Moon Shadows

Moon Shadows

The Taj, Montserrat 

Sunday, January 20, 2019

 

Happy birthday, Al! I made Doris Greenspan’s banana cake for Al’s birthday. We will have whipped cream and dark chocolate shavings on top. There are cute little (4 inches) bananas here on Montserrat and yogourt made by Pam and John.

Pam, Susan’s sister, and John returned to Canada today. We wish them warmth. Severe cold weather is forecast for Ontario.

Last night, the “A team” made Amaretto chicken, snow peas, rice and cole slaw. Delicious….and good for a leftover lunch today.

Tonight, we the “Star Team” have made a lettuce/tomato salad, rosti potatoes with onion, snow peas (because they were so good last night) and a baked fish dish using swai and tilapia in a white wine/coconut paprika lemon garlic sauce. Although we are surrounded by ocean, it is not easy to buy fresh fish. We have to rely on frozen fish.

After yoga this morning, we had Susan’s wonderful crepes then I baked the cake followed by a swim before the clouds took over. It rained all afternoon until 5 PM. We read in the open air living room and snoozed in our rooms. Although we were ready for our 4 PM swim. We waited until 5 when the rain stopped. We were surprised that the sea was so calm and clear after the rain.

Last night we sat on the deck discussing the beautiful moon that made shadows around us. Billowy clouds surrounded the volcano and floated over the moon, obscuring it from time to time. Tonight we are anxious for the super blood wolf moon to be fully visible so that we can see the eclipse.

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Off to Montserrat

The Taj, Montserrat 

January19, 2019

Yesterday we made sure that we booked a taxi to pick us up at 6:30 this morning. We packed our bags last night and we were at the resort reception at 6:25 AM. The night attendant looked surprised to see us. When we asked if our taxi had arrived, he scanned yellow stickies on the desk but saw no evidence that a taxi was expected. He phoned a taxi company which had no record of a taxi being requested. He phoned Antigua’s other taxi company but no one answered. He phoned his boss, but no answer. He tried someone else, no answer. He called to a lad in the lobby to watch the desk and had us follow him to his own car. He drove us to the airport. His shift ended at 7 AM; so, he would drive home after dropping us off. In the back seat, I could not hear over the sound of the loud Jamaican music, but Brian, who was in the front, was given info about buildings we passed. 

It poured on our way to the airport but conveniently stopped as we got out of the Toyota. Our driver probably earned as much from our taxi fare as he had from working the night shift. 

The airport was basically empty. Two female uniformed employees directed us to take a seat as no one had arrived yet to check in Fly Montserrat passengers, or any other passengers. I took my fleece out of my suitcase as the air conditioning was chilling. We ate an apple and our check-in person arrived. Our checked bags were weighed as were each of us. Every ounce counts when you fly in a six seater plane.

We ascended the escalators and received our emigration stamp then walked a few feet to the next officer who took our exit paper. Fifteen feet further we went through security. We had to remove our running shoes and put everything into trays to walk through the security scanner just like a real airport! The officer watching us was bigger and broader than Brian and very stern looking but we got him smiling and chatting. Life is much simpler in an airport with no customers, no line-ups.

Brian went in search of a bottle of five year old rum. One shop was open but as it was about to close; so, he bought a bottle for $24 US, glad that he did not pay $30 at the resort. Half an hour later another store opened. The same rum was $17. Que sera!

Our 18 minute plane trip from take off to landing on Montserrat was loud but smooth. There were only four passengers but the pilot had a co-pilot.

We flashed through Customs and a minute later we were outside watching for Bryan’s arrival. He and Susan arrived instantly and drove us to the Hilltop Restaurant where our other Cobble neighbours were feasting on multi-topping waffles and cappuccinos. At the table beside them was our Cobble Beach yoga instructor, Maxine! We loved our waffle breakfast!

Then off to the Taj: all eight of us in a van. We were delighted to see the new kitchen and other improvements at the Taj since our 2017 visit. The apartment is beautiful! This is our third time at the Taj and each time we have had a different room. This time we are upstairs in the middle room: the Oceanview. We have the king size bed!

If you ever want to rent the Taj, 6 bedrooms with en-suites, or the self-contained apartment contact Susan at susan.r@rogers.com

Brian, Bryan, Peter and Al went straight to work on the projects work list: outdoor clean-up and gardening. I cannot say that I made myself as useful but enjoyed a swim in the pool before grilled cheese and tuna sandwiches. After a relaxing hour or so of chatting and reading in the breeze on the deck, we walked to the beach for a swim in the ocean. I love swimming in Georgian Bay but I can never last as long there as I do in these warm waters.

We take turns with supper prep and clean up. Brian and I are on tomorrow night’s roster; so, this is our night off. What a life we lead!

Moody Day

Hawksbill Resort 

Friday, January 18, 2019

27C

Tea Time: it’s not a true English tea, at least no clotted cream and strawberries on big fluffy scones. No silver tea service nor fancy china cups although there are cups AND saucers, some raisin shortbread, small pastries and tiny biscuits, the latter crying for jam or cream or something! There are a variety of teas and herbal tea bags and coffee in an urn. No cappuccinos, decaf or otherwise. The most English part of tea time are the accents of the British tourists at the nearby tables. But we really are not lacking for food. All meals are plentiful. I have had grilled fish every day even though many other items are available.

A moody day. It poured for two minutes when we awakened, then the clouds cleared for a while then filled the skies again. Yesterday’s waves grew in the night. Brian put in his earplugs. I was happy with the dramatic symphony. One end of Sea Grapes beach is less wavy than the other; so, easier to scramble out. We fall into the sea at our end then swim the length of the beach to exit at the calmer end. No snorkeling today. The water was too stirred up.

Four Canadians took a sailboat excursion to the south of the island and loved the snorkeling there. I think they forgot to use sunscreen! There sure are a lot of sun-baked people here. We read on the beach in the shade of the almond trees.

Maman goat paraded her new kids back and forth under the almonds. Every now and then the kids collapsed for a snooze in the shade.

There are also American, Australian, and Italian guests at this resort.

We discovered the library: a room with tables and shelves loaded with paperbacks for the taking. I took one as I am sure I will be finished A Stranger in the House in no time. Brian has been reading novels on his iPad. I have not got to mine yet.

Several large touring catamarans come out of St John’s each morning and return around 1:30PM when we are having lunch. There are two or three private sailboats that pass by here every hour. Yesterday a fifty-foot black sailboat with black sails flew past. Fun to watch.

Blue Skies and Waves

Hawksbill Resort 

Thursday, January 17, 2019

28C

That island on the horizon is Montserrat: the east side.

Bright blue skies. Only a few wisps of cloud. Warm water, big waves, a red flag day at the beach.

We snorkeled in the morning in very clear water but we had to take care to stay far enough from the rocks for fear of being thrown against them. The fish were hiding in their caves.

We walked the beaches and read a lot. I am almost finished The Dutch Wife. Because of the very solemn topic, I think it needs the sunny setting to read it. Too gloomy otherwise.

No, Brian, you are not to feed the cats circulating on the restaurant terrace, even if you do not want to eat the fish skin, even if the cat resembles Puddy Cat back home!

Last night we were entertained by a four man steel band. Even the goats crossed the dance floor to hear them.

Swimming and Walking

Hawksbill Resort, Antigua 

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January 16, 2019

28C

Whenever I awoke in the night, the music of the waves soon pulled me back to sleep. We went to bed at 9 PM and did not get up until 8 AM. We have a very comfortable bed. The bleating of goats accompanied the wave music as we fell asleep and they were our wake-up call in the morning. There are about fifty goats in the mangrove behind us, apparently a farm. There are openings in the fence where the goats come through. All of them come at night but a dozen or so roam the property throughout the day.

Other critters noticed: mongooses (mongeese?), chameleon, gecko, hermit crabs, birds – dove/pigeon, yellow breasts, other small fellows wanting to clean up in our open-air restaurant.

We snorkeled for an hour this morning, spotted a variety of colourful fishes up to a foot long, corals, sea urchins. It rained for some of the time we were snorkeling. That would have been a beautiful photo but Brian’s underwater camera took in water and quit. We later met the clerk in the Sugar Shop ( not a sweet shop but a souvenir shop in a sugar mill tower) who had seen us snorkeling from above.  She said the pattern of the rain on the water and us snorkeling through it would have made a beautiful painting.

We walked the length of the resort’s four beaches in both directions for a total of 3.2 kilometres. The clothing optional beach was the longest and most secluded. It also had the most sunbathers on it. There appear to be more reefs in the water there. We will return with at least our masks, fins and snorkels.

Another swim this afternoon and an attempt at fishing by Brian. Maybe he will be lucky tomorrow. 

We opted for grilled fish at lunch although the hamburgers, chicken and hot dogs all looked good on the open grill. We also arrived at the right time for a fresh batch of French fries. This morning I was delighted to have French toast made for me while Brian had an everything omelette. 

Speaking of food, it is time for supper again. We must keep moving! It’s a good thing we have five hundred metres to walk to the restaurant from our cottage and it is uphill.6312e8f7-5f5e-4b83-9ce0-ac6f7778cc98

On the Beach Again

Toronto to Antigua

Tuesday, January 15, 2019

Do not go where the path may lead, go instead where there is no path and leave a trail.   Ralph Waldo Emerson 

We saw this sign yesterday in Superburger in Primrose while waiting for a decaf cappuccino. I enjoy reading Ralph and agree with the statement, although we are not creating a new path on this trip. Or are we? Every day is a new day with new circumstances.

Yesterday we drove to Mississauga where we stayed at Jim and Lynn’s with bonus company from Lynn’s sister, Betty. As always we shared good conversation and had a delicious meal prepared by Lynn: Boeuf Bourguignon. I supplied a wild blueberry pie. 

Brother Jim, even though not a morning person, startled himself awake at 6 to drive us to the airport. Even though it was sunny in Owen Sound and Toronto, the temperature was below zero. Our Air Canada flight was delayed forty-five minutes since we had to wait in line to have the wings de-iced.

The pilot made up some of that lost time and we landed in Antigua at 1:50 PM,  (2:50 local time) nearly four and a half hours after take-off. I entertained myself with the documentary,

Anthropocene: the Human Epoch, then comical fluff, Book Club. Brian’s headphone jack was broken; so, he watched downloaded TV programs on his iPad. Air Canada gave him a code to go online later to receive a credit of some sort as compensation.

We survived the flight on nuts we brought with us accompanied by water and juice supplied. 

By 3:13PM Antigua time, we had already passed the taxi dispatcher and were waiting in a taxi van for more customers. Charlie took us on a tour of residential streets, in he back roadsof St John’s then past the cruise ships in the harbour. Although we are only two bays south of where we stayed four years ago, Charlie did not take us along the shore but more inland. It certainly felt longer, but we have successfully arrived in Caribbean paradise at the Hawksbill Resort. 

Our room looks out on the shore which is twenty metres away. The gently rolling waves were fun to swim in and provide a relaxing backdrop for dreaming.

Our tummies are full again with leek soup, freshly grilled fish, baby back ribs, salad, grilled veggies and so much more. I tried to be selective and not load up my plate. All the staff are very friendly. David, the bartender is attentive to Brian’s wishes. I am sticking with the virgin varieties of rum punch and pina coladas.

The waves are calling us to a shore walk in the moonlight…our own path to make.

Family and Hiking

November 25, 2018

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I love family and I love hiking; so, I have had a perfect week hiking daily with family in Connecticut. Hiking daily was not always the first choice for our nine year old granddaughter, but once we got moving, Julie had a good time with the rest of us.

I really am only familiar with this southern part of Connecticut in the Guilford area, but from the hiking guide I have looked at and the many hikes we have done, I would say that Connecticut is a great place for hiking. Shawn keeps assuring that we try new trails. There are many blazed trails in state forests, conservation areas and preserves. Plenty of hills to energize me as we go up and down through forests, along rivers,  and lakes or clamber over rocks on the shore of Long Island Sound. Actually the grandkids do more of the rock climbing while I am delighted to capture them in photos.

Until today all of our hikes were less than a half an hour’s drive from our son’s. Today we drove for forty-five minutes to the east side of the Connecticut River to the Devil’s Hopyard not far from East Haddam and Goodspeed. The latter has a wonderful nineteenth century frame opera house and several other interesting buildings with turrets, the better to view the river!

The 860 acre Devil’s Hopyard State Park has beautiful Chapman Falls. We could not see the devil’s footprints at the bottom of the falls as there was way too much water rushing over the sixty foot escarpment. We also did not see any hops although a man named Dibble once grew hops here. We followed the orange loop in a clockwise direction which took us up, up, up, 138 metres of ascent and of course, the same descent! We hiked 4.37 kilometres in two hours, stopping for photos of the falls, river, lookouts and forest of oaks, beech, birch, pine and hemlock. Even in an area which had seen a forest fire it was obvious these trees had been here a long time. Brian lost count of tree rings at ninety on one stump where he was trying to figure out its age. Shawn cast his fishing line into several clear pools but no fish for supper.

Alex climbed into the Devil’s oven, a tight cave, just his size, in the cliff side high above the main trail. The devil was not around to light a fire under him. The trail must look very different in each season. Spring would be incredible with all the azaleas and laurel along the path. We saw one deer that did not rush away but stayed behind enough trees to make getting a photo too difficult.

It rained hard most of last night which made the trail muddier than it would have been yesterday, but not bad at all. Each day this week has been warmer. We got up to a balmy 11 C today and shed headbands, gloves and even jackets at times. Naturally the sun did not come out until we finished our hike, but the woods were still delightful.

We stopped at the nearby Two Wrasslin’ Cats Cafe for delicious cappuccinos, hot chocolate and shared cinnamon buns. This is a delightful cafe with super friendly owners and cat decor, famous people, local art and customer poems lining the walls. If you are ever in the area I highly recommend it.

We were going to take the Hadlyme ferry across to Chester since we saw that it was running until November 30th, but when we arrived at the ferry dock, the ferry was not operating. Apparently the water was too high and we missed the last ferry by minutes.

We saw many waterfalls along the road on our way home, falls that we had not noticed going in the opposite direction.

After a hearty Tuscan bean soup made by Agnes, the kids have gone to do homework; Shawn is working on his laptop, Agnes went grocery shopping; Brian is starting supper preparations and I took time to write about our adventure.

Maybe we will have time for another family game of Five Crowns before this day is done. Tomorrow we head for Niagara then home while it will be back to work or school for everyone else. We are very thankful for a wonderful long Thanksgiving weekend hiking with family and as always, eating very well!

 

HomeAgain

Lest you think we are still wandering in the wilderness, we are not. We arrived home Monday afternoon after a delightful weekend with our Camino friends in North Hatley, Quebec. It took us ten and a half hours to get home including quick grocery shopping in Owen Sound. Except for some slow morning traffic south of Montreal, the trip was uneventful, mostly cloudy with a little rain.

Friday’s seven hour drive from Rimouski to the Eastern townships had the most autumn colour we saw on our trip, especially as we drove along the St. Lawrence. Since most of this was on the Trans-Canada, it was not good for stopping for photos; so, the few I took were on the fly. The most exciting scenes were fields filled with thousands of snow geese. The white birds were cleaning up any grain left in the fields. Quite a sight! But always on the wrong side of the car for even an attempt at a photo.

The line of traffic heading east was composed almost entirely of trucks or SUVs towing all terrain vehicles. Moose and deer hunting began Saturday.

There were plenty of deer in the fields around North Hatley, but no moose!

We enjoyed some long hilly walks and a comforting fire in the fireplace afterwards with beautiful views of Lac Massawipi. Danielle is a great cook as is her daughter-in-law. We ate well: carbonnade flamande one night and the next night a cassoulet to celebrate an eleven year old granddaughter’s birthday. Homemade jams, fresh croissants, fresh bread, wonderful salads. We really were spoiled.

We continue to be spoiled at home with dinners at friends’ four nights out of five. We have been golfing. We need to hike more!

Gaspésie to Pointe au Pere

Thursday, September 27, 2018

Another beautiful day! Not especially warm but good for hiking up a mountain. We consulted at the Visitors’ Centre yesterday and had two short intermediate hikes planned for this morning, but on our way to starting the hike we decided to try a more challenging trail. The Mont Joseph Fortin hike was listed as “difficult”.  Climbing 526 metres in over 4 kilometres tested my lung power and Brian’s knees and mine held up for the steep descent. It was good to have a relatively flat, albeit puddled, circuit at the top to give ourselves a rest. The view at the top was stunning. We could see all of the Lac aux Americains way below with a tiny picnic shelter at one end. 

On our way down we saw neither moose nor caribou only a black Spruce Partridge on our path who was in no hurry to fly up into a spruce. We chatted with two other Ontario couples at the lookout who had been hiking in the park for a week. They had hiked up Mont Jacques Cartier two days earlier where they encountered snow as well as a moose with calf in front of them on the trail.

I was so hot from the energy required to ascend that I was down to my t-shirt but as the wind rose close to the top and the temperature dropped, I pulled a merino hoodie out of my bag and put the hood on and wrapped the shirt around my neck. Just right. It was a good ten kilometre hike which we celebrated sitting on a log in the sunshine eating cranberry crackers with crab rillette. It is useful to have our car at the end of the trail! It is good that we had a plentiful delicious buffet breakfast before our hike.

We drove along the north side of the Gaspé from Mont Ste Anne to Pointe au Pere just east of Rimouski. We had. It pre-booked but we had been checking reviews online and spotted a 9.2 rated B and B. We stopped at the Auberge de l’Onondaga and were able to book the king room just as the owner was about to accept a booking for the same room online. Pauline had four of her five rooms booked that night. We had not noticed that the room was advertised as having a shared bathroom. We usually look for ensuites but we would have missed a gem if we had not stayed here.

Pauline recommended the nearby Restaurant du Phare for seafood fare and we were not disappointed. We had baked cod that was done perfectly with salad and fluffy vegetable rice. We had no room for dessert.

Friday, September 28, 2018

Our breakfast was abundant and delicious. I thought I was having one egg with ham and Brian two eggs with ham and sausage. As well as this we had on our plate tourtiere , lamb terrine, crispy fried potatoes, tomato, and toast to go with any of the four homemade jams or caramel sauce or apple compote.  All of the jams were good. I had never tried pumpkin jam before; it was good but not as yummy as the plum jam.

I chatted with the four other guests at our harvest table.  Brian listened intently as our conversation was in French. One couple was from Grenoble and the other from the south of France. They were doing a two week driving/hiking tour from Montreal to Forillon and visiting with children who were studying in Quebec City. Busy!

The Pointe au Pere lighthouse is the second tallest in Canada, the tallest being the Cap des Rosiers lighthouse just north of Parc Forillon (34 metres).  We did not take the time to visit the marine museum there that was about lighthouses and the sinking of the Empress of Ireland. We also skipped the tour of the Onondaga submarine. We were somewhat road weary and had a long drive ahead of us.

 

La Gaspésie

Wonderful full breakfast at Auberge William Wakeham: Brian had 2 poached eggs on baguette with hollandaise, sausage, fried potatoes, croissant, fruit; I had omelette with melted Brie, fried potatoes, fruit, croissant. I am not sure how but after a few hours of driving on the north side of the Gaspe Peninsula, we were hungry enough to search for lunch. Actually we drove through several villages looking for coffee to no avail. Finally we made it to Mont St Louis where we turned around at the sight of a bright pink auberge and the word “cafe”.

We had an excellent lunch with cappuccinos at Auberge Marre- good mushroom soup for Brian, excellent onion soup for me at a window table looking out to the bay. It rained while we dined then the sun shone on us as we exited with a short wide band of rainbow on horizon. According to the weather forecast it was supposed to rain all day but we have had sun and cloud with only some light rain this afternoon.

The north shore is much hillier than the south shore. I thought the wide bike lanes on the south shore looked ideal for biking but I do not think I am up to the hills of the north shore. White gypsum makes striped layers in rocky cliffs pushed up at various angles. Flocks of Black ducks with white backs swam and dipped below the rippling water.

We are comfortably installed at the Gîte Mont Albert in the Parc de la Gaspésie. We have a plan for hiking some of the trails tomorrow after the rain. The outdoor pool is closed for the season; so, I will not be making use of my bathing suit this trip. The temperature actually rose to twenty Celsius today. I felt summer!