Posts tagged ‘travel’

On imagination.

My beloved B and I recently returned from four days in Barcelona. The Catalan capital has long been on our bucket list, largely due to an architect called Antoni Gaudí. We have seen many iconic images and films about his work. A potent appetizer. His natural forms and original thinking appealed to us hugely.

Expectation and images had created a… an appeal, an appetite that could easily have led to disappointment. Too often we have been underwhelmed when reality has failed to match such expectation. We have stood before certain great works in Rome and Amsterdam and been respectfully awed by the obvious talent and skill that created such work but somehow we remained underwhelmed, unmoved.

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And so we approached Casa Batlló with restrained optimism.  Huge crowds stood outside the tall thin terrace and that kicked in my aversion to long queues. We looked from across La Rambla at the extraordinary exterior and that was enough to encourage me to cross the road. As it happened the dense crowd was content with the exterior and few had joined the ticket line. We were inside in minutes and since it was early it was not oppressively crowded.

As we climbed the stairs to the first floor we exchanged knowing grins. There was going to be no disappointment here. We pointed, smiled, touched and minutely observed a great deal but spoke little, as we drank in the detail and the forms. We were truly and properly awed by the small-scale spectacle of Gaudí’s achievement. The beauty was in the detail and the overwhelming attention to every tiny facet of the design. On the way back down from the roof I stood by a door with my fingers nestling in the ergonomically perfect form of a small handle shaped to fit the hand. I called B and she too held it and smiled and a tear moistened her eye. We sighed and smiled and touched each other and we were silent.

That day we saw more, so much more, but it was only when we lay side-by-side back in our hotel that we spoke of the Gaudí house that had moved B to tears of joy.

We replayed and synced our mind movies and talked: “The blue tiles in the light-well that were graduated from dark to lighter lower down to exaggerate the incoming light…”

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“The turtle shell patterns…”

“The curved organic flow of wood in windows and frames and the way light was used to paint rooms through stained class…”

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Those mind movies play still so that weeks later we share and try to find words to connect our imaginations so our four-day break will stretch into the future.

I marvel at the power of imagination; I marvel at the creative spark that can move others to a lifetime altered by that creative spark that ignites ones’ imagination to previously unknown heights of … what? ‘Aesthetic appreciation’ is accurate but too narrow. The nature and power of the human imagination, when done this well, is a soaring flight that lifts us and makes us feel glad we have that creative spark. Some, like me, try to find that spark in words, others like B, in dance movement, still others with music or paint or film or any of the other arts-and-crafts that seem so fundamental a part of the human imagination.

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For me the majesty of Gaudí’s basilica Sagrada Familia, is a homage not to any religious mystical experience, but to that spark and leap of human imagination that can create joy and tears in us.

New York Icon Stories

I intend this blog to be more personal now I have my website up for the books.

I have been putting off writing about our extended US visit to Virginia and New York City. Now I’ve had time to digest that trip, the next few post will be devoted to those visits. All posts will be brief from now on, as I try to resist my temptation to let the creative juices take control. I’m told blog readers have a very limited attention span for posts! I’m not sure I agree with this social media accepted wisdom – I read all of a post if it’s interesting and can’t believe my literary minded readers are any different, however I will be doing this as a series of short essays rather than a young novel.

 

New York Streets

New York Streets

New York, New York it’s an icon. All the English speaking world knows New York or they think they do. Since birth we have been presented with images both visual and literary of this city. In film, song, books and later, TV, the streetscape are familiar and often better known than our own capital cities so when Brigitte and I had the chance of a week there we were excited and looked forward to seeing , smelling and pounding the sidewalks of this iconic place. We found an apartment for short term rent just off 2nd Ave in the shadow of the UN building. Lets say nothing about that other than it was a great location. The apartment its self was tiny, dirty, ill-equipped and expensive but it served well as a base to explore, mainly on foot.

Our arrival from Newark by bus, left us near Grand Central and we had what I suspect was a typical bad tourist experience with a New York Cab – he ripped us off for a three block journey. I learned quickly that if a cabby says he has no change you say ‘Not my problem’ and do not make the mistake of handing over a twenty for an eight-buck fare! He was gone before I could do anything. On our return to the same bus stop on leaving, we walked or in my case staggered with a suitcase with broken wheels – I thought I’d die! That arrival and departure were the only low points in an otherwise packed week filled with delights and strained necks from all the looking up.

New York was a deluge; a flood of impressions, an overload of stimulation and it left us breathless and excited but at times uneasy. Not fearful, the unease was a philosophical thing. Big cities and the life of big cities with populations much greater than the whole of little Ireland, are a shock to the system. One question kept circulating: “Why do people choose to live here?” There are many possible answers and many of them are based on the income of the people you are considering. Those near the top of the scale can have escape from the hustle and speed and I guess some have bolt-holes elsewhere to go and slow down. But for those in the lower reaches – it seems a grind. A relentless grind to make ends meet and to climb a ladder that may or may not be there in reality.

All cities offer that promise – the promise of an income, a living that does not depend on the weather and the earth and the strength of your back. But all cities also grind up these seekers and trap them and use the big promise to keep them working and supporting the beast – the beast of consumerism that must be fed low income workers to survive. Why do so many people live in New York? I still don’t know the answer.

Next time – a food rant and first impressions of the cultural icons.

Heritage.

1545.jpgSaturday the 17th August 2013 was Cork City Heritage open day.  A unique event celebrating the architecture and history of the built heritage of the city. Many buildings not normally open to the public were opened for the day, many had special events and guided tours. We could not miss this.  Read more…

The old-world, begining and end.

View from Valenica

View from Valenica

It was a steamy tropical land south of the equator; swamps, mountains, high rainfall, a primal jungle teaming with the land-pioneers – insects. Amphibians came ashore to harvest the vegetation and insects and some evolved to stay on land. They were the very first vertebrates to colonise the land; lizard-like Tetrapods crawling and slithering through the mud. The high rain fall brought floods of silt from the mountains, quickly filling and burying the tracks of the Tetrapod.

Grandads foot prints.

Grandads foot prints.

Read more…

The Rainbow Nation.

I am still in a whirl emotionally after our three week stay in the Western Cape. The nature was truly fabulous and was what we sought out most. That aspect of the trip was a great success. The culture of the area around Cape Town and Stellenbosch is perhaps not typical of the whole country. Stellenbosch, where we were based, is an old Dutch style settlement dominated by its university, tourism and wine estates. Its picturesque and comfortably familiar for a European visitor and that in itself was very odd. This is Africa, there are settlements all around Stellenbosch or what the locals call ‘the village,’ the houses are often pretty fortresses with electric fences and big dogs. Armed response security vans tour the middle class estates and everywhere are warning signs about the alarms. This comfortable whitewashed prettiness feels like a place under siege and that is very unsettling.  Read more…

African Impressions.

A Looking hole.

A Looking hole.

South Africa is not all the same. The Cape is very different to the area around Jo-Burg. It’s all in the seeing I guess. Many people from our parts hated their visit to Jo-Burg, too shocking and too massive and without the compensation of wonderful scenery, cool sea breeze and Penguins and the Cape Wineries.

This watering hole in the Addo reserve is a case in point. Nothing here, right?  Read more…

South African overload.

Images crowd one upon another. A vivid mind film replayed before sleep every night. The ones that stick are not always the big screen panoramic vistas.

Tortoise

Tortoise

A tortoise under a bush,

Penguins Stoney Point

Penguins Stoney Point

a group of resting penguins and their smell,

Don't mess with us!

Don’t mess with us!

 

 

 

the fierce intelligence and menace of a pair of baboons at the roadside.

Road back in time.

Road back in time.

A sandy track leading back in time to the first settlements and farms. The scale and majesty of the place.

In Cape Town

In Cape Town

The diversity of people and the beauty of faces in a city filled with excitement and potential. Energy and drive and dignity, even in the new shanty settlements so shocking to our comfortable eyes. The satellite TV dishes on the little cardboard and tin and ticky-tacky self built houses shouting of priorities we find odd but are they?

Fynbos-flowers

Fynbos-flowers

It goes on and the images pile up making a visit with years worth of replays and sifting.

On and on.

On and on.

Wine Country

Wine Country