Friday, August 10, 2018

A lovely light

A lido on the island of Ortygia, the historical centre of the city of Syracuse, Sicily.  Photo: JH.
Friday, August 10, 2018.  It’s 84 degrees, no notable humidity, at 10:45 pm as I write this. Early in the evening I got tired of the “freeze” of the A/C and I turned it off, opened the door and turned on the fan. It has remained comfortable, although when I took the dogs out, it was not. I got an e-mail yesterday from a friend who wrote (referring to Blair Sabol’s temps in Scottsdale):

“Well Scottsdale has nothing on us here in Palm Springs. Barry and I have endured day after day of temps above 110. We peaked (so far) about a week ago at 121. We are almost always 4-6 degrees hotter than Scottsdale. Now we have humidity which we never had here. Yesterday the humidity jumped up and we could hardly breathe. Today it has cooled off a little (106) but we will be in this temp zone for at least another month. ARGH!” So you see, it could be worse.

Loulou de La Falaise.
I spent a good part of the day inside my air conditioned cabin on EEA reading more of Christopher Petkanas’ “Loulou & Yves.” The reason for it is the leading character in this movie: Loulou de La Falaise. It turns out Falaise wasn’t her father. A minor matter in an incredibly fast life in a moment. I’ve thought of just putting it down but I end up looking in the pages ahead, get into it once again and return to my recently read pages.

Her grandfather, (real) Oswald Birley was an important portraitist in the first half of the 20th century. They were not British aristocrats per se but they were “of” that ilk and bore a strong resemblance. Loulou would have been regarded as eccentric today. Or a druggy. Or alcoholic. These are significant elements in her life. But the book of people’s recollection of her and that life in Paris working with (inspiring really) Yves Saint Laurent is an intricately delicate portrait in words of a woman who was very attractive in many ways, deeply honest, but speeding through it all, burning her candles at both ends.

Edna St. Vincent Millay defined the condition for one such as Loulou in her poem First Fig.

My candle burns at both ends;
It will not last the night;
But ah, my foes, and oh. my friends --
It gives a lovely light!

You can’t help caring for her, in all phases.

However, as regular NYSD friends and readers know, JH has been traveling hither and yon during these past two and a half weeks. It started when he and his wife Danielle went to Rome and then Sicily mid-July.  When they returned, it was on a couple of overnights in Maryland golfing with his father and his brother. When he returned it was up to Nantucket, and from there is was to Edinburgh with his father-in-law on another golfing trip, having returned to little ole New York two days ago.

From although thousands of air miles, with his camera accompanying him, he took a number of photos of the lay of the lands where he was. We’re going to run some on this Diary (and some more next week) starting today with a little taste of Rome and Noto, Sicily.
The lobby of the Hotel de Russie in Rome filled with local flora and fauna.
The busy courtyard of the Hotel de Russie.
A Roger Waters sighting over lunch in the courtyard. The previous night he performed an outdoor concert at Rome's Circus Maximus as part of the 2018 Rock in Roma.
The wide and bright hotel hallway.
Our simple and clean classic room.
The view from our room. If you look carefully you can see a wedding luncheon taking place under a canopy of trees.
The view up towards Villa Borghese gardens.
Two retaining walls seen from the Piazza del Popolo — one ancient, one old.
Looking up towards the observation deck in Villa Borghese gardens.
Stone pines are among the symbols of Rome, where many historic Roman roads are embellished with lines of stone pines.
If this tree could talk.
A seagull in flight.
Dragons and birds of prey adorn the gates to Villa Borghese.
The view from the observation deck over the Piazza del Popolo.
Blowing soap bubbles in the gardens.
A hot late afternoon on the streets of Rome.
An immaculate car garage.
Repairing the city streets ...
Brick by brick.
Looking towards Via del Babulino from the Piazza di Spagna.
No visit to Rome is complete without a quick visit to the Spanish Steps.
The Fontana della Barcaccia ("Fountain of the Ugly Boat") at the foot of the steps has been delivering crystal clear cold drinking water to Romans since 1874!
Via Condotti, jammed.
Later that night at Pierluigi restaurant.
A rainstorm to remember Rome by. By morning, we were off to Sicily.
Here we are pulling into the courtyard of the Seven Rooms Villadorata hotel in Noto, Sicily.
Villadorata was originally the former hilltop home of Prince Nicolaci, built in 1733.
The Baroque residence felt more private home than hotel.
The beautiful second floor sitting room.
Our immaculate bedroom.
The rooftop view from our terrace.
Once checked in, we headed straight to the 124-year-old Caffè Sicilia for a snack.
A Sicilian summertime breakfast tradition: almond granita with brioche.
Pinching off a chunk of the brioche and dunking it into the granita as it melts. Niente di meglio!
Looking down Corso Vittorio Emanuele.
The Corso starts from the  Royal Gate (“Porta Reale”), an entrance in the shape of a triumphal arch erected in the 19th century.
Walking the streets of Noto.
Coming upon the Noto Cathedral in the center of town.
The main entrance to the Church of San Francesco all’Immaculata.
At the top of the hill: the Chiesa di San Carlo, built in the 18th century.  The original structure was destroyed during the 1693 earthquake.
A peak inside the church.
The view down Via Nicolaci.
Two of the elaborately carved balconies of the Villadorata palace.
Looking down Via Nicolaci later that night.
And up.
Caffè Sicilia was crowded until the doors closed at 11:30.
Dinner at Ristorante Vicari on a quiet side street.
A post-dinner stroll into town.
Coming upon a joint Picasso and Frida Kahlo exhibition.
We were shocked to find Picasso's extraordinary Self Portrait, 1967, hanging in plain sight.
This street art was designed by children from a youth center in Noto. These murals are made from crystals of colored salt.
Passing through the archway of the former prince's palace on the way back to our hotel.
The courtyard and its towering palm trees.
The table set for breakfast the following morning.
The breakfast spread included savoury pie, bruschetta, local cheese and meats, pane cunzato, omelette, olives, and more.
The facade of Palazzo Castelluccio dating from 1782.
A peek into the courtyard before leaving Noto for Taormina.
But first, a quick pit stop in Ortygia, Syracuse's ancient town center.
Sunbathing on the rocks and swimming in the sea.
Ruins among the oleander trees.
The city's historic core.
The Cathedral of Syracuse incorporates a Greek doric temple built in the 5th century BC into its design.
Ortygia in the foreground and the town of Siracusa beyond.
Mega yachts docked along the marina.
The island was easily transformed into a natural fortress with harbors and was big enough that it could hold a significant population in ancient times.

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