Tuesday, 31 July 2018

Last day of July (2018)

Amsterdam becomes a new south of France ... the temperatures soar to the unprecedented level of 38 degrees in my living room, while a patch of Limburg in the south of the country becomes the hottest place in Europe...
Many people are delighted, ventilator fans are sold out, ice-cream production soars and beach wear is in booming business.
But in the gardens all withers are fades.
Some days it is too hot for me to move...
Today, as the month closes, we have just had a pretence of rain (it didn't last long, but it was wet...).
I have been very busy having family visits (not over yet, tomorrow one of my granddaughters comes foe a couple of days).
I have also been taking many photos in this beautiful city of Amsterdam.
And here is one of the beach near where my son lives. He is standing with his two daughters, gazing at the refreshing waves, while the sun sets and bather plash happily...
And now, into August.

And here is my other favourite photo of the month,  taken in Italy by grandson Isaak, showing his little sister skipping into the distance ... a kind of Cartier-Bresson effect in pale colour.
Still have to report on the Spanish rias... Next month.

Sunday, 22 July 2018

Topsy-turvy weather

Have now been back in Amsterdam a month: every day sun, sometimes a little cloud, and once a whiff of rain. It gets hot and dry and the plants in gardens wither. But we live as if in the south of France, eating cherries and peaches, and grow happy...
The sun sets in golden glory ... here near the Maritime museum, where a kingfisher perches on a pole in the water:
I've had family visitors bringing much happiness to the house. Here is it, looking very welcoming...
The bright sunlight reflects on the windows; some of them are still the old glass, that was poured in liquid state and contains tiny air bubbles and looks wavy. The house has great charm but it requires continual loving care! A swarm of moths emerged in the small front room, caused, I was told by knowledgeable Amsterdammers, by the damp and chill. So every day I opened to front window (see the photo, where window is pushed up) and opened the back door, causing a through-draft. I also scattered many small wooden balls which apparently moths dislike, plus pieces of soap (a tip from my neighbour Godelieve) and gradually the moths diminished ...
I've had them before; when Judy lived upstairs they frequented the room immediately above this one. Someone called them "plaster moths". They are very small, palest creamy-brown and eminently squashable (sorry, Buddhists). I am glad to say, hardly any fluttering remains.
The garden wilts but there's a reasonable amount of shadow and my young neighbour Julius waters the thirsty plants at appropriate shady times.
Yesterday the Amsterdam Metro (underground) opened after about eighteen years of mud and misery. It's still unclear whether this is really going to be a great success in dealing with Amsterdam's traffic problem. (Much air pollution from car exhaust, also making buildings grey and sad...Increased bronchial infections, especially among children.)
Originally this underground was going to run to Schiphol Airport but due to lack of funds this couldn't be realized. I plan to try it out this evening when I go to meet my new set of guests arriving at Schiphol.
It continues very busy for me, pursuing useful contacts and addresses to deal with the plans for the building adjoining David's (jointly-owned) house on Prinsengracht. The large building in the pic below is the former French consulate, our much-loved neighbours in Maison Descartes. Now bought by property developers, and the future becomes unclear... (more of this in the coming months...)
Immediately below: my street in the evening sunlight
 The former Maison Descartes seen from Prinsengracht

Tuesday, 3 July 2018

And into Spain

First we spent a week in delightful Viana do Castelo on the coast.
They offered us a Medieval Fair for four of the days, with costumes, stalls selling wonderful "medieval" food, and music and dancing, to bagpipes and flutes (shawms!).
Gaenor has joined us on the boat, as many times before, and stayed until we reached Vigo in Spain. She and I made a couple of excursions to splendid old Portuguese towns, built on thousand-year-old foundations (as it were!); most impressive was Valenca. It stands high above the banks of the river Minho, which forms the northern border between Portugal and Spain. Opposite is the Spanish town of Tui : their cannon guns face each other!
Here you see the Minho river with Tui in the distance.
Valenca is a completely walled city, with winding cobbled streets and of course many tourists, but we didn't feel crowded, even though we went at the weekend. Excellent chilled beer, which was much needed on a hot day.

We travelled by train "Comboio Portuguesas" a most comfortable and inexpensive journey, largely along the Atlantic coast and then partly up the Minho. Very beautiful.
Another day's outing was to Ponte de Lima (The bridge on the river Lima) and that we did by coach, travelling inland through the bumpy hills amid vineyards and patches of green wheat. Roses everywhere. And bright wild flowers.