Tag Archives: Travel

My podcast about Swaziland and Ethiopia

Michael McCarthy, the Intentional Traveller and a really great guy.

Michael McCarthy, the Intentional Traveller and a really great guy.

Following is a link to a podcast I did with Michael McCarthy, a writer and radio personality who lives in Vancouver. I met Michael on a trip to Louisiana and was really impressed with his travels and his efforts to make changes in the world. Where ever he goes, he contributes to communities through labour, services or goods.

Wonderful Wendake: First Nations Getaway Outside Quebec City

Hotel Musée Premieres Nation in Wendake, just outside Quebec City.

Hotel Musée Premieres Nation in Wendake, just outside Quebec City.

Boutique hotel complete with fluffy beaver pillows and wood burning fireplace, or chilly outdoor longhouse? Hummm. Well, I had to go out and have a look. In fact, while I was at the Hotel Musée Premieres Nations in Wendake I had a lovely tour of the village and saw the local church, river, chief’s house, museum and the longhouse.
The Huron-Wendat Nation, located on the territory known as Nionwentsio, is located a 20-minute drive outside Quebec City. My first stop was the museum, attached to the hotel. I learned that in 1534 Donnacona, Grand Chief of the Huron-Wendats welcomed Jacques Cartier, the French explorer and led him to the village of Stadacona (now where Quebec City stands). However, Huron-Wendats mostly occupied the territory south of Georgian Bay in what is now the province of Ontario. They became fur-trading partners with the French, had upwards of 30 villages and a population of 40,000. Unfortunately disease, famine and fighting wiped out more than 90 per cent of them. They left their native land in 1650 and neighbouring peoples adopted some and others went to Quebec. In 1697 about 150 Wendats settled on the banks of the Akiawenrahk River (the current site of Wendake) and the population has grown to 3,000.
Wars between the French and English also resulted in a decimation of the Native peoples. Treaties were signed in the 1700s, in particular the 1760 Huron-British Treaty that formed a permanent alliance between the First Nations of the St. Lawrence region and the British. Ever expanding colonization usurped much of the land and the Huron-Wendats found themselves excluded from community decision-making. It took more than 230 years, but in 1990 the Supreme Court of Canada recognized the Huron-British Treaty and the Huron-Wendats were finally given official status as a distinct and free Nation.
Notice the beaver fur pillows on the beds.

Notice the beaver fur pillows on the beds.

Go to Wendake and you’ll see the Huron-Wendats have made tourism into a primary focus. While I was there, the 55-room hotel was packed with a marketing company retreat and I had to squeeze into the bar area for lunch. Warm, woodsy yet distinctly modern, the hotel was filled with Native art, and animal trophies, reflecting their heritage as hunters. Big windows overlooked the river and a central lobby with a fireplace, comfy chairs and animal skins beckoned to guests who wanted to warm up after a winter outing.
Cosy on a winter's day!

Cosy on a winter’s day!

Tsawenhohi House was in the heart of the village. The house’s name means “He who sees clearly, the hawk,” and it was completed in 1820 as a home for Nicolas Vincent Tsawenhohi, Grand Chief. Depending on the time of year, you can see crafts demonstrations, exhibits of cultural objects and a garden of healing plants. Our guide told us the house had been sold, along with all its furnishings, by a relative of the last owner. Villagers were able to buy it back but the furniture was gone.
Wendake's Catholic church, originally built in the 1700s.

Wendake’s Catholic church, originally built in the 1700s.

Lily of the Mohawks, sainted in 2012.

Lily of the Mohawks, sainted in 2012.

Trudging through the snow, we crossed a bridge over Akiawenrahk River to look at Kabir Kouba Falls. The name means “river of a thousand meanders,” and it had a gently undulating, snake-like quality. Across the street was the church of Notre-Dame-de-Lorette, built around 1730 and designated a National Architectural and Historic Site in 1981. A carving of Kateri Tekakwitha, the first Native American to be declared a saint in 2012, sat on one side of the alter. Tekakwitha, known as Lily of the Mohawks, was born in upstate New York in 1656 and is beloved by First Nations churchgoers throughout North America.
Longhouse interior.

Longhouse interior.

The traditional longhouse was our last stop. Completed last year, the longhouse is covered in bark (“It’s actually a simulated bark that withstands weather better,” noted the guide). Inside were bunk beds with sleeping bags, three fires and some benches. In the warmer weather, Wendat guides might bake bannock, traditional bread, brew Labrador herbal tea, relate myths and legends and guard the fire. Nobody was staying there when I peeked in, but it looked like a fun option for a summer adventure.
Although the history of the Huron-Wendat people was tough to hear, I was glad to learn about these resilient people and even happier to experience their culture in a first-class tourist destination.

Quebec City Winter Carnival Says to “Bring It!” to Polar Vortex

Bonhomme's spectacular Ice Palace.

Bonhomme’s spectacular Ice Palace.

I love going to Quebec City in February. While mountains of snow and polar temperatures turn Ontarians into cringing shut-ins, Quebecers head boldly outdoors. Traffic is barely affected in blowing snow conditions, all night dance parties take place in sub-zero temperatures, and ice bars offer fortifying beverages to pedestrians on many main streets.
When I was in the walled city recently for Quebec City Winter Carnival, the biggest of its kind in the world, the main man was Bonhomme. A jolly bilingual snowman who seemed to be at just about every event, Bonhomme, I’m told, is an ambassador not a mascot. What’s the difference? Well, for one, he can talk. Rumors are there is more than one, but organizers say no. They just speed him around town in a special minivan with dark windows.
Bonhomme likes the ladies!

Bonhomme likes the ladies!

Bonhomme's ice stove. Great for baked Alaska!

Bonhomme’s ice stove. Great for baked Alaska!

His pantry, filled with ice cream and popsicles.

His pantry, filled with ice cream and popsicles.

I met Bonhomme at his Ice Palace, across from the Parliament Buildings. He was mobbed like a rock star. Quebec kids love him more than Santa, because they say “He’s real.” His pad was impressive. There were 300 tons of ice bricks used in the construction and it took three weeks. In the old days the ice came from the St. Lawrence, but with global warming and ice breakers, that’s not possible any more. Instead, very clear ice bricks (made with–reverse osmosis–distilled water) weighing 300 pounds each got shipped in from Montreal. Then 12 people worked night and day to get it ready for opening day on January 31st.
Inside there was a kitchen, complete with ice stove, dining room, pantry (he only eats cold items), bedroom and ice shower. Everything a Bonhomme could want! In the dining room there were pictures of him and Princess Grace of Monaco who attended in 1969 and in the kitchen there was a calendar listing upcoming activities, including yoga. Cold yoga!
Catching a trout.

Catching a trout.

Making maple taffy-on-a-stick. Yum.

Making maple taffy-on-a-stick. Yum.

The Carnival was a blast. On the Plains of Abraham I watched kids ice fish for brook trout (there was a grill they could cook their fish on afterwards), took a ferris wheel ride, cheered the human foosball game players, and ate maple taffy cooled on the snow. What I liked best about the event this year was how it has opened up to all areas of the city. There were eight street business improvement associations that signed up to present activities. On Rue Petit Champlain, just below Chateau Frontenac, I spied 27 magnificent ice sculptures and took a trip down memory lane at Ti-Pere’s.
Ti-Pere was the pub owner who invented the high-octane drink called Caribou. A delicious mix of wine, brandy and spices, it was served hot in a small theatre space dedicated to this Carnival pioneer who passed away a few years ago.
A steam punkette riding her crazy flying machine.

A steam punkette riding her crazy flying machine.

Further afield, on 3rd Ave there were curling rinks for kids, a lumberjack axe-throwing contest, hot waffles and an amazing array of steam punk-style street performers who sang, danced and interacted with the crowd.
Watch where you throw that thing!

Watch where you throw that thing!

At the end of the day was a giant snowball fight. Who called the two teams of around 1,000 each to begin? Our man Bonhomme! Men in kilts fired military-looking rifles to finally let them know it was over. Who won? Nobody seemed to care. They just all took off for hot chocolate and a shot of Caribou.
Enjoying a post-snowball fight Caribou.

Enjoying a post-snowball fight Caribou.

Quebec City puts the win back into winter. I loved it. And I was dressed warmly, which helped. The Carnival goes until February 16th. Here’s the website. Go if you can. It will melt that polar vortex grimace off your face in a nanosecond.

Curacao: Blue waters, blue cocktails, deep history

Downtown Willemstad, Curacao.

To be honest, the only thing I knew about Curacao was that it produced an eponymous liqueur – the blue version is very popular at bachelorette parties  — not that I go to many these days. It’s very sweet, with essence of orange, and the last time I had it was over ice cream.

The girliest of girly drinks: Blue Curacao.

Before leaving on WestJet’s new non-stop flight from Toronto – five easy hours! – I did a bit of research. Curacao is one of the ABC Dutch Caribbean islands comprising Netherlands Antilles (the others are Aruba, and Bonaire) and is very close to Venezuela. It has a population of 150,000 and is around 60 km wide. The volcanic rock foundation makes it arid and difficult to grow anything. The oranges used in the Curacao liqueur are actually a bitter adaptation of Valencia oranges. The Spanish tried to grow them in 1499, but due to the harsh climate they morphed into the aromatic and bitter laraha oranges that are used today.

Terrace at the Santa Barbara as the sun starts to set.

I stayed at the Santa Barbara Beach & Golf Resort, a 30-minute drive from the city of Willemstad and the airport. The resort was gorgeous, with private beach, a dock where diving boats could pick up passengers, sprawling golf course and lovely terrace restaurant overlooking the Caribbean Sea.

Sightseeing was more than beaches. Curacao has the oldest synagogue in continuous use in the Western Hemisphere – Mikvé Israel congregation was established in 1651 and the current synagogue building was inaugurated in 1732.

It was also a hub for the slave trade, although very little of that heinous period is left standing.

All Curacao’s produce at the floating market is shipped in.

At the floating market in Willemstad all the produce comes from Venezuela.

The Governor’s Palace in downtown Willemstad.

Captain Blight fired a cannon at the Governor’s Palace.

Exterior of the Old Market.

Stewed goat from one of the vendors at the Old Market.

Daily lunch staples at the Old Market include cactus soup, goat stew and fried fish.

Curacao distillery museum.

Genuine Curacao Liqueur is made in Willemstad on an old plantation site. You can get tastes of the latest flavours including chocolate and coffee.

The Hato Caves.

The HATO Caves are beautiful and actually above ground.

Dinah Veeris’ wonderful herb garden.

Dinah Veeris’ Den Paradera, an herbal garden, is a lovely stop and if you are lucky she or her son will take you on a tour.

The colours of the fish match the liqueur!

Curacao is a diving and snorkeling paradise.

Euro-style at Saint Tropez Ocean Club.

The Dutch influence is big at various Euro-style restaurants and boutique hotels such as Beach House Curacao and St. Tropez Ocean Club.

Shrimp, rice and salad at Jaanchies.

Jaanchies, on the west side of the island, is an institution with hearty lunches and many, many birds.

The birds flock to Jaanchies for their own special treats.

The west side of the island is home to Christoffel Park and the wonderful Playa Kenepa – it’s like being in a promotional poster for a hidden tropical paradise.

Big Knip beach. A paradise!

Beaches Big Knip and Cas Abou – places I will dream about forever!

Cas Abou: for a small fee you get showers, toilet facilities and a bar.

Northern Louisiana: Meat Pies, Catfish and Where Bonnie and Clyde Met Their Maker

Where Bonnie and Clyde were ambushed. There’s a marker by the side of the road now.

1)    Bonnie and Clyde Ambush Museum reports on the last chapter of one of the most documented criminal love stories in America. Gibsland, where Bonnie and Clyde were ambushed has a funky little museum funded by private donor in Dallas and run by “Boots” Hinton, son of one of the law men who shot the famous couple to death on a nearby back road. A video from 1934 shows a re-enactment of the event. There is some question if Bonnie actually ever killed anyone herself. The museum has replicas of their tombstones (they were buried in separate cemeteries in Dallas) and Bonnie’s epithet is what she wrote for her mother’s tombstone 6 months earlier. “All the women like to hear that story,” Boots confided. There’s a replica car that was used in one of bio pics shot in the area, but the real death car is on loan to a museum in Washington D.C. Although you wouldn’t know it now, the museum is housed in the little café where Bonnie and Clyde bought their last sandwiches. “They only had two before they were shot,” said Boots. Gazing around at the photos, I can see Bonnie was very pretty. “Clyde met her at a restaurant where she was waitressing,” said Boots. In a glass case I spy her red velvet beret and the brooch from her dress. The wonky black and white newsreel style movie I watched when I came in said her belongings included a cosmetic case, just like any normal girl.

2)    Second Hand Rose. The best reason to go to this jam-packed emporium is to meet Millie Rose, a dynamo with a frizz of red hair and two Boston Terriers that follow her everywhere. Poke around and you might find a treasure amongst all the knick-knacks.

Luigi’s has the best bread pudding in the region!

3)    Luigi’s Restaurant serves up a mean deep fried catfish that melts in your mouth. For dessert, bread pudding with buttery, sticky rum sauce is a must. The restaurant is located in a small strip of shops next to the site, which once housed the funeral parlor where the bodies of Bonnie and Clyde were taken after they were killed. It’s a parkette now, but across the street is the town’s little museum, which is filled with pictures of the criminal duo.

Melrose Plantation.

4)    Melrose Plantation. If you go during the Fall Tour in October, you’ll see lots of docents and their daughters in period dress. Three families have owned the plantation over the years. The first was a freed slave who prospered, but then lost it all. Mrs Cammie Henry was last owner and she was famous for hosting an artists’ retreat. Author William Faulkner stayed for a short time, but Mrs. Cammie being a teetotaler was not a fan of his. People had to review what they had done each evening at dinner. The retreat was inspirational for a staff member, Clementine, who cleaned the rooms. One of the guests left their paints so she tried her hand at painting and did some fascinating scenes of everyday life. Some people are bigger than others. The more important people are bigger, and those she didn’t like are smaller. My favorite was the black angles with their hair flying straight up because of all the wind. You can view her cabin and an excellent gallery of her work. Her grandson is now selling pieces for $70 in the gift shop.

The Steel Magnolia house – once a B&B, now up for sale.

5)    Natchitoches: See the house where Steel Magnolias was filmed, check out the uber modern Louisiana State Sports museum, shop the oldest retailer in the city, the Kaffie-Frederick General Mercantile hardware store (lots of cool kitchen gadgets and Christmas gee gaws), and visit Northwestern State University and the Bead Town mural, a concept by artist Stephan Wagner to recycle discarded Mardi Gras beads.

Laysone’s delicious meat pies.

6)    Laysone’s Meat Pie: Lunch here is a must. Angela Laysone is the daughter of the original owner. A big gal with B&W striped chef pants and a black bandana, she is now rolling out a plan to sell the crayfish and beef meat pies in sports stadiums in LA and Texas. They are deep fried and delicious. Even the green beans are deep-fried! The décor is decidedly old school. In-window A/C units, brownish/greenish walls. But who cares, you are there for the pies!

Looking for chicken.

7)    Natchitoches Alligator park: We head over to Castaway Island where a crowd has assembled and is gazing out over a pond at what looked to be the tail of a crashed airplane. It was show time. A voice over the loud speaker told us two stranded pilots had to fend off hungry meat eaters. From a wooden, Cajun-style houseboat the pilots-cum-staff members hung a bloody parcel on a stick over the edge. Suddenly the water was boiling as 100 alligators swarmed towards the vessel. A huge daddy, at least 15 feet long, leapt out of the water and snapped up the meat. “What are they feeding them?” I asked a tour guide. “Chicken, mostly necks,” she replied. At lunch in the snack bar, I braved a plate of fried alligator. The chewy nuggets tasted just like….chicken.

What I Love About Shreveport

Elvis plays the Louisiana Hayride at the Memorial Auditorium, 1955. Photo © courtesy of Louisiana Hayride Archives – J. Kent

1)    Memorial Auditorium, where Elvis got his start on Louisiana Hayride in 1954. In 1969, guitarist James Burton signed on with Elvis and stayed with his band until Elvis’ death in 1977. Burton is a Shreveport boy and has a recording studio across the street from Memorial Auditorium.

James Burton, Shreveport’s guitar legend.

If you are lucky, he might come out and chat with you.

Geauxsicles are like luscious frozen smoothies on a stick.

2)    Geauxsicles Gourmet Ice Pops opened two years ago and offers fabulous flavours like Mojito, Lemondrop, Sister Hazelnut, and my favorite, Sublime. These little treasures are frozen smoothies on a stick and are chock full of fresh fruit. There’s even a diabetic-friendly option made with Truvia.

3)    Strawn’s Eat Shop, one of the city’s most iconic restaurants, features mile-high strawberry pie to die for. The owner is a professional poker player and family members have opened a couple of additional locations to the original at 125 Kings Hwy.

4)    Marilynn’s Place – opened by Bozz Baucom and named for his mother, this former gas station is comfy casual, largely self-serve and is known for jambalaya, crawfish etoufée and beignets, which are served with coffee all day long.

An institution!

5)    Herby-K’s, home of the Shrimp Buster since 1936. What the heck is a shrimp buster? Pounded shrimp piled high on buttered French bread and laced with spicy red sauce. South Living magazine loves this place.

6)    Red River Revel, a fantastic, affordable arts and crafts fair in early October with 125 artisan booths (jewelry, paintings, woodwork) lots of excellent concerts (Blind Boys of Alabama were there this year), fantastic food (charities set up booths and sell catfish, candied nuts, chocolate covered cheescake on a stick, crawfish and other delights).

Cooking up a storm at Blue Southern Comfort! Guest chefs try their hand in the kitchen with the lovely owner Carolyn Manning (Top row, second from R).

7)    Blue Southern Comfort was just opened by Carolyn Manning, a former real estate agent. This superb little spot has around 5 tables and tons of charm. Her gumbo and cheezy grits are magical. Secrets include her home smoked tasso pork shoulder, and the grits contain a mélange of cheeses including cheddar, parm and jack. BYOB right now, but she is waiting on a liquor license.

Shreveport’s people and history on the side of the AT&T building. A mega mural!

8)    “Once in a Millennium Moon,” one of the largest murals in the country spans around 30,000 sq ft. on the AT&T building downtown. It is filled with local celebrities, family heirlooms like garters, a christening top, a wedding veil, war tags, the Torah, and a portrait of Native American Mary Whitesnake Rambin wearing three sets of black beads passed down by her grandmother that were brought from Europe to trade in exchange for beaver, deer and other hides.

9)    Papa Fertitta’s is the last historic Mom and Pop grocery store in town and it’s on the National Registry of Historic Places. Known for it’s fantastic sandwich, the “Muffy” (heavier than an anvil, made with cold cuts and olive paste), it’s a great place to stop for a beer and a bite

10)The Robinson Film Center is a two-screen cinema that shows great art house fare and is supported by actors such as Val Kilmer and Matthew Broderick. Abby Singer’s Bistro, upstairs, offers tasty pre- or après movie dining with a twist. Try the duck nachos.

Sunset Beach: A Concrete Boat and Cape May Diamonds

At dusk any night of the week, locals gather at Sunset Beach, Cape May Point, NJ, to watch the spectacular reddening of the sky over Delaware Bay. From May through September they are also there for the evening flag ceremony that honours veterans right before sunset.

For newcomers, perhaps the most amazing sight at Sunset Beach is the half-sunk concrete ship Atlantus. Due to a shortage of steel during World War I, the Federal government experimented with concrete ships and produced 12 of these heavy-weight floaters. The Atlantus was the second prototype, a 3,000 ton, 250-foot long freighter with a five-inch-thick hull of concrete aggregate. Launched on Nov. 21st, 1918 at Wilmington, North Carolina, the Atlantus served for a year as a government-owned, privately operated commercial coal steamer, plying the waters of New England. Needless to say, the concrete experiment was not particularly efficient and the ships were decommissioned at the end of the war. The Atlantus went to the Bone Yard at Pigs Point, Norfolk, VA, and in 1920 it was towed to Cape May where a Baltimore firm was planning to start a ferry service between Cape May and Lewes, Delaware. The Atlantus was supposed to act as a dock, but she broke loose of her moorings and now lies with her bow peeking forlornly from the water’s surface. She’s a big draw for tourists who are also attracted to the beach to search for Cape May Diamonds.

As the Atlantus appears now.

What’s a Cape May Diamond? About 200 miles upstream along the Delaware River quartz deposits get dislodged by the swift waters and are carried along the strong current to Delaware Bay.

Tumbled by the tides, the opaque nuggets (some as big as an egg!) are washed ashore at Sunset Beach. Pop into Sunset Beach Gifts and you’ll see a selection of polished, cut quartz crystals that dazzle like diamonds in pendants and earrings. Prices range from $25-$40 for a pair of earrings. www.sunsetbeachnj.com

Cape May, NJ, Naturally

Heading out on a salt marsh safari in the Skimmer with Ginny and Ed, I felt a little lost…in time. With the shoreline’s cacophony of electrical wires and buildings at my back, I was looking out at a shimmering, grassy carpet covering the shallow waters of Cape May Inlet. Other than the odd small boat, it felt like our group was totally alone, exploring the shores where the indigenous Kechemeche people use to gather shellfish.

“This is the ocean’s nursery, small crabs and shrimps provide a smorgasbord for migrating and resident birds. Look, there’s the osprey nest,” said Ed, the Skimmer’s captain. “And there’s an osprey,” chimed in Ginny, his partner, pointing to a dark, large-winged bird cruising the thermals above the marsh. Being fall, many of the migrating feathered residents had already departed for the south. Great herons, snowy egret, king fishers and cormorants were still there, though, providing plenty of fodder for our binoculars.

As Ginny took the wheel, Ed urged us to come and look at his touch tank.  Gently he plucked out starfish, crabs, whelks, and sea urchins for us to admire. “These creatures are part of the chain of life. This whole area is full of nutrients and is rich with wildlife,” he explained.

“We love it out here. For eight months of the year, seven days a week, we’re on the water. That’s the houseboat we live in,” said Ginny pointing to another flat-bottomed boat tied to the dock. She and Ed told us they have been taking visitors out for eight years and their safaris are considered a top attraction. “We take out lots of school groups, but individual travelers are also a big part of our business. We just want to share the natural beauty of the area. That way people will be more inclined to appreciate it and protect it. In many places along the coast, the salt marshes have been filled in. That’s a shame. We need them, they are the area’s lungs,” explained Ginny.

Ed expertly swung the Skimmer around and we headed back to shore. The water sparkled as swallows flitted by looking for insects. Breathing in the clean air, I felt totally at peace, but also a tad jealous. What a wonderful place Ginny and Ed call home. www.skimmer.com, (609) 884-3100. For more information on New Jersey flora and fauna, go to www.njaudubon.org

10 Best Atlantic City Destinations Off the Boardwalk

Atlantic City, the Jersey Shore’s gambling Mecca, is chock-a-block with casinos, but there is plenty to do for non-gamblers as well. Next time you’re in the Boardwalk Empire, check out these hidden gems.

Joe Di Maggio’s favourite hang out in Atlantic City.

1)     The Irish Pub – The walls of this cozy pub are jammed with boxing posters from the days of Jack Dempsey, and just about any other Irish memorabilia including JFK for President posters. Joe DiMaggio’s favourite AC haunt has an expansive menu of pub grub including St. James Potatoes (an Irish version of poutine), Jersey crab cakes and liverwurst and onion sandwiches. Plus there are reasonable rooms to let for people who don’t mind being just up the street from the boardwalk. St. James Place. www.theirishpub.com

2)     Dante Hall Theater For The Arts – where locals go for concerts and local dramatic productions. 12 N. Mississippi Ave. 609 347-2162

3)     White House Sub Shop – Best two-foot-long sandwiches on the Shore. Fillings range from white tuna to meatballs and sauce and the fresh loaves come from nearby bakery Formica Bros. Try the White House Special, a belly-filling winner of Genoa salami, ham, capicola and provolone cheese. 2301 Arctic Ave.

A multitude of multi-grains at Formica Bros. Bakery.

4)     Formica Bros. Bakery – A Ducktown staple since 1919, Formica Bros. uses grandfather Francesco’s methods to create some of the best bread in the city. The bakery café serves coffee, biscotti and slices of grandmother Rosa’s famous Italian Tomato pie. 2310 Arctic Ave.

The original 1910 design for James’ salt water taffy.

5)     James Factory Tour – See how salt water taffy is made at this AC candy institution on the boardwalk, founded in 1880. Admission is $4.50, tours are on the hour from 10 am-3 pm, Mon.-Fri, June-August.

6)     Waterfront Sculpture Walk – Need a break from chiming slots? Behind Harrah’s and linked to Borgata and the Golden Nugget resorts is a landscaped mile of three-dimensional art that looks out over Atlantic City’s back bay. Dancing dragonflies, steam punk-style clocks and golden-framed fence installations will captivate your imagination while local fishermen provide the backdrop, casting their lines into the bay for blue fish.

The lighthouse is a popular spot for weddings.

7)     Absecon Lighthouse – opened in 1857, this historic beacon is 171 feet high and it takes 228 steps upward to get to the panoramic views of Atlantic City, ocean and surrounding areas. Check out the Keeper’s House Museum. Near Showboat Casino at Pacific and Rhode Island Avenues.

8)     Flyers Skate Zone – Ice skating throughout the year. 501 North Albany Ave. www.flyersskatezone.com

A Caribbean Cownose Ray delights visitors at the Atlantic City Aquarium.

9)     Atlantic City Aquarium – Intimate aquarium with shark and ray touch tanks, diver feeding show, and 100 varieties of sea life. www.acaquarium.com

10)  Atlantic City Fishing & Dive Center — If you are a diver, or want to catch a big one, this charter operation can take you to nearby wrecks for underwater exploration or line casting to snag seabass, blackfish, ling, cod, progy and triggerfish. 455 N. Maryland Ave.

The Things I Love and the Things that Drive Me Crazy in Swaziland


1)    People’s names: Innocent, Sunshine, Lucky, Fortunate

2)    Warm greetings from people you don’t know. It is common, polite practice to say hello to everyone you meet on the street. Big smiles from strangers are also common.

3)    Mangos the size of my head.

4)    Avocados creamy and heavenly.

5)    The way women carry babies on their backs, tied in place with a kanga (cloth), towel or blanket. The children put their arms around mom’s neck while she ties them into place. You always know a woman is carring a baby when she walks towards you and see the knotted blanket and two tiny feet sticking out.

6)    Well-behaved children. I have not heard one tantrum in the grocery store!

Green beauty on the way to Pigg’s Peak.

Swazis, not Hobbits, live here.

A stunning lodge — Maguga Lodge, near the dam, in northern Swaziland.

7)    The beautiful lush, green, hilly landscape.

8)    Price of South African wine – very decent bottles for $5 Cdn.

9)    Spring…cool evenings for sleeping and warm sunny days.

10)                  Braai culture: parties consist of BYOB and BYOM (meat) – all year round.

Cows are money in the bank for Swazi people.

11)                   Cows and goats on the road – so non-Canadian!

12)                   Beautiful butterflies and moths.

A beautiful moth who alighted on my locker at the gym.




1)    Swazi time. I went to an International Women’s Day event on Friday, scheduled for an 8 am start. It began at 11:30 am.

2)    Kombis. This mode of public transport, mini-vans, legally hold around 15 people. Often they get packed with around 25. Perfect TB incubators.

3)    Drivers. Either they think they are on the Autobahn (100 in a 40 mph zone), or they’re afraid they’ll lose control if they go more than 1/2 the speed limit.

4)    Cows and goats on the road – one of the main causes of car accidents. Often owners let them wander freely, grazing by the side of the road, but they also tend to pop out in front of vehicles.

5)    The phone system. There are new networks – one is for cell phones, the other for landlines, and never the twain shall meet. Both are government owned, but the cell-phone company prevails (MTN). If you try to call one from the other, it is VERY expensive. Actually all calls are quite expensive. Texts cost around 10 cents (Cdn) each and a 10-minute cell call will cost around $1 (Cdn). Ouch!

6)    Government process…Lots of talking, but little action. Activists have been pushing for the Sexual Offences and Domestic Violence law to be passed for more than 10 years. The judicial system must rely on laws that are very out of date and perpetrators are often given light sentences.

7)    The belief in demons and witchcraft. Very disturbing and very prevalent.

8)    Reading announcements of police officers getting 30% pay increases, while teachers (who make very small salaries) can’t get a 4.5% increase. (Teachers went on strike last year, were fired by the Prime Minister, then pardoned by the King but still can’t get their 4.5%.)

9)    Polygamy.

10)                   The fact that women have constitutional rights, but many don’t know it. They continue to suffer gender-based violence and just figure that’s a woman’s lot in life – some even think it means the man is still interested in her.

11)                   Yucky giant bugs.

A dead giant being devoured by ants.



1)    The Sunday Time’s editor is named Innocent. He jumps at every opportunity to publish scandal, often based on rumor. One instance was publishing a nude photo of a Swazi embassy employee in the UK provided by her angry ex who was blackmailing her for reneging on a financial agreement. Not really news, and not so innocent.

2)    A man was chewed up by machinery in the sugar mills. The only way they could identify him was by testing for DNA in the sugar. His name was Lucky.