Meandering – Darwin, Australia

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All this time in Le Confinement has me thinking back to all the years I spent traveling the world as a seminar speaker, I am passing on some of those memories.

If I ever just wanted to disappear you just might find me in Darwin, Australia. Darwin holds some kind of attraction I have never been able to explain. In the list of Australian tourist destinations I imagine it is pretty low on the list, yet for me it is one of my favorite places in OZ for no definable reason.

Thanks to the heat and incredibly high humidity you don’t see people in long pants much, shorts are the de rigueur.It is so hot that the pubs serve cans of beer in insulated sleeves.

Darwin is the kind of place where people don’t ask a lot of questions, seems most everyone is pretty much left alone. Thanks to the lower prices of everything it attracts backpackers, the main drag of Mitchell street is lined with hostels. Athletic young folks and shaggy gray beards seem to coexist quite comfortably.

It does cost less. On one of my many Australian trips my first stop was Perth, another of my favorite places down under, my second stop was Darwin. More on Perth another time, but it is everything Darwin is not, Perth is expensive and stylish. A pint in Perth was about 6A$ (about US$8 at the time). After checking in to the Darwin  Hotel, just off of Mitchell,  I walked the two blocks to Monsoons, my favorite place in Darwin, ordered a pint, it was 3A$, nice.

Of course I did a sketch, sitting on the deck with a view of the street and the people. Inside the air conditioning had it down to Antarctic temperatures, me, I love the heat and humidity; rugby or cricket on the TV – life is good. Monsoons at night is quit different, it is a party bar, big time – not my kind of place at all. In the evening I would often wander down to the other end of Mitchell Street to a restaurant on the bottom floor of an office building with a huge deck wrapped around a banyan tree. 

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The Hog’s Breath Pub, down Mittchel street a few blocks, was always a good place to drop in – more of a sports bar.  Just around the corner from Monsoons there is a Turkish restaurant, outside seating under a banyan tree eating lamb is pretty hard to beat.

A lesser know fact about Darwin is that it was the only place attacked by the Japanese during WW2. Not long after the bombing of Pearl Harbor, the same air squadron bombed Darwin, on the bluff overlooking the ocean there are informative memorials that tell the story.

Yes, for some reason I do like Darwin. The white hat that I wear while sketching in the summer came from a hat shop just a block from Monsoons. Reflecting on Darwin brings back good memories. As always I am so gratful for the opportunities the being a seminar speaker afforded me.

3 Reasons Why I Like to Travel

“Why do you like to travel?” Tricia is writing a post for her blog Travels Through My Lens about why people like to travel, and pondering why some don’t have any desire to travel; she wanted a quote from me. It got me thinking. My initial response was:

“What I like about travel is feeling immersed, if only for a moment, in the culture and ambience of a place I’ve never been before.”

That does encapsulate the essence of why I may get tired while traveling, yet never tire of traveling. Her question got me thinking about what attracts me most to other places. It all comes down to three things:

1. Cafes

2. Cathedrals

3. Sketching

Cafes

Mornings are my favorite time of day, the best part of the evening is going to bed so I can get up in the morning. When I travel, alone or with Tricia, most mornings I either quietly have tea in the room while she sleeps, or, more frequently I head out to a cafe. One of the first things I do when we get to a hotel, or a BnB, is to scope out a coffee shop. Before going to bed I lay out my clothes, reading materials, and sketching kit so I can quietly get dressed and leave, hopefully without waking Tricia.

At the cafe I feel like a local, most tourists take vacation as an opportunity to sleep-in, I don’t begrudge them that for a moment, it just keeps my morning less crowded; if I sleep in until 0800, even 0700, I feel like I have missed the best part of the day.

In the cafe there is time to read some news, the Morning Office, a book. I might explore a map planning the day’s adventures, specifically focusing on a good place to eat lunch, which is usually the high point of our day. Cafes, bistros, and restaurants are a priority for us, and an important part of why I travel.

Then, settled in, it is time for a sketch. In Robion, a couple of years ago I went to the same cafe every morning, did four sketches, one each morning. Each was from the same table, just facing a different direction.

Cathedrals

The cathedrals and temples in the world are worth visiting. Of course the magnificent ones – Notre Dame in Paris, the Duomo in Florence, Bath Abbey in England – are awe inspiring, but they are too crowded for my taste. (Visit early or late to avoid crowds – Friday Prayers at Bath Abbey is my recommendation)

Gordes is one of those places in France I love to visit, sadly so does every other tourist who goes Provence, so I am faced with the crowds. Just off the circle at the center of town is Eglise Saint-Firmin, a small and in need of sprucing up cathedral. Never crowded, a bit dark, always quiet. A few minutes sitting spent on the old and warn pews, considering the icons and flickering red candles, triggers all kinds of reflections on what is important in life.

Grand gardens and parks are just variations on cathedrals, as are mountains and vistas. My mind is freed up to be creative, for introspection, peace and meditation. Next to morning cafes and midday restaurants Cathedrals of stone or nature are the best part of travel.

Sketching

Pretty obvious that this is a priority for me. Sketching allows me to connect with the place, it forces me to slow down and really observe – the colors of the building, the shapes, the people and what they wear. In the time I am sketching I am completely immersed in the terroir of where I am. Later, when I flip through a sketchbook, a bit of the feeling comes back, it is like being there all over again. Those sketches of Robion renew those wonderful morning cafes.

Tricia’s Quote Expanded

I think I need to give Tricia a more complete quote:

What I like about travel is immersion, if only for a moment, in the culture and ambience of a place I’ve never been before. I may get tired while traveling, yet never tire of traveling. It all comes down to three things: Cafes, where I connect with the locals, cathedrals, where I am inspired, and sketching, where I capture the moment while creating a memory.

Ramble at Gold Creek Pond — Travels Through My Lens

I had intended to write more about San Diego this week, but life has a way of interrupting our plans and intentions, c’est la vie. Instead, I will post a short blog about a recent stroll we took around Gold Creek Pond, and next week I’ll continue writing about San Diego. Gold Creek Pond is […]

via Ramble at Gold Creek Pond — Travels Through My Lens

Instagramable Selfies? Really?

Edinburgh Castle is the icon of the city. The thick walled fortress, perched high on a rocky hill, houses the history of a proud nation, the crown jewels of Scotland, and the blood of brave fighters that defended their country. Just outside the gate stood a solitary piper, proudly dressed in kilt. Surrounded by a crowd of tourists jostling to take a selfie with the piper, most ignoring the courtesy of dropping a coin or two into the bowl on the ground, few, most likely, even aware of the rich history of the Scots. The selfies taken that day, all along the crowded Royal Mile, will appear on Instagram, for it is truly an “Instagramable” place. 

The Independent, a British newspaper, found that 40.1% of millennials chose their travel destinations based on how well the photos would look on Instagram (Independent March 2017). A google search of “Instagramable” returns 3,630,000 links. 

These days any travel destination is overrun with folks taking selfies, selfie-sticks are standard travel gear for many, for posts that will end up on Instagram, feeding hopes of “likes” and “followers.”

I get it, for I too post on Instagram, and I too crave the likes and followers. (Feel free to take break from reading this and follow my feed.) So I am not anti-Instagram, and in the end not anti-selfie. Photos of travelers in foreign lands have been with us since the invention of the camera, they become treasured memories.

Travel should be more than selfies, likes, and followers. The joy of travel is to get away from the “must see” places crowded with groups on tours, rushed from site to site, with only time enough to snap an Instagramable Selfie. These folks may correctly claim to have “seen” a place, but they missed out on experiencing the people, the culture, the beauty of the place. 

The late Anthony Bourdain said that if your trip to Paris is filled only stops at the Louvre and the Eiffel Tower  then you have not seen Paris – I totally agree. We were on our 5th trip to Paris before we ever went up the Eiffel Tower, thanks to the crowds it was a complete disappointment. When I think of Paris it is the quiet places and cafes, like La Table du Luxembourg in the Luxembourg  Gardens. I sat there one sunny day sketching the park, while sipping un verre de vin blanc.   Paris 2005 (20)

This is why I sketch, it takes longer than a selfie. To sketch you have to really see, study, think about where you are. In the process you take in the place, see the people, hear the sounds, smell the flowers. 

If you are not a sketcher, give it a try. If you are a photographer, please keep taking the kind of photos my wife takes and posts at Travels Through My Lens. But take more of the places and less selfies. And above all slow down, it is not a race. Sit in the cafe, have the glass of wine, then when you get a real feel for the place capture it with your camera. I guarantee the pictures will be far more Instagramable. Both photographers and sketchers are artists, our goal is to capture the moment, to be true to what we experience in a place. That genuineness will come through when you post it for us all to enjoy. I want to see the place, an occasional view of your charming person in the frame is fine, but show me the place, and what makes it special.

Keep travel sketching, and photographing travel, then share it for us all to see.

Changes in the works

January 1994 at the Holiday Inn in Racine, Wisconsin to May 2, 2019 at this Best Western in Silverdale, Washington – 26 years, five continents and over 3,000 seminars. The seminars are over, they pretty much ended 6 months ago, only did 4 in all of 2019.

So far this year I have only flown three times, 5,912 miles. By June of most years I was already MVP with Alaska Airlines, on my way to Gold Status, with 30 to 40 flight segments already logged. What a change. I will hit my Million Mile status with a couple of flights planned for this year.

So, this is a year of change. Coffee shops, beaches, and arboretums have replaced the Alaska Boardroom Lounges. A shoulder bag and pochade boxes have replaced my roller-bag. Blue jeans, paintbrushes, and pens are the attire and tools of the day. And the closest thing to a seminar are the sketching workshops I lead. I love it and don’t miss the travel as I feared I would.

There are trips planned, but for pleasure. Off to Oregon for the 4th of July to visit friends and family. A day trip to Port Townsend in August for my birthday. September we head to San Diego for a wedding and time with friends. Then off to Tokyo for another wedding in November, with a side trip to Seoul.

When we get back from Japan it will be time to kick the France planning into a higher gear. If we are to move there in April/May there is a lot to do. The visa process takes about three months, lots of documents to secure, dossiers to create for us and for our cat, as well as a trip to San Francisco to appear at the French Consulate office.

Though, as many before me have observed, I am so busy now I don’t know when I ever found time to work, still there is more time to reflect on food we cook and eat, places we visit, and tips for both. So time to get this blog back into action.

Polenta Florentine

This is a quick, low calorie, delight that is also budget friendly – easy and quick enough for mid-week, good enough for company. Leave the Parmesan cheese off and it is even vegan. For those who just can’t imagine a meal without meat, this has enough substance and flavor to satisfy most.

Most mix the spinach and tomatoes into the polenta, I wanted it more attractive, it worked.

Crushed garlic, red pepper flakes, warmed (not fried) in olive oil to infuse the flavored into the oil.

Add diced tomatoes, salt and pepper, let them absorb the flavors in warm pan with heat off while you prep the spinach, a few minutes.

Turn heat back on low for 1 minute, then off. Add chopped spinach, stir a bit then leave to wilt while preparing the polenta, spoon off excess liquid.

Stir ½ cup polenta into 2 cups boiling water, whisk until the polenta does not sink back to bottom when you stop stirring. Turn heat to low, cover, and cook for 30 minutes, no less, stirring every 10. It will be creamy without adding cheese.

Heat the spinach tomato mix. Spread polenta on plate, using a slotted spoon cover polenta with tomato and spinach blend, top with Parmesan cheese.

Ingredients

2 Tbs olive oil

2 garlic cloves, crushed

2 Roma tomatoes, 1 inch cubes

Full bunch of cleaned spinach

Pinch Red pepper flakes

Herbs – oregano, Tyme, etc.

½ cup polenta

2 cups water

Parmesan cheese

A day of Spanish missions, sketching and prayer 

A whole day and all I needed todo was drive 40 miles, so I opted to visit three old missions and spend the day sketching and praying.

First stop was the famous San Juan Capistrano, I would love to see the swallows return but I fear it would be crowded, today it was full of school children yet I found some solace nonetheless.


This is the tiny chapel for Saint Peragrinus. It was the perfect place to read the Morning Prayers.


Here are more from San Juan Capistrano, including the old chapel, and the living quarters for the priest.


Then I went to San Luis Rey, much smaller with  seminary and retreat center, nice place for Noontime prayers.


Last stop was in the foothills of Palomar Mountains, famous for the observatory. Mission San Antonio de Pala is much smaller but so enticing to set and do a mid day devotion.