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White Nights Saint Petersburg ’12

June 30th, 2012 | Posts By interface | Filed in: Movies





©2012 Warren J. Devalier


A “Movable Feast” in Europe—Part III

June 26th, 2012 | Posts By Devalier | Filed in: Culture

Erik Renssen-Oil on Canvas

To bask in her warmth

aurora for anguished soul

karmic interlude

In the third leg of our trip, we focused on representative cities and towns in Northern Europe.  In Germany, we visited Munich and Berlin, in the Netherlands, Amsterdam, in Belgium, Bruges, in the Czech Republic, Prague, and in Russia, St. Petersburg.

Whenever possible, we rode overnight trains across Europe, five of them in total. I love trains. The high-speed sleeper trains have a rhythmic, hypnotic quality about them that makes long-distance travel restful and relaxing. We left on the overnight trains between 19:00 and 21:00 and arrived the next day, refreshed and prepared to work or play.

Antique Japanese Kite-Deutsches Museum-Munich

The Universality of Music-Old Jukebox

The King lives on. Long live the King.

Bonsai! Banzai! Kampai!

Restaurant Wasabi in Saint Petersburg

A few impressions stick in my mind about our entire journey, perhaps hackneyed yet so true that they merit restatement:

My first impression is the incredible diversity in Europe, a kaleidoscope of distinctive language, cuisine, dress and customs. Notwithstanding this quilt work of culture, the force of globalization has created a common, international patina. English remains a lingua franca in Europe, so that in all places I could bluster my way through to communicate despite limited knowledge of the local languages, and in Russia, a virtually zero command.

In Bruges

à votre santé

The medieval town of Bruges preserved in the 21st century.

The Begijnhof (Convent), UNESCO World Heritage Site, Bruges

Like it or not, globalization is here to stay. The clock does not tick backward. You can be in a restaurant like Teplo in St. Petersburg (a marvelous place owned and operated by women), or Dressler in Berlin, Palladio in Amersterdam, and ‘t Huidvettershuis in Bruge— and it is if as you are eating  in San Diego, Tokyo, or Buenos Aires. Despite this convergence, national culture resonates with delightful accents of local flavor and charm. Visit, for example, the grandiose beer gardens in Bavaria, and drink a liter of Helles Lager to the beat of German university students, or listen to middle-aged Russians sing Soviet era folk songs in a St. Petersburg restaurant(just as though en masse they were entertaining in a huge Tokyo Karaoke Bar)—and you will be assured that local culture is alive, well, and pulsating.

A myriad of canals, bridges, encounters in Amsterdam

See what I am talking about?

Houseboats are the rage in Amsterdam.

You can farm here too!

And eat well (as well!)

But watch out for the bikers, who run 'fast and furious'.

My second impression is the incredible beauty in our world, everywhere. Ask me what I consider the most beautiful place that I visited in Europe and I could hazard a guess, but it is like asking me what I want to eat as a last meal or what is my all-time favorite movie. No country has a monopoly in beauty. There is no epicenter in this world. Each country can point to the splendor of its own terrain.

Overlooking the Charles Bridge in Prague

Astronomical clock dating from the 15th century at Old Town Hall in Prague

It took 600 years to complete St. Vitus Cathedral in Prague.

Rooftops tell the story...

Church of the Savior on the Blood-Saint Petersburg

View of the Hermitage at 1am

White nights in Saint Petersburg— the sun doesn't quite set

Party time on the Neva River

St. Isaac's Cathedral in Saint Petersburg at 3am

View from the window of St. Isaac's Cathedral

A closer view

My third impression has to with harmony. We humans crowd the planet, and in the leading destinations of Europe, tourists further overload the travel lanes—yet not once in the 2 ½ months on the road did I witness an argument (except a couple of internal arguments that I had with myself!). People went about their lives in harmony, both the tourists and their local hosts. It reminds me that by and large it is the politicians (in power or clamoring for power) who make war or peace. The proverbial man on the street is coaxed to align with the government’s agenda. He may be indoctrinated to hate but his natural instincts are to love.

The light of eternal hope—peace memorial at Dachau

A soldier stands vigilant at Prague Castle.

Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy at Checkpoint Charlie

Fragment of the Cold War Wall separating East & West Berlin

Wall Painting-Communist era East Berlin

Museums and the Art Scene

Marc Chagall-Behind the Looking Glass

I have been lucky to visit most of the world’s top museums, including the Louvre, Smithsonian, Metropolitan Museum of Art, the Museum of Modern Art(MoMA), Museo Nacional del Prado, National Palace Museum Taipei, Rijksmuseum, Musée national Picasso Paris and Museu Picasso Barcelona.

On this trip to Europe I could enjoy a magnificent exhibition of Chagall paintings at the Museo Thyssen-Bornemisza in Madrid, as well as visit the Van Gogh Museum in Amsterdam, and the Hermitage Museum in St. Petersburg. By themselves, each museum justifies a trip to their host cities.

Art Gallery at the Hotel Putlitzer, Amsterdam

Stroll along Spiegelgracht, the street and canal leading up to the Rijksmuseum, and you will discover how abuzz Amsterdam is with art. Visit the Renssen Art Gallery at Nieuwe Spiegelstraat 44 (http://www.renssen-art.com/) and you will  both see some wonderful Dutch modern art and be received cordially by the artist’s wife, Suzka Michels.

Poster at Van Gogh Museum with 'live' Amsterdam buildings reflected in background

Rock Garden at Van Gogh Museum

The Van Gogh Museum at Paulus Potterstraat 7 houses the largest collection of Van Gogh paintings in the world, from his earliest works until those completed right before his death.

The Hermitage—a Tour de Force

The Hermitage at 2 Dvortsovaya Square

View of the roof of the Winter Palace

The Peter Hall (Small Throne Room)

Main (Jordan) Staircase of the Winter Palace

A minor hallway in the Hermitage

The Great Throne Room (St. George Hall)

The Gallery of 1812

The Hermitage stands out both for the greatness of the art masterpieces that it contains and the startling beauty of the museum itself. The five buildings that comprise the Hermitage (Winter Palace, Small Hermitage, New Hermitage, Large (Old) Hermitage, Hermitage Theater and Winter Palace of Peter the Great) are world cultural heritage in their own right.

Leonardo da Vinci-The Madonna and Child

Plan on at least one full day to feast on a sampling of what this cultural treasure house  offers you. You’ll just be getting started on an exploration of the Hermitage, with world treasures ranging from antiquities of Siberia and ancient Egypt, as well as earliest Eurasian art and culture, to the finest works of the great European masters.

And I hope that I’ll see you there!

All the best,

Warren J. Devalier

©2012 Warren J. Devalier

A “Movable Feast” in Europe—Part II

June 15th, 2012 | Posts By Devalier | Filed in: Culture, General

Chagall_Cieling of l’Opéra

amidst your spirit

poppies, currants and spices

an angel’s redoubt

To live on the left bank of Paris is to savor the “movable feast.” We chose an apartment near the places where the expatriate artists of the 1920’s hobnobbed, and within easy walking distance from where our daughter lives.

A café society

Never doubt that Paris is a café society. The cafés are ubiquitous and serve as the hub of social intercourse, from around 10 in the morning to 11 or so in the evening. Some never close. They all have their special character, history, and habitués.

Rue de Rennes

on the horizon

a bar along Rue de Rennes

social intercourse

Poets' Club

nestled in the rive gauche

a club favoring poets

portal for the soul

Café du Marche

à la bon marché

ambrosial tea pour toi

centimes for your thoughts

It is sometimes said that the French are haughty, and waiters brash. I am not certain where such foul canards originate. Perhaps they are carry-overs from the chauvinistic era of Charles de Gaulle. For the most part, French waiters are among the most professional in the world, and occasionally when one is snooty in the famous cafés and restaurants, simply reply in the same coin, and you will not be perturbed.

Limitless beauty, countless options

Notre Dame

La Bastille

calm at La Bastille

for the old guard has fallen

lull before the storm

Marketplace on Boulevard Raspail

Noblesse Oblige

noblesse oblige

to each mutual support

from each full effort

A Garden Delight

muse, mentor, mother,

That I might glean in your light

the unvarnished truth

A door on the left bank

last tango Paris

through windows a mirrored glimpse

of our souls’ content

Parisian Haute coulture

Parisian green warmth

haute couture without pretense

in the City of Light

Certainly the French are proud, rightfully so, because no matter where you look in any direction in the city of Paris you find extraordinary beauty, in the architecture, the fashion, the museums and the arts. During our stay, we enjoyed an avant-garde exposition of the sculpture of Daniel Buren at the Gran Palais, a production of Roméo et Juliette at the Opéra Bastille, a concert highlighted by a star soprano of the National Opera in Saint-Germain-des-Prés Church, a fashion show organized by the Parsons School held at the Cirque d’Hiver, and a recital of Gregorian Chants in Notre Dame Cathedral. On a magnificent Sunday afternoon, we watched the horse races at Auteuil, where Ernest and Hadley picnicked and gambled to supplement his modest income as a cub reporter for the Toronto Star.

take me to the races

buy me a ticket to show

‘splendor in the grass’

Horse Races at Auteuil

Fashion Show at Cirque d’Hiver

a siren call to you

far beyond the opaque truth

unbridled fantasy

Sculpture at the Opéra Bastille

Buren Exposition at the Grand Palais

Saint-Germain-des-Prés

Paris never rests on its laurels. For example, you will find a man-made beach along the Seine in summertime, or the juxtaposition of classic and ultra- modern architecture at the Louvre, thanks to I. M. Pei’s creation of the Pyramide before the ancient palace. Parisians make continuous effort to innovate and improve their city. The bus system is excellent: buses run frequently, are on time, and are reasonably comfortable.

Lest you think that my praise of Paris is unending, I’ll mention a few negatives. Living costs in the most popular arrondissements (wards) of the city are high, graffiti of an ugly un-artistic variety proliferates, and far too many people litter the streets with their cigarette butts, an unneeded burden on tax payers, who foot the bill to clean up afterwards. Also, some residents selfishly do not clean up the poop of their dogs, requiring that you tread carefully to avoid a stinky mishap.

The roaring 20’s

Montparnasse Seafood

Montparnasse Paris

filigree basket of dreams

shattered and fulfilled

Paris was always worth it and you received return for whatever you brought to it. But this is how Paris was in the early days when we were very poor and very happy—Ernest Hemingway

Le Pré aux Clercs at 30 rue Bonaparte, Hemingway’s 1st neighborhood restaurant

foie gras, fig jam, brew

creative inspiration

in Hemingway style

Bistro Le Pré aux Clercs

Paris is a wonderfully city to stroll, and if you want to walk the streets where Ernest Hemingway, Scott Fitzgerald, James Joyce, John Dos Passos, Sherwood Anderson, E.E. Cummings, Ezra Pound, Gertrude Stein and other expatriate writers lived and worked, stroll through the 6th arrondissement.

Palais du Luxembourg

Consider the Jardin du Luxembourg as the hub of that area, surrounded by Boulevards Raspail, Montparnasse, Saint-Germain and Saint-Michel, as well as by Rue de Vaugirard. Ernest Hemingway frequently walked through the Garden and studied the master French impressionist painters in the Palais du Luxembourg and its museum, whose art is now ensconced in the Musée d’Orsay.

Jardin de Luxembourg

tourists pack cafés

Parisians flock gardens

everyone’s whim

Of course, these artists also frequented the right bank. When Ernest Hemingway first came to Paris he and Hadley walked down the Rue de Opéra and ate at Café de la Paix. Hemingway, somewhat tight with his wallet (or Hadley’s trust fund) could not pay the bill. Hadley was kept hostage while Ernest had to scramble back to the Hôtel Jacob on the left bank to get money.

Café de la Paix

The Bloody Mary and the Sidecar were created at Harry’s New York Bar, 5 Rue Daunou on the right bank, a quick walk from l’Opéra. Hemingway cooled down in this bar, after boxing at the Montmartre Sportif. The bar was also a favorite haunt of Fitzgerald.

Harry's New York Bar

Shakespeare & Co. today, reestablished at Rue de la Bûcherie

But the left bank was the fulcrum of the artistic action then, where Sylvia Beach operated Shakespeare & Co. her bookstore and lending library in support of the artists, and Hemingway described in A Movable Feast as a “warm, cheerful place….new books in the window, and photographs on the wall of famous writers both dead and living….and even the dead writers look as if they had really been alive.” The original Shakespeare & Co. was located at 12 Rue de l’Odéon. It was closed during the German occupation of Paris during 1941 and reopened in a different location in 1951.

Hemingway's 1st home at 74 Rue du Cardinal-Lemoine

The left bank is where Hemingway rented his 1st, 2nd and 3rd apartments.

Rue Notre-Dame-des-Champs

When he returned to Paris in 1924, Hemingway’s second residence was at 113 Rue Notre-Dame-des-Champs. It has since been torn down, but you can see the street, where he could walk in a quick 5 minutes to his favorite cafés along Boulevard Montparnasse, and particularly to Closerie des Lilas, Hemingway finished “Big Two-Hearted River here,” by his own account the “best [short story] he had written “by a long shot.” He would write in his notebook at the left end of the bar shown in this picture:

Closerie des Lilas

Hemingway drank here

his cup runneth way over

fecund Paris life

Hemingway moved into this final residence at 6 Rue Ferou after marrying Pauline Pfeiffe, assistant to the  editor for Vogue Paris. Her Uncle Gus paid the rent.

Hemingway 3rd Home

The left bank is also where Hemingway’s principal mentors, Gertrude Stein, Ezra Pound, Sherwood Anderson and John Dos Passos lived, helping him claw his way up from an unpublished, aspiring writer to first critical acclaim as a novelist with publication of The Sun Also Rises.

Auberge de Venise (Le Dingo)

And the left bank is where Hemingway first met Fitzgerald at Le Dingo Bar, where William Faulkner stayed a few months at 42 Rue de Vaugirard, and where James Joyce stayed at 9 Rue de l’Université before and after publication of Ulysses.

Zelda languished here

The Fitzgerald left bank home

Great Gatsby’s retreat

Scott and Zelda Fitzgerald's Home

William Faulkner's residence at 42 Rue de Vaugirard

Sherwood Anderson’s residence at 6 Place de l’0déon

Hemingway, Fitzgerald and Faulkner all attended service at Saint Sulpice Church. The Café de la Mairie across from Place Sulpice was a popular hang-out of writers.

Café de la Mairie at Place Saint Sulpice

Other left bank haunts of Hemingway et al

Head away from the Seine walking southeast along Boulevard Raspail to its intersection with Boulevard du Montparnasse. There you will find four cafés/restaurants facing or next to one another. They were a hub of expatriate life in the roaring 20’s. These are Café du Dôme, Le Sélect, La Coupole, and La Rotonde. These places are described in Hemingway’s fiction or in the works or letters of other expatriates writing at that time.

Café du Dôme at 108 Blvd. Montparnasse

Le Sélect at 99 Blvd. Montparnasse

La Rotonde at 103 Blvd. Montparnasse

La Coupole at 102-104 Blvd. Montparnasse

Three other cafés frequented by Hemingway and other expatriate artists are located near Saint-Germain-des-Pres Church, found at the intersection of Rue de Rennes and Boulevard Germain. Enjoy a class of wine at Les Deux Magots  and imagine Hemingway writing  and hobnobbing here. Its patrons included André Malraux, Simon de Beauvoir, Pablo Picasso, and Oscar Wilde.

Brasserie Lipp at 151 Blvd. Saint-Germain

Les Deux Magots at 6 Place Saint-Germain-des-Pres

Café de Flore at 172 Boulevard Saint-Germain

Hemingway’s life was larger than his art. In A Moveable Feast, he celebrates its magnificence:

“If you are lucky enough to have lived in Paris as a young man, then wherever you go for the rest of your life, it stays with you, for Paris is a moveable feast.”

The City of Light shines always. Vive La France, Vive La Paris!

All the best,

Warren J. Devalier

©2012 Warren J. Devalier