Cambodia

I still haven’t been writing much lately, but these photos captured most of what I can tell you. The people were beautiful, kind and peaceful despite having been through hell so recently. It is a hard country to visit, but worth every effort.

and perhaps my favorite action shot ever…
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Vietnam

The longer I do this the more I find the photography taking more and more time, leaving less and less for describing the places we visit. Perhaps the time is coming to just let the photos tell the story, and interject words when I just must. Here are some images from Vietnam, starting with the night we arrived and before sunrise the next jet-lagged morning in Hanoi.

A short cruise around Halong Bay revealed this magical place of striking borders, scant traditional fishing villages, and a highway for one of the largest shipping ports in the China Sea. the pollution never allowed us many clear skies, but what we saw was stunning.

The a few days in Saigon, where motor scooters outnumber humans 4:1, os something like that. We boarded a National Geographic Cruise of the Mekong delta.

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Burning Man 2017

What can I say. I am hooked. A believer, a burner, a convert, a dust mote. I love it. I will go back as long as they let me.

 

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A drive around Puglia, Italy

A short drive from Gallipoli marina is Nardo, a small town with baroque churches that is faithful to the siesta tradition. We arrived just after midday, and had the town to ourselves for a short walking tour.

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Lecce is a mid-sized town, known for its baroque churches and roman ruins.
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It is also a university town, so there is an energetic vibe, with lots of young people hanging out in the cafés at night and excellent choices of well-priced “street-food,” or that is the current marketing tool to sell good dishes with their famous burrata cheese, salads, frisella, cured meats and the like.

We ate well here and stayed over a night at a wonderful apartment just 5 minutes’ walk from the piazza del Duomo. Staying inside a walled city always offers an exciting drive through medieval streets, narrow and packed with people, a rosary clutching kind of drive. Photographing these streets empty only requires walking in the heat of the day while everyone in Europe is asleep.

Alberobello is the town known for the Trulli, these small dome shaped houses built from stone. The history is that houses built for the workers exacted a tax on the landowner, so these houses were built to be assembled and disassembled quickly from the rather flat rocks dug up to cultivate the land. This town was made a UNESCO site and these houses preserved, though only 4 families still live in them. The rest are now tourist holiday rentals or shops. We stayied in a hotel that was originally a Trullo but added to to make a nice hotel. Our room was a trullo with modern wifi, bathroom, and an interesting sleeping area. The bed was on a floor of plexiglass a few feet above a white rock bottom. I suspect moisture management was the reason for this, but with lights under the bed, it made a unique and pretty “bedroom.” The manager was a nice guy, and took us on a 1 hour walk around town to give us an overview, to explain why such a small town had such a huge church (because churches were often more about the person whose money built it that the Diety it honors), and to show us a shop where a man makes tiny handmade Trulli houses as souvenirs!! Surprise!! Perhaps it was his father or uncle’s shop, but it was very interesting.

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Foods of Puglia

FOOD in Puglia

In Santa Maria di Leuca, our crew member Serena had a craving for puccia, a specialty she remembered from visiting Puglia in her youth. To American eyes, puccia is a sandwich. It is served on a specific Puglinese bread, let’s call it something like a thick, dry pita, filled with something like meat, or cheese, or vegetables. We walked about 2 miles in search of one, but we found one in a food truck near the pineapple bar (which is also a food truck, just shaped like a pineapple.)

Both fine dining establishments have plastic tables set up in a parking lot with the best sunset views in town.
This gets my recommendation, but I might get a sausage next time instead of a meatball puccia, as mine was a bit dry.

Gallipoli is known for the its seafood. The gambiere, or red shrimp from here are sold in Cafe du Paris, according to our Captain (who also owns a restaurant, a multi-talented guy).

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Find the restaurant and pescerie La Lampara. We perused their seafood- still alive- and chose our oysters, clams and cockles and in 10 minutes they were presented for eating. We ate them all raw, and they were incredible! La Lampara also has a fish market like I have seldom seen, and you can choose your fish and have it cooked for you.


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This is under the bridge to the old town, where the fishing boats unload, so it smells bad, you eat with plastic forks on paper plates, but you will not find fresher seafood, or better just-caught fish in Puglia, perhaps in the whole of the Med. Stunning!

The rest of the Salento (most southern section of Puglia) also boasts non-seafood dishes, burrata cheese being the highlight. It is the soft, creamier version of mozzarella, also made from buffala, or female water buffalo, ideally, but cow’s milk will do in a pinch. Serena and Pietro found this one enormous cheese for us in a market.

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The common name for a burrata this size is zizona, or big boob.
The Frisella is a hard rusk of bread soaked in water or tomato juice, covered with tomatoes and salad, or cheese, ham, what not. It is similar to Cretan salad when served in the bottom of a salad, or like bruschetta, when standing alone. The cured meats, like prosciutto, and Copa are also exquisite. The olive oil is delicious. And the harder cheeses.

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The most famous wines are from the red negra amaro and primitivo grapes, both distinct and heavy wines. The primitivo seems most like a zinfandel, the alcohol content 15-16% due to the heat of this region. I found a rosé made from the negro amaro grape that I like, and it is splendid with a few ice cubes on these hot days, though my Italian captain must turn his head at the sight of ice cubes in wine. We ate very well in Puglia.

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Santa Maria di Leuca, Italy

Santa Maria Di Leuca is the city on the southernmost point of the heel of Italy. It is Italy’s Ushuaia, Land’s End. This is the actual point. Rather a jagged little edge.

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Santa Maria di Leuca is a beautiful spot to visit and the marina is deep enough for 2.8 meters in selected berths. It was not previously a port of entry that we knew of, but we were able to check in. By visiting the Ufficio maritime, next to the travel lift, shown here,
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the officer was able to call the border police who brought a portable laptop and passport scanner and checked us in. They also gave us a constituto, which is not the current protocol, but we now have one. They were very friendly, but we had to wait a while until the guy showed up with the laptop.

Looking to the shore from the anchorage, just in front of the town promenade, we all scratched our heads at the architecture. Such an array of styles- Ottoman, Baroque, whimsical fairy princess, modern beach bungalow, all interspersed with the famous Villas of SMdL (I would call it the Newport Mansions section of Puglia).

These are homes built in the 1800s that are part restored, part in the original state of decay, all impressive if all a bit odd.

The town seemed abandoned. Many many holiday condos are built next to the mansions and are apparently awaiting August, when Italy is on vacation. This are is where Italy goes on holiday, where the Ionian Sea brings clear, warm waters unlike the murky mess of the Adriatic side. The coast here is rocky and full of caves, so the Italian solution to a rocky beach is either lay down wooden “beach” decks, or just lie on the rocks!

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The coast line of near SMdL is jagged, featuring many navigable caverns, grotte, and caves that you can reach from land by walking. In fact, in the Salento region are many Grotte that show evidence of human occupation from 20,000 years ago! Cave art, made of Ochre and guano have been dated to this time period, and there is at least one Christian church still operating inside a cave. The cavemen of this region had very well decorated homes.
The waters are clear, warm and very swimmable.

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How about dinghy- spelunking?

The sections of coastline that are not interesting caves and rocks are pebble or sand beaches. The section near Urgento is called “the Maldives of Italy” because the shallow, turquoise waters bring the Maldives to mind. We could only anchor so far away, we had to miss it. Motoring along about 2 miles out we had to stop and pick our way out of sudden 4 meter water, to a more comfortable 10 meters.

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Zachynthos

We had visited Zante Island before but never the town of Zante.

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The town was destroyed by an earthquake but the rebuilt city retains some charm and architecture that make it very pretty indeed.

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Of course, the real show stopper is the beach. Marathonisi island is a small beach on a remote island in the national park. Everyone flocks here to hopefully swim with the turtles. We saw none here, but we did enjoy people watching at the beach- couples, families, pizza boats, etc.

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Of course, Zachynthos is most known for the most photographed beach in Greece, Shipwreck cove. A few repeat favorites, and perhaps when we get it edited, some drone shots.
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