We recently spent a week in Formentera, Spain. Not as popular as its flashy island sister, Ibiza, the island of Formentera has been some sort of creative haven since the sixties and seventies. The island had been refuge for Pink Floyd, Bob Dylan and Joni Mitchell at different points in their artistic lives and architect Philippe Starck has a house near Cap de Barbaria.
The thing that I love most about Formentera is its rugged beauty that refuses over commercialization. You won’t see hotel or retail chains on the island. Most of the shops and restaurants that we went to have that artisanal feel that’s rare in most summer beach destinations.
Here are some highlights of our vacation….
Hippie Market at El Pilar de Mola
View from the Blue Bar
Lighthouse from Cap de Barbaria, southernmost part of island where Africa isn’t too far away
Church in Sant Francesc, one of the main towns
Some of the things we did that I recommend doing while in Formentera…
- Seeing sunset at Sa Sequi restaurant, one of the best views on the island
- Eating at the hippie chic Blue Bar where the food is yummy and the view is amazing
- Renting a boat and going to Illa Espalmador, only accessible by boat and has the clearest water I’ve ever seen
- Going to Platja Migjorn for the beach and Illetes for the scene
- Seeing the lighthouse in Cap de Barbaria and hippie market in El Pilar de la Mola
- Shopping in Sant Francesc’s town center
We’re slowly settling back to our house in Normandy. It’s funny how things have gotten easier over the years as we develop our habits and ways in going about our time here. After 14 years, we now know where to go for mundane things we take for granted at home in the US like where to get the best produce, bread, pastries and even simple things (think nails and paint) to mend the house. The good thing about settling in fast is the we’re also able to enjoy all the great things that Normandy offers.
One of the first things we did when we got here is visit the city of Le Havre, which is celebrating its 500th year. Imagine that…500 years! Much has happened in the city’s history but one of the most critical ones is the devastation Le Havre encountered during World War II. There’s much hype about the movie Dunkirk right now and its role during the war but Le Havre is also another French town that played a major role during that period. It took architect Auguste Perret’s great modernist vision post-war to develop what the city is today. Le Havre indeed feels like no other French city with all its modern buildings and architecture. I used to hate its utilitarian sort of feel but it’s only through learning Perret’s vision vis-a-vis the city’s history that I learned to appreciate this place.
Most of the art installations below were created for the city’s milestone anniversary…
MuMa Le Havre
Street Art by Vincent Ganivet
Le Volcan designed by Oscar Niemeyer in 1982
Art at St. Joseph church designed by Chiharu Shihota that symbolizes spiritual awakening
Work by Lang/Baumann to resemble doors that open to the sea
This past weekend, we were invited by our friend, Jean-Jacques from the restaurant Provence en Boîte, to our old neighborhood in Brooklyn to celebrate Bastille Day. For the past 11 years, Jean-Jacques has been hosting a block party in Carroll Gardens to celebrate Bastille Day, or what the French calls le 14 juillet. The afternoon was a blast as we listened to live music, danced and ate classic French picnic food. It was fun for everyone, including Brady our dog who ventured into Brooklyn for the first time.
The nice thing about staying in the US for the month of July is that we’re able to catch up with friends whom we usually do not get to see during the school year. Almost every single summer weekend has been spent with friends and family, a pleasure without a doubt yet definitely exhausting. Now I’m almost ready for vacation…
Last weekend, we visited Philadelphia, my old hometown where I spent critical years that still play a huge role in who I am today. I love sharing memories of the city with the girls even though I’m sure most of my comments went to deaf ears. I feel that I have a renewed appreciation for the city. Though much has changed in the areas I visited in Center City and Rittenhouse Square, I always love the fact that Philly is so much more manageable and less intimidating than cities like New York, Paris or Chicago.
We spent the afternoon visiting the Philadelphia Academy of Fine Arts, which currently has an exhibit on my favorite artist of the moment, Robert Motherwell. PAFA is the oldest art museum and art school in the United States.
I can’t tell you the last time we were in the US for July Fourth weekend since the girls were born. We usually pack up and leave for France as soon as school wraps up. But times are changing and the girls wanted to do a few summer camps here in July so we postponed our vacation a bit later till the end of the month.
It’s great to be in the US this holiday. I must say it was a little sad and felt a bit disloyal to celebrate Independence Day in Europe when this holiday calls for all things American. So I was glad to have spent the weekend a bit in the Catskills/Woodstock/Hudson/Phoenicia/Saugerties area and be home in time to see my sister’s new house and go to a friend’s barbecue party.