I am innocent…


Last weekend was my daughter’s 21st birthday trip. I had offered to take her on a trip somewhere fun…you know, like Vegas, New York, or New Orleans. Nope. Not my kid. She wanted to go to Salem (Massachusetts, outside of Boston). Even the customs official on the way home thought that was weird.

She wanted to go because I’ve been there a few times before, as has my best friend. My daughter is also the one who goes to all those scary Halloween Haunt things, so it kinda makes sense. Fun girls road trip!

Birthday trips aren’t supposed to be educational, but I think she learned some things while we were there. Between psychic readings, souvenir shopping at the “Harry Potter” stores (Remembering Salem and Wynott’s), and the pirate museum.

I think it’s a fascinating period in Puritan history, but my daughter didn’t know why Salem is filled with all kinds of witchy stuff. It’s where the Witch Trials of 1692-93 took place.

witch dungeon salem

It’s great when places bring history alive, and at the Witch Dungeon we heard the story about two young sisters who were messing around with a fortune telling game. You can imagine that this would be bad for the girls if they were caught. The younger of the two saw something completely terrifying, and immediately went into a state of shock. She couldn’t move. Their parents called the doctor, who couldn’t explain her condition, except to say she must have been bewitched.

witch dungeon salem

The little girl was sent away, and later came out of it. It was Puritan Massachusetts, with a lot of rules, and very little excitement. Mass hysteria ensued. The rest of the girls in Salem wanted the same kind of fuss made over them, and mimicked the same “symptoms”. Things like this don’t just happen. Someone had to be responsible. Picture a Jamaican immigrant named Tituba, a healer who also practised voodoo, working in one of the girls’ homes. Her husband made “witch cakes” for the girls. Four years earlier a woman named Goody Glover had admitted to afflicting children. Maybe it was still fresh in their minds as a valid explanation.

Over the 18 months the witch trials took place, 150 people were imprisoned (until the prison was at capacity),  19 were hanged on Gallows Hill, and one man was pressed to death.

Why some were accused:

  • Pipe-smoking beggar woman
  • Being an aged cripple
  • The neighbour got sick and died
  • Selling to the natives
  • Stepping in a mud puddle, without getting wet
  • A child said so

We had an evening tour on the anniversary of Bridget Bishop’s hanging. Sure, it’s a little creepy standing at the witch memorial on that exact day. Because they were prosecuted and executed as witches, no one knows exactly where these people were actually buried. There are stones like this to remember each of them outside of Burying Point, Salem’s oldest cemetery.

bridget bishop salem

When you know the history of the trials, the memorial is a quiet place of community and reflection. It always makes me sad.

Maybe it’s because of recent events.

Maybe it’s because they didn’t have to die.

Maybe it’s because had my daughter, my friend and I lived during that time, we would have been accused too.

…or maybe it’s because, ultimately… we are scared of the things we don’t understand.



Ein Bier Bitte…


I had every intention of writing every day that my son and I were in Germany, but there was so much to do and see! If you have a look at the tourist sites you can get a clear idea of the overload of options we had.

Instead of writing about all the things to do, I thought I’d share all the things to EAT!

My son was super excited about having his first legal beer (legal age is 16 in Germany), and his first authentic schnitzel and strudel. There was a little bakery near our rental in Berlin. The server there was only too happy to sell him the last ones in his shop. The beer was from the Imbiss right next door.


I was looking forward to having a currywurst again. It’s usually a bratwurst with a curry ketchup-type sauce. It’s to die for! Especially when you find it served with bratkartoffeln at a patio restaurant on Cora-Berliner Straße.


On one of our days out we went over to Alexanderplatz, the Rotes Rathaus and the Berliner Dom. We needed sustenance during all of our walking around. My son’s response to what he wanted to eat was either schnitzel, or pasta.

The Piazza Rossa (piazza-rossa.com) accommodated.


We were spoiled for choice, but decided to save the Alt Berliner Wirtshaus (www.altberliner-wirtshaus.de) for our last night. It’s a good thing we did, because we could hardly walk the 50 steps to the apartment.

I opted for the Alt Berliner “Kaiser Wilhelm” Grill Plate which had a slice of beef, pork, a sausage, giant meatball and bacon on a bed of bratkartoffeln and mushroom cream sauce.


Of course, Germany isn’t just known for schnitzel and beer. It’s also about the sweets. There are three places I seem to always go back to, because they’re worth the trip.

The one place is a cafe on a boat at Övelgönne Museumshafen (Klein Huis Gastronomie). It’s a demand stop when you have a look at all the old museum ships in Hamburg.


Then there’s the Bardowick Windmill Cafe (Meyers Windmill Bardowick). I’m pretty sure that next time they’ll know to just slice a huge piece of marzipan torte for me. I’d say, “make it two”, but the portions are enormous. That’s one of those coffee cups that holds two cups at once. You get the idea.


My favorite place though, and I’m pretty sure they know it, is the Nemitzer Heidehaus (www.nemitzer-heidehaus.de). This place is owned and operated by Heike and Dirk Mandel in Trebel. Dirk roasts their own coffee, and Heike bakes the most delicious creations in the kitchen. I gave them the heads up we’d be visiting, and I’d be having the Mandel torte. Mandel because of the almonds, not because of the last name!


All this really makes me hungry….

A Chinese ghost story…

The intent was to go to the museum and see the inside of the parliament buildings, but instead I wandered around downtown Victoria again.

I don’t know if you’ve ever seen Chinatown in Toronto, but it isn’t as colourful as this one in Victoria.


In Chinatown is a fascinating little alley, Fan Tan Alley.  It was originally a gambling district with restaurants, shops, and opium dens. It’s considered a tourist attraction now, with loads of little shops including a record shop (always trouble for me), barber shop, art gallery and cafe. (The opium dens are gone)


It also happens to be the narrowest street in Canada, only 90 cm (35 inches) wide at its narrowest spot.


I walked by this little alley a couple times on my first day here, but had to take a wander through. It was a bit of a nail biting walk, because I had been told the ghost of a murderer haunted it.


The story goes something like this…

In 1889 a 17 year old Asian man named Chan Ohan fell in love with a woman, Yao Kum, when he saw her sitting at her window. Yao worked and lived as a prostitute. Chan worked for the American hotel, making beds and cleaning rooms.  After seeing her sitting there day after day and talking to her, he shared his passion and love for her.


One day, he proposed marriage to her. Yao told Chan she couldn’t leave, because her owner would find her and kill her if she did. Chan tried to give her a vial of poison and told her to put it on the meals of her master and his wife, so she and Chan could be together. Yao realized Chan was serious, but he was penniless and she was trapped in her life of ill repute.  She also knew the penalty for murder, and told him to go away and never come back.

Chan felt publicly humiliated. He crept around the buildings with a friend and spied on her. One night he and his friend prowled near the window where Yao always sat, the friend grabbed Yao by the hair, and Chan cut off her head with a butcher knife. Chan ran away through all the little alleyways and escaped through the back of the hotel. He passed by the hotel owner, Tommy Burnes, as he fled.

Chan missed two days of work. Tommy saw a poster for a $150 reward “Wanted for murder in Chinatown.” It described Chan perfectly. Tommy went to the police who found Chan hiding in a coal bin, his clothes covered in blood, in the hotel’s basement. Chan was arrested and jailed, and then hanged himself with his shirt in his prison cell two days later.


After his suicide Chan was not afforded the same Chinese rites that ward off demons and ease the spirits of the dead. In encounters, people typically hear footsteps approaching, and then see Chan’s ghost passing through the alley with bloody clothes and a butcher knife. He pushes people blocking his way without seeming aware of them, and then fades away.


To the west coast I go…

I’ve been to a lot of cities across Canada, but never this far west. I find myself in Victoria, the capital city of British Columbia.

Victoria is one of the oldest settlements on the Pacific Northwest, by the Brits in 1843. Wikipedia says it has the second oldest Chinatown, next to San Fran. The Salish Nation was here thousands of years before that.

It could also very well be the rainiest place I’ve ever been.

Through the raindrops I have managed to see some beautiful spots and take some photos. Guess the bonus to all the rain is how green everything is. The flowers are even in bloom! (and trust me, after -35 Celsius a couple weeks ago at home and the latest Snowmageddon, this is wonderful)

The BC Parliament building. Home to the Legislative Assembly of British Columbia. Final cost to build… $923,000. That little gold dude on top is Captain George Vancouver (Vancouver Island, Vancouver BC, Vancouver WA, and Mount Vancouver are all named after him). Apparently someone once tried to steal his statue by helicopter.


In front of the parliament building is a statue of Queen Victoria. Yes, the city was named after her.


Everyone has told me that I should have tea at the Empress Hotel. It was built between 1904-1908 and has hosted many notables, including Shirley Temple, Prince Edward in 1919, and King George and Queen Elizabeth in 1939.


Honestly, I’ve never seen so many totem poles! I could take pictures of all of them, because they all tell a story. This has been my favorite so far. It’s the Kwakiutl Bear Pole, carved by Henry Hunt of the Kwawkewlth Indian Band in 1966, to commemorate the centenary union of the colonies on Vancouver Island and the mainland.

Perhaps the most spectacular place I’ve been (so far) is Beacon Hill Park. The park was named for the two beacons on Mount Beacon. The western most beacon had a triangle (blue) and the other a square (green). If the sailor could see the square through the triangle he was on Brotchie Ledge, which meant trouble. The almost 200 acres was originally set aside as a protected area by Sir James Douglas, governor of the Colony of Vancouver Island in 1858. In 1882, the land was officially made a municipal park and given its name.


A leisurely walk through the park, and then along a hidden pathway you can find sets of wooden stairs to take you down to the rocks and ocean view of Horseshoe Bay. The rocks were glaciated about 10,000 years ago.


On a clear day you can see the mountains of Washington state.


After the stairs you have to navigate all the driftwood that has washed up. It’s slippery, and treacherous, but oh so worth it for this view….


It was a big day of walking (about 20 km), so time for a little break. More pictures to come!


Ich bin ein Berliner…

Well, actually no I’m not from Berlin. But I am going there, again. This will be my third time there. Vacation is booked for April. Yes, prepare yourselves for future touristy photos!

It will be my son’s 18th birthday, so we’re going on a mother/son trip. He’s never been to Germany, so I get to play tour guide. I’m so excited!! Flights, hotel and even the local transit cards are booked.

Berlin Wall 1987
The last time I was in Berlin was in 1990. It was also the year the wall came down. I had been working in Flensburg that summer, visiting family on weekends. When the work contract was done my aunt and uncle asked me where I would like to go. There were only two places were on my list, Lübeck (home of Niederegger marzipan, which is AMAZING!), and Berlin. I wanted to see the difference from when I was there three years before.

Berlin Wall 1987
We went for a walkabout, and I still remember my uncle saying, “stop, stop!” and how much it confused me. “Look down,” he said. I happened to be standing exactly where the wall had once been. Goosebumps!

(not the happiest of faces, probably because of the bad hair)
After the wall came down there were, of course, the usual complaints about how the governments of both halves of the country managed the reintegration of citizens. Families were reunited after decades of separation.

Berlin Wall 1990
I didn’t find out until years later that our family roots (on my mother’s side) were from an area that became East Germany.

Berlin is a city that is absolutely rich in history. Founded in 1237, it became the capital of Prussia in 1701, the German Empire in 1871, then the Weimar Republic and the Third Reich. The city was divided by the Allies (USA, UK and France) and the Soviet Union under the London Protocol of 1944. East Berlin belonged entirely to the Soviets. It was too difficult to maintain West Berlin as the capital under a rotating Allied government and surrounded by Soviet territory, so West Germany’s capital was moved to Bonn in 1949. The nation’s capital unified again in Berlin in 1990.

In 1963 Kennedy gave a speech on a platform in front of 450,000 people:

“Two thousand years ago, the proudest boast was civis romanus sum [“I am a Roman citizen”]. Today, in the world of freedom, the proudest boast is “Ich bin ein Berliner!”… All free men, wherever they may live, are citizens of Berlin, and therefore, as a free man, I take pride in the words “Ich bin ein Berliner!”

jfk berlin
Source: findingdulcinea.com
I want to give that sense of deep culture to my son. He’s been to Montreal and parts of the U.K. Now it’s time for Germany.

Maybe he’ll become a Berliner too.

A #PhotoWalk with Steve Garfield…

I’ve been looking forward to this week since last year at this time.

I’ve been in Boston for the #mpb2b all week (I’ll write a separate post about those shenanigans).

Last year, I missed out on an early morning walk with a local Bostonian, writer and photographer, Steve Garfield (Twitter: @Steve Garfield, stevegarfield.com). I was kind of upset with myself when I saw how much fun everyone had.

This year, I decided to haul my butt out of bed early to join the Boston Photo Walk through the Seaport District.  You’d be surprised at how many shiny, happy people showed up at 7:15 am!

It was such fun, I thought I’d share a smattering of photos from our walk.

The most difficult statue to photograph
Mr. Sun, Sun, Mr. Golden Sun…
World Trade Center Boston
It was so early we wondered if they served breakfast. Slainte!
This was just part of the group. All that was missing were matching #mpb2b tshirts and a buddy system!
Peace and tranquility down by the water.
This guy was probably wondering why 60+ people were taking his photo. Shipbuilder on one of the side streets near the water.
Our halfway point, coffee break (sponsored by Vidyard), with a perfect spot to sit and look at the Boston harbor.
I could have just stayed here all day soaking in the atmosphere, but we had to get back.
Jeff Julian (Twitter: @jjulian, CMO at AJi), the man behind the lens.
Group selfie by Rob Zaleski (Twitter: @robzie_ of MarketingProfs)
What a fantastic view of the city. The Boston “hawhbah”.
Fall colours.
The cutest little skiff.
Behind the Barking Crab
Under the bridge.
Boston Tea Party (it’s a museum now)
I’m not an American, but I’m pretty sure there’s a joke in here somewhere. At the corner of Congress and Sleeper.
I was lagging behind at this point, so I didn’t hear the story to this little shot. I made up my own… The city mouse heard about the three little pigs, and when he moved to Boston, built his house out of bricks. After he moved out, the city bought the property and turned it into a police station. Knocked on the door, but I suppose they were out keeping Boston free of rats.
It’s a zoo in there?
I just really liked the look of these!
Our fearless leader, Steve Garfield. I’ll be sure to join him again next year!