Quilt Gallery

Monday, December 28, 2015


Although Marseille is the second largest city in France, it is not nearly as popular a tourist destination as Paris. I felt as though I was seeing a more authentic version of France than Paris. We saw only a small part of Marseille: the old part of town which surrounds the old port, and some of the waterfront which includes old fortifications and churches with newly built museums and pedestrian malls.

I enjoyed wandering the narrow streets of the old part of town, trying to capture the character of the place with my camera.

Typical old Marseille architecture

I found the MuCem (the Museum of European and Mediterranean Civilizations) building itself fascinating without seeing its exhibits. The building, designed by architect Rudy Ricciotti and opened in 2013, is most notable, at least from a distance, for its latticework exterior. Here is a sunset view across the top.

Sunset over the MuCem

The interior is equally interesting with ramps that seem to float in space and spiral around from level to level, offering bay views through the latticework on one side, and peeks into offices on another side.

MuCem walkway

The rooftop deck, restaurant and bar can be reached via the interior ramp or by the even more dramatic concrete ramp that connects the MuCem to neighboring Fort St. Jean. This view of part of the ramp just captures a Lilliputian-looking Notre-Dame de la Garde on the opposite side of the port.

Notre-Dame de la Garde seen from MuCem deck

Here you can see part of the MuCem site - on the pedestrian mall and adjacent to the Villa Mediterranee, another dramatic public building which houses an amphitheater, exhibition space and offices.

Marseille Waterfront

This image at Fort St-Jean shows how the 17th century fort has been combined with modern pathways and art.

At Fort St-Jean

And here you see part of the the Villa Mediterranee overhang and the 19th century Byzantine-Roman style Marseille Cathedral reflected in the MuCem windows.

Marseille Cathedral - times two

Finally, here is a view of the old port with its thousands of sailboats, and Notre-Dame de la Garde dominating the hillside.

The Old Port

In the harbor we hopped on a small boat for a short excursion to the Chateau d'If, most famous as the site of Edmond Dantes' imprisonment in Alexandre Dumas' story "The Count of Monte Cristo."

Chateau D'If

Dumas certainly took some liberties in his portrayal. For example, the cells were not so deep and dark as he described.

View from a Chateau D'If cell

Still, it was thrilling to walk around the chateau and imagine the characters and events he so compellingly wrote about.

Chateau D'If courtyard

The only shopping we did in Marseille was for soap. On the advice of one of Steve's colleagues at the Aix-Marseille University, we made our way to a little shop tucked away beneath a bakery, and loaded up on several kilos of Marseille's famous olive-oil rich soap. For Christmas gifts I knit up some cotton washcloths to go with the luscious soap.

Marseille Soap

This turned out to be my favorite pattern. Using variegated Lily Sugar'n Cream cotton yarn I cast on 40 stitches, then alternated two rows of knit 2, purl 2 with two rows of purl 2, knit 2 until I had a square, then cast off.

 I hope everyone has been having a wonderful holiday season!

Friday, November 20, 2015

Paris: In Sympathy, In Solidarity

This post, which I have been meaning to write since my visit earlier this fall, is not much changed from my original conception of it, except that last Friday's events have made me focus more on its people and less on its places.

Even before last Friday, I was struck by the openness with which Parisians live their lives. Cafes, which seem to institutionalize this openness, are busy throughout the day. It might be for a croissant at breakfast, taking in the sun at mid-day, watching passersby from an outdoor table, or meeting friends for a drink after work. It is no wonder that earlier this week Parisians made a concerted effort to repopulate their cafes. It affirmed their way of life and demonstrated that their attackers have not won.

Another important element of life in Paris is fashion. As one of the world's capitals of fashion, it was exciting to see a fashion photo shoot in progress. Many other people had also stopped to watch, but did so from a distance and angle that didn't interfere with the photographer.

Place des Vosages

One of the liveliest places we visited was Montmartre, clearly a tourist mecca, but interesting nonetheless for the grand, domed Basilica de Sacre-Coeur,

Carousel and Basilica de Sacre-Coeur

narrow streets, bustling cafes, 

La Boheme Cafe

and artists at work.

I snapped a photo of this gentleman talking on his phone in the courtyard of L'Hotel de Bethune-Sully because of his elegance and his adorable dog. They appear so companionable! And unguarded. I wonder if after last Friday he can still be at ease in such a public place. I hope so.

In the courtyard of L'Hotel de Bethune-Sully

I will end with this image of the Eiffel Tower, a structure which is both open and soaring. The statue appears to be holding the tower in a protective embrace, as though to demonstrate that we cannot take for granted our open society, nor our right to have soaring aspirations. We must cherish them. We must protect them.

Wednesday, November 4, 2015

Apple Season

Ah, fall! Fresh apples and comforting spices like cinnamon, nutmeg and allspice.

During last Friday's huge storm - over eight inches of rain in less than six hours at my house - I whipped up a batch of apple walnut muffins for an afternoon snack. I used unpeeled apple chunks to add both flavor and texture.

Cream together
  • 1 cup sugar
  • 1/2 stick unsalted butter
  • 2 eggs
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla
Combine dry ingredients
  • 1 cup flour
  • 1 cup whole wheat flour
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
  • 1/2 teaspoon nutmeg
  • 1/4 teaspoon allspice
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
Add dry ingredients, in two increments, to sugar and butter, alternating with 
  • 3/4 cup milk
  • 1 1/2 apples, cut into 1/2 inch cubes (enough for about 2 cups)
  • 1 cup walnuts, coarsely chopped

Spoon into prepared muffin tins and top with combined
  • 1 tablespoon sugar
  • 1 teaspoon cinnamon

Bake for 20 to 25 minutes in pre-heated 400° oven. If you haven't used cupcake foils, let cool for half an hour before removing from tins.

Besides crispy apples and cooler weather, for us fall brings visits to our daughters in New England. This year peak colors coincided with our trip and we were treated to splendid displays of foliage. The Northfield Mount Hermon campus was positively glowing.

NMH fall colors

Sugar Maple leaves at NMH

For the long weekend break we headed to New Hampshire's White Mountains yet again for some hiking. This time we stayed at the Appalachian Mountain Club's Joe Dodge Lodge at Pinkham Notch, right at the Tuckerman Ravine trailhead. Given the White Mountains' reputation for bad weather, we were thrilled to step out into a day of blue skies, warm temperatures and moderate winds.

Getting ready to head up the trail

We pretty quickly diverted off Tuckerman's, one of the busiest trails in the White Mountains,

Fall color on the Tuckerman Ravine Trail

to Huntington Ravine, a trail that is definitely less taken. We saw only three other people, two climbers and one hiker, along the entire route. Once above tree-line the trail becomes a scramble, up and around boulders, and over bare rock slabs, requiring care to follow the trail blazes marking the route. I wouldn't want to descend this way, nor try it on a rainy or icy day, but in the warm sunshine it was great fun.

Resting along the Huntington Ravine Trail

Being up high I could fully appreciate the land's contours, ridge after ridge marching off towards the horizon.

I marveled at the effort that has gone into making and marking these trails.

Descending the Boott Spur Trail

Much as I enjoyed the exhilaration of the high, rocky terrain, as my energy waned towards the end of the day, I welcomed our return to the forest, finding comfort in its protective and colorful embrace.

Nearing the junction to Tuckerman's Ravine trail, we had one final jolt of excitement: a moose on the trail! This was a first for us in the White Mountains and therefore truly memorable.

Moose on the Boott Spur Trail

Fortunately she was intent on eating and merely looked at us and twitched her ears. We couldn't have scripted a better end to the day. I'll leave you with one parting shot of color, this from along the Dolly Copp Road as we departed the White Mountains.

The Dolly Copp Road

Friday, October 23, 2015

Seeing Red

Earlier this month I made a trip to Paris and Marseille, with a brief stop in London on the way home. Now that I've been home for a bit and have had time to look at all my photos together I am finding some interesting themes among my collection. Red, for example.

In the UK it's hard to avoid seeing red since it is used on many public facilities, such as buses and trains,

Piccadilly Circus tube stop

post boxes, and phone booths. I didn't check to see whether these old phone booths still have working phones in them. Does anybody use still them? Maybe they are just part of the scenery now, intended as subjects for tourist photos. 

Belgravia, London

In Paris red is more often used to make a personal statement, as in these love locks on the Pont Neuf,

Love locks on Pont Neuf

and in these red laces, which I spotted near the Louvre.

At the Carrousel du Louvre

In some cases red stole the scene. Tatiana Wolska's free-form sculpture contrasted sharply with lush  gardens in the courtyard of the early seventeenth century Hotel de Bethune-Sully in Paris.

Sculptures by Tatiana Wolska

Coca-Cola's enormous sign looms over Eros at Piccadilly Circus.

Statue of Eros at Piccadilly Circus

Equally arresting was this couple just outside the Piccadilly Circus tube stop. Her red dress caught my eye, but with no time to change camera settings, I just pointed my camera and clicked. It was this blurry image or nothing, though I rather like the blurriness as it conveys a bit of the motion and chaos of Piccadilly on a Saturday night.

Piccadilly Circus at night

Less chaotic were the shiny doors welcoming us into The Grenadier, a traditional pub near Belgrave Square.

The Grenadier

The red door of the Chateau d'If, a few minutes by boat from Marseille, is not quite so welcoming, at least if you imagine yourself to be Edmond Dantes of "The Count of Monte Cristo."

At the Chateau d'If

In other cases red was more of a highlight. A red-jacketed pedestrian appeared at just the right moment to add interest and a sense of scale to this image of Green Park in London.

Green Park

A red-shirted runner completed this scene of the lattice-work exterior of the MuCEM (the Museum of European and Mediterranean Culture) in Marseille. I will have more details about this building and Marseille in a subsequent post.

Runner alongside Marseille's MuCEM

Greeting me on my return home was this piece, consisting mostly of scraps, which has come together slowly from the scraps that I sew together every time I sit down at my machine to work on a proper project. It is very much an improvisational piece and I'm not entirely sure where I am going with it, except that eventually it will be large enough for a twin size bed.

I like the sunny yellow center, but once the borders were sewn on the yellow seemed overpowering. Hence the appliqué tree, the idea for which came from a book I enjoyed as a child, "The Cookie Tree," illustrated by my uncle,  Blake Hampton.

In spite of all the yellow, the red highlights are enough to make me see this piece as predominantly red. A little red goes a long way.