Tuesday, November 14, 2006

Merida Pics

Just a few of the many photos taken around Merida.
I like black and white. With colours out of the way one can see to the bones of the structure. Shadow play. Form and function.

This was taken from a sidewalk cafe in one of the many little squares scattered around the central core of the town. Nice little restaurants. A church. An elegant theatre. Tourist office. Small shops. Sit all day sipping coffee and watching people being people. Two blocks from the Hotel San Juan where I stayed.

The courtyard of the Merida Museo de Arte Contemporaneo Ateneo de Yucatan (MACAY)

Sunday, November 12, 2006

A Bit More Mexico

My daughter is a shoe nut. Not the travelling daughter, the other one. When I was walking through the street market a block east of the Hotel Catedral in MC I couldn't help taking this picture. If she lived here, there would never be problem finding cute kid stuff...

I found it interesting that in Mexico City and Merida a whole block of shops would be devoted to one type of product. For example, I needed to buy a memory stick for my camera. Lo! and behold, there's a camera shop right across from the hotel. Well, they weren't too sure if they had the right brand so, Lo! and behold...there's another shop next door. They were very helpful, had the right memory stick, showed me how to put it into the adapter and then into the camera. Even accepted my Visa card without additional ID. Then went for a walk and Lo! and behold, there are about ten more shops, all selling cameras, film, add-ons, developing film, photocopying services and the same memory sticks for anywhere from 20% to 30% less than I paid.

So, my advice is to really not buy something from the first shop, because there is ALWAYS going to be another one next door, and next door, and, Lo! and behold...next door!

The beads? Well, if I'd had a large suitcase instead of just carry-on, it would be filled with beads from all the bead shops located about two blocks north and one block east. Fantastic!

Wednesday, October 25, 2006

Mexican Holiday

This little guy must have been with another tour group!

The Yucatan Peninsula. Mayan ruins in the jungle. I think I was less than 10 years old when I first discovered National Geographic magazines. Since my eyesight was (and still is) very poor, National Geo's and LIFE Magazine's incredible photographic journeys and in-depth articles were, in a way the only way I could really discover this world and beyond. Since then most of my travels have been through books, magazines and films.

However, I have just come back from two wonderful weeks in Mexico and will spend a few posts sharing comments, observations and photos. I absolutely adore my little Sony digital camera! Went nuts and took over 400 pics...won't force you to look at them all. Promise. But I will show some with comments.

The iguana really appeared to be studying the information just inside the entrance to Uxmal, a World Heritage Site located about 80 km south the Yucatan's colonial capital city of Merida. Only a small portion of the site has been excavated and restored but what's there is exceptional.

Views of the main pyramid
I splurged and hired a tour guide for the day to take me south to Uxmal and west to Celestun where there is the Reserva Ecologica de Los Petenes. The tour guide, a retired hotel manager, had a car with a/c. When the temperatures are hitting the high 30s (celsius) and humidity is around 94% by 10 a.m. the a/c is a godsend. When we got out of the car at Uxmal my glasses fogged up!

Senor Castillo is very knowledgeable and his love of the archeology and his native Yucatan comes through. It is a more expensive alternative, but the personal tour allows for one-on-one discussion. Taking a bus tour would have cost much less, but then my time would have been more limited. This way I set my own pace. Let's face it, this is a world heritage site, its wonders cannot be absorbed in a quicky tour when you are sharing the ride and the tour guide's time with anywhere from 6 to 25 other travellers. Also, getting there early is a boon since one avoids not only the heat but crowds. Photography ops are better, too, when there are shadows to provide contrast. These pics were all taken before 11 a.m with a little Sony Cybershot. No tripod. No flash. Mostly just VGA quality. I'm happy with most of the pics.

Sunday, September 17, 2006

Comfort Food - West End Style

The blog below started out to be this one but it got away from me. So now I'm writing the story I started out with and hopefully I won't get sidetracked again.

My daughter arrived back in Vancouver after almost a year spent living and traveling in in southeast Asia, Australia and New Zealand. She showed up a few days early so everyone who would have gone to the airport to pick her up was at work. In fact she didn't tell anyone she was back (but that's another story). So she wandered around, dropped her stuff at a friend's place, then called me in the afternoon. We agreed to meet for dinner wherever she wanted.

She chose Kam's Singapore Cuisine on Davie. Now, Kam's has been around for a long time. The food is sort of a mix of Thai but with a hint of something or other. Spicy or not, hot or not, noodles, coconut steamed rice, meat, fowl, fish, veggie, fast, friendly, fair pricing. You can order anything on the menu - it's all good. Bring a hanky or tissues for the sniffles, especially if you order the Hot and Sour Soup. It's delicious but your nose will drip.

Kam greets everyone at the door - most gracious, always with a smile and his signature 'Howaya!' when you enter. Which should be by 6 pm any day of the week or risk a variable waiting time. Staff are really friendly and if you've been there more than twice in three years, I swear they remember you!

Well, the traveling gal and I go through the hugs and tears and the I missed you's. People at the other tables are all happy because she's got there early and they've overheard her speak about her travelling while chatting with the hosts and servers (who of course recognized her after a whole year!) Told ya! But that's not the good part.

The good part is, when she said, "I'll have the usual, please", she got it without having to list it.

And the usual? Deep Fried Tofu appetizers, Crispy Ginger Beef, Mixed Seasonal Veggies with Peanut Sauce and Steamed Coconut Rice (steamed in banana leaves). Beer, too. Enough for 4 people so there is always a doggie bag when ordering for 2.

Monday, September 11, 2006

Friendly Neighbourhood Cops - Only in Vancouver?

I'm helping someone move into a new apartment a block away. The movee is hauling a huge suitcase full of stuff. Attached to that case is a slightly smaller one that is also stuffed full of things. Over her arms she also has more bags stuffed full of things. At least the suitcase has sturdy wheels so that pulling the cases thru a back lane, up past the sushi place and the video store, around the corner, across the street is manageable. Until we get to the front of the building. There are some stairs to negotiate and it just isn't going to happen! I can't help because my arms are full, too.

Off to one side is a policeman talking to someone who might be a buddy, a neighbour, a dealer, whatever. On the sidewalk, a sturdy bicycle with a cart attached. It is holding and or is surrounded by luggage, a backpack and some green garbage bags with clothes. Maybe someone is being evicted? Anyway, in the middle of all this the cop sees we are struggling with the double suitcase, runs over, lifts the suitcase up the steps, very polite, very helpful.

So we continue up the sidewalk to the building entrance and another cop is coming out of the building. She holds the door open for us, while trying to keep track of the guy she's leaving the building with.

As the door closes behind us I hear the one officer telling the other their next stop is to get a prostitute off Davie Street. He's bothering the tourists. Just another beautiful warm sunny Saturday in the West End.

Thanks for helping, eh!

Monday, August 28, 2006

Favourite Blogs - Amazing Pics of India

This is India.

Or at least one little tiny piece of India. This photo is only one of many you can find at the two links on the sidebar.

The photography is beautiful. The photographer's commentaries are insightful, sometimes humourous, frequently poignant, giving a rare glimpse of life in one of the most interesting, and to westerners, one of the most mysterious places on the planet.

Spend some time exploring M. A. Rauf's world. Well worth every second.

Saturday, August 26, 2006

Cat Tales

This is Boots.

Not a name I would have chosen, although it makes sense since she has four white paws, white belly and white chin.

Mostly I just call her Cat when I call her anything at all. She knows who she is and hasn't told me yet. But she stays so I guess it doesn't matter.

She weighs in at about 20 pounds. 32" from tip of tail to tip of nose. Yes, that's 20 pounds. No, I don't know what that is in kilos...google it. I think maybe around 9 kilos? Big girl that she is, she doesn't bite or scratch when upset or frightened.

She just throws up. Profusely.

I have learned through trial and error that to give her canned, wet cat food is to invite disaster. You can see the wool berber? It is no longer uniformly warm beige. So she must be fed only the expensive, dry food. Not only that, it must be the hairball formula food (just mineral oil but you just try to get a 20-lb cat to swallow that stuff!) and it must be only chicken or fresh water fish flavour. Not lamb, not turkey, not salmon, just fresh-water. You know, if my kids were ever that picky I would have sent them to boarding school or something. Lucky for them, eh!

Another thing about Cat, and all cats except the hairless varieties, (duh!) is that if you don't comb or brush them frequently, your whole house, your car and every item of clothing and bedding you have ever owned will soon be permanently covered in cat hair and dander. Forever.
Until today Cat has never had a bath. She is quite good at personal grooming and I do brush her sporadically. And when stoned on catnip she drags herself around on the carpet leaving large clumps of black hair for me to vacuum. This is an interesting thing to watch actually. She lies on her side, digs her claws into the berber's woven loops and pulls herself around the room for about five minutes. It is just as effective as brushing, and removes the same amount of fur.

I have problems with my hands and find it painful to use nail clippers or scissors to trim her claws. So once every 3 or 4 weeks I trick her into her travel box, haul her, mewling and whinging, 4 blocks up the hill and get the pet groomers to do it for me. Today I splurged and got them to give her a bath and blow dry. too. She was quite subdued when I picked her up. She is very embarrassed about the pink bow they gave her and has been licking herself all over to get rid of the shampoo smell. But I think they removed at least a pound of hair.

She seems lighter somehow.