lundi 5 juillet 2010

Life aquatic

At my parents' house in Derbyshire, there is the memory of running through sprinklers wearing just a swimsuit in the summer months or of sitting in a shady corner of the garden with my book drinking iced tea. Inside, the old brick walls meant that it was deliciously cool, the ideal place to while away the school holidays. Later on in Lyon, it was to the mountains that I escaped when the temperature rose. On Friday evenings, J. and I would set off with enough water, food and our hiking equipment for four days; there was the satisfaction of seeing the silhouette of the Fourvière cathedral become smaller and smaller in the rear view mirror and the sight of the heat flickering on the tarmac in front of us. The best part though was after we passed Grenoble as the road increased in altitude and I finally felt able to breath again. I can never forget the magnificent sight of the Meije with its immense galciers and three fingers of rock at the top rising up before us as we came over the Col de Lautaret . Getting out to admire the suroundings, a trail of British classic cars whizzed by and I remember that I slept amazingly well that night, watched over by these giants of rock and ice. Returning there, the mountains seemed like old friends; I took pleasure in identifying them on our hikes and could imagine no better place than here with the silence and wilderness. We slept close to where we would begin our walk early the next morning and when long shadows cast by the peaks above us appeared, we would go to a nearby restaurant for raclette and a dessert of fromage blanc and fruit. Getting up early in the dusk, our eyes became adapted to the changing light of the morning that was soon to begin. A little later there were often the piercing whistles of the marmottes or the chamois scuttling away. Returning at midday when many others were just setting off, there was the satisfying feeling of sore muscles and aching feet.

The Barre des Ecrins

La Meije

You might find it strange then that I left all that behind for life in a city. To be honest, I find it impossible to explain it to myself; perhaps I simply changed or realised that the anonymity of the city is what I prefer after all. Yet every summer I miss it; I find the city too choked with traffic, search desperately for that shady corner where I can feel cool and am unable to sleep. Sorry for my absence on this blog (and also on your blogs) but the heatwave last weekend made the idea of baking or sitting in front of the computer truly unbearable. I needed to get out; some readers will think it's a crime not to be outside when the sun is shining but with 37°C, outdoor activities weren't exactly appealing. Instead, I headed for the aquarium with its tanks full of fascinatingly scary jellyfish, delicate seahorses and starfish and a rather frightening shark. I found myself transfixed by the elegance of underwater life and wished that I could too dive to the bottom of the ocean. There was a morning spent at the Helmut Newton Foundation where I was amazed by the simplicity of the clothes that he wore for someone who worked in fashion, admired his collection of cameras, especially the Rolleiflexes and wondered where he found all these statuesque, athletic girls to pose nude for him. Then there were the trips to the cinema, the biggest number at once for years; it didn't start too well with The Private Life of Pippa Lee which I hated. After one hour I was not only irritated but also bored so snuck into a screening of the Ghostwriter in the next auditorium (the only advantage of mutiplexes, aside from the air conditioning). The next day though, while everyone was crammed round TV screens in bars watching Germany play, I had the charming Lichtblick cinema to myself for a personal screening of Wenders' Himmel Über Berlin (Wings of Desire) with the occasional whirr of the projector as the man at the front desk checked whether everything was in focus. Lastly, there was Marcello, Marcello with its candy coloured houses on an island in the middle of the sea where I'd only be too happy to spend an afternoon. Coming out, I wondered where I could find a pink gingham dress like the central character and have a glass of limoncello.

Amazing moon jellyfish

A healthy start to the day

At the Europa Centre

I love this girl's dress with Campbell's soup tins

Not everyone is a Germany fan you know...

Alone at the cinema

On a sadder note, the wonderful C/O Berlin will have to move out of the old post office where it was possible to see amazing photo exhibitions by Nan Goldin, Annie Leibovitz, Ostkreuz and soon Magnum. I've always been charmed by its peeling walls, the old basketball court with semi-circles still on the floor and the feeling of entering somehow into a lost past in an area which has sadly become too touristy. In the current Ostkreuz exhibition, I was most drawn to the photos ofSibylle Bergemann from Berlin. One was of her old flat close to Friedrichstraße, how after the wall came down the rent gradually went up and up until they could no longer afford to stay there. Before they left, they held one last exhibition, a "finissage" to say farewell; more than 5,000 attended. It's already heartbreaking to think how it will be when C/O closes its doors in Oranienburger Straße for the last time.

Frozen chocolate chip cookie dough from Joy the Baker - yum. Find the recipe here

David Lebovitz's almond cake was one of the best cakes I've ever made. For a start it managed to be truly spectacular, then there was the smell of marzipan filling the apartment on a lazy afternoon. It was damp, sweet but not too much and irresistable.

20 commentaires:

  1. What gorgeous pictures and delicious treats! I love towns, but I can't live in them anymore... I need to be in the countryside close to a town. I live in a village that is only a few kilometers (7km/15 minutes by bus) away from Geneva.



  2. Sad about C/O Berlin, it is a wonderful exhibit space. That almond cake is something I'd like to try. Beautiful photos.

  3. Eh bien moi je passe du temps à la cuisine à faire du sirop, des confitures et des gâteaux aux framboises ! mais il ne fait pas 37°... (30 au maximum du maximum) Et je savoure les "Nocturnes" d'Ishiguro.

  4. I can't believe C/O is closing? I was there on Friday morning. No, I won't believe it! I loved the exhibit about the city too.

    Amazing post, I was really moved by your text and wonderfully deep blue photos at the aquarium... and I'm happy to see you're shooting more and more people on the streets in your own very poetic way...

  5. Inspiring images!

    I haven't made that cake - I'll have to try it.

  6. @Rosa - That must be a nice compromise being able to go to the city whenever you like. Lake Geneva and the mountains around are incredible so it must be lovely living where you do.
    @P.K - Even though I hope C/O will find a nice new space, the current one is really irreplaceable. I can already imagine the lump in my throat walking out of htere for the last time; luckily, it won't be for a bit.
    @Rose - Oh des gâteaux aux framboises, j'espère que tu en partageras les recettes. Avant je me serais plaignée de 30° mais après 37°, c'est assez supportable. On avait de la pluie hier soir et c'était si agréable. Malheureusement cette vague de chaleur extrême recommence vendredi mais dans une semaine je pars en Ecosse. Moi aussi, je me suis achetée Nocturnes mais il faut d'abord finir Cranford qui me fait rire dans le métro chaque matin.
    @Magda - I was completely shocked when I read it in the paper and now it's confirmed on the C/O website, so cruel too just as they're celebrating their 10th anniversary. I love that building so much and hate these foreign investors who only think of money and turning it into flats for yuppees so the rest of us lose a wonderful space. Naja, what can you do? Isn't the Ostkreuz exhibition great? I can't wait for the Magnum one.
    @Lecia - Thanks so much. The cake is even better than I'd ever imagined; normally I'm pretty critical of what I make but I have to admit, it was one of my best efforts and so simple.

  7. I adore so much about quiet rural life, but the anonymity of the city just might suit me better. I'm never sure. I am sure that I love almond. The scent filling my apartment would be wonderful.

  8. Awesome photos. I sent a link to my brother he loves all things aquatic.

    Germany must be absolutely mad right now, with the semi-final coming up.

    Thanks for the kind words about my Fish & Chip concept dish.

    Be well

  9. Lovely images, Vanessa! We are a family of divers so I appreciate what a miraculous world the oceans are.

    Recently I made some Visitandine cakes which are quite similar to David's almond cake...although mine used almond flour and not paste. Still haven't gotten around to posting. It's really my favorite flavor.
    And as for the cc cookie dough...I'd almost rather eat that than the cookies! :)

  10. I think a charming pink gingham dress would suit you perfectly, Vanessa!! :)

    Loved your underwater photos and your people observations... I agree that they are poetic, and note that you are getting better all the time with that new camera of yours! A joy to see!!

    Deeply sad about the closing of C/O as well... I feel very much similar to you about that place, it's like NO other gallery in Berlin (in the world, really), with its history, its location, its peeling walls, charming DDR details and former basketball court. I've seen so many great photographic works of art with various Berlin or visiting friends there, enjoyed a crazy and fun Stereo Total concert, and more. It is such an utterly "Berlin" location! Definitely won't miss the MAGNUM show!! xx

    PS: I can hardly imagine your almond cake being EVEN better than that chocolate cake of yours that I tasted recently, but I can't wait to see what kind of cake you will surprise us with on Friday!! Mmmmmhhh! :)

  11. @Denise - I think we want the element missing from our lives. I grew up in a small village so appreciate not seeing the same people every day and having them know what I do all the time. On the other hand, I love the peace and scenery. If you love almond, you have to make this cake believe me.
    @Lazaro - Oh thanks so much. I'm really thrilled your brother liked the photos. There's certainly a special atmosphere here and whenever the German team wins, everyone goes crazy. I'm hoping to take a few pictures of the fans later tonight of they win the match.
    @Barbara - Thanks dear Barbara, I can well understand your fascination with the sea. I could never get tired of watching like underwater. I'm very curious to try your recipe for Visitandine cake as I've never tried almond flour. Actually, I prefer the dough to the cookies too, especially frozen, kinda like Ben and Jerry's.
    @Chrissi - Ah but unfortunately the clothing budget for now is exhausted since I just bought new running shoes. Maybe in August or September while the days are still warm I'll get my hands on that dress. The new camera is fun to use and thanks for the nice comment about the photos. I thought the last set you took in Wuppertal were so wonderful.
    I somehow have the feeling I'll be seeing that Magnum exhibtion more than once. For the dessert of Friday, I've already prepared it and think you'll like it!

  12. I spent a month in the Parc des Ecrins quite a few years ago, absolutely amazing, especially at night when no lights were coming in the way of the stars... I'm sure you've also spent many evenings looking up.
    And you're right, that Campbell soup dress is gorgeous! I want it too!

  13. I'm making the almond cake right now. Thank you for the inspiration.

  14. Beautiful, beautiful pictures...I enjoyed them so much :-)

  15. beauitful pics... I love the soup tin dress, how cute.. the aquatics pics are wonderful my girls loved the almond cake


  16. I love the fish photos :). I went to the cinema yesterday, trying to avoid the heat of my apartment. Sadly, it didn't work out very well, as the cinema had no air conditioning whatsoever... but the film was amazing (A Single Man).

  17. I love your description of the almond cake, it seemed to go well with the thoughtful post. It's sad to think of a beloved gallery closing. While I haven't been to that particular place, it reminded me of special creative places that I have been in the past.

  18. You haunt Berlin so well. I have had no ambitions blog-wise for a few weeks. Perhaps it is the summer heat.

  19. wouahhh tes photos de poissons sont surprenantes !!!
    on se croirait derrière la vitre !!!

    bonne soirée gourmande