Oracles & sibyls, those fascinating forecasters, were popular with ancient Greeks and Romans who wanted to learn their fates. I’m never quite clear on the difference between the two but my classical dictionary says that an oracle transmits the response of a god to a question asked by a worshipper. A sibyl was a female prophet who didn’t need a god to get involved in the process.
One of the most memorable days I ever spent immersed in the ancient world was a visit to Delphi, dedicated to Apollo and home of the Delphic Oracle, called Pythia, by tradition a local woman over age 50.
On our first trip to Oregon’s Willamette Valley wine country some years ago we floated in a balloon high above the vineyards early on a sunny summer morning. This time around we were greeted by a watery winter sun when we arrived in Newberg for wine tasting with friends. In the morning we drove through the peaceful countryside with its rolling hills covered with sleeping vines and filbert orchards where each tree was hung with hundreds of chartreuse colored catkins, presaging spring. In
Margo and Briana from The Travel Belles have asked how their readers pick a hotel. The question is for this week’s edition of Across the Cafe Table. My answer required some thought when I realize that I have stayed in about every type of hotel found in a zillion sorts of ways. A few highlights and lowlights come rapidly to mind:
The “B&B” in Bodrum reserved for us by a “friend.” Slavering Doberman tied up by the door and toilet in the yard.… Read more
It was a long time ago but the details remain fresh in my mind. I was on the loose and feeling a little sorry for myself. Then I saw a flyer posted in a travel agent’s office window in the small town where I was living. The flyer looked somewhat homemade, not slick like the usual ones picturing luxury grand salons with impressive staircases and elegantly dressed couples sipping champagne. On the other hand the price was right and it wasn’t going to be too much of an effort to get to San Diego where the one week voyage to Mazatlan, Puerto Vallarta, and La Paz was to set sail.
The narrow road from crowded Amalfi twists and turns while it ascends to Ravello, my idea of heaven on earth. Reaching the town requires effort as it does to reach paradise, in this case not by good works but by skillful driving. Looking down into the deep Valley of the Dragon below me as Glenn navigated the steep and sharp turns I could see tiny flat spaces filled with lemon trees, a small house with smoke rising from the chimney and one or two seemingly inaccessible B&Bs nestled on the vertiginous slopes.
I have a friend who lives in a small town an hour north of Rome. Her home is on Via Etrusca, a perfect name for visualizing the area’s continuing Etruscan influence even though the Romans had finished them off by the Third Century BC. The town, set high on a cliff, has no tourist attractions but is kept alive by commuters and city dwellers who have restored their former family home for weekend use. The ancient row houses are thought to be between four to six centuries old, the year the buildings were actually erected long forgotten.
One of the most pleasant stops on the Island of Tahiti is the home of the author, James Norman Hall. Not far from Papeete the modest wood structure is now a small museum celebrating Hall’s life and his books and movies.
His most famous work is the Bounty Trilogy, comprising the story of the mutiny on the British ship, HMS Bounty, and the aftermath.
The first section, Mutiny on the Bounty, is the story of the ship’s voyage from the West Indies to Tahiti to collect breadfruit seedlings to be planted for slave food and the infamous mutiny led by Fletcher Christian who didn’t want to leave the sybaritic island.
Well, not exactly tea with a living Josef Stalin. But close enough for me.
His dacha was not far from Sochi, a city full of new SUVs and hotels but still retaining remnants of the past such as an enormous picture of Lenin done in tile. He was close to the sub-tropical gardens full of strollers. A nearby MacDonald’s tempted others even though Lenin’s gaze was directing them in the opposite direction. Capitalism was hitting hard with preparations for the forthcoming winter Olympics.
“Cigni, cigni…cigni,”“Swans, swans, swans,” the little boy cried out as he carried his pail holding yesterday’s bread to feed them and their cygnets gliding around the mill pond’s still waters leaving small wakes trailing behind. We were staying at a hotel converted from a 15th century water mill built on a little island and over a small river, the Clitunno. The hotel was the scene of a wedding reception, with guests dining and dancing in the garden by candlelight until daybreak finally sent them home.
Suriname was the next stop. The contrast between dismal and pewter-colored Georgetown and bright Paramaribo was surprising. (Maybe it was the sunnier weather.) The city hosts many houses of worship reflecting the varied persuasions of its inhabitants, Amerindians, Indian Indians, Javanese, Africans and Europeans. Mosques, a synagogue, Hindu temples, an enormous Gothic style wooden Catholic church and smaller evangelical churches were scattered about the city center. The synagogue with pillars needing paint and sand on the floor to prevent arson was sad – the congregation dwindling and the gravestones in the yard cracked.… Read more