Wanderings near the Palazzaccio Todi

I was able to get out and about a bit.

I love the countryside in Italy. It is obviously similar to parts of California that I know (and vice versa!) and the comparison is irresistible. There are some similar species but a lot new to me. The dryness is very similar and daunting. I do “prefer” the New England landscape with it’s abundance of water. So there’s that overarching situation, and everything is sharp and pointy here. Well, not like Tuscon but you get the idea.

Loved a dayhike with Dean and Mieko. Saw snakes and birds. And an old walnut grove. Found the tower, our target. I took a short-cut back to the house, going through some old olive orchards and passing an abandoned house. Came to some recently ploughed fields and descended into a ravine where I did find some actual water (smelled horrible etc.) and followed it back to the lane out the north side of the property that we had started from. Felt great to navigate based on drainages, but I could see how some could find that crazy. I did have a liter and a half of water, though…

Here is an album of pictures, and here are some choice shots for commentary.

A nice morning at the house, waking up on the terrazo.

Here’s the side field view of the house. I sat here for an hour as the sun descended and watched the trees at the bottom waving in the breeze. The temperature was perfect and I was mezmerized.

Seriously mezmerizing…with the old town and some estates in the distance…

This is actually an evening shot, of the tower, that we wanted to get to…

Now, would I need a Lamborghini to get there? Would João really need a /bathing cap and goggles/?…

Nothing like a little beautiful countryside, eh? Dean had taken a jog down a woodsy lane the first day and thought we could walk it and get to the tower.

Where were we getting to? Mieko with the big camera for the Todi shot.

Made it to the tower!

[Did not actually  climb it, thought Dean and Mieko wanted to try…]

We decided to keep going…and had a little discussion on what would get us back to the house first. There was a vague plan to get back to Roma after “mid-day…” I decided to take a little ramble. This is place I got lost in…I mean, I was making steady progress…

I thought I should include a pic of myself among all the landscape imagery…

This pic is somewhat out of order, but is the little hamlet of Pontecuti (or is it Montecchiani Renzo) on the west side of the Todi hill. Great old bridge. We was a fox on the road above the night before. That is another collection – our stroll in Todi proper…

This is the view from Fabio’s pool. Let’s put a date on the calendar and make it happen, people!!! I’m talking fam, friends, classmates, GBMC, whoever wants to get together in paradise!!!

Here’s a nice fixer-upper nearby, just for you!

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Awesome Times at the Palazzaccio Todi w/ Fabio and Raquel

Over the course of a few days, I was able to spend time at Fabio’s family’s country house near Todi. That’s Todi in the background; this shot is on the road up to the house, passing a little church where they have the festivals of the local community called Canonica. I couldn’t get a shot of the church/village without a lot of power lines and I just don’t like taking pictures like that. And from the road, while moving…etc…

Here is the flickr album which has more pictures from the ride and of the house itself.

Here’s a little map:

Here is the little kitchen door that we primarily used.

Here’s the house! (kitchen door on lower right, invisible…)

We had some good times. And eating was primo.

My new friends Mieko and Dean spend the day organizing the kitchen! It looks amazing now!

Aww, cute! Dean is an organizer-type. Mieko is a chef – she studied at various places including a farm/retreat in Alto Adige near Austria. They live in Bend, Oregon.

We found a secret chapel in the place. Woah. Not expecting this.

Up on the third floor is a giant terrace/porch, looking to the north and east. The trees surrounding the house have now come to that height, but there are still great views. There is a hill blocking this house from the actual “money shot” view of Todi, but the rental property (ah yes – here is the link!) has a higher elevation. And a pool!

Amazing central staircase. Oh – and I slept on the terrace up there…

Here’s the “posto” where we got the mozzarela di bufalo. I am shocked that I didn’t get an “interior” shot with all the amazing food for sale. And wine from 500l tanks…we filled multiple bottles. Always good to stop for provisions on the way to the country house.

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First Evening & Morning at La Flegere

La Flegere was a really well-run hostel at the top of the La Flegere funicular/teleferique, and at the base of L’Index chairlift and a couple of other lifts.

It seems old, but one of the staff mentioned that the systems were 25 years old…maybe that is the extent of the current management? It has been expanded multiple times over the years and is well-worn. I bunked in with a quatrain Swiss family from Fribourg who were friendly. It made me think about living in the area. How nice to have these peaks an hour away!

Here are some pics from the time and below are a few with commentary.

Interesting how you can see the shadow of the cable car on the building in the photo above, and then, below, you can see the cables…nice evening angle here…

For dinner, I was seated with two Dutch gents and two German ladies who were a lot of fun.

Daniela was a criminal justice optimization expert who was traveling from her home base (Hamburg?) to Geneva for a convention and her friend came to join her. We talked about how police agencies have a hard time systematically improving their processes due to pride and weak accountability structures. I hope she writes me as I’d like to connect her to the Kennedy School where optimizing bureaucracies is on the agenda.

The Dutch fellows were on holiday it seemed and going on a bit of a hike – didn’t quite figure out to where. We had a lively conversation in english, the common tongue to us all, and ate really well. Great food. The main was scalloped potatoes and I had a chocolate mousse.

There was a table of French nearby which must have been some kind of reunion – they were very celebratory and stayed up playing games for a while, which I couldn’t quite figure out just by watching a little.

We did watch the sunset and that was fantastic.

 

There was a deer sighting which I took as a good omen.

Final sun on the top of Mont Blanc:

The morning was another glorious summer day and I was off to Lac Anterne.

The refuge had all sorts of old mountaineering equipment on the walls. Quite cool.

Really a lovely spot!

Another shot of the building with the Aguile Vert above, and the Grandes Jurasses in the rear distance. Some day I’ll have to head over that direction!

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Finally hiking! Up to La Flegere

On my second day in Chamonix, I started hiking up to La Flegere. I had spend the first night, pre-arranged online at Le Vagabond hostel. I seem to have good instincts. Even though I was on the left side of the bus and passed the hostel on the right, when we pulled into the “South Chamonix” bus station, I hopped off. I started walking and asked a fella where it might be – he was almost too enthusiastic, telling me it was just over the bridge and down a couple of blocks. It almost seemed like he was just giving me a line. Seemed like a tougher kind of dude. But…he had been quite right and considerate.

The hostel was just fine – it was their monthly BBQ night and it was full of Aussies and Brits having a bit of an expat reunion. Loads of great food – must post that pic but…

This entry is about the HIKING!

Here are a bunch of photos from the day. A marvelous day on the trail and attaining a lovely spot.

I spent the morning with a brit named James, from Kent, visiting the Maison du Montagne, getting a map and some intel. The fellow there indicated that the pass would be snow-free and my intention to Lac Anterne possible, though he was noticeably unenthusiastic. Like he was trying to dissuade me, but willing to respect my confidence.

Chamonix Town is delightful!

I fired off some postcards, got a baguette (for my cheese) and a pain au chocolat, and headed toward the trailhead.

This is an image of where I would be going…a loop in the upper left quarter of this image from La Flegere, over le Brevent col, north to the Lac Anterne, then back through the col the following day to cross the ridge around Col Cornu and to the top of l’Index, and down/over to Lac Blanc. Then on the Tuesday morning an early start for a 2.5h descent to Chamonix  to catch an 8:30 bus to Turino, to get a train to Rome. Yeah, that was going to be a heckuva day!

We passed the parapente landing area. I found this shot of the setting moon with three of the kites – one is actually in the image of the moon. Hard to get the photo w/ my trusty phone, but in real life was quite amazing.

James joined me to stretch his legs for a half hour and then headed back to town. He was heading to one of the Mont Blanc refuges and then up to the summit in two days time.

So I headed onward, taking the three hour hike which could have been a 10-minute teleferique. Passed a nice stream. Went through a road construction site. Saw some critters.

Ate some absolutely amazing wild strawberries. Seriously a satori. Amazing flavor.

Came across La Floride – a little cafe up the hill from town about an hour. Had a chuckle with a British couple that had passed me earlier while I was eating my pain au chocolat on the trail. I could see how people could find Chamonix a really fun spot to visit in retirement – if you felt active, you could hike all over the place. If not as much, you could catch these cable cars and rock up.

Started to see some of the serious territory as I ascended. This is also the ski-territory, which doesn’t get all the way down to town – you have to get up on the conveyances to the ski pistes.

Close up of those peaks at the west end of the Chamonix needles…

Finally, I arrived at La Flegere, where the cable car arrives and the ski lifts start.

I had a great beer. So cool to have these facilities in such a place.

It is a great spot, surrounded by beauty. Take a look:

Mont Blanc on the far right:

Aguile Vert – the Green Needle (snowcapped in the cloud, not the rocky thing)

I had a lunch break sitting on the quad chair of one of the lifts. Perfect seat.


 

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Structure/Detail Highlights – Paris

I just love finding interesting stuff out on the trail.

In a city, someone’s little story. Some conversation with a client. Some engineering trick or challenge. Something done to augment the thing.

Here I found a picture of the making of the train system which goes along the edge of the Seine. I can’t recall the train line but here it was, being built by hand!

This is the ceiling of the Gare du Nord. I though: not super special. But it was functional. Later, I heard that the French regard it as “the absolute worst!”

 

Not just looking up: these were the bags of removed ancient masonry from a church renovation project near Les Halles. I wonder what the equation is of amount of removed stuff per unit replaced, or if there is a curve of amount removed over time…does it get treated like some special type of waste, a controlled substance? Can it be re-used? Does it have vintages in the back lots of materials and waste handles of Grand Paris?…

This is at the Jardin des Plantes. A new part of an old glasshouse.

This is at the top of the Jardin des Plantes. Neat little spot.

Here is a door in Paris at a house where a famous woman philosopher/mathematician, Sofie Germain, died in 1831. She was 55.

Here is a whole bunch of nice doors…

And this was looking straight up at the entrance of a little church. Well, huge in most places but modest in Paris…I love ceilings.

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Vert en Paris

While visiting a beautiful place in June, this time Paris, I can’t help but notice the ebullient and leafy plant denizens accentuating the structure.

I hope you enjoy this photolog!

Grey

=========

Viola, the accént:

At the entrance to the Jardin des Plantes (like an arboretum) de Paris. Huge oak of some kind flying over the street here.

Big on ivy, a great accent to a tudor-style building. What is “tudor-style” in French? “Style Tudor!” – this is one time I believe an english term has gone to french to describe something about style or architecture.

Okay, so this is heavy on structure especially cast iron components, but still: trees and ivy!

This was the biggest wisteria I had ever seen going up about four-five stories…

It was near mid-day and the sun came through the canopy to find these little ones reaching for the light, just like in any (urban) jungle!

The thing here was the observatory dome, but I also note the pollarding in the upper left and who knows what-else for arboricultural practices elsewhere. Pollarding is hard trimming of a tree so it has a few solid branches and lots of seasonal small growth from the ends that are cut. It’s super common in France (and Europe) but not so much in the States.

This was a great “green wall” that I found along the Rue de Poissoniere (or near there) from the Gare Nord heading to the river. The sign said there were hundreds of species, thousands of plants.

Contrast.

Competition.

Neighbors.

Vert. C’est bon!

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A Day in Caen (w/ the evening too)

Normandie is a delightful part of the earth. I enjoyed getting to know this territory. Especially with my hosts Yoann and Emilie driving me around – always better w/ a guide.

The base of our operations was Caen (pronounced the same exact way as the word “quand”) (like a very curtailed “kon”) (actually pretty simple like the word “en” with a “k” in front) (I somehow had a hard time recircuiting)

Caen is a very cool little city of about 400,000 – a regional center. Very old. William the Conquerer’s castle is here. It’s huge! It has a canal to the sea (La Manche/English Channel) about 10km long. I has tons of churches. Lots of little squares. Perhaps not hipster city but perhaps one of those places you want to get involved with.

I have to admit one of my more entertaining aspects was not photographed, our Saturday night outing to El Camino, but…more on that later.

Here is the album of photos.

We had arrived on a Friday evening late, and then Saturday was mostly Grey & Yoann running around to see some sights (see elsewhere here). Saturday afternoon became a visit to Emilie’s grandfather’s place (another story), and that evening became dinner out on the town. It was like three or four days all together.

So let me share some of the pics from that evening and then the next day, on Sunday, when Yoann and Grey went into the center of this wonderful town and explored the market and the chateau.

Here are my wonderful hosts: Yoann, Emilie & Louise!

That was right after dinner at the creperie in the I think it was la Rue des Vaugeaux.

This is some little cafe I snapped that I thought was cool. There were tons of them.

We took a little drive throughout the town…this is an old abbey or monastery that was lit up for a cancer walk-a-thon that had occurred during the day. Tons of people in fuscia. I mean pink.

 

Then a bit at Emilie’s house where her parent treated us to a big Sunday feast. Very relaxing.

Louise is a total ham (and sweetheart). This was while picking the amazingly abundant cherries at the neighbor’s house there on the little cul-de-sac.

On the Sunday, we went into the market. It was a HUGE market. Thousands of people. Hundreds of vendors of all things imaginable.

View from the big castle looking into town:

While up there, looked down over the wall to see this. Already posted to Instagram, I was very amused. The person on the bench turned out not to be some kind of bum but a little old lady just having a rest from shopping!

Nice gate into the castle:

And this is the new section of town, closer to the train station, and the canal obviously. Only about a ten minute walk from the old tower at the base of the big fort. Seems like a great scale for a city…hmmm…Grey is thinking about Civekos of course…

I look forward to returning to Caen in the future!

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Paris: Structure not Sights

I’m in Paris.

PARIS

It’s beautiful. But Why?

It is kinda old-fashioned-ish…

There are a lot of stories about the architects, the designers, the capacity of a city to command the economic production of a huge territory, the ability to exploit workers globally, and to preserve components in a particular way. That is a lot of stuff to read and write about, which I won’t belabor here.

I was just walking around.

I was taking snapshots with my phone. In a certain way, this city is frozen in time, in the mid-nineteenth century. A pre-industrial setting. At least a pre-modern setting. Components of buildings, infrastructure, the physical plan of the place, are visible. In an almost steampunk way, the guts of the stuff are visible. Maybe not too much, but enough to imagine more.

And ornamentation – perhaps the opposite of structure. Perhaps here, ornamentation that celebrates structure is what I’m noticing. Patterns that give texture to structure.

Texture that is taste-able. Tasteful to someone like me. A gustatory city, certainly.

I like structure. So I will share this huge album of pictures with you, and you can also see a few select shots here.

A classic from a major attraction; this is at the entrance to the Cafe Marley if you can find that.

This is one of the first shots I took in Paris. I was psyched. Did you ever read the book about the talking dogs that create prosthetic hands? Takes place in northern Alberta or something? This reminded me of that.

This is that Haussman stuff (wait, I don’t know that…I made that up…)

When I got to Paris I was able to continue my love affair with ceilings.

In the Jardin Luxembourg is a circular building!

Here we find a little new-meets-old!

Okay, I wanted there to be a basic vista shot of nothing special but tres Paris…

Oh – I spoke too soon. This is the “Tres Paris” pic!

And more of the same. You were supposed to see this one first and guess! Lots of likes on instagram for this puppy!

And here is just a great back-window shot.

Same place, front-window shot.

Walking through the 6th or 7th, I always spot the living things – this was a wild drapery of vine and fern. But then actually, I caught an action shot. Moments before, the women with yellow leggings had kicked the table in some way that everything flew off and crashed on the street. And now, what to do…

The underside of one of the…

Okay, so this is not who it looks like. She led a revolution in medical science…

Just another afternoon in the 6ème…

Oui, numero UN!

This was near St. Michaels fountain. I just liked it.

Another…

C’est ça! Merci!

 

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A Glorious Day on the North Downs Way

Just fantastic. Fabulous. And somewhat furious at the end – running to catch a train!

But all good. Indeed, taking a train to one end of a trail, hiking for 9 hours, and picking up another train was delightful.

More importantly was the company. David has been my friend since we first crossed paths on the stage at the Goodenough College Dramatic Society. I believe it was Arcadia, by Tom Stoppard.

John is a friend of his who I met in October on a hike in Arnside – at David & Liz’s wedding. We managed to not die in the wash there, so it was good to join up for another adventure this time, closer to the Metropolis.

We took a trail that has been traversed for hundreds if not thousands of years, crossing the countryside just south of London, on the ridge of hills known as the North downs. We started in Marstham and wound up in Shoreham, about 21 miles.

Incredible countryside. You could have been hours from London, but here we were – peering through some hedges at the Shard and Gherkin and the rest, in the distance.

Through field and forest, along scramble and along road, we put on the miles and put on the step-totals. And I must say I’m sore on this day after. Last evening was rough going up stairs!

But the day was a fine fine time. Here are some pictures.

We also went through woodsy areas and found some cool artefacts, like this trampoline!

Here was the tail end of a rape crop (canola oil). The plants were about chest-high.

David was having a great time:

What did this mean? Flour. Apparently. Quite curious.

Mystery notwithstanding, we carried on.

Can we get more gorgeous?

Here is maize (corn) in the chalk soil of the area. Very cool to see. This was the only one field of maize we found.

And here a real ruin to decorate the scene…

Fresh in a massive hillside field of wheat. It was dizzying. I was loving it!

We took a break at 1:30 for lunch at Botey or Botsley Hill – a tavern from the 16th century. Once owned by John Gresham a Sheriff of London. Now a trust of 1800 acres and a working farm. Great food and a couple of drinks.

Onward!

Here’s the Titsey Farm surrounding the pub:

We met a few sheep along the way.

More of the territory: barley on the right, pasture on the left. Probably not currently grazed but that was the history of the slope I’m sure.

And close-up of the barley. Amazingly beautiful:

Here’s some wheat. It was the most common crop we saw.

It was getting on, and David had made some calculations. We would need to speed up. Maybe take a shortcut along a road. The ladies, and the babies, were waiting. So we picked up the pace!

Here are the lads at the end of the day. Almost didn’t get this shot in – David’s phone was saying we were .3 miles and 7 minutes from the train station. Bottoms up! And we ran onward.

We did make it. Caught the convenient conveyance back to the city. Whew!

I never tire of the British countryside. Thank you!

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Dossier Complete!

Woah, that’s a large screenshot from my phone!

But the news is news: all my materials are in. Nothing is stopping me from enrolling starting in July.

LSE was the final piece of paper on the stack – they were able to dig up my old transcript and put it on a steamer straight to New England. There has been a lot of construction over there on Aldwych at the School, so I’m feeling good that they were able to find the file. Thank you LSE.

While I’m thinking of it, I will note that I’m a little bit sad that I’m not going to become a “Double Beaver” (that would be an LSE Beaver (already) and an MIT Beaver (but maybe I’ll take a class there at the CRE).

I guess I can be happy being a Crimson Beaver!

Woo Hoo!

This sure is a nice thing to hear. Makes all the traffic on the WhatsApp a little more tolerable. But that is another story!

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