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US: Fayetteville, NC- The Fayette Symphony Orchestra’s French Connection Concert

Francophiles and Lafayette enthusiasts, this concert is for you.  On Jan. 11, the Fayetteville Symphony will explore the area’s heritage with the concert “The French Connection.” The first chamber concert of the season at St. John’s Episcopal Church will feature the Fayetteville Symphony String Quartet as they perform Ravel’s String Quartet, a piece that is a cornerstone composition of French Impressionism. String Quartet 2018-01-03_13-25-51

Founded in 1956, the Fayetteville Symphony Orchestra holds the distinction of being the oldest continuously-funded community orchestra in North Carolina. Fifty-one years later, their mission remains: To Educate. To Entertain. To Inspire.

Location: St. John’s Episcopal Church, 302 Green Street, Fayetteville, NC 28301
Date: Thurs, Jan 11, 2018
Time: 7:30 – 9:30 pm
Tel: 910-433-4690
www.fayettevillesymphony.org/2017-2018-concerts
For Regional Accommodations, Restaurants & Attractions: visitfayettevillenc.com

US: Alexandria, VA – Your Destination for a Family Friendly New Year’s Eve

This annual New Year’s Eve bash takes over Old Town Alexandria with more than 150 performances at 23 indoor venues, with live music, dancing, children’s face painting and games. First Night Alexandria is a celebration of the new year through the performing arts. Retail stores, hotels, museums and public buildings are turned into performance venues to showcase incredible local and regional talent.

For a small fee for adults (children 12 and under are free), you have access to all the entertainment, all evening. Everything is within easy walking distances. The afternoon’s Ninth Annual Fun Hunt with all-new activities for families and pets. There’s a venue at the Mount Vernon Fireworks 2014 - 2Recreation Center in Del Ray filled with fun activities for children 10 and younger, dancing in the street at the east end of King Street beginning at 10 pm and the piece de resistance is the First Night’s fireworks finale with a spectacular display over the Potomac River at midnight. First Night Alexandria is so packed with entertainment, you will have a hard time deciding which performances to attend.

Event Schedule and Locations:
10:00am Noon Year’s Eve – Alexandria Library – Kate Waller Barrett Branch, 717 Queen Street, Alexandria, VA 22314
12pm Watch Night at Alfred Street Baptist Church –301 South Alfred Street Alexandria
1pm George Washington Masonic Memorial Tour – George Washington Masonic Memorial, 101 Callahan Drive, Alexandria, VA, 22301
1pm Hooray For Books! – 1555 King Street, #101, Alexandria, VA 22314
1pm Olio – Oil & Vinegar Tasting – Olio Tasting Room. 1223 King Street, Alexandria, VA
1:30pm The Art League Gallery – 105 North Union Street, Alexandria, VA 22314
2pm 9th Annual Fun Hunt – Torpedo Factory Art Center, 105 North Union Street, Alexandria, VA 22314
2pm Kid’s Art for Animal Adoptions – Torpedo Factory Art Center, 105 North Union Street, Alexandria, VA 22314
2pm Mobile Art Lab – Durant Arts Center, 1605 Cameron Street, Alexandria, VA 22314
2pm Pottery at the Alexandria Archaeology Museum – Torpedo Factory Art Center, 105 North Union Street, Alexandria, VA 22314
2pm TC Williams Jazz Band – Embassy Suites Hotel, 1900 Diagonal Road, Alexandria, VA
2pm Ten Thousand Villages –Ten Thousand Villages, 915 King Street, Alexandria, VA
2pm Thinkfun Family Game Room – Durant Arts Center, 1605 Cameron Street
2:30pm George Washington Masonic Memorial Tour – George Washington Masonic Memorial, 101 Callahan Drive, Alexandria, VA, 22301
4pm George Washington Masonic Memorial Tour –George Washington Masonic Memorial, 101 Callahan Drive, Alexandria, VA, 22301
5pm Amazing Clowns – George Washington Masonic Memorial, 101 Callahan Drive, Alexandria, VA, 22301
5pm Let’s Make a Face – George Washington Masonic Memorial, 101 Callahan Drive, Alexandria, VA, 22301
5pm Seaworthy Small Ships –George Washington Masonic Memorial, 101 Callahan Drive, Alexandria, VA, 22301
6pm An Old Fashioned Carnival – Mount Vernon Recreation Center, 2701 Commonwealth Ave, Alexandria, VA 22305
6pm Becky’s Balloon Animals – Mount Vernon Recreation Center, 2701 Commonwealth Ave, Alexandria, VA 22305
6pm Blue Sky Puppets – George Washington Masonic Memorial, 101 Callahan Drive, Alexandria, VA, 22301
6pm How-To Cowboy: Jokefest – Mount Vernon Recreation Center, 2701 Commonwealth Ave, Alexandria, VA 22305
6pm Kickoff and Drawing for Fun Hunt Prize Winners – Durant Arts Center, 1605 Cameron Street, Alexandria, VA 22314
6pm Rainbow Rock Band – Mount Vernon Recreation Center, 2701 Commonwealth Ave
6:15pm Mike Rose – Little Theatre of Alexandria, 600 Wolfe Street, Alexandria, VA 22314
6:45pm Mister Don – Mount Vernon Recreation Center, 2701 Commonwealth Avenue, Alexandria, VA 22305
6:45pm Virginia Bronze – George Washington Masonic Memorial, 101 Callahan Drive, Alexandria, VA, 22301
7pm Alexandria Singers – Washington Street United Methodist Church, 109 South Washington Street, Alexandria, VA 22314
7pm Amateur Facepainters – Washington Street United Methodist Church, 109 South Washington Street, Alexandria, VA 22314
7pm Billy & Bob Classic Country Show – George Washington Masonic Memorial, 101 Callahan Drive, Alexandria, VA, 22301
7pm Blue Moon Cowgirls –St. Paul’s Episcopal Church, 228 South Pitt Street, Alexandria
7pm Blue Sky Puppets – George Washington Masonic Memorial, 101 Callahan Drive
7pm Cletus Kennelly – Alexandria’s Union Station | 110 Callahan Drive, Alexandria
7pm Curtis Blues – Alexandria Library – Kate Waller Barrett Branch, 717 Queen Street
7pm Dr. Robert Band – Fraternal Order of the Eagles 871, 1015 Cameron Street
7pm Irish Breakfast Band
7pm Janna Audey & Rob Santos – Long & Foster, 400 King Street, Alexandria, VA 22314
7pm Lesson Zero – Christ Church Auditorium, 118 North Washington Street, Alexandria
7pm Mike Rose – Little Theatre of Alexandria, 600 Wolfe Street, Alexandria, VA 22314
7pm Pete Farnham – Alexandria City Hall – Vola Lawson Lobby, 301 King Street
7pm Primary Colors – Durant Arts Center, 1605 Cameron Street, Alexandria, VA 22314
7pm Ruthie & the Wranglers – American Legion Post 24, 400 Cameron Street, Alexandria,
7pm Stairwells –Old Presbyterian Meeting House, 321 South Fairfax Street, Alexandria
7pm The Glimpses – Lloyd House, 220 North Washington Street, Alexandria, VA 22314
7pm The Grandsons – Torpedo Factory Art Center, 105 North Union Street, Alexandria
7pm The Rogues – Alexandria Visitor Center, 221 King Street, Alexandria, VA 22314
7pm The Truehearts –George Washington Masonic Memorial, 101 Callahan Drive
7pm Vaughn Ambrose Trio – Principle Gallery, 208 King Street, Alexandria, VA 22314
7pm Watch Night at Alfred Street Baptist Church –301 South Alfred Street Alexandria, VA
7:30pm Battle of the Local Stars –Durant Arts Center, 1605 Cameron Street, Alexandria
7:30pm How-To Cowboy: Jokefest- Mount Vernon Recreation Center, 2701 Commonwealth Avenue, Alexandria, VA 22305
7:30pm Katherine Archer – Duchess M, 805 King Street, Alexandria, VA 22314
7:30pm Razor Hill – Refresh Yoga, 110 King Street, Alexandria, VA 22314
7:30pm Tom Teasley Duo –Imagine Artwear, 1124 King Street, Alexandria, VA 22314
7:30pm Virginia Bronze –George Washington Masonic Memorial,101 Callahan Drive
7:45pm Billy Coulter Band- Fraternal Order of the Eagles 871, 1015 Cameron Street
7:45pm Bill Kirchen –Torpedo Factory Art Center, 105 North Union Street, Alexandria
7:45pm Janine Wilson Band- American Legion Post 24, 400 Cameron Street, Alexandria
7:45pm King Teddy – George Washington Masonic Memorial, 101 Callahan Drive
7:45pm Mark Wesling –Alexandria’s Union Station-110 Callahan Drive, Alexandria, VA
7:45pm Mike Rose- Little Theatre of Alexandria, 600 Wolfe Street, Alexandria, VA 22314
7:45pm Nicole Belanus –St. Paul’s Episcopal Church, 228 South Pitt Street, Alexandria
7:45pm Nobody’s Business –Christ Church Auditorium, 118 North Washington Street
7:45pm Not So Modern Jazz Quartet – Lyceum, 201 South Washington Street
7:45pm Sound of Sleat – George Washington Masonic Memorial, 101 Callahan Drive
7:45pmWashington Philharmonic’s Woodwind Quintet –Washington Street United Methodist Church, 109 South Washington Street, Alexandria, VA 22314
8pm Al Petteway & Amy White – Old Presbyterian Meeting House, 321 South Fairfax St.
8pm Blue Sky Puppets-George Washington Masonic Memorial, 101 Callahan Drive
8pm Janna Audey & Rob Santos – Long & Foster, 400 King Street, Alexandria, VA 22314
8pm The Glimpses – Lloyd House, 220 North Washington Street, Alexandria, VA 22314
8pm The Rogues – Alexandria Visitor Center, 221 King Street, Alexandria, VA 22314
8pm Vaughn Ambrose Trio – Principle Gallery, 208 King Street, Alexandria, VA 22314
8:15pm Mister Don- Mount Vernon Recreation Center, 2701 Commonwealth Avenue
8:30pm Alexandria Singers – Washington Street United Methodist Church, 109 South Washington Street, Alexandria, VA 22314
8:30pm Billy & Bob Classic Country Show- George Washington Masonic Memorial, 101 Callahan Drive, Alexandria, VA, 22301
8:30pm Blue Moon Cowgirls –St. Paul’s Episcopal Church, 228 South Pitt Street
8:30pm Cletus Kennelly – Alexandria’s Union Station | 110 Callahan Drive, Alexandria
8:30pmCurtis Blues  –Alexandria Library – Kate Waller Barrett Branch,717 Queen Street
8:30pm Dr. Robert Band –Fraternal Order of the Eagles 871, 1015 Cameron Street
8:30pm Irish Breakfast Band –Lyceum, 201 South Washington Street, Alexandria, VA
8:30pm Katherine Archer- Duchess M, 805 King Street, Alexandria, VA 22314
8:30pm Lesson Zero –Christ Church Auditorium, 118 North Washington Street
8:30pm Mike Rose –Little Theatre of Alexandria, 600 Wolfe Street, Alexandria, VA 22314
8:30pm Pete Farnham- Alexandria City Hall – Vola Lawson Lobby, 301 King Street
8:30pm Razor Hill – Refresh Yoga, 110 King Street, Alexandria, VA 22314
8:30pm Ruthie & the Wranglers –American Legion Post 24, 400 Cameron Street
8:30pm The Grandsons – Torpedo Factory Art Center, 105 North Union Street
8:30pm The Truehearts  –George Washington Masonic Memorial,101 Callahan Drive
8:30pm Tom Teasley Duo- Imagine Artwear, 1124 King Street, Alexandria, VA 22314
8:45pmVirginia Bronze- George Washington Masonic Memorial, 101 Callahan Drive
9pm Janna Audey & Rob Santos- Long & Foster, 400 King Street, Alexandria, VA
9pm Stairwells – Old Presbyterian Meeting House, 321 South Fairfax Street
9pm The Glimpses  – Lloyd House, 220 North Washington Street, Alexandria, VA
9pm The Rogues – Alexandria Visitor Center, 221 King Street, Alexandria, VA 22314
9pm Vaughn Ambrose Trio –Principle Gallery, 208 King Street, Alexandria, VA 22314
9:15pm Bill Kirchen – Torpedo Factory Art Center, 105 North Union Street, Alexandria
9:15pm Billy Coulter Band – Fraternal Order of the Eagles 871, 1015 Cameron Street
9:15pm Janine Wilson Band – American Legion Post 24, 400 Cameron Street, Alexandria
9:15pm King Teddy – George Washington Masonic Memorial, 101 Callahan Drive
9:15pm Mark Wesling – Alexandria’s Union Station, 110 Callahan Drive, Alexandria, VA
9:15pm Mike Rose – Little Theatre of Alexandria, 600 Wolfe Street, Alexandria, VA 22314
9:15pm Nicole Belanus –St. Paul’s Episcopal Church, 228 South Pitt Street, Alexandria
9:15pm Nobody’s Business – Christ Church Auditorium, 118 North Washington Street
9:15pm Not So Modern Jazz Quartet – Lyceum, 201 South Washington Street, Alexandria
9:15pm Sound of Sleat – George Washington Masonic Memorial, 101 Callahan Drive
9:15pm Washington Philharmonic’s Woodwind Quintet – Washington Street United Methodist Church, 109 South Washington Street, Alexandria, VA 22314
9:30pm Curtis Blues – Alexandria Library – Kate Waller Barrett Branch, 717 Queen Street
9:30pm Katherine Archer – Duchess M, 805 King Street, Alexandria, VA 22314
9:30pm Keira Moran- Durant Arts Center, 1605 Cameron Street, Alexandria, VA 22314
9:30pm Pete Farnham – Alexandria City Hall – Vola Lawson Lobby, 301 King Street
9:30pm Razor Hill- Refresh Yoga, 110 King Street, Alexandria, VA 22314
9:30pm Tom Teasley Duo – Imagine Artwear, 1124 King Street, Alexandria, VA 22314
10pm Al Petteway & Amy White – Old Presbyterian Meeting House, 321 South Fairfax St.
10pm Alexandria Singers – Washington Street United Methodist Church, 109 South Washington Street, Alexandria, VA 22314
10pm Billy & Bob Classic Country Show- George Washington Masonic Memorial, 101 Callahan Drive, Alexandria, VA, 22301
10pm Blue Moon Cowgirls- St. Paul’s Episcopal Church,228 South Pitt Street, Alexandria
10pm Christ Church Sanctuary- Christ Church Auditorium, 118 North Washington Street
10pm Cletus Kennelly – Alexandria’s Union Station, 110 Callahan Drive, Alexandria, VA
10pm Dr. Robert Band – Fraternal Order of the Eagles 871, 1015 Cameron Street
10pm Irish Breakfast Band – Lyceum, 201 South Washington Street, Alexandria, VA
10pm Janna Audey & Rob Santos – Long & Foster, 400 King Street, Alexandria, VA 22314
10pm Lesson Zero – Christ Church Auditorium, 118 North Washington Street, Alexandria
10pm Mike Rose – Little Theatre of Alexandria, 600 Wolfe Street, Alexandria, VA 22314
10pm Ruthie & the Wranglers – American Legion Post 24, 400 Cameron Street
10pm Stairwells – Alexandria Waterfront, King Street, Alexandria, VA 22314
10pm The Glimpses – Lloyd House, 220 North Washington Street, Alexandria, VA 22314
10pm The Grandsons –Torpedo Factory Art Center, 105 North Union Street, Alexandria
10pm The Rogues – Alexandria Visitor Center, 221 King Street, Alexandria, VA 22314
10pmThe Truehearts –George Washington Masonic Memorial, 101 Callahan Drive
10pm Vaughn Ambrose Trio – Principle Gallery, 208 King Street, Alexandria, VA 22314
10pm Watch Night at Alfred Street Baptist Church, 301 South Alfred Street Alexandria
10:30pm Curtis Blues – Alexandria Library – Kate Waller Barrett Branch, 717 Queen St.
10:30pm Katherine Archer – Duchess M, 805 King Street, Alexandria, VA 22314
10:30pm Pete Farnham – Alexandria City Hall – Vola Lawson Lobby, 301 King Street
10:30pm  Tom Teasley Duo – Imagine Artwear, 1124 King Street, Alexandria, VA 22314
10:45pm Bill Kirchen – Torpedo Factory Art Center, 105 North Union Street, Alexandria
10:45pm Billy Coulter Band – Fraternal Order of the Eagles 871, 1015 Cameron Street
10:45pm Janine Wilson Band- American Legion Post 24,400 Cameron St., Alexandria
10:45pm King Teddy – George Washington Masonic Memorial, 101 Callahan Drive
10:45pm Mark Wesling- Alexandria’s Union Station, 110 Callahan Drive, Alexandria, VA
10:45pm Nicole Belanus- St. Paul’s Episcopal Church, 228 South Pitt Street, Alexandria
10:45pm Nobody’s Business – Christ Church Auditorium, 118 North Washington Street
10:45pm Not So Modern Jazz Quartet – Lyceum, 201 South Washington St, Alexandria
10:45pm Sound of Sleat  – George Washington Masonic Memorial, 101 Callahan Drive
10:45pm Washington Philharmonic’s Woodwind Quintet –Washington Street United Methodist Church, 109 South Washington Street, Alexandria, VA 22314
12am Fireworks on the River! – Alexandria Waterfront, King Street, Alexandria, VA 22314

Location: Old Town, Alexandria, VA
Date: Sun, Dec 31st, 2017
Times: 10am – midnight
Tel: 703-746-3299
firstnightalexandria.org
For Regional Accommodations, Restaurants & Attractions: visitalexandriava.com

US: Dover, DE – Where Kids Can Shop For Craftsy Xmas Gifts

Join the The Biggs Museum of American Art to kick-off the holiday season with their 2nd annual Happy Holidays Dover celebration. This event, which takes place from 9 a.m. – 5 p.m., will coincide with the Downtown Dover holiday celebration and it will end with the start of the Downtown Dover holiday parade.Happy Holidays Dover2017-11-13_10-42-52

This all day family fun event offers a Special “Kids Only” Holiday Shop, where children ages 4-12  can purchase gifts (ranging from $1-$10) for their friends and family and decorate their own gift bags/gift cards. Items include handmade ornaments, jewelry, key chains and  bookmarks.Happy Holidays Dover Xmas Card2017-11-13_10-42-52

Highlights will include:  crafts,  live artist/craftsmen demonstrations, an expanded gift shop of handmade holiday items, food trucks, performances from children’s choirs, and a  special display of miniature holiday themed dollhouses.

Happy Holidays Dover Scarfs2017-11-20_11-55-51Tentative Schedule of Events: TBD – 9:30 -10 AM
Christ Church Dover Children’s Choir – 10-10:30 AM
Smyrna High School Select Group Choir – 10:45-11:15 AM
Smyrna High School Jazz Band – 11:30-12 PM
En Pointe Studio, selections from “The Nutcracker” -12:15-12:45 PM
Smyrna Church of Christ and Christian School Choir – 1-1:30 PM
Campus Community School First State Club “Mummer’s Play”- 1:50-2:15
Campus Community School Choir – 2:30 PM – 3 PM
TBD – 3:15-3:45
TBD – 4-4:30 PM

Free Admission

Location: Biggs Museum of American Art, 406 Federal St., Dover, DE 19901
Date: Sat, Dec 2nd, 2017
Time: 9 – 5 pm
Tel: 302-674-2111
biggsmuseum.org
For Regional Accommodations, Restaurants, & Attractions: visitwilmingtonde.com

US: Daytona Beach, FL – Praise the Lord and Pass the Suntan Lotion

The Daytona Beach Drive–In Church – Back in 1953 when this was still the Neptune Drive-In Theater, The First Christian Church organized the first drive-in service. Daytona Drive In Church

Buying the property in 1957, they now welcome everyone – tourists, the physically challenged, families with kids or those looking for a unique way to worship (honking your horn = clapping).

Services typically last for about 55 minutes and they offer hot coffee and Krispy Kreme donuts before and after each service in Friendship Hall.

Perfect for those going to swim on Sunday (don’t need to wear your Sunday best!) – just stay in the car, tune in on your radio, and at the end Rev. Robert Kemp-Baird will shake your hand through the window – then you can zip across the street to the beach.

Location: Daytona Beach Drive In Christian Church, 3140 South Atlantic Avenue
Daytona Beach Shores, FL 32118
Hours: Sun 8:30 & 10
Tel: 386-767-8761
driveinchurch.net
For Regional Accommodations, Restaurants & Attractions: DaytonaBeach.com

US: Alexandria, VA – Alexandria Celebrates George Washington’s Birthday

This city throws a birthday party every year for its famous first citizen, George Washington, who lived here most of his life (when he wasn’t off leading a war or being first president of United States). He was born February 22. 1732 in Virginia and Alexandria commemorates with  George Washington-themed events throughout the month each February.George Washington's Birthday

In the spirit of the old cherry tree tale, from now until Feb 11th, Alexandria restaurants are challenged to a very cherry culinary contest. At participating restaurants diners are encouraged to vote for their favorite cherry drinks, starters, entrees and desserts.
(703) 829-6640 For participating restaurants and more info: washingtonbirthday.com/events-1/2017/1/29/cherry-challenge   Photo Credit: Tisara Photography

How about a Walking with Washington Tour. Walk in George Washington’s footsteps through his hometown, historic Alexandria. View some of the sites connected to the General, like where he filled his prescriptions or slept overnight. FREE
Begin your journey: Ramsay House Visitors Center, 221 King Street, Alexandria, VA 22314
Dates: Sun. Feb 5, 12, 19, 2017
Time: 2 -3:30pm
washingtonbirthday.com/events-1/2017/2/5/walking-with-washington

Historic Alexandria “Open House” : In honor of the birthday of George Washington admission is FREE to the following sites on Parade Day.
Gadsby’s Tavern Museum (134 North Royal Street, Alexandria, Virginia), 11:00 a.m. – 4:00 p.m.
Friendship Firehouse Museum (107 S. Alfred St., Alexandria, Virginia), 10:00 a.m. – 4:00 p.m.
Old Presbyterian Meeting House (323 South Fairfax Street, Alexandria, Virginia), 10:00 a.m. – 4:00 p.m.
The Lyceum (201 S. Washington St., Alexandria, Virginia), 10:00 a.m. – 4:00 p.m.
Carlyle House (121 N. Fairfax St., Alexandria, Virginia), 11:00 a.m. – 4:00 p.m.
Stabler-Leadbeater Apothecary Museum (105-107 S. Fairfax St., Alexandria, Virginia), 11:00 a.m. – 4:00 p.m.
Christ Church (118 N. Washington St., Alexandria, Virginia), 9:00 a.m. – 4:00 p.m
Date: Mon, Feb 20, 2017
Time: 9am – 4pm
washingtonbirthday.com/events-1/2017/2/20/historic-alexandria-open-house

Throughout the weekend, participate in public wreath-layings at the Washingtons’ Tomb, see 18th-century dancing demonstrations and character performances, and enjoy birthday cake with “General and Martha Washington.” Feb 18 & 19: Included in admission. Mount Vernon Photo Credit: Mount Vernon

On February 20, see the Official Observance Ceremony of George Washington’s Birthday, a special military demonstration, and a musical salute to the first president. The Pioneer Farm will also be open on this day. Admission is FREE
Photo Credit: Mount Vernon

The celebration continues on February 22 as Mount Vernon offers FREE admission on George Washington’s actual birthday.
Dates: Feb 18, 19, 20, 22, 2017
Time: 9am – 4pm
mountvernon.org/plan-your-visit/calendar/events/celebrate-washingtons-birthday-on-presidents-day/

For Regional Accommodations, Restaurants & Attractions: visitalexandriava.com

Canada: Port Sydney, Nova Scotia – St Patrick’s Church

The ceiling of St Patrick’s Church was created by inverting the hull of a ship.

St Patrick's Church

 

 

South Africa: Visiting Robben Island, UNESCO World Heritage Site

By Adele Shapiro – March 2012.

As a child I used to visit Robben Island with my grandmother. Her son, my uncle, was a warder in the prison services there. The name “Robben”, despite sounding very English – is in fact the Dutch for “Seal” – and the name derives from the extensive seal colony that was found on the Island by the first Dutch settlers.

We would go to the Cape Town docks and from there, take a boat ride to the island, where we would spend the day with family. I was vaguely aware that there were bad people on the island, and that it was a prison…. but little did I know then of the role it was to play in South Africa’s later history. Years passed and now as an adrobben1ult, I found myself revisiting the place where “the bad people” were kept, only now I realized that some were not so bad after all.

I bought a ticket for the tour some days before the trip, (advisable, as they fill up quickly) and took time out to examine the display at the Nelson Mandela Gateway at the V&A Waterfront in Cape Town.

There were many photographs of the political dissidents, the calls for boycotts, the anti-apartheid marches and there was also a prison cell that had been reconstructed for the purposes of the exhibit. I strongly recommend a visit to this exhibit before going to the island as it helps to contextualize the experience.

The trip began, as in times of old, with a boat ride from Cape Town docks, but this time instead of my uncle meeting us, we had a pleasant tour guide who told us jokes on our bus trip, whilst pointing out various sights on the island. Our bus was parked under a sign that said: “Welcome. We serve with pride.” I wondered if that sign had been there when Robben Island had been a prison as it was so sharply incongruous to the environment. I hoped not.

robben2Robben Island has had a long history. First as a lighthouse to warn ships of the VOC, the Dutch East India Company (Verenigde Oostindische Compagnie), of the rocks that surround the island. But since the end of the 17th century, Robben Island has been used for the isolation of (mainly) political prisoners. The island was also used at various times as an animal quarantine station, a home for slaves, a leper colony, a hospital for the mentally ill and as a prison for French Vichy prisoners of war.

First we saw the Leper Graveyard and then house where Robert Sobukwe (Founder of the Pan Africanist Congress) had been kept separate from the other political dissidents.

It seems that Robert Sobukwe had special status in the prison. He was kept in solitary confinement at all times, but allowed certain privileges including access to books, being permitted to study, being permitted to wear civilian clothes, and being permitted bread. His children were allowed to visit him and they had their own bedroom in his “house”. Robert Sobukwe was convicted of incitement for demonstrating against and defying the Pass Laws, and in particular, for his connection to the PAC demonstration (although he was not present) which became known as the Sharpeville Massacre.

The notorious Pass Laws required black people to carry a pass book at all times when outside their compounds or designated areas, and were designed to limit severely the movements of the non-white population. This legislation was one of the dominant features of the country’s apartheid system.

Sobukwe was sentenced to three years in prison. After serving his sentence, he was moved to Robben Island for internment, as a new law called the General Law Amendment Act had been passed, which permitted his imprisonment to be renewed annually at the discretion of the Minister of Justice. This procedure became known as the “Sobukwe clause” and Robert Sobukwe was the only person whose imprisonment was extended under this clause. Imagine how special one has to be in order for parliament to pass a law just for you!

We also learned from our tour guide that the American politician and Pastor, Andrew Young, had fostered Sobukwe’s children in the USA, while Sobukwe had been in prison.

Our tour continued to the lime quarry where the political prisoners had worked. At the entrance to the quarry we saw a small cairn, and learned its history. In February 1995, (the landmark change of government was in 1994), about one thousand former political prisoners gathered again on Robben Island, but this time as free men, and to mark the occasion, each one placed a small stone from the quarry in a pile, making a small memorial to their years of hardship and struggle.

As we continued on our bus ride, we were shown a church, a hospital, a school and a mosque, and realized that far beyond our expectations, the island had supported a whole community. We duly arrived at the prison and tumbled out of the bus for our tour of “the real thing”. We were excited and filled with high spirits and I wondered for a moment where my heart would have been had I not been a tourist.

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Inside we found grey walls. It was cool at midday; it was clear that at midnight it would be very cold. The communal cells were large and each had a bathroom attached.

Here we met our prison tour guide, Derrick Basson, a former political prisoner who served time on Robben Island for sabotage.

Derrick was very patient, humble and remarkably, not bitter. He answered all the insensitive questions calmly and without anger. In addition he explained the grading of the prisoners by race and also the diets that varied due to the racial classification of each prisoner. One of the curious facts he told us was that black prisoners were not given bread. As they were Africans their “natural” food was considered to be maize meal. The mixed race prisoners were allowed bread as they were considered to be more western or European and less African. The black Africans were also not allowed jam or syrup. I suppose you do not need jam if you have no bread.

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Then I remembered that Robert Sobukwe, in spite of being black, was allowed to have bread, and it struck me that this must have been because he had been a university professor, and since this is a very “European” and non-tribal job, maybe he was considered eligible to receive bread.

Derrick further explained how prisoners slept on mats on the floor and how 5 blankets had not been enough to keep them warm at night. I suddenly remembered an interview with a former Alcatraz inmate who spoke of the extreme cold and of how prisoners had learned to sleep with only their elbows and knees touching the floor, hands locked behind the head. I became very grateful for my duvet.

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We were told that in the beginning the political prisoners had been kept with the ordinary criminals, but later on, they were, thankfully, given their own “wing” and kept together. They came to call this place “The University” as they learned many things from each other and many of them also obtained degrees while in prison.

Derrick then took us to a yard where the prisoners had chopped rocks and turned them into stones, day after day in the sun. They were told that these rocks were used for roads built on the island, but no one seemed to know if this was true or not.

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We were then taken to Nelson Mandela’s cell. Mandela was a militant anti-apartheid activist, as well as the co-founder and leader of the armed wing of the African National Congress (ANC), Umkhonto we Sizwe or “Spear of the Nation”. He was arrested in 1962 and convicted of sabotage, (amongst other charges), after he admitted to manufacturing explosives and acts of public violence, and was sentenced to life imprisonment. Mandela served 27 years in prison, 18 of these on Robben Island. After his release, he served as President of South Africa from 1994 to 1999.

My very first impression was of how small the cell was. No, not small, tiny. And then I thought that at least he could stand up and lie down in it, but not much more than that. At least it was larger than the dreadful box that I had heard was used in China. But there was no toilet. Just a metal bucket with a lid. At least a lid. And no tap, so no water. And if you are thirsty during the night, what should you do? And of course there was no electrical socket and no radio nor TV. And all I could think of was 27 years. TWENTY SEVEN YEARS! There was no door handle on the inside. The door was only operational from the outside, not unlike a cage. I remembered that Nelson Mandela had once remarked that the hardest and most traumatic experience he endured whilst on Robben Island for all those years was that he never ever saw, or even heard, a child. Can you imagine that? Now he insists on being photographed with children, whenever possible.

robben10And then it was all over. We walked out to the yard, Derrick took us to the exit, and we said our goodbyes.I felt an odd mixture of elation and depression. Very happy that I had been to a UNESCO World Heritage Site of such importance, happier still that it was no longer a prison, and most happy that I was leaving. Yet also depressed and ashamed because of the suffering this place represented.

Duly subdued, we gratefully returned to our boat to ponder our feelings of inspiration and shock, enjoy the beautiful sunset cruise back to Cape Town, and watch a school of dolphins at play in the sea.

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Remember when planning a visit to Robben Island, that the tours don’t always run on time. There was no snack bar on the boat. Our boat was 1 hour late in leaving Cape Town harbour and then we were rushed through our tour, which was a pity as there was too little time for questions.

A suggestion would be to make no appointments after the visit as the timing can vary, and also, take a snack pack. A sun hat and sun block are also good ideas.

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Ferries depart (supposedly) at 9am, 11am, 1pm and 3pm, weather permitting, from Nelson Mandela Gateway, at the V&A Waterfront in Cape Town. Tickets costs are R230 for adults and R120 for children (U/18). Telephone: +27 (0)21 413 4200
Fax: +27 (0)21 419 1057

Canada Ottawa: Museum of History

The swooping architecture of the building and jaw-dropping 17 metre-high domed ceiling of Canada Hall are visions you will not easily forget after you have visited the newly named Canadian Museum of History (was Canadian Museum of Civilization), which covers Canadian life from AD 1000 to 2000.

From now until Sept 28, 2014,  you can enjoy the informative exhibit about Snow and the ingenious ways in which  Canadians have adapted to difficult winter conditions, from sleighs to snow removal. You can participate in a fun quiz at the end.

The museum is a playground for all, as the Children’s Museum takes the kids on travels around the world – including a passport to stamp in each country. All kinds of imaginative play from driving a bus, motorcycle, ship or camel to running a shop, putting on a puppet show, living in a pyramid, moving heavy boxes using a winch, or booking a trip can all be tried out.

museumofhistory
In the main galleries, visitors see a Viking family arriving in Newfoundland around AD 1000,  discover New France through a farmhouse, inn, hospital, shoemaker’s shop and visit a voyageur camp, a lumber camp, a Métis campsite, British military living quarters and a Maritime shipyard. There’s a stroll past shops  along the main street of a small town in late 19th-century Ontario.

Learn about life in a turn-of-the-century prairie railway station and yard, a Saskatchewan grain elevator, an authentic Ukrainian church, a Chinese hand laundry and a 1920s Alberta oil derrick. You can even sit in Yellowknife’s Wildcat Cafe, the town’s first restaurant and a popular gathering spot for prospectors, bush pilots, miners and trappers.

If you love animals, leave time for the up close and personal movie, Kenya 3-D about a safari through Africa.

Location: 100 Laurier St., Gatineau, Quebec K1A 0M8
Phone: 819-776-7000 or 800-555-5621
www.civilization.ca

Argentina: Walk in the Footsteps of the Pope

Pope Francis (born Jorge Mario Bergoglio) was born in the Flores neighborhood of Buenos Aires. You see the church where he worshipped and where he felt a calling to devote his life to God.

Twice on Saturdays and Sundays, a 3-hour FREE government-sponsored Papal Circuit bus tour takes you past 24 landmarks of his life: the tree-shaded street of his middle class childhood home (531 Membrillar, where his parents, Regina Maria Sivori and Mario Bergoglio raised their 5 children), the plaza where he played soccer, his school, his barber (where he also received pedicures!), his favorite newsstand, and the Metropolitan Cathedral which he presided over as an archbishop.