Here There and Everywhere

Expat wanderer

Vista House

 

You have to really want to find Vista House these days, but it is worth the effort. Two roads up there say “closed” but there is a third road, narrow and winding and seeming like you will never get there, but you do, and when you do you have a panoramic view up and down the Columbia River.

This was built to last. The ladies room is entirely marble!

 

 

 

 

 

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June 4, 2018 Posted by | Arts & Handicrafts, Beauty, Building, Public Art, Road Trips, Travel | , , | Leave a comment

Columbia Gorge Discovery Center and Museum

“She shows us the same things,” you might complain, and again I say “I write this blog for myself and for the love of writing about the things I love. You are welcome, all are welcome, and if you are not happy, you are welcome to go elsewhere!”

I’ve lived an odd life, a life I would’t trade with anyone. I grew up in Alaska, on an island with a lot of native Americans as my fellow students in my little elementary school. I grew up with Alaskan art, Indian artifacts, masks, baskets, and the hand made costumes, red and black images, sparked with trimming of white shirt buttons. I went to high school in Germany, traveling far and wide with my family or with friends through that continent, visiting more than a few churches and museums, even making special trips to see an exhibit or two.

Then a big change, life in the Middle East and Africa, where I learned to see things through a very different set of eyes and experiences, but something strange started happening, as I noted the differences, I could also see amazing similarities.

I love women’s handwork. I love the nomadic textiles, often made on very narrow looms that could be mostly a couple sticks and yarn from sheep or goats you’ve raised and slaughtered, died with whatever you could get your hands on. And, oddly, the weavings and patterns from Native American baskets and weavings have a lot in common with weavings from the Middle East, West Asia (the ‘Stans) and Africa. There is a love of working with black, white and red, for example, and a similarity to the structure of the animals, even when the animals themselves differ.

If you are interested in the work women do with their hands, you never lack for conversation wherever you go. There are always groups where women are teaching one another new techniques. I’ve met wonderful, creative women in Germany and in Kuwait and in Tunisia, all finding new and innovative ways to create, and also exploring preservation of early and ancient techniques.

So this Museum, the Columbia Gorge Discovery Center and Museum was richly rewarding for both AdventureMan and myself; it was rich in history, in interviews and movies showing early salmon runs, for example, and interviews with early Native Oregonians. It was also rich in exploring the techniques of early basket making and cooking techniques, preservation of salmon by drying and salting, etc. We spent hours in this museum, and we heartily recommend that you do, too 🙂 It is also a very gorgeous museum, rich in sensory impact, unforgettable.

I will show you pictures, and every now and then I will put in a little explanation.

Below is a dugout canoe, created from one very large cedar tree trunk, carved out by hand

There were really Direwolfs? GOT didn’t make them up?

Look at the motifs on these baskets! African? Azerbaijani? Kazakh? Kuwaiti?

For grinding chestnuts into paste, then the paste is cooked into a kind of meal like oatmeal. The morter and pestle is the same in so many places.

The round cooking stones, heated in fires, dropped into the meal, fished out once they start losing their heat, washed, reheated and put in again until the meal reaches a boil, all in this tightly woven basket.


Activity in the Children’s exploration area

We love the creativity and persistence of humans who preserve our heritage and traditions for future generations. It is particularly delightful when the preservation is in a museum conceived and manifested with beautiful elements and natural materials.

June 4, 2018 Posted by | Adventure, Afghanistan, Africa, Arts & Handicrafts, Beauty, Character, Cultural, Education, Entertainment, ExPat Life, Interconnected, Public Art, Quality of Life Issues, Road Trips, Travel, Values, Women's Issues, Work Related Issues | Leave a comment

The High Desert Museum in Bend, OR

Today is a piece of cake. It is a very short driving day, we get up late, only to discover that the normally generous breakfast at the Best Western has been set-upon by all the martial arts participants and the gun show enthusiasts, and the crew is working valiantly but is unable to keep up with the hoards of folk interested in breakfast. We find enough – some hard boiled eggs, some milk, enough. We are on the road by 9:30 only to stop just outside of Bend at one of the most beautiful museums we have ever visited, the High Desert Museum.

Look at that gorgeous elk statue, look at the definition. Look at his relaxed posture. Isn’t he gorgeous?

That is not a real salmon jumping up a river to spawn, but another gorgeous piece of art work at the entrance to this museum. I am loving this place already. They’ve put some big bucks into making this a high end product.


I suppose I should be embarrassed waxing so enthusiastic over the materials and craftsmanship that have gone into the structure, but I’m not. It’s my blog; I get to be as enthusiastic as I want. I loved this museum before I even got in the front door.

 

This is the entrance. Look at that natural light invited in! Look at the stone walls, the wooden ceiling and the textured panels on the walls! It seems most of the people we encounter working in the museum are volunteers, and they love their work and take great pride in serving their museum.

 

I know you’ve been wondering (as I did) exactly what the High Desert is:

 

The entire states of Idaho and Utah? Most of Nevada? Extensive parts of Washington, Oregon and Wyoming, as well as segments of California and Montana? I had no idea!

There is SO much to see. There is a lot of history along with the natural sciences, and it is all beautifully displayed, with a lot of human context.

 

I learned a lot about ritual root digging, which I had never heard of, but since seeing this exhibit, it has come up in two books I’ve read by Louise Erdrich, The Future Home of the Living God and LaRose, so I’ve been able to integrate what I learned with more information. If we ever have a monumental natural disaster, or zombie apocalypse, we will need these survival skills.

 

 

A tule mat tee pee. The women also wove baskets so fine and so tight you could cook in them. They used fire heated round stones to bring food temperatures up even to a boil.

 

This wild cat sculpture is next to the real wild cat, resident at the museum for many years due to an injury that made it impossible to return her to the wild.

 

 

Panoramas from the historical displays.

 

The museum also has a really nice gift shop, lots of original art work, good cards, great children’s gifts. They also had a very nice cafe, with an outdoor terrace where you can sit, drink some excellent coffee, and listen to the birds.

 

We spent two or three hours here, and it was worth every minute. The volunteer guides do tours of the outdoor animal displays, including some very cute and cuddly otter, and all kinds of other themed 30 minute or so walks. Well worth a visit.

June 4, 2018 Posted by | Adventure, Arts & Handicrafts, Beauty, Cultural, ExPat Life, Food, Public Art, Road Trips, Travel | , , | Leave a comment

Wake of the Vikings: Three Q’s in Qaqortoq, Greenland

 

The day dawns calm and beautiful, and the tenders are in the water early, waiting to take us to Qaqortoq. We are eager for so many reasons. We want to get off the boat and walk. We want to set foot in Greenland. And even before we had a grandson whose name begins with a Q, we have loved living in Qatar, begins with a Q, and then in Kuwait, shortened in text-talk to Q8. We look for Q’s, we delight in Q’s.

When I say early, we are in the third group to leave, and our departure is scheduled for 7:45 A.M. Fortunately, we have gained another hour – love this traveling west by ship – and most of us are up and ready long before our tender time is called. We have to make the most of this early morning call, as the boat is scheduled to start on it’s long leg to L’anse aux Meadows, in Newfoundland, Canada. We will be at sea all afternoon, overnight, all day tomorrow, and tomorrow night. This is a great time to get off and WALK!

Qaqortoq is a great place to walk; it is big enough to have a lot of loops, small enough that we really can’t get lost. It is not only early, it is also Sunday morning, so we don’t have a lot of local people around, not much is open, and there are no other cruise ships in town. We have the place to ourselves.

 

Tenders emptying cruisers into the village:

We love the variety of house colors. There are no pastels, even the yellow houses are a bright yellow. I found several purple houses in the village. Back on board, people said how isolated this place was, how they couldn’t live there. I found myself wishing for a wonderful purple house 🙂

 

We’ve walked up to the top of Qaqortoq; all down hill from here 🙂

Do you see the purple house, next to the spearmint green house?

Love these solar panels, even in Greenland!

 

Qajaqs!

See?

Village stone art:

 

 

 

Here’s the one I like the best, but it is the hardest to see. It is a whale, maybe a hump-back whale. Can you see its shadowy outline? Part of the rock is incorporated in the whale design:

 

Love this pine-tar finished house, which is old, not painted, and a museum which is also not open.

The old church. No photographs allowed inside, and a service (this is Sunday) was about to begin. The church had very large crystal chandeliers inside, held maybe 60 – 80 people. I am guessing it was a Catholic church.

 

The old school; AdventureMan commented that the statue girl needed more clothes in this cold climate and I told him she was a metaphor for naked longing to get an education. Sigh. Sometimes it’s still a wonder to me that people who have conversations like this find each other. I am sure there are people who think we are a couple of nut-cases.

Sod livestock shed behind the school.

 

We really wanted to find a cap that said Qaqortoq on it for our grandson, who loves Q’s the way we do. We would have been happy to spend some money, but there was only one gift shop open and it seemed a little picked over. Everything was Greenland, not Qaqortoq. We never saw a cafe where we could have a cup of coffee or tea, or a cold drink – Sunday morning and nothing was open. I am not complaining. I loved being able to get out and walk and get the feel of the town. I liked Qaqortoq. Just wish we could have found a way to give a little back to the community.

Time to catch the tender and return to the boat.

 

September 17, 2017 Posted by | Adventure, Arts & Handicrafts, Beauty, Cultural, Customer Service, ExPat Life, Fitness / FitBit, Geography / Maps, Living Conditions, Public Art, Travel | , , | 2 Comments

Wake of the Vikings: Oslo City Tour – Vigeland Park

In the last post, I told you AdventureMan and I are not very good about staying on track with a tour. Sometimes there is too much information, and too much time at a location about which I care little. VIgeland Park was just the opposite, for both AdventureMan and I. Vigeland Park was so extraordinary it made us want to come back to Oslo and to walk the streets and visit all the public art we can, and spend a lot more time with these lovely, terrifying, amazing sculptures.

This gutsy sculptor told the city of Oslo that he would do a series of sculptures for free if the city would pay for materials, provide a location, and provide help for the project. After lengthy debate, astonishingly, the city agreed. Vigeland created the statues, the park was completed and Oslo had a cultural treasure.

Vigeland’s sculptures deal with mankind, in all glory and in all despair, in all conditions. I will show you one of my favorites, because I am one of three sisters, and what I read into this statue is sisterhood:

 

Can you see why I like this statue? You can read so much into his statuary. If I were teaching high school art, I would put out a series of photos of his sculptures and ask each student to choose one and to write about what he or she sees in the sculpture.

There are mothers and fathers with their children:

 

What do you see? Some saw a man, overwhelmed, careless as he handled his children. I saw a metaphorical balancing act, and don’t children alway find their fathers the most fun because of the risks they take?

 

Some saw joy in this mother racing with her child.  What do you see?

 

 

 

This column centers the exhibit. It is full of people and children, surrounded by people, men and women, all nude, all naked spiritually and open for our observation and interpretation:

 

 

This park is incredibly popular. I would love to go back when there aren’t a lot of people. This is a park where you can spend a lot of time speculating.

This is a separate pavilion with depictions of the stages of a life, and the transitions back and forth from the “other world” to this world.

I struggle with this series below – I’ve only shown two. It is a woman with a dragon – or is it a demon? Is she fighting with it, or dancing with it? And in the last picture, is he embracing her? Is he devouring her?

 

These sculptures are like a good book, you can think about them for a long time, and at different times in your life you may come to understand them in different ways.

September 11, 2017 Posted by | Adventure, Arts & Handicrafts, Beauty, Character, Circle of Life and Death, Cultural, Interconnected, Mating Behavior, Parenting, Public Art, Random Musings, Relationships, Travel | , , , , | Leave a comment

Wake of the Vikings: Oslo – Bristol Hotel and Surroundings

A quick ride from the airport to downtown Oslo, where we find The Bristol Hotel, and inside a table with Viking local guides, armed with key sets with each passengers name. So easy, so well thought through – no waiting, just pick up your keys and an information sheet (like what time to meet up with your guide the next morning – critical information) and up to our room. Smooth. Efficient. Well done.

 

The room is charming and welcoming. You would think we would drop all our bags and hit the town, but you would be wrong. We dropped all our bags and hit the sack; slept like the dead for two hours and forced ourselves to wake up and get morning. It works for us.

 

I loved the spaciousness of this room, and oh, YES, wooden floors. I am such a sucker for wooden floors.

 

The bathroom was nice enough; I took a photo to show you the teeny tiny shower. I estimated it was about two feet by maybe two and a half feet at the longest, but a door cut across at a 45 degree angle, slicing space out of the shower. The controls were interesting; you control hot and cold with the right lever, and volume with the left. Well, it got the job done, it just felt cramped.

A storage rack and a pay bar in the entry hall.

 

We ate dinner in the Bristol Library Bar; the most fun was watching the locals gather in groups to have a drink on the way home. It was a busy, happy place, and we decided to eat dinner there and then go for a walk.

 

 

Our dinner was a bowl of Norwegian fish soup and an Autumn salad. The fish soup was delicious; we don’t put peas in fish soup in the Pacific Northwest, nor in the South, so it was a lovely addition that surprised me and delighted me. The Herbstsalad had roast duck pieces, and roasted beet, on a bed of mixed greens. The whole meal was lovely.

 

After dinner, we walked around the shopping area near our hotel, it was a beautiful night and the streets were crowded with a festive crowd. I thought the below was a church, and perhaps it was at one time, but I was told it is no longer a functioning church.

 

Some public art – Oslo is full of lovely statuary, and beautiful parks.

Oslo is also peopled by these trolls, in infinite variety. I sort of like them, I think of Father Richard Rohr and his message that our dark side is sometimes the way we find our path to God, in our brokenness.

 

As we walked, more and more people were gathering along the pedestrian way. We would ask, but no one we asked seemed to know what was happening, but all suggested it was probably a political rally with elections coming up soon. It was a very festive rally, not hostile or threatening in any way. Ah, to have such civil politics . . . .

 

Near our hotel was a store which sold what we called in Germany, “trachten” which means traditional folk-clothing. This traditional folk clothing is still made and is increasingly worn on high social occasions – weddings, important political occasions, National day, etc and is very expensive. One guide told us an outfit might start at $2,000. and then for special occasions, your husband might buy you the traditional jewelry which goes with the clothing.

 

 

This is actually my favorite, below. The Norwegian traditional clothing seems to me to have some Middle Eastern influence in the trims and buttons and modesty. No, I am not the least bit tempted; it would not work in Pensacola. It would be too hot and too heavy, and the heat and humidity would harm the valuable wool fabrics.

We slept wonderfully at the Bristol Hotel, and were up bright and shiny the next morning for our tour of Oslo and train trip over the mountains to Bergen.

 

 

September 11, 2017 Posted by | Adventure, Arts & Handicrafts, Cultural, Eating Out, ExPat Life, Friends & Friendship, Hotels, Public Art, Travel | , , , , | Leave a comment

The Edmonds Little Free Library

We are working on a Little Free Library for our church, so I have become very aware of the Little Free Libraries wherever I go. As I was photographing this (utterly gorgeous) Little Free Library, an Edmonds resident passing by said “You know we have hundreds of the Little Free Libraries in Edmonds, but this is the most beautiful.”

Hundreds. Edmonds is a civil place, and a bookish place. Edmonds people share. Every year there is a huge tour of gardens, and it includes many many many gardens. People work hard on their gardens, to give joy to passers-by. It thrills my heart to think of so many Little Free Libraries.

But this is the most beautiful:

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EdmondsLittleLibrary

 

Bricks. A stained glass window. A copper roof. A window box – so much loving attention to detail, for something to give away to the public. I love this town.

Wouldn’t it be wonderful to think of Little Free Libraries popping up in Kuwait? Qatar? Saudi Arabia? Tunisia?

May 7, 2016 Posted by | Arts & Handicrafts, Beauty, Civility, Community, Counter-terrorism, Cultural, Education, EPIC Book Club, ExPat Life, Interconnected, Kuwait, Living Conditions, Pensacola, Public Art, Quality of Life Issues, Road Trips, Travel | , , , | Leave a comment

This is Edmonds

We’ve heard it so many times since we’ve arrived:

“You’ve arrived just in time for the best weather of the year!”

And it is true. Flying into Seattle, we saw every mountain, the air is crystal clear, the sun is out, and there are calming breezes and near 80 Degree (F) temperatures. The major secondary highway, Highway 99, is closed because there is a huge highway building program (YAYYY! Invest in infrastructure!) going on, and everyone warns us the traffic on I-5 going north will be hell. Because there are two of us, we can use the HOV (high occupancy) lanes, and we zoom straight north. The traffic isn’t the worst I have ever seen and we hit Edmonds in record time.

We are starving. We stop for a bite at Ivar’s, check in, and pick up my Mom to get her a new phone.

This is Edmonds. People are different here. Mom (in her wheelchair) and I have to wait, but not for long, and the specialist who deals with us is so kind. He talks to MOM, not me. Have you ever noticed when people are in a wheelchair some people treat them like they are invisible? I didn’t notice until Mom started using a wheelchair, and I had to remind people to talk to HER, not to me. Tyler, the telephone guy, talked to her, and walked her through her options. By the time we left – not with a phone, because the one she needs wasn’t in – she had a new friend. She has his card. She can call him to ask when the new phones are in, and she can call him with questions. He was genuinely kind, and treated her like a queen. This is Edmonds.

Of course, we are still on Central time, so wide awake at 0630. We hit breakfast around seven, thinking that since this is Saturday, we will have it mostly to ourselves, only to find that the breakfast room is full of athletically garbed people filling canteens, heading for mountains, boats, ferries, Saturday markets – when the weather is this fine, people take advantage of it! I’d forgotten – this is Edmonds.

We hit the Fred Meyers and Trader Joes, stocking up for our road trip into Vancouver Island, then hit one our our favorite treats – The Edmonds Market. I thought it opened at nine, but at none, the place is packed.

I am a great fan of Dale Chihuly, the Seattle artist who specializes in spectacular pieces in glass. His vision is unbounded; once he filled the canals in Venice with his art pieces. Seattle has a huge Chihuly museum, and houses his studios. These are not Chihuly, but Seattle gives birth to a lot of people unafraid to try their hand at artistic pursuits. If I weren’t traveling, I would buy this piece in a heartbeat. It’s cool laciness reminds me of seafoam as the waves hit the shore:

FlowerWish

 

I wouldn’t buy this, but I appreciate its spirit!

 

GlassSunflower

Metalworks for sale, including Edmonds Salmons 🙂

Ironworks

 

EdmondsMarketGlassFlowers

 

SkyVallyFarmSign

 

FlyingTomatoFarm

Rhubarb is in season! Rhubarb was one of the few plants I can remember flourishing in the cool growing seasons in Alaska, and it is a unique taste I love.

Rhubarb

This is Edmonds version of a bread line. This artisanal baker has the most delicious looking full grain loaves, and people get there early to line up to buy his wares.

EdmondsBreadLine

The Museum volunteers always have a central tent where they can sell their wares to support the Edmonds museum. Up the street is another volunteer, signing up volunteers for the annual Edmonds Arts Fest, almost always on Father’s Day weekend, in June.

EdmondsMuseumSale

The normally usual good prices for flowers are hiked, as everyone is buying bouquets for their Mothers!

TengsFlowers

It’s an Edmonds kind of day 🙂

May 7, 2016 Posted by | Adventure, Alaska, Arts & Handicrafts, Beauty, Biography, Civility, Community, Cultural, Customer Service, ExPat Life, Family Issues, Fund Raising, Living Conditions, Local Lore, Public Art, Road Trips, Travel | | Leave a comment

Grenada, Spain; One of the Most Beautiful Cities on Earth

Did you know the Spanish word for pomegranate is “grenade?” I didn’t know that either, but pomegranate is one of my favorite fruits. When I was a little girl, my mother would buy me a pomegranate now and again (these were not common where I grew up) because of the legend of Persephone. I was heavy into Greek and Roman mythology and she encouraged my explorations.

Grenada in named for the pomegranates. They grow everywhere in Grenada, and were in full fruit when we visited. After some of the rainy touring days we had, Grenada shone forth in warm sunshine and blue skies with perfect clouds for photo-taking. We toured the town, and then (dramatic pause) (hushed voice) we visited the Alhambra.

What I have loved about this journey is the intermingling of Arabic in the Spanish; Guadalquivir River “wadi al kebir”, Alhambra “al hamra”, and it really is very red. And it really is very beautiful, so very beautiful in glorious detail. I’m going to bore you with more photos than you ever wished to see because . . . well, I hate to be rude, but .  . . it’s my blog. I love each and every photo.

 

 

Grenada

 

This is our group, gathering around our guide to enter the Alhambra.

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If this were a fabric, I would have a dress made of it. I loved the intricate intersection, and the blending of the blue and cream and brown.

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This is my favorite photo, for any number of reasons, cats, light and shadow, intricate tracery on columns, etc. but it is also a reminder of a very strange occurrence. I had just finished taking this shot, hunched down for a low angle, when a young woman in a group of four came along and shoved others, and then me, out of the way. Literally, she took my arm and started to move me and said “we’re taking a group photo now.”

Normally, I tend to defer, but her arrogance, and her disregard for the feeling of others prickled me, and so I pulled my arm away and looked at her cooly, and said “as soon as I am done with my photo, I will move and you can take your shot. Or you can shoot it from another angle.” I don’t know why I did that, I am surprised at myself. I don’t like to cause trouble. But who has the right to shove others out of the way???

That is the memory this photo brings back.

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Please look at this photo, not that it is anything special but because there are people in it. I want you to appreciate how really, really, very hard it was to take some of these photos without people in them. I had to wait and wait, sometimes, (gasp!) I even got separated from my group for a short time, in the interest of getting an unimpeded shot. We were there at a lovely time of the year, perfect weather, and we thought there would not be too many tourists. We were astonished, in Seville, in Cordoba, in Grenada just how many tourists there were.

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And here is where AHI Travel did something really right. This is the last day of the tour, tomorrow we all disembark and head for the Malaga airport and from there, to places scattered around the world. Just a short walk from the Alhambra is a beautiful hotel, beautifully situated, the Alhambra Palace. We’ve made note of it because we intend to come back to Grenada, and we want to stay in this hotel. This is where we ate lunch.

 

AlhambraPalaceHotel

 

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Our group had a closed in verandah with a beautiful view. Lunch was served in courses, and each was carefully prepared, and delicious. Very very clever way to end the tours on a high note 🙂

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The room was beautiful. The table service was beautiful.

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The view was beautiful.

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After the meal, we got back on the bus to head back for the ship. Once on board, we had a Smithsonian meeting and then another lecture and then dinner, and something happened that has not happened to me for a long time, I had to pack at the last minute. Our suitcases had to be outside our door before we went to bed so they could be loaded to go, very early the next morning, to the airport.

 

I was coming down with something. I felt hot and feverish, and my nose was running. All my life, I have had nightmares about last minute packing. I hate doing last-minute anything, I am a planner, I like having a certain amount of control over my life, even though it is an illusion, it is an illusion I work hard to maintain. How did this happen to me? How is it that I am packing at the last minute, feverish and anxious?

It all got done. Fortunately, there are a limited number of places you can put things. For some reason, I am not able to download all our boarding passes, so we have only the first ones and will have to get the rest at the airport. I know where my passport is (I never have found the one I lost somewhere in my office) and my tickets and somehow we are finished and all is well by bedtime. I just hate that feeling of being rushed; when I am rushed, I make mistakes.

Every now and then something good happens. There is a huge line in Malaga, but our new friends also have tickets that put us in another line, and we get through quickly, with no problems. We say goodbye, we’ve exchanged e-mail addresses, and we go our separate ways. We have time to relax.

We arrive in Paris barely on time, and it is a Sunday morning with long lines at security, and there is no way out, we have to stand in line. We watch one very elderly man, unsteady, but with a great sense of humor, cope as he has to go through the full-body scan. Even though it is a few days before the bombing, security is tight. The airport is a nightmare. We have no idea where our next gate is, and we are almost running, as it is already our boarding time and we are not there. We have to go down this hall and that, then down to some gate where we catch a bus, then from that bus to somewhere else where we get to our plane with five or ten minutes to spare. That is cutting it way to close for me, but I know by now that I am coming down with one of the world’s worst colds and I sleep all the way from Paris to Atlanta, waking up now and ten to drink some Pomegranate Pizazz with honey to make the cold go away.

Not only does the cold not go away – I very generously shared it with AdventureMan. We both felt so bad we were sleeping all the time and didn’t even notice the jet lag 🙂 so by the time we were well again, we were also sleeping on Pensacola time. As soon as we were well, we got the super-strong flu shots to protect ourselves from anything worse than we’ve just had. 🙂

December 28, 2015 Posted by | Adventure, Africa, Arts & Handicrafts, Beauty, Civility, Cultural, ExPat Life, Gardens, Health Issues, Hot drinks, Hotels, Morocco, Paris, Public Art, Quality of Life Issues, Restaurant, Travel, Weather | , , , , | Leave a comment

Pouring Rain and a Herd of Sheep

Our first day in Seville, and we are so excited. We are READY. This trip is rated as having a lot of walking, so in addition to my prettier shoes, I packed my Alaska shoes, a pair of black leather New Balance shoes, and a bunch of brand new socks. I am wearing a dress and tennis shoes, and feeling a little ridiculous, but I don’t care. We are given these “whisper” things, receivers you wear around your neck and earbuds you keep in your ears. Your guide can talk to you without causing a commotion, and you are supposed to always stay within hearing of your guide.

As we head outdoors, the heavens open and the rain pours down. No problem, in my purse I have a brand new sort of mini umbrella I found, so I open it up, and something is not quite right. It doesn’t stay open, as I am walking along it will pop close all by itself now and then, and besides, everyone else is popping out umbrellas and it is congested, and umbrellas are dripping on me. I am miserable.

For a few minutes, I actually contemplate skipping this tour altogether, but when else will I get a chance to tour the Alcazar? The Seville Cathedral? With someone who knows and can tell us what we are seeing? I decide to have a good time, and, for the most part, I do.

Who could not love the Alcazar, the Royal Palace, even in the gloom and the rain? The Alcazar is full of groups, but far fewer than if it were not pouring down rain, sheets of rain.

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The amount thought and precision that went into the process of creating the Alcazar boggles my mind. What does a little rain matter when contemplating such beauty? So many media; tiles, wood, plaster, stone, and all used with precision and an eye for the overall effect. It is stunning.

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Alcazar; Ceiling Embassy hall

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And in the middle of all this artistry, one woman works to capture – herself.

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I’ve given up totally on the worthless umbrella and decided to just avoid rain if I can, and if I can’t, oh well. Visiting the gardens, it’s worth getting wet. These gardens, even in the rain, are gorgeous, lush, and I can imagine summer concerts and strolling.

AlcazarGardens2

AlcazarGardens

We spend a good long time in the Alcazar, and it is time to head to the Cathedral, but not quite our group’s scheduled time, so we head to a cafe for churros and chocolate, a local specialty. The cafe is so cozy we almost rebel when it comes time to leave. The guide tells us that leading seniors is as bad as leading teen-agers; we argue and think we know what we want to do. We are a small group, twenty people, but similar in goals and values.

AlianzaCafe2

AlianzaCafe

It is warm and dry in the cathedral, but my dress is soaked. My shoes, however, are great, my feet aren’t tired, my socks are dry and I have already walked 10,000 steps! The hard floors of the cathedral tire me, though, so I wasn’t paying as close attention as I meant to. It was beautiful. King Ferdinand and Queen Isabella . . .. something. Beautiful altarpiece by . . . someone. A big gold thing called a montrance which is close enough to French for me to think it was for showing something, probably sacred relics, bones or pieces of the cross? I am ready to be warm and dry and my attention is definately wandering.

SevilleCathedral

FerdinandAndIsabellaMemorial

SevilleCathedralCeiling

SvilleCathedralAlterpiece

As we leave the Cathedral to head back to our hotel, just a short walk, the sun breaks through. The rain is gone. It’s a whole different day. We walk back in good cheer, change our clothes, and head out for lunch.

Today is the first day we have heard two dates: 711, when the Moslem Tariq invaded near Gibraltar (Jebal Tariq) and burned his ships, telling his men they had to fight because there was no way back. The second date is 1492, which every American associates with “Columbus sailed the ocean blue in fourteen hundred ninety-two” but we learned is the date when the Moslems were forced out of Al-Andalus. We saw paintings of people weeping as they left, and who wouldn’t weep, leaving such beauty and luxury? The same year, the Jews were also forced out, forced into North Africa, Italy, Eastern Europe, forced to seek safety elsewhere. Some converted and were allowed to stay, and are there to this day.

“But where is the herd of sheep?” you ask. This is an experiment for us, to see how well we can handle group travel. We are finding we like our fellow Smithsonian travelers very well, but because we are like cats (more than sheep) we do not herd well. We like to take our time where we wish to stay longer, and to hurry past that which doesn’t much interest us. We were trained, long ago, not to be in large groups of Americans, and here we are, a herd of sheep. It becomes a continuing theme; there are so many things we like, but walking in a group we don’t like.

November 17, 2015 Posted by | Arts & Handicrafts, Beauty, Cultural, Exercise, ExPat Life, Faith, Local Lore, Public Art, Travel, Weather | , , , , , | Leave a comment