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Ethiopian Rock Church
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Sunday, September 26, 2010

Millennium #2

The Girl Who Played with Fire (Millennium, #2)The Girl Who Played with Fire by Stieg Larsson

My rating: 5 of 5 stars


Im still going with a 5 even though I'd peg it v slighlty below the first one, I think for me more because the concept was fresher for me the first time round. That said though, its just as much of a page turner and Salander is simply awesome as the lead character, really coming into her own. She's ruthless. Brilliant. Im tempted to drop a point for all the pointless name dropping - I really dont need to know the details of each bit of Ikea furnature she buys or be told shes having a cafe latte in italics each time she has one. Though being a coffee addict I do quite enjoy the endless coffee drinking in these books!. The extent of the computer hacking was quite disturbing - I presume the author new his stuff as he was evidently a computer nerd - so im guessing that all that went on was pretty much possible, you have to wonder how much of that really does go on. I like the anti-establishment stance of the books too. All in all another winner and like last time I'll probably struggle to find a suitable follow on book to read after something so fast paced.



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Saturday, September 25, 2010

Unlocking Santorini


For those of you that don't know, Santorini is basically one big exploded volcano that the sea has flooded, with the big cliffs forming what was the caldera and a small smoking volcanic island remaining in the middle. The top notch address in any of the towns and villages is to be on the 'Caldera' side and thus be perched on the cliff face with that incredibly dramatic view of azure blue sea. Theres certainly something to be said for that, although its easily accesible for stroll and a cafe if you cant afford the prices of those glamourous boutique properties.



I was certainly happy in the end with my small village but within walking distance of one of the main scenic towns. I noticed that prices in Firostefani and Imerovigli are marginaly less that that of the main town of Fira and the view is just as dramatic if not more, as they are higher up. I suspect that in peak season it might actualy be preferable to stay somewhere out of central Fira. I personaly would still pick a property that your going to be happy to relax and chill in as its that kind of destination. I didnt venture as far as the beaches on the other side of the island, be warned that they are volcanic though - so black sand. Really Santorini is all about those cliff top vistas, impossibly photogenic white washed houses with blue doors, dramaticaly positioned eateries, steps and paths leading to tucked away cafes and bars. Just wandering and soaking up the atmosphere. Theres few places that can compete with its inpossibly romantic setting.

Dog on the Hot Rocks




This post is dedicated to Symon and also Los Puppitos from Uruguay. I had planned a whole set on sleeping dogs of Santorini but ran out of battery power.













And heres a pushkin for good measure .....

Friday, September 24, 2010

Santorini Sunsets

Sunset time is big business on Santorini - It can only be described as a bit of a circus, once you get down to the end of the headland at Oia, which is THE place to see it from. Coachloads pile in for it and your hard put to find a little spot, its quite a spectacle. Everyone applauds when the Sun finaly dissapears. You cant help wondering what some of the locals make of all this, although most of them would probably be doing very nicely from it. Nat's Dad always asks me how I manage to get my shots with no one in them - I put the shot above in for you Gary, to see the mayhem just beside me as I was taking my tranquil sea shots!

The Sunset from Fira or Imerogvilgi can be just as nice, sat in a nice cafe - its funny how you get picky when theres so many great views to choose from. Today I saw the best sunset of all when I was on my way back to Finikia on the bus and just caught one nice shot of it as I walked down into the village.

Heres a slideshow of a number of sunset and sky shots taken from a few different spots on the island - they sort of go together. I hope they dont get to boring, I tried to whittle down. The problem with the sun going down is the light changes all the time and you always feel you have to take more just in case its just that little bit better.

Thursday, September 23, 2010

Purchases

Hey Mister... Where You from?
Mister? .. come look my shop! No Bloody Hassel Man,
just for looking OK?
OK?
Mister!!!!!
Why no look my shop, is my turn?!
very beautiful OK? perhaps you like tea
Come look my mechanical camel - best quality! you like scarabeeeee?

OH..sorry where was I, for a moment I thought I was in an Egpytian bazzar, but no! I pinched myself and I can confirm that im still in fact in luxurious boutiquey Santoriniland, far from meddling pedlars, tricksters, shcheisters and disreputable merchants. Staying at length in somewhere a bit gorgeous, usualy makes me want to unpack and look at stuff, so I thought id share some of my wares with you

Lets see...what have we got?


Ah... The Egyptian Last Judgement on papyrus, this one came as a bit of a throw in with another papyrus purchase. We found quite a reputable and cheapish store in the Khan el Khaneli markets in Cairo after having a good idea of price and quality from the rest of our Egpytian travels. This piece is fairly ordinary in quality but as I say cost hardly anything. I like the Black and Golds. Sy bought a bigger and better quality version from the same shop, and Juile from our group bought the most amazing superb quality version early on in the trip. Thats where Anubis weighs your heart against a feather and if its heavy due to all your bad deeds then its to the underword you go.

This was the larger better quality one I bought at the same place as the one above. Its a copy of one of the astronomical tomb ceiling paintings. Only trouble is now im looking at it thinking, I allready have one almost the same back in London, albeit smaller and less detailed. Ive hardly seen it in ten years mind you but its there allright - perhaps I should sell this one, how much you give? Madam? you like? how much you want... come back!! (seriously I probably would actually sell this one)



And here are my Damascan Sandles! I dumped my plastic Kmarts in favour of these and have now managed to break both them and my non-sandley feet in, so quite happy wandering about in these.



Now on the left here we have my Anubis box. Cute isnt it. Its height of tourist tack and purchased for nothing in space of 5 mins but I like it.


These are my Palmryan Man-rings fit for an Emporor! (fetch me my bowl of rose-water to wash my pinkies in). I dont really wear rings, Im paranoid of ending up looking like Elton John or Liberace - but I'ts hard to resist when you have females around you trawling trough the jewelry shops and theres bargains about. Theyve been fun to bung on to go out to dinner of an evening, will see if they get worn back home. Which reminds me - I used to have a stash of Indian rings somewhere back in UK...must hunt down.

Below is my Marquetry Treasure Box - bought in the Damascus Souk, pretty cheap. Good for keeping man-rings in.


And these are my Happy Fish Vases! So dubbed because they are bright and cheery and fishy. They are from the Christian Quarter of the old city in Damascus - hence being Fishy. You know ...Jesus and Fish and all that. Actually two of them are gifts - I wonder who the lucky fishy receipients will be...


So What you think? you like you buy?

Mister!!!

Come Back...

Tomorrow OK?

Heliophos

And so to Greece and Santorini Island - if you see a picture postcard view of the Greek Islands its bound to be of this one. Mykonos also has the impossibly cute white washed villages and to be honest probably alot more going on in terms of nightlife and action, but its hard to beat the cliff top setting here. Besides the biggest thing on my agenda for this part of the trip was doing pretty much nothing, so this place suits me fine. The pic above is part of the communal area - I did some book reading there with a glass of wine the other day as the sun was setting.

I had set my heart on a cliff view and waking up to a dramatic vista either in Oia or Fira but was a bit gobsmacked at the prices, an extensive trip advisor search brought me to this place - Heliophos. And I love it! - Absolutely perfect, what felt like a compromise when booking as its 10-15 mins walk away from Oia itself, turned out to be just what I wanted. Its in Finikia a traditional quiet village with a couple of tavernas and a handful of tourists, and whilst not smack bang on that dramatic cliff edge there are still sea views all around from the beautiful terrace and no crowds at all. The owner Sophia has done a fantastic job of creating a peaceful welcoming environment, that while a fraction of the cost of similar establishments in the noisier towns, is packed full of tasteful antiques and personal touches.

If I was based in London I would definately be hopping on an easyjet flight any time I wanted a quiet getaway. So quiet in fact that the taxi driver had to park in the village car park and then wander up several paths asking people where the hotel was! Thank goodness he helped me out - in the end it was a relay of three people that got me down the right paths and down into my slice of Greek Tranquility for the week.

The Pic above is the communal breakfast table - everyone mucks in, they're mostly French guests here so good chance to practice! Sophia prefers it to English too so im giving it a bit of a bash.

These dark doors to the right are the entrance to the local taverna, where I had the best Grilled Liver everrrr - though im still unsure which beastie it originated from.


The following pics are all of my own private bit of Greece - bedroom, living area, table nook and patio - Is it any wonder i'm struggling to actually go outside here! - book and bed and blog are primary occupations.

Wrapping up Turkey - The Hagia Sophia

Before we get too Greekified, lets go back and take a look at the 4th Great Architectural monument in that small area of Istanbul around Sultanahmet - The Hagia Sophia. Built around 400 or so AD under Emperor Constantine of the Eastern Roman Empire which became Byzantium, expanded under Emperor Justinian, - the spiritual heart of the Byzantine Empire until it was turned into a mosque under the Ottomans in 1453. From The outside standing next to the Blue Mosque it looks very Islamic with its minarets and multiple domes, once inside though it still remains very much a Byzantine Basilica at heart, especially since they have painstakingly removed the layers of plaster to reveal the incredible Byzantine mosaics once again. Once more we took an audio tour - had fun trying to find the numbers to plug in. What a way to finish up Istanbul, an incredible building.

Wednesday, September 22, 2010

Travel Philosophy Number 7 - 2 Tears in a Bucket, Mother F*&K it!



This ones on a similar theme to an earlier one saying just do it, dont worry about the money, its the experience youll remember. But there are also so many other reasons why you might not get up and do the thing you always wanted to. Dont cry about it and say I always wished i'd been to such and such a place, dont say in a few years, or when x y or z has happened. If your looking at the photos on this blog and thinking you cant do it, think again..

Ok so maybe you have a family and kids and commitments, maybe you cant just take off for a few months, but make getting to that one place you always wanted to a goal, its not as hard as it seems, where there is a will theres a way - perhaps the place you wanted to visit is doable in a much shorter trip, maybe you can farm out the nippers on their own local holiday for a week or two while you escape, maybe they could come with you on that once in a lifetime journey and you will set them up for a world of exploration in later life. Maybe your kids have left home, nows your time to shine again!. At least encourage your kids to go out and see stuff when theyre old enough. I have my mother saying 'do it while your young' and her mother before that to thank.


No one to go with? - go anyway, either do bits and pieces on your own (you will have your most mind blowing moments in your own company), perhaps a short trip to start, or join a small group adventure tour. You dont have to be on a big nasty tourist coach to do something where the tough parts are taken out of your experience.

Partner isnt interested in going anywhere? - screw em, do it anyway - dont let anyone hold you back, plenty of couples I know have 'me-time' trips away from their partners and come back feeling refreshed.

Maybe your working hard and thinking youd never find the funds - youd be surprised what you can achieve if its a priority and if your smart taking off travelling never has to look bad on your CV. This is my 5th Round the World / extended travel trip, if you can find a way to do it at least once and distance yourself from your routine life for a decent period of time you wont regret being abe to put the world in perspective.

Even if you cant do this, make sure you are seeing something you have always wanted to at least once a year. Life is too short, dont look back and regret the things you always wanted to do but didnt get round to it.

Take a post it now - write down one thing in the world you always wanted to see, stick it on your mirror and work out how its going to happen.

Watching the sunset over Santorini was one of mine...



p.s Get me being all preachy and life-sorted! dont worry theres plenty of other life areas Ive struggled with where im sure many of you have been successful, but seeing the places I always wanted to is not one of the ones ive found hard! Everyone has their strong points. I certainly won't be looking back thinking I never went anywhere. The trouble is the more you see the more you want to see *sighs*

If you really genuinely are quite happy in your own town, in your own environment and have no desires to stray from it, thats fine also - you can just look at my pictures from the comfort of your own home!

Travel Philosophy Number 6 - Your'e Never Alone with a book

Perfect Dinner for one in Santorini


If you want to travel alone and you dont want to feel like a muppet when you go out to dinner, take up reading!. Its amazing the difference it makes, you can disappear behind your book and surreptitiously people watch, enjoy your food, enjoy your book and feel comfortable sat there all alone, without feeling like you've got no friends. Who knows...maybe you will even make some new ones when they see what you are reading! I think I said in a much earlier post that I went to a Tango show in Buenos Aires early and didnt take my book. 45 mins of awkwardness sat at a table nursing a drink surrounded by couples eating, no book = feel like muppet! Have book = find cosy corner anywhere and feel at home.

Light Fetishes


I think its time I came out of the closet and told you..... oh this is so hard... well, you see.... the thing is...

I have a fetish for light fixtures. There I've said it!. Even though I really have no where to put them, especially now that i'm homeless, I cant resist looking round sparkly lighting stores. If I owned my own home I'd probably install some OTT candelabra type arrangements, as well as plenty of side lights, up lights and candlesticks. I do have a fair few of the latter.




One other thing.. I have a complete aversion to harsh overhead lighting, its mood lights all the way with me - so if i come round for tea and you've got one big bright centre light on i'll prob get a bit anxty. In hotels, the first thing i do after dumping bags and researching air con is to check out the lighting situation and see if its possible to have table lamps and bedside lamps instead of the main one,




So thats me and lights! - at the moment im in a cave house in Santorini with a huge array of variable lighting options so i am in lamp heaven. The pics here were inside the Grand bazarr in Istanbul.

The Basilica Cistern - Istanbul

Istanbul - Basilica CisternIstanbul - Basilica CisternIstanbul - Basilica Cistern

Spooky and Surreal - The Basilica Cistern is the almost perfectly preserved Roman underground reservoir, where the water coming in from the aqeducts would have been deposited. The water was teeming with Coy Carp and I created a bit of a feeding frenzy when i crumbled a biscuit or two into the water.

Istanbul - Basilica Cistern
Istanbul - Basilica Cistern


These Two Medusa heads, one inverted and one on its side, with the weight of a column on top of them, would have been below water, I wonder how many people knew they were there.

Istanbul - Basilica CisternIstanbul - Basilica Cistern

The Blue Mosque

Istanbul - The Blue Mosque

Built in the 17th Century, The Blue Mosque is so named due to its walls being covered in beautiful Iznik Tiles.

Istanbul - The Blue Mosque
Istanbul - The Blue Mosque
Istanbul - The Blue Mosque
Istanbul - The Blue Mosque
Istanbul - The Blue Mosque
Istanbul - The Blue Mosque
Istanbul - The Blue Mosque

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