Kindness in the Subway

Ellioto is a mass-transit-kind-of traveler.  He loves the hunt, the economy and the expediency.  So when we travel, taxis and Uber, etc. are considered only when public transport doesn’t make sense.  Sometimes we rent a car but usually we (he) study the maps and figure it out.

Grumpy when the elevators/lifts/escalators aren’t working, I grudgingly pull my weighty luggage and feel quite sorry for myself.

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The Elephant in the Room: terror in the streets

I hesitate to write this post.  As the Good Natured Traveler, I prefer to view the world through rose-colored glasses.  I believe that most of the time, our expectations influence the events that we experience.  Self-fulfilling prophecy.

But in light of the awful events that we have seen and heard around the world, it seems that bad things can happen.  Bad things do sometimes happen.

“Every time you go somewhere, there’s a tragedy, it seems!”, my sister wrote following the Las Vegas, Canadian and French killings this past Autumn.

Is that true?

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In the clouds –last day in Tenerife

 

I got up early so that I could have alone-time with the sun as it breaks the night into the early morning’s light.

 

Far to my right, the shore begins to sparkle in coy flirtation as the sun turns its gaze.  A voyeur, I watch as he spreads his favor, lighting each little village in its own special time.

This is the most rugged country that I’ve ever seen.  People told me that the Canary Islands remind them of Hawaii–but I didn’t find that to be true of Tenerife.  For one thing, they seem to have more roads  and dwellings in precarious places!

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Stylin’ in Montmartre

Bonjour

Geesh-– Is that a French word?  No, I guess not.

Spending more than a few minutes trying to ask for cheese on my vegetarian salad, I finally gave up (fromage–right?) — the waiter obviously wasn’t in the mood to work out my high school French. And really, I am here to people-watch–it would be truly difficult to spoil my mood–particularly after seeing the salad that he just served (sans said cheese).

At 5:00 p.m., the neighborhood streets of Montmartre are filling with people on the move– many spilling from the metro stop, others walking feisty dogs or pushing precious cargo in strollers as the case may be–their numbers seem fairly equal. In the alley, across the street, high school kids yell and shriek, kicking balls and letting off steam.

Armed with my roller bag, iPad and a copy of my passport– just in case someone gets tricky with my purse–I am looking for clothing shops and cafes– all the things that make me smile. Once In awhile, a stranger returns my grin– but it is not customary, for sure. Our hostess joked that although the French are friendly, the Parisians wake up in a bad mood. So I don’t take it personally.

What I adore are the styles I see parading by! Boiled wool coats, signature berets and scarves of many hues of course– didn’t the French invent them? Although black and gray coats are the norm, the brave sport plaids and colors– orange, red and gold. Pink winter coats that I saw last year are still evident too. The styles of jackets and coats are unique and smart–some fitted and stitched or asymmetric in design. No longer are sneakers looked down upon but boots dominate– how do they walk in those steep heels? And felted hats are common– do they not get ”hat hair” here?

Once Montmartre was the artists’ haunt– but now, it is more upscale though old world charm is represented by wrought-iron fencing at the windows or shutters reaching from ceiling to floor of the apartments peering down along the boulevards that are haphazardly arranged rather than running perpendicular. It makes following a map challenging.

As the Cathedral chimes the hour, I am reminded that Montmartre predates its Christian heritage– first it was named in honor of the Greek god, Mercury and later, for Mars. Christian influence swiftly interpreted it as the “mount of the martyr”, referring to the grizzly tale of St. Denis, a priest who was beheaded for his faithful teachings. Legend has it that he carried his own head many miles before he lay down to die. The Basilica at the top of the hill was built to honor him in the late 1800’s.

It is said that you may sit for hours at restaurants and cafes as you sip or eat without being given your check–to do so would be rude– so here I sit, putting it to the test.

Later I plan to test another spot–only then, it will be with French wine!

Sante’

Madrid, Spain

I am visiting Ellioto who is here in Madrid at Universidad de San Carlos III on a fellowship, living in university housing. Coming from a college town, I probably feel more at ease with the students than they do with me. English is not so much a second language with the locals as it is for the students who have helped us more than once; otherwise, I would still be trying to figure out those coin washers at the laundromat.

Arriving on St. Patrick’s Day, my Irish soul felt the luck of amazing weather, fresh and clear, luring my jet-lagged self out into the day. This weekend the temps are in the 70’s, though it’s a bit early and not yet consistent. With nary a cloud marring the blue, an occasional jet streaks stripes above me. The breeze gentles my spirit as I settle into this exotic land,

There are date palms trees here, the result of Madrid’s moderate climate. Birds harken in song and across the lush green lawn, groups of college kids dot the grass, their guitars plucking Spanish rhythms as they sing aloud. It’s hypnotic and I cannot sit still as I acclimate to the Spanish thrum.

Others practice gymnastic flips, on high and low bars offering me a show. Boom boxes rev up their moves, while their incomprehensible chatter reminds me that I am the foreigner here. And so, they pose and show off as I snap a few shots.

Similar to Oxford’s crosswalk law, cars stop for pedestrians and no one seems rude or irritated. I’m going back home with a more agreeable attitude.

There are not as many bicycles as in other European cities that we have visited, but there are bike paths, parks with fountains and playgrounds every few blocks where families with dogs complete the wholesome scene. Grandparents in tow, the children seem mellow and happy.

And what of Spanish food, you ask? It is not as spicy as Mexican; local cheese is delish;
Paella is a staple and the wine is less expensive than bottled water!