A morning at Elsie’s in St. Louis. She welcomed me to her kitchen, gave me the warmest hug, and left for work at 6:15am. I immediately played “Waves” by Electric Guest, and danced as I prepared breakfast.
Birthday eggs with minced garlic, pepper, a shaving of Parmesan, and the tiniest pinch of the fanciest salt (chardonnay oak smoked!) Stovetop espresso with brown sugar and coconut milk. Toast with real butter. Ok, I put some chocolate-hazelnut spread on the 2nd half of the bread.
Thanks dear! I feel so loved and welcome!
Welcome to the Maldives! From Bangalore, I took about a 1-hour flight to Colombo, Sri Lanka, then another 1-hour flight to Malé in the Maldives.
I couldn’t believe that even the airport has a beautiful ocean view! I withdrew some Maldivian money, and bought a sim card with a local number.
I made arrangements through Airbnb to stay at the Travel Lodge on a small island called Mulah. They picked me up at the airport and took me to their location on the island Hulhumale; I’ll be taking the boat to Mulah tomorrow morning. I didn’t mind at all, I wanted some time in the capital city Malé anyway. There are ferries (equivalent to public transport), speed boats (expensive), and sea planes (even more expensive), connecting the 1200ish islands that make up the Maldives. Hulhumale is an artificial island connected to the island that hosts the airport. It’s just a quick 15 minute drive away.
The first thing I did after dropping bags at the bed&breakfast was head to the beach a block away!
I was so sleep-deprived. I wandered the quiet island.
I found myself at the ferry terminal. I boarded a ferry to Malé. It was a 30 minute journey, and cost 5 rufaa, about $0.30.
Malé is a bustling little city. The coast is crowded with docked boats. The Maldives is an Islamic country. That means that women dress modestly and cover their heads, and bikinis are banned at public beaches. Alcohol and pork products are banned everywhere except the resort islands.
Every inch of the island is packed with people, stores, and restaurants. I found myself at the fish market. They had some tiny fish the size of a finger, and some huge fish that are 4’ long!
Right next to it was a fresh fruit and vegetable market.
I stopped at one stand that had food I couldn’t identify. There were cigar-shaped items that turned out to be candy-like items. The kind man working the stand gave me a taste of a few of them, as well as spicy peanuts, yucca chips, and a slice of fresh mango.
I stopped at a tiny restaurant near the markets. I didn’t realize until now that I haven’t eaten in 14 hours! They had a display case with a variety of goods.
I ordered a chicken kothu roshi without any idea of what it was. As I sat waiting for my food, I realized that the 30+ people in the restaurant were all male, and almost all of them were obviously staring at me (purely out of curiosity; I would have felt so uncomfortable if they were checking me out or something). I’ve never felts so out of place. The meal I ordered totally hit the spot. Kothu roshi a spicy mixture of chicken or tuna, onions, vegetables, and chopped roshi, which is a very thin bread. I thought the roshi was pasta at the time.
I saw more of the island. There are beautiful mosques scattered about. You can often see people’s shoes lined up outside of them, and a foot washing station too.
I stopped at a souvenir shop where the salesperson showed me some antique coins. The shell below is the original currency used in the Maldives.
This is the President’s office:
My goal for the day is to find out about scuba diving. I don’t know much about it, but I hope to get certified within the week. I’ve tried finding information online to no avail. I found a couple of options by asking at shops that sell scuba gear. At one of them I met Abdulla, who took me to meet his friend and dive instructor Fathih. He took me to a local restaurant, similar to where I had the kothu roshi. This place had all-male clients too.
I chose three things, no idea what they are. The one in the rear is very similar to an Indian samosa, with potato and pea filling. The ones in the front had fish in it.
Abdulla and Fathih told me about the diving course, and we made tentative plans. They’re very nice, and incredibly knowledgeable about diving, but I intend to compare their offer to what the more reputable dive schools offer. Abdulla introduced me to what’s pictured below, I don’t know what it’s called. He wrapped a sliver of what I think is a nut in some kind of leaf, and sprinkled cinnamon on top. It was a very refreshing palate cleanser.
I took the ferry back to Hulhumale, and stopped at a dive shop on the way to the beach. They offered me a better deal, and I felt more comfortable with them than with Fathih, so I re-arranged my scuba plans. I also decided to stay in Hulhumale for the week instead of going to the small island Mulah. It sounds beautiful there, but it’s very far away, and there are more options for activities and scuba here. I walked along the beach in the darkness. And damn, how dark! The stars here are incredible. I had intended to do some night swimming, but immediately got a little nervous. There are so many creatures on the beach, though I was only ankle-deep in the water. I saw tiny crabs, what I’m pretty sure are shrimp, hermit crabs, and see-through fish that you could barely see. Sometimes the only thing visible was the shadow of the tiny fish. When I planned my trip here, I had intended to spend a night at a deserted island. But seeing all the creatures, albeit tiny, and how dark the darkness is made me even more nervous about that idea. I thought about my scuba plans for tomorrow, and got even more nervous about that. If the tiny sea creatures in 3” of water intimidated me, how would I handle encounters with manta rays and possibly sharks that are bigger than me?!
Today’s my last day in Goa. I had a masala omelet for breakfast, and the most delicious iced coffee I’ve ever had! I may have enjoyed two in a row!
I walked away from the beach and to the town. The area where the flea market is held was eerily empty.
Ondi had told me yesterday that 5 or 7 chilies and a lime are often strung together to ward off bad energy and bring good luck. I saw this discarded by the road. The chain of flowers are often used as decoration, or as an offering to the gods.
I thought this place was especially cute. The writing says “the butterfly fairies”.
I came across this building under construction. I’m not sure what kind of brick this is, but it made me think of adobo. Most of the construction in Bangalore is with cast-in-place concrete, and sometimes CMU (concrete masonry units). These red bricks seem to be commonly used in Goa.
The tropical canopy is beautiful. I felt like I was walking through a dream!
I walked to the German Bakery, per Ondi’s recommendation. I first thought, “why would I want to go to a german bakery in India?” but I was pleasantly surprised that it’s not really German. It’s a health food place!
They have a beautiful outdoor seating area. I sat in the booth below. The table is coffee-table height, and you sit on a pad on the bamboo mat, and rest your back against the part that’s painted white. So comfortable and laid-back! You can stretch your legs out, sit “criss-cross apple sauce” (that’s the PC version of Indian-style). I ordered a ginger kombucha (pictured above), and a tonic made of lemon, ginger, honey, and turmeric (not pictured). The tonic was delicious and sooo healthy, I plan to include it in my regular diet when I return to the US.
I hurried back to the beach. There’s one item left on my Goa itinerary, which was to try the local favourite fish curry rice. It ended up being one of my favourite meals! It doesn’t look like much, but there’s some fried king fish, and a curry sauce with more fish. Deliciously spicy! This meal cost $5, including the beer and a tip.
I rushed back to my beach tent just in time to meet the taxi that drove me to the airport.
Once back in Bangalore, I took a much-needed shower. Divya and I met some of her friends at Fatty Bao, an Asian restaurant I’ve heard a LOT about. It’s a beautiful rooftop, with tropical plants and a view.
We shared a bunch of different appetizers, and I ordered mushroom ramen. I’ve always wanted to taste real ramen, but it’s not usually vegetarian so I’ve never had the opportunity. Though I’m eating meat now, I couldn’t resist the ramen with oyster and shitake mushrooms! The broth had been simmered for 14-18 hours. Yumm!
I spent the morning in the sun, and in the ocean. Meditating here has been fantastic. Some things in the world are naturally meditative, like running, writing, watching burning fire, watching birds fly or fish swim, and watching the waves on a beach.
I walked the entire stretch of beach. I’ve been enjoying lemon soda here, which is a mixture of fresh squeezed lemon juice, carbonated water, and sugar. Delightfully refreshing, and only about $0.50! Kingfisher beer, made in Bangalore, is good too, and costs about $1.
I had a beachfront coconut, then Ondi, a friend I made in Chicago and helped out at the Renegade Craft Fair, picked me up on her scooter, and took me to Thalassa, a Greek restaurant with a beautiful view of the setting sun. Ondi made me feel incredibly safe on the scooter. She took her time, carefully navigating potholes and intersections, and drove in a relaxed manner.
We enjoyed some white wine, and caught up.
We even got to see a traditional Greek dance, complete with plate-smashing, to celebrate the wedding of an Indian guest.
She invited me to her home, where her mother-in-law, Umma, prepared dinner. I watched her make some fresh roti.
After, she drove me back to my tent on the beach. We went to a nearby bar, listened to Goan trance music, watched the waves crash on the beach, and enjoyed a shisha. It was a glorious, glorious day!
I’ve been waking up pretty late these first days in India. Today my nose is stuffed and my throat is tickled; a common cold, probably from the drastic change in weather between France and here. It was in the 50’s most of my time in France, but Bangalore has been about 85 degrees with moderate humidity. This is perfect weather for me!
I started the day with a delicious lunch: spicy fish; rice with homemade yogurt, pomegranate seeds, and curry leaves; curried chicken; and freshly made dosas. We eat with our hands, using the dosas to pick up the food. There’s a sink adjacent to the dining room for us to wash up after meals. Divya’s family is from the coast, so they eat a lot of fish and seafood. I’m learning that a lot of Indian culture is regionalized. India is a huge country, and much like the US there are vast differences between different areas, most notably north and south. There are 29 states, and the type of food and bread, the language, and even the manner of wrapping a sari varies between them. Rice is commonly enjoyed with fresh yogurt, and Divya’s mom had me try mixing in some pickled mango – which is actually spicy and tart, not sweet at all. The rice is a nice relief from the spicy curries served at each meal, including breakfast.
Divya took me shopping! First we went to Chumbak, which has colorful modern patterns on everything like clothes, bedding, and dishes. Then we headed to a couple of clothing stores. Divya commented that my proclivity towards fabrics with hints of gold is just like what most Indians prefer. I bought myself a tunic, and several gifts for friends and family.
I dropped my shopping bags at the house, and we went for a walk through the neighborhood. This beautiful park is just a couple of blocks away from Divya’s home.
We stopped for a fresh coconut along the way. First they cut a small hole at the top and give you a straw to enjoy the coconut water. Then they cut it in half so you can eat the coconut flesh inside.
The trees here are beautiful. Many of them have huge trunks and branches that stretch 30’. Some of the trees have fern-like leaves, with bright orange flowers.
We met a friend for coffee at a super cute internet café. I was surprised by their entirely American menu, including items like pepperoni pizza, chicken noodle soup, and club sandwiches. I ordered their signature coffee. It was delicious and had some chocolate in it.
We met Divya’s friend Natasha for dinner at an Indian-Afghanistan restaurant. We had chicken kebabs for a starter. They were not small pieces of chicken, but rather entire chicken thighs on a stick that had been roasted. We shared a paneer and a briyani, which was lamb and rice with spices, served in a little pot with bread dough stretched on top.
After the meal, they brought a bowl with hot water and lime for us to cleanse our fingers.
I woke up at 7am today and was surprised that it’s still dark at this hour. The weather in Italy and Crete was so nice that I keep forgetting it’s autumn! Mamajah looks so pretty in the dawn light, with the faery lights lit.
Today I worked on another part of the farm, where there are rows and rows of fresh lettuces, and a big greenhouse tent full of tomatoes.
I spent the morning harvesting carrots! They were planted in clay, which made them difficult to remove. One of the workers, Mike, explained to me that they’re often planted in sand.
I said hello to the two llamas on the farm. They aren’t really used for anything, but Philippe, the owner of the farm, took them in to save them from being butchered.
Today I cooked lunch for the farmers! I made couscous with caramelized onions and walnuts, and green beans with carrots and garlic. I didn’t cook at all in Crete, or Amalfi, so I really enjoyed being in the kitchen!
I found myself all alone Friday night. The workers had gone for the day, and Armel and the other person staying at the farm had left for the night. I cooked myself some squash with rosemary and thyme, and re-heated some of the couscous from lunch. And I went to bed early. How lovely and simple farm life is!
When I arrived in Lyon late last night, eating was on the agenda (as always). Lyon is known for being the gastronomical capital of France, and both my mom and my French friend Flora encouraged me to enjoy it. I rushed to the train station, caught the last train to the center of Lyon, and dropped my bags at my Airbnb. But when I ventured to the one restaurant nearby that was open until 1am, I got hopelessly lost. I blame my empty stomach for this; my brain does not work well when I’m hungry. Even after asking multiple people, I got more and more lost. The restaurant was closed by the time I found it, and I hadn’t passed a single shop that was open. I managed to buy a bottle of water at a hookah bar (I thought it was a strip club at first haha), wandered home and went to sleep. It wasn’t such a pity though. It turns out that Lyonnaise cuisine is mostly meats that I probably wouldn’t enjoy.
I woke up early the next morning, determined to find a good breakfast before my 8:30am train to Genève, Geneva. Guess what I found? La boulangerie! Je vraiment prèfere la boulangerie que le bouchon. I greatly prefer the bakery to the butcher. I chose an assortment of goods:
After a 2-hour train ride, I arrived in Geneva. Though I immediately caught the tram to the farm, Geneva won my heart with it’s charming architecture.
Then I arrived at the farm…
I met Armel, who introduced me to the farm, showed me to my new home, the Airstream, and suited me up in boots.
The farm has a couple of huge teepees, a biodome, several large tents, a cute little blue sauna that’s used for bathing… there was so much to see!
I particularly love this little seating arrangement. The big red chairs are very comfortable, the mobile is festive, and it’s a great place to prend un pause au soleil, take a break in the sun.
I joined the farmers to work in the garden. Today I harvested green onions; re-planted some verbena; weeded the herb garden; and staked up the cilantro.
Armel cooked us all lunch: green beans, carrots and potatoes with ginger, garlic, and fresh herbs, all from the garden. The chicken is from a neighboring farm.
I love this spacious, open-air kitchen.
Armel made an apple tart that evening, and shared her fresh herb tea with me before bed.
Good morning! I woke up, had a quick salad for breakfast, and headed to the bus station. Today I’m heading to Preveli Beach, on the south side of Crete.
I took Crete’s public bus again, the same one that I took from the airport in Herkalion to Rethymnon. They’re super comfortable coach busses, with large windows and air conditioning. I’d highly recommend it! I could have spent 40€ on a guided tour to Preveli, but this bus was only 9€ round-trip.
It’s about an hour ride to Plakais, which has a beautiful beach too. From there I took another bus about 15 minutes to Preveli.
This is the view from where the bus dropped me off.
It’s a short walk to the parking lot, and from there a steep descent to the beach.
Preveli has a freshwater river that empties into the Mediterranean Sea. On one side it looks like a tropical jungle, and on the other side is a beautiful beach, all in the same place! Here’s a quick panorama:
I walked on the path along the river…
Then headed back to the beach. These birds were huge (what kind are they dad?) and hung out on the beach right next to the humans.
This building must have been a church at some point. I peeked in the windows and found ornate religious stuff (I don’t know what I was looking at!), and stashed cleaning supplies.
I went to the beach and soaked up the sun. The water here is very calm, with most of the waves coming from passing boats. I swam far out, but the water never got more than 15-20′ deep. I’ve really enjoyed swimming in deep water on this trip. Most beaches in the USA have lifeguards that don’t allow you deeper than your chest (or if you’re tall like me, the waist). To the left of the huge rock in the picture below, there’s a small sliver of rock in the background peeking up above the water. I swam to that rock, and was pleased to see that it wasn’t sharp and jagged, but rather covered in natural sea sponges, the kind many people use for bathing. They made for quite a comfortable perch, and I sat there feeling like a mermaid.
I dove into the deep water and swam towards a part of the beach that’s inaccessible by foot. It’s hidden behind those huge boulders in the far left of the picture below. I thought it would be fun to spend some time at that deserted section of the beach. That means I’d have to find a way to bring my tote bag there. My options were to either swim it there (not possible, I have electronics with me), or carry it over the boulders. So I climbed over the boulders to get back to the main beach to see if it was feasible. I quickly realized that climbing over 25′ tall jagged rocks while 5000 miles from home wasn’t a good idea. Let’s not forget that the entire beach was difficult to access: only the crazy rocky stairs or a boat can get there. There’s no way an ambulance could access it if necessary. I made it safely to the main beach, and chose not to haul my tote bag to the deserted little section. I must have looked crazy, scaling boulders with bare hands and a bikini. Don’t worry parents, I took my time and was careful! I didn’t even get a bruise!
I took an afternoon boat back to Plakais, and had a nice lunch by the beach. There are lots of stray cats in Crete, and this one sunned himself by the restaurant.
I’ve wanted to have fresh fish by the Mediterranean, but I didn’t know what kind to order. My mom suggested the sea bass. I saw a picture of a whole grilled fish on a platter, and asked the server if the chef could filet it. And she said yes! I was very thankful. The meal was delicious, and the view even better.
I watched the sunset while I waited for the bus back to Rethymnon. It’s become a motto of mine to “never plan on taking the last bus home,” because if you miss it you’re screwed! Today I did plan on taking the last bus of the day, as I wanted to spend as much time in Plakais as possible. I made sure I wouldn’t miss it by strategically placing myself at a coffee shop where I would see the bus pull up.
I saw a few cairns along the shore:
Back in Rethymnon, I went to a hookah lounge, called nargiles in Greece. Then I followed the yellow luggage trail back to my apartment. That dark abyss on the right side is the sea!
After two busy days of travel, I let myself sleep in today. I got up around 10:30 and walked along the beach to the center of the old town. The beach here is actually very short, and has many rocks. There’s less than 100′ of sand, sometimes with only 20′ of sand between the rocks and the sea.
I found a lovely bakery and stopped for breakfast. Helene works behind the counter and kindly told me about all the treats they make from scratch daily. I chose a brioche toast with bacon and cheese inside. Delicious!
I strolled the streets, which were full of shops selling cosmetics, soaps, natural oils, natural sea sponges, spices, linens, jewelry, leather goods, and knives. I thought this shop was funny, with knives and rosaries on display:
I stopped in this little cheese shop. Everything they sell is made with sheep’s milk. That’s sheep’s milk butter in those yellow jars! I purchased a small amount of three cheeses and continued walking.
I actually did a lot of shopping today. I bought argan oil for my hair, some donkey milk soap, a ring, and leather sandals for myself (I had only brought one cheap pair, and they were threatening to trip me with every step!)
I came across a lingerie store called “Intimissim”. I was intrigued, as Victoria’s Secret has a line by the same name that’s supposed to be Italian-styled. This small shop has no affiliation with VS, which was great news to me! I didn’t travel this far to shop at an American store. The sales associates were very knowledgeable. They measured me and gave me excellent personalized recommendations. I got myself a little treat and continued on my way.
I had been looking for another bakery to get some bread to accompany my cheese, but didn’t see any. I wandered back to where I had my breakfast and Helene chose a great wheat bread for me. The texture of the bread was phenomenal – so light, so many air pockets! I tasted the cheese, enjoyed all of them, and selected the one with the black wax rind as my favourite.
And then some sheep’s milk gelato for dessert! I had a flavor called kantaifi, with honey, cinnamon, and almond. Three items that Greece specializes in! To the left of the picture is pistachio, another Greek specialty.
I wandered back to my apartment, enjoying the charming streets of the village along the way.
I stopped at the grocery store. The store clerks found it funny that an American was in their grocery store, and taking pictures! Hasn’t she seen eggs before? Yes, but not in a charming little basket! They kindly helped me, telling me about their wine selection, and different produce items.
I appreciated that they keep their herbs in fresh water.
This is my haul for the day: wine (4€); olive oil (1.8€); cheese (4.7€); bread (1.2€); produce (1€). About $15!
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