Tuesday, February 28, 2012

Spring IS Coming

Every Wednesday I drive to Dumfries at about 7 pm to go to the swimming pool.  Last week the temperature was about 9 C.  I noticed that there were a few toads on the road. I almost stopped to take a photo of them, but I was in a bit of a rush.  I thought to myself . . . spring is coming!

Last night we had a frog on the woodpile.  He (or she) was just sitting there.  Toads last week on the road and a great big frog last night tells me that spring is on its way.   The next time I go to the front garden to fill the bird feeders, I'm going to walk over and see if there is any frog spawn in the pond.

Sure we may get one last bit of snow before it is all over. . . .but the teeth have been knocked out of the beast.  I've been less cold in the house too.  I didn't realise this until I started writing this . . .but I haven't felt the need to have a cardigan on at all times.  I may go and scrub the greenhouse this weekend.

Friday, February 17, 2012

The Best Souvenirs

I was talking to a friend of mine who is on her way to Hawaii for a month about souvenirs.  She was saying that she doesn't buy souvenirs on her holidays as she thinks they're worthless. 

I agreed that the plastic souvenirs that are clumped up next to the postcards can be of very little value to anybody once you are back at home.  I have to confess that I pick up a snow globe on my travels . . . . I get one from every new place we go.  It was hard to find a snow globe in Rhodes when we were there for the first time . . .  and they are a bit tasteless, cheap and plastic.  I found something that was almost a snow globe.   However these are not my real souvenirs.

The souvenirs that I value and make me remember my trip fondly are items that are picked up in mostly non-touristy places.  I have some goat bells from that first trip to Rhodes that I love much more than the plastic Colossus of Rhodes thing that I bought on a busy tourist-filled street in the Old Town in Rhodes.  I picked up the goat bells in a small shop on the other side of the island.  It looked to be an agricultural supply/general store sort of place off the busy main roads.  The prices for the bells (back when it was Drachma) was written on the bells in permanent felt tip pen.  I have three of the copper bells in two different sizes and I love them.  It makes me think of stopping on the side of the road and seeing fields full of goats.  Not all the goats had bells on them, but many did. We watched the goats for ages.  We could see past these hillside fields to the sea that was not so far away and listened to the sound of the bells.  I never wanted to forget that moment and I asked The Man of the Place where we could buy goat bells . . .

When we found the shop that sold farm supplies.  Because I speak very little Greek, I had to go in (and this part had my husband and young son doubled over with laughter) and mime goat bells to the big man behind the counter.  All those years of playing charades came in handy as he figured out pretty quickly what I wanted.  We came away with three copper goat bells.  I paid for them in drachma and my dignity.

This old postcard was purchased in Brittany.  It is of two young children in regional Breton costume.  I found the old photo charming.  Later on in the day, in a stall selling second hand (brocante) in the market I found a battered old picture frame . . . . I put the old postcard in the frame and bingo!  I had a delightful souvenir of the family's first trip to France.

Second hand shops are wonderful sources of souvenirs.  In addition to the above postcard in a frame we have collected:
A Turkish teapot from a dusty shop in a souk in Istanbul.  The Man of the Place insisted on getting the old battered one when the shop owner was baffled as he thought the new, shiney ones were much better.  We love it!

In a junk shop between the train station and the Roman colliseum in El Djem, Tunisia, this wonderful second hand lion was picked up.  He has to lean against the wall as he is a bit unstable and falls over easily. I think he cost us the equivalent of a pound.

Not all good souvenirs are found in junk shops.  We also have purchased new things . ..  .

This rug was new when we bought it.  We bought it in Douz, Tunisia (the same trip where we got the lion).  It did cost us less than if we had purchased it in Hammamet - the tourist filled town where we were based for two weeks.  Side trips into the heart of the country paid off!

This is a bit of folk-art that came back from Georgia in the US after The Man of the Place had gone to the southern states on a pilgrimage to see an REM tour.

When we were in Egypt for the first time, my neice and sister-in-law were with us.  We had a contest to see who could find the worst, tackiest souvenir.  Here they are in the old market in Cairo . . .

Emily, the beloved neice won the souvenir contest with her golden sphyinx ashtray and pen holder. (sorry no photo available) and Vickie bought the best shoes.  

All in all, I love finding souvenirs during my travels. . . . but the best ones are never where you expect them to be.  Sometimes they can be found on those busy, crowded touristy places.  Other times, the little items that will make you smile and remember your holiday with fondness are found in second hand shops or agricultural supply places where you have to do an impersonation of a goat . . . .