A Music Tasting

Being neither a chamber music expert nor a French wine expert, last night’s event was an opportunity to learn a bit about both.  The venue was @Libitum Pte Ltd, Music and Art Studio on East Coast Road.  The wine and the information about it were provided by Guillaume of The French Cellar.  The music was performed by @Libitum Quartet.


I imagine some of my readers are thinking “isn’t a quartet four musicians?”  but these five very talented people to not all play at the same time.  When a piece called for the flute, Albert Shagimardanov gave up his seat to his father, Zufar.  The musicians from left to right are Zufar Shagimardanov, Elena Shagimardanov, Albert Shagimardanov, Narine Gevorgyan, and Khachatur Khachatryan.

There were four types of wine, each paired with two pieces of music.  Pairing wine with food has become almost commonplace but pairing it with music was a novelty I could not resist.  Here are my impressions:  The first wine was a sparkling wine called Clairette de Die Tradition.  The first piece of music was Polka Pizzicato by Johan Strauss; bubbly and light-hearted, it danced like the bubbles in my glass.  The next piece, also by Strauss was Tales from the Vienna Woods.  At first, the music seemed staid and sombre, so I was afraid it had been mismatched, and that it would be better with a red wine. Soon the music changed and became whimsical and playful.  I was told later that this kind of music was written to be played in the wine houses on the outskirts of Vienna and was meant to emulate the drunkenness of the patrons.

The next wine was Chateau Haut Bessac, a white wine from Bordeaux.  I thought I must have misunderstood because I thought Bordeaux wine is always red, but Guillaume explained that 80% of the wine from that region is red but not all.  I discovered that white wines from the Bordeaux region are very interesting.  Elena invited the audience to close their eyes and imagine they are in a garden.  The quartet played Mozart’s Flute Quartet in D major and suddenly Zufar’s flute filled the garden with birdsong.  It was magical.  The second piece paired with the white wine was a Baroque Quartet by J.S. Fasch.  This time the music was led by the flute and the strings were like gentle breezes blowing through the imaginary garden.

It was time now to start getting serious.  The first red wine was Bastien from the Cotes de Provence. Accompanying this wine were two pieces by A. Piazzolla, Oblivion and Adios Nanino.  The music, like the wine, was intense.  The finale was a red wine from Bordeaux (Orby) and two tangos; one, Chao Paris by Piazzolla, and Pur Una Cabeza by Carlos Gardel, probably the most recognizable tango ever.

For my readers in Singapore, I recommend checking out the @Libitum Facebook page for upcoming events.


A Five Hour Bus Ride

The cheapest way, short of walking or hitching a ride, to get between Singapore and Kuala Lumpur is by coach.  Several companies ply this route so choosing which one to use is based largely on how convenient the departure and arrival points are to where you are, and where you want to go.

I used to use a company that departs from a shopping mall 10 minutes on foot from my office. My last trip with my usual bus company ended up taking 8 hours instead of 5.  I did get to see a part of Singapore that I had never seen before and I took some photos while waiting for another bus to arrive so that the passengers could be consolidated.  This is a smart move, business-wise, for the bus company but it made my normal trip intolerably long.


Unlike long flights on airplanes, there are no meals served, no movies to watch, and no toilets.  That is why I changed bus companies.  It is not as convenient for me to get to the new departure point (I have to take my luggage on the public transit) but at least once I am on the coach it is only 5 hours travelling time to Kuala Lumpur and a meal of nasi lemak and hot coffee were served on board.

Please note – there are sometimes long delays at the border crossings which are beyond the control of the bus companies.


Hiking in Virgin Rainforest

Before there were blogs, even before there was email, there were postcards!  My sister found this one in her desk drawer and I want to share it with all of you.  Not only do I love the faces of the mother and baby sloths, but as my sister pointed out, the stamps are cool too!

In case you cannot read my handwriting (and who would blame you?), the postcard states, “Greetings from sunny Costa Rica.  I saw one of these sloths yesterday on a 12 mile hike through dense jungle.  Thank goodness the Indian guide had a machete!  (For the vines – sloths aren’t too dangerous)”

Apparently, I had a sense of humour back in the old days.

Our guide, Mauricio, not only showed us what was on the itinerary for our trek through the Bri Bri Indian reservation he also brought us up to speed on the political situation and took us to his friend’s house in the jungle because he needed to look after the livestock while his friend was in the hospital.  Who knew chickens and ducks will eat bananas?

I only wish I had a photo of the intrepid Andrea, crawling across the fallen tree that served as a bridge, on her hands and knees.


p.s. my sister doesn’t live here anymore so it won’t do you any good to visit her hoping to get a glimpse of the original 😉

End of an Era – Last Opening at Ikkan Gallery

Tuesday night, I went to the last opening night of Ikkan Gallery in Singapore. This gallery opened in May 2011 and has shown a staggering array of modern and contemporary artists. This last show features teamLab , a group of techno-artists that I was introduced to by Ikkan Sanada several years ago.  Although it is their last show at Ikkan Gallery, their presence in Singapore will remain as they now have permanent installations at The Arts Science Museum, The National Museum, and Marina Bay Sands.

I am going to miss attending the gallery openings which not only introduced me to art in its many and varied forms but also to art lovers.  The people who attended the openings were as interesting, to me, as the art that they came to appreciate.  I am forever grateful to Ikkan and Miho for inviting me to the openings, and allowing me a peek into a fantastical world.




My Hometown: Nickel Mining Capital of the World

I was bitten by the travel bug at a very early age and for my fourth birthday one of my older sisters gave me a lovely set of matching red and white luggage.  As a little kid, I travelled by train and I still enjoy that particular mode of transportation but, let’s face it, train travel is limiting.  Air travel made the world more accessible and my first flight was on Air Canada two years after its name had been changed from Trans-Canada Airlines. I had spent the summer of 1967 in Toronto with another of my older sisters and at the end of my vacation she brought me to Toronto International Airport, that’s what Lester B. Pearson International Airport was called back then. I travelled as an unaccompanied minor on the one-hour flight from Toronto to Sudbury.  The businessman in the window seat next to me probably took this flight weekly but he kindly pointed out to his overexcited eight year old seat partner how the farm fields looked like a patchwork quilt.  Maybe because I was so excited to be flying or maybe because I had drank several glasses of lemonade provided by the flight attendant (they were called stewardesses then), I used the washroom three times on that short flight.  In those days, small bars of soap wrapped in white paper bearing the red Air Canada logo were provided and I pocketed one for a souvenir.  After my third and final trip to the toilet, I returned to my seat and handing my seat partner a bar of soap said, “I couldn’t help but notice that you hadn’t been to the washroom so I brought you back your souvenir soap”. Now Air Canada Express offers 6 flights daily from Toronto to Sudbury with Tango fares starting at $79 CAD.

The Big Nickel
Lake Ramsey and Science North
Lake Ramsey and Science North

There are a host of attractions to enjoy in Sudbury including Science North with IMAX films and the Digital Dome Planetarium, the Big Nickel and the Dynamic Earth museum, the F. Jean MacLeod Butterfly Gallery, and The Art Gallery of Sudbury contained in the old Bell Mansion.









Sudbury has lots of outdoor activities with several golf courses, horseback riding, and many freshwater lakes for swimming, boating and fishing.  Lake Ramsey, which we called Ramsey Lake when I was a kid, was listed in the Guinness Book of World Records as the world’s largest lake located entirely within the boundaries of a single city.  That changed in 2001, not because Ramsey shrunk but because Sudbury’s boundaries grew to include the larger Lake Wanapitei.  You can take the Cortina boat tour of Lake Ramsey starting in May or you can stroll along the Jim Gordon Boardwalk which connects Science North to Bell Park.  Bell Park did not have the amphitheatre when I was eight years old but it did have a whitewashed wooden bandstand, a snack bar that served French fries with malt vinegar in paper cones, and a beach where I took my first swimming lessons.  Now the park hosts the Northern Lights Festival Boréal, the Sudbury Summerfest, annual dragonboat races and the Bell Park Gazebo Concert Series.

Sudbury Downs has offered live harness racing for 38 years with the first race being won by Pink Panther and Jim Wallace on Sunday, June 2nd, 1974.  I was a young woman when the racetrack first opened and it was an exciting place to spend time with friends.  Races are held on Wednesdays and Saturdays from May to New Year’s Eve and for those who wish to gamble there is Teletheatre wagering available throughout the year and over 350 machines at OLG Slots which is open 24/7.

Sudbury, like me and Air Canada, has changed over the years.  It is now a vibrant, modern city and, in keeping with all the technological changes of this new millennium, you can get a Sudbury Visitor Guide on-line..  Enjoy!

My ‘Cousins’ in Borneo

08 March 2017

After breakfast and the 1-hour boat ride back to Sandakan, we were taken to the Sepilok Orang Utan Rehabilitation Centre in the Kabili-Sepilok Forest Reserve.

There is a video screening at the Nature Education Centre and we were able to watch, through glass, young orangutans at a feeding platform that was like a playground with ropes etc.

It was pouring rain and cold.  I had forgotten that a few meters of altitude, makes a big difference in temperature.  Bring a hoodie or sweater along with a light raincoat.

Even in the rain, we got to interact with an older male who had been at the centre for some time and appeared to have no fear of humans.  He sat in the shelter while we all stood in the rain, with raincoats and umbrellas, taking photos of him.  His expression suggested that he thought we were stupid.


Old Man of the Forest
Old Man of the Forest – Photo by David Worthington


Please follow this link to adopt one of our cousins https://www.orangutan.org.au/

5 Things I Learned about Sea Turtles

  1. The hatchlings have to run from the shore to the water or they will get disoriented.  If they are released further out at sea, they will just swim back to the shore.
  2. The female adult turtles return to where they were hatched to lay their eggs.
  3. The sex of the turtle is determined by how hot the eggs get.  In order to manage the percentage of ‘girls’ to ‘boys’. the hatchery has shaded and full sun areas.  Where the new eggs get put is determined by where the others were most recently placed.

    Seligan Island hatchery (Photo by Andrea Brandle)
  4. The green turtles lay their eggs at night and the eggs hatch at night, both are adaptations that help to prevent the eggs and hatchlings from being eaten.
  5. Light confuses them.

Please follow this link to help with the conservation of sea turtles or just to buy a really cool calendar.      https://conserveturtles.org/product/2018-sea-turtle-scenes-calendar/

Selingan Turtle Island Escape

David had said that the only thing he really wanted to do on this trip was to visit the Turtle Islands and he sent me a link.  None of my friends that I asked had heard of it and considering that this would make a fantastic weekend getaway from Singapore, that is unfortunate.

I booked a 2-day/ 1-night tour with Amazing Borneo Tours.  We were picked up at the Nak Hotel at 9 a.m. after we had eaten a nice breakfast.  We were transferred to the “Sandakan seafront jetty” for a speedboat trip across 40 km of the Sulu Sea.  It reminded me of a similar trip from Phuket to the Phi Phi Islands in Thailand.


The brochure and reviews made the accommodation on the island sound primitive but with air conditioning and hot showers, I would have described it as moderate rather than basic.


Sandakan, Sabah

The flight across Borneo from K.K. to Sandakan is short (40 minutes) and if we had a couple of days more, we could have made the trip by bus or train.  Andrey pointed out that when we went to the Mount Kinabalu area, we were almost half-way to Sandakan.

Poster in the Sandakan airport

I had chosen the Nak Hotel for our one night in Sandakan because it sounded like it had character.  Unfortunately, in this case ‘character’ meant ‘needed maintenance etc.’.  The staff were all young and not very well trained.  The restaurant on the roof of the Nak served good food but the staff didn’t seem to understand the basics of customer service.  It is well-located and has history, so I really hope someone will take it over and turn it into a boutique hotel.

View from my room at the Nak Hotel

We went for a stroll around the downtown part of Sandakan before turning in for an early night so that we would be well-rested for the next day and our Sandakan-Seligan Turtle Island Escape.


Last day in K.K.

Monday, 6th March 2017

We had a flight booked to Sandakan in the afternoon, so David and Andrey decided that we should visit either the state or the city mosque. We decided on the city mosque.  On the way, we stopped at a posh shopping centre so that I could get a new battery for my camera.  The surprising thing about this shopping centre was that they charged people to use the toilets!

After buying the battery, we walked along a seaside path to a park across a highway from the mosque.  Getting across was a bit scary for me as I would rather ford a raging river than cross multiple lanes of traffic.


I was dressed modestly and had tucked my hair up under a baseball cap but it wasn’t sufficient.  I learned ages ago that shoulders and knees should be covered when visiting churches, and more recently, I learned that similar attire is needed when visiting Buddhist temples but in order to visit this mosque, arms needed to be covered and I was wearing a short-sleeved T-shirt.  Perhaps the ‘rules’ vary from country to country, or mosque to mosque.  When I visited the Blue Mosque in Istanbul, I had to put a scarf over my head but I am not sure if the scarf covered my arms.  I cannot honestly remember what I was wearing.