Bull-Fight

The bull-ring in Mérida, Spain

Today’s quote of the week is once again longer than usual: an excerpt from a book by the English travel writer, Laurie Lee – most famous for his autobiographical trilogy: A Cider with Rosie, As I Walked Out One Midsummer Morning and A Moment of War. The first deals with his childhood, the second with him traipsing around the Spanish countryside in 1935 and the third with his experiences in the International Brigade during the Spanish Civil War.

The quote below is from A Rose for Winter, a book that recounts his visit to Spain about fifteen years after the end of the Civil War.

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The Paradox of Travel

Cees Nooteboom (1933-)

Quote of the Week:

Perhaps that is the travellers deepest melancholy, that the joy of return is always mixed with a felling that is harder to define, the feeling that the places you have ached for since you first saw them simply went on existing without you, that if you really wanted to hold them close you would have to stay with them for ever.

But that would turn you into someone you cannot be, someone who stays at home, a sedentary being.

The real traveller finds sustenance in equivocation, he is torn between embracing and letting go, and the wrench of disengagement is the essence of his existence, he belongs nowhere. The anywhere he finds himself is always lacking in some particular, he is the eternal pilgrim of absence, of loss, and like the real pilgrims in this city he is looking for something beyond the grave of an apostle or the coast of Finisterre, something that beckons and remains invisible, the impossible.

(Cees Nooteboom: Roads to Santiago)

Gloss upon the Odyssey

Quote of the Week:

Everything in this book may well seem both to lovers of poetry and to classical scholars an unnecessary gloss upon the Odyssey. In one sense it is, for it is clearly unnecessary to attempt to trace the voyage of Ulysses when millions of people, for thousands of years, have been quite happy to read the Odyssey as if it was only a fable…

I do not think that anything is lost by attempting to find a skeleton – however magnificent the cupboard that hides it. I have seen coral formations disguising the old bones of ships, but I did not feel less amazed by the beauty of the coral just because I had found the timbers and iron frames which the polyps had disguised and decorated.

(Ernle Bradford: Introduction to Ulysses Found)

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Roads to Santiago

Images of Spain.

But not in the form of the sickeningly familiar, glossy pictures of crowded beaches on the Mediterranean coast with their ugly hotel developments serving as backdrop, nor those of flamenco and bull-fights, nor yet the image that we receive through the daily news of RTE of a corrupt political and business élite, the pollution over Madrid or the meaningless posturing over the status of Gibraltar or Catalonian independence.

The images of Spain presented to us by the Dutch author Cees Nooteboom in his book Roads to Santiago go far deeper than the stereotypes that we are all familiar with. He searches for – and finds – a different Spain: one that is more ancient, more elemental, more real, if you will. A Spain that would take a lifetime of living there to get to know, even just a little.

The old town of Cáceres

As you can guess, Roads to Santiago is not a guide book, although you could do much worse than follow in the author’s footsteps.

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Canoeing in the Wilderness

In the summer of 1857, the American writer Henry David Thoreau – best known for his book Walden detailing his experiences of living in a log cabin for two years in the wild – went on a canoe trip in the still unspoilt regions of Maine, with a friend and an Indian guide from the reservation of Old Town.

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Federico García Lorca: Impresiones y paisajes

Read this in English (written in two parts)
⇒ Sketches of Spain: CastileSketches of Spain: Granada

Hay libros de los que no hay nada que escribir porque todo se ha dicho ya. Y hay otros de los que no hay nada que escribir porque lo único que puedes hacer es citarlos. Impresiones y paisajes por Federico García Lorca es uno de esos últimos.

La noche tiene brillantez mágica de sonidos desde este torreón. Si hay luna, es un marco vago de sensualidad abismática lo que invade los acordes. Si no hay luna…, es una melodía fantástica y única lo que canta el río…, pero la modulación original y sentida en que el color revela las expresiones musicales más perdidas y esfumadas, es el crepúsculo… Ya se ha estado preparando el ambiente desde que la tarde media. Las sombras han ido cubriendo la hoguera alhambrina… La vega está aplanada y silenciosa. El sol se oculta y del monte nacen cascadas infinitas de colores musicales que se precipitan aterciopeladamente sobre la ciudad y la sierra y se funde el color musical con las ondas sonoras… Todo suena a melodía, a tristeza antigua, a llanto.

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Of the Mani, Manhattan and Alexander the Great

What kind of a book would a chain-smoking former Special Operations Executive officer write? A man who at 18 had thought he had nothing better to do but to walk from the Hook of Holland to Constantinople with a volume of English verse and Horace’s Odes in his pocket? A man who felt equally at home in shepherds’ huts and in aristocratic palaces?…What kind of book?!

And English readers, who know exactly whom I’m talking about, here answer in unison: a travel book, of course.

A travel book, yes. Er… sort of.

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Petrarch, the Stay-at-Home Tour Guide

In 1358 the Italian poet Francesco Petrarca, better known in English as Petrarch, was invited by his friend Giovanni Mandelli to go on a pilgrimage to the Holy Land. From this invitation a book was born: Petrarch’s Guide to the Holy Land (Itinerary to the Sepulchre of Our Lord Jesus Christ).

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Sketches Of Spain: Granada

Leer esto en castellano

There are books of which there’s nothing to write because all has been said before. There are others of which there’s nothing to write because the only thing to do is to quote.  This is one of the latter ones.

“Seen from this tower, the night is an array of wonderful, magical sounds. If moonlit, a vague, deeply sensual mood invades the chords, if there is no moon… the river sings a unique, dreamy melody… but it is twilight that generates the most original, intense variations where colour assumes the haziest musical expressions. The ground has been prepared from mid-afternoon… Shadows slip over the bonfire that is the Alhambra… The Vega lies flat and silent. The sun hides and infinite waterfalls of musical colour burst from the hillsides and hasten soft and velvety over city and mountains, and the music of colour melts into the waves of sound… invoking melody, ancient sadness and lamentation.”

A rich and rewarding book for those who love Spain… & poetry.

You might also like:
Sketches of Spain: Castile
The Palace of Charles V in Granada
A Day Trip to Granada

Sketches Of Spain: Castile

Leer esto en castellano

Let me just say straightaway what this book is not: it’s not a travel book. Not that it won’t inspire you to visit places:

The Monastery of Santo Domingo de Silos (Photo by anamfp via Flickr: https://www.flickr.com/pho
The Monastery of Santo Domingo de Silos (Photo by anamfp via Flickr)

Federico García Lorca was a poet (and a playwright) and this is a book of poetry, written in prose. Take this:

“Eternal death will lock you into the gentle, honeyed sound of your rivers, and hues of tawny gold will always kiss you when the fiery sun beats down…”

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