In Florence, we invested in the Firenze Card, a pass that allowed us into more than 72 museums in 72 hours, and M is serious about getting his money’s worth. He has a plan, and when I start to flag at the fast four we visit the first morning, he cheers: “Only 68 more!”

Nearly 60 hours into the adventure, I have seen more than a dozen statues of Dionysus, a handful of Davids, a couple of Goliaths, The Birth of Venus and her wind gods, The Baptism of Christ, lots of busts of the wealthy (many of them lazily named: Bust of a Man, and at least, it seems, 10,000 versions of Madonna with Bambino. I have read this title so many times I am almost certain it is synonymous with: “untitled.”

 I walk into a room and think I have been there before. I am on sensory overload. (I recognize this makes me both giddy and a little mean.) I learn that when a large room is sparingly appointed with adequate signage, I am delighted. When the display appears to be a sink of dishes or a closet of clothes (parts of the Pitti Palace offerings) or a haphazard shrine (Dante House), I am not so pleased.

Space and structure allow small pieces to speak to me; Sandro Botticelli’s St. Augustine in His Study (Uffizi Gallery) has a sign to explain, among other things,  that “This picture shows the saint writing in the privacy of his study…The sheets of paper strewn across the floor at the saint’s feet are intended to convey the difficulty implicit in translating divine inspiration into words.”


Yes, I think. Yes, this is what it is to try to write, and this is why most days it is near impossible to teach creative writing. Sometimes it seems like an endeavor designed to torment writers—and words. I can only open doors for people to walk in; upon entering, some will discover a museum; others will observe a Spartan cell. What I can offer is that no one can teach us how to make art. It’s easier to cure disease, win the lottery, or find true love. I want to hand over the secret, the recipe, the key, but that’s the secret. We each need to learn to distinguish one Madonna and Bambino from another. So we study the masters, nature, and the divine magic of the world to learn to see the way to transform our lives.

Archaic Torso of Apollo

We cannot know his legendary head
with eyes like ripening fruit. And yet his torso
is still suffused with brilliance from inside,
like a lamp, in which his gaze, now turned to low,

gleams in all its power. Otherwise
the curved breast could not dazzle I so, nor could
a smile run through the placid hips and thighs
to that dark center where procreation flared.

Otherwise this stone would seem defaced
beneath the translucent cascade of the shoulders
and would not glisten like a wild beast’s fur:

would not, from all the borders of itself,
burst like a star: for here there is no place
that does not see you. I must change my life.

Rainer Maria Rilkehttps://www.poets.org/poetsorg/poem/archaic-torso-apollo

  • Write an ekphrastic piece of writing. Ekphrasis is art inspired by art. Don’t just describe it; let it transform the speaker as Rilke has in his “Archaic Torso of Apollo.”

French Hospitality

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French Hospitality

Really, I am not complaining, but this adventure has made me realize it is sometimes grinding to be a tourist, to be on the road and unable to ask for directions with ease. Even more, we occasionally have met impatience and frustration (our own and others’) with our lack of language and knowledge of what is couth. After being cut in line, receiving poor service at a cafe, and being struck by thoughtless, clumsy youths while in line at the supermarket, going into tonight, I was feeling sort of roughed up by the hectic city.

Then, a man let me use his transit card when mine malfunctioned. He jumped the turnstile behind me as (teamwork) I held the next gate open for him. We parted ways quickly, but then we saw him waving au revoir to us from the opposite side of the tracks.

This evening, our last in Paris, we returned to our favorite Paris restaurant, Bistro des Gastronomes, in the Latin Quarter, the one featured in the previous dessert photos. The place was packed, but we pleaded to sit at the bar for just dessert and a coffee. The owner permitted this and was amused by our delight at my: Figues, dates et pruneaux rotis en bonbon, glace rhum raisins and M’s: Poelee de mirabelles deglacees au Muscat et crème legere de marscarpone. Incredible. Both had texture times ten. M’s even had the sensation of pop rocks!

If this wasn’t enough, the restauranteur chatted with us, giving us a small plate of madelines, two flaming (ignited tableside) crème brulees, and some prune wine that was strong and smooth.

In the course of the conversation, the owner shared how he met the gifted chef in a bar, saying, “You can meet good people in the bar.” We agreed, grateful to meet such a friendly and generous host. And, when we insisted on paying, he told us to stay in contact, giving us his information in Paris and in Augusta, Georgia. It is a small, surprising (and sometimes delicious) world.

Last Night

Last Night

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We had a few things left to see on our checklist. We headed to Les Galleries Lafayette (The Lafayette is a luxury department store. It has a colorful dome and smells as sweet as a thick fashion magazine. Imagine their logo with the “tt” forming an Eiffel Tower). The Lafayette’s rooftop is recommended in several guidebooks as a location from which to look out over the city.

Decked out with artificial turf and modern chairs and love seats, this summit offered a supreme view of the Opera and Eiffel Tower, among other sights. After running all over to see sights, it was nice to see Paris from this quiet terrace.

Additionally, in these fancy parts, the street performers are equally refined; there are no breakdancers or jugglers or mimes. Instead, we listen to expertise from a gleaming piano. The Lancome ad featuring Julia Roberts (that we see all over town) that declares: “La vie est belle” seems indisputable as we listen to this music.

Paris from the Seine

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Paris from the Seine With fifteen minutes between each of the eight stops, the Batobus is for the tourist for sure. Seeing the sights from the Seine offers something the Metro, RER, and pedestrian routes typically do not: scantily clad (if at all) sunbathers dotting the banks. The crowded capsule seemed overfull at times, even from our vantage point, in the open air at the back of the boat, on this, the warmest afternoon of our stay. While people marveled at the architecture, a dog wandering on a barge caused audible delight.

Mystery Solved

Mystery Solved

She’s not alive, but she is real. She’s a real artist commissioned to do Louis Vuitton’s windows in select cities. And, these pieces are self portraits (see the photos of her — and her obsession with polka dots — when you view the entire article link below).

“Japanese avant-garde artist Yayoi Kusama, wearing a bright red wig, works at her studio in Tokyo. Kusama’s signature splash of dots has now arrived in the realm of fashion in a new collection from French luxury brand Louis Vuitton – bags, sunglasses, shoes and coats. The latest Kusama collection is showcased at its boutiques around the world, including New York, Paris, Tokyo and Singapore, sometimes with replica dolls of Kusama.”