Posted by: The Starfish Dancer | August 10, 2017

Back In BC: Entry #7

I am technically no longer back in BC, writing instead from the comfort of my living room as the Wifi at my hotel last night was atrocious, so I gave up trying and went to bed. Seriously, I’ve had better access in small Northern communities, and that’s saying something.

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So many great artisan stalls at Nautical Days.

I last left off in Ucluelet, which I miss already (and may be plotting another return before the year is out). From there, I drove myself to Courtenay, BC, where an auntie, uncle and cousin make their home. The drive went fairly smoothly, and beautiful. Had I had more time, I would definitely have taken time to stop along the way for pictures.

 

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Fancy old cars – from around 1915!

Once in Courtenay, after getting all the hugs from my auntie, we ventured out to the last day of Nautical Days in Comox, the annual festival that has artisans and music and all sorts of fun things. I was very tempted to buy many things, including a wishing bowl and a gorgeous piece of stained glass with a starfish on it, caution over them surviving a trip home kept me from whipping out my credit card. It was hot, hot, hot outside, so we didn’t stay too long, though we did take a look at the old cars that were out for the parade (including two “General Lee”s complete with racist confederate flag on top and novelty horn noise) and a walk on the dock where I saw seals swimming by kayakers and the sailboats.

 

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One of the seals playing in the harbour.

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Kye Bay

After leaving nautical days, my auntie took me to Kye Bay, so I could cool off in the ocean. She sat on the sand for a short time while I frolicked, but the tide snuck up fast and soon she had a wet towel and had to move off to the rocks and driftwood logs to sit. It was beautiful, and I was so, so glad to swim in the ocean, to tangle my ankles in seaweed and watch the little fish run away from me. My uncle, who had been visiting out of town friends who were camping at Qualicum Beach, joined us to sun for a little while, until we got hungry. So we met up with my cousin, who just graduated and is now a whole head taller than me, and we all went to the Whitespot for a delicious dinner.

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Fireworks over the ocean.

After dinner, we chilled at the house for a bit, before making our way back to Comox for the end of Nautical Days fireworks. It was spectacular and totally worth staying past our bedtimes to see!

The next day, I hugged my family goodbye and climbed back in the car to make my way back toward Vancouver, but not before stopping at Grey Owl Tattoo, to get a couple of pieces down. My friend Jenny owns the shop, and this was actually the first time we’d met in person, since we’d become Facebook friends through roller derby, which she played when she lived here just before I joined, but had missed crossing paths as she had two pregnancies that kept her off the track while I was on it!

So it was lovely to meet her (though we totally failed at taking a “we meet at last!” pic) and lovely to get my art, though I am going to go back to put colour in the quill I have behind my ear, I think.  I wasn’t sure, and then ran out of time anyway, as I had to head to Ladysmith to catch my great aunt and uncle before my ferry. It gave me time to decide on colours, though, and it still looks cute in the meantime.

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The hazy sun from the ferry.

I had a lovely lunch with my great aunt and uncle, though the visit was far too short, in part because of my travel anxiety meant I had to arrive as early as allowed for my ferry. We had a nice visit, and I got to learn about their recent trip to Norway, as they’d only been back the night before!

After that, it was off to the ferry, where I stayed outside until it was too chilly, hoping to see wildlife. It was pretty smokey and overcast, though, so no luck. Then after the ferry, it was back to Burnaby to drop off the car (with a couple of missed turns and recalculated routes, especially since my GPS kept telling me to turn on streets that did not exist), then a taxi to the Travelodge Airport Vancouver, where the bed was comfortable but the Wifi lagged so much I lasted all of five minutes before just deciding to go to bed.

And now I am home. I head back to work tomorrow (boo!), and spent my afternoon doing laundry and my evening dropping off gifts.  I miss the island, but it was good to see my niece and nephew. Maybe some day I’ll take them to Ucluelet and Tofino with me. For now, though, I’ll daydream about when I might next be able to go back.

And so ends this journey. Hopefully my next one won’t be too far away… and will have much better health than my last two vacations have dealt me.

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Posted by: The Starfish Dancer | August 7, 2017

Back in BC: Entry #6

I’m sitting in my lodge room on the couch that is like sinking into the cushiest marshmallow, feet on the soft, starfish-patterned area rug, sipping coffee and wishing I never had to leave. It was my last night in Ucluelet, as I am hitting the road to my aunt’s in Courtenay shortly. Robyn and M and his daughter headed out toward Qualicum Falls last night, so I had the room and bed to myself, but after a long day of awesomeness, I crashed before writing my blog – hence the morning entry instead.

Robyn and I had a bit of a lazy morning  yesterday.  She had her tea while I sipped on my coffee, waiting out eleven o’clock so that we could try a different restaurant.  M and his daughter P joined us at Howler’s, where I ate way too much food because it was so delicious. I had their junction wrap, which has sprouts and fresh eggs and avocado and was so good, with a side of what were quite possibly the best hash browns I have ever eaten. Perfectly crisp and so good.

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This tree in the Botanical Gardens looks like an elephant. I love him.

Next, we drove to Tofino for our day plans. Then, even though we were totally full, we stopped at the chocolate shop where I got fresh delicious chocolates (that I ate after the beach and dinner last night) and gelato.  I can’t remember what Robyn got, but I had a small cup of the lavender honey. They make it fresh, and it was glorious and perfect. Just the right amount of floral to offset the sweet without being overpowering.

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No frogs, but yes chickens and roosters!

It has been a bit overcast and chilly here, so we went to the Botanical Gardens next, to wander the forest for a while. M, P, and Robyn climbed the trees, and we looked at art installations. There were also goats and chickens and a rooster. Sadly, the frogs in the frog pond wouldn’t come out for a visit, though I did wait a while. The water lilies on the pond were spectacular, though.

 

Then we went to the beach again, where I waded and took pictures for a while. There were so many surfers out, I didn’t think there was any point in swimming, between the rough and the waves and the cold. After all, I’d already nearly been hit by two surfers who really need to learn spacial awareness on the boardwalk. (When you turn, your board almost smacks the very not invisible girl walking beside you, so maybe be a little more aware, dude and dudette!) But then Robyn, M, and P found a sort of cove where it was far enough away from the surfers, and even though it was cold enough to redden the skin, I went for it.  I swam in the ocean and I was so, so very glad to be able to do so. The waves crashed against me and when I jumped into them they washed me toward shore and it made my heart so, so happy.

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So many surfers on Chesterman Beach, having an awesome time!

It wasn’t a terribly long swim – twenty minutes to half an hour at best – but it was just what I wanted and needed, and so much what I wish I had more time to do. I really need to make more time for the island the next time I am here. And also not have kidney stones, which really slowed me down.

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Post swim starfish, cold but happy!  (I really need to get my iPhone lens cleaner.)

We made our way back to the cars and transferred Robyn’s gear, then parted ways as she has another few weeks to explore BC and I must go back to work. I drove back to Ucluelet with the heat on full blast in my wet bathing suit, then had a hot, hot bath in the hotel room before dressing for dinner.  The restaurant I wanted to eat at had a wait, but they asked if I wanted to do takeout instead, and that sounded brilliant. So I ordered by Cedar Burger from the Cedar Grill, bought a bottle of wine so I could have a glass or two (the rest is coming with me to Courtenay) and basically had a nice quiet dinner on my cozy marshmallow couch. By the time I was done, it was past nine and I was too tired to write, so I just surfed the net a bit before heading to bed early. I had a wonderful sleep in the comfy, comfy bed – Robyn and I could both rave for hours about the pillows – then did my postcards to mail today before I leave Ucluelet.

So now I’d better shower and dress so I can grab something to eat – probably just a pastry and coffee for the road, and head to Courtenay for today’s adventure. I probably won’t write tonight but will bundle up Courtenay and the journey to Vancouver from my hotel on Tuesday night. I’m looking forward to seeing my auntie and family and to exploring Courtenay a little once again.  Until next post!

Posted by: The Starfish Dancer | August 6, 2017

Back in BC: Entry #5

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Starfish with a starfish.

I can’t promise this will be the most coherent of my entries, as I am wiped, wiped, wiped. The good news is that for once it isn’t because my health is kicking my behind. In fact, it is basically as a result of having such an amazing day, every cell is basically begging me to go to sleep.  But not yet!  I have an entry to write!

Robyn and I got moved to my original booking today, as the room we were in with two beds had been booked past the first day, but the lovely staff at the Pacific Rim Guest Lodge moved all our gear for us while we were out. We’ll be sharing a bed tonight, but I’ll have this perfect, wonderful room to myself my last night. It’s a great little lodge, and I would definitely stay here again.

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“Blue” by Kris Walker, soon to find her home in Yellowknife with me.

We met up with Robyn’s friend M and his daughter today, starting with breakfast in the only place open before eleven in Ucluelet. It was full in the inside tables, so we ate outside even though it was a bit chilly today. I think it was called the Blue Room, and I just had standard diner breakfast – bacon and scrambled eggs, with hash browns and excellent sourdough toast. After breakfast, we did a bit of shopping and I found art that I loved and had to buy, which is unusual for me. It’s a perfect mermaid and I love her, even if it does mean having to rethink how I’m going to do carryon luggage home.

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In the palm of my hand. 

After that, it was a stop in the small but lovely Ucluelet Aquarium, the first in the world to do catch and release.  So all the animals are returned to the ocean by the end of the season, and the tanks mean you can not only see them, but you can touch some of the sea creatures as well.

 

 

I held starfish – so many of them! – and sea urchins, picked up a sea cucumber, poked anemone to feel them close over my fingers, and looked at fish and crabs and jellyfish.  Robyn may have gotten a little pinch from a hermit crab. I guess she startled him!

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Crashing waves, one of my faves

After that, we all drove to the Wild Pacific Trail and did the lighthouse loop.  We spend a great deal of time climbing on the rocks and watching the waves crash and poking at tidal pools.  This is partly why I am so exhausted. There was a lot of climbing, and I had to take a lot of zigzag paths because my legs are short and I couldn’t step in all the places my tall friends can. This is something I am quite used to, by now!

We finished the lighthouse loop, which ends with a beautiful loop past the shore and then into the forest.  No whales sighted this time around, but still super beautiful.  It was slow going because Robyn and I were tired from our climbing adventures, combined with our severe under-caffeination.  So after our walk, we stopped at a café (The Foggy Bean) that sold me an excellent cinnamon bun with blueberries in it but quite possibly the worst latte I’ve ever had. They roast their own beans, and unfortunately I think they burned the espresso batch.

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A piece of my heart lives here.

After coffee, we made our way to Tofino, so I could show off my heart’s home, the Chesterman Beach by the Long Beach Lodge Resort. It was just as beautiful as I remembered it being, even in today’s chillier air, the fog misting the air.  We spent a good hour on the beach, and I suspect that’s where the bulk of my time tomorrow will be as well. I love, love, love it with the waves and the water and the soft sand and the nooks and crannies.

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A flower and shells left out like an offering to the sea gods.

We had dinner in Tofino as well, as the Beachfront Bistro in the Best Western.  Both M and I had excellent meals, but Robyn’s was unfortunately a dud.  I ordered a slow roasted rabbit pasta that was fantastic, all light tomato and spinach setting it off. M had a seafood linguini that was apparently quite good (I’m not a big fan of seafood).  Robyn ordered the duck with risotto. They overcooked her duck the first round by far, so she had to send it back. The second batch took forever to come, and they had still overdone it a bit, and the meat wasn’t rendered properly. The risotto was a barley risotto but it tasted rushed (the first batch had been better). The lovely waitress gave Robyn her staff discount, but the kitchen really should have comped it.  I’d still go to the restaurant again – two out of three meals were excellent and the service was awesome – but skip the duck.  They are not good at duck.

Dinner was a late affair thanks to the duck issues, so I’m now back. I’m going to sign off, brush my teeth, and collapse now. It was a great day, and now I need to recover so I have energy for another one tomorrow!

Posted by: The Starfish Dancer | August 5, 2017

Back to BC: Entry #4

Today’s entry is going to cover both yesterday and today, since I didn’t think that discussing what was mainly a day of driving warranted a post of it’s own, plus I was ridiculously tired and basically crashed not long after having dinner last night.

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A boat moored off the coast, as seen from the ferry to Victoria

The day started in Vancouver, with Robyn and I once again taking advantage of the free breakfast at the hotel, before taking the short walk to the Enterprise close to the hotel to pick up the rental car. We got a nice, silver Kia Optima, which we loaded with our luggage and then took off toward the ferry. I brought my GPS but it seemed to be stuck in  Alberta mode. I’ll try it again later, but I might have to rely on my iPhone to get back to Vancouver.  I am quite pleased with how I managed to drive through Vancouver to get to the ferry station, then onto the ferry (we saw seals or sea lions sunning on the rocks!), then into Victoria for a quick lunch.

We went for Thai food at a place called Baan Thai, and it was phenomenal, and super reasonably priced. I highly, highly recommend. My meal, which included some soup, followed by ginger sauced veggies on jasmine rice with a spring roll and fancy tea called Seamist, cost about $15 including the tip, and there were leftovers (which were forgotten in the fridge this morning, oops!).  So good, and I definitely recommend if you are in Victoria.

After that, the day was mostly traffic getting to Nanaimo, with construction and heavy traffic slowing us down.  Our hotel for the night was the Howard Johnson, which is a perfectly serviceable hotel. Robyn had a quick swim in the pool, which was shaded enough and with a breeze that she got cold – quite the feat in 35C weather!  Robyn has a friend in Nanaimo, so she hung out with him for the evening while I went the nearby White Spot for dinner (I’d have ordered room service if that was an option) and had a chicken caesar salad with Sangria, followed by excellent chocolate cake that I was both too tired and full to finish.  After that I walked back to the room, put on my PJs, and crashed.

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This petroglyph is likely of a medicine man, the rest of his body invisible beneath the moss and leaves.

In the morning, Robyn and I went for breakfast in Nanaimo, at a place called Gabriel’s Café, which has excellent eggs benedict.  It is also near two used bookstores – imagine a town that can support two used bookstores right next to one another. Amazing! Then we went to Petroglyph Park and looked at the ancient art carved into the rocks – very cool!

After a brief stop at Tim Horton’s, we then hit the road to Englishman River Falls, where we did a lovely little hike to the top of the falls, then down to somewhere downstream.  Robyn and I had both put on swimsuits so we could swim in the falls, and though that wasn’t quite possible, we did swim in the water from them. It was cold. So cold. Like ice. I did take the plunge in, but not much for than that.  Despite the 30-something degree weather, the hike back up was not too hot (though sadly hazy from forest fire smoke).  In fact, the water was so icy, the skin had that tingling burn for a bit afterward!

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Englishman River Falls

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This is the face of cold.

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Goats On The Roof!

After the falls, the next stop was Coombs, where we went to the old country market to see if the goats of Goats on a Roof were on the roof – and they were!  We spent some time in the lovely market, picking up a few things for dinner, which we packed to Cathedral Grove, less than twenty minutes away by car.  The market is awesome and I love stopping there. Maybe I also picked up a few souvenir type things for friends and family.

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It’s a froggie!

We next hiked into the grove, which my cousin T had aptly described as being like an enchanted forest.  It was beautiful!  Also?  I got to see a snake (whose picture sadly turned out blurry) and a frog and so many trees, then have dinner by the lake. I had bought a loaf of garlic cheese bread, which we tore pieces off to spread with fig and walnut cream cheese. We also had sausage rolls and fresh blueberries.  It was so lovely.

We then met up with a friend of Robyn’s in Port Alberni, and he and his daughter may join us on tomorrow’s adventures. We stopped at the Dairy Queen – I have missed the DQ! I had a Salted Caramel Blondie blizzard. So good – and I couldn’t even finish!

After that, it was through the mountains and into Ucluelet, where we’ll spend the next couple of days at the Pacific Rim Guest Lodge. We’ve seen deer in the town and a bear just off the highway (“Close the window!” I panicked at Robyn as we passed it, as though it was somehow going to leap  into our speedy car). A lucky cancellation meant that we managed to get a room with two beds, so Robyn doesn’t have to crash on a rollaway bed or share with me. (Her plans didn’t solidify until after I’d already booked.) The room is awesome. Two high twin bed with a sleigh frame, two lazy boy chairs, and a deep, deep tub in the bathroom. It’s so lovely and spacious, and the bed is probably going to be deliciously comfortable. I’m definitely ready to try it out shortly, so I’ll sign off for now! Good night, readers!

Posted by: The Starfish Dancer | August 3, 2017

Back in BC: Entry #3

I had a pretty great day today, though my health isn’t entirely stellar yet.  (Here’s hoping a good rest tonight and the continued course of antibiotics will keep things on the up and up.) Robyn and I started the day by taking advantage of the complimentary breakfast included in our room rate, before I navigated us to the Skytrain to get to the Vancouver Art Gallery. I’m very proud of myself for my excellent navigational skills this trip – Vancouver is certainly an easy city to get around. Robyn and I bought day passes, which get you on any Skytrain or bus in any number of zones, so at $10 it was a great deal.

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A winter scene painted by Monet. I don’t miss the snow, but this felt a bit like home, so…

We successfully made it to the terribly-acronymed Gallery, and got to start out in the Monet exhibit, visiting Vancouver from July until October. I had seen some of his work in Paris when I was there with my dad in 2005, and again in Boston more recently, and it was lovely to look at and to learn more about Monet and Impressionism.  I wonder, too, what Monet and his contemporaries would have thought of digital cameras, where we are able to capture the changing lights and moments in instants, the way he looked to capture impressions of with paint.  There were also several of his Water Lilies paintings, as he liked to capture those in his garden in Givenchy.

DSC_3624There were a few neat exhibits that Robyn and I checked out, from some images of Vancouver to videos of performance art addressing the missing and murdered Indigenous women (particularly those who were likely victims of Robert Pickton).  We did skip some of the modern art, as Robyn was feeling like she wanted to look at paintings and I really am not big on modern art. Wires sticking out of weird photos with noises playing is just not my jam.  So we finished out our time in the gallery with the Emily Carr exhibit, like every good Canadian probably should.  I loved how you could really see her voice emerge as the gallery features a progression of paintings. Lots of trees and none of the ones with the totem poles I think I’ve seen elsewhere, though.

After the gallery, we grabbed a snack at Cafe Artigiano, where I remembered we could get Spanish Lattes from a trip I’d taken ages ago.  Spanish Lattes are made with condensed milk and they were just as tasty as I remembered. I wish I knew who recommended them to me – someone I met in a course once, I think.  We also had savoury pastries.  I had a croissant filled with brie and topped with asparagus, while Robyn had a roasted tomato and olive danish.

After that, we used our day passes to get ourselves to Stanley Park, where we walked to the Vancouver Aquarium.  We found an express kiosk and were able to get our tickets there and bypass the line, which was awesome. It cost adults $39 in admission, so not cheap, but it was awesome and totally worth it.  Especially since I got to see my beloved jellyfish (two different tanks of them!), and we got to pet sting rays (I adore sting rays and their soft wet skin!) and see sea lions and basically just have a marvellous time.

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A rose by any other name might smell as good as this pink perfection.

After the aquarium adventure, Robyn and I stopped in the rose garden in Stanley Park, to literally stop and smell the roses, before we hopped on the bus back to the Waterfront Station.  We found a sushi place nearby for dinner thanks to Robyn’s handy apps. The place was called Kita no Danbury and I highly, highly recommend.  The food is delicious and the prices more than reasonable. I started with Goma-Ae, a boiled spinach salad with peanut sauce on top plus sesame seeds, while Robyn had the edamame.  We totally didn’t need the starters though, because it turns out the platter we both ordered, the Mori DX, had so much delicious food in it, we really didn’t need any more.  It started with miso soup, then was followed by a selection of sashimi plus this cool roll with rice, veggies, and meat in it (I wish I could remember), and then a second plate of different sushi rolls, including some with different kinds of roe and one that was eel in some sort of divine teriyaki.

After that, we took the Skytrain back to the Metropolis at Metrotown stop, so we could pick up a few things at Shopper’s Drug Mart (like sunscreen!) before back to the hotel. Robyn was going to grab a jacket and head back into Vancouver to catch the firework competition show that was going on, while I was going to stay behind to swim and then do laundry.  My swim was short because there were a ton of kids playing Mac and Cheese (like Marco Polo, essentially) and I can only get splashed and knocked into so many times before it was time to leave them to their fun and go finish my laundry.

Sadly, Robyn didn’t make the fireworks – after four buses passed her, among a crowd waiting to catch the next one, she made the call that she would have an impossible time getting back if she made it out, so returned, disappointed that common sense had to trump whimsy. We’ll just have to make up for it tomorrow. I’m a little nervous, as I’ll be picking up my rental and then driving us to the ferry, then on through Victoria to Nanaimo (because that’s the ferry we WERE able to book), but I’m going to have to just suck it up and be brave. I’ve driven in Edmonton and Calgary and I have my GPS. I’ll just need to keep calm and carry on, and know that cool stuff awaits me tomorrow.

Until then!

 

 

Posted by: The Starfish Dancer | August 2, 2017

Back to BC: Entry #2

Well, today has been a bit of a long day, but a good one for the most part. I crashed fairly early last night – in bed by eight o’clock, so felt a little better when I woke. I was still having health issues, however, so I decided to be an adult and get myself in to see a doctor if I could. So I looked up walk in clinics in Burnaby, found the one with the most stars in the reviews, and took a taxi to be there first thing when it opened. The clinic is the PrimeMedical Centre, an the receptionist was lovely and suggested I take an afternoon appointment so I could see a female doctor, which I was more comfortable with. I did end up doing so, then  walked back to my hotel for the breakfast that comes with the room rate.  It was a long walk back, but pleasant in the morning temperature.

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Flowers in Vancouver

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Hair and makeup all pretty and done!

After breakfast, I walked to the Metropolis at Metrotown for a little shopping, and because I (thought I) had booked a makeover at Sephora.  I had, unfortunately, not hit the  reservation button correction, but they were able to squeeze me in at two, which also allowed me to hit David’s Tea for some new blends to try, plus get a hair appointment to cover my greys and get rid of dead ends.  My stylist, Sherm at Aura at Sets, was awesome.  My hair looks in much better shape. Then I boogied to Sephora for a makeover with Rachael, who did a fantastic job and gave me lots of products to think about.

I had to book it to get a cab to the doctor’s appointment after that, but I did make it.  The doctor believes the issues I have are related to an infection, so I have some antibiotics that should hopefully make me start to feel better in a day or two.  The doctor was very nice and the clinic was on time and professional, so would definitely go back if needed. But hopefully my health will stay good and I won’t need to!

I walked back from the clinic again, though it was hot and muggy this time, so was a bit less pleasant than earlier in the day.  The heat also meant my feet swelled a bit, so my poor toes are a bit sore. Socks and runners instead of cute leather flats tomorrow for sure!  I changed quickly and met up with my cousin T, and then we went and picked up my cousin K and we went to a place called Tacos and Cantinas for dinner. The service and food were both excellent. I had empanadas for the first time, one with chicken, one with garlic mushrooms. Both were good but the mushrooms were incredible.

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Totem Poles in our drive through Stanley Park

The three of us were going to hit the Vancouver Art Gallery after dinner, but the line up was insane.  It was a “by donation” night, so I guess a lot of people had the same plan that we did! Instead, we ended up driving around Stanley Park and then stopping to take pictures, before T dropped me back at my hotel to meet up with Robyn, who is intersecting her adventure with mine for a few days. We’ve wedged a rented cot in the room – it’s a tight fit, but we’re both going to be comfortable for it. And tomorrow we’ll hi the art gallery together since we both would like to see the Monet exhibit.

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Sunset over Vancouver

We also had to change our planned route a bit. We were going to take the ferry from Horseshoe Bay to Nanaimo on Thursday, but there were no available slots. So we’re going to get to the ferry to Victoria instead. A little more time on the road, but at least we’ll get on the road!

Anyway, I’m going to call it a night, get some rest and get up for tomorrow’s adventures. Until then!

Posted by: The Starfish Dancer | August 1, 2017

Back to BC: Entry #1

So I am back on another adventure, in British Columbia again, because it is the province that holds not only some of my favourite spots in the world, but also some of my favourite people.  So with my boss’ two year assignment ending and our shop about to be in transition again, I thought I’d better squeeze a vacation in, and that BC was the place to squeeze.

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Grizzly on Grouse Mountain!

I arrived in Vancouver yesterday, having flown up on Westjet via my air miles. The journey wasn’t too bad, though I have been feeling under the weather lately so that has put a bit of a damper on a few things. I was greeted at the airport by my cousin K, and my auntie J, who decided to visit at a time there is cross over.  We went to the Cactus Club for dinner, and the food was delicious, though since I wasn’t feeling well most of it came back to my mini fridge with me (and was dinner tonight, in fact!)

After lots more hugs goodbye, I was dropped at my hotel in Burnaby – the Best Western on Kingsway I stayed in last year this time as well!  What can I say?  It was a quiet and clean hotel even in the middle of renovations, so I figured it would be even better when they were done!  The room I’m in is right by the pool, about two doors down from the room I was assigned last time even!  It is very nice and clean and quiet as well, and had I not been under the weather, I’m sure I’d have had a great sleep. I’m feeling a better tonight, so hopefully an early bed time will make up for that.

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View from a Grouse Mountain gondola

Despite my lack of sleep, I got up and made my way to the Sky Train station in the morning, in order to meet my godmother by the Waterfront Station. Despite a slight hiccup with the Sky Train needed to send the train I was on to rescue another train, I made it successfully to my destination. I also had a slight hiccup where I hadn’t counted my zones correctly so had to go back to pay additional fare to get out of the station, but figuring out what was wrong was fairly straight forward in the end, to my relief.

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My godmother and I, Vancouver behind us.

From there, my godmother took me to Grouse Mountain, where I’d never been. I loved it!  We went up in a gondola to the mountain, where we watched an IMAX show about the grizzlies they have in a habitat there. It was good to learn that they were not bears brought in simply as a novelty – in fact, they were orphaned cubs who would have been destroyed, except that they were instead brought to Grouse Mountain to study if there was a way to help orphaned cubs learn to fend for themselves, unaccustomed to humans, and be released back into the wild.  This was not going to be the case for these cubs, as they had been too accustomed to humans already having been rescued to a farm for a few weeks before they were set to go to Grouse Mountain, but the scientists studying them have learned things that will hopefully help future orphaned cubs.

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High above it all on the Peak Chairlift!

After the IMAX show, we grabbed a quick lunch, then took the Peak Chairlift to the top of the mountain. It is basically a ski lift, though in the hot, hot weather we weren’t going to be able to ski!  It was a lovely floating ride, and the view was gorgeous. Then it was back down to look at the bears in the bear habitat, then grab a beaver tail (like they have on the East coast! Delicious!) before heading back.

My godmother had a tennis lesson and I was hot and feeling the tiredness of my lack of sleep, so instead of getting dropped at the Sky Train, I just took a cab back to my hotel. A little time in the air conditioning did me some good, and I cooled down in the pool even more afterward.  And now, even though it’s not even eight o’clock, I think I’ll put my pyjamas on and crash for the night.  I would like to be well rested for tomorrow. My friend Robyn arrives, and I have plans with my cousin T in the evening.

Good night all, and until tomorrow!

Posted by: The Starfish Dancer | March 7, 2017

Another Dam Trip: Entry #9

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Pretty flowers by the hotel pool!

Well, my holiday is coming rapidly to a close and I have the emailed boarding passes for tomorrow to prove it. It’s been quite a trip, but even though the world is still spinning a little (I don’t have my land legs back quite yet), I’m a pretty happy starfish as I get ready for an early, early bed time.

But let’s backtrack a little bit – I left off (besides my interlude) on a bit of a blue note, but I decided, once I got to Fort Lauderdale, that this was not the ending I wanted, so I would rally and get one last adventure.  So as DW and I made our way from the Port to our airport hotel, I let my brain do some turning. DW left bright and early this morning, but I had one day more than she, so I decided I didn’t want to spend it languishing in the hotel, even if the Ramada Fort Lauderdale Airport/Cruise Port does have Wifi and a pool.  It’s a good thing, too – while the wifi signal is fine, it’s been windy and rained on and off, so not quite pool weather.  Instead, I asked when checking in at the front desk if they did excursion tickets to see alligators, and sure enough they do!

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A heron in the Everglades.

They don’t usually take single pickups, said Sheanna at the front desk apologetically, but she called anyway and went to bat for me over the phone.  “I know you’re picking other people up,” she said, and whether it was the excellent sass or just the power of her awesome, I was giving my credit card number and solidifying today’s visit to the Everglades.

DW and I didn’t really do much for the rest of the day. We had lunch at a place called Rendezvous down the road, then back to the hotel to do our own thing in the afternoon, like reading and catching up on our social media. (We may also have texted each other from our rooms, as DW booked her own to get a little more rest.  Also? When I texted my dad, it turns out he had bronchitis, so I suspect my violent cough was some of the same and don’t blame her at all.) We had dinner at the hotel and it was fine but nothing spectacular. This Ramada is more of a motel, with all doors going to the outside, and a bit run down on the exterior, but it is a chain and I don’t feel unsafe or like I was going to be axe murdered despite the accessibility. Then we both went back to our rooms for the night.

I got up this morning and had the free hotel breakfast, which included scrambled eggs and sausage, as well as oatmeal, a selection of cold cereal, a make-your-own-waffle batter station and coffee. Then I waited for my VIP Tours bus to pick me up and it was off to the Everglades Holiday Park.

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A pretty red bird I captured with my lens!

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Look at this beauty!

The tour was really great.  At this Park, you get a full hour tour around the Everglades in the airboat.  I got a seat at the very side, so have some incredibly fun pictures to go through.  I took a lot and even got to make good use of my new lens, so was able to get some good close ups. There were lots of different birds to take pictures of and though the weather was windy and the sky a bit overcast, it is still much warmer than home is and I was comfortable in my shorts with no jacket. The weather meant we weren’t sure we’d see any alligators in the natural habitat, but just as we were coming around to head back to shore at the end of the tour, we were greeted by a big beauty of a ‘gator sunning himself or herself on the shore.  I was happy with the Everglades tour even before the alligator spotting, so this just made my day.

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Look, Ma, no hands!

After the Everglades it was time for the show, where we got to see an alligator show. As it turns out, if an alligator is a threat to the public, they are destroyed unless they can be taken safely to a park.  So we go to see how one of the rescuers wrestles alligators onto shore for transportation. It’s sad that they are then stuck in a park instead of back in the wild, but the alternative is they will be destroyed, so even in a smaller environment, I’m glad they have somewhere to go. I can’t remember the man’s name who did the demonstration, but holy crap is he ever brave to get up close and personal with the alligators with his bare hands as his only tools. Not something I’d want to do but made for a gasp-inducing show!

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Like I said, not sure what was going on with my face, but look at these adorable I got to hold!

After that, we got to got through and see a baby alligator and pet him and also get a picture, and for a bit extra, with a snake too!  I decided to add to my collection of animal-holding pictures with the both, of course. I’m not remembering the little ‘gator’s name (Lil something or other) because the snake’s name was Emoji because one of his patches looks like a smiley face, and that just obliterated the little dude’s name out of my brain. Holding the baby alligator and the snake together was awesome, and I would definitely do it again even though my face in the picture is… not great.  I’m not sure what it is doing. Perhaps it can’t handle expressing all my happiness at holding a BABY ALLIGATOR and a PRETTY SNAKE!!! They also have an adorable baby pig I cooed at while I waited for my picture to be printed out, named Pua like the piggy in the movie Moana.

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So many good bird pictures today, so I’m sharing one more!

After that, it was back to the hotel, where I hung out for a bit. I went back to Rendezvous for a late lunch/early dinner combo, since I’ll be heading to bed super early as a result of having my own ridiculously early cab to catch tomorrow. They didn’t have a great vegetarian selection for DW yesterday (but most places here haven’t) but I have no such restrictions, so enjoyed a very good burger with friends  and some Malbec, followed by key lime pie because it is almost the end of holidays so why not? The food was great but extra kudos for the key lime pie, which was  the best dessert I’ve had on vacation and Holland America does phenomenal desserts, so you can imagine how good it was. It was too good to even stop eating to take a picture of, basically.  I highly recommend.

Now I’m back to my room, winding up my day and this set of blog entries. Unless something ridiculous or spectacular happens on my FOUR Air Canada legs tomorrow (that’s right, FOUR) and the near 20 hours I’ll spend in airports and airplanes, I’m going to call this the end of this one. It’s been a good trip, overall, even with some seasickness, stormy days, and the cough thrown in.  I’m not looking forward to the -30C weather, but I am looking forward to being home, sweet home, where I can cuddle up in my own bed and start making plans for whatever next adventure calls to me. Until then! 😀

Posted by: The Starfish Dancer | March 5, 2017

Another Dam Trip: Interlude

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Rain in the rainforest in Puerto Rico, collected on the bus window.

I’m not going to do a proper entry today (because blah blah blah we ate then got out of the boat and stood in line to go through customs for ages then went to the hotel pretty much covers it) BUT I do want you to know I’m not going to leave off on a blue note. I may not have been able to do my snorkel adventure, but I’m not going to sit in my hotel room until it is time to go home Tuesday.  I asked at the front desk if they do tour bookings and they do. So while DW heads home tomorrow, I’m going to have one final adventure to cap off the trip. Stay tuned! 😀

 

 

 

 

 

Posted by: The Starfish Dancer | March 5, 2017

Another Dam Trip: Entry #8

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Things I didn’t see today: conch

Today has been a bit of a blue day for me.  It was a rough night both figuratively and literally, with rocking seas that made it hard for me to fall asleep. My stuffed-up nose has compounded the issue; not only is it hard to breathe, I have apparently been snoring, which keeps DW up. She actually had to wake me up twice to ask me to change the position I was sleeping in.  I didn’t bother falling back asleep after the second time since it was nearly six and I was too afraid that I would be too noisy again.  By the time DW’s alarm went off at seven, the seas were no less rocky either. We waited in bed a while to see if there were any announcements, because it was very windy out and we weren’t sure whether the tenders would be able to get us to Half Moon Cay.  No announcement came right away, though, so we went for breakfast anyway.

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Things I didn’t see today: sand

By eight o’clock, the Captain had to make the hard call that there would be no port of call today.  The weather was too rough for the employees to get to the private island of Half Moon Cay to work today, and definitely still too rough for the tenders. No snorkeling. Just wind and clouds and another sea day.  After breakfast, DW and I went upstairs to treat ourselves to a latte, but even that didn’t work out, as the machine was broken.  We went back to the verandah to read for a while, then eventually I went back to the coffee shop to see if the technician had been able to fix the espresso machine.  No luck. I read there for a while, then went back to the room, only to find that DW was in need of it to nap. We have an agreement that we give each other space when we need it, so I just grabbed what I thought I needed for a few hours.  Unfortunately, I wasn’t really feeling like much of anything beyond finding some quiet space in the room myself.  I went in the hot tub by the pool for a while, the one in the inside because there were people using them earlier so I knew I wouldn’t get yelled at.  But the room was stuffy and hot and so loud. Everything was just crowded today, on a day I just wanted the water and the fish.

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Things I didn’t see today: fish

After drying off, I walked around to try to find somewhere quiet and less stuffy.  Lots of the doors to the decks were closed off due to high winds, which just made me feel more trapped. Eventually, I made my way up to deck ten via the pool on nine, as the open air wasn’t off limits, just certain exit points.  I was able to push a chair far enough that I could hear just the waves and the boat and not the music and noise of people, which helped put me back in a better headspace. I made my way back to the room to quietly change, though DW was up by then, and then to have tea on the boat. Then it was up to the Crow’s Nest for team trivia. When nothing manifested by four, I pretty much thought that was just how my day was going. Fortunately, I’d ordered a drink, because otherwise I’d have been back in my room by 4:30, which was when trivia actually started.  I’d rushed from tea for no reason, but at least I didn’t miss it. My team didn’t win but we got the most points so far, so that was things looking up. And we all got pins.

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Things I didn’t see today: beach

After that, I went back to the room. I didn’t feel like eating yet, so DW and I watched some TV and I packed, which made me feel a little settled even as I’m sad things are over, and without one last day of shore excursions, which I was really looking forward to having.  Then we went to dinner at the Lido instead of in the dining room. It was a good decision, since it was quieter there.

We ended the night by watching the Marriage Game in the Showroom at Sea, which was a really good way to end the day. Like the Newlywed Game, each half of the couple is asked a question while their spouse is in a soundproof area, then they see if they can match. It was very funny.  Highlights?  An older couple who met on e-Harmony only 12 years ago (her daughter convinced her to sign up) had the question “how does she let you know she’s in the mood?”. The husband said she asks if he took his viagra!  DW and I laughed so hard.  I’m glad that’s how our cruise is ending.

I will admit I’m looking forward to having my feet on solid ground for a long time, maybe spending a little more time by the pool at my hotel in Fort Lauderdale (I’m there another two days) without the water crashing and smashing about as the wind blows the boat about.  Hopefully the weather will be nice and the last of my holiday will be restful.

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