Monthly Archives: October 2019

Belgium By Ways

Winding up our 1997 dream trip to Greece with a leisurely driving trip from Holland to Belgium couldn’t have been more enjoyable. We had seen much of the Netherlands some years earlier and just had to return to Bruges, our favourite European city.

After stopping inside the Dutch border at Amersfoort and Breda, we made a sight seeing visit to Ghent, a city noted for its medieval buildings and rich history. In the early middle ages it was the second largest and richest city in Europe. Notable buildings included the 12th century Belfry Tower, offering fabulous views of the city centre, and St. Bavo’s Cathedral.




Ghent is a city and a municipality in the Flemish Region of Belgium. It is the capital and largest city of the East Flanders province, and the third largest municipality in Belgium. Its architecture ranges from medieval to modern. It is regarded as one of Belgium’s most beautiful communities.

Most rewarding was our leisurely four days in Bruges, relishing fine weather which allowed ample time to explore its splendid medieval treasures.

We were told that, for all the destruction German armies inflicted upon cities in two world wars, it left Bruges virtually untainted because of its remarkably well preserved medieval heritage.

Mennin Gate

An especially poignant side trip brought us to Remembrance Day ceremonies at the Mennin Gate in Ieper (better known by its French name, Ypres), Belgium. Thousands of Canadian names are etched into the hallowed walls of this extraordinary Great War monument.

And, just because it was so near, we had to drive a few kilometres over the French border to stop by the signpost to Armentières. But no such luck. Nary a mademoiselle to be seen!

Flying from Amsterdam to Montreal we did it really in style as Business Class seats were at the last minute confirmed. First, we each got a personal toiletries bag. Next, a choice of orange juice or a glass of champagne. I took the champagne. A delicious seafood meal was accompanied by top quality red or white wine. And as a final KLM touch, a gift to take home: Bols gin in a blue delft model of a typical Dutch dwelling. Ahhh, luxury indeed!

A Taste of Turkey

Extending a cruise among the Greek Islands to sail into Turkeys’ capital, Istanbul, added an exciting dimension to our 1997 tourist visit to Greece.  Along the way, our ship made one stop on the Turkish coast to allow tour groups to explore the ancient Greek city of Ephesus. We bowed out of that visit while I did some sight seeing in the attractive port of Kusadasi.






One notable structure was a colourful monument dedicated to long time Turkish ruler Kemal Ataturk. He was the founder and first president (1923-38) of the Republic of Turkey. He modernized the country’s legal and educational systems and led a secular government which encouraged a European way of life.
Arriving in Istanbul was an outstanding experience in viewing its numerous religious and commercial centres. Visiting the Grand Bazaar was hectic at times because of so many young people selling souvenirs of all kinds. We watched a carpet sale and were taken on tours of major Muslim sites, including the Sultan Ahmed Mosque, known as the Blue Mosque because of the blue tiles adorning its interior. Much larger and older was the so-called Red Mosque, Hagia Sophia, which was built originally in 360 A.D. and functioned for more than a thousand years as a Christian church, St. Sophia’s.

The Topkapi Palace, once centre of the Ottoman empire and now a museum, was also of much interest. This was partly because of the charming 1960s heist movie of the same name, starring among others Melina Mercouri, Maximilian Schell and Peter Ustinov.






An entertaining evening at a restaurant-night club introduced us to the exotic charms of Turkish folk music and belly dancing.

The Greek Isles Mykonos and Patmos

Mykonos, perhaps the most popular of the Greek islands, was pleasantly short of tourists on our late season visit in 1997, allowing us plenty of time to meander through its colourful walkways.







A brief interlude brought us to Patmos, famed among biblical scholars as the site where Saint John the Evangelist wrote the Book of Revelations, though we resisted the temptation to explore the site of his domain high above the town.

Aboard the comfortably sized Stella Oceanis, carrying just a few hundred passengers, time for sight seeing was limited, as sailing was done mostly at night.

One sunny day, however, brought out the sun bathers.

Who To Vote For

It should be a simple answer – turf out the present government if you don’t like it, or keep it going if you do, and vote for it accordingly. This time around though, a lot of people don’t much like the government we have, so they want to make sure it’s on the way out. Question is – what is the smart way to make that happen?
So much of this year’s campaigning has been low blow skirmishing, trading of insults and fulminating about personalities that basic electoral aims have somehow gone all askew. Greedy appetites are showered with grandiose promises of billions here and billions there, and nary a mention that grandkids only will have to pay for them. The political cycle rolls merrily on – only those who promise the most can get elected; those daring to cut back costs of services gain only instant vilification.
Whether party leaders have sunk or shone in the public eye, the ultimate voting decision should come down to the basics that matter most: Do I want the Liberals to stay in office, or do I not?
Only the Conservatives, despite their share of blemishes, offer any real alternative. NDP has strong but limited support. Greens even more so. Scattering votes too broadly lessens the chance of turfing out the incumbents.
Keep your eye on the endgame, please!

Puffin in the News

A Newfoundland Puffin

Facebook postings of an extraordinary portrait of Newfoundland’s iconic seabird, the puffin, prompted resurrection of a favourite memento from my CJON Radio news reporting days in Newfoundland. It’s an extract from my media memoir Yesterday’s News. Jack Howlett, who played a key part in this incident, moved on to news reporting with CBC in St. John’s and Ottawa.
The Puffin
Reporting on local news in the few minutes a broadcast news program usually allows doesn‛t leave too much time or leeway for waxing poetic, or just plain silly but, sometimes, it just can‛t be avoided.
Such was my turn of mind one fine day when I was writing and editing a succession of morning (7 am to 9 a.m.) newscasts. It began with a phone call from an excited St. John‛s resident, reporting an unusual sighting on his property. Quick decision needed – we‛d better get Nels, our TV cameraman, and one of our news editors out to the scene pronto. It was done, the camera did its work, and we had a dandy public interest videotape clip to round out that evening‛s TV news.
But what‛s the good of a good story if you don‛t have a bit of fun with it. Something a little special was needed, so this little ditty developed to grace newscasts throughout the day:
A black and white seabird – I think it‛s a puffin
Is on my front lawn – No sir! I‛m not bluffin‛!
It must have come here to look for a hideout:
Say, that‛s pretty good – My name‛s Douglas Rideout!
Well anyway, sir. I‛m afraid that he‛ll die;
So send someone quick to the street known as Guy.

From this urgent call there was no turning back,
So the task of removing the bird fell on Jack –
Who can‛t tell a puffin apart from an owlet –
A fact which is strange, since his last name is Howlett!
But quick as could be with Nels Squires beside him
(To take this fine picture) he sped out and spied him.

Then, quick as a seagull swoops down on his prey,
Away whisked the puffin to the shore of the bay;
Slipped into the water, with one kick and a spin,
Off paddled the puffin: They watched with a grin;
Said Rideout: “Thanks be! We made it! Amen!
There goes one less listener for CJON.”

Isles of the Aegean

Cruising around such Greek islands as Santorini, Crete, Rhodes and Mykonos during our epic 1997 tour of Greece was a highly rewarding and enjoyable experience. Early November wasn’t ideal timing for soaking up the Mediterranean sun, but it beat dodging snow showers. The good ship Stella Oceanis was mercifully not big as cruise ships go, but the sailing went well, the food was great and the service was just fine..
The great island of Crete, renowned for its historical prominence and unique cultural identity, was our first island visited. Just enough time to explore the Palace of Knossus and the Heraklion Archeological Museum.

Cretan artwork


From Crete we sailed on to Santorini which fully lived up to its reputation for scenic beauty and overall charm. Volcanic eruptions destroyed the island’s centre, leaving it arc shaped. It is a favourite of honeymooners.








Next port of call was the intriguing island of Rhodes where we were treated to the historic highlights of the city of Rhodes and the enchanting features of Lindos.

In Rhodes we strolled along the cobbled central roadway flanked by imposing medieval buildings.


Breath taking views abounded along the narrow laneways of Lindos, highlighted by ascending the steps into the Temple of Athenia Lindia.

Next time: Mykonos, Patmos