Road Trip to New Orleans 2016

When Marilyn and I decided to take a road trip there were a few choices. In the end, we decided to drive to New Orleans with numerous stops in between.  On Monday May 31, 2016, we headed to the US via Buffalo – our first stop The Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in Cleveland.

Soon after crossing the boarder, we realized it was Memorial Day in the States. All along our route, we experienced American patriotism with flags flying from every window and porch. At one stop (for an ice cream cone) we happened upon a parade of pick up trucks all adorned with American flags. Memorial day truckWe didn’t book any hotels/motels in advance so there was no urgency to be anywhere on a particular day. We also took advantage of discount coupons at the State Welcome Centres.  Except for our two night stay in New Orleans, our motels cost on average between $50-$75 per night USD. This included a hot breakfast at each place we stayed and most  had a pool and fitness room. Rock and Roll Hall of Fame with MarilynWe made it to Richfield Ohio on the first night which left us only a short drive from Cleveland and our first stop – The Rock and roll Hall of Fame. It was well worth the visit. What a great trip down memory lane.Rock and Roll insideThe next day we arrived in Louisville Kentucky for a tour of the Muhammad Ali Centre. This too was a great museum filled with information about Ali’s childhood, boxing career, humanitarian work, and his life overall. Needless to say, we were shocked to hear of Ali’s death just two days after our visit to his hometown. Muhammad Ali CentreWhile driving through Kentucky, we came upon the numerous bourbon distilleries south of Elizabethtown. This is also the vicinity where Abraham Lincoln was born although he only lived in this area until he was 7 years old.  We decided to stop for a tour of one of the bourbon distilleries and it turned out to be quite interesting. There are two reasons why bourbon is famous in this particular part of the south – spring water and lots of corn. Bourbon tanksHuge vats of bubbling yeast mixture are at the start of the brewing process. Once it has fermented, the bourbon is stored in barrels in huge house-like structures. These buildings contain up to 2500 barrels of bourbon. Whenever a barrel is removed from one side of the building, it is necessary to remove one from the other side as well. These building have been known to tip completely over sideways. In addition, there are lots of stories of fires destroying thousands of kegs of bourbon. Once a fire starts, it is almost impossible to put it out. Water spayed on bourbon merely creates flaming rivers which can spread to the next building.

Inside a Bourbon Storage building

Inside a Bourbon Storage building

Bourbon storage building

Bourbon storage building

Up to this point, our GPS had been extremely helpful in finding the back road sites. However, she started to go a bit crazy in Kentucky and eventually just died. Turns out she only had maps for Canada and bordering States. We were planning on buying a newer model anyway, so we decided to find a Best Buy (which would have been much easier with a GPS). As luck would have it, we saw a huge Best Buy sign just as we got near to Bowling Green Kentucky. Problem solved (temporarily as it turned out). Cave entranceThis picture above was taken at Lost River Cave near Bowling Green, Kentucky. There are a lot of caves in this area but we chose to explore this one because you get on a boat and travel down a river inside the caves. There are a lot of stories about the caves so it turned out to be a history lesson as well as a great adventure.

Next stop…Nashville.Grand Ole Opry outside bobI’m not much of a country music fan but Nashville is famous and live music is great no matter the genre. We took a tour backstage of the Grande Ole Opry which was quite interesting. In 2010 the Opry was flooded and it was interesting to learn about the damage done and the repair work required to get it opened again. M at Grand Ole Opry doorsGrand Ole Opry auditoriumAfter finding a motel, we enjoyed a swim in the outdoor pool before walking down to Broadway Street. This is where all the musicians and singers play in hopes of making it big. Every few feet there is another bar with live music. The street is packed with people and it has a great “party’ feel. We met some folks from Norway as well as a few Americans while making our rounds. Band playing NashvilleThere really isn’t any place like this in Canada but the US has a few cities where music is the major industry. These include Memphis, Austin, New Orleans, etc. The picture below is a view of Broadway in Nashville from a roof top bar. This particular place had three levels and a live band playing on each level. Broadway St NashvilleKeeping with the themes of ‘history’ and ‘music’ our trip took us to Memphis and a tour of Graceland. I’ve wanted to go to Graceland ever since Paul Simon released his Graceland album in the mid 80s. There really has never been another performer like Elvis. In truth, Graceland was smaller than I imagined although the house is set on a beautiful piece of land. The home is furnished much like Elvis left it and also serves as a museum to his accomplishments and awards. He too was a generous person supporting numerous worthy causes. Graceland sign

Graceland the house

Graceland back of house

Graceland LivingroomWe took a number of back roads during our trip and one site we found was the Greenwood Plantation in Louisianna. Until the civil war, 750 slaves worked the cotton and sugarcane fields on this 12,000 acre plantation. This particular plantation has been used as a setting in 6 movies so now we have those to watch as well. Plantation HomePlantation Home insideAfter touring through this majestic home, we were able to wonder around the grounds. However, the tour guide suggested we keep an eye for snakes. “What kind of snakes?”, I asked. “Oh just about every poisonous snake you can imagine”, she replied. We didn’t walk all that much….took the car instead.Plantation bob in car

Plantation groundsOne more overnight stay and we were on our way to our final destination – New Orleans. Just one problem…our brand new GPS wouldn’t turn on in the morning. Once again we were looking for a Best Buy. Fortunately, we saw one right next to the highway on the outskirts of Baton Rouge. We got a hassle free exchange and continued on our way.

So far our accommodation had been inexpensive and gas prices were unbelievable. We filled up a couple of times for $2.00 per gallon….yup…per gallon. On our travels we heard the Astor Crowne Plaza hotel was a good place to stay in New Orleans and another couple who lived in New Orleans told us about Preservation Hall. Crowne Plaza HotelThe picture above is of the street in front of the Crowne Plaza hotel. There is no parking at the hotel so it is necessary to use the valet. However, it is a complete zoo on the street as people try to stop and unload their luggage. What was amazing is that nobody seemed to care that the street was jammed up in this way.

Our room was quite lovely but much more expensive than any other place we had stayed. It cost us $301 CND for the Saturday night and $207 CND for the Sunday night. Valet parking was $42 per day.

The French Market

The French Market

The hotel was indeed in a great location on the edge of the French Quarter. We actually walked around this and some other areas several times, taking in all the great music which was happening everywhere. To be honest though, Bourbon street was not our favourite. Although it is quite famous, it is dirty and smells. We much preferred Frenchmen’s street for music and food as it was much nicer. NO band playingAs I mentioned before, we heard about Preservation Hall and decided to check it out. We are so glad we did. In fact, we went back the next night as well. Preservation Hall was established in 1961 to “preserve, perpetuate, and protect,” traditional New Orleans Jazz. It’s a small venue and nothing fancy but the music was amazing.

Inside Preservation Hall before the music started

Inside Preservation Hall before the music started

They asked that no pictures be taken during the performance so the above picture was the best I could get. NO Jackson's squareNew Orleans is beautiful city and all the people working in the bars and restaurants were extremely friendly, happy, and helpful. Marilyn tried some of the local dishes but I didn’t have the courage to try foods named craw fish, gumbo, jambalaya, etc. Still, we ate well and enjoyed the uniqueness of southern and Cajun food. NO houseWe took a bus tour of the city which took us to areas where the devastation from Hurricane Katrina was the worst. It is sad to think of how many lives changed due to the storm. The house pictured above is called a ‘double shotgun” home. The homes in this area of the city are often long and narrow due to the width of the yards. Since taxes were collected based on ‘frontage’, people chose to build this way.  In these homes, one room leads into the next from the front to the back of the house. This home is a ‘double’ shotgun home because it has a wall down the middle and houses two families.

Cemetery in New Orleans where bodies are buried above ground

Cemetery in New Orleans where bodies are buried above ground

Although we drove a different route home, we didn’t really stop much on the return trip. We had entered the States through Buffalo and returned to Ontario via Detroit. We were gone for 10 days and traveled through 11 different States. We met some nice people along the way, heard a lot of great music, and learned a lot of history. Traveling in the US isn’t much different from being in Canada but there are certainly some differences when it comes to the southern states. Y’all cum back now!

 

 

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Summer’s End

I wouldn’t normally be so pessimistic as to call August 27th the end of summer but it is darn cold out and the dock in Hawkestone is empty. School has also started for Marilyn and I’m back at teaching. It does seem like ‘summer’ is over.

We had an amazing summer with lots of travel, time with family, and several music events. Our last trip was to SK to attend Malcolm and Jen’s wedding, visit with friends and relatives, and spend some quality time with Marilyn’s mom.

Pelicans on Blackstrap Lake

Pelicans on Blackstrap Lake

We rented a car at the airport which I had previously reserved. The guy said we have a ‘Soul’. I wasn’t sure what he meant but Marilyn said ‘We’ll take it”. After a bit of clarification we did decide on a Kea Soul. Apparently the Pope used it when in Korea so it only made sense that we have one although I might have preferred a car called ‘heart’.

Our Mustard Soul

Our Mustard Soul

Yup….it was mustard yellow. At first, I wasn’t too keen but it actually has some nice features and drives well. I really started to like it when I could find my car in the mall parking lot without having to sound the horn.

After a nights sleep in Hanley, we drove to Saskatoon to help Margie host the rehearsal dinner in her back yard. It was quite nice and we got to see the wedding party and some of Jen’s family.

Rehearsal Dinner

Rehearsal Dinner

On Friday we drove into Saskatoon again to help with deliveries and some other tasks. We drove into Saskatoon on Saturday for the wedding and again on Sunday for the traditional gift opening. Even though we hadn’t gone anywhere, we racked up over 900 km on the rental.

Malcolm and Jen and the wedding party

Malcolm and Jen and the wedding party

Malcolm and Jen have been dating since they were 14 years old. They have grown up together, been best friends, and own their own home. Now they are married and make no secret about the fact that they are ready to start a family.

my selfie

my selfie

The reception and dinner was a lot of fun with a great meal (Jen’s family are Italians), lots of conversation with relatives and strangers, and a dance that went well into the night.

Reception and Dinner

Reception and Dinner

The reception was held in the Western Development Museum and everyone was able to wander throughout the museum after the dinner. The museum is set up like an old western town and we’ve been to it a few times in the past. It’s a must see when visiting Saskatoon.

The Main Street of the Western Development Museum

The Main Street of the Western Development Museum

We stayed in Hanley the entire time with Marilyn’s mom. She has done a great job with her yard and has a lot of lovely flowerbeds and a vegetable garden. We also played Chinese Checkers which is quite popular in Hanley.

Front of Marg's house

Front of Marg’s house

Marilyn and her mom playing chinese checkers

Marilyn and her mom playing chinese checkers

We went out to the cabin on Section 10. Marg painted the floors since we were there but not much else has been done. It actually looks a bit abandoned. A bird got into the cabin and made a nest on the ceiling fan so there was a bit of mess to clean up.

The cabin now

The cabin now

Marg needed an old board for a project at the Senior’s Centre in Hanley, so I drove out to the homestead where there are still two of the original buildings where Ed was born.The road isn’t a serviced road so I took my time avoiding deep ruts and looking out for wet spots. The soil here is called ‘gumbo’ and when it gets wet it is like being stuck in a drum of oil. The rental car managed okay but I was a bit worried.

On the road to the homestead

On the road to the homestead

The whole time we were in SK it was very hot and this day was no exception. I was drenched by the time I got the board off which was held on by several long nails at each stud.

The homestead

The homestead

Most people don’t appreciate the beauty of Saskatchewan. I too had driven through it many times without really stopping. Now I love the Province and wish my camera could capture what my eyes really see. Here’s a couple of pictures but they don’t do it justice.Prairie Landscape 2

Building and fieldOn the last night of our trip we went out for dinner with two of Marilyn’s friends from high school  (Heather and Cynthia) and Cynthia’s husband Jim. It was at a place called Earl’s which is very popular. The food was great and we had a great time. At the end of the dinner, Jim and I sat at one end of the table and visited while Marilyn, Cynthia, and Heather sat at the other end doing a lot of laughing.

Dinner with Jim, Cynthia, and Heather

Dinner with l to r Cynthia, Heather, Marilyn, Bob, Jim

Right after we returned we went to Amy’s cottage with Amy, Larry, and Amy’s son Jeremy. We have been going to this cottage for many many years and it is always a highlight of our summer. The weather was great and we got to swim, jump off the rock cliffs, slide down the waterfall, and climb Bear Mountain. We also had a few drinks…..yeah I’m pretty sure we did.

The dock at Amy's Cottage

The dock at Amy’s Cottage

The Jumping Rocks

The Jumping Rocks

I’ve written a few blogs this summer to summarize some of our adventures in 2014. This is my diary of sorts but I also hope it introduces my readers to some new information about places and people. Yup, it seems like summer is over and we are harvesting our garden to prove it.

Marilyn preserving tomato sauce

Marilyn preserving tomato sauce

Bob getting apples ready for freezing

Bob getting apples ready for freezing

I hope there are lots of sunny days left because there is an awful lot of work to do before it turns cold.  Time will fly by I’m sure and the next think ya know it will be Christmas. I hope I have a few interesting blogs before then though.

HOW MANY FROGS CAN YOU SPOT IN OUR POND?

pond

Now can you see some?

Now can you see some?

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Happy 65th and other stuff

We arrived back from Japan and both Marilyn and I experienced some serious jet lag after being up for more that 24 hours straight. We should have been eager to go right to bed but our bodies kept saying it was only mid afternoon. As a result we stayed up through most of the next night as well. That was Wednesday and on Thursday July 31 we had tickets to see John Couger Mellencamp at the casino with Dave and Leanne.

Dave and Leanne relaxing in our gazebo

Dave and Leanne relaxing in our gazebo

Mellencamp was a bit of a disappointment. He was having trouble with his voice so his concert only lasted an hour with no encore. That didn’t stop us from having fun though. We all did some gambling and drinking and got home around 3am. We took a taxi out to the casino at a cost of $55 one way and that was a very good idea and made us very good role models for any youth who may have noticed.

Mellencamp was also a lot older looking than I imagined he would be. I guess I just got his youthful image stuck in my head. Still it was great to hear some of his hits performed live such as Hurts So Good, Jack and Diane, Pink Houses.

John as I remember him

John as I remember him

Couger Mellencamp today

Couger Mellencamp today

Marilyn and Leanne went to bed when we got home but Dave and I stayed up until the sun came up over the lake. They had to be in Whitby for 9am for their son’s game (lacrosse I think). Wow….such troopers. Meanwhile I got to do my second “all nighter” in three days.

By the way, John Couger Mellencamp was born in 1951 and those songs I mentioned were hits in 1982. All in all he had 22 hits in the top 40 throughout his career.

Smokey Robinson at Casino Rama

Smokey Robinson at Casino Rama

On Friday we went back to the casino to see Smokey Robinson and were blown away by his band, back up singers, dancers and over-all broadway type show. His voice is as good as ever it seems despite him being 74 years old. He sang for more than two hours and did so many of his hits.

On Tuesday (my birthday) Marilyn and I went to Niagara on the Lake for three days but first I want to talk about another group we saw when we came back home. The Moody Blues….. famous for songs such as “Tuesday Afternoon” and “Nights in White Satin” were on tour and we went to see them on August 8th. Once again we got to hear some ‘old dudes’ still rockin’. It was a great concert that had the older audience on its feet.

Moody Blues in their youth

Moody Blues in their youth

Moody Blues today

Moody Blues today

For those who are interested, the Moody Blues started back around the time of the Beatles and had their first big hits in 1967.

MY BIRTHDAY

For my 65th birthday Marilyn and I traveled to Niagara on the Lake for three days. What a story-book village NOTL has become. It is full of beautifully restored buildings from the early 1800’s, has a charming down town with great restaurants, and everyone seems so friendly…..cars stop to let you cross the street.

Just one of many beautiful building in NOTL

Just one of many beautiful building in NOTL

We stayed at a bed and breakfast which Marilyn arranged. It is called Amarula House and has three rooms all named after African animals. Turns out the owners, Dean and Lynette are originally from South Africa. We got upgraded from the Zebra Room to the Cheetah Room after Lynette had a cancellation. It was really quite lovely and spacious. There was also a pool but we were too busy to find time for a swim.

Inside the Cheetah Room -going out for dinner

Inside the Cheetah Room -going out for dinner

There were three American women staying in one of the rooms and we had some great conversations. They were all elderly, traveling companions, and described themselves as feminists and ‘left-wing’ Obama supporters. Needless to say we got along fabulously. All of us had attended the same play – Arms and the Man by George Bernard Shaw so we also discussed the play in great detail.

One of three theatres of the Shaw Festival

One of three theatres of the Shaw Festival

I read a lot of George Bernard Shaw when I was in University but this is only the second time I’ve been to the Shaw Festival. Shaw (1888 – 1950) was, of course, an Irish playwright, novelist, journalist, etc. who was an ardent socialist and often wrote in support of equal rights for men and women and other important social topics.

George Bernard Shaw

George Bernard Shaw

We rented some bicycles on Wednesday and did a self-guided wine tasting tour. We had all these free tasting coupons so we mapped out our route and started out around 10am (it’s never too early to drink fine wine I always say). What a great way to enjoy the Niagara wine district. The land is also flat so it is not a strenuous bike ride from winery to winery. We actually traveled about 30-35 km and thanks to a network of great bicycle paths, the only thing we really had to worry about was other people on bikes who were also a bit tipsy.

Approaching Peller Estates Winery

Approaching Peller Estates Winery

One of many stops along the way

One of many stops along the way

We also took a little side trip to see the Falls. Since living in Livingstone Zambia which is 12 km from Victoria Falls, we often refer to Niagara Falls as perspiration ..ha ha. Niagara Falls has grown a lot since we were there last but it is still just one big amusement part. Bob and Marilyn at falls

Niagara hype is everywhere

Niagara hype is everywhere

We did drop into the Fallsview Casino just to see how it compared with Rama. I played Roulette for about 15 minutes, won $250 and left. I seem to be on a roll these days. My last four trips to a casino over the past three months has netted me over $2600.

Although it was my birthday  (which was officially celebrated from August 5-8 this year), I think Marilyn got it mixed up. On the way back to Hawkestone we stopped at the Apple Store in Newmarket where she bought a new Apple Mac Book Pro for her graphic design course. Do you have any idea how much they cost?……wow. Mac Store

We had a laugh at the Apple Store because it was the second place in a row that seemed to be run by kids. Yup everyone there is pretty young. We had the same thing happen at a brew pub in Niagara region which also seemed to be run by people barely old enough to drink.

MORE MUSIC

Hawkestock at Rob and Kelly's

Hawkestock at Rob and Kelly’s

Rob and Kelly held their annual Hawkestock music fest at their house on August 9. As always, it is great music, good food, and lots of fun conversation.

Music and dancing at Hawkestock

Music and dancing at Hawkestock

We are flying to Saskatoon on Wednesday for a week. Malcolm (our nephew) and Jen are getting married on the 16th. It will be nice to see everyone again. I’ll write a blog when we get back so you can check back if you so desire.

HOPE EVERYONE IS HAVING A GREAT SUMMER.

 

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Having fun in the Heat in Japan

We arrived in Japan on Thursday, July 17 to discover just how hot it gets in Japan in the summer. The temperature was over 30C and a few days later it got as high as 37C. Fortunately, Sean had some good plans in place to help us deal with the heat. After our first night with Sean, Makiko, and Julian, we rose to catch a train to a large annual beer fest featuring hundred’s of craft beers.

Sean and Marilyn enjoying some local beer

Sean and Marilyn enjoying some local beer

Inside a large stadium, there were displays and ample supply of beers for sampling in a glass given at the entrance. It didn’t take long to forget which beers were our favourites although we did go back to some more than a few times. Several Japanese people came up to engage us in conversation despite the language problems. I guess beer helps break down such barriers no matter  where you are.

Making new friends

Making new friends

Sean, Makiko and Julian have moved to a different location since we visited in 2012. There home is now in the city of Wakayama. It is a short walk to Julian’s new school and a short drive to Makiko’s University. Sean has a longer commute now. On Sunday, we spent the afternoon playing tennis with Julian at his school grounds. He’s been taking tennis lessons and is quite good. We also went to his tennis club on Sunday afternoon and played doubles. It was quite hot in both locations.

Playing tennis with Julian at the school

Playing tennis with Julian at the school

Grampa tennis at schoolOn Monday, we took a train trip with Julian and Sean to a beautiful beach in a coastal town called Shirahama. The beach has the most amazing white sand and it was great to cool off in the water throughout the day. Shirahama also has a lot of other attractions so we took in a few of these as well.

Shirahama Beach

BeachBeach Marilyn and Julian in the sand Beach Sean and JulianWe stayed two nights in Shirahama which gave us time to take in some of the other sights. Energy Land is a very cool place for both kids and adults. It has a lot of “optical illusions”, fitness challenges, etc. Having Julian along made it even more fun. He’s a great little traveler and he has such a great sense of humour. energy land plane

Grandma isn’t really this tall…….Energy world

We aren’t really off the groundenergy world 2

……and Julian isn’t really inside a mouth.Energy world 1

 

Across the street from the hotel was an Onsen (or Sento). These names refer to public baths with a hot springs. I took advantage of this each morning to limber up the muscles and take part in a piece of Japanese culture. These baths date back several hundreds of years before people had their own private baths at home. However, the tradition continues.

Upon entering the bath, the women’s section is denoted by red cloth over the door to the right whereas the men’s section has blue cloth over the door. Inside, there is a changing room with lockers. A further room behind a sliding door has a row of showers with small stools on which to sit, small basins, soap, etc.

Inside a public bath

Inside a public bath

Once you have soaped yourself up and rinsed off, you enter a hot springs to soak. Each morning when I went, the place was quite busy and it seems quite a social experience. The hot springs were actually on the second floor of the building and the glass windows opened up to a view of the beach. If I lived in the area, I would definitely buy a membership.

Sand Cliffs and Pirate Caves

A short drive brought us to two tourist attractions.  The Senjojiki sand cliffs have been eroded over thousands of years and reminded me a bit of Peggy’s Cove in Nova Scotia with the waves crashing onto the shore. Sand cliffs 1 sand cliffs Sand cliffs M S J

Sandanbeki Dokutsu (Sandanbeki Cave) is located inside the Sandanbeki Cliff, a limestone rock with 50m high cliff faces protruding into the sea near Sandan town. The cave inside the rock, a karst cave enlarged by the work of the waves, was once the hideout of pirates. It was once the secret base of the Kumanosuigun pirates, who hid their ships inside the cave.

Pirate Cave

Pirate Cave

The cave is located at sea level, but it is entered from the plateau above. A 36m high elevator brings visitors down into the cave, which is actually a kind of pirate theme park. While the museum is more or less a presentation of legends and Medieval weaponry, the cave itself and the closeness of the sea makes the visit a unique experience.

Inside the Pirate Cave

Inside the Pirate Cave

Engetsu Island

Engetsu Island is an interesting rock formation at Shirahama. The rock formation is made of sandstone which makes it vulnerable to erosion. When we were there, work crews were doing some shoring up of the centre to keep it from falling apart.

Engetsu Island

Engetsu Island

 

Heads in billboardJulian has been such fun while we travel. Unfortunately, Makiko had to work until the weekend. We’ve eaten most meals at home but have also enjoyed some fantastic dining in some very unique Japanese restaurants.

Conveyer Belt Sushi Restaurant

These restaurants offer a huge selection of sushi dishes that go past your booth on a conveyer belt. You can also order food by pushing buttons and these dishes come to your table on a different conveyer belt. When finished, you toss your plates down a shoot where they are counted. Each dish is basically Y110 so the total bill is the number of dishes times Y110. Sushi belt restaurant

Cook Your Own

There are several restaurants where you can cook a variety of dishes on your own right at your table. We ate in one in Kyoto where it was like a fondue and the one in the pictures below has a hot plate built into your table. Lunch

Lunch Sean

Sushi, of course is the popular food in Japan but like all cosmopolitan cities, there are lots of other foods as well. Italian is also popular. The display below is something you see outside of many restaurants. These ‘rubber’ molds of various dishes actually look quite appetizing.

Also not real food

Not real food

Not real food

Also not real food

There are many, many castles in Japan and we visited a few in 2012. However, there is also one in Wakayama just a short walk from Sean and Makiko’s. This particular castle dates back to the fifteen hundreds. It is situated on a large tract of land right in the middle of the city with a moat and plenty of trees.

Wakayama Castle

Wakayama Castle

On Friday we traveled to Kyoto. It is one of the busiest tourist areas in Japan so there is some English spoken but still not that much. Makiko’s parents also drove to Kyoto to spend time with us. We always have such a fun time when we meet up as we did in 2012 and when they visited us in Hawkestone a few years ago.

From l. to r. Sean, Marilyn, Makiko, Seiko, and Susumu

From l. to r. Sean, Marilyn, Makiko, Seiko, and Susumu

We spent Friday evening together and on Saturday we went to the Sushimi Inari Shrine.

Fushimi Inari Shrine (伏見稲荷大社, Fushimi Inari Taisha) is an important Shinto Shrine  famous for its thousands of vermilion tori gates which straddle a network of trails behind its main buildings. The trails lead into the wooded forest of the sacred Mount Inari, which stands at 233 meters and belongs to the shrine grounds.

Fushimi Inari is the most important of several thousands of shrines dedicated to Inari, the Shinto god of rice. Foxes are thought to be Inari’s messengers, resulting in many fox statues across the shrine grounds. Fushimi Inari Shrine has ancient origins, predating the capital’s move to Kyoto in 794.

Map of Shrine grounds

Map of Shrine grounds

There are numerous torii gates which mark the approach and entrance to the shrine. At this Shrine they are made of wood and painted bright orange and black. These days, individuals or companies can purchase them and get recognition on them. The larger ones cost Y1,300,000 (approx. $13,000).

Torii gates in long rows showing the paths

Torii gates in long rows showing the paths

One of many fox statues

One of many fox statues

Shrine

Bob and marilyn at shrine

It was a long hot climb to the top of the mountain

Taking a rest on the way to the shrine at the top

Up, up and more up

Up, up and more up

Grandpas at the top

Grandpas at the top “We made it”

Just some of the strange things on the streets of Japan

Just some of the strange things on the streets of Japan

Sean has been an excellent tour guide and we just keep seeing more and more of Japanese culture. We went to a huge summer festival where we saw the most amazing fire works display. Tens of thousands of people attended so there was a major traffic jam getting back home. The many people who rode bikes had the best idea.

Waiting for the fireworks

Waiting for the fireworks

 

Just a few of the many bikes ridden to the festival

Just a few of the many bikes ridden to the festival

We also went to an aquarium in Osaka – apparently the largest in the world. It was indeed huge and it is hard to believe there are so many different fish all over the world as well as a lot of very strange animals.

Julian touching sharks and stingrays

Julian touching sharks and stingrays

Giant deep sea crabs -mmm good

Giant deep sea crabs -mmm good

Chrysaora Melamaster

Chrysaora Melamaster

Cassiopea sp. jelly fish

Cassiopea sp. jelly fish

Just outside the Aquarium we rode the giant ferris wheel. There are a few such ferris wheels in Japan but this has to be one of the tallest. It gave us a great view over the city as we took one of the glass bottom cars.Ferris Wheel

Family photo

family photo 1

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My week in the Dominican Republic

Getting ready to go to the Dominican

Getting ready to go to the Dominican

We’ve had one heck of a lot of snow and cold weather in Hawkestone this year so when the opportunity came to head south I took it. Paul’s brother Peter has been staying in an apartment in Juan Dolios for most of the winter and Paul decided to visit for two weeks. I was only able to go for one week but getting some sun was worth it even though a week is a short time to experience a foreign country. Still, it was a great time and I did get to see some of the southern coastal cities and countryside. I was also keen to experience “Carnival” which was taking place in Santo Domingo.

Arriving in La Romana to 30C

Arriving in La Romana to 30C

Peter’s apartment is located  between Santo Domingo and La Romana on the south coast. The area has a permanent population but many people come for weekends from the larger cities, especially Santo Domingo. Therefore, the beaches are quiet throughout the week. Guide books suggest you ‘bring a book’  if you are a tourist planning to stay in the area.

 

The view from my room

The view from my room

The apartment building has four units but only two were being rented out and the one had a person who left frequently for days at a time. Each night the windows were left wide open and (as you can see) the ocean was so close, the waves ‘sang’ me to sleep. What a great location on a beautiful beach which was practically ours alone.

View from the livingroom

View from the livingroom

Although my visit was short, we packed a lot into a few days. Peter, knows his way around and understands the culture as only someone can who has spent a long time on the island and he was an amazing “tour guide”. His friend Mav, who is Haitian but has been a resident of the Dominican for several years, also spent most of his time with us while I was there. This was so helpful in making connections by bus for our various day trips.

Mav (originally from Haiti)

Mav (originally from Haiti)

The bus system in the Dominican is excellent. We never waited longer than 5 minutes and for a few pesos we rode to the cities of Boca Chica or Santo Domingo.

Waiting for the Carnival Parade to start in Santo Domingo

Waiting for the Carnival Parade to start in Santo Domingo

I avoided the water from taps or ice cubes and stuck to drinking mostly Presidente beer. As a result, I didn’t have any health problems and had a nice buzz on at the same time. I’d say that is very clever traveling.

Carnival is held each weekend during the month of February and culminates with the giant festivities and parade on the last weekend of February. Santo Domingo has the largest parades and we attended it after taking in some of the sites around this big city. Colonial square has a lot of museums and historical sites and boasts the ‘firsts’ in the ‘new world’….first cathedral, first city, first university, etc.

Carnaval costumes Carnaval costumes 2 Carnaval costumes 1A group of kids on roller blades were entertaining the crowd at Carnival until the police came and made them go elsewhere.

Roller bladers

Rollerbladers

Rollerblader jumping over a row of other kids

Rollerblader jumping over a row of other kids

Of course, Christopher Columbus was the first European to visit the Dominican and Haiti. He called the island “La Espanola”. He soon enslaved the local peoples from the ‘Taino” tribe. After so many died from the diseases of the Spanish as well as hard labour, Columbus needed more workers. That’s when he started bringing slaves from Africa. The Taino people were eventually completely wiped out.

First house built by Columbus

First house built by Columbus

Chris's office inside his 'palace'

Chris’s office inside his ‘palace’

View of the port from Chris's house

View of the port from Chris’s house

The first Cathedral of the new world was  started in 1512 and completed in 1540. It is an impressive building and one marvels at the construction considering the tools of the day. However, I also couldn’t help feel for the many slaves who must have toiled and died during the construction. The Cathedral is even bigger than I’m showing in the pictures below. There were chapels constantly added over the years which extend out from the side walls.

Cathedral from the outside

Cathedral from the outside

Cathedral from the inside

Cathedral from the inside

We went to Santo Domingo on two occasions – once for Carnival and once for the hell of it- so we actually got to see a lot of the city. There are the typically crowded ‘market’ streets, poor areas, rich areas, and tourist areas. Traffic is a bit of a nightmare and I never did quite figure out how they decided who had the right of way apart from who was the biggest, the fastest, or the bravest. Here are a few pictures I took around the city.

China town market in Santo Domingo

China town market in Santo Domingo

Side street in Santo Domingo

Side street in Santo Domingo

Presidential palace/legislature buildings

Presidential palace/legislature buildings

IMG_7457The Taino people eventually rebelled against the colonists and one such uprising was headed by a chief called Caonabo. In one of the museums we visited, we saw early Taino artifacts and a statue of Caonabo. He was eventually captured by Columbus and sent to Spain along with other captured Taino people. The boat carrying Caonabo capsized on the way and Caonabo drowned before he could be put on “display’.

Bronze depiction of Chief Caonabo

Bronze depiction of Chief Caonabo

We also took two trips to a much smaller ‘beach’ town named Boca Chica. Sadly, Boca Chica has a bad reputation for prostitutes. It’s not the prostitutes who are so bad but the creepy older male tourists who come for the sex. Everywhere, there are a lot of old white guys with young attractive locals on their arms. There are also a few older (mostly unattractive) white women with young Dominican men as well but not nearly as many.

Boca Chica's main street at night

Boca Chica’s main street at night

Boca Chica has a beautiful beach and lots of interesting shops and restaurants. At night, the street is closed and all the restaurants put out tables and chairs on the street. There is lots of music playing and a large crowd of mostly locals in the main section of the town.

The beach at Boca Chica

The beach at Boca Chica

On our second visit to Boca Chica at night, a friend of Peter’s named Victor acted as our guide to take us to some “salsa bars”. This took us out of the downtown area and into some truly ‘local’ areas. We stopped at a a pool hall where I got in a couple of games and also provided a few laughs for my Dominican opponents who forgot to tell me about a few ‘local’ rules to the game of eight ball. I thought I had won and would have in Canada. However, I wasn’t in Canada was I?

The Pool Bar

The Pool Bar

Mav and Victor

Mav and Victor

 

Lots of motor cycles in the Dominican

Lots of motor cycles in the Dominican

Like I said, I saw a lot thanks to Peter and Mav but it was still only a small portion of the island. The weather was hot and sunny every day and we did a lot of drinking, tanning, swimming, snorkeling.

The apartment from the beach

The apartment from the beach

Paul in the window of the apartment

Paul in the window of the apartment

On the roof to watch the sunset

On the roof to watch the sunset

Peter and Paul at the back of the bus (where they belong..ha ha)

Peter and Paul at the back of the bus (where they belong..ha ha)

Our beach

Our beach

Peter on the beach in Boca Chica

Peter on the beach in Boca Chica

Thanks Peter and Mav…..it was a fun and interesting week away from the harsh winter of 2014.

Sand crab having fun under my beach chair

Sand crab having fun under my beach chair

Replenishing our fluids

Replenishing our fluids

 

Holding down the fort

Holding down the fort

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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New visitors and more fun on Naxos

Agia Mamas is one of the oldest churches on Naxos

Agia Mamas is one of the oldest churches on Naxos

We all take a lot of pictures on our digital cameras but it always surprises me just how many I take each week on Naxos. Today, I downloaded 331 pictures starting with our hike in Melanes last Saturday with Manolis and Maria and ending with our drive to the Naxos airport with Rob and Kelly.

Hiking with Manolis and Maria

Hiking with Manolis and Maria

Manolis and Maria have been friends of ours since 2000. Marilyn and Maria walked each day on the beach when we lived here before. Manolis is a doctor who now has his practice on Paros (the island next to Naxos) but they still make their home in Naxos. They took us out for the day last Saturday for a hike which lasted all afternoon and ended with an amazing meal in Melanes (a small village).

At Kourounohori with Manolis and Maria

At Kourounohori with Manolis and Maria

Rob and Kelly and Amy and Val arrived on Monday after having spent two nights in Athens. We picked them up at the airport and, after dropping off their bags at Rena Valetta, we could hardly wait to start showing them around. There is so much to do and see on the island and we knew our time was limited.

l. to r. Amy, Val, Marilyn, Kelly and Rob at the airport on Naxos

l. to r. Amy, Val, Marilyn, Kelly and Rob at the airport on Naxos

When Marilyn and I travel, we are always interested in meeting people in different countries. Our friends from Canada had a great time this past week getting to know our friends on Naxos who have been so generous with their time and have opened their homes to all of us. Here’s a few pictures which will try to capture some of that generosity.

OUR FRIEND NIKOS OPENED THE CASTLE AND GAVE US ANOTHER TOUR.

Nikos and Marilyn

Nikos and Marilyn

Singing in the Castle grand room

Singing in the Castle grand room

Amy on the Castle balcony

Amy on the Castle balcony

VISITING WITH STEPHANOS AND KATARINA IN FILOTI

While driving through Filoti we saw Stephanos and Katarina out for a walk and stopped to say hi. They immediately invited us back to their home for food and drinks. Later, Stephanos took us to the old home of Katarina’s late aunt which is located at the very top of Filoti.

Rob and Stephanos talking about gardening

Rob and Stephanos talking about gardening

Descending to a room below in Katarina's late aunt's old home

Descending to a room below in Katarina’s late aunt’s old home

Group photo from a roof top high above Filoti

Group photo from a roof top high above Filoti

SPENDING TIME WITH ANDREAS AND NELLY

Everyone had a lot of fun meeting Andreas and Nelly and they had fun with our friends from Canada. Andreas and Nelly invited us to a picnic at their country garden where they have grape trees, fruit trees, olive trees, and chickens. Nelly cooked an amazing meal over an open fire while we all sat around enjoying the tales of Greece as told by Andreas.

 

A picnic hosted by Andreas and Nelly

A picnic hosted by Andreas and Nelly

We invited Andreas and Nelly over to Rena Valetta for dinner

We invited Andreas and Nelly over to Rena Valetta for dinner

A night of celebration and song at the home of Andreas and Nelly

A night of celebration and song at the home of Andreas and Nelly

OUR FRIEND KATHY OPENED UP HER ‘FOLK ART MUSEUM’ AND GAVE EVERYONE A TOUR

Kathy, who came to Naxos on holiday from Australia, has spent the past 37 years on Naxos. It is a familiar story – meet a Greek guy, fall in love, get married, and start a family. Kathy and her husband started a museum a few years ago which is open for tourists in the summer high season. Kathy opened it for us and gave a tour of so many interesting artifacts and stories.

tour of the folk art museum

tour of the folk art museum

Kathy's home

Kathy’s home

We took everyone to Moni Fotodoti which is the monastery Marilyn and I visited earlier during our stay. The last time we were disappointed to find the doors locked since all churches were open in 2000 when we lived here. We’re not sure what has changed but it seems many are now locked (if only for the off season). However, we had the most incredible luck. A woman from the village Damakos, which is about 2 km away in the valley, was there lighting the candles which she does each day. She let us wander around inside.

Inside the monastery

Inside the monastery

Moni Fotodoti

Moni Fotodoti

Dome from inside the monastery

Dome from inside the monastery

Moni Fotodoti from the path to the village of Damakos

Moni Fotodoti from the path to the village of Damakos

On Wednesday, Rob and Marilyn played a gig at The Jazz Bar to a full house of revelers.

Rob and Marilyn at the Jazz Bar

Rob and Marilyn at the Jazz Bar

Jazz Bar Crowd

Jazz Bar Crowd

 

The weather has been nice but a bit windy and therefore it has felt cooler. However, we did get to the beach where everyone got a chance to hunt for Naxos eyes and on another day we spent most of the day on the beach when the sun shone all day and there was no wind. Our white skin was a bit sensitive to the rays after a Canadian winter.

Hunting Naxos Eyes on the beach

Hunting Naxos Eyes on the beach

We drove to Filoti on Thursday to a community celebration which takes place each year just before lent. There was free wine and food and lots of Greek dancing.

Celebration in Filoti

Celebration in Filoti

Young girl dressed in traditional clothes for the Filoti celebrations

Young girl dressed in traditional clothes for the Filoti celebrations

The stores and restaurants are starting to get ready for the tourist season which will start in April. A man named Nikos was working inside his jewelery and gift shop while we were walking through old town. All four women bought bracelets with naxos eyes and then decided to take a photo.

Bracelet photo shoot

Bracelet photo shoot

The Naxos Eyes bracelets

The Naxos Eyes bracelets

Amy and Val caught a Ferry to spend two nights on Santorini before flying back to Canada. After they left, we took Kelly and Rob on a hike to Kourounohori which is an old Jesuit retreat which is ruins. Manolis and Maria took us there the week before and we were amazed at the structures. It is really starting to crumble and some people want to restore it but apparently they can’t find out who owns it. It could be Jesuits who came from anywhere in Europe.

Jesuit retreat also used as a school for mathematics

Jesuit retreat also used as a school for mathematics

Kelly at Kourounohori

Kelly at Kourounohori

Exploring the Jesuit Retreat built several hundred years ago.

Exploring the Jesuit Retreat built several hundred years ago.

Rob and Kelly left for Athens this morning (Saturday March 9) and will fly to Canada tomorrow. We are staying on Naxos until Tuesday in order to say goodbye to our friends and tidy up Rena Valetta. We arrive back in Canada on Wednesday March 13th.

Apollo's Gate at the entrance to Naxos port

Apollo’s Gate at the entrance to Naxos port

While we were here, Marilyn’s uncle Wayne from Toronto, passed away. Marilyn jokes that she always had a crush on her uncle Wayne and Mel and Wayne said Marilyn has always been their fourth daughter (they have three others – Lisa, Leanne, and Nicole). We have spent many wonderful times with the whole family and were so sad to hear about Wayne’s death. Marilyn was able to record a song which is being used as background music for slides which are being shown at the funeral. We wish we could be there with the family but will visit as soon as we get back.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Dumper or Dumpee

Dionysus God of Fertility and wine and divine intoxication

Dionysus God of Fertility and wine and divine intoxication

Of all the gods which have existed and do exist, I think the Greek gods were the coolest. That’s because they interacted a lot with humans. I really wish they hadn’t got bored and left Earth. It isn’t the same without them.

There are so many great stories and one of my favourites involves Ariadne, Theseus and Dionysus.  I especially like the possible twist to the the story in terms of who got dumped. Theseus, of course, is well known for the time he slew the Minotaur on Crete. Greeks had been bringing humans for sacrifice to the Minotaur for many years and quite frankly Theseus was getting a little tired of it. Unfortunately, Theseus didn’t really have a plan and would have ended up as hamburger except for one thing…………

Theseus and the Minotaur

Theseus and the Minotaur

This isn’t the best picture of the battle between Theseus and the Minotaur but Theseus was naked when he entered the maze and I didn’t want my blog to offend anyone. Theseus was …..well let’s just say….manly.  Anyway, it was actually Ariadne who helped Theseus. She was the daughter of King Minos and half sister to her ugly brother the monstrous Minotaur. Ariadne gave Theseus some golden thread to unfurl as he went through the maze. After he killed the Minotaur he used the thread to get back out. Okay, not all that amazing as a plan but it worked.

Ariadne had a good life but........

Ariadne had a good life but……..

There are probably a lot of reasons why Ariadne betrayed her father (the King) and her (monstrous) half brother but as you can see in the picture above, she looks kinda bored. When she saw Theseus’ big ship she wanted to get off the Island of Crete so part of the deal was that Theseus, if successful in killing the (monstrous) Minotaur, would take Ariadne as his lover. So far so good………

The monstrous Minotaur

The monstrous Minotaur

Now here’s where it gets interesting. While sailing home, Theseus docks at Naxos Island. This could easily be to get some food since Naxos is an agricultural island. It’s unlikely it  was for any tourist attractions because as far I know they hadn’t been developed yet. However, there is another theory. It is possible that Theseus stopped at Naxos to get Ariadne off his boat after realizing it was a bit crowed for the two of them. Well, that’s Theseus story anyway. But take a close look at the picture below and you might guess where this story is going……

Who's that up in the clouds?

Who’s that up in the clouds?

That’s Dionysus sneaking around up in those clouds and it is quite possible Ariadne, seeing a chance to hang out with a god may have actually dumped the mere mortal Theseus. Maybe it was Theseus who ended up crying. Regardless, Ariadne ended up with Dionysus and Theseus (possibly distracted) forgot to raise the white sails so hid father committed suicide ….but that’s another story.

Bizantine Church

Bizantine Church

I spent most of the past week marking mid-term papers but Marilyn and I got out for a drive on Thursday. We discovered this Bizantine church after a short hike from Apiranthos which is a village in the middle of the marble mountains. There are so many of these ‘treasure’ dotted around every part of Naxos.

Inside one part of the church

Inside one part of the church

Many of these old churches are in ruins. Some have frescoes which were plastered over by invading cultures and competing religions but the plaster is now falling off and once again revealing the paintings.

Another part of the church

Another part of the church

What was really exciting on Thursday though was finding a castle I’ve been searching for during the past few weeks. I know it isn’t easy to lose a castle but there was one I visited a lot when we lived on Naxos in 2000 and I just couldn’t remember where it was. We took a narrow dirt road off the route to Mount Zas and lo and behold there it was. I particularly like the medieval look and spooky tree in the front.
On road to Fotodoti

 

Castle of Fotodoti

Castle of Fotodoti

Unfortunately, they have done a lot of renovations to this castle which is also a monastery. In 2000, it was always open but now it is locked. Still, its a cool structure and a fun drive and hike. Castle at Fotodoti close up Castle at Fotodoti with MarilynRob, Kelly, Amy, and Val will be arriving on Monday. We’ve been trying to decide where to take them since there is far too much to see in just a few days. I’m sure they’ll be pleased with some of the excursions we have planned. I’ve reserved a min-van so we can all travel around the island together.

 

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More visitors…more fun

Olive Tree

Olive Tree

Ed and Nancy arrived last Monday by boat after touring the sites of the Greek mainland. We had a fun drive around the island on Tuesday under cloudy skies. When we were close to our hotel at the end of the day it started to rain and hail and there was quite a thunderstorm throughout the night. However, Wednesday was a beautiful warm sunny day for more adventuring.Artemios Church

During our last visits, we hiked to an old church called Agia Mamas and have been looking for it on a few drives this time. We thought we found it when we hiked a long way to the church you see above. Turns out it was not the one we were searching for but it was a lovely hike. Unfortunately, the door had been affixed with a new lock so we couldn’t get in. On the way back to our car, we met Sam who was tending his sheep and he told us he had a key to the church so we decided to hike back again. Turns out there was a definite language problem…..Sam didn’t have a key and was quite surprised to find the new lock on the door. So we did the hike twice and had a good laugh about it.

Sam leading the way back to the church

Sam leading the way back to the church

Marilyn and Nancy were both taking lots of pictures of flowers blooming in the countryside. Some of Marilyn’s ‘flower’ photos are scattered throughout this blog. Mariilyn flowersThere are many hiking trails on Naxos. Many are up mountains and through valleys which connect the villages. These paths have been used for hundred’s of years. We also like to stop at various historic sites and old churches. Every drive is filled with exciting things to see.

Another ancient church

Another ancient church

A church cemetery

A church cemetery

In Greece it is customary to exhume the dead after one, three or seven years. If the flesh has completely dissolved, the bones are washed in wine and reinterred. But if the body still has flesh on it………..I think I’ll let you look that up on your own. There’s also the part about drinking wine from the scull of someone with whom you had unresolved conflict but I’m not even sure if that is really true. Marilyn flower 1

I’ve posted some pictures of the marble mountains in my previous blogs. We stopped with Ed and Nancy at a place where they have huge blocks of marble being cut into slabs of different thickness.

Huge blocks of marble

Huge blocks of marble

While hiking it is common to find lots of goats and to lose track of the path. In the picture below I took a short cut only to come upon a fence which I tried to pull back so I could continue on my way. I got stuck for a while which made Marilyn glad she hadn’t followed me.Bob stuck in the fence

Being watched by the goats

Being watched by the goats

As most of you will know, Greece is experiencing some very difficult times. Most people blame politicians and banks for the troubles which have led to high unemployment and economic collapse. Many people worry about the stability of the country. On Wednesday, the two largest unions called for a national strike day. There was also a protest in the town square in Naxos.

National day of protest

National day of protest

Still, many of our friends here are optimistic for things to get better. We finally met up with our dear friend Nikos who, in 2000, was the reason we ended up staying on Naxos for 4 months. His family own the Venetian Castle in Naxos and he is a big booster of Greek culture on the island. He is opening a new bar in May which he took us to see. After that, he opened up the castle for us and took us on a tour. This was ‘special’ because it is usually closed in the off season and our very personal tour can’t be booked through any travel agent.

Castle Tower

Castle Tower

The castle was constructed in 1207 by the Italian named Marco Sanudo who invaded and captured the island and named himself Duke of Naxos. His ancestors ruled much of the Cyclades until 1564 when the Turks took over. The castle is filled with ancient relics and artifacts and in the high season it is a ‘museum’ offering tours.

Standing on the tower balcony

Standing on the tower balcony

View of the port from the castle

View of the port from the castle

In the dungeon Nikos has set up a concert area where he organizes concerts. We enjoyed a drink of rak-o-mello (raki, honey, and cinnamon) while Marilyn played a few songs. This is where we celebrated Nikos’ wedding in 2000.Castle dungeon Marilyn playingHere are a few more pictures throughout the castle.Castle inside piano room Castle inside tour Castle dungeon 3We also got to meet Nikos’ daughter whom we hadn’t seen since she was a baby. She is quite a lovely young lady who has a very good command of the English language. She is also taking piano lessons but was too shy to play for us.

Nikos' daughter Andrea

Nikos’ daughter Andrea

A few months ago, Nikos was putting a new entrance into the castle off the patio when a worker discovered what appeared to be a door in the side wall. It was visible because of the way the sun was shining that particular day and time. Nikos removed a few stones and discovered there is a room which is under the current castle chapel. In the early writings, it is mentioned that Marco Sanudo was buried in ‘the chapel outside the castle walls’ but this chapel has never been discovered. Now Nikos thinks he may have discovered the burial site of Marco Sanudo. Nikos removed the few stones so we could see inside……very cool. We can hardly wait until he explores inside which he intends to do in the next few months.

Is this the ancient burial site of Marco Sanudo?

Is this the ancient burial site of Marco Sanudo?

As if our day wasn’t already full, we headed down to Alyko beach to search for Naxos Eyes which can sometimes be found after a storm (which happened the night before). Nancy found 5, Marilyn found 2 and I found 3 which was a good haul. We then went out to the southern point of the island and watched a beautiful sunset. Sunset at Alyko 1

Sunset at Alyko 2

We finished our day on Wednesday with a great meal and some Naxos wine at a nearby restaurant. The food is great on the Island and every restaurant gives huge portions. It is not uncommon for the restaurant owner to offer a free dessert after we’re already stuffed. This time we got a free liter of wine and then free cake. There is a lot of wine produced on Naxos and it can be bought in most stores in water bottles. We quite liked the wine we were drinking so we bought two bottles to take home with us.

Red wine purchased at the restaurant

Red wine purchased at the restaurant

Ed and Nancy enjoy scrabble so we’ve already played several games. As you can see from the picture below, Ed has an unfair advantage (in his lap). Just kidding.Playing scrabble We’ve managed to get together with a lot of old friends but not all. A group of expats have arranged a music night and asked Marilyn to play. These are a lot of the same people who enjoyed coming out every Wednesday when Marilyn played each week at Bar Vegerra in 2000/2001. Nikos is also planning to arrange a music night.

Having coffee with the expats

Having coffee with the expats

Marilyn flower 2

I realize this is already a long blog and I many have lost some of my readers by now. Honestly, all this has happened in only seven days. A lot of our time was spent hiking and also exploring old town in Naxos. We also spent a day with Giannis and Maria when they took us to their son’s country house high in the hills. The pictures below provide a pretty good summary of the day……

Morning hike in Potamia

Morning hike in Potamia

lunch at Niko's country house

lunch at Niko’s country house

Picking lemons with Giannis

Picking lemons with Giannis

Driving back from Niko's through the stream

Driving back from Niko’s through the stream

Hiking Mount Zas in the late afternoon

Hiking Mount Zas in the late afternoon

Hiking Mount Zas

 

Cave where Zues was raised as a boy

Cave where Zeus was raised as a boy

On Sunday night, Marilyn played in old town at The Jazz Bar for a few hours. A lot of our old friends came out to hear her and also join in a sing-a-long. At the restaurant before going to the Jazz bar, both and Ed and I thought this calzone pizza for two was worth a picture.Dinner for two

Marilyn playing at the Jazz Bar

Marilyn playing at the Jazz Bar

Here are a couple more pictures for those of you who just can’t get enough of Greece.  The first is a shop in Hora which Marilyn calls “The Stinky Cheese Shop”. It is where we buy our cheese and some spices and is full of really cool stuff. The next picture is of Nancy sitting in Zeus’ cave contemplating ancient history perhaps.

Stinky cheese shop

Stinky cheese shop

Nancy in the cave

Today (Monday Feb 25th) we said goodbye to Ed and Nancy at the Naxos airport. We had such a great time with them and they love adventures as much as we do. This coming week, we have not guests visiting us but on March 4th we are looking forward to having Amy, Val, Rob and Kelly on Naxos. There are still so many places to explore on Naxos it is hard to know if we will take them to things we’ve just seen or go to some of the other interesting sites. The weather is getting better now so we’ll hope it stays warm for their time on Naxos.

Farewell to Ed and Nancy

Farewell to Ed and Nancy

 

 

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Exploring the Island and “Old Town” Naxos

naxos-map

Naxos is the largest of the Cyclades but still easy to drive its entirety over a couple of days. Apallonis on the north shore is only 54 Kilometers but it takes a couple of hours due to the many mountain twists and turns. It doesn’t help that I’m older, wiser, and more fearful of driving off the mountain than I used to be.

Vicky and Kelly on road to Apollonas

Kelly and Vicky and I drove to Apollonis for lunch and stopped along the way at various sites. The Agias Tower is accessible by a path and you can climb up the stairs to what used to be a home and lookout. This wouldn’t be allowed in the high season but there isn’t anyone around to keep people out.

Agias Tower on the North Shore

Agias Tower on the North Shore

Vicky on the stairs of Agias Tower

Vicky on the stairs of Agias Tower

When we first visited Naxos in 2000 and stayed for 4.5 months we did a drive to Apollonas at night. In front of the shops a large group of men were hauling nets in from the sea filled with small fish and emptying the nets on the paralia. It was quite exciting to watch and reminded us of the smelt season in Hawkestone.

High Above Apollonas

High Above Apollonas

Apollonas is also the location of one of the four Kouros located on Naxos Island. We call this one “The Jay Leno” Kouros because it has a huge chin just like Jay’s. Jay said he found that kinda funny. The Kouros is a huge figure carved from marble. The four which exist on Naxos were abandoned at some stage for one reason or another and have been lying where they are for hundred’s of years.

Jay Leno Kouros

Jay Leno Kouros

On our way back from Apollonas we drove to the Sanctuary of Demeter. We had tried to find it earlier in the week without success. However, we did manage to locate it this time thanks to a guy who spoke no English but could point really well.

Demeter's Sanctuary

Demeter’s Sanctuary

Marilyn and Kelly arranged a scavenger hunt in “Old Town” Naxos which involved finding a headless statue, a donkey, a cat, and a lot of other fun stuff. Everyone had to take pictures of what they found off the list. I won but was disqualified when the judges discovered my lemon tree was really a lime tree, my donkey was a horse, and the cat really didn’t have a sparrow in its mouth. Oh well.

Setting out on the scavenger hunt

Setting out on the scavenger hunt

Old Town Naxos

Old Town Naxos

There’s a lot to see and do on Naxos and sadly we ran out of time with Kelly and Vicky. Vicky left on Thursday Feb 14 and Kelly left Feb 16. We had a great time together and were sad to see them go. Ed and Nancy arrive Monday so that will be fun. We did manage to get back to Alyko beach one last time to search for Eyes of Naxos. We found four. Here’s what they look like.

Naxos eyes from Alyko Beach

Naxos eyes from Alyko Beach

During the scavenger hunt we came across a few houses for sale in the Old Town and later checked out the prices. This one below (which seems to need a bit of work) is priced at 390,000 Euros. I don’t think it is going to sell considering the Greek economy.

House for Sale

House for Sale

SAYING GOODBYE TO VICKY AT THE NAXOS AIRPORT

At the Naxos Airport

At the Naxos Airport

At Rena Valetta we have one room for our bedroom and one for our community kitchen. It works out great.

Our room at Rena Valetta

Our room at Rena Valetta

Our Kitchen

Our Kitchen

We played a lot of scrabble with Kelly and will do so with Ed and Nancy I’m sure since we all love the game. We’ve also started playing Tavoli again which is a Greek game played on a Backgammon board. It’s a fast game and every bar has a Tavoli board.

Having a game of Tavoli

Having a game of Tavoli

Yesterday we had one of the hottest days since our arrival on Naxos. At the south end of the island there is a huge abandoned resort which was well underway to being developed before the construction stopped. Now, after many years, nature is reclaiming it. I love wondering around it and I took some pictures yesterday.

Abandoned Resort 2Abandoned ResortAbandoned Resort Bob'sAbandoned Resort tunnel

This parrot has quite a vocabulary and mimics words if you stop to talk to it. It’s also trilingual….English, Greek, and Bird

That's Marilyn on the left

That’s Marilyn on the left

Lush green valleys will soon be producing the vast amount of food grown on Naxos

Lush Green Valley

One of the many hidden beaches on the island

Hidden beach

On the roof of Rena Valetta with Vicky, Kelly and Marilyn

On the roof of Rena Valetta

 

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The Beauty of Naxos

This is our third visit to Naxos Island in the Cyclades having lived on the Island for 4.5 months in 2000/01. We were picked up at the port by Giannis who is our landlord for the next six weeks. We also got to see our old friends Andreas and Nelly as well as Katarina and Stephanos, Maria and Manolis, and Dimitris.

Ferry from Athens to Naxos

Ferry from Athens to Naxos

In 2000 we came to Naxos because it was one of the few island with Ferry service after there had been a boat accident which killed 82 people. Our intention was to stay only one night but we went to some live music and dancing at the Kastro, got to know the owner who invited us to his wedding, and ultimately ended up staying over four months. Naxos is known as the ‘agriculture’ island and food is grown here for distribution around the Cyclades. It still has an active tourist component but not as big as other islands in the Aegean.

Port at Paros Island

Port at Paros Island

After six days without Ferry Service our boat from Athens to Naxos was quite crowded. For only a few Euros extra we booked into the first class lounge which meant we were guaranteed a seat. As it turns out, it was well worth it for the 6 hour boat ride.

Marilyn and Kelly in "First Class"

Marilyn and Kelly in “First Class”

As soon as we arrived we made arrangements to rent a car from Markis at Vision Car Rentals. The normal price is 25 Euros per day but we know Markis from previous visits and he gave us a car for 150 Euros for the entire month. That’s only 5 Euros per day. Having a car is fun on the island as there are so many ancient sites to explore and beaches and villages to visit.

Marble Mountain

Marble Mountain

Naxos also has an abundance of marble and every floor, stairway, counter top, etc. is made from Naxos marble. We first saw this marble mountain in 2000 and were interested to see how much smaller it is now after being cut away. The marble is removed in huge blocks and taken to a location where it is sliced into slabs of different thicknesses. There is marble discarded everywhere. (If you look closely at the picture above, you can see a truck at the bottom of the marble to give you some idea of the scale).

Hunting for Naxos Eyes

Hunting for Naxos Eyes

We traveled down the coast to one of my favourite beaches to look for Naxos eyes but the wind has been strong and it was a bit chilly near the sea. The “Eye of Naxos” is a natural jewel shaped by the sea and sand in the oval opening of a shell, and is one of the lovliest gifts you can give to a friend as it is believed to bring luck and good fortune. I’ve always found a few when staying on Naxos although most tourists only hear about them. They are made into jewelery and the shops in Naxos have lots on display in rings, ear rings, bracelets, etc. I’ll post a picture once I find one (on my secret beach).

Kouros

Kouros

Exploring the narrow streets of Hora (Naxos Town)

Exploring the narrow streets of Hora (Naxos Town)

 

Today, we all went on a hike with some local residents. Each Sunday, a group gets on a bus and travels to a location, hikes for a few hours and then gets picked up by the bus at the end of the hike. It isn’t a tourist event but something we know about from our previous time here. They are always interesting and often follow paths used hundred’s of years ago by mules to connect one village to the next. Our hike took us to the ruins of a Venetian Castle built around 1400AD. Here are some pictures of our climb and descent.

Hiking to Venetian Castle coming down Hiking to Venetian Castle 1 Hiking to Venetian Castle 2 Hiking to Venetian Castle 3

Hiking to Venetian Castle 5

Hiking to Venetian Castle 4

Vicky will be flying back to England on Wednesday and Kelly will leaving for India a couple of days later. Ed and Nancy arrive from Alberta on the 18th. It’s been windy and a bit chilly but 18-20C is still nicer than the weather in Canada. Tomorrow we are going to do some more driving around the island and Marilyn and Kelly also made up a scavenger hunt which we’ll do throughout the old town of Naxos.

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