You are currently browsing the category archive for the ‘travel’ category.

021

036

The blissful bungalows at Petite Lafitte, just north of Playa Del Carmen.

014

 

112

Valladolid, a classic colonial town. 

111

106

Chichen Itza, a 35 peso ride from town by the collectiva van. 

105

135

Casa San Roques in Valladolid, one block off the town square.

119

Cenote Jaci, just two blocks from our hotel.

123

Till next time! 

109

 

Dingle

I think most of us want to be Irish today, and not for the green beer. There’s a mystique to the Irish character that draws us.

Although I’m a quarter Irish, I’ve only been to Ireland once, ten years ago with my son Alex. I remember whitewashed cottages and emerald hills dotted with sheep, dark cliffs plunging down to the sea, and evenings spent drinking Guinness to the rolling rhythm of Irish pipes.

But the most memorable part of the trip was the afternoon we spent with Bernie.

Alex and I showed up unannounced on Bernie’s doorstep in the town of Dingle. When Bernie answered our knock – a bright-eyed gentleman in his mid-70s wearing a rumpled tweed jacket – I explained that my sister had hired him as a tour guide a few years earlier and she urged me to look him up when I was in town.

Bernie said he could probably arrange something for that very afternoon. Since he was about to go to the pub for lunch, he suggested we join him. He grabbed his cap and headed briskly down the hill, already beginning to weave a mesmerizing tapestry of stories drawn from the history, myths, plants, animals, faeries and politics of the region – a flow of stories that didn’t stop for six hours.

A friend of his who owned a cab was recruited to be our driver. They took us to ancient cemeteries and crumbling ruins overlooking the sea. It began to rain lightly, but we kept going. They loved to talk about their corner of Ireland, and all we had to do was keep up with them and offer our delighted attention.

Eventually, we were back in town, warming up over cups of tea in a small cafe, and our companions were still bantering and spinning improbable yarns. “This is what they mean about Irish men!”  I thought, remembering the blarney stone and all the characters I’d met in books, brimming with charm and passion and darkness.

Frank Delany wrote, We Irish prefer embroideries to plain cloth…We love the “story” part of the word “history,” and we love it trimmed out with color and drama, ribbons and bows. Listen to our tunes, observe a Celtic scroll: we always decorate our essence.

Daniel Patrick Moynihan wrote, To be Irish is to know that in the end the world will break your heart. 

I suppose the heartbreak flows from a history fraught with destitution and oppression. But to be able to turn that into color and exuberance, humor and creativity? Wonderful!

Library - 2831

 

 

Library - 2871Library - 2881

Ireland 2008 033

New Orleans is a hazy fever dream of a city, with a history as winding and arabesque as the stretch of the Mississippi River Delta upon which it sits.  ~ Todd Plummer

IMG_1794

It’s been an odd summer for me because of the trip to Africa plopped down in the middle of July. Between prepping for the trip, being away, and re-entering, there hasn’t been a lot of what I think of as summer.

So now I’m trying to grab a little of that old Cape Cod magic before summer is gone.

The other day, I took the ferry to Martha’s Vineyard with my friends Mary Ellen and Susie. It wasn’t a day trip – more like a half-day trip. But still, it was fun.

Our destination was Oak Bluffs and Illumination Night – an annual festival where all the gingerbread cottages that surround the old campground are lit up with paper lanterns. I’d never seen it, though I’ve read about its magic in books. (Check out Illumination Night, a novel by Alice Hoffman.)

While waiting for darkness to descend and the lanterns to come on, we had a wonderful dinner at the Red Cat Café in Oak Bluffs. (World’s best roasted brussel sprouts!) At the table next to us were two women visiting from Dubai, who told us that we absolutely must get donuts from Back Door Donuts after dinner. The apple fritters, they said, were TO DIE FOR!

They explained that the shop sells pretty conventional baked goods out of the storefront during the day, but at 7 p.m. every night after the shop closes, they open the back door to the parking lot and begin to sell truly amazing donuts, right out of hot oil, to a waiting crowd. Even the Obamas were known to stop by when they were on the island.

“Try to get there early,” they warned. “There will be a line.”

And indeed there was! Though it was not yet 7:00, several hundred people were already queued up, waiting. A festive, chatty mood animated the crowd. The folks ahead of us in line were flabbergasted to hear that Susie had never, ever eaten a donut before. NEVER?  Nope, never. This seemed like a pretty good place to start! We speculated whether apple fritters counted, and whether we might be able to cage a few free donuts, given the historic moment.

Ixnay to that idea, but the apple fritters were as delicious as advertised, a perfect blend of hot sugary crispness and grease.

The illumination part of the evening was less successful. It was the tradition to precede the lantern-lighting with a hearty, patriotic sing-along in the Tabernacle that anchors the campground. The singing went on and on and on till we finally had to bolt for the shuttle bus, lest we miss the last ferry back to the mainland. Never did see the lights.

Better luck next year!

Zanzibar!

IMG_0679 sq

484 sq

450 sq

473 sq

IMG_0671

IMG_0728 sq

I fell in love with Zanzibar before I set foot there. The name itself promised so much – trade winds, white sands and turquoise water, coffee and spice plantations. The archipelago has a Swahili culture rich with Persian, Arabic, Indian, and Portuguese influences dating back to Zanzibar’s heyday as a trade center. And then there is Stone Town, the old part of Zanzibar City, with its atmospheric maze of alleys, terraces, and intricately carved doorways, its mosques and markets, bazaars and beaches.

I’d never spent time in a predominantly Muslim culture before, and the experience was good for my heart and mind.  It made me realize how varied the second-largest religion in the world is, and how little I know about it.

cooking class

Patrick and I took a cooking class at a spice plantation, helping the matriarch, her four grown daughters and assorted granddaughters prepare lunch for travelers taking the spice tour. It was a hoot!

IMG_0733

IMG_0718

IMG_0739

We visited a rainforest to see the only colobus  monkeys on the planet. Then we had to say goodbye to Zanzibar, because safari was calling.

IMG_0697 sq

604 sq

IMG_0763 sq

IMG_1178 sq

IMG_1329 sq

IMG_1247 sq

IMG_1374 sq

IMG_1451 sq

IMG_1574 sq

IMG_1619 sq

IMG_1657 sq.jpg

Final note to self about safaris. It is completely unnecessary to have special safari clothes! In fact, if you wear the full regalia, you will look pretty silly. You’re  going to be in a vehicle when you’re out in the bush, so the color of your outfit is not important.

On the other hand, whatever you wear will get absolutely filthy! (Dusty roads.)

 

img_1455-e1500225353696.jpg

Beware of all enterprises that require new clothes. ~ Henry David Thoreau

Easy for him to say, but he didn’t have a closet full of colors that are a no-no on safari.  (Bright colors and white scare off the animals. Blue attracts tsetse flies, which can give you sleeping sickness. Yikes!) Local stores are full of pinks and blues and whites. It took some real looking to assemble this pile. I hope to wear the same clothes for the whole time.

Tomorrow evening….my first trip to Africa! I’m so excited!

???????????????????????????????????????

In a parallel universe, I’ve just arrived in Delhi, and am spending the night at an airport hotel before flying to Rishikesh for a week in an ashram on the Ganges. My India trip was cancelled a few weeks ago, but the calendar on my phone hasn’t gotten the memo, and is continually updating me about what’s happening and where I’m heading next (Jaipur, Pushkar, Bundi). I could probably find a way to disable these messages, but I like knowing what alt-me is doing. I hope she’s having a good time, or at least isn’t scared.

It would also be good if alt-me were feeling well rested and ready for the intensity of India. But how could she be, having experienced the same grueling October/November/December as I have? The anxiety and woe of the election, the unexpected deaths and illnesses of friends, the fatigue and moderate insomnia? Also, the crazy busyness at work…we both would have worked non-stop right through Christmas Eve, closing the shop just in time to dash to the mall for a last-minute Christmas gift, and then home roast a tenderloin and take it to a party. Flying out four days later would have been nuts.

So most of the time I feel that the cancellation of the trip has been a blessing, because India requires a level of stamina that I’m not feeling at the moment. For Plan B, I’ve booked a tiny cottage in Provincetown for three nights, where I plan to nap, write, read, meditate, and reflect on life. And then I plan to take a substantial amount of time off in January – a staycation to sort things out that need sorting. I will do my best to appreciate each moment of ordinary life, and not go chasing after bright shiny objects.

But India still twinkles at me. Maybe next year??

ganesh

I’m so excited…I’m going to India this January. Not to meditate, just to hang around and explore.

It’s been five years since my last trip there, and I always knew I would go back. So when my friend Deborah texted Want to go to India?, my instant reply was WHAT???? Hell yeah!

We’re going to base ourselves in Jaipur (think Best Exotic Marigold Hotel). Love Jaipur, a book that was recommended by a woman I met at the NY gift show last month, arrived in the mail yesterday. It had to be shipped directly from India; hence, it arrived bundled up in such a cocoon of cardboard and packing tape that it took me 15 minutes to carefully extract the book from its wrappings. “This is so India,” I thought fondly. Our soap papers come from India, and envelopes of samples always arrive taped up the wazoo like that. (When we get a big shipment, it’s usually in a heavily taped carton labeled Stayfree Maxi Pads. The UPS drivers must wonder about us.)

Of course, this trip contributes to the usual Aiyiyi! quality of my life.  I’ll be plunging pell-mell through the busy holiday season (oh yeah…and we’ll be remodeling the kitchen) and then heading immediately to India! Which is so intense, so stimulating, so exhausting!

Oh well! Life is short! I’ll rest when I’m dead.

Dune shack

This being my last full day at the shack, I’m ready for some human contact. It will help with re-entry.

Coincidentally, this morning I exchanged greetings with the neighbor as we pumped water at our respective wells, and he invited me over to his shack to meet his wife. The two of them are part of the vanishing tribe of shack owners who have had their property taken by the National Seashore.

When I arrived at their shack, their first words were, “We’re in the middle of a situation here.” Turns out that their shack had just become infested with crabs (no, not the kind you make crab dip out of) and they were in the process of removing all bedding for laundering.

It was quite an icebreaker! I perched on a wooden chair on their porch, trying not to touch anything or scratch at psychosomatic itches, and we chatted about a wonderfully broad range of topics. I could not help but be aware, though, that the very situation that was breaking their hearts – their shack lease from the seashore expires next year and they don’t know what the establishment will do – was what made my blissful week in the dunes possible. All the shacks that are available to the public were once privately owned.

Later in the day my friend Carolyn came to call. She’d just arrived for a week at another shack not far away. The mung had receded so she coaxed me into the water. Cold!! Exhilarating!! My week now feels perfect.

If you want to learn more about opportunities to stay in a dune shack, contact The Provincetown Community Compact or the Peaked Hill Trust.

Dune 4

I could live happily here all week in just my crinkly pink tee shirt and tan shorts.

One of the benefits of solitude is being able to wear the same clothes day after day and be as be as unwashed and unkempt as you like. This week has been a good test of my “I don’t get BO” theory. (I believe this because I’ve been testing our new natural deodorant. First I tested it against my regular deodorant (right armpit natural, left Mitchum.) No discernible odor! Then I tested it against an untreated armpit. Still no difference, so the test was inconclusive.)

Staying in a shack with no running water or electricity necessitates some creative personal hygiene. I’ve worked out a routine with two stainless steel bowls and two washcloths. One set is for my face, the other for grubbier ablutions like dirty feet. It’s also good for laundering undies.

Today I took my first outdoor shower. There’s a tank on the shed roof that collects rainwater. It runs thought hoses that are exposed to the sun, so the water came out scalding hot at first. I partially filled one of the bowls with well water and topped it off with the hot stuff.  This made a nice temperature for dumping over my head. Suds, rinse, and repeat. Nice!

Toileting is done in an indoor composting toilet for #2 and outside for #1 because the toilet is nearly full. Not a problem, except for last night. As I squatted in the bushes in the dark, a large noisy insect dive-bombed me. I lurched out of the way, bopping my head on an overhead branch and peeing on my pants in the process. Tomorrow: laundry day.

While I have some flip flops with me, bare feet are the best way to get around on the dunes, unless it’s midday. Then, the sand is like a frying pan, and it’s best to wear some socks.

Here are the two bars of soap that have been my companions this week. One is Nantucket Sea Clay, a spearminty soap which was great in the outdoor shower. The other is a yet-to-be-named experiment created by Jules. It fascinates me. It really goes well with this shack – very smokey and woody with notes of vetiver, cedar and clary sage. I think it’s a keeper. Maybe I’ll call it Dune Shack. Or Sand Dune? Sand Bar?

soap

%d bloggers like this: