CHAI, MASALA DOSA AND DHAL

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Looking back on my days in South India I must say that I enjoyed the food very much there.  All the dhal dishes, the variety of vegetable dishes, the spices and fragrant herbal dishes were all very much to my taste, and rice as a accompaniment was delicious.  While sorting through photos the other day I found some of my visit to Vijayawada and the surrounding area in Andhra Pradesh, and I picked out some of the ones that portrayed foods, street food sellers, and chai shops.

Man selling his vegetables using his bike as vehicle, both practical and colourful.  The carts on wheels are also very practical and you see them a lot in all the towns and villages.  The young boy was minding a cool water stall, big smile on his face as he was obviously enjoying this job.

Along the road on the way to Vijayawada we came across a rice harvest, the people harvesting were working in the hot sun, laying the stalks of rice on the road, we were told that the trucks and busses driving over this would dislodge the rice grains and make the job easier for them to gather the rice.

A lovely lady preparing vegetables, and a storage place where the cabbages and green chillies seem to be a popular food item.

Another popular street selling item would be the bananas, I ate some lovely little bananas in South India, they tasted so creamy, a bit like banana ice-cream, delicious. The hot food stall in the dark, this was around Christmas 2009, the smell was very nice and wrapped itself around us while we browsed the other stalls in the area.  It was the first time I saw the Christmas stars on sale, beautiful crafted from light cardboard, I bought some and took them home to give to my grand children.
IMG_5485I’m always fascinated with the vegetable types that I am not familiar with, here are quite a few on display, the okra, and the bitter gourd (though I have tried to grow these in Ireland), not even sure what the purple vegetable is.  I would want to try them all out.  And when I find spices or herbs between them I go altogether enthusiastic.  Loving it all.

Another street food seller, love the amount of green beans, they make any meal worth eating. So colourful too.

Here I cannot remember what this man was selling, I thought some sort of nuts perhaps.  And on the right it was the children that caught my attention more, they were very curious about me for some reason.

About the chai houses I have fond memories too, you would be walking or driving along the road and there you would regularly come across a chai seller, lovely to sit in the shade and drink a delicious glass of chai, and chat with the local people who would be just as curious about you as you about them.  A relaxed way of living, having all the time in the world, the way it should be.  Materialism has not reached these parts it seems.  I still think that rural areas are healthier and nicer to live in wherever you go in the world.  In India you are never far away from other people even in rural areas, it is not a lonely sort of place.  It’s colourful and friendly.  I was fortunate to travel both in Tamil Nadu, in Andhra Pradesh and in Kerala, in each place I made very good friends.  In Kerala my good friend Mary even gave me demonstrations in preparing traditional Kerala dishes, she and her husband also took me into the mountain areas where they showed me a variety of trees that produce spices, very interesting, but I will write about that another time.  My friends, I do hope you enjoyed my little photo journey through this delightful part of the world.

SERRA DA ESTRELA IN CENTRAL PORTUGAL

Some years ago Ian and I spent a few weeks in Central Portugal.  In memory of all the forest fires which destroyed so much trees plants and animals (and most of all human life) that was lost there over last summer, I have decided to enter a few thoughts, photos, and words from my journal of those days.  It will show the fresh beauty of the place, and like many I hope that the land will recover in all its glory.

We were staying in a small village called Orca in the centre of Portugal, close to the town of Penamacor and Castello Branco.  It was very hot already during our stay even though it was only towards the end of April.  One day we decided to travel to Covhila which lies on the foot of the Serra da Estrella Natural Park and mountain range.  Here is a little of what I noted down at the time.

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Journal entry of April the 28th ~ INTERESTING ROCKS AND MAGNIFICENT VIEWS
We made a day trip to the Serra da Estela mountain range, the highest mountains in Portugal, while we were staying in a lovely little hotel in the historical centre of Covilha. It was possibly one of the most amazing days we spent in Portugal. The beauty of the landscape, plants and rock formations, topped up with actually being able to hold snow in my hand, while we had been baking in temperatures of over 30 degrees Celsius in the valley below, was lovely. There were interesting stones and flowers to discover. We drove down into the Glacial Valley where the village of Manteigas was to be found, the views leading up to discovering this village were wonderful.  It is a trip I would advice anyone to take when visiting central Portugal.

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LOOKING DOWN TO THE GLACIAL VALLEY

This was not only a fantastic view, it was also very interesting of geological interest.   This U-shaped valley was gouged out by a glacier during the last Ice Age. Manteigas is a very lush and quite large village surrounded by mountains, it lies bathed in the sun and water streams down to it from all sides. This assures a good supply to make everything grow well and look very green and fresh. We had a lovely traditional Portuguese soup there with Spinach in it, after a generous helping of fresh Olives and bread. We finished off the meal with a nice desert made of layers of coffee ice-cream and pastry, delicious!

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Granite rock formations

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You are climbing up to nearly 2000 meters high, a very good road, the views magnificent!

AMAZING SCENTS AND A WELCOME COOL BREEZE

The scents all over central Portugal are just so sweet and lovely, so much so, that you breathe with pleasure. The heat does help with this, but even high up on the Serra da Estrela I experienced these lovely scents. I wish that I could bottle it and bring it home, but meanwhile I did breathe with pleasure.

MAGNIFICENT VIEWS

SNOW AT A HEIGHT OF 1750M

Well I have enjoyed this little journey into my past.  I’ve got lots more that I will share.  At the moment I am going through many photos of the past few travels, on some of my memo sticks.  I’m taking at least a year off Facebook and it is amazing how much time more time I have to spend on other things.  Wading through thousands of photos is no mean task, but it is enjoyable.  I hope that you have enjoyed my journey into the past too.

ABUNDANT FLORA IN JANUARY

Just while walking along one road, the coast road of my walk on the first of this year, I found so many wild plants in flower that I would like to share a gallery of them. Meanwhile I am doing some research on them individually and have already come across some interesting facts. It is a great pleasure to become more intimately connected with the Mediterranean flora and to learn more about them. While I was young I studied botany with a teach yourself book, but right during my life-time wild plants, flowers and herbs, and their medicinal and other properties have been of great interest to me, and it gives me great pleasure to learn more about this all the time. By observation as much as by reading, researching and learning about them. The beauty of these wild flowers and the joy of finding them along a walk cannot be underestimated in everyday life, I feel very grateful to have the opportunity.

A NEW YEAR BEGINS

On this first day of January 2018, I see a beautiful blue sky and blazing sunshine, I decide to walk in a different direction.  My walk takes me along the cliff road from Ghajnsielem towards Hondoq Ir-Rummien on the South coast of the island of Gozo.  It’s an easy road and it is no surprise that there are quite a few people walking.  The man from next door with his little dog is there too and we exchange a few words.  People pass and say hello or nod.  Today I went out not only to connect with nature but to make sure that on this first day of the year I connect with people.  Being far away from family and friends makes itself felt on days like today.  Luckily nature is a great solace, a balsam to the soul.

And first and foremost today was about exploring yet another part of the island.  So I took a totally different direction, and walked where I had not walked before.  The road stretched out before me, lined with wild flowers, plants and trees, a delight to the eye, beyond that the rocks going down steeply, and then the sea, the Mediterranean, sky blue with only a few white horses disturbing its surface.

The road was climbing, lined with stone walls, bright limestone locally sourced, built by men long ago, sturdy and functional.  Due to the most recent rain plants are green, sharp new growth, buds of almond blossom and giant fennel are fat and ready to burst.
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I see lots of wild flowers, a delight to the eye, colourful and bright they are fierce and upright even if the strong wind tries to blow them down.  My hair flies all over the place and I have to keep it back in order to look through my camera window and take a steady photo.  I relish the freshness and feel all the spider webs disappearing, all last year’s less beautiful happenings fade away, even all the problems of humankind, all the suffering and pain that people go through, all disappear for the time being. A new year starts and one hopes that it will finally bring Peace to the earth and with it kindness and happiness in every soul.  I know that is wishing for a lot but I still wish it.

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The road winds its way up the hill, I see houses, signs of life.  I think that I am coming to a hamlet but I don’t know what it is called.  It seems very nice and the views over Comino island and over Malta and the sea are wonderful.  I’m almost enticed to go into a tavern to have coffee but then I see that the sun is getting low in the sky and it is still a long walk back home so I decide to retrace my steps.  Such a beautiful place this is, I intend to walk this more often and check out more of the wild plants as the months go by.  It’s all down hill now, the sun is low in the sky, I see church towers of all the surrounding villages, there is Nadur, and Xewkija, and Ghajnsielem churches, the spires high toward the sky, the domes silhouetted against the setting sun.  I notice that all those villages are on heightened ground, hence they can be seen from far-a-way.  In my mind I can walk all over the island, it does not seem far!  In reality it would take me a long time, but it is good to dream at times.

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I get home before dark, but not before I take a few more shots of these lovely surroundings. I see the ferries busy and many cars waiting in line, all on the way to Malta where life is eager to get back to normal after all the festivities. I make a mental note of what I will do tomorrow, another year is starting and I am wanting to jump right in. Like one of my friends said today, we are going to make a good one of it, we are going to enjoy each moment and live to the full.  Grateful for another chance, another opportunity, to be kind.
Happy New Year to all my dear friends, wishing you a year full of Blessings and Love, Peace and Goodwill.