Thursday, September 21, 2017

Porto and the first week of the Camino

The Camino begins
FIRST IN PORTO
We arrived in Portugal about 2 weeks ago from England. Each leg of our trip provides new and different views, cultures, language and experiences for the body, mind and spirit.

Our first week was a return to a favorite city Porto (and the same Airbnb on Rua da Alegria 62).  Porto is such a walkable city and we continued our "training" for the big camino by visiting many old and new sites by foot. A thrill is always searching out good veg restaurants and now, with Molly (our Iphone with googlemaps) we find anything we want with ease. 
The houses of Riberia, along the river

Unfortunately I have a bit of sciatica so Porto provided us with an opportunity to visit an acupuncturist-massage therapist who gave me two treatments during the week. I am learning ways to manage it for this long walk as there are only short moments of discomfort and thankfully only at the end of the day. Not sure how I got it but I am hoping it disappears as easily as it came.

For anyone interested in the food and restaurants during our stay in Porto, please visit my blog at:
https://vegan-food-adventures.blogspot.pt/

Symphony Orchestra of Porto
Our new activities in Porto included a night concert of the Symphony Orchestra of Porto, the 6 Bridge boat tour, a long walk to Matinoshos and a repeat of a favorite restaurant, DaTerra, the big Mercado Bohao, the art musuem and gardens of Serralves.

We visited Palacio de Cristal with beautiful gardens and grounds and view of River Duoro and then to Museu Romantico and Casa Tait - both were closed but we walked the extensive grounds.
Ricardo's favorite - pastel de Nata

Here are my thoughts about visiting the same place twice (or more). My memories that are vivid about some things and vague about others are renewed. It is fun to be able to take the public transportation because we knew a bit more about where we were going. Going to the same Airbnb as last time made it feel like going "home". Drawing at the same place as before is interesting. I never have forgotten a place that I sat and drew so going back to the tea house at the Casa da Cha - at the Art Museum Seravales and drawing the houses along the riverfront of the Duoro River was a great way to reinforce my memory. 
Typical Portuguese roofs

After 6 days in our Airbnb we moved to the Hotel Trinidade in a different area of town. We did this because we were now beginning our 2 weeks with Portuguese Green Walks. They are providing accommodations and transporting our luggage during this Camino de Santiago. We are walking ourselves, but with this support.

NOW WE BEGIN THE CAMINO de SANTIAGO

I am writing this from Valenca in Portugal which is just over the river from Tui, Spain where we will be tomorrow in the early morning. We are taking a day rest in the middle of this 12 day walk and all is going very well. As I am keeping records of each day, each city visited and our mileage, I will not list it all here. We are averaging about 20k (12 miles) per day and with the addition of Portuguese Green Walks, our life is easier. We do not have to wonder where we will sleep and can carry just a day pack with snacks, jacket, drawing book, etc. which is much easier on the body. So far I think we will both agree that it has been great and the scenery is wonderful. We travel on various paths - cobblestones, tarmac, dirt, old Roman roads and the terrain is up and down with only one major uphill climb of 1200' (so far).
Grapes ready for harvest
Much of the land is farmed - cornfields and grapes are the most common along with Eucalyptus and portuguese greens that are served in soup or steamed are common on small private land and around houses. (You can be sure that I am happy when I am served these greens in a restaurant). I am going to write about food on the other blog - rural Portugal is not the easiest for the veg folks but where there is a will, there is a way. 


Entrance to fortressed city
of Valenca, Portugal
We have met folks along the way - spent the most time with an Australian couple and their 26 year old daughter and 24 year old nephew as they have been staying in the same places as we have. Many Germans are traveling along the way - old and young alike. We have met only one from the United States. Topic of conversation with many is what our thoughts are about politics in the USA. We have met no one who understands how we might have elected 45 as our President and of course, we have no explanation.

We are looking forward to the Spanish part of this Camino and you will hear more when we end.
We pick up stones and
leave a prayer

Please know that our thoughts are with all our friends affected by the hurricanes and earthquakes. We are very aware of what is going on in the world and are saddened by this situation.

Once again, thank you for traveling with us.

Words from Ricardo on Portugal and the Camino 

We had another great week in Porto, Portugal, one of our favorite cities. Even though I was unable to master much of the Portuguese language by using my Spanish and at times English I was more or less able to be understood. Most Portuguese speak two languages and the second is either English or Spanish.  

Porto is a very vegetarian friendly place with a lot of culture, pride, very laid back and safe.  Porto has not just a wide river running through it but a great beach for surfing, swimming and for us just  - to lay on the sand.  

After this fun filled week we began our second Camino de Santiago which ends at the burial place of the bones of St James.  I'm writing this as we begin the second half of this journey into Spain.  The total walk of 12 walking days has an average of 12 miles/day. So far it has been a complete joy with ample time to reflect.  Much time and prayers have been given for all the people suffering from the hurricanes and earthquakes this month. 

Our weather has been perfect - cool mornings and never more than 70 degrees in the afternoons. Soon the rainy season will begin. Susan wrote more of the details but for me I just like to add a little of my thoughts.  

I have tremendous pleasure in walking and as long as my body allows, I will walk. This type of walk is always a challenge, but with this comes a deeper understanding of the world connection around us.  I now see life more and more through the eyes of others while meeting with so many humans from all over the world, walking near me.  Life is full of many kinds of caminos and this is just one of them.  

May you all have a great Camino today.
Your buddy,
Ricardo

Thursday, September 7, 2017

Buxton rocks!

We are now ending the second leg of our European Trip spending time in Buxton, England with our long-time friends that we met in North Carolina who are more like family. We visited here in the winter of 2016 and promised ourselves that we would return when the land was green instead of snow covered. This was a chance to be with Dan, Fi, Aidan (14) and Will (9) as they spent the last week of their summer vacation with us. As I write this they have all returned to work or school. Together we walked over 70 miles and ate our way through the beautiful Peak District.
I will highlight some of the best memories so that when we return we will remember what we did and where we walked.
  • We walked to Solomon's Temple, Bishop's Lane and the golf course, took Robbie (a dog) for a walk, to Roaches with a stop at Roaches Tea Room, Derbyshire Dales National Park with a stop at Biggan Hall for High Tea, Monsal Trail with a stop at Hassop's for another delicious meal. How amazing that through all these hills and dales one always finds a spot for tea and a meal. Richard has sampled all the scones and crumpets along the way. 
    Buxton Pavilion Garden
  •  We went with Fi to a horse event where we learned about natural horsemanship. It was the introduction to her several day workshop
  • Massages with Pierre at home for Susan, Dan and Richard. We had our sore walking muscles attended to.
  • Walking around Buxton has much to offer - one day had the Green Man Gallery and tea at the oldest building in England. Another for the historical tram ride and high tea at the Palace Hotel. 
    The heather is blooming
  • We timed it right to be here to attend Dan's citizenship ceremony. 
  • A visit to Manchester which included Dan and Ricardo's visit to the Kadampa Buddhist Center for meditation and a return to the Earth Cafe followed by the Manchester Art Gallery. 
    Manchester is pride friendly
  • A visit to the town of Macclesfield, visiting King Edward's Chapel - the oldest Unitarian Church in England. Then it was off to the Silk Museum and to learn the interesting history of Silk in this town.
  • A new city for us was Liverpool for Ricardo to meet his sister Maria (who lives in N. Ireland) and my chance to see the Beatles Story and Museum. It brought me back to the 60's and 70's with such deep music history. 
    Liverpool is pride friendly too.
  • We attended the practice session of the Burbage Brass Band with Aidan on the drums. 
  • We finished this excellent trip with a day at the award winning Devonshire Spa right here in Buxton with steam, sauna, hydrotherapy waters, foot baths and aromatherapy room. Yes we are spoiled to the max. 

The best, though, was our many hours of walking and talking together and witnessing these two great boys as they grow to be men. Having an extended period of time to just "be" together is a bonus to us as we travel the world. I am so very grateful to them for their love and hospitality and we look forward to our next time together.

Now for a few words from Ricardo.

Our time here in England has ended and we are leaving hungry for more. We visited Manchester, Macclesfield, Liverpool and spent our nights here in old Buxton.  There were many walking adventures on the old pathways through the high peaks and old railway trails. Lastly, we ended with a relaxing spa treatment at the famous Devonshire spa.  Here in Buxton we have long time friends who have become family over time and every moment with them is always a joy especially watching their two children Aidan and Will growing up to become good citizens of the world.

This charming English town is a destination place for many with great hikes, history, food, people and healthy thermal waters. This was our second time here and are looking forward to our return. I want to thank our friends/family Dan, Fiona, Aiden and Will  for opening their doors again to us and showing us even more of the magic here in the Peak District.
Richard's sister, Maria

Another very special events was when my sister Maria met me in Liverpool the home of the Beatles. It has been 5 years since we last were together and were able to fill in many of the blanks of the past 5 years which was very enjoyable. 
I feel very honored to have the time and resources to travel with Susan and to share this time with all those that are dear to me. 


Saturday, August 26, 2017

First we take Berlin

Here we are back in the travel mode again. We spent an action packed two plus months in the USA and we probably saw most everyone who is reading this blog post. We are grateful that we are able to spend this time reconnecting every year. Of course it is not the same as living near to you but it is our commitment to our decision to live away from many of you.

Modern cityscape
Now we are onto the next adventure. We are winding down our first ten days which we spent in Berlin, Germany. This will be a long post as I have much on my mind and also want to remember the many places we visited by photos and words.

window in a coffee shop
I have such mixed emotions here in Germany, the land of my parents and all my previous generations. Coming from a German Jewish background gives me a connection to this county and it's history. If you know me well, you know that usually I am not that interested in either politics or history but here it is in the forefront of my thoughts. Berlin does nothing to disguise its past. There are museums, tour guides, monuments and much written about the wars, especially WWII and the Cold War. I was born just after the war and lived through the Cold War but never have I felt so strongly about the past than my time here.

On the wall at Eastside Gallery
You may have seen my facebook post with a picture of both Richard and I against a remaining part of the Berlin Wall using an expletive about 45 and about "No More Walls". I thought seriously before posting it (and will not repost it here) knowing that it was not really the word that I would normally use but after seeing the remains of a wall and learning about how the city was divided it made me think carefully about what it would be like if the USA were to build a wall. The problem is who is being protected from whom. I do hope that those who were offended by my post will accept my explanation and I might add that there were many, many more people who liked it than did not but I suspect there were many who did neither - neither liked nor posted their opposition. There you have it.

Berlin today
My general feelings about Berlin are that the people are very nice and friendly even to those of us that do not speak German. How I wish I had learned German when I was a young child from my parents. I think if we were to come again for a longer period of time I would try to learn some.
On average people are very tall, everything is clean and all the trains run on time. Berlin is a city with a complicated past and as I said, they do not hide it.

We love you Tom
Having a good friend Tom here made the time special as he showed as around to places we might not have gone on our own. Travel is such a wonderful way to make friends. We met Tom in San Cristobal in Mexico two years ago and have remained friends along the way. We promised to come to Berlin to visit and glad we did.

Now to the many sites and visits during our stay. Having 10 days in one spot was great and we are very happy with our Airbnb choice in Prenzlauer Berg (Stargarder Strasse 57)- a hip area on the north side of Berlin. It is easy to get everywhere which we did mostly by foot but also learned the public transportation system as 10-12 miles a day was enough on some days. (We are in training for our upcoming camino in a few weeks.)

We did two walking tours - the Alternative Berlin tour and the traditional city tour. Each had a very different focus. Best about the alternative tour was my new understanding for graffiti or street art. It is all over town and our guide Penny explained the differences of what we saw. Tagging(letters), bombing (large letters on wall), throw up (big images on a wall) and heaven spots (created by hanging over buildings upside down). Once I realized that this is art posted on buildings with the desire to be seen which is really no different than many of us artists who want to be seen, even if just by a small subset of people in the world. I am one of those and you all know that I post things here and there of my little drawings - what is the difference between that and "tagging" on a wall! Of course the thrill factor is limited with my posting vs. hanging upside down and painting on a wall and trying not to get caught. Anyway, I will always look at graffiti with a different thought after learning more about it. There are many teams such as 1UP (One United Power) that post all over the world and you can see videos of them painting a train so fast between stops that they do not get caught.
At YAAM, street art

On this tour we learned about many of the smaller neighborhoods around Berlin and walked to many of them. We visited Yamm (Young African Art Market) which is a fun Caribbean, african artsy place with food, venues for concerts, reggae music, etc. and also visited Urban Spree - another site along the river with alternative culture.

Checkpoint Charlie
During the traditional tour we visited the Berlin wall, Checkpoint Charlie and learned so much history about E and W Berlin during the war and during the Cold War. Also to Museum Island, Brandenburg Gate and most interesting and moving - the Memorial to the Murdered Jews of Europe. We returned to that site another day to visit the Museum below.
Remnants of the wall
Brandenburg Gate


Memorial to Murdered Jews
Here is an explanation of the memorial from Wikipedia.
"According to Eisenman's project text, the stelae are designed to produce an uneasy, confusing atmosphere, and the whole sculpture aims to represent a supposedly ordered system that has lost touch with human reason. The Foundation Memorial to the Murdered Jews of Europe official English website states that the design represents a radical approach to the traditional concept of a memorial, partly because Eisenman said the number and design of the monument had no symbolic significance. However, observers have noted the memorial's resemblance to a cemetery. The abstract installation leaves room for interpretation. The most common being that of a graveyard. “The
memorial evokes a graveyard for those who were unburied or thrown into unmarked pits, and several uneasily tilting stelae suggest an old, untended, or even desecrated cemeteryThe memorial's grid can be read as both an extension of the streets that surround the site and an unnerving evocation of the rigid discipline and bureaucratic order that kept the killing machine grinding along.Visitors have described the monument as isolating, triggered by the massive blocks of concrete, barricading the visitor from street noise and sights of Berlin."

That evening we went to a museum in a Bunker of very the contemporary modern art collection of a couple named Barrows who live on top of the bunker in a very modern and fancy apartment.

Sunday we walked to Mauerpark - along with what seemed like half of the city to a large flee market and food/music spot. Seems to be the traditional summer Sunday activity. Noticeable is the fact that Berliners are always seeking the sun during the summer because their winters are SO long and SO cold. We are really very far north and weather would be like northern Canada.


That night we took a 3 hour circle boat tour all through center of Berlin, both E and W along the River Spree. Seeing the old and new parts of the city from the water at sunset was a completely different vision from the daytime. It also helped to see the size of this city which is the most populated city in Germany.
My mother's potato salad on
the boat - vinegar and oil.

Next important visit was to the Eastside Gallery where there is 1K of standing wall which has been painted by people from all over the world. Each is identified and it is the art that I referred to above with the controversial reference to the US president and "No more walls!"

Potsdam Conference

We went to Potsdam which is on the outside of town and city of the German Kaisers with large castles and gardens and the site of the Potsdam Conference in 1945 where Truman, Stalin and Churchill gathered to decide how to administer the defeated Nazi Germany and how to establish post war order, peace treaty issues and countering the effects of the war.
Bridge between Berlin and Potsdam
Bridge of Spies

During our stay we watched the 2015 Steven Spielberg movie "Bridge of Spies" about exchange of two Americans (Gary Powers U2 pilot and Pryor, a young graduate student and  Rudolf Abels a Russian spy. The movie took place on a bridge between Potsdam and Berlin that we walked across - it was good movie about the Cold War.

After all this history it was time to relax and we went with Tom and his friends to lake Liepnitzee for swimming and relaxing. They biked and we walked, getting lost on the way to find them and thanks to my Iphone and google map app we eventually did. My world has changed with the ability to find things so easily with this phone.

Friday took us to Spreewald - by train to Lubbeneau and then a 2 hour "pont" boat trip through the small canals visiting this small village where the only industry besides tourism is pickles and schmaltzbrot - bread with chicken or goose fat spread. Needless to say, Ricardo had it without schmaltz!

Thanks for following my long travelogue - helping me to remember this trip.

Now for a few words from Richard:

Where can I begin about a city that is so progressive in nature that it would make a perfect model for any other town or city that wants to make their world a bit more magical. I can only think that the past was so grave that they wanted it to be totally different and in this way they have succeeded greatly.

The parks are always within walking distance and people ride their bicycles around town. For a city of 3 million you hardly see any traffic and most people follow the laws with little desire to find shortcuts even when crossing the streets. People do have cars and very nice ones but only seem to use them when necessary. There are many cars but they are parked and seem in very good shape.


Being a vegetarian and Susan a vegan the options for good eating in this style abound in every restaurant. Most people here seem to eat many of their meal outside and I can see why. We enjoyed many wonderful meals out in this city.  In Berlin sampling the great food options is a big part of being here. (See Susan's blog post on food in Berlin at: http://vegan-food-adventures.blogspot.de/2017/)

We came here primarily to visit with our dear friend Thomas who lives here and with great joy have found another place that we could easily live very happily.
Gute nacht

The German people here in Berlin are very tall and seem health conscious not to mention friendly. English is spoken wildly by the young but when possible a German word or two is appreciated. We feel very much at home and I know that we will return again to Berlin in the future.  I could say more but I know that Susan has covered much of the trip details. I recommend this city to be put on your bucket list. 
Sending love always, Ricardo



Monday, April 17, 2017

Two months in San Cristóbal de las Casas

Here we are winding down two months in this "other home" in Mexico. It is our third season here and we are already booked for three months next Spring. We have many memories and here is the place to remember them. I write these for us - for our memories as one year blends into another and we want to remember specifics about these trips.
Rotunda at Bellas Artes, CDMX

We are often asked whether we like it here better than San Miguel de Allende. It is a very hard question and the comparisons are difficult to make as each place fulfills different needs. As San Miguel gets more and more crowded and "fancy" we tend to like the feel of San Cris better. The weather at this time of the year is perfect here but we hear tell that the winters are colder than SMA and there is a much longer rainy season. The real differences are the much younger friends and connections here in SC (barely any retired expats) and the very large indigenous community which is part of the daily life in this town. The textiles and colors in this area are NOT to be missed. Similarities are the great organic markets, good restaurants, yoga and meditation. Our busy volunteer life is much more prevalent in SMA where we are part of several organizations. Here in SC our creative juices are flowing more actively though it could be only a function of more time for creativity here than SMA. As I have written before - I am preferring to be in the present and enjoy each place for its life at the moment and comparisons are hard to make but I have just done my best to answer the most common question presented to us in either place.

Comida at Rosetta in CDMX
The Tiffany Screen at Bellas Artes
We began this trip with three days in Mexico City (now called CDMX- Cuidad de Mexico) with Maria Elena and Tomy. We stayed in La Roma, a new neighborhood for us and enjoyed a visit to the Castle at Chapultapec and the Ballet Folklorico in the beautiful Bellas Artes (our first time).

Our house in San Cris
Lauren at Frontera
Then we were of to San Cris, back to the beautiful home with view of the city and bountiful garden. We think it is the very best location in the city. We did stay for several weeks in another airbnb home which also had positives - meeting new friends, sharing a kitchen and cooking together with others and a place for visitors. We shared a fun week with Lauren who was visiting from SMA.

Hanging the show
colorful beans




The main highlight of March was spending time with Lena Bartula - an incredible artista from SMA who had a large installation exhibition of her huipils made from various recycled products in a historic building - La Enseñanza
at the opening

"Behind the labels" - represents
the labels and where our clothing
comes from.
Maruch leading the opening ceremony











We knew each other before she came to SC but not in the way we are all friends now. We were happy to help with the installation process with another friend, Victoria Pierce. I was able to help organize several private showings/tours of her work and then happily spending time with her and Patricia Smith (also from SMA) visiting communities, other textile workshops and dismantling the show in early April. The opening of the show was different than any I have attended. It began with Maruch and her chants and "limpiaza" for the energy surrounding the show. This is apparently typical of art openings in Mayan communities.

Serigrafia
Spending time in the space of such a creative person surely rubbed off on me. I was introduced again to Taller Lenateros - a paper making studio/workshop that makes books (the paper, the printing via serigraphia or silk screen and the binding processes.) I took a workshop in printing as well as binding. I am now in the process of designing a book that will be more of an art project along with various details of my life and my "peeps". Stay tuned until next year when I return here for several months to work on this project.
Petra y Yoli at Lenateros

Some of the colorful paper
my hand stitched books

The whole area of Chiapas which is the large southern state bordering Guatemala is Mayan country and there are many small villages surrounding San Cris that each have their own clothing as well as textile designs. In the markets one can notice which village each woman comes from depending upon her clothing. This year we visited San Andres Larrinzar which is about 45 minutes away and shopped for textiles for friends.
The men's hats of San Andres Larrinzar

bought these two pillow covers
 la maestra Kelsang Kunwang
We pass most of our days doing a mix of the following activities: I go to yoga and various art activities, Ricardo goes to daily meditation at the Buddhist center and has dedicated much of his time to learning the 24 form of Tai Chi (Kung Fu style). This was a goal that he had set for himself and he found a teacher here that was able to help him master this. I enjoyed many hours looking outside in the garden and seeing his gently flowing moves in this "dance". I am proud of him for dedicating this time to something very important for himself and for reaching this personal goal.




Colorful doors of San Cris
Colorful storefronts
We have also both dedicated time to a drawing a day. This is a creative as well as meditative practice. I cannot believe that I am nearly through with 4 months of doing this with no thought of discontinuing this practice. What will I do each day for the rest of the year. It is one of the things I wonder about but every day there is something new to see (or not - my feet, hands, etc. are with me every day and are always good options to draw!)

Friends (as you all know) are very important to us and coming back yearly gives us a chance to reconnect with them.
Vanessa and Fausto 
Erin and Philip
Set - my vegan soulmate
in San Cris

So, once again, if you made it to this far of this post - thanks for traveling with us. We are heading back to San Miguel de Allende for 2 months and then will see many of you as we travel again in the USA for several months.

Happy Spring to all and love from the two of us.