As I’m bang upto date with all my travel adventures and waiting eagerly to head off to Valencia, I thought I would take some time to highlight some of my favourite travels photos from the past few years.
Some I have shared before, some I’ve dusted off and bought into the light for the first time. All of them evoke memories of amazing countries, incredible sights and a sense of adventure that reminds me of why I travel to begin with.
Today’s photograph is one of my all time favourite snaps. Taken in the busy Sardar market in bustling, chaotic Jodhpur. We were on a whirlwind trip around Rajhasthan in North India, saturated in colour, noise, taste and humanity.
I had struggled to get any sharp shots of the shy women of the north, swathed in their jewel bright saris they would always look away or cover their faces.
Until I managed, or was allowed, to get this picture of one of the market stall women. It was only later at home that I actually got to appreciate the direct, frank gaze that she levelled on me!
It instantly takes me back to our first ever chaotic, polluted, dusty yet exhilarating visit to to India.
It’s official, I am addicted to the marvellous prosumer site Tripadvisor.
It seems impossible for me to stay in a hotel, visit an attraction, eat a meal or even look at a view, without getting on the laptop and tap tapping away at a review!
From local cafes and restaurants to wonders of the world, I’ve analysed, sized up, cogitated and commented on it.
These days I never book a hotel, trip or b and b without sizing it up on the great TA first. It generally works like this:
1. pick the places we want to see,
2. decide how much we want to spend
3. check out the top rated accommodation on Tripadvisor.
4. gradually go down and down (and sometimes down again) the list until we find the best hotels that we can manage on our meagre budget.
5. Then it’s onto various hotel booking sites to find the cheapest deal and hey presto – booked!
It’s never failed me yet and I’ve yet to stay in a bad hotel thanks to my diligent research.
Obviously there’s been a lot of talk about fake reviews, competitors leaving bad comments on their rival’s sites and people threatening to leave bad reviews unless they get freebies / upgrades etc.
However it’s usually easy enough to weed out the fakers, if there’s 100s of brilliant reviews and then a couple of dire ones then I always take a look at the other reviews done by the people who are complaining.
Often there are no other reviews or they have only recently joined the site, whereas most genuine reviewers will have at least a few other contributions.
In-case you’re interested, here’s my contributions to date (316 so far!!) tripadvisor.
The smoothest pensioner in pop glides onto the stage and strikes a stance, legs apart, fedora tilted forward to hide his weathered, expressive face.
So begins the culmination of a lifetime’s dream for me – to see the great man in person, to hear him perform songs that have haunted, sobered and uplifted me since I was old enough to hear them.
Part lecherous uncle, part evangelical preacher, the body may have aged but the wit, the pathos and the soul are as fresh as ever.
Watching him sink to his knees then shimmy around the stage like a fading Fred Astaire, we’re captivated – just as surely as his infamous worm on a hook.
He solemnly addresses the crowd saying he knows that it’s been a while as he didn’t want to impose but then who knows when we’ll meet again. A fleeting acknowledgement that, at his advanced age, this could well be his swan song tour – but boy what a swan song.
Seamlessly moving from tried and tested favourites such as Bird on a Wire, Suzanne and So Long Marianne to his later acerbic hits such as Darkness, Cohen has the audience in the palm of his hand from the get go.
At 79 while others are using a bus pass and reminiscing about lovers long gone, frisky ole Len still has a definite twinkle in his eye.His cock of the walk soft shoe shuffle off stage left makes your heart throb far far more than an elderly man really should be able to manage.
His voice has aged, less like a fine wine and more like velvet covered gravel swirled in a vat of bourbon and then coated in ground glass. So low it reverberates in your feet, your heart and other places.
Sometimes a singer, sometimes a growling poet, crooning and seductive, plaintive and broken but always fascinating, riveting, mesmerising.
In the sarcastic words of Len himself “I was born like this, I had no choice, I was born with the gift of a golden voice.”
A voice and a talent that the world rarely sees, and which will, all too belately, be celebrated and lauded when it finally moves to the tower down the track.
Part way through the show he muses that next year – when he turns 80 – he’s decided to take up smoking again and waxes lyrical about the nurse in sweet little white shoes that he’ll get to offer him up a cigarette on a silver tray, whilst massaging the bubbles from his IV tube.
Musings on growing old disgracefully aside, other highlights of the show included a bitter sweet lament to his thieving former manager Kelley Lynch to whom he ruefully says “we were both guilty.”
There’s a stunningly simple version of Alexandria Leaving sung solo by Sharon Robinson and a barnstorming version of First We Take Manhattan, complete with flashing backlights – the closest thing you’ll get to upbeat with Cohen.
A subdued version of Hallelujah changes the mood again, with white light strafing the audience as the angelic harmonies of backing singers Charley and Hattie Webb interweave with his rumbling take on love and loss.
He’s a whirlwind one minute and an oasis of still contemplation the next. Limitless in his energy and humility, he’s a one-man masterclass in showing them how it’s done.
There’s no backing dancers, costume changes, lasers or pyrotechnics needed, this man is pure entertainment, a 79 years young craftsman who calls himself “a lazy bastard in a suit”.
And what a suit, looking dapper and slick as ever Cohen electrifies the stage with his presence whether he’s dropping to the floor to tell us a man never got a woman back by begging on his knees, to standing, hat in hand like a mourner in New Orleans, as the organ virtuoso Neil Larsen plays gospel.
I for one hope that he has many many more years left to create albums more of his introspective, intimate, sweeping, desolate and glorious work.
With all the drive, energy, talent and sardonic wit that he has at his disposal, when that glorious, gravelly voice finally calls closing time, the world will be a colder, darker and far less humorous place without him.
If it be your will
That I speak no more
And my voice be still
As it was before
I will speak no more
I shall abide until
I am spoken for
If it be your will