Cobble Beach

Winter Wonderland

January 29, 2017

This morning we went to 8AM mass at Our Lady of the Scapular Church in Niagara Falls. This is a regular Sunday habit when in Niagara. We usually have occasion to see some siblings there. This morning it was Margaret and Genny. Rarely, there are no other family members present, but we have been attending mass for many years here; so, many faces are familiar even if we do not know all their names. The church was built in 1960. My family moved to Niagara eight months later.

Brian and I have a history with this church. We received the sacrament of Confirmation together. We were married here. Two of our three children were baptized here. Our parents’ funerals were here. So even though only two years of our married life was in Niagara Falls, we have been returning here for decades. There is something very comforting and peaceful about such a familiar place, about such a tradition.

Father Paul’s homily this morning was about the Beatitudes: nine blessings such as Blessed are the peacemakers for they shall be called children of God. All are very hope filled. Father Paul read some modern versions of the beatitudes that refer specifically to our times and suggested we create some of our own. Pope Francis has added some beatitudes for our times: Blessed are those who look into the eyes of the abandoned and marginalised and show them their closeness. Blessed are those who see God in every person and strive to make others also discover him. Blessed are those who protect and care for our common home. Plenty to consider and practise in what can otherwise be troubled times.

Today we drove the two hundred and seventy-five kilometres home to Cobble Beach in our normal three hours and forty-five minutes. We listened to the beginning of Michael Connelly’s The Black Echo, one of the earlier Detective Harry Bosch series. We noticed that the fields were blanketed in white around Guelph but the snowbank and piles of snow did not appear until Durham. At home we had to clean almost a foot of snow out of the driveway before we could drive in. We did not anticipate more than a couple of inches of snow. When we left home two weeks ago, the ground was still covered in two feet of snow but we thought with the mild temperatures and rain of the past two weeks, there would be nothing left. In fact all had disappeared but this fresh snow fell in since yesterday.

We quickly emptied the car and donned our skis to take advantage of this winter wonderland. We think Cobble groomed the trails just for us, a welcome home gift! The trails are in good condition and except for a few places, we were the first to use them. After 7.4 kilometres we were happy to relax in our steam bath.

Home Again

Home Again, Home Again
Niagara Falls to Cobble Beach
Wednesday, June 22, 2016

Always a pleasure to come home. We picked up our essential grocery items at Zehrs and still arrived home around 1 PM. A number of our flowers bloomed and finished without us: tulips, poppies and half the irises. Some are still blooming. A yellow dahlia is in full bloom. That was a surprise, a quick growth from bulb. The peonies are still looking good. The rhubarb went to seed! The weeds were not supposed to push through the mulch but they did and will provide me with some hours of work.

I got out the window screens we had put away for the winter, washed them and put them up so that we could open them wide. We unpacked, are airing our sleeping bags and out away our backpacks.

Then we golfed the front nine. What a perfectly glorious golf day. It even appears we still know how to golf after being away for a month.

We had a lovely chicken dinner at Kate’s. Kate beat us at Hand and Foot. A pleasure to be together again and share our respective stories.

A full moon is shining beautifully across Georgian Bay welcoming us home.

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Thankful for Memories

Cobble Beach

October 8, 2015

Happy birthday to my youngest brother and our wonderful daughter-in-law!

I have been closely following my friend, Fran, and her five female companions as they walk the Camino Frances. The Canadian Chicas are on Day 29 of their journey. One of the Chicas has been posting photos with one-liners to describe this awesome journey. I am basking in the memories of our trip as I watch progress toward Santiago, some 220 kilometres still to go.

They started with a more modest measured approach than we did, but then they also gave themselves forty-two days to complete their pilgrimage. Now at Day 29 they are where we were at Day 24, but they are picking up the pace. They completed twenty-eight kilometres yesterday, their longest day to date. I applaud them each step of the way. I think they have already dealt with more blisters than we did, but will not be defeated.

From the photos, it appears that they are wearing more clothing; thus, they have been experiencing cooler temperatures. They have already had more rainy weather but have not yet reached Galicia, the rainiest province. I wish them sunshine!

Whatever the weather they will continue to meet a host of international characters and they are participating in an incredible adventure. I still smile at the memory of ours, flip through our photobook, marvel at electronic images and forget about the aches and pains that formed some part of walking.

Next week we are going to visit James and Danielle, two of our Camino friends, in their home in North Hatley, Quebec. We are excitedly anticipating this reunion.

We had an email this week from two other Canadian Camino buddies. No dust is settling on Susie and Kanji. They walked 84 kilometres, paddled a canoe 450 kilometres then biked 880 kilometres around Lake Ontario, all in sixteen days. For anyone who thinks this type of triathlon might only be for a much younger couple, think again. Kanji and Susie are older than us. We are only as old as we think we are. Keep those bodies moving! There is much fun to be had!

I have renewed my weekly long walks of thirteen to sixteen kilometres with four friends. We have been hiking combinations of blue and white Bruce Trail sections in this area. I try to plan circular hikes and mostly this has worked. I am also trying to fit in completing other sections of the Bruce Trail, twenty or so kilometres at a time.

Inglis Falls

Inglis Falls

Circling the Slough of Despond

Circling the Slough of Despond

Still golfing

Still golfing…a practice swing…that is why the ball is still on the ground. ūüôā¬†

Margaret and Rachel have been helping me complete parts of Iroquioa when Brian and I make our biweekly trips to Niagara. I would like to work on sections of Dufferin and Toronto. Any takers?

Happy thanksgiving to all! We have so much for which to be thankful!

Home Again

Home Again
May 11, 2015
Cobble Beach ( pop: 37)
Niagara to Cobble Beach via Toronto
9:15 AM to 4 PM
6 hrs and 45 min for 338 km

Avec Rachel

Avec Rachel

Hellebore

Hellebore

Tulips smiling

Tulips smiling

Georgian Bay is out there somewhere.

Georgian Bay is out there somewhere.

Brian and Kishu together again

Brian and Kishu together again

It is always a pleasure to visit new places and experience another culture. It is equally wonderful to come home again. I remarked today that Brian did very well negotiating traffic on the QEW and in Toronto after very little driving in the last forty-four days.

We left home on March 28th when all was deep in snow and the low temperature was -13C and the maximum was -4C. Today when we stopped for groceries at Zehrs on the east side of Owen Sound it was 26C. We were not a long time in the store but when we came out it was -16C. By the time we had driven ten minutes to downtown beside the sound, it was ten degrees Celsius, but we arrived home at Cobble Beach to 18C. Welcome to Ontario spring weather on the shore of Georgian Bay. The Bay itself was well hidden in fog.

We also experienced fog along the shore of Lake Ontario this morning. The skyscrapers in Toronto were exposing their tops above the fog. We went to Toronto to pick up,our cat, Kishu, who has been boarding with Brilynn since January. She did not greet Brian with, “Hi, Brian!”; so, he was disappointed. We were pleased that Kishu did not meow loudly all the way home. Once on the 403, she cut the volume and meowed less frequently.

Coming home also involved delicious coffee and a visit with Rachel and Andrew in St. Catharines. It was great to bookend our trip with a visit with Eliane at the beginning and a visit with Rachel at the end. We have known one another since our Africa days, more than forty years ago. One of these years we are all going to get together in the same place.

We made a stop in Oakville at Fogh Marine where Brian bought a jib kit for the Hobie Cat. Watch out, sailors, Brian only needs a job sail now to fly faster around Georgian Bay.

We arrived home to plenty of spring flowers blooming. The daffodils are fading but the tulips have taken over. The magnolias and rhododendrons are still blooming. Will took good care of our indoor plants. The violets are radiant, the agapanthus is still abloom, a new hibiscus is showing large pink flowers. The purple shamrock has come alive again.

On Saturday Margaret and I walked three and a quarter hours with her Niagara Bruce Trail Club on sections of trail around St. Catharines. Her friends gave her a hero’s welcome. The 32C temperature was a bit much for me; I was feeling faint by the end of our walk. A change for me though was that none of the hills felt like hills; they were certainly not as steep or as long as any in Spain. Bonus: my blisters did not reactivate!

We think we might be over our jet lag but our own bed looks especially appealing. We think we will probably hear the spring peepers. We hope Kishu will not be yowling in the night!

Happy St. Patrick’s Day!

It is only 4C and there is a bitter 40 kilometre/hour north wind, but the good news is that the sun is shining brilliantly, the sky is totally blue and there is no St. Patrick’s Day storm! Yeah! Spring is coming!

Can you not imagine the daffodils hiding under the snow?

Can you not imagine the daffodils hiding under the snow?

We see shrubs!

We see shrubs!

Still some slow melting banks of snow

Still some slow melting banks of snow

The roads are bare and mostly dry!

The roads are bare and mostly dry!

The ant will soon be free!

The ant will soon be free!

The steps are clearing.

The steps are clearing. Soon there will be snowdrops!

Three Weeks to Takeoff!

Three weeks from now, Margaret, Brian and I should be in the Toronto airport and lining up to get on our Air France jet. Are we excited??? I leave that to your imagination!

Today Brian and I and most of the province of Ontario, or at least southern Ontario, are rejoicing in temperatures above zero. In fact, here at Cobble Beach, we reached an amazing 10C, not minus, plus 10C. How fabulous is that! We skied for nearly two hours, wearing our backpacks, ever training for the great walk.

We leave March 30th and arrive at Charles de Gaulle in Paris at 8AM on the 31st. We are hoping our flight will not be delayed in the least, as we have to catch a Train Grande Vitesse at CDG at 10:19AM for Bordeaux where Eliane will pick us up and drive us to St. Jean Pied de Port. How awesome is that! Merci, Eliane! Just in case, we paid the extra for an exchangeable train ticket, but we hope not to have to use that feature.

Margaret has been doing far more walking wearing her full backpack than we have, but hopefully Brian and I will be up to the challenge. Our daily crosscountry skiing has to be good for something. Eliane hopes to walk some of the way with us as well.

Some have asked, “Do you really plan on walking 800 kilometres in 34 days?” Yes, we do, but we accept all prayers and best wishes that we will succeed without blisters, without injuries, in great health and with a minimal amount of rain. Is that asking too much?? Actually we want to make it all the way to Finistera, on the Atlantic coast, another one hundred kilometers, but given our timeframe, that last bit may have to be by bus.

The only accommodations that we have booked are at St. Jean Pied de Port on March 31st and at the end at Santiago de Compostela on May 5th and at Barcelona on May 6th. Our flight leaves Barcelona for Paris-Toronto on May 7th and with the miracle of time change, we will arrive in Toronto on May 7th. No, we did not leave enough time to do Barcelona justice, and perhaps not a number of places in between, but we are looking forward to our grand adventure!

I have been reading about the Camino during the past six months and share these titles with your here, should you wish to see what others have had to say. I have listed them in the order that I liked them the most. All are memoirs.

All The Good Pilgrims by Robert Ward (Canadian) 2007 РI read this after his other title mentioned below. This one is about the people the author met on three different Camino pilgrimages. This author has a blog and another book is on its way. A feel good book, even when I cried about one of the stories.

The Way Is Made By Walking by Arthur Paul Boers (Dutch) 2007 – love the title, the book was lyrical, very enjoyable, a mixture of memoir and spiritual challenges by a Mennonite leader.

Walk in a Relaxed Manner by Joyce Rupp (American) (2005) The author shares her life lessons from the Camino. Even if you never plan on doing a lengthy hike anywhere, this is an inspirational book.

I’m Off Then by Hape Kerkeling (German) 2009 – a comedian, overweight and not very fit. If he can do this; so, can I! A travelogue that tells of the places along the way as well as his own self-discovery.

Pilgrimage by Paulo Coelho (Brazilian) 2009 – if you have read any books by this author, you know you are in for a bizarre treat! A blend of engaging fantasy, memoir and humanist philosopy,

Spanish Steps, Travels with My Donkey 2005 by Tim Moore (British) – humorous and after reading this, I don’t know why anyone would do the trip with a donkey! Travelogue with historical tidbits.

What the Psychic Told the Pilgrim by Jane Christmas (American) 2007 – a humorous read. Margaret thought it a rather discouraging one. Certainly it made hostels sound pretty disgusting, especially the bathrooms. We have heard that there are some auberges that are better than others. Also insight into attempting to do this with a large group. Not a good idea!

Virgin Trails, A Secular Pilgrimage by Robert Ward (Canadian) 2002 – the longest chapter is devoted to the Camino, but many other European pilgrimages are described. I thank Kimiko for sharing this book. I really like the author’s style. Very readable. The only reason it is listed last is that only part of the book is about the Camino.

If you are looking for more info on the Camino, there are, of course, Facebook pages ¬†blogs in abundance. An interesting blog is one written by a 75 year old woman who has just completed her tenth Camino in ten years. See Margaret Meredith’s: http://allmycaminos.blogspot.ca ¬†Why she did the same Camino Frances year after year when there are so many other routes to choose from, and many of them in winter, is something I do not understand. Maybe I am about to learn!

A few websites to check out….

http://trekopedia.com

http://www.santiago.ca   Info here at the Canadian Company of Pilgrims to order your scallop shell badge and Camino Credencial (Passport to be stamped to show you really travelled the Camino)

caminoguide.net  Of course there are many apps. We have this one on our IPad.

caminoguide.com There are many book versions. Margaret bought the Brierly Guide for the Camino Frances.

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Training for the Camino at Cobble Beach on March 9, 2015. A balmy 10C but still plenty of snow!

Home Again

Cobble Beach

March 2, 2015

The sun is setting, casting gold upon the western horizon and hues of pink and blue over frozen Georgian Bay. A three quarter moon is brightening high over the bay in a cloudless sky.

We arrived home around 2PM after stopping for groceries in Owen Sound. The drive from Niagara was on mostly dry roads although we saw lots of blowing snow and skies that went from cloudy to threatening to a mix of blue and clouds as we got closer to home.

American Falls

American Falls

Beautiful ice tapestry

Beautiful ice tapestry

One of my favourite views of the Falls...at the brink

One of my favourite views of the Falls…at the brink

Happy 90th, Mom!

Happy 90th, Mom!

Home again!

Home again!

On Georgian Bay

While it has certainly been a very cold winter, there is no denying the beauty of winter. As I look out at frozen Georgian Bay with the sun highlighting great shards of ice jutting from clear glass and snow-covered stillness, I smile in awe. Right now the wind is only barely moving the tree branches, the sky is mostly blue with drifts of white clouds. After a two day hiatus from skiing, we enjoyed our 7.9 kilometre ski around Cobble Beach, sporting our new backpacks loaded with ten pounds of filler.

At Cobble Beach in winter

At Cobble Beach in winter

The wind the past two days was more than we could stand on our faces, the only part of us still exposed. I guess we need full face masks. We went snowshoeing yesterday on Georgian Bay, figuring that the wind would bother us less at a slower pace. Where the ice was swept clear we could see right to the bottom to the rocks. The ice appeared to be a foot thick. It was amazing to see the bubbles frozen in the ice. I had recently seen photos of this phenomenon, but did not recall having seen this before. Our ski poles skittered along beside us, not finding purchase, but the spikes of our snowshoes gave us sufficient grip. We really should try skating. I think we could shovel a meandering trail on the bay, along the shore. No one has put ice huts on the bay in front of Cobble Beach although a village of ice huts adorn the bay closer to Owen Sound. We have not heard how successful fishing has been.

Mother Nature, the artist

Mother Nature, the artist

Inside, we have had another golf lesson on the simulator and have played a few holes here and there in the golfing world. A delightfully warm thing to do. We chose courses where the weather was sunny, the sky blue,  and there was no wind. We still hit the ball into sand. I even lost a ball in the ocean off the coast of Scotland. Believe me that cost me strokes!

Ah, come on, Brian, I think it is only 5 km across. Surely there won't be open water?

Ah, come on, Brian, I think it is only 5 km across. Surely there won’t be open water?

We have secured our flight from Santiago de Compostela to Barcelona. We even looked into extending our trip by a week, but for the cost of doing so, we could afford to do a return trip on another occasion.

We are still deciding on how to get from Paris to St. Jean Pied de Port on March 31st. Much hinges on the time it takes to deplane in Paris and get through Customs and Immigration. The question becomes whether or not we can make an early connecting flight or train leaving Charles de Gaulle. Eliane phoned this morning with an offer to meet us in Bordeaux and drive us from there to St Jean. That sounds like a delightful alternative to a number of trains and bus transfers. We are now looking into connections to Bordeaux. Such fun making plans!

Last night I weighed the items I intend to pack and am now discarding items from that list. How frugal we become when measuring in ounces and imagining each ounce on our back.

This is my swimming hole in summer.

This is my swimming hole in summer. There will be summer this year??

Living at Cobble Beach

Although I love to travel, I do not have to travel to have a great time. I live in the beautiful resort of Cobble Beach where I enjoy many outdoor pursuits which vary with the season and the weather. Georgian Bay did not warm up this summer as much as I would have liked; so, I swam more in the pool than the Bay and kayaked and sailed more than I swam. I did all of these sports more in July and August than golfing because our grandchildren, Alex and Julie, were with us for a month. Water and children automatically go together with Grandma. Much of my pleasure was an extension of their enthusiasm and exuberance. Julie learned to swim the length of the pool dog paddling, on her back and under water. I am not sure which of us was more thrilled by these successes!

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Brian or Alex usually initiated golf ball hunting, but Julie and I joined in. I was usually the first to say we had enough golf balls and suggest that we go home, but then I was the bag lady carrying more than a hundred balls. The other three would probably have insisted on looking for glow in the dark balls if I hadn’t bribed the younger set with ice cream bars. No ice cream for Grandpa as he was the last one home.

Some of my longest swims have been around the dock in September. Our first two weeks were the warmest weeks of summer. After our grandchildren left, Brian and I returned to nearly daily golfing: lessons for me, practice and rounds of golf. Since golf is so challenging and every game is different, I can happily spend my time walking the Cobble Beach course and not having to travel elsewhere to miss a putt or lose a ball.

Jim meets an old friend and competitor.

Jim meets an old friend and competitor.

This past weekend the weather was cooler and wetter but did not wash out the second annual Concours d’Elegance on the ninth and eighteenth fairways of Cobble Beach. An estimated five thousand spectators admired the beautiful art of the more than one hundred classic cars on display. The most important of those spectators were my brothers, Jim and John, and sisters-in-law, Lynn and Karen, who enjoyed the weekend with us. I loved to hear Jim, John and Brian animatedly discussing and reminiscing about cars.

Electric Car

Electric Car

You do not have to be a car buff to enjoy the Concours. There were twenty-two classes of cars including representatives from auto museums, a micro class of very tiny cars and rare European cars. The world came to Cobble Beach. The car owners were enthusiastic in speaking about their cars, what they had done to lovingly restore them, some over a period of decades.

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We sported more layers of clothing to ward off the chill and spent the whole day roaming among the cars. When I say, “the whole day”, I really mean it. Brian and I started our volunteer duty at six in the morning, in the dark, with a flashlight, leading the classic cars from the local cruise clubs to their positions on the ninth fairway. I was hoping for a more spectacular sunrise but a fairly dense cloud cover hid most of what could have been amazing colour over pond and bay. Watching the reflections of the cars in the pond as they motored to their destination was still magical.

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We were ready for bed much earlier on Sunday night than Saturday night. All that oxygen, and maybe a few car fumes, did us in. On Saturday evening we also had an important event to celebrate: Kate’s birthday. We were pleased to have Kate and Jim with Heather and Bud join us for family dinner. Brian’s pulled pork is always a big hit and did not disappoint! Our guests had also brought a variety of cheese, wine and champagne; so, we had much with which to feast. My angel food cake with chocolate whipped cream was the “low cal” finale to a very satisfying meal.

Lovely together

Lovely together

And now it is Monday. Our guests have gone home. Rain is soaking the garden, and the view to the Bay is grey and green. A good day to read, write, play with photos and practice my Spanish…for the next time I decide to travel further than Cobble Beach.

Happy at home

Kate pointed out, and rightly so, that an important element was missing from my last post on reflections. The travel companions you choose for your journey are key to a great journey. We were blessed with wonderful travelling companions. A second note that I am compelled to add is that National Geographic publishes great maps. Our map of New Zealand was folded and re-folded many, many times and never ripped. It marks interesting sites to visit and has topographical markings as well as well defined roads. I highly recommend checking out NG maps if you are planning a trip.

After a couple of days of napping, Brian and I began crosscountry skiing again as there is no shortage of snow. Monday and Tuesday we did our 7.5 kilometres around the golf course.  Tuesday we probably had one of the best ski days all winter: perfect snow conditions, blue skies and sunshine. We still went to bed early, not quite back to the Canadian clock. Wednesday it drizzled most of the day, but not much snow disappeared. We read. I think Kishu was a little miffed that she had to share her chair with me.

On Monday evening we celebrated St. Patrick’s Day in fine style with a great lamb stew dinner with friends. I baked a guinness¬†¬†chocolate layer cake for the occasion.

Full moon over Georgian Bay, March 17

Full moon over Georgian Bay, March 17

Thursday brought snow and bus cancellations, but. to enough to close schools. I went to work as a supply principal and did the same on Friday. Staff and students welcomed me back. Friday the snow was especially good for packing and students rediscovered the joys of making snowballs. I kept reminding them that snowballs were for making snowmen,  but grade four to eight students are not as enamoured of this pursuit. They prefer perfecting their target skills.

Brian busied himself ¬†with home projects and finishing Kate’s bathroom ceiling. He even made a shelf for our laundry room. One more item off the list!

I reconnected with an important person in my life after forty years of absence. It is hard to believe that I can talk about something that happened forty years ago AND that I was an adult then. I still think I am thirty, except when I look in a mirror. I am grateful for Google and long distance phoning.

We both got haircuts. Simple pleasures! An even better pleasure was having a Cobble Beach facial on Saturday morning. This involves a shoulder rub, hand and foot massage as well as having my face kneaded endlessly with a variety of oils and creams. Bliss. I never feeling like doing much after a facial, but I rallied and we went skiing at Sawmill Trails in Hepworth. Again, no absence of snow. It lies deep in the woods and is well packed and groomed on the trails. But for a Saturday there was definitely an absence of people. Two people were leaving when we arrived and two more were finishing just after us. There was no one else. Could people be tired of winter? Could they have moved on to spring pursuits although spring has not shown her face yet?

We skied again on Sunday at Cobble and I zoomed through three thousand travelling photos to pick out five hundred to share with friends that evening. In spite of Brian’s best efforts to show them on TV we ended up watching them on our desktop. The photos insisted on coming in reverse order on TV.

Pines Avenue, Colpoys Bay trails

Pines Avenue, Colpoys Bay trails

Yesterday we had our first long trip. We drove less than twenty five minutes to Colpoys Bay, just north of Wiarton to crosscountry ski in the woods. The roads to get there are all bare and dry. The ski trails are well groomed and perfect and no one else was there. The trails are mostly in coniferous forest, first balsam, then cedar then pines with other sections in mixed hardwood of maple, beech and birch. The 7.8 kilometre peripheral loop is gently rolling and squiggles among the trees in a most agreeable fashion. It is not a difficult trail. We basked in filtered sunlight and birdsong and saw evidence of several coyotes and a few tracks of two deer.

Colpoys Bay...I wonder how deep this snow is.

Colpoys Bay…I wonder how deep this snow is.

We tried to buy an ice cream cone at the smoke shop in Wiarton but apparently one does not eat ice cream until May. We settled for a chocolate latte at Tim’s. It was not the same as a NZ cappuccino, but it was cheaper!

In  the past week week we have revelled at the full moon over a frozen Georgian Bay, stood in awe of a full sky of constellations, marvelled at rosy sunrises and sunsets, been happy to be inside while the wind raged outside. This morning the sun began to rise in apricot hues, then changed her mind, hid in grey whiteness and now it is snowing.

March 24...it is not spring.

March 24…it is not spring.

Happy to be home.