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Sunday, November 15, 2009

The INTERNATIONAL BUDDHIST TEMPLE

TEMPLE GARDEN
This is the garden of the International Buddhist Temple in Richmond, B.C. I've written in more detail about it a year ago in my travel blog, but this past week I paid another visit there so I could do a new story for The Vancouver Guide. This has to be one of the most beautiful places to go on a field trip, yet a great many people have never taken the time to visit here.

This temps is an exquisite example of chinese palatial architecture. The statuary, mosaics, gardens, Worship Halls and many various Buddha shrines are simply amazing. I once heard a man who had been to China say that he thought it was more beautiful than the big temple in Beijing.
MAGNIFICENT GOLDEN BUDDHA
If you want to spend a quiet afternoon meditating and relaxing in lush, exotic surrounds, be sure and go there. It's free, and it's open every day.
ENTRANCE TO THE MAIN GRACIOUS HALL

You can read more details about the Temple in The Vancouver Guide, or in my earlier Blog.

The Temple is open 9.30 to 5:00 pm daily. www.BuddhistTemple.org


BUDDHA WITH OFFERINGS

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HERITAGE SITES IN VANCOUVER


This is the beautiful stone Gothic style Christ Church Cathedral in the heart of Vancouver's downtown. It was built in the late 1800's but in recent years underwent impressive renovations. I attended a concert there recently and was awe-struck by the beautiful interior of the Church.
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Another area of town where there are heritage buildings include this cenotaph at Victory Square. The tall building behind it is the Dominion Building. The cenotaph stands on what was the park grounds of Vancouver's origianal Court House where men signed up to enlist in the Great War. Now the cenotaph marks this place of Remembrance and every November 11 there is a huge ceremony and wreath-laying at Victory Square.
One thing about being a 'Roving Reporter', I learn a lot about my city's history. I had not known the story behind the cenotaph and Victory Square until I went on this field trip to take photos of the wreaths. Then I began to do some research about it and learned that the first stake marking the roads of the new settlement of "Granville" (Gastown) which became the city of Vancouver, was located just at the one side of the the Square. This used to be the heart of Vancouver's financial and legal district but now the area has become somewhat run-down and attempts are being made to gentrify it.




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2010 WINTER OLYMPICS:Venues

This is the outside of the Richmond Oval, the venue for speed skating for the 2010 Winter Olympics. It's an impressive building and I was lucky enough to get a little tour. Unfortunately you're not allowed to publish photos of the interior which is quite spectacular, with a ceiling made of pine-beetle wood. The day we were there, a lot of school kids were skating on the oval. You can still skate there until November 31, and then it will be closed til after the Winter Olympic Games.
Last week they lit up the Olympic sign in Burrard Inlet. Quite a spectacular and impressive show with a backdrop of the North Shore mountains. It's located in Coal Harbour right off the new Convention Centre where the media will be stationed during the 2010 Winter Olympics.
This was my first look at the new convention centre at night, all lit up. You used to be able to walk all around the permimeter of it but now it's fenced off for Olympic security and you can only view it from the street. You can see the Olympic rings just off shore and the lights of North Vancouver.



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FINNS SLOUGH

This is a field trip I went on to visit Finns Slough, a heritage settlement on the Fraser River near Steveston B.C. where a group of Finnish fisherment settled at the turn of the century. There are still several of the family members living in houseboats and shacks at the Slough

You can walk across this board bridge, which is made so the board slats could be removed to allow the fishing boats to enter the slough.
The little shacks can be reached along a narrow path on the other side of the bridge. The residents want Finns Slough to be named a designated Heritage Site. It's an usual place and worth keeping. You can read more about it in The Vancouver Guide
www.planeteyetraveler.com/travel/north-america/vancouver





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STEVESTON, B.C.


These are photos of a field trip to Steveston B.C. where there are many heritage buildings including the old boat building sheds, canneries, and remains of the settlement of Japanese fishermen.

Today Steveston has become a trendy residential area and a good place to eat seafood, or to buy fresh seafood right from the fishermen.
You can read about it in The Vancouver Guide, www.planeteyetraveler.com/travel/north-america/vancouver




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Friday, August 14, 2009

ANAFIOTIKA and MY FAREWELL TO ATHENS


My Friend Giorgos' house in Anafiotika
JUNE 23, 2009
It's my last day here. I leave at 5 a.m the next morning. So I spent the day wandering around some of the places I'd missed. One of my most favorite places, hidden on the south slope of the Acropolis and often missed by tourists, is the little 'village' of Anafiotika.

This collection of typical white-washed cubic houses was built on the slope of the Acropolis by folks from the Cycladic island of Anafi whose village had been destroyed in an earthquake. They came to Athens and worked as cheap labor during the rebuilding of the city after the War of Independance.

You get the feeling you are really in a village, isolated from the bustle of the metropolis. The streets are barely an arm's width, paved with cobblestonoes. The tiny houses are shuttered and have bright bougainvillea spilling over their walls or pots of geraniums and marigolds.


I had a friend, Giorgos, who lived in Anafiotika, and when I first started visiting Greece in 1978, he often invited me to stay with him. Later on, in the '80's, a friend of mine from the States lived there with him for a year. Unfortunately, Giorgos, who was an Australian Greek, died several years ago. So now the house sits empty. But each time I'm in Athens I have to walk by and look, and remember all the times I spent there.



You walk the twisted streets of Anafiotika, and eventually come to a slanting road that leads up to my most favorite viewpoint. I used to go up there often just to sit and meditate. It's quite up there and you can hear the distant sounds of the city. You can hear Athen's 'voice' and feel her pulse. Yes, Athens is a very alive city. And it's that life that has made me love Her so much.

So, on my last day, I went to my meditation place to sit and contemplate the time I'd spent there that summer, reminisce about times gone by, dream about my return.


The view looks down over the red roofs of Plaka, the old city
and out over the sweeping view of the new.
That's Lykavittos Mt. in the background.



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MY LAST DAYS IN ATHENS: Retracing Old Footsteps


TOUR BUS

JUNE 22/09
This was Anna-Britt's last day in Athens and I only had one day left myself. So we set off to retrace old, familiar footsteps around our favorite city. Of course we walked around Plaka, and I always have to stop and peek through the fence of #14 Vironos St where I used to live (and sometimes wish I still did!). Then we went to one of our favorite tavernas for lunch, Kouklis (which we always call "The place of the flaming sausages) on Tripodon St.


ME, AT KOUKLIS TAVERNA

After lunch we went and walked around the new Acropolis Museum and then we decided to do something very touristic. We took the little "Sunshine Express" touris train on a tour around Athen's historical center. This was more fun than we'd expected and worth the 5 Euro we paid for the trip which took about an hour.

We got on the train atAilolou St. by Hadrian's library. The train circles around up to Syntagma Square, along Mitropoleos St. to Monastiraki and past there to Thissiou passing by all the major archaeological sites. It was fun. We felt like a couple of kids. So it was a great way to spend our last day together in Athens.

As always, I was sad to see my friend leave (for Norway) but we'll get together again next year as we always do. We have promises to fulfil to each other: When she finishes her doctorate and I get my novel accepted for publication, we plan to treat ourselves to a trip to Egypt (from Athens.) A dream or a reality? We'll see. But it's certainly a great motivator.


THE PARTHENON



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THE NEW ACROPOLIS MUSEUM


MUSEUM ENTRANCE
(walking over the 'glass' above ancient Athens)
JUNE 22/09
We've waited years for the new Acropolis Museum to open. It seemed as if they've never get it finished as each time they excavated they'd find new ruins below the ground. In the block around the museum site they had torn down some familiar buildings including one of my favorite tavernas, Socrates Prison, and the whole block of apartments where a couple of friends including our friend Graham used to live (right across from the To Kati Allo on Hatzichristou St.)

But finally, this weekend, the Museum officially opened. There's been a lot of grumbling by everyone about the structure which looks very 'industrial', however when they showed the holograms on the east wall, and when you saw it from the helicopter view as I did when watching the ceremonies on TV, you see that the building is designed to compliment the shape of the Acropolis (which is right across the road from the museum). After seeing the opening ceremonies I was anxious to have a look inside.


LOOKING DOWN ON A MOSIAC FROM THE ROMAN ERA

My friend Anna Britt was lucky enough to get inside on Sunday with her museum pass. Unfortunately I didn't have mine with me and need to have it updated. (It's a special pass for scholars and researchers allowing you access into all archaeological sites in Greece). The first couple of days were by reservation only (internet) and the after that, from Wednesday on, there was general admission for only 1 Euro. But the disapointing thing was, I was leaving early Wednesday morning so I'd miss the chance.

We did walk all around the outside, over the 'glass' roofs that they have placed over the three layers of ancient Athens: Byzantine, Roman and Classical. It gives you the feeling of 'flying' as you pass over the ruins. Quite a spectacular experience. I understand they will also be opening up a 'street' where you can actually walk right through on ground level. So by the next time I'm in Greece I'll be able to see what I missed this time.


ANCIENT WELL
The museum is an angualr structure of glass, steel, concrete and marble housing some 4,000 artifacts some of which had once been housed in a museum right on the Acropolis. The main feature of this museum is the Parthenon Marbles, and the famous "Elgin Marbles" now housed in the British Museum. At the opening ceremonies the focus was on these missing pieces that belong with the pediment of the Parthenon. It is hoped that now there is a safe place to keep them, the Brits will return them to Athens. (It was noted that the British representatives did not attend the opening ceremonies.)


REFLECTION IN THE WINDOWS OF THE MUSEUM

So, I've only viewed the museum from the outside. At night you can see the statues lined up on the top floor, bathed in golden light. On the east wall, across from the tavernas on Makgrianni St. there is a display of holograms every evening -- quite a spectacular show to watch while eating dinner or enjoying a glass of wine. I will wait with great anticipation next time I visit Greece for a chance to look inside. As I've seen it from the time the first bulldozers started to clear the land, the museum has been a part of my visits to Greece for a long, long time.



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A LOVELY WEEKEND WITH MY FRIENDS


DINAZ

SUNDAY, June 21
Dinaz and I have been friends since 1994. I called her "The Persian Princess" because she is the embodiment of one of the Persian Princesses in my novel. The name has stuck. In fact, she is Parsi from Bombay but has lived in Greece for many years as she was married to a Greek/Italian man from Bombay. She is now married to another lovely Greek man named Andreas. When I go to Athens I always enjoy spending some time with them, and I'm always welcomed into their home.

The day after our journey to Euboeia we spent a lot of time together just talking, catching up on news, and reminiscing about our times together in Athens as well as our dear friends Roberto and Graham who have passed away. In the afternoon we went to the seaside and had some delicious gelato at an icecream parlour.


SUNSET FROM DINAZ'S HOUSE
That day we also watched the opening ceremonies of the new Acropolis Museum on TV. It was a lot like watching the Academy Awards with all the red-carpet guests arriving and being interviewed. Of course it was all in Greek so I didn't understand much of what was said.


HIBISCUS, in Dinaz balcony garden.

I spent the night there, a very relaxing time with good friends and great camaraderie.
I can hardly wait to see them again and think of them all the time. These are friends who will remain forever. Our lives are entwined and we have so much history to share.


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