Wednesday, September 25, 2013

Cycling in Flanders

Biking the polders last week in Flanders was like visual poetry.

 Rain trickling down my neck kept me from taking the photos I really wanted...
and meant I couldn't sketch as planned
but oh what fun anyway!

Old cathedrals...

windmills, canals and dikes...

Sheep grazing along the churchyard
and beef cattle along the canals...

All of it was so splendid.

If I live to a hundred, the stain of beauty I saw that day will remain.

Someone said that the world is like an enormous and ever-rich book
and those who do not travel read only a single chapter.

I am already dreaming of more travel.

Any advice?

Where have you been? What have you seen?

Tuesday, September 24, 2013

A Royal Day in London Town...

Fair warning: The pictures and story below are a frankly cheesy account of my shamelessly cliche final day in London...

Want to join me? Come on, here we go!

If you're going to play tourist, might as well go all the way.
So we start at Trafalgar Square, where the bells in St. Martin-in-the-Fields mingle with street carneys and gaggles of tourists crushed together gazing at the stature of Admiral Nelson and trying to decipher their maps...

Then through the Admiralty Arch... 

along Green Park, the Jubilee Walkway.

And then we entered the Royal Gardens and heard a child's voice, an excited stream of British English... 

"Mummy! I want to see the Queen!! Will we, Mummy? Will we see the Queen? Will she walk out the front door?"

There we were... Buckingham Palace.
Quintessentially British. Royalty in spades.

Gilt and splendor everywhere.
If architecture can be glitter and glam, this is the perfect example.

And then (you knew this was going to happen, didn't you???)
we saw the Changing of the Guard!

It was not publicly announced so the press of tourists wasn't what you'd expect... we had a front row view. We were livin' the stereotype... London tourists all the way.

And I didn't even mention the National Gallery, did I?
Or the pigeon man?
Or the taxis, the shop windows or the souvenir underpants emblazoned with the Union Jack, which blessedly did not come home with us.

Since we were embracing the cliches, we decided to drop into a pub for steak and ale pies for dinner and then sit on our suitcases to press them shut in preparation for the flight out in the morning.

Home and studio await.

The End.

Monday, September 23, 2013

Norway again... naturally

Norway inspired me so much that today, on my first morning home, I find myself sitting in the studio thinking about what I saw there.

The reflections in still water.


Women hunting for mushrooms along a forest path.

And the fjords. Always the fjords.

The Norwegians take the simplest materials, leaving them so natural and make them stunningly gorgeous. The countryside is sprinkled with buildings that seem almost to have sprung straight from the earth.

I wish I could cover the studio roof with birchbark like this and plant it with wildflowers and mushrooms... They say that turf is wonderful insulation; all I know is it looks amazing.

The use of stone is another natural touch the Scandinavians use so well.

Seldom have I found a place so inspiring to new art. 
The sketchbook is crammed to overflowing. 

Sunday, September 15, 2013

Hiking to the goat pastures

We woke up to drumming rain.

"Who cares?" we laughed. 

It was our chance to hike to the high pastures and we weren't going to miss it.

First you suit up, then climb in a rib boat and cruise through the fjords.

The clouds hung low over the water and our tiny boat sped past seals, porpoises, and sea birds.

Near the tiny village of Undredal, we climbed out at Skjerdal's farm dock and hiked through the apple orchard.

We'd left the wet suits behind and rain was already dripping down our necks.

"Who cares?" was the refrain of the day.
With so much to look at, it really didn't matter.

Up through the forested hillside...

Along goat paths where the rivulets ran over our hiking boots.
Thank goodness for sturdy boots!

I looked over the shoulder of a damp goat and there, far below was one of the farms we had passed. 
There is a little guest house on this farm where one can rent a dreamy hideaway in summer. 
Oh, to visit here for longer!

These are the goats whose milk has made the cheese that brings home the gold and silver medals.

And if you had been sitting in the goat shed with us, munching cheese and sandwiches and even goat sausage (poor billy goats... they don't give milk so instead they turn into delicious sausage!)

Soaked to the skin but what sights!
Even the humblest of sheds is heaven when you are munching gourmet cheeses after a long hike.

 Don't I look glamorous in my $1 thrift store poncho?
I was glad to have it, and the only ones to see me were the goats and the three other soggy hikers!

I hope you will get the chance to visit Norway and hike the fjords, too.
Even in the rain there is endless inspiration.


I have been longing to write this post but internet access has not been easy, so there is so much to tell!
Be prepared for jaw dropping beauty...
Norway is the land of unending eye candy.

Scandinavia is my family heritage.

Finally, for the first time, I set my feet on the land where my family has its roots. It looks like a travel book in front of your eyes. 

The intensity of Norway’s reds, greens and blues is unparalleled. 

Even looking at it you can hardly believe what you're seeing.

Hiking to the Briksdalen Glacier, I spied some red mushrooms along the trail. Real ones.

Can you even believe these photos?

Real. Red. Mushrooms. It was all I could do to restrain myself to a quick sketch and some photos... 

Norway is a place where nature’s fierceness and beauty beckon at every turn. It’s a country that looks exactly like you dream it should. But even better. 

Everything seems larger than life- the enormous fjords, the pure water cascading endlessly in waterfalls that take your breath away.

How can anyone resist the buildings painted mustard, white, green and especially that gorgeous Falun red, the color that immediately tells you this can only be Scandinavia?

I think I've been in hiking heaven... I have worn out a pair of shoes already!

We've passed cows grazing on a sunny afternoon, and  crossed a tiny footbridge bridge and found a bench someone had placed facing a field, as if inviting passersby to sit and contemplate the brilliant emerald lushness of grass and wildflowers.

Where else in the world would you find a bench placed with a view this pure? 
It's at the edge of a grassy field where the animals graze.

Then goats.
Remember, this is a cheese-loving people. And the animals are much loved and well treated.

And more Falun red buildings, shining in the sun beside the village alongside the fjord...

How could anyone resist a nation that has picnic huts conveniently placed by glacier-tinted teal rivers? 

Especially ones with enchanting names like “Eiraholen”... a land where roofs are insulated with turf, and goats are regularly invited to graze there to manicure the architecture?

This one was alongside a glacier-fed rushing stream tinted vivid teal.
See what I mean about eye candy?

Next I'll show you the hike we made up the side of an arm of Naeyroyfjord to the highest goat pastures. 

It was raining buckets but that didn't stop us.

This is such an amazing land of beauty.