Thursday, May 19, 2011

Art in the city

When I lived in Georgia the closest big city was Atlanta. When there, other than sit in traffic and visit R.E.I. and IKEA, I joined friends at some of the ethnic restaurants (these were not present in my neck of the woods; “ethnic” meant extra seasoning on my fried chicken). Once when I had out of town guests I even made it to the Coca-Cola museum. I visited the Georgia Aquarium soon after it opened, strolled through Centennial Park, screamed my head off on a rollercoaster in Six Flags Over Georgia, saw a modern dance number at the Fox Theater, watched a race at Atlanta Motor Speedway and brushed up on my history at the Martin Luther King Jr. NHS. But for all of this, I always felt that Atlanta was sort of sterile; it didn’t feel alive. Maybe it was the enormous distances from one place to another, or the urban sprawl that stretched all the way to Macon, but the only time I felt the people of Atlanta animated about something was that time we smoked them out with one of our prescribed burns on the Piedmont National Wildlife Refuge.

My initial impression of Clermont-Ferrand was almost the exact opposite, and this feeling has only intensified in our first six months here. Although bordered by dormant volcanoes, CF is anything but dormant. There are constantly festivals; wine, music, theatre, tulip, childrens’, so many that we have not had the chance to enjoy them all. On weekdays as well as weekends the parks and public areas are constantly full of people; families, couples, students, businessmen, bums. In the evenings it seems as though every restaurant has business, and on Fridays and Saturdays reservations are a must. And if you don’t leave the house, things come to you! Like last week when Lauris and I were woken by an hour-long procession of protesters passing our apartment in a long parade (I think they were advocates of social care workers?). Or on Sunday when we took a break from breakfast to watch a sea of pink pass by our windows, a breast cancer awareness race. I was later told by a participant that as many as 6,000 people participated in this 6km run.

The scenery is alive as well. The flower gardens in the Jardin LeCoq are ever changing, on our walk home today we watched dozens of workers busy planting summer annuals in the beds that used to have daffodils, tulips and pansies in them. The streets have taken on a new look as the leaves on all the maples and London planetrees have emerged. And the streets vibrate with life, all the bustle at the cafés and restaurants, and shoppers going about with their purchases adding continuous motion to the city scene.

Another factor that contributes to the vitality of Clermont-Ferrand is the presence of art everywhere. Of course the fountains, sculpture and architecture are impressive. Storefronts are creatively arranged with clothes that seem like works of art, definitely encouraging window shoppers, and a welcome contrast to a more mundane set-up of clothing at malls in the US. The advertisements, too are modern works of art, eye catching as well as eye pleasing. But my favorites are the art works in places you would least expect, for example by the large vacant lot close to our old apartment. I was surprised by this large plot of prime real-estate left to the weeds until the film festival; in one day it was transformed into an exclusive concert venue with large tents, stages and ticket booths. But for a large part of the time it sits empty, and were it not for the beautiful work of art facing the lot, would probably be considered an eyesore. Every time we walked past it took on a new look, the day I snapped this photo Lauris and I came close to being drenched by a sudden downpour.

We live in a beautiful, vibrant city, surrounded by stunning scenery that begs to be explored. Although there is plenty of work left to finish getting settled in the new apartment, I find myself procrastinating with long walks to the park and through downtown. With the sun shining and so much going on, unpacking the last boxes can wait until tomorrow.

1 comment:

  1. Es jūtos līdzīgi par NYC - man ir prieks, ka vari baudīt tik krāšņu pilsētu ar savu ģimenīti. Ļoti gaidam paši redzēt kas tur viss ir ko redzēt!!!


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