We are a commune of inquiring, skeptical, politically centrist, capitalist, anglophile, traditionalist New England Yankee humans, humanoids, and animals with many interests beyond and above politics. Each of us has had a high-school education (or GED), but all had ADD so didn't pay attention very well, especially the dogs. Each one of us does "try my best to be just like I am," and none of us enjoys working for others, including for Maggie, from whom we receive neither a nickel nor a dime. Freedom from nags, cranks, government, do-gooders, control-freaks and idiots is all that we ask for.
Our Recent Essays Behind the Front Page
Saturday, December 3. 2022
At the end of October, we spent two nights in Avignon before heading up to the Luberon for our hiking. It's about an hour or more north of Marseilles.
The old town is comfortable, easily walkable. We went to the two necessary sights - the medieval Pont D'Avignon (half of it remains) and the Papal Palace - sheesh, what crazy papal conflicts went on in the 14th C. Not much to see, just an old town to hang out in and tramp around in and to get lost in. Tracked 21,000 easy steps in the day when we checked. Have a beer in a cafe and watch the people. I've seen enuf cool castles, cathedrals, and palaces in my life.
Nice boutiques according to Mrs. BD, but no big name brands. Yes, she bought a couple of unique things. I have been trained to stay outside a shop, blending into the woodwork and maybe sneaking a cigarettelike a real European. Yeah, I had to buy a linen polo shirt for myself because the weather prediction said cooler than it all turned out to be.
Like so many famous medieval old towns in France and Italy, outside the walls are modern suburbs with big box stores, mass housing, auto repair shops and car dealerships, Burger King, and all of the things non-tourists want and need. The Old Towns are mostly for tourists and students. Avignon has been a destination for Brits for centuries and has some very Brit shops and cafes.
View from the Pont D'Avignon over the Rhone. They have a nice clean bathroom at the entrance to the bridge. Without the ancient song, who would have known or cared about that bridge?
A few more pics below the fold -
Continue reading "Visit to Avignon"
Thursday, November 10. 2022
The Brit hiking company (The Carter Company) that organized our trip gave us hiking guides (no maps). They also left off huge picnics each morning for us to carry, and transported our luggage from hotel to hotel. How long were the hikes? 5-6 hours.
As usual with hiking, it's mostly uphill but this bit was just easy and pleasant. Olive grove on the right, woodlands on the left::
Lots of pics below the fold -
Continue reading "Hiking trails and routes in Provence"
Wednesday, November 2. 2022
Saturday, October 29. 2022
Mrs. BD's favorite village was Lourmarin. It's surrounded by villas and farms. Expensive to buy there. I doubt Lourmarin is crowded in peak season because there are few places to stay unless you rent a villa.
My topic for this post is routine shopping in a village. In Lourmarin, market day is Friday. All of the producers and farmers and clothing-sellers assemble in a different village each day. No supermarkets anywhere near. Clothing, fish, meat - everything. The marketplace is filled with people and dogs, and by 4 pm it's disassembled from the village square and moved on.
For starters, the only daily food store in Lourmarin is the place below. True, they do make a lot of those great 4" deep kiches each morning but they are sold by 9 am. I think people drive once in a while to regular supermarkets in the suburbs of Aix or Avignon for supplies in the way we drive to Costco.
Some of my Friday marketplace pics are below the fold -
Plenty of pics etc. of the Friday market below the fold -
Continue reading "Their Walmart"
Thursday, October 27. 2022
Their lavender fields had already been harvested. Besides olives and grapes, lavender is a big deal in Provence. There is even lavender ice cream.
Since it was a hiking trip, we had to go the long way over the Petit Massif, up to the wild west-looking plateau, and down to another valley. Then back to our place over the mountain again. 6 hour hike, spre quads for sure. The hiking paths were rated as "mostly gentle", but it's a Brit company. In the US, they would be rated moderate at least. Mostly stoney paths, easy to get lost, and every one uphill. Will post hiking pics later.
Here's their cloister. Lucky John D. Rockefeller didn't buy it and ship it to NYC:
Tuesday, October 25. 2022
OK. So, in an obscure corner of the lovely garden was a sign, and the view below. Sign said (in French) "From this spot in our garden, Paul Cezanne painted many of his hundred paintings of Mt. St. Victoire in varying lights and times of day." Sheesh. He lived in Aix, and the French at the time reviled his pictures. Readers know that he is my hero of "modern" fine art. A thrill.
A small view of the hotel garden
The view from the garden's pergola where Cezanne liked to paint:
Tuesday, September 6. 2022
Stockholm is one of the best hiking cities I've yet visited. Part of this easy walking was the centrality of my hotel (on Benny Fredrikssons Torg next to the Riksbank). That said, even the Grand Hotel, over by the ferries, is within walking distance of most things.
It's important to know Stockholm is an archipelago made up of 14 islands, so ferries and bridges are common. Size-wise, just shy of 10% of the Swedish population lives in Stockholm. California and Sweden are roughly the same size, but Sweden has 1/10th of the population.
Stockholm has a lake which provides its fresh water. Lake Malaren used to be part of the Baltic Sea, and it separated about 1000 years ago. Prior to that event, Vikings could use it to sail deeper into Sweden. Today, Malaren is a fine lake to walk along. There are boats lining the north (Norr Malarstrand) and south (Soder Malarstrand) sides and many have become nightclubs, bars or restaurants. Mrs. Bulldog and I walked along the lake the night we arrived, and stopped for a drink on one boat. Beautiful place to stop at sundown, and the view we had was of a hill on the south side where people flock to watch sundown over Stockholm. We wanted to do that, but time was short and we missed it. Apparently, it's the place to be at sundown. After our drink, we crossed over to the south side for some tapas, then continued along the southern shore and crossed back into Gamla Stan (the old city) and then back up to our hotel. As we arrived later than we'd planned (airlines are a mess), we thought a long walk would be a good way to get a feel for the city.
Continue reading "Stockholm - An Urban Hiking City"
Monday, August 29. 2022
Mrs. Bulldog and I got back a month ago from Stockholm. As cities go, it is by far the crunchiest I've ever seen, and where we stayed (Downtown Camper, part of the Skandia chain) really focuses on this kind of crunchy experience. The rooms are excellent, the location perfect (right in the middle near everything) and they offer many amenities which make it a great hotel experience, and then some. Rooms are well-appointed, they have a rooftop bar and spa (which we utilized and I was shocked to see Stockholm has very few rooftop bars of any kind), they offer bikes, skateboards, yoga, tours and a movie night. There is an excellent breakfast, which was a tad on the expensive side, but worth every penny. Staff, much like the Swedes themselves, was happy, helpful and willing to go out of their way to assist with our several issues (such as printing tickets to events or museums which we'd forgotten to print).
Stockholm is also a cashless society (Sweden as a whole is supposed to be, but Stockholm sticks to it with a passion) which is a good and bad thing. Good because it's easy to get around, pay and do what you want. No need to carry cash. One of the justifications for cashless societies is to reduce crime - yet pickpockets are still a huge problem in Stockholm, as they are in any other major tourist city. Crime, in general, is not really in decline but crimes related to cash have fallen.
Continue reading "Stockholm and the Cashless Society"
Saturday, August 13. 2022
There is always something to do on a ship (lectures, music, dining, socializing), but watching the ocean and the ocean critters is the best part for me.
Not an expensive trip either. I recommend heading for Southampton (London's ship harbor), but Le Havre also. Below are two links for Atlantic crossings, but I would avoid Norwegian Cruise Lines. Another note: Don't get an inside cabin. Those are places to put your kids.
Sunday, July 24. 2022
Took Mrs. Bulldog to see Billy Joel as part of his Madison Square Garden residency. He announced how many shows he'd done there, I think it was 182. Not bad. He called himself "the house band." I have a feeling he is.
I had an opportunity to see him when I was 15. 1977, just after The Stranger was released. Some family dynamics prevented me attending and after that, I guess I just never cared enough to go see him, or didn't have the money. Billy Joel, today, is a NYC/NY State cultural icon. He may well be the MSG "house band" and that showed during the concert. The crowd was engaged, active and enjoyed every minute. I found myself singing along to songs I didn't even realize I remembered, and most weren't even singles, just album tracks.
It was a great show and I'm glad I finally saw him, even if his voice isn't what it once was (he admitted to missing the higher notes).
Continue reading "My Life"
Saturday, June 4. 2022
Spent a glorious week on the Cape for our 100th Anniversary. Hiking and biking -rain, Atlantic fog, some sunshine), using Merlin for a lot of our birding, and living on clams, oysters, mussels, and some Cod. No internet. Read 4 books. Lost 5 lbs. I did not need to lose. Love Cape Cod.
This boat in Wellfleet Harbor drags for Sea Clams, not regular Quahogs. Happened to catch the Osprey nest in the same photo. They are everywhere, and that is wonderful.
Wednesday, March 16. 2022
Tuesday, March 1. 2022
Anyway, she got me in the habit of posting random pics from our NYC outings. She loved NYC, but her husband worked in the oil patch.
Here's the Vienna Philharmonic (a huge orchestra with big sound) on Sat. night. Ravel, Debussy, and Rimsky-Korsakoff:
A few more pics below the fold -
Continue reading "A few NYC photos"
Wednesday, December 8. 2021
One cool sort of place they have in Italian towns are Bar Pasticcerias. A "bar" in Italy basically means a coffee joint like small Starbucks, but a Bar Pasticceria means they are serious about pastries. Besides outdoor cafes for watching the scene, I love the old, atmospheric Bar Pasticcerias where they do the usual, but also serve "light" lunches like a big tray of miscellaneous norceria with cheeses, wine, beer, and even cocktails. Some have a good selection of single malts. That's a 1 hr+ lunch, and you never want dinner. I can't remember the name of our favorite place.
You get to watch the old guys going in to pick up some dessert and having a glass of wine or some grappa while waiting. Also, elderly women with packages coming in to pick up some dessert, and having a glass of wine while waiting. Civilized. A place like that in Greenwich Village or Soho would be busy and make a lot of money.
Below a nice shop for Italian stuff. Remember that shops close during midday, then stay open until 9 or later. And restaurants don't begin serving dinner until 8.
Monday, December 6. 2021
Thursday, November 18. 2021
The ideal of the garden was architectural with the water features which exist to today and are studied by landscape architects. Even the plantings were architectural. Bishops and Cardinals were rich in those days. I think the water features were inspired by the Arab gardens in Spain.
Wednesday, November 17. 2021
Lazio is the province of Rome. Drive north, and it is flatland agricultural until you get well into Tuscany where there are good hills for grapes or, sometimes, woodlands.
The Italians seem to have protected agricutural lands from sprawl. Also, they made industrial zones. Surely fascistic, but it makes for pleasant landscapes. Beside that, it seems to be that Italians are gregarious people who love to hang out in their towns and villages.
These are newly-plowed wheat fields. Some fields this size are planted with alfalfa to be plowed under for spring planting. Excellent roads, as I have mentioned. Fun driving. No speed limits, really.
Monday, November 15. 2021
Why does this hilltop village have so many towers? No earthquakes. Lots of towns, like Siena, knocked their towers down for safety.
I had some speck (cinghiale speck, in fact) for lunch with a beer. Italian speck is not German speck. It is some sort of norceria. It came with those cheese-stuffed crackers which were amazing but I have no idea what they were.
Sunday, November 14. 2021
A good supper in a cool cafe (Etruria) in Volterra. As usual, we showed up as the first customers at 7 but the place filled up at 8. It was chilly so we sat inside. No big COVID deal in Italy.
Our Primo: Gnocchi with a pumpkin and sausage sauce. Far tastier than the photo looks. I had a glass or two of Brunello:
Secondo: Roast Cinghiale with a dolceforte sauce (vinegar + chocolate) on a bed of fried polenta, with a cotorno of canellini beans in some tasty broth because they had no spinach that night. Spinach sauteed in oil and garlic is one of my favorites with a secondi, but the beans were just fine.
Go for a nighttime stroll after and get lost as usual. But this can be found. Go for the pistachio:
Tuesday, November 9. 2021
I learned the word sprezzatura from there.
You can drive out the causeway to the mountainous island Monte Argentario and visit the cool seaside villages of Porto Santo Stefano and Porto Ercole. They are about diving, sailing, and professional fishing. Also, duck and woodcock hunting, judging from some bumper stickers.
Excellent cafe on the waterfront in San Stefano. Good beer. Euroland does not pasteurize beer.
Fun pics, etc. below the fold -
Continue reading "Hanging out around Orbetello, with some food"
Thursday, November 4. 2021
Thing about the Italian life style is that most people do not work long hours. Whether in small towns or in cities, the passagiatta at around 5 or 6 pm is a ritual with kids, old folks and, of course, dogs on leashes. Delightful. After that, some wine or aperatifs in a cafe. Dinner begins, mostly, 8-9 pm. That's when restaurants fill up. Many do not open for dinner until 7:30 or 8. After dinnertime, lovers are all out in the piazzas while kids kick soccer balls around in the dark. Cool.
Night is the time to get out and about. No danger except from growling dogs. Everything stays open at night.
Being American, dinner at 8 seems late but I am a guy who likes to get to the gym at 5 AM so I like to get to my books at 9 pm. (Readers know I do not do TV or movies.)
Sunset over the lagoon in Orbetello, which is not really a foreign tourist place but some Brits seem to like it (more night pics below the fold):
More evening and nighttime photos below -
Continue reading "La dolce vita: Evening and nighttime in Italia"
Tuesday, November 2. 2021
Etruscans, as I view it, were proto-Romans. A fresco sample:
Monday, November 1. 2021
Best thing of all: it is truffle season. Every decent place to eat had at least one truffle item on the menu, and we brought home two truffle pecorinos for Thanksgiving. Our lovely place outside Montepulciano (Villa Poggiano) put up a chalk board of things they would arrange for you to do each day. One of them was truffle-hunting. (Among others were a cooking class, horseback riding along the back dirt roads, and a rental Ferrari for 4 hours).
I declined the truffle hunt because you have to pay but of course you don't get to keep the black truffles. Also, I do not trust myself with a Ferrari although I do enjoy driving around rural Tuscany (in daylight only). We did happen to see a truffle hunter with his dogs on one of our own back-country hikes on which we got happily lost. I always have a half-roll of toilet paper in the bottom of my Osprey daypack. Who does not?
An American honeymooning couple at our place did everything on the list during their stay. Ah, youth.
As we drove around southern Tuscany looking at various hill towns and things (MapQuest got us everywhere), we stopped by a Roman bath, Bagno Vignoni. We had a nice light lunch there, pecorino ravioli with black truffle. Roasted root veggies on the side. That's Italian! I doubt that you have ever seen so many truffle slices in the USA. Naturally, I had a glass of Vino Nobile de Montepulciano. Fine for the purpose and helpful for driving confidence.
A few more pics, and a truffle hunting vid below the fold -
Continue reading "Reposted: Tuscany in October, with truffles"
Saturday, September 25. 2021
We have a new record - 2 Maggie's Farmers arrived to join us from Los Angeles, which represents a new long-distance visit. Always pleased when our readers travel to join us.
Originally, I was worried nobody would make it. As it turns out, we had a hardy group of 10 people and we had a great day. Thank you to everyone who joined us, each of whom had a little bit extra to add to the commentary as we wound our way from Chelsea, through Greenwich Village, the East Village and down into the Lower East Side. MacDougal Street allowed us to work through a Beatnik/Rock and Roll section, which was followed by a series of Stanford White buildings, among a variety of other interesting and fun items like Edna St. Vincent Millay's townhouse, Commodore Vanderbilt's first Manhattan home (replaced by a more modern building), Triangle Shirtwaist Fire building, the Turkish and Russian Baths, and many other locations.
We had a great lunch and a few beers at McSorley's. As I was mapping and herding, I didn't take too many pictures. Bird Dog was, and I'm sure he will share them.
Thanks to our good friend, the Manhattan Contrarian, for purchasing some delicious muffins at Magnolia Bakery, which we all shared.
We missed many of our regulars, and hope you will join us in the Spring when do this again in 2022.
Thursday, May 20. 2021
"Black Mountain." It is a nation, a tiny one on the Adriatic.
Friends are taking their kids for a ten-day trip there, now that Europe is open. They want hill-hiking, seafood, and something different.
The Eurozone is desperate to get American tourists back. 10% of the Eurozone's GDP has been tourism, before COVID.
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