Wednesday, May 29, 2013


We visited the hat store on Granville Island this morning
and picked up a new chapeau to replace the "no fear"
that has adorned his head for the past nine years.

Monday, May 27, 2013

Vancouver Museum

Exhibition of neon signs at the Vancouver Museum.

We travelled down memory lane yesterday when we visited the Museum with Heather, Chris and Augie. A jukebox and cafe booth are set up in one spot near a 1950's Chevy in immaculate condition. In another section there are beaded curtains and music selections from the hippy era. There is even a black dial phone that has messages from the past.

Next month the museum will host an exhibition of "Foncie" photos. He was the street photographer who captured people as they walked down Granville Street. I have several of his photos in my albums including one with my grandmother when I was about 4 years old.

Wednesday, May 22, 2013

Observations at coffee bars

Observations at coffee bars

in Greece they talk and smoke 
and talk and smoke and talk
to anyone who will listen.

In Istanbul they roll the dice 
and smoke and talk and joke
with friendly banter.

In Vancouver they stare at screens
alone in cyber space
disconnected from each other.

Sunday, May 19, 2013

Student painting in Istanbul

Students from a French School in Istanbul were painting intricate replicas of mosaic tiles on the exterior wall that surrounded their school.

Farewell Istanbul

After four wonderful days, we finally said farewell to our friends and headed to the airport. Enroute we passed many construction sites and hundreds of Turkish flags draped over entire buildings to celebrate Attaturk's accomplishments in Turkey. Istanbul is booming! They are preparing to host the Olympics in 2020 and have started work on a new airport. Prices are not cheap. Taxis are reasonable ($5.00 for an 8km trip) but it costs $5.00 for a coke at the airport.

Farewell to our sweet Turkish friends!

Friday, May 17, 2013


Some of the old timbered houses are still standing in areas, some barely held together. These are reminders of the fires that have ravaged Istanbul in the past. All of them are still occupied!

My Birthday!

What a day! Buket and I started the day with a shopping trip to Bebek for dinner ingredients. John was happy to spend the day at home with his writing tools. After dropping off the "sharcuteri" groceries (there is an ongoing French connection here with variations on the spelling), we took a taxi, Metro, funicular and tram to the Modern Art Museum. It is located on the Bosphorus with a beautiful view that was totally blocked by a 20 storey high cruise ship that was tied up alongside the building!!

The exhibition spanned the Turkish artists of the 1900s to include several of today's famous artists.
It was wonderful to have Buket as my tour guide, explaining the works and importance of each piece.
This sculpture outside the Museum reminded Buket of my "four polka dotted sisters" painting so she had to take my photo.

After the gallery visit we tried to hail a taxi (there are 19,000 in Istanbul) but they were all full and tried to take the tram(it had broken down) . After confronting a taxi driver about scamming some tourists, Buket managed to convince another driver to take us to the hammam area. I was surprised when we didn't go in the front doors to the hammam. Instead Buket led me down a cobbled side street to the women's entrance.

Inside we were greeted by Turkish women in various states of undress or semi-nudity in the reception area. At first, when we entered the hammam, I didn't think that I would be able to stay. The air was so humid that I couldn't breathe. Laying on the marble slab in the centre, along with several other women, I forced myself to breathe normally and finally relaxed. The scrubbing removed layers of skin, the dishes of cold water revived me, the shampooing massaged my scalp. We had skin like babies when we re-entered the frantic pace of Istanbul to head home at 7:30pm, in rush hour!!

Thursday, May 16, 2013

No. 69 in Istanbul

Woke up to sunny skies this morning. Buket and I will leave Yianni at home to relax while we visit Buket's studio and her mother's gallery. Later she plans to have me scrubbed at a hammam! Life is good in Istanbul!

Wednesday, May 15, 2013

Exploring Istanbul

We got off to a lazy start this morning as we visited with Shukru before he left for work. Hopping in a taxi we went to Bebek, the neighborhood where they used to live. While John sat in a tea shop with his journal, Buket and I went for a haircut and a manicure. A handsome young man spent one hour trimming my hair while Buket's nails were painted bright red. It was the first time that I have seen two young men working together to dry a head of long hair...whew!...hard work!!

Using a combination of taxi rides and the Metro we travelled to Taksim, the centre of Istanbul. From there it was a lengthy walk to the Gallery where Buket has a solo exhibition. Through narrow streets lined with old buildings, past merchants and students we navigated our way by stepping from sidewalks to streets and back again to avoid taxis and motorbikes.

Buket's exhibition is composed entirely of self portraits, a dramatic display. Canvases expose raw emotions in vibrant colours. It was interesting to see how our friend sees herself.

After taxi rides and Metro transfers we arrived back in their quiet, tranquil home to a lovely dinner prepared by Buket's mother...tomato soup (made with fresh tomatoes), stuffed peppers and huge artichoke hearts filled with a mixture of veggies...yummh!!

Arrival in Istanbul

After a smooth flight from Athens to Istanbul we were greeted at the airport by Buket with a sign that said " Lohn and Jin" and big hugs. Sukuru needed the car so we took a taxi from the airport to their home, about a one hour trip in rush hour traffic, weaving through guys selling bananas, bottles of water, candies. In this city of 20 million people their home is on the main floor of an apartment building with a garden area filled with jasmine, roses and trees. There are no city sounds.

Buket, Tuna and John worked on an important construction project before we taxied down to the Bosphorus for a wonderful dinner on the top floor of an old house...many mezes, rocket salad and a variety of fish dishes. Of course we had to sample the Turkish raki, similar to Greek ouzo. A beautiful welcome to this city from our friends!!

Rainy morning in Athens

The streets were quiet and wet yesterday morning in Athens. We found a wonderful place for breakfast that featured baked omelets, even the fried eggs appeared to be baked in the oven. There was no escaping from the rain though so we finally headed back to the hotel to dry out before heading to the airport. Streets in the centre of Athens are lined with closed shops and angry graffiti.

Monday, May 13, 2013


Sitting on my bed
Looking up at the Acropolis
Towering above me
At the foot of history
Red umbrellas hover
Below the Greek flag
Early birds in the rain.


I am sitting on my bed, looking though the window at the Acropolis. It was raining when we arrived in Athens after another interesting taxi ride from Piraeus.  Enroute we were rear ended by a smart car. The driver was texting! Very little damage to the Smart Car but the taxi suffered. Our driver got out to talk to the other guy and suddenly there was a third guy in a suit talking to both of them. We were immediately suspicious when our luggage was pulled from the trunk so I hopped out and started taking photos. Apparently the guy in the suit was the brother of the Smart Car driver! Finally our luggage was returned to the trunk of the taxi but the trunk lock wouldn't work. A bungee cord secured the lid and off we went.

We have restricted our walkabout to a comfortable radius from the hotel where we feel secure. The main observation is the number of closed shops and businesses....boarded up and graffitied. Our taxi driver said that 65 percent of Greeks between the ages of 25-35 are unemployed. Plaka is quiet with a small number of tourists wandering through.

The ferry this morning was loaded with people returning to the mainland after a one week Easter break. We were very happy that we reserved a cabin and didn't have to sit cheek to jowl for the nine hour trip.


Saturday, May 11, 2013

A visit to Riikka

This afternoon we drove south to visit Riikka in her little house. We toasted her with champagne before going to one of the oldest cafenions on the island. Kiri Nikita and Kiria Maria (both in their eighties) greeted us warmly and with great interest in Riikka who will be their neighbour for two months. We shared their homemade raki and misithra cheese. Wonderful!

Andreas, Rikka, Yiannis and Linnie at the cafenion

Two more sleeps

I finally had a wonderful massage treatment yesterday evening. Elpida's hands worked magic on my back but unfortunately there was no sign of improvement today. I finally resorted to visiting the Health Clinic in Chora for an injection of muscle relaxant and pain medication. If this doesn't work then we will know that it is my kidney and that wretched stone that is lodged in there. Not a fun thought for the travels ahead.

On the bright side we dropped into Roberto's shop for a psemeniraki and to look at his latest creations. He always has a huge welcoming smile for us. As a special favour he asked if we could send him a piece of mail with a Canadian stamp to add to his collection.

Further along the pathway we stopped to chat to Theo, owner of Chima Taverna. He is the person who suggested that I try an injection for the back problem. Theo specializes in affordable traditional Greek food.

There are three of us left in Chora...two Canadians and one Brit. We have named him "Junior" because his name is also John. We were relieved to find him having a coffee this morning. He had disappeared from our lives for the past few days and we were worried that he had set sail along with 
all the others.

Tomorrow we will start to pack away memories and stuff suitcases.

Friday, May 10, 2013

Is this Meryl?

Yesterday's shiatsu treatment did not help so I am going for a more traditional massage this afternoon. Meanwhile I am popping pills!

Many friends have left the island now but yesterday a special friend arrived from Finland. In this photo I think that she has a strong resemblance to a young Meryl Streep.

We continue to hear unfortunate stories from visitors to Greece about their experiences. One woman arrived this morning without her was stolen on the Metro. Another young Greek friend had her camera equipment stolen in Piraeus while she was waiting for the ferry. These are just two of the stories that make us very aware of taking precautions next week.

A friend who has worked as a nurse on the island for 15 years has not been paid for her services for 10 months. At the end of June her contract expires and she will work at the pharmacy for two months... 8 hours a day for 6 days each week...850 euros per month? By my calculations that is 4.40 euros per hour! Meanwhile the state still owes her 10 months wages. She can't pay her rent or groceries but is still expected to finish her contract. At least the pharmacy employment will cover her daily costs.

Thursday, May 9, 2013

Baptism and Shiatsu

Yesterday we were invited to a baptism. We didn't know the parents but the mother seemed to know, of course we had to attend. A small hand painted top in a handmade box was our baptismal gift. To our surprise the child being baptized was a little guy that John had played with in the platiea.
His mother had recognized us and thought that we would be interested in seeing the ceremony. Little Alexandros screamed his way through the "bath" portion but seemed to forget the scarey parts soon afterwards.

Following the service everyone gathered for sweets and drinks. We were each given a bracelet and a small gift of candied almonds. Alexandros was the centre of attention.

Later that evening we were greeted in Chora by the bride of a wedding party who insisted that we share another sweet that her mother had made! Drenched in honey we made our way to Bayoko where we joined friends for a sunset drink. 

Earlier in the day I had injured my back...something as simple as standing up the wrong way from a seated position. The rest of the day was a challenge.

This afternoon I had the luxury of a Shiatsu treatment from an Athenian friend. I hope that by tomorrow I will feel the benefits of Christina's massage.

Tuesday, May 7, 2013

Six sleeps

Only six more sleeps on our island before we sail to Piraeus and fly to Istanbul. The weather is changing again with a forecast of thunderstorms over the weekend. Clouds are hanging low over Chora.

We drove to the port of Katapola this afternoon in a haze of French as our two passengers discussed future environmental projects for the island. There is a strange disconnection when you understand every fifth word of a dialogue. It is like a bleeped TV show...allowing your imagination to fill in the blanks. It took a full fifteen minutes to realize that they were talking about trees, not rose arbors!

My Greek teacher cancelled our lesson this morning due to some unforeseen incident that occurred enroute home at 5am. No one was injured!...but she was too tired to manage a lesson! Just as well because I had not looked at a single Greek word for  an entire week.

Just when I started to focus on shadows in my drawings, the clouds are descending on Chora.

Sunday, May 5, 2013

Easter Sunday

On Easter Sunday we were woken by the endless ringing of church bells... a beautiful sound! It wasn't until we took a walk through the village at noon that we discovered why the ringing had not stopped. Children had been given permission to ring the bells and were taking turns with the ropes!

Around 2pm we drove to Panorama restaurant in Tholaria for an Easter feast of  goat on the spit, stuffed goat, roasted goat and goat innards! The food was accompanied by loud, off key singing with traditional instrumentation! 

Our group of 2 Swedes, 2 Germans, 2 Canadians, 1 Brit and 1 Greek managed to consume several plates of the delicacies along with a couple of carafes of local wine.

Sitting so close to the music took its toll so we finally drove down to the bay for a swim. It was around 30 degrees and the water was perfect! Afterward we decided to drop in to Christo's ouzeri for a sunset drink. We were welcomed to his table to join in another feast of....goat! Impossible to say NO! So we joined about 20 of his friends for goat on the spit!...quite delicious with a gourmet touch of garlic. The sun set behind us, the fishing boats rocked in the sea and we toasted to a good year ahead! By this time my camera had refused to work so there are no photos of this special feast.

Returning to Chora, we joined the villagers in a festival of live music and dancing. Although there was a table full of food, we couldn't possibly eat another morsel. By 10pm we were ready for bed...full and exhausted!

Easter egg painting

The day before Easter Sunday was dedicated to egg painting and soup making. While Kalliroi was busy in the kitchen with several helpers, I was joined by a dozen egg painters.

After the soup was eaten (post midnight) by about 60 people, each person was given an egg. The challenge was to hit the point of your egg against another person's egg. The one that didn't break was awarded with good luck! So, all of the artwork was destroyed in a few minutes!

Friday, May 3, 2013

A lazy life!

Cats are undisturbed by Easter festivities!

Tour guides

We were tour guides yesterday for Alma and Henrik, two young Swedes who are visiting the island for the first time. Along with Kalliroi and Coralie we led them(on their motorbike) to the villages of Aegiali, Langade and Tholaria in the north. Enroute to Langada we stopped at "the smallest church" on the island for them to hike up and peek inside.

After walking through Langada, we led three of them to the pathway for a walk across to Tholaria. We estimated that it would take them 1-1/2 hours. Meanwhile we drove over and sat with beer, wine and delicious food while we waited for them! It was a gorgeous day. They collected wild oregano and sage along the way, returning with bags full of the scented herbs.

I helped Theo to make a risotto for dinner last night. It was 10:00pm by the time we sat to eat, outside on the terrace because the bar was full  There were only ten of us for this meal.

Today Kalliroi and I shopped in Katapola for the Magarista soup that we will make for tomorrow night. We will probably feed the traditional soup to at least 30 people after midnight, to celebrate the resurrection.

It feels as though the island should sink back into the sea, there are so many people here!

Wednesday, May 1, 2013

May 1st

It is a tradition in Greece to collect wild flowers from the hills and create wreaths to hang over the doorways on the first day of May. John and I went on a flower gathering expedition and were almost blown off our feet at one point. We made the mistake of walking up toward the windmills where the wind was blowing fiercely. Reversing directions, we walked through the back passages of Xhora and collected flowers that were growing from the cracks in the steps.

Hanging from our door.

And at Jazzmin Cafe/Bar.

Cabbage rolls for twenty!

Wow! Cabbage rolls are a hit on Amorgos! One head of cabbage leaves stuffed with rice, raisins, capers and a variety of herbs fed 20 of us last night at Jazzmin. Roasted veggies and a salad made from local lettuce, strawberries and cheese filled the plates.

I spent the afternoon assembling the ingredients in the underground kitchen, at 8pm the pans went into the oven and at 10pm we all sat outside to share dinner. The "Canadian" dinner was enjoyed by all nationalities!

Yorgos enjoys the company of Coralie and Kalliroi
after dinner!