• prince edward county

    July 25th, 2014

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    It’s probably inevitable that anyone who inhabits a loud, sprawling, stinking mega-city believes at one time or another that the only antidote is some form of pastoral life. But would it truly work after a few weeks? If it was somewhere in Prince Edward County it certainly might. Until relatively recently, this large isthmus which juts into Lake Ontario was only inhabited by “Proudly Loyalist” settlers, and overlooked by much of the population of its own province, not to mention the world at large, because once upon a time people, especially Ontarians, sneered at the idea of Canadian wines. Now, however, this latest of Ontario’s appellations proves that’s no longer the case. Winemakers can safely praise such things as the “limestone purity” of their chardonnays and calcaires because over the last decade or so PEC has gained a foothold in the imagination of both connoisseurs and purveyors of enological culture.

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    For what was once simply a staid but sun-kissed summer land of wheat, corn and potatoes is now a booming area of blue sky thinking on vineyards and green-oriented agriculture. Wine culture has prompted food culture in general to take root as part of the county’s blissful offering, meaning artisanal cheese shops — one of which claims to be Canada’s “greenest” cheese outfit — as well as swanky little bistros, breweries and Waupoos’ County Cider Company (top four pictures), a distillery, and many more food and beverage enterprises have all added their flavour to the County experience.

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    However, let’s get back to the reason that prompted everyone to flock to the PEC in the first place: wine. The county is simply bursting with vineyards, wineries and tasting rooms. These vary from elegant little rustic outfits operated out of reconditioned barns to ambitious forward-thinking complexes constructed of raw concrete, to cater to the needs of high flyers from Toronto.

    Huff Estates, for instance, boasts an impressive art collection, indoors and out, with installations ranging from a few hundred dollars to some which cannot be as easily carried away as a few cases of wine. It also has an inn where you can sleep off the enjoyment of one too many glasses. Sofia’s favourite experience was, however, the Hinterland Wine Company, which also raises free range chickens and has a nice little playground behind its main building for the easily bored, underage set.

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    Although not pictured, the adult consensus seemed to be that Norman Hardie‘s vineyard was the choice place to while away a few hours. In addition to a very welcoming tasting room Mr Hardie offers up the delights of a patio with a wood-fired pizza oven and some very drinkable glasses of wine. This is a place where they only do the things they can do very well. Which is why it was unfortunate to miss Sunday’s oyster shucking.

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    Winner of the most charming rustic location visited was definitely Closson Chase Vineyards. With a small air-conditioned tasting room, gallery and a beautifully landscaped garden overlooking the vineyard, you could be forgiven for wanting to take up residence.

    This, unfortunately, is just a small accounting of the many delicious and satisfying enterprises taking place. The feeling of just having scratched the surface can easily leave one with a long, lingering itch to return to Prince Edward County.

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  • evening in another world

    July 22nd, 2014

    Sevin Hello there. Haven’t written in a while, partly because I haven’t had a moment to myself. Last couple of evenings I’ve finally had the chance to sit back a bit and appreciate the beauty of another vista. Have to say I love the way light seems to be unique to each and every place you go in the world. The way it slants. The way it bounces off the scuffed boards of a barn. The way it trickles like honey through a beautiful woman’s hair. Pure, natural magic. Today, I’m going to bottle it.

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  • the disappearing mist: tarabya

    April 19th, 2014

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    Perhaps it’s the proximity to the Black Sea. One last stretch of strait and you are somewhere else entirely, behind another curtain. Some mornings you emerge from your house to a disappeared world. What was there the previous morning has vanished. Objects become outlines. The vaguest sketch of reality. It’s kind of magic, almost as if you could trip off the sidewalk and fall into an infinite nothingness.

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  • a few good apples

    March 18th, 2014

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    Today I’d like to show you a few good apples. They’re a little bit nicked and pocked in spots, but overall, pretty beautiful with an honest bite, surface to core. Perhaps that’s because they’re not modified or engineered to grow excessively large, or coated with wax to shine under fluorescent lamps. Cut one open and you can see the apple goodness. They’re from a farm that doesn’t manufacture apples — they’re from a farm that grows them.

    Fortunately, it’s pretty easy to identify good apples, to tell those that are grown from those that are manufactured. I only wish I could say the same about elected leaders. Good luck at the polls, everyone. I’ve been thinking long and hard on your dilemma.

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    Posted in Food & Drink, Places | | 1 Comment
  • avon calling

    March 6th, 2014

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    The Paragon-Bristol copy

    Hello from the land of grey skies and green grass. That’s right, England again! This time I’m in Bristol, a place I haven’t seen in more than a couple of decades. England’s not the only one that’s getting a bit grey. Must say, I’m loving the vibe of this place. Lovely people, real ales, great food, shops, all in a walkable city package that’s bursting with art, culture, music and really good coffee too. And did I mention the towering trees? This city might just be the paragon of urban virtue.  I barely even noticed the rain occasionally fogging my lens. Above is a small glimpse of the area around Clifton Suspension Bridge, the world’s very first suspension bridge, which spans the Avon River Gorge, designed by Isambard Kingdom Brunel — an engineering feat which no doubt helped pave the way for our much more recent intercontinental bridges back in Istanbul.

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  • mistanbul returns

    February 20th, 2014

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    I like the way mist isolates objects, and shrouds the city in an atmosphere of mystery — it becomes kind of minimalist, like a Danish mystery. I’m suddenly imagining a co-production: From the North Sea to the Black Sea … a body floats past a Turkish socialite’s tea party, still clutching a diplomatic pouch in her pulse-free fingers. Murder most foul. One victim, two passports. A diplomat or a spy? Chief Inspector Sigurd Ericcson and Kaptan Mehmet-Ali Osman are on the case. How will the differing investigative styles of this unlikely duo lead to an arrest? A cross cultural clash is inevitable as a pan-continental pursuit leads the two from the water’s edge to the razor’s edge. From steam-soaked hamams to sweltering saunas, from Taksim Square’s wig-wearing, gender-bending transvestites to a sado-masochistic European Parliamentarian, a bizarre array of locations, witnesses and suspects will lead our Nordic-Turkic crime-fighting heroes on a harrowing journey to uncover not only a body — but a body of lies involving an international conspiracy of drugs, human trafficking, espionage and neo-liberalistic fascism, taking all concerned to the brink of professional and personal destruction and beyond.

    All I need now is some development money … any takers?

    Posted in Places | | 4 Comments
  • fire and water: urfa

    February 10th, 2014

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    Şanlıurfa, El Ruha, Edessa, Riha or perhaps just plain old Urfa (as it’s most commonly referred to) is a welcome surprise. The drive in from the airport, however, is not encouraging.. An imposing and ugly housing boom has left much of the outer fringe of modern Urfa looking like a victim of its own success. Then, however, you penetrate that encircling ugliness and find an ancient land associated with the prophet Abraham/Ibrahim and the local traditions of its Kurdish population as well as a very large Arabic minority and you begin to sense that you’re in for something different and possibly wonderful. Make no mistake: this is the East of Turkey, close to the Syrian border. Yet despite its proximity to that troubled land, it did not seem at my first, and very cursory glance, especially affected by the troubles on the other side of the border, nor too interested in the political strife in Istanbul or Ankara. There were certainly no protest regarding Internet censorship this weekend. Perhaps that’s because Urfa is one of the most prosperous cities in the area. It is something of a closed world. The older generation of men are often attired in headscarves and salwar trousers. If you look foreign, expect to be stared at. It might be somewhat unnerving, but it is unlikely to be unfriendly. In fact — if my limited experience is any indication — you’re likely to be welcomed most hospitably.

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    Among its many charms Urfa possesses a host of archaeological riches, including the recent discovery of one the world’s oldest neolithic settlements, dating back over 12,000 years. However, as I mentioned above, it is most commonly associated with the prophet Abraham/Ibrahim, being both his birthplace and the legendary site at which he was thrown into the fire by Nimrod, whereupon God turned fire into lake and coals into fish. Balıklıgöl, the pool, is beside the mosque of Halil-ur-Rahman, erected in 1211 and surrounded by the Gölbaşı-gardens. If you are lucky enough to spot a white fish in among the slate grey carp, it’s said that the heavens will open up for you. And while we neither glimpsed the white fish or nirvana, we still had a fine time strolling through this part of town before plunging into the smoke2y delights of the bazaar.

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    More than half the fun of a Turkish bazaar isn’t in the buying, but in the gathering … of stories, experiences and verbal exchanges. Urfa’s bazaar is no exception, and something else to behold. Unlike Istanbul’s more famous covered market, Urfa’s provides the charm of seeing the industry smack dab beside the retail. We were particularly interested in the metal work for which Urfa is renowned. Opposite stalls selling ornate teapots, ayran jugs and cups, platters and turkish coffee sets, you will witness the spectacle of three generations of men banging out their collections. These range from the glittery and cheap to the more pricey and valuable. Regardless of the quality you desire, for the price of a single Turkish coffee cup in Istanbul’s Kapalıçarşı (Covered Market) you can easily acquire an entire set.

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    After a prolonged period of mercantile negotiation, you’ll probably be ready to eat. We were particularly charmed by the humble outfit, Ciğerci Siyaset, which translates, roughly, to mean, “Liver-maker Politics” referring to a piece of the owner’s family history involving competitive swimming and community which I’m not sure I can do justice to in the re-telling. Suffice it to say that you’ll be treated to a spicy wrap of chicken, liver or meat here which you can garnish yourself with hot peppers, parsley, or eye-watering slices of onion. If it’s not spicy enough for you, there’s plenty of isot on hand for you to sprinkle on. It’s a particularly good bet for lunch.

    For accommodation, I’d only suggest one place. While there are a few charming (in an idiosyncratic kind of way) places to stay within easy walking distance of Balıklıgöl and the bazaar, only one is licensed to serve alcohol. Manici is both comfortable and clean, and allows you the pleasure of staying somewhere a little more colourful than the generic hospitality of a Hilton. The food was good too and the service friendly.

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    A word or two of caution, however. The Manici hotel hosts social nights referred to as sıra gecesi. These are certainly worth experiencing. However, if you take a room too close to the URHAY on the third floor, you’d better want to take part in the party. Otherwise you’ll be subjected to a lot of raucous spillover. So if you happen to have small children, or an early start the next day, avoid this part of the hotel. Otherwise, start swinging, Urfa-style. I know we’ll go back for that unique mix of fire and water.

  • old city, new door

    January 22nd, 2014

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    Don’t know about you, but I like a good door. This one was particularly appealing as I passed it by in a Sultanahmet han today. I like the patina of rust over the chipped green paint. I like the way it’s ramshackle and yet still locked up. I like the fact it’s all gone slightly off kilter with age (I can relate). And I really like the way the cats seemed to keep a lookout from it, slipping through the narrow gap at the bottom with their semi-liquid bodies. This unpretentious entrance is kind of grand.

    Posted in Places | | 2 Comments
  • the wonder of the pinewood

    January 19th, 2014

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    In Istanbul it’s increasingly difficult to remember that our world isn’t comprised entirely of concrete and glass. Luckily this city has a few surprises left in store. One of which is only a few hundred meters from Haci Osman Metro station. Rough and unkept, unlike Emirgan Park or Belgrad Forest, is a large, and largely unused, pine wood. Although it’s open to the public, it’s not open to cars — although, unfortunately, it did seem to be open to the  odd motorcycle.

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    A few hundred meters from the entrance, you begin to lose sight of anything but the stands of pine. A blue sky looms overhead, and sunlight filters through the branches. Soon the city disappears, and aside from the wail of the occasional siren, you hear little more than the wind through the trees. Stray a little from the beaten paths and you’ll soon feel the soft springy carpet of pine needles underfoot. It’s then that you can occupy yourself with the important things in life — such as locating the perfect pine cone.

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  • roundabout the thames

    November 19th, 2013

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    Polite nods. Leaf-strewn paths. Moss-veined brickwork. Winding paths. Posturing swans. Groomed trees. Cottage-sized homes. Good to be back in England. There’s nowhere else quite like it. Still, I miss you, Sof.