Here are some quick highlights and noteworthy moments:
Paris brunch (with Caroline) at La Salle a Manger, at the bottom of Rue Mouffetarde. Also the hot chocolate I had there when CP took me, my first day in Paris.
- All my afternoon hot chocolates in Paris. What a nice way to insert a marker into a day!
- Les Salons du Palais Royal Shiseido. Exquisite space, beautiful setting, and heavenly scents. Treat yourself… how often are any of us in Paris?
- The garret flat. Regular readers of this blog will know how charmed I was by that place.
- Geghard Monastery, in Armenia. A cave church, carved into the rock face, and the palpable sense of the ancient, and the sacred, that I felt there. Anna’s singing, which made me hold my breath in its beauty.
- My first sight of the Old Bridge in Mostar, now restored to its graceful arching limestone glory. Crossing Tito Bridge ( in my day a rickety wooden death trap) and catching a glimpse of the house I used to live in and the view of the Neretva river I had known so well, brought me to tears.
- Returning to Blagaj (near Mostar), to sit in the peaceful, nurturing ambience of the Sufi House and drink pomegranate juice.
The soundtrack of the holiday – particularly the last part, with SB. Video killed the Radio Star is the first to come to mind. We heard it on the car radio the day went to Montenegro. It stayed as our ‘cleanser’ song for the rest of the holiday. But who can forget Oriental Man, the song that won my heart? Or the myriad of ditties we composed, such as Disfunctional Man? A fine soundtrack indeed, a complement to my laboratory of language recordings. On a more serious note, the soundtrack started right at the beginning, with the music CP and I prepared for our concert in Armenia. Khachaturian. Spohr. Komitas. And Komitas went on to stay in my head and heart forever after. Then in Bosnia, the sevdah. When I heard Teo perform on the Friday night, my last night in Mostar, singing songs I had been part of just a few days earlier with K and his family in Sarajevo, my heart swelled.
- Speaking ‘Armenian’ with CP, periodically collapsing into giggle; continuing the ridiculousness with K and K in Bosnia, where they took great delight in filling their excellent English with overuse of continuous verbs and a complete lack of definite articles, hoping others around them would take them for Russians with beginners’ English. Continuing the game even further with SB, where it became our lingua franca.
Constant vigilance in Naples, where SB and I played the righteous tourists to perfection. A kind of ‘gonzo tourism’, suggested SB, where, rather than trying to integrate into the local culture, we imposed our own onto the locals most blatantly. When I regaled friends with these stories back at home, they were acutely ashamed of us, and embarrassed to know us. However, in the context of where we were, and who we were encountering, and the entertainment we provided, I think everybody won, really.
There were many memorable meals, both for the food that was eaten and the company that was kept. Meals that we ate in Morgy’s home, with her mother and sister, in Yerevan. The meal CP and I ate in the Georgian restaurant in Yerevan, where we ordered too much and they wrapped the remaining hadjipurri up for us in tin foil to take home and eat for breakfast in the morning. Our last night in Yerevan, where the four of us went out for traditional Armenian BBQ, drank wine, laughed, told stories, and felt as if ten years had disappeared on us. The afore-mentioned Sunday brunch with Caroline in Paris. The dinner SB and I ate our second night in Dubrovnik, where the waiter cut our fish up for us most expertly, and made elaborate, impressive show of making sure we did not miss the delicacy of the cheek. Also the excellent 1-litre bottle of Hercegovinan wine that we had with that meal, and the general fine ambiance. And meals made by K’s mother in Sarajevo, because they were made with such love.
Most bright and blessed days: our weekend in Armenia when we made our excursions to Garni, Geghard and Echmiadzin. “It’s for you,” Morgy told us in all seriousness. And the sunny day SB and I traveled into Bosnia and Montenegro by car over newly-opened borders and crazy mountain roads. And Christmas Day in Sarajevo when it started to snow, and everything sparkled and the landscape was transformed into high-relief black and white.
Most hair-raising moment: definitely that horrid narrow road I drove to get to the Kotor ferry, in darkness, when I was tired and feeling uncertain about how much room I really had on that side of the car. I was feeling the burden of being Designated Driver at that time and would have gladly swapped the reins!
There will be more highlights that are not coming to mind right now. SB, KB and CP, my dear fellow travellers and conspirators, please do add your comments, adjustments, and own personal highlights! G x