Posted by: jeanne | February 24, 2018

stopover in istanbul


I’m writing this on the flight back. Hot towels, passed out by the steward so you can wash your hands and face – remember them from the days of quality flying in coach? I do. It was back when you dressed up to fly. When it was an event, something special. Now people show up at the gate in torn jeans and sweatpants, as if they only deserve steerage. I like Turkish Airlines because hot towels (not a paid promotion).

The boys love Turkey. People really love children there, and since they’re a touchy-feely kind of culture, they show it. Connor was constantly getting his cheek rubbed, and Avery got his hair tousled every time we turned around. We were in line for the Basilica Cistern, and some tourists behind us were talking about it. Someone had patted Connor, and he turned away, because he’s over it already, and the conversation behind us turned to what happens if you do that to a child in Japan. I never found out what would happen, but I turned around and asked if the parents would kill you if you did that, and they laughed, a little uncomfortably, I thought.  i was over it too.

So, our stopover in Turkey. We stayed at the Hotel Niles, recommended by our friend Marie (thanks, Marie), and paid for drop off and pick up so we wouldn’t have to deal with that. I can’t believe how crowded a city Istanbul is. 300 million people, all living on top of each other. Our hotel was in the garment district, full of shops and apartments. Right down the hill from the ridge road that leads to the famous mosque and palace district.

ruins everywhere in istanbul

After Venice, it was like being in a very old New York City. Except the architecture is much more interesting, old and new together. The old is wooden houses and ancient mosques. The new is way creative apartment buildings and offices and stores and convention centers and I don’t know what else.

now that’s modern.  those are big holes in the middle

It’s crowded, dirty, noisy, and the streets are cobbled and narrow. Traffic jams seem constant, and everybody seems to have adapted to it, because the cars just stop and wait until the guy at the head of the jam finishes unloading his merchandise and trucking it into a shop.


Then the cars inch forward for a moment until the next delivery guy stops and opens his doors. No honking. No shouting. No road rage. Maybe we got them on a good day…


please sit, drink apple tea, we’ll take your things up and wait around until you’re finished before showing you up to your room – serious hospitality

We arrived at 2 in the afternoon, and got to our hotel, and then decided to walk around and see things. I’d been a little nervous about doing this. I’ve heard all the scare stories about Turkey, and it’s a place I’ve never been, and I have two young children who like to run away from me. But with the hold-my-hand rule in place with Connor, and Avery being responsible and staying with me, we didn’t have any trouble.


However. I stopped to take a picture, and this guy approached us, having figured out we were American. He was very friendly and struck up a conversation, and since I’ll talk to anybody, I started talking to him. I told him we were trying to find a park where children could play. We’d seen dozens of them on the road we took from the airport, and the guy said there was a good one right down the hill from where we were, near the hippodrome. He owned a shop, and took us there first, and we had a quick look around, having been warned about pushy shopkeepers. They offered tea, and I declined, because I’ve been warned about that, too (presages the hard sell), and took their card and left. But the guy was out the door with us, and insisted on taking us to the park near the shore.

So, fine, we let him lead us, and that was good. It was a very busy road and we wouldn’t have gotten to the right crossing place without his help.


But then I made to say goodbye and turn my attention to the boys, and he wouldn’t have it. Instead, he started calling me beautiful (me, hah), and asking if I was married, and where was my husband, and did I like to cheat, and next time I come to Istanbul I must stay at his place, and he preferred older women, and on and on. I got tired of it almost immediately, but he wouldn’t stop hitting on me.


The boys liked him a lot, however, because he paid lots of attention to them, as it seems is the custom. They love children in Istanbul.  After an hour, when it was starting to get dark, I insisted that we go, and so we all climbed back up the hill.

thuesday vegetable market

Istanbul’s a strange place, with crumbling ruins of defensive walls right next to modern apartments, millions of stray cats, and lots of stray dogs with tags in their ears, just lying around sleeping. People feed them – they’re all very fat – and they don’t bother anybody, but nobody seems to own them. Fellow citizens, I guess.

picture by avery

We got back up to the street we’d walked down from. I recognized where we were, but the guy showed no signs of saying goodbye. So I asked him to recommend a restaurant that wasn’t very expensive, and he showed us to a shar (şar) restaurant, which seemed to be a chain or maybe a type. It was full of locals. One side of the restaurant was self serve, and the other side was sit down. They served pizza at the sit-down side, so we went there. Connor had to go to the bathroom pretty badly after all the playing, so I sent the boys in to the men’s bathroom and waited with the guy, who then asked me for a tip. Huh. I asked him how much he wanted, and he said 50 Turkish Lira, but I bargained with him and we settled on 40. About $10. He left then, after I ‘arranged’ to be in front of our hotel next afternoon (yes, I hadtold him where we were staying, before i cought on, stupid me) so he could show us the Grand Bazaar and make sure we didn’t get ripped off.



At the restaurant, Avery had pizza (of course), Connor had chicken wings (of course), and I had fish (of course). We had a big salad with it, and were stuffed by the end of it. The hotel was only a few blocks away, and so we walked home when we were done, and just like in New York, the streets were still crowded with cars and people at 8pm.  We got back, went upstairs and piled into bed. We were in a junior suite, which means beds for 3 (and a turkish bath, which I’m not sure what’s so distinctive about that, since it was a bathroom with a rather larger shower than we’re used to, and a sitting place with a large bowl where you could run water for a sponge bath (I assume)). Whatever. The only problem the first night was that we couldn’t seem to turn off the heater, which made the place roasting hot, so eventually I opened the window and stuck my feet out from under the covers.


the view – fascinating, a courtyard of mostly businesses

Next morning, still dark, I was awakened by the first call to prayer. Some guy at the top of a minaret (or rather, the speakers at the top of a minaret), singing a very tuneful song with lots of arpeggios in it. Only not just one guy, but some other guys at the top of every mosque in town, all singing over each other. We could hear maybe half a dozen of them, all singing what seemed to be the same or similar song at different rates. It was a gorgeous cacaphony; I loved it. It was way loud, because there was a mosque right up the street and the speakers pointed right at us. And then I went back to sleep. The alarm was set for 8, and we all needed our sleep, because Travel Rules(tm).


Breakfast was on the roof deck, and it was everything from scrambled eggs and toast, fried potatos, cereal, yogurt, to olives, cheese, halvah, and other savory items. We ate as much as we could hold, with the hotel staff unfailingly polite and especially solicitous of the children.





wonder why i was yelling at them

And then we went out to the bazaar with an empty backpack. We’d gotten a few things for friends and family in Venice, but saved most of our efforts and space for Turkey, because everything was ever so much cheaper than in Venice. The Grand Bazaar is 4000 shops in 60 blocks, ancient covered streets beautifully decorated with painted ceilings and columns everywhere.


Thursday morning, it had more shopkeepers than shoppers, which used to be abnormal, but tourism seems to be down lately, and the streets were not very crowded. But then again, we went just as they were opening up.



We don’t shop ‘till we drop. We don’t like shopping at all. We wandered. After the previous day’s mistake talking to strangers, I ignored most of the shopkeepers who were trying to get us to look at their goods. They have some tricks. Hello, my friend, how are you, it’s good to see you again. We got this from complete strangers, all day long. But everybody seemed entranced by the boys, and pretty much ignored me, and that was fine, because I was the one with the money, and had firm hold of both the boys’ hands.


We stopped in several shops looking at scarves, because I’m a sucker for them, and because we were on a mission to get a scarf for Avery’s dad. But I was looking at prices as much as anything else, because everybody seemed to have the same general merchandise. And the prices were outrageous, because you’re expected to bargain. I offered half, they countered with 75%, etc. So we said thanks, we’ll be back, and escaped, several times.


And then we were out the far gate, and walking down the streets toward the Egyptian Spice Market, also hundreds of years old. The streets were narrow and crowded, and the cars and delivery vans clotted the traffic to a halt, and we walked hand in hand down the hill. We came across a scarf shop where the prices were a tenth of those inside the bazaar, and got Avery his scarf. Then Avery announced that he wanted a chess set, and stopped to look at all the different choices – carved, cast, painted. We stopped at four or five chess shops before finding one that would fit in our luggage, and wasn’t too expensive, and settled on one that was about…I don’t even remember, maybe $20. Avery had to carry it, because it wouldn’t fit in my backpack. Connor announced as we passed a toy shop that he wanted some Minecraft toys, so we got something he could live with that was only 10TL, and walked on.

trying to capitalize on the power of children, i sent connor in to finalize the deal, but found out that the vendor said 50, not 15, so no he wasn’t going to take 10 – all our remaining cash

oh lookie, assault rifle spidermen and captain americas



The spice market was closed for repair or cleaning or renovation or something. We’d stopped at the rustem pasha mosque, an architectural gem seldom seen by tourists, and didn’t see it because it was under renovation, and wouldn’t be open again for 2 years. Oh. So we walked back up the hill and went back into the bazaar.


To enter the bazaar, you have to go thru security. Thru a metal detector and then past a guy with a wand. There are soldiers with machine guns nearby.


The level of security was interesting. They seem to be very intent on preventing any kind of terrorist acts in that part of town, which seems to indicate that that’s where they’d happen if they were going to.


But with soldiers with guns at every gate, tanks and armored vehicles parked next to the famous mosques, and several security checkpoints on the way to the airport, it seems they’re covering their bases. One of the tanks even said tourism police on the side.

The absence of women in the market was interesting also. Women seem to hold an invisible presence in Turkish culture. It’s not that they’re not in the streets doing stuff, but it’s the men who do the interacting.  And it’s a real mix. I know that Turkey has made a great effort to westernize their culture, to the extent that they made the government secular and changed their alphabet to latin letters, and many of the women are as independent and strong as American women, especially young women, but then there are also plenty of religious people, and they are just as ahem conservative as they get in the States. We saw only some women wearing hijabs, and fewer wearing burkas, but women just weren’t present in any kind of numbers working in the shops. It seems the men do the work, in the shops and restaurants, and the women do the shopping and mind the kids and the house. We saw plenty of women, just not many acting as shopkeepers, and I’m not very fond of being assaulted by strange men.

So when I spotted a woman working in a shop that sold ceramics, we made a beeline for her shop and picked out a nice jar for Jackie. But she didn’t take credit cards, and I had about 10TL left in my pocket, so we had to leave her to find an ATM, which damn. It was right around the corner from the cashmere shop I’d spent time in (until the boys started acting up), so I thought I could find it again.

And so, we decided to wander out of the bazaar and go see the Blue Mosque. But first we dropped our purchases off at the hotel. It had been threatening to rain, and tho we had weather gear, I won’t let the boys play on wet playgrounds, so it was a tiny battle over where to go next. The boys won. It wasn’t raining.  Therefore.



photo by avery

So we went back down the hill (avoiding the spot where we met that guy the day before), and played at the playground for another hour. The sun came out at that point, and I was carrying the boys’ jackets in my backpack.







I took the opportunity to leave when the boys started fighting again, and we went up to the Blue Mosque, which is enormous, and beautiful, and a working mosque.


We had to pass security to get thru the gates, and then we had to take our shoes off before entering the mosque. They gave us plastic bags to put our shoes in, and we carried them with us. I wrapped my head in a scarf, and we went in.



It’s a very large place, and it was filled with tourists behind a railing, at the back of the church. Inside the railing were people praying, and we couldn’t go there. I had to explain this to Connor, who spent the rest of the time in there swinging his shoes around his body as if he were a whirling dervish.


I got to explain to Avery why people were all praying in a single direction (the holy stone in Mecca that enshrines the old goddess, and that all Muslims face when they pray 5 times a day). I am not as well informed as I should be about Islam, and my knowledge dates back 50 years at this point. I’ll study more about it when I get back home.

avery did a lot of photobombing

Between the Blue Mosque and the Aya Sofia (the most famous mosque ever, starting life as a byzantine greek orthodox church (actually much older than that, but the three prior buildings on the site were destroyed)), there is a large plaza. We found an ice cream vendor (who ripped us off by filling medium cups instead of the small cups I’d asked for, and charging us accordingly – omg 36TL for three cups (almost $10)). But I was tired, and needed to sit down, so we all sat and ate our ice cream (kind of gummy, and differently flavored than at home, but also probably containing less crap than our domestic ‘ice cream’), and then the boys got up and ran around some more. Playing war games in front of mosques. Playing war games in front of the police. Ah, children – what can you do?


Then we went to get in line for Aya Sofia, which is a museum now, not a working mosque, so I wouldn’t need to wrap my head. But they charged money for entrance, and I was feeling pissy, and so we crossed the street to the Basilica Cistern, which also wanted money. We could skip a mosque, because the boys were barely interested, but we couldn’t skip the cistern because they would really like it. So I found an ATM and got some more money out, 100TL (about $25 – got to watch all the spending), and we got in line.  They wouldn’t let Avery in for free, so it was 40TL.  It goes so quickly.


We went down a bunch of steps, and then we were in the dark, with dripping ceilings and huge columns, and signs warning about the wet floors, and small lights spotlighting the walkway thru the center of the thing. It’s quite large, as big as a two football fields and holds 30′ of water, and it’s made of marble.


There was no water in it, however. They were renovating it, the most extensive one since 1994 (many many renovations over 1000+ years). There were guys in work suits with flashlights and measuring sticks and clipboards and laser pointers, wandering around looking at the columns in the dark, ignoring the tourists. One side of the cistern had been draped closed, and there was scaffolding, and we could hear taptaptap as somebody worked with chisels on either a floor section or a column. But it didn’t really diminish the air of stillness and mystery.

I let the boys go ahead because there’s only one entrance, and took my time trying to get photographs of the place. Thank god for light balance settings on digital cameras, because I would have had to stand still for 10 minutes to get a decent shot on my old film camera.


It was very useful getting the crying column. As it was, I had to hold still for ‘processing’ every time I took a photo.


We got to the medusa heads, one on its side, one upside down, in 6” of water. Nobody knows why they’re like that. Or where they came from. The whole cistern was lost to history until some french guy figured it out. The boys were only mildly interested in that, because they’d decided they could either go after the coins people had thrown in, or toss each other in the water instead.


That’s what I get for letting them go ahead. Once I stopped that, and we walked back, we decided to try for Aya Sofia, since we were there, but no sooner did we get into line than we were told that the mosque was closed for the day. Fair enough, we were tired.





so we walked back.


Since we told the nice lady in the bazaar that we would be back, we went back. But we couldn’t find her shop at all, and after awhile gave up and went back to the hotel (across the street and down the hill), and I took a nap while the boys played on their devices and let me rest. We had all the windows and the balcony door open to cool the place down, and I spoke to the staff at the front desk about it, and they turned off the under-floor(!!!!!) heating and shut off the wall-mounted heater as well. I slept until a call to prayer woke me, and then we went back out to the same restaurant for dinner again. This time both boys got pizza, and I got lamb soup and a ground beef and eggplant dish, and a salad that had way too much spice on it.


I had to get up to watch the pizza guy make the pizzas so I’d know how to make it for the boys, and since the wait staff all knew us by now, was able to joke with them about the pizza guy, who they said was old and toothless and therefore useless because his wife had died and he had nobody. But, I protested, my husband is equally old and toothless, and I find lots of uses for him. So we went on in that vein, and I said I would marry the pizza guy and make him happy, and they looked jealous. I guess it was all a joke; they discussed it in Turkish, so I’ll never know.


After that we walked back, stopping in a shop the guy who’d hung out with us showed us the day before. I got turkish delight, one of my favorite sweets (like Eustace). I got a lot of turkish delight. We’re going to have to invite Marie to share it with us… We got some soap for Allison, because she likes soap, and we got some rose oil for her because she likes that, too. And a little saffron, which was cheapish. And the whole thing (the rose oil being the most expensive) ran us about $100. OMG. Buyer’s remorse except not really, because it seems to be actual rose oil, and I know how expensive that is. I might split the bottle with Allison, however…

The boys wanted to stay up late playing their tablets, so I let them lay in the bed and spent as much time as I had energy processing the pictures to go with this post. There are lots of them, as you can see. But then enough was enough, and it was after 10, and we had to go to bed. We’d been trying to do a skype call back home, to talk to Jim and let him know what was going on. This trip, unlike all others, skype was a disaster. I didn’t have wifi in Venice, and in Istanbul I couldn’t get a good connection, and so Jim knew we were calling, but couldn’t hear us. So I emailed Allison and asked her to explain it to him.

The boys slept the sleep of the dead (rather than the just), and I tossed and turned, as usual. Connor was so tired that he didn’t squiggle hardly at all and Avery insisted he never slept a wink, but was flat out most of the night. I sat up and caught up with all the horrendous things happening in the world of facebook, and then got a couple of good hours of sleep – with dreams! But totally missed the middle-of-the-night call to prayer.


We got up at 8 on our final morning in Istanbul, had breakfast with the staff doting on the kids, took pictures from the rooftop deck, and then went out to the Aya Sofia with only hours to play around wtih.


The boys didn’t want to go once they heard we didn’t have time to go to the park, so we walked slowly down the same street, didn’t pass the guy, who must have given up on us, and made it to the mosque museum.


looking up


I had to buy a ticket, the kids got in free, but when we passed security, they wanted to see Avery’s ticket, and didn’t believe he was only 10, so I had to dig out the copy of our passports to show them. Tourists are advised to carry their passports or copies to show police who might stop you for some reason. So we were stopped, and I happened to have it in my inside jacket pocket.

It was funny. The nice policeman explained that there were cameras in the security point, and his supervisor was watching, and so he had to go thru this extra check because he’d get in trouble. Well, as long as he put it that way. Because Connor and Avery had ducked under the turnstile, and that was not a good thing, and so we had to deal with a little imperial attention.

picture by avery

Aya Sofia is magnificent. Fully half of it was under scaffolding (what strange scaffolding, not like what we use, but more like a gridwork several rows thick, and dusty from being up for who knows how many years). The part of the mosque that was visible was enormous. Hundreds of feet up. Whole football fields would fit inside.


photo by avery




And so old that columns were leaning and stone floors were worn down, and door thresholds were sunken in the middle.



It’s the model for the church of San Marco in Venice (and half the marble of said church came from this area, as well). It’s so old that it was Muslim, then Christian, then Muslim again, and so there is an interesting mix of abstract Islamic decoration and falling-apart mosaics of saints.



I let the boys go ahead of me as we ascended a ramp up to the gallery (a chance to explain to Avery how women had to worship upstairs while the men got to pray downstairs, which no longer seems to be the case in modern Turkey). The ramp was hundreds of years old, but not as old as the mosque itself, because there were bricked up arches everywhere as it turned and rose and turned and rose again.


Perhaps I shouldn’t have let them go ahead, because it took a few minutes to find them once I recovered my breath from all the climbing. And by that time they were fighting again, so I had to accompany a sulky Avery who didn’t want to hear anything about the place. But they found a guy from Canada who told them what they were looking at, while I took lots of pictures.









We spent longer than anticipated in the place, and the boys were fighting again as we left. When Avery is angry, he doesn’t listen to anybody, so he went down the ramp before I got to it (not all the way, just enough to scare me without scaring himself), and then he walked the long distance to the exit before I could get there (tho didn’t actually leave the building), and then sulked halfway back up the street to the bazaar.







We found the lady’s shop this time, yay, and got the jar, and then I decided that I wanted a teapot, so we went looking for that. They didn’t take plastic either, but the shopkeeper walked us to an ATM and we paid him there, and then we went back to the cashmere shop and I plunked down omg 440TL for two cashmere scarves that are thin enough to read thru. (no worries, tho, 440 lira is barely a hundred dollars, and no way could I get those scarves for that back home). And then we were done, and my alarm went off, and it was time to go back to the hotel to get our car to the airport.


We were timely enough that I could repack everything and fill the empty bag I brought with us, and go upstairs for another cup of coffee. The breakfast had been cleared away, but the staff offered the boys juice, and yogurt, and fawned over them like indulgent uncles. The boys absolutely love Turkey because of the way they were treated. I have mixed feelings because of the predominance of men, but in general they are the nicest and most pleasant people I’ve ever come across. But they are also businessmen, and know an easy mark when they see one, and I certainly fit that bill, all the way around.

It was time to leave – noon – and we had to walk down the street to a larger street to meet our car. A member of the staff walked with us and saw us into the car, and we were then stuck in traffic for a time, while I filled out a form to be given to the security guys at the checkpoint on the way into the airport.

photo by avery

grasses on a highway wall

connor assumes crash position

no drone zone – has a nice ring to it 

By the time we got out of the car at the airport, Connor had to go to the bathroom really badly, but we had to wait in a long line to go thru security. Again. Lots of security in Turkey. Everybody in the line knew of Connor’s plight, because he did the universally recognized igottapeeeee dance. But finally we got thru the xray machines and asked someone where the toilets were, and everything was okay.

security check

Then we stood in line for our tickets, with 2 layers of security before we saw the ticket agent, and then we had to go thru passport control, and after that we xrayed everything again. Somehow Connor set off the alarms going thru the metal detector, and had to have a patdown, and I didn’t set off any alarms, and had to go thru a swatch patdown, and Avery got off scot free.

We had a little time before our flight, so we hit the food court. I wanted the boys to taste a kebab, because Turkey’s where it comes from, but they saw the burger king and wouldn’t hear of it. So chicken tenders for them, and a kabob for me, and then I looked at the tickets and realized they were going to start boarding and we were far from our gate. So we headed for the gate. More security at the gate – three levels. In one line to have the police examine the passports by hand and scribble on stamps stuck to the back of them, then to another line to have our passports and tickets examined by people with scanners, and then finally thru the gate where passports and tickets were examined and validated by the gate agents.  And finally we got on the shuttle bus to the plane, which was parked on the tarmac, where we waited until they were ready to board us. There was an armed policeman on patrol underneath the plane, as well. It gets old.

aboard the quite crowded shuttle bus. a good number of families with small kids

We got our seats. Avery had been insisting the whole way to the airport that he and Connor would so not be sitting together for 12 hours, but made no complaint when we got to our seats and I put them together.


They’re sitting in front of me right now, playing games on the inflight entertainment screens. I spent some time arranging things (getting out the laptop, the usb containing all the photos, the charger cords for the various devices for all three of us, putting my boots under my seat, getting out my book, opening the blanket, arranging the pillow behind my lower back), looking out the window.


We took off. The boys immediately pulled up movies on the screen and games on their devices, put on the headphones to listen to the movies, and then didn’t look at them.


They fed us half an hour later, and it was really good food – the boys had meatballs and sauce and all sorts of extras, I had shaped and grilled ground beef and rice, with all sorts of extras (salad and humus). Then the boys started fighting again, and I had to pull them apart, and for a few hours it was very quiet indeed. They’re both playing together with the seatback games now, and everything’s fine.

It’s daylight outside, but all the window shades are down because people are trying to sleep. I didn’t want to pull my shades, but it’s only clouds down there, and we’re over the Atlantic, so fine. I just got to explain to Avery that we’re chasing the sun, and moving only slightly slower than the earth turns, so it’ll be only dark when we arrive (if we’re on time), but that it was a whole extra day when we went against the sun. He thought that was pretty cool. I love sharing interesting information with him that I can point to, instead of being abstract about it.

So that’s all at this point. By the time I get home and recover enough to finish the post, there may be more to report, but we’re all looking forward to being home in our beds, with our family and our pets. It was still winter in Venice, and getting to be spring in Istanbul, but I’ve been watching the weather at home, and it’s already summer there, so it’s going to be interesting getting back. I’m pretty sure we’ll sleep very late on Saturday.

oh, atlanta

Later. Hahahaha sleep late. The boys were up at 4 this morning, playing computer games in the front room. We arrived on time, had a nice personal interview with the passport control guy, got picked up by Mommy and Jim, went home to intolerable heat, had a Guinness on the front porch, walked the dogs, and I was asleep before Jim finished rubbing my back. At 82F it’s full spring here (just waiting for that ice storm in March), and I’m on the front porch finishing cobbling this post together. It’s rather long (duh), but that’s what I get for writing it on an airplane where I have nothing better to do. Hope you can get this far. The next trip is to New Orleans in March, and then back up to Mom’s to continue dealing with the stuff in storage. After that – the South of France in June, and Iceland in September. My, what a year it’s being.


Posted by: jeanne | February 21, 2018

last call for venice

Yesterday was our last day in Venice. We had a lot to do. For some reason (tired legs) none of us wanted to get out of bed this morning, and so it was close to 10 when we left. I discovered, via a text message I didn’t understand, that I only had 1.30 euro left on my phone, and so I needed to go back to Rialto and recharge it. Probably the wifi connection; I was using my phone as a hotspot, and it probably ran it right out of availability. Maybe it was the 55 photos I uploaded for yesterday’s blog post.

We went to Via Garibaldi first, because that way leads past 2 playgrounds. The boys had their fun, and we pushed on. We took a different route than yesterday, going past the Arsenale.



We wound our way thru the interior streets to Bragora, the t-shirt shop where we always get the coolest t-shirts, snarky tourist-centered we-hate-tourist t-shirts. The guy there had a 6 year old daughter himself, so he loved the boys, who acted up accordingly. They picked out their own designs and colors of t-shirts, and asked questions about the process, and watched the guy print the transfers, pick out the blank spaces, and hot-press them onto blank t-shirts. We got one for grandpa, too.




After getting ice cream at the end of the street (S. Antonin), we wandered to San Marco. Since I couldn’t use my phone, I couldn’t pull up a map, and relied on instinct to get us there. So I made a bunch of wrong turns, and didn’t manage to go around San Zaccharia the back way. We retraced our steps down Riva Schiavone and past San Marco. At this point Connor announced he had to go to the bathroom. This is a problem in Venice, as they are woefully equipped with public restrooms. We could have retraced our steps to the t-shirt shop, but I thought we might be able to duck him into a bush at the Giardinetta at the back of Piazza San Marco. But there you go, there were locked gates, and thru them we could see that they’d mowed down all the bushes and cut down all the trees, and were redoing it somehow. So oh well, we kept walking.

We got on the vaporetto then, and went up to Accademia, crossing the bridge to the other side.

nothing to see here, keep moving

They’ve completely covered over the bridge, and built a second set of steps outside the bridge, where you can’t see any of the famous view from the top. It was kind of strange to be walking outside a bridge, but since we couldn’t see the peril, we couldn’t care. Eventually we ended up at the little bar we have often stopped at before, where I knew there was a restroom. I ordered chocolata calde for the boys, and a caffe latte con grappa for me, and we had a break. Avery said he didn’t want chocolate, because it’s grainy, and I told him that chocolate in Venice is a different animal, almost a custard. They both drank theirs all up.



Then we continued walking, making our way to the Rialto Bridge and over, where we stopped at the market, which was over for the day.


way too cool

The merchants were packing up and loading their stuff into storage, and the seagulls were collecting the rest. They made a great racket, and the boys had a field day running in amongst them and running them off.


Avery took a bunch of photos, and since we brought Connor’s tablet out with us, so did he.

picture by Avery.  it never would have occurred to me.  they have such interesting perspectives

teaching Avery what happens during a high tide – the guy had to duck to get under

Next we went to the choco-center and bought a bunch of Italian candy. we’ll do the same thing in Istanbul tomorrow. And then we walked back to Piazzale Roma to get vaporetto and bus tickets for tomorrow’s trip to the airport, and then crossed over to the playground and let the boys play until I got cold.






From there we walked on to the fritelle store, and both Michaela and il capo were there. This time she was dressed in her whites, and Connor remembered her that way. We got pizza for the boys, and then the boss suggested ice cream and forced the big cones on the kids. Connor got cherry, which has always been his favorite, and Avery got cheesecake ice cream. Imagine them eating pizza while hungering for ice cream. Very confusing. Michaela got a few hugs out of it, I got to shake il capo’s hand.




Then we walked on some more. We passed our old house in San Polo, which when we first arrived had its lights on – so good to see it being lived in.

ciao bello



We passed the Coop store, looking for our friend Pasquale, but he wasn’t there. We got to the Vodafone store, and the nice lady told me that no, there was nothing wrong with my phone, and I should be fine. Huh.






Then we got on the vaporetto and went down a few stops to San Angelo, and got off to find a traghetto stop, because I wanted the boys to experience a gondola-type ride.



We had to find the traghetto street, but I kind of remembered the way, and as soon as we got there, the boat pulled up. They overcharged us by 2 euro, but I didn’t care. Connor sat and Avery insisted on standing and taking pictures, and nearly fell over at once point as we were passing thru the wake of a vaporetto.


When we got off, the oarsman took Connor’s cap off and put it on backwards, remarking that now he was a Marine. He adjusted it sideways and said he liked it more rap-style, and wanted to know why the guy took his hat off at all. People always take a proprietary air toward Connor.


Then we had to walk all the way to Accademia and beyond, to find the street of the squero (the boat builders), and the bar where they put Connor to work last time.


The boys had eaten, so I picked out some chicchetti and got a glass of wine, and ordered a bottle of Fernet Branca to take home, and then struck up a conversation with an American tourist from Minneapolis. The boys went over the bridge and up to the green space behind the squero, while I luxuriated in an empty bar, taking setup shots so I can do a painting when I get home. I was glad to see that Mamma was in good health, and her boy had a few pounds on them since last year.


They didn’t remember us; we were only there for an hour last year with Marie, but we remembered them, and I still thought it was the loveliest bar I’d seen in a long time. I used to paint a lot of bars when I lived in Ireland, and always want to do another one, even if I seldom get to it.

squero – boatyard (picture by Avery)

When we were done, we went up to the squero so I could explain it to Avery, who is of an age to think about such things. And then, we were all so tired after the marathon yesterday, we took a vaporetto back to Sant’Elena, and dropped our stuff off at the flat. At the moment, I’m sitting on a bench watching the boys play on the playground, not fighting for once. It’s still too early to go to the restaurant for pizza, and the boys don’t want anything else, not spaghetti, which we had yesterday, but that nasty pizza that we still have two pieces from in the fridge. we’ll have to wait another hour before their oven is warm enough, but we’ll go bak to the flatlet in a few minutes, once my fingers finish freezing and Connor gets tired of pushing Avery in the tire swing. They boys will play on their devices, and I’ll pack up. We’re getting up at 6 tomorrow morning, catching a vaporetto at 7, and our plane leaves at 10:30 for a 2-hour flight plus 2 time zones. There’ll be a car to take us to our hotel, and we should only need to find something for dinner, and we’ll be fine. My guess is that we’ll sleep very well tonight, and not feel like walking any kind of distance tomorrow. Today’s walk was as long as yesterday’s – 4 or 5 hours – and today it got difficult to lift our feet near the end.

The best thing about this trip so far is that Avery loves Venice, and wants to come back. And that’s all I ask, that he learn to love travel.

Wednesday. Last night we got back to the flatlet and the boys played on their devices while I packed the bags. I put a little more into the boys’ bags this time, and stuffed the checked bag full, to relieve the pressure on my shoulders and neck. I live in fear of a migraine when I travel, and it seems to happen every time these days. Once I’d finished the packing, we went around the corner to the pizza place, and sat down. When the boys saw the menu, they decided they might want other things, but since they’d insisted on pizza, by god, that’s what they got. If they’d said spaghetti again, it would have saved us 10 euro, so pizza it was and they just had to live with it. We ate the whole pie, and Connor himself finished off the french fries. We saw on the menu that you could put french fries on your pizza, and even hot dogs, but we weren’t feeling very adventurous. We were tired. So after dinner, we came home and went to bed. The boys argued about it (I always stay up until 11 and then manage to get up at 6, insisted Avery), but we had to get up early, so I just turned the lights off.

This morning we got up almost promptly at 6. I spend several hours awake in the middle of the night, and was just getting into a good dream cycle when the alarm went off, so I was a little reluctant. Avery said he was awake much of the night, tho I couldn’t tell. And Connor squiggled and thrashed thru the night, only now and then lying quietly in the bed.

I was struck again by how quiet Venice is. Because there are no cars, there’s no noise at night. People go to bed early in Venice, and no planes pass overhead, and we couldn’t hear the vaporettos approach and leave the dock because we were down a side street instead of facing the lagoon, as before. It’s absolutely silent, and I can hear a ringing in my ears, but nothing else. I love it.

We got up, the boys gave me no trouble even tho it was early. I did last minute straightening, we stripped the beds, I washed the few dishes, the boys drank milk, and I didn’t bother with coffee because my stomach didn’t want to know. We left the house just as my alarm for leaving the house went off, and we got to the vaporetto stop before I could see a boat approaching.


So five minutes waiting, looking around the lagoon in the brightening dawn. It seemed a little warmer this morning, the sky was clearish, and there was our vaporetto coming. It was a tiny, old style boat, and all the seats inside were full, so the boys found perches in an alcove, and I stood on deck, as always. They dug out a bag of cheetos they’d brought with them all this way, and I was chagrined to discover we’d gotten on the wrong boat. I wanted one last trip up the Grand Canal, but we went around instead. The express vaporetto. We were in Piazzale Roma 20 minutes early, so we got the one-earlier bus and it only took 20 minutes to get to the airport.


lookie, the Dolomites.  I told Avery they were the Alps, which is nearly right


So here we are at the moment. The boys started fighting before we got off the bus, and it only got worse as we stood in line for checkin. They took off their coats and stuffed them in their backpacks, and we all went to the bathroom (travel rules), then made it thru security (tho Avery somehow set off the alarms), and straight to a cafe, where I got caffe latte and a chocolate croissant, and Connor got a strawberry donut, and Avery sulked. We made it thru passport control – every official in the building had a smile and something cute to say about the boys – and now we’re in the waiting area, and everybody is on their devices, separated from each other like an equilateral triangle.


the kid meal

We’re now in the plane, halfway there. They’ve served us an excellent breakfast which the kids ate most of (yay), and Connor has run out of charge on his tablet, so he’s doing his homework (they gave him a sheaf of papers to fill out – beginning and ending sounds).


And because it’s cloudy below, I’ve got the shade mostly down to avoid glare, and i’ve just finished resizing all the photos. Except I ran out of charge on my phone at the bar, and Avery took the remaining pictures, which I still have to get off his phone.


I’ll do that this evening when we get to our hotel. If I have the energy. We have no idea what Istanbul is like. But Turkish people look just like everybody else (except maybe for Germans and Icelanders), and it’s a huge city, many times larger than Atlanta, so I think we will have only architectural and food culture shock. Avery wants to go to Japan, because he can say konnichiwa. That’ll be culture shock. And a million-hour flight, but I’ll break that to him after buying the tickets…



Posted by: jeanne | February 19, 2018

a few days in venice with the boys

Here we are at the airport, waiting for our flight.  The plane itself is approaching the airport, and it’s sort of mainly on time.  Well, half an hour late. But we’re sitting here anyway.  The boys are currently bothering a young woman entranced enough to say something to them, and now Avery is going on and on about his earphones.  She’s going to have to be rude to disengage.   Problem solved, everybody’s whipped out their devices and now they’re all quiet.  There’s nice turkish music on the speakers, and I can smell incense, everybody’s laid back and it’s a new moon kind of day, with everybody feeling pretty good and ready for adventure.  Lots of smiles for the boys.

I’ve been waiting for something to go wrong for days.  I mean, things did actually go wrong, with the name on the passport not matching the ticket, and my visa not matching my passport, and the very large chance that we might miss the connection and lose a day in venice – I’ve spent sleepless nights worrying and planning for that.



The incoming flight is on final approach; there’s an hour until our scheduled boarding time.  We’ll see how this works.  Our flight tonight is supposed to go the great circle route from Atlanta, going up the coast to newfoundland, then across well south of iceland, across Ireland and England, then skipping around the Alps, right over the Balkans, and on to Istantbul.  It’s supposed to take 10 hours.  They’re going to feed us three times.



the Balkans

Okay, we’ve just spent 10 hours on a plane.  Connor sat beside me, and Avery stayed in the row behind us.  They were good.  And fell asleep right after dinner.  We got off an hour late, which seems to be standard for this flight.  I puzzled about it for a week, and then discovered that it’s always late because the flight from Istanbul to Atlanta is always late.  But since there was nothing I could do, I didn’t worry about it.

Turkish airlines gives out a lot of pluses.  It’s the way airlines used to be.  There was a set of headphones on the seat (not just ear buds).  There was a blanket and pillow.  And then they passed out eyeshades, a toothbrush and toothpaste, lip balm, house shoes.  And after that they came back with stuffed animals for the boys.  Also, they don’t charge for drinks, even in coach, so I had a beer, but could have had whisky, vodka, or raki if i’d wanted it.  We learned how to say hello in turkish – merhaba – and the kids delighted the cabin crew with it.  The food was great.  And they serve starting at the back, which was great for us, because we always sit in the back.  The kid meal was a nice baked penne with chicken, a bowl of lentil salad, a bowl of raw veggies, a bowl of fresh fruit salad, a roll, milk, juice, a candy bar, and cookies.  I had a ravioli dish with vegetables, a bowl of eggplant, chicken, and babaganoush, another bowl of something else appetizing; I forget at this point.

Then there were lots of movies and video games (platformers and challenges), but nothing I wanted to watch or play, so I read my novel.  And slept.  Sort of dozed.  Connor was out, and so was Avery, but I kept surfacing, not all that comfortable in the tiny seats that pass for steerage class these days.  Breakfast was overwhelming.  I couldn’t eat the scrambled eggs or fried vegetables, but ate up the yogurt, the cottage cheese and fruit, the fruit and cheese in bowls.  Connor ate his kid meal, starting with the fruit and yogurt, and actually picking all the eggs out of his plate.


when allowed, Connor uses all available media

So, no trouble.  We got to the airport, parked on the tarmac and had to take a shuttle.  But the minute we got into the hall, some guy was yelling about Roma and Venice, so I spoke up, and he shunted us to the front of the line and told us to go upstairs.  That was good. But then our gate was listed as a 20 minute walk, and that was bad.  Connor realized he had to go to the bathroom, but tough.  We walked at top speed, and used the moving sidewalks (the boys loved that), and when we got to the gate and they were still loading,  I sent the boys to the bathroom and got in line.  Of course they played around in there, and I had to let lots of people go in front, but I didn’t care.  As long as we were in line, we were going to Venice.


So all the worrying about what to do if we missed the connecting flight was in vain. we’re in the air now, on the way to Venice, and the sun is going down.  It’s still 9:30am at home, but here it’s 5:30pm.  The boys are lively, sitting in the seat in front of me, playing video games and watching movies at the same time.  And omg they just served dinner.  The boys got spaghetti and meatballs, I had a lovely chicken curry, with salad, a roll, and dessert.  And now i’m tired, so i’m thinking I’ll continue this once we reach our apartmentlet in Venice.


waiting for the bus to Venice

on the vaporetto; Avery was freezing

so i put them inside until they started getting out of hand

Okay. it’s monday morning now, and we’ve been in venice for a day. Unfortunately, I ended up with a migraine, as I often do when I have to lug heavy bags on my shoulders. So yesterday, when we should have been up and messing around, we hung out at our little flatlet.

I say flatlet, apartmentlet, only because it’s a small bedsit.  The bedliving room is about 10’ square, and the kitchen/bathroom is 6×8 each.  We’re on the ground floor (which means rising damp), there are two small windows, good for letting light in, bad for getting a phone signal.  I found it on airbnb, and it’s by far the cheapest place in venice, and there’s a reason for that.  So we can deal with squinchy.  It’s big enough for me and the boys for four days.  There’s everything we need, except for wifi.  Somehow I managed to miss that.  So i’m relying on a hotspot on my phone.  And I can’t get reception here in the building, so i’m writing this offline, and will find someplace with wifi later on.

I left the kids sleeping Sunday.  Connor was up, and I made sure they wouldn’t leave the flat, and left them there with some croissants and milk.  I made the journey to Rialto, to the vodafone store, so I could get a sim card for my phone.  To help ease my headache, I walked from san toma to rialto, about ten minutes.  This was our route back home when we stayed in san polo just a year ago.  But because I had a migraine, I had no love for beauty, no head for sounds, and smells offended me.  So it was exercise only, and not much of a reunion.  And, they wanted to see my passport, and of course I had forgotten that little detail, so no go.  So I walked over the Rialto bridge, and made my way to the san marco vaporetto stop.  I had no phone, so couldn’t pull up a map, but I didn’t need one anymore.  I know this part of Venice.

When I got back I was in tatters, so I crawled up onto the top bunk – Avery’s bed – and went to sleep for several hours.  The boys were fine.  They played on their devices, and played with the toys they brought, and colored in the coloring books.  When I got up, it was 4pm, so we got dressed, got on the vaporetto, and went back to the San Toma’ stop.  I don’t think connor ever once remembered where he was, because he didn’t pause at the turning to our old house.

When we arrived Saturday night, it was already dark.  Just in case, we went to the Coop grocery store at the Piazzale Roma.  We got milk, packaged croissants, coffee, cream, orange juice.  And then we saw our friend from the San Polo Coop store manning the register. His name is Pasquale and he remembered me first and then looked for Connor.  It was very nice to see him, and we talked in broken English for a few moments.  Some of my horrendous Italian cut back in and I was glad to understand some of what he said.  We took the bus from the airport, and got our vaporetto passes, and got on a number 1. I made the boys sit up front in the seats with me, all our luggage piled at a corner of the gangway. But within a couple of minutes Avery started complaining about the cold, and not looking at the sights, so I sent them into the back to sit down.  They sat on facing seats, and started messing around, and when I caught them doing slow motion fist fighting, I made them come back outside with me.  So the first vaporetto ride, the introduction to Venice, was not a success.



The second time we did it was far better. Avery stood outside and looked at everything, and beamed, saying it was awesome. And that was good. But then he started asking about how long the boat ride was going to be, and complaining about the wind. they’re rebuilding the Accademia bridge, I noticed as we passed under it.


We got off at San Toma’ and made our way to the fritelle store.  They don’t have fritelle now, because carnival is over and they’re selling ice cream at the moment, but they still have pizza.  The guy who makes the pizza saw me first, and looked like he recognized me, but then he saw Connor, and he brightened way up.  The boys got pizza, and I still couldn’t think about food, so I just smiled.  When it came time to pay, I realized I had no money, so they let me skate until tomorrow.

And then I couldn’t find a working cash machine, so we walked on to the vodafone store, I got my sim card (and had to duck outside when it got too damned hot and I started dry heaving again), and we walked back using much the same route as before, and took a vaporetto back to Sant’Elena.


This time, when we went to the restaurant for pizza, we were too early.  The night before, we were too late and thank god I had thought to buy frozen pizza at the Coop store.  We paid for a pizza and then went back to the flatlet, set the alarm, and I napped while the boys played.  An hour later, we went to get the pizza.  I still had a raging headache, so ate nothing, and the boys filled themselves up and we went to bed at 9.

This morning I feel much better.  I finally had the cup of coffee I made yesterday, and the boys have eaten the half of one croissant we still had, and we’re about to go out the door for the day.  After Avery gets out of bed.  Connor’s coloring, and i’m writing this, and he’s still trying to sleep.  But never mind that.  We left the house at around 9, and didn’t come back to it until 3.  And we walked practically the whole way.  Avery didn’t want to take the vaporetto because of the wind, so we walked to every playground between here and there.

hey marie, look who copied your dress

We walked to Riva Schiavoni, where Avery decided he needed a hat, so we got him one, and one for his dad, and one for Connor.  Because it’s shopping day.


We made it to San Marco, but they’ve got a new rule where you can’t take backpacks in.  I guess people got tired of being hit by swinging backpacks full of rocks.  So we had to go around the corner to the church of San Basso, which is now a left luggage place.  OK.  So I left the boys on the lions on the side of San Marco, and came back to get pictures of them.

a tiled floor.  tumbling blocks

And then we walked some more.  We managed our way to Rialto, and went up to the top of Fundaco Tedeschi to look out over the city.  Avery was very interested in everything I had to show him, which is very gratifying.

Avery took a billion photos with his phone


Then we walked up to Strada Nova and stopped at a pastry shop.  The boys got pastries with custard and strawberries, and I got a strudel, and a caffe latte with grappa.

he’s only pretending not to like it

IMG_1669IMG_1675IMG_1677IMG_1680look grandpa, it’s you

After that, we made our way to Piazzale Roma, so I could show the boys the glass bridge, and we crossed over to the little playground so they could have some more fun.

the marble is very slippery, and Connor loved showing Avery how to get to the top


Then we went to the fritelle store to pay our bill from last night, and this time we all got pizzas.  And who should show up but Michaela.  She recognized me right away, and then saw connor, and it was like time stopped.  She knelt down next to him for a big hug, and asked if he remembered her, and he said no!  So she showed him the picture she took last year, and he still didn’t remember.  But we’ll be back tomorrow, and he’ll be as nice to her as he ever was.  Big hugs.


We walked some more, but only to the vaporetto at San Toma’, and then I parked the boys in seats and went to the back, because I don’t like being inside when I can stand out in the wind.  Besides, it was a full vaporetto, and only got more crowded as the trip went on.  In the end, we couldn’t get out at the Arsenale stop because it was so crowded, and had to elbow our way to the front to get off at Giardini.


But we finally got off, and made our way back to Via Garibaldi so we could get something from the Coop store – spaghetti, sauce, more croissants, more milk.


What an interesting thing to find.  Something from the Bienale, no doubt.  We got a picture of all of us reflected in the sides of the thing.  Tho to be honest I can’t find us in there at all.

our favorite statue

connor’s favorite statue, tho he doesn’t remember

After a short nap, while the kids played on their devices, we went back out to play on the playground.  I was surprised to find no other kids there; the vaporetto had been full of them getting out of school, and so we expected to see them everywhere on the playground.  Oh well.  Avery spent the entire time on the zip line, and Connor got to do it a few times, but he’s still a bit short to make it to the platform.


He did manage to fall between the ropes after I reminded him how hard it all was for him when we first came to Venice.


Tomorrow is our last day in Venice.  We still have to go to the t-shirt store, take a traghetto ride, go to the candy store for my menta fernet candies (medicinal), go back to the fritelle store, make it to the bar next to the boat yard.  I think we can do it all, it’s not supposed to rain.  The boys have given me big hugs and thanked me for bringing them to Venice, so I’m as happy as I can be.

Posted by: jeanne | February 13, 2018

our winter break adventure

imagine my surprise, in the middle of january, when i realized that both grandkids had the same winter break schedule.  out friday, february 16, back in on monday the 26th.

i opened a private window and brought up a bunch of travel and airlines sites.  where could we all go for 10 days without breaking the bank?  there were no $99 sales at wow airlines, and no domestic specials i particularly wanted to visit in the winter.  i found a website where you can see sample fares, and zoomed out to view the whole world.  we could go to india for $600, but it would take forever.  we could go to orlando for $49, but i’ve sworn off disney products.  we could go to venice for $700.  i know venice.  we love venice.  but avery’s never been there.  and that settled it.


i talked to jim about it as we walked around the block with the dogs.  i’ve spoiled him.  once you live somewhere for months at a time, the idea of spending fewer than ten days sucks.  so he said no right away, and i cooled down.  besides, the costs weren’t negligible, and they would add up fast once cards were plunked down.  however, thru long years of living beneath our means, we had already stashed most of the money i was thinking about spending, and it was just sitting there for just such an ’emergency’.  but, since i’m always sort of planning our next trip, it might be better if we didn’t blow it all in ten days.  so i backed off the idea.

but not for long.  without too much trouble, i convinced myself that i was fully capable of herding two brothers around venice for a few days by myself.  we’d get vaporetto passes, we could find a room near a playground, we could eat pizzas.  no worries.  no art museums, either, but i would hardly notice, because venice.

i decided to sleep on the idea.  oops.  my $700 fare was up fifty dollars when i checked it the next morning.  i already had a range of rooms picked out, and there was still a choice after narrowing our search to the ‘local’ area of sant’elena (where there are still plenty of kids).  but there were very few cheap choices to get to venice, and i had to act fast on the flights.

our artist friend marie came to visit us when we stayed in venice the first time, in 2015, and the second time in 2017, and both times she chose turkish airlines, because it was as cheap as using wow airlines, but they fed you well, and it was a one stop flight (wow airlines to venice took 3 flights and 4 airports).  the plane food was amazing, it was easy to schedule a layover, and istanbul was cheap – she loved it, and recommended the hotel niles.


looking at the schedule, i saw that we could get to venice with one stop, even tho the window to make the connection was only an hour.  but there was a long layover between the flights home, so we would be spending a night in istanbul.  we’d be arriving in late evening, and would need to be back at the airport around noon, which didn’t leave much time.  i searched for one way flights, and added a day to the layover.  that made 4 nights in venice, and 2 in istanbul.


the hotel niles had a junior suite that would hold 3, and it was the low season.  the flat on sant’elena was right around the corner from where we stayed in 2015 (playgrounds), and tho it was only a bedsit with a single/double bunk bed and a hot plate, we didn’t need any more than that.  we’d bring rain gear, and even if it rained all day we’d still only use the room to eat, sleep, and play video games (or write blog posts and manage the day’s photos).


so, after checking with avery’s dad and connor’s mom, i bought tickets and booked rooms.

but is it safe?  weren’t there bombings there during new years?  are you sure nothing bad will happen?  i decided to hire a guide, and all indications are that it’s a big modern city just like atlanta is, and while you can get caught up in crossfire in atlanta, it’s usually on a movie set.  things are usually safer than people fear, the same way that horrible thoughts at 2 am hardly ever happen.

the tickets were bought three weeks ago.  we leave on friday.  in between i found a mistake.  when i got avery’s passport out of the safe deposit box, i remembered that his name is his middle name, and the ticket only said avery.  this is a very big bad.  it has to match exactly, and no oops about it.  so i petitioned for a ticket change, and they said i had to cancel and rebuy with the correct name, so it cost another $200 because the price has continued to climb.  i stuck him in the seat in back of me and connor.  the planes are still  half full.  i also had to change my visa – you need a visa to enter turkey!  i missed putting my middle name on my visa, and the same conditions apply as for ticketing.  that was only $20.

we’re only taking backpacks with our clothes and essentials in them.  the boys are taking one change of clothes and  half a dozen pairs of socks and underwear, and i’m taking my computer and camera gear and wearing all my clothes.  i’m bringing a tiny carryon as well, with our water boots and extra bags in case of shopping.  we’re allowed 2 bags on board.  the plane is half empty, they have great food and lots of entertainment choices, and the flight over is only 10 hours.


the only possible hiccup (aside from document issues) is that we may well miss the flight from istanbul to venice.  in which case we are put up in an airport hotel or given a free city tour, and shipped out first thing next morning.  but this means arriving in venice a day later, and only spending 3 nights there.  and still spending 2 more nights in istanbul.  if we miss our connection, i’m going to see if it’s possible to delay the return flight a day, so we can have our original time in venice.  i have no idea what it would cost, or whether they would do it, but i’ve checked with both places we’re staying, and it’s okay with them if we play fast and loose with the bookings.

it’s tuesday now; we leave friday night.  friday at 2 i’m going down to avery’s house and get him from the bus stop.  that’s a three hour tour.  when we get home, we’ll pack the boys’ stuff in their school backpacks, change clothes, and head for the airport.  i’ll start writing then, because the planes are almost always over an hour late taking off, and i’ll probably have plenty of time.



Posted by: jeanne | September 3, 2017

the curse of endless travel

i love to travel. new places, favorite places, new friends, old friends, thousands of photos, new words in different languages, different perspectives, different foods.
but in reality, i love to be in different places. i don’t particularly love getting there. not when it involves staying packed, sitting uncomfortably for long stretches, being bounced about in the backs of buses, waiting in endless lines at airports, squinched into tiny airplane seats, driving for tortuous hours on turnpikes and back roads in the dark, sleeping in spare bedrooms, waiting aimlessly for others to have the time to go places and do things. most of that hasn’t happened yet, as i am merely at the beginning of the journey home, so i am anticipating the worst, and basing it on past experience rather than future outcomes. but still.

let me begin where i left off, in the middle of francis’ visit.

on wednesday, first thing in the morning, i took francis to the straeto bus stop for the 6:57 bus to akureyri. he decided he liked it when we passed thru on monday, so he went there for the day. later, i found out that asta reads cards, so i sent her a message saying i would like her to give me a reading. but she didn’t respond that day, so after a couple of days, i tried again. we set up a time, but then she got sick (somebody at the berjadagar festivities must have spread it around, plus all the kids went back to school this week and that means the whole town will get the same cold). so we put it off again. i think i’m missing something here, because the events don’t add up.

on thursday at 6am i was due at listhus 12 to pick up stephanie and sarah, who have to go back to their college for the fall semester. i left connor at home with francis. we stood around for awhile, talking about olafsfjordur and iceland. while they were here they did a bunch of walking and invited the artists and townspeople to go along. but they didn’t want me to stay with them until the bus came, and it was a warm morning, so i said goodbye and went straight to omar’s wall. as i was passing the church, i heard a raven. i saw a lot of the raven family when i was here in 2014, but this year i had only seen them rarely, like when i was up on asgeir’s wall and doing the car troll at mulatindur. but there she was perched on the cross on top of the steeple, a very big raven, cawing roughly and pointing in the direction of omar’s wall. i was at that moment considering whether i should alter the painting to be more like jim drew it the first time, and less cartoony. and the raven cawed a bunch, ignoring my greetings, and then flew off. but by that time i had decided to go ahead and change the mural. it was the first troll drawing that jim had done, and it was more of a drawing than a cartoon, with lots of dark shading. and the troll looked like him. and people thought it was a drawing of odin, because jim is an accidental shaman. he did a cartoon drawing later on when we were in the middle of the process, and i hung the first drawing on the wardrobe of my bedroom, but i always wanted to put it up somewhere special. so i got out the black paint, and went at omar’s robe with the wide brush, putting in texture and shading. i liked it a lot better when it was finished.


then i went to bjarney’s house and stole the big ladder, walking it over to the pool and setting it up before going back to move the car to the pool so i could get the paint out of the back and touch up the swimmer. she wasn’t home, so didn’t need the ladder or the black paint.


i also was there to meet the sterna bus to reykjavik at 9:30, because when i left laura off a couple of days ago, she had left a bag with some stuff in the car, and i was to give it to the driver, who would convey it to reykjavik. and since i had some time to wait, i got up on the wall and painted blue over the too-long toes of one foot, and black over the gray on the eyes, and blue again over the gray on the neck. and then i took black and painted the hashtag identifier under the forward arm – #olotrolltown. it’s what we decided to put on all the trolls, halfway thru the summer. i managed to tag most of them, but bjarney is going to have to get the rest.

after finishing the swimming troll, i got back to bjarney’s with the ladder and we worked on her troll foot, which was then almost done.


and then i went to ala’s in the afternoon, with connor, to finish her wall. she wasn’t home, but kara was because she was getting over the cold that everyone has, and she played with connor and shared her cold with him…

they can look at their murals from the hot tub, foreground

in the afternoon we all went swimming, connor and francis and i. he had declined to go earlier in the week, and i warned him that he would be sorry. and so he was. he didn’t much enjoy the big pool, but he loved the hot pot, and looking around at the mountains, and talking to the others in the pool. we only stayed an hour and a bit, but as we were leaving he said he should have gone earlier. yep. i made the same mistake when i was here in 2014, only going after i injured my shoulder falling off the bike. and then i was really sorry i had thought it was somehow a silly idea to want to get wet and sit outside in 50F weather. that’s why i bought a year’s pass this time.


for dinner, francis took us to a moroccan restaurant in siglunes gesthouse in siglufjordur. it’s a funny place to put a moroccan restaurant, admitedly, but it’s a great favorite in the area, and the food was really wonderful. tajine, it’s called, and it’s baked on top of the stove in a conical-hatted clay pot, and it’s tender and juicy and very tasty and spicy, without being hot. i had the lamb, of course, and francis had the fish, and connor had spaghetti with a too-sweet tomato sauce that he asked the waiter to replace with a savory sauce. it took forever to do, because the cook was busy doing people’s dinners, and when it came out, it was very fragrant with cumin, and quite salty, and connor had eaten so much of my dinner that he wasn’t very hungry… we got an order of icelandic pancakes, split it into three, and ate it all up. and then, horribly stuffed, we went back home and i piled connor into bed and joined him only minutes later, with the shortest call yet to jim.


the next morning was friday, and i drove francis to the akureyri airport for his plane to reykavik. he was planning to do a bus tour of reykjavik in the afternoon, a golden circle bus tour the next day, and then back to barcelona in the evening.

then connor and i went to the akureyri pool, which is much bigger than the olafsfjordur pool, with a 100m salt water pool, a lap pool, 3 hotpots, a steam room, a medium slide, and two enormous slides. this time i had to go on the slides with connor; otherwise he wouldn’t be able to go on them. so i did. 61 steps, cold metal steps. fortunately enclosed in a clear tower. then at the top, your choice of the slide to the right and the slide to the left. both were bad choices. the one to the right put us into a flying saucer shaped chamber where we were hurled around the walls, gradually slumping to the middle, where we were dragged down another chute to the pool. i got water shoved up my nose the first time. the other slide was more straightforward, slamming me from side to side into the walls, and shoving me into the pool at a horrible speed. i don’t like the slides. but we had a great time at the pool, and the hour was over very quickly.

on the way out of town we dropped all the glass bottles i’d been collecting at the recycling center, but it wasn’t open yet, so i didn’t get any money for it, and just left them there for some lucky patron to turn in.

again, i’ll have to check my daybook to see what i did, because once we got back to town, i went straight to work.  all i can find is that i finished the troll foot (actually, the entry reads:  francis back to rek, akureyri pool, bank, glass recycling, lanka, finish troll foot)


on saturday, connor went off to akureyri at noon with angelo, elisabeth, and gummi, and they stayed all afternoon, going to a movie because it rained. i worked on the troll foot with bjarney lea, and we finished it. then once connor returned, i took him down to the lake and he played with tristan and vincent and the dog, while bjarney lea and i did more on the troll statue.


she had gotten runar down there with the drill the night before, and they put in more rebar, so we mixed up cement and added another layer of rocks to her. we’re on the torso now, trying to build it up with several layers of rock before putting on the shoulders, the neck and the head. at this point we’re assembling the layers on the statue, then putting them aside and mixing the cement before permanently attaching to the statue. the next layers are getting to be our height, so in order for bjarney to finish it, she’s going to need stepladders and a guy to help her lift the stones. the neck stone has to be large in order to anchor the shoulder stones (more like wings, really), and that’s going to take tommi’s lift to accomplish, but i won’t be there to see it done, and all the credit will go to bjarney lea. you go girl.


when we were done with that, we took a tour of all the troll walls in her car, so she would know where they are. we counted 13 locations, with a total of 20 walls. in two months!

i think that evening at 8 i went to tjarnarborg to get asta to read my cards. she said a great many things, which i don’t remember, but she told me i would be back to olafsfjordur in a few years, and that i would write, either finishing my novel about antarctica, or writing one about olafsfjordur. and i’ve been thinking about doing that, letting my mind play with general ideas and small plot devices. if it’s a novel of olafsfjordur, how do i put in the people of the town without offending them? if it’s a crime novel, will it be the tourist who does the crime, or a troll? do i set it in hedinsfjordur instead, which is uninhabited, and do i make it a ghost story? what about the tunnel, is it the entrance to the huldufolk world?

it rained in the evening on saturday, and i wondered if connor would be able to play on sunday, but it was a glorious morning, so connor went with jonina (his swimming teacher) and her kids to husavik, for a last soccer tournament. i cleaned the house.


after about 10am, it rained all day where i was (tho not in husavik), so even tho i was supposed to put signage on kaffi klara, and write hashtags on several walls, i couldn’t. ida decided to do something different for her sign, anyway, so that was good, as i was prepared to spend several hours on it, and wouldn’t be able to get everything done at the house in time. but as it was, i got the whole place spectacularly clean just in time to wash and vaccuum the car before going to get alice at the airport in akureyri. i even just had time to drop off the picture of lenka and her family to her house in dalvik, tho they weren’t there. in fact, i dropped off the rest of the kids’ tie-dyed socks and all of the gift tie-dyed socks to everybody i’d done murals for, and most of them weren’t home, so i wasn’t tempted to go spend half an hour having coffee and talking to them. bye, folks.

alice’s plane was late, but that gave me time to finish cleaning the inside of the car and sew a patch on the seat where the driver’s butt had worn a hole in the fabric. it was a piece of lambskin, part of the bag i brought home, that now a bunch of people have pieces from – kara and the ladies at galeri ugla and now karolina at menntaskollin.
alice and i stopped at the indian curry hut in akureyri (best naan bread in iceland) and got MILD lamb curry and chicken tandoori, and brought it back to the house, the car reeking of curry spices all the way. when we got home i discovered that jonina did not have my phone number, and connor was playing at her house, so i went to get him, and we came back to eat.


then i sent him to bed and finished packing. in the end, everything fit, but my suitcase was a little overweight. i decided to wait until i got to siggi and runa’s before deciding i was going to have to wear my boots on the plane. i so wanted to pack them… alice and i settled accounts then. i had to pay the mileage for the use of the car all summer. in the way of things, the amount i owed her was pretty much what i had been paid by the school for the mural of lara and the mythical beast. thanks lara, thanks alice.


on monday, bright and early, we got up, stripped the bed, straightened up the room, put on our travel clothes, put the bags into the back of the squeaky clean car, and went to the pool right after it opened at 6am. there were only the old people in the pool, and the young ones in the gym, and connor. we talked to people we hadn’t met before, including one man whose name is gestir, which means guest.


then we went to kaffi klara for breakfast, meeting vala and ida there. connor got to say goodbye to angelo, and had a waffle for breakfast. he ate it all. i had a sandwich with hangikjot and cheese, and coffee coffee coffee. we waited until 9 for alice; i’d left a note saying that’s where we’d be. but she didn’t come, so we walked to the house. i’d left my keys inside on purpose, and we knocked on the door a few times, but she was asleep, and we left her sleeping because she’d been traveling the day before. we got the bags out of the car (good thing i decided not to lock it) and rolled them the block and a half to the pool, and then waited. i had to leave connor with the bags while i went in and filled the water bottles, and then i stayed with the bags while he went to the bathroom. then alice came to see us off, and we talked until the bus came, and connor had to go back to the bathroom. it was the same bus driver we’d been seeing all summer, every time we’d picked up and artist or dropped them off. this time it was our turn.




there was only a chinese tourist on the bus, in the front seat. so i sat behind him, and connor went to the back of the bus to play his tablet. our first stop was siglufjordur, and there was a 15 minute break, so i walked to the bakery for goodies, and saw two artists from the residency, and also gummi and bjarni and the recycling crew, all having coffee and sweet things.

the spikes on the top of the mountain look like gravestones, but are really a snow fence

then it was back on the bus, and out thru the little tunnel, and away from trollaskaga. bye, troll peninsula.










connor fell asleep and stayed asleep all the way to saudarkrokur, where the bus stopped to change drivers.

it was the end of the line for one driver, and a different driver to take us to reykjavik. i knew both of them. both of them were polish. connor got ice cream at the gas station, i got a hotdog, and the drivers got a huge plate of boiled sausage and cabbage and vegetables. i asked the old driver if he would still be there next time i came, and he told me he was probably going back to europe because iceland wasn’t a great place to work. it was easier driving in england or germany, because of no snow, and it paid the same.

and then we headed out with a new driver. we went over the mountains to blonduos, bypassing varmahlid and the ring road for awhile.


it got foggy, and then cleared at the top, and then got foggy again as we descended. we went past a place where they were gathering the horses to bring them off the mountains for the winter.






we went past bifrost, a place in the lava with a famous volcano. i’ve heard the name bifrost for some time, and didn’t know why it was famous. it’s famous in norse mythology, not for its volcano. but it’s really scenic.

soon we were in borgarnes, only an hour or two from reykjavik, and stopped again. again, connor got ice cream. the tourists were all covered in raingear, but i thought it was warm, and enjoyed the rain on my face and thru my sweater.


from there it’s only a hop, skip, and a jump to the capital. on a clear day you can see the snaefellsness peninsula from reykjavik. and vice versa.

reykjavik in the distance, under the pretty clouds

the other side of hvalfjordur, where ragnhildur lives





we could see that the weather was much better in reykjavik as we got close, and the traffic was horrendous. the bus was 20 minutes late because of it, and runa had to wait and wait.


tourist-led beautification project in front of the harpa

but we got to the harpa, and she greeted us, and we went to pick up siggi from some appointment. then i took them to dinner, and we drove down to hafnarfjordur to eat at a noodle house (with a branch in greenland, too), and then back to the house by way of a greenhouse where siggi picked up some spent wheatgrass for his chickens, and some for runa’s cousin, who lived down the valley a little ways in this adorable little cottage in the woods.



we slept in the spare room. it was full of stuff, but runa and i made short work of it, and while she and siggi entertained a family who was buying a bird from them, i vaccuumed and connor went out to play in the park. and then we went to bed, and i was too tired to do more than say hello to jim at home.


on tuesday we all woke up way late, and i prepared the photos for this post and pottered around with the bags until about 2pm, when we got around to going to hvalfjordur to visit ragnhildur and larus on their farm. but first we stopped into town to buy a dna knife. it’s called a dna knife because you will inevitably end up leaving some of yours on it when you handle it, it’s that sharp. damascus steel, japanese, really expensive. runa bought siggi a set of them and i had to have one when i saw them (and cut myself). so i was really pleased when they gave me a discount and i bought two. my present to myself.

the trolls of this mountain produce wicked winds that knock trucks over



it’s always wonderful to see ragnhildur. we didn’t have a lot to catch up on; her arm is mending and i told her my huldufolk and troll stories, but mostly she and runa talked, and siggi and larus talked, while connor played with the legos, and the dogs, and jumped off an elf rock until the chickens started to chase him.











we stayed until it was getting late, and then drove home by way of the kronan grocery store, where we got spaghetti, sauce, and garlic bread to make at home with westfjords ground sheep. we ate it, i sent connor to bed, weighed and repacked the bags, and then went to bed. but not before i loaded on a bunch of games to connor’s tablet so he’d have something new to play with on the plane.

this morning (okay a bunch of mornings ago as i finish up this post) we were up at 9 and had breakfast. connor played outside until we were ready to go, and then we went by the national museum to buy me a blank notebook to start on my olafsfjordur novel. then to the airport, where we said goodbye to our good friends, and headed for the rigamarole torture that is the modern airport. which is the main reason for the blog post title.





but the lines were short and the people were nice, and we got seats at the gate, and he found a couple from texas who haven’t had kids yet, and then a nice lady took the extra seat in our row and connor played with her on the tablet until she put the earphones and neck pillow on. we had stopped at the bonus store on the way to keflavik so we have had our sandwiches already. it’s 7pm iceland time, 3pm at home. the visibility sucks outside – all clouds – so no watching greenland pass. we arrive in almost 3 hours from the time of this writing, and it’s straight to the car rental place for a 4 hour drive to mikie’s house, where we will be spending the following day. but more about that when i continue this post. with luck it’ll cover all the way home, and then you won’t be hearing from me for awhile, until the next time i travel.


it’s sunday now, and i’ve been home less than 24 hours. i made the whole trip at 80mph even tho i had to drive thru hurricane harvey. now i am noticing mosquitos, traffic noises, the hot sun, new construction with white people on the advertising hustings and the reality of our mixed neighborhood, my skanky dogs, jim’s dishwashing abilities. i needn’t go into any of those.

but on thursday, after sleeping it off at mikie’s house, we went to see mom at her new nursing home, where she isn’t happy at all. but then, mom’s never happy, so she’ll just have to get used to it. it’s not a bad place, a sunrise assisted living community, but clearly she’d rather still be on her own, even tho it’s too dangerous for her now.

mikie’s kids at homeschool. shan is a wonderful teacher and tiger mom

mom, wondering if i was really going to take her picture

the kids, moving too fast to capture

uncle davie

and then we were off.  the sun rose as we were heading to charlottesville for our first stop, breakfast at bodo‘s and a quick visit to my old friend from college days, jimmy.



the rugby road bridge, where the nastiness of the past weeks is fought, if symbolically

jimmy pointing out a raccoon way high in the tree across the creek in his back yard

after that, the rain started.  we hit the northern edge of hurricane harvey, and it rained for most of the next ten hours, rain band after rain band.  sometimes hard rain, sometimes sprinkles.  i was glad to be on i-81, where it’s mainly truckers, who know how to drive.  the one accident we passed was a car that had skidded off and flipped.




at some point, at the bottom of virginia, the temperature began to climb, starting at around 63 degrees.  within an hour it was 88.  i’m not used to that kind of heat, and it’s not any kind of humidity like what i’ve known in the north of iceland.  in fact, you can’t really equate the temperatures.  63 in iceland is warm, very warm.  63 in virginia is cold and damp, not at all comfortable.  of course, in iceland i had on two layers, and here i had on shorts.  but still.



then, long after one of the mapping apps says ( 7 hours from dc to cchhaattaannooggaa), we arrived at emma and dallas’ house on the river.  they are always so welcoming, and their house is so comfortable, and surrounded by woods and the ocoee river.  i love stopping there, even if it’s only for a couple of hours.  in this case, it was overnight, because i’ll be damned if i’m rushing home.

connor likes dallas’ moustache wax on his hair

the view from their deck

the next morning, even tho it was still cloudy and cool, we abandoned my plan to go floating down the river in a tube, and instead went to the lake to swim.  the water wasn’t heated, the way we’re used to, but it wasn’t ice cold, either, so connor and i went swimming.  for me, it was the chance to wash all the chlorine out of my hair, because now i’m going to let my hair’s natural biome keep it clean (the water in atlanta is not very nice).  for connor, it was a last chance to swim.


the scenery is every bit as nice as iceland, only more lush, and less spectacular

IMG_9601 ocoee dam, a mile upstream of their house


and then we were off again, with a two hour drive home.  we got home about 4.  allison arrived to pick up connor to go to granny’s funeral (bye granny, watch over us), and jim and i walked the dogs, ate dinner, and went to sleep.  i got almost 12 hours of sleep, and now that i’m finished with this post, i will be adjourning until i have to go back up to northern virginia to help clean out mom’s house so we can sell it.


sorry to subject you to such a long blog post; but that’s the nature of endless travel.

Posted by: jeanne | August 23, 2017

an excursion with francis and connor

i thought i wouldn’t have time to do another post before francis left, but i managed to fit it in.  this last week is all about the art of fitting things in.  and there’s just enough time and energy to do it all.

on friday there was a big rain, meaning significant rain, pouring rain, windy rain.  44mm, or a couple of inches.  so i did stuff inside.  i cleaned, packed, washed out and ironed my scarves and took them over to galeri ugla, where they will live until someone buys them, and then i’ll make some more.  nobody’s doing silk scarves here, so i have given all of the silk painting supplies to karolina, who is interested.

while i was at the gallery, they showed me one of two knitted trolls they have made to go outside the gallery as eye catchers.  they’ll also feature in the school’s troll parade later in the year.


on saturday the town had berjadagar, or berry days, a classical music festival that drew some hundred people, which is a lot in this town.  as contrast, tho, two weeks ago they had fiskidagar, or fish days at dalvik, which has been going on for years, and now draws over 40,000 visitors and huge traffic jams.

i had volunteered to help ida with the festival, because she had decided to combine the musical evening with a tapas dinner, and two of her staff had recently decamped for scandinavia, and she was expecting 110 to dinner.  so starting at 10am i showed up in the kitchen and did what i could until i had to go get francis at 2:15.  this was one of the few days when connor and i didn’t go swimming because there was so much to do.


there was a kid’s rap workshop at 2, and i left connor there while i went to get francis, and then took him and haldor up to the old folks’ home at hornbrekka for a singing concert that featured a bunch of people i know.  it was interesting to hear the old songs.  connor played with the kids, on the stairs and the elevator, and i fussed at them quite a bit.


then i dropped the boys up at hlid and went back to town to deal with the listhus exhibition that needed my attention.


i had dropped francis off at the house for a nap when he arrived, but went back to gather the goodies i’d bought, the cookies i made, and fresh popcorn, adn went over to listhus to stick things on the wall prepatory to the exhibition opening at 5.


the show had quite a few more visitors than usual, partly because we’d been advertising to the festival crowd.  it’s always gratifying to have the locals come see what we’ve been doing.

graycloud’s work

but i slipped away around 6 to go back and help set up at tjarnarborg.  we spooned goopy vegetable and meat stuff onto bread, and like tasks, until the show started at 7.  then we stood around prepping while a wine distributor extolled the virtues of his wines to the crowd.  then we went thru the crowd giving tastes of wine, and finally were able to start putting food out.  we filled a central table, and were surprised at how orderly people got up to mob it.  i’d expected a free for all, but it seemed they were going table by table and only getting as much as they could fit on a plate.  totally unexpected.  the food was soon gone, and we stopped pulling trays out of the fridge for awhile, because the music was on.  tjarnarborg can seat 100 easily, and has a good stage and fine accoustics, and the singers and musicians were all first rate.  arias and lieder mainly.  screechy sopranos and tony tenors.  spanish guitar.  piano.

and then we served more food.  and more music.  and more food.  and more music.  and dessert.  and more music.  and finally it was over, so we got to work clearing tables and washing plates and glasses.  i sent connor home with francis when the musicians stopped playing, and then we worked around the performers while they ate the rest of the food and congratulated themselves on a fine evening.  it was past 12 when ida and i poured a glass of wine and didn’t finish it (not the best whine btw)

on my way home i discovered that i’d lost my keys, and was going to go look for them in various places, except it was mostly dark and i could look for them where the light was better tomorrow.  but as i was crossing the road, i saw a bird hit the wall opposite me and fall to the ground.  omg.  it was a fledgling, with a long beak – francis says curlew – and its wing was broken.  i took it back to tjarnarborg and asked what i could do.  one suggestion was to wring its neck.  but i couldn’t.  gummi found a wine case and i put it in that and took it home to see if it would last the night.  but it didn’t, so oh well.


being a late night, i didn’t get up early on sunday, and only went out to start omar’s wall around 10:30.  i was just changing to black paint to start drawing in the figure when my phone rang.


it was francis, and he was in a panic because he’d set off the fire alarm when he didn’t understand the meaning of the stove glyphs and turned all the burners on instead of only one.  burners with pots and pans on them.  the smoke is still there in the house, days later.  graycloud and someone else came to the rescue, and no lasting damage was done, but i’ve washed all the curtains and will be scrubbing the walls when it comes time to clean up before i leave.  only a couple of extra hours work.  and because i’d tried to help the bird, the elves made sure the whole house didn’t burn down.  thanks, elves.

after cleaning the kitchen and asking francis to get all his meals at kaffi klara from that point on, i went over to skuli and guffa’s wall and put in the second coat of local color on everything.


when guffa discovered me outside, freezing my butt off from the wind, she called me in for coffee, and i found some of their relatives in attendance.  they live in siglufjordur now, but grew up here, and offered to let me paint their walls next time i come.  also there was a guy i met the last time i was in olafsfjordur, a man whose son lives in wisconsin.  i’d had the same conversation with him last time, so i remembered him.  he speaks excellent english, so we spoke about important matters in the town and he spread it around the table better than i could have done.  but then i had to go, because listhus was having a popup exhibition on the walls at ida’s cafe at 4.  they turned up there a few minutes later, so that was great.



katrine faber told a story about how music came to the world


after that i went back out, over to bjarney lea’s wall, where we plotted out how to do the work, and drew her foot to use as the model.

then we came back, ate i forget what – oh yeah, leftovers from the festival that ida forced upon me – thanks ida.

that night connor and i slept upstairs in the attic, on a bed a bit smaller than the one i’ve been in for three months.  it’s quite comfortable up there, and the view from the window is spectacular.  in fact, i saw northern lights for the first time ever.  they were faint, rolled and twisted, grew in intensity and faded as quickly, acted like contrails or low fog, and generally had me questioning whether i was seeing something real or just reflections from the windows.  but no, definitely auroras.  coolness.


on monday, we had been planning to take the ferry to grimsey and back as our excursion, but people had been warning me for some time not to do it.  not only would we be seasick the whole way, but the birds are leaving the island, and there’s nothing to do but hike, which francis isn’t able for.  so we decided to reprise our trip to myvatn instead.

but before we left town, i’d been having a slow leak in the other front tire, so we stopped at the garage to have them find the leak and glue the rim back on.  they never found a leak, but willie let connor help him glue the rim, and steinni wouldn’t hear of my paying for it because of their mural.  thanks, steinni


so we were an hour delayed starting on our trip, which meant that when we reached akureyri, the indian curry hut as well as the hot dog stand was open.  we stopped because francis needed to buy some waterproof bandages, and the apothecary is on the same street.  and while we were eating our hotdogs, we noticed the sale price on the lopapeysa sweaters, so francis got one for himself.


and then we stopped into the curry hut to say hi (he still remembers me, and our conversation picked up where it had stopped two months ago).  so i got lamb curry and lamb something else for later, since they’re only open until 7 and i had a feeling we’d be gone later than that (and we were, so the dinner sat in the back of the car odoriferizing all day long).

showing connor how they make naan bread – the best in iceland

and then we were off.  first stop, godafoss, where we pulled into the parking lot at the other side of the river and walked in.  francis refused to do this, so he got this view of the lower falls while connor and i went to the actual named waterfall.




but then i relented, adn we went back to the official side with the tour busses, adn he got to go up to see it closeup.  connor, having been there before, ran around until i noticed the horrified looks the tourists from the tour buses were giving me.  they were sure i was going to let him run right off the edge.  very hostile, they were.  good thing they didn’t speak english or i would have said something sarcastic…


then we drove to myvatn.  its name translates to ‘midge lake’, and it’s so true.  those little white specks in the photo below are midges.  millions of them.  they got all over our peanut butter and jelly sandwiches.  protein, yummm.


connor picked up a couple of motorcycle tourists he’d seen before, and actually used that famous line – didn’t i see you at the place before?


we continued to dimmuborgir, and sent francis on the short route (750m), while we took the slightly longer route (850m).  one of the interesting things was a cavelet done up in early outlaw.  the cave wouldn’t be good shelter as it was too open (thus the brightness), but connor grabbed the only dangerous object inside it and wanted to break, i mean hit, something with it, so we left…


dimmuborgir is one of my favorite places.  everywhere you look there’s a troll face, and these lava structures are a dozen meters high or more, just scattered around the field.


after that we went to the krafla area, up in the mountains behind the big power plant, where the volcanos actually go off now and then.  we got as far as viti, with krafla in the distance.  but we didn’t feel like the hike, so this is as far as we got.


then we went back to the ring road and across it to the geothermal fields at hverir, where fumaroles and boiling mud pots and loads of tourists dotted the landscape.

typically eschewing photographs, francis insisted on one at this spot

then we started back.  actually, being close to 6pm, we decided it was time to stop in reykjahlid gas station for a hotdog and a bathroom break.  while we were there i stopped into a fine gift shop, with some wonderful watercolors of local landscapes, and chatted to the women, who were knitting.  one woman was knitting a sock using 4 needles – something i’ve never seen before, but then i know nothing about knitting.

it was time for the eclipse, which while total at home, wasn’t even visible here.  all we got was sun dogs.  but hey, that’s pretty cool, too.


we got back home at 9, and i found i couldn’t eat the curry because it was too damned spicy, so connor and i ate rice, and francis finished off the meal.  thanks, francis.

again, there were northern lights, so i slept only fitfully, always checking for a show, and actually catching some pretty brilliant little 5 second rolls of green in the sky.  i was just as impressed to be seeing stars.  and there was no question of catching it on film – i tried.

on tuesday i got up really early and went over to omar’s house to start painting, and slapped on all the local colors.  i was out early enough to hear several people go outside for their first smoke of the day – hacking for a few minutes and then slamming their doors as they went back inside.

later on omar came out and caught me painting on his wall.  he was astonished to see himself on the wall, because when i’d showed him the sketch, it had jim’s self-portrait on it.  but i’d found his picture on facebook and put it in.


then as it warmed up, i went to skuli and guffas and did everything but the faces, which i always find the hardest to execute.  jim draws a great face, and i can transfer the rest of his drawings to large scale, but i can’t seem to get the faces, and can’t use my usual tricks to do so (turning the drawing upside down, for instance).



at 10 i went down to the lake, where bjarney lea had already gotten tommi to come by with his forklift and put a huge stone up on top of the drilled rocks.  she was busy cementing smaller stones to fill the gap, and i mixed more cement and continued filling in, while the boys played by the lake, as usual.  i’m not sure i’m going to be around to see the statue finished, but bjarney lea will send pictures.  we’ve got the troll woman’s bottom half, tho, and the rest is a pile of smaller stones (that we can barely lift by ourselves) suggesting her torso and head.


i had to make bread for dinner, so had to go back to the house several times in order to progress the breadmaking, and while i was there got an email from the bank, saying they wanted to pay me much more than what i’d asked for, which was a nice surprise.

somewhere in there, connor and i went swimming, and at 4 went over to kaffi klara to celebrate angelo’s second birthday.  connor gave him a bunch of toys we’d gotten from lenka (whose house i’m afraid i’m not going to be able to put a troll on at this point).


and at 6 we went over to listhus 12 for an artist dinner to celebrate our month’s residency.  connor got hold of michael’s drum machine app and entertained everybody.


today, wednesday, i put francis on the early bus for akureyri, where he wanted to spend the day wandering (the botanic garden), and then it was straight on to omar’s wall.  i had to adjust the size of the raven, and the length of the arms, and i have to repaint the background and do a bit more to the face, but i got an afternoon session in when connor spent time and lunch at kaffi klara.  so it’s almost done.


it was close to freezing when i went out at 7am, and i was very cold, but the moment the sun came over the mountain (while i was on skuli and guffa’s wall), it warmed up ten degrees.

at 9 i checked one of the artists out and took her to the rekjavik bus, and then i went to barney lea’s to help her continue on her wall.  she’d done the gridding, so we chalked in the foot and started right in on the body color.  it’s the same blue as the swimming troll, which is nice, because they are both in direct sight of each other, and perhaps her foot is bigger than his, i’m not really sure yet.


i could only stay a little while, because i had to meet with karolina, who is teaching art at the junior college, and will be taking care of both the troll parade later this year, and the map to the troll sites, which perhaps tommi will print, and the students make an app for.  so much activity going on here.

while i was back at omar’s wall after lunch, i had a little accident, dropping the black paint on the ground, which splattered all over me.  guess i’m f’real leaving these jeans when i go home.  as well as my army-surplus swedish army sweater, which i adore.  i’ll get another one when i get home, maybe.  but i have so many lopapeysa sweaters now, so maybe i won’t need one.


after the paint dried, connor and i went to ala’s where we have a lot of work to do to finish her four panels.


but i love her, she’s just like me, and nina came to visit, whom i see also at guffa’s every now and then.  she was passing out crocheted kitchen cloths, so i snapped one up (thanks, nina).  and when i was leaving, ala presented me with a pair of hand warmers for myself, a pair for jim, a set of mittens for connor, and a pair of socks for him.  omg people are so wonderful here.  takk fyrir, ala.


then we went swimming, connor and i.  his coach was at the pool, so connor spent his entire hour following the coach around and trying to drown him, while i sat in the hotpot talking to orlaith, one of the residents.  neither of us want to leave, and she wants to come back, so i was passing on hints.

and then it was time to pick up francis from the bus, but i’d left my house key at home so i couldn’t get the car to go get him, and the bus was 10 minutes early anyway, so we walked, and he had his set of keys (the one from under the mat), so everything was fine.  and now there’s a chicken and potatos in the oven, and connor is out playing with his friends, and francis is just up from his nap, and i’m done writing this.

Posted by: jeanne | August 18, 2017

wonderful wonderful Ólafsfjörður

let me gush.

i fled my little college town because everybody was dating everybody else and i couldn’t stand to be that well known.  i thought being in a small town meant that people had to conform, that everybody knew everything about everyone else, and felt stifled just thinking about it.  but now that i’m old, i realize that in a small town you are free to fly your freak flag, and that conformity lies in anonymity.  here in olafsfjordur, everybody knows everything about everyone else, but that doesn’t mean you have to be like everyone else.  it means that everyone’s differences are part of what makes that town special.  it’s a damn good thing everyone’s different, because there are so many things that have to be done by very few people, and if you didn’t have unique special skills and predelictions, there wouldn’t be enough energy and diversity to accomplish all the things that make a town survive.  in a huge city where everyone is anonymous and nobody knows anybody, there is a lot of fear of people and what they might do, and a lot of pressure to be bland and homogenized because peoples’ differences are hidden and therefore unacknowledged.  difference is shameful, not celebrated, when it is hidden behind closed doors.

yesterday i saw omar in the pool, and he gave me permission to do the final mural, and i went as far to test which white paint matched his wall (because i have a whole mess of different ‘white’ paint in the back of the car.  omar is physically disabled, and spends part of each day at the pool, as do we.  i recently discovered that he speaks fairly good english, so we have started talking.  so i asked if i could throw up a mural on his house, naturally, because i just happen to have one special one left to do.


there are actually several murals that jim has designed that i’m going to have to leave for bjarney lea to finish – the factory long wall (220′), a troll leading a horse and icelandic dog, tommi and the troll statue, and lenka’s family troll group.  but this one, a portrait of jim with a raven, is special, in a different style from all the rest, and has been hanging pasted to the closet door in my room all this time.  i’m glad to be able to put it up finally.

anyway, we were at the pool, sitting in the hotpot talking, and connor’s coach, örn elí came to the hotpot with a friend, along with another guy with a developmental disability.  in america, the disabled tend to be invisible; people in general avoid them as if it were catching.  when i lost my breast to cancer i was horribly insecure about it until i discovered that my mutilation was invisible, and then i relaxed.  but to be completely invisible is a horrible punishment for being different, and as a society we are guilty of this.  what i noticed in the pool yesterday was that disability is accepted and catered to, not ignored and turned away from.  everybody talks to omar, who turns out to be funny and smart and kind.  and the friend was included in their talk as well, and even tho he was not very responsive he still took everything in and i could tell he was engaged in the process.  when he decided to go up the big slide and made his careful way up the stairs, örn got out of the hotpot and into the pool at the bottom of the slide, and waited until the guy came sliding down, in case he had trouble or was afraid as he splashed down.  it’s a huge difference from the way disabled people are dismissed back home, and it made me feel very happy to have seen it.  it’s that attitude that a less than perfect body reflects a moral deficiency; it’s similar to the attitude that poor people deserve their poverty because they don’t work hard enough.  my country is too intolerant as a nation, and that has to change.

it’s raining today, otherwise i would be too busy outdoors to ever sit here writing a blog post.  big rain, too.  they’re expecting 44mm – that’s a couple of inches – and the blow in the night had all the windows whistling and moaning (a sound i love).  nobody’s out, and the only work i can do today is cleaning, which i must do anyway.  and finishing a watercolor or two.  and continuing to pack.  the only outdoor thing we’re going to do in all this rain is to go get wet in the pool.  the pool doesn’t care what kind of weather it is.

on friday of last week, i finished the bank troll, so connor was at kaffi klara while i put the final touches on it.  when i came to get him, there was a wedding party going on.  not really, but a stylist was making up this couple to look like a wedding party, because the chinese manufacturer of a drone had commissioned wedding pictures on our little picturesque beach in order to advertise its drone, and they were taking advantage of the warm sunlight and sheltered patio to finish the makeup prior to going down to the windy beach to get their shots.  it was very amusing.


the bank troll isn’t jim’s work, by the way, and has gotten very different responses from the people who see it, including one man who was quite angry, and told me it shouldn’t be that way, but didn’t explain further because of the language barrier.


i neglected to take connor down to his riding lesson that day, because i completely forgot about it.  so he missed out on that.  but i did take him down to the lake so i could put rebar and cement into the holes drilled by bjarney lea and her boyfriend last week.  you can’t see the holes in this picture, because i only remembered to take a photo after the work was done.  it was windy and cold in the wind, but connor didn’t care and spent all his time down by the water.


the flowers that are out now are different from the ones i photographed on this spot several weeks ago.  the season changes so fast here.


on saturday we went up to the farm at hlid and worked on the two walls some more.  connor played with svanfridur and gunni’s grandson, named haldor, running around and playing games with each other around the house.


in the bright sunshine it’s hot, even if it’s chilly and windy in the shade.  i couldn’t persuade connor to wear any more clothing than shorts and a tshirt.


then we went up the valley again, pretty late in the evening.  there are blueberries out now, and tho they’re not very sweet, they’re still pretty good.  after it stops raining we’ll go back up there and pick a bunch.


sunset lasts for hours now, with red light on the mountains even when the valley is in shade.


connor found a knife-shaped rock (the kind they warn you can pierce your tires in a moment on the unpaved heath road that used to be the only land-based route in or out of town).  he’s standing on the troll rock that marks the beginning of the trail up the valley (which is actually halfway down the valley, but where the car tire tracks end).  there are sheep tracks that are probably hundreds of years old, evenly spaced and quite resembling car tire tracks, except they waver.


i’m always interested in this mountain, because it’s the one that rises up behind the town, and from the town you can’t see that there’s a bowl up there.  i wonder if there’s a lake, or if it all just drains down the mountain in a river.


the sheep have gotten massive over the summer.


on saturday morning we could see the moon.  it’s not very impressive in the blue sky, but it’s visible, therefore remarkable, in the valley.


another trip to hlid in the morning to put more touches on the murals.  i can only spend about 2 hours at any one mural because of the way our days are structured.  even on the weekends.  i have, by the way, abandoned my no working on the weekend rule, because there’s just not enough time left.  i think the trolls and elves don’t mind, because nothing bad has happened to prevent me from doing so.


svanfridur is amused, and likes what we’ve been doing to her walls.


i had to leave at this point, because the big boys were having a soccer game, and connor and the younger kids had been asked to escort the men out onto the field, so i dropped him off and wet up to put in an hour on asgeir’s wall.  but just as i got there, my phone buzzed with a message that rán flygenring and her partner were down at the bank, looking at the mural she designed.  so i capped the paint and climbed off the scaffolding, and drove down to the bank.  they were very happy with the work, but we all agreed that the scale was too small.  her idea is to design a much larger troll to go in back, stretching up to the top of the sign or higher, making the troll that’s there into a baby troll compared to the mama troll behind her.  she also wants to put a tourist in the space to the right of the wall, maybe being drawn into the clutches of the troll that’s already there.  this will be a job for bjarney lea to execute.  yay!


i excused myself and ran back up to asgeir’s wall, because i had only half an hour before the soccer game started.  i got all the body color on, and now have only to put on the black outlines and sign it.


i missed the first few minutes of the game, and so missed this shot, but someone got it for me.  thanks, gudny.


the weather here is so strange sometimes.  it was bright sunshine during the entire game, but just a mile down the valley it was very interestingly cloudy.


connor didn’t pay any attention at all to the game, tho i watched every bit of it.  he was busy playing with his friends all over the place; down on the field, back behind the stands, wherever kids were to be found.


evidently the troll under the bridge game is alive and well in iceland, even tho it’s a norwegian/swedish fairy tale.  in iceland the trolls are too big to fit under bridges.


at halftime i finally broke down and bought connor some candy, and myself a chocolate bar.  he wasn’t interested in a hotdog, so we didn’t go across to the gas station but lined up at the little house instead.  and then we looked down and found a 100kr coin!  so that’ll be added to connor’s saturday half price candy fund.


on monday i dropped connor at inga and ingimar’s house while i went up to asgeir’s wall for some more work.  it’s too dangerous for him to play around the scaffolding, and asgeir and kristin work at the factory all day, so he can’t play inside and eat all their poptarts.

and then it was time for his riding lesson, so we had lunch and went down there.


after that we went straight up to hlid, where i was still having trouble with svanfridur’s face.  i’d taken pictures of her singing the time before, but since it was in sunlight, she had her eyes squeezed shut against the glare, and so the photos were only a little bit useful.


but at least i got more progress leafing out the tree and blacking the outline on the farm troll and his flock.


and since svanfridur, her daughter, and connor and haldor were all down at the summer cottage by the lake, trimming trees and digging a new septic line, i was all by myself at the farm, and took a nice coffee and homemade kleiner break behind the greenhouse, watching the clouds go by across the lake.  it was sunny and hot, and i took my sweater off and basked in the quiet, listening to the wind rustling the trees.


at home, later, i finally sorted thru all the tie-dyed socks the kids had made, and labeled them with their names and addresses.  it was quite the job, because even tho i had taken pictures of each pair of socks with their names on the bags, the socks only superficially resembled what came out of the washer, and i had to match and rematch them in order to get them all right (and even then i had two mismatched socks left, but isn’t that the fault of the laundry elves?)

after that i went down to omar’s house to take a picture of the working space, and when i came back, the light was on the mountain for sunset again.  such a beautiful town.


on tuesday i dropped connor with inga and ingimar one more time, and went up to finally finish asgeir’s wall.  (but the next morning, after telling him he could remove the scaffolding, i remembered the hashtag identifier that bjarney lea and i came up with – #olotrolltown – and so rushed back up there with the black paint and dabbed it in.)


then more  horseback riding.  the corral was quite muddy, so connor wore his rain boots, but i kept forgetting mine and had to pick my way around the puddles.  IMG_9111

there was a fog rolling in from the north, and the waves were way up; i could see them from asgeir’s wall.  olafsfjordur has world-class surfing in the winter, when the waves are furious.  but now they were loud enough to hear from the stables, so after his lesson we went down there and i looked around while connor sat in the car.

back at hlid that afternoon, the strange fog kept rolling in from the sea.  it would come in, cover the town, and then the sun would break thru it and it would dissipate, and then another batch would roll in.  up on the hill it was sunny the whole time, tho every now and then a wisp of fog would come creeping by.



finally signatures on the walls.  that never means i’m done done, only done and looking for things that still need to be finished.


when we were talking about the tree, and now nicely it’s filling out, svanfridur mentioned that the tree should be a troll tree, so i came back in with the house paint color and incised eyes and a mouth, and made sure that several branches were reaching for the troll woman’s head.  nice touches, sort of subtle.  when you’re standing in front of the wall, behind the clothes drying tree, you can’t see the tree’s eyes and mouth, and it’s only when you’re looking for awhile that you can see the fingers reaching for her head.

after that, we took haldor and went to the pool while svanfridur and her daughter went back down to the summer cottage.


the next day was just as cloudy, but the fog had gone.  i left connor, and when i came back, i saw them all trotting in a group back to the stables.  they keep going up on the mountain, up the valley that connor and i walk.  i didn’t know he’d gotten to a trot on his horse – named kjoi.  the woman who runs the school had him on a second lead, riding next to her.  and one of those afternoons his horse stumbled and he went down, but didn’t get hurt, and didn’t cry more than a little bit, and then got right back up on the horse.  good boy.


so back up to hlid to finish both trolls.  since i had missed roast lamb for lunch and had been told i could ask for leftovers, i did so, but of course they’d finished them.  but asking meant that svanfridur and her daughter then went thru the freezer and stumbled across some smoked lamb sausage they’d put up last fall.  so they asked us to dinner!


i left connor and haldor playing down at the summer cottages when i was finished, and ran down to start on skuli and guffa’s wall.  it was going to rain, and was cold and windy, so i chalked in the grid and went at it with black paint right away, because i knew the chalk would dissapear.


then, after collecting the boys and taking them swimming, we went back up to the farm and had dinner with the family.  smoked lamb sausage, beets, cabbage, tiny new potatos and cream sauce.  connor ate everything on his plate with a big smile on his face, to my delight.  and then svanfridur whipped out a rhubarb pie (from farm stock), and ice cream, and connor loved that too.  i’m getting used to him not wanting to finish dinner at home, but when he’s out i am mortified and end up eating everything he leaves so as not to waste anything.  he left nothing at all this time, and i would have been hungry except i’d had several helpings myself.  the picture below is all that was left of several kilos of sausage.


on thursday, tho i don’t have any pictures, i went to ala’s house and started back on her wall.  it had been a few weeks since i’d been there, because of the sports center and how i had to drop everything for the lift, and ala wasn’t there, but her son was, so he played with connor while i put face color on all the trolls, except for one wall where water was dripping down from the rain last night.  then after connor’s last horseback riding lesson, i dropped him off with haldor and came right back to put on the first coats of body color on skuli and gufa’s wall, stopping to have a cup of coffee and some conversation with them and skuli’s brother who was visiting from reykjavik.  then up to hlid to collect the boys and go swimming, where i ran into omar, who said i could paint on his wall.  then i baked the bread i’d been letting rise all day, and made pizza with the rest, and after dinner, went out there with the paint and tested the white, and would be out there right now, but it’s still raining.

it’s actually starting to brighten up, but it’s still wet, so i’ll package up the scarves i ironed last night, then run over to galleri ugla with them, make sure they know what to do with the bag of sheepskin trimmings i left in front of their door, and then go collect haldor and go swimming.  i still have those paintings to work on, tho.

my friend francis has landed in reykjavik, and will be coming up this way tomorrow, so i have some preparation to do.  i’ll write about his visit next post, which will be my last in iceland for this time.   waaaaaaaaah

Posted by: jeanne | August 10, 2017

finishing murals and more

we’re now at the end of the three week mark, so i’ve abandoned my vow to not work weekends.  as it happened, i got the lift precisely because it was a weekend, and a long holiday weekend at that.  so my hands were tied.


it’s a large lift, a nifty 170, with a 17m working height.  i didn’t get it that high.  it also stretches out almost 9m, and i used that a lot.  the image is longer than 9m, so we had to move it twice, which, while supposedly it can be moved by hand, we had to attach bjarney’s car to it every time.  it also bounces, and until i learned to release the power button before releasing the lift controls, it bounced horribly and hard.  once i learned how to actually use it, not just the basics, it became a joy to use, but i still came home and felt the bounce long after i’d gone to bed at night.  that first day, i got the grid up and the blue line drawing of about half of the troll.


in the evening, anna kristin came over to do a watercolor, and i worked on this piece from the medieval days a few weeks ago.  it’s not finished yet, duh.

later that evening, connor and i decided to go back up the valley because it had been over a month since we’d taken the walk, and my view of the valley was enhanced from the top of the lift, so i kind of couldn’t resist.


this time he had no trouble at all getting on top of the troll rock at the head of the path.  the ground was dry, the streams were mostly dried up, there was sheep dung everywhere but no mushrooms because no rain in a long time.


but there were sheep.  and we got pretty close to several of them.  i know enough now to realize that this is a male sheep looking at us, and had to caution connor not to move too fast because those horns are sharp and that sheep is strong.  but he watched us pass and then went back to doing what he was doing.


it was about 9pm, and still only working toward sunset when we came back down.  that far run of mountains is on the other side of eyjafjordur, and would take hours to get to by car, if there were any roads going the length of it.  which there are not.  but there are stories of people who had to walk the length.  in winter.  with broken legs.  ah, iceland.


the river down the valley is much reduced, and the elf island is almost accessible.  not that anybody around here would be foolish enough to try it.  across the lake, you can see the farms hlid and trollakot.  hlid has a troll mural i have yet to finish…


i woke at dawn that morning, which is about 4am now.  the light was hitting the mountains to the left of the valley we’d walked up the night before.  there’s almost no snow left at all, and none in the foot of the valley, where the town is.


back up onto the wall.  i started in with the body color.  haukur took me over to the paint store (which his son runs), and i picked out a nice light gray blue, because i knew the limited supply i’d been using all summer would run out immediately, and i had no idea what actual color that was.  the color i picked is called malmbratt.  i got a gallon.  i had the crazy idea that i could put on two coats with a gallon.  hahaahhah.


in the afternoon i went over to fix the wings on the mythical beast at the school.  lara had noticed that the wings were both on the other side of the beast’s body, so i had to go extend them down and paint the local colors and then the accent lines and the black outlines.  it took two coats, which mean it took two sessions.  it was coldish and the paint didn’t want to dry.IMG_9850

then back up on the wall at the sports center.  it was saturday of a bank holiday weekend, and i was almost out of blue paint, so i had to call haukur and ask him to get me some more.  the paint store was closed, but he came to the pool, where connor and i were swimming, and asked me what color.  i told him the empty container was on the lift, and he went and got it, then went and got paint, and left it in the lift for me to get once i’d gone home and changed.


that evening i had to take a break from my work to host the artist’s greeting meeting.  everybody brought food again, so we all stuffed ourselves, and then sat down to introduce ourselves and talk about our work.  i keep my introduction to a minimum, hoping they’ll follow suit, but they never do, so it was a three hour meeting.  but this month’s residents are a very interesting bunch, with several academics and a lot of non-americans.


then it was back up onto the wall.  i was there until midnight, when it got too dark to see.  it was kind of strange.  gradually everything got quiet.  no birdsong.  no kids playing.  no cars going by.  just me and the whine of the lift as i kept moving it.  and the bounce.  and the wind aloft.  even a couple of meters is enough to make it cold and windy, even when it’s warm and still on the ground.


my view


on sunday i had to check out the last of july’s residents and take him to the bus, but he didn’t want me to wait with him, so i ran back up to the wall and put in another long day’s work.


and at 9pm connor and i went out to haukur and bjarney’s family bonfire by the summer houses on the lake.  it was already going when we got there, a big bonfire (where did they get the wood?), and haukur and someone else on guitar, with the whole family singing along out of a songbook.  it was actually a lot of fun.


connor certainly thought so, of course.


i stood around and smiled a lot, and hummed along to the various tunes i recognized, tho i had no hope of actually singing along, because it was all in icelandic. of course.

the little girl found a dead and dried fish, and came to show the family.  everybody took pictures, and then she ran off to throw it into the fire, but couldn’t get close enough, so various older kids helped until they lost interest.


svanfridur, from hlid, showed up, and i thought she might be related to them, but no, she’d heard the singing from the farm, and came down to join in.


sunset was just after 10, and it actually set.  connor and i left after the fire died down, and we were not the last to leave.  at some point they set off fireworks, which is totally illegal since it’s not xmas time, and someone else threw a bunch of gas on the fire, which is totally unenvironmental, but boys.


of course i went back up on the wall after the party, and worked until it was too dark to see anymore.  i made the mistake of trying to put shadows on the figure, and had to spend an extra hour or so covering it up with blue paint.


and on monday i was back up on the wall again, trying to finish so the lift could go back and haukur and the mayor could stop paying for its rental.  bjarney and her boyfriend had to come and help me move it twice, so i could get the hands and feet.  it was starting to cloud up, and the forecast was for rain, so i was in a big hurry to finish.


after dusk, when i went back again to actually finish (except i’m not), some of the local kids came out to watch and play around.  they all like it.  when i was done, it was dark, and the next morning i realized that i still had a few touches to do, but the lift got taken back, and so i’m going to have to get a big ladder and deal with it later.  but every time i see it, i can see the glaring mistakes, so it will get dealt with before i leave.


on tuesday we went across the river to the stables, where connor is now enrolled in riding lessons on icelandic horses.  the cost was very cheap compared to home, where we have no opportunity to go horseback riding at all, so i couldn’t pass it up.


we got connor into the smallest of helmets, and they wanted to put him on a kid’s saddle, but the stirrups wouldn’t go short enough, so he ended up on a regular saddle with severely shortened stirrups.  it’s been 30 or more years since i’ve been on a horse, but it all comes back – how to check the belly band, how to adjust the stirrups, how to brush the horse, how to get the mane out from under the pommel, how to hold the reins.  and connor got really tired of me telling him to sit up straight, and insisted he knew how to do it.  so i asked, and the lady running the school told me i didn’t have to be there after the first lesson.  which was a relief, because the walls.


on the way back from the ring, i got a call from bjarney, who was down at the troll statue with the boyfriend, drilling holes into the rocks so we could sink some rebar to keep the thing together once the kids discovered it.  i’m going toh ave to set the rods myself, because bjarney has gone to reykjavik for a week or so, and we won’t be doing much with the statue until she gets back.  except tommy is supposed to come and put a huge rock on with a crane on the back of his truck at some point.


so i went to the bank, and started on the troll that someone else has designed.  it’s meant to be a tourist attraction, and the designer and i have been going back and forth about how high that pinching hand is supposed to be, and the color scheme, and all sorts of things.   i’ve been messing with the grid for some days, but the ground slopes, so i had to get her guidance about how to deal with that.  so i found a level on my phone, and started.


on wednesday we had the sock tie-dye workshop at tjarnarborg, with the kids and several moms and grandmas (thank god).  asta, alice and i had been advertising this workshop for a couple of weeks, and connor and his friends passed out printed invitations, but it was asta staying up all night calling people around town that really did it.  we had a packed house full of kids, and almost ran out of socks.  i had ordered 9 pairs each of large, medium and small kids socks (thru graycloud – thanks a bunch), and brought my dyes.  last time i was here we had a tie-dye workshop for adults, so this time i thought it would be twice the fun to just let the kids loose on them.  and so it was.

graycloud came in for a few minutes to take pictures of the kids for his album of olafsfjordur faces, and i gave the kids minimal instructions, and let them go.  unfortunately i had forgotten to warn the parents that the kids would come home with their hands stained by dye, because it’s not something i think about personally.  i hope none of them were upset; the dye wears off after a couple of days, especially if you go to the pool.

the first thing i realized was that i didn’t have enough dyepots.  so i had to gather up a bunch of drinking glasses from the tjarnarborg kitchen, split up the dye i had premixed, and mix some more.  i couldn’t give each kid a brush and an eye dropper and a squeeze bottle, so i put a bunch of these on the table, stuck the brushes and eye droppers into the dye pots (and still they got mixed up and the yellow turned green).  i showed them a couple of pairs of my own socks for inspiration, and then just tried to make sure they had enough of each color (cyan, magenta, yellow, black).  then when they were all done, in about an hour, i gave them a plastic bag and a rubber band, and passed around the only pen i’d brought with me, and asked them to put their names and addresses on the bags so i’d know which socks were whose.

of course, bringing them back home to batch on top of the radiators, i realized that i would have no idea whose socks were which once i took them out of the bag to rinse and wash.  so i had to photograph the socks and the bags, and when they are dry, i’ll have to go and match them with the pictures.  and then i’ll have to find the kids’ houses according to the (sketchy and blurred) addresses.  this will give me the opportunity to also go around with the troll houses from the first kids’ workshop back in june.  the pictures have been sitting on my steps for almost three months, waiting for me to go around and glue them to various outdoor structures.  (and in the meantime i’ve gotten horrified looks from parents when i ask them about pasting up their kids’ drawings onto the cement walls at street level.


immediately we were finished with the workshop, i had to get connor to his riding lesson.  it was rainy, so he wore boots, and i didn’t, and was sorry.  the farmyard was sodden, with horseshit everywhere, and it was hard to walk.


but i went back to the wall and put on the first coat of the local color.  in the rain.

that night was a dinner at ida’s, because anna kristin is off to denmark or sweden, or maybe norway, for 4 months of college, and i won’t see her again.  ida made 3 pizzas and we ate until we were stuffed.  connor ate 3 pieces!  he loves her food more than he loves mine, and that’s kind of a family tradition at this point.


this is the boring view from their house.  i could sit there forever.


when i put connor to bed i went back to the wall to put on the second coat, and left around 11pm.  talked to jim for the usual hour last thing before bed – up in the attic since it turns out that graycloud, downstairs from me, can hear every word and it keeps him up at night.


this morning we caught anna kristin doing her final transaction at kaffi klara, taking care of some guests who wanted coffee.


connor had fun stealing bjarni’s glasses.  he told everyone that i am difficult to live with, and as a grandma, i’m kind of proud of that. somebody has to be.


after breakfast at kaffi klara (a waffle with cream and chocolate sauce – thanks anna kristin), we went home and i rinsed out the socks, and then washed them twice before i was satisfied.  they’re on the radiators drying right now.


but i went to the wall while connor had his lesson, and went back afterwards while he played at kaffi klara, and now it’s mostly done, except for the texture on the rock and restating the black lines.  the designer visits this weekend, and i hope she likes it.


i’ve got three walls to finish, and as many more as i can manage before we leave, in almost 2 weeks.  i’m so going to miss this place.  even if it only hits 8 degrees and the wind blows the rain into your face even sitting in the hot pot.  people know us now, and it feels like home.  but then, we have a home to go to, even if it’s hotter than hell and toxic politically.  it’s still ahem home.

Posted by: jeanne | August 2, 2017

first days of the august residency

so it’s been a whole week since i last posted.  and it’s not because i have nothing to do.  it’s because there’s too much to do and too little time.  four weeks.  gak.

last thursday morning i got my times confused.  usually i set my phone alarm for 12, 12:30 and 3:30 at a minimum – these are the times i have to have connor fed, ready for soccer, and picked up from soccer.  but i was thrown off partly by having to go down to the sculpture site at 10, where bjarney’s eldest boy and connor played in the tall grass and threw stones into the lake while we sorted rocks and decided we needed some help, arranging to meet again later that afternoon.  so connor and i went to the school and while he played on the soccer field, i got up on the wall and worked on the mythical beast.  it wasn’t exactly overly windy, but it was coming from the north, and there was a whistling around me as the wind cut thru the scaffolding.


then we went back to meet bjarney lea out at the statue site.  she’d called in a reinforcement, runar – a man to do the heavy lifting – and we got the largest couple of rocks we could lift onto the huge base gulli had left in place a few days ago. we mixed up some cement and plastered down the two large rocks, then dashed in some pebbles to cover that cement look.  bjarney washed cement off the rocks to preserve the wonderful colors and textures in the local rock.  you can just see her boy in blue in the middle ground, where connor is hiding in the tall grass.


then we spent some more time working on the troll woman and the mythical beast while i kept cursing my phone for not going off as scheduled.  until i realized i was an hour early for the clock.  but by that time we’d packed up and were ready to go back to eat lunch.

so we went up to tommi’s to talk about getting him to come down to the statue and drill some anchor holes and stick rebar in there.  because the kids are going to climb the statue when it’s done.  and the teenagers are going to try to topple it.  while we were there, connor played with some of tommi’s workers, and i took pictures of tommi with his elf ears for a mural on his roof that i may or may not have time to get to.


once i’d dropped him at soccer, i went up to asgeir’s house and talked to him as he ate his lunch.  the scaffolding wasn’t quite ready, so i went back to the school and did some more, half an hour’s work, before going back up the hill and starting work on his mural.  it was even windier, and right before i left, the ladder i’d just gotten down off of blew over.

the factory having its roof painted.  still haven’t started repairing and buffing the wall, tho

it was a lovely day, and this is the view from his house.  shaky damned scaffolding, tho, and i had to be extra careful.  and, interesting to me, i managed to toss down my ruler, stirring stick and small paintbrush into the grass, rather than trying to carry them down, and then completely forgot about them until today, when i fetched the ruler only – the dog having scavenged by stick and paintbrush (else that or the elves took them).

the wall’s surface is very rough, and very hard to paint.  it’s some sort of cement board, and wore my chalk right out.


but in the end, i got the outline of asgeir on the wall, and then had to go rush off to get connor and go swimming.


late that night, around midnight, i took this photo out of the bedroom window.  it’s beginning to get dark at night.  not all the way dark, but dark enough that i’m having to use the room light to write this (at 1:19am).  when i made hot chocolate for myself a few minutes ago, i had to turn on the kitchen light for the first time – i didn’t know where the light switch was until just now.   hahahah.


the next day was friday, and i came down with some sort of flash illness that anna kristin had a few days ago, and lizzy – one of our artists who came to the statue site and helped us lift a few stones that we couldn’t have otherwise gotten up there – came down with the day before.  so i had a migraine all day.  i attributed it to the elves, who have heard me promise not to work on the weekends, and then heard me say oh maybe i can start the wall in dalvik on saturday.  but maybe it was viral.  anyway, i was in bed most of the day on friday.

but on saturday i felt much better, and made bread, cookies, and spaghetti, paint two scarves, and start a little mini painting.

and on sunday, i dropped sonja off at the bus stop, using the time we waited to have the kind of chat we never had time for in the two months she was with us.  the bus came, it didn’t look anything like the regular sterna busses (it was green), and when she wrote an email to us later in the day, turns out it was over booked, and people were sitting on each other’s laps before they got to reykjavik.

later, anna kristin came over to finish her oil painting (we’d mixed up some oil paint several days ago and she started a painting of clouds, but then got tired of working with it and abandoned it), and it turned into a watercolor painting instead.  connor did a few paintings to add to his collection, and i colored in the drawing i’d made the day before.


then on monday, lizzie left with her friend at 9, and we sat and talked at the bus stop about life in general (they’re so young), and then i went back to the downstairs apartment and saw anno and his wife out at 11, and then it was back out onto the sculpture site at 1, where bjarney and anna kristin and i loaded up another layer of rocks, including the big mother that had been intended as support on the ground because we’d thought it was too big to lift.  but get three women together, and you can do anything.


there was a bit of an issue when one of her kids fell into the lake, but after ten minutes she was back, long enough for anna kristin and i to sit on a nearby bench and soak up some sun, and then mix up another tub of cement.  there was this cloud over the mountain that was there all day long, and we all thought it was very interesting, and paused to take photos of it.  it remained there even while connor and i were at the pool, later on.


i spent the rest of the afternoon and much of the evening cleaning the main residency house.  tho the artists had each left their rooms cleaned, nobody had dusted or swept under the beds, the kitchen needed super cleaning because one of the artists due in has a severe nut allergy and the artists in july had a huge tub of peanut butter they’d gotten part way thru.  also, the gallery was a mess, and the art supply room was in tatters.  i cleaned up the supply room, and anita, who is staying another month, went around with white paint for the walls, and cleaned up and rearranged the furniture to make everything nice and homey – thanks, anita.

i came home, intending to apply to a last minute award program for artists with kids, but completely missed the deadline because of all the cleaning that needed doing.  oh well.  who needs funding, anyway?

on tuesday, i went around to the other house and cleaned.  it was kind of strange doing so, because fiona and bastiaan were still there, sleeping late, and there i was cleaning the kitchen and making sure the bathrooms were clean.

then back out on to the wall.  it was only slightly less windy, but still it was painful to be at the school, because i was in shadow all day, and it was damned cold.  45F, perhaps.  but i had to finish.  and i had to meet several new residents.  orlaith (pronounded orla), from northern ireland, came on the reykjavik bus, the same green one, at 2:15, so i was on the school wall for an hour at a time, going back unwillingly after showing her around and giving her the keys.  and i can call teh wall finished now, except lara texted me from poland, where she’s attending a meeting, and pointed out that the wings are both on the far side of the beast’s body, so i’m going to have to go back up there – after i’d told gisli to get the guys to take the scaffolding down.  oops.  i’ll do it maybe tomorrow…


in the evening, laura (from italy) got herself here from akureyri, tho the friend who drove her had car trouble.  and alfredo (from spain) drove himself in and arrived without notice, and found his house, and showed up at the door for the keys, escorted by bastiaan, who is staying a few more days.  so i went to bed.

this morning, i think it was this morning, bjarney and i showed up at the house behind us, where the guys had been using a lift to help with their roofing project.  they’d taken three weeks to do the roof, taking long breaks, quitting around 3, and when tommi told me they were related to skuli and guffa, i asked ida to call skuli and guffa to ask them to call their relatives and ask to borrow the lift, which was two doors down from their house.  i wanted the guys to drive it over to their house when they quit for the day, for several days, and let me put a mural of skuli and giffa on their wall, which faces the webcam, which skuli runs, and which pauses dramatically in its panning right there at their house.  it’s my trolls’ window to the world, and i think it might be the most important wall, because it’s the only one that can be seen from the webcam.  so i had had jim design a troll couple waving at the webcam, and got skuli and guffa to pose waving for the camera, and was all ready to put it up, except i couldn’t possibly put it on their stairs without killing myself.  so it was all very problematic.

but when i talked to bjarney about it, and how i would never be able to do the sports center mural if i didn’t have a lift, it turns out she’s related to the mayor’s assistant, haukur, so she called him up and lit a fire under him, and he and the mayor decided to pay for the lift themselves, and rented it from the guy who owns it, who happens to be the guy who owns the house in back of us, whose lift i have coveted to paint skuli and guffa’s house.

and when i went over to show guffa the design jim made, she was sitting in the living room crocheting with the mom of inga and ingimar of the crutch and raven mural, the one who’s been bringing me lopapeysa sweaters ever since i finished the mural.  so it’s a really small town.  and for the first time in my life, that doesn’t give me hives.  it’s why i left my college town, after all, when i realized it was like a big game of musical chairs, where everybody would be dating and everybody else in town, one at a time, going around in a big circle and getting incestuously intense.  but now, at this time, and since i’m an outsider, i don’t mind.  it’s kind of comforting.

so there we were, getting the guy who owns the house and the lift to show me how the thing works (very complicated – i filmed the process on my phone), and then bjarney and i went over to tell guffa i was going to do the wall after all, except we weren’t going to be able to move the lift right past the owner’s house without him noticing… but guffa pointed out the area beneath the stairs, which while smaller and less impressive, can still be seen from the webcam, plus i can do it with a step ladder.  so that’s yet another wall added at the last minute.  that makes 7.  to do in 4 weeks.  and the week is now half over.

today i saw fiona (from the states) off at 9, with connor playing on his tablet in the back seat while we waited for the bus.  orlaith came by on her bike, and told us she’d left her expensive camera on the bus yesterday, along with two bottles of wine she’d bought at the duty free.  in the states, or even in ireland, that would be gone forever, but in iceland, the bus driver brought it back to her in a plastic bag, with a big grin on his face, and didn’t want to take the nice bar of chocolate orlaith had brought for him.

then connor and i went to asgeir’s on the hill, and he played with his tablet and watched tv while kristin, asgeir’s wife, did home stuff on her day off, and brought me coffee, and talked to me about her eldest daughter, and having red hair, and getting older, while i painted in the parts of the figure i’d drawn in last week.  it was cold, and windy, but the wall is sideways to the wind and i had my jacket on.  the jacket is getting quite the speckled effect from all the paint i’ve been spilling on it.  as well as my sweater, and never mind the jeans.


then after connor went to soccer, i collected sherry (from canada) and we went back to the farm to do some more work.  bjarney met us there, because she needs to learn how to do walls if she’s going to continue the work after i leave.


i grayed in the remaining figures, checking several times to make sure the mama sheep was right, and neglected to put any black on because the girls had the black and the think brushes, and i was working with the 3″ brush.


there’s some more left to do on both walls, but it’s great progress, and i should be able to finish it in only two more sessions, sherry being back to canada and bjarney going on vacation next week.


after swimming, i went and collected two more artists, a pair from canada who are here to finish a book they’ve been working on for a year.  they’ve got a contract, and a deadline.  it’s very full circle for me, because i originally came here to work on a book, my unfinished novel about what happens when the ice melts from antarctica.  it’s  dystopian novel, and all the bad crap i was writing about has started coming true, so i stopped.

connor went out with two friends to deliver invitations to houses with kids, because we’re having a tie-dye party with socks next week.  and while he was gone i went up to asgeir’s house, because i suddenly remembered what happened to my ruler and brush.  while i was there i noticed they’d been trimming the bushes.  because people have begun looking at their house from the main road.  he was still out when i got back, so i went to the bank and started chalking the figure in, except i ran into some questions, so came back here and emailed the designer about it.  and i’ll start it mañana.

and late in the evening, our last artist arrived, all on his own, my having left his key under the mat downstairs.  we have two more coming, but not until next week, and the orientation is on saturday.  so that’s all the running around i have to do for awhile, and i can go back to concentrating on the various projects.  i would be out on the school all fixing the little mistake if it weren’t nearly dark, which is why i’m writing this post now, at 2am, because the artist downstairs went out for a few photos and left his keys inside, and the door closed behind him.  it happened to me, but not before i’d hidden a spare key in the yard.  so i gave him his spare key and told him to do the same.  but he’d woken me up, and then i couldn’t get back to sleep.   now the hot chocolate is gone, and i’ve finished my post, and i’m going to try to get that sleep before going to the sport center in the morning.

Posted by: jeanne | July 26, 2017

last days of the july residency

it’s not my last days, but my current batch of artists is getting ready to pack up and go home.  we’ve already said goodbye to jason this morning (and i almost had him miss his bus because i didn’t realize he was waiting for the bus to akureyri instead of the bus to reykjavik).

in the meantime, i’m doubling down on work on the walls.  on thursday morning connor and i went around to six different walls to measure and make sure everything was ready to go.  that’d be the two murals at the farm at hlith, the back of the house at ala’s, the second floor of asgeir’s house up on the hill, the tall wall at menntaskolinn (the junior college), the bank, the family house in dalvik.  this leaves a few walls that are still maybes – the factory wall, tommi’s roof, the sports center, bjarney’s side wall, skuli and guffa’s stairway, and the small wall at kristin the scrollworker’s shop.  and five weeks.

once i took connor off to soccer, i met sherry at the cafe.  sherry’s been helping ida on a work share program, and she had some time free, so i asked her to research the plants that are native or at least prevalent in the north part of iceland.  ida had a book, and they went thru it and marked the right pictures, and we came up with half a dozen plants.  i took pictures of the pictures with my phone, and several locals chimed in with varieties that actually grow here, and their icelandic names.  most of which escape me at the moment.  then we went to kristin the scrollworker’s shop to talk to her – it was her idea and she also has a book – but she wasn’t there, so we tsk tsked at the condition of the wall she wants me to paint, and went back to our separate jobs.

the guys doing the addition at the school provided me with scaffolding in the morning, so after meeting sherry, i went up on the wall and started gridding.  i had chosen yellow chalk, and i don’t know why, because it fades immediately to white, and the wall was white.  so i got out the light gray paint and put a dab at every intersection.  the scaffolding was wobbly, and only covered part of the wall, so i could only measure part of the entire surface, and that proved problematic when i realized my scale was wrong.

i’d spent some time in the gimp (photoshop for linux) cutting apart jim’s drawing, separating out the troll woman from her mythical beast.  she was fine at 12′ tall, but the beast was way too small.  this is important because you can see the wall all the way from mulatindur (auto repair shop) halfway up the hill to the tunnel to dalvik.  so i had to enlarge it to double its size, and put it on the ground surface.  it’s not exactly ground, either.  the scaffolding had to be erected on top of a plywood sheet resting on the trash container, which is a concrete and wood structure about my height.  and it was erected to be in one spot, with supports to compensate for the fact that the board, and the scaffolding, were wider than the container.  and once i moved it to grid the rest of the wall, it lost its support, and boy did it wobble.  if i’d realized that there was a danger of the board cracking and the scaffolding coming down into the parking lot, i wouldn’t have moved it, but i didn’t, and wondered why it was so wobbly.  i learned, and moved it back, and haven’t moved it again…

then anna kristin came over and we made dinnner. that is, she made diner with ingredients collected from her house and the cafe and combined with stuff i had here.  chicken curry.   then we went thru the bag of sheepskin trimmings and she took the largest pieces to make a rug for herself.


on friday i worked all day on the school wall.  in the pictures you can see the blue lines of the beast drawn in, but i realized quickly i wasn’t going to be able to continue at that scale, and just concentrated on the troll woman.  connor played with his tablet until it was time for lunch, and once he was off to soccer i went back to the wall.


saturday morning, we went to dalvik for connor’s soccer tournament.  he surprised everybody with his skills; he and a little girl named greta ran after every ball and took all sorts of initiative trying to get the ball away from the other teams, who were much more alert and won all the matches.  but nobody cared.

here, for the connoisseurs among us, are a thousand photos of connor.  actually, i took about 350 on saturday.  he’s such a star.


here’s connor’s coach congratulating him for scoring a GOAL!!!!

the little girl in the red hair is greta, the other ball buster on the team



between matches that only lasted 11 minutes, the kids swarmed their coach





betwwen matches, the kids played near their parents, and greta proved dominant here also


connor finally learned how to do the congratulate members of the other team thing

the proud team members after it was all over

and their congratulatory hotdog, which are made of mostly lamb here in iceland



you can’t walk three feet without coming across trolls in this landscape


approaching dalvik, a really nice part of the troll peninsula

connor was asleep only moments after we finished our ice cream that night.  but we still went swimming after we got back.

on sunday anna kristin came over and made us icelandic pancakes, or crepes, with powdered sugar and in my case, strawberry preserves.  i forget what else we did, but i don’t work on walls on the weekend at this point, just to have a break.  oh yeah.  i made bread, finished dyeing a scarf that hopefully won’t fade like the first two did, and we went walking up the avalanche ramp in the late evening, it being so sunny and warm.  these days it starts out at 60F and goes up from there.  it hit 25C in the north, with clear blue skies and really intense sun.  it was too hot.  roasting.  nobody was in the hot hotpot at the pool, and the kids were jumping into the cold pot and splashing everybody, with nary a complaint.

for mommy

the view from the top of the ramp

we walked along the slope of the mountain until we came to the highest houses

on monday, connor and i went to the school and i worked on the wall until it was time to go to lunch and get ready for soccer.  connor mostly played on the playground nearby, and ended up playing soccer with some teenagers who were hanging out in the sunshine.  i was working in my t-shirt and jeans, with no leggings, no sweater or vest, and no shoes or socks.  the glare off the wall was devastating.


after he went to soccer, i had a bowl of gazpacho at kaffi klara (thanks ida) and took sherry up to hlid to start work.  except that they hadn’t yet painted and repaired the walls we were going to do.  so i showed them jim’s drawing of the troll getting rammed by the sheep.  i had spotted the problem awhile back, because i had given jim a photo of a sheep butting heads, but it was a longhorn ram, and needed replacing with an icelandic sheep.  but i had replaced it with a male sheep, so they straightened me out, and pulled up a photo of one of their own mama sheep, and i took a photo to use.  the difference is the length and curvature of the horns, and a more rounded nose on the female.  who would know but a sheep farmer?  can’t get that wrong…


then sherry and i went to ala’s house to begin drawing in the many figures that go on her wall.  ala’s wall is different from anybody else’s because not only can you not see the mural from the main road thru town, but it’s on the back wall, where nobody can see it from the street at all.  but that’s okay.  it’s the hidden troll mural.


while we were there, kara, her daughter, made us some lovely waffles, and we sat down with coffee and talked for awhile.  sherry gridded up two of the walls, and also chalked in the designs on them.  it’s her first time doing a wall mural, so i’m making sure she gets to do everything so she can go back home to vancouver island and start working there.  maybe not with trolls….


the mural on ala’s house features not only her whole family, but also their pets.  so i got a nice picture of their dog, a rescue that bites everybody, but loves me and connor.  it’s because she looks so much like connor’s dog lilly that we both fell in love with her.

on tuesday we got up extra early to go swimming, because we knew it was going to be too busy later.  and after that we headed to ala’s, where connor had a wonderful time jumping on the trampoline with kara and playing with ala’s grandkid’s legos, and trying to get her oldest son to put minecraft on their tv so they could both play it.  lunchtime came too soon.  but it was also incredibly hot on her back patio, and a bunch of her friends came over and sat around with their tops off drinking coffee and talking.  i worked as fast as i could, but still 3 hours passed in just a few minutes.

after lunch, sherry and i went back up to hlid, where she gridded the wall of the main house, drew in the birch tree, and started painting it in.


while i did the same thing on the wall of the sheep barn, and managed to get the colors on the little grandson and the dog.  not all the colors, and not the right ones on the dog at least, but it was a good start.


again, the wall was blistering in the sun, and i was quite burned and blind when i was finished.  and i was only finished when my alarm went off and we quit to go get connor.

that evening, we had the final exhibition and dinner party for july’s residents.  we gathered at 4, put our artwork on the wall, opened the door, and actually had a few local people come by to see our work.


it was very gratifying to show people around, explain how we did things, and discuss what we’d been doing all month with each other.


jason’s knotted nets and ropes were a big hit, and ida decided she wanted them for display items for an upcoming marine festival.


we all loved the big rope work, and called in lara to see if she wanted to hang it in her school, and she told us with wry irony that in this town, discarded bits of rope are truly trash, and nobody here would appreciate art made with that kind of trash.  so as nice as it is, it’ll probably end up in the dump, where perhaps one of the august artists will decide to do something with it.



dinner was fun, with everybody bringing something that they made.  i made bread, of course, and also used some of the cod in my freezer to make a casserole.  people have been giving me cod fillets.



and after dinner was over, no sooner were connor and i out of the residency house than a bunch of his friends greeted him, crossed the street to us, and gave connor an enormous water canon, which he duly used on them.  they came over to our house with it, and they all played in the little parklet across the street until 10pm.


this morning, i was up bright and early to get jason to his bus.  we sat at the pool waiting for it to arrive, and it was 15 minutes late, so we had lots of time to talk about how much we both love it here, and what he could do if he came back.


and then i found out that he was going to akureyri, not reykjavik, and should be waiting for the straeto bus out on the street, not the sba bus at the pool.  so i shouted for connor, who was off playing on the soccer field, but he went running off to the sports house to return a ball, and at the same time i saw the straeto bus go by, and i had to make a decision.  so i left connor there and ran after the bus, which stopped in the middle of town to pick up an old lady.  so i pulled in front of it and let jason off, and thank got he made it because i would have had to run him to akureyri.   connor was a little put out when i came back to pick him up, because he wondered if i was going to leave him there or what, but it was safe to leave him there, and he understood after i explained it.

then we went back to ala’s house, and while i worked in the sweltering sun, he played with kara on the trampoline, and ala talked with neighbors over the back fence, starting with anna kristin who was walking her dog, and ending up with i don’t know how many others, all speaking icelandic while the dog barked at the kids laughing and giggling on the trampoline.


i really love working when all that fun is going on around me.  it’s so much better than having headphones on and listening to music.  which i would never do, anyway.


when it was time to go, connor didn’t have his accustomed fit, but he wasn’t happy about leaving.  i still have the details to do, so we’ll be back.  i love hanging out with ala, she’s just like me and we have a great time sharing and talking.  that’s what i love about doing all these walls.  it’s a very personal thing, both for me and the people whose walls i’m painting.

after dropping him off at soccer, where they all got on the bus to siglufjordur for the afternoon, i went back to the school.  but the wind kicked up as soon as i got there, and when the wind is up here, it’s a gale.


i didn’t mind getting on the scaffolding to put a second coat on the troll woman’s dress, and to paint in the red on the tiger, but the ladder kept shifting in the wind, and whistling thru the pipes, and at one point tore the paint can lid off the board and sent it flying across the parking lot and across the street, so i took it as a warning.


and when bjarney came to tell me that gulli had finally delivered the rocks he had promised us for the troll statue (which i guess i forgot to talk about so far), i quit work on the wall and went out to the lakeshore, where we took half an hour or so to shift the pile of rocks, sorting it into sizes (can’t budge, can barely heft, can throw, small rocks) and figuring out how we’re going to do this.  we only have a few days until she has to go away for awhile, so the troll statue is going to get made now.  she bought cement (i need to see if it’s portland cement, or do we have to add lime to make it into mortar), and she’s going to get a friend to come help us shift the large rocks into position around the huge flat rock that gulli brought us for a base.  it’ll be interesting.

these yellow flowers lining the stream weren’t there earlier in the week

when we were done with that, i went to hlid to work on the troll man.  it was so windy that the birds weren’t flying, but that particular wall is on the leeward side of the farm, so i was again baked by the sun.  but at least the paper wasn’t torn out of my hand…  the troll man ended up being too short and stumpy when i drew him in using the scale that would fit the wall horizontally, so i had to enlarge the scale vertically, and then he fit just fine.  i haven’t outlined him in black yet, because i thought i would start with the color and go from there.  maybe saving myself a step by not having to restate the outlines.


and then it was time to go get connor.  and we went to the pool in a gale.  and all the birds were hanging out on the hill; nobody was flying.  and it was too cool in the pool, for me at least, even tho connor wanted to continue doing dives and swimming the breadth of the pool underwater.  but i wanted to get into the hot pot.  so i let him go in the kid pool and mess with some tourists, and then let him get floaties and go down the big slide a few times.  one of the obvious things about three or four days of sweltering sunshine is that both of us lost our sniffles, sore throats and coughs during it.  now that it’s windy, i can feel my throat scratching again.  and i thought it was the vitamin c and echinacea.

tonight’s dinner was leftover sausages and noodles and soup and baked beans, and he went outside again.  we were actually waiting to be called back to the troll statue site for some heavy lifting, but that’s been put off until tomorrow, so i can finish this and call jim.

it’s back to being 9C outside, and it’s still blowing.  there are some low clouds / fog on the mountains and out to sea, and it’s forecast to get back to cool and rainy this weekend.  so we’ll see.  more of the residents leave this weekend, and on monday i have to make sure all three buildings are spotless and ready for the next artists, one of whom has a deadly peanut allergy, so i’m going to be very busy cleaning the kitchen and pantry, because everybody in that house loves nuts.

Older Posts »