Tag Archives: travel

“When I’m 64” – Places to Retire

The Cheapest Places to Live in the World – 2014.

An interesting article about places to retire – I hope before I’m 64, maybe in a couple of years.  Hungary was the number one spot and Eastern Europe in general.  Also, Portugal, Spain and Greece.  Unfortunately many countries in the EU are still recovering economically but that makes it an inexpensive place to live.  It’s in my dreams to live in Europe and by the looks of this article, it just might make economic sense too.


What do Morocco, Edinburgh and Whitehorse have in common?

Moroccan Pouffes-Bohemia

What do Morocco, Edinburgh and Whitehorse have in common? Well they are all places where I travelled. I happened to come across an on-line store selling Moroccan poufs. And so my train of thought started chugging along and this post is the result.

My friend Susan L. bought a pouffe (aka pouf) when we were in Morocco. She bought it as we made our way back to the ferry returning us to Spain. She’s a real shopper who can make a snap decision! I don’t know if she still has it, but it looks like they never go out of style!

Imagine an Edinburgh store called Bohemia carrying Moroccan poufs. But then again Edinburg is very cosmopolitan. When Susan and I we were in Edinburgh on another trip we were quite excited to see a Turkish restaurant near our hotel. Susan and I had travelled to Turkey on our first major trip and absolutely loved it. Unfortunately the restaurant was closed. Actually it was Canadian Thanksgiving and we thought it would have been quite cool to eat at a Turkish restaurant while visiting Edinburgh, much better in my mind than sitting around a big turkey dinner back in Canada.

Edinburg did give a nod to Canada by hosting a fabulous Canadian art exhibit. And in that art gallery was a Camera Obscura – a delightful new finding to both of us even though we were both kind of camera buffs. If you ever get a chance to see a camera obscura – do take the time. You could easily even build one like they did in Dawson City where I went several years later with another friend named Susan. We were attending a music festival and had driven up from Whitehorse with her kids. We stayed in a perfectly adorable camper parked at her friends place. We were in the land of the midnight sun!

Hmnn…from Morocco to Edinburgh to Dawson City. I think it all makes perfect sense!

I’m Leaving on a Jet Plane

Tomorrow I get on a plane to fly ‘home’ to Vancouver, somewhere I’ve lived since 1991 (and in BC since 1978).  But this time, I’m packing up my belongings and saying good-bye to my beloved city.  I’m leaving Vancouver to move to Tillsonburg.  I’ve already been away for about 10 months, but I have been living vicariously in my apartment by the people who have sublet it while I was gone – Seana-Lee, an actress and her piano-playing musician husband Jim and by the latest couple, Pamela and Tyler who stayed just one month until they found a home of their own.  I’m glad that my apartment hasn’t been sitting empty and has been enjoyed these past months.  The view has been seen out my window, the ocean watched, the red and black ships sitting on the sea noticed, herons circling in the sky, the sun setting, the moon rising and disappearing again into the horizon, the lighthouse blinking off in the distance.  Three short weeks to take in everything with my eyes and etch it into my mind so I can recall it whenever I daydream.


Cousins! Growing up on a farm in southern Ontario, our cousins were so important to my childhood. And even though I moved away to BC after University, my cousins remained a constant in my life. Some of my cousins I know more than others, but that was mostly due to geography. The ones furthest away lived in Dartmouth Halifax, others lived up near Collingwood, Ontario,  another family lived in Windsor, Ontario.  My cousin Lynda lives in California and lived due south from me in Vancouver and for a time we saw each other quite often. I got California as a bonus and she got Vancouver, Victoria and Whistler.
Last September 2011, we cousins had a Barzo family reunion in Waterloo hosted by Uncle Jim’s kids. We looked at old family photographs and the register from Pier 21 in Halifax where the Barzo family arrived by ship in 1930.  We talked, laughed, reminisced, met new members of the family either through marriage or babies and toddlers who recently came into this world, and caught up on each others lives. And of course there was fabulous food.  We are Hungarians and we love to eat good food.  It was a lovely setting in my cousin David’s big backyard, with tables set among the tall shade trees.  It couldn’t have been a more perfect late summer afternoon. We made new memories that day.
The original Barzo kids – Julia, Mary, Simon, John and Joe are all still with us, but we lost Jim several years ago. Our parents are getting older and 3 are now living in care homes.  Unfortunately none of the older generation could make it – they just ain’t as young as they used to be! 
Luckily, another mini-reunion was planned and the original Barzo kids, except John, got together around Christmas time.  The room was filled again with their children, grandchildren and great grandchildren and my cousins.  More stories were told and we again looked at the old family photo albums, mostly of black and white snapshots taken by cameras on film and developed in a laboratory.  These old folks have seen many changes in the “new country” and they kept up with all the changes through necessity and with the help of the younger generations. 
Pictures are now digital, can be instantly viewed right on the camera, sent via internet, posted on the world wide web.  They may not know too much about this ‘new fangled’ global digital world, but that doesn’t matter because they lived it.  They travelled half-way across the world from Hungary, first by train to Germany, then by ship to Halifax where they again boarded a train east to Toronto, changed trains and travelled north to Hunta to connect with Michlos Barzo, my grandfather. The last part of the trip was made by horse and wagon into the wilds of Northern Ontario to a tiny stone house.  My grandmother Ursula had four kids in tow, one was even a toddler of two, carrying a few belongings and perhaps $20.00 in cash among them all.  My grandmother had been ready to turn back to Hungary when they were still in Nova Scotia because as far as she could see, it was an empty, forrested land.  She must have cursed under her breath at her husband for bringing her family here.  But stay they did and year after year their lives improved.  It wasn’t easy and it took many hard years of work including many lean years when this family of eight had to make do with very little and sometimes went hungry. 
Thinking about all these things is at times unimaginable, but the group picture that hangs in my Dad’s room taken that day, shows a happy family that made a new life in Canada – true pioneers.  Here’s to Michlos and Ursula Barzo, my family and of course my cousins.  Let’s keep the memories alive, keep making new ones and remember how we got here. 

Art Project, powered by Google

Can’t make it to Europe to go on an Art tour?  Check out the Art Project, powered by Google.  Visit galleries, look at painting, see the architecture, etc.  I’ve just taken a quick peek at this new site launched by Google on Tuesday February 2, 2011.  So far there are 17 leading art galleries with works by more than 450 artists.  I’m sure more art galleries will be added in the future.  Go check it out at  http://www.googleartproject.com/c/faq

My Olympics

Here’s what I did during the 2010 Winter Olympics in Vancouver: 

1.  I went with a friend to Robson Square to see the new and improved skating rink.  There was a good crowd down there that night.  We stood on the steps leading down to the rink and there was a laser light show, music, mini-fireworks and some giant flame shooters around the Square.  The nearest flame had to be at least 20 feet up and away from me high in air, but you could really feel the heat every time it ignited.  The show only lasted about 10 minutes but it was fun.   Oh yeah, two people went across the zip line — the first one was decked out in downhill ski gear with skis and poles and the second one was in hockey gear wearing skates and wielding  a hockey stick. 

2.  That same night my friend and I continued on to the First Nation House on the plaza outside Queen Elizabeth Theatre.  We walked right into the dome-topped theatre and listened to some excellent musicians.  I’m not sure how they did it, but when we went back outside I looked up at the dome and they had projected the musicians onto the dome – you couldn’t see that from the inside.  And because of the dome shape it was a bit distorted but I recognized the shirt of one of the musicians. It was pretty cool.  (I went by the dome a couple of other times and they were projecting a live feed from the Olympics and some scenery shots of BC and Canada.)  Of course there was a gift shop to visit showcasing  a display of 4 foot high, carved wooden coke bottles, all decorated by First Nation artists.  The statues weren’t emblazoned with the Coke label and at first glance, I didn’t even notice the ubiquitous shapes.    

 3. On a Monday night, my friend Sue and I and went to the Saxony House which was conveniently located at the Rowing Club right at the entrance to Stanley Park.  We drank German beer served in a traditional glass beer mug ($9.00), ate a german sausage on a bun with an incredibly smooth, in both texture and taste, mustard (again $9.00) and I couldn’t resist a piece of German style apple cake – the plum cake was gone ($7.00 — at least not $9.00).   We watched some live sports on one of many tv screens, listened to a bit of music – accordion of course, were forced to watch a travelogue film on Saxony – the MC almost cut off the last of a race we were watching but he wisely gave in to the cry of the crowd and let us watch a Canadian win the gold.  The mood was good but the drinks were pricey – a common occurence found at many of the venues, some of which had entrance fees.

4.  I went down to Granville Island on a Friday afternoon and went to The Candahar Bar – not to be confused with Afghanistan.  It is was a piece of interactive sculptural art of  ‘a detailed recreation of a Belfast public house’  based on various pubs the artist, Theo Sims, had attended.  Two of the bartenders were brothers from Belfast.  I stopped for a pint of a black Irish beer and a bowl of stew with soda bread.  It was a quiet afternoon so there was an opportunity to talk with the bartender and I had a nice chat with an English ex-pat who was relatively new to Vancouver.  Instead of the Olympics,  you could watch horse races and other past sporting events from the UK.  It was a nice bit of time travel to Dublin for an afternoon.  It probably was the most reasonable venue – $5.00 cover charge but that included your drink of a beer or glass of wine.  The Irish stew was only $5.25.

 5.  I went to one of the medal ceremonies at BC Place Stadium.  It was fun to be in the crowd that night because  one of BC’s own, a female snowboarder from Whistler got her gold medal.   They also had a live feed from Whistler for several medal awards held up there.   I had a spare ticket and luckily I met a  woman in the ticket pick-up line and asked her if she wanted to go.  Mary Rose, originally from Ireland, has been living in Vancouver for quite some time.  We had a fun time talking about the games, Vancouver and just basking in some Canadian pride.  A good time was had by all. 

The operative words to my Olympic experience was ‘no line-ups’.  There were masses of people lining up for hours to get into the Pavilions.  There was even a 6 hour line for the zip line trek across Robson Square.  I’m too old for line-ups, standing for hours and heavy drinking which was the main nightly events.  I strolled around the downtown area a few times to take in the vibes from the crowd.  There was always something to see – giant wraps on high-rise office towers, sculptures and everything Olympics.  The people-watching was fantastic. 

Those were the highlights of my games.  There was excitement in the air.  Everyone was happy, out-going and friendly.  It was like Christmas in a way — all the anticipation in the lead-up to the games, except for 7 years, the Opening Ceremonies was equal to Christmas Day, the games were the Christmas holidays and the closing was like New Year’s Eve.   Now we will have a little quiet and then some more excitement again leading up to the next holiday – the Paralympics.  Although a lesser holiday, we’ll go through all the same stages.  The January blahs won’t really hit until after the conclusion of the Paralympics.  Luckily by then, spring will be in full force and that will keep the mood of the city up.  We will be remembering this holiday for years to come.  It was Expo 86 before this – I wonder what will follow?

The View From Here – Vancouver Olympics 2010

It’s the 2nd last day of the Vancouver 2010 Olympics.  Today when I was at my favourite restaurant for breakfast – The Wild Garlic on Denman Street, I watched the Olympics on the big screen that was brought in specially for the games.  There were only two other diners sitting side by side and facing the tv.  It’s an open kitchen so the tv was as much for the staff as for the customers.  We were lucky to be watching as a Canadian won the gold medal in the downhill snowboarding event.   I don’t watch sports, but I do enjoy the Olympics.  Once in a while I ventured to the downtown and the excitement was palpable.  There is no denying that an event like this can bring people together.  It will be interesting to see the finale to the Olympics – the opening was so amazing, I can’t possibly imagine what the closing ceremonies will be like.   There will be a couple weeks break and then it will be time for the Paralympics in March.  Go Canada Go!