Sunday, 27 July 2014

A birth, a wedding, and a gargoyle

The Captain and I have been on the move over the last two weeks.  Diva is safe in the harbour in the Caribbean, but we have been on planes, trains, subways, buses and cars. We've visited family and old friends, and made some new ones along the way, like this friendly looking creature.

She lives on the Arc de Triomphe in Barcelona, Spain.
One of the important stops was in Cardiff, Wales, where the Captain met his new granddaughter for the first time. As you'd expect, Mom and Dad look tired but very happy, and the little one is off to an excellent start with ten perfect little fingers and ten perfect little toes and bright blue eyes.

The Captain meets Verity Scarlett Bella. 
We spent a few nights in Flackwell Heath (where the Captain spent his early years), to celebrate the wedding of Adam and Mandy. They own a great pub in the village where the reception was held and it went on and on and on, with plenty of drinks, food and even dancing.

The atmosphere at the wedding was thick with well wishes and joy for these two.
We got a lift from the ceremony to the reception in the back seat of an Alpha Romeo.
 Apparently it was the first time that four adults had ever been in this car at once.
Because we were already across the pond, darlings, we just HAD to spend a week in Spain, of course. Actually it was cheaper to spend a week in Barcelona than in London, and we ate well to boot.

Fountains in the Placa Catalunya.  It was hot in the city, so catching some spray from the fountains was a good way to cool down.
The city was full of architectural gems, so many doorways and courtyards lead to even more interesting things to look at.
La Sagrada Familia, a cathedral that has been under construction for over a 100 years and it is still not finished.
 Antoni Gaudi's masterpiece.
We met up with fellow Jamaicans-by-choice and they introduced us to Spaniards-by-choice, who took us to a corner of the city where tourists never go.  After having been to the cathedral where tourists covered the entire block, half of it just people standing in line to get in, we were even more appreciative to hang out with the locals.

L-R, Nick, Marta, Georgina and the Captain.
The cedars on top of Montjuic were cooler than the city centre and smelled good too!
View over Barcelona commercial harbour.
One evening, a chance glance at my facebook feed lead to a lovely night out with Jayne Davidson, who we met in the islands of the San Blas, Panama.

"Look who we found!"
The National Art Museum of Catalunya, also home to the Magic Fountain, which was one of the highlights of the trip so far.

As usual, we ate well.  We toured the market on Las Ramblas, which had a gorgeous array of fresh and prepared produce, including things like whole skinned rabbits and sheeps' heads!

Delicacies at the market place cafe.
I stuck my toes in the Mediterranean Sea for the first time - much colder than I'm used too!
The Abandon Ship Tour continues in England for a few more weeks, fingers crossed that our luck with sunny weather holds!

Wednesday, 9 July 2014


Today was a sunny day, warm and relaxing.  And it must be a good day - look what we found!

And by "we", I actually mean Barbara, the Captain's sister.
This is the real deal, there is no photoshop or clever leaf arranging.  It looks a bit flat because it was being pressed to save, and I interrupted that for the photo.  I don't think I've seen a real four leaf clover before, must be one of the perks of being in England.

And on that note, let me tell you about some of the other British delights we've been enjoying. Aside from the hospitality of both the Captain's sisters, we've had proper pub food, roast beef with horse radish, rhubarb and ginger jam, blackberry and apple crumble, plus lovely paté and cheeses.  Enough on the food, I'm making myself hungry again.  (But there have been mushrooms, loads of mushrooms.)

When we're not eating, we have been playing tourist, but only on the sunny days.  We went to Little Moreton Hall, and all learned new things about Tudor England. 

For instance, in timber frame houses with wood floors they gave the second level floors a coating to protect them from going up in flames if sparks flew out of the fireplaces, which happened with some regularity.  So this all sounds logical and normal, but did you know that the coating, which looks a bit like cement, was made up of lime, gravel, ground up pottery shards and egg whites to bind it together? Apparently, it lasts for 500 years!  The guide told us that Tudor recipes often only used egg yolks, but they didn't know whether that was because the construction men got the whites first, or the construction men got the whites because no one wanted to cook with them.  I suspect the first one. 

This room has the egg white floor.

Inside Little Moreton Hall, everything was a bit wobbly - which do you think was level, the timber or the brick? 

We also had a lovely wander down part of the Grand Union Canal, contemplating the possibility of trading in a sailboat for a narrowboat, (not likely this week, but fun to imagine.)

Canal pub - yes, we've visited pubs, but not exactly this one.

There are a whole pile of locks on this canal, we walked past 7 of them in only a couple of miles.  They are all hand operated. I think this boat was coming up the locks.

This family of swans swam towards us, very used to handouts from people.
As you can see, all is well and we are enjoying English country life!

P.S. Erika, I ate a bacon sandwich yesterday and thought of you.

Wednesday, 2 July 2014

Gone and back again

You know how when you go away somewhere and then come back, it feels like nothing has changed - as if no time has passed at all?  And you know how sometimes during the time away you've totally changed inside, accentuating that feeling that nothing has changed in the place you've left?

This was my visit to Toronto in June.

(Except the coffee shops.  These seem to change every 6 months.  Found some new good ones though - check out ZeZe in Parkdale and Jimmy's Coffee in Kensington.)

The visit to Toronto was our first stop on the "Abandon Ship" Tour.  Four months off the boat and into the neighbourhoods (and spare bedrooms) of our loved ones.  Today I am feeling rested in a small village outside of Manchester, UK, in the home of one of the Captain's sisters. She took us today to see boats and water, one of our favourite things to do, and we took a boat tour up the Anderton Boat Lift. This is literally an elevator for boats from the river to the canal and vice versa. Very interesting, but we forgot to bring the camera and I meant to write this post about Toronto anyways.

In Toronto, both the Captain and I were overwhelmed by the shear numbers of people and buildings. We still saw occasional sunsets, including this one.

We also had many wonderful, fabulous, excellent meet-ups with friends, and this was one thing - I'm so glad to say - that didn't change at all. I still have awesome friends in Toronto.

L-R, The Captain, Crew and Nathan - enjoying ourselves, obviously.
We did manage to squeeze in several green space visits - we went down to the waterfront, through High Park, down Philosopher's Walk and a couple other nice places.  We ate lots of mushrooms, cheese and berries, and the Captain continued his quest for the perfect Canadian Ale.  We helped friends move, part of the regular karmic balancing necessary when you are a person who moves a lot yourself. And we did a bit of shopping, of course.  (Like someone got a snazzy new smartphone, yay!)

But I had to come to terms with the fact that I am no longer a 'Torontonian' myself, and not likely to become one anytime soon.  Sad, but okay.  Don't worry, I'll be back soon - like in August, and then again in October...

It just wouldn't be a post about Toronto without a picture like this one.