All posts filed under: Wanderlust

TOP TIPS FOR TBILISI, GEORGIA

Best accommodation: Airbnb.  Try this place: Keta’s apartment in Old Town The old town in Tbilisi is compact and super interesting.  We have stayed in 3 different places here and Airbnb provide the best experience for the best prices in our opinion. Best App for your phone: The Calvert Journal, Near East Travel Guide. It’s mainly for Russian cities but happily includes all that is hip and cool in Tbilisi.  Has great offline maps in it too.  The app is free. Check out the app here Top Things to do: Dry Bridge Markets. Don’t miss this amazing bric-a-brac, vintage, Russian souvenirs, antiques and anything you can think of from used bullet casings to chandelier parts.  Open all year, outdoors…so not in snow or rain I imagine.   Walking through Old Town: Tumble down buildings, rickety balconies, wine shops, souvenirs, outdoor dining, more wine shops, Cobbled streets, old sulphur baths, crazy traffic, wine bars, abandoned buildings, art deco masterpieces, open stairwells that you can walk into and see the most beautiful painting, cornices and mosaics, restaurants in …

Georgia is still on my mind. Part 2: Getting into the Mountains

The beautiful blue bird weather saw us leaving Tbilisi for the countryside and the iconic Kasbegi Mountain, via the lush alluvial valleys and foothills of central Georgia. We were out of Tbilisi quite quickly and onto the E60, which I have just discovered is the second longest E road in the world running from the Atlantic coast in France to the Chinese border in Kyrgyzstan. In Georgia it takes traffic from the Black Sea through to Tbilisi and on to Azerbaijan. A turn off onto the Russian Military Road meant we were on our way into the mountains and onto one of Georgia’s most iconic roads. It began by passing through low villages with every second house selling overflowing buckets of ripe tomatoes, cucumbers, stone fruit and local honey. Beautiful lakes, old forts and castles and lush greenery meant we felt about a million miles from Saudi despite being only 4 hours away by air. The scenery became more rugged with chains of mountains dictating our way slowly towards the Russian border. We passed through …

I’ve got Georgia (the country) on my mind. Part 1: Discovering how much we love Tbilisi

In September this year in a bid to escape the summer heat we spent 5 amazing days in Georgia. It was definitely not what I had expected although everyone we have met who has been there raved about it. Despite that, in some ways it was exactly the way I pictured it although it is a country that defies being neatly pigeonholed and I suspect that we have barely scratched the surface of this fabulous part of the world. We landed in its capital Tbilisi just before 5 am. It was windy and cool after the searing summer temperatures of Saudi. After picking up local SIM cards and our 4wd Pajero we headed for the city. After a short nap – the days start late here – we decided to get out and explore as the forecast was for   later in the day. We walked across the bridge and into the Old Town and found coffee and our first taste of khachapuri a type of bread shaped like gondola and filled with cheese and egg or …

Why Doesn’t Everyone Want To Go To Malta?

As I sit back in my home in Saudi Arabia, inside my small air-conditioned domain, well insulated from the soaring summer heat that makes my skin crackle I reflect back on a short visit we made to Malta and her sister island, Gozo just 2 weeks ago.  We tacked 4 glorious days onto our Italy adventure (which I wrote about in my last 2 posts) in order to visit some friends who have decided to live on Gozo for the time being. Rick had always wanted to visit Malta as it conjured images of an exotic European location.  I was curious about its strategic position in the Mediterranean and what that has meant to its population over the millennia. Neither of us knew much about it apart from one of my old (only in number of years known, not age, of course) school friends, Yasmin, had a beautiful exotic flower of a mother who came from Malta. We caught a quick flight from Rome and arrived on this tiny Island, south of Tunis and close …

The Other Side of Fear. Part 2

Now that the sun has arisen on a new day I can write about why it actually is worth going through a day like yesterday and now that I am editing this piece nearly a week later I recall another handful of the same experiences neatly placed to make each day a balance of fear and surrender. I mentioned that Rick is in his element on a boat. Let me tell you why. Firstly there is ample time at anchor to play the guitar. There is actually time for most things he loves. When you live aboard your own boat there is always a list of tasks, little maintenance issues, fixing items or making things better and more dependable or just improving on systems somebody else invented. There is regular faffing around to be done which productively uses free time not taken up by guitar playing. Then there are weather forecasts. Who knew they needed to be checked 5 times a day. And, of course, there is the sailing, which I suppose I should have …

A Meditation on Fear whilst apparently being in Paradise.

We are currently sailing in the Med. After months of planning and anticipating it we are finally on board our rented 45-foot yacht in Sardinia…well actually in Corsica now as we simply hopped across a narrow stretch of water and just like that were in a different country. While many folk have the capacity to drive for a bit, catch a ferry or a train and be somewhere new we come from the sunburnt land. Australia. That country which is larger than all Europe put together. It gives me quite a thrill; a little internal star jump even to sail for an hour or 2 and find everything has changed. Well almost everything. The water is still an impossible shade of aqua that perfectly matches my toenail polish. Who knew inglot nail polish people knew the waters of Sardinia and Corsica were exactly the same shade as colour number 321 (terrible name for something so gorgeous!). The language is different, the bread and the pastries are different and Corsica itself is very different geographically to …

Nepal…better late than never

When I was in Nepal in March I was trying out my new camera and hoping to take a few shots that were better than simply using my trusty iPhone. Here is a montage of some of my first efforts…forgive me all you photographers! As you may have seen from earlier posts my friend Max and I spent some time in Kathmandu and more in Pokhara – a whistlestop 6 nights altogether. The first series of photos are taken at Boudhanath, the morning after we arrived.  The stupa lost its all seeing eyes and spire in the earthquake but around the kora of the stupa life goes on as it ever did.  Votives alight under sunny skies, incense drifts in lazy curls.  Rust and saffron robed monks walk , people talk, people pray.  Dogs and birds enjoy the parade.  Women in traditional Tibetan aprons, with their hair in long plaits count mala beads as they walk.  Om Mani Padme Hum.  Hail to the jewel in the lotus. We left Kathmandu the same day bound for …

Jenadriyah: A Saudi Arabian Festival

Jenadriyah is a cultural festival that takes place annually in Saudi Arabia. Up to 3 million visitors, mainly Saudi Nationals, will visit over its 2-week duration. Given it’s so hard to get a tourist visa into Saudi it is really only open to those that live here. We were offered a chance to visit by Ricks Company and jumped at the opportunity. We are in the midst of a far richer culture than is apparent at first glance and I want to see and discover more. I am curious about the people, the land and every-day life. Language and accessibility are always issues for us here, particularly for me as a woman. This festival is also becoming a way that the country’s youth can reconnect with their own diverse history and unique culture as like kids the world over, they continue to lose touch with their roots. Imagine for a moment you have been transported into the desert to a place that is like a mix between Expo and the Royal Easter Show, albeit without …

My Meeting with Wabi Sabi

  As I sit on the edge of the onsen about to lower myself into the water I know that all is well with the world for this instant in time. It becomes a brief moment of mindfulness as I use all my senses to become one with my experience . Wabi Sabi is a Japanese term used to describe harmony but the state of harmony that comes through knowing that everything is in a state of flux. Either forming or dissolving. Not about perfection, more about how, when we look deeply into nature the seeds of creation and destruction become visible and that they exist to remind us of the impermanence of all things. Wabi Sabi reminds us that the mere observation of nature becomes an experience that touches the spirit itself. An onsen is a natural spring used for bathing and in Japan due to the abundant shifting and settling of mother earth there are many of them. Vents, fissures and volcanoes abound. Originally the springs were open to the environment and fully …

Desert Camping in the Magic Kingdom

The week before Christmas we were invited on a desert camping trip.  We figured it would be a good way to see what the good ol’ VW Touareg was capable of and to see the interior of Saudi Arabia in a little more detail.  Earlier in the year we went on a trip to Maid’an Saleh over in Western Saudi which was an amazing trip that I will blog about at a later date. That however, was an organised tour and this was heading out with 12 other vehicles into the desert with walkie talkies, GPS, some way points and our spirit of adventure. We departed early on Friday morning – our weekend is Friday and Saturday here, with the idea of driving North West towards Riyadh before heading off the beaten track after about 2 and a half hours of highway driving.  The aim was to be back by about 6pm on Saturday evening. Thinking back I wish I had taken more photos of just the trip up the highway.  We stopped to pick …