Wanderings

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Magic carpet

 

 

Is this a Persian Magic Carpet?  No, just the Laurentian forest canopy viewed from 2 000 feet high while flying with my son on this sunny October 8 Thanksgiving Day, here in Canada.  Picture taken near Rawdon, in Lanaudière.  Despite it’s small size, Rawdon is a multiethnic village with a sizable Russian origin population and some beautifull orthodox chuches and bizantine inspired buildings.

 

Early Fall

Our Laurentian Mountains, or Hills as some would have it, are famous for their Fall foliage.  Here are two examples of what it looks like:

These pictures were taken yesterday September 25 2012, from the balcony of our motel room in St-Sauveur-des-monts.

Wandering clouds

 

 

Heads in the clouds you can imagine anything;  the Gulf of Mexico becomes the Red Sea, you are inthe eye of a hurricane or the hurricane has blossomed into a rainbow.

No tickets needed, no borders to cross.  Have a good trip

Sipping memories

This afternoon, I leisurely drank two fingers of Malaga Virgen.  At Christmas my son and his little family brough me back a bottle after spending their vacations at their secondary home in Fuengirola.  We spent two scorching weeks there in August 2011 and a neighbour had given us a bottle of this divine elixir.

While sipping the nectar I could see the orange tree below our balcony

Then again, walking around the corner and to the street parrallel to ours we could come upon a banana tree complete with ripening bananas

A short walk away you came the bustling activity of la Plaza de Espana, seems every city has one

of course, get around a little and you will see the famous Bull, without the Bull, Fuengirola would not be Fuengirola.

And, visualizing the Bull, brought me to another place, the beaches and I could just smell the ubiquitous sardine smoking and BBQing boats strewn all along the 15 kilometers of beaches.

Is it not amazing what one can see in a wee glass of the proper medecine?

Going home

That June 8th, at 1pm sharp, the ship left it’s moorings and headed out of Dubrovnik toward Venice.  We said good bye to the Balkans hoping we could get back…some day.  However when you are in your early 80s and late 70s hope is just about all you have since the future, uncertain at any age, is just more so as you get on in age.

Next morning early we sailed up the watery Venetian boulevards that we had sailed down a week before.  As we progressed, I spotted the MSC Divina following us as we had followed her last Saturday.  We had met her in Bari, but not since.  We had also a nice surprise: docked alongside the boulevard was this beautiful 3 masters.

A fine “au revoir” from a city that built it’s fortune and Empire on shipping and trading and sent Marco Polo all over, or most of, the then known world.

We disembarked at 8:30, the shuttle bus came at 9:30 instead of 9 as announced, (Mussolini, where are you?).  Then we stopped at another pier to pick up Divina passengers, yes the same guys that were on our plane coming in and will be again going out.  After winding our way through the morning traffic we had a picture of the airport that we had not seen coming in.  Last Saturday, it was off the plane, into the shuttle and on the ship, bingo.  Today we got into an overcrowded departure deck and were told we could not check our bagages before 1:30, 3 hours away. so we were directed to the waiting area

outside the building under plexiglass canopies.  Although grey, fortunately, it was not raining.  We took turns going in to the pizza counter to get something to eat (it was very good) on our luxurious stone bench.  At 1:30 pm though we were quickly through the embarkment proces and security.  All the room lacking outside was explained by all the room, past security, taken over by duty free shops and very nice ones at that…but no sitting room;  finally, after some shopping, we went through the Customs (La Guardia di Finanza) desk and walked down to the boarding area…lo and behold, comfortable seats.

Since our plane was way out on the tarmac, we had to board a shuttle bus to get to it.  Photo taken from my seat through the porthole.  We left on time and landed in Montreal slightly ahead of schedule.  But before we flew over the Alps, Italy gave us another beautifull sight

A very nice bye bye..

Dubrovnik, Former Republic of…

6:30am and we stand on deck 11 watching the approaches to the port of Dubrovnick.  The first sight we have is of this very elegant suspended bridge.  As we got nearer, it became clear that it was built like the draw bridges of yore.

The next thing we learned is that beyond the hills, about 3 or four kilometers away, you are in Bosnia/Herzegovina.  We are in a History laden region.  As Serbia‘s foreign minister said, during the war that occured at the former Yougoslavia‘s breakup:  “We have History, we even have too much History”.    Since the Serbs considered themselves the guardian of that History  given the mission of preserving Greater Serbia, they went to war with all those who were breaking away.  All sides committed war crimes in the name of patriotism and History.

It so happened that Croatia where Dubrovnik is situated also had History and a proud identity and Dubrovnik was the pearl of it’s eyes.  In order to preserve it, they emptied the City of all military personel making it an “open City”, thus protected from the ravages of war…but to no avail, the Serbs bombarded the old fortified city, probably to brake the morale of the secessionists, but to no avail.  That was in 1991.  Today, you are hard put to find traces of that destruction.  Everything has been rebuilt to it’s original appearance, with the same materials and techniques, quite a feat.

At left, the new city, at right,a view of the old port and part of the fortification wall that encompasses the whole old town.

The Tirena, a replica of a Republic of Dubrovnik  merchant ship that took us from our ship to the old port and the Fortified City. A very nice and realxing trip around the the rocky peninsula on which is built old Dubrovnik.

The Saint Blaise church in Dubrovnik, .  In front is a monument to the young knights no particular one, just any young one.  Here below the church picture, you have the Saint holding the town in his hand to protect it against hearthquakes.  It would seem they never had a serious one since the middle ages when the city was ravaged by  a quake and they built that church to invoke the Saint’s protection.

                                  Two last views of the Old Town.  0n top, a very old building just outside the walls, in the middle, the Stradoun, the Main Street, it goes from a gate in the wall off the old port to another gate  giving access to the less old but not quite new town. In this picture, we are looking toward the old port. On each side, very narrow alleys lead to the wall on either side.  the right side alleys all end with a steep stair ending at the wall with buildings on each sides.  The town has a permanent population of around 8 000 and sees one million tourists each year.




 A last look at the walls before sailing away back to Venice and Montreal.  But one last anecdote, shall we?  The old town has two pharmacies called the Old and the New.  They both are still in operation.  The Old, 700 years, is also a Museum; the New, 103, is…the newer.

Mykonos to Piraeus

  O n board, at the dining room, our table number 42 was the United Nations.  This lady and her husband were from Beijing, China, there was also a South-Africa couple, she from British and German extraction, he a Flemish from Belgium, two Floridian American women, Thérèse and I.  We had a great time.

After the first formal dinner, between Corfou and Mykonos, one of the head waiters took our picture before the main panel in the King and I dining room.  Don’t we look great?

Sunsets over the sea are always most spectacular…but I can not show them all, can I?.  This one occured between Kerkyra and Mykonos.

On Mykonos, we visited the Pangia Tourlani monastery built in the 16th century and still guarded by two venerable 80 something monks.  One of them sat by the door greating the visitors.  Despite warnings about the dress code, nobody was chased away.

His excellency the monastery cat sat reclined amongst the visitors quite imbued of his importance and sure nobody would walk over him.  Admire his calm.

The water at Mykonos beaches is cristal clear.  In Athens, our guide, somewhat sadly, told us: “We have been praised by UNESCO for having the cleanest waters in all of Europe.  We do have pristine waters but we have lost all our industries and after Spain we have the highest unemployment rate.”  Nonetheless Mykonos beaches are wonderful.

  They are everywhere on Kerkyra and also here on Mykonos.  Private family chapels; they are used for baptism, weddings and funerals, the left hand side picture is the family burial plot just abutting the church wall.

Some other structure that we saw on Kerkyra and Mykonos are less romantic or mystical:  concrete skeletons of buildings abandoned while being built because of the economic crisis, at least on Mykonos they painted most of them green so they look less forlorne.  Not so on Kerkyra.

In Athens this is the closest we could get to the Acropolis because of ongoing work up there.  (And both times I used the zoom on my camera).  My archaelogist son doubts the authoriies will ever reopen it to the general public.

Otherwise, our visit of Athens, a short one at that, the stopover was brief docking at 6am amd leaving at 4:30 pm, was somewhat disappointing.  On the traffic clogged streets we saw so many empty shops and nondescript buildings, some alsmost soviet in style, that there was nothing much to bring back and brag about.  I did manage to get a komboloi though and I enjoy it very much.  Mine had broken years ago and they do not come easily in Montreal.

From our three stops in Greece, the Piraeus and Athens ended up being the least interesting.  Kerkyra and Mykonos were quite something else but there also you had that gloominess oozing from the guides about the economic situation and the future.  They all, everywhere, begged the tourists to come back for longer stays , strongly underlining the vital tourism industry as the only hope to maintain some economic health, or what is left of it, in the country.

That a people with such a proud past, the cradle of our civilization and of our political systems is down to that, the land of my father, makes me so sad.  But it is a beautiful country, it does have wonderful skies and that blue water…It makes one one want to go back…but not in Athens.

Just wandering

Hello out there, some friends have asked for details about my last trip to the Mediterranean.  I have chosen WordPress to do so.  so Here is hoping that it will work.

Wandering

Here, I will wander and dream, but mostly wander.  For a beginning, I will take you on my recent trip to the Mediterranean.   Here, you have our first view of Venice and the causeway leading to the port where our ship, somewhere in the fog at top right, is berthed.

Here is the ship that will be home for the next 8 days.  All 70 000 tons of her.  We will be on deck 7, estate room 512, with balcony, no less, near the prow.  It is on the other side of the ship.

Ahead of us, the MSC Divina is sailing away on the canals leading to the open sea.  We sail up those canals like any city bus along a wide boulevard.  Almost unbelievable

Just coming to a street corner.

A vaporetto in front of a “road side” church.

Just to show that we are on a ship.

Feels as we could just walk in.  I never saw as  many churches as we saw on this trip.  Italians, Greeks and Croatians seem to be most devout peoples.

The Divina is on another street, ahead of us.

Thérèse on our balcony adding to my travel log.

The side screws pushing us againts the pier in Bari.

The land of taste is not just a slogan, we really tasted the food and wine.

See by yourself and these tidbits were delicious.

This is a trullo.  Legend has it that they were built with a large rock at the top.  Remove the rock and it crumbles.  A 12th century baron reportedly had them built that way to save is peasants from paying the king’s taxes on dwellings.  Whenever the tax collector came around they removed the rock and could prove that they had no dwelling.  When he had left, they just reassembled the shelter and they were allright for another year.  Tax evasion is nothing new in  these parts, just evermore sophisticated.

Inside a trullo.

We visited the place and tasted it’s food and wine and went into their trulli.  beware the low entrances to the trulli.  People must have been real short in 1300 something.

Back on the ship.  The Centrum is the activity hub where everybody congregates for a drink, to shop and just to know what is going on.

Sunset between Bari and Kerkyra (Corfou).

I thought this was a first glimpse of Kerkyra until I learned it was the Albanian coast.  OH well!

This is Kerkyra, the palaiokastritsa or old fortress.  We are sailing into port.

No, we are not in China.  The first British Governor of the Corfou Protectorate imported koum quats from China and the culture has held fast since 1825.  Koum quat products are now one of the main Kerkyrian industries with olive oil and tourism.  Kerkyra is really a green island and very fertile.

A koum quat tree with fruits.

Landscapes on Kerkyra.

When Napoleon’s empire crumbled, the French army abandoned this Russian canon on Kerkyra…of all places.

Well, folks, this all for today.  I’m tired and will come back with another installment on another day.  Next will be Mykonos and Athens.

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