In November, 2013, Chyah and I headed to an elephant sanctuary in Samburu, Kenya.
Traveling from our home in the San Francisco Bay Area, we stopped over in London for a few days, where we caught a delightful production of Jeeves and Wooster in the West End, thanks to the resourceful Alasdair Ogilvy, Chairman of the Bored, who managed to procure us a couple of rare theatre tickets for the sold-out performance at the Duke of York.
After another stop in Nairobi to visit my relatives, we boarded a Cessna to Samburuland.
Flying over Nairobi…
The accommodations at The Elephant’s Bedroom lodge were first class…
As were the gourmet meals and stunning views from the open verandah…
Our intrepid and expert Samburu wildlife guides Anthony and James…
Palihouse Hotel, Los Angeles
I have entered only one review for TripAdvisor and here it is:
Excellent Hotel for Authors and Artists
I recently stayed at the Palihouse Hotel in West Hollywood, and I recommend this unique, artistically eclectic hotel to anyone, but particularly to authors and artists.
The rooms are beautifully and thoughtfully designed and decorated and the staff are warm, gracious and efficient without ever being intrusive. I held business meetings with authors and artists in the hotel and it was reminiscent of similar meetings I had held in New York at another favorite – the Algonquin Hotel, a legendary hotel for authors and artists.
The Palihouse, in my view, is the ‘West Coast Algonquin’ in terms of style and substance.
It has that certain atmosphere that makes creative people comfortable and at ease to be themselves. This is important, because it results in prolific productivity. I recommend this hotel unreservedly and intend to reserve it often!
(click here for the original September 10, 2014, TripAdvisor review link)
Everything in Lamu moves at a delightfully languid and languorous pace.
Chyah and I traveled to Lamu a couple of years ago and we still talk about its old-world serenity and rich sense of culture and history. Our stay at the luxurious and impeccable Kipungani Explorer was superb. As were the vast beaches, the sailing on old-world dhows and the snorkeling beneath the sparkling water of the Indian Ocean.
Here are excerpts from Chyah’s blog (click here for the full version of Chyah’s blog)…
The Swahili Coastal Culture
It is fascinating to learn about the Swahili customs and culture which as borne out of the intermarriage of local tribal culture and Arab traders and travelers from the Middle East.
In the gullies and backstreets of old Lamu, you can both see and smell the colorful culture, from the flowing robes and dresses of the Swahili people in these portrait photographs to the fragrances of incense and jasmine blossoms, the potent aroma of ginger and coves, the tangy scent of tamarind seeds, and the sweet wafts of fresh halva being made before it is sown and wrapped into reed rusks.
Cape Cod Preppy meets Swahili Dhow Builders
Today, Karim decided to do a spoof!
He had lived for several years in Cape Cod where he had been a school teacher and school principal and had ‘spotted’ Ivy League and Preppy summer vacationers visit the Cape.
So today, Karim decided to dress as Cape Cod Preppy and help these very patient traditional dhow builders of Lamu build a dhow! Karim learned to handle an age old drill made out of two long pieces of crafted wood, which bores the holes for the sail hooks and the rope twists.
Here he is helping to build a dhow!
Artistry and Artisanship of Arab Doorways
The magnificent doors take such skill and artistry and artisanship and are simply breathtaking in their beauty.
When we think of a doorway as a ‘portal’ a purview into a new perspective and venue, then that portal comes with an expectation and a promise, when it stands so majestically and is created with such care and craftsmanship.
Mosque Prayer Time in Old Lamu
Early mornings in Lamu, well before the sunrise, we would hear the first morning prayer calls from the turrets of the mosque. Throughout the day, these lyrical and beautiful prayers would be recited during the prayer times.
Omar, our guide, who is very devout, would excuse himself for prayer time, after ensuring that he had arranged an activity for us to preoccupy ourselves.
There is such serenity and peace at prayer time and the glowing expressions of the young children as they leave or enter the mosques speaks volumes.
The doors of the mosques are magnificent demonstrations of craftsmanship and artisanship, a tradition that goes back centuries and a source of great pride.
Meantime back at the Dhow…
Karim is still busy ‘working’ on the dhow with his buddies…
He thinks that this may well be the very first dhow in the history of the Indian Ocean that may not ever make it out to sea… he has already drilled a bunch of holes where no holes are required but he says he enjoys the practice… hopefully this drill he is deploying does not find its way at the bottom of the dhow because boats don’t sail well with holes in them!
Visiting the Tate Britain after Lamu
This watercolor painting by British painter John Griffiths (1838-1918) is entitled ‘A Sannyasi’.
This was my favorite painting during Karim and my visit to the Tate Britain gallery. It is difficult enough to work with watercolors because, if you make a mistake, watercolor – as opposed to oil painting – is unforgiving… You cannot effectively correct a mistake once it is made.
Moreover, the fact that this painting retains its vibrancy and clarity after almost 200 years, makes this painting exceptional, in my view.
Finally, I would say that the relevancy of this painting is another lovely quality…
This could easily be a contemporary painting of a man outside a mosque or temple in Lamu.
In late May and early April of 2016, Chyah and I holidayed in balmy and beautiful Barcelona.
‘Balmy’ not just in the weather but in the delightfully eccentric artists such as Miro and Dali.
Upon the recommendation of former Bored Chair Alasdair, we dined at 4 Gats restaurant.
We also dined at the magnificent dining room of the Museu Nacional d’Art de Catalunya.
Hotel Montcada on the Via Laietana where we stayed had a literary and artistic ambiance.
All the staff at Hotel Montcada were friendly and exceptionally courteous and professional.
A wonderfully memorable holiday filled with the art and architecture of Gaudi, visits to the Picasso and Dali and Miro museums, long walks in the Parc Guell by day, and nightly walks amongst Roman ruins and Gothic cathedrals, amidst the bustle and chatter of visitors in many languages, or, listening to street cellists and street opera in sometimes balmy and always beautiful Barcelona.
In early July of 2017, Chyah and I vacationed in the fabulous and beautiful city of Florence.
We had art viewings in the Uffizi Gallery with our excellent tour guide Irina Emchenko.
We took leisurely evening walks along the Ponte Vecchio overlooking the River Arno.
We loved our stay at the very elegant and cozy Hotel Rivoli on the Via Della Scala.
And I indulged my interest in artisan leather bound books and designer Ermenegildo Zegna.