Sunday, April 15, 2018

So many details

We managed to get our flight rescheduled to a day without strikes. So we leave on Thursday. It's all good. It gives us another day to get ready for our trip.

It always amazes me just how many details are involved in taking off on a journey like this. Especially since we are renting out the Janion on AirB&B as well as having people come to stay at our home. It means that everything has to be tickety-boo--in two places.

While we're away we have someone taking care of the guests coming to the Janion and the people upstairs from where we live will help out with our guests in our home.  We're almost finished packing (except for taking things out of the suitcase and putting them back in at the last minute). We have some Euros and our bookings are all in order. Lots to remember. At least this time we don't have to worry about our dogs while we're away.

Today I spent the afternoon cleaning up the garden and refreshing the water feature. Harry's doing cleaning duty in all the corners of the kitchen. We're doing loads of laundry to get sheets and towels read. Sometimes we wonder if it's all worth it.

But soon enough we'll be on our way. Toulouse is our first stop and it looks like it's going to be sunny and reasonably warm. We're looking forward to that as the spring here has so far been cold and wet. Only thing is we'll miss our own comfortable bed. But the trade-off is worth it I think.

Monday, April 9, 2018

The pleasures of home exchange

Last summer two groups of people from France came to Victoria and stayed at our place. This year we get to go to the south of France and stay at their place. That's the pleasure of home exchange. We've been dabbling in this for a while now and we're really reaping the benefits this year. 

Next week we are booked to fly to to Toulouse in France, where we'll stay for a couple days to get over the jet lag, and then we'll rent a car and drive to Albi and stay in the home of Adeline and her family for a week.

I hadn't heard of Albi until we received Adeline's home exchange request last year. When I found this image of the town there was no question but that we would go there.  It's a Unesco Heritage site in a beautiful part of France. It features an ancient bridge over the River Tarn, a 13th century cathedral, a Toulouse Lautrec Museum, plus other delights.  A three-star hotel in Albi runs about $95 a night, but we get to stay in Adeline's home with a swimming pool for free. Home exchange is for sure the way to go.

Plus we will get to visit with this lovely family who we met last year and benefit from their knowledge of the area. Adeline's family will be staying with at her parents home while we are at their place.

In fact Adeline arranged a six-month tour of Canada and the US last year, all on home exchange. It's a fair bit of work to co-ordinate with people in different countries but it can be done.

For the second part of our trip we will be staying for two weeks in Narbonne, about an hour south of Albi. Last year David and Lyn stayed at our place for two weeks while we were in Spain and so this year we will be staying in their apartment on the main canal there.  Home exchange is really a wonderful way to travel and meet people from around the world.

Narbonne is a city dating back to Roman times. It was once a prosperous port but is now located about 15 km from the Mediterranean sea. The apartment we'll be staying in fronts on the Canal de Robine, a historic connector from about 200 years ago which links to the famed Canal Midi in southern France. You can tell we're super stoked about this trip.We spent some time in France five years ago and really loved it so it will be wonderful to go back and explore more.

I have been boning up on my high school French with the help of Duolingo and Pimsleur's cds. It's amazing home much is coming back to me. Although I doubt I'll be very fluent when we actually get there. Right now we're organizing and packing and cleaning for our three-week trip. But just today we found out that our flight on Air France may be cancelled because of an airline strike.  Here's hoping things get settled before we're scheduled to leave on Wednesday.

Monday, March 26, 2018

The north end of the Salish Sea

After passing more scenery like this on the ferry ride to Saltery Bay, we drove north to Powell River.  This is the north end of the Salish Sea, which used to be called Georgia Strait. Up here the mountains have glaciers and there are long fiord-like inlets that pierce the coast.

Powell River is an interesting little city that appears to be having a big resurgence.  It had its beginning in 1908 when a pulp mill was built there and the town was built around that with houses for workers and executives clustering around the mill. According to Wikipedia, at one time the Powell River Mill was the largest pulp and paper mill in the world. One in every 25 newspapers world-wide was printed on paper from Powell River. Since then there've been a lot of layoffs and the town languished n the 1970s and 80s.  I lived for a time on Texada Island, across from Powell River, in the late 1970s and there were a lot of lovely old houses sitting empty at that time.

But now the town is thriving and there are lots of young people wanting a simpler lifestyle. The old houses in the Townsite area around the mill have all been bought up and new houses are being built. Tourism, the arts, and ecological enterprises now flourish there along with the more traditional coastal jobs. It's also a place that's attracting retirees and recreational homes.

We drove further north to Lund, which is the end of the paved road. Lund is really just a dock and some wharves. Lots of people go through there to take the water taxi to Savary Island or to head up by boat to Desolation sound. Funny thing though, Lund and the waters north of there are some of the warmest in British Columbia.  The weather is pretty warm too; warm enough that these palm trees outside Nancy's Bakery are flourishing.

Here's a little boardwalk at Lund that goes around the bay to a little restaurant, closed now but obviously well attended in the summertime.

Mostly we saw shore birds at Lund, clustering around the tidal edges of the harbour. These are surf scoters, a bird that I haven't seen in Victoria.  There were lots of them there, as well as geese, seagulls, ducks, and crows. And in the bakery was a bulletin board posting all of the counter-culture notices and ads for services and events taking place in the community. I love looking at these for a window into the lives lived there.

We ended our trip by taking the afternoon ferry across from Powell River to Comox on the east side of Vancouver Island, where we visited our friends who live there.  That fourth ferry ride completed our circle tour of the Salish Sea.  (Victoria to  Vancouver,  Horseshoe Bay to The Sunshine Coast,  Earls Cover to Saltery Bay, Powell River to Comox). Then we headed south to our home in Victoria.  It was a pleasant trip.

Thursday, March 22, 2018

The Sunshine Coast

We've spent the last three days on what they call the Sunshine Coast, a collection of villages scattered along the BC coast north of Vancouver. You can only get get there by ferry so people sometimes assume it's an island, but it's not. We took the ferry on Sunday morning in a rainstorm and arrived at Gibson's Landing, where the famous CBC television show, The Beachcombers, was filmed for many years.

This building was originally used as part of the set for the show. Now it's a restaurant and is visited by tour buses in the summer.  We were there with our friend Sue who is housesitting in Roberts Creek, where she used to live, so we got the insiders tour of the area.

You'll see that there's a bit of blue sky in this photo, but at this time of year there's not a lot of sunshine. Apparently it's quite different in the summertime, when the beaches are full of holidaying families.

We took a walk along this beach, where there's a road lined with little old beach cabins, some of which are now transformed into larger permanent homes. It looks like a lovely place to either holiday or live. These places have a strong sense of community and it was nice to get of sense of this from Sue, who lived in one of them for more than 30 years.

This photo is taken in Porpoise Bay, a protected anchorage in behind Sechelt. You can see the stunning scenery with the inlet and the mountains and the clouds.

And of course the boats. There are boats of all kinds here. Every community is built around a harbour, with a government wharf where boats are moored. In fact this part of the coast was settled by steamships and fishing boats and settlers long before the road came through.

This is a ramp coming down from one of the government wharves. Even a little rowing skiff can find a place to tie up.

Yesterday morning we headed north to Earl's Cove at the end of the peninsula, where we took a ferry further up the coast to Powell River.  On the way we stopped in at Egmont, a tiny spot near the Skookumchuck narrows.  It's a very isolated and beautiful spot, which we would like to come back and explore some time. But not in March. I think the feeling of this area would be much more welcoming in the summer time

Here's a bit of the scenery we passed on our way to Egmont. It's very moist and dark with still lakes, sheltered inlets and steep steep mountains all around.

And here's the view from the ferry as it left Earl's Cove and headed around a large island at the mouth of Jervis Inlet. This really is the north coast of BC.

Monday, March 19, 2018

Vancouver's Chinatown

Took a walk around Vancouver's Chinatown on the weekend while visiting family in Vancouver.

Had dinner here. I highly recommend it.

These old tenement buildings bring to mind the Vancouver that I grew up in.

This is the old Vancouver Sun building, once a treasured sight on Vancouver's skyline.

These last two are taken in the lovely Sun Yat Sen Gardens.

Sunday, March 11, 2018

Spring has arrived on Yukon Street

Today we sat outside in the sun on the back deck--without jackets. Hooray! I think spring has arrived. We can't complain because we missed most of the rain and wind while we were in Mexico. But what a joy to sit outside and feel warm. Our thermometer registered 24 degrees C. It may have been in the sun a bit--but who cares. It felt like 24 degrees for a short while.

This is what happened to the trees in the park across the street over the weekend. They blossomed.

Happy Spring.