Dijon

Ok well, Morgan and I are now traveling first class on the TGV (Train a Grande Vitesse) in style. You simply can’t compare traveling by train in the States with traveling in Europe. I love to take Amtrak across the US and I’ve done it many times, but in Europe and most certainly in France, train travel is so far superior. I can’t be sure how fast we’re traveling now, but I bet it’s around 160 mph or more. These high speed trains have a gentle sway about them as we take turns. Actually very soothing,

Our comfortable seats are in “la Voiture Silence,” which means the silent car. You have to turn your cell phones to vibrate. No one is talking. The trains here are so well engineered that it’s whisper quiet in here. I’m actually have to typing more gently, so I don’t make a disturbing racket. It feels like a library…. the fastest library in the world!

The trip from Paris to Dijon is only about an hour and 40 minutes, and I know Morgan and I are enjoying the idea of a holiday within our holiday. We have been trying to make these two weeks a nice comfortable blend of work and relaxation. I think we’ve done pretty well. I’ve shot about 2300 pictures with her so far. Combine that with the general snapshots and travel street photos and other art that we’ve both been taking and we’re probably up over 3000 at this point.

We’ve brought a lot of couture with us and it’s been great to go to the closet when it’s time to shoot and select from a nice range of beautiful things. It’s always a challenge to go out on location and work when there are a lot of people nearby. It’s high tourist season here and they are everywhere. So we’ve been finding quiet little paths in la Jardin de Luxembourg and the small narrow streets around our apartment.

It’s funny, Morgan has actually stopped traffic… literally… a few times here. The light turns green and the cars just sit there watching for 30 seconds or longer. No one honks. The Parisiens have become the tourists suddenly and they’re taking in our sights!

But we’ve also been allowing ourselves to use the inside of the apartment as well to create without worrying about onlookers. We’re on the third floor and at certain times of day, the sun comes in through the tiny elevator shaft creating beautiful light to shoot in. The elevator is relatively new and most people don’t use the grand winding staircase anymore, but we’ve spent a lot of time on it, using it as another nice location. There’s also a beautiful courtyard downstairs. And then there is our little balcony. Just enough room for two people and it’s been yet another place for us to shoot.

Morgan has been great. It’s not easy to be your own hair and makeup artist as well as
choosing how the clothes go together and then being the model. And when we’re shooting outside, she’s the one that people are looking at, not me. It’s usually pretty good attention. Very flattering, but when you’re a stranger in a city where she doesn’t speak the language, it’s common to want to be a little anonymous. Yet when we’re out in Paris making beautiful images, she’s the opposite of anonymous. I have to give her credit. She’s been doing amazing work even with lots of eyeballs on her. We’ve created some great images together.

But I think Parisiens look at beauty in a much different way than in other places. The men certainly stop and look. But it’s not leering in the creepy way that I see in the States. One man on a bike rode past us and then turned around down the street and rode past us again. But it wasn’t uncomfortable. It’s quick appreciative glances, never staring.

Even the younger boys seem to have an unusual level of appreciation and respect for their ages. They take shy hesitant glances our way and quickly avert their eyes. I think Europeans, and most certainly the French, have a much healthier philosophy on beauty and bodies and fashion and art and how it all is part of living.

Since I also spend a lot time creating art involving nudity, it’s been such a refreshing experience once again to be in a country and a city like Pairs where the human body and is not looked at as something to be hidden or ashamed of. I consider myself lucky to have lived in many different cities all over the world in my life, some very briefly and some for years at a time and I can usually tell very quickly which ones feel like they fit.

I can understand why so many artists come to Paris to explore their art. I’m typing this wearing a watch I bought in Milan, Italy some years ago. On the face is an photograph by Man Ray called “Return to Reason” which he made in Paris in 1923 in Montmarte. Morgan and I were in the Cemetere Montmarte on Monday where he is buried. I use the phrase “good ghosts” a lot. Like, “This building has good ghosts.” What I mean by that is the place has the spirit of positive energy from people who were here before me.

Paris has good ghosts. Man Ray is one of them. I like creating art in a city where so much wonderful art has been created before. When I create art in a place like this I feel a sense of camaraderie with other artists who have inspired me over the years. A bit like a humanhood.

I’ve felt many times in my life that I was living somewhere that I didn’t really fit in. A bit like an alien. The people around me didn’t get who I was or what I was trying to do. Not that it really mattered I guess. But sometimes it’s a little difficult to be on a different page all of the time. Although maybe it has made me focus more on what I knew to be my own personal truth.

And I think ultimately it has been the thing that has made me the happiest in my life.

And that’s why Paris makes me so happy as well. It’s a city that inspires me to really remember what is most important to me. It clarifies what I love about my own work. It realigns my priorities in a very pleasant way.

Paris reminds me to live.

And now I have created art in Paris like I never have before.

L’art est ma vie !

It’s really amazing how many people we both know happen to be in Europe at the same time we are. We’re traveling to Dijon to see Morgan’s cousin Garnet and his girlfriend Nicoletta. The other day we had coffee with Zac, a friend of mine who is originally from near Nice but has been living the last few years in the States. Zac was officially our first guest we received in our apartment here. He’s got the summer off before he starts college at Cal Arts and so he’s making his way around Europe before he has to get back to school. Jillian Ann is here in Europe as well, although not in France at the moment. Another favorite model of mine, Frances, stopped in Paris for a few days on her way back to the States after two weeks in Italy and we spent some time with her. A friend of Morgan’s called Dan will be coming through Paris with his girlfriend in a few days who we’ll hopefully cross paths with before we leave.

After Dijon… the train ride back

Life is funny sometimes. But I like it best when it’s unpredictable. French is a language of nuance. And I’ve been taught once again that life is in the details.

Morgan’s cousin Garnet, who is currently living in Dijon, helped us with our accommodations there. He suggested we investigate the beautiful castle Hôtel Chambellan, so I Googled it from Paris and found pictures on one site and the address and email info on another. We made the reservations in French with no trouble.

We arrived in Dijon after our very comfortable ride on the TGV, and Garnet met us at the train station and walked us about a half a mile to our hotel. The woman at the check-in desk was very nice and showed us to our room, which was adequate and clean, but didn’t feel very castle-like. We looked around for the beautiful winding stone staircase I saw in the internet pictures, figured it much be in another part of the hotel, dropped our bags off and set out on what was to be a great day of exploring Dijon with Garnett, his girlfriend and another friend of theirs.

Dinner, drinks, cafés, great conversation, a stop on Garnet’s little rooftop terrace, bar hopping and finally bed.

We woke up the next morning and I went to the front desk to ask if we could have petit déjeuner delivered to our room. A few minutes later, a very friendly, joyful woman knocked on our door and brought in a beautiful spread of du café, du chocolat, du pain, du lait, des la confiture, et du beurre.

It was delicious, and just the thing you need after a long night of sampling wine and cocktails in Dijon. Garnett’s girlfriend Nicolette is amazing. She’s from Romania and is teaching a group of French students in Dijon for the summer for an American University in Ohio. She speaks something like four languages fluently and is conversational in a few more. How’s that for cool?

Anyway we’ve been expanding our vocabularies like crazy in French and learning a little Romanian as well now and my favorite new phrase in that language is what they call a hangover. I’m not sure how to spell it so I’ll just say that it translates to “my helmet is too tight.”

Brilliant.

Morgan and I both had tight helmets this morning, so our lovely breakfast helped us get back on our feet in short order. We packed and got ready to check out, but we were still curious about the beautiful stone staircase we saw in the pictures. So Morgan suggested I ask the woman at the desk where it was.

Funny thing.

It turns out that there is a Hôtel Chambellan as well as a Hôtel le Chambellan. I’ve been taking French for long enough to know that using the wrong article can change meaning pretty dramatically.

I had looked at two different hotels on two different internet sites and thought they were the same one. Makes sense. 50 Euro seems a bit inexpensive to stay in a castle.

C’est la vie.

I realize I’m getting behind in my storytelling. I haven’t had much of a chance to talk about Paris, but I’d better write a few things about Dijon while they’re still in my head.

We had an amazing time. Garnet is that rare blend of brilliant and funny and just an all around nice amazing guy. He was a most generous host providing a great walking tour both Tuesday and Wednesday, with plenty of stops along the way at fun cafés and restaurants and markets.

Nicoletta joined us as much as she could around her obligations with her students. Garnett’s friend Laurant stopped by to join us a few times and we got to see his incredibly hip bar and restaurant.

It was a very international group of us all talking and laughing and teaching each other useful phrases and pronunciation. Laurant now nows how to correctly use the phrase “fly-ass” in conversation. And we all have our tight helmets. And great memories of Dijon.

Politics… sex… privacy… cinema… art… healthcare… capitalism vs. socialism… the heinous American foreign policy… and the general distress that George Bush is at the wheel of a country that affects so many other countries. Many rounds of drinks and espressos.

We’re about ready to arrive back home in Paris in a few minutes, so that will be all for now. But it’s really been a wonderful experience and we still have a few more days left.

Back home in Paris. I like the sound of that. We love our apartment here. It’s so comfortable and perfect.

Sorry there are so few pictures to go along with these blogs, but we just have so many to go through and pick from that we’ll probably have to leave that for when we get back, although, as always, Morgan manages to get a some great images of our adventures up on her blog.

À demain. Au revoir !

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