Tag Archives: travel experience

The entrance halls of Tbilisi

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Whenever I was in Tbilisi before, I had an urge to push doors open. «There must be magic to discover behind its enchanting doors », my inner nudge was saying. And so it is. .

The magic of stained glass by Italian masters, on doors crafted by Georgian carpenters, framed by unique patterns of metal shaped in laces by Armenian blacksmiths, leading to halls adorned by Renaissance or Moorish style paintings on walls and ceilings … all this beauty as a celebration of our diversity giving birth to something amazing.

There are so many wonderful buildings in Sololaki through which German, Italian, Georgian, Armenian and Russian architects expressed their love for the beauty of this city.

Queens and balconies

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Once upon a time here lived queen Darejan, a mother of 23 girls and boys. Her king built a palace for her on the incline to Sachino. She was also a builder and she furthered it to its glory of the XVIII century.

She fought for whom she loved. She lived the best she could in those troublesome times, and saw her end on Earth in exile on foreign cold land.

Today we can take the same walking paths she took thanks to the reconstruction funded by tax payers of Georgia. And we can admire the city from the beautiful blue framed balcony, perhaps from the exact same spot the queen used to.

“The great circle” by Maggie Shipstead

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I anticipated a one-of-a-kind journey. It was. In a sense… putting aside the many short cuts I took (alias chapters skimping in the 600 page book).

The lives of three central female characters with different backgrounds and from different eras sounded appealing. Yet their stories do little to support each other in one novel. I wonder if the author considered a trilogy at some point and then decided to go for one novel… Nevertheless, one can still feel the dominance of one character – Marian Graves, the fictional pilot, who took it to the sky regardless of social norms of her times (30s-40s of last century). We get to know her a bit through the experience of her mother, a troubled woman who took her own life, along with dozens others, by presumably blasting a boat, whose captain was her unaware husband. I wish there were less pages on Marian’ sex experiences, as it does little to unveil her character. She likes sex, with both men and women, we get that. There is no apparent need to delve on it. I skipped almost entirely the chapters about the third female character – a fictional Hollywood starlet of our times. Her inner struggles and confusions do little justice to Marian, whose character she is supposed to play in a movie about the legendary flight around the two poles.

The book is said to be well researched for historical events and surroundings spanning over 100 years on different continents. A truly commendable effort. At times it felt as if the author actually lived there and then, at other times, it felt a bit too documentary to me.

This book had many DNF reviews. I also almost dropped it, yet if you are patient or selectively skipping parts of it, you might be rewarded when you get to “The Flight” chapter on the actual culmination of the life of Marian.

I always read the “Acknowledgement” section. There are always little treasures there if you look. This time it was a writing app – Scrivener.

I always give 5 stars to books, and my review is very personal, which has little to do with the author’s labour, which I cannot judge.

“My year abroad” by Chang Rae Lee

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I pre-ordered the book and was looking forward to read it. It is a Pulitzer Prize piece of written work. I enjoyed reading it. The story line kept me entertained with a witty voyage and return plot.

Tiller, a young adult, jumps into the epicenter of a saga involving Chinese businessmen, a dying mafia guy, his lonely and egocentric daughter, an obsessed chef and other bizarre characters. These adventures bring him back to some family basics he was deprived of as a child. He searched for himself and found it in the roles of a partner to a woman under witness protection and of a father to her child.

An autumn love story

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On a warm autumn day, in a town on the Mediterranean, I let my kid choose where she wanted to have lunch. Her choice led us to a place were locals go. Tables next to each other. Waiters saluting clients with a non-chalance of old friends. This kind of place.

We were given a table in the middle of the room and soon enough a couple was sat next to us.

She was beaming with elegance, her hair just out of a hairdresser’s. White blouse, dark skirt. Let’s call her Mathilde. He was dressed as if in a hurry. A hurry to see her, I thought. Let’s call him Henry. They both seemed to have been born in the middle of last century.

They ordered the plat du jour and wine. Henry immediately became chatty with the lady at the table next to them. He told her the story of his life in 5 minutes: he is retired, daughter lives in another country, he and the lady having lunch with him is not his wife and they just “see each other”. He would be good on Twitter, I thought, with such a talent for conciseness.

The lady at the next table offered them her unfinished bottle of wine. I also wanted to offer something, in exchange for more stories. I offered them our untouched basket of bread. They accepted it with the joy of 5 year olds on Christmas eve.

As we switched our attention to our plates, their dialogue unfolded:

– Oh, darling, your back hurts again?, Henry asked with a compassion level 100, as she tried to find a comfortable posture in her chair.

– Oh, it’s fine, Mathilde tried to reassure him.

– Well, you know the remedy. You come to my place. You undress. I give you a massage on your back, his hands demonstrating circular movements, as if around her delicate shoulders.

Mathilde blushed and directed his blue eyes with her green eyes to my daughter, as if saying: « Shsh, there are kids around ». Henry’s blue eyes responded: “Well, sooner or later, she will find out. What’s there to hide?!”

– Well, you felt good after our last time…, his sweet smile enveloping her.

We left the place with the feeling of having watched a good movie from the 50s. Their illuminated faces – a lovely memory of an autumn love story. Ageless. Priceless.

P.S. I remembered this story in the times of this pandemic… I truly hope they are well and their love continues to brighten their days.

“The salt path” by Raynor Winn

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That’s some tale. I “walked” for miles and miles on the English coast line with this amazing couple – Moth and Ray. The reading made me straighten my back, lower my shoulders and relearn acceptance.

This couple in their 50s lost their home, family business and all income and walked into their next stage with their 8 kg each backpacks. On top of that, Moth was diagnosed with some incurable disease… . They endure, overcome, cry, despair, get up, and move on.

I read some of the reviews after I read the book. Some saw it as a diary, others as a coast guide and national geographic type of writing. Some focused on the homeliness side of the story only. Others on the iterations… It has it, indeed, a little bit of each. As with any reading, we will find there only what we have inside already…

My favourite quote from the book: “A new season had crept into me, a softer season of acceptance.”

“A year in Provence” by Peter Mayle

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12 months of life in Provence told by an Englishman who relocated there with his wife and two dogs. They moved to slow down. Slowly they learned that “slow-down” has a meaning of its own in Provence. “Normalement” is a measure of time, making each deadline nothing but a dream. The Mayles learned it through endless repairs of the house and the maintaining of the farm.

The pace of the book is superb, as Mayle takes the reader through local traditions of hunting, goat races, wine and oil making, to neighbours interactions and most gourmet pauses outside the regular touristic circuits.

I live in France and after reading the book I realised how diverse the country is. Rural and urban mind-sets live on different timescales and values chains. Yet, with a great deal of sense of humour mixed with a bottle of good wine, one can make it alright, as Meyers show us. I now officially make the chapter on December my Christmas day reading. It is beyond funny and entertaining. “Appy Christmas” and “Bonne Annee!”