Toulouse to Santiago de Compostela

This time when I returned from Dechen Choling meditation center outside of Limoges, I decided to fly via Toulouse instead of Paris.  I enjoyed my afternoon in Toulouse.  It is a city with a distinguished history.  It was a fairly small town until Airbus started in 1970.  Now Toulouse is the 4th largest city in France.   Up to about the last 30 minutes of the train trip from Limoges, I was struck by how agricultural France is but suddenly it is very populated.  Fortunately I had chosen a hotel in the old part of the city.  I don’t know if it was because it was extremely hot but people were walking at a leisurely pace.  I walked along two broad avenues shaded by trees on either side.  It was interesting to see McDonalds. Burger King and Kentucky Fried Chicken discreetly blended into the city scape.  I had dinner on a lively square watching people parade by me.

The next morning, I caught the bus to the airport.  I will never understand why buses that only go to airports do not have a space to put suitcases, not in Amsterdam or Santiago or Toulouse.  I arrived early so I thought why not take some video.  I am always struck by the sameness of airports and the optimism of merchants selling stuff.  I catch the plane but I can’t take my carry-on luggage because the plane is small.  I begin to worry.  Will I catch my plane in Madrid?

No way can I catch the next plane.  We landed in the satellite terminal.  I had to take the underground train to the main terminal and go through security again.  The information the travel agent had indicated that I was landing in the main terminal was not correct.

Then I spend at least an hour on the line waiting to talk to a customer service person.  I am given a choice.  I can spend the day at a hotel near the airport and fly the next day or I can go to Bilbao and then Bilbao to Santiago.  I chose to go to Bilbao.

You will see snippets of all the airports.  Taking videos is my way of not thinking I am not wasting my time.  After all, I am making a video.

Live by Mistake

One of the things I don’t like about the iPhone is that it is very easy to change the settings on the camera.  By mistake I took all these live pictures.   I was focusing on the faces of people.

I knew something was gong to happen in the Alameda because I saw the stage but I couldn’t find out what or when.  I arrived too late and just photographed the performers as they were unwinding. More people leave Galicia each year than are born.  Like their Celtic cousins the Irish, the Galicians keep their identity alive. These people came from all over Latin America with their instruments and costumes to perform in Santiago.

Open Question

Are windmills really clean energy?  That is an open question.  They don’t destroy the atmosphere so they don’t contribute to global warming.  On the other hand, they upset birds.  We really don’t know enough about how distorting flight patterns plays out through the whole environment.  At  this point in time, we don’t have enough information to make a good cost-benefit analysis.  Let’s just hope the benefits outweigh the costs.

I find the windmills visually attractive but I don’t live near a wind farm,.  I was in luck the day I took these pictures because no car passed and no people were talking to interfere with the sound.  The sound in the video is very close to what I heard.

El Continente Supermarket

The area around Santiago de Casem has been settled since Roman times.  There is a small Roman ruin just outside the current town.  I did not organise my day well.  When I arrived at the site it was closed.  That shouldn’t have been a problem but the Portuguese put a high opaque fence around the site.

The name Casem comes from the time of the Moorish occupation.  Santiago was added to the name when the Christians recaptured the city.  Santiago is know as the Killer of Moors.  It always amuses me how a saint’s nature changes over time.  Santiago was one of Christ’s apostles, presumably a man of peace.

Fontiñas , a local hiking club, arranged a trip to Santiago de Casem during Holy Week.  Everybody leaves Santiago de Compostela during Holy Week because Thursday and Friday are national holidays.  

We hiked along nearby beaches but one day they did mountains.  I knew it would be too tiring for me so I stayed in town along with several other people.  This allowed me to get to know the town.  I was surprised that there were very few stores at street level.  In a Spanish town that size the street level would be filled with small stores.  The other peculiarity, from a Spanish point of view, is that there were no grocery stores or fruit and vegetable markets in the town.   There is a large pastry shop with places to sit and enjoy a pastry and coffee.  This is something I have done in many of the Portuguese towns I have visited.

Our hotel was near this large supermarket, El Continente.  Mar and I decided to start our sight seeing day at the supermarket.  Given that there are no small grocery stores in the town it makes sense that there is a supermarket on the edge of town.  The supermarket is enormous.  Even though I don’t like the taste of fish or seafood, I find the animals attractive.  I start taking pictures of the seafood.  Once I start taking pictures in a place, I keep going.  What’s next, the liquor department.  I notice that I skipped the meat department because I generally find butchered meat ugly.  Then I got involved with how much stuff they had, soft drinks, milk,  American products, toys, a few fruits and vegetables, bread and pastries.  Mar kept up a running commentary on everything, “This is cheaper than in Spain.”  “We don’t have this in Spain.”

When we had finished with the supermarket, we climbed the hill to the castle  and other old parts of town.  In the afternoon by lucky coincidence we participated in a performance by a French circus troupe, Les Voyages, Companie XY.  They moved the public all through the town.  They invited everyone who stuck around for the whole performance to participate in the acrobatics.  They were always standing on each other’ shoulders making human towers.  Some people even were part of the tower.  Most participants like myself were helping support the base of the tower.

Cecil Taylor’s music has the excess of controlled chaos which is what I felt in the store.  Everything felt like too much, too many, too many choices.  How does one keep track of all this stuff.  The same way Cecil Taylor creates music.

Friday of Sorrows

Friday night when I was leaving the theater, I heard the drums.  I squished my way to the front and started shooting the video.  I thought it was Good Friday but I realized that Easter had not come yet.  What could the procession be for?  I asked the people around me.  Finally someone knew.  It was for Maria Dolorosa, Sorrowful Mary.  

When I returned home, I looked up Maria Dolorosa. In 1727 Pope Benedict XIII declared the Friday before Palm Sunday the day of The Sorrowful Virgin Mary.  Virgin Mary is considered to have  had sever sorrows.  I find it odd that he placed the holiday before Easter but there it is.  

Galician Artists

On one of the daily walks, I passed Julio Ferreiro’s house.  I knew it was his because of the mosaics on the staircase.   I go closer to see if I like the shot better.  Then a few days later I was walking in the neighborhood where he has done a major work, I noticed a small house with one of his mosaics.  The first house was probably a friend’s house.  

The neighbor who was doing something in her front yard says what are you doing.  Response, taking pictures.  Hum.  Since I had more or less moved into Julio’s front yard, I saw the animals.  I was delighted.  I start taking pictures.  The person who lived on the ground floor came out.  She looked at me with suspicion.  I am used to this because when I photographed in the suburbs of DC, sometimes people released dogs on me.  Suspicion was easy.  She didn’t ask any questions.  I keep photographing.  Finally the upstairs window opens.  I ask the woman who made the sculptures.  No reply.  I ask again.  A friend.  What’s his name?  He comes from Pontevedra.  What’s his name? Luis. What’s his name?  No response.

The order of the pictures in the video Enchanted Garden by Luis, is the way I was discovering the inhabitants.

Unlike other videos where I don’t give music credits, this time I did because I feel both Schoenberg and Xenakis are not heard often enough.  I hope these little bits of each their music will encourage you to listen to each of them.

When I returned home, I started to think why don’t I explain who Julio Ferreiro is.  He went to a dreary street in Santiago and brought it to life with his mosaics.  As you see in the video, some women are using it as a set for a movie.  I have talked to Julio when he was working on enlivening a small fountain.  Julio asks for permission to place the murals. He is not paid nor given a stipend for materials. Julio makes a gift to the city.  I hope you enjoy his gift as much as I do.

I see you will have to click the link to see the second video.

Old Fashioned Fun

This is called Old Fashioned Fun because it reminded me of my childhood.  When my parents had a party, it always ended with singing.  There was a banjoist, my mother knew all the words and my father was a good singer.   Every one sang.

At this time of the year, groups go to restaurants to eat a cosido which is a boiled meal.  The basic ingredients are pork, veal, chicken, sausage, potatoes, chickpeas and grellos.  That are all cooked together and the broth is served as a noodle soup. 

 Grellos are an acquired taste.  It took me a while to warm up to them.  They only grow well in Galicia because they need a cool damp climate but this year they were scarce because we didn’t have enough rain.  Their taste is hard to describe.  It is not like kale or mustard greens which are in the same family.  They have to be cooked in a meat broth or even the Galician’s won’t eat them.   After much searching through pictures of brassica, I found them.  They are brassica olenacea lapitata.

The hiking club went to Casa Pablo for our annual cosido.  In the other dining room there was a group with an accordionist and a man playing a wooden block with drum sticks.  They were singing and dancing.  Members of our group decided to join in the fun.  The woman dancing alone is doing the muñeira, a Galician jig.

Zamora: city of sun and shadows

When I went to Zamora five years ago, I thought I want to come back to take pictures.  To celebrate Ana’s retirement a group of us decided to take a trip.  Ana chose Zamora which is a two hour train ride east of Santiago. Once I arrived, I started looking around and wondered why I wanted to take pictures.  Then I got to our hotel which was facing these gnarled trees.  Yes, I would definitely want to come back to photograph those trees.

Zamora is famous for having 27 Romanesque churches. Religion continues to play an important role in Zamora.  There are various groups of penitentes who parade during Holy Week.  Plaza Mayor has a statues of them  The Romanesque churches were built in the 12th and 13th century.  I started photographing them but I quickly realized they were ugly, clumsy structures. They are all made of some honey colored sedimentary stone.  In Galicia, where I live, the Romanesque churches are smaller, precious jewels, with lots of decorative reliefs both inside and out.  The only church with sculptures inside is Santiago el Viejo, which is a small structure that is only partially built with building stones.  The non-supporting walls are just large stones held together by mortar. The Cathedral, finished in 1174. was built in only 23 years.  The most notable feature of the cathedral is the dome.  It is more impressive from the outside than inside.

Zamora was on the border of Castile and Leon and the Moorish territory. In order to defend itself Zamora kept building walls to encircle its core.  The first wall defended the besieged city in 1072.  Ferdinand I, the great of Leon, Castile and Galicia, divided his kingdom between his three sons.  Sancho killed one brother to consolidate his rule.  He made the strategic error of trying to take the city of Zamora from his sister Doña Uraca.  His death remains a mystery but Doña Uraca preserved her rule.  Some of that first wall is still visible.  As the city expanded a second was built in the 13th and a final one in the 14th century.  The last one was used as building material in 19th century.

Zamora had two golden ages.  The first was the 12 and 13th centuries when the Cathedral and the churches were built.  Second was at the start of the 20th century when immigrants who had become rich in Latin America returned.  They built art nuveau town houses and the Casino.

Yes, I finally did photograph churches and buildings but my focus was not the structures per se but the way light hit them.  The shadows that were formed.  And yes, the trees.

I am sorry but the program is not letting me embed. It keeps changing the protocol for adding videos.

Here Comes the Sun

For several years I have been participating in Fotoforum.  Each year we explore a different theme.  This  year it is landscape and the concept of beauty.  This month we are taking pictures of ugly things that contain some beauty and beautiful things that have an ugly component.  

There is a new covered walkway between the train station and the new bus station.  It is really an eye sore but if I concentrate on segments it is okay.  I thought I would take long views which are really ugly and then highlight in Photoshop the acceptable parts.  This didn’t work.  

I remembered one day several weeks ago. When I walked through the passage, the sun was casting interesting shadows on the floor.  I thought I must return. When the sun is not casting shadows, the passage way feels dingy even though it is new.  When the sun is doing its magic, the shadows remind me of fireworks or confetti.  The space feels festive to me.

Wednesday, I went back because the shadows would be beauty within ugliness.  It was really just luck that I got the time right.  It was interesting how the intensity and quantity of shadows changed in the space of 15 minutes. Some of the shots may look the same but the shadow patterns are different. While I was shooting, George Harrison’s song, Here Comes the Sun, kept running through my head.  

I had put it as the sound track but unlike other copyright holders who just want to be able to advertise on my sight, the remasterer  blocked the video completely.  The music I have now added, is Deva Pemal singing the Gayatri mantra which is considered a salutation to the sun.  I like her version because it reminds me of how we sang it at the Vedic chant workshop I attended last summer.  Fortunately Pemal just wants to be able to advertise on my video.


Yesterday as I was walking in the Cidade da Cultura on the outskirts of town, I saw this man using a scythe to cut the grass on his land.  His movements and attitude reminded me a lot of the solitary sweeper.

The sound is unfortunate because there is a highway nearby but if you listen carefully you can hear the sound of the blade cutting the grass.