April morning in Dijon France

We made it from London England to Dijon France yesterday but arrived a little later than planned after missing our first connection in Paris and ended up on a later train. What an adventure! I don’t think I have been so confused in a very long time. Lesson number one – Ask. Lesson number two -Ask again. Lesson number three – keep asking.

Good people to ask in the Paris metro and train stations are the people at the small snack shops. They were the most skilled at giving clear directions. Better than the information centre. Who would have thought it? My assessment of RER Transit across Paris is mixed. I believe it  is only for the brave foreign traveler or those that play video games and who are willing to keep trying to get through the doors and passages which appear to be hidden. I took us on a wrong turn someplace getting off the RER and after about half an hour of asking and searching I popped up like a gopher halfway down the loading area for the trains. This would have been fine if our two month continuous train pass had been activated but wasn’t and this is where we lost any hope of catching our first possible connection to Dijon. Since we didn’t come in the main entrance and we didn’t know the layout of the Gare de Lyon train station, we had no idea where the ticket office was located. I tried information and received some rough idea which didn’t seem to lead to anything resembling a ticket office. Then I asked someone else who worked in another part of the building but she didn’t know either.

After waving us off the same direction as the information counter David said  “You poor darling. You have no idea where to go and I can’t keep following you.”

This experience and the five minutes to catch our train later when transferring in Sens almost finished him. When I didn’t see Dijon Ville on the list of destinations after we disembarked, I went and checked with the ticket counter. The service person had little English and of course I had about the same amount of French. But I had written out the train number, time and our destination in a little black pocket note book. This enabled her read my notes and not be distracted with my feeble attempts at speaking her beautiful language. She checked the schedule and let me know that we had five minutest to get to Platform one (voice raised hands making appropriate references to be sure I understood as she spoke her English words perfectly). This required quickly zipping across to a middle platform in the underground stairs with our luggage. I gathered David up and pointed him down a steep set of stairs and grabbed the end of our bag so we could  go quickly. We then went about 20 feet and I pointed for him to go up an equally steep set of stairs.

“What!”

Yes, I do believe he shouted in dismay. But we made our way up the stairs with a whole two minutes to spare.
As we whisk across the French countryside he is deciding what in the suitcase he is going to send home. But the yellow rapeseed fields are stunning and the regional train is quiet like the ferry home from Victoria. He is recovering. I hope anyway. Looking out the window I see trees with doctor Zeus like balls on them that must be a vine growing up the tree and forming these shapes. Dusk is falling and, even if I have almost no idea what the conductor is saying, the stillness of the end of the day is comforting.

But that was yesterday. This morning we woke early in our old walk up apartment with its French balcony and many tastefully added modern touches. The task was to find the Les Halles market.

early morning Les Halles Market by Terrill Welch 2014_04_08 Dijon France 003

Many streets in Dijon are pedestrian and bicycle only making it a pleasant city to walk both day and night. The market starts early and Tuesday is the local shopping day. As we slipped along the quiet streets with locals going to work it was easy to think we are just part of another ordinary day in Dijon.

morning in Dijon by Terrill Welch 2014_04_08 Dijon France 013

The salt cod or morue caught my eye but only for its natural display beauty.

salt cod or morue in Les Halles market Dijon France by Terrill Welch 2014_04_08 Dijon France 007

I would have taken more photographs to show you but I found an amazing food blog post by the Food Gypsy last evening when I was searching for where we could get groceries nearby. It is worth the read and the food photographs are stunning.

Instead, we went for coffee and croissants at the small cafe next to the market. We had taken a browse and wanted to carefully consider what we would purchase. This task needed a wee bit of fortification so as not to get more than we could eat in a couple days. After, we picked up a few items and started back to our apartment. The day was starting to pick up and the local shops were getting prepared for business.

April morning in Dijon France by Terrill Welch 2014_04_08 Dijon France 019

The day tours were just arriving from Paris as strolled home and unpacked our provisions.

a few Les Halles market provision by Terrill Welch 2014_04_08 Dijon France 042

David turned on the French radio and we served up a late breakfast of strawberries drizzled with creme fraiche, parsley ham, sweet pears, ripened goat cheese and a chunk off a wood oven baked baguette.

I then went off to paint a block away in Park Darcy while David took a nap.

plein air sketching Park Darcy in April Dijon France by Terrill Welch 2014_04_08 Dijon France 058

I chose the park because I wasn’t sure how people would react to my painting on the streets. However, I quickly discovered that painting is considered serious work in Dijon and many people stopped to comment, visit, ask questions and give their thumbs up of approval. My French is improving by the hour out of the pure delight and pleasure of warm conversation. The only slightly awkward moment was when a couple of oriental tourists stage-set a photograph with me. I should have seen it coming but only had enough time to look up and smile as the woman laughed and put her arm around my shoulders and her husband’s face disappeared behind his iPad to frame the shot. I am not sure if one short night’s sleep can even remotely qualify me as the local Dijon artist painting in Park Darcy.

But here we have it – APRIL MORNING PARK DARCY 8 x 10 inch acrylic sketch on tempered hardboard.

Park Darcy in April Dijon France 8 x 10 acrylic plein air sketch gessobord  by Terrill Welch 2014_04_08 Dijon France 063

Getting tangled in the unknown and unfamiliar yesterday was worth it for the sweet welcome of the April streets of Dijon this morning. There is something extremely humbling about being at the mercy of others to find our way. It is only equaled by the release of finding we have succeeded and all do to the kind and open hearts and minds of others.

 

As an adult, what is a time you most needed to rely on the help of others to find your way?

 

© 2014 Terrill Welch, All rights reserved.

Liberal usage granted with written permission. See “About” for details.

Creative Potager – Visit with painter and photographer Terrill Welch

From Mayne Island, British Columbia, Canada

For gallery and purchase information about Terrill’s photographs and paintings go to http://terrillwelchartist.com

How do you pack for three months travel to London, Paris, Dijon, Basel, Venice, Florence, Nice and Barcelona?

The short answer never changes when packing for a trip does it? Let’s say it all together…

TAKE AS LITTLE AS POSSIBLE!

But what does as little as possible look like?

Here are three clues:

1. If you need to sit on a suitcase that is as up to your waist and wider than the bathroom door in order to close it, you are not there yet.

2. If you don’t think you can carry your luggage and pull out your passport from your safety wallet at the same time, you still have some work to do.

3. If you are wondering if you are going to be able to hire someone to carry your belongings or you can’t imagine carrying it up four flights of stairs all by yourself, it is time to reassess.

When David and I traveled in Peru for a month we only had one small backpack of carry-on luggage each. When we came home we had one extra small bag to check that contained a few gifts. At the time I wasn’t painting and only had my much smaller film 35 mm film camera. There were no iPads and we didn’t even consider taking a laptop because Peru had lots of internet cafe locations. This time we have much more gear to pack and we are going for a longer stretch of time. Because of this and because we will be in such diverse climates we decided that one piece of carry-on each wasn’t going to work. We purchased one narrow medium-sized, hard-shell bottomed suitcase that expands into two separate pieces if we need it. We will have one carry-on each containing mostly camera equipment, laptop, ipads and toothbrushes… and this one suitcase will be checked.

For clothes think comfortable, versatile, happy being crumpled, easy to wash and layers. Bring only the clothes for what you are going to be doing and half as many as you think you need.

Take as little as possible by Terrill Welch 2014_03_23 070

We are not night club people. We have no wedding to attend. So dress clothes and dress shoes are just not needed. If we change our mind later, then it looks like I get to buy a new pair of shoes 😉 But I won’t pack these things with me. I do have a simple skirt and top that can go anywhere for a nice dinner. That is it. But the skirt and top is also equally suitable for a day traveling on the train or a morning walking along the beach or strolling an art gallery. I don’t wear make up, use face or hand cream and I don’t take any medications or supplements so this helps keep things simple.

However, there are a few don’t-leave-home-without items that I do include in my packing:

Travel things by Terrill Welch 2014_03_23 074

1. a small bottle of liquid hand cleanser. This was so handy on our trip to Peru that I seldom have been without it since.

2. safety money belt with RFID blocker which means only a small amount of cash for daily purchases is ever readily accessible. Extra tip – when choosing your clothes make sure you do not have to strip or risk getting charged with indecent exposure to get at your passport, train pass and credit card and bank cards in the money belt. Hence, I packed a skirt and top not a dress.

3. since we will be checking one suitcase I have included a sewing kit with scissor and fingernail clippers. If you are traveling with only carry-on leave these restricted items at home and purchase them when you get where you are going. Note: dental floss is crazy useful as a thread if you remember to bring a needle big enough to use it this way.

4. electrical adapters if they are needed. This didn’t used to be such a big deal but we have too many electronic toys to leave home without them anymore.

5. your sense of humour! Never, ever go on a trip without it. Ever. There will be times when you will be so tired you want to cry. There will be times that everything will seemingly go wrong no matter what you do. This is when you pull out your rather squished, rumpled sense of humour – give it a good shake, dust it off and put it work – and always remember where you packed it where it is easily accessible.

Now for my nice-to-have items:

Travel essentials by Terrill Welch 2014_03_23 068

1. one quick-dry compact towel shown on the right in the photograph above. This item went with us to Peru and was mostly used to dry my long mop of hair but also can be used to lay food out on and as a blanket when cold or to cover your head when you don’t want to see anyone… particularly the person you are traveling with – I am teasing but you get the idea.

2. a pocket raincoat that is tough and durable. I like my hands free and holding an umbrella is just a pain. Besides I am short so an umbrella is actually a dangerous weapon to be welding on a busy street.

3. a pocket day-pack for maps, hairbrush and food – NOT for money, credit cards, bank cards, passport, camera or iPad or anything else valuable. If the pack is lifted you want to be able to shout after the person…. have a nice lunch!… then be on able to move on with the rest of your day.

4. an inflatable head and chin support. This is something new we are trying but we have one overnight flight and some long day trips on the train. I will report back after the trip to let you know how well it works.

5. maps… if you like maps that is. I will spend a good amount of time looking at maps before and during a trip to familiarize myself with the lay of the land so to speak. I like to be able to imagine how various places relate to other places even before I arrive. This keeps the anxiety down once I am on the ground. It is not a necessity because tourist centers have maps and if you are taking a smart phone then paper maps might even be easy to skip. But physically looking at maps is just something I deeply enjoy and it will keep me occupied for hours of traveling time.

6. one hard copy book for when the iPad or kindle is packed away or the battery has run down.

Then, there are just a few things that MUST be left behind:

1. your travel plan and essential information with your emergency contact person.

2. any sense of entitlement or ethnocentric righteousness. Different doesn’t mean wrong. It only means different.

Now we are all packed and ready to have fun! Yippee! Eight more sleeps 🙂 Oh! Did we forget anything?

 

What is one little-thought-about item on your essential packing list for three months or more travel?

 

© 2014 Terrill Welch, All rights reserved.

Liberal usage granted with written permission. See “About” for details.

Creative Potager – Visit with painter and photographer Terrill Welch

From Mayne Island, British Columbia, Canada

For gallery and purchase information about Terrill’s photographs and paintings go to http://terrillwelchartist.com