Sunday, April 29, 2007

4.3 and Game 3

Here is a quick post to show that England is not so different from Western Canada.

Saturday morning, the Kent area in Southern England was shaken by a 4.3 magnitude earthquake, rattling windows and collapsing some chimneys. The epicenter was located off the coast in the English Channel, near Folkestone. It was the largest tremor since 2002. Back home, BC is long overdue for a major earthquake...

I did not feel yesterday's earthquake at all for two reasons:

1. Birmingham is very far from Kent.
2. I was sleeping, having gone to bed at 5am. No, I was not partying, but listening through the internet 1040AM radio to the Canucks playing Game 2 against the Ducks! And we won!!! Go Canucks Go! (I then slept until 11am, and then finished season 1 of 24).

Tonight is Game 3 in Vancouver, and I am debating staying up and listening to it. The puck drops at 5pm Van time, which is 11pm UK time - not too bad! So here's to our Canucks! Go get 'em!!!

I have begun to play around with Photoshop and this is my first result.

Saturday, April 21, 2007

Greece - Part 3: Santorini

*Imagine an circular island in a turquoise sea. The salt air lick the volcanic outcrops, sending wisps of ash into the clear deep-blue sky. A civilization of early Greek people thrive on the fertile soil, growing wine and catching squid in the bountiful ocean. Life is simple, easy.*

*Until one day, three-thousand five-hundred years ago, the earth began to shake. With an apocalyptic explosion, the island exploded with a force not felt before, sending towering ash clouds into the sky and devastating tsunamis throughout the Mediterranean. The blast from the volcano left the island broken, a partial ring of rock surrounding a submerged caldera. The Minoan culture vanished in the super-heated wind, leaving Pompeii-like preserved villages.*

*And then the tourism vultures swooped in to exploit the island's intense and stunning natural beauty. Some centuries later, Peter Bond steps off the slow ferry and stares in awe at the shear laminated volcanic rock wall above....*

Santorini Island differs greatly from Naxos, as it is one of the "must-see" locations in all of Mediterranean Europe. Unfortunately, this makes it much too tourist-y for my taste, lacking in local culture and pandering to the (usually) English-speaking tourist with money.

Highlights of Santorini include hiking the island in search of the perfect shot of the volcanic ash cliffs, watching the sunsets from Oia, and eating at Mama's Breakfast House (where Mama herself yells greetings across the room, hugs and calls everyone "sex bombs," and offers delicious complimentary pancakes. And the food is good too!

Enjoy the photographs (click on them to enlarge your favorites!)

The ash cliffs from the ferry.
Notice the orange life-boat. This is the location of the sinking of the Cruise Ship three days before I arrived at Sanorini!

Fira - the main town on the island.

Houses of Fira - definitive Greek white-washed buildings.

Open the door and step off the end of the world...

The volcanic island in the center of the caldera.

Precarious balance of Fira on the Santorini cliffs.

Dinner with the sunset. Famous Santorini wine.
A map of Santorini on the tablecloth.

The famous Red Sand Beach.

Iron in the volcanic rock make it red.

One needs to hike a bit through the red rocks to get to the beach.
Two Canadians, two Americans, an Australian, and Me.

Spectacular Red Cliffs overlook the beach.

Clear turquoise Mediterranean Sea...

Panoramic photograph of Santorini.

Windmill in Oia, as the sun sets beyond.

The lanes of Oia, Santorini's second city.

Watching the world-famous sunset from Oia.

The intense orange of a Santorini sunset.

Pastel colours fill the sky as the sun sinks into the sea.

The cliffs of Santorini, layers and layers of ash and lava.

Island of lava steams with heat from this active (or sleeping) volcano.

My last sunset in Greece.

Artistic photograph at sunset.

Artistic photograph at sunset.

Elements of Greece.

Amazing view.
(Notice the dog balancing on the railing.)

Goodbye, Greece.

But it wasn't quite the end...

My ferry leaves at 11pm to take me back to Athens, so I can catch my flight back to the UK, and I wait at the Santorini dock. And I wait. And I wait. 10pm. 11pm. 12pm.... ugh.
Finally at 1am, a ferry arrives. I follow everyone onto the boat, tired and cold. With one look at my ticket, the attendant tells me this is the wrong boat.

Wrong boat?

This boat does not go to Athens.

No? Where does it go then?


What?! Crete? That is in the exact opposite direction of which I want to go!!! Let me off!!!

You can't get off the boat as it has just left. You are now going to Crete.


So I went to Crete. The southernmost point in Europe. After arriving, tired, cold and now lost at 6am, I begin to stumble around, trying to figure out how to get back to Athens in time for my flight. I bite the bullet and head to the airport and pay the cash for a flight to the capital. I arrive in plenty of time to waste 6 hours in the airport, but I make the flight and get home safe and sound.

I didn't see much of Crete, besides the dock, the airport and some countryside when my connecting bus detoured around some construction. But it counts, doesn't it?

Greece was an amazing country and I am glad I got to experience it.
If you love your senses, go to Greece!

Wednesday, April 18, 2007

Greece - Part 2: Naxos

Greek Islands - sun-baked metamorphosed rocks draped with white-washed blue-domed buildings. Seafood galore, clear blue skies, olive groves, beaches, wine, and sunsets over the turquoise Mediterranean Sea. My destination amongst all the Greek Islands is the Cyclades.

Part 2 of my trip to Greece sees me leave Athens and take the Fast Ferry to Naxos Island. This island in the largest and greenest in the Cyclades. I stayed over through Easter, when tourists vanish and locals travel back to their family.

Please click on the photographs to enlarge them:

The Fast Ferry. (How did I take this photo?
Well, I fell out and ... no, it's just a similar boat.)

Hora City on Naxos Island at sunset.

The Temple of Apollo on Naxos. The doorway is all that is left.

The Soula Hotel I stayed at. Empty.
A whole room to myself for 8 euros a night!

The glorious marbled Greek washroom.
(Greek showers never have curtains and you cannot put toilet paper down the toilet...yeah.)

Greek fishing boat in the harbor at Hora.

Hora town viewed from the harbor.

The crystal-clear turquoise Mediterranean Sea.

Sunset from Hora harbor on Naxos.

I like photographs of sunsets...

Artistic photograph of black vine on white wall.

Peekaboo! One of the hundreds of stray cats.

The patchwork town paths remind me of snake's skin.
Some archways are a bit short though.

This the is strangest sight on my trip:
a mummified stray cat, sticking out of a stone wall.

After taking the first photo of the cat, a local walks right past without even a glance at the strange feline mummy emerging from the wall! Unbelievable!

Artistic photograph of the sun setting over a Naxos fishing boat.

Octopus drying outside a restaurant.

The day's catch at sunset.

Octopus on my plate.
Mmmmm. Rubbery but flavorful.

Apollo's Temple at sunset. Artistic photograph.

Naxos harbour statue at sunset.

Sunset over kids playing on the beach.

The beach I spent hours a day on. 30 seconds from the hotel.

Glorious Naxos beach.

My lizard friend. Loves to sunbath on the hot pavement.

Tracks in the sand from a beetle.

Amazing rock arch in the sea.

Artistic sunset along the road to Hora town from my hotel.

Sunset over rough blocks of marble.

My last sunset on Naxos.
The colours are intense. Absolutely stunning.

The slow ferry coming to take me to Santorini.

Naxos was an incredible island. Although my 5 days there were a bit slow and lonely (as there were few other travelers), I am very glad I went in the off season. It is not hard to see how spoiled and congested the island will become in the summer... As I would see on Santorini, a much more "popular" island.

Next post: Greece - Part 3: Santorini and home again.