to meet up with my buddy Brian. That time though, it was the from the TGV (a high-speed train) from Paris. I had a window seat, and utterly loved gazing out towards the sea, building up excitement about the weekend.

This time around, last month, I did take the TGV again, but from Provence. The enchantement from the previous time was however nonexistent. Why? Because it was dark outside. 10pm dark. Nothing blue to see through the window.

But whatever, I was going to Nice!

For me, this trip, at the tail end of a two-week vacation, was going to be mostly one about going down memory lane. What made it extra special was using Vieux-Nice (the old city) as a base. It was a neighborhood far from modern, yet charming nonetheless. Besides, it had several spots where one could get socca, even though I was interested only in one particular spot.

Three days was not enough, but I did my best to make them worthwhile.

Place Rossetti in Vieux-Nice
Place Rossetti in Vieux-Nice

Lou Pilha Leva (Old Nice eatery offering the best tasting socca according to Wikitravel)
Lou Pilha Leva
(Old Nice eatery offering the best tasting socca according to Wikitravel)

Socca (a chickpea-based pancake)
(a chickpea-based pancake)

Promenade des Anglais
Promenade des Anglais

Colline du Château (viewed from la Promenade des Anglais)
Colline du Château
(viewed from la Promenade des Anglais)

Salade niçoise at Le Safari
Salade niçoise at Le Safari

View from la Colline du Château
View from la Colline du Château

I Love NICE. And you?
And you?

The pedestrian and bicycle lanes along the coast was a new sighting
The pedestrian and bicycle lanes along the coast was a new sighting

Daurade royale (gilt-head bream) at la Maison de Marie
Daurade royale (gilt-head bream) at la Maison de Marie

Sunday, November 1, 2020

souvenirs provençaux

Having the desire for a getaway from Paris for an extended period of time, I took the train down south to a region well-known beyond France : Provence. It would be my first stop before heading eastward towards Nice.

All in all, it was a 10-day vacation in Provence.

I focused on two cities, namely Aix-en-Provence and Avignon. The former, I had visited some two years ago for a reunion with sketchers from all over France whereas the latter was completely new to me.

Several aspects of the vacation were classic ‒ city walks, eating in restaurants, and hanging out with local friends ‒ and enjoyable. What made the stay even more memorable were the different artistic activities that I indulged myself in.

Thanks to my friend Christelle, I had the opportunity to discover calligraphy hands-on. I tagged along to participate in a day-long workshop in Aix, where professional calligrapher Cécile Pierre introduced me to the technique.

I had been skeptical about the idea of writing out characters in an obscure typeface being fun. But what I experienced myself was quite the opposite. As I practiced out the letters of the Unical script, the hours just seemed to fly by too quickly.

Onciale 1

Onciale 2

One of the things that I really wanted to do with my time in Aix was to learn watercolor. Sure, I had dabbled in it in the recent past with less than stellar results. This time around, I wanted to sink my teeth into it. Certainly, I was inspired by the work of sketchers that I had met regularly in outings in Paris during last six years. Because while I sketched exclusively with graphic pencils and black pens, most of them embraced watercolor with abandon. In their company, I had always declined the invitation to explore color, and "now", at Aix, I was about to venture out of my comfort zone.

So I signed up for three classes with Hélène Dieudonné, an artist that I found on the Internet. She is based in Lambesc, a town outside Aix. I had taken five hours of classes in watercolor last year in Paris, but that was in a small group setting. With Hélène, I was able to receive more attention as the classes were private and each lasted three to five hours. Undeniably, I learned a lot about the technique, pigments, water, and color. And there is much more to learn, but in the meantime it will be practice, practice, practice !


Besides dabbling in new artistic techniques, I found time to return to old habits, i.e., pen and ink drawing. I had already sketched several well-known fountains and landmarks in Aix during the sketcher réunion two years ago, and I was not very motivated to go back that route. So I settled for something new, challenging and very characteristic of the city all at once : Cours Mirabeau. With its wide sidewalks, numerous restaurants, large boutiques, and vibrant scenery, I likened this thoroughfare to the Champs-Elysées in Paris. Even in times of COVID, there is hardly a rendez-vous spot more popular in Aix than Cours Mirabeau.

Aix-en-Provence : Cours Mirabeau

When I made it over to Avignon, I was more interested in discovering the city than doing anything artistic, as I had never been there before. And what a pleasant experience it was visiting the old city, walking the narrow, cobblestone streets and appreciating the stony buildings. Certainly, the Palais des Papes was a highlight, as well as the Pont Saint-Bénézet and the Jardin des Doms, a wonderful, tranquil garden perched atop the hill from which I sighted the Pont Saint-Bénézet below.

Late lunch at Carré du Palais

Jardin des Doms

Pont Saint-Bénézet seen from the Rocher des Doms

I left the city with a desire to return for more complete visit, but not before creating a nice souvenir.

Avignon : Palais des Papes

Saturday, October 31, 2020

one of these things


One of these things is not like the others

One of these things just doesn't belong

Can you tell which thing is not like the others

Take your time or you may get it wrong