Birds and Beach

March 8, 2017: International Women’s Day

Morning coffee with sourdough banana chocolate chip muffins is a good mid morning pick us up. This snack is made better by watching the birds taking turns at the bird feeder. The bluebirds arrived this morning and joined the cardinals, purple finches, red bellied woodpeckers, chickadees, nuthatches, downy and red bellied woodpeckers. Even the chipmunk has come out to play in the morning’s first burst of sunshine.

Yesterday afternoon a goshawk circling the neighbourhood and crying his presence had the birds disappearing. Alex’s efforts at photographing birds were dashed even with Grandpa trying to call the birds in with his app.

We finished painting on Monday and had a bit of a rest day yesterday. I went for a six kilometre walk around the neighbourhood. It is the first time I have seen maple sap collected in plastic bags: long blue plastic bags with a metal cover over the top of them. The spile fit through the side of the cover.

While I walked, Brian cleaned the black concrete counter tops so that he could apply a sealant to them before we went to bed. The sealant is most odiferous, best to be as far away as possible after application. It was good to be able to leave windows ajar.

This afternoon the temperature rose to 12C, although with the off-shore breeze from Long Island Sound, it was colder than that. Brian and I enjoyed our walk on the beach at Hammonasset. Although the only birds we saw were seagulls, we spotted five seals at Meigs Point. We found the tour of the new visitors’ centre interesting and informative. Not warm enough for swimming!

We were so energized by our walk, we washed windows when we arrived back at the house. Brian and Alex went for a bike ride when Alex got home. I did more raking. Since then Alex has been doing his homework on the deck and Julie is riding her bike. Although snow is in the forecast for Friday, we are enjoying spring while we have it.

Out for a Hike

Maybe spring has not yet arrived. Although the sun continues to shine brilliantly and the days are perceptibly lengthening, it was -6C today and the wind made it feel much colder. Nevertheless we enjoyed a hike in the bare woods of Cockaponset State Forest. Huge boulders are fun to scale especially Coyote Rock, so named, because Shawn saw a coyote there once. Alex is always eager to hike, Julie less so, but she does like climbing rocks and declared that she was having fun.

Julie is no slouch; she and Alex were playing pretend games outside for more than three hours before we went for a hike. Kids do not feel the cold! Julie likes to be in charge of the imagination games. Fortunately her big brother is usually willing to do her bidding.

Julie was the Carcassonne victor last night. We played with their new Christmas expansion. There are now many more tiles which makes the game last longer and creates a much larger medieval community with more points to score.

We brought our sourdough starter with us to Connecticut. I have been feeding it for the last two weeks. Brian wondered if it needed a passport. We made it across the border without one. I made some chocolate chip oatmeal muffins with it and now we have some bread rising. It should go well with the baked beans and ham that are filling the air with a wonderful aroma. Last night’s clam chowder was delicious, as usual. Grandpa makes great chowder.

Shawn and Agnes are sending us wondrous photos from Pompeii. Alex and I think we should plan a trip there too.

Grey Parkway Walk

January 28, 2017

A snowy grey day in Niagara. Brian and I went for a walk on the Niagara parkway north of Queenston. Everheart Country Manor in Queenston is still sporting Christmas attire, adding some cheer to a grey day. It gets rave reviews on Trip Advisor as a Great Bed and Breakfast. Two fisherman wearing red vests were spots of brightness on the very grey Niagara River. We noted that one of them was waving his arms up and down to create warmth. At least we assumed he was not sending out distress signals.

We walked 5.3 kilometres in an hour. Even with my cozy pants I was feeling a little chilly. It’s good to come in from the cold and sip on hot chocolate.

Today is the first day of the Chinese New Year, or Spring Festival. Part of me says this does not feel like spring, but then what is a Canadian spring if not changeable weather with bitter cold one day and sunshine and warmth the next. I think March and April are good months to travel to warmer countries, but this year we are planning a trip to Portugal in September. This is not the best time to leave home but it is when we were able to book a kayaking trip across Portugal. We will be kayaking the Douro River from Spain to Porto September 3-12. We are studying the internet and books on Portugal to see what else we want to do for a few more weeks in Portugal. We are open to suggestions.

Meanwhile I want to commit to studying Portuguese so that I will be able to converse a little with the local people. We have the Rosetta Stone lessons to get started.

The Last Hurrah

January 25, 2017

If you are confused by what appeared to be a duplicate blog two days in a row, there really is a write-up for January 24th. Just click on the link that still appears to be about critters and you should be able Tom find out about our hiking adventure. We have since read that others had very similar experiences trying to find their way on the Cot Trail. More signage is needed.

This morning Brian walked down to the beach at Hank’s Bar to try for one last attempt at fishing. Again the brown pelicans were more successful. I walked with Brian to where the road split then walked up Garibaldi Hill to where Stephan is building a 6000 square foot home. I don’t know Stephan but we heard the house has been in the building process for a year and a half. So far they are just starting to lay plywood over the foundation. The owner will have a great view of Isles Bay.

I walked 5.8 kilometres this morning in an hour and twenty minutes, stopping to take photos. I also took time out for a swim in waveless water at the beach. How unusual! I had my goggles on. Although the water was clear, all I saw below the surface were sand patterns.

Back at the Taj I needed another swim in the pool before all of us boarded the people mover, an eight passenger rental van, for a descent to a bank run and shopping in Cudjoe Head. Except for withdrawing money from the bank and buying fresh buns at the bakery, most other errands were unsuccessful because of a closed store or office or a store with no products. Some of us visited the artistic clothing store. The artist makes bright colourful dresses tops, pants and sheets in batik or tie dye. No purchases were made; so, some might say we were successful in not spending money.

I checked out a couple of the nearby stores; most were packed in narrow aisles with a huge assortment of goods. The best place to visit was the public library. It was air conditioned.

It was great to get back to the Taj to relax with a tuna melt and cold drink.

Yesterday afternoon we had one of our daily swims at our Isles Bay Beach just below us. The waves were calmer but nothing like this morning’s calm seas.

We went out for dinner at the Watermelon Cottage a couple of kilometres north of us. Trevor, the owner, chef and server, lives in the cottage which is completely surrounded by foliage. We felt as if we were in the rain forest. The dining area is open on three sides. One side opens to a pool and loung area. We had a table set for eight in the middle of the restaurant. Dining is by reservation only and Trevor never accepts more than twelve people. Last night he limited it to the eight of us. The one page menu changes daily. Everyone pretty well opted for the four course menu: coconut shrimp or escargots, lettuce salad with beets, filet wrapped in bacon with fries, broccoli and cauliflower, chocolate layer cake with mocha icing or butter pecan ice cream. All delicious. All accompanied by a steady stream of chatter from Trevor who has lived on the island for thirty-nine years after years spent entertaining on cruise ships and a couple of years in musicals on Broadway.

Trevor’s restaurant was filled with an eclectic mix of art and artifacts including a tiny operating carousel, carved masks, a camel, figurines from various cultures, a large hanging drum, a huge yellow butterfly kite suspended from the ceiling, the flower arrangements on the table include tiny birds of paradise.

We finished our evening star gazing.

Hiking in the Centre Hills

January 24, 2017


Happy Birthday, Brian! The songsters at the Taj composed an awesome birthday song for Brian. See the lyrics below. A song was composed for Al’s birthday too. We may have a new tradition for Cobble Beach. We just have to have Al and Barb build at Cobble to be sure they are available for song writing. Of course it has been mentioned that we are a very connected group. Everyone whips out their iPads over morning tea or coffee to connect with the world; so, perhaps Al and Barb could send us lyrics, but we would rather have them at Cobble.

We rotated in to play pepper last night to keep our numbers to six. The end result was that the men won. I had the best practice hand ever before we officially started. I am sure that the women would have won if we had used the practice hand. We went to bed well after Venus, and even after most of the houses on Garibaldi Hill had turned out their lights. Was it that bottle of champagne that kept us up later?

Yesterday afternoon six of us went to try snorkelling at Lime Kiln Beach. Upon arrival we should have known the the waves were way too big to even bother. Only Susan and Barb were smart enough to stay on the shore. Brian returned to shore after getting through the waves and feeling seasick with the wave action. I followed Al and Bryan farther out. I was rewarded with a glimpse of tube coral, fan coral and two fish before the water was too cloudy to see anything. After that I bobbed up and down waiting for the other two to agree there was nothing to see. Happily we survived the waves upon reentry and did not get dashed upon the rocks. Sadly Al lost his mask and snorkel to a wave that probably took them across to Redonda or buried them in the sand deep in the sea.

Today we decided to hike the Cot Trail in the Centre Hills. The guidebook describes this as a light walk throughout, 2.6 kilometres and an hour and a half long. We agree that a wide, mostly paved trail at the beginning was easy except that it was all uphill. We did have vistas over Olveston, Olde Town and Salem although some of the shorter people in our midst found that the tall grasses got in our way. There were huge leafed philodendron, lots of banana trees with big bunches of green bananas and an enormous red flower with each bunch. It was easier to spot the flora as it did not move so banyan trees, bamboo and locust trees were easy to identify. The yellow butterflies and red rim butterflies were easy to spot but they did not pose. Perhaps we needed to be out earlier and make less noise to see and hear birds. We saw one live agouti and the remains of another.

We forged a new trail somewhere close to what should have been the end of our trail. We did not do this on purpose but we missed a left turn somewhere and found ourselves on a narrow descending path that was slippery with leaves and short on handrails. It was especially difficult for those of us who did not have a walking stick. We do not think any humans made this path. Perhaps it was an animal path then a waterway during the rainy season. The end result was that we survived our descent, discovered part of the Oriole Trail and made our way back to the Cot Trail via the Duberry-Cassava trail. This last trail was well marked and easy. Next we only had to walk back along the road to our people mover without being run over. There was a blast of the noon siren as I stepped across the road. Because this siren was on a tower ten feet behind me, I nearly jumped out of my skin thinking a truck was about to squash me. We hiked 4.5 kilometres in two hours and seventeen minutes. We needed to resupply the fridge with Caribs on our way back to the Taj even though some of us just wanted to fall into the pool. In good time both were accomplished and we relaxed in the shade of the coconut palm.

Siesta time!
67 Here in Heaven ( to the tune of Dancing Cheek to Cheek)
Sixty seven
here inHeaven
With the beaches, hiking, beer and Tilley hats
Makes you forget about the spiders bugs and rats
When we’re all together here in Montserrat

it’s your birthday
Visit Rendezvous with kayak or portage.
Watch the sunset turn from golden to orange (French)m
But when you blow your candles don’t burn down the Taj

Back in Cobble , We’ll all wobble,
When you carry on as if you’re 22
But we’ll all be at your door to ask if you
Can you help us do the things that only you can do!

When we are with you, it’s not an issue,
When we’re left behind in baking and repairs
We will follow you to earthly ends and more
Just because we are friends forever more.

Sixty seven, here in heaven,
With the beaches, hiking, beer and Tilley hats
Makes you forget about the spiders bugs and rats
When we’re all together here in Montserrat!

Hiking to Rendezvous Bay

January 18, 2017

We are frequently awake to greet the day before 7 AM. The 5 AM call from the rooster has nothing to do with this. It is light from 6 AM to 6 PM; so, more daylight than we are used to at home at this time of the year.

Brian brings me my orange juice followed by tea but since it is so beautiful to read the Owen Sound paper looking out at the morning sea, I take my cup of tea out of the bedroom. I am keeping up my thirty minute yoga habit. After a leisurely breakfast I was surprised that folks were rushing to be ready for a 9:30 AM departure for our hike to Rendezvous Bay. I thought we still had an hour. For some unknown reason my iPad had not switched to island time so I was an hour behind schedule. I still was ready in time for ride north to Little Bay.

We walked past the concrete block factory to access the trail to Rendezvous any, the only white sand beach on the island. It was a hot walk to the top on a narrow path where we watched our feet diligently to avoid the prickly acacia. We had to stop now and then to admire the view back to Little Bay where sailboats bobbed and container ships glided. We picked our way down carefully to Rendezvous, fortunately more shaded as sweaty rivulets already ran off my chin. What a delight to shed running shoes and shorts and plunge into the sea. Brian scolded me for swimming out too far but it was sublime!

It took us an hour and a half to hike 3.5 kilometres, an ascent of 172 metres and descent of 189 metres. We spent an hour and a half swimming and walking or tossing a frisbee on the beach, also chatting with an American couple who had kayaked around to the bay in twenty minutes. They almost got flipped out of their ocean kayak by a big wave, but they managed to keep it upright.

Upon our return all eight of us were more than ready for a drink at Johnny Ponts’ restaurant, built into the hillside by Little Bay. Even I had a Carib beer even though beer is not typically my drink of choice. I followed it with a rum punch that almost flattened me. I was content to have a spicy pumpkin soup followed by a green salad while others had the full meal deal of Wahu (fish), ribs or chicken accompanied by potato, salad and veggies. As we ate and chatted we watched hummingbirds and banana quits dart in and out of the foliage and boat paraphernalia that dangled from the ceiling.

Bryan was alert enough to drive us back to the Taj where everyone settled in for a siesta.

Then a dip in the pool to wake up. Life is wonderful!


A Lazy Day

Happy Summer!
Niagara Falls
Tuesday, June 21, 2016

Sleeping in until 8 AM was a good feeling. A large familiar bed facilitates a good sleep. We often had eggs for breakfast in England but had not eaten eggs in a week. Brian made delicious fluffy scrambled eggs and there were still some of my chocolate banana bran muffins in the freezer. I made another dozen bran muffins this morning to keep my father-in-law supplied.

I drove, for the first time in a month, to Virgil to visit Margaret. Her gardens are looking splendid. Our nephew, Frederick, had not quite finished his great landscaping job when last we visited, but all is done now and Margaret has added many flowering plants from friends. She has also planted vegetables with her flowers and everything is thriving.

It is always a pleasure to visit with my sister. We exchange hiking tales. Margaret had an amazing Adirondack hiking experience. It sounds as if she and her friends are more than ready for their tour of Mont Blanc next week. I look forward to hearing of that adventure. We are hoping Brian’s knee will improve rather than worsen and we too will do the tour one day.

We visited my mother-in-law in her nursing home. She was happy to be wheeled downstairs to the garden. We showed her photos of our trip on the iPad. As we look back at these photos some of them from a month ago seem so much more removed than that. We covered a lot of ground in a month.

I am thankful that I wore hiking boots rather than shoes. In the Lake District and especially in Iceland the rubble and rocks underfoot were good for twisting ankles. Although the ground was not as rough in North Yorkshire, shoes would have required gaiters or we would have had water in our shoes even though the bogs were not as wet as they could have been. For those of you who red my Camino blogs, you may remember me complaining that the soles of my feet were burning. I wore orthotics this time and am happy to report that there were only two occasions when I had burning feet. Changing socks helped alleviate the burning.

We did some grocery shopping. Brian prepared beef ribs for supper. They were awesome with new potatoes and fresh corn on the cob. I have not had a feed of fresh strawberries yet, but I did have a few berries on vanilla ice cream. I hope to buy some strawberries at a roadside stand on our way home tomorrow. Failing that maybe this will be a good year for “Pick Your Own” en route to Sauble Beach.

I trimmed some shrubbery and pulled weeds, getting warmed up for our return to our own garden.

I walked 4.68 kilometres around the neighbourhood this evening, a leisurely stroll with Brilynn for company even though she was walking in Toronto. Aren’t cell phones wonderful?

Google is great for calculating distances. From Toronto to Reykjavik is 4168 kilometres. From Reykjavik to Manchester is 1654 kilometres. Flying distance return is then 11644 kilometres. Cobble Beach to Niagara to Toronto is 410 kilometres and Manchester to Gosforth is 115.5 kilometres. Both of these road trips are doubled for the reverse trip thus 1051 kilometres for a grand total of 12695 kilometres. That is enough to make me want to go back to bed. Good night!


Walking Around Reykjavik

Visiting Reykjavik
13 kilometres of walking around
Sunday, June 19, 2016
Happy Father’s Day

I woke up with a crushing headache this morning. Probably a caffeine withdrawal headache. I have been taking cold capsules that have caffeine and have been cutting back on them. After drinking half a cup of coffee, which felt more like taking medicine than something to be enjoyed. I slowly came round. Brian did not fare as well today. We walked to the bus station to see if we could trade our bus tickets so that tomorrow we could spend time at the Blue Lagoon on the way to the airport. No such luck. The Blue Lagoon was fully booked. I guess we needed to book this when we arrived from Manchester! A number of locals have said The Blue Lagoon is over-rated.

The bigger problem is that Brian’s knee locked on him as we walked. It is puffy and the pain is sharper. We still walked around Reykjavik but very slowly and tried out benches here and there. We also had two cappuccinos during the day, each time making use of the wifi and sitting for an hour or more. No one was anxious to shoo us away. The better coffee was at Hornid, a pizzeria, but the more agreeable ambience was in a cafe on the waterfront that had an open fire, actually a part of the fancy Icelandair Hotel. The chocolate peanut brownie was a delicious addition. It was a bonus that it only rained while we were inside the cafe.

We are so fortunate that Brian did not have this knee problem to this degree at any other time on our trip. Tomorrow we will be flying to Toronto. It is time!

We did fit in a visit to the sculpture garden. There are many bronze sculptures through the city, all interesting. We also took the elevator to the top of the landmark in Reykjavik, Hallgrimskirkja. We were able to look over the whole city with its colourfully painted buildings, harbour full of boats and mountains not far away. There appeared to be very little traffic all of which was moving slowly. There were many more pedestrians, many in the vicinity of this Catholic Church. Mass was just ending. We took the opportunity to sit for a while on the upholstered pews, admire the simple altar and enormous organ and feel peaceful even with hundreds of tourists walking silently through the church taking photos.

We came back to our room to relax for awhile before going out for supper. We returned to the Sea Baron where we shared a lobster soup. I had a scallop skewer and Brian a shrimp skewer. The restaurant is such that you sit at long tables along with whoever else comes in. We visited with a couple and their twelve year old son from San Francisco. After four days in Ireland they were renting a car and doing the circle tour of Iceland for ten days before flying home.

Chocolate covered licorice is a popular product in Iceland. I am not a big fan of licorice, but I like this. For lunch we had a hot dog at the famous hot dog stand, Baejarins Beztu Pylsur, by harbour. It was okay but definitely over-rated. It was boiled, not barbequed. Imagine that! Not my favourite. I thought there were to be lots of toppings but fully dressed meant mustard, ketchup, mayo, fried onions and raw onions. I skipped the ketchup and raw onions. Seriously what is a hot dog without relish? People were lined up to buy these hot dogs.

We have been thinking about what we brought in our backpack. We used everything except our ponchos, gaiters and flashlights. The last item was on the list the Trekkng Behind the Mountain company gave us. They must not vary the list by season. Certainly no flashlights are needed in June in Iceland unless you are in a windowless cave. If we had not brought the extra rain gear, the weather gods may not have looked as favourably on us. We considered these items weather insurance.

For those of you soon to be driving in Iceland, Marie and Jim, we hope you rent a good four wheel drive vehicle. At this time of year, driving on the ring road around the island looks easy, especially compared to Ireland or England. The roads are wider with no stone walls or hedges to hem you in. Traffic is light. Off this paved road is a different story. Be careful! Be safe! There is much to explore.


Hiking and Travelling

Hiking Stakkaholtsgyja and returning to Reykjavik
15 kilometres hiking in 4.75 hours
3 buses and a taxi van in 4.5 hours
Saturday, June 18, 2016

I was up at 7:30 AM even though Paulina said we would not be having breakfast until nine. I guess those who did the longer hike wanted to sleep in. I did my morning yoga for the first time in more than a week. It felt great in the morning sunshine on the wooden deck. Brian came out to do yoga as I finished. Everyone was up earlier than anticipated. We had our breakfast, packed our bags, made lamb sandwiches for lunch and cleaned the bunkhouse ready for departure.

As we started out for our third hike, this one fourteen kilometres, and mostly flat, to the delight of all (yesterday’s big hikers were feeling their muscles) the sky was changing rapidly. It was eerie. The glacier at the end of our valley was obscured by wind-driven ash and cloud. The forecast was for a big storm by 2 PM with winds of 120 kilometres per hour. Paulina assured us the winds would not descend to our level but she did not recommend any ledges this day.

As we hiked the valley floor the wind changed directions a few times and more than once we wondered how we would stay upright. To cross the Hvanna River we had to take off our boots and socks and don water shoes. Brian and I had brought these; so, it was good to be able to use them. Some had flipflops, Martin went barefoot. I can only recommend water shoes or hiking sandals for that rocky crossing. Although we rolled our pants above our knees, the icy water dampened our trousers. The current was strong. It was a relief to dry our feet and put our boots back on. It only took twenty minutes to feel our toes again. We knew we would have to cross back over the river later.

There is only one “road” through this wide rocky valley. The road changes places each spring depending on how much the rivers change their courses. Snow melt has a lot to do with that. The valley is about a kilometre wide. The Hvanna and Krossa rivers twist back and forth throughout the valley causing ruts and holes as they run. Only four wheel drive vehicles can make the several river crossings. On our way to our bunkhouse on Thursday four people abandoned their four wheel drive rental car at a river crossing and boarded our bus.

We walked this road for nearly five kilometres to get to the Stakkholtsgyja Canyon. This meant we had to climb off the road whenever a car was coming. Brian and I were a little concerned that our fellow walkers were going so slowly on the way out because we wanted to be back before the storm and we wanted to make it back in time for our bus to Reykjavik. Paulina seemed unconcerned. We kept looking back over our shoulder as the sky continued to darken and change.

When we arrived at the canyon we were already an hour behind schedule but we picked up the pace and Paulina was determined to take us to the end of the canyon. We were glad she did because it was magnificent. We climbed boulders where the canyon faces almost touched and where one large boulder was lodged high above us. A beautiful waterfall dropped in a strong torrent from at least eighty feet above us.

We made our return to the bunkhouse much faster although we still had to wade through the icy river. We ate some of our lunch as we walked because we were so hungry. What was to have been a three hour walk took four and three quarters. We walked fifteen kilometres. We had one additional stop en route at the “marriage cave”. Two of our group trudged up the ashy slope then slalomed down it. Paulina said that a number of locals had been married here, but that the number of weddings had begun to fall off as most of these marriages ended in divorce.

Our return to Reykjavik was much the same as our beginning but in reverse with three buses and a taxi van. The rain did not start until we were safely inside the first bus. We did not envy those who were dropped off at campsites. One young woman was picked up at a campsite to return to Reykjavik. She was visibly shaking with cold and I am sure I could hear her teeth chattering. The young ticket taker loaned her his jacket.

The Airbnb we have for two nights is the least appealing of any of our accommodations on this trip. We accessed it through a basement door from the back garden of a house in serious need of a paint job. We were looking forward to our hot shower since we were very dusty from our hike. There was a tiny two piece washroom for the three basement rooms rented. We had to look for a shower. Just when we were about to despair we found one on the other side of the laundry room…a concrete space with exposed pipes and a hand held shower head for which the holder was broken, a bunch of tiny empty shampoo and shower gel bottles littered a basket, a too long pink shower curtain covered the doorway. The good news was that the water was hot and plentiful. There was one good large bottle of shampoo and we had our own shower gel. Our room is the smallest of the three but it is clean and the bed is comfortable.nthere is a large window right at street level so we see legs walking past. We were close to the harbour and found, quite by accident, The Sea Baron, a hole in the wall style of restaurant. Customers were lined up out the door. We joined the queue and were rewarded with excellent lobster soup and a basket of fresh bread with butter at a lower price than expected for Reykjavik. We will return!

We found the cheaper grocery stores, Netto and Bonus. The former is open twenty-four hours, the latter had already closed at nine o’clock. We bought some juice, tea, pastries and Skyr for breakfast. Our tiny kitchen at our lodging had lots of coffee but no tea.

Two guys from Ohio have one of the other rooms. They had just arrived from ten days of driving a Suzuki four wheel drive rental around the island. They loved the western fjords the most but thought the country could splurge and install a few guard rails. They said driving there was very scary but magnificent.