Monday, July 20, 2015

The Power of Images

National Geographic was a staple in our home when I was a teenager. At that age I knew the lyrics of all the songs on the radio much better that my school work and I spent hours in front of the mirror putting on makeup and teasing my hair. So as you might expect, actually "reading" an article about some endangered species in the jungles of Cambodia or cultural traditions in Peru was highly unlikely. The images, however, had my full attention. Exotic looking women in traditional dress, the grandiose architecture of European cities and the mysterious photos of narrow streets in a Turkish bazaar captivated me! Travelling to those places seemed like a remote possibility, but those images planted a seed and that remote possibility eventually became a reality.

Here I am with an actual "Long Neck" woman in Thailand. These women are refugees from Myanmar (Burma).

So, for me, images are very inspiring! While, I still get the travel bug when I see pictures of exotic places, I may have to be content with Pinterest to inspire me to embark on new experiences closer to home. Perfecting a new recipe or transforming a piece of furniture with a coat of paint can be an adventure! Can't it??

Wednesday, July 8, 2015

A Large Day on the Fundy Coast!

I'm sure that where ever you live in Canada, or in most places in the world for that matter, there are beautiful and interesting views to behold, but really ..... I think it's hard to beat the spectacular scenes we have here on the Bay of Fundy. On Sunday morning around ten o'clock we set out for a drive and within thirty or forty minutes we were exploring the uncrowded coastline of a few tiny villages, rugged cliffs and empty beaches.

Enroute to St. Martins via Gardner Creek we came upon this great view. Lucky people who live in the house at the end of the driveway on the right!

We headed for the village of St. Martins, taking the route through Gardner Creek and Tynemouth Creek. Between these two places we took a detour down Duck Pond Road that brought us to a huge beach with only a couple of people on it out walking their dog.

As we continued our journey, enjoying the scenery, we were also able to pick up some tips on decor for the yard. Apparently moose antlers on your shrubs is the new thing!

Fishing boats in the village of St. Martins
About 7 or 8 miles past St. Martins we entered the Fundy Trail Parkway. It costs $6.00 per person and worth every penny. The paved roadway along the coast is 16 kms. but there are hiking and biking trails, lookouts, picnic tables and a nice interpretive center. The wilderness trail along the coast actually continues for 41 kms. to Fundy National Park. By 2018 the road should be complete up to that point as well.

A stunning view of the coast.

Near the interpretive center (the building in the background above) we explored a small sawmill museum and saw the foundation of an old school house. This seems to be the only evidence of settlement east of St. Martin's (other than the Hearst Lodge, once own by the US Newspaper magnate Randolph J. Hearst). From here to Fundy National Park the coast line is completely undeveloped and you can see why. The rugged terrain and steep variations in height make development (or settlement) very difficult, not to mention expensive. With both provincial and federal funding the extension of the road will cost about $22,000,000! It is hoped that the drive and trails etc. will be a big tourist attraction.

If We Build it - Will They Come? .... Do we want them to come?

In our poor, economically deprived province, it seems that we are always looking for prosperity and development. I guess we need it, but I must say that there are times when I do enjoy the lack of development. On a sunny Sunday afternoon in July we visited the Fundy Trail and it seemed like we had the whole place to ourselves! Parking lots were almost empty, traffic was nil and we rarely had to share a lookout with another visitor. On our coastal drive to the park, we were able to explore and enjoy the sights encountering only a few locals here and there.

On our way back we stopped at the beach and caves at St. Martin's, mainly to get a bowl of "world famous" seafood chowder at the restaurant there. This was the most "touristy" spot ... funny how beer and french fries attracts a crowd! Although the parking lot was full and the restaurant was busy, we got our delicious chowder right away and enjoyed it on the seaside deck as we watched some foolish tourists almost get stuck in the caves by the tide.

View from our table!
All in all it was a very "large day" and we were home in time to mow the lawn and have a cool one on our own deck. Now my next project is to try to make a seafood chowder as good as the one I had in St. Martin's! Stay tuned for the recipe!

Fundy Trail Parkway

Sunday, June 21, 2015

Grand Manan

An island adventure with good company is always great therapy! A recent trip to Grand Manan Island began in the rain and fog but eventually gave way to sunshine as we began our coastal adventure.

Waiting to board the ferry in Black's Harbour

A little windswept but happy and looking forward to the day ahead.

Kathy and Ray .... awww so cute!

Swallow Tail Lighthouse

While the rugged coastline and water views were beautiful, we found a certain charm in these old smoke houses. The weathered buildings sparked some discussion among us about the diminished popularity of smoked fish, which led to reminiscing about things we ate growing up. There was no shortage of material to prompt a good "chin wag" !

I get tingly just looking at this picture .... can't believe I actually got close enough to the edge to take it!

The above photo was taken at Dark Harbour, where just a few weeks ago a "dulser" ( a person who harvests dulse) drowned. One of the locals told us about how he had found the body of this man, who had worked on the ocean all his life, but was not wearing a life jacket, and waited for three hours with it until the authorities arrived. 

While our accommodations were somewhat in need of an update, the location was terrific. Above is the view from the door of our motel room. A short walk across the lawn brings you to the beach where you can find lots of sea glass. Below is what I found during my short stay.

View of North Head Grand Manan from the deck of the ferry.

Sea, sun, a ferry ride, beach walks and good company are ingredients for a relaxing retreat (especially sunshine!) Definitely have to do this more often!

Tuesday, June 16, 2015

Lest We Forget!

While I plan for bigger things like the "Camino" I will have to content myself with the small wonders that appear in my garden before the deer eat them! Short-lived Bleeding Hearts with their outstretched arms of dangling pink jewels seem to escape the deer and Lilac blossoms fill the house with the smell of summer. 

After a long hard winter and a disappointing spring, hostas, irises, and a host of early perennials are beginning to appear. I know that, between the slugs and the deer, I'll be lucky if half of them survive! Never the less, I intend to "soldier on" and enjoy what's left ..... and just be happy that the back yard is green and not white!


Sunday, May 24, 2015

The Camino de Santiago - First Planning Post

So, here it is ... my first planning post for my latest "bucket list" project - walking the Camino de Santiago!

There are several reasons why this experience appeals to me, which I may (or may not) go on about at a later date. At this point I am interested in the practical aspects of the actual journey. There is no shortage of information about the "Camino" - the trick is to sort it all out!

In a nut shell, here is what I know so far:

  • The Camino de Santiago is a pilgrimage (walk or bike) to the cathedral of  Santiago de  Compostela in Galacia, North West Spain where the remains of Saint James the Great is said to be buried. For centuries people have made the pilgrimage to this site as a spiritual retreat.
  • There are several routes to Santiago, you can start in Portugal, Paris or Seville (in the south of Spain), or even in Rome! However the most popular one, called "The French Way", begins in St. Jean Pied de Port in France, and finishes in Santiago, 780 km away! This route is often recommended to beginners because there is more infrastructure (accommodations etc.) along the way.
  • You can begin the journey at any point along the route. However, in order to obtain a "pilgrim's passport" you must complete a minimum of 100 km of the journey on foot or 200 km by bike. The "passport" is a document that you get stamped along the route and allows you to stay in the "albergues" or hostels along the way. These hostels are basic accommodation with bunks in a room, hot showers, basic cooking and washing facilities and of course a low cost (anywhere from 6 to 30 Euros per night). You have to be out of the albergue very early in the morning (like 7 am!) but many pilgrims (I've read) stop for the day at the next place around 2 pm.
  • The terrain along the route is varied. Some parts are paved roads and some are rocky foot paths. You travel through fields, hills and villages. From what I've read so far, the beginning of the Camino Frances, or"French Way", in St. Jean Pied de Port in France is quite difficult going through the Pyrenees with steep climbs and rugged pathways. The stretch from Sarria to Santiago, where many people begin since it is just over the required 100 km, is fairly easy going with many villages and towns along the way. This last part will also be more crowded in July and August. Another popular place to begin is Leon, which is 300 km from Santiago.
  • The best time to go is April, May, June, September because it is less crowded and the weather is best.

Prilrim's Passport ( You get this stamped along the way to prove you are a pilgrim, allowing you to stay in the hostels and to receive your certificate at the end.

As I mentioned, there is a tonne of information on the Camino. So far I have found a few sites that are quite good and have the links below.

The video below is a little idea of what a typical hostel might be like, although many are likely not as quaint and friendly as this small one. I also doubt that we will be doing any skateboarding or walking in bare feet! The food looks good though .... not to mention the Spanish staple of vino tinto!

Video of hostel life has lots of info, but I especially like the daily account it gives of the journey along the French Way. you get an idea of the terrain and what facilities and accomodations are available the whole way. - a daily account of the "French Way"

This is a great site with lots of information, based in Ireland.
Confraternity of Saint James

Images along The French Way, below, from Camino Adventures 

Friday, May 22, 2015


Two things have inspired me to think about walking lately:  a CBC interview with the author of Born to Walk, and the movie "The Way".

In the movie, "The Way", a father completes a pilgrimage on the Camino de Santiago in Spain, after his son dies while walking on the famous trail. Somehow the idea of the "pilgrimage experience", of the surrounding landscape, the villages, the people along the way, the spirituality and the history fascinates me. Now I'm not a "roughin it kinda" gal, but somehow I don't think I would mind spending a night in a hostel or getting by on a minimal wardrobe ..... Maybe something to do with focusing on the "experience"?


Walking the Camino de Santiago

 Dan Rubinstein, author of Born to Walk talked about the "transformative" power of walking and how it can have more benefits than just physical wellness.
I will have to read his book, although I think it will only confirm what I already believe..... walking alone or with somebody is all good! Hiking with someone else presents an opportunity to talk about topics that might not be covered in casual conversation at a party. When the conversation dries up at  party it's usually time to get another drink, but on the "trail" somehow the conversation just keeps on going and before you know it you learned something new about your trail mate! Walking by your self, on the other hand, lets you have a conversation with yourself. Often, by the time you've arrived at your destination, you've worked out your problems or come up with a creative new idea (or repelled a few passersby because they caught you talking to yourself!) - who need's a shrink?

 Born to Walk - CBC interview

Recently I haven't been a big fan of walking outdoors. The main reason is that I am afraid of dogs. I mean I like dogs in general, ones that I know won't bite me .... but a strange dog running out at me as I walk by is unnerving! I also do not like walking in the bitter cold of winter with a constant fear of slipping on ice patches. That's why most of my exercise is done in the climate controlled, dogless comfort of the gym. However, in light of the therapeutic as well as physical value of walking, I am starting to change my attitude about walking outdoors. In fact .... walking the Camino de Santiago is definitely on my bucket list!

Friday, May 8, 2015

The Poisonwood Bible

I just finish reading The Poisonwood Bible by Barbara Kingsolver. It was recommended to me by a fellow teacher when I was working in Bangladesh. My colleague, a former hairdresser from British Columbia, had lived in Chad when she was growing up, as her parents worked for the American Embassy. While Chad was a tough and sometimes dangerous place to be, I believe that she had bitter - sweet memories of her time there. I can see why she would connect to Kingsolver's book. The Poisonwood Bible is the story of an American missionary who takes his family to the Belgian Congo in 1959.

Another friend of mine, an avid reader who enjoys both fiction and nonfiction, says that with each book she reads she hopes to learn at least one new thing. In my recent read about the missionary family trying to survive in the Congo during a time of political turbulence, I learned more than one "new thing".

The Democratic Republic of the Congo

In regard to the history and countries of Africa, I have to admit that I am very ignorant. I was in Morocco years ago and met a few people from South Africa, but that's about it. I was surprised to learn (which again shows my ignorance), about the effects of colonization in African countries like the Congo and the involvement of the US and Russia who were interested only in taking resources and gaining control. I was especially disappointed to learn about the role of the US in ousting one Congolese leader in favor of one who proved to have a devastating effect on the people and country. I may have to give up reading anything historical if I don't want hear any more "bad news"!

Aside from learning about African hardships like, lack of food, ant invasions, malaria and hookworms, Kingsolver's novel had some comic relief. For example, a woman called Mama Tataba was helping the mother of the family find and cook local meat options:

"She was handy at cooking anything living or dead, but heaven be praised, Mother rejected the Monkey, with its little dead grin. She told Mama Tataba we could get by on things that looked less like kinfolk."

I also realized that I must have been asleep during elementary science class. Apparently in order for most plants to produce fruit or vegetables, pollination is required. .... ah I knew that! In the book the Kentucky Wonder Beans that they brought with them,(hoping to feed the masses of Africa) produced great stocks and lush leaves but no beans! The Congolese insects had no idea what to do with a Kentucky Wonder Bean! I wish that was the case for the deer in my backyard!

The book follows the lives of the family, including five daughters over several decades. It is a fascinating tale!  
......... now the quest for a new "good read"!