Category Archives: travel

Island Walking

Not being able to go with my sweetie to the Bay Area to celebrate her birthday due to getting a job, didn’t let me off the birthday present hook. Far from it. Picture this: Wile E. Coyote, wearing rocket powered roller skates manages to stop just inches from the edge of a cliff. He looks down and sees a pebble falling into oblivion. He heaves a sigh of relief, only to realise that he is on a projecting spur of rock, which then cracks at the base, dropping him into the abyss.That’s how I felt, although unlike the perpetually unfortunate Mr. Coyote, I managed to gain some traction and scramble my way to safety.

I began a desperate search to find a suitable way to celebrate: an expensive meal was NOT an option. Yikes. I settled on a weekend away and began my search. I won’t bore you with the details, but most places were either unsuitable or required a three night minimum. With much searching I managed to find a cabin in the woods with a hot tub and within three hours of home. I contacted the owner and waited. And waited. And waited. With only two days left before the weekend, I was most certainly in squeaky bum time. Thankfully, the owner contacted me and I was able to pay and let out a sigh of relief.

We set off on Friday as soon after work as possible, and managed to avoid most of the commute traffic. I hadn’t told my sweetie what the trip would entail, although the penny finally dropped as we approached the ferry terminal. Yes, you heard right. I live on an island, and my solution was to spend a weekend on a completely different island. After a late dinner, we turned in tired but glad to be in such a quiet spot.

Next day we went exploring. We spent some time, but not enough for me, in a sanctuary, several acres of woodland dotted with stone circles, a Dolmen and any number of small, impromptu shrines. There were no other visitors, and no sounds apart from the birds, and the wind in the trees, and I could have stayed there for hours. In fact, it would have been perfect for an alumni retreat, so reminiscent was it of both Grad School orientation and our intensive weekends.

There’s no point in going to an island known for wineries without sampling the local product, so we retired to a wine tasting room and I sampled the five wines on offer, leaving with two bottles each of a very nice Malbec and an equally delightful red blend. Now, as you all know, I’m not a wine drinker, but I’m always willing to extend my palate, and no doubt having some decent wine in the house will win me some bonus points.

Of course, we made a trip to a distillery, although not the one I had intended. No fear, I was able to track down the Bourbon, Vodka and Gin at the local store, and bought a bottle of incredible raspberry cordial and one of Rye  after the tasting session at the distillery.

The whole point of the weekend was to just get away for two nights with no agenda, no plans, no hurry. In fact, my instincts were proven right. Driving along the highway I spotted roads called Kramer and Newman, confirming that we were on an island about nothing. Over all, it was well worth the expense and worry about actually getting a confirmation. In fact, I’m sure we will go back to the same cottage some time in the not too distant future.

As you all know, I’m not exactly  the most romantic person in the world, or even my own Zip code, but I have to admit that it was just wonderful for the two of us to get away from our usual surroundings, even for such a short time.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Une Ile.

As I’ve said recently (see Darkness On The Edge Of Gastown), I’ve never gone too long without a vacation of some sort, and much as I enjoy Vancouver, my most recent sojourn was of a different nature entirely. Some time ago my sweetie asked rather hesitantly if I’d be interested in a vacation on Kauai with her and a couple of her friends from the Bay Area. Of course, I agreed, wrote the cheque for my obligations and waited for the day to come. My sweetie is a light packer and so we both set off each carrying only a small backpack and rolling carry on bag for a week in the tropics, which is much less than I’m used to stuffing into the car for a weekend in Whistler, but considering the climate and the extortion involved in checking a bag it was worth it.

The flight was uneventful and I won’t bore you with the details, but I miss the old days when my ex and I were Gold Club members and traveled regularly to Vegas in First Class. Alas our favourite airline decided to alienate their most loyal passengers and try to establish a national presence instead of remaining the best carrier on the west coast. I also resent being nickeled and dimed at every point on the trip, but such is life.

We were met at the airport by my sweetie’s friends and despite our tiredness we engaged in the obligatory shopping trip to stock the kitchen of our rented condo. Culture shock: Hawaii is bloody expensive. I mean really, bloody expensive and so I fought hard to bite my tongue and not start every sentence with “How much?!” However, a short walk from the condo to the beach – less than 100 yards – a quick dip in the ocean and a good night’s sleep restored me to the happy, smiling, witty life and soul of the party you all know so well.

One thing I appreciate about vacations now is the lack of an agenda or timetable and the ability to change either, even if there is nothing on them, and the lack of urgency in getting anything done or getting out of the house by a certain time. I most certainly appreciated the opportunity to simply sit on the beach, book in hand and listen to the surf, and that would have been enough for me, but you can’t come all that way and not do something. This is  why I found myself introduced to snorkeling. My sweetie travels all over the south Pacific and spends most of that time in the water so I could hardly refuse. In fact, the decision was taken before we left:

Her: “Do you want to go snorkeling when we are in Hawaii?”

Me: Internal dialogue – ” I’m a poor swimmer, haven’t snorkeled before and hate putting my head underwater.”

External dialogue – ” Of course”.

Four days in the water made me into a convert, although I’m sure that the octopus, Moray eels, scores of tropical fish and the turtle we saw had a hell of a lot to do with it.  I”m not the most adventurous person in the world, so it may surprise you to learn that I also had my first taste of boogie boarding. Yes, you read that correctly. I only tried it on two occasions and managed to catch a couple of good waves. That, coupled with the fact that I didn’t end up a quadriplegic  smells like Napalm in the morning in my book.

One thing I couldn’t get over was the rain. On our first night we went out to dinner and whilst sat on the (thankfully covered)  verandah experienced some truly torrential downpours that ended as suddenly as they began, each being followed by absolute calm and a return in temperature to the mid 70s.

The trip also marked our first anniversary, and so it also included the ritual exchange of gifts – a pendant for my sweetie, and Aloha shirts for me. On seeing the price of the pendant she’d chosen I then understood why she’d offered to pay for the second shirt, although little did I know that she’d secretly bought me a third shirt I’d taken a fancy to but not bought a couple of days previously. Overall, it was a wonderful week away, a chance to bond with her closest friends and an opportunity to develop what for these parts is a healthy tan. Oh, and the kicker? when I finally unpacked, I found in the bottom of my case about a teaspoonful of sand from our favourite snorkeling beach that despite my best efforts had managed to cling to my clothes and smuggle itself through security. I guess that it’s only fair that having gone to visit the island, the island should come and visit me.

Mahalo!

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Filed under Hawaii, snorkeling, travel, vacation

Darkness On The Edge Of Gastown

I consider myself lucky in that I’ve never gone too long without some kind of vacation, be it for a week or a long weekend. However, with kids, even a vacation doesn’t automatically mean much downtime. The kids still have to be organised, fed and entertained or at least taken to the ski school early in the morning, getting away for the evening is impossible and one always has  to figure in their ability to remain engaged in anything that the adults want to do.

Lest you think this is a major gripefest, I can honestly say I’ve had some great vacations whether they were in Whistler, the Bay Area or Disneyland, but still, there is much to be said for a trip sans offspring. My sweetie and I have had a couple of opportunities this summer – Portland for a school friends’ birthday, San Francisco so I could meet her friends and so she could meet some of mine, and while these were great, we had limited opportunities to spend time alone.

This changed recently when I decided to take her to Vancouver for her birthday. This was no surprise, but I decided that the schedule for the trip would be up to her.  Her main agenda items were a trip to the Museum of Anthropology and dinner on her birthday at her favourite Lebanese restaurant.  Of  course, things didn’t go as planned. Not long after arrival I explained that I saw the trip as being her present and there would be no big reveal later, should she be expecting some special gift at some point.  Picture Roald Amundsen looking out across the Antarctic wastes and you will get some idea of how this was received.  I guess there was some confusion over the phrase “For your birthday”. However not all was lost as my failure to pack socks and shorts as a result of my severe mental confusion resulting from my recent moving meant I needed to go on a mission of mercy      (  See “The Boxer”).  I found a charming if somewhat pricey First Nations art and jewelry store in Yaletown and all was saved. Phew! I will admit that I was sweating profusely during this dash although most of it can be accounted for by the 85 degree heat and 95 percent humidity. Oh, the joy of returning to a fully air conditioned room.

I hadn’t been in Vancouver since before my son was born, and boy, have things changed! Robson Street, which had been a rather charming collection of boutique stores and restaurants seemed to have gone decidedly downhill and  become hobo central in the intervening 12 years, which I found rather a shame, as seediness is not something I at least, associate with Canada. Whilst on the topic of our northern cousins, I have to ask one question: Are you really going out dressed like that? Maybe I missed an email about the fancy dress party taking place that weekend, but oh boy! What the hell did they think they looked like? I can’t honestly believe that some of the people I saw dressed the way they did without some extenuating circumstances.  Or maybe it was the result of them all having one  Molson too many.

That aside, the Museum of Anthropology was a true revelation. So much indigenous culture has been co-opted that it truly puts thing in perspective  to see objects displayed in a way that explains their true socio-cultural significance and treats them as art in their own right and not as a design on a tee shirt in a souvenir store window.

Of course, the birthday dinner was a big deal. We had some trouble finding the restaurant as it is in a basement in  Gastown  and the only signage is above the doorway and seen from the street is at approximately waist height. However, we found it on the second pass and found parking nearby, so we at least were able to enjoy a wonderful dinner in my sweeties’ favourite restaurant.

One thing that has always fascinated me about Vancouver is how it seems to want to be somewhere else. Let me explain: We took a trip to Granville Island as neither of us had ever been there, and what we found was a destination designed purely for tourists that felt like a cross between Fisherman’s Wharf and Pike Place Market but with the unique feel of neither. To be honest it felt a bit like Disneyland. I don’t mean that in a bad way, but it felt less than genuine, and in fact it could have been anywhere. I found this to be a real shame as Vancouver has a lot of history and a culture all its’ own, so why does it feel the need to manufacture something like this? I hope it is not just for the sake of revenue, but then again….

The one thing that stands out about this trip is that it was just for our benefit. We had no agenda, no schedule to keep, no need to do anything other than what struck our fancy at any particular moment, so I guess it was a true vacation.

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Filed under personal relationships, travel, vacation