Sunday, February 7, 2010

Journey to the land of Picasso

I've discovered I'm really not a fan of Picasso. Sorry art critics, surrealists, and lovers of kindergarten sketches--it's just not my style. And believe me, I know. I spent an entire day touring what seemed like every known homage to Picasso in France. Apparently the artist spent some of his life here, and he's quite beloved in the area.

To explain...Saturday we took our first program sponsored "excursion" (finally, I know where some of my $7000 program fee has gone.) We hopped on the tour bus at 8 am and drove about two hours to Antibes, a beautiful town on the Mediterranean. After staying up late the night before, missing breakfast and failing to sleep on the bus, I'll admit I wasn't in the best mindset for wandering an art museum all day. So, when we arrived at the Picasso museum in Antibes, I was already in a bad mood. I don't know where Picasso's great works are, or what his great works are, but I'm pretty sure they're not in Antibes. We wandered around looking at a lot of elementary sketches of what probably became good art. But as much as I tried to find the symbolism in the paintings, and as much as I tried to understand the tour guide's long-winded and monotone interpretations of the art, I just couldn't get into it. Put me in a Van Gogh museum any day and I'll drool for hours, but Picasso-- eh. I very shortly got sick of looking at images of abnormally large breasts and goats and resigned myself to the fact that I may never be able to appreciate Picasso.

Now that I've complained about Picasso, I must concede that I was lucky just to go to a museum with his art, in a town where he lived and worked. (In fact, one of the pieces of art was actually painted in the museum wall, by him. Too bad it was just three circles with some dots in the middle). The museum had some other artists' work, too, and I did enjoy looking at that. Picasso himself seems like he was a pretty interesting person, but I'll leave the art appreciation to a more devoted follower.

After escaping the museum and revitalizing myself in the fresh air, we wandered around the old walls of the city and looked out at the beautiful Mediterranean. There were a few sailboats out on the water, and I'm thinking I want to find a way to get on one during my stay here. We wandered around Antibes for a while more and smelled all the delicious scents in the market before discovering the most delicious looking gelati stand I've seen so far. Of course I had to partake in not one, but three flavors.

Full of gelato, we got back on the bus and headed to Vence, another small town with an artist obsession. We stopped at a chapel designed by Metisse, who I am also not that fond of. However, once the Dominican sister explained the symbolism of literally everything in the chapel and how Metisse spent years designing everything, I was able to appreciate the black and white scribbles on the wall as something more than black and white scribbles. The stained glass windows were also very pretty, and when the sun shines in just right, it throws a rainbow of colors on the walls.

After Metisse in Vence, we drove to yet another town devoted to Picasso. There, we looked at some art on the walls of an old Roman chapel and stared at Picasso's statue of a man and his sheep in the middle of the town. This town looked a lot like all of the other Southern French towns I've visited, only dirtier. And the men were creepy. Needless to say I was glad to get on the bus and finally return home to good old Aix, which I'm realizing is a very clean and very beautiful town.

Saturday night, recharged and back in Aix, my friend Martha and I went to a party at one of our German friend's houses. Our friend, Katrine, is in a franco-allemand exchange program where the students each spend a year in Germany and a year in France, so luckily there were a lot of German and French students at the party. In fact, Martha and I were the only Americans there and we got to speak French the entire time. (I was a just a little bit ecstatic about this.) Everyone brought drinks or food and they made vin chaud, so it was a civilized little soiree. I received countless numbers of bises from the French students, and I think I like their kind of greeting. It's so much more friendly than shaking hands. (And so much more enjoyable when you're meeting a gorgeous French boy for the first time.)

I had a great time at the party and I'm quite proud that I was able to speak French the entire time without making a fool of myself. Hopefully I'll get more opportunities like that. And hopefully I won't have to look at any more Picasso art (although that's doubtful.)

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