- Sinin’s bar, La Torre, in a God forsaken village (Reliegos, León). A balm for my heart, cracking jokes while I iced my shin, charged my phone, and ate a delicious bocadillo de bonito while Duke Ellington blared on the speakers.
- Feeling bunches of grapes, their sensual weight, in the Rioja region.
- Speaking of the Rioja, crossing the Ebro River (the biggest river in Spain) on the old stone bridge.
- Swimming and having lunch at the refreshing public swimming pool at Zubiri.
- Lunch at the Universidad de Navarra, when I had just gone in to get my stamp.
- Freezing in Burgos.
- The Pilgrim’s Mass in Burgos.
- The smell of fig trees.
- The chapel of Nuestra Señora de Monasterio in Rabé de la Calzada.
- The crystal clear, fresh water at Hontanas.
- Dipping my tendonitis inflamed leg in the cool, clear water in the Esla river at Mansilla de las Mulas – which, by the way, totally healed my leg!
- The barn turned albergue in Boadilla del Camino.
- Catching up to Krisztina in Villamayor de Monjardín, and again in Mansilla de las Mulas.
- The Pre-Romanesque chapel of San Miguel outside of Estella.
- Meeting Virgina one of my Dissertation Director’s best UVA friends in Leon, by chance!
- Meeting a baby cow in Santibañez de Valdeiglesias.
- Vespers with the nuns of St. Claire at their Convent of Carrión de los Condes.
- Seeing the rainbow outside of Leon.
- Vespers with the nuns in Sahagun.
- The chapel at San Nicolas del Real Camino on the side of the Pisuerga River.
- The bumper cars in Nájera.
- Sitting on a bench the morning of my (forced) rest day reading the Book of Job in Carrión de los Condes and two gorgeous horses being walked down the street.
- A trailer bar set up in the middle of the parched fields a few miles before Los Arcos with the radio blasting and all sorts of refreshing goodies.
- An albergue in the middle of Palencia blasting Tchaikovsky, with geese in the garden, and native American tepees in the back yard.
- A fun, magical evening of love, drinks and tapas in Leon’s Barrio Húmedo and Barrio Romántico with my old colleague, Ana and her sister.
- Doing laundry every day.
- La Casa de los Dioses. A stop in the middle of a pine forest set up by David from Barcelona on an abandoned farm before Astorga. He had refreshing fruit, cool water from a botijo, and shade.
- The (free) wine fountain at Bodegas Irache.
- The aperitivo before Sunday mass at Viana with Marie Helene and Krisztina.
- Drinks at the Drunken Duck pub in Logroño.
- Residencia Universitaria Miguel de Unamuno, León.
- Stopping for orange juice at La Morena, possibly the hippest albergue of the Camino, but definitely the best orange juice!
- Babia, across the street from the Burgos albergue, one of the best breakfasts on the Camino.
- Angel’s shop, Amari, in Larrasoaña, blaring the Blues Brothers on vinyl.
- The chapel of San Esteban outside Pamplona where you can ring the bell (if you climb the bell tower).
- The coffee spoon at Mesón El Yugo in Valverde de la Virgen, it was s shaped so it rested vertically on the cup.
- Starting to walk in the pre-dawn darkness a few days.
- The river crabs being fished out of the Canal de Castilla near Frómista.
- Putzing around Belorado for the better part of a morning: getting coffee, buying assorted supplies, visiting the pharmacy and the post office.
- Buying cherries in Pamplona from a rude sales guy that did not enjoy washing the cherries.
- Walking by Villava, birthplace and home of Miguel Indurain, my cycling hero.
- Translating the tour of Roncesvalles from Father Vicentín to English and French.
- Watching the San Fermin bull runs on TV in the mornings getting breakfast at bars along the Camino.
- Santa María de Eunate.
- The massive medieval bridge at Hospital de Órbigo.
- Doing yoga on the lawn at Roncesvalles with James.
- A fire just outside the albergue in Cizur Menor.
- Watching the sun rise over the Pyrenees.
- The Romanesque cloister at the Cathedral of Estella.
- The chickens at the Cathedral in Santo Domingo de la Calzada.
If we do not take time to appreciate beauty, how are we spending our time? This year has been another remarkable year for art, culture and beauty in Chapel Hill. It is a town with an exquisite taste for that which is beautiful. I have been lucky to enjoy that, even when in the stress of finishing my dissertation I had to miss some great performances.
The season started for me with Juliette Binoche, of whom I have been a big fan since the 80s, playing Sophokles’ Antigone in the T.S. Eliot translation, what a presence! I love strong women (now you know my vote for November 8).
UNC artist-in-residence, violinist Gil Shaham played Bach’s six violin solos. I think I still have goosebumps.
Two days later Shaham played Verdi and Tchaikovsky with the UNC Symphony.
As I become older, I have become more and more selective in my taste, but being a lover of the Portuguese Fado, I went to see Mariza, It was very nice, although I miss the tavernas in Alfama.
Another highlight of the year was listening to Riccardo Muti, directing the Chicago Symphony’s Beethoven’s Fifth and Tchaikovsky’s Fourth. Of course as an encore he regaled us with some Verdi!
In November I saw The Ensemble Intercontemporain play some modern pieces. Pierre Boulez’s sur Incises for three pianos, three harps and three percussion blew my mind. Rock and Rollers talk about Phil Spector’s “Wall of sound”, I have also heard it mentioned about Brian Eno and U2, but this piece is more like a tactile wall of sound, like a curtain of sound. Watch for yourself and tell me what you think in the comments section!
Before the Christmas break, I saw the great Carolina Ballet’s Nutcracker. Don’t mess with tradition.
Gil Shaham performed again in February, playing Prokofiev and Beethoven and I got to go with my composer friend, James.
After defending and delivering my dissertation I managed to catch a few more great events. The evening my dissertation was accepted by the Graduate School, I rode old Rocinante to a nice opera recital in Durham, Talya Lieberman sang a fantastic mix of Handel, Ravel, and Kurt Weill. Brava!
Back at UNC’s Memorial Hall I saw Les Arts Florissants perform a repertoire of Baroque Serious Airs and Drinking Songs. What a brilliant way to say farewell to four great years of jaw dropping concerts at Carolina Performing Arts.
Again with my dear friend James, we saw the North Carolina Symphony perform Handel, Haydn and Stravinsky’s modernist masterpiece The Firebird (1919).
On the theater front I saw not one, but two, Chekhov plays: Three Sisters and The Cherry Orchard, which the last time I saw performed was by my students at the Walnut Hill School for the Arts! I also snuck in one musical: Sweeney Todd, lovely Gore!!!
Of course I always support students’ productions and concerts which included two operas, the UNC Baroque Ensemble, the UNC Symphony Orchestra, and the University Chamber Players.
All in all, an extremely rewarding season, the likes of which I do not foresee enjoying in the near future.
One of the many things I love about living in Chapel Hill is the amazing cultural scene. One really has to pick and choose what events to go as there is always so much going on. Most events are free or $10 as a student. Since this is one of my few indulgences, I enjoy preparing my evening around the event, which always ends with a decompression session at Zog’s and debriefing with the amazing musician / composer and rock star bartender James Brown. This semester I have enjoyed:
Benjamin Britten’s Curlew River
The Pittsburgh Symphony Orchestra performing Rachmaninoff: Rhapsody on a Theme of Paganini and Mahler’s Symphony No. 1
The NC Symphony performing
Tchaikovsky’s first piano concerto with an amazing Di Wu on the piano
A Bach evening
Brahms Violin concerto #77
The UNC Symphony’s
Beethoven Symphony No. 2
The Baroque ensemble with the amazing, charming and funny Prof. Wissick doing a mostly Germanic repertoire.
The UNC Opera doing Shakespeare inspired bits
The UNC Playmakers theatre did Into the Woods and A Midsummer night’s dream in back to back performances
The “amateur” theatre group did Dracula, which was brilliant and funny!
And of course no season is complete without The Nutcracker, the NC Ballet’s performance.
Since I choose to go to all these concerts I do not go to rock, pop, jazz, etc. concerts of which there are, of course, even more. I hear about them from my students that go to see groups like Corporate Herpes and so on. Hmm, not for me any more. Although I do feel bad that I have not yet partaken in the experience of going to some of the more popular venues for those kind of gigs. Who knows, I might let my hair down someday (joke) and go!!!
I am already excited for next term’s performances, which include UNC Opera doing Strauss’ Die Fledermaus, The Mariinsky Orchestra, Kronos Quartet, Britten’s War Requiem, Martha Graham, Monteverdi Vespers of 1610, and who knows what else, I can’t wait…