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Ten Days on the Island.

July 4th   West Jet announced on landing in Victoria. “If you wish to smoke there are designated areas in the airport.  Anyone found smoking outside of these areas will immediately be flown to Winnipeg”.  A dire threat which, I’m sure, kept everyone safely within the designated smoking areas.

Our Bed and Breakfast was all it promised to be.  Finding it, however, was not that easy.  Our GPS appeared totally confused and we travelled three times around the same traffic circle before giving up and asking someone the way.  A very kind lady, undeterred by the harassed couple who accosted her in her own driveway attempted to show us where to go but gave up in the end and led us in her car to Lochside Road from where we were easily able to find our way.

We were originally booked on the second floor but Denise, who signed us in, took one look at Richard’s cane and changed our room to the main floor.  (We used the cane with effect to pre-board our Victoria flight as well.) We went to Smitties for dinner and came back to fall, exhausted, into bed.

July 5th Woke refreshed the next morning and took some time to appreciate our room which was lovely – spacious and well appointed, with a spa tub which we made good use of. Tea coffee and snacks available in the lounge and a tasty breakfast served up in the cosy dining room.

Our breakfast table

After a late breakfast we took a drive to Sydney Waterfront and walked around taking photo’s and admiring the outdoor statues.  Returned to the B&B and then walked to 3rd Avenue Café for sandwiches and soup before returning to our room for some R & R (reading and relaxation).  At 5pm sherry was served in the lounge and we had a chance to meet and talk to some of the other guests before driving to Save on Foods for some essentials and to Odysseys, a Greek restaurant, for dinner.

6th Today we drove to Victoria and took a hop on/hop off bus from outside the Empress Hotel for a 90min ride through Victoria.  This was really worthwhile and a stress-free way to see Victoria since this was our first time back on Vancouver Island for over 20 years.

Victoria - bus ride

We then had coffee and a snack at a small coffee shop near the hotel and drove back to Sydney.  Rested and read again in the afternoon – a pattern was beginning to emerge! – the obligatory sherry during which we chatted to some guests who had just been to the Butterfly Garden and decided to follow their example over the weekend. We then walked up to the Street Market in Bailey Street where we wandered past the stalls and brought back salmon burgers for dinner.

Sydney - street market

7th After another delicious breakfast we took a walk to Beacon/4th Street to visit the Sydney Museum. They had a very interesting exhibit showing the beginnings and growth of Sidney.  We had coffee and a snack in a nearby coffee shop.

In the afternoon we drove to Eastview Drive and walked along the sea path which is closed when the ferry comes in. Later we went to the Thai Restaurant which we had had booked by the very obliging B&B staff the evening before.

We had a table outside where we could enjoy the early evening breezes.

Thai restaurant

Hundreds of gulls flew over us, bombarding our rental car but fortunately not targeting us.  When we finished eating we started back down 2nd Street and noticed that the ferry was in so we went to have a look at it before returning to our room.

8th Great breakfast again, then off to look for the Butterfly Gardens. Got onto Lockside South instead of 17 but since it eventually led into 17 not a problem.  Butterfly Gardens were lovely – spent about an hour there taking photos and looing at everything.  Drove b ack to Sidney and parked at the B&B then walked along Bevan Avenue and found a Toast Café where we had lunch.  Back in our room Richard had a nap. I tried to use the guest laptop but it had no word processor. Later we played rummy kub in the yard then sherry in the lounge where we chatted to other guests.

We went to the Boondocks Pub for our evening meal. Probably the best meal so far (other than breakfasts).  I had clam chowder and Richard a seafood fettuccine and Caesar salad.

Outside Boondocks

We drove along the seafront after we had eaten and then back to the B&B where we had coffee and spent a couple of hours chatting to Dianne and Dwayne from Calgary.

9th After breakfast we exchanged cell numbers with Diane and Dwayne from Okotoks. Today we did a road trip to Nanaimo, crossing the Malahat and stopping off in Chemainus to look at the murals and have a cup of coffee.  We waited some time for the horse and carriage tour which did not materialize then drove through to Nanaimo where we had lunch.  If we do the trip again I would only go as far as Chemainus, there was far more to see there.  After lunch we drove back, arriving at 5.30pm and opted to skip dinner.

10th We decided to have a laid-back day today. Read for a while after breakfast then drove to Eastview Road, parked the car and walked along the pathways, ending up at Beacon Landing for a lunch of seafood chowder – pricy but delicious. Back at the B&B spent most of the afternoon reading.  Denise at the B&B booked us into the Seaglass Restaurant for 6.30pm so we took a drive there at about 6pm (after sherry) and ended up at the Latch Restaurant with no one around to assist us.  Phoned for directions and retraced our steps to find Seaglass.  Lovely setting right on the yacht harbour. The meal – Halibut – was well presented and tasty although Richard didn’t want the sauce and found the fish bland without it.  Very pricy though so shall be back to pub meals tomorrow.

Sea Glass restaurant

11th Drove to Butchart Gardens today after checking out the quick way to the airport. Ended up on East Saanich instead of 17th but it led into Keating which is the road we were looking for so worked well.  The gardens were lovely and we managed to cover more than I expected.

Sydney - Buchart Gardens

Had coffee and a sandwich at the coffee shop at the gardens before driving back to the B&B. Went back to Boondocks for seafood alfredo after a game of rummy kub and a glass of sherry.

12th A really laid-back day today. Richard not feeling too well in the morning so I went for a brisk walk – about an hour up to the wharf and back down Beacon Road before returning for tea.  Both of us went for a walk again in the afternoon and then chatted to a Dutch couple, now living in Ontario, over sherry.  We then walked to Bistro Suisse for schnitzel for dinner.

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Our last day. Packed up after breakfast and said goodbye to our gracious hosts before leaving for the airport.  A lovely holiday in beautiful surroundings.  I suspect we will be back.

July 8, 2017 Posted by | Living in Canada, Travels, Uncategorized | , | Leave a comment

Sunshine Meadows

I’m having a wonderful, totally free Saturday so thought I’d catch up on some of my writing.  A couple of weeks ago I went with Ray and Brian on one of the most beautiful short hikes which I have done.  My photos aren’t wonderful – my camera is finally giving up the ghost – but I think they give some idea of the beauty of the landscape.  Although the weather had been reasonably warm, on the Friday before the hike it snowed in the foothills and up in the mountains, which always makes everything look just that much prettier.

We drove through to Banff and picked up the shuttle bus at the base of the Sunshine ski area – thus avoiding trudging 5 kms up a fairly uninteresting road.  The bus delivered us to the Trail Centre in the Sunshine Village where we started walking, after picking up a couple of hiking sticks for Ray and Brian.

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We set off up the Rock Isle Trail which climbs for about 1 km and is the steepest part of the hike.

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Near the top we reached the continental divide and crossed over into BC.

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This part of the trail looks out towards Mount Assiniboine among a number of other peaks and opens up into the alpine meadow where, unfortunately most of the wild flowers were buried under the snow.  A few hardy specimens shook their petals free and showed us what we were missing.

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We soon reached the Rock Isle Lake and spent some time there, just enjoying the vistas and taking numerous photos which fail to do justice to the scene.

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We were lucky enough to have started early and were alone most of the way around the trail, meeting a few more hikers later in the morning.  This made it possible just to soak in the views and the silence.

From Rock Isle Lake the path led down through the trees  and over a number of little creeks

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and a few more flowers showed themselves.

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We stopped to have a final look at the lake from the other side before carrying on.

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The right hand pathway led us down to and past Grizzly Lake. Many of the ‘bridges’ over the creeks are just a few (and in many cases, just one) roughly hewn logs placed over the water, some artistically rotting, making crossing not dangerous (there is no depth to speak of) but a challenge. The views were stupendous and we kept stopping to take photos and just enjoy being there.

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Brian found some small fish swimming about in one of the creeks which ran into the Grizzly Lake.

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Grizzly Lake is very different to Rock Isle Lake but just as beautiful and again we spent some time just looking and taking pictures.

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Not far past this second lake we came rather unexpectedly upon the Simpson Viewpoint.  The view was breathtaking! Looking down into the valley we suddenly realized just how high we were, walking above the mountain peaks.

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From the viewpoint we took a leisurely wander around the last of the lakes – Larix Lake – stopping occasionally just to enjoy the quiet beauty.

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A couple of Columbian ground squirrels entertained us along the way but I didn’t compete with Ray in photographing them as I think she must have taken dozens of pictures. The pathway looped around and joined up to the one leading back to Rock Isle Lake.  By the time we reached this lake again there were a number of groups of hikers starting along the trail, unfortunately accompanied by the inevitable loud music which seems to be unavoidable on popular hikes, so we were not sorry to have completed the trail.  Back down the hill towards Sunshine Village – the downhill rather hard on the knees – and we  went to the picturesque restuarant to book ourselves onto the next bus back and then enjoyed a nice relaxing meal and a beer while we waited.

This is a hike I would love to do again, perhaps a little earlier in the season when the wildflowers are at their best.  And next time I’ll take the first bus up.

September 19, 2015 Posted by | Hiking, Living in Canada | , , , , | Leave a comment

Calgary is turning gold

Calgary is turning gold,

though the grass is still green and lush from the rain,

and the sun rides high in the pale blue sky.

The sparrows are bright-eyed and noisy and bold

as they fight for seed at the feeder.

Calgary is turning gold,

though the mountains hide in the shimmering haze

and the streams reflect the sun’s brightening rays.

On a shaded deck in the lazy heat

we bask in the dog days of summer

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But the trees know there will be snow

and Calgary is turning gold.

September 12, 2015 Posted by | Living in Canada | , , , | 1 Comment

Fullerton Loop

Yesterday the Bragg Creek Woodland Walkers hiked the Fullerton Loop. This hike used to start at Allen Bill Pond (which is no longer a pond since the 2013 floods) but the trailhead is now accessed from the Ranger Station on the north side of 66, in the parking lot of the Ranger Station. Probably due to the change, the loop is given as anything between 5 and 7km. The elevation also seems to be in doubt – between 220 and 360m and the hike is listed alternatively as beginners’ or moderate.
We started just after 2pm and completed the loop by about 4.20pm with a short stop at the bench half way through the hike for water, a snack and to remove our jackets.

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We chose to do the loop counterclockwise, starting in the valley and climbing steadily through the forest. The path is fairly wide, enabling us to walk in pairs, but was very muddy in places.

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The trees are mature and for much of the way formed a partial canopy above us through which we could see the very blue sky.
The south end of the loop runs along a cliff overlooking the Elbow Valley giving lovely views of valley and mountains.

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Although not a difficult hike, my calves did feel the final ascent and my knees complained intermittently during the steep downhill back into the valley!
Still, an afternoon well spent and I look forward to doing the loop again when the mud has given way to grass and the wildflowers are out.

April 16, 2015 Posted by | Hiking, Living in Canada | | Leave a comment

Snowshoe Hare Loop

This week I joined the Bragg Creek Woodland Walking Group again and we hiked the Snowshoe Hare Loop in West Bragg Creek.  This is a fairly new trail and has been set up for snowshoeing.  I suspect it will be a bit too marshy for enjoyment in summer.  Because we have had a week or more of really warm, spring-like weather much of the snow has started melting and the trail varied tremendously, from snow and ice to dry grassy pathways.

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A couple of short hills kept it interesting and there were a number of places where crampons would really have helped. As it was a few of us detoured under the trees to escape the ice.

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Although the trail is well marked we managed to get lost briefly

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but quickly picked up the path again and found a sunny spot in an open meadow to stop for a snack and a chat.

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The approximately 5km took us over two hours with the stops.

March 14, 2015 Posted by | Hiking, Living in Canada | , , | 1 Comment

Picnicking at McLean’s Pond

Last weekend we visited McLean’s Pond for the first time this season. The sun was shining and the weather unseasonably warm so we decided to take Sherry for a run and have a picnic lunch.

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The pond was still frozen solid and, in fact, there were two groups of ice fisherman in the middle of it.

Richard walked out to chat to one of the groups and to see how they were doing

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Even Sherry ventured out onto the ice for a short distance,

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but, in view of the notice in the car park I decided that someone needed to be more prudent and stay on dry land in case an emergency rescue should be necessary!

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March 14, 2015 Posted by | Living in Canada | , , , , | Leave a comment

Hiking in West Bragg Creek

Yesterday I joined a group of hikers walking a trail in a section of West Bragg Creek I didn’t know existed.  We started in Highland Place and trusted our leader to identify  the unmarked pathways which took us along the snowy loop and back to our cars.

After a cold snap the weather was lovely – up to 9 degrees – and the sun was shining.  The snow has virtually disappeared from our yard so I was surprised to find how much still lay on the ground under the trees.

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We passed the skeleton of a stag which had very probably been taken down by a cougar.  The hike organizer, who lives in the area and walks these paths often, told us that it took two days for the carcass to be reduced to its skeletal remains.  Her husband took the rack.

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Some of the trees, birch or aspens – I have difficulty telling the difference –  had had pieces of bark stripped from them, presumably by elk, or maybe moose.

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We had a number of dogs with us who enjoyed the hike as much, if not more, than the hikers.  They ran free through the woods and rolled in the snow. I was going to take Sherry with me but am glad I didn’t. Not only would she have vanished into some of the snow drifts, she would have been bowled over numerous times by the exuberant four legged hikers!

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All in all, a lovely afternoon, spent in beautiful surroundings and with good company. Hope to join the group again soon.

March 6, 2015 Posted by | Hiking, Living in Canada | , , , | 3 Comments

Saskatoon revisited

This was my fourth visit to Saskatoon and, while some of our family lives there, we will probably make many more. So the challenge is to find something different to see each time.  We drove there this time in convoy with Tracy and the boys, their dogs and cat and our dog, Sherry.  On the way we stopped at a picnic ground at Alsask, on the border of Alberta and Saskatchewan,  to walk the dogs (and the cat).

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During the week in Saskatoon we decided, in addition to our usual activities, we would visit Lake Waskesiu and take a ride on the Southern Saskatchewen River on the Prairie Lily.

In the end the day chosen for the drive to the lake, a trip of about 3 hours, was overcast and threatened rain and only Tracy and I chose to risk it.  It was worth the effort.  We had lunch at the Elk Ridge Lodge- the photo of which is unfortunately a little dark due to the low light –

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– before driving down to the lake itself.  The roads on the way to the Lodge and down to the lake were bounded by boreal forest. Who knew that the Prairies had so many trees?

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Lake Waskesiu is roughly in the centre of the Prince Albert National Park and is one of 7 major lakes in the park.   The name means elk in the Cree language, hence the Elk Ridge Lodge which together with cabins, cottages and townhouses provides accommodation for the many holidaymakers who enjoy the facilities at the Elk Ridge Resort.  There are a couple of public camping places nearer the lake and a little community of quaint shops and restaurants. Despite the development the lake itself looks serene and untouched and there are a number of hiking paths in the area. Unfortunately we did not have time to do more than wander along the banks near the town-site and visit a couple of the little shops.

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Our boat ride on the South Saskatchewan River was also taken in the rain.  This wasn’t really a problem since the rain was intermittent and the riverboat has both a canopy on the top deck and a heated cabin below.  The Prairie Lily offers a variety of cruises on the river, including dinner and brunch trips and can be booked for business and family events.

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We opted for a straight hour cruise up and down the river.  The hot chocolate we bought on board was lousy but the cruise itself was a fun way to see Saskatoon from a new perspective.  We passed the Delta Bessborough, also known as the Castle on the River – a beautiful hotel dating back to 1930 – where Tracy and I stayed when we first drove through to Saskatoon to look at purchasing a house there for the family.

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We also passed under a number of bridges, some of which sheltered flocks of pigeons, hiding out from raptors which apparently never think to look for them under a bridge!  Saskatoon has 8 separate river crossings and is known as the City of Bridges.

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The week went past far too quickly but I look forward to exploring Saskatoon and its surroundings further on our next visit.

 

September 13, 2014 Posted by | Living in Canada, Travels | , , , , , | 1 Comment

Houseboating on the Shuswap

This has been a beautiful summer, spoilt only by an extremely unseasonable snowfall in Calgary which left our yard looking like mid January instead of early September.

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Before this anomaly of nature we were able to make the most of the summer sunshine by taking a few trips around the countryside.  One of these was our trip through the Rockies to BC where we spent a long weekend houseboating.

The scenery alone makes the trip worthwhile. From Calgary to Shuswap the constantly changing view of mountains, trees, lakes and rivers is amazing.

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Once we arrived at Waterways docks our captain(s) had to go for a briefing while we loaded our belongings onto our boat, Shanda, and started to settle in, but not before we were taken on a thorough tour of the boat and required to check off a list consisting of everything from cutlery to waste bins.

Unfortunately we had scarcely started to unpack when we got a call from Calgary telling us that one of the dogs had gone missing. A frantic hour followed as our friend and dog sitter scoured the area together with many of the neighbours and a photo of the miscreant was posted on FB.  Knowing that we would not be able to enjoy the holiday while Shinga was roaming the countryside, Tracy and I drove the 4 1/2 hours back to Calgary, arriving after midnight and ten minutes after our arrival Shinga heard Tracy’s calls and came running in through the gate!

3 hours sleep and, Shinga loaded in the car we headed back to start our delayed boat trip. We took a water taxi to the little bay where the rest of our party was waiting for us.

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The rest of the weekend lived up to our expectations. We drank wine, and other beverages (and blew up floating devices) in the hot tub which is always our favourite haunt on the boat

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… visited the Sea Store – where we bought said floating devices

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… fished, well, some of us did, with varying success. The picture is of Cale, fishing off the back of the boat.

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… swam in the lake which was lovely and warm.

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… and went walking along the sand and through the trees when we beached for the evening. At least the more energetic of us did. The rest of us sat on the beach, sipped on wine and other beverages and enjoyed the view.

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All in all a perfect way to spend a long weekend in summer.  We have already booked our houseboat for next year.

September 10, 2014 Posted by | House boating, Living in Canada, Travels | , , , , , | 3 Comments

McLean Pond

Last weekend we decided to take advantage of the good weather and go on a picnic.  We took Sherry, our little Pom, with us and headed for Forgetmenot Pond, one of my favourite picnic spots.  Unfortunately the winter barrier across Highway 66 was still up at Elbow Falls so we had to turn back. Elbow Falls itself is still showing signs of the devastation caused by last year’s floods and has no place for picnicking.

Eventually we ended up at McLean Pond.  This was our second visit to the Pond, the first was in winter.  I was surprised to see that the water was still covered with ice as most of the waterways nearer town are already clear.  Two pairs of Canada geese which landed on the pond while we were there were definitely not impressed either, judging by their clamorous complaints as they waddled awkwardly across the ice.

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The few tables were already taken by other families out to bask in the sun but we found a handy log where we were finally able to enjoy our picnic.

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April 29, 2014 Posted by | Living in Canada | , , , , | 1 Comment