The Art of…

…Monet.

Water Lilies by Claude Monet. Photo courtesy of Discover Walks Blog/Matthieu

I’m supposed to be in Paris. Today. I should be there right now. It’s been the plan for 5 years to go to Paris in September of 2020. It’s the year a friend retires (she has) and the year I turn 60 (I will soon), and we were going to celebrate both milestones in Paris. We’ve read every guide book twice or thrice and have well-organized lists of what we want to see, do, and eat. We’ve talked endlessly about the trip, and the promise of it has helped us both through some difficult days. Covid doesn’t care about any of that, though, and so we had to cancel our plans.

This Water Lilies mural by Monet is one of 8 panels that grace 2 rooms at the Musee de L’Orangerie and I was very much looking forward to seeing it in person. Instead, I took a virtual tour today which only increased my desire to actually go there. The tour is nice though, and if you’re interested you can take it yourself. The link for the musuem will take you directly to it. The link for the photo has a nice walking tour if you’re looking for a bit more of Paris.

The Duoro Valley – Part 5

From Nightjar,

This is the last set of photos and it shows the olive plantations that are also an important part of the landscape, some wine cellars, and the Pinhão river, a Douro tributary. I hope you enjoyed this series. The Douro Valley is a magical place with a long tradition of wine and olive oil production. Its sustainability is currently threatened by an increase in intensive farming and tourism. In a way, it’s being a victim of its own beauty and of the quality of its products.

Olive plantations, ©Nightjar, all rights reserved

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The Douro Valley – Part 4

It’s time for the next leg of our journey with Nightjar.

The vineyards planted on Douro’s steep hillsides produce grapes with unique properties for wine production. We went in August, middle of the dry season and a little before harvesting starts. This region has been producing wine for nearly 2 millennia and is a UNESCO heritage site. Traditional farming methods are still used for the most part, but lately and due to increased demand, the pressure put on the river has been increasing to worrying levels. In addition to erosion, environmentalists have been denouncing the massive use of herbicides that obviously end up poisoning the river.

©Nightjar, all rights reserved

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The Douro Valley – Part 2

I had some sort of brain fart yesterday and didn’t get part 2 of this series posted. Because of this, I’ve decided to post the series on Monday,      Wednesday and Friday this week with the last 2 posts on Monday and Wednesday next week. That way there will be 2 weeks with beautiful photos by Nightjar, to whom I sincerely apologize. Without further ado, Nightjar presents The Douro Valley, Part 2.

I had never seen a lock operate before, let alone actually navigate through one, so I was really looking forward to this part of the cruise. Being raised 28 meters (92 feet) up a dam and looking back on it as we go upstream is quite an experience. I think these photos tell the story well.

Going towards the lock, ©Nightjar, all rights reserved

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The Douro Valley, Part 1

Welcome to a new series from Nightjar. The story is told in 5 parts, beginning today and ending on Friday.

I’ve had this series semi-prepared for over a year but I kept meaning to write up a better story to accompany the pictures and since that never happened, I never shared them. I have now decided to write up something not as detailed as I had planned initially and just share the photos already. I’m sorry I couldn’t put more into this, but I hope you all enjoy it anyway.
Back in 2017 I did a (partial) Douro up-river cruise. Douro is one of our major rivers and the region around it is where Port wine comes from, as well as being home to important almond and olive plantations. I’ve regretted this trip, not only because cruises here are becoming too popular and thus environmentally costly, but also because shortly after it a scandal broke about workers’ rights abuse by the companies running this business. So, destroying the environment while trampling workers’ rights, that doesn’t exactly make me want to repeat it. But anyway, I selected a few photos I took during the trip to share. Here you can see an overview of the river and the surrounding landscape, some of its bridges and one of its dams. In the next chapter we, and the boat following us, will navigate through that dam. A 28 meters / 92 feet rise.

Overview, ©Nightjar, all rights reserved

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Russia – Welcome to Uglich

Welcome to Uglich. ©voyager, all rights reserved

When we disembarked in Uglich we crossed a cobblestone bridge into the city where we were greeted by a duo singing a traditional Russian folk song. Their voices were clear and strong, and it was a charming welcome to the first of Russia that we saw outside of the big city of Moscow. On the other side of the bridge, we met our local tour guide who was to take us on a planned tour of the city. Being a tour guide is a noble profession in Russia, and once upon a time, the tour companies had a full-time stable of guides. There have been cutbacks, though, and now the guides all work as private contractors on an as-needed basis. For most of our trip, the guides were outstanding. They were all multi-lingual, friendly, thoroughly professional, and each of them had a comprehensive knowledge of the history and geography of the country. There was one guide, though, that we disliked.

Our Uglich Tour Guide. ©voyager, all rights reserved

This fellow was our guide in Uglich, and everyone in our group was unhappy with his performance. To begin with, he walked too fast. Way to fast for all of us. My friend and I were the youngsters on our cruise, with most of the other people being in their 70’s and 80’s, and everyone struggled to keep up. He also spoke while he was walking, without turning around at all, so that most of us missed what he had to say. We figured out the reason for the rush at the end of the tour, though, when we were taken into a woodcarvers shop and told that we had 15 minutes to look around and buy. We all suspected that the haste at the beginning of the tour was to make sure we had enough time to shop and that some sort of kick-back was likely involved. Working on an as-needed basis is difficult, so we understood the circumstances, but we’d signed up for the “slow” tour (most of the tours had an option for a quick, active group or a slower group with less walking) and this walk was anything but slow. We managed, though. It’s surprising how fast you can go with the right motivation. Turns out that I’m quicker when I’m worried about being left behind and lost in an unfamiliar place where I don’t speak the language and even the alphabet looks strange. We did have our guide books with us so we could at least recognize what building or church we were passing or were about to visit.

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The city of Uglich is first mentioned in the All-Russia Chronicles of the Ipatievsky Monastery of 1148, however, there is archeological evidence that settlements have existed at the site since the First Millenium. The city houses many ancient churches, and we were able to visit three of them. Our tour began with a walk through the main area of churches viewing them from the outside before attending a 3 man a capella concert in a modern building used as a civic centre.

Our first stop after this was at the Transfiguration Cathedral, which is part of the city’s Kremlin (fort). This cathedral was first built in the early 1200s and it’s been rebuilt several times since then. The current church was built in 1713 and it’s the bright yellow building with orange trim and dark green onion domes that greeted us as we came into port. Beside the Church is the Bell Tower, which was erected in 1730.

The Transfiguration Cathedral, Uglich. ©voyager, all rights reserved

Transfiguration Cathedral and Bell Tower ©voyager, all rights reserved

Transfiguarion Bell Tower

Transfiguration Cathedral ©voyager, all rights reserved

We were given a very brief tour of the interior of the church later in the tour, just before being whisked off to the woodshop to buy souvenirs. Our guide told us the church is still in use and, as with all churches in Russia, there are no seats. All worshippers are expected to stand for services, including dignitaries and in previous times, the Aristocracy. Many of these services can go on for 4 hours. Gold was a prevailing detail in almost all of the churches we visited here and throughout Russia and every church has a unique set of icons.

The Icon Wall, Transfiguration Cathedral ©voyager, all rights reserved

Icon Wall, Transfiguration Cathedral ©voyager, all rights reserved

Icon Wall and cupola, Transfiguration Cathedral ©voyager, all rights reserved

That’s it for today. In the next installment, you’ll hear the curious story of Dmitri and see the church built in his honour.

 

 

 

 

 

Tree Tuesday

Today’s tree story is about another victim of the cult of Greed. Developers, building artificial islands for luxury resorts, are buying mature coconut trees from farmers, but their removal and relocation has many people worried.

Kaashidhoo is one of the largest of the 1,192 islands that make up the Maldives archipelago, but unlike many other islands, it does not teem with sunbathing Europeans. Its broad dirt roads are often deserted, flanked by pink Maldivian roses, mango-orange impatiens, and papaya and banana plants. The main occupation of the islanders is cultivating coconut and other tropical produce that can be sold in Malé, the Maldivian capital.
But lately, the local economy has been thrown out of balance. Crater-like holes have begun to appear across the island, some filled with dry leaves and others left as barren pits. These bald patches are the places where mature coconut trees used to stand tall. In the last year, Kaashidhoo farmers have sold hundreds of trees to new luxury resorts on nearby artificial islands.

While some locals are grateful for the newfound income—$20 to $100 for each tree—others worry that beach erosion has intensified since the trees started getting uprooted. They see this as a fragile ecosystem threatened by the proliferation of luxury resorts. “It’s a huge issue,” says Ibrahim Naeem, Director General of the Maldives Environmental Protection Agency. “Importing coconut palm trees is prohibited in the Maldives, so they have to rely on residential islands.”

As time has gone on, environmental changes have set in.

Yet as the year went by, and more coconut trees disappeared, Jameel says that many locals grew concerned. Coral islands like Kaashidhoo are highly dynamic, constantly adjusting and dancing to the idiosyncrasies of wind, tides, and relentless waves. “Everyone has observed far more erosion around the beaches. That’s what we end up talking about most of the time,” Jameel says. In response, she joined a non-governmental organization called Young Leaders, to spread awareness about environmental issues on the island.

Also, once these areas are developed, locals are encouraged to stay away, and many of the benefits that they were promised from development have never materialized. Environmental groups are now co-ordinating campaigns to strengthen and enforce the laws, and they’re using the #mvtreegrab. I usually forget to Twitter, but today I will, and I’ll add that hashtag. There are plenty of pretty pictures with the story, so go have a look… if you can stomach another bad news story.

story via: Atlas Obscura