Most of my holidays/exploring abroad are usually with my two little daughters. We always have an amazing time together, visiting great sights and experiencing new cultures and people.
I consider travelling a form of education for my daughters, where learning and exploring are a part of understanding and developing knowledge of the peoples and cultures of our world, especially in our increasingly more multicultural societies. We are Londoners after all, arguably one of the most diverse cities in the world.
Getting them appreciating where many of their classmates came from is an eye-opener for them as it provides them a better insight of their friends’ cultural backgrounds.
Sometimes though, having young children on holiday with you means you have to shut your eyes to certain events and activities you would have loved immensely. It can be rather frustrating lol.
On a recent trip to Cologne, Germany, I had one of the most amusing moments that got me wishing my girls were adults already.
We often take walks down the Rhein River Promenade, watching folks go by, tourists taking pictures, many in festive moods, drinking, singing and dancing, and lovers in tender embrace.
Walking towards the Rhein River Promenade, Cologne
I had promised the girls, on a previous visit to Cologne, we would go on a cruise up the River on one of those river cruise boats that had on-board restaurants and bars when next we visited.
So, on this beautiful evening, we were standing on the Promenade watching a few cruise boats going up and down the Rhein. One caught my attention. It was a huge tourboat playing loud Dance music. There was a massive party going on with lots of people singing, dancing and drinking. It was electric!
I got my phone out and began recording the scene. Within five minutes the tourboat docked and more people started getting on-board. My girls turned to me and with excitement, said, “daddy let’s go”, pulling my hand and dragging me towards the entry point, where other revellers were walking up towards the boat.
As they pulled me closer, I gave it a brief thought and decided to go see the possibility of joining the party. Deep within me I knew this was not going to end well for the girls. Looked like an ‘Adult-Only party’ 😂.
We walked boldly to the docking point where this rather youthful lad was standing at the entrance, ushering ravers on-board and letting others off. He looked not older than 18!!!
Got to him with my two escorts in tow. I asked if it was possible to join the party and how much it would cost me and my girls, smiling rather sheepishly. Looking at me with concern, he smiled back at me and in very hurried English, stated that the party was for 18 years and older only!!
“Dang”, I said, turning to my girls and calmly explaining to a very disappointed duo that they’d have to wait till they turned 18 to enjoy more adult stuff. Oh well, to say I didn’t feel I had missed out on some big party is putting it mildly 🤣🤣🤣🤣🤣🤣.
Over the years, there has been an explosion of a culture, or perhaps a movement, in interior decor, of furniture and furnishings, known commonly as the Shabby chic look, which seamlessly blends the old with the modern, resulting in a distressed, tired, yet modernistic appearance.
This style was quite popular in the 1980s amongst modern Bohemians and Artisans in the United Kingdom who challenged the fashionable and expensive culture of the upper middle classes with their unconventional, non-bourgeois style.
Today, it is well-loved in the urban community, with many fashion-savvy folks, ‘urbanistas’, keen to evoke a more rustic decor than an ostentatiously lavish, gleamy look.
The Shabby chic style does remind one of those old English country houses where you find well-worn Chinz sofas, heavy fleur de lis curtains showing wear, embroidered curtains whose gold material and threads have faded into dull creamy colours, of old French chateaux and farm houses where most of the paint have peeled off the external walls and hardwood furniture, revealing original wood or a blend of discolourations, or even of the 18th century Swedish painted decoration.
Conservative yet bold, the Shabby chic culture represents a very cosmopolitan take on the vintage, of age and well-used, yet stylish, trendy and exuding great taste.
Recycling old fabrics and furniture is very much part of the Shabby chic culture.
I fell in love with the look when, many years ago, I holidayed with my family in the village of Maffliers in the Val-d’Oise department in Île-de-France in Northern France.
There, I was fascinated by the old, faded-looking beautiful French buildings lining the narrow streets and in one home I was invited into for a drink, I was blown away by an old chaise longue. The piece had this time-worn heavily embroidered, silk-like material covering. But what caught my attention was the old Satin blue paint peeling off the entire wooden leg surface, exposing a rather dull creamy-coloured hard wood underneath. The design on the legs of the furniture was ancient-looking, very Gothic. The material covering the chaise longue looked tired but adorable. I fell in love!!
That was my Shabby chic awakening moment!!
Now I’m always looking out to rediscover that feeling in every piece I come across.
Here’s one I designed and hand-painted recently:
If you haven’t been bitten by the shabby chic bug just yet, you just wait, there’s no escaping it!
The Native Indians are undoubtedly one of the most culturally-rich people of the world.
From the Cheyenne, to the Sioux, Navajo, Apache to the Osage Nation, these groups of native Americans continue to intrigue me with their history and spirituality, which influences me in no small measure, especially their very soothing meditating music, old Sayings, and not forgetting their closeness and respect for nature’s elements.
Sometimes I feel empathy for these people who had migrated from Asia more than 15,000 years ago, possibly through Beringia as many scholars have suggested, to the great plains, lands we now call the United States of America, as most of their cultures and traditions have been lost or displaced through time. May I add though that this is not unique to the Native Americans as this is replicated in some urban societies where there has been a huge influx of foreigners into their lands. A case in point are the Aboriginal people of Australia.
Societies however have been built on the backs of great migrations of people, building communities of common and shared values, embracing cultures and traditions of the indigenous people and oftentimes influencing settled cultures with their own cultures, resulting in what we now term Multiculturalism.
A couple of weeks ago, while taking a leisurely stroll down a South London town centre with my two daughters, we came upon this beautiful Native American pop-up stall exhibiting their wares.
This was one of those Sunday street markets where traders exhibit their products, from food prepared on the spot, to home and clothing wares, to anything you could possibly buy on the go.
We were drawn to this particular stall by the beautiful soothing Navajo flute music coming from a small set on a table beside some colourful displays. The stall owner was a middle-aged Native American. The elaborate colours of his items on display, the sheer richness and bold statement being made by these items which showcased the richness of the Native Americans was tempting enough to get me whipping out my phone and capturing the beauty before us.
The girls and I had to buy a few items as they were too gorgeous not to grab a few.
As we continue to develop as urban societies, I hope that we do not lose thousands year old cultures and traditions and that our technologically-driven societies will leave spaces for these old traditions defined through their languages, ornaments, clothing, objects and all other artforms.
Oscar Wilde, in his essay titled ‘The Decay of Lying – An Observation’, published in 1891, suggested that “Life imitates Art far more than Art imitates Life”.
This is so true given that our very existence in its social context is a representation of the complex relationship between us and nature.
Our lives are interwoven with the natural forces and the creations of man which aid in our understanding and dealing with the here and now.
For as long as we breathe, we continue to embrace, appreciate and manipulate our existence to the best of our abilities.
If life imitates art, then it makes for rational thinking that we paint our pictures as best as we can, living the very lives we crave, with the tools we have in our possession.
If we want more from life, then we do what’s necessary to achieve it.
Contentment and appreciation of what little or much you have is the beginning of achieving that self-satisfying goal.
Dwelling incessantly on what you don’t have takes away the joy of enjoying the little available to you.
Once I sat with a friend from Hungary over lunch. We got talking about places and cities to visit in our lifetime. Being from Africa, I told him of the cultural richness of Africa, and more specifically, about the Ohafia people of Eastern Nigeria from where I originate.
He listened to my stories of warriors, of a people deeply rooted in traditional beliefs of deities, from those who ensured each farming season yielded great fruits, to those for fertility and successes in battles. He was enthralled by tales passed down to us children at the feet of our grandparents and village elders, under the Mango tree, light supplied by lanterns and the moon, with insects buzzing all around. I literally relived those moments when the parents took myself and the siblings back to the village, leaving our urban lives, to celebrate festive periods.
Having listened in awe, he suggested we plan a visit to Nigeria, to my village, so he could experience for himself this wonderful place.
Then he started talking about his country, about growing up in rural Hungary. I was equally catapulted to this friend’s village and at that moment, it dawned on me how very different we all are, yet the same.
He remembered his very first visit to Budapest, the capital city, how all the stories he had heard of the capital suddenly came alive.
I was excited and swore someday I must visit this beautiful historical city. Definitely on my bucket list this year!!!
He that learns, learn well.
Some remain in awe of paths less travelled. Some wonder why you have become alien, why there seem a detachment.
For blessed are those who, inspite of all odds, continue to be guided by the strength and energy of Nature’s God, the creator of all things, the embodiment of the universe and all that is therein.
Man, in all his imperfections, seeks knowledge that he may know, and in knowing, can stand fast against those who seek ill, whose prayers are but like wheels on a broken-down truck.
Those who love truly, seek nought, for in loving they are nourished. For those prayers with evil intent shall fall on thorny grounds and those who chastise in love, who seek that you may rise, shall in themselves be rewarded with life fulfilling.
The world has secrets, secrets that bind and chain one to illusions so strong that realities become like a Shakespearean play, acted out on the theatre of life.
In trials and tribulations Man self-discovers, but only by those with discernment.
He that seeks truth shall find it, for in seeking with a clear and open conscience Knowledge is made known to him.
Couple years ago, I took a short vacation trip to Amsterdam. I had wanted to visit this beautiful city because of the urban cycling scheme which allows visitors explore its diverse cityscape, the museums, views of its beautiful neighbourhoods, and not forgetting its many canals.
‘Amsterdam’ is derived from the city’s origins, meaning, ‘a dam in the river Amstel’. There is also the belief its name may have come from the name of a dike built some years earlier.
A popular name for Amsterdam is ‘Mokum’, from the Hebrew word ‘makom’, meaning ‘place’.
Okay. Having explored some parts of Amsterdam years earlier, I decided to take my little girls this time, to see and explore this Dutchland.
On arrival at Schipol Airport, we found our way to the Schipol Travel Assistance desk (STA Desk), where our Hotel Shuttle whisked us away to our hotel in Hoofdorp, a town in the Haarlemmermeer municipality in the North Holland province, a distance of approx. 16-25miles to Amsterdam Central, depending on your travel mode and direction.
A point to note. Traveling to Amsterdam Central from Schipol Airport by train returning same day will set you back €9.60 (adult fare).
That being said, the journey into Amsterdam Central is worth every penny. From a short ride (free) to an hour-long cruise on the IJ River (costing €11) to the beautiful buildings, cafes, museums and canals, there are loads to do and hardly any regrets.
How often do we pay any notice to urban art forms all around us?
From street art to graffiti, to other art forms visualized and borne out of a growing urban culture.
In various cities across the globe, these art forms are taking shape and rebranding communities, oftentimes in poetic forms and plain languages that epitomize the struggles and thoughts within the various societies.
In London, the urban culture is rich and diverse and being a salad bowl, cultures intermingle with one another, with an infusion which represent all aspects of various multi-layered societies and a growing distortion of belief systems like never before.
Take some moments in your daily endeavours and look around you. What do you see? What Street art can you find? Does that graffiti speak to you or do you see it as the work of vandals? Does it represent the society you live in and do you perceive any aesthetic value?
Urban life is evolving. Art is cultural. Lifestyles are becoming more borderless. There is no more room for a static lifestyle, one where you ‘see no evil, speak no evil, hear no evil’.
What’s the best time of the year for you?
I’ve always felt my best during the cold winter months, especially at Christmas time. The smell of festivities, Christmas markets, smiles and joy is so overwhelmingly exciting I just want to relive the moments time and time again.
While taking a ride on the Kölner Verkehrs-Betriebe (KVB) trams in this rather hot August German summer day with my young explorers (if you plan to stay in Cologne for up to a week or plan using the public transport system, it would be best you grab a kölncard before the start of your journeys to enjoy free rides and discounts – KölnCard – https://www.cologne-tourism.com/book-buy/koelncard/), I couldn’t help but wonder what the city would look and feel like during the Christmas festive season. Got me reminiscing on our last Christmas holiday spent in Strasbourg, the European Capital. Such a beautiful sight, especially a visit to Strasbourg’s Marché de Nöel de Strasbourg, arguably the best Christmas market in Europe. There you will also find the famous Cathédrale Notre Dame de Strasbourg, another fine example of the late gothic architecture, just like the gothic edifice of the Cologne Cathedral.
Another point of note. I always make it compulsory asking the little adventurers what they think of every city they visit. That way, they develop individual and critical thinking minds, tools they’d need even more massively as adults.
It’s another time of the year when the girls and I jet off exploring our little world. This time we are off to some German cities and then to Amsterdam, one of our favourite European destinations.
In April, we spent a few days exploring the beautiful Cologne city, a “2,000-year-old city spanning the Rhine River in western Germany”, which is described as the ‘region’s cultural hub’.
What we found quite awe-inspiring were the high Gothic architecture, which huddled within the reconstructed old town. A major must-see is the Gothic Cologne Cathedral which sits proudly close to the Rhein river.
You also have the Hohenzollernbrücke or the Hohenzollern Bridge with its hundreds of thousands of interlocking padlocks left behind by lovers who declare their undying love for each other and then throw the keys into the Rhein River. How romantic 🤗.
This time we plan to spend a few days in Köln, then travel across some major German cities in the North Rhine-Westphalia and finally finish off in Amsterdam.
Should be fun and full of adventure 👍.
Samantha rolled off the bed, suddenly aware how late it was. ‘Gosh!!, that was meant to be a short nap!’. It was now after two in the afternoon and she had slept for good three hours. She looked around and wondered where Jim was. She could still smell his masculine scent on the sheets. Throwing on her housecoat, she walked lazily into the bathroom and turned on the tap. “A good hot soak is what I need right now”, she thought. She looked out the little window, misty from the freezing cold outside, and wondered why loving was such a painful experience. Suddenly she felt vulnerable, like she was fighting a battle only she could lose.
She remembered that first night with Aileen, Joe and Kenya. It was a fun evening. Joe had just been promoted onto the company board and he and Aileen were ecstatic. Joe and Aileen were such great company. They all had been talking about relationships when suddenly Joe mentioned he was expecting a friend Jim who had just moved back to London from Brisbane with his two little daughters. He was a single dad, mid fourties and ready to mingle, so Joe believed.
Later on that evening when Jim walked into the bar and headed straight to their table, Samantha knew instantly there was something about this man. She immediately felt his eyes all over her, running through her length, and back to her eyes. She could see he was checking her out with such intensity that she suddenly felt naked, as though he already had a good peep into her very soul. She wanted to turn away as he drew closer to the table, eyes still fixed on her. It was like in a dream, like everything had stopped and she found herself trapped in a room with no escape. As he got to the table, hand stretched out to her for a handshake, she almost passed out. That was seven months.
As she soaked in her scented bathwater, still reminiscing on that first meeting, she wondered what future she could possibly build with Jim. She closed her eyes once again and let the sweet smell of lavender take her away into a world full of hopes and dreams.
Jim had left her to sleep and had buried himself in his work. ‘Damn!’ He swore under his breath. He loved that woman. She was everything he desired and wanted in his woman. He had abstained from having any intimate relationships for close to two years, focusing instead on being a dad and mum to his little princesses. They had formed a close relationship, he and his daughters, and he didn’t want anything to destroy the bond he had built with the girls. He loved them so much and was afraid starting a new relationship could alienate the girls. He knew at some point the girls would need a mother, so he had been told oftentimes by his mates. He was not sure if he wanted to change things as they were. He was beginning to enjoy his own company and space, until that night he set eyes on Samantha. Now seven months on, he knew he was in love, or was he?
To be continued……..