Books Worth a Look

  • Little Bee by Chris Cleave - This book is a must read. Better than anything else I've read, it takes you vividly into the life of a person in the 3rd world who has no choice but to escape. It is brilliantly written & works well as an audio book. Often I've sent info about the wonderful refugees I've met in Europe. We know only so much of their plight as it is painful for them to recall much less live through again by recounting it. But over time it is clear what they've lived through. This book is excellent as you discover the horrors of their world. Somewhat how to me, it is like being in Europe near a Concentration Camp. One has an obligation to visit it. 'Never to Forget.' In this case, to have our eyes opened.
  • Garbage King by Eliz Laird - The book is set on the streets on Addis Ababa, in Ethiopia and here lives Mamo and his sister Tiggist. When Mamo's "uncle" offers a job, he soon sets out on a bus to work. Little does he know that he is actually being sold into slavery...

Thursday, January 27, 2011

Alcazar en Jerez de la Frontera

Not sure whether to title this:

An inside, unofficial and unique vantage point view of the Alcazar
Locating al KA thr the hard way! (To view the photos that go along with this, go to my facebook album & Jerez de La Frontera.

Today was to be heavy rains all day. During morning class, the sun came out and the temp rose to 61F/16C. So I headed off via Renfe train to Jerez (sherry) de la Frontera (border, poco a poco claiming land back from the Moors centuries ago)

Arriving in Jerez, I discovered no one on the street had a clue what I was saying. Dah, I was using my usual pronunciation - Alcazar. NOPE! After writing it, I was informed by a kind man, it is al KA thr. Takes some practice.

It's a 20 - 25 meander through town. Finally you come upon the back of the Alcazar (castle, fortress.) Now visiting Spain in off season can be a challenge. Guide books & the internet may not help.

The guide book said it was open until 6 p.m in off season. I arrived at 2:30; it closes at 3. I asked to use el bano. Sorry, the bathrooms are inside & you need to buy a ticket. There are public ones nearby.

Travel has taught me to ask many people for the same direction. Seeing two security guards on the Alcazar grounds, they told me 'no.' Use the ones in the museum. They said you do not need a ticket. Use the 2nd entrance.

Ok, this put me in the middle of the museum. So on my way I saw several interesting rooms and paintings. Undaunted I kept going. Reaching the 2nd floor (3rd for us) the receptionist, said, go on up & enjoy the view. De acuerdo!

Having done just that I asked where the men's room was. Quite a mens room it is. Inside the window is floor to ceiling. It has no glass, but bars allowing a great view of one of the inner courtyards and terrace.

Leaving the building, I got to see the gardens. Not bad for no ticket & 25 minutes.

On my way back, I saw a lovely jerez cafe/bar. Half the tables were in the sun, all taken. So I asked an older, to be sure, lady if I could share hers. No problem. So I had my 1st and possibly only local sherry with a tapas plate of tuna marinated in sherry sauce. Great and all for $4.50!

Thanking my host, I made my way back to the train, arriving to downpours in Cadiz! Time now to do laundry. Not a bad afteroon.

Tuesday, January 25, 2011

Seville and Cadiz


I was in Seville for 20 hours. It is attractive and I plan to return Saturday afternoon for a 3 hour tour that the hostal gives.

The Cathedral is the 3rd largest church in the world. I believe it. Nearby is the Alcazar which I hope to visit Saturday.

The street near the hostal is great for tasting tapas at night. I met several interesting waiters from Jordan and Paraguay. Ahmad from Jordan introduced me to Barbio wine, a nice white wine.

The hostal, Sammy, is located in the oldest part of Seville, Barrio Santa Cruz, Maze like streets surround it lined with orange trees ready to be picked. Sammys is one of the nicest hostal's I've stayed in.

Cadiz pronounced like KA dith.

Well, the 1st two days it was cold and very windy! Today it began to warm up but still quite windy. Then again it sits right on the Atlantic.

Siesta is for real here. 1:30 to 5:30 p.m. many places are closed, shops and tourist sites!

Will have to see the inside of many places Saturday a.m. as I have classes from 9 - 1:30. Took a great walk through the narrow winding streets today and visited the Museo de Cadiz, excellent.

S.I.C. Spanish in Cadiz is excellent. I like my teacher and she really works us!

Tomorrow after classes hopefully Jerez de la Frontera, one of 3 major sherry producing sites.

Thursday after classes possibly Arcos de la Frontera which sits on a high ridge with sheer precipices.


Preparing spaghetti sauce from scratch in Cadiz !

Worth a laugh or serves as an antidote for insomnia :-)

Settled in the share flat, I went to the market Carrefour with several fellow students . Good thing or I might still be there.

If you purchase fruit, you must bag it, place it on the scale first punching in the fruit's specific code, listed above each item. Then a price label is printed for you to put on the plastic bag. Forget to? The clerks will do it w/ much anoyance.

Wanting to conserve funds, I took spaghetti with me, thinking I'd simply purchase sauce & have it several days. Not so fast. You have to make the sauce from scratch! Again, good thing my fellow young students were with me.

A young student from Sweden, Erin, who honestly looks 12, but is 24, suggested a tomato puree item. Then Martinez from Norway found me the creme to put into it. Creme in spaghetti sauce? Clearly I'm no cook.

Today I prepared to make my sauce. First though I had to figure out how to turn the electric burners on. Look like a touch system. Yes & no. After much looking, touching etc. I went upstairs as the four in my flat were out. The Erin smiled and said we all have to be shown.

Great, back downstairs, I pour both items into a pan. My red sauce is now pink! I look for basil, oregano and rosemary. Hmm, what's Spanish for basil? Dictionary in hand one finds is albahaca. No problem, but there's no oregano and rosemary in this kitchen. I recall that Erin has some.

So with a pot of liquidy pink stuff, I ascend the stairs, two flights, again. Now keep in mind that to answer the door, Erin has to walk a mile from the kitchen. Twice now. Still no problem, with a smile she leads me to the spices.

Back in my flat, dinner is heating. I even managed to not lose any spaghetti while draining it without a collander.

Result? Not bad, a tad rich. Considerbly less cream next time. Oh and an hour later I can still taste the cream!

Now, if you actually made it this far, you've either shaken your head in amused disbelief or fallen asleep. Cheers!

Friday, January 14, 2011

Returning to England

I know that I will return to the Balkans. What beauty and the history is fascinating.

Later today my flight leaves Cilipi airport for London Gatwick. British Airways is the way to go. The snack is a regular size sandwich, and they have a large selection of magazines and newpapers for you, gratis! I will read my Time magazine on the flight back.

Back in England I will stay with my good friend Zelda at her flat in Basildon. I will travel by train, 40 mins, to visit my inspiring refugee friends from Africa and the Middle East.

We will go out for Kabob together, catch up and have a lot of laughs!

I also will get to see each of my London friends. Excellent people there and in Basildon, such good friends!

I hope to get to a gallery or two and possibly a play, if time permits.

Then next Saturday, it is off to Spain for 1 week of study and then a quick visit to
  • Seville
  • Grandada
  • Madrid

Possibly I will take the ferry over to Tangier, Morroco for a day visit!

Hello all and Que tenga un buen fin de semana *have a great weekend*


Thursday, January 13, 2011

Finally in London

After two flight changes, due to snow and air traffic, I arrived in London without my bags. They were in Atlanta!

I made my way to Basildon to my friend Zelda's place. We had a nice meal and laughs with her friend. The next day we were joined by our dear friend, A from north Africa.

We three had a blast. Poor Zelda offered to stay by the phone for my bags, allowing me to accompany A back to London.

The bags arrived the 3rd day!

I go to Croatia and will return to Basildon and London for a 8 day visit with my British, African, and Middle and Middle Eastern friends.

Off to Mostar, Bosnia

Ivi, the hostel founder and a delightful tour guide in his 30's took Andres, a 27 year old engineer and great traveling companion from Chile, and me on an 8 hour tour today.

It was incredible!

We headed north on a road overlooking the Adriatic. Soon we had to stop at border control to enter Bosnia Herzegovina. Then in several minutes we were crossing the border again into Croatia.

Why? Because the Ottoman Empire negotiated a small swath of land so that they could have a port on the Adriatic. They controlled Bosnia but not Croatia.

Adriatic Oysters

Our first stop was a road side stand where we sampled oysters from the Adriatic. Similar to what we get in the states, but quite salty. The view of the Adriatic continued to enchant. That plus there are over 1200 islands in the Adriatic which are part of Croatia.

The falls

We drove further coming to a large falls. It was a lovely view as the falls were wide, some creeping around rocks to get to the drop. We did not realize we were just starting.

After taking pictures, we began walking down. First we can to a mid level behind the falls. It was spectacular.

Then we began a steep and somewhat difficult descent. The stone walk was steep, wet and very slippery. We literally inched along. It took about 5 minutes to go about 100 feet.

Safely at the bottom, we stood across the the bottom area of the falls. Again an opportunity for pictures.

Finally, we made our ascent on a much safer stone path.

It is hard to describe just how breathtaking it was.


Later we entered Bosnia proper and stopped at Medjugorje. This is a site where locals feel Mary appeared, similar to Fatima and Lourdes, except the church does not recognize it as valid.

I did not know we were going there. We saw the local church of St. Jacob and then made our way further toward Mostar.


We stopped at a well known local place where they serve a set meal.

1st we were served a small cherry brandy. Very delicious.

Next, we were served a plate of figs, peppers, and cheese. The cheese was stored in sheep skin for one year. What a treat.

This was restaurant began by two widow sister serving soldiers in the fights against the Bosnian Serbs. They had both lost their husbands in the conflict.

Our next course was the main meal. It included lamb, salad, and the most amazing potatoes accompanied by a red wine.

What a wonderful lunch we had.


Old Mostar is the site of an well known bridge, pictures to follow, as well as a lovely medieval Muslim town. We enjoyed Turkish coffee and a jelly treat in the house overlooking the bridge and the steep drop below.

For many years, tourists have paid local men to make the jump into the river. We talked with one jumper who has been doing it for 23 years. He offered to jump for us. Egad, the water is really cold. They charge twice the rate in winter to jump as it is quite dangerous. we said, thanks, but no. Andres and I were not about to encourage someone to jump from such a height in such dangerous conditions.

After our coffee, we made our way into the other side and enjoyed a nice walk and a bit of shopping.

At 7 p.m., we finally began the two hour ride back.

Both Andres and I felt it was a very wonderful day with an excellent Croatian your guide.

My advice, come to the Balkans. It is wonderful. My hope is to bring Laura and Jay here next year.

Tuesday, January 11, 2011

Arrivng at the hostel, unlike any other hostel reception!

The Dubrovnik Packpackers Hostel is perched on a lane which overlooks the town harbor. It is magical. My host picked me up at the bus station. He gave me an auto tour before taking me to his hostel. Once acclimated, my we climbed 4 flights ofd stairs. I met his wife and we sat down to talk and share honey brandy, figs, and crackers all the while looking over the beauful harbor.

A nice beginning.

P.S. Last night, Andres and I had dinner with the hostel family. We ate, sat and talked for hours.
Almost all the food in Croatia and the Balkans is organic.

What incredible good fortune for me to have selected this hostel.

Old Town Dubrovnik, Croatia at night

My first glimpse of Dubrovnik from the airport was wonderful. Straddling the coast of the Adriatic, it looked idyllic. Just above the city, the mountains rise. They are in Bosnia. You get a real sense of overwhelm when you see this and recall that Serbia launched 2000 shells on the small city in 1991 and 1992. 68% of the 824 building in the old town were damaged.

Seeing the Old Town at night

After settling in and talking at length with my room mate from Chile, I took the bus to the old town. This is truly remarkable. Picture a castle. The town resembles a castle literally from the outside. There is a moat, draw bridge, towers and incredibly think high walls. Only when Napoleon came did Dubrovnik truly lose its autonomy.

You enter through the low rounded arch. Immediately you are struck by the light. The walls are high and you enter the main street stunned. It is all marble, sidewalks and main street. No cars are allowed. It takes awhile to take in that you are literally walking on marble everywhere. Turn into a narrow lane, it is all marble. Buildings in white stone rise on all sides.

It almost feels like a fantasy. There is no grass, no earth. Its is just all marble!

Tomorrow I will get to see it at length in the daylight. You can climb the wall and walk all along it, visiting the four towers at each corner. Monastery, church, houses, shops, museums all look out on the Adriatic. Wow!


Thoughts on the amazing people I get to meet.

Rich, my 19 year old friend, soon to be Franciscan and recent community member at Haley House in Boston. An article he wrote.