Here There and Everywhere

Expat wanderer

No Trips To Damascus This Week

AdventureMan and I are currently on an austerity program.

When we say that, we laugh. God blesses us abundantly. We have food to eat, we have a good roof over our head, “two cats in the yard” to quote Neil Young, life is good. We’ve had a full season of unexpected and thoroughly normal repairs, however, including replacing an air conditioning system (expensive) and replacing an irrigation system (expensive) and in our other house, replacing a roof and it’s supports in our other house (expensive.) We have “enough.” We are blessed.

We’ve always had a policy of living below our means, supporting the church, investing and saving, and it has served us well. Even in retirement, we are loathe to touch our savings, even though the savings are for our retirement. We don’t know how long we’re going to live, or what kind of health care system we are going to have, so we keep all those little nuts in case winter is coming :-).

Meanwhile, I wanted to go to Mobile for lunch to day at 7 Spices Mediterranean Grill, one of the most delicious places in this part of the world to eat, and when AdventureMan and I counted out our money, we found that we could – just. AdventureMan looked at me and said “How about we go in August, and I’ll take you over to the beach to eat today” and I said “OK” and he said “No Trips to Damascus this week.”

When we lived in Amman, Jordan, our favorite trip was up to Damascus. It was only about 3 1/2 hours, longer if there was a line at the border, or is someone wanted to screw with us, as they sometimes liked to do with embassy people. We had friends in Damascus; we stayed with them, they knew all the best restaurants, and all the best places in the souks. Damascus was still very French, so I could do just fine there, and it was also Arabic, so AdventureMan could also do just fine.

We were young, we didn’t have a lot of money, but Iranians were fleeing Iran, stopping in Damascus to sell their carpets, and carpet buying was our avid hobby. For all of us, we all loved the beauty of the carpets, and their stories. We learned quickly to buy the carpet, not the story. The carpet sellers knew us all by name, and the foreign population was so small that they took our checks and those checks would go over the border to Lebanon and were cashed quicker than our checks cashed at the embassy. The carpet souks, the gold souks, and the copper souks all welcomed us, and shopping was a leisurely thing, you’d sit and drink a little tea, the shopkeeper would tell you how business was going, and you’d swap stories as you haggled over whatever it was you were purchasing.

Or not. One of my friends, a very funny woman, took a carpet home on approval – it was done all the time. Every time I would visit her, the carpet vendor would remind her she needed to pay for it or bring it back, and they would negotiate. She was a shrewd woman, a devilish bargainer, and the vendor wouldn’t meet her price. At the end of her two year tour, after having the carpet in her house almost the entire time, she returned it because they couldn’t agree on a price! She was a legend in the embassy community.

The 7 Spices restaurant has food that seems very Syrian, and has tapestries with scenes from Damascus on the walls. Sigh. No trips to Damascus this week.

(The photos are from our last trip to Damascus in 2007. Sigh. Ten years ago. Yes, I am feeling nostalgic.)

July 16, 2017 Posted by | Adventure, Arts & Handicrafts, Beauty, Cross Cultural, Cultural, Customer Service, ExPat Life, Family Issues, Financial Issues, Interconnected, Living Conditions, Quality of Life Issues, Road Trips, Travel | , , , , | Leave a comment

7 Spice Grocery and Grill in Mobile, AL

There is a lot to be said for advertising. As we watch the local news at night, we switch to Mobile after the Pensacola news is finished. Mobile has a town nearby called Pritchard, and we always love to hear what has happened in Pritchard – mysterious murders, drug overdoses, family incest – it’s all there, right in Pritchard.

Between stories are the Mobile ads, and some are hilarious. One, however, for 7 Spice Grocery and Grill caught my eye. They show shelves and shelves of Middle Eastern goods, and mention a restaurant, too.

Time for a field trip to Mobile!

7 Spice Grocery and Grill (FaceBook page)

3762 Airport Blvd, Mobile, AL 36608

(251) 725-1177

This is what 7 Spice looks like from the roadside:

007SpiceExterior

This is the interior. You walk all the way through the grocery, and at the back, it is like entering a Damascus restaurant. Indeed, one of the waiters was from Damascus, and the food is very Syrian
:
007SpiceInterior

The smells are divine. The smells coming from the kitchen are fresh meat being grilled, lamb, chicken, beef.

 

And we know we are at home. If you have read Walking Old Damascus, you will know we have loved traveling in Syria, and have loved Damascus for 35 – almost 40 years. Near our table is a hanging of the Roman Arch on The Street Called Straight; the last time we stayed in Damascus, at The Talisman, we stayed near this landmark, near Bab Thoma.

 


007SpiceDamascus

With every meal comes a lovely serving of addas – lentil soup. It was silky and lemony, the croutons were thin and crisp, it was so simple, so deliciously prepared:
007SpiceAddas

 

 

AdventureMan ordered the Shish Taouk, a chicken shish kabob. It came fresh and hot from the grill, crispy and irresistible:007SpiceShishTaouk

I ordered the appetizer plate; hummous, felafel, tabouli, baba ghannoush, little meat pies, stuffed grape leaves, and olives. Also a wonderful garlic aioli to dip into. AdventureMan shared some chicken with me, and I shared all these delicious tastes with him. They use a really good olive oil; it makes all the difference.
007SpiceAppetizerPlate

As we roll ourselves out of the restaurant, carrying more than enough for our evening meal, we have to walk past all the shelves in the grocery to get to our car. The prices are very reasonable and there are things I really need, like a whole bag of dried mint (have you ever tried making Middle Eastern food without dried mint? you need a LOT!) and chana dal, wonderful legumes, fig preserves, all kinds of little charcoals for braziers and big bags of henna . . .

007SpiceMarket1

 
There are wonderful Middle East restaurants also in Pensacola, but none like this. Worth a drive to Mobile to find this truly excellent restaurant on Airport Boulevard in Mobile.
 

 

007SpiceFoodShelves

February 23, 2015 Posted by | Cooking, Cultural, Eating Out, ExPat Life, Food, Restaurant, Road Trips | , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

“Ambulances Chase Him”

Most local made ads are purely awful, or, at best, amusing because they are so awful – one time. Painful after that. This ad cracks me up every time. Imagine, a personal injury lawyer who has a sense of humor about himself:

 

April 14, 2014 Posted by | Marketing | , , | 2 Comments

Carnival Cruise Ship: Adrift in Mobile

Newest news out of Mobile via AOL News on the cruise ship that was disabled by fire and had to be towed into port. Exiting cruisers wore bathrobes saying “Never again with Carnival!” It just keeps getting worse.

Disabled Cruise Ship Oversight

MOBILE, Ala. — U.S. Coast Guard officials are searching for a missing shipyard worker after a disabled Carnival Cruise ship broke free from its mooring in Mobile, Ala.

Petty Ofc. Second Class Bill Colclough says a crew is searching the Mobile River for the man. He went missing after the ship drifted from its mooring Wednesday afternoon. Colclough was unsure of where the worker was when the ship became dislodged.

The U.S. Coast Guard tweeted that high winds are likely to blame for the Triumph becoming dislodged. The National Weather Service reported winds between 35 and 65 mph blowing through the area. Carnival spokesman Vance Gulliksen says the ship drifted and is resting against a cargo vessel.

The Triumph was disabled Feb. 10 by an engine fire that stranded thousands of passengers onboard for days in the Gulf.

April 3, 2013 Posted by | Adventure, Travel | , , , , | Leave a comment

Mobile Museum of Art

We were so efficient at the Mobile Botanical Garden that we had plenty of time to hit the nearby Mobile Museum of Art. Actually, we loved the whole park area; there is the Botanical Garden, the Museum of Art, also walking paths, a huge water . . . something, it might be a river or a large lake with a dam in it, I don’t know what it is, but it is a large amount of water. There are athletic fields and even some offices, not large office buildings but some smaller outlying kinds of state or county offices. It’s a nice park, it has a nice feeling, a lot going on.

It doesn’t hurt that it is one of the prettiest days of the year, not hot, not humid, and no mosquitos!

00MobileArtMuseum

00LeveeByMobileArtMuseum

00PublicArtMobileArtMuseum

00MobileArtMuseumButterfly

I love it that not all the art is inside the building. There is statuary outside, along the walking path, and this huge made-from-found-objects butterfly at the entrance. It is wonderful. As you enter the museum, looking through miles of glass out through trees at the water, you immediately think “what a place for an event!” thinking wedding, reception, small chamber group performance, etc. Truly beautiful spaces; I would show you but they have a really strict policy about photographing inside the building, so I didn’t.

They have some surprising pieces, surprisingly good for a small museum. They have some very odd pieces, par for the course in a small museum. They have an amazing art glass collection, beautifully displayed in a room with gorgeous natural light that allows each piece to shine. They had an exquisite visiting exhibit based on a Vietnamese classic, with intricate, ethereal pieces.

Too much to take in on one visit! I think our favorite piece in the exhibit were some gorgeous silvery angel wings on a wall near the gallery entrance on the top floor. When you get closer to the exhibit, you see it really, REALLY is silvery – it is silver spoons! The bowls of the spoons form the outer part of the feathers, hundreds of spoons, and the base of the spoon the lower part. It is whimsical and surprising, and made me whoop a little (trying to be respectful in a museum 🙂 ) with delight. We are eager to go back and to take our little grandson, as he gains in ability to focus his attention 🙂

map

Driving Directions From I-65
From I-65, take the Springhill Avenue Exit (Exit 5) and head west on Springhill Avenue. Go approximately 1 1/2 miles and turn left on John D. New Street (traffic signal). Take an immediate right onto Museum Drive. The Museum is the first building on the right.

Screen shot 2013-03-19 at 2.05.03 PM

March 20, 2013 Posted by | Adventure, Arts & Handicrafts, Beauty, Building, Community, Cultural, Customer Service, Education, Exercise, Living Conditions, Road Trips | , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Galilee Cafe, Mobile, and Foley AL; Life in Small Adventures

AdventureMan was perusing the Weekend Section of the Pensacola News Journal when he saw the opening of the Farmer’s Market in Foley, AL, and he said “Let’s go!”

“Let’s Go!” and my agreement doesn’t always mean we will really go. The market isn’t until 3 in the afternoon, and a lot can happen. Sometimes we just change our minds.

But at water aerobics, I get a great idea, and I can hardly wait to share it with AdventureMan.

“Let’s go to the Jordan River Cafe for their Friday buffet, then head down toward Foley through Fairhope!” He loves the idea, we run a couple errands on the way home, I call the restaurant to make sure they are still open (It’s been about a year since we last went there) and then hit the road for Mobile:

When we get to the restaurant, we discover it is no longer the Jordan River Cafe; it is now the Galilee Cafe, and I wonder if the food will still be so good as before. As we enter, we are shocked – the Cafe is PACKED. Every table is taken – no, no, there is one small table, over in the back, we can have that one, the welcoming waitress says.

Galilee Cafe
326 Azalea
Mobile
T: 251-304-0297

Lunch was fantastic. Yes, the restaurant has changed hands; the current owner born in Bethlehem, and we are astonished and delighted to see so many people enjoying “Mediterranean” cuisine, which is suspiciously like what we used to eat in Jordan and Syria 🙂 The restaurant stayed busy the entire time we were there, so busy that some people ate outside on the front terrace. The food is delicious, and worth the drive from Pensacola. The Friday buffet (and it appears they also now have a Sunday buffet) is all the usual suspects – hummous, baba ghannoush (some of the best I have tasted), tabouli, fattoush, etc. plus a lot of the home-cooked favorites, lamb, chicken, grains, beans and vegetables, pita bread – all delicious.

The first time AdventureMan went to this restaurant (as the Jordan River Cafe) he went with a Saudi buddy and his son, and he has talked ever since about the route they took, but we never knew how to find it. Yesterday, we experimented, taking a right on Azalea as we left, and driving down to Government and turning left. (These iPhones are great navigational tools) It takes you through an older part of town, with large glorious mansions, and into a rather quiet downtown Mobile.

The good news is, it takes you to another tunnel under the Mobile Bay, closely paralleling the one I-10 uses. We like to have an alternative; I-10 can get clogged going through Mobile. This route serves our purposes as it is Highway 98, and it is the road we want to be on to get to Fairhope and then to Foley.

It is a lovely day for a drive, and while we have taken this drive before, it is never the same twice in a row. As we are on the stretch between Fairhope and Foley, the clouds darken and a few stray drops fall.

“That wasn’t bad!” I said as we arrived in Foley, promptly at three for the opening of the Farmer’s Market. “Great parking, too!”

We got as far as the first booth, which was soaps and toiletries (I love hand made soaps) and AdventureMan walked off to explore the rest of the stalls – and the torrent broke forth. Rain came down in buckets, and lightning came, crackling and booming, one strike after another. It never lasts very long here, so I thought we would just wait it out. The wind is blowing the rain under the canopy, so we gather up all the soaps to try to keep them dry, and we wait. And we wait. AdventureMan comes back, soaked; the wind has blown the rain under his umbrella. We wait another five minutes, and then everyone is starting to pack up – and I never made it beyond the first stall! We quickly made our purchases, ran to the car, and drove home mostly without air conditioning because we were so soaked and shivering.

The Farmer’s Market is held on Friday afternoons, 3 – 6 pm, in Heritage Park:

It was a great adventure 🙂 Thank you, Google Maps, for making it so easy to share the small adventure with our friends.

June 23, 2012 Posted by | Adventure, Arts & Handicrafts, Cultural, Eating Out, Food, Geography / Maps, GoogleEarth, iPhone, Living Conditions, Restaurant, Road Trips, Shopping, Weather | , , , , | 2 Comments