California is such a diverse place. The people, the geography, the climate all conspire to keep it interesting. This year started out with a grim outlook due to the lack of rain for much of the state, but as winter pushed its way towards spring, the rains came and spring alit.
The hills came alive in greens and yellows and urban and suburban gardens were bursting with color. I travel frequently, and am lucky to be able to experience great places, but this time it was not so much the place I experienced, but more a place in time. Springtime, to be exact. It's actually hard to put it into words but everything just seemed more alive for a very palpable, but brief period of time. Two weeks later it was gone as summer clearly took hold. The California palate had faded. The memories of those vibrant colors, however have not. The coral tulip popping out of a bed of lime green ceanothus against a cobalt sky has been etched in my memory and bits of this recent encounter with California spring, has already been working its way into the a current project. "How did you come up with the color for that wall?," I will get asked. "A California sunset," I will reply. I'll probably get a look, but hey, I was there, it was really that color, and it moved me.
This year's trip to Europe was different on several fronts. First, it was a bit earlier than usual which created a different experience. April in Paris was quiet because it was cold and rainy. No fighting for those oh-so-handsome chairs in the Tuileries, lines at L'As Du Falafel were short and chocolate a l'ancien at Angelina was really about warming up, not just about the sugar rush. The less crowded streets actually made the always stunning Parisian architecture seem even more significant. Paris is my go to city, one in which all other get measured against and it was a treat experiencing it under less than ideal weather. It made me love it even more.
So to further diverge from my normal traveling routine (going someplace, and staying there), I not only visited Paris, but Florence, Rome and Malta as well. Moving about (and frequently) was exhausting and limited what I was able to see and do in each of these places. That being said, what I did see in those few short days in each place,was amazing. Florence was all about walking around and discovering this beautiful old city. The architecture and setting is spectacular and the food was far better than remembered from past visits. I stayed clear of all the "must do's that is in every guidebook and visited smaller, less traveled sites becoming immersed in all that is Florentine.
A brief 4 days in Rome followed Florence. Rome = Amazing. It had been 30 years since my last trip and I obviously wasn't paying attention the first time because back then I didn't like it. Under the guidance of a teacher of Roman history, I toured the ancient city and gained a whole new appreciation for the scale, scope and cohesiveness of these buildings. The coliseum was built in 7 years. By hand. Out of stone. With NO electric tools. These days it would take that long to get a permit and fight every special interest group along the way. The history was palpable. Following Rome was a handful of days in Malta. Malta is an interesting place, but more from the perspective of its colorful and often troubled past than what it currently is. Not quite Italian, not quite Middle-Eastern, not quite British and inherently beige, Malta suffers from an identity crisis. The setting of Valetta with is archipelago-like setting is really lovely but I just wasn't feeling the connection that I have for so many other places.
The cumulative result of experiencing different parts of the world is that it makes me feel grounded and connected to humanity. Regardless of how I feel about a certain place, what is undeniable is that these places and these experiences open my eyes and mind and all of us here have a commonality. There is no substitute for experience and certainly no way to compete with history. It is supremely humbling to stand at the base of a 80' Roman column that is perfect and it makes me wonder why, with all the resources we have at our disposal today, do buildings not endure. Something to ponder on next year's journey.
I recently had the opportunity to visit mid-coast Maine for the first time. Pre-departure from 82 degree Maui, I was trepidatious to make the journey to 20 degree weather and a forecast of freezing rain, but work called so I went. Even the misery of 20 hours of travel on an assortment of man's wonder machines was worth what I experienced upon arrival in this magnificent part of the country.
Travel is an opportunity for us to get out from our lives and look at the world differently and I am grateful for any chance I have to experience the world and the incredible diversity it contains. Maine has never been on my radar but this trip solidly put this beautiful and remote place on my list of must see places. Rugged coast lines, gentle rolling and heavily wooded hills and bucolic architecture. Truly everywhere you looked was like a postcard.
But let's focus on the architecture for a minute. What captures you immediately is the fact that almost all the houses are cohesive, with clapboard siding, high pitched roofs with little or no overhangs and starkly placed on their lots - usually with ample space between them. The towns as well have a cohesive and comforting quality about them - places you want to visit. My first impression is that "they" got it right a hundred plus years ago. So why have we since degraded our homes into cramped neighborhoods with cookie-cutter homes and we shop in characterless strip malls? I certainly don't know but am also pleased that there has been a resurgence of trying to create more cohesive, aesthetic and livable communities.
Maine was inspiring and reaffirmed that simple and bucolic architecture endures.