A Heart is Like a Compass
A heart does not understand boundaries
A heart is like a compass
It only knows what it feels
and points that way
A compass needle knows only to point to true North
A heart only points in a direction it feels True
My heart only points, without shame, to you
The same, no matter where I turn, or what I do
Loving you seems the only thing to do
By James T Adair
“Life is a journey” is seen as a cliché these days yet, as with many clichés it has a resonance to which we can all relate. The compass is a tangible symbol for the adventure that is life and the different paths and directions we take along the way. Continue reading
“It’s amazing to be standing here in this place where such great explorers as Livingstone and Shackleton stood before.” Benedict Allen, a quirky traveller if ever there was, opened this year’s inspiring Travellers’ & Photographers’ Tales Festival last weekend at the Royal Geographical Society in London. He was so funny and self-deprecating about his time as an idealistic young man sharing the inaugural Manhood ceremonies of the Amazon tribes and living with indigenous peoples of Papua New Guinea, from whom he learnt so much.
What a brilliant line-up it was. Just a few of the people I saw …
- Impish DERVLA MURPHY, now in her 80s and as feisty as ever, talking about her youth in Ireland and how it inspired her love of travel
- Moving FERGAL KEANE sharing his stories as a BBC foreign correspondent and the impact on him of the horrific war in Rwanda
- Hilarious CHRIS STEWART, author of ‘Driving Over Lemons’, keeping us amused with his tales of how he got into writing and his tales of life in rural Spain
- Internationally renowned (tho rather long-winded!) photographer FRANS LANTING, sharing with us ‘The Life Project’ and his visualisation and musical realisation of the Cerne Hadron Collider project in Switzerland
- Thought-provoking NEEL MUKHERJEE, sharing the genesis of his award-winning Indian novel, ‘Past Continuous’
- Creative world-renowned photographers CAROL BECKWITH & ANGELA FISHER, sharing with us their magical images of African tribal body painting
The absolute highlight for me was seeing and hearing one of my absolute Travel Heroes, Jan Morris, reading from her latest book of travel reminiscences, ‘Contact!’ As a young English teacher in the West Midlands, I hankered after foreign climes. I yearned to live in another culture and be not just as a tourist but to really experience what it was like to be a ‘foreigner’. One day I heard Jan Morris speaking about her travels in Europe and I just knew I had to follow my dream …
… And so I told her as she signed my slightly battered copy of ‘Venice.’ “What shall I write?” she asked. “Can you put ‘In search of Letitia’ please,” I said. “I recently discovered she is my Venetian Gt Gt Gt Grandmother, and I am trying to find her. You inspired me to give up my teaching job and follow my heart …” She smiled vaguely and wrote as requested. No doubt for her I was just one more ‘star-struck fan’ but for me it meant a huge amount and I shall remember that moment forever …
I am Travel Editor for Wandering Educators. In this article you can read about Virginia Woolf’s birthplace, in the same road that Winston Churchill lived a died, just round the corner from the Festival venue.
This time last year I spent a magical week in Prague. It’s a perfect time to visit – not too many tourists, wintry weather which fits with the scenery, lots of cultural things to go to ie opera, ballet, concerts and theatre – and you can get a table at any bar or restaurant with no hassle. We were there during Obama’s inauguration and spent a memorable evening with locals & foreigners at the American-run Globe Bookstore watching the historic event on a huge screen and celebrating with excellent local ‘champagne’.
Here are five things to do in that wonderful city …
1. Indulge in the glories of Art Nouveau. Visit the Mucha Museum and learn about Alphonse Mucha, one of most famous exponents of the form. You can find wonderful original examples of his work, including his Four Seasons posters and those he did for his Muse, the English actress Sarah Bernhardt. There’s a beautiful stained glass window by him in St Vitus Cathedral (See pic above) and many fine examples of Art Nouveau architecture and design all over the city. My favourite building was the Obecní dům (Municipal Building), a fabulously ornate concoction to delight the senses.
2. Walk around medieval Staroměstské Náměstí (Old Town Square) and look at the fantastic collection of buildings from over 400 years. One of Prague’s most atmospheric Churches, Our Lady Of Tyn is beautifully silhouetted against the sky. Find a table at one of the restaurants (expensive but what a view!), watch the world go by and wait for the most beautiful Astronomical Clock in Europe strike the hour.
3. Slow down and get into the Cafe society. This city must surely rival Paris for the variety and quality of its Coffee houses. One of my favourites was the Grand Cafe Orient with its unique Cubist decor. Its other name is the House of Black Madonna, in honour of the statue on the corner. Behind Our Lady of Tyn is another gem – the Cafe Ebel Coffee House; very cosy and quirky – with excellent carrot cake. If you fancy trying the local tipple that drove Toulouse Lautrec and others mad – Absinthe – then go to the Art Deco gem Cafe Slavia and have their Seksinst Cocktail. It’s a potent mix of champagne and Absinthe – you have been warned …
4. For a slightly different perspective visit the The Vysehrad Cemetery Vysehrad, the burial place for many famous and important Czech people. You’ll find the composer Dvorak just round the corner from Smetana and in the large Slavin Memorial many illustrious Czechs including the Art Nouveau artist, Alphonse Mucha (see above). The cemetary is in the grounds of the Vysehrad ‘Castle on the Heights’ and there are great views over the city from its ramparts. To get there, you can walk there along the river, get the Metro or try the excellent tram system.
5. Watch the Changing of the Guard at Midday Prague Castle In the winter the Guards wear great-coats and furry hats (unlike their powder blue & decidedly fey summer uniform!) and at Midday when they do the Banner exchange, they march about to music that sounds vaguely reminiscent of the Thunderbird Theme tune. You can then go round Prague Castle, a glorious hotch-potch of buildings from different periods and also see the magnificently Gothic St Vitus Cathedral.
There are lots of great websites and guide books to help you enjoy your stay, but I found the best things of all was to simply relax into the rhythm of the city, take time to absorb the multitude of glories that this city presents and let it work its magic …
For a longer version of this article with a few more quirky things to do in Prague visit my Blog site at Wandering Educators
Posted in Architecture, Art, Europe, Holiday, Personal, Quirky
Tagged Art Nouveau, cafe, castle, Cubist, Holiday, Prague, Travel
Last month The Big Journey Company moved in to my office. It is great to be sharing space with this up and coming tour company; they were nominated for The British Travel Awards 2009.
I’ve always wanted to visit India and in November the Big Journey Company is planning a tour there, The Golden Triangle and Ranthambhore Park and fingers crossed I will be joining them! As a lover of the Alastair Sawday books, I was delighted to discover Sawday’s India & Sri Lanka Special Places To Stay, and I spent a magical time looking through the book and dreaming of the trip. (A version of this appears in an Amazon review for the book – see link.)
There are loads of wonderful choices – from palaces and luxury hotels to homely B&Bs, tree houses and tents – to suit every budget, including a fairly limited one like mine. All the places are chosen with Sawday’s unique approach to accommodation – “We look for comfort, originality, authenticity and reject the insincere, anonymous and the banal.”
I fell in love with exotic locations like Neemrana Fort-Palace built over 6 centuries and spread over 11 levels, Devra Udaipur with its organic farm and views across Lake Pichola, Savista Retreat and its musical preformances on the amphitheatre steps and Dev Villas with 7 ‘stylish safari tents’ and India’s most famous tiger reserve nearby.
(A version of this appears in an Amazon Review for the book – see link.)
Having indulged in a myriad of fab places to stay, I then spent a while wandering around the websites giving info about the region, including Rajasthan Tourism site which gives loads of helpful info and ideas for travel. What a fascinating place to visit – I can’t wait.
If you have any hints or tips for India travel, do let me know …
This week I spent a lovely couple of days relaxing in the Lake District, taking time out from a very hectic schedule to reflect and consider what next. I stayed overnight at the luxurious Waterhead Hotel on the shores of Windermere, near Ambleside, Cumbria. I will be writing about that another time but I just wanted to share with you a brief snippet of conversation I overheard in the queue for the Lakes Ferry last Wednesday.
Elderly gent to his elderly lady companion: “Where’s my camera?” “I don’t know. Is it in your pocket?” “No, I’ve looked there. Where is it?” “Maybe we left it in the hotel room.” “No it’s not there. Where is it?” “I don’t know. Perhaps it’s … maybe it’s back home.” “Where’s the camera. I never go out without my camera?” “Oh, I don’t know – why can’t we remember things these days? We used to be able to remember things … We used to have a memory; now we don’t have one between us.”
Five minutes later the elderly gent asked his lady companion, “What day is it today?” “I don’t know. Just a minute – let me see …” She go out her mobile phone, peered at it and said, “It’s the 11th of November. Oh, it’s Remembrance Day. It’s 11.30 on the 11th of November.” “I said, ‘What day is it?'” “I told you dear, it’s the 11thof November. Remembrance Day.” “NO – what DAY is it. I mean, what DAY is it?” “I’ve TOLD you, it’s the 11th of November …” “NO… what DAY…? “Oh, what DAY? Oh …” She looked at her mobile again. “Oh, I don’t know … What day IS it? …”
I whispered “Wednesday” to her and she told her husband. “Thank you dear. So silly, but I am 88 and he’s 91 and we can’t remember much these days. But we’ve been coming here since 1946 and we do know we love it here… So many happy memories.”
And I pondered on the companionship these two have shared as their collective memories gradually fade away … What happy memory might you share today?