Friday, July 29, 2016

Sea, Sand, & Sun, 2

Or should the title be "Bake on the Beach"? Because that is my interpretation of beach hotels in Tunisia. 
The large hotel we stayed in caters particularly to Russian and Eastern European clients (looking very pink or red after a day on the beach), although we met a few French clients, and Tunisian families came as well.

The Tourism field is truly interesting to study. Last year I taught Tunisian students about the possibilities of tourism (medical tourism, sports tourism, cultural tourism, etc.), however, with the rise of terrorism and fear, much has been lost. Here's how things look today: groups are flown in, escorted to the hotel where everything is provided (meals, drinks, entertainment, spa facilities, etc.) and they never leave this closed world until it's time to take the plane home. 

In addition, tourists paying with Euros are paying less for the trip and stay in a hotel than Tunisians pay for their stay (no airfare included). 

This is a sad state of affairs. Although some hotels seem to have plenty of clients, this does not seem to benefit the community, except for a few jobs (mostly low grade). The restaurants, markets, and craft stores that depend on tourism are struggling, many have closed or else they have cut back on personnel. 
Cultural institutions are struggling as well. The day I visited the Bardo Museum in Tunis with my grandkids, there were maybe six visitors, whereas they used to have crowds of at least two or three thousand a day. There was nobody at the wonderful Uthina ruins, when we had our yearly visit.

True, tourists can spend a peaceful vacation on a nice Mediterranean beach, however, they learn nothing of Tunisia and do not get to know any Tunisians. Appreciating a certain cultural and intellectual level, I can only comment with a caricature--just drawing what I see...

Monday, July 18, 2016

Sea, Sand, & Sun, 1

Grandma's Bootcamp always includes a stay at a Mediterranean beach where campers swim, play, and even go on a parachute ride. 
It's only an hour away from home, and although I drag my feet (I do not tan, I tomato), the few days at the beach provide a break in routine and everyone is happy. I always take plenty of self-entertainment.

This year was exceptional. While I sat sketching people at breakfast with a swimming pool in the background, a Frenchman said "I've always wanted to do that. May I sit down?" And so, I met J.-C., a Parisian, and we chatted about Paris, materials, and techniques. 

We sketched every morning after breakfast in an idyllic setting (no overflowing garbage at this hotel). 

J.-C., who incorporates his own cartoons into his job, "signed" my sketchbook with a delightful drawing.--> 

Sketching seems to be a good conversation starter at a beach hotel. How much time can you spend on a beach and not be bored silly? People would come talk with me, including kids. 

Donia (in the middle), who likes to draw, "signed" my sketchbook as well.--> 

Truth to tell, I only got salt water on me once, but, I did do a few laps in the pool before breakfast everyday. The kids loved the beach and the pools. Mr. M, whose skin had a grayish tint after his hospital ordeal, came home with a lovely tan and a smile, a picture of good health. Guess I can't complain!

Monday, July 4, 2016

Paris Urban Sketchers

I got a chance to meet up with the Paris Urban Sketchers the day after I arrived in Paris in April.

They had scheduled a meeting at the Parc de Sceaux for the Hanami or Japanese Cherry Blossom Festival.

It seemed that all Parisians of Japanese origin had come to picnic under the lovely old cherry trees of the Parc, which put on an amazing show of pink.

The cold weather and threatening gray skies did not seem to bother anybody except me. It was very cold.

Three days before my departure, I was able to attend another outing at the "Grand Train," a sort of railroad cemetery with some lovely old locomotives. It had been converted into a sort of park/picnic area for families...and thankfully, there were no tourists. I sketched a group of women with a locomotive behind them in my recycled, trashy sketchbook/journal using watercolors and brush pen.

Then I started on a beautiful red locomotive in excellent condition. This I had to finish later as it started to rain.

Seeking shelter in a nearby café, we sat around tables that the owner kindly lined up for us, and shared sketchbooks and stories. I surreptitiously sketched a Parisian sketcher at the other end of the tables and then asked her to sign. Thank you, Estelle.

And so, I would like to send a big "Hello" and "Thank you" to the Paris Urban Sketchers who began and ended my visit to Paris in such a wonderful way. My blessings are many...