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Christina Bolton

Tuesday, 05 September 2017

Travel Photographs: Scotland

Travel Photography by Christina Bolton

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Photographs by Christina Bolton

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(c)Christina Bolton

Omo by Lynne Doran is a book of photographs highlighting the various indigenous tribes of Ethiopia's Omo Valley. She is able to witness some rare celebrations like weddings and coming of age ceremonies and portrays close ups of some of the most fascinating cultures left in the world. 

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Doran travels with Steve Turner, owner and guide of Origins Safaris, to these remote areas which are extremely difficult to reach. On his website, he says “The Omo River of south western Ethiopia is nothing less than the last great tribal land left in the world today, a real kaleidoscope of vanishing cultures.”

 

In her short introduction some of the more interesting customs are mentioned, though many are not and the stories are just told through the pictures. The portraits themselves are excellent and compelling, and though some people are smiling, many more are staring intently right at the camera.

 

One interesting part of the book is noticing how different these tribes are from one another, even though they developed in areas surrounding the Omo River not that far apart. While some may have traded with others at times, they certainly didn't adopt each others traditions, and the picture of what is beautiful in each tribe is quite unique – from dyed hair and headbands to face painting, armbands and piercings. 

 

Doran's photos are intense and honest, but the book may not be for everyone. Though the body painting, plaiting and beading may be beautiful some of the other things like the huge lip plates worn by women in Tulgit and the scars on women of the Hamar tribe from ritualized whippings may turn others away.

 

All in all, it is a candid look at a handful of almost extinct cultures that have certainly been forgotten by most and it may serve to make you wonder about your own origins.

 

 

Omo by Lynne Doran, https://www.lynndoran.com/products/omo-book, $79

 

 

©Christina Bolton

 

 

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(c)Christina Bolton

 

 

Sunday, 01 May 2016

The Cubans

Cuba

 

The Cubans by Jay Seldin is a book of atmospheric portraits of the Cuban people taken while they're going about their daily lives. Though outsiders expect Cuba to be a colorful place, surprisingly, the book is all in black and white and this lends to the moodiness of the photos. It also gives the feeling that Cuba is perhaps stuck in a different era. This is supported by the old kitchens, cars and cameras in the photos.

 

The people look surprisingly resilient amidst the fraying buildings. Boxers, ballerinas and believers are all captured by Seldin, who traveled to Cuba many times over 10 years. From tobacco workers to May Day celebrants to schoolchildren he gives us a rounded look at the Cubans.

 

 

Even though I've known about the embargo my whole life, I was alarmed by the amount of squalor in the photos. In some, people's homes are crumbling around them. It reminded me more of my travels around India rather than what I picture in the Caribbean. I was also surprised a foreigner was able to get access to these shots, even showing people asleep in their homes. Yet the citizens don't seem especially disturbed by the circumstances around them, with both smiling and serious faces, and jubilant and thoughtful expressions.

 

There is a startling truth to these photos which is what all photographers are after. To buy the book or look at some of the photos, check Seldin's website: http://www.jayseldinphotos.com/.

 

 

 

©Christina Bolton

Ecbc's Sparrow wheeled garment bag was designed to make your life easier, at least at getting through security, so you won't need to unpack into a bunch of TSA trays and pack it all back up again while juggling your electronics, your carry-on and your shoes.

 

With ecbc's fastpass® system, all you need to do is fully unzip the outer packet which holds only your laptop on one side and your tablet or other small devices on the other and when your bag makes it through – zip it back up- no devices left behind.

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With the amount of pockets and zippers everywhere it actually takes it a step further and allows your whole bag to be a beacon of organization. The Sparrow even has its own valet where you can clip in hangers so when you get to your destination you just hang them up, no ironing! Two zip pouches easily use the triangular space around the hangers. There's an ID pouch and a water bottle pocket (which would also work well for a fold-up umbrella) on the side and a large compartment for clothes at the bottom. I could easily fit everything I need for a month long trip in this carry on – though I am used to traveling light.

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There is also a portable charging unit which comes with it and promises to charge your devices 3-5 times – though you may want to check your cables before you go anywhere. It charged my phone fine, but wouldn't work for my laptop as that won't charge off a regular usb connection.

 

The Sparrow will fit the carry-on size requirement for most airlines – though maybe not the weight – it is not the lightest bag out there at 9 lbs, as all those extra things – particularly the valet definitely add extra weight. Luckily, unless you're going on some of the really cheap airlines, most don't weigh carry-on's, just check-in bags, but don't take it on Wow Air, etc. as they weigh everything and will definitely charge you more.

 

The only thing it doesn't have is spinner wheels. I didn't think I'd ever go back to regular wheels after falling in love with spinners, but after my last trip to Europe and trying to roll my spinner on all those cobblestone streets I was less enamored with it – it actually seemed harder to roll than to just pull it, so now I'm open to regular wheels again. I do wish the valet part of this bag was removable for those beach trips where you don't need business type clothes and that would allow you to cut down on the weight a bit; the bottom part that folds over the clothes can already be zipped off, though that doesn't weigh much, but if you could remove the part that clamps the hangers down that would make a difference.

 

Any bag which promises a few less minutes in the TSA zone is great by me – I'm always trying to get out of there! And with the organization this bag promises, its a go!

 

 

©Christina Bolton

 

 

For more info: www.ec-bc.com http://www.ec-bc.com/sparrow-wheeled-bag.html

Sunday, 01 May 2016

Paris After the Attacks

 

When we told friends and family of our plans to visit Paris, 2 ½ months after November's terrorist attacks, we received some strange looks and concerned questions – like “Why go now?” and “Is it safe?” So I thought I'd remind people of the amazing allures of the City of Light and reflect on the things I saw.

 

When we arrived, local and military police were everywhere! The first time I went to Paris was a few days after the US bombing of Libya in 1986 and now – with the travel warnings and the ubiquitous presence of soldiers – it was 1986 all over again. But now there were security checks going into just about every building as well: churches, museums, concert halls. Thankfully not restaurants or shops, but those were on alert in a different way.

 

One night in the Bastille we were sitting in a small restaurant with a glass front, not far from where several of the attacks took place. Suddenly, outside, the traffic came to a halt. Eventually motorists started beeping at a car that was not moving and people in the restaurant were beginning to become concerned; what had been a lively crowd became hushed and almost silent as the chef/owner came out of the kitchen and went to see what was going on. Body language changed and there was definitely a tension in the air – these days, someone stopping in the road could be more than just car trouble. In this case, all was fine and went back to normal, but not until drawing a crowd with their cell phones ready.

 

Paris is not used to this level of caution. There were big tents with metal detectors and security lines set up in an impromptu way at the entrance to the Opera among other places – where there used to be nothing. I don't know if the tents will eventually disappear and things will go back to normal, or if this is the new normal and they'll end up building permanent structures to house them, but the times are such that we will find out shortly.

 

Mostly, we felt very safe everywhere. Though personally I feel nervous walking by a guy with a machine gun, like the ones in front of government buildings, synagogues and mosques, even if he is supposed to be protecting me.

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We stayed in an Airbnb apartment in the Bastille, a short walk from both the Bataclan Theatre and the Marais, one of Paris' most fashionable (and expensive) areas. Loaded with shops, cafes and nightlife, the Marais' picturesque squares and avenues buzz with activity. From there, we continued walking in a different direction each day. Once, we took a short stroll across the bridge in front of Hotel de Ville to Notre-Dame and Saint-Chapelle with its amazing stained glass (not to be missed).

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Another day we walked a bit further down the Seine to the Louvre and Musee d'Orsay. The following day we hopped on the metro to get across town to the Eiffel Tower and Champs-Elysees, but Paris is such a beautiful and walkable city that we came back by foot. Sacre-Coeur was also a one way metro ride – strolling down Rue des Martyrs and hopping into the great bakeries and cheese shops along the way (Sebastien Gaudard and Maison Landemaine are the best!).

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I could write a book about all to see and do in Paris – but there are so many guides already to choose from, so I'll just focus on a few highlights you must do:

 

  1. See Art! You have your pick of a multitude of museums – from the Renaissance to decorative arts to modern. The Louvre is a good place to start, but there are about 130 others so depending on your interests you have many choices. Remember, the city museums are all free and some of those house great artwork, so you might as well stop in (try Petit Palais or Musee Carnavalet). I'd say my favorite museum is Musee d'Orsay, which houses many impressionist and pre-impressionist masterpieces. Its a little easier to manage if you're the type to be overwhelmed by the Louvre's 35,000 pieces, but like everything in Paris, its very hard to choose.                       Painting

 

  1. Stroll down the Seine! Yes, its nice during the day, but its better at night. The bridges and sculptures are lit to perfection and the lovers are out arm in arm. You can also hop on a boat for a romantic ride if you like. I don't know who was originally in charge of lighting up Paris, but they were a magnificent artist as well!             Seine

  2. Eat! Sure, you should stop into as many patisseries and boulangeries as you can handle. Yes, you should try the macaroons at Laduree and Pierre Herme. Yes, you should eat a warm baguette straight from the oven after either the morning or afternoon baking (after all, who eats morning bread in the afternoon?). But most of all you should save time for at least one very special meal.

     

    Paris has its fair share of Michelin starred restaurants and some of them you can get into without signing up for the waiting list a year in advance or paying 1,000 euros for two. Ours was Le Chiberta (http://www.lechiberta.com/) near the Arc de Triomphe and Champs-Elysees which is one of the restaurants associated with the famous chef Guy Savoy. We had the fabulous chef's tasting menu with wines paired by the sommelier – and this is the way to experience Paris – eating little bites of perfection!

     

    To give you an idea of our meal, we had an amuse-bouche (a small pre-appetizer sent out by the chef to stimulate the appetite), then a homemade duck fois gras with cognac-quince marmalade – the creamy indulgent richness of the duck liver pate pairing perfectly with the sweet-tart jam and Malabar pepper. The pasta was a delicious crayfish and mushroom ravioli in a flavorful cream sauce. The meat course was a perfectly cooked veal with sage, citrus and carrots in all kinds of textures, even a carrot foam. This was followed by Selle sur Cher goat cheese with greens and olive-rosemary tapenade, a sorbet to cleanse the palate, and a finale of dense chocolate cake with peanuts. The wines – from a Vouvray to a Haut-Medoc were a perfect accompaniment to an unforgettable meal.

                       Lechiberta

                         Le Chiberta's crayfish & mushroom ravioli

 

Don't write Paris off as a place of concern. Be smart and aware, but don't be stopped by fear. Live life to the fullest and enjoy your trip (and a few extra hotel vacancies) now!

 

 

 

©Christina Bolton

 

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Love locks on Paris' bridges

Monday, 11 April 2016

EC Lync System Carry-on

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EC Lync System Carry-on ultra-light and durable luggage/backpack by Eagle Creek has the unique ability of changing from a carry-on suitcase with wheels and a pull out handle to a large day pack. Its actually the exact same bag either way (it doesn't fold out or anything) it just has a removable frame with wheels.

 

I really liked the idea of it – it could be the perfect bag for those cheap airlines where they only let you have one bag and no 'personal item', purse or backpack. I end up on those airlines a lot, so I thought it may work well for me. In practice, though, its more cumbersome than I imagined and not especially intuitive.

 

It comes in a stow bag with ikea-style picture instructions. It doesn't take long to put the frame together and that's a one-time job anyways – I don't see any reason you'd want to take it apart again unless you had very limited storage space and wanted to fit it all back in the stow bag again. After the frame is together you slide the backpack over it and attach it with some clips. Theoretically, I thought this would be the easy part, but this is where it actually got tough. The clips are very tight and the straps that fit around the frame are very short and not adjustable so you're working in a very small area trying to get the tiny straps around the metal and back into the clips which are hard to press together (and almost impossible to take apart – but we'll get to that later). If the straps were just fastened with velcro the whole process would be infinitely easier and you could probably go from backpack to luggage within a minute or two, but given the way it is designed it took me 11 mins to put together the first time, which I thought was rather long, so I actually took it all apart again and put it in the bag and asked my husband to do it. It took him 23 mins!

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The bag itself has three zippered compartments – a main one for clothes and most everything else with a couple of small zippered pockets in it, a large but thin pocket perfect for a laptop or tablet, and a smaller pocket at the top for accessories. It also has a stuff sack on the outside. There are compression straps and a sternum strap, but no hip strap. It also has removable shoulder straps, though you don't really need to remove them to make it into a suitcase (you can still pull up the handle), just undo the simple clips at the bottom and slide them into the pocket at the back made for that purpose.

 

The real problem was removing the frame to go back into a day pack. When you finally get the aforementioned clips attached, they're in there so good that I tried for over 10 mins to get them apart and couldn't. I didn't want to resort to using tools because in a hotel room you wont have access to much, so to keep it realistic I just used the side of a ballpoint pen (which I'd usually have with me) to help press in those clips, no dice. Eventually, I needed to go get the pliers to remove the clips! With the pliers it only took me 1:45 mins to return it to a backpack, but unless you carry a multi-tool with you on your trips I'd definitely try this bag out first in the store to see if you can realistically use it the way its meant to be used (or wait until they come out with a new version with velcro attachments – or at least adjustable straps and looser clips!).

 

Eagle Creek does have a “No Matter What” warranty on all their products so it sounds like you should be able to use that to exchange it if its not working out. Its also a great selling point for any of their other bags. To see their whole line of products, click here: http://www.eaglecreek.com/.

 

 

 

©Christina Bolton

Saturday, 09 April 2016

Top 10 Paris

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DK Eyewitness Travel Top 10 series offers invaluable guides that are easy to fit in your carry on. I used the Paris guide a month ago on my latest adventure and it proved helpful and extremely readable. Its the kind of book you can open to any page and find something of interest like Top 10 Cafe's & Bars, 'Off the Beaten Track', or 'Paris for Free'.

 

It begins with the Top 10 Paris Highlights, and though everyone seems to have differing opinions about what must be done in Paris, their list is comprehensive, and the top four, at least, are must-see's: Musee du Louvre, Musee d'Orsay, Notre-Dame, and the Eiffel Tower. They then mention the top 10 things to see at each, which seems like another big task - especially to chose ten of the Louvre's 35,000 pieces of the world's best art! Still, it does give you a starting point in what some people find a completely overwhelming (yet staggeringly beautiful) museum collection.

 

One part of the guide that could be extremely helpful is the 'area by area' section where many of the main neighborhoods are again broken down into their own top 10's, so if you're staying in the Marais, for instance, it will give you the top 10 sights there as well as a walking tour and ten places to eat, mansions, shops, galleries, etc.

 

My husband was quite impressed with this book as well and it was great for his limited attention span (for travel – for sports its unlimited!).

 

This series is being relaunched on multiple destinations – many famous cities like NY, Rome & Rio and some small countries like Iceland. The books all have pull-out maps which was one of my favorite features and will certainly come in handy when you're in another country and your network coverage is not as comprehensive as you would have wished. I'm hoping to try out the Iceland guide next.

 

©Christina Bolton

 

 

Top 10 Paris, Mike Gerrard & Donna Dailey, DK Eyewitness Travel, 2016, $14, www.traveldk.com

 

Sunday, 01 March 2015

When all the Lands Were Sea

Sea

 

In When all the Lands Were Sea Tor Eigeland tells us the story of his 1967 mission as a photojournalist to chronicle the lives of the Ma’dan people, also known as the Marsh Arabs. They lived between the Tigris and Euphrates rivers in traditional Mesopotamia where the ‘Garden of Eden’ was said to have been.

 

Their 5,000 year old culture was seldom seen by foreigners and he explains all the red tape he had to go through to eventually get the permit. When he finally does hire a boat and get out to the marshes the people treat him as an honored guest and he gets to really see their culture and way of life. 

 

Water buffalos are an integral part of life for the Marsh Arabs - they use their dung as fuel for their fires and they make dairy products from their milk. The Ma’dan spend much time fishing, grow rice and make houses and mats out of reeds. In their watery world they canoe everywhere, even sometimes to their neighbor’s houses as each one is usually on its own little reed island. 

 

It’s a heartening story to see a bit of their culture, for as you may know, in the 1990’s Saddam Hussein drained the marshes that were their lifeblood and burned the reeds that they’d built their homes with. He was trying to wipe them out entirely as they had helped some of the others in the south to rebel against him. 

 

The result was desertification and what was called by the UN Environmental Program “one of the world’s greatest environmental disasters.” A 5,000 yr old culture was destroyed. Many of the Ma’dan ended up in refugee camps in neighboring Iran. Most of southern Iraq lost their dairy products, fish, and rice cultivation. Several animal and botanical species became extinct and migratory birds disappeared, disrupting wildlife across Eurasia and Africa. 

 

There were some attempts to restore the area after Saddam was ousted, but so much had changed - including the water becoming so salty that it’s undrinkable -that it was not successful and there are very few people there now.

 

When all the Lands Were Sea is an important book because it gives you a glimpse of a world that doesn't exist anymore through Eigeland’s pictures.

 

 

©Christina Bolton

 

When all the Lands Were Sea, Tor Eigeland, Interlink Books, 2015

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