The Good, The Bad and The Ugly of Soweto…

Subtitle – Remembering Sam

Today was the day I had been looking forward to for some time. I always wondered what Soweto (South West Township) was like. We have all heard the stories of the riots of the late 1970s and the incredible violence which occurred then, starting with the murders of 15 year old Hastings Ndlovu and 13 year old Hector Pieterson. We’ll get to that in a bit. But lets’s start at the beginning – getting picked up.

Louis is a very nice man – mid 50’s I’d say and quite soft spoken. He lives in Soweto. Driving out of the driveway the first question is “Why do you want to see Soweto?” Ok, is this a trick question? Am I in trouble already? So I say “Well, doesn’t everybody want to see it? Is there something else you would recommend?” I can back pedal with the best of them. “No no, we’ll go to Soweto but first a couple of stops.” The first one is Nelson Mandela’s house – the one he lived in after he got out of jail after 27 years. Louis wants to point out a couple of things – the first is the paucity of people on the streets at 10 on a Sunday morning in a heavily white community. We get a good talk on Mandela – how he never supported any of his children – neither before, during or after his prison experience; how when he came out many whites fled the country thinking he would be looking for revenge instead of expounding the peace and co-existence he talked about; how many of the young people today don’t understand the struggles he and others went through – they think he sold them out. It was quite interesting. Anyway this is the house friends of his bought he and Graça Machel (the only woman who has been married to two African presidents.)

Interestingly it too is behind a big wall.

The stones around the small plants on the boulevard all have of tribute messages which have been written and left there since his death in 2013.  (Keep this one in mind.) When he died he left an estate of about $3.7 million US$ and several properties. Just imagine how those children reacted. Much strife ensued.

From there (interestingly, one of those upscale mostly Jewish neighbourhoods) it was off to Soweto. Our first stop was in one of the upscale Soweto neighbourhoods. During Apartheid blacks weren’t allowed to live in the white neighbourhoods, but there were still many professionals who wanted nice homes.

There were many like this some with walls around them and some without – but none had barbed wire or electric fences.

Then we had our first look at the “real Soweto”. The buildings below are referred to as Hostels. Originally they were built to house the gold mine workers who were brought in from the country to work the mines. The mines are all gone now, but the hostels still remain and are lived in. It is hard to see, but the toilets are the Johnny-on-the-spots we all know and love. There are rows and rows of the hostels going up the hill.

Soweto Hostels

Here are five shanties – still being lived in. Slowly – and I mean slowly- the shantytowns are being replaced by the fourplexes behind them. As you can see below though, there are still many of them around.

Louis then showed us a community of newer homes. There are hundreds if not thousands of these around Soweto and if you look closely you see broken windows and inside vandalism. These are alongside the shantytowns. Talk about bureaucracy gone wild. The local governments have lists of people who qualify for these homes but it takes many months/years to go through the lists. In the meantime, people aren’t allowed to live in them because they have to be ready when the list says it’s time and so they get vandalized, stripped of things people can sell to support themselves (there is 27% unemployment in South Africa). Just insane!

Inside the fences are still hundreds of shanties and they “steal” the electricity.

Each of the lines you can see are going to someone’s home.

BTW, just for comparison, here is the junction of electricity lines in the upscale multi-million dollar homes neighbourhood we wandered around yesterday.

Same Same but Different

Okay a break in the Soweto history lesson for a bit and just some photos of what we saw.

Zimbabwean Hair Dresser – you know she is Zimbabwean because of the bright clothes, apparently
Just in case you’re driving by and need a new tire …
or maybe a bed or set of drawers. I love this – with the satellite dishes behind.

Want an adventure?

How about bunjy jumping ($55.00) from the now decommissioned coal-fired power stations? These two towers  belched out coal based smog from 1942 until 1998 in order to provide electricity for the whites of Johannesburg. Meanwhile the blacks of Soweto went without electricity until 1976 – but at least they got to live in the smog.
Good grazers. Since many people living in Soweto have recently moved from the country, they bring their goats for food and even sacrifice (really, according to Louis)
Playtime in the driveway

Okay back to the history lesson.

In the mid 1970’s the government of South Africa attempted to force black students to take their education in the Afrikaan language. This was a foreign language to them which was designed specifically to ensure they had difficulty learning the academic subjects and thus to keep them down. There weren’t even enough teachers proficient to teach the maths and sciences in Afrikaan. In 1976 for every white student the government spent somewhere in the range of 650 Rand and 42 Rand on blacks. Whites had all supplies, uniforms etc paid for, blacks had to buy their own. Classes of blacks could have up to 100 students and age ranges from 7 to 20.

On June 16, 1976 black students from elementary and high schools staged a walkout to protest the policy and were planning a non-violent march to a stadium to stage a rally. The police, fearful of violence opened fire, killing anywhere from a confirmed 176 up to a suspected 700. Two of these children were 15 year old Hastings Ndlovu and 13 year old Hector Pieterson. Hastings was killed during the march, but Hector was simply going home because the teachers had dismissed the classes.

Hector Pierson, Antoinette Pierson and Mbuyisa Makhubo.

Antoinette had gone home to check on her brother and when she discovered he wasn’t there started back to the school, only to come upon Mbuyisa who had picked him up after he was shot and was running to a nearby clinic, where he was declared dead. Many photographers were out that day and this iconic photograph went around the world – something the government tried to suppress. It was the first time the world in general saw what was happening with apartheid. Ironically, Antoinette does tours of Soweto and the Hector Pierson museum, which talks about the Soweto Uprising and we saw her there today giving a talk to a group. It was amazing how much she looked exactly like her photo from 43 years ago.

And now to move away from the history lesson. Those of you who have followed us for a while, may remember our trip to Hong Kong where we had some clothes made at Sam’s.

Roshan, Shirt cloth, Shorts, Jackets and Slacks

Well, thee we are in Johannesburg watching a CNN travel show and the host -Richard Quest – says “If you are in Hong Kong you must go over to Kowloon and get some clothes made at Sam’s” and off he goes into the shop and there they are, Sam and Roshan!

Enough for now. More about our first trip on safari later.



The 10,000 Most Walkable Cities in the World…

and Johannesburg didn’t make the list. A few years ago we were in Seminyak, Bali and we commented on the “quality” of the sidewalks – see below

This is why it is dangerous to walk the sidewalks of Semanyak.[/caption]

Here’s the thing though – Seminyak HAS sidewalks. We were out exploring yesterday and many parts of where we were just didn’t have them. Jan Smuts Road – a four lane, major arterial route with homes along it – no sidewalks. In residential areas sometimes yes, sometimes no. It was almost as if the homeowners (more on them in a minute) had put them in themselves. We find it fascinating, given that walking seems to be the most prevalent method of transportation for many many people.  Crosswalks are also at a premium.

Now about those scallywag homeowners. We are staying in a reasonably upscale, affluent area where 99.9% of the homes have walls in front of them and either barbed wire or an electrified fence running along the top.

A lovely street nicely bordered with lovely walls.

What is particularly heart warming are the frequent signs on the walls.

Note the electrified fence on top
Note the sign promoting safe suburbs

I’m thinking safe means behind those walls and not a sense of security due to a high sense of community.

Beautiful door

Bur even the beautiful door is behind bars.

Many of the homes have an interesting way of announcing the address

Yes, that is the address.

Oh, did I mention the gates?

They were definitely spectacular gates

Now, to be fair, there may very well be a reason for this security. Liz, our lovely hostess, has been very clear that if we are out after dark we are to take Uber home. Last night we decided to go up the street to Dolci for dinner. It is a 5 minute walk, 400 yards away. When Liz heard we were going she said that Tagala, her assistant could run us up and the restaurant would likely run us home. When we mentioned that we were staying at Liz’s, the restaurant owner said that when we were ready to leave, to wait and he would have someone walk us home. This is a level of security/possible danger or whatever we have never felt anywhere.  (Let’s be honest here.  Geoff tends not to worry about even these clear and definite warnings.  It’s Terry who pays attention and insists that we ask for an escort.)

Ah yes, the restaurant. It was interesting. When we walked in and said we didn’t have reservations we were given a choice of two tables. Ours looked very much like this one:

Note the chair.

Other than ours and this one, every other chair looked like this one.

Nice cushion, don’t you think?

We were given four (4) 1 inch cubes of bread for dipping in the oil and vinegar. The couple next to us had a plate piled high with them. Just as our server was about to chat with us, the owner came over and sent her away and took our order. Clearly, he was doing everything to make sure we were in and out quickly, while other tables who were there before us hadn’t even had their orders taken. (On the other hand he did provide us an escort home.) From the time we walked in the door until we were finished our starters was 35 minutes. Luckily we had not yet ordered our mains. Then Mama from Ravenna came out. Picture the prototypical Italian Mama and that’s who she was. A lovely woman who informed us that at 9 months of age she either: 1) stopped taking her mother’s milk and started eating Tagliatelle al Ragu or 2) stopped taking her mother’s milk and started making Tagliatelle al Ragu. We weren’t sure which one it was. When I asked what I should have to eat she said “Me” and wandered away. Thank goodness because I had no idea how I would have responded. (My spicy chicken livers and Terry’s salad were fabulous, the entrees a 7.5 and the ginger buttercream torte with ginger ice cream fantastic.)

Side note observation from Terry – the only people of colour in the restaurant were the servers. An interesting observation given that the urban population of Johannesburg of 7.8 million is 78% Black African or Coloured and only 14% White. BTW Wikipedia terminology, not mine)

This guy came to visit yesterday. He wasn’t all that scary though.

At one point all you could see was his head peeking out from under the plug on the left hand side.

Not all that big, but patient.

Liz has a serious bird feeder in her yard. Yesterday there had to be 40-50 birds at different times come to eat. Terry is quite jealous – but then Liz has a veritable forest on her property.

What was interesting was that whenever the big one below showed up, the pigeons all scattered. Guess there is a definite pecking order…

Terry here.  About the art in the galleries we visited–very often dark themes, as one might expect with the history of South Africa.  Mostly, it was discouraging to view.  Then we came upon some light-hearted ones–larger than life size sculptures of hares, foxes and dogs; ‘paintings of giant flower heads made by stretching various tones of pantyhose artfully over canvas.  I could have put to use some of those old Cameleon multi-coloured stockings to good use! ( Note:  you had to be there.)

Today we are off on a tour of Soweto which should be interesting.



Just Another Trip Around The World – Day 1

Well here we go again, off on another wild adventure. And off to a good start we are. Terry forgot her noise reducing earphones at home, I forgot a firearm I was supposed to deliver from Penticton to Coquitlam, Terry’s phone didn’t make it from the car to the airport and the first of the 11 flights on this trip was 45 minutes late getting out of Vancouver. Then we had to eat our way cross the country.

Some basic info for those of you who don’t know what the heck we are doing now. We are going on a couple of safaris – Kruger National Park in South Africa and another one in Namibia. In between a four day wine tour. We travel right around the world getting there and getting home (Vancouver-Toronto; Toronto-London; London-Cairo; Cairo-Johannesburg; Johannesburg-Addis Abbas; Addis Ababa-Seoul; Seoul-Seattle; Seattle-Vancouver – a total of 44714km in the air (that includes three internal flights in Africa). 52:12 in the air there and back, 6:25 in Africa and 30:54 in layover time totalling 89:31 of our lives. BTW the circumference of the earth is only 40075km.

I convinced Terry all this flying would be fine since it was all business class (points not cash!). We are presently in London and so far so good. In Toronto we went to the Air Canada Signature Suite and were very politely told we needed to go to the Maple Leaf Lounge – the suite was for “full paying business class patrons only” Well la ti dah!

Contrary to many experiences we have had with Air Canada, both legs so far have been excellent – both the food and the service. Hopefully it will continue on the next two legs with Egyptian Air.

Two shots of Windsor Castle.

We are sitting in the Maple Leaf Lounge now watching construction of what is likely going to be another terminal. It is fascinating. If I didn’t know better I’d say it was a government make work project.

This is the way it works:

In the foreground there are three front end loaders which are loading three earth moving trucks. These trucks then take the earth to the large pile of dirt near the centre of the photo, but on the right hand side and dump it. The front end loaders then gradually move it up to the top left of the large pile where it is then loaded onto the truck between the black and yellow blocks. After that truck is loaded and the earth tamped down it then drives off for who knows where. Most definitely an interesting process.

Earth moving on a peculiar scale

After two more flights – and 27 more meals (well that’s how it seemed to us!), we arrive in Johannesburg. Has this ever happened to you? You get on a plane and by the time you arrive at your destination you discover that the airline has lost your luggage? It has certainly happened to us – see our trip to Amsterdam or Singapore to Shanghai. I figure, 4 flights, halfway around the world there is no way our two bags are going to show up. And they didn’t – well they weren’t the first bags down the chute on to the conveyor – they were the 2nd and 3rd! Unbelievable. We are now on a high. We get in to the arrivals area looking for our ride to our B and B. No ride. Look around and wait ten minutes – we were early after all. No ride. Wait another ten minutes. No ride. Finally phone the B and B. Liz answers – “Oh did we arrange – just a minute – okay someone will be there in 20 minutes.” Great. 55  minutes later Abey shows up and we are off.

The trip in to Johannesburg, totally uneventful with the exception of hearing about how the Chinese are taking over Africa by bringing workers in to develop projects and then leaving them here. (Hmmm, sounds familiar somehow.)

We finally arrive at Liz’s on Lancaster – what a fantastic place and Liz is so apologetic about the airport fiasco, even I begin to feel guilty. We have a quick shower, a fabulous breakfast (it’s almost 10am) and collapse in to bed – and get 4 1/2 hours sleep falling asleep to the sound of teeming rain – harder than most Vancouver rains. Clearly, we haven’t lost our touch of bringing rain to very dry areas!

After our rest, we chat with Liz. “Where can we walk?” “Well, if you are going to take your back pack/camera bag, don’t go in to the park. In fact, you may not want to walk anywhere with that – just take your cell phone.” And we are in one of the nicer areas of Jo’burg. (Like that?) We wander off to Parkhurst – an upscale area full of restaurants and lots of people.  We enjoy a very fine meal (Veal Limone with incredible vegetables for Terry and Filet Medallions with fantastic french fries for Geoff. Add a bottle of Fat Bastard Sauvignon Blanc – $57 including tip) and then we order up an Uber to get us home. The Uber bill is $2.06 Cdn –  to go the same distance in Vancouver – $10.40. No wonder the taxis don’t want any part of Uber.

We are now home, Terry is soaking in the tub and I am listening to the thunder and pouring rain while enjoying a glass of lovely red wine provided by Liz as an apology – and Terry’s white is cooling in the fridge. What could be better.

Tomorrow – who knows!

(BTW Photography through dirty windows doesn’t show off my developing (LOL) skills!)

And So It Comes To A Whimpering End

The last full day of our whirlwind excursion to the East Coast dawns clear and bright. Our plan is to walk across the Charles River and see MIT and Harvard. It’s a healthy walk, but we’re up for it and eventually we do it, but Terry was pretty exhausted by the end of the afternoon. Not too many – okay no real experiences, so let’s just go with some more photos of what we saw today for now.

The Charles River and Boston downtown skyline

A bit different from Manhattan

I know this is out of focus – which is maybe a good thing.

William Barton Rogers building – he was the founder of MIT. Very impressive columns.

Unless Terry has a fetish I am unaware of, she rubs John Harvard’s foot for luck.

This is the Widener Library and the grounds in front of it. Apparently when Mrs. Widener donated the funds to build it, she stipulated that the building itself could never be changed. As a result, as the collection grew, the ground under all those trees is where the library stacks were built. We know this because as we are walking along an older gentleman asks if we know what is under the ground. (Do we really look that touristy?) We say no and he says “Books”. We figure he means that books have just been dumped there until he gives us the explanation.

The Memorial Church. According to our new friend, every building at Harvard has a steeple.

Terry goes to Langdell Hall – better know as Harvard Law School.

There were a lot of homeless people in both Boston and New York. Generally they were pretty passive. Not always though. As we are wandering back we come across two middle age meth head women. Unlike every other homeless person we passed, for some reason I gave the first 50 cents. The second, who was about 20 feet past her says to Terry “Give me $1.00” Terry just keeps going and I say I gave it to your friend. She goes, what is best described as ape sh&t screaming expletives as we continue our walk., for what was likely 30 seconds. Just goes to show you that no good deed goes unpunished.

We also saw a lot of this.

These were someone’s belongings all neatly tidied up and just left while they are somewhere else. I suppose they are perfectly safe since who else would want them. At one of these “homes” Terry left the left over pasta she took away from Panza. We’re pretty sure he would have enjoyed it. Other people were doing the same in different places.

Where’s Terry?

Sunday was our last meal and our pal from the bar had recommended that we go to the Union Oyster House. It has been a continual running restaurant since 1826 with only 3 families owning it in that time. The food was pretty good and the place not particularly touristy. Stephanie was quite the server. She thought that all Canadians love hockey and felt badly that the Bruins had beat the Canucks – but hey they lost out in round 2 this year. Apparently that was supposed to make me feel better.

Remember last night and the cannoli? We saw a family of about 6 walking up the street and the little one was being carried so that…

And now we come to Monday. We flew from Boston back to Newark to catch our flight home. We get in to Newark just after 1:00 and our Air Canada flight is leaving at 6:20. Lots of time. We go to Tony Roma’s for (hopefully) a good meal so that we don’t have to buy and eat what they call food on the plane. The best one can say is that Roma’s is marginally better that the plane food. By the time we get to the waiting room, it’s almost 3 and boarding is at 5:35 so it won’t be too bad. I realize that there is no duty free inside security, so I go back out and pick up some scotch. Coming back I have only my wallet, boarding pass and passport – the whiskey will be delivered to the plane. This frustrates the customs guy so much that he feels the need to open my wallet and look through it. He doesn’t seem amused when I say that there isn’t anything in it just $5.00 Canadian, but he let’s me in anyway.

I’m thinking the Newark Airport needs an update.

It’s 90 degrees outside and the “air conditioning system” in the airport is working sporadically at best. The plane we will be taking is the one coming in from Vancouver and lands on time at 4:15. Starting at 4:30 the agent starts calling out about 15 names of people who must come forward to show their passports or they won’t be allowed to board. So much for the concept of getting a mobile boarding pass, since until a real live person actually sees your passport you are screwed. This announcement continues and continues and continues. How annoying. At about 5:00 we decide to to get in line to board. At 5:30 the line is much longer. At 6:00 the line is really long and we have been told that the cleaning crew is “grooming” the plane for us. The sign says our flight is “On time”. At 6:30 (still “On Time”) we are told that we will start boarding and that only those in ZONE 1 (we are in 2 and there are 5 zones) will be allowed to board first. He tells us this about 5 times in a very loud voice. We finally get on board and loading is complete about 6:55. Being on the plane I don’t know if the sign says we are “On Time”. The captain comes on and says we will be moving away from the gate in 10-15 minutes, which is accurate. However, we then sit there and sit there and sit there. We aren’t allowed to get up. “Sit down!”

Oh, did I mention the Air Canada flight crew? I think they were at the top of the seniority list. I also think they were at the top of the “Most sullen, Pissed off with having to work and I am not required to smile list.”  Since we were among the first to board, there were only about three people in the back section of the plane where our seats were. One of these flight attendants (50+ year old male) is standing there and I comment (seriously, I was just making a little joke) “Your going to have to start work soon.” “I am working” Okay, we have Mr. Happy. We have flown many air miles with Air Canada but there is no doubt this was the worst crew ever.

We finally get to take off – at 7:50, an hour and a half after scheduled time. It is another hour – we have now being on the plane for just over 2 1/4 hours – before they bring around any water. Then they start serving their delicious meals from their bistro. “We do not take cash. Don’t you have a credit card?” Terry asks for mac and cheese. “No, all out” Her cheese and grapes were a 6/10. There was also a couple with a young baby – I’m thinking 9 months, who basically screamed or cried for the entire time.

Thank God we are home!

A (Mostly Pictorial) Walk in History

We leave New York via train and four hours later we’re in Boston. First stop is at Clover Restaurant since we are quite famished! I order a meatball sandwich and the server says something about infused something or other. A little light goes off in my head – “This is a vegetarian restaurant, isn’t it?” “Yes, but not vegan.” Aahh, like that makes a big difference to me! I muddle my way through while Terry thoroughly enjoys her spicy lentil soup and falafel sandwich. Certainly half that sandwich name fits…

We find our way to the hotel and rest up (train travel is tiring, you know) and then it is off for the 20 minute walk to the “Gawden” for Paul Simon and our first walk in history.

We had a nice chat with the people beside us – they were Democrats. Feel free to imagine what we chatted about. The two couples in front of us never moved a muscle – maybe they weren’t. Anyway, it was a great concert. Some of the middle songs (#9, 14, 15, 16) were a little surreal and slow, but once “Diamonds” kicked off, the place was rocking.

I liked this photo – very arty I thought.

This photo brought up some sad memories – the Bruins were my late brother’s favourite team growing up and to a much, much lesser degree, 2011. (far right yellow banner)

After the concert we hit two bars – party animals you know.
Bar #1

Bar #2

In the second we chatted with a fellow who was Canadian on his mother’s side and had relatives who died at the Battle of the Plains of Abraham. He was a wealth of knowledge and gave us lots of ideas on how to spend the weekend.

The Merchant Pub has a row of 36 taps – all different beers and ciders.

Saturday, morning we were up bright and early (10:30) and off to explore the 17 stops on Boston’s Freedom Trail plus our drinking friend’s ideas. To be honest, we only saw about 10 of the official spots over the two days but most of what he had said.

Does this look familiar to anyone?

We saw a lot of cool buildings….



and Acorn Street – the most photographed street in Boston.

We visited the Granary Burial Ground where Paul Revere is buried…

As is John Hancock…

and J. Emerson in a “plain spoken” way.

Finally there’s James Otis. He wrote to his sister “I hope when God takes me out into eternity, that it will be by a flash of lightening.” James got his wish, being struck and killed by lightening during a thunder storm.

We walked along the Esplanade where the Boston Pops performs the 1812 Overture complete with cannons every year on July 4. The “bust” of Arthur Fiedler, longtime conductor is very cool. (This photo is totally in focus.)

We walked across Boston Common site where you can ride a silly little boat and see a statue of Washington.

We walked across Boston to see the statue of Paul Revere just outside the North Church and it’s famed steeple. “One if by land, two if by sea” and then up to Copps Hill Burial Ground. Buried there is Robert Newman, the lesser known patriot who hung the lanterns on that fateful night.

Daniel Malcolm was convicted of smuggling wine into Boston. British soldiers used his (and his wife’s) headstone for target practice and you can still clearly see the bullet marks.

We were definitely wearing down. After a slog back to the hotel through the market – $1.00 for a container of strawberries and $1.00 for a container of blueberries

and past these street performers, (look carefully for green pants in photo 2)

(There are actually four guys all bent over there)

– it was off to the North End and Panza – a Bostonian icon for dinner.

Remember our view at Becco in New York? At least this time we were inside the building.

After a fabulous meal and despite Terry’s half-hearted objections, it was time for another Italian treat – cannoli from Modern Bakery, one of the two best places to get them.

I can’t imagine that Mike’s were any better – these were out of this world. My new goal is to learn how to make them. (Got any tips Gary?)

After all was said and done, we saw lots of history, lots of Boston, lots of people and covered 24,665 steps or 14.9 km.


Man Plans, and God Laughs

Last day in New York. We’ve had a great three days and today’s plan is Bowie in Brooklyn and then the United Nations Headquarters, giving up on the Empire State Building. You know what they say about plans – see title.

Everything starts well – I figure how to get us out to the Brooklyn Museum by subway. Looks very simple on the map. Get off at Grand Army Plaza stop, walk 10 minutes from the stop and voila! Subway blasts right through that station, then Eastern Parkway, then Franklin and finally stops at Nostrand – a 45 minute walk. Good plan #1 gone wrong.

Finally get to the Bowie retrospective. We’re told we can go in at 12:30 and line up along with a lot of other people. The problem is many fold. No photos allowed, the first room is quite small, there are many small exhibits, lots of people from the groups before ours are still there, the room is packed and I’m getting claustrophobic almost immediately. Good plan #2 gone wrong. I tell Terry I’ll meet her at the end and start making my way through. I like Bowie, but looking at diaries he kept when he was a teenager or sketches he did in his twenties just don’t interest me. It was interesting to see some of his costumes though. The technology was also interesting. You are given a headset and as you approach a display it automatically kicks over from the previous one and tells the story.

There were a number of other really interesting exhibits at the Brooklyn Museum as well. One was “The Dinner Party” by Judith Chicago. If these photos are of interest to you I encourage to take a look at the link and if you get to New York please go.

Then came a HUGE mistake. I checked with Google maps and it was only a 1 hour 40 minute, 11km walk back to the UN building and we had lots of time so off we went, and went and went. After about 2 hours and 7km in 85 degree heat we were exhausted and luckily a cab pulled up to drop someone off and we jumped in. Good plan #3 gone wrong. By the time the cab gets to the UN, it is closed and all the flags are down. Sigh. Good plan #4 gone wrong.

Across the street, however was this gentleman.

He had some kind of chant going on and was talking to the drivers as they went through the light.

We trudged the last 10 long blocks to the hotel to collapse and then shower and go to our last dinner in New York City. One think we noticed was how the garbage is done – at least in midtown Manhattan. Each night all along the sidewalk are large green garbage bags or clear recycling bags – maybe up to 15 or 20 in a stretch. Then the trucks come through at night and pick the stuff up. Apparently, though, it isn’t just garbage they will pick up.

We had a great last dinner at a Mediterranean restaurant.

The woman below (and her older male companion) were on the verge of becoming part of our secondary blog, but then we got into a great conversation, with her companion apologizing for their president. They were both really nice. On the other side was a family of three from Dublin who were also shaking their heads at American politics.

Tomorrow it is off to Boston and Paul Simon and what will turn out to be 54,504 steps or 32 Kms of walking our feet off in 2 days and an evening.


And now we come to the big day – the reason we are in New York. For those of you who don’t know, check the title again.

We’ve decided that today will be the David Bowie retrospective and the top of the Empire State Building, but first check out the half price tickets for a play. On the way we see a line up outside Come From Away, the play about Gander and 9/11 so we join it – turns out it’s for last minute tickets for the Wednesday matinee. Ah ha. We’re flexible so we change our plans and join it for 45 minutes before being told there are no more tickets. We get to the half price booth and see a young woman with a clipboard about what shows are playing.

The “official” half price place has a massive line up.

The line up goes up and back to the red “tkts” sign four times and then jams itself into a smaller winding area. According to the woman it is likely 2-3 hours. Not happening. Instead she takes us across the street to her company’s office where there is no one. They are a third party seller who have face value or marked up tickets available depending on the play. After discussion we decide on the afternoon matinee of “A Bronx Tale” a musical written by and starring Chaz Palminteri who has been in a lot of films and tv shows. Bowie and the Empire State Building can wait until tomorrow.

The theme was a standard one – think Westside Story but Italians versus Blacks instead but the voices of the cast were amazing. Well worth it both in time and money – no where near the $600 – $1200 for Hamilton or $300 plus for Come From Away – if you could get one.

To kill some time before the show we walked down to view Grand Central Terminal- the most visited tourist attraction in New York (although how they could figure that out is beyond me) and then Macy’s, the world’s largest department store (which I had thought was GUM in Moscow…)


Along the way, we walked the Library Way. There were quite a few plaques quoting famed authors leading up to the New York Public Library. Perhaps some Republicans should take the same walk.

Two observations:

1. That Descartes recognizes that previous centuries to the 17th had “best men” worthy of conversation and

2. The one woman is all by herself. Not a reader?

New York Public Library

The view from the ladies’ fitting room at Macy’s

Then the play

After a rest back at the hotel, it was off to dinner at Becco. They had a neon sign “Becco welcomes Bruce to Broadway”. I’m thinking Bruce frequents Becco’s. It was incredibly busy – we had not made a reservation but they managed to find a table for us.

Our view

It was a really fun spot to have dinner. Over the hour and a half there must have been 150 people going in or out and we had a chance to chat with some New Yorkers.😀

The first great thing was they had a list of maybe 50 wines – all at $31.00. The next was the house special at $24.95 – a three pasta combination with your choice of antipasto (roasted vegetables, octopus salad and fish in tomato sauce) or Caesar salad. We had one of each and shared them.

Then they bring three pans of different kinds of pasta – spaghetti with basil and red sauce, gnocchi with bacon and cauliflower and semolina cakes in cream sauce. You can take as much as you want and have more if you wish. There was NO chance when they came around the second time we’d have more, but it was fantastic.

The pans of pasta are quite large.

Then it was off to Bruce.

For those of you who don’t know the story, in January we “won” a lottery to buy tickets to see him in New York. It was an amazing concert, just him, his guitars and a piano.* He has been doing 5 concerts a week since September in a theatre that has only 975 seats. He tells his story and sings songs which kind of match what he’s talking about. Most of what he talks about is directly from his recent book. What was really interesting was his confession was that most of what he writes about – working 9-5 etc. he has never done and yet his songs were all so successful. He didn’t know how to drive but wrote Born to Run etc. Now my confession. Everything I read said no cell phones or cameras. Then, just before the performance they announce that when the house lights come up people can take photos with their cell phones. None of mine turned out so I stole this off the internet. I know I know but what the heck. This photo is the best I got with my old iPhone – at least it shows how close we were – 4th row. You’d think he could stop moving!

The Setlist – the Tenth Avenue Freeze-Out came with quite a tribute to Clarence Clemons – from him and the audience.

He has received a bit of a bad time because every show is exactly the same – right down to the jokes and there is a TelePrompTer, but after all, if you go to any Broadway show everything is exactly the same – and generally speaking, that’s why you go. *Patti comes on and does two songs and then leaves – no speaking. There’s no encore and then when you leave there are a couple of hundred people waiting at the stage door for a glimpse. I’m not sure if he’ll ever tour again. He sleeps in his own bed every night and we figure the average price is about $500 (times 975 seats = $487500/night) and he is now committed to the end of the year which will be a 16 month run or $34,125,000.00. Now I know he will have some expenses but still…

So there you have our Wednesday in New York – and not an obnoxious person to be found all day!

Tomorrow – Bowie and we are worn out!

“It’s the Buildings, St@$^d”**

(** Thanks to Bill Clinton)

First of all, does anyone else out there get booked into rooms for the physically challenged as often as we do?

No jacuzzi tub for weary walkers. And while we are on subject of washrooms, the Solomon D. Guggenheim Museum apparently doesn’t want you lingering in their’s.

Anyway, on to Day 2. We took the Uptown Hop On Hop Off bus and toured around Central Park seeing the Dakota, where Lennon was murdered, the famed Apollo Theatre, Harlem, the magnificent Cathedral of St. John the Divine and, sadly, Trump Tower. What was heartening though was that of the 32 people on the upper deck of the bus, only one took a picture.

The first two give some small idea of how large this Cathedral is from one end to the other.

Pensive reflection

This cool sculpture was just tucked away in a corner.

No gargoyles, just whimsical figures.

Now the disappointing part of this visit. On the bus the guide said that the church had the only accessible rooftop view of New York available to the public. Now we have seen an awful lot of cathedrals and churches and would have likely given this one a pass until he said that so off we jumped. After kibbutzing with the volunteer ticket seller and buying our tickets ($8.00 each) I said we were looking forward to the climb. “Oh, that tour isn’t available today.” She was then no longer interested in friendly banter since that might mean we would ask for our money back. To be fair, her fellow volunteer did seem to be uncomfortable and apologized to Terry when we finally left.

The thing I have found most amazing are the buildings of New York. They are traditionally old and incredibly modern and often side by side, or one towering over another. And now some of those buildings.

So happy to see the “stoops”

A mosque founded by Malcolm X before he turned away from Islam.

The Dakota

The Solomon D. Guggenheim Museum
The Guggenheim Museum was amazing.

The exhibition was of Alberto Giacometti, a Swiss sculptor, who I am sure you have heard of as much as I had. Nevertheless, his work was quite incredible, if named rather obscurely.

Spoon Woman

The Leg

The Head

The Forest


And, of course, Woman With Her Head Cut Off

Then it was off to MoMA via a stroll through Central Park…

and the Apple on Fifth


Henri Rousseau

Henri Matisse

Rene Magritte

Jackson Pollack

Bodys Isek Kingelez

“Kingelez’s vibrant, ambitious sculptures are created from an incredible range of everyday materials and found objects—colored paper, commercial packaging, plastic, soda cans, and bottle caps—all meticulously repurposed and arranged.”

Piet Mondrian – I love this. I had no idea when I took it that this woman was peering in. It was total serendipity.

Vincent Van Gogh

This is The Olive Tree. It is the pair to another we all know too well.

A work in progress

The Original (completed…lol)

Tuesday evening was a night tour – more interesting architecture (and lights).

The Obnoxious Blog

Terry tells me it might not be advisable to be snapping photos of shoes, so I’m going to do obnoxious people for awhile. Of course, this might be slightly more dangerous but there you go.

We are in a restaurant at 9:10 pm and the only other people are staff and these four – a young couple and his parents. The young woman keeps saying “I probably won’t be in the wedding.” “It’s not likely I’ll be in the wedding” “‘I probably won’t be in the wedding ” Can you say “I’m desperate to be in the wedding“?

Then she goes on to talk about her really good friend (young man) who is going to become her new roommate. “He is really really annoying but he is my annoying friend.” “I know he’s annoying, but I can handle him” “He’s really annoying and his girlfriend is more annoying and I’ll just handle him.” Can you say “He’s almost certainly saying the same thing to his in-laws”?

Now you may very well ask how I know this. Good question. It is because, despite the almost empty restaurant, she was so loud Terry and I had difficulty making conversation. Unbelievable!

New York, New York

I have made a new reservation. I am never drinking the night before I get on a plane at 8:45 am again. It just makes the flight just too damn long.

Anyway, here we are after another joyous Air Canada flight* -delayed out of Vancouver by an hour thus arriving in Newark an hour late. AC may be the only airline unable to make up time in the air. The drive into NYC took twice as long as normal because:

1. On Sunday was the Puerto Rican Day parade thus 1,000,000 people came into the city and all sorts of streets were closed to traffic and

2. The Tony awards were that night as well, closing more streets in Manhattan. Our driver -“We New Yorkers don’t like award shows. They mess up traffic.”

After arriving at the Yotel Hotel and checking in electronically- no front desk, we dump our bags and head off in search of some edible food. (See sarcastic * above).

The view south from our 15th story perch. That’s the Hudson River and right where where Captain Sullenberger “landed” his Airbus 320 a number of years ago.

Our hotel is at 10th Avenue and 42nd Street, just 7 blocks from Times Square. It was a madhouse, and as far s I know there was nothing special going on there. At one point I thought “This is the only time I’m coming up here – just too many damn people.” That may change but still…

We found a lovely little Italian restaurant just off Broadway where we ate and Terry drank. Then it was more walking, finding the theatre where we will see Springsteen, seeing the Brill Building where Carol King and many others got their start, looking at all the other tourists looking at the lights and locating where the ball comes down. It was a lot to do when one isn’t feeling 100%, let me tell you.

Monday dawned a little cloudy and after an interesting breakfast – ever ordered an mushroom omelet with home fries and got an omelet, home fries, cold mushrooms on the side AND two sunny side up eggs?–we boarded a Hop On Hop Off tour which headed from midtown to downtown, basically along Broadway and 5th Avenue. (Those street names just roll off the tongue now.) The fascinating thing was the traffic – it is just as bad as one sees on tv/movies. Everything moves dead slow with generally no problems – just a fair amount of honking. What is interesting is that when the lights change, traffic stops immediately, pedestrians walk and no one tries to force their way through. Very civilized.

We passed an Irish pub, Empire State Building, the Flatiron building and billions more fascinating buildings before getting off at the tip of Manhattan at Battery Park.

Then we started to walk. First it was up to the Memorial which was quite an emotional site and there were a few tears shed even though we aren’t Americans. It was impossible to get it in one photo.

This is a Callery Pear tree and is called the Survivor tree. The firefighters found it damaged but still alive in all the rubble. They took it out to a nursery where it was brought back to health and ready to be planted on the tenth anniversary. However, the night before, a big storm came through and knocked it over once more. It took another two years, but it is now back at the Memorial (no longer referred to as ground zero).

This is the Oculus Shopping mall right next door – an amazing place.

All around the area, which still has parts under construction are these huge fences with murals on them.

The coolest one was this one though, particularly with the Oculus above it. Terry was wishing she’d had worn a black and white top.

Included in our hop on hop off was a tour of Hudson River and a trip around the Statue of Liberty.

Then it was off to find lunch which we had in a really nice little gyro/falafel place. You know – one that wasn’t anything special, just good food, eclectic art, and a take out counter.

And then you look at the menu.

Rib-eye $40.00? Spicy frankfurter $31.00? Lamb chops $40.00? Take another look at the room/kitchen behind Terry. OMG

After nourishing ourselves it was time to walk across the Brooklyn Bridge, around Brooklyn, along the Brooklyn Promenade, back across the bridge and then 3.5 more miles back to our hotel.
The bike lane proponents in Vancouver would be so thrilled. Two equally wide lanes for both pedestrians and bike riders.
Unfortunately there are way more people than riders. Look beyond the goofy guy. There were literally thousands of people crammed into the same amount of space. The bikers were impatient–“This is a bike lane, assholes!”–if you happened to try to pass a slow walker when one of them flew past. One biker had a whistle in his mouth and just kept blowing. In the first 250-300 yards, vendors were set up in the pedestrian lane, cutting in half the room available. it was just plain stupid. I’d love to know how many accidents there are annually.

Downtown Manhattan from the bridge

Downtown Manhattan from Brooklyn. “On the Waterfront” was filmed right here – before it was developed into this leafy park.

I just liked this place.

By the time we got back to the hotel we had walked over ten miles and were quite tired.

Tomorrow is Uptown. See you then.

Hola Mexico City

Well here we are. The last few days of this wonderful adventure. From the heights of Sacsayhuaman (near Cusco and pronounced “sexy woman) elevation 12,142 feet to below sea level in the Galapagos, from seeing what brilliant ancient cultures could create to learning how the Spanish attempted to obliterate both Incans and Aztecs, from standing on the equator to standing on the peak of Huayna Picchu, it has been a fantastic experience. I hope you have enjoyed seeing some of what we saw.

We arrived in Mexico City at about 2:00 pm and got a taxi into town. Very civilized. You go to a counter at the airport, tell them where you want to go, pay them, they give you a chit, you go outside, choose a taxi to fit all your bags in and away you go.

I’m not sure when we go back to the airport if we will take the same route. I think the driver wanted us to feel we were back in China. He took us down a street where there were blocks and blocks of shoe stores.

It got narrower.

The shoes – well, some of the shoes. Men’s shoes, women’s shoes, shoes in boxes, shoes on racks…

It was at this point, while we were crawling along that an armed (ie. machine gun toting) policeman stopped us and said something to the driver. “Am I not supposed to take photos?” I naively ask. “No, he said to roll up the windows.” is the driver’s response. Oh.

We finally arrive at our very lovely yet inexpensive ($720 for 6 nights) hotel – The Historico Centrale where we are told that all of the food and non-alcoholic beverages available at the little coffee counter are free. Sandwiches, paninis, baked goods, smoothies, chips, pop – all free. It takes us two days for this to actually sink in. Welcome to Mexico City.

There is a two story living wall. Spectacular.

And a 6 story atrium.

By the time we get cleaned up and have a welcoming drink it is heading towards dinner time and we head up the three blocks to the Zocalo or main square, stopping at Pata Negra bar for the worst margarita ever served by one of the surliest bartenders ever.

She wasn’t so surly when it came time to pay the bill though. Then she was all sweetness and light. She asked if the margaritas were good and I lied and said yes very good. Martin gave her 500 pesos (about $32.00) for a 280 peso bill and she wandered off, staying at the far end of the bar for a good 5 minutes, waiting for us to leave. She finally came back with the change. No fleecing these gringos senorita.

From there it was across the street to watch these guys for awhile. Who takes a drum kit to busk? (FYI It’s only about 40 seconds long and then loops back to the beginning.)

Zocalo is the third largest square in the world, after Tiananmen and Red Squares. Obviously, it is huge. On one side is the Mexico City Metropolitan Cathedral, on another side is the National Palace, on another is City Hall and other government buildings and on the last hotels.

At night they are all lit up. Except for the cathedral, they all change colour every few seconds or so.

The Cathedral

National Palace

City Hall


The Zocalo in daylight.

It is dominated by the largest national flag I’ve ever seen.

We had dinner at Salon Corona, thinking we had stumbled on a cool little restaurant. Yeah, right. There are at least 10 of them within a 5 minute walk of our hotel. But they serve a good draft…

and a not bad slushy margarita.

You remember Julie Andrews and “The Hills are Alive”? Well in Mexico City, it is “The Streets are Alive”. After dinner we came across this group. Subsequently when we passed this corner there were other classical music performers equally talented. This is almost 3 minutes long but I just couldn’t stop videoing. Please enjoy. (I don’t know whose finger that is!😂😂)

In addition we have also heard a couple of 5 or 6 year olds sent by their parents to perform on Calle Francisco I Madero, the main pedestrian walkway. They strum a couple of old toy guitars and yell out lyrics of some kind or other. It was disturbing to say the least but it is a necessary evil in this and many other parts of the world. (We have also heard music blasting from the 3rd and 4th floor discotheques and an incredible opera singer singing from the third floor balcony of a restaurant. Unreal or maybe surreal.)

From there it was back to the hotel for a glass of wine, a wonderfully comfortable bed and best of all no wake up call.

Buenos noches. Mañana.