Lois Reynolds Mead

Art and a pink monkeyflower in a native plant garden…


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Day trips from Barcelona…number one…

Girona

Girona, which is about 60 miles from Barcelona, is a short train trip away. It has an annual flower show in May. Our trip coincided with the last couple of days of the festival, and we decided to exercise our train skills and spend the Saturday in this picturesque town when it would be festooned with petals. The entire town has floral displays…shop window displays, entryways, nooks and crannies, empty vestibules…you name it they stick a flower in it…even the river has its displays. We wandered and wandered, up church steps, across cobblestones and bridges, peeking into entrances. It was a lovely day, but windy. Catalan flags (the election was a week away) were furiously flapping. After getting off the train we followed green stenciled foot prints on the sidewalk up to the old part of town, passing community created floral displays (kids art!) and gazing at the town from a picturesque bridge (one of many). The town even has a bridge built by Gustave Eiffel…in the famous color of the Golden Gate.

We started our morning in the train station…note: there are ham stores everywhere in Spain…

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This is Girona…

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A slide show of bridges, churches, flower displays and the highlights of the lovely town: (don’t forget to click the square in the lower right hand corner to play it full screen)

I know I said I would not post any more food pictures, but in Girona it was the only time we went to something as unusual (for us) as a gastrobar. So really I am compelled to share. (I have to admit that I have been known to watch the Food Network…you know, foam…)

The restaurant is called Bubbles…

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We started with Cava…

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Their “award-winning” tapa that included a poached egg, froie gras foam and thyme bread…

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This is coca bread, served and eaten at practically every meal in Catalona. Coca bread is spread with garlic, fresh tomato drizzled with olive oil, and lightly sprinkled with sea salt. So good!

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Croquettas, steak, flat bread with tuna, and quacamole…yes, we kept walking…trying to assuage our guilt…luckily, we had more of the city to see and it was a long way back to the train station for the trip home to BCN.

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Iron (part one)…

Some shots of my favorite material in Spain…

On balconies, everywhere…

   
 Light fixtures… 

    Houses by famous architects… 

               The view from under the umbrella outside our favorite breakfast spot: 

 Iron is a way of life in Barcelona… 

           and in Girona where they have a bridge by Eiffel, the Pont de Ferro 

   Park Güell… 

               


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Prisoner Ai Weiwei…

The art that drew us to Alcatraz…an exhibition of the work of the Chinese dissident Ai Weiwei.IMG_7860

From the catalog: “At first blush, @Large: Ai Weiwei on Alcatraz, a major exhibition that pairs a politically charged Chinese contemporary artist with a landmark American national park, seems just as incongruous. Ai, a superstar in the international art world who helped design the “Bird’s Nest” stadium for the 2008 Beijing Olympics, is currently forbidden by the authorities to leave China. Alcatraz—over the years the site of a Civil War-era fortress, a military prison, a notorious federal penitentiary, and a momentous Native American rights protest—is now a popular national park site and refuge for waterbirds. But it is exactly the pairing’s intrinsic conditions of contradiction that bring the two parts together-and make for the possibility of soul-stirring art.”

After arriving at the dock, we walked up to the New Industries Building which was originally a laundry and manufacturing facility.

“Both delicate and fearsome, the traditional Chinese dragon kite embodies a mythical symbol of power. Ai Weiwei unfurls a spectacular contemporary version of this age-old art form inside the New Industries Building: a sculptural installation with an enormous dragon’s head and a body made up of smaller kites. The sparrow-shaped and hexagonal kites scattered throughout the room feature stylized renderings of birds and flowers—natural forms that allude to a stark human reality: many are symbols of nations with serious records of restricting their citizens’ rights and civil liberties. The work references some thirty countries, including Cameroon, China, Indonesia, Russia, Saudi Arabia, and Uzbekistan.

…By confining the work inside a building once used for prison labor, the artist suggests powerful contradictions between freedom and restriction, creativity and repression, cultural pride and national shame. He also offers a poetic response to the multi-layered nature of Alcatraz as a former penitentiary that is now an important bird habitat and a site of thriving gardens.”

With Wind (Installation, 2014. Handmade kites made of paper, silk, and bamboo)

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Somebody I know was looking for birds out those windows and admiring the view to the Golden Gate…

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In the next large room:

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Trace (Installation, 2014. LEGO plastic building blocks)

“The viewer is confronted with a field of colorful images laid out flat across the expansive floor: portraits of over 170 people from around the world who have been imprisoned or exiled due to their beliefs or affiliations, most of whom were still incarcerated as of June 2014.”

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“From the New Industries Building’s lower gun gallery, where armed guards once monitored prisoners at work, visitors peer through cracked and rusted windows to glimpse an enormous, multifaceted metal wing on the floor below. Its design is based on close observation of the structure of real bird’s wings, but in place of feathers, the artwork bristles with reflective metal panels originally used on Tibetan solar cookers…this piece uses imagery of flight to evoke the tension between freedom—be it physical, political, or creative—and confinement.

Refraction (Installation, 2014. Tibetan solar panels, steel)

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We walked through lush gardens up to the Cellhouse.

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Inside was Blossom (Installation, 2014, Porcelain, hospital fixtures)

Fixtures in hospital ward cells and medical offices are transformed into fantastical, fragile porcelain bouquets.

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There were other parts to the exhibit inside but it was time for use to go look for birds in earnest…

Now I have run out of episodes with titles I can use the word “prisoner” in, so now I must bring this chapter to a close…


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Prisoner of Alcatraz…

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Wednesday morning, 8:00 a.m., we left for San Francisco so we could catch  a 10:00 a.m. ferry to Alcatraz Island.

When I think back on this year since last October, it has been a year filled with more ferries, water taxis, vaporettos, and water conveyances than all of my sixty-six years before that. Last October it started in Venice and went to Lake Maggiore in July. Now it has come to San Francisco Bay (actually twice this year, because we took a ferry to a San Francisco Giants game in August…Go Giants, by the way!). At 8:00 in the morning, traffic is a bear, but since it was Wednesday and not in the summer, parking was easy and directly across the street. Plus, the island did not get very crowded during our time on the rock. As we proceeded on our cruise we certainly hoped that Alcatraz would not have us licked.

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It was a beautiful day with great views of the Bay Bridge on the way over to the island.

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Our approach to the dock included water towers, guard towers, and a view of the prison…

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This island is frequented by many bird varieties…

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The Officer’s Club has deteriorated but makes for some interesting photographs…

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The Quartermaster Warehouse and the power plant…

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Apartments for the guards…

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The Warden’s residence next to the prison and lighthouse viewed from the Parade Grounds…

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The water tower still has remnants of the American Indian Occupation…

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A great view of the Golden Gate with Hawk Hill on the right, across the Bay…

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The San Francisco skyline…

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We toured the cell block and that put us on a higher level to get closer views of the Warden’s Residence and the lighthouse…

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We walked through the exercise yard and were impressed with the view the guards must have had while they supervised…

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We wandered back to the dock through the Agave Trail and had our picnic before boarding the ferry to go back to the city.

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We were allowed to escape from Alcatraz…

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There was a model at the ferry landing of what Alcatraz looked like before the buildings started to crumble…

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October Bird Walk…

First Saturday in October we were on a bird walk for Terry’s master birding class. As luck would have it, the trip was to his old stomping grounds, Fort Chronkite and Hawk Hill in the Golden Gate National Seashore. Because of his involvement with the banding of hawks with GGRO we have been to this area many times and I have posted pictures from here often over the years. The difference this day was that it was 90° and crystal clear…no fabled San Francisco Fog to be seen. The first time I had seen this landscape with this bright light…

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The birders got to work…

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Some birds were particularly cooperative…

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After investigating Rodeo Lagoon and the headquarters buildings we ventured up to Hawk Hill…

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The blue patch on the right is Rodeo Lagoon from above…

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and we could see out to Lands End (I have posted pictures of those same rocks from a different angle here…)

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There was a lot of boat activity this day…

and raptor activity…

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I, however, started looking for shady spots to get out of the sun…no lack of antique battlements here…

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and no lack of killer views of the Golden Gate…

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This is possibly the best picnic spot in the Bay Area…or maybe the best picnic…I saw the food they brought in as they passed me on the path…

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The money shot…Golden Gate, Alcatraz, Yerba Buena Island with the Bay Bridge and Oakland behind it all…! On a clear day you really can see forever…

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An impression of Lands End…

When we arrived for the bird walk last week, it was frigid weather and I opted to sit in the car for the first twenty minutes while the birders stood on the bluff with the cold wind whirling around them.They were oriented to the area by their guide. The hardy gazed off into the distant foggy sea while I decided to clean up my camera roll in my iPhone. That put me in mind that I had not looked at the Hipstamatic app for a long time and when I scrolled through I found there were four combo packs I had not downloaded.  I purchased them and then tested each one out. One combo reminded me of the feeling of the area (the visitor center that we had been in on a previous visit contains lots of old photos of  when the Sutro Baths were in their heyday).  I decided to do some triple barreled shooting on the walk. My Canon for the view shots, my native camera on the iPhone for the close-ups of flowers, and Hipstamatic app for atmosphere/flights of fancy. The Canon was slung around my neck and the iPhone was in my pocket and I had to keep thinking which of the three I wanted to use…but I think it helped with getting me to be alert…it was awfully early on a Saturday, after all. This post is the impression shots of the area using the combination of  Yoona lens and Shilshole film in Hipstamatic…there is a story, here, of craggy bluffs, wind-trained trees, and crashing waves with the foundation remnants of history. That is my visual story, and I am sticking to it…think I will make a book…

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June Bird Walk…

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Lands End

From Leah Garchik’s column in the San Francisco Chronicle this week: “The season of summer vacations is upon us. Laurie Ustruck was at the western edge of the city looking at the ruins of Sutro Baths, alongside a mom who seemed to be visiting her daughter. Said the mother, “I thought you were bringing me to a Lands’ End outlet store.”

Definitely not one of your outlets, we found…

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The building on the left is the Cliff House Restaurant (more about that later)…

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We gathered with the group of birdwatchers from TM’s class. Early morning last Saturday. Actually, we were there by 8:00 a.m. which meant we left home at 7:00 and, much to my surprise, where we live was blistering hot, the beautiful coast stayed cool and foggy all morning as we walked. This National Park has stunning views and lots of history behind it. We parked above the Sutro Baths and walked the path that was where the steam train and later the electric street car delivered San Franciscans to the Baths. No outlet has that kind of history behind it!

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We were surrounded by yellows on the trek (and a little red, orange and pink) what with all the lupine in bloom…

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of course, monkeyflower…

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I finally identified what this is (and it came in many shades)…it is wild radish and is quite tasty!

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Caught our first glimpse of the Golden Gate (but was not golden in this light…couldn’t even see the tops)…

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A plethora of cormorants and gulls…Gulps of cormorants, rookery, sunning, swimming…

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and thickets where if we spent some time we would probably see many species…

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We circled up behind the Palace of Fine Arts where we had been the week before visiting the “Intimate Impressionism” show. I did not know there was a nice dome on the back…but the redtails were circling…

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We went down and around the golf course (watching our heads for errant golf balls)…

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and in these trees saw juvenile redtails learning stuff that birds learn when they fledge out of their nests…

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Once we came around the golf course we walked down the trail the way we had come…

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Harbor seals were up on the rock (definitely not “sunning” themselves).

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Oyster catchers (almost bright enough to see their flame scarlet bill with its orange yellow tip).

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Back to the parking lot and down the hill to the Cliff House for (wait for it…) Popovers and this view…

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As we walked back up the hill to our car we saw a redtail motionless on a draft having a good ride before he bore down on an unsuspecting rodent…

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The graffiti on the sidewalk said it all…

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