far too much writing, far too many photos

Notes from recent travels:

August 8: a summer morning in Madrid, early sunlight slowly beginning to find its way down city streets. The previous days had been warm and then some, temperatures coasting up past the 100°F mark. And humid — not a common feature of hot weather here. This morning promised more of the same.

Made it to the Metro by 7 a.m. for the ride to the airport. Lots of manual laborers on the train, August being a big month for street and construction work — with half the city away on vacation, the caused disruptions are easier on everyone. An orange sun, bloated with early morning heat, slowly made its way free of the hills to the east of the runway as the plane lifted off and Madrid dropped away.

Arrived in Paris via train from Orly Airport just before midday. Temperatures in the upper 60s, partly-cloudy skies looking autumnal. Found my way to Gare du Nord to board the Eurostar for London.

If you can scrape together the gelt to ride first-class from Paris to London (or vice versa), consider it. It’s a great way to go. Really — don’t make the mistake of thinking it a pathetic, bourgeoisie indulgence. It’s a genuinely superior way to go, with sales or discounted fares often available. Comfortable, quiet, with beautiful views — the land between Paris and Calais is a lovely, wide-skied expanse of rolling countryside, farms, small towns. Green, verdant, all that. And the train, one of the high-speed breed, moves rapidly enough through it all that the clouds glide by as if on fast-forward, providing a smooth, strangely amped-up counterpoint to the rustic serenity stretched out beneath.

And then London — cool, cloudy, often wet. Summer essentially disappeared until my return to Madrid.

A snapshot:

Walking to the South Bank from Waterloo station. The route I’m taking includes a long pedestrian walkway which passes through two genuinely sizeable office buildings. After the second pass-through, there’s a courtyard on one side of the walkway with tables, chairs, plants. Nice. On the walkway’s other side sits an area of wasteland — the kind of place usually found on the roofs of large buildings. Spare, industrial-looking, unattractive, featuring large ventilation/air conditioning ducts and not much else. Not on top of a building in this case, but tucked away to one side of this little courtyard area.

Perched atop some of the venting ducts are large wooden tubs. Originally intended, apparently, to contain flowers or plants, though fatally neglected. If flowers ever grew in these tubs they’d long disappeared, nothing remaining but dirt and spikey, tough-looking weeds.

On the side of the building which faces that area there are windows, blacked out from the inside with paint.

And that’s all. Not a hugely attractive stretch.

At two points in that desolate little area, above blacked-out windows, signs had been posted that read “This area is alarmed.”

If I looked like that, I’d be alarmed, too.

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