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Tuesday, August 21, 2018

Travel writing thru the Centuries

Adventures in Egypt and Morocco from the 1600’s to the turn of the 20th century

Two years ago I was offered a series of books published by the American University in Cairo Press.  The first set of books included poetry and diary excerpts from travelers in Egypt from the 1700’s to the 19th century.  

WOMEN TRAVELERS ON THE NILE (edited by Deborah Manley) is an anthology of journal excerpts and stories written by women who were brave enough to venture into a world that until then had mainly been explored by men.  Some of them accompanied their husbands., others bravely ventured out alone, in the company of Egyptian guides. Many of them ended up living in Egypt and contributed more insights into Egyptian life, especially from a woman’s perspective.  They learned Arabic and met both the poorer women and the richest.  Some of these women were invited to join groups or to accompany their husbands. Some wrote books about their travels, others made notes in journals. 

I was privileged in 2014 to be invited on a small travel journalist’s tour of Egypt offered by the Egyptian Tourism in Ottawa, Canada.  This was a dream come true for me.  Not only had I been fascinated with Egypt and Egyptian history for years, but I had recently completed on novel about Alexander the Great (SHADOW OF THE LION) which is partly set in Egypt at the time the city of Alexandria was being built by Ptolemy 1st according to Alexander’s wishes.
Because of my own unforgettable adventures on that 10-day trip, I was fascinated to read the stories of these women who had journeyed, often alone, into the desert by camel and lived in these ancient communities. Seeing Egypt through their eyes was a real pleasure.

The women travelers included Emily Anne Beaufort (1826-1887) daughter of the creator of the Beaufort Wind Scale; Sarah Belzoni (1785-1970) wife of a famous Egyptian explorer; Isabella Bird (1831-1904) one of the greatest Victorian era travel writers; M.L.M. Carey (1860-?) a writer an artist; Eliza Fay (1756-1816) an adventurous woman who also accompanied her husband to India in 1799, Marianne North (1830 -90) one of the most intrepid of the Victorian lady travelers. Mary Whatley (1824-89() who set up schools for poor Egyptian girls, as well as many others. 

ANCIENT EGYPT IN POETRY, is an anthology of Nineteenth Century Verse. (edited by Donald P. Ryan) Intrigued by the history and ancient ruins of Egypt, many writers over the years have visited Egypt, attracted by the adventure and ancient intrigue found in the remarkable archaeological sites and the fascinating desert landscapes. During the nineteenth century Egypt was in particular a popular destination for poets, writers and artists. 
Some of the poets who traveled there whose work is included in the book are Thomas Bailey Aldrich (1836-1907), an American poet, newspaper and magazine editor and Civil War correspondent wo visited Egypt in 1905; Charles Dent Bell (1818-98) an Irish vicar who was inspired by nature; Robert Browning (1812-89) one of the greatest literary figures in English language, Lord Byron (1788-1824) one of the greatest Romantic Era poets; Mary Elizabeth Coleridge (1861-1907) noted for her compassion toward the poor and uneducated; John Keats (1795-1821) one of the great Romantic Era poets of England; Henry Wadsworth Longfellow (1897-82)one of Americas greatest poets; Herman Melville (1819-91) author of Moby Dick and Typee; Percy Bysshe Shelley (1792-1822) noted English poet and Alfred Tennyson  (1809-92) poet laureate of the United Kingdom. 
These two books are pocket-sized, quick-reads, making them handy to take along in your purse or back-pack. 

ARISTOCRATS AND ARCHAEOLOGIST:  An Edwardian Journey on the Nile  (edited by Toby Wilkinson and Julian Platt) is a fascinating journal recording an Edwardian doctor’s journey on the Nile in the winter of 1907 – 1908, complied of a series of letters that give a first-hand account of the three-month trip, sites visited, passengers on board and people encountered along the journey as well encounters with cultural and class differences. The collection of letters was written by “Ferdy”, the great uncle of Julian Platt. During the early 1900’s people often escaped the cold dank winters of England and the many illnesses that often-ravaged Europe and spent the winter months in warmer climes. “Ferdy” (Ferdinand) A.F.R. Platt was a physician who accompanied the wealthy Duke of Devonshire on a journey to Egypt. It’s a delightful read and includes maps and itinerary notes and photographs of all Platt’s adventures as they cruised the Nile.

The most recent book I received from Cairo Press is another tiny gem, A MOROCCO ANTHOLOGY (edited by Martin Rose).  I found this book just as intriguing as the Egyptian books as I have also traveled to Morocco several years ago. It’s a book I’d like to have read before I made that trekking journey into the foothills of the High Atlas from Marrakech.  
Morocco has four ‘imperial cities’ where the sultan’s court settled in past times. This book includes visits to the various cities by adventurers, travel writers and others to these fabled cities. Morocco had a French and Spanish colonial period that lasted 44 years.  Writer Edith Wharton wrote “a country so deeply conditioned by its miles and miles of uncitied wilderness that until one has know the wilderness one cannot understand the cities”.  This little book takes you on a journey to each of these cities and explores the point of view of these travelers from long ago. 

 Some of these contributors include Ali Bey Al-Abbassi (1767-1818) a Spaniard from Barcelona, who visited Morocco between 1803-1805; Ellis Ashmea-Bartlett (1888-1931) a war correspondent who worked for Reuters.;  Paul Bowles (1910-0=99 an American novelist, composer, musician, poet and translator; Walter Harris (1866-1933) a Times  correspondent who traveled in disguise to meet sultans and rebels; Emily Keen, Shareefa of Ouazzane (1850-1941) an English governess who married the Grand Sheikh of Ouazzane’; Pierre Loti (1850-1923) a French navel officer and novelist; Samuel Pepys (1633-1703) a diarist; Edith Wharton (1862-1937) American writer who won the Pulitzer Prize for The Age of Innocence.  
This books takes you on an exotic journey to all of the imperial cities of Morocco and gives some insight into what life was like back in the past from the journals of these interesting writers.

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Tuesday, May 01, 2018


Add to Technorati Favorites What better way to celebrate spring than at an idyllic spa resort? A year ago I was fortunate to win a door prize at the BC Travel Writer’s Assoc. annual symposium. The prize was a two-day stay at the Westin Bear Mountain spa/golf course part of a resort community on Vancouver Island.

The community of Bear Mountain, located just 20 kms north of Victoria, began as golf resort but has developed into a multi dimensional urban resort community for people who desire a quiet and healthy lifestyle. Built on the slopes of a rugged yet pristine mountain area the resort not only includes the two par Nicklaus Design golf course, but also offers other amenities to the visitor.
The Westin Bear Mountain Golf Resort Spa is a luxury five-star hotel set in the midst of the urban resort development of Langford. It features spacious newly renovated rooms with expansive views of the golf course fairways and the surrounding mountains. The hotel has a private wine cellar, unique outdoor recreation areas including tennis courts, a Fire Lounge and free access to the North Langford Recreation Centre which is located between the two hotel buildings.

 Besides the hotel amenities and spa there are biking/walking trails and a golf practice facility. The golf courses features 36 holes providing a perfect experience for year round golfing with panoramic mountain and ocean views. I’m not a golfer but I was excited about going to visit Westin Bear Mountain to enjoy a Spring break. I arranged for a friend to come along, and then much to my delight I found out that the rooms accommodated four people. So I invited two other friends to join us. Because the invitation had to be used by the end of March 2018, I arranged for us to visit mid-March, a perfect Spring get-away after our long wet, west-coast winter.

We packed into one car and got the ferry to Swartz Bay and from there it was an easy drive up Island north-west through Langford to Bear Mountain. When we arrived and were given the room keys, imagine our delight when we found out that our “room” was actually a condo sized suite with a full kitchen, living room with a fireplace and balcony view of the golf greens, a large bedroom with a king-sized bed, and two bathrooms. The couch in the living room pulled out to make a double bed and the hotel provided us with an extra twin-sized cot for the fourth visitor.

The Bear Mountain village is a family friendly location with a Mountain Market nearby for shopping needs and Jack’s Place, a restaurant where we enjoyed several meals and entertainment.

 The Langford Recreation centre located between the two Westin hotel buildings, has a heated outdoor pool and offers year-round aqua-fit classes. The hotel’s award-winning spa services offer massages, body treatments and facials drawing from elements of nature to enhance your well-being, offering a full array of spa treatments, relaxation and renewal. While one of my friend indulged in a full spa treatment at the hotel, we others swam in the warm pool at the Rec Centre, enjoying the lush ambience surrounding the outdoors, and a soak in the hot tub.

The area surrounding the resort is popular for bikers and hikers and the Rec centre provides bike rentals. We walked around the quiet trails that overlook the lush greens of the golf course, enjoying the quiet solitude of the woodland. One afternoon two of us decided to drive to Victoria to visit the museum, a quick and easy jaunt from the resort.

We couldn’t have enjoyed our weekend stay more. The Westin Bear Mountain Resort is an excellent get-away for all the family whether you’re a golfer or just want to relax and enjoy nature.


The Westin Bear Mountain Golf Resort & Spa, Victoria\1999 Country Club Way, Victoria BC V9B6R3 Toll-Free: 1 -800-WESTIN-1 Victoria: (250) 391-7160

 North Langford Recreation Centre Tel: 250-391-3758

On special holidays there is entertainment such as Bear Mountain Music, Halloween Festivals, Canada Day BBQ and the Bear Mountain Run, held for times a year.

Wednesday, December 27, 2017


Add to Technorati Favorites Unfortunately, I wasn't able to do much traveling this year because of a move mid-year to a new, more comfortable lodging. For most of the year I was working on a travel ebook of the Greek Islands for an American publisher (under contract), the same one who published my ebook ATHENS AND BEYOND. Because of the unpleasant situation in my apartment I couldn't do much other writing though I did accomplish publishing a couple of travel articles on Just when I was nearly finished the Greek Islands book the publisher suddenly disappeared and refused to respond to any of my emails. Consequently I have shelved the project and will consider doing it as an ebook myself some time in the future.
Once I got moved I was able to focus on travel and managed a three week trip direct to Athens. I spent three days on Naxos at the Maragas camping where I love to stay in the bed-tents. Then I took the fast ferry to Iraklion, Crete where I met with a writer/mentor friend who is an expert on the Minoans. Dr Jack Dempsey and I have been communicating since the 1990's but this was our first in-person meeting. This made my visit in Iraklion special. I also enjoyed a return to Knosses where I'd been a couple of times in the 1980's. Jack and I met at the famous Lion Fountain and then went to the Venetian Harbor for a seafood lunch and a wonderful long chat.
I went out to Knossos on the hop-on-hop off bus. It had started to rain but as we arrived the rain stopped so I had a pleasant afternoon wandering the archaeological site. It's expanded a lot since my last visit and I enjoy seeing everything but it would be so much fun to visit again with Jack!
Most of the wall paintings and artifacts are now safely protected and stored in the Archaeological Museum which is definitely worth a visit. I went there the next day, again on the bus, and also stopped by to pay my respects at the grave of writer Nikos Kazanzakis which is up on the city wall. Back in Athens I visited the lovely new Niarchos Centre where there is an opera house, theatre, library, computer room, vast gardens and green spaces all for the pleasure of the Athenians.
I also took several days to visit my friend on Salamina where we always enjoy exploring archaeological sites. My favorite is the monument to the soldiers of the Greek/Persian sea war which is located on the tumulus of the dead soldiers.
I spent most of time in Athens doing readings from my historical novels at the Canadian Institute, Athens Centre and Athens Community School. I always love visiting Athens and look forward to returning in 2018 for a longer time.
So the year has drawn to a close. I'm looking forward to more travels in 2018. Some of them may be local jaunts as there's lots of interesting things to see around the Province where I live on the West Coast of Canada. But my main focus will be returning to Greece via England, Wales and a visit to Germany to see family and friends. Safe and happy travels to everyone in this coming year!

Tuesday, September 19, 2017


This year's vacation is much shorter than usual. That is because of a very stressful last year and an eventual move to a new quieter, cleaner and friendlier home. A lot of expense involved which ate up some of my travel funds, so three weeks will have to make do.

As it turns out, it will be mainly a writing trip with three readings of my novels lined up in Athens at the Canadian Institute, Athens Centre and readings to two classes at the American Community School.  I have read for these venues before and really look forward to returning.
 My two-volume novel SHADOW OF THE LION 

Reading at the ACC in 2015

My first stop after arriving in Athens on September 22 will be NAXOS where I plan to spend three days lounging on my favorite beach at my favorite campsite, Maragas Camping.

 The bed-tents at Maragas Camping 

 Maragas Beach

 Lounging on a beach chair.

 Beach Tarverna, Plaka Beach

the walkway across to the Portada at Naxos port.

Next I'm going to Crete. I intended to go last year and had to cancel my plans. This time I'm going for three days to visit Knossos archaeological site and a few historic locations around Iraklion. I will also be visiting with my American professor writer/mentor friend Jack Dempsey who writes about the Minoans.

 Iraklion harbor

A visit to the grave of writer Nikos Kazanzakis.



After my visit to Crete I will return to Athens and later go to Salamina to visit my friend. Whenever I'm there we have many adventures seeking out archaeological sites that many people don't know about.  We've been to the site where they were looking for a monument to Ajax, hero of the Troy Wars; Ajax's acropolis, the Cave of Euripides and several other sites.  I wonder what exciting finds we'll see this year!

The final week in Greece will be exciting because I've been offered a free two-day stay GLAMPING in a Yurt, near Kalamata in exchange for writing a story about it.  So look at this blog space in a few weeks and you'll see what it's like to go glamor-camping in a yurt!

Tuesday, August 23, 2016


Add to Technorati FavoritesI usually try to go to the island of NAXOS when I'm visiting Greece, because it's my favorite island.  This year is no exception, however I've decided to also stop at PAROS.  Aside from a weekend a long time ago when I went to babysit a friend's little boy while she performed at a taverna, I've never spent time on that popular island. I've heard so much about this island from other people, I figured it was time to explore it myself.

 I've only got a couple of days booked on Paros but it should be enough to see a few of the sights although I have quite a list of options.  An interesting thing is that the town of Parikia where I will be staying used to be a Minoan city back in the 1400 BCs.  Later, in 338 BC it was taken over by King Philip II of Macedonia (Alexander's father), followed by the Romans.

There's a wide choice of things to see and beautiful beaches to visit so my little stop-over should prove to be really interesting. I'll probably wish I'd booked more than two days there!

From Paros, I will go to Naxos which is very nearby.  As always, I'm heading for Maragas Camping, and like last year I'm going to stay in one of the bed tents.  These are quonset-hut type 'tents' with a bed and electricity inside and lots of room to walk around.  I found it very comfy and it's cheap!
 NAXOS, Maragas Beach

 Spectacular Naxos Sunset

The beach there is just spectacular and there are some wonderful little tavernas along the beach where you can sit and watch the sunset. Besides that you can take the bus into town and there's lots to see including  the Venetian Castle, the Portala (doorway of the Temple of Apollo) and many other things. Naxos has a very interesting history and I've been on the round-the-island tour a number of times. It's a big island, with mountains and lots of greenery as well as those gorgeous beaches. It's the island where, in the myths, Theseus landed with Ariadne, the princess of Knossos after they had left Crete when the volcanic explosion on Santorini drove them all away.  Unfortunately Ariadne ran off with the celebrants of Dionysos and that's the last Theseus saw of her. This time when I'm there I must remember to visit that particular sanctuary and see if I can conjur Ariadne's spirit.

Last year when I was on Naxos I wrote a lot of poems while on the beach and one of them was about Ariadne.I am hoping the Muse is with me this time too.  I find if a very inspiring island!



From Naxos I take the ferry to Crete. I'll stop a couple of days in Iraklion in order to see the sights there which will include the Palace of Knossos famous from  Minoan times.  There is so much to see in Iraklion and other parts of Crete that I may decide to extend my time there because it's worth spending time. I've visited Crete on a couple of other occasions but not for a few years, so it's going to be fun to return. 


Eventually I'll head back to Athens and then a lot of new adventures will take place.  Among those I am hoping that I can do some book readings as the second volume of SHADOW OF THE LION is supposed to be published in October. 

NOTE:  photos of Paros and Irakleon  from Wikipedia