Monday, December 31, 2018

France and Spain, Old Friends and New

My last weekend in Finland, I took the train from Helsinki to Tampere, where I performed my  sauna poems in between Angie Pohja's blue band's hot melodies at the funky Gobi Desert Canoe Club Bar,  and then to cap off a fantastic weekend at Angie's home with Tommi, Lilja, Ella, and Niko, Angie and I went to sweat and freeze at the Rauhaniemen  public sauna. I only made it into cold Lake Näsijärvi up to my knees. Joining us were Lilja and my friend and fellow ecocritic/poet, Toni Lahtinen

Then, off to Paris, where I met up with BMCC colleague also on sabbatical, the wonderful Page Delano who is a fabulous tour guide of all the Paris insurgents of the WW II period, especially women journalists, authors and agitators. We missed the yellow vest protests against Macron  by a few weeks! Paris is always a blast, and I visited the lovely Jardin Des Plants and Gallery L'Orangerie where  Page and I experienced the revelation of the art of Portuguese pastellist, painter and sculptor Paula Rego, the only female artist of the "London Group"  We agreed that there was a mixture of surreal, sacred, and baroque  in her work.

After Paris, I traveled to Montpellier at the invitation of Nadia Vigel, who I had met a few years ago on a boat trip on Lake Powell in Utah. Nadia is a fabulous cook and generous guide, and she took me to visit the most beautiful sights in the Languedoc-Roussillion area of the south of France, as well as Uzès, a stunning village north of Nimes. We explored, ate fabulous French food and drank the local wines which are sublime and inexpensive. Thank you so much Nadia!

Here I am enjoying a marvelous lunch of seafood in the main square of Uzès with Nadia and her sister.  Nadia also showed me St. Guilhem-le-Desert, and Sète, "Venice of the Languedoc" because of its canals and boats. Here are from the Mount Sinclair overlooking the city. We also discovered a wonderful small museum that had artists from Congo who use "found materials" to make all their works. 

Final stops--Madrid and Toledo, Spain. While in the La Mancha town, (as a huge fan of Don Quixote, I was thrilled to pass through this part of Spain) I visited a medieval synagogue with Jade, whom I met on the bus ride from Madrid to Toledo. Jade is originally from Ghana, but she grew up in Germany, and is now studying pre-med under the Erasmus program and taking a semester in Spain and the Canary Islands. We had a fantastic afternoon exploring the gorgeous sights. I am so grateful to have met so many wonderful people and visited these amazing places. 

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