Shiraz

Time for Shiraz! Everyone I have spoken to has told me how beautiful it is. My night bus was a bumpy ride and I arrived at 6am on Tuesday. Luckily my hotel let me sleep on Iranian daybeds in the courtyard for a few hours despite my room not being ready yet.

A little while later I went to the bazaar and as expected I got lost – although it is a lot smaller than the Bazaar in Tehran which is a complete maze! I stumbled across a street aligned only with shops selling gold jewellery – it was very impressive. I stopped for tea in a coffee house. Interestingly they have samovars here like they do in Russia and the name for tea in Farsi is the same as in Russian (chai!)

Before leaving I asked for directions to the owner but I am fairly certain that stall owners don’t even know where they are within the bazaar as I was given varying instructions from different people!

I then went to visit the beautiful Aramgh-e Shah Cheragh, shrine for Sayyed Mir Ahmad. One of the Immam’s seventeen brothers, he was killed by the caliphate on this side in 835 AD and his remains are buried there. In the second courtyard is a second smaller mausoleum which houses the tombs of the two brothers of Mir Ahmad.

After returning to the hotel to check in and have a much needed shower, I went back towards the centre and went on the hunt for a bite to eat – it was mid-afternoon by that stage. I found a terrace and had a salad – as much as the kebabs and rice are delicious in Iran it was refreshing to have something green and light.

Following lunch, I went to the Pars museum across the square. This is where Karim Khan once received foreign dignitaries in the pavilion, and has beautiful stalactite ceilings and hand painted murals. I then went to the UNESCO-listed Eram gardens to relax, designed under the Qajar dynasty. They are also very pleasant to stroll in and are famous for their cypress trees, symbol of Iran. I was stopped by an Iranian English teacher who asked us if we could spend a few minutes chatting to her students to practice. After a couple of minute one of the mothers of the girls kindly invited us for dinner! Being invited by friendly Iranians to their house is starting to become a habit – and I am starting to run out excuses but I think communication would have been limited (unless the English teacher was there to translate!)

I headed back home to rest before deciding where to go for dinner. I chose a restaurant called Shater Abbas – it took me a while to find it as much to my confusion it had changed name since the guidebook was published but got there in the end. Before ordering the waiters brought some jelly and quince paste accompanied by fresh orange juice and I wasn’t sure if it was an appetiser as it was quite sweet but it tasted good nonetheless. The restaurant quickly filled up with a big gathering of Iranians taking up most of the venue – I assumed it was a last big communal meal before Ramadan starts this week end? I went back to the hostel and it was not long before I was in bed ready for a busy following day!

Wednesday morning I walked to the Masjed-e Nasir-al-Molk, know in English as the Pink Mosque. It was built at the end of the 19th century and its tiling is pink-ish as opposed to blue which is the case with most of the mosques I have visited so far. The highlight was taking a picture through the colourful stained glass with the sun streaming through. I clearly wasn’t the only one who wanted to take pictures!

I then went to the Naranjestan-e Ghavam Pavillion which used to be owned by one of Shiraz’s wealthiest Qajar-era families. The entrance is of course mirrored and sparkly but the ceilings of the upstairs rooms are painted in European-style motifs. I had a break and tried a Shiraz speciality, faludeh – a frozen sorbet made with thin starch noodles and rose water. I had a few bites but I didn’t finish it.

Following this I walked across the Khoshk River to the Imamzadeh-ye Ali Ebn-e Hamze, a 19th century shrine built for Emir Ali, nephew of Shah Cheragh. I had to wear a chador (an all covering cloak) and as I was about to return it a man working in the tourist office invited me for tea and biscuits and he answered some questions I had about the building. He explained that each fragment of mirror used in the mosaics reflect each and one of us and that by reflecting light it reflects God.

Next I took a taxi to the Aramgah-e Hafez, the Hafez mausoleum. Hafez is to the Iranians what Pushkin is to the Russians. Indeed Iranians have a saying that every home must have two things: first the Quran, then a collection of the works of Hafez. This 14th century pote is revered and almost every Iranian can quote his work, bending to whichever social or political persuasion they subscribe. The garden did not disappoint and I wondered about before having a late lunch.

I finally went to the Citadel in the centre of the city, built in the early Zand period. One of the southeastern towers has a noticeable lean, having subsided in the underground cistern that served as a bathroom. What struck me when walking in the courtyard was the strong citrus smell as it is lined with rows of orange trees as you can see on the photo!

Back to the hostel now to write this blog before going out for dinner. I have a early start as I am visiting Persepolis tomorrow and the guide is picking me up at 7.30!

Kerman, porte du desert

After being tucked in bed in the train, I arrived in Kerman early in the morning to my hostel which was very pleasant and welcoming. However as I was too early for check in I went to another bazaar where I played hide and seek in herbs and had lunch in a Hammam reconverted in a restaurant. I had delicious food and was entertained by Iranian traditional music. I got to taste the Iranian delicacy called Kolompe, a soft date-filled biscuit. I relaxed there for a while whilst drinking tea but I did find the courage to go to the Baths’ museum to justify sitting around all morning!

I decided to venture out in the evening to a recommended restaurant called Keykhosro serving traditional Iranian food but I once again walked in circles and got completely lost. With luck I bumped into a very friendly Iranian couple who got the whole family involved to help me find the place and the mother even accompanied me for over twenty minutes to the restaurant despite communication being non-existent.

Next day, as I was waiting for my guide to pick me up after lunch, I decided to visit another mosque and grab a bite to eat. Time was short so I jumped into a taxi – which possibly was the most terrifying ride of my life! On top of driving like a madman, he didn’t know where he was going. I got so frustrated I left the taxi only to be followed for ten minutes by a taxi driver shouting at me in Parsi – luckily he eventually gave up!

My guides, Shahrzad and Arash, arrived after and off we all went to the desert! He suggested we go in the deep desert in a 4X4 and what an adventure that was! It was like a rodeo (seat belts are clearly not mandatory), with Arabic pop music blasting and overall a very bumping ride with slightly overconfident driver who managed to safely drive up and slide down very deep and sandy areas.

Aside the fun, the views of the Lut desert were breathtaking. The Lut is 140km long and 80km wide and is a salty-sandy desert considered to be the hottest in the world. The hottest temperature recorded there was 70.7 C degrees, slightly too hot for a Teddy Bear like me! The shape of the dunes are due to very strong winds which transport sediment and cause erosion over millions of years.

We came back late after having watched the sunset and I had dinner with my guides. We were treated with Boz Ghormeh, a traditional Kerman recipe made of lamb, chickpeas, beans and safran which was delicious and filling.

Time for bed! I admit that I have never slept on the floor in the desert before and it was an experience. I did manage to make myself cosy and had an early night since I had to be up at 5am to see the sunrise over the dunes, and the views did not disappoint.

After a quick breakfast, Arash and Shahrzad took me to see the Rayen citadel, dating back from the 5th Century AD and is 22000 square metres and there were about 250 people living there. The citadel was divided in three parts: lodgings for the wealthy, the commoners and the government buildings. The background is stunning with the mountains covered in snow. I then headed off to get some fresh air and cool down in the Prince’s Garden in Mahan which must be like an oasis when it becomes scorching during the summer!

Before catching my bus to Shiraz, I did a last visit at the Zoroastrian fire temple where I could see the fire burning, their ‘eternal flame’. I will tell you more about Zoroastrians when I am in Yazd!

Day 2

After a good night’s sleep, I had coffee with my new friend Fati (Shadi’s sister for those who know her). She gave me some advice and lent me a mobile to help me find my way. Iranian friendliness continued in the metro when two girls were mesmerised by my beautiful blue eyes and started chatting to me. One was a student and the other on her way to a poetry class – not pottery as I had originally understood. It is to be said that poets hold a special place in Iranian culture and historically have never been persecuted despite writing poetry which at first glance could seem risque.

Following this I found another bazaar and a very nice mosque attached to it but I couldn’t retrace my steps and, after going round in circles whilst asking directions to the Sa’d Abad museum complex and being given different answers, I concluded that every Iranian has their own way to get there. I eventually bumped into a couple who took me up to the gate but they didn’t want to leave me on my own (perhaps because I looked so clueless). Communication is limited as I don’t speak Farsi and they don’t speak English but they kept inviting me to stay over at their house but I had to decline due to different plans.

The complex comprised of 18 museums and was home to the holiday palaces of the royals since the Qajar dynasty. It covers over 110 hectares so I, once again, had a lot of walking to do on very hilly paths.

I went to the White Palace, the Green Palace. the Fine Art Museum and the Royal Costume museum, where I kept bumping into my new Iranian friends. I saw a lot of artefacts and clothes of the last Shah.

I then headed to the Niyavaran Complex, where the Shah Mohammad Reza Pahlavi spent most of the last 10 years of his royal rule. The main palace is a time warp of the 60s and 70s, and the decorations are very different to what I had previously seen in other palaces!

It was time for me to pick up my luggage and catch my overnight train to Kerman. Arriving at the station, I was challenged as the board indicating the train departures was in Farsi, but eventually I made it on the right train and on time.

I ended up sharing my carriage with a young Iranian girl who, once again, displayed Iranian hospitality and friendlines throughout the journey. We even swapped key rings as souvenirs and now follow each other on instagram!!

Welcome to Tehran (Day 1)

Back on the road after a long winter break! First night in Tehran! After a stop over in Istanbul I arrived at 7am Iranian time. I quickly discovered in my taxi ride that driving is chaotic to say the least but I got to the hotel in one piece where I paid my room in millions of rials. You can easily be a billionaire….in rials.

I managed to find the metro but found myself in the wrong carriage (women only) but as I am such a cute teddy bear all was forgiven.


I first headed to the big bazaar where you could buy anything that came to your imagination (from carpets to flashy bras)- after getting lost I eventually had a much needed coffee break (I still hadnโ€™t slept yet!!).

I then took off to Golestan palaces where I discovered that Iranians like lot and lots of mirrors! It was one of the last Shah’s residences where he conducted official ceremonies such as coronations and weddings. It was built under the Qajar dynasty and consists of several buildings around a garden. At this stage I was still confused about the currency as the money has lost so much value they switch between Rials and Toumans and by the fact you donโ€™t get change back in museums unless you ask for it?

I headed for a quick lunch in the sun before attempting to cross the busy road towards the park and giving in to what seems the Iranian way of crossing – say a prayer and hope not to get hit by a car!

Time for more culture at the Islamic national Museum before heading back for a snooze. After a stroll on Tabiat bridge overlooking the city by night, I had the traditional meal of Dizi but I had to refer to my favourite guidebook to enjoy it the authentic way. Off to bed now as itโ€™s been a long and busy day!

Quintessentially British

Lunch at the top of the former Peter Johns – now John Lewis & partners

Before passing by the Royal Society of Sculptures:

In South Kensington, visiting the NHM is a must:

Dippy, the Diplodocus, is on tour and has been replaced by Hope, the blue whale.

I had arrived in London just on time for the end of the proms:

Which I enjoyed with some Osmanthus tea from Guilin:

Jerusalem song:

And the national Anthem:

A celebration of British tradition and classical music.

And on that note:

 

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Thank you for following Trouspinet’s summer 2018 adventures ๐Ÿ˜

Paris part 2

The next day… I found the best baguette in Paris

I strolled down Bonaparte road…

..and ended up at l’atelier ใ€Šle prince jardinier ใ€‹.

A decoration shop specialising in the art of taxidermy. Photos aren’t allowed but its very impressive, like a mini Natural History Museum.

Lunch at the brasserie ใ€ŠLe Saint Placide ใ€‹

I then took a detour via the parisian metro to see the metal tower,

Before going to the atelier des Lumieres.

For some reason, the atelier doesn’t allow visitors to buy tickets at the ticket office after 4pm so you have to reserve online – however, their wifi is slow so we ended up searching for a bar with Wi-Fi.

As it turned out, all foreigners seemed to end up at the same place with the same problem : Express bar, which is run by an Englishman who doesn’t mind his French.

The exhibition this time was about G. Klimt and F. Hundertwaaser.

Essentially people sitting in a room with the paintings and motifs moving around via various visual effects:

Looking closely one can see the pixels.

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After that, I dined at the Bon vivant (tuna steak was delicous, courgette spaghetti with melon mousse was also very good – very nice atmosphere)

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Which is right next to the cinema: le grand Atelier.

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(The movie was blackkklansman in vo)

The pantheon:

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Last morning in Paris – I went to the winner of the best baguette in Paris:

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(Je suis une baguette)

Before taking the eurostar back to London.

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Paris part 1

The day started with lunch at the St germain-en-laye golf club,

With babapapa ice cream

Before touring Paris

Trouspinet doesn’t understand how 33cl of coca cola can cost 5.8โ‚ฌ

Cocktails are better value for money

Luxembourg gardens:

The old roads of Paris

Wallace water fountains:

Tour ใ€ŠSt Jacques ใ€‹

Sainte Chapelle:

The bird market

Notre Dame – there was an ongoing service so there aren’t any pictures of the inside

After wandering from place to place, searching for an affordable restaurant – I settled on a Japanese set menu.

A beggar used a fishing pole to hold his cup:

Fancy dress skaters on St Louis bridge:

Notre Dame de Paris:

The infamous urinals that have made international news:

French version of the Natural History Museum:

Surprisingly, my favourite section – mineralogy – was a lot less popular than the T-Rex exhibition.

Orleans in a few (dozen) pictures

Cathedral ใ€Š Sainte Croix d’Orleans ใ€‹:

Le petit train starts its journey in front of the cathedral:

The little train travels around Orleans’ ancient town:

Every corner of every street is marked by the figure of Jeanne d’Arc on her horse, who helped liberate the city from the English in 1429.

House of Jeanne d’Arc:

At the end of the trainride, I took to the pedestrian passages of the ancient town.

Emperor road with its wood-sided houses:

The garden of hotel Groslot and the remains of the former chapel ใ€Š Saint Jacques ใ€‹:

Inside the cathedral:

Groslot hotel:

Some shopping before the apero:

On weekends a little book market installs itself on Place du Martroi.

Orleans is situated on the Loire:

Back into the ancient town:

Museum of history and architecture:

Orleans is a very pleasant town to visit, especially during sales.

Near the Breton border

All this copious French food meant I was due for a morning run. I headed towards Kermoisan, passing by the many “biscuiteries Bretonnes”.

I passed by the lovely hamlet of Tregate:

Outside of Tregate were the salt marshes of Guerande, which form a spider’s web on Google maps.

The paludier’s belongings are put to rest on Sunday:

In the background you can see the Saint Guenole in Batz-sur-mer.

The salt marshes are defined by muddy paths, which all but ruined by trainers.

I rejoined the road, going up midway through the saltmarshes before walking along the road to Pouliguen.

The “port de plaisance” in Pouliguen:

Which continues along the beach of La Baule escoublac:

In the afternoon, it was time to settle back and enjoy the sun.

Or for those with more sunburn-prone skin, slowly hide in the shade of the tent.

Dinner tonight was a Greek feast:

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