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Archive for the ‘flâneur’ Category

Would I were…


eϊθε  γενοίμην  .  . . .would I were
In Grantchester, in Grantchester !—
Some, it may be, can get in touch
With Nature there, or Earth, or such.
And clever modern men have seen
A Faun a-peeping through the green,
And felt the Classics were not dead,
To glimpse a Naiad’s reedy head,
Or hear the Goat-foot piping low: . . .
But these are things I do not know.

(Excerpt from “The Old Vicarage, Grantchester” by Rupert Brooke)

 

There’s a reason I haven’t really posted about Houston life here. I don’t like it. There; I’ve said it. I can walk in the private park of our gated building, but if I want to get outside the gates I have to take a taxi because walking or cycling is neither pleasant nor safe in Houston. I’ve been hit by cars a total of 11 times in Houston – and fortunately I haven’t been injured any of those times, but it does make me feel rather unsafe venturing outside the gates.

I take a taxi to go to the supermarket, even if I just need a bottle of milk. While that does mean that a bottle of milk can be rather pricey, I don’t want to drink my coffee without milk. And I can’t safely walk or bike the 1.5 miles to the supermarket; God knows I’ve tried…

A flâneur who can’t walk anywhere is hardly a flâneur at all. And a gardener with no soil is hardly a gardener at all.

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Summer continues to live up to all our hopes and dreams here in Denmark. Yesterday was the hottest day of the year so far at 33,3 Celsius (91F), and unfortunately we are back at work and can’t even go up to the garden for the weekend as we have a wedding to go to. Not complaining, mind you, as weddings are always great fun. (We have another wedding next weekend…)

The only downside, really, is that I’m not relishing the thought of having to sustain 30+ temperatures in a suit and tie…

Anyway, if you’re stuck in the city during hot summer weather, Copenhagen is not a bad city to be stuck in. Last night we had dinner with my Mother-In-Law in the shadow of St. Nicolai Church and then went on to a pavement bar where we befriended the largest rabbit I’ve ever seen.

Flâneur Husband and RabbitOne of those absurd moments that are worth commemorating… I’m not sure why the owner brought his pet rabbit into town on a Friday night, but it was adorable in that slightly “MONSTER RABBIT” way.

But I meant to write about the garden, actually. I went up there after work an evening last week, and the bumble bees are busy doing their best to ensure a decent crop of blackberries:

Bumble bee and bramblesThere were literally dozens of them hard at work in the blackberry shrub, and there are hundreds of green blackberries waiting to be ripened and sweetened by the glorious summer weather. Methinks there WILL be blackberry jam this year!

But now I really must get off the internet and get that shirt ironed for the wedding today.

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Our holiday officially began Friday last week, but unofficially it started the weekend before when the Copenhagen Jazz Festival kicked off. A full week of live jazz – from traditional New Orleans to world fusion to experimental modern – all over the city. Some concerts were held in dedicated music venues, but the best ones – in my perception – are the free open-air concerts in little squares all over the city.

Copenhagen Jazz FestivalThis really is Copenhagen at its best; sunny and warm, with live music playing all over and people having a pint or a glass of wine while relaxing and enjoying Life.

Copenhagen Jazz FestivalAnd let’s face it: Going to this sort of festival is somewhat more civilised that going to the big rock festivals like Roskilde, where 70.000 people cam out in a field and get drunk around the clock… Now, I quite like camping, but I prefer doing so far away from everybody else, and definitely not somewhere where drunken people will fall over your tent at 4 in the morning.

The jazz festival ended this last weekend, so we had our final outing into the world of jazz on Friday evening – which knocked us out the entire Saturday. We’re not as young as we used to be, but we somehow often seem to forget this… Anyway, that meant that we were fit for fight on Sunday, the last day of the festival but more importantly also July 14th, Bastille Day.

Bastille DayFor many years, one of the French restaurants in town (L’Éducation Nationale) has held a Bastille Day celebration where the entire street is closed off. There was a petanque court, live French music and little stalls that sold French delicacies, and of course the restaurant and the other bars in the street had set up lots of tables outside. It was a wonderful day, and for a couple of francophiles like the Flâneur Husband and myself it was definitely not to be missed. (The Flâneur Husband lived in France until he was 3, though his parents are Danish, and I have just been in love with France since I lived in Paris for a year after high school.)

So there; we’ve been enjoying the best that Copenhagen has to offer, and I think it’s actually been quite nice to play tourist in Copenhagen in the sense that even though we didn’t do any sight-seeing we’ve spent a lot more time about town that we’d normally do.

Today we leave the city and head for the garden for a while. I have to go in to work on Thursday for one day only but apart from that we’ll stay in the Summer House for as long as we feel like it. On Saturday we’ll be having our annual Summer Party in the garden; around 20 people for an al fresco lunch, followed by frolicking in the garden with drinks and garden games until the late hours. Some people will go back to Copenhagen in the evening, but most will stay over, either in the house or in tents in the garden. It’s always a great party, and somehow we are lucky enough to have the sort of guests who voluntarily go around the garden the next morning, picking up bits of trash and discarded beer cans so it looks pristine when they all leave.

And now I must go wake up the Flâneur Husband… Time for breakfast, and then we’ll be off as soon as we’ve packed our bags!

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I won’t give you a blow-by-blow account of our weekend in Vienna, but…

We had a great time! We arrived in Vienna around 9AM on Saturday morning with very few ideas about what to do, but when we left Sunday afternoon we had the feeling that we’d had a very good taste – metaphorically as well as literally – of what this city has to offer.

We had four fixtures on the itinerary; two restaurant bookings and two sights we definitely wanted to see.
The first sight-seeing happened almost by accident as we were making our way into the city and found ourselves at the Stephansdom, the wonderfully vast Gothic cathedral with patterned tile roofs and a soaring spire (which we ended up partly ascending on the Sunday, much to the horror of myself and my innate fear of heights…).

Butterflies

One of The Flâneur Husband’s colleagues had recommended we visit the Schmetterlinghaus, the butterfly house, so it was the first sight we sought out deliberately, though in proper flâneur style we didn’t have a map. I knew it was in the Hofburg area, in the grounds of the old Emperial palace, and who needs directions anyway when strolling around a lovely city, right?

The butterfly house was magical! Nothing less… Huge – HUGE! – butterflies fluttering about all over, with stunning colours and wing spans of up to 8 inches. They’re impossible to photograph with a phone camera, of course, so you have to make do with the photo above. It does, I feel, convey the ephemeral and magical quality of the place, though, and it is perhaps the most romantic site we saw in all of Vienna.

Dinner on Saturday almost deserves an entry of its own… We went to Tian, a vegetarian restaurant in the city centre with its own cocktail bar downstairs, and the food was AMAZING! I absolutely loved it, and it just goes to show how you can easily have a vegetarian meal without ever missing a piece of meat. (And I do love meat…) And the cocktail bar in the basement was also very nice, though sadly The Flâneur Husband created a rapport with the head bartender, so we ended up perhaps having one cocktail too many, but then that’s what happens.

The next morning saw us slightly worse for wear. I’m an early riser, so I went for a walk in the baroque Belvedere Gardens next to our hotel. The gardens open at 6AM, so when I walked around there I was literally alone in a baroque garden, and this is a very strange experience.

Belvedere Gardens

Sadly my phone was back at the hotel, so I couldn’t take pictures of the hauntingly beautiful ambience when you walk around in the early morning mist between the terraces, topiary cones, parterres d’eau (though sans eau at this time of year) and hedge rooms in complete solitude. Our hotel room overlooked the garden of the old Salesian nunnery and behind that you can see the Belvedere Gardens.

My husband knows me, so when we were walking around the city he kept saying “There’s a church; let’s go inside”, so we saw some amazing churches, from the High Gothic of the Stephansdom over the restrained Hallenkirche of the Augustinian church to the roccoco interior of the Russian church to the full-on baroque of the Dominican church.

Baroque

I loved Vienna. We had a wonderful weekend there; less than 36 hours in one of the great cities of Europe, which is perhaps unfair, but it was enough to make us want to come back some day.

And if you ever stop bye Vienna:

These two places are really reason enough to visit Vienna, and then stop by every church you pass.

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Tomorrow morning The Flâneur Husband and I will be heading off to Vienna for an overnight get-away for absolutely no particular reason at all, other than that my Mother-in-law wanted to give us a treat to celebrate our second anniversary on September 4th. She’s footing the bill, and we just have to enjoy ourselves – and send her a post card… Gotta love that!

Vienna 1902

We have booked tables for lunch and dinner, as well as a hotel room for Saturday night, but other than that there are absolutely no plans. Neither of us has been to Vienna before, so I guess the best plan is just to say that we stroll around the city and take in the place slowly and leisurely.

Obviously we HAVE to stop by the Cathedral, Stephansdom, and I’d rather like at least a short stroll around the boulevards since I once wrote a university paper on Viennese town planning in the late 19th century, but it’s all subject to change.

The weather forecast looks nice, the hotel looks nice, the restaurants look nice and I need to get a haircut today so I, too, will look nice.

Vienna weather forecast 3-4 November 2012

Good times ahead…

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For those of you who are of a Halloween disposition, I bring you the scariest pictures from my image library…

We start off with some rather capricious spirit guides, the tupilaqs I bought in Greenland back in 2008 when I went hiking around Nuuk for two weeks. (An outdoorsy take on being a flâneur, I guess, meandering about in solitude on the fells around Nuuk…)

Tupilaq

Wikipedia calls tupilaqs “avenging monsters”, but my tupilaqs are definitely just examples of folk art, created as souvenirs for tourists. I love the one above, though; she’s clearly connected with abundance; fertility, good hunting of both seals and birds, and in that respect I think she translates easily into a gardening context.

The next one is more decidedly moster-ish; a lizard-like diamond-patterned skin, large claws and an open mouth. The impression, though, is softened by the soft tones of pink and green that comes out of this reindeer antler having been left to rot somewhat. The rot produces this lovely pastel colour spectrum in the bone, and the contrast between the sharpness of the diamond pattern and the polished surfaces makes this an absolute treat to handle.

Tupilaq
And now… Now comes the scary part… Mommy dearest!

My Mum the witch

I love this picture of my Mum as a witch… It goes a long way in showing her personality. She works in a kindergarten, and the picture was taken an early morning when she had gotten dressed for work, complete with blackened teeth and my Dad’s walking stick (which he made himself).

She had dressed up for Fastelavn celebrations in the kindergarten, in Denmark this is the dress-up holiday of the year for kids, rather like Halloween in the North Americas, and my Mum loves to dress up… She doesn’t do stereotypes, though, so rather than going with the pointy hat and the broom-stick she obviously dressed as a witch from the folk tales.

The picture was taken quite a few years ago, but I still use it as an example of what kind of upbringing I had. Whenever people think I’m a bit strange or odd I can just show them this photo of my Mum and they will go “Ahh… I see…”!

However, to finish off on a more traditional Halloween note, have some (store-bought) pumpkins!

Hokkaido

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`Believe me, my young friend, there is NOTHING–absolute nothing–half so much worth doing as simply messing about in boats. Simply messing,’

(Ratty in “The Wind in the Willows” by Kenneth Graham)

On Saturday, once we were done tidying up after the juice making, sixteen of us went on a boating trip to Romsø, a small island off the coast of Funen. The island is just over a square kilometre, and partly a protected nature preserve with the south tip of the island being off limits during the mating season of the sea birds from April through July. It’s privately owned as part of the Hverringe estate, but it’s open to the public as long as you observe certain precautions (no feeding the animals, no fires; that sort of thing).

Boating

We went in two boats, and as you can see the skippers gave them full throttle on the way over to the island. It was a bit of a choppy ride, going at 45 kilometres/hour, but great fun. I have always loved being out on the sea, wide horizons all around and so much space.

Seascape

It was one of those wonderfully warm autumn days, with temperatures up to 19 degrees Celsius and the occasional glimpse of sunshine; it almost felt like “the end of summer”, though there’s no denying that we’re in full-on autumn by now.

The island has a population of 180 fallow deer and we were fortunate enough to see quite a few of them as we went around the island. Unfortunately there was a hunt going on in the forest, so we had to stay on the coastal path, but we saw a couple of herds grazing on the edge of the forest, and we also saw the two albino deer but obviously there was no point in trying to take a photo as they were well beyond the range of my phone camera. You can see a picture of one here if you want to see what they look like.

Romsø beach

On the Southern side the island has wide marshes and a pebble beach, but on the North side, especially to the North-East, the sea has eroded the hills and created some beautiful clay cliffs, topped with a stretch of meadows with hawthorns in a very distinct shape that clearly shows how high the fallow deer can reach, since they bite off all new shoots below one metre.

Romsø cliffs

Once we had made it all the way around the island (it is only about 4 kilometres in circumference) we settled down for coffee and biscuits – and perhaps a beer or two had snuck into the hampers alongside the thermos flasks…

Romsø coffee break

This island is really a small gem, especially because the Hverringe estate maintains it in such a gentle manner. The deer population is only hunted to the extent necessary to keep it at a viable level, and new stock is introduced every so often to avoid inbreeding, and the forest is more or less left to its own devices so the only trees cut down are the ones that pose a danger to visitors. It’s a prime example of responsible stewardship of an area of natural beauty. It may not be large and dramatic like the Grand Canyon, but Denmark is a small country, so our natural beauties are perhaps more subtle and gentle than in larger countries. (Remember that the highest natural point in Denmark is only 170.86 metres above sea level… Yes, we measure our highest points with two decimals, because they really are so low that every centimetre counts…)

Leaving Romsø

We left Romsø in the glorious afternoon sunshine, and on our way back we had the pleasure of spotting a few porpoises playing around in the waves. (Even our whales are small in Denmark…)

I haven’t been to Romsø since I was a child, so it was a real treat to go back and be able to recognise some of the places. At one point I saw an old farm building and realised that I remembered that there used to be a great swing hanging from the branches of an old oak tree, but sadly the on-going hunt meant it would be neither safe nor sensible to go see if it was still there. Risking your life to check up on an old swing is, surely, too stupid a thing to do, even for me.

And this ends my trilogy of posts about my autumn holiday; I was away from Wednesday to Sunday, taking time to spend an extra day on either end of the juice making to visit my grandmother with just my Mum and my Mother-in-law so I could spend some time with the old woman without having lots of people and children and work all around to distract us. She turns 90 next spring, so it’s worth investing a bit of time with her while we are fortunate enough to have her with us.

I came away with a pre-emptive inheritance of two small Krenit bowls and 7 Kirsten Piil beer glasses, the latter coming from my Great-grandmother and matching the glasses The Flâneur Husband inherited after his grandmother. Basically my grandmother is getting rid of lots of stuff she doesn’t need, and she’d rather see people be happy about their inheritance while she lives than leave it for when she can no longer take pleasure in giving it. – And she doesn’t give away anything she wants to keep herself; it’s simply that her drawers and cupboards are full of heirlooms that she doesn’t need, doesn’t like or just doesn’t care about herself. The best silver is reserved for wedding presents to her grandchildren (The Flâneur Husband and I got two silver spoons that were given to my great-grandmother on her baptism and confirmation respectively, engraved with her name and the dates), and I’m sure her will is full of little sweet thoughts like that so she knows who will get what. (She has told me that I will get whatever books her children don’t want… And it’s a rather varied collection; I’ve already been given some, including her copy of American Psycho which she read when it appeared in Danish. She hated the book, but how cool is it that my grandmother has actually READ it?)

Anyway… I’m veering off topic now, so I guess that means this post is at an end. I hope you enjoyed coming with me on a family holiday with me and 37 members of my family. (On my mother’s side… My father’s side is the LARGE family!)

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