Saturday, May 31, 2014

Abeego: What a great idea!

Today at Victoria's Moss Street Market I found the greatest thing for wrapping food without using that awful plastic wrap.  It's hemp fabric impregnated with beeswax.  Doesn't it look nice covering the bowl of strawberries?  When you've finished with it, you can wipe it off or wash it in cold water and use it over and over.

This product is the brain child of a young Victoria woman, Toni Desrosiers, who was looking for a more wholesome and environmentally conscious way to store food.  In addition to its reusability, this product allows the food to breathe and the beeswax has some antibacterial properties. Plus I think it makes my fridge look very organized and healthy.  I like that they put some stitching on the wrap so it looks kind of old fashioned.

I bought a package of three sizes. The smallest size is used here to wrap cheese, the middle size is on the bowl and you can see the larger size at the bottom.  Apparently Toni is in the running for a "Young Entrepreuner Award" and if you like the idea, you can help her win $100,000 to take her small business to the next level.  To find out more, go to this website:

You can even cast your vote to help her win.

Thursday, May 29, 2014

The Hudson

Now that we're back from our trip we're continuing to get to know our new neighbourhood.  It's fun to live in an urban environment and be able to shop by bicycle or even by foot.  Just five blocks from here is The Hudson, Victoria's first real public market, where we went today to pick up some salad stuff for dinner.

I've been hoping for a real downtown market for years, ever since the Granville Island Market opened in Vancouver.  Of course, we're a lot smaller but I have high hopes for the public market here.

The Hudson came into being as part of a condominium development in the old Hudson's Bay building. These iconic department store buildings were built by the Hudson's Bay Company probably over 100 years ago.  The company is now just called "The Bay" and has moved into new digs down by the inner harbour.  So the Hudson has been re-visoned (is that a word?) and there are condos, rental housing, coffee shops, stores and the big public market.

There are some very cool stores there catering to niche markets. There's one selling homemade pies, another artisan meats, another specialty teas, local cheeses. There even one dedicated to olive oils and vinegars where you can taste before you buy. Also, there's a greata fish market and a place specializing in East Indian take-out food, plus some other little lunch places.  And several times a week there are farmers' markets where local growers sell their produce.

I grant you, there are no bargains at these stores but the quality of food they offer is superb.  We want to do our part to support the market so from time to time we'll head down on our bikes to pick up a few specialty items.  Today it was organic arugula and avocado. Next time, maybe some homemade sausage. It's part of the fun of living in the city, especially now that Victoria's growing up.

Monday, May 26, 2014

Tree identification

For over 30 years I thought this tree was an Acacia but now I wonder. We came back from our trip to find the tree in the back of the house in full and beautiful bloom.  The flowers have a strong scent of honey. Now I'm wondering if it might be a Honey Locust.  Does anyone know?

By the way, it has wicked thorns.

I'm going to have to get some of this tree cut back because it's completely shading our upper deck and is starting to affect the shingles and the roof.  But isn't it beautiful just now?

Saturday, May 24, 2014

A Rhododendron forest

Here in Victoria the Rhododendrons are at there very best this time of year.  There are a couple of parks nearby with very old plants that have grown as tall as trees creating a Rhododendron forest.  These photos are from Playfair Park.  I hope they give you an idea of how lovely it is walking through this kind of forest.

Thursday, May 22, 2014

The longest afternoon

When you fly from east to west on a jet plane you're actually flying at about the same speed and in the same direction that the earth is turning.  I hadn't actually made this connection before, but it's so. And the time zones prove it. We left Frankfurt yesterday at about 1:30 pm and flew west for nine and a half hours, arriving in Vancouver  at 2:15 pm.  For us, yesterday afternoon lasted about 15 hours or so. We waited in Vancouver for almost three hours for the 14 minute trip to Victoria because there was a delay with our luggage and we missed the first flight.  When we got home at 5:45 it was still the same afternoon.

My sister picked us up at the airport and Sue had dinner ready. We celebrated with our new aperitif, the Aperol spritz.  Soon after dinner we went to bed and slept for long blissful hours.  It's wonderful to be home and to see Geordie and continue settling in to our new/old home.

Here's what we found in the front garden to welcome us home, a beautifully blooming Rhodo. May in Victoria is the best time of year for gardens and I'm glad to be here to enjoy it.

Tuesday, May 20, 2014

Last afternoon in Venice

We took an early train out of Trieste this morning so we could find a few hours this afternoon to search Venice for the store where I bought the purse  that I lost a few days ago.  It was a great excuse to spend more time walking the back streets of this amazing city.

We walked all afternoon, from the train station all the way down to Dorsoduro where I remembered buying the bag, stopping for lunch and refreshment and photographs on the way.  But we were unable to find it.  On the way back we wandered through the area near the Rialto bridge and there were several stores selling bags like the one I'd lost.  I think they're made in a workshop in Florence and they come in many different colours.

It's hard to choose because they're all pretty but I liked the dark turquoise colour of the old one so I held out for that. After a few tries I managed to get one almost the same colour, which pleased me a great deal.

We also got to ride across the Grand canal in a traghetto, which we couldn't do last time because they were on strike. (So Italian!) The traghetto is a gondola rowed by two guys back and forth across the canal. It costs only 2 Euros per person and generally they fill the boat with people standing up while they make the very short trip.  Harry says it would never be allowed in Canada.

Here's one of the gondoliers.

 And here's a beautiful building that caught my eye.

Tonight we're in an airport hotel getting ready for our long flight home tomorrow. I must say I'm ready to get home. It's been a whirlwind trip and we saw tons of interesting things, but there comes a time when one longs for the familiarity of home and routine and friends. 

Monday, May 19, 2014

The amazing mosaics at Aquilea

Aquilea was a Roman city since 180 BC, and a major centre of trade and crafts including beautiful blown glass.  

At its height it had a population of around 100,000. It declined with the barbarian invasions in the5th Century.  It's still being excavated today.

But in the 4th Century a basilica was built, after the edict of Milan, which put an end to the religious persecution of theChristian community. The floor of thebasilica was decorated with with a wonderful coloured mosaic, the largest existing Paleo-Christian mosaic in the world. Here's a photo to give you some idea of the size. This is only a small part of the floor.

Hundreds of years later, in 1031 another floor of red and white marble was laid over top, thus preserving the work. it was removed in 1910 to reveal these precious and amazing mosaics with symbolic scenes depicting the origins of Christianity in Aquilea. The mosaics also include many pre-christian symbols.  I don't know much about the history of Christianity in ancient Rome, but I was so impressed with the artistic quality of these mosaics, which have many naturalistic animals, birds and fish as well as decorative elements.

The animals are so full of life.

And here you can see food: a bowl of mushrooms, a plate of snails.  It gives such a sense of how people lived over 2000 years ago.

We also went into a crypt beneath the church where we could see three different layers  of history. My favourite was the mosaic floor from a 1st century Roman house. To me it has an almost contemporary feel.  And yet it's more than 2000 years old.

Sunday, May 18, 2014

Sunday in Palmanova and Undine

Sometimes when you travel you start out for one place but end up somewhere completely different. Yesterday we headed out for Aquilea but when we got off the train we discovered that on Sundays there are only two buses a day that go there and we'd missed one of them. So along with another fellow from Australia who'd made the same mistake, we grabbed a bus to Palmanova, about half an hour north.

Later in the day we took another bus up to Udine, the capital city. Both these spots were wonderful to visit on a Sunday.

Palmanova was built as a defensive city in the 1600s by the Venetians. It's laid out in the form of a perfect nine-point star with a large six sided piazza in the middle.  (If you want to see the layout, check it out on google maps.)

There are three doubled-walled gates entering the city. Here you can see one with its apparatus
for lowering the drawbridge.

When we walked into the central piazza it was obvious something was going on. The whole place was full of young people in period costumes with flags and drums. Sundays are special in Italy. All kinds of family things take place. In Palmanova it eas a demonstration of 16 th century flag and drm performances by teenagers from different towns.

Then we took the bus to Udine (OOH-Dee-Nay), the capital of the Venezia-Friuli region.  It's a beautiful small city, where on Sunday all kinds of things were happening.

Below, some Indian boys were playing cricket in front of the ancient church.

In one piazza there were lots of people gathering for some kind of church event, and the African sales guys were hawking books of some kind.

This is a sheep head from the frieze above one of the civic buildings. Don't you just love the way his eye stares right at you?

On Sunday in Udine, there was lots going on for families and kids. Dads and moms and kids were everywhere and they had set up a biking course for the little ones right in the centre of town.

Here's a final look at this lovely city. At the top of these stairs was a castle that is now an elegant museum with art through the centuries as well as some archeological finds.

We had a great day and came home tired and ready for our last day at Aquilea.