The Moles on Ahoy to the green and pleasant… Chonette Taylor on Ahoy to the green and pleasant… The Moles on A Xmas in Sicily…a winter… Jenny Sutton on A Xmas in Sicily…a winter… The Moles on From Big Easy to Bootleg…
Barcelona. We rented a little apartment from Federico for 9 days in the inner suburb of Villa Gracia. It proved very handy to the beautiful old city of Barcelona, the fiercely proud capital of Catalonia, eternally opposed to all forms of government domination by foreign power, including Madrid! Gracia is downtown, easy, Metro-connected, inner suburban lifestyle, middle-class, super stylish, and complete with Gaudi credentials, Casa Vicens being just around the corner from our street. We even caught a couple of arthouse movies – in English….during…
…with not a single Easter egg in sight.
Santa Samana (Easter) was a little underwhelming. On Good Friday Janet was looking forward to observing some local penance for her sins and the sins of the world. Some latitude had to be given because it was her birthday! Ho Hum the life-size crucifix, the priests, the bishops, the candles, and the silently reverent street crowd, just raised her incredulous-ness to new heights.
Speaking of which the birthday girl celebrated with a beautiful symphony concert at the Palau de la Musica Catalanya. So grand…..so befitting for the grand old dame!
We wore out our Metro passes and spent oodles of euros visiting as many Gaudi buildings as we could. If all our not-quite uncomplaining queueing and strategic/defensive jostling with our 5,000-plus, daily fellow-travellers for glimpses of this or that other exquisite aspect, or this or that better photographic vantage point, is anything to reckon with, then Barcelona’s economy is well on track to a Gaudi-led recovery!
In our less Aussie-inclined, laid back, “go Barcelona!” moments, we agreed the term ‘Gaud(g)ing’ may suit the common garden Barcelona variety tourist experience quite well, but then again – what price this ineffable magnificence? Gaudi’s legacy to his native land and thereby to the world is massive; his breathtaking brilliance just dazzles and how could anyone get enough? Moreover, according to our very own ex-pat Barcelona (as well as NY) tragic, Robert Hughes, in his impoverished, old man years, Gaudi unashamedly accosted those with ample means, demanding a certain financial sacrifice of them as appropriate tribute, not to his personal glory, but to the work he believed The Creator directly rendered through him, for the greater glory both of humankind and of Catalonia – and in particular as his sole means to complete his most passionate expression of religious devotion, the Sagrada Familiar – ironically still unfinished despite the daily hordes making top dollar sacrifices for the bountiful pleasure he endlessly provides.
Where to after Gaudi? Why to Dali of course! Mmmmm…that man was his own religion and his coffers were never wanting, thanks apparently due to his wife/bookkeeper/Muse, Gala.
Is that enough said? Not likely, but much has already been written and is there for the record…it was a fantastic excursion. And while we are no great fans of Dali, we fully appreciated that opportunity to be further vexed and overawed by his vast and splendid body of work.
I think this portrait he did of his father when he was only 14 years old very moving.
We have 2 more days back in Barcelona before we move next door to France so no doubt we will do Park Guell, the one Gaudi icon we missed due to the very poor timing of the rain in Spain.
Imagine you have just been chased along the railway platform by an angry toilet attendant because you missed seeing his little window saying “WC one lira”. The one lira does not guarantee cleanliness, toilet paper or paper towel but you usually score at least one out of the three. After this wee drama the only other waiting-for-the-train entertainment was a pair of frantically copulating sparrows. Not once, not twice, but fourteen times. Without a single missed wing-beat. (Are Australian sparrows so determined?)
We were a bit excited, this being our first night train in Turkey. Night trains anywhere promise to be a reward in themselves. So with a dining car, a 2-berth sleeper and a carriage steward, we were naturally all set for some curiosity, some adventure – not exactly your Agatha’s lavish Orient Express, but something a bit refined – we’d’ve even settled for some modest attention to basic niceties – like an early morning wake-up cuppa, maybe….?No deal. Our carriage steward greeted us when we boarded, then not a sign of him again until we’d arrived in Konya – when he returned our tickets. We even had to convert our seats into bunks ourselves. What a great job he has!
Now, to confess: we were not very well* in Konya. I had caught a dose of gastro in Izmir the previous week but had been recovering in Pammukale when Annie succumbed. We had some excellent assistance in Kas from a lovely doctor called Munise who spoke perfect English and had all the right creds. Annie needed an IV rehydration infusion.
No sooner were we over the tummy bug than Annie’s persisting sore throat became a serious cough, so we booked 3 days at the Konya Hilton (for a health treat) and found ourselves at the University Hospital on Saturday afternoon when Annie spotted blood coughed into the tissue ……..6 hours later, following Ventolin therapy and thorough testing for every known respiratory illness and chest complaint, we emerged. Some of the differential diagnoses had alarmed us – including pneumonia and pulmonary embolism – until they were discounted, so all things considered we were mightily relieved when she was discharged with medication for influenza. Before leaving the hospital the medical team insisted on some photos with us!!
As fully engaging and diverting as this small excursion into the bedside manners of Turkey’s training hospitals was however, it in no way compensated us for missing the best Whirling Dervish Sema Spectacle at the Mevlana Cultural Centre just across the road from our Hilton address and which had of course comprised the lion’s share of Konya’s attractiveness.
But the tea service was cok cok guzel -(very, very nice)
And still the darkness persisted, Dear Readers. No sooner were my instincts for health replenished, than Janet’s succumbed. Confined to bed to sneeze and wheeze and convulsively cough in a dimly lit cave in Goreme with no telly, little interest in tucker beyond bread and panadol washed down with sweet Turkish tea, and a non-stop nose-stream that prompted local flood warnings, the Cappadocia discovery leg of our extended Turkey tour was not the golden crowning finale she had oh so longed for…
but I enjoyed it, and that’s the main thing, between my dedicated duties nursing a very reluctant, wilful – some may say “bossy” patient, and they may well have her measure…
No, seriously – we both did ultimately enjoy it – such is the nature of that intriguing landscape that despite near-death experiences, the soul and sprits soar to just be amongst it.
And so to Spain where we are now recovered. We hope never to have to chronicle our out-of-sorts selves to you again, dear blog-watchers. We just wanted you to know that travelling can sometimes make us sick, but we take it in turns and we care well for each other…
* footnote: if feeling unwell in Turkey, avoid describing yourself as feeling “sick”. Such a term, as we discovered some time afterwards, apparently evokes images of humans in flagrant imitation of the aforementioned sparrows…”Husta” is a more acceptable term.
Hey Folks, I need to say straight off! (Ross) It was only apple tobacco and the pipe was too long and my lungs too short! Good fun just the same.
Experienced Dolmus (pr:dolmossh) riders like us sigh with relief when we score a BIG bus. The bigger buses have a steward and serve refreshments. The Dolmus are mini buses that do the village to village transport. They frequently fill up with heavy smokers – not a very pleasant bouquet. At least half the population are smokers. Our punishment for being ex smokers.
Antalya is an Aegean paradise, one day was not enough but will remember that view forever.
Kas (pr: Karsh) our favourite place in Turkey, other than Istanbul. Blue blue water everywhere, beautiful old fishing boats. Enjoyed a lovely apartment in a quiet lane off the main drag. Had a great day out on a boat visiting all sorts of Lycian and Roman underwater ruins and some historic villages. That night we joined a local election rally, red Turkish flags waving, thumping, stirring patriotic music.
No mean sausage-sizzle here: free doner kebab on fresh bread roll with water and yoghurt milk. You could feel the excitement especially when the women started ululating. Every party had their candidates on stage together. All made a speech, all got thumping applause. In the days that followed the incumbent govt received a solid endorsement according to the vote count. But funny thing that – nobody seems to like them and the folk around Kas who spoke to us on the subject expressed their considerable disappointment at this lost opportunity for change. Our considerable experience in such disappointments, meant we could commiserate with them all with gusto.
Commiseration demands relief of course so quite naturally we soon found ourselves sunken deeply into a soft sturdy pile of Turkish rug-dreaming... those oft-repeated dreams so familiar to we of means too light to know the truly dark heart of luxury beyond brief third-party encounters. … but yes, when in Kas, pay a visit to the best Kas and Carry carpet man
and you too, may find a simple dream or two or three… of luxury lasting longer than you’d ever thought possible!
Roaming in the doming…Where else but Istanbul
could roaming in the doming ever be more bluemosqueful?
Every skyline swell and curve
tickled both our optic nerves
when we went blithely roaming in the doming….
“Istanbul, was Constantinople/ been a long time gone Constantinople/
Now it’s Turkish Delight on a moonlight night.”
(Jimmy Kennedy, 1953)
7 days and nights in Istanbul, how wonderful. Very busy donning the veil, visiting mosques, neck craning to sweep the domes, wandering through palaces, harems and gardens.
Planes, trains, buses, and trams all very crowded, seats were offered if scarce, however standing is preferable to sitting under an umbrella of sweaty armpits.The day on the Bosphorus cruising between the European and Asian continents was very easy and a welcome relief from the hustle in the city.
The magical Blue Mosque, almost our neighbour when we moved to Sultanahmet and its dawn call to prayer very beautiful. Bargaining in the Grand Bazaar, spellbound in twirling Dervish skirts and arms and hands and feet.
Our hosts at both hotels were wonderful especially Jahlal.
Turkish food, how smug we felt ordering in restaurants and cafés in Istanbul/notConstantinople after having done our back street eating tour in Dubai where much of the middle eastern cuisine common to Turkey, was presented and explained.
The tourist is a strange beast, worth some study. Do they leave their safe comfortable cocoon homes and gird themselves in spiky studded armour with a megaphone attached? I am constantly appalled at the everyone-for-themselves attitude: “out of my way, I’m first”.
…and then we have to identify as one of them. Oh no – not one of them! But no point trying to look like a local, and truth be told, the Turkish tourists, who are absolutely everywhere in numbers, have clearly all taken first class Honours in Assertiveness. Mild-mannered Moles could do well to take some tips…and just journey forth in slightly more muscular modes maybe, madam. But this identity shapeshift thing is real. Because the tourist stereotype is an awkward one to bear and we’re already weighed down enough with our 12-months of away-from-home carry bags (yes, me more than Janet) plus planning stops in each next town which snatches the time we’d rather be spending seeing and doing the things that tourists come to see and do….it’s a bit circular, you see. And contradictory, you also see. Never mind – we’re graduating every day to new levels of competence in negotiating the world in the preferred category of “traveller”.
It’s election time (local councils) in Turkey as you have probably heard and the spirits of democracy are rampant abroad so Twitter and U-tube are blocked by order of the Dear Leader. Tomorrow the vote so we will soon know if the good folk of Istanbul have set the path for a change or a no-go with the stasisquo…Either way I doubt it much matters to the 10-billion at least dome-roaming cats of Istanbul, nor prompt a Dervish to a single false step….
The Economic ego of the Emerati dwarfs their amazing architecture. Dubai has now developed to the point that it no longer relies on its oil generated income – as long as the world visits and spends lots of money it will remain wealthy. The extreme heat, and dry dust storms off the desert cast a thick haze over the city’s most iconic landmarks, however they are very beautiful especially at night. Wednesday was the best day, when it is WOMEN and CHILDREN ONLY DAY at Jumierah beach. Thank Allah it is not compulsory to take children! So Annie and Janet jumped off the Big Red Bus and had a big swim in the Gulf of Oman. Bliss. And not an abaya or niqab to be seen. Boy – those Russian women haven’t any hang ups about their bodies! Very voluptuous verandahs of flesh.
Another iconic landmark that impressed me is the AIRCONDITIONED bus stops! Men on one side and women on the other. At first we thought they were for traditional women, or in some way exclusive, but if you’re that exclusive, who needs buses?
Do Traditional Emerati men (wearing keffiyeh – elegant long white robe/dress) perspire rose water as they walk among us ordinary folk? Actually they don’t perspire at all, especially the passport controllers, soooooo slowwww it almost became soooooo humorous – except we were not laughing – our bags being the only ones left on the baggage carousel by the time we got through!!
of course you’d like to buy –
the moon, the stars, the sun
could all be yours.
the whole world comes to buy
your wildest dreams await you in our stores
you’ve never seen a desert
grow so much wealth and splendour
it lives to kiss the sky,
outshine the stars,
and build a shiny shopping mall or 2 on Mars –
(To the tune “Tonight” from West Side Story with Annie’s apologies to Leonard Bernstein)
Singapore is great for shopping – if you’re a size 6! Needless to say it was very easy to deny ourselves the privilege. Public transport is great and not overly crowded, very cheap Ezilink passes lived up to their name.
Street food eating assisted me with some rather rapid, painless weight loss.
Annie and I split up one afternoon, she went off to explore the Gardens By The Bay and I chose to walk home along the river. The heat was very fierce and I was appreciating the shaded walkways. My route passed under the road a few times. The first underpass was deserted except for 2 street cleaners sleeping by their carts in the coolest part. Halfway through I saw a young man approaching from the other side. At first I thought he could not see me and was unzipping to do a wee. I thought he’s going to be soooooo embarrassed when he sees me! …Wrong, he was my very first flasher!! I felt like hitting him, however my anger turned to caution when I realised the street cleaners were well and truly asleep and a speedy retreat was the wisest move. As I wheeled sharply around with the words “For christ’s sake!” I pulled my sunglasses case out of my bag and walked away from him. In the dim light it looked as if I was using my mobile phone to report him. Scooting (walking fast) up to the road again a backward glance detected no one. I spent the rest of the walk stalking a harmless looking older man and woman, just for company.
… but Annie had no camera to record the scene in the flower dome and by no means does this sketch adequately convey the cool tumbling green gush lush lush lushous relief from the heat outside the bubble, nor the long sad sighing of the trapped, no-longer fat-bodied baobs looking for all the world as if Africa itself is dying; nor the free full teeming glee of at least a hundred at last released inner children come alive to their wonderland through this peculiar kitsch mixture of fabulous engineering and nature under the thumb…
2 exhausted little moles arrived in Melbourne yesterday. We are now in the intensive care unit at Beth and Susan’s, the Bella’s of the Bellarine Peninsula! Intensive laughing, intensive eating drinking, packing unpacking, resting un resting. Zzzzzzzz…waking in time for our last Australian sunset for some time.
Guess what! We’ve left, what bliss and after a midnight scotch we are off to do the Singapore sling thing.
Being fairly fussy Moles and new to blogging, we are a bit shy about posting these instalments until they are just right. It’ll get easier we are sure, but for the moment, we’re open to being cut some slack. The packing is proceeding especially well for Janet who is serenely unruffled in matters of choice, having a preferred minimalist bent and therefore not a lot of stuff to choose between. Whereas Annie’s practice of forcefulness in allocating her stuff between ‘essential’; ‘less essential’; and ‘almost not at all essential’, is somewhat obscure. So, First Prize for the guess that correctly matches the Mole with the luggage is the intrinsic satisfaction of knowing that goodly tonnes of moles-donated stuff has already been delivered to Vinnie’s, Deloraine, on your behalf.
……we hoped to get started quickly but the beginning ran a long time. It was hard for one of us to get moving without the other – action not being Annie’s strongest suit. Determined roaming in the wildflower fields of multiple choice is not preferred fun for an Activarious Maxima (AM) like Janet, whose sympathy for her Ponderosa Missus (PM) had always been more than fair. So Janet wrote lists for herself which shortened of course quite quickly, and for Annie as well, which didn’t, and as summer deepens with spent wildflower blossom, the autumn of our departure draws less than 5 weeks hence, and Annie fears she is soon to be sent packing.