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"!

Saturday, May 2, 2015

Remembering Kathmandu

I fondly remember a Nepalese shop keeper's unique (and sales oriented) way of asking us where we were from when he said, "And what country is suffering without you?" It was terrible to hear this week of the disastrous earthquake that hit Nepal. Hard to believe that the ancient buildings and sites that we visited are now a pile of rubble. 

me in Durbar Square
The streets of Kathmandu
Besides the architecture and haunting musical chants being played in the streets, was the sight of hundreds of tourists from all over the world outfitted in trekking gear.
I hope this sight was not destroyed in the earthquake!
Nilah and I "shopping" in Kathmandu

a photo I took at the Monkey Temple in Kathmandu

photo of Monkey Temple -

I took this photo when we were "trekking". The white in the sky is actually the peaks of the Himalayas!

a Nepalese family that we met while hiking near the Himalayas 

I feel very fortunate to have had the opportunity to see the sights of Nepal, especially the ones that are no longer there. We were also fortunate that our week long vacation was not interrupted by a major disaster like the one that took place recently. Below is an article from the Toronto Star about a young woman who encountered the recent earthquake in Nepal. Jessica Adach, the subject of the article, just happens to be the daughter of a friend of mine! I was amazed to hear of her story and happy that she was able to leave safely.

The drone video in the article shows the devastation of the city and you can see the sight of the  Monkey Temple.

Toronto Star Article about Jessica Adach

Sunday, April 26, 2015

Wild Life Central

April seems to be wildlife month here on Cornelius Drive! Ducks, moles, raccoons, (and let's not forget the deer) are all alive and well in our back yard, front yard and even the attic!


 Yes! The attic! The other evening I was sitting quietly in the kitchen and heard the pitter patter of something "above". Since the birds had gone to bed and the sound was too heavy for a squirrel, I figured it must be a raccoon. One had gotten up there years ago but there had been no sign of one since. This morning hubby also heard the sounds of life over head!

Now that the snow is starting to disappear and expose the much longed for sight of grass, we've noticed an unusual sight on the lawn. Mounds of dirt are piled everywhere! My "farm boy" husband immediately identified the sight as the work of moles. Great!

They say that April showers bring May flowers, but so far they've only brought ducks! The cute couple in the photo above don't seem to be too worried about on coming traffic. We may as well put up a sign that says "Wildlife Sanctuary"!

piles of soil on the lawn thanks to our "friend" the mole

So, Mr Raccoon ..... this is for you! Ducks on the road, and moles on the grass are one thing, but you, my friend are not welcome! I hope to be seeing your cute little bandit face tomorrow ..... BEHIND BARS!