My New Zealand visit starts badly. I am so obsessed by the thought of the rigorous customs police confiscating our Solomon wooden carvings we have brought as gifts that I completely forget the banana I popped into my bag in the lounge, intending to eat it on the flight. Suffice to say, dear reader, I got done and it cost me $400 – ‘no criminal record’ the official says brightly. I have to admit the officials are charm itself – and I just feel a complete fool.
So here we are in Granada, home to Alhambra, which means the Red Fort. It is correct to simply call it Alhambra as ‘al’ means ‘the’ in Arabic. Granada itself is named after the old Jewish settlement, Medina-al-Granata, or Pomegranate City, the fruit being a symbol of fertility, which is said to contain the same number of seeds as the volumes of the Torah. We have a free day to explore before our extortionate tour; still nervous about whether we have been scammed, we are relieved to get a text confirming the meeting time. Phew! Continue reading
We leave Seville quite late (after our trip to the Alcazar) for Córdoba. On the way we detour to the most extraordinary site, the Madinat Al-Zahra (the shining city) built from 940 AD by the first Caliph of el-Andalus, Abd al Rahman III. Very little remains as, after the fall of the Umayyad Caliphate, the city was ransacked for its stone and marble. It was not excavated until 1911, and now only one-tenth of the site has been revealed. The museum showcases the extraordinary opulence of this period, with carved marble columns, gold ornaments and jewellery, bronzes and ceramic vessels. Continue reading
We have been promising ourselves a trip around the sights of Andalucía for some time and booked it all rather last minute. As it turns out, the experience has been so rich, and we have taken so many photos, that I am forced to divide our week into blogs for each of the three main cities: Seville, Córdoba and Granada. Continue reading
This is our fourth visit to the splendiferous Villa du Soleil. This year our hosts JB&C invite our other chums R&C with a brief to come armed with Brexit parodies to the tune of Gilbert & Sullivan…(these can be seen on my Instagram account). As well as a garish shirt competition, it is a tradition to play musical games and quizzes to counteract the effects of copious amounts of rosé. Continue reading
It’s still raining when we arrive in Salvador, Brazil’s former capital, site of the first landing in 1501 by Amerigo Vespucci and centre of the slave trade. It is the most African part of Brazil with 80% of people having African heritage and where traditional African religions survive today with the numerous Candomblé cults. There is even a choir that sings in Yoruba.
After our magnificent week in the hot & dusty Pantanal we set off for the NE coast of Brazil, first stop Olinda and Recife. We are due to arrive at 2 am and, despite numerous emails and entreaties to our travel agent, are repeatedly told we have to go via São Paulo, a journey that will take 8 hours. Continue reading
‘Watch out! The Pantanal has the world’s worst mosquitoes!’ With this warning ringing in my ears, here we are with our Avon skin-so-soft spray (the best according to experts), craghoppers mosquito-proof trousers and shirts and even face nets to fit under hats. The African in me who has never bought any safari gear is appalled. Continue reading
We arrive early in the morning to azure skies, winter sun and a distinct chill in the air. It takes us a good hour and a half to struggle through the snaking immigration queue so it is a relief to find our driver who whisks us off the the Tivoli Mofarrej in the peaceful Jardins area of SP. Continue reading