About Me

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Delta, British Columbia, Canada
I took very early retirement from teaching in '06 and did some traveling in Europe and the UK before settling down to do some private tutoring. As a voracious reader, I have many books waiting in line for me to read. Tell me I shouldn't read something, and I will. I'm a happy, optimistic person and I love to travel and through that believe that life can be a continuous learning experience. I'm looking forward to traveling more some day. I enjoy walking, cycling, water aerobics & and sports like tennis, volleyball, and fastpitch/baseball. I'm just getting into photography as a hobby and I'm enjoying learning all the bits and bobs of my digital camera. My family is everything to me and I'm delighted to be the mother of two girls and the Gramma of a boy and a girl. I may be a Gramma, but I'm at heart just a girl who wants to have fun.

Monday, May 30, 2011

T is for Taormina and Tuscany

Taormina, a small town on the east coast of Sicily, was the ultimate of my Italian trip in 2006! Our guide saved it for last in order to give us all the most splendid of memories to take home with us. Situated on the Ionian Sea, it boasts warm beaches and spectacular views of Mount Etna, which kindly gave us a display of smoke and fire on our first evening. Also, the Teatro Greco is one of the most celebrated ruins in Sicily, still used today for opera, theater, and concerts. You may have heard of the author Truman Capote...He wrote of his stay in Taormina between April 1950 and September 1951 in his essay "Fontana Vecchia." Tuscany, a region in central Italy, is known for its beautiful landscapes, its rich artistic legacy, and its influence on high culture. I thought I'd died and gone to heaven when I arrived in the fall of 2006 and kept my camera at the ready for all the photo ops that popped up everywhere I turned. The people are welcoming, the food is scrumptious, the wine flows, and views are incredible. Cities and villages are equally exciting wih all their stories of times past, especially of the Etruscans, who created the first major civilisation in this region. Our group stopped at a vineyard for some photos ops and we were lucky to have our own picture taken by someone passing by. We visited a winery and sampled several varieties, to the point where we were all feeling a tad tipsy. This is one of my favourite shots of me wine tasting.

Without a doubt, the region of Tuscany and the town of Taormina were the highlights of my trip to Italy in 2006. I wouldn't hesitate to return some day, preferably renting a villa and car somewhere so that I could feel a real part of the country and the people. There is also a place where I'd like to take a week-long course in photography. And although I do not consider myself a cook by any means, it might be fun to take a cooking course for a day. Finally, I'd like to see more of the museums and art galleries and absorb as much of the culture as possible. Never been? It's a must if at all possible!

Wednesday, May 25, 2011

S is for SHIP to SKAGWAY

Hi everyone! Sorry not to have visited any of your great posts last week, but I was away on a lovely cruise to Alaska. As such, I'm going to show you the town of Skagway, famous for being part of the Klondike Gold Rush. Which of the following pictures do you think were the most important places in town?

You're right! All of them - for different reasons, of course!

When we arrived at 7:00 am, we were still asleep in our comfy cabin. However, D2 and I finally got up and ready for our day of adventure. We had decided to do an excursion on the "yellow streetcar," a 1927 Mack Model AB that was restored in April 2001 by Boyd Coddington. We were picked up promptly at 10:30 am right on the dock. The driver was a young lady dressed up in period costume and she was super in making us all comfortable and giving us a great tour of the town. The pier was a good 15-20 minute walk from town, so it was a relief for me that she picked us up at the pier. Because it had taken us over 3 hours to embark in Vancouver, I was in a lot of pain for most of the trip and it was hard for me to even walk for 3 days into the cruise. (Some of you will remember that I had serious back surgery 2 years ago.)

Our first stop was in an old building where we were entertained by a man giving us a dramatic rendition of the history of Skagway and welcomed us all into the "Arctic Brotherhood." We even got membership cards!

Then, our tour guide drove us slowly through the downtown area and part of the residential area, pointing out historical sites. Finally, we arrived at the historic cemetery where we were again entertained by a dramatic rendition of the story of Skagway's famous gunfight between "Soapy" Smith and Frank Reid. (Click here on Wikipedia and scroll down to "History" beside the photo to read about the gunfight. It's quite fascinating and amusing, too!) It was actually a bit sad to see the graves of babies and mothers who had died in childbirth and the graves of young men who had travelled so far to seek their fortunes by mining for gold.
Here's our tour guide telling us about the famous gunfight in front of Frank Reid's tombstone.

Our third stop was way up on the hillside where we had beautiful scenic vistas of Skagway. We could also see our ship docked at the pier in Lynn Canal, the most northern fjord on the Inside Passage of the Alaska Panhandle.

It was a great day, a bit chilly but no rain at least! D2 was dropped off back in town where she wandered happily on her own, while I opted to return to the ship for lunch and a good read by myself. A great day, part of a wonderful cruise and bonding time with my lovely daughter. More about the cruise as it fits into our ABC Wednesdays.

If you missed my R post, which I had automatically posted, be sure to check it out as it tells about Rome and Ravello. ABC Wedesday is the brainchild of Denise Nesbitt, who is now assisted by a sincere team of people from all over the world. Click here to check us out and please join in the fun!

Monday, May 16, 2011

R is for RAVELLO and ROME

I'm away this week, but decided to try and get this posted automatically...we shall see if it works! Although I'm in an "A" place, I'm going to tell you about two more places in Italy that are NOT to be passed up - Rome, of course, and the smaller, less well-known town of Ravello on the Amalfi Coast.

I landed in Rome in October, 2006, and was awed by the incongruity of ancient among the modern. Arriving at my hotel, right beside the Parthenon, I was welcomed to the incredibly modern Albergo Del Senato. The Parthenon dates back to 447 BC, yet inside my suite I slept on luxurious sheets and bathed and showered in great style! We wandered around the area, taking in the Trevi Fountain, the Spanish Steps, and the government buildings. We also spent a whole day at the Vatican, absorbing its history and incredible art. A little story about how I got the photo of Pope John Paul's crypt - we weren't allowed to stop in front of it unless you were behind ropes praying. As I walked past, I raised my camera and just snapped, hoping I'd get something, anything! Watch for it on the slide show. On our return from the Italian Riviera two weeks later, we viewed the Roman ruins and the Colosseum.

We then travelled south to Pompeii and to the Amalfi Coast, a spectacular bit of coastline. We stayed for 5 nights in Positano (see my P post) but drove around the area, visiting little towns and villages and admiring all the incredible views. We also spent a day on the island of Capri, but because the sea was quite wild that day, we were not able to get into the Blue Grotto. However, one of the prettiest places we saw was the town of Ravello where I wandered into a jewellry shop and came out several hundred euros lighter. I bought a sterling silver necklace that has a unique figure-eight design. (click photos to see larger) After checking out the church, I then wandered toward the Villa and its gardens. We were not allowed inside the villa, (there's a plaque on the side indicating that "Greta Garbo slept here") but we could spend as much time as we liked in the immense gardens that had views over the Mediterranean Sea.

So here's a little slideshow (all my photos!) I put together about my adventures in Rome and Ravello - hope you enjoy it. It starts with Ravello and then goes to Rome.

ABC Wednesday is the brainchild of Denise Nesbitt, now assisted by a team of ABCW'ers, including MOI! Join the fun by checking us out here.

Monday, May 09, 2011

Q is for QUESNEL - ABC Wednesday

We're back in British Columbia this week for another destination - Quesnel (pronounced kweh-NEL). It's a very historic town in that it is named for Jules Maurice Quesnel who accompanied Simon Fraser on his journey to the Pacific Ocean. Quesnel is located along the Cariboo Wagon Road and was the commercial center for the Cariboo Gold Rush, which began in 1859. Also, because of its location on the Fraser River, it was an important landing for sternwheelers between 1862 and 1886 and again from 1909 to 1921. The town is pretty much in the middle of our ranch and cowboy country.

Currently, one of its most important festivals is during the third week of July when the town celebrates its heritage and the first gold miner, William Barker who struck it rich just east of Quesnel where we now have the historical town of Barkerville. Billy Barker hailed from Cambridgeshire, England, and struck gold in 1861 sparking rapid growth in the area because of so many men arriving to find their own fortune.

My one and only visit to Quesnel and Barkerville was when I was about 19 years old, home from my second year of university (my parents had moved 500 miles north of Vancouver to reside in Prince George, a few miles north of Quesnel). It was lots of fun exploring the old town with its saloon, schoolhouse, church, "Wake-up Jake's Restaurant," the theater, and the general store that was run by the Chinese, a very important part of the building of the town. I also panned for gold, but was unsuccessful. Below are a couple of old photos of me (in the pink top) and my sister and mother back in 1968 and below them are old file photos of Barkerville in 1865 and in 2004.

One more thing - all students in British Columbia learn the history of the Gold Rush and all about Billy Barker and his henchmen. Quesnel and its environs (i.e. Barkerville) are a major tourist attraction not only for BCers, but also for all Canadians and Americans alike.

ABC Wednesday is the brainchild of Mrs. Nesbitt and because it has become so popular around the world, she now has a group of quintessential aides! Check us out here!

Sunday, May 01, 2011

P is for Portofino, Portovenere, Positano

We're returning to Italy this week, not for the Pantheon shown here, but for three pretty places that I visited in 2006 - Portofino, Portovenere, and Positano.

First, I spent one day in Portofino, so named for the dolphins in the area. It's a small fishing village and resort on the northern rim of the Italian Riviera. The town is crowded around a small harbour and is considered to be one of the most beautiful Mediterranean ports. I climbed the hill by the harbour to visit Castello Brown, one of the town's main points of interest. From that vantage point, I managed to take many photos of Portofino and the yachts below. This castle was used to defend the harbour from as early as the 15th century. In 1867, the castle was purchased by the English consul in Genoa (Montague Yeats Brown) and he transformed the fort into a comfortable villa. Throughout the rooms, you can view photographs of many jet-setting celebrities who visited Portofino throughout the 50s and 60s - the likes of Elizabeth Taylor, Frank Sinatra, Ingrid Bergman, and Brigitte Bardot. A few of us had lunch on one of the patios in the harbour area and then did some window shopping, especially for Murano glass. Finally, Positano had the most beautiful cemetery I've ever seen. Gardens surrounded some of the plots and statues of saints and others decorated the area.

Next, is the town of Portovenere, one of the first towns along the Cinque Terre region of Italy. It dates back to the first century and is named after the goddess Venus. With its colourful facades, it made a dazzling first impression from the boat on which we arrived. We climbed the steep hill to the Gothic church of St. Peter, which was consecrated in 1198, and the Doria Castle. You can read about the castle's origins here. It was in Portovenere where I had my photo taken with a statue of a fisherman and began a tradition of having my photo taken with lots more statues in the weeks ahead throughout Italy.

Finally, we checked out Positano on the Amalfi Coast, south of Rome. We stayed here for 5 nights and not only explored the coast and some of its little towns (Amalfi, Atrani, Ravello), but also took a day trip to the Isle of Capri. Positano sits in the hills leading down to the coast and a beautiful, protected beach. It was a relatively poor fishing village in the first half of the 20th century because more than half its population had emigrated, mostly to Australia. However, after John Steinbeck published an essay about Positano in Harper's Bazaar, it started to attract many tourists. Steinbeck wrote, "Positano bites deep. It is a dream place that isn't quite real when you are there and becomes beckoningly real after you've gone." I certainly can relate to that! The town was also featured in the movie, Under The Tuscan Sun (2003) and Nine (2009) and was the setting for the romantic adventure novel, Finding Positano, A Love Story (2010). The little port of Mongibello was also based on Portofino in the movie The Talented Mr. Ripley and parts of the movie were filmed here. It was in Portofino that I bought a pair of Italian leather loafers and tasted excellent gelatto!

I cannot say enough how much I love Italy - its people, culture, food, wine, and history! If you ever have an opportunity to visit, here's a tip - avoid the "touristy" places like Pisa and go to one of these three places - Portofino, Portovenere, or Positano. You will not be disappointed! Hope you enjoy the slide show - all my photos except for 3 scanned postcards.