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Better Dead than Red…

…was a slogan in America during the Cold War. Of course at the time the Reds were the dreaded Commies but nowadays the Reds morphed into the slimy Republicans. And not the main stream ones that are highly needed in the American politics for a healthy balance but the new Fascist-Republicans of the far right, or the way they want to be called the Alt-Right; nativist, nationalistic, racist and anti-Semitic but in no case patriotic, as they pretend to be. So let’s join forces and vote Democrat to weed out this disease from our Congress. So no matter what you do on Tuesday go and Vote because otherwise no bitching and complaining might help.

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Posted by on November 5, 2018 in Blog, USA

 

East Bay Bike Path

Outside Indian Point Park, Providence, RI

That’s it! This is the most beautiful bike trail I rode on. It is spectacularly squeezed between the large Providence River and some other lakes and bodies of water, surrounded by amazingly colors of the fall.

East Bay Bike Trail, RI

The trail starts in Indian Point Park in Providence, RI right in front of the Holiday Inn, crosses the bridge into town and after a very short stretch on the road climbs offering the first spectacular views of Providence River and its less spectacular opposite shore full of oil tanks in an industrial landscape.

Pomham Rocks Lighthouse, Providence, RI

The trail is about 15 miles long and follows the river on most of its parts. The pavement is well maintained and it looks in many places that is brand new. The path is passing by Pomham Rocks with its charming lighthouse, owned originally by Exxon but donated in the end to the state of Rhode Island

Bristol, RI

When you reach Bristol a lot of cafes are waiting for a well deserved break. We chose Beehive Cafe by the Bristol park and the river when the bike path ends that has great cappuccinos and nice cakes and after a respite we started biking back for a round trip ride of 30 miles.

East Bay Bike Trail by Providence, RI

Close to Providence, if you come around sunset, the light is exquisite and you cannot but stop on the way to take lots of pictures.

Providence, RI

 
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Posted by on November 3, 2018 in Blog, USA

 

Chatham

Chatham lighthouse, Cape Cod, MA

So many times we were in Cape Cod and never had a chance to drive to Chatham Harbor. Each time when we were in Chatham we always stopped on the Main street where we walked sipping our cappuccinos.

Chatham Harbor is home for a seal colony, Cape Cod, MA

This time in a drizzly weather we decided to follow the road to the harbor in search for the resident seals. Unfortunately the seals were gone in an outing I guess, or they decided that the weather was unseasonable for them to bask in the nonexistent sun. Or they forgot their umbrellas home and did not want to be exposed to rain.

A Cape house, Yarmouth, Cape Cod, MA

The Cape Cod houses are charming, a specific architectural style covered in wood shingles. The house where we stayed this time in Yarmouth was listed in National Registry being built in 1750, a cozy place that we wished we knew to stay in our previous travels to the Cape.

 
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Posted by on November 2, 2018 in Blog, USA

 

Blackstone River

Blackstone River Bike Trail, Providence, Rhode Island

During an unseasonable visit to Cape Cod we decided to try some biking outside of the Cape and stopped on the way in Cumberland, RI. Here it starts a beautiful and well maintained bike trail along Blackstone River that tries as much as possible to follow the waterway.

Blackstone River Bike Trail, Providence, RI

The path meanders between the river and marshes in the spectacular colors of the fall that invite you to bike and discover. We started biking somewhere outside of Cumberland, in a marshland area and we biked for about 8 miles till we passed Woonsocket, RI, out of the 11 miles of continuous bike path.

Ashton, RI

On the way we passed through Ashton, RI, a town that had a large mill during the Industrial Revolution and several other industrial places till you get in Woonsocket. From there, there are several more miles on connecting roads, the plan being to extend this route all the way to Worchester, MA

Blackstone River, RI

Unfortunately we had to cut short the biking because we had to make it a little bit earlier to Hyannis in the Cape, another 90 minutes drive down the road.

 
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Posted by on November 1, 2018 in Blog, USA

 

Travel with technology

Cismigiu Garden, Bucharest, Romania

With all the apps available it’s always a new way to connect while abroad. For prepaid mobile plan in the US the moment you leave their network the phone stops seeing any network. It display “No Service”. A way to get around it is to forward your mobile number to another American number. I installed in my office a number on MagicJack that for $35/year you can call unlimited US and Canada. MagicJack has a free app that would be associated with any US number you would like, so if you associated it with your mobile number all received calls from the office can be taken on your mobile phone as well. The app works both on 4G and WiFi. If you forward your mobile number to the app you receive all calls, including all your mobile calls, abroad at no extra cost. All what you need is WiFi if you did not buy a local SIM. More than that the phone would ring both in the US and abroad wherever you are on your mobile, so who picks up first gets the call. And if you buy a local SIM abroad the phone would ring with two different tones, one for the local SIM and one for the mobile calls from the US so you would know right away who is calling.

Cismigiu Garden, Bucharest, Romania

Because I did not plan to buy a SIM in Israel and another in Jordan I had to find a way to navigate with GPS. I never used downloaded maps but I just found out how great they work. I used Maps.Me and Google Maps. On Maps.me the moment you open the app in a country it asks you if you want to download the map. After that you use it in the same way as if you had reception. I was able to navigate the roads of Israel all written in Hebrew and the convoluted unmarked alleys of the medieval towns with no problem. Of course you have to save on battery if you don’t have an option to charge it…

A bridge over the Cismigiu Lake, Bucharest, Romania

 
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Posted by on October 26, 2018 in Blog, Romania

 

Temple Mount

The entrance plaza by the Moroccan Gate, temple Mount, Jerusalem, Israel

After a full day in Jerusalem and four late afternoon/evenings I was not able to get to the Temple Mount. Either it was Friday and it was closed or it was too late and the Israeli were closing the access over the Western Wall. Each day they told me to come the next day but each day I was leaving somewhere else and came back again late in the day. So I planned for my last day in Jerusalem, before my flight, to get to the Temple Mount so at 8:00 AM I was at the Moroccan Gate.

Al-Aqsa Mosque with the Dome of the Rock in the background, Temple Mount, Jerusalem, Israel

Temple Mount is a thorn in the Israeli politics. It’s coming in discussion like a leitmotif and is hard to fathom its importance without coming to Jerusalem. Because Temple Mount is a large plaza extended and consolidated by Herod in 19BC on which the Second Temple of the Jews was located that was further razed by the Romans who built here a temple dedicated to Jupiter, further occupied by the Muslims that razed the Roman temple and built two magnificent mosques leaving the Jews to pray at the base of the platform, toward a collection of remaining bricks from two eras. The Build-Destroy cycle of the city.

The interior of the Al-Aqsa Mosque, Jerusalem, Israel

Al-Aqsa, the more austere mosque, is the third holiest place for the Muslims after Mecca and Medina. Here, the Quran says, Mohamed was transported from Mecca during his Night Journey, a travel both physical and spiritual.

Dome of the Rock Mosque and the smaller Dome of the Chain, Jerusalem, Israel

Surprising the other mosque right across the plaza guarded by Israeli soldiers with machine guns, the Dome of the Rock with its most recognizable gilded dome has an agreed and deep significance for both Jews and Muslims, here being the Biblical place where Abraham heard God asking him to sacrifice his son Isaac. However for the Jews the rock is the place from where the world was spun into existence and from its dust God created Adam. For the Muslims the rock signifies the place from where Mohamed raised to Heaven. But their agreement about its significance is nothing compared with the tension that emanates on this place after centuries of conflict.

Temple Mount, Jerusalem, Israel

I walked all over the Temple Mount and shot video on the outside of the mosques, the access to the interior being allowed only for Muslim believers. At one point I went to the Cotton Merchant Gate, an interesting old gate built in Moorish style and I just wanted to take a shot of the gate toward the Dome of the Rock so I stepped outside of it, maybe three steps. Each gate is guarded by two Israeli military and one policeman with machine guns beside one Arab guard dressed in a jalabah. They refused to let me back in because this gate, like 10 others, can be used only by Muslims and they sent me back at the Moroccan Gate. But at the Moroccan Gate somehow they saw my professional camera and they did not let me to get in anymore. However they turned out to be of great help because I did not have enough time anyhow and I already shot whatever I needed.

Dome of the Rock, Jerusalem, Israel

The Jerusalem wall is surrounding continuously the old city but because the access to the temple mount is under high security the portion of the wall that is behind it is also closed. So the ticket they sell for wall access has two sections. In the first day I visited the left side of the wall but I did not have time to visit its right side. But when I went to the right side of the wall to enter the guard complained that the ticket is too old and he refused to let me in. In spite that it does not say anything about its valability it looks like they would let you only in the day it was issued and maybe the following day.

Tower of David Citadel, Jerusalem, Israel

Next to the wall entrance is the Jerusalem Citadel named also Tower of David with no real connection to King David. It was built mainly by the Mameluks and the Ottomans but on old fortifications of started by the Hasmoneans and continued also by Herod the Great and Paranoid. Of course it was destroyed repeatedly in history, mainly during the crusaders invasion who also coined its association with King David. It was repeatedly reconstructed, its last reconstruction being done for the benefit of the modern invaders, the hordes of tourists that flood daily the streets of Jerusalem.

Tower of David citadel, Jerusalem, Israel

 
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Posted by on October 23, 2018 in Blog, Israel

 

On Planet Jedha

Wadi Rum camp entrance, Jordan

The resort was spectacular. In Wadi Rum they were waiting us with dinner while the moon was rising over the hills. The trail of lights up the hill behind the camp are following a set of steps that bring you up the mountain to meditate in the silence of the night under full moon or at the sunrise.

Wadi Rum camp, Jordan

The tent accommodation proved to be extremely comfortable and when the moon set towards the wee hours of the night the sky filled with stars that reminded me of the magic show that we had in the Australia outback, only that this time I was watching the northern sky constellations.

Sunrise in Wadi Rum, Jordan

The morning sunrise under a sky filled with a broken blanket of clouds was inspiring so I climbed the mountain and watched till the sun came high on the sky and the Dutch girl teaching yoga in the camp started her lesson in the serenity of the desert.

After sunrise

Wadi Rum was in the thrills of “Star Wars”. Sony was filming and did some costume rehearsal and everybody was freaking out and did their best not to allow people close to their compound. Drones were banned and the regular hot air balloon rides at sunrise were suspended in order to keep the Hollywood secrets of the Planet of Jedha away from the plebeians of the other planets.

Jeep Safari in Wadi Rum, Jordan

The promised “Jeep ride” turned out to be “Toyota Land Cruiser ride” and the two cars followed each other between the weirdly shaped mountains that surround an expanse of fine sand of various colors.

Guarding the Star Wars compound, Wadi Rum, Jordan

The landscape was used as background in a number of films, most notable the Star Wars productions of “Rogue One” and “The Martian”.

Ready to shoot on Planet Jedha

The cars followed each other in the Mushroom Valley, a place with a Bedouin tent and a formation shaped like a mushroom that was marked with signs by a crew for the films guys not to get lost in the desert.

Mushroom Valley, Wadi Rum, Jordan

After about two hours of stalking the guys from the “Star Wars” compound the two car caravan made his way back to the camp and in a short while we were driven all the way to Aqaba, the Jordanian border town on the shores of the Red Sea, from where we walked again over the border reaching much faster the Israeli side.

….and the Mushroom, Wadi Rum, Jordan

What is interesting when you cross the border into Jordan is that the narratives changes. It becomes more political with strong criticism for the British who are still blamed for the poor state of the Arab states and the fact that they installed in the Middle East puppet monarchies that they were able to manipulate and extort according to this discourse. Jordan tries to be relatively neutral in rapport with Israel but they show an obvious adverse attitude against Saudi Arabia and its new prince MBS who was vilified for the killing of the dissident journalist. On the same token all hopes are placed in Erdogan, the new sultan that might be able to revive the old Muslim glory and bury the shame brought on Turkey by Ataturk whom many perceived as a traitor of the real Turkish values. Wow, a completely different point of view!

The Jordan kings and their lineage, Aqaba, Jordan

The agency that organized the tour Fun Travel is for sure not so “fun” because they abandoned us for more than an hour in the sun and after that they sent two cabs from the town to take tours and, after giving totally confusing information, they dropped us all on the Eilat promenade, a place of hotels and restaurants and a pebbly beach where the only and great thing to do is to dive into the warm waters of the Red Sea and have a beer on the shore.

Red Sea beach, Eilat, Israel

It took a lot of back and forth to understand when and where will come the bus that would took us back but eventually it happened and we were ported by a driver who was constantly fumbling with his music player and sent text and talked over the phone while driving at full speed on an empty Negev desert road. The drop off was the same as the pick up and we arrived around 1:30am at our hotels in Jerusalem or Tel Aviv.

Eilat and the Red Sea under full moon, Israel

 
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Posted by on October 22, 2018 in Blog, Israel, Jordan