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Saturday, March 28, 2015

Lanzarote, Canary Islands by Margot Justes











Lanzarote is a volcanic island that dates back about 15 million years ago. Located on the African Coast it is uniquely part of Spain as are the other 6 Canary Islands, and yet border the African Continent. I only visited three.

You can tell immediately that it is a volcanic island, the terrain is pure black, and there is a crunch beneath your feet because you’re walking on tiny volcanic pebbles. This island has more than 300 volcanoes, and perfect weather year round, it is eco friendly and as a result it is a great tourist destination, it’s perfect for tourists looking for serenity and an unimaginable landscape.

The history is rich and goes back to Greek writers, Homer, Plato and Plutarch. The first known inhabitants were the cave dwellers Guanches who arrived somewhere in the 1st or 2nd century BC.  The first European visitor was Lanzarotto Marcello, who settled in the early 14th century. My guess is that is why the island is called Lanzarote. By the end of the 15th century, Spain had conquered all seven islands, and to this day they remain uniquely Spanish.

The first thing you notice is the black soil, the second is that all the houses are painted white, the doors and window trim must be either painted brown or green, or if you live by the sea blue. No other colors are allowed on the island.

There is only one high rise, or what is considered a high rise by locals-maybe 12 stories-rising like a lone needle from afar-they are no longer allowed to be build anything tall because of the possibility of volcanic eruptions. 

There is a magnificent cactus garden designed by a local resident and much beloved artist, Cesar Manrique. According to our guide, he is said to be the man who gave Lanzarote a future filled with potential and hope. The garden is designed in a quarry, it has the feel of a Roman theatre, surrounded by volcanic rock, iron gates, steps leading down, up, and long narrow passages, it is modern and totally captivating. It houses over 1000 species of cactus, along with a few of Manrique’s mobiles. The garden is truly breathtaking, modern, functional, so peaceful that you never want to leave.

There is a café on top with amazing views to the gardens below, and alongside the café a few steps down is a small gift shop. At the time that we were there the phone lines were down, and people couldn’t charge their purchases, they had some lovely books on the design and history of the garden. I have never seen a design like this before, it’s one of the most unique places I have visited-I took picture so I can share them with you.

The tour also included a visit to Cesar Manrique’s house, designed by him on 5 volcanic bubbles, basically big holes in the volcanic land. He used each bubble to create wonderful open spaces, sitting options, each one unique and vibrant. All were connected by narrow passages, painted a bright white.  He included a pool, small dance floor, sitting rooms, all were open to the environment, with plants, creative lamps, a magical place, he even had what would for us pass as a barbeque grill.

His own art collection is now part of the museum as well. He is much beloved in the area, and our tour guide pointed out several times that he was killed in a car accident, she even pointed to the exact spot on the roundabout, as we were heading to visit his home.

As an indirect result Lanzarote has a brand new highway system that is efficient and much safer. According to her there were many deaths on the old roads. There are no traffic lights but roundabouts are everywhere. It is a small community, deeply rooted to the volcanic earth, and Cesar Manrique helped bring that closeness about. Cesar Manrique was instrumental in making the people of Lanzarote aware of their unique and wondrous heritage.

We also visited an agricultural museum, El Patio. To call it a journey to the past would be perfect. The museum houses farming equipment that dates back to the 1840’s. We were treated to local goat cheese, green olives, homegrown tomatoes, along with crackers and the local wine. After which we fed the chickens, rooster and one peacock the leftovers, they patiently waited for us to finish.

A charming place, although I found the scarecrows dressed as the local old farmers, sitting in a dilapidated, run down old house that was dimly lit downright eerie.

Cheers,
Margot  Justes
Blood Art
A Fire Within
A Hotel in Paris
A Hotel in Bath
Hot Crimes Cool Chicks
www.mjustes.com

Monday, March 23, 2015

Cartagena, Spain by Margot justes













I love the Spanish cities I have visited in the past-all unique and all beautiful, and Cartagena, located in the Region of Murcia was no exception. 

A long maritime past and many cultures have left an imprint and a rich heritage that the locals are very proud of, and are hoping the rest of the world will soon discover. It is a city with a spectacular waterfront, and recently discovered Roman ruins that date back about three thousand years.

The Roman Theatre is a must see, along with some terrific Art Nouveau architecture, like the Grand Hotel, the Casino and City Hall to name just a few.  According to our guide, the ruins have seriously put Cartagena on the tourist map, and that is excellent news.
Funds are needed for additional architectural digs and discoveries. As recently as 1987 they found remnants of the Punic wall, and other treasures that date back to Hannibal.

The question of further digs is twofold, there are houses, businesses, and parks that rest on potential archeological treasures, and many who live on those sites would prefer to continue to do so, while others want the excavations to continue. It is not so easy to start digging, yet the sense of history and preservation is desirable, and besides ancient ruins tend to bring tourists in, and of course that builds the economy, but as always there are many sides to every issue.

Along with the recent discoveries, fortunately for Cartagena, they have a wonderful moderate climate, reasonable prices and lovely beaches to motivate the tourist industry. The development of the industry is still a work in progress, few tourist shops, except for the usual Flamenco dolls and the obligatory Cartagena stamped stuff.

However, there is progress if the one shop I visited is anything to go by. Our guide mentioned that the wine produced in the region was quite good, and recommended one store that would carry it, the Submarine Shop. I looked for others in the main square but couldn’t find any. What I found instead was the glorious paseo, the wonderful Spanish tradition of a leisurely stroll on the boulevard. It seems everyone was out and that included the family pets.

The Submarine Shop sold some excellent local wines, tomato jellies, along with beautiful locally made pottery, and a few wine related trinkets. That was the only store I found that sold locally produced items, reasonably priced and the pottery made for some beautiful gifts.

I also discovered a local liqueur, simply called Licor 43. The secret formula has 43 ingredients,  chief among them is citrus, fruit juices, with a hint of vanilla. It is luscious, and it is available on Amazon. I’m beginning to think everything is available on Amazon.

The owners were friendly and eager to expand their tourist trade, and were excited about their product. I was told that soon they will ship wines internationally, and they looked forward to growing their business.

Our tour guide went beyond the normal tourist offerings, and made sure we learned about his city’s important heritage and recently discovered ancient past.

The plaza is just down the street from the beautiful waterfront, I sat down in a cafe and enjoyed my obligatory and delicious coffee and the view.

Cheers,
Margot  Justes
Blood Art
A Fire Within
A Hotel in Paris
A Hotel in Bath
Hot Crimes Cool Chicks
www.mjustes.com

Wednesday, March 18, 2015

Pictures from Lanzarote, Canary Islands by Margot Justes

A unique volcanic island that boasts a magnificent Cactus Garden designed by famed artist Cesar Manrique, and his unbelievable home, now a museum. He built his house around 5 volcanic bubbles, it is truly a unique place. All the homes on the island are either painted white or blue, if near water.

Hope you enjoy the pictures as much as I enjoyed taking them. If you'd like to know a little more, I posted a blog on http://acmeauthorslink.blogspot.com
















Cheers,
Margot  Justes
Blood Art
A Fire Within
A Hotel in Paris
A Hotel in Bath
Hot Crimes Cool Chicks
www.mjustes.com

Tuesday, March 10, 2015

Pictures from Cartagena, Spain

A beautiful place to visit.













Cheers,
Margot  Justes
A Hotel in Paris
A Hotel in Bath
Blood Art
A Fire Within
Hot Crimes Cool Chicks
www.mjustes.com


Saturday, March 7, 2015

Agadir, Morocco by Margot Justes




The port of Agadir was my first visit to North Africa. Our tour included a souk visit, which is a typical market/bazaar, tented and patched with whatever was handy, you could see imagination at work everywhere you turned.

The souk we visited was positively huge, there was no time to stop and shop, our guide was rather persistent that we stay together, and he just marched on, one turn after another in a wondrous maze. I was grateful, I tend to wander off and get lost; they’d probably still be looking for me today, but I was smart enough to stick to the guide like the proverbial glue.

Alley upon alley of curved and narrow paths, most were dirt, others had tile, cracked plaster, still others pieces of bricks, well worn rugs, all uneven, and all led to infinity. It seemed never ending. Anything was for sale from cheese to meat to clothes, massive selections of olives, live poultry and everything in between.

We walked through town for a little bit, visited the top of the hill, or mountain as the guide indicated, where in 1960 at almost midnight a volcanic eruption killed 20,000 people. The place remains untouched, neglected  with few dry plans marking some graveyards. A sad reminder of a horrific loss. Along the path coming down the hill, vendors lined up their good on either side of the street, and once again touristy trinkets were for sale, most were imports from China.

After the somber reminder of the loss of those poor souls, a welcome break called the Fantasia Show was held in a tent and garden, where galloping horses and riders with guns drawn came to a sudden stop and fired into the air, even a snake charmer was thrown in for good measure. There were souvenirs to buy, and one was expected to haggle. Even patient camels were waiting for tourists to ride them-the awkward creatures are actually quite soulful, graceful and limber.

In the evening I took another tour, back to the tent lined with red carpets and the same garden. This tour included a traditional dinner in the tent and entertainment in the garden.  I’m sure there were Arabian Knights lurking in a corner somewhere…well I am a romance writer after all.

More of the traditional Arabian Nights riders, guns drawn as they galloped across the lawn, fired their guns, and majestically rode back. Blanks were used but the noise was enough to wake the dead. It was a delightful evening, filled with local customs and traditions.

After the show we had a typical Moroccan dinner of a soup made with chick peas and local spices, a chicken with vegetables slowly cooked in a tagine, and then couscous with roasted vegetables and lamb, and for the finale a huge bowl of fresh fruit. I love couscous and the preparation was outstanding.

A belly dancer provided the after dinner entertainment. By the time I was back on the ship, I really did think about the magic and romance of the Arabian Nights, moonlight and mysterious strangers.


Cheers,
Margot  Justes
Blood Art
A Hotel in Paris
A Hotel in Bath
Hot Crimes Cool Chicks
www.mjustes.com