Horseback Riding in Montserrat, Spain

Trail ride at Three Rivers Ranch, Spain

On our excursion to Montserrat, my family hiked half a day and rode horses the other half. We descended the mountain and arrived at Three Rivers Ranch where we met Juan, a Spanish cowboy. His primary focus is his cattle which explains the variety of cows lazing in the sun adjacent to the stables. We learned that he leads trail rides as a way to exercise the horses. We enjoyed getting to know our horses’ personalities and learning best riding practices.

The beautiful countryside that is part of Montserrat National Park reminded me of Tuscany– rolling hills, vineyards, and gorgeous landscapes in every direction. Hon, I felt grateful that the day worked out so well, and that Hubby and I had an opportunity to share a full, active day with three of our four kids. We all love adventure, exploring, and being outdoors.

Writing this post reminds me of other trail rides, one of which was local and a great activity with tweens and teens. (info on that coming soon…)

Hon, do you like to horseback ride?

Hiking Montserrat, Spain

Montserrat, Spain.

Montserrat’s trails are rocky, sunny, and steep. Hon, I needed to catch my breath! We were lucky to be accompanied by a guide who knows the mountain well enough to re-route us when paths were blocked. You know what we saw? Mountain goats resting in the shade. The multi-peaked mountain range overlooks Catalonia and reaches 1,236m (4,055 feet) at its highest summit, Sant Jeroni. The other two main peaks are Montgrós at 1,120m and Miranda de les Agulles at 903m. 

The geology and nature of Montserrat Mountain Range are unusual and to preserve it, a nature park was established in 1987. In Mesozoic era, over 100 million years ago, the mountain top was under water, part of a delta area, and the sediments in the present day rock pillars were in the bottom of a river and lake. After the lake and river dried, the area was exposed to erosion, and over a long period of time, the mountain with several peaks formed.

Not just the geology is uncommon, but also the climate up in the mountain is unique, with different micro-climates. Wildlife of the park includes mammal like squirrels, boars and goats, a wide range of different birds, bats and geckos. Vegetation varies from oak forests to small flowery meadows, and altogether there are over 1250 species of plants.

Finnsaway
Climbing a vertical, rocky path.

Meaning and Miró , The Smallest Noise and Constellations of Sounds

Joan Miró, gouache, c.1934

Last in series of posts from Fundació Joan Miró in Barcelona.

I found many of Miró’s works intriguing for their artistry and for their meanings. As a writer whose Kidlit language is lyrical and seemingly simple, but actually layered with emotion and action, I appreciate knowing the thoughts that inspired the process.

When it comes to canvases saturated with one color, I have a harder time connecting to the work, but the meaning behind “Landscape” felt different–it’s like us as individuals in our lives or us as humans in the universe.

“Letters and Numbers Attracted by a Spark(V)” called out to me. Letters float in the sky and look down on water and earth. I wonder,

Do the letters which form sentences and tell stories that are derived from my imagination with the goal of resonating with children ever going to get a chance to come to life?

The depth of meaning in Joan Miró’s work springs from a desire to capture the essence of human existence. On a personal level, this desire also implied an affirmation of identity that arose from Miró’s strong connection with the land–with Mont-roig, the original source of his creativity. ‘It is the land, the land. It is stronger than I. The fantastic mountains have a very important role in my life, and so does the sky. It is the clash between these forms within my soul, rather than the vision itself. In Mont-roig it is the force that nurtures me, the force.’

Excerpts from Fundació Joan Miró

Landscape, c. 1968

“‘Silence is a denial of noise – but the smallest noise in the midst of silence becomes enormous,’ said Miró. As the only referential element, a blurry point acquires a powerful presence, but also makes the space around it resonate. Therefore the point reinforces the presence of the space while also emphasizing the weave, the material of the canvas.” (https://www.fmirobcn.org/en/)

Fundació Joan Miró, Barcelona, Part 2

Joan Miró

At the Joan Miró Foundation in Barcelona, I found the sculptures and enormous wall hangings as intriguing as the paintings. The museum has several outside areas as well as interactive art and a place for young children to explore and build. Kudos to including the kiddos! Just like the Peggy Guggenheim Collection in Venice, I’d return to the Foundation if I traveled to Barcelona again.

Miró insisted that art ought to be an extension of life and part of life itself…His increasing knowledge of ceramics and sculpture led him to cultivate some of these techniques using more weather-resistant materials…Beginning in the 1960’s he was particularly prolific sculpting in bronze. In Miró’s view, both sculpture and ceramics were closely bound to nature…Landscape claimed the last word: out in the open, his pieces interact with their surroundings and, to some extent, give back to the land that which has always belonged to it.

Excerpts from the Fundació Joan Miró

Hon, if you ever go, I highly recommend bringing headphones so that you can listen to explanations of pieces throughout the museum via your phone.

“Lovers playing with almond blossom,” resin, c.1975, These sculptures are models for the enormous sculptures displayed at La Defense, Paris.” Of the two people, “One is captured as a tall cyclinder with yellow and reddish regions, with a blue ball shape on top. The round blue shape is decorated with pre-historic style abstract shapes which would deliver symbolic meaning to this intriguing piece. There is then a second tall construction, with a pointed blue shape that leans away, though with a red claw-like feature which is placed around half way up. It could perhaps be a hand reaching out to catch the ball which sits on the other figure…” (joanmiropaitings.org)

Fundació Joan Miró, Barcelona, Part 1

Joan Miró

Hon, I have lots to share from my trip to Spain. Our first stop was Madrid where our daughter is studying this semester. From Madrid, we took the high speed train to Barcelona. We saw so many different things from palaces to parks, churches to cobblestone street, and museums to mountains. So fun!

When I found out about the Joan Miró Foundation in Barcelona, I added it to my itinerary. Miró, a Catalan painter who combined abstract art with Surrealist fantasy, wanted to create an international, interdisciplinary center that made art available to the public. He created the Foundation by donating the majority of his work which is supplemented by donations from his wife Pilar Juncosa, artist Joan Prats, and collector Kazumasa Katsutas.

The Joan Miró Foundation reminded me of the Peggy Guggenheim Collection in Venice because the artwork is housed in a smaller, interesting building set away from the center of the city. Whereas the Peggy Guggenheim Collection faces Venice’s Grand Canal, the Joan Miró Foundation, located in Parc de Montjuïc, sits on a hill with a gorgeous view of Barcelona.

The Fundació Joan Miró was created by Miró himself, at first principally with works from his own private collection, with a desire to set up an internationally recognised centre in Barcelona for Miró scholarship and contemporary art research, and to disseminate the collection. The Fundació opened to the public on 10 June 1975 and has since become a dynamic centre in which Joan Miró’s work coexists with cutting-edge contemporary art.

https://www.fmirobcn.org/en/foundation/

“Figure in front of the sun,” acrylics, c.1968
In this diptych, the figure in each painting appears in a celestial landscape accompanied by the moon in one and the sun in the other.
View of Barcelona from museum terrace, “Sun, moon and one star,” bronze and painted cement, c.1968
Image source: Fundació Joan Miró

Bayeux, France in Photos, Part 1

IMG_1139
Macarons bigger than Oreos!

Hubby and I are now in Paris and today we’re headed to Giverny!

I’ll have lots to post when we get back to the U.S., but in the meantime, here are some pics of Bayeux, France. We rode a commuter train from London to Portsmouth, England and, from there, crossed the English Channel on an overnight Brittany Ferry from Portsmouth to France.

Bayeux feels like a step back in time. We had visited Bath, England which is also historic, but Bath is filled with stores that you see everywhere which, in my opinion, takes away from the town’s authenticity. Bayeux has plenty of stores–our Normandie tour guide called it bourgeois–but they and the cafes seemed individually owned rather than international chains. The village is filled with quirky shops:  a ceramicist’s gallery that includes her studio (throwing wheel, bags of clay, and unfinished work right behind a half wall, just my kind of place!); a tiny home goods shop with beautiful, velvet bed covers and pillows; a shop just for hats; shops featuring locals artisans; a needlework store or “Broderie” that recalls the town’s famous tapestry; and a shop that sells merchandise adorned with poppies–so specific to the region.

Bayeux is a town on the Aure river in the Normandy region of northwestern France, 10 kilometers from the Channel coast. Its medieval center contains cobbled streets, half-timbered houses and the towering, Norman-Gothic Cathédrale Notre-Dame. The famed 68-meter Tapisserie de Bayeux, an 11th-century tapestry depicting the 1066 Norman invasion of England, is on display in an 18th-century seminary.

 

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Travel Bug, Crayon Box Burano, Venice, Italy (Part 1)

Burano, Venice, Italy

In honor of Hubby’s and my upcoming trip to Europe, I’m re-posting these photos from Burano, Italy. We’re headed to England and France where I’m sure to be bitten by the travel bug. If I was independently wealthy, I’d travel the world! Hey, I can write anywhere, and what better way to get inspired than to meet new people and visit new places?

And, as for my love of children, ask my own kids–language barriers aren’t barriers at all when a child’s smiling eyes meet mine. If that sounds sappy, so be it, but consider…

  • in an airport security line, a mom handed me her baby to hold while she struggled to open up her stroller,
  • in a store, a toddler giggled at our silly game, then threw her arms around me for big hugs,
  • in Sienna, Italy, a 5 year old German boy and I  played hide and seek at breakfast,
  • in a shoe department, a 3 year old boy slid over to me and let me tie his shoes,
  • in a bookstore, a 4 year old girl and I read books together,
  • on a train from Manhattan, a 6 year old girl and I played I Spy,
  • in a restaurant, new twins parents and I bonded over being parents of multiples and then took me up on my offer to hold a baby so the mom could eat,
  • at the store where I work, two 5th grade girls asked me to be in their  Tic Toc video (umm, yes!), and then hung around for hours chatting about their siblings, parents and teachers,
  • And so many more wonderful encounters here and abroad.

So, while we travel, I’ll be on the lookout for smiling eyes because those connections, no matter how short, are joyful.

And hon, I need a whole lot of joy just about now.

Shops along the canal, Burano.
Shops along the canal.

School boys meeting by a first floor window.
School boys meeting by a first floor window.

Photographer's delight.
Photographer’s delight.

Hubby and daughters.
Hubby and daughters.

Crayon Box Burano, Venice, Italy (Part 1)

Burano, Venice, Italy
Burano, Venice, Italy

Burano is a photographer’s delight, a lagoon island filled with crayon box colored houses. Is it a tourist destination? Yes. Does every shop carry similar merchandise? Yes.

Yet, it was still an interesting place to visit.

We had booked tickets for a water taxi tour that made stops at Murano, Torcello and Burano. Of the three, Burano was the only island that felt inhabited. It’s known for its lace-making, so you can guess what most shops featured. Inside some shops were older women actually making lace, and I met a twenty-something salesgirl who showed me the lace earrings she was working on.

Between my interest in photography and my appreciation for needlework, I was in thrall at every turn.

Shops along the canal, Burano.
Shops along the canal.

School boys meeting by a first floor window.
School boys meeting by a first floor window.

Photographer's delight.
Photographer’s delight.

Hubby and daughters.
Hubby and daughters.

 

Venice View

Laundry hanging to dry.
Laundry hanging to dry.

I admit it. I was camera crazy in Venice!

Something catches my eye and I have the urge to capture it. It’s always interesting to see if the photo I take highlights the element that drew me to the scene. I took these pics FROM the water during our Venetian Rowing Lesson (yay, Row Venice!).  I hope you think they are bellisima.

 Grazie!

The juxtaposition of the red flower boxes and building with the church behind set against a blue sky was.
The juxtaposition of red flower boxes and building with a church behind set against a blue sky said Italy to me.

Gondolier on his cell phone.
Gondolier on his cell phone.

This ambulance was in a hurry so we had to navigate our boat out of the way.
This ambulance was in a hurry so we had to navigate our batelina out of the way.

 

 

 

 

 

Venice buildings are so old!
Venice buildings are so old.

Seagulls are everywhere!
Seagulls are everywhere.

 

 

 

 

Murano glass.
Murano glass.

Happy colors.
Happy colors.

 

 

 

 

 

Eating outdoors even in February.
Eating outside even in February.

One point perspective.
One point perspective.

Canal, church and reflection framed by a bridge's arch.
Canal, church and reflection framed by a bridge’s arch.

 

 

 

 

 

Beach Blanket Bingo (Embarrassed in France)

Nice, France, 1988, I'm on the right in the black whole piece. Ilene is wearing a white t-shirt. The blonde guy in the Speedo was someone we met that day. The other three people are other student backpackers. Peter is not pictured in any of these photos.
Nice, France, 1988, I’m on the right in the black whole piece. Ilene is wearing a white t-shirt. The blonde guy in the Speedo was someone we met that day. The other three people are other student backpackers. Peter is not pictured in any of these photos.

Sunbathers in summer of 1988. Nice, France
Sunbathers in summer of 1988. Nice, France

Rating of this post:  somewhere between PG-13 and R, depending on which country you live in, what year you were born, if you are a direct descendant of Puritans, your Zodiac sign and personality traits.

Warning: If discussing the body makes you uncomfortable, you can find recipes under the category “Call Me Cook.”

Intro:  If you read about my trip to Jamaica in April, then you might remember how surprised I was when I met a couple of nudists.  After I posted “Birthday Plus Suit Equals ?, I comprised a list of my Top Ten Questions For Visitors To The “N” (as in Naked) Resort.  The whole subject reminded me of one of the most embarrassing moments in my life. Friends, if you’ve already heard this anecdote, skip it!

Back story:  In 1988, after graduating from college, a girlfriend (shout out to Ilene) and I backpacked across Europe.  We wound our way to Nice in the south of France where we planned to sunbathe and relax. For the entire backpacking trip, we asked each other one question: “Should we or should we not go topless in Nice?” We spent much emotional energy discussing this topic.

You know the whole “When in Rome” argument?  Well, a lot of French women don’t wear bathing suit tops and we wanted to be like them.  Then again, our modesty combined with skin that had never seen the light of day weighed heavily on our minds.  But, we were on an adventure (Writer friends, can you name which one of my characters is on an adventure?  But, I digress.) and were young.

Scenario:  Walking to the beach, we stopped at shops to browse.

Me:  “Look at the baskets of bikinis!”

Friend:  “There are only bottoms!  That’s it.  Let’s do it.”

Me:  “Okay, but we’re wearing whole pieces.”

Friend:  “Once we lay down, we’ll roll them down. At the same time!  Anyway who are we going to see?”

Me:  “You’re right.  Who are we going to see?”

I interrupt this story to tell you that we had met up with some other students (pictured above)  backpacking in Europe.  The girls were having the same dilemma as us and we weren’t interested in the boys “like that.”

After we set up our beach towels…

Friend:  “Tell me when you’re ready.”

Me:  “One the count of three:  one, two, three!” (Much giggling ensued!)

After awhile we got used to the exposure (pun intended) and sat up.  Then from a bunch of beach blankets away…

Peter (former football player and biggest jock in my high school):  “Naomi, is that you?  Hi!”

I lookeded in his direction and half-waved, half-covered my now burnt-to-a-crisp upper body (applying sunscreen would have been doubly mortifying so, alas, we didn’t).  I realized not only was Peter sitting a few blankets away, so were some other boys from Baltimore!

Two thoughts went through my mind:

1)  “What are the chances boys from Baltimore are sitting on the same beach I am at the same time I decide to roll down my top?!?

2)  The biggest jock from my high school, who I was never friends with, never had classes with and who I hadn’t seen since high school graduation, knew my name?  Wow!

Friend:  “You know him?”

Me:  “I can’t believe it!!”

Peter:  Waving and pointing me out to friends.

Me:  “Cover me!”

Friend:  Blocked view of me while I quickly rolled up my top.

Me:  I stayed on my towel and waved back, but I did’t go over and say hi!

Friend and I decided it was best to be occupied.  We ran to the water, grabbed a paddleboat and stayed out in the water for a long time.

That was the beginning and end of my “When in Rome” adventure!

Two more things happened after that:

1)  Peter gave me a big hug when we ran into him in Monaco the next night. (OMG!)

2)  My friend and I were in pain for a week.

Moral of the story:  Don’t roll down your top if you’re too embarrassed to apply sunblock! 

Do you have any embarrassing moments you’d like to share?  

My friend and I went paddleboating after the embarrassing incident. We stayed out in the water a long time!
My friend and I went paddleboating after the embarrassing incident. We stayed out in the water a long time!

Sexy sand sculpture!
Sexy sand sculpture!