Category Archives: Travel

The Architect’s Apprentice

Tonight my book club at the West Kildonan Library will be discussing The Architect’s Apprentice by Elif Shafak.   Shafak, a Turkish author,  says her book was inspired by this image of Sultan Suleyman the Magnificent which has an elephant in the background. The print created in 1559, during the same time period as the events in the book, is by a German artist Melchior Lorck and is in the British Museum.

Here are four things I found interesting about the novel The Architect’s Apprentice. 

Cristofano dell'Altissimo portrait of Mihrimah Sultan

Mihrimah Sultan is the protagonist’s love interest in the book.  Here she is portrayed by Italian artist Cristofan dell’Altissimo who lived at the same time as Mihrimah did.

Although the protagonist Jahan is a fictional character author Elif Shafak has populated her novel with other characters who are real.  Jahan is an apprentice to Sinan the renowned architect of the Ottoman Empire. Sinan oversaw the building of some 500 structures and nearly 200 of them are still standing. Jahan’s love interest is the Sultan’s daughter Mihrimah. She is a historical figure as well. So are the three sultans who are in power during the time Jahan serves Sinan the Royal Architect. In one section of the book Jahan and another apprentice go to visit Michelangelo in Italy. 

the architect's apprentice book coverThere are many thought provoking reflections in the book.  Here are a three I really appreciated. 

“If you carry a sword, you obey the sword, not the other way round. Nobody can hold a weapon and keep their hands clear of blood at the same time.”

“……Jahan understood his master’s secret resided ……… in his ability to adapt to change and calamity, and to rebuild himself, again and again, out of the ruins. Sinan was made of flowing water. When anything blocked his course, he would flow under, around, above it, however he could; he found his way through the cracks, and kept flowing forward”

“Stones stay still.  A learner never.” 

another edition cover of the architect's apprenticeJahan’s closest relationship in life is with an elephant named Chota. Jahan arrives in Istanbul as Chota’s keeper and immediately sets about saving Chota’s life.  I am not necessarily a big animal lover and will admit that I’ve never understood the deep love some people have for their pets, but I was quite taken with the way Jahan and Chota care for one another, know each other so well, come to one another’s defense, respect each other and provide each other with solace and comfort at crucial times. 

posing at the taj mahalAnd finally at the end of the book Jahan travels to Agra India to help design and build the dome for the Taj Mahal.  I have been to the Taj Mahal and my husband made me pose for this photo where I am appearing to hold up the magnificent structure by the top of the dome. 

Other posts……..

The Taj Mahal At Dawn

Do Buildings Have Souls?

A Story Board in a Painting




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Filed under Books, History, India

Happy Birthday Canada

I am so thankful my great grandparents had the courage and foresight to immigrate to Canada. My Schmidt and Janz great grandparents from the United States in 1907 and my Sawatsky and Peters great grandparents from Ukraine in 1929 and……. I am forever grateful to you Canada for taking them in. My great grandparents chose a wonderfully diverse country for their new home and I have been so fortunate to explore it from sea to shining sea. With my cousin Lynne on Signal Hill in St. John’s Newfoundland.On a walk on a crisp autumn day in Quebec City Quebec.In the doorway of Lucy Maude Montgomery’s House in Cavendish, Prince Edward Island. With my daughter-in-law and her sister and two of Canada’s famous five suffragettes in Ottawa, Ontario. With my husband Dave tubing at Moose Lake Manitoba. With Dave in St. Johns New Brunswick. Eating lobster in Halifax Nova Scotia. On a birthing stone at Ancient Echoes Interpretative Center in Hershel Saskatchewan. With my family on a skip trip in Banff, Alberta. With Dave (we are second and third from the right) on a kayaking trip in Johnstone Strait in British Columbia.

Other posts……..

Canada Day in Leamington

Canada Day At the Forks

On the Eastern Edge of Canada


Filed under Canada, Travel

Should Canadians Still Travel to the United States?

Quite a number of Canadian people I know say they will not be traveling to the United States any longer.   Although in my view Donald Trump has done one morally repugnant thing after another, both before and after taking office, many feel America has crossed the final line of decency and democracy and honesty with the separation of immigrant children from their parents, the upholding of the Muslim travel ban by the Supreme Court and the president declaring that products from their closest neighbour and ally, Canada, pose a national security risk to the United States.

We have a trip to the United States planned for the fall and I am torn about whether we should go through with it.  Here is stuff I am mulling over in that regard.

We have traveled in mainland China repeatedly and their human rights record is dismal.

Is it even safe to go to the United States? The lack of sensible gun control laws means there is a mass shooting five out of every six days. 

55% of the American people do not support Donald Trump and many of the actions he has taken.  Would traveling to their country or not traveling to their country be the best way to show my support for them ?

Am I being self-righteous?  My own country’s government was hit with its fourth non-compliance order by the Canadian Human Rights Tribunal this year for not providing equal services to the indigenous children of Canada. 

We will be going to Utah where my husband will be participating in a sporting tournament. Could the event provide an opening to talk to Americans in Utah and dialogue with them? Utah’s electoral votes went to Mr. Trump. Might I have the opportunity to share some of my faith and humanitarian concerns in a polite and civil way and  try to understand how their world view can differ so much from mine? 

One of the things we want to see are Utah’s stunning national parks.  President Trump is shrinking them so they can be opened up for oil, gas and coal mining potential.  If we don’t go and see them now we may not get another chance. 

Although travel to the United States from every other area of the world has declined since President Trump was elected travel from Canada has actually risen.  Should I be contributing to this trend? What kind of message does that send? 

Have you changed your American travel plans?  Do you think Canadians should? 

Other posts……..

Encouragement After the American Election

Sunset Walk in America the Beautiful

I’m So Tired of You America



Filed under Travel

What’s In Your Carry On?

A regular feature in the Air Canada magazine Enroute is called What’s in Your Carry On? They ask a passenger what they have in their carry on and then take a picture of ten items from their carry on baggage and ask the passenger to describe them.  I decided the exercise might be fun.  So here are ten things that were in my carry on when I flew to Saskatoon on the weekend. 

ten items

Here are the descriptions of my items from top left to bottom right

Ragged Company– I am madly trying to get this Richard Wagamese book done before I attend my first book club meeting at a Winnipeg library.

Sketching Pad and pencils– I am trying to draw everyday and my older grandson loves to go through my sketch book when we get together to see what I’ve drawn and then add a few sketches of his own to its pages. 

Passport- a must for air travel these days

Go Fish Game- I taught my six year old grandson how to play Go Fish the last time we visited and he really liked it so I brought it along for us to play

Hat and sunglasses- The weather prediction for Saturday and Sunday in Saskatoon was in the mid twenties and since my son’s family likes to spend lots of time outside I wanted to be prepared. 

Birthday Gift- our younger grandson was turning two. I made him a personalized song book and my husband got him a Jets T-shirt. 

Maze Book– My older grandson likes mazes so I brought a book of them for us to do together. 

Day Planner- I never go anywhere without this.  I know I should probably keep track of my life electronically but I’m still not comfortable with that and need a planner where I can make monthly and daily plans for my life as well as have space for notes and ideas. 

Andy and the Lion-  Both my grandsons enjoy this story so I usually bring it along when I am going to see them. 

Other posts……….

A Start to our Trip That Was A Little Too Exciting

Real and Messy and Honest

Plumb Tuckered Out in Lisbon


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Great Times During A Cold and Rainy Week

Our friends John and Velma were here for one week. According to the Algarve locals it was probably the coldest, wettest March week in recent history.  The sun usually shone for at least a few hours everyday and we made the most of those hours.  I will admit all the rain and wind and cold put a bit of a damper on our holiday plans, but we still managed to have lots of good times. Pottery shopping in SagresSavoring the great food at an Indian restaurant in Praia da LuzChecking out the most southwestern point of Portugal at St. Vincent’s Lighthouse

Wine tasting in Silves

Photographing the sailboat fountain on the outskirts of Lagos, something I have wanted to do ever since we arrived six weeks ago. Discovering the shoreline village of CarrapateiraEnjoying the soft sand and cool waters on the beautiful Praia de Bordeira Taking time for a happy hour at 4:00 everyday that included gin and tonics, appetizers and a round of euchre. The guys usually won the euchre matches but on Sunday night Velma and I managed to turn the tables. Browsing in a flea market in Lagos. Dave bought some fresh figs for us to share. 
Appreciating a marvelous meal at the Bistrot Gulli in Aljezur.  I had pumpkin ravioli stuffed with goat cheese and served with a creamy fig sauce.  So good!

Hiking down to the Ponta de Piedade
Smelling the pepper corns on a pepper treeSeeing the view from atop the bell tower on the cathedral in Faro on a very cold blustery day

Hiking to Lagos on another cold blustery dayHaving supper in Lagos with Dave’s brother Paul, his wife Shirley and their friend Ken. Paul and Dave and John are cousins but before the end of the evening John who loves genealogy had explained ways everyone at the table was related to each other with a variety of Mennonite family connections.

Posing in some great scenery in SagresHaving a delicious lunch in a local restaurant in the village of SalirVisiting the fort at Sagres

Listening to the waves roar on a cold and windy hike at CavoireExploring the village of Burgau after hiking there from our homeEnjoying a Chinese dinner in Praia da Luz on our last night there

Riding a tram across the Tigris River in Lisbon.  

We spent an afternoon in Lisbon before John and Velma went to the airport to fly home to Winnipeg and we headed off to spend some time in the Alentejo area of Portugal. 

Despite the bad weather we had a good week with John and Velma that included great conversations and lots of laughter. 

Other posts……..

Up and Down With the Browns

A Family Affair That Started With Excitement

Small Wonders


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Filed under Portugal, Travel

Dave the Navigator Meets Henry the Navigator

A Portuguese waiter helps Dave locate the nearest bus stop on Google Maps

Visiting the Maritime Museum in Lisbon to learn more about Henry the Navigator was high on the priority list for my husband.  Dave is definitely the navigator in our family. I am incredibly geographically challenged and so it is Dave who navigates as we explore new cities, hike new trails, go on bicycle trips along new routes and travel to new destinations. Although in the past he was prone to think electronic navigation supports were just made for people who were ‘geographically stupid’,  I have noticed on this trip he is using the Google Maps app on his phone quite a bit more.  He is realizing there might be new ways of navigating. 

Dave the Navigator with Henry the Navigator

And that’s exactly what happened with Henry the Navigator (1934-1460), the Portuguese prince who supported new methods of navigation and map making that launched the Age of Discovery. This led to Europeans discovering the world was a much bigger place than they had ever imagined. 

Henry surrounded by the cartographers, astronomers and explorers he employed

At the Maritime Museum we learned  how Henry was geographically curious and employed the best cartographers, astronomers and sea pilots of his time.

Dave checks out a map showing the voyages of discovery made by Portuguese explorers

Henry financially sponsored many voyages.  

Dave hanging out with Vasco Da Gama

Henry laid the groundwork for the future successes of famous Portuguese explorers like Vasco da Gama who discovered a sea route to India and Ferdinand Magellan who organized the expedition that led to the first circumnavigation of the globe. 

We spent a couple of hours at the Maritime Museum in Lisbon as both Dave the Navigator and I learned about Henry the Navigator and how his interest in exploration and geography ended up changing the world. 

Other posts……..

56 Kilometers Under Our Tires

The Doctrine of Discovery

Getting to Know John Cabot


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Filed under Portugal, Travel

Packing From The Feet Up

empty suitcasesI’ve started packing for our trip to Portugal.  Whenever I am preparing for a journey words of advice from my mother come to mind.  During my childhood when Mom was teaching me how to do my own packing for family vacations or school trips she explained the ‘packing from the feet up’ technique.  Mom said I should start at my feet and think of everything I would need for them on my trip- shoes, sandals, runners, socks and perhaps a toenail clipper. She told me to move up my body section by section like that all the way to my head.  Did I have shampoo, conditioner, my brush, my pink foam curlers,bobby pins,hats, combs, bandannas and hair clips? 

I still pack using that ‘start from the feet up’ technique and it works! Thanks Mom!

Other posts…………

Technology Transforms Travel

Am I a Peripatetic?

Globe Trotting Vicariously

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Filed under Parenting, Travel