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Montgolfiere Weekly

An exploration of culture in its many forms

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by Patricia Lightfoot

Travelling in Japan: Koyasan

By Patricia Lightfoot

Here is the final instalment of a brief tour of Japan presented through the Japanese words I practised each day. After Kyoto, we went to Mount Koya or Koyasan, which is an area of religious significance, being the centre of Shingon Buddhism.  One attraction for visitors, apart from the town’s natural setting in the mountains, its history, its many temples and other religious buildings, is the opportunity to stay in a temple lodging, Continue reading “Travelling in Japan: Koyasan”

Travelling in Japan: Kyoto

By Patricia Lightfoot

Here is the third instalment of a brief tour of Japan presented through the Japanese words I practised each day.
In Kyoto, we stayed in a two-hundred-year-old wooden building that had been operated as an inn by the current owner’s family for over a century. The ground floor is now a whisky bar with Belle Époque–style stained glass. The upper floor has traditional Japanese rooms with rice-paper screens, tatami mats and cushions to sit on, but there is also an Edwardian sitting room with a wooden floor and armchairs. Continue reading “Travelling in Japan: Kyoto”

Travelling in Japan: Nikko

By Patricia Lightfoot

Here is the second instalment of a brief tour of Japan presented through the Japanese words I practised each day.
The train from Tokyo took some time to leave the greater metropolitan area, which was not surprising as some 38 million people live there, and move into a landscape of villages, small holdings, rice fields, trees with no leaves but bearing orange fruit, a few large houses with gardens of manicured trees, and distant mountains. Continue reading “Travelling in Japan: Nikko”

Travelling in Japan: Tokyo

By Patricia Lightfoot

Based on a recent visit, these are my impressions of Japan. It’s a Western country, so a lot is familiar, but there are many fascinating differences. I was struck by the great contrast between the skyscrapers and neon signs of downtown districts and the older neighbourhoods. Walking into our neighbourhood in Asakusa in Tokyo was like entering a film set: narrow streets were lined with wooden houses that are hundreds of years old, often where the same family has lived or run a business for many generations. In these areas, businesses can be hard to find, because they can be very discreet. Continue reading “Travelling in Japan: Tokyo”

Playing with robots

By Patricia Lightfoot

I have been thinking about Nora Ephron’s account of her obsession with Scrabble Blitz, “a four-minute version of Scrabble solitaire,” which left her with “all the symptoms of terminal attention deficit disorder,” as she dreamed about scrabble, fell asleep memorizing two- and three-letter words and tuned out of conversations. I am now beguiled by the Bridge Base Online (BBO) app. I play the anonymous form of the game with three robots. My symptoms are not as pronounced as Ephron’s, but there’s no telling how far this might go. Continue reading “Playing with robots”

Lost books

By Patricia Lightfoot

When I say “lost books,” I don’t mean books that I once owned and can no longer find. I mean books that I once heard being read aloud, or read myself and returned to their rightful owner, but have no way of finding, having long forgotten the title and the name of the author. I remain sadly tantalized by fragments of barely remembered text and images. Continue reading “Lost books”

In defence of the “Fredly”

By Patricia Lightfoot

A group of us rode the 100 km from Perth to Kingston and back the other weekend through rural Ontario. During the preceding week, we had checked the weather forecast repeatedly, if not obsessively. As the ride approached, showers featured prominently in the forecast but then gave way to a prediction of sunshine and temperatures in the mid-twenties. We prepped the bikes. We made lists, or at least I did, of what should be packed and transported by van to Kingston, including footwear to be worn there, as it’s hard to clip-clop around town in bike shoes. A few years ago, one of our party had been obliged to purchase a vivid-purple emergency pair of flip flops at a dollar store in Westport to the vast amusement of all. Continue reading “In defence of the “Fredly””

Unmissable Chagall

By Patricia Lightfoot

When I think of Marc Chagall, I think of paintings I have seen in museums in Europe and North America that have a dream-like quality, featuring floating characters, washed in a rich and luminous blue. The superb exhibition “Chagall: Colour and music” at the Montreal Museum of Fine Arts offers a whole other perspective on Chagall, the complete artist, who designed theatre sets, costumes for ballets and operas, tapestries and ceramics, and whose stained-glass windows illuminate many places of worship. Continue reading “Unmissable Chagall”

A split life

By Patricia Lightfoot

This week my family celebrated the twenty-fifth anniversary of our arrival in Canada as visitors, though our landed-immigrant papers arrived a week after us. As we were driven down the Décarie Expressway in Montreal with our babies on our knees in May 1992, we looked at the cement all around and the trees without leaves and we wondered what we had done. The following day, walking around Montreal in the sunshine, perplexed by the mixture of what we knew of as early and late spring and summer flowers in the gardens, we realized that this might work. Continue reading “A split life”

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