Euro Tour 2013

May 29, 2013








Running and Reading

July 25, 2012


This is the first entry in a list of some of my favorite running books. Might be a few cycling or other outdoor sorts of books down the line. 

Running by Jean Echenoz, 2008, is up first simply because it’s the most recent I’ve read. My college friend Tom, long a resident of Barcelona, recommended this book from French novelist Echenoz. While I knew a bit about the great Emil Zatopek’s running exploits, I knew a good deal less about his life under an oppressive government in Czechoslovakia. Telling the story as the two play out together is Echenoz’s focus in this simple, gracefully written book.

A short excerpt:

“There are runners who seem to fly, others who seem to dance, still others who look as if they were parading, and some appear to be advancing as though they were sitting on top of their legs. There are those who simply look as if they’ve been summoned and are hurrying as fast as possible. Emil, nothing like all that.

“Emil, you’d think he was excavating, like a ditch digger, or digging deep into himself, as if he were in a trance. Ignoring every time-honored rule and any thought of elegance, Emil advances laboriously, in a jerky, tortured manner, all in fits and starts. He doesn’t hide the violence in his efforts, which shows in his wincing, grimacing, tetanized face, constantly contorted by a rictus quite painful to see. His features are twisted, as if torn my appalling suffering; sometimes his tongue sticks out. It’s as if he had a scorpion in each shoe, catapulting him on. He seems far away when he runs, terribly far away, concentrating so hard he’s not even there—except that he’s more there than anyone else; and hunkered down between his shoulders, on that neck always leaning in the same direction, his head bobs along endlessly, lolling and wobbling from side to side.”

Walking Werner

November 14, 2011

From a short interview with Werner Herzog  in Time magazine:

Q: In addition to being a feature-film director and documentarian, you seem to have become an amazing interviewer.

Herzog: I’m not an interviewer. I have conversations. And I know the heart of men. I know it because I have had fundamental experiences like traveling on foot. The world reveals itself to those who travel on foot. I’ve walked from Munich to Paris, but I’ve also done longer walks. You’re unprotected and have to talk to people to ask them to fill your canteen because there’s no creek for dozens of miles. You really learn what men are all about.

Previously unreleased

November 5, 2011

Looking back through the photos from the Spain trip, I find a number that I like that I haven’t put up yet. My original intent in the posts was to keep family and friends updated on what we were doing over there, so most of the photos and commentary stuck to the star attractions — Sagrada Familia, Alhambra, Mezquita, Real Alcazar, and the like. But, of course, many, maybe more, of the most interesting moments and memories on a trip are found elsewhere in humbler halls and on streets with names you can’t recall. So it goes with travel photos. Culling through the 800-some shots I took (cursed free shutterlove of digital photography!) here are some I like.

These metal overhead doors protect most of the shops in Barcelona. Just as ubiquitous, the Cerrajeros stickers advertising where you can get a rolling metal overhead door of your very own.

Barcelona: Woman takes her duckling for a walk.

On the roof of Gaudi's "Pedrera" apartment building in Barcelona. I liked the way all the tourists looked among Gaudi's crazy smokestacks and whatnot.

In the Greek theater on Montjuic in Barcelona with Sheila and Tom H.

With the cheaper seats sold out, we shelled out for first class on the high-speed train from Barcelona to Madrid. Our view of how the other half lives was dominated in the foreground by the lowered head of this rich old guy, feeling very poorly, and being tended to rather kindly, I thought, by his trophy wife.

I always like the look of a statue silhouetted against the sky. This was in the middle of El Rastro, Madrid's legendary Sunday morning flea market.

Waiting for the train in Toledo.

Slow day selling hand fans in Sevilla.




November 4, 2011

Borrowed this shot by Xavi Torrent of the Wilco Palau show off the web. Gracias, Xavi.

Catching up here on our eventful last couple of days in Spain. Wednesday morning seems like a very long time ago now. After one last breakfast at the Hotel Macia in Granada, and after recovering from witnessing one of our fellow guests attack the jamon serrano platter without mercy, we set out on a walk to the Mirador San Nicholas. Took in the view a final time, the snowy peaks of the Sierra Nevada especially clear on an overcast day, and we invested in a pair of “real” castanets from the abuela selling them in the square. Also found time for a couple of cafe con leches at the Quatro Gatos cafe recommended by our friend Jill.

Rode the bus out to the small airport in Granada, then the flight back on Vueling to Barcelona. All good.

It felt comfortable coming into Barcelona on the airport bus knowing where we were headed, and after a stint in smaller cities, it was exciting to be back in the bustle of Barcelona. After bumping into Francesca on the street, we found Tom and Dylan waiting for us at their apartment. It felt like a homecoming of sorts as we had tapas and drinks with Tom and Francesca before heading over to the Palau de la Musica for the Wilco show.

Concert was artful and, you know, ass-kicking. The venue was sublime and I don’t throw a word like sublime around without good reason. I feel the need to write more about the show and plan to do so as I nurture the memory of this trip with some subsequent posts to wrap things up. Our ears still ringing from a wonderful encore, we walked back through the quiet sidestreets to Tom and Francesca’s place.

Up early the next morning, walked with Mr. Henry up La Ramblas before parting ways at Placa Catalunya, where Tom got the metro to go teach his class and we got our Aeropuerto Bus to catch our plane. Barcelona-Paris-Detroit-Burlington, touching down at BTV by midnight.

Shayla couldn't get la vieja to come down on the price of the castanets, but she was happy for a photo op.

Albayzin, Quatro Gatos, Alhambra view, cafe con leche. Todos bueno.

T. Henry walks us over to the Palau and takes his recycling for some air.

Seems like most modern airports strive to create a sense of lightness and flight. Barcelona accomplishes it like no other I've seen. Boarding for the trip to Paris, first leg home.

Nice work by Sheila spotting Greenland out the window. Way better than watching "Planet of the Apes," though we did that, too.

A familiar napkin from most of the places we dined. (You can tell we go four-star or we don't go at all.) De nada, we say, and gracias to you, Espana.

Dia de los muertos

November 1, 2011

In general, the weather has been great during our whole time here. A few cloudy days for some El Grecoesque drama in Toledo, a sprinkle here and there amounting to maybe fifteen minutes of rain total, but mostly blue sky. Today, somehow took that up a notch with a cool morning turning into an afternoon in the seventies and clear views of the Sierra Nevada all day.

We liked our trail exploration yesterday, so basically repeated it today with a morning wander up through the Albayzin then onto the trails above and beyond San Miguel Alto. In the afternoon we met up with Cathy and Mitch (Reminder: Cathy is niece of our Burlington friends Jef and Jill) for a walk up to the cemetery on this holiday, the Dia de lose muertos, to see the families of Granada come out to honor their dearly departed. So after taking on the San Miguel hill in the morning, we headed up the other main hill in town, toward the Alhambra, in the afternoon. After a stop for some beer and tapas, Cathy took us on a graffiti tour through the Realejo neighborhood to see the work of El Nino, Granada’s top grafitti artist.

Catching our breath back here at the hotel and we’re going to head out with Cathy and Mitch again in a bit for tapas. I’m going to have to dig deep for a little more energy to close out our last evening here in Granada. We fly out of here around 2 tomorrow, back up to Barcelona for our last night, Wilco show, and stay with Tom, Francesca, and Dylan before flying out on Thursday morning.

Thanks for the heads up on the group ride, muchachos.

Maybe I'll pull together a retrospective of "The Ugly Dogs of Spain" when we return. For now, we'll let this perrito suffice.

...and speaking of perros, apparently not picking up after your dog is punishable by lightning strike in Granada. Given the abundance of piles on the street and seemingly disposable nature of the dogs, I don't think anyone is too concerned.

Los muertos y la Sierra Nevada. (That's a ridge with snow, not all clouds across the top.)

The work of El Nino on a wall of the Realejo neighborhood in Granada.

Thirty years ago these two people saw something in one another... and it's been a great two weeks-plus travelling in Spain. I doubt there will be time or 'net access to update the end of our trip, but will put something up on Friday as we come up from the depths of jet lag. It's been fun. Muy, muy fun.

Albayzin and up

October 31, 2011

We spent most of the morning on a long walk up through the Albayzin neighborhood and then up onto trails that led past caves in the side of the foothills where people have carved out homes. Down in the Sacromonte neighborhood these cave homes, once the homes of gypsies,  are now white-washed and established. These farther up the hills are sort of the next cave home “suburb” out, though they have much more to do with scrappy homeless camps than leafy suburbs. Beyond the short stretch of caves we came to dusty, rocky, piney trails that seem to be much-loved, with good reason, by the mountain bike dudes that you’ll see down in Plaza Nueva gathering with their buds for a ride. Then back down through Albayzin, enjoying seeing life on some of the streets that are a little less travelled by the tourists who come up that way.

Shayla Waver's got nothin' for this earnest cantador.

Curb appeal is rough, but offers city and mountain views.

S-Works pines for her S-Works. (Note: S-Works refers to both Sheila and her mountain bike. This caption was written solely for the amusement of our friend Scott.)

The cap is from a popular regional brew. The fortress itself is in the background. This, my friends, is the very definition of a street souvenir.

Back to civilization in the Albayzin.



October 30, 2011

We were excited to see the Alhambra today and glad to have our reservations for 8:30 entry in hand. We made the walk up the long hill across the street from our hotel. Things got a little more exciting and/or perilous as we found that the reservations meant we still had to wait in a decent line to get tickets from several balky terminals… and that we’d missed the line of Spanish in the reservation that said we should show up an hour before our reservation time. Once we got our tickets, we were told that we’d better hustle on the walk, advertised as 17 minutes, to the entrance to the main palace or risk being turned away. It’s nice when all that running has an actual purpose sometimes, and all the nimbleness developed by dodgeball in gym gave us the skill to negotiate thick crowds of Japanese tourists (always reliable for the first tour of the day). We made it with time to spare, possibly setting an American Record for that particular course.

I’ll let the pictures do the talking, but the Alhambra was likely the star of all the “sites” we’ve seen on our mini grand tour here of Spain the last couple of weeks.

A word about Granada, which is starting to sink in a bit. When we first arrived yesterday, we went a couple of blocks over to a place where our friend’s niece had recommended a spot for vegetarian tapas. We sat down on a couple of low-slung orange chairs and ordered some cervezas, tapas, and falafel… and watched the scene. A little impromptu dance party broke out with four or five youngsters and a lady in her sixties; there was a bull terrier sleeping on the floor by the bar, a couple of other dogs wandering in and out, little kids. Things picked up a notch when one of the waiters went in back and put on Johnny Cash’s “Ring of Fire,” covered in an unfamilar tongue,  then he yelled “Iceland!” More dancing. The town is a kind of young person’s dream with the cafes, the nearby mountains for skiing, the beach not far away, the old gypsy cave neighborhood of Sacromonte where they say flamenco was born. Plaza Nueva, where our hotel is located, is the main crossroads where the downtown of a modern Spanish city of pretty good size meets the road up to the Alhambra, meets the cobbled streets up to the Albayzin, the old Moorish neighborhood, and the steep road out to Sacre Monte which heads out into a valley that feels like you’re leaving civilization behind. (We saw a Jesus-like hippie dude in wool poncho heading up the very steep hill on a mountain bike carrying two long sticks that seemed to be of great importance to him. Who knows? Always something intriguing/amusing to see.)  It all combines to make for a sort of Euro frontier town where I could imagine Eugene Hutz, wild-eyed lead man of Gogol Bordello, as mayor.

Main courtyard in the palace. Still catching our breath at this point, we said a little prayer to Allah for getting us through the turnstile in time.

Floor of the room where Washington Irving lived and worked in the 19th century.

I shared the view up during dinner yesterday. Today, the view down from the Alhambra shows where we were eating, right at the edge of the sunshine.

Gardens of the Generalife at the Alhambra, an atmosphere we aspire to recreate at 10 Spruce Court with the help of Colby Hill Landscaping.

Sevilla a Granada

October 29, 2011

A good long day. Kind of tired after getting up early for the bus ride, more later, but for now let’s just say that Granada has made a great first impression — a beautiful setting against the mountains with the Alhambra looming over the old part of town. Looking forward to getting up there to look around tomorrow.

Clearly somebody was paying attention at last night's flamenco performance. Early morning walk to the bus station in Seville.

Cathy, niece of our friends Jef and Jill, and her boyfriend Mitch gave us a quick tour of their neighborhood, including the ridiculously beautiful view from the rooftop deck of their apartment.

Walked up the steep hill across from the Alhambra for this sunset view...

...and down the hill for the dinner view from here.



October 28, 2011

Caught the morning train up to Cordoba, mainly to visit the historic cathedral/mosque. I’ll spare you an extensive history lesson, mostly because I’m unable to teach it – but, basically, the site originally had a Christian church on it. During the Moorish era, the Muslim leader bought the piece of land and built a huge mosque that could hold as many as 40,000 worshippers. Once the Christians ran the Muslims back out of Spain, the powers that be plopped an ornate cathedral right down in the middle of the austerely beautiful mosque. So it goes. On one hand you could say, at least they didn’t tear it down. On the other hand, the Christians sort of turned the mosque into their entryway.

The brochure, written by the current Christian landlords, was kind of defensive in tone, emphasizing the bit that the Christians were there first and referring to the “Muslim interruption.” But I did like this “reflection” that they included at the end: “The visit to the Cathedral of Cordoba may awake the demand and the quest for a greater Beauty that will not wither with time. Because beauty, as truth and righteousness, are an antidote for pessimism, and an invitation to take pleasure in life, a shaking of the soul that provokes the longing for god.”

Truth, beauty, shaking of the soul. All good. As for the longing for god, to each his own. As for Cordoba, I’m glad we made the trip for the cathedral/mosque but didn’t like the city as much as our other stops. Felt pretty good with making it a day trip, heading back to Seville about 3:30.

It was a full day as we had an evening of further soul shaking at a flamenco show. Stirring and fun and very impressive—guitar, dance, singing, and all seeming to meld into one. It was recommended to us from our Toledo friends Jack and Lynn, who I bumped into while running yesterday afternoon. We got together with them last evening for dessert… and, who knows, we’ll probably cross paths again in Granada.

Bought our bus tickets for the 9:30 to Granada tomorrow morning. Will be fun to get a look at bus travel in Spain. Seville has been a wonderful stop along the way and we’re glad we’ve had as much time here as we’ve had.

Roman bridge over the Rio Guadalquivir with the cathedral/mosque on the other side.

It's a shame that Sheila had to get in the way and spoil what would have been a lovely photo of the gentleman in the red sweater.

Eating falafel as theo/political statment: We made a point of seeking out a middle eastern place for lunch and were pleased to find "The Sultan." Tasty food, funky casbah decor and music.

Ended our last evening in Sevilla with a drink at this little bar on a quiet corner just down around the corner from our hotel.