"Is it not cruel to let our city die by degrees, stripped of all her proud monuments, until there will be nothing left of all her history and beauty to inspire our children? If they are not inspired by the past of our city, where will they find the strength to fight for her future?" Jacqueline Kennedy

Friday, June 28, 2019

San Sebastián, Spain And Its Famous Pintxos

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The Maria Cristina Hotel in San Sebastián
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Glorious morning in San Sebastián
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Constitutión Plaza
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Glorious symmetry
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Old town San Sebastián
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Basílica de Santa Maria del Coro
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Newlyweds
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Casa Vergara in old San Sebastián
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Casa Alcalde
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My apologies for going silent for a while. I am still in Europe, but have enjoyed stepping away from the computer for a bit.
After a wonderful trip to Portugal and the north of Spain,  I made my way to France to my family's home in the Auvergne. There will be plenty of posts on my summer country life in a bit, I promise, but first, some photos of San Sebastián,  our last stop in Spain, and frankly, my favorite place on this vacation.
San Sebastián, or Donostia, is in Basque country, on the Bay of Biscay, not far from France..  It is a wonderful resort town, full of elegant old buildings and a lovely old part of the city, which is lined with the most lively bars and restaurants.  At night, it seems everyone stops at a bar for pintxos, little bite sized sandwiches covered with cured ham, sardines, deviled eggs, shrimps, fried calamari and all other sorts of delicious combinations.  The Pintxos are incredibly cheap, from 2.50 Euros to 4.00 Euros. The wine was even cheaper at 1.50 Euros for a great white or red.
My husband and I managed to stop at four different bars in one night, sampling both pintxos and wine. (I did have a wicked headache the next morning.)
As lovely as Porto was, I think I would choose San Sebastián to come back to. It was just so lovely.

As I mentioned, I am now in the Auvergne in France. Though we are high up in the mountains, it is currently 100 degrees Fahrenheit, which is quite rare in these parts of France.  I have been busy cleaning the garden and the house here before our first guests arrive this summer.  Please come back for photos of this year's project on our 1866 stone farm house.

Hoping that your summer is going well,
Katia

Tuesday, June 18, 2019

Santiago De Compostela, Spain, The Easy Way

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The Cathedral of Santiago De Compostela
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The St. James shell is a symbol of the Camino and points the way to Compostella
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Praza do Obradoiro
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Hostal dos Reis Católicos

Monastery of San Martiño Pinario
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Museum of the Holy Land at the the Hotel Monumento San Francisco
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Beautiful old streets in Santiago
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A modern day pilgrim in front of the city's Pilgrims Office
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Certification received after completion of pilgrimage
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Proper pilgrims reach Santiago de Compostela on foot along the many paths that make up the Camino de Santiago, which starts at different points throughout Europe.  We drove there from Porto, Portugal. I know...

The Cathedral of Santiago de Compostela in Galicia, Spain, is the final destination for these pilgrims. More exactly, it is the shrine of the apostle Saint James the Great, which, according to legend, contains the bones of the Saint. Together with Rome and Jerusalem, Santiago was one of the most important Christian pilgrimages in the Middle Ages. Today, it still attracts pilgrims for religious and non-religious reasons. in 2018, a staggering 327,378 people completed parts or all of the way to Santiago. And the number keeps increasing every year.

To receive a 'compostela' from the city's Pilgrim's Office, one needs to have walked at least  the last100 kilometers or bicycled the last 200 kilometers to Santiago.  Along the way, one must collect stamps in a special passport as proof of credentials.

Arrived in Santiago, pilgrims gather at Praza do Obradoiro in front of the huge cathedral, where a special mass for them takes place every day at 12 pm and 7:30pm.

Unfortunately, the cathedral is currently undergoing significant renovation work, so we could only walk through a small section inside. We did however get a peek of the famous Botafumeiro, one of the largest 'censers' in the world.

Perhaps some day, we will walk parts of the camino along the French route along the Northern Spanish coast, but a visit to Compostela by car was quite pleasant as well.

Next stop on our trip, San Sebastián, Spain.
The next stop on this trip is Santiago de Compostela in Northern Spain. Stay tuned. If you are on Instagram, you might want to follow along in real time here.

Wednesday, June 12, 2019

Postcard From Porto, Portugal

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Old city of Porto seen from across the Douro river. 
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Opposite view, looking at Gaia.
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Beautiful houses in the old part of Porto
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Loved the laundry hanging above street cafés.
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Steep steps and deep blue skies.
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Looking at the Cathedral in the distance
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Palácio da Bolsa and the Jardim do Infante Dom Henrique
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Sao Bento train station
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Women selling Cerejas (cherries) at the train station
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When in Porto...
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drink porto
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and take a tour through one of Gaia's porto caves.
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Did you know there is a white porto and that it is an amazing substitute for gin when mixed with tonic? Porto Branco Tonic...my 2019 summer drink.
Dancers on the streets of Porto

Oh, Porto...what can I say about this charming, colorful city by the Douro River? Declared a Unesco World World Heritage Site in 1996, its center is one of the oldest in Europe.  Porto, like Lisbon and many of the cities in Spain, can trace its history back to the Celts, and still shows traces of the Roman occupation, and the Moorish invasion in 711. It was reconquered in 868 by Vímara Peres, an Asturian count from Gallaecia.

A walk through the old Jewish quarter and around the river, or a climb up the hill to the Cathedral takes one back into the past.  Many of the narrow winding streets are lined with little cafés or restaurants where one can have a lovely meal accompanied by some excellent regional wine.

Of course, Porto is the city of port wine.  No visit would be complete without a visit to one of the port caves in Gaia, across the Douro River.  We went on a tour, followed by a tasting.  Whether Branco, Ruby or Tawny porto, they all tasted good to us. Best of all, we learned that white port wine mixed with tonic makes an amazing drink.

The next stop on this trip is Santiago de Compostela in Northern Spain. Stay tuned.  If you are on Instagram, you might want to follow along in real time here.

If there is important news back home in Carroll Gardens, I will of course post about it. You know that Carroll Gardens, Gowanus and the proposed Gowanus upzoning is never far from my mind.