Day 3 – June 7th

It was slow going in the morning. One by one we all got showers. Breakfast consisted of bread and a ricotta – like cheese, tea or coffee. When I arrived yesterday, it was one of those rare occasions where I had an espresso. I think it was this that gave me the energy to go all day. This morning however, I had an instant Nescafe coffee. In any country, coffee is still a necessity to start my day. Edwarda, the matroness of the house, made me a perfect cup. She is ever so kind and generous. But as the morning wore on, I was getting a little antsy. As the family was still preparing for the day, I brought out my pencils and sketch book to the balcony, perched myself on the step ladder against the wall and sketched the rooftops that stretched to the ocean horizon.

At around 10:30, Jeniffer and I finally got out of the house, walking towards the docks. It was perfect timing as the fishermen were coming in with their catch of the day. So many fish I’ve never seen before! Others I have, such as; octopus, manta ray, eel and squid. From the docks, we walked along the wall to see the coast line. On the ocean side there is a break wall of well-fitted boulders, no beach. To the left is a high cliff with houses perched on top. To the right, the land gradually rises to a high cliff with a succession of other cliffs one behind the other. With-in each cove are villages much like the one I’m staying in.

It does my heart good to be so close to the ocean again. Although my parents place is a 45 minute drive away from the Atlantic, I feel so blessed that the Atlantic Ocean is almost at my door step. The weather here is like a Newfoundland Summer. It’s not hot or tropical although there are tropical trees and flowers. I may have got some sun since being here, but not the tan I thought I was going to get. Despite to cooler spring weather, one can still get away with wearing a sundress.

I see more men hanging about than women. They walk down the street, sit on the wall or sit on their doorsteps taking in the day, talking with friends. They are even in the ocean in wet suites diving for sea-life that are closer to the rocks. Octopus, lappish – oyster-like shellfish – and the like. Today while I was sketching, I watched a diver across the street peel of his wet suit, a second skin, to show his lithe body underneath. Oh-la-la!!

At some moments within the house when it seems to me a bee hive of activity with Portuguese droning in the background, I’ve find solitude on the balcony. Here, there’s a white lap dog called Mofley, who loves attention and begs to be petted and near you. Marty, Jeniffer’s brother-in-law, is convinced the dog is going to get depressed when we all leave. In stead of 12 people in the house, there will be only 3.

That night, Jeniffer, the girls and I went back to the docks to do a photo shoot at night. I’m so glad to have brought my new light-stand, speed light and umbrella with me. It was a fun night and I got some good shots. I hope I’ll have another opportunity to do this before I go.

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.

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.