For the Memorial Day weekend last year my brother Joe and his wife Susan and I met in New Orleans. It was one of the few important American cities I had never visited and I really looked forward to going there. It was not disappointing! We stayed in an AirBnB on a street of the narrow houses that New Orleans is famous for. The houses on this street looked like they had all been renovated since Hurricane Katrina created so much damage there nearly 20 years ago. Here are a few photos I snapped.
It was a fun trip, and a good way to begin my very long journey to many places I’ve wanted to see. I hope you’ll return. Next I’ll tell you about my month in San Francisco.
Although I intended to tell you the story of my journey in chronological order, my walk in Larnaca, Cyprus this morning convinced me to begin my story here. Maybe by tomorrow I’ll write about New Orleans, the first stop on the tour.
Cyprus is a small island, only 150 miles long and about 60 miles from top to bottom. That small space has been divided into two countries since a civil war and a Turkish invasion in 1974. The “green line” monitored closely by the United Nations divides the island horizontally. The lower half is mostly occupied by Greek-speaking Christians; the upper half by Turkish-speaking Muslims. The capital city, Nicosia, is divided. To enter northern Nicosia from the south it’s necessary to pass through two checkpoints, show a passport and proof of anti-Covid vaccination. It’s literally walking from one country into another one.
Larnaca is located on a huge bay on the southern shore of the island. The street behind the mile long beach is called (in Greek) “little palm tree street.” As one book says, the palms were very small when planted in the 1920s; today they are quite tall. I’ll devote another blog post to telling you about the beach area. For today I just want to set the scene of my two and a half months in Larnaca.
My AirBnB apartment is about three short blocks from the beach. It’s located just one building off Ermou street, the principal street in this section of the city. The best restaurants and most upscale shops in Larnaca are on Ermou Street. I really like my one-bedroom apartment. It’s in a 4-story building owned by a family. Theodora, the owners’ daughter, manages it now and does a fine job. She has been very helpful to me, giving me information and, on two occasions, driving me to the Lidl store a couple of miles away. Buying groceries was my primary challenge in the first month I was here. Now, in the second month, I’ve discovered two small shops selling groceries that I walk to carrying my orange English supermarket bag.
The Cypriot people are friendly. Because in the first 60 years of the 20th century this island was controlled by Great Britain, people study English throughout their school years. Almost everyone can understand me and converse with me in English. Most of the people in Larnaca are Greek but there are also many recent immigrants, mostly from Africa and the Middle East. There are also numerous women from Asia who are brought here to serve as maids to the upper class. (Recently I read an excellent novel about the Asian women in Cyprus. It’s entitled Songbirds: a novel and was written by Christy Lefteri, a native Cypriot.)
I have much more to tell you about this city and the island of Cyprus. This and a few photos is just the beginning. My winter here has been warm and sunny – mostly – and I’ve been very happy here.
Barbara Weibel is one of the best travel bloggers. She’s just posted an astonishing report on her recent journey to Antarctica. The photographs are beautiful and the text is, as always, very well written. Find it here:
Today is March 27, 2020. For about two weeks most of the world has been self-quarantining, trying to avoid the novel coronavirus (Covid-19). The New York Times says today that Bergamo, Italy is the heart of the coronavirus outbreak. The Times features a report and photo essay about the misery there.
I once spent a few hours in Bergamo, making a stop for lunch between the Veneto and Lake Como. It is one of the most beautiful and interesting cities in Italy and deserves to be better known for its cathedral and its delightful old town. Here are some of the pictures I took in 2009.
A charming way to arrive in Bergamo.
A delightful sign and windows open to the sun and air.
Like most Italian cities, Bergamo’s old buildings were built from stone several centuries ago.
The main altar of the cathedral.
The beautifully decorated dome and arches above the nave.
The Eden Project is an environmental education project housed in six enormous semi-transparent domes in Cornwall, England. Created in 1999, it has continued to inspire and educate children and adults for the past 20 years. I’ve wanted to go there for a long while and finally was able to do so recently. The leaders of this project can explain it much better than I can so I begin by asking you to view this 5-minute video to learn from one of the co-creators the history, the purpose and the aspirations of the project. Please click here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=f8unx8-pZxg
On the wall of the welcome center at the Eden Project I found the following. I want to share it with you and your family. On the internet I found it here: https://www.100people.org/index.php
If the World were 100 PEOPLE:
50 would be female
50 would be male
25 would be 0-14
66 would be 15-64
9 would be 65 and older
60 would be from Asia
16 would be from Africa
10 would be from Europe
9 would be from Latin America & the Caribbean
5 would be from North America
31 would be Christian
23 would be Muslim
16 would not be religious or identify themselves
as being aligned with a particular faith
15 would be Hindu
7 would be Buddhist
8 would believe in other religions
12 would speak Chinese
6 would speak Spanish
5 would speak English
4 would speak Hindi
3 would speak Arabic
3 would speak Bengali
3 would speak Portuguese
2 would speak Russian
2 would speak Japanese
60 would speak other languages
86 would be able to read and write
14 would not
Literacy by Gender
90% of males would be able to read and write
10% of males would not be able to read and write
82% of females would be able to read and write
18% of females would not be able to read and write
78% of eligible males would have a
primary school education
76% of eligible females would have a
primary school education66% of eligible males would have a
secondary school education
63% of eligible females would have a
secondary school education7 would have a college degree
78 people would have a place to shelter them
from the wind and the rain, but 22 would not
54 would be urban dwellers
46 would be rural dwellers
91 would have access to safe drinking water
9 would use unimproved water
11 would be undernourished
1 would have HIV/AIDS
1 would have tuberculosis
11 would live on less than $1.90 USD per day
82 would have electricity
18 would not
65 would be cell phone users
47 would be active internet users
95 live in an area with a mobile- cellular network
68 would have improved sanitation
14 would have no toilets
18 would have unimproved toilets
These school kids from France were in one of the three school groups at the Eden Project on the day I was there.
Imagine walking through a Roman town that was hidden for 1700 years or so. Actually, we still walk on top of it because following its discovery, it had to be re-buried for safekeeping until money becomes available to permanently expose it. The Roman walls left from that time still surround the old city.
Imagine walking with a delightful guide through one of the most outstanding gothic cathedrals. Learning that this cathedral has the longest domed roof in the world. Learning where the bombs fell on the building when the town of Exeter was bombed in 1942 – and about the soccer game that paid for the restoration of the damage done.
Imagine enjoying a delicious breakfast in a French bistro while admiring the ancient façade of the cathedral just a stone’s throw away.
Imagine walking down the commercial street (almost always called “High Street” in England) past buildings that have been housing merchants’ stores since Victorian times or before. Today some of them are selling mobile phones and sporting goods and computers but others are doing what they’ve done for a very long time: vending high quality clothing in the latest styles. It’s always good to find Marks & Spencer and Debenhams on the shopping streets of British towns.
Imagine staying in a tiny cottage built in 1822, sleeping under a heavy down-filled duvet, enjoying for a few days the company and assistance of an AirBnB hostess. Truly, were it not for the existence of AirBnb and RyanAir, I could not be taking the trip that I’m now enjoying.
I did all that on my first day in Exeter. For the next week I’ll be exploring counties Devon and Cornwall in southwest England. I plan to blog more often, showing you my discoveries. Please come again.
And if you’ve visited England, please add a comment, sharing with us your favorite part of this “green and pleasant land.”
For a year or more I’ve been planning an extended journey around Europe and beyond. Last Wednesday that journey began with a flight to France. I’m writing from the city of Metz in the Alsace-Lorraine region in eastern France. For the next week or so I’ll be making brief visits to four important cities in this historic region: Metz, Nancy, Strasbourg and Colmar. Today these cities may be best known for their Christmas markets. I’ve already begun enjoying one of those but I’ve also discovered much more to this region than Christmas. I’ll write more about that over the coming days but for now I want to tell you a bit about how I planned this trip.
At the end of this month I’m going to Morocco to work in a “Women’s Empowerment” program, helping young mothers learn job and language skills. The four weeks I’ll be there were the starting point for my new journey. In November 2016 I began exploring the options for volunteering in less developed parts of the world. I discovered that many so-called “voluntourism” companies exploit the good intentions of people who want to volunteer. I also quickly discovered an agency from New Zealand called Love Volunteers. Having now worked with them to make my plans for more than two years, I have come to trust this company and to discover that their volunteer placements are truly about working with local agencies in third world countries in meaningful ways to improve the lives of children, women and even animals.
So it was decided that I’ll spend most of January 2019 in Rabat, the capital of Morocco. My plan is to bring you along with me via this blog. I expect to learn much, to have many unique (for me) experiences and to make friendships with people you might like to know about. When my four weeks with the agency are done I plan to explore other parts of Morocco, including Marrakech, Fez, Casablanca and other places.
My intention is to travel for about seven or eight months, and longer if possible. Many of my friends who read my blog had the same misfortune I had in September when our small city, New Bern, North Carolina, was hit by Hurricane Florence. My travel plans have been severely impacted by expenses related to repairing my property. It was hard to decide to go ahead with my plans but many of my travel expenses (including the month in Morocco) were prepaid and nonrefundable. (There’s a lesson there for people smarter than me!) With the help of a friend who is a realtor I have been able to rent my home to a young couple whose home was made uninhabitable by the hurricane. So here I am — beginning one more exciting journey around Europe.
My plans include eastern France, Venice for Christmas, Morocco in January, England in February (for mostly genealogical reasons), southern Italy and Sicily in March, Athens and two Greek islands in April, my favorite place in Ireland for May and much of June, and a month in a city on the Black Sea in Bulgaria for July. I’ll travel slowly and cheaply, and I’ll tell you about it here if you choose to keep reading as I travel. I hope you will.
Today began with a walk down High Street in Oxford, where many of the most famous and oldest colleges are located. The photo above shows the ca. 1200 a.d. church of St. Mary which is now the chapel of University College.
Having worn myself out today I’m going to post photos of some of the places I saw instead of writing about them.
This is an entrance to Magdalen College. Note the detailed carving which is centuries old.
This picture taken at the entrance to the Botanic Garden in Oxford shows the tower of on of the college churches in the background.
A gentleman eating his lunch in the quiet beauty of the Bontanic Garden. I like to think he’s an “Oxford don” (a professor).
On my way out of the Botanic Garden I found this beautiful lily pond.
Later in the day I wandered around the Bodeleian Library, tge Sheldonian Theatre, the Radcliffe Camera and the Bridge of Sighs, show here. It’s modeled after and takes its name from the real Bridge of Sighs in Venice.
All the colleges I found today were closed to tourists. I had read that they were often open for quick tours in the afternoon but there are a great many tourist and tour groups in Oxford at this time. I’m sure that had something to do with the closing. I was sorry not to get even a peek. This photo represents the many closed entries I passed.
At this college entrance I told the guard to “smile!” He did, as you can see, and I got a quick view inside the walls but I didn’t get in!
Very near all those famous places I listed I found a row of houses painted in pretty pastel colors. There are more than this picture shows — the row bends away.
I was delighted when I read this plaque on the blue house in the center of this row. I honors one of my heroes.
This sculpture on a doorway is centuries old. Evidently Oxonians looking down their noses at the world is an old custom too.
Seattle may just be America’s best big city. There’s so much to do there, to taste there, to see there! It’s a beautiful, welcoming city. We stayed near the airport and used the tram to the city center. It was quick, clean and affordable. Our first stop was the enormous Pike Place Market. One of America’s first farmer’s markets, vendors there sell foods of all kinds, the most gorgeous flowers, plus arts and crafts and products from all over the world. The place is filled with scrumptious restaurants. The seafood is (as you might expect) fantastic!
The Pike Place Market on the Seattle waterfront has been a favorite of residents and tourists for decades. Don’t miss it!
On another day we went to the scene of the 1962 Seattle World’s Fair. Of course we got there by the famous elevated monorail which was built for that fair. It takes visitors directly to Seattle Center, where the Space Needle still gives them thrilling views of the city. Seattle Center is an excellent example of modern urban planning. The site of the 1962 world’s fair has become a place where children and adults play and learn. It’s a great venue for people watching. Given Seattle’s reputation for rainy weather, we were lucky. The three days we were there in late May were gloriously sunny and perfectly warm.
Seattle’s famous Space Needle was constructed for the 1962 world’s fair. The site of that fair now comprise Seattle Center.
On another day we took a ferry to Bainbridge Island. Essentially a perfect suburb, the island is 35-minute ferry ride from the Seattle waterfront. We enjoyed just being there. We found and enjoyed an authentic Seattle coffee house. We walked around in perfect weather, exploring the small shops near the ferry terminal and stopping for a delicious lunch in the sunshine. We enjoyed watching children enter the port in a tiny-boat parade. If you have time to do it on your visit to Seattle, don’t miss either the scenic ferry ride to Bainbridge Island or the opportunity to relax in a very comfortable setting.
One view of Seattle from the Bainbridge Island ferry.
Some lucky kids!
A pair of true Seattle baristas in a Peak’s Island coffee house.
Seattle is such a friendly town! People on the street (many of them young adults) offered to help us find our way around, sometimes leading us to the places we sought. Being in Seattle for a few days was a fine experience, one I hope to repeat soon.
I am in a beautiful old Breton city on the edge of the English Channel tonight. It is called Roscoff. If you ever have a chance to come here, I promise you’ll love it. I’m here because tomorrow morning I’ll take a ferry from here to Plymouth England.
Many of you wrote to me today asking if I am safe. I am far from harm. I appreciate your thoughts and concern. I turned on the TV about 9:00 this morning (4:00 a.m. for those of you in the East) and have been following the terrible news out of Brussels all day. Is there an answer to terrorism when young people are willing to strap a bomb on themselves and die?
I have many beautiful pictures taken today to share with you, but this isn’t the day for that. Peace!