Posts tagged ‘travel tale’
I am always excited when we go to the UK for holiday. Yes, I have been there many times before and each time we go to different places and thus we experience something new each time. One of the things I always get excited about is finding accommodation. Elsewhere on our travels we normally stay in a hotel, either it’s cheap or a fancy five star hotel, but in the UK, there are so many options that let me be exposed to the daily life of the “ethnic English” – as my husband used to say when we are mingling with the “locals”. As we are in the UK, and I am the foreigner, I love to see how the “locals” go about their daily life. London gives me the metropolitan and busy look of UK, but the country is not about London; it’s about the other cities, the villages and the countryside.
Thanks to Booking dot com we found a great little Bed & Breakfast place near Shaftesbury – the small English town that I planned to photograph. I decided to stay in the B&B called The Old Forge, however, the picture shown in it’s website shows everything except the most important thing: the bedroom and the bathroom.
However, from Booking dot com, there are:
- No pictures of how the bed/bed rooms look like. In normal condition, I wouldn’t want to go to a place where I can’t see where I would sleep – I ignored this condition.
- No review from previous visitors about this place; as I think its important to know what people say about the place – I ignored this condition again. (this is a new place in Booking dot com, thus no body had written a review).
The reason I was so attracted to this place is because the outdoor images were so interesting; this is the country living that I could ever imagine. Fingers crossed that this place was the genuine article and good enough to stay overnight. We booked it for 3 nights, and if it was not good enough we could always run away to the next better place near by….
We arrived at The Old Forge very late that day, almost 10pm, and we failed the intelligennc test as we missed the location which was exactly by the main road. There was no sign from the street that this is It, and it was dark already. My husband then said: “I think this is it, it looks similar to the picture on the website….”
As soon as we knock on the small cottage house door we were greeted by Lucy and Tim, our hosts for the next few days. As it was very late already – at least according to our norms when we normally go to bed at 9.00 pm – they directly show us around, where breakfast was serve and our bedroom and bathroom. Somehow they understood that we were too tired to have a little chit-chat, so they let us go to our room after agreeing breakfast time.
To my surprise, the room was beautifully clean, and it had everything there as a 3+ star hotel would have, small telly with it’s widget, kettle to heat water in case we wanted to make our own coffee or tea. In the hallway, there’s a little fridge where Lucy put a pot of milk, for our tea with milk as some English people do. As it is an old cottage house, there is a wash basin inside our room. however, our bedroom has no en-suite bathroom but we have our dedicated private bathroom/toilet in the very next room.
The next morning, as agreed we came down to the breakfast room, the breakfast table was set nicely looking towards the window to a small garden and another cottage house they owned as an independent cottage.
If you look at the picture above, Lucy offered us four different menu options, where she baked the bread every morning and the eggs are from their free range chickens.
As we were the only guest that morning, Lucy and Tim show us around their interesting barn/cottage, where it turned out that they have several room to rent, as a matter of fact they have three types of accommodation:
- Conventional bed and breakfast the type we were staying.
- Self catering accommodation, with it’s own living room and kitchen, one located attached to the main cottage, and the other one is an annex to Tim’s garage.
- Last type of accommodation are what they call ‘Glamping’ – glamorous camping. Located on their grounds.
Added to the attraction of a unique facility of this B&B, they also has a bit of ground where they keep their animals such as a horse, a donkey called Scrumpy Jack who even has his own Facebook page
We stayed there for three nights and before we knew it, it was time for us to leave. Lucy and Tim had been perfect hosts and we enjoyed very much our stay with them, including their three generation dogs Willow, the black lab, Pudding and Pie, the labradoodle dogs, Scrumpy Jack, the chickens which we ate their eggs everyday and their horse. When we left, Lucy was waiting to give us her last wave from in front of their porch.
I have even more photographs of the Old Forge which I will upload on my gallery on the 1st June.
What I did not know was they are not new in the business, they have run this business for more than 20 years, even though they are new to the Booking dot com database. If circumstances enable us to visit them again, I definitely will do that, however if you are interested to visit Tim & Lucy Kerridge then contact:
Dorset SP7 0NQ
As a normal woman, I love shopping, from grocery shopping in Carrefour Supermarket, to a fancy boutique to try on expensive new clothes by having the shop assistant helping me choose the right dress. My husband is just the same. He loves shopping and as a matter of fact I think he is the best shopper I know.
As I live in the Middle East, I have the privilege of experiencing the Souk; a bazaar where people exchange goods over a friendly conversation. I love visiting the souk, the traditional ones are more fascinating than the modern ones. However, my visit to the Grand Souk of Aleppo two years ago was like no other. It was memorable; I had to opt out of joining our tour bus to go back to the hotel, just to explore the souk slowly and do as Lonely Planet suggested to: “get lost in Aleppo souk”. I even had to go back the next day just to feel the warmth from the shop keepers, the slow moving activity along the grand corridor of souk Al-Attarine. There’s no hustle and bustle of a real busy market; yet everything they sell and the decoration between shops are forever intricate and fascinating. Once I was outside the covered bazaar, the atmosphere changed 180 degrees, the vibrancy of a real market was there; not so intricate, but yet it was equally interesting.
Compared to Al Hamadiyyah Souk in Damascus, where the main corridor is wide, Aleppo Souk had narrower alleyways, yet it was more interesting than the one in Damascus. First developed in the 13th century, but most of it was built during the heyday of the Ottoman Empire between 15th and 17th century. Each different alleyway reflects different ornaments and architecture finishes of the corridor’s facade. But what fascinated me most was the different ceilings types and its illumination system along each corridor, from an opening to the dome shaped ceiling to let in natural light to fancy lighting pendants that represent the traditional Middle Eastern lights.
The fact that Aleppo has been shelled, shattered, destroyed, and left in ruins many times in the past; during the Byzantines and the Mongol period; I am sure that once the current war is over, Aleppo will rebuild again. But what was once the greatest bazaar of the Medieval period, and the finest in the Middle East is now gone, burnt to ashes.
Of course, there’s this term “restoration”, or even for the sake of tourism, there is “re-creation, which could be better than nothing, but the memory and history of the place will be forever different. And it is a fact as Kevin Rushby said: “the world’s greatest treasures has been lost”.
I didn’t manage to explore the Souk as much as I wanted to, but I feel very lucky that I still managed to witness and to record with my camera a little bit on how it was during the early 21st century’s finest glory days.
If you are interested in my other posts about Syria, check out: I’ve been to SYRIA
The Umayyad Mosque is one of the most important mosques in the history of Islam; it holds a special significance to the Shi’ah Muslims. This was where the Prophet Muhammad made the walk from Baghdad (Iraq).
The history of the building:
Built originally as a temple by the Arameans to worship the god of storms and lightening or a temple of Hadad-Ramman. When the Romans conquered Damascus in 64 CE they assimilated Hadad with their own god of thunder or better known as Temple of Jupiter. Under the direction of Damascus-born architect Apollodorus, the Romans continued to expand the Temple as the new Greco-Roman Temple of Jupiter which was intended to serve as a response to the Hebrew temple in Jerusalem.
Towards the end of the 4th century, in 391, the Temple of Jupiter became a church, and converted into the Cathedral dedicated to Saint John (John the Baptist) by the Christian emperor Theodosius I (r. 379–395). Legend has it that Saint John’s head was buried there. It served as the seat of the Bishop of Damascus, who ranked second within the Patriarchate of Antioch after the patriarch himself
In 636 CE, after the battle of Yamouk, Damascus was conquered by the Muslims under the leadership of Khalid-bin-Waleed, and the prayer space became a shared space between the Muslims and the Christians. The Muslims prayed on the eastern section and the Christians prayed on the other side. But soon this space was not enough for the Muslims and the reign of the Umayyad Caliph al Walid I negotiated with the Christian leaders to take over the space, and pay compensation for the Christians to move to the other side of the Old Town, as it is now.
They built the Mosque on its current location in 706 to 715 CE. The construction of the mosque was based on the mosque of the Prophet Muhammad in Madinah. It was built with the help of skilled workers from the Byzantine Empire and that reflected on its exterior style of the building, as well as the interior decoration in the main prayer hall. The middle columns supporting the building have the Corinthian order.
This mosque has 3 towers, or in the term of Islam architecture the word for tower is ‘minaret’:
- On the Eastern side of the Mosque it located Minaret of Jesus the tallest of the three minarets at 77m, and where the locals believe that this is where Jesus will descend during Judgement Day.
- On the North side of the Mosque is located the Minaret of the Bride, the oldest minaret
- On the South-West corner of the mosque is located the Al Gharbiyya Minaret,
A small structure inside the prayer hall lies the head of John the Baptist, which they found during the excavation for the building of the mosque.
Yes, I understand, that the above information is a bit hard to take in, however, it is because of it’s richness of history and it’s existence up to the present day. My visit to this mosque as well as the whole of Syria, made me want to learn more about the history of Near East as well as to comeback to Syria provided the condition of the country is not as it is today.
If you are interested on my other posts on Syria, check out: I’ve been to Syria
It was 2 years a go that we visited Damascus for a guided tour across Syria (read: The Old City of Damascus). But as we arrived in 2 days ahead of the tour, we managed to see Damascus with our own perception, and this was the best bit, we were picked up by a friend of a friend, who is a local. He owned the only musical shop in the Souq al-Hamadiyya – yes, they were having tea in front of his music shop.
What I liked about the Old City were the alleyways, different on every corner; with it’s own specialty at every turn of the street. Souq al-Hamadiyya for instance, is a broad street and very popular with the locals; it sells anything and everything really, from cheap Chinese products, to local handicraft for interior decor. This is also serves as the popular gate towards the old city, at the end of the Souq, before the great Umayyad Mosque – I will explain more about this mosque next week – stands Temple of Jupiter.
Temple of Jupiter is special because it was built by the Romans, at the beginning of the rule of Augustus (Roman Emperor) and completed during the rule of Constatius. It was during this time that Damascus was famous as the city of Jupiter.
What we see in the picture is only part of it, some other parts can be seen as part of the Umayyad Mosque. Like the Old City which has been through different periods of human history, so was this Temple and Mosque. The question is whether it will survive the latest turmoil?
As we moved on from this area, there was this very popular cafe shop, where the locals and the tourists mingle. It didn’t serve food, only coffee or tea, if we wanted food, than we needed to order some where else. Regardless of this, the Damascene think this is the ‘in place’, where you could see people and be seen. Again, I wonder whether this place is still popular now, or even still exists?
Further on from this place, things get more interesting, as to me, this is where the real atmosphere started. The streets widen and narrow with an infinite variation, from a chaotic communal road to an order of small palace.
The Old City is divided into four distinct quarters that roughly align with the fame of the seven gates around the Old City. Souq Al-Hamadiyya is the vibrant and commercial district of the Old City. Bab Sharqi was the gate towards the Christian Quarter , where we found the House of Ananias, the Roman Arch and St. Paul’s Chapel. Bab Salam is the entrance gate if you want to go to Shia’s Mosque of Sayyida Ruqqaya, the most impressively ornate mosque I’ve ever seen. Bab Musala is a gate for the Jewish Quarter, and home to the cities artisan community.
Inside these quarters dotted around are historic places, schools, Hamam, interesting places and palaces turned into museums, like Khan As’ad Pasha, turned into a private museum.
That was a really exciting experience that I wish a could return and visit all those places that I missed last time….
If you are interested in my other posts about Syria, check out: I’ve been to SYRIA
Our last day in Budapest we are waiting for an evening flight back to Doha and a whole day to kill, we decided to visit St. Stephan Basilica, the largest church in Budapest which can hold up to 8,500 people.
To enter the church is free, but they appreciate donations and without that the priest who opens the big door to go into the main hall will not open it, and that’s the practice.
When we were there, I thought we had to queue to go in, but actually we were just waiting for a group of tourists struggling to find the ‘charity’ money to get inside. As we wave a € 20.- note, quickly we got in to the main hall of the church ahead of the other tourists who was still thinking of how much money they should give away to the church.
Once inside, the basilica was magnificent. Yes, in architectural terms it’s a cathedral, it was given the title of ‘basilica minor’ by Pope Pius XI in 1931. It took 50 years to build the Basilica. Building commenced in 1851, and the inauguration ceremony took place in 1906 and was attended by Emperor Franz Joseph. During its construction, in 1868 the dome collapsed and rebuilding it had to start almost from scratch, which explains the delay in the Basilica’s completion.
The original design was by Architect Jozsef Hild, who drafted and supervised the original design with neo-classical style; but he died before the construction was finished. Miklós Ybl, one of Europe’s leading architects in the mid to late 19th century, took over the job. But Ybl had to redesign the whole thing from scratch again as the dome collapsed a year after he took over the job. Unfortunately Ybl didn’t live to see the completion of the Basilica as he passed away in 1891, however work was finished according to his plans – that is in neo-renaissance style, instead of the original Jozsef Hild’s neo-classical style.
Like most churches, the interior of this church is heavily ornate as you can see in the picture. It features about 50 different types of marble. The chapels were elaborately decorated; many sculptures were also there, including a bust of the basilica’s patron saint, who was the first Christian king of Hungary. Architect Jozsef Krausz was responsible for the design of this very richly designed interior.
Despite all marble finishes for the interior face, St. Stephan’s Basilica has a good acoustic system. For that, it held a regular concert, almost every night. Unfortunately, this is what we missed on our visit. I guess that’s another reason we need to go back to Budapest, even though there are so many other places to see else where around the world.
As a good tourist, we decided to visit one of the few special buildings in Budapest, which is the synagogue of the Jewish community in Hungary. Jews have lived in Hungary since the time of the Roman Empire, even before the Magyar (Hungarian) tribes arrived and conquered the land in the 9th century. By the early 20th century, the community had grown to constitute 5% of Hungary’s population and 23% of the population of the capital, Budapest.
The Dohány Street Synagogue, also known as The Great Synagogue is located in Erzsébetváros, the district VII of Budapest; it is the largest synagogue in Europe and the fifth largest in the world according to Wikipedia.
- The synagogue was built between 1854 and 1859 in the Moorish Revival style, believe it or not, it’s decoration based chiefly on Islamic models from North Africa and medieval Spain; its design also features a mixture of Byzantine, Romantic and Gothic elements. Two onion-shaped domes sit on the twin octagonal towers at 43 metres height. These towers symbolize the two columns of Solomon’s Temple.
- Similarly to basilicas, the building also consists of three spacious richly decorated aisles, two balconies and, unusually, an organ.
- A rose stained-glass window sits over the main entrance.
- The architect of the building, Ludwig Förster, believed that no distinctively Jewish architecture could be identified, and thus chose “architectural forms that have been used by oriental ethnic groups that are related to the Israelite people and in particular the Arabs”. And maybe that is why, during my visit to its museum, I met some Muslim students visiting the exhibition and making some notes.
A single-span cast iron supports the 12-m wide nave. The seats on the ground-floor are for men, while the upper gallery has seats for women. Surprisingly the synagogue has an organ, though this instrument is used in Christian churches. The temple’s acoustic make it a popular venue for concerts.
The torah-arch and the internal frescoes made of colored and golden geometric shapes are the works of the famous Hungarian romantic architect Frigyes Feszl.
In total, the building can house around 3000 people
Franz Liszt and Camille Saint-Saëns played the original 5,000 pipe organ built in 1859. Today, a new mechanical organ with 63 voices and 4 manuals was built in 1996 by the German firm Jehmlich Orgelbau Dresden GmbH
To visit the synagogue you need to buy ticket at the gate. There are several websites dedicated to the location which provide information on when it is open and how much the current tickets cost. However tickets varied for every object in the complex, which consist of:
- the Great Synagogue,
- The Heroes’ Temple, which was added to the Great synagogue in 1931, and it serves as a memorial to Hungarian Jews who gave their lives during World War I.
- The graveyard, or the Jewish Cemetery, located in the backyard of the Heroes’ Temple. There are over 2,000 people buried here who died in the Jewish ghetto during the winter of 1944-45.
- The Jewish Museum, adjacent to the Great Synagogue was constructed on the site where Theodor Herzl’s house once stood. It features Jewish traditions, costumes, as well a detailed history of Hungarian Jews, including information about the Holocaust.
- The Holocaust memorial,
- The Raul Wallenberg Memorial Park. Home to the Holocaust Memorial, is located in the backyard of the Great Synagogue. also known as the Emanuel Tree, is a weeping willow tree (by Imre Varga) with the names of Hungarian Jews killed during the Holocaust inscribed on each leaf.
- Also part of the memorial is four red marble plates, commemorating 240 non-Jewish Hungarians who saved Jews during the Holocaust. One of the most heroic figures of the Holocaust in Hungary was Raoul Wallenberg, a Swedish diplomat who prepared Protective Passports under the authority of the Swedish Embassy, saving the lives of thousands of Jews.
History of the building:
The synagogue was bombed by the Hungarian pro-Nazi Arrow Cross Party just before WW II started. The building suffered severe damage from aerial raids during the Nazi Occupation.
During the Communist era the damaged structure became again a prayer house for the much-diminished Jewish community.
It was only in 1991 they start a restoration, and opened again for public in 1998.
Reference of this post:
- Dohány Street Synagogue – http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Dohány_Street_Synagogue
- Jewish Virtual Library – http://www.jewishvirtuallibrary.org/jsource/vjw/Hungary.html
- Visit Budapest.Travel – http://visitbudapest.travel/guide/budapest-attractions/great-synagogue/
Today, Londoners are having their 4 day week end, celebrating the Queen’s Diamond Jubilee. Simple word from me: “I wish I was there…”. I am not British, but like many others around the world, we all like British Royals and especially the Queen herself.
I am lucky enough to be married to a “Brit” who just happens to be a royalist. The problem is we don’t live in the UK, thus for this very week, we were in Doha, watching the celebration on TV.
However, I managed to convince Keith to take us to London for a day, after a family wedding 3 weeks ago. I was sick and had a fever a day before, but I forced myself to go on that Saturday afternoon, as this might be my only opportunity to see the atmosphere first hand, just to go to London 3 weeks prior to the celebration. We were in the UK for a family wedding, not in London, but I persuaded Keith to go to London by train, just for the day.
London is a big city, as well as full of history, thus what one can do in London for a day? Well, not much really, however, there are some websites that give suggestions of what we can do for a day out in London.
Visit London, suggested to start the visit with the National Gallery just off Trafalgar Square, however, if you are a day tripper to London from nearby, (like we were), I think it’s better to go to London by train, and we arrived at Waterloo Station, which is nearby to the London Eye, and that is what we did. However, to do the London Eye, one needs to book prior, as it’s a very popular attraction. As I had been up there before, we gave it a miss. I also gave London Aquarium a miss, even though it’s next door to the Eye.
Yes, one can spend the rest of the day in this area by doing these attractions, but for me, as I liked the atmosphere and the life of the city, I decided to just walk across Westminster Bridge, and turn right on Parliament Square, down Whitehall. Looking to Downing Street, to the office and official resident of the Prime Minister. Funny enough, right next to Downing Street there was this demonstration on UK Police Racial Code and right across there was this pro Campaign for Palestine.
From that bit of excitement, we then passed by Horse Guards, where people can walk in and out of the Horse Guards Parade.
At the end of Whitehall we arrive at Trafalgar Square, where the count down of the 2012 Olympic games was located and where people sit around on the steps posing, watching an open air concert.
To the right of Trafalgar Square, we then walked through Admiralty Arch on to The Mall. On normal days, this place is quiet and uninteresting, but I bet during the Royal events, I bet hundred thousands of people will be marching through this place, and I could already imagine the bunting along The Mall, The Mall will look very alive and full of atmosphere for the Jubilee. But this time, this is my picture of The Mall.
OK, we did not stay on The Mall, as it is a pretty long road and ends up at Buckingham Palace, but instead we turn right heading for Regent Street. This is one of the posh shopping areas in London, where one can find lots of designer shops. This road is another long road that you could spend window shopping or real shopping for the whole day. However, off Regent street, there’s this interesting area called Carnaby Street, a pedestrianised shopping street located in the Soho district, that I think is worth seeing.
By the time we reach Oxford Street and Oxford Circus station, it was already late, around 7 o’clock in the evening, and we were already very tired and ready to go back to our hotel in Guildford, but I also wanted to see the London blue hour, thus we just headed back to the London Eye area to get ready for the sunset/blue hour. That concluded our one day visit to London.
I heard the name Berber from an Algerian friend, as she said the Berber people was very European looking instead of North African/Arab looking, I was wondering who they were and how they looked. As I visited Morocco in February, the word Berber popped up a few times; but who are they? According to Wikipedia: they are the indigenous peoples of North Africa west of the Nile Valley. They are distributed from the Atlantic to the Siwa oasis, in Egypt, and from the Mediterranean to the Niger River. However some thought that their descendants are of mixed origins, – including Oriental, Saharan, and European. So maybe that is why they look like this:
Today the Berbers mostly reside in the Atlas mountains, with a different type of architecture and decoration to those in the cities of Morocco. Their houses look like this:
The term for this kind of architecture is ‘mud architecture’. Village Asni is the first large village on our journey out of Marrakech. Up close this is what it looks like. Picture of this can be seen on my previous post on Moroccan Landscape.
Yes, by the look of the picture, it shows that electricity is already there, but when I look inside; it’s still very basic. There are no such things like ca ooking range, or microwave or a simple electric heater. Daily activities are like the olden days, using charcoal and cooking traditional Moroccan Bread and Tajene in a clay pot.
We were lucky that we took the option within our tour to visit one of the Berber houses. Where they served us their famous Moroccan Tea and their ‘bread’.
Below photograph, inside the ‘mud house’, is their living room where they eventually performed the ritual of mixing mint tea in front their guests, (which was all 20 of us). Together with the tea, also served was Moroccan Bread.
It was here that I found out that Moroccan Tea is different from any other Arabian Mint Tea, where normally I can find anywhere within the Arabian countries. Here the process of mixing tea when the water is still very hot, like our host demonstrated here.
To the Berbers, obviously, the process of mixing tea together is sort of ritual. The outcome…. I would say, for those who are not tea connoisseurs, maybe the same like any other mint tea, but to me… it was very nice.