Monday, December 31, 2018

A Sojourn of THE DREAM

Can it be we have arrived back to where we began? It feels as though a thousand suns have risen and set; not the sixty we experienced.

Amy and I began our sojourn exotically enough in Oaxaca, Mexico during the peculiar celebration called Dia de Muertos, or Day of the Dead. Dancing skeletons, candles in cemetaries, masks and music on the street all began us in a sojourn of THE DREAM.

Next, Mexico City brought us face to face with Frida Kahlo and Diego Rivera. Streets teemed with moving masses of humanity, rather childlike . . . even as little boys strummed guitars for endless hours gathering small change from tips. We found fake money in our wallets that local people spotted right away and refused to take.

Onward to Granada, Spain, in the “Old World.” Alhambra and its exquisite moorish castle perched above the city looked over to Sacromonte flamenco caves where every evening plaintive guitars, singing, stomping feet and castanets held forth.

Don Quixote, by Miguel Cervantes, entertained us each night before sleep. We read his knight-errant quests with his squire Sancho Panza, and attack upon windmills that he thought to be giants . . . then we visited the windmills, set high on a hill above a sleepy town called Consuegra.

Our rental car took us through seemingly endless landscape of olive trees to Cordoba, another famous Spanish city. I took plenty of photos of Andalusian horses and riders of the equestrian shows there.

We arrived by chance to Ronda and found it entrancing . . . so much so that Orson Welles chose to have his ashes thrown over the grounds . . . not far from the famous bull ring where Ernest Hemingway and Pablo Picasso took in the action.

At Gibraltar, on a Mediterranean beach under the famous ROCK looming nearby, Amy collected tiny seashells strewn on the shore. A short boat ride across the sea and Morocco captivated us with spices, veiled women, donkeys, sheep, hashish, and ubiquitous mosques calling to prayer five times daily. Chefchaouen and its blue walls painted poetry all around us in the Atlas Mountains. By taxi we reached Fes and found ourselves living in a mansion with courtyard in a labyrinth old town surrounded by thousand year old wall. A modern train ride to Tangier gave us respite from the chaotic grit and grime of street life and quickly we fell under the same spell that bound the beat poets and writers.

Back in Spain we rented a car again and found a hotel in Seville, then an apartment in the old walled part of Toledo where vehicles aren’t allowed. Narrow cobbled passages lead from church to church, castle to castle, with shops lining each side. El Greco spoke to us through his portraits from the sixteenth century in his own museum.

At last Madrid and an apartment for a week one block away from Plaza de Espagna. There is found Don Quixote and Sancho Panza—at a monument with Cervantes himself looking over them. Every day we ambled among masterpieces of art in museums Madrid is famous for. These artworks celebrate THE DREAM in all its facets. And now we are far richer for the adventures it has offered us.

Sunday, December 16, 2018

Tokens Along The Way

View of the old tannery, Fes, Morocco

Our taxi drive from Chefchaouen to Fes, Morocco, took just over three hours. After a brief wait at an arranged meeting place, a middle aged woman in long gown and head scarf gently approached and peered inside our car. Seeing two foreigners, she smiled. “Rachida?” I asked her name. She nodded.

Dining area and kitchen

Rachida works for Tara, the British owner who lives in Fes and Barcelona.
We gathered our things and walked a few minutes to a plaza and mosque. A couple zig-zags took us into dark, grimy passageways having to unlock gates. I felt bad for Amy’s fist impression of Fes. This would be our living experience for a week. It all changed when the massive wood door to our home opened. Rachida began showing us around. The house is an artist's delight. Intricate tile mosaics abound. Doors from previous centuries adorn, as well as tapestries, candle chandeliers, two bedrooms and baths, two kitchens and a delightful rooftop veranda with views over the city. The place is in the shape of a square. An inner courtyard is in the middle and goes straight up three floors—so each floor has rooms surrounding the inner court, connected by a flight of stairs. As we toured the second floor we turned a corner and found a reading room. Curled in one of the chairs we found Tiger, the resident calico cat. He is a welcome housemate.

We did not know that Rachida would be our breakfast cook and housekeeper. One special afternoon we went with her and her twelve year old daughter, Doha on a walk through the old Medina. to a famous restaurant called Cafe Clock. An Englishman started it and the woman who owns the house we are in in produced a cook book with Moroccan recipes for the restaurant. She has employed Rachida for about ten years.

Fes is a complicated maze of boulevards, hills and narrow passages filled with shops. So many things to delight the eyes. The second largest city in Morocco, (pop. 1.1 million), it first established itself in 8th century. Kingdoms have risen, fallen and risen again, leaving historic symbols and tokens along the way.

Tomorrow we leave for Tangier. We must be at the train station at 08:30 for the five hour trip. In three days we return to Spain. This is THE DREAM we are in.

Sunday, December 09, 2018

Blue the Color of the Sky

Blue the color of the sky covers the walls in Chefchaouen, Morocco—founded in 1471. It is said to symbolize the sky and heaven, and serve as a reminder to lead a spiritual life. Some say that it didn't get its distinctive color until 1492, when it received an influx of Jews escaping the Spanish inquisition, who brought a tradition of painting buildings blue. Since nobody seems to have a definite answer, and the town is high in the mountains and close to the celestial vault anyway, I like the sky and heaven story.

This is my second visit to Chefchaouen also known as Chaouen—and the first for Amy. It is great for picture taking, writing, poetry, painting and being refreshed spiritually.

Chefchaouen’s soul reminds me of Venice—another totally unique city.

Amy and I are staying in a quaint “Dar” or house. A family lives here and has let out apartments beautifully decorated with Moroccan flourishes.
Dar Aldea is in a Medina, the walled historic city center off limits to cars.

Cats make for good portraits in the Blue City. They are abundant and know that they are honored. On the other hand, dogs are second class and far more scarce. Amy has encouraged me to do a picture story called The Cool Cats of Chefchaouen.

Also see: The Worn Tracks of Common Man
and Destiny

Sunday, December 02, 2018


The little cobbled streets bend and turn in every direction. An average sized American car would be useless. Amy and I have arrived in Ronda, Spain driving a rented Peugeot that is small enough to get through narrow streets, but at times I get frustrated how close I am to other cars, curbs or walls. Looking around I am amazed that I do not see vehicles with dents and scrapes. Getting to our apartment using Google Maps proved almost impossible. We stopped from frustration and walked, knowing we were close to where we wanted to be. It was then that we we felt enchantment for we were in a very old part of the city, with winding cobbled paths, a bridge built by Romans over deep gorges with a spry river running underneath, and little plazas with statues. Eventually our proprietor met us at a plaza and guided us to our flat.

We have learned that Ronda has enchanted and invigorated some very famous artists including the German poet Marie Ranier Rilke, American writers James Joyce and Ernest Hemingway, and actor Orson Welles—who chose to have his ashes scattered over the earth here. He loved Ronda and said, “A man does not belong to the place where he was born, but where he chooses to die.”

Hemingway came for the bull fights. Ronda’s spectacular bullring is the oldest in Spain, built in 1785.
Rainer Maria Rilke (1875-1926) was suffering terrible writer’s block and overcame it after leaving Paris and sojourning in Ronda. He said, “The spectacle of this city, sitting on the bulk of two rocks rent asunder by a pickaxe and separated by the narrow, deep gorge of the river, corresponds very well to the image of that city revealed in dreams. The spectacle of this city is indescribable and around it lies a spacious valley with cultivated plots of land, holly and olive groves. And there in the distance, as if it had recovered all its strength, the pure mountains rise, range after range, forming the most splendid background.”

We knew nothing of famous people, bullfights, or legends when we arrived. It is on our way to Algeceris, Spain near Gibraltar where we will be in a few days to hand over our rental car and take a boat to Morocco. On the map it looked like an attractive stop on route. Today, Amy said, “I like Ronda better than Granada or Cordoba . . . it is my favorite place so far.” We extended our stay.
I have to agree because the setting is wonderful, it has a historic yet urban demeanor, is lively, but respectful and in short, a great place to be creative.