Summer 2017 in Review

I can’t believe I didn’t write anything about my summer home this….last year. It’s almost unthinkable. I can see why though. My time was so jammed packed I hardly had time to write at the end of the day. Thus, my memories will not be as fresh as they would have been all those months ago.

None of these accounts are in any chronological order. I can’t even begin at this point to piece together the days unless I look closely at the image files. At this point I don’t have the energy except to match the photos with each paragraph.


I flew into Sydney on the midnight flight. I love driving home at night. Ok. I love driving home anyways. Especially coming from the airport. The next morning we awoke very early to catch the ferry, which is a 2 and a half hour drive. From Sydney Forks to Pictou. Onward over the Northumberland Straight. Taking the ferry makes the whole experience a cherished tradition. Had my photography tour gone full speed ahead, I would have asked everyone to fly into Halifax instead of flying into Charlottown to have this experience. We arrived at my cousin’s place in Clyde River early evening. Enough time for a chat before we headed to the musical, “Anne and Gilbert”, in which my little cousin was one of the school children. What an amazing little actress, singer and dancer she is. Her talents know no bounds. The Musical itself was excellent. This production was not at the Convention Centre, but in a small community theater with a lower level art gallery and a bar that served fantastic local craft beer. One of the actresses had set up a stand selling cupcakes and tartlets. As she played the infamous Josie Pie, she called her company, “Josie’s Pies”. I recommend seeing the play if you’re spending time on the island. Not just because of my little cousin, but because I firmly believe, when in Rome, one should absolutely see an “Anne of Green Gables” play.

Before heading to Cavendish that day, we ambled back into Charlottown for site seeing, shopping and brunch at an amazing spot called Brickhouse on Sydney St. A cozy spot, well decorated with stunning pieces of artwork on the walls. The coffee was not your average cup of joe which made it all the more enjoyable. All though the brunch menu seemed average the dressing of was not and very delicious. The clientele was a little slow as brunches go, but I would go back when next in town.

As you know, I posted that I am no longer doing my photography tours. Prince Edward Island was suppose to have been this summer, but since no one signed up, I cancelled all the rooms at The Lake of Shining Waters Resort except for a room for Mom and I. The inn was very quaint with decor that suited its history. We had a small room with a double bed and a full bath, which was lopsided so your head went downhill. The floors throughout the house were like this like small ripples in the water. After lugging the luggage into the room, we sat on the bed to catch our breath. Faintly, but getting stronger, we heard a distinct rhythmic creaking noise as though someone was swinging back and forth in a rocking chair.
“Mom.” I asked, “Do you hear that?”
“What is it?”
“It’s the Old Lady knitting in her rocking chair.”
“Stop it! I don’t want to stay here anymore!”
Still the chair continued rocking. I listened for a while, enjoying the rhythm, contemplating on who this person might have been. Perhaps she was not old at all: A young woman rocking her child to sleep, or perhaps an old man reading a book. But it was time to search of a place to eat. Our first choice, the Blue Oyster, was already queued up with an hour-long wait. Instead, we ended up at Captain’s Cove Cafe. The fish was fresh tasting, they served local craft beer, but other than that…meh. They weren’t even on Google Maps. At least, not until I put them there and wrote a review. When we returned to the room, the invisible rocking chair was still creaking. Mom was still unnerved by this, but I told her, “If it was a bad ghost, they would have done something bad by now, so, leave her alone.” Mom agreed and as if the ghost heard my champion, the creaking stopped and we were left in peace for the rest of the trip.

One of THE places to go in PEI is The Dunes Galley and Café. It’s a sprawling building with many chopped-up levels. Art of all kinds fill the walls and any available corner. The Art itself is unique, mesmerizing, fun and intense. Some pieces are affordable, others not so much. They range from blown glass fish bowls set erratically in driftwood to the usual paintings and usual photography to massive unique pieces of furniture, jewelry and clothing. They ship anywhere when you spend such-and-such a dollar amount. When you spend more than $75 you get a batiqued cotton shopping bag. If you don’t want to spend too much at the café, a coffee and desert is worth it. If you want to relax, the property has a Buddha garden to wander though with matured trees. Ponds freckle the property as well as the rooftop garden complete with greenery. Needless to say, one can spend an entire day at this place. Mom and I had another agenda however. Brackley Beach. Another must-do in PEI is go to any of the many beaches spread across the coastline. Brackley Beach is a personal favorite, but this year, we found a hidden part that our waitress at Rachel’s Restaurant recommended, Robinson Island. Drive past the parking lot, past the change houses along the dirt toad to a section where paths lead over the dunes to this oh so private part of the beach.

I had heard of the population growth of jellyfish this year, especially the onslaught of the dreaded Portuguese Man-O-war. Thankfully it was not as bad as I had thought. Though I didn’t come away unscathed. Such beautiful weather we had! Hot summer days, equaling Toronto weather. I had to laugh when I thought about a friend talking about going to an exotic destination with beaches for her vacation. I tried to convince her to come to PEI with me for this exact purpose, but I only received “the look” for my pains. The thing I like about Brackley Beach and you may see a trend here, is that as you can walk out, it get’s deep to your knees then shallow again for quite a while. Here I lay letting the waves lap over me, ever cautious of jellyfish, feeling my hair sweep from one side to the other in the current. I even wadded back to get my phone taking a series of photos, later stitched as an animation to capture this. I am a fish myself, as you know. I could have stayed in the water all day. I had work to do however.

After drying off, I went to the car to stealthily change from my modern bathing suite to my new Edwardian walking suite. As I emerged from the car, I already had curious looks from those who were coming and going. It wasn’t until I crested the dune with the water ahead of me, that I completely felt myself in the here and….. then???? One of the “Anne of Green Gables” scene that pops into mind is when Anne and Diana are standing on a dune watching the setting sun on the water after the concert at The White Sands Hotel. “We are rich Diana…” Anne says to her bosom friend. Mom was such a trooper staying behind the camera, pressing the shutter button as I slipped from pose to pose. Photographing myself on the beach in my costume was a must for me. Even though I zigged-zagged around small jelly fish, skirts held up, I was stung in the end by a sneaky little bugger whose tentacles must have been long indeed or was swept speedily away by the current because I didn’t see it come or go. Turned out that picture of me looking for the F%^&er was one of the nicest images from that day. Take photos in costume at the beach…check!

A kind of frenzy happened when we returned home. As I mentioned in my Christmas blog, I wanted to do some clearing in the back yard. Well, I didn’t start with the pine trees as I had hopped. Somehow they looked denser in the summer than they did in the winter and thus more intimidating. Instead I cleared weeds and weed trees from around the more matured trees. Of the larger pine trees that served as sentinels and borders, I hacked off their lower branches that were tangled in long grass. Now that this was done, the father and son team who mow the lawn were able to whipper-snip under and around making for a beautiful manicured lawn. When my neighbour mowed his lawn… WOW! All of a sudden our lawns amalgamated into one beautiful park like setting. Because the backyard looked so wonderful I really lamented the fact that I had to go back to Toronto. When I returned, there were evenings and weekends where I itched to get back with saw, clippers, wheelbarrow and gardening gloves. LOL. With all the brush I laid on my neighours bon fire pile AND the crap from the basement there was a merry fire indeed. I made banana boats for everyone to celebrate. Though in the end it was only Kevin and I. We sat and watched the fire dance while he updated me on local happenings. I learned my school fellows had exceeded to amazing careers, we listened to music that miraculously carried over Blackettes Lake as though it were just across the street. Best of all, we patted ourselves on the back for such a marvelous job we did to make our backyards beautiful together.

The next morning, I woke up looking at an antique coffee table in my bedroom. “I know what I’m going to do with you!” I told it. I lugged this, my great grandmothers rocking chair, an old blanket that resembles a tapestry, my grandmothers Old Country Rose tea set, a jar of freshly made strawberry jam, much sought for tea biskets, milk and sugar up the hill in the beautiful morning summer sunshine. As I was dragging all this up the hill, I was complaining to Mom that I hadn’t seen Robert since we got back from PEI. Usually he pops in the day of or the day after I get home and we have many great adventures. Then ta-daaaaaa! Here he comes up the driveway. I run out of the house giving him a big hug and say, “Guess what you’re doing today?” I think he had something completely different in mind, but he wasn’t at all adverse to immersing himself in my project for the afternoon. He even came with me into Sydney River in search for the elusive tea biskets. *Shout out to Robert for helping me that day. I had so much fun. Especially when you took the camera off the tripod and for capturing most of it on video with your Olympus.* At one point he had asked if I needed (waving his had over my tableau) all of this exclaiming, “They wouldn’t have dragged all this out to have a picnic.” Excuse me? “Of course they would have!” I cried stoutly defending the Edwardians. I had a firm image in my head that was going to get out one way or another. In doing this shoot, I wanted to create more casual images. Life at home so to speak. The first of the snap shots. For it was in 1900 when the Brownie camera came out. Almost every household had it. Even Lucy Maud documented aspects of her life throughout her adult years in PEI and Ontario. Film would be sent to the Kodak plant for processing and returned with a new roll in the camera, ready to go. How wonderful it must have been to have the advent of accessible photography. I often equate these beginnings to those of digital photography. If I’ve said it before, the feeling is as true now as it was then.

Every summer I go hiking. Robert’s suggestion of Devil’s Hill Falls was not a disappointment. It’s located just off the Louisbourg Highway on New Boston Rd. No doubt named for the American contingent of soldiers during one of the English invasions on the Fortress three centuries ago. Make a right onto New Boston and then a left at the end of the road. Just beyond this intersection, is the entrance to the trail on the right handside. You climb a slope to a small bridge where the trail crosses a babbling brook. There is a steep and somewhat tricky climb down but you can keep following a succession of mini falls. Just so, when you follow the brook on the other side, leading away from the ocean. Such beautiful green foliage and moss making the whole area like a fairy Queendome! There were MANY great spots for future photo shoots, the kind with a model draped over the edge or over a rock in sorrow or martyrdom wearing a gossamer gown that is pulled by the waters current. ARGH! AND THAT’S ANOTHER THING! But I’ll get to that later. There are many dreamy vistas to photograph without a model as well. Throughout the hike, I looked longingly into each pool picturing myself luxuriating in its fresh waters. Wow! Did that bubble burst quickly when I dangled my feet in one. It was decidedly too cold. I hate getting older or being sensitized to Ontario’s climate, I’m not quite sure which one it is. It makes me feel as though I am not made from the hardier Cape Breton stock after all. Robert and I spent the morning tramping up and down and all around, making plans to come back next summer to make more of a path and other improvements. It got it’s name from the time in Cape Breton folklore when a drunken man arrived home late one evening from a local dance claiming he met the devil along the way as an excuse for his tardiness to his wife. The Devil heard this, signing the poor fellow’s death warrant.

The same afternoon was spent hiking (my first time) the Lighthouse Trail. It was a misty overcast day, typical of Louisbourg weather, the ocean ahead of us full of movement. At one point we deviated from the path (as we always do) to climb the larger rocks across the many tidal pools. I was enamored with the grain in the rock, taking many of my micro landscapes. We walked as far as the cove where we sat on the rocky beach looking out across the ocean to invisible France, imagining the tall ships sailing into harbour. Before leaving the Town of Louisbourg, not to be confused with the fortress itself, we had a great scoff of chip-truck-fries, which seem amazing now even though I fussed and stomped my foot at the time for not eating at places I haven’t tried yet, like the sushi and East Indian restaurants.

Before leaving Toronto, I put a casting call on Model Mayhem hoping to find a model in Sydney or the surrounding area to continue my Water Nymph portraits. There’s a lake just off the highway to Baddeck that is shallow enough to serve the purpose. I only had one response to my inquiry, a model in Halifax, 5 hours away. She really liked my idea and was sorry she was so far away. Other than that, nothing. I even reached out to Ratchford Studios in North Sydney who seems to have no end of models streaming into his studio. His receptionist suggested keeping watch on Facebook for a list he would post, but he did not. I don’t understand why there isn’t more of a network for this kind if thing. Oh wait, yes I do. It’s because there’re aren’t many model photographers in Sydney and mostly all the commercial photographers who have their own studios do family, graduation and school portraits. If anyone in Cape Breton is reading this, please correct me if I’m wrong. When I move home, one of the things I’d like to establish is a network for artists. Connecting models with photographers and other artists. When George, Chad and I met at Breton Brewing to hang out and chat art speak, we discussed this idea as well as other aspects of stepping up the creative photography game in Sydney. It was a fun meeting and we came up with lots of ideas that lead to the creation of a private facebook page. We decided that there aren’t enough galleries in Sydney that catered to the emerging artist. Sydney is becoming a bourgeoning arts community, faster than ever before. It’s as if someone has finally grabbed the average Joe by the horns forcing the meat and potato public to appreciate and respect what local artists have to offer. I’ve learned recently, my old high school, Holy Angels, is destined for a redesign into an arts centre. How amazing and how fitting! For once in my life, I actually enjoyed going school because of Holy Angels.

It was a chilly day when we finally found the time to visit Point Micheaud. I brought my bathing suit, but there hardly was any sun to bath in and there was no way I was getting in the water that day. Instead, we took our usual walk up the expanse of beach taking pictures of all kinds of seaweed and collecting many rocks and shells. We observed a woman looking into patches of beach pebbles washed in and out with the tide. When we caught up with her, the three of us stood, mesmerized by the surf swirling around our ankles patiently waiting to see a revelation of hidden treasures.

Lick-A-Chick never disappoints me. It’s the best fried chicken ever. It’s always consistent with a healthy line up. The locals never grumble if they wait too long. What place better to enjoy it than the great outdoors. Groves Point has become out traditional picnic spot were we seek the same picnic table, to have our mean, bring our books, blanket, chair, bathing suite and towels. The day was so fine, the water so warm I lived in it. Thanks to the weekend at the cottage, I was desensitized to seaweed. Seaweed in the Bras ‘d Or Lakes was always the bain of my existence when I was younger.

Farmers Markets are always an adventure. When traveling home, I like to experience many. For the first time, I went to the Farmers Market in Mabou. If one is to travel to the other side of the island, it has to be a day trip. And boy, was it ever. I can’t remember the last time I was in that are but it was many, many years before I moved to Toronto. I forgot how much more majestic the hills were. How much more the country the country side is. The Irish and Scottish immigrants must have held their breath as the ships came closer to land. To see that this was some semblance to the home they’ve left behind so many miles away. The Market is in an arena with vendors taking up every corner. Breton Brewing that summer had a wonderful beer that was aged in a Chardonnay Oak cask. Music to my ears! I wasn’t disappointed with its taste either. In fact, before I left home I bought another bottle (at the Keltic Dr. Farmers Market) to bring back to Toronto for a friend to appreciate. I’m happy to report that they liked it just as much as I did. After the market, we went to The Red Shoe, the most famous restaurant in Cape Breton. It’s claim to fame? The Rankin’s of course! Owned by the Rankin’s not to disappoint in entertainment, food, local craft beer, wine or atmosphere.

Inverness Beach is one of the most beautiful beaches in Cape Breton. I don’t remember ever being there, though Mom said I was as a child. We walked a bit at one end, then another. Since it was the last opportunity to swim in the Atlantic, I slipped into the sun setting waters relishing yet fighting the current. I’m lucky to be such a strong swimmer, marveling in its strength as I swam back into the shore again and again. I can see how someone could be swept away. I think on it now as though reaching to grasp at a profound dream quickly fading. Although the pull of the ocean is freighting, I’m in love with it.

If I may, your backyard can hold as much adventure or more than an all inclusive resort trip.

Portugal – Sao Miguel

Day 1 – June 5th

This morning, almost the first thing I did, was go to the bank to get money exchanged into Euro’s. My friend had said they use cash for everything in the village where they are staying, Rabo de Peixe. Although I had been looking up this information online, I saw mixed information or information that was only relative to the area people went to. I learned that you cannot use your usual debit card, but must have a euro debit card or a debit card that takes Portuguese currency. VISA and MasterCard however are accepted. I had made sure I put enough on my CC to use it. Perhaps if we go to larger cities, I can use it there. In the end, I marched myself to the CIBC branch in the Beaches and exchanged more than $400 Canadian into more than 300 Euros. I have to admit, I felt a little unsteady on my feet after the whole ordeal, wondering if it was enough. Well, It’s going to have to be. But I wish I had known about the cash before hand.

I made it to the airport in plenty of time, taking an Uber X. Traffic bottle necked in areas, but nothing to worry about. The fellow was a new driver to Uber so as we got closer to the airport, I had to direct him into the correct lanes. SATA was not open when I finally found where they were located, but there was a queue. I managed to get through with my camera bag as my “personal bag “ and another bag I use for my tripod and light stand.

At brunch yesterday with Janet, she asked if there was an itinerary. Jen and I had talked about things that we wanted to do. She arrived in Portugal earlier than me, so I ‘m sure she’s not waiting for me to do things. Nor do I expect her to. Some things on my bucket list however, are:

– Take pictures of Jeniffer’s nieces
– Go to church
– Swim at a hot spring and in the ocean
– Hike

Jeniffer also talked about going to a new site like Pompeii and doing an island boat tour. Lol. My friend from work asked if I was going whale watching. I told him I can go whale watching when I’m home. Seriously though, I’m ok with doing whatever because I have more time than I had in Iceland and secondly, I’m going to be staying in a little fishing village; right in the thick of a Portuguese community. Listening to all my co-workers talk about their “resort” experience always made me feel the “experience” of a new country was lacking and (I love you guys!!!xoxo) fake. Why go a beautiful place only to have specialty built experiences within the resort and never feel what it’s truly like to BE in that country. That’s not how I want to spend my money.

We were late boarding, but once we were all on the plane. Things were efficient enough. There were 2 screaming babies beside me belonging to very young parents. But, God bless them, they did everything in their parental power to keep them quiet knowing how bothersome they were to other passengers. These things happen of course. You can hardly expect to be on a plane without one, though you may hope against hope. All this screaming however, resulted in a mild migraine the next day. When the babies had quieted down, I thankfully managed to get a catnap. Myself, and others in the seats close by were forgiving enough when the plane landed.

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.

Home Sweet Home – July 19th to 26th

Cape Breton

On Sunday Mom and I drove home from Halifax with a quick pit stop in New Glasgow to drop off Auntie Rie. We initially planned to stay the night, but once on the road, I just wanted to keep on going. I drove all the way home because being behind the wheel homeward bound is a right of passage. After St. Peter’s the roads are twisty-turney, following the Bras d’Or Lakes. It’s one of my favorite drives

Once home it’s a mixed sensation of calm and upheaval. It goes without saying that one has to plan carefully around a compressed list of to-do’s into a single week. I didn’t go to Louisbourg, Tasty Treat, Point Micheaud or Mira Gut. What I did do, I’ll try to recount.

Baddeck

Baddeck as some American’s pronounce it – Baad-deck. It sounds like a sheep’s brae when it comes out of their mouths. I wonder if they make the same mistake with the Bedeque in Prince Edward Island. One set of Americans, long ago, loved the community and decided to build a grand house a summer residence; Alexander Graham Bell and his wife Mable. Baddeck is also know to many celebrities who anchor in the harbour for a time. These people include Jack Nicholson, David Bowie (God rest his soul) and others.

Every Wednesday there is a farmers market at the fire hall. If you’re in town, I highly reccommend going. Though, that was not our only purpose. I wanted to walk around the town then head to Uisge Ban Falls. It’s a 15 to 20 minute hike leading to a waterfall with picturesque scenery along the way. The winding of the river is pock-marked with boulders, fallen trees, lichen and moss. On either side the hill, trees rise to a dizzying height creating a cool green canopy. Usually when I go, there’s hardly anyone and you have the place pretty much to yourself. There were many this day even though it was threatening to rain. on the hike I was happy to discover some beautiful mushrooms. I’m not an expert and still have the task of researching them in the fungus book I bought in Newfoundland last year.

Out on the Mira

Next day we went to Mom’s Friend’s house in Grand Mira North. She and her husband live on the Mira River with a dock ending deep enough for one to dive off of. It was wonderful to swim, even if it was the only swim I got in this trip. Swimming. Dorothy’s twin grandkids, who were there were not at all the shy type. They chatted and followed me to the river, allowing me to take some fun photos posed on the dock, thereby pulling them from under adult feet. They balls of energies and such hams. Somehow I managed to get some seriousness out of them, taking these lovely photos below. Before leaving, I let them get behind the camera. Elizabeth took the group shot of her Mom, brother, Blake and Baby sister, Annabelle. Good Job Elizabeth!

Breton Brewing

Mom and I went into Sydney River to pick up some groceries and since Sobey’s is so close to the newest brewery in Cape Breton, so I coerced Mom to go there, adding another stamp in my passport. Breton Brewing was a year old on my birthday, June 27th. What a funny coincidence. Inside is dark, yet surprisingly stylish and spacious with rows of long tables between a small stage for live music and the bar. I honestly thought that the interior would look more industrial, but it was warm and cosy. Along one wall, you can see the vast wear house where it all happens. There’s even have a line a clothing. Behind the bar is a mega huge chalk board describing only a portion of the beers they have on tap. I ordered a set of samples and went outside to try to convince Mom to come in. She said she was going to sit in the car and read. I had no such luck but a gentleman who had just bought a four pack of assorted tall cans assured me he would be successful, and he was. Mom too, was surprised at how nice and cool it was inside.

The sample tray is $7 and comes with 5 beers. Each sample is a little less than half a pint. Under each glass is a coaster describing the beer it lays under. Unfortunately, so much time has passed since said tasting, I can’t tell you all that I had, but the one I remember most vividly was the Heifenwizen. The girl at the bar describes it as having a hint of vanilla and banana. I didn’t taste these, but tasted a hint of cinnamon, which wasn’t bad as one may think, but rather a nice surprise. I noticed someone beside me and asked him if he had tasted the cinnamon (since he was drinking the same beer), after taking a sip, he agreed with me.

I don’t think Mom was too pleased with my running around collecting as many stamps as I could. She made the comment that perhaps I drink too much. No danger there. I’m not the stereotypical Cape Bretoner, drinking like a fish. But she did suggest a walk in Peter’s Field before heading home, to burn off some of the beer.

Peter’s Field is one of my favourite parks to go to aside from Groves Point on the North Side. It’s full of paths that weave in and out of fields, forest and harbour shoreline. It was once an estate to the McLellans, but originally owned my an X-American, David Mathews, who fled from jail for having attempted to assonate George Washington. Yet another American who discovered the beauties of Cape Breton. Thomas Crawley was the second owner of this estate, embellishing the gardens before it came into the hands of John Stewart McLennan in 1900, a native Cape Bretoner, he took over his fathers coal mining business, becoming a staunch politician, a hobbyist archaeologist studying the ruins of the Fortress of Louisbourg, bought two newspaper companies and was interested in botany.

This trip, I had pre planned a photo shoot here, which is why I brought a costume – my brown linen/cotton skirt, corset, two shirt waists and a petticoat, the later two borrowed from my friend Joy who generously lent these and other pieces to photograph. Also equipped with an Alien Bee studio light, my Paul Buff battery and light stand, I was to continue my “Anachronist” project on location. On our walk, I took photos as I usually do, but kept an eye out for spots that would work for backgrounds.

Gabarus

Another “Anachronist” opportunity came along that week. Each year, Mom and I go to Point Micheaud Beach up St. Peters way. But this year, I wanted to go to Gabarus. It’s a tiny community at the point of extinction yet is populated my mainly fisherman and has a historical value. In the the early to mid 1700’s when the English took over the Fortress of Louisbourg, many American Loyalist signed up to fight against the French. Some American troops landed in Gabarus setting up camp, scouting a way to the fortress on land through bracken and swamp. From Google earth, you can see a minuscule logging road that connects both areas. Apparently the access is through Kennington Cove.

Mom drove as I styled my hair in the car without hairspray, but with many bobby pins, which held for a while. But the wind being as frisky as it was lead to many escapee tendrils. Though in the end it made my hair look very authentic for the period in such a landscape. My poor boots faired just as well. Buttons decided to participate in the escape plan. Luckily I was able to find each and everyone that popped off, sewing them on later. When I got back to Toronto, the staff of Gadabout were so good in helping me find matching buttons for free. The boots were a little too big, but worked well in any case. When posing, I had to be careful my skirt covered the boots from the ankle up. Not for modesty sake, no. The tongue and the sides flapped about when I scurried from camera to sitting position. I really have to get a new battery for my remote timer.

I wish I had more time at Gabarus, but there was a large fog bank that rolled from over the hills, bringing with it a damp chill. One shot I wish I got would have standing in front of the water holding the back of my skirt like the woman in the photograph I found on Pinterest . Yet another would have been me stepping in the water, or standing next to the warf lined with lobster traps or the lighthouse. Alas, I need all day and to either be alone or with a proper assistant. Maybe it’s just as well, what I thought to be an ache from the hard mattress I was sleeping on turned out to be a pulled shoulder muscle from swinging my big ass camera bag over my shoulder. The only consolation for spending 4 hours in out patience on a beautiful Sunday afternoon was having a hot doctor look after me.

Hanging with Family

In the whirl of home activity, there is a the required getting together with family. Having already paid a visit to my Grand Parents in Stewiack on the way home from the valley, I wanted to spend time with the Webber family. It was a tight window but Uncle Roy, Aunt Daphne, my cousin Caelin and her two little girls managed to come over for a BBQ. What a lovely day we had for it! The girls were so sweet and well behaved, helping to put together strawberry shortcakes and bringing their dirty dishes into the kitchen. I’m so sad Caelin is moving back to Thompson.

If there’s one thing I love to be, it’s the cool artsy-fartsy aunt. After supper, we gathered on the slope in the backyard for photos. I used the Alien Bee for the first time this trip. I tried to pose everyone as best as I could, but it really is difficult to get everyone to look in the same direction with chins down, eyes open, stop talking! SMILE!

The kids and I ended the evening with making fun crowns out of plastic flower pots and reading them each a story from books Mom had given them as going away gift.

Peter’s Field Again

My last afternoon was spent in Peter’s Field, in costume with my hair pinned up. I repeated to myself, “I don’t care what anyone thinks of me. I’m just going to do it and have fun.” It’s a well used park but thankfully there weren’t too many people today. Just those walking and chatting. Those who crossed my path were polite enough to wait until the photo was taken which is a nice reprieve to the crowds of clueless Torontonians who don’t know what the hell is going on (or just don’t care) and walk through you photos. There were some who were curious. One gentleman thought I was photographing a wedding.

I wore a different shirtwaist and so glad I did because, phew, was it hot! My suite case when I opened it back in Toronto was almost as bad as a week old gym bag. Nothing a dumping in the bath tub of luke warm water won’t fix.

And here I close on this long drawn our blog that took almost a month to post. I thank Joy again for the loan of her period pieces, they made my photos come alive. I go home at Christmas and hope to have even more opportunities for more on location shoots. Or a chance to head out somewhere with George. It’s always nice to have some one to photograph with and share the adventure.

Home Sweet Home – July 14

The Magic Wine Wine Bus Tour

*my apologies for this and subsequent blogs being over due. It’s been a busy trip so far.*

“What are we going to do before the wine tour?” We asked each other in the morning.

The wine bus would pick us up at the Wolfville Visitor’s Center so it made sense to park the car there and shop along the main drag. At one consignment shop, I bought a new purse large enough to organize my wallet, camera, lens, and laptop, yet another perfect Mary Poppins’s bottomless pit. I found it at an opportune time. My small day bag was a stretch to fit all of the above and with so much weight, the strap dug into my shoulder. I transferred everything on the counter right before the sale clerks eyes. She watched to the end, exclaiming when I neatly slid my phone neatly into a side pocket, “You even found a place for your phone!”

At the same store I bought a fantastic autumn duo flannel plaid shirt and wool knit vest. It was displayed together and I didn’t want to part with either of them. The lady (who I think was also the owner) was good enough to give me a bit of a discount on both. It will look very nice with warm black tights and high rubber boots for an outdoors, Kate Middleton look.

Shopping and lunch wasn’t enough to kill time so we found a bench in Wolfville park reading until it was time to go. Before I left Toronto I started, “The Life of Pi” I don’t know why I resisted it so long, maybe because it was all the rage. The writing is witty and humorous for such a serious situation you can’t help but laugh. I lounged on the grass atop my grandfathers CN red wool blanket under the trees and thought I have to discover a small park like this when I get back to TO. Greenwood for swimming, somewhere else for reading.

The wine bus is an antique double decker bus brought over from England. I don’t have to tell you, we sat at the top level. Robert, the driver, drove it from Halifax each morning, a two-hour drive, if that. It was very daunting being at the front. You’re in the overhang above the driver so it looks as though there isn’t enough room to clear the ditch on a sharp turn and it looks as though you will hit that tree sapling when the bus is parking even though you’re 3 feet away from it. But the low branches of trees whipped into the top window when the bus surged forth on its way from winery to winery. Because it was so hot this day, there was no thought of closing said window.

Domaine de Grand Pre was the first on the list. I had been here twice before. The last time with a group of photographers I took around the mainland. You know who you are. In my early days of tour guiding, I missed out on the opportunity of getting a tour and tasting from the lovely folks who work there, so we paid full price for tasters then. The tours of the vineyards and wineries are always interesting and indeed it was lack of research on my part. This time, though there were some differences of opinions, I found the Magic Wine Bus tour online and will recommend it to anyone.

Pete Luckett is a famous local fellow, at least we claim him as such because he was almost the first on the map for redefining grocery stores. When we first started Pete’s Frutique, the only other company he was in competition with at the time was Sobey’s. He originally came from England, originally setting up a fruit stand outside at a Nova Scotia Farmers market in the winter. He sold his stores, to concentrate on his vineyard. I’ve been to Luckett’s Vinyard twice before, last time with the same group of photographers who kicked up a big fuss about going just before I was to get on the highway heading back to Halifax. Each year I go, Luckett’s keeps getting better. The most predominant image of Luckett’s Vinyards is the old phone booth brought especially from Pete’s hometown that was literally around the corner from where he lived. He places it in the middle of the vineyard opening it up for the public, allowing them to make one long distance phone call to anywhere in North America. Forget the rose! One of the exciting developments this time around, was a Buried White and Buried Red. Buried, you say? According to our guide, the only other country who does this is Switzerland. Pete had built a vault 8 feet underground up the road to house oak casks of white and red that sit untouched for 3 to 4 years. I forget which. The resulting flavor is smooth, subtle, smoky and earthy resting on the tongue like a note of pleasant music. It was $38 a bottle and I bought the Buried White.

Sharing the Gaspereau Valley with Luckett’s Vinyards is L’Acadie. It’s all organic with an almost always cool breeze that comes down the slope. Because of this there are no insects. Sheep are allowed to graze in the early spring months before much of the vine is grown from the parent plant and eat the leaves, thus naturally fertilizing the soil. Admittedly, L’Acadie is not my favorite of wines, though I did have a nice red that was heavy and black in colour. This too had a nice earthy tone (you may be getting to know my tastes in wine by now.) when swirled around it clung to the edges and slowly slid down the glass. I didn’t buy anything here.

At each of the afore said wineries, we spent an hour. I thought to myself, great, what are we going to do for an hour? Time few buy however, and before we knew it, we were heading to the Gaspereau Winery to pick up the last of our group. At this last stop, the three of us didn’t have time for a last tasting, but only a quick run-in to get my Good Cheer Passport stamped and a taste of Baco Noir. Jeremy, our Magic Wine Bus tour guide, kindly cajoled the girl behind the tastings table. I admitted to him that I don’t like reds, but all the reds on this tour I’ve tasted thus far this year in Nova Scotia are far better than any of the Ontario red wines I’ve had in my 13 years of living there. But you don’t have to take my word for it. Wineries and Vinyards in Nova Scotia are still relatively young compared to some in Ontario, though Pelee remains my favorite from that province. Oh, and the Patio 9 Pink in Rockway. If they have it anymore.

Home Sweet Home – July 13th

Wolfville, Canning, Blomiden, Repeat

First the Rose´. Ever since I’ve had Patio 9 Pink and learned the LCBO doesn’t carry it anymore, I’ve been trying to find its equal. I’ve tried several Ontario wines; Lady Bug, Rose, and some bubbly sweet stuff. None of these I’ve been paying attention to what winery they’re from, though they are stacked in a holder in my kitchen in Toronto. Not like that’s going to help me now. The last rose´ wine I tried, however was from Muskoka Lakes Winery. I had one sip and declared that it was awful! I had another sip to make sure and after pulling face, I sipped once more for good measure. I have never tasted a wine so vinegary, tart and to put it mildly only good for cooking. But whoever heard of using a rose´ for cooking? Unless you were to make a salad dressing. I sincerely hope that the batch was bad and somehow it turned while enrute in the store or something. But I will not be recommending it to anyone, I’m sorry to say. What about Blomidon Rose´? Well, it was mildly floral in the beginning, but ended on a tart note, with the slightest hint of a vinegar. Keep in mind I’m comparing this with the Rockway Winery’s Patio Pink which was floral, very smooth with a mild, yet refreshing, taste of an English Blend tea. What can I say? Everything I’ve fallen in love with has been discontinued in stores. But I can always rent a car for the day and drive to Rockway. Hike some of the Bruce Trail and hit the winery.

There are two large dining room tables in the main house where Joan and her husband live. This is always set with antique cups and saucers. Breakfast is two slices of toast a poached egg in the middle, back bacon, coffee or tea, and juice. All for $3.50. You sit at one of the said tables with other guests who are willing to divulge who they are, what they do, why are the visiting, who their children are and ask the same questions in return which are always readily answered. This morning, I made some Muskoka coffee brought as a treat, thinking that Nova Scotia was not yet one with the Jones’s in this department. I was pleasantly surprised when Joan brought out a local blend that was pretty amazing. There is a Coffee Museum somewhere around here. If I remember, I’d like to visit it tomorrow, before or after out Magic Wine Bus tour. Then again we only have one more full day.

After breakfast we walked on an trail that ran atop one of the many dykes in Wolfville that were made centuries ago. They date back the the early 1700’s when a group of French Neutralist ,aka Acadians, came to Nova Scotia to settle. They made dykes to recede the ocean to create the fertile land we know today. There are many sections of the Annapolis valley you travel along where you technically are on the the ocean floor. We drove along one of these causeways on our way to Canning and eventually to Mount Blomidon. My main goal for traveling this way was to find boats docked at a warf at low tide. We passed one beyond Kingsport. I was blessed to be in the drivers seat today. I can tell you, I took full advantage of it. I stopped where I pleased though not so much as to piss my Mother or my Aunt off. Thankfully both understood and somewhat enjoyed the view or otherwise kept themselves preoccupied.

On the way back we stopped at Foxhill Cheese House, just outside of Port William’s. Their main line in the store at this time was about 8 different types of gouda, two types of cheddar and one feta. They had some of the cheeses cut for samples in dishes, when I came to the cheddar I was confused about which one was really the aged and which not. Perhaps the labels were mixed up. The 4 year old cheddar was so very creamy while the mild was dry and less moist. You’d think it would be the other way around. At least to us amateur cheese lovers. The girl at the counter was willing enough to give Mom and I a little tour. It was actually a talk. She brought us to a large window that looked into one of the processing rooms where another woman was cleaning up. When I asked our guide about the two cheddar cheeses, she said it was all a matter of how they processed it, though she wasn’t able to go into much detail and sadly, I forget most of what she said. It was another hot day. But what I do remember her saying about the milk is that they pasteurize it at a lower temperature so it doesn’t kill off all the bacteria, some of which, actually healthy to you. I use a similar example of hand sanitizer. If used excessively, it kills the good germs. She said that their milk is popular to those who may get ill from milk provided by larger corporations. An industry standard set long ago by the money grubbing bastards which diminished the sales of independent farms. Now they are making a come-back. One thing I’d like to point out and you can laugh at me for this, it won’t be the first time, is that there is a difference of taste between milk from Nova Scotia and milk from Ontario. Whatevs. Take it how you will.

At the begging of the trip, we all decided that we wanted to go to the Wolfville Farmers Market. There were’t many vendors. Most of them were food participating in the $10 meals. I can’t say for sure if this was for this particular Wednesday or every Wednesday. There was Pad Thai, Greek, Schnitzel, Moroccan, Pizza, and others. You pay your $10 and get something akin to Monopoly money in $2 increments. Salad and bread are free and after collecting this, you choose a vender for a main meal (we all chose to Moroccan) and another or the same for dessert. I had saffron chicken with rice that had cabbage, onion and chickpeas as a garnish. MMMMMMMMMmmmmmmmmm. When the owners asked how it was, I wasn’t kidding or exaggerating when I told them it was AMMMMMMMMMMAAAAAAAZING!!!!!!!!! Even Auntie Rie liked it and she it not the adventurous international foody type. Sorry Auntie Rie. I love you! We bought nothing more at the market, simply took our leftovers and left for Allen’s Motel where we ended the night with drinking, playing Phase 10 and golf.

At the end of the day we all agreed, that were we to live here, we would hover go to a grocery store, but travel from farm or farmers markets to buy our food. IN comparing them with Ontario prices, the cost to do this would’t be that bad at all!!

Home Sweet Home – Tuesday, July 12th

Halifax to the Annapolis Valley

I was glad to leave the heat wave that reached Toronto today. Flying above the mainland skimming over the Atlantic brought a relief of freshness to my mind. The cold air on the floor
of the plane may have played a part to that. By the time we reached the tarmac in Halifax, my feet were near icicles. Although I researched the temp (21), I was absolutely convinced I would have to trade my sandals for socks and sneakers. Boy, was I wrong.

A blast of humidity swept through the cabin as soon as the door opened. Some of us stood in the arm to await our larger carry ons. Certainly, the need to trade footwear was no longer prominent. It was then the need to change my attire. Black tights and a long sleeve shirt. When we arrived at Allan’s Motel I changed into a dress my Aunt gave me. A purple strapless dress with a hand painted flower to one side.

After checking into our Motel in Kentville (because everything in Wolfville was booked), we hoofed it back into Wolfville making a much of a bee line as we could to the NSLC, though I kept calling it the LCBO. Same thing, different province. Once in the store, I zig-zagged to the Nova Scotia section, picking up a rose from Blomidon Estate Winery, Rumrunner Rum from Glenora in Cape Breton and a Halifax beer, Propeller a hefeweizen. So begins my annual exploration of all the new local wines and craft beers which seems to have skyrocketed in popularity as the craft beer in Ontario has. It’s nice to know that Nova Scotia in some way can keep up with the Joneses. In your face Ontario!

At Paddy’s Pub and Brewery, I tried two beers made in house. A Smoked Porter which was very rich in body, but creamy. It was smooth, and in no way intrusive in taste. The waiter said it had a smoked apple taste. While I could taste the smokiness, I couldn’t taste the apple no matter how much I rolled it around my tongue. Taste buds are so relative and it also depends on what beer you’re into. The next half pint, I tried an Annapolis Valley Ale which was lighter, better suited to a hot day like today, rich in flavour, a strong after taste that may have been better if it was the first and only beer you had. What I liked most about the AVA, was the earthy woody flavour. During our ordering, I asked about a tour of the brewery upstairs. I didn’t think that it would have come into fruition as I was thinking about future tours, or coming back with friends. Sure enough, someone working downstairs gave us a five minute tour. She admitted she never did a tour before but there was only three of us and we peppered her with some questions, and hopefully made her feel comfortable enough. At least until she accidentally flipped the switch to the Yeast mill, letting forth a loud grinding noise that startled us all. The light switch was next to said mill switch. Fishcakes were great by the way.