T he Brisbane ‘Mussies’, as Uncle John Cliffe used to call us, came to Sydney for the Big 100 Celebration of Aunty Beth with members of the Evelyn Scott families, and of course ‘The Wards’!
My neighbour Pam Turner claims that these are ‘her’ lorikeets. She’s more than annoyed that they’ve flown her coup and come to mine. (After bread and honey, yes, they pooped on the floor, but gee they’re pretty.)
On the beach at Watson’s Bay, slowly recovering from the battering of the storms that hit the whole east coast of Australia last week, two friendly Chinese tourists gesture to us to accept a handful of chips to throw to seagulls sitting on the beach to get them to fly into a frenzy. And success!
The photo is testament to Michael being gleefully happy with the ‘chip-throwing’ exercise – with Ricardo and Michael Iñesta also amused.
At a Reception in Bennelong Restaurant tonight to mark the opening of Songlines – the first Indigenous lighting of the sails on Sydney Opera House – Paul O’Donnell and I agree that in our childhood experience, the whole ‘Aboriginal’ phenomenon was mute.
It’s striking here in 2016; here on this site of Tubowgule – ’where the knowledge waters meet’ – the salt and the fresh, that the meaning of being a contemporary Australian has new life breathed into it from this ancient tradition.
The Songlines are beautifully projected on the sails of the Sydney Opera House for Sydney-siders, visitors, and the whole world to see. Opera House CEO Louise Herron told the gathering it is the largest live event thus far on Facebook Australia.
Songlines is about connections between story, place, meaning, and human bodies – as written in an old Bundjalung song:
“when I’m away from country something is missing inside.
It’s the breathing part of my body, that makes my spirit feel alive”.
At the end of any cruise, there’s always a ‘collection’ of ship shots. No story line, but always a good ‘memento’ of the occasion.
And yes, a stand-alone, seemingly ramshackle building emerges behind rows of parked cars. We are met by a smiling Giovanni with hand outstretched, owner of ‘I Templari’, (named after a medieval church managed by the Templars). He’s quick to tell me that his father once lived in Ayr in North Queensland and he has a cousin who is a barber in Sydney. Instant family!
Seating us in the family dining room (with the airconditioning), he proceeds to organise the meal; home-made tagliatelle with grated white truffles served on a plate of fresh mint leaves, lavender flower and grated parmesan ; enough to blow the senses (not to mention the budget). A chilled local Rosé is refreshing, even if a bit rough.
I really don’t need the slow-cooked beef with herbs inside and a fresh pepperonata (capsicum and tomato sauce) that simply appears for us to share; but what can I say, or do? This is family!
And there is no saying ‘no’ to the homemade dessert – pastiera Napoletana, with ricotta, vanilla and candied fruit. The bill – the princely sum of €40 for the two of us!
I’m staying at the Hotel Belles-Rives in Juan-Les Pins with sweeping sea views from what was once the Art Deco mansion of F Scott Fitzgerald, (the American novelist and writer of The Great Gatsby’). Sitting under an umbrella on the terrace with waters lapping at my feet, I take on the ‘Riviera ambience’ of this place and enjoy a simple Salade Niçoise. I could spend a week here and never leave the property.
Re-creating my own heady days of the mid-70’s, when working for Amex and flying to exotic places for meetings at the drop of a hat, I decide to return to the small hill town of St-Paul de Vence, just as I did with June Whelan in 1976.
I recall choosing a convertible from Avis and driving on the ‘wrong’ side of the road for the first time in my life, and with no fear. (I don’t know about June!) We had lunch on the terrace of La Colombe d’Or. This deserted medieval hill town was brought back to life by artists before the Second World War (lead by Marc Chagall), and today, artists continue to thrive and breathe life into the many colourful studios, shops and gardens dotted through the winding narrow streets.
Wandering, we come across La Chapelle des Pénitents Blancs, decorated by Belgian artist Folon. It exudes such light and an instant sense of peace. In this small chapel, Folon has created a fairytale world, a blend of weightlessness, transparency and harmonious gradations of colour to arouse the imagination. Coincidentally, the artist was also a friend of the owners of the Colombe D’Or where June and I lunched forty years ago. The restaurant sign that he painted (in similar gradations of colour) still hangs outside today.
For lunch, we decide to follow the valley of the River Loup down through the mountains ending up at Pont du Loup. This pretty place used to be a fashionable country resort at the end of the 19th century where Queen Victoria would visit by train from Nice to lunch on fresh river trout. The cafe where we stop for a late lunch today is far from fashionable but the trout is fresh and sweet.
To view captions, click on the fist photo and in upper right corner click on ‘i’ icon.
To view captions, click on the fist photo and in upper right corner click on ‘i’ icon.
Rather than disappoint, grey skies present another perspective, favourable, in which to view the golden mosaics that adorn the facade of the 14th century Cathedral. Regrettably, a change of lighting, (and not for the better), along with some deterioration of colour in the frescoes in the St Brizio chapel is a disappointment this time.
Enrico recommended Restaurant Altarocca, offering organic products from their own farm – a selection of local cured meats and home made marinated salmon caught in local streams. Maccheroncelli with pepper and ewe’s cheese and seasoned pork cheek made for a wonderful pasta dish. The vino was from their own vineyard, a soft Orvieto white.
After lunch we sail around Mt Stromboli, a small island in the Tyrrhenian Sea, off the north coast of Sicily, 926 metres above sea level. It contains one of the three active volcanoes in Italy that’s conveniently ‘smoking’ for us.
Seeing it all first-hand, and correlating stories I’ve been hearing since childhood, brings a totally new perspective – very satisfying in a personal sense. It may perhaps be of interest to others of my Christian friends. (And, I add a link to a small album of photos at the end of the post.)
The town of Capernaum – “He left Nazareth and made his home in Capernaum by the lake”.
Jesus teaching in the Synagogue – “Jesus said these things in the synagogue, as he taught at Capernaum”
“On leaving the synagogue he entered the house of Peter and Andrew with James and John”.
I see (at the Benedictine Church of the Multiplication) the rock on which the five loaves and two fish were laid . . . “And they all ate and were satisfied.”
A little further around the lake, a small Franciscan chapel stands on the spot where Jesus appeared to his disciples for the third time after the Resurrection, and where he afterwards reinstated Peter with the words “feed my sheep”.
Looking down to the Sea of Galilee from the Mount of Beatitudes, site of the Sermon on the Mount –
“Blessed are the merciful, for they shall receive mercy. . . .”
A pretty apt finish not only for this short visit, but for this broken world we’re living in.A fter visiting Christian sites on the Sea of Galilee, we drive across the north of Israel to Acre (commonly known as Akka), on the northern extremity of Haifa Bay to visit the excavations in the Hospitalier Compound – the old Crusaders fortress.
After expelling the Crusaders from the Holy Land on more than one occasion, the Muslims filled in the fortress with sand. The Ottomans built their fortess on top of it. It was only on the 1960’s that Israeli archaeologists started the excavations, revealing the wonderful fortress of 1,000 years ago.
Seabourn Sojourn is docked across Haifa Bay, ready to see sail this evening across the Mediterranean, to Rome.
“FIND ME A GOOD LAMB KEBAB, IN A PITA POCKET”
We all know how it feels to hang out for a month until you get it, yes?
Today is my lucky day, thanks to Ron Lev, my tour guide to the North of Israel for the past couple of days ashore – sharing Middle Eastern food in one of his favourite, non-descript, Arab family restaurants situated in a service station on the Acre to Haifa Highway. (I’m trusting, aren’t I?)
This extended family of 1948 Arab Moslems from Palestine now living in Israel are so hospitable and proud – happy to be running their own ‘Oriental Food’ (Middle Eastern) restaurant, and everything as clean as a whistle. (Only the men in the family are involved in the business.)
Mezze of 12 fresh salads, and the best felafel, precedes the succulent minced lamb kebab – charred to perfection on large skewers.
I haven’t enjoyed a meal like this since I can remember!
Waking to the blush of dawn and birds singing, I lay here wishing for another half an hour before starting the day. It’s not yet six o’clock.
Morning has broken, like the first morning
Blackbird has spoken, like the first bird
Praise for the singing, praise for the morning
Praise for the springing fresh from the world
As for the many who have trodden this path around the Sea of Galilee before me ‘wondering’ what Jesus may have been doing at various times of the day in his three years of ministry, thankfully, I am alone. And it’s springtime. And, it’s not dusty.
I heard a pastor ‘droning-on’ to a table of rapt twenty-somethings in the dining room last night about the dove and the spirit, and I thought; “Gee, I’m glad that I have this mini-pilgrimage to myself”. We all know the stories. I certainly don’t need to hear them simplified any further. Throw in a bit of singing and you might interest me. But I couldn’t be travelling for days on end with ‘holy-joes’.
The blooming poinciana around my hotel are a distraction to the beautiful sunrise. But, aren’t I lucky to have such a setting? I’m staying in what used to be the Doctor’s House in the old 19th century hospital in Tiberias. The Church of Scotland took it over and converted it into the Scots Hotel in 1999.
I have a spring in my step ready to continue the day – driving around the Capernaum and dropping in on other of the Christian sites.
Mine is the sunlight, mine is the morning
Born of the one light, Eden saw play
Praise with elation, praise every morning
God’s re-creation of the new day
Across the other side of the Sea of Galilee is Syria, and an hour north is Lebanon. Jordan is to the east. I pray this day for those poor people, and for family and friends.
Settling into the Doctor’s House at the Scots Hotel overlooking the Sea of Galilee. Hot apple juice with a swig of Glenfiddich at check-in sets me in the right frame of mind to enjoy the evening. A clear sunny afternoon doesn’t get in the way either. All’s well.
Since leaving the ship in Ashdod Port this morning, I’ve had a chance to visit the Church of the Annunciation in Nazareth, and on to Cana to see one of the six stone jars into which Jesus changed water into wine at the Marriage Feast – located in the crypt of the Franciscan Church. Tomorrow we go to Capernaum before visiting the Golan Heights. And then back to the ship in Haifa for the cruise across to Rome, ‘non-stop’ for three days.
There’s such a marked contrast between Nazareth and Tiberias. There are more Arab Moslems in Nazareth today than Christians and it doesn’t have the shine of an Israeli city. Tiberias, on the other hand is welcoming, tree-lined and tidy.
For centuries after the destruction of the Second Temple in 70AD, Romans and Byzantines forbad the Jews to live in Jerusalem. So the Jewish people migrated to Galilee here in the north and made Tiberias their spiritual centre. Only at the time of the Moslem Conquest in 635AD that the Jews were allowed back into Jerusalem. How things have changed!
A week to go, now under Mediterranean skies; like a new day dawning; feels like the start of a new vacation with a host of different opportunities for enjoying the holiday.
We are at the head of the Red Sea – sailing in the Gulf of Suez today, after coming out of the Gulf of Aqaba and around the Sinai Peninsula last night. Reaching Port Suez, we need to drop anchor by 11pm, and then jostle for a place in the convoy through the Suez Canal tomorrow.
This passage through the Suez Canal brings welcome changes in the style of our cruising holiday. The forecast of 35 degrees for Port Suez, becomes 22 degrees in Port Said – heralding a much more amenable Mediterranean climate. I can look forward to dining more under the stars on deck!
A hot wind from the Arabian desert makes our little walkabout in Aqaba more than a nightmare in 46 degree (115 F) heat of the afternoon sun. Stepping outside, I can barely breathe. (Now I regret having that glass of rosé with lunch.) But nothing will stop us from embarking on our Wadi Rum adventure tomorrow.
I get us off the ship before 8am, and we’re up there in the desert in an hour – in Wadi Rum, the valley of small mountains – before the heat gets really bad. (Of course, there’s some brilliant organisation on my part!)
The feared open-sided ‘jeep’ in reality turns out to be an enclosed 4WD, with a good Bedouin driver to expertly slide over shifting sand, and miss most bumps.
Entering into this ‘valley of the moon’, the “The Seven Pillars of Wisdom” looms. Wadi Rum may be best known for its connection with British officer T. E. Lawrence, who passed through several times during the Arab Revolt of 1917–18. In the 1980s one of the rock formations in Wadi Rum was named “The Seven Pillars of Wisdom” after Lawrence’s book penned in the aftermath of the war, though the ‘Seven Pillars’ referred to in the book have no connection with Rum.
Back to the ship before 12 in time for a shower, and lunch. We didn’t bother with the eco-walks or climbing mountains in the searing heat like some other poor souls.
Navies of many countries patrol the corridor to ensure safety on this much-trafficked sea route leading from/to the Suez Canal – more than 20,000 transits per year. Nonetheless, the ship carries extra lights and equipment and beefy Security personnel to ensure our safety. Bloody pirates!
Chatting to the English Captain of Seabourn Sojourn, Hamish Elliott, this afternoon, I learn that there hasn’t been a pirate attack in this waterway for more than two years; the last one, unsuccessful, was in January 2014. The pirates are alive and well however, working as fishermen along the Somali coast, waiting for a relaxing in Security for them to pounce once again.
At dinner in the past couple of nights, we’ve spotted a couple of beefy, bald-headed guys whom Pam believes are Press. Come on, Pam! They’re straight out of ‘The Night Manager’, and have to be incognito guards.
I have just enjoyed roast pork and a glass of chilled Napa Valley Chardonnay in the breeze on the covered aft deck, on my lonesome for a change, as the others prefer to dine in air-conditioned comfort.
Yesterday, we visited the tomb of Job in the mountains outside Salalah on the southern coast of Oman. Our guide Mohamad related the story of ‘Job the Prophet’ from the the holy Koran, a story that we know of from the Old Testament but could not re-tell in any as much detail, or passion.
I also enjoyed driving west along the beautiful coastline and into mountains to see the ancient frankincense trees. These globules of gum that form the crystals of frankincense was at one time as valuable as gold. It was also one of the gifts of the Three Wise Men from Orient Far when they followed the Star to find baby Jesus swaddled and lying in a manger.
O n our second visit to Oman in as many years, we skip Muscat and head west to Barka with its Fish Market and 18th century fort. It’s almost too hot to get out of the car but the fish market turns out to be worth it – with its fish auction. Last year we saw the Friday cattle market, and now we see bidding for freshly caught fish under the auctioneer’s hook. Intriguing!
Early morning arrival at the port in Muscat – before taking off to the west, up the coast, to the Fish Markets at Barka, and then inland to the dramatically-sited fortress at Nakhal.
Driving inland to Narkhal, we visit the dramatically-sited fortress perched on a precipice, with its restorations making it look more like a film set. Further south we stop at the village of Al Thawarah where warm springs bubble out of the ground. Wading in, little fish will clean the dead skin from your feet, but we left that to a young family and kept going.
Back to the ship in time for a late lunch and some chilled Gavi – in the welcome cool of the dining room.