Wednesday, November 9, 2011

A Feast for the Eyes

October 30, 2011

In three sentences or less – amazing to see a brunch where the entrance to the event is down a long glass staircase so that everyone who enters can enjoy the stunning visual presentation before the waiter escorted you to a table for your party of 4 or 6 or 8.  As well, Mount Etna was smoking for us today as we passed her in the Mediterranean.  Mary and I enjoyed a gem (as in jewels) presentation and then looked at all of the precious gems and their settings, all of which were 50% off.  She is saving her money for a pair of dressy flat shoes.  I am looking for a cameo, and haven’t seen any yet.  So no purchase there from the gem show for us.

Two days ago we were doing Montenegro and Croatia.  Both of the city tours had the same heartbreaking themes where we heard about nations at war with one another and saw how they have destroyed one another.  Our guide, Maurice, walked us along the city wall in Dubrovnik, giving us a botanical lecture about the number of eucalyptus trees, showing us pomegranate trees, inviting us to eat the grapes hanging from the vines.  “I think we are lucky enough to be getting a tour from a botanist,” said Mary.  He was also telling us about taking a loaf of bread to an old woman in the days when people were starving and at war and having a bullet in the streets barely miss him.  He was telling of watching his boat burn in the harbour when they were being shelled for 7 hours straight in the 1990’s and of his fear of going down and shooting holes in it as some of his countrymen did to theirs, so that the boats would sink and they could pull them out of the water later.  “I am a coward,” he said.  But we all know that war cost 300,000 lives.  He walked and talked, whistling for the baby gulls in between stories, sometimes looking down from the fortified wall to the market, seeing women who were his contemporaries and saying aloud, “Look at those cheaters.  They are going to tell you they have made that lace themselves, but they have imported it from China.  I do not know my friends anymore.  They are ruled by the idea of making money.” 

He stopped to call for a man on the second floor who was just opening his shutters for the morning and stepping out on his balcony, “Don’t jump yet.  I will go get a mattress for you to fall on, but you will have to wait until later.”  The man laughed and waved the guide on.

The tour ended.  Mary and I began our walk in the city proper, at the ancient entrance -- the Pile Gate. We sat on the steps of Onofrio’s Fountain to rest.  We and made our way through the local market and up to the Cathedral.  Mary bought scented honey in the market.  I smelled the scent of lavender for sale – for free.

Mary and I saw the same fiery political passion in our Croatian guide the next day in our Montenegro guide – who told us that we should not be fooled into thinking we had really seen Old Town, since it had been destroyed and all that was left standing were a few old stones and the door to the library.  What we were seeing was New Old Town, reconstructed for tourists and she warned us, do not buy anything there – their prices are too high.  “Even though I am a resident of this city,” she said, I am telling you to buy your goods back in Kosovo.  All of us who live here, know not to buy here.” 

She said that the main industry of their country is tourism.  They have very little to export and they fall behind every year.

And now a word about Venice, a city that cannot be described in one word.  Hard to know how to list the highlights.  The sail in, past all of those islands was an event we enjoyed on the 14th deck with Wyona and Greg.  An hour of eating and drinking and sight seeing from the back of a Celebrity Cruise ship, sitting on deck chairs in absolute shock that we should be so lucky to be there.  Mary and I were tendered off the boat in the ship’s lifeboats, arriving on shore for a tour of the Merano Glass Factory, a tour of the Doge’s Palace, a tour of St. Mark’s Basilica and another one of St. Georgio’s Cathedral. 

As well, Greg stepped out of a shop on the Rialto Bridge to invite us in to see what Wyona was buying.  What were the chances of us meeting each other in Venice.  They had gone to spend the day riding on the canals’ water buses and we all met by accident, later in the evening, all four of us trying to eat our weight in gelato.

One of the inexplicable highlights for Mary was that a male tourist stopped us beside the Grand Canal and asked her if she would stop and take a picture of him and his girlfriend.  Mary took the camera, dropped to one of her knees, asked if they wanted the fountain in the background as part of the composition of the picture.  Then took a few shots for them.  On rising from that postion, the man thanked Mary and the woman said to Mary, “Do you have a sister?”

“I have 3 of them,” replied Mary, laughing.

“Bonnie?”questioned the tourist.

“What!” said Mary.

“She was my professor in Florida,” said the woman.    “She might not remember me, but I remember her and you look exactly like her.”

“Oh, she will remember you,” said Mary.  “Give me your name and where you saw her last. I will tell her I met you beside a canal in Venice.”

“My name is ... (and now I can’t remember her name and I lost the paper on which she wrote it for me) and I last met Bonnie in a mattress shop.  Does she still just have one little boy?”

That story is unbelievable, so here is another which I would say I am making up, though I am not.  Today at brunch 2 women sat with the 4 of us and chatted for a while, the Pilipino woman finally saying, “I am from Calgary, where are you from?”  When we said two of the three of us are from Calgary as well, we asked her where abouts in Calgary we live.  She lives on Northmount and 19th Street – in Triwood, just a block away from Wyona. 

When she left the table to go for seconds, her friend, also at the table said, “I live in Harvest Hills, but I have seen you two before.”  Wyona said, “You mean on the boat.”

“No,” said the woman.  “I have seen you in Calgary.  I am too shy to say anything.  That is why I asked my friend to find out where you were from.  I knew I have seen you before in Calgary.” 

The degrees of separation – unbelievably close.

Tonight Mary said she didn’t want to say it, but she had to go to bed.  Even if she is the youngest among us, she needs to get more sleep than we are giving her, especially given she is going to see Pompeii tomorrow.  Yes – every day is a hard day on a cruise ship.  She does work a little harder than the rest of us, for whenever the Hot Glass Shop is on, she slips away to enjoy seeing the art of the glassblowers.    Greg was laughing tonight about the variety of things to do today.  When he was taking the daily schedule today and checking where he wanted to go with a highlighter, he said he would be saving ink if he would highlight the places he did not want to go.


  1. Such great stories and yes, the world is big and small at the same time. So fun that you are meeting people who know people you know. Sleep is important on a vacation, so is planning with a highlighter, just don't fall asleep with you highlighter in hand, it won't work the next day.

  2. Rebecca laughed when I read her your comment this morning about the highlighter, Tonia. She replied, "Yes, as EVERY student knows,highlighters die that way."

    So ... how is your highlighter. As I have said before, I would love to read your rough draft when you get it ready.