Lee Radziwill was best known as being the sister of Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis. It’s hard to say which of the Bouvier sisters married better, but Lee did get to be a princess, at least until her divorce. I should note that I have some evidence that some members of my family lived on Radziwill land in Kedainiai, Lithuania.
Ken Nordine created a unique form of art he called word jazz, that involved improvised poetry with jazz music as a background. I stumbled upon part of his recording Colors on the radio late one night and it got me interested in jazz. Also, he earned me 18 ghoul pool points (including uniqueness points).
Vacation Summary: I went to El Salvador for a week. Why? Partly because there’s an archaeological site there I particularly wanted to see, partly because there was a good sale price on the tour, partly because I wanted to see for myself what it is like in a place with such a horrible reputation. Overall, I had a pretty good time and was glad I went, though I don’t feel any particular need to go back. Here’s the quick summary:
- Arrived in San Salvador. Hotel was in the Zona Rosa, which was safe enough, except for the challenge of crossing busy a busy street to get anywhere. Group had 11 people (6 Canadians, a couple from Hing Kong, a British woman, one other American, and me) plus our Guatemalan tour leader. The next day, we got a tour of the city center, with Iglesia El Rosario, a modern church with interesting stained glass, as the architectural highlight. We went on to the Museum of Anthropology for way too short a time.
- Then we drove to Suchitoto, where we had a short orientation walk around town, which is one of a few reasonably intact colonial towns in the country. There was a big arts festival going on and I went to an opera presentation with one of the Canadian guys. We had supper at a place where you make your own pupusas, which was fun, but time consuming.
I chose to explore town on my own, instead of taking a city tour. The only real flaw in that plan was that a lot of things were closed on Monday. I did a little sketching of the church exterior, enjoyed people watching in the square, checked out the market, and made it down to the Museum for Art and Peace, which has good info on the indigenous population, as well as artwork by children in their school, which emphasizes anti-violence programs. Later on in the day, I went on a sunset boat cruise on Lake Suchitlan, which involved seeing a lot of birds. Egrets, I’ve seen a few … (Also, every cormorant in the known universe. Plus swallows, vultures, kites, hawks, and pelicans.) Some people did a very early morning bird watching kayak tour in the morning, but 5:30 is too early for me to be functional. I did a quick trip back to the town square and checked out the Museum of 1000 Plates and More, which was just the sort of kitschy attraction I enjoy.
- We went on to Joya de Ceren, which I would consider the must see of El Salvador. Mayan town was buried in ash after a couple of volcanic eruptions, ca. 600 CE. It is the only site where one sees ruins of day to day Mayan life. There was a very good guided tour. They are still doing excavations, so things are likely to get even better. From there, we drove to Santa Ana, where we had lunch and a short time to check out the neo-Gothic cathedral (only such one in Central America) and the National Theatre. We drove on to the ruins of Tazumal, but arrived just after the site closed. We could still photograph the pyramid from outside.
- Our next couple of nights were in Ahuachapan, which is not much of a place, but a good base for the Ruta des Floras. We toured a coffee processing plant (so-so coffee, in my opinion), wandered around the village of Ataco, which has a lot of interesting murals on its buildings, and went to a labyrinth (technically, a maze, but the Spanish language doesn’t seem to make the same distinction as English does), which I failed to find the center of. In the evening, most of us went to the Santa Teresa thermal baths, which was very relaxing.
- Finally, we drove to El Tunco, with a nice stop in the town of Nahuizalco, which has a largish market, some high-quality crafts shops, and a particularly nicely landscaped town square. We also had a stop at the fish market in La Libertad, which was interesting and friendly. El Tunco is very touristy, but is mostly a surfing beach and nightlife town, so not really my speed. Still, a day to spend relaxing with a book isn’t a terrible thing.
- And then I came home.
A Quick Comment on Group Travel: Being on a tour was the most practical thing to do for a dicey destination like El Salvador. While we didn’t have any issues, our bus driver was commuting from his home and got held up at gunpoint on his way home one night. (We did see some policemen in San Salvador who covered their faces so they can’t be identified by gang members.) But I was also reminded of why I prefer to travel alone. About midway through the trip, my roommate (the other American) opted to pay a single supplement and leave me alone, which helped. There wasn’t anything wrong, per se, but we just weren’t compatible on a couple of basics. She wanted the room several degrees colder than I did (under 65 Fahrenheit, vs. my preference for at least 76 Fahrenheit) and she slept a lot later than I did. There was one other person in the group who I found annoying, because she prioritized her desires (e.g. for particular photographs) above what other people wanted, which came to a head over an issue re: tipping local guides. We had voted at the beginning of the trip to not have a tipping pool, but to let people handle it individually, but she still tried to collect specific amounts from everyone to tip as a group. She did back down when confronted, but it left some bad feelings. I should also mention that I had been afraid that the group would all be a lot younger than I am, but most of the people were roughly in the same age group I’m in, with only a few youngsters.
JGSGW: Sunday was a two part Jewish Genealogy Society of Greater Washington meeting. In the morning, there was a brunch. There was a speaker who was advertised as giving a talk on Central European resources, but who had nothing prepared and managed to give inadequate answers to most of the questions people asked. In the afternoon, he gave a talk about the history of a pickpocket, which was interesting and entertaining, but not as organized as it might have been. I’d have liked to hear about how he did his research and got to the story. On the plus side, I found a possible source for some specific records I am looking for (via another person, not the speaker).
Back to Work: It is always surprising how much can accumulate in even a single week away. Sigh.
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