Wednesday, June 3, 2015


Loving Paris

Spring 2015

Paris Abounds in Color and Fashion

Design of the 70's
Jean Paul Gaultier 

     The following description caught my mind while net surfing a few months ago......." The Left Bank Tour is for women who enjoy design, fashion, textiles and art and who want to explore and encounter the magic of Paris with a designer's eye."   With few second thoughts, I was on my way to Paris with Marcy and Kathryn Tilton, textile designers.

The Workshop Begins

 "The Little Black Dress"
Detailed by Fashion Historian Dominique Fallecker

     My first impressions of Paris architecture and public art thrilled me -  beautiful Gothic style buildings and sculptures of 18th and 19th Centuries were everywhere: the Louvre , formerly an immense palace along the Seine now houses the world's most visited museum.  Stained glass and bas relief wonders of Notre Dame Cathedral capture the imagination.  Napoleon's Arc de Triomphe dominates the city's core from whose center radiates graceful tree-lined boulevards including the Champs De Elysee, Boulevard Voltaire, and Avenue de President Kennedy.

Typical Paris Skyline

     Contemporary art deco sites gave color to the Paris sky line as well: Centre Pompidou (houses France's contemporary art museum), the new Quai Branley Museum provides a global ethnographic art tour. and the Parc Villette exposition and music performance centers. 

     Even the dead can appreciate art and beauty.   Cementaire du Pere Lachaise in Paris, the most visited cemetery in the world,  is a treasure of elegant tombs of world renown artists, musicians, scientists, political leaders: Chopin, Moliere, Oscar Wilde, Edith Piaf are some of the million memorials here.    

Oscar Wilde's Burial Site (Very Popular)

     What I loved most about Paris was our charming neighborhood called St Germain des Pres, west of the Latin Quarter, on the Left Bank. I will never forget the organ concert on Sunday morning in the St Sulpice Cathedral.   
St Sulpice Organ Recital

     Within a short walking distance of our small hotel, was the immense Luxembourg Garden filled with handsome sculptures,  children's play areas,  puppet theater, museum, tennis courts, bee hives, petanque courts ( similar to bocce ball)  chess tables...We enjoyed eating a light sack lunch and watching the locals enjoy their leisure. 

Sunday Afternoon in Luxembourg Park

     Speaking of restaurants...there were dozens within a fifteen minute walk from our  hotel.  To name a few favorites:  Chez Fernand, Cepe Figure, La Boussole, Chez Rene St Germaine de Pres,  L'enfance de Lard,  and Jazz Club Chez Papa...

Great Food and Fun Nearby

              Haute couteur and fashion design is well and living in Paris today

     The exhibition of Jean Paul Gaultier at the Grand Palais.  He was considered "the terrible infant of fashion" by the press since his first shows in the 70's.  He found inspiration in less conventional sources: dandies in bowler hats meet tattooed punks in Trafalgar Square, classicism and the spirit of rebellion, feathers, boas and frilly cancan style with leather, jeans, and plaid fabrics.  He designed Madonna's cone breast outfit! I loved the vibrancy of his style and his open vision of society with its madness, sensitivity, humor and irreverence in which everyone can declare himself as he wishes.  

Gaultier's Design from the 70's
Other Gaultier's

   Fashion designer Yves Saint Laurent's collection located in his former couture house contains several thousand  garments as well as thousands of graphic and photographic references.   Laurent (1936-2008) was best known as an influential European fashion designer who impacted fashion the the 1960's to present day.  He is often credited with rendering ready-to-wear credible.  Learning about his work style, from creating designs to final production, was fascinating.  

     The Jeanne Lanvin (1867-1946) exhibition at the Palais Galliera features over a hundred models from the time Mademoiselle Jeanne began her career as a milliner in 1885 to the time she opened her shop, Lanvin, at age 16.  She is credited with developing the oldest fashion house still in operation.  At one time her label employed more than 1000 workers.  I was inspired by her creative uses of exotic ethnic fabrics and original designs throughout the collection.  

Other Artists
     The mural of Monet's Nympheas was the most inspirational art experience of my life.  The walls or Jardin des Tuileries of the Musee National de L'Orangerie is covered with his totally sensitive rendering of gracefull water lilies luxuriating in a peaceful pond.

My Favorite Monet

     Musee d'Orsay featured impressionist, Pierre Bonnard.  The vibrancy of his colors, particularly yellow, seem to convey Arabian nights brillance.

     Gustav Klimpt and his group of Viennese intellectuals were featured at the Pinacotheque de Paris.  Of interest were ersonal details and paintings of the development of Viennese art at the end of the 19th Century.   Klimpt's golden Judith and his gigantic Beethoven Frieze were amazing.  
Terrific Klimpt Exhibit 

Window Shopping is Fabulous
    In case you are interested, some of my favorite fabric, notions, and clothing boutiques visited:

     Fabrics and notions:  Entree des Founrnisseurs, La Droguerie, Ultramode,Tissus Reine, Dreyfuss/Marche St Pierre, Dam Bouton, Janssens and Janssens, Ultramode, Eva Tra LaLa

      Clothing Boutiques:  Noriem, Lilith, Toto, O-Paris, Iki, Bon Marche, Heaven, Eskandar...

Au revoir for now.  Hope you enjoyed your time under Paris skies....

Graffiti Is Alive in Some Areas

At the Louvre
Can You See the Mona Lisa?

Wednesday, March 25, 2015

Enchanting San Miguel de Allende. Mexico

A Colonial City of Artisania and Culture

A Princess With Her Prince in the Park

Street Scene Near Our B&B
One of Many Carved Doors

The Bellas Artes Building

          You are guaranteed to enjoy this stunning and neat city with its colonial architecture, cobblestone streets (no street lights), and striking light.  The sweet people, classy accommodations, variety of restaurants and lovely parks are absolutely delightful.    One notices many foreign retirees (mostly Yankees) who live here to enjoy the wonderful year round climate (6500 ft altitude), artistic spirit, and beauty of San Miguel.  

 We stayed in a centrally located B&B managed by a mother and chef/son from Valencia, Spain.  The warm family atmosphere and beautifully prepared food kept us enchanted throughout our stay.  Within a few blocks were many other excellent restaurants featuring dishes of diverse ethnic origins.  

Who Wants a Basket?

     The heart of the city is its principal plaza called El Jardin located beside El Parroquia, the large church.  You will love hanging out there in one of the delightful eateries and feel the spirit of San Miguel.  

El Parroquia in Central San Miguel
           Photo by Jim Fitch
    You will want to visit the Museo de San Miguel near El Parroquia to learn about the life of San Miguel Allende and his role in Mexico's independence from Spain in 1810 .  We learned that Miguel de Allende played a critical role in initiating the drive for Mexican independence which resulted in his execution by the Spanish.  Upon Mexican independence in 1821, he was recognized as a martyr and the town was renamed San Miguel de Allende.   

     A visit to the Escuela de Bellas Artes is another treasure.  Originally the building was the monastery for the La Concepcion church.  In 1938 it was converted into a fine arts school in 1938 and still offers classes.   David Siquieros, the gifted Mexican muralist, was invited to teach art classes here and left monolithic unfinished mural- totally amazing.   You are left wondering what was Siquieros thinking.  

David Siquieros Unfinished Mural

       San Miguel is filled with dozens of 18th Century temples and chapels of diverse architectural design:  baroque, churrigueresque, and indigenous influence.  

Central San Miguel
  4 Photos by Jim Fitch

Great Design 

Churrigueresque Design on Church
Very Ornate

    Children as well as adults will adore the Museo del Juguete Popular Mexicano.  The exhibit of Mexican toys showcasing the many regions of Mexico is a must visit.  

Dolls From San Cristobal de las Casas

Notice the Frida Eyebrows!

     What amazed me most was the incredible variety of arts and crafts throughout San Miguel.   I learned that the early Spanish administration founded the town to provide all the basic needs  (home furnishings, church needs, clothing items, etc) for the mine workers living in the nearby towns of Queretero and Guanajuato.  And today, the residents of San Miguel continue making their beautiful creations which travel to all parts of the world.   
     San Miguel is filled with so many art studios, galleries, jewelry and accessories, boutiques......

Painted House Front


A Touch of Ethnic Style

Unique Fiber Technique

     With such beautifully woven shawls,  paintings of Mexican village scenes, sculpture, adorable dolls from Veracruz, rich tequila, colorful necklaces and bracelets, dynamo hats........Leaving San Miguel with only a small suitcase was a miracle!

     A Colorful Neighborhood in San Miguel

Good-bye San Miguel de Allende.....would so enjoy spending more time with you and your creative spirit.   Hasta luego!

Friday, January 23, 2015


Sunrise in Bagan
Wonderful View from Hotair Balloon


     Arrival at the Umbra Hotel in Bagan area after a 45 minute flight from Mandalay,  We rented electric motorbike and began the exploration of more than 4000 pagodas and stupas. Dating back to the 12th  Century.  With thousands of temples, pagodas, ordination halls, it was extremely confusing figuring out where to begin our adventure!  The three structures included here were some of our favorites.   

     This early center of Burmese power built superb temples of brick and decorated inside with frescos and topped with gilded pinnacles combining Hindu and Buddhist images with colorful local nats (spirits).  Some historians believe that there were 55 kings who ruled Bagan beginning with the rule of King Anawrahta in 1044 AD.  He is considered the ruler who established Theravada Buddhism among his royalty and population.


    The Upali Thein Ordination Hall dates from the 13th  Century. It is said to have been built by a monk named Upali to commemorate King Narapatisithu choosing an heir from his 5 sons .  There is a circle and star frescoe on ceiling and other wonderful frescoes of daily Bagan life (painted in 18th Century) that we were not allowed to photograph.   

Upali Thein Ordination Hall

Frescoes on the Ceiling 

                                  ANANDA TEMPLE

     Ananda Temple-- 1090-1105 ...One of the most loved and largest of all Bagan.   It illustrates the stylistic end of the early Bagan period.  In  1990 the temple spires were guilded  on its 900th  anniversary.  Glorious huge teak doors, Exterior includes more than 500 glazed tiles of Jataka scenes (stories of Buddha's reincarnation).  Inside  the inner cube are  31 foot buddhas and two lacquer statues who are to represent King Kyanzittha and  Shin Arahan,the monk who initiated King Anawhrata to Theravada Buddhism.  Lovely spires throughout...

Massive Ananda Temple

The Original Wooden Image of Kassapa Buddha
Crafted to Show Changing Facial Expressions According to Angle of Viewer
9.5 meters 

Glazed Tiles from the exterior base of Temple showing Budhhas Reincarnation


Shwezigon Temple -- 1102 .... Gold covered dome rising out of three rising terraces is located in Nuang U. Rocks used to build  the pagoda were passed along devotees standing for six miles! 

Golden Shwezigon
 Inside the pagoda compound are images of 37 nats (spirits) to whom many Buddhists still pray. These are the pre-Budhhist (animist) spirits that were officially endorsed by a Buddhist monarchy in a compromising gesture towards a public reluctant to endorse Buddhism.

      I loved one of the Shwezigon Pavilions with wood carved figures relating stories of the Jataka (detailing the past lives of Buddha),  the Ramayama, and a folktale about two characters nemed Hti Lat and Po On.

How I Enjoyed These Precious Woodcarvings

Cows Enjoying Bagan Temples
Typical Commercial Scene Entering the Pagodas
Daughters of Commercial Stand Vendors

   My favorite Bagan buildings were the Upali Thein ordination hall for its wall frescoes and the Ananda Temple with its glorious large style, magnificently decorated teak doors, and charming carved tiles illustrating Bagan culture.

Signage Near Bagan Pagodas

    Our 3 day Bagan visit was a delight and the e-bike transportation was so convenient.     Afternoon swims at the beautiful Umbra Hotel pool helped us deal with the heat.  Dinners at Queens restaurant nearby and 6 am walks to catch the pagodas at sunrise were beautiful.

  Good-bye Bagan and Burma.  What a diverse experience. I so appreciated the generosity and kindness of the people of Burma.    We loved the journey.  Glad to have you  share the land and people with us.