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If you’ve ever been to St. John’s, Newfoundland you know it feels like you’ve set foot into a different country. Complete with their own dialect, culture and climate this city is something different from the rest of Canada. It’s truly something special!

One of the traditions in Newfoundland is to welcome their guests with a special ceremony to make them honorary Newfoundlanders … well, the video explains it better than I ever could!!

(At minute 6 that is my husband Dave really getting comfortable with the Cod!)

glass-christmas-decorations-006While on our river cruise we were entertained for over an hour by a glassblower, Karl Ittig, from Wertheim, Germany.   After the second world war Karl (a young boy at the time) snuck out of East Germany with his family and in 1958 settled in Wertheim. Karl and his family have been working with glass for six generations, since 1841. Their traditional glass making techniques are taught at the Pilchuck Glass School co-founded by Dale Chihuly (USA). The Ittigs are founders of the Eugene Glass School in Oregon, USA which teaches all aspects of glassmaking.

Galileo Temperature Guage

Galileo Temperature Guage

When we were in the shop bon-apart we bought a Galileo (density of liquid changes according to the temperature) and a few Christmas decorations. (If you read my blog on packing you know this was a major decision as packing room was at a premium!) I have enjoyed it every day as Rick and I are always ‘discussing’ the temperature.  Galileo is our proving ground to determine who is too warm and who is too hot.  I digress.  When we made our purchase one of the ‘goodies’ dropped in our bag was a bright orange paper with a glass droplet attached.  It wasn’t until I opened the bag to wrap the little decorations for Christmas that I read the paper.  I would like to share it with you.

This is the story of  a woman that lived to be very old because she never forgot her moments of

bon-apart gallery

bon-apart gallery

happiness.  She never left her house without a handful of glass stones.  She wanted to be fully aware of the most beautiful moments of the day and be able to count them.  She took one glass stone from the left-hand pocket and placed it in her right-hand pocket each time she experienced something positive, during the day (for example: she had a good old gossip with someone or saw the sparkling eyes of a child or even enjoyed a nice meal), just things that gave her real pleasure.  Sometimes two or three glass stones slipped from one pocket to the other.

In the evening at home she counted the glass stones she found in her pocket and recalled every moment she had enjoyed throughout the day.  She thought about all the nice things she had experienced and had given her pleasure during the day.  Things that had made her happy and thanked her maker for the goodness.  What is more if she was only able to count but one stone she considered the day to be successful, a day worth living.

Cordially yours  Ittig Family

I hope you enjoyed this little legend from the Ittig family.

I would like to wish you and yours a very Happy Holiday season.

bright-lights-stanley-park-026When Julie picked us up at the airport on Saturday she said she had bought tickets as a surprise, but wouldn’t tell us where or what they were for. Until we arrived in Stanley Park we had no idea what to expect.

Bright Nights

Bright Nights

Bright Nights in Stanley Park is organized by the Park Board and the BC Professional Fire Fighters’ and raises money for the Burn Fund.

The million plus lights are brilliant, bountiful, beautiful, dazzling, mesmerizing, a great way to remove yourself from the everyday hustle and bustle and get you into the Holiday Spirit. Although it was difficult to take pictures while riding the rails, I really enjoyed the train ride through the forest, the International Village and Santa Land etc. listening to the Christmas tunes which changed to match each display. Of course my attempt at singing likely sent shudders through the rails but I do know that I had fun! My apologies to anyone who heard me!

A new theme at every turn

A new theme at every turn

After the train ride we walked through the Farmyard to pet some of

A Magical Evening for All

A Magical Evening for All

the smaller animals, then along  the woodland path which took us past the many animated displays. The pictures I took were clearer, but I also enjoyed the effects of the ones from the train. Of course as we walked by the concession booths we had to check out the freshly roasted nuts and organic popcorn. They had hot chocolate too but it was such a warm evening we didn’t need a warm up.

Entry to Bright Nights light display is free. There is a small charge for the train ride but it was a very pleasant tour that shows off many different displays that you can’t see from the walking path.  On your way out, if you are so inclined, there is a donation box by the entrance for the Firefighters’ Burn Fund which helps burn survivors and their families. A great way to show appreciation for the hard work that went in to organize and set up the beautiful light show for each of us to enjoy.

http://vancouver.ca/parks/events/brightnights/index.htm

This is their website for more information on Bright Nights in Stanley Park

bright-lights-stanley-park-0674

I can’t remember if I was to Photoshop with clothes on or off………..Thanks for a brilliant evening!!

This post is sponsored by my Breakfast with the Broads 268b_ad125xbroads_lowqualCookbook Website… head on over to sign up for our weekly email recipes AND you’ll get a fantastic Brunch Planner complete with menu ideas, shopping lists, and of course, recipes! Perfect in time for your holiday visitors!!

I know… I have been home for weeks, and I am still slowly posting about our trip, but it takes awhile to get back into it! Anyway, here’s an interesting little stop we made on our Dnieper River cruise. I wasn’t overly interested to begin with,  but once we were there I became very intrigued.

Work area beside the channel

Work area beside the channel

Built during the Cold War, between 1954 and 1963, it was a secret anti-nuclear complex that served as a factory for the Russian Black Sea submarine fleet. It was a place to make repairs and take shelter. Most of the people in the surrounding areas worked in the complex and were sworn to secrecy.  The area was strictly regulated so outsiders weren’t allowed in. Families needed special permission to visit close family members in the area.  And the workers were not allowed to discuss their jobs or their particular area with anyone. Our guide told us that many outsiders didn’t know until just a few years ago that their grandmothers, grandfathers, aunts and uncles were workers in the factory.  The level of secrecy was strictly enforced.

When you arrive at Balaclava Bay it is a beautiful resort town complete with castle ruins, beautiful homes and yachts. As you cross over

Balaclava Bay

Balaclava Bay

what looks like a small vehicle bridge that goes over what looks like a small creek, look to the right. There is a nondescript tunnel that you can see goes into the mountain.  This is the Bay entrance to the complex and the beginning of our tour. The Museum was opened in June 2003 and walks you through twelve different points of interest including areas for dry dock of the submarines, assembly and missile loading areas, huge nuclear blast doors, and a couple of areas which have been used the past few years for movie sets including of particular interest to Rick, a James Bond film.

thick blast doors

thick blast doors

I can’t imagine what people working day to day in their own assigned area thought as they were not allowed in any other section. They were divided by huge thick blast doors so they could neither see nor hear what went on elsewhere. It was a way of controlling any one person from knowing any more than his own job and a way to continue maintaining the safety and secrecy of the complex.
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I rather felt like a gopher surfacing, after walking under ground for more than an hour. And that was a

Derelict Passage

Derelict Passage

directional path laid out by the museum.  There were doors and small passageways throughout that were out of bounds.  The Museum staff were using some of them but others looked unlit, full of ‘junk’ and derelict. Wouldn’t want to be wandering off and getting lost in that facility!

I checked out a few sites on the internet and recommend http://balaklava.whoo.net/ for great pictures of the area and the complex.

On our river cruise down the Mein, Rhine and Mosel rivers from Nuremburg to Trier we passed through many

Castle on the hill overlooking the town

Castle on the hill overlooking the town

towns and villages. All have several things in common.  They are steeped in history and proud of it, many of the buildings are hundreds of years old and well maintained, all of them have at least one square surrounded by shops that people live above, the people are smiling and friendly, there are more bicycles and more people walking than cars (likely because most of the streets are so narrow in places one car would have trouble maneuvering).

The water mark!!

The water mark!!

They cannot get flood insurance because of their close proximity to the river and the high incidence of flooding. There is a flood watch so they are notified when the waters are expected to rise and how high. They deal with this by keeping the floor above the main level empty so they can move everything up and out of  harms way before the water reaches the town. Many buildings proudly wear high water marks carved in granite or marble or painted on a wall. They would proudly show us how high the water rose, like badges of what they endured in that particular year. The highest water mark is 1784 and although I cannot figure out the numbers, Rick is almost 6 feet so I think it must be well over twenty feet!

At first I thought why not move back and up from the water? The fact is many of the

Main floor has sandstone walls

Main floor has sandstone walls

buildings have been through almost annual floods for hundreds of years and are still standing and this is their home.  The main floor walls and floors are made of sandstone which is very porous and dries quickly thus preventing any mould or excess dampness.  When the floods come they move up the furniture, pictures, carpets, the curtains etc. to the first floor (we call it the 2nd floor) and if the flood watch is particularly bad the town moves up the hill to the castle, the monastery or some safe ground that can accommodate them. I didn’t ask about their possessions but they likely move them up another floor!

Part of the canal system

Part of the canal system

We see the flooding and the devastation it causes when we are not prepared, yet these folks living along the Rhine and its tributaries deal with it every year as a fact of life.  There are a few high water marks that likely caused great problems but I understand that with the canal systems that have been built over the years there is greater control of the flooding. Amazing stamina hauling all that heavy furniture up and down, like moving every spring, and I can only imagine the debris left behind after the waters recede!

Still I have decided when I return to the towns and villages along the Rhine I will

Fall Colors!

Fall Colors!

make sure it is after the flood season has passed.  The fall colors were beautiful, the grapes were being picked and the wine festivals were gearing up. A good time to return for a longer stay to see more of the beautiful countryside, learn more about the history and the people, and to learn the language.

After spending a week in the hustle and bustle of the big cities of Frankfurt and Berlin I was ready for a more relaxed pace. The weather was a bit cool, overcast and sometimes rainy but floating on the river, stopping along the way in a couple of the historic towns, watching the traffic on the river and the castles on the hills,  this is the Germany I want to see again.

One 22″ suitcase, a duffel bag, and a backpack for 32 days

On previous trips we have taken a couple of suitcases each, one large and one medium, plus a backpack each and a carry on duffel.  It was difficult to manage them between the two of us without help. We were ready for every contingency but, there was never enough room to store the bags in the rooms and we were constantly packing and unpacking every bag to find something. We always had much more than what we

Suitcase, Duffel, Backpack

Suitcase, Duffel, Backpack

needed and we would come home with a suitcase full of clothes and things that were unused.

This time I decided to cut way back (and the cruises we were taking made it a necessity). I wanted to simplify our travels and be kinder to the environment. My challenge was one 22″ wheeled suitcase, one duffel bag and one backpack total for both of us! As I started working on my packing list I was finding myself adding a bit more here and there until I realized I would need another suitcase if I kept adding. Extras weren’t an option because the boats wouldn’t have much storage room and hauling our bags on and off the trains in Germany would be easier if we had less. And I was on a mission!!!

I consulted several internet travel sites and spent time revising Tilley and Rick Steves packing lists to suit our needs. It was very difficult to not throw in that extra shirt or extra pair of slacks but once I started filling the suitcases I BECAME MORE DETERMINED TO MAKE IT WORK. I packed and repacked and repacked again until I could get it all in, take it out and get it back in the same

ExtraPocket Duffel

ExtraPocket Duffel

space. (I also threw in a small ‘pocket’ duffel bag in case I ran into problems or needed a souvenir bag.)

 

 

Our Packing List:

  • five tops,
  • two bottoms,
  • five sets of underwear,
  • two pair of shoes,
  • sweater,
  • jacket,
  • toiletries,
  • vitamins,
  • two cameras,
  • computer,
  • playing cards,
  • tour books,
  • rain jackets,
  • umbrella,
  • scarf,
  • gloves,
  • a box of Lara Bars,
  • tea,
  • decaf coffee,
  • travel clock,
  • flashlight,
  • emergency meds and bandaids,
  • laundry line and soap.

The toiletries bag alone took up almost half the suitcase! But, i made it work.

The size of our cabins were 90 sq.ft. and 120 sq.ft.  My closet at home is almost as big! There was one small closet for our clothes and our bags, two small single bunk sized beds (or smaller!) a little table, one chair and the room was FULL! So it was a very good move to have limited our bags or we wouldn’t have been able to move in the small space.

Next time I will travel with about the same, although I may need a dress and a suit jacket which will take up some extra space. It was very convenient to only have a small bag each and the backpack. We could move quickly when we needed to, lifting the bags on and off the trains was easily done and storage was never a problem. We still came home with a couple of items we didn’t use and next time they will be left behind leaving room for and extra shirt or blouse.

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Note from Julie: Sorry! I was really slow posting this one for my Mom as I was in Calgary last week. So… this is a week old… but better late than never.

Well here we are on the Dnieper River in the Ukraine. It seems like we have been gone for weeks when in fact it has been only a couple of days. We arrived at the airport at 1:30pm and left Vancouver at 4 pm on Sept. 13th. We arrived in Kiev at 11:30 pm on September 14th. Customs was slow, so the cruise line pick up left without us. We couldn’t find a telephone and couldn’t find anyone who speak enough English to help us out right away. Eventually, thanks to a couple of helpful taxi cab operators, we were able to phone the ship and find out that we indeed had been left behind. Once it was sorted out and we arrived at the ship it was 3:30 am on the 15th. A very long trip just to get our travels started…

Construction Everywhere in the Ukraine

Construction Everywhere in the Ukraine

4 hours later we were up for breakfast and a city tour of Kiev, a 1,500 year old city and one of the oldest in Europe. There are many cranes and signs of repair, growth and progress but they have a very long way to go. The tour of the Monastery of the Caves where hermit monks lived from the 11th century was very interesting. There are over eighty buildings and monuments on the sight. For many years the monks lived in a labyrinth of caves in the mountain then later used them as a burial ground for the monastery monks. We walked through the tunnels with our beeswax candles for light, being careful not to hit our heads. With ceilings never higher than six feet high, and barely enough room for one person to pass through width ways, we all came out of the caves covered with white limestone dust on our sleeves from rubbing the walls as we walked through.

Wish I could tell you more, but it’s foggy. We got back to the ship at noon, slept until dinner. We ate, then returned to our cabin and slept until 3 am then 4 am then 5 am and at 6 am we got up feeling pretty good. By noon we were heading back to our room for a nap, which lasted until dinner!

Kiev old to new buildings

Kiev old to new buildings

By the next day, when we were cruising down the river, we started to recover. We met some fellow passengers, played some cards and caught some more  zzzzzzzzzzzzzzz’s. Amazingly we met a couple from Deep Cove, another from Horseshoe Bay and of course our friends from Victoria so British Columbia, Canada was well represented on the ship.

September 17th. Dawn brought us to Zaporozhye (which means ‘beyond the rapids’) the ancestral home of the Cossacks of 1770. The Cossacks learned to navigate the deadly rapids of the Dnieper river and would take travelers through for a fee. They were a brotherhood of men whose wives and children lived outside the walls of the men’s fort. A ‘guns for hire’ group feared by many, they were serfs that came from many surrounding areas. We enjoyed the Cossack Museum, some of their folk music, and a performance of horsemanship. Then we tried a little vodka (well I did, Rick is a teetotaler), rice and meat. Watch the Vodka it is VERY potent stuff, especially on an empty stomach!!

zaporozhye-kherson-cossack-demonstration

zaporozhye-kherson-cossack-demonstration

September 18th we arrived in Kherson where most of the boat boarded a smaller boat and headed to Fisherman’s Village for an afternoon of traveling to a small fishing village and market. We skipped it, and had a wonderful nap. We are still waking up at 3 am thinking it is time to get up, but we’re almost adjusted. But, we like naps.

Sevestopol secret Russian sub base

Sevestopol secret Russian sub base

We left Kherson at dinner time, heading south towards the Black Sea and Sevestopol. Before dark, we were stopped in our tracks, along with several freighters, as there was a cyclone ahead. Our ship is a flat bottom boat and can only handle two meter seas so we expected to be held longer than the freighters. The cyclone passed by morning but a couple of others were forming, so we spent the day anchored in a quiet sheltered spot on the delta where we would remain calm and safe. We had some terrific lectures by our guides on the history, the politics, and the icons of the church as well as a lesson on a few basic words and the 33 letter alphabet. The lectures, a couple of card games, a nap, three meals and it was time for bed and there was an announcement just before dark that we were able to proceed from the delta into the Black Sea.

Although we had lost a day, we still managed to fit in all of the included tours and the optional tours in Sevestopol. In Sevestopol our dear friend Dave had an Appendicitis attack. The ship carried on leaving Dave and Joan behind while he had his appendix removed. Without internet or a world phone to keep in touch we felt pretty helpless, so we can only imagine how they felt. They were stuck in a city where the main docks are still leased to the Russian Navy, complete with submarines, and the hospital staff can’t or won’t speak English, and cats prowl the corridors of the hospital with kittens in tow. Joan had to buy the drugs and bandages at the local pharmacy before they would perform the operation on Dave. When we left her behind her main worry was that of secondary infection. Hopefully that does not become an issue as he recovers enough to fly home. We were fortunate to have one of the staff at reception call the hospital a couple of times to find out how he was progressing. Although we have been unable to contact Joan and Dave personally reports are that he is up and about and they maybe heading home on Saturday.

My impression of the Ukraine is one of confusion. Many of the people seem to be very pro Russia while others are gritting their teeth in fear of a return to communism. They have been seventeen years rebuilding what was returned to them after Communist rule. Many beautiful buildings that were used for other purposes or left in ruin are being rebuilt, renovated and returned to their former grandeur. Only 11% of the people earn enough money to drive a car or go on a holiday. Of that, 3% are considered wealthy so the other 8% are the middle class although considered to be more of an upper class with so much poverty throughout the country. The other 89% are working poor trying to make the day to day ends meet somewhere close to the middle many by having up to three jobs.

Tax on income is 15% which most find tolerable after the previous 40%, but it is not enough to rebuild all that needs to be rebuilt.

While in Sevastopol we went on a tour of the secret Russian Submarine base. It was interesting to see how they bored so deeply into the mountain and just how well hidden it was. It is a vast complex and we only saw a small part that has been restored as a museum.

Another fascinating museum of war in Sevastopol is the Panorama, voted best war panorama in the world. It was originally done by F.A.Rubaud. All but 84 sections were destroyed by fire during the war. These sections are kept in the archives. The new panorama was done by several artists that worked together to re-create the likeness of the original. It is the 1854-55 siege of Sevastopol from points around the hill including the French, English, and Russian troops.

My next next favorite was Yalta a more southerly city of the Criamean Peninsula. This city is under a major building boom. I think it is the summer playground for many of the wealthy Ukrainians and Russians as it has a reasonably temperate climate, lots of sand and of course the Black Sea.

Yalta Playground to the Wealthy

Yalta Playground to the Wealthy

Cathedral in Yalta

Cathedral in Yalta


My favorite is Odessa.
I would have liked to spend a few more days in this city. There is some form of reconstruction on almost every street in this city and the results are beautiful. New parging, new paint, major upgrading, pedestrian friendly walkways, parks, memorials, great views, good climate and proud citizens has made this city my number one in the Ukraine.

We managed to go to the Opera House for Le Traviata on our last night before leaving the ship. They spent ten years renovating and upgrading the Opera House and it is truly breathtaking with all of its guild and heavy draping. The acoustics are so good you can hear a sigh on stage, or cell phones ringing in the audience. One lady even answered it and whispered but we could hear her!

Well the cruise is done and we headed out at 5:20 am on to our next adventure making our way to Frankfurt…

Have you ever seen the t.v. ad where the lady is sitting at her computer in her rabbit slippers and her housecoat carrying on her office work from home? Rick and I have commented on several occasions that it is a good thing she doesn’t have a webcam.

Your Webcam is Watching

Your Webcam is Watching

We bought a webcam years ago so we could see our daughter when she lived in Toronto. Of course at that time we were on dial up so it was like watching one of the mechanical robots in slow motion, but it was comforting to be able to actually see how she was doing and watch the antics of her “furkid” Bram.

As time and technology advance rapidly, we’ve now got ourselves a small computer called ASUS. It is a perfect travelling companion as it is compact, only about 7 1/2”, runs on XP and weighs less than 2 pounds. It doesn’t have a DVD but it does have 3 USB ports and a webcam. And before we left Canada, our friends Ralph and Lynn introduced us to Skype for a very cheap way to stay in touch with friends and family. So with our tiny laptop, webcam and newly downloaded skype program we were ready to stay in touch while on the road.

After a couple of weeks on the road, I called my Mom. She doesn’t have Skype so I phoned from the computer to her telephone. I had just finished a nice long hot soak in the tub to help fight off the start of a cold before I called. When I got out, I put on a housecoat but found the heavy terry to be really hot so I slipped out of the top. I chatted with my mom with the robe around my waist. I had just hung up from mom when a call came in from Ralph and Lynn which I immediately answered. I could see them on my computer and immediately hit video on so we could chat while seeing each other…………. Rick calmly asked who I was talking to then started laughing. It was at that point I realized what I had done! I was sitting in front of the webcam chatting away topless without even realizing it!

I believe my one saving grace was the slant of the computer screen was such that not all of me was visible. I quickly ducked down and put the housecoat back on, but I was caught and knew it. By the time I was covered the three of them were enjoying a huge laugh over the ordeal.

I asked that we keep this quiet and the comment I heard was “not a chance in hell” so I decided to share my experience with you in hopes that you will have a good laugh! I’ve sent Julie some pictures and another post about our travels which I am sure she will post soon!

I’m not offering any shows, but if you want to say hello while we’re on the road our Skype is: rickbroad

In September of 2003 Rick and I ventured to Europe with Trafalgar Tours. It was one of those “if it is Tuesday this must be Belgium, or is it Switzerland? or Italy?” – a 21 day ten country tour on a coach complete with our excellent Latvian driver Ivar and our experienced and very knowledgeable guide Jeff. Ivar spoke very little English and Jeff spoke very little, if any Latvian, although he was fluent in English, German, French, Italian, Spanish, Austrian, Dutch and was learning a couple of others.

I think when we go on guided trips or cruises where we are with people you don’t know, you wonder what the dynamics of the group will be like. Will there be those that are chronically late and holding up the rest of the group while others have been waiting anxiously twenty minutes ahead of time? Will personalities clash or will it be enjoyable for everyone? This trip was our first experience on a guided tour and it was absolutely the best group we could have ever imagined.

We were very fortunate to have a small group of only fifteen on a fifty passenger bus. Other than two teachers from Texas who were taking the trip to celebrate their retirement, our other eleven travelers were from down under and mostly much younger (yes Maria I put you in with the younger crowd!). We were an interesting group ranging from 20 to 60, quiet, reserved and from different walks of life, but we seemed to immediately start looking out for each other and building a bond that remains today.

This past weekend two of those friends came to visit us from the Lone Star state of Texas. Salt Spring was their appetizer before their cruise on the Sapphire Princess to Alaska! I didn’t remember the Texas Twang from our trip, maybe it was lost with the Australian lingo, which I think we all unintentionally mimicked after twent-one days. We managed to converse without difficulty, and we did have fun with the pronunciation of several words between the four of us. We toured the island, visited a few galleries and shops in Ganges, lunched by the water at Auntie Pesto’s and had dinner at the Seaside Restaurant in Vesuvius, then headed back to watch the sunset. A great day catching up with friends.

They wanted to know why we were a four and a half star Canada Select property so we explained the standards and told them we why were happy with our rating. Before they left we were presented with another star. They said in their minds we are a five and a half star. Great fun!

We wish they could have stayed longer but we were so happy they could come by for a short visit.

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