Monday, 29 July 2013

Je ne veux pas travailler

Well I don't have to I am retired. Love this song, it is ironic and funny. It came out 20 years ago but it has kept its freshness.

I have also finished reading two other books and started on two others.

I finished the book by Prof. Donald Savoie, Whatever happened to the Music Teacher which tells the tale of how our democracy in Canada has been transformed since 1970 and is now a one man rule with the veneer of Democracy and free elections. Savoie is a well know University Professor and he has written extensively on government operations, Cabinet, the machinery of government and its transformation from the era of Policy driven and Cabinet consensus to a one man show and the continuous measurement of processes. The problem for me is that I saw this happening during my career and know well how things have gone off the rails. Unfortunately the public is so apathetic and so not interested in what is going on that it is quite possible to rule without opposition as our current Prime Minister is doing. Savoie advocates a return to policy initiatives and abandoning the Private Sector approach as ineffective for government operations and also stopping the continues process measurement which is useless and wasteful. It is difficult to do this many politician including the Harper government believe in the miraculous solutions of the private sector in all things governmental.

The other book is a bit of a piece of fluff, not so much a book as a conversation with an elderly aunt.
In this case its Margaret Rhodes, cousin to Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II. The book The Final Curtsey tells in very general lines, the story of her life, but it is very general and not much details are offered. She speaks mostly of her aunt Queen Elizabeth, The Queen Mother who was the sister of her mother. She spent her life going from one great house to another, the war years shuffling from Buckingham Palace to Windsor Castle and being a lady in waiting or a lady of the bedchamber to her aunt. There are few passages which are interesting if only as a curiosity, per example she tells us about the day the Queen Mother died and what happened. She died in the late afternoon and Margaret Rhodes was asked by her cousin Queen Elizabeth to come to dinner that night, en famille, at Windsor Castle. The next morning she returned to the house of the Queen Mother and found that the body had been left overnight in her death bed, so a full 12 hours passed before she was taken away by the undertakers. She was also the one to go to Windsor Registry Office to register the death of the Queen Mother. Though you would think the Royals are above such things, not in Britain apparently. The registrar asked Rhodes what was the occupation of the Queen Mother's husband, the question is on the form to be filled out. Taken aback by the question, she hesitated and finally said he was the King.

Her husband Dennys did not appear to work much and it is not clear from what income they lived on. But since they were always with the Royals, they were sort of taken care of. The book of Mary Lady Soames, who is the daughter of Winston Churchill was far more interesting and more in depth, though it also had its moments of vapidity.

It seems that her life was that of an observer not that of an actor, always witnessing never doing much.
She is now 88 years old and lives in a ''grace and favour'' house on the grounds of Windsor Castle.
You come away thinking that Rhodes is not going to say anything nasty or revealing about her cousin the Queen or the Royal Family which is her family and her bread and butter.

I am now reading slowly the book on Prokofiev by David Nice and the book on Machiavelli by Niccolo  Capponi, a descendant of the author of The Prince.
I also want to start reading the book of Gore Vidal, The City and the Pillar, sort of summer reading type of book.

Sunday, 28 July 2013

Strike, the first in 45 years.

Currently the Canadian Foreign Service Officers are on strike, the first time in 45 years of being unionized. They have been without a contract since June 2011 and the Government has refused to modify its wage proposal, showing a great deal of inflexibility. The Government's position is that the offer is fair, they are offering 1. 5% increase.

Service is affected in all programs of Canadian Embassies and Consulates around the world. The greatest impact is in the Immigration and Visa program, where Officers have been on strike and refused to return to business as usual. Already the Tourism industry claims a loss this summer of $300 million dollars with tourists who need visas to enter Canada going to other destinations.

To settle this dispute would cost about 4.2% of the total pay envelope of the Foreign Service, much less than what has been loss in tourism revenues alone not to mention the disruption to normal Embassy business or  Ministerial trips, etc... The Foreign Minister's Office claims there has been no disruption and is dismissive of the Officers on strike.

The whole matter revolves around pay equity, equal pay for equal work. Pay equity has been a long standing issue with the Foreign Service, for many years FSO did not have job description and pay was given based on the flavour of the day in job classification. For a period of 10 years during the 1990's salaries were frozen, despite cost of living increases due to inflation. So today we are looking at a discrepancy of $3000 to $14000 dollars per officer in their annual salary for similar jobs in the Government of Canada.

What is troubling is the numerous falsehoods and comments the Government Ministers responsible have been throwing out in the public to dismiss the actions of the Foreign Service. Again it has to be understood that all communications and messaging in the Canadian Government today comes from the Prime Minister's Office. They are negative messages and attack individual Civil Servants, like retired Ambassador Derek Burney who sided with the FSO.

The arguments of the Ministers are factually wrong or false, but all is good if you are trying to sway the public who is largely ignorant of what the Foreign Service is all about. The Ministers play on the Hollywood image that the Foreign Service is a life of luxury at the expense of the average tax payer.

Ministers and Government Members of Parliament have said in public that the Foreign Service get ''Perks'' the word itself is pejorative, there are no ''perks'' but compensation for the lost of income when you are posted abroad. Opinion pieces in National Newspapers paint a negative picture of the Foreign Service. These so called opinion pieces are written by people who are sympathetic to the Right wing agenda of the Harper administration.

Claims of ''perks'' like a free car, free rent, free Private tuition for children, free first class plane tickets and not having to pay income tax have been repeatedly made. So much so that the public or at least those who are the most ignorant of the basic facts are under the impression that the Foreign Service is good for nothing and expensive to boot.

None of this is true, Canadian Diplomats pay rent as they would if they lived in Ottawa, your employer in our case is also our landlord, you bring your own car to post, you pay all your living expenses like everyone else, you do pay income tax and often without being able to claim any benefits. The rate of income tax paid can be punishing in some cases because of family situations. You are posted to countries where the living conditions are far from stable or secure, where your health and that of your family is put at risk, where you can become the target of violence, many have.

If you are married your spouse will have to give up on their career and pension. Meaning that in retirement you will have one pension and not two like most Canadian couples. You will have to make some real family and personal sacrifices that most Canadians would simply not accept as part of  conditions of employment.

The retention rate in the Canadian Foreign Service is at an all time low with a turn over of 54% after 9 years of service, you can well imagine any private corporation having such a turn over of staff would quickly go bankrupt. Again Government Ministers brush this aside as not important.

On Twitter, Treasury Board Minister Tony Clement and Foreign Minister John Baird have made negative comments and other MPs and Parliamentary Staff have joined in, all messaging coming from the Prime Minister's Office and the wording is strangely repetitive in its negativity.

It does not help when Cabinet Ministers make controversial comments on twitter.

The Official Opposition in Parliament through Paul Dewar MP has criticized Minister Baird, PC MP for positioning himself against his own Officers in the Foreign Ministry, a first in Canadian History.
The Harper Government has clearly demonstrated that they do not care for the Foreign Service musing publicly on why we even had a Foreign Service.

On Monday 29 July all 15 large Canadian Missions around the world will be shut down as an escalation after Treasury Board Minister Tony Clement rejected binding arbitration to settle the dispute.

Other Unions around the World and in Canada are supportive of PAFSO and the strike action.

Finally, in the last Cabinet shuffle a leak from the Prime Minister's Office indicated the need for a list of enemies in the Public Service to be circulated to new Ministers. As Members of the Opposition in Parliament have remarked, it is is truly extreme paranoia when within the Cabinet the Public Service is seen as the enemy.



Saturday, 27 July 2013

Ue O Muite Aruko

I was driving home this afternoon and listening to Radio-Canada 90.5 and they played this 1963 summer hit song from Japan by Kyu Sakamoto ( His birth name was Hisashi Oshima, born in Kawasaki in Nov. 1941 and died in the crash of a 747 owned by Japan Airlines flight 123 in 1985). The song was written by Rokusuke Ei and Hachidai Nakamura.
Kyu Sakamoto was the first Asian singer to have a hit on Billboard 100.

I really like this song and it brought back memories of the past. Remember in the 1960's everything was made in Japan.  I love the Japanese language it is very nice to listen to. In Beijing I use to watch the news in Japanese on NHK from Tokyo, no matter the gravity of the news, the reader always kept a calm and soothing voice. I also did two trips to Japan while living in China, Tokyo was 90 minutes away. In Japan I travelled by train to many cities in the country on their super fast trains. I should write something about Japan and those trips, it was fascinating and I have kept the most wonderful souvenir of my vacations there.

Though it has been 50 years since this hit song, it is still very nice and to my mind anyways, just as fresh. I prefer this original version in Japanese sung by Kyu Sakamoto.

Ue O Muite Aruko, in english it was given the title Sukiyaki which is a hot pot stew in Japanese and has nothing to do with the song itself, the British owner of Pye Records thought it easier for Westerners to pronounce, it is also known as A Taste of Honey.

Thursday, 25 July 2013

Easy Traditional Summer Italian Dessert

It seems that Italian restaurant in Canada know of only 3 desserts, Gelato usually too sweet and not home made, Tiramisu again factory made and taste like cardboard and Canolli usually made by some food company and not fresh.

However in Italy desserts like any dish are often very regional and follow tradition which does not cross the Atlantic easily nor would you find it in another region of Italy. By mid to end July peaches start appearing on the markets in many varieties. They are usually grown in areas just a few kilometers outside the city and so they are left on the trees by the farmers until they are ripe and ready for the picking and trucked in to the local markets early in the morning each day around 04:30 am.

Italians do not usually have a sweet dessert after a meal, but at this time of the year you will find a home made dessert that is very traditional, very old fashioned and very easy to make. You only need two ingredients and it takes about 5 minutes to put together.

The dessert is a favourite of older men, many will tell you of seeing their grandfather or father taking a peach the yellow flesh variety, cut it up put it in a large wine glass and pour white wine over it all. Voilà!

On any given day grandfather or grandmother or an uncle will tell the child, Scendi a prendere le pesche, go get some peaches at the market. The word peach in Italian is pronounced Pes Ke.

The peaches have to be of the gialle variety. The vendor will ask Di che tipo? What type you want.  The answer is Da vino (for wine) so it will be the gialle, yellow or gaillone, big yellow. Take the time to smell the fruit from where the stem was, very important, the fragrance runs from peach blossom to magnolia, the texture from melon to mango to apricot and the fruit has to be soft if you are going to eat them today.

It is a beautiful, simple and elegant dessert, a cold glass of simple table white wine with fresh cut peaches drown in the liquid. Now that is a true Italian dessert.

Peaches red with yellow flesh

Peaches Snuff box variety from the eastern slope of Mount Etna, Sicily

Peaches varieties in the local markets in Rome

Monday, 22 July 2013

That fateful day 27 July 2011

Some dates come back every year and it brings back a flood of memories. One such day was 27 July 2011, the day I left Rome to return to Canada.  W and the puppies had left 10 days prior and I was alone at the apartment, it was empty all our belongings had been packed up and shipped to Canada by boat, I had a so called pack-up kit, which meant I was camping at home. But I simply went out a lot to enjoy my last days in the Eternal City.

On the morning of the 27 July I was all packed and when the driver arrived, I took the suitcases and walked out, only after I closed the door behind me, did I suddenly realize that was it. We were not really ready to return to Canada, I had been away for many years at that point and did not see what there was to return to frankly. It has to be said that when you live in a foreign country or on various continents for many decades coming ''home'' is meaningless. Where is ''home''? Rome was home to us, I could not imagine another home. We had a home in Warsaw, in Cairo, in Mexico and Chicago.

Reesie died in Rome and that is where he is buried. We had wonderful friends and a busy social life. In returning to Ottawa we had to re-invent it all and with some difficulties. It has been two years now and we have kept a strong bond with Italy and Rome. I can understand that for someone who has not lived abroad, it may be difficult to understand. We did not take the trip of a lifetime, our life was one long and enjoyable adventure around the world. So often when I hear someone say something or a piece of music or taste a dish or some wine, it brings back memories. Per example I can never listen to Madama Butterfly without thinking of the Summer Opera Season at the Terme di Caracalla in Rome and that evening when in the open air we saw this giant moon rise over the ruins and the Roman Pines as the music of the first Act was playing.

However upon my return to Canada I was seriously thinking of retiring, so Rome was our last post.
Not that I regret retiring, on the contrary. We continue to travel but it will never be quite the same as living in a foreign country and having a life style which suited us fine.

Here are some photos of our street and neighbourhood.

                                          Our street Via dei Villini
                                          the driveway at number 26.

                                          a corner of the living room
                                part of the view from our balcony terrace, at each sunset we would be entertained          by small dancing bats as we finished dinner and then the owl would make his usual hoot hoot noises.
At the end of the street were the massive Aurelian Walls, built by Emperor Marcus Aurelius. We were outside the walls. Outside the walls of Rome until 1910 meant the countryside, after 1920 suddenly the city expands and with the arrival of Mussolini to power in 1923 entire new neighbourhood spring up in what was once considered countryside. The grand homes of our neighbourhood where built around 1880 and 1900 and all considered to be villas in the countryside.  Some of these villas were small palaces and built by the Italian Nobility and well to do families with great gardens often the size of a city park, like at Villa Torlonia now a public park. Today many have been converted into offices or apartments. The gardens where sold separately to make way for more buildings. They are still grand in architecture and design, memories of a bygone era. We loved to walk the dogs looking at these places. It is an easy city to walk in, everywhere there is something to look at, a view, often designed as if a theatre set.

 former villa converted into the office of the Actors Guild on Via di Villa Patrizi
 Beautiful fresco on a former villa now a condo building on Via Savoia
 modernist style building now a condominium Via di Villa Albani
Some like this villa has a roaring lion perched on its roof.

 I always like this little villa with its pompeian red walls and wysteria growing on the facade.
Those neighbourhood streets were quiet and it was nice to simply walk along them. There was always something to observe and the changing light of day made it more beautiful.
 Side entrance to the Italian Presidential Palace, formerly the Royal Palace on Via del Quirinale. The inscription above the door mentions that 3 Popes built this palace as a then Papal summer residence on the ruins of the great Temple to Isis, Innocent XIII , Alexandre VII and Clement XII. The Carabinieri police guard is wearing is ordinary summer uniform. At the back a Corazzieri Guard.

Corazzieri in gala uniform on the terrace of the Quirinale Palace. You would see them at functions.
Certainly elegant, dignified and stylish.
Porta Pia taken so many times to enter into the City down Via XX Settembre. Today this ancient gate of Rome is at the centre of the City. Nero took this gate when he fled Rome with his Pretorian guards in hot pursuit. Garibaldi entered Rome with the Bersaglieri Regiment liberating the City from the Popes.

Not in our neighbourhood since it was at the other end of town across the Tiber. Could not resist, the Vatican Academy of Sciences, this building is a copy of Nero's palace built 500 years ago by St-Charles Boromeo as a pleasure palace for parties etc... He was the wild nephew of the Pope. Located inside Vatican grounds and not open to the public. The mosaic are made of coloured sea shells by the thousands, imagine the picking on the beach and sorting out afterwards. We had a special private visit of the Academy, what an incredible place for a party.

All in all nice architecture, lots of style, elegance and beautiful memories.  

Saturday, 20 July 2013

21 July 2007

Towards the end of my posting in Beijing, we decided that since our next post would be Rome, I would come home and we would get married. At that point we had been together for more than 30 years so it was more for administrative matters than for any other reason. In fact it simplified matters greatly for pay and benefits and for my spouse's status abroad.

Usually from July onwards it is the moving season for most Canadian diplomats and it is timed with end of school year and summer vacation. You still have to negotiate with your supervisor your departure date from Post, usually not a problem and easily agreed upon since you are leaving anyway.

However we had a nasty deputy program manager, one who believed in processes and had zero social skills, it was all about him and how he was climbing the management ladder. When I told him that I was thinking of leaving in mid-July because I was getting married in Ottawa, he said no, you can leave in August. He knew that this would cause family problems and complicate my life. He had no other reason that wanting to assert himself. Unfortunately we have far too many of those type of anti-social personalities in management in Government the main source of waste.  Lucky for me the actual Program Manager was a very fair and balanced person with whom I had worked for a very long time. I went to him and expose my plan and reasons why I needed to leave by a certain date. We were also then selling the house in Canada. He agreed readily and wished me all the best of good luck. I always thought that the Deputy who had refused my request did it on the basis of his homophobia. He was someone with whom you could not have a normal conversation without him asserting his opinion.

I flew out on schedule from China and in the meantime in Ottawa, W had been busy arranging the details. Our friend JK lend us her beautiful garden for the ceremony and organized the flowers and food. We were married by a Minister who was a family friend of long standing on a beautiful 21 July, later we went to dinner at Petit Bill's Bistro with a few friends.

                                           Wedding Day
                                          Reesie and white roses on Via Asmara, Rome

Our old dog Reesie was included and when we came to pronounce our vows, Reesie insisted that we pick him up. Dear Reesie such a gentle little dog, he was born just outside Chicago, a long hair dachshund, who then travelled with us to Rome, despite his great age. He was to die within six months of old age and medical complications.

So today is our Wedding Anniversary. As you can see from the photos we have not changed at all. For more of the story and photos see

                                           1979 at home on Riverside Drive
                                           2009, at Caracalla for the Summer Opera Season
                                           2010 on Via Appia Antica, Rome.

Friday, 12 July 2013

L'été, L'Estate

So with summer comes all the produce of the farm, often just outside the Capital, fruits and vegetables, some called Heritage because they are no longer grown in commercial farms and only Artisan farmers (love the term) cultivate such old varieties. The vegetable markets here are not like in Rome on Via Alessandria but the variety is quite interesting. It is different but nice nonetheless and you get to talk with the sellers, many have been in the business for years.
My neighbourhood market on Via Alessandria, shopped at those very stalls 

Last night rather late got a Tweet from ART IS IN which is a wonderful bakery and a huge success, owned by a young man who loves dough and bread making at 250 City Centre Ave.

His tweet said, as of 11am tomorrow come and get fresh out of the oven your Puglia loaf. Now I know this type of bread which could be bought at Lucarelli on Via Alessandria everyday. So I go to Art Is In and the beautiful loaf of Puglia bread still warm from the oven and that smell of fresh bread, is there any more memory of childhood inducing as fresh hot bread, a real luxurious sensual smell. The loaf is 1 meter long, like a big baby. It is delicious, had some for lunch today, reminds me of our Roman home instantly.
                     Rome, the ancient Via di Porta Latina, with the aquaduct Claudia behind me, one of the many aquaducts crossing this park in Rome.

I then went to the Parkdale street market to get some of the vegetables currently available, not much so far, too early in the season and the weather this year has been a bit cold and rainy. Bought yellow and green zucchini and field tomatoes, bell peppers. We are going to roast it all in a bit of Olive oil I got from Genio at Sanguiccio on Preston street.

Our orchids are doing well, the one we received as a gift at our return to Ottawa 2 years ago from our friend B.J. has now multiple branches.

My brochures for my French lectures series on Wednesday afternoon at the National Gallery of Canada starting this September are in from the printer.  We have to mail 300 of them to members who do not have a computer.
Each lecture is either $5 dollars for adults or $3 dollars for students, a bargain really.

                                        Roccoco clouds very 18th century over Ottawa.
            You can imagine the Gods of antiquity sitting in the clouds. A very baroque sky for Ottawa. 

Thursday, 11 July 2013


Another of my favourite singer Regine Crespin (1927-2007) singing ''Villanelle'' from ''Les nuits d'été'' of Hector Berlioz. What a beautiful clear voice, I do not think they make them like that anymore.
The villanelle from the Italian villanella, a little country song or pastural theme poetry. Villano a peasant or villini a little villa in the countryside.

Orchestre de la Suisse Romande with Maestro Ernest Ansermet (1883-1969),
recorded in 1963.

A bit of humour for today, who thought we would ever see the Madonna in this classical painting of the  Italian renaissance tweeting.

A funny and sad comment on our world today.

Wednesday, 10 July 2013

Sea Pictures

I came upon this recording by Janet Baker, b. 1933 of the famous composition Sea Pictures of Sir Edward Elgar. Many people will love other singers but to me Baker has a clear voice and diction, making her singing so enjoyable. Elgar had a style all is own, imperial perhaps, full of confidence in his country and in the institutions which represented Britain in July 1899, when all seemed eternal. We just live in a very different world, this composition is beautiful, an historical piece.

This song cycle Sea Pictures consist of 5 songs based on the works of several poets.

Here The Swimmer poem by Adam Lindsay Gordon (1833-1870).

Some of the words of the poem of The Swimmer

The skies were fairer, the shores were firmer
So, girt with tempest and winged with thunder
And strong winds treading the swift waves under
To gulfs foreshadowed through strifes forbidden
Where no light wearies and no loves wanes

Sunday, 7 July 2013


I often write about my time in Rome but I also spent quite a lot of time in Greece, Athens,traveling by road around the Peloponnese and sailing the Aegean Sea around the Cyclades Islands between 2007-2011. Greece is a wonderful country and I always enjoyed my stay there even during my last visit when I became the victim of a pick-pocket who stole my wallet in the old Plaka. I always stayed at the same hotel The Athens Gate after trying many others which I did not like much, this includes the pretentious and terrible Hilton.

 Hadrian's Gate, near the Athens Gate Hotel
Hellenic Parliament on Syntagma Square

We also had a chance to travel to the islands in different seasons by boat from Athens. We also took a tour by car of the Peloponnese and then to Mount Parnassus along the gulf of Corinth.  There are many beautiful places to visit in Greece and the people are nice and hospitable.

I grew up listening to Melina Mercouri and her 1960 movie Never on Sunday. I also like the music of Mikis Theodorakis and Georges Moustaki both composers who were very popular in the 1950 to 1980 and remain musical icons. The blue of the sky, the sunshine, that certain relax atmosphere you find.
The various monuments of antiquity have by themselves the ability of creating beauty and peace simply by their age and the fact they came to us from such a distant past.

There are seasons to visit Greece and summer is not one of them. Far too hot and the Islands like Mykonos and Santorini are stuffed with tourists, prices are high, it is unpleasant to many crowds and the heat is oppressive. If you need to go in the Summer, choose a lesser known islands, there are hundreds of them, so you do have a choice. Then after end of October the ferry boat schedule from Piraeus is modified and because of winter storms, far fewer boats connect the islands. I recommend the book of Lawrence Durrell, The Greek Islands (1978) where he describes the islands in the 1930's as almost primitive by the simplicity of life on them and then in the 1950's how everything had changed. A very good portrait of Greece.
                                         From Delphi a view of Mount Parnassus lost in the clouds

The mainland becomes the place to visit. The premier winter ski station is at 2450 meters above sea level at Mount Parnassus, a place sacred to Apollo and his 9 aunts, the Muses, is wonderful. We stayed at Arachova in a wonderful stone hotel, very rugged with great restaurants of authentic Greek cuisine. This is mostly a resort for wealthy Greeks from Athens. You are also minutes away from ancient Delphi and its sanctuary and breathtaking views.

 Corinth Canal connecting the Gulf of Corinth with the Aegean Sea

Corinth, Temple of Apollo, Doric style, built in 540 B.C.

 Mykonos in late afternoon, October
Santorini Island in late October

You can tour the Peloponnese and visit numerous ancient sites and the scenery is always beautiful.
Corinth and the canal is spectacular, Epidaurus with its wonderful ancient theatre still in use today and the sanctuary of Asclepius the Healer, son of Apollo. This is were I learned what the symbol of medicine meant, the snakes had healing powers and the staff is knowledge.

There is also Nafplio, a seaside port and the first capital of independent Greece (1829). We had a lovely lunch there on a terrace facing the sea. An interesting story about the town of Nafplio, this is where the potato was introduced in 1828 into the Greek diet. This tuberous vegetable was unknown in Greece previously and the Governor Ioannis Kapodistria who was the ruler of the then Capital of newly independent Greece, decided that it could help supplement the diet of people. He bought a large shipment of potatoes and offered them free to anyone who might be interested, of course no one was since they had no idea what it was and had never eaten them before. So he devised a strategy by posting guards in daytime only to watch over the shipment and the growing crops. People were curious as to why potatoes which had been given away freely were now guarded carefully in day time only. Like all things, some individual wanted to know and started stealing them at night and eating them. Today the potato is present in almost all Greek dishes, often offered in restaurants as French Fries large cut with a healthy helping of rice, two starches on one plate.

Returning to Athens by the more scenic road instead of the highway is well worth it for the scenery alone of mountains and sea views. Athens is a huge metropolis today but until 1960 it was a relatively small town. I always stay in the Plaka area, at the foot of the Acropolis. The ancient city grew around it and the Plaka is the oldest part of the city.
Olympian Zeus Temple, Athens

For years I had been travelling to Athens, I think that the first time was in the 1990's this means that I was able to see the renovation and reconstruction of the temples of the Acropolis including the Parthenon. I was anxious to travel to Athens in November 2009 to see the new Acropolis Museum designed by Bernard Tschumi, a masterpiece of architecture This is an absolute must, if you go to Athens. The one artifact in the museum I was fascinated with where the original statues of the Cariatides from the Temple of the Erechthion on the Acropolis. They are displayed in such a way that you can walk around them and see their incredibly complicated hairstyle, each very different from the other, no two women would want to be coiffed like her neighbour. The statues you see on the Acropolis are copies.

Other great museums are the Benaki  near the Parliament and the Byzantine and Christian Museum just a few blocks away and the Museum of Archeology with its magnificent marbles from the great masters of the Golden age of Greece,  it will celebrate 125 years of existence in 2014.

There is also the neighbourhood of Psiri a gentrified area on the other side of the Acropolis known for its restaurants and bars and Monasteraki which is part of old Athens and known for its shopping and various specialty shops. Athens is a place for walking exploring the old streets. The Agora at the end of the Plaka has many beautiful ruins and some of the oldest roads of the city. Not to be missed is the Stoa. The Agora (city centre) dates from the 7 century B.C., today it is a beautiful, peaceful Park.

One of my best souvenir of Athens is of having breakfast in the morning on the roof top of the Athens Gate Hotel watching the sun rise over the city and its rays hitting the acropolis and the Parthenon, the pentelic marble changes colour as the light increases, a wonderful way to start the day, looking at the birth place of Western Civilization, always gave me a good feeling.

View from the Hotel rooftop restaurant

Through are friends in Athens we also discovered the neighbourhood of Gazi, until 20 years ago it was heavily industrial and not a place you would visit. Today the old gaz works are gone, the area is a lively open air museum, with restaurants, bars, music and parks.

We still have friends in Greece and I do hope to go back one day.

Temple of Poseidon, Cap Sounion, Attica, near Athens in late afternoon at Sunset. The little Olive tree is a sacred symbol to Poseidon and Athena.

Tuesday, 2 July 2013

After the fireworks

Monday 1 July was a busy day, the weather held up, it was partly cloudy and sunny, it was a pleasant day, just nice and warm without being hot. The multitudes descended on Parliament Hill to see the Noon Time show, 21 gun salute for the Governor General, military parade, various singers and entertainers on stage including Carly Rae Jepsen (who is Canadian) sing her big hit ''Call me maybe''.
The multitudes sang with her, quite the choir. There was numerous other events in Major's Hill Park and Confederation Park. This evening there was the big show on the Hill and at 10pm the famous Fireworks from Nepean Point behind Parliament paid for this year by grocery chain Loblaw's. The fireworks were the best I have seen in many years. We viewed them from the roof of our building.

We stayed at home, cooked home made chicken burgers, a recipe of Nigel Slater, Will made an excellent Moroccan gazpacho, our friend CP brought strawberries and whip cream and we had an excellent dessert wine Xyris from Pesaro, Le Marche, Italy. I wish we had more of that wine.

A good day all around.

Got some messages also from an old friend in London, C.L. who sent us this picture of our old and new again High Commission (Embassy) building, Canada House on Trafalgar Square where a big Canada Day Party was held.

Canada House, London