It's good to totally get away and spread my wings, but it's just as good to return to Minnesota and my quiet, rural home.
I thoroughly enjoyed my little globe-trotting adventure.
I have a new appreciation for fine works of art. I have seen images in magazines of Vincent van Gogh's paintings, but until I was standing directly in front of the artwork I never really appreciated why everyone raves about his creations.
As corny as it may sound, I could actually see the brush strokes and how van Gogh was able to create paintings using just straight brush strokes on the canvas. I also learned that as his mental illness became more problematic, the style of his brush strokes actually also changed, becoming more violent and less conservative.
I would have to say that van Gogh was probably my most memorable event at the Musee d'Orsay.
Of course a trip to Paris wouldn't be complete without a trip to the Louvre and some sort of effort to see the Mona Lisa. Yes, I know the Mona Lisa is the most famous painting in the entire world, but I fail to see the "wow factor." The room where the painting is located was jam packed with rude people from every other single country in the world! I couldn't get within 20 feet of the small, enclosed painting.
My favorite at the Louvre was, of course, the Venus de Milo. The age of this marble statue made me want to bust through the rope and touch it. I mean, have you ever been in a room with an artifact more than 2000 years old? And I am talking an actual age, not something, like Aunt Sally, who looks 2000 years old.
Yes, I wanted to touch it, but I didn't want Joey's prediction of seeing his mother featured in the National Geographic Channel show "Locked Up Abroad," to come true.
After Paris, my niece Emily and I spent one day doing a power tour in London, after acquiring our one-day Tube pass. This was my second trip to London and this time the Queen let me even closer to Buckingham Palace! I told everyone The Queen and I were supposed to have tea. She phoned me and said she had an "emergency," she needed to handle. But I know she was home; the flag was at full mast. I may have to unfriend her.
After being dissed by the queen (lower caps intended), we boarded a train toward Rhyl. This took a bit because customs agents when entering London are the back-ends of donkeys. They are so mean, they had this chick in tears!
It was the first time Emily and I have ever been on a train and it was so exciting that - we slept.
When we both woke up, Emily was a bit concerned that we may have missed our stop, but I said, "What the heck, even if we did, it would make for a great story to tell everyone."
Sadly - we didn't miss our stop and I have no exciting story to share. Emily was relieved; I was disappointed.
Once in Wales, I could hardly contain myself as we sat outside the train station and waited for my dear friend Menna to come retrieve the obvious Americans - obvious because we have all our teeth. Wales must have a shortage of dentists.
Menna, and Gwenno, who both have wonderful teeth, were the women that spent the summer of 2004 with us. Both are now married and each has and adorable child of her own. We spent the first night with Menna, getting to know her husband Arthur, or as she says, "Ah-thur" and her new baby girl, Anest. They live on a sheep and beef farm near Rhyl. It's not just a small sheep farm, they have 1,500 sheep that graze the hillside near their home.
They also have one humongous Charolais bull that was in need of some serious affection. The poor boy was standing up on the hillside making all kinds of "adoring" noises.
Every morning at Menna's house I would open my eyes and look out the window to see sheep and cows grazing on the hillside. I was in heaven.
(The view out my window in Paris was quite different. Had I thought of it sooner, I would have hollered and asked their names.) During our stay in Wales, the sun was always shining (rare in Wales) and amazing cumulus clouds were drifting across the sky.
Gwenno also lives on a farm near Snowdonia, the tallest mountain in Wales. Her and her husband Gwion and their daughter Anni, live on a hobby farm, owned by some aristocratic Lord, who is a terrible landlord.
At Gwenno's place I was fortunate enough to get to help feed the Holstein/Friesian calves, play with squealing baby piglets and help feed the 50 chickens.
I really was in heaven. I even got to wash my clothes and hang them on a clothes line. Just so you know, clothes dried in Welsh air smell the same as clothes dried in Minnesota air.
To unintentionally make me feel at home, Arthur chased a few sheep he was moving to a new pasture, after they escaped. And, when we arrived at Gwenno's house, Gwion was nice enough to be chasing a few rogue pigs that had managed to get out of the fencing on the mountain side behind their house.
Both Menna and Gwenno have turned out to be amazing mothers. It's great to see them as adults. It was also harder for me to say good-bye this time. These two women have become good friends to me and I don't get to see them nearly enough!
My wild adventures are done for the summer. I have pretty much missed the entire month of June here on the farm, but I feel so refreshed and ready to conquer the world that I may have to return to Paris and jump the rope around Ms. Milo.
For questions, or comments, e-mail me at firstname.lastname@example.org.