Why this blog?

To understand why this blog was created and where it got its name, start here

Thursday, May 31, 2012

Saint Rémy de Provence

I'd hardly unpacked my bags and sorted my photos of China when Patrice and I took yet another trip. Last week's destination: Saint Rémy de Provence and the home of Georges and Joëlle, friends of Patrice.

Saint Rémy de Provence is located between Arles and Avignon in the south of France. It's an area known for a small mountain chain known as Les Alpilles (little Alpes). It's also known for wines and olive oil and Roman ruins.  Oh yeah, and Van Gogh. Vincent Van Gogh spent a year in Saint Rémy at the psychiatric hospital Saint-Paul de Mausole. We've been interested in tracing the steps of Van Gogh as you've seen in earlier posts here and here.
The period spent in the calm of the Saint Paul asylum represents a major period in Van Gogh's artistic production and the town has created a complete walking itinerary - following in the steps of Van Gogh with panels showing reproductions of his works at the exact locations which inspired him.
Imagining what his room might have been like
The view often seen in paintings
Entrance to the asylum
The actual hospital is off limits to visitors, so the visit is centered in the church and cloister

Sunday, May 20, 2012

China au pif

My son Eric started studying Chinese 14 years ago in preparation for his study of Traditional Chinese Medicine. He lived in Taiwan for three years and has also worked and traveled extensively throughout mainland China. Eric served as interpreter when he and my other son, Philippe, spent 4 months touring Asia in 2001. I have wanted to visit China with Eric as tour guide ever since then. I had the opportunity this month when our schedules finally coincided.

I met Eric in Taipei, had dinner with some of his close friends, and we toured city's night markets, and museum before taking the train to Taroko Gorge - Taiwan's version of the Grand Canyon.
Suspension foot bridge - Taroko Gorge
We then flew to Hong Kong so that I could get the tourist visa that would allow me to visit mainland China.

One day later, visa in hand, we took a train to Guangzhou - a city that Eric knows well as the source for the medicinal herbs used in Chinese medicine.

After a few days in big cities, we stepped back in time as we visited the mysterious karst mountains found in the Li river valley near Guilin. We set off on bicycles to explore the region around Yangshuo - a photographer's paradise.


Final stage of the trip: Beijing, the famous Forbidden City and nearby Great Wall of China.


I loved watching the double take - head snap, wide eyes and big smile each time Eric conversed in fluent Mandarin. People were always friendly, sharing insights normally unavailable to the average tourist. And we had complete autonomy - no group tours being herded on buses at impossible hours.

The trip was blissfully stress-free for me. Eric did all the ordering in restaurants, introducing me to culinary specialties from every part of the country. I sampled a world of fresh fruits and vegetables that I'd never tried before: durian, jack fruit, dragon fruit, lychees, loquat, mangosteen, and innumerable green leafy vegetables. We ate fish and fowl hacked into bite sized pieces and served bones and all.  We also saw, but didn't taste, all manner of weird things such as snakes, scorpions, cicadas, sea horses, duck tongues, sheep penis, etc.

Scorpion appetizers
And the shopping! Commerce is king, haggling over prices is mandatory, and Eric's  mastery of the language and the rules of the game resulted in some fabulous deals on clothes, DVDs and handbags.

The China we visited was a fascinating study in contrast: Taiwan with its western influence, food, dress, accents, and customs were quite different from those in the capital Beijing.
Hong Kong
And the cities of Hong Kong and Guangzhou, awash in neon, in striking contrast with smaller towns such as Guilin and Yangshuo attracting Chinese and western tourists alike for their natural beauty and amazing landscapes.
Sunset on the Li River near Guilin
What an experience! I've been struggling for days, poring over pictures and words, trying to capture the range of exotic sights, sounds, tastes, smells in an attempt to give you a glimpse of what I enjoyed during my two weeks in China. Here is the link to a Google+ album with some of the highlights.



Wednesday, May 2, 2012

A few more photos from Morocco

While I've been on an airplane to China, Patrice has compiled the last of our photos to Morocco. Follow this link for photos of Tellouet and the Tizi-n-Tichka - the mountain pass we crossed on our way back to Marrakech.

Tuesday, May 1, 2012

China

Just when I've finished sorting through photos of our trip to Morocco, I'm packing my bags again.

This time I'm off to meet my son, Eric, in China. First stop: Taiwan, then Hong Kong, Guangzhou, Guilin, and Beijing. I plan to take lots of photos, but it may a few weeks before I am back online. Please check back after May 16th.

Aït Benhaddou


Aït Benhaddou is a fortified city, or "ksar", along the former caravan route between the Sahara and Marrakech. Click here for additional pictures.


The Drâa Valley


The Drâa Valley is captivating as the bright green palmeraies mark a stunning contrast with the arid, rocky slopes rising on either side. The valley is dotted with kasbahs and stunning Berber villages. It’s an enchanting route, especially in the soft mauve light of the early evening. Please click here for more photos taken along the way.