Thursday, April 28, 2011

Southern Spain: People Scenes

Last post I reflected on why I travel. One of the most important reasons that I do is because of people. When I think of the people who I interacted with in Southern Spain, the word "hospitality" comes to mind. People were consistently warm and friendly. I felt welcome there and it was a feeling that makes me want to return. While I rarely took photos of people I interacted directly with (that changes the nature of the interaction), I did capture images that represented aspects of life there that I enjoyed.

The Southern Spain that I experienced had a more relaxed pace of life than I am normally used to. A two hour cafe visit was the norm, not the exception. Cafes were often full. (Note: It was pointed out to me that people in Southern Spain entertain friends and family in cafes and restaurants rather than in their homes. That means that you will often see intergenerational gatherings in those places rather than people of the same age group sitting or standing together.) Since my retirement, I've gravitated towards spending long periods of time in coffee houses and this aspect of Spain fit right into where I wanted to be. BTW-I arrived in Southern Spain the week after the no smoking in public buildings law" went into effect. This made my visits to tapas bars and cafes much more enjoyable from my own perspective.

At home I'm a person who enjoys bicycling. The pedicab I saw in a plaza in Malaga made me envious. I think it'd be cool to ride around town riding one, especially if there were bike lanes. I saw a lot of bicyclists there and cities were "bicycle-friendly". I wish more towns and cities in the USA joined this trend-a great way of traveling and ecologically good as well. That reminds me-in Seville I noticed racks of city-owned bikes that people could use and then leave at another public bike rack near their destination. I just read that Madison, Wisconsin will be trying something similar.

People in unusual settings. Unusual is a relative term. In the USA, most nuns do not wear habits. Many also do not wear veils and can't be easily identified as members of a religious order. I couldn't resist a quick glance with the camera when I saw the nuns in this photo set while they were going about their daily in the city of Ronda. For me, it was almost a trip back in time to the pre-1960's before the concept of a nun in blue jeans became a reality. I also couldn't resist the newspaper-clad performance artist who gestured for me to sit on the bench next to him after I had left a euro in his tip jar. Street performers brought back memories of a visit where I wandered the streets of San Francisco.

Last, but not least were the street musicians. I can't play a musical instrument, but I enjoy all forms of music-especially when it's live and spontaneous. The image in this set was taken in Seville on a sunny Sunday afternoon. As families wandered around the streets and parks after the main meal of the day, vocalists and guitarists added to their day.

These images all are representative of the "people part" of my visit, and one of the many reasons that I want to return someday soon.

Thank you for visiting,feel free to stop by again. In the meantime, may your travels be interesting and enjoyable.


Thursday, April 21, 2011

Why Travel?

Have you ever thought about why you do or don’t feel the need to travel? Every so often, I do. My recent trip to visit my family in Maine and the discussions that we had made me reconsider the question. Members of my Maine family are content to be where they are and have had relatively little interest in exploring the rest of the world. They are comfortable with their familiar surroundings and, when they do travel from them, have a strong urge to return to where they call home. My father was forced by circumstances to travel to Europe as a soldier during World War II, as were my uncles. Other than that, all of my Maine relatives have spent most of their lives in Maine with a little travel to other parts of the USA. A generation before, it was a different story. My mother’s father traveled by himself from Newfoundland to Maine at age 12, found work there, and settled. My father’s father, in addition to service in France during World War I, spent time as a ship’s carpenter sailing from Florida to Cuba. That was then. Family members of both my father’s and my generations tend to be content as “home bodies”.

It is obvious to anyone who looks at my father, my brother, and me that we are definitely related. My urge to travel does not seem to involve a genetic drive. For some reason, as long as I can remember, I have always been curious about what is beyond the horizon. (I think that’s why I am happiest living near a large body of water where I can’t see the distant shore and wonder what’s over there.) Since I have been an adult with the opportunity to travel, my curiosity has taken me to parts of Africa, the Middle East, Europe, and North America. There are many, many places left to visit on my “travel wish list” and places that I have been that I’d like to revisit.

I spent some time looking at the photos I took in southern Spain in January with a goal of choosing shots that made me want to travel again soon. It all basically comes down to a wish to try experience something different, even though I’m quite happy with where I finally made my home. Images of the land, culture, people in their daily lives, food, ways people have adapted to their environment-all of these make travel part of my life. With the exception of naming the specific location of the stalactites of St. Michael’s Cave in Gibraltar, I’ll let the other photos stand as representative of kind.

I recognize that none of these statements regarding why I travel are either profound or earth-shaking. The process did, however, remind me of why I feel the need to travel. I then had fun trying to choose five photos that would represent aspects of travel experiences that I enjoy. I have two challenges for you, if you‘d care to take them. The first is to go through the process, yourself, and determine why you do or don’t have the urge to travel. The second is for you to dare to go beyond your present horizon sometime soon-there may be something interesting waiting for you there.

Thank you for visiting, feel free to stop by again. If you feel inclined, I’d be very interested in reading your thoughts on travel. May your travels be interesting and enjoyable.


Thursday, April 14, 2011

Maine Interlude

I just spent the last week visiting my 87 year old father in Maine, the Northeastern state that I grew up in. Thought it might be an interesting change of pace to present some images of the place that calls itself "Vacation Land" and "the Pine Tree State".

Maine is one of the areas of the USA with the older settlements of Europeans. Signs that give a settlement date of the early 1700's C.E. are not unusual. There have even been evidence of Viking settlements along the southern coast that date back more than 10 centuries. I understand that for some of you a settlement of 10 centuries ago is a "new" one. For those non-American Indians of North America, both 1,000 and 1700 C.E. are "ancient history". Isn't it interesting how our cultures give us different perspectives about simple things such as "old" and "new"?

Today's Maine is, like any other place, a product of environment and culture. It's long, rocky coast gave settlers access to the sea. The sea was vital for both a supply of food and a livelihood. The pine trees were a source of building materials for the British navy. Both sea and pine still exert a strong presence and act like magnets to attract the tourists who temporarily triple the population of state from May to September. Maine doesn't totally mind the tourist influx as the state is the northern part of Appalachia and, like other places in Appalachia, has a very limited economy.

The photos that I included in this post revolve around two sources. Those of the coast were taken at Reid State Park, a natural resource area that is relatively unchanged by humankind. The others were taken in Hallowell, a town next to the state capitol. Hallowell is located on the Kennebec River. In the 1800's, before the invention of refrigerators, the river ice was cut in blocks, packed in sawdust, and shipped to the far corners of the world. In the 1900's there were a number of shoe manufacturing factories and granite quarries. Today, the town depends on the tourist visiting its antique shops and visiting restaurants before and after walking along the river trail that was fashioned from the old railway tracks.

I hope that you enjoyed your brief visit to a small segment of Maine. Thank you for coming, please feel free to stop by again. In the meantime, may your travels be interesting and enjoyable.