Kayaking off Vancouver Island

Living on a tidal creek that winds its way into a small harbor on Long Island Sound has made it easy for us to become avid kayakers. At up to an hour before high tide we are able to slide our kayaks into Otter Creek and have been known to spend upwards of three to four hours kayaking the waters around Mamaroneck, Larchmont or Rye. No surprise, then, that high on our list was kayaking in the Pacific Northwest! First we said goodbye to Victoria and the B&B where we stayed.

Ninety minutes later, north of Victoria on the Island's east coast, we arrived at Cedar-by-the-Sea just south of Nanaimo. Not being familiar with these waters and wanting to make the experience as simple as possible for renting kayaks, we booked the Day Tripper with Wildheart Adventures. As luck would have it, our entire party consisted of Fred, our son and me along with Kim, our guide and owner of Wildheart. Kim provided two two-person kayaks, and at first we were disappointed to each not have our own. Once we got moving, though, the two-person kayaks turned out to be perfect for easy conversation and ease of hearing Kim's descriptions of the area.

WOW. The kayak was therapeutic, calm, eye opening, refreshing, relaxing….  We kayaked between De Courcy and Mudge Islands, pausing between islands on a small beach accessible at low tide to enjoy a delicious lunch meal prepared by Penny, Kim's wife and co-owner of Wildheart. Swimming seals greeted us along the way and on our return they were sunning on the rocks. Kim told us a story of life – there had been about 20 seals in this island group, frolicking, feeding and making the most of their time. Recently, a pod of orcas came by and all but decimated the seal population. Kim witnessed the event from the shore, and surmised that the few we saw were all that remained. [UPDATE This New York Times July 9, 2018 article, Orcas of the Pacific Northwest Are Starving and Disappearing, provides more background about the orcas.] 

In recounting tales of the area, Kim noted that only one island in this area is accessible by ferry, which left us wondering how a truck or two came to be on a non-ferry island. He also said there was a house on one of the islands of which the owner never made use. This got our son thinking about how nice it might be to have access to living on the island unimpeded by the modern world.

Hawley Place Bed & Breakfast in Ladysmith was our respite for the evening; super comfortable lodging after a day of activity. Fred did some research for dinner and discovered a gem of a restaurant, Odika in Chemainus, about a 10 minute drive south of where we were staying. Flavorful, tasteful decor, pleasant and perfectly timed service, portion sizes that were just right and artfully arranged, all conspired to bring a perfect finish to our day. Upon our return to New York I discovered this piece in the Chemainus local paper that mentioned Odika. Chemainus is known for its murals, which are every bit as striking in person as they appear online.

Victoria - part 2

Thanks to Sheila (scroll to the "Reader Meet-Her Visit" portion of her post), we had an excellent sense of the walker-friendly city of Victoria. Our B&B was located in the St James area of the city, a peninsula off the inner harbor and in easy walking distance of the entire city. The map below was provided by Vanessa, proprietor of the Gingerbread Cottage B&B where we spent two nights. (And yes, the breakfasts are as filling as she states in the video on her website!)

Monday morning we walked the same route as the day before with Sheila, beginning with a short walk to Dallas Road along the water then up a grassy incline to Beacon Hill Park. We were impressed at the vast and free access to the water particularly since Fred and I live in an area where most water access requires membership in a club or paid admission to a town owned park. Victoria is definitely a welcoming city for pedestrians!

Beacon Hill Park is a colorful, large park that spans the edge of the city all the way to the water. We made three separate visits there to enjoy the soothing surroundings, including for a game of Level 8 (card game gifted to us by Dutch friends who visited in May), a dinner of sandwiches, and multiple viewings of the peacocks.

 

From the Park we continued into town. Our son, who has long played pick-up soccer and organized soccer games while in college, had an urge for a soccer ball so he could stretch his legs in the park down the road from the B&B. (His interest may have been fueled by the World Cup taking place in Russia; each evening of our trip we hovered around Fred's iPad to watch highlights of recent games, and several downtown pubs had large screen tvs with games playing.) 

On our quest for a soccer ball we discovered MEC (our son is now a member :-)), the Canadien equivalent of REI. While they did not stock soccer balls, they did carry super light weight sneakers (after deliberation he wound up with the white ones.) And, with apologies to Sheila, who was adamant that we avoid Victoria Bay Centre – the dreaded mall (we actually feel the same way about malls in our area) – we wound up at SportCheck since it seemed our last hope of finding a soccer ball. (And I wound up with my own pair of super light weight sneakers.)

Whilst on the subject of footwear, we did return to Fluevog just so I could have the pleasure of trying on a pair of shoes that caught my eye. Besides the fact that the price was out of my budget (even with the advantageous exchange rate), the rounded area below the toes cut into my foot and the shoe was too heavy for me to wear all day. Still, it was fun to flaunt my foot in the colorful art. [Serendipitous July 5, 2018 post by the New York Times – John Fluevog is Cool Again. Maybe He Always Was.]

On one walk, heading along Dallas Road towards the cruise ship docks, we took in the view across James Bay and the Strait of Juan de Fuca and were struck by the majesty of the Olympic Range. Sheila told us that as a child she gallavanted along the broadwalk of Fisherman's Harbour, only there weren't any side rails at the time! At the far end of the boardwalk is a lighthouse where we paused to watch stand up paddle boarders. Another outing, this time by car and a bit further along the water, we stopped to watch a kite surfer navigate strong waves and rocks. Water play along James Bay is for the stout hearted!
Our morning concluded with two final downtown stops, both recommended by Sheila. In Munro's Books we purchased some Canadian-authored books for our grandchildren, including two books by Robert Munsch. We have The Paper Bag Princess at home and it is a big hit with our grandchildren. We tried to find more of his books in our library system but none were to be had, so it was delightful to discover that he is a Canadian author and that Munro's had just about all of his books!

Before beginning the walk back to our B&B we rested our feet while enjoying a bit of tea at Murchie's. Then it was back to the B&B for a brief rest while scoping out times for the Art Gallery of Greater Victoria. Turns out there were about 90 minutes remaining till closing  so off we went, as Fred was particularly interested in seeing their exhibit of Emily Carr's paintings and we were leaving Victoria early the next morning. (The umbrellas are an artistically colorful way for the Art Gallery to attempt to lesson the sun's impact.)

Victoria on Vancouver Island - part 1

This was a first trip to Victoria for all three of us, and the gorgeous Sunday morning provided a hint of the delight to come! Victoria, located at the southern tip of Vancouver Island, is the provincial capital of British Columbia.

The ferry ride from Port Angeles, WA was smooth and refreshing, and provided striking views of the Olympic Mountains. Am pleased to say I had zero issues with sea sickness!

We were all looking forward to visiting Victoria but I had an extra special interest. Several years ago I began following a blogger from Victoria (the backstory is here) and when our trip was planned I contacted her to see if we could meet in person. Sheila was tremendously gracious and offered to not only meet us at our lodging, the Gingerbread Cottage B&B, when we arrived, but also spend the afternoon touring us around Victoria from her third generation islander's perspective. She wrote a blog post chock full of details and photos here (our portion of her weekend wrap-up begins with her smashing "lah-MAY" outfit!) 

Gracious, even more stunning in person than her blog photos, articulate, funny, a bonafide walker (she and her husband sold their car awhile ago), we were hugely appreciative of Sheila's time and greatly enjoyed the conversation. Our treat for lunch at a favorite of Sheila's, Garrick's Head Pub, where we sat outdoors under an umbrella, learned more about Victoria, and shared conversation about music.

As for some of our stops along the way…

Why the Empress Hotel? Besides the fact that it is a wonderful pass thru as a respite from the heat, we *had* to get a shot of Fred at high tea (no, we didn't have tea here!) to appease his next older brother, who said this was a "must do" on our trip. Sheila said (and we agree) it is a perfect spot for tourists and a bit on the high end of expense. 

Victoria celebrates the arts in open spaces and I was smitten with this "poet-tree." You who     lift a penny     from the gutter     & with the same hand     point out stars,     find me.

As a reader of Sheila's blog for the past three years, I have seen innumerable references to Fluevog shoes, so OF COURSE we asked to see Fluevog Victoria. Fluevog shoes are quite colorful, artistic (and expensive!)

Our time with Sheila ended in Chinatown, but not before she took us down Fan Tan Alley, the narrowest street in British Columbia and the home of an ice cream shop that beckoned.

Olympic National Park

Two weeks ago yesterday, after a tasty and conversation-filled breakfast with friends in Olympia, we three (husband, son and me) drove northwest to Port Angeles where we checked in at the Olympic Lodge. We were anticipating seeing sunset from Hurricane Ridge but soon found out that, in addition to the hour long drive from Port Angeles, there was at least a 20 minute wait at the start of the access road. 

Since we had already spent time in the car (at one of our car stops a small herd of moose came running by!) and were all itching to move our legs, we opted to head to Lake Crescent and Marymere Falls. (More here about the area plus a map of our hike.) The map below shows an overview of where we were in the Olympic Mountains. Take note of the Coho Ferry – just 10 minutes from our lodgings, it was our transportation the next morning to Victoria on Vancouver Island.

First stop was a local grocery store for dinner (sandwiches, chips, water)) to take on our hike, and then the scenic drive to Lake Crescent. (Are we there yet? Almost!) Okay, it was a slightly longer drive than hoped for, but well worth the time! The fresh, incredibly clean air, the sounds and colors of the forest, standing in awe in front of old growth trees, the sense of time and slowing down…soothing our psyches and inviting us to relax and begin to unwind.

We savored dinner at water's edge before hiking to Marymere Falls. On the way back we took the path to Lake Crescent Lodge and hoped for ice cream, alas to no avail, then wound thru part of the Moments in Time Trail before winding up back at the parking lot and a return to the Olympic Lodge for the evening. (Nice lodge, but if you go make sure to request a room on the golf course side and not the street side. Even though the Lodge is on a hill and our room was on the second floor, traffic on Rte 101 goes well into the night and at least one of us - okay, me! - heard it on and off for way too long into sleep.)

Trip Out West Starting with Olympia, WA!

At JFK, starting our adventure…

A little over two weeks ago Fred and I eagerly boarded a Jet Blue plane at New York's JFK airport and landed about 5 hours later at SeaTac in Seattle, Washington, heading off for a nine day adventure with our son. Over the years we've flown this or a similar cross-country route, always to meet up with our son and have an adventure.

  • The last time Fred and I flew this route together was the summer of 2012, when we explored the Evergreen State College campus, and Fred and our son built a bed for our son's rental apartment.
  • In the summer of 2013 we flew to San Francisco, meeting our son for a road trip south to an every-five-years-or-so-since-1988 family reunion in Los Angeles.
  • On my own, in the summer of 2015 I flew the NY-SeaTac route for a week's visit with our son in Olympia, WA. 

We spent two lovely days in Olympia attending graduation at Evergreen and making delightful new acquaintances. 

After renting a car from Enterprise (a company we highly recommend due to the extremely speedy and efficient process we had at SeaTac airport) and blazing our way in what turned out to be an almost two hour drive due to accidents along the way, we arrived at the house our son shares with four other people. One of his roommates is an artist and with another roommate they make giant oversize spray paint murals that live in the side yard of their house. Every so often they paint over the existing mural to create a new one.

Staying at an Airbnb in Olympia made the lodging process easy. The owners, Tiffany (who I kept referring to as Melissa due to the Melissa & Doug brand of children's toys!) & Doug, welcomed us into their hilltop home complete with two adorable Boston Terriors that loved to be pet, and a sunny area for practicing yoga (not to mention the pool and gazebo out back, of which we did not make use). Doug was a gregarious host and we surmised he would have been delighted if we spent even more time conversing with him! The print in our bedroom made an impression on me, and is related to the health field in which both our hosts are employed. Tiffany is also a yoga teacher and her frig magnets resonated!

The evening we arrived found us strolling along the waterfront in downtown Olympia, enjoying dinner with our son, girlfriend and her mother, and breathing in the sparkling view of the Olympia capital dome, Olympia being the capital of Washington State. I enjoyed a tasty and delicious vegan pizza for dinner at Vic's Pizzeria Wildwood where our son has worked for the past two years. The morning of graduation we took a walk around the neighborhood where our son lives and spied a whimsical tree house that straddles the owner's backyard, spans over their fence, and deposits itself in a street-side tree. We joined our son, girlfriend and her parents for breakfast in downtown Olympia.

And then, graduation! Friday was a sunny, warm (but not yet hot) day and we arrived early to Evergreen's Red Square to meet up with friends and find a comfortable spot in the shade of trees for the lawn chairs our friends provided, at which point we settled in for a three hour ceremony. Lots of pictures (all in my iPhoto album!) and lots of energy and congratulations all around. Powerful speakers, introduced by Evergreen's President George S. Bridges, included State Representative Sharon Tomiko Santos (Evergreen grad 1985), student speaker Aurielle Marie, Master in Teaching candidate speaker Riel LaPlant of the Amskapii Pikunii Nation, and faculty speaker Terry A. Setter.

Our exciting day ended with a sunset gathering for dinner along the water's edge at Anthony's Hearthfire Grill. The salmon salad was *oh my* incredibly tender and delicious. And of course, desserts were a must! The evening was a celebratory treat hosted by our son's girlfriend's family, and the following morning we reciprocated with breakfast at Spar Cafe. Truly a heartwarming start to our Pacific Northwest adventure!

Communal Yoga Potluck Dinner

This June marks the second year of my leading twice-weekly yoga practices at our local community clubhouse. Last year we celebrated with a brunch after a morning class; this year we shared a potluck communal dinner after an evening restorative practice. This was our last evening practice till the Fall, as the pool opens this coming weekend making the clubhouse a busy area filled with all the fun activities of summer.

Most Mondays I have tended to wear outfits that made it easy to transition from school to yoga, and this past Monday was no exception. I purchased the skirt several years ago expressly to have as a cover-up when going to yoga workshops. The leggings and black short-sleeve top are both sentimental oldies (the top having been my Mom's and the leggings a gift from the French language teacher I met my first year at the school where I currently teach.) The sleeveless top was a new purchase at The Gap about two weeks ago; a small bit of retail therapy to soothe the soul after undergoing multiple tests to check on a virus that thankfully was just that - a virus and nothing more, and am delighted to say it has fully passed!

The Owl

Last week the second graders were visited by an owl, specifically a Barred Owl, from The Tenafly Nature Center in New Jersey. The space I am in, the Makerspace, has sufficient room for upwards of 30 children and several adults, which is why I knew about the visit and was able to join the session. I was quite agog to see an owl this close! I live on a marsh and have seen Great Horned Owls sitting on high tree branches late at night, but those night views made it impossible to distinguish features; it was a privilege to see the Barred Owl right in front of me!

Art & Science of Chanting

The Westchester Holistic Network is housed on the second floor of a building at the top of a steep hill off a main road in Hartsdale, New York. It is one of those buildings where if you type in the GPS for the actual address you will never find the building. Thankfully, yesterday evening's thunder and majestic lightening storm had given way to simple rain by the time I left for a 7:00 p.m. event at the WHN.

The Art & Science of Chanting: Mantras for the Body, Mind and Heart was an hour long session led by a friend of mine. Having spent close to five weeks this Spring trying to shake a viral infection, it was liberating to finally have the energy to head out for an evening event on a school night. Yippee to feeling better and to attending a participatory session where singing simply added to my sense of well-being!

Not much else to share beyond the link above to a post I wrote about the mantras. My outfit was rather plain and simple, a go-to rainy day pair of light weight pants, short-sleeve patterned tee-shirt, and a fun bouclé long sleeve sweater providing a layer to deal with the humidity, cooler weather, and air conditioning in the space where I spend most of my time at school. It was such a "regular plain and simple" outfit that I didn't bother with a photo!

Me and My Girl

Yesterday I joined my Aunt and one of my father's cousins for lunch in the city (at la Bonne Soupe) followed by seeing the revival of Me and My Girl as part of the Encores! presentations at New York City Center. This is the second time I've seen this musical, the first time being in the late 1980s with Jim Dale in the starring role. This time around the New York Times review was not as kind as the one written in the 1980s (see the link for Jim Dale.)

Regardless of the Times' review, I reveled in the music! Familiarity with the lyrics and with a love of watching professional hoofers on stage, I spent most of yesterday's show with a wide grin on my face. For a sampling of what I saw, click the link above for Me and My Girl and watch the video of highlights starring the current cast.

The theatre is described as "neo-Moorish" and if you are interested in the genesis of how the City Center came to be, you can read more about it here.

The Met Breuer

Last week into this we had three Dutch friends staying with us. Ours is a fun and long family history: Bob and Jane (Fred's parents) met Antje and Hans sometime during the 1970s when Bob was teaching abroad in the Netherlands. We eventually became friends with Antje and Hans and over the course of many years they visited us several times in New York. In the 1990s their daughter spent a summer month with us at our home, combining child care and tourism. With our our sons we visited Antje and Hans in 2007 and during the visit Antje took us to Rotterdam to visit their children. By then, her daughter was a mother so we also met her daughter's family. In the time since then our older son became a papa, and with his family visited Antje's daughter and two younger children. And that brings the story to last week, when the daughter's husband and two older children spent a week with us. Like a fun run-on sentence, our families have enjoyed a steady relationship consisting of visits, lengthy emails, photos and, this year, FaceTiming.

Which brings me to The Met Breuer, a stop on our friends' list of places to visit. I went into the city with them on Sunday to see the Like Life Sculpture, Color, and the Body exhibit. Below are pictures of some of the sculptures. Suffice it to say that if you are not sure if you are looking at a real person or a sculpture of a real person, you can imagine how I felt, especially with the sculptures that included real human hair, clothing, and other details. 

On the exhibit page if you scroll down to the section titled "Between Life and Art" and then click the + to expand the description you will be able to see in more detail four of the pieces in this section. The image of a contemporary man, clothed on top and naked on bottom, was incredibly realistic and I had to remind myself that it was simply a cast sculpture and not a mime playing dead.

The hot cocoa (made with milk and chocolate ganache) was delightedly sipped at the downstairs Flora Bar at the museum.