Monday, July 31, 2023

Visiting Old Quebec City


In 1608 Samuel de Champlain, a French explorer, established a tiny settlement on the banks of the Saint Laurence River in what is now Canada.  Today was a step back in time as we wandered winding cobblestone streets lined with stone buildings decorated with shutters of all colours. Above the old town rises the Chateau Frontenac, a luxury hotel built by the Canadian Pacific Railway company in 1893.

You can't always believe the weather forecast. Today's prediction was 40% showers, but that turned into about 90% between 9 and 4, the hours we wandered around Quebec City. We had a wonderful time in spite of the rain. 

The old houses drew me in with their overflowing flower planters, steep roofs, stone walls and colourful doors and shutters. Some houses have been converted to businesses, others remain private residences. A man carrying a large musical instrument case came out of a blue door, turned to lock it, then went on his way, likely a busker going to work for the afternoon. 

The city is located on steep terrain, good for a defensive position when enemies came by boat from the river. The streets wind up and up and from the upper levels looking down on homes is like seeing a world in miniature. 

I think about the people who have lived in these homes with their dreams and their griefs. The circumstances may be different than ours, just as my experiences are different from you, my reader. But down through the decades and the centuries, home has been seen as a place of refuge and comfort, of restoration and love. Not all homes reflect those characteristics, but the idea of home is one that we all yearn for. 

Wednesday, July 26, 2023

Beside Lake Huron


We sped across the western provinces, intent on reaching Ontario. It was a bit of a surprise to me to cross the longitudinal meridian of Canada when we were in Manitoba. Halfway across Canada in four days was a bit of a marathon. 

In school geography class one thing every Canadian student learns is to draw the Canadian Shield, a wide band of rock around Hudson Bay. The TransCanada highway winds across and through rocks and lakes and trees that mark the landscape. 

We stopped at Kakebeka Falls for a night of camping and a couple of hours of hiking. Viewing platforms allow close access to the falls. A short trail led to another, smaller, but equally beautiful waterfall. 

We camped at Neys Provincial Park for one night and walked on the sand by Lake Superior. Unfortunately, hundreds of grasshoppers had the same idea. Every step a few of them hopped up as we passed. Leaving the beach we brushed them off of our pant legs. A wee bit unnerving. 

I’m writing this post by the shores of Lake Huron on a warm muggy afternoon made bearable by the cool breeze coming off the lake. We set out our chairs and are reading, a cool drink to hand. It’s lovely to just sit and relax after driving for so many days (6!).

Tomorrow we will be visiting friends in Toronto for a few days. 

I wasn't able to post until now, several days after our lovely time by Lake Huron. The above photo was our morning view of the lake, the water soft, the air misty, and the humidity high!

We're enjoying visiting with friends, connecting with a cousin, and seeing a bit of the countryside north of Toronto. We won't be going to the big city this trip. 

Tuesday, July 18, 2023

An Adventure Begins


In the very bottom left of the map above you will see a pink island with a small dot labelled Victoria. That's where we live. For a number of years the two of us have dreamed about driving across Canada, all the way to the green island on the right with the small dot labelled St. John's. 

Our home for the next three months will be our 21 foot Escape travel trailer, or caravan. I think caravan is a much nicer word, don't you? We've made lists and checked them twice. Clothes, food, books, tools, hiking boots, raingear, and sunhats have been tucked away into every nook and cranny. 

For a few days prior to our trip I wondered why on earth we would leave our comfortable home and garden to drive thousands of kilometres across our country. Part of me is excited to be setting out on this adventure. We'll see things we've only heard or read about. We'll meet new friends, and a few old ones.

As we go along, I'm certain there will be times when I say, like Bilbo Baggins, "I wish I were at home in my nice hole by the fire, with the kettle just beginning to sing." Those times will be rare, I think, as we travel east and then back again over the next three months. It seems like a long time now, but I know the days will pass quickly. 

I hope to blog as we go. Posts might be sporadic as the internet may be spotty. We'll see what happens. 

We were on the road for 12 hours today and are cozy in a lovely treed campground not too far from Banff. A yummy dinner of pulled pork and coleslaw. After a long walk I’m looking forward to a cup of tea  

Saturday, July 15, 2023

Finding a Bit of Narnia


We spent last week camping with the family. Lots of visiting, lots of delicious food, lots of energetic children who played in the forest, explored the creek, swam in the pool, and did all sorts of creative things. 

One morning we set out on a short hike. The trail was easy and best of all, according to the littlest ones, there were huckleberries to pick and eat along the way. The warmth of the sun brought out all the wonderful woodsy smells of greenery, cedar trees, and pine cones. 

Through the woods to a suspension bridge high over a narrow creek strewn with huge boulders. Then down a very steep trail to a small rocky beach formed by a bend in the creek. It was a magical place, quiet and private, lined by enormous rocks and towering trees. Crystalline water made green by the surrounding foliage. Sunlight filtering through the forest canopy.

This hidden place was discovered by our son and his family last summer. They knew we would enjoy it. The deep pool was shockingly cold to my system, and exhilarating. What a wonderful time we had swimming, exploring, eating our lunch on the beach. I could have stayed all day.

It's become a bit of a tradition that Nana brings along her deep fryer and makes donuts one morning. It doesn't take long and I have lots of help. Raspberry glazed, maple glazed with bacon, Boston Cream filled donuts, and plain glazed donut holes. They all disappeared. 

Back at the campsite, swallowtail butterflies flitted about the planted flowers. 

So much to enjoy about this little vacation together with some of the dearest people in my life. 

Sunday, July 09, 2023

On a Smaller Island with a Surprise


My home is on Vancouver Island, which is the largest island on the west coast of the Americas, and about three times larger than the island of Hawaii. Surrounding our island are many many more smaller islands jutting up out of the ocean. It's a boater's paradise as many of the islands are parks. 

Portland Island is one of these. Used by the First Nations peoples, it was then settled by Hawaiian workers brought to the United States. When their contracts were finished, they were unable to purchase land in the USA, so came north to Canada. They planted orchards and farms to provide produce for the residents of surrounding islands. Remnants of the orchards continue to produce apples and pears. 

A smiling rock

In 1958 Princess Margaret visited British Columbia and the island was given to her. She gave it back a few years later. There was a scheme to build a luxury hotel on the island, but in the end, it became a national park. 

Access to the island is by private boat only, no ferry service offered. We, along with two friends, spent a wonderful day hiking on the island's many trails. The scent of the sun-warmed forest floor filled me with delight. We clambered on rocky beaches and peered into tide pools. We looked up, way up through the forest canopy to the blue sky. 

Arbutus (arbutus mensiesii), native to the Pacific Northwest

In places the water looked inviting and tropical, but a hand put into the water soon discouraged any thought of a swim. The water temperature is about 9.5 degrees Celsius. Too cold for me!

After our hike we ate lunch on the boat, cold sliced chicken, French potato salad, Greek salad, and Peach Upside Down Cake for dessert. All very delicious with a spectacular view of water, islands, and sky. 

The mist is the whale exhaling.

Late afternoon we began our way back. What fun to see a pair of Orca whales surface just in front of our boat. We cut the throttle, as required by law when so close to these creatures, and watched as they surfaced, blew, and sank again. 

Whales with the town of Sydney in the background.

When they disappeared, we began our way again, only to have the whales appear in front of us again. They were going the same way as we were, and we enjoyed watching them for about 30 minutes. Such a treat, especially for our friends who rarely get out on the water. 

Sunday, July 02, 2023

Into July


Every couple of days I pick raspberries. It's a bumper crop and there are more to come. We eat them with yogurt for breakfast, with ice cream for dessert, and I've frozen eight containers for the winter. This week I made a Raspberry Shrub, a concentrate of berries, sugar, and apple cider vinegar. It's sweet and tart and very refreshing mixed with water or club soda. 

Every time I pick berries I am reminded of several summers in my teenage years. My grandfather had a raspberry farm and my sister and I would come from our home in the interior to pick berries and earn a little money. One year my sister and I, maybe 15 and 14 years of age, picked berries for another farmer. We lived in a small abandoned house and took care of ourselves - cooking simple meals and spending the evenings reading or talking. On the weekends we went to our grandparents' home. 

It was important to pick the bushes clean, not leaving any ripe berries behind. We picked the outside berries, then spread the canes apart and stepped into the rows to find all the hidden juicy berries. The scent of sun-warmed berries in my own canes takes me right back to those days. 

For Canada Day on Saturday, we enjoyed dinner with friends. I brought the dessert, seen above, and I have to say, it was delicious. It's a combination of several recipes, and I plan to write down what I did so that I can reproduce it. 

Two little summer nighties were stitched up this week. The little girls took a bath and put them on before going to their own home for the night. Cora's favourite colour is orange (subject to change at any moment), and I found this bright orange print for her nightgown. Iris was thrilled with the puffed sleeves. Her delight reminded me of Anne of Green Gables delight with the puffed sleeve dress Matthew gave to her. It's the little things!

A friend is anticipating the birth of her first grandchild and I made a stuffed elephant as a gift, along with some fun board books. The pattern is from Tilda. I so enjoy spending time in my sewing room, creating this and that. 

On Sunday afternoon we went downtown and walked along the Inner Harbour. It's definitely tourist season as the path was quite busy, as were the restaurants. We enjoyed fish tacos at Fisherman's Wharf, deliciously prepared by a Mexican family. The water shimmered, the sun shone, and we watched the comings and goings on water and on shore. A lovely way to be a tourist in our home town. 

A Bit of This and That

  Off in the distance Mount Baker, in the USA, gleams in the sunlight. My best guess is that it's about 100 km away as the crow flies. T...