Thursday, April 18, 2019

Brussels Postcards

My last post came to you from Haarlem, as we were hurrying out the door to catch a train. If you've been following on Instagram, you already know that train took us to Brussels where we spent a lovely day and a half.
And we're just finishing another lovely day and a half spent in Paris where we'll soon be packing up to head to yet another train station. . . . Trains, the only way to fly! (pace the old Western Airlines commercial).
Given our limited time in each of the cities we've stopped in so far, you'll understand that I haven't much time for blogging, but I thought you might enjoy these photos from Brussels. We have many reasons for hoping we'll get back to Brussels some day, and I'll share more of my impressions of the city later, but for now I've sorted through photo files with a focus on the architectural wealth, particularly of Belle Epoque/Art Nouveau design.

You can see that Pater had to exercise patience when walking with me -- more than once, I had to cross the street to try for a better view of a balcony or a 3rd-storey mosaic.
I don't know anywhere near enough about Art Nouveau/Moderne architecture, but apparently Brussels is known for its examples of the style. This website outlines the economic, social, and political congruence that led to the fin-de-siècle (end of the 19th of course) preference, and it offers more addresses.
If we get back to the city, I'd be sure to have a map and track down some of the buildings more systematically (and with a better idea of what details to look for).
But relying only on my feet and my eyes (and Pater's patience) was not a bad approach for a first, quick visit to the city.
And a very nice way to slow a four-hour train ride (from Amsterdam to Paris) down to three days. . .
Gloriously organic lines in the grillwork, sensuously curving stonework, beautiful floral mosaics. . .
And striking deployment of strong, simple geometrics as well.
I'm afraid that will have to do for now. Breakfast to eat, bag to pack, a train to catch. . . Next stop, though, and we'll be staying put for weeks and weeks. I hope we can chat more then. Meanwhile, I do read your comments, appreciate each one very much,and I'm sorry I can't spare the time to respond to them.
À plus tard. . .

EDITED: I thought I'd published this in the morning, before we caught our train, but checking now that we're settled into our digs in Bordeaux, I see that I saved but didn't post. Time for bed and a book now. Good night ;-)

Saturday, April 13, 2019

Postcard from Haarlem. . .

 We're packing up and catching a train this morning, so just a few minutes to say hello and send you a few photos. While the temperatures are chilly (especially for what we brought in our carry-on only! Oh, for a pair of gloves and a wool hat!), we've had lovely sunshine here in Haarlem and we've made the most of it to get out and walk and coax our bodies into this time zone.
 It might seem contradictory to my previously declared aim of Slow Travel that we're only spending two days (three nights) here in Haarlem, but in fact, I believe it's quite congruous. We flew into Amsterdam because it was one of the very few options for a direct, non-stop flight from Vancouver (London's wasn't an option right with the Brexit confusion). Then, rather than try to catch a flight to Bordeaux that afternoon, we slowed down by staying put a few nights while we caught up on sleep and adjusted to nine hours' time difference.
 Slow Travel for us means that during those two days here, we don't rush to work through a list of must-sees. I bought tickets for the David Hockney exhibition at the Van Gogh museum several weeks ago, but that was the only Must on our itinerary.
 So on Friday, we took the train from Haarlem into Amsterdam and navigated our pedestrian route of 3+ kilometres from station to museum with the guidance of Google, enjoying the ambiance and the sights along the way.
 Serendipitously had the most wonderful lunch at Rijks restaurant (attached to the RijksMuseum) just at the moment when serious crankiness might have ensued otherwise; enjoyed a splendid exhibition of Hockney's work and had another look at some favourite Van Goghs (we were here back in 2012), and then walked back to the train station. Back home in Haarlem, we settled for take-out Indonesian food and a quiet evening.
 Saturday was market day here in Haarlem, and we almost missed it, the sleep we'd been waiting for having finally arrived sometime in the wee hours and keeping us abed until 11:30 (yes! you read that correctly!). A quick bowl of muesli and some tea, though, and we were out there wending our way through the bikes (I love a bike culture, but whoa! those cyclists can appear dangerous and impatient to a wary and unschooled pedestrian).
 And that's how we keep it slow. . .
 I've posted many more photos on Instagram -- and a video of the toy boat we watched a young boy sail from the dock, held carefully by his father, instead of taking advantage of a 10 Euro tour of the windmill pictured here. Another example of my version of Slow Travel -- on a tour, I'm following someone else's pace, looking at someone's else's direction. Sometimes that enhances a traveler's understanding of a place significantly and is well worth the investment of time, but yesterday, we preferred the freer schedule of ambling. . .
 So bikes and tulips and bricks and windmills
 if you walk
 the streets of Haarlem
 with us. . .
 The clouds you glimpse occasionally in these photos darkened eventually
 and we had some very light hail
 but nothing that marred our experience of this lovely city. . .
I'll close with a nod to my sweet traveling companion -- I posted a Reflecting Window Selfie from the Van Gogh Museum on Instagram the other day, and now I'm thinking I should make this a daily effort. . . Can you spot us, above?

And now, if you'll excuse me, I have a train to catch. Reporting to you very soon from . . . well, you'll see. . . 

Wednesday, April 10, 2019

Missing My Garden Already. . . . But Travel Calls. . .

The apple blossoms tightly furled above the new leaves will bloom very soon, and the mason bees that recently broke out of their cocoons in our little mason been box will no doubt collect pollen from them, fertilizing them along the way so that there will be tiny apples growing by the time we get back home. But we won't get to see the blossoms. Visiting friends and family will enjoy them while we're away, but they won't be part of our spring this year.

That's okay, because we've already been treated to the blooms of. . . brunnera, tulips, snowdrops, daffodils, muscari, winter aconites, corylopsis (winterhazel), and blazing forsythia.

And magnolia stellata.

Ooh, she has put on a glorious show, from the tentative splitting of her furry buds

to the delicate blush as the blooms unfurled
to her stretching and springing outward in a sculpture of layers

and then more sculpture as she fades, ever so beautifully
 and the (potential) future seed pod is revealed. . . .
 This tree's palette stirs me to tenderness -- Benjamin Moore has nothing on its range of whites. . .
 and the tea/coffee tones that ready the petals for their descent to earth are nothing short of luxurious. . .

 But it's easy to miss those rich toffee shades, when these antics are going on, all this bright green popping out of smaller fuzz-cases right, left, and centre. . .

And then there's this. . .

The comic corkscrew effect. . .

 As keen as I am to be somewhere completely different by this time tomorrow, I'm going to miss watching my garden move through this spring, one that will never come again, though others will. But I'm so grateful to Ms. M. Stellata for this year's show. . . .Hope you might enjoy it as well.

Not sure how regularly I'll be posting here, but keep an eye out for postcards from . . . well, you'll see. . . (actually, you'll see much sooner if you're following on Instagram. It's just so much easier to post there.


Monday, April 8, 2019

Wearing the Pyjama Look to a Wedding, Really?

 Heading to that family wedding yesterday, I snapped a few quick shots in the mirror. Not all of you will love this daytime pyjama look, but I'm here to tell you that it's very comfortable to wear, that I received many compliments (my gorgeous 18-year-old nieces professed envy, saying they'd ogled the outfit at Aritzia (it's by Little Moon, a line my daughter-in-law was also wearing -- hers was a sweet navy-print in a below-knee vintage-style dress, très élégante). The SA at Aritzia had counselled white sneakers, but I was happy to wear my pink oxfords (although I've also tried it with sandals-with-a-heel and that's a good look as well).
 I rarely buy something new for a particular event, and I could have dressed well enough from my closet. This wedding, though, was something special. I won't say much about it because although there were close to 200 of us, the ceremony and reception felt very intimate and private. But I will say that the afternoon was a testament to the best of the human spirit, the way we can come together as a community to celebrate joy and love and hope, live in the moment, even in the shadow of adversity. A moving and beautiful day in so many ways.

Sometimes my sister-in-law reads my blog, and if she reads this one, let me just say that the Mother-of-the-Groom dressed that role to perfection, from her beautiful eyes and smile, outward. She wore a lovely dress, the best, soft shade of grey with cream polka dots, fairly fitted on top, fuller in the skirt which had the right amount of swish/movement (official Fashion Term, no?). And then I'd better hurry to say that my handsome brother gave a toast that made me laugh and made me cry, gave me food for thought, and inspired me.
And that is all, this Monday morning, except that you might help me decide if it would be foolish to bring this along in my carry-on, for two months in Europe. The pants pair well with my navy pullover and my navy cardi, over a white T, and the top is good with my jeans. The fabric (a viscose/rayon blend) is hand-washable and it's all very light. . . But it's so much print. . . . Thoughts? (those shoes are definitely coming along. . . )

Friday, April 5, 2019

Now That's A Bit Sketchy . .

I am scrambling to think what I might offer you today, not wanting you to abandon me completely, but we've had a Six and a Four staying here all week after hanging out with a Ten for a few days last week, and this weekend a Four and a Just-Turned-One are bringing their parents along to stay here after a big family wedding.

It's all feeling a bit manic, truth be told, especially since I've been trying to keep up with the Online Writing Course (how to structure and outline a novel in six weeks -- yelp! whimper!). And trying to get the winter gear cleaned and put away before we leave next Wednesday. Oh yes, and pack for two months' travel. Arrange house sitting and plant care and decide whether I should bring along the knitting project I've just begun (a sweater) or keep it simple and stick to sock-knitting for travel. Similar decision to be made re sketching enroute -- which sketchbooks? which paints? pencil crayons? etc. . . .

So these pages are about all I have for the moment -- two-minute sketches from the medical lab waiting-room weeks ago. . . Next time I show you anything from this little sketchbook, they should be scenes from Amsterdam or Brussels. . .

But I'll probably check in once more before I leave. Meanwhile, have a good weekend, okay? (As for me, I'm declaring today, Friday, a pyjama day. . .

Tuesday, April 2, 2019

Little House Guests

Little Guy (Newly Four) and his sister (she's Much Bigger -- Six!) are camped out in our TV/guestroom. They're staying with us for four days ("Four Days," he counted off on his fingers, "is a long time. I'm going to miss my Mommy") while their parents have some couple time in a big city (Mom's on the way to the airport as I write; Dad's already been checking out the best restaurants in that city as part of his job. Lucky fellow).

Something woke me at 4:30, not unusual. . . I stayed in bed until 5:30, hoping I might get back to sleep, but it didn't happen, so I got up, thought I should take advantage of some quiet time to myself, assuming that will be on short rations this week. Brewed my tea, poured a mug, and settled in on the couch to watch the sunrise reflected on the downtown skyline. And just as I was thinking I might do some writing, I heard the Dohm fan's white noise released (all our grandkids sleep with white noise; seems to be a thing these days), the volume suddenly dialed up as a door opening stealthily. And seconds later, a small pyjama-ed figure whispering something at me.

Of course, I couldn't hear what he was whispering--even with my hearing aids in, whispering is never audible to me--but I quickly guessed that he "needed to pee." He didn't really need an escort, but I walked him to the bathroom, and when he was done, assured him that it was still too early to be up and sent him back to bed.

Soon after, the steady murmur streaming from his bed elicited some serious grumbling from his sister's, louder and louder until she came out to complain that he wasn't letting her sleep. Time for me to surrender, then, and Little Guy came out to sit with me on the couch and chatter contentedly away. I learned that he's had at least one nightmare about Donald Trump (and was a bit alarmed that his parents were visiting the wrong country -- some reassurance ensued). I learned something about his favourite daycare activities. I learned a few important facts about Joker and Batman. And I learned that my grandson is observant enough to spot a hummmingbird drinking from the fountain on our terrace, even in the weak light of early dawn. A moment of reverent marvel shared. . .Sweet compensation for the fatigue I know will hit this afternoon.

Little Guy and his Big Sister are gone for the day now -- Granddad's dropping them off at school and daycare, and I'm clearing away cereal bowls and putting away pyjamas and toys. . . So much to get done before we leave next week, but I've just caught up on my Online Writing Course, and my next onerous chore is a trip to the Spa for a Facial. I know. Rough, right?

So I'm off now, but I'll leave you with a link to a post about another early morning with Little Guy, back when he was only Three. . .

Sunday, March 31, 2019

March Memory

 Last Sunday, on a family walk to mark our mother's birthday six years after her death, I spotted this small cluster of skunk cabbage along one of her favourite paths. These curious indigenous plants become increasingly difficult to find as urban development encroaches on precious wetlands, so I'm thrilled each spring to spot their flamboyant yellow -- this elegant, if smelly, sculpture emerging from the muck. More information about this wonderful plant here, including some ethno-botanical details (i.e. how the plant was used by the indigenous people with whom it shared its ecosystem).

If you've been visiting my blog for a while, you might have heard me chat about skunk cabbage before, and perhaps you've already seen the photo of my mother hopping into some muck for a photo-op with some skunk cabbage,  And then two years ago, I caught them early March, just beginning their season.  And last year, I found them on a colourful mural a few blocks from home.
 I'm posting the skunk cabbage photo again today because it's March 31st, a sunny Sunday, just like the day Mom died  And I know you'll excuse the repetition, and I know that many of you will understand the long, long resonance of a parent's death, which I would never have suspected, at 30 or 40, even at 50, could be such a continued factor so far into one's 60s. But such is the case, and given that I still miss my dad 19 years after his death, I'm guessing I may well be missing the two of them into my 80s. Huh.

And on that note, I have some bread to pop in the oven and a new month to prepare for. . .  Will I see you here tomorrow for April Fool's Day? No trickery involved, I promise. . . 
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