Today I’m taking a break from the tundra to catch up on some travels from the recent past!
Our quick trip to Cadaqués is one of those travel stories that looks lovely via the photos but behind the scenes…it was complicated. We had fun in that kind of team-building, misadventure sort of way, but it was not the quiet and relaxing weekend we were hoping for; the wind blew non-stop with frequent gusts at 40 mph / 65 kph (it was November), making it almost impossible to be outside. And we ended up changing accommodations because our hilltop apartment overlooking the Mediterranean was filthy and so poorly built that its shuddering from the wind kept us awake all night.
Those details aside, it is a sweet little village and I can only imagine how lovely it would be during the summer months.
We took the bus to Cadaqués from Barcelona. There’s one bus per day and after the previously mentioned issues, I was ready to turn right back almost immediately, but by then it was too late. It was a rare moment in 5+ years of living in Europe that I wished for a car so I could hightail it back to the city. It was also a rare moment in travel that I was ready to give up on something to quickly.
So the wind. I don’t think I’ve ever tried to walk or take photos in 40 mph / 65 kph wind. Anthony is making it look kind of easy here, but I assure you it’s not.
The sign on the boat above—obviously geared towards summer visitors—seemed somewhat cruel to us winter visitors. The waters of the Mediterranean are seductively clear and blue even in the crazy wind and cool temperatures, making a person’s swimming instincts kick in despite the environmental realities.
The cobblestone streets of Cadaqués don’t take kindly to photographers traveling with their gear in rolling suitcases. However, these tiny streets were gorgeous. There is a special name for them in Catalán, rastell, which denotes a street with a steep slope formed by inverted pieces of slate.
These streets climb the hillsides of Cadaqués in the most confounding twists and turns. Just going a small distance was a challenge and filled with dead ends and turns that suddenly had us walking in the opposite direction from which we’d started.
Luckily, these little mazes provide endless visual delights for the disoriented explorer—so many wonderful doors and windows and unexpected details.
We had a coffee on the beach at an outdoor cafe fortified with glass walls.
And lastly, I loved this detail about Cadaqués, a village of just over 2000 people: it has its own language, a variant of Catalán that preserves Medieval speech patterns because of its isolated location. I can’t remember where I read it, but modern roads to Cadaqués are quite new. Prior to that it was accessible only by boat or foot path.
Last night we had the kind of snowstorm we haven’t seen much of this year; heavy, wet snow started falling late in the day and then after dark the wind picked up. The snow fell and the wind howled all night. And yes, it is as cozy as it sounds. We made soup and read by the fire and went to sleep with the storm raging outside. This morning, it looks like this out the window.
Between this space and my Instagram feed, I realize there have been a lot of snow posts lately…but when there is this much of it, it kind of becomes a major character in a person’s life. Seriously, there is so much of it, I’m not sure what we are going to do with it after last night’s contribution. Normally, snow falls and then there is something of a thaw that doesn’t usually melt it all, but enough of it to keep a balance. This winter I read that we’ve had 50 days below freezing, so basically all the snow that’s fallen has stuck around and the piles keep on growing and growing.
This is the Stone Arch Bridge, where I like to take Metro for walks. It used to be a train bridge and now it’s a walking path that has a great view of the city and St Anthony Falls.
The snow is pretty and romantic, but then there is reality: keeping the walks and the driveway and the alleyway clear is a LOT of hard, physical work. And the cold is truly brutal and unrelenting. It is the sunshine that has gotten me through this hard winter with spirits high.
Our walk across the Stone Arch Bridge takes us on a loop around the riverfront and over Nicollet Island, a very favorite place of mine.
And those are some views of life + snow in Minnesota.
Photos by Rebecca Silus for the Field Office
Each winter, when Minnesota’s 11,842 lakes inevitably freeze over, tiny houses begin to appear out on the ice. They provide shelter for the ice fishers, who drill holes into the ice and wait for a bite. Many structures also have beds and stoves so that a person could stay in them for days—which many people do—and temporary winter villages are the result.
The seasonal communities that appear in these somewhat ambiguous public spaces inspired the founders of the Art Shanty Projects to create their own community on the ice. Each year, artists propose projects that are designed to be involve the audience and create an atmosphere of engagement.
The Dance Shanty
It looks quiet and peaceful, but when I took this photo, the dance music was blaring and dozens of people were inside dancing and hootin’ and hollerin’. Live DJs and dance lessons.
Town Hall Shanty (left)
All kinds of goings on including a “wedding” on the day we visited.
The Pedal Bear
Audience members are invited to power the bear in an ice track around the shanties.
Other projects included a traditional Finnish sauna, a curling clubhouse, and a zoetrope.
We brought Metro along for the day. It was a great opportunity for him to try out his new booties designed to protect his paws on the ice. This Vine video shows him getting used to how they feel!
Art Shanty Projects
Open Saturdays and Sundays through the end of February
You can’t believe how many things there are to do outside in the winter in Minneapolis and St Paul. Despite freezing temperatures, people go nuts for getting outside. And it makes sense—cabin fever is real! Once you’ve been cooped up inside because of dangerous temperatures (-25F/-32C anyone?—and that isn’t the windchill, which made it feel -40F), even 10F feels okay.
We attended the Minneapolis Instameet in January at Minnehaha Falls, the waterfall located in the city of Minneapolis. Most of the people in the photo are not part of the Instameet—just there to check out the frozen waterfall, which really is a sight to behold.
The Luminary Loppet on Lake of the Isles
Unfortunately, we missed the Luminary Loppet last weekend—an evening cross country ski race on the frozen lake that is lit by lanterns. Beautiful.
St Paul Winter Carnival
The St Paul Winter carnival is off the hook—torchlight parades, races, ice carving and ice castles. Most intriguing to me is the medallion hunt, in which the local paper releases clues to the medallion’s location. Participants dig through the snow in the city’s parks (often all night with headlamps on), looking for the medallion.
Art Shanty Project
Hopefully we’ll get out to the art shanties on White Bear Lake this weekend, where a group of artists build interactive projects on the middle of the lake.
Highway systems are not something I usually think about in a time-based sense. And when I do think about them, it’s as unfortunate developments of the 1950s that divided cities and changed American life for the worst—and continue to do so.
However, a post about the Jefferson Highway on Ren Holland’s blog got me thinking beyond this midcentury timeframe. It’s easy to forget, or perhaps never even know, that certain elements of the built landscape once had a human touch. The old mom and pop resorts that Ren writes about (which precede the standard corporate hotels of today) come to mind. And I was surprised by Ren’s observation that there was a time when highways were named with actual names rather than numbers—what a difference that makes! Today what’s left of the Jefferson Highway is known as Highway 71 in Minnesota—and the more famous Route 66? It was originally the Will Rogers Highway. But I’m getting ahead of myself.
Construction of the Jefferson Highway began in 1917. It was North America’s first transcontinental international highway, connecting New Orleans and Winnipeg via the small towns in-between. It is difficult to imagine a world in which a project like this—building a freeway—was uncharted territory. And I think it’s fascinating to really try to imagine the cities and towns I am familiar without their interconnecting freeway systems and how that would have changed…everything.
Pittsburgh State University has a small but interesting digital collection of the Jefferson Highway Declaration where you can read about the progress of the highway as well as the small businesses and characters affected by it. Don’t forget to peruse the ads in the back.
Mike Conlin, owner of the unfortunately empty jeffersonhighway.com, provided the above image of an early road trip and publicity tour for the project, which went from Winnipeg to New Orleans. He notes that the average speed on the 2267 mile journey was 20 mph.
Of course when the Jefferson Highway was completed, it didn’t resemble the highways of today. This was a country road by modern standards. And here is where the story veers back into things that I do think about (a lot)—after 100 years, things change but usually they leave a trace. In researching this post, I came across DeadPioneer’s incredible Historic Minnesota Highways blog. With aerial photos and his camera, he does an amazing job of tracing the routes of these old highways as they weave in and out of the present.
Here he’s found a portion of the road that would be invisible to the uninformed, but once you know it’s the old road, it seems so obvious. Needless to say, I love this so much.
There is a highway just west of Minneapolis that is significantly smaller in scale than usual. Its size and the green spaces within it (planted with old lilac trees) clearly mark it as from another time, but I never thought much about it before writing this. I would have guessed it to be from the 1950s, but a quick look says it was begun in 1934 as part of the WPA project.
Also interesting: it was designed to look like a parkway. It had five wayside parks and the local garden club planted those 7,000 lilac trees in the medians and cloverleafs. If that was the standard attitude towards highway planning at the time, no wonder people were so excited about these roads and the possibility of modernizing their road systems—I have to wonder what they would think about where the whole thing ended up because it couldn’t be more different in design and spirit than what they started.
Hand lettering by Rebecca Silus for the Field Office
Photographs courtesy of: the Iowa Department of Transportation, www.deadpioneer.com, Pittsburgh State University, Mike Conlin
We were on our way to Barcelona after Anthony’s shoot in Valencia. The producer and her assistant chatted in the front seat while we settled into silently watching the scenery go by. Eventually they pulled off the road to fill up the tank and we realized that there were birds—thousands of birds—surrounding the gas station. We were catching their migration to Africa. Too amazing to miss, we got out into the dusky evening to witness it. The overwhelming sounds of all of those birds, their formations, their presence…an unequaled bonus travel surprise moment.
+ Link to the video on Vimeo
I went through all of our 2013 photos the other week with the intention of writing a year-end round up. What I found was a little disappointing—there were so many lovely moments that I meant to share and never managed to! And how, exactly, do you round up a year like this one that has seen such major life changes including getting married and making an international move?
There were many light moments in 2013 to be sure, but I will always remember it as an intense time of self-examination and hard decision-making. One of the stories I haven’t shared is connected to the process of staying true to yourself and making decisions based on those truths. It was by far one of the most magical experiences I’ve ever had.
Anthony took the photo above just a few days before our wedding on Lake Superior. It’s me with a dog named Luna, who we’d just met while having coffee on the rock. She’d come running full speed out of the woods and down the hill—and had made straight for us. We assumed she was with the fisherman a ways down the beach, athough she never went to him and stayed close to us the whole time as if we’d always been together.
That hour on the rocks with her was wonderful—I love dogs and had been missing my own little guy for all the years I’d been away. He’d been with my family the whole time—well taken care of and well-loved—but not having him with me every day had never felt right and was always painful.
Eventually we asked the fisherman if she belonged to him. He looked surprised—he had assumed she was with us. Realizing she was missing from her home and thinking such a lovely creature would be greatly missed by her people, Anthony called the number on her tag. Instead of expressing relief or thankfulness that she was ok, the man just said he’d be right there.
We waited with her on the beach until he showed up. She was at my side when he called her but she wouldn’t move. When he took her by the collar, she resisted. It broke my heart. I felt like I had betrayed her. She had been so happy down by the water—she had known exactly where she was going.
I know we did the only thing we could have done by calling her owner. I don’t believe he was abusive—I just think he had no connection to her—she is probably an outdoor dog locked up in a kennel, longing for the freedom of the beach, and smart enough to remember how to get there whenever she manages to flee.
If there had been a right way, I would have rescued her. But they drove away and that was that.
The experience stuck with me. I tried to shake the feeling that I had betrayed her, but I couldn’t. I still feel it. What she gave me, though, was a powerful underscore to what I already knew about myself and my life and what I needed to do.
Before we left Berlin, I told some of you not to congratulate us too quickly on our just-before-winter departure. Because I knew we were coming here, to a land where sub-subzero temperatures are so unremarkable that there is a yearly tradition of parades at the darkest and coldest time of the year.
This is the Holidazzle Parade, which runs a couple times a week from Thanksgiving to Christmas. In its 20-year history, it has been cancelled a handful of times either because there was so much snow that the floats couldn’t get through or because the windchill was a dangerous -25F/-31C.
The thing with Minneapolis is that there are skyways (above) that connect the buildings and serve as heated alternatives to the cold sidewalks below. A lot of people view the parade from the skyways, but most choose the street.
We shot from both places and can report that despite the cold, the street is much more fun for all of the reasons you might imagine—more life, more noise, the food vendors, kids playing in the snow, etc. Unfortunately, Glühwein hasn’t made it to Minnesota yet.
Anthony shot with the Rolleiflex. I wanted to include some of his images, too, because he focused on the parade itself. The only lab in town is pretty out of the way, though, so the film hasn’t been processed yet.
I read that this is the parade’s final year, which is sad. There aren’t many events like this that bring people into downtown and onto the street. It makes such a difference—it makes Minneapolis feel like a living city.
Settling back into life here has meant readjusting to so many things. Some of those things have been hard, like being dependent on a car and the un-walkability of the city. Other things are easy and so, so welcome like the friendliness of strangers—I like living in a culture like this, where people are not afraid to smile at/talk to/joke with people they don’t know. It adds a little bit of joy and humanity to everyday life that I have dearly missed.
What is strange about the readjustment is that it is playing out in my (now our) duplex. We now live in the same apartment I was living in when I left for Berlin all that time ago. It is a lovely space with lots of light and a fireplace—the perfect place to spend the winter. But how strange to return to something so familiar, to what sometimes feels like my old life, after so much has changed inside and out. Sometimes I worry that in coming so neatly full circle that I have, in fact, gone backwards. But mostly it feels like an opportunity to see how much I’ve grown and practice the skills and lessons I learned while away.
One thing that definitely falls into the happy-to-be-back category is the view from up here, especially through the skylights. We see remarkably different things in each direction—a combination of sky, treetops, city skyline, distant sparkling towers, and neighboring rooftops. I always missed the calm and happiness I got from this view and am happy to have it back. My idea was to take a photograph from each window, but I only managed one before the snow started falling. For now the skylights are covered in snow until we get some temperatures above freezing and the view has turned inward.
I see a lot of blog posts written about time management, but it’s the rare post that has actually made a difference for me in my fight to work more efficiently. I’m tired of hearing that setting long and short term goals is important—the real issue is HOW to do this and actually make it work.
Meet Eleanor Mayrhofer from Steal This Process. She has a background in corporate project management and runs a successful indie business of her own. She also teaches creatives how to organize, prioritize, and generally get things done in a 6-week ecourse.
I took the course this fall and can say that it is in-depth without being all-consuming (i.e. I managed to do it while we were in the process of making an international move) and it is well-designed; Eleanor knows her stuff AND she is a great teacher.
Highly recommended—what a great way to start the year!!
Class starts on January 6, 2014
Early bird registration is open now until December 15.
Find out more: Steal This Process eCourse
Image by Katrin Coetzer
A favorite discovery in Barcelona was the seemingly abundant existence of what you might call old-school establishments. These bakeries, cafes, sweets shops, and restaurants went about their business with style and efficiency that felt refreshingly authentic.
In our Berlin neighborhood, places such as these were quickly going extinct. Often they were so newly out of business that the shop interior was still in place and the sign still out front because no one had moved in yet. It always makes me sad to arrive at a shop threshold wherever it may be and realize that I’ve just missed the end of an era. So I’m happy to report that this didn’t happen to us in here.
Locating the best chocolate and churros in Barcelona is a task I would leave to someone with more time than we had. But we did find two traditional places in the Barrí Gothic that serve delicious churros and chocolate.
Granja La Pallaresa
The sign out front says “since 1947″ and the place has something of a diner feel to it, despite the white shirts and black ties worn by the wait staff. Delicious and simple. We were lucky to get a seat because by the time we left, a crowd was waiting outside to get in.
I believe it was founded in 1941—at least that’s what I understood when I ran the Catalan description. Located on a tiny street that is so narrow, it was dark even in the daytime. In fact, while we were waiting for them to open, we wandered just around the corner to find a gorgeous sunset happening on the Basilica Santa Maria Del Pi.
The all-male staff was supervised by a serious and watchful elderly gentleman. There were no smiles and everything was very proper. Photos were frowned upon. Loved the interior despite those crazy bright lights.
Photos by Anthony Georgis
Just before we left town, our friends and their band, Mount Whateverest, finished their European tour with a show at the Kugelbahn in Wedding. The show was super fun and the Kugelbahn (Bowling Alley) is something else.
Located on a quiet street at the edge of Wedding, it is a one-story building surrounded by tall apartment buildings. The main floor has massive windows in the front and back, a small bar and lots of sofas, tables, fireplace (!!), and a funny little terrace out front. And a fantastic moulded cement ceiling.
There is indeed a bowling alley on the premesis—a tiny, two-lane affair in the basement. The stage is down there, too. And I hear they serve breakfast on the weekend.
Photos by Anthony Georgis for the Field Office