Blessing of the Vintners
oil on canvas
by Judy Westergard
Certainly circumstances exist when traveling by tour makes a lot of sense. But the best trips I've been on have been those in which my favorite traveling companion (read husband) and I have mucked through on our own.
Midnight, hollering out from an empty train car as we traveled through southern France, "Pardonez moi, monsieur, est Cannes?" only to be answered with a heavy Brooklyn accent, "No, lady; dis ain't Cannes. Ya want da nex' stop." Sharing a belly laugh with a Parisian over our inability to find the Eiffel Tower. These are the kinds of events that you don't forget.
London is a wonderful city in which to get lost. I always think that something's about to happen. London rarely disappoints.
It was on one of our first trips there that I fell in love with getting lost. We'd been wandering around London for an hour or so, looking for a particular shop that specialized in detailed replicas of old automobiles. We turned a corner and walked into what looked like a scene for a movie. Twenty gentlemen, all dressed in Victorian robes, walked in solemn procession. Leading them were two elderly men, sweeping the street with twig-and-branch brooms. Next came two top-hatted and robed gentlemen, each carrying a small bouquet and a staff. And they in turn were followed by 16 more, all similarly robed and, except for the last fellow who winked at me, equally serious. I grabbed my camera and snapped like a mad woman. "What have I just taken pictures of?" I asked the Londoner next to me. "Ah, madam," he answered with that lovely British dialect that always makes me embarrassingly aware of my flat midwestern vowels, "this is the annual blessing of the vintners. They're on their way to the church across the street where their new president will be inducted." It wasn't until a year later while I was working on the painting that I wondered...wine? England? who knew?!?