It's been almost a week since I returned from Rome, and I'm already ready for another adventure. After I arrived back in Île de France, I began looking to for a town nearby that would expose a new facet of life in France to me and give me some space to work... and that's how I set my sights on the beautiful town of Rouen.
Actually, the idea of visiting Rouen has been bubbling in my mind since I visited Le Musée d'Orsay last month and saw the raw spirit of the impressionists. Monet's soft and devoted paintings of Rouen's Cathedral at different times of the day especially moved something inside of me. He must have felt a deep quiet as he captured the energy of the intricate stone façade on canvas without imprisoning himself to rigid exactments of reality. How did he transmit this Cathedral's élan so powerfully? And is it true to life? Or a result of his own personality and perspective?
Well, one way to find out is to go there. And so "go there" I have!
I found a room on the left bank of the Seine... Well when I saw on the left bank, I really mean a thirty minutes' walk south to the small neighborhood of Le Petit-Quevilly. The neighborhood was quiet and totally walkable... but next time, I think I'll just pay the extra €20 for a room right in the historic district. Still! Not a terrible location. I was right next to the Jardin des Plantes de Rouen, so every morning I got to walk through the completely empty botanical paradise with absolutely no one else in sight... just the morning mist. It was like walking through a surreal landscape.
I went to Rouen for two reasons :
One. To experience the historic city
Two. To have some space to get work done!
When you're an indefinite guest like me it's nice to get away and have a place to call your own for a few days. As lovely as my hosts have been, it's quite distracting to live on someone else's schedule. Attentive hosts want to make sure you feel included and show you things almost constantly. It's really humbling, but it's also hard to set aside some "do not disturb time," especially when there's a language barrier.
So! While I'm in Rouen, I have a few projects in mind:
Project One :: SCANDINAVIA
I have decided to go to Scandinavia and the trip is coming up soon. That means I need to book travel arrangements ASAP before they get too expensive or all the good places are gone.
I have to remind myself: Do not rush! Do not panic! When I rush, I make decisions out of fear not excitement.
Project Two :: HOLIDAY GIFTS
I love to give people things that I think will make them happy, and shopping while I travel is always the best way to find unique items my family and friends won't find at home. Historically Rouen has been a wealthy town (It was the exchequer of Normandy for a very long time). Not only is there a plethora of high-end stores but the area is abundant in boutiques that specialize in French products. And it's always nice to give something specific from a region that people can't find anywhere else.
Once again, I must remind myself that I will have to carry all of this through two cities and three major airports... by myself. So I will try to find small, unique presents for people. Quality, not size, matters here.
Project Three :: WATER COLORS
I've been through a lot this past year and a half. I mean a lot. Sometimes I've felt like there are so many things bouncing (and occasionally slamming) around in my head I might go crazy. As I was flying back from Rome, I realized that I need a project that will draw my attention away from myself and my worries, something I can do with my hands without too much thought. And since many of my ideas for crafty projects aren't feasible (let's just say they require a lot of material and permanent space), I needed to think of something light and easy to travel with...
Hence, I am now painting one water color a day. After purchasing a few cheap items (don't want to shell out the big bucks 'til I'm sure that I really like it), I began drawing and painting simple images from my daily life... A basket of quinces or a birds' nest by the river. Each day I date the picture in the corner in the hopes that if something big happens that day, I can record it on the back of the picture and mingle the two memories together.
So far my pictures look like hot mush with sprinkles, but they're not so bad if you turn them upside down and stand a bit back. If I ever have an exhibition, that is how I think I will display my "masterpieces."
If I could offer any advice to you travelers, it would be to take care of yourself mentally as well as physically... If you're feeling overwhelmed, take time to pinpoint what is throwing you off kilter and what you could do to remedy it. It is good to shake things up sometimes!
Here is an article I wrote on finding (and keeping) your balance en route to wherever it is you're heading.
And now, to enjoy my free time in this beautiful city...
L.D. has spent the past two years traveling, writing, and encouraging readers to look at the world with fresh eyes. For anyone who feels like their life has lost its vibrancy, she offers some advice, “Open new doors, challenge yourself, and fall in love with other people's stories.”
For advice and encouragement, her articles are there for you...