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Wednesday, 01 September 2021

Rose's House, Jabal Akhdar, the Sultanate of Oman

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Dozens of stars, cool weather, and birds and crickets' sounds are all reasons to go to Jabal Akhdar in the Sultanate of Oman. Now is the best time to go, especially when it is 22 degrees at night. An excellent place to rent is Rose's House in Alaqur Village. This original-style mud house is full of charm and character. The house has many traditional items, such as clay pottery water jugs and straw-colored mats with embroidery that hang on the walls. It has three bedrooms, suitable for six people, a majlis (a parlor where guests are received) and a living room. The living room is a lovely spot to play cards and board games. The house is owned and run by the Alfahdi brothers – Ahmed, Mustafa, Amjad, and Saeed. It took them two years to renovate it. Amjad explained that they wanted to rent it to show people a…
“We don’t have the money,” said Wolfgang. My big genial driver was expounding on Namibia’s lack of infrastructure. He sounded cheerful. Everything Wolfgang said sounded cheerful, even his lamentations. His case had been made hours ago, when the gravel road had petered out and Wolfgang swerved the rover from side to side, avoiding the deeper mounds of red earth. Happily, we didn’t spin our wheels in any serious way, the route upgraded finally and we continued without incident to the Tropic of Capricorn, its marker sign faded after years of sand and wind, further obscured by the stickers plastered on by previous drivers. It surprised me to feel jazzed about a line of latitude. Not your typical bucket list item. We reached Swakopmund in the late afternoon, stopping by its lighthouse and adjacent market, where Wolfgang inquired about vacancies and found one for me at the Villa Weisse. “Spitzkoppe tomorrow?”…
On our last slow travel road trip before the devastating Covid 19, we rented a studio in the historic center of Reggio Emilia (pop. 171,000), in the Emilia Romagna region of northern Italy, and spent six weeks visiting the neighboring cities of Parma, Modena and Bologna. Some years ago, we spent six weeks during the summer living in a studio in the historic center of Reggio nell’Emilia, while studying their internationally renowned Reggio Approach to early childhood education. We returned twice more to learn more. It has been thirty years since the publication in Newsweek that pronounced the Reggio Emilia preschools as one of the best in the world. Since then, thousands of educators from every corner of the world have visited their schools and learned about their unique approach to early childhood education. The "International Centre for Children Culture and Creativity Loris Malaguzzi”, was dedicated to its founder, Loris…
We arrived at Amsterdam’s Schiphol Airport, which is one of the busiest airports in Europe, for our two week slow travel adventure. Normally, we have a longer period of time, so we planned well and just focused on the city. Having just finished Dutch Culture in the Golden Age, by J.L Price, I was anxious to spend as much time at the Rijksmuseum as possible. The majority of our time we were joyfully visiting the museums, enjoying several canal rides, and leisurely walking around and admiring the sights along the Amstel River. After researching Amsterdam, we discovered it is a two wheel culture, bikes take priority over pedestrians and there are over 300 miles of bike paths. It also has 165 canals — with a combined length of 50 KM (31 miles). There are 281 bridges and over 2,500 houseboats. The ‘Big Three’ museums and highlights of our slow travel:…
We arrived at O.R.Tambo International Airport in Johannesburg and taxied to our hotel in the northern suburbs. Our quest was to observe, learn, and reflect on South African’s history, culture and unique arts and crafts, especially businesses owned and operated by women. Our slow travel adventure was not intended to take a safari tour; perhaps at another time. We arranged to have a guide for our entire Johannesburg stay. During the next few days, our guide happily took us to visit some of the best art galleries and markets of contemporary and tribal arts, crafts and artifacts from across the African continent. We observed, lingered and were inspired during these exploratory visits. Our guide, Enzokuhle, meaning ‘Do Good’ in Zulu, introduced us to Joburg, (or Jodz) as it’s known, and acquainted us with this economic hub of southern Africa. Enzokulhe mentioned that the city has over 6 million trees! We…
The passengers struggle down, swaying on the rope ladder, rucksacks banging against the side of the ferry. They load awkwardly into a small boat which takes them – including me - to the pier. Big ferries from Piraeus had no docking facilities on the isolated, lovely, small island of Fourni in the eastern Aegean, but that was forty years ago. The disembarkation is much smoother this time round. I first arrived in Greece fifty years ago, exhausted from a three-day train trip. I have liked it ever since: visited much of it, lived in it once, and come back every so often. It sent me off in a new direction for my life and I went eagerly. I am more tolerant of its faults than I am of my own. Many of Greece’s island tourist destinations have changed radically but for those who don’t hanker after international cuisine or exotically-named…
Tuesday, 01 September 2020

Our Favorite Places in Rome

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Some time ago we lived in Rome for six months. We'd walked and bussed all the streets of the city and developed a list of our favorite places. When we had a chance to visit for a three night stopover we were astonished that our long-term memory of the city was still very much intact. I will spotlight the places we returned to – some very special sights: (1). The Piazza Mattei - Where in the past we spent many hours having coffee and admiring the Fontana delle Tartarughe, or the fountain of the tortoises. The fountain was designed by Giacometti della Porta in 1581: with 4 bronze youths and 4 bronze sculptured dolphins by Taddeo Landini is a real gem of Mannerist art; later on G.L. Bernini added the four bronze tortoises. Nothing without Joy; (2). The Church of Santa Maria della Pace, designed by P. Cortona in 1656,…
Wednesday, 01 January 2020

Seven Magic Mountains

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While taking a complimentary art walking tour inside the Park MGM Hotel and Casino in Las Vegas, I learned that the multi-million dollar curated artwork and installations pay tribute to nature surrounding the Nevada desert and urban parks. The art pieces enhance the MGM park theme and beauty of the resort. We stopped at a model of renowned Swiss born artist Ugo Rondinone’s unique Seven Magic Mountains. His colorful art installation is located about 20 minutes south of Las Vegas near June Dry Lake. After the tour, I was inspired to hire a SUV to drive out to the exhibit to see it up close. My driver arrived before sunset and followed Google Maps for about 10 miles to Jean, Nevada, before driving off the paved road onto a dirt trail. As the drive became very bumpy, and we passed a mustang convertible car stuck in the sandy soil, I…
Friday, 01 November 2019

Hiking the Caldera in Santorini

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One of the stops on the eight day Galileo sailing ship exploring Greece's Cyclades is a day at the dramatic island of Santorini with an underwater volcanic crater. The rugged cliff landscape is shaped after an eruption in the 16th century. Clinging to the cliffs along the caldera are sugar cube whitewashed homes and picturesque blue dome roofs. Visitors can rent a car, motor cycle or hike from one village to another. Variety Cruises anchors at the old port Ormos, offering a few taverns and small shops and the option of three different ways to get up to the top of the picturesque village of Fira. The easiest way is to ride a three minute cable car up to the edge of the cliff. Visitors can also walk zigzag over 600 stone steps uphill or pay to ride a mule up to the top. Fira is the most visited area…
Monday, 02 September 2019

Taipei, Taiwan: Intriguing, Alive, Charming

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Taipei is seedy – a never ending red light district. Illuminated signs flash, studded lights line up in an arrow formation pointing to unknown places. Elegant, grotesque Banyan trees flank and frame streets. Blackened bark. Tendrils drool. Branches dance with one another – making contorted shapes with their bodies. Buildings are smothered in a layer of dirt that seeps into the cracks between the tiles, coating the thickets of wires that spew out of buildings: the guts of the city laid bare for all to see. But this is just an impression seen through a western, British lens. Relative to a place where streets are ordered, straight-laced, sterile: to pass through, not to be touched. Here, the streets are alive. The streets are workshops. Unfinished projects left out everyday: Brooms, fabric, nails, sinks, pipes. Protected by the city’s endless arcades – that extend shop units outwards. Find a well positioned…

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