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.

A Breath of Spring

Relaxing after raking. Yes, we have gone south, at least as far as Connecticut. There is no snow here unless you count a dish towel size patch of grey snow near Alex’s bus stop. He said there was a mountain of snow ploughed up on that corner that he and his fellow bus riders scaled while waiting for the bus, but the mountain disappeared a couple of weeks ago. Only the small patch resists melting. After yesterday’s downpour it has probably succumbed.

Plenty of birds at the feeders: tufted titmouse, purple finches, downy and hairy woodpeckers, chickadees. The snowdrops are out and the deep red hellebores are budding.

Our daily routine of yoga, golf and cross country skiing has been replaced with an earlier morning alarm so that our grandkids can be fed and watered and out the door early to catch their respective buses, one before 7:30 and the other before 8:30 AM.

Our new sports are cleaning and prepping the family room walls for a paint job, raking up winter’s debris and demolishing a playhouse set that had a serious leaning posture.

We still work yoga into our daily exercise, but walking may or may not happen before the kids come home from school. An after school walk around this hilly neighbourhood involves games of hide and seek as we walk or run or close our eyes and count to fifty. Actually my calves are still groaning from Monday’s nine times up and down the stairs at the Niagara Whirlpool. I do not think the sedentary drive for seven and a half hours on Tuesday was helpful for my leg muscles.

Thursday is pizza night and Grandpa will make an awesome pizza. We have already enjoyed a sushi snack. We have to dine earlier so that Julie will make it to her piano lesson and Alex to Scouts. We promised their parents we would not lose them, and we will also make sure they participate in their regular activities.

Last night we fit in a game of Carcassonne but I think we will have to forgo games this evening.

Costa da Morte

Costa da Morte
May 5, 2015
9:10 AM to 6:40 PM
9 1/2 hours for 240 km

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Vans move faster than feet. We took the Discover Galicia tour with our guide Martin and two other couples to the Death Coast of Spain. We had a fabulous informative sunny day!

We left our hotel at 9:10 AM in heavy traffic. Martin was twenty minutes late getting there. The streets of Santiago were not designed for two way car traffic. We could have walked to the outer edge of centre faster. It was a novel experience to get into a vehicle for the first time in thirty-five days.

Linda and Tony from England and Pauline and Willy from Scotland were on the tour with us. They had each begun their walk in Sarria, completing the last one hundred kilometres. Their accommodations and baggage carriage had been arranged by a tour company.

Some pilgrims, such as Susie and Kanji, continue walking all the way to Finisterra or Muxia. Both are the ocean end of the Camino. We do not have extra time to walk the 90 kilometres; so, we took this tour.

Martin, a Finn-Spaniard, started his tour company four years ago. He has three other guides with three vans and a Land Rover. He studied Political Science hub decided tourism was a more honest profession than politics. He is a great guide!

We stopped at the medieval bridge near Negreira. There was a beautiful new home built in granite in the old style, some political hand-shaking to get it constructed where it was.

We travelled through eucalyptus forests, that suck water out of the ground and destroy all other native vegetation, to Muxia. This was the end of the Camino filmed in The Way, an absolutely stunning huge rocky shore where there is a church called Our Lady of the Boat. Reportedly St. James was feeling discouraged that the Galicians were not listening to him. Our Lady appeared to him on a stone boat and encouraged him to continue preaching.

On December 25, 2013 lightning struck the stone church and fire destroyed the interior. On January 6, 2014, 28 metre waves, highest ever recorded knocked down the stone church walls. The church has been rebuilt and the interior is being refinished, but Martin said the locals are not at all happy as the interior is being furnished ‘IKEA’ style. The church was not open.

The power of the sea and amazing waves and many rocks make it easy to understand why so many shipwrecks have happened here. If I were walking to the ocean, I would walk to Muxia. The view is incredible. The 26 kilometre walk along the cliff face between Finisterra and Muxia is very beautiful but not well marked and dangerous.

We drove to Finisterra (Fisterra in Galician). It has more of a tourist look and feel. The cross that was there was struck by lightning a week ago and is no longer. Is there a theme here?? A message??

Martin told us there are three things pilgrims arriving here are expected to do: burn an article of clothing, often boots; argue with the local priest who does not like pilgrims or tourists, to try to get him to open the church door; and jump into the ocean as a form of baptism to begin a new life. In four years, Martin has never seen anyone do the last item. The water is not warm, but for we, Georgian Bay swimmers, probably doable.

Ezaru waterfalls descending over the O Pindo cliffs is not Niagara, but certainly beautiful without the tourist decor around it. The falls spill out of a large reservoir and are part of a hydroelectric project. Forty percent of Galician power is wind generated.

We had lunch at Dona Teresa’s at the end of white sand Cartona beach, the longest beach on the Galician coast. Our pilgrim meals were delicious. I had seafood stuffed mushrooms, breaded hake, and flan cheesecake with bread, wine and water, of course. Included in our tour.

We visited the two longest corn cribs in Galicia. In the late nineteenth century, for twenty-seven years, two parishes tried to outdo each other, continuously making their crib bigger. Finally they decided they could each have the same size. The Galician storage crib is everywhere in Galicia. Souvenir stands sell models of it. One village we walked through had more cribs than any other structure. Some are decorative but most are used as some kind of storage. The oldest were made of wood, many of red brick and as we approached Santiago, most were of granite.

Martin took us to a lovely white sand beach at Lira. Worried about getting sand in my blisters, I did not take my shoes off and frolick in the ocean as Margaret did. I was envious. It was heavenly to walk on the beach, but yes, it was windy and cool, but sunny. Martin says that even in summer the beaches here are quite deserted as are the villages. This is the cheapest place in Spain to buy a home! We think Margaret should buy one here and we could visit!

We travelled along the Ria de Muros estuary to a Benedictine monastery where a small hotel had taken over the monk’s residence. The hotel has not been used for a year, but it is apparently a convenient expense to launder money. The small church and graveyard are still in use. The river and cascades race alongside. This would make a great retreat, well hidden from the road but on what was once a Roman road to Santiago.

It was a day of great beauty and lovely surprises. We ended it in the charming company of Jim and Marie visiting tapas bars in Santiago and staying up past ten, way past my bedtime!


March 29, 2015

Tomorrow is departure day for Paris and the Camino. It is also my father-in-law’s 93rd birthday. We are in Niagara this weekend celebrating that. I made a chocolate layer cake for the occasion. I used a different recipe and was disappointed to see the two pancake thin layers that I produced. I made extra icing and put sliced strawberries in the middle to make the cake look taller. Fortunately looks are not everything. The cake was very moist and chocolatey and tasted good, and there is plenty left for a few more desserts.


Happy 93rd, Dad!

Happy 93rd, Dad!

We left home yesterday where all was white. Even our snowdrops which were visible for a day were buried in snow. By the time we got to Hamilton, the only snow visible was on north-facing slopes and tired old piles.

Although the sun shone brightly into Our Lady of the Scapular Church for 7:30 AM Palm Sunday mass, the outdoor temperature is only -7C and colder where the wind blows. Roma treated us to breakfast at The Queens with Rosemary and Margaret joining us. We arrived in time to find a table for six. There was a lineup at the door the whole time we dined.

I checked out Margaret’s backpack contents last night. She was doing her final laundering before packing again. I am still reconsidering my list. Brian and I will dump our packs today and reassess our contents one more time.

We are delighted with the many good wishes from friends and family far and near. We are ever hopeful that we will have a “buen camino”.

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!