Day 8 June 12

For a few days now, we were talking about going to a salt spring or swimming somewhere. I thought perhaps returning to Robida Grand and swimming there would have been fun. In stead, we went to a place much better and more unique. Once piled into two taxis we set out for the heart of the island where there’s an active volcano. On it’s slope lay thermal pools, natures hot tub where people sit and relax gazing up to the sky through thick palm tree fronds.

When Jeniffer was here 7 years ago, the pools were coveted by the locals who use to drive straight in. Today it’s a park with bathrooms and change room facilities even a little museum illustrating the volcano’s history, geology, flora and fauna.

There are actually two pools. The original one has cooled down since the last time Jeniffer and her family were there. But it’s a larger, deeper pool with enough room to spread out and swim from one side to the other. The other pool was a tepid 30 degrees. Too hot for my liking though I did take the time to relax. But if you know me, you know I cannot JUST sit for long. I’ve gotta be doing. Which is why I eventually went to the cooler pool to stretch out. When we all piled out, I tried to sketch the pool, without the people, but I’m not as fond of it as the ones I did with buildings in it. Probably because I was never that good at drawing foliage and in this case,  there was too much of it.

For lunch, we spent the rest of our time at a picnic area with a chip truck perched at the mouth of the entrance way. Next to it and I suppose owned by the same person was a gift pavilion where I bought most of my gifts to bring home. Since being here, this was bar-none the best place for souvenirs. I would buy something, see something else, buy that, see something else, until I hard to reign myself in. The most unique gifts were those made with cork. I didn’t know it until this day, but Sao Miquel or Portugal as a whole grows cork trees. Corks for whine bottles, and other things are from the bark of a cork tree which is torn off the trunk and laid out to dry out then processed. I bought a shot glass for FFC (Friday Fun Club) covered with cork and a cow painted on it. 3 women’s and 1 men’s wallets made with cork. a clay bird whistle that actually sounds like a bird when you have water in it (for FFC), a combo shoehorn/back scratcher for my sewing family, Marianne and Hans, and I can’t remember what else!

What a fun day!! Nature in places unfamiliar is just as mesmerizing and wonderful as in your own backyard. I’m sure there are many great parks on the island, but I highly recommend this one. Especially since the entrance fee was only 2 Euros.

Before I close this article, a cute thing that happened before we left for the thermal pool. Up until this day, my allergies were non-existent. Yet, somehow……. this morning….. when I went for a walk outside the village  towards open space, I stopped at a street sweeping up from the ocean to the main road. Along it were three stone row houses with a field of bamboo at the end. At intervals, I would sneeze. As a did so at one point a taxi with it’s windows rolled down called out to me, what assumed was “bless you” in Portuguese. How sweet and funny. I called out, “thank you!” in English and Portuguese, as he sped away through the round-about.

Day 7 – June 11th

OMG! I can’t believe my trip is coming to a close! I leave on Tuesday around 4pm. Although I’m sad to leave this place, I long for my quiet apartment. Many aspects of the island are like home – Cape Breton and Newfoundland – so when I do go home, I’ll get to compare the geography and culture.

I was the first to rise this morning. I got a shower, had breakfast and made my way up the street to see if there were any stores open to replace my Tom’s. It being Sunday and still mid festival, none of the shops were open except convenience stores. I rather expected this, so brought my sketchbook and pencils and found a quiet courtyard of a smaller church with an attached playground beside it. I sat on a sunny wall sketching the edge of the church and the buildings beyond. This time, my perspective was better. When I got back to the house, none of the girls had arisen from bed. I was sorely tempted to venture out again, but I knew we were to go to a family dinner not too far away for 1pm. As it was, we didn’t arrive until 3pm. Not quite sure what happened there. Maybe this is just another example of island time.

At first it was a little awkward. As there were many more people there. Then there’s the language barrier, but that soon passed when I gravitated towards the younger kids playing volleyball and monkey in the middle. Some things are universal and gestures help. So does beer, wine and port. All the food was prepared on an outside wood burning BBQ. Everything was amazing. The cold slaw was not as vinegary as we Canadians make it. The mayo in the potato salad was made from scratch and also less vinegary. The chicken wings and ribs were large and seasoned to perfection. They also cooked sardines, but I haven’t developed a taste for this particular fish, so I left those alone. There’s something to be said for a family feast.

We walked home. But oddly enough, I seemed to be the only one to find our way back even though it was only a left onto the main road leading to the house. It was pretty much low key after that. I reorganized my suite case as I tend to do when it gets a little too chaotic, contributed to my blog and was sociable when visitors arrived.

Day 5 – June 9th

Not sure what to write about this day. It was raining on and off. At one point when the rain lessened to a drizzle, I took the opportunity to stretch my legs. I tried the church to sketch the interior, but it was closed so I decide to go to the wall on top of the cliffs just a block up. Here, I sketched the cliff and the buildings perched precariously above. One section that was particularly eroded had a cave, the buildings above are abandoned having collapsed from the inside it’s inhabitants forced to relocate. One of these houses is directly across the street from Jeniffer’s family. In the coming years, the entire building will fall down the cliff onto the marina below.

I came back to the house, hung out, did nothing, not even writing anything because I prefer to write about the day before going to bed or the next morning. This day is being written the day after next. The reason you’ll see in the next entry.

Because I wasn’t able to sit still and the rain had again subsided to a drizzle, I set out again, this time towards the ocean. I sketched the outcrop of land, all the little rock islands and the misty rolling hills beyond. I commented in a whats app message to Mom that I drew this landscape much closer than it actually was. I’m not sure how this happens. Clearly, I have to practice my perspective.

Back again to fill in the sketches I’ve done so far with a thin sharpie marker. I sat at the kitchen table with the family listening to the Portuguese language. I not a proficient in any language, but it seems to me there are some French words and influxes that float through the language probably because it’s all a derivative of Latin. The words sound to me like a rushing brook after the snow has melted or a heavy rain.

At dusk, the rain stopped all together in time for the procession. It’s made up of festival committee members, the priest, young and old members of the church and finally a marching band. There was a splendid aray of fireworks, not just the loud ones the locals have been setting off throughout the day – everyday since I’ve been here – but some worthy of those set off in the Beaches on Victoria or Canada Day. There were set off only yards away, I flinch at the noise and the light. Because of this I sometimes think one of my past lives must have been during a war. The memory of exploding bombs and flashes of light would have been terrifying for me at the time.

After the procession, we went to a square where the sacrificial bulls were being butchered. 35 bulls were slaughtered for this religious festival. Those who donated money to the church were given so many pounds of beef, sweet bread and wine. I’m not opposed to this as this was how it was done for many generations and hopefully the tradition will be kept alive. Traditions are not without its updates however. Where once the bulls would run through the streets, they are now paraded in carts throughout the village. I have to admit my disappointment for not seeing a heard of bulls at close range careening through the streets. Hey, I’m not going to lie, I’m a huge beef eater. You have your opinions, I have mine.

* At some point during this day, I was sitting at the kitchen table and noticed the sky looked rather pinkish. This being the perfect opportunity to photograph a sunset, I asked who would the be interested in going. Rosy, a huge fan of sunsets, Vicky and her friend Kayla decided to go.

After the procession, The family with the twins came over and chatted for a while. They are such pretty girls, I asked them to model for me to test an idea I found on Pinterest.*

* – Written June 25th

Day 4 – June 8th

It was decided that we would go to the next largest town, Ribeira Grand, to buy gifts and Edwarda a patio table with chairs. We all pitched in, 20 euros each. What a fantastic surprise this would be for her after everything she’s done and will do for us to make our stay comfortable.

The town it seems, has one main commercial drag of shops restaurants and other stores. The first store we went to was a gift store along with a . . . FABRIC STORE! There was some beautiful fabric there, especially one bolt of printed linin of soft blue colours at 28 and change euros a meter. I was not surprised, as linin seems to be consistently this expensive. It is a natural fiber after all. After searching their buttons for something for my Bib front skirt, I settled on a pretty navy blue taffeta ribbon that I will use to decorate a straw boater hat I have. The ribbon cost 1.50 euros per meter.

Further east is a beautiful park with waterfalls and an old mill. This appears to be the central park of Ribeira Grand lined with stones walls and oddly enough a tennis court. Its gardens are lined with hydrangeas and birds of paradise. Hydrangeas are the national follower here growing like weeds. They are one of my favourite flowers! After this we searched for a place to have lunch. There were signs directing you to the areas of interest including the community pools and restaurants, but there wasn’t anything that really tickled our fancy until we found a place right by the ocean called Azores Spot. The view was fantastic! Below were 4 chlorine pools including a wadding pool, one with a diving board, a kiddies pool and “C” shaped one that encompassed the rest, I’m assuming, for lane swims. A fifth pool was a large pool filled with salt water from the ocean. I hope to go back here before I go. I don’t think this will happen as there’s talk about going to a hot spring. Either way, whatever we do, I’ll be fine with it.

We got a taxi back although I was really tempted to walk back as it was one straight road minus the rotaries back into the fishing village.

Not much to relay from the evening. I dumped my DSLR photos onto my computer and edited some of the images. Local family members came to visit with a Portuguese style carrot cake. MMMMMMmmmmmmm….. The fishermen’s festival; in it’s second night, raged until well past midnight. We had caught some of the acts. One a traditional folk band singing the praise of the village and another of young things singing more modern songs accompanied by the local hip-hop dancers. Unfortunately, I can’t upload the video to my blog, so I’ll try to add in my instagram announcement.

I’ll Have A Lazy Christmas

OK. Yes, I know it’s a little belated, posting what happened at Christmas this late, but whatever.

As my title suggests, I had a lazy Christmas. I don’t know exactly how that happened, especially since I was so reved up with my usual list of things to do and eat. But when it came down to it, after supper, Mom an I would habitually hit the sofa, turn on the TV and watch the news, The Star Trek Marathon, “Call the Midwife” and “Murdoch Mysteries” Christmas specials.

I so wanted to help around the house. Clean the basement, chop some wood, but somehow that all boiled down to collecting 5 garbage bags of stuff from the basement and just being there and hanging out with Mom. Which was very nice in itself.

So where does the photography come in? Sadly, I only took my DSLR out once. I brought with me my Bronika with the Polaroid back, speed light, studio stand, studio umbrella and all the necessities that go with that. On a particularly blustery snowy day, I convinced Mom to go to North Sydney so I can finally try out the much talked about Black Spoon. It was bar-none THE best meal I had during my entire holiday. Ok. With one exception…. two….. OK…..The best meal dining out. We had the special a zesty chicken sandwich, butternut squash soup and leafy green salad. More on my experience and other reviews, visit Google reviews. Can’t wait to have the waffle chicken sandwich. Unfortunately they were all out.

While in North Sydney, I visited my favorite boutique store called. La Quaintrelle Boutique. They have a beautiful mix of new vintage style clothing casual and formal with various accessories to go with your purchase. Underneath is an outdoor store, Escape Outdoors, which was refreshing to find because it just goes to show how active and green Cape Bretoner’s are becoming. It’s a great location for travelers as well. I mean hey, the ferry, to Newfoundland is just next door…ish. Granny’s was all the rage as well. There’s a new location on Archibald Avenue and Pierce St, located in one of the historical homes of North Sydney owned by the MacDonald’s – No, not the chain – In fact, my God Mother’s husband was born there. When inside the house you will see how well preserved and lovingly brought back to its old gleam of original wood work is. From top to bottom, this house shines as well as all the merchandise inside. I highly recommend it. See if you can spot the Fairy House when you visit.

On the way out, I asked that we stop at the Ballast Grounds so I can finally give my camera a proper workout. The dramatic clouds skimming by and the soft blowing snow made a great background for the vibrantly coloured fishing boats on land. “Should we get some lobster while we’re here?” Mom asked when I got back to the car. I immediately hopped back out with an enthusiastic, “YEAH!” I’m sure you saw my facebook post, but incase you didn’t we bought 3 beautiful, huge lobsters, totaling $45 and change. One was a female, but unfortunately, there wasn’t any roe. I dream of the roe I had in Cox’s Cove that summer. For that post, visit this link. The Lobsters were caught that day, brought to the ballast grounds an hour and cooked a half hour before we got there. MMMMMmmmmm…! They were so good!

One exciting moment of my holidays happened when driving along HWY 2 in Northside East Bay. My Friend Robert and I saw a crumbling house on the hill with even more crumbled barns. As it was late in the afternoon, we stuck to the house. We circled around and around looking for a safe way to get inside. In the end the passage beyond the mudroom was not so safe so in order to reach the living room on the other side of the kitchen, one has to climb up and over a fridge onto stove, onto a table that was precariously perched on the sloping floor into the basement. Man that was a beautiful table! In fact most of the wooden furniture – which were antiques probably dating back to the 1900’s, I might add, was still in great condition. Scattered in the back bedroom were Christmas cards (of all things) dating back to 1939! In the mess, I found an old photograph of a woman named Catherine Gillis – McKinnon and a set of her untouched hankies embroidered with delicate flowers. Spilling out of the seams of the house where the kitchen was, was various china ware. I picked up a pretty tea cup with Forget-Me-Not’s. Finally in the coal shed of all places, I found a shoe form for a rather large foot. Not sure if I should even be writing about this adventure. I’m a little possessive of this spot now that I know what treasures and photographic potential lay inside and out.

In the place of Photographer’s Anonymous, I hung out with George and his friend, at the Ugly Mug in Sydney River.  It was exactly what I needed. A relaxing chat about photography with like minded people, sipping on a hot chocolate, ’cause you know, I had 3 coffees that day. Chad, showed a book he had made of the photography he took in Japan. His compositions of inner city street photography are pleasantly restful for such a chaotic place. Your eye moves around the image smoothly, and of course, everyone is beautiful, even emotional in some way. I brought my lap top with me to show them “The Anachronist Project” and other things. I’m pleased they exhibited such a positive reaction to the images. George even planted the idea of seeing who in Cape Breton would let me photograph in their house that would be made up in the period. Annefield Manor, unfortunately, was JUST sold for a song and a dance. Damn! So I’ll solicit to Telegraph House in Baddeck or even so high as Bienn Bhreagh.

There never is enough time is there? To do the things you had planned. Things happen and you make alternative plans and somehow, without really knowing it, you roll with the punches. It’s the little surprises that keep me coming back for more. It’s the need to come home to spark that inspiration to perfect or keep alive an image or feeling that was so fleeting.