“Three hours later I was going through my mail in an armchair overlooking the Boulevard Raspail. Among some press cuttings was a particularly nice review of my book Sweet Cork of Thee from the Irish Independent, signed ‘N. N.’ It began by saying, ‘Mr. Gibbings is now turned sixty and ought to have more sense instead of gallivanting around the queer places of the world.’ You’re right, me boy, I said to myself, but whatever nom de plume nobility ‘N. N.’ stands for, it also stands for ‘now or never’” (Gibbings, 1955, p. 57).
This passage from Gibbings resonated deeply within me as Miss Cyd and I have contemplated a painting trip to Europe for several years now. I have long entertained the notion to paint a series centered on the 35 bridges over the River Seine within the Boulevard Périphérique (between the Pont Amont to the southeast and the Pont Aval to the southwest) in Paris. I am now turned sixty-one, soon to turn sixty-two. While I should perhaps also have more sense, I have a strong feeling that it truly is “Now or Never” for me to follow my dream to paint the series of “Les Ponts de la Seine” as well as some pastoral scenes from Aix-en-Provence as we follow in the steps of Van Gogh, Cezanne, Matisse, and others. Will it be great art, of course not, but it should be vastly entertaining for me and rewarding from a purely creative sense. Friends and family members may be forced to endure more of my pathetic renderings of pastoral and urban scenes, but such is life. I am sure they will accept such renderings as I bestow on them with their normal grace and aplomb.
After Miss Cyd and I complete our commitments in Oxford, we plan to spend some time in Shrewsbury England and Edinburgh Scotland before we return to London to regroup for the painting legs. Traveling on the continent via train, we will spend some time in La Mejanes in Aix-en-Provence to bask in the south of France, do a bit of painting to get the creative juices flowing nicely, then will travel back to Paris to establish our base of operations in an apartment in Saint Germaine des Pres. We love the 6th Arrondisement and have spent many pleasant nights at the K&K Cayre on the Boulevard Raspail resting up from our daily strolls through Paris and its numerous museums.
However, for this trip, our plan is to spend two weeks in Paris indulging ourselves in painting, sketching, photographing, and otherwise documenting our experiences, as well as enjoying more of our usual Parisian lifestyle. Our goal for this trip includes generally enjoying the expatriate life for a while. For this extended stay, renting a flat makes more sense than staying at our favorite hotel.
Wish us well,
Joe and Cyd
Gibbings, R. (1955). Coming down the Seine. London, England: Readers Union – J.M. Dent & Sons.