A Travellerspoint blog

Canada

Home Sweet Home

rain 8 °C

Our return to the wide world has ended and we are now home on our Canadian isle waiting for spring to arrive. We are hoping our tans will survive long enough to carry us into summer. Before we left England we visited this place that followers of the T.V. series, Downton Abbey, will have no problem identifying…
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This is actually Highclere Castle in Hampshire, ancestral home of the Carnavon family. This 300 room stately home has been in the same family since it was built in 1679 by the Attorney General of King Charles II. The current occupiers are the 8th Earl and Countess of Carnavon who live in a cozy little mansion somewhere on the estate. However, specially invited guests are allowed to sleep in the castle’s bedrooms on beds that are usually occupied by Lady Cora, The Countess of Grantham, Lady Mary Crawley and her younger sister, Lady Edith. We were not specially invited, so we ended up on the self-guided tour. While no photos are allowed inside the building, this is the main hall…
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Having visited ‘Downton Abbey’ we just had to see the latest movie, “A New Era,” featuring all of our favourite characters. We were not disappointed.
Our final week in England was spent with friends and family. But one family member was in the Spanish Balearic Island of Mallorca which gave James a excuse to top up his tan with a flying visit. This is the enormous cathedral that dominates the waterfront of the capital, Palma…
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And this is the palm-lined waterfront promenade…
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The Balearic Islands are ritzy hotspots and the yachting season is about to start. The crews of most of the superyachts are tarting up their floating palaces ready for their well-heeled guests, however, a couple of the snazziest yachts won’t be going anywhere this summer. They have been seized by virtue of sanctions on Russian oligarchs.
After a night in Palma, James and his son took off for a tour of Mallorca and ended up in a hotel overlooking the historic central plaza of the mountain town of Soller…
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Unbeknown to the visitors, they had stumbled into the midst of the town’s biggest and noisiest annual festival when thousands cram into the plaza, setting off firecrackers and listening to rock bands until five in the morning. The Es Firo festival celebrates a 1561 battle between the Muslim Moors and Christians when Algerian invaders landed in the nearby port and marched to Soller town to claim it for the Arabs. But, according to legend, the women of Soller poured treacle on the streets and attacked the Moors with catapults when they became stuck. The heroic women are lauded along with the town’s other attraction – a historic tram that runs between the town and the port…
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This is the port...
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Like all Medieval European mountain villages, Soller is a tightly woven labyrinth of cobbled, streets that are so narrow it is impossible to believe that any vehicles can get through – but they do. However, during the festival, most of the roads were closed to traffic and were filled with fairground rides and giant mannequins…
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So, that is it for now. We have dipped our toes back into the world and are already looking forward to our next adventure. Thank you for following along with our travels and we hope you join us next time. In the meantime, as this sign in Hyde Park, London, reminds us…
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Bye for now.

Posted by Hawkson 01:53 Archived in Canada Comments (7)

2021 Groundhog Year

snow -5 °C

Thanks to Covid, we spent 2020 not attending dinner parties, theatres, concerts, reunions, birthdays, and weddings. Nor were we able to travel anywhere beyond a short pre-pandemic trip to Mexico.
So, at the end of 2020, we said we were looking forward to resuming our travels and we started making plans. Unfortunately, our optimism was misplaced and whatever we didn’t do in 2020 we didn’t do all over again in 2021. Are we downhearted? No. We are fit and healthy and live in a peaceful and beautiful place. With nowhere to go we spent the winter and spring adding to our series of travel books based on our blogs. We now have 14 books chronicling our adventures in 70 countries…
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The spring saw us preparing our garden for a visit by the Island’s Garden Club at the end of July. However, when we agreed to open our garden, we had no idea that we would be in the midst of the hottest and driest summer on record. Inland temperatures reached a scorching 50ﹾ Celsius and an entire town was destroyed by a wildfire. The temperatures were somewhat more bearable on the coast but without rain for several months it was hard work keeping the garden alive for the upcoming visit by discerning horticulturists. We added several new Japanese garden features this year including a pagoda to match the torii gate…
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A living painting…
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A thatched gatehouse…
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And a trio of lanterns…
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While recovering from a knee replacement, Sheila made more quilts, including one with a Japanese theme for a friend’s significant birthday…
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As we slid from the record drought of summer into autumn, an atmospheric river streamed ashore off the Pacific Ocean and drowned the parched land. The flood damage to many communities around Vancouver was catastrophic, but our clifftop home was well above water and, when the clouds finally cleared, we had some fabulous autumnal sunrises…
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After the record breaking heat of summer, perhaps it is only right that we should now be in the grip of an Arctic freeze that has dropped temperatures to almost fifty degrees below zero in parts of the province. Fortunately, for us, minus fifteen is about as low as it will go…
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And, thanks to our time at home again this year, we now have a Jacuzzi hot-tub from which to enjoy the snow and the distant views of the mountains…
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So, no – we are not downhearted. But we are looking forward to getting out and about again in 2022 and re-uniting with our family and many friends around the world.
Here’s wishing everyone a Happy New Year, (with fingers firmly crossed).

Posted by Hawkson 01:29 Archived in Canada Comments (11)

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)

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