Le Jardin de La Maison de Sante Arles, Van Gogh


The weekend of April 3rd, Evie’s mom, sister, and grandmother invited Ashlyn and I to Avignon with them.  We stayed in a beautiful hotel within the “city walls”—it was literally within the city walls with roads that were about 5 feet wide.  


On Friday we had a tour guide, Bernadette, who was quite the character.  She took us around Provence and showed us many important places—including many places that Van Gogh drew.  It was absolutely breath taxingly beautiful.  I didn’t know what to expect and just expected a town surrounded by water in the South of France—but I was so wrong.  Bernadette, however crazy she was, showed us many famous and historical places—such as the hospital and asylum that Van Gogh stayed in.  She also took us to the restaurant that inspired his painting “Cafe Terrace at Night.”  


She is writing a book on Van Gogh and claims it will be “world news,” so she was informed with what she told us (to say the least).


Here are some images from “Le Jardin de La Maison de Sante Arles” 





Arles Museum of Antiquity


This boat was recently found in the mud in the Mediterranean.  I can’t remember the specific number, but I believe it was the first boat to be found with every piece still there—(the mud had preserved it).  Archaeologists had to cut the boat into pieces when they were bringing it out so that they ensured it did not break.  


Currently the boat sits in the Musee dep. Arles antique, which translate to Arles Museum of Antiquity. 


La Mirande, the hotel we stayed at in Avignon is really worth noting.  It was inside the city walls and precious.  The “city walls” are where the Pope lived and its basically a town within walls.  The streets are so narrow that the SUV we were in could hardly go through and make the turns.  I honestly thought we were going to run into the walls at many different points.  So the hotel was within the walls and had this quaint cottage type of feel to it.  The breakfast was served in a room overlooking the garden, really giving it this quaint, dreamy type of feel.  

I don’t have many pictures of the hotel, but here’s a link to see it…http://la-mirande.fr/#/en/intro/ 



Colour Me Beautiful, Communication with Colors

On Monday, April 7, 2014 we had a speaker talk to us about communicating with colors. Colour Me Beautiful started in the US in 1983, but was sold to the UK about 10 years ago. As some psychiatrists found, first impressions are 55% based on your appearance and body language, 38% on your tone, pitch, and pace, and 7% on your words. Given that appearances make up such a significant part of impressions, the goal of Colour me Beautiful is to help people make positive impressions through their appearances.


Appearances include the way you dress, color characteristics, 3 aspects to identify type of person, and main color types. The way you dress should be an extension of yourself and your personality. Additionally, it should complement your coloring and body shape, complement your personality, be appropriate, and be current (fashion is the least important as it is last on the list).


Color characteristics are important, but do not make that much sense to me. There are three types of characteristics: undertone, value, and clarity. The undertone means that every color has some gold and others have blue. Value is supposed to stand for light or deep/dark depth. Finally, the clarity stands for whether the colors are soft or muted, or if they are clear or bright. The three aspects to identify types of people are their hair, eyes, and skin tone. Based on these three characteristics, you are able to pinpoint what type of color type a person is.


The three types that are linked together because they are opposites are Light and Deep, Warm and Cool, and Clear and Soft. Light is when a person has light hair and eyes (blonde hair, blue or green eyes) and dark is when someone has dark hair, dark eyes, and any skin tone. At this point our speaker told us that deep colored people cannot wear white from head to toe otherwise they will feel naked. I was sort of shocked and thought the presentation was a bit off at this point. I always wear white over the summer…and I’m pretty sure it looks fine.


She continued to discuss how warm colored people strike people through their hair color and they shouldn’t wear white, but rather off-white. On the other hand, cool people should wear reds, purples, pinks, and blues. Often they have ashy hair, but not necessarily.  


The third group of people were clear and soft. Clear toned people can wear reds and blues, they have dark hair, bright sparkling eyes, and should wear contrasts. Soft toned people have no contrast in their look at all, are bland, and the women shouldn’t go without make up.


After she explained all the different tones, she told us what each of us were. Although there was no definitive answer for me, she started by saying I was a deep, and then at the end of the presentation, she came back, stared me in the eyes, and said I was more of a warm person. Still, both of which can’t wear white! Although the color tones make sense to me (light, deep, warm, cool, clear, or soft), I don’t agree with all the things that go along with them.

She said that many people are influenced by their family, especially their mothers, in what colors they wear; however, I base it off of seasons and the people around me. Certain types of friends bring out different types of clothing.  I felt that the majority of people in the United States do not dress based on their color tone but rather their style. In my eyes, style is the most important factor, followed by color. Not the coloring of the person, but rather the color of the clothing. Overall, this presentation was very interesting and much different than anything I’ve ever heard, but it was very interesting.

Council of Europe’s Italian Journalist, Samantha Agro

On Wednesday, April 2, 2014 Samantha Agro spoke to us about her job as an Italian journalist at the Council of Europe.  Of Italian and Scottish descent, Samantha works at ANSA, an Italian news agency.   At this news agency, she discussed how she is a journalist working for other journalists.  She’s the source of all information regarding activity at the Council of Europe for the Italians.  Ultimately, if an Italian journalist wants to know what’s going on, they have to reach her.

She discussed how her writings must be objective and purely informative.  No opinion can be included, it is purely objective.  Also, since she is the only Italian journalist in Strasbourg, she has extra pressure to be clear, concise, professional, and quick.  Being the only Italian journalist, she often has to prioritize which stories are worth writing about and taking the time to research.  However, anything pertaining to Italy or that would impact Italy must be written about.  Additionally, any big news involving any of the other member countries, such as the issue between Ukraine and Russia, must also be written about.

Samantha gets all of her information from the Council of Europe’s press releases, through her contacts, or through sources within the council.  She has many different types of sources and information: official and unofficial.  As we have previously learned in class, it is important for journalists to maintain the identity of their sources confidential, and she said this can often be difficult since she needs to reassure her bosses that her sources is reliable.  A problem with this way of obtaining information, Samantha said, is that the Council is an extremely secretive and non-transparent organization, which makes her job difficult at times since she has no sources of ways to get information.

With a lot happening at the council of Europe, Samantha said that there are about four weeks a year where she writes 50 or more articles a week.  To collect the information and be completely objective for this many articles would take many of us a couple of days to achieve; however, for her, it’s now second nature.

A very time consuming job, at 1pm, Samantha already had written and submitted four articles to her boss in Brussels.

During her time with us her boss in Brussels called.  She picked up the phone and her first words were “Pronto!”  He called again, and again her response was “Pronto!”  This time, she had to take time to check her phone and reread the piece she sent to him since he was questioning some information within it.

As Samantha said, “you do not exist” when it comes to her writings.  With zero opinion, everything she writes is completely objective; which allows the newspapers further down the chain to add biases to them if they so wish.

European Ombudsman, Summary


On Monday, March 24, 2014, I attended a meeting with Martin Martinez, a legal officer to the European Ombudsman.

Martin began the meeting by explaining the role of the Ombudsman and how they serve as an institution that helps solve citizen’s problems.  There are Ombudsmen at many different levels and they are there to investigate any problem whose origin is a public company.  The European Ombudsman can only handle cases that arise from public European institutions in order to ensure the accountability and security of that institution.

The Ombudsman is able to open a case based on one complain, but does not need a complaint to open a case.  He/she is able to open a case based on a thought or impression.  This is a major difference between the European Ombudsman and the American Court system.  In court, one needs a case and/or litigation whereas the Ombudsman does not.

The main cases of the Ombudsman are concerning reassessment of how European Commissioner acts as guardian or state, and cases concerning high officials of institutions how leave public institutions and go to private sectors ones since they may have knowledge of information that could be a conflict of interest.

Martin gave many other distinctions between the European Ombudsman and the American court.  Some of these include that the court always has a ruling or judgment that the people must act in accordance with.  On the other hand, the Ombudsman makes recommendations to institutions so that the issue does not occur again.  The recommendations are not binding and if the institution does not like it, they can completely ignore it without any repercussions.  Although the recommendations are nonbinding, 90% of the recommendations made by the European Ombudsman are accepted and followed.

Martin explained how the fact that these recommendations are not binding is beneficial since the Ombudsman has the ability to push for things without causing maladministration.  Through this ability, they are able to push institutions further than the court system would.

Ultimately, the Ombudsman’s role is to investigate institutions of maladministration, a complaint or emotion will be enough for them to open a case if they wish.  They are also only able to take on cases committed in European institutions.  Finally, the Ombudsman, who works for free, provides non-binding recommendations that are most often followed.

The Ombudsman can respond to the complaint of any European Union citizen, any 3rd party national who resides in the European Union, as well as any company.  Those who are not nationals or residents of the EU may also be affected, therefore they are also able to bring forth cases regardless of where they live.

The process for cases the Ombudsman takes on begins with receiving a complaint.  If the complaint is grounded, they open an inquiry.  If there are no grounds, the complaint is rejected.  After grounding a complaint they invite the institution that had a complaint brought upon them to provide a written opinion regarding the situation.  The complainant is able to read the written opinion in order to see the position of the institution.  After this the Ombudsman has the ability to go and search any and all documents to see what should happen.  Another thing that was explained to us was how the Ombudsman has the ability to access any file, regardless of its confidentiality.  They can ask an institution to release information and if the institution does not comply, they have the ability to go see it for themselves and decide whether keeping it hidden is beneficial to society.  After the Ombudsman views the documents they wish to see, they can make a recommendation regarding the original complaint.

Council of Europe Summary on Regional Authorities


On Wednesday, March 26, 2014 I attended the assembly of Presidents of Regional Authorities at their congressional session that occurs twice a year in order to see the Minister of Interior and Kingdom Relations, Ronald Plasterk, speak on issues in the Netherlands.

Speaking before the Minister were Jean-Pierre Liouville and Artur Torres Pereira.  Jean-Pierre Liouville gave an overview of a visit to the Netherlands in May and what they noticed, as well as a brief description of the meetings they had with associations and authorities in the Netherlands.  Artur Torres Pereira spoke of issues that are prevalent in the Netherlands, and what must be done in order to address and put an end to the issue.  The problems include that the local government needs more legal safeguards for both domestic legislation and at the constitutional level, lack of clarity regarding municipalities and provinces, co-government mechanism, mechanisms of consultation, and inadequate financial resources.  The recommendations Artur gave for being more efficient in the Netherlands included self-governing, more autonomy, and more financial resources.  

The minister than spoke about three of the most prominent issues: local self-government, partnerships for different sectors of the government, and human rights.  He began by discussing local self-governments and how two changes need to be made to the current system.  These include putting distance between the community and eldermen, and decentralizing core aspects of welfare states.  He discussed the repercussions and how these are the right moves in order to keep certain areas separate, but not too distanced.  The second issue he discussed was partnership with different types and sectors of government.  He emphasized how high levels of government do not mean good command and it is necessary to have money from the national level go to the municipality level in order to avoid raising taxes.  The third issue he discussed was human rights.  He emphasized that local governments and human rights cannot be treated separately since democracy and constitutionals are tied together.  Additionally, the two main aspects of human rights are privacy and discrimination and it is necessary to develop a national action plan so that no one can ignore these basic human rights.   These recommendations have been made with complete governmental support.

It was interesting to view this congressional hearing since it is so different than that of the United States.  Many of the actions, comments, and questions by the audience would never occur—and if they did, the person would be escorted out.  I noticed that only a handful of the audience was really paying attention to the Minister, the rest seemed to be talking, socializing, on their computer, and one lady was even playing solitaire.  In America, blatantly carrying on your own conversation would be looked down upon to the point where the person partaking would stop.  Additionally, it was interesting to see the people who turned up.  I found myself wondering how exactly the actions of the Netherlands affected other countries, specifically Russia who seemed to ask multiple questions.