I just spent the whole month of May in three cities in Europe — Basel, Switzerland, Nijmegen, Holland and Paris … no need to mention the country for that one! My main motive for the trip was to visit my son, but I set up some teaching jobs there too.
Not having a car, computer or cellphone for a month — just trains, bikes and legs was great. The RER and Metro in Paris was at first overwhelming till I learned sortie meant exit. Those things are like a city under the city.
Swiss love their country, with good reason. They pay a lot to be there, and they get great educations, public transportation, and a clean environment. They don’t waste money on wars and all goods there are fair trade.
I was lucky to be in Paris during the Manet show at the Musee d’Orsay, as if the Musee itself wasn’t spectacular enough. Inside what was once a gigantic rail-station were the great master-works of the Impressionists, the beautiful, soft light of France preserved forever.
Most interestingly, the birds there sang all day in the yards and parks where I trained. I am still amazed by this. The foliage was a lot like Northeastern America, as was the light, which I relished. I did lots of sketching in my son’s most excellent, truly Dutch apartment, in that wondrous interior light. Sketching on the trains was great because of seated passengers staring out of windows.
Webb is thriving in Nijmegen, working on his research at the Max Planck Institute, in two bands with his bass and guitar, amongst a close-knit circle of good friends, bandmates and colleagues, all within a bike-ride’s distance. The whole town is on two-wheels, even little kids. Cars and bikes and people on foot negotiate narrow brick streets between ancient buildings quite harmoniously. Nijmegen is too charming for words – the oldest city in Holland, close to all the great museums (Utrecht, Amsterdam).
I tried a Chen Hsin class (Peter Ralston’s mixture of mostly T’ai Chi with some other martial arts thrown in) with Rob van Ham, which was all contact and in a padded room for throws and falls. Lots of fun.
Interesting things that struck me there:
The graffiti on the walls between the town and train tracks on the train-ride from Zurich to Basel was the best I have ever seen.
You can drink from carved, public fountains in Basel and the Swiss countryside — it’s all clean water.
People in Switzerland commonly speak four languages — fluently! Swiss-German, high German, French and English).
The Swiss air-kiss the cheeks three times, left, right, left, while the French just do two.
All the students there had pretty good form and paid attention.
Paris workshop was in a lovely gym provided by the community in which Sophie resides, just because she lives there. Imagine that. A country that cares for its residents — what a concept!
The eggs, yogurt and butter taste fantastically better there. It must be the love and respect the farmers have for their cows and chickens. The yolks are almost orange. You need much less food per meal because it tastes denser.
Still, coming back to Northern California redwoods, our wonderful smells and incredible fruits and veggies was, as always, a knock-out.
So here are pix from the workshops: