Botanical Gardens Celestino Mutis in Rota, Costa Ballena, Cadis, Spain, Andalusia
A few photos from my time in Rota and my hunt for the chameleon.
A few photos from my time in Rota and my hunt for the chameleon.
Back up travel snippets: Zadar to Split, Croatia.
Way back in September I had the fortune of meeting an old college friend in Croatia. We split a lazy week in Zadar, Split, and a day at the Krka National Park. It was wonderful to meet a friend abroad as an alternative to visiting one another or even embarking out together. Both cities were smaller than we visualized leaving lots of time for sun baking and swimming. Rather than describing what we saw or did, I'd like to share a story of our late night out in Split and the character of the locals we met there.
On our last night in Split Jen and I decided to try to act young and go out for the evening. We started out well, dancing around to 90's and 00's music while drinking wine in the flat and getting dress. Around 1O we made our way out to the old town in hopes of finding a bar to start and dancing and friends for later. Now, this is where we encountered our first mistake: it was a Thursday night. In Newcastle and Tokyo (our respective homes) this should not have been an issue, but apparently this is a Friday and Saturday only city.
We did eventually find a downtown bar that was open and settled in with a few drinks with three Germans we met. We were advised not to even try finding dancing and to be content here, so we were. After a few drinks though, conversation grew stagnant; either there was a language barrier, or more likely, we were just very different groups. That is when we transferred to a group of Swedish businessmen there on a group holiday. Conversation was easy, people were relaxed, and it was all going very well late into the evening. That is, until one of the men - the one we were conversing most with - starting showing signs of elitism, sexism, and some racism too. A fast turn with the alcohol revealed and absolute jerk.
Huffing off, angry and ranting Jen and I headed home. Blood rushing from offense, we passed by an elderly gentleman and his younger companion smoking. Jen asked for a smoke to calm down, and perhaps seeing our distress, had us sit and speak with him. His English was very limited, our Croatia zip, so it was mostly seeing that we were ok and then showing us his cats around the corner. We learned that he ran the bakery across the street and at 3 am, they were beginning to bake the bread for the next day. His companion was one of the bakers. He took us inside and introduced us to the men working, showed us the bread and the ovens. We even had a chance to try to slice the bread pre-baking which is much more difficult than it looks. One of the workers then gave us each some bread to snack on as we watched and stayed warm inside. It was a series of kind gestures and we were so overwhelmed by this surprise introduction to their lives, that our moods completely lifted.
Having opened the shop, he invited us along with a co-worker of some sorts to his flat for coffee. It was a small bachelor pad and it appeared that he had lived alone for a long time - as there certainly was no hint of a woman's touch around. He made coffee on the stovetop and served it with grinds and all. Jen was not accustomed to this method and woefully did not filter the grinds through her teeth on her first sip. It was strong and not exactly tasty, but well appreciated as we were perfectly sober by this point. They spoke about the local Dalmatian music on the radio and asked us about our story. An hour later, Jen and I were ready for sleep and the men were headed back into work. They walked us most of the way to our flat, after we insisted we were almost there as it was quite a bit out of their way.
And all we could speak about as the sky began to lighten was how in a single evening when humanity disappointed us so, it also showed us the most kind and wonderful people.
Back in September my father and I took a week to travel about a bit of the UK. I've already discussed our trip to Snowdon in the last post, but here I want to stream a few thought straggles from the trip.
Our first stop during the week was, in fact, Snowdon. The next day though, we drove up and around Holyhead Island to see South Stack with its lighthouse, cliffs, rare chough birds and general scenery.
-This landscape is called heath or heathland, but heath can also be called heather from the heather family of plants.
- I made my dad go down the stairs to be stopped at the gate because we were not going to pay to see the lighthouse. Really, dad followed me then regretted it.
- Looking sharp Daddio
- The cliffs has some beautiful sediment patterns. We also saw seals from afar and a lot of spiders. I'm not sure it is something I would drive that far to again, but if you are in the neighborhood it is some refreshing air.
- Choughs, easily identified by their red bills.
After a nice three days in Wales, it was time to go see Cambridge and Wisbech as a sort of return to one motherland. My most recent English relative left for the states just in time to fight in theAmerican Civil War. I believe this was my great-great-great- (one more?) -grandfather. While he was from Wisbech, we assume family was about Cambridge to some extent.
- King's College Chapel was really quite wonderful and chalk-full of information.
- While still on the campus we met a gentleman who, rather aggressively, told us about the punt boats history. Being a local, he kindly explained for us Americans how Cambridgians stand on the stern of the boat while the cowardly Oxfordians stand in the boat.
- I did not get any bubble tea that trip, very sad. I just like this woman's face as I creeped about with my camera.
-I grew up with sheep. I love all things sheep. Dad, less so. We were in 4-H, basically an agricultural youth organization, where all farms must be named. My father recently sent me a photo of a sheep farm called, "Against Dad's Will." That pretty much sums up my dad's thoughts on still having our sheep.
- Cambridge Botanical Gardens
- Queen of the Botanical Gardens (for 5 seconds before moving on)
- I like bugs
And finally: Wisbech. Frankly, this town was much larger than I expected with a nice market and very old town centre and church. That said, it was a bit run down.
My maternal grandparents were Lithuanian and there was clearly a large Eastern European population currently in Wisbech based on the various languages and shops I saw represented. Just a little familial amusement.
- And last but not least, a very grumpy man surrounded by flowers.
So there you have it, my lingering thoughts and images from my September trip. While I meant to make a bit more sense of them all, at least I hope enjoy a photo or two.
Next entry I'll make sure to tell a little story from Split, Croatia.
Roughly in order of events.
*Driving with my father in this country is 100% terrible. The roads and oncoming traffic feel like death approaching.
*So tired. Why no coffee this morning? Why DAD!?
* It is no where near as cold as I planned for. I have way too much clothing packed.
*Sweaty back. It begins.
*The air smells clear here. Such still water. So nice.
*Interesting little ruin. Hmm, does the path go around the other side?
*And now it goes up. Time for 'UP.'
*Dad! Stop whining! Why do you continue to go hiking with me?
*Evolution really benefitted man.
*Gentle start here. I can do this, its easier than I expected. Oh, you've got to be kidding me! Its a wall of stairs. A. Mountain. Wall. Of. Stairs.
*Hilarious eavesdropping of a young woman refusing to go any higher and telling her dad to go on, she'd wait there. He appeared to be forcing her to exercise. I wonder how that played out.
*My legs are not in great shape here.
*The sheep here know no limits. They are just casually hanging out all the way up this pile of rocks. I keep thinking we've seen the last, then there is another. And another.
*Its always a bit shameful getting lapped.
*Going up the Miner's Path first was a good idea. Hard up, gentle down.
*My thighs! Oh, my pitiful thighs!
*Very glad we did not know about the restaurant at the top. Dad hates the concept so much. I definitely saved myself some grumbling there. That said, the cold beer was grand.
*The people at the summit are a very juxtaposed group of charming nature lovers and the worst loud, moment-ruining hordes of people whom feel compelled to yell, litter, and detract from the view and any concept of peace.
*Moved and found a nicer, quieter spot. Much less angry now. More food.
* This is me! (a sweaty version)
*I would have loved to have another day to explore the land around here.
*Vegan food, not so easy to find in the small town here. Bread for lunch! And maybe a bunch of Oreos.
* Cheater train.
*Hmm, actually had extra water this journey. Beer must have replaced it.
*Yep, now its my calves. Why are gyms so expensive. Do I really have to start running again?
*END: I did not love the way down. It follows the train tracks and in general lacks all notion of wilderness. Far too many over worked little dogs and ill-prepared groups of teens yelling back and forth. Too busy for my taste and lacking the superb views of the ascent. I am clearly just not a people person.
*But the way up, and Snowdon in general was wonderful. The vast views from the climb: hills and peaks, sheep, such greens, and cold mountain waters. A pleasant day mainly composed of great scenery, leg pain and its resulting shame, beer, and a quiet, comfortable father-daughter silence punctuating by dad's complaints.
Snowdon Mountain, Snowdonia, Wales.
My trip to Estonia in June was mainly comprised of two parts. The first was that of Tallinn city, the second was on Saaremaa Island. It is on this island that I witnessed and participated in the Midsummer Holiday. The whole journey was a truly interesting experience, and not quite what I expected to find. I've finished my report on the project (which includes travel logs, interviews, traditions, short stories, my own response story in the folk narrative style, and a boat load of photographs). If you have the time, please take a look for it under my 'STORY SAMPLES' section of this website.
Below are two blocks of images: those of the island life and those of the Midsummer holiday. I hope you enjoy the images and are able to get a taste for the beautiful country, simple lifestyle, and celebrated traditions of Saaremaa Island.
In continuance with the Bartlett project posts, this post will be a photo-heavy entry. The following images are from the city of Tallinn. This city was a pleasure to visit. It was clean, walkable, friendly and full of historic and artistic interest. I found it very easy to maneuver in as a vegetarian (though not as a vegan) and most people I met spoke English. My only complaint would be the overwhelming number of similar tourist shops and therefore a relative lack of authentic goods.
The past couple of weeks have been very busy with travels, projects, and preparing for my final MFA degree show so this, as well as possible future posts will be mostly photo-essays. Enjoy seeing a bit of what I have seen, hopefully I will share more about the experiences in the future!
A Doors of Dublin poster used to hang in my grandparent's house as a child. I loved that poster though never connected them with an actual place. This spring I had to the chance to visit a cousin who lives in Dublin, and noticed that he had acquired my grandmother's old poster. Click! While visiting, I can bet I took the time to go see the some of the beloved doors. This past week I have been in Estonia researching Midsummer narrative traditions and rituals. I have collected lots of observations and photographs and look forward to organizing my thoughts in the next few days. For now though, I've collected a few passing shots of the doors of Tallinn. The bright, geometric doors liven up the buildings and give Tallinn one of its distinctive flavors. I wish I had thought to take more images!
This coming Saturday, I have the fortune to fly out to Tallinn, Estonia for a week celebrate Jaanipäev or the Midsummer Solstice (also called St. John's Eve). With the aid of the Bartlett Travel Scholarship through the Newcastle University Art Department, I will conduct a week's worth of research on the holiday focusing on the folklore traditions surrounding the solstice and examining how the role of narratives have changed over the last couple centuries. Many of the midsummer customs have folkloric roots, including: jumping over bonfires, hunting for enchanted ferns, prediction of future spouses, swinging songs and dances, games, and the sharing of fairy tales. Jaanipäev is celebrated a couple days after the longest day, on the 23-24th of June and is arguably the largest holiday of the Estonian Year (contending only with Christmas). All three Baltic States take this time to celebrate their pagan roots and the wildlife of their countries. I am very excited to go to a country that is immersed in sun for 18 hours a day and both learn about and engage with the celebrations.
My plan is to fly into Tallinn and spend the first two days in the city learning about the historical elements of the solstice and meeting with 3-4 residents I've met through Couchsurfers. I have found at least nine Tallinn residents who are willing to show me the city and tell me about their experience with Jaanipäev. Couchsurfers has been such a great resource for me in this project and is aiding me in finding local research and perspectives.
One couchsurfer, Marge, has been so wonderful as to allow me to stay with her and for 3-4 days we will travel with her friends to Eastern Estonia, to Muhu Island, to celebrate with the local rural communities. I could ask for nothing more than to be invited to celebrate authentically with future friends. I am so thrilled to have this opportunity. For the last couple days of my trip, I plan to continue south with Marge before returning to Tallinn. In the following couple of posts I will share some of my research and lots of photographs, so look forward to some fire hoping and camping images!
So at last, in anticipation of my coming travel project, below is one of my favorite, thus far uncovered, stories about Jaanipäev. Hopefully in a couple of weeks, my list will have grown much longer.
Koit (Dawn) and Hämarik (Dusk or Twilight) are two ancient lovers of the sky. Bound together, in counterbalance, the two have been forced apart by both the day and night. Doomed to spend their immortal existence apart, they spend their time gravitating closer and further apart again.
But once a year, and only once, as midnight draws near on the longest day, Hämarik offers his hand to Koit as the lightest night of the year awaits. Then Dawn and Dusk exchange the briefest, fleeting kiss. This kiss marks the shortest night and the longest day, as their love pushes away the darkness. The two lovers' kiss is celebrated by the people of earth, for their love brings light and prosperity to the lands. And it is the knowledge of their returning embrace that keeps hope alive through the darkest of winters.
Just about to close at the Northumbrian University Gallery is a small Louise Bourgeois print exhibition. Bourgeois (1911-2010) worked with drawing, print, textiles, sculpture, and text. Probably best know for addressing topics of motherhood and the body, along with her giant metal spiders, Bourgeois expressed the intimacies of her mind through various media and phases over the many decades of her life. She began making prints in 1938, in New York at a printmaking studio and with a small intaglio press in her home as she raised her three children. In 1949, she focused her practice on sculpture until 1951, when her father passed away. Falling into a severe depression, in the next decade of her life she barely made art or left the house. In 1964, she finally exhibited new sculptures exploring psychoanalysis, fleshy, spirals and organic shapes for which her later work is known. From 1973-1977, she was a printmaking teacher at the School of Visual Arts. She continued printing until her death in 2010.
In 1999, Bourgeois was the first woman to make a new commission for the Turbine Hall at Tate Modern, London. This work, her most famous sculpture, was Maman: a 35-ft tall bronze spider. Bourgeois said it is her “most successful subject” and that the emblem of the spider is,
An ode to my mother. She was my best friend. Like a spider, my mother was a weaver. Like spiders, my mother was very clever. Spiders are helpful and protective, just like my mother.
In the Northumbrian University Gallery, there were no spiders, but there was one animal representation: Mosquito (1999, drypoint on paper). This warm red print is a simple line drawing that addresses complex ideas in a minimal manner. Morphing female human and mosquito body parts with what may be a fetus element in the insect’s abdomen, Mosquito is an evocative metaphor for motherhood and femininity.
What was it about insectival structures that reminded Bourgeois so much of the female life and mind? It is certainly not a typical approach to express the depths of one’s mind with such historically negative symbols. What makes the metaphors of Maman and Mosquito so incredible is that they are not, in fact, negative. She is neither condemning motherhood nor herself. She is expressing a complex life full of positive and negative experiences in a direct, personal manner. These forms, that were so unique for the time and made so much sense to her, do make sense to the viewer if perhaps only after a culturally learned hesitation. Bourgeois’ delicacy conveys the raw beauty of harsh realities (of a woman’s body and life, but also of all humans). The subject is left exposed and vulnerable, yet never weak. Finding strength in flaws and open communication, Bourgeois' works helps to transition the common use of animal metaphors in contemporary art.
In the essay Why Look at Animals?, John Berger discusses a brief history of western European and North American tradition, and break in tradition, of linking humankind to nature: in particular the relationship to animals and the cultural use of animal metaphors and symbolic thought.
Until the 19th century, however, anthropomorphism was integral to the relation between man and animal and was an expression of their proximity. Anthropomorphism was the residue of the continuous use of animal metaphor. In the last two centuries, animals have gradually disappeared. Today we live without them. And in this new solitude, anthropomorphism makes us doubly uneasy. - Berger, pg. 21.
Bourgeois aptly redefined anthropomorphic creatures, that are typically symbols of fear and evil, to suit her own artistic needs. In Maman and Mosquito (along with many other works), Bourgeois tenderly uses the pitiful and dangerous to represent uncomfortable subjects about the body, mental health, and womanhood. I greatly admire Louis Bourgeois' work and strength, much of her content resonates deeply with me. Bourgeois pushed the boundaries of self-expression and exposure and succeeded in creating individual works that relate to a far larger audience and, I suspect, will continue to do so for years to come.
From the first of May until the 26th of July, the Irish Museum of Modern Art (Dublin) is exhibiting the work of Karla Black. Black (b. 1972 Alexandria, Scotland) was educated, lives in and works in Glasgow. She attended the Glasgow School of Art for her BA, MPhil and MFA degrees. In 2011, Black represented Scotland at the 54th Venice Biennale and was nominated for the Turner Prize. Her work has been exhibited in Germany, USA, the Netherlands, UK, and Switzerland. Considered one of Glasgow's vibrant contemporary artists, Black practices a type of autonomous sculpture. She has developed a personal vocabulary inspired by ideas of psychoanalysis and feminism's impact on visual art. Drawing from various art historical backgrounds, Black describes her forms as, "physical explorations into thinking, feeling, communicating and relating."
Filling the South East Wing of the museum, Black's connected pieces links four galleries and a corridor into one in situ installation. For her first solo show in Ireland, Black- inspired by the IMMA's architecture- installed a row of vertical supports to run along the corridor as the focal point of her exhibition. Prospects, 2015, has 20 plaster casts of approximately 3' tall, thin tree trunks that are bound loosely and partially veiled with a transparent cellophane sheet that twists and swells into various knots. The casts have been set into a plank of raised soil that crumbles and feels overly delicate for the public walking path. The earth, trees, and plastic are daubed with makeup and spray painted with pastels of yellow, pink, green, and blue. The stereotypical female cotton candy palate is just balanced by the deep, dry brown of the soil that one may conceivably overlook as it blends into the gallery floor. The extended installation track is centered in the corridor as viewers are lead to look down one end and then take the circling loop to more closely investigate the Seussian meets Candy Land landscape.
Running parallel to the corridor on the righthand side is a strip of four square galleries connected by open door frames. In three of these rooms hangs a single and ethereal sculpture tailored to fit the space (each an individual, titled work). These floating sculptures are constructed of draping and pinned soft polythene sheets suspended by thread. Each room has a dominant color: pink, blue, and blue again. But within each eye-level bulge little scrunched plastics of other colors represent Black's entire pastel palette. The final gallery contains three constructed and suspended clouds made from cotton wool, sugar paper, ribbon, body and oil paint. These forms are significantly less delicate than the plastic rooms, and yet less suggestively aggressive. The plastics contain a smothering capacity and restrained life-like motion that has been sophistically masked with dirty baby pink and blue paint powder. While Black's emphasis on tactile aesthetics harkens back to the 1970's feminist's artists application of non-traditional materials used to order to challenge multiple aspects of the art-world hierarchies, Black's works do not read as pointedly political. In fact, at the first impression is a sense of creative play and flexible hands aiming to suggest a type of foreign communication. Her work has been described as a type of escapism, and her installation of magical trees, earth and clouds do indeed have a sense of other worldly or dreamlike construction. Despite this partial creation the viewers of Black's exhibit followed the predictable path of the gallery's architecture- passing through, pausing here and there, then ultimately floating away often without the significant consideration Black's installation is worthy of enticing.
Last Wednesday I went for my first time to the 'Show and Tell' event at the Tyneside Cinema in Newcastle upon Tyne. Running since early fall 2014, these free monthly events allow local students and recent graduates a chance to show their moving image work. Any form of moving image is acceptable and in the past people have shown fine art, animation, film, interactive media, documentary and commercial work. Last week there were six presentations that took the form of art video, artist/scientist digital video collaboration, narrative short, and documentary. Before showing the work, the artist(s) was introduced and given the opportunity to comment. Most preferred to wait until after screening, but a few people took the time to set the scene or tell the audience it was still a work in progress. After each screening the artists had a chance to get feedback and discuss their work with their peers and the 'host' who had screened all the works and prepared conversation topics for a generally quiet audience. The event ran for two hours with a short leg stretch in the middle. This is an interesting program that has the potential to expand experimental works, bring exposure to new artists, and help the artists improve their craft. At the current moment, the audience is still a bit quiet and the presented works are defended with the term 'incomplete' too much to really bring strength to the event, but given time this may develop.
Below is a quick summary of the April 29th presentations and links to the available works. A few of the concepts and videos were very promising and worth a browse. Enjoy!
Amalfitano (animation) and Spiga (concept) created NO!S3 as an experimental animation based on Datamoshing and Glitching techniques. The sounds combined city noises with wave patterns of sound being played underwater to record the startled reactions of fish to loud noises. The moving animation included waves, video game references, and city forms to help stand as a metaphor for human's react to loud noise distractions- particularly those found in urban societies. This video was a gesture to Spiga's scientific research but the two hope to create a new video matching actual sound waves to the reaction patterns in the future.
Video in above link
The Newcastle University graduate's short film "Lullaby" (2012) is based on short story by an unknown author that Nayernia originally saw on Facebok (funny, I know). The short is a direct humorous and moving narrative about an elderly couple's sleep and morning routines and the battle of marital snoring. The video has a high production feel to it, using professional actors and a clean, stripped back film style with minimal dialogue. The overall storyline is melodramatic but Nayernia tells it in a captivating manner well worth the 8 or so minutes. I enjoyed this video quite a bit: the snoring made my ears twitch, the actors made me laugh, and the plot made me a little emotional.
Northumbrian graduate, Kambo presented a video work in progress revolving around ideas of life and death, fire and water. This non-narrative, flashing, sketch-like work would ideally be realized in a multi-screen installation. The soundtrack dropped in-and-out as images of particles, flames, grey figurative blurs, animated circles filling with water or fire, and unidentifiable flashes linked together to create a fast paced short video.
No video available
Cumbria film and television production graduate, Lee Toas, presented the longest work of the night running around 13 minutes long. The documentary on the Durham independent bookshop introduced the audience to the People's Bookshop through shaking pathways and a traditional documentary-style format. The story is informative and interesting but the video lacks a driving message and the polish it appears to strive for. Despite some awkward cuts and a lack of wider scope, this short documentary is a solid introduction to a local business that the artist clearly feels passionate about.
Costello is a 2012 Northumbrian graduate who recently completed an arts residency at the Tyneside Cinema. "Big Jump" is a micro-short narrative video (3 min 40 sec with credits) about a granddaughter reenacting a photograph of her grandmother on the day of her funeral. This video is seeping with the classic dry and dark British humor while the dialogue is an exercise in reduction. Polished off with special effects and an excellent young actress, "Big Jump" is an enjoyable quirky and poignant short.
Luke Robson is a Newcastle Uni BA art student who is presented the work in progress "Gregg." The NCL Uni film club is currently producing the film and the writer Calum Wheeler is directing. The voiced-over story tells a tale like Kafka's "Metamorphosis" in reverse. A beetle turned into man discusses his hardships at adapting to the drastic and permanent life change. A bit sad, a bit funny, and a bit cliche- this work is not there yet, but is on its way to an entertaining watch.
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If you would like to present your work, please get in touch with firstname.lastname@example.org.
If you'd like to be part of the audience, reserve your free ticket now at the Tyneside Cinema Box Office in person or by calling us on 0845 217 9909. T: @TynesideArt
Preface: As my last couple entries have been centered around Katie Wright and my WILD OBAN kickstarter proposal (which ends very soon on April 30th - still a few hours to donate!) I have decided to transition away from my own practice back into the review of another. SeaWomen by Mikhail Karikis is an inspirational art film that addresses sea life, international exploration, and insight into a fading way of human life - all on a contemporary art platform. Many of the fundamental elements I adore in SeaWomen are aspects Katie and I hope to explore in WILD OBAN. Below is my review of Karikis' video installation from the Listening: Hayward Touring Curatorial Open curated by Sam Belinfante at Baltic39 from September 2014- January 2015.
Mikhail Karikis is a Greek/British interdisciplinary artist currently based in London. He studied architecture at the Bartlett (UCL) and completed an MA/PhD at the Slade School London. Noteworthy exhibitions include: Danish Pavilion 54th Venice Biennale, MANIFESTA 9 (Belgium), the Barbican, 3rd Thessaloniki Biennale (Greece), Tate Britain, Coreana Museum (Seoul), Arnolfini, and Galeria Eduardo Fernandes (Sao Paulo). Since 2007, Karikis' work has incorporated musical recordings and performances including compilations with Army Me, Björk, and DJ Spooky. Both his artistic and musical work revolves around the investigation of the voice as a sculptural material with which he may explore ideas of community, human rights, and identity.
The haenyeo, literally translating to 'sea-women', are a fast disappearing community of female-only sea workers. On the North Pacific island of Jeju, these free diving women have been operating for centuries outside of traditional gender-roles and professional and industrial modernizations. The diminishing community consists now of mainly 60-90 year old women who dive without oxygen up to 20 meters, for 2 minutes, and up to 80 times per day to catch sea-food, collect seaweed, and find pearls. The use of an ancient breathing technique called sumbisori (breath-sound) allows the great depths achieved and produces a unique aural whistle that contributes to the singular identity of this community. The high-pitched breathy whistle or shriek is released at each resurfacing in order to help adjust to the frequent pressure changes. The technique entails rapid exhalation of held carbon dioxide followed by quick inhalation of fresh oxygen. It is this sound that first attracted Karikis to the haenyeo community.
"(I) Asked why they don’t take advantage of the modern development of scuba gear and breathing apparatus they reply, ‘well then we wouldn’t be sea women’". - MK
Traditionally, the practice was passed on from one generation to the next starting at the age of eight when new girls began diving. A combination of intertwined physiological, economic and cultural reasons exist for the gender-purposed nature of this profession including the fat distribution in women’s bodies and historical attitudes towards nudity being shameful and reserved for those of low social status. In the 1970s the haenyeo community was the leading economic force on Jeju island and the women often served as the primary financial providers for the family. This unusual matriarchal system within an otherwise patriarchal Korean society helped alter ideas of female value and pride (if only locally). At the haenyeo's peak 40 years ago, the community that worked commuted, worked, bathed, ate, sang, and prospered together numbered north of thirty thousand women. Near extinction, the work still provides a sense of pride, economic sufficiency, and life purpose for these strong and agile, aging women.
The Baltic 39's video installation SeaWomen, 2012, by Mikhail Karikis was comprised of a multi-speaker sound installation, a 30-minute looping video, and 10 floor pillows on a large straw mat in the blacked out gallery space. Mikhail Karikis' simple but immersive installation focused on emphasizing the aural qualities of the work by presenting a video with only limited Korean words and without subtitles or voice-overs. Karikis feels that to understand and interact with people, one does not need to understand every bit of linguistic information. The only sounds in the video are those of the ocean, the boats, and the women working and communicating with one another. Images of the diving - viewed dominantly from the water's surface - are broken with prolonged scenes of the elderly haenyeo eating communally, cleaning and weighing their catch, washing, singing, and commuting on boats and scooters. The entire day and work process is represented throughout the film, though not always in a chronological fashion.
The stripped back video style allows for sounds to be clear and attention grabbing and for each scene change to be a deliberate addition to the narrative. In the haenyeo's story, each various vocal sounds connects to a certain activity in their day. The whistling marks the dive, the work-song is used in transport, a distinctive shower splash marks the end of the day, and chatter vibrates in the communal dining hall after work. Central to Karikis' research has been vocal sounds that are beyond or without language. Without a frame of reference the sounds of shrieks, gibberish, yelps... are meaningless but in context these specific sounds can help mark the identity of a community. Karikis arranges the different sounds elegantly and with very little self indulgence with the exception of some overlaid singing and wave audios on longer transitions. Despite conflicting with the seemingly unaltered representations of the rest of the work, the audio track additions do aid in creating sensations of time moving on without change.
In the Listening: Hayward Touring Curatorial Open exhibition the importance of the whistling sound and its role in identifying the community is well understood. But were it not for the themed curation, the viewer could easily overlook the significant aural qualities of SeaWomen in exchange for the fascinating subcultural issues of age, gender, and the communal eco-feminist dimension of the sea-working. This by no means weakens the work, but allows for the viewer to direct their attention to whichever elements they find most appealing. The inclusion of the floor mats mirrors the manner in which the haenyeo eat and discuss business matters. This informal viewing presentation lends itself to an intimate relation with the video as viewers relaxed, leaned back, and tended to stay far longer with Karikis' work than is often seen with video installations.
SeaWomen by Mikhail Karikis at first appears as a straight forward documentary but this is far from correct. The artist used the space to welcome the audience and link their bodies to the customs of the haenyeo. He cycled nonlinear scenes to emphasize the role of time in the sea, the women's work, and the women's lives. He paralleled this cycling to the natural filling and emptying of life sustaining breath and centered a video around a sound that marks the transitions between the two. This moment of transition is vital to appreciating the history behind the non-lingual sounds of the sumbisori. SeaWomen enticingly explores an individual sound that stands for a community with a long history of strength, pride, and love of the sea.
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Hello Everyone! As many of you know, Katie Wright and I have been pushing our WILD OBAN Kickstarter proposal this month. In addition to our incessant begging (which will continue for just two more weeks!) I thought I'd share a couple of the folk stories originating in the Hebrides. The two tales below just scratch the surface of our research and I think shows a fascinating specificity to this Scottish area.
If you want to find our more about WILD OBAN or support our project, please go to:
And without further ado, enjoy!
In the undulating waters of the Hebrides there is the Gulf of Corryvreckan, which the local people called the "Gulf of the Speckled Seas" or the "Gulf of the plaid" for an old and powerful hag that lived by these waters. The hag, Cailleach Bheur, was a mighty and giant witch that all were terrified of for she could turn the waters to storms and bring death to the lands. Once a year for three days, Cailleach Bheur went to the seas to wash her great plaid before the winter season. Using the gulf as her washtub she churned her cloth for three days straight causing the waters and winds to roar a tempest that was heard for twenty miles in all directions. The first swirling waters created the great Corryveckan whirlpool that still lasts the whole year round, catching and drowning passing fish and ships. Some say the hag lives in the whirlpool as the fiercest of the kelpies.
For these washing days the people of the islands hide indoors trying not to be caught in the witch's mad cleaning. When Cailleach Bheur was done her cloth was pure white. She then laid it over the lands to dry as it turned into a clean blanket of snow marking the beginning of winter.
Many more tales incorporating this whirlpool exist as the hag goddess doomed many a brave prince and princess in the course of Scottish history.
All photos taken by my partner Katie. Isn't she just awesome?
Long ago a tribe of fallen angels crashed to earth and split into three groups: the ground dwelling fairies, the "Merry Dancers" of the northern lights, and the sea inhabiting blue men. The blue men of the Minch, also known as storm kelpies, inhabit exclusively the stretch of water between the Outer Hebrides and mainland Scotland. These creatures, unlike other kelpies, look like humans only blue and capable of living underwater. When the skies are clear and the waters calm, the blue men are in a fine sleep floating on the backs just below the water's surface. But when awake, they have the power to play with winds and create storms that try the strength of the strongest ships.
To pass the time the Blue Men play shinty when the skies are clear. When ships pass by they spray them with water and laugh roaring winds. When in a more mischievous mood, the kelpie chief, a Shony, rises out of the water and shouts two lines of poetry to the master of passing ships as a challenge. The man must shout two lines back for safe passage, but if he fails the blue men will attempt to capsize the ship and drown all the captain's men.
One of the few recorded instances of this exchange occurred long ago between a skipper and the Blue Men Chief:
Blue Chief: Man of the black cap what do you say
As your proud ship cleaves the brine?
Skipper: My speedy ship takes the shortest way
And I'll follow you line by line
Blue Chief: My men are eager, my men are ready
To drag you below the waves
Skipper: My ship is speedy, my ship is steady
If it sank, it would wreck your caves.
The diary of the Skipper notes, the chief was so surprised by the quick responses that the blue men all retreated to their underwater caves in shame. But it was not always that a captain was so fast on their feet and the Blue Men have drowned many a young sailor over the course of history.
WILD OBAN: A Kickstarter Film Project
Delving into the faerie-seeped waters of Oban, Scotland to reveal the secrets of the mysterious basking shark.
Hello! Katie and I have been working together the past few weeks preparing our Kickstarter proposal to Oban to record the migratory basking sharks and create a short film together. After much planning, we are ready to go! Please take a few minutes to read our proposal and share it with your friends. We appreciate any and all support in helping us get to Oban and film these amazing, vulnerable creatures.
Here's the link!
See our proposal video, learn more about Katie Wright and hear how we met at Kickstarter.
"Wild Oban" combines travel, exploration, nature, folklore, and the production of a short narrative movie. We (Katie and Sofija) aim to create a film uniting local folklore elements with the real-life mystery of the elusive basking shark. We will travel to Oban, Scotland to document the island landscapes, Hebrides waters, and the basking shark. For an up-close thrill, we will even be swimming with these sharks!
The folkloric blue men and the rare sharks will be the film's primary content. The concept of the work will interweave notions of fear (depths/sharks/the unknown) blurred with the search for the monumental or the sublime. We are really interested in how people are drawn to the sea yet it generally is not a place of comfort. It is relatively foreign to us, incomprehensible in scale, and full of potential harm- such as drowning or predators. But at the same time the open water creates sensations of fear, it equally entices with the freedom of an open horizon and the calming sound of repeating waves.
The end product will be a large split screen video installation. Each panel will (at the same or different times) explore the same subject matters in different tones. The consistent content but varying emotional responses will push how one can interact or respond to the same set of stimuli. Such as representing the blue men or sharks warmly or with a foreboding perspective. But in the end it will be our firsthand experience interacting with this environment and these creatures that will inevitably determine the creative tone.
Oban is a rural town a couple hours north of Glasgow, Scotland. The area, which overlooks the Hebrides islands, has a history of intriguing folklore and stories that speak of sunken ships, magical hags, and storm kelpies. One particular story (found exclusively in the Hebrides) is the that of the BLUE MEN. The Blue Men hid in the lochs and seas and are sometimes considered a type of storm kelpie. They sang lines of poetry to passing ship captains in order to test their wit. The correct answers would allow safe passage through the dangerous waters.
The coast of Scotland and the Hebrides Islands (particularly the Isle of Coll and Mull) have abundant wild and beautiful geology, flora, and fauna. Just a portion of what we can see in this area includes underwater plant life, fish, dolphins, otters, seals, puffins, gulls and various birds, jelly fish, basking sharks, hexagonal rock formations, sea caves, whirlpools, and sand beaches. This dynamic landscape still has a low human density population that is ideal for experiencing unaltered (or less altered) nature.
With the "Basking Sharks Scotland" boat and resources we will explore Oban, Lunga and Staffa, Fingal's Cave, Mull, and the Isle of Coll.We want to explore the splendor of these waters and islands to capture footage of this less traversed area of the UK.
Basking Sharks are also known as 'bone sharks' due to the ribcage-like structure revealed when their mouths are open. Basking sharks are the second-largest living fish after the whale shark and are plankton-eating (they still have hundreds of tiny teeth though!). Adult sharks typically reach 20-26 feet in length. Fun fact: cases of "globsters" or unidentified sea monsters have turned out to be basking shark carcasses.
These slow moving filter feeders are found throughout the world's coastal warm-temperate oceans but, due to overhunting, in many locations they are classified as either 'endangered,''critical,' or have even disappeared completely. In the UK they are considered a protected vulnerable species. Due to their overhunting, wintering in deep waters, and lack of long-term scientific research, the basking shark remains a relative mystery. These gentle giants spark the imagination through their unknown habits, their peaceful nature, their astounding size, and their human tolerance.
Basking sharks are believed to be migratory and winter in deep waters. That means the only reliable way to see them is when they surface during the warmer summer season. Due to water temperature fluctuations, a Scottish plankton boom in July and August draws the sharks to the Oban area as a shark hotspot.
This means we have a limited period of time per year to witness these slippery hiders!
Before our trip starts, we will be preparing. Fortunately we have three whole months to research they sharks and the folklore elements through libraries, the internet, and historical, regional, a scientific museums and archives. Leaving from Newcastle on August 11th, we will take the train northwest to Oban where we will spend one night in a hostel. While on the Oban land we will be able to conduct local research on the folklore of the area in preparation for the following days on the water. From August 12-14th we will participate in the Three Day Shark Tour with Basking Sharks Scotland. Through snorkeling, swimming, kayaking, and sight seeing from the boat we will get real first hand experience with the Hebrides landscape and nature. It is also where we will encounter (and hopefully not be terrified by) the large basking sharks. This is when the majority of our recording will take place. We will shoot everything we experience with all the equipment in our arsenal including: multiple digital cameras, video recording, underwater film cameras, and sound recording equipment. The varying recording techniques will provide different effects that will be collaged together in our final film. Each day of our journey we will post updates and blog entries with the days' events and a preview photo or two so you can witness the process each step of the way.
After the boat trip, we will return to Newcastle to review our material and create a split screen video installation. The end product will be designed for large scale installation viewing and will be adapted for computer screens so our supporters can view the work from anywhere. Yay internet!
The primary reason we are starting our proposal in March is that the wild swimming and shark tours book FAR in advance. We have secured two spots for August but we still need to cover the deposit.
Our costs include train rides from Newcastle to Oban, one night in a hostel, equipment insurance, snorkeling gear and wetsuits, the three-day tour (which includes accommodation for those nights), and art materials for photography printing, screens, and video installation.
Estimated Total Cost (without food or other living costs) £1,800.
This cost is the minimum needed to safely get us there and complete the project. Any extra money donated will go towards better underwater recording devices and towards exhibiting our short movie in better and multiple venues throughout the UK.
We have the details figured out and we know what we need to do. We just need your help in getting there. Thank you for looking at our proposal and please support our project.
Special thanks to:
Basking Sharks Scotland for use of video clips and images until we procure our own. (http://baskingsharkscotland.co.uk)
Lee Rosevere for use of the song "Lost Ship" (http://freemusicarchive.org/music/Lee_Rosevere/)
Our little team of two have calculated this project to be low risk. That said, some possible challenges may include: potential damage to documentation or equipment, weather delays, and/or health issues. We will have insurance for both ourselves and our equipment. We have full confidence this project will go without any major hitches and we will always keep everyone updated! Or we could be horribly wrong and find out basking sharks do indeed eat people and then not return to finish the project.
Let's start this post out with a story.
Long ago in Liverpool, two mystical birds haunted the shores of the medieval city. The male and female pair were chained down to a building by the River Mersey and if were they ever to fly away the river would burst and its banks would flood and destroy the beloved city of Liverpool. Over the years, the enslaved birds protected the city dutifully. The female looked out to the sea (Our Prosperity) watching for the seamen to return safely home and the male looked towards the city (Our People) of the families of the traveling seamen and open pubs. If the birds were ever to escape together, the city would cease to exist. The hopeful Liver birds may also come to life if an honest man and a virgin women were to fall in love in front them. Tragically for the birds, but not the pubs, this has never happen in the centuries past and is likely never to take place. So rest in peace knowing that Liverpool will exist for many years to come with the stone protectors standing still.
Now that you've had a nice introduction to Liverpool, enjoy some grainy phone photos of my weekend trip to visit the home of the 'Scousers' or officially the 'Liverpudlians.' (Really. Liverpool was once referred to as Liverpuddle. This is why the people need birds to protect it.)
After a long train ride, we went straight to drop our bags in our airbnb room in Wallasey. It was about 20 minutes away from centre Liverpool, but due to late planning all the hostels were booked (so many stag dos and hen parties). Luckily, our room was amazing and I completely recommend using airbnb. We slept so much better than in a shared hostel and got a real breakfast out of it. Well within my mid twenties now, I find I am learning to appreciate a quiet bed even if you have to end your night out to catch the last metro.
Next stop, the beginning of a 2 day search for good coffee. We tried many places and found one in the end that had a truly decent cup. But there were lots of places with fun atmospheres, like Central Perk designed to mimic the 'Friends' coffee shop. In the end, the lack of really good coffee was our strongest complaint of Liverpool.
Liverpool is great for meandering. Its neither too large to do on foot, nor too small to get bored of in a weekend. The architecture is STUNNING and varied. It was a grey weekend and still the city was beautiful. Lots of stone. Some buildings we checked out in the old section of the city were the public library and the Walker Art Gallery (photos below). Both are beautiful spaces and free to explore. The Walker Gallery has a range of more traditional and older art works, primarily oil paintings. But it still houses some contemporary works, including the John Moores Painting Prize exhibit.
Liverpool is basically second only to Newcastle in the nightlife department. Personally, I think it deserves to be higher on the list because there are tons of bars, pubs and clubs with a variety of music. There were Irish bars, live acoustic, rock bands, pop, jazz/swing, electronic, and Beatles and classic rock/Brit pop (obviously being home the Fab 4 it keeps that history alive). This was only what we witnessed walking within a half mile square area. One of our main tourist spots was the famous Cavern Club. It has a great design and good music but it is ridiculously crowded of people that may or may not be there for the actual music. In general, this city is a great place to go out and try lots of different vibes. Its not too 'party' style for my taste (like Newcastle) but there was still plenty of the drunk young and old parties wandering around. If you can put up with some of the oddballs and the club promoters, you're sure to find something to your taste here
One of the interesting cultural elements of the city is the two large cathedrals: one Anglican and one Catholic. The Angelican Cathedral is the largest Cathedral in the UK and one of the main tourist attractions. It is amazing and almost bizarre in scale and efficiency. There is a well developed café within the main church and a couple contemporary art works mixed in with the religious artworks. Despite its magnificence, the commercial-tourist element is very prominent and distracting.
On the opposite end of Hope Street (coincidently named) is the Catholic Metropolitan Cathedral. This smaller Cathedral is no less grand. I found this church fascinating in design. Locally nicknamed 'Paddy's Wigwam' for its unique architecture, this may be the oddest and most contemporary Catholic churches I've witnessed. The massive stained glass and set artworks are all color coordinated and the circular design removes any strong focal points. I wish I could have seen this place in the sun, because even on a grey day the colors were inspiring. When I visited, a musical service was taking place (violin, piano, and cello) so I could not explore the whole cathedral. But in some ways, it was even better since the music was lovely and again, felt very contemporary for a Catholic service. Its an interesting street, Hope Street.
Not far from Hope Street is Bold Street. We had not actually planned on going here, but were lucky to do so. This street is filled with local shops, cafes, and foreign food restaurants. It was also the only place we found really good coffee. Important stuff. I had some great Moroccan and Lebanese food while there. The whole street feels young and creative and leads you down towards the city and centre and commercial district.
One of the last major spots I'll mention is Albert Dock. By the water, the docks link together multiple museums, shops and cafes for a great walking and family spot. Below you can see the five minutes of sun outside the TATE Liverpool. It was very nice on the orange. The TATE is a free art spot that I greatly enjoyed. The coffee there was some of the worst I've had in awhile, but the exhibitions were thoughtful and creatively curated to highlight a variety of styles and artists.
Liverpool is a great weekend destination. I felt I had enough time to get a good impression but that there was still more to explore. Despite their ridiculous nicknames and horrible coffee, this is a great mid-sized city that I could see spending more time in.
Until my next adventure! -S
The first weekend in March I had the pleasure of taking advantage of a friend with a car. I love that occasional option. We also had the good luck of fair weather. Pretty warm, a warm strong wind, and sun. Taking advantage of these serendipities, we drove south to the Yorkshire Sculpture Park. YSP is an open-air sculpture park merging an appreciation of art and nature. Aside from parking it is free to visit. The park is sprawling with fields, a pond, scattered buildings, and some sections of wild growth and trees. Footpaths lead throughout the park and you may even encounter the periodical grazing cow. The whole park is generally more ‘open’ than I expected. I always seem to anticipate more trees in the UK than is realistic.
The facilities included a café with surprisingly decent soy cappuccinos, a shop (of course), and gallery spaces including a multi-room exhibition of Henry Moore drawings, prints, and small works. It was nice to see these small works from a man known for large, public bodies. His prints are actually very nice things. There are of course, many Moore sculptures in the park. Unfortunately, most of the sculptures have low barricades preventing viewers from intimately encountering the works. One of the great parts on strong, open-air works is the ability to touch them and feel the seamless connection of art and environment. Ah well, I am sure the works are safer this way.
Right after wandering through the Henry Moore exhibit, the first outside work we encountered was Roger Hiorns’ installation ‘Seizure.’ In 2008, Hiorns was commissioned by Artangel and the Jerwood Charitable Foundation to complete the work in an empty flat in Southwark, London. The social housing block was scheduled to soon be demolished. Hiorns filled the flat with 75,000 liters of liquid copper sulphate so that blue crystals grew and took over the space. Due to the works’ popularity the Arts Council acquired the work and moved the 31 ton piece to YSP on a 10 year lease. YSP built a concrete structure specifically to house and preserve the work. Only five people are allowed at a time into the small flat, wearing little booties, to help conserve the delicate work. It is amazing! I don’t know why I did not insist we see the work at the end of the day again. There is something just surreal about being surrounded by sharp, delicate crystals all of a sparkling blue. I highly recommend experiencing this work first hand. Though the removal of the work from its original context removed some of the work’s meaning, the sheer aesthetics of it remains top notch.
One of my favorite permanent installations was the Camellia House. Within the conservatory structure were a few stone sculptures, busts, a water fountain, and dozens of blooming rose bushes. The roses filled the room, climbing to the ceiling, over spilling from open windows, and filling the space with a light, oxygenized fragrance. I would love to have one of those in my imaginary house. The windows, sun, pink roses, dark green leaves, gurgling water, and stone walls belong in some period romance movie.
Located throughout the scattered buildings were various temporary exhibits. In the chapel near the Ai Weiwei ‘Iron Tree’ sculpture was a film by Nick Crowe and Ian Rawlinson entitled ‘Song for Coal.’ The chapel was ridiculously dark but once you adjusted to your fear of tripping, the kaleidoscopic stained glass projection was beautiful and simple. The music dominated the chapel’s atmosphere with Opera North’s performance of the artists’ reworking of ‘The Coal Catechism’ (1898) by William Jasper Nicolis. Though the vocals were in English, I still could only understand some of the words.
On the grounds there were ganders of geese, flocks of ducks, a great tree of nesting herons, and just hordes of floating seagulls. So many birds, all situated around the low-leveled pond. The water level was so low the stepping stones over an inlet in pond barely had water between them at all! I imagine post winter the levels will raise again.
Overall, I loved this park. Having good weather made a huge difference in my experience and I would recommend trying for a nice day so you may stay longer. I imagine in the summer the plants are lovely. Even in winter though, the grass is always green in England. There were generally less outdoor artworks than I expected but more wandering paths. The balance is nice and I can only hope in the summer once the ground is dry, the barricades will be removed from works where possible. This is a great family place and children played ball, tag, had picnics with their families, and dogs wagged their happy tails (on leashes). I rate YSP an 8 out of 10. And that's not bad at all.
Today I ventured out for a half day trip to Sunderland. Only a metro ride away from Newcastle, yet it has taken me over a year and a half to go. I thought it was time.
The main motivation for this trip, besides exploring the area, was a visit to the National Glass Centre. The museum's architecture is beautiful! Elegant, light, and provides excellent views of the river and distant sea. As can be expected, the building has lots of glass windows and since it is built into a hill, one whole wall is open for viewing the water front. On the ground floor there is a cafe and shop along with the workshops. The first floor, or entrance floor, contains multipurpose rooms, historical glass objects with information boards, and a few display cases and a gallery room for rotating contemporary glass exhibitions. The centre seemed a little empty of content and I wish there had been some more contemporary works to view. That said, the building itself was stunning to walk through and the staff was very friendly.
The most entertaining event of the day was attending the free glass lathe demonstration. Each day the centre hosts multiple lathe and blowing demonstrations lasting about 25 minutes. I was excited for the lathe demo since I've seen plenty of glassblowing demonstrations before and this would be new for both myself and my friend. It was warm, informative and captivating. To my amusement a little boy in the audience repeatedly covered his ears when the flames went higher. Funny but understandable reaction to an odd (though not really loud) noise.
As a pedestrian approaching the centre, it was rather confusing finding the entrance built into the earth and very much resembling a car park. But, exiting the centre was a far nicer experience. You can walk onto the roof that has periodic glass tiles looking through the centre to the ground over two stories below. If you are not crazy about heights, you can avoid those blocks. Be prepared, it can get pretty windy.
Below is a photograph from the rooftop's edge. You can look down the river out to the jetties and sea or up the river to the bridges marking the city centre. Sunderland is not a major tourist spot and I cannot say I found much there to entertain on a Sunday afternoon aside from the National Glass Centre and the Winter Gardens (which house a nice tropical garden with huge coy fish in a sunny bio-dome with a raised walking path). That said, I would recommend a mini trip there for the glass centre and, weather permitting, instead of heading into town take a walk down to the seaside.
A couple weeks ago I spent a night and a day in York (after the day in Harrogate mentioned in my last entry). York is a historic walled city with plenty of different museums, shops, historic sites, and parks to visit. In keeping in line with my budget travel style, I attempted to spend my 24 hours in York as frugally as possible. After an evening stroll to nowhere in particular, I spent a surprisingly good night at Safestay Hostel. This hostel is just over 5 walking minutes from the city center, is affordable, provides a standard hostel breakfast, and each bunk has curtains for privacy and darkness. Not bad.
I began my morning with a sunny stroll through the museum gardens to see the ruins of St. Mary's Abbey. Even in February the gardens are worth the walk with nice buildings, a view of the river and most notably, an over abundance of pigeons and squirrels. I saw a man hand feeding a squirrel and two visitors with pigeons on their arms. I mostly like the squirrels. They were chubby and cute.
Next up was the free York Art Gallery. Unfortunately, this was closed for renovations and took away one of my only free indoor activities leaving me a bit in the cold. Note to self: if you plan a day trip in winter, find more inside venues. So I skipped right to the walk atop the York city walls. The wall circles the majority of the historic city center and provides stunning views of York Minster and Dean's park. I choose to walk the northern half in the morning and the eastern/southern half in the afternoon. The wall was one of my favorite activities in York for people watching and catching the precious winter sun.
Clifford's Tower provides a nice little climb near the York Castle Museum. While I choose to skip the York museums, you save money if you buy tickets for both locations. The rest of my morning and early afternoon was spent wandering the inner city streets window shopping and munching on tea and sandwiches. Shambles street has some of the city's oldest architecture and unique shops. The surrounding streets have boutiques, chains, discount shops, and more tea houses than one city really should ever need. I bought a couple used books and spent some time stealing the heat in one of these shops.
My two final attractions were the historic Holy Trinity church and York Minster. The rather cold Holy Trinity church is secluded in the city center and well stocked with information on the building and its past. I found this building and the helpful staff very moving and more intimately interesting (especially in terms of information) than the other historic attractions I saw in York. Only downside, it was freezing. York Minster, arguably the most popular York tourist attraction, is large, beautiful, and expensive. I chose to attend the Evensong service (both to avoid the entry cost and to learn what an evensong service is). I recommend this immersive learning tactic but allow yourself time and an open mind if you do.
York is a great little city with plenty to do and see. One day is certainly enough time to get an impression of the area. If I were to visit again I would plan more indoor activities as the cold got to my mood a bit (as well as running into a rather unpleasant man on the street abusing pigeons and seagulls). Aside from him, everyone was friendly and the sun on the stones was a real pleasure to see.
Two weeks ago I finished my MFA dissertation and was in much need of some relaxation and new inspiration. Browsing the internet, trying to find somewhere to travel that would not cost me my coffee budget for the next month, I found out there was a Turkish Bath house in Yorkshire! Now, perhaps this is not that surprising for native UK citizens, but for me it was thrilling news. So last Thursday I packed my bag and took two trains to the spa town of Harrogate in North Yorkshire.
Off the train and with a fresh latte, I meandered down through the small city center full of clothing boutiques towards the Valley Gardens and Pine Woods. The gardens lead into a recreational field, then into the woods, and finally ends with the RHS Garden Harlow Carr. I never made it to the RHS Gardens due to time constraints, but even in February the Valley Gardens were delightful. A bit bare perhaps, but the grass was green and little pink buds and roses were easy to find.
My favorite part of the nature walk was the Pine Woods. This 96 acre woodland conservation area is just amazing. Muddy, a little bit of snow, and absolutely stunning. The trees are tall and healthy, birds and squirrels are in abundance, the varied footpaths distribute the walkers, and the dogs run off leash enjoying some rare freedom. I miss nature quiet frequently living in cities, and this walk was quite therapeutic.
After my walk I went back up to the city and to the Turkish Baths and Health Spa. I made sure to go for the mid week discount and booked a ladies only time slot. Bathing suits optional for the single gendered bookings. For a 4 hours time allotted, the price of this treat is reasonable at 17 pounds. The dozen or so women were a balanced mix of nude, topless, or full suits so any choice you made would fit in. The baths involved a staged process of the eucalyptus steam room, shower, plunge bath (which literally took my breath away the first time I dove in), and three heated rooms that worked up to 55C. I spent the recommended 20 minutes in each heat room working from the coolest to hottest, with a steam and plunge in between each temperature increase. By half hour cool off room, I was relaxed, drowsy, and my skin felt tight and smooth. It was lovely.
My trip to Harrogate was just what I needed after months of research and writing. The town is quaint, friendly, and offers shopping, nature, food, and should you like - a spa house. If you are in need of a splurge, I would definitely recommend spending a day here. If I could have afforded a B&B, I would have slept over and gone walking again in the morning. But thankfully York is a 30 minute train ride away and full of budget hostels. Until next time Harrogate!
Happy Sunday Everyone! I've had the proper lazy day whilst postponing paper work. My first stop this morning was browsing Judy's Affordable Vintage Fair at The Biscuit Factory in Newcastle upon Tyne. This UK traveling vintage fair filled a large room (conveniently located near two cafes) with dozens of individual stalls.
I arrived 10 minutes before 11, and by the time the doors opened there was a long line of anticipating shoppers. Most were women though quite a few families showed up. Many vendors and shoppers alike came dressed in 1940's through 1970's inspired outfits.
One of the fair's selling points that inspired me to get out of the house on a Sunday, was the 'affordable' in Judy's Affordable Vintage Fair. While the rack above was marked 2 pounds and up, most of the articles were in the 15-25 pound range. Despite the median price being a bit high for my taste, there were tons of 5 pound racks, scarves, small pieces, and men's clothing that fell into the lower cost spectrum. Also, there is always the option to haggle at fairs and I did bring down a piece 3 pounds, which later went to my tea.
I don't wear silk, but the 8 pound red and orange silk dress above almost convinced me otherwise. I did end up splurging on a couple head scarves and what I thought was a lovely, USA made dress but turned out to be my very first romper! Lucky me it still fit.
The fair was well stocked, full of friendly people, and very colorful. I will certainly try to go again the next time it is in Newcastle, prepared to show up early and mind the crowds.
The fair, located in the Biscuit Rooms of the Biscuit Factory sold teas and drinks downstairs. However, since I have a low tolerance for crowds, I went into the Biscuit Factory (full of local art for sale) to their cafe and had a wonderful soya chai latte overlooking the town. I like my chai a little spicier but the view was great and the tea hot and delicate. It most definitely was a charming Sunday morning.