Music and Big Sur

I left out a couple of photos from the post on Monday and Tuesday.  Here some of us are, hanging around the garden of the Carmel Mission, waiting for the All Bach Organ Recital:

It was a nice day, too, one of the few that week.  And I took my usual photo of the inside of the Carmel Mission nave, which is too gorgeous to omit:

The other thing I didn’t add about Tuesday was that, during the Bach Dialogues concert, the modern piece by Lachenmann was very poorly received; my diary says it was “random noises from (mostly) the chorus,” and that 4 people walked out!

Wednesday was a little different.  We didn’t have a concert until 3 PM, so we decided to drive down the coast to Big Sur and have lunch there.  We started down under a windy overcast – the wind at this stop was so stiff it almost blew me over, and I’m pretty solid.

Eventually the overcast changed to a thick fog and then cleared.

It ended up one of the nicest afternoons we had, including a lovely lunch in the outside patio of Ripplewood, in Big Sur.

On the way back, Jim decided we should drive the Coast Road.  This is the road which predates Highway 1. dating to the 1920s or before.  I didn’t get any photos because we didn’t stop; it’s a 2 lane road, graded but not paved – it runs through the El Sur Ranch, the only Spanish land grant that was never taken over or broken up.  The road is narrow, winding, and lined with No Trespassing and Stay In Your Car signs.  We were very glad to be in the Subaru Outback with its high clearance and all wheel drive. We averaged 10-15 MPH, lurching madly, and took 45 minutes (maybe longer; Jim says it’s 10 miles long). I don’t think we saw 3 other cars until we came to the Bixby Creek Bridge overlook – everybody pulls off Highway 1 to come in there and take photos of the bridge.  Massive traffic jam, from people who were not sure what they wanted their cars to do.

Wednesday afternoon’s concert was 2 Bach cantatas, at All Saints, with the same collection of singers.  I didn’t write anything specific about it, but we always enjoy Bach.  They did My Soul Magnifies the Lord (BWV 10) and Soar Joyfully Aloft (BWV 36.5). 

The Wednesday night concert was in the Carmel Mission Basilica again, and was a little different – it was called In the Beginning and was a collection of American hymns, psalms, and spiritual songs.  It included a few modern pieces (“modern” being 19th century or later!):  a Carolyn Shaw, an Aaron Copeland, a Charles Ives, and a Randall Thompson.  This was a totally different collection of singers from the afternoon concert, and I don’t recall anything standing out except that I knew some of the traditional pieces (how can you not know Elijah Rock!). 

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Starting Concert Week

For us, Monday of concert week at the Bach Festival always starts with the All Bach Organ Recital in the Carmel Mission Basilica.  This is a solid hour of nothing but Bach fugues played on the basilica organ.  No stops for applause between the pieces either.  Sitting and listening to that can make everything else go right out of your mind, it’s an amazing experience.  And I’ve never seen the Basilica less than full.

After the organ concert we went back to the room briefly and then out to a big lunch at Anton and Michel, one of our favorite restaurants.  Why a big lunch?  A few years ago, the Bach Festival changed the time of its evening concerts from 8:00 PM to 7:30 PM, and the time of its pre-concert talks (which we always attend) from 7:00 PM to 6:00 PM.  This makes it very hard to go out to a nice dinner before the concert, which we always liked to do – some of the restaurants aren’t even open at 5:00 PM yet.  So, a big lunch, and a selection of fruit and protein bars for a dinner snack in late afternoon. 

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Music in Carmel, 2023

In 2022 when we went to the Carmel Bach Festival, we came home with COVID (even though we had to prove our vaccination status and wear masks to every indoor concert).  I may write that trip up one of these days, it was mostly quite nice.  This year’s trip was  different – in the best way, because we did not come home with COVID (even though masks were no longer required)!   My photos from this trip are in my gallery Carmel July 2023.

We drove down on Saturday July 15, and it took us over 3 hours, largely because of a massive accident on the Nimitz Freeway, although traffic on 156, coming over from 101, was also backed up.  We drove through temperatures ranging from the low 60s to 103 – thank God for an air conditioned car!  The low 60s, we were happy to see, were in Monterey County.  Carmel was sunny when we arrived, but the fog bank floating off the coast was so low coming into Monterey that we couldn’t see the ocean from the freeway until we got to (I think) Sand City, where it cleared.

We didn’t stay at the Cypress Inn, as we have for some years; the Friday of the week we wanted, they were booked solid.  We chose the Carriage House Inn and were generally more pleased with it than in our previous stay, at which the breakfasts (delivered to the room) were unsatisfactory and the wifi was very iffy.  Our biggest problem was the first night.  Our room had a king sized bed, and they furnished it with king-sized pillows which were stuffed so full that neither of us could sleep on them.  The next morning we spoke firmly to the manager, who gave us a pair of normal sized pillows; after that the bed was fine.  I didn’t take a photo of the room, as I sometimes do, because the entire west wall was windows.  I am glad I took a headlamp; the Carriage House doesn’t have reading lights in the rooms.

The Cypress Inn is 3-4 largely flat blocks from the Sunset Center (where the performances are).  The Carriage House Inn is built on a steep slope – the entrance is on Junipero between 7th and 8th, but the exit from our room came out (down a steep stair) on Mission near 8th.  It’s only a block and a half from the Sunset Center.  With the hotel on a hill, I did a lot more climbing than I’m used to in Carmel, and my asthma noticed it – I rarely have breathing trouble except when I’m climbing.  Oh, well.

We had dinner Saturday night at La Balena, an old favorite restaurant.  We always go there, and they recognize us.  The Carriage House Inn was close enough to La Balena that we could walk there, which was nice. After dinner I walked over to Bruno’s Market and bought a box of decaffeinated English Breakfast tea, since the Carriage House provides a lovely thermos full of really hot water for us tea drinkers.  (But they didn’t have any decaf black tea.)  I still have half a box of teabags which I may take on my next trip somewhere.

We didn’t go to any concerts on Saturday.  Sunday the 16th our usual concert schedule began, an afternoon choral concert with the Magnificat of Carl Philipp Emanuel Bach, and for comparison, the Credo from his father’s Mass in B Minor.  The singers were excellent, with a new bass-baritone soloist who has a very strong voice.  After that we had dinner at Basil Seasonal Dining, before walking over to All Saints church for an evening concert of instrumental fugues by Bach (the father), Haydn, and a modern composer, Caroline Shaw. 

More about the week and the concerts in the next post.

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Halloween 2022

Walking around the neighborhood, I’ve noticed some really imaginative Halloween decorations, not just the purchased styrofoam tombstones (which have the same inscriptions in every yard!).  I’ve taken some photos, and if I find any more this good I’ll take more.  You can find the whole gallery here:

Here are a couple of examples, from the same street (but not the same block):

I’m not sure if that bush is a pruned down lemon tree or lime tree.

And here’s the best of half a dozen homemade tombstones:

Feel free to check back in the gallery from time to time in case I find any more good ones.

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Home from the Celtic Isles

Yes, I wrote up Edinburgh Castle last November, and yes, that was the end of the tours to the Celtic Isles.  But  we still had to get home; and I found some notes about that trip in my travel diary that I’ve decided to share.  First, I didn’t realize I had noted my pedometer reading for the day in Edinburgh – I walked 3.84 miles that day, over 10,000 steps!  And did my feet feel it!

I also noted that we were scheduled to head for the airport very early – my initial notes say we had to get up at 4:30 AM to get our luggage ready for pickup!  My notes after we got home said it wasn’t quite that bad – our bags had to be ready to go by 6 AM, and our bus left maybe 40 minutes later, giving us just time to gulp down some breakfast.  And Jim thought we’d have to go through customs at Amsterdam; I note that he was wrong but I don’t have any other indication.  I don’t really remember going through customs in Edinburgh but I guess we must have.

Our flight from Edinburgh to Amsterdam left at 9:10 AM and took 1 hour 35 minutes, about what it takes to fly from Oakland to Las Vegas; Amsterdam is a little closer to Edinburgh than Las Vegas to Oakland.  But there’s a time change in there – British summer time is 1 hour behind the continent!  We thought we’d arrive at 10:45, we landed at 11:45, and our flight to SFO was scheduled at 12:35!  Fortunately, the Edinburgh flight came in early, at 11:25.  Unfortunately, we landed to find that Amsterdam hadn’t assigned the SFO flight a gate yet, and didn’t announce it for some time!  When they did announce a gate, it was a long brisk walk away.

We made the SFO plane.  Business class makes long non-stop flights much more endurable but I still can’t sleep on planes.  I figure the whole day ran to 22 hours.  And then, when we went to get our checked luggage in SFO, it wasn’t there!  The baggage desk said it was “delayed.”  It was delivered to the house in a day or so, I recall, I didn’t write that down; but I was very glad I had a carry-on with all my meds in it.

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Edinburgh Castle

As I promised in the last post, this one is dedicated to Edinburgh Castle.  The photos are all in the Edinburgh gallery; I won’t be posting all of them, so feel free to go look.  Here is the first photo of the Castle, the entrance (a little fuzzy, sorry – my phone doesn’t handle auto-focus as well as I’d like).  As you can see, there was a pretty fair crowd waiting to get in.

Edinburgh Castle entrance

Here’s a better look at the entrance gate:

Entrance gate to Edinburgh Castle

The Fortress

The Wikipedia article I linked above gives a pretty complete history of the site, including the fact that the hill it’s on (called Castle Rock) is the plug of an extinct (very extinct) volcano, a form of basalt called dolerite.  The site has been used at least since the Iron Age (1200 – 600 BC), and its use by the rulers of Scotland goes back to King David I of Scotland, in the 12th century.  Because the sides of the basalt rock are pretty much vertical except to the east, where softer land was deposited by glaciers passing over, the Castle Rock could only be approached from the east, which simplified defense.  The rest of Edinburgh is all to the east of Castle Rock, including the approach area called the Esplanade.

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Finally, Edinburgh

Having spent much of yesterday on a bus traveling from our last port to Glasgow, and then on to Edinburgh, we now spent this day riding around Edinburgh and vicinity on a bus.  

I took some photos of Edinburgh streets as we drove around in the bus.  You’ll find all the photos from this day in the gallery Edinburgh, feel free to look through it. Here is a street view, they all look pretty much like this.  The land around Edinburgh is gorgeous (you’ll see some photos).  The town is built very much like this – talk about dense housing, much of which was built in the 18th and 19th centuries.  It is not friendly to the mobility impaired, but then, neither is most of old Europe.

Edinburgh street, from the bus.

I don’t know what this building is, but it has the lion and the unicorn on the front, in gold relief.  Since this is the official Royal Crest of the United Kingdom, it must be a government something, but I was on the bus and never found out.

Architectural detail, Edinburgh, from the bus

The trouble with photogaphy from a bus is that you can never get the whole thing, especially if the “thing” is Edinburgh Cathedral.  Sorry about the bus seat.

Edinburgh Cathedral, from the bus

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Touring Glasgow

The day after we toured Glencoe and Glenfinnan (see The Scottish Highlands post), those of us who paid for the tour extension left the boat, with luggage, and were bused to Glasgow, for the first part of the extension. The photos are in the gallery Glasgow.

When we got out of the bus, the first thing we passed was the oldest house in Glasgow – called Provand’s Lordship.  It is a 14th century house, originally built as part of a hospital.  It’s one of 4 surviving medieval buildings in Glasgow and is currently a house museum.  I didn’t go in and probably should have, but our time in Glasgow was limited.  Here it is:

Provand’s Lordship, 14th century house

We were too close to the house to get a shot of the whole width, this is about half of it.  There’s a photo of the other half in the Glasgow gallery.  The other reason I didn’t go there is that the main attraction in this district is the Glasgow Cathedral – which is now a Presbyterian church.  It is the oldest cathedral in mainland Scotland and the oldest building in Glasgow.  Here it is:

Glasgow Cathedral, aka St. Mungo’s Cathedral

Yes, I couldn’t get all of the spire.  St. Mungo is the patron saint of Glasgow, he is reported to have built his church on this site, and his tomb is in the lower crypt.  With the lenses I had, and the time I had, I never got far enough away from the cathedral to get a full photo of it.  This is probably the best picture I got:

Glasgow Cathedral

There are several other external photos of the cathedral in the gallery.  We did tour the inside of the cathedral, and I took a number of photos, of which these are probably the best.  Do look at the gallery for the rest of them.

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The Scottish Highlands

On the last day of the actual tour we made two stops, at Glen Coe and Glenfinnan.  The photos for this day are all in the gallery Scottish Highlands

We came ashore in the morning at Fort William, after breakfast on the boat.  Fort William is in the Lochaber district, on the southwestern coast of Scotland.  A look at the small map on the linked Wikipedia article for Fort William shows you that it’s actually quite far inland, on a long but very narrow sea loch.  This is someone’s boat, anchored in the loch off the town.  I took the photo from the ship.

Boat on the sea loch by Fort William, Scotland

The first thing we did ashore, of course, was to climb into the buses for the drive to Glen Coe.  Out on the road leaving town, I was charmed to find us following the local bookmobile, or one of them:

Bookmobile, leaving Fort William

Full disclosure:  in the first half of my career, I was a librarian.  That’s why bookmobiles attract me.

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The Isle of Mull

As I said in my last post, our trip to Iona ended with a ferry ride to the Isle of Mull, where the tour company had taken the bus we didn’t use on Iona.  In fact, the cruise instructions say that we anchored off the Isle of Mull while we were touring Iona.  The photos for this article are in the gallery Isle of Mull.

Here’s the Isle of Mull.  This isn’t the harbor where the ferry delivered us, which is no more complicated than the one on Iona.  This is a beach next to the harbor.

Isle of Mull, near the harbor

I do want to share the first thing I saw as we looked around Fionnphort (pronounced fin-a-fort; I will never understand Gaelic pronunciation!), the town where the ferry from Iona lands.  It was this stout fellow:

Sheep, watching us on the Isle of Mull

Yes, we were still in Fionnphort, and so was the sheep.  We all loaded into the buses (I think we had 3 buses) and drove off across the Isle of Mull, heading for Duart Castle, our reason for coming to this place. 

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