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, https://www.facebook.com/BluesBar-Gobi-Desert-Canoe-Club-238951312822996/ 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 https://research.uta.fi/aqua/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" https://www.musee-orangerie.fr/en/event/cruel-stories-paula-rego. 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.
We stopped at a winery and were in the village of St. Guilhem arround Halloween and we spotted this ghost. Here is the stunning pont du Diable, built between 1028 and 1031 by the Abbeys of Aniane and Gellone who were in control of both banks of the river. It is early Romanesque art in the region
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.