Monthly Archives: February 2013

Venezuela: A Sunset and A Spanish Fort

Overlooking the picturesque harbour along the coastline of Juan Greigo, is a small Spanish fort nestled on a hill. Fortin de la Galera, or Galley’s Fort as it’s known in English, is a historic site which was built in 1811 and stood the test of the Matasiete battle. It attracts thousands of visitors each year, both locals and tourists alike.

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Since I was staying at an inn nearby, I decided to take the walk up the hill to the fort, as opposed to hiring a taxi. The sun was warm but the soft coastal breeze tempered the heat as I slowly made my way up the ever increasing incline. The surrounding area was well taken care of, and many flowers proudly showed off their blossoms, tempting me to take several photographs with the Juan Greigo Harbour in the background. The road was paved and smooth, and the lack of vehicular traffic made my ascent a notably safe journey.

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As I neared the fort, I had to turn off the main road to climb up some stone stairs, alerting me that I had now arrived on the fort grounds. I then started to see other people strolling around nearby and others climbing the stairs ahead of me. The higher I climbed, the greater the view seemed to become. After a short hike, I arrived at the base of the fort. Looking up from below, the great stone walls seemed imposing, and its Venezuelan flag waved proudly from the top. Several other hikers were apparently tired from the walk as they sat on the walls of the fort, stretched their legs and admired the view from above.

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After I hauled myself to the summit, I understood firsthand as to why so many people were simply staring at the sky from the fort. The sun was just setting, and the resultant panorama was stunning as the sun dipped below the horizon. The golden sky seemed to clash with the blue sea , the green hills and brown cliff sides of the coast.

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From my perch, I could see all the small fishing boats in the harbour, and the fishermen hard at work as they prepared their vessels for their early morning trip the following day. I sat near to one of the many cannons which lined the walls of the fort and absorbed the beauty of the landscape below, happy to be treated to such an experience. As we all know, sunsets don’t last long, so I continued to explore the fort before the remaining light faded.

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The grounds of the fort were very appealing. A designer had created a small mini golf area in the middle of the property, with artistically broken clay jars and faux streams and lakes. Small shrubs and palm trees added a touch of greenery and water from a nearby pipe simulated a flowing stream.

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On the other side of the fort, the view didn’t have the pretty sunset, but the manmade lake that spanned a large area behind the fort was almost as captivating. The water was framed by small spits of land with dark green foliage and beyond the lake was a rolling mountain range. There was no question as to the natural charm of Margarita Island!

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Fortin de la Galera was a captivating and immaculately kept historical site, and I hope that it stays that way for future generations.

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I Love Rome! Roma, Ti Amo!

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The Festival of Lights in Trinidad

Due to the large Indian population in the nation of Trinidad and Tobago, many of the Hindu celebrations are recognized there, and Diwali is not an exception. The Festival of Lights is one of the largest holidays of the Indian society, and I was lucky enough to be invited to participate in the festivities with a local family.

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 In the days leading up to Diwali, there was a hustle and bustle in my neighbourhood, as locals did various chores around their homes in preparation for the event. Many different structures were skillfully created using dried halves of bamboo shoots on which lots of candles would be placed. Many of my Indian friends stopped eating meats of any kind, as this is part of their religious proceedings for Diwali.

 My close friend, Ameer invited me and a few of my friends over to his home to have dinner with his family to celebrate the event. The drive to his house was fascinating, as all of the Indians in the different villages and communities had seemingly hundreds of lights dotting their front lawns and porches. Everything from driveways to even the wall fences were bathed in a golden glow, and it was a spectacular sight to behold.

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 We soon arrived to Ameer’s home, and his house was even more lit that most of those we had passed on our journey there. On closer inspection, I discovered that the candes were actually small wicks floating around in oil contained within small clay jars. His driveway was tiled, so at each of the four edges of a tile, a small jar was placed, creating a lovely uniform design. All around his house, from the window sills to the garage was covered with the brightly lit clay jars.

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 His extended family was there too, and the small children ran around the yard, taking care to avoid the jars of flames which were apparently everywhere. I was nervous about this, but they did look adorable in their traditional wear. Brightly coloured garments covered them from head to toe and the Bindi mark on their foreheads significantly stood out in a bold declaration of their religion.

 Dinner was then held in the common room, and we were seated around a very long table. Several bowls of food were alligned in front of us containing all sorts of Indian dishes including Dahlpouri, Callaloo, roti skins, white rice, curried Channa and Aloo. We were then given freshly washed fig leaves on which we were to eat from using only our hands. It was quite the experience, and I treasure the memory. Everyone passed bowls of food around, and we were shown the easiest way to eat rice with our fingers. The ‘togetherness’ of this type of dinner is vastly apparent.

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 Everything that I ate tasted incredible, and I even tried a few delicacies that I was unable to identify. I was so pleased about everything, that I totally forgot that there wasn’t any meat involved! All too soon, the meal was over and we washed our hands and went out to the front lawn. Ameer and his brother set off a large amount of fireworks, and after a while other homes in the community did the same. The sky was constantly painted with colours, and loud booms echoed into the night. The little ones ran around with sparklers in their hand, as their parents and grandparents watched on.

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 I am really grateful to my friend for his generosity, as I celebrated Diwali with him and his loved ones. It was my first experience with the Indian lifestyle, and it was an enlightening cultural adventure.