I have just finished an online learning course on the Book of Kells. It was offered for free and I wanted to stretch my brain. And stretch my brain it did. In fact it quite bent it out of shape. A whole lot of facts to ponder and wonder over, and, rather surprisingly for a religious work, an inordinate number of cats prowling through the … Continue reading Cats and the Book of Kells.
We stepped into the courtyard and straight into the heart of a little family business. And it was more heart than business. On a low bench along a wall a young man sat pencilling designs on small rounded tan-coloured gourds. Two young women next to him, carving out his drawings, using nothing more than a nail sharpened to a point. I noticed the plasters wound … Continue reading The Gourd Man.
Once you went in, you never came out. Santa Catalina: a pretty prison, but a prison nonetheless. Painted letters over the entrance to the first courtyard urge SILENCE, yet noise from the city surrounds you: the cries of street vendors, the clop of horses hooves, the hum of voices, the sound of life. There are forty-foot-high walls, but your prison is open to the air; … Continue reading Sisters Doing It For Themselves.
Set high, amidst pock-marked mined mountains at 4,100m, the town of Potosi has a faded, drained air. It’s glory days are long gone, and while remnants of beauty remain, the flesh has clearly been picked from it’s bones. Twenty-three kilometers, 30 minutes, and another world away, lies the rich fertile valley and hacienda of Cayara; the oldest country estate in the continent of South America. … Continue reading The Time Machine of Hacienda Cayara.
Carnival in Sucre was a blast. Carnival in Oruro was completely over the top. For most of the year Oruro is a grim mining town with nothing much to recommend it, but a week before Lent it explodes into a frenetic fiesta of colour and music. It’s the most raucous and outrageous party of all. Aida urged us to go, telling us it was ‘different’. … Continue reading What the Devil! Carnival in Oruro.
Istanbul offers disappointment in only one regard – the amount of scaffolding, tarpaulin and building work that engulfs the city. Even from our flat in Kadikoy we could see the scaffolding around a minaret of the Blue Mosque and decided we didn’t want to visit. ‘Go to the Süleymaniye Mosque’, Senem told us, and so we did. The Blue Mosque could not have been any … Continue reading Istanbul. The Süleymaniye Mosque.
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.
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.
When I heard about Budapest’s cafe history I was in pastry heaven. At one time the city was bursting with around five hundred cafe’s. How I wish I’d been able to see it then, before wars and communism changed things so. The cafes were visited by all and sundry. Ordinary folk, at weekends for a spot of the latest news with coffee and cake; while … Continue reading Kávéház in Budapest.
We were hemmed in by one of Cadiz’s narrow old-town streets. The ‘You are Here’ souvenir shop to our right, clothes and shoe shops all around, most of them shuttered. It was four in the afternoon and still siesta time. Wider than some, the street was still slightly claustrophobic; cobbled underfoot, and lined with enormous, seemingly impenetrable arched doorways. We were early and no one … Continue reading ‘Our’ Watchtower in Cadiz.