I’m now into month number three of the Ride the Cyclone tour. Add my five and a half weeks in Europe onto the front of that and that is a long time to be living out of one suitcase and one carry-on. There are some things you know that you are going to need like a computer, comfortable shoes, and enough clothes. But on top of all that, despite limited space, I’m so glad I have these things:
1. Portable Printer
This is the one item on this list that is fairly stage manager/production manager/producer specific, but having a portable printer with me on tour has saved me many hours and dollars. In every city there are new schedules, contact lists, copies of the script, and many other items that need to be printed. With my own printer, I print these things in my hotel room at 1am after Q2Q and don’t have to try to find a 24 hour Kinkos or wait until the next morning to go to staples and pay per page. I bought the HP Office Jet 100 color printer and couldn’t be happier. It takes up only a small amount of my suitcase (both in terms of physical space and weight) and when set to “draft” mode prints very quickly. I did not have my printer with me in Europe, and I wish now that I had. I spent many evenings fighting with the hotel’s printing stations, trying to get schedules to print. Doing it in my room is so much better! Also, having a color printer makes it very easy to make beautiful opening night cards.
My on-the-road talisman is my ducky, Cue, who makes every theatre feel like my home base. But bring something with you that makes wherever you are feel like home: framed photos of friends, your own pillow, a teddy bear, fridge magnets, an action figure, etc. A figurine also makes a great travel companion/something to take photos of when you are in places that you can’t always get a good selfie.
3. Spices (in baggies!)
While it is easy to eat out all the time when touring, it is so much healthier and cheaper to do some of your own cooking. We have been really fortunate on this tour to mostly be in hotels where we have suites with kitchens. However, it is not possible to travel with a full kitchen cupboard in one little suitcase. To remedy this, I have four plastic baggies: garlic powder, chili powder, cinnamon, and basil. Between the four of them I can add some flavor to whatever I’m cooking, but it doesn’t take up much extra space.
4. A pleasure item or two
What brings you joy? Figure that out and then bring that with you. Whether its an e-reader stocked full of books, a video game console, an external hard drive full of your favourite movies and tv shows, or a relaxing bubble bath, there will be time off that will need to be filled and having the option to relax while doing something you love can be a welcome break from exploring.
5. Sleep Aids
For me, this is melatonin, but I know that everyone has a different sleep aid preference. On tour you switch beds more frequently than some people change their sheets. You may also find yourself changing time zones and the constant “Oh, I guess we’re back to tech week….again” gets old. I highly recommend having some sort of sleep aid, especially for the first night or two in
Ever wondered who the folks are who stage manage the big TV events like the Oscars, Grammys, and other major awards shows? I know that I have. I always watch to the end of the credits to count how many they have (for example, most episodes of American Idol credit anywhere from four to eight stage managers).
Well now I don’t have to wonder any more since the LA Times ran a great profile of Dency Nelson, the man who has stage managed the Oscars for the last 25 years (among a long list of credits).
“An anonymous but critical piece of the Hollywood awards season machinery, stage managers like Nelson control the chaos of the live TV broadcast — they deliver the correct winning envelopes, ensure that the pop-up microphone actually pops up and, most delicately, orchestrate the flow of talent through the stage wings….”It’s like air traffic control,” he said one recent afternoon at the Dolby Theatre at the Hollywood & Highland Center, where he was preparing for Sunday’s show. “Ninety percent of the people in the room don’t know my name, but when they round the corner and come into the wings there’s a smile, ‘Oh, that guy.’”"
All of our travel items have the Cyclone logo spray painted onto them
I’ve been in Calgary for four very busy days now and am having a hard time believing that my first week of Ride the Cyclone is coming to an end. It feels like we’ve been in Calgary both longer and shorter than we have. Because our appearance in Calgary is part of a festival, our load-in/tech time was limited and so there was no time to go through and Q2Q the show here. Instead, I got my first chance to ever see the lighting cues, costumes and props in a dress rehearsal as I called the show for the first time on the afternoon of opening. I was nervous and I was stressed about it.
That was Wednesday. Now it’s Friday (well, Saturday really….) and I have three performances under my belt and I’m starting to feel like I’ve got a handle on what is going on. Which of course means that it must be almost time to head to the next city and start over. But there’s also something exciting about that, especially this time because we have things technically that we just didn’t have time to really look at here in Calgary that I know we want to fix in Vancouver.
All bundled up for the cold Calgary nights.
Calgary has been really beautiful and really cold while we’ve been here. Today was down around -20 for a good portion of the day, and while my prairie relatives would think I’m weak for being cold in that, this Vancouverite is finding the cold to take some getting used to. I am getting good use out of the winter hat I picked up in Zurich and have good memories of exploring the city in search of something to keep my head warm! Sadly the picture on the right is a bit grainy from my iPhone camera so you can’t tell that I am covered in snow in it.When I snapped the photo yesterday it was snowing quite hard outside.
In addition to the cold we’ve been battling the dry air, higher altitude, and a nasty cold that has hit many of us working on the show – myself included. For me this is a show where I barely stop talking for an hour and a half, and I’m definitely not used to being the one worried about my voice, but Thursday night I nearly lost my voice and ever since I’ve been following all the advice the singers want to give me about keeping my voice healthy.
Rielle & Sarah with the Amazing Karnak in the background
The show itself continues to be wonderful. It’s a great joy to get to listen to a new audience discover it every night. Tonight someone snuck a photo during the show on their iPhone and then tweeted it. I figure that makes it fair game, so the first production still of the 2013 tour is to the left of this text.
Tomorrow my parents are coming to see the show since they are in Calgary on their way to vacation and then Sunday we head to Vancouver where our lighting designer is already busy supervising the lighting install and getting ready for our arrival. Vancouver is the only city on the tour that has seen a previous version of the show. I can’t wait to see how they respond to the new and improved version!
I mean, the Calgary Herald really liked it. They called it “an exhilarating blast of theatre with bite” and “ a wild ride, offering everything from emotional resonance to laugh-out-loud moments to hummable tunes that will have you singing the raunchy lyrics the next day.”
I cannot write a top five or top ten list when it comes to theatre in a year. How do I decide to include such an arbitrary number!? Instead, here are the shows I saw this year that made my heart beat faster, that moved me to action, that left me gasping, that pushed me to keep doing what I do, and that have stuck with me at the end of the year.
In no particular order.
Jonathon Young and Meg Rowe in All the Way Home
All The Way Home (Electric Company) website I had a hard time picking between All The Way Home and Initiation Trilogy, both from the Electric Company, when i was beginning to compile this list. I chose All the Way Home because it was one of those productions where not only was it excellent, but EVERYTHING about it was excellent. The cast, the design, the direction, and the implementation in it’s unique set up on the stage of the QE all worked extraordinarily well. I was moved to tears by this production and in it’s final beautiful moments I sat wanting to bathe in that beauty and not let it leave. Though that transience is part of what made it so special.
Tempting Providence (Theate Newfoundland Labrador at Gateway Theatre)website
I had been hearing one of my mentors sing the praise of this show for at least four years before I finally got my chance to see it live up to all the praise she had heaped on it. It is a play that is beautiful in its simplicity and specificity, with each movement, prop, and set piece carefully chosen to serve multiple purposes, but above all to serve the story. I saw this show shortly after a friend accused me of only liking big shows with spectacle to which I had responded that what I was most interested in was shows that work as a whole and make big choices – something this show did so beautifully. I searched for a photo from the production to include in this post, but the photos I found came no where near capturing the show’s simple beauty, so I decided against including one.
Stationary (Delinquent Theatre at Neanderthal) website
I had seen this show back when it was Parked! at Bridge Mix in 2011 and was so excited to see a longer version. By the time I was able to attend the show had been running for a few days and the festival was abuzz with delight at the talent of this young company. I was definitely not disappointed – even with high expectations – and have since purchased the soundtrack which I listen to frequently and continue to hope that I will get to see this show again. I saw the lives my friends are living on that stage – bachelors degrees, dead end jobs, and a desire for something more. I also saw an incredibly talented group of performers who showed themselves to be more than triple threats, adding multiple musical instruments to their repertoire. Is the show perfect? No. Not yet at least. But it is absolutely wonderful and from the look of things, the show is moving forward as a run in April 2013 at Presentation House has already been announced. As Delinquent Theatre says, “Real life is disappointing. Singing about it definitely takes the edge off.”
The God that Comes (2b Theatre & Hawksley Workman at SummerWorks) website
The night of debauchery that was The God That Comes was one of my favourite nights of the year. Everything about the experience – from the time the door opened – was created to enhance the spectator’s understanding and enjoyment of the evening. I went with my new SummerWorks friends at the last minute, paying for tickets since it wasn’t included in our program and we were so glad we went. We were greeted by attractive young men and women who fed us grapes (or decorated our bodies with grapes) and wine. We drank wine straight out of the bottle as we were encouraged to do as the incredibly talented Hawksley Workman told the story of Bacchus using The Bacchae as the primary source. It was part cabaret, part concert, and wholly theatrical. There is a moment near the end where Workman has a tall staff in one hand that he beats against the floor in time to the music, and as the lights changed with it I think my heart beat shifted to beat in time with the music. It’s playing at Club PuSh in a couple of weeks and I’m terribly upset that I will be unable to see it again. But rumor has it a concept album will be released and I will be buying that as soon as it is.
Rebecca Northan as Mimi
Blind Date (Rebecca Northan at the Cultch) website
This was a Blind Date that I returned to four times during its run in Vancouver for the simple reason that it had a great mix of heart and humor. While Mimi the Parisian Clown teased her various dates and pushed them out of their comfort zone, the level of care that Northan offered them during the performance was outstanding. It was also outstandingly funny. After my first night in attendance my face hurt from smiling and laughing so hard – an experience that I rarely have at the theatre. Northan is an expert improvisor who carefully shapes the path she wants the evening to take, guiding the men with an almost invisible hand until you return a few times and see the small ways in which she is able to guide the story to its intended conclusion.
Matilda the Musical (RSC @ Westend London) website
This was perhaps the show that I was most looking forward to this year. I have been a fan of the source material – Roald Dahl’s Matilda – since I was an eight year old bookworm. I was not a fan of the film version, but found that the play had the same heart as the book while adapting itself enough to make for a great musical. I knew all the songs going in, but found the staging to be breathtaking and ever so imaginative – which it had to be since the imagination as at the heart of the book. The cast were really outstanding and I found myself grinning for the rest of the night. Indeed, I find myself grinning as I sit here writing about how much I enjoyed the show.
I also want to mention the following shows that stuck out to me during the year:
Red (Vancouver Playhouse/CanStage), Hunchback (Catalyst Theatre presented by The Cultch & Vancouver Playhouse), Craigslist Cantata (Arts Club/PuSh Festival), Goodness (Volcano Theatre at Firehall Arts Centre), King Lear (Honest Fishmongers Equity Co-op), The Exquisite Hour (Relephant Theatre at the Arts Club), Mary Poppins (Broadway Across Canada), God is a Scottish Drag Queen (Delcon Entertainment at Neanderthal Arts Festival & Vancouver Fringe), When it Rains (2b Theatre at SummerWorks), Bookworm (Corin Raymond at the Vancouver Fringe), Twelfth Night (Shakespeare’s Globe), and La Cenerentola (National Opera of Paris).
Finally, the theatrical endeavour which has been the most rewarding, encouraging, and mind-bending for me in 2012 has been the Obstructions series. For those of you unfamiliar, the companies who make up Progress Lab (Boca del Lupo, Electric Company Theatre, Felix Culpa, Leaky Heaven Circus, Neworld Theatre, The Only Animal, Pi Theatre, Radix Theatre, Rumble Productions, Theatre Conspiracy, and Theatre Replacement) have been challenging each other to up their game and re-examine their company aesthetics by testing the idea that creativity feeds on limits. Inspired in part by The Five Obstructions by Jørgen Leth and Lars Von Trier, the core artists of each participating company submit, a few at a time and under a cold spotlight, to a list of obstructions delivered by a shadowy emcee. The companies are then commanded to create their next production around those limitations. The obstructions for each company are developed in secret by their peers – a custom-designed set of obstacles that will prompt each artist to adapt to a new approach to making theatre. Their individual tendencies toward form, place, style, theme, design, period, story are exposed and obstructed, spilling the artist’s bag of tricks all over the stage and out of reach.
The performances that have been spawned by the challenges which take place approximately once a month are a huge highlight for me, as the theatre community gathers together with our patrons and pushes what we are capable of while creating some beautiful theatre. I missed the Pi Theatre and Theatre Conspiracy performances while I was in Europe, but attended the Boca del Lupo, Felix Culpa, and Radix Theatre performances. This series continues into 2013 and I can’t wait to catch more of the performances when I am in town. Because a show done on a set built entirely of carrots likely never would have happened without a challenge like this.
For the last four years I’ve been keeping track of what I see, and each year the number has been growing. This year I saw a staggering 174 different productions (some of them more than once) spanning the performance art disciplines in 10 cities and five countries. I saw a high school production and a West End Musical. I went to the Vancouver Fringe and the Paris National Opera. I saw magicians, musicals, and modern dance; ballet, busking, and butoh; Shakespeare, site-specific, and SummerWorks.
As with every year there are shows I regret missing, but there are way less this year. There were things I wanted to see in London that I didn’t make it to. I couldn’t see every show at PuSh. I missed Terminus at SummerWorks.But overall, I saw more great theatre this year. Of course, I also walked out of two shows this year (something I rarely do) and wanted to walk out of at least three others that I couldn’t walk out of due to political reasons or logistics.
Here they are, the 174 shows I saw in 2012 in something close to chronological order:
Waiting for Godot (Blackbird Theatre at the Cultch)
Never Swim Alone (TWU)
All The Way Home (Electric Company)
Red (Vancouver Playhouse)
The Idiot (Neworld/UBC at PuSh)
Amarillo (Teatro Linea de Sombra at PuSh)
Glory Days (The Boys Upstairs Equity Co-op)
Hot Pepper, Air Conditioner (Chelfitsch Theater at PuSh)
Gunmetal Blues (Playhouse)
El Pasado un animal grotesco (Grupo Marea at PuSh)
Craigslist Cantata (Arts Club Theatre at PuSh)
Almighty Voice and his Wife (Native Earth Performing Arts/Touchstone Theatre at PuSh)
Calendar Girls (Arts Club)
No. 2 (Silo Theatre at PuSh)
Danny and the Deep Blue Sea (Pacific Theatre)
Bride on Credit (TWU)
Tempting Providence (Gateway Theatre)
Problem Child & The End of Civilization (Theatre at UBC)
I Love You Because (Intimate Productions)
Intimate Apparel (Arts Club Theatre)
The Silicone Diaries (Nina Arsenault at The Cultch)
Hunchback (Catalyst Theatre at The Vancouver Playhouse)
All Shook Up (Chemainus Theatre Festival & Gateway Co-pro)
Ignorance (Old Trout Puppet WorkShop at The Cultch)
Doubt (Pacific Theatre)
Goodness (Volcano theatre at the Firehall)
King Lear (Honest Fishmongers)
Kismet 1 to 100 (The Chop at Gateway)
A Vessel of Ruins (Taketeru Kudo – Tokyo)
Barber of Seville (Vancouver Opera)
Importance of Being Earnest (Arts Club)
Importance of Being Earnest (Gallery 7)
Flop (Delinquent Theatre)
Snooker (Camillo the Magician)
Fresco (BellaLuna Productions)
The Bombitty of Errors (20-Something)
Scar Tissue (Arts Club)
Henry & Alice: Into the Wild (Arts Club)
EndGame (Main Street Theatre)
A Last Resort (Rough House Productions)
Trial by Jury (VSO & Vancouver Opera Ensemble)
Aida (Vancouver Opera)
The Exquisite Hour (Relephant Theatre)
100 Saints You Should Know (Pacific Theatre)
Blue Box (Neworld Theatre)
Bliss (Ballet BC)
High Society (Arts Club)
Godspell (Christ Church Cathedral)
Obstructions – Boca Del Lupo
Shelter from the Storm (Touchstone/Firehall)
Fantasticks (Gallery 7)
MacBeth (Bard on the Beach)
Wolf at the Door (Pacific Theatre)
Not Everything You Are (Stones Throw)
Obstructions – Felix Culpa
UnBoxed (Scarlet Satin)
Reasons to be Pretty (Matchbox Theatre)
Xanadu (Arts Club)
The Music Man (TUTS)
King John (Bard on the Beach)
Merry Wives of Windsor (Bard on the Beach)
Alter Boyz (Arts Club)
Armed (Xua Xua)
Mary Poppins (Broadway Across Canada)
Stationary (Delinquent Theatre at Neanderthal)
Coercion (Hardline at Neanderthal)
God is a Scottish Drag Queen (Delcon Entertainment.at Neanderthal)
The List (Bouchewhacked! at Neanderthal)
Tyumen, Then (Groundwater Productions at Neanderthal)
House of X (Wild Excursions at Neanderthal)
The Taming of the Shrew (Bard on the Beach)
Obstructions – Beautiful Karrats (Radix)
Sunday Service (Neanderthal)
Exhibit A (411 Dramaturgy at Neanderthal)
The Marraige of Figaro (Summer Opera Lyric Theatre)
My Pregnant Brother (Freestanding Productions at SummerWorks)
France or the Niquab (Old Pirate at SummerWorks)
Haunted (The Haunted Group at SummerWorks)
Artaud: un Portrait en Decomposition (TheatreRUN at SummerWorks))
Medicine Boy (Native Earth at SummerWorks)
Purge (Brian Lobel at SummerWorks)
One/Un (Orange Noyée at SummerWorks)
The God that Comes (2b Theatre at SummerWorks)
When it Rains (2b Theatre at SummerWorks)
Petrichor (Kitchenband at SummerWorks)
Barrel Crank (Suitcase in Point at SummerWorks)
Extinction Song (Voodoo Theatre at SummerWorks)
Dutchman (lemonTree Creations)
Wondermart (Rotozaza at SummerWorks)
Marine Life (Theatre Crisis and Aluna Theatre at SummerWorks)
Captain Ron’s Ship of Friendship/Atomic Vaudeville Cabaret (Atomic Vaudeville at SummerWorks)
The Frenzy of Queen Maeve (Live Lobster Theatre at SummerWorks)
Breath in Between (Breath Collective in Association with Crow’s Theatre at SummerWorks)
40 Days and 40 Nights (Nina Arsenault at Summerworks)
Your Side, My Side and the Truth (Compass and Trying Science Co-Production at SummerWorks)
Peachy Coochy (Summerworks)
We Will WeeTube (An Experiment with Theatre Replacement’s WeeTube at SummerWorks)
Iceland (The Iceland Collective at Summerworks)
Speed the Plow (SoulPepper)
Motor Vehicle Sundown (Andy Field at SummerWorks)
Midsummer Night’s Dream (CanStage)
Eurosmash! (Die Rotten Punkte at The Cultch)
My Marvellous Melcher Machine (James Melcher)
Pirates? (Quimera Collective)
Just Bust a Move (Nathaniel Roy)
Home Free (Staircase XI)
Riverview High: The Musical (Entrance Theatre)
In the Time of the Dream Warrior (Golgonooza)
The 1812 Event (Just Push Play)
Romance (Queer Arts Society)
Adult Entertainment (Squidamisu Theatre)
ReLapse (And the Other Leg)
Miss Cosmos (Bright Young Theatre)
Felony (Dreams Beyond 30)
First Day Back (10 Foot Pole)
Alpha (Compassionate Bone)
Three More Sleepless Nights (o.o.o.o.)
Weaksauce (Sam Mullins)
You Are Here (Allentina Francesca)
Hip Hop Shakespeare Live Music Videos (411 Dramaturgy)
Tales Told by Idiots (Not The Mermaid)
Lost in Twine (Looking for 143 Productions)
Underbelly (Jayson MacDonald)
Zanna, Don’t (Awkward Stage)
Psychopomp (Psyche Theatre)
Smudge (Two Wrongs That Write)
God is a Scottish Drag Queen (Delcon Entertainment)
Peter ‘n’ Chris Explore Their Bodies (Peter ‘n’ Chris)
Gadfly (Theatre of the Beat)
Guernica (Hidden Harlequin Theatre)
Fishbowl (Mark Shyzer)
How to Love (Idea Factory Entertainment)
Welcome to my Wake (INC – Ingrid Nilson Collective)
Little Lady (Sandrine Lanford)
The Histories AKA Will Shakespeare’s ImproMusical (GrinkeInk)
Riot (Carson Graham Secondary)
The Missing Piece (Theresa Hamilton)
The Best, Man (Urban Rogues)
Risk Everything (Squidamisu Theatre)
No Tweed to Tight (Ryan Gladstone)
Vincent (Spitfire Productions)
Bookworm (Corin Raymond)
Blind Date (Rebecca Northan at the Cultch)
Post Secret: The Play (TJ Dawe, Kahlil Ashanti & Frank Warren)
The Spitfire Grill (Midnight Theatre Collective at Pacific Theatre)
Capslock: The Musical (Pipedream Productions)
Master Class (Arts Club)
White Rabbit, Red Rabbit (Elbow Theatre at The Cultch)
A Beautiful View (Ruby Slippers)
Zombie Syndrome (Virtual Stage)
The Unplugging (Arts Club)
Initiation Trilogy (Electric Company/Boca del Lupo/Writers Fest)
La Boheme (Vancouver Opera)
Dancing at Lughnassa (Capilano University)
Chelsea Hotel (Firehall)
Cozy Catastrophe (theatre Melee with Rumble and the Cultch)
Gold Mountain (Les Deux Mondes & unity theatre at The Cultch)
Dickens’ Women (Miriam Margoyles at The Cultch)
Go Back for Murder (SAMC Theatre @TWU)
Tomb with a View (Genus/Up in the Air)
Far Side of the Moon (Ex Machina @ SFU)
Matilda the Musical (Royal Shakespeare Company in the Westend)
Twelfth Night (The Globe)
NSFW (Royal Court)
The Effect (National Theatre)
Die Entführung aus dem Serail (Zurich Opera House)
Jultrad-i-tion (Gotenburg Opera)
Don Quixote (Ballet of the National Opera of Paris)
I’ve been awake for 21 hours now, and travelling for 19 of them. Yes, it has been a long day. On the 10 hour flight from London to Vancouver I watched five movies: Hugo, Little Women, Arthur Christmas, White Christmas, and The Grinch.
In the course of my travel only two things broke and both of them were things I bought for myself, not gifts for other people. So yay I guess?
Honestly, I am so tired that the world is spinning right now, so I’m going to go to sleep and we can catch up on the end of the trip when I’m more awake. Deal?
I’m too tired to write much tonight, but here are some photos of what I did today. And before you get upset about the photo of the curtain call, at least I didn’t use a flash like at least 300 other people in the audience. Also, any Christmas music CD that follows “Santa Claus is Coming to Town” with “YMCA” is bizarre. Also, dress shopping is difficult in every country. Also, The Palais Garnier has a Chagall ceiling and La Cenerentola had one of the best set designs I’ve ever seen.
Cue at the Palais Garnier
At the Palais Garnier
On a Christmas lights tour of Paris!
Eiffel Tower at Night
Side note: I’ve officially been gone for five weeks now.
Now listening to: Me Party – Miss Piggy & Amy Adams
I woke up this morning with the aches in my legs and feet of someone who walked for 10 hours the day before. I lay in bed fighting with myself: “Just stay here and rest. It’s comfortable and your legs hurt.” “You’re in Paris silly! Stop wasting the day! Get up, get out there, and get adventuring!” I compromised with myself and stayed in bed until 11 before beginning my adventure via the metro (instead of walking) over to the Musee d’Orsay. And stopped for a croissant on thew ay.
The Musee d’Orsay is another one of those amazing buildings that is a piece of art in itself. The light in it is amazing since the whole roof is glass. Once more I was drawn to the work of the impressionists and post-impressionists, spending most of my time looking at Van Gogh’s Starry Night Over the Rhone. The special exhibit on there right now is about the fashion of the impressionists where some of the actual clothing items depicted in the paintings are on display next to the paintings. It was kind of cool to look at the details on the garments and then look at how they were rendered on the canvas. Oh! And! They have a miniature of the main opera house that is as if the building has been sliced in half and you can see a cross section of the building. So cool to see that before I go into the real space tomorrow. Also, in the same area as that were maquettes from various productions. I love how respected the art of set design is here.
Taken in the crypts under Notre Dame
I walked from there back to Notre Dame where I picked up the Christmas ornament that I neglected to buy yesterday. I also ventured down into the crypts under the Cathedral and got to see some of the old ruins. They’ve built up walkways around the ruins so that they can be seen without being damaged in any way. Again, its the kind of thing that you just don’t find in Canada. We don’t have that kind of history to explore.
And then it was time to do some shopping. I popped into a bunch of the little touristy shops near Notre Dame where I found another Christmas ornament, but eventually found my way to a giant department store. It was there that I found the Christmas present for my best friend. I told a friend in Zurich that as soon as I saw the right gift for Jaime I would know, and that’s exactly what happened. I can’t wait to give it to her in February when we have our fake Christmas in Edmonton night. It will also have shortbread because she promised we could make Christmas cookies.
First French Croissant.
I also made my way to a giant shopping mall. But the mall was unfruitful and by the time it was 4pm my legs were tired again, so I decided to head back to the hotel for a rest before going out again. During that time I did some research because I really want to buy a dress while I’m here, but I know that sizing is very different and large sizes are hard to come by. Well according to my research two of the best stores for finding larger sizes in Paris are right across the street from my hotel. So that’s an adventure for tomorrow! And apparently one of the has the most amazing stained glass ceiling, so that’ll just be a bonus!
A night at the theatre.
After a rest, I headed back out to Théâtre de l’Odéon de l’Europe for my first attempt to see theatre in a language other than my native tongue. This was Le Retour (aka Pinter’s The Homecoming). I purposefully didn’t do any research about the play before I went to see how much I would get about the story from the production. After getting back to the hotel I did some Wikipedia-ing (how does that work as a verb?) and discovered that I got pretty much everything except the discussion of sexuality as profession. Which is probably one of the hardest things to get from a play – discussion of something. Because when it’s just talk there is no action to follow. Interestingly, this production was a new French translation and according to my research it changed the ending a fair amount compared to the original. Although the next step is to actually read the original and find out if that is true. But that’s a project for back in Canada.
Back in the hotel room I’m starting to feel ready to head back to Canada. No, I won’t be “home” in Vancouver for another three weeks yet, and I don’t really have a home to go back to, but just being in an English speaking country will be a nice change. Only a few more days left on this grand adventure, but I head straight out on the next one.
In front of the Pantheon (and it’s Christmas trees)
I didn’t have a specific plan in mind when I left the hotel this morning. I figured I’d go for a walk and see where it took me. Which is a great way to start an adventure.
I walked all over central Paris until I found myself in front of a great big building with a lot of Christmas trees. Turns out it was the Pantheon, so I figured I might as well go in. And then they were selling the Paris Museum Pass, so I picked up one that is good for a couple of days so that I could just go into any of the cool places I came across as I adventured. I wandered through the Pantheon for a bit, mostly down in the crypts where I found the burial places of Marie Curie and Victor Hugo. I also found the vault for Voltair which had extra fancy sculptures. I didn’t stay very long, but I’m glad I went in.
As I walked I found a park where someone had “vandalized” a bunch of the statues by adding clown noses to them. It was one of my favourite things I saw today! Sadly what I didn’t do as I walked was stop somewhere to get a croissant. I will remedy that tomorrow.
Next I found myself at Notre Dame Cathedral.I plan to go back for mass on Christmas Eve, but I was delighted to have time to walk through the building as a tourist as well. The stained glass windows are stunning and they had one of the most elaborate nativity scenes I have ever seen before. As I was browsing the gift shop I saw a sign that said, “How do I get up the tours? Get outside and around the corner.” This piqued my interest so I made my way outside and joined the line. The line was long but it moved quickly and soon I found myself climbing the nearly 400 steps to the top of the bell tower. There were a handful of stops on the way up, and I think if there hadn’t been I might have had an asthma attack. That is a lot of steps to climb! But I’m so glad I did it. I didn’t get to see the bells because they are doing some repairs and the bells can’t be seen again until March, but I did see gargoyles and the entire city of Paris stretched out in every direction, and the spire on the lower level of the Cathedral.
Gargoyles watching over Paris
I did get some people to take photos of me, but with the screen on my camera not working none of them turned out. This means there aren’t many that I’m actually in, but I did take some decent ones of what I could see. The climb down the tower was easier than the climb up. I counted 389 steps on the way down (200 more than GrossMunster in Zurich), but the brochure says there are 400. I may have to go back there tomorrow in order to buy one of the Christmas ornaments from the giftshop in the main part of the Cathedral. I didn’t buy one today and I’m kicking myself about it now.
At the Louvre
I continued my adventure past more fountains and statues than I could count and realized just how pathetic our North American cities must seem to folks from Europe. These cities are built around art with fountains and statues and parks and beautiful buildings and the glass of Vancouver’s skyscrapers seem somehow less. They’re still pretty, but they’re not…rich in the same way that these cities are. There is more history in one brick of the sidewalk here than in blocks of Vancouver.
I found myself next at the Louvre. Now there’s a beautiful building that is overwhelming by sheer scale. I’d say that it is larger than all the buildings at my university put together.
Obligatory Mona Lisa photo.
I walked through a lot of the building at an alarming pace. It is hard to take in that much art in a short period of time. I made my way to the Mona Lisa and the Venus de Milo and took my obligatory photos with them. It was interesting to me because those two rooms – room 6 of the Italian paintings and the second room of the roman sculpture collection were by far the busiest rooms in the museum. I think that many people, like myself, feel a sense of obligation in a building with such masterpieces. When there is so much and you don’t know much about it, it is easy to gravitate to the masterpieces that you know of – the pieces that have arrows directing you through the building to find them. But at the same time it makes me sad that people (myself included) don’t spend the time to find the pieces instead that speak to them. I think my two favourite parts of the Louvre were the medieval ruins in the basement from the original Louvre and the courtyard of French sculpture. The courtyard almost had me in tears as I looked around, overwhelmed by the fact that this is my life and this was how I was spending my afternoon.
When my brain could no longer handle being in halls with hundreds of paintings, I left the Louvre and decided to venture in the direction of the Eiffel Tower. After all, this is Paris and that is what you’re supposed to do here, right? But I came across an interesting looking building and discovered that it was included on my museum pass so I decided to go in. I had no idea what I was going in to see. The building was the Musee de l’Orangerie and I walked into the Les Nymphéas room with no idea what I was about to see. I had to sit down. At the Tate Modern I saw one of Monet’s Water Lillies paintings and thought it was beautiful. There was another at the Hermitage Amsterdam. But seeing both of those did not prepare me for the rooms. The eight paintings from Monet’s Water Lillies series that are on display at the Musee de l’Orangerie are approximately 6 feet high by 40 feet long. They completely took my breath away. They are displayed on curved walls, one per wall, surrounding the viewer. Absolutely amazing. After spending time in those two rooms, I made my way downstairs to see the works of Picasso, Renoir, Cezanne, Gauguin, Rousseu, Derain, and Matisse. I got more out of the four or five rooms in the Musee de l’Orangerie than I did in the grand halls of the Louvre. These paintings spoke.
I found it! One of the most recognizable landmarks in the world.
From there I really did make my way to the Eiffel Tower, stopping only long enough to buy a passionfruit macaron as big as my hand. As I stood at the Eiffel Tower eating my macaron I had another one of those moments of awe at how amazing my life is and how it is nothing like I imagined it would be and that I can’t wait to see what will come next.
My final destination before returning to the hotel was back on the other side of town – closer to Notre Dame than the Eiffel Tower and by this point – having walked more than 10km – my legs were starting to feel like jelly. With all of those factors, I decided it was time to figure out the Paris Metro system. I made my way to a station, purchased a book of 10 tickets, and found my way by train across town. Not so difficult! My destination was the Opera National de Paris’ Bastille location for an evening performance of Don Quixote by their resident ballet company. I had supper at a little cafe across the intersection from the theatre and then headed inside. I didn’t take any photos of the building because its not that interesting. It has fantastic acoustics (based on how well I could hear the dancers breathing) but it is a modern opera hall without much decoration. The ballet itself was quite good, though unfortunately I fell asleep for part of the first act. All of my walking had caught up to me and I was in a comfortable seat in a dark room with beautiful music. I just couldn’t stop myself! But I was awake for all of acts two and three and enjoyed them very much.
With a Parisian Christmas tree, all decorated with brightly colored bows.
After the show I took the Metro again back to my hotel. The Metro system is easy to figure out with a map, but I need to figure out which exit I should use at the nearby station because I ended up not at all close to my hotel, where there is one exit that comes out within a block!
And now it is two in the morning and my jelly legs need to sleep before the adventure continues!
This morning I woke up fairly early, but I wanted to be able to say good-bye to Peter before he left for work. We had tea on the couch and then when he headed to work I got busy packing my suitcase and making sure I was ready to go. Once everything was good, it was time for one last adventure.
I made my way by tram to the Gothenburg City Museum, a beautiful building with four floors of exhibits. While I wish they had more to display (more than half the building is offices), I was very impressed by what they had and how they displayed it. In the room focused on the 18th century there was a dress up room for kids to try costumes patterned on 18th century clothing. I, of course, had to try on the wig!
With the Christmas tree through a pretty door
The museum also had the remains of a Viking ship, and up on the top floor a small room dedicated to the work of a local theatre producer/set designer/costume designer. The room was full of renderings, maquettes, costumes, and show photos and was a delightful tribute. It was also the first museum I’ve seen possibly ever that had a special exhibit that was theatre related (other than Shakespeare). The museum also had a very beautiful Christmas tree out in its courtyard, but it was much too cold to go out and see the tree up close.
Speaking of how cold Sweden was today, as I was walking from the museum to the next part of my adventure, I saw that the canals were frozen over. In my head were images of skating through Gothenburg, but I’m sure the ice was not yet thick enough for that. I walked all through the commercial center of town, doing a little bit of shopping, but mostly just adventuring. It was through this that I found the city Cathedral.
Courthouse or Cathedral?
The Gothenburg Cathedral is a Lutheran church right in the middle of the city. It reminds me more of a courthouse or state building than most of the other churches I’ve seen in my adventures, but inside it is truly beautiful.
From there I walked down to the art museum, which is located in a public square along with the city theatre, the music hall, and another art gallery. They were in the middle of setting up because tonight they were going to project a free movie onto the outside of the gallery for Christmas. I can’t imagine sitting out there in the cold, but as I left town on the airport bus I saw people starting to gather. The art museum has six floors of painting, photography and sculpture, including a special exhibit of August Strindberg’s paintings & photographs. I found that I didn’t spend a lot of time in the art museum. I stopped at pieces that intrigued me (like the Chagall with the flowers and the unicorn) and moved past the things that didn’t strike my fancy.
That has been one of the real benefits of the Go Card that I purchased – because everything was already paid for, I felt no guilt about only spending half an hour or so in a museum. There were other museums to go to and it wasn’t going to cost me anything extra to give up on this one and go see something else.
My flights were uneventful, but in the midst of my taxi ride into Paris I was struck by the fact that this feels like the first big CITY since London. Amsterdam (at least at the centre) is all old houses not more than five levels tall. Zurich has laws about no building being taller than the local church spire. Gothenburg is not a big city and has mostly older buildings. But Paris is big. Even at 11:30pm the high way was busy – to the point that traffic was stopped in all four lanes simply due to volume. There are also skyscrapers again and nightlife. That was one of the big challenges in both Zurich and Gothenburg – what do you do after 8pm? Nothing’s open! In Zurich the only food available after 10pm was dominoes pizza delivery. Here in Paris my hotel is on a busy street corner and although it is after midnight I can still hear the hustle and bustle of city life. This might get annoying after a few days, but that’s what earplugs are for!
Tiny tiny hotel room
My hotel room here is one of the smallest I’ve ever seen. The bed barely fits, but it’s all I need. I don’t plan to spend much time in the room other than for sleeping and it will certainly do for that. Besides, I chose it for location and price, not quality. It does, however have a safe in the closet, a decent looking shower, and an elevator for hauling my suitcase up to the top floor! Small mercies.
I’m finding that already my French is coming back to me here. We’ll see what that looks like three or four days from now! Alas, now I must to bed as there is much exploring to do tomorrow. My map is circled and I’m ready to go!