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Canada’s Best

Canada #45

“What was the best thing about your trip?”

We’re often asked this question when we return from a holiday and it’s always difficult to give just one answer. After five weeks in Canada, here are the things we loved best.

The Best Party 

The Best Airbnb View

Vancouver, from our 21st floor apartment – by day,

at night,

and early in the morning as the cruise ships arrived at Canada Place.

The Best Water View

Pitt River

The Best Mountain Views

Sky Pilot and Co-Pilot, Coast Ranges, Squamish BC

Fitzsimmons Range, Whistler BC

The Best Wildlife Encounters

chipmunk, Whistler BC

raccoon family, Mount Royal, Montréal QC

and the squirrels, who were everywhere!

The Best Food

20 flavours of hot chocolate, enormous ice cream sundaes, chocolate pizza! Even the ceiling was all about chocolate at Chocolato, Montréal QC

The Best Garden

Jardins Gamelin, Place Émilie-Gamelin, Montréal QC

a free community garden with a cafe, space for games, music and family activities

and several themed gardens, educational for both adults and children

The Best Adventures

For me, a birthday trip to Niagara Falls

For Glen, EdgeWalk – 356 metres above the ground at CN Tower, Toronto ON

So many wonderful experiences in a truly amazing country. Canada, we’ll be back!

I Like Your Office!

Canada #6 Butchart Gardens Boat Tour

Meet Mark.

Four years ago, he moved to Vancouver Island for a break from his demanding city job. Smiling broadly as he welcomes us, Mark says “I came for a year and never left.” These days he comes to work at Tod Inlet, where his office is a little electric-powered boat.

Mark takes visitors on guided tours from Butchart Cove past Gowlland Tod Provincial Park to the edge of Brentwood Bay. The inlet, sheltered by dense stands of arbutus, garry oaks and douglas firs, is a haven for wildlife and with Mark’s expertise to guide us we see plenty.

An inquisitive seal surfaces for a just a few minutes and watches us watching him, before disappearing again. Egg yolk jellyfish and moon jellyfish drift silently by, going where the current takes them. High above, a bald eagle surveys the scene as if he rules this part of the world.

Mark talks about the Butchart family and fondly describes them as “people of vision and values”. The remnants of their cement factory are almost hidden in the forest, but in the water old timber pilings remain. They’ve been repurposed – bird boxes placed on top house the growing population of purple martins who migrate from Brazil each summer.

We cruise a little further, rounding the bend into Brentwood Bay. Here we see beautiful homes on the hills and can only imagine living every day with a view as amazing as this. Mark turns the boat and idles for a while, pointing across the water to the mountains in the distance. “This is true BC scenery,” he says and we can hear in his words his passion for this place.

We’re sorry when our 45 minute tour comes to an end and, before we return up the hill to the busyness of Butchart Gardens, we linger on the jetty. Like Mark, we would love to stay much longer.

Slow Day on the River

Kevtoberfest #22  Nicholson River

Where there’s water, there are boats!

We spent a day exploring the Nicholson River on board Kevin’s vintage cabin cruiser Deeann J. A wide slow-moving waterway, the river flows south-east for 83 kilometres from the foothills of the Victorian Alps to Lake King.

From a small marina near the Princes Highway we sailed upstream, passing fertile farmland and weathered sandstone cliffs.

Dozens of opaque jellyfish floated just below the water’s languid surface and waterbirds near the riverbank basked in the sunshine.

When we turned and sailed downstream, the landscape changed from gently sloping green hills to grassland and marshes.

We sailed under an aged timber bridge, formerly a part of the Bairnsdale to Orbost railway line. Where trains once crossed over the river, cyclists and walkers now follow the path of the East Gippsland Rail Trail. 

At the point where river meets lake, white markers created an imaginary line across the water. Beyond them Lake King’s vast expanse of water stretched away to the distant shore.

Closer to us a tiger snake swam by, gliding swiftly across the water and passing just a few metres away. Luckily it was more intent on reaching the far shore than bothering with us.

After the excitement of Kevtoberfest, a slow day on the river was the perfect way to relax.

Weekly Photo Challenge ~ Liquid

No Rain On Us!

Exploring England #24

It’s often wet and windy in the Lake District but the sky was blue, the sun was shining and a warm breeze was blowing the day we visited Lake Windermere. Of course this meant that many other people were also taking advantage of the glorious weather. Lake Windermere is England’s largest natural lake so there was plenty of room for everyone.

A leisurely cruise is a great way to enjoy the lake and there are several ticket options. We chose a route around the southern half of Lake Windermere with the addition of a vintage steam train ride from Lakeside to Haverthwaite and back. After a short wait on the quay at Bowness-on-Windermere, we boarded the steamer Tern and found a sunny spot on the deck.

Ours wasn’t the only craft on the water – canoes, sail boats and small ferries loaded with tourists all passed by.

The shores of the lake are lined with dense woodland punctuated by small stony bays. Some give respite to weary sailors or shelter to watercraft while others are filled with beautiful homes and boutique hotels.

After 45 minutes of smooth sailing we docked at Lakeside, at the southern end of the lake. Billowing clouds of steam led us to the little train, waiting for us to board for the next leg of the journey. The railway line follows the course of the River Leven through the scenic Leven Valley. Contented sheep grazing in the lush fields hardly looked up as the train clattered past on its way to Haverthwaite Station.

The heritage station dates from the mid 1800s and once serviced the nearby village of Haverthwaite. Today it services modern railway enthusiasts, who enjoy the nostalgic feel of the 19th century platform, complemented by a traditional Punch and Judy show.

Instead of relaxing with the dozens of other tourists, we ventured beyond the platform where we discovered a happy surprise behind the children’s playground.

A winding woodland path led us uphill through the trees to a small lookout, from which the view was anything but small. From our hidden vantage point, a vast expanse of green fields stretched away to the hills in the distance and a lighthouse overlooking Morecambe Bay.

The train whistle beckoned and we climbed aboard once more for the return trip to Lakeside, where the steamer Swan was waiting to sail north.

By the end of the day the breeze had lost its warmth, but the sun was still shining as we arrived back in Bowness. Lucky for us because, true to form, the next day it was raining at Lake Windermere.

 

When Is A Walk Not A Walk?

Exploring England #17

With the forecasters predicting sushine and record breaking warm temperatures, the day seemed ideal for a trip to Liverpool. Rather than braving the traffic and trying to find a car park, we decided to travel by train and spend the day on a self guided walking tour of the UNESCO World Heritage listed city centre and docklands. That was the plan…

It was overcast when we arrived – not the sunshine we were expecting, but perfect for walking. Lunch was our first priority and the menu at the busy Pump House restaurant was enticing. A local lady dining at the next table gave us some friendly advice. “Have the fish and chips,” she said. “They’re the best in town.” We did, and she was right.

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We weren’t so sure about her next statement. “It’s going to rain this afternoon,” she said. “It’s going to pour at 2 o’clock.” That’s not what the weather forecast said, we were thinking, although we were too polite to say so.

Fortified by our delicious lunch, we set off to explore Albert Dock. Opened in 1846, Albert Dock was once the centre of a bustling port for sailing ships from around the world. As these ships were replaced by modern vessels, the docks and warehouses became redundant and they finally closed in 1972. After a restoration project lasting six years, Albert Dock reopened in 1988 with cafés and restaurants, galleries, shops and museums bringing people back to the old warehouses along the River Mersey.

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This part of the river is more than a kilometre wide and the buildings on the opposite bank looked like doll houses. Undeterred by the heavy, grey clouds gathering low in the sky, we wandered along Kings Parade where hundreds of engraved love locks decorate the path by the river.

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Even on this dull day, tiny ferries were busy on the river and we thought a cruise would be a pleasant way to see the city. But just as we turned towards the ferry terminal, it began to rain. Our lunch time companion’s prediction was correct. It wasn’t just a light shower – it was pouring!

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Even with our raincoats walking was no longer enjoyable, so we decided to see Liverpool from a different perspective and boarded a CityExplorer bus. We sat downstairs, where the view wasn’t as good but the seats were dry. The driver’s live commentary was as entertaining as it was educational and for the next hour we listened to his stories of Liverpool and her beautiful buildings.

Eventually the rain eased enough for us to start walking again. We left the bus on Victoria Street and went around the corner to Mathew Street, home of the Cavern Club, where the Beatles performed nearly 300 times in the early 1960s. One benefit of the rain was the lack of people and we walked straight in…or down, as the steps went below street level to the basement. It was warm and dry and a great band was playing Beatles music – it was fun to stop for a while and enjoy  the vibrant atmosphere.

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After browsing in one of several Beatles shops, we headed once more towards the River Mersey.

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The city’s maritime history is commemorated at Liverpool Parish Church where a weather vane in the form of a golden sailing ship sits on top of the tower. In the Church gardens, the Liverpool Blitz Memorial depicts a young mother taking her children to shelter during a bombing raid. On the roof of the Royal Liver Building, once the tallest building in Europe, sit two mythical Liver birds, medieval symbols of the city.

Our last stop was St John’s Garden, a terraced sculpture garden featuring statues of well-known Liverpudlians including Prime Minister William Gladstone and a memorial to the King’s Liverpool Regiment.

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We arrived back at the train station just as the leaden skies opened again. We’d had enough of walking in the rain and, as the Beatles would say, we had tickets to ride!

 

Go for more Monday Walks with Restless Jo.

A Loo With a View ~ The Cruise Edition

Goin’ Cruising #10

Tropical loos with ocean views

Along the Queensland coast.

With palm trees, sand and sun all round

Which do you like the most?

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The Lagoon, Airlie Beach

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Airlie Beach

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Cairns Esplanade

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Market Park, Port Douglas

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Four Mile Beach, Port Douglas

~

And if you need to find a loo

when you’re back on board the ship,

There are loos with views on every deck

to get you through the trip!

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Pacific Ocean, The Dome, Pacific Dawn

In The Kitchen

Goin’ Cruising #9

Day Six – Willis Island/Sea Day

After enjoying our visits to Airlie Beach, Cairns and Port Douglas, a day at sea provided a welcome opportunity to relax. We shopped at the duty free stores, lost yet again in the tie break of the Cake and Coffee Trivia competition and went for our morning walk around Deck 14. To maintain this demanding schedule we needed sustenance,  and it was provided by the delicious food at the Waterfront Restaurant.

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We ate almost exclusively at the Waterfront during our cruise, and every meal was excellent. We were delighted by the efficiency and grace of the restaurant staff and amazed at how quickly we were served. We wondered how all this food was created day after day; with more than 1500 hungry passengers on board Pacific Dawn the demands would be enormous.  So when the chance came to experience first hand how all this wonderful food is created, we joined in with equal parts enthusiasm and curiosity.

First we went to a culinary demonstration in the Marquee Theatre. Executive Chef Alexander Keck and Maître d’Hôtel Darren Cholerton entertained us with a humorous commentary, often poking fun at each other while creating Broccoli, Scallop and Bacon Risotto and Crème Caramel.

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While the dishes were cooking, we learned that all the food served on board Pacific Dawn is sourced in Australia and, for a seven day cruise, 250 pallets of supplies are delivered to the ship.

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The scents wafting from the cooking station on the stage were enticing and we eagerly raised our hands when Entertainment Director Zoltina-J asked for taste testing volunteers. Mr ET was among the lucky ones to be chosen and he joined the others on stage for a close up view of the cooking.

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His verdict on the risotto: “10 out of 10!”

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When the demonstration was finished we headed to the Waterfront Restaurant for a behind the scenes walk through the kitchen, where staff members were busy preparing the lunch menu.

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Of course, when food is consumed, there is always washing up to be done. Around 32 000 plates and 30 000 pieces of cutlery are washed every day. We made sure not to stop in the cleaning area in case we were conscripted!

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Later, when we returned to the Waterfront, we sat down for lunch not just with healthy appetites but also a deeper appreciation of those who helped to bring such delicious food to our table.

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