Sunday, September 26, 2010

Out of the ashes

Just about a year ago, I heard the news.  My oldest brother Bill, and his wife Julie had woken up to the news that their island dream home, Seadream House on Harbour Island had burned down.  Fortunately, the house wasn't occupied at the time and no lives were lost, but still, losing something that you have put so much love into must be heartrendingly painful, especially in the violent destructive force of a fire.  Over my lifetime, my relationship with my eldest brother has had highs and lows, as I'm sure is the case in the relationships between most siblings.  Some of those highs had been when Bill and I shared time together at his island paradise with other family and friends.  While arson is suspected, I doubt Bill and Julie will ever know just what happened to turn their hopes and dreams into ashes and rubble.  None-the-less, once they recovered from the initial shock of it all, and dealt with the inevitable insurance red tape, they picked themselves up and they decided to rebuild.  Building a house on a small Caribbean Island can be challenging even under the best of circumstances, and this project has been no exception.  I recently had a look through some of the photos that Bill has been posting on  Seadream's Facebook page, and I'm truly amazed at what he and Julie, with the help of the Harbour Island building trades, have been able to accomplish.  When they aren't using Seadream House it is available for rent, and many families have adopted it as their bit of island paradise.  I wish them well with their reconstruction and rebuilding and look forward to the next chapter in the life of Seadream House reborn.  Congratulations on your courage and determination.

Tuesday, September 21, 2010

New Faces at the Spa


Mother and Child

White Angel

Big Franklin

One of the great pleasures I have in my job is the opportunity to surprise people with unexpected and wondrous things.  Usually, that comes in the form of a great massage, or a decedent dessert, or a comfy bed, but occasionally I get to wander outside the box.  Pictured above are three recent additions.  On the top left is a bigger than life size angel that I found down in "The County", Prince Edward County.  I had passed her by on several occasions - one of my favorite pastimes is to take a drive down into the county, not necessarily with any particular destination in mind, and see where I end up.  Last time I did this, I found 3 outstanding cheese factories and a couple of good wineries that I hadn't been to before.  In any case, this angel seemed to call out to me, so with much grunting and lifting, I loaded her into the back of my truck and brought her home.  She spent most of the summer in the barn, but a couple of weeks ago, Jake, Debbie and Darlene found a spot for her looking out over the property towards the east in anticipation of things to come.  She is made of cast iron and weighs about 900 lbs.  To her right is a wooden statue that I found in Oberamergau.  Both of these statues have very kind facial features, but the mother and child are especially fine and detailed.  I also had the pleasure of meeting her maker - Josef - a very proud, yet humble German chap.  She is at the barn waiting for a protective coat of varnish before she goes to her place in a new grotto that Deb and Darlene have created in the cedar hedge by the pool.  Finally there is Franklin - a big, friendly gelding who I walked along the road from a neighbours house this past weekend.  Franklin has a bad leg, so he can't be ridden for long periods of time, but he loves to be groomed and he is good company for my feisty mares.  Not a bad gig, I suppose!

Tuesday, September 14, 2010

The Passion Play

The highlight of this trip to Germany was attending the Passion Play.  I have waited for a full week to see if my feelings about this experience would change, but alas, they have not.  I may have set my expectations too high, in that I was hoping that this would be a life changing, faith deepening experience.  As beautiful a place as Oberamergau is, and as incredible a story The Passion Play recounts, in the 5 hours of theatre that we endured, I simply wasn't moved.  Oberamergau itself, like many organized religions, has become a very commercialized place.  I suppose if I counted on an event that only happened every 10 years as my primary attraction, I might be tempted to do the same.  But the play; I found it difficult to relate to any of the main "good guys".  Jesus seemed to be screeching at everybody, Mary Magdalene was not convincing, even Mary wasn't quite right.  I suppose the German language isn't the easiest language to sound passionate in,  Alles klingt so hart, wie eine Reihe von Befehlen.  Maybe I've been watching too many WWII movies, or perhaps Colonel Klink is forever etched in the recesses of my mind, I just can't make a German Jesus work for me.  Perhaps the irony of the whole Christ story is that, like the play, the bad guys, especially Pilate, really did steal the show.  My search continues.

Tuesday, September 7, 2010

Oberamergau

Our Hotel   

After some last minute shopping in Munich, we took a taxi to the train station where we caught a train to Marnau, and on to Oberamergau, the site of the Passion Play.  This quaint little town set in the Alps has been putting on this play every 10 years since 1633, to give thanks for prayers answered.  Of course the scenery is breathtaking and anticipation of the play is building.  This morning after breakfast I purchased a wooden statue that I intend to place in a new grotto that Debbie and Darlene have created back at Ste. Anne's.  I was fortunate enough to meet the carver, a very proud, nice, and very talented German man.  Afterwards we took a short hike to see a statue of the crucifixtion that was given to the town by King Ludwig II in appreciation of their work on the Passion.  Regardless of one's religious beliefs, the story of a man giving up his life for the sake of others is compelling one - hard not to be moved by such an act of selflessness.  The play starts this afternoon at 2:30 and ends at 10:30 with a 2 hour break for supper.  More on this later.
King Ludwig II's Gift

Sunday, September 5, 2010

Beer, church and a bike tour

Marraige, dancing, jousting - the story of the Munich Glockenspiel
The altar at Alter Peter, Munich
Lucky for us, we met a very nice priest who stongly suggested that we attend the 10:45 Sunday mass at St. Peter's R.C. church.  During our first day in Munich, we had visited several other churches, but this wasn't one of them.  To be completely honest, I really hadn't thought of Germany as a Catholic destination, but then again, as one of our tour guides reminded us, the current Pope was a former Bishop of Munich, and even today he is apparently a regular consumer of German beer, so there you go.  Before going to church though, we thought we had better rack up some fresh sins, for absolution, so we went out to a very German beer hall and had a very German meal of schnitxel, sausage, and of course, beer.  Munich is a very lively city until about 10:00, when everyone just seems to quietly disappear.  Not surprising, I suppose, since most everyone seems to be drinking beer all day long.  However, the streets feel very safe and everything is quiet compared to most major cities that I've been too.  The 10:45 mass did not disappoint.  It was like stepping back in time, with beautiful organ music, an all male choir, latin, incense and the priest with his back to the congregation for most of the time.  So often now, churches have become like museums full of tourists trapsing through taking pictures of all the artwork and the architecture.  Sitting through a traditional high mass like this brings life into these buildings - even if one doesn't understand a word.  Something like watching a theatrical performance.  After mass we watched the Glockenspiel clock bring in the noon hour; not too exciting but a memorable event, none-the-less.  From there we joined Mike's Bike Tour of Munich, a four hour tour of many of the significant sites of the city.  I would describe myself as a somewhat lazy tourist.  When travelling, I often end up without much planning or research  somewhere wonderful with very little understanding or expectation in terms of what makes it so wonderful.  For me, TripAdvisor has been a life saver, not only in finding great hotels to stay at, but also in terms of recommending attractions.  Mike's Bike Tours is rated as one of the top ten attractions in Munich, and so it should be.  Mike actually introduces himself, and our guide (James from down under) was superb.  Using bicycles rather than buses or feet made it an environmentally positive experience, and we weren't dead tired at the end of the day, infact somewhat invigorated.  The tour ended up in a beer garden where we joined hundreds of other Sunday tourists drinking beer and sampling some pretty decent German cuisine, once again.

Saturday, September 4, 2010

Machen Sie sich bereit Deutschland, wir kommen!

Marienplatz, Munich at 3 p.m., bells tolling

We left London this morning on a Lufthansa flight bound for Munich.  I love using London as a jumping off point for the rest of Europe.  It feels as though you are taking an ever so gradual trip from your comfort zone into places that take you away, culturally, historically, emotionally, and wonderfully - a little like Alice in Wonderland - Jim & friends in Bavaria!  Even boarding the A320 aircraft - clean, well organized, friendly and meticulous service with English and German being used interchangebly feels new and exciting.  After landing, we collected our bags from a carousel that had a sign telling you when your bags were expected - and they were right on time.  No line ups here - very effecient.  As we made our way toward the ground transporatation options we spotted a ticket machine for the subway.  As we were studying it, a young man approached us, with a t-shirt on indicating that he worked for "Bahn" offering us assistance.  No sales pitch, no trickery or scam, just assistance - what a concept.  He directed us to the appropriate line to get us to the centre of town, where a short taxi ride brought us to our hotel.  Once we were checked in, we took a stroll through some churches, ourdoor markets, shops, restaurants and plenty of beer drinking tents.  Lovely.

Friday, September 3, 2010

On the road again

Heathrow Airport is famous for long line ups

About a year ago a friend told me about how the town of Oberammergau puts on "The Passion |Play" every ten years as payback to Big "G" for being spared some of His wrath during the Plague that swept the town back in 1633.  I thought this was as good a reason as any to visit Germany, a country I'd only ever passed through on previous European junkets, so I said, "sign me up".  I had originally booked 2 weeks, with a the better part of the first week intended for exploring Munich, but a few issues that had to be handled at work forced me to shorten the trip to 10 days, and travel via London rather than directly to Munich.  I actually prefer flying through London on Air Canada's day flight, as it seems to be much easier for me to make the adjustment to European time.  Flying overnight and I just don't agree - it usually takes me about a week just to recover from a night of trying and failing to sleep sitting up, leaning over and any number of yoga moves designed to stretch my six feet into a space designed for a mini-me.  We just arrived at our hotel, after spending an hour in line, like a bunch of cattle, for a 1 minute stamp in our passport taking the "Hotel Hoppa" (the Brits have such a knack for naming things) bus to our in transit hotel.  It kind of irritates me that we are members of the Commonwealth, the Queen is our head of state, and yet Canadians entering the U.K. receive absolutely no preferential treatment.  Their flag is on our passport for Pete's sake!  Border control has always seemed like such a waste of money to me even at the best of times, but having to spend an hour in a line up to get your passport stamped between friendly countries really defies logic.  However, I can't see this changing in my lifetime.  Unfortunately opting for the convenience of an airport hotel as opposed to heading into the city centre really limits your choice of restaurants, so we ended up crossing the street to McDonald's, which was closed except for drive through.  We walked through, and then had to convince the cashier to serve us, as she claimed she could lose her job for doing so.  Tomorrow we catch a flight to Munich - should have more exciting news to report from there.