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Showing posts from September, 2017

Lindy hop street party 2017/09/29 Pamplona

La Nuit Esanche: a free street party that only happens once a year, was on literally around the corner from my place. With Big Kick swing school an official festival partner, I was excited to see a large semicircle of pavement reserved for dancers, between the band and audience. It had been really good to write, do yoga and cook for a few days but I was also looking forward to the next dance ... to meeting people.  When the band leader introduced the lindy hoppers before starting their first tune, I realised that we, the social dancers, were "the dance show." Within one song the floor had filled with about 10 couples, and I found a partner by the second song. For most of my dances, it was I who asked... still it was a friendly scene. The Good Time Rollers played songs of easy tempo from 20.30-22h. Good work! The audience surrounded us, smiling, admiring. Kids and teens tried to copy us. I danced every song, sometimes in solo. One great dancer had driven 200km for t

Cave of Blues 2017/09/24 Zugurammurdi

My host is a concert harp player and I'm enjoying her practice session. The dulcet tones resonate through the otherwise unadorned white walls of her modern apartment. It's like she's painting in floral patterns, sometimes shadowy, sometimes bright. Its such a pure and emotional sound, I feel like I'm in a movie. This morning I met her over a simple and wholesome breakfast of porridge and fruit. Ideal after after a weekend of mostly white bread and salty, oily bar food. By every other measure though, the weekend was excellent... worth the epic journey from Dijon. It started at dawn, with a kiss goodbye from Sophie, then three trains, a bus, a Blabla car and a kindly dancer's car landed me and my ridiculous luggage in the Spanish village of Zugurramurdi after nightfall. Cave Of Blues promised a memorable experience and they delivered. About 60 friendly folk including musicians made this an intimate affair. Most of the dancers are from cities in this region, al

Call of the wild in wine country 2017/09/22 Dijon, Burgundy

Brame des cerfs / Bell of deer The landscape has a feminine silhouette, a small rise between dark, curving thighs. The air is sweet and cold. Silence is punctuated by the high, round sound of owls and the deep bell of the deer. The stag with the deepest, strongest bell will be chosen by the does. Bellows, roars and staccato grunts sound from near and far. Brame, bell, mating call. Stars centred over the valley take the form of a running deer. One of the stars drifts away to the right... a satellite. Still the star deer was running, and the Milky Way spilling light into the falling night. //Bourgignon// Travelling mostly among strangers since August, it's special to be welcomed by a dear friend in her family home. Besides my dad, Sophie was my only visitor from Europe to Sydney, so it's a joy to return the favour and visit her in France. On my first day S. proudly showed me around her town of Dijon. Owls are recurring emblem, reputed to bring creative inspiration. Man

Fusion, chemistry, rides 2017/09/16 Copenhagen

One of the reasons I wanted to visit Copenhagen is that 55% of daily commutes are made by bike. By contrast the figure for Sydney is 6%. Who gets excited about good urban infrastructure? I do! I was curious about this smart Scandinavian city.  And yes, to join the flow of riders on the continuous network of dedicated bike lanes has been a great experience. Not surprisingly, the train network is also excellent... and designed to accommodate bikes. This greatly extends the distance you can cover with your bike, and helps also if the weather gets too rough. Weather can be a challenge here, but the terrain is easy. Flat, flat and flat! It's Saturday and I have spent the day touring this lovely city by bike and 'Harbour Bus' (boat). Sadly I'm too exhausted now to go dancing, but in these northern latitudes such a fine sunny, day was not to be wasted. I enjoyed an open air antique market, a very decadent cake and a stroll in the Botanic Gardens. Some people get exci

Kindness and community 2017/09/13 Prague, Czechia

Zach is an American gentleman who has done a dance tour of Europe by motorbike. We compared stories, how the kindness of strangers and dance community can shape your experience, the beauty of 'paying it forward'. Thank you Zach for welcoming me to Prague with a hosting offer, cake, and a shortlist of your favourite places in the old town.  Maitrea translates as loving kindness, how fitting. At this elegant vegetarian restaurant, I met the lovely Rumena – a British homeopath in town for a conference. We teamed up to explore the old town, and pooled our knowledge of Prague's history, its many churches, Wenceslas the fratricidal king. We saw the newest oldest synagogue, the Kafka museum, the river banks and bridges. Rumena and I bonded over hats and strudel... between us we bought 3 Tonak hats! Zach! We might be as stylish as you are one day ;) One of the great things about the dance odyssey... it takes me well off the tourist trail and into real, lived-in neighbourhood

Colours of Budapest 2017/09/11

I'm full of endorphins after a vigorous massage from a handsome Hungarian man. I lie on a couch and immerse myself in the kaleidoscopic colours of Gellert baths antique stained glass walls and ceilings. The ceiling is studded with nipple-shaped geometric domes. There is a high, wide freize... the sweeping lead lines dissect and connect nude human, plant and wave forms in jewel colours. What colour is the river Danube? I try to think of a pretty adjective, but really it's beige. I haven't even seen its ruffled surface change to reflect the sky, except when it disappears into the oily black of night. Beige doesn't seem to belong in a sentence with the busy, rushing artery of the grand old dame, Budapest. So what colour is the river? The colour is danube – ideal for understated interiors, or dipping your biscuit in. It's my last night here and I'm not in a hurry to move on ...I would like to spend more time writing in the beautiful Ervin Szabo library,

Lindy hopping in Budapest 2017/09 a 4-day weekend of dancing

My first few days in Budapest were spent mostly at home, in the local library or local cafes, booking travel and doing admin. There were no dances, but it was okay because I still had a horrible cough and I needed to recover. I was also very emotional, missing my lovely Italian host family and crying about my own family's problems. Still, I appreciated the city on the Danube by bike, lots of great food and a relaxing arvo at the famous Gellert baths. First dances My mood started to lift on Friday evening at contact improvisation, my health was on the mend. And I was excited to go to my first swing dance later that night. When I arrived about 11pm in the studio on Paulay, the room was almost empty... less than 10 people sat around the corners and one couple was dancing, or maybe two, on a lovely smooth parquet floor. Interesting, slow swing music -- I started to dance, and then one of the guys offered me his hand. The ice was broken and after that I danced with most of the gu

Contact improvisation 2017/09 Budapest

I hired a bike and rode across the river to Gellert baths for an open air swim, a warm fountain pounding my shoulders, a sauna and the last rays of the sun on the poolside terrace. Then it was a beautiful ride up river to find the contact dance studio. I am very lucky to find it because it's locked away in a vast, rambling arts complex full of confusing long corridors and mysterious doors. The class and jam take place in the studio of a well-established theatrical dance troupe called the Symptoms. The photos of their shows are very moody, inspiring, creative... I'm impressed, curious. The class and dance was of a very high standard – artistically more interesting – but less friendly than the Sydney local scene. The teacher Eszter Gál has 25 years experience and it shows. She maintained a continuous flow of bilingual ideas and guidance, in an undulating soothing rhythm and tone throughout the class. This guided hour before the jam was almost entirely solo. Usually I wo

The xenophobe 2017/09/06 Budapest, Hungary

My first morning in Budapest started uneventfully ... a step across the road to the bakery and then a stroll around the neighbourhood, looking for a leafy, sunny spot with wifi. Most of the tables in the park are taken. There is a table of men and women talking. At another table four men sit drinking bottles of beer. It's 11AM on a Tuesday morning and judging by their neat clothes, they could be on their way to (or from) work.  I looped back to my Airbnb. The apartment staircase within the private courtyard was my best Wi-Fi and tea spot. And so I sat for probably a good hour journalling, tapping on my phone. Neighbours came and went on the opposite stairs. Then an old, fat, moustachioed man with a yellow shirt came to talk to me. I don't speak Hungarian, I said.  --Francais? Yes. --  What you are doing there doesn't work. And he gestured for me to leave the premises. I'm not blocking his path. He thinks I'm trespassing. "I'm sleeping here, at my fri

One night in Napoli 2017/09/04 Italy

Napoli to me is a dystopia of urban dysfunctionality. Huge historic buildings with impressive architecture and hollow, unglazed windows loom over the streets, surrounded by high fences and piles of rubbish. One such monumental edifice is near my B&B – a former 'Paupers Hospital', is fronted with a row of palm trees... an architectural carcass as wide as a golf course. Wasted infrastructure abounds. Even the Royal Botanical Gardens only opens on weekends... the rest of the time nothing is visible but a high wall topped with plants, and a very spiky barrier. Urban paradise lost. The city stinks.... in some places it's the abundant dog shit that dominates, usually it's the traffic fumes, mingled with the hum of overflowing rubbish bins. The traffic is loud, aggressive, chaotic and very inefficient. Smarter Italian cities minimise vehicular traffic through narrow historic streets, allowing cafe culture and commerce to flourish. Here pedestrians, mopeds, ambulances

Saints and sinners 2017/09/04 Montescaglioso, Basilicata

In a small town where people-watching is more popular than phone-watching, its seems I am the most interesting item of the day, week or month. The staring is familiar from my childhood in rural Ireland, in an era when emigration was more common than immigration. I could go for a year without seeing a brown face other than my mum or brother. You never really get used to being stared at, but my style comes from an expectation being watched why not turn up the colour? Walking alone in the historic centre of Montescaglioso, I wonder when was the last time they saw a black person. The curious, blank stares of old men and women. I greet them politely, I get a polite reply. The unwavering, objectifying stares of a group of men outside a bar or going by on a truck. I ignore or stare back. Kissing noises when I walk by. At what age they learn to relate to women this way? Its intimidating, but people don't lock their doors here. I feel safe enough. And did I mention the baby stares