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PARIS IS STILL PARIS, as these atmospheric photos, taken last weekend by my cousin Susan, show. She reported the streets were ‘normale,’ with plenty of shoppers (the semi-annual sales are on) and heavier police presence in the Marais.

My month-long, late-winter European sojourn is on, and I’m in trip-planning mode once again. I’m flying into Madrid, heading south from there to visit friends who live in the mountains near Malaga, then riding the rails toward the South of France and eventually into Italy, ending up in Naples and the Amalfi Coast. (Paris is not part of this trip, by the way; I’m hoping for warmth and sunshine.)

When I got realistic and started thinking about timing, I cut out ‘detours’ like San Sebastian, Lyon and Switzerland, and will more or less hug the Mediterranean coast, so I can spend more time in fewer places. Still, it will be a whirlwind. I’m aiming for at least two nights (Cordoba), sometimes three (Arles, Nice) or four (Milan, with side trips), at each stop. I’m making a few key reservations, mostly at modest but hopefully charming hotels, hostels and B&Bs. My budget for accommodations is $100/night, but I’m finding there’s plenty available and in many cases, I won’t even have to spend that much.

Working on the logistics, consulting schedules, figuring out how to hop from one place to another in half-day, three- or four-hour train increments. Overnight trains are out. I have enough trouble sleeping well in a bed, and I want to see the scenery I’m passing through — at close to 200mph, I’m afraid. The European rail system is largely high-speed trains now, though I’ll take local trains when possible.

Your encouraging input on my previous post and suggestions for places to go and see are much appreciated. So let us continue. I’ve been to Barcelona and Valencia; this trip will mostly be about seeing places I have NOT been. I’m considering spending time in Zaragoza and/or Giona. Anyone been to either of those?

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Photos: Susan Rosenthal

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HAPPY NEW YEAR, devoted readers and anyone who may have landed accidentally on my humble six-year-old blog.

For my first post of 2015, here’s a small sampling of seasonally appropriate photos from the Brooklyn Historical Society’s online photo database. It’s a tremendous resource, and great fun to search when you’ve got a free evening or it’s too damn cold to go outside.

The images in this post are lantern slides, glass transparencies to be viewed through a projector (called a ‘magic lantern’) that casts the image on a wall. They were all taken by Adrian Vanderveer Martense (1852-1898), a lawyer by profession and an amateur photographer. Martense documented houses, streets, and his friends and neighbors in Flatbush, as well as momentous events like the legendary blizzard of March 1888 and the moving of the Hotel Brighton in Coney Island in April 1888. He was a member of the Brooklyn Academy of Photography and served as its first recording secretary when it was established in 1887 (it later became the Brooklyn Camera Club).

Top: Adrian Martense, center, with pinhole camera, along with two other men and a boy on a tricycle, c.1880

Martense was descended from Dutch settlers who came to Brooklyn in the 17th century. His family’s land is now part of Greenwood Cemetery. Some of the photos in this post show a rural side of 19th century Brooklyn; others were taken downtown and show buildings that still exist. Most of these were taken on March 15, 1888, when Martense evidently set out to record the aftermath of the great blizzard in several different neighborhoods. And aren’t we glad he did?

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Men standing at side of stage sleigh after blizzard

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Men clearing snow from Flatbush Avenue train tracks after the blizzard

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Children climbing into the back of a horse-drawn sleigh at Flatbush Avenue and Clarkson Avenue following the 1888 blizzard

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Man standing in front of City Hall (now Borough Hall) and elevated train tracks after the blizzard

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Man in front of coal and wood shop, as other men work to clear snow from the streets at Flatbush Avenue and Bergen Street

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Horse-drawn carriage stopped in front of 7 Sutherland Sisters, on Clinton Avenue near the corner of Fulton Street, after the blizzard

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People walking between piles of cleared snow at Atlantic Avenue and Flatbush Avenue, following the blizzard

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Horse-drawn carriage in snow-covered street, c.1890

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Street car and horse-drawn carriage at Adams Street and Willoughby Street under the elevated train, with men standing on the sidewalk

This is just a tiny sample of the Brooklyn Historical Society’s Martense collection; you can see them all right here.

Photo: Caren Sturmer

MY FRIEND CAREN’S username on Instagram, an iPhone photo-sharing app, is ‘exphotographer’ — by which I guess she means she no longer plies the trade for money. But she is still very much a photographer, of whose eye I am in awe. She and I can stand side by side and take a photo of the same subject. Hers will not only be clearer and better composed, it will be, in some ineffable way, more interesting. “It’s about the light,” she says. Well, she must have some special light.

If you have an iPhone and an Instagram account, search for “exphotographer” and look at Caren’s images. Some are black-and-whites dating back to her art-school days in Philadelphia, re-shot with the iPhone; others were taken moments before posting. Many are quotidian things transformed through the lens of her unique vision. The composition above is a case in point, beautiful enough to make me feel less nervous about Tuesday.

BROOKLYN IN JULY…

Nobody ever wrote a song about it. It’s hot, yeah. But I’ve found myself here more than usual these past couple of weeks, and with me, my camera (or iPhone, as the case may be) .

 

HANUKKAH’S WELL AND GOOD, but it was a bit of a blue Christmas in casaCARA-land. As a non-celebrator, Christmas Day is often quiet, but this one was utterly silent and very, very long. I felt empty and flat, kind of like this:

I went out for a walk, my face at the ready to smile and pass on holiday greetings, but there were few people on the streets, and those I saw avoided eye contact. In the course of my perambulations, though, I realized it was a blue Christmas in a more welcome sense: the sky was brilliant, the air clear, the conditions perfect for my iPhone’s camera.

Boxing Day dawned ever bluer:

This last one is from a few days ago when the sky was more threatening. I’m including it, though, because I like it a lot.

Hope you all had a less lonely Christmas Day, and, well, it’s over now and we can all relax.

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