Autumn Weekend in the City

Exciting weekend around here! We had big plans in the big city. Or, as the locals call it, “the big smoke”.

Ferry-bound Friday, on the highway, it became clear that we were not likely to make the boat we were aiming for. Rather than stress over it, Peter and I decided to have some adventure time in Gibsons.

Of course, that meant doughnuts.

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That grand Canadian tradition – Tim Hortons. The only location on the Coast is an hour from our house so we made the most of it.

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Browsing through an antique shop, this sign made me laugh. Of course Superman can’t be bought – he’s very morally upstanding.

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Mr. Gibson is ready for Halloween.

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Watching our ferry come in.

A little wandering and a little shopping in Vancouver and then we headed to the main event.

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Football.

What? You don’t believe that I’m a huge football fan?

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See? I really was there. Cheering for the BC Lions, of course.

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Good ol’ Crazy P.

Truthfully, I have only the vaguest idea of how football works. There’s throwing and running and, sometimes, kicking.

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And also this baby dressed as a football.

But this is the third Lions game I’ve attended (I married a CFL fan) and while I have no interest in watching a game on TV, they’re pretty fun in person.

(Also, I would like to mention that the Lions always win when I’m there. Moreover, when I went to my previous games in 2000 and 2011, they went on to win the Grey Cup. So their odds are looking pretty good this year.)

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The Lions started out a little rough but were able to tie the game before halftime and went on to victory.

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We went on to beer and chips with the in-laws.

The rest of the weekend was catching up with some of my favourite little people.

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Their parents are pretty cool too.

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Autumn in Vancouver can be pretty spectacular.

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And then a sunshiney wait at Horseshoe Bay and the ferry home.

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Mid-Week Snapshots

Life is busy and full and blessed and hard. Here’s a taste of it for me this week.

Foggy days on the Coast. Many in a row now. Some afternoons the sun comes out and the fog burns away but it’s been lingering for a while now.

View from our front windows.

View from our front windows.

Sunday evening. Peter went fishing in our front yard. We live on a bay right where a creek joins the ocean. The salmon (cohos, I believe) have just finished spawning in the creek and are returning to the ocean to die. (Thanks grade 3 knowledge!) Schools of them passed by our feet as we stood out on the rocks.

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Peter got a few nibbles but no catches. They’re past the point of looking for food now.

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I’m intrigued with Pope Francis. I’m processing some of the things he’s said recently. I liked this quote:

“The faith passes, so to speak, through a distiller and becomes ideology. And ideology does not beckon [people]. In ideologies there is not Jesus: in His tenderness, His love, His meekness. And ideologies are rigid, always. Of every sign: rigid. And when a Christian becomes a disciple of the ideology, he has lost the faith: he is no longer a disciple of Jesus, he is a disciple of this attitude of thought…For this reason Jesus said to them: ‘You have taken away the key of knowledge.'” (Pope Francis 1)

(This quote was taken from another website, theamericanjesus.net)

Some – including the above mentioned website – are saying the pope’s speech calls out American preachers like Mark Driscoll and John MacArthur. I’m not sure if it does. Maybe. I think it’s a broader reminder though. Pope Francis is reminding us that who Jesus is, who we are as Christians, is broader and deeper than any ideology and to not get caught up in the legalism that so frequently entangles us Christians.

I’m also currently reading Seven Storey Mountain by Thomas Merton, so I feel oddly surrounded by Catholicism at the moment. I hope to share a review of that one when I’m finished.

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Sunday afternoon we stopped by the annual Halfmoon Bay Apple Festival and brought home this jar of delicious. I don’t know why its called Apple Butter though when it’s clearly Apple Sauce. It was made in a giant copper pot over an open fire. We tasted spoonfuls of it and then bought our own jar while listening to a fiddle band.

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Tuesday night – a properly-run church youth group requires many pool noodles.

Also, just read this article from Converge Magazine. Some really good points about the idea of courting that seemed to become popular in the late nineties. I read that book too and, now as an adult, many of the ideas in it don’t sit as well as they did when I was thirteen.

I particularly liked this quote from the above linked article:

“But marriage won’t fill the hollow ache in the pit of your stomach that yearns for something better. Marriage is hard work. It makes you holy, not always happy.”

I would only add a reminder that marriage is not all that makes you holy.

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Fog on Trout Lake, Sunday afternoon

 

Hope your mid-week point checks in well!

Europe Trip 2013 – Part Seven: Rome, Italy

This summer Peter and I went on an adventure to Europe. With the help of a stellar memory and my obsessive journalling, I’m sharing those adventures with you.

Part One: Duisburg, Germany

Part Two: Fritzlar, Germany

Part Three: Bern, Switzerland

Part Four: Lake Como, Italy

Part Five: Venice, Italy

Part Six: Florence, Italy

It would be hard to pick my favourite stop along our European adventure but Rome would definitely be in the running. Even after several full days there, I know we barely scratched the surface of what this city has to offer.

We arrived mid-day and found our hotel. We were staying near the train station, which turned out to be pretty convenient because that was also a major metro station. Upon arrival we decided to see the Colosseum and the Forum that very same day. After quick showers (I always felt gross and sweaty after train travel), we began our journey.

First goal: Get tickets for the metro. Two things were holding us back. 1) We didn’t know where to buy said tickets. 2) We didn’t have any cash. The only place we had seen with an ATM was inside the busy train station. Every guide book we’d read said to be extra careful in that station and to not linger. Lingering while dealing with money seemed even worse. We headed down to the metro where the automatic ticket machines accepted credit cards. Great! Only problem – each machine was accompanied by a person with a paper cup, willing to “help” you. No, they were not helpful station employees. Choosing what seemed the better of two not-great options, Peter took cash out while I carefully stood guard and we bought our metro tickets at the tobacco stand.

The Roman Colliseum

The Roman Colosseum

You exit the metro and there it is, huge and ancient. We had a short wait in line and then we were inside one of the most famous historical landmarks in the world. One of the wonders of the world.

The Colosseum is huge and amazing. Even today, it’s hard to fathom how such a thing could be built. The models and descriptions throughout were helpful in imagining what it would have originally looked like.

The Colosseum

The Colosseum

One thing I actually quite enjoyed about the Colosseum is that while there’s lots to look out, you really just wander around, envisioning people cheering, fighting, eating, gossiping, two thousand years ago.

This was entertainment. This was the social venue. One thing that really brought that home to me was the graffiti that remained.

That's some pretty good graffiti, eh?

That’s some pretty good graffiti, eh?

Exhibits showcase the pictures and words of the everyday people who spent their days here. As well, the bits of garbage – bones, hair pins, dice – show the lives of those spectators. It’s strange to stand and look down at the (partially-recreated) floor and think of what those stones have witnessed.

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Peter and I at the Colosseum

Peter and I at the Colosseum

After a quick pizza break at the park across the street we decided to push on and see the Forum that same day. This was partially due to the fact that our Colosseum ticket got us free entry that same day. So we hurried on and made it to the Forum with a couple hours before it closed.

Within a few minutes, it became clear that we could have spent a whole day just there. That’s how I would do it the second time around. Pack a picnic and spend hours wandering through the rubble and beauty of ancient Rome.

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It really is like walking through an ancient city. In some places it’s hard to get a sense of what was there and in others it’s shockingly clear. The buildings are astonishing. The huge pillars of marble, the stones. No wonder Rome seemed like the centre of the world. If you were a country visitor to this city and you saw these temples, it would be easy to believe they were built by the gods. I loved to think of us walking in the footsteps of so many people before us, so many people who gathered in the squares and markets, trading, gawking, listening to impassioned speakers.

After the Forum we decided to walk back to the hotel. Wandering the streets is hands down my favourite way to explore any city and we quickly realised that Rome is not that big. Or maybe there was just so much to look at that we never got tired.

It was a lovely walk, as the sun began to set. At one point we came around the back of a large building only to realise it was the Pantheon. Right there in the middle of the city is this huge ancient temple, columns carved from a single piece, a dome that no one could figure out until the Renaissance (when Bruneschelli cut into it and then recreated it in Florence).

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The Pantheon

 

It’s stunning to be in a city amidst so much ancient history. No wonder the Renaissance began in Italy, where they were surrounded by so much evidence of what people had once achieved.

Around the corner from the Pantheon we found the Trevi Fountain. Elaborate and crowded but at least worth a visit.

Trevi Fountain

Trevi Fountain

Thursday was our day for Vatican City (I’m saving that for my next post) and then Friday we’d reserved for…nothing much. Cappucino, pizza, window shopping, soaking up Roman life as much as possible.

Roman Holiday is one of my favourite movies and so a visit to the Spanish Steps was a must. We also found Via Marghuta, where many of the scenes were filmed.

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Not far away we found a little restaurant full of working guys on their lunch shirts in matching blue shirts, eating pasta and sharing carafes of white wine. We wandered through the Villa Borghese gardens, filled with busts of men from history and laughed at the tourists on segways and used the worst WC we’d seen in Europe so far. It was free (a rarity in many places) but there was an attendant at the door telling each person that they had to wait their turn. As if she though we came from a place where we just busted in on people trying to pee. It was unclear what her job description really was. She certainly wasn’t keeping the place clean.

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We found delicious gelato across the square from the Pantheon (we may have visited this place enough times that the guy behind the counter recognized us) and ventured inside the Pantheon. It felt strange that it was a church inside when it felt so much like a pagan temple on the outside. Seeing the dome and the huge original door though was definitely a highlight.

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Inside the Pantheon

We walked down the river, then along it, past stalls and bars closed for siesta, then crossed over to a small island in the middle.

After our own siesta we headed back out to explore Rome in the evening. It’s almost like a different city after nightfall. We wandered through the squares, another visit to the Trevi Fountain, sat at the foot of an obelisk and people-watched in front of the Pantheon. Maybe got some more gelato, who can say?

Me at the Trevi Fountain at night.

Me at the Trevi Fountain at night.

Heading back to our hotel late in the evening we passed a little alley, lights over tables, and a sign in Chinese. The taste of my homeland called to me and we wandered in for dinner.

Who wouldn't want to go down this alley to find food?

Who wouldn’t want to go down this alley to find food?

The food was mediocre but ordering chicken chow mein as “spaghetti con pollo” made it all worthwhile. We sat under the buzz of a huge electric fly swatter and quenched our thirst with sparkling water.

Scattered through Rome are these Egyptian obelisks. Sometimes, paradoxically, topped with crosses.

Scattered through Rome are these Egyptian obelisks. Sometimes, paradoxically, topped with crosses.

A month in Rome couldn’t cover that city but we thoroughly enjoyed the days we had there and hope to be back one day.

Next: Vatican City

Europe Trip 2013 – Part Six: Florence, Italy

This summer Peter and I went on an adventure to Europe. With the help of a stellar memory and my obsessive journalling, I’m sharing those adventures with you.

Part One: Duisburg, Germany

Part Two: Fritzlar, Germany

Part Three: Bern, Switzerland

Part Four: Lake Como, Italy

Part Five: Venice, Italy

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Ponte Vecchia

For me, Florence was all about the art. While I wouldn’t say I hated Florence, it was probably our least favourite stop along the way. In Florence we stayed in the worst hotel of our trip. In Florence we ate the worst pizza of our travels. (Though, also, the best pizza.) I’m glad that we got to see this historic city and I don’t feel much of a need to go back. Instead, I would love to see more of Tuscany and the surrounding area.

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We arrived in Florence mid-afternoon, after an easy train trip from Venice. We had a room booked at the Hotel Curtatone and were able to find the address with much difficulty. There was a big wooden door and a buzzer with the hotel’s name. We rang it. We rang it several times and never got an answer. It was about 3 o’clock in the afternoon. Siesta should be over but it was also too early for reception to be closed. After several more futile attempts we decided to visit the hotel next door, the Hotel Argentina, and ask if they knew how to contact the Hotel Curtatone.

“We have a reservation at the hotel next door,” we told the man at the front desk when he asked us if we had a reservation.

“That is our hotel,” he said.

Our best guess, in the end, was that the Hotel Argentina had recently taken over the Hotel Curtatone. Why they didn’t take down the Curtatone sign, I couldn’t tell you. But we had our room.

Further to our guess of the recent takeover was the fact that the halls of the Hotel Curtatone/Argentina were full of furniture. Mattresses leaning up against walls. Identical desks stacked upon one another. Our room was excessively bare bones. Nothing on the walls. A wardrobe that seemed to be locked. Our balcony lacked one railing and looked into what might have been a storage area or could simply have been stuff on its way to the junk yard. The bathroom had no overhead light and so, to avoid showering in the dark, the door had to remain open. No, I do not recommend this hotel.

Definitely the most unique-looking Cathedral we visited. The dome here is modelled after the dome of the Pantheon in Rome.

Definitely the most unique-looking Cathedral we visited. The dome here is modelled after the dome of the Pantheon in Rome.

Our goals in Florence were all art-related. Rick Steves informed us reservations were the way to go for the major museums but we weren’t that organized. We picked the two museums we wanted to visit most – L’Accademia and Bargello. (The fellow at the front desk of our hotel had never heard of the Bargello museum.)

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Figuring that L’Accademia would be the busiest, we woke up early Tuesday morning and headed over. We were over an hour early and we were the very first ones in line. Peter went to find an ATM and some breakfast while I waited in line with Dutch history teacher (who explained why he hated Rome) and a young woman from Alabama. I dropped the word “about” in conversation and she immediately asked me if I was Canadian.

The highlight of L’Accademia is, of course, Michelangelo’s David. Arriving so early gave us a fantastic opportunity to study the sculpture without crowds of people around. A wide hallway lined with Michelangelo’s unfinished works, The Prisoners draws you in to view David.

I haven’t studied art much but in an instant it was easy to see why David is so famous. Of all the historic and magnificent works we viewed in Europe this summer, David was the most amazing. That sight alone makes the trip to Florence worthwhile.

The sculpture itself was much larger than I expected. It dominates the space and yet it feels surprisingly intimate. As you approach, you look up into David’s face, turned away slightly. He appears to be the master of the situation. His giant right hand – the hand of God – poised to defeat Goliath. As you get closer though, and turn to view him directly face-on, you see the doubt in his expression. His fear. It’s the precise moment before he acts and he isn’t sure of the outcome. It’s such a human expression, so honest and vulnerable.

At the Barghello Museum we were able to view Donatello’s David, as well as other artists interpretations. (Apparently, David was a popular Renaissance subject.) Every other artist we saw portrayed David after Goliath’s death. David victorious, confident, proud. Michelangelo showed us the most human version.

Courtyard of the Bargello Museum, formerly a prison.

Courtyard of the Bargello Museum, formerly a prison.

Our explorations took us across the river where we wandered around the Palazzo Pitti. After the decadence of Venice, Florence seemed strangely plain with its brick and stone. The Medici influence is everywhere though and we quickly came to recognize statues of Cosimi de Medici. He seems to have had particularly distinctive eyes.

Cosimo on a horse.

Cosimo on a horse.

It was on this side of the river that we found our second highlight of Florence – a small pizzeria called Gusta Pizza. One delicious calzone later and the previous night’s taste was out of my mouth. (Our first night in Florence we ate pizza near our hotel, close to the train station. I used to think, “Pizza is pizza. How badly can you mess it up?” Really badly, is the answer. Even in Italy.)

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In the afternoon we stumbled across a huge indoor market. Stalls of dried fruit, vegetables, cheese, meat, fish, and so much olive oil! We tried samples of cheese, truffle oil, and 20-year-old Balsamic vinegar.We sat outside in the sunshine drinking coffee before wandering through the Bargello museum. Then we paid way too much for gelato but that’s part of travelling too, I suppose.

A stall at the market in Florence.

A stall at the market in Florence.

Gusta Pizza for dinner. Why mess with a good thing, right? Since it’s such a crowded little place, we took our pizza and our beer and found a square around the corner. Seated on the steps of the inevitable church, we enjoyed our delicious dinner. That’s another great thing about Europe – how acceptable it is to drink outdoors and in public. Many people around us had the same idea and had the same pizza boxes as we did. We people-watched and felt relaxed for the first time in Florence. Our proudest moment was when an Italian couple came up to us and asked, in Italian, where we got our pizza. Through laughs and hand gestures we explained and in a few moments they returned with their own box and waved to us as they sat on the steps nearby.

An Italian vending machine. Noodles, Nutella, and cartons of millk - everything you might need but wine.

An Italian vending machine. Noodles, Nutella, and cartons of millk – everything you might need but wine.

Next stop: Rome

Thankful

After taking my camera everywhere for a month, packing it with me on trains, subways, mountain trails, and through museums, I guess I needed a break. September 2013 will remain without much photographic evidence in our household. That’s okay. Sometimes it’s nice to just look at things and remember them that way.

This weekend though, I picked the camera up and started snapping again. I love the way it changes my perspective on the world. A crisp and sunny long weekend was the perfect time to get outside and take pictures. And, obviously, the right time to remember how much I have to be thankful for.

Here are a few from life recently:

Fall has arrived in our part of the world. I love autumn on the West Coast. The colours everywhere are amazing.

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I discovered that the iOS update now allows me to take panorama shots with my camera phone. I never knew before that I needed a panorama picture of my living room! This was the view from my in-laws house on Sunday afternoon.

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Table set for Thanksgiving dinner.

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Monday afternoon explorations in our neighbourhood.

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It's mushroom season on the Coast. I'm too afraid of poisonous mushrooms to pick any but we've been given some chantrelles by friends.

It’s mushroom season on the Coast. I’m too afraid of poisonous mushrooms to pick any but we’ve been given some chantrelles by friends.

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My Scottish heart loves the thistle.

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Loggers’ cabin on the hill.

 

Wildlife spotted.

Wildlife spotted.

Wildlife not spotted. Elk prints.

Wildlife not spotted. Elk prints.

Not pictured: the unexploded dynamite that I came across. I poked at it oh-so-gently with my foot and then walked away.

And tonight, more beauty.

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Europe Trip 2013 – Part Five: Venice, Italy

This summer Peter and I went on an adventure to Europe. With the help of a stellar memory and my obsessive journalling, I’m sharing those adventures with you.

Part One: Duisburg, Germany

Part Two: Fritzlar, Germany

Part Three: Bern, Switzerland

Part Four: Lake Como, Italy

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What can I say about Venice? How can I describe a city that is completely unlike any other in the world?

Crowded. Chaotic. Beautiful. Decadent. Venice is a city full of secrets. Around every turn is a surprise. It’s a city that, no matter how many pictures you’ve seen or how much you’ve heard, you are not prepared for.

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As we arrived by train we were suddenly travelling with water on both sides of us. Santa Lucia station is as hot and crowded as any other and we made our way quickly outside where it was hotter and more crowded. A large bridge crosses the canal; kiosks selling souvenirs to tourists, porters offering to carry your bags are everywhere. A perk of travelling with a backpack is that these “porters” don’t bother you.

Peter and I made our way straight to the vaporetto, having discussed our action plan on the train already. (Standing around a train station looking at a map signals you out as a target.) After some confusion over which vaporetto (water taxi) went where, we were able to figure out the automated ticket machines. As far as we could ever tell, the numbers assigned to the vaporettos were completely at random but we wanted to travel the route that would take us down the Grande Canal and to San Marco.

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Vaporetto at a station, with San Giorgio in the background.

We pushed straight through to our B&B, dripping with sweat and longing to throw our bags down. The streets were narrow and crowded until we turned a corner and, suddenly, silence. No one around. Across a small bridge and to a black gate where we rang the bell and our host was waiting. Three floors up, we were at our Venetian home.

We stayed at the Corte Campana, a B&B recommended by Rick Steves, and had a fabulous experience there. Our host, Riccardo, was friendly, welcoming, and had excellent suggestions any time we wanted them. Highly recommended. Riccardo greeted us with a map, restaurant suggestions, and kleenex to wipe the sweat off our faces.

It was late afternoon by then and so, after dinner and a change of clothes, we headed back out to really take a look at Venice. Simply wandering through the streets really seemed like the best way to discover the city. Turn down streets, cross bridges. You will get lost. But you’re on an island so you’ll always find yourself again. Most streets are narrow, some are crowded, lots bring you to the edge of a canal and so you turn around and find another way.

We found Rialto Bridge, which has kiosks right down the centre, and ordered gelato from a woman who spoke no English and laughingly corrected my pronunciation of “vaniglia”. (The “g” is silent.) We walked through narrow side streets that opened into surprising squares, usually with a church. The water frequently laps at the doors of buildings. In some places you can see where there was a walkway or steps but the water has risen or the buildings have sunk.

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So many of the buildings are sumptuous, elegant, and crumbling. There is nothing to add to Venice and nothing you’d want to take away. Venice is a city full of palaces, slowly rotting, slowly sinking.

It’s not hard to see that it was once the richest city in the world. Or why it’s always been a tourist destination. How could it not be?

Eventually in our wanderings we entered a square full of smoke. A church, San Giacomo, hosted a fundraiser. Live band and barbeque. There were men grilling huge stacks of meat. We ordered a rack of ribs, potato salad, and two beers and sat at a picnic table in the square to eat our first Venetian dinner and listen to the band.

From there we walked back to San Marco square, which feels like the centre of Venice, dominated by a huge tower and the ornate San Marco Basilica. We found a spot to sit down at the base of the tower and took it all in.

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The square is quieter in the evenings but never empty. People pose for pictures or feed the pigeons or simply stand and gaze. Restaurants have set up tables and chairs all around the edges, and small orchestras play at different points. One beginning the moment another song ends. The waiters wear tuxedos and the tourists are all well-dressed, especially the women.

Men sell fake purses or plastic toys every few stops. At dusk, as if by some previous agreement, they all switch to roses, which they attempt to thrust into a woman’s hand in hopes that the man she’s with will pony up.

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Saturday morning, immediately after breakfast, we headed to San Marco Basilica to check the line-up, which was already stretched around the corner. Riccardo recommended trying later in the day, after the cruise ships had left, so we headed to the Saturday fish market at Rialto instead.

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Unwittingly, we had chosen to visit Venice during a Biennale year. This takes place every odd year in Venice and involves countless art exhibits and displays around the city. Some behind doors where you pay for entrance, some in squares, much of it for free. Our wandering took us the Accademia where we were able to see some of the exhibits from artists around the world.

One of Riccardo’s suggestions was to visit the San Giorgio tower rather than the San Marco tower. Cheaper, shorter lines, and the view is roughly the same. San Giorgio is a church located on an island across from San Marco square so we braved the vaporetto to make our way there. I stood in a long line to ask which route we should take and then got zero help from the lady behind the counter but we eventually made it.

San Giorgio. The purple statue is part of the Biennale.

San Giorgio. The purple statue is part of the Biennale.

San Giorgio was quieter and felt more secluded. The temperature had crept up to thirty-eight degrees and Peter and I both wore pants. Churches throughout Italy request “modest dress”. This means no exposed knees or shoulders. Some churches enforced this more than others but we felt that respecting the rules was the right thing to do. No matter how sweaty we got. If I had thought about this in advance, I would have packed at least one long skirt but as it was, all my skirts and dresses stopped above my knees. So I put on a t-shirt and rolled my pants up to just below my knees.

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At the bell tower, you pay to use the lift (there are no stairs) and are then rewarded with a panoramic view of Venice. A warning: the bells are still in use and they are loud.

Seeing as we were already dressed modestly, Peter and I decided to try and make it back before San Marco Basilica closed that day. Turns out, right before closing is the perfect time, and our wait was less than ten minutes. San Marco enforces the dress code more strictly – at the entrance they sell orange surgical sheets so you can cover up.

The basilica is the definition of ornate. We couldn’t stop staring at the floor, laid with a multitude of gorgeous glass, as if a beautiful vase had been shattered there. The wealth is astoundin.

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As the guards began to usher people out, Peter and I sat down in the gift shop and studied the elaborately painted ceiling. As we followed the paintings along we realised we were looking at the story of Joseph, in great detail, told through drawings. It was a special moment of recognition and understanding how people hundreds of years ago learned about the Bible.

That evening we wandered again, through stores, picking out small souvenirs, until we stopped for dinner at a shabby pizza and kebab place in a quiet square. We walked in and greeted the man behind the counter.

“Hey mister,” he said to Peter. “Pizza? Kebab?”

Kebab, Peter said.

“Okay. I make special. You like spice?”

The kebabs were amazing. We ate in the square outside, sitting on the steps of a large, covered well, drinking Orange Fanta and people watching. At the wine bar next door a group of young men stood outside, drinking and talking loudly. One of them was dressed as a king. A birthday or a bachelor party, it seemed.

A middle-aged man with a plastic bag of crumbs stopped across from us, holding out his hand and whistling at the sparrows until they landed on his shoulders, his arms, in his palm. The pigeons came too, of course, larger  and more aggressive, but the man shooed them away, aiming his sprinkled crumbs carefully for the smaller birds. They seemed to know him and lighted down easily.

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Sunday morning, after breakfast, we headed straight to the Doge’s Palace, the seat of Venetian government, where we wandered through opulent rooms where the senate and council once met. Each room was heavily decorated – busts and paintings, art covered the celings. Art was used to demonstrate the strength and fairness of the government. Or religious art of Jesus and Mary, to show how Venice was blessed by God. The tour ends with the Bridge of Sighs, a prisoner’s last glimpse of the sky before imprisonment.

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Outside the Doge’s Palace.

After lunch we set out to find San Frari church. This church still contains its original art,as it was intended to be displayed. Where other paintings or statues have been removed to be placed on display in museums, or taken away by Napoleon, San Frari has held on to its art, including work by Titian and Bellini.

We got a little lost on our way but spotted an older couple with a map, speaking English. We asked if we could look at their map and they obliged.

“Are you Canadians?” they asked.

“How did you know?” we wondered.

By our accents, apparently. And also our tans. Or lack thereof. They were from Calgary.

In one of our last bouts of exploration, in a quiet area of Venice, we came across this plaque:

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“Giovanni Caboto? Why does that name sound familiar?”

Then we realised that the anglicized version of this name was John Cabot. As in the man who discovered our nation. In high school history though, we only ever heard his name in the Francophone version. Turns out, Cabot was a Venetian and this was a plaque given to Venice by Canada. You know, to thank them for finding us.

I can’t wait to go back to Venice one day.

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E.R. – Embarassed Reflections on an Emergency Room Visit

Yesterday was one of those days. You know what I mean, right? Things just…don’t go right.

The autumn rains of the Pacific Coast have most definitely arrived. Gumboots, rain jackets, umbrellas. As well as flashlights and candles kept close at hand, due to high winds and our somewhat-remote location. The rain poured down, the lights flickered but stayed on, and I read a good book and drank tea last week. It was actually quite nice.

Friday I woke up with the all-too-familiar sore throat and then proceeded to blow my nose 673 (give or take a few) times throughout the work day. It was miserable but I powered through and Saturday and Sunday we had good friends stay with us. Our first overnight guests in Halfmoon Bay! They were very kind when Peter and I realized we hadn’t planned anything for dinner and they didn’t seem to mind when we were falling asleep before ten o’clock. We showed them Sechelt by rainfall and generally had a lovely time catching up.

And then Tuesday came.

It started off fine. After three years of marriage, Peter and I have our morning routine sorted out pretty well. Coffee, oatmeal for breakfast, lunches packed, we’re in the car. He’ll drop me off at work and then head to his own job.

But the car won’t start.

It should be noted here that this isn’t even our car that won’t start. Our car is already at the mechanic’s because of an (hopefully not too expensive) issue of its own. This is a car that we’ve borrowed. And the battery is dead.

I jump out and head to the bus stop as quick as my feet will take me. The bus leaves from this stop every two hours and I might just make it. I get there with a couple of minutes to spare but before the bus arrives, a car pulls over and the driver rolls down the window.

“Are you going into town?” he asks me. I recognize him as a neighbour. One I see frequently and have exchanged pleasantries with but have never really met. I hop in.

I feel like I need to note that hitchhiking is different on the Coast. Like I said, the bus around here only comes every two hours. We’re halfway up the Coast and this is as far as the bus goes. If you want to get somewhere and you don’t have a car, hitchhiking is an acceptable option. One of the great things about where we live is the small kindnesses that people offer one another. You don’t drive by someone with a flat tire. You offer trail and beach suggestions to tourists (though you might hold back your favourites). And if you have an extra seat, you pull over for the young woman standing at the bus stop. Knowing all this, I feel safe riding with strangers, where I probably wouldn’t in any other place.

My newly-introduced neighbour confesses that he and his wife refer to me as “Yellow Boots” because they’ve seen me walk by so many times in my, well, you can guess…yellow rain boots.

From there work and a day that seemed to turn normal, as I wondered how exactly my husband might have gotten to work. Tuesdays is a long day for Peter and I when we both work, as we stay in town and volunteer with a group in the evening. (Fortunately, we have people who love us and feed us sometimes.)

Fast forward to just past nine o’clock. I’m cleaning up as people say good-bye, almost time for us to head home, where our borrowed car is charging its battery. I’m tired. I rub my eye. When I open my eye, everything is blurry. My contact lens has shifted. I rub my eye again, blink a couple of times. Still blurry. My contact is gone.

Except it’s not gone. It hasn’t fallen out. It’s in my eye but it’s most definitely not where it’s supposed to be. I head to a mirror and still can’t find it. I call Peter over and hold open my eye while he takes a look and a friend glances over to offer an astonished, “What are you guys doing?”

I can’t find my contact lens but I can sure as heck tell it’s still in there. We finish cleaning up and head to my in-law’s home since they’re our ride back to our (hopefully operational) borrowed car. I wash my hands and poke around in my eye a little bit more. None of this helps with the irritation.

It’s almost ten o’clock so Peter dashes out before the pharmacy closes to buy eye drops. Which I’m not supposed to use because I’m allergic to the preservatives in them but that now seems like a lesser problem. I google contact lens problems until he returns.

Pretty soon I have eye drops and tears and a contact lens determinedly clinging to some hidden corner of my eye. It feels irritated but not painful. It’s past ten o’clock and I just want to go to bed. Going to sleep with the lens stuck in my eye seems like a bad idea.

And that is how I came to visit the ER at the Sechelt hospital for the first time.

The last time I went to an ER as a patient, I was seven years old, it was in Toronto, and there was a lot more blood. I think we had to wait four hours. Twenty years later, I shamefacedly confess my problem to the receptionist and am immediately ushered in to see a nurse. Thank God for small town hospitals on quiet nights. And a hearty dose of thanks for our health care system that allows me to make such embarrassing trips to the hospital.

The hospital wristband felt like overkill though.

The nurse asks me a few questions about my general health and then asks if I have any allergies. I explain about the preservatives.

“Anything else?” she asks.

There’s a pause. Obviously she’s looking for medical-related allergies. But she seems to want something more.

“Cats,” I say.

“We won’t put any cats on you,” she tells me as she dutifully writes ‘cats’ down on my form. “You poor thing. Allergic to cats!”

She then proceeds to make me do an eye test with my left eye, the eye that has the contact lens in it. (I still have my lens in my right eye and so every time I have to reach for something or hand something over, my aim is rather off.) The goal of the test is, I think, to see how blurry my vision has become due to the object in my eye. The problem is that I have terrible vision without contact lenses or glasses on. That’s how I naturally am. I can hardly tell which line she’s even pointing to.

“You can’t see that one?” she asks, surprised, pointing (I think) to the second line from the top. “What about this one?” She points to the giant letter at the top. With my good eye closed, I can’t see it either. But walking past the sign a moment earlier with both eyes open, I had seen it.

“E,” I tell her. I know you’re not supposed to lie to your medical health administrators. Forgive me. I was embarassed by my terrible eye sight.

The nurse delivers me to another room and I sit down on the edge of a hospital bed, paper sheet crinkling below me. For the next few minutes I try not to eavesdrop as a doctor nearby loudly exclaims over another patient’s previous medical history.

It doesn’t take long for a doctor to come and see me. I lie down on the bed and she drops freezing gel into my eye. This right here is the most painful moment of the whole day. And then it isn’t. I feel like I could keep my eye open for hours! It’s as though I have a sudden super power! I can tell that something is touching my eye but it doesn’t matter. And so, with a quick swab of a q-tip, the doctor has the lens out.

“How long was that in there?” the doctor asks. “Your eye is pretty red.”

“Well, I was poking at it a lot.”

I depart from the hospital with a happy and frozen eye and a prescription for antibiotic eye drops.

Today I’m wearing my glasses.