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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Miró and tapas….

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Before getting to enjoy the balcony with double pillars in the front of the Palau de la Musica Catalana, we were treated with a small exhibit of the work of Joan Miró.

From the website describing the show…

The interview Miró granted to Georges Charbonnier in 1951 gives us a few key clues to understanding the essence of his work. To the question of whether the artist “has to put down roots”, Miró replied, “The roots of the land. The roots of the earth. Without in any way taking the earth to mean the motherland. I am talking about the earth that makes trees, a flower, a vegetable grow.” This point of view meant he attached great importance to popular art: “A plate made by peasants, a pot to eat soup from, are for me as wonderful as a piece of classical Japanese porcelain displayed in a case in a museum.” And from a taste for objects to sculpture is only a small step: the artist is driven to sculpt “for the direct contact with the earth, with stones, with a tree. When I stay in the countryside, I never think about painting. On the contrary, sculpture is what interests me.”

The pieces on display in this room, from the Fundació Joan Miró in Barcelona, are these words made solid; both the photographs by Joaquim Gomis, taken in the studio on the Passatge del Crèdit in Barcelona and at the Mas Miró in Mont-roig, and the sculptures by the artist himself. The former because they are visual testimony to Miró’s love for the elements of nature and for everyday objects, and also to his first pottery and sculptures, created from 1944-1946 onwards. And the latter, the sculptures, because a decade later Miró started out once again from objets trouvés to construct, by casting them in bronze, what are in fact assemblages of the objects he gathered and collected with such passion.

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Then our group was led out onto the balcony and, when I looked over the side, I could spot the restaurant where we had eaten lunch. They have a very good deal and excellent food…so, here come my pictures of food!

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Tosca seems to serve just about all day long, but for lunch they have a fixed priced meal where you get to choose three choices from their tapas menu and since there were two of us that meant six tapas to share, plus drinks.

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Calimari

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Patatas Bravas

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Salad

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Empanadas

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Pork

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Seafood Risotto

Really, I am only going to make one post about food…but since the topic is Miró, it brings me to my memory of strolling down La Ramble to one of the Barcelona markets (there are markets all over the city, but this was our destination walk to possibly the most famous). Just outside of the market in the middle of the walk way  is a large mosaic in the street done by Miró.

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(Plus, there was this really cool building that contained remnants of when it was built. Originally, it was a store to buy umbrellas and it still contains umbrellas and a dragon on its facade…mosaic, of course). A pause in our stroll for the umbrellas:

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The entrance to the Mercat de la Boqueria:

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Yes, there was quite a hustle and bustle and we were even there early. We made our way toward the back (Rick Steves says the food stalls at the back are less expensive than the ones near the entrance.) We found two stools so we could slide up to the bar and started to order. Lots of chaos around us, good service, and lots of fun.

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The menu above where they are preparing the food.

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Our waiter

Albondingas

Albondingas

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Croquettas

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Another day, another order of calamari, this time with a caprese salad

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I loved the food in Spain, but being at home I am having a difficult time going back to no starches. While in Spain the starches were balanced by all the walking so there was no discernible damage. Unfortunately, at home it doesn’t quite work that way…Miró and tapas are not really connected, but if you are in Spain it is hard not to experience both repeatedly.


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Settling in…

We arrived in Barcelona last Wednesday  at 11:00 a.m. and immediately started to become acquainted with our new “home away from home”. It is quite impressive in my way of thinking. We are in the Eixample District of Barcelona which when it was laid out back in the 1800’s, was aligned in a gridded regular square system. The sidewalks are lined with multi-storied buildings most of which have multiple balconies (we have two) in wrought iron with ten feet tall shutters. 

   

You walk all the way through and find another balcony and a common open space for the block. 

     

Our front door details…

   
 

The square blocks have their corners lopped off so every time you come to an intersection it visually opens up and makes this very urban space human and accessible. A fabulous urban planner thought that up! Every block has a big beautiful intersection.

   
 

Thursday morning we explored our neighborhood and quickly walked past the Block of Discord. I got my first glimpse of Casa Botlló. We were on our to the University area for our Untours orientation (how to use the Metro, interesting day trips…)

 The local market:  
        

Lots of art nouveau building facades:

         

   
       

The University clock tower:

  
We met our group at a cafe in an interior courtyard with the most amazing wall decorations:

                

Friday we went through Casa Batlló: 
   
         

Oh, joy, oh, rapture! Then we met our Untours group for a tour of the Santa Catarina Market, olive oil tasting and a tapas lunch. 

   
       

Terry and I walked around the main cathedral on our way home… 

   

That was the only organized activity with Untours and now we are on our own…so Saturday we hopped the high speed train (201 km/hour) for a day-trip to Girona for their flower festival…

   
    
This is only the beginning…  


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Bern..

Bern, the Capitol of Switzerland, was founded in 1191. A roaring bear is the local mascot. It has a beautiful river, the Aare, and lovely, covered arcades for window shopping and strolling even in the rain. A fire swept through in 1405 and after that wooden buildings were banned. The facades are somewhat monochromatic, except for spots of color in the beautiful window boxes and there are polychromatic fountains in the middle of the streets. The train station is a transportation hub so besides two full days of enjoying the city, we had many days where we had layovers and picked up coffee or excellent lunches. There is no bad food in Swiss train stations.
The train station is also a mall…

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(I included these two photos to see if a couple of my friends read my blog…I was thinking of you Thalia and Gail!)
There were buskers and chocolatiers…

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Bears were everywhere…on sewer lids…

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On street sweeper trash cans…

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In parks…

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And real life breathing bears (although we could not see them) who get to fish in their own pond next to the river…

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The sandstone buildings and the prison tower…

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The first fountain we came to was the bagpiper…

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The Dutch Tower…and then back to the other side of the Prison Tower for the Anna Seiler Fountain (she founded the first hospital in Bern).

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The market…

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Sometimes the fountains went to the birds…

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Chess…

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Parliament Square and the Parliament Building…the fountain has 26 squirts (one for each canton)…

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Happy New Year…

I was looking through a year’s worth of photos to create a review of my year and try to use the split screen capabilities of iMovie. This time of year is such a natural demarcation for me because practically all celebration in my life occur between the last week in November and January 1st. TM’s birthday and Thanksgiving (usually the same day or very close), Christmas, my birthday, New Year’s Eve all in one week. New Year’s Eve is also the anniversary of when I met TM and the night he asked me to marry him. Only two kids birthdays and our wedding anniversary happen in other parts of the year. This movie helped to wrap up the year. It felt good to look again at all the parts of the year. The garden flourished and the seasons changed indicated by the farmer’s market produce coming in on schedule. We saw many exciting sites in the world and close to home. I didn’t realize how the California coast figured so prominently in our journeys and, of course, San Francisco. Visually entrancing places. I started to use Photoshop Elements again at the end of the year. 2013 was a very happy year for us…I wish a beautiful 2014 for you!


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Gubbio…

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We were in Gubbio on a quiet day. Only the market had a bustle of activity. (You should also look at the photos on this blog of the big candle race that occurs in Gubbio each year because evidently there can be a lot of festivities going on). We missed them, though, but still had the benefit of the beautiful buildings and panoramic views. The sky wasn’t too shabby, either, as it gathered itself to rain. We started in the market at the foot of the town. Named the Piazza Quaranta Martiri after forty citizens murdered by the Nazis in 1944 as a reprisal for attacks by partisans in the hills. San Francesco is the Gothic church and everything is watched over by the Palazzo dei Consoli up on the hill. The long building with arches is the Loggia dei Tiratori. Wool was stretched out in the shade to dry and shrink evenly so it was not in the sun. Built in the fourteenth century, very few of this type of building still exists in Italy.

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We started walking up hill to the next level, past multiple ceramic stores.

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We got ourselves to the level of the Palazza dei Consoli. I am not sure if it is considered a square because one side is totally open to a panoramic view of the valley below. The Palazza dei Consoli is on one side and the opposite side is the Palazzo Pretorio. The fourth side is a line of commercial and residential buildings.

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The Rough Guide says that these triple-paired windows are unique to Gubbio. The Museo Civico is in this building.

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We went up even further to the level of the Duomo. (We took an elevator.) More great views and skies.

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One last look over the side of level two…

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The skies put on a show all the way home and then they opened up…thunder and lightening…

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