Thursday, June 28, 2012


Jetlag has hit.
Full force.
Took awhile, didn't it?
In the meantime, besides the towel animal sculptures, there was also food sculptures.
I don't know why this fish was nestled in amongst the desserts.....

Wednesday, June 27, 2012


Of course meals were provided on the cruise ship. There was a buffet room that was open from about 6am to 10pm and several restaurants to choose from (for an extra price), plus the dining room where your dinner was served. All beverages had to be paid for, however. And you really had to pay for them.  

But part of the fun of travelling is eating at local restaurants. We managed to sit at a table and have something in each of the cities we visited. I found this lovely spot right on the beach in Barcelona. I was doing my own thing on the Hop On Hop Off tour bus, so XUP missed this restaurant named after her. It seems this charming Catalan expression means something along the lines of 'simmer in own juices' Like a slow cooker, I am imagining. It was supposed to have great paella, but I was not that hungry, so had some gazpacho and salmon carpaccio. Turns out I wasn't even that hungry. Must have been the heat. It was over 40C. I chose to eat indoors where it was air conditioned. I also didn't want to pay the 10% extra for patio seating.
The food was very good. But also very expensive. At least by North American standards. I have travelled in Europe enough that I knew to expect to be charged extra for most things, but it still comes as a shock.

For water, one must pay for a bottle - and even a small was 2€ ($2.60)
I was asked if I wanted bread - yes, please.  with tomato? - sure. turned out to be about 6 croutons with a bit of chopped tomato and red pepper. a chopped cherry tomato. that came to 2.50€ ($3.25). it did add nicely to the gazpacho, I will admit.
CUBIERTO translates as 'cover' or 'tableware' at .50 (.65). that was an unexpected charge.
All in all it came to over $32 for a bowl of soup, an appetizer and a coffee. and a glass of water. But, gratuity is included. and I really like that part!

Part of ABCWednesday where I was not at home for X number of days.

Tuesday, June 26, 2012

grave post - Mazzini

Last Sunday I was wandering around the Staglieno Cemetery (in Genoa, Italy), in sheer and absolute awe of the statuary and views. Content to just be aimless and not seek out anyone famous since I had such a short time in Genoa, the several signs I found pointing to Mazzini had me curious. Some were hand written, some were photocopies. This was the most official looking one.
At one point, someone carrying a flower, whom I had seen wandering around, asked me something in Italian which I did not understand. Then, seeing another sign pointing to Mazzini, I realized that was what she was looking for, so together we walked up the many, many (oh dear lord, many steps) while I asked her who this person was. He is the Father of Italy, she explained in halting English. With Garibaldi, who I had heard of. We both agreed that Mazzini would be weeping to see how his beloved Italy (and perhaps the EU?) was having so many problems now.

Giuseppe Mazzini started his life in Genoa in 1805 and died of pleurisy in Pisa at age 66 in 1872. In between, he was a journalist, politician and activist for Italian unification/independence while spending a considerable amount of time in exile for his revolutionary activities. He would promote the idea of creating a 'United States of Europe' long before the European Union was designed. According to one source, though his actions were sometimes politically indiscreet, he was a man of attractive character and strong personal magnetism, distinguished throughout his career for disinterested patriotism and the highest moral standards of conduct. No man won so many admirers as Mazzini and yet secured so few friends. There was hardly a human being whom long familiarity had not estranged from Mazzini. With manners consummately affable and courteous he combined an overweening conceit and a narrowness and bigotry of view which hardly tolerated independent minds.
I could find no mention of any romantic interests or family.
I must say, apart from the fact that this seems to resemble a cave the way it is dug into the hillside, I found it a bit anti-climactic after seeing the other tombs with their detailed carvings. It was the only one that warranted signs, so must be a popular pilgrimage for many Italians, but I was too hot and thirsty by then to try to figure out who the other people were in the fenced in area of his tomb. More elaborate tombs will follow in the coming weeks.

to see other tomb discoveries, (including possibly more from this cemetery via Biebkriebels and sc who were there just before I was) follow the signs to Taphophile Tragics

Monday, June 25, 2012

cruise news, part one

To all those who said that I would never want to travel any other way once I had tried cruising, I say ppfffft. It was a good experience and I am definitely glad I went, but I am not so sure I am a convert. Maybe I need to try a different ship next time? Or maybe it is just me, wanting to see everything at every port and feeling a tad restrained by needing to fit it all in with the ship and shuttle schedules. The extra charges for the shuttles into each city from the port were also a bit grating and everyone was complaining about that little detail.

It was great to not have to keep packing and repacking and to wake up in a different location each morning. At some point over dinner, you might suddenly become aware - if you were looking out the window - that we were moving. The food was very, very good. But so are many restaurants that I have eaten at. I was not interested in shopping so the luxury shops on the Promenade deck held no appeal for me, though we did wander through the nightly 'sidewalk sales' and try to find something.... There was also nightly entertainment to keep us amused. And a variety of places to sit yourself down with drinks and new friends. There was a seemingly neverending gallery of sculptures and artwork on all the floors and even on the last day, I found a landing with a piece of art I am sure I had not seen before and wondered how is that possible? The ship was huge and even with all those people on board, it did not feel overly crowded. And it still took a bit of thinking to remember which stairwells and which elevators to take! And which direction the cabin was in. Next time, definitely get a balcony. If only for that extra bit of fresh air.

The most disappointing part, for both Xup and myself, was the dining. We wanted to share a table and the first two/three nights were great for meeting new people, even if one or two were the same people. Then it all fell apart and we ended up eating on our own and once (because of our different shore excursion plans) we each ate by ourselves.

Definitely the best part was the pre planning and the anticipation. It all feels a little sad to not have that anymore.
And to not have someone coming in to make up the beds and clean the WC. And leave bottles of water.

Then there were the animals....

I came home to a healthy pet turtle though it was hard to tell if he missed me.
But, I heard today that Lonesome George (who I wrote about here) has passed on at an relatively young age of 100 or so years. He was the last of his kind and will be sorely missed in the Galapagos.

Sunday, June 24, 2012

Sunday Stamps - Belarus

I have returned home from a week's holiday, safe and tired.

I had in my mind an idea to get some stamps while in France and Spain, but in the end there were too many other things to look for. But I did have a mailbox full of postcards awaiting me on my return - 13, in all! (so was glad to see that Viridian's choice was anything we wished for today)

including these two from Belarus. The designer of these "Belarusian Ornament" is Yauheniya Biadonik.
The letter N is 'equal to the surface of a postcard abroad'                      while the letter M is 'equal to the air mail tariff of a postcard abroad'
Interestingly the 'surface mail' card was mailed on 05/06, while the air mail was postmarked 06/06.
obviously, I don't know how long each took to reach this destination, but they likely arrived within a day of each other.

Tuesday, June 12, 2012


This week's ABCWednesday letter is V. After seeking out the Voortman's cookies, all that is left is Violet's Vacation (though I really want to say 'holiday', which rolls off the tongue more naturally) Anyway, my vacay also conveniently allows me to weasel out of next week's W. Whew. Interestingly, I have an X, Y and Z all ready.

But at the moment, my mind is totally on the vacation plans. Next week, I will be on a voyage aboard a cruise ship. (my virgin cruise, so to speak) One of the ports we will be visiting is Valencia and one of the things I am most excited about is going to the Lladro factory. From what I have read about this free tour of the making of the valuable, exquisitely made porcelain, it is a fascinating couple of hours even if you are not into figurines of porcelain. All the reviews from such sites as TripAdvisor were glowingly positive.

You need to book these tours ahead, so I emailed my preferred language and date. And got a prompt reply, with an apology, that all tours that day were fully booked. Damn. But the email was so personal and polite, offering other dates, etc that instead of letting it slide, I wrote back and explained about the cruise ship and one day in Valencia, la la la, not quite sure what to expect in return. Maybe a wait list of some sort? No. What I found out was that it was my ship that had booked the day's worth of tours. So, I could pay $50 to the cruise ship for the free tour, or satisfy myself with seeing only the museum and showroom. And gift shop. I found this turn of events to be most vexing. I vented long and loudly to my friend Xup who is travelling with me (though not interested in this tour) and she volunteered her indignation on my behalf. But, I continued with the email exchange, thanking them for their correspondence - really, I expected merely a form letter type response. Three days later, news came that I could get on one of the afternoon tours. Victory!

I may need more euros to buy a souvenir Lladro....

Monday, June 11, 2012

grave post - Bayview Gardens

There was a Doors Open event in Burlington over the weekend and I managed to spend a considerable amount of time at a private family cemetery and at Bayview Gardens Mausoleum. One of the advantages was having people on hand to answer questions. And perhaps to give tours, as happened for myself and one of the volunteers when Robin McKee, who does cemetery tours at the Hamilton Cemetery, happened by. He was quite happy to give an impromptu tour and share what he knew about the building and some of the people within. He also didn't find it at all odd to hear that when I will be in Genoa next week, the only thing I really want to see is the Staglieno Cemetery.

there was a harpist playing softly

and St George slaying a dragon

and walls full of memories

perhaps the most poignant for me, on this visit, was this memorial vault for those who donated their body to science. a difficult decision for some, and one wonders what happens when the medical students and researchers are finished with your remains.
at McMaster University (as with most university hospitals, I expect) you are respectfully remembered.

it is a shame about that typo, though. another plaque on the wall outside the vault seems to be grammatically correct (which would be doubly important for a university, one would think)

find more memorials at Taphophile Tragics

Sunday, June 10, 2012

Sunday Stamps - space and astronomy

This 8 cent stamp celebrating the Decade of Achievement for Space was issued in 1971. It was part of a se-tenant and this one depicts the Lunar Rover. Originally issued to co-incide with the flight of Apollo XV and to mark the 10th anniversary of John Glenn's Project Mercury flight that sent the first man into orbit.

and let's not forget the Canadarm, Canada's contribution to NASA's shuttle program, which was retired in 2011 after 30 years and 90 flights. The Canadarm weighs 905lbs and is 50' long with 6 joints (degrees of freedom). This stamp is one of a series showing the flag in 'conspicuous and not so conspicuous places'. (the stylized O references the opening line of the national anthem O Canada....)

Did anyone else spend time watching that small black dot of Venus move across the sun last Tuesday? You can thank this gentleman for enlightening us with his observations of the solar system back in the 1860s.

Among Schiaparelli's contributions are his telescopic observations of Mars. In his initial observations, he named the "seas" and "continents" of Mars. He called the linear lines he saw 'canali' which was mistranslated as 'canal' resulting in years of speculation over a supposed life on mars.
Before he had a powerful enough telescope to study the surfaces of planets, he watched meteors and comets and showed that they moved in the same orbit and that there were annual showers of 'shooting stars' caused by the dissolving of comets. So raise a glass to Schiaparelli, next time while watching the Perseids and Leonids meteor showers.

see more stars at Viridian's Postcard Blog

Saturday, June 9, 2012

run of your life

Every year it takes me by surprise. Certain spring Saturday afternoons come along and suddenly an interest in horse racing takes hold and I want to watch those few minutes of a fast paced adrenaline rush.

I am in no way a horsey person. I don't dislike them. They are wonderful creatures, but I don't get all soft and dewy over a horse as I would over, say, a cat, or a duck, even. But, yesterday when I heard on the car radio the stunning news that I'll Have Another would not be racing in the Belmont Stakes and thus would not be a Triple Crown contender - possibly the first winner since Secretariat in 1973, an event I remember well for some reason considering I was only 15 - I had to pull over and catch my breath. I hope he has a good, long life out on the stud farm, but I was deeply saddened to hear that his injury would prevent him form running. Then again, I was also relieved that his owners made that decision not to risk his life.

When Barbaro broke his leg in 2006 at the Preakness, I followed his recovery process avidly, amazed that such a catastrophic injury would be treated and the lengths they went to help him. Sadly, it was all too much for Barbaro and he died of complications when his other feet developed laminitis due to his not being able to put his full weight on his unbroken legs. Still, for seven months there was hope.

I felt a sharp pain of regret in 2004 when Birdstone outran Smarty Jones and foiled another attempt at a Triple Crown. It was a surreal moment when a tearful owner of the winning horse apologized and said "I'm sorry, so sorry that Smarty Jones couldn't win".

Canada has it's own Triple Crown with the Queen's Plate, The Prince of Wales Stakes and the Breeder's Stakes. The last time a horse won the Triple Crown was in 2003. I had to look up his name (it was Wando). Okay, I admit I am one of those people who jump on the bandwagon at the last minute and get caught up in the rush.

What I know about horse racing, I learned from reading Dick Francis. I have been to a couple of races, though they were harness racing that was held at a racetrack a few blocks from where I lived. I have never been to see the Queen's Plate, which is being held next Saturday. Horse racing has been in a steady decline over the years and now the Ontario government is considering putting a stop to a profitable and beneficial revenue sharing program where slots machines and gaming facilities were put into racetracks to complement the gambling. Lots and lots of money from these OLG (Ontario Lottery and Gaming) machines has benefitted the government as well as the racetracks who received a portion of revenue. It sounds like a perfect mix. Now, the talk is of taking these slots out of the racetracks and building a new casino in a more densely populated urban area. Like the waterfront of Toronto. Seriously. Ruining a good waterfront location by building a massive windowless structure so people can sit inside with blinking lights. At least at Woodbine, there is the option of going outside and seeing some horses going through their paces. Or winning a race. A live win, not a fabricated one from a machine.

Still, I will watch the Belmont this afternoon and toast to I'll Have Another's health.

Wednesday, June 6, 2012

Upper Middle

Once again, because I am a little unorganized, I am combining letters for this week's ABC Wednesday challenge of seeing Burlington through the alphabet. I admit to being only 'a little unorganized' because, actually, I made a nice comprehensive list of subjects for each letter way back before this round even started... it is just most weeks, around mid afternoon on Tuesday, I suddenly realize that I have not gotten around to taking the required photos.... and well, y'know how it is.

If you drive along Hwy 403, you will see an exit to Upper Middle Road. This name has always intrigued me. It sounded so... unusual. There is no Lower Middle Road or even a Middle Road. Though I did find out somewhere along my researches for getting to know where I had moved, that the highway that bisects the city, known as the QEW (and also the 403, which merges with it during its run though Oakville and Burlington) was once a road called Middle Road.
Back in the early days of Upper Canada, many of the roads were set out in a grid pattern, with each one being 1 1/4 mile apart. In Burlington there was a track called Lake Shore. Then a new road was built a bit farther from the lake. This was imaginatively named New Street. There was also a road known as Highway 5, or Dundas Street at the top end of the city. And in between the Lake Shore and Hwy 5 was a street known as Middle Road. This was torn up and became part of the Queen Elizabeth Way (and Hwy 403) back in the 1930's. The road that lay between the Middle Road and Dundas Street was called - unimaginatively, or not - Upper Middle Road.
And actually, it is a rather pretty street for a major thoroughfare. It runs roughly east-west across the top of the city, but there are few side streets running off it and any development backs onto it, so there are no driveways to deal with. At each major intersection - i.e. every 1 and 1/4 mile - there is some retail and commercial buildings. There is a hydro corridor along one side with a trail for biking/walking.
Only at the far eastern end are there houses fronting onto the street.
These ones sit across from Tansley Woods

a large and busy Community Centre built in 1996 with a library and beautiful skylit pool.
and undulating hills separating it from the bike path and  Upper Middle Road. I am not in this area very often as it about as far from where I live as you can get before heading out to the rural areas, but I wonder how many people actually use this bit of greenery. As you can see, I took this picture when we were still despairing of some much needed rain.

Here is a closer view of
Tansley Woods

with the bright atrium taken around 3pm before the afterschool crowds.

Monday, June 4, 2012

grave post - Weston

Some of you may recognize                                                                    this flourished signature

as that of Weston Bakery, started by his father George Weston.
W. Garfield Weston was born above his father's bread factory in Toronto in 1898. He was exceptionally gifted at making business deals and thus able to expand his empire during the Depression after his father's death. He bought out many smaller bakeries across Canada during the early 1930s and eventually ventured into Britain with a plan to buy and modernize bakeries there and (here's the brilliant part) get them to use Canadian wheat. By the end of the war, his vast holdings would include fisheries, frozen foods, and some 2000 (!) bakery, retail and grocery chains in Britain, South Africa, Germany, France, the US, and Australia and NZ. I am sure he was not always welcomed into these countries, yet in 1948 Canadian press reports described Garfield Weston as "the biggest manufacturer of bread in the world, the largest biscuit maker in the British Empire and Canada's largest wholesale grocer". [wikipedia]

Garfield Weston always considered himself a Canadian but moved his family of six girls and two boys (later to add another son, Galen) to Britain in the 1930s. He didn't shirk from helping or getting involved and was the MPP for Macclesfield  (hi Gilly!) during the war and was known for his philanthropic donations such as when during the Blitz, the Nazi aerial bombing campaign, he set up a system of canteens that fed thousands of civilians as they took shelter in the London Underground. He and his family also hosted air service personnel at their estate outside of London, providing a place of retreat.[wikipedia]

The Weston fortune continues to grow and in 2003-04, George Weston Ltd had the highest gross of any Canadian company with 120,000 Canadian employees with another 22,850 worldwide. The family fortune is estimated at around $7.7 billion. Garfield's youngest son Galen is considered among the top 50 richest men in the world.

W Galen Weston (b 1940) the grandson of George, son of W Garfield 
Weston is also head of the world’s second largest luxury goods retailer as Chairman of Holt Renfrew in Canada and the Selfridges Group, owner of Selfridges in the United Kingdom, Brown Thomas of Ireland, the De Bijenkorf department store chain in the Netherlands, and the recently acquired Ogilvy department store in Montreal. (wikipedia)
Yousuf Karsh photo c 1962
and Galen G Weston (b 1972) the great-grandson...

Galen Jr has two sons, neither of whom are named Galen, though the G tradition continues with Griffin and Graydon.
Galen Sr is married to Hilary Weston who was the Lieutenant Governor General of Ontario from 1997-2002.

see more riches of graves at Taphophile Tragics

Saturday, June 2, 2012

Sunday Stamps - Jubilee

I could think of no better stamps for this Jubilee Weekend but see what other stamps were chosen at Viridian's Postcard blog

one of the nicer views of the Queen

The photo is a hauntingly regal side shot of the Queen wearing diamonds, draped in furs, sitting in a carriage on her way to a state opening of Parliament in London. The public likes it too: sales have been so strong that the current production run of six million might be upped. (macleans Feb/12)
one of the more casual views of the Queen
issued 2010

I thought this was an abstract blue background, but I was wrong.

Design/Illustration by Doreen Colonello
"We were delighted to feature a photograph of Her Majesty in her classic wave pose." The close-up photograph is shown before a vibrant sedum. "We strove to create a royal and serene backdrop for The Queen, choosing this plant for its radiating leaves and its subtle colour gradations," explains Colonello. "Two blue curved transparent forms in the foreground echo the flower’s rays, and the play between the rays in the background and the transparency in the foreground surround The Queen with a sense of light and warmth."

and one that was offered by Charles Pachter, but ultimately rejected by Canada Post

Pachter is well known for his iconic paintings of the Queen on a moose and this might have been a bit more fun than the 
staid series that is on offer 

which if you are really interested, you can view here