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Gignac, Languedoc-Roussillon, France – September 2017

Gignac is a small town in the South of France situated in the Herault, Languedoc-Roussillon region (now part of the Occitanie region). It is located about 27 km from Montpelier, the capital city of this region and .  about 586 km from Paris. We come to Gignac almost every year, as one of my sister-in-law lives here. The place is so beautiful, tranquil and full of amazing things to do. If we visit this place during the hot season, we usually hang out on the river l’Herault, swimming or canoeing with friends and family. Most of the times we will be staying at Terri’s place at Mas de Villetelle – a Self-catering B&B barn runs by Terri and Bernard (my sister in law and her husband). For more details on Mas de Viletelle, check out this ink: https://www.sawdays.co.uk/france/languedoc-roussillon/herault/mas-de-villetelle.  There are so many things to do around here, but on the other hand, you would probably love to relax on the hammock and catch up with some readings, or just listen to some gentle music. Hanging around Mas de Villetelle is truly special. September is definitely the best time of the year to visit this region, where most of the tourists have gone home and the fig season has just started. Fig picking in the wild is one of my favourite things to do here. Finding wild fig trees and collect as much as you want, eat as much as you want too (psssttt…. do go easy on the fig though, it can get you into trouble if you eat too much). Hanging around Mas del Villetelle is great. Terri and Bernard often organise things around the land and we always have the opportunity to make and to cook our own pizza and cook them inside an earth oven, how cool is that. Check out the photo gallery for our pizza making photos.

When in Languedoc-Roussillon, here are a few places we recommend for you to visit nearby:

Saint-Guilhem-le-Desert

A beautiful village on top of the hill. There has been blogs and stories written about this place. Here is a good one, http://www.francethisway.com/places/stguilhem.php , clear information about the place, history, how to get there, etc.

Cirque de Moureze

Great info about this rocky place here, http://www.francethisway.com/places/cirquedemoureze.php

Villeneuvette

Great information about Villeneuvette can be found here http://www.francethisway.com/places/villeneuvette.php

To be honest, there are so many amazing places off the beaten track, just explore as you go along. Stop in places that you like and just explore it. Everywhere is truly beautiful. The food is great, the beaches are fantastic, people are good looking, so what more do you want? :-). Happy holiday.

Nelly Andon's Travels

Barcelona, Spain April, 2017

Our 1st visit to Barcelona was many years ago now, a short one-day car trip from Montpelier, the south of France. During that 1st visit, we found ourselves falling in love with this beautiful and cosmopolitan city. Since then, we have made several more visits to this beautiful city and our last trip to Barcelona was in April this year, 2017. Barcelona is packed with things to do and to see, and it is also a great place for a weekend destination. We are based in London, so the journey here is fairly short if you are flying, and if you are happened to be exploring Southern Europe, you can combine your trip to visit other places nearby. We spent 5 days in Barcelona on this visit, so we did see a lot of the city.

Here are a few of the major Barcelona attractions we visited on this trip and truly enjoyed:

The Las Ramblas

Let’s start by sharing our experience at the Las Ramblas. We stayed locally in this area, so we spent a lot of time hanging around the place. Around here, there are so many things to do and to see, the area is vibrant, bustling with excitement. Here you can go shopping, visit la Boqueria market, enjoy a glass of sangria, be entertained by street performers, or treat yourself to some of the most amazing food on this planet. There are so many affordable accommodations here, make sure you stay in the one with good reviews.

La Boqueria Market

This is a fairly large local market just off Las Ramblas. La Boqueria market is one of Barcelona’s most visited location, a must visit place when in Barcelona. You will find so many varieties of food and drink here. The seafood selections is just to die for. Try some local delicacies here, you won’t be disappointed. The market is located not far from the opera house and Liceo, so you in in the most central part of the city here.

La Sagrada Família, the grandest of Gaudi’s Architecture

Apparently, the foundation of this church was laid in the 19th century, and the church is designed by Antoni Gaudi. Sadly in 1926, Antoni Gaudi (the architect) passed away, then everything came to a halt for a while. The building of this church is still ongoing today, and apparently will be going on for some time (not sure how long it will take to complete).  I am not sure how to describe this church, very quirky or a bit spooky in some corners. A very modern statue of “naked Jesus” on the cross, how cool is that :-).   You can also enjoy other buildings designed by Gaudi here in Barcelona such as the Casa Milà, Park Güell (designed in partnership with Josep Maria Jujol), and the Casa Batlló, two very grand and quirky buildings indeed.

Park Güell

Whilst touring the outskirt of the city, don’t miss this gorgeous park. It is a little off-the-beaten-track, you will need a lot of walking going up here, but it is truly worth the effort. You can see the whole of Barcelona city from the top, really breathtaking. There is part of the park which is free but there are sections which are ticketed.  Do take your time to enjoy the scenery and don’t forget to take loads of photos.

Barcelona Cathedral

This 114th-centurycathedral is located in the Gothic Quarter. This cathedral is officially named the Cathedral of the Holy Cross and Saint Eulalia, but more commonly known as the Barcelona Cathedral, a truly grand church which holds a lot of history. Join a group tour from the tourist office, to get the most of Barcelona’s history, particularly on their historical buildings like this one.

Santa Maria Del Mar

An outstanding example of the Catalan Gothic architecture with magnificent architecture. The church was built around 1300’s and was built using the slender stone built columns in the world. Entrance to this Cathedral is free, don’t miss it.

Nelly Andon's Travels

ALOR ISLAND, OCTOBER 2016

One sunny morning on a day in early October 2016 I woke up to the beautiful sunrise on the horizon of Kupang, West Timor.  I had been in Kupang for a few days now and stayed at the Neo hotel, a lovely hotel only a short distance away from the Eltari airport Kupang. I headed to the Breakfast room. The smell of coffee tickled my excitement of the day, and the selection of breakfast available a bit mind-boggling, but otherwise great. I was truly excited about this trip to Alor as this was my first trip to the island.

Ira, my good friend, and also a devoted volunteer for Connect Indonesia, The Charity, picked me up from the hotel fairly early in the morning. Travelling with Ira is always exciting, she has amazing stories to share and she has kindness and generosity which are so genuine, she is truly an amazing individual. The flight from Kupang Eltari airport to Mali airport in Alor takes approximately 40 – 50 minutes long. There are around 4 flights a day from Eltari to Mali airport. Clear blue sky and warm morning sun for me is always a recipe for a great day ahead, and blue sky and warm morning really never far away from this part of the world, so my days always started with great excitement.  Checking in at Eltari airport was fairly straightforward as we didn’t have much luggage with us as we only planed for a very short visit

The airline flew fairly low, and the view is truly breathtaking, enjoying part of the Lesser Sunda Islands dotted along the ocean below. We landed safely and smoothly 40 minutes later. Here we met up with another friend who joined us from Toraja, Sulawesi, Mrs Merda Mangajun, a friend who is very interested in East Nusa Tenggara Ikat. Upon our arrival in Mali airport, we were welcomed by our driver, a friendly, 60-something-year-old man, with a punk style haircut like a Western teenager from the 1980s.  He owned the B&B were we stayed and offered a reasonable rate to drive us around in his fairly modern looking car during our visit. Sadly, the B&B were we stayed was a bit disappointing, fairly basic and wasn’t really cheap for the standard and condition it was in.  Unfortunately, online hotel bookings don’t provide many choices here in Alor, but we know that would be much better stay on our next visit.

On our first day, we headed straight to the Alor weaving studio, runs by Mama Sariat, an experienced weaver from this island, who is rather well-known in Indonesia for her work in developing Alor ikat using natural dyes. Thought we had set a date to meet and interview her on this occasion, we were disappointed to find out that she had to travel to East Timor to attend a talk on her work on natural dyes development. We were greeted by her daughter instead and gave us a comprehensive explanation about her mother’s work. Although she was able to explain some general commonly know natural dyes like indigo, morinda, and turmeric, most of the natural dyes they used have not been written down, or hard to understand the actual sources of the dyes as the materials used are named locally.  Although she claimed that Mama Sariat has developed over 200 colours in this studio and applied them successfully on their ikat textiles, it is a pity that these natural colour recipes are well guarded and they are yet willing to share these findings openly.

I strongly believe that embracing a talented weaver like Mama Sariat and work with her to share her passion, skills and ability by encouraging her to share her guarded natural dyes recipes with other weavers around the archipelago is a good way to introduce these valuable findings to all weavers in the country. Of course, it is fair that she needs to be respected for work, and appreciate her contribution by giving her credit she deserves.  It seemed that there is a feeling of concern on her part where her guarded secret recipes would be used and claimed by other weavers in other parts of Indonesia.  Is not unusual that many fashion designers or bloggers or textile traders will claim things belong to them or claimed to have initiated something they never started, so her concerns is acceptable.

When there is a will, there is away.  Embracing talented weavers like Mama Sariat is not rocket science and can be done, but it requires genuine and kind approach on her level to achieve this.  Regretfully, in Indonesia, weavers like Mama Sariat, often used as a “guinea pigs” experiment for those who seek short journey to popularity in the traditional textile industry.  Textile producing villages in Indonesia have become the playground of politicians during the political campaign seasons, and uneducated weavers often become the victims of new charitable bodies looking to build profiles in order to be elected as a bridge of charity partner by International charities who seek to implement certain projects in Indonesia.

If you are natural dyes expert and wish to share your knowledge with our weavers in Indonesia, please contact us, together we can arrange some interactions and connections to those who might be able to work with you.

Thank you for taking the time to read this blog. CONTACT ME if you have any queries at all.

Nelly Andon's Travels

Borneo Adventure – Pontianak, The golden kingdom

The long car journey from Sintang to Pontianak has exhausted me, drained any energy I had in my body and wore me out completely. It took us over 12 hours to reach Pontianak from Sintang, but of course, this extra long journey was due to my habit of wanting to stop here and there to capture images of any interesting things along the way. No regret, in fact, it was an incredible journey, so interesting and I have learned a great deal about Borneo, the people, the culture and to see the truth about the damaged to one the most talked about rainforest on the face of this earth.  We arrived here on a Saturday night but opted to head to bed to recuperate.

My trip to Pontianak and Sintang was accompanied by Fifiyati Hoesni, a charity worker from People Resources and Conservation Foundation (PRCF) Indonesia, and a member of her team, Ully Sasreefa, who is also a great-granddaughter of one the Sultans of Pontinak. I felt so blessed to have accompanied by two amazing individuals who inspired me and provided me with amazing insights into Indonesian traditional textiles of Borneo. On a long journey like this, and passing amazing views and seeing incredible places and people along the way, no chance I would rest my head to sleep, apart from when the sun has gone down, and all that you can see outside was a few unlucky moths committing suicide on the car screen attracted by the headlights. Fifiyati and I spent a lot of time chatting and exchanging information and ideas, whilst Ully snored away in the back seat, undisturbed by any shaking or jolting as result of the never-ending potholes and bumps on the roads.

I love sampling new food, and always excited to find unusual fruits wherever I go. On this journey, I have sampled some fruits I hadn’t seen before in my life, forest fruits which you probably only found here in Borneo. I am always on the lookout for some local snack or delicacies, though I don’t really eat much of them, I am always curious about their tastes and how they were made.  Ully is a very quiet girl rarely spoken, but one day, out the blue she blurted out sentences which made us all roared with laughter. Ibu Nelly is a very funny lady, she does only two things when she is awake when she is not talking, she would be eating” Ibu is the term used of a married woman in Indonesia. Maybe there is some truth in this, I do like talking, I am a fairly talkative person but I am not actually a crazy eater, it is more like I am curious about the food I am not familiar with and I do like to sample them in a small quantity. The trip was truly memorable. Spending 5 days with Fifi and Ully was priceless.

The next day, on the morning of the Sunday, I have arranged to meet my old high-school friend, Dr Bambang Suberkah who is now working and live in Pontianak with his family. I also arranged to meet a Facebook friend, a young English school teacher, Mardalina Mukunimau, meeting her in person for the first time. Dr Bambang Suberkah was very kindly arranged my transportation during my stay in Borneo, and it was great to spend a bit of time with him and his family on this visit. We had a wonderful lunch followed by a city tour to the Pontianak Sultanate and the visit to  St. Joseph’s Cathedral, Pontianak (only the external part of the church this time).

The Pontianak Sultanate was founded in 1771 by explorers from Hadhramaut led by al-Sayyid Syarif Abdurrahman al-Kadrie, a descendant of Imam Ali ar-Ridha. He had two political marriages in Kalimantan, first with the daughter of Panembahan Mempawah and then with the daughter of the Sultan of Banjar. After the explorers arrived in Pontianak, they established the Kadariah Palace and received an endorsement from the Sultan of Pontianak by the Dutch East India Company in 1779.[1] The Pontianak Sultanate had friendly relations with the Lanfang Republic. Pontianak Sultan Syarif Muhammad Alkadrie was executed by the Japanese in the Pontianak incident along with all the other Malay Sultans of Kalimantan. Two of his sons were also beheaded by the Japanese. The last Sultan was Syarif Hamid Alkadrie, who was deposed by the Indonesians; he had earlier been interned by the occupying Japanese forces. (Source; Wikipedia).

The external and the internal decoration of the Sultan Palace was decorated in the bright yellow shade. We toured the inside of the palace guided by one of the Sultan’s granddaughters, and involvement of Ully on our trip to Sintang was an added bonus to create a special bond between us and the people in the palace on the day, although Ully was not present during our visit.I learned a great deal about Indonesian history during this visit, as one of the sultans of this palace (Sultan Hamid the 2nd, Syarif Abdul Hamid Alkadrie, the eldest son of the Sixth Sultan of Pontianak, born in Pontianak on 12 July 1913, and died in Jakarta on 30 March 1978) was the creator of the Indonesian national symbol Indonesia “Garuda”. He was apparently a great friend of the late President Soekarno, Indonesian 1st president.

I hope to return to Pontianak again in the near future and see the explore the city a little closer. If you have any question about this blog, please feel free to contact me.  Thank you for taking the time to read this blog. Send me a message if you wish to visit Pontianak.

Nelly Andon's Travels

Exploring Lombok Island, Indonesia, March 2014

I visited Lombok for the first time in mid 80s, December 1984 to be exact. We visited part of the main island and spent a few days in Mataram, but we spent more time hanging round Gilik Trawangan, a real paradise at that time. In Gili Trawangan there was only 1 small basic accommodation then, this belonged to the family who lived there in the island.  Gili Trawangan was truly untouched then, clean water and the cost of this accommodation was only only £2 per night at the time (Rp.25,000) all inclusive (room and meals 3 x daily). Today, Gili Trawangan is a little Ibiza full of drunken tourists never ending noisy bars and restaurants. I am so happy that I saw it when it was still a real paradise.

Lombok is located east of Bali, is part of the West Nusa Tenggara Strings of islands (Bali, Lombok, and Sumbawa). Lombok is less famous than its neighbor, Bali, less spoiled and less commercialize in many ways. When millions of people still flocking to Bali every year despite its being overcrowded, Lombok on the other hand less visited in spite of its beautiful beaches where many places here are still untouched.

Lombok offers amazing things for tourists, such as fabulous food, white beaches, beautiful hotels with sea views. From the main land, you can reach the gili islands fairly easily by small motor boats.

Hotels prices here in Lombok are reasonable, and during the low seasons, you can stay in a 4 star hotel for as little as US$ 50 a night. We stayed at lovely sea-side hotel in the Senggigi Resort, but travels to many parts of Lombok during our stay. We visited the Kuta Beach Lombok, Sade – the Sasak Village and the weaving region of Sukarare.

To me, Lombok is very special, because I love less-touristy destinations. The people here are friendly, and the food are still authentic and superbly delicious. My favourite dish is “plecing kangkong”, morning glory vegetables slightly cooked and served in super hot special chilly condiment flavoured with local lemon juice.

There are so many things to see in Lombok. If you hire a car during your stay, drive around using the sea-side road and sample some local cuisine in local warung/restaurants. Enjoy freshly grilled fish for a mere US$5 per portion, you won’t be disappointed. You can sit on a hut by the beach, watching local activities, whilst you are waiting for your meal. Everything here cooked from fresh.

If you love textile, visit the Sukarare region, you can see the textiles being woven by the local weavers and buy directly from them. They also have some locally woven textiles in Sade, but do be careful what you buy, in tourists’ locations, they do sell the fake textiles, they often claimed they are locally made, but some of these are made in China and some from Troso, Java

Visit Lombok, so many things to see and to enjoy without the hustle and bustle of crowded tourism. Happy holiday

 

Nelly Andon's Travels