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MARCH 2012 TM

50+ Active Living Magazine

• THE TRAVEL ISSUE • Journey Home to Budapest • A TransKalahari Adventure • An Otherworldly Mexican City • Floating Above Paris And more... WWW.SENIORLIVINGMAG.COM www.seniorlivingmag.com

MARCH 2012

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SENIOR LIVING

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MARCH 2012

Be Your Best ������������� At Any Age

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FEATURES

40 Classifieds

6 A Family’s Journey Home

Visiting Budapest again through the eyes of their adult children and young grandchildren.

41 BBB Scam Alert

10 A TransKalahari Adventure

COLUMNS

Follow a guided 21-day safari starting in Cape Town, South Africa and ending in Zambia via Namibia and Botswana.

4 The Family Caregiver by Barbara Small

14 Le Camargue

42 Forever Young

A long-dreamed-of pilgrimage to a wild area of southwestern France.

by William Thomas

44 Reflections: Then & Now

18 Lights After Dark on Hawaii Island

by Gipp Forster

Three night light perspectives that span from the island’s shoreline to its highest peak.

26 Keeping Seniors Safe

Victoria Police Chief Constable Jamie Graham talks about senior safety – now and into the future.

30 San Cristobal de las Casas

Cover Photo: Senior Living magazine travel writers Jo-Ann and George Zador love adventure – at home and abroad! Read their travel tale about Budapest on page 8. Photo: Philippe Martin-Morice

A perfect choice for anyone ready to step away from Mexico’s better-known tourist destinations.

34 Coming Down to Earth After Soaring Over Paris

Floating above the earth changes one’s perspective.

36 Exploring the Mani Peninsula Exploring one of Greece’s most traditional and conservative regions.

Senior Living is distributed at all BC Pharmasave locations.

Senior Living is published by Stratis Publishing. Publisher Barbara Risto Editor Bobbie Jo Reid editor@seniorlivingmag.com Ad Coordinator/Designer Steffany Gundling Advertising Manager Barry Risto 250-479-4705 ext 101 For advertising information, call 250-479-4705 sales@seniorlivingmag.com Ad Sales Staff Ann Lester 250-390-1805 Mathieu Powell 250-479-4705 ext 104 Barry Risto 250-479-4705 ext 101

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Editorial Oct 2011.indd 1

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Head Office Contact Information: Box 153, 1581-H Hillside Ave., Victoria BC V8T 2C1 Phone 250-479-4705 Fax 250-479-4808 Toll-free 1-877-479-4705 E-mail office@seniorlivingmag.com Website www.seniorlivingmag.com Subscriptions: $32 (includes GST, postage and handling) for 12 issues. Canadian residents only. No portion of this publication may be reproduced in whole or in part without written permission from the publisher. Senior Living is an independent publication and its articles imply no endorsement of any products or services. The views expressed herein are not necessarily those of the publisher. Unsolicited articles are welcome and should be e-mailed to editor@seniorlivingmag. com Senior Living is distributed free throughout British Columbia. Stratis Publishing Ltd. publishes Senior Living (12 issues per year). ISSN 17103584 (Print) ISSN 1911-6403 (Online)


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MARCH 2012

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THE FAMILY CAREGIVER

BY BARBARA SMALL

Going on a Trip? Respite Options for Caregivers

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espite is the break caregivers get when they allow someone else to temporarily take over their caregiving duties. Respite can help prevent caregiver burnout and permits you to continue to provide care for as long as possible. It gives you an opportunity to recharge, travel to a family function or take a muchneeded vacation. One option for respite is to arrange for family members or friends to take over care. This could be done by one person or through a rotating schedule of several people taking different shifts and sharing the care. Respite options are also available through your local health authority. Your family member can stay short term in a subsidized residential care facility or respite hotel in your community. The stay can range from overnight to a couple weeks. In order to access these services, contact the Home and Community Care Case Manager through your local health authority. The Case Manager will assess whether the care recipient qualifies for this service, and which accommodation would best meet their needs. Cost depends on the care recipient’s income. Availability will vary by community. Respite services in the form of home support or respite

beds are also available through private home support agencies and private care facilities on a fee-for-service basis. These businesses can be found in your telephone book, online or in a community resource directory, such as the Senior Living Housing Directory available at www.seniorlivingmag.com/ housingdirectory For respite to be refreshing, you need to be able to let go of worrying about the other person. Others may not provide care exactly as you would, but your family member will be cared for and their daily life will be enriched by interactions with new people. So, enjoy your vacation and come back SL refreshed. Everyone will benefit! Next month: Balancing Caregiving and Self-employment Barbara Small is the Program Development Coordinator for Family Caregivers’ Network Society located in Victoria, BC. www.familycaregiversnetwork.org

The Family Caregiver column is brought to you by the generous sponsorship of Saint Elizabeth

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MARCH 2012

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Travel & Adventure

A Family’s Journey Home

JO-ANN ZADOR

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sages and huge jars of pickles to choose from for a quick lunch have been replaced by MacDonald’s. We bemoaned having to look hard to find the traditional Hungarian vendéglö; we wanted to introduce the taste of garlicky lángos (a platter-sized fried bread) to our grandchildren. After all, they could get a Big Mac at home. Notable was the fast pace of people, all moving much quicker than in bygone years. With cell phones attached to their ears, they appeared fully immersed in the western culture denied them for so many years.

Photos: The Zadors

lways with anticipation, we often return to Budapest to visit my husband’s birthplace. But this year’s visit was even more special; some of our adult children and two young grandchildren made the trip with us. Vibrant and alive, its majestic architecture being restored to its former gleaming glory, Budapest has definitely emerged from the dark years of Communist domination and taken her rightful place among Europe’s finest capitals. She has finally “out-Paris-ed” Paris. But we are biased!

Parliament buildings on the Pest side.

Hungarians have enthusiastically embraced the growth; consumer goods are freely available, late model luxury cars abound, every known designer is represented among the boutiques on the main boulevards. Restaurants and cafés are über-sophisticated – classy bistros are everywhere, featuring stylish international cuisine and their outdoor patios are a gathering place for the beautiful people, citizens and tourist alike. But sadly, the quirky stand-up kiosks, with sizzling sau68

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While longing for a bit of what seemed lost (we had been there when there wasn’t even an orange to be had) and overwhelmed by the new polished atmosphere, we felt the changes were, for the most part, good. Hungarians are now unreservedly able to prosper and freely engage in any enterprise they choose to pursue. Fortunately, some of the more precious things have stayed the same. After our nightly dinners, we bought the children huge scoops of delectable Hungarian ice cream and took

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our group of nine for an evening stroll along the riverside promenade on the Pest side of the Danube. Lined with more eating establishments, coffee houses and glamorous hotels, it was the perfect place to wind down from a busy day of sightseeing.

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In the background is the diamond bracelet-like sparkle of the Chain Bridge (connecting the Buda side and Pest side of Budapest), the Royal Palace and other historical buildings of Castle Hill, all lit up and perched majestically above the Danube on the Buda side of the city. The Chain Bridge is only one of eight city bridges that connect the two sides; all were blown up by the retreating German army in 1945. They stand now as a lasting monument to the indomitable spirit of the Hungarian people. Being food lovers, our family, the big and the small, took an afternoon walk along Váci Ut, the pedestrian-only, boutique-filled “Main Street” as it is called now to our amusement. Our destination, the Grand Market Hall, dating from the 1890s, has been completely refurbished, and inside is a mouth-watering myriad of produce, meat, cheese, fish and pickle stalls. It is crowded with aging local shoppers, their big straw baskets under their arms carrying the evening’s dinner, mingling happily with tourists ogling the offerings. Upstairs are boutiques brimming with souvenir goods; furry winter hats, classic embroidered table linens and lovely blouses decorated in traditional needlework, and memorabilia of wartime – hats and medals from an era gone by. There is something for everyone. Our grandson had to have a Russian

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Chain bridge crossing the Danube.

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army cap, replete with a red star and wartime medals decorating the brim! There is a crowded, aromatic, lengthy aisle packed with cheek-by-jowl food kiosks… there’s schnitzel, sausages, lángos, soups, all those wonderful foods that are missing from the fashionable restaurants. It is a given that we stop to eat, and it was especially welcome for our eight-year-old grandson – he made it his mission to eat a schnitzel every night in an effort to find the

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The author’s family in front of the Central Market Hall.

one he could proclaim the best in the city. He never had a problem finishing the plate-sized meat; his sister found the cold peach cream soup, topped with whipped cream, to be her favourite! Sated with the atmosphere and some food, our afternoon finished at the other end of Váci Ut, at Vörösmarty Tér, a colourful square full of artists, street musicians and fairs. Home to Gerbeaud, the architecturally pleasing pastry shop dating from 1858; it is the perfect place to introduce the family to Dobos Torta, the classic Hungarian pastry. With so many of George’s childhood haunts to share with the family, our days were full. We walked everywhere, the little ones totally taken with their surroundings and very attentive to their Papa’s stories of his youth. The road led us one hot afternoon to Városliget, or City Park, a former royal hunting ground, now the perfect place for nature-loving Hungarians to take a stroll on its shaded walking trails, far from the noise of the city. Families are everywhere, enjoying the lake for boating in the summer and skating in the winter. Picnicking is a pleasure beneath the wide-spread, leafy branches of huge maple and linden trees that abound in the park. There is a cobbled boulevard winding past replicas of the softly-hued fabled castles of Hungary, a zoo, an amusement park and even a circus. The eclectic bath house, the Szechenyi Baths, is a WWW.SENIORLIVINGMAG.COM

1/3/12 5:52:02 PM


definite must for taking thermal waters. We passed this time and, instead, took our group for a ride in one of the rowboats available for hire (that is, the parents took the kids, while Papa and Nana relaxed lakeside and enjoyed an espresso!). On a gorgeously sunny afternoon, we ventured to Castle Hill in Buda; it’s easy to stroll the pretty pedestrian friendly cobblestoned streets. Castle Hill is where Buda began and teems with historical importance. It is the home of the Royal Palace of King Béla IV and the gorgeous Mátyás Church dating from the 13th century, as well as other significant sites. The pale pink Fishermen’s Bastion today is a viewing terrace overlooking the neo-gothic Parliament Buildings on the Pest side and the vast expanse of Pest as it stretches beyond. For a picture perfect moment, our little ones stood enraptured by a classical violinist playing a mournful piece of traditional Hungarian music. So enthralled was our granddaughter that her most important purchase was a piece of violin sheet music she could take home with her to learn for herself! Our nostalgic visit to Hungary drew to a close with a day trip to the 12th century romantic village of Szentendre. This delightful spot, perched on a hillside overlooking the Danube bend, is only 45 minutes north of Budapest and easily reachable by car or public transport. It is a major centre of Hungarian cultural life, teeming with artists’ studios as well as The author, her husband, George, and their grandchildren, Manou and Rhys, on Fisherman’s Bastion overlook.

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Travel & Adventure

A TransKalahari Adventure

BY ENISE OLDING

The TransKalahari Adventure is a guided 21-day safari starting in Cape Town, South Africa and ending in Livingston, Zambia via Namibia and Botswana. Accommodations range from historic guest houses to luxury hotels to tents. Transportation is by custom-built Toyota overland vehicle and 4x4 safari vehicles.

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and the landscape became less familiar and more forbidding. For us, the biggest jewels of the trip – Kalahari Desert, Namib Desert, Etosha National Park, Okavango River, Chobe National Park and Victoria Falls – seemed to be strung upon a 5,622 km ribbon of dust, dirt, rocks, sand and sometimes paved road. We embraced this trip with both excitement and trepidation, armed with maps, cameras, medicinal supplies and malaria pills, a certain amount of blissful naiveté and a burning desire to see lots of wild animals in their natural surroundings. Day Four saw us in the 3.6 million-hectare Kgalagadi

Photo: Enise Olding

Photo: John van den Hengel

re you ready to rock and roll?” The significance of those words, addressed to us at the start of each day by senior guide Misheck Mahonye, became clearer to the 14 travellers on the safari truck as the paved roads, rich farmlands, and mile upon mile of brilliant spring flowers of South Africa gave way to the main dirt roads of Namibia, Botswana and Zambia. Heading north from the sophistication of Cape Town, after viewing the beautiful Cape areas and Table Mountain, we two Canadians, along with Australians, Spaniards and Belgians all within an age range of 45-65, anticipated some challenges as the heat increased

The author at Deadvlei pan in the Namib desert. 12 10

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Crocodile at C hobe Nationa l Park


Transfrontier Park, which straddles South Africa and Namibia. The address of iXaus Lodge, which is perched on the rim of a salt pan, is dune 91, and the lack of any type of contact with the outside world, along with the restricted hours of use of generator-driven electricity, really emphasized the fact that we were in the desert and truly away from it all. The oppressive heat of the day subsided as we sat around a fire at night; eating traditionally prepared delicious Afrikaaner food and marvelling at the star-laden sky. The coolness of the night explained the presence of flannelette sheets, woodburning stoves and extra blankets in each of the units, which had, upon arrival, looked incongruous. No lion sightings here, but a sunset pan drive, a nature walk and interaction with the ancient Bushman of the area and viewings of many birds and animals had been added to our lists. On the way to the Namibia’s Fish River Canyon, we spotted three hyenas asleep under a tree only a few feet away from the truck, and it proved to be one of those special intimate moments. Several times one of them made an effort to raise its head and look at us, but it appeared to be all too much and it flopped back down to sleep unperturbed by the distraction. The 160 km Fish River Canyon was formed over millions of years through the faulting of the earth’s crust and erosion by the Fish River. It is popular with hikers who like a challenge and those who enjoy breathtaking views, especially at sunset with a glass of champagne in one hand and a camera in the other. There is nothing quite like the feeling of splendid isolation that being in the middle of the Deadvlei clay pan in the Namib Desert can provide, with its 900-year-old dead trees, encircled by mountainous sand dunes and only the fleeting glimpse of a stray tourist in the distance. While the rest of the group opted to take the long way round by way of a five-kilometre walk over the dunes, I took a hair-raising 4x4 safari truck shuttle and thus found myself an early arrival and pretty much alone. Nine hundred years ago, the climate changed in this area and the pan that had formed when the Tsauchab River flooded providing sustenance for acacia and camel thorn trees was hit by drought, so the dunes encroached and the trees were cut off from the river. Nearby is Sossusvlei, which still has a little water, but it is the immensity of the world’s highest sand dunes that holds the visitors to this area in awe. The tents at Desert Camp provide us with an uninterrupted view of the desert and dunes as the light plays over them in an ever-changing play of colour. But tempted as we were to drift into heady contemplation of these splendid surroundings, we remained vigilant due to warnings of monkeys with a tendency to steal unguarded possessions and rushing off with them into the endless desert. Day 10 found us staying at a boutique hotel in the coastal German Colonial town of Swakopmund. Here was another chance to explore the desert from a different vantage point:

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Travel & Adventure people, who are known for their elaborate hairstyles and traditional dress. They cover their bodies in red ochre and fat and, since they are very happy to shake hands and look at the images on digital cameras, it means we too get a goodly coating of red ochre and fat during the visit. Their homes are made from palm

the air. The Namibian Skeleton Coast Park is about 40km wide, covers some 16,845km² and has a reputation of being a shipping graveyard littered with the bones of both ships and various other creatures washed up on its shifting sands. Seeing this vast area by air is an exciting experience especially when flying over Deadvlei and Sossusvlei and saying, yet again, “I can’t believe I was there.” The stranded 1909 shipwreck of the Eduard Bohlen passenger liner is well and truly engulfed by the shifting sands, and now lies over a kilometre from the coast. An aerial view allows for sightings of huge colonies of sea lions, thousands of greater and lesser flamingoes, abandoned diamond mines, extensive salt works and colourful algae, which causes pink and red colours in the salt pans, and which also colours the feathers of the flamingoes. Now, into the mountain ranges and hot dry valleys of Damaraland with a stop atop the Ugab Mountains, which, with the changing rays of the setting sun, look surreal like a scene from a fantasy movie. Travelling on, we stop to visit with Herero women wearing their long dresses and elaborate headdresses, which indicate status, and selling the colourful dolls similarly dressed at stalls along the roadside. Treadle sewing machines are put to work in the production of the dolls. It’s hard to make a choice from the hundreds of colour and fabric combinations on display, but a moment of shared appreciation happens when the maker of one small doll is attired in the exactly the same outfit as that of the doll chosen; smiles all around. On the way to Etosha National Park, we visit the Himba

Photo: Enise Olding

The author’s husband, John, (centre) in the helicopter flight over Victoria Falls.

Photo: John van den Hengel

The author is disinfecting her shoes, as is required, before entering Botswana.

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leaves, mud and cattle dung, and upon being invited inside one such structure, you may learn about the Himba way of life. It’s not as if there weren’t plenty of animals and birds to see throughout the safari; ostriches tearing across the landscape, giraffe, wildebeest, springbok, weaver birds and sociable weaver birds whose huge, haystack like nests adorn trees, telegraph poles and any other structure that allows them height, but as we closed in on Etosha National Park, we sensed we were in for a real treat. The huge Etosha pan shimmers like a vast lake while at the water holes and across the plains there are lions, elephants, rhino, zebra and more. Seemingly indifferent to our presence, we are able to get close-up views of these and other magnificent creatures as they mated, taught their young to hunt, drank at the waterholes or wound their way in long orderly lines across the plains. They generally carried on with their routines despite us being there. Two days later, we are in for another incredible African experience when we reach the Okavango River and enter Nunda Lodge, where the hosts offer us cooling drinks as we drag our dust-laden, travel weary selves onto the patio to watch the sunset over the river. The permanent tents along the riverside are our accommodation and give us a real taste of being in the midst of nature as the insect sounds and harrumphs of the hippo (under our patio no less) permeate the night. A riverboat cruise allows us to see local people using the river for bathing, fishing and playing … along with crocodiles and the numerous hippos who make us aware of their presence as they burst from the water close to the boat with jaws agape. Crossing into Botswana being sure to wipe our shoed feet,

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Photo: Enise Olding

and our spare shoes, on disinfected burlap sacking, we headed for Chobe National Park, home to the biggest concentration of game in Southern Africa, and stay at the Chobe Safari Lodge on the banks of the Chobe River. The abundance of wildlife in this area is like being in a 360degree National Geographic reality experience, with layers upon layers of animals. Up close, there would be crocodiles, monitor lizards and elephants; a little further on, buffalo; close again, hippos plunging from the land into the water, and baboons picking through the mud for tasty morsels, giraffes and various antelope on the hills, colourful water fowl in the reeds, eagles aloft. It was hard to sleep here, not because of the luxurious accommodation and the air conditioning, but because of what we’d seen during the day; that, and perhaps the baboons sitting comfortably chatting on the patio chairs during the night. Into Zambia by crossing the great Zambezi River with its un-

Relaxing at iXaus Lodge in the Kalahari Desert.

imaginably long line-ups of trucks waiting for passage on one of the small (one-vehicle) ferries and so to Victoria Falls. Known locally as Mosi-oa-Tunya meaning “the smoke that thunders” the falls consist of almost two kilometres of cliffs and water falling down over 100 metres into the gorge below. Viewing the area from a helicopter allows for complete and varied views of the falls, the 1905 bridge between Zambia and Zimbabwe, and the surrounding countryside thus providing an overall perspective of this majestic force of nature. Months later, we are still processing the contrasts, diversity and immensity of the areas in which we travelled. Understanding a little more about so many aspects of life and nature in Southern Africa only confirms that there is still so much we don’t know, yet how appreciative we are that we experienced as much as we did. For more information, visit www.kiboko.co.za

SL

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MARCH 2012

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Travel & Adventure

Le Camargue:

Pilgrimages of a Different Kind BY JULIE H. FERGUSON

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a booklet from the rack inside the door. La Croix de Camargue is a recent symbol, designed in 1924, to represent faith, hope and charity. The cross, of course, denotes faith and I’m astounded that the Christian faith here dates back to pre-Gospel times. The anchor indicates

ter well by the altar tells me the faithful of Saintes-Maries often had to seek sanctuary here. Nearby, a childish carving of two women standing in a boat whispers the amazing story that gave the town its name. In about 42CE, a rudderless Horse safari.

Photos: Julie H. Ferguson

“W

hat do you think the anchor with a heart symbol means?” I ask my husband James. “It’s everywhere. All over that “Cowboy” gift shop by the stables. And I saw a door knocker and a brand on a horse’s flank.” “Not sure. But I expect we’ll find out in Saintes-Maries-de-la-Mer,” he replies. We’re on a long-dreamed-of pilgrimage to a wild area of southwestern France. For five Euros, we sail crabwise across the Grand Rhone’s fierce current on a tiny ferry to the nature reserve that is Le Camargue, a sanctuary of ancient myth, bulls and white horses. As we wind our way around the vast étang (shallow salt lake) at the heart of the Rhone delta, we glimpse hundreds of wild pink flamingoes and horses grazing among mounds of greygreen marsh plants through which rivulets meander. Further inland, narrow canals divide rice paddies and run alongside the lanes. By 10 a.m., James and I are walking towards the centre of Saintes-Maries on the Mediterranean through streets filled with tacky tourist shops smelling of sunscreen. It’s crowded; August is not the best month to visit, but better than not coming at all. Closer to the church, bistros and boutiques flourish in spacious squares. I point, “There it is again!” The bronze symbol hangs above a doorway of the church of Notre-Dame-de-laMer. “It’s not only an anchor and heart, it’s a cross too.” “Here’s your answer,” James hands me

enduring hope that weaves through humanity’s history and the area’s dependence on the sea. The heart invites all to love. But the beautiful symbol also speaks silently of the many myths and traditions of this ancient region. The residents needed considerable faith and hope to thrive here in the Middle Ages when marauders repeatedly invaded from the sea. The medieval church we enter was built as a fortress with battlements, thick walls without windows, and arrow slits. The freshwaWWW.SENIORLIVINGMAG.COM

boat washed up on the local beach carrying several women. Legend records that one was Mary Magdalene who went inland to St-Baume to preach the news of Jesus. Mary Jacobé, mother of apostle, James the Less, and Mary Salomé, mother of apostles James and John, stayed and gave their names to the town. Both are buried here. Another passenger was dark-skinned Sara, whose origins are uncertain. Christianity spread throughout Western Europe from Saintes-Maries-de-la-


Mer, a small town that has attracted hordes of pilgrims ever since. Several major pilgrimages swell the town each year and the best known is in May. As Sara became the patron saint of the Romany gypsies, thousands arrive in their painted wagons to venerate her and hold a festival of gypsy music and dancing in her honour. I discover that the Camargue Cross is also the Croix Gardianne, the cowboys’ cross, because the tridents on its three points represent their long cattle prods. These remind me it is time to organize two pilgrimages of a less religious kind – one on a horse and one in a jeep – to see the Camargue wildlife up close. Bull round-up.

There are dozens of stables to choose from, but I select the stable at our superb hotel for my first ride in 50 years. I’m a tad anxious the next morning. I stroke the mare’s grey nose, make horsey noises to her and offer a carrot. Then a young groom boosts me into the saddle – LuLu doesn’t budge. Good, I think. Riders young and old surround our “cowboy” as she teaches us how to steer our mounts. We circle the paddock practicing. So far, so good. In single file, we follow our leader down rutted, sandy lanes away from the sea into the farmland. The sun beats down as I relax into my horse’s rhythm. I’m too far back in the string to hear her commentary. We rein in and I gasp. The Camarguais bull is huge with a black polished coat and the biggest, nastiest horns I’ve ever seen. In the next field 20 younger bulls eye us suspiciously. This famous farm breeds and trains the bulls for the ring. The bulls are not killed in Camargue bull fights – they participate many times as rasteurs try to snatch the tassels and rosettes attached to heads and horns. Bulls that evade their brave combatants are revered for their skill and become major celebrities. After they die, their heads are mounted and hung in the bars of Saintes-Maries. I had a beer beneath “Goya” not two hours before. We pass donkeys and many grey horses with brown foals,

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which turn white in three years. The Camarguais horses are small, sturdy and dependable. They approach whickering softly and nudge us for snacks. My horse safari passes quickly and, sadly, did not visit the salt marshes. I’d had visions of wild horses galloping along the shore, their manes and tails flying in the wind, but today most are set free to range the delta only in winter. A little disappointed, I pat LuLu farewell. Next morning, my hope surges as the jeep slips into gear – perhaps I’ll encounter really wild horses. We cover many bumpy miles seeing all I wish for. I can hear our guide’s commentary as he explains how the delta is laid out, how old the farms are, and why the cowboys’ reed-thatched cottages are rounded at the north end for protection from Mistrals, gales.

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Our jeep has an open roof, and we stop often for photography. I do see a few horses standing in a marshy area, one with an egret on his back. The tour’s highlight is a spontaneous bull round-up on a saltpan; the thunder of hooves, swirls of dust, and shouts from gardiens leave me breathless. I get out of the jeep at the edge of an étang, where the wind whips across shining, shallow water. Strings of horses from stables close to Saintes-Maries weave around us. A gypsy caravan creaks down a lane. In a narrow channel, a muskrat swims. Raptors hover. Moorhens squabble and cormorants spread their wings. Pink flamingoes topple over in the gusts – half a million breed here in summer, returning to North Af-

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Photo: James S. Ferguson

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rica to winter. They dance in the mud for me today dislodging �������������� the shrimp that turn their feathers pink. ��������������� Afterwards, chatting with James and sipping Languedoc ������������������������������� wine, the symbols of the Croix de Camargue unexpectedly Services of a professional Food Network Travel Director; resurface. ���������������������������������������������������� “James, I love this place. Thirty-six hours here is not enough. ���������������������������������������������������� I am hoping for another four days soon, another pilgrimage.” ������������������������������������������������������ SL He smiles. “Have faith. We’ll be back.” �������������������������������������������������� ��������������������������������������������������� ������������������������������������������������ ������������������� 3 nights San Francisco/4 nights

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Cowboy shop.

IF YOU GO: You need a car to reach and explore Le Camargue. Nearby Arles and Marseille both have the major car rental companies. Tourism Office : www.saintesmaries.com At the tourism office in Saintes-Maries-de-la-Mer, find info and maps for everything you’ll need - hotels, restaurants, horse and jeep tours, etc. As the stables and jeep tours don’t have websites, pick up their brochures here. Horse safaris are suitable for active seniors. We stayed in the superb L’Auberge Cavalière on the edge of the marshes, which offers a gourmet restaurant, pool and stables: www.aubergecavaliere.com NOTE: Take binoculars, sunscreen and mosquito repellent.

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PLACES TO VISIT: • Stes-Maries-de-la-Mer: eat seafood here and climb to the roof of the church of Notre-Dame-de-la-Mer for a magnificent view of the Camargue. • Domaine Paul Ricard Méjanes, a bull breeding and training farm, horse tours, restaurant and more (www.mejanes.camargue.fr). • Pont de Gau Ornithological Park (www.parcornithologique. com) for interpretive walking trails around the smaller étangs to see many species of birds. Wheelchair accessible. • Aigues-Mortes, a medieval town enclosed by ramparts built in 1240 in le Petit Camargue to the west, 24kms from Saintes-Maries. To view a video and more images of Le Camargue, visit Senior Living’s website at www.seniorlivingmag.com/articles/ lecamargue WWW.SENIORLIVINGMAG.COM

MARCH 2012

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Travel & Adventure

Lights After Dark on Hawaii Island

BY JANE CASSIE

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The illumination draws out hordes of minuscule plankton, their primary food source. With some of these behemoth beauties weighing as much as 2,000 pounds, it’s no wonder they’re always hanging around this seafood buffet. Fortunately for them, and us, Hawaii is a safe haven. Predators are few and

Beneath the Waves with Manta Rays Lights are positioned, cameras are focused, the stage is set – all that’s needed is the cast. Although not a Hawaiian lu’au, or a chichi tiki show, this top-notch evening act features some of nature’s finest performers. While divers submerge for a front row spot, I prefer to watch it all while sipping a cocktail. The Manta Ray Bar and Grill at Sheraton Keauhou Bay offers the best of both worlds – umbrella drinks with a balcony view. Manta Ray Diver. Before I’m through my first libation, the aquatic curtain rises. Flood lamps highlight the disc-shaped entertain- had explained. “In fact, they’re toers – two mantas that take centre tally harmless.” stage – fleeting in the turquoise shalI also now know about their habitat, lows, whisking like marine bats just routines, and grazing grounds – why beyond my deck rail. One is the size they gravitate to this area like Pavlov’s of a boogie board, the other a small dogs whenever the night lights shine.

far between and they’re untouchable by law. Not that you could touch them anyway. Like space-age aliens, they possess a built-in sixth sense – electro-receptors that detect when someone is honing in. Well, they don’t have to worry about

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Photo: James L. Wing

space ship. Though somewhat haunting, while flipping and dipping, they look as graceful as ballerinas. After attending last night’s Manta Talk, my preconceived fears have been alleviated. “Unlike their ray relatives, these gentle giants don’t have life-threatening stingers,” our guide

iking boots, sweaters, mittens – based on my evening wear, you’d think I’d packed for a ski trip instead of Hawaii Island. But no worries, I didn’t forget my swimsuit and flip flops. With 11 climate zones to cover, I’ve come prepared. And during this week, while island touring, I’m captivated by these three night light perspectives that span from the island’s shoreline to the highest peak.


Powerful and Prevailing Pele “Did you feel that?” my husband asks with uncertainty. It’s probably the first question that comes to mind after feeling the earth move. And it’s often unexpected – unless you’re visiting Pele’s palace. We’re sitting in the parking lot at Thomas A. Jaggar Museum, an informative depository within Hawaii Volcano National Park, when the 3.5 magnitude shake occurs. “The Volcano Goddess is edgy tonight,” I respond back, while wondering if she’s going to rock us with aftershocks. It wouldn’t be unusual. When she’s hot and bothered, this fiery idol can blow her stack. And her Halema‘uma‘u homestead is close by.

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this intruder. The next show will soon begin. And from my patio perch, while viewing the entertaining night lights, I order another fruity drink.

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Night glow of Halema‘uma‘u Crater.

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The open pit crater at the summit of Kilauea Caldera is the world’s longest continuously erupting volcano. On March 11, 2008, a new volcanic vent opened in this massive basin and ever since, has been spewing steam, gasses and ashes. It’s now 131 metres (430 ft) wide – larger than a regulationsize football field. And tonight, Pele is performing one of her amazing touchdowns. “These small tremors could mean that more magma is surfacing,” we’re told by a savvy museum guide when checking out the many interactive displays. “And the volcanologists predict that it’s going to continue.” Although there’s no certainty more lava will rise from her sacred soul, we’re totally impressed by this evening’s glow. An observation deck that stretches out from this educational venue provides a panorama of her night lights. In spite of the drizzly weather at this chilly 3,500 foot-high landmark, she radiates in stately splendor. Smooth rippled “Pahoehoe” (pronounced pah-hoy-hoy) that once flowed from the giant maw has long-since hardened into thick tendrils of her flowing hair. Razor-edged “aa” (pronounced ah-ah) that had spewed with her fumes, dot the barren landscape like tears she once

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Photo: Brent Cassie

Travel & Adventure

Maunakea summit at sunset with the world-class observatory to the left.

shed. But her true beauty comes from within. Plumes of cotton white ash mix with fiery tones – flaming reds, burnt ochre, hot pinks seethe from the deep. Without a doubt, this hot goddess still knows how to light up the night sky. Amazing Star Gazing I’m a sucker for starry nights and sunsets. And the 13,796 foot, snow-draped peak of Maunakea is a great place to check them out. Thirteen world-class observatories think so too. Al-

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though we could do the heaven-bound trek on our own, Hawaii Forest & Trail covers the essentials –trusty vehicles that maneuver heart-thumping hairpins, campout dinners that pre-energize for the rise, arctic parkas to block the sub-zero breeze and astronomy guides that know more than Captain Kirk. “But don’t we need clear skies to see the sunset?” I ask, as we cleave upwards through pea soup fog. At this 9,000-foot landmark our guide, Greg Brown, is confident. “From above the cloud, this scenic wonder won’t disappoint.” He’s likely

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right. After all, it is a sacred haunt of Wakea, who was the ruler of Mother Earth, and the snow goddess, Poli’ahu, who loved to put out Pele’s fires. Unlike active Kilauea, the last time Maunakea blew was 4,500 years ago. But her boiling point is the last thing on my mind. I’m more concerned about my recent sunburn getting frostbite. And on this icy apex, the air’s so thin I’m giddy. By the time we summit, I’m feeling dizzier than a hula dancer who’s had too many Mai Tais. But the gods are glorifying. Above the cloudy powder-puffs is a sky of blue and a brazen sun. I watch it set in silence, captivated by the symphony of color – bands of fuchsia, streaks of amber, shots of violet. It seems to go on forever and when it finally fades, and light transitions to dark, the stars provide an encore. There are few places on earth where you can see the Northern Hemisphere and the Southern Cross, without even changing your stance. Add in Alpha Centauri, Andromeda, Jupiter and the cheesy craters of the moon. View the stars that make up your astrology sign, the Milky Way, the neighbouring galaxies. From this sensational summit, these night sights are as close to the heavens as you can get and are certainly highlights on Hawaii Island. SL For IF YOU GO information, visit www.seniorlivingmag. com/articles/lightsafterdark

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Senior Expo 7th Annual

Tuesday March 6th, 2012

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Featuring Performances By:

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This year’s event at Pearkes Recreation Centre on Tuesday March 6th in Victoria BC, brings over 120 exhibitors together – businesses that have geared their products and services to the senior consumer, as well as senior groups and organizations. We invite you to join us for a full day of fun (9am-4pm) as various music performers take to the stage, along with several comedy presentations, and our perennial Victoria ballroom dancers. Come enjoy the rockin’ music of the ‘50s and ‘60s, as Fred Wortley kicks the Senior Expo into high gear at 9:30 am with renditions of the Beach Boys, Elvis, and other hit performers of the golden age of rock ‘n roll. “Flashback Freddy” as he is called, made his Senior Living debut (on the seat of his Harley Davidson Road Glide, no less) as the cover-boy of our Vancouver Island September edition. Headlining our event are The Fabulous Honeycrooners. Tom Watson and his band will take the stage to bring you the songs of Frank, Dean, Bobby, Nat and other great crooners of the ‘40s – ‘60s. Truly a Las Vegas experience! Performances at 10:30 a.m., noon and 1:30 p.m. Do you remember the silly antics of Red Skelton? Victoria entertainer Al Greenwood joins us at 11:15 to pay tribute to Red. Come enjoy some of the famous comedy routines of one of the greatest performers of all time. Still in the mood for more levity? Learn how to laugh your way to better health, as demonstrated by laughing yoga instructor Gene Furbee at 2:15 p.m. Be prepared as observers become full participants – you absolutely won’t be able to resist joining in the giggles and guffaws. End the day by sampling appetizers prepared by the chefs of four local senior residences, all competing for your vote to win the People’s Choice award for their “petite bouche” (tasty morsel, in loose translation). We are pleased to welcome to the competition, chefs from the Legion Manor, The Wellesley, Alexander Mackie, and Ross Place. We’re also pleased to welcome Wannawafel as a participant at the Senior Expo. They will have their waffle wagon pulled up outside the exhibition hall. Stop by to taste the waffles that had all the venture capitalists on TV’s Dragon’s Den drooling and reaching for their wallets! Inside the hall, Ambrosia Catering will provide other snacks and hearty entrees throughout the day. In keeping with this year’s theme, exhibitors and staff will participate in costume and décor offerings that pay homage

to the glamour and glitz of one of the world’s all time best adult playgrounds, Las Vegas. You can even learn the rules and strategies of black jack with the help of Great Canadian Casinos. Returning once again as our master of ceremonies, is Senior Living columnist Pat Nichol, author of “Courageous and Outrageous.” Joining us as well is another Senior Living columnist Michael Rice, offering free antique appraisals on small items. (If you would like to have a large item evaluated, please bring a photo, not the real thing!) Thanks to the team of volunteers that join us every year from Saanich Volunteer Services, the day’s operations always flow smoothly. Coordinating all the elements in this year’s Senior Expo, both big and small, is a company called Every Aspect under the diligent direction of event planners Lesley Patten and Caroline Weatherhead. We wish to express our thanks to our gold sponsor, Changing Needs Remodeling. From roll-in kitchens to walk-in bathtubs and every space in between, Changing Needs can tailor a plan for you to age in grace while aging in place. Stop by their booth to say hello and find out how they can help you with all your renovation needs. Also, our appreciation to Saanich Recreation for their past and on-going partnership with us – they have been a generous sponsor of all our events and it is, in large part, due to them that we have been able to bring you this event year after year. From our first year at Cedar Hill Rec Centre, and growing into full sold out capacity at Pearkes Rec Centre, Saanich has been a stalwart supporter of seniors and a full fledged participant in all our Senior Expos since 2005. The Greater Victoria Eldercare Foundation continues to be another key partner with their sponsorship of Embrace Aging month, using our Senior Expo to kick-off a month long list of events. Check out the next couple pages for details about workshops and seminars they are providing throughout the month of March. And thanks again to media partners Times Colonist and CFAX 1070 for their assistance in the promotion of this event to their readers and listeners. Finally, thank you to all our readers! We look forward to seeing you at the 7th annual Senior Expo on Tuesday, March 6, 9 am – 4 pm, at Pearkes Recreation Centre in Victoria BC.

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Community

Keeping Seniors Safe BY VERNICE SHOSTAL

Victoria Police Chief Constable Jamie Graham discusses senior safety and his vision for the future.

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$2150

Photo: Vernice Shostal

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ictoria Police Chief Constable Jamie Graham, appointed to the position in 2008, says seniors’ safety is a “big priority” for him. Formerly chief of the Vancouver police department, whose previous experience includes 35 years with the RCMP and several command, investigative and executive positions in British Columbia and Alberta, the chief’s vision is to make the Victoria region the safest in Canada by 2020. One of his strategies includes helping seniors recognize fraudsters and con artists. Married for 29 years to Gail, a lawyer, Chief Graham is a no-nonsense leader and problem solver as well as a popular lecturer and speaker. Included in his many community involvements, the chief is a director on the provincial Board of the B.C. Schizophrenia Society, a member of the Advisory Board of the Victoria Salvation


Army Branch and a member of the National Speaker’s Bureau. As Baby Boomers cause a swell in the number of seniors in our society, Chief Graham is concerned about the police department being adequately prepared to deal with issues such as bank fraud, Internet scams, telemarketing, driving issues and family matters that are unique to older people. His vision for a solution is to have safety programs and solutions in place where someone in the department will deal with seniors only. So, when a senior calls the police with a problem, they will not be caught in a phone tree, but will be connected directly to the person designated to handle those situations. Although anyone can be a victim of crime, seniors, more frequently than others, tend to be fraud targets. Scammers know older adults are more likely to have a “nest egg,” have excellent credit ratings and own their own homes. Scammers also take advantage of the

fact that many seniors come from honest backgrounds. “They’re not used to having people take advantage of them,” says the chief. “If you come from a rural environment where everybody knows everybody, your doors are unlocked all the time. All of a sudden, someone stops you on the street, or knocks at your door and needs money because their car broke down and they have to get from A to B, you

lend them money. There’s trickery.” Con artists are confident that, feeling embarrassed, or thinking that relatives would consider them lacking the mental capacity to make good financial decisions, senior victims are less likely to report fraud. “The Internet is a huge issue where nefarious individuals use people’s unsophistication in dealing with computers to try to trick seniors into signing up for

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things they shouldn’t sign up for,” says Chief Graham. “When things go sour, many seniors simply abandon the computer and don’t want anything to do with it, either because they’re embarrassed, or they feel something bad might happen.” Telemarketing scams that offer bogus prizes or travel offers like to target people over the age of 60. Some lines are that you must act now, or the offer won’t be good; you’ve won a free gift and you have only to pay for shipping and handling; or all you have to do is send money, give a credit card or bank account number. “I even get phone scams,” says the chief. “People have to trust their instincts, to say ‘no, thank you’ and gently hang up the phone. Two good rules are: don’t buy from unfamiliar companies and don’t pay in advance for services.”

“The Internet is a huge issue where nefarious individuals use people’s unsophistication in dealing with computers to try to trick seniors into signing up for things they shouldn’t sign up for.” –Victoria Police Chief Constable Jamie Graham

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“Be careful about answering your door,” the chief cautions. “Verify the identity of anyone who rings your doorbell and call the police, a family member, or a friend if you see something suspicious. When people come to your door, have a series of precautions in place to ensure you don’t become the victim of a crime. Tell the person at the door to ‘Wait a minute. I have to phone my son. He’s a police officer and I want to let him know what I’m doing.’” In face-to-face confrontations, “You don’t have the physical power to deal with the situation the same way you did when you were 30,” says Chief Graham. Another way for seniors to protect themselves from fraud is networking with seniors groups and other seniors in the community. Awareness and safety programs are available for seniors through the provincial government, the health authorities and police programs, as well as the police department, where there is always someone willing to speak with seniors groups about safety and security. Chief Graham has done many such presentations through the Better Business Bureau, various financial institutions, hospitals and others and is happy to talk to groups about safety. Driving is another issue seniors will be required to face in the future. People in the twilight of their driving career have tough decisions to make regarding owning a car and their

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driver’s license. For the chief, the difficulty is “we’re looking at it from a public safety perspective in combination with a person’s rights to own a motor vehicle, or the privilege of having a license.” The police want to have in place a process that is fair, open and transparent to whatever the process will be. Although law enforcement officers and specialists trained and experienced in dealing specifically with seniors’ issues is still a vision, Chief Graham says Victoria’s current communications centre staff on the police department is excellent at listening to concerns and having police officers respond. There is no need to feel guilty or embarrassed about calling the police for help. “We are here 24/7.” While 911 is for emergencies only, the police non-emergency line is available to help people with any other police matter. The key to empowering seniors and keeping them safe is to be aware of scams, have strategic plans in place to deal with unexpected confrontations, and to feel comfortable calling the police when they find themselves dealing with unscrupulous SL individuals, or feel they have been scammed.

STAY INDEPENDENT with First Call Medical Alert Program

For the police non-emergency line in Victoria, call 250995-7654. For all other areas, check your local listings. To watch the VIC PD strategic plan 2020 video, visit www. strategicplan2020.com

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12-02-16 1:22 PM


Travel & Adventure

SAN CRISTOBAL DE LAS CASAS: An Otherworldly Mexican City

BY RICK NEAL

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The beautiful cathedral in San Cristobal de las Casas.

Photos: Mexican Tourism Board

step outside the bus station in San Cristobal de las Casas, and know I’ve come to a city that is cool, in every sense of the word. Tinged with the scent of wood smoke, the fresh highland air revives me after the sweltering heat of my earlier travels through Mexico’s nearby Yucatan peninsula. The sparkling light affords spectacular views of brilliant green mountains that enclose a labyrinth of cobblestone streets lined with crumbling, colonial mansions and pristine white churches. Raven-haired Mayan women with babies tied in shawls implore me to buy dazzling textiles and gorgeous amber jewelry spread over the pavement. In spite of my fatigue, I am at once energized and mesmerized by the ethereal ambience of this amazing pueblo. Set in a lush highland valley in the southern state of Chiapas, San Cristobal is a perfect choice for anyone ready to step out from Mexico’s better-known tourist destinations, but still wanting

modern amenities. The increased tourist presence of recent years has led to a plethora of hotels and restaurants. The town boasts some of the country’s best value in budget lodging. I spent sev-

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eral blissful days soaking up its colonial atmosphere and exploring nearby Mayan villages, without sacrificing a single luxury. From the bus station, I head north


Featured Business past brightly coloured houses to the Plaza 31 de Marzo, the leafy main plaza. Smartly dressed musicians play soothing jazz from a gazebo while locals chat on park benches, adding to the town’s decidedly unhurried atmosphere. Dirty-faced Mayan girls with dark, pleading eyes peddle bracelets, dolls, and multi-hued straps and belts. Intriguing old buildings that surround the plaza project an air of faded elegance. Everything I’ve seen begs for further exploration, but right now all I want is a place to sleep. Just a half block from the plaza, the Hotel San Martin looks a bit tired as well. However, the single room I’m shown is spotless, complete with private bath and red-tiled floor. And because it’s autumn and low season, I snag it for only 16 American greenbacks. There’s even laundry and Internet service in the lobby. Thanks to the clean mountain air, that night, I sleep like a bebe. The next morning, I breakfast on the tranquil patio of the nearby Madre Tierra restaurant, accompanied by a strutting rooster. Energized after a zesty meal of huevos rancheros washed down with mucho Chiapas coffee, it’s now time to check out some of that architecture that looked so tantalizing the day before. Decked out in bright red and orange, the cathedral, on the north side of the plaza, looks more like a pizza parlour than a church. But upon entering, I’ve no doubt this is a place of worship. Five gilded altarpieces front a wall entirely covered in gold leaf. Predominantly Maya patrons softly chant Spanish hymns as birds chirp in the rafters. A few blocks north, I come to the 16th century Templo de Santo Domingo, which is also crowded with Mayan worshippers. With its exquisite baroque stucco work, it’s no wonder this is considered the most beautiful of San Cristobal’s many churches. The interior walls, as well as the elaborate pulpit, are sumptuously gilded. It saddens me that the Spanish spent lavishly on such ornate churches, while the Mayan natives lived in wretched conditions. Whatever injustices these people have endured, I’m humbled by the fervent religious devotion they exhibit today. On the grounds outside, barefoot native women and artsy Mexicans conduct a vibrant market. Stunning crimson and purple Mayan weavings with symbolic motifs are offered next to jumbo papayas and heaping baskets of shiny orange habanero peppers. From Santo Domingo, I continue east along Chiapa de Corzo past restored old houses painted in flamboyant pastels and grizzled buildings that sell everything from local ceramics to DVD players. An old man leading a donkey piled with bundles of firewood ignores a line of aging vehicles honking to pass. Scores of persistent, yet gracious Mayan women descend on me, urging me to buy their wares. For a few dollars I pick up three leather belts and an intricately woven, handmade bag. With prices like these who needs to haggle?

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���������������World� With Canada’s Leisure Experts

When it comes to vacation planning, the mission of Merit Travel Victoria is to connect clients to exceptional travel experiences. Merit Travel offers a diverse range of vacation packages, many customized for the 50+ generation. Whether you are looking for an escorted or hosted tour, cruise or long stay vacation, Merit promises to arrange the ultimate vacation experience.

“Our job as travel agents is to fit the trip to the traveler,” says Paul Dixon, Merit Travel’s Regional Manager in Victoria. “We ensure that the experience the client is seeking will be met by our recommendations. We do this by really getting to know our clients, by building a relationship with them.” Founded in 1991, Merit Travel Group has grown to become the largest privately held specialty travel company in Canada. In Victoria, Merit has been serving the community for nearly 10 years with some of the most experienced and knowledgeable agents in the city. “Today, people are on the lookout for extra value in their vacations today,” says Paul. “One way we provide that is through our hosted tour program, in which we arrange for a Merit agent or other expert in a specific area to travel with a group, acting as a liaison.” “There is no added cost, just added value. The host provides an extra layer of security and assistance on the tour, helping travelers with everything from changes in itinerary, to food and language issues. Our host acts in concert with a traditional tour guide to provide a much more personalized travel experience.” This year, Merit is offering a diverse lineup of locally hosted tours, including cruises to New England, the Southern Caribbean, and South America; cultural journeys to Cuba and Bhutan/India; and several African safaris. In addition, Merit has several exclusive groups promoted nationally, with celebrity hosts such as authors Arthur Black and Ted Barris, or Food Network celebrity chefs. “Whatever kind of vacation you are looking for, our friendly staff will help you navigate through the many vacation options out there to ensure the right choice, and the right experience is created for you.”

Shelbourne Plaza location - (From left to right) Janice Dalziel, David Wright, Junko Urushidani, Paul Dixon, Sharon Crozier.

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In a few minutes, I reach San Cristobal’s most famous attraction and a must for anyone wishing to learn more about the area’s indigenous people. Na Bolom, which means “Jaguar House” in Tzotzil Mayan, is the former home of Swiss anthropologist Trudy Blom and her Danish archaeologist husband Frans. In the 1950s, they converted this beautiful colonial building into a research centre dedicated to recording and protecting Mayan culture. Trudy took more than 50,000 photos of the jungle-dwelling Lacandon Maya, and many are on display today. I arrive just in time for the daily English language tour. Pepe Santiago, a genial young muchacho with flowing locks and an infectious grin, guides us through the atmospheric 22-room estate. “I am Lacandon Maya,” he states proudly. “I’ve lived here since I was a boy. Trudy Blom herself taught me English.” We are shown Trudy’s crimson-walled bedroom, which showcases her jewelry, embroidered dresses, and a variety of indigenous crafts. Most impressive is the stately Blom research library, fitted with dark wooden tables and leather armchairs. “There are more than 10,000 volumes here on Chiapas rainforest ecology and Mayan culture,” Pepe explains as he points to the rows of bookcases. “Chiapas is rich in natural resources, but its native people have shared little of that wealth. Many villages still practice subsistence farming and have no running water or electricity.” Before leaving, I arrange for Pepe to escort me to one of those Mayan villages the next day. On sensory overload after all I’ve experienced today, I aim to clear my head by trekking across town where a decrepit set of stairs zigzags up a steep hill to the Cerro de San Cristobal. From the summit, a quaint church bedecked in blue and white flags watches over the town. At this altitude the climb is punishing, but the imposing views make my aching limbs worthwhile. As I gaze over the red-tiled roofs and green plazas sprawling below, I hope that the next day will be half as memorable as this one. The next morning, Pepe is waiting at Na Bolom with a minivan and a bag of deep-fried Mexican doughnuts called churros. As we head out of town to the Tzotzil village of San Juan Chamula, he tells me the fiercely independent natives there practice a unique religion that combines Catholicism with ancient Mayan rituals. “Ask before taking anyone’s picture,” he warns. “They believe that cameras steal part of the soul.” We soon reach the village, and park near a cemetery adjacent to the ruins of an old church. “Black crosses indicate people who lived to an old age,” Pepe states, “while the white crosses are for those who died young.” There are too many white crosses, I notice. As we approach the village, a group of laughing children runs to meet us. They scream “Pepe! Pepe!” and mob him as if he is a rock star. And I’m glad I’m his roadie. A small but lively market is underway in the town’s main

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plaza. Most people wear traditional Mayan garb – the women are in embroidered blue blouses over wool skirts while the men sport black wool tunics. The Templo de San Juan, a white stucco building with a lovely floral motif above its arched doorway, is the village’s most imposing structure. Inside hundreds of flickering candles and fragrant pine needles are scattered across the floor amidst clouds of incense. Villagers chant and pray before statues of icons with snapshots attached. Many are of children. “These are photos The baroque Templo de Santo Domingo in San Cristobal de las Casas.

of deceased family members,” Pepe whispers. For several minutes I stand there awestruck, moved beyond words by the powerful scene before me. After we leave the church, we stop for lunch at a local comedor, enjoying a simple but satisfying meal of tortilla soup and soft drinks. Dozens of squealing kids besiege us as we try to eat. For their bad manners each is rewarded with two pesos, one from me and one from Pepe. Now I know why this guy’s so popular. Before we leave, we stop at the caseta de turismo. A stocky fellow behind the counter produces three cervezas and a pair of guitars. “He wishes me to play with him,” Pepe grins. “Do you mind?” I answer that I can think of no better way to end our visit, and for the next half hour I’m treated to a rousing performance that would rival The Gipsy Kings for Latino gusto. A few giggling children have followed us inside and begin dancing in the doorway. What the hell, I think, and get up and dance with them. By now, I am wholly SL in touch with my inner Mexican.

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Travel & Adventure

Coming Down to Earth After Soaring Over Paris BY JACQUELINE MCGRATH

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mercial balloon 72 feet in circumference to sail blithely over government buildings, urban dwellings, cherished landmarks, or wherever crowds gather. Furthermore, the balloon’s dock, a grassy field in the 35-acre Parc Andre Citroen, would be an absurd base for an act of international aggression. My assurances even covered a plight the naysayers hadn’t considered: a sudden power outage. “We wouldn’t be stranded in mid-air,” I told them. “The electric winch for the balloon’s cable has a diesel backup.” Our purpose should resonate solidly among fellow Francophiles. Bill and I fell in love with the French capitol in 1978 when we were middle-aged and on our maiden trip abroad. Ever since, no matter where we’ve vacationed in Europe, our itinerary has always included Paris. In various degrees of luxury and convenience, we’ve stayed at the city’s central hotels, negotiated short-term apartment rentals and traded places with a half-dozen Paris families. Not long ago, we even rented a houseboat on the Left Bank. (Now, that was foolhardy! It meant tucking our canes under our arms and flexing replaced knees to make literal leaps of faith.) That minor ordeal aside, and after years of traversing every underground Metro line and the cobbles of all 20 Paris arrondissements, enjoying a bird’s-eye view of our favorite city seemed only natural. So, last May from our short-term rental in the fourth arrondissement, we called the park each morning to check on daily balloon flights. The service is WWW.SENIORLIVINGMAG.COM

operated year-round by Eutelsat, a local satellite communications company. Each day for the first three weeks of our stay we were told that all flights were canceled due to excessive winds. The balloon.

Photos: Bill McGrath

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ate last winter, on a seehow-the-parents-are-doing call from one daughter, I casually mentioned we’d be doing something different on our next trip to Paris. Hearing what her father and I had in mind, Katie giggled momentarily, and then got serious. “Are you guys alright, Mom? Tell me this isn’t an item on your ‘bucket list.’ I mean, really, you and dad, at your age…” The term “bucket list” made me groan. “Katie, dad and I are reasonably healthy, not at death’s door, not ready yet to kick the bucket.” Still, it was tough to convince her that, at 79 and 78 respectively, Bill and I weren’t being foolhardy – even though surveying Paris from a balloon basket 500 feet above ground might seem like a dying wish. Friends who learned of our plan expressed concern as only old friends can. “Are you two crazy?” they wailed. “Ballooning over a foreign land?” Touched by their solicitude, I tried to dispel their anxiety. No, most likely Bill and I would not levitate alone. The gondola can easily hold 30 adults and double that amount of grade school youngsters on a field trip. No, we would not be at the mercy of the elements, nor hostages in a possible terrorist plot. That, unless serene atmospheric conditions prevail, the tightly tethered heliumfilled balloon does not lift off – ever. And, on ideal days when it does, it travels straight up and down. It’s doubtful, I pointed out, that today’s city officials would permit a com-

Once we finally got the okay, Bill and I high-tailed it to the park’s Eutelstat ticket office. The bargain price weekdays, per adult was 10 euros for 10 airborne minutes; half-price for kids. On the 11 a.m. flight that day our basket companions included another elderly pair and a dozen young couples with 20-or-so wide-eyed preschoolers in tow. As we floated toward the heavens, a reverential hush settled over our craft. Four-and-a-half minutes in air the lift halted under a mashed potato cloudbank. While Bill adjusted his


camera, I focused on the city below, identifying landmarks visible all at once and eye-poppingly sumptuous: the ovoid dome of Sacre-Coeur basilica dwarfing Montmartre’s mansard roofs; the spires of Notre Dame Cathedral staking their claim on the very centre of the city; and, of course, the iconic Eiffel Tower – a mile away, yet so imperiously at hand, I had to crane my neck to glimpse its mast. They say that from this 12-story vantage point you can distinguish the Cathedral at Chartres 45 miles southwest. I was about to turn and see for myself when the balloon abruptly began its descent. Bill chuckled. “Four-and-ahalf minutes up, four-and-a-half minutes down, and a full 60 seconds to take in the sights. There’s your 10-minute ride, Madame.”

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I couldn’t mask my disappointment. Nor, days later, could I shake the feeling of being cheated time-wise. Was it just me? Was no one else grumbling when we disembarked? The tots, I noticed, were all smiles – relieved, perhaps, to be back on terra firma. Half-heartedly, I smiled, too, recalling the old minstrelsy punch line: “The more firma, the less terra.” Once home, we learned a long-time neighbor had died in our absence. His school-teacher wife had preceded him by seven years. The couple – friends ever since our children babysat theirs – had planned to tour the Southwest once she retired. She’d also mentioned running for the school board. Their unfulfilled dreams, we realized, paralleled those of several couples we’ve known. The reminder that my husband and I are still healthy enough and lucky enough to pursue our whims was the ballast that suddenly put our balloon ride in perspective. Five months later, I compiled our next Paris agenda: no bobbing houseboat, no yo-yo moment in air. When Bill asked warily what I’d lined up, a tongue-in-cheek response was irresistible. “Nothing heady, dear, unless we get bored. Then we might want to join the inline skaters who scout SL Paris on weekends.”

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MARCH 2012

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Travel & Adventure

EXPLORING THE MANI PENINSULA: Greece’s Medieval Past BY W. RUTH KOZAK

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the Mani. I boarded a bus at Sparta for a short journey south to Gythion (Yithio), formerly Sparta’s sea port

with scenic views of the sea and distant peninsula. The shore front is lined with seafood tavernas and little hotels. Gythion harbour.

Photos: W. Ruth Kozak

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nce part of the powerful Spartan kingdom, the Mani Peninsula of the south Peloponnese is a rich geological and cultural area, and often overlooked by travellers to Greece. The spine of the peninsula is part of the great mass of Mount Taiyetos, which terminates at Cape Tenano, the mythical entrance to the Underworld. Much of the terrain is mountainous and inaccessible and the people of the Mani, called the Maniots, have always kept themselves somewhat isolated and independent. The Mani is one of the most traditional and conservative regions of Greece. The Maniots are known for their wild nature and their zealous safeguarding of family property. The area is noted for its fortified villages, with their square-built stone towers and Byzantine churches built during the 10th and 12th century when the Maniots embraced Christianity. The history of this unique area of Greece has always fascinated me, so, last summer, I set off to explore

and the eastern entrance to the Mani. Gythion is the largest town in the Mani. It’s a quiet little fisher’s town

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I found a room at the Saga, a pension run by a French/Greek family, and was pleased to find that the sea view from


my room included the off-shore islet of Marathonissi. This little island is where Paris of Troy anchored his ship, and when he abducted Helen from her husband King Menalaus’ palace in Sparta, the two run-away lovers spent the night there. Of course, being a lover of Homer’s tales, I had to investigate. The island has quiet wooded pathways through the pine trees and a restored fortress, the Tzanetakis, built in the 1800s by the Turkish bey to protect him from his lawless countrymen. There is also a museum of the Mani telling the story of this very unusual part of Greece, and a lighthouse built in 1873. It’s a pleasure to wander around in the town with its neoclassical houses and shops. I took an evening promenade along waterfront with its fishing boats, restaurants and shops and stopped at an ouzerie [a tavern that specializes in ouzo] for some tasty Greek mezedes [appetizers]. As I wandered the waterfront I also discovered the gallery/workshop of Maniot artist Yiorgos Hassankos and nearby an excellent antique shop. The next day, when I went to purchase bus tickets for my trip to the peninsula, I was informed I could make a bonus stop at the famous Diros Caves (Pyrgos Dhirou). From there, a bus would take me to Areopolis, the gateway to the Mani. The road from Gythion winds through a wooded, fertile landscape, turning inland from the coast through citrus and olive grows, where I glimpse the first of the castles and hill towers that dot the landscape. The Diros Caves are among the largest in the world, located in a beautiful turquoise bay on the western coast of the Lakonian peninsula. They were formed hundreds of thousands of years ago. Significant anthropological finds from the Neolithic age have been discovered here including pottery, providing evidence of prehistoric man. They’ve also found fossilized bones of panthers, hyenas, lions, deer, ferrets and the largest collection of hippopotamus bones in Europe. The 25-minute tour takes me 1,500 metres underground, the first part by punt on an underground lake, and later by foot. It’s as though I have entered a vast underground cathedral, perhaps one created by Gaudi, because of the way the vaulted ceilings drip with wax-like stalactites. Everything is diffused with colour, as if light has filtered through stained glass windows. The only sound is the soft dipping of the boatman’s paddle and the hollow echo of voices. The passages are sometimes so low and narrow; I have to duck my head as the punt slides underneath and enters another breathtaking cavern. At the end of the boat ride is the vast cavern of the Aleopotripa Cave, like a vaulted Gothic apse, evoking a feeling of awe. This is the cave where the evidence of prehistoric man was found. At the exit, there is a small Stone Age museum containing artefacts, which date back 6,000 years. A waiting bus takes me on to Aeropolis, the “town of Ares, God of War,” a name bestowed on it during the Greek War of Independence. The last bey of the Mani, Petros Mavromichalis, proclaimed the revolution at Areopolis on March 17, 1821. There’s a statue in his honour in the town square, and

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MARCH 2012

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you can visit the church he and his family attended. Aeropolis is a typical Maniot town and definitely sets the mood for the region. The Agio Taxiarchis Cathedral was built in 1789, and most of the tower houses in the 1800s. Some of these ancient towers (pyrogospita) now offer accommodations for visitors. As I wandered the narrow cobbled streets, I easily got the feeling of what it must have been like in the days when the area was known for its family feuds. Especially when I saw a sign indicating that it had been a divided town, two clans feuding within its fortified boundaries. For many years, the Mani was famous for these blood feuds that developed in the 14th century after the arrival of refugee Byzantine families known as Nykians. They were the result of a complicated feudal society and clans built strongholds in tightly clustered villages. Old church, Aeropolis.

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April 25 - 29, 2012 Malaspina Theatre at VIU

Tamarack is a funny and touching story about Henry and Annie, still battling through married life after nearly 45 years. It’s the middle of a ������������ ���� ���� ������ ������ ���� the roof is groaning under 4 feet of snow. Tamarack will tickle your funny bone and bring a tear to your eye!

Tickets from the Port Theatre Box Office 250-754-8550 www.theatreone.org

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The unique architecture of the Mani includes the stone tower houses built as fortresses to protect the inhabitants from attack by rival clans. These towers could only be raised by those of Nykian decent. Over the next two centuries, the feuds were waged, mainly over land, power and prestige. The vendettas were conducted according to strict rules. The WWW.SENIORLIVINGMAG.COM

Walking through Diros Caves.

object was to annihilate both the towers and the male members of opposing clans. The women were safe from attack and provided food, ammunition and supplies. The feuds ended with either the destruction of the family or the total surrender of the whole clan. In spite of its violent past, which lasted until the end of the 19th century, the Maniot hospitality is as evident as anywhere else in Greece. I wished I’d had more time to explore the whole of the Mani peninsula, especially Kardamyli, the home of reknown travel writer Patrick Leigh Fermor, author of Mani, Travels in the Southern Peloponnese. But that’s a good reason for SL another visit. IF YOU GO: Mani Guide: www.maniguide.info www.mani.org.gr/en www.mesogeia.net/trip/lakonia/mani_ en.html Buses run from Athens daily to Sparta and Gythion. By car, the drive from Athens is just over three hours. From Sparta, the drive is under an hour. The Diros Caves are an hour by bus from Gythion. Open 8:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m., June–September; 8:30 a.m. to 3 p.m., October to May.


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MARCH 2012

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inter and spring are prime cruising months, but Better Business Bureau (BBB) is advising consumers to read all the fine print before signing up for a special cruise deal. In 2011, BBB received more than 1,300 complaints nationwide related to cruises. While many cruise deals are legitimate, a few end up taking thousands of dollars from victims. BBB is urging consumers to be cautious of unsolicited mail with offers of free or discounted cruises. Many times, scammers will send numerous emails, postcards and other mailings trying to get consumers to call and claim their “free cruise.” Don’t be fooled by professional-looking websites either. Gather as much information as possible about the business and ask a lot of questions before signing on the dotted line. BBB recommends the following tips for consumers looking to book a cruise getaway: • Be careful of “free” offers. Some consumers reported attending a presentation as a requirement to receive a “free” cruise. In the end, they discovered the presentation was only a sales pitch to join a travel club and no “free” cruise was awarded.

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In 2011, BBB received more than 1,300 complaints nationwide related to cruises.

• Ensure money is in the right hands. After making a payment, review your credit card or bank statement to make sure charges originated directly from the cruise line for proof of payment. If payment is required by cheque or money order, it should be made payable to the cruise line – not to the travel agency or the individual. • Get proper confirmation of the booking. Insist on getting the cruise WWW.SENIORLIVINGMAG.COM

line’s confirmation numbers, not just a confirmation number from the agency. This will not only confirm the information and money is in the right hands, but consumers will also be able to pre-reserve shore excursions, restaurant reservations and spa appointments (where available) on the cruise line’s website. • Ask questions. Before signing a contract, make sure all details have been clearly outlined and the pricing has been thoroughly explained. Double check whether there are hidden cancellation fees, port charges or insurance processing fees that haven’t been covered. • Cruise cancellations. If consumers are unsuccessful in getting a refund and booked through a licensed BC travel agent, they may be eligible to claim under BC’s Travel Assurance Fund, go to: www.travelrightsbc.ca • Always check the business first. If an offer sounds too good to be true, it usually is. Before providing any personal information, check out their BBB Business SL Review at www.bbb.org/search For more information, contact BBB Mainland BC at 604-682-2711 and mbc.bbb.org or BBB Vancouver Island at 250-386-6348 and vi.bbb.org MARCH 2012

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FOREVER BY WILLIAM THOMAS

Where There’s Humour, There’s Hope

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do believe that equation – where laughter lingers, promise resides. The revised edition of Margaret And Me carried the title: Where There’s Humour, There’s Always Hope and it highlighted humorous stories from the nursing home where my mother spent the last two years of her life. In her prime, my mother ran a small boarding house in Schumacher for Irish immigrants who had come to work in the gold mines of Timmins, Ontario. My mother came from a burly bunch of immigrant Irish miners – first, lead in Colorado; then, coal in Sydney, Nova Scotia; and, finally, the McIntyre and Hollinger gold mines of the north. She drifted back there occasionally through the fog of dementia in her final years. I did attend the Alzheimer meetings in which they encourage you to go with the flow. Wherever Margaret’s mind wandered, I was supposed to follow. I just could not do that. I was always trying to bring her back to reality and real time. Like the day I was warned upon entering Northland Manor that I had a real problem – “Your mother found her mother this morning at breakfast.” It was late afternoon and my mother Margaret was still in her bathrobe and slippers. She had been searching the nursing home all day for Nanny. She was inconsolable. We sat out in the garden on a park bench, and I opened two cans of cold beer from the little cooler I’d brought. “I hate to be the bearer of bad news, Marg, but Nanny passed away a long time ago.” “Oh, don’t be silly, Bill. She’s here. I saw her.” “Okay, let’s try logic. Just for the sake of argument, Marg, how old are you?” “I have no idea,” my mother shrugged. “Well, you’re 92 years old.” “Gee,” she said, giving me the thumbs up, “that’s good.” “Oh yeah, that’s good. Now, if … if Nanny was still alive how old would she be?” My mother shook her head, “I have no idea.” “Well, Nanny would be like 131 years old.” “Gee, that’s really good!” my mother said giving me two thumbs up. “No, no, no, Marg. You’re missing the point. Nanny died about 40 years ago. Sorry, Marg, but Nanny is dead.” 44 42

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To which my mother got this big smile on her face, looked down at her slippers and then up at me and said: “Well Bill, that’s going to come as a big surprise to her because this morning … she was just as peppy as she could be!” I hung my head and then took a swig of beer. “Okay, Marg, drink up and let’s go look for Nanny.” When Margaret And Me was published, I did a reading and 300 kind people showed up, as well as Margaret. Monica Rose, Margaret’s friend and caregiver, kept Margaret backstage and just out of earshot because, even at the age of 92, she could still get a lawyer. Later, upstairs in the signing lounge, Margaret sat next to me looking both surprised and proud as I autographed books for the subscribers of the reading series. Coming from a family of men who muscled gold out of the ground to survive, my mother never understood how her son could stay at home and make a good living from making fun of his dog. But, somehow, she understood tonight was special. And then somebody in line asked my mother to autograph a book and my radar went through the roof. I didn’t think she could do it. Pressing hard on the pen with her arthritic fingers, my mother managed to script her full name – Margaret Mary McLean Thomas. The pride that welled up in both of us will be with me to the end. And then the next person requested her autograph and the next person and pretty soon Margaret’s signature was getting bigger and bolder than my signature and then we got into a fight about who wrote the damn book anyway. There was a very telling moment when Alex MacBeath, the sponsor of the author series, came over and asked my mother if she wanted another beer. “Hell yes,” she said. “This is hard work.” So, although my mother never quite understood what I did for a living, she knew it wasn’t easy. Funny, impish, eyes sparkling with pride over a pint of ale – SL Margaret Mary McLean Thomas – Irish to the very end. William Thomas is the author of nine books of humour including The True Story of Wainfleet and Margaret and Me and The Cat Rules. For comments or ideas, visit his website at www.williamthomas.ca

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MARCH 2012

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Reflections THEN & NOW

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’ve been to Disney World in Florida once. Disneyland in California seven times; three of those and the trip to Florida were with my wife Donna. The last (to Disneyland) was in 2011. It was, as always, lots of fun, but it wasn’t the same as in days gone by. For instance, Walt Disney’s old office – said to be left just as it was when he died. I always make a beeline to hear the mannequin of Abraham Lincoln speak, then follow up with seeing Mr. Disney’s glassed-in enclosure of his old office. But, this time, it was gone; replaced by a gallery of portraits of famous people of the 20th century. It made me very sad! It seems they have taken “Walt” out of the equation, but held on firmly to the “Disney.” I began to look around to examine those things I had just skipped past in previous visits. One was the cost of things that children coveted. Outrageous in many areas! Souvenir stores and sidewalk vendors plying their wares. Somehow it reminded me of the scripture in the Bible when Jesus overturned the tables of the money changers in the temple courtyards crying: “It is written, ‘My house shall be called a house of prayer’ … “but you are making it a robbers’ den.” (Matt. 21:13 New American

Standard Bible) I wondered if similar could be said about Walt Disney’s vision. Was he perhaps saying, “I was inspired to create, with the help of God, an illusion”? “A place of magic, of hidden kingdoms, of softness and poetry, of fantasy and enchantment, of dreams and innocence. Now turning it into a money pit for unfair pricing? Are you becoming the opposite of what I sought to achieve?” It was Halloween time when we were last there and it seemed each little girl was in a princess costume – a couple hundred of them. Expensive little outfits and, of course, every little girl coveted them, just as the little boys all wanted to look like Jack Sparrow from The Pirates of the Caribbean or like Luke Skywalker or Darth Vadar from Star Wars. The parents looked physically exhausted, and I imagined their wallets were pretty well exhausted too. Most every child dreams of going to Disneyland or Disney World. It seems unfair that some people seek to take advantage of that and inflate prices. I don’t think Walt Disney would condone a lot of what’s happening to his vision – his dream. I have been a friend of Mickey Mouse

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and Goofy and Donald Duck and Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs from as far back as I can remember. Of Bambi too and, of course, Pinocchio and Figard and Cleo and kind old Geppetto. They have been a part of my life. The innocence of Walt Disney’s dream has often saved me from the harshness of the world. I am grateful and will always be grateful that Mr. Disney shared his vision with us. The magic is still there. Both Donna and I especially enjoy “It’s a Small World Afterall.” When you take its journey, it feels like you have escaped, and left the competitive world far behind. A journey of innocence, if even for a short while. Maybe I’ve finally grown up and, if that’s the case, then I don’t like it! Nor do I want it! I want to go back and sit with Uncle Walt. Perhaps he would share with me his vision of a magical place where animals and toys can talk and dance and sing; before the reality of dollar signs set in to guide a profit on the back of enchantment. Disney is a multi-million dollar business and Mickey and Donald now work for “the Man.” But long ago, in the meadows of thought, a person beheld the impossible and believed in making it possible – and achieved his dream. And now, though his last name is familiar to almost all, his first name is quickly becoming covered with the dust of the past. But many of us from the past will remember it. We know him as Walt Disney. But I prefer to call SL him “My Friend Walt.”

Photo: Krystle Wiseman

MY FRIEND WALT


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March 2012 Senior Living Magazine  

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