New Zealand (and perhaps especially Auckland) is famous for four seasons in one day. Theoretically, this would make the challenge simple. Perversely, though, the trouble with rapid shifts in the weather is that it can be hard to pin down an iconic moment that marks the shift from one season to another. In Christchurch, the arrival of the migratory godwits marks the beginning of spring. But summer? Summer is elusive.
Meanwhile, we walked down to French Bay*. Today was a magnificent day. The sun glowed in a nearly cloudless sky, the trees swayed in a gentle breeze. A sign, perhaps, of the summer to come? Kauri trees struck elegant silhouettes, surrounded by smaller cabbage trees. At the beach in French Bay, there were paddle-boarders, and a handful of others sitting on the sand. After all, the season is only changing, and the water is not very warm (yet). The pohutukawa were not flowering here, but they had begun to bud – the distinctive red blossoms often flare up, bright red, for Christmas. As we walked elsewhere in Titirangi, we saw that the pohutukawa had started flowering – some trees covered in the bright blooms, others with just a few. The best moment of the afternoon came with the discovery of a swing, above a path to the beach. And next to it? A pohutukawa tree, flourishing and with the brightest flowers you can imagine.
And we realised this was it. Pohutukawa flowers represent that iconic moment: summer is here.
Photos by PJD & CIA, with invaluable assistance from Nature. All photos were taken today, as we walked around Titirangi, Auckland.
* I first heard of French Bay when I saw an amazing painting (one of several with that title) by Titirangi artist Colin McCahon. McCahon is one of New Zealand’s best known, and most influential artists. This particular French Bay painting is often (always? we haven’t been for a while) displayed in the Toi Te Papa (Te Papa’s art collection) on Level Four of that wonderful museum. So, it was with some excitement that I walked down to the bay for the first time today.
A while back I wrote a short post about the small details in nature that we often overlook. I like this photo, taken on a rambling walk along the old city walls in Luzern this May, because it similarly shows the tiniest detail – the white pollen tips of the flowers, the delicate stripes on the petals. These flowers were tiny themselves, and could have been easily missed, but that afternoon, the pace was slowed down, as we enjoyed unseasonably warm weather and comfortable chatter with dear friends. So I had time to look around, and notice the more minute details. However, I am still working on my close-up photography skills; this photo is far from perfect – I can already see what I need to improve in order to be more technically proficient – but I am happy with the detail I did manage to capture, and looking forward to the day when I can take photos of details like these in an even better way.
Photo by CIA, Luzern, Swtizerland, May 2012.
As PJD wrote yesterday, the pace of everyday life is fairly fast. So much so, that sometimes we (you, me, us) don’t really stop to catch those little moments (momentjes) in time which are hidden, not immediately apparent and which take a little more time to notice. A few weeks ago, I was reminded of this, as we slowed the pace of life down and meandered, somewhat aimlessly, enjoying the sunshine, through the cobbled streets of Amsterdam. It seemed like the whole city was out that day, enjoying the beautiful warmth, and we were just three friends, among many, our chatter and laughter melding into that around us of strangers, as the minutes, hours passed lazily by. Somewhere along the way, we caught a glimpse of this beautiful doorway out of the corner of our eyes. We’d already walked past, even though our pace was slow, yet it was so lovely in the dappled mid-afternoon light, that we just had to turn back and take another look. We all had smiles on our faces, as we walked away again. Little moments in time, spent with special people really are life’s simplest joys. As we look towards embarking on a new adventure together, it’s comforting to know that so many splendid memories will be carried with us, and as we go, remembering to relish the little moments in time, wherever we may be.
Photo by CIA, Amsterdam, August 2012.
Last week, PJD shared an in-depth glimpse into one of the art exhibitions that we have been most impressed with, ever. This was the incredible Slow Art exhibition at the Nationalmuseum, which we were lucky to find by chance when we were in Stockholm recently.
We were so surprised at the beauty of the pieces collected together in this small exhibition. In keeping with the theme, due to our captivation with what our eyes saw, we slowly took it all in.
Slow Art has really lingered in our minds; we have discussed many of the pieces we saw in the exhibition a number of times since we returned home to Leiden, reflecting on the fact that an overarching characteristic of the works was their exquisite beauty and uniqueness. So, today I thought I would share a few more of our favourite pieces. Sure, we loved them all, and the ones that PJD has already documented in his post were certainly amongst the most impressive. Yet, the depth of the quality in this small collection was quite astonishing, and these pieces really are quite something… Read more
One of my favourite scenes from being in Paris in the early days of summer this year is walking in the Jardin des Tuileries. This photo sums up why: This is a garden with deep history; grandiose stretches of green space in the heart of the bustling city; vibrant wildflowers, dancing brightly as far as the eye could see, their light scent wafting into your nostrils; a public space for all sorts of people doing all sorts of things; fountains and ponds for fun to be had by youngsters with boats; sculptures to attract the eye and the art lover. All this, set against the timelessly gracious Parisian skyline, mansard rooftops stretching out low in the distance. Wandering in the Tuileries in those early Summer days really was Paris at its most picture-perfect best.
Photo by CIA, Jardin des Tuileries looking towards Les Arts Décoratifs and Rue du Rivoli, Paris, June 2012. Who needs Instagram when you can have Pudding Camera?!
We are (finally!) enjoying some splendid summer days here in the lowlands, and I’m struck more and more by the way that when the sun comes out in any meaningful way, the Dutch people flock to the beaches on the Zuid Holland coast of the Netherlands in their thousands. What this means (apart from a sudden disproportionate amount of sunburnt people) is that the cities and towns that they flow out of for these beach day trips are noticeably quieter and less crowded. Remembering that the Netherlands is a relatively small country, with fantastic public transport links, I’m reflecting on the fact that today my various commitments took me to three Dutch cities in one day, which seems quite amazing – but this really is par for the course here in the Netherlands for a lot of people. However, after a day connecting between Leiden, Utrecht and Den Haag, my favourite time of the day was a beautiful walk around the medieval city centre of Utrecht. I was there in the mid-morning, and given the rush away by many of those on holidays from the city to the coast to take advantage of the beautiful day, there was hardly anyone around. I particularly liked my walk down the long, narrow alleyway-like pedestrian street named Zakkendragerssteeg (steeg essentially means a small lane). I’d walked down this quaint, old-world street when I have been in Utrecht before, but that was late at night in the middle of a freezing winter after a night out – not the best time to appreciate the charm of the street.
The light I saw it in today (it’s so narrow, you can easily miss it – I just happened to remember to walk down it after glancing it by chance out the corner of my eye!) certainly made me realise that the Zakkendragersteeg is a special little slice of Utrecht – with cobbles under your feet, old buildings all around you (no doubt full of history), flowers, flags and the glow of warm sunshine on my face, walking in this ancient, gezellig place felt like a quintessential piece of Dutch zomertijd.
Photo by CIA today in Utrecht; quality is low due to only having a phone camera to hand, but hopefully the photo captures the feeling in the Zakkendragersteeg well, nonetheless.
There’s not a day that goes past when we don’t feel fortunate about having such a beautiful garden right outside our windows and on our doorstep. It’s certainly not a regular kind of backyard, and a far cry from what we’ve known back home in the antipodes. Now, with summer starting to make its warm and sunny presence felt, we are finding that there’s no better space to while away any spare hours we might have. Today I thought I’d share some photos of this amazing space.