Doreen Martens


Doreen Martens

Jeff and I are off to rome to celebrate 25 years together! This is my second travel blog;
Hopefully with my new iPad it will be easier to keep up -- long battery life will help!

Europe » Italy July 12th 2010

One of my last acts before leaving home was to download Roman Holiday onto my iPad, basically an excuse for Audrey Hepburn to offer 50s moviegoers a cheap tour of Rome. It's not that hard to retrace the movie's travelogue, though it turns out that Rome in July is a good deal sweatier than it looks from the back of a Vespa in black and white. To maintain a Canadian sense of presentability, especially when trying to meet vatican city's dress code, means packing paper towels and extra shirts in your day pack. Still, how can you not love a city that even at its most down and out looks so impossibly scenic? Rome is a whiff of garlic mixed with jasmine, a flash of scarlet oleander and the gleam of gilded bronze, cobblestones rough underfoot ... read more

North America » Canada » Ontario » Oakville June 29th 2010

All roads lead to Rome, at last. Jeff & I wanted to celebrate our 25th anniversary somewhere special, romantic, historic, with good food. He'd never been to Rome, though he'd seen northern Italy without me, and it's been so many years for me that I don't even want to share the number, so Italy seemed a logical choice. Two weeks on the boot, and too many places I'd like to go. Sadly, I must conclude that I may never see all of the world. We can only try. Now if I can just get the bookings made ...... read more

Tuesday. Woke again to roosters, and later to three military helicopters buzzing over our heads. Strange. I spent some time reading out on our balcony, listening to the neighbourhood slowly awaken. Another lovely breakfast in the garden, overlooking the little pool on the side of the hill. We tramped up the hill to Largo dos Guimaraes, where we caught the wonderful old tram (called the bodinho) almost immediately and hung on as we hurtled all the way down the hill, clackety-clunk, past magnificent old villas decaying in that tropical way, with vines and flowers covering the old stone walls bordering the cobblestone lane. Remarking on the jerkiness of the ride, Jeff wondered what made riding the tram so special, and we soon found out. As the tracks near the bottom of the hill and enter the ... read more

Monday. Woke quite refreshed, to the sound of roosters. Amazing how quiet it was after all the racket of the evening. A bit of a panic this morning - after the camera was dropped we discovered we were having trouble downloading photos, and couldn’t figure out why. Decided the only solution, given that both my disks were full, was to seek a new one. Breakfast left out for us was delightfully Brazilian - ham and cheeses, various breads and toppings, granola, yogurt, fresh papaya (yummy!) and watermelon juice as well as coffee - all enjoyed in the lovely tropical garden down below, screened from prying eyes by greenery on one side and on the other the huge wall sealing off the house’s compound from the street. With breakfast like that, who needs lunch? Took a bit ... read more

Sunday - on the road again. A long day of travel after a rather less than refreshing night on the bus. We reached Sao Paulo at 8:55 a.m. as promised, and found ourselves in a huge station of the size and caliber of any city airport, with the restaurants and souvenir shops to match. More than 80 gates! We’d soon bought our tickets for Rio and were back on the bus, “convencional” this time. At least the weather was gradually clearing as we went along, from rain and lightning to patches of blue sky as we rolled through increasingly mountainous terrain, the green hills interrupted by occasional small cities and frequent explosions of industry along the highway - including a huge GM Brazil complex. Half an hour before arriving in Rio, we made a long serpentine ... read more

South America » Brazil » Paraná » Foz do Iguaçu July 23rd 2009

Thursday. Up early again to catch the 7:30 a.m. bus to Foz do Iguacu, which our Chaco busmate Sondra (a young Dutch woman on her way to three months on a Brazilian dairy farm, after an advanced degree in soils science!) had put us on to. Good thing, too, because most of the buses go to the Argentina side and we didn’t want to be bothered with that. A six-hour trip rolling through southern Paraguay, so much greener than Chaco that it’s rather beautiful despite the obvious poverty here. With shades like PEI’s: rich red earth, green hills, blue skies. Villages strung along the route, chipa stands (we bought some, but never again found any like those at the station at Encarnacion), and towns, inevitably heralded and exited via roundabouts. All the way to Ciudad del ... read more

South America » Paraguay » Asunciòn July 22nd 2009

An excellent breakfast with Helmuth and Nicoleta: yogurt and soft-boiled eggs, juice, tea, and hugs and pictures as we said goodbye, with promises to put them up should they come our way. We couldn’t really say we’d love to come back, much as we’ve enjoyed our visit with them. Not enough to draw us back to the Chaco! But we had a great morning getting a lot of our questions and misgivings about the Mennonite work with the native people answered. Heinrich Ratzlaff was there as we arrived at Yalve Sanga, the original native settlement, to explain the work of ASCIM - the indigenous/Mennonite organization that works at social development. This was illuminating. Turns out there are actually 9 different indigenous languages/cultures they’re working with, and most can’t understand each other without Spanish (or even Low ... read more

South America » Paraguay » Chaco July 21st 2009

Up early to be back in Neu-Halbstadt in time for the day’s tour, supposedly starting at 7 a.m. Our hosts fed us a full breakfast of buns with (guava!) jam, wild honey, cold meat and cheese, and tea. We were sent off on the bus to Menno Colony, where Walter Ratzlaff, a former mayor of the town, gave us an illuminating view of life in the oldest colony; the highly conservative one that left Manitoba in the 1920s over disputes with the government on education just as my own family was gratefully fleeing to Canada! Though he disavowed Jeff’s view that this was Christian socialism in action, his picture of the governance of the colony certainly reviewed an amazingly effective form of communalism, complete with a taxation system that covers the schools, health care, insurance, roads, ... read more

South America » Paraguay » Chaco July 20th 2009

Up at 5 a.m. to catch our taxi to the Hotel Excelsior, already waiting for us in the Casa Mennonita parking lot, chatting with the guard. “Tranquilo,” he said about our general anxiety, offering me a sip of his mate. The Excelsior turns out to be a very fancy hotel - no wonder the price (over $100) we’d been quoted, which seemed outlandish for Asuncion. A long wait in the hotel lobby gave us time to chat with several people we’d bumped into over the week - Dave and Millie Dyck from my MCC days, and Tom and Rebecca Yoder Neufeld, last seen at Canadian conference - and suddenly realize the woman standing behind us was Carol Weaver, whom I haven’t run across since college. All at 5:30 a.m. in Paraguay. Ya just never know. We ... read more

South America » Paraguay » Asunciòn July 19th 2009

I hate writing about this almost as much as I disliked living it, but today (Sunday) was a crashing disappointment. I almost wished I'd been one of the Machu Picchu people after seeing a morning service hijacked the way this one was. We arrived early, anticipating a great morning with a whole lot of Paraguayan church folk joining the paid attendees for our final service. The "chapel" -- a good sized room that had been devoted to musical stuff all week -- was set up for overflow viewing, so we made sure to get our seat early (not hard, since our bus had come half an hour earlier than usual). After a great beginning with the "international choir" leading us in a bunch of favourites from the week -- including a wacky "Hakuna" that must have ... read more

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