The Art of Book Design: Our Next Door Neighbor: Winter in Mexico

Gilbert Haven. Our Next Door Neighbor. Winter In Mexico. New York, Harper, 1875.

I’m dreaming about winter in Mexico today, because I’m going to Mexico on Feb. 13th. It would be an understatement to say that I’m excited. My girlfriend and her husband lived in Mexico for 11 years, but her husband died two years ago and she moved back to my city. She’s finally sold her home in Jacotopec and we’re going down to pack up the last of her things. We’ll also do a few other things that might be more touristy, but we’ll see what comes our way. I’ve never been to Mexico, nor had a winter holiday in the south so I don’t care what we do, as long as there’s no snow involved, I’ll be happy.


via: The Internet Archive

Jack’s Walk

©voyager, all rights reserved

Yesterday and friend and I went on a bus trip to see the Musical “Anastasia” at the Mirvish Theatre in Toronto, and it was spectacular. The sets themselves were sparse with projected background images that contained animated elements. I found that they gave enough info about place and time, yet didn’t take your attention away from the action on stage. The costumes were breathtaking, and there was lots of singing and dancing. The music itself was pleasing, and the story moved along at a good pace. The first half of the play took place in St. Petersburg in 1917 and was a glimpse into Anastasia’s life. The second act took place in Paris 10 years later with the only surviving Romanov, the Dowager Empress, looking for her lost granddaughter Anastasia. I won’t give too much away, because it is worth seeing if you have the chance, but I will say that the Russian Revolution was glossed over. The play is about the mystery of the surviving Anastasia, and the revolution that destroyed her family is noted quickly with gunfire and people fleeing, but it’s mostly kept as a background element.

It made for a fun day out, but it was overstimulating and disrupted my sleep, so today, I’m tired, kinda cranky and craving quiet. Jack wanted a bit of excitement, though, so I reluctantly got up and took him to the Frog Pond trail. We don’t go there often because there are tons of mosquitos, and it gets quite muddy, but things are frozen today, so it seemed safe. And it was perfect, quiet and peaceful for me and full of unusual, new smells for Jack.  That’s a big win-win for a tired, theatre-loving voyager who didn’t want to venture out at all today. It’s one of the many beneficial reasons why it’s good to have a dog… they make you get up and do things that are healthy and rejuvenating. Thanks, Jack. I feel better now.


The Russian Adventure Continues

When I took on the blog full-time in September of 2018, I let my series about visiting Russia in September of 2017 fall by the wayside. I was overwhelmed at the time, and it was more than I could handle. A lot has changed since then, and I’ve been meaning to get back to the series and finish what I started. There is still a lot of Russia left to see and I hope you’ll travel along the route with me to have a look at some of the incredible sights. Viking runs their Russian cruises in both directions. I think Jane and I were lucky to go from Moscow to St. Petersburg instead of the other direction because St. Petersburg is gorgeous. It’s much prettier than Moscow for some very good reasons that I’ll explain when we get there. If we’d gone in the other direction we might have found Moscow lacking. Today, I’m going to go backwards a bit and show you the map of our voyage. I’ll be posting a more detailed map with each segment that we traverse, but this is a good overview of where we’re going.

Our travel route from Moscow to St. Petersburg.

So far, we’ve left the Moscow Canal and are on our way to Uglich via the Volga River.

Detail map of our current leg of the journey.

Uglich is one of Russia’s Golden Ring cities. What is a Golden Ring City?

The Golden Ring of Russia (Russian: Золото́е кольцо́ Росси́и) is a vast area in which old Russian cities are located in a ring-like arrangement and a well-known theme-route. The cities are located northeast of Moscow and were the north-eastern part of the ancient Rus’.[1] The Golden Ring of Russia formerly comprised the region known as Zalesye. The idea of the route and the term were created in 1967 by Soviet historian and essayist Yuri Bychkov, who published in the newspaper Sovetskaya Kultura in November–December 1967 a series of essays on the cities under the heading “Golden Ring”.[2] Bychkov was one of the founders of the All-Russian Society for the Protection of Monuments of History and Culture (Vserossiiskoe obshchestvo okhrany pamiatnikov istorii i kul’tury; VOOPIK).[3]
These ancient towns, which also played a significant role in the formation of the Russian Orthodox Church, preserve the memory of the most important and significant events in Russian history. The towns have been called “open-air museums” and feature unique monuments of Russian architecture of the 12th–18th centuries, including kremlins, monasteries, cathedrals, and churches. These towns are among the most picturesque in Russia and prominently feature Russia’s onion domes. – Wikipedia

Why “Ring?” According to the ship’s Viking Daily paper, the Muscovites were obsessed with Rings and when Soviet tourist bosses were looking for new attractions that were accessible from Moscow they drew a loop beginning and ending in Moscow, and called it the Golden Ring.

Ueglich is the first of the Golden Ring cities that we’ll be visiting, and when next we meet on the Viking river ship Ingvar we’ll take a walking tour around the place. In the meantime, if you’d like to reacquaint yourself with the tour to date here is the link to the previous post – Sailing into Uglich. I’ve gone back and added links to each previous post so that you can find your way back to the beginning.


Ripples for Caine- Water is Life

I have something very special from Nightjar for this Monday morning.

We had a rainy November, in fact I can’t remember a month in the recent past when it rained so much. The rain completely flooded the fields behind our house and again, I can’t remember when this last happened. I’m told by older people that this is what November used to be like and how the fields used to look like this time of the year. Makes sense. Before “normal” and “drought” became synonymous. Today we had a bit of sun and I had to go for a walk with my camera. While taking these photos all I could think of was Caine, for reasons I don’t think I have to explain. Hopefully the photos speak for themselves. Came back home with tears in my eyes and had to share this with you all. Water is Life. ♥

Your photos are beautiful, and they also make me think about Caine. She enjoyed photographing water in its many forms. I know she would love these pictures. Thank you so much for sharing them, Nightjar.

©Nightjar,all rights reserved

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More Barcelona

It seems that Giliell’s photos of Barcelona have inspired Opus to share a few pictures of his own.

I was struck by the Sagrada Familia pictures and dove back into my picture files. These are from long before I purchased my first ‘real’ camera, but the nighttime shots of Casa Batlio are still among my favorites. If you need one for the front page I’d suggest Casa Batlio 2, but I’m biased: too much time with this as a child:

Reptiles and Amphibians Familiar American Species

Casa Batlio 2 ©Opus, all rights reserved

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Holidays: de fiesta 2

To us, the highlight of the festival was the “Dance of the Dragons”. Groups from the city itself and the surrounding communities would come with their dragon figures and “dance”. They put fireworks into the mouths and talons of the dragons and danced through the streets with everybody following them, with bands and music and everything.

It was an amazing experience. Only the pics are bad and in between my batteries gave out.

©Giliell, all rights reserved

©Giliell, all rights reserved

©Giliell, all rights reserved Whoever the person inside is, I hope they got a nice beer or beverage of their choice afterwards. Or a dozen. They deserve it.

©Giliell, all rights reserved Music band

©Giliell, all rights reserved Breathing fire

©Giliell, all rights reserved

©Giliell, all rights reserved Many kids were dressed up as devils and well protected with ear protection.


©Giliell, all rights reserved

©Giliell, all rights reserved

And a gif. It was easiest to post it to Twitter


Holidays: ¡De Fiesta!

During our holidays, the city of Mataró celebrated its annual major festival calleD “Les Santes”, the saints, remembering two female martyrs from probably the 3rd century. Surprisingly, those martyrs feature very little in the celebrations which had multiple concerts of different kinds of music, from classical to hip hop, theatre, children’s theatre and, most importantly, the street festival. Central to this is the “Robfaves family and the dwarves”: El señor Robfaves, his Wife the Giantess, their daughter Toneta and her husband Maneló.

©Giliell, all rights reserved

And no, those aren’t just statues that are put in front of the decorated town hall. Inside of those figures are people who carry them through the streets!

©Giliell, all rights reserved

While there is one day of the big parade, you can meet them throughout the whole two week festival. Nowadays there are also many other giant figures from the various schools, clubs, institutions, churches, villages,… While many of them seem to have a meaning and a history, I was unable to find out more because the information was in Catalan only. :(

©Giliell, all rights reserved

Here’s an overview of some of them as miniatures in a shop window and now for them in real size. Sorry if the images aren’t much, they were taken with the mobile holding it above my head and hoping for the best.

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Holidays: Sagrada Familia: I’m Sorry, I Broke It

Here’s the last pics from our night out. After that, Instead of walking back the short way to the train station we got off, the family voted to walk to the Plaza Catalunya and we got a bit lost on the way. We managed to catch the last train home which was kind of strange because you’d think that trains from the capital to the bigger cities around it would run through the night, especially on a Saturday, but shortly after midnight the train service ceases for the night. On that train I had one of the more frightening experiences. A young dude was standing in the aisle and suddenly took out a dagger style knife. I didn’t say a word, especially not to the tired kids and extra especially not to the dude so I wouldn’t catch his attention. He started “stabbing” the side of the train and I started to make plans in case of emergency, like putting my camera rucksack in front of my body and shifting my position to cover the kids.

Thankfully he then used his knife to cut off the top of a plastic bottle, took out some cheap wodka and lemonade and got even more drunk than he was before.

OK, back to the Sagrada Familia. I have no clue what happened here. I guess the light and the structure and the 2D nature of photography are playing a trick, because it definitely didn’t look like this, or I would have noticed.

©Giliell, all rights reserved Looking quite chill. A day of visitors and works done.

©Giliell, all rights reserved. Maybe a bit tipsy.

©Giliell, all rights reserved. The angle of the cranes is worrying me.

©Giliell, all rights reserved Ok, looks like I didn’t accidentally walk of out a Mexican restaurant in Barcelona and ended up in Pisa.

©Giliell, all rights reserved.

©Giliell, all rights reserved. Go home, you’re drunk.



Holidays: Sagrada Familia 6

These are the last pictures by daylight. Remember that we went there in  the evening especially so we could come back later to see it in the dark? Definitely worth it!

©Giliell, all rights reserved

©Giliell, all rights reserved

©Giliell, all rights reserved

©Giliell, all rights reserved

©Giliell, all rights reserved

©Giliell, all rights reserved