Tag Archives: walking

On The Walk of the Gods

High up, very high up in the hills overlooking the Amalfi Coast is a walk (let’s say vertiginous hike) which threads along the cliffs, past the ghosts of farmhouses and terraces overgrown with grapevines — the grapes warm and sweet if you are tempted — from Praiano to Positano. The walk can take anywhere from 3 to 5 hours, depending on your pace and fitness, or you can join the path in other mountain towns like Apergo, where you can do a loop in about 2 hours (good if you want to get back to your car without having to take a cab or the bus!). That’s the option we took. We were following famous footsteps:

“Is this the view that from on high along the Path of the Gods, opens to our sight: it is the picture of the great loop of the Amalfi coastline that looks towards the west, towards the Island of Capri, that precipitous coast, steamy, hot, with the crystalline mountains where the gods of today are forsaken and you find a lost self again, Mediterranean, before you.” D. H. Lawrence

As Lawrence intimated, it can get hot up there, so best to wear a hat and sunglasses, slather yourself with high factor sunscreen, bring lots of water (which you can refill from fresh water taps along the way), and opt to do the walk outside of the broiling months of July and August (we did it in September, which was perfect — sunny with a touch of cool breeze wafting up from the coast far, far, far, far below).

It was marvellous.

 

 

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New Year’s Day Walk

It was good to get out for a long walk this morning after the festivities of New Year’s Eve. The sun shone and I grabbed my camera, heading out to the Bedelands in Burgess Hill, West Sussex near my home. It was early and aside from a few early bird dog walkers, I had the forest and fields pretty much to myself.

 

 

At the Medrassa Ben Youssef

After my morning wander through the alleyways of the Medina in Marrakech, and a visit to the Maison de la Photographie, I headed out towards the Place Jemaa El Fna (the huge square in the centre of the Medina) aided by a scribbled map given to me by one of the curators at the museum. It wasn’t long before I was lost again.

I was pretty sure I’d done my best to follow the directions to the square, but the alleys weave and wander, sprouting offshoots, and there isn’t a sign anywhere to help you orient yourself. Despite the offers of a “guide”, I declined, not wanted to have another argument about payment, and, after passing by construction sites (Marrakech is changing by the minute)…

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… and men laying out leather to dry in the sun…

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…I eventually found myself at the Medrassa Ben Youssef — an Islamic college founded in the 14th century and named after the great Almoravid sultan Ali ibn Yusuf (reigned 1106-1142) who expanded the city and its influence.

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I paid my 60 dirhams (a combined fee to visit the Medrassa and the Musee de l’Art de Vivre de Marrakech) and entered into the vast, cool interior.

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The Medrassa was reconstructed in the 16th century and this is the building which now stands in the Medina. One hundred and thirty student dorms cluster around the courtyard (above) which is richly carved in cedar, marble and stucco, consisting entirely of inscriptions and geometric patterns.

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The student rooms are tiny and dark, with small windows letting in a sliver of light. It’s thought that around 900 students stayed in these rooms while studying at the Medrassa.

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The Medrassa was closed in 1960 and is now open to the public as an historical site.

Medrassa Ben Youssef, Kaat Benahid, Marrakech 40000, open 8:30-6:00 daily.

 

Wandering in Marrakech

I’d heard about the Maison de la Photographie in Marrakech awhile ago and I thought I’d head through the winding alleys of the medina in search of it. It wasn’t easy to find — I kept circling around the maze of alleys, noticing an anachronistic Christmas tree in the window of a dress shop…

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…passing the same dozing cat twice (he hadn’t moved a millimeter)…

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…and then, instead of getting anxious, I just started taking photos of anything that caught my eye — I wasn’t in any rush, was I?

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I eventually admitted defeat and resorted to asking someone to show me the way, careful to negotiate a price first (it cost me 50 dirhams, about £4.50 — far too expensive but I was getting hot and tired).

I got there though, and the breezy white interior of the lovely riad which houses the extensive collection Moroccan photographs dating from the 1870s was a welcome respite from the busy alleyways outside.

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The photos on display showed examples of the daily life of Berber and Jewish men, women and children from the late 19th century and early 20th century — women fetching water from a well, children sitting under a fig tree, a man selling disks of bread from a wooden cart in the souk (which you would still see today), and portraits of proud turbaned men staring fiercely from their framed past.

There is a large collection of 4,500 prints, with the exhibit changing regularly. Copies of the photos are available to buy (I intend to do just this when I get my own little flat in Marrakech enshallah), and the curators are very eager to answer any questions about the pictures and the photographers. Upstairs there is a running French colour documentary of a visit to the High Atlas filmed in 1957 which, from my own visits to the area, looks little changed, the Berber villages’ only concession to the 21st century now the satellite dishes sprouting like mushrooms from the rooftops.

On the roof of the riad there’s a small restaurant…

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… and I rested up there in the cool shade, filling up on aubergine salad…

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…followed by chicken tagine (tangy with preserved lemons and olives). Forgot to take a photo of it because I was so hungry! Then followed up with home-made yogurt with honey and a traditional Moroccan mint tea.

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The Maison de la Photographie, rue Ahl Fes, 46 rue Bin Lafnakek, Medina, Marrakech 400030, Tel: 212 5243 85721. Open daily 9:30am – 7pm. Cost: 40 dirhams (keep your ticket and you can come back as many times as you like during your stay in Marrakech).

Spring in a Victorian Cemetery

There is a Victorian cemetery near my flat, and I walk through it most days on my way to the Underground. I love the walk — the peace only broken by the caw of citrus-coloured parakeets (there’s a colony nesting in the trees) and rustle of leaves as squirrels chase each other around the headstones. This squirrel played statue while I took his photo — can you see him?

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Spring literally arrived overnight. The sun came out and spread carpets of snowbells and crocuses over the fresh green grass.

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And, here and there, a flash of yellow, as daffodils unfurled.

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a street away from the bustle of London on a busy weekday morning. Just me and the squirrels and carpets of flowers.