Wednesday, November 11, 2015

July - August - September Adventures, 2015

As we write, we are in El Salvador and will soon post about life in the estuary and a recent "vacation" away from working on Abracadabra. But THIS post is about time we spent this summer/fall in California and Canada. We hope you enjoy traveling along and that we convince you to travel to a couple of places we have enjoyed!

Right Back Where We Started From

In mid-July we arrived back in Sacramento where we: 
  • house-sat for friends, Ken & Claudia Carlson; 
  • ate in favorite restaurants (including Hot Italian - Molly's current favorite pizza); 
  • stopped in at our favorite coffee shops (a shout out to the morning crowd at Espresso Metro and our neighbors at The Coffee Garden);
  • made a few repairs (all minor, fortunately) to our house;
  • enjoyed a show at the B-Street Theater; 
  • engaged in personal maintenance (updating contact lens prescriptions, getting teeth cleaned, etc.); 
  • visited our storage lockers (sadly, to see the mess created by what we expect were some very disappointed young thieves) [Side note: our losses were fairly minimal because the first layer of stuff the thieves found was boxes of Christmas decorations. We can imagine them rooting through those boxes and saying "who the f*%# has this many nativity scenes? - where are their electronics?"]; and, best, we
  • checked in with friends. 

Wine Maker's Lunch at Miraflores (Placerville, Ca, USA)
Thanks Perry & Anne!

Among our "housekeeping" items while in Sacramento was the sale of our trusty little SUV, "The Truck" which we had purchased in October, 2014.  

The Truck

Other nomadic types might be interested in the following: We did a rough calculation of our "ownership cost" [(purchase + licensing/registration + repairs) less sale receipt] to determine whether it was more cost effective to buy-and-sell or to rent. We figured we would have had to pay insurance and fuel for a rental vehicle. Roughly, our ownership cost for The Truck was about $400 a month, which is certainly less than the cost of renting an SUV (which, granted would have been a new SUV, but we didn't need a new car, only a safe one). 

Of course there were non-financial aspects to our decision. We wanted to drive The Truck to and from Mexico and would not have been able to take a U.S. rental car into Mexico. Our "ownership cost" calculation benefited from the lower labor rates for car repairs, but then we had some cosmetic or "non-safety" items taken care of in Mexico because of the lower labor costs (a small dent removed and a terrific cleaning job on some soiled upholstery). So - it's not a straight line calculation, but we are glad we did it this way. Next time, who knows?

Our house-sitting gig was, as always, restful and restorative. Not only did we get to stay in Ken and Claudia's lovely house in Sacramento and enjoy breakfasts in their back yard, but they were kind enough to invite us to visit them at their summer rental in Pacific Grove. The view from their Pacific Grove living room was spectacular - we didn't even need to move off the couch to see whales! But we were a little disappointed that our couch whale pictures were even better than those taken from Abracadabra!

Whale Out The Window!

We took a day trip to the Mission San Carlos Borromeo de Carmelo at Carmel-By-The Sea, famous as the burial place of Father Junipero Serra:

Yes, We Were There

And Yes, It's a Mission

We also walked from their apartment to the fabulous Monterrey Bay Aquarium, where we spent several hours - some of it entranced by the beautiful (but icky) Jelly exhibit: 

Beautiful . . . But Icky

And just FYI, if you can't visit Monterrey, you can watch the jellies on the aquarium's Jelly-Cam

Toronto, Ontario, Canada

In mid-August we visited Ontario, Canada to see friends and family. Our trip included a long-weekend in Toronto where we were joined by our friend Jean Ross, who came in from Brooklyn to engage in Acts of Photo Tourism with us. [Photography Tip: Jean's photography is in a class above - take a look at her work on: her website or her travel blog. We're happy to have a couple of her quick-snap shots here.]

We spent most of our time in TO following a free walking tour map around the central part of the city:

There Were Even Sign Posts

We were very impressed by the modern buildings that have been popping up all over the city:

Buildings Taking Pictures of Buildings
Taking Pictures of Buildings . . . 

And enjoyed the many "secret gardens" to be found around town:

Of course there were statues, some of them honoring Canadians' Sacrifices To Empire:

The Brave Fallen In The Boer War -
Now That Was Something To Die For

We photographed the "iconic" (a rare occasion that over-used term is actually the right one) CN Tower:

We Must Be In Toronto!

There were even places to rest while on tour.

Foreign Tourists (Bryce & Jean) Cooling Their Heels

Because it's Canada, there were visual jokes:

Blue Jay Fans

We also photographed some things not on the official tour, but quintessentially Toronto:

Toronto The Good

And of course we saw many buildings from Toronto's past - some put to excellent use:

The Center of Canadian Culture

We met friends David and Karin Milne for dinner one night to hear all about their new condo purchase on the waterfront. We're looking forward to visiting them there - the view promises to be spectacular.

One afternoon we traveled to the islands in Toronto Harbor. [Travel tip: Order tickets for the Toronto Ferry in advance via the internet - otherwise you will spend at least an hour in one of the lines for the ferry. We were saved by our friend Jim Thompson who, as a member of a yacht club on the island, was able to get us tickets on the yacht club's tender.]

Jim and Bryce had planned an afternoon sailing on Jim's O'Day 19. When Jean and Molly said they were just going to walk around the island, Jim kindly offered up his kayaks for the day. Jean hesitated for a moment, as she was dressed in jeans. (Molly's quick-dry skort was more kayak friendly.) But Jim gallantly offered up a pair of retro style shorts (aged on his boat for several years . . . ) complete with a piece of rope to hold them up! As a woman of substance over style, Jean thanked him, borrowed the shorts and went kayaking! Molly's only regret was that she failed to get a blackmail picture of Jean in those shorts.

Molly Kayaking With A View
Photographer: Jean Ross

Our cultural outing was to the newly opened Aga Khan Museum, a museum of Islamic art named for the hereditary Imam of the Shia Ismaili Muslims. It turned out to be a jewel box of a museum - an attractive building housing a relatively small, focused collection of beautiful things. Anyone who is interested in learning about and/or appreciating Islamic art will enjoy a visit.

The building and grounds are lovely:

The Entrance To The Museum

Jean Contemplating The Reflecting Pool

And the collection is laid out in historical context - particularly helpful for non-Muslim visitors.

Architectural Pieces -
Mother of Pearl Door Panels From India

Porcelain Basin - 16th Century China

That weekend the nearby Ismaili Center was holding an event, "Chai In The Park". We bought lunch from very enthusiastic Ismaili vendors in West African dress (fried casava - quite tasty) and watched members of the community enjoying the day. Many of the visitors were dressed in the style of one of the over 25 different countries in which Ismaili live. This community has a very well done and interesting website if you're interesting in learning about them.

We also visited the St. Lawrence Market which, in addition to being a major tourist destination is also a real food market! We bought a bottle of wine and some snacks to share at the hotel. [Travel Tip: Despite being a tourist destination this market is not open on Sunday! We made the mistake of trying to provision a Sunday picnic there . . . and were very disappointed.]

One tourist outing that turned out to be a bit "eh" for us was the much touted Brewery District. It's nice to see some older buildings renovated and put to use - but it's really just a shopping and restaurant mall (and wedding center - based on the number of bridal shots taking place that weekend). That said, we enjoyed a beer at one of the many brew-pubs and Molly found a very nice Toronto t-towel (tourist tchotchke for we who live on Abracadabra must be small and unbreakable). 

Our last tourist activity turned out to be the most disappointing - except that we are now armed with something to hold over Jean's head for future trips. Jean had read about Islington - purported to be a charming neighborhood (conveniently on the way to the airport) WITH shopping, dining and interesting public art wall murals. So - why not? 

Well, we found the shopping to be somewhat limited:

Main Drag, Islington

The murals were technically fine, but a bit on the "too cute" plan:

An Islington Mural

And the lunch we had at a store-front Italian deli would have been more appropriate as a quick work-day lunch. 

So, we can check Islington off our list . . . except as blackmail material.  

[Travel Tip: Internet travel comments are just that -- random comments.] 

Kawartha Lakes Area, Ontario

The rest of our three weeks was spent in Lakefield, Bryce's home town, visiting family and taking day trips to some of the resorts in the surrounding Kawartha Lakes area. We've written a couple of posts about this area -- enough to have a "label" for Ontario - so we will try not to repeat ourselves. But we will repeat that it's a very nice place to visit.

We have the luxury of staying in a lovely old house right on the main street of the village (Lakefield's Queen Street) with Bryce's sister, Brenda.

A Rose-of-Sharon, far right.
Brenda, middle. Friend Glenda, left.
We enjoyed long walks along the river and canal system that runs behind Brenda's home almost every morning. During our rambles we passed:

Kayaks For Rent

The Local Beach,
Where Teen-aged Triathletes Were In Training

RV-ers With (Apparently) Long-Term Leases


Any calorie expenditure was often offset by a stop at the Nuttshell Next Door Cafe.  What's a reviving coffee without a reviving scone?

During each visit to Lakefield we try to build in a trip to one or more local tourist attractions. This time we took the Stoney Lake Cruise - a pleasant motor around the alleged 1,000 islands in Stoney Lake. While we listened to the tour guide's description of the history of the lake and the cottages around it, including which were owned by famous hockey stars or had been used as a soap opera set, much of our personal tour could perhaps be called "A Tour of Bryce's Youthful Boating Misadventures". Listening made Molly very happy that he'd gotten all of that out of his system before she met him!

Cottage Country

Enjoying Being A Passenger

We also visited with family - which was by times great fun (Kyle's steak dinner for the gang in Brenda's back yard; dinner out with Kacey's clan; lunch with cousin Ken Andrews) and friends (lunch with David and Lynn McCracken; dinner at Glenda's with George and Marie). 

But, because life is like that, our visit had some more somber moments. Bryce's Aunt Jessie, age 99, died within a few days of our arrival. Her departure was very sad for us not only because we will miss her presence, but also because she was the last remaining member of that generation of Bryce's family. 

We're thankful that we got to visit her when we first arrived. We had been told she was failing, so we were surprised to find that she was, for a short period of time, very lively. We had a nice visit - and came away with one particularly fun memory: Molly was holding Jessie's hand and talking about what had become Jessie's favorite topic - her childhood on the family farm. "Now, Jessie, I know there were cows and horses on the farm, but were there other animals? Did you have pigs?" Jessie's mischievous face lit up and she leaned in as if for a confidence. "Oh, yes, pigs. . . . . Nasty smelly things!" And then she laughed. Yes, we will miss Aunt Jessie.

In closing, in honor of Aunt Jessie's long life, we wish for you: A life with more cows and horses than pigs, and a chance to find your own little charming village. And for us, that you let us know about your visit when you do!

Next post: Finally one about El Salvador!

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