Lois Reynolds Mead

Art and a pink monkeyflower in a native plant garden…


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Where have…

Where have you been? Sorry, blog, traveling again, but with weak access to the internet, so my plans to blog were scuttled when the iPad wouldn’t save and I only managed a few flics on Facebook the whole time.

We went to Italy (not a big surprise) and for eight days we were in an agriturismo in the Chianti region of Tuscany near Florence. After that we took the train to Venice and stayed for two weeks in an Untours apartment. This was the general outline…

The People…

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From the left: Marcie (also known as Marcella when in Italy), I have known since our thirty-year-old sons were in third grade. Around ten years ago she left Northern California and moved to Florence. She now lives in Toronto, but she still has masses of friends in Italy and she was the spark behind the first eight days of the trip. Next to her is Carol who has been on the same shift at the Lindsay Wildlife Hospital with Terry for years and years. (Carol’s husband is not retired, yet, so he did not join us.) Giovanni who owns the agriturismo where we stayed, (also, he drove the van). Bill and M’Liss are on the far side of the table. M’Liss I have known since the thirty-year-olds were three and we were in a baby-sitting co-op together.

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Giovanni by the van (maybe the greatest host ever!)

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The agriturismo had skies like you wouldn’t believe and we were supplied with olive oil and wine from the fields surrounding our farmhouse.

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Nobody actually went in the pool. (No time, we were off seeing the sights!)

The places…

First morning (we got there on Monday and our first full day was Tuesday)…some went horseback riding at the Vecchio Texas Horseranch in the direction of Sting’s property and vineyards. (If you pay Sting enough money you can harvest his grapes for him!) The rest of us went to the market in Figline.

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That afternoon, (after a great lunch that included pici pasta (long and thick) and cinghiale ragu over tagliarini) we headed to the Chianti Cashmere Goat Farm. Three hundred goats are guarded against wolves by twelve Pyrenees-like dogs.)

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Great sky there, too…and then a quick stop in a lovely little town called Radda in Chianti.

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Then on Wednesday, there was wine tasting in Panzano and a cooking class in Greve.

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Oh, yes, there was a lot of eating, too…

On Thursday, we drove to a nature preserve at Montepulciano and then spent late afternoon walking through the hill town of Montepulciano.

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There was a group that went off on a bike ride (or maybe it should be admitted that they got lost on a bike ride…)

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The clock tower in Montepulciano.

Friday was our first day in Florence with a hike up to Fiesole where Leonardo is thought to have tested his flying machines and then while most of the group toured the Uffizi with Marci’s friend Anna, Terry and I visited the Brancacci Chapel in search of frescoes. That evening we had aperitivos with more of Marci’s friends (Christina and Luca) in two different places. One a converted prison and the other the top of a hotel with a 360° view of Florence.

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Saturday we harvested grapes for Giovanni and his family and they gave us a fabulous al fresco lunch.

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Dinner that night was Christina and Luca serving us venison and polenta…

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Sunday was a hike with another friend, Malo, who is a basket maker and artist. She led us over to her house where she gave us a “snack” under her grape arbor…

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That is a fabulous candle holder made out of two wine bottles…

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Dinner was in the local restaurant…

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Monday was the big day! We climbed the 463 steps to the top of the Duomo…Carol got her portrait done by Kelly the street artist…and we visited Piazzale Michelangelo for some great panoramic views of Florence (cold wind, though)…

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Our last day, in this part of Italy, we spent visiting another hill town, Volterra. That night there was a big BBQ cooked by Giovanni and attended by lots of Marci’s friends from different parts of the world. Much toasting to the great week.

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The next day (Wednesday) we were on the train to Venice for two more weeks of adventures, more great skies, and meet-ups with friends.

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This is the outline and I plan more posts with greater detail. If you want to see the week in Chianti from Marci’s perspective you can go here for her blog.


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Report from the field…

Anniversary dinner a success…

Not only a stroll through San Francisco but a very good approximation of tapas in Barcelona.

The restaurant…

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is located a half block from the Trans-America Pyramid…

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and the food was like this…

Pinxtos

Pintxos

Jambon and the bread!

Jamón and the bread with tomato!

Kale salad and pepitos

Kale salad and pepitas

Patato Bravo

Patatas Bravas

Shrimp with preserved lemon

Shrimp with preserved lemon

Espresso flan with salted caramel

Espresso flan with salted caramel

Goat cheese

Goat cheese custard

The walk back to BART was not too shabby either what with strolling through the Embarcadero Center…nice night!

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Now, we work on the next forty-one!


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A confection…3…

The inside of the Palau Musica Catalana…

Lobby and grande staircase.

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The marble balustrade with iron encased in glass railing…

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Possibly the most impressive and beautiful skylight. The Moderisme architects did assemble the best artists and support team available…stained glass by Antoni Rigalt…

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I’m including some music to entertain you…

A sculptural ode to Catalan folk music on the left of the stage…

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A sculptural ode to classical music on the right…(that is Beethoven)…

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Stage murals of eighteen muses with trencadís in the background, three-dimensional sculptures of heads and instruments by Eusebi Arnau, and mosaic bodies by Lluí Brú.

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A confection…2…

Stepping out onto the balcony of the Palau de la Musica Catalana with its double rows of pillars covered in mosaic was like stepping into fantasy-land. I think that if Salvador Dali and Walt Disney collaborated on a surrealist sci-fi movie with a setting in a birthday cake this would be where they filmed it, n’est-ce pas?

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The details, it is all in the details…(if you double click on these pictures they will get bigger so you can see the details!)

As coincidence would have it, if you live near San Francisco, the Walt Disney Family Museum has an exhibit until January called Disney and Dali. They did collaborate! They made a short movie together and had plans for other projects.

 

 


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Roofs, chimneys, pinnacles, and spires…(part three)

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Palau Güell

How many pedestrians notice this roof line as they walk on the narrow street? Probably only those who know to look up, they are near a Gaudí building!

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This is an amazing building inside, but since Gaudí controlled every detail, even the roof got his fancy treatment. The top floors contained the servant’s quarters and I am pretty sure the wealthy family who lived here did not access the roof part of the house often, so I think of it as Gaudí making a “Disneyland for the help”. He combined so many different types of materials and textures it was feast for the eyes.

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The fabulous bat on top of the weathervane…

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Don’t know the significance of the rope and the rubber lizard…

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Oh, that is not an unknown tourist…it is my partner in crime! Always patient (probably checking his map app to see where we will walk next). During the entire trip he only let this sentence cross his lips once: “You know, you don’t have to take a picture of everything…” My response (with left hand on hip, right hand waving its index finger, and an uplifted trill on the last word): “Oh, yes, I do…”

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Gaudí and Güell forever linked…

Casa Mead

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That’s not in Barcelona, hah! It is my newly rebuilt porch railing that should be wrought iron and my nondescript, dare I say ugly, chimney that is in need of some Gaudí treatment. At my age, however, it is seriously in doubt that I will squat on my roof sticking shards of tile to the chimney’s surface, especially since I have given up ladders. What to do, what to do…it definitely needs improvement, and now that I have seen what a chimney can really be…something must be done! Maybe if I just added a bat…


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Roofs, chimneys, pinnacles, and spires…(part two)

For those who might travel to Barcelona…I mentioned that you can purchase your tickets for the big sites online. For Park Güell, I learned something after I got home (from someone else’s blog). It seems that they had gone without tickets and faced a two-hour line in the hot sun in order to get in. One of the guards told them that if they came back the next day they could get in for free between the hours of 6:00 to 8:00 a.m. They did that, and there were no other people around. Great pictures without tourists, unlike mine! oh, well…Park Güell was still fabulous. I love trencadís!.

Park Güell

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Casa Milà (La Pedrera)

Casa Milà is the building with no straight lines and roof vents and chimneys that look like they are out of a sci-fi thriller. Imagine this without the chain link, as it was originally…

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Gaudí framed his own Sagrada Familia through a parabolic arch (one of his favorite architectural devices)…

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Yes, there are more roofs in the future…watch this space, again…


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Roofs, chimneys, pinnacles, and spires…(part one)

Touring Barcelona includes roof walking. The genius Gaudí neglected nothing in his designs. Every detail was his to control, and he did. The roofs were well thought out to contribute to the function of the building as well as visually contributing to the joy and craftsmanship. I am not sure at the time who got to enjoy these roofs, but current tourists get an eyeful. Chain link fences and railings are newer additions so tourists don’t fall down the skylights. Sometimes I did shoot down toward the street but I really wasn’t in danger of joining the crowd below.

Just a note for future tourists of Barcelona: you can purchase tickets for the attractions on the internet even before you leave home. You can print the tickets out and then you do not have to wait in the long lines to get in the structures. (This does not mean there will not be lots of other tourists around…it is very difficult to get photos that do not include strangers.)  If you do not want to plan that far ahead, and if you have wifi where you are staying, you can also purchase the tickets the night before and take the copy of the ticket with you on your iPhone or device. At the door they read the bar code of the ticket and you jump the long line. Casa Batlló, Casa Milà, and Palau Güell have audio guides (Casa Batlló had the newest and best…it includes a small video screen so they show you antique photos and animations along with the narration.) We did not use the audio guides in other places, just enjoyed the experiences unfiltered…

Casa Batlló

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Sagrada Familia

Gaudí’s Cathedral, still being built. Two tickets required…one for the main church and one for the elevator up into a spire and then walking down a spiral staircase. This picture of the facade shows the spires, the elevator is inside on the right and then you walk the bridge behind the green tree of life sculpture (with white doves on it) and all the way down the staircase there are slits and small windows where you can see tops of towers and decorations.)

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Oh, yes, there will be many parts to this topic…watch this space!