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Thursday, September 27, 2007

SUNSET AND MOONLIGHT ON THE RIVER


As we sailed out of Burrard Inlet, around Point Grey toward the Fraser River, this was the dramatic scene I captured as the sun set.
I'd never imagined I'd one day sail up the Fraser River so this was quite a thrilling part of the day's cruise. Here's a little tug pushing a log boom up the river.
And then! The most fantstic ending to our perfect day...a big full moon shining down over the River.
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CRUISING BURRARD INLET

We left off some of the passengers at Deep Cove and sailed back up Burrard Inlet, under the Second Narrows Bridge that connects Vancouver with North Vancouver...

and past the city skyline to the Lions Gate Bridge that connects Stanley Park with West Vancouver.....
Vancouver has a beautiful sky-line. In the foreground are is the sail-like structure of the Canada Place convention centre and the docks for cruise ships.

The day was growing late but we continued our cruise all the way to Richmond where the yacht harbour is located.
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CRUISIN' ON UP THE INDIAN ARM

Here's one of our pilots, Sita, steering the boat up the Indian Arm.

The Indian Arm is one of the gorgeous scenic places around Vancouver. There are many waterfalls tumbling down the mountain sides.

The serene beauty of the landscape made this one of the lovelist trips I made this summer. What a treat to cruise with Sita and Mike and their friends!
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CRUSING UP INDIAN ARM


This summer some friends invited me to join them on a cruise up the Indian Arm, one of the fjords off the Burrard Inlet near Vancouver.
We started out from Deep Cove, eleven of us on a 35 ft. cruiser, for a fun day.

This is an old Hydro station on the way up the Indian Arm. It's quite a beautiful building set in this lovely mountain scenery.

At the end of the Indian Arm is the lovely Wikaninish Inn which, I believe, is still used for weddings and get-aways. We didn't go into any of the docks, but anchored out and had a barbecue right in the middle of the fjord.
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Tuesday, September 25, 2007

A RAINY DAY IN AMSTERDAM

On my way home from Greece, I had an 8 hour lay-over in Amsterdam and wanted to spend most of it looking around the city. Unfortunately when I arrived there it was raining and cold and after leaving the 37+ temps of Athens it didn't take long before I was soaking wet and freezing so I had to return to the airport to wait out my time for the homeward flight.

I did get a little peek though, and one of the first things I saw when I walked out of the train station was this bike parking lot. Amazing!

This journey was really partly a 'canal trip' because I'd started out in Venice and ended up in Amsterdam. This is a view of one of the canals. In spite of the rain the photos turned out not too badly. But I wish I could have seen more of the city.

Here was an interesting little pub or bistro. I know there's lots of places like this in Amsterdam which I'd love to explore. So I've decided that the next time I'm Athens-bound I'll take a little stop-over. Maybe I'll be lucky and it won't rain!
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ATHENS: SOME FAVORITE VIEWS


This is the Temple of Hephaestus in the Agora.
I think this is one of the most beautiful temples in Greece, and so well preserved. You can get an idea of how the Parthenon was before the roof got blown off by looking at this lovely building. The temple was built on the west side of the agora near where the foundaries and metal-work shops used to be. It was dedicated to Hephaestus, god of the forge, built about 449 BC by one of the architects of the Parthenon. It has 34 columns and a frieze on the side depicting the twelve labours of Hercules.


It doesn't matter how many times I have seen the Parthenon, it still gives me a thrill. They've done a lot of restoration work on it over the past few years as the marble was deteriorating. And there is still a lot of scaffolding around the structure, but it's interesting to take pictures of it from various angles. It was built around 400 BC and was the largest Doric temple ever completed in Greece. Unfortunately, during the Greek/Turkish wars part of it was accidently blown up as it was being used as an ammunition storage depot.
And later, the famous friezes were taken away by Lord Elgin. Now there's a new acropolis museum being built and the Greeks are trying to get those marbles back from England.

This is a view of the Acropolis from just behind the Pnyx Hill and it's one of my favorite views. I used to live just below the back slope of the Hill, in Plaka, and every day I would look up there and marvel. The "high city" was occupied from Neolithic times and people lived on the acropolis until the late 6th century B.C. After most of the buildings were reduced to ashes by the Persians on the eve of the famous Battle of Salamis (480 BC) Pericles set out to rebuild it. He transformed the Acropolis into a city of temples which has come to be regarded as the zenith of Classical Greek achievement. Interestingly, from where I took this photograph, the hill that was formerly the "deme of Melite"(the site of my birthday sunset picnic) was the location of the houses of the famous generals and orators such as Themistocles and Meltiades.
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BACK IN ATHENS

After my trip to the islands, I went back to Athens for a couple more weeks of visiting friends and the local places of interest, such as the Zappeion and the National Gardens where I like to go for a shaded walk on hot, hot afternoons.

Or to climb the hill below the Acropolis and stroll through the narrow lanes of little Anafiotika, the tiny village built above Plaka.

Athens always amazes me. I can look at this view out over the terra-cotta roof-tops of Plaka toward Lykebettus and no matter how many times I see it, I marvel. I don't think I'll ever tire of Athens. It's my second home. And my heart is there.
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OUR AMORGOS 'MIS-ADVENTURE'

Like Naxos, Amorgos has some very spectacular scenery. The road winds along the cliff-edge with breath-taking views of the sea below. The bus service isn't so great there, as far as trying to time things to make connections. We wanted to see the famous monastary carved into the cliff and the day turned into quite an ordeal. Looking back at the photos, though, I realize there were some fabulous Kodak moments. Yes, the sea really is that colour!
This is the famous Moni Hozoviotissis which we made a special trip to see. It's an 11th century monastary perched percariously on a cliff overlook the sea. A few monks still live there all year round. We had to walk up from the highway where the bus dropped us off, and climb a steep stairway. When we reached the monastary I discovered you had to be totally covered with a SKIRT, no - trousers wouldn't do! I had come all that way and couldn't get in! After waiting inside the shaded entry way for ages, a woman came down the steps and offered me her towel to wear as a skirt. But by that time the sanctuary was closed so I never did get to see inside. Then, when we made our way back down the stairs and along the road to where the bus stopped we discovered we'd missed the bus! That meant a long slog up the highway in the intense mid-day heat (not a speck of shade to be found) to the next town where we had to resort to a cab to get down to the town of Katopolo in order to find a bus back to Aegiali. By the end of that day we were not in the best of moods. However, a cooling swim, a relaxing time on the beach, and we got over our 'disappointment' of the day.

One of the best rewards of our island stay were the beautiful sunsets.
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AMORGOS

I'd always wanted to visit the island of Amorgos and through the contact of a travel agent who worked there I was encouraged to come so my friend A.B. and I took the boat over from Naxos. This is a view of the harbour at Aegiali taken from the luxury resort up on the mountain side.
We were housed in a pension room right on the beach. This is a view of Aegiali town just as the sun was setting. We liked the little town but felt slightly 'abandoned' by the tour agent who, we had expected, would find us better accomodations and show us some hospitality which didn't happen. Aegiali was a hippie haunt in the late 60's and '70's and isn't a hot tourist spot, although it's a pretty little bay and the beach is quite nice there. We also liked the people we met and had a meal at one particularly nice beach-side taverna near our pension. Actually, if I had stayed longer, I'd have made it my 'hangout'.

Here's the beautiful sunset view from our balcony. (The view was nicer than the room!)
You can read all about our Amorgos adventure (or mis-adventure) in my blogs written while I was there.
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CERAMICS AND CITRON

On the tour around Naxos we stopped at a ceramics shop. Here's the ceramist demostrating how a little clay bird whistle works. It's fashioned just like clay whistles were made in ancient times for children to play with. There were also some attractive pots and other ceramic objects which were tempting to buy. But how to transport them home?

This was the Kitron distillery. The kitron (citron medica) looks like a big lumpy lemon. It has a thick rind and unlike a lemon, yields little juice. Until the Byzantine era it was the only kind of citrus fruit growing in Greece and it's believe that Alexander the Great sent it home from Persia as the ancient Greeks called it a "Median apple". Citron trees are fussy about where they grow, however they have been thriving on Naxos for centuries. Although the fruit is not very edible, the Naxians preserve the rind in syrup. They also put the aromatic leaves of the tree to good use by distilling it into a drink called kitoraki a kind of raki made from the leaves and grape skins. They also make a liquer called "Kitron" which comes in three colours and potencies: the white is the strongest, the yellow a bit sweeter and the green, which is delicious, has the least alchohol. It goes very well with fish dishes. It's a specialty of Naxos but I found a bottle of it in a wine shop in Athens so I have a bottle here which I bring out on special occasions.
A pretty display of kitron bottles, all shapes, sizes and potencies!
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TOURING AROUND NAXOS

One of the best ways to see Naxos is to take the 'round the island' tour by bus. It's a large, mountainous island and the scenery is spectacular. I wanted to post some here but most of my scenic views are on a movie I took. Along the way you stop at various villages and some sites that have been abandoned over time like this ancient church where, during the Turkish occupation of the 1400's, there was a 'secret school' where the Greek children were taught their own language and history (which had been forbidden by the Turks).
There are some abandoned villages on Naxos. Many were abandoned due to pirate raids. The tour guide explained that children of Turkish/Greek parentage were neither accepted as Muslim or Orthodox and a great many of them turned to piracy. On my earlier trips to Naxos I got caught up in this feeling of 'abandonment', also relating it to Ariadne having been abandoned by Theseus on this island. This time I didn't have quite the same feeling as there seems to be more activity in these remote villages, although we were told that the young people are are leaving for the city so in fact, soon they might become 'abandoned'.

This is the little port of Apollonas which is apparantly very popular with people from Athens as a summer resort. The beach here isn't very appealing and at the other side are rocks with surf pounding in from the sea. But there's lots of fishing boats and some nice fish tavernas along the shore.
You'll find a number of interesting archaeological sites on the island. This ancient marble quarry is walking distance from Appolonas. Here is a gigantic abandoned Kouros statue which apparantly had cracked when the sculptor was working on it. There's a couple of these abandoned kouros on the island.
This one is dated to the 7th century BC. It's 10.5 meters in length and who know how much tonnage?

Naxos is one of those islands I know I'll return to several times. There's lots to see and do there besides lying around the beach. It's an agriculturally rich island famous for it's potato crops, vineyards, olive groves, figs and citrus. Only on Naxos do they make the liquer called "Kitron" from the leaves of a tree much like a lemon tree which was first introduced to the Mediterranean in about 300 BC. The ancient Greeks called it the Median apple, and apparantly it was Alexander the Great who first sent it back to Greece, no doubt along with other botanical treasures he'd sent his old teacher Aristotle.
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NAXOS BEACHES


My friend and I stayed at a beautiful resort with a studio apartment at Irea Beach on Naxos. It wasn't too far from Naxos town and there is a good frequent bus service. This was the beach at Irea in front of our hotel, taken on a quiet morning before the tourists came to claim their beach chairs and umbrellas. It's a nice family beach and there are tavernas all along the shore where you can relax for dinner or cold drinks.
I think my favorite beach of all is Plaka Beach. The last time I was in Naxos, a few years ago, I camped at Maragas Beach, which is also excellent, right near Plaka Beach. From the studio at Irea you can walk here in about 15 minutes. I came early in the morning and there wasn't a soul. I recall my first visit to this beach (there were no umbrellas or beach chairs then) it seemed like I had been cast away on a tropical island. Fantastic! Even with the beds and umbrellas and a few more people than before it's still idyllic.

And there's nothing like an island sunset! I took this from a little taverna near Maragas Beach where I recall having a lovely sunset (solo) dinner on my last visit there. Even a solo traveler can't help but feel romantic in such a place!
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NAXOS: ARIADNE'S ISLAND

My friend A.B. and I went to Naxos Island for a few days. I'd been there on a couple of other previous occasions, usually camping, and I've always been impressed with this island. Here's where, according to the legend, Theseus abandoned Ariadne after they had fled the labyrinth at Crete following the earthquakes and tidal waves that destroyed Santorini. Here she languished only to be carried off by Dionysos, the god of wine. (And they do make good wine on Naxos to this day!) This is a view of the town. Where the crane is visible, is the old Venetian castle which is under reconstruction. And this is the walk-way out to the little island where the Portals loom over the harbour.
This is the Portals of the unfinished Temple of Apollo, Naxos famous landmark.

There is a great deal of Venetian influence in Naxos and some of it can be seen by these vaulted streets. Up in the old residential area of Kastro, where the Venetian castle is located, you can also see the Lion of St. Mark on some walls and Venetian family coats of arms on doorways. There's a Venetian museum too, although on this trip I didn't take the time to visit it.

Naxos is one of the largest Cycladic islands and well worth a visit. I have lots of excellent photos and will put up some more of them on my blogspot. In particular, the beaches of Naxos are spectacular!
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