Many Shades of Green

Guilford, CT

Wednesday, May 29, 2019

I did not have to get out of bed this morning to know that it was even cooler than yesterday, but the thermometer confirmed that it was 10 C. Shawn went running and he prefers it to be closer to 0C.

Brian and I hiked 7.54 kilometres in one hour and fifty-four minutes. There was 79 metres of ascent and descent. I was sure there was far more ascent than that. The Timberlands had thousand of ferns in some parts of the forest but not much undergrowth at all in other parts. I think I could identify the cinnamon, interrupted and maybe the intermediate fern. The forest canopy was much denser than yesterday; so, even though it was a sunny day we did not need to worry about sunscreen. I am not fond of insect repellent but some bug spray would have been useful. Mosquitoes were snacking on us.

We saw one pink lady slipper but really not many flowers. It will be a few days before the mountain laurel blooms. Multi shades of green were relaxing.

We have skied and hiked in Timberlands before, but each season presents a different aspect and we followed different trails. We recognized parts we had done before. We came out at the golf course and Guilford Lakes where we are always able to admire pretty reflections, not ours! We re-entered the forest to make our way back to the car. Timberlands is only a few kilometres from Shawn’s; so, it is an ideal location for a hike any day.

Back at the house we watched a pileated woodpecker attacking the ground, tossing tufts of dirt into the air. We can only assume he was enthusiastically dining on insects. There is a village of chipmunks living among the boulders. No wonder tulips and asiatic lilies are threatened with extinction here.

Shawn and Agnes are dining out with their department. We will have roast chicken with mushroom fried rice and green beans. The nacho appetizers are already devoured.

 

Colour on a Cloudy Day

Guilford, Ct

May 28, 2019

After a weekend of sunshine with temperatures 26C to 29C, today is cloudy, rainy and much cooler at 15C. We were fortunate to get out for a 4.25 kilometre hike in the Westwoods before the rain. An hour and a half took us through beautiful mixed forest with a variety of landscape and many wildflowers accompanied by birdsong. It is just so wonderful to walk in a forest.

We started out above the Amtrak train line, travelled up and down past rocky cliffs, scrambled over and between large boulders, forded streams and breathed in the goodness of the forest. The outlook above Lost Lake was stunning. It is probably a great sunrise location on a less cloudy day. We saw egrets along the shore. A bald eagle soared over the lake. In the woods a pair of cardinals chased each other. Robins flitted from rock to tree stump. A bird we could hear but not see sang merrily. 

Fungi presented a varied display on true trunks,  fallen logs and in the dead leaves. The most curious were a pair that looked like beige Mexican hats with quite a pointy middle. 

Pinxterbloom azaleas created pink swaths on the forest floor. The mountain laurel was still in bud stage. Yellow star flowers peeked out sporadically. Blackberries were in bloom with showy white blossoms. The highlight was discovering pink lady slippers.

The wind had uprooted many tall trees and broken branches over the trail. Some fallen logs had been recently cut but much cutting remains to be done. 

Driving to and from Guilford was a feast for the eyes. There are so many huge rhododendrons in bloom: bright or light pink, red and one small orange one. White flowering dogwoods break up the colourful pinks and reds.

We scored an extra twenty percent off at the grocery store by simply being seniors. Lobster and crab mac and cheese is on tonight’s menu. The family is back at work or school after the long Memorial Day weekend. We are back on cooking duty.

On Sunday some of us got wet in Long Island Sound, but I must admit that the pond at Chatsworth Hollow on Monday was much warmer. I had a good swim there.

Connecticut Hike

Branford Trail

Southern Connecticut 

Saturday, May 25, 2019

We had a delightful family hike on this sunny afternoon with Shawn, Agnes, Alex and Julie. We followed the white marked Branford Trail from Route 146 to Stony Creek where ice cream cones awaited us. We licked our cones on the Long Island shore looking out to the Thimble Islands, watching the ferry unloading its Memorial weekend visitors from the islands. Our leisurely hike was 5.78 kilometres in 2 hours and 16 minutes.

We treasured a variety of nature sightings: pink wild geraniums, white flowering dogwood, azaleas in salmon, red and pink hues, and similarly coloured bright rhododendrons, flowering blueberries, Eastern prickly pear: the only cactus native to Connecticut, a raccoon carrying its kit in its mouth, toads, frogs, crabs, seagulls and the marvelous ospreys. We saw three osprey nests close to the in trees along the shore and two more on platforms in the water. The ospreys were wheeling and diving through the sky close to us screeching at us to move along. 

We walked under a railway bridge while the Amtrak train thundered over us. A couple of seadoos were zooming back and forth. Some kayakers had left their kayaks on the shore and disappeared, no doubt, in search of ice cream cones.

After our hike we were able to identify the shrub with fragrant white trumpet flowers. This invasive shrub is oleaster or Autumn Olive. A shrub produces about eighty pounds of fruit that can be made into jam. That is a lot of jam!

This morning Julie and I planted impatiens, picked up sticks from the lawn, transplanted a rhododendron, pulled weeds and braided daffodils. Alex was in Guilford with the Scouts selling tickets for next week’s strawberry social.

Such a pleasure to spend the day outdoors…in shorts! 21.5C, a light breeze!

Delicious barbecued roast of lamb, green beans and small roasted potatoes. Thank you, Shawn and Agnes!

Spring Walk in the Woods

Spring Woods

Friday, May 10, 2019

“If you go down in the woods today.

You are in for a big surprise.”  Anne Murray

We were up at 6AM so that Brian would arrive at the hospital on time for a stomach scope. Grey skies and a cold wind greeted me as I walked back to the car in the hospital parking lot. I wondered what I would do for the next hour and a half. I was hoping to walk but did not think I had enough clothing on. It is hard to believe it was 20 C at 9 yesterday evening. It was 8C this morning but felt much colder. The car felt warmer. I drove away from town and spotted the KOA campground sign. I had been contemplating this area for next Tuesday’s group hike; so, I decided to check it out.

Is there anything more wonderful than a walk in the woods? The wind was not noticeable in the  shelter of the trees. I did not need headband or gloves. In my hurry this morning I did not think about hiking sticks or boots. My clean running shoes got considerably muddy, but I loved my flower-filled walk.

I was at the Owen Sound Field Naturalists meeting last night where Barbara Palmer, one of the members, showed slides of spring ephemerals. I think I saw most of them this morning, considerably more flowers than on last Tuesday’s hike. Both red and white trilliums were  opening up in large patches. Dog-tooth violets kept nodding tightly to the ground while their speckled green leaves spread a lush carpet throughout the forest, occasionally broken by white hepatica, wild garlic, wild ginger or blue cohosh. Magical.

Although rain threatened, not one drop fell until I was back in the car. I walked 3.26 kilometres in 52 minutes inhaling the delightful morning air listening to bird song. When I walk with a group it is rare to hear a bird as the companionable conversation scatters all wildlife. 

So if you ever need to wait for someone at the Owen Sound Hospital, I heartily recommend walking the Bruce Trail around the KOA campground and the blue blazed Rock Springs Side Trail. You might hear a partridge drumming. You may even see a deer, and if you are fortunate enough to walk there on a spring morning you may see many spring ephemerals. Enchanting!

Going Home

Departure Day

Leaving Sao Miguel

Friday, April 26, 2019

Last night we returned to Mare Cheia. Our server had recommended the mussels. He tricked us. These were limpets, considerably smaller than mussels. We had already enjoyed them In Mosteiros. We would not have ordered them again but we still liked them. We shared a larger grilled fish with vegetables but were too full for any dessert.

We went for a beach walk and actually caught a soft golden sunset. It pretty well matched the golden hues of this morning’s sunrise.

After scrambled eggs and finishing some of our food supplies, we packed our bags, went for a walk on the beach then drove to the Gorreana Tea Plantation to do the 3.5 kilometre hike we had not done last week. It was not as sunny a day as then but the tea fields were still beautiful. Green is such a soothing colour. Today there were workers harvesting the crop.

The walk took us 178 metres up above the plantation then down the other side of it. We completed the steady ascent then descent in fifty-five minutes even with photo stops. The sign suggested it would take an hour and a half. We wished that we had brought our water bottle and hiking poles with us. We were more than ready for our cup of tea at the end.

We so much liked our Mare Cheia Restaurant that we returned for lunch: fish soup and we split a hamburger. 

On our way to Ponta Delgada we stopped for gas and a car wash. A young man did a thorough job of blasting the cow dung out of the wheel wells and off the car. He was ready to then run us through the large brush automated wash with wax but we thought that was above and beyond any car rental requirements. When we returned the car at the airport we still had to pay 8 euros to have the interior cleaned. It did not look dirty but I expect that was a standard extra. I think we would have had to pay much more for the car wash if we had not had it done.

After checking our bags we sat outside in the sunshine for half an hour until we became too hot. We went rapidly through security, no lineup, then wandered through the few stores of Pope John Paul II Airport. Brian had a beer and I had a cup of Azorean gelato:  custard tart flavor, yum! 

We left Ponta Delgada thirty minutes early, a pleasant surprise! The return flight is an hour and a half longer than the initial one because of headwinds. I ate all of my meal: chicken stew with a cheese topping ( pasta or puff pastry? I could not decide.), slaw, a fresh bun with Azorean butter, chocolate cake. Not an award winning meal but tasty as airplane fare goes.

Brilynn met us with hugs and our car at the airport. It’s now 10:30 PM (2:30 AM Azorean time) and we are home! 3 C Brrrr! Very windy!

Our cat, Goose, is also at the door to welcome or scold us, not sure which!

A fabulous trip! Happy to be home again!

Freedom Day

Trilho da Ladeira Velha

Freedom Day

Thursday, April 25, 2019

Today commemorates 45 years of freedom from fifty years of dictatorship in Portugal. Government offices, banks and schools are closed. What is more noticeable for us is the increased number of people on the beach and parked here in this village.

This morning we went for a two hour hike on the Trilho da Ladeira Velha (Old Slope Trail). This is a municipal trail and is appropriately rated “medium”. It was 4.93 kilometres long with 188 metres of ascent and 178 metres of descent with some slippery slopes. The trail was well marked. There was a side shoot to some century old baths but part way along that out and back trail was a large hunk of concrete signed “Private”; so, we did not continue there.

There are quite a few municipal trails on the island. Often these are trails formerly used by fishermen and farmers but have now been sign-posted for hikers. There was one ridge trail that was not part of our hike, nor would I attempt it. This knife edge went out onto a high peninsula and is used by fishermen although none were on it today. There was hardly any wind today. Yesterday would have been a great day to be blown off such a trail as well as the one we trod.

We saw beautiful white and light pink amaryllis, blue and white hydrangeas and the best birds of paradise. The surprise was the waterfall near the end of the trail and almost back in the village. We are surprised that there are no signs pointing to this beautiful waterway and picnic spot. A couple of campers had found the campground above the falls. A banana grove was planted beside the river. 

We had wonderful views back to the beach and village, lots of opportunities to photograph cattle in very green pastures. We even saw a small flock of black sheep. Part way along we carefully stepped over cow poop then caught us to the three culprits. We waited while four men herded the cattle beasts into a trailer. A couple of farmers were restringing and moving fence. A horse ignored us as he was busy munching.

Last night we dined across the street at Mare Cheia (High Tide). Our cheerful server brought out a tray of uncooked fish to show us what was on offer. We chose a grouper and a blue whiting. These fish were butterflied and grilled to perfection served with potatoes, sweet potatoes, taro, red onion and red peppers. We had this lovely platter after a bowl of fish chowder. When Brian had his espresso, I had the chocolate mousse Jim had been looking for. All was delicious.

We returned to Mare Cheia for lunch. The hamburger was a bigger award winner (in our estimation) than the one we had yesterday at almost half the price with way more fresh lettuce. We are returning to Mare Cheia for dinner. Our server has already told us we will want to have the mussels. It is a good thing we reserved our table as I think Freedom Day brings out more diners. It was very busy at lunch.

We spent a good part of this afternoon wading at the edge of the waves, walking the beach and taking photos of waves. Brian got soaked when a wave surprised him. We had a galao at the beach bar where our French Canadian owner, dressed in suit with tie gave me a red carnation for Freedom Day.

Such a wonderful place! This beach. This island.

Tea and Sea

Cha Porto Formoso

Wednesday, April 24, 2019

From the most comfortable bed this trip we saw rain pelting our beach scene this morning. Fortunately the rain did not last long although the cloudy skies persisted until early afternoon.

We decided to walk the 4.8 kilometre Cha Formosa Trail the guide showed starting at the belvedere above the fishing port. We drove to Porto Formoso and found a small parking lot. We walked down past the large church, past men decorating the municipal office door frame with coniferous greenery to the belvedere, high above the fishing boats. There was no board indicating the trail, but we followed the written instructions in the guide and walked further down then turned right and walked up a  steep concrete street (10 feet wide…Brian measured…we had driven on this street the day before). Still no trail markers. We persisted using Gaia and the map in our guide book. 250 metres higher up our road disappeared into a pasture. 

We turned back and found the Cha Porto Formoso plantation by walking a short distance down the regional road. We watched their film on tea production then enjoyed an informative guided tour.  We were served a cup of tea at the end. Our English tour group of eight was much smaller than the twenty or so Portuguese visitors ahead of us. Our guide served our tea and washed our cups and saucers. Small staff but very friendly!

This plantation was started in 1920, had twenty years of down time but was restarted by the current owner in 2001. It is much smaller than Gorreana. Four black teas are processed: orange pekoe, pekoe, broken leaf and a blend of the three. All of the plants here are from the one original plant from 1920.

We walked back down to our car via the plantation. We still walked 4.8 kilometres but never saw a marker for the supposed trail. Brian has said that the next time there are no markers for a trail, we are not making any attempt to do said trail.

We drove east to Maia as we had read there was a bakery there that made bread and other pastry products. The narrow winding roads through Porto Formoso, Sao Bras and Maia took us up and down past colourful concrete houses. Maia appears to be the most prosperous town, and the largest; so, we had high hopes of finding the Padaria. I asked for directions in Portuguese and was told to turn left down the next road. We parked and fortunately a nice man walked us to the Padaria that was two blocks back and two blocks down and even if we had been on the right street we would not have found it without our guide. 

There was no sign for it. We stepped into a corner where there was a window and a lady asked us what we wanted. She was most helpful as we craned our necks through the window and asked what she had for sale. She gave us samples of biscoitos (crunchy cookies) in three flavors. For 3.3 euros we bought all three flavors, two loaves of bread and three chocolate fofos baked that morning. We ate one of them while she bagged our goods. We had not tasted your fofo, Jim, but we are sure ours was better!

We asked where we could buy some cheese. Our lovely baker correctly directed us a few blocks away. For 2.76 euros we bought half a wheel of oregano cheese, four eggs and two bananas. That is it for groceries this trip!

Back in Praia dos Moinhos we descended to the beach cafe where we shared an award winning bacon burger and a plate of fries.the owner of this bar is from the Gatineaus, the reason for the Canadian and Quebec flags. We walked the beach, then sat on a rock mesmerized by waves.

It turns out that the blue detritus on the beach are bluebottle jellyfish.

From City to Beach

Praia dos Moinhos

Sao Miguel

Tuesday, April 23, 2019

Last night we had an excellent meal at the Miroma Restaurant. Kate and I had grilled tipuna and our men huge pieces of grilled cod. All had crispy round potato fries with assorts vegetables. While Brian had espresso we three had among us a fofo (chocolate eclair), pineapple delight and a custard containing basil sprinkled with lime. Our server was delightful and spoke very good English. She and one other server were cheerfully looking after a very busy restaurant including a group of eighteen. A full house with no one having reservations it seemed.

This morning was both hazy and sunny as we packed our bags and wandered from room to room to ensure that we did not leave anything behind. We handed over our keys for beautiful Villa Magia Verde and headed for Ponta Delgada at 10:15 AM. We had a leisurely drive along the shore boulevard past the shipping yard and two large cruise ships into the centre. We went back to the sidewalk Cafe Central for a cappuccino…and some had their last pastel de nata (that oh so good custard tart). The Sao Sebastian Church had been locked the day we arrived but I had a look inside today just before mass started.

We went for our own version of a walking tour. I led, mostly interested in discovering interesting architecture. I know I was not disappointed and I think my followers would agree. 

The bright yellow building with arched entries was formerly the Palacio de Fonte Bela, now the Antero de Quental ( poet) Secondary School. The Sao Bras Fort dates back to the sixteenth century. I loved the house, now restaurant, with the brown/pink/beige tiles in the central turret. There was a very large wedgewood blue building with rounded corners undergoing renovations. The streets are narrow and most of the core ones are for pedestrians only, and laid with cobblestones and white pattern lines, motifs and even pineapple designs.

After we dropped Jim and Kate off at the airport we drove across the island in the direction of Porto Formoso but turned down the narrow winding road to Praia dos Moinhos. We are in a tiny house that has been renovated and modernized into a two bedroom apartment. It is ideal for two people although the second bedroom has twin beds. After our large four bedroom house, this place is minuscule but oh, the view! Simply fabulous! You have no doubt figured out that I love waves and water. We have a floor to ceiling view from our living and sleeping space of the dark sand beach. We will be lulled to sleep tonight by crashing waves.

We spent an hour walking back and forth on the beach, I with bare feet as I loved sinking into the soft sand. There as many as a dozen people on the beach. One father with his three daughters, all in wetsuits cavorted near the shore. The mother stood not far backcautioning them as the sign clearly states that there is a dangerous rip tide. The father was the only one to dive into the waves. We really did not expect to see him surface.

There is a cafe on the beach that was transformed from an old mill. According to its sign, it has an award winning hamburger. We will test that out. We would have today had we known this cafe existed, but as luck would have it when we arrived at our new door, no one was there to let us in. We had received an email telling us to get our key from the Mare Cheia Restaurant across the street. Unfortunately that establishment was closed today and no homeowner could be found. We drove to Porto Formoso on the advice of a neighbour but the barkeep at Recanto Bar had no keys but made us a ham and cheese in a large fresh bun. We phoned the apartment owner. I made myself intelligible in Portuguese. Twenty minutes later after picking up some frozen shrimp for dinner and a few basics, we met the cleaning lady with our key.

Brian made a delicious tomato shrimp pasta with salad and we are once again made while enjoying our wave scene.

Swimming in the Atlantic

Earth Day

Ribeira Quente

Monday April 22, 2019

 

It rained furiously in the night. By morning from our bed we could see a heavy mist blowing in vertical waves across the valley. It is a very windy day. In the house we hear the wind whistling and blowing. It does not seem like the best day to go to the beach.

The sun made a hole in the cloud cover.

Ribeira Quente, Warm Riverside, is where the Ribeira dos Tambores empties into the Atlantic and the village with fishing port at the mouth of the river. We have read that the dark sand beach is the warmest on the island because of thermal water that runs into it. When we arrived at the large empty parking lot above the beach, we knew we did not have to worry about a crowded beach. Kate and I had put our bathing suits on at the house because we knew we would at least try the water. Brian brought his suit with him but did not test the water. He heard from a man at a cafe kiosk in the parking lot that no one goes swimming before June. Jim had no intention of swimming. He left his swim costume at home.

Kate and I had a wonderful swim. I went farther along the shore and swam about 375 metres, almost to the end of the beach before swimming back. There were a few warm spots but I think the water was pretty similar to early swims in Georgian Bay; so, not hot, not even warm by some people’s standards but Kate and I loved it. A walk on the deserted beach was also lovely.

After our swim Brian drove us to the port where we walked along the harbour wall and up to a lookout to check out the boats and harbour. There were several small fishing boats farther out in the water all heading west, presumably to where fish had been spotted or going back to Vila Franco do Campo. We had a galao and shared a chocolate pastry in a cafe at port side.

This afternoon we walked around town in sunshine and wind. Brian and I walked by the river and sat with our feet in Tia Silvina’s hot pool. Actually we gingerly put our feet in and rapidly pulled them out of the too hot water. We alternated between dipping our feet in the colder river then into the hot pool. The end result was relaxed feet.

We are going out for dinner tonight, our last dinner together on this trip, restaurant still undecided. Jim and Kate went in search of our Queijaria to buy some cheese to take back to England. They fly home tomorrow.

Swimming and walking: both great ways to celebrate this wonderful earth! Also a good day to commemorate the 73rd anniversary of my parents’ wedding.

Warm Easter Sunday

Relaxing Easter Sunday

Furnas, Sao Miguel

Sunday, April 21, 2019

The full moon rose over the ridge to wish us a peaceful sleep and the full sun was above the ridge when we awakened. We slept in!

Brian was sure he had bought smoked salmon for our Easter morning breakfast but it was nowhere to be found. Nonetheless we had delicious scrambled eggs and an assortment of local sausages with our toasted bolos and bowl of fruit with yogourt. Kate boiled eggs before we were up as she wanted to try out the special egg cooker. 

We walked around the yard admiring morning glories, azaleas, banana trees, palms and impossibly large succulents (our typical tiny house plant) and watching the goats and lambs gamboling in the field below. The large fig tree has no blossoms.

We read on the sunny terrace stretching bare legs out to collect vitamin D.

Brian and I left for a walk around town. Jim and Kate did the same later. We walked along the river which is bordered with flowers: birds of paradise, white lilies, azaleas, brugmansia, masses of red flowers whose name I do not know, purple irises starting, camellias finishing. We walked up, down and around streets admiring houses both well kept and some crumbling, peeking into walled gardens of large estates, also some of which require some TLC. 

The river is very clear except for spots where the mineral spring water runs into it. One pool just off the river was hot, good for soaking feet. There are many large carp and colourful koi in the river and in a pool in a park. There is also a large aquarium built into the stone wall in the river park.

There are some interesting blue and white tiled murals around town, lovely parks and public spaces, relatively few people out and about although we saw a rather large parking lot of buses. Most restaurants and shops are open. We had cappuccinos and pie (chocolate for Brian and custard for me) at the Gloria Moniz bakery. 

We caught the end of a long Easter mass at Igreja da Nossa Senhora da Alegria (Our Lady of Joy). The bells rang out cheerful Alleluias.

5.35 kilometre walk about in early afternoon then we just came back from another 4.6 kilometres now. We found the splendid Queijaria Furnense.Lucia and her daughter have been making cheese from their hundred happy cows for the past three years. Lucia gave us samples of their five cheeses after which we bought two of the wheels and you know, we bought ice cream. They only started making soft serve ice cream two days ago. The strawberry/pineapple swirl was not ready; so, we settled for chocolate/vanilla. Cheese bonbons are next on their list of fabrications. They hope to be producing these in the next month.

We like patronizing the local Frutaria. The clementines are especially good.

Last night we dined at Caldeiras e Vulcoes. We made a reservation in the afternoon and got the last time available at 6:30 PM. The upstairs restaurant had tables well spaced apart and occupied by a mix of tourists and locals. Three of us had the fish and veg plate while Jim had a very thick piece of steak with a fried egg on top. Everything was tasty including desserts of passion fruit sorbet (Kate’s), lemon lime meringue pie (mine), chocolate pie with chocolate sauce and toasted meringue and ice cream (I do not know how Jim eats as much as he does!) and espresso (Brian’s).