Early Morning Gift of Bread

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. 

The bakery and stoop where we met our kindly friend. 

Holyhead Island, Cambridge, and a Motherland-of-sorts

    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. 




- Downtown










- 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. 

Snowdon with my Father: A Recreation of an Internal Monologue

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. 

*Just stunning.

*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.

*Nap time?


*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. 

Estonia: Part 3 of 3 - Saaremaa and Midsummer

    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.



Estonia: Part 2 of 3 - Tallinn

  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!

Doors of Tallinn

    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!

Karla Black's Plastic Pastels at the IMMA

Karla Black's IMMA Installation. 2015

   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.



A Day in Yorkshire's Turkish Baths and Gardens

   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. 

Colonnade and Sun Parlours in the Valley Gardens, Harrogate. 2015

Colonnade and Sun Parlours in the Valley Gardens, Harrogate. 2015

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! 

Pine Woods View. 2015

Pine Woods View. 2015

Winter: Strafford, NH vs. Newcastle, UK

    In anticipation for my journey back home for Christmas, I've compiled a few photographs comparing this year's fall/winter seasons of my parents home (in Strafford, New Hampshire) and my current place of residency, Newcastle upon Tyne.  Both are beautiful, but in quite different ways. While I love living in Newcastle, I am ridiculously excited to return to a place with snow. Click the photos for captions.

Also, for everyone's enjoyment, a couple of my father's photos of NH include his two puppies, Bea and Rex. Enjoy!

Enjoy your winter celebrations wherever in the world you are. Stay warm and dry!

And one more puppy photo for the road. 

Nov. 15, 2014. Photo: Sam Sutton

A Sunday Outing in Barnard Castle

   This past weekend I had the opportunity (i.e. had access to a friend with a car) to visit Barnard Castle in Durham Country. Despite the fact that I have lived in the UK for over a year now, a quaint English town still fills me with the desire to squeal and eat it all up with a tiny spoon. The ride through the countryside was picturesque in a midday mist and the late autumn sun peeked through the clouds in bursts warming the stone buildings and castle ruins.

Ruins of Barnard Castle 2014 SRLS

Ruins of Barnard Castle 2014 SRLS

   After parking the car, we first took a walk down to the river and headed towards the ruins of the English Heritage site: Barnard Castle.  We choose not to pay to go into the 12th century building; the view from the river was enough for this trip and instead we walked uphill into the town center (the English Heritage website describes the center village as a “working market town also known as ‘Barney’”). 

Barnard Castle 2014 SRLS

Barnard Castle 2014 SRLS

   The town center was filled with little shops: pubs, teashops, secondhand and charity stores, etc. We meandered into a few places and I bought a Katherine Mansfield book from a genuinely lovely, lady working at Book Aid.  It would be a wonderful location to wile away a morning window-shopping. 

Vintage Graphics Sign 2014 SRLS

Vintage Graphics Sign 2014 SRLS

Interesting Fact: The character on the sign above is named Struwwelpeter from the German children’s book Der Struwwelpeter (1845) by Heinrich Hoffmann. Its ten rhymed stories teach different moral lessons with extreme consequences for poor behavior. My ausflug companion is originally from Munich and told me a few of the tales as we strolled, emphasizing the nightmares that accompanied this children’s book. 

Bowes Museum 2014 SRLS

Bowes Museum 2014 SRLS

   Our main afternoon event was visiting the Bowes Museum. This 19th c. French château was build by John and Joséphine Bowes to house their fine and decorative art collection. The permanent painting collection includes works by artists such as El Greco, Courbet, Turner, and Canaletto. There are also rooms of ceramics, house decorative arts, a room of Joséphine Bowes’ paintings, and the iconic Bowes Silver Swan: an 18th c. musical automaton at plays at 2.00pm everyday. Sadly, we just missed seeing the work in action. Today’s temporary exhibitions included contemporary artist Julian Opie, Six Masterpieces of the Spanish Golden Age: Paintings from Madrid, London and York, and the Birds of Paradise: Plumes & Feathers in Fashion.

Bowes Museum 2014 SLRS

Bowes Museum 2014 SLRS

Personal Favorite: In one of the ceramics rooms there was wonderful wall of espresso cups and saucers. I loved all the various colors and designs shown together. It is also fascinating to see such variations in size. Sadly, my day did not involve the drinking of any espresso. 

Image courtesy of Ute Kirkwood 

Image courtesy of Ute Kirkwood 

Image courtesy of Ute Kirkwood 

Image courtesy of Ute Kirkwood 

   With our Sunday visit to Barnard Castle I slowly continue to explore the Northeast of England. Every time I see more of the country I am amazed by the views and the lived history of each village and city.  This was a charming little day trip I would certainly repeat if only to breathe some more fresh air and fill my mind with lovely, calming sights. 

Bowes' View 2014 SRLS

Bowes' View 2014 SRLS

SRLS 2014