Stonehenge in Scotland

Want to see a unique sight in Scotland? See the first Stonehenge on Scotland’s Orkney Islands! These massive stone pillars tower over you and stand out amongst the rolling hills and lakes of the Scottish countryside.

This particular site predates Stonehenge by about one thousand years, so it’s a fun experience! The massive stones are not set up like Stonehenge so the experience is completely new and different. Check out Orkney Tours for a great guided tour of the area.

Next in Our Imagine Series: Morocco

Imagine…

you hear the muezzin’s call to prayer, you can almost smell the ginger.  You are lured down the sloping Tala’a Kbiraf  into the crumbling medina, deep in the heart of Fez.

The mayhem of this Moroccan souk quickly swallows you.  It’s a teeming and twisting warren where tables of goat heads and homemade soap are crammed alongside crates of chickens whose squawks compete with the clang of artisan tools from the ceramic studio.   Mules laden with gas tanks plow through the narrowing pathways, as shouting schoolboys careen between them, their backpacks swinging. You melt into a stream of humanity between djellaba-clad mothers and shopkeepers, and, alongside your Berber guide, you begin to market.

Today you are on a journey to learn the art of tagine cooking.  The market’s scents of rosewater and white artichokes fresh from the earth envelope you as you sort through quince and test aubergines for ripeness.  You select a chicken from the feathered flurry of the pen, then gratefully accept the vendor’s offer to deftly slice the neck and de-feather it for you in the nearby boiling pot.

Wafting scents of fiery cumin and warm cinnamon draw you to the neighboring stall where you weigh out grams of spices to create your own Ras el Hanout, a blend translated as Top of the Shelf that will be the secret to your delectable tagine.   Back at your guide’s Ottoman-style home, called a riad, you chop and sauté all your new ingredients and the kitchen fills with an exotic aroma.  You know that this dish will be unlike any beef stew you have ever made.

And then there’s the khobz, or flat bread.   You knead the dough, but in an ancient neighborhood where homes rarely had their own ovens, you take your tray out into the bustling medina, to the nearby community oven.  For a few dirhams, the baker shoves your bread into the wood-fired oven, to bake next to your neighbors’ cookies.

During your week in Fez, you mingle with bidders at the rug auction and meet with a seamstress to have a caftan custom made.  You sip steaming mint tea as your foot taps to the alluring beat of a drum circle, and you treat yourself to a steam bath in the communal hammam.

You have practically become a local!

That was a trip of a lifetime!”, you say.   “Let’s do it again next year!”

If Morocco is not your dream destination, then join me next month for a sail through the Galapagos Islands.

Til then,

Rare Finds Travel Design

…sometimes rustic, often luxurious, but always unique!

 

Next in Our Imagine Series: Oysters

Imagine…

June may not be spelled with an “r”, but I have an oyster story for you…

Back in the ‘90s, a man named Skip had a taste for oysters and a hunch that the muddy, windswept flat just north of Cape Cod would be the ideal spot for tidal nutrients to nourish his perfect bivalve.

Now it’s 2015, and on one pleasantly breezy afternoon in late June, we had the good luck to visit his now-famous oyster farm, Island Creek – witness his breeding process, meet the dock workers, and tour the “beds”.   There was even the promise that we could slurp oysters to our heart’s content. And they weren’t lyin’.

Before we got to eat these oysters, though, we wanted to learn a bit about the 2-year process from seed to slurp. Duxbury Bay waters are too cold for natural spawning, so the process starts in sheds on the dock.  Skip hand-picks what he considers to be the “American Pharoah” of oysters. He sets these adults in isolation tanks where perfectly regulated warm waters foster their spawning. On their road to becoming delicious gastronomic treats, these early sand-like embryos graduate from tank to tank as they grow in microns of inches.   Along the way, they are fed with a rich soup of plankton, grown right on premises and mimicking the nutrient cocktails of various prime venues from Nova Scotia to Seattle. Here is the genesis of the oyster’s complex flavor, which will be finished off with a distinctly Duxbury essence as they grow to full size out in the bay.

At last it was time to head out on the water.  We set out with the tide, nearby boats resting on their sides in the mud where only 3 hours before, they had bobbed about.   These tidal ebb and flows that Skip had recognized as an essential quality for his oyster farm are the same currents that now swept our craft off the dock.    We motored through some of the 30 farms that now operate here in Duxbury and before long, reached our destination, Oyster Creek’s farm-side buoy and our on-the-water dining room for the afternoon.

After dropping anchor, our guide CJ went from boat captain to master shucker.   He started with an oyster-shucking primer: Don protective shucking gloves. Find the little niche in the point of the oyster.   Wiggle in the blade of your oyster knife. Listen for a “pop”. Then turn the blade a quarter turn. The juicy treat lies plump and white inside the pearly shell.

Island Creek’s oysters were indeed as plentiful as promised.  And as fresh! No cocktail or mignonette sauce was needed. The oyster’s flavor revealed the briny water of their nursery and mirrored the salty breeze that cooled our al fresco dining room.   As I slurped them directly from the shell, tossing the shells overboard, juice dripped down my chin. Sips of Pinot Grigio created a party in my mouth. And the boat rocked on the rising tide.

If you want a seat at this exclusive oyster feast, you’ll have to call early, in a month that does have an “r”, like  March.

 

Sharing the love of travel!