2016 Grateful 45

Two months in to the year and I’ve managed to get to Morocco, Ireland, Malta, Serbia, and Poland.  I head Stateside later this week, and plan on spending time in Argentina, Austria, Brazil, Croatia, Estonia, Germany, Italy, Peru, Portugal, Romania, Slovakia,  and the UK before the year is out.

travel as much as you canI’m not sure where I get it from. My dad has a thing about planes believing that what goes up, must come down, and not necessarily on schedule. My mum isn’t big on travel either. And they swear I wasn’t adopted.

I’m lucky enough to have a job that facilitates this need and luckier still that those closest to me understand it and recognise the signs. I’ve noticed myself that if I’ve been too long in one place, I start to get antsy. My tolerance levels, never high to begin with, sink lower still. I find it hard to concentrate. My mind makes the journeys for me. I worry what life would be like were something to happen that would anchor me to one place. How would I cope if I had but two weeks a year in which to explore, or worse still, not be physically able to venture abroad. It doesn’t bear thinking about.

I’m currently rereading Dana Stabenow’s Kate Shugak series set in Alaska. I’m more than half-way through and find myself envying her life … again. She’s a five-foot 30-something Aleut who does what she needs to do to get by in the Bush. She hunts. She fishes. She investigates. She lives on a 160-acre homestead in The Park. She’s a force to be reckoned with. And she hates leaving her world and venturing outside. And ’tis there that our paths diverge. I reckon if put to the pin of my collar I could do all the other stuff… but staying put in one place no matter how jaw-droppingly gorgeous it was? Not me.

travelMany years ago, a good mate of mine who lives on the big island of Hawaii was talking about buying a place on another island – just to get away from it all. I remember laughing at the good of it. There they were living in the place to which the world escaped and they were feeling the need to escape, too.
It got me thinking. Do I travel to escape, to get away? Do I travel because I need a change of scenery? Do I travel just to say I’ve been?  And, as usually happens when I start talking to the universe, it sends me an answer. This time it sent me John Hope Franklin. A man I’d never heard of before. Had I studied history or grown up in America, I might have come across him sooner. But I didn’t and I haven’t. But his message was clear:

We must go beyond textbooks, go out into the bypaths and untrodden depths of the wilderness and travel and explore and tell the world the glories of our journey.

And therein lay my answer: I travel to share. An old friend, an inveterate explorer back in the day but now confined to closer quarters, thanked me once for taking them with me on my trips, for showing them places they’d never been, and introducing them to stuff that would otherwise have passed them by. I liked that.

A mate in Australia told me recently how much their postman enjoys my postcards and how he wishes I’d write clearer so he could read them. I liked that too.

This week, as I unpack, do laundry, and repack my bags, I’m grateful, yet again, that I love to travel and I’m grateful, too, for those who travel with me.

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2016 Grateful 46

‘Common sense and a sense of humour are the same thing, moving at different speeds. A sense of humour is just common sense, dancing.’

I think William James had something there. He was a major contributor to the Pragmatism Movement a philosophical movement that includes those who claim that an ideology or proposition is true if it works satisfactorily, that the meaning of a proposition is to be found in the practical consequences of accepting it, and that unpractical ideas are to be rejected.

I’ve been giving this some thought lately, having nothing better to do and wanting a distraction from the everyday stuff that normally occupies my mind. And I am wondering whether Murphy – you know Murphy? The Optimist? As in Murphy was an optimist? –  was also a pragmatist.
toastI got this in my inbox last week (ta much JF) and just had to wonder:

Murphy drops some buttered toast on the kitchen floor and it lands butter-side-up. He looks down in astonishment, for he knows it’s a law of the universe that buttered toast always falls butter-down. So he rushes round to the presbytery to fetch Father Flanagan.

He tells the priest that a miracle has occurred in his kitchen. He won’t say what it is, but asks Fr. Flanagan to come and see it with his own eyes.

He leads Fr. Flanagan into the kitchen and asks him what he sees on the floor.

“Well,” says the priest, “it’s pretty obvious. Someone has dropped some buttered toast on the floor and then, for some reason, they flipped it over so that the butter was on top.”

“No, Father, I dropped it and it landed like that!” exclaimed Murphy.

“Oh my Lord,” says Fr. Flanagan, “Dropped toast never falls with the butter side up. It’s a mir…. Wait… it’s not for me to say it’s a miracle. I’ll have to report this matter to the Bishop and he’ll have to deal with it. He’ll send some people round; to interview you, take photos, etc.”

A thorough investigation is conducted, not only by the archdiocese but by scientists sent over  from the Curia in Rome. No expense is spared. There is great excitement in the town as  everyone knows that a miracle will bring in much-needed tourism revenue.

Then, after 8 long weeks and with great fanfare, the Bishop announces the final ruling.

“It is certain that some kind of an extraordinary event took place in Murphy’s kitchen, quite outside the natural laws of the universe. Yet the Holy See must be very cautious before ruling a miracle. All other explanations must be ruled out. “

“Unfortunately, in this case, it has been declared ‘No Miracle’ because they think Murphy may have buttered the toast on the wrong side!”

toast3I am grateful this week that I still wonder why, that I still ask questions, that I still want to know. Because life without wonder, without question, without curiosity would be very boring indeed. I don’t have to have all the answers. I don’t need all the answers. I don’t want all the answers. Sometimes, it’s just enough to wonder why.

2016 Grateful 47

‘Ouch’, she cried.
‘What’s happened?’, I asked the group in general, as a rather large hairy man was blocking my view.
‘He’s just dropped his penis on her head’, someone said.
‘And it was nearly the end of me,’ she moaned.

IMG_3204 (800x600)Not exactly your usual Sunday afternoon pub conversation but then again, it wasn’t just any Sunday afternoon. We were in Mohács for the annual Busójárás festival, one acknowledged by UNESCO as an intangible cultural heritage. It’s been the locals’ way of saying ‘goodbye winter’ and ‘hello spring’ since the eighteenth century. Revellers parade through the town wearing hideous busós (masks), sporting wooden penises in all shapes and sizes. It’s not for the fainthearted.

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IMG_3164 (800x600)Some 80 000 people had rocked up for Sunday’s festivities and the place was jammed. Add that to the fact that Wales and Ireland were playing their first Six Nations match of the year and finding free wifi to stream the game was a priority. We got the kick-off time wrong but did manage to catch the second half on instant feed and over the radio in bar of the Szent Janós hotel. The 16-16 draw was a nice bonus given that we had both countries represented around the table.

With the wine flowing and palinka making miraculous apparitions, it didn’t take long to get into the belly of it all.

IMG_3157 (800x600)IMG_3174 (482x800)
IMG_3189 (800x600)IMG_3193 (800x600)Our bus of 23 split up into more manageable smaller groups when we parked up after a and wandered around the town. I wanted to see the coffin being thrown into the river at 4.30 and while the crowd standing on the banks was 3 and 4 deep in places, I did IMG_3196 (800x600)manage to get a view of sorts. I’d missed this when I was there in 2013 and have to admit to the whole thing being a little anti-climactic. I expected a little more fanfare. Still, the crowd seemed to be into it all so it was probably just me. And I was pleased to see the tip to neighbouring Croatia as one side of the coffin read Poklade (Croatian for Winter).

It was all little surreal, with the Busó popping up
everywhere. And as the day wore on, they became even more amorous. And daring. As I said, not for the IMG_3200 (800x600)fainthearted. The town was bopping with folks dancers, folk singers, traditional bands, musicians of all sorts. And even the spectators did their part turning out in national costumes and weird and wonderful fancy dress.

IMG_3267 (800x600)P1020750 (800x600)I met a lot of interesting people this week – from all over the world. At a workshop in Malta we shared interesting facts about our respective countries and learned to appreciate our differences.

I’m grateful for  the never-ending list of things to do in Hungary, for the diversity it serves up alongside the wealth of culture it offers. And I’m grateful, too, for the company I keep. The sing-song on the bus on the way home did Ireland proud. What’s not to love about life?

PS – Thanks to the irrepressible Mr Fulop for organising it all. And for counting so well.

 

 

 

2016 Grateful 48

Many things in life confuse me. I have lots of questions about why we do what we do – questions that remained largely unanswered. Most are trivial and benign, the answers to which won’t leave any lasting impression on my life or change the way I live. They fall mainly in the ‘would be nice,  but not essential, to know’ bracket. Like why do people check their tissues after blowing their noses? It’s an almost involuntary reflex. What is it they’re looking for? I know good manners says we shouldn’t but just watch… so many do.

blowing noseA recent article in the Journal.ie  talks about what the color of snot means. (Journal.ie is a nifty app that gives bite-sized pieces of news from Ireland and abroad, allowing me to keep in touch with what is going on at home, even if none of what I read will have any lasting effect on my life and most of which definitely falls into the trivia category (i.e., one Irish citizen was arrested every 4 hours in London in 2015).

  • Clear is good – it lubricates and moisturises. But too much of a good thing can herald bad times – like allergies or the start of a cold. 
  • White shows signs of irritation like a cold but could also signal an allergy to dairy products. And did you know that too much coffee, tea, and booze can also dehydrate and turn your snot white?
  • Yellow means possible infection. Your white blood cells are fighting something and dying in the process.
  • Green for a few weeks? Accompanied by fever or nausea? Then it’s time to see the doctor about whatever infection is rampaging your bod.
  • Pink or red means blood. No prizes for guessing that one. Allergies, infection, or lots of blowing can trigger this.
  • Brown can also be blood … or dirt, dust, or cigarette smoke. So don’t panic. But if you’re coughing up brown mucus – that could mean bronchitis.
  • If it’s black and you don’t live in a big, smoggy city or work in a smoky bar, you could have a fungal infection.

 

 

 

 

Finally, thankfully, I have my answer. People checking tissues after blowing have been self-diagnosing.

Now, if someone could tell me why so many greats popped off the face of the earth in January, I’d be really grateful.

2016 Grateful 49

Back at the turn of the century, a bunch of Irish friends were making semi-regular trips to France to purchase wine by the bootload. They’d make a weekend of it, stretch out the buying spree to include everything French. I was never invited for two reasons (a) I didn’t drink wine and (b) I didn’t like olives. The fact that I wasn’t living in the country then may also have had something to do with it.

Around the same time, in Oxford, the one and only RG, talked me into sharing a bottle of white wine with him one evening and the rest, as the man says, is history. But I’ve never quite mastered any sort of appreciation for red wine, partly due to an overindulgence in hot port in Anchorage one evening that has left me marked for life. I can’t sit beside an open bag of wine gums without feeling nauseous.

Early this month, I was in Castle Leslie with said same Irish friends. As we sat down to a five-course dinner in our private dining room, it was soon clear that everyone but me was drinking red wine.  What to do? Get a bottle of white for myself? I couldn’t be that obvious.

gin1I’d been a little late to dinner so missed the cocktail order. Instead, I chose one of the 88 gins from an extensive menu curated by Food and Beverages Manager John Matthews. No. 209. From the only distillery in the world that is ‘situated over water’. Based on Pier 50 in San Francisco, it’s quadruple distilled and gets its name from the fact that it’s the 209th distillery to be licensed in the states. And it was rather delicious.  [Note to anyone interested: I have a birthday coming up this year!]

 

Matthews dropped by to see how we were all doing (the service in CL is second to none) and asked if anyone was on the gin. Of course I was. And then he rocked my world by telling me that it’s his belief that gin can accompany a meal just was well as wine. Imagine. A different gin every course. Who needs wine, I thought to myself. I’d be happy to be a guinea pig for this little experiment.
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My 209 went rather nicely with venison starter. But for mains, I was torn between the beef and the pork (pork belly and pigs cheek). For the beef, he recommended an English gin from Birmingham’s Langley distillery  – Botanic (served with lime and juniper berries). Or was it the Scottish Botanist (served with thyme and lemon)?  And for the pork, it was another English  number, the single-distilled Hoxton gin. Made using only alcohol from French summer wheat (who knew?) its recipe includes coconut, grapefruit, juniper, iris, tarragon and ginger. This I had to try. So I went for the pork and savoured the gin. And while it was certainly different, the No. 209 was still winning.

 

I’m a great lover of cannoli and can’t pass it up on those rare occasions it makes a dessert menu. And for this, it was another American gin – Deaths Door (served with pear and cracked coriander. And while the spirit was willing, the body was weak. I was tired, too tired to appreciate another gin. Looking it up later, I see that it has had mixed reviews. And I also see that it’s in Wisconsin, a gin3part of the world I will be in pretty soon – so I might just have to visit in person.

It was a lovely experiment and one I could repeat. I’d have to eat slower though and take longer between courses. Gin isn’t something to be rushed.

It’s been a week crammed with fine dining and notable wines – a good week that included a Black Tie event, some good theatre, and plenty of socialising. Add this to lasting memories of Matthew’s Gin Menu (featuring gins from Ireland, Holland, Australia, Colombia, Spain, Germany, England, Scotland, France, Norway, and the USA) and I have plenty to be grateful for. He also tipped me off to the Ginvent calendar  from the Masters of Malt who can send a sample bottle of new gin for every day in Advent. Did I mention that I have a birthday coming up this year 🙂

 

2016 Grateful 50

I’m quite partial to a bit of posh. I’m convinced that in a previous life (or indeed, lives), I was loaded. To the manor born and all that. I feel remarkably at home in country estates and have little problem at all when it comes to imagining hosting a silver-crystal dinner for thirty of my bestest friends in the long hall in front of a roaring fire. I’ve been known to lose myself as I conjure up visions of horse-drawn carriages, calling cards, butlers, and parlour maids. But that was in a previous life, not the one I have now. And no, I’m not complaining. I’m just saying.

I was treated recently to a champagne afternoon tea at the Shelbourne Hotel on Dublin’s St Stephen’s Green. It’s a local institution that has been serving the hoi polloi of the city and oceans of international travellers since 1824. In fact, it’s founder, one Martin Burke from Tipperary, had exactly this in mind. He envisioned a hotel that would ‘woo genteel customers who wanted solid, comfortable and serviceable accommodation at a fashionable address’. He named the hotel after William Petty, 2nd Earl of Shelburne [Burke added the o], and British Prime Minister from 1782 to 1783. [That I never knew.]

It was here that the country’s first Constitution was drafted back in 1922 and over the years, it’s become a landmark and an institution. In the Horseshoe Bar one night many years ago, I turned  with G&T in hand and ran into Nicholas Cage – or rather he ran in to me. That same evening, as I waited outside for a mate to arrive, Martin Sheen stepped out of a taxi and said hello. I’d imagine that a read through the old hotel registers that can be checked out from the hotel’s lobby museum would be an interesting way to pass a wet afternoon.

But I was there for afternoon tea, with champers, in the Lord Mayor’s Lounge. And at €57 per person, I was expecting great things. But times have changed.

We had a 5pm sitting. All that was available. And every seat was taken. I was told on booking that we would have 90 minutes and had this filed away somewhere in the back of my mind, figuring we’d have loads of time.

SB6 (800x468)First up, the champagne, a choice of pink or white. Real stuff, too. Lovely. Then the sambos. One each of a choice of four. While they were tasty, I was surprised at how uninspiring they were. And open, too. I know I spend a lot of time in Hungary, home of the open sandwich, but still, I like my breads to meet. I like a traditional sambo. But they were tasty.

Next up, the three-tiered cake dish with scones, cakes, and desserts (working from the bottom up). It was the scones I’d come for, really. Those and the clotted cream. [It’s the only time I eat jam. And in living memory, no matter how full I have been, I have never turned down a cream tea. Even now I can taste the clotted Cornish cream I had last summer.] I have very fond memories of afternoon teas, including one at the Parsonage in Oxford, or the Ritz in London, or the Empress on Vacouver Island. I’d been salivating since morning at the thoughts of a repeat. But the scones were small and the cream wasn’t clotted. But they were tasty.

SB2 (800x600)The macaroons, those multi-coloured pastel things that took the world by storm a couple of years ago, were very very sweet. All the cakes were very sweet. Too sweet. But they looked amazing. I was particularly taken with the eggshell, its sweet centre and shortbread soldiers for SB1 (800x599)dipping. But it was far too sweet.

All the while we chatted, drank tea, then switched to coffee. We looked around, took in the sights, caught the occasional waft of another conversation as it wound its away around the living room. All very pleasant. It was tipping on 6.30 and our 90 minutes were up, but there were tables vacant and no one waiting to come in. We had just arrived at the top-tier when our waiter came over and asked, politely, if we’d like to box it up and take it home. We were getting the bum’s rush!! This I certainly didn’t expect. Another 10 minutes wouldn’t have killed them. A little put out, we boxed and left.

It was a thoroughly enjoyable afternoon and great to see how the other half live. Some of our fellow afternoon-teaers looked like regulars. Must be nice. The decor, the ambiance, the setting all took me back to that previous life when the hotel might have been my home from home in the city. That said, I wonder if the Shelbourne has become a tad complacent? Is it resting a little on its laurels? As posh afternoon teas go, I’ve had better. In my book, substance trumps appearance every time.

Still, I’m grateful that I’ve been able to add another memory to the memory bank of well-spent afternoons. I’m grateful that we got to kick off M’s birthday week in style. And I’m grateful to the inimitable Mr N for treating me to a taste of times past. Lovely. Lovely indeed.

2016 Grateful 51

It’s been a long time since anyone scrubbed me down and washed me. The last time was most likely during a hospital stay in Cherry Orchard some 20 years ago. But, as is more usual that not, I hadn’t done my research and had little idea what to expect from a Hammam. I had some vague notion of a steam room followed by a massage, but didn’t think much beyond that.

Do I bring a swimsuit? Would they care? Surely there’ll be towels involved? Using various sign language she made it clear that I could strip to my birthday suit but men needed to be suitably clothed. Then it was in to the steam room where I was doused in water and told to sit and wait. So sit and wait I did.

Now, for someone for whom the thought of a long bath is far more enjoyable that the bath itself, I was soon getting antsy. I find it very difficult to sit and relax unless there’s a couch or a bed or some sort of wait involved. Just to sit for the sake of sitting with nothing to sit for – that does my head in.

After about 20 minutes, she returns with some black soap and proceeds to exfoliate me thoroughly. It was dark. I don’t know if I blushed. It was all very clinical anyway. Then I had to sit some more. Wait some more.

And then I was rinsed again, and oiled. And instructed to lie on my stomach to be massaged. It was grand though I’d have liked it a little stronger. But it was good. Then I had to lie and wait some more, while the steam room steamed and my pores opened and the magic hammam stuff happened. And I got even more antsy. I couldn’t lie so I sat up and even that was tedious.

Back again for more rinsing and oiling, I was then handed a bath robe and  told it was over. An hour all told. For about €20. No complaints there. And yes, I slept well afterwards and felt good.

BUT… and isn’t there always a but…

I discovered later that there were public Hammams (separate bathing for males and females, of course) where you can rent a bucket and buy some black soap and a mitt and even hire a woman to rub you down. But you also get to watch everyone else, listen to the gossip, and experience what it’s like to be Moroccan. Apparently everyone goes once a week – it’s a ritual. And they can spend up to three hours there (mad).

IMG_2566 (600x800)IMG_2570 (600x800)When we were up in the High Atlas, I saw a home hammam – and it reminded me a little of an American Indian sweat lodge made from clay. While I get the idea of detoxing and appreciate the need to relax every so often, for me it will take work.

I’m grateful, though, on two counts: that I got to finally experience a hammam, even if it was not quite the real thing; and that I now have a note to self to add ‘learn to relax’ to my list of things to do this year. It’s time. I’m old enough. I’m ready.

2016 Grateful 52

There’s a saying at home that you can take the man out of the bog but you can’t take the bog out of the man. I’m not sure what’s in me. Urban or rural? City or countryside?

When I moved to Hungary, I wanted city. I wanted noise, life, chaos … anything that would take me away from the quiet, somnolent, comatosed life I had had in Chichester. That said, I thoroughly enjoyed the chapter I spent in Valdez, a small Alaskan town of about 4000 people. So I suppose it depends very much what I’m in the mood for and given that my moods can last years, it’s little wonder that I’ve stayed in Budapest as long as I have.

Or have I stayed so long because I leave so often? Because I go to places that are far quieter than Pest? Places where traffic in a given day is counted in donkeys and not cars? Places where kids still play in the street and all five families in the village know each other. Places where you stop and wonder what in God’s holy name do people do here all day?

The High Atlas are something special. Yes, the valleys and the rivers are spectacular and the scenery is jaw-dropping, but it’s the Berber villages that left me awed. You can do lots of day trips from Marrakesh,** there’s something for everyone – be it overnighting in the desert or visiting the beach or four-wheeling through the Sahara. Me? I wanted to see the villages and the people – the Berbers. What’s not to like about an ethnicity where the women get to choose their husbands?

IMG_2393 (800x600)IMG_2476 (800x600)IMG_2409 (800x600)We visited three valleys in the High Atlas, each one different in its own right. Ourika Valley is very popular with the Marrakeshis – a weekend retreat from the heat of the summer where they come to wallow in the cool waters of the Ourika River. Imagine taking Szimpla Kert or any other ruin pub in Budapest and plonking it outdoors beside the river … then you’d have Ourika and the village of Setti Fatma. It’s all a little bit mad really. Seeing sofas and dining tables and chairs set up on the banks of the river and even mid-river is quite something.

IMG_2416 (800x600)IMG_2422 (800x600)Our end goal was a waterfall. A waterfall at the back of the village and up a few stoney ridges. Our Berber guide reminded me of the young MT. While the rest of us were huffing and puffing and trying to find our feet, he was bouncing along up and down the rocks like a goat. We’d been IMG_2426 (600x800)warned to wear flat shoes and we were first that morning. On the way down, it was mayhem. They needed the  flag ladies out to direct traffic …  and some of those heels !!!! Mad. The lower part of the path was lines with artisan stalls selling all sorts of Berber handicrafts and once again, I was cursing the luggage allowance on Ryan Air and making a mental note to myself for next time.  There were plenty of cafés along the trail for those who dropped by the wayside and tempted though I was to let the others go on ahead, I’d never have lived it down. God bless those who have to hump in the cans of Fanta and bottles of water. It must be a thankless job. Gotta love the natural refrigeration though.
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One of the IMG_2444 (600x800)most remarkable things about Morocco is its colour. It is so vibrant. So not what I’d have expected from a society that is 98% muslim.  I don’t know why I expected sobriety to match with somber shades but I couldn’t have been further from the truth.  The waterfall, when we got there, was lovely. But beside Horsetail Falls or Bridal Veil Falls in Valdez, it would have looked more like a dribble. Then that’s life, though – a mishmash of perspectives that vary with time.  But I didn’t give up. I made it to the top. I persevered.

IMG_2514 (800x600)IMG_2532 (800x600)berber2 (800x450)The next valley over is Oukaïmeden Valley, distinctive because of its tricolour ridges shaded by basalt, copper, and iron oxide and famous as one of the premier ski resorts in Africa. No snow this year though – it’s been unseasonably warm. Many of the rivers we passed by were dry and the farmers are feeling the pain. The terraces hewn from the mountain faces that should by now be full of wheat were empty. It’s worrying, especially for a largely subsistence people who depend on what they can produce.

IMG_2487 (800x600)There aren’t enough schools or classrooms or teachers to go around so the kids go to school in shifts from 8 to 12 and from 12.30 to 5, older ones in the afternoons. There are two secondary boarding schools, too, and all education, what there is of it, is free. French is taught from 3rd class onwards and most kids are trilingual – French, Arabic, and  Tamaziɣt (Berber). Juxtapose this with women still congregating by the river to do their laundry and you have to pinch yourself to make sure you’re not dreaming. 

IMG_2575 (800x600)We were booked in to have lunch at one of the village houses in Tachedirt, the highest village in the valley. Home cooking has never tasted better. We’d been on the road since 8.30am and I was hungry enough to eat a Berber bag, buttons and all. With tagine and couscous on the menu, we weren’t IMG_2565 (800x600)disappointed. Such is globalisation: this woman and her daughter catering lunch for some Austrians, Irish, Americans, and Australians, each of whom was marvelling at the simplicity of it all and no doubt a tad envious, too. The view was stunning. The food spectacular. And the air – so clean you could smell a blade of grass growing. Not for the first time this week I found myself wondering what it would be like to come back and stay a little longer…

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The third valley, Asni, is by far the most developed. It’s here that the rich people have houses and where Richard Branson has a hotel, with a swimming pool and room for a few ponies. I wonder what the locals make of the choppers flying in and out and whether the residents ever leave the poolside?

IMG_2571 (800x600)Asni, being that much more populated, has its markets at which most of the locals shop just once a week. Esnee has one on Saturda and some other village has one on Tuesday. Coming down from the mountains takes on a whole new meaning [anyone old enough to remember Come Down from the Mountains Katie Daly? – must be the altitude getting to me]. It’s here, too, that the majority of the fruit is grown – apples, walnuts, almonds, and peaches – as well as the bamboo used as roofing in the Berber houses. And with lots of houses going up, the urban sprawl from the city is making itself felt.

It was a spectacular day. One that will live on in the memory bank for a few years yet. I’m grateful indeed to be able to kick off this 2016 Grateful series by giving thanks, yet again, for the opportunities I have to travel, to see new places, to meet new people, to get a glimpse of other ways of life. And were I in the habit of making New Year’s resolutions, my first one would be: Travel … more.

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