It’s been raining for so long we feel like frogs, with webbed feet. We have a gorgeous day, not hot, not cold, and a hotel in a perfect location for walking, so we go out to master our 10,000 steps. In the French Quarter, it is easy! There is so much to see; it is so much fun just to walk.
These kids are GOOD! They have attracted a large crowd, in front of the Cathedral. What a great way to get practice playing in front of an audience and to earn a little extra spending money, providing a little New Orleans culture. Loved our time listening; they really were good
This policeman with his blue light special, blocked a whole lane of traffic so he could pick up his fresh hot beignet at the French Market.
The Hop On, Hop Off Bus, New Orleans style:
“Follow the sign, please!” for the New Orleans city tour. No, we weren’t on that one, just walking around on our own.
A statue of Bienville, a founder of New Orleans:
This is kind of creepy, to me, a woman who tells people their fortunes in front of the cathedral.
The Maiden of Oreans:
We loved this terrace garden, on Chartres:
This man earned every penny. He made up verses to songs about people watching, all very kind, and people gave generously :-)
I knew what I didn’t want. I didn’t want a room that could be anywhere, Seattle, Pensacola, Missoula, El Paso. I wanted it to feel like New Orleans, and I wanted tall ceilings and I didn’t want it to cost an arm and a leg. I didn’t want it to be stuffy. I looked and looked, and then I found it, The French Market Inn, on Decatur, in the middle of everything.
Some reviews said it could be a little noisy, but hey, it’s after Christmas, low season, not yet Mardi Gras. There was a great online special. We took a chance.
Immediately, there is one negative; there is no parking. You can pay extra for valet parking, which we did. There may be some places where you don’t pay extra to park in New Orleans, but I don’t know them.
We loved it the minute we walked in. We had talked with the receptionist earlier, and she remembered us. Check in was a breeze. We had to walk through a winding courtyard to get to our room, then up an elevator, but oh WOW.
I kept telling AdventureMan “I love this room! I love this room!” It is not often a room exceeds my expectations, but this room delighted my heart:
Up those two stairs and out the door, we have this huge terrace which we share with the room next door. We each have our own table and chairs, and a view of the river and Decatur street in each direction. We also look directly over some kind of party central, where the New Year’s Eve Parade will pass, and the big pre-Sugar Bowl party will be held. They are setting up now; bands are practicing, it is ear-splitting, but we are assured all the noise will stop at eight p.m.
As dusk fall, the Steamboat Natchez gives us a calliope concert. We sit out on our deck and listen, and watch the crews for the bands setting up and playing with the sound and light displays:
Promptly at eight, the bands all stop. Our room is quiet . . .most of the time. About once an hour, a very very loud car comes by with its booming bass beat and some wanna-be rapper going on down the road. A couple times during the night, emergency vehicles come by. At 3:30 I see odd lights on our wall, and as I peer out the curtains, I see the crews still at work on the stage lights, and they are pulsing colors and bright lights. We have great black out curtains, I close them tightly and snooze away :-)
The room is gorgeous. The hotel has a fabulous location, close to everywhere. It wasn’t very noisy, but next time, same hotel, and a courtyard room. We had a lot of fun with our balcony, but once was enough and next time we will opt for one of the interior rooms, hoping it is a little more quiet.
It’s just not fair. There are NO Ethiopian restaurants in Pensacola, but there are two, on the same street, Magazine, in New Orleans, and not far from one another. We ate at one in late October, when we were in New Orleans for the day getting a new passport, Cafe Abyssinia. We would have gone back, but they were closed for the holidays, and we decided to try the Nile, just up the street.
Oh. We are so glad we did!
From the outside:
The menu; short, sweet, everything you need.
The interior is light and bright, even on a cloudy day. I loved the high ceilings and the spacious feeling.
But best of all is the food. We ordered the vegetarian assortment (on the left) and the Doro Wat, a mildly spicy chicken dish, sometimes called the National Dish. I first heard about Doro Wat in Vargese’s Cutting for Stone, and have been ordering it whenever I could. This time, it was just spicy enough (we like spicy). I like the sauce so much, I don’t even care about the chicken, or the hard boiled egg. Just the sauce is so delicious. It is messy, you eat it with the spongy bread, injera, and even if you are very delicate, you usually have a mess. I use a lot of napkins, and even when you wash your hands, hours later you will still smell the spices on your hand (in a good way).
There is a whole basket of the rolled injera in the upper left corner, as well as more underneath the vegetarian selections and the Doro Wat.
A long time ago, AdventureMan was talking with my father, and my father told him that they were no longer in the acquisition stage of their marriage, that he and my mother really had everything they needed and didn’t buy much, other than food and replacing something when it needed replacing like a car. Since we were deeply into our acquisition phase, this was a stunning revelation to us.
We totally understand now what he was getting at. When you are young, and setting up a household, and when children come along, it’s like you are always needing something . . . it can be as basic as pots and pans or as specialized as a car seat. It’s all about trying to set priorities, with great needs, a whole list of wants, and a need to set priorities because resources are limited.
And it is one of life’s ironies, it seems to me, that when you begin to have the money to buy what you need, you need so much less, LOL. We learned a lot living in the Middle East, and from our Mormon friends, and from families we got to know – we learned the joy of giving to your children while they need it and can enjoy it.
Meanwhile, Christmas has been perplexing. Neither of us really needs anything. When we need – or want – something, we tend to pick it out and get it, so there is no great need at Christmas for big gifts. We have a lot of fun with stocking stuffers, but we’ve learned to tell each other very exactly what we like, so we get what we like.
AdventureMan asked what I might like for Christmas, and I told him my beautiful pots and pans from Damascus have lost their tinning, and I can’t use them until we have them re-tinned, and I can’t find anyplace to have them retinned. “Leave it to me!” he pronounced! I will find how we can get this done.
He found some places in Colorado, in Pittsburgh, other places, and I said “isn’t there anyplace nearer? What about New Orleans?” so he checked New Orleans, and sure enough, there is a wonderful metal finishing shop. He talked to the owner and made a date we could bring in our pots. Meanwhile, I visited the website and discovered they could also fix broken metal things. I have another beautiful pot that the handle had broken off in the last move, so I asked if that could also be included in our Christmas present to ourselves :-)
Early in the morning, shortly after Christmas, we loaded up the car for the drive to New Orleans, arriving at Zito’s exactly at ten.
Zito’s is in Mid-Town, a part of New Orleans we have never explored. It isn’t hard, it was just out of our comfort zone. Inside Zito’s is a big friendly rescue dog and some fine craftsmen metal workers. We know our pots are in good hands. I loved the way he handled the pots, and we loved looking at some of his recent repairs and polishings. You can see some of the work they have done, including for church vessels, by clicking here:
4421 Banks Street
New Orleans, Louisiana 70119
MONDAY – THURSDAY:
6:00 AM – 6:00 PM
6:00 AM – NOON
Across the street is the Wakin’ Bakin’ Cafe, and down the street is one of New Orleans cemeteries with little houses above ground, above the water level:
We are in luck. I don’t know if you’ve been following the weather down here, but we are as rainy as the Pacific Northwest. We normally have winter; Christmas was 79 degrees. Today is cool, and while the skies are not cloudless, the sun is breaking through, and even better, no rain. We are having a wonderful day.
Happy New Year! Thank you for continuing to visit and read here all these years, and thank you for your comments and e-mails.
Today, reading my morning meditations, the Lectionary and my daily e-mail from Dr. Richard Rohr, I come across this paragraph in Father Rohr’s message:
|The Christian vision is that the world is a temple. If that is true, then our enemies are sacred, too. Who else created them but God? The ability to respect the outsider is probably the litmus test of true seeing. And it doesn’t stop with human beings and enemies and the least of the brothers and sisters. It moves to frogs and pansies and weeds. Everything becomes enchanting with true sight. One God, one world, one truth, one suffering, and one love. All we can do is participate. I hope you enter the New Year with this awareness and an intention to join in with all your heart, mind, and body!|
Trying to be a Christian is so hard. To learn to love the stranger, I was sent to strange countries. Many countries. Many years. Until I could see that the commonality of humanity was greater than the differences in our dogma, I was sent. It didn’t have to do with carrying a message. It had to do with keeping my eyes and ears open, and most of all, keeping my heart open, to learn what I was meant to learn.
When I finally “got” it, our years of living overseas stopped. Now I have a new challenge, living in my own culture and feeling like “the other.”
I get the part about seeing God in all humanity. It’s not like I can do it, but it is important to God that I try. Today Father Rohr has also mentioned frogs and pansies and seeds, and then he says EVERYTHING. Ummm. Everything includes cockroaches.
I have no control over my reaction to cockroaches. They are dirty, and they skitter. One time, we had one in the house that flew – and HISSED! (I disabled him with a spray of Pledge, then disposed). We have a pest control man who makes sure my visitors are far and few between, but . . . this is Florida. Florida has cockroaches. The secret is to keep them to a minimum. Unfortunately, they just give me the creeps, and I can’t rest comfortably until the world has one less cockroach.
My first thought when I read today’s message, seeing God in his infinite glory in EVERYTHING, is that I have a huge challenge. The cockroach. The slug. The mosquito. The snake. There are so many creations that give me the creeps. How am I going to practice this? Is giving them space enough?
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. :-)
We’ve never been to Tangiers before, and although we have had a couple sprinkles, it looks as though we may have a great day to see Tangiers. Tonight is our next-to-last night on board, we are meeting friends for dinner tonight in the big dining room where they are serving duck (!) and life is sweet.
We start with a drive through Tangiers, on our way out to The Pillars of Hercules and Cap Spartel, where the Atlantic Ocean crashes into the Mediterranean Sea.
Pillars of Hercules
This shop was really special to me; I found a pair of hand made silver earrings for my daughter-in-law. I only had 270 Moroccan Dirhams on me, and the earrings were D540. The store-keeper said 270 was impossible, surely I had dollars or euros to make up the difference? Yes, but I really wanted those earrings for 270 Dirhams. So I walked away, walked back up the street to the store where the guide had taken the Smithsonian group, and then, ten minutes later, we were following the guide back past this shop and I heard a voice calling loudly “Madame! Madame! I want you to have the earrings!” and I said “But I only have 270 Dirhams and we are going now!” and she said “Take them, take them!” and I stuck them in my purse and quickly paid her and that was that. They are beautiful earrings :-)
The only little gold shop we passed our entire tour in Morocco:
The American legation. Interesting, the tour was supposed to be over, but our Smithsonian guide said we were supposed to see this, and the guide didn’t want to take us there, but the Smithsonian guy insisted. So then we went through what I call the “real” souks, where instead of all the hawkers, there are real people buying food and clothing and daily necessities. If the Smithsonian guide hadn’t insisted, we would have missed a really cool part of Tangiers.
This is the view from our cabin of Tangiers. It was beautiful.
We walked a thousand miles today, or so it seems, through the narrow streets of Fez. There was no going off on our own; Fez is complicated. The last time we were here, we hired a private guide who could take us through the souks and to other sites in Fez. This time, we were 40 people following a sign held up saying “Turquoise.”
I was behind an otherwise perfectly nice man who was using an i-Pad to take photos. As we went through the narrow streets with bread bakers, cookie sellers, date sellers, etc. from time to time he would stop, totally blocking traffic, and take his photo, and then start again. There were places he could step out of line and take a photo, but he evidently didn’t want to give up his place in the long narrow line. For the first fifteen or twenty times he did it, I just wanted to clobber him, then I found a way to get ahead of him and it was no longer my problem.
The leather dying souks that were so colorful and stinky were closed for remodeling! Whoda thunk it?
My first shopping on the trip; a silk weaving factory, and the colors are irresistible!
And on to Tangiers, where our ship is waiting for us at the dock!
We were delighted to get to our hotel in Fes, the Palais Medina and Spa Hotel. Our room was very comfortable, but my shoes were muddy from Volubilis, and I forgot to take a photo of the room because I really, really needed to wash my shoes off and hope they would dry by the next day as we hike around Fes. It was very large, very beautiful, had a seating area and a huge bathroom. The bed was marvelous.
The Hotel had some quirks. As we were about to board the elevator, others from our ship were getting off and saying “We are NOT going to stay here!” and we wondered what that was all about. On our floor, the hallway was so dimly lit that we struggled to figure out where the card went into the door. But the room was lovely, comfortable, quiet, and it had a wonderful view.
We hurried down to dinner, seeing a sign that said “group dining” we knew where to go.
(I didn’t take this photo; I lifted it from the hotel website, but it looks like the room we stayed in)
From the elevator area into the lobby area:
View at night from our balcony looking left
View early in morning looking out
More view. It really was a lovely room.
This has to be one of the worst experiences of the tour, tied with trying to get through Charles DeGualle to catch our Atlanta flight. The dining room was chaos.
“Grab a place, quickly; they are already starting to take the food away!” one fellow passenger urged us. We found places with friends, then went to search the inevitable buffet. There were still plenty of salad-y things, but entree pickings were slim. People in this hotel were elbowing one another out of the way, as if they had never seen food before, and this food was not worth elbowing anyone out of the way. It was buffet food, and the message it sent me was “this hotel takes groups because we have to in order to stay afloat, but we hate groups.” Dinner was purely awful. I can’t even remember what we found to eat, but except for a pumpkin soup, it was not good and not memorable food except for being not-good.
You’d think it would be hard to screw up breakfast, but breakfast was worse. They had those two little coffee maker things, and long lines waiting for both tea and coffee. Worse – there were no coffee cups! Not one! After a while a few showed up, and what happened when fewer coffee cups than coffee drinkers were available showed us just how very thin the veneer of civilization is. This was our experience at this ultra-first-class hotel. Horrors!
Lesson learned: I did spot a restaurant separate from the group dining restaurant. Knowing now what I know, I would choose to pay for a good Moroccan meal at the private-dining restaurant. Morocco just isn’t that expensive, and Moroccan cuisine is delicious, worth paying for! I would never settle for a mediocre meal, paid for as part of our tour, just because it was paid for. Life is too short!
On the other hand, it was late, we had a long day, I still needed to make sure my shoes were cleaned, and we just wanted to grab a bite and go. This was a nice hotel, but not a stellar experience.
(Intermission from the Morocco Trip)
It’s two days after Christmas and on my way home from church this morning, my temperature guage showed 80 degrees F. My roses are blooming.
Please, winter, please come. This Alaska girl is eager for a little winter.