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The triumphant return of gelato flavors of the day: for me it was a bit of a departure from my cafe safe-zone. I tried a queso, which I would compare favorably to cheesecake only more tangy, and a rice pudding, which was very good. Irene had cocunt and whiskey which she reports as bieng “tasty”.

Our time in Bilbao was brief but sufficient. We rolled into town in the afternoon and, after a brief respite at our hotel, set out for a stroll around the old town. We stopped into a bar for pintxos and a caña (small beer) and then more strolling. We came across an unexpected bagpipe band which had the whole street singing. We had dinner at a local bar and then to bed.

The next morning found us early at the Guggenheim, Gehry’s architectual masterpiece, in what was clearly Seattle weather sent here to cool us off and remind us of what we’ve missing back home. The current exhibits were a Rosseau collection, which demonstrated that he is known despite his lack of skill as a draftsman, and Rauschenberg who is known for reasons that entirely escape me.

We did both, however, enjoy the works of Anish Kapur. Creator of the Magic Bean in Chicago (or as it is officially known, Cloud Gate). One installation that was a lot of fun was a big air cannon that would shoot buckets of red wax against the corner. Every so often a man would enter the room, load up the cannon and, with a loud bang, fire. He would then exit the room where he would joke with the guards about his aim.

We bused it from Bilbao to San Sebastian in the afternoon. Not much to say about San Seb. It’s a pretty little city on the Bay of Biscane and we spent a pretty lazy day there hanging out by the beach and generally just resting. Oh yeah, we did have some ice cream (see above).

Today we hopped the commuter train to French Basque country in the guise of St-Jean-de-Luz. I tried to make the switch to French seamlessly but outed with a few “si”s and “dos”s and “gracias”s. The woman behind the ticket counter laughed at me.

All day I would revert to Spanish. After two and a half weeks of “gracias” I’m running on autopilot. When we get back to Spain I’ll probably say “merci”. Oy.

When we arrived St-Jean was a quiet, sleepy little town but by late in the afternoon it was alive with tourists.

Tuesday is market day, and for my money French markets are the best in Europe by a wide margin. We were seduced right away by a stinky cheese vendor and picked up a wedge of soft Brie-like goat cheese. And once we had that we had to pick up some meat (chorizo), bread (some kind of corn bread with sunflower seeds), fruit (strawberries) and dessert (gâteau de basque with a cream center). Picnic by the beach? Yes!

There’s not a whole lot to see of St-Jean so we spent a good deal of time hanging out in cafés drinking wine (or in Irene’s case, Kir and wine). During our second café stop we were driven inside when the sky that had been threatening all day finally opened up.

Due to a slight mix up about the bus schedule, no need to apportion blame, we were darting from awning to overhang on a soppy dash to the bus station. Fortunately we could take a bus to Hendaye and from there catch a train back to San Sebastian. Where it was also drizzling.

We catch a late night train to Salamanca tonight were we will get in way too early for anything to actually be open. Not sure what we are going to do when we get there. No baggage check in the train station, only in the bus station which is nowhere near by. Should be fun. I’ll let you know what happens.

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Sardonic Dog

Sardonic Dog

Originally uploaded by fauxbro.

I know I still haven’t posted any of the photos from our trip yet. I’ve put a lot of them up on Flickr, but haven’t got around to making a separate page for them yet.

In the meantime, I’ll post some of my favorites, like this dog.

Look at that face!


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Sketches of France, Pt. 2

As promised, here are the rest of the sketches I did in France. Yes, I know there aren’t very many of them, I all ready explained that.

This first one was done in the town of Gigondas in the Cote du Rohn region. I had a little bit of an obsession with the Plane trees.

Next we have a watercolor of the town square in Roussillon.

And finally a sketch of a coffe break in the old town of Nice on top and a schematic of our hotel room on the bottom.

So there you are, I hope you enjoyed them. Feel free to email me with comments or leave a comment using the link below.

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Sketches of France, Pt. 1

I didn’t get to do nearly as much sketching as I would have liked to. We were moving so quickly there wasn’t much time to slow down and draw. I did manage to do a few, though, of varying quality. Here are the first few. As always, click on the thumb to go to the full size version.

This first one is outside of a bar at Place Pigalle in Paris.

This next one is from Place Jerusalem in Avignon where we stopped to have a kir.

This next one is also from Avignon. I ran out of the dark blue pencil lead half way through and had to switch to the less pleasing lighter blue.

That’s all for now. I’ll finish them off next time.


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Having a Nice time

We rolled into Nice at around 4pm today and had a horrendous time trying to return our rental car. The area around the station is under all kinds of construction so we ended up circling three times looking for the return spot, still without success. Finally I hoped out of the car and ran into ask, and let me just say, we never would have found it if I hadn't. it wasn't even vaguely obvious. And as a fitting metaphor to the frustrations we had trying to return the car, a rain storm of monumental proportions rolled into town a half hour behind us. Fortunately we were ensconced in our hotel before the clouds let go, but there was thunder and lightning and all kinds of the drama that we just don't get in Seattle with our rain.
The last couple of days were spent driving around from one picturesque hill town to the next. About half way into the first day we had to retire the phrase "what a view" to to the redundancy laws in France. But good god, What A View! Miles and miles of bright green vineyards and farmland in the valleys between the towns. We hit about a dozen or so towns it seems like, the highlights being Lourmarin, Goult and Roussillon. In fact it was in Roussillon that we saw what is probably my favorite site, the old ochre quarry.
Bright red and orange and yellow cliff faces towering above and a path made of rust red sand. Even the trees had a reddish coating from all the dust stirred up by the visitors. It felt a bit like being on Mars. I think I must have shot a few hundred photos. Gorgeous.
And in a fortuitous bit of luck we've managed to hit 3 fabulous markets days in the last 4 days. The best of them being Vaison La Romaine and Lourmarin.
Anyway, we have four nights and three days in the Riviera before our vacation must come to an end. It sad, vacation is a lifestyle that agrees with me.

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