A minor train adventure en route to England’s Hever Castle, childhood home of Anne Boleyn

 

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Hever Castle, deep in the Kent countryside, was Anne Boleyn’s childhood home. It’s about 30 miles from London.

By Betty Gordon

© 2017 text and photos. All rights reserved.

My original plan was to visit Hever Castle, childhood home of Anne Boleyn and where Henry VIII occasionally later courted her, on May 19 — a Friday — on what would have been the 481st anniversary of her execution at the Tower of London.

But being thoroughly familiar with England’s notoriously fickle weather, I also built in enough days on my recent trip — which started in Portugal and ended in London — so that in case it was raining, I could postpone the outing until conditions improved.

I knew there were two Southern Railway routes to Hever Castle, thanks to information on its website. I could go by train from London Bridge Station via Oxted or East Croydon to Edenbridge Town and then take a taxi about three miles to the castle.

Or I could leave from Victoria Station, change trains in East Croydon for Hever and walk about a mile. The castle website provided a map to follow from Hever Station to the castle.

I studied the train schedules for both options and it seemed that leaving from Victoria was a bit faster and more importantly, closer via the tube to my hotel. I was also attracted to idea of a countryside ramble, though I didn’t relish the idea of doing this clutching an open umbrella, sloshing through puddles and trying not to slip in the mud.

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The entrance to Hever Castle. The portcullis, in the center arch, is still in working order.

Dame Judi Dench, in a “Visit Britain” promotional short that has aired on PBS, may visit Hever Castle with her family “in all weathers,” but touring the expansive gardens, which cover 125 acres, seemed best left for fine weather.

On my last day in London, the skies finally cleared and I set off for Victoria Station, thinking that in under an hour, I’d be close to my destination.

I bought a return ticket to Hever (£12.20, about $15), and the woman at the window indicated that I could take any train to Clapham Junction and transfer for the train to Hever. I thought the change in routing might be due to the fact that this was a Sunday and perhaps trains were running on a limited schedule.

When I got to Clapham Junction, no train was going to Hever. A station worker showed me an information board, where you type in your destination, and it reveals the routing. What I found out is that the woman in Victoria Station should have told me I still had to go through Oxted — and change trains again there.

So off I went to the platform to wait about 30 minutes for the train to Oxted.

Once there, I had another lengthy wait, though I met two men, maybe in their 60s, who had just returned from Macedonia, where they said they had helped set up firefighting equipment and training procedures. We had a pleasant chat and they assured me that once the train pulled out of Oxted, I was only 10-15 minutes from Hever. They also noted that they had planned to leave from London Bridge Station, but that service wasn’t running and they ended up at Victoria Station also.

The extra change and downtime added about an hour to my journey, but was more of an inconvenience rather than something to get annoyed about.

I was heartened to find that once at Hever — a very small unmanned station — the signs pointed the way to the castle and the map became just a backup. Several other passengers were also headed to the footpath.

Gates along the way had red circular plastic markers with a white arrow and the words Hever Castle posted on them, and a yellow marker and black arrow indicating this was a public footpath, so there wasn’t any question I was headed in the right direction.

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Black-faced sheep paid no attention to the visitors tramping across their pasture.

As I expected, it was a charming walk, and I stopped to take pictures of some of the blooming flowers. What clinched it, however, was the group of black-faced sheep, sitting huddled together under a grove of trees in one of the lush pastures I crossed (keeping an eye out for piles of droppings I certainly didn’t want to step in).

I was barely 30 miles from London, and deep in the rural Kent countryside, but the verdant landscape made it seem like England’s capital was much farther away. I also passed a house with a thick thatched roof, doing business as a bed-and-breakfast, that would have been equally at home in Shakespeare’s time, and a helmeted woman leisurely riding her horse down the quiet road.

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Parts of St. Peter’s Church date to the 13th century. 

On the last stretch, now walking on a narrow street, I got sidetracked into St. Peter’s Church, which had a wooden sign that indicated this was the resting place of Thomas Bullen (aka Boleyn), Anne’s father and grandfather of Queen Elizabeth I. So I had a brief look inside.

His massive above-ground tomb is between the chapel and chancel. The brass plate on top of it indicates that he was a knight of the Order of the Garter (founded in 1348 by Edward III. It is Britain’s highest order of chivalry). Boleyn’s investiture was in 1523, during the reign of Henry VIII, whom he served as a diplomat and later as Treasurer of the King’s Household.

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Under this brass lies Anne Boleyn’s father, Thomas. The illustration indicates he was a member of the Order of the Garter, Britain’s highest order of chivalry. He’s wearing the garter on his left knee.

Boleyn died on March 12, 1538, not two years after Anne’s death. The brass illustration is of Boleyn in his full robes, his garter around his left knee and the badge on his left breast. The brass plaque notes he was also Earl of Wiltshire and Ormonde.

From the stone-and-plaster church, parts of which date to the 13th century, it’s a short walk to the ticket booth and entrance to the castle and grounds. As you approach the castle, you can’t miss the dozens of topiaries, some precisely clipped into whimsical animal shapes.

The structure itself predates the Boleyn family, with original construction taking place around 1270; the crenellated features were added over a period of years. Two centuries later, around 1459, Thomas Boleyn’s grandfather, a former lord mayor of London, bought the property and added two wings.

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This is the Long Gallery, added in the 1500s. Guests would have been entertained here. The ceiling is a 20th-century reconstruction in the Tudor style. The child in the golden gown is meant to depict Anne as a child.

Among Thomas Boleyn’s 16th-century improvements was the addition of the Long Gallery, which spans the width of the castle. Today it’s a sparsely furnished room that showcases several costumed figures meant to illustrate three periods of Anne Boleyn’s life.

Anne Boleyn lived here only about nine years, from about age 3 to 12, and a brief period as an adult around 1523 when she was exiled from court, where she was a lady-in-waiting to Catherine of Aragon, Henry’s first wife.

A room that was believed to have been Anne’s bedroom is rather compact, features a window, half-domed ceiling and a carved headboard, but it is not set up as if she occupied it.

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This “Book of Hours” belonged to Anne Boleyn. It is in a glass case with low lighting to protect the pages. It was printed sometime around 1410-1450.

Among the prized possessions on display are two of Anne’s prayerbooks, known as a “Book of Hours.” These books would have been read from eight times a day at specific hours, thus the name. The castle website said that on May 19, 2016, both were opened to the pages where her signature and writing appear.

The illuminated version dates to 1410-1450; the printed one to 1528.

After Thomas Boleyn’s death, the Crown took over the castle property. By then, Henry was on to wife No. 4, Anne of Cleves, a German noblewoman, whom he took an instant dislike to at their first meeting. Among other things, he railed about her not looking at all like the attractive person in the portrait by court painter Hans Holbein, and she spoke no English, French or Latin.

The marriage was never consummated. Henry was already smitten with Catherine Howard, and eager to have the six-month union with the German annulled. Hever Castle was among the properties granted to Anne of Cleves at the time of the divorce. When she died in 1557, the property returned to the Crown.

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American William Waldorf Astor bought Hever Castle in the early 20th century. Among his main contributions was the addition of 125 acres of gardens.

Over the centuries, ownership passed through several families and the castle fell into disrepair. When American financier William Waldorf Astor purchased it in 1903, he employed more than 700 skilled artisans and craftsmen to restore the castle using 16th-century techniques, and 800 more to dig the 38-acre lake. Astor is responsible for the addition of the gardens, which took several years to plant and cultivate.

The resulting renovation is a combination of Tudor-era decoration crossed with 20th century Astor sensibilities.

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Anne Boleyn was Henry VIII’s second wife. She was beheaded on May 19, 1536, in London. Portraits of his other five wives are also in the Hever Castle collection.

In truth, aside from the prayerbooks, a collection of Tudor-era portraits, including all six of Henry’s wives, and period tapestries, there isn’t much in the way of personal items to connect Anne to the castle, even if you count the richly paneled bedchamber and massive four-poster bed, purported to be where Henry VIII slept when the love-sick king was pursing Anne.

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Several small waterfalls add to the beauty of the 38-acre lake.

That said, a tour of the castle and a leisurely stroll around the lake and through the meticulously maintained gardens can take up the better part of a day. You can bring a picnic (or eat at one of the restaurants or snack stands) and your dog (as long as it is leashed), and set out your blanket on the luxuriant green lawn and soak up the sun.

The Tudor gardens feature yew trees fashioned into the shapes of period chess pieces, more than 4,000 plants comprise the rose garden (they hadn’t bloomed yet this spring), and a towering yew maze lets you to test your problem-solving and direction-finding skills.

Several kid-friendly attractions include a water maze, an adventure playground, miniature model houses and lots of ducks and swans to feed.

On school holidays and weekends, rowboats, canoes and pedal boats can be rented for a spin around the lake, kids and adults can try their hand at archery, and your young knight or aspiring lady can paint a shield or crown.

If you really want to feel like royalty, consider staging your wedding here or staying at the B&B or holiday cottage. There are also 27 holes of golf.

I also had a brief look at the KSY Military Museum, a tribute to the Kent and Sharpshooters Yeomanry. It tells the story of soldiers from 1794 to the present in a museum that opened in 2015. (The collection was previously in the keep of the castle.) I would have liked to have had more time here, but it was already close to closing time.

I’m happy to report that the return trip to London went more smoothly. I retraced my steps on the footpath but was disappointed not to get another look at the sheep as they had moved from their shady spot.

The wait time at Oxted was shorter than in the morning, and I didn’t have to make a second change, so I was back at Victoria Station in under an hour.

Quick reference: Hever Castle and Gardens, open daily. Grounds open at 10:30 a.m., castle opens at noon. Tickets available for the gardens only, or castle and gardens. Discount for seniors, age 60 and up. You can save a little by purchasing in advance online, but beware that tickets can’t be exchanged, transferred to another date or refunded. Some of the extras like boating and archery have an additional fee. http://www.hevercastle.co.uk

On Easter Island, among the moai at Anakena: From every side, something to see

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The seven moai at the beach at Anakena are known as Ahu Nau Nau. They face inland, with Anakena Beach behind them. The site was restored in 1978.

By Betty Gordon

© 2017 text and photos. All rights reserved.

In November 2016, spring in the Southern Hemisphere, I took an unforgettable, two-week trip to Easter Island and Chile. This is the fourth post about my adventures. See April 10, March 6 and February 12, 2017, for earlier posts.

Of the 50 or so moai that have been restored atop the ceremonial platforms known as ahu, most show the weathering caused by centuries of exposure to wind, rain and sun. If these stone giants displayed decorative carving, much of it is has become “illegible” and extremely difficult to see.

But at Anakena, the carving on several of the seven restored moai on Ahu Nau Nau is much more visible for an odd reason: They spent a long period of time, possibly hundreds of years, covered in sand.

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Ahu Nau Nau, with its seven moai in profile. The palm trees were imported from Tahiti in the 1960s.

In profile, four of the moai are close in height. One lacking a hat is shorter. One is a headless torso and the last not much more than a stump. On three statues, the shape and length of the facial features are similar and look like they could have been carved by the same master craftsman while they were still in the “nursery,” the volcano at Rano Raraku, and if not, then possibly someone trained by him.

The well-marked ears are rendered in relief, and the lips and deep eye sockets are also well defined.

The outline of the arms flows downward, with the flat hands and fingers clearly outlined as they cross the moais’ belly. In a few, the navel pokes out on the torso.

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Look carefully, and you can make out some of the lines and spiral patterns on the back. The patterns may mimic tattoos that some islanders wore.

As viewed from the rear, visitors should be able to make out spiral and circular patterns on the lower back, and horizontal lines. These markings may have mimicked the tattoos favored by some of the clans.

As I’ve written previously, by about 1838, none of the moai were still standing upright on their ahu. One theory holds that warring clans, perhaps clashing over dwindling food and resources on the island, pushed down their adversaries’ moai in order to bury their faces and thus deprive them of their mana, or power, that the clans believed the statues were imbued with.

In other words, it wasn’t enough to defeat another clan and take its supplies. By toppling their protective moai, further insult was inflicted.

Thus, this conflict yielded at least one unintended result for modern-day visitors to Anakena.

On the northeastern side of the triangular island also known as Rapa Nui, Anakena is what many mentally picture when they think of the South Pacific: crystal-blue waters lapping at a white-sand beach surrounded by nearby palm fronds swaying in the breeze. Because of the island’s deforestation over the centuries, the palms at Anakena were actually imported from Tahiti in the 1960s.

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The Rapa Nui people revere Hotu Matu’a, who came from another Polynesian island to Easter Island, possibly as early as A.D. 600 to 900. He and his group landed at Anakena, today popular with swimmers and sunbathers.

It was in this small cove that ancestors of the islanders who made the moai first landed. This likely happened somewhere around A.D. 600 to 900. The well-provisioned group, led by Hotu Matu’a, brought with it from another Polynesian island perhaps 2,000 miles away some of the supplies needed to stock a new settlement, such as plants and animals.

When they arrived in their canoes, it is believed the island was about 70 percent covered in several species of palm trees and plants, and that abundant fish and birds supplemented their diet.

Eventually, Anakena became the home of the royal clan Miru, direct descendants of Hotu Matu’a.

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Ahu Nau Nau from the front. During an excavation, the white coral and red scoria that comprise an eye were found here.

In addition to the carvings, the Anakena site also has several other distinctions:

  • Four of the seven moai are sporting cylindrical pukao, the red topknot “hat” meant to evoke a hairstyle the male members of some clans wore. No other restored site features as many moai with pukao.
  • In 1978, an excavation by archaeologist Sergio Rapu turned up evidence that some of the moai had proper “eyes,”which was the final ornamental touch in their construction and installation atop the ahu. White coral (for the sclera) and red scoria (for the pupil) were inserted in a priestly ceremony, and thus “awakened,” the moais’ power was in full force. The original coral and scoria discovery can be seen at the Museo Antropológico Sebastián Englert, a small museum named for the German missionary priest who lived on the island for 34 years, learned the local language and documented many oral legends. Very few other samples of the “eye” material have been found.
  • Atop a second ahu, to the right of Ahu Nau Nau as you face it, sits a lone moai that served as a guinea pig for Norwegian adventurer Thor Heyerdahl and his team when they were testing theories as to how the islanders maneuvered the moai into an upright position.
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This is Ahu Ature Huki, the first moai to be stood upright by modern-day restorers. This was accomplished by Norwegian adventurer Thor Heyerdahl and his team in 1955-56. In front, below the moai’s base, you can just make out a plaque commemorating the effort.

This site, known as Ahu Ature Huki, features the first moai to have been uprighted. Heyerdahl writes about the process of raising the 10-foot, nearly 30-ton moai in his book “Aku Aku,” based on his 1955-56 expedition.

According to Heyerdahl, the mayor, Pedro Atan, enlisted 12 men — some working barefoot —and had them gather large boulders and three long wooden poles.

“The figure had its face buried deep in the earth, but the men got the tips of their poles underneath it, and while three or four men hung and pulled at the farthest end of each pole, the mayor lay flat on his stomach and pushed small stones under the huge face. … As the hours passed, the stones he moved out and shoved in became larger and larger. When the evening came, the giant’s head had been lifted a good three feet from the ground, while the space beneath was pack tight with stones.”

The poles acted as levers as the ever-taller sloped wall of stones — picture a wedge — grew under the moai. In this manner, it took about 17 or 18 days to complete the task.

Surely one way to prove a point, but not nearly as easy as using a crane to replace the 15 moai atop their platform as was done at Ahu Tongariki.

Our small group visited Anakena at the end of a full day of island touring. It’s the only site with snacks available and a restaurant-bar, restroom facilities (fee charged), plus access to a nice, small beach.

Earlier, we’d spent several hours at Rano Raraku (the quarry) and its crater, once the only source of fresh water on the eastern side of the island, and Ahu Tongariki.

We’d also stopped at the site called Te Pito Kura, where the largest moai ever to stand atop an ahu is sprawled on the ground, its topknot nearby. It was estimated to be more than 33 feet tall, with its topknot another 6.6 feet in height. Its weight was estimated at 70 tons. This is also thought to be the last moai standing, when it was noted by a French explorer named Abel Du Petit-Thouars in 1838. No other outsiders remarked after that date that they’d seen a moai still upright.

Nearby is a large stone, surrounded by four smaller rocks. Stories diverge here, again. Some believe the large stone accompanied Hotu Matu’a to his new home, and that it is laden with mana. Others say that it’s just another ocean-tossed stone, smoothed by the elements, that found its way inland.

Quick reference: Mahinatur offers several routes for guided exploration of Easter Island. mahinatur.cl (Spanish only). Pickup and drop off at your lodging and lunch are included on the full-day tour.

Hello, world: Fawning over a darling new addition to the neighborhood

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A fawn I’ve named Friday takes its first tentative steps. It was born Friday afternoon in my backyard.

By Betty Gordon

© 2017 text and photos. All rights reserved.

Among wildlife lovers in my neighborhood, the first two or three weeks of June are highly anticipated. It’s when we compare deer sightings — “Have you seen any fawns yet?” — as we await the arrival of the newborns.

Early Friday afternoon (June 9), the blessed event happened. A tiny newcomer, all huge, dark  eyes, flicking ears, wobbly legs and spots galore, came into the world in my backyard. Looking out a kitchen window, I could see Mom avidly licking the youngster.

All week, I had an inkling something was up. I kept seeing the same pregnant doe grazing around the edge of my property. With her heavy belly, it seemed likely that someone might be having a birthday soon.

The deer that live in the woods next to my house are as used to seeing me as I am to seeing them and show little fear of humans in general. They don’t high-tail it to safety at my presence, even when I have my dog on his leash.

I called out softly to her several times: “Hey, pretty girl. It’s OK. Hey, pretty girl.”

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This is Friday’s mother, visiting my landing at midmorning Thursday. You can see the bulge in her tummy.

At about 10 a.m. Thursday, the doe was standing on the landing of the concrete stairs that lead to my front door. Her furry tan back was to me, but I could see she was calmly chewing her cud and looking out toward the cul-de-sac at the end of my street.

I don’t think she’d just had a nibble from the azalea bush directly to her right because it’s not at its healthiest at the moment. But she may have earlier been sampling the ground cover around the tall oak tree to her left, a favorite dining spot for the herd.

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These four (note the two young bucks with fuzzy little antlers closest to the camera) were eating my ground cover on Thursday.

My record for most deer seen at the same time: 19. I regularly observe what I take to be family groups of five or six. When they come running up the street — or out of the woods going in the other direction — it’s a sight to behold. Sometimes they are in leisurely fast-walking mode and at other times, it’s all hooves-pounding-the pavement, run-as-fast-as-you-can speed.

If they are exiting the woods, their usual route has them skirt the edge of a neighbor’s side lawn. They’ve done this so often that they’ve worn a path through the grass.

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One of the more mature bucks last year, with something dangling from his antlers.

I’ve taken hundreds and hundreds of photos over every season. In addition to the fawns being delivered now, the young bucks are sporting fuzzy antlers. I haven’t seen the bigger bucks for awhile, but I’m sure they’re somewhere roaming the immediate vicinity or the subdivisions that back up to mine.

Thursday morning, I grabbed my camera and took a few pictures through the front window, intentionally not opening the front door, the noise of which might have caused her to bolt.

Thursday night I was working on a future blog post until the small hours. When I took my black Lab-mix canine outside before we went to sleep, I noted the silhouette of a doe by the flower bed in front of my next-door neighbor’s house.

I couldn’t tell if she was sitting on the dirt in the flower bed or on the lawn just beside it and the short walkway to their front door, but it was an odd place for her to be. Most of the time, when the deer are resting or sleeping, they camp inside the tree line where plenty of plants and bushes provide camouflage … and food.

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The new mom, shortly after giving birth Friday.

When I got up Friday morning, I looked around the front of my property, and around my neighbor’s. No signs of a baby. Then I looked out back. Mom was all alone, but her plus-one arrived within hours.

When the new mom was finished tenderly administering to her baby, she headed toward the side woods, leaving the fawn alone but well-hidden.

From my deck, I took several photos, but then went outside at ground level to get a closer look at the fawn. It was standing behind some shrubs, weeds and branches near the perimeter fence.

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Ready for its first closeup: Friday among the weeds and shrubs.

I was probably about 15-20 feet away. I don’t know how good a newborn’s eyesight is, but I’m sure the fawn knew I was there. Even if it was only sensing a form larger than itself was nearby, it remained absolutely still. It didn’t scoot. It didn’t cry out.

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Friday, the fawn already steadier on its feet, heads off after Mom.

Meanwhile, Mom had spotted me. We kept our distance. I didn’t want to spook either her or her wee one. Mom walked back into the woods and the fawn, a little steadier on its spindly legs, headed in the same direction.

Last spring, one of the newborns made its debut on the next street over. Its mom had left it on the pavement, wedged between two tall heavy-duty plastic garbage bins.

I was walking my dog when I saw the fawn. Once we got home, I got my camera and headed back. By the time I got there, it was gone. Neighbors reported it retreated into the backyard across from them.

Three Junes ago, I was luckier.

My neighbor two doors down called me early on a Saturday morning. She was slightly panicked that the fawn in her front flower bed wasn’t breathing.

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This is Flower, born June 21, 2014. Flower was so well hidden among the greenery that you could walk right past and not know a fawn was there.

With smartphone in hand, I approached the little animal and was mighty relieved to note the easy rise and fall of its ribcage. I was literally within inches of this pint-size body, and snapped some excellent photos.

I named this cutie “Flower.” I didn’t know where Mom was, but I monitored how Flower was doing several times throughout the day.

On the last check, late in the afternoon, Flower was gone — but not too far. She was standing in my neighbor’s side yard, feeding hungrily from mom.

I know that in many communities, the deer overpopulation is not only a nuisance but a real problem, especially because they can carry disease-bearing ticks.

In my own yard, I’ve stopped planting flowers because for too many years, the deer have consumed them. This was the final straw: I left for work one morning, excited about all my tulip buds and looking forward to one of my favorite sights of spring in the coming days.

By the time I got home, every single bud had been bitten off and the stalks reduced in height.

Even so, I still delight every time I see these gentle, graceful creatures. I’ve named the new arrival Friday.

Only one question remains: Is Friday a singleton or is there a twin out there I have yet to discover?

In Lisbon, Portugal: (Sort of) Dining out with American TV travel host and guidebook author Rick Steves

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Rick Steves gives a friendly greeting to a fellow traveler at the TimeOut Market in Lisbon. He’s accompanied by his producer, Simon Griffith. Steves and his team are on their annual spring-summer tour of Europe, filming new TV shows and gathering information to update guidebooks.

By Betty Gordon

© 2017 text and photos. All rights reserved.

It’s a little after 7 in the evening on a pleasant spring Thursday in May in Portugal’s capital. I’m sitting on a low-backed high stool, made of a light-colored wood, at a lengthy table shared by several dozen people I don’t know in a place called TimeOut Market Lisboa, which modestly calls itself “the best of Lisbon under one roof.”

It’s in the southern part of the city, across the street from a ship terminal and metro stop on the River Tejo. The concept of the venue, opened in 2014, is the brainchild of the local office of the same TimeOut folks who publish city and country guidebooks and magazines. The Lisbon staff have “tasted and tested” all the vendors in the “curated” market.

The tables run up and down the center of the facility. Forming the perimeter of the covered venue are mini-restaurant kiosks — some with limited seating — offering a variety of cuisines from which to order: seafood to pizza to Asian to Mexican to tapas to traditional Portuguese dishes, to famous custard tarts, eclairs, gelato and more.

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Restaurant kiosks ring the center space, where diners gather at long communal tables. The informal setup contributes to conversation among total strangers.

If you can’t find something among the 24 food kiosks and eight bars to eat and drink, you’re not trying.

The diners are a local and international mix, running the age gamut: families with rambunctious young kids (some in strollers) sitting at the tables lower to the floor, well-dressed couples having cocktails and a light meal, 20-somethings out for a night of drinking and sharing appetizers — and not spending a fortune in the process.

Think food court on a more sophisticated scale, with custom-made dishes from each mini-restaurant. You study the overhead menu, place your order, pay your tab and are handed a squarish pager that buzzes loudly and lights up madly when your food is ready for pickup. (The pizza on offer is one of the few dishes we see that appears precooked.)

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Behind these diners you can see the day’s choices and prices at two kiosks: Confraria, specializing in sushi, and Honorato, which offers thick hamburgers.

My friend Sylvia has gone off to order her meal from the counter at chef Marlene Vieira’s place, praised in the TimeOut brochure as having “brought to the market the best of Portuguese recipes, in the shape of both snacks and main dishes.”

The people-watching is superb.

I’m minding our belongings and Sylvia’s IPA from Beer Experience Super Bock (so the busboys don’t prematurely clear the table). Suddenly, walking right past where I’m sitting in almost the center of the market, I see someone I know. Well, not quite know, but recognize.

A casually dressed bespectacled man with a short haircut is moving from my left to my right. He’s with a curly headed man I also recognize, and a younger raven-haired woman I don’t. (I later deduce that this is probably a local guide.)

No question I’ve spotted Rick Steves. I’ve seen dozens and dozens of his shows about his travels in Europe — including the program he’s done on Lisbon — and while I’m surprised to see him, I’m not completely surprised to see him. I know he spends up to four months each spring and summer filming his TV series that’s shown on PBS and researching his guidebooks. (He’s been blogging about this trip since late April.)

I call out: “Hi Rick,” and give a little wave.

His head whips to the right to locate where this voice has come from — maybe he’s wondering who has identified him in this busy, bustling place — and I add: “We have your book.”

“Thanks,” he says, and keeps walking.

I watch where he’s gone because when Sylvia returns, I want to get a photo and I suspect she’ll want to get her Portugal guidebook autographed.

He’s taller than I expected, so I have no trouble tracking him as he migrates to the far end of the market.

Sylvia comes back to the table, and I tell her I’ve seen Rick Steves. (He has one of those two-syllable names that people always utter in full, like John Glenn or Tom Hanks.)

She grabs her guidebook, I hand her a black ballpoint pen, and she heads in the direction I’ve indicated. She spots him by chef Miguel Castro E Silva’s stand. (“The Porto native offers some of his famous rice dishes, as well as snacks traditionally popular in the north, such as the inevitable francesinha — the multilayered sandwich [covered in melted cheese] invented in Porto,” the brochure says.

Mission accomplished — the name Rick Steves is scrawled fairly illegibly on the inside front cover — and Sylvia recounts their conversation to me.

“ ‘Do you mind signing my book?’ ” Sylvia says she asked him.

“He said, ‘Oh, no, of course not.’ ”

“ ‘I was going to email you,’ ” she says to him. “ ‘You need to update two things in your book.’ ” (I’m sure she has said this in a friendly, information-imparting tone, not in a finger-wagging one.)

“ ‘I need to update a lot,’ he says, laughingly,” Sylvia tells me. “ ‘ What are they?’ ”

“And then I told him about the taxi ride. It’s now double into the city.” Sylvia is citing that the 2014 version of the guidebook estimates a taxi from the airport to city-center hotels to cost only 10 euros. In reality, it is 19 euros, Sylvia says.

“And the Gulbenkian [Museum] is 10 euros now.” (Perhaps the top museum in Lisbon, it houses the wide-ranging private collection of Armenian-born Calouste Gulbenkian, a many-times-over millionaire who amassed his fortune via oil, negotiating the transfer between companies and taking a commission each time.)

In all fairness, even when guidebooks are regularly updated, some information is almost immediately obsolete. Adding in production schedule lag time of six months to a year means that even the most recently published edition will have out-of-date material.

It’s unavoidable: Museums raise their entry fees, tour operators’ prices increase, hotels and restaurants become more expensive, and so on.

I really don’t want to seem like an annoying tourist, but I know this blog post will be enhanced if I have a photo to go along with the text.

So off I go. Steves hasn’t moved very far from where Sylvia chatted with him.

I am polite. I ask if he minds if I take his picture. It probably doesn’t hurt that I say: “I watch your show all the time.” I hope it doesn’t sound fawning.

So while Steves is giving me a little wave and his producer Simon Griffith is gazing toward the ceiling (probably looking at a kiosk menu), I snap a couple of frames. And then I thank them for posing.

I could exaggerate a bit here and say we have dinner with Steves and his friends, because they are sitting at the other end of our communal table. Several times while Sylvia and I are tucking into our food, I look to my right and have no trouble picking out where Steves is sitting.

But in that we aren’t having a conversation with him, we’re not really eating with him either.

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From chef Miguel Laffan’s kiosk, grilled chicken with Thai sauce, consisting of coconut milk, coriander, green curry and ginger.

As for our food, I order grilled chicken with Thai sauce from chef Miguel Laffan’s kiosk. The chicken is perfectly cooked, juicy, and despite a sauce made of coconut milk, coriander, green curry and ginger, not overly spicy. I also have a side salad of lettuce, red onions, tomatoes and corn. I spend about $10. (Several other sauces are available, including spicy piri-piri and barbecue.)

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This is chef Marlene Vieira’s version of a traditional Portuguese dish called bacalhau: salted cod with potatoes, onions, black olives and a hard-cooked egg. I think the rectangular dessert on the left is like the famous circular custard tarts we see everywhere in Portugal.

Sylvia is less happy with her meal. She tries the traditional bacalhau, salted cod with potatoes, onions, black olives and a hard-cooked egg. The cod is dried and reconstituted, and she reports it isn’t too salty or too fishy. I try a small bite of the fish and find it … chewy.

Two days later, after the completion of our sightseeing in the Belem area, we’re not far by trolley from TimeOut Market, so we decide to eat there again. After all, there are so many choices.

I order Pad Thai with chicken from the Asian Lab. Sylvia selects a steak-and-shrimp sandwich from Café de São Bento (an offshoot of a much-lauded restaurant and bar).

Unfortunately, the amount of steak on her sandwich is meager, and the overall portion isn’t very large. After another prowl, she and comes back with tempura veggies, including green beans. Once again, I’m happier with my meal than she is with hers.

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This is the entry to Mercado da Ribeira, the market across from the river Tejo. 

During our five-day Lisbon stay, we also stop at city-center Santini for gelato, and Honorato, across from our hotel, for fist-filling double-decker hamburgers. Both have kiosks at TimeOut Market, so in reality we have sampled a total seven of the possible places to eat or drink.

Which qualifies me to say that although the food experience may be uneven, the overall destination is well worth investigating.

Quick reference: Guidebooks list the food hall as Mercado da Ribeira (mercado means market). Some of the non-restaurant vendors sell seafood, fresh fruit, vegetables and flowers. Avenida 24 de Julho; across from the Cais do Sodré metro stop. 10 a.m. to midnight Sundays-Wednesdays; 10 a.m. to 2 a.m. Thursdays-Saturdays. http://www.timeoutmarket.com

In Inari, Finland: Close encounters with a Sami family’s domesticated reindeer

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Tuula Airamo, a Sámi reindeer farmer, feeds Valokki in Inari, Finland, hundreds of miles north of the Arctic Circle. Valokki’s name means “light.”

By Betty Gordon

© 2017 text and photos. All rights reserved.

The long months of pawing at the frozen tundra, hunting for diet-dependent lichen, are over for the reindeer of far northern Finland. Many herds, tended to by the Sámi, the indigenous people of Lapland, are moving to their summer pastures, and delivering their quick-to-walk calves.

In late May 2013, I visited a reindeer farm in Inari, a small village (population about 600) nearly 200 miles above the Arctic Circle. The farm was run by Tuula Airamo and her husband, who looked after a private herd of only about 12 animals, solely for their own use. To be a successful larger economic endeavor, the herd would have to number in the hundreds  — or more.

For centuries, the Sámi have largely relied on reindeer, hunting and fishing and small-scale farming for their livelihood. Theirs was a nomadic existence dictated by the seasons, driving their herds from summer to winter pastures and back. Nowadays, the migration is easier, especially with the addition of snowmobiles, which came into use in the 1950s and 1960s, and later all-terrain vehicles. Some herders even have GPS collars on their reindeer.

These tools have allowed many Sámi to settle in towns and villages, and fewer than 40 percent make their living as their ancestors did herding reindeer. (Today, not all reindeer herders are Sámi.) Tourism and small business ventures have become increasingly important. Nonetheless, in Finland’s Inari-Saariselkä tourism region, reindeer outnumber people about 70,000 to a bit over 8,000.

The Sámi inhabit parts of four European countries: Finland, Norway, Sweden and the Kola Peninsula in northwest Russia. Sápmi is their name for this mostly northern geographical region that covers about 150,000 square miles and grouped together forms a shape resembling an angled boomerang with its center bend pointing northwest.

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Reindeer shed their antlers every year. They can be made into usable implements such as needles and thimbles. Female reindeer also grow antlers.

An official census has never been taken, but estimates put the Sámi population between 70,000 and 100,000, with (using the lower figure) about 40,000 living in Norway, 17,000 to 20,000 in Sweden, about 8,000 to 10,000 in Finland and fewer than 2,000 in Russia.

Archaeological evidence, such as pitfalls used to trap wild reindeer, suggests ancestors of today’s Sámi were in the region, then known as Fennoscandinavia, at least 10,000 years ago. They possibly resettled from Denmark and coastal Norway. The first written reference is credited to Roman historian Tacitus in A.D. 98 when in “Germania,” he mentioned “Fenni” as a people who hunted in the far north.

Mingling with some domesticated reindeer at a farm set against a background of towering pine, spruce and birch trees, about 15 minutes from the center of Inari, was a good way for our small group to learn about reindeer husbandry. Airamo was a gracious hostess, answering dozens of questions with utmost patience.

Except for going away to school, Airamo had lived her whole life in Inari.

Airamo’s ancestors came to the Inari area around 1745, she said. In 1945, her parents arrived with two small children, and the first thing they did was build a log house. At that time, they tended cows and sheep.

“There was no road,” Airamo said. “Everything came by boat, ski or walking. There wasn’t any electricity.”

Things have certainly improved and Airamo’s wooden home had all the modern conveniences, plus two saunas: one in the house and an original separate building that is 67 years old (as of 2017).

In addition to the reindeer, the farm also produced carrots, turnips and potatoes in the brief growing season.

Airamo was a storehouse of knowledge about reindeer, and like all Sámi, utilized every bit of the animal. For centuries, the hide supplied warm clothing, shoes and leather goods, the meat and milk provided nourishment and the antlers became jewelry, decorative art and practical utensils, such as needles and thimbles.

Some antlers, which the animals shed annually, vary in bone density. She showed us the stem end of one rack, noting that the small holes we could see indicated that the animal had been castrated. Antlers from an intact male were completely solid.

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The calves we saw were only a few weeks old. Their mothers keep a watchful eye out for the playful young.

We were lucky to see three calves, about two to three weeks old. They weighed about 9 to 13 pounds at birth. Reindeer are unusual in that the females also grow antlers, and we could even see the beginning of stubs on the heads of the adorable calves, who never strayed far from their mothers.

Later in the summer, the calves were to be “earmarked” with a pattern of notches cut in their ears, an identifying feature like a cattle brand. In subsequent generations of a herder’s family, a variation of that pattern will build on the original. Airamo said she knew by sight that some reindeer from other herds were “visiting” her corral.

With such a small herd, these animals were almost like pets. Two who were eager to munch on a pail of lichen and food pellets while we petted them were named Valokki, which means “light” and is also another name for cloudberries, and Vauhti, which means “speed” or “quick boy.”

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Developing antlers are rich in blood vessels, skin and the furry covering called velvet.

Valokki was 13 (in 2013), and gray-white. Fuzzy velvet protected his blood-vessel-rich antlers as they grew and like all reindeer, the fur on his body was hollow. Airamo said he likely would be slaughtered for meat next year.

When they walk, reindeer make a gentle but noticeable clicking noise, the result of tendons sliding over bone on the rear legs. In the dark or fog, reindeer use this noise to group together and it may help the herders pinpoint the animals’ location, Airamo said.

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Tanned hides and super-warm curled-toed boots are just a few of the products gleaned from reindeer.

After showing us how to bridle and hitch Valokki to a small sleigh, we accompanied Airamo inside her house. She explained the process of tanning the hide and showed us the various steps that go into making the distinctive curled-toe Sámi shoes. For added warmth, dried hay is stuffed inside, and an Australian woman in our group who tried one on indicated her foot was indeed cozy.

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Tuula Airamo shows her visitors how she weaves by hand the fabric for belts and laces.

Airamo also showed us the wool she dyes using natural plant materials, and how the wool is woven into laces and belts.

The pride Airamo took in her heritage and her gentle care of the animals was a testament to the enduring bond between the Sámi people and the all-important reindeer.

Quick reference: I booked my outing, called “Explore Reindeer and Handicrafts,” online through Visit Inari, which can facilitate accommodations and a wide range of year-round safaris, such as hunting, fishing, horseback riding and visiting a husky farm. The reindeer farm excursion I did is now referred to as “Reindeer & Sámi Handicraft,” and Tuula Airamo is still listed. The price has risen to 110 euros, which includes round-trip transfers. See: visitinari.fi

A version of this post appeared in the Fall 2013 edition of Scandinavian Press magazine. For more on Finland, see my Nov. 30, 2016 post about Rovaniemi, and my Feb. 20, 2017 post about a home visit in a Helsinki suburb.

 

 

A blissful day communing with the animals at Elephant Nature Park in Chiang Mai, Thailand

 

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In that the feed baskets weren’t out yet, I think this elephant was having a bit of a yawn.

By Betty Gordon

© 2017 text and photos. All rights reserved.

An elephant’s flexible, mischievous trunk could be the most amazing appendage in the animal kingdom.

Its dexterity is such that it can pick up a tortilla chip without breaking it. It’s strong enough that it can uproot a tree or help to push it over. Somehow the elephant knows how much force it needs — or conversely how gentle to be — to get the job done.

Personally speaking, I found this jam-packed collection of highly integrated muscle groups more than a bit intimidating. (Sources differ widely on how many muscles are in a trunk — from 40,000 to 150,000.)

My friend Susan and I had the chance — several chances really — to feed Asian elephants at the Elephant Nature Park, a rescue and rehabilitation center, in November 2011, in Chiang Mai, Thailand.

The curling and uncurling motion was almost hypnotic as the trunk flared its nostril, sniffed the air and reached out hungrily for the next piece of melon, or squash, or banana or whatever fruit and vegetables the keepers had cut up for that meal and placed in a large colored plastic laundry-size basket for visitors to draw from.

The elephant formed a “U” shape with its trunk tip, providing an inviting platform on which to briefly balance the offered morsels, and swiftly delivered it to an eager open mouth.

Elephants have huge molars, so it didn’t take long to grind the veggies to smithereens and swallow. (Tusks are teeth also, sort of like incisors in humans. All African elephants have them; generally only the males and only a few females of the Asian species do.)

And then the trunk came back for more, the gray, prickly-haired snout stretching again toward an extended hand dangling food. Once I got the hang of working with the elephant’s rhythm, I became a better food delivery partner.

(Asian elephants have one “finger” at the end of their trunks; African elephants have two. The Asian species is smaller in height and weight. The African species has larger ears — the shape resembles the continent of Africa — and bigger feet.)

Elephants are eating machines, consuming hundreds pounds of food a day, though their inefficient digestive system processes only about half of that. In the wild, they would be eating more grasses and green vegetation. They drink up to about 40 gallons of water daily.

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Just checking to make sure that no food had been overlooked.

As feeding time wound down, the elephants crowded closer to the concrete platform where we were standing behind a do-not-cross red line and shin-high metal railing, laying their trunk flat on the pavement, sweeping it back and forth, making sure that nothing remained unconsumed.

I’ve loved elephants since childhood. I don’t know if my affinity was triggered by reading the Babar books or a trip to the zoo. I love their intelligence, the way they flap their ears, how they shyly peer at the world from beneath their heavy eyelashes, and the way they care for their young.

When I was little, I drank from a handmade teal blue-and-brown ceramic cup. Its solid, protruding ears were the handles, and though I could sip from the sides, liquid could also be drawn up through the hole in its upturned trunk. Yes, I still have the cup.

In my travels, I’m always on the lookout to add to my collection of elephant figurines and elephant-themed textiles. Recent additions include the blue-and-black elephant print harem-style pants that I bought in Cambodia in March 2016, the blue-and-white silk pillow cover I purchased in Bangkok, Thailand, in November 2011, and the Herend painted porcelain sitting elephant that I adopted in Budapest, Hungary, in October 2015.

So a joyful day spent among the elephants at the nature park was a dream come true. We fed them, petted them, observed them, bathed them in the river (twice) and then fed them again. I’m embarrassed to say how many photographs I took.

At Elephant Nature Park, visitors do not ride the animals, which at the time I visited, numbered around 36. (Current tally is around 70, a figure the park provided, but something may have been lost in translation.)

The elephants do not paint pictures, they do not perform tricks. They are simply elephants allowed to be elephants, sometimes gathering in familial groups, roaming the property freely (with minders nearby) without fear of man or predator.

Many were still healing in body and spirit after years of abuse and neglect, having been beaten and injured while forced to work in the logging industry, beg on the streets of Bangkok, or entertain in circuses.

The keepers told us a little about the history of some of the elephants, much of it terribly sad, and indicated which animals we should distance ourselves from because of their unpredictable personalities, still angry from the treatment endured in their former lives.

Between 3,000 and 4,000 elephants are left in Thailand, and fewer than 30,000 Asian elephants worldwide.

When we arrived at the park, we were given a lecture about safety and then allowed to wander among the animals in the barn area. After we fed the elephants, we assembled in two buffet lines for our own lunch. All vegetarian, choices ranged from stir-fry noodles, to rice dishes to curries, spring rolls, soup and fruit.

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The person by the elephant’s trunk is its minder. The man in the blue T-shirt is giving the animal a scrub with a small brush.

Fully sated, it was time to follow the elephants down to the river for bath time. We were each given a small black plastic bucket to scoop up water and toss over the hulking animals standing beside us. A few visitors had hand-size brushes and gave the animals a bit of a scrub, too.

It’s not mandatory to do this, of course. Some opted to climb up to the shaded viewing platform and watch the activity below.

The riverbed was rocky and slippery, and the water was barely calf-high. I was wearing sandals, and it was difficult to get a good foot-plant for my basket scoop/water toss. No matter, I was still having enormous fun. The docile elephants, with their always-present minders, seemed happy in the cooling, cascading spray.

Bath time over, we followed the elephants toward the viewing stand, where we were allowed to pose next to them for pictures and watch them amble around the field. Need I say that the babies were particularly adorable?

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This youngster was happy to be among the bigger animals on the field by the viewing platform.

The next activity was to watch a film about elephant rescue and conservation, and as admirable as those goals are, I didn’t think that was the best use of our time. So Susan and I skipped the film and went back to the morning feeding area to contemplate the movements of the real thing standing before us.

Another feeding session followed, and my masticating companion and I emptied nearly a full basket of melon and bananas by ourselves.

Then we followed the elephants back to the river for another bath, and too soon the trip back to town.

Elephant Nature Park was founded in the 1990s, by Sangdeaun Lek Chailert, who is also the force behind the Save Elephant Foundation. Her work has been much lauded and recognized by international media and conservation groups.

In addition to elephants, the park is home to rescued water buffalo, dogs, cats and other assorted critters. Its mission statement includes a commitment to rain forest restoration by planting trees in the surrounding area, preserving village and cultural life, and educating visitors about endangered species.

Elephants can live up to 70 years, so it’s reassuring for this elephant-lover to know that the residents at ENP should have a peaceful and contented existence for many years to come.

Quick reference: Elephant Nature Park: The park has a variety of programs. Visitors can spend a day, several days or a week, visiting or volunteering (fee involved). Prices vary according to program. Some of the longer programs feature interaction in tribal villages. Pickup from your hotel or a designated location is included. From Chiang Mai, it’s about 60-90 minutes to the park; you’ll be shown a video about elephants en route. Daylong visit is generally 7:30 a.m. to 5:30 p.m. or later. 2,500 Thai baht, about $73. Vegetarian lunch is included. Reservations are mandatory. Bring a hat, sunscreen, sunglasses, a change of clothes (if you bathe the elephants you will get wet), flip-flops or sandals,  towel, insect repellant and walking shoes. And a camera, of course. http://www.elephantnaturepark.org

The program has expanded from its Chiang Mai location to include experiences in Surin and Kanchanaburi, Thailand, and near Siem Reap, Cambodia.

To see an elephant pick up a tortilla chip with its trunk: http://www.sciencemag.org/news/2017/01/watch-elephant-pick-tortilla-chip-her-trunk-without-breaking-it

In Chiang Mai, Thailand: A cooking class and market tour with a dynamic chef

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During our cooking class in Chiang Mai, we visited a covered market that sold a range of goods from eggs to vegetables to palm sugar … and more.

By Betty Gordon

© 2017 text and photos. All rights reserved.

Siripen Sriyabhaya, known to most as Yui, has a nonviolent plan for world domination (her phrase), though she does wield a mean cleaver.

Fortunately, what the petite Thai woman has in mind is far more appetizing: To share her passion for her native cuisine, one delicious recipe at a time. And her diabolical strategy starts in the shaded carport of her Chiang Mai home in northern Thailand.

In November of 2011, I took a cooking class taught by Yui, along with eight other students from around the globe. Our group included an Asian-American couple from the San Francisco area; a Swedish duo (though she was Icelandic by birth); a pair from Edinburgh, Scotland; a woman from Paris; and my traveling companion Susan, who readers of this blog will be familiar with as the person who went with me to Vietnam and Cambodia in 2016. (See 16 previous posts for that trip. We also did a cooking class in Ho Chi Minh City that’s one of the posts.)

We had all signed up for a full-day class, conducted in English. (I made the reservation online before leaving the United States.) Many of us were picked up (included in the cost) at our hotels by Kwan, Yui’s husband, driving a vintage blue VW bus.

The session included individual preparation of six relatively easy dishes, communal dining, a midday trip to a stimulating local market and a full-color paperback cookbooklet with all the recipes we prepared, and more. The cookbook also had tips and a section about Thai ingredients.

Yui, a graduate of Chiang Mai University with a degree in public administration, has been teaching cooking classes since 1999. In 2001, with her husband, she started A Lot of Thai cooking school.

She is a fanatic for fresh, healthful food, and her enthusiasm is catching. A real plus: For class, she will gladly accommodate any dietary restrictions, which in my case included making a special batch of green curry paste that omitted the ingredient shrimp paste. Vegetarians will feel equally at home.

After introductions all around, Yui explained some of the less-familiar ingredients we’d be cooking with, such as nutrient-rich galangal, a relative of ginger that shares the knobby look and light tan skin of that root.

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With students watching intently, Yui demonstrates one of the dishes we’d be making at our individual stations in the shaded carport of her home.

Then we began what would be the structure of the day: Yui demonstrating the recipe, complete with technique tips, then us attempting to duplicate it. We scattered to our individual stations set up with a wok, a range of utensils and the ingredients mostly prepped by her assistant.

In the spotlessly clean space, all food was protected underneath a domed plastic basket until we were ready to cook. While we were busy slicing and stir-frying, Yui circulated, energetically calling out timely reminders (“sauce goes in now”) as we executed what she had just taught us.

Our six dishes, in order: Thai-style stir-fried noodles (aka Pad Thai); hot and sour soup (prawns optional); green curry with chicken over rice; stir-fried chicken with cashews; spring rolls; and sweet sticky rice topped with mango. (A check of the website reveals that only four dishes are made per class now.)

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Ingredients for a single portion of Pad Thai. The white dishes and lidded metal containers have the sauces and oil we’d need to make the recipe.

With that much food, we’d clearly need to pace ourselves. But Yui wisely had thought of everything. Clear plastic rectangular containers were in ample supply to store whatever we couldn’t or wouldn’t finish eating. We wrote our names on our containers, which were then popped in the refrigerator until the end of class.

After plating each recipe, many of us took pictures of our creations, and then arranged ourselves at two snug tables to eat. Part of the fun here, other than seeing how successful we’d be at replicating Yui’s expert preparation, was sharing our travel adventures — where we’d been and where we were going in Thailand and beyond.

After the fourth dish, we all hopped into the VW, again driven by Kwan (he’s a graphic designer and helped design the cookbook), for a brief drive to the market. This was no boring tourist trap, but a bustling enterprise where neighborhood residents go to shop.

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Cucumbers, cabbage, green onions and lots of other veggies were at the peak of freshness.

We followed Yui around the stalls and the tables heaped with brightly hued bell peppers, tamarind, onions, mushrooms, cabbages, lemon grass, Chinese celery, kale, long beans and other vegetables in many shades of green.

In another section, big tubs of mounded raw rice, running the spectrum from white to light brown to red to purple to black, nestled side by side. Nearby were plastic bags stuffed with balls of tan-yellow palm sugar. Every so often, Yui stopped to hold something up and expound on its history and use in cooking.

Back at her house, we finished our last two dishes and took a group picture. We piled back into the van to return to our hotels, this time with Yui and her daughter, who was celebrating her fifth birthday, in tow.

After a full day of cooking, Yui announced the cake would be store-bought.

As for world domination, no less than the cantankerous Gordon Ramsay has been won over, as evidenced by Yui’s appearance in “Gordon’s Great Escapes,” a series that aired in 2010 on a BBC channel.

Susan and I brought our leftovers back to our hotel, which graciously stored them in its fridge until we checked out the next day. We enjoyed them a second time for dinner on our overnight train journey from Chiang Mai back to Bangkok.

A version of this post appeared in the Food section of The Atlanta Journal-Constitution on March 15, 2012.

Quick reference: Classes 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. Mondays-Fridays; limited to 10 students. 1,200 Thai baht, which is about $35. Private instruction is available also. Reservations are necessary so that Yui can make plans to accommodate any special dietary needs. A Lot of Thai, www.alotofthai.com

Yui would be the first to encourage cooks to have fun with these recipes. Experiment with the flavors and degree of heat and use your favorite vegetables. Have all the ingredients prepped before you start stir-frying. Once the oil is heated, the rest of the recipe will come together quickly.

Thai-style Stir-fried Noodles (Pad Thai)

Hands on: 25 minutes

Total time: 25 minutes, excluding soaking time for noodles

Serves: 2

If using dried noodles, soak them at least 20 minutes first. They can be extremely sticky. Rinse, drain well, and set aside until ready to stir-fry. If you have dietary restrictions, omit the pork and shrimp. Tamarind puree, sometimes labeled “concentrate,” can be found at Asian markets.

3 tablespoons canola oil, divided

1/4 cup firm tofu, cut into 2-inch sticks

1 tablespoon shallot, chopped

1 tablespoon garlic, chopped

2 ounces minced pork (optional)

1 tablespoon dried shrimp (optional)

1 tablespoon sweet turnip, chopped (optional)

4 ounces fresh narrow rice noodles (or 2 ounces dried)

4 to 6 tablespoons water or chicken stock

1 tablespoon fish sauce

1 tablespoon light soy sauce

2 tablespoons tamarind puree

1 1/2 tablespoons brown sugar

3 ounces bean sprouts

1/2 cup Chinese chives cut into 2-inch pieces

2 eggs

2 tablespoons ground peanuts

Chili powder, lime wedges, cabbage, bean sprouts for garnish

Heat 2 tablespoons oil in a wok or large heavy skillet over medium heat. Add tofu and shallot and stir-fry until light brown. Add garlic, pork (if using), shrimp (if using) and turnip (if using). Cook about 1 minute.

Add noodles and water or chicken stock. Stir-fry until noodles are soft, about 3 minutes. Add fish sauce, soy sauce, tamarind puree and brown sugar and cook for about 1 minute.

Add sprouts and Chinese chives and cook just until the chives are bright green. Move mixture from center of the wok to one side. Add remaining tablespoon oil to empty side of wok. Crack eggs into wok and scramble until nearly done. Remove from heat. Gently mix to incorporate eggs. Sprinkle ground peanuts on top.

Garnish with chili powder, lime juice, cabbage or extra spouts, if desired.

Adapted from a recipe in “A Lot of Thai Cookbook” by Yui Sriyabhaya

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Stir-fried Chicken with Cashews is quick and easy to make.

Stir-fried Chicken with Cashews

Hands on: 25 minutes

Total time: 25 minutes

Serves: 2

A 1/2 cup of diced red bell pepper or julienned carrots will add extra color and crunch to this recipe. Add at the same time the chicken goes in. Mushroom sauce is a concentrated substitute for oyster sauce. It can be found in Asian markets.

2 tablespoons canola oil

1 tablespoon garlic, finely chopped

7 ounces boneless, skinless chicken breast, sliced or cut into 2-inch pieces

2/3 cup sweet onions, such as Vidalia, sliced

1 tablespoon fish sauce

1 tablespoon light soy sauce

2 tablespoons oyster sauce or mushroom sauce

1 1/2 teaspoons brown sugar

1/4 cup water or chicken stock

1/2 to 1 large red chile or dried chile, cut into bite-size pieces

4 green onions, cut into 2-inch pieces

1/2 cup cashews, roasted or fried

Heat oil in a wok or large heavy skillet over low heat. Add garlic and cook until light brown. Be careful not to burn it.

Add chicken and cook for 1 minute. Add onions and cook until they look shiny, about 2 minutes. Add fish sauce, soy sauce, oyster sauce and brown sugar and stir until well-mixed.

Add water or chicken stock and raise heat to medium-high. Bring mixture to a boil. When boiling, add chile and green onions. Cook just until the onions are bright green. Take a piece of chicken out and cut into thickest part to make sure it is cooked through. Return to wok. Stir in cashews, and remove from heat. Serve with rice.

Adapted from a recipe in “A Lot of Thai Cookbook” by Yui Sriyabhaya

In Delft, the Netherlands: Plenty of porcelain, a tile workshop and the birthplace of Vermeer

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This faithful rendition of Rembrandt’s “Night Watch” took two master Royal Delft artists more than a year to complete. A total of 480 tiles are securely attached to listels on a wooden frame so that the 13-by-16-foot mural can travel to exhibitions. Otherwise, it is on display at the Royal Delft museum in Delft.

By Betty Gordon

© 2017 text and photos. All rights reserved.

Perhaps the most famous of Rembrandt’s artworks is the 1642 masterpiece “The Night Watch,” which claims pride of place in Amsterdam’s vast Rijksmuseum. Measuring about 13 by 16 feet, it takes up nearly a full wall and is the largest oil painting he ever completed.

Its official name is “Militia Company of District II Under the Command of Captain Frans Banninck Cocq,” and it depicts the members of a civic guard, Amsterdam’s militia and police. In all, 19 guardsmen are accompanied by 16 other figures, giving a range of motion and emotion to the setting.

The captain, clad mostly in black except for a white ruffed collar and a red sash extending from his right shoulder diagonally across his body, dominates the center of the painting. With his outstretch left arm, a slash of light illuminating his white cuff, he’s making a point to the militia member to his left (the viewer’s right), Lieutenant Willem van Ruytenburch, who, dressed mostly in white garments, is a striking contrast to the captain.

Now imagine “The Night Watch” rendered in another medium, posing maybe even a bigger challenge than what Rembrandt (1606-1669) undertook. He had a range of colors to choose from on his palette, and his genius is evident in his use of shadow and light.

What I’m referring to is this work almost exclusively illustrated in shades of blue and white, and painted on ceramic tiles. It took two Royal Delft master artists more than a year (1999-2000) to faithfully copy Rembrandt’s original, the most difficult piece the famed porcelain company has undertaken to date.

The tile “Night Watch” was executed to coincide with an exhibition at the Mauritshuis museum in The Hague (about 20 minutes by tram from Delft). The 480 tiles, each more than 7 inches square (18 cm), are not cemented on a wall at the Royal Delft museum, but securely attached to listels on a wooden frame so that “The Night Watch” can travel. It is nearly equal in size to the painting.

This tribute to the Dutch master can be seen, along with hundreds of other more delicate examples of fine porcelain plates and vases and other shapes at the factory and showroom in the city of Delft, an easy train trip of less than an hour from Amsterdam. And better yet, you can also take a workshop to make your own Delft tile.

I had long wanted to visit Delft, not just because of an interest in pottery and ceramics but also because it was where Johannes (aka Jan) Vermeer (1632-1675) lived and painted his sublime portraits of everyday life during the Dutch Golden Age in the 17th century.

One of Vermeer’s works, “The Little Street” (circa 1658), also gets the tile treatment at Royal Delft. The house on the right in his painting shows the dwelling at the address Vlamingstraat 40-42, in which an aunt of Vermeer lived with her children in Delft.

Porcelain was first brought to the Netherlands from China in the early 17th century, by ships of the Dutch East India Company, which were importing spices and other goods. Affluent Dutch families and European royals enthusiastically purchased the distinctive blue-and-white ceramics and the imported dishes adorned many a banquet table.

When warfare in China severely curtailed availability but demand remained strong, Dutch potteries sprang up in Delft to fill the void. At one point, about 32 potteries were turning out their version of the original glazed earthenware product.

By the 1800s, English potteries, particularly Wedgwood, and competition from European makers fabricating less expensive products were drawing business away from Delft. Dutch companies also were falling behind in innovation, leading to an overall downturn in the industry around Delft.

With this combination of conditions, by 1840, only Royal Delft, founded in 1653 (as De Porceleyne Fles, which translates as the Porcelain Jar, the shape of which figures in the company’s trademark) was the sole original house still in business. While Delft Blue might be the most recognizable, over the next centuries, other glazes joined the collection (and were later retired).

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To commemorate the 325th anniversary of Royal Delft, the company produced a line of “Black Delft,” inspired by Chinese lacquerware. 

Among the more unusual was a process called “Black Delft,” inspired by Chinese lacquerware, where red, blue and yellow designs stood out against a black background. This earthenware was introduced in 1978 to mark Royal Delft’s 325th anniversary.

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The architecture in Delft (above) is similar to that of Amsterdam, including the tall, narrow houses along the canals.

I was in Delft in October 2013, after the crush of tourists had left for the season. Delft feels like a calmer, more compact Amsterdam. You can walk along the canals and admire the narrow canal houses’ decorative gables and cornices, just like in Amsterdam. Delft’s 17th-century wealth came from 200 breweries (80 percent of output was exported) and textiles.

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Delicate lace curtains cover the windows of well-tended residences in Delft.

Not far from the main square are well-tended low-rise residences, fronted by white-lace window curtains featuring dainty designs of birds, animals and flowers. Potted plants lend color to the scene and climbing vines snake up the brick facades. Just like Amsterdam — and much of the Netherlands — bicycles are everywhere.

From my bed-and-breakfast, it was about a 15- to 20-minute walk to the Royal Delft factory (Koninklijke Porceleyne Fles in Dutch). This route was lined with trees in full autumnal colors and substantial two-story brick houses, again well-looked after, but clearly a step up in price and square footage.

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A sign explains the trademarks that appear on the bottom of every product produced by Royal Delft. The artist painting a vase will have had at least five years of training. She’s sitting in front of a nautical-themed tile mural.

I checked in to confirm my workshop appointment, then spent my free time waiting for my class walking around the museum’s wide-ranging collection and factory floor. I didn’t have a guide but was allowed unhindered access among the artists painting tall, cylindrical vases, asking questions and taking photographs. (The self-guided tour said painters train for five years and one of the brief films said 10 years, so even with the discrepancy, it’s still a lengthy process.)

The factory floor was quiet except for one man clad all in white was stacking the kiln for firing. Shelves, counters and cases were lined with myriad sizes and shapes of molds, and vases, plates and tiles in various states of completion.

My workshop had just two other people, a mother and daughter from Israel. They both choose to paint plates, while I made a tile. At our work stations, we had two paintbrushes — one with a few long bristles to use in outlining and the other with shorter, stouter bristles for filling in — water, a black paint containing cobalt oxide and a fractured piece of pottery. We used these as our test swatches, to practice how much paint we needed, adding water to dilute the coloring, and to get used to the brushes.

We had a choice of drawing our own designs or selecting from the workshop’s collection. I did the latter, settling on a tulip — an appropriate representation considering the Netherlands’ long association and revenue-producing history with the flower.

Our instructor lightly traced the outline making charcoal dots on my tile, which measured about 5 by 5 inches square. Then it was up to me to decide how thick the lines would be, which parts I would fill in completely and which I would leave white.

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This is the tile I made at my Royal Delft workshop.

It took more than an hour to complete. My tile’s black-and-white appearance would be transformed to the well-known Delft Blue by a chemical process when it was fired.

Many weeks later, my tile arrived in the mail. It was well-wrapped in a small parcel and the tile was in one piece. A special souvenir from a lovely few days in Delft.

There are enough attractions and small museums to explore, all within easy walking distance, that visitors should consider Delft as a base for two or three days, especially if you’re interested in an easy side trip to The Hague.

Don’t miss the Vermeer Center, which has copies of all 37 paintings the artist did, though there is some disagreement on several that are attributed to him. Nowhere in Delft is there an original Vermeer. You’ll have to visit the Mauritshuis, home of “Girl with a Pearl Earring,” or the Rijskmuseum for that. The Vermeer Center also explores his painting techniques and has a replica of his studio.

On the market square, drop into the New Church (Nieuwe Kerk) to visit the ornate mausoleum of William I (1533-1584), founder of the House of Orange, and other royalty. Then cross over to check out the imposing Town Hall opposite the church.

A short stroll from the square is the Old Church (Oude Kerk), final resting place of Vermeer, and Antonie van Leeuwenhoek (1632-1723), inventor of the microscope and discovered of bacteria.

Also worth a visit is the historical museum, Stedelijk Museum Het Prinsenhof, site of a former convent. It was in this building that the Protestant William I was assassinated by a Catholic fanatic. The bullet holes remain evident on the staircase wall where the shooting happened in 1584. Also of interest is the antique Delftware collection, silverware and tapestries.

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Many cheese shops offer tasting samples and also sell wine and other delectables.

Places to buy souvenirs (Delftware isn’t cheap) abound, as do cheese shops. You’ll also come across the odd windmill, and many opportunities to buy tulip bulbs. The price isn’t a bargain, but if you do buy, make sure there is an official-looking agricultural sticker that says the bulbs are cleared to be brought into the United States. Otherwise, they’re likely to be taken away at U.S. Customs.

Quick reference: Royal Delft: 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. daily. Workshops are conducted at 2:30 p.m. daily. Minimum of two people. Reservations are necessary and can be made online or by phone. Price depends on what shape you choose to make and if you are also taking the factory tour. Because the tile must be fired, you won’t be able to take it with you. Royal Delft will deliver it to your hotel or ship it to your home, at an extra fee for postage and packaging. In country, deliver will be in about 10 working days. Shipping abroad will take several weeks. You can special order a tile, vase or plate that an artist will complete (order can be placed online). The showroom has a wide selection, an an equally wide price range. Make sure to check the sale area where the discontinued designs may have a lower price. www.royaldelft.com; +31 (0) 15 760 08 00.

I stayed at the Hotel Leeuwenbrug, a converted warehouse not far from the train station. My room was at the back of the hotel and I could see the spire of the New Church from my window. The rooms in front overlook the canal. http://www.leeuwenbrug.nl

1981 Boston Marathon: The story of runner 4646

By Betty Gordon

© 2017 text. All rights reserved.

I wrote this column for the Norwich (Connecticut) Bulletin, where I worked as a sportswriter in 1981. I was about four years into my career then. Looking back, I might have made a few changes to the text and I’ve added a few clarifications in brackets, but the sentiments hold up over time. Unfortunately, I don’t have any photos from the race. I’m running the column here as a tribute to the person profiled, to all Boston Marathoners past and present, and to the supportive crowds. The 121st edition of the race was run today, April 17.

Runner number 4646 crossed the finish line almost two hours after Toshihiko Seko set a [course] record Monday [April 20, 1981] in the 85th Boston Marathon.

By then the crowds along Boylston Street had thinned considerably. A few remained long enough to see 73-year-old Johnny Kelley cross the finish line in his 50th straight Boston Marathon. But the majority who were left were waiting for friends or loved ones.

Some were waiting for both.

It had grown colder as the afternoon stretched toward dusk. In about an hour, a gentle rain would begin to fall.

Runner 4646 followed the other runners as they hobbled into the garage area underneath the Prudential Center. Hours before members of the press swarmed in an anxious cluster here to record the comments of Seko and New Zealand’s Allison Roe, the women’s winner, who also set a [course] record.

At times the remarks of the winners were rendered inaudible by the static rustling of 500 mylar blankets, a silver aluminum foil-type of wrap designed to retain body heat.

By now just about all the reporters were gone, sending stories across the world about this country’s oldest marathon. Mostly, there were just other runners around when runner 4646 found a person dispensing mylar blankets.

[Japan’s] Seko and Roe had won their titles, worn their laurel wreaths and medals, been embraced by the media horde and had left.

This runner, a bit hoarse from the exertion of the race and tired-looking, was never in contention for the awards. He wasn’t even one of the 6,845 official entrants. But finishing the race was as meaningful to him as everyone else who managed to cross the line after starting in Hopkinton 26 miles, 385 feet away to the west.

He was running as part of the American Medical Joggers Association, a group of doctors and dentists that hold a race in conjunction with the marathon, that also provides medical assistance along the route and at the finish.

The time of 4:07 [four hours, seven minutes] and some seconds he couldn’t remember exactly was not the runner’s personal best. That had come in 1979 with a 3:39, the first time the 55-year-old had run Boston.

Perhaps a bit disappointed this spring’s time had not been faster, he said he had trouble getting his pace.

“It’s easy to set a nice pace and to glide when you know there are no obstructions or people to worry about, whereas in a marathon there are people all over the place,” he said Tuesday morning after reading that [American runner] Craig Virgin, who finished second to Seko, had been bumped along the way by an enthusiastic crowd.

This was the runner’s ninth marathon, a large accomplishment for one who had only taken up distance running four years previously.

It began one day near his home in Coral Gables, a suburb of Miami, Fla., when he saw runners in the Orange Bowl Marathon bouncing down the road.

He said to himself, “Next year I’m going to run with those guys.”

And so he began his training. At first it was five miles in the morning at the nearby University of Miami track before going to his office.

“Then I went to 10 miles and I thought I was Superman. I was amazed I could travel that distance. I used to carry dimes and move them from one pocket to the other to keep track of the laps.”

Forty dimes, enough for the 10 miles, made a considerable weight in his tennis shorts, a sport he had played for years and still does.

“I had always done a mile or two after tennis, but before it became a national craze it never occurred to me to do long-distance running.

“Then I graduated to street running,” he said, mapping out a scenic route near his home, which took him down a bicycle path under the shade of the huge banyon trees which line the streets.

The distance kept growing and soon the runner entered his first marathon, recalling, “I’m a competitive person by nature. I thought it would be a nice achievement. It was a physical challenge. Like the old saying, the mountain was there and I had to climb it.”

His first marathon was on a hot, humid mid-January day in Florida. The course began at the Orange Bowl near downtown Miami from where it took its name, and passed by the spot [where] the runner had seen the competitors a year earlier.

His time on that sultry Florida day was 4:34.

He kept up his training with middle distance runs and races, shedding 20 pounds from his six-foot frame to come down to 180. Although never heavy, the weight he had put on over the years had vanished.

In retrospect, running marathons is a great deal of fun, but while you’re doing it, there are other adjectives that might apply.

Some claim that marathoners are crazy. Others say they are special.

Runner 4646? He’s special. He’s my father.

A touching gesture, days after the race

My words and photo appeared from top to bottom down the left-hand column on the front page of the Bulletin’s Sports section on Wednesday, April 22. The Boston Marathon is always run on a Monday, and my overall coverage of the 85th race appeared in the Tuesday paper.

A few days later, the sports editor — my boss — told me that the publisher wanted to see me in his office. I had been working at the Bulletin for only about three months, and in the normal execution of my job, I would have little to no contact with the publisher.

My editor didn’t give anything away.

As a fairly new employee, I couldn’t think of anything I had done that would warrant this meeting, and wondered if I was going to be cautioned or reprimanded about something. Or was my job on the line?

The Norwich Bulletin, established in 1791, was at that time family-owned. Its daily circulation was 36,000, and on Sundays, 42,000. A chain owns it now and its circulation numbers have tumbled, like many newspapers around the country as digital has come to the forefront.

The sports editor, Tom Perry, had hired me away from the newspaper I was working at in North Dakota, The Minot Daily News. We had met at a summer youth baseball national tournament we were covering in Williston, N.D., and shortly after he got back to Connecticut, he offered me a job. He was willing to wait several months until I gave notice, took an already-booked vacation to Australia and New Zealand and relocated to Connecticut.

So I hadn’t met the Bulletin’s editor or co-publishers in an interview situation as a condition of my being hired.

I don’t remember the layout of the Bulletin building now, but I know I walked from the newsroom through a hallway and possibly through the press room.

When I got to co-publisher Donald Oat’s office, there was a brief greeting and he handed me a plaque.

It was a copy of my article about Runner 4646 on a gray metal plate, squared off over three columns, and mounted on a sturdy piece of dark wood. I was floored at this kind gesture, and even though I’m sure I thanked him, I’m also sure that whatever I said was inadequate.

It was, simply, the single nicest thing that anyone in management ever did for me over a newspaper career that spanned 35 years.

I gave the plaque to my father. It used to hang on the den wall in Coral Gables. When he died in 2006, I brought it to Georgia.

On Easter Island at Rano Raraku, the quarry ‘nursery’ of the moai

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Nearly all the moai on Easter Island were carved from hardened volcanic ash called lapilli tuff in Rano Raraku. A total of 397 full and partial figures have been identified in the quarry. On the island overall, 887 have been catalogued. In the foreground, that’s not just a big rock; it’s part of a broken moai.

By Betty Gordon

© 2017 text and photos. All rights reserved.

In November 2016, spring in the Southern Hemisphere, I took an unforgettable, two-week trip to Easter Island and Chile. This is the third post about my adventures. See March 6 and February 12, 2017, for earlier posts.

“The statues in the quarries number altogether over 150. Amongst this mass of material there is no difficulty in tracing the course of the work. The surface of the rock, which will form the figure, has generally been laid bare before work upon it began, but occasionally the image was wrought lying partially under a canopy. In a few cases the stone has been roughed out into preliminary blocks, but this procedure is not universal, and seems to have been followed only where there was some doubt as to the quality of the material.”

— “The Mystery of Easter Island” by Katherine Routledge, published by Adventures Unlimited Press in 1919

Before Katherine Routledge’s expedition to Easter Island — embarked upon from Southampton, England, in a custom-built 90-foot schooner in February 1913 and completed in June 1915 — what was known about the moai (the images she refers to above) was largely down to a few visiting European or American ships in centuries previous, none of which stopped for very long.

Notations in personal diaries or ship’s logs were mostly made by crew members with little specialized scientific training, thus rendering their observations somewhat unreliable, though some fine illustrations of the moai are accurate likenesses.

No outsiders had ever immersed themselves longterm in the legends and oral histories of the island’s inhabitants, no one had made a full inventory of the number of stone figures in and out of the main quarry, and no one had spent many months roaming the landscape, studying the topography, taking photographs and making drawings.

In other words, Routledge’s “Mystery” was and remains a seminal work on everything Easter Island. Some of the conclusions she and husband William Scoresby Routledge made have been disproved or challenged, but they were the first to examine, document and theorize in depth about who likely carved the moai, how they did so and how the figures got from the quarries to their final resting spots atop ahu — ceremonial platforms — around the island.

Katherine often took the field lead, as when she delved into earlier inhabitants’ rituals and pre-missionary religion, spending hours listening to and recording on paper the remembrances of the few remaining elders with personal links to the past.

Routledge, a native of Darlington, England, attended Oxford University, enrolling in 1891 when she was 24. Her class choices and major were limited, as they were for all women. She read modern history (Americans would say majored in), but she was not a trained archaeologist or anthropologist, and neither was her husband, who did not complete his medical degree. She was not allowed to attain a degree at the time — they were not granted to women, even if they had fulfilled the requirements of their course of study.

She relied instead on her nearly inexhaustible curiosity and innate intelligence to make strides in understanding the people and places on the isolated island west of South America. When the Routledges’ self-funded Mana Expedition reached its destination after a year en route in March 1914, only about 250 inhabitants lived on Easter Island.

Katherine was in her late 40s. She spent nearly 17 uninterrupted months on the island — her husband sailed the Mana to Chile and back several times — and it was she who wrote up the voluminous notes about the expedition’s findings into a well-received book.

Easter Island, aka Rapa Nui, was likely settled by ancestor-worshipping Polynesians, who journeyed east from another island, traveling a distance of about 2,000 miles, possibly around A.D. 600 to 900, though no firm date has been established.

They believed that the moai captured an important clan member’s spiritual power or mana (the name of the Routledges’ schooner and expedition was no accident), and a statue would be commissioned to commemorate that person’s death.

Easter Island has no written history, other than the pictographs carved into rare wooden boards known as “kohau rongorongo.” Routledge was unable to find anyone who could translate the rongorongo, though she concluded through the elder interviews that the individual glyphs jogged a teller’s memory, an aid as it were, associated with a full story. To this day, a Rosetta stone for the tablets, few of which exist, has yet to be discovered.

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The head of a moai was estimated to be a quarter to a third of its size. These standing figures have full bodies hidden in the earth. Several expeditions have dug down to expose the height, taken measurements and examined the debris in the strata, then replaced the earth.

As for the 150 moai that Routledge cited in Rano Raraku, one of the island’s volcanoes, more recent anthropological excavations put the number at 397, with the figures being in various stages of completion or destruction. Some moai are as short as 6 feet; others top out at more than 26 feet. Most were likely constructed from about 1000 to 1600.

It’s simple to understand Routledge’s enchantment with the quarry, on the eastern side of the island. From every vantage point, there is something of interest to ponder, be it the off-kilter moai themselves, their positions on the grassy slopes, or the view east to the 15 moai at Ahu Tongariki and the Pacific beyond.

Of all the historical and cultural sites I toured, the greatest amount of time — about 2.5 hours — was spent in Rano Raraku, sometimes referred to as the “nursery,” because 95 percent of all the moai originated here. And though I enjoyed every minute of my time on Rapa Nui, the quarry is where my thoughts return to time and again.

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Standing on the moai is absolutely forbidden.

Of the moai that are upright, many are buried up to their necks or shoulders, exposing about one-third to one-quarter of the total height. The island’s carvers had to judge the proportions as they worked and keep in mind how to balance the weight and height so that the moai could stand when finished.

No easy feat for men who didn’t do mathematical calculations as we know them, and who were sculpting ever larger monuments. The most colossal of all the moai was more than 68 feet in length — its head being nearly 23 feet of that — and estimated to weigh 200 tons (or 400,000 pounds). It’s still attached on an exterior slope high up in the quarry.

Later expeditions using modern technology have identified a total of 887 stone figures around Easter Island, crafted from a hardened volcanic ash known as lapilli tuff. Only about 50 have been restored vertically atop ahu.

To complement the small team hired in England for the expedition and en route, the Routledges engaged local translators and workers to help in their field study. Laden with food, supplies and equipment, they took long walks or rode horseback to reach various sites, where they often camped for extended periods.

Scoresby Routledge hypothesized that a team of about 54 could carve a moai in less than 16 days. Later researchers think this was wildly optimistic, both in the size of the team and the speed of its work, if for no other reason than the steep slope of the quarry wouldn’t have allowed the workers the physical access Scoresby assumed.

A more realistic timetable would be up to two years to complete each moai. Generally, the figures were constructed lying on their back. Some were carved horizontally, some vertically, and some with the head pointing downward. This would indicate that the carvers made an assessment with regard to the suitability and width of the rock to be formed into the wide base.

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Two enormous incomplete moai, heads pointing in opposite directions, were abandoned in situ.

The elongated, oversized nose, heavy brows, lengthy torso, hands and arms (not all statues had these appendages, and they were delineations on the torso, not separate limbs), ears and closed lips were fashioned before the underlying stone was chipped away, like the keel of a ship.

Once freed, it’s believed the moai were pushed down earthen ramps — a pulley system also might have been involved — utilizing gravity and momentum to reach a prepared pit, where they could stand upright. (Pity the team if a moai broke apart at this or any other point. The figure would be abandoned, with many months of work for naught.)

Decorative carving could then be added to the back and the moai polished. Today, refinements are more noticeable on some moai than others, because not all figures were so decorated and natural erosion over the centuries has weathered them away.

“Mystery” includes photos of an alley or gutter surrounding incomplete moai, the space from which the workers accessed the statues. The varying amount of detail also suggests that as carvers’ skill evolved, so did the rendering of the facial features.

Only later, after their final transportation from the quarry and when the moai were positioned atop an ahu, were eye sockets completed. White coral (for the sclera) and red scoria (for the pupil) were inserted in a priestly ceremony. Thus “awakened,” their power was in full force. The eye socket discovery wasn’t made until 1978.

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This figure reveals a three-masted ship on its torso. One can only wonder what islanders thought of the men in masted vessels who came to Easter Island in the 18th century.

Quarry visitors will see on the torso of one of the unearthed moai a likeness of a three-masted ship, a commemoration, perhaps, of that islanders’ 18th-century interaction with European explorers.

Farther along the path to the right is a most unique moai, one that Katherine never saw. It was fully excavated in 1955 by Norwegian adventurer Thor Heyderdahl and his team. This figure is sitting on its legs folded under its body, its head is smaller and rounder than the other figures and its chin juts out instead of the vertical jawline of the other moai.

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This is Tukuturi, the only kneeling moai unearthed on the island. Some researchers think it may have been a prototype that never caught on. In the distance, on the left near the shoreline, is Ahu Tongariki, with its 15 moai restored upright to their ceremonial platform.

Why this moai, known as Tukuturi, which means “kneeling,” is so different from all the others is just one more of the enduring mysteries of Easter Island.

Quick reference: Many agencies offer daylong tours that include Rano Raraku. Peter, the co-owner of the bungalow where I stayed, Hare Swiss, booked for me with Mahinatur. 35,000 Chilean pesos, about $52. Multicourse, sit-down lunch was included. A hat, sunglasses, sunscreen and a water-repellant windbreaker are recommended. The next day, I did two half-day tours with the same company. The guides are multilingual. He or she will explain what you’re seeing in English and likely Spanish. Understandably, a lot of South Americans visit Easter Island. Here’s the website link; it’s in Spanish. http://mahinatur.cl/blog/