Shrove Monday in Poros

Poros

 

Grilled octopus a la IMF/ Memorandum Octopus / Mussels a la Strauss Kahn / Mussels and rice risotto a la Schäuble/

fresh squid / Merkel aubergine salad / Fried anchovies a la Sarkozy / Cockles Venizelos

Harbour Authorities

A good friend of mine invited us to Poros (little island 2 hours away from Athens) for a couple of days around Shrove Monday. It was cloudy and rainy and everybody was peeved. I thought it was lovely. Summer places  look more interesting when it’s winter and there are no tourists. They are a bit naked.

Everyone was discussing the economic -not just economic anymore- situation, as is usually the case the last couple of years. Everybody is angry and the lucky ones are grateful. Suddenly being able to eat at the taverna once in a while  is something to celebrate. Not that I applaud that. I don’t believe in going back, I believe in going in. Everyday, you must know what matters most. Second and third choices are ok as long as we remember why they are second and third.

My dream, the other night

In my dream I was in a floating city, a bit like an island, but with parks, railway stations and high buildings. And there was a party going on in this multicultural city. You just had to hop on the train and get off anywhere you liked and a part of the celebration would be taking place right in front of you. Afterwards, you could get on the train again and go somewhere else where a different kind of feast was taking place. A moveable feast indeed.

People I had never met, people from other lands were talking to me in my language, even very young children. They were approaching me and telling me their secrets: “I hadn’t been out of the house for 2 weeks straight”, “I know where the body is buried, the one on the news last night”, “my little sister hit me and I haven’t told my mother”.  But when I tried to answer back, they would look at me as if I was crazy and move away, or talk amongst themselves, or say something too generic.

My friend approached me, and she said “do you realize we are able to read thoughts?” and I felt she was right because people were not actually talking. I thought they were talking to me, but that was only their thoughts coming alive in words, in front of my eyes. “That’s why it’s in Greek” I said.

It was a very happy dream. It made me feel that I would be able to help them or just listen and offer some relief. Like a little bit of me was in them and a little bit of them was inside of me.

Wake up, it’s spring

While I was gone, I ate things larger than my head’s circumference

I went to Mani in Southern Peloponnese

I went to Amsterdam again (for work) when it was freezing

We went to Vlasti in Northern Greece and were given mushrooms as big as a side table lamp

and saw beautiful lakes and the sunlight in the water

We went to Nymfaio for a day (freezing but the sun was shining)

 

Spring woke me up at last.  I have some news to share, like the fact that I have changed jobs and now work in a multi-national company, or that I have been on some really pleasant trips, or that I am scared about the future as most Greeks are. Or that I have got back with one of my best friends with whom I hadn’t been talking for 5 years.

Mostly good things. How have you been all this time? A bit preposterous to be asking but let me be forgiven on  wheather grounds.

Last stop, Paris

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Luxembourg Gardens

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Shakespeare & Co, is more than the best English bookshop in Paris. It’s a landmark.

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Notre Dame

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Pont des Arts: Blondie told me that lovers lock a padlock to the bridge and toss the key into the Seine, signifying their everlasting love.

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Louvre Museum

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That’s a nice little hotel Blondie showed me, saying it is MY hotel (no, she didn’t send us to stay there)

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Place de la Bastille

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Odalisque with Red Trousers by Henri Matisse, in Centre Pompidou

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This is the cafe where Amelie works, Cafe des 2 Moulins, in Montmartre

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If you have seen Amelie, do you remember  Monsieur Collignon’s grocery store, at Rue des Trois Frères, in Montmartre?

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We had fragrant tea at the Mosque in Paris. You can also taste great eastern pastries.

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That’s Oscar Wilde’s grave at Père Lachaise Cemetery. It’s full of kisses, hearts, I loveyous, and tickets for the big journey.

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My son wanted to go to the top of Eiffel Tower and that’s what you see from 300 meters (986 feet) high.

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There’s nothing to say about Paris, is there? There are only things to see and do and feel. If you like big cities, that’s one of the best big cities. If you like lots of parks and green and spots to hide away from the world, it’s got that too. Art, history, fashion, fantastic food, cupcakes, Amelie, all the best things in life are there. And we were lucky to have our friends to show us around and take us to places that are a bit off the beaten track.

Bruges

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Town Hall

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The entrance to where we were staying

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Naughty chocolate shop

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The Grote Markt, it’s like Christmas village all year round

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Saint Salvator Cathedral

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That’s not a photoshop filter, that’s the actual sky. Foul weather.

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Passage: A nice restaurant with lots of atmosphere

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The Town Hall, one of the most beautiful buildings

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At  ‘t Brugs Beertje, an old pub with hundreds of beers. Belgian beer is the best in the world (along with Guinness, but that’s just my opinion)

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Even if it is raining, you HAVE to take the boat ride in the canals. You see things you aren’t able to see on foot.

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De Proeverie, I loved, loved, loved this tea room with the most amazing chocolate

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Our Lady’s Church with the Madonna by Michelangelo

If you have heard anything about Bruges, you will have heard that it is like a fairytale. And it is. Then, there’s the weather that brings you down to earth a bit, but even the rain and the wind look better there. But does it have a soul? I only stayed for 3 days, so I can’t answer that. I think the Belgian soul is a complicated thing. Or maybe it is so simple that I don’t understand it. But I had trouble connecting with the Belgian, even in shops, when they joked, I couldn’t tell if they were laughing with me or at me. I read that they are very private and that they generally like peace and quiet. This is strange for a Mediterranean person. For us, peace and quiet is what you do when you die. So it was nice to be able to sit still for a while. But that also means that you have to find other ways to connect.

Going to Bruges was a dream of mine, for many years. It’s not that far, but somehow, it never happened. And in August, when I was there, there were so many (other) tourists, lots of rain and wind and 13 Celsius degrees, so we had to buy clothes and shoes to be able to walk around. I liked it very much but I didn’t love it, like I love other, maybe less beautiful places. That said, I think I am going to visit again in better weather. And there’s the chocolate. Ah, the chocolate.

Tomorrow: Photos from Paris

Amsterdam

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If you ever visit Amsterdam, don’t miss Artis, the zoo, with a planetarium, a geological museum a zoological museum and aquarium.

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The Netherlands: Lovely and flat (unsettlingly so)

This summer we went to Amsterdam, Bruges and Paris.
With the economy expected to sink in new depths, we thought we’d better take this trip we had been planning for a long time, sooner rather than later. Because who knows if we will be able to do so in the near future?
So here are some photos, because every time I do something major, I like to report back to you. With the scarcity of posts going on around here, you must know I don’t often do anything major.
Amsterdam was friendly and pleasant. It’s not as small as people who write travel articles often tell you it is. No, you can’t walk all of it in one day. You need at least 3 or 4 days to see most things, unless you just want to see the canals and drink beer.
I had an emotional moment in the queue for the Van Gogh museum. The museum had just opened for the day and it was 10 o’ clock in the morning. Yet, there were more than 500 hundred people in the queue. I thought how Van Gogh had only managed to sell 1 painting during his brief life and how he had tried so hard and had worked himself to exhaustion, and had made friends with so many genius artists of his time, in order to belong, so as to make a living out of his art. And he died thinking he wasn’t good enough.

We had lots of beer (we had even more in Belgium), good weather and miles and miles to walk.

Tomorrow I am going to post pictures from Bruges,  one of the most beautiful towns in Europe. God blessed it with beauty but its weather is the work of the devil.

Song of the day: Amsterdam (Peter Bjorn and John)