Tag Archives: New York Times

A Perfect Day For Pamplona

We slept in this morning and awoke to foggy weather on the coast.  After a few strong cups of coffee we decided–Pamplona?  Why not?

The drive was a little over an hour, and before we knew it we were in Pamplona, in the midst of the Fiesta de St. Fermin.  We even magically found free street parking close to the city center.  Of course our first site was the miniature running of the bulls.  It was great fun.

The entire city is dressed in the traditional all white with red scarf tied at the waist and a red neckerchief.  In fact, you really stand out if you aren’t (word to the wise and any lazy ill-informed tourists who decide to wake up and go to Pamplona during the Festival of St. Fermin on a whim–wink wink).   It was almost lunchtime by the time we arrived in the city, and all of the spectators, residents and tourists alike, were filling streetside cafés.

fermin cafe

We walked around towards some of the monuments–the Palacio de Navarra, the Plaza de Castillo, etc., but then found that the real action was on the old, narrow, side streets were the bars were a little more than crowded.

narrow street

At first it was fun, but then I realized I was hungry, and the line to the bar everywhere was about six drunkards deep.  Eek!  Everyone was much drunker than I was, and probably had been for a few good hours by 2pm (being that the bulls run at 8am).  The sun was high in the sky, it was very hot, and the odors of thousands of drunk people were starting to marinate.  I was borderline panicky–where would I find food (as not being able to find food is one of my greatest fears)???  Not even the smell of baking urine (sorry!) would allay my hunger.  I had to stay strong.  “I’m a traveler.  I’m exploring Pamplona (dammit!).”

We walked towards the Cathedral.  All of the monuments were closed due to the festival, and as we got closer to the Cathedral it got quieter.  Alongside the old church many of the revelers had resorted to street-side siestas (one of my most amusing discoveries so far in Spain–the public siesta–I’d like to think it is my great esteem for human dignity that kept me from photographing these hysterical scenes).

When I had gotten to the point where adrenaline had taken over as energy supplier in place of my usual daily calories, we turned a corner behind the Cathedral and found this lovely café:

el caballo blanco

Amazing.  No house music blaring from inside?  No line to the bar?  At least one person in sight who is clearly an employee of the institution?  Sold!  You can’t imagine what a haven this little café became.  It’s called El Caballo Blanco.  The service was necessarilly brusque, but efficient.  They were out of Txakoli by that hour, so I had beer, I’m not sure what kind, but it was cold, and the nice man brought it over to my table, which made it, as far as I’m concerned, akin to ambrosia.

Much to the amusement of the clientele seated nearby (who mostly drank and smoked) we ordered a lot of food–foie gras, jamón ibérico, tomates y avocates, y gazpacho.  They all teased us to see if we would eat it all–and we did.

comida

tomates

It wasn’t until I got home tonight that I figured out the name of this café by Google-ing “cafe behind cathedral pamplona.”  What I found was this timely little piece by on the New York Times.  And what do you know?  They found the same soothing little spot behind the Cathedral.  I double checked by matching up the NY Times and my own photograph of the café exterior.  I couldn’t have planned my sojourn in Pamplona better.  While I love reading travel guides and planning, I hate feeling bound to an itinerary when traveling (you’ll later find out that although I read the Pudlo guide to the South of France cover to cover not once, but twice, I only visited two of the restaurants it lists in my two weeks in the country).  I’d rather just walk and enjoy what’s in front of me.  So discovering El Caballo Blanco was a happy coincidence.  We returned to rain in Hondarribia tired, happy, and with an appetite for a late Spanish dinner.

goodbye

Goodbye sunny Pamplona

hondarribia

Hello rainy Hondarribia

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Hmph! The New York Times is Digging Oakland

It might be expected that the New York Times would pick up on such high profile stories as the murder of Oscar Grant on New Year’s Day 2009, or the murder of four Oakland police officers in March.  But Oakland the tourist destination for Times readers?  I have to admit it was a bit unexpected.  About a month ago the Times published “36 Hours in Oakland California,” which sells Oakland as a sort of multi-culti-city-of-the-future-hidden-gem-artists’ haven.  Since then there has been a relative spate of Oakland-based reporting in the times that might challenge the old Gertrude Stein adage that “there is no there there.”

“36 Hours in Oakland California,” gives New Yorkers some great tips such as the Grand Lake Theater–my hands-down favorite place to see a movie by myself (or with anyone else for that matter), the Washington Hotel (my mother’s personal favorite hideaway),  and the Morcom Rose Garden, which truly is a hidden gem.

grand lakeGrand Lake’s Auditorium 3 (picture from their website)

03venue_morcomrosegarden1_395Marcom Rose Garden, photo by Eros Hoagland for The New York Times

Then, just a few days ago, the Times gave us the popular “Neighbor, Can You Spare a Plum?” about fruit foraging, beginning with a profile of Asiya Wadud, a Chez Panisse alum who pioneered Forage Oakland, an organization/movement aimed at viewing urban fruit as collective wealth, with potential for community building.  While Wadud and Forage Oakland seem laudable, the Times article leaves a lot to be desired.  If anything it brought on the painful memory of someone harvesting my “collective wealth”–the roses in my front yard, by simply lopping off the top of all the bushes–and convinced me not to plant that plum tree in front of my house.  All fruit isn’t everyone’s fruit–the law and I believe Wadud agrees–but Kim Severson, the author of the article, glosses over this point a little too much for my taste.  What would Randy Cohen say???

10fruit500.2Asiya Wadud by Noah Berger for The New York Times

But no need to get too serious, Oakland knows how to party, the Times’ bastion of style T Magazine reminded us yesterday, June 10, 2009 on their blog “The Moment.”  What is a forlorn Williamsburg hipster refugee to do after the Sonic Youth show at the Fox TheaterThe Moment says hit Cafe Van Kleef!  The Moment’s description of the place hits the nail on the head.  Van Kleef is kind of Brooklyn meets Nawlins meets Oakland–in decor if nothing else–and they do pour excellent cocktails (they often have great fresh fruit involved) but overall the place is a little to Park Slope c. 2002 for me with their earnest burlesque and cabaret, but maybe they Williamsburg kids will come and shake it up (they do serve some purpose you know).

What the Times obviously needs is a little dose of good ole Rockridge style soothing…and I’m working on it.  In the mean time, you can consider co-housing opportunities in the Temescal neighborhood, or just keep track of Oakland news by setting up a Google news alert here.

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A Moment For Merce

Merce Cunningham and his work has made an indelible mark on my consciouness.  It is with mixed emotions that I received this article in the New York Times on Cunningham’s plans for ensuring preservation of his lifelong career as a dancer and choreographer.  Cunningham turned ninety on April 16 this year.

I discovered Merce Cunningham in college in New York (where I discovered most great things) and although that time of my life–a selfish immersion in arts–is past, I think about him, his philosophy, his dialogs with John Cage, and his worldview quite often.  Here is a video of Cage and Cunningham in their element:

Unfortunately the YouTube poster didn’t date the video but from the two men’s ages it looks to be from the mid to late 50s.

Merce’s time on Earth is limited, as all of ours is in one way or another.  You can find him now, as vibrant as ever, on a video series called “Mondays with Merce” on the Merce Cunningham Dance Company website.  The videos show the company rehearsing at Merce’s direction and interviews with dancers, artists, collaborators, and of course with Merce himself.  Enjoy.

The Merce Cunningham Dance Company website.

“Mondays with Merce”

merce-leibovitz

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Rockridge Azalea Season 2009 in Retrospect

For some reason I have never been a huge azalea fan, but the azaleas around Rockridge this year changed my mind.  I just kept walking and driving by these bushes absolutely bursting with color, and I couldn’t resist any longer.  Unfortunately, my (former) distaste meant I waited a little too long to start photographing the blooms, so I missed my change to capture a few of my favorites (there is an amazing orange-pink one a few doors down from me that has since lost its blooms).  I did manage to catch a few though.  The orange and white at the bottom are some of my favorites.

azalea1

azalea close

azalea4

azalea5

RED!

white and orange!!

white and orange!

I learned more about azaleas (such as the fact that all azaleas are rhododendrons but not all rhododendrons are azaleas, similar to the fact that all daffodils are narcissus, but not all narssisus are daffodils) from the Azalea Society of America.  They have a great FAQ section.  Some azaleas are native to Japan, and azaleas, similar to cherry blossoms, are quite celebrated in Japan.  There are some great photographs of an azalea festival in Shiofune-Kannon (Ome, Tokyo) on Yumi’s flicker page.

On a related note, you should definitely look at this slideshow from the NY Times on Philadelphia gardens.  Great pictures of alliums, primroses, poppies, peonies, and of course…azaleas!

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I’m Thinking About…

  • Education policy.  What is the connection between public high schools and two and four year colleges?  Whatever it is it isn’t enough.  So much of the education debate takes place around K-12 that we leave out any consideration of what our students go on to post-diploma.  The NY Times explores one side of this issue. (NY Times)
  • My students are doing incredible research on social justice issues.  One group is focusing on the enormous issue of prostitution, while another is looking at human trafficking.  My ears perked up when I heard this debate on NPR last night.  Also thrilled to have discovered Intelligence Squared U.S. (NPR)
  • More on prostitution: This is an incredible story taking place as we speak in the life of one woman, her lawyers, and a flawed justice system.  Read the story and send a letter.  (FreeDebbie)
  • Pop-Up Stores…ever since Refinery29 started talking about their pop-up Save Fashion I’ve been intrigued.  All of a sudden I’m having crazy ideas about Rockridge and Pop-Up stores…more on Pop-Ups and Save Fashion: (Refinery29) (Save Fashion) (Business Week)
  • More, more, and more gardening.  I’m working on the landscape, a vegetable garden, and a cutting garden for my flower arranging.  Had a great morning at Longs on 51st the other day (sounds crazy but this is a well-respected garden center for you skeptical non-East Bay-ers).  Here’s one of my favorite purchases:

aquilegia

aquilegia2

Aquilegia ‘Origami Blue and White’

Prolific long-spurred blooms are a favorite of hummingbirds.  Beautifully rounded plant habit, airy silver-gray foliage.  Good choice for cutting, naturalizing.  Plant in sun or partial shade 12″ apart.  Grows to 16″ tall.

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Where were you on Saturday night?

I was over the moon–figuratively.  Physically I was at the Brooklyn Academy of Music soaking in a rare coupling: Grizzly Bear and the Brooklyn Philharmonic.  The event marked Grizzly Bear’s first performance with an orchestra dedicated to performing alongside of the band (Grizzly Bear has previously shared a bill with the Los Angeles Philharmonic at Disney Hall).

Perhaps the most special parts of the evening for a longtime fan like myself were the songs Grizzly Bear played that they had never performed live before, but that I have savored for years on their albums; namely “Central and Remote,” “Reprise,” and “Plans” (all from Yellow House).  “Reprise” was particularly special, given the leading banjo, a fact which Daniel Rossen acknowledged from the stage.

I found “Colorado,” another longtime favorite, to be particularly successful with the orchestral backing.  It’s another that you’re not likely to hear the band perform regularly.

Of the new material from the upcoming release Veckatimest, “Foreground” was far and away my favorite, and the Brooklyn Phil did well by it too.

Then Grizzly Bear did something that I wouldn’t suspect given the tone of the evening; they closed the show with The Crystal’s foreboding “He Hit Me.”  I don’t think Edward Droste has found a better pairing for his vocals than this diminutive ditty.  It just works.  I was thrilled.

conejo_en_la_luna

The boys were looking sharp: Daniel in shiny new shoes visible from row “S,” Christopher Bear in saddle shoes (!) and a handmade black silk bow tie by Julia Ziegler-Haynes, Edward sleek in black jeans and a crisp shirt, and Chris Taylor sporting a new shorter haircut.  They’re ready for the big time!

Related links of interest:

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Leafy Greens Update

The hashed Brussels Sprouts with Lemon Zest recipe from this Bitten post is amazing.  After you’ve done it once it’s definitely easy enough to do quickly on a week night.  The vermouth and restrained use of butter and olive oil enliven the roughage, while the mustard seeds (my preference over poppy seeds) give them a little extra edge.  

I just love this recipe because it’s haute enough to serve on the weekends as a side dish and fun enough that you want to eat it during the week while being “healthy.”  I bet it does well in the refrigerator overnight for lunch too, though both times I’ve made it there hasn’t been any left over (a good sign no?).  

Other notes: I highly recommend that you use Meyer lemons if they are available.  Meyer lemons soothe SO hard.  File under constant obsession. 

I can’t wait to delve into THIS.

On a search for beautiful images of Meyer Lemons I discovered Robert Stark III, a realist painter who appears from his subjects to live somewhat of a idyllic existence on the eastern seaboard.  I quite enjoy the surrealist edge he brings to his paintings because of, or in spite of, his masterfully realist technique.

meyerlemon

Meyer Lemon by Robert Stark III

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