Ravenna: Meals and Mosaics.

Above me a velvety night sky full of stars. Concentric circles shimmer. I’m in a vortex. Static but giddy. Drowning in light. It is a beauty that knocks me off my feet. For days now, I’ve been standing, head knocked back at a curious angle, neck cricked, staring up at apses and arches, mesmerised by sparkling, spangling bits of coloured glass. The mausoleum is small, … Continue reading Ravenna: Meals and Mosaics.

The Charterhouse of Bologna.

We almost missed it. Just slightly off the beaten track. Huge and labyrinthine. We searched for the way in, while people on the inside looked for a way out. Once a Carthusian monastery. Now a cemetery. Colonnades. Cloisters. Loggias. Mausoleums and monuments. Marble, mosaic and wrought iron. Wealth and luxury. Art and beauty. Haunting, heart-stopping, jaw-dropping and even a tad horrifying. Our legs gave out … Continue reading The Charterhouse of Bologna.

Cooking at Lake Orta.

We stepped into a courtyard past a colossal seventeenth-century wooden door. Silvia poured water into pretty coloured glasses and started talking and laughing immediately. ‘We have a meat dish that’s very traditional to this area. The story goes that the Roman soldiers of long ago had nothing to eat – except for wine and garlic – people always had wine and garlic, even if they … Continue reading Cooking at Lake Orta.

Food and Friendship in Orta.

These are the two basic staples of life. There is not much else. A friendship that endures is special. To know someone who really knows you – who knew you when you were young, and still knows you when you’re old. ‘I cannot imagine you all as young lads’, said Val. There is photographic evidence of course. We see what they looked like: long hair, … Continue reading Food and Friendship in Orta.

The Humble Sīmīt.

Sīmīt are everywhere in Istanbul. Simple, sesame-encrusted bread rings. Some call them the Turkish bagel. Sold from stationary red-painted government-owned carts, and from men who roam, swirling them on a stick, carrying them in baskets, setting them down on makeshift trestle-tables, or balancing them niftily in wicker trays on their heads – they are impossible to escape. Arranged in impressive towers and pyramids, the jengo … Continue reading The Humble Sīmīt.

Istanbul – Topkapi Palace.

The Harem. Ugly Beauty. We were standing at the heart of four hundred years of Ottoman intrigue. If I half closed my eyes I saw black eunuchs and concubines, diaphanous fabrics, ewers, jewels, court musicians and the sultan’s dwarves. When I opened them I saw selfie-clicking tourists and tunnels of thick polythene sheeting hiding no-go areas. Not so much the soothing sound of water fountains, … Continue reading Istanbul – Topkapi Palace.

Istanbul. The Morning Commute.

We can see the Bosphorus at the end of our street. It’s like living at the seaside. A five-minute walk and we’re at the ferry terminal; but that’s not counting the ten minutes we need to cross the road. Traffic in Istanbul is awful. A seething mass of buses, dolmuses, cars, sunshine-yellow taxis, all tooting and hooting, swerving, impatient to be somewhere. Most folk just … Continue reading Istanbul. The Morning Commute.

Grandma’s House In Bran.

My mum burst out laughing when I told her I was tired. I could almost hear her thinking. ‘You tired? You don’t do anything’. Or as another friend recently put it. ‘How is it going with your walking from tea-shop to tea-shop’? I don’t blame them. I do lead a life of Riley. But sometimes life on the move becomes too much. Our ‘Orient Express’ … Continue reading Grandma’s House In Bran.