Sleuthing about London

There are many places in London that have a history of spies and covert operations and the intrepid woman can sniff them out! On a recent trip to Ireland and the United Kingdom, my sister and I happened upon two such places: Holy Trinity Church in Knightsbridge, and Cafe Daquise, South Kensington. Both place were used by the KGB for years. 

Holy Trinity Church was used as a "dead letter drop".  KGB agents would hide secret materials behind a statue of St. Francis of Assisi, on the church grounds, that were then collected by other agents.

Cafe Daquise, was also known for covert KGB operations and apparently the location where John Profumo, Secretary of War, disclosed state secrets during his affair with Christine Keeler, a 19 year old model.  "The Profumo Affair" in 1963 nearly brought down the British Government. 

My sister and I not only had a wonderful dinner, but we sat next to a couple where were very possibly spies - or at least that's what the covert British agent told us after they left the restaurant. Imagine this: he ordered a bowl of mashed potatoes, she had tea. Neither of them spoke, except to the hostess who's hand he kissed. They were not charged and left after receiving a telephone call. EXQUISITE.

My dinner was the most delicious duck and my sister had boer goulash. Service was excellent, the wine delicious and the entertainment fully of intrigue!

Spies or just a regular couple? Who knows? I prefer to think of them as covert spies.

Spies or just a regular couple? Who knows? I prefer to think of them as covert spies.

Posted on June 28, 2017 .

Intrepid Women of Kenya

 

 

In 2013 I spent four months living in Kenya conducting research on the role women play in community healing and peacebuilding. During that time I ran arts-infused workshops in Kibera and Haruma - two of Nairobi's largest slums. These workshops were conducted with women from eight different tribes and sought to explore their concept of peace, and how they played a role in promoting peace in their communities as the general election neared . . . but that story is for another time.

During my four months in Kenya, I was lucky enough to connect with three women's only villages: one located in the Massai Mara and two in Samburu district. The latter two had been created out of necessity: by women who had been victims of rape by members of local detachment of the British Military and who had been ostracized by their husbands and family. There is great shame attached to rape in Kenya, and therefore women rarely speak of it.

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Posted on May 6, 2016 .

Did you forget your camera?

Sometimes travelling alone opens up opportunities to return to places. A few years ago I spent some time in Kenya.  In fact, for four months I navigated the country on my own with the help of strangers. It was wonderful, and at times overwhelming. The other day, I was reminded that one of the great things about travelling on your own is the ability to return to a place over and over again. Sometimes just to take a photograph.

It is beautiful in Kenya: sunny and warm, bougainvillea of every colour, jacaranda trees and a sea of never ending traffic and people. Quick smiles greeted me where ever I went. I had been in Nairobi for four days and have almost adjusted to normal sleeping hours. Each morning I am awakened by the Imam call to prayer - a haunting sound that draws me in to listen more intently to the sounds. Then the birds began their announcements, competing with one another to give their morning news.

My first morning I went to the David Sheldrick Elephant orphanage but forgot to take my camera!!

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Posted on April 27, 2016 .

Does the Early Bird Really Catch the Worm?

The early bird really does catch the worm and when travelling solo, you have no reason to endure crowds unnecessarily: you are travelling on your own time, at your own pace. Fabulous! That being said, there have been many times in my travels when I have decided to lounge and savour the stillness of the mornings - although the birds can cause a real racket. Sometimes however, it is best to get out early to avoid the line-ups and crowds.

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Posted on September 20, 2015 .

Making the most of being lost . . In Istanbul.

So often when I travel, I ask for directions. When I was in Ireland I was frequently given directions by pub "Do you know Davitt's Pub? Well turn left there and go straight on". Well, I didn't know Davitt's Pub, but by asking, I found it. Or . . . "Could you tell me the way to . . ", I might ask. "Now, I wouldn't start from here", would be the response. "Could you tell me then, how might I get to where I should begin"? "Do you know Davitt's Pub" . . and on it goes.

Today was somewhat similar, although in a language I did't understand, and in a city that was overcrowded with people holidaying. It was the beginning of Bayram - a festival marking the end of the Ramadan fast. It is a joyous family time and everyone was out taking advantage of their beautiful city.

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Posted on September 18, 2015 .

Have you found yourself in Marrakech during Ramadan?

 

Marrakech is beautiful. Each morning I awaken to the sound of the call to prayer and last night, someone was singing prayers outside Dar Attajmil, the riad where I am staying, in the heart of the medina. Lucrezia, who owns the riad, and her staff are great at making solo female travellers feel welcome and safe. The souks are nearby and as it is low season there are fewer tourists.

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Posted on September 15, 2015 .

The pleasure of exploring solo . . Istanbul. City of Mosques.

One great benefit of solo travel is that you get to go on your schedule. When in Istanbul, as with so many cities during tourist season, it is important to get to the sites early: as the day unfolds more and more people venture out. Queues are not my favourite things at the best of times and in the heat, it can be unbearable.

I set out early in the morning to visit the Chora Museum: The Church of the Holy Saviour in Chora, the most exquisite example of Byzantine churches surviving. In the 16th century, during the Ottoman Empire, it was converted into a mosque and in 1948, after the war, into a museum. It was pouring rain yet I was grateful for having peeled myself out of bed as there was not another tourist in sight so I had the place to myself.

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Posted on September 15, 2015 .