November 30, 2007

Christmas in Paris

Every once in awhile, I remember I live in Paris. Last night around midnight we were walking home and we passed by the Arc de Triomphe and the Champs d’Elysee all lit up with christmas lights. It was beautiful. So big, so beautiful, so Paris.

I live in Paris…

filles at 7:55 pm

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November 23, 2007

Colmar

After 9 days of strikes, the trains are supposed to be running today.. les ‘marches de noel’ on arrive!

filles at 4:35 pm

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November 20, 2007

It’s Jonathan’s birthday today!

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filles at 7:55 pm

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November 19, 2007

Jordan Highlights

Dana Nature Reserve
We headed south from the Dead Sea and visited Kerak Castle which was so-so, and then headed through some beautiful mountain ranges to the Royal Society for the Conservation of Nature (RSCN) Dana Guesthouse. The story of Dana is unique, a positive, visionary programme combining scientific research, social reconstruction and sustainable tourism. Dana used to be a simple farming community enjoying good grazing, lovely little ottomon stone cottages and a temperate climate, however with good jobs in the offering after the opening of a cement factory in the early 80’s and the attractions of electricity and plumbing – people slowly left Dana for the “new” village up the hill called Qadisiyyeh – leaving it semi-abandoned for more than a decade.

Dana Village ProjectDana Guesthouse

In the early 90’s a group of 12 women from Amman were travelling through the country documenting the remnants of traditional Jordanian culture when they came across Dana, a handful of impoverished farmers. They set up a project to renovate and revitalize the village under the auspices of the RSCN, connecting phones, the water supply and electricity and they renovated some 65 or so cottages. People started to return to Dana and the RSCN realized the potential of the secluded Wadi Dana for scientific research. Funded by the World Bank and the UN they turned the area into a protected Nature reserve and launched a detailed ecological survey. The results showed that continued grazing by the thousands of goats sheep and camels couldn’t be reconciled with the need for environmental protection so they then set about creating sustainable opportunities for villagers to gain a livelihood from the reserve. They redirected the crops to a new market, olives, figs, grapes and other fruits and nuts were still grown, but instead were sold to the RSCN who employed the villagers to process these crops into products such as organically produced jams and olive-oil soap for direct sale to environmentally aware consumers and commercial interests both Jordanian and foreign. In 1996 the RSCN launched low impact tourism to the reserve with a small traditional style guesthouse going up next to the research buildings. That’s where we stayed…

It’s very simple and cozy, made of stone and iron, with an amazing “10 star view” of the valley. We arrived in time for the sunset, then sat about waiting for dinner as once it’s dark, it’s pitch black, except for the twinkling of the lights on the Dead Sea and the night birds calls – there’s not much you can do activity wise. We had a lovely meal, met some nice people then were in bed by no later than 9pm. It’s dark and it’s silent. Perfect.

Sunset in Wadi DanaSunset looking over Wadi Dana – this is the valley we walked

The next day we were up and about early, with the sunrise. We had a light breakfast, closed our packs, picked up a lunch bag and set off down the Wadi Dana with a local guide. The walk was wonderful, very hard on the thighs and calves as it was directly downhill and after the first 30 minutes I just knew I wouldn’t be able to walk the following day, but we continued all the same. There wasn’t much choice. It was easier to continue… 14kms ahead lay our next guesthouse, alternatively we had to walk back up the 1500m hill then hope someone could drive us around the valley – a trip of a few hours if you were lucky. So, as I said, the only way to go was ahead, sore or not sore.

Bedouin TeaMohammed making tea on our hike

It was scorching hot, the sun was unforgiving but we took plenty of water breaks, stopped to eat our packed lunch (lighten the bag) and our guide made Bedouin tea for us on a fire, which is very sweet and very good – tea, thyme and plenty of sugar.

Michelle enjoying her hike.. she looks happy

Michelle managed to do some bird watching, I managed to make it in one piece, we saw plenty of goats, quite a few Bedouin tents and children and it was quite special, quite beautiful, and truly if I was honest, was probably one of the highlights of our trip (don’t tell Michelle or I’ll end up having to always hike on holiday!).

Feynan Eco LodgeFeynan Eco Lodge

We arrived 6 hours later at the RSCN Feynan Wilderness Lodge. The only way in is by walking from Dana or a 4×4 from the nearest village to the west. It’s another eco lodge, solar-powered and environmentally friendly – but this one is set in the middle of desert terrain, hot, dry and dusty and it’s very isolated, definitely the place to go if you’re looking for solitude.

Feynan Eco Lodge from the roofthe sunse colours were beautiful

There is electricity at the lodge, but all the rooms are lit only by candles set into mirrored niches in the wall, and the walls are thick and the windows are either small or shielded from full sun, keeping the interior cool and pleasant. The atmosphere is bewitchingly calm and peaceful – definitely another highlight of our trip and I would sincerely recommend if you get to Jordan, to go and stay there.

Our Roomour beautiful room

After cleaning up, drinking some tea, and sitting down, sure enough my legs packed in. I spent the next few hours waiting for the sunset and eating dinner (fab meal) and avoiding as much movement as possible. My only saving grace, was that the next morning I wasn’t the only one hobbling about, I caught a glimpse of Michelle wincing as she inched down the stairs and our ride out of the reserve to our waiting driving in the back of a Toyota 4×4 had to be seen to be believed. It’s not the first time I’ve been thankful for my generous padding which made the bumps a lot more bearable than if I had a skinny a*%$ like Michelle…. not that I wouldn’t give away the padding in a second if it was possible, bumpy 4 wheel drive trips or not!

filles at 7:11 pm

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November 16, 2007

6 weeks till Christmas

We’ve booked for 3 nights in the Hague, with Jo & Dirk & Mad & Dave & Lillian. I can’t wait. Mad & Dave have decided to return to Australia… I can’t believe it. We’ve missed lots since we moved from Glasgow, I tell myself that this would never have happened if we had all stayed in Glasgow, but truthfully, with a new baby everything changes and who knows what might have happened. Anyway, since we’re here, and they are there, and Jo & Dirk are in the Hague – Christmas together is the next best thing. I can’t wait.

After that, because we are so close, we’re staying another couple of days in Amsterdam. We’ve booked a hotel in the Jordaan called “Chic & Basic” which sounds about our style. Something else to look forward to… all this and a trip to Colmar next weekend for the christmas markets, and then London 2 weeks after that to see our favorite family and our gorgeous god child and his sister (who we consider our god child as well… even if it’s not official!). New Years eve will be here, at home, hopefully with a leg of lamb or some oysters, I haven’t decided yet. Then early in January with any luck we’ll get to Dundee and Glasgow for another brief visit. This trip is not confirmed yet, so it’s all still hush hush, but once we’ve confirmed we’ll let you know.

That’s the plan. Providing the SNCF go back to work soon, it will all be realised, for the meantime we’re metro’less, train less and pounding the pavements on our own in the cold. Sarkozy better hold out or it won’t be worth anything at all….

filles at 4:57 pm

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Sale Price

so… we’re looking for about €590K – we can probably negotiate around €500K (cause we’re good at that), if anyone wants to give us that kind of money, please feel free…

filles at 4:43 pm

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November 3, 2007

Jordan

We are staying in THE BEST HOTEL IN THE WORLD at the Dead Sea…. having a ball… (just thought I’d tell you since we have free internet access, a free mini-bar, and free mud – go figure!)

Tomorrow, we’re leaving the lap of luxury and heading to a campsite, where we’ve planned a 6 hour walk down the valley below sea level – can you guess who’s pick that was?

filles at 10:58 pm

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