Day 9 – June 13

I guess you can say this is technically my last day as my flight isn’t until 4pm. I woke up early again, not to fireworks and revelry in the streets, but to merchants honking their car horns and church bells. When I heard the bells I knew this was my last chance to check going to church off my list.

The sermon was of course in Portuguese but I didn’t mind because the Priest had a pleasant voice. I took out my sketchbook and pencils and started sketching right away. It was hard to choose a composition as there were so many options. In the end I went with what you see here. Needless to say, it was a great opportunity to practice perspective. I learned soooooooo much this trip. I must have caught the tail end of the service because after a song and a prayer, everyone shook hands next to them (I was in a pew all to myself) and started to leave. I stayed for as long as I could. The priest walked around strumming his ukulele as he turned off the lights. When he approached the back, my time had run out. I’m told he’s Brazilian. For a man of the cloth he’s quite hot. I’m sure I was blushing when I said hello and showed him my unfinished sketch. Having the most basic English, he congratulated me on my drawing then we kissed European style – a peck on each cheek. I was absolutely blushing after that. I wished I had gone to service everyday.

The house was still very quit when I poked my head in to see what everyone was doing. The girls were still in bed. I made my way back down to the docks to sketch the light. I was fascinated by the way the break wall folded into a spiral, the golden mean. It was the most difficult sketch this trip. I loved siting on top of the wall watching the men below me go about their daily rituals. I didn’t have to leave for the airport until 2pm so I let time stand still.

It’s hard to describe how I felt when I left. I was thankful for the silence. Sad to leave this beautiful landscape. Frustrated because there was still so much to explore. I left with an invitation to return in my back pocket. Who knows? I may return, would like to, but would love to have Mom with me next time. For now, I’m excited to get back to my apartment and I can’t wait to go home to my own island.

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 6 – June 10th

Oh Lala! Up until a few seconds ago, I completely drew a blank. How could I have forgotten this day! The first day I arrived, Jeniffer said that Pedro, Edwarda’s boyfriend was going to drive us around the island at some point during the week. Here is an account of most of the places we’ve been to, but not necessarily in order.

You know me and abandoned places! First stop was an abandoned hotel, Mount Palace It was apparently built in the 80’s, stayed in business for a year, then went out of business. Throughout the years of neglect, it deteriorated. It’s ironic that it has more visitors now than at it’s hight of regalness. Everything about it must have been opulent. The doors to the bar or the dining room are still on either side of the entryway. At one point they must have been a beautiful green or maybe it’s the mould that have given them their beautiful colouring, contrasting against the gray cement walls.

Second stop was the oldest aqueduct in Europe. Jeniffer wanted to find it soooooo badly. Although Pedro got directions from someone, we wouldn’t have noticed we had driven right past it if Jen didn’t turn around in her seat at the right moment. On the road side were strawberry-like berries, even grew like wild strawberries small and close to the ground. They were not at all sweet. They tasted exactly like water. I had to try a few before I got a really juicy one. MMMMmmmm… To get a good view of the aqueduct, Pedro, Jeniffer and I ventured into a muddy cow field. The cows had not been there for sometime however, but we still had to be careful, picking our way across grassy patches. I was not so successful on my return. My right leg sank nearly knee deep into a muddy hole. No this is not how my Toms met their demise. I’m so glad this was not a fresh field of cow dung as it would have been a much different story. On the third stop, I managed to find a stream to wash my leg and shoes off.

This third stop had many trails branching off in many directions. One was a trail atop of many peaked hills that encompassed a lake. In fact, we were standing above a once active volcano. I’m not sure how the hike around the parameter would take, but I’m going to assume more than a day. We only walked a ways up to see the view then back to the car. Another shorter trail led to another smaller lake surrounded by cedar trees.

After this, I lost track of all subsequent stops we made. We passed through 15 towns in total that day. I exclaimed that I had never seen as many towns in one day in my entire life. After driving through so many villages, each one became a blur.

Although, we have a windmill somewhere in Ontario and not too far away from Toronto, here, is the first one I’ve ever seen! It was not as tall as I expected, though I had nothing to compare it with. At its wall along the roadside, were blue and white tiles that depicted the windmill in a beautiful landscape. Had I thought of it before, I would have taken photos of most of the tiles I saw as they were so lovely. They are used as signs, indicating a type store, bakery, fish monger, etc.

In most of the costal towns there are community pools. Some have both a chlorine pool and a natural pool. Others are just a tidal pool or inlet with stairs and metal banisters. On one side of the island, one of these pools had waves higher than any person crash into the inlet making even the locals leery of swimming for fear of being sucked into the ocean. One brave woman held onto the banister as the waves came in. On another day, if I had my bathing suite, I would have liked to linger on the stairs to feel the force of the waves. On the other side of the island however, was a different story. It’s Typically 7 degrees hotter and the water was much calmer. Children were jumping in the inlet and having a great swim. Others were sun bathing, taking advantage of the beautiful holiday for it was Portugal Day. When I thought about it, the Canadian Maritime coast, with similar coast lines could have the potential for developing the same thing. There are already many hidden gem tidal pools where we locals go to relax and swim. The Fairy Holes is one such place I can think of North of the Bible Camp on Campbell Rd. Those who have been there will know what I mean. Such a thing could possibly increase inner tourism and could employ more summer jobs for students. Then again, they would not be hidden gems anymore. Another swimming area we went to was the corner of a cove down the narrowest road I’ve ever driven down. Pedro was an expert driver however and handled it most skillfully. I can’t imagine anything larger than his little car going down that road.

Pedro delivers to stores all over the island. This is why he knows so many great places to bring us to. This is also why he knows all the great places to eat. He’s told me horror stories of restaurants he delivered to were the kitchens were filthy. In one place, a cook had coughed or sneezed and didn’t wash his hands. GROSS! He brought us to a fantastic restaurant that was completely packed when we got there because of a tour bus. Thankfully there was room outside where they served only snacks. That was fine, because the snack menu consisted of hamburgers, fries, other fair and pizza slices. I had two slices of pizza and they were oh, so good!!!!!!!!! The crust was thick and soft. Lots of cheese, chorizo sausage, ham, olives and tomatoes, MMMMmmmmm!!!!!!!!!

As breathtaking as the landscape may be, the photos I wanted, should have the respect due to the environment in taking more time and care composing them.

Oh! Then there was the beach is Mostieros. Here I took of my shoes and let the crashing waves lick my feet. Again too dangerous to swim in, but at least I was in the other side of the Atlantic Ocean.

At the end of the day, we brought back KFC for supper. I can’t wait to have Chicken Joy when I get back to Toronto. Better yet, I can’t wait to have Lick-A-Chick when I get home!

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

The One with the Plinth

Lately, I’ve been revisiting (ok, binge watching) all the “Friends” episodes and realized none of the episodes had titles. On Netflix however, they’ve title them. For example: “The one Where Phoebe Runs”, or “The one with Ross’s Leather Pants”. So this blog is lovingly titled, “The One With the Plinth”.

The story of how I got the plinth is this… Where I work on Carlaw Ave in Toronto, is a plethora of interesting businesses. One little boutique shop was moving from one hallway to another, selling some of their merchandise and displays. To my joy, there was a waist high, black, plaster column, for $20.00. How could I say, “no” to that? It was weeks later after having it in front of my desk, beside my desk, in the board room, etc., that I finally Ubered it and myself to the studio in Liberty Village.

The photo shoot happened some weeks past now, but for some reason I’m still going over the photos. Oh believe me, I’ve started to edited them. Even printed and framed 2 portraits. I have many successful images from this shoot that mesmerize me. I  going to let modestly hit the fan here and say, I feel this shoot is the best one yet.

Designing this set in particular, was quite fun, especially the task of affixing the ivy and berries to the plinth. In the end I’ve managed to have things look natural. I have to admit buying and collecting these items aren’t remorse purchases as one would think when you make up the excuse, “Yeah, I can use this for my sets!”. They have been used again and again, becoming interracial supplies that make up a repertoire of props and designs. When Nadia exclaimed, “It looks like a painting!” after taking one shot of the background, I knew this shoot would turn out well.

My hairstylist, Kai came to the studio with a more Gibson Girl look in mind. It completely blew me away. She is an amazing person. Having spent the morning with me, she had another job in Mississauga doing make up for a group of acrobats. When I hire her now, there’s no discussion. It’s not necessary. She knows what I want and what will look good. And I know she enjoys the fruits of her labours when I send her photos of the finished product.

For one hopeful reason, I won’t mention because I might jinx it, I’ve started hunting for antique frames. For those who follow me on Instagram, you would have seen them already. The feeling I got when the image was in the frame sent shivers through my whole being. It sounds silly, but there was a visual connection, a remembrance of seeing myself thus. This feeling was completely different from looking at an original photograph of a stranger from that time. I don’t quite understand it myself.

Be sure to check out my third Instagram account, The Anachronist Project. If you’re not already, please follow.

Stay tuned for my next blog, “The one with the Chair”.

 

 

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.