AUG 5: EDINBURGH (PT. 1)
i arrived in edinburgh in the late afternoon in the rain, returned my rental car, and headed to the center of town where i would meet a group of students from rollins college (where i will give a lecture on this project in september) lead by friend (not to mention professor and talented artist) rachel simmons. (check out rachel's blog for an alternate account of the next few days.) the fringe festival was in full tilt, and the city was buzzing with activity, the locals having long since split town. i slept with ear plugs to muffle an event in an adjacent building which raved on into the wee hours of the morning.
AUG 6: GLASGOW'S HUNTERIAN & THE FOSSIL GROVE
what seemed like mere hours after arriving in ediburgh, rachel and i hopped a train to glasgow. at this point in my travels i was starting to wing it when it came to the small stuff. (looking up directions ahead of time, checking for opening hours, for instance.) travel fatigue was setting in, combated only by my desire not to miss opportunities. i had been looking forward to visiting the fossil grove since i left new york, so that was first up on the day's loose agenda. after getting some completely incomprehensible directions from a scotish bus driver, we finally got to the bus station, chose a stop, and found a less heavily accented local to point us in the right direction.
the fossil grove is fantastic, and unlike anything i'd ever seen. the fossils are the remains of an ancient forest, around 330 million years old. unlike petrified forests, which are formed from the actual wood of the trees (growth rings ofter still in tact), these fossils are actually casts of their former selves, capturing the broken down wood (and other materials that would have entered the stumps) in fossil form, the bark long since broken away. the resulting forms looks more like clay sculptures than wood or rock.
next up was the hunterian museum, where we would meet with jim devine, head of multimedia at the museum and a friend of our friend (and talented artist) diana folsom. there were stuffed pigs with two heads and stuffed deer with two bodies and a single head. there were geological samples and explicit illustrations of the birth of gynecology. it was sort of a natural history museum greatest hits by way of ripley's believe it or not. (oddly enough, my hotel in copenhagen is next store to the danish ripley's. i haven't been in.) though there was something resonant here as well -- it was interesting to think of the oddities in terms of chance and anomaly -- they have that in common with the OLTW.
so the day was lousy with interesting things. i was pretty sure i was reaching my saturation point, however, when i looked out at a panoramic view of glasgow trying to reconcile some missing landmarks in the landscape -- until i realized i was, ahem, looking for landmarks in edinburgh. (the following week i would awake with a start on a plane to copenhagen, certain for a moment that i was in the back of a car in france.)
AUG 7-9: EDINBURGH (PT. 2)
but back to edinburgh it was. on the 7th we visited the large and pristine botanical garden, where i was happily surprised to see they had a william eggelston exhibition up. the following day was a hike up arthur's seat, a little highland landscape located within the bounds of the city. disinterested in a long walk around it's base to the gently sloping incline, rachel and i decided on a more adventurous route. after passing through a depression filled with some pot-smoking men, we scaled a cliff-like side, the weight of my ever-heavy camera bag strategically leaning forward as not to send me tumbling back down. we made it up (and back) uninjured. i'll have to take in the northern highlands next time. now it was time for france.
AUG 9 - 16: THE SOUTH OF FRANCE & A LITTLE SPAIN, TOO
a little time off couldn't have come at a better time. i won't bore you with the details, but suffice it to say that i swam in rivers, pools, and the ocean, hiked, biked, and ran, and ho mangiato molto bene. (yes, i know, that's italian.) as for other entertainments, leave it to the french to come up with the world championships of espadrille-kicking. contestants run up to the starting line, an espadrille perched on their kicking foot, and let 'er rip. surprisingly you don't seem to get points for flair, it's all about distance. the current world champ is measuring in at 25 meters. not bad.
DEATH IN THE AFTERNOON
but not all amusements are such fun and games. i also attended my first ever bull fight in bayonne. it was a first for the matadors, too -- it was a novillada, the first time they would fight the bulls publicly in the ring, not to mention all the way through to the death blows.
this was a complex experience, from deciding to attend in the first place all the way through the post-fight discussions. i'm going to have to save this one for a separate posting -- it warrants exploring.
ART IN THE AFTERNOON
since i was a hop, skip and jump from northern spain it seemed downright silly not to take in the guggenheim bilbao. while all the controversy about gehry's involvement in the ratner development in brooklyn has put me off of him (not to the point that i'm wearing a "fuck frank gehry " tshirt, mind you), i have to admit that the guggenheim is worth its salt. (and if you know my feelings about salt you know that i wouldn't say that lightly.) my highest compliments go to how the space compliments the richard serra work. if fact i've never seen it done better. (sorry MoMA, dia, gagosian.) the monumental anselm keefer's also seemed right at home. not surprisingly i was particularly taken by keefer's works incorporating star maps and "the secret life of plants."
it's remarkable that some art and architecture managed to put an old ship building town on the world map.
the last stop (!) on this OLTW trip: siberian bacteria in copenhagen.