Tuesday, April 14, 2009

THE MOUNTAINS



 

I don't ski or alpine, but my mountain experiences have given me a bird's eye view of beauty incarnate. 

Take the Himalayas.
Every morning  during a month-long-stay in Dharmasala, I'd open my door and watch a bird-of-paradise taking off swirling his tail feathers as he glided down the valley over the rhododendron trees. 

I began painting birds and continued for three years.
Eventually, I had to count on subway excursions to the Bronx Zoo to inspire my palette.

The night voyage crossing the Andes in a rattling bus from Lima to Santipo only taught me how to pray. 

The morning decent on a muddy road into the Amazon jungle was as lush as a Gauguin painting and as floral as Henri Rousseau could imagine.


I still remember the awe from discovering the iridescent crystal blue frost in Val d'Isere - the French Alps' luxury ski resort where I au paired thirty-five years ago.

As for the Pryrenees, I had only seen them on television following Lance Armsrong peddling LaTour de France. During my sejour in Orthez, I wastold that if I went to Pau, (pronounced Po) I could see THE ENTIRE CHAIN OF MOUNTAINS. I was game.

I made a reservation at the train station and was surprized to see how near it was to Orthez which was only hilly at the most.  I imagined being taken up a ski lift type funiculair. The one for Sacre Coeur rises only about twelve stories. 

I brought along gloves and a scarf and regretted not having taken my boots down to Orthez.
I was assured that the mountains were still snow capped.  I arrived in Pau in less than a half an hour. The funicular was there and waiting. I was surprised to see it was even shorter than the one in Montmartre. I boarded it and up we went to Le boulevard des Pyrenees where I was told I could see THE ENTIRE MOUNTAIN CHAIN.

I reached the top hill in about a minute and a half, already a little suspicious.
Tout suite, I turned around on the balcony and beheld some hills.
It looked sort of like southern Pennsylvania in the winter - not alive with the sound of music.
The sun was out , but it was quite hazy.

I sadly surmised that THE ENTIRE MOUNTAIN CHAIN was  behind the hills behind the haze.
It didn't stop me from taking my grief to the Tourist Bureau in the center of town.
When the perky hostess greeted me and asked how she could help. I told her I was looking for les montagnes in the same tone someone would ask looking for le beureau de post.
She looked at me.
Yes, I told her that I had been told that if I came to Pau, I could see all of the Pyrenees.
She said, "No mountains today. Here is a guide of the town."
Perhaps I'd like to visit Le Chateau Henry IV ?
I thanked her.
So I saved the mountains for another day.
I visited the chateau and learned about the lusty life of a 16th century king.

As I climbed the grandiose spiral staircase, the view of no mountains got better.
Must have been wonderful back then - when the sun was shining. 

Leaving by the back door as probably most of his mistresses did, I walked into the middle of a demonstration by the locals seeking to preserve the very unique Bearn(Langaduc) language.
I decided to march with them clapping my hands  and trying to chant the slogans. Whatever they were saying, I did not know.
Reaching the Town Hall, we called for the mayor, who did not show his face, so we all booed.
It was great fun.
I stepped aside when they began to sing and returned to Le Boulevard des Pyrenees. The late afternoon light revealed an irregular line across the horizon. It looked like a cardiogram.
My cardiogram. My heart beat to know they were there.





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Ruby chez la princess from paintingparis.blogspot.com