Melina Mercouri 1920-2020

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Melina Mercouri would be 100 years old in 2020, she died of cancer in New York in March 1994. She was a figure in my childhood, the movie Never on Sunday made her world famous. She was a women of great talent and became a vocal politician and defender of culture. She spoke well and with passion, her life long dream was the return of the Elgin Marbles taken from Greece during the Turkish Occupation by the British Ambassador Thomas Bruce Lord Elgin in a bid to make a quick profit, he was unlucky and despite bringing the marbles of the Parthenon to London, the British Museum refused to pay much for them. He lost his shirt in the process. The British Government to this day refuses to return the marbles, despite the fact that the New Acropolis Museum has a special room built on purpose for them. When I was accredited to Greece, I remember a plan where the British proposed to loan back the marbles at cost to the Greek Government, how cheeky!! They stole them from the Greeks in 1801.

Melina Mercouri came from a politically prominent family. She graduated from the Drama School of the National Theatre of Greece. Her first major role, at the age of 20, was Lavinia in Eugene O’Neill’s Mourning Becomes Electra, but perhaps her most memorable parts were Blanche in A Streetcar Named Desire and the good-hearted prostitute in the film Never on Sunday (1960). This film gained her an international reputation that would serve her well in politics. Her involvement in politics was triggered by her indignation over the military coup that brought a handful of army colonels to power in Greece in 1967 forcing King Constantin to go into exile.Married to the French-born film director Jules Dassin (1911-2008) (who directed most of her films), she was abroad when the coup d’Etat occurred. She dedicated herself to stimulating opposition against the military junta in Europe, to the extent that she was deprived of her Greek citizenship by the colonels’ regime.After the collapse of the dictatorship in 1974, she returned to Greece and promptly joined Prime Minister Andreas Papandreou’s Panhellenic Socialist Union (PASOK). She ran unsuccessfully that year for Parliamentary deputy from the same Piraeus district that had made her famous in Never on Sunday, but she was elected when she ran a second time, in 1977. Reelected in 1981 when Pasok won a general election, she was appointed by Papandreou to be his minister of culture.As Greek minister of Culture, one of her major efforts was an attempt to persuade the British government to return the Elgin Marbles stolen from the Parthenon to Greece; she also increased government subsidies for the arts. She served in the post until 1989, when PASOK lost power; she was reappointed after their electoral victory in 1993.

In 1971 Mercouri published an autobiography, I Was Born Greek. In 1997 UNESCO created the Melina Mercouri International Prize for the Safeguarding and Management of Cultural Landscapes; the prize is awarded every two years.

White marble monument to the memory of Melina Mercouri on Andrea Siggrou street across from the Olympian Zeus Temple in Athens. In Athens I would pass her monument every morning on my way to work, hello Melina!

Manos Hadjidakis (1925-1994) won the Oscar for Best Original Song for “Never On Sunday” at the 33rd Annual Academy Awards® in 1961. He was one of the greatest Greek Composer of the 20th century. The song is actually entitled in Greek Ta Paidia tou Peiraia, les enfants du Pirée, the children of the Piraeus, the film was titled in English,  Never on Sunday. A great classic, a movie I love to watch, though the Greece presented in this movie no longer exist.

 

 

Le temps des cerises

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It is cherry time now, all markets have them and we are in the second part of Summer, though the weather has been hot and humid and living by the ocean is a good thing for the breeze it brings constantly.

I have been reading the book written by Lady C.  (Lady Colin Campbell) know as Georgie to her friends. She wrote and published a tell all book about Meghan and Harry entitled Meghan and Harry the true story. Lady C. does not like Meghan who the British Press now call Me Gain, for her rapacious quest for financial gains, the British Media is no kinder to Harry who they now call Blow Job Harry, apparently that is how Meghan won his heart. Lady C. got lots to say in her book and gives ample references.

Both of them come across as total idiots, she for not understanding or not paying attention to what she was getting into or as is now largely suspected she is a social climber and a gold digger who planned it all well and bagging Harry who is a dolt. He for seeking some silly revenge on his family for slights and for being the spare, well this is what happens in Royal Families, you simply have to carve a role for yourself. Meghan plays on Harry’s super emotional and sensitive nature prone to burst of rage, many anecdotes on that one from various people who were on the receiving end of his tantrums. Even the chef who cooked for both boys when they were kids, says that William was the mature practical one more like his father, while Harry was the air head.  The boy got problems, I now understand better the remark made during our visit to Kensington Palace a year ago that Harry had mommy issues.

The one drawback to the book, it needs more editing and Lady C. got the part about Canada wrong when she speaks about Margaret Trudeau, the 70 something mother of our current Prime Minister. The newer book by Scobie and Durand Finding Freedom, I will give a pass. The whole affair is unbelievable, why could Harry not marry a nice German Princess like in the old days.

Now this morning I read the blog of Dr Spo who is Carl Jung’s first cousin and living incognito in Phoenix AZ. https://sporeflections.wordpress.com

He was mentioning reading books from the family library entitled the 100 best stories. He was wondering if they really were the best stories written by some unknown authors. This got me thinking that Reader’s Digest once had books by famous authors in abridged versions and sold them in nice leather bound edition with gold trim, I do not know if anyone ever read them. I also remember thinking if you read one of those books could you really say you had read the book, it was an abridged version with sections cut out so not the actual complete work.

When it comes to stories the French literary scene has lots of authors but one in particular is Charles Perrault (1628-1703) who is said to have invented the concept of Fairy Tales. Another is Jean de la Fontaine (1621-1695) the famous fabulist. Both lived during the reign of Louis XIV, a golden age for the arts.

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Perrault in my estimation is the classic story teller and his tales are world famous, immortal you could say. Little Red Riding Hood, Sleeping Beauty, Blue Beard, Tom Thumb, Cinderella, etc.. His tales all have a moral lesson attached to them and he writes to impress upon the imagination and plays on the fears of the common man. Symbolism is important, good and evil represented by the dark forest, the wolf, witches, giants and ogres. His tales delight and frighten everyone really as they did then. He appeals to our basic instincts as humans all the while telling his tale.

Jean de la Fontaine in his famous fables equally tells tales which draws upon lessons for life, with a heavy dose of morality with punishments for those who do not heed the warnings.

Both Perrault and Lafontaine I learned at school and at home, they were the classic authors you simply had to know. I wonder if children still read those stories or is it all about super heroes now and dinosaurs.

 

Line C, Metropolitana

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Rome remains a city of great interest to me and since we left some years ago I still follow what is going on. It remains really our second home and very dear to us.

The completion at snail pace of the Line C of the Metropolitana di Roma, the infamous line C which connects line A and B in Rome is something I have been following for years. When we left Rome in 2011 I thought it would be completed in a year or two. This is a very long metro line which crosses Rome from one end to the other however given that Rome is a very compact city building a metro line over 24 Km should not be a long tedious affair, well think again. The first tranche of Line C is now complete from the Eastern Suburb at Monte Compatri-Pantano to San Giovanni where is intersect with Line A.  San Giovanni is the site of the ancient Basilica of San Giovanni Laterano, the Pope’s church since he is the Bishop of Rome with a Papal Palace attached. The first section now functionning opened in 2014 and two more stations in 2018. The biggest hurdle is all the archeological sites along the route, as the construction gets nearer to the historical centre of Rome the engineers have to dig ever deeper and at the same time all work must stop the minute they hit any ancient site. Archeologists and historians are brought in and a major study is undertaken, which can take a couple of years, so this causes many long delays.

The result the digging has now reached the Roman Forum area and the Colosseum, continuing down the Via dei Fori Imperiali, as you can see from the photo upper right corner down to the Altar of the Nation, ( the big white monument) the tunnelling is now more than 90 feet under ground to avoid any ancient structure. Some stations because of the complexity of avoiding any archeological structure or monument have been cancelled out right, like the planned station at Lago di Torre Argentina where four ancient temples of the Republican era around 2200 years old are located and also it is the site of the Theatre of Pompey where Julius Cesar was assassinated in 44 BC.  So far the line is 15 years late in completion and billions in Euro over budget.

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Centre of Rome, Piazza Venezia in front of the Altar to the Nation. 

In any other city, engineers and politicians would have compromised and agreed to save some monuments and ignore others, based on the importance historically of what should be preserved and what should be discarded. In North America, this is a common compromise, in Canada often everything is bulldozed and only a plaque will recall what was destroyed. However in Italy it is a very different matter and any question of not studying what is found and not taking measures to preserve it is considered barbaric. So I have seen years of discussion between the various Mayors of Rome, Prime Ministers of Italy, Ministers of Culture, archeologists, University deans, members of the public etc. go on and on and on, enough to drive you crazy.  If this was not enough there was also a big discussion around the two boring machines or Talpe (Italian for moles)  underground digging the tunnels, what to do with them, should they be left in a side gallery once the work is over or …

100835538_1d08589e8bHow much this is costing in total is not even considered. it is not important, what does matter is to preserve the past of Rome. Some Metro station will have museums built within to exhibit the artefacts, so that riders can view it all as they come to the Station. The design of each station in the historical centre must be practical but also appropriate to the surrounding area and style matters. The Piazza Venezia station will be unique in the world given the Palaces of noble princely families, like the Colonna and Doria Pamphilij in the neighbourhood and the importance of this square in the heart of Rome.

In the digs discovered so far are barracks of the Pretorian guards with beautiful mosaic floors intact and some wall paintings, then at Piazza Venezia the forgotten Athenaeum of Emperor Hadrian was unearth which prompted great excitement amongst Academia. Not to mention all the other finds and artifacts.

Line C is important for the future of the City and public transport, it needs to be built and the delays only make things worse in terms of traffic congestion in Rome a City with a population of almost 3 million people, you have 2.6 million cars. This week the Mayor of Rome announced that the Colosseo Station will open in 2025 more than 8 years late and Piazza Venezia should open thereafter, but what about all the other stations going across the Tiber and beyond St-Peter’s, no one knows.

Rome for Romans remain the Capital of the World and it seems that from what I have seen this belief is entrenched in how people see themselves and their City.

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Line C is in pale green, remains 6 stations to be built from Colosseo to Clodio Mazzini.

Summer music

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On a hot muggy Summer day when a thunderstorm is possible, we need light music. Emmanuel Chabrier composed Suite Pastorale in 1888.

Between 1881 and 1888 Chabrier orchestrated Idylle, Danse villageoise, Sous-bois and Scherzo-valse to form the Suite pastorale. The suite was first performed on 4 November 1888 by the Association artistique d’Angers conducted by Chabrier himself. These four pieces are taken from Chabrier’s composition for piano of 10 pieces called Pièces pittoresques composed in 1881.

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Painting by Henri Fantin-Latour entitled Autour du piano. Chabrier is playing and his friends listen, Adolphe Julien, Arthur Boisseau, Camille Benoît, Edmond Maître, Antoine Lascoux, Vincent D’Indy and Amédée Pigeon.

 

Summerside

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Once upon a time the Town of Summerside PEI there was a military airport and training facility from 1940 to 1991. Then Government program cuts came and it all disappeared. It destroyed the economy of Summerside and created serious unemployment and business failures. The town of 15K went into a slumber and decay. The town had also suffered great fires in its core which did damage the fabric of the city in 1879 and 1880. Summerside is often described as a city of little interest.

During our staycation we discovered something quite different. Summerside has beautiful neighbourhoods and great homes far more impressive than what you see in Charlottetown. Leafy avenues and imposing brick buildings. We went to Summerside to buy ice cream at Holman’s, a family run business located in the old Holman Family Mansion across the street from City Hall. All the ice cream is freshly made on the premises, all natural ingredients and made in small batches. This is high quality ice cream and in my opinion beats in terms of taste and quality, the more commercial COWs which dominates the market in Charlottetown.

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Holman Family Mansion 1855 in Summerside, PEI and its beautiful garden.

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We did buy 2 litres of ice cream, chocolate and strawberry, creamy and very good.

There is also some very good coffee shops in Summerside, which also serve breakfast and lunch. One is Samuel’s where we had a coffee and a sweet, top quality, all made on premises fresh daily. There is a trend in PEI now for this type of coffee shop which offers someting different from the Corporate brand coffee shops. In Charlottetown we have Receiver Coffee and in Montague The Lucky Bean, all offer their own roasted coffee beans on premises and all food and breads are baked by them, it is a more European approach. Menu is also ever changing and has Vegan options.

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Samuel’s Coffee House at 4 Queen street corner with Water street.

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Summerside is on the sea and here is the famous Indian Head Lighthouse at the entrance to its harbour. I was surprised to see how far out it was in the harbour.

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Summerside City Hall across from Holman’s

Also while we were visiting we stumbled upon the Wyatt House who organized an Art Exhibit of large canvas paintings on one of its residential streets.

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All in all Summerside is well worth a visit, it’s a nice city.

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Montreal Baroque

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Music by J.S.Bach adapted from Hymns.

Brandenburg Concerto No. 7: III. Allegro (After J.S. Bach’s Der Himmel lacht, die Erde jubilieret, BWV 31: Sonata for orchestra) ·

Montréal Baroque:  Brandenburg Concertos Nos. 7-12 ℗ 2012 ATMA Classique Released on: 2012-05-01 Conductor: Eric Milnes Ensemble: Montréal Baroque Composer: Bruce Haynes

Lucy Maud

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While staying at the cottage at French River, we drove a few minutes down the road to the Birthplace of the author Lucy Maud Montgomery in New London. This is NOT the house every tourist will visit in Cavendish connected with the Anne of Green Gables story.  The old house which is quite modest and small and in keeping with the standard of homes in 1860 is set in a field at the intersection of two roads in New London. Her grandparents lived just a short ride away and their barn is now used as a museum to the author and her works, their home where Lucy Maud lived as a child is no longer in existence. It is interesting to visit the Birthplace because it tells you more about the author and her parents and family and how they lived before Lucy Maud ever became an author, you could say it is more personal, more intimate.

Lucy Maud Montgomery was born in November 1874, her father was Hugh John Montgomery and her mother Clara MacNeil. PEI had just joined the Canadian Confederation in 1873 and so the new Province was now part of the Dominion of Canada. Within 20 months of her birth, her mother Clara died of tuberculosis and her father decided to send baby Lucy Maud to his parents down the road to be looked after, he left the Island and moved to the North West Territories, which later in 1905 became the Province of Saskatchewan in Western Canada, truly frontier country back then, vast grassland prairies still mostly populated by Natives and the buffalo herds. Lucy Maud would not see her father until the age of 15 when she then migrated West, her father had remarried by then and Lucy Maud did not get along with her new Step-Mother and so returned to PEI within one year.

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Picture below, her parents bedroom and Lucy Maud’s crib

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Lucy Maud would later attend Dalhousie University in Nova Scotia and marry a Presbyterian Church Minister and move with him to Ontario to live mostly in Southern Ontario and finally in Toronto. Not a happy married life, in fact the marriage was a mistake, he was a manic depressive, given to hallucinations and hearing voices, ranting and raving. Lucy Maud would famously remarked one day that Women God wanted to destroy he married to Church Ministers. They had 3 sons and to this day the grandchildren live mostly in Ontario with some remnants of the family in PEI. She died in 1942 from what was said at the time to be heart failure but in 1974 on her centennial it was revealed in a CBC radio interview that she had committed suicide. She too suffered from depression, was obsess with her social standing and depressed that in Toronto the literary circles did not take her seriously as a writer despite her enormous success. Her son Chester also gave her many problems and was engaged in a life of petty crimes. Both her and her husband the rev. Ewen Macdonald used barbiturates and sleeping pills heavily.

Few knew the depth of Montgomery’s problems. She alluded to them in letters. “Remember me as I used to be, not as I am now,” she wrote.

“I envy those who die in their sleep,” she wrote in another letter. “I have a horrible fear that I’ll die by inches.”

Her final known journal entry was dated March 23, 1942. “My life has been hell, hell, hell. My mind is gone — everything in the world I lived for has gone — the world has gone mad,” it read. “I shall be driven to end my life. Oh God, forgive me. Nobody dreams what my awful position is.”

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Montgomery’s Toronto home at 210 Riverside Dr. was indeed her journey’s end. She was found dead in her bed on April 24, 1942. Her son and her physician believed it was a suicide.

Next to Montgomery was a written page. It was dated and had a page number. It is not clear if it was a suicide note or belonged to a journal.

“My position is too awful to endure and nobody realizes it,” the page read. “What an end to a life in which I tried always to do my best in spite of many mistakes.”

Today, Lucy Maud Montgomery is immortal, her many books, poems, the Anthem to PEI, and the Anne of Green Gables series has guaranteed her place in Canadian literary pantheon. Her family and personal problems are all forgotten and only her skills at presenting Island life as a social comment to the era remains.

I enjoyed the visit to her birthplace because of the peace of the place and on offer are several of her books including 2 biographies. It is certainly not the commercial amusement park Green Gables in Cavendish has sadly become.

In reading about her life you see that much of her inspiration comes from her own personal life, Anne like Lucy Maud is an orphan, living with relatives, deceased or distant parents, going to school and the adventure of living in a rural setting. The small minds and pettiness of isolated surroundings and the hypocrisy of keeping up appearances, religious intolerance. It is in many ways a portrait of society in early days Canada.

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Junction of Road 20 and road 6 in PEI about 45 minutes from Charlottetown.

Return from Staycation

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Well we returned yesterday from our week at the Beach House Inn at French River near New London PEI where we rented a cottage. It was delightful and sooooo peaceful compared to the noisy Capital. Surrounded by woods, fields, red sandstone cliffs and the beach. Only the birds and a family of Foxes for company, we were the only guests on the property. The birds are interesting, from eagles to hawks, cormorants to blue jays, swallows, robins, warblers, quite the variety.

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The Fox family was a mother and her 4 kits, very tame and unafraid of people though they always keep a respectful distance.  The property was beautiful and very well maintained, the main house had 7 mature Linden trees on the West side, a big marsh full of water reeds on the East side of the property and on the hill the famous Cousin Family pioneer cemetery known as Yankee Hill. The Cousin family were French Huguenots who fled France ended up in the American colonies and at the revolution came to PEI fleeing again the chaos. The were probably wealthy if one looks at their elaborate white marble tombstones. In September 2019 the hurricane Dorian came to PEI and devastated the area around Cavendish where 70% of the trees were damaged. This old burial ground is in a forest and many of the poplars toppled. Luckily none of the 200 year old tombstones were damaged, a miracle of sorts. Across the road to the beach stands another old cemetery called Simms, this one is dedicated to the 200 sailors who died in the historic storm known as the Yankee Gale in October 1851. Our view was the sand dunes and the beach and it’s small lighthouse, the New London Rear Lighthouse nowadays surrounded by a large marsh. It is automated like all light houses. The waterway is treacherous, large ever moving sandbanks at the entrance to the South West and French River, both leading to small fishing harbours. The surrounding countryside is picturesque, lots of farms cultivating wheat, potatoes, mustard and corn. The area was settled after the Acadians where deported and their land confiscated by the British around 1755. The new settlers were stern Protestants, Presbyterians and Anglicans. Some of the Acadians did come back after 1763 and settled further West on the Island.

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This year of the Pandemic there are virtually no tourists, the only people who can actually come to PEI are from the other Maritime provinces and they do not need to isolate. Anyone else would be automatically forced into 14 day isolation upon arrival and people are watchful.

Some good seafood restaurants and art galleries in the area. The beaches are very clean and quiet. We could actually walk from our home to Cape Tryon and its Lighthouse an 8 Km treck along the cliffs, very beautiful scenery. It was a good staycation just to get out of the noise of Charlottetown.

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The Linden Trees at the Beach House Inn. We could say we were unter den Linden.

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Sunset on the cliffs at Cap Tryon, with the lighthouse. In terms of direction looking out into the Gulf of St-Lawrence, towards Anticosti Island and Newfoundland.

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Truly peaceful away from it all. You come to appreciate the silence.

Japanese Food

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I was able to travel twice to Japan and visit the country. It was the two most amazing trips I ever made. Japan is a fantastic country with a complex ancient culture. One great thing about Japan is the food culture. Food is everywhere and people love eating. This YouTube video is exactly what I saw and experienced.

I travelled a great deal by train and the train stations are a wonder to behold, why fly when train travel is a dream. The food on offer in Train Stations is incredible, not to mention all the other restaurants and the impeccable service everywhere.

Enjoy!

What to take on vacation

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Every time Summer rolls around, reading lists appears, all manner of books are proposed. Thing is, many of those books are for general appeal and some make the best seller list. But I am never interested in them and if I am going to buy a book I want to make sure I will read it. So the topic has to appeal to me in some fashion.

We are going to the cottage at the beach and I am looking for books to read. I got one by Cicero written of course some 2070 yrs ago on how to rule a country, I may get tips on how to do it best, if ever I intend to rule Canada, one of the most difficult country to rule give our 6 time zones and enormous geographic space bordering on 3 oceans, we could be called an Empire based on size alone, but we settled for Dominion (Kingdom).  I also found two other books on Kindle but I just realized they will be available after 28 July, so I will have to wait. One is by Lady C. the Duchess of Argyll, her newly released best seller on Meghan and Harry. The other is a book recommended by Nicholas Hoare who use to own a famous bookstore in Ottawa on Sussex Drive. It was such a beautiful bookstore and guaranteed you would find something to your liking. Hoare recommended a book based on letters written by Sir Alan Frederick ”Tommy” Lascelles who was the private secretary of King George VI and later his daughter Queen Elizabeth II. This book was made possible by special permission from H.M. the Queen, usually such letters never see the light of day. The letters cover the War years and shine a light on historical passages that might otherwise remain obscure. Lascelles being an Oxford graduate writes beautifully, the man had vocabulary, something that is lost nowadays. He was also part of the Courtier network around the Royal Family.

So I am now looking at my home library and what can I find on the shelves, there is a wide choice. But then I wonder how much reading I will do all together.

So off we go on Hwy 2 towards the West and French River, the area has many little settlements, then turning unto Hwy 20 and on the road we will pass, near our destination, the birthplace of Lucy Maud Montgomery, a simple little house in a field. She is of course the famous author, who in PEI is revered.  The last few kilometres is a red dirt road amongst fields and marshes which ends at the Sand dunes, the New London Range Lighthouse and the sea. This is where we will be. I am looking forward to seeing the night sky which in such a remote location reveals itself to be ablaze with unimaginable number of stars and galaxies including our own Milky Way. Also the silence of the place, disturbed only by the surf and songs of birds and maybe one or two coyotes howling.

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