Most of my life I have lived on hills or mountains and I love being up high. When I was a wee child I lived in Vaison-la-Romaine with my grandparents until I was about 4 years old. This town in Provence is at the base of the Mont Ventoux - which is quite a stiff hill for the climbers of the Tour de France. Here I am below with my granddad at the base of the Mount Ventoux that can be seen in the background. (Click on collage twice to enlarge.)
Then I lived in Paris in the Montmartre area, near the Sacre-Coeur. I don't know how many times I went up and down the steps shown in the photo below (I never need much encouragement to show a photo or painting of my hometown.) This photo was taken in 1936 (before I was born!) by the famous Hungarian photographer Brassai (born Gyula Halasz - 1899-1984) and entitled "Les Escaliers de Montmartre" - the Montmartre Stairs
But I have some photographs of my own. Walking along the streets of my old neighborhood you can see the Sacre-Coeur on its hill while turning a corner or crossing a road - of course now you can also see hundreds of tourists.
As shown in my post of July 28, 2013 - A Birthday Party
, I also lived on a hill in St Leu la Foret, going toward the Montmorency Forest. Later, when I arrived in the US I first lived on Nob Hill in San Francisco, then on a hill on 17th Street and then on the hill near the SF Mint. Here in Georgia I have been fortunate to live near Kennesaw Mountain. Actually Kennesaw Mountain National Battlefield Park is about 4 miles from my home and on my road. Although if I walk the other way I can see a hill in the background of my second neighbor's land, behind his cattle. It is called "Lost Mountain" because as you approach it, it disappears from view - I guess because the terrain keeps going up. (I don't live in a suburb really; it is more like the countryside at the bottom of the end of the Appalachian Mountains.)
For decades I had to drive through the park every day going to and fro from work and shopping. When I had to work on some Saturdays I would drive through the park around 5 am, and it was a bit eerie crossing the park in the early morning fog. Now that I am retired I don't just drive "through" the park I walk into the park and up the mountain. People come from far away to visit the preserved 2,923 acre National Battlefield Park where the largest battle of the Civil War in Georgia was fought. Fighting occurred in the vicinity of the mountain from June 18 through July 2, 1864 during the Atlanta Campaign. The battle on the mountain itself was on June 27, 1864. The Confederate Army had 63,000 men and 187 guns. The Union Army under William Tecumseh Sherman had 100,000 men, 254 guns and 35,000 horses. There were about 4,000 casualties on the mountain during the battle (Union: 3000, Confederates: 1,000 casualties.) A soldier's belt buckle was found in our yard by the previous owners. Some of the canons are still on the mountain.
The earlier inhabitants of the mountain were the Cherokee, Native Americans from that area. They were forced from their homes when the land was parceled out to white settlers. Later, in the Kennesaw Mountain region, there were some free blacks - no large plantations were around here so slaves were very few. Two free blacks, the Johnson, lived in the nearby city of Marietta - Monemia ran a restaurant and store and James, her husband, was a barber. After Atlanta was captured in November 1864, Union troops ransacked her restaurant and home and took everything there. Then the store, restaurant and home were destroyed by fire. Monemia Johnson filed a claim against the US Government for over $2,500 in damages, but she received a check for only $246, thirteen years after the end of the Civil War.
Just a couple of days ago we went up the mountain again. It had rained that morning (as it has been raining for over a month almost daily.) It was cool for an August day - about 65 degrees F (18C.) It is 64 degrees F and raining as I am writing this today. Having lived near Kennesaw Mountain now for 37 years I know it so well - the trails, the rocks, the trees, the historical markers and the view. The view is imposing. I never get tired of looking toward Atlanta, which is about 20 miles away (32 kms.) That day it was a bit hazy and one could barely distinguish the tall buildings in Atlanta in the distance.
There is a parking area at the top of the mountain and some benches. As my husband was walking up another trail I sat on a bench to read my book. Not many people were around - a couple of hikers, a man with his dog - the dog stopped by me so that I could pet him. Another man was meditating on the grass in front of the view and butterflies were fluttering around.
Everything was vivid green - every bush, tree and grass along the mountain road - it certainly has not been a dry summer. We stopped at the bench facing the 1/2 mile trail to Little Kennesaw Mountain. There were wild flowers and wild animals there too.
As my husband went down the trail I sat again on the bench but could not read my book - it was so peaceful and beautiful there - a good place to think. I could not stop reflecting about all the brave men, from both armies, who fought so many years ago. I thought that if I looked closely I might see one of them coming around the bend of the trail... if they came back I am sure they would recognize the mountain. Time passes slowly on a mountain. I have taken pictures of Kennesaw Mountain National Battlefield Park under many skies, sunny and grey, cold, wet and warm weather. It is a mountain for all seasons. Time goes by it but all the memories remain.
The 150 years anniversary of the big Civil War battle here is approaching. The park attendant told me that they are starting to plan their "Sesquicentennial Commemoration." It will take place toward the end of June 2014 with re-enactments, stories, living history displays and more. More flowers have been planted and the cedar rails have been refurbished.
So Kennesaw Mountain and park near my home have not changed much in those 37 years - and it is good.
However, other "things' do change, sometimes forever. I am talking about old restaurants now. (This is another eclectic post.) One of the first restaurants we visited when moving to Atlanta was "Dante's Down the Hatch." It was an Atlanta institution where you could eat several fondue dishes while listening to jazz. The interior resembled an 18th century sailing ship tied to the wharf of a mythic village in the Mediterranean Sea. There were several levels where you could see the sailing vessel with its sails, mast and crocodiles surrounding the hull. Clocks from the original Lloyd's of London, paneling from an old English bank and an 1892 barbershop from Sheffield, England, were some of the antiques there among other fascinating memorabilia. (Picture below courtesy Dante's.)
But the restaurant was located in a high rent district - on Peachtree Road in the Buckhead area of Atlanta. The city increased the taxes of Dante's restaurant as if it were a 40-story high rise. Dante Stephenson, the owner, announced that after 43 years of business in Atlanta, he had to close the door on July 30, 2013. He tried to work something out, but could not fight the city or promoters. Atlantic Realty Partners will build a 10-story luxury apartment tower on the property.
In another state an historic restaurant closed at about the same time. In the last few years we usually visit New York City once a year and stay in a hotel in the Upper Westside. We have seen most of the tourist sites and try to discover new places but we always walk by the Hudson River which we can see from our hotel window.
Another stop in our routine is "Big Nick's Burger & Pizza Joint" just a couple of blocks away on Broadway at West 77th Street. We have been in that neighborhood so often, we know the shops, grocery stores, the second-hand book store, the restaurants and underground station - it is familiar and like home.
But I just read that Big Nick's closed on July 28, 2013 after 51 years in business. Impossible but true. The first time we went there, years ago, it took me forever to read the menu - it was so large. The booths were small and not that comfortable, but the staff very friendly and the food like homemade and very reasonable - a rarity in New York City. There were 60 varieties of hamburgers and such an assortment of other dishes - similar to a roadside diner. There were autographed photos on the walls between announcements and food ads - it was quite unique. I did not even get a chance to try the fried pickle
The owner, Demetrios Niko Imirziades, came from Athens, Greece in 1961 (same as me in San Francisco) but he stayed in New York where he started by washing dishes and then went all the way to be owner of his restaurant. As in Atlanta, the city, the developers and landlords are hungry for more money. Big Nick's rent increased from $42,000 a month to $60,000 and he could not pay that. To me this was like a landmark in New York. (Photo below - unknown author.)
Cities in America are losing their soul, destroying historic places, whether they are old restaurants with a loyal clientele or grand ole mansions - I guess it's called capitalism and free market - so as times goes by, things change (but is it better?...) I am sad because we, the patrons of these unique restaurants, have lost them forever. We just have to sing, as Frank Sinatra did "Thanks for the memories...
" I just hope Paris can stay the same and that I can return to my old stairs in Montmartre for real, and not just in my memory.
La Rue Muller in Montmartre painted by Maurice Utrillo, French (1883-1955)
"When nothing else subsists from the past, after the people are dead, after the things are broken and scattered ... the smell and taste of things remain poised a long time, like souls ... bearing resiliently, on tiny and almost impalpable drops of their essence, the immense edifice of memory."
- Marcel Proust, French novelist (1871-1922.)