when i was in paris a few weeks ago, i was thinking about how you only get one first time experience of anything. it was quite remarkable, as i walked down a wide boulevard in montparnasse, to look up and see the eiffel tower glowing ahead of me (this photo above is when i got a bit closer). i had a little moment of thrill, thinking consciously, "this is my very first look at the eiffel tower." despite being late in november, it was a balmy, autumnal evening and i just kept walking towards the tower as it shone brightly above the city. finally, my feet were tired and i was hungry, so i popped into a restaurant for oysters and foie gras and a glass of sancerre. it felt suitably parisian and worthy of a first paris experience.
i had a similar moment of conscious thrill as i looked out over the cranes of what's now called remontova shipyard in gdansk, but which were surely once the cranes that the members of the solidarity movement operated as they helped bring down the iron curtain. the peaceful morning, the dusting of snow, and the cold, crisp air, filled with the musical clangs of a busy shipyard.
and at that same shipyard in poland, i stood underneath a ship for the first time. i'd been at yards before, but never down in the dock, underneath the ship itself. it happened again later in the summer in bremerhaven, but it didn't quite match the awe of that first time, standing underneath pearl in gdansk.
i'm not sure if i even know why or how the white cliffs of dover have the mystique they have, but they do. the town of dover isn't much, but the cliffs are spectacular. i saw them twice this year and they were a bit more glorious in august sunshine than they were in april, but there is still only one first time.
i went to brussels about a month after the bombing of brussels airport. the square was still filled with these tributes and i was quite overwhelming, standing there, looking at all that evidence of love and sorrow both. not a moment i will likely repeat.
so many first visits this year. gothenburg in sweden was new for me. i strolled around the port area on the gorgeous summer evening when i arrived, eventually going back to the hotel for dinner, which isn't something i normally like to do, but this was an exceptional meal. i think it was not only the delicate light flavor of perfectly cooked, lemony sole, but it was also the midsummer light. they combined to make it a memorable first experience.
i spent quite a lot of time at a shipyard in bremerhaven. we ate ate at every restaurant along the old riverfront, eventually concluding that they all shared the same kitchen. but balmy summer nights and the beauty of all those cranes, made for an experience that undoubtedly will not be duplicated.
i'd been in klaipeda before, but it felt very changed. and i'd never seen vilnius or kaunas. the weather was spectacular. i would love to go back, restore this old waterfront warehouse, opening something wonderful...restaurant, b&b, creative workspace for artists. we'd just have to leave those braces in place, because i'm fairly certain they're holding it all together.
the lovely, winding streets of tallinn old town were a first. i want to paint something that color blue. i fear a bit that my first impression of tallinn was tainted by all that i'd heard of it before i went (funny how that hadn't happened with paris), and i somehow felt a little let down. i think it's because all of the shops felt like they were filled with the same things and i had thought it would be this magical place, full of unique artisanal items. but alas, the same linen and wrought iron and knitted woolens filled every shop. the food was great and the winding streets charming.
a sunset on board a ship in the north sea. that was a first. and the best night's sleep i had all year. that's an experience i'd very much like to try again. but alas, you can only have one first time.
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i forgot to tell you about totally lost.
check out my albanian bunkers, but do stay and poke around a bit.