Café Crem

Art, Music and Words around The Coffee Table

Ciao from Italia -2 – Volterra, San Gimme Gimme & Siena

The wondrous cafe in Volterra

I humbly submit, dear readers, another snapshot of our Italian trip for your delectation…..

Volterra was a wonderful medieval town, walled, and perched atop a hill where one could survey the rolling Tuscan countryside. The town even incorporated a State prison within the walls of its Ancient fortress, the first time I’d really seen a correctional facility in the guise of a tourist attraction!

Just inside Volterra's walls

They seemed to get the mix right here, lots of shops selling wines, pasta, local produce, and lovely cafes, but the town still had natural ambience about it. One thing that’s amazed me is the amount of great swimming pools. Even the tiniest towns have them, and everything points to Italy being quite a wealthy country, certainly when compared to Spain. We enjoyed a great couple of days in Volterra, getting in a couple of kilometers in the pool, too.

San Gimignano - Manhattan's inspiration?

San Gimignano, or ‘San Gimme Gimme’ as I preferred to call it, was a different kettle of fish altogther. Another classic medeival town, boasting no less than 17 towers (there used to 72!) it rose above the hills like some kind of renaissance Manhattan.

About 2k outside the town, on approach, I spotted a HUGE gathering of motorhomes – at least a hundred, in an official parking area.  These places charge the earth, and we avoid them like the plague – our logic being that if you’re shelling out big bucks to buy a motorhome, you sure as hell don’t want to be paying the price of a hotel room to park it. Unbelievably, a geezer at the gate tried to wave us in! He looked like some kind of hooker, touting for business. I drove on. We came upon another motorhome  park, asking a euro an hour, meaning a day’s stay would have been 24, with no electricity, water, nothing. We gave that a body swerve too.

On the walls of San Gimme Gimme...coach trip with flag-waving leader just out of shot....

I did like this bell, and the Frescos surrounding it

Eventually, using the tried and tested method of heading for the local football stadium, we found a lovely quiet spot, completely free, within walking distance of the town.  The town seemed drab, a collection of greys, perhaps the overcast weather didn’t help, but neither did the legions – and I mean LEGIONS of tourists scrambling over each other to photograph the many towers, each other, or both.  We normally gauge the TROQ – Tourist Rip-off Quotient by the price of a Latte. Portofino won hands down  – 5 euros for a singularly unimpressive cupful.  Volterra was 2.50,  a lovely one, served with a smile. In San Gimme Gimme, they wanted 3.50, and we didn’t even get any frickin’ froth.  Musuems (door charge) Churches (door charge) all were ignored by us, as human snakes with a guide at the head waving what often appeared to be a white flag of surrender “and we’re waalking, we’re waaalking…”

Unfortunately, my lasting impression of San Gimignano is one of a Medieval shopping mall, built to cater to the Americans.

Anyone who has listened to my track “The Heretic’s Song” will know my views on being charged to enter a so-called house of God. I also found it mildly amusing that San Gimme Gimme was also falling over itsalef to sell ever piece of tourist tat and then some on Easter Sunday. Noew, I’m no Christian, but wasn’t JC seriously pissed off with the merchants on the steps of the temple?? and this, on the day he did the big Houdini thing???  (Cue Mott the Hoople’s ‘Roll away the Stone’) Seems like a serious faux pas to me, if you believe that sort of thing.

If in doubt - Mangare Gelato!

 Siena we were looking forward to – James Bond rooftop chases, etc. – But once again we were confronted with 20 euros to park. Eventually, I found a place just outside the town where we could park for free until 7pm, at which time I assume we would have been machine-gunned.  We walked up the steep hill to what we thought was the town, but in fact turned out to be a fort, built by or for King Leopold, who had a stab at being King here a while back.  It turned out to be a good move however, because as well as giving us a nice walk around the battlements, it also gave us the chance to check out at least 30 pristine Ferraris parked out on the gravel in the courtyard, awaiting their appearance at a weekend car show. Cue boyhood enthusiasm! Actually, without wishing to offend the Ferrarinistas, if a Lamborghini Miura had been parked there, I’d have nicked it, and hang the consequences!

“My other car’s a Skoda….”

From the walls of the fort we looked out to see the huge Cathedral and clock tower in the distance, and set out for it in the sunshine, me tempting fate in a vest and shorts.  We’d managed to see both monuments when God, clearly aggrieved at our failure to purchase tickets to see the inside of either, sent down a deluge of biblical proportions.  The upside of this was I got another ciocolatte calde in the cafe we had to shelter in. Every cloud, etc.

Siena Cathedral, imposing, with gathering stormclouds behind....

Suffice to say, our Siena trip was brutally cut short, so we headed off for Buonconvento, a small town on the road to our next destination proper, Montecino. We got parked up for free next to..the local swimming pool!  After spending the night, we got a swim in, and were on the verge of giving the town a minus score after shelling out 6 euros each to swim and finding you needed to pay extra if you wanted to shower after, plus getting moved along by the Carabinieri  because we were incorrectly parked. But that soon turned into a plus, as I found internet that has enabled me to write this article, and a lovely friendly Cafe which has currently got the record for a Latte Macchiato – only 1.10, and extra foam and chocolate sprinklles. Eat that, San Gimme Gimme!

Kev Moore

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April 26, 2011 Posted by | Art, coffee, Easter, travel, writing | , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

Hand-Painted Easter Eggs

My own hand-painted Easter Eggs in a handmade macramé basket

We don’t have egg-coloring kitswhere I live, and all the eggs here have brown shells, meaning a dye wouldn’t work on them.  Our solution is to hand paint eggs every year.  I got this handmade basket five years ago in an artisanal cooperative shop while on a vacation.  The small chocolate eggs in colored foil were purchased at a chocolate shop.

Here are some close-ups of our hand-painted eggs.

My Hand-Painted Easter Eggs

My Hand-Painted Easter Eggs

I painted them in stages, using poster paints.

–Madame Monet

April 4, 2010 Posted by | Art, culture, Easter, family, Festivals of the World, food, friends, fun, nature, painting, Parents and Children | , , , , , | 3 Comments

View from a mountain top

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I walked through pouring rain through a Scottish forest and up a small mountain (you might call it a hill but my legs said it was a mountain). I stood against winds that nearly tipped me over. I gazed through mist and rain at the view of the Solway Firth, obscured and stormy. And then, having gone up, I needed to go down again. The bit I hate the most; I get occasional attacks of vertigo.

As we started our trek back off the mountain, we saw in the valley below us a sight that you can just make out in the photo above: a rainbow.

For me, the rainbow is a symbol as well as a scientific phenomenon. To me it means the storms are breaking and the promise of sunshine ahead has appeared. I had a bit of a shiver when I saw this one, as if it had personal meaning for me.

This winter has been an awful one for me; I’ve struggled with depression, mild paranoia, anxiety and a host of other delights. The winter is over but the causes of the issues remain and while I know that if I keep busy and focus on other things I can keep ahead of it, even so, the issues still remain, patiently waiting for me.

After we came back from Scotland, we went to stay with one of my oldest friends in north Yorkshire. A great time was had by all, but certain things came out of the visit, that I believe presage enormous changes for me. I’m hesistant to give details, partly because details are still scanty, but if I say that I had a strong feeling throughout of history being made. Maybe only my own history and maybe also hers, but even so, in a quiet way, something momentous took place.

I especially wanted to report it here first, because Cafe Crem is extremely important to me, and you guys have all been great. I will report more as time goes on but I can simply say that for me that Scottish rainbow is a sign that some of my storms are breaking and sunshine is beginning to appear.

April 12, 2009 Posted by | Easter, God in our life, life, nature, personal, photo, Viv's Art, writing | , , , , , , , , | 15 Comments

Happy PrEGGnancy!

No, I am not pregnant!

No, Kevin, either!

And none of the people we know are!

It is just that following the Christmas, New Year and Valentines trend, I have started creating eCards for Easter. Or rather: WE have started. In fact 2 years ago Kevin created for Easter a series of cartoons featuring wordplays on the word “egg” . I liked them so much that I decided to work on them, adding my little personal note. Here is the first one, as always,

premiered in Café Crem!

happy-preggnancy-s

by Miki

February 25, 2009 Posted by | Cafe L'Arte, Easter, film, Kev Moore's Cartoons, Miki's Paintings, news, painting, personal, women | , , , , , , , , , | 2 Comments

Happy Easter from a little girl in 1959!

By Miki

I just went back in time and found this little Miki in white Easter gear, on her way to the Easter Mass … she doesn’t look very happy though, well going to a Mass was not her favourite game… but she wishes everybody here an happy Easter!

Miki Easter 1959

March 24, 2008 Posted by | culture, Easter, family, God in our life, personal, photo, random, religion, women | 7 Comments

Walking the Dogma – Part 3 –

Madonna and child A material girl

The remnants of Franco’s chest-beating regime were manifest in the unashamed triumphalism of the great stone buildings and monuments that lined my route towards the consulate. They seemed to whisper money, power, subjugation, corruption as I walked past them. Yet below, hidden away as if in shame, in the subway beneath wide militaristic boulevards, lay the detritus of society, the forgotten. Hopeless drunks huddled together in a miasma of rotting rags and cardboard, pitiful beggars, men and women deformed at birth and left to plead for the leavings of commuters, while beautifully stoneworked empty office space mocks their homelessness. The underclass. The ignored. The doomed. I climbed the steps from the subway into the brittle sunlight like a repentant emerging from Dante’s hell, feeling shame at my relief.

The consulate, in contrast to many of the graceful old buildings in this quarter was fairly unassuming. I entered the unremarkable lobby to find a handful of Africans waiting for visas of some sort. The Spanish guard informed me that the consulate opened at 8.30 am. I sat on a generic plastic chair alone with my thoughts until the guard roused me from my reverie at 8.20. I then had to do some kind of an imitation of an airport security check (a sad irony, I thought, if I’m denied a passport.) I was then given a visitor’s swipe card and instructed to go up to the fourth floor. I was met there by another Spanish guard who had clearly had a sense of humour bypass. He took my phone and gave me in return a rubber band. I thought I’d somehow got the worst of the deal. He gestured towards a pair of double doors – “Passporte?” “Si” I replied. “Straight through, counter 2, no espere” no waiting. hmm…I liked the sound of that…

The opened doors revealed something akin to the bastard child of a doctors waiting room and a post office. That is to say, there were 5 rows of chairs bolted to the floor (Presumably to deter failed asylum seekers from making a scene) facing a row of glass-fronted counters numbered 1 to 5. I walked straight to my allotted counter, full of trepidation. I was preparing to call on my reserves of anger and indignation, and produced my documents and copies of my concert contract with an exaggerated flourish. A small man came into view, smiling benignly. He was clearly Spanish. “Sh#t.” I thought. “I’m f##ked now. It’s going to be manana..”

I stated my case..”I have a very serious problem I’m hoping you can help me with” I blathered “I sent my passport off for renewal and was told it was ready for collection, and then it wasn’t and there’s no time…. ” I was babbling. Take a deep breath Kev. The man was still smiling. “Could I?” he said, gesturing for me to give him my papers. This seemed like a good idea. He took them and went away. Ten minutes passed. I began doing the crossword. I had just remembered the word for a young Hare when he reappeared. “I need it today” I blurted, somewhat unneccesarily, as I felt I must have looked like I had “URGENT” stamped on my forehead. “The photo is fine” he said. “We will have to check with the UK, but I will take payment now, and you must come back at 1pm.” I hadn’t had to shout at him. This couldn’t be right. He was still smiling. As he swiped my credit card I sought clarification. “I can have my passport at 1pm?” “Yes” he said. God Save the Queen!

So, my problems were diminishing. However, I now had to fill five hours wandering the streets of Madrid. And so began the morning of Walking the Dogma. Oh, don’t get me wrong, there were plenty of McDonald’s, Music Shops and CD shops, so I had some fun. But its the religious artifact shops that got me. I’ve never seen a religious artifact shop, but, when you think about it, all this tasteless Catholic tat has to come from somewhere, doesn’t it? I don’t know quite what it is about a life-size figurine of a crucified Christ with a look of anguish on his face and blood pouring merrily out of his wounds, but it sure gives me the willies, so the last thing I needed to see while window shopping was just that. It literally stopped me in my tracks. Completely filling the window, a reclining Christ…I’ m guessing post-nailing..bloody, looking fed-up, you know the sort of thing. Who the hell buys this stuff. Enormous of effigies of Madonna (no, not that one, the REAL virgin) One thing that struck me was how bloody miserable they all look. It’s like when the paparazzi gleefully print the worst possible picture of a movie star. You get to wonder, if Jesus was around now, he’d be like “Oh, god not the post-crucifixion one again – can’t you use that nice one from when I was knocking about in Gallilee, it really got my best side…”

You name it, this shop sold it, and as I wandered the streets, I discovered they didn’t have the monopoly. Oh no, in Madrid, the selling of tasteless, garish religious tat was the business to be in. It’s strange how it offends me, because I’m not religious at all, but to my mind it cheapens their religion, makes a mockery of faith. Now, correct me if I’m wrong but isn’t there something in the Bible about not having false gods and idols, that you’re not supposed to have all these effigies and stuff? Ah, but I’m forgetting aren’t I? The historical role of the Church as Judge, Jury and Executioner. So basically, they’re all lawyers, so I guess they found a loophole.

Later that day I made my return journey to the coast in sunlight, awed by the scenery previously shrouded by night. My new musical friends on this trip, courtesy of a visit to the CD shop were Jethro Tull, Steve Lukather and Prince. The gig this weekend was on again, I thought, passport in hand, thanks to the very nice man at the consulate. Now there’s a guy that will surely enter the kingdom of heaven. As for the religious stallholders…didn’t I read about Jesus getting fed up and upturning vendors stalls in the temple? My guess is he wouldn’t take to kindly to likeness of his corpse being displayed in shop windows like a side of beef. Here endeth the lesson.

Walking the Dogma -Part 1 –

Walking the Dogma -Part 2 –

Kev Moore

March 21, 2008 Posted by | culture, Easter, God in our life, humor, life, random, religion, travel, writing | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 4 Comments

Pistoles de Marie Antoinette+

Since Kevin is busy working on the second part of his post I’m sure he’d love to be nibbling on these!!!
 demarieantoinette_section.jpg
Pistoles De Marie Antoinette
Introduced by Sulpice Debauve, the royal family chemist, this range of chocolate “coins” was first developed for Queen Marie Antoinette in order to ease her distate for taking medicines. She was so delighted with them that Monsieur Debauve was commissioned to create an entire collection called the Pistoles de Marie Antoinette.
/michael

March 19, 2008 Posted by | Easter, food, health, men, Valentines | 2 Comments

Palmistry, or, the forgotten art of remembering what this day means…

So, I thought I should put a complimentary post to Miki’s Palm Sunday one. I couldn’t quite remember what it signified, so I thought I should phone my Dad and ask him. The amazing thing is, he wasn’t exactly sure either, and it was only after consulting some books that we agreed it was about Jesus’ triumphal entry into Jerusalem on…a donkey. (Something in my mind tells me the reason a donkey has a cross on its back is to do with the Jesus thing, but of course, that’s just silly, really). I think the people threw the palm leaves down like a red carpet thing. These days, he’d probably be inducted into the Rock’n’Roll hall of fame.

Anyway, the fact my Dad couldn’t really pinpoint its significance is very telling. He could never be described as a churchgoer, just the usual hatched, matched and dispatched appearances…but his generation were seriously indoctrinated with religion, so if they now see no relevance in the 21st century, one must question whether future generations will be bothered. I read with amazement Miki’s account of waving palm fronds over dead guys, and frankly, all this religious mumbo-jumbo gives me the shudders. You see, I think, when you’re gone, you’re gone. That’s it. the big void. Waving a bit of damp foliage around over your empty carcass ain’t doing anybody any favours, plus, it might encourage mould growth.

Of course, being human, and fallible, I reserve the right, as I inevitably hurtle towards my own demise, to perhaps desperately reach out and grab some religion or random deity like a drowning man clutching at straws, in an effort to convince myself in a beautiful afterlife. After all, everybody loves a happy ending, don’t they?

Palm FrondsSome Palms partying earlier today. Blessed or Un-blessed? You decide.

Kev Moore

March 16, 2008 Posted by | culture, death, Easter, Festivals of the World, God in our life, humor, religion, writing | , , , , , , | 5 Comments

Palm Sunday in France

 By Miki

As I said in my previous entry about “God in my life”, I was born into a quite relaxed Catholic family. We didn´t generally go to church on Sundays, but we used to attend the most special religious ceremonies, like on Palm Sunday. I reckon that the main reason was that these ceremonies were much more attractive than the normal Masses with all the special stuff going on! They were also a good opportunity to put beautiful clothes on – surely even a good excuse for the women to buy some new ones- and, perhaps even more important, to gather the whole family and all have a big French lunch together after the Mass! My family was good at that!

Today I want to write about the Palm Sunday in France. As everywhere else I guess the main ceremony is the benediction of the palms. In France, at least where I was born in the Pyrenees we use branches of laurel for the benediction. Elsewhere in France and Europe they might use palm trees, or holly, or olive branches too, whatever grows better and has some symbolic significance

I vaguely remember this ceremony as I was a child. My mother dressed me in a wonderful white dress, cut a laurel branch from the hedge that ran around the house and we then went to the place in front of the church, where all people with laurel branches gathered. This was the best part! But then the Mass was very long, much longer than normal and it was a nightmare for me, for each child I guess!. The priest was reading the entire Passion of the Christ, and then came a great moment again, when he passed down the aisle of the church and tried to bless all the branches throwing around some drops of holy water. It was great fun to try to get some on your own branch!

After the Mass we returned home with the blessed branch and kept it for a very special occasion: the next death in the family. The tradition was, and still is, to put the most recent blessed branch on a small table close to the bed where the dead person is lying, with a dish full of holy water. Every visitor, when he comes to pay homage to the dead, takes the branch, dips it into the water and then blesses the dead, shaking the branch over his body so that some drops of holy water fall on it.

Well, I never did that in my life, and to be honest, I don´t really fancy doing it, being quite scared of corpses… to be honest, believe it or not, I never saw a corpse in my life!!!!

My mother told me that when she was a child, the Palm Sunday was much better for the children. The laurel branches used to look like Christmas trees, because they would hang all sorts of sweets on them, chocolate, nougat, etc… I guess I know what the children do in the church when the sermons last too long!

It has been ages since I attended a Palm Sunday benediction… perhaps I should again one day? I feel some kind of nostalgia when I am writing about it… perhaps one should never deny one´s own roots, of whatever they are made?

Palm Sunday in France

March 16, 2008 Posted by | culture, death, Easter, events, family, God in our life, humor, personal, religion, travel | , , , , , , | 6 Comments

What if God was One of Us…

By Miki

I think it´s time for a new theme in Cafe Crem. Because it is Easter soon, and anyway Palm Sunday is next Sunday, and following Danu´s suggestion (yes, again!) I decided to chose the theme:

“God in our life”

I would like you to write about your own God, about your own experiences with God, in special occasions and in your everyday life too, how your view of God has changed or evolved along your life, etc. Also write about if you don´t believe in God at all, or if you don´t know what to believe…
And when the time comes, I would like too that we write about the way how you celebrate Palm Sunday and Easter in your respective countries and homes. In fact anything to do with Easter: bunnies, bonnets, eggs, bells, etc…

As always any kind of art to illustrate this theme is very welcome in Cafe Crem, and Coffee Cups, too, of course! I still want to smell coffee here!

And… it is not because we are speaking about God that we must always be dead serious… Fun and humour are always deeply appreciated in Cafe Crem!

And, last but not least: New authors or contributors are welcome in Cafe Crem! As we say in France:

“Plus on est de fous plus on rit!”

(The more crazy people there are  the more we laugh!)

The new theme will start on Wednesday  12th March. So, if you still have something to say about the differences between men and women, hurry up!

March 10, 2008 Posted by | Art, culture, Easter, family, God in our life, humor, life, men, religion, women, writing | , , | 6 Comments