Posts from the “North America” Category

Waterfalls and Revolution: Mexico’s Roberto Barrios

Posted on September 12, 2015

The big attraction for me to visit Roberto Barrios in Mexico’s Chiapas state wasn’t the waterfalls, it was to see the Zapatistas. The autonomous community near the Mayan ruins of Palenque is one of the strongholds of Mexico’s Zapatista National Liberation Army (EZLN), which burst onto the internal scene in 1994 on the same day the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) came into effect.   The movement, which continues to advocate for the indigenous in this poor region that borders Guatemala, has a knack for garnering international attention and was a favourite cause of Rage Against the Machine.   Although the turmoil and violence of the 1990s struggle has diminished, the state remains off the beaten track for most tourists who come to…

A Hawaiian Sunset at 13,796 feet

Posted on June 22, 2012

My teeth can’t stop chattering. I’m in Hawaii and freezing while watching the sun go down above the clouds on the summit of Mauna Kea, a dormant volcano on the Big Island. We’re at 13,796 feet (that’s more than 4.2 kilometres up, for us metric folks). The air is thin, the landscape is out of this world and the view is spectacular. The Hawaiians consider Mauna Kea,or the White Mountain, one of the island’s most sacred spots where shrines, burial sites and the largest and best preserved adze or stone axe quarry (dating to about AD 1100) in the Hawaiian islands can be found. The goddesses Poli‘ahu (snow) Lilinoe (mist and fog) and and Li–hau (cold chill) dwell here, according to Hawaiian legends. The…

Coney Island: Fighters, Freaks, Hotdogs and History

Posted on June 20, 2012

The famous Wonder Wheel rose slowly from the fog as the F train crawled towards the Stillwell Avenue station. Its cars swung empty in late September, abandoned for yet another winter season as tourists and urban denizens returned to reality in the Big Apple. On the boardwalk, one concession stand after another sat shuttered — some like Cha Cha’s, the “Home of Wild Women and Wise Guys,” seemed destined for the history books after their leases weren’t renewed. But like a phoenix, Coney Island and its motley assortment of independent shops, amusement parks and solitary museum officially opened its seven-day-a-week season last month on Memorial Day weekend. There is no doubt its collection of freaks, carnies and business owners are fighters. Cha Cha’s has…

Vancouver: A Walk in Pacific Spirit Regional Park

Posted on May 22, 2012

The only sound is the pitter patter of raindrops on the leafy canopy overhead and the muted calls of birds hiding somewhere in the lush green growth. In Pacific Spirit Regional Park, the stresses of urban living drop away as you plunge deeper and deeper into this urban slice of West Coast rainforest.   Located less than an hour from downtown Vancouver, the 763-hectare park encircles the University of British Columbia and the tony neighbourhoods surrounding it. Less busy than its sister Stanley Park on the downtown peninsula, the park is popular with joggers, dog walkers, cyclists, and horse riders but not to the point where the trails are clogged and the natural ambience is lost.   Overhead, tall cedars reach for the sun…

Big Apple Intern: Living at The Webster (aka The Spinster)

Posted on May 15, 2012

The Webster Apartments, nicknamed the Spinster by my husband, has changed little since it opened in 1923 in Hells Kitchen, sandwiched between 9th and 10th avenues on 34th Street. Men are not allowed above the ground floor and are forbidden from staying overnight in this New York City institution founded by Charles and Josiah Webster to provide a subsidized, genteel home for young women getting their start in the Big Apple. The Websters were first cousins of Roland H. Macy, whose namesake department store — still billed as the world’s largest — is located just down the street. Nowadays, the Webster is home to hundreds of women who flood into the city every summer to work — often for nothing or next to nothing — in…

Time to Retire Travelling Purple Chucks?

Posted on March 19, 2012

My Chuck Taylors have seen better days. They’ve pounded cobblestones in Dublin, concrete in Brooklyn and dusty blacktop in Fiji. Not to mention dance floors across Canada and Europe. They look tired and yet I still get compliments on them at the oddest times, like at human rights rallies in Vancouver, a laundromat in Amsterdam’s red-light district and high-end designer boutiques in New York’s Upper East Side. In fact, the older and more beat up they get the more compliments they seem to receive. And, I’ve never met anyone else wearing them. How can that be in a world awash in cheaply made Converse sneakers from China? I picked up these low Converses a decade ago with my friend Alicia on Toronto’s Yonge Street,…