Thursday, April 10, 2014

Livin' like a local

SUITCASE DIARIES: week 2 Costa Rica

Day 8 - Tues March 25 - I'm so proud of myself. Yesterday, inspired by Florencia's example, I arranged, with my broken Spanish, our ride to Tamarindo with Michael via a connection he has down at the beach. Much cheaper than the shuttle van service from the Villa and, by taking a short, direct route, he got us there in just over 1 hour. In Tamarindo Michael arranged a trip to the airport for Sunday with a "legit" taxi driver. He cautioned us that a "taxi" sign on a car's roof doesn't mean the driver is legit, insured or even a licensed driver. Michael took us right to the inner courtyard of Domus Kahuna. Great service!

We enjoyed a siesta in our one bedroom apartment which we've been given for the duration of our stay.  There's a bedroom with AC, a balcony with a hammock that I've claimed as "mine", and a stove top ( which I never use during our stay :-). We've been upgraded from our bachelor suite due to scheduling complications. Originally we were going to be moved on Friday to a bachelor but I think Paulo took pity on the poor suffering gringo geezers. Either that or he wanted to keep us from infecting others - though we weren't infectious, we sure sounded like it; coughing and hacking.

I lay in the hammock, severely hearing compromised, hacking my lungs out. Separated from the cocoon that Flo and Jack provided us, a deep sense of vulnerability washes through me. I've never experienced illness in another country where I don't speak the language well, hear even worse and don't know what to do. Despite the application of my many healing techniques, things are not getting anywhere near better. I have to do something… I will have to see a medico soon. 

During our dinner at an outdoor patio a fine spray wafts into the dining area. Water for the plants? Nope, don't think so but I could be wrong. I gobble down my dish - yam stuffed with fish and a cerveza and then we walk on the beach and witness the sun setting so fast that steam should be coming off the water as it sinks into the sea.

Day 9 - Wed March 26 - We went to the very thorough, medico today. Diagnosis: throat and inner ear infection. I leave loaded down with drugs that I'd normally never take. But, here I say, "Never say never. Bring on the antibiotics, antihistamine, AND throw in that expectorant too. Let's blast this baby outta here". Best news since I got here is, since my equilibrium is good, my ears and lungs are clear I can go swimming, yea!

Our daily ritual has become: afternoon siesta and the ingestion of a pineapple, mango, banana, yogurt and fruit juice smoothy to soothe my raw throat ("Our" awesome blender is a godsend!) followed with a  beach walk around 3p.m., sunset worship and dinner out. Tonight we share a tasty grilled Mahi Mahi, veg and rice dinner. On our return "home" the delicious aqua blue waters of the little pool beckon me. Swimming underwater provides the only relief for my throbbing ears. I float under a starry sky peeking through the banana trees, thankful for this bliss!

Day 10 - Thurs March 27 - A light breeze provided us with a welcome cool night after some brutally hot days so I decided to sleep outside last night in the hammock under the stars. Crazy, throbbing drum rhythms and the shouts of ramped up revellers fill the night air from 10p.m. til 3a.m. finally driving me inside.

I arise early this morning and walk the beach, deserted (no wonder, I think all of Tamarindo was at that party) except for one lone yoga practitioner. When I feel better I'll follow her example. (This doesn't happen til my last morning here.)

Spinning their boards around in the waves, riding in while holding headstand, ducking through the pipe - the kids make surfing look like a piece of cake. I'm taking notes from a rare shady spot under a tree, psyching myself up for my own foray into the mix. Paolo has a connection with a surf shop and can rent me a board for $10 for the day. I won't have to go down with my ID and can pay by cash by giving his name, yea! He says the tides and times are promising for tomorrow. I've gotta give it a goand if I really like it I'll go again on Saturday.

Tonight we eat at a food court at the base of our street. Fish burger with fries and a coke for Rod and guac with salsa and a cerveza for me - cheap and delicious. Rod's ear became plugged on our way from the beach; we are now "speaking" to each other in a form of sign language. I get a mocha to go from Diego's stall and vow to return tomorrow for french toast to change up the daily routine, though appreciated, menu of gallo con pinto, huevos revueltos y pan tostado offered at Domus.

Anyway…the adventure continues and we're starting to get into our groove here. Livin' like the locals takes a lot of effort when you're not feeling well. It's a learning curve…


Thursday, March 27, 2014

Spring in Victoria - apologies to the rest of Canada

So we went for a walk on a spring day in Victoria

As we walk down almost any street in James Bay, this scene is repeated time and time again.
In the 1930's the local Japanese community donated money to the city of Victoria. 1,013 cherry trees were planted and a flowering-tree program was begun, and continues to this day. In Feb Pink plumb blossoms bloom, 8 varieties of cherries begin in late March with the White Goddess cherries, planted in 2002 peaking in May. (info from WESTWORLD magazine - In the Pink by Ryan Stuart)  

And, there are daffodils EVERYWHERE! Yes, even on the roof of this guy's garage. Some are in clusters gracing private and public gardens alike but they seem to grow wild throughout lawns and parklands. The first picture is a view of Beacon Hill Park. I omitted the pic of the guy walking to his car with a lovely yellow bouquet he'd just picked.

 Some other scenes of gardens we came upon on Monday as we walked from Ogden Point to Oak Bay Marina following the shoreline. Everyone was walking…with big grins on their faces, exclaiming, "What a glorious day!" We all know how lucky we have been this winter and spring as the rest of Canada has been experiencing a minor ice-age, buried in snow. Hell, most of us are from other parts of Canada and we don't forget where we've come from. I also know, from experience, that it is possible to endure 6 weeks of unrelenting rain and overcast skies that would depress even Princess Giselle (Amy Adam's version of Cinderella from ENCHANTED).

A lovely little beach we passed along the way. It was so warm and the beach so white, I felt like I was down south.

And today, Thursday, this guy must have felt like he was down south too because there he was swimming, without a wetsuit, in the ocean waters in front of the sea wall just a few blocks from our apartment. Not just dipping, swimming!

The turtles felt it too as they piled up on this log in Beacon Hill Park and craned their necks to cast their gazes upwards to the sun in thanks.

On my way back home there they were again, those amazing trees and…a song was wafting through the air. Seriously! Was there a radio on somewhere? I wasn't sure. As I gained on the woman with the walker in the picture. Yup, there it was. She was the songbird with the enchanting voice.

Ah, springtime in Victoria; there's no better place to be.

Monday, March 10, 2014

Feeling like S***, I do…

SUITCASE DIARIES: Costa Rica - week 1

I came down with a cold a few days before we left on our trip. Laryngitis set in. Maybe it's clearing out, yeah! Nope, it was just getting started. DAMN!

DAY ONE in Costa Rica - Mon Feb 17 - Not actually in Costa Rica; spent in transit. We arrived last night, getting in to Jack and Flo's at Villas Sol (See the villas on the hillside, we were in one of them.) Playa Hermosa, Guanacaste province in Costa Rica about 10 p.m.

Flight was brutal as I was hacking and coughing. I was the person everyone dreads to be on the same flight with, let alone sit next to. The pressure on my ears got worse with each flight - Victoria to Vancouver, Vancouver to Houston, Houston to Liberia. In an effort to clear my plugged ears I blew my nose so hard that it bled like a burst pipe. Poor woman sitting beside me on the last leg must have felt like she was cursed. So I arrived coughing, with laryngitis, pretty much deaf from plugged ears; holding a tissue under my nose with one hand, the fingers of my other hand pinching the bridge of my nose and juggling my bags.

I really hope this thing clears soon (It didn't. It lasted the whole trip and my ear is still plugged as I write this.) as my energy is low even for talking - English let alone Spanish.

NOTE: I end up being sick for the whole 2 weeks of our trip.
I'm grateful for the wisdom of David K Reynolds' CONSTRUCTIVE LIVING that I'd discovered in the '80's and utilized since then.
Paraphrasing one of his principles - "Feeling like S*** (my word), I do what needs to be done".
In this case what needs to be done is to get out there and take advantage of this opportunity to live the Pura Vida even though I feel like I'd rather stay in bed all day and be tended to by my kitty therapists. Disappointed in myself that I don't have my usual enthusiasm and energy; it is a reality I have to accept. I adopt this attitude - Just get out there and appreciate what happens and I was showered with simple delights.
(NOTE - The lack of photos is due to my lack of energy to take them - apologies.)

DAY 2 - Tues Feb 18 - I slept in today and we lounged around the beach, walked the beach and collected some garbage (numerous plastic straws, plastic utensils, plastic bottles, bottle caps and plastic bags) and swam. Boy, the sun is soooo bright! Good thing I've got my sunglasses. My Vancouver Island adapted eyes can't handle the brilliance of it. (Lesson #1 - The brightness of the light should have been a clue. The sun in Costa Rica is brutally strong. In a place this far south, never say no to sunscreen no matter how much you hate it or you, like me, will be bursting blisters for days, wake up to puffy face and peel like a snake for the duration of your stay. My legs are still peeling as I write this.)

DAY 3 - Wed Feb 19 - I was able to get a good night's sleep for the first time in days. Takes a lot of energy to talk and so I'm not too social. Haven't been snorkeling but I swam in the ocean and the pool, putting my head under the water. "F*** it" I said. I discover that swimming underwater seems to equalize the pressure in my ear providing me with some temporary relief. Once again on dry land, I can't seem to clear my ear and it's driving me nuts. I think it's the congestion from my sinuses + ear wax that must have gotten lodged. I'm trying everything I know but may have to get it syringed out. (Wrong self-diagnosis. Unbeknown to me, I will later find out from the médico in Tamarindo that I have a throat and inner ear infection.)

We went zip lining. The guys taking us through the stations were a lot of fun. When asked if I was scared I said, "No. I'd like to do some tricks: wonder woman, upside down…" these were some of the ones Flo had told me about. He called me "una mujer loca" as he took me through the paces. We had a blast. The pressure in my head was pretty excruciating when I went upside down but well worth the ride.

Una mujer loca aka a flying squirrel.
 We walked into town tonight with Flo and Jack and met some friends at The Embassy a quirky cinema in Playa Hermosa and saw THE WOLF OF WALLSTREET with Spanish subtitles (I read the movie as much as I watched it - Spanish lesson + entertainment all at the same time!).
I love local independent movie houses and this was a real treat. For $6 you get the movie, a glass of wine or a cerveza (beer); for $1 extra get a popcorn too. We enjoy both seated on primary coloured retro plastic bar stools at the multicoloured, poured resin bar til the movie is ready to begin. We saunter into the theatre, plonk down into comfy seats and they start right into the movie. No trailers, no ads; awesome!

DAY 4 - Thurs Feb 20 - We started to watch the Women's gold medal Olympic hockey game on TV at Flo and Jack's but thought it would be fun to see it at a public venue with others. Got down to Villas Sol restaurant/bar and resumed watching it on the TV there. Before 20 mins were done the coverage got switched to…skiing, skating and now…golf?!? GOLF…WTF?!? Wandered over to Condo Vac in hopes of finding it there but nope. The coverage is the shits. Don't they know this is THE EVENT for  Canadians everywhere?
I write to an American born Canadian friend, "We found out that we lost, boo. The American part of you may not be so sad about this; it's win win whatever had happened for you, eh?"
A day later we find out that we'd in fact won in an incredible overturn of events which must have been crazy exciting to see. This discovery makes it seem even more unjust for the game to have been dropped, ack!!!

As I walk the beach later in the day the troop of howler monkeys, adults and tiny youths, which were earlier settled into the trees over the lounge chairs at Condo Vac (A surprisingly a number of unwary gringos had plonked down underneath them. I can only wonder who will be the first to be inadvertently peed on.) are travelling soundlessly, effortlessly through the trees to their evening resting place. One of the females has a tiny little babe clinging to her belly; the little tail curls over her back and tips to the sky giving it away. Brilliant! Only me and one other person witness their silent passage.

Tonight Flo, Jack, Rod and I meet at Aquasport Bar Restaurant on Playa Hermosa for night of entertainment - pop songs sung in Spanish by local duo one playing guitar, the other on drum box, while we sip cerveza con limón against the backdrop of the setting sun. Ah this is the Pura Vida.

DAY 5 - Fri Feb 21 - Kayaking with Flo and Jack - we explore the bay; witness a short, tremendous flurry of fish stirring up the water all around us; pick up some garbage floating in the water and explore a small beach in front of the future site of another development. The water is warm and inviting but I have to get back for my massage on the beach with Maria. Life is tough.

Maria begins by massaging my feet with a mix of sand and oil and for the next hour I am hers. Though not a trained RMT, her treatment is a "folk" art and she is skilled with great hands. I'm thrilled that we can talk in broken English and Spanish. She looks tired, has had the cold herself and works long hours. She needs some TLC so I offer her a lomi back treatment which she readily accepts. The table is high and there is sand everywhere but somehow I slip into a rhythm, enough for her to get a feel for the modality. She looks blissful as she declares, "It is very spiritual". Success! I smile. It's as good to give treatment as to receive and I have missed giving.

Guests of Flo and Jack's join us for one of Jack's fabulous dinners. We eat on the patio. A lively and stimulating conversation is had regarding the book WE THE ARCTURIANS a book I'd bought for Flo and took to Costa Rica for her. I'd only scanned through it but in an interesting bit of synchronicity: I'd forgotten to add this last night as I was writing and then this morning I get an e-mail from Amazon, a new recommendation…CONNECTING WITH THE ARCTURIANS.

With our host Flo after a day on the beach
and a massage by Maria
DAY 6 - Sat Feb 22 - Went on a boat trip with SEA OF LIFE PAPAGAYO - our host, Michael and his crew mate Armando show us their method of fishing and we catch lots of small groupers, red snappers and one eel. It's a small boat and we share this adventure with Betty and Chris, friends of Flo and Jack's.

I was awestruck as manta rays leap out of the water and land with an audible smack like pancakes. I snorkelled in a secluded spot amongst coral and rock formations, swimming amongst schools of brightly coloured, salt water fish. We are taken to a white sand beach and explore the caves.

The tide is coming in sending walls of waves crashing through one cave. I walk into progressively deeper depths, let myself get sucked out towards the cave's mouth and wait with excited anticipation for the next big wave to wash me back in. Like a kid, "just one more" I shout after each exhilarating ride.  Bonus, nature provides the best neti pot ever; afterwards an endless quantity of snot pours out of me. "I'm cured!"…well maybe not everything but my sinuses are for sure!

As we motor home in high spirits we dig into skewers of chicken, rice and veggies. This private boat trip is so much better than the many overcrowded "booze cruises" that are popular down here. Disembarking is rather dramatic as rogue waves arise from nowhere, crashing over the bow, tossing the small boat around and threatening to capsize us. Michael shouts, "Get out now!" when safe moments arise. We jump into chest high water and get clear as fast as we can. His boat is swamped but they manage to get into calmer waters, bail it out and returns when the waves have subsided with the gear that we had to abandon when we jumped ship. He checks to make sure we are all unharmed and then we say our goodbyes.

The night is capped off with a walk along the beach to a local pizza place for pizza and…of course, a cerveza con limón.

DAY 7 - Sun Feb 23 - We wake up to coverage of the men's Olympic gold medal hockey game and cheer as our team wins gold. The day is for lounging in the pool, on the beach and chill in' before we head out to Tamarindo tomorrow morning.

Down at the beach a representative from Villas Sol helps me contact Michael and arrange a ride with him to Tamarindo for the next morning - yet another service that he offers and for a much more reasonable price than the shuttles that come into the resort.

Coffee and baked sweets are offered daily from 4 - 5 p.m. at Villas Sol and we go down today, as we have many days this week. I've loved watching the cheeky, sneaky, hoodlum Magpie Jays fly off with whole muffins and buns, treats they've stolen from the bread baskets at the serving area. Another, wearing his trademark black necklace, bats his long eyelashes and tosses his feather tufted head back as he brazenly devours packets of sugar looking like an addict with his beak covered in the snowy stuff.

THE HIGHLIGHT was, of course, spending time with our Ontario-based, long-time friends Flo and Jack. Such great company: awesomely delicious food provided by chef Jack (I gladly, gratefully do the dishes and clean up afterwards - a small return for such a great favour.); morning Spanish lessons; spiritual and philosophical discussions on the patio and evening cribbage for the guys. On the mornings that I feel up for it, we do yoga on the patio which gives me an opportunity to give something from my heart in return for their kindness.

Friday, February 14, 2014

Tide Lines - A Story of 3 Guys, Surfing, Sailing & Garbage

If you have them, use them more than once.
Just wash and dry them
I've always wanted to attend a film festival showing but never had any luck securing tickets for TIFF (Toronto International Film Festival) so I was very excited last night to see the documentary TIDE LINES, one of the Victoria Film Festival's  selections playing at the Vic Theatre.

There's a kind of buzz at this kind of event. It was recommended that we get to the theatre 30 mins before the viewing and take our seats. We were not inundated with commercials, nor were there promos for yet more GCI filled superhero action movies, instead I actually enjoyed watching the trailers for other indie, character driven VFF offerings. Too bad that I can't see them all, maybe next time.

What drew me to this movie was the story of 3 young men; 2 brothers and their friend who decide to sail around the world for 3 years in order to surf remote beaches world-wide. They really couldn't call themselves sailors by any stretch of the imagination but they were dreamers with a mission to show people that they could follow their dreams too.

They met challenges that the sea threw at them, remained friends at the end of it all and took their parents, girlfriends and others for stretches along the way.

But the film is about much more than that.

As surfing dudes they have a love and respect for the ocean and were concerned at the amount of debris that landed on the west coast, windward shore of Vancouver Island all the way across the ocean from the disaster in Japan. They got to wondering how this garbage travelled, where our garbage was landing and if other beaches were affected. And, this is the real story.

They learned how gyres (major ocean systems of rotating currents) can carry debris (mainly plastic) and deposit it on remote foreign shores thousands of miles away from the source. They travelled through, and documented debris they collected from the Great Pacific Garbage Patch (from Wiki…also described as the Pacific trash vortex, is a gyre of marine debris particles in the central North Pacific Ocean located roughly between 135°W to 155°W and 35°N and 42°N.[1]This area is said to be the size of Texas but, contrary to popular misconception, is not visible from satellite photography nor to the casual boater or diver in the area as it is composed of often microscopic particles suspended in significantly higher concentrations than average, in the upper water column. Fish eat the stuff and we eat the fish; it becomes part of the food chain.

They took part in a turtle release program on one beach and were told how dangerous plastic bags were to the massive turtles who mistake them for jelly fish (their main source of food) and ingest them to tragic effects.

On a positive note, they saw how communities, finally seeing the damage that has been done to beaches over years of thoughtless discarding of disposable objects are cleaning up their beaches and coming up with creative ways to recycle tons of plastic waste.

The young sailors began talking to schools and communities about their discoveries, collected and documented garbage themselves and led beach clean ups wherever they could - one in a Victoria community not far from where I live.

I wrote in previous posts about my concern about the debris my sister Candy and I were finding along the shores of Lake Ontario in Burlington and in my neighbourhood parks and of our efforts to clean it up bit by bit…THIS ACT IS NEEDED MORE THAN EVER and in A WALK IN THE PARK .

During the Q & A I found out about SURFRIDER, an organization that states "Our mission is the protection and enjoyment of oceans, waves and beaches through a powerful activist network." And, that there is a south Vancouver Island group that meets once a month, does once monthly cleanups at beaches in the region and one remote beach cleanup weekend a year.

I'm very excited to hear about this group and will definitely check them out in March but til then I'll just comb the beaches and the parks picking up my 3 (or more) items per walk or if a bag comes my way, fill it. If you see me say, "hi" or better still join me anytime.

Great idea for teachers: you can request a screening of Tide Lines and afterwards organize a beach and or park clean up!

Wednesday, January 29, 2014

Shiela Stops in at the Laundromat

Shiela and Frank taking a well deserved break
Laundry day at the laundromat makes me feel like a student again. I toss sheets, towels, gotchies and other assorted apparel into the washer, throw in the detergent and take off for one of any the 6 cafés within the radius of the block (though there weren't' such an assortment anywhere to choose from in the '70's). Today I worked on my Spanish homework but last week, that was a different story.

I don't usually like hanging around laundromats. You're uncomfortably crammed into the spare chairs butted arm to arm against each other, so close that you invade another's space no matter how hard you try and make yourself small…and I'm 4'10" tall and around 100 lbs.

People talk to themselves.


Sometimes it's me, though I try to be mindful.

Though talking to one's self is perfectly normal when done in the confines of one's own home, one comes across as just plain weird when you engage yourself in conversation in public. I know. I give "those" people a wide berth.

People who frequent laundromats come from all walks of life.

Some, like us, are renting places with inadequate laundry facilities - meaning amongst other priorities they are lacking a full service café nearby.

Many laundromatophiles in Victoria are travellers passing through who barely speak or read English. And since no 2 types of washers or dryers operate the same way anywhere I thank God for universal body language which I've used to demonstrate: how much change is needed and what it looks like, where the laundry detergent/liquid goes and the very precise sweet spot to whack with one's fist in order to spur some of the washers into action.

And then there are the dishevelled types like Frank who look like they came out from under a rock. I tend to avoid those too. To be precise, Frank could have come out from under a bush in Beacon Hill Park at 7 a.m. that morning (Here's a little known fact - people are allowed to camp from 7p.m. to 7a.m. in Beacon Hill Park but they have to pack up camp during the day leaving no trace of their presence).

I know this because his dog introduced me to him.

Seven year old, German Shepherd, Shiela lay on a comfy mat placed by the all to close chairs, keeping an eye on Frank as he sorted his laundry. The cluster of chairs was pretty crowded so off to the café I was heading when I came across Frank's gear and asked him to tell me his story.

Franks walks his bike with Shiela at his side
Basically he's walking to make Shiela known for being the first dog to walk across Canada to prove that anyone can achieve their goals no matter what the challenge and if he dies before she does his hope is that her fame will land her a loving home.

Frank has prostate cancer.

Rather than endure chemo and ingest medications he's chosen to walk with her and be supported by the grace of God and the kindness of strangers.

Read about his amazing story here - WALKING THE DOG ACROSS CANADA - (CFJC News) where you will also see how to support Shiela's journey and Frank's dream and you'll access his blog - Shiela's Cross Country Trip. If you can't access his blog from this link, copy the link from the article WALKING THE DOG ACROSS CANADA and paste it into your browser as I had difficulty accessing it any other way.

As a dreamer myself I can't help but support Frank and Shiela's dream. Blessings to you Frank and all the best to you and Shiela on your journey may God go with you.

Monday, January 20, 2014

Life Lines

© Nance Thacker 1984
click on image to enlarge
The weekend has found me in a reflective mode. In my ongoing quest to de-clutter and simplify my life I've been going through my "stuff". Actually, not really my stuff, rather memories of the lives of others recorded in letters from family and friends that I'd received during my early years in Victoria.

I've carried boxes, filled with these letters from the '70's and 80's back and forth across the country and I think it's time to let them go, but not before reading them once more.

My sister-in-law, Di, and I were talking via g-mail phone the other day, marvelling at how technology keeps us connected in so many ways. Today there's: g-mail phone, i-phone favourites that allow fee free calling, Face Book, Skype, Face Time, texting, What's App, Tweeting, e-mailing and I'm sure there's a whack of stuff out there I've never even heard of. Communication is immediate and, for the most part, glitch free.

I don't buy that technology is isolating us. Face Book is where the Dream Team (my peers from dream teacher training I and II living all over the world) meet, share our dreams, inspire and further each other's education in dreams. Technology is my life line to friends and family living afar.

Back then though "snail" mail was pretty much all that we had that was affordable. Daily, I'd look for word from "home". Every letter received was like a big hug.

While I was out here living the life of a struggling artist/yogi, my friends' lives were moving through major transitions: marriages, home ownership, "real" jobs and careers, births, raising children, illness, deaths, and all the financial and family responsibility that goes with the territory. Others were studying and or travelling abroad: hiking, bike trekking and living with "friends" they'd made along the way - to be honest, I envied them the most.

Though our lives were so different, family and friends were supportive of my aspirations; often asking how the cartooning was doing. My younger sister, in letters from the mid '80's told of meeting 2 women in the Maritimes who knew of, and followed, my work in Monday Magazine - that thrilled me!

It got me looking through my cartoons and this one popped out as it pretty much summarized my life experiences at that time. No, I didn't have a meat cleaver thrown at me, but the crazed cook (and inspiration for the "chef" in the cartoon - he made Gordon Ramsay look like a pussy cat) at the Fat Cat Café a 24hr diner on lower Yates Street did threaten me with a knife while I was on duty once. Yup, life was different back then.

Anyway, that's another story…

What will I do with the letters? I'm mailing them back to the authors with a letter of appreciation and thanks for all their love and support over the years. They have no real idea how wonderful it felt for me, living on my own in my own world, to receive these life lines from home. But they are filled with their memories so, maybe when they read what their younger selves recorded they can reflect and appreciate their life's journey too.

Tuesday, January 14, 2014

Island Girl's A1 Tour

Christmas holidays were a wonderful whirlwind filled with family, food, friends and fun so I'm starting the year feeling particularly blessed.

We got a chance to play tour guides for our friends escaping the sub zero temperatures and snow of Montreal. They wanted to chill…they came to the right place. Most evenings were spent vegging in front of the TV after a day exploring downtown Victoria and surrounding areas. The weather was with us so we got a chance to show them Victoria at its winter best; moderately damp, filled with vibrant hues of greens and lush landscapes. A day of rain in the middle of their visit allowed us all to kick back at home, a welcome break in an otherwise packed schedule.

We wanted to give our guests a sampling of the best this area has to offer; an overview of life on the island. The last day of 2013 we motored up to Jordan River, with a stop at French Beach where we witnessed these California Seals playing in the ocean. This was such a gift bearing future memories for all of us.


We planned to eat at the restaurant across the road from the beach at Jordan River which would afford an unobstructed view, only to find the restaurant closed for the season. So we back tracked to Point No Point which was open for business and offered warming soups on the menu. Our taste buds were delighted and stomachs soothed as we gazed out upon the stormy sea far below. Kathy was so taken by this place that she claimed it as her own with plans to stay there on their next visit.

The view from our table at Point No Point Resort's dining room
Point No Point delighted her almost as much as the houseboat community down by the Wharf in Victoria. "People REALLY live here?" she kept asking. It was something out of a children's book she said, amazed that people could really live this kind of life.

The house boat community, scene from earlier visit as I didn't have my camera with me  this time
A perfect sun-filled day allowed us to show them the view from the Malahat on our way to Cowichan Bay and one of my favourite bakeries, True Grain Bread, where we snacked on pastries of our choice and a hot, aromatic coffee. Cowichan Bay is bigger than it looks. It's worth peeking into nooks and crannies and following the signs that point down to the water's edge. Below the street level shops there exists an active artisan community comprised of studios and shops. Kathy and I enjoyed talking with the owner/artist/painting teacher of Tangerine Dream Gallery and Studio and learning about the artists behind the works displayed within.

A typical, lightly drizzly day, though colder than usual didn't deter us from showing them the Kinsol Trestle. The hike was longer than I remembered from my first visit. As I approached the trestle I realize that we'd come at it from the other end before and that the trail extends 4 km in one direction, 15 in the other (Note to self: perfect for biking on milder days) and is part of an extensive trail system.

The tour was complete when this most spectacular sunset graced us as we drove along Dallas Road after viewing the city, the island, the strait, islands and mountains beyond from a perch on Mt Douglas. The perfect end to a perfect day…