Weather … The Wet Kind

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After wintering in the sunny south for eight years, my husband and I decided to take a year off and catch up on a few home repair and renovation projects. Summer provides too many outdoor distractions, and interior work seems to get delayed another week or another month. How can one stay inside and work when the gorgeous outdoors beckons?

I shot the first image from my deck during our stay-at-home winter. A fresh snowfall followed by freezing rain crusted the trees with a beautiful white blanket. Not great driving conditions but pretty to look at.

The second image was taken four months earlier in August during a severe rainstorm. I used a tripod and slow shutter speed to capture the heavy streaks of rain and the force with which it pelted down.

It’s no wonder Canadians love to talk about the weather!

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Ice Crusted Trees

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Cloudburst

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John’s Pass ..Where The Sun Always Shines

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Of all the excursions we take while wintering in Florida, John’s Pass is one of my favourite haunts. Located about 3 miles up Gulf Boulevard in Madeira Beach, it’s a nice morning walk from our condo in St. Pete Beach.

One can stroll along the boardwalk, pick up a coffee or hot chocolate and be entertained by dolphins as they dive for fish. You can take one of several “dolphin watch” boat tours on the calm bay waters. Fish are tossed into the water from the tour boats to attract dolphins swimming nearby. As the tour finishes and the boats come into dock, scores of pelicans are ready to snatch any remaining tidbits of fish.

Two floors of shops and restaurants will delight both shopaholics and seafood lovers.

John’s Pass … a great day trip … just make sure you visit on a sunny day.

 

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John’s Pass, Florida

 

 

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Gathering of Pelicans at John’s Pass

 

 

Water, Water .. Everywhere …..

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One Canadian Snowbird has decided to stay put this winter and try to muster the courage to see my way through to the delicious fragrances and colours of spring.

While typing this blog I’m sipping hot chocolate by a cozy fireplace and sorting through thousands of images of past winter vacations in sunny Florida. I can almost hear the surf lapping onto one of Florida’s hundreds of miles of sandy beaches and breathe in the saltiness in the air from the gulf waters. Then reality serves a blow as I look out my window and see yet another bleak day and another snowfall beginning.  Ah … back to my Florida Fantasy World!

Something I miss about vacationing in Florida are the beach walks. Morning power walks along nearly deserted beaches are great for the cardio system. Then on late afternoon and evening strolls with a camera I captured all sorts of outdoor fun activities.  And the glorious gulf sea breeze …  that’s what I miss most of all.

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Let’s Go Cottage Hunting ….

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As one travels into mid and southern Florida the Key West architectural style becomes increasingly prominent. I am referring to the design in the pretty cottage in this blog image. Sometimes the stucco exterior is painted in bright, bold colors, but more often you will observe these cottages are painted in softer pastels. This style usually has a wide covered front verandah loaded down with many flower pots and hanging planters. Some wicker chairs, perhaps a rocker, offer comfy relaxation.  A cute little white picket fence, usually not very high, completes the scene.

Now contrast the Key West style to the Spanish/Mexican “adobe” architecture which is  often seen in the south western states such as Arizona and New Mexico. The adobe design makes use of decorative wrought iron, an inner courtyard and arched windows and doorways. See the image “Adobe Welcome” in my blog entry of January 1, 2016 for an example of the Mexican architectural design.

Both architectural styles are distinctly different and have their own appeal.  Your preference?key-west-charm-copy

Key West Charm

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Hey Man … How’s It Goin’?

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I couldn’t resist taking a shot of this whimsical wooden African face in Florida last year. A long piece of lumber securely fastened it into the ground in front of a restaurant.  A cement post and other clutter around the restaurant distracted from its unique appeal. So I decided to place him against a soft, wispy sky near a beach. Now he almost needs a name!

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African Face Art

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Kiss … Kiss … Kissing Bridge …

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In the 19th century when horse and buggy were the common mode of transportation, many covered bridges dotted the landscape. There were a couple theories behind the idea of enclosing a bridge with a roof and high sides. Horse travel was treacherous in the winter;  a cover on a bridge decelerated the process of ice formation, making it safer for horses to cross a bridge.  Also, high water levels during spring runoff would spook a horse that sees the fast flowing river beneath. The high wooden sides on a bridge conceal the water from a horse’s view.

One remaining covered bridge in Ontario, Canada is located deep in the heart of Mennonite and Amish country and is still used by local horse and buggy traffic. Built in 1881, the initial structure was made only of wood. It has undergone several transformations over the years to strengthen and preserve its integrity using stone, asphalt, concrete, and steel.

Legend has it that when courting, young couples would take the opportunity to steal a kiss in private, away from watchful eyes, under cover of the dimly lit bridge. It became fondly known as the “Kissing Bridge”.

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Kissing Bridge

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(In)famous Clichy Promenade

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Anyone familiar with Paris will have heard of or strolled along Boulevard de Clichy. Located in a somewhat seedier section of Montmartre, Clichy is known for the many sex shops and other adult entertainment venues lining the Boulevard.

One of the more popular night spots along Clichy is Le Moulin Rouge, a cabaret where every evening costumed dancers perform their famous “can can”.  The original Moulin Rouge (English translation – Red Mill), was destroyed by fire in 1915. Ten years later the theatre was rebuilt, and has grown in popularity over the decades.  And it shows no signs of slowing down.

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Le Moulin

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Is it a Rock …. or a Bomb?

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A large rock lying in a pasture is by no means an out-of-the ordinary scene. But a bomb?  I did a double and triple and quadruple take when our tour group to Flanders Fields came upon the scene below. Sheep peacefully grazing in a pasture with a bomb from World War One a few feet away ….  how many people would believe this statement unless I supplied an accompanying photograph to defend it?  And if anyone suspects the bomb has been Photoshopped into the scene, please be assured that except to crop and adjust the exposure a little, the image has not been edited.

My blog entry of Nov. 20th, 2016 has more information about Flanders Fields.

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Bomb from World War 1 in Pasture

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Flanders Fields – Then and Now

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Like many Canadian school children born in my era, a poem given students to memorize was “In Flanders Fields”. My immature child’s mind held a naive view of an ordinary cemetery with a few rows of white gravestones and bright red poppies loosely scattering the area.

Now fast forward to May 2016. My husband and I join a private enterprise which takes tourists through the countryside of West Flanders. In my wildest dreams I could not have imagined the thousands of acres of landscape dotted with hundreds of huge cemeteries, all with their distinctive white grave markers. Every cemetery we visited had some sort of huge monument to honour the fallen.  If memory serves me correctly there are more than one million casualties of World War One laid to rest in the cemeteries of western Belgium. If any history buff reads this blog, please feel free to correct any inaccuracies.

Perhaps the most striking contrast for me to grip is the idea that these now peaceful rolling hills with sheep grazing in the meadows and farmers plowing their fields were raging, bloody battlefields only one hundred years ago. Even today an occasional farm tractor will sink as the ground gives way where an underground tunnel was excavated to give shelter for those fighting on the front lines.

A  Flanders Fields tour is highly recommended to anyone planning a trip to Belgium.

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Cemetery in West Flanders, Belgium

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Belgium – The Trip That Nearly Wasn’t

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My husband and I had planned a meetup with our traveling companions in Paris, spring of 2016.  We considered taking in a side tour before Paris, and Brussels was decided on. Air tickets booked, hotel arranged, we were happily anticipating the departure date when we saw the horrific news about the subway station and airport bombings in Brussels on March 22nd. 

Only weeks before the start of our trip our plans suddenly became unsettled and indecisive. In just moments Brussels became a city in chaos with army vehicles transporting heavily-armed police into the area. Day after day we watched as police tried to restore order. This unraveling scenario fed into our fears of vulnerability and physical harm. Would Brussels be a safe place for us to visit? 

Weighing all the options, we kept close watch on the news each passing day. With only ten days to go we had to decide whether we would indeed still go to Brussels or cancel our flight and lose the money we paid for the tickets. 

I am so glad we did not act in haste because we had a safe and wonderful trip to Belgium. The only part of our vacation we changed was that I cancelled our hotel reservation in central Brussels and found an Airbnb apartment in lovely Ghent, a one-hour train ride west of Brussels.

Below is an image of the river that runs through Ghent center. I have fond memories of long walks along the Lys every morning and evening. 

More on Belgium in future blogs. 

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Morning Stillness Along River Lys 

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