Sunday, May 22, 2016

Still Calling Out My Name Redux: not many things crossed off the Bucket List

Roman columns at Jerash in Jordan
I hope you'll forgive me this week if I repost a blog from three years ago, as I'm at CrimeFest in Bristol (on which topic, more next time) and have an early morning panel! I will just say it's been marvellous to spend a little time with my blog-mates: the Michael StanleysCaro Ramsay, and former MiE blogger Yrsa Sigurðardóttir.

This blog sprang to mind recently because I was told it is now increasingly difficult to gain access to the Rose City of Petra in Jordan, and that in some cases the site was closed to visitors.

Some of my highlights of this year have involved travel. Like many people I have a bucket list of places I really want to see. And if I remember 2013 for no other reason, it will be because I managed to tick one-and-a-half things off that list.


Yeah, I know, but stick with me on this.

In some ways, I dislike the term ‘bucket list’ because a list implies a certain dismissive quality. As though you step off the plane and say, “OK, that’s another one out of the way,” before turning around and climbing right back onto the plane again.

My idea of a bucket list is not just a place, but an experience.

The Hashemite Kingdom of Jordan was an experience. Watching the sun rise over the desert at Wadi Rum, or set over the Rose City of Petra was definitely an experience. The smell of fresh mint tea and cooked lamb, the distant sound of AK-fire.

The Monastery building at Petra

Wandering the Roman ruins at Jerash was the kind of experience that lingers, as was standing on a hilltop in northern Jordan looking out across both Syria and Israel at places named in the Bible, racing hell-for-leather across the shifting red sands of the Jordanian desert in knackered old Nissan Patrols (yup, they let me drive) on the way to stargaze at the Perseids meteor shower from our desert camp, and walking the walls of a mountain fortress built by the Knights Templar in the time of the Crusades.

Racing through the desert in elderly Nissan Patrols.

The half-a-one involves the Northern Lights. I wanted to see them from the magical landscape of Iceland. Sadly, although the landscape was certainly magical, the sky above it was not playing ball. But seeing the moon reflected in the midnight ice while we searched the heavens for a hint of green, that almost made up for it.

(And the following year, I did manage to catch a faint glimpse of the Northern Lights, as well as go snowmobiling on a glacier, float in the blue lagoon, and ride on Viking horses. The other ambitions, listed below, are still to be achieved. The difficulties in the Middle East remind me that I should not put them off much longer ...)

This has concentrated my mind on what else is on my bucket list—for want of a better term for it. At the moment—because these things are always evolving—this includes:

To watch another sunrise—this time over Angkor Wat in Cambodia. I want to put a hand on the tree roots that have enveloped these mystical ruins and feel the centuries unfurl beneath my fingers.

Part of the 500-acre temple complex at Angkor Wat

To feel the beat and passion of real flamenco guitar in its home in Seville in Andalusia, southern Spain, like this fabulous flamboyant piece Guajiras de Lucia by Paco de Lucia, considered one of the greatest flamenco guitarists.

To sail into harbour on the Amalfi coast. Arriving from the water gives you a totally different perspective on a new place. I’ve always wanted to see this area of the Italian coastline, but the idea of the crowds and the traffic involved in travelling there by conventional means does not appeal to me at all. Travelling by small yacht—one of those giant floating hotel cruise liners is my idea of hell—would be the perfect way to slip under the surface.

The Amalfi coastline in Italy.

Does exactly what it says on the sign ...
To ride the highest motorable pass in the Himalayas—the Khardung-La, which reaches 18,380 feet. I’ve even checked out the Enfield Bullets which seem to be the motorcycle of choice for this trip, and I can get both feet on the floor, although I’m sure that would be the least of my troubles.

These are just a few of the places and experiences on my wish-list.

So, where would you go? And, more importantly, why do you want to go there?

What is it about a particular place or experience that stirs your imagination?

This week’s Words of the Week are all about the senses:

Petrichor — the scent of rain on dry earth or the dust after rain has fallen.

Gymnophoria — the sensation that someone is mentally undressing you or that you are being viewed naked even though you are fully clothed.

Knismesis — light tickling, more often to arouse than to induce laughter.

Psithurism — the sound of rustling leaves or the wind in trees, a whispering sound.

Basorexia — the overwhelming urge to kiss.

Umami — a pleasant savoury taste—not sweet, sour, bitter or salty—found in meat, cheese and tomatoes.


  1. Besieds, if you are too busy ticking things off your bucket list, you may miss out on so many unexpected but equally fascinating opportunities!

    1. Quite right, Marina. Some side roads are there to be followed, and not doing so is something that will be ever remembered with regret.

  2. Zoe, I took that trip to Jordan too, in 2001. And reacted very much the way you did, except that I didn't drive and (sigh!) was not there for the metro shower. But the bread and the lamb!!! The best!
    Andalusia is still on my list too. And the Northern Lights! Sailing along the Amalfi Coast sounds fabulous. I have visited by car a few times. It is wonderful by car but go in off season. It is really Italian then. Open and inviting.
    Sending hugs to you, M, S, and C!

    1. Maybe we will have to venture to Andalusia together, Annamaria?

    2. YES, PLEASE!!! I am ready to make a plan whenever you are!

    3. Woo-hoo, let's give that some serious thought!

  3. Hope you're all having a great time. (And give Yrsa a special hug from all of us here at MIE, she's missed!)

    1. I did get to hug Yrsa, and Oli, too. She was the wonderful moderator of one of my panels, and did a brilliant job. To be very funny in a second language is a skill that constantly has me in awe.

  4. Basorexia and gymnophoria are interesting additions to a bucket list.

    1. Those two I will allow you, Jeff, but try knismesis and I'm liable to turn violent :)

    2. What about if it's a potato knish-i-mess?

    3. Now you're just being kinky ...
      And I like that about you ...

  5. Zoe, you should take a trip to Monument Valley (if you haven't already) on the Arizona-Utah border, and let one of the Navajo guides escort you through it. A great experience...