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Friday, July 20, 2018

And yet another Parisian morning

My last entry  with that title, a couple of days ago, has vanished. Cant figure to where, I guess into thin air. And, sadly, I don't remember what I wrote about.

So it's on to another day. And in ,many ways, each day is like the one before. Which is a good thing. What I was attempting to say last night is that I don't feel the need, this time around, to run around visiting as many museums and doing as much as possible. Even though I'm
only here for five days, and then two more when Loring arrives tomorrow. I am as content to sit on my balcony writing, or  in my living room/kitchen eating biscuits with butter and marmalade as going out gallivanting.

I was planning to visit the flea market, the marche au puces, today. But I remembrred wrong, it isn't open on Friday. Good thing I checked first. It's really too high end and pricey for me, more of an antiques market. But there's one store where I've purchased eyeglass frames in the past. Dont need any now. What I'd really hoped to get this time around was old stock hair combs, the kind I wear  every day. It's hard to find nice ones in the states. And I'd left my bag of them somewhere along the way, either at the hotel in Villenueve d'Avignon or in Avignon in the room I rented there. I've got to try to track them down. I could go to the market early tomorrow before Loring arrives, but sometimes in July they haven't been open, and I can never remember the name of the place.

Enough of my travails, which of a minor sort anyway. yesterday I got a typically late start. Decided to go to the Pompidou. It's always a lively spot, tourists but also local hanger-routers. It took me quite a while to get there. Walked first thru the Marais, once the Jewish corner, in recent years a much more trendy place. There are still some old world ,traditional Jews,  and some stores selling Jewish foods or Judaica.

Some of the old storefronts with their beautifully tilted signs, still remain. But most now house fashionable clothing or design stores. On one wall is a plaque commemorating victims of  a bombing in the 1980s. I remember when that happened. But I doubt that many do, or even notice the plaque. I've written a before about the other plaques, in this neighborhood and others, on buildings from which people were deported durIng,, World War Two, usually never to return. On a previous visit, some years ago, I came across one on what had been a Jewish school. It's still a school, and I wandered in to the courtyard where parents were. Picking up their children,  before getting stopped by the protective guard. The plaques here predate the more recent stumbling stones in Berlin, where they began,  and other cities to which they spread. I first stumbled upon one, strangely, in Oslo, in front of an antique store, a couple of years ago.

I have been to Auschwitz and Daschau, some of the most disturbing places I have ever visited. But in some ways, It's the everyday places, where people live and work and kids go to school, that haunt me the most. The places where people live their lives, and nearly no one remembers or notices what once happened there.

Well, on that somber note, I'll stop, and return later, recount more about the Marais and the Pompidou. Will I ever catch up to my life in real time?

Now for some bread and cheese,and the last of my dellcious melon, while I decide what to do today.

Thursday, July 19, 2018

Back to Avignon

It's almost midnight and almost time for the Eiffel tower to do its thing. Its been one more day in Parisian paradise. I've gotten to the point where I enjoy the little things,  like having my breakfast of yogurt and fruit, and the the typical French packaged biscuits, which I eat with butter and orange marmalade. Or trying to understand the news in French.  I am content to look out the window and not get going until later. I don't feel the need to cram in as many museums as possible, even though I am here for a week this time, not a month like my last visit. I just like being here.

I never eat crackers with butter and jam at home. But I always have it when I am in France. It dates back to my first trip to Europe 50 years ago. I travelled with a small group of girls. We went by train from Paris to Rome, Florence, and Venice, and then spent a month living in Avignon with host families. By host family, I mean in my case an elderly widowed woman. I realize that in saying elderly, i mean a woman who was likely younger than i am now. FIFTY years! It feels more like a dream to me now than something that really happened.

I have a few memories of that trip, one of which is eating crackers  with butter and orange marmalade for breakfast, along with coffee in  bowls, rather than cups or mugs. I know some people here still do that. As for the biscuits with butter and jam, I don't know if that is very typical or just happened to be what my host grandmother served. The biscuits themselves, though, are readily available in the supermarket.

I called this entry Back to Avignon to refer both to trying to get back to writing about my great week, last week, with the mosaic project, and then for an additional three days in the city during its famous theater festival. But I am also referring to returning  after so many years.  Although my memories of my original time there are rather foggy, that trip certainly had a powerful effect on where my life took me in the next few years.

So I am going to write a bit more, about my original trip, and my recent one in and around Avignon, before I return to chronicling my present adventures.

When I was seventeen, my father traded his public relations services with the owner of a small student travel agency called Students Abroad. I spent two months in Eurpoe. The owner ran two trips, one coed and the other just girls. Even though I went to an all girls school (or maybe because of it) I chose to go on the all girls trip. There were eight of us and our leader, who was very knowledgeable about art and history. Both groups went to the same places, but in different order, and we all spent the second month in Avignon. This was before it was fairly common for teens to travel abroad. It was the first time I'd been away from home for that length of time, the only other having been for three weeks at summeEurope.

 Many years later,my mother told me that they'd decided to send me on the trip to help me break out of my shell, because i was painfully shy. I hope she was happy with the results! I remember being somewhat shy, but not painfully so. I know I preferred staying home and reading to playing out on  the street with the rest with the neighborhood kids. But by the time I was a teenager I was going to school outside the neighborhood and most of my friends didn't live nearby. I wonder if the pain in being painfully shy was my mother's more than mine. I also wonder what, if any, pr work my father did for the company.

So, after a month of travelling to beautiful places, visiting many museums, etc. We arrived in Avignon. we had daily French classes. I also remember tutoring a local high school  student in English, and that an article about that appeared in the local paper. The combined groups went on some trips together, to the famous Pont du Gard aqueduct, to Arles, The Roman amphitheater in Nimes, and probably some other places.

Bu t  the events that had the greatest effect on me had to do with groups performing at the theater festival. The Living Theatre was a radical, political company from the U.S. They had  exciled themselves a few years before from the country because they did not want to pay taxes to support the Vietnam war. They`d been travelling around Europe and had become quite the international group, adding members wherever they went.

This was just a few months after the student and worker demonstrations in Paris and beyond, and protest was in the air. I am sure a number of students and young radicals followed the group to Avignon. I remember scores of hippie types hanging around the main plaza, which these days is filled with musicians, breakdancers, mimes, all kinds of performers, during the festival. The Living Theater wanted to provide additional free performances. The festival organizers didn't let them.

All this happened before we arrived. The group's performances were already over. But they were still around, and I met some of them at the municipal pool. I also met some of the dancers from the renowned Bejart Ballet company from Belgium, and saw their amazing performance of Stravinsky's Rite of Spring, which had been scandalous when it was first performed in the early 20th century. I was very impressed and moved by their performance in Avignon. I've seen the dance performed several times since, but never did it affect me as strongly  as the first time, in the courtyard of the Palace of the Popes in Avignon.

I did not see the Living Theater perform in Avignon. But not too long after that summer, the mayor of New York, who apparently appreciated their talents, declared some kind of special dispensation that allowed the group to return to the US. They performed in New York, and no doubt other places, although some of them were arrested in several cities, for performing nude. Their performances were provocative and interactive. I was smitten. I spent parts of my senior year of high school following them around. I had gone from a Broadway groupie to a radical theater one in short order. I have no idea what my parents thought of about my activities that year.
In the spring, after I'd applied and been accepted to a number of colleges, I saw an ad in the back of the NY Times for the American College in Paris, I decided that was where I  wanted to go. My infatuation with the group had not abated, and my decision go to school there was largely influenced by the fact that the group was heading back to Europe. I thought at the time that my mother was taken with the idea of having a daughter go to school in France. To this day,  I remain astonished that they let me go. They may have come to regret it; I don't know. But there is no doubt that decision affected my life in ways that still influence me today.

This year is the 50th anniversary of my original trip to Europe, when I spent a month in Avignon. When I heard about Laurel and Valerie`s mosaic workshops there, t seemed meant to be, as they say.  I needed no further motivation to sign on. 

Well, that's gotten  me almost up to present time and last week in Avignon. It's almost 2 am and the tower has stopped its flashing. So I will stop here, and continue on tomorrow am. Oh, it already is tomorrow am. So I'll go to bed, and hopefully get enough sleep before they start hammering and drilling in the morning.

Wednesday, July 18, 2018

An art-full day

I am puzzled because my previous post, titled  A Parisian morning, shows as blank on the blog, although it shows as published on my own screen. Too tired to figure it out tonite. It's almost midnight. I'll stay up for one more round of the Tower flashing, and relate a bit about today's adventures. Eventually I will, I hope, get around to describing my sojourn in Avignon.

 Today's mission, which I did not accomplish (and that's ok, I often don't]
Was to try to find the housing project where I worked on creating a mosaic mural nine years ago. I remembered the general area, but it is an area with many developments, and I think there are many more now than there were  almost a decade ago.What I did stumble upon,  to my delight, was the 104 artspace, which opened when I was there in 2009. It was wonderful then, and has expanded since. I just happened upon it. It may be better than having located the project, because  if I found it and the mural wasn't there, it would be a terrible disapointment. We had left without knowing if they'd found the space to mount it.

What I did find was a lot more art than I remembered being in the housing projects before, as well as a lot of street art. The neighborhood looked better than I remembered. It wouldn't surprise me if the 104 had had an effect on the surrounding area.

The exhibit on display was terrific. Even better was the activity happening around it. The space is open to anyone who wants to use it as a practice space, and there were many doing just that. So surrounding the major installation there were people doing breakdancing, tango, swing.  And a juggler, and a hula Hooper. And also a group of children visiting, all in their neon vests, some of them imitating the moves of the dancers.

The installation was a huge conglomeration of discarded items, from cars to refrigerators to typewriters to tires, aall assembled into a massive display, and all painted white. Around the perimeter of the space were about 6 rooms that you needed to pay to enter, each with a smaller installation by the same artist, Vhils.  His pieces include videos,  sculptures made of layers of discarded posters, another comprising polystyrene pieces to form an urban landscape., The exhibit is called Fragments Urbains.

There was a cafe where I stopped to have a drink in sight of some of the dancers. It was a concoction I hadn't come across before - fresh ginger with lime juice and sugar. Pretty good but a bit strong; I asked for extra ice as I also always do with my much loved citrons presse - basically lemon juice served with a carafe of water and sugar. It must be at least 4 or 5 lemons worth of juice, and i always ask for extra water and ice cubes. It makes them go much further . I honestly can't figure out how they like them so strong.

To my surprise and delight there was also a thrift store within the art complex. So I spent a good while there, but was good and didn't buy anything.

To see some pix of what I encountered today, take a look at my Facebook post. It's almost 1 am and I am going to try to wind down and rest up for tomorrow.
Did I say it gets dark around 10pm? I was wrong, it's more like 11. I think I'll stay up for one more round of Eiffel lights, and have a little more wine mixed with soda water, which is an absolute no-no in France, according to Valerie, my mosaic teacher. So don't tell her.

Tuesday, July 17, 2018

Lots more pieces

Am now in phase four of my French sojourn. Lots of adventures and a few misadventures, mostly missed connections. After a wonderful week in Provence, making mosaics and exploring the countryside and the cuisine with an interesting group of people, I spent three days on my own in Avignon, a place that played a significant part in my life many years ago. More about that in a bit. Then went on to Loches in the Loire valley , chateaü country, where I visited with old friends Marie and Tim. When i say Loches, I actually mean Beauliue, a tiny village outside Loches, where they have lived for many years.

They now live in a charming house that was once part of an abbey. Once meaning in medieval times. There are now many small houses in parts of what was once the Abbey. , modernized  to diferent degrees. They rent out the house where  they previously to a man who raises mushrooms, and his family. I'd hoped to see his operation but we ran out of time. This area is replete with caves that were once quarries for the stone that built many of the churches, monasteries, and I assume chateaus around the area. The caves are the ideal places for growing mushrooms.

So we had several meals featuring mushrooms, along with local cheeses, eggs from a neighbor,  melons, etc. Their house sits right on a canal, part of the reason they bought that house. We are most of our meals on the little terrace overlooking the canal. My room overlooked it too.

The house is a wonderful jumble of rooms and a little courtyard. They've recently renovated what was an attic storage space into a kind of guest suite. That part of the house doesn't have running water. They 've set up a toilet, the kind old people have when they can't make it to the bathroom. Good practice,  I guess.  It worked out just fine, and I used their bathroom during the day  and to brush my teeth,etc.

Marie and Tim are both avid gardeners. She grows beautiful flowers, and he grows vegetables in a community garden plot just down the road. The garden is more than just a garden, it is interspersed with sculpture and other art made of found and repurposed items. There's a bicycle wall made of a row of rusty bicycles whose baskets, spokes, etc are planted with all types of flowers. And all kinds of innovative scarecrows.  And a big sideboard in the middle of a small grove that was stocked with a number of books and a sign that said something like libraries in the woods. And many signs with poetry and sayings throughout  the garden. Marie and Tim chatted with a number  of neighbor gardeners while I strolled around.

I'm going to stop here and post this, although there's still tons to tell. But I'm hungry and it's time for a stroll around town. I'm going to attempt to find the area and the mural I worked on with a group of volunteers a number of years ago. I don't really expect to find it, in fact don't know if it ever got installed. But its worth a try, and a good basis for a walk in an area most visitors don't get to see. And walking is what I like best to do here anyway.

A bientot/see you later.

Saturday, July 14, 2018

Piecing it together

 I started out with this title about ten days ago, then never got around to writing more. I was either too hot and or tired, or had no time, or wrote and didn't remember how to post. Oh well, ca va.

So now I am on the train from Avignon to Loches, where I will meet up with friend Marie. But the train is about to come into St. Pierre, where i will change. I am also running out of juice, so will have to see if I make the connection and then find a connection.

At which point i will try to write about Avignon, and then backtrack to the week of the mosaic workshop, which was,  after all, the major motive of this adventure.. I don't often seem able to proceed in a linear manner. Just trying to put the pieces together. To be continued shortly, hopefully. 

Thursday, January 18, 2018

last days in paradise!

uary 16 or is it 17th?

We are nearing the end of our Guadeloupian sojourn. We are in our third and last location of the trip, in Trois Rivieres. All of our locations have been wonderful. We did a lot of research, but it’s always somewhat of a crap shoot. The photos and descriptions are sometimes misleading, they may show water views but not indicate that they aren’t from the house, etc. And here, becausse the descriptions are in French, it’s of course an additional challenge.

We stayed first at place called Be on the Beach, funny name, especially since virtually no one staying there is a primary English speaker. I guess it has the same kind of cache as some French phrases do to us Americans, like chez whatever, or Maison de …..

As I said in a previous post, it was right on a small beach that we had pretty much entirely to ourselves,  and walkable to the slightly honky tonk but charming town.

Next stop, Deshaies, where we stayed last year, in another apartment right on the water, just a block down, and at the other end of town, from where we stayed before. Like many places here, it is pretty much open air, open living room, kitchen, etc.  We didn’t tour around as much as last year, because we had checked out so many areas and beaches then. I was content staying long hours on the porch, just perusing the sailboats in the harbor, the horizon, and yacht people coming back and forth in their dinghies to get baguettes or come in for dinner in town.

Our little beach there was just a few doors down and past one of the cafes. Water warm and calm.  Loring captioned a photo of me “exercising”  after asking me what I call what I do when in the water.  I was really just floating around listening to Elvis and Shakira and Springsteen etc thru my waterproof MP3 player, one of the bests gifts I ever got.

Because of the supersnowstorm up north, we’d had to delay our trip three days, and so also extended four days on this end. Norwegian only flies here twice a week. Hence we had to find a third location, and did that from here.  That was almost a disaster.  Our credit card company apparently cancelled our credit cards, probably because we hadn’t notified them that we were going away. This isn’t the first time that’s happened, but usually they put it on hold and check to make sure that the card hasn’t been stolen. Not this time.  So we spent hours trying to find the right place followed by hours trying to reach the credit card company after we submitted the reservation several times and had it rejected.

It all worked out in the end, as things seem to do.  The place here is as wonderful as the first two, though quite different, and a nice counterbalance to the others. We chose the town of Trois Rivieres because it was on a part of the island we hadn’t seen before.  It is perched on a hill above the town,  with wonderful views of the sea and also the “Saintes,” small islands that are part of Guadeloupe along with Marie Galante, another island that we spent time on last year. On a very clear day you can also see Dominica, an English speaking island (country?)  a bit further off. Dominica was hit pretty hard by hurricane Maria, but Guadeloupe missed the brunt of it.

The place we are at now is called Ilots des Fleurs, and is indeed covered with all kinds of flowers. It consists of 4 cabins, or gites, plus the larger villa that the managers live in. They are Canadian, and friends of the owners, who are also Canadian. They are a delightful couple, and work hard maintaining the gardens and lawn. The cabins are, like the other places w’'ve stayed, largely open. This one has no ac, but it isn’t a problem.  It is entirely “off the grid.”  There is gas for the stove,  hot water and electricity are solar.  The couple have been running the place for a few months, and will be here another month or two, then back home and will be replaced by another Canadian couple.  I guess the owners spend some time here too.)

Al and  Rachel are welcoming and invited us for a drink which turned into cheese, crackers, watermelon from the garden, and an invitation to dinner, which we declined. But we spent an hour or more chatting with them and their guests, her brother and her best friend from childhood.
There’s no beach here, one has to drive about 20 minutes to the nearest one. If this was my only stay here, I’d definitely choose beach.  But it’s nice to have different experiences.  The beach here, Grande Anse,  has black sand, also a nice contrast to our other beach experiences. In addition to being black, it is very smooth and fine, a nice feel.

There is a pool here, which was a surprise to us, since it wasn’t in the description. I have always wanted to sit it a pool overlooking the ocean. But the water is colder than the ocean, or at least I haven’t warmed up enough in the sun here to be tempted. Tomorrow is our last day here. I guess I’m going to have  to go in at least briefly, if just for the experience and the photo!
There are all kinds of little museums around the island, The Musee de Cacao, Musee du CafĂ©, etc, And a number of distilleries. There’s a Musee des Bananes just up the road, and we tried to visit this morning. But a sign said it was only open this afternoon, so we’ll try again tomorrow.

Sometimes these little museums are just tourist traps, a way to sell products. But the Musee de Cacao, near Deshaies, which we visited last year, was quite interesting. And we were told by our hosts here that other guests visited the Banana Museum and found it interesting.

Soufrieres, the volcano that provides the black sands, is a major tourist destination. It’s a  one and a half hour hike, which I hadn’t planned to do, but thought Loring would. We drove up the winding mountain dirt road. Wonder if we were even going the right way. Then, suddenly, came upon dozens, maybe more than a hundred, cars parked along the side of the road. The parking lot at the top was entirely full. But as I suspected, before long people left and we were able to find a spot. Many were hiking up to the volcano, but others were sitting in the warm springs at the head of the trail, which was really where I wanted to go. Loring decided not to hike up, and we just floated in the spring pool for a while. As everywhere here, the visitors are almost entirely French, but we did run into a couple of women from New York in the springs.

And now, last day, the 18th

Spent a couple of hours on the porch this am, reading our books, emails, and the Boston Globe. First stop, the Banana Museum. It was open this morning. We waited a while, saw and heard no one, figured out how to start the tv, and watched 4 short videos about bananas. While we were watching, a woman came in, who I recognized from the first video, giving a tour of the banana harvesting operation.  She led us upstairs to a series of rooms with exhibits about the banana industry. All mildly interesting, worth a visit, but certainly not worth the 8 euros per person. But she was so friendly, gave us each a banana to try. When I asked if she’d been the person who made the dresses and hats out of banana leaves in one part of the exhibit, she said yes, and led us into the gift shop, which was nearly as large as the exhibit. I was surprised at the quality, most if not all made locally, and tried a number of very fashionable couture banana leaf hats. I loved them all, but have no room on my walls to hang more hats, and also doubted very much that I could get them past customs.  So I settled for a small banana leaf hairclip which I certainly will wear, and hopefully will not get noticed by customs.

We were disappointed in the museum, and especially that we didn’t get to see any of the actual banana fields, much less any of the harvesting process. She did s
how us a little of the clothing and hat design process, because I’d asked. And showed us the parts of a costume she was making for some kind of presentation, consisting of a banana leaf bustier and part of a skirt. Quite classy! 

We headed back to our beloved black sand beach, called Grande Anse. Anse means cove, and there are Grand and Petit anses all over the islands here.
This is the one with the volcanic black sand that we’ve spent several hours at each of the last few days. Unfortunately, the weather was gray and we were clearly in for some rain, more than the brief showers that have cropped up pretty much every day. We spent a brief few minutes on the beach, then went across the street for a lunch of accras (fish fritters,) chicken, and various veggies we weren’t familiar with.  Loring went for a swim, but it was clear more rain was coming. So we abandoned our plan of beach time and headed back to town. The town here is in several valleys separated by rivers (Trois Rivieres)and you need to drive up and down numerous hills on winding roads to get anywhere.  We made a stop for our last baguette and pastry at one of the bakeries, drove up and down the same road at least three times trying to find some slave related site we’d seen signs for, and finally did located it, a ruin of a small stone cell where slaves had been been imprisoned on what had once been a sugar plantation.  The sign said there were other ruins of the plantation in the area, but on privately owned land.

Now we are back at our gite, the beautiful little cabin with a porch facing the ocean and the Saintes, smaller islands about ½ hour away from the main island here. And it’s a wonderful place to be. I’m not even sorry that we had to curtail our beach time today. I just hope I get warmed up enough to venture into the pool here, the last thing I feel that I need to do before heading home.  The sun’s come out again, and if I bask in it for a while, I just may be able to do it. Even a brief dip will suffice.

Friday, January 12, 2018

Return to paradise - Guadeloupe 2018

Deshaies jan 12 2018

A year after our first trip here, and a year, perhaps to the day, of the inaguration. We are in the same town, and just a few doors down, from our previous dwelling. Last year I watched the inauguration, in depression and fear, from our porch here. Loring preferred to go kayaking and ignore the real world. It is certainlly easier to do to that here. 

We have on and off internet here, probably not a bad thing.  We did get the “shithole” comment this morning, though.  I love the way the press explained and justified their use of the exact term. Ie, if the president uses it, it is important to quote verbatim.  I fully agree.

After a false start from Providence, due to a serious snowstorm about a week ago, we left the US three days later than planned, and extended our visit here by four, because Norwegian only flies twice a week.We did lose three days of our first booking, and will need to find a third place to stay, the second not a big deal, the first could well cost us hundreds of dollars as it wasn’t refundable. We are hoping the airiline will reimburse us, but are not at all confident that they will.

Well, we are here, and so I will try to not focus on or worry about that.
Our first stay, where were only able to stay three days of our week planned, was right on the beach in the town of Ste. Anne, on Grande Terre. We’d stayed on Basse Terre, here in Deshaies, last year. Our bungalow in Ste Anne was right on the beach, on the edge of town.  Ste Anne is bustling, a busy public beach, lots of shops and restaurnats and lots of traffic. It was fun to spend a day in, eating crepes on a beachfront restaurant, food truck actually, with a canopy and tables and chairs.  There was a market that was primarily spices, with some other foods and also  crafts.

Although we saw other cars and, a few times, people, in some of the bungalows, we rarely saw anyone there in four days, and only once had company on the beach. Just my kind of place, where you can walk out to the beach without shoes. The water was shallow and warm, the depth or lack thereof a little hard for Loring, heaven for me.

Our stove didn’t work. The first night we arrived at midnight, so didn’t even know. We thought it was some trick that couldn’t figure out. It turns out it was just plain broken. So Fritz, the owner, sent us out to dinner at a wonderful gourmet Caribbean/French place called Kote something, at the other end of town near the Club Med.  He had to talk them into fitting us in, they were all booked up. By the time we got back to our place, there was a new stove all installed!  Amazing service, especially in such a laid back environment.

Our booking was actually for  15 minutes before the restaurant opened, so that’s how they fit us in.  It was well worth not having a stove for a day.  Fritz did the right thing by treating us to dinner, but he certainlyl needn’t have sent us to what might have been the choicest location in town!  Several times, folks came in and were told the place was all booked up for the evening. One couple was American, the only native English speaking folks we’d yet come across.

  A couple of days later, I heard Americans in the market, a young couple deciding which beach to visit that day. That is the extent of the English I’ve heard spoken in the five days we’ve been here, aside from what’s been spoken to us. I havent’t heard any other languages at all beside French, it seems that, thus far, all the visitors have been French. And the locals are French, as well, since Guadeloupe is part of France.

We spent parts of our days driving around the nearby towns, scoping out other possibililties to stay.  Found a play on and went to check it out, having made a no deposit reservation. Only to find out that the listing was a mistake, the man had forgotten to remove the listing, he already had a booking.  Good thing we’d gone to check it out, or we would have driven back across the island for the last few days of our stay, to fnd out it wasn’t available.

So now we’re back in Deshaies “dayhay” the first time, I believe, that we’ve ever come back to the same place, or even the same country, two years in a row.

 Actually, having written that, I realize there’s an exception, Hummingbird Cay in the Bahamas, where we returned a number of years when we were in our 20s. But that was a special place and a special arrangement. Loring worked for the owner of the private island, doing maintenance, and he let us stay there a number of times after that. That was an experience we’d never be able to match, and for a time we were too spoiled by having been there to consider another beach trip where we didn’t have a whole island to ourselves!!

So, seeing that this is the only other time we’ve returned to a tropical island, or another other location, repeatedly, you can imagine how much we like it here!

What is so appealing, aside from the beach and the ocean and the weather is the so slow pace of life, at least for those on vacation.  I could easily spend the day on our porch here, with the only activities being reading, writing, getting a baguette from the bakery a few doors down, going in the water which involves a one or two minute walk to the little beach nearby.
There are plenty of activities around, water sports for those   interested, or even just watching the kite-surfers, excursions to various beautiful beaches, ruins, Museums of Rum, Chocolate, Coffee, Bananas, etc. We visited the Chocolate Museum last year, it was actually quite interesting. The others may or not be, and we may or may not find out.  Yesterday, we went to the very impressive looking Museum of Slavery in Pointe A Pitre, the capitol.  It was worth a visit, but not as interesting as I would have hoped. Perhaps part of the problem is making a museum about such a terrible subject. Then again, I’ve visited several Holocaust museums and found them very interesting and powerful.

 There was art incorporated into many parts of the exhibits, and that was the most interesting part.  There were also a number of fascinating sculptures outdoors on the grounds of the museum. They were not mostly related to slavery but seemed to be part of a project with an environmental theme. One was made of thousands of bottlecaps. Others were of plastic cups and tubes. One was a veritable plastic Chihuly garden.  I’ll try to post that one.

But what touches me most on this kind of trip is the slowing down, of all my activity and even thinking. I can do nothing for a long time and not be bored. I remember that feeling well from our times in the Bahamas, several months one trip for me, and others of several weeks. Loring spent a whole year there, coming back briefly to get me.

There is so little and so much to do. Time and experience seems to expand. A day or two ago I was mesmerized by merely some grains of sugar spilling out of a package and into my coffee. The sugar here is different, a light brown, between the colors of our white and brown sugars at home. And large granules,more the size of sea salt than regular table salt. I watched those granules tumble into and then dissolve into my black coffee, admiring their beauty.

So many other things reflect that intense experience in the usually normal, heightened by a different reality and pace of time.

Almost since we arrived here, there have been small birds flitting around our balcony/living room. I of course  encouraged them by putting out a dish of sesame seeds, fallen from our sesame crackers, and then some tiny chunks of melon rind with small amounts of melon still adhered.  I find their flitting around our chairs and heads endearing, Loring not as much.  So he took the seeds off the table and put it on the porch floor. I can live with that! The birds have pretty much settled in now, and perhaps they would have anyway. There are at least three different kinds, but the only ones I can identify are the bananaquits, small with yellow breasts.

On the beach, this morning, were several cats, very reticent, and a little later, some roosters strutting about.  And again, hardly any people. This, though, is a public beach in a town, and there were plenty of people strolling by, some stopping to try to attract the cats.  Also a couple of restaurants with porches right up to the beach, and a number of folks, some with coffee, some with beer, in the late morning.

One of the restaurants is the one featured in Death in Paradise, the British tv series filmed here. We didn’t find out about it until we rented our place here last year, but friends had watched it on pbs. It’s a  wacky murder mystery series with a death in each episode,  kind of a Murder She Wrote Caribbean style. So much fun to see places we recogize, including our house. They don’t film this time of year, but yesterday I saw a flier for a Death in Paradise festival  coming in July, with 48 hours straight of 48 episodes. And also some discussions and who knows what else. I hope the actors   and crew will be here.

I’ll end for now with a description of our current habitation.  It has a beautiful porch, which I saw last year and which partly led to our returning.  There are two ac bedrooms, with views of the ocean from bed.  The porch is the dominant part of the place, it is basically an outdoor living room with sofa, chairs, lounge chairs, table and chairs. The kitchen/bar is also open, a common part of Guadeloupe architecture.  So, as I said, I could easily just wile the day away here.  And aside from an hour’s excursion  downstairs and down a few yards to the beach, that is just what I’ve done thus far today.

My choices right now, either back to my book, a sad but absorbing account about a teenage Syrian refugee, or a nap, or, most likely, one followed by the other.