Posts Tagged ‘vacation’

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My Vacation, Part 2

October 29, 2015

Reflections

Guards at the palace

Guards at the palace

This is part 2 of my stories about my vacation to Barcelona and Denmark. Yesterday’s post provides information on Barcelona.

In 1975 I was an exchange student in Denmark as part of the DIS program. At that time it was called the Danish International Student program. The DIS has remained, but it is now known as the Danish Institute for Study Abroad. I spent an amazing semester studying in Copenhagen, taught by Danish professors in English with about 300 other Americans from all over the country. One of the highlights was living with a Danish family. I knew that I was fortunate at the time since my family was a perfect match for me. We lived about 30 minutes by train north of Copenhagen in a town called Holte. Jens, the dad, Helene, the mom and the daughters Vivian (15) and Nana (12) were a delight. It turned out we had a strong connection, my Helene was Greek and they spoke several languages. Each day I’d take the train to Copenhagen for my art courses. I can still hear the voice on the train announcing the stations: “next astacione Holte”. The Danes would be silent reading the morning paper on their way to work. I had a great semester, learned a great deal both in class and out and a lot about myself. I can trace threads of who I am today to my time in Denmark.

Nana

Nana

I returned to the United States with one more year of college and a new lens, thanks to my learning opportunity in Denmark. Fast forward many years and I reconnected with my Danish family through Facebook. I have wanted to travel to visit for a while so when I had the chance to travel to Barcelona with recently retired Bangor High School art teacher Kal Elmore I decided it was the right time.

On my first night there I had a delightful visit with my younger sister, Nana. The next morning I was excited to stop by the DIS office to let the staff know how much I appreciated the program from 40 years ago. Even thought there weren’t staff there from all those years ago, they were very appreciative that I stopped by and all very delightful to meet. It was well worth the visit. I learned that the program was in a bad place about 15 years ago and today it has 1200 students a semester and an office in Stockholm, Sweden is opening soon. Without reservation, I recommend the program for college students who you may know considering studying abroad. Program information is located at http://disabroad.org/.

Lego store on the Stroget

Lego store on the Stroget

The rest of the day I spent walking and traveling by bus and train around Copenhagen. The largest mode of transportation by the locals is bicycle and they came in a variety of styles and many went quite quickly. The car drivers are very respectful of bicyclists. The Stroget, the main walking street looked similar, flourishing with stores and restaurants, even a giant lego store under construction. In addition to the Stroget there are three other walking streets that were fun to explore. I visited Amalienborg Palace to watch the changing of the guards which happens once a day at noon. The palace is Danish Rococco architecture and constructed in the 1700’s. I visited the Danish Design Museum which houses an incredible collection of Danish designed chairs. I loved seeing them. And, of course I stopped by the Little Mermaid who sits in the harbor and the Round Tower which provided a 360 view of the city and a delight at days end.

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Jesper and Vivian

I met my older sister, Vivian, at the train station and we headed north by train one hour to her home in Vestergade. It was so wonderful to meet her husband Jesper and daughters Sophia and Isabel. I felt at home immediately and it was the first night of quiet sleeping for me since I left home.

My visit with Vivian was filled with a visit to the Louisiana Museum of Modern Art. It is like no other I’ve seen. The museum was abuzz with people of all ages. People were very engaged. Each of the areas and gallery’s flow into each other seamlessly and makes for a delightful visit. The studio space for education is alive with color and motion. It opened in 1958 and was intended to house only Danish art but has turned into an international museum with a variety of modern pieces. It is built on the water and includes an outdoor sculpture park which is part of their permanent exhibit that meshes beautifully with the environment. One of the highlights of my visit was definitely the Ayoi Kusama exhibit. Born in 1929 Kusama is a ball of energy and the comprehensive show can sense her commitment and vitality. The pictures of hers throughout provide a sense of who Kusama really is. Please do go to the site and take a look at her varying work.

Louisiana Modern Art Museum, Kusama's artwork

Louisiana Modern Art Museum, Kusama’s artwork

What a special treat to visit with Helene and Jens at their apartment. Since I saw them last they spent many years living in France and Greece, returning to Denmark a year ago to be closer to family. We had a wonderful time celebrating Helene’s 84th birthday with Vivian’s family and Nana’s daughters.

After spending time with Vivian our worlds got a closer together and I am confident this time that we will not lose track of each other again. I am sooooo fortunate that I have the time and made my visit a priority. I urge you to not put something off that you’ve been thinking about or wanting to do. Life is precious!

Please email me at argy.nestor@maine.gov if perhaps you also were on an exchange that impacted your life. Perhaps even one with the DIS program! I’d love to hear from you.

 

 

Yayoi Kusama

Yayoi Kusama

 

Yayoi Kusama

Yayoi Kusama

 

Yayoi Kusama

Yayoi Kusama

 

Yayoi Kusama

Yayoi Kusama

 

Children's studio, Louisiana Modern Art Museum

Children’s studio, Louisiana Modern Art Museum

 

Yayoi Kusama

Yayoi Kusama

 

The Stroget

The Stroget, Copenhagen

 

From the Round Tower

From the Round Tower

 

Yayoi Kusama

Yayoi Kusama

 

My Danish mother with her granddaughters

My Danish mother with her granddaughters

 

Jens and Helene

Jens and Helene

 

The Little Mermaid, Copenhagen Harbor

The Little Mermaid, Copenhagen Harbor

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My Vacation, Part 1

October 27, 2015

Taking risks

Many days students are put into situations that encourage them to take risks and to stretch. As adults we have fewer chances to do so and, in fact, often the only time is when it is intentional. Some of the meartsed blog readers know that I just returned from a trip where I traveled to Spain and Denmark. I spent a week in Barcelona with recently retired Bangor High School art teacher, Kal Elmore. I arrived a day and a half before Kal and it had been 40 years since I had traveled out of the country by myself. This is where the risk and stretch connections were made for me.

I’m not great with directions or maps (gotten used to my gps) BUT, I quickly got the hang of it. I didn’t have a phone to refer to and wanted to know that I could do it the “old way” without using an electronic device to assist in getting me where I wanted/needed to go. After leaving Barcelona I traveled to Copenhagen, Denmark to visit the family I stayed with while there as an exchange student 40 years ago. The exchange program is known as DIS, Danish Institute for Study Abroad. I stopped at the office and visited with several staff members letting them know how much my college experience impacted me.

Getting around Barcelona and in and around Copenhagen on public transportation and by foot were both challenging and rewarding. Letting go of knowing exactly where I was all the time was freeing. I saw and experienced life in both places as soon as I let go of being in control. In my professional life I have to be organized, know where I am going, and learn what the possibilities are. It was enough to have an idea of the general direction for the day and what we’d find when we got to where we were going. Without making this blog post really long I’m including the highlights for those of you who might be interested.

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Arc de Triomfe

There is no shortage of things to do and see in Barcelona and it has a wonderful mixture of the old and new. Kal found a reasonable “flat” for us to rent through Air BnB that had everything we needed and was in a great location. We could walk or take public transportation to all of the highlights easily. We were located a stones throw from the Arc de Triomfe which was a great landmark if we got lost. It took 15 minutes to walk to the Barceloneta along the water and beach. We saw remnants of the old city where the fisherman lived and the changes when the city prepared for the 1992 Summer Olympics. The city had only one beach previously and several were created. The wide walking way/boardwalk was filled with the locals selling all kinds of items at reasonable prices; scarves, shoes, pocketbooks, t-shirts, jewelry, selfie sticks, and souvenirs. The boats ranged from small personal fishing to sailboats to giant yachts. Beyond that were the trawlers that catch the variety of seafood available in Spain’s many restaurants. And continuing along the water area were container ships filled with cargo.

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Street vendors in the Barceloneta

Southwest, not far from the city center is Montjuic, which provides a view of the enormous harbor and back at the city and the La Sagrada Familia Cathedral. Las Ramblas is a walking street with interesting shops and street artists. Part way through Las Ramblas is La Boqueria, a food market with the freshest of items. I love fresh figs and can not find them in the states and the first bite reminded me of my trip to Greece when I ate figs from my cousins tree. We wound our way through the many little streets several times wondering where we were since the maps don’t include every one many seem more like alleys. One of the tiny streets we found the home of the Picasso Museum which housed many of the artists earlier pieces, pretty amazing. On Sunday many Catalans gather at the Cathedral to perform the traditional Sardana dance. Their personal possessions are put in a pile in the center of a closed circle (for safe keeping) and the live music moves the people, young and very old, through the simple steps. Everyone is welcome and I had goose bumps with thoughts of my own Greek family dancing traditions. Of course I joined in! The cathedrals are amazingly beautiful and are located among the neighborhoods and are open all the time with people coming and going lighting candles and saying prayers.

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Casa Battlo

We spent a day at the amazing Park Guell, my pictures just don’t capture it. The outside is a public park emphasizing natural gardens and architectural elements designed by Antoni Gaudi. Eusebi Guell and he collaborated in creating the homes and gardens in the park. Guell’s farmhouse is now a school that can be seen from above and nearby. I watched a class play a game that was a combination of dancing and movement. The intricate walkways lead visitors around and through with attention to every detail everywhere you look. There were individual and group musicians and dancers that entertained for whatever folks offered. In 1926 the park was officially opened and on the inside is where Gaudi’s work is at the highest level. The forms, patterns and organic shapes are a delight to the eye.

Gaudi designed other structures in Barcelona. We visited Casa Battlo located in the center of the city. We could tour the roof which looks like an animal’s spine. His work was influenced greatly by nature. We could also tour the attic which is made up of 300 brick arches and one of the

Park Guell

Park Guell

apartments which included a historical perspective. Once again the attention to detail is amazing.

The highlight of Gaudi’s work is La Sagrada Familia which is in its last phases of creation and slated to be completed in 2026, the 100th anniversary of Gaudi’s death. It is 565 feet tall and has amazing architectural details everywhere your eye takes you. Again, I don’t think my pictures quite capture the intensity of the artwork.

And, of course we ate some really delicious foods. The most delicious and interesting was eggplant, sliced really thin, with cheese on top. The breads, pastries, seafood were all yummy! The graffiti is located on the fronts of every building doorway – metal doors cover the businesses while they are closed. Be ready for anything when traveling to Barcelona and be ready to stretch. People were helpful even if they couldn’t speak English. The pace of life is slower and the tourists are plentiful, even in October. Watching the people was a wonderful part of the experience. The interactions between generations told a lot of the story.

La Famila Sagrada

La Familia Sagrada

 

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Street art

 

Street artists

Street artists

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Fig from the La Boqueria market

 

Eggplant from Mundial restaurant

Eggplant from Mundial restaurant

 

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Performers at Park Guell

 

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Bakery, located all over the city

I will write about the Denmark portion of my vacation on the blog tomorrow. Please let me know if you have any questions argy.nestor@maine.gov.

 

 

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Greece!

September 11, 2014

So appreciative of my opportunity

I just returned from two weeks in Greece. In the Spring I got word that one of my cousins sons was getting married and baptizing twins. My sister and brothers and I and our families were invited. When my younger son called and said, “we’re going, aren’t we?” I didn’t hesitate, YES, of course! He’s been fortunate to travel but was saving Greece to go with me. My Dad was born in the village of Akrata on the Pelloponesos and came to America when he was 12. My mother is first generation born here so my roots are very strong.

IMG_0220We flew to Athens and spent time at the National Archeological Museum of Athens and the Acropolis Museum and at the Parthenon. My son had learned about Ancient Greece in his high school AP Art History course and was anxious to see the contents of the museums as well as what remains outside. It is easy for Americans to forget how old many other countries are and so difficult to imagine the number of years some of the structures have been standing. Pollution is damaging the Parthenon daily but I found myself asking over and over, how did they manage to build the amazing structures? And, then to imagine them philosophizing, creating, and solving problems in the structures.

IMG_0065From Athens we flew to Heraklion, Crete (island, 50 minutes from Athena) where my cousin met us at the airport. We helped prepare for the wedding but it was nothing after the months and months of preparation for the 500 guests that were invited. They said that was a small number of guests for a Greek wedding. The celebration started that evening at a gathering with about 50 family members. The bride, groom and close friends had been preparing food all day. A whole goat and lamb were cooked over a small fire, plus prepared in other ways, potatoes, salads, snails, desserts. There wasn’t one item that wasn’t absolutely delicious. All prepared with love and care. The drinking and dancing were of course a major portion of the gathering.

IMG_0309The wedding was equally wonderful taking place outside at a tiny Greek Orthodox church in a BIG setting. The church was built up against looming mountains and everywhere I looked it was beautiful as the sunset on the ceremony. The wedding ceremony wasn’t different than Greek weddings in the US but the setting was breath taking. You’ll notice in the photos the ribbon that is attaching the bride and groom. The stefana are crowns that signify that the bride and groom have become the king and queen of the newly formed family. The best man or in Greek, the koubaro steps behind the couple and places and interchanges the crowns three times, as a witness to the sealing of their union. Immediately following the wedding ceremony was the christening of the twins, which is a beautiful ceremony as well. The reception was filled with more incredible food, drink, music, and dancing.

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dancing

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IMG_0377Following the wedding we visited the beautiful island of Santorini, where it was difficult not to take wonderful photographs! Everywhere we went during the two weeks it was very warm and unusually humid. The sun was brilliant, even at 9AM. Many people swim at the beautiful beaches and spend time outside. The sky is a brilliant blue. Homes have verandas which are extensions of their indoor living space. Many of the restaurants are in side yards of peoples homes.

IMG_0509We left Crete and traveled over the amazing Korinth Canal to visit my fathers village. There are many ancient sites on the Pelloponesos. We visited Mycenae which was one of the major centers of Greek civilization during 1600 BC to about 1100 BC. Again we saw artifacts from that time period including the amazing pots varying in size and patterns. I stared at the entrance which includes the Lion Gates again wondering, how did they do it? All that remains of the tomb of Clytemnestra (wife of Agamemnon) is a huge beehive structure built of giant blocks. While there a touring singing group broke into song and the sound was incredible.

We visited Acrocorinth, occupied from the archaic times to the early 19th century. A moat and three arches including walls mark the entrance which were built as protection. Valuable water resource was available there despite its elevation. There is a pretty little Greek Orthodox church that is still standing and even though it is in need of repair is very sacred. At the top was a temple to Aphrodite which has an unbelievable view.

IMG_0667We traveled by train for an hour to Kalavryta located in the Achaea municipality not to far from Akrata. The railway was completed in 1895. It winds uphill very close to the mountains it was cut out of and is a continuous amazing site. At the top lies the village of  Kalavryta where on December 13, 1943 a massacre took place in retribution for the killing of 81 German soldiers. The Nazis machine-gunned down almost 700 of the Kalavryta men while below them their homes were set fire. Woman and children were ordered to the school and as it was set fire they broke down the door and jumped out the windows to escape. The school was rebuilt and now serves as the museum and does a wonderful job telling the story. It was very moving. We left Kalavryta and traveled over the mountain finding no one on the road other than tribes of goats, rocks that had tumbled down onto the road. The switchbacks were like nothing I had ever traveled before.

Everywhere we went the food was amazing. I love the way the Greeks call ahead and ask if the food establishment is open. There is no menu – the owner comes out to the outside tables and lists what they’ve cooked for the day. Usually 4 or 5 choices, at least one of lamb. Each serves a salad which is usually contains tomatoes and cucumbers. On a separate plate feta cheese and another olives. Often the family wine is available and delicious water from the spring on the property.

foodA highlight of the trip was seeing the evzones at the changing of the guard at the tomb of the unknown soldier. Their precisions is a joy to watch. We saw them at the beginning of the trip and then met my cousins son who is a member of this group of soldiers. On our last day in Athens we watched him in the parade and had the chance to visit in the barracks area. I was so proud!

IMG_0862Another highlight was spending time with my relatives. My aunt had 5 children who our around my age and they all of children who are similar in age to my sons. It was a special treat to spend time with some of them, especially for my son. We hope to see some of them in the future on a visit to America.

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photoOur visit to Akrata was certainly a highlight as well, staying in the home that my Dad lived in while he was a child before traveling to America. The village is the home to about 2000, many Greeks traveling from Athens for the weekend and/or summer months. The beach is beautiful. Everywhere you look from the veranda or roof of my aunts home is beautiful! The home was updated built around the original three rooms which was in place the first time I visited in 1973. My fathers sister still lives there, she is 90 years old.

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IMG_0568The economy in Greece continues to be very poor with about 25 per cent unemployed. Many people out of work for 4 or 5 years. In spite of this, the hospitality has not wavered. My families arms were open and their hearts very giving. I am so appreciative to have made the trip and to have my son join me. I hope these photos (a few of the almost 2000) and my brief description provide a glimpse of our trip. Please feel free to email me or comment in the blog if you have questions.

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Blog on Vacation

July 29, 2013

Since I am taking a few days off for vacation so will the blog! I think it is important that we take good care of ourselves if we want to be at our best and do good work! So, off I go and the blog will take a short break as well! I hope you will take this opportunity to go back into the archives and take a second look at posts or perhaps read some that you missed due to busy schedules. See you when I return with photos of places I’ve been – enjoying the sweetness of summer!

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Fox Island Thoroughfare between North Haven and Vinalhaven from the Equinox after a dinner at Nebo Lodge on North Haven. What a treat, the sunset while the full moon rose.

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Everyone Deserves a Break

June 16, 2013

Schooner trip

DSCN3759I understood when I left last Sunday for a vacation that I’d return to hundreds of emails. Sure enough, I did! The good part was that I had to turn in my Blackberry before I left since it was acting funny and needed to be replaced. And, I went to a place that I knew I couldn’t get online so I left my computer home. I know, some of you are thinking why would anyone take their Blackberry and computer with them on vacation?! Good question! I usually take them with me because it lessens the load if I answer emails as I go. However, I must say that since I didn’t take the technology tools with me it felt like a REAL vacation, for the second time in the almost 7 years that I’ve worked at the Maine Department of Education.

For Christmas my husband surprised me with a schooner trip on the Isaac H. Evans out of Rockland. The trip was ABSOLUTELY GREAT! The captain and owner of the boat is Brenda Hathaway, a former student of mine, from many years ago. The boat holds about 25 people, including clients and crew. We had almost two days of good weather and two days of pouring rain but the rain didn’t dampen our spirits at all! The first night included a beautiful sunset, the temperature was mild throughout, even on the damp days. Everyone on board was interesting, very nice and fun to hang out with. They traveled from many places including Australia, Florida, England via Virginia, Maryland, Vermont, and Maine. We talked about education, politics, wildlife, weather, family, and a variety of other topics.

DSCN3820We sailed to Holbrook Island for a lobster bake on the beach, to Searsport and visited the Penobscot Marine Museum, to Rockport Harbor and back to Rockland. For years we’ve walked the Breakwater at the Samoset and waved to folks as they sailed by. It was so exciting to be on a schooner waving to the people who had walked to the Breakwater lighthouse. And, so interesting to be on the water looking at the shore along a small part of the mid-coast that I know so well from land. It was like a whole new world viewing it from the water. I could have been a thousand miles from home.

We had multiple opportunities (if we chose) to help out on the boat, raise and lower the sails, raise the anchor, set out the food, and clean up from meals. At one point we were sailing like I’ve seen in the pictures, with one side of the boat all but touching the water, the water coming over the bow. The food was ABSOLUTELY DELICIOUS, every single meal! The cook, Margi, from Waterville, not only made great food, but is a very funny person!

DSCN3764Needless to say I highly recommend a schooner trip, everyone should consider doing it at least once. It was on my “bucket list” and I feel fortunate to have had the opportunity! It was a great chance to learn about something that has so much history. Several times I thought about how easily I could apply what I was learning in the classroom with students. A schooner trip allows for relaxation with some excitement. You can go in your cabin and be alone if you choose or hang out and talk with others. You can help sail the boat or watch others working. There are numerous opportunities to take great photos (I took almost 500), make art and music, and appreciate both. The best part was the quietness of sailing. That surprised me – a little wind, moving along slowly and total PEACE!

I loved teaching and there are days that I miss it. But, when the end of the school year came for me during my 30 years teaching I found myself completely exhausted and would spend the first week staring and sleeping. Everyone deserves a break and I hope that each of you can take some time and enjoy life as much as I did this past week! You can view more photos from my trip by clicking here.

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