Tuesday, 13 February 2018

Travelplans for 2018

For me going away on a citytrip a couple of times a year is a luxury and something I enjoy very much. I prefer a city-trip to a longer vacation and in the past years I have increased the amount of trips I make.

Half the fun is of course planning and looking forward to the trip and I am already making plans for the coming year.
So what do I have planned for 2018?

February: 
In the last week of February I will not go abroad but have a little getaway in The Netherlands. A retreat, since I will be spending a couple of days in an abbey, getting some much needed rest I think!

March
In March I will go to Porto in Portugal again. Technically this is work since it is an exchange for school and I will be going with a colleague and 24 students, but it is still fun. I am very much looking forward to being in Porto again, enjoying the amazing weather, the great food and the very friendly people!

May
I have not booked this holiday yet, but I will soon. For May I am looking at an Italian city I never visited before, and that is Napels. I think I will go there 4 days and I hope to get a good impression of this wonderful and vibrant city!

Summer
It has been too long since I was in Rome, so Rome is on my radar for this Summer. No idea yet how long and in which weeks (the first weeks of my Summer vacation I think, and probably 5-6 days) and I am already thinking about the things I want to see again and of course the new things I want to do.

Autumn
This trip is not sure yet, it will depend on my bankaccount! But perhaps a few days in either Paris or Nice would be possible in the last weeks of Oktober. I so hope so. I loved being in Nice last year in Oktober, and I think it was such a beautiful place I will love going there again. But we will see. And even if I do not go away in the Autumn, I think I cannot complain about travelling in 2018!
Even if I go to Nice, I do not think I will stay at the Hotel Negresco!

Friday, 9 February 2018

Bonjour Tristesse, Françoise Sagan

When you are seventeen years old everything is black and white to you. This also goes for Céline, who is on holiday with her father Raymond in the South of France for the Summer.

Her father and Céline have a good bond, but he does not set a good example for her, as he is hardly a parent and is more concerned with his latest girlfriend.

When Anne, an old friend of Céline's late mother comes to visit, Raymond is so taken with her that he ditches his last girlfriend and asks Anne to marry him.

Céline knows on one hand that living with Anne will be good for them as Anne has much more sense and class than they have, but on the other hand she resents that their lives will change.

So Céline comes up with a plan do drive her father and Anne apart, desperate enough to work and ruthless enough to be final.

Françoise Sagan published this book when she was only eightteen years old. And it is hard to imagine that somebody who is almost still a teenager could have written such clean and almost elegant prose.

Céline is not a very nice girl, but at the same time you cannot blame her for how she behaves, her father gives her no example at all. I loved how the novel is set up and you know something will happen, although in a way Céline never wanted.

It is no wonder that Bonjour Tristesse is considered a classic, and it is still as fresh as though it had been written yesterday.

Originally published in 1954

Tuesday, 6 February 2018

The old town of Nice

Nice is famous for it's Promenade des Anglais, but this was only built in the second half of the 19th century. Then the hotels were also built, making Nice a famous place for wealthy people to visit during the wintermonths.

But how beautiful the sea and the promenade are, Nice also has a great old Medieval town, sitting at the foot of the citadel with steep streets and meandering allys.

The colourful houses make it look like Italy, but of course Italy is not far away!

This old town has some spots that are really touristy, but as usual, once you turn the smaller streets and walk a bit further, you find hardly any tourists and you can enjoy the old town of Nice.





Thursday, 1 February 2018

A gentleman in Moscow, Amor Towles

Count Alexander Rostov moved back to his beloved Russia after the Russian Revolution, because he did not want to desert his country. 
In 1922 he is sentenced to house-arrest, since he is considered to be a threat to the communist regime.

He is now a so-called Former Person and does not have any rights anymore. He cannot live in the suite he has lived in for the past years, but has to move to a small room in the attic. At first the count tries to fill his days with the essays of Montaigne, but these do not bring him much joy. 

But as it turns out it will be the people in the hotel, both staff and guests, who will help him through the coming thirty years. The count will make friends, turns his talents to good use and will even care for an adopted daughter.  

Count Rostov is a true gentleman and he is friendly and kind to all people around him. He does not step outside the hotel for the entire period between 1922 and 1954, except for once, during an emergency.

But his life is rich with both the memories of his childhood and the new friends he makes. From his old friend Mischa, the actress Anna, young Nina, the American diplomat Richard, the party-member Osip who hires the count to teach him about the West, the cook Emile and the maître d’ Andrey, all these people play a part in the life of the count, as he plays a part in theirs.

Sofia has a special place, she is his adopted daughter and turns out to be a talented pianist. For her the count will do anything to ensure she will have a future.

A gentleman in Moscow is a beautiful book about a very special man, a man you will come to love very much. And the book is not boring at all. Despite the fact that count Rostov spends 32 years in the hotel, the outside world does have its effect. The hunger, Stalins terror, WWII and many other things will influence the lives of the count and the people around him.

I loved the end when the count, who is an honourable man who would never betray his beloved Russia, goes against his own personal code of honour once. But you understand why he does this, it was the only thing he could do. The actions of the count are a bastion of civilization in a world that becomes very uncivilized.

There is some action towards the end and it is very exciting to read what the count planned and how things turn out. I loved the final scenes, they were not as I expected, but they were fitting and moving.

In the end I found it hard to say goodbye to count Alexander Rostov and I could only wish him the very best.

I have tried not to give too much away, since I think this is one of those books people should read themselves. Very beautiful, very good!

I read this book together with Lark, who also published her review today. As always, it was great to do this little reading project together. Thank you for wanting to read this book with me! 

Published in 2016
Pages: 462

Monday, 29 January 2018

A drawing by Degas

Edgar Degas, Three dancers 1889
Last week I went to an exhibition that showed part of a private collection. In this collection the owners bought the paintings they liked, based on their personal taste and not what was in fashion. This exhibition was about the paintings and drawings they bought from Impressionist artists and beyond, like Fauvism, Post-Impressionism and Symbolism and Kubism.

But one of the things I loved most was this drawing by Edgar Degas. It shows his beloved dancers, but this is not a painting, but a sketch, with pastels on green paper. Degas was an excellent drawer, I read somwhere that he was the only modern artist who could draw like Rembrandt and Titiaan.

I loved this sketch from the first moment I saw it. It is very simple, but you can still imagine the dancers getting ready for a perfomance or a lesson, checking their clothes and warming up the shoes so they will be ready in a moment.

A quick sketch like this shows what a great artist Edgar Degas was.

Friday, 26 January 2018

Exotic animals

Near my house is a park, where they also shelter exotic animals that were dumped by their owners who could not or would look after them anymore. Or animals that have been taken by the authorities from their owners who did not look after them properly.
I cannot imagine why people want to have an exotic animal as a pet, when they have no idea what the animal needs. People are stupid.

But, inside the park is a little zoo/botanical garden, and a few weeks I go, I visited it for the first time. I did not know they had these animals, but I loved seeing them here, in a safe environment, and knowing they were well looked after.
This snake was huge!

Some kind of bird, a pheasant perhaps? 

Look at those colours

Funny creatures

This Meerkat was under a heat-light, and refused to look up

Look at the pins in detail

The Meerkat finally looked up, I love their little faces. 

Tuesday, 23 January 2018

Davita's harp, Chaim Potok

During the eighties and nineties the American writer Chaim Potok was very popular in The Netherlands. I read several of his books and really liked them, but somehow I never re-read one of them, until a couple of weeks ago.

Davita's harp tells the story of a young girl, Ilana Davita who grows up in the nineteenthirties with her very intellectual parents who are both members of the communist party in the US.

Often they have to move since landlords are not to keen on communists in their appartments, and the only thing that always means home to Ilana is the doorharp that always hangs on the frontdoor in each appartment.

Then her father dies in the cival war in Spain and her mother hardly knows how to survive this loss. In the end her mother marries a childhood friend and distant relative, and returns to the Jewish faith she grew up in.

Communism did not give Ilana any comfort, but the Jewish community will in the end also betray her, as her quick mind and sharp thinking is not appreciated, since she is a woman.

Chaim Potok often writes about the conflict an individual can have when he or she goes against (religious) tradition.

I really enjoyed this book again, and I saw the similarities between the Orthodox Jewish faith and communism, as strange as that sounds. But in both cases there is only room for one truth and the sacred texts (either Marx of the Thorah) must be studies and commented upon.

Chaim Potok is a good writer who knows how to bring an unfamilair milieu to life, with compassion for his characters.

Davita's harp is a beatiful book and I am glad I picked it up again.
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