Saturday, August 31, 2013

is it Saturday?

I think of days like this as one picture days: the entirety can be summarized in one shot, one sentence, one thought. At least at the level of the blog. And although I intend to post six  photos here tonight, it doesn't matter -- they're all within a framework of one idea: I worked most of the hours of the day and those hours of work really did define my day.

And if you don't think work is necessarily numbing of your creative edge (we all have a creative edge), try writing a post about a day that is jam-packed with work.

So yes, here we go, the breakfast.

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The flowers (there'll be fewer and fewer of these as we move into September).

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The work station.

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And a quick trip to visit Goldie -- the cat at my daughter's place. Here, Goldie is asking, impatiently -- where were you?

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And here, she's ready for her close up.

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There was dinner of course. I almost had no choice but to make chili. Too many tomatoes that need attention right away. Some aren't good enough for freezing, but, cut away the not so good parts - and you have a splendid addition to a pot of chili (for example).

Now, if you wanted to probe, I'd tell you more: worries about work, about traveling with my increasingly reluctant traveling companion (so, from OTC to IRTC, though I should add -- it's IRCT only insofar as we're talking about revisiting my continent of birth), about health, wealth and clutter on the counter tops at the farmhouse. All that, if you just scratch a tad below the surface.

But in the end, when all is summed up, processed, reviewed, I remain with the image of a one picture day. Only one that survives. That deserves attention. Which one? How about this -- from Farmer Lee's fields. Because it takes me out of my own world and puts me into the lot of someone else. Which is a good thing.


Friday, August 30, 2013

little things

Sleepy! Call it jet lag, call it Isis, I'm nearly out as I type this. A late August day, a busy with work day, a pretty day -- all that, wrapped in a blanket of intense heat as I watch the thermometer exceed the mid nineties for the first time this summer.

I've unpacked, and ran through the washing machine things that got a Banyuls vinegar bath. No, I did not break my sweet little container of precious vinegar, but sometime in that last flight, the cork popped open and so sprinkling a delicious vinegar from the Languedoc over the garden tomatoes was not meant to be.

A few flower (and berry) photos from before breakfast:

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Then breakfast, which is especially wonderful as Ed is back from up north. Beard trim is in the cards, but for now, it is wonderful to be starting the morning eating garden berries together and talking about how to proceed with farmette projects.

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More flowers. Fiery read, dry in places, but this is the season for that progression toward dormancy and truthfully  -- it has its own charm: I don't worry anymore about display, I think only about helping the sweet things along until the wake up moment comes next year when it will all begin again.

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I work on the porch even though it is hot hot hot. A little fan moves the air around and that's quite enough relief for me. I love the outdoors too much to give up on it merely because a small heat wave is passing through.

In the afternoon, I visit Goldie, the cat my daughter and her husband took in earlier this summer.

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She has a new resting place -- their dining room table and she reminds me in this way of Isis, who, last night, sat with us out on the porch, adoring the new table cloth, digging his nails in, as I shook my head and told him -- Isis, go back and ruin the couch instead. This is too fresh and therefore precious still!

 Goldie, on the other hand, just stretches out her full body and purrs.


Back at the farmette, we are having a ridiculously large harvest again. Here, you see about 1/4 of the tomatoes picked just today.I'll spare you the pile of cucumbers.

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We also pick our first corn ever and though I heard that some insist that for perfect corn, you should carry the pot of boiling water to the stalk so that you can cook it before it's even picked, we're not that far gone. We pluck two ears, split them in half (so that we can each taste both varieties)  and there you have the perfect end of summer meal -- only the salmon on the plate is not farmette grown.


Eyes closing now, almost there, almost almost! If I click "publish" I can stop fighting the great desire simply to sleep. Publish!

Thursday, August 29, 2013

taking a place with you

If you like a place, inevitably, you want to carry some of its charm back home with you. Souvenir is a French word -- to recall, remember. That's what we want, no? Ocean is a souvenir of a life, a fabric is a souvenir of Languedoc, vinegar is a souvenirs of the wonderful cuisine that you'll find there.

This post takes us from Barcelona to the farmette. When I step off the plane after the long transatlantic flight back, the feeling of being away quickly recedes. A trip begins gradually -- you plan it, think about it, engage in it before it even starts. When it's over, it's pretty much over. Except for the memories and the souvenirs.

Let me go back to the moment when I am still in Barcelona, eating a croissant  breakfast at the bar.

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I got a message that my flight will be delayed and so suddenly I'm not in a hurry to leave. The walk to the bus for the airport is equally unrushed. There's certainly enough time to take a photo of a traditional balcony...


...or another, with the (Spanish) Catalan flag.

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Or of the fantastic square, where I always get off after the airport, and now, on the return, catch the airport bus back.

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Yeah, such a city!

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The flight back is rocky. A ride over the clouds, but really through the clouds. I work during most of the nine hours. In Atlanta, the wait is manageable. Finally, I'm in the air, on the way to Madison.

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And home. Which looks like this, from up in the air.

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My daughter is there to pick me up and take me to the farmhouse (Ed is still up north). I stumble in, do right by Isis, go to sleep.

...only to awake to a warm summer day. Morning's the time to take stock, to reconsider it all.

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The flowers are fading rapidly, but they fight on, for another last set of days.

Here's my anemone -- the trooper that carries the banner all the way into September.

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And garden strawberries for a breakfast on the new tablecloth...

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A souvenir. How remarkable it all is! I install the fabric for the chairs and suddenly it's as if I am in Uzes.

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Yes, the colors of Languedoc and Provence.

I work all day, but I have two more photos for you -- one of a quiet dinner on the couch (there's  a new cover for the cushions. Yet again a very useful souvenir from the south of France).

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It all brings such color to the spaces in the farmhouse that need color. One more then. The last one -- chairs, table, all of it, out on the porch -- you've seen it just seconds ago, but now it is in the evening light of one of the few remaining summer days.

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Wednesday, August 28, 2013

leaving France

At home, Ed has plunged into making peach jam. The peach trees are sagging from an overload of fruit. We'll be eating peanut butter and peaches for lunch all winter long.

Me, I'm winding down: it's a prolonged return -- a train ride to Figueres then Barcelona, then the next day -- the flights home.

At least that's the plan. It's about to be severely challenged, but I don't know that yet. I'm enjoying my last morning in Paris, even as Ed is packing up to go camping up north with his buddy. Our travel preferences are sometimes strikingly different.

And what of this pretty morning in a refreshed from vacation city? Well, there's breakfast. Let me break out of a routine here. Surely I'm capable of walking spontaneously into a random cafe for a croissant and coffee. I pick this one -- Conti. There are people inside having a conversation about how their vacances went this year (tranquil -- says the proprietor with a shrug). I sit down at a table facing what has to be the most congested little intersection on this side of the river. Trucks routinely stop in the narrow streets to unload and cars behind are patient -- to a point. In the photo below, everyone appears to be headed at each other. That they all get through unscathed is rather miraculous.

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I eat my croissant -- not the best, not the worst and drink my coffee -- not the best, not the worst. I note that the price is comparable to that in Les Editeurs. And a few paces further, I see about five other cafes that have a more pleasant vibe and I think -- this searching out a good place for coffee has to be a life long challenge here. There are too many choices. Do you stay satisfied with a good one, or do you keep the search going?

Alright, next I must deal with the fact that I have buyer's remorse. In packing last night, I notice two things: the delightful little work skirt I purchased? I want to exchange it. To the more colorful one. Will they do it? I haven't a single receipt left. Then, too, I picked up this simple little tray with a nice flower motif. We need a tray to carry foods from the kitchen to the porch. We'd been using an ancient cookie sheet and though Ed thinks that's just perfect, I'm thinking an upgrade is in order.

The problem with the tray is that it is one inch longer than my suitcase. No, I am not sending my little case through just so that I can carry the tray on board with me. Too awkward and stupid. I shouldn't have purchased it.

So I go back to shops that have already seen too much of me -- and it turns out that this is a good thing, because they do exchanges only if a clerk recognizes your face and can confirm the purchase. The good news is that I appear to be memorable enough to be recognized. The bad news is that I appear to be memorable enough to be recognized.

That behind me, I think about lunch: My train is at 2 p.m. Should I eat before? Too early. It's much more attractive to pick up a Paul baguette with cheese and eat it on board. So I do that.

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As I stroll my neighborhood, I think surely I must stop for a good bye visit to the Jardin Luxembourg. Since lately, my trips to Paris tend to be in winter months, I miss this profusion of color there. So let me take it in one last time.

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And then I say good bye to my pretend home in Paris, hoping that there'll always be discount rates available for future visits. (It's a modest little place but nonetheless, I can't afford their full prices: travel planning requires a chicken and egg game of booking a flight on discount days that touch also discount days at hotels. Or the other way around. The Internet is a frequent traveler's most essential tool these days.)

The train station is about an hour's walk from the hotel and even though I have my case and pack and my feet have still not recovered from yesterday's crisscross of Paris, I choose to walk.

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I can't say that the heart of the walk is exciting. Wanting to avoid the crowds at the river's edge, I weave my way through a rather dismal set of blocks (insofar as Paris can be thought of as having dismal blocks at the city center; it's relative, after all). But things improve dramatically when I reach the Jardin des Plantes. I cut right through it and though it isn't terrific fun to drag a suitcase, no matter how small, on a dirt surface, the walk in the park is enchanting!  A small section of it is planted "in the wild."

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And, there is the grand avenue of trees -- always beautiful.

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Little ponds grab the attention of little tykes.

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And finally, two sections of the garden face off the yellow and blue colors -- part of this you'll see here, in the more general view of the gardens. I would say then that this should be my parting image of Paris.

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Though technically I still have to cross the river to get to the Gare de Lyon.

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And now I am almost there and I pause to check my ticket. I have about twenty minutes before departure. Perfect. I look at my reservation -- I'd picked it up back in Barcelona and I am so grateful for it because the crowds at the station are enormous.

What's this? It's a first class seat! Damn! He made a mistake. They'll never let me on with my second class ticket. Nor can I expect to get a seat on the train at this late date. I contemplate standing in line and pleading with the agent there. No, can't do it -- the line is too long.

I decide to board the train and claim my seat and argue later. I practice the speech I'll have to be making -- it's not my fault! I checked everything else -- the date, the time, but I never thought to check the class! The agent made a mistake! I have to take this train -- I have a flight to catch tomorrow! It really is not my fault!

I settle in the luxuriously comfortable armchair, plug in my computer, take out my sandwich and wait anxiously for the train to leave. The first stop will be in Valence -- pretty far south. If they throw me off the train, at least I'll be partway to Spain. Maybe there'll be some night connections I can make?

Stormy clouds outside.... I settle in to eat my sandwich.


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About an hour into the ride, the conductor enters the car. I sweat as he comes to me. He looks at the ticket, the reservation, the ticket again.
Madame, I have to tell you... (here it comes, I'm nodding my head ready to launch into my speech)
...that you will be changing trains in Figueres. You'll cross the platform for the train to Barcelona. Have a good journey.
I'm stunned. Did he not notice? Was he exceptionally kind? Such incredible luck!

I settle in to work.

And now we are passing through my beloved Languedoc and would you believe it -- I can see Franqui beach! The etang (inlet) opens up into it. The cliff jutting out of the water is there, just by the hamlet. I smile broadly. It's a moment that I will love for the sudden surprise of seeing a place that comes with memories of gentle days and childish play in a sea of turquoise and blue waters. Normally I wont post a photo below some level of technical acceptability, but this one is an exception. 

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And soon after, it gets even better: I see the receding chain of the Pyrenee mountains and hills, spilling into the sea, the hills of Sorede, the hills that I've climbed with Ed -- all of them, many times, as he likes to remind me, with a yawn.

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Just one more glance!

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And now we're over the border. The transfer in Figueres is smooth, the train pulls in on time to Barcelona.

There, I have a little less luck in trying to get a refund for a seat reservation issued to me by an agent here for a train that did not exist. A wasted twelve Euros. But I get nowhere and after a while I count my blessings and head out. To my Emilia home.

And by 11 p.m. I am at El Cargolet -- the neighborhood bar-restaurant, the place where Ed and I have gone back for the paella, for the informality of the bar-restaurant, for the comfort of being in a neighborhood place where locals come over to satisfy their near midnight eating cravings.

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In the past, the waiter has recognized us and laughed at my curious habit of photographing stuff around me, but that's because he recognized Ed, who is (however you might take this) quite the memorable one of the two of us. Now, I eat my mushrooms, followed by the delicious paella in the anonymity that not speaking the language affords.

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No moon tonight. There's a threat of sprinkles in fact. Barcelona may still be wide awake, but by midnight, I'm ready to call it a day. I leave you with a humble nod to the flowers that so defined the last few days for me. (These, from the Jardin de Luxembourg.)

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