Somehow, we go to bed around 8:30 pm and actually sleep. At 0215 we get our wake-up call as requested, and, as ordered, a beautiful breakfast shows up with a cheerful room service waiter, and we have coffee, tea and croissants as we hurriedly dress. We are to be in the terminal by 0300.
We are there by 0245, us and just about everyone else in our timing – Viking seems to attract those sorts, people who show up where they are supposed to be at the time they are supposed to be there. We are astonished to learn that there was a group ahead of us, they are just finishing up, and yes, there are a few pieces of luggage not claimed, so I guess not quite everyone made it on time.
We identified our luggage, which had been picked up outside our rooms the night before, watched as it was loaded into our assigned bus, and drove for about an hour to the airport. At the airport, there were baggage carts waiting, and we were able to check in very quickly for our flight. We are amazed and delighted; Viking truly has this down to a science. That’s not easy with 900 people disembarking on the same day. Kudos to Viking, even the smallest details are thought through.
As we signed in to the lounge, I said “Kalimeri,” which means Good morning, and the lady said to me “You’re Greek!” and I said no, I am not, but I got that a lot in Greece, I must have a Greek look to me. In truth, there is no Southern Mediterranean blood in me; mostly Scandinavian, French and Irish, or so Ancestry.com tells me.
We depart as the sun rises:
Everything is smooth until we get to Paris. We have to get to 2E, hall M. We know this drill; it’s the same as last year. “Oh no problem,” the “helper” tells us and hands us this paper with a map and directions:
You know what? I’m a map reader. I am really good at it. I navigate. We look closely; this map is useless. We start looking for signs and asking as we go, and we go quickly until we find the inner circle of hell, which is the passport line. We have priority passes, so we head to the priority line, but there isn’t even a line, and the real priority line is only for French citizens.
There is one huge shoving, desperate mass of people, all nationalities (except French) and then we find a secondary priority line, and every wheelchair goes to the front, and desperate passengers afraid they are missing their flight go ahead, and those who think they have the right push through, pushing their way in front of others. We are feeling desperate, too, our flight is in a very short time, but we don’t think the scramble to get in front of others is worth the price you pay in karma points.
I will tell you honestly, I have seen similar lines. Laborers in Kuwait lined up to get processed for residence visas. Refugees, desperate to escape violence and poverty, and afraid the gates will close before they get through. It is truly humbling to be a part of this line. Bread lines in which food is running out.
There is no one keeping order. The line inches slowly forward. It is like the end of times, everyone looking after his or her own needs regardless of others. There is little kindness to be seen in this line.
This is shameful. It’s not like this is unexpected. CDG needs to man their passport stations with enough personnel to allow these lines to flow quickly. It’s not rocket science, but it does take a bureaucracy which takes pride in their work.
This is not new; the planes wait, they take off a little later. We make our flight. As much as we love flying Air France, this experience is enough to make us re-think traveling through Paris.
Atlanta is straightforward. Our luggage, by the grace of God, is with us. We fly into Pensacola, and our son is there to meet us and take us home. All is well that ends well.
Did you know the Spanish word for pomegranate is “grenade?” I didn’t know that either, but pomegranate is one of my favorite fruits. When I was a little girl, my mother would buy me a pomegranate now and again (these were not common where I grew up) because of the legend of Persephone. I was heavy into Greek and Roman mythology and she encouraged my explorations.
Grenada in named for the pomegranates. They grow everywhere in Grenada, and were in full fruit when we visited. After some of the rainy touring days we had, Grenada shone forth in warm sunshine and blue skies with perfect clouds for photo-taking. We toured the town, and then (dramatic pause) (hushed voice) we visited the Alhambra.
What I have loved about this journey is the intermingling of Arabic in the Spanish; Guadalquivir River “wadi al kebir”, Alhambra “al hamra”, and it really is very red. And it really is very beautiful, so very beautiful in glorious detail. I’m going to bore you with more photos than you ever wished to see because . . . well, I hate to be rude, but . . . it’s my blog. I love each and every photo.
This is our group, gathering around our guide to enter the Alhambra.
If this were a fabric, I would have a dress made of it. I loved the intricate intersection, and the blending of the blue and cream and brown.
This is my favorite photo, for any number of reasons, cats, light and shadow, intricate tracery on columns, etc. but it is also a reminder of a very strange occurrence. I had just finished taking this shot, hunched down for a low angle, when a young woman in a group of four came along and shoved others, and then me, out of the way. Literally, she took my arm and started to move me and said “we’re taking a group photo now.”
Normally, I tend to defer, but her arrogance, and her disregard for the feeling of others prickled me, and so I pulled my arm away and looked at her cooly, and said “as soon as I am done with my photo, I will move and you can take your shot. Or you can shoot it from another angle.” I don’t know why I did that, I am surprised at myself. I don’t like to cause trouble. But who has the right to shove others out of the way???
That is the memory this photo brings back.
Please look at this photo, not that it is anything special but because there are people in it. I want you to appreciate how really, really, very hard it was to take some of these photos without people in them. I had to wait and wait, sometimes, (gasp!) I even got separated from my group for a short time, in the interest of getting an unimpeded shot. We were there at a lovely time of the year, perfect weather, and we thought there would not be too many tourists. We were astonished, in Seville, in Cordoba, in Grenada just how many tourists there were.
And here is where AHI Travel did something really right. This is the last day of the tour, tomorrow we all disembark and head for the Malaga airport and from there, to places scattered around the world. Just a short walk from the Alhambra is a beautiful hotel, beautifully situated, the Alhambra Palace. We’ve made note of it because we intend to come back to Grenada, and we want to stay in this hotel. This is where we ate lunch.
Our group had a closed in verandah with a beautiful view. Lunch was served in courses, and each was carefully prepared, and delicious. Very very clever way to end the tours on a high note 🙂
The room was beautiful. The table service was beautiful.
The view was beautiful.
After the meal, we got back on the bus to head back for the ship. Once on board, we had a Smithsonian meeting and then another lecture and then dinner, and something happened that has not happened to me for a long time, I had to pack at the last minute. Our suitcases had to be outside our door before we went to bed so they could be loaded to go, very early the next morning, to the airport.
I was coming down with something. I felt hot and feverish, and my nose was running. All my life, I have had nightmares about last minute packing. I hate doing last-minute anything, I am a planner, I like having a certain amount of control over my life, even though it is an illusion, it is an illusion I work hard to maintain. How did this happen to me? How is it that I am packing at the last minute, feverish and anxious?
It all got done. Fortunately, there are a limited number of places you can put things. For some reason, I am not able to download all our boarding passes, so we have only the first ones and will have to get the rest at the airport. I know where my passport is (I never have found the one I lost somewhere in my office) and my tickets and somehow we are finished and all is well by bedtime. I just hate that feeling of being rushed; when I am rushed, I make mistakes.
Every now and then something good happens. There is a huge line in Malaga, but our new friends also have tickets that put us in another line, and we get through quickly, with no problems. We say goodbye, we’ve exchanged e-mail addresses, and we go our separate ways. We have time to relax.
We arrive in Paris barely on time, and it is a Sunday morning with long lines at security, and there is no way out, we have to stand in line. We watch one very elderly man, unsteady, but with a great sense of humor, cope as he has to go through the full-body scan. Even though it is a few days before the bombing, security is tight. The airport is a nightmare. We have no idea where our next gate is, and we are almost running, as it is already our boarding time and we are not there. We have to go down this hall and that, then down to some gate where we catch a bus, then from that bus to somewhere else where we get to our plane with five or ten minutes to spare. That is cutting it way to close for me, but I know by now that I am coming down with one of the world’s worst colds and I sleep all the way from Paris to Atlanta, waking up now and ten to drink some Pomegranate Pizazz with honey to make the cold go away.
Not only does the cold not go away – I very generously shared it with AdventureMan. We both felt so bad we were sleeping all the time and didn’t even notice the jet lag 🙂 so by the time we were well again, we were also sleeping on Pensacola time. As soon as we were well, we got the super-strong flu shots to protect ourselves from anything worse than we’ve just had. 🙂
I have to take a break from my trip stories to express an opinion.
We are The People of the Book. Suicide is not an option. The most precious gift we are given, of the many gifts, is the gift of life. One of the most heinous crimes against God / Allah is to shed innocent blood.
A callous theocracy sends “inspired” martyrs, testosterone-hopped-up jihadists to kill themselves, and to take as many victims as they can with them.
By what stretch can they claim to do God’s will? Where is the submission to the word of God? Where is the peaceful Islam of the Prophet Mohammed?
Except for that moment on our way to the airport, everything was smooth as glass. That moment? As we are in the taxi on the way to the airport, I am thinking how wonderfully lightly I am traveling and suddenly, by the grace of God, remember my carry-on bag, carefully packed, sitting in my room. We quickly turn the taxi around, go back and pick up my bag, and from there on, all goes smoothly.
Connecting in Charles de Gualle airport used to be a lot of fun. So many shops, so much time. Not now. There may be shops, but customs and security are a nightmare, and the new airport configuration boggles the mind. There was one bored, tired, annoyed looking Frenchman for lines of travelers as we arrived, and while we were close to the front of the line, it took forever.
Our trip back was worse; we had a tight connection. Entry was worse, lines and lines of desperate travelers, too few processors. Then we had to try to find E: M 32. It was a maze. I am normally pretty good with navigation, but CDG isn’t any fun, there is no logic, there is no assistance, no explanatory signage. We got to E, then had to find M, then had to get on a shuttle bus to somewhere else; it is purely horrible.
And I suppose it is the price you pay to fly Air France, which we love. Flying Air France is like a step back in time, where flight attendants were plentiful and gracious. We had slide-down-flat seats, great for sleeping, and good meals. We had hot washcloths and good coffee. It was worth every penny.
Our arrival in Malaga was our real introduction to group travel. Meeting us were Maria and Antonio, two consummate professionals who were greeting all the people coming in for this cruise/trip. First, we learned that there were several groups on board, in fact, just about everyone arriving was a member of some group or another. We were with Smithsonian, but others were with alumni groups, or affiliated in other ways. Once everyone on their list was checked off, we strolled to the bus, which required that the heavily laden would need the elevators. They led the group to one elevator, but AdventureMan and I spotted another elevator on the other side, and took that one.
The drive to Seville was 2 and a half hours. Many slept. It was a sunny day with some clouds, so mostly I watched the olive tree groves and the bull signs drift by, happy to be traveling in Spain.
We were so impressed with the process at the hotel when we arrived; there were envelopes with the names of arriving passengers and their keys. It was all done for us, no registering, just straight to our rooms. We were happy to see we had a room in the rear of the hotel. Good firm beds and very quiet. Our our bathroom window, we had a view of a nearby church steeple, and the full moon 🙂
The bar at the Fernando III was a lively place, and a gathering place for locals and hotel patrons:
The breakfast hall had a large buffet but only two one-cup-at-a-time coffeemakers, which was a real bottleneck. If I were not traveling with a group and were staying in this hotel, I would not be happy, as most of the tables had signs on them designating different groups. There were not many for independent travelers, but then again, most of us in the group had early start dates as our tour groups gathered, and the independent travelers could eat at a more leisurely time:
The very best part of this hotel, as you can see in the screen shot above, is that it had a great location. We could walk anywhere, and we did. We walked and walked.
Our first night we were not very hungry, but we knew we would be (in the middle of the night) and that we needed to eat something to get our tummies on local schedule. We found a nearby restaurant, El Cordobes, and while the service was surly and a couple of the dishes mediocre, our main courses were delicious. I had wanted to try the spinach and garbonzos; they were all right. But when the shrimp, sizzling in garlic sauce arrived, oh WOW. AdventureMan had the paella, which was also very very good. We were sitting at a table on a sidewalk in Seville, watching a rugby game for which other tables were cheering and hollaring, drinking good beer, listening to the church bells and life is sweet.
On the way back to the hotel we take a walk in the Santa Cruz barrio and get totally lost, wandering on the narrow little streets, full of flowers, shops, tiny grocery stores, restaurants, bars and tapas bars, stores with flamenco dresses, stores with spices, stores for the locals and stores for the tourists. By the time we were back at the hotel, we were ready for bed, and I had my first no-effort day with more than 10,000 steps. I didn’t even have to try, woooo hoo!
It’s seven in the morning, I’ve fed the cat, made the coffee, fixed some cereal and taken care of first-thing-in-the-morning things so I can sit with my morning Lectionary readings, and as I start, the phone rings. It’s seven. In the morning. I figured it was an emergency grand-child babysit call, but the call is coming from New Orleans, an oh no. I know I need to answer it.
It’s the really nice lady who took care of me on Tuesday, and she says “We were putting together your new passport and we noticed you used the same photo you used on your last passport.”
“Why yes!” I said proudly, “when I had them taken, they gave me two, so I just used the second one.”
Big mistake. They needed a RECENT passport. My never-been-used-shiny-new passport was MONTHS ago and I need to get RECENT photos and send them immediately so they can compete the passport with the right photo.
I think about good old Donald Rumsfeld, with the things you know you know, the things you know you don’t know, the things you don’t know you know (love that one) and then – horrors – the things you don’t know you don’t know.
And then I head down first thing to UPS where the nice people took my photo and sent it off so that they will have it as soon as possible.
And . . . I am wondering what else is out there that I don’t know I don’t know.
AdventureMan came into the room where I was reading and handed me this book. “Will you read this?” he asked, and there was a note in his voice that sounded a little aggrieved.
“What’s up?” I asked. “You sound a little peeved.”
“I read this,” he said. “I thought it was pretty good, but when I read the reviews on Amazon, some people called it ‘trivial’,” and I could see he was embarrassed that something he thought was pretty good others believed was of little importance.
Big mistake, Adventureman.
I might read a little of the reviews when deciding whether to buy a book or not, because I won’t remember it when it comes time to actually read the book or review the book, but I never, NEVER read the reviews as I am reading or before I review a book. And, truthfully, I don’t really care what this reviewer says or that reviewer says. Sometimes I read a New Yorker review of a book and I think “that reviewer has her own filter and can’t see beyond her framework” or “Wow! That reviewer saw some things I’d like to see!” Sometimes I will read a review and then read the book and think that the reviewer really missed the mark, positively or negatively, it could be either way.
Reviews are opinions. We all have them. Some you might agree with, some you might not, but don’t let them touch you, or your experience with the book. We are each unique, and see through a unique lens!
First, it delighted me that I read this just after I read Babayaga, because I ejnoy Paris, and delight in walking Paris, and in Babayaga and in All the Light There Was, people do a lot of walking in Paris. So much so in All the Light There Was that I ran down to my little map collection for the Paris maps and would track the heroine through Paris. It was fun.
Although All the Light There Was is called a novel, I don’t think it is. As I read it, I thought it was highly biographical or autobiographical, based on a diary or diaries. The significant details – how the mama stockpiled food just as war was announced and all the places she stored it, including under the bed, the clothing they wore, the sweaters they knit, the indignities they endured, and the risks they bravely took against the occupying Germans – it doesn’t sound made up to me, it sounds like a story someone has told from that time.
The details are so strong – the bicycle tires that are treasured because if they go flat, that is the end of the last transport they have, the dresses that have become too big because people have eaten too little – these details sound like voices to me.
So I would not call this book trivial. This book captures a moment in time, it’s a snapshot. The characters don’t have a lot of depth, the events don’t have a lot of texture, but I do know what occupied Paris ate during the last years of the occupation (turnips) and the ambivalence with which Paris viewed their Jewish citizens. In this war-time Paris, Kricorian captures well Pastor Martin Niemoeller’s poem about When They Came for Me:
In Germany, they came first for the Communists, And I didn’t speak up because I wasn’t a Communist;
And then they came for the trade unionists, And I didn’t speak up because I wasn’t a trade unionist;
And then they came for the Jews, And I didn’t speak up because I wasn’t a Jew;
And then . . . they came for me . . . And by that time there was no one left to speak up.”
Many in Paris were happy to see the Jews go, happy it wasn’t them. Kricorian tackles this issue indirectly, with a light but inescapable hand.
One of the things that was shocking to both of us what that when Maral’s ancient Auntie Shakeh died, and we see the tombstone – she is 35 years old. We knew she and Maral’s parents had escaped the Turkish efforts to eradicate the Armenians in Turkey, but because we are seeing the story through Maral’s eyes, her parents and aunt seem ancient, whereas in today’s terms, they are very young adults.
Don’t read the reviews, AdventureMan! Read the book, take from the book what you will, enjoy your own experience. Write your own reviews!
You know how books come your way in coincidental ways? Amazon.com had told me I needed to read Babayaga, so I ordered it. I’ve always loved mythologies, I devoured them like candy when I was young, always looking for more. Babayagas are very old, and exist under many names in most cultures – elderly women who usually deal with concoctions, often medicinal, who live alone. In the west, they were often called witches, in the Slavic countries, babayaga, and it seems to me there is an old woman used to scare children in the Gulf, too. It seems to be a cross-cultural phenomenon.
Here is what Wikipedia has to say about Babayaga:
Baba Yaga is a witch (or one of a trio of sisters of the same name) in Slavic folklore, who appears as a deformed and/or ferocious-looking elderly woman. She flies around in a mortar and wields a pestle. She dwells deep in the forest, in a hut usually described as standing on chicken legs, with a fence decorated with human skulls. Baba Yaga may help or hinder those that encounter or seek her out, and may play a maternal role. She has associations with forest wildlife. Sometimes she frightens a hero (e.g. by promising to eat him), but helps him if he is courageous. According to Vladimir Propp’s folktale morphology, Baba Yaga commonly appears as a donor, a villain, or something altogether ambiguous. In many fairy tales she kidnaps and eats children, usually after roasting them in her oven).
Andreas Johns identifies Baba Yaga as “one of the most memorable and distinctive figures in eastern European folklore,” and observes that she is “enigmatic” and often exhibits “striking ambiguity.” Johns summarizes her as “a many-faceted figure, capable of inspiring researchers to see her as a cloud, moon, Death, Winter, snake, bird, pelican or earth goddess, totemic matriarchal ancestress, female initiator, phallic mother, or archetypal image”.
Barlow’s BabaYaga includes all the backstory, inserted here and there, the Russian purges, revolts, revolutions, the wars, the mud, the snows, following the troops, and several different Babayaga, while focusing one one, the beautiful and mesmerizing Zoya, who lives in a magical post World War II Paris. She in unforgettable – unless, of course, she has woven a spell to muddy your mind and make you forget.
What I love about this book is that if it were true, you would still think it is fiction. If every single thing happened just as Barlow wrote it, you would never believe it. LOL! A wicked sour old babayaga turns a police detective investigating a murder into a flea; he finds it a novel experience and manages to make things come right even as a flea.
A young American man, Will, loving living in Paris, works for an ad agency and also for THE Agency in the heady days of post war Paris, where the rules are not yet in place and lines are fuzzy. Falls for a witch with a long history of loving and killing men, but that’s life. Is it better to love and lose than never to have loved? What if your love is a gorgeous babayaga who helps you live life with a vibrance and intensity you have never experienced?
There is a long, intricate, time-appropriate adventure/spy/industrial-scientific plot which I am not sure I entirely followed, with murders and shootouts and the Paris jazz and club scene, and it didn’t matter one whit whether I could follow the plot line or not, it was a wild ride of a novel and a lot of fun. 🙂
I danced when I saw the Amazon box; rarely do I buy hardcover (hurts too much when they fall over if I fall asleep reading, too bulky to carry on planes) but this one I was on the waiting list for, mail it as soon as it is published! Khaled Housseini, author of Kite Runner and A Thousand Splendid Suns has a new runaway best-seller; thanks to him I’ve just spent three days in Afghanistan, Paris and Los Angeles.
As the book opens, I am big brother to a baby sister whose Mom died in childbirth, living in a remote village in Afghanistan. Life is tough, but through the eyes of these children, life is idyllic, even though food is scarce and winters are cold. We have a huge oak tree with a swing, we play with the other children, and we have each other. Our father’s new wife is kind enough, but is busy with her own children, and the drudgery of cooking, cleaning and making do in a very small, poor Afghan village.
Later, I am Pari, living in Paris with an alcoholic, self-absorbed mother, making a life for myself, but always with a nagging feeling of something just outside my peripheral vision, another life . . .
The tale is told through the eyes of many, and on the way to the end of the tale we meet a wide spectrum of humanity, suffer the ills of war, callousness and unintended cruelties. We find that the man with superficial charm also saves and changes the lives of many, we find a doctor who finds fulfillment serving in the poorly resourced hospitals of Afghanistan, and we feel the agonies of a dutiful daughter watching her father fade into the world of Alzheimer’s.
It’s a wonderful, wild ride, richly textured, and when it finishes, you are not ready for it to end.
After reading The Paris Wife, I had to read Hemingway’s A Movable Feast. I wanted to see how he saw his Paris years, and how his version integrated with the fiction version of Hadley’s. I was prepared to not like the book.
I was not prepared to like it as much as I did. Hemingway writes of the years when he was young, newly married and wildly happy, living a stimulating and lively life with lively friends. They were poor, but he was following his dream. They had a lot of fun.
Hemingway wrote this book, full of stories of their Paris life, full of names you know – Ezra Pound, Scott and Zelda Fitzgerald, Picasso, Closerie des Lilas, Les Deux Magots, Brasserie Lipp, the Louvre . . . and as you read it, you are there. He writes in the moment; you are right there experiencing it along with him. He writes of people he likes, and people he doesn’t like. He writes about his own vices – an addiction to horse racing, for example – and he writes with enormous sadness about how he came to be distracted from his marriage and lost the most wonderful relationship that ever happened to him. He blames it on the careless rich. He takes some responsibility.
He also writes very frankly and openly about people he doesn’t like and why. I couldn’t help but think it is a heady thing, being an acclaimed author, where you can take revenge by putting people you dislike in your books. Hemingway uses real names and real people and often portrays them in a distinctly unflattering light. It made me wonder if he was planning to commit suicide all along; that or he just didn’t care what people think, and it seems he might have been the kind just not to care.
Just after finishing this book, and talking one last time with his first wife, Hadly, Hemingway committed suicide. It leaves me wondering if he was driven to suicide by regret, or by fears that his bigger-than-life life of adventure, travel, high life and travel was over, or if he had serious bouts of depression all his life, and this was just another, deeper depression?
It is a great read, especially paired with Paula McLain’s book, The Paris Wife. I thought it might be “he said – she said,” but Hemingway and the fictional Hadley in The Paris Wife both agree that they had a love and marriage that was very special, that Paris was a wonderful stimulating, alive environment, and that it was a great tragedy when the marriage ended. A Movable Feast seems to say that destroying his marriage to Hadley was one of a cocktail of self-destructive behaviors over which he tried to ride herd (gambling on the horse races, drinking, drugs, a coterie of star-struck sex partners outside of marriage, inability to focus on his work, a curmudgeonly nature . . .)
It’s also an easy read. I particularly enjoyed reading it on the iPad because you can do that swirly-finger-thing and find out what words mean or see the street locations as he walks Paris, see whether a cafe or restaurant in Paris still exist. It would be a good airline read – keeps your attention and finishes quickly.
As little as I like Woody Allen, it was fun to see Midnight in Paris, and to have some visuals of this go-go inter-war era.
Two things that stuck out for me: Hemingway loved walking in Paris, as do I. He also talks here and there about the benefits of being hungry. There were times when money was tight; they wore old shabby clothes, and there were times they didn’t have much food. He talks about hunger sharpening your other senses. On the other hand, very quickly when he has money, he has a great meal and a drink – or two – or three.
Bottom line, I’m glad I read this book. It’s given me a lot to think about.