Sunday, April 30, 2017

oNe PhOtO a DaY ApRiL 2017


SATURDAY 1st BEGINS WITH T: No more gas guzzling Yank Tanks in New York. The famous yellow cabs are mostly hybrids marked with capital "T"s and even call themselves taxis nowadays

SUNDAY 2nd HAPPENED THIS WEEKEND: We have done several amazing things this weekend including watch a physical theatre show, attend an art exhibition and complete the Gilded NYC self-guided walk but for me the best thing that happened this weekend was attending the Japan Society’s “A Third Gender: Beautiful Youths in Japanese Prints” Exhibition. This photo is of a stunning colour wood block print triptych of the world’s first Kabuki performer, who just happened to be a woman. In 1603, she gathered an all- female troupe of outcasts including prostitutes for what are considered the first Kabuki plays

MONDAY 3rd MANY: The many cut-off selvedge edges and loose threads, which are waste of the silk industry are used in the textile and accessory creations of Luisa Cevese. Her work was showcased along with the work of two other artists in the "Scraps: Fashion Textiles and Creative Reuse" exhibition at Cooper Hewitt Design Smithsonian Design Museum, which we visited today. Inspirational pieces designed to utilise scraps and waste

TUESDAY 4th FRAME: This stairway in the Museum of The City of New York fascinated me as much as the exhibitions. I love the frames inside the window and the way each photograph and quote is also presented in a frame, which is white on black instead of the more common black on white. Bold statements in the stairwells. So glad we took the stairs not the elevator It's billed as "New York's Most Exciting Stairwell"

WEDNESDAY 5th MAGAZINE: I have subscribed to this magazine since the 1980's and it has been delivered to me in six different countries. However I turned my subscription to an online one in February this year due to rarely having time to read it and our transient lifestyle and now in NYC in the apartment of the friend who first introduced it to me I find the hard copy of the latest edition

THURSDAY 6th LETTERBOX: In the Museum of Chinese in America today, one display was concerned with the letters that were exchanged between families separated with men living in America and often wives and children in China. These letterboxes were part of the display

FRIDAY 7th POSTCARD: The iconic Brooklyn Bridge is the postcard I selected to write a thank you note to Anthony for allowing us to live like New Yorkers in his apartment on 145th Street. Heading to Toronto tonight

SATURDAY 8th FORK: Everything we have eaten today we have eaten with our hands and this Ethiopian Vegetarian Platter served with "injera" (fermented flat bread) was no exception but for the sake of PAD I had to ask for a fork and promise the server I wouldn't use it. In the end as there was too much injera so we did use it and still there were leftovers

SUNDAY 9th MACRO: I've been stumped with this all day but finally came up with the red maple leaf label on the can of maple syrup we bought yesterday. What could be more Canadian than that?

MONDAY 10th FLORA: Spring has still not quite happened yet but it is definitely in the air and this was the flora that was in most abundance at Niagara Falls when we went there today. Don't actually know what they are called even though I am usually good with flower names

TUESDAY 11th STREET: Far from the downtown zone with an abundance of homeless individuals, gentrified neighbourhoods and retail, this quiet street in an uptown residential area near Casa Loma epitomises opulence and wealth

WEDNESDAY 12th FAUNA: The only fauna I have seen today has been pet dogs on leads. The most frequently observed fauna since we arrived has been squirrels. But the bird life in High Park was certainly the most impressive fauna we saw in Toronto. These wood ducks were taken a couple of days ago in that exact location

THURSDAY 13th STORY: This is the story of us today. Returning to New York City from a five-day break in Toronto. I wonder what stories these Greyhound buses could tell, if the walls could speak. Everyone on board no doubt has their own story to tell

FRIDAY 14th LIGHTS: The lights of the traffic on 145th Street at 10:30pm, looking uptown towards the Bronx, from our bedroom window. I love the fact that the signals all go green or red in unison and that keeps the traffic moving

SATURDAY 15th COMFORT: We have enjoyed the comfort of this gorgeous apartment immensely. With one final day to spend in NYC we are extremely grateful to Anthony for giving us the opportunity to live like New Yorkers for a month

SUNDAY 16th EGG: Our last day in New York and we couldn't leave without a meal in a diner. In my big breakfast the egg was served in an Athenian omelette with spinach, tomatoes and feta, home fries and a sesame bagel on the side. Good ole American comfort food and both breakfast and lunch are now taken care of. Time to enjoy the spring weather before the pack up and clean up routine

MONDAY 17th EYE SPY: From the United Airlines plane which I spent most of today on I spied a fabulous orange sunset over the wing but now that we have arrived I spy a new hot pink visa for Peru in my passport

TUESDAY 18th WATER: This is a detail of the spectacular fountain in Palaza de Armas in the central historic district of Lima. In the background is an ornate renovated canary yellow building with its well- preserved Moorish (Spanish Architecture) suspended balconies designed to conceal people watchers

WEDNESDAY 19th RETRO: The traffic police directing the flow from the middle of a busy intersection on Ave de Julio, in peak hour, wearing a pith helmet looked pretty retro to me, as we scurried across the road. Even with signals and hand directed traffic the numbers of cars and pedestrians who pay no heed to either makes crossing these busy 4 lanes each way intersections an act of bravery

THURSDAY 20th I SAT HERE: Today I sat here in the Domus Restaurant and enjoyed a three-course vegetarian Peruvian set lunch. Thanks to Ian who sat opposite with an identical lunch, for taking the photo

FRIDAY 21st ROUGH: I love a market and today we found this cheese (queso paria arequipa) in the one in Lima. The seemingly rough texture contrasts sharply with the fact that is actually smooth and creamy. I guessing that it is set in a roughly woven wicker or cane basket and that is what gives it the rough textural appearance

SATURDAY 22nd OPPOSITES: We arrived in Cuzco this afternoon and when we set off wandering the historic central town area I noticed this plaque on the wall. Even without a word of Spanish I can understand that devils and angels are opposites and the words are also opposite with one a mirror image of the other

SUNDAY 23rd GOOD TOGETHER: At the Chinchero Sunday Market today travellers and locals all mixed amicably and this picture just encapsulated good together for me. Even though few people are buying their wares these women are enjoying life, happy and good together

MONDAY 24th FENCE: This prompt made me realise that Peru is not a country of fences. There are plenty of adobe and stone-walls as boundaries but fences are few and far between. I saw this one on the "Balcon de Qosqo” over looking the magnificent Plaza de Armas and it is really a safety rail to prevent people falling

TUESDAY 25th BLACK AND WHITE: This black and while replica of a cave painting representing a hunter was on the wall of the Inka Museum. The original is in the region of Cusco and is found in a pre-ceramic archaeological site dating back to 5000 BCE

WEDNESDAY 26th RECTANGLE: The traditional architecture of Peru has these rectangle wooden windows with shutters. They vary from ornate and big enough to house a balcony with a small table and chairs to these tiny glassless windows in the oldest of the adobe buildings

THURSDAY 27th SMOOTH: This was the smooth looking old style rail car of Inka Rail which we took from Ollantaytambo to Aguas Calientes today. It is the jumping off point for Machu Picchu, which we are very excited about seeing tomorrow. The ride on the narrow gauge, however was anything but smooth

FRIDAY 28th GET IN THE PHOTO: It wasn't difficult for us to get in the photo but it took a bit more effort to get the near empty Machu Picchu ruins in the photo too at 6:35am

SATURDAY 29th TRANSPORTATION: In Peru, llamas have been bred as pack animals (and for meat) for 5,000 years. I haven’t seen them used as transportation yet but I hope to as I read that they are trying to revive this practice in the trekking industry. Whatever their purpose they are naturally curious animals and I simply loved being up close and personal with them yesterday. They were as interested in us as we were in them. PS they smell nice too

SUNDAY 30th THIS MAKES ME HAPPY: A market full of colouful locals selling fruit, vegetables, textiles, flowers, hats, ceramics and all manner of other wares while wearing their traditional clothes always makes me happy. Today’s Sunday Market at Pisac was no exception

Friday, April 21, 2017

Peruvian first impressions in the capital

Even more than the blaring horns and screaming sirens of New York, Lima is loud. For years I have discounted the noise factor in Asia by remembering the Rudyard Kipling quote, "With Asian indifference to mere noise." Although it doesn't apply to either Japan or Bhutan, almost all the rest of Asia can be deafening. Then New York surprised me with the fact that even on the 14th floor you can't continue a conversation when emergency vehicles are in the vicinity. Now that's loud!

BUT downtown Lima is like living inside the battle of the sounds zone: traffic, music from car stereos, loud conversations, music from cafes and restaurants, megaphones, whistles, music from unknown sources and constant horn blasts compete to drown each other out and most continue to 2 or 3 in the morning and start up again at about 8am. Auditory overload is new to me and it's impossible to meditate. 

Unlike the developed world where we have spent most of our time since leaving Bhutan, Peru immediately comes across as life on the edge. The cars are old or beaten up or both. In the capital the traffic is at dead stop or like a car chase. The stunning beaux-arte buildings are restored to their former glory or mere facades gutted and used as car parks or decaying and so dilapidated that they pose a threat to public safety. 

Street vendors some with only a few items clutched in plastic bags sell snacks, hand squeezed fruit juices, batteries, pens, garbage bags, paper products, key rings, cigarettes, bling, drinks, and a million other things. Baskets of odd items are toted about and a game of cat and mice is played by those without appropriate permits, to avoid the police. Unfortunately children also join the ranks of street sellers mostly after dark and sometimes still in school uniforms. All this reminds me of an Asian scene from decades ago. 

The cuisine has been surprisingly good, if somewhat a game of lucky dip with our lack of Spanish leaving us at the mercy of whatever the waiter decides after our plaintive cries “vegetarianio” or pointing at dishes other customers are eating. Nonetheless people come to rescue and everyone tries to make it work. We were expecting lots of beans and rice but there is oh so much more on offer and an incredible array of desserts, cakes and baked goods. Though, we are rarely tempted by sweet dishes, we have definitely eaten more desserts in the last 4 days than the previous four months.

The spectacle of the changing of the guards at the Presidential Palace was reminiscent of a bygone era. With a full brass band playing and marching the compound while vast numbers of the guards were goose-stepping and parading with flags, swords and batons. It involved a great deal of pomp and ceremony. I thoroughly enjoyed the performance and was somewhat taken back by the young girl inside the palace taking selfies and watching through the open doors. The president’s daughter perhaps?


You get the feeling Lima is alive. It's kicking, struggling, and fighting but surviving and loudly. Few people appear wealthy and there appears to be a vast middle class, who is comfortably well off and enjoying life. Too many of those visible on the streets are poor beyond belief but they are not begging. They are doing whatever they can to get by and much of it right on the crowded pavements. 

Modern shopping malls, fast food super chains and the latest electronics also abound but to me they haven't taken over the culture they have just joined the chaos of it all. 

Peru has begun with a bang and Lima may not be indicative of what is to follow but I can't wait to see more of the rural areas beyond the capital.

Friday, April 14, 2017


Visiting Toronto was a decision fuelled by the desire to see Niagara Falls up close, but the city has so much more to offer than I expected. 

It's huge by anyone's standards and it comes with a plethora of glass and steel skyscrapers as well as historic Georgian and Victorian buildings, row houses and terraces as well as single storey dwellings. Despite its size and population of over 6 million, according to our Air BnB hosts, it manages to convey a friendly, down to earth quality. People seem strongly connected to and proud of the communities in which they live and work- cosmopolitan without pretension and patriotic without paranoia, Toronto or T.O. is lively and yet just a little grubby and untidy with it. 

The homeless problem parallels the situation in New York and is visible and confronting in most of the popular downtown areas. It's a growing concern globally and to my dismay younger and younger people are joining the ranks of those sleeping rough. It is made worse in cities that freeze in winter, but the impacts on mental health are heartbreakingly obvious and there doesn't seem to be a solution in sight. 

Ethic diversity has created culinary delights and abominations!! Poutine -a dish we elected to avoid, was comically advertised in one outlet's window as "clogging arteries since 2008" and why wouldn't it with gravy covered deep fried chips topped with ground beef and melted cheese. Other equally carnivorous options for toppings were also available. However pockets of exquisite and much more upmarket eating options abound. Burgers with ingredients that are sustainably sourced, organic, fair trade and chic, as well as vegan, vegetarian and halal choices exist along side Portuguese, Greek, Ethiopian, Korean, French and just about any other country's fine fare. We simply didn't have enough days to try it all. 

For Niagara Falls we opted for a day trip and were more than pleased with the inclusions. Three hours at the falls enabled us to take the boat ride out to the sheer wall of water and get drenched in the mist and spray, with plenty of time left wander around admiring the spectacular views of both the Canadian and American falls from the pavement perspective. We were not tempted by the tacky town itself and enjoyed snacks in Niagara on the Lake in a much more picturesque setting. A wine tasting, which of course led to purchasing a couple bottles rounded out the day nicely and we snoozed our way back to Toronto, marvelling about how much a single day can cost even when you are frugal. 

St Lawrence Market and High Park were real highlights. 

Canadian friends sent us advice and suggestions from various points around the world and it was an absolute joy to catch up with old mates Nick and Keira. Shared experience in Bhutan certainly makes for lifelong connections and it was fabulous to see these two young educators making their mark in schools in Toronto. Non- stop conversations catching up on all that has transpired since we last saw them in 2011 filled several hours and introduced us to the cider-drinking penchant of Canucks. 

Although affordable transport options abound, walking was our modus operandi for the most part. We clocked up close to 20 kilometres most days and it served to keep us warm as well as ensuring we got the regular workout we want to arrive in the best shape to face the Machu Pitchu challenge in a little over a week. We totally lucked out with the weather and had sunny, if windy days and were even able to leave without the winter jackets on a couple of occasions.

We did take two short rides on the old style streetcars, which took our fancy from day one. In order to meet up with our old BCF mates and get home safely after our introduction to cider we were more than glad to avail of a ride across town for a mere $3.25. 

AGO (Art Gallery of Ontario) provided a basic introduction to the work of the Group of 7 Canadian artists, who reshaped the way Canadians, saw themselves and allowed patriotism to flourish.

The diversity of bird life we saw daily even from the downtown area, speaks volumes for the health of the environment. It was no surprise that Canadians are both outdoorsy and environmentally concerned and it shows. Within High Park we saw huge numbers of birds and on our day trip out to Niagara and again returning to NYC on Greyhound, we saw hawks, falcons, turkey vultures and of course Canadian geese in vast numbers, in the skies above us. The V-shaped flying formations and happy honking of the geese is almost comical.

St Lawrence Market was sensational. We have always loved a good market and were thrilled to be able to actually make purchases for our return bus journey to NYC. No Burger King, Starbucks or Dunkin Donuts outlets for us!! Gourmet picnic style food for our 13-hour trip and we were the envy of the other pizza slice and burger buying passengers. Kensington Market and Chinatown were also great areas to stroll and people watch.

Although it is the expansive great outdoors and stunning scenery for which Canada is famous, our brief time in Toronto has certainly whetted our appetite for more and we hope to return.