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.

Lucy Maud’s, Take Two

I couldn’t help but feel a little pride in how things were going so efficiently right from the gecko. Joanne and Jeremy arrived at my apartment building at the scheduled time of 7:30am and exactly 12 hours later Joanne and I unloaded the car. Along with Joanne and Kai, I asked someone else to join my team. Jeremy, a co-worker, was enlisted to shoot documentary style video throughout the day.

A week before the shoot I noticed Pinterest had added a new feature in which you are able to create a subcategory within a board. I only found this out because they sent a survey asking how I liked it. There are a few kinks they have to work out (especially in the transition from internet to mobile ap), for instance, when you’re in the main board, you should be able to continue to select images you want in the subfolder by clicking on each picture. Once the subfolder is created, you can’t check additional images within the mother board, you have to pin them as usual to the subfolder. In my case, I found this counterintuitive. There was too much time taken up scrolling and saving. I unfortunately couldn’t take the survey again to mention this. Hopefully, there’ll be another one soon.

The goal was to take advantage of the beautiful natural light in the bedroom as would have been done then. To fuel my ideas, I saved to my Pinterest subfolder compositions of women in front of windows, which had a silhouette or rim lighting effect. The last time we were at Maud’s; I had regretted not taking advantage of the morning light. However, I can’t remember now how the light looked and where the it was at that time in May. We made a careful note this time, however. The bedroom windows face southeast, the front of the house then faces north. I can’t recall in the second journal if Maud had ever mentioned in which direction the house was. Thank goodness we were there in the morning this time, chasing the sun as it went from the back to the front of the house taking advantage of the natural light until we no longer could.

Amongst the other donations of Edwardian clothes from Joy, there was a wonderful nightgown with a beautiful eyelet yoke. Because of the authenticity of these clothing pieces, the bedroom photos seem to be so real, capturing the time even when looking at the images in colour. It’s because of this I’m so pleased with these compositions in particular. Although Kai was late, we had shot in the bedroom until she arrived, around 12:30. By this time I changed from my nightgown into my under things. After my hair was done, we did the same kind of compositions but I’m dismissing most of them because I realized how unflattering this particular corset is. I put boning at the top, which flattens my chest instead the other way around. NOT a good look. My next sewing project will be a shorter corset, one that stops just below the bust, or at least has more support.

Somewhere along the way, I realized I hadn’t taken off my nail polish the night before. On a break I tried Goo-Gone, but it didn’t work. Thankfully, the nail polish was chipped and faded, so perhaps this will make for easier editing. That being said, I was still angry with myself for being so negligent. NOTE: perma-pack nail polish remover.

When Kai arrived, I asked Jeremy to record her doing my hair. He warned me on Friday he only owned one battery. Not more than half way through, his battery gave up the ghost. Throughout the rest of the day, he had to charge it on and off. It was my hope to catch the entire day. Instead he filmed 1 to 3 minute segments. I will have to really on his expertise hoping he captured fun, interesting and important tid-bits. Jeremy was none-the-less, very professional and I can’t wait to see all of the footage.

Now that my hair was done, my time in the bedroom was not. There was one last thing I wanted to do. I wanted to take reflections of myself in the mirror. It didn’t work for a few reasons. The biggest reason, I hadn’t fleshed out the composition even though I saved a few ideas to my subfolder. Two, the dressing table was actually a burrow, so there was no legroom underneath. I thought, if this indeed was the type of dressing stand Maud had, how very inconvenient it was. Sorry Maud, but there it is. And, three, the mirror was not on the wall. It rests on the top of the burrow, which was not the right height requiring much uncomfortable and unflattering bending. What was actually funny about this scenario was that Joanne and Kai had a very involved conversation of how the composition could actually work. They would ask what I thought, but somehow, I couldn’t manage to get a word in until I looked at the clock, which told, 2pm. It was getting late. We had to move on.

On with the show. The stairs was another composition I really wanted to do. There were many different attitudes in which one can come down the stairs. The bane of these shots were the prominence of my double chin over my collar as I looked down the stairs. I’m jealous of women who have beautifully shaped necks and chins. Can one do ANYYTHING to exercise this section of the body? At one point, I was advised to jut out my chin, but I felt so ridiculous doing this that I couldn’t keep a straight face.

Before we wrapped, as Jeremy puts it, I wanted him to take a video of me walking through the gate and up the walkway into the house. But I wanted him to do this from behind, from the sidewalk and then in front. In the first shot, I looked like Rachel Lynd in the Sullivan adaptation of “Anne of Green Gables” marching to ask Marilla, where on earth Matthew was going in his Sunday clothes smoking a pipe! Those who cherish this version will know exactly what I’m talking about. Kai was very helpful in making suggestions like standing up straight but leaning back a little to exaggerate my posture, not to swing my hips or move my shoulders too much. All these instructions made me wonder if I should take deportment lessons. Clearly the corset can’t correct your posture completely. Women really must have walked with books on their heads.

Working with a team is an amazing feeling. It’s a different sense of accomplishment then working by yourself. I’m grateful to have a great bunch of people to work with. To acknowledge my thanks to them, I took them to the Hobby Horse Arms in the town of Uxbridge (a place I highly recommend) were we all enjoyed a bite to eat and a drink. On the way home, I could have fallen asleep quite easily, but the chatter in the car ride home on many different subjects kept me awake.

Even though I had the house this day, it was also open to the public. Spying a couple on the sidewalk while my hair was being done, I asked Jeremy to invite them in. We chatted for a bit before they toured the house and chatted again when they returned downstairs. She grew up in Sri Lanka, but now lives in Australia with her husband who is from British Columbia. They were doing an Anne tour, having just come from PEI. It was great to see such a huge fan! She was all a flutter about seeing all the landmarks, there and here in Ontario. The second couple was not so enamored, at least they didn’t seem like it and they didn’t at all seem impressed with me in costume if I could discern their funny looks correctly.

I was so exhausted upon arriving home from the euphoria of the day. I went to bed at 8:30, turned the light out at 9pm, slept until 7:10am. That being said, this has been the best Anachronist shoot yet, bar none! When looking at the photos I realize the phenomenal amount of confidence I’ve gained from this one shoot. I believe in myself. I believe in my team. Together, the day was like a dream come true. How often can one say that? I will live off of this wonderful feeling for a very long time.

Many Thanks to The Lucy Maud Society of Ontario

“It’s delightful when your imaginations come true isn’t it?”
LM. Montgomery, Anne of Green Gables

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