I am a native in this world And think in it as a native thinks
Friday, November 20, 2009
This is considered Gaudi's masterpiece since, unlike the huge messy Sagrada Familia, he actually finished it. And I love the curves and the wrought iron on the facade.
But the terrace! It's weird and wonderful, with the scales probably tipping more towards weird. You can't help thinking, What made Gaudi think the world was ready for this -- or needed this -- in 1905. 1905! I grew up in an apartment building in San Francisco that was built in 1906 and it was square and squat and post-Victorian and doesn't appear to be part of the same universe as this, much less the same decade. Not that there is much, anywhere, ever, that looks anything like this.
On the other hand:
This is so perfect it takes my breath away.
Schoolkids lined up outside La Pedrera, where they are going to learn about...Gaudi? Modernist architecture? Nationalist and religious symbolism?
Or not very much while they are mostly grateful to be out of the classroom on a beautiful morning?
Thursday, November 19, 2009
Even if you live in Eixample, in a spacious building with a view of Gaudi's La Pedrera, apparently you never want to let a good balcony go to waste.
Wednesday, November 18, 2009
Monday, November 16, 2009
This is the bell tower of the 14th century cathedral, which, from the outside at least, looks more like a fortress than a church.
The inside is lovely, though, with a wonderful vaulted ceiling, and a face above the columns that reminds me of the Red Queen in Alice in Wonderland.
Except for the commute. Several people on our tour bus had been nervous about the cable car we were taking to Erice, a medieval town at the top of a mountain, and were relieved when they told us it was too windy and the bus was going to drive up there instead.
After five days in various ports, it was wonderful to have a day at sea while we sailed from Athens to Palermo. I did the Sunday crossword in the Herald Tribune I bought in Athens, read a paperback mystery cover to cover, walked two miles on the track on the top deck, and drank coffee on the balcony.
Last night, we sailed through the Strait of Messina, which separates Sicily from the Italian mainland, so slowly we hardly seemed to be moving. Everything was suspended: the lights of Calabria, Orion hanging in the sky above, the ship barely rolling. I fell asleep long before we were through.
Saturday, November 14, 2009
Friday, November 13, 2009
A potter in Archangelos, Rhodes. It's a family owned business, where he makes the vases and his daughters paint them, copying classical Greek designs and selling them to the tourists who are herded through the shop by the local tour guides.
And although his wheel runs on foot power, I have to say it seemed like an enviable existence: throwing pots under the pomegranate tree, firing them in the kiln in the olive grove. I'd switch places with him in a heartbeat.
At least until my legs got tired, which would probably be about ten minutes into the experiment. I guess I could always do the painting.
Thursday, November 12, 2009
Here I am in Kourion, for some reason looking delighted to be sitting in the midst of these beautiful ruins above an azure sea on yet another perfect Mediterranean day.
And I was delighted, despite irritation at my fellow travelers, who were still complaining about Egypt -- the dirt and the dust and the poverty, and how it had the nerve not to be a prosperous European country when people like them wanted to go there.
Cyprus is beautiful. The archaeological sites are models of clarity and good maintenance, with restrooms and wooden walkways and clear multilingual signs. Egypt is poor and crowded and messy, and they clearly didn't take our modern sensitivities about dirt on our shoes into account 4500 years ago when they put those pyramids out in the middle of the damn desert.
It's probably too late to move the pyramids, since we still can't figure out how they built them in the first place, but I hereby demand that they start shampooing those camels! And teach them not to run down hills when tourists are riding them! And not be such a poor country!
That'll teach them.
Wednesday, November 11, 2009
These two women in Cairo are wearing the niqab, which is the source of a lot of controversy at the moment, with one of Egypt's religious leaders threatening to issue a fatwa to ban wearing it, saying that it's a tribal custom and not required by Islam.
I did not see many women in the niqab, though almost everyone wore headscarves. And it was unsettling because I found the headscarves charming -- I loved how bright the colors were, pink and purple and lime green, and how each girl tied it differently -- and I, viscerally, passionately, see the niqab as so wrong. But isn't not showing your hair just a few degrees away on the same scale from not showing your face at all (or your hands -- most of the veiled women I saw were also wearing gloves, unlike these women.) Or since we cover our boobs and butts and genitals, is it all relative, and cultural, and not for outsiders to criticize?
Still. I saw one girl, in the Alexandria library, running up the stairs between two of her friends. They wore headscarves; she was in full niqab, including gloves. She was maybe fifteen, judging by the age of her friends, thin, coltish, and full of energy, and weighing her down with all those heavy black garments just seemed cruel. What harm could she suffer if we saw her? What harm could seeing her do to us?
Both of our tour guides in Egypt were women and both discussed headscarves and niqabs. They admitted to hating the scarves in summer when it's hot, but prefer to wear them. "I feel safe when I wear it. No one looks at me."
Not being looked at. I understand the freedom of that; being looked at, and judged, and generally found wanting, caused me much grief in my youth.
But it has to be optional. Sometimes you want to be seen.
But it's a beautiful city, exotic, Egyptian and Mediterranean at the same time. And my camera battery died midway through the morning, and the spare that I knew I had put in my bag was nowhere to be found (it turned out to be hiding under the bed back in my stateroom) so instead of photographing I looked.
Tuesday, November 10, 2009
And it may not have held up as well, but I live in a building from the 1890's and work in a building from the 1960's and they both show their age already. It's remarkable that this pyramid is still here, even if it's just a pyramid-shaped pile of rubble at this point.
The official Pharaonic name for it was "The Pyramid which is Pure of Places." The local nickname is "the ruined pyramid." But I suspect that's been the name for a couple of thousand years now.
I saw many many pyramids -- Great, not quite as great, step, bent and red -- and I took pictures of them all, but everyone knows what the pyramids look like.
This is something you don't usually see, the way the fertile land around the Nile gives way abruptly to the Sahara, though you no doubt learned something about the flooding making agriculture possible back in fourth grade geography class.
But it is as dramatic as it looks in this picture (taken at Saqqara): on one side, lush date palms and mango trees, thick as a jungle, and on the other side, sandy brown moonscape without so much as a blade of grass. Click to see better.
This picture was taken shortly before the camel, who looks so deceptively sweet in this picture, took off running down a hill, and I was convinced that Egypt was going to be the end of Travels with Kathleen. In every sense.
But I survived -- obviously -- though ten hours and many pyramids later when we finally got back to the ship in Alexandria, I still reeked of camel. Not an entirely unpleasant odor, like dusty, musky hay. But strong. And persistent.
Monday, November 9, 2009
Rock-a my soul in the bosom of Abraham....I keep humming that song as the unnerving motion of the ship keeps shifting my center of balance when I lie on my side and I...rock.
Which may be why I sleep so well. Rocking like a baby in a cradle, while the strangely phosphorescent Mediterranean churns below, and far in the distance, the faint lights of some city in Africa slide slowly slowly by.
Sailing out of Valletta, and from this side of the walls, it looks every bit the fortress that it was for so many centuries. Not especially hospitable, unless maybe you were a crusader with some Saracens on your tail.
The architecture within the city is much friendlier, Baroque mostly, not at all medieval.
And then there is the waterfront, below. I thought these were expensive seaside villas, but apparently they are actually warehouses. I am pretty confident that they are the most charming warehouses anywhere.
Sunday, November 8, 2009
On a cruise ship, there is no hoisting involved. Your hotel room travels with you, so you go to bed one night at sea....
And open your eyes to this.
Welcome to Malta.
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- Adios, Barcelona
- La Pedrera
- Field trip
- More balconies in Barcelona
- Balconies in Barcelona
- Laundry day
- Vicky Kathleena Barcelona
- In the wake of a month of rain
- Cathedral Church, Erice
- Yeah, I could live there (Sicilian version)
- Life at sea
- Lunch at the Acropolis
- Acropolis Museum, Athens
- Greek pottery
- Doors into summer
- More Kourion
- Lacemaker, lacemaker
- To see or not to see
- He sells seashells by the sea shore
- Alexandria the Great
- Under African skies
- The Pyramid Which is Pure of Places
- The desert begins
- I came, I saw, I rode a camel
- Rock my soul
- No Blue Grotto for you
- I get it, part 2
- I get it
- At sea
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