An Art Exhibit Even Non-Art Lovers Can Appreciate

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I have a confession to make. I don’t really like going to museums. Well, let me qualify that. Some are ok. I’ve enjoyed a few in Washington, D.C. and a few in Paris. But generally, (and I know this isn’t a popular thing to say) I’m not all that big on art, and I guess those are the museums I’m least thrilled about seeing.

Have you ever heard the name Dale Chihuly? He’s a Seattle “Glass Master” who received his MFA from the University of Wisconsin-Madison in 1967, (where I live) and a number of his pieces hang on the walls of the Kohl Center, Madison’s sports/event center. So in 1998, shortly after its opening, I escorted one of my kid’s school classes to see the permanent art exhibit. Being the (non) art aficionado that I am, I found the pieces interesting, but unusual.

Fast forward to 2017, on a recent visit to Seattle, attending the Chihuly Garden and Glass art exhibit was low on my priorities of “things to do in Seattle.” Especially to the tune of about $30 per person, and there were six of us. Oh, joy.

Boy, was I wrong. This place was amazing!

Entering the exhibit, it takes a few moments for your eyes to adjust. You enter a completely dark room, illuminated only by the enormous displays of art glass, one after another, room after room.

 

I’m a horrible judge, but each of these ensembles are the length of a room, probably 20 feet or more in length. Sitting on a smooth-as-glass base, the reflections are as exciting as the art.

Continuing on, this room is probably 30 feet or more in length. If you look closely, you can make out a few people to the left and right, below.

 

While some of the pieces are set into a base, others are hanging from the ceiling, while still other pieces are enormous bowls and vases. Chihuly concocted a way to create art pieces with one color on the inside and another on the outside, as below.

 

Meandering through the exhibit leads to a bright, window-walled room with a huge display hanging from above:

 

And finally, passing out through the gardens, a co-mingling of art and nature.

This wondrous display turned into the highlight of the day. If you have a chance to experience this exhibit (in Seattle, New York and other locations) I highly recommend it! You won’t be disappointed.

 

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What I’m Reading: Into Africa, the Epic Adventures of Stanley & Livingstone, by Martin Dugard

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Dr. Livingstone, I presume?

 

I’ve known that line since I can remember, but all I ever recall knowing about it was that it was spoken by Stanley, when he came upon Livingstone in Africa. In fact, somehow I pictured him turning a corner to see Livingstone as he said it. That was it, end of story, at least for mini-me.

As many of you know, I have a love of Africa, and currently am into reading All. Things. Africa. So Into Africa, The Epic Adventures of Stanley & Livingstone, by Martin Dugard, sounded like a good addition to my reading list.

The majority of the story is set between 1866 and 1873. A more complex story than I imagined, Dugard creatively weaves the stories of British explorer David Livingstone and American journalist Henry Morton Stanley together in history, even while they were thousands of miles apart. Interestingly, other people were shown to play a key role in each of their individual lives, ultimately steering the two of them together.

Through both Livingstone’s and Stanley’s journal writings, newspaper articles from the time, a manuscript and nearly 1000 artifacts from Stanley’s travels to Africa, we see a realistic glimpse of what their personalities were each like, what they were capable of physically and emotionally, their thoughts and beliefs and how the two came to know each other. We see the Africa of the 1860s and 1870s, with all her disease, wars and horrors in many forms, including slavery:

“”We passed a woman tied by the neck to a tree and dead,” Livingstone wrote in his journal exactly three months after leaving Zanzibar. “The people of the country explained that she had been unable to keep up with the other slaves in a gang, and her master had determined that she should not become the property of anyone else if she recovered after resting for a time. I may mention here that we saw others tied up in a similar manner and one lying in the path was shot or stabbed, for she was in a pool of blood.””

As well as her utter beauty. Writing of Tabora, a primary Arab enclave in East Africa:

“Set among dun-colored hills in the heart of the East African countryside, refreshed by clear streams and pockets of forest, surrounded by fruit orchards and well-tended fields of wheat, onions, and cucumbers, it possessed a beauty and abundance of resources that made it the African equivalent of an oasis.”

The book is written with such great detail that it took me a while to catch the rhythm. But once I did, I was thoroughly hooked. I found myself completely engrossed in this true, and larger-than-life story, as well as the book. From the Epilogue:

“The saga of Stanley and Livingstone sparked an unlikely turning point in history. Journalism’s growing power, America’s ascendance and Britain’s eventual eclipse, one generation of explorer giving way to another, and the opening of Africa – all were either foreshadowed or came about as a result of Livingstone’s love affair with Africa and Stanley’s unlikely march to find him. Not surprisingly, American journalists of the era even voted Stanley’s discovery of Livingstone “the story of the century.” “

I highly recommend this book!

Please consider supporting me in my endeavor to share this lovely part of the world by purchasing books through my Amazon Affiliates account.

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A Brief Look at African American History

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I had the privilege of touring the African American History Museum in Washington D.C. last week, more correctly named the National Museum of African American History & Culture. What a treat. I’ve been wanting to see this museum since before it opened last September, and it did not disappoint.

Let me tell you, though, that it’s no easy task to get in. It’s an online feeding frenzy beginning at 6:30 a.m. to get an appointed time slot for that day. You see, while the entrance is free, they only allow a certain number of individuals and groups through each day. And generally for an individual, what you do is go to the website the morning you’d like to go, and hope for the best.

So there I was in front of my laptop in my hotel room, still in my jammies, prepared to hit the link for the first time slot of the day (10:30 a.m.), which is just what I did. As I confidently began clicking through, (yay, it’s available!) I came to one of those anti-robot tests. Let’s just say, before I could prove I was human, the timeslots were gone! On to the 11 a.m. slot – same thing. By now, my husband was frantically trying to get me an entry as well. I jumped ahead to 3:00 p.m. Bingo! I got through! Whew!

A word of advice when you get there: Do not pass go; go directly to the information desk, where they will give you a map and advice as to how to make your way through this beautiful museum. I’m glad I did that, because as you enter, it’s somewhat of a large empty room and not intuitive as to where to start. And the advice she gave: start at the bottom (3 floors down) and work your way up. So that, I did.

“My great grandmother Rose
mother of Ashley gave her this sack when
she was sold at age 9 in South Carolina
it held a tattered dress 3 handfulls of
pecans a braid of Roses hair. Told her
It be filled with my Love always
she never saw her again
Ashley is my grandmother
Ruth Middleton, 1929″

Reading the embroidery on this grain sack took my breath away. Such a personal and sad story.

In the bowels of this museum you find the depths of depravity, starting with slavery in Africa and Europe, slave boats to America, auction blocks and families being torn apart, moving towards and through the Civil War, followed by lynchings and other unspeakable acts, the KKK, segregation and discrimination. The floors are filled with photos and depictions, messages to read and listen to, and it is both moving and depressing all at the same time.

By the time I made my way up to the ground floor, I was ready to go. I was exhausted after a day of walking around DC, followed by nearly 2 hours of looking at our horrible US history. (and I actually thought that I had been through the entire museum)

But keep on, my friend, because where the lower floors are dark and depressing, the upper floors are full of fun and frivolity! While our more recent past isn’t all rosy, you’ll definitely be drawn to some of these more light-hearted galleries! One is devoted to music (think Count Basie to Chuck Barry to Jimmy Hendrix to Whitney Houston, and all the greats in-between, along with their fashion! Even Chuck Barry’s cherry-red Cadillac is in there!). Then there’s what I think of as the sports gallery, depicting the great Jesse Owens all the way to the Williams sisters, along with exceptional basketball, football and other sports’ athletes. There are areas devoted to the contributions of African American leaders, politicians, soldiers, and so much more. Actually, there was so much to see, read and listen to, that I couldn’t nearly do it justice. I surely missed half of the displays without question. And I fully plan to return on a future trip to DC.

So my other piece of advice is to get in as early as you are able and plan on spending a full day at the museum, followed by the gift shop. And don’t worry about lunch – the Sweet Home Cafe will take care of you, with four distinct regional offerings, as well as your typical burger/hot dog/salad choices.

As you end your day at the museum, be sure to find your way to the reflection room for some quiet contemplation. This beautiful room (though loud, actually!) is centered around a circular waterfall dropping from the ceiling, with sayings inscribed on the four walls. Just stop for a moment and take it all in.

If you’re not left speechless as you leave this museum, you weren’t paying attention.

To find your way there, as you can see in the photo, the museum is right next to the Washington Monument, just to the northeast, at the edge of the National Mall. The closest Metro stop is at Federal Triangle, a couple blocks away.

For information on the Museum and gaining entry: https://nmaahc.si.edu/

For the Sweet Home Cafe Menu: https://nmaahc.si.edu/visit/sweet-home-cafe

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What I’m Reading: Love, Life, and Elephants, An African Love Affair by Dame Daphne Sheldrick

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I received this book as a Christmas gift and I have to say I. Love. It.

 

True confession: A while back I watched a PBS special called My Wild Affair: The Elephant Who Found a Mom and fell in love with Dame Daphne and her story. I, myself, already had a love affair going with wild Africa and her animals, along with a deep desire to foster conservation efforts and animal protection.

 

The documentary pulled at my heartstrings with a story about an orphaned baby elephant named Aisha that she cared for many years ago. I cried right along with Dame Daphne as she recounted the heartbreaking story of Aisha’s short life and death. To a certain extent, this orphaned baby elephant, and others like her, lead the Sheldricks down a path to where the Wildlife Trust is now, many years later.

 

But prior to the documentary, I knew little about Dr. Dame Daphne Sheldrick, the author of the book and her connection to the Wildlife Trust. I was intrigued. I wanted to read more about Aisha and know about the orphanage.

 

But the book is about so much more! (in fact, recounting that story was only a page or two in the book!)

 

Starting as a child in Kenya, you understand the beginning of Daphne’s love of animals, having grown up with all sorts in and around her house, starting with a mongoose, followed by the usual rabbit, cats, chicks and ducklings. Then an orphaned baby bushbuck came into her life.

 

“Bushy was the first creature to provide me with an insight into the wonders of the wild animal kingdom. He was gorgeous to look at, with large soft ears and beautiful liquid eyes, his skin of a rich chestnut colour with white patches on his throat and vertical white stripes and spots on his body. I could spend ages just stroking and cuddling him…

“As he grew up and became more independent, Bushy became more responsive. I would talk to him endlessly, absolutely convinced that he understood everything I said to him.”

 

The book is written in such an engaging way that you have the feeling Dame Daphne is there beside you recanting the adventures. Peppered with tales of history, people, animals, conflicts and events, sharing personal stories of her life and her love of David Sheldrick, the book drops us off in the present, providing rare insight into a most amazing and extraordinary life.

 

Please consider supporting me in my endeavor to share this lovely part of the world by purchasing books through my Amazon Affiliates account.

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Is Anybody Watching?

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Do you remember the old song that reminds us to dance ‘like nobody’s watching’?

We came upon this ostrich in the Tarangiri National Park in Tanzania, Africa recently. He was primping and pruning himself for a very long time. I was posed to catch an interesting photo, wondering if he was ever going to do anything but fluff his feathers. Suddenly, he bolted right, wings outstretched and flapping in the breeze! Then swerving left, he spun around like a ballerina! Back and forth, this boy was dancing his heart out, and I’m quite sure he was hoping that someone was watching!

Such a deliberate and purposeful prance, but I love the way he almost looks like he’s swooning!

Where’s the video camera when you need it! 🙂

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Child’s play in Tanzania

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I’ve just returned from the most wonderful week in Tanzania, photographing animals on safari game drives. Days were long – up early and late to bed – and exhausting from the bumping and bouncing on dirt roads, and forever jumping up on the seat, trying to capture the best light and angle for my safari photo album.

But actually it was a lot like playing kid’s games.

You see, much of safari drives are a game of “Hide-and-Seek.” The animals hide, and we seek. Sometimes we seem to drive long distances to spot them, and other times they are just so well camoflaged that they are hard to pick out. It definitely helps to have a good zoom lens.

Leopard
Verreaux Eagle-Owl

(yes, those are pink eyelids!!)

Cheetah
Mama Cheetah with one of her cubs
Mama Cheetah with four of her cubs. Surprisingly, when she sets off to hunt, the cubs stay behind together, watching.

Other times, it’s a game of “Peek-a-Boo,” waiting to see what will come out of the bushes. Patience…

Cape Buffalo
Giraffe
Waterbuck

And, occasionally it’s “Where’s Waldo?”  How many elephants can you see here?

Baby elephants are always well protected.

Yet, oddly enough, as long as we stay beyond their “comfort zone,” many animals were unconcerned with our presence!

This Giraffe walked so close to us I could barely get a shot of him!
Zebras watching us!
Hippos grunting and splashing in the hippo pool
Young Zebra. They turn from brown and cream to black and white as they mature
Lion basking in the sun, caught by the paparazzi, not pleased his slumber was disturbed!

Care to join me?

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Hook, Line and Sinker, We Caught the Best Dinner in Athens!

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Have you ever fell for something “hook, line and sinker” and then afterwards thought, ‘what have I gotten myself into?’ C’mon, be honest.

 

On a recent trip to Greece, a gregarious taxi driver, George, who we luckily just happened upon, offered to take the four of us to the best restaurant he knew the following night, and if we didn’t like it, we didn’t have to pay for the taxi ride home! Not a bad deal, all in all. We didn’t have a restaurant in mind for the next evening, and he seemed so enthusiastic about it. It was about a 20 minute drive to Piraeus, the port town just outside of Athens to Captain John’s.

 

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We arrived at the location and found an empty restaurant. Mind you, we’re Americans who eat earlier than most Europeans, but we had still gone later in the evening, and expected a relatively full house on a weekend night.

 

They seated us at a table next to the windows that they opened completely for us, giving the impression that we were outdoors, sitting right at the water’s edge. Boats were in the surrounding waters, beautifully lit up in their anchored state. A cool September breeze filled the room. Scruffy looking cats gathered outside, waiting hopefully for a fishy morsel to be tossed their way.

 

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Seated at the table, our waiter arrived and introduced himself. Dimitrius, an energetic, charming gentleman, probably older than me, who exuded friendliness and warmth. He began by asking us what we liked and making suggestions as to what we should order. ‘How about a little of this, I’ll bring you some of that, sound good? And what about wine?’ He recommended a particular bottle off the menu as well as the Sea Bass. It all sounded great and we readily agreed upon all his recommendations. Away he went, leaving us excited about the dishes coming our way shortly!

 

Moments later, we realized we never even looked at the menu and didn’t have a clue what the prices were, or what to expect! How could we have been so mesmerized by his suggestions, his charisma, his passion? Next time he came by, we asked what we were in for. “Don’t worry, it’ll be fine!” he told us.

 

Starters began arriving. The first was a plate of octopus, in a light lemon and olive oil dressing. I’d never had octopus before and was a bit leery. It was melt-in-your-mouth tender, not rubbery at all as I had expected and tasted somewhat of chicken to me, only far better. Next: fried calamari with a spicy dipping sauce, followed by crispy fried whole shrimp and an amazing Greek salad, all accompanied by crusty bread, perfect for dipping in all the sauces! I willingly joined the “clean plate” club!

 

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Wondering where our Sea Bass was being cooked, Dimitri took us across the street to the kitchen. Just like hot dogs cooking over the campfire, the whole fish was sandwiched in a metal grate that the chef could flip from one side to the other over the heat. When perfectly done, it was wheeled on a cart to our table where Dimitri filleted the fish for us with expert precision. Seasoned to perfection, I’ve never eaten so much sea bass in my life!

 

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Certain we couldn’t eat another bite, we were once again tempted us to share a slice of hot chocolate pie and orange pie with ice cream. How can you pass up chocolate pie, I thought, when really it was the orange pie, both more like cake, that was fabulous! Light and tasty, with just a hint of orange. Rounding out the night, we were presented with Greek coffee (much like famous Turkish coffee) and a complimentary round of Mastixa, which I had never heard of: a light, sweet after-dinner drink, and a wonderful way to end the evening.

 

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Best of all was when he presented the bill. I couldn’t read a word of it, except the euro amount at the bottom: 217 euros! Such a fabulous meal for the four of us, that we could literally never reproduce anywhere else in the world! Dimitri was right: all was fine! Actually, more than fine. It was one of the best dinners of our entire ten-day Greek trip!

 

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One note: whole fish in Greece (as well as other areas) is sold by kilo weight. We had one fish for four of us, so we couldn’t really know the price before they weighed the fish; one reason he couldn’t tell us exactly what the bill was going to be.

 

Find Captain John’s: 16 Alexandrou Koumoundourou Street. 185 33 Microlimano Piraeus, Greece.  www.captainjohns.gr

Maybe it’s best to just tell the cab where to go. It should cost about 15 Euros from Athens.

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Any Reason to Get to Santorini Will Do!

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When asked for suggestions recently about where this bride-to-be should hold her destination wedding, naturally I responded with “Santorini!!,” having just returned from this stunning island. Afterall, with one incredible view after another, ‘why would you choose anywhere else?’ I thought. In the two or three days there, we must have seen at least five or six weddings!

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Her response was that it might be too difficult for their guests to get there, and reluctantly I had to agree, although Santorini has lately become a popular spot for destination weddings. Just google “Santorini weddings” and you’ll see what I mean!

There are three main ways to arrive in Santorini. By far the most common is by cruise ship. According to Conde Nast Traveler, around 10,000 tourists arrive per day in peak season this way! One can also take a ferry from Pireaus (the port near Athens), ranging from 5-10 hours travel time – not great. Aegean Airlines and Olympic Airways also fly into the tiny, highly chaotic airport.

Perhaps this would be a better honeymoon destination – just the two of you in this most romantic of settings. I’d recommend the “shoulder” seasons of spring or September/October. First, to avoid the oppressive heat of summer and second, to avoid the oppressive crowds that make every turn and photo opportunity a challenge.

Credit cards are widely accepted here and most people speak English, making your stay easy. Be sure to book your your restaurants and tours before you leave home, if possible, or immediately upon arrival.

With a destination so focused on tourism, you can imagine there is plenty to do!

1. Enjoy each other and your first sunset.  Be sure to take some time on your honeymoon to just lay around the pool and enjoy each other’s company! Santorini excels in beautiful hotels with pools that overlook the caldera, so you get the sun, water, and each other all in one! And don’t forget the romantic sunsets – what Santorini is known for! But, where everything I read said to go to Oia for the sunset, I found them to be viewed far better from Imerovigli, a town mid-way between Oia and Fira, the capital.  Even restaurants that boast a great sunset view in Oia may still have views obstructed by bars, rooftops and lots of people.

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2. Tour a Winery. Santorini is blessed with excellent grape growing climate and soil that produces exceptional wines: mostly whites, and some reds. We chose a tour at Venetsanos Winery – which also included a tour of Oia and Pyrgos village – largely because of the stunning setting and their ability to serve traditional Santorinian dishes, including tomato fritters, Santorini salad (amazing, and different from a traditional “Greek salad”) breads with a tomato sauce dip, olives and a surprisingly tasty fava dip, along with excellent wines!  This turned out to be one of the many highlights of our stay!                                          img_1989    img_1997

3. Visit Akrotiri. Towards the south part of the island, you’ll find the archaeological site of Akrotiri, once a flourishing town settled by the Minoans as early as 3000 BC and destroyed by volcanic eruption around 1450 BC. It is thought of as Santorini’s Pompeii, although no human remains have been found here.

4. Tour Oia.  Pronounced Ee-a (not oy-a). Unfortunately, you’ll be in good company here, as this tends to be where most tourists go. Therefore, there are plenty of restaurants, bars and hotels, but most importantly, stunning views with every turn! Be prepared to take a lot of pictures! Also be sure to tour other towns on the island, as they are all uniquely beautiful.

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5. Set sail on a catamaran cruise. Whether daytime or for sunset, be sure to include this in your itinerary! Even if you and boats are not friends, generally speaking the water is calm enough and the catamaran stable enough that you’ll be fine. Opt for a cruise like this one offered by Viator that was beyond amazing!! Whisked from our hotel to the departure point, we set sail past the Red Beach and White Beach, into the caldera and over to the hot springs by the volcano. A word of warning, the sulfurous hot springs will ruin any fabric that is white, so bring an old bathing suit, shorts/t-shirt or something you don’t mind being discolored.

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For lunch, we were treated to a mouth-watering spread of grilled shrimp, fish, chicken, salad, bread & dips, wine, beer, sodas, you name it! Heaven!

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We returned to our hotel late afternoon, tired and full, but ready for another cocktail at sunset.

Be sure to select a hotel with views of the caldera. I recommend the town of Imerovigli. It’s less populated (read: crowded), has great restaurants, and incredible sunset views! We  stayed in a boutique hotel at a high point of the island where one could enjoy both sunrises and sunsets! Keep in mind that once the sun starts to set, it can get quite chilly, so be sure to have a scarf or sweater along.

Santorini is a fabulous place to visit, whether for a wedding, honeymoon, anniversary or any other excuse you can dream up! The weather is great, the food is fabulous and the people are friendly and welcoming. You’ll fall in love all over again!

Pin me!

honeymoons-in-santorini

 

 

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Warning – Use Caution in This Area of Turkey

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No, it’s not that it’s dangerous here, unless you consider an assault on your pocketbook a danger. But it won’t be your Samsung Galaxy smoking – it will be your credit card!

It all started so innocently…

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One moment we were checking out ancient ruins of Ephesus in the area of Kusadasi, on the fertile west coast of Turkey, admiring the remains of beautiful buildings, stone carvings of Nike, the Greek goddess of victory, and enjoying a tiny cup of grow-hair-on-your-chest Turkish coffee. And the next, we were being charmed by Mr. Cenk Aknur, of Anaudala, a Turkish rug boutique.

They walked us down the proverbial path, demonstrating to us the age-old rug-weaving technique. Already on the loom, the women knotted and cut the wool with lightening speed, then in slo-mo, so we could actually see what they did! As fast as they worked, even the small carpets still took months to make!

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Next, they showed the technique they used to spin the silk that makes the luxuriously soft silk rugs. We were taken inside to appreciate the various carpets – colors and patterns, wool and silk, large and small, round, runners, you name it. All stunningly beautiful. The quality was literally palpable, as we ran our hands and squished our toes in the pile. One by one, they laid out different rugs. Some they even spun around like a magic carpet to show how the color seemed to change by the direction of the light. Those two poor men must have hoisted and thrown at least 50 carpets at our feet.

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Out came the refreshments! Coffee, beer, wine, raki? (couldn’t pass that up!) Shipping? No problem! It’s free! American Express? Of course! Now my ears perked up!

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Ok, now, I can hear you saying, ‘what were you thinking?!?’ Actually, it was still ok at this point. It wasn’t until I asked (hypothetically, of course) what ‘would one like that cost?’ My fatal error. “Let’s go into this room, where we can talk about it” he said, leading me to a private room. That’s when I knew I was in trouble. My guide intercepted me along the way, offering insight into quality and price and assistance negotiating. (no need, I thought, I’m an old pro.) And my husband joined me after a bit, wondering if we were coming home with a new rug, and where on earth was it going to go?

Now, I’ve made the mistake of making a large purchase overseas in the past and I’ve never lived it down. It wasn’t entirely a mistake, because I have an 8-piece place setting of ceramic dinnerware from Chang Mai, Thailand. And it’s my favorite dinnerware on earth, so not really a mistake. But at the time, I was rather naive and didn’t realize what I was getting into when I placed that order, and I wasn’t about to repeat it this time. The gentleman assured me, however, that it would clear customs without any additional expense, and would eventually make it to my door step in about two months, hopefully by Thanksgiving!

Here’s what I ended up with. I love the natural colors of the wool they used on this one, and it should go perfectly in my house! And we negotiated a great price.

But what was that smoke coming from my purse?

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