Wednesday, July 30, 2008

Swedish Furniture Names

If you were a piece of Swedish furniture from that big box store with the blue and yellow logo, what would you be?

My Swedish Furniture Name is KÄROLINDÖRD. I'm a chest of drawers.

What's yours? Blogadilla has a clever way of finding out.

Let me know what you are. 

Wednesday, July 23, 2008

Home Again Home Again Jiggety Jig

After all the views from hotel rooms, this was the view from my bedroom at home this morning about 6:30am. The second picture is just a closer view of the Great Blue Heron in the first picture.

I told the lady at Appleton Farm when I picked up my share this week that it was so beautiful here, I wondered why I ever left. She smiled and told me - because you wanted to see other beautiful places, too.

That's true, of course, but still... it's so lovely here now that I have been thinking about a favorite poem - "should we have stayed at home and thought of here?" and "...must we dream our dreams and have them, too?/ And have we room /for one more folded sunset, still quite warm?

Here's the whole poem: Questions of Travel by Elizabeth Bishop

There are too many waterfalls here; the crowded streams
hurry too rapidly down to the sea,
and the pressure of so many clouds on the mountaintops
makes them spill over the sides in soft slow-motion,
turning to waterfalls under our very eyes.
--For if those streaks, those mile-long, shiny, tearstains,
aren't waterfalls yet,
in a quick age or so, as ages go here,
they probably will be.
But if the streams and clouds keep travelling, travelling,
the mountains look like the hulls of capsized ships,
slime-hung and barnacled.

Think of the long trip home.
Should we have stayed at home and thought of here?
Where should we be today?
Is it right to be watching strangers in a play
in this strangest of theatres?
What childishness is it that while there's a breath of life
in our bodies, we are determined to rush
to see the sun the other way around?
The tiniest green hummingbird in the world?
To stare at some inexplicable old stonework,
inexplicable and impenetrable,
at any view,
instantly seen and always, always delightful?
Oh, must we dream our dreams
and have them, too?
And have we room
for one more folded sunset, still quite warm?

But surely it would have been a pity
not to have seen the trees along this road,
really exaggerated in their beauty,
not to have seen them gesturing
like noble pantomimists, robed in pink.
--Not to have had to stop for gas and heard
the sad, two-noted, wooden tune
of disparate wooden clogs
carelessly clacking over
a grease-stained filling-station floor.
(In another country the clogs would all be tested.
Each pair there would have identical pitch.)
--A pity not to have heard
the other, less primitive music of the fat brown bird
who sings above the broken gasoline pump
in a bamboo church of Jesuit baroque:
three towers, five silver crosses.
--Yes, a pity not to have pondered,
blurr'dly and inconclusively,
on what connection can exist for centuries
between the crudest wooden footwear
and, careful and finicky,
the whittled fantasies of wooden footwear
and, careful and finicky,
the whittled fantasies of wooden cages.
--Never to have studied history in
the weak calligraphy of songbirds' cages.
--And never to have had to listen to rain
so much like politicians' speeches:
two hours of unrelenting oratory
and then a sudden golden silence
in which the traveller takes a notebook, writes:

"Is it lack of imagination that makes us come
to imagined places, not just stay at home?
Or could Pascal have been not entirely right
about just sitting quietly in one's room?

Continent, city, country, society:
the choice is never wide and never free.
And here, or there . . . No. Should we have stayed at home,
wherever that may be?"

Saturday, July 19, 2008

Daughter of COG, Avert your Eyes

Before: Arden Lodge

After: Arden McMansion

A perfect English summer day

We had lunch on Sunday with a cousin of the COG's. The sun was shining in her beautiful garden. Her two ancient white cats were dozing in the sun. Here are a few pictures of her lovely garden. Cousin of COG is not only a wonderful gardener and a great cook, she's a librarian. I left with a whole list of new books to look for.

England and other places

I have left a number of things out of my descriptions of the trip. For example, the night we spent in Marseilles before flying to England for the weekend. I always hate the cities we go to after our walks in the countryside. Marseilles was no exception. I'd like to revisit it someday, when I am able to appreciate city life.

We flew to England for a long weekend of family visits before returning home. From a month of sunny mid 80s to mid 90s weather, we landed in rain and 60 degrees. Then, for reasons too boring to mention, it took us many hours to get to Birmingham from London. The travel time from Marseilles to our hotel was 12 hours. Longer than it took us to get from Birmingham to home.

Spent a happy hour in an English bookstore, surrounded by books in English. I had been reading only in French for 2 months and I cannot describe how wonderful it felt to find books I could read easily and quickly.

Spent all the rest of the time visiting various family members. It was great to see everyone and I enjoyed every single minute of the visits. We took almost no pictures, but here is one from our hotel room window, in King's Coughton, near Coughton Court, a National Trust property with associations with the Gunpowder plot, and other events of Catholic/Protestant reformation history in England.

It's worth mentioning that in this idyllic location out in the countryside there were bars on the windows of our room and signs all over telling you not to leave valuables in your car. England has changed so much in the nearly 40 years I've known it. There's so much thuggery and violence there now.

Beach Last Night in Cadaques

Recorded as we had coffee in a beachside cafe on our last night in Cadaques. Mostly for the sound of the waves on the shingle beach.

Short video panorama from Banyuls

Tuesday, July 15, 2008

Port de la Selva to Cadaques, 360 degree pan

A pale remnant of a wonderful walk.

The sound is distorted by the wind (which felt wonderful at the time), alas. And you can catch a glimpse of the COG if you look quickly.

Patrick O'Brian lovers may note that(had Stephen Maturin not been fictional) his castle might well have appeared on this video. I think it would have been near the monastery of Sant Pere de Rodes.

Consequences of not speaking the language

Thoughtfully provided private trail-side toilet facility, or something else?

We don't know because we don't speak Spanish.

However, our ignorance did not prevent us from expressing a great deal of potty-brained mirth as we passed by.

Somewhere between Port de la Selva and Cadaques

Two Superheroes scanning the horizon for those in need of Super Help?

Or Sister Rose and I being silly with the picnic blankets after lunch?

You decide.

Saturday, July 12, 2008

Happy Laughing Tourists Drinking on the Beach in Cadaques


Cadaques was wonderful. A small village of whitewashed houses, twisty, cobbled alleyways, and a coastline scalloped with pretty bays. I didn't take pictures from my hotel window, but the top and bottom pictures here are from the front of the hotel.
It's definitely a tourist town, but in a nice way. Tourists were mostly French and German, Dutch or Scandinavian, although in shops, restaurants and hotels everyone spoke English and French. We fell in love with Spain and definitely want to return there, but first we want to learn some tourist Spanish. it just feels rude to be in a country where you can hardly even ask for the bill in the language.

Spectacular Walk: Port de la Selva to Cadaques

Words do not describe, nor pictures capture this wonderful walk. The weather was a bit cooler - low 80's and there was a wonderful fresh breeze from the sea the whole way. And the scenery was wild and wonderful. We all realized that what we love best is walks in wild places with rugged scenery and no people.

Along the way we visited a ruined hermitage belonging to a big landowning monastery - Sant Pere de Rodes, which overlooked Port de la Selva. The hermitage  was built in the 10th century with additions through the 16th century.

It was pretty impressive, not not at all what I think of as a hermitage. Admittedly, I'm a little hazy on hermitages - remembering mostly the Monty Python skit where they all lived in caves and gossiped constantly.  Sister Rose thought it was probably more of a retreat. I thought it might be more like a vacation home - where the monks would spend their summer hols. It was a spectacular site, but Sant Pere de Rodes had an even more spectacular site.  I don't know if there was some kind of defensive/strategic reason to have it.

We arrived in the absolutely magical seaside town of Cadaques pleasantly tired, but with plenty of energy to walk around town, have a drink in a beachside cafe and, a bit later, dinner in a touristy cafe. More to come about Cadaques.

Port de la Selva

Port de la Selva is a pretty place. It's a working fishing port and we had fun watching the fishermen return with their day's catch. Although Rose and I didn't want fish for dinner (or ever again) after seeing the poor dead sea creatures. There are times when vegetarianism has a real appeal.

However, on our day there, we took a lovely walk along the cliffs on the headlands nearby. I didn't take many pictures, but these give some sense of what it looked like. The spiky thing that looks like a giant chives plant is wild fennel, in case you are interested.

One more thing about the hotel in Port de la Selva

I forgot to mention the Art in our room. Sister Rose and ROG had tasteful landscapes. We had three female nudes. They were original oils, all three, and painted in the softly impressionistic greeting card school of art. One of them was signed by an artist named Debbie. Which is not an artist name that inspires confidence, somehow.

Rose said that in their room one of the landscapes was signed by Susanne. Also not inspiring.

I've heard that lots of Romance book covers are painted in Spain. "Our" nudes look like they could be Romance book covers, if only they were wearing regency style dresses instead of nothing at all. And if there was a man with a horse and a large sword somewhere in the background.

Port de la Selva: view from hotel room

After the view from Banyuls, Hotel Porto Cristo was a bit of a comedown. Sister Rose and ROG had better hotel karma this time, with a pair of porte fenetres and a teeny balcony. However, their view was the same.

And, not that you are interested, the picture is a little unfair.

The hotel was actually very nice. The bathroom was big, all granite, with a great shower and with jets in the bath. Not a proper jacuzzi, but still very nice.

Banyuls to Port de la Selva

The walk from Banyuls to Port de la Selva was pleasant, but not one of the best walks ever. The weather was cooler and overcast and there was a pleasant breeze from the sea, making the walking much pleasanter than the previous walk from Collioure to Banyuls. The walk followed a coastal path, so there was a lot of lovely scenery in between towns. Secluded bays, flowers along the path etc.
Walking through the towns, however, we walked along the back of busy beaches. People-watching was interesting, but not the wild scenery we most enjoy.

Saturday, July 5, 2008

Banyuls: View from hotel window

We entered Banyuls from the Other Side of the Bay, tired and hot and grumpy.  It was a long walk to the hotel with 120 steps up at the end. But this is the view from our balcony. And the air-conditioning works great. 

Not bad, eh!

Collioure to Banyuls: wild rosemary

There was wild rosemary all along the trail to Collioure. It smelled wonderful as we brushed past it.  There was wild fennel, too, but I didn't get a picture. 

Collioure to Banyuls

On July 4, we walked from Collioure to Banyuls.  According to the material we had it was 14 kilometers (about 8.5 miles) and should have taken about 4.5 hours.  My pedometer said it was 15.6 k. Our watches said it took 7 hours.  This is pretty much par for the course for us.  We didn't exactly get lost - since the Mediterranean was to our left, the mountains to our right, and we could see Banyuls in the distance for most of the way.  But we didn't exactly find all the right markers and pathways, either.  It was very beautiful. It was also very hot and sunny with absolutely no shade.  I've taken some little videos that I can't get loaded, but when I can, I'll load them. In the meantime, here is a photo of the COG on the trail.

And on to Collioure

Collioure is a lovely town very close to the Spanish border. The COG and I have visited it 3 times now - which is very unusual for us. It has been painted and photographed a zillion times by people more talented than me, but that doesn't stop me from posting a few pictures. It was basically a military site, being on the border between Spain and France. Along the hills behind the town are a ring of watch towers - just like in Lord of the Rings. On the hill on one side of the town looms a Spanish fort. On a hill on the other side looming French fort. In the middle is a chateau designed by Vauban, who mostly built forts - so it's very well fortified.  But what I love is the old part of town.  We took a tour with a guide from the tourist bureau who told us that Collioure is famous for it's multicolored houses. The reason, he explained, is that the fishermen would paint their boats and use the leftover colors on the houses.  

Where Was I? Oh, yes, Pezenas

The COG and ROG arrived and after a couple of nights in Toulouse, we travelled to Pezenas, a small city   near the coast of the Mediterranean. Pezenas is chiefly known for the wonderful 16th century buildings and for its connection to Moliere, who worked there for a time. We chose it partly because there was a hotel there with rooms available. We couldn't find much about it in guide books, which gave us the (false) impression that there would be few tourists there. Alas, no. Many English tourists. However, it is a lovely place with the classic story of wealth and importance in the 16th century followed by a quick fall into obscurity. This story often means that places are well preserved. So we like it when this happens.  There was also a greve in process. The garbage men were not picking up the garbage so there were huge heaps of garbage in the old part of the city.  The day we left private garbage crews escorted by police cleared it up.  Interesting to watch.