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Archive for the ‘hiking and biking’ Category

The Cottager is questing on the Camino de Santiago in Spain at the moment and if inclined, you can see what he is up to on his blog where he posts a few lines and some great pictures almost daily.

I spent the better part of a week at the cottage, just catching my breath and bonding with my new friend Farley. He is a rescue from an L.A. shelter and is now permanently on vacation.

Farley

The Urchins had a week at home without mom harassing them to clean up after themselves. And the cats were happy just to have a week without the dog, whom they do not consider a particularly good addition. And so for the price of one plane ticket to Spain, 7 winter-weary creatures had a vacation.  Told you I was frugal.

I did get a few things done.  The deck got its last ever coat of stain. Before it is due again we will rebuild and only use an oil product after that. Stain is a hassle.

unstained deck

stained deck

I also did some gardening at a relaxed pace, having decided to limit rentals and keep the cottage principally for my own enjoyment this summer. 

A few good friends came to visit. My parents came too, which was wonderful as the have only come in fall or winter before and hadn’t seen my garden to advantage or walked on the beach.

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Besides these pleasant events, the highlight of my vacation was having nine or ten blissful and uninterrupted hours of sleep each night. No doubt Cottager and the Urchins have better highlights.

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I know. It’s been a while. The summer was so fine that I did not have the head or the heart to spend time with a computer if it wasn’t necessary. And truth be told there wasn’t much to tell. The cottage has been rented pretty steadily since the end of May.

We had one week there in August and the weather was perfect. Our boys came for two days and we spoiled them a bit, including taking them out for a sunset kayak trip.

Many of our guests over the years have done this and raved about it so it seemed only right that we check it out. There is a rental spot right in Gibsons harbour. I could tell you how wonderful it was, but I’ll let these photos tell the tale…

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Big Urchin (Bu) is home for Reading Break so the rest of the Keats View family arranged a three day weekend and we headed off to Manning Provincial Park for some family time in the snow. Both Cottager and I remember when you had to arrive early at Manning because the cross-country trails and even parking would be full. Nowadays, the world has passed this quiet little place by and everyone heads for Whistler.

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The lodge and cabins are basic but budget friendly. There’s a nice indoor pool with two large jacuzzis, a small gym, one restaurant, pub, an outdoor ice rink (used to be free, but no longer) and a clanking school bus to run you up to the ski area. Big roaring fires in the lodge, pub and restaurant.

There is only one lift, but both Saturday and Sunday our boys never waited more than a minute or two for a ride up. The snow was powdery and plentiful, and the slopes half empty. Two all day youth passes plus equipment rental for one of them: 115$.

A basic room for four at the lodge (fridge, microwave and coffeemaker) is 119$/weeknight and 167$ weekends. Nordic ski, snowshoes and skate rental are available right behind the lodge on highway 3. Very good value, but the best part is that wifi is limited and pay (so don’t!) and there are only three channels on the old TV. So we had to go to the pool, play cards, goof around and go to bed early.

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Better than Paris. Better than Paris by Night
Paris by Night on a Bike!

I hoped to spend quite a bit of my time in Paris on a Velib (shared bike), but the weather really wasn’t cooperative and a close encounter between my left knee and the cobblestones of Prague just prior to my arrival was also a bit discouraging. The weather had improved and the swelling subsided by my last night; however, so some friends and I rendezvous’d at the South foot of the Eiffel Tower at dusk for a Fat Tire Bike tour.  This is an amazingly good value that I strongly recommend to first-time and experienced visitors to the city alike.

The bikes are comfortable and well maintained and the staff at Fat Tire have the tour down to a fair science. No reservations required. You meet at the Eiffel Tower, they divide everyone into manageable groups, walk you back a few blocks to their headquarters and collect your fee, store your effects and sell you bottles of water and rain ponchos if required. Eat something before the meet up time and take an extra layer for the night tour – they will give you a bungee cord to carry it along on your rat trap.

The first part of the ride is the most parlous but quite exhilarating:  A half-hour ride to Notre Dame and Ile Saint-Louis – and quite a bit of it in traffic!  Well how can that be fun, you ask?  Or safe?

The reason is that the tour rides in “road domination” formation, and makes good use of bus-only lanes.  Those occasional honks one hears while blocking the entire road are merely the good citizens of Paris complimenting the riders on their excellent form, agreeable environmental choices and all-round good looks.  It is a bit stop-and-go just at the beginning, but soon everyone in the group is comfortable and the amount of road riding diminishes considerably after that first leg.

On the Ile Saint-Louis we stopped for a famous Berthillon ice cream cone and listened to an old fellow play the accordian on the pedestrian bridge. It was one of these great moments in Paris – right out of Lady and the Tramp, only minus the meatball.

Later, we rode into the Cour Napoleon (the large courtyard surrounding the glass pyramid at the Louvre) through a passageway at the back where a lone cellist was exploiting the acoustics. Also quite magical. We spent a bit of time racing around the pyramid,  photo-bombing the tourists not clever enough to be on two wheels, and then headed along to the Place de la Concorde and a ride down the road-width sidewalks of the Champs-Elysees.

Lose the crowds and enjoy the lights of Paris.

After nearly three hours of short, easy rides and sight-seeing with a knowledgable guide, we locked up our bikes and boarded a bateaux mouche (open excursion boat) for an hour long sightseeing tour along the Seine. This was included in the 3o Euro tour ticket, as was a fairly generous pour of wine. Another short bike leg and we arrived back at Fat Tire at about 1130, tired but happy.

Fat Tire also operates day tours in Paris, as well as in Barcelona and Madrid.  I recently did the Barcelona tour and found it to also be a great value and a brilliant way to get oriented to that city.

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We chose this town for an overnight stop on our way back to France from Barcelona. Unlike some bigger places on the Costa Brava it is not known for it’s party scene. What sealed the deal were coastal walks in each direction – one to Cap Roig botanical garden and in the other direction to a lighthouse with a stunning view. We headed for the garden first, and spent an hour wandering the meticulous sloping terraces of a lovely old chateau.

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On the way back we stopped at platje Golfet, a near-deserted beach where we swam in the crystal clear water before following the coastal path back to our hotel in town for a picnic lunch on the deck. After lunch we climbed to the lighthouse, rewarded ourselves with a jug of Sangria and them lolled around the pool until dinner. A perfect day in Catalunya.

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Summer weather has finally arrived and I am ebullient! Cottager, the Urchins (Yes, both!) and I are enjoying the family cottage – long known as ‘The Camp’ so easily distinguishable from Keats View – near Balfour on Kootenay Lake.

This year the lake level is crazy high, so it is a bit like living on a houseboat – the lake is right outside my bedroom window, which is charming since it is now, finally, receding and worries for the structure itself are passed. The pump has been inundated and ruined, so we have no water – well not running water anyway. Lots of lapping water nearby.

I have been kayaking around the flooded trees, imagining that I am in a Louisiana bayou. Each tree has been gashed by loose battering logs. Sand Pipers are three deep on every available morsel of beach. Amazing bits of driftwood arrive daily.

Here is picture of The Camp during a very very high water, circa 1963. My grandparents exited on a plank out the back window in the middle of the night.

The Camp kitchen is a challenge to work in even when there is water, so we are exploiting this situation by having most dinners with my folks, a short walk away.  Thus we grow fat and happy!

Sam and I ferried across to Kootenay Bay yesterday, cycled to Pilot Bay Provincial Park and then hiked to the Lighthouse. Less energetic today.

At the top of the Pilot Bay Lighthouse, 12 July 2012

And now for some pleasant updates: I had a call from Gibsons Wildlife Rehabilitation Centre on Wednesday, to say that Stella was ready to return to the wild. As I won’t be there for a few days yet, I encouraged them to release her without delay. I am sorry not to witness her return, but they assure me she is immediately recognizable as her legs and feet remain very pale. I hope she comes to call on my return. I have stocked up on peanuts.

The Conductor of the Legion of Flying Monkeys Horn Orchestra has extended an invitation to me for December’s Clown Parade!  Something to look forward to when the days are short and merriment essential.  I am already thinking about a costume.  Do you suppose they will allow me to play my cast iron Ranch-style triangle? I intend to work on my biceps and keep my fingers crossed.

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I was back in town for a few days to proudly watch my Biggest Urchin receive his high school diploma, and Cottager and I took advantage of a break in the really disappointing June weather we’ve been experiencing to get out for a ride on the PoCo Trail.

Tents and a hive of activity in the community garden area of Colony Farm Regional Park attracted our attention, and we stumbled on to loveliest festival I have attended in a very long time. In cooperation with Metro Vancouver (formerly GVRD), the Public Dreams Society was hosting their fourth annual Midsummer Fête.

No rumbling chip vans or carnival rides here. It was like falling through a rabbit hole into a gentler time: Whimsical costumes, quirky activities, un-fraught people and a lovely, pastoral setting. This is an event worth putting on your calendar. Not to be missed.

My favourite part was a performance by the Legion of Flying Monkeys. These folks know how to have fun. They sang about their annual Clown Parade, held in Gastown each December.  I looked it up to find participation is by invitation.  Dear LFM:  Please invite me to be in your clown parade!  I sing loudly and occasionally on key. Deep in my heart, there is a clown desperate to make itself known to the world in a safe and supportive environment.

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Cool costumes and unique art installations abounded.

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The OWL rehabilitation society had a saw whet owl and a golden eagle on display.

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We played croquette.  The balls were furry and had eyes (hedghogs?) and the pleasant pheasant pictured explained that we had to choose a course through safe wickets or past predators (herons and coyotes) Cottager played it safe and was victorious.

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Younger visitors made straw dolls by stuffing onesies.

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