Monday, March 31, 2008

The City of Falling Angels --- Venice

The good thing about being basically off line for a week was that I had the opportunity to read more books than usual. The City of Falling Angels by John Berendt had been on my TBR pile since last summer so I threw it in the suitcase, along with some other books, to take on my trip this past week.

Probably best known for Midnight in the Garden of Good and Evil, Berendt takes on the wonderful city of Venice in a look at the modern day city as well as the Venetians in one of the most interesting books I have read in a while.

Venice is a city I have visited on five occasions that I can think of off the top of my head, although it could be more, if I include the odd day trip. The first time was on our honeymoon in 1961, the last time in 2002. On two occasions I was in the company of a Venetian, now living in Canada and once in the company of a teacher of Fine Arts. I have always enjoyed the city, its buildings and the art treasures it has to offer its visitors.

So it was with a certain familiarity of the city that I read this book. Not for the first time, Berendt arrived in Venice in February 1996 for a lengthy visit three days after the fire which destroyed La Fenice, The Phoenix, the last opera house remaining in Venice and a beloved symbol for the Venetians. La Fenice was originally built on a new site as a result of a fire destroying its predecessor in 1792 and a subsequent legal battle. It too burned down and was rebuilt in 1836. It certainly has a history of rising from the ashes like the phoenix. Berendt interweaves the story of the fire, the investigation into the cause of the fire, the subsequent arson trial and the rebuilding of the theatre, which was reopened in December 2003, with stories of some very intriguing residents of Venice some of whom he interviewed and came to know.

He introduces the first of these at the beginning of the book, Count Girolamo Marcello, who gives a wonderful quote.
"Everyone in Venice is acting," he told me. "Everyone plays a role, and the role changes. The key to understanding Venetians is rhythm, the rhythm of the lagoon, the water, the tides, the waves. The rhythm in Venice is like breathing. High water, high pressure: tense. Low water, low pressure: relaxed. The tide changes every six hours." He also said, "Venetians never tell the truth. We mean precisely the opposite of what we say."
As the book progresses with the story of fire at La Fenice and the subsequent events which unfold like a mystery story, even the rebuilding was very dramatic as one contractor after another was replaced, Berendt tries to discover the truth and along the way he presents some very fascinating stories and people central to life in Venice, including a fourth generation expatriate family, the Curtises who have lived in the Palazzo Barbaro, since the 1880s and who played host to Henry James for his time in Venice.

He gives a detailed account of Ezra Pound who lived for many years with his lover Olga Rudge in Venice. In fact he rented their house for a period of time. But as well he tells tales of the many Venetians he encountered, from members of the nobility to the dogged prosecutor, Felice Casson, involved in the long investigation into the fire and some of the city's more ordinary citizens. I found it a very compelling read and devoured it in two days.

A few facts from this book about Venice that you may or may not know:

Venice has the cleanest air of any city because there are no cars and methane gas which burns cleanly is used for heating.

It is also the quietest city with a sound level of 32 decibels, while for the average city it is 45 decibels, again because of the absence of traffic.

There are 443 bridges in the city of Venice, although I have seen other figures bandied about, including 500.

During his occupation of Venice, Napoleon razed to the ground 176 religious buildings, 80 palaces along with their decorations and art treasures and his agents confiscated 12,000 paintings and sent them Paris where they now reside in the Louvre.

The Venetian Mafia control the water taxi business in Venice, along with the money lending operation in front of the Municipal Casino, which incidentally residents of Venice are not allowed to enter due to a very old statute still on the books.

The permanent population of Venice has now shrunk to 70,000 although an estimated 7 million tourists visit the city each year.

Well why don't you read the book for yourself? I do recommend it highly although the tone might be considered a trifle gossipy, however I found it fascinating.

You may also be interested in the list of the ten books that John Berendt thinks are essential reading on Venice and I found this fascinating site which has a fairly exhaustive list of books on Venice, both fiction and non fiction.

Oh yes, the title. After a piece of an angel fell off the church, Santa Maria della Salute, a sign was put outside, "Beware of Falling Angels." Only in Italy.

Saturday, March 29, 2008

Saturday Photo Hunt --- High

I am afraid my photo this week is pretty lame but the archives yielded only this one which was vaguely on the theme. The Totem Poles in Stanley Park reach HIGH into the sky and HIGH above them, in the clouds, a small plane was passing by. Click on the photo to see it.

I know, I know. Very lame. It's not even an especially good photo. I have better ones of the Totem Poles but no plane in them.


NB: I'm publishing early and I'm travelling Saturday so will return visits on Sunday

Thursday, March 27, 2008

Puerto Vallarta

Puerto Vallarta is my preferred stop on this cruise and in fact I quite liked it when we stayed here for a week twenty years ago. Certainly there have been quite a few changes in those years, although then, as we did at Mazatlán, we stayed at a resort way out of the main area, with its own private beach.

The ship docked at a brand new cruise ship terminal and nearby there was a constant stream of traffic to and from the airport. Opposite, on the portside, was a Walmart's store, of all things and adjacent a very large modern air- conditioned mall, but from our deck we could see a very large marina and close by were moored two very large private motor boats, each with its own helicopter on board. How the other half live! Being a fair way out of town we caught a cab into the downtown area.

Puerto Vallarta is a city of 350,000, halfway down the Pacific coast of Mexico and well below the Tropic of Cancer. The town sits on Banderas Bay, at 25 miles wide one of the largest and deepest bays in the world. With its average temperature of 80 degrees year round and 345 days of sunshine the city attracts more than 3 million visitors annually.

The first Europeans, the Spanish, came to the bay in the 16th Century where they were met by 20,000 native people who had ceremonial weapons decorated with brightly coloured flags and thus the bay was named Bahia de Banderas. In the mid 1850s families came to settle on the Rio Cuale, especially after gold and silver were found in the hills surrounding the area and while the town grew slowly it was the choice of a property in Puerto Vallarta in 1962 by director John Huston as the setting for his film version of Tennessee Williams' Night of the Iguana that brought the sleepy town to the forefront of the news. The stars of the film were Richard Burton and Ava Gardner but accompanying Burton was his lover Elizabeth Taylor and with this affair being the gossip sensation of the time the spotlight fell on the town, as news media gathered here to cover the romance.

Elizabeth bought a 9-bedroom, 11-bathroom home, Casa Kimberley, high above the town, as well as the house across the lane and a bridge was constructed joining the two. Yes, I climbed the equivalent of three blocks of stairs to find the house which is now run as a bed and breakfast. I can't believe I did that but we did see a few other tourist huffing and puffing up the steps.

Other Hollywood stars followed Burton and Taylor to the town which was discovered to be a perfect tropical paradise and from there it grew into the popular tourist destination it is today, with development still galloping along as there is new construction underway everywhere.

The Rio Cuale divides the town into two sections, the southern side being purely Mexican while the northern side has the more tourist areas and upscale stores. The Malecon, an 11-block seaside promenade gives a wonderful view of the bay and the waves crashing onto the beach which was sandy in parts and very rocky in others. As in San Diego, the city has placed many modern bronze statues along the promenade which adds to the ambiance. Several of them incorporate interactive computers which will give you information about restaurants, hotels and things to do. Unfortunately it was almost impossible to read the screens because of the bright light.

Several locals had built huge sand sculptures above the tideline by the promenade and they were busy spraying them with water to keep their shapes. I don't know how long they had been there but one was a remarkable larger than life size representation of the Last Supper by Leonardo da Vinci. The detail was very good and it obviously required an enormous amount of effort. The ubiquitous donation boxes were nearby so we donated to each to reward their initiative. Perhaps the sculptures were made cooperatively and several take turns preserving them.

What I found quite pleasing was the vast number of Mexican families who were enjoying themselves on the bay front, wandering along eating ice cream and taking photos of their young children who enjoyed scrambling on the statues. A lovely cool breeze came in from the bay, making the heat quite tolerable and along the Malecon were erected several tent like covers with seats underneath, where strollers could sit in the shade and enjoy the view of the bay. We walked along until we came to the Rio which at that point has an island in its centre, Isla Rio Cuale, which divides the river into two arms which are virtually small creeks. The island has a small museum and restaurants situated in the shade of trees and many craft shops are located there too. We spent some time wandering the island before we returned to the city streets to visit the Cathedral of Our Lady of Guadalupe, which was rather small but attractive, especially the exterior.

The streets of the old town themselves are cobble stoned and a rough ride for the cars which traverse them. Spanish style whitewashed houses with wrought iron balconies line the streets and bougainvillea vines are everywhere as is usual in this part of the world. I found a lovely frangipani tree in full bloom in a little lane off the beaten track, surviving in a very restricted corner.

The region has many things of interest to see, with a small privately owned zoo and botanical gardens nearby and of course there are the ever present water activities with many tour operators willing to take you out for a pleasant day's touring or cruising. We even saw people going for a sail on the Marigalante Pirate ship which looked like a lot of fun, especially for children.

One interesting thing I read about which takes place here was the Sea Turtle preservation initiative whereby 96 percent of the eggs will hatch with the help of the region's release program. From May to September thousands of sea turtles arrive on the nearby beaches to lay their eggs which are gathered each night by beachfront resort staff and are transported to a safer location. 30 to 70 days later the hatchlings emerge and they are released back onto the beach by resort staff and guests.

Well if you want to go to Mexico my choice from these three destinations would be Puerta Vallarta, even though it is more crowded in the city itself, it seems there are many more things to keep you occupied should you tire of relaxing and doing nothing.

Today we are back at sea, on our way to San Diego where we will fly back to Vancouver on Saturday. I hope you enjoyed travelling along with me and I will post photos later which will add a bit more interest to these bald word posts. This one may or may not be accompanied by an image. Only the gods of the internet know for sure, it is surely a mystery to me. What works one day does not the next, no matter what I do.

I will be posting for Saturday Photo Hunt tomorrow night, early as usual. The post for HIGH was prepared before leaving and should be no problem as all I have to do is hit publish. Am I tempting fate by saying that? I hope to visit everyone on Sunday to find out what has been going on in your lives. See you all soon.

Update: Thanks to Maui girl I have corrected the spelling of Puerto Vallarta not Puerta Vallarta as I had decided to rename it.

Wednesday, March 26, 2008

Images of Mazatlan

Look below for the post about Mazatlan.  The images were posted in a different way, via email.  The first is the Cathedral of the Immaculate Conception and the second is a rather charming street scene I saw along the walk. 


We awoke on the morning of our visit to Mazatlán to find the boat docked but the area totally socked in by fog. Oh, oh! However we were assured by the Captain that it was expected to burn off fairly early which of course it did. Another fine day in Paradise. Well actually a very, very warm day. More towards the uncomfortable. I don't know when I lost the ability to cope with the very hot weather but when it comes, it reminds me of how much I like the more moderate temperatures of San Diego or even Hawaii.

As I said before, we had stayed in Mazatlan more than twenty years previously. Then our hotel was way off at the end of a very long beach, sufficient unto itself and we had spent the week mostly there, not venturing out too much. When we did it seemed there was a continuous row of hotels, stores and restaurants lining the beach and I found the people rather rude there, after the two weeks we had already spent elsewhere in Mexico and where people were very friendly.

This time we decided to avoid the hotel strip which probably now has many more hotels and stores and explore the old town of Mazatlan. We could see the Cathedral from the ship and it did not seem too far away and with our trusty map we set off. At the gangway a young Mexican lady gave up a useful walking map of the old town with a set route to include the highlights.

Mazatlán was established by Spanish settlers in 1531 to export the gold and silver from the Sierra Madre mines although it was off the traditional shipping routes of the period. It remained a relatively quiet port until the eighteenth century when the fishing industry was established because of the rich harvest of the surrounding sea. Native people did not ever live here although Mazatlan means deer hunting grounds and they used the area for that purpose, so there are no ancient ruins and the history is totally of the colonial Spaniards.

We started the walking tour in reverse since it ended at the Cathedral of the Immaculate Conception, but since it was such an obvious landmark it was easy to find. It's a fairly ordinary structure, begun in 1857and completed in 1899. But every building has its own charm and we wandered around in the cool interior. Externally it has two spires and it's said to be neo-gothic in style with the usual long interior with tall stone columns and two side aisles, but no transept. The arches of the high ceiling were very light with light grey and dark grey bricks and the "old scientist" was worried about them falling down as he could not find the keystones.

The Cathedral faces the Plazuela Republica which was a nice oasis of different palms and other trees and seemed well used by the Mexicans themselves. A variety of booksellers had stalls around the edges and there were shoe polishing stands along one side which were in good use.

Since it was nearby we headed to the local market which was very interesting. As well as the usual Tshirt sellers this market is for the locals since there were fruit and vegetable stalls, cold cuts and even meat stalls. The butcher stands there cutting up the meat to order with his cleaver and I saw some things that one does not usually see at the Granville Island market. For example there was a huge tripe, and I mean huge. Most of you will never have seen tripe let along tasted it but this one was very large and all folded in layers. I suppose the butcher cut pieces off it to order. I also saw several whole pig heads looking out on the shoppers but unfortunately my photo is out of focus so you will be spared this image.

I have to tell you that we rather veered off this route as we saw things that interested us although we did enjoy another square, Plazuelo Machado, surrounded by old buildings which have been restored to their former glory and now house outdoor restaurants, bars and cafes as well as hotels, with the Angela Peralta Theatre, built in 1874, on one corner of this square.

The Art Museum was closed for lunch between 12 noon and 4 pm so we crossed the old town to find the local beach, not the ten mile long one where all the hotels are. The view was still quite hazy, due to the initial fog of the day I suppose, but we did find some surf, although rather flat, which did not stop half a dozen locals trying to catch a wave.

We were quite grateful to return to our ship and spend the rest of the afternoon reading on our deck and watching the boating world pass by. I guess you can tell that Mexico is not my favourite place although I have many friends who love it and come back year after year. To each his own I guess.

Our next and last port of call is Puerto Vallarta and we have been there before on that same trip, twenty years ago. I liked it more than Mazatlan then and I wonder it will be true still.

The plan is for two images to accompany this post. Unfortunately it's just not happening. C'est la vie!

Tuesday, March 25, 2008

All Ashore for Cabo San Lucas

One of the things I remember most about Mexico when I came here about 20 years ago were the pelicans. Flocks of them were everywhere, bobbing in the water, sitting around the fishing boats and even all over them. I found them inordinately interesting and still do so this is what you get for the photo image in this post.

For a day and a half we have been sailing down the 1000 mile long Baja California, a peninsula which was split off from the mainland of Mexico by violent seismic activity along the San Andreas fault between 10 to 15 million years ago. Very powerful earthquakes split the Baja from the mainland and the Sea of Cortez was formed, with the area still seismically active on occasion.

The sea around Cabo San Lucas, which is a few miles from the tip of the peninsula on the bay side, is home to much marine life, including migrating California Gray Whales and Humpbacks. We did not see these particular whales but we did see two pods of killer whales or orcas which is apparently a quite rare sight in these waters. They were quite close to the ship and travelling in the same direction, surfacing and blowing at regular intervals. It was then I wished I had one of those huge telephoto lens although I don't really want to lug one around.

Settlements have existed here since the 16th century, as the Cape offered refuge to pirates seeking refuge from the sea. Fisherman came later and more recently there was only a small village with about 200 people in the area however Cabo San Lucas, a government- sponsored and designed resort community, only a few decades old, has sprung up here with an unbroken line of hotels, golf courses and condominiums with restaurants and shops. North of Cabo San Lucas is the interior desert of the peninsula and due to the rocky terrain many visitors still arrive via the sea, either via cruise ships or in their own vessels for it is a superb fishing region.

Cabo has no pier for cruise ships so all passengers are taken from ship to shore via tenders, which in the case of Holland America are their 150 seat covered lifeboats. They look like a lot of fun to operate for the drivers as they hover by the boat's loading gangways and zip across to small piers on the shore, back and forth for all the hours that the ship is in port. With any luck there is a photo of one above, just below the pelicans.The most interesting thing here for visitors besides sports fishing are the water sports. Snorkeling and scuba diving have never been our thing and we would probably be past it, even if it once was. Ditto for parasailing and whipping about on the water skidoo type things or water scooters or whatever they call them. The latter do look like fun and the "old scientist" said he would have tried those for sure in his younger days if they had existed.

So we opted instead to wander around the smallish town and enjoy the lovely day. We took refuge for a while in an air conditioned mall where I bought a new sporty watch with interchangeable bands since my old one was giving up the ghost. Yes pretty lame to be buying a new watch in Mexico but I have no interest in the jewellery on offer everywhere, both the local silver and the ever present diamonds which are on offer in every cruise port I've ever been. As I never buy anything I have to dust I managed to avoid all the pottery which also is the very prevalent local ware. We did find a wonderful store with sets of medieval armour for sale along with all types of swords and daggers. It was an interesting store to explore and the young Mexican women assistants were very polite even though it was obvious that we were not prospective customers.

When we came back to the ship we sat on the deck and watched the people enjoying themselves either on boats or the water skidoo things for it was a truly lovely day. The one thing I noticed was that there was absolutely no surf at the beaches in the bay but I'm sure there must be on the ocean side of the peninsula.

I have friends who come here regularly for vacation but I would not say that it is my type of place. I can see boating people enjoying it a lot and the marina was excellent. Lying around in the sun and relaxing would be fine if you like that which I don't since I burn so badly and skin cancer has afflicted the old boy quite severely from melanoma to squamous cell to ordinary basal cell types so he too avoids the sun now. His misspent surfer dude youth has finally caught up with him. So I think we have made our one and only trip to Cabo San Lucas.

Next port of call is Mazatlan which we visited for a week with another couple many years ago and where we stayed at a resort out of town with its own private beach and we played tennis every day.

NB: I have had to give up on the images this time. They will not load even in Blogger. Who knows what the problem is. Apologies.

Sunday, March 23, 2008

Day at Sea, Cruising Along

Well at great expense I am connected to the Internet on this huge vessel, the Oosterdam, but the connection is unbelievably slow so I will only be checking my email and maybe posting the odd thing on occasion.  I'm sure most of you know that instead of composing on blogger and publishing from there you can post by sending it as an email. 

This is what I did last year, while on the cruise to Alaska.  It was text only since I did not know that you could attach an image to the post.  Of course now I know you can do that and I tried it before I left on my practice blog, but I used Eudora and sent it via my internet provider in the usual manner.  I realized that on the ship I have to use webmail so I don't know how to attach an image there but I will try when I actually connect to send this.  It may or may not have an photo of a panda bear from the San Diego zoo.  You and I will both be surprised when it is published.

After our day in and around the San Diego Harbour we spent our second day at the San Diego Zoo.  The first time I went to San Diego was a day trip to the zoo, from some conference we were at, in Santa Barbara I believe and I said to myself I have to come back here again because this is a fabulous zoo.  We did come back and spent a week  and of course visited the zoo then and the many other attractions that the area has to offer.  Now we are talking more than twenty years ago and in the meantime I have become a great aficionada of the wonderful Bronx Zoo where my daugher has a membership so we go there quite regularly when we are in New York.  As I said before Taronga Zoo in Sydney is the quintessential zoo for me and I wondered if San Diego would still be the great zoo I remembered. 

Well it should be, because it costs $34 to get in, although  this includes a guided bus tour lasting 35 minutes and rides on the aerial gondola which crosses high above the zoo from one end to the other.  

The weather was perfect that day, as it most often is, because the annual rainfall of San Diego is less than twelve inches  and we made our way there via public transport.  Fortunately we had purchased tickets in advance for when we arrived it was incredibly busy at the entrance with many families in attendance and more excited children than you could ever imagine.   Besides being Good Friday which is not a general holiday in the US, it had been Spring break for that whole week so it seemed many people had decided to visit the zoo. 

I'll do a more complete post later about the zoo with some of the photos I took. Yes it is still a very good zoo and the setting in the wide open space of Balboa Park is wonderful.  You can skip it if you are not the zoo lover that I am. 

Embarkation day went very smoothly considering the fast turn around they do in a few hours and the fact that this ship carries over 1800 passengers each trip.  You would think that it would be very crowded on board but except at meal times in the dining areas and around the pool there are many parts of the ship where you find just a few people and you don't feel crowded at all.  We splashed out for a cabin with a small verandah deck so we can enjoy outdoor privacy there if we wish and we have lots of books to read and the old scientist has brought along his portable battery operated Sudoku toy and his mp3 player so he's happy.   He loves to eat and there are lots of restaurants to try out the different varieties of food.  Luckily he is very slim but I have to be more circumspect and resist many of the wonderful things on offer. 

The gym is quite small for the size of ship and since there are quite a few young people on board as well as many children it is quite busy.  Consequently we have been exercising by walking on the promenade deck.  Three circuits around cover 1 mile so that's what we do when we get tired of reading.  I attended a couple of health related seminars but they were rather rudimentary and basically they are trying to sell you their services of Body Composition Analysis and Metabolism Test. 

Tonight is a formal evening so the old boy will put on a dark suit and tie and I'll drag out my glad rags which sadly are not red and we will dine in style at 8pm with unknown dinner companions.  Not much of interest to report today, just a lot of lazing around but sometimes it just hits the spot.  I am learning to adjust to not being continually on the internet and consulting Google for the slightest thought which crossed my mind.  Like any addict, I am finding withdrawal quite difficult and I miss you all and am wondering what you are all up to. 

So here comes the big trial.  Copy and paste, add the photo and we shall see.

Happy Easter --- Buona Pasqua --- Joyeuses Pâques

Christ has died, Christ is risen, Christ will come again.
Alleluia, Alleluia


Image, Fra Angelico: The Resurrection, in the Museo di San Marco, Firenze

Saturday, March 22, 2008

Saturday Photo Hunt ---- Metal

There never was a doubt in my mind about what to post for this week's Photo Hunt. This unique stainless steel fountain, the Crab Fountain graces the entrance to the Vancouver Museum which was built in 1967 as part of the celebration of Canada's Centennial. Yes we are a very young country.

Again there is no need for three guesses about what this represents.
Look at the pincers

Another angle of this amazing fountain

The Crab Fountain at 1100 Chestnut (Vancouver Museum; stainless steel, 6.7 metres high, 1958), was designed by George Norris (b. 1928, Victoria). The work cost $44,000, a gift from the women of Vancouver for Canada's centennial. Waterworks were devised by John Bell, of Bell & Reading Engineers, West Vancouver. The crab in Haida legend protected the harbor, as well as being a sign of the zodiac. Norris, a graduate of the old Vancouver School of Art, designed the fountain's seven water jets to be increased or decreased, depending on the weather or for special occasions such as the Sea Festival.

The fountain greets visitors to this very different
and interesting building


NB: I'm out of town this week and will visit you all when I return, I promise.

Friday, March 21, 2008

San Diego

Travelling by plane is no fun these days what with wasting three hours at the airport before each flight and all the extra security measures one has to endure. The Vancouver to San Diego trip was even worse than usual since there was no direct flight available and we had to change planes in Seattle and each flight was delayed.

Finally we arrived gratefully in our room in the downtown hotel in San Diego at 10 pm, only to hear the sound of a train toot, tooting. Yes folks, the Amtrack and the local train service go right through the downtown area, just two blocks from here and although there are barriers which come down, the train toots its way along past every crossing, until very late at night. Ah well. Actually we thought it was pretty funny and laughed every time one went past.

But San Diego is for me is the action packed harbour, so early this morning we went straight down to investigate this ship which we can see from our hotel balcony.

It's the Star of India and forms part of the Maritime Museum of San Diego, a collection of various types of historic boats which can be seen moored at the Embarcadero. The Star of India was launched in 1863 and is the oldest ship in the world that still maintains a regular sailing schedule.

The HMS Surprise is a magnificent replica of a late 18th century Royal Navy frigate and she was used in the production of the film, Master and Commander: The Far Side of the World.

Wings, built in 1931, is one of the Pacific Class wooden hulled boats, racing yachts designed locally and for southern California waters. They immediately began to defeat the formidable East Coast "S-boats". Thirty of these wooden boats still sail and race in San Diego harbour.

Along the Embarcadero is a collection of thirty modern sculptures which are called Urban Trees. This one does indeed look like a tree, although its name is a rather cryptic RT 6A89. These are part of the Port of San Diego's Public Art Program and they certainly enhance the walkway. They are an annual event and remain in place for one year when the next year's "crop" replace them.

While still labelled an urban tree this work called Aquamarine Dream is more of a traditional sculpture rather than a tree.

This is the upper half of a very whimsical "urban tree" called Family Tree by the Sea. The female half of the sculpture is embedded with coloured stones while the male half is plain concrete. The baby sits on the "branch" which represents the conjoined arms of the couple.

USS Midway was the longest serving aircraft carrier in the United States fleet, from its commissioning in 1945 to its service in Desert Storm in 1991. In 2004 it opened as a museum at its final mooring place in San Diego harbour.

After the long walk along the Embarcadero we came to Seaport Village where we had lunch and I took many photos which I will post another time, since this post is a bit long. In the afternoon we took a two hour cruise around the harbour. Like Sydney Harbour there is a lot of action as there is always something coming or going and the very heavy presence of the US Navy lends a lot of interest to the local scene.

However the next post will be the Saturday Photo Hunt because I had the most perfect photos to represent the theme for this week which is METAL.

Wednesday, March 19, 2008

A Consolation Prize

My cataract surgery also involves appointments at various times beforehand, so I am taking the opportunity to take a short vacation between a couple of them. Today we will be flying to San Diego, a city of which I am rather fond, perhaps because it puts me in mind of Sydney, our hometown, although they are quite different. I have been there several times before although quite a long time ago.

San Diego skyline at night*

After a few days in the city we will be taking a seven day cruise down to Mexico on the Oosterdam. I booked this quite last minute and was not able to get the cruise I had in mind but I'm sure this will be a nice break and I won't have to cook any meals for a while which is a plus for me. Not only that, I will probably go to visit my favourite zoo in San Diego, which I like just as much as Sydney's Taronga Zoo and that's saying something.

MS Oosterdam

I will be taking my laptop and the hotel in San Diego has free internet connection. As well I will pay an arm and a leg for internet connection on the ship but since it is so expensive I will probably only be checking my email and hopefully posting something to this blog via email, with the occasional image, now that I have discovered how to do that.

So my blog visiting will be virtually non existent during the next ten days, I'm afraid. I hope I can find something interesting on this trip to share with you. Take care my dear blog friends and do enjoy whatever it is that is keeping you occupied these days.

*Image is from Wikimedia Commons

Monday, March 17, 2008

The Eyes are the Windows to the Soul

Due to deterioration, the windows to this soul will be undergoing an upgrade. The old people's problem has caught up with me and I need to have cataract surgery. Both eyes. One at a time, however.

The other day I started on the slippery slope towards this procedure by having my right eye measured for the correct intraocular lens (IOL) which will be implanted after the contents of the lens have been liquefied using sound waves, a process called phacoemulsification, and sucked out through a tiny incision.

Following this, the foldable plastic lens is inserted through the slit and once inside the eye it unfolds into position. Since the incision is so small no stitches are needed and faster healing is achieved.

Did you know that cataract surgery is the most commonly performed conventional surgical procedure done in America? So how come I am petrified to undergo this operation?

This is not a new procedure. The current method has been used for the past fifteen to twenty years and is far superior to early cataract surgical techniques. When I first started in hospital pharmacy the patients stayed in hospital for days, their mobility severely restricted so the sutures could heal. There was no replacement of the lens which was totally removed, capsule and all. Nowadays it is a simple daycare procedure done with the patient awake, in a clinic instead of a hospital and normal life resumes quite quickly.

So why am I petrified you might well ask? I first saw my ophthalmologist five years ago for this problem. He examined my eyes, yes cataracts forming in both eyes. He explained the procedure and said he had been using this particular technique for fifteen years or more. Doing his due diligence, he also told me that some people find no improvement after the surgery, some are worse and 1 in 1700 lose the sight in the eye. Now shall we schedule the procedure? he asked. I looked at him. You must be joking, I thought. Instead I said, I'll have to think about this and get back to you. Then I fled. I've continued to see this doctor regularly since then and now it's time to have the problem corrected.

Working in a hospital all those years brought me into contact with a lot of terrible illnesses that I am very grateful not to have suffered. Losing one's sight is right up there for me. After seeing a young woman lose the sight in her eye because she poked it with a mascara brush and developed a severe infection, I gave up using mascara and have not used it in more than 20 years. Yes, I know that 1 in 1700 odds are not that high, but I don't want to be that one.

Unfortunately I cannot put it off any longer. It's not a problem during the day but this past winter I have found driving at night more difficult and since we live quite far from public transport and shopping I cannot afford to risk losing my licence. So in mid April the right eye is scheduled to be done and I'm sure everything will be fine. After all it's the most common surgery performed in North America. Why am I such a wuss?

Here's one of those little quizzes we all like to take. I have some positive traits it's true but some of those negative ones are a bit nasty. However it's just a bit of fun. What type of eyes do you have?

Your eyes are the windows to your soul. What type of eyes do you have?


You have Raven Eyes!
Positive Traits: Intellectual, Wise, Experienced, Honest, Trustworthy
Negative Traits: Pompous, Condescending, Withdrawn, Pessimistic, Depressed
Take this quiz!

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| Make A Quiz | More Quizzes | Grab Code

Saturday, March 15, 2008

Saturday Photo Hunt ---- I spy


This week's theme seems whatever you want it to be. So I SPY, with my little EYE, something beginning with D. A Dragon Boat, in amongst all the other boats in this area. Well, it's probably a practice boat and we see teams practicing here in False Creek regularly. Click to enlarge the photos.

Dragon Boat racing is very popular here in Vancouver where the Canadian International Dragon Boat Festival is held in June every year and over 180 teams from here and all over the world compete. This year will be the 20th anniversary of the Festival.

The red boat rendezvoused with a white boat a little
later and challenged them to a race.

World championships are held every two years with different host countries and local teams usually fare very well. In fact the Canadian team won the World Championship Nation's cup three times in a row, defeating the very shocked favourite Chinese team.

A word about the Pink Paddlers. All are survivors of breast cancer and they have formed dragon boat teams all over the world. The first world championship meet for Pink Paddlers was held in Singapore in 2006 and a documentary was made about the event.

More about the history and legend surrounding dragon boat racing can be found here, should you be inclined to look further.


Thursday, March 13, 2008

A Sad Day

I've written before about my personal experience with Alzheimer's Disease, as I am responsible for the care of an elderly male friend who suffers from this awful disease. I act as his "next of kin" for he has no living relatives and I have a legal representation document with defined powers, including making health decisions on his behalf.

For the past eight years I have been overseeing his total care, firstly hiring caregivers and running his home as well as mine. About three years ago I moved him to a wonderful private care home with a special floor for people with cognitive impairment where he lived quite happily until eighteen months ago when he broke his hip. At that point I was forced to move him to an extended care facility for he could no longer walk and needed to use a wheelchair. Fortunately I was able to place him in the extended care pavilion of the hospital where I worked for eighteen years and I know many of the people who work there still, although I have been retired for years.

Once a year there is a patient care conference where all the health care professionals gather to discuss issues and treatment modifications to the patient's care. Family members are included and yesterday I attended the second one for my friend who is now 84 years old.

There were twelve people at the conference including myself and I knew the physician, pharmacist and social worker very well from my working days. However the physiotherapist occupational therapist, dietitian and some of the others were new. Each person gave a report from their point of view on my friend's current condition which has deteriorated in the past year and I was able ask questions. The biggest issue is swallowing and consequently his nutritional needs and his weight. At 6 foot 2 inches he weighs in at 61 kg. There is little flesh on him, just skin and bone. He could blow away like a feather in the wind.

Because of the swallowing issues which are common in advanced Alzheimer's Disease, he developed a mild case of aspiration pneumonia last Fall when I had to make a decision about treatment. In consultation with his physician, we decided that he would be treated with oral antibiotics only. But it did the trick and he perked right up again.

Being the forthright person that I am, I told them that I am very concerned that he is slowly starving to death although they assure me this is not so. His basic nutritional needs are being met. Well more like his minimal nutritional needs I would say. It seems I will face the day soon when a feeding tube could be considered. In fact I raised the question today and asked whether this is considered extraordinary means. I have been my friend's "next of kin" for more than twenty years, since his wife died. Even in the early stages of AD he was adamant that he did not want extraordinary means used to keep him alive. I was not given an definitive answer to this question, so I guess I'll have to do some research into it and be prepared to deal with it should it arise.

After the conference I went looking for my friend and found him in his wheelchair in the corridor, wheeling himself along with his feet. He is still a good looking old fellow, with a full head of the most wonderful grey hair, now below his ears and curling a little at the ends. When I spoke to him his face lit up, although he has no idea who I am and he really can't speak now, just makes noises. He has the attention span of a flea, so after a moment he wheeled off leaving me standing there. I watched him go, thinking about the university professor of Pharmacy that he once had been and whom I met at the Faculty 46 years ago. Luckily he has never lost his wonderful disposition, as so many do with this terrible disease, and for that I am very grateful because the caregivers all like him and he is relatively easy to take care of.

Yes indeed, a very sad day for me. For today I was forced to face again the reality of this disease and to think about how it has devastated my friend's life. To realize how much he has deteriorated in this past year and how I might be called upon to make some very tough decisions soon. This is a disease you would not wish on your worst enemy and every time I can't remember something simple I wonder if this will be in my future.

If you made it to the end of this post, be assured that normal programming will resume next time.

Tuesday, March 11, 2008

Out and About with the Thursday Walking Group

When we do the seawall walk at West Vancouver we always meet at the Ferry Building Gallery seen above. Before the opening of the Lion's Gate Bridge in 1938, the only means of transport between West Vancouver, on the north shore, and Vancouver downtown, on the south shore of the harbour, was a ferry service which was finally discontinued in 1947.

Constructed in 1913, this building was the headquarters and ticket centre of the West Vancouver Ferry Company. Now beautifully restored it serves the community as a centre for Arts and Culture with art exhibits, art lectures and tours, art classes and programs, and artist's demos. We often pop into the gallery after our walk for there is always something of interest on display.

In a flower bed near the Ferry Building these tiny iris, not much taller than the nearby crocuses, made a carpet of brilliant blue.

In between some homes near the Ferry Building is a little plot of land which serves as a communal garden. Argyle Village Gardens. The property is owned by the District of West Vancouver and the lucky gardeners who have plots there are able to garden in one of the most idyllic settings, with a wonderful view of the harbour. This small group of homes is known as Argyle Village and the owners have a lifetime only interest in the properties which will ultimately revert to the District.

Looking over the fence you can see the raised beds, empty now save for the odd evergreen herb, waiting for the gardeners to come in Spring and plant them up. It's just the size of a small suburban lot.

Here we find two dogs enjoying a frolic at the water's edge. Naturally the Labrador is chasing sticks in the water, with the Westie looking on. Sensible dog, it was only 8 degrees Celsius.

Of course I had to speak to the Westie and her owner and swap Westie stories. Miss Rhyllie is her name and she is just four months old. She's the spitting image of Miss Cleo at that age. You know when I went to pick up Cleo from the doggie wash it was just as well she knew me because all the Westies looked alike after their spruce-up and I doubt I could have picked her from a line-up.

Spring is almost here with an early ornamental cherry showing pink in this little seating area off the seawall walkway where you can rest awhile and look out over the water and watch the boats and the birds and today we even saw a harbour seal, diving and surfacing leisurely near the shore. No photo, a bit too far away.

Lastly, this euphorbia is showing a lot of colour and will probably be out in full splendour soon. There are many different types of euphorbia and this is not one whose name I know but it is a very fine specimen.

UPDATE: Thanks to Janice Thomson for the information that the plant is Euphorbia dendroides L, or tree spurge, a small beautiful tree/shrub.

Sunday, March 9, 2008

Real Estate in Vancouver -- Again

Recently, in my post about the downside of Vancouver, I talked about real estate values here and gave an example of a recent sale. I also published the post at the Wet Coast Women site where I contribute on occasion. It was picked up by a search and excerpted to Vancouver Real Estate Anecdote Archive, a relatively new site, where the author made some comments that I thought might be of interest.

If you recall the property sold for $1,800.000 as basically a 53 x 130 foot lot since the house is small and considered a knockdown.

This will now be a markedly cash-flow-negative property. One presumes that the new owner is very confident that house and land prices will be going up over the next two years. We also presume that the new owner plans to demolish and build in 2 years.

The property's numbers look roughly like this: Purchase price $1.8 million, Rent (estimated) $1,800-$2,200 per month. Cost of $1.8 million mortgage, at 7.3%, 25 year amortization, 5% down: monthly payment >$13,000. Thus the property will be costing about net $11,000 per month to carry, or $254,000 for the 2 year period. To be more accurate, one would also have to add property taxes and maintenance costs to that.
This purchase is a bet on property price direction.

Interesting way of looking at this sale. My question would be what amount of money will the new owner spend to build a house that will warrant paying this amount for the land and not overbuild for the area. Are they looking to flip the property as is? I shall watch with interest.

Saturday, March 8, 2008

Saturday Photo Hunt --- Different


I'm sure this week's theme should be an easy one for everyone since I think you can make a case for pretty well anything differing from the norm or being unusual or special. That said, while there were many different things in my archives it took me a while to find something different which I have not posted previously on my blog or for Photo Hunt.

Along the paved seawall walkway in West Vancouver some one or ones have decorated various rocks which parallel the path and the harbour with these ceramic images. Frankly I find them rather charming although I can imagine some might complain that they have defaced nature. I could find no reference to the ceramic images so no doubt anyone else googling them in the future will be directed here.

A seahorse really, although at first glance it resembles a bird

Anchors aweigh, my boys, anchors aweigh!

Flowers anyone?

Celebrated on 8 March, International Women's Day (IWD) is the global day connecting all women around the world and inspiring them to achieve their full potential.

This is my wish for all women on this day and every day.


Thursday, March 6, 2008

Seven Good Things in Life --- plus an Award

I was tagged with the meme, Seven Good Things in Life, by fellow Blogpower member, Grendel whose own answers included the wonderful word trencherdom, which greatly tickled my fancy. I think he made it up, but, as I said in a recent post, trencherman is a word that I use on occasion, so I was happy to see that I was not the only one who appreciates it.

But getting down to brass tacks here:

1. Chocolate. What can I say? I've written before about it being the Achilles' heel of JMB. But I've given it up for Lent. I gave it up for Advent too and in between Christmas and Lent. In fact I'm abstaining from it totally for a while. But I can taste it on my tongue, just writing about it, wonderful dark bitter chocolate. Hi, I'm JMB and I'm a chocoholic.

2. Books. A great book by the fire on a rainy day. Books are my passion. Bookstores are my passion. Libraries are my passion. Yes, I own a lot of books. Thousands. I guess I'm a bookaholic too, but there's no way I'm giving them up!

3. Dogs. Nothing is more wonderful than a doggy companion. Sadly I don't have a dog any more. My last one, Cleo, the Westie of my avatar, was not replaced. Owning a dog is a fifteen year commitment and I may not have fifteen years on my horizon, so we decided not to get another. Well one of us did. Guess which one?

4. The techie toys. My laptop, my iPod, my Palm PDA, my cell phone. I do love these things that make my life more challenging as well as more interesting. Frustrating too sometimes.

5. Friends. Nothing is more enjoyable than activities shared with friends. My friends and I have a lot of fun and share many laughs. We care about each other and we can count on each other. What more could one ask?

6. A great meal. Preferably cooked by someone other than me. Preferably at least three courses, with a spectacular dessert to finish. Preferably shared with good company.

The most perfect meal I have ever eaten was in 1988, at Chinon, France, with my daughter and husband, at a place called La Gargantua. We were just walking by and saw this restaurant in an outdoor courtyard, enclosed by a stone wall, and it looked so pleasant and inviting we went right in. The food was amazing, it was a beautiful evening and an all-around memorable experience.

7. Family, last but not least. Especially my four year old granddaughter. I had to wait a long time to become a grandmother, until I was 68. For years I had nothing to contribute to conversations about grandchildren. Even though she lives on the East Coast of the USA, luckily with the techie toys, I have been able to share in her life, thanks to Skype and my webcam and the video that her father faithfully emails both sets of distant grandparents every day.

I won't tag people specifically but anyone who reads this post is welcome to take up the meme if it appeals to you.

Now the award: You Light Up My Life

This came to me from Mary, the Teach, at Work of the Poet, who created the award and being the literary person she is, found the perfect quotation to go with it.

"Light gives of itself freely, filling all available space. It does not seek anything in return; it asks not whether you are friend or foe. It gives of itself and is not thereby diminished."

Rabbi Michael Strassfeld

Many thanks to you Mary for this, it is quite an honour, coming from you.

There are so many people to whom I could pass this award, however if you read here feel free to accept this award, for my regular readers and commenters all light up my life. One person I will name, although I know she will not accept or pass it on, but she brings light into the world with her precious words, the words of a poet, along with her photos and paintings. After a hiatus, Janice Thomson of Drinking the Moon is back, delighting her readers once more. Why don't you pass by and see what she has to offer. You won't regret it.

Wednesday, March 5, 2008

St David's Day Concert

This past Saturday it was my great pleasure to attend a St David's Day concert by the Vancouver Welsh Men's Choir.

This concert was arranged as a scholarship fundraiser sponsored by the UBC Faculty Women's Club of which I am a long-time member. One of the main mandates of the club is raising money for scholarships and over the 90 years the club has been in existence we have raised over $300,000 and have fully funded ten scholarships and bursaries.

So on March 1st, St David's Day, the Vancouver Welsh Men's Choir presented this benefit concert to an enthusiastic audience, in a very large Catholic church, which ironically is dedicated to the patron saint of Ireland, St Patrick, who of course was also born in Wales.

Founded in 1980 by an initial group 18 expatriate Welshman this choir has grown into a more than 100 voice ensemble representing the cultural diversity of the Vancouver area. For now it has members whose national and ethnic backgrounds are Welsh, English, Scottish, Irish, French, German, Japanese, Dutch, Chinese, Japanese, Polish with even First nations representation. Their repertoire however is similar to any Welsh Men's choir with traditional Welsh hymns and songs, spirituals, opera choruses, show tunes and that's what they performed on Saturday.

The members of the choir, each dressed in a black dinner jacket with a dark maroon bow tie and cummerbund, entered the church from the rear, down both aisles and formed a single line down the aisles and across the front of the church and stood there waiting. The MC announced the Welsh National Anthem and we all stood to hear Mae Hen Wlad Fy Nhadau sung with great feeling. Then the choir moved to the front of the church, into their usual formation and the MC welcomed us in Welsh and English and explained some of the traditions of the celebration of St David's Day including the custom wearing of either the daffodil (usually females) or the leek (usually males) and the all important half day off from school which was the usual custom.

Then the concert began with a set of Welsh traditonal songs, including Men of Harlech of course. The choir is currently under the leadership of the very dynamic Jonathan Quick who is the son of a member of the FWC. A graduate in voice, composition and conducting from UBC, Jonathan has brought new life and enthusiasm to the choir, according to friends I know in the choir. The program consisted of a great variety of music, from Schubert's Sanctus, Gounod's Soldier's Chorus, several Gilbert and Sullivan choruses, through to the delightful traditional Russian song, Kalinka, with Jonathan as soloist. At the end the choir received a standing ovation from the very appreciative audience of over 500.

Many of the members are retired and they tour regularly overseas and around the Province of British Columbia where they are enthusiastically received. Along with their regular performances, they also make it a policy to give several concerts each year as charitable benefits on behalf of various organizations. We were lucky enough to enlist their help this year since some of the members of the choir have wives in the FWC. At the end of the evening it was announced that $8000 had been raised towards our scholarship fund from this event.

After the concert I talked with a member of the choir and said how much we had enjoyed the concert. He said that we were a very enthusiastic audience and he felt that really lifted the level of their performance. He also told us about a very interesting innovation of which the choir takes full advantage. All the songs they sing can be found on a computer program which they can use to practise at home. They enter the song, the voice part they wish to sing and the words of the song come up with the words of that part highlighted and the other three parts are sung in the background. Isn't that a neat idea? When they wish to practise Welsh pronunciation, their Welsh dialogue coach, John Cann, their MC, can be found in the program too. I thought this was an amazingly useful tool and of course this means they can get much more practice than just their regular practice meetings and they can do it at their leisure. He said that he as far as he knew they were the only choir using this tool, however it sounds so useful I'm sure there must be others somewhere, unless someone wrote it specifically for them.

I can't believe that I have never been to one of their concerts before and I would quite willingly go again. I'm half Scottish, however I was very happy to celebrate St David's Day with the Vancouver Welsh Men's Choir.

Monday, March 3, 2008

Vancouver -- The Downside

Recently I posted about Vancouver being chosen as the Number One most livable city in the world in 2007, for the fifth year in a row, by the Economist. I think the photos I used to illustrate that post would be enough to convince anyone that the city is indeed beautiful, with the snow-capped mountains rising almost straight out of the water.

But now let's consider the downside of Vancouver. You could say it is a bit rainy here. We define a Vancouverite as someone who runs between the raindrops, not bothering with an umbrella, although we all have them in the car. I usually have about half a dozen or more in the trunk or boot as some say. If you forget yours I can certainly lend you one, maybe even match your outfit. However.....

Although popularly thought of as being a rainy city, Vancouver has only 166 days per year with measurable precipitation on average, and 289 days with measurable sunshine. Nonetheless, from November until March, it is not uncommon for there to be 20 consecutive days with some amount of rain.

In actual fact, the total rainfall here is around 45 inches or 1155 mm for the metric folk. Compare that to the annual rainfall in my hometown of Sydney, Australia. 1175mm. Now did you ever hear anyone call Sydney a rainy city? I don't think so.

But Vancouver is in Canada for heaven's sake, so there must be snow. Well obviously the higher elevations receive snow but at sea level it is less common. The snow tends to be quite wet and road conditions are less than ideal when it snows. We have limited snow removal equipment and the bus routes are the priority. We don't really know how to drive in snow and we mostly drive with all weather tires instead of real snow tires so accidents abound.

Outside my front door, wet snow, early December 2007

We actually have only a 13% chance of having a white Christmas. Within a 24 hour period the blizzard of 1996 brought a 24 inches snowfall which brought the city to a halt for several days. Low temperatures usually range from just above freezing to -3 or -4 degrees Celsius, with only an average of 46 days per year below freezing. We are not called the banana belt region of Canada for nothing.

So now we have dealt with the weather, let's turn to the complaint which James always makes about this city. Well he needles me about it on occasion. Vancouver is the drug capital of Canada, he says. Well if you google that statement guess what comes up? The number one spot belongs to James's post where he used that expression. The only other reference using that statement is the one he cited in his post. Other more likely references are Vancouver being the crime capital of Canada.

Of course drugs are a problem here. Due to the mild climate here we get many drug addicts and Vancouver is a port city on the Pacific Rim, hence the heroin and cocaine trades are alive and well. The property crime rate is the highest in Canada because that's how the drug addicts support their habit, with breaking and entering. Or prostitution. Another story.

While smoking marijuana is not legal in Vancouver, it is not a crime the police spend a lot of time pursuing. In fact several Mayors have called for marijuana to be made legal and sold like alcohol or tobacco but this has never come into effect.

But let's talk about marijuana grow-ops. In BC there are an estimated 18,000 grow-ops. In Vancouver these are in houses, usually rented, where marijuana is grown hydroponically. Police raid them periodically and dismantle them but seldom charge anyone. We had one directly opposite us for almost a year in a rented house and never knew until it was raided and a crop estimated to be worth $375,000 was removed, a crop that you can produce every couple of months, so I'm told. Grow-ops are everywhere and no area is exempt from them, no matter how upscale. In fact BC is known for its high quality marijuana. BC Bud, as it is known, is like a brand name, in fact. Did you know that marijuana cultivation also plays an important role in British Columbia's economy? According to some it plays a bigger role than forestry, for it is estimated to be a $6 billion industry on an annual basis.

The latest drug-related industry in Vancouver is the production of ecstasy. Just this past week, in a court trial, five men were convicted of producing a controlled substance (ecstasy), possessing drugs for the purpose of trafficking and conspiracy to commit an indictable offense. The sentences handed down ranged from 4 years to 8 years. The two industrial-sized drug labs these men operated were located inside upscale residences in Richmond, B.C., a suburb located south of Vancouver.

It seems that it is legal to import the compounds used to manufacture ecstasy into Canada whereas this is not the case in the United States. However these individuals were discovered by tracing a 600 kg shipment of sodium borohydride which is used in the manufacture of ecstasy. Although it seems that some of these shipments enter through the Vancouver port illegally, in the following example supposedly as water chesnuts. This time 4500 kg of MDP2P (3,4-methylenedioxy-phenyl-2-propanone) were seized. Sigh. Another reason for the Americans to dislike us. We seem to supply their mind-altering drug habits.

But you are not convinced that the above factors are a downside. After all the drug scene does not affect the life of the ordinary citizen, apart from the break-ins and we all have alarms. Just like many other people you want to come to Vancouver. And come they do. From other parts of Canada and from all over the world. It's a lovely city and very multicultural so you'll probably feel very much at home very quickly. Of course you'll have to find somewhere to live for you and your family and that means you'll have to consider the real estate situation.

Let's consider this house below, currently for sale. I know this house very well, for I lived in the house two doors to the left of it for 14 years before moving to the larger house where I live now. The grey house you see to the right is owned by someone in my Thursday walking group.

The house itself is over 60 years old and very ordinary. A tiny 800 square feet stucco bungalow with two bedrooms and an unfinished basement. Not a family home, maybe for a couple, as lived there when we were neighbours. The lot is not bad, 53 by 130 foot. It's been rented so probably not in great condition. It's a nice location but a fair way from the bus and the shops. The school is very close but then you can't have children in this house for it's too small. In fact it is probably a knock down. Why they even suggest it. Build your dream house.

So the asking price is $1,700,000. Yes, ladies and gentlemen, one million seven hundred thousand dollars, for basically a standard block of land, about 9 km from downtown. Now how is that for a downside to this city? One of the most expensive cities in North America for real estate. In fact prices have almost doubled in the last five years.


4035 W 37TH AV, Dunbar, Vancouver West,

Excellent location, steps to Pacific Spirit Park, close to UBC. Build your dream house on large 53 x 130 south facing lot. Needs 48 hours to show as tenanted. All sizes and ages are approx only, buyer to verify if important to buyer.

Finished Floor Area: 800.0 sq ft. Property Type: House, Lot Frontage: 53 ft. Basement: Unfinished, Lot Depth: 130 ft. Bedrooms: 2, Age: 66, Bathrooms: (Full:2, Half:0)

Update: Today I found out from my friend who lives in the grey house next door that the above house has just sold for $1.8 million dollars, $100,000 over the asking price. It will continue to be rented for two years when it will be demolished to make way for a new one.

Did I mention that we are in an earthquake zone? More than 100 earthquakes of a magnitude greater than 5, which is strong enough to cause damage, have occurred off Vancouver Island in the past 70 years. The three different tectonic plates off the island constantly collide or slide past each other or move apart, actually pushing Vancouver Island upward and putting it under tremendous stress. In this area a major damage-causing earthquake is expected to occur every 20 to 50 years with the "big one", the catastrophic one, at 8.5 plus on the Richter scale, occurring every 300 to 600 years. The latter is said to be long overdue in the region and would have the following effect:
A recent study based on this scenario predicts 10 to 30 per cent of the area's homes would be damaged, 60 to 100 per cent of the older, unreinforced masonry buildings would suffer some degree of collapse, 15 per cent of the highrises would be rendered uninhabitable, many of the bridges and schools would be severely damaged, and thousands would die. It would be the largest natural disaster in Canadian history. (From here.)
Oh dear, but since I am always recommending Vancouver on this blog it seemed only fair to show the other side of the coin. But now I wonder if I should pack up and leave. I am turning myself against living here by considering all these factors and who knows what I have forgotten.

I think that I will go look at my other post. Vancouver is a beautiful city and after 46 years here it does feel like home. After all, nowhere is perfect, is it?