Friday, June 22, 2018

Zagreb Style. . .

Do you remember that when I first visited Zagreb last year, Dottoressa introduced me to spica, the Zagrebian custom of dressing up and meeting friends for coffee on Saturday morning? Sadly, we didn't have a Saturday in Zagreb this visit, but the rows and rows of tables and chairs under umbrellas spread down the centre of so many pedestrianised streets were full, nonetheless, of well-dressed folk chatting animatedly with friends over coffee. Too late, I realized what a great opportunity this was for sketching, and I pencilled a few attempts, added a bit of paint back at the apartment.

Perhaps I was slow to note the opportunity because I was still marvelling at the number of polished outfits we'd seen in the 20 minutes or so it had taken us to wander past the tempting shop windows on Ilica.  . .

I will pause to remind you that it was 28 degrees Celsius (82 Farenheit) and very humid. . . These women could give lessons on dressing well in hot weather. . . Linen abounds here, in so many easy yet elegant shapes, and wrinkles don't seem to be a problem. As well, cotton-- shirtdresses especially, and long ones, worn with sneakers just to show that elegance doesn't have to mean giving up Street Edge. . .

While there was much evidence of dressing in polished neutrals (the three women in the top two photos, for example), there was also lively use of colour -- doesn't this yellow pop beautifully against that Zagreb-tram blue?!
 Simple, strong looks on women of all ages. The woman below was "of a certain age" who pulled off that vibrant skirt with élan.

And I saw some wonderful examples of colour and print combinations -- this woman's bag strap was such a great complement to her skirt that I tried to get a better shot, but remember, I'm trying to stay "on the down-low" here, and my stealth skills are negligible. . .
 but if you look at the cropped and enlarged capture below, perhaps you'll see what I mean. . .
 This combination was so good, although she'd hurried past me before I registered that I loved and wanted a photo of the outfit. Bold. with the textured white skirt, that printed shirt, the contrasting bag and sandals. . . And even (or especially?) with these more edgy combinations, the hair and makeup always polished -- not overdone, very natural, but clearly given attention.
Below -- isn't this great? Long, flowing but never overwhelming, summer dresses and flat or platformed shoes, almost always with an element of interest, whether colour or shine or fringe or bow. . . Polished ease. . .
And you can begin to grasp the scope of the outdoor coffee culture, can't you? Of course, these shaded tables are also available for beer, sparkling water, a glass of Prosecco, and many of them serve food as well, but coffee rules here.

 Rows and rows and rows of shaded tables, with a Style Parade of pedestrians walking past to check out for the latest shoe or bag or skirt styles while we catch up with our friends over the drink of our choice. . .
We're leaving Zagreb today, and I'll soon be looking at Paris Street Style. . . But I'll be thinking about this beautiful old city, and making some inevitable comparisons. I have many more photos of Zagreb style to show you -- unfortunately, not a single one from our visit with Dottoressa yesterday. We were simply to busy catching up on our respective travels, on our reading, our families, world politics, lamentable leaders. . . As she emailed me later, our quick good-bye when her taxi rolled up in front of the Konoba we'd lunched at (another of those almost-three-hour lunches) was very Cinderella like. The taxi didn't quite turn into a pumpkin, but I'm not sure if she got home with both her shoes. . . ;-)

Tuesday, June 19, 2018

This will be a long-ish post, but mostly pictorial, and I thought I'd begin by offering you the agenda:
1. I'll transcribe my journal entry for yesterday;

2. I'll make a claim about Zagreb (it's beautiful) and defend it with photos;

3. I'll show you a What I Wore photo and tell you about an upcoming post on Zagreb Style (hint: this city blows me away with a consistency I honestly don't think I've seen in Paris, although I'll check that impression in a few days).

Proceeding, then, with Item No. 1 on the agenda. . .

To the right of the painting, below the date (June 19th, 2008), I've written In Zagreb, just off Ilica near Medvescak -- near our apartment at . . . . We've ordered Kava sa šlagom both of us, but they have no pastries here, so Paul's gone off to find some at our server's suggestion (he comes back in a few minutes with a very decent Apple Strudel, which we share).

Below the painting: Sketched this in pencil in situ but went over it with my Micron 3 pen back in the apartment and painted it here as well. Still debating whether or not I like the effect of the outlining or would I prefer to leave just the softer pencil drawing. 
Really good lunch today at Ribice I Tri Tockice. . .

Up the left side of the page: Immediately after this, went to Post Office to mail a postcard to Nola -- took a while to figure out how to generate a number for a place in the queue. (EDITED TO ADD: There's a machine in the corner, with a screen. Tapping the right choice sent a ticket out of the slot below -- somehow Pater intuited the right choice out of all the Croatian words on the screen.)

And at the top of the page: Also today -- Bought sandals for Paul -- directly from the shoemaker -- one of the many Cipele off Ilica. He had to go back for them as they were still being made -- all conversation done with about 6 words of English, 6 Croatian, a few numerals written on paper, and much "sign language." 

 Google Translate tells me this means "My Zagreb is nice, and it is even more beautiful when it is clean," so I assume this is part of a campaign against littering.

But I've seen other translations that suggest that the first "lijep" in this sign could also be translated as "beautiful," and I have to say that from what I've seen, "Zagreb je lijep" -- Zagreb is beautiful!

I can't walk a block here without wanting to take photos of the magnificent architecture. Some of it, yes, has seen better days, but that patina only makes it more appealing to me. And even if you only get to the top of the Old City for a wander around St. Mark's Square, you will have to agree with me, I know.

We'll walk up the hill toward this magnificent church with its brilliantly tiled roof. . .

 Not sure what's going on with the evening light here, but it's Craaaazy Good!
In fact, I keep stopping to capture spots like this, the way the last piercing slants of the day's sun hit a red roof. . .

Time to walk down the hill now, down the sidewalk lined with some gorgeous old buildings I didn't stop to photograph. Just couldn't resist this shot -- if we'd had time, I'd have scooted back up those stairs to see where, in the Old City, they'd emerge. . .

But no, time to go home. Paul's new sandals were beginning to chafe his tender feet -- (I warned him he should have broken them in with smaller outings or at least slicked on a layer of Glide).

3. Now, onto that photo of What I Wore. . .

 This Eileen Fisher linen jumpsuit has been amazingly versatile and comfortable, but I wanted to change up the look the other night, and slipped this mesh pullover (also Eileen Fisher, part of a Big Birthday package) on as a top layer.  I loved the way it felt to wear, and I'm convinced that it was more flattering than the full-length photo below shows (and no, I cannot explain that neck posture!). Movement and garment fluidity make such a big difference, but I will concede that the proportions as captured in the photo are not conventionally "flattering."  As well, the white Birks are not the ideal complement to the dark-toned outfit, but I'm a one-pair-of-sandals-only traveller. . .
 The Croatian women, though -- let me tell you! They would quickly find me the perfect pair of sandals to polish this outfit. I cannot believe the Style Quotient here -- honestly, in the area we're staying, at least, and the areas we've been to with Dottoressa (whom I'll be meeting again today -- yay!), I can scarcely go fifty feet without pointing out another example of Elegance or Chic or Street Sass -- on women of every age and body type.

I've snapped a plethora of photos to show you what I mean -- I'm editing them to obscure facial features for privacy right now,  but I plan to post them this week.

Meanwhile, I have a coffee, then lunch, date with a good friend this morning, and it's time to get ready!


Saturday, June 16, 2018

Postcards from Zadar: About Travel (Un)Planning with a What I Wore thrown in. . .

This trip is a relatively long one for us -- we're over four weeks in, with a little over another week to go before flying home.
I planned the first three weeks carefully -- all accommodation and transportation was booked and paid for: a few days in Paris, a few in Lyon, a couple in Munich, and then our week on Hvar with the family. SNCF messed up our train schedule, but we compensated (took a bus to Lyon instead; went to Strasbourg a day ahead), and although it felt a bit stressful at the time and was one move/bed more than I wanted to make, that part of our trip worked well.
Despite my propensity for carefully planning, however, I've been wondering lately about leaving room for the kind of serendipity, even adventure, that travel used to allow. Remember the days when we had less access to information, but/so were a bit more open? When we'd roll into a new town, go to a tourist information office, and book ourselves accommodation? When we'd decide, arriving in a town on Monday, that we couldn't bear staying in it until Thursday, so ignored the itinerary we'd drawn up, and pulled up the map to look for other possible destinations?
Truth be told, I didn't do so much of that when I was young, but I've had a taste, and I wanted to leave room for the Sixty-Something version. We arrived in Croatia with our first night (in Zagreb) booked, a car rental arranged, and our week on Hvar with the kids. After that, we had something like ten days with no accommodation arranged nor even a clear itinerary.

And so far, it's been better than okay. It's been a gentle adventure (with one horrible navigation argument in the car, I'll admit, but air cleared within a hundred kilometres). You already know that I let Pater make our booking for Ston -- a destination that hadn't been our intention, but that suited us quite well (my original romantic notion had been to spot a place while driving -- you know? a pretty little cottage with a Vacancy sign that we'd see from the road and there'd be an easy turn at the intersection just ahead. Oh, and in this fantasy I'd have long flowing hair, a backpack that I could heft without effort onto my tall, willowy frame . . . ha!). . .

He did very well making that first online choice -- the reality turned out to be even better than the online marketing photos conveyed.

But as we drove into Zadar -- a destination we'd agreed on together -- I began to have serious reservations. Granted, we approached it through some homely suburbs, and then an industrial area followed by a swarm of aggressively bland hotels.  That approach had us hoping for some beauty in the Old City Quarter, but as the numbers counted down to our target address, the buildings were looking increasingly like ageing inner-city, project-built apartment clusters. Not attractive at all.
Which goes to show, I can tell you now -- you should neither judge a book by its cover, nor a Croatian Apartment Rental by its backside (and by the way, these apartment rentals seem much more prevalent here than hotel accommodation).

The owner/host of the apartment we rented met us in front of the building -- the top photo is of a cafe we passed on the way; the second photo is of the restaurant just outside "our" building -- where we enjoyed a bottle of Jamnica (the Croatian water to drink -- I always ordered the green bottle "with gas"); the photo directly above this section of text is of the ancient church just next to that restaurant.

As we followed the very friendly L. into the building, he explained that while the building looked old (everything in Zadar looks old, he said), we should be reassured that the apartment was very new inside. I should have taken pictures for you, I know, but let me tell you how right he was -- the inside of the apartment had been completely gutted and redone. Sleek and modern -- and, frankly, rather sexy with a sliding-glass-door enclosed bathroom. Fabulous lighting, built-in contemporary cabinetry. And yes, an electric kettle, a small fridge, a Nespresso-type machine, and a good selection of coffee pods and tea bags. Wifi, flat-screen TV.  Hotel-quality towels, tiny bottles of shower gel and shampoo, cellophane-wrapped glasses. . .

A tiny balcony with that view of the harbour (third photo from the top) just past the pretty geraniums. And across the way, incredibly, a collection of ancient (some appear to be Roman vintage) architectural remnants gathered in a courtyard. Somehow I didn't get any pictures of the five to ten (likely feral) cats within view at any time.

 Ridiculously affordable, and an abundance of free entertainment just outside the door . . . If you like wandering through ancient alleys, past beautiful architecture, that is.

Pulley wheel for one of the Five Wells that give this Trg (Plaza) its name -- they're obviously no longer in use

Pater had walked away to check out or pick up something or other, and I wandered through the little park just behind the Five Wells Square (Trg Pet Burnara). When I saw these stairs, that little path curving invitingly 'round a corner, I couldn't resist following. . .

The path curved 'round and 'round, up and up, and the surrounding trees were tall and leafy enough that I knew Pater would never find me here. So I texted him, reminded him of the labyrinth we'd climbed in Paris almost a decade ago, in the Jardin des Plantes, told him I'd discovered its Adriatic soulmate here, and then waited for him to join me.
And after we'd enjoyed the view from the top, we walked down the path together and he insisted on taking a few photos. You won't find much variety in my What I Wore photos these days, but I will say that I'm still quite pleased with my very limited carry-on-case capsule wardrobe. The weather's been a pretty steady 26 to 30 degrees Celsius (78 to 86 F), so I've never missed my jeans, have been quite content living in linen.

Gratuitous beauty everywhere -- can you tell that walking with me requires patience? ;-) But that yellow!
I posted a few more images of Zadar (the crowds gathering at twilight to experience Nikola Basic's Sea Organ and Sun Salutation installations, for example) on Instagram, if you're interested.
One last image of (or from) Zadar before I return to our hotel room in Istria where Pater still sleeps in the bed beside me (I quite like this European approach -- two separate beds pushed together for a Queen, each made up with its own linens, its own covering, so that we disturb each other far less when we move).
Soon he'll wake, and I'll remember to wish him a Happy Father's Day! If any dads are reading here, Happy Father's Day to you as well. I've been so lucky in my life -- the Patriarchy definitely pisses me off, very regularly, but the Dads I know and have known (and grown, if I may say so!) are wonderfully loving and strong fathers, and tender and vulnerable and supportive and kind and firm and adaptive and flexible and realistic. My dad, my husband's dad, my children's dad, my grandchildren's dads, my brothers and my brothers-in-law, my nephews, my niece's husband -- these guys all give me hope that some things are truly getting better, and I celebrate them all with much love.


Tuesday, June 12, 2018

Page from my Travel Journal. . . And Thoughts About Things We're Not Good At

As promised, this watercolour sketch from the travel journal I'm gradually filling this trip.

I should tell you that I began this page by trying to draw another very similar historical-architectural remnant, also being used to place a potted plant atop.  I began, in fact, eight or nine times. I'd think I almost had the graphics of that pedestal, finally, after wrestling with the intricacies of the swirls or horns either side of that central spear, the complications of shadow and relief. . . And then I'd see that I'd got the proportions wrong, misjudged the ratio of the section above the design to the section below or  messed up the relationship between width and height.

Or I'd almost have the pedestal the way I liked it and then realize I hadn't left enough room to fit the pot above it. Or I'd smack my forehead seeing that one of the lines that should have reflected gravity (i.e. been parallel to the side of the paper) suggested an odd physics. . . .

I got madder at myself with each erasure, began, in fact, calling myself "Stupid." Began wondering why I ever thought I could draw. Reminded myself that I'd always known I wasn't artistic and I should probably stick to what I knew I could do well. . .
But something I've learned over these last few years of taking up pencil and brush is that IF I can keep looking and IF I persist in putting down marks that express what I'm seeing and IF I remember some of the techniques I've been taught, I have often ended with a result that pleases me. To my surprise.

I muttered my frustration to Paul, on the rooftop terrace with his cup of tea, and he asked me what it was that I was having trouble with and what I liked about what I'd done so far, and I grumbled at him and told him not to try to cajole me, and insisted that he was patronizing me even though he must see how poor a draughtsperson I am. . . But the venting began to sound a bit silly to me, I guess, although I kept it up while I erased another horrible, ridiculous (my Inner Critic's words) effort.

This time as I erased, though, I was already processing the data I'd gained from the five or six previous efforts. I began holding up my pencil the way Alison had taught me, to get a better idea of proportion, and I was careful to pay attention to the negative space, and I tried to plan the placement of the basic shapes and foundational angles before I started working on details.  Three more "failures" after that and the grumbling wasn't quite silenced, but I was beginning to tap into two attributes that help balance my lack of natural talent: discipline and faith in process. That is, I'm willing to work at something, methodically, and I've learned that the process of that methodical work will yield a product that pleases, if I'm patient (and, along the way, try to be kind to myself).

For me, part of the process is often a time-out. I put great stock in the work our brains do when we leave them alone for a while.  So I erased the latest effort, joined Paul for tea, and left the sketch for the next morning.

When I picked up the sketchbook again, early the next morning while he was still sleeping, I chose the subject you see in the little painting. It's a very similar base (I'd love to know how old that stone carving is, what building it was part of, whether the building was destroyed through war or earthquake or simply succumbed to the same forces that put the wrinkles on my face), but it was right outside the door, and something about the perspective seemed more manageable to me.

So I started in. I held a pencil up in the air, moved it until I had a proportion that would fit nicely on the page, went back and forth with my pencil from page to up in the air, made some marks on paper, erased them -- but this time more contentedly, as if the effort and its erasure were both instructive. As they were. As they so often are. I figured out a few things along the way (those shutters on the wall of the house, for example, I skewed at a strange angle, not recognizing the problem until I'd painted the surrounding stone -- did some nifty work with erasure, then pencil, then brush, and they're now mounted correctly (although slightly more narrower than they should be).

And I'm happy enough with the sketch I achieved. Well aware of its limitations, but happy with the page itself and also with what I learned through persevering. Plus the memory of my contentment as I  first drew, then painted it, sitting right here. . . .
I have a beautiful Croatian port city just outside my room, and a husband impatient to spend it with me, so I'll sign off now. This last photo is a reminder -- to me and to you, if you find it useful -- that the process itself (that sunshine, the physical sensation of sitting on that narrow concrete ledge to the left, the tiny insect that got trapped in the wet paint on my page, the smell of the jasmine) is as important, as memorable, as the product that points back to it.


Monday, June 11, 2018

Postcards from Ston, Croatia

 I haven't been pen-and-ink sketching in my written journal much this visit,  doing watercolour sketches in a separate journal instead (I'll post my latest watercolour tomorrow or Wednesday, flaws and all). But a few mornings ago, sitting with my tea on the rooftop terrace of this tiny rented cottage, surveying the red-rooved, stone houses of the village below me, all the tiles and window shutters outlined so sharply by the morning sun, I wanted the immediacy and simplicity of my Lamy nib gliding across the page. . . .

We've had three days here in a spot Pater found online. I was a bit skeptical of it, but the price was definitely right, and there were photos of a charming terrace and garden. The inside looked a bit spartan, but I can do spartan for a short time, and I want to encourage shared travel planning, so. . . .

And from the moment we met our gracious host by the little church and walked up the hill together, I knew we'd be okay.  (and when I say "hill," this is the last portion, after turning off the town's last lane -- this is why we travel carry-on only!!)

The interior of the place is, indeed, tiny, but I barely noticed once I'd seen the garden. . .  Here's a view of it as seen from the front door. . . .
And it's filled with some truly charming touches -- and integrates some wonderful architectural artifacts, surely salvaged from the damage this area suffered during 90s war and the '96 earthquake. I find it quite moving to see them repurposed in a garden. . .

The interior is well-organized -- the bed is small, in a bedroom that reminded me of mobile homes or boats, size-wise, but having that separate small room meant that I could tiptoe out in the morning, shut the door behind me, and let Paul sleep on while I had the rest of the place to myself for an hour or so. First, though, I could sit quietly in bed and look through the shutters at this view. . .

 And as I carried my tea out to that rooftop terrace, I could wander along and check out the dovecote just behind. . . .
 While I drank my tea, the pleasant chuntering of chickens from their small yard two terraces up. . .
 And there are pomegranate flowers forming fruit in a tree just below me!
 And this view. . . .

 We're packing up today, moving on to another apartment rental I "let" Pater choose. Before I get started on that packing, I'll just transcribe the written portion of those journal pages above. . . .

June 2010th, 2018
Writing from the terrace on the roof of our tiny studio cottage just above the old town of Ston (the long, ancient stone wall and fortifications envelop us from above.

Doves coo and warble from the dovecote on a higher terrace, and sometimes I can hear the chickens in their tiny yard another terrace behind that -- the rabbits just above make no sound at all.  I hear the coo-coo, coo-coo of a mourning dove somewhere further away. . . 

There's a thick jasmine hedge, so that's the most obvious fragrance, but there's another hedge of abelia -- so a layer of that light, powdery sweetness. Roses too, although I'm itching to deadhead them. Lime trees just below where I'm writing, but we've mostly missed the flowering which I'd guess must have smelled gorgeous There are tiny limes studding the tree already and I'm always charmed (and amazed) to be in the presence of citrus fruit growing on a tree -- seems rather a magical trick to me. So imagine how I feel about the pomegranate tree in this garden!

And on the bottom right of that sketch, I've scrawled (Rumble of red-tiled roofs (rooves?!) at Ston.

There you go, another batch of postcards

(oh, speaking of postcards, a very sweet moment at a restaurant in Mali Ston where our waiter gave us a (promotional) postcard of the restaurant when he brought the bill. When he came back to process the credit card a bit later, I was already writing on the back of the postcard, having decided to send it off to the granddaughter and grandson who didn't join us last week -- it's been weeks since I've seen them.

Well, this server saw me writing (with a fountain pen, yet!!) and was so pleased -- he's a bit younger than us, I think, but old enough to remember when written correspondence was the way to keep in touch, and he was delighted to extol the virtues of hand-written cards and letters in an age when, as he said, everyone just writes these fast e-mails.  We went back there again last night for dinner, and I told him it has been posted -- "So," he said, "It's on its way to Canada now. I'm very happy about that!"

To me, these small moments are everything, in travel. Everything.

Wish you were here,

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