Fog is a fact of life in Vancouver during the winter months. It can roll in from the ocean within a manner of minutes and stick around for weeks at a time. If the wind is in the right direction, I hear the fog horns from the freighter ships moored in English Bay, which is kinda cool. (What’s really cool is how they play those horns in harmony.)
The fog showed up again last night and was still here this morning, but I took this photo of the bridges over False Creek a few years ago.
I think these photos, which I’m posting today in honour of the 70th anniversary of the liberation of Auschwitz, pretty much speak for themselves.
I took them in December 2010 at Père Lachaise Cemetery in Paris. There are almost a dozen Holocaust memorials in Père Lachaise, each of them as moving and sombre as this one, which is dedicated to Buna-Monowitz, also known as Auschwitz III.
Built to house slave labour for the Buna Works industrial complex, Buna-Monowitz was part of the Auschwitz series of camps and, like Auschwitz-Birkenau, was liberated 70 years ago today.
At a dinner party I was at last night, the conversation around the table turned to upcoming travel plans, both for work and for pleasure. For a small group, the list was impressive: Cuba … Jerusalem … Vietnam … Hawaii … Rwanda and Uganda … Scotland … a Rhine cruise.
And New York. One couple is headed to New York this week. As I was looking for a photo to post today, I was shocked to discover it’s been almost two years since my last post about New York.
That’s far too long. And so, here’s a view of the Empire State Building taken from Greenwich Village.
The Gastown Steam Clock is one of those attractions that visitors to Vancouver love to seek out. Tourists all want their photos taken in front of the whistling clock ― it’s hard to think of Gastown without it.
So imagine my surprise last month when I was wandering around Gastown and discovered the steam clock has gone walkabout. Turns out it’s in the shop for repairs and maintenance. In its place stands a cardboard replica ― which, sadly, doesn’t do it justice.
Why the love affair with the iconic steam clock?
Although designed to blend in with the Victorian architecture that surrounds it (it’s modelled after an 1875 English clock design), Gastown’s Steam Clock was built much more recently ― in 1977. The largest of its five steam whistles comes from the retired CPR steam tug SS Naramata.
The clock serves a more utilitarian purpose than merely decorative, though. It was built to cover a steam vent on the northwest corner of Cambie and Water. (An aside: did you know that a large section of downtown Vancouver, including BC Place, Rogers Arena, the Pacific Centre Mall, and the Vancouver Central Library, is heated by steam? I did not. The things I learn doing research for this blog.)
Gastown’s Steam Clock sounds the Westminster Chimes on the quarter-hour, so I guess you could say it is Vancouver’s Big Ben. That’s probably stretching it a tad, but the clock is beloved by tourists and locals alike.
Repairs are due to be completed sometime this month. When the steam clock is once again back in its place, all will be right in Gastown’s world.
To know Paris is to know a great deal. What eloquent surprises at every turn of the street. To get lost here is an adventure extraordinary. The streets sing, the stones talk. The houses drip history, glory, romance. — Henry Miller
I’ve been struggling to write this post all week long. I wasn’t sure what to say (if anything) and I wrote (and discarded) multiple drafts (all of them in my head).
Then I saw the pictures of the millions of Parisians gathered today in the streets of Paris. Once I saw those photos, I knew which of the thousands of photos I had taken in Paris I should post.
And once I had a photo, I had the words.
Paris is close to my heart. I’ve had the privilege to visit this beautiful, amazing, perplexing, and frustrating city five times over three decades. My first visit lasted less than 24 hours; my last, just shy of three months. After Vancouver, it is my favourite place in the world.
But it wasn’t always.
I remember the exact moment I fell in love with Paris ― ironically, it was in Place de la République, the square where thousands of Parisians have gathered throughout this awful week. I was eating dinner with my father on a raised terrace overlooking the square. We had arrived in Paris just that afternoon after travelling by Eurail throughout Germany. Earlier in the week, we had had a conversation about which European city each of us could see ourselves living in. I couldn’t choose ― not one said “home” to me in the way I wanted it to.
Until that moment. As I gazed out at the trees along the boulevard, I thought to myself, “I can see myself living here” ― and before the thought had fully formed in my brain, my dad said it out loud for me. “You’d like to live here, wouldn’t you?” To my knowledge, he’s never read my mind before (or since), but he did that summer evening.
I’ve been in love with Paris ever since.
This week, my heart has been aching for Paris while I struggled to find the words to express my feelings and thoughts.
Today, Parisians took to their city’s streets in unprecedented numbers. The first reports described it as the largest demonstration since Paris’s liberation from Nazi Germany in August 1944. By the end of the day, the news media described the rally as the largest demonstration ever in French history. Ever. That is indeed unprecedented.
Tomorrow, Paris will begin to redefine itself, as it has so many times before after so many other violent, horrific events in its long and storied history. We don’t ― none of us ― have the distance and perspective necessary to understand what this week has done to the city. That will come, in time.
And so, for now, all I have is this photo, which I took on Armistice Day, 2010.
The world is a book and those who do not travel read only one page. ― Saint Augustine