On the Sand Dunes of Sam

Chiselled by the winds stand the sand dunes of Sam. They are an overwhelming sight. All those sandy yellow waves and nothing thereafter for miles. It is a sight that can make you feel like a speck in an ocean of sand. Once in a while, a row of camels can be spotted, swaying their lazy behinds and walking off into the horizon with human loads on their humps.

I have sat on a camel twice now. Two occasions when I somehow clung on to the camel as it decided to make rude noises and threaten to throw me off its back. I would not blame it on hindsight. We humans are rather annoying in our attempt to get onto the back of every four-legged creature we can get our hands on.

I have made my peace with it. No more camel rides for this human is in the offing any time soon, unless I am thrown into the deserts of Arabia with no option but to get on to the back of one or perish. We all have keen survival instincts at the end of the day.

Now, the deserts always remind me of my wee days when my father drove my mother and me through the deserts of Salalah. When once I laid my eyes upon the strange sight of an upturned camel. I have never stopped wondering since if that is how camels pass on to nothingness or onto the next realm, if there is one that is. If you do know the answer to this, I would be grateful for the assuaging of this strange and stupid query that has always been a part of my growing up years.

On another note, have you ever seen the branding of a camel? It is not a pretty affair. Those poor mammals have no option but be branded. They are held down by the heavily moustachioed Rajasthani men, their feet often bare, their bright turbans always snagging the eye with vivacious colours that contrast sharply with the white of their kurta-and-dhoti attire, and how can one miss those significantly sized gold earrings dangling off their ear lobes – they were certainly bigger than mine. The poker glows red hot, held upon a rough fire pit made on the sand, and then when it looks decidedly hot enough, bam it is stamped onto the body of the protesting camel.

To say that it is merely disturbing is not doing your feelings justice. I remember the intense vehemence that swept over me and with it the violent urge to inflict that very branding exercise upon those men who were busy with their regular activity. But you realise then that you are but just an onlooker with no power. So you turn your eyes away with immense sadness in your heart and the thought running in your head that it is just the way it is. After all, not everything in life is the way it should be, is it?

IMG_20170219_154244_288.jpg

IMG_20170219_154202_059.jpg

IMG_20170219_154106_967.jpg

Yet there is something mystical about the desert. The golden beauty of your surroundings, the spectacular sunset and the massive white disc of the moon that rises after. It reminds you of Antoine de Saint-Exupéry’s words in The Little Prince: “One sits down on a desert sand dune, sees nothing, hears nothing. Yet through the silence something throbs, and gleams…”

 

Sunshine Blogger Award

There’s nothing like an award to pep up your blogging steps. For this, I have to thank Roxy who blogs at https://roxannestarr.wordpress.com/. She writes up book reviews and tips on DIY stuff. I had great fun answering her questions. Anything that invites introspection is a wonderful thing, is it not?

The Rules:

  • Thank the person(s) who nominated you in a blog post and link back to their blog
  • Answer the 11 questions sent by the person who nominated you
  • Nominate 11 new blogs to receive the award and write them 11 new questions
  • List the rules and display the Sunshine Blogger Award logo on your post and/or on your blog

My answers to Roxy’s questions:

1.       What made you start your blog?

I am a day dreamer. When you are one, you tend to be scatty and forgetful. And when you are a deadly combination of those three, you need to have a space to jot down your memories before they fly away. As a result, I started the travelling diary as a way of not forgetting those very moments that have brought me great joy in life.

2.        Dogs or cats?

I am a dog person. I cannot wait for the day we have two big dogs. At the back of my mind is the ever-present factor that I miss Tuktuk, my husband’s labrador, intensely. He was the best being to have happened to me other than his master. He lived a good 13 years and then passed on surely to a heaven that is meant for happy doggies. I do remember that awful breath of his on mornings when he breathed on my face. I never thought I would say this, but I do miss even his heavy, bad breath.

3.       Where do you live and where would you like to live?

I live in Northampton, a town in the British midlands that is known for its heritage in shoemaking. I would ideally like to live in a cottage by the sea in Cornwall.

4.      What’s your guilty pleasure?

Waffles, churros, cakes and chocolate.

5.       I’m baking a cake, what would you like?

Victoria Sponge, please.

6.       What’s the best experience of your life so far?

Hiking to Pulpit Rock in Norway.

7.        If you got the chance to talk to a famous dead person who would it be?

James Dean

8.      What’s your biggest fear?

Losing my beloved.

9.       How did you come up with your blog name?

It is derived from my goofy personality. I have bag loads of stories which will make you shake your head as my husband does so very often.

10.    What famous mystery do you wish you knew the answer to?

When we die, what happens after?

11.    If you had to change your name to anything, what would you pick?

I have a multi-syllabic name. By the time anyone pronounces it, I grow a few grey hairs. I do not know what I would change it to but I do go by the pseudonym of Zara in Starbucks.

My Questions:

1.       Why do you blog and what is the crux of your blog?

2.       What is your idea of the ‘perfect’ life? Are you living it?

3.       What would your alter ego be?

4.      What is your pick-me-up for those times when feel grumpy?

5.       Who is the one person in your life who keeps you grounded?

6.       Who is your favourite travel partner and why?

7.       Five books/films you derive inspiration from.

8.       Do you have a fitness regime? If yes, how do you keep fit?

9.        Which is the most difficult situation you have been caught in? How did you handle it?

10.     The most adventurous activity you have indulged in.

11.    What is the most crucial lesson you have learnt so far in life?

My Nominees:

  1. Fumbling Through Italy
  2. The World According to Dina
  3. Finding Fika
  4. Diane Frisch
  5. Ellen Burne
  6. Barbara and Elena
  7. Anna
  8. Rachel Lishman
  9. Caitlin
  10. Grace Hickson
  11. The Wayfarer

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Weekend Vintage Browsings

Scan 3.jpeg
Amalia Rodrigues, the iconic Portuguese fadista, in a Lisbon tavern from the 1960s. Postcard from Lisbon.
Scan 6.jpeg
How can one not have a postcard from Rome that has Peck and Hepburn on the Spanish Steps?
Scan 2.jpeg
Translated, The Leopard, an epic film from 1963. A postcard from beautiful Firenze, Italy.
scan-7
Everyone wants chocolate and pastries from the Viennese institution called Demel. They are bloody good! Postcard from Vienna, Austria.
scan-4
A small wine region on the Oregon-Washington border, Walla Walla makes some of the best Syrahs in the US.
Scan 8.jpeg
From the Pembrokeshire Coast in West Wales, Britain.

Hope you are having a wonderful Sunday, folks! I am chilling at home after a busy weekend of V&A browsing and catching up with friends in London. And of course, nothing feels happier than raking up travel memories with these pretty postcards that were stashed into a tin box. You cannot neglect them for long.

When Doris Came Visiting

Doris was moody. She almost plucked the ponytail off my head for daring to mess with her. As I ran past her, my large headphones on my ears and Cohen crooning into them, a school girl giggled at me as she almost seemed to say, “Look at crazy Doris.” Ooh, Doris was icy alright and she showed me an entire range of emotions in the matter of a couple of hours. I am talking about the storm that hit our good ol’ blighty with gusts going up to 100mph. What did you think?

IMG_20170223_163655_987.jpg

IMG_20170223_163810_476.jpg

IMG_20170223_163838_793.jpg

IMG_20170223_164013_292.jpg

IMG_20170223_211936_884.jpg

Tagged!

Dear virtual friends,

Here is a tag that I am taking part in because, well, it is fun to indulge in a bit of trivia at times. And when that trivia happens to be about you, the narcissistic head (come on admit it, we all have a bit of Narcissus in us) rears up.

I have been tagged by Malini – she blogs at https://malinispace.com/ – for this 2016/2017 Tag.

The tag has been created by David from The Guy Who Said Always No.

2016-2017-tag

Describe your 2016 in three words

I am cheating on this by including more words because I am a rambler, and well, I like to push boundaries.

  • Fairytale (Early morning flights always took us to seven countries, some repeated twice or thrice over, in Europe)
  • Exciting (Ref: Above)
  • Calcutta (I went back to my childhood home after two years and spent time with my parents who drove me crazy but then that’s just us. It was special also because it involved my childhood home hosting a 250-year ancestral affair of worshipping Goddess Durga. Durga Pujo is a big affair in Calcutta, mind boggling in the 4-5 days that it lasts, when the goddess shows up recreated in various themes and looks all over the city, food plays a critical part in the life of every Bengali and there is no time for work but unlimited sessions of adda (chatting). If you have not seen Durga Puja in Calcutta you have got to put it on your list)

Two people who made 2016 what it was

My husband Adi and I.

The most beautiful place you visited in 2016 and why you chose it

Norway. We stayed in a beautiful wooden cottage in Norheimsund by the fjords and we went fjord hopping. It was idyllic, the time that we spent there. On a day when it rained throughout, we sat inside the cottage, soaked in the view of the fjords, cooked up a meal with organic chicken reared at the farm by the artist owner and paired it with thyme that she gave us too. Later we sat for a couple of hours with the owner when she came visiting. She sat with her legs tucked into the fur-lined settee, sipped on tea and told us about her life. As we told her about ours. All with a view of the mysterious fjord alongside. It was like being in a wonderful dream.

The most delicious dish you have tasted in 2016
Aglio e Olio in Italy. The thing is that it has just three ingredients and yet it tastes like heaven when an Italian mamma puts it in front of you. Sometimes the simplest things in life can do the trick.

An event which left its mark upon you in 2016 (even a global event counts) 

I cannot point out a particular event but the mark that the year left upon me was a cumulative effect – of all the travelling that we have indulged in. It introduced me to ideas and things which I never knew of. Growing in life is such an important thing, is it not? Last year was about that – growth. I confess that I feel tall after all the learning.

The finest purchase you made in 2016 (and if you want you can link up a photo of it)

Striking Murano light shades from the island of Murano

Three good intentions for 2017 

  • Get cracking with writing the book
  • Make a new home in a new country
  • To travel more

One place you want to visit in 2017

Lofoten (Norway)

One dish you want to eat in 2017

Aglio e olio, somewhere in Italy.

I would like to Tag

I am cheating on this bit where I am supposed to tag 9 bloggers. I tag whoever reads this and wants to do this tag. Feel free. It will bring a smile on your face as you put down words that will make you rack up memories from 2016.

Rules for this Tag

  1. Mention the creator of the blog: The Guy Who Said Always No
  2. Use the image that you find in this article
  3. Mention the blogger who has chosen you
  4. Answer the questions
  5. Mention 9 blogger friends and let them know through a comment on their blog

I am done here. Now for a windy jog in the park and the hope that all you lovely bloggers have a wonderful day. Ta daaa!

Portraits of an Old Man in Kuldhara

In the desert city of Jaisalmer in India is an abandoned 13th century village called Kuldhara. I had gone many years ago on a junket to write about a hotel, when along with another journalist and PR I came upon a curious settlement of honey-hued roofless houses and temples that seemed be at one with the desert they were a part of. The empty village was the erstwhile home for a high caste of Hindus known as the Paliwal Brahmins who were said to have been royal priests thousands of years ago, till they vanished from their home in the matter of a night.

The story of Kuldhara hinges upon the beauty of a woman, the daughter of a Paliwal Brahmin chief and the lust of a prime minister (to a king in Jaisalmer) for her during the 18th-19th century. The Paliwal Brahmins would have none of it and they decided to pack their belongings and leave the village. That is the local lore. Also, that they cursed this village so no one could inhabit it ever again.

Do abandoned villages make your curious? You see traces of lives that must have been, empty fireplaces, pits covered with ashes where the villagers would have cooked their food, the beams on ceilings that must have been constructed out of locally sourced wooden branches, stepwells from where they got their supply of rain harvested water, the temples where they prayed – and you wonder, what could have really happened for them to have abandoned their homes. For would an entire community really abandon the roofs over their heads for the sake of honour? Or could it have been more practical matters such as the water drying up in the vicinity?

The eerie quiet was resounding.

IMG_20170219_153010_434.jpg

DSC07071.JPG

In that ghost town of crumbling mud houses and remains of walls inscribed with the ancient Devanagari script (it traces its roots back to the 7th century CE), we met one old man. The 75-year-old frail Sumer Ram who guards the entrance to the village that is supposed to still have precious gold coins buried in its vicinity.

IMG_20170219_154446_282.jpg

img_20170219_152905_690

How to get there: You would have to first get to Jaisalmer. On the way to the sand dunes of Sam, you shall spot the village of Kuldhara. There is a sign board that announces its presence in the deserts of Rajasthan.

What to do: Spend time listening to this old man playing his flute which he does hauntingly, explore the 400-odd ruins of the abandoned village and search for the paranormal (Rajasthan Tourism deems it to be a haunted village). If you do spot ’em ghosts, I would say keep a camel handy. Those yellow humped babies can run. One almost threw me off its back once.

Anacapri Vs Capri

A thousand-year-old pathway unfolded before us. Through the ancient Greek quarter of Capri with its maze of whitewashed houses, lemon gardens and small vineyards, we walked under an unrelenting sun. A wall of craggy cliffs loomed ahead of us and my husband, squinting in the harsh glare of the sun, espied a carriageway zigzagging its way up. “This is not happening. We are not climbing all the way up,” he stated, with some vehemence. Then, he proceeded to stand in the middle of the path and refused to budge. “I see. I shall carry on and you better make your way back to the bus stop. Wait two hours. That small rickety bus, overstuffed with people, shall eventually bring you up,” I replied.

I was not exaggerating. We had been in a winding queue when I first saw the bus for Anacapri arrive in the Marina Grande and fill up with more people than it could hold. Let’s leave it at this, it was not a pretty sight. Queues for the taxis were even longer.

A deep scowl and some disgruntled words later, the husband started following me up the path that took us into a stretch of woods with gentle steps, which graduated soon to some seriously steep steps. We were on the famed Scala Fenicia trail. Those steps are named after Phoenicians but they were built by the Greeks, the first recorded colonisers on Capri. Women from Capri, apparently much appreciated for their beauty by the early travellers, painstakingly built the steps which was the only way linking Capri and Anacapri. That is until 1877 when the vertiginous carriageway was built.

IMG_20170216_185359_915.jpg
The smile before the hike.
IMG_20170216_185517_941.jpg
“You are going to make me climb up that on this scorching day? God made wives for a reason.”

The sky was immensely blue, the waters impossibly turquoise and the heat unbearable when we reached the island of Capri, in the Tyrrhenian Sea, and off the Sorrentine Peninsula.

Capri had occupied my febrile imagination as a school girl. We had a short story in our curriculum, The Lotus Eaters by W. Somerset Maugham, in which a bank manager from London arrives in Capri for a summer holiday. There’s no turning back for him when he claps his eyes upon the limestone sea stacks of Il Faraglioni, ‘those two great rocks sticking out of the water, with the moon above them, and all the little lights of the fishermen in their boats catching cuttlefish, all so peaceful and beautiful…’ He wonders to himself “Well, after all, why should I go back?” He lives a lotus eating existence thereafter but the ending always gives me the heebie-jeebies. Capri since, in my mind, has been the island of lotus eaters.

The copious numbers on the island but was a rude shock but the Capri of my imagination exists, only once the sun sets and day-trippers leave the island.

IMG_20170216_191213_216.jpg
The stretch right next below the bus-stop. Look on your left when you enter the bus ticket station and you shall see rough hewn rocks leading down.
IMG_20170216_191138_442.jpg
Capri of The Lotus Eaters you think? Our childhood reads so often set the tone for our travels.
IMG_20170216_191017_665.jpg
The beaches that show up once you start climbing up the road to Anacapri.
IMG_20170216_185115_341.jpg
This was hypnotic.
IMG_20170216_185444_151.jpg
Capri’s pier where boatloads of tourists constantly arrive with vast expectations and leave as constantly with contentment tucked into their hearts.

We left our baggage at the luggage storage on Marina Grande, one of the two harbours in Capri, and decided upon an escape to the commune of Anacapri that stands high above Capri, upon the slopes of Monte Solaro.

When we reached Anacapri, in the matter of a punishing 921 steps, it was a different world up there. I could not imagine that locals would have charted the steps every day to get their supply of drinking water from the spring in the Marina Grande. There is a book by a Swedish doctor called Axel Munthe who once lived on Anacapri. In it he made a note about Anacapri’s postal lady. She climbed up and down the steps every day to collect letters and parcels from Capri.

IMG_20170216_185628_810.jpg
Scaling the Phoenician Steps
IMG_20170216_190417_103.jpg
View of Capri from the Phoenician Steps, between huffs and puffs.

For us the reward of the climb was the view over Capri that was breathtaking along with the tiny chapel on the path dedicated to Sant’Antonio of Padua, the patron saint of Anacapri.

Atop the steps was Munthe’s Villa San Michele, the construction of which took 20 long years with building material hauled up the Phoenician Steps by donkeys and men. It is a coveted spot in Anacapri which in ancient times had an imperial Roman villa and a medieval chapel.

“My home shall be open for the sun and the wind and the voices of the sea – like a Greek temple – and light, light, light everywhere!” wrote Munthe.

The heat meant that we had to resuscitate ourselves with the icy goodness of glasses of lemon granita before we could hop onto the chair-lift to glide up to the 600-metre summit of Monte Solaro, passing over patches of vegetable gardens. From atop the mountain, I stared at Il Faraglioni and day dreamed of The Lotus Eaters. In the vicinity of the sea stacks is another famous landmark of Capri – the Blue Grotto, a natural sea cave with iridescent blue lights in its interiors.

IMG_20170216_185226_037.jpg
Niche perfumery in Anacapri
IMG_20170216_190601_138.jpg
The amused passer-by on the way up to Monte Solaro by chair lift.
IMG_20170216_190034_419.jpg
Behind me are Il Fariglioni, those stacks of rocks jutting out from the inky blue waters.
IMG_20170216_185043_672.jpg
When you look down from above Monte Solaro, this is what meets the eye.

Now, Anacapri was wonderfully quiet. It had a small network of clothes boutiques, Neapolitan tailors and perfumeries that were bustling. I quite fell in love with the citrus fragrances in those perfumeries but contented myself with a big cone of ice cream.

Wholly committed to the cause of licking away the ice as it dripped fast in the heat, we descended to Capri via the Phoenician Steps and with trembling legs caught our breath on the Piazzetta in its heart.

IMG_20170216_190535_768.jpg
The goodness of a gelato is not to be ignored post a hike.
img_20170216_185248_395
Capri’s Marina Grande
img_20170216_190655_361
“You may have the universe if I may have Italy,” said Giuseppe Verdi.

A resort ever since Emperor Augustus landed there, Capri has a glitzy air about it. You can easily put a finger upon the atmosphere that might have been inculcated by the many emperors in the past or the brigades of film stars and fashion icons who have been its dedicated patrons. We had a glimpse of that world when we sat at the marina, dangling our legs, watching the boats come in and leave. We watched old men on their boats who could have passed off for playboys with tanned bodies, gold chains hanging around their sagging necks, but then we chanced upon the sight of a bejewelled woman get off a boat and dish out autographs to a few people. And all of the clichéd notions of Capri came to life at that moment.

Travel Tips

How to Get There: You can reach Capri only by sea. Frequent ferries from Naples and Sorrento bring you to the island. One-way tickets from Naples to Capri cost between €15-€20 depending upon the kind of ferry you opt for and from Sorrento to Capri about €14 for the fast ferry. If you want to book tickets online, your go-to website is – http://www.capri.net/it/ferry-booking.

Once you Set Foot on Capri: (If it is a day trip especially) Head straight up to Anacapri. Take the Phoenician Steps even though the sun might be blazing and you might curse yourself at the start. The views over Capri and then at the top, Anacapri, shall be your reward. The funicular and bus, both from Capri to Anacapri cost €1.80 one-way. If you are in a large group and want the luxury of a taxi in Capri, here’s a link for an idea: http://www.capri.com/downloads/taxi_capri_tariffe.pdf. For taxis in Anacapri, look no further than http://www.capri.com/downloads/taxi_anacapri_tariffe.pdf.

Where to Stay: 

Capri Wine Hotel (http://www.capriwinehotel.com/en/index) on the Marina Grande offers beautiful deluxe sea-view rooms. A double deluxe bed sets you back by €210 per night which includes breakfast.

Hotel San Michele (http://www.sanmichele-capri.com/) on Anacapri is not luxurious but a family-run affair and is positioned below Munthe’s villa. Rooms usually are sold out but why not try your luck. A classic double room with sea view is pegged at €145, including VAT and breakfast.

What to Do:

Monte Solaro. Hike up via Migliara for grand views to Monte Solaro or cut all the hiking and just take the chair lift (€11 return and €8 single).

Blue Grotto. Take the boat from Marina Grande to the ancient Roman cave of Blue Grotto (thought to be a favourite with Emperor Tiberius) between noon to 12pm (the best time of the day to soak in the intense play of colours inside the cave). Tickets cost €13  which includes the cave entrance price of €4. On the first Sunday of every month, the entrance is free, so then you cough up €9 for the boat service.

Villa Jovis. One of the villas of Roman emperor Tiberius. A short but steep 40-minute walk from the Piazzetta of Capri to, along the length of Via Longano to Via Tiberio. Ticket costs €2.

Palazzo a Mare. On Marina Grande in Capri along the San Constanzo route. Another of Tiberius’s pleasure villas – he had 12 on the island.

What is your story from setting foot upon this Italian island?

 

 

 

Vintage Travel Memories

A few summers ago in the Cornish seaside town of Tintagel I bought my first metal tin sign. I have been hooked since. Every place that we travel to I keep my eyes peeled for retro postcards and tin plaques. Postcards are the poor man’s option. They cost a fraction of metal tin signs which can be priced high depending upon where you find yourself. Mostly, because you cannot buy just one.

This weekend while rummaging through a box, I came upon a bunch of postcards that I got during our various travels in Europe and England. I should not probably try and put a number to them because there are hundreds of them. Some day they shall go up on the wall of a library in our future nest. I have plans for them. A bit of daydreaming feels good. Rather on the lines of creating hygge in the mind, that Danish word for eking out pleasure from the ordinary, everyday things in life. It is one of the nicest concepts to come out of the end of last year, don’t you think? Winter seems more alive with it. Anyway, I shall leave you to enjoy Saturday with these few.

scan-7
What happens when you chase bulls

scan

img_20170218_125724_348

I shall post a few every weekend because why not bring some vintage loving into our lives. As the Irish playwright Oliver Goldsmith put it, ‘I love everything that is old; old friends, old times, old manners, old books, old wines’.

 

 

 

 

Tarragona

‘Fear no more, says the heart, committing its burden to some sea, which signs collectively for all sorrows, and renews, begins, collects, lets fall. And the body listens to the passing bee; the wave breaking; the dog barking, far away barking and barking.’

On an early February afternoon – it happened to be on this date last year – I was standing on a forsaken beach in Spain. The waves rushed in upon the sand relentlessly, turned into molten silver by the sizzling afternoon sun, and receded as rhythmically. Hypnotised by the smooth march of the endless waves, the sun beating down upon me, I felt quite alone. I was in fact completely on my own. It was a ghost town – that old quarter of Altafulla. Not a soul to be seen on that sandy stretch outside the medieval castle perched upon a promontory and silhouetted against the sparkling sea. It was easy to think of a knight come storming out of Castell de Tamarit and prance by on his majestic steed. If he could see me, ah, I would ask for a lift back to the city of Tarragona.

You might be thinking, how bloody unromantic. But pragmatism makes inroads into fanciful thinking when you discover to your dismay – after reaching your destination – that buses appear only after an hour and a half. A knight in an armour would be handy in such situations.

No one appeared. And I did not even get to enter the castle (it was not open to the public). I tripped down a sandy path through a forested area on one side of the castle and came upon the sea all over again, a mass of rock jutting out from it in the distance. The entrance to the castle was well hidden from prying eyes. It did have a do-not-mess-with-me look about it, with a distinctly Romanesque watch tower declaring itself head and shoulder above the rest of the castle. A necessity in the old days when pirates would possibly find the thought of such lonely castles as a shining beacon of hope across the waters, as attractive as steaks were to Alex (ref: Madagascar).

Mentioned in some written records as early as the 11th century, the castle was named after the Marquises of Tamarit who owned the castle from the 12th- to the 20th century. It is strange to think that an entire fisherman’s village was encased within those very private walls because it did not look capable of housing an entire village from the outside. But what do you know (Jon Snow). Bouts of malarial fevers during the 19th century led to the dying out of the village.

In the 20th century an American art collector and philanthropist, Charles Deering, bought it but it has since changed hands. What goes on inside, you wonder. Apart from lavish weddings which the castle is known to host from time to time.

IMG_20170215_153500_798.jpg
Forested area adjacent to the castle

IMG_20170215_153541_965.jpg

“This is what happens when you take off to towns with zilch research,” ran the taunting words in my mind at a time when I could have done with a hug, a chocolate croissant and cup of coffee. I am but a creature of simple demands.

The nearest way I could get the last two could be only in the modern part of Altafulla which was a few miles away on foot. I could see the white houses in the distance but the possibility that I would be stranded on that beach with no one for company and no one to turn to for coffee, made me run straight back to the bus stop to catch the next bus back to Tarragona. “There I shall find coffee and croissant,” I told myself as I waited for a lengthy period by a tree on the quiet main road. Once in a while, cars passed by.

When I finally found myself back at the place from where I had made the journey to Altafulla, that is the port city of Tarragona in northeast Spain, I headed for a café to erase the odd disappointment (though it was not a complete letdown) of the noon. From there I emerged as shiny happy as a freshly scrubbed child and with the power of caffeine in my veins I reflected upon the fact that while I might not crave the crowds — but boy do I find human presence comforting.

Tarragona is flecked by ruins left by the Romans. To me its amphitheatre by the sea and an impressive cathedral were its shining glory. There was a city whose origins were unknown before the Romans settled in it. It could have been home to Iberic tribes or it could have been founded by the Phoenicians. But there is no ambiguity about it that this city which lies on the Golden Coast of Spain or the Costa Daurada was a hot favourite with invaders. After the Romans came the Vandals, followed by Visigoths who were replaced by Umayyads. And then some more such as the Almoravids and the Kingdom of Aragon.

Getting back to the kind of sights that Tarragona offers:

IMG_20170215_150253_906.jpg
The walk from the train station to the centre of the city
IMG_20170215_160335_037.jpg
The 2nd century AD amphitheatre where many a gladiatorial fight took place, its stones containing many grisly memories
IMG_20170215_150221_125.jpg
The oval amphitheatre carved out of underlying bedrock in the area. It reminded me of Cornwall’s stunning Minack Theatre which has been similarly carved out of the cliffs. Maybe its architect Rowena Cade was inspired by the Romans.
IMG_20170215_150321_791.jpg
A serene place and yet it holds terrible memories. A bishop and his two deacons were burned alive here in the 3rd century AD when Christians were under persecution.
20160216_134225.jpg
Churches of Tarragona
IMG_20160608_191620.jpg
Where the alleys lead to Roman ruins in an area designated as Tarraco

IMG_20160608_222006.jpgIMG_20170215_160407_107.jpgIMG_20170215_160435_865.jpgIMG_20170215_150821_636.jpg

IMG_20170215_153650_706.jpg
Stairs to the 12th-century Roman Catholic cathedral 

IMG_20170215_160502_896.jpg

IMG_20170215_150057_184.jpg
Apostles guard the entrance to the cathedral
IMG_20170215_150918_172.jpg
The Gothic bell tower of the cathedral

IMG_20170215_150946_394.jpg

img_20170215_215551_018

IMG_20170215_215711_486.jpg

How to Get There: Get onto the high-speed AVE trains that bring you from Barcelona to Tarragona within 40 minutes.

Things to Do: Tarragona itself is a small city and can be wrapped up in a day trip but if you want to explore the beautiful beaches of the Costa Daurada that stretch for miles, then you could look at spending a night in it. Some of its best beaches are at Altafulla, a nudist beach called Torn, a spot where the Ebro river meets the sea at Riumar and Cala Fonda. Head to the tourist office where you can figure out the timetables for the buses that take you to these beaches.

 

 

 

Travels in the Search of Snow

When words create magic and make you want to write letters to the weather gods …

The World according to Dina

Dear Winter,
where are you?

Lieber Winter,
wo bleibst du denn?

fredrikstad_window_sign_4767

Tollboden, Fredrikstad, Norway February 2017.  Not a trace of snow and no frost patterns on our window!

We bought those fur parkas in fancy explorer-style and now we are sweating. We didn’t go up North for that! The name Norway goes back to the old Norse word Norðrvegr meaning the way up North. Isn’t the North your kingdom any longer?
The Vikings knew real winters they described euphemistic as times staying at home. But we want to feel snow under our boots and admire northern lights. Dear Winter, could you, please, make that possible! Or is your friend Mother Hulda not well? Or are these signs of the beginning of her dementia that she lets it snow in Spain and Portugal and not here?

Wir haben uns extra Fellparkas im schicksten Amundsen-Stil besorgt und was ist? Wir schwitzen! Dafür…

View original post 722 more words