In nearly two weeks in the Netherlands, we watched kite-surfing from a windy beach beneath giant grey clouds. We walked along narrow canals accented with yellow and white water lilies. We fed swans and their teenagers, as well as ducks. We watched a coot add twigs to her nest, then escort her chirping babies for an awkward swim. We hiked trails dotted with windmills. We browsed fruit and vegetable stalls in market squares and brocantes set up along little canals. We traced Johannes Vermeer's illustrious path in Delft and learned more about his light-filled paintings that still capture the world's imagination. We wandered cobble-stoned streets and narrow passageways. We marveled at the grand 17th-century architecture and symbolism of churches, old and new.
We met and photographed off-the-chart talented musicians at the Delft Jazz Festival. We exchanged stories and laughter at dinner with long-time friends in a quay-side restaurant in Alblasserdam and shared a delicious lunch at Bussia in Amsterdam with the lovely Pia Jane Bijkerk. My husband went bird-watching and through happenstance, I met an accomplished jewelry designer, with an airy atelier enhanced with a magnificent Art Deco table and Fortuny lamps (more in an upcoming post). I purchased a vintage Delft pottery pitcher at an antique shop and an exquisite covered basket over 100 years old at a brocante. I left behind a pair of shoes, so my small bag jammed with two-weeks'-worth-of-clothes could accommodate the treasure.
At another brocante I bought a seven-foot wide canvas geological world map in English, Spanish and Dutch. It was quite the kerfuffle transporting the rolled-up map in cars and onto a train back to Paris! We ate yummy caramel stroopwaffles and Dutch fries with mayonnaise and struck up conversations with strangers. We rode trains and walked and walked for miles. We read maps and explored unfamiliar neighbourhoods. We talked to estate agents and friends about specific areas. We had amazing dinners at charming restaurants, in contrast with lunch at an outdoor cafe where three bees buzzing about my head eventually chased me away.
We went to Amsterdam, Utrecht, Delft, Leiden and Rotterdam, as well as smaller places including Haarlem, Amstelveen and Zandvoort. We went to another beach town with roundabouts and design much like an English seaside town. I took over 1,200 photographs, from grand architecture and historic buildings to portraits of my friends' five-year-old daughter to first-day-of-school festivities at a technical college to concerts and quirky sights along the way.
Through it all, I felt totally peaceful, at ease and at home, even though I speak hardly a word of Dutch. In less than six months, it will be home, both literally and figuratively. Not sure where yet, but I am confident the right place will present itself. And I can't wait!
Tall grasses and reeds lining the canals were blowing in high winds.
The sun sets over the beautiful 17th-century architecture of Delft, the Netherlands.
Strolling in the heart of the city.
One of Delft's myriad small canals.
Delft is famous for its striking blue-and-white pottery. In this window overlooking the city's main square, twin church spires are reflected. I packed for two weeks in one carry-on; may have to leave a pair of shoes behind to accommodate a Delft vase.
Back soon with stories and more photos from the Netherlands. Hope you're enjoying these last few days of August.
A tiny sliver of moon over 17th-century building facades.
A half-moon light in a shop window.
"How sweet the moonlight sleeps upon this bank. Here will we sit and let the sounds of music Creep in our ears; soft stillness, and the night Become the touches of sweet harmony.” - William Shakespeare
*"...on a fair summer's eve" is a line from a poem by John Keats.
"He who would travel happily must travel light".- Antoine de Saint-Exupery.
Between a family concern and the Google-Verizon attempt to undermine Net Neutrality, it feels like I'm traveling with the weight of the world on my shoulders. The companies' proposals would maintain both a "public" and "private" Internet, effectively giving telecoms more control over speed and access.
In 1999, I worked with a group of academics, engineers and tax specialists in San Francisco and Berkeley to determine how the Internet could remain a level playing field for all. What Google and Verizon propose would make Internet access - in many cases - subject to payment, similar to cable television. Such a plan clearly is aimed at lining the pockets of the corporations involved, not any altruism to keep the Internet free for all. President Obama needs to honor his pre-election promise to support Net Neutrality.
“The agreement between Verizon and Google about how to manage Internet
traffic is nothing more than a private agreement between two corporate
behemoths and should not be a template or basis for either
Congressional or FCC action,” said Gigi B. Sohn, president and
co-founder of Public Knowledge. ”It is unenforceable and does almost
nothing to preserve an open internet. Most critically, it sacrifices the
future of the mobile wireless internet as this platform becomes more
central to the lives of all Americans.”
Progressive Change Committee co-founder Adam Green:
"Google, a company that I've long admired and currently hold thousands
of dollars of stock in, just "went evil."" ... "There is no
reason in the world for Google, which has made smart investments in the
future, to find common ground with Verizon on the issue of Internet
openness. None. Zero. Zilch. Today's deal was unneeded, uncalled for
and incompatible with Google's "don't be evil" mantra. Google's decision
to cut a deal with Verizon wreaks of either impatience or fear."
If you missed this article about our collapsing empire, I urge you to read it. As we pour money into wars, schools are closing, streetlights are turned off and our infrastructure crumbling. Some cold, hard facts simply can't be avoided.
So much angst: visit my friend Christina at Soul Aperture to be instantly cheered by her lovely photos and tales from her day.
Off to the Netherlands by train. See you later this month.
Bright mind, by Randall Lagro. Image courtesy of Blue Rain Gallery, Santa Fe, New Mexico.
When I sleep, I toss and turn with strange dreams. Flashes of scary bits of the past I've put behind me; fleeting glimpses of the future, punctuated by unrelenting anxiety. My concern is not just for the precarious state of the world, with too many people willfully sleepwalking, while foundations crumble. A new, nagging frisson of fear threatens any lingering peace of mind.
I am worried for someone I love, currently facing an unexpected challenge. Of course we will handle whatever comes; meanwhile am hoping and praying for the best. Steel Magnolia strength is my secret weapon, but these days I sense the brushstrokes of life's fragile nature.
In the midst of such angst, I must leave for Amsterdam. In the continuing quest to find a place to live, David and I will explore areas of cities that are new to us. Will blog when possible; hope to have better news to report.
I spotted this musician late one evening on Avenida de la Constitucion in Sevilla, Spain. I took this photo from across the street, listening to his haunting lilting melodies on the erhu, a Chinese instrument. I decided to talk to him, which was a bit of a challenge, between my limited Spanish and his limited English. When I told him I was American, he exclaimed "Obama!" and smiled.
He told me he was in Sevilla as a "worker," which probably means he has a menial job for little pay and reward. He seemed sad and melancholy, which reminded me that Sevilla can be a lonely place to be on your own. Families tend to socialise together and tourists are usually in groups. It can be difficult being in such a lively place, when you're quiet and shy, as he seemed to be. Every one has a story; wish I could have learned more about his.
I asked the musician if I could photograph him and he said "Never mind," which I took as a yes. He was caught up in the music, constantly moving in rhythm as he played.
Listen to an erhu solo Yuan Predestined Relationshiphere.
Notice how the pink house stands out in this picture? It's not a great photo technically; I needed a telephoto lens to properly capture this scene. The reason I snapped this image was the pink house. In a tiny little village on Bani Hamida Mountain in Jordan, someone dared to defy the status quo and paint their house carnation pink.
This weekend, do something different. Shake up your routine. Go somewhere you've never been. Try a new recipe or an unfamiliar restaurant. Smile at a stranger. Surprise someone with a special treat. Be adventurous. Just remember, whatever you do is up to you!
This hand-woven covered basket contains a 19th-century Tibetan monk's food bowl, which he carried wherever he went.
The decorative copper and cloisonne enamel bowl is lined with turquoise, reflecting the monk's influence among the Buddhist leaders. Parts of the turquoise are worn through, revealing the bronze and copper base.
So many prayers...
A 19th-century bound book of prayers from Nepal.
The prayers are hand-written on thin sheets of bamboo. The items are photographed with Steve McCurry's book The Unguarded Moment.
"Human beings are of such nature that they should have not only material
facilities, but spiritual sustenance as well. Without spiritual
sustenance, it is difficult to get and maintain peace of mind." - The Dalai Lama
First look at fall, Chanel at 31 rue Cambon, Paris.
Printemps, one of the city's premiere department stores, has a new look. I like the sleek futuristic escalators and chandelier comprised largely of tassles in fall hues.
Must be quite the feat to change the center display, which extends several floors.
If you're a handbag collector like me, you may find this little video amusing. Have you ever wondered what to do with your handbag dust bags? This whole group of videos is absolutely (and unintentionally) hilarious.