Thursday, December 1, 2016

Bayonne from Paris (via Bordeaux)

Again, thanks for the wonderful, encouraging, supportive comments in response to my last two posts. I intend to answer each one individually, but Pater and I are savouring our last precious days in Paris now, and blogging has to take a back seat. To catch a few glimpses of what we're up to, do check out my Instagram account.

I did manage, before we left Bordeaux, to upload these photos from our trip to Bayonne, although I'm not able to manage much accompanying text. Above is a view of the River Adour from the deck of the ever so delightful péniche/barge B&B, the Djebelle, which we were treated to a quick tour of shortly after arriving at the train station.

After that visit, we walked with our friend across the bridge to the main downtown area of the very walkable and truly picturesque little city.
Note the typically Basque colours and architecture -- we were also struck by the notable cleanliness of Bayonne.


This Saturday market is a remarkably good one -- we couldn't help but wish we had a week in Bayonne with a decent kitchen, just to take advantage of some of the offerings to be bought alongside the river and across the bridge.

Even on a grey day (and oh, it was cold as well, just a degree or two above freezing when we first got outside, and it didn't warm up much more all day) this is an attractive place, no? I'm a sucker for a good reflection. . .
A bit later, we popped up to check out our friend's flat, on the 5th (i.e. 6th by North American count) floor, and from her balcony, we enjoyed this colourful view of the same market.

And then turned our heads in the other direction. . . can you tell I'm smitten?
But it gets better. Our friend lowered the ladder which is attached to her ceiling, and we carefully climbed up, popped the cover off, and crawled out onto the roof. Very cool, and check out this view!
Were it not for the clouds, we'd be staring straight at the Pyrenees, my friends!
I have more to tell you about Bayonne (a special afternoon tea to describe), and a few more photos to show, but if I don't get to sleep soon I won't be able to tromp all over Paris tomorrow, and who knows when I'll get back to these streets again. My ten weeks away are rapidly coming to an end, and I expect that the next time I post, I'll be back adjusting to my new home. Thanks so much for keeping me company throughout these travels -- about which you have not heard the end. But our focus is changing not only because of this weekend's flight home. Just as importantly, we're now in December, the countdown to Christmas. I'm curious to know what preparations you're making for the festive period or what seasonal activities you're already enjoying. . .

Should you need a little help getting into the holiday spirit, I'll be unrolling some festive windows on Instagram, one each day, Advent-calendar-style, until Christmas. I'm having such fun gathering these right now -- I've long wanted to see Paris in December, to view for myself the lights and decorations I've read and heard about, to walk down Boulevard Raspail with a paper cone full of roasted chestnuts, to watch little ones climb up on the viewing platforms in front of the magically animated scenes in the windows of Galeries Lafayette and Printemps, to come out of the cold into an intimate upstairs room at Ladurée and talk Christmas plans with Pater over tea and macarons. . . We did all that today and more and believe me, I have photos of those windows that will awaken your inner Santa. Stay tuned. . .

Edited to add: Here's the link to the first of those Countdown to Christmas Instagram posts. Enjoy!


Tuesday, November 29, 2016

A Little Self-Care, A Little Guilt. . . a New Dress. . .

 Thank you so very much for your spirit-lifting, heart-warming, sorrow-and-joy-validating comments on my post yesterday.  Both collectively and individually, they seem to me a model of empathy as distinct from and preferable (for me, at least) to sympathy. I'm going to do my best to answer each one, thoughtful as they are, although it might take me a few days, this being a week of transition.

I'm a bit sheepish to share these photos with you, but if a drive from/to integrity and honesty was the motivation for sharing my sadness, it seems only fair to be honest about my recourse to retail therapy in my self-care. As much as I agree with the Tilda Swinton quotation I included in that earlier post, it's also true that we can't practically remove ourselves from this capitalist-consumerist society. The best we can do is be thoughtful, considered, about our purchasing habits. I like to think I was, yesterday, although truly, part of me (and she can be such a judgmental bitch, seriously, pardon the language!) wishes I'd Just Said No.

But yesterday morning, Pater insisted we get outside in the sunshine, knowing its value as a mood-lifter; he led us up to Café Tourny where we were too late to get a croissant with our Grands Crèmes so instead, bundled up warmly at one of the sidewalk tables, we enjoyed our tartines (the best bread, delicious apricot jam). We watched the steady stream of passers-by, admired once again the charm of the Place, remarked on the travaux (construction projections, whether large or small) that seem to be everywhere. And we talked a bit about my slight depression and how best to manage it, even as it began to creep away into a corner, shrinking an encouraging bit just from being identified and discussed.

And as I felt increasingly positive, I thought I'd walk up to one of the main commercial streets here, Cours d'Intendance, to borrow some sparkle from the festive Christmas windows and street decorations (Little Secret Preview: I'm planning a Countdown to Christmas sharing of some photos I've been taking of Festive Windows for my Instagram feed, beginning December 1st). I have to admit -- and I told Pater this at the time -- that I planned to check out the new & Other Stories store whose construction I've been keeping an eye on since we got here. It opened while we were in Bayonne on the weekend, and we've only got one more day here so. . .

You know, I almost made it out of there with my retail fast maintained, not really even threatened. I kept being drawn to an item, liking the cut, the price, but then finding the fabric wanting, not worth the space the garment would take in my carry-on case. Or I'd realise that I could find something quite similar once I got back home. Or I'd remember that my sweaters at home would feel like new ones after the relative monotony of the last ten weeks. In short, I saw nothing that seriously tempted me, and I felt really good about being ready to walk out empty-handed.

And then, flipping hangers of garments along the rack, I arrived at a pair of wide-legged, black velvet culottes.  And a light, fluid, swishy velvet.  I mean. . . . Could I see these as the answer to so many evenings of What to Wear for a little Casual Glamour? Yes, yes, I could. . . And it may be there was a silk blouse, black background, colourful print, that I could wear with said velvet trews but also pair with jeans and a black blazer or cardi. (and I assure you, I wasn't influenced by That's Not My Age's post on velvet, my purchase having preceded my reading of her post, but you could be. . . check it out here)

But this little dress.
This one stopped me in my tracks. Because I love it in so many ways, but I wasn't as sure I could justify it. Yes, I need something festive for the holiday season (we're taking our two oldest granddaughters to Hansel and Gretel the week we get home -- how perfect is this dress for that?) but didn't I just say the black velvet pants would do that trick?
And perhaps the length makes this a bit too young for me?
And I've been wearing less print . . . less colour, for that matter.

Of course, you already know how this story ends, don't you? I chose to believe every word the sweet young vendeuses told me about how well the dress suited me--What did I mean? Too young for me? What? Of course I wasn't too old. Etc., etc.

So call me shallow, but this dress also came home with me yesterday -- I love the way it channels the whole Peasant thing that's going on right now (Again!) but in a way that seems relatively restrained, even sophisticated, to me. Of course I love the forgiving shape as well -- and it has pockets!! Always a plus.

In case you're thinking I recommend irresponsible Retail Fashion Therapy as a counter to Sadness or Depression, please know that I've spent considerable time with this low mood and I've managed it over the past few weeks by walking, keeping active with French lessons and yoga classes, writing here, cycling, taking photographs, texting and video-ing family. In other words, this was hardly my first resort and, in fact, it wasn't a deliberate resort yesterday. However, I had made room all along for a serendipitous fashion purchase or two, should it make sense. Given that my festive-wear needs refreshing anyway, and given that the shopping madness will be in full swing when we get back, it made good sense to carry that & Other Stories bag home yesterday.


Pretty obvious, though, from the rationalising, that for some of us, Retail Fashion Success/Happiness will always be somewhat diminished by a soupçon of guilt. But meanwhile, this Slightly Guilty Woman will be festively dressed.

So tell me, do you go through similar mental, ethical, emotional contortions when making an unplanned purchase of a serendipitous find? Or are you made of sterner stuff and you just walk away? Or are you so well-organised (I'm thinking of you, Sue, and the guidance of your wonderful shopping lists) that what you buy has already long been planned and justified? Do you think that, pace Swinton, sometimes Retail Therapy, within careful limits, is part of an overall self-care response to sadness, or is that too dangerous a route to tread?
Or just tell me if you have outfits planned for festive dressing over the next month. . . .
And if all these questions feel far too much like a homework assignment, or you just don't feel in the mood today, wave me a telepathic hello and we're good. ;-)

Sunday, November 27, 2016

Monday, Bit of Blue. . .

I always hesitate to mention, here, that I'm feeling a bit low. Primarily, I hate to give any impression that I'm asking for sympathy. As well, I'm aware that most of us are drawn to those whose positive energy enhances our lives, that being negative risks alienating readers.  And I dread the occasional response by someone ready to chide me for daring to feel anything negative in the midst of my privilege and general good fortune -- these land in the comments section only very seldom, but as much as I disagree with the thinking behind such comments, they always find their target.
Gorgeous fall colour against an impressive architectural background in Bayonne, just to show you I can still find joy in the world around me. . . 

Nonetheless, in the midst of all my cheery posts about what has been a wonderful ten weeks traveling in France, Germany, and Italy, I'm going to add the smallest corrective note of reality. Pater and I are still enjoying our days here, and overall life is good. We're going to make the very most of this last week, cleaning the flat, packing our cases, going to yoga and French lessons here in Bordeaux, and then we have a couple of days in Paris where I'm very keen to see Christmas in all the windows.  After a gorgeously sunny day here yesterday with temperature as 16 degrees Celsius, my wardrobe will be challenged as the thermometer flirts with freezing at night-time this week, but I think I'll be warm enough. And then we'll be back home with the family and the full-on rush into the holiday season.

So all good, and I'm very fortunate, and somehow, when I wake in the morning and realise that the odd heavy-flatness is there again, that goodness and fortune both gives me hope and makes me feel ashamed. And in the confusion of that hope and shame, I guess, I keep pushing myself to move forward, to do something, to post here, for example. Mostly, I do that, and it mostly works, but sometimes it feels too pushed, too laboured, too mechanical. Which gives my Inner Critic the chance to say the nastiest possible things about my efforts. All manner of nasty things, which can then quickly extend to commentary on the worth of my life overall, my value, what I'll leave behind. And on and existentially on. . . Doesn't bear repeating, really, except that the Inner Critic repeats. Oh, she repeats.
Pater walking with our friend in the cloister of  Cathédrale Sainte Marie in Bayonne

I generally manage to shut her down, drown her out. Often, travelling, the distraction of the new is enough to keep her at bay. But I suspect there's something about Transition that's triggering considerable self-doubt at the moment, and rather than back away from my writing in the disgust of the low self-esteem moment, I thought perhaps you wouldn't mind just a few paragraphs of me trying to write my way through it. Won't happen often, I promise, but it's part of the package and ignoring it feels obliterating, somehow. As if I'm only of value when I can sparkle, or something. . .

Almost done. I just want to include this Tilda Swinton quotation I spotted on Instagram the other day on Nitch, a great account I follow that pairs wonderful portraits of Notable People with quotations by them. Swinton says of "loneliness" that it's "the last great taboo" and that "if we don't accept loneliness, then capitalism wins. . . . because capitalism is all about trying to convince people that you can distract yourself, that you can make it better. And it ain't true." I'm not sure I'd make capitalism the opponent here (capitalism being an economic expression of a broader socio-cultural reality, perhaps?) but I am in complete agreement with her assessment of our relationship with loneliness -- which I'd extend to "unhappiness."
Cathédrale Saint Marie, Bayonne, viewed from cloister...


All of which is just to say that behind the scenes here, I've got some unhappiness going on, but it's just part of the whole deal. I'm mostly managing it (thanks to a very supportive partner), and there's considerable joy in my life as well. Perhaps some of you find this to be true for you as well, from time to time.  If so, and you care to leave a comment about how you move through or live with the Down days, those comments would be very welcome.  Or just a wave to let me know I have company in my occasional unhappiness (Well, duH!, right? Humanity and all. . . and yet, solidarity does help, and unhappiness can be surprisingly isolating) If you're keen to tell me to buck up or that I don't know how lucky I am, I'd happily have you bite your tongue for the moment, thank you very much.

I'm hoping to share photos of Bayonne next post. Spoiler: it's a beautiful small city with lovely examples of Basque culture -- Mmmmm Gateau Basque!

Thursday, November 24, 2016

Five Things Friday, Anticipating Home . . .

Did you get a chuckle out of that little story I shared yesterday? Can you imagine the equivalent in a neighbourhood near you? One man teasing another that the flowers he's just bought might be for the other's wife? Or does that seem very French to you, as it did to my husband at the time? I mean, cuckoldry (with, yes, all its sexist implications) isn't generally a joking matter for friendly exchanges at the corner florist. . . The incident made Paul chuckle, but also, I think, made him recognise a certain integration into life here, something we'll look back on fondly, wistfully. Can't be in two places at once however. . .

One last week before we fly home -- we take the train today to another city for an overnight visit, and then back here for a few days, Paris for a few more, and then we're outta here. I'll have been away for ten weeks, and those ten weeks followed the turmoil of moving from our island home of over twenty years into a small temporary home and finally, just two weeks before I left, into our new city condo. Now, as I imagine returning to that new space, I inevitably feel differently about going home than I have from previous travels.

Coming back from other trips to a home that I knew so well, that I'd feathered into a very cosy nest, I always looked forward to sitting in my big leather armchair again, my feet on the big leather hassock that had room for a tray with my tea (and maybe a cookie or two). I looked forward to the constancy of "my" view, of the sea in her many moods. After fussing with European showers, I looked forward to one whose temperature and water pressure always suited me, whose height and angle of flow had been adjusted to perfection. After borrowing other kitchens for weeks, I looked back to cupboards and drawers that magically yielded just the right spice or cup or rolling pin from exactly the spot Pater or I had planned for it. 

None of that applies to our new home, although we did get most of the boxes (save the books, oh, mon Dieu, the books--we need to buy bookshelves, and soon!) unpacked and the goods in the correct rooms, even into drawers and cupboards in those rooms. But which drawers? And which cupboards? And why? That will take months, at least, to settle, to allow patterns to be established that will show us what should be where. . . and to remember that "where."

Meanwhile, though. . . . I've been trying to think of what Five Things I will be really happy to get back to, even as there has been so much disruption of my sense of Home over the last year. For now, this is what I've come up with:

1. Four Grandchildren and their Parents, the three families I haven't seen since September. One-year-olds change dramatically in that much time, and according to the videos we've been seeing, certain toddlers are now speaking in sentences and pooping in potties and performing all manner of astonishing tricks we need to catch up on. We have an eight-year-old in the family and soon a newly-minted Four, and those are both spectacular ages. And all their parents' news as well -- one family is now living in a house; one dad's career has some exciting new energy; one daughter just received a prestigious award for work in her field; lots of catching-up to do for us; I can't wait!

2. My new neighbourhood. Despite the rain that has apparently been pouring or sprinkling or drizzling or showering down constantly since we left Vancouver and will no doubt continue to fill grey skies after we're home, I'm looking forward to wandering along one of the 15 "coolest" streets in North America. I'm already planning my matching "cool" outfits from the closet I'm keen to be getting back to (okay, kidding about planning the cool outfits, but not about being keen to see my closet again -- that's a sneak sixth thing I'm looking forward to etc., etc. )

3. Organising my new kitchen. Well, honestly, I'm both looking forward to and dreading this. The kitchen we left behind in June could have used a spice drawer revamp, but otherwise came very close to perfect (as a modest kitchen, that is, only one oven, electric range, but we're a family of pretty decent cooks and we managed very well). The new one, touted as a "chef's kitchen" in the real estate copy (no gas range?), is far from that, although we know the physical layout (a large island with a sink, as in the kitchen we loved) will work well. The storage is baffling, abysmal, according to my attempts to use it in the two weeks before I left, and shelf depths need to be adjusted, some hardware bought, some discarded, and some imagination brought to bear. I'm hoping my daughters and their partners will have some good suggestions and perhaps by the New Year we'll have a kitchen we can work with.

4. So Number 4 of things I'm looking forward to is the Privilege of once again having an appointed space of my own, to organise and decorate and move in. While traveling, we've also been very privileged in the spaces we've occupied, yes, but if you live long enough in any space, you're likely to begin wanting to modify it for individual comfort. Not being able to do this has made us both even more aware of what a privilege we enjoy at home -- especially because we're so aware here of how many would be happy simply to have a shelter. We, on the other hand, can paint and add wall hooks here, hang paintings there, change lighting fixtures that don't work, add a shower curtain whose colour or print or texture will make us smile a bit every single morning. Let the tweaking begin!

5. And Number 5? I sold my leather armchair back in May, and the matching leather hassock. I sold that view as well, I suppose, as part of the package. But we moved our leather love seats into a great little spot in front of a magnificent, if busy, often noisy, view of the city. And I saved one of the leather hassocks -- it might be a bit too big for the space, but until I'm sure, it's going to be there playing dual roles, coffee table and footstool both. I'm looking forward to drinking my tea there in the morning, before Paul wakes up. Not just a cup of tea. Tea in my favourite fine bone china mug, the one that holds at least ten ounces, and keeps those ounces really hot because of the china's thermal-preserving qualities, the one whose lip flares into just the right thinness to meet mine. I've had good tea from pretty mugs throughout these travels, but I'm looking forward to a simply perfect cuppa, all by myself in the morning, watching the light creep back into the city. My feet will be up on that hassock and I'll be reading a book. I expect I'll catch myself, in my contentment, occasionally thinking back to what we've been up to these last two months. I expect I'll even find myself thinking of Five Things I'll Miss Now That I'm Back Home. But that's for another post.

We're going to take in a yoga class this morning before heading to the train station. Our instructor coaxed me into another headstand on Wednesday, and I actually extended my legs into the air this time. Pretty exciting, I have to tell you, especially because I've got some anxieties around height and balance and being made fun of by a gym teacher. Plus isn't it cool to be learning new tricks at 63? Old dog, ha!

I missed saying Happy Thanksgiving to all my American friends yesterday -- honestly, I came very close to missing one of my grands' birthdays this week as well -- I'd sent a card earlier, by mail, but the actual date almost got lost in our nine hours' difference, one of us sleeping or at school while the other was awake. I hope that you had a Peaceful, Happy Day to reflect on whatever you have to be grateful for in your life. And I hope you have lots of leftovers to see you through a restful weekend. Or, if busy and celebratory is your thing, may you have that all weekend as well. Personally, I'd give the whole Black Friday thing a miss if I were you, but if you're strong and determined and don't need a break from the onslaught of commercialism, etc., etc., go for it! In other words, Belated Happy Thanksgiving -- and a big Thanks to all of you for reading and commenting here all year.


Wednesday, November 23, 2016

Une Petite Histoire -- Wandering Husbands in the 'Hood. . .

If you're in too much of a hurry to work through the context-setting preamble here, skip to below the photo for the salacious details. . . (okay, not too salacious, but there's a soupçon of sexy ;-)

"Nose, Granddad, Nose!" our Growing-up-Italian-Granddaughter prompted regularly as we hung out last week. Granddad was carrying the wipes and was expected to keep the space between nose and lips as dry as possible. A tough job requiring constant vigilance as Little Girl moved into the Actively Infectious stage of her cold, its causative virus clearly intent on replicating itself and getting out into the world. . .

Sure enough, a couple of days later as Pater and I marvelled at the beauty of Florence, we also marvelled at how quickly a Two-Year-Old's hugs can translate into a scratchy throat. And by Saturday's visit to Naples, my own nose was the one being wiped, although I managed to do that unaided. . . And by Monday, back here in Bordeaux, I was happy to be able to stay home with a book and a box of Kleenex, doing nothing much more than sleeping and reading, and, well, nose-wiping. . .

Then against my hopes that I'd be well enough for yoga, Tuesday turned out to be another sick day for me, while Pater headed off to class. He was back in time to make me lunch and chat a bit before I went back to bed for The Longest Nap Ever. Seriously, I put down Commissaire Maigret (the mystery case focuses on the murderer of a philandering husband whose wife apparently tolerated his wanderings fondly and with amusement) about 2, and at 4:30, as I groggily swam back up to the surface of consciousness from the deep, deep pool of sleep, Pater was leaning over to kiss me good-bye as he headed out for a haircut.

That haircut probably deserves its own post, unlikely to happen, but suffice it to say that over all our years visiting here, it's an eventuality he's contemplated and put off, wearied by the idea of finding the right words while sitting in the chair. After all, "Number 2 on the sides" isn't going to work so well here. So I was a bit surprised to find he'd made an appointment (apparently, he'd gone out to do that while I was setting the sleep record).  Surprised and refreshed enough by the nap that I decided to make dinner for a change.

An hour or so later, my newly shorn man opens the door to the spicy warmth of dahl, his declared pleasure at the fragrance met by my delight at the posey he's holding out to me.

He tells me about the care with which the flowers were chosen, wrapped together, encircled with raffia, then enveloped in paper, then tied with more raffia. . . He unwraps them and we try several possible vases in our rented accommodation.

He tells me about the experience at the hairdresser's, the chatter around him, the other clients.

And then he chuckles, remembering the similarly aged fellow who was also getting a haircut, who then was also at the Carrefour when Paul popped in to pick up a jar of honey, and who asked my guy, when they met again at the florist's door a few minutes later, whether he was following him or not. Paul laughed, and said they must have a similar agenda, and then, nodding at the bouquet in the other gentleman's hand, asked if he, too, was picking up flowers for his wife. The other, chuckling, nodded and said, "Oui, ou peut-être pour la vôtre. . . .  (yes, or perhaps for yours...)

So cheeky, some Frenchmen. . . ;-)

But I swear, only Maigret was in bed with me. Truly. . .

A Few Hours in Naples...

Last Saturday, via car, then Metro, then fast train, we headed to Naples with our son-in-law and our 2-year-old granddaughter (our daughter stayed home with a heavy cold, sore throat).  Neither Pater nor I tried to exercise any control over our itinerary, content to follow Jesse's instincts. He, in turn, was guided by some foodie research our daughter had done and the reassurance of Google Maps. Not to mention a commitment to getting us all back to the train station by 5.

The photo above is taken perhaps ten minutes away from the train station (which we moved through quite comfortably, by the way, none of the criminal horrors we'd been warned against, although I've no doubt pickpockets operate there, as in all train stations).  Paul was so struck by this scene of makeshift market stalls that stretch for blocks and blocks that he wanted me to take a photo. I suggested that might mark us too conspicuously as tourists, but handed him my iPhone -- that's me in black backpack, cuffed jeans, puffer jacket, walking away from the snap-happy man. If you knew him, you'd know how unlikely a description that is of the man, but he was really struck by this scene -- and yes, he was more discreet than I'm suggesting.

And as we gradually moved into the noisy, bustling, generally animated crowd, I got comfortable with my iPhone camera as well. The stalls sold a striking variety of goods in a diverse array of innovative display structures. Barrels, trays, tables, chairs, all pressed into service to show off yarn, cigarettes, fish, shellfish, vegetables, fruit, suitcases, jackets, socks, underwear, and very often with the vendor extolling the virtues of her product and cajoling passers-by into trying his wares...

Someone was quickly indifferent

But the three adults walked and gawked, walked and gawked...

All the gorgeous fruit displays we've seen at so many other markets in picturesque squares in France or Italy or Spain or Portugal...
but with a different edge. . .
Perhaps because there's no pretense here of Organic or Bio or Farmer-to-Consumer connection. Commerce is the point, and the margins are glimpsed here, both the urgency and the play of the market, how much the buying low and selling high matters, and yet how much flexibility there is in it. I don't know, I'm waxing speculative.  . . but the narrow alleys with their flaking plaster walls and the laundry drying rather disconsolately high above can't help but lend context...
Despite the surrounding poverty, though, there's vigour and humour and abundant activity, and even though we weren't there to buy anything, we were richly entertained. And looking at the fish, we couldn't help but wish for a kitchen. A grill, at least. . .



Our train had arrived at the Station, though, at just before noon, so our wanderings through the market streets (and I can't even begin to estimate how many blocks were lined, hundreds and hundreds of metres of gridwork, narrow streets clogged with stalls) did have a goal. My daughter's research insisted that we get ourselves to Masardona Pizzeria for the "best fried pizza" in naples.
There's seating inside, but with our Little One sure to wake up soon, we were content to enjoy our Pizze Fritte at one of the two stand-up tables outside -- they lent us the pizza cutter, which Pater's wielding above. Cutting the individual pizzas into four slices each gave us a chance to sample a few different fillings -- and note, these are fillings rather than toppings. I stayed outside with The Sleeper while the guys went in to order and watch the process, so if you have questions, I'll have to pass them along to the Mr., but I can tell you these are fragrant and delectable morsels. Oh my! Definitely have to go back. . .

And I must say, this is a great example of when travel research pays off. You would be hard-pressed to somehow discover this place by random, serendipitous walking. And even if you did somehow end up here, there's very little that would prompt you -- visually, at least -- to slow down. With a good nose, though, perhaps you could find your way here from the train station. . .
For a post that was intended to be fairly word-free, that was intended as a quick sharing of images, it's beginning to claim a few too many minutes of my day (I'm into Hour Two now, whoops!). So I will speed up and tell you that, Little Girl now wide awake, fed, and insisting on walking, we headed through the archway below, and spent most of the afternoon walking up a long narrow street which seemed to extend the market concept, with a growing focus on Christmas nativity scenes, fridge magnets shaped like chili peppers, reindeer-hairbands that lit up, etc., etc. Stuff we didn't want or need or imagine anyone else coveting enough to come out on a Saturday afternoon and turn into a social activity. . . But that's what was going on. Strolling and stopping for coffee or gelato or paper cones full of fried seafood, shuffling and bustling and making way occasionally for the motor scooter honking from behind. And always someone wanting to ask our Two-Year-Old something or just to wave at her or sometimes to ruffle her hair. She's become quite used to this, apparently, over her Italian infancy and toddlerhood, and seems to accept it quite good-naturedly.

And if there were tourists in the crowd, they were Italian tourists. I don't think we heard any English on these streets all afternoon, excepting our own.


Anyway, I'm going to stop chatting so much now, and I'll just let you look. I've taken no photos, I realise, of the crowded streets up the hill. It was impossible to get any perspective of those crowds from my height. But I've snapped some side alleys. . .
And some of the dilapidated beauty. . .
We passed shrines like these every block or so, obviously commemorating someone beloved or dedicated to a saint. . .


We popped into a church. . .
Saint Gesù Nuovo
I look at the photos I took over those six hours in Naples, and it's clear how idiosyncratic my vision is. . .
But somehow, the once-upon-a-time grandeur of this and so many other Neapolitan buildings, juxtaposed with a certain, I don't know, resilience or practicality or simply the quotidian reality of getting around on a scooter, getting the clothes dried on a line, getting rid of a worn-out armchair whose upholstery happens to perfectly match the colour of the building it's leaned up against. . . This moved me.
And I haven't even told you yet about the coffee. . . Oh, the coffee...
So. There you go, a lopsided idiosyncratic, clearly admiring view of a city that I know I've only glimpsed but which intrigues, which makes me want to visit again (if only for a pizza at the place that had at least a hundred people waiting in the line-up. . . ). I have so much more I could say, more images to unroll from my mental camera, but this will have to do for now. Ask me questions. Compare experiences. Share your impressions of Naples. I'll check your comments later. For now, I'm off to yoga class, hoping my cold has receded enough for me to rock a sun salutation or two. . . (more honestly, I'm just hoping I can make it through those long minutes of meditation in an eventually excruciating non-Lotus pose -- I can never manage Lotus, but I try to push my ego out of the way and make do with crossed calves and ankles. . . )
Happy Wednesday!

Tuesday, November 22, 2016

Home before Home. . . On Ex-Pat Grandkids and Nursing Colds and French Detective Novels. . .


We're back in Bordeaux after a busy week in Italy -- a few days at our daughter's home in a small town outside Rome, a few days in Florence, a day trip to Naples. I know we've been extremely lucky, given that daughter and partner have chosen an ex-pat life so far away, that I've had four visits with them this year: January/February in Rome, April on the island, October in Berlin and November in Italy.  They'll be back for a visit in March-April, which is only a few months away, so yes, very fortunate.

But.
Still.

Plus that little girl, in the best tradition of little ones everywhere, had a cold to pass along to Nana and Granddad. He's recovering faster than I am, so is off at yoga this morning. I'm in bed, box of mouchoirs handy, reading my first Commissaire Maigret novel, en français, a very enjoyable way to work on my French vocabulary. . . Colds have never been quite the same for me since Neo-Citran tinkered with their formula a few years back, but if I have to be sick, this is probably the best possible way to go. By an amusing synchronicity, in the Simenon novel I plucked randomly off the fabulous bookshelves here, Maigret is also blowing regularly into a mouchoir, although that lucky man is also being served rum grog by a loving spouse (hmm, I need to have a chat with Pater).

Unlike poor Maigret, however, who has to keep slogging away in his search for a killer,  after lunch I'm hoping to log some healing zzzzz's (Sleep is Nature's Nurse, a friend used to say, and of course, The Bard: Sleep Knits Up the Raveled Sleeve of Care) before setting up another post for tomorrow, a Wordless Wednesday focus on Naples, so much colour. . . For Friday's Five Things, should I manage to write that soon as well, I'm thinking I might tell you Five Things I'm Looking Forward to Getting Back to. . . or perhaps Five Things I'll Be Sad to Leave. . . perhaps even both. . .

But for now, there's a mystery to be solved, somewhere in Paris, sometime late-60s, a certain Marchand de Vin has been shot and killed....
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