I now own the Thierry Laget paperback edition and will treasure it always.
On Sunday, July 17 at 1:45 AM we arrived at St. Johns, Newfoundland after a 3.5 hour Canjet flight from Toronto to begin an 11 day self-directed driving tour of that beauty-filled, sooo friendly province. On the plane we shared three seats with a charming young woman from Pouch (“Pooch”) Cove, not far from St. Johns. The time flew by. Got our bags and rented a metallic grey Chrysler Sebring at the airport and slept at the Airport Comfort Inn.
We used Maxxum Vacations to organize our route, a rental car and our accommodations. They do an excellent job of putting tours together.
Wasting no time, after breakfast we headed eastward from the airport, driving around the south shore of Conception Bay, past Carbonear to a small place called Salmon Cove, where there was a community festival that sounded like fun. It was.
Near Salmon Cove we visited a place near Victoria that had some Newfoundland ponies, a uniquely beautiful, small, muscular animal ideally suited to The Rock that is now considered endangered. There are only a few hundred left mostly in Newfoundland and some in Ontario. I don’t know if the place where we saw them is still there. If you are interested, Google “Newfoundland ponies” or start here.
In Carbonear we visited the alleged grave of the Irish Princess, Sheila Nageira Pike, whose rather preposterous myth includes being captured by a pirate and rescued by yet another pirate. The museum in Harbour Grace was closed, but we still had to drive to our downtown hotel, the Delta St. Johns, and check in, then walk to catch a great dinner theatre at 7 P.M.
Monday, July 18: History, Old and Older… and Geography
More to come…
We opted against Insight’s included tour of the Fes medina, opting to hire a personal guide for a full day. This gave us more time there and much freer movement. We decided this before leaving Canada. I found a superb young man, named Younes, through a very helpful woman on Lonely Planet’s forum, who visits Fes annually. I communicated with Younes initially by phone and then we worked together on what we wanted to see, arranging this by email.
I made it clear that we did not simply want to be brought around to places where we would be expected to spend so that Younes could get a commission. This must be clear from the start. When we got to Fes I phoned him from the hotel on his cell. We had connection problems so just quickly said, “We will meet you at 10:15 at the hotel as agreed by email,” and hung up.
As our group was about to board the bus for supper, Younes showed up and somehow found us. He went out of his way to assure us that he would come for us in the morning. Our up-tight Insight tour director flipped out when we told him our plans. He threatened to call the police until we explained how we had pre-arranged the whole thing.
Below are three photos taken at Al Karouine University founded in the ninth century, which claims to be the oldest continuing university in the world. While we walked, Younes talked of having guided Nicholas Cage, Leonardo DiCaprio and Julia Roberts during his time as a guide. He was very impressed with Julia Roberts, who had some very specific things she wanted to see. Apparently she is involved in charitable and educational projects to do with young people in Fes. Since he humbly admitted, even though a student in university, that he couldn’t read the 9th century calligraphy I’m inclined to believe him about the celebrities.
A colourful highlight was a major leather tannery in Fes, where we specifically asked Younes to take us. They gave us a sprig of mint to hold near our noses, but the smell wasn’t that bad. The leather goods were amazing, but, even after touching the wonderful softness of the vividly coloured jackets, handbags and other beautiful items, we somehow resisted. Right: We passed by a shop in the metal working area. This was a noisy highlight. There you go; if I include our delicious lunch, there’s something for all five senses in the medina.
Miscellany: An early photo of a square before entering the narrow streets with Younes, patiently waiting for me, on the right. A prayer niche in the restaurant where we lunched; it must have been a very luxurious home at one time. On the right a patient and colourful donkey.
Note 1: This blog is republished under a new title from my old site. It is from April, 2010 but bears repeating. The opinions remain mine and the authors’ truths are timeless.
Note 2: Here is a link to a January 9th, 2013 Guardian review of Jared Diamond’s latest book, The World Until Yesterday by none other than Wade Davis. It is quite enlightening. Wade Davis makes the important criticism that there is still a sense in Diamond’s eloquently humane, but anthropologically naive, work that the fundamental paradigm of the superiority of the European worldview is alive and well. Diamond simply believes that the West can benefit from tweaking derived from insight contributed by an appreciation of the way in which indigenous cultures relate to the unity of all living things on the Earth. Davis, on the other hand, recognizes that the apparently primitive indigenous approaches to understanding and to life are equally valid ways of living and that European peoples need to recognize this if we are to survive. Only a new appreciation of the complete validity and worth of indigenous worldviews will take us where we hope to go: alive into the next century.
OK. Back to the original post:
I don’t know exactly when I bought the paperback version of Jared Diamond’s great book, Guns, Germs, and Steel, published in 1997 or 1999 (those Copyright notes are confusing), but it was possibly as early as 2004. I soon got distracted (saw something shiny, maybe) and put it down, probably somewhere around page 100. I finally finished it yesterday, all the way to the end of the 2003 afterward – page 440, after several other shiny objects interfered. My friend, Bill, called me a while back and mentioned being impressed by it, which reminded me that I owned it. I was impressed with the fact that Bill seems to have plowed through it at what seems to me like Mach 2, but why should anything he does surprise me? He seems to be able to do so many things energetically (and well), often with brilliantly funny self-effacement. Anyway, after working my way to page 200, I became obsessively determined to finish it and must have raced through the second half in less than two months!
You might have gathered that it’s not an easy read. The Da Vinci Code it is not! But Diamond is one of three authors concerned with the people and other living things on this Planet that are worth taking out your highlighter (if your memory is as short as mine) and plowing through. Continue reading “As Geopolitical Luck Would Have It”