A day on the beach

September 15th, 2015

The wind breaks make all the difference.

The wind breaks make all the difference.

Gwithian has an amazing expanse of sandy beach several miles long with the magnificent Godrevy lighthouse to the north.  Julie’s cousin Tamsin has a cozy chalet just above the beach and a visit to Cornwall is not complete without spending a day there feeling the sand between our toes and the chill of the ocean waters on our skin (which in my case was about up to my knees).  Thankfully, Bob & Tamsin were properly equipped for a day on a Cornish beach, which means a wind break and extra wetsuits. Even on a sunny day the chilly breeze would rapidly deplete any body warmth you might possess, but these simple devices make all the difference.
Our little Ellie had a marvellous time toiling industriously at her very own sand castle. This was significantly better than her last beach adventure in Hawaii where all she really wanted to do was eat the sand.

Queen of the castle.

Queen of the castle.

We spent a lovely afternoon on the beach, in the ocean and in the pools nearer shore formed and warmed by the rocks exposed at low tide.

Blake and Ellie enjoying a rock warmed pool.

Blake and Ellie enjoying a rock warmed pool.

Late afternoon, with the tide turning, we retreated into the dunes where we enjoyed a beach barbecue. Sheltered from the wind and warmed by the sun (and a pint or two) it felt so good to be here, carrying on a family tradition, then witnessing a fiery conclusion to the day.

Sun low but spirits high!

Sun low but spirits high!

"Smoke on the water..."

“Smoke on the water…”

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Cornish Adventures

September 10th, 2015

For our week in Cornwall we stayed in Carbis Bay which is just outside St Ives, a 30 minute walk along a bit of the famous coastal path.

Carbis Bay beach looking back toward Hayle.

Carbis Bay beach looking back toward Hayle.

With this as a home base we were able to explore about and with two cars at our disposal it was not necessary to travel as a pack. This worked very well for us as it allowed Blake and Lauren to try to keep Ellie on track re mid day naps without requiring all of us to accept the same fate each day.
Thus Julie, Kim & I decided to drive down towards Zennor to walk a bit of the coastal path high above the ocean on this magnificent coast. But first, we had to get there. Cornwall is (in)famous for it’s narrow, winding roads.

You never know what traffic you will encounter around the next bend in the road!

You never know what traffic you will encounter around the next bend in the road!

The coastal path goes right around Cornwall. It was just as well that Ellie did not accompany us along this section given the uneven, rocky path featuring sheer drops to an often churning sea.  Not much churn today though as the sea seemed quite restful.

Near Zennor Head

Near Zennor Head

The colours of the scrub – heather, gorse, broom – were simply amazing in this wild setting.

These subtle colours adorned much of this section of the path.

These subtle colours adorned much of this section of the path.

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Alas time did not permit us to venture too far along, nor have more than a half at the Tinner’s Arms, before heading back to Carbis Bay. This is not much more than a week ago and for the life of me I cannot remember what it was we had to get back to. Oh yes, now I do. We were planning to meet Tamsin and Bob and their daughter Minnie at Beck’s for fish and chips. Beck’s is renowned far and wide for its fish n chips – the only thing is, it’s closed on Sundays! Sod it! Not to worry – Bob had a plan B, a lovely restaurant in an old country home not far away. However, first we had to go and retrieve our cars from the hotel as we had all walked to Becks. So once we were all loaded up, our three car cavalcade followed Bob rounding several roundabouts, only to find that while the country house still stood, it was no longer a restaurant. Oh, Sod it! Not to worry, though, we simply activated Plan C, a short trip into Hayle to a lovely looking restaurant where the smell of Sunday roast dinner as we eagerly exited our cars seemed to render the need for a menu redundant. Only problem was, we were a party of 12 hungry, salivating, reservationless people and despite Bob’s best cajoling, were turned away. F–k! Now rather grimly we launched plan D, trolling along the Main Street of Hayle looking for an empty looking place. Low and behold, an Italian restaurant was spotted. Having learned a lesson at the last place, we waited in the cars until Bob checked it out. Yes! They had room and could take us right away. I have been visiting Cornwall on and off for 35 years or so but this was a first: going Italian in the land of Pasty and Clotted Cream.

Not tonight, sweetie!

Not tonight, sweetie!

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Cornish Made

September 5th, 2015

Julie was born in Cornwall.  So were her parents.  So were all her grandparents and all her great grandparents.  In fact as far as we know her blood is Cornish back to the mists of unrecorded time.  And so it was no small thing, genetically speaking, when her parents, David and Una, pulled up stakes and moved to Canada in 1957 where their daughter would meet and marry a Canadian (of mixed Anglo-Saxon ancestry) and produce half Cornish children.  While Dave & Una lived the rest of their lives in Canada and became Canadian citizens, Cornwall was always home.  In their hearts and in their souls they were Cornish and yesterday their ashes returned to the soil from whence they came.  Our family

David and Una's extended family - post pasty smiles

David and Una’s extended family – post pasty smiles

trip to England was planned around this event.  The current St Illogan Parish church is a lovely old mid nineteenth century building, built of Cornish granite.  The church grounds are several acres at least, comprised mostly of a living churchyard,  ie no neatly trimmed lawns and orderly rows of headstones. Instead, native plants, trees and brambles grow up around and over the graves.

Ellie in St. Illogan churchyard

Ellie and Lauren in St. Illogan churchyard

Ellie tucks into her pasty

Ellie tucks into her pasty

David and Una await their kinfolk

David and Una await their kinfolk

Small pathways bisect the grounds.  It is a lovely, peaceful place.  The North Cliffs are not far away and the smell of the sea mingles with the more earthy textures of this quiet wooded space.  There is a school yard across the road and we heard the laughter of children back for their first day of the new school year.  Julie was baptized at this church and her parents now share a gravesite with her maternal grandparents.  It seems there could be no more fitting place for their mortal remains.

Two days earlier Julie and I picked up the casket and drove to the church to meet with the pastor and the church warden in order to review the service and also to transfer the ashes from the travel containers.   After getting thoroughly lost between the stonemason’s and the church we were both feeling very emotional about the task ahead.  However, both Marlene and Martin were very calming influences and having to attend to practical matters helped calm us down.  The service itself was an uplifting affair and all but one or two of their relatives attended.  Julie and Blake both spoke lovingly and there were more than a few moist eyes as  the organist thundered “We’ll meet again” as the recessional.  Then out to the churchyard where Blake placed their casket at last in the earth.  Then back to the church for a bit of lunch.  What else but pasties, scones, saffron buns and heavy cake.  Cornish made indeed!

 

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Cracking walks in the Usk valley

August 31st, 2015

Seems our week in Wales flew by so quickly.  In addition to canal walks and walks into town for a pub lunch or a shop, we ventured up higher in the hills.  The first was a fine walk along an old quarry tramway and into the Craig y Cilau Nature Reserve.  We had the sketch of a map and route instructions like, “at the old wall and fence turn right and down an old track past some houses”.  Or, “from the holly tree turn sharp left up a faint path rising steadily to the foot of the cliff”.  Miraculously we managed it without getting lost.

At the trailhead

At the trailhead

The caves go on for miles

The caves go on for miles

An uphill slog in the rain

An uphill slog in the rain

Quarry cliffs ahead

Quarry cliffs ahead

Which way do we go?

Which way do we go?

Everyone is so friendly in Wales

Everyone is so friendly in Wales

 

Eric captures Blake capturing Kim

Eric captures Blake capturing Kim

 

The sheep keep the pathways up to the Sugarloaf very trim

The sheep keep the pathways up to the Sugarloaf very trim

Zooming in on Ty Neuadd from Sugarloaf

Zooming in on Ty Neuadd from Sugarloaf

Eric feeling good after the ascent.

Eric feeling good after the ascent.

 

 

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Crickhowell and Ty Neuadd

August 31st, 2015

Here I sit in our rooms which are in a converted stable which was built about the time Henry VIII’s reign was coming to an end – 1511.  The stone walls are several feet thick.  While most of the interior walls have been plastered over there is a section around the arched entry way left exposed.   Outside, in the middle of the parking area is a gnarled oak tree, centuries old.

Ellie checking out the oak tree

Ellie checking out the oak tree

The Neuadd Cottages, originally a Tudor era stable

The Neuadd Cottages, originally a Tudor era stable

The fireplace in the main house, a listed historical house, is huge, perhaps eight feet across and four feet deep.  The massive mantle stone, foraged from Crickhowell castle some 600 years ago is six feet above the floor.   The castle as originally constructed in the 1200’s and so it is possible that this stone has served it’s function for more than 900 years.

Ty (house) Neuadd (NAY-ath) is located in the Usk River valley, well above the river, offering marvellous views of patchwork fields, dotted with sheep, which give way to the more barren hill tops, with names like Tabletop Mountain and Sugarloaf Mountain (which Julie & I climbed one morning).

A view of Tabletop Mountain once an Iron Age Fort

A view of Tabletop Mountain once an Iron Age Fort

It is a most pleasing vista.  JRR Tolkien lived in this area for a while and wrote at least some of The Hobbit during that time and so if you can conjure up the bucolic Shire in your mind’s eye, this is the Usk valley, with the village of Crickhowell nestled below Tabletop Mountain.  Originally an Iron Age settlement it is now the focal point of tourism in this area but manages to retain it’s inherent Welsh charm.  In addition to the river, the Monmouthshire and Brecon Canal runs though the valley.  The 35 miles of this canal system began in 1792 and was constructed in conjunction with coal mining and iron ore extraction.

An evening stroll along the canal

An evening stroll along the canal

Coal & ore was brought from the area mines and quarries to the canal for transport.  Abandoned in 1962, narrow boats ply the waterways and bikers, walkers and runners enjoy the footpath, or towpath, beside.  Hundreds of bridges, none wider than eight feet, limit the beam, but not the length, of all floating craft.   We saw dozens of narrowboats – 6 feet wide and 50 feet long – these house boats are very popular and I have a strong urge to put it on our list of things to do.

Narrowboats along the canal

Narrowboats along the canal

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Arrival

August 24th, 2015

Not without some trepidation did we board our flight for London.  With our little Ellie, now almost 18 months old along with our son Blake and his wife Lauren, we occupied four seats just behind a bulkhead and just behind business class.  I should not have been worried as other than a small incident where Ellie grabbed then flung my glasses which struck a very grumpy woman in the face, the flight went well.  Except for the fact that Ellie was having such a great time that she wasn’t too interested in sleeping.  Thus her normal 12 hour sleep was missed completely.  We arrived early afternoon and Blake, Lauren and Ellie headed directly to the Mowatt’s while Julie and I stayed at the airport waiting for Kim’s flight to arrive, she having begun her journey in Australia.

This trip involves five different legs: we begin with several days in Crowthorne, a week in Wales, a week in Cornwall, several days in the New Forest and then finally, a week in Ontario before we head back to Vancouver.

And who are Gordon and Vivian Mowatt you ask?  Well, our son Blake and their son Phil are brothers-in-law, having married two of the three MacGregor sisters.  Nearing the end of a massive renovation of their family home they graciously offered to endure the six of us for three nights.  And I do mean endure.  It seems that the amount of time required to recover from jet lag is inversely proportional to the number of quart bottles of Peroni consumed.  Still, it was a real treat to arrive in England at not have to do the long drive down to Cornwall.  We stayed close to home for the time we were with the Mowatts, venturing as far as Windsor only a short drive away.  The Union Jack was flying from the top of the castle meaning that Liz was in residence, but we had already lunched and so declined her gracious invitation.  By the time Saturday rolled around most of us felt fully recovered from jet lag, eager for the next leg to begin.

 

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Departure

August 18th, 2015

Julie’s parents, Dave and Una Blight, emigrated to Canada in 1957, a young Julie in tow.  Since that first Atlantic ocean crossing via ship they made many more.  Today will be their very last as their final resting place awaits in a tranquil parish church cemetery, St Illogan.  As I write this Julie is shifting their ashes from one suitcase to another, trying to ‘balance the load’ so to speak and I think they have ended up in my backpack.P1010957

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Okavango Delta

November 28th, 2014

Here is an account of the further adventures of Jane’s Journeyers who wound up in the middle of the Okavango delta for a further three nights after our tearful parting at Chobe. Thanks to Joe McAllister for the text and to Blanche Tait for the photos (except for the ones of Little Dave and the one with Blanche & Dermott in the mokoro, which came from Jane Deluzio). The Okavango Delta, a UNESCO World Heritage site, is a very large inland delta formed where the Okavango River drains into the sands of the Kalahari basin.

The Okavango Octet

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Home again, Home again, Jiggety Jig!

November 24th, 2014

Except when I go To Market, To Market I want to find Warthog, not Pig.  Doesn’t even have to be a fat one.  If you ever see warthog ribs staring at you on a menu, do not pass them by!

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The Elephant in the Room

November 22nd, 2014

Chobe is home to a population of 130,000 African Elephants and so far we had seen not a one. Yesterday, after a somewhat disappointing morning trek, our guide suggested that we combine our two Wednesday safaris into one longer one. A six hour trek would allow us to go deeper into the park where the guides thought the odds of seeing some elephants and also giraffes would be higher. This was to be our last day on safari and we all agreed to this change. Yes, we all knew it would mean even longer periods being hurled about the swaying, bouncing truck, but, it also meant we were more likely to be alone which had a lot of appeal after all the traffic along the river route. And if this safari increased our odds of seeing more wildlife, well, we couldn’t say no.

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