A Travellerspoint blog

Canada

A Ray of Hope in an Annus Horribilis

sunny 3 °C

We always try to look on the bright side, but on the face of it there didn’t seem much to laugh about in 2020. A global pandemic was raging, the British pound kept falling as Brexit loomed, and Donald Trump continued to trample his neighbours, the laws of the land, and all norms of decorum and decency. We should have realised that we were in for a rough time when, for the first time in twelve years, we decided to spend a winter at home and we had a foot of snow followed by weeks of cold rain.
The snow was pretty enough, but the rain dampened our spirits so we hopped a plane to sunny Mexico and spent a couple of weeks in the warmth of Oaxaca...
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We were happy to return home in February knowing that we had three big events to celebrate. We were off to England in the middle of March for a special reunion and to visit the grandchildren. Then Covid 19 struck Europe. But at least we still had the 100th birthday of our dear friend Eileen to look forward to in April. We brought a suitcase full of finest Oaxacan chocolate from Mexico to make the birthday cake for a hundred guests and began work on the decorations - then Covid struck deeper and we ended up sharing a large chocolate cupcake with a few friends in the parking lot of Eileen’s home. Here she is in April proudly showing off her letter from the Queen…
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In May we should have been attending a splashy wedding but Covid put the skids under that and when the event was re-scheduled and downsized we got bumped off the guest list.

Just when we thought things couldn’t get worse, our longtime friend Keith died in Mexico. But at least we were able to use some of the chocolate for his “Celebration of Life” cake.
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Our stock of Oaxacan chocolate was going down when centenarian Eileen tripped over her new walker, broke her hip, and decided that life wasn’t fun anymore. At least she got to enjoy the last of the chocolate in a special cake a couple of days before she chose to die.

Despite all the disappointments it wasn’t all bad being locked down because of the virus – until the roof starting leaking! We finally had a new roof. And then we got up to date with technology and ended the year with a house full of electronic gizmos - although we are now worried that our life is being controlled by Google.
However, with nowhere to go we had plenty of time to catch up with U.F.O.s (Un-finished objects). James finished the Japanese Teahouse…
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And we celebrated with a traditional Japanese meal...
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Sheila finished cushions, table mats and a quilt as well as continuing to learn Spanish in preparation for future trips.
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And together we have turned our 685 blog entries from 71 countries into a series of books for the day that the internet collapses. Eight books finished - seven more to go...
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So that’s our year and we are so looking forward to the day when we can safely venture forth into the wide world and take you with us on more Blissful Adventures. It won’t be soon – but it will happen.
In the meantime – have as Merry a Christmas as you can and let’s hope that we all have a Happy New Year.

Posted by Hawkson 17:47 Archived in Canada Comments (8)

Memories of a Sweet Summer

sunny 16 °C

As summer slipped imperceptibly into fall the autumnal rains perked up the plants in the garden of our Canadian home and spurred them to new growth. But their optimism will be short lived: wintry chills and a dusting of snow are not far off.
The mid-summer sun that rose so triumphantly at cock’s crow in July, now wakes hazily in time for breakfast and can barely keep its head up after dinner. Summer is already fading into memory but, thankfully, we have the books, the works and the photos to prove that we didn’t spend all of our time on the beach. First: the books:...
We are gradually transforming our travel blog into books so that when we eventually lose our marbles we will have something to remind us of all the wonderful places we have seen and all the amazing people we have met along the way. We began with 'Slow Train to China' a couple of years ago and, until this summer really got underway, we sat down and put together three more books chronicling our journeys in India, Sri Lanka, Southeast Asia and Australasia.
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Once the books were in the bag we celebrated our friend Eileen’s 99th birthday in April. James’s cake for the occasion was an edible basket filled with 99 fondant roses...
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This is Eileen with two of her great grandchildren.
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Sheila was also into basket making and created this beautiful fabric piece...
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Once the darling buds of May burst into bloom James ditched the chef’s uniform and began work on the long awaited teahouse in the Japanese garden. In true Japanese style James built without nails or screws and by the end of August the building was finished. Only the interior and the landscaping remained when Paco and Lourdes, (honeymooners from Spain who are travelling the world for nine months), stayed for a couple of weeks and did a great job creating a truly Japanese rock garden complete with dry riverbed...
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The happy, helpful couple also created a truly authentic paella for us and a group of friends...
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The visit by our Cuban friend, another Lourdes, at the end of July gave us an excuse to take a break and become tourists in our own land. Lourdes, from Havana, was enchanted by the pristine beauty of British Columbia. She loved the lakes and forests...
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She was enthralled by the historic charm of Victoria on Vancouver Island and intrigued by the floating houses at Fisherman’s Wharf...
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She just adored the beautiful flower displays in Victoria's Beacon Hill Park...
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But now, as the summer flowers fade and the rain sets in, it is time for us to head out in search of lands less visited. Stay tuned as we travel half way around the world to the heart of Central Asia. First stop – a hop across the pond to visit some spectacular structures of medieval Europe.

Posted by Hawkson 23:19 Archived in Canada Comments (10)

On the Trail of Odin and Athena

overcast 15 °C

It’s mid September and the changing colours tell us that it’s time to start packing up our island home and setting off on another adventure. Although we live on the edge of one of the world’s most expansive rainforests, and look out over the cerulean Salish Sea towards the permanently snow-capped peaks of the Rocky Mountains, this summer’s perpetual sun was sometimes dimmed by smoke from more than 600 forest fires. However, every cloud has a silver lining, and we were rewarded with some magnificent sunrises from our kitchen window....
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We also had many sightings of whales, sea-lions, seals, otters, vultures and eagles, and this morning, as we prepared to leave, a huge school of dolphins swam right past our front windows. This is one of the many eagle-eyed raptors that we saw on a daily basis as they surveyed the beach below us hunting for prey...
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Thanks to the wonders of laser surgery James now has eagle-eyes and was able to create this colourful ratatouille dish for one of our summer parties...
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But, when it comes to colour, Sheila surely took the prize for creating this beautiful quilt for a very special person...
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Summer was a busy time with several family visitors from the U.K. along with trips to Vancouver, Victoria and Campbell River. One trip to Government House in the provincial capital of Victoria was especially memorable as we went to witness long-time friend, Joyce, receiving an award from the Lieutenant Governor for forty years of community service. Here is Sheila and Joyce at Government House following the award ceremony...
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Our garden suffered this summer through four months of drought with temperatures close to 30 degrees but James, with the aid of members of his woodworkers guild, was able to add a colourful addition to the Japanese Garden...
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And here is the finished Torii gate...
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Now the rains have come to our little Pacific island and it is already snowing in the mountain passes, so we are taking off to explore lands steeped in ancient mythology. We will start in Scandinavia, the land of Vikings, smorgasbord and wooden longships. From there we will wend our way south to the Aegean sea in search of some late autumnal sunshine and the home of Athena. But first a quick stop in our native England. Come with us as we go in search of Odin, and his Greek cousin, Athena.

Posted by Hawkson 12:44 Archived in Canada Comments (4)

Los Colores de Sudamerica

rain 8 °C

Our journey to the end of the world and back took us through an amazing kaleidoscope of colours that began with James and his son, Ian, swimming with the sharks in the warm aquamarine seas surrounding the Galapagos Islands...
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Their next adventure was zip-lining high above the verdant canopy in the tropical cloud forest of Mindo, Ecuador. It was there that they encountered thousands of flambouyant butterflies...
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The South American continent is vast and it is some 15,000 kilometres from our home in the North Pacific to the tip of Patagonia at the other end of the world. Our first stop together was in Peru where 65,000 indigenous dancers and musicians in their brilliant costumes took nearly 24 hours to dance their way through the streets of Puno, more than 12,000 feet above sea level on the shores of Lake Titicaca...
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The perpetual sun that followed us to the end of the world and back warmed us as we visited the floating Uros islands on Lake Titicaca and shone on the brilliantly painted reed boats of the Aymara peoples - and from there the colours just kept getting more vibrant. First there were the stalls laden with all manner of carnaval paraphernalia on the chaotic streets of La Paz, Bolivia, followed by the incredible reflections on the surface of the salt flats in Uyuni...
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And then to Valparaiso, Chile, where elaborate murals adorn almost every building in the old port city...
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Following the tree lined avenues and boulvards of Santiago we headed to southern Patagonia where this solitary king penguin was showing off his brilliant plumage to his black and white megellanic cousins. We imagined him saying, "O.K. Clear the runway. If Wilbur and Orville could do it..."
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The starkly white Perito Moreno glacier of El Calafate in Argentina led us on to our next stop, Buenos Aires, where the parks and gardens were festooned with blossoming trees. But then the vineyards and leafy avenues of Mendoza drew us back to the Andes. From Mendoza we headed north to Cordoba and then on to witness the incredible vistas of the Iguazu falls...
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Next stop, Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, and the colourful favelas that festoon the hillsides. Sheila couldn't resist buying this shawl on the beach at Copacabana for our dear Cuban friend, Lourdes...
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For the statisticians: this journey of 75 days took us more than 24,000 miles (the earth's circumference at the equator) by a total of 29 flights. We stayed in 27 hotels and guesthouses and ate in more than 150 restaurants. Now we are back home for the summer – just one bed and one restaurant and time to plan our next adventure in this wide and wonderful world. But first, a big thank you to all the terrific people who helped us along the way and listened patiently to our garbled Spanish. After several years of trying we have finally grasped sufficient so that we no longer begin each conversation with, “Hables ingles?” (Do you speak English?).
A special thank you to our very good friends in Cuba – Leyani, Osvedi and their sons in Vinales, and Las tres amigas, (the three friends); Lourdes, Marisol and Rita in Havana. Muchos gracias to them for their kind hearts and incredible generosity, and thank you for coming along for the ride. We hope to see you soon on our next Blissful Adventure somewhere in this wonderful colourful world. Adios for now.

Posted by Hawkson 16:56 Archived in Canada Comments (8)

Out of Touch

storm 6 °C

Dear Regular Blog Readers,
James wants to let you know that he and his son have NOT been eaten by sharks or giant tortoises in the Galapagos Islands. They are having a great time diving and sunning themselves. However, the Galapagos is more than 1000 kilometers from Ecuador and getting on the internet has proven difficult for James. Rest assured that as soon as the internet becomes available, James will be back with blogs and photos. Meanwhile don’t feel sorry for them!
From the Wife who is suffering in the gales off the West Coast of Canada!!

Posted by Hawkson 15:27 Archived in Canada Comments (3)

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