Sunday, September 29, 2013

#580 Lisbon exploration

Many Portuguese explorers left from Lisbon during the Age of Discovery.

To celebrate these expeditions, a Monument to the Discoveries stands at the edge of the Tagus River where ships sponsored by the Portuguese Prince Henry the Navigator departed Lisbon.  Steps away are two UNESCO World Heritage Sites: Belem Tower and Jeronimos Monastery.

See Prince Henry carved in stone standing in the prow of the ship?  See Kelly celebrating these expeditions by flying a kite?

See Kelly pretending to be Vasco de Gama and leaving from Portugal on the stone map?

Our expedition's ship, the MV Explorer, is docked nearby and preparing to continue the fall voyage to Spain, followed by 3 ports in Africa.  We won't be following the route of Vasco de Gama all the way to India, but we're thinking about his voyage as it "marked the beginning of the first wave of global multiculturalism."

Yours in continuing the Lisbon tradition of launching explorers on great adventures,

#579 Lisbon reunion

One of the best things about sailing on the MV Explorer is meeting great people from around the world.  Let's just say it.  It's the best thing.

If not for our shipboard connection, I don't think we would have ever had the chance to meet our Austrian friend Gerlinde.  And I'm so glad we did.  Gerlinda flew across Europe from Vienna to meet us upon our arrival in Lisbon, one of the oldest cities in the world

We had a stormy night sailing into port and thunderstorms were forecast for our visit, but Gerlinde provided the sunshine to our day!

Yours in traveling with friends,

Saturday, September 28, 2013

#578 Dublin food and drink

And what about the Irish food?  Will it live up to favorite city status?

The answer is yes!

Yours in loving the bangers and mash, the Irish stew, the goat cheese salads, the Irish ciders and all the rest,

Friday, September 27, 2013

#577 Dublin theater

Another quality of a favorite city is good theater.

So we tour the Abbey Theater, ie National Theater of Ireland, founded by Yeats and Lady Gregory in 1904.

And with some friends from the ship, we return to the Abbey Theater for a terrific production of Major Barbara, written about the same time by the Irish playwright Mr. George Bernard Shaw.

Also on our theatrical list is a walking tour of Once, a charming Irish musical film and one of my favorites.  We find Walton's Music Store, scene of the Falling Slowly song - winner of the Academy Award for best original song.  We learn that shopkeepers now ban the playing of Falling Slowly on store pianos!  So, we're not the only Once fans to find our way here.

Yours in falling quickly for Irish theater,

Thursday, September 26, 2013

#576 Dublin libraries

Of course, if a city is going to be my new favorite, it's going to need some libraries and bookshops.  Dublin has them in spades.

One of my favorites is the National Library of Ireland.  The Emerald Isle has a deep literary history and you'll find many writers' papers here in the NLI catalog.  I especially like the ornate reading room and the bold, artistic 'librarian' sign above the reference desk.

If I had to choose a favorite, though, it has to be the Long Room, the main chamber of the Old Library, Trinity College.   Built in the early 1700s and roof raised in the 1800s, the Long Library now contains about 200,000 of the library's oldest books, the country's oldest harp, and a copy of the 1916 Proclamation of the Irish Republic under a beautiful barrel-vaulted ceiling.  And, oh yes, the Book of Kells is on display just downstairs in a special exhibit room.

Inspired by all these books, we couldn't help but do some shopping in some of Dublin's great bookstores such as Hodges Figgis, mentioned in Mr. Joyce's Ulysses.  
Yours in appreciating the literary Dublin,

Tuesday, September 24, 2013

#575 Cliff walking in Howth

Dublin is my new favorite.  Sunny skies all four days.  Mild temperatures.  Beautiful city.  Lovely people.  And no internet service on the ship due to radio interference.  Heaven!

On the day when all of Dublin and many SAS students are consumed with the All-Ireland senior football championship between Dublin and County Mayo, we opt to enjoy some quiet time along the cliffs of Howth, a suburb of Dublin at the end of the DART rail system.  

On our way from the harbor up to the cliffs, we pass by the house where Yeats once lived and the beautiful gate protecting Bono's house.   

With our backpack full of kite and snacks, we set off on the cliff walk in hopes of finding stunning views of the coastline, a view of the city and the lighthouse, a breeze to lift the kite, and the ideal picnic spot.  We are not disappointed.  We spend hours walking the coast, flying the kite, and smiling back at the weather gods.

Yours in appreciating all things Irish,

Wednesday, September 18, 2013

#574 Route du Cidre

In France, we followed the Cider Route through Normandy, just south of our port, Le Havre.  
Passing small farms, contented cows, apple orchards, and picturesque villages we sampled the juice of the forbidden fruit at two local cideries.
John Boyer, Semester At Sea faculty member and cider expert, led our group and offered a life lesson on proper uncorking. 
Here, all cider is hard cider. Calvados, fermented then distilled, has a higher alcohol content and didn't suit my palate. So I stuck to the cider or a mix of cider and apple juice called pommeau.   

Our guide, a former Semester at Sea student and long-time resident of France, suggested our last stop in Honfleur where we sampled ciders, butter cookies, and sea salt caramels overlooking the harbor.

Yours in wondering if Mr. Jefferson enjoyed the French cidre,

Tuesday, September 17, 2013

#573 Looking Down at the Plantin-Moretus Museum

Many people leave the Plantin-Moretus Museum in Antwerp, the only museum on the UNESCO World Heritage list, having seen the world's two oldest surviving printing presses, circa 1600. 

Bibliophiles leave raving about the rooms and rooms and rooms full of books, arranged by size, many of the volumes printed in this building.

Mapheads focus on the Geography Room full of early maps and globes printed here for Mercator and Ortelius.

But underfoot is a patina built and burnished by human contact over hundreds of years.

Focused on the historic furnishings, visitors may overlook the materials, colors, and textures underfoot, each functional in its own place and each telling a story. 

Yours in keeping things grounded,

Sunday, September 15, 2013

#572 Mercator Museum People

We arrive in Sint Niklaas, Belgium, a few kilometers from Antwerp, eager to see maps and globes in the Mercator Museum.   We depart not talking about maps and globes.
Mercator overlooking his museum

Our request for an English-language tour of the city's Mercator Museum results in our meeting of Eddy Maes, the museum's Conservator of Cartography.    

Eddy makes it clear we should call him Eddy.  Eddy's tour makes it clear he has a passion for cartography.
In the presence of Mercator's 1541 terrestrial globe
Upon learning of Mary's librarian tendencies, Eddy arranges a behind-the-scenes tour of the books. 
Eddy, Mary, and the books
Eddy, Mary, and the 1554 Munster Cosmographie

Upon learning of Kelly's Geographic Information Systems tendencies, Eddy arranges an introduction to Professor Philippe De Maeyer, Chair of Geography at the University of Ghent.
Kelly and Professor De Maeyer
We arrive to see Mercator's maps and globes.  We depart talking about the fantastic people.

Yours in appreciating folks drawn to maps and libraries,

Friday, September 13, 2013

#571 In Bruges

Bruges, a city of just over 100,000 people, has 14 libraries.  So we knew we'd like it.    
Library #1
Library #2

Predicted rain stayed away and we found beautiful sights as we wandered the city center, a UNESCO world heritage site.

The lace-making industry thrives in Bruges, so they have what may be Earth's only lace city map, scaled 1:1230.

We navigated via paper map, making sure to visit the main sites, repeatedly crossing the canals.

And we ate. Most of our eating was from walk-up waffle shops. ;-)  We had a sit-down outdoor meal at one of the touristy restaurants surrounding the big 'Markt' square at the 'Provinciaal Hof'.

The food is expensive.  The views are priceless.  The Kriek goes down easy.

Yours in the land of frites, chocolate, waffles, mussels, Lambic bier, and maps of lace,