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I thought you might enjoy this lovely belly dancer... we certainly did!   She has mastered the art of isolating body parts.  Unfortunately, sometimes 'you can't go back home' and this Turkish restaurant had changed ownership and this dancer was the only improvement.   The food was pricier and not as good as we remembered, and though the service was fine, the serviettes were not.   With oily Turkish food, substantial napkins are a necessity and the restaurant provided flimsy ones. 

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The Cape Argus Cycling Race through Cape Town is the world's largest.   All day long, the beach road was filled with cyclists riding past world class scenery.   The course was changed this year and included more ups and downs at the start of the run.   The wind picked up and the gusts made for a hard ride.   Nevertheless 38,500 cyclists turned out.   The winners took less than 3 hours to finish the race.  

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We headed out from Cape Town mid day and took a Sunday train to the wine-growing area of Stellenbosch.   A train trip that would normally take little more than an hour became an interesting exercise in patience for us and our fellow travelers.   We did learn the lesson not to travel on Sunday, if given the choice.   Late trains, changed platforms (without notice or announcements) all taught us that it is better to take a non-stop train rather than change trains.   We could not beat the scenery however.

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Along the way were lovely old English and Afrikaans tombstones.   Though the plots are old, many are well tended and covered with fresh flowers.

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We were picked up at the train station in Stellenbosch by our hostess, Marie Beukes, who runs a Bed and Breakfast.   We became old friends 8 years ago when last in South Africa and we were soon at her lovely house just outside Stellenbosch.

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The view from our room!   You cannot tell in this photo,  but you can see Table Mountain in the far distance.   While having a sundowner, the view is unbelievable.   South Africans have many nice terms for things, and a sundowner is a drink while watching the sun go down!

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It did not take me long to jump into the pool.  I forgot a bathing suit, so I borrowed this apropos t-shirt.

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We take a short cut to town through the Jan Marais Nature Reserve.

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Town has many nice houses (stay tuned) but very few 'Beware of Dog' signs.    This one features a Rottweiller.

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I'm not sure how scared I should be about this Bassett Hound!  

No hand painted beware of dog signs yet!   No hand-painted signs anywhere in fact.

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My new bike (rented at less than $5 per week) will insure a lot of new adventures and an opportunities to travel far and wide with more photos coming.  

Stay tuned.   This afternoon, we will be riding to some wineries where we will be tasting the world class wines of Stellenbosch.

Cheers!


Hello from Cape Town!

After a long but comfortable flight from LAX via London, we arrived in South Africa.    After we quickly settled in to our 'Backpacker's' guest house in the area known as Seapoint, we put on our walking shoes and took a scenic hour's walk towards Camp's Bay.    The wild coast of Cape Town is a wonderland of spectacular vistas.  

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Above is a view of Clifton Beach, an area of magnificent homes overlooking sandy beaches.

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There are many imaginative and beautiful ways used here to keep out unwanted intruders, including this lovely metal landscape.

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Absailing over the sandy beaches of Camp's Bay - a chic and sunny beach with sidewalk cafes and beautiful people.  

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Camp's Bay is also home to a large and active cricket pitch.   South Africans in general seem to bask in their balmy summer weather.

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Milnerton Dunes Beach with it's view of Table Mountain and surfers in the foreground.   The waves were high today.    Kite surfing is also available here.

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It turns out that this Sunday Cape Town will host largest bicycle race ever.   Lance Armstrong is among the 35,000 cyclists from all over the world who have come here to compete.   I have learned that the question to ask is their start time, as that will show their rank.   We rode in from the airport with a Brit who had promised himself to participate in this famed race 10 years ago at age 50.   His start time is 6:47 am, so he must be a fast and fit 60-year-old.    Needless to say, the hotels and cafes and streets are full of people with lycra cycling suits.

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This delicious breakfast of eggs over a dark rye with sweet cherry tomatoes set me back 20Rand (at 7.5 to the dollar that comes to less than $3).

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At lunch, we ate at a restaurant with a 'gangster' theme, as evidenced by this wallpaper in the ladies room.   The waitrons wore black fedoras.   Waitrons is a quaint South African term for servers.  

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We went to the Milnerton Flea Market and met this pair of rescue pups.   Originally from Bloomfontein, these dogs charmed their owner - who had never had dogs before.   They are quiet and friendly, and were happy to be petted.   The owner says they are a Maltese and Jack Russell Terrier cross.

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This Border Collie fetches sea weed tossed from the balcony above by his lifeguard buddies.  

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This Chow Chow enjoys the sea breezes.

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There are a few interesting signboards here in Capstad.   Of course, Africa is famous for their barbershop signboards, but so far this is the only one I have seen in practice, but it is a doosy!   That large gaping mouth on the right is part of an adult bookstore.

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There are also some stenciled dog signs, but if I see any hand painted ones, I'll keep you posted.

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This hand painted couple grace a curio shop on Long Street in downtown Cape Town.  

More later.   Please check the follow button at the top of this post to see more of our adventures in Cape Town and beyond.  


Why I love Nepal - signboard art from Pokhara!

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This guy certainly has his hands full!   This signboard is in Pokhara, a lovely resort town centered on the lovely Lake Fewa.

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Looks like this dog took the advice on this sign.   His chakra seems well-balanced.   Again on the main road in Pokhara.   Notice the signboard on the left:   Namaste Bakery.   Pokhara is a very continental town and caters to many nationalities, as evidenced by the Israeli lettering on that sign.   Israelis are catered to in town, with many restaurants offering bagels, Israeli salads, etc.   There are many cyber cafes that offer Hebrew keyboards.  

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Fresh hot delicious fish from Lake Fewa.   Can anyone figure out what the G/V, R/V mean on this sign?   R/V might be rice and vegetables, but G/V?

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These are definitely Funny Bunnies.   I can guarantee you that rabbit is not on the menu.   

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Cheap and Best.   This signboard was painted one of my signboard artists:  Shahi.

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I've tried to find the artist who painted this butcher shop signboard.   I enjoy the bloody neck detail and he had fun with the lettering, too.   This guy tried hard to put his stamp on this signage.   The artist's name is Arjun, but I don't know the last name and Arjun is quite a common name in Nepal.

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Here is a self portrait of Arjun that was hanging in his shop.   He wasn't there at the time and when I went back next trip, his shop had disappeared.   He does look quite the character.

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As you can see, Pokhara is a sybaritic town, with fresh fish, mountains, massages and all sorts of ways to relax and have fun.

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This is Harriet the rescue dog as a work in progress from Punam Arts in Pokhara.  This is an example of the type of work  you can expect when you order a portrait of your pet from the Nepal Art Dog Fair Trade art project.

As you can see, the art of Nepal is versatile and charming.   It would be a shame to have these hand-painted signs be replaced by corporate sponsored signage produced in conjunction with a focus group, probably a focus group in another country.

The Nepal Art Dog project promotes the endangered art of Nepali signboards.   These Fair Trade signboards are hand-painted on recycled metal, using synthetic enamel and can be hung indoors or out.  They are approximately one foot square.  Over 1400 portraits have been commissioned to date, giving these artists real work.

 

On my most recent trip to Nepal, the Danger Dog commissions were the only art these artists were still hand painting -- all their other work was mass-produced, digital or printed on flex.   I decided to concentrate on pets as there was a tradition in Nepal already of 'beware of dog' placards and I knew that people would like them.    These are truly fine artists whose work is disappearing at an alarming rate. 

 

Each commission will be given to at least 3 signboard artists - giving 3 people work, the pet owner a choice and museum shops Nepali folk art.   No money is accepted up front.   If you don't like any of the 3 choices, you pay nothing.    Or you can buy an existing painting. 

 

This project is for pet lovers who collect art and would like to make a difference in these artists' lives.

 

Micro-finance through art patronage!

 

More information is available at NepalDog.com.

 

Contact me at ampage1@gmail.com to place an order or to answer any questions.


The Wag Awards benefit Four Legged Friends Foundation!

Last night I attended the 1st Annual Dogswell Wag Awards honoring top dogs who make a difference (therapy dogs, inspirational dogs, talented dogs) at the fabulous Hollywood hot spot Les Deux.  

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The Danger Dogs were there to donate a lovely signboard of Hank as painted by Sabala.  100% of the proceeds from the Silent Auction will go to the Four Legged Friends Foundation (Flff) which funds medical care for ailing dogs from low income homes.   Of course, there was a small bidding war, but I think the best man won.  

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Sandra Lollino and her Chihuahua Sassy were on the green carpet.   Sandra is the founder of the Flff Organization.   She was able to help 10 low income pet owners last year alone.   Let's hope that this event and the generosity of pet lovers will improve that record in 2010!

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Les Deux was decorated lavishly with gift bags, roses, red curtains...

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One of my favorite touches was the coral rose petals in the courtyard's fountain.   

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Sparky, a Black Labrador/Chow Mix, gets the award for most patient dog of the night.   He wore that sparkly top hat all night long.   He knew his mom wanted him to be dressed in cocktail attire -- now, that's devotion.  
Sparky is a therapy dog.  

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Dogswell spared no expense in making things beautiful and fun.

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As the honored Dogs started to arrive, they had the option of spending time in the VIP Doggie Lounge.

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Chrome Bones, who makes elegant, stylish accessories for your pets, furnished the VIP Doggie Lounge.   They have a store in Beverly Hills.

 
 

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The affable Debra Skelton of MADtv handed out an award for bravery to Joseph St. Georges of the LAFD for his derring do in the recent helicopter rescue of Spiky the dog from the Los Angeles River.   Spiky the Dog that was saved by Fireman St. Georges also was at the Wag Awards!  

 

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Les Deux is a hidden gem on Las Palmas in Hollywood.   Tucked away in an old bungalow, it has many hidden surprises.   I wandered out into a back patio and found a pair of concrete deer livening up the back walls.  

Hors d'oeurves  included tuna tartare on a deliciously salty potato chip, tiny endive stuffed with dates, walnuts and goat's cheese, macaroni and cheese with crabmeat, miniature burgers -- all served with a smile by beautiful servers in red corsets and fishnet stockings.  

DJ Chris Carter   played beautiful music that made me want to dance.  

To hear more about Dogswell and the Wag Awards, click here.   To help Sandra and her Four Legged Friends Foundation, go to her site.   You can find out more about Les Deux and Chromebones here.

All in all the Danger Dogs made some new friends and was able to help the non-profit Flff get needed funds.   It was a fun evening for me.   I got to dress up in a 60's dinner suit and a silly hat.   Can't argue with that.

If you'd like to hear more about my Fair Trade Art project that helps endangered Nepali signboard artists continue to hand paint art in a digital world, please contact me at ampage1@gmail.com.   Browse through some old post on this blog, and go to the Nepal Dog Youtube channel to see what's currently available.


Why I love Nepal - Tukche

Tukche is a village on the Annapurna Circuit.   Once a thriving post on the salt route between Tibet and India, many beautiful old buildings are left to crumble and decay.

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We have been passing through Tukche for years and this is the first time we saw this door open.   Of course, we went in and explored.

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The walls had residual murals, and upstairs - which we would not attempt due to the obvious danger - there were some particularly beautiful paintings.  

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The inner courtyard still had the remnants of a prayer flag.   We were later told by Didi Sherchan who runs the Tukche Distillery that this house had been abandoned after the widow left for Kathmandu.   Her children had moved to the big city many years before and the cost of upkeep of their family house was prohibitive.

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Here I am outside a gate.

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Dan and I traditionally take photos of each other outside this building.  As you can see, the mountains were out in full force that day, even though these photos were taken in the 'off-season' of mid-June.

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The old route through Tukche is by-passed by the new road.   Notice the typical Nepali fluffy curled tail of the dog.

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We stayed in a guest house here in town.   I have never seen a cleaner hotel.   This place was spotless, with delicious food.  I believe this was the Tukche Guest House.

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They also had wonderful apple cider.   Here is our view from one of three windows in our room.   The price was 80 rupees for a double room and there are approximately 75 rupees to the dollar.    Quite a bargain!    Since it was not season, we had the whole hotel to ourselves.   There were 4 different dining rooms both indoor and out.   

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There is a long mani-wall on the outskirts of town in Tukche.

Also in Tukche there is a fabulous restaurant named the High Plains Inn.  Run by a Dutch man and his Nepali wife, this is the place to go for such exotic fare as Nasi Goreng and Dewey Egbert coffee.   Their homemade spinach lasagne with a fresh tomato or pesto sauce is a particular treat.   Homemade brown bread is available.  We always make it a point to stop there for lunch while staying in Marpha, walking 2 hours each way.

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That 2 hour walk is not a hardship when the views are like the one above.   We have found that the road from Marpha to Tukche is best done on the west side of the Kali Gandaki, thus avoiding the dusty road and motor traffic.  

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These two cows outside of Tukche seem to be enjoying a roll in the marijuana that grows wild by the side of the road.

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Papaver somniferun (Opium poppies) growing outside a gompa in Tukche.   These are for decorative use only.

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This Nepali Dog relaxes in the shade.   He is losing his thick winter coat.   Notice how well-swept the streets are throughout this post.   

Please stay tuned for more on trekking in the Himalayas.

More tomorrow.