Random vignettes from my life – 2

The Day I met Picasso….

During the summer of 1963 when I was seventeen years old, I was hitch hiking through France with one of my art school friends. We were staying in youth hostels along the way which were often in beautiful old chateaux and castles.

After becoming a member of the International Youth Hostel Association – (very inexpensive), the world was our oyster so to speak. The main rule for staying in youth hostels was ‘no driving to the hostel’ door. Walking, canoeing, cycling and trains were acceptable. Many young people, including ourselves cheated a little by hitch hiking for part of the way and then we would walk for the last few miles to the hostel. Back then we lived in a much safer world and hitch hiking was something many people did….it was a lot of fun…more about that later.

watercolour of village in the south of France.

My friend and I were staying in a beautiful old fairy tale castle in Luxembourg where along with young people from around Europe we met two American boys who asked if we wanted to join them for the next leg of their journey through France. They had picked up an old Volkswagen with Danish plates along the way.

Those were the days when fear was not part of the equationrather a sense of freedom and camaraderie. After three days in Luxembourg we drove with the two American boys to the south of France. There were no mobile phones – in fact very few phones of any kind…. There were no highways – just beautiful country roads, villages and small towns. Finding our own way through life was part of the great adventure of living…..

This gave us plenty of time to talk and get to know one another. The Americans had met on the road and explained that they came from very different backgrounds in the States. One was a Harvard graduate and the other a Brooklyn boy. At that point in time, I had very little knowledge about the States other than what I saw in films……and certainly had no idea that just a few years later I would be living there! However something that made an impression on me even back then was that both boys agreed they would not have met in the States…it was because they were travelling through Europe that their lives came together. They were free to be themselves.

I had visited France quite a bit and had already come to love the country.

In hindsight I realise that we were experiencing a very special moment in time. WW2 was almost behind us and we were yet to be inundated with highways, cars, inexpensive international travel, fast food and everything else that was just around the corner. – Life was simple and from the perspective that we now live – a very different world.

Most of the villages we drove through had a Boulangerie (baker) and a small Epicerie (grocery shop) where we were able to buy baguettes plus cheese and fruit. What more could anyone wish for? To this day the smells of good coffee, fresh baked bread and gauloises cigarettes….are evocative of so many happy memories.

I remember that it was a glorious day – everything sparkled in the way that it does in the south of France. Somewhat lost we found ourselves following a long drive leading to an imposing chateau. Sitting on a large terrace in front of the chateau were a group of men and women with their dogs – who at first site looked more than surprised to see us. When they realised that we had foreign (Danish) plates one of the party came over to talk with us. It was Pablo Picasso.

To this day when I close my eyes, I can see every detail of that moment. He came up to the car – looked in the window – smiled and asked if we would enjoy a drink. We declined….It was a split decision….I have often wondered what might have happened had we said yes. But there he was – the man himself. His charisma and life force shone through.

One of the many watercolour sketches made in France over the years.

Through these vignettes I will be spanning several decades, and two continents….They are not in any kind of a sequence…rather selected randomly.

52 thoughts on “Random vignettes from my life – 2

  1. Joseph McDonald

    Ah the art of life during simpler times you showcased a masterpiece sharing your journey my lovely friend! I felt I was right there each step of the way! How many times I hitched a ride from St James all boys catholic high school in chester Pa to home I couldn’t count them in the 4 years! My mind wondered back to them days and smiled what I wanted to remember! You were right I had some freedom back here in the states but not what you experienced in Europe! Maybe it was the culture, the healing of the war torn countries, or simply an Italian mother I loved and adored who was strict when needed being the youngest of four boys! Picasso one of my favorite artists along with Wyeths, Scarborough and of course you helped me to enjoy my creative side! I was never talented when it came to art like my brother Danny for I was naturally strong on the other side of the brain in math! You made my Sunday morning glorious with good memories thank you! Love always!

    1. janetweightreed10 Post author

      Good morning Jo. Thank you for this lovely comment and I am glad you enjoyed.
      I remember your Mother and Danny so well…both lovely people, but have to say your Mother was amazing. It makes me very happy to know that you are reading my blog :)XX

  2. memadtwo

    What a moment to remember!
    I was thinking that even in the early 1970s when I first moved to NYC I traveled around the city day and night without fear. Is it that we know too much now? Or is the world really a more dangerous place? (K)

    1. janetweightreed10 Post author

      I think it is a more dangerous place. When you factor in the spread of drugs and then the technology to fuel the madness plus the growth in population worldwide to mention just a few things…life is genuinely very different. Of course there have always been things to worry about, but during the past 30 years or so things have changed so fast it’s been hard for any of us to keep up with it. I haven’t even mentioned climate change, which was being talked about 30/40 or more years ago but has only been recognised relatively recently. Having said that we all need to do the best we can…..and strive for peace and of course nurture our creativity:)

      1. memadtwo

        I always have this vague feeling that I was too strict with my children compared to my own upbringing, but I think perhaps you are right–I was reacting to the state of the world. But I agree, we should not ever give up trying to turn things around.

  3. Timothy Price

    I was too young to hitchhike in 1963, but I did hitchhike in the 70s. Wonderful memories. Beautiful watercolors.

  4. Writing to Freedom

    Thank you for sharing this delightful peek into your life Janet. What a fabulous adventure to meet two boys, travel to France, and stumble into Pablo Picasso! Your paintings are gorgeous. Unfortunately, I didn’t see the world before it was overrun by corporations, highways, technology, and mass control.

    1. janetweightreed10 Post author

      You remind me that I didn’t mention how our relationship with money and STUFF has changed since that time. There were of course always some rich people, but for the most part after the war and during the period talked about here everyone was pretty equal. It was much better for all concerned….I am very glad that I experienced this other way of living and being……

  5. meshay422

    Truth speaking always demands a cup of poison to drink by its speaker but the ultimate delight and spiritual pleasure is achieved only and only by the way of truth.

  6. Emma Cownie

    What a utterly devine description of a youthful adventure. It made me very envious. I once hitch hiked from Wales to London with my boyfriend, it was a very long time ago. My boyfriend of the time, was very good at getting a long with people amd we had an interesting chat. Amazing that you briefly met Picasso. I saw a painting of his in Swansea once (it was on loan to the gallery) and his confidence and charisma shone through his brush strokes.

    1. janetweightreed10 Post author

      Thank you Emma for this comment. The more I think back to my more youthful days the more I realise how rich life was….simple but rich. Enjoy you day and week ahead…and may your creative juices flow:)

  7. mikeoxon

    Thank you for re-awakening my own memories of rural France in the sixties – milk from the can on a little hand truck at the campsite, delicious cakes from a village patisserie, wine (just drinkable) for 1 F a bottle! I remember too, walking in gardens in Luxembourg at night under the great floodlit bridges – it all felt so calm and safe then.

  8. matthewbahai

    Oh dear Janet how embued with a sense of peace your reflections from the sixties in France come across here. Such a blessing to feel that connection leaping of the page from my laptop’s screen!

  9. Ka Malana - Fiestaestrellas.com

    I have never met someone like you who has one of the most amazing lives I would have loved to have lived! I would say… maybe in another lifetime, where anything is possible and in another dimension I can live in that carefree past and hitchhike happily wherever I want to go. Thank you for sharing! Pablo Picasso!!! 🤩 Also, you!

    1. janetweightreed10 Post author

      Thank you Ka for this lovely comment. Certainly I was born at an interesting time at the end of WW2. I can remember rationing and bombed out buildings in London, but maybe that’s part of why it was such a good time to enter this world….People were ready for something very different after two terrible world wars….they were fed up with it all. My generation were encouraged to connect with one another in many different ways…there will be more about that to come. As I said in this vignette the time I am writing about here was very special….a one off. I do know that we could never have imagined back then the world as it is now. May your creative juices flow my friend:)

  10. Andrea Stephenson

    How exciting Janet, it sounds like a wonderful time. I travelled round Europe by train in the early 90s and even then it seemed like a safer time – we would often find people greeting trains and leading backpackers off to hostels and we would just go with them – with hindsight, it seems very risky, but we never came to serious harm.

    1. janetweightreed10 Post author

      Thank you for the comment. I am so glad that I was able to live during a time when hitch hiking and youth Hostelling was normal…We were encouraged to be adventurous. You are so right that even in the early 90s life felt different…

  11. Carol Balawyder

    Janet, two things struck me in this interesting piece, besides your wonderful watercolors. The first was that you stated that in your travels with the American boys no one had phones and that gave you plenty of time to talk and know one another. How times have changed! Today everyone is stuck on their phones and they tend to ignore the person next to them. The other amazing thing is meeting Picasso. How thrilling it must have been for you, the artist!

    1. janetweightreed10 Post author

      Good morning Carol. I thought about that as I wrote this piece. No bloody mobile phones…no technology at all…..which as you say allowed for real conversation…for people to get to know one another. Maybe that’s one of the saddest things of all that we have lost that! The moment I met Picasso was indeed thrilling, especially in that particular setting…amazing. Life is full of wonder and magic. XX

    1. janetweightreed10 Post author

      I have worked all over France and have always loved it, but I do believe that the time mentioned in this vignette was a very special one. Yes, I am most fortunate to have experienced it and yes we really were so free. Thank you very much for your comment. Janet:)

  12. Dora

    LOVELY JANET!!! Thank you. I forgot how free we were compared to young kids now. We were blessed to be born when we were!! Thanks to all the Gods!! Xxxx💜💜💋

    Sent from somewhere near Mars


  13. ernstblumenstein

    Ich war 1963 21 Jahre alt und reiste 1964 nach Israel und später trampte ich nach Indien/Nepal und zurück. Ja, wir waren frei und erlebten eine friedliche Welt.
    Dir alles Gute und Liebe. Ernst

  14. Mira Desai

    In the rightness of things, for it was fated that you would meet him in such a sylvan setting.


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