The Flood Part 1

We had arranged to stay at Francine’s place for the night.

We were on a bike ride through Zeeland, a province of The Netherlands which lay west of Rotterdam.

Francine was a member of a Dutch organization called ´Friends of the Bike´ (Vrienden van de Fiets) and so were we. It worked like this: people offered to put up bike riders for the night and provide breakfast the following morning for a set fee of 45 Euros. The bike riders paid a nominal fee to be in the organization and received a book listing places to stay all over the country. Friends of the Bike was an inherent part of a national bike riding culture – and a country with the best system of bike tracks in the world.

Sometimes the people offering the accommodation were themselves also bike riders and felt obliged to contribute to the system they used. Sometimes they liked to meet strangers and talk. Over the years we had met some amazing people via ‘friends of the bike’ and had some memorable conversations – and Francine certainly fell into that category.

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Cold Turkey

 

When Anya and I went to the south of Spain to go trekking, we chose to base ourselves in a town called Capileira. It was small – population 500 – it was situated in Sierra Nevada mountain range. 

 It took us two days to get there on local transport. 

We were surprised by what we found…….

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Blind Faith Part 2

On returning to Panjim after my day trip to Old Goa, it seemed as if Saint Francis Xavier – the so-called Incorruptible Saint – was a universally loved figure amongst the Goan Christians.

Then one evening I met a couple who definitely did not revere him.

Perhaps better said, they met me.

 

I was staying at a small, family owned, hotel. There were 5 rooms. These were on the second story, at the top of a long creaking wooden staircase. The owners, a middle aged couple named Soares, lived on the ground floor. In the backyard was an open, thatch roofed shelter with tables and plastic chairs. Breakfast was served here and also evening meals (which had to be ordered in the morning). Near the shelter was an area of grass and against a high wall, a riot of ferns, creepers and palms. This was a fine place to stay, it was quiet and in a secluded back street.

One evening however, it was far from quiet. It was nearing Christmas and festivities were on the agenda. There was a family get together – or rather, an extended family get together – held in the back yard. Trestle tables were set up in the garden and food and drink made available to everyone. Most of the other western tourists staying at the hotel opted to go out for the night. There must have been around 20 people there, including some boisterous kids. Some of the older people I noticed spoke Portuguese. Most of the others, middle aged and younger, spoke Konkani, a language originating in Southern India. Most Goans were conversant with English although rarely fluent.

There were two people there that night who were certainly fluent in English. I had heard about Antonio and Isabella from the Soares. They were a family success story. And they, I subsequently found out, had heard about me because of the lively account I had related to the  Soares about my trip to Old Goa.  

 

Antonio and Isabella had left Goa in their late teens, gone to university in London; he had a PhD in biochemistry and she in sociology; later they moved to Portugal, where they were living at the outskirts of Lisbon. They were middle aged and dark skinned but with some obviously Portuguese features. Antonio was a bit overweight, wore gold rimmed glasses, was clean shaven and had a crop of thick curly hair. He wore neat slacks, an open necked blue shirt and an off white cotton coat; Isabelle, still beautiful despite her years, wore a long floral dress with long sleeves, earrings, and necklace; her long black hair was tied up in a bun. Their clothes were simple but were good quality; expensive and purchased in Portugal, not India.

On first appearances, ironically, Antonio and Isabella stood out because they were as well dressed as the pilgrims I had seen a few days before in the Basilica of Bom Jesus in Old Goa……

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Blind Faith Part 1

 

Old Goa.

I went there on a day trip.

No big plans, just take it easy. Hang out as the tourist.

All I wanted to do was look at some old churches.

 After two torrid months of travelling around central India and seeing a lot of temples and mosques, I thought a few churches would be a welcome diversion.

There were three of them in Old Goa. They were old: 4 centuries.

Yep, an easy day for me. 

Leastways, that’s what I thought on the way out there…..

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Strays

On the south coast of Crete there weren’t many good beaches.  

Most of that spectacular coast consisted of rocks and mountains.

 And so the beach where were staying – an ellipse of sand lapped by clear blue waters – was a rare gem.

And it wasn’t yet overdeveloped.

In the nearby town, about a kilometer away, there were a few hotels and restaurants. Out at the beach, there were some small apartment complexes set back in the hinterland, amongst olive trees.

There was only one hotel on the beach front and that’s where we were staying.

 It was October and we were the only people there…… 

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