Think outside the bouquet


In my work and creative time, I am a floral designer (well in some of my work time).  I tend to not let this spill over into the Travelindigo blog because  this is where I talk about all kinds of other things.   The difficulty comes in when I want to share the same topic in two different places.  So with this post, I point you to another post, this one on Valentine’s day and flowers.

I love flowers. I love foliage, greenery, gardening.  All of the things that take us back in touch with Mother Nature and with the importance of the earth. I love flowers because they also put us back in touch with the cycles of life and the sense of impermanence that really does exist, even if we chose to close our eyes to it.

Flowers (and plants) emerge, bud, come to fruition and flower, seed, and then fade.  No matter how much we try to extend the life of a flower, especially a cut flower, it will always come to an end. Just like our lives.  And if we are lucky, our span of existence will be as graceful as a flower as it slowly lowers itself back to earth.

Not everyone gives and receives flowers as gifts. I get that. Some people think its a waste of money because the flowers will die (Hey, what about food, we just eat that. Isn’t that a waste? Because we just die). Others because flowers take up land that could be used for growing food. Or because they have never thought about gifting flowers.  But flowers are the beauty in our lives and we sorely need a boost of beauty, sometimes quite often.  My flower blog has the tag line: When you have only two pennies buy a loaf of bread with one, and a lily with the other.

I’ve seen this sentiment echoed in a number of cultures in a number of ways. It is not enough to have nutrition for our bodies, we also need food for our souls. Art, style, music… and flowers are that sustenance.

So here’s a little excerpt:

It’s fun to put together a bouquet using the language of flowers. For example, put together a bouquet of  red roses (passion,) red tulips (love). Alstromeria (devotion), stock (beauty) and ivy (let us bind together).  A card reinforcing the message is all that’s left to deliver your floral poem of love.

and check out my other blog, Rooms in Bloom if you are inclined for some thinking outside the bouquet for Valentine’s Day.



A poke to February

Because I am almost back to “normal”

Because there was a full moon

Because it’s already February

Because black and red go well together

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Because I love hats.

I was gifted with a box of hats at the holiday and am wearing one of these beauties.  More to come.

Heading over (after a hiatus) to Judith’s Hat Attack


What to wear, what to want to wear


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We were gone for a month and in three weather zones: Chicago, Dakar, Paris. In other words way below freezing, temperate and windy, and moderately cold and rainy.  I like to pack light.

To my advantage, I had access to my sisters’ wardrobes for Chicago and my daughter’s for Dakar. But I needed to have a solid background of items for myself.

Turns out I did pretty well. Although my traveling companions saw the same outfits day in and day out.

To be fair the middle outfit is my daughters.

I did all right in Dakar and Senegal where no matter what I was obviously a tourist.  But of course in Paris, what I really wanted to be wearing were these lovelies:

French clothes 3

French clothes 2

French clothes 1

Nonetheless I must have looked somewhat different than the usual traveler, having been mistaken for a French speaker at one of the museums. Of course I was wearing black.

I did have three articles of clothing made in Dakar, which is always fun. Two were based on an existing piece of clothing. And one from some African fabric my husband bought.





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Third piece

I am now curating what I brought to be better prepared for the next trip. There were a few things I ended up never wearing. And I few things I wish I had had (more underwear, low cut socks).

Jet lag is almost done and I’m back to my normal sleep schedule.  Time to figure out what’s blooming in the garden. And to plan the next trip.


In getting this post ready I stumbled on this website: I haven’t checked it out very thoroughly but I am intrigued.



Paris, in the winter

From the smoggy sun of Dakar to the soggy streets of Paris. A brief winter visit to the City of Light which was, surprise, still lit by Christmas.

The streets were still full, albeit less full than in summer. The Seine was full, much more than in the summer. And The Louvre, well we didn’t have to stand in line and got 20 minutes to ourselves in one of the galleries.

We put on our puffy coats, and promenaded as best as we could. (It’s darn hard to look chic in a puffy coat.)

Some selections from the streets and Musées.

Anna and Ashley
Puffy coat brigade overlooking the Seine


Monet and Dada together?  In a manner of speaking. Same museum.


Sometimes the Louvre itself is more interesting than the art.



Outside, trees are bare and the Seine is flooding.


The tip of Île de la Cité is under water

Sometimes you just see things differently. Either because they were put there deliberately,


Or because they found you out somehow.

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Animal figures
Anthropomorphic animal figures at the Musee Quai Branly
Notre Dame at night (2)
Notre Dame at night

And then there are the things you don’t notice until way after you’ve taken the photo– in this case how like palm trees these buttresses are. Taking me back to Dakar.

Palm trees in church


From the end of the trip, to the start.





On the artist trail



Besides the typical clothes/food markets and the artisanants where traditional craftspeople make and sell objects (often tourist souvenirs), Dakar contains an artist colony, the Village des Arts.

This artist colony was a self-initiated effort some years ago (1977!) by working artists who needed a place to do their work. I found this fascinating as a deeper look into its history shows it was also a self-governing space, “unofficial” in its status with the government.

It is now has some government support. Not every artist can work here so the quality is high.  In the ateliers we visited, there was a nice combination of large and small works, painting and sculpture.

Our adventurous cab ride took us through some interesting parts of Dakar. Witness the “tire factory”



M’sier greets you near the entrance –


He has had a fuller past apparently, in old photos I’ve found he is holding a drum.

My photos are primarily of the outside space.  I felt uncomfortable taking photographs of artists in their studios so concentrated on outside shots and few in the gallery.

Sculptural works of various kinds are found scattered in the garden.  A shout out to my welder friend Angie for a future project.






Possibly my favorite picture


I found an interesting in depth article on the Village and one of its artists done by an American professor here.

The need to create is everywhere.

Feeding Frenzy



Everywhere we went in Dakar there was evidence of building. From rubble piles to sand in the streets, to cranes dotting the city skyline.  I’m not sure who’s going to live in these places in the city but it was evident that a building frenzy is occurring.


Building was not limited to Dakar (and Saint Louis). Projects of all sizes were  seen whenever we did a countryside trip.  One of our acquaintances  told us that people often put their money into building a new house, even if they could not complete it. It also tied up available, liquid cash — so no money accessible for loans or gifts to family members. (This might seem harsh but in some countries and cultures, money is to be spread amongst close and extended family members if needed. This is a way to minimize that possibility.)

Interestingly enough, in 2012 houses built for less than $60,000 did not require a building permit (cuz I’m a geek and did some research) which could account for some of the building.  But probably more likely to be relevant to the building boom in Dakar is the investment of the global north (including China — the big elephant now in global real estate investment.)  Basically, urban areas in Africa are being viewed as good investment areas as governments make it easier (and lower the risk) for international investors. There’s a market in the growth of African cities and a strong push by organizations like the World Bank for local governments to make investment easy, appealing and risk-limited.

Having traveled a bit in the developing world, I’m more than a little sad to see that the rush to development seems to impose a “western” ideology in places where perhaps development could still happen with a more indigenous approach. Does it really do the local population that much good if it ends up selling its birthright (land for instance) for tax breaks and short term monies? I’m not economist or a development thinker, but I wonder if selling out just wraps a city (or country) in a (pollution-choked) shroud, lowering the life span and overall standards for most people in the service of the 1%.





World Heritage


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Island of the baby pelicans

There are 1073 World Heritage sites, cultural and natural, listed by the United Nations.  Senegal is home to seven of these, two natural and five cultural sites. We were able to visit four of these.  I talked about Goree Island, one of the cultural sites, in a previous post and also a bit about the Sino-Saloum delta in “the land of the Baobabs” post. We also spent time Saint Louis another cultural site and the Djoudj Bird Sanctuary, near the border with Mauritania.  Saint Louis is about 180 miles from Dakar, but takes nearly 4 1/2 (or even 5) hours to get to.  The bird sanctuary is “near” to Saint Louis (about 30 miles) — even so took a good hour and half to travel there.  Some of this travel time is traffic related, but roads can be rough and slow contributing to the effort.  You learn to slow down mentally traveling in Africa.


Entrance to Djoudj park

Saint Louis spans three plots of land, two islands and a mainland all connected by bridges.  The middle plot is the old city founded by the French and the capital of  colonial Senegal from 1872 to 1957 when the capital was moved to Dakar. Saint Louis seems to be reinventing itself as a tourist site with a range of lovely accommodations, restaurants, and an active Institut Française. We saw a great concert at the Institut of a local favorite, Élage Diouf.

The lively arts, music and culture scene are encouraged by not only the Institut by a good photography museum (Musee de la Photographie), music at  Ndar Ndar Music and Cafe, and artisanal workshops scattered throughout.


From the photography museum – do check out the website!

According to the UN World Heritage Website Thanks to its regular layout, its system of quays and its high quality colonial architecture, the Island of Saint-Louis comprises a remarkable example of a colonial city with stylistic unity and urban homogeneity based on typologies and town planning principles inherited from the colonial administration.



Coffee shop, Saint Louis style



We stayed at a lovely auberge, Au fil du fleuve,  whose charming host Madame Marie-Caroline Camara can be seen in the Senegal episode of Anthony Bourdain’s Parts Unknown.




Our trip to the Djoudj bird sanctuary was being in the midst of a National Geographic special. We had a very, very able guide, Biram Seck,  whose eye for spotting birds and other wildlife was impeccable.  We found the flock of pelicans at feeding time, collecting food for the young pelicans who are about 3 weeks from taking flight. They are dark feathered rather than white, in part to camouflage them from their predators.

I took far took many bird pictures. And a few of the warthogs.





Our travels back to Dakar took place in a Sept Place, a kind of taxi with places for seven passengers in a stationwagon/hatchback.


The Sept Place station. All waiting for passengers.


View from the road

We returned, tired but gratified from our travels.


Tourism of sad places

Our travels took us to Goree Island, a world heritage site and location of an exit  point of slaves in the trade of bondage. We three had a conversation about touring and tourism of these sites of inhumanity: Goree Island, Auschwitz, battlefields and even plantation sites.  If tourism brings about reflection and consideration, that’s a good thing in my mind.  But what if this kind of tourism is a checklist: oh yeah I’ve been here and there, seen those things. Been there/done that. What makes something a site of remembrance and reflection rather than just another tour stop with locals just trying to make a living – Goree was full of guides and artisans.  A living, breathing space with citizens and families and children looking to the future.  Turning the door of no return to a door of opportunity knocking.

It was a beautiful spot.  No automobiles, no pollution, just blue skies and tender breezes 20 minutes by ferry from Dakar.  It seems almost wicked to post pictures given what took place there.

The International Coalition of Sites of Conscience website talks about the importance of linking these sites, and history, to the current struggle for human rights.  It encourages remembrance as a way for future generations to learn the lessons that previous generations had not — the dignity of all peoples and the importance of human rights for everyone. Their list of member sites and organizations is quite interesting and includes Little Rock High School in the US and an emigrant port in Belgium.

History doesn’t have to be dusty pages in climate controlled rooms. It is all around us really. What we let seep in, or rush in, to our thoughts and feelings is up to us. History is story that is one representation of the truth. It’s useful I think, in these days, to let multiple stories fall on our ears — there is meaning in every one.  And actually visiting the site of these stories is a way to make them more real, more resonant today.










Color in a sunlit place

I find African textiles delightful. The color and design makes the clothing of the northern climes look dull and uninspired.  Blue jeans and black tops, or an occasional colored t-shirt are hardly the stuff of exciting fashion statements to me, although some women carry this off with elan.

My husband is having three shirts made of various designs.  While I’ve not purchased any of these lovely fabrics, I will be having a dress and a kind of dress/vest made.





Of course, color is not limited to fabrics.