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Colour shock

By February 26, 2015 Life, Travel

I flew to the tropics when the ground was frozen and the schedule wasn’t. If there was poetry to be found in winter, my ankle wasn’t finding it, healing from a fracture last fall.  Colour me snow happy when I can ski and skate. I’m not one of those who glom on to the winter hysteria either. It’s CANADA. We’re supposed to be cold. Yet, stuck inside to stare out at a relentless white, the mood withers. Snow isn’t the only thing that drifts.

Turns out I needed only a new palette and a punch, straw being optional.

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Bring along my favourite crew and….

She’s back!

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Travel the world and still, find spots stained forever in your heart. We tumbled onto St. Lucia as newlyweds and behaved in unoriginal fashion.

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Rainforest showers were brief, tropical backdrop resplendent.

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A minute later, we were back with kids and memories.

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There’s been jaunts since, here and there, north and south, east and west-the world’s wonders are endless-but we knew we’d be back. You can’t say goodbye to old friends. You just plan for the next time.

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St. Lucia is best seen from the water where the stunning coastline stretches for miles.

 

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Or venture into the rainforest to spot native fruit trees of mango, banana, papaya, coconut, avocado, starfruit, soursop and hog plum. Flowering shrubs of hibiscus, bougainvillea, oleander that I long to grow inside back home but houseplants are for attentive lovers-I’ve only got eyes for the outdoors and my houseplants know it and behave accordingly with a big middle finger.

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Friends who ski on their school breaks wonder what on earth do you do all day? I will concede there’s glory in family ski holidays too—my knees still remember—but sunshine restores my merry tribe to their best selves.

Or maybe it’s just as simple as a passionfruit mojito.

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We need to quench ourselves in colour and wobble up and down in the warmth of the sea. A breeze floats by and with it, winter, wrinkles and worries.

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I hoard moments in my beach bag, guarding time with these young adults that still like beads in their hair.

Can we read in the bed with you?  Will you come swimming with me?  

 

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Just ordinary miracles, ordinary miracles
But all the same they’re miracles to me
The days that I’ll remember well
Have a simple kind of wonderful of ordinary miracles

Amy Sky

 

 

Tomorrow…a tropical dessert for those who can’t fly south but need to feel as if they did.

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Whale breath

By February 5, 2015 Travel

Winter snow, winter blue sky, winter dreams.

A recent video sparked this return trip, in my head anyway, to another blue sky on an eastern high point.

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Seeing a whale spout on the ocean from a nearby boat easily counts as a great thrill in my life. We were in the Bay of Fundy, sailing out from New Brunswick’s Grand Manan Island. As family travel goes, it was as good as it gets.

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Our sailboat slowed down,  fellow sailors stopped talking. Seeing these great creatures in their natural environment will silence most, as I wrote in my poetry collection Holding Glass. 

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Easy to see then why this video stood out among a rash of orca spotting videos online. We didn’t see orcas nor were we as close as Laguna Beach paddle boarder Rich German. He encountered five orcas off the California coast recently and shot this beautifully serene video. What rings true is the quiet. It made me remember the magic.

 

 

An excerpt from Whale Breath

 

Motor off, we turn

knuckles tingling

waiting.

“There!”

A shout upfront.

We peer, cheeks raw

eyes squinting from the Fundy glare.

Suddenly a belly,

beyond the bow.

Storm blue,

great heart beating,

flashing us

through wave curtains.

I feel a squeeze.

In my palm, my daughter’s hand

feels smaller, pulsing.

We are soon surrounded,

ensconced in a great mammal ring.

I sense the graceful rumbles

under our rolling feet

and strain to see a whole

but catch mere parts.

A fin spray tantalizing close

grey streaked belly heave,

wet shiny wonders.

I lean back against the stern,

listening for the low hollow rasp

of a whale’s breath.

It is a sound from a child’s toy

a long plastic tube once blown

emits the same strange serenade

out here as we rock in the radiant blue.

We hear it again, again, again

amidst the splash and whip

of our humble boat.

The pod leave us.

adrift, savouring.

 

From Holding Glass, 2001

Copyright© Anne Langford

 

For more on family travel possibilities to this great Canadian island of puffins and the best homemade bread in the country, read here. Happy dreaming.

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Coffee break

By October 14, 2014 Travel

If Monday is get up off it ( the tush) and on it (the work) day, then allow me a brief meander on Tuesday.

My map has more pins on it than ever: Places I want to see.  Maybe it’s inverted from Places I’ve been but reminding myself of the world at my door is either masochistic or motivational, depending on coffee intake.

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Successful or not, I’ll admit it: This clever and collaborative travel campaign has me that much closer to another land of ice and snow.

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Earlier this year, Inspired by Iceland invited fans through Facebook to create a map of Iceland’s secret spots for the winner of the World’s Most Intrepid Tourist.

Here’s the result:

 

I know. Vistas of cold. Do we not have enough of these here?

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The cold there just looks better.

 

 

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School prep: riding the big one

By September 2, 2014 Travel

It’s over.

Best evidence of summer’s end is when somebody other than me in this household decides to clean out our kitchen command centre junk drawer (thanks honey) to line up the pencils.

I’m not quite ready but will be soon.

Who is?

Maybe the school kids itching to get on with it, to see who is taller, rounder, leaner, bolder… Me? I’ll be ready in a day or two, after I reset the frame, currently set at sky blue, thanks to our tenth visit to Prince Edward Island.

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Travel lust

By May 16, 2014 Travel

My vacation photo slideshows just got old fast.

 

 

Where are you going next?

 

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Take me back

By March 16, 2014 Travel

What are you doing this weekend?

We’re headed downtown tomorrow for the Toronto St. Patrick’s Day Parade.

The roots are green in my tribe so no surprise I wanted to go and sink my boots into that magical place. Three years ago, we fell hard for Ireland and have been planning a return visit ever since.

 

Look for us at the parade. We’ll be the ones in the goofy hats. Fat chance of finding us.

For more on our Irish trip, you may enjoy December Blues and Unthawing your frozen heart

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NYC Theatre Blitz

By January 28, 2014 Performance, Travel

I like the hit big cities deliver, each with their own energy and colour palette. If Toronto is still trying to figure out what colour it is, as it sinks lower in the wide chasm of Rob Ford vs The Elites, NYC presents a crimson sash that grips me by the collar every visit.
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Glory days

By September 21, 2013 Travel

I know you. I see you pining away over your flip flops, toes now shunning anything but socks; suntan on permanent fade.

You summer babies beginning the long huddle on the couch just about now: go ahead and whine about the cold coming.

This is my season, the season of chilly mornings that clear my fog and forests heated with their own colours.

I’m headed to Algonquin to this place:

Voyageur Quest

How fast can I fly there?*

I’m there to soak in the reds (foliage, bottles,) and see what’s cooking in the Voyageur Quest log cabin.

I might run into some trippers and just maybe, hitch a ride.

For other ideas on where to see the colour best this fall, see
Where to Watch Fall Foliage Change Colour

* See Take me up with you!

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Take me up with you!

By September 20, 2013 Travel

Would you rather be a fly on the wall anywhere you want?

OR

Be able to fly?

Easy answer, in this age old road trip/canoe trip/bed time ritual game, “What kind of superhero skill do you wish you had?”

Flight.

Fly baby fly.

My favourite ride at Disneyworld was Soarin’, an awesome flight simulator, the only ride that seemed devoid of vomit-inducing drops (left those for Daddy and girls) therefore safe for this wonky stomach. Tinkerbell did her magic and I went home, ravin’ about Soarin’. 

I guess the next step is to take up paragliding… or stay home and watch this video shot on a GoPro camera.
It’s a beauty.

Have a great weekend. Hope you get to soar a little wherever you are.

How about a man who really can soar?

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Facing my fear at high altitude

By July 24, 2013 Travel

“Thousands of tired, nerve-shaken, over-civilized people are beginning to find out going to the mountains is going home; that wilderness is a necessity…”

John Muir

Not tired or nerve-shaken, but over civilized? Guilty and happily so, thanks to days traipsing through spectacular boulevards in Vienna and schnitzel in Salzburg. I won’t forget any time soon hearing my daughters sing for their last time as students together* in their school choir.

 

It was, after all, our incentive to go to Austria. We saw them perform and waved good bye as they continued on to Prague. Then we jumped in a rented convertible and headed south.

The approach into the Alps matches a list of other first impressions imprinted forever in my mental map: bumping between potholes through mango valleys in St. Lucia; driving in sleet through the hills of Connemara before the Irish mist cleared; sprinting from the car over the Prince Edward Island dunes to shout hello to a wild Atlantic; stopping for a minute, then an hour, then two, at Cathedral Grove to stare at trees en route to Tofino on Vancouver Island.

Driving into the valley that would be our last stop before flying home, the conversation broke off. It was enough just to ogle.

 

Deep in the woods, hiking one of a myriad of trails in Hohe Tauern  National Park, a thunderous waterfall almost drowned out the pounding in my chest. A steady ascent will do that to an infrequent hiker.

Around a twist in the path and we stood before a wide clearing, cool alpine air filling our lungs. The peaks were hidden but still, suddenly massive.

I began to make little deals with myself about leaving it all behind-the toxic soup of city summer weather, the clogged tedium of traffic, the colliding and shoving, the search for a parking spot, the punishing pulse of activity rushing forward.

It is an ancient reckoning: small as we are in these valleys between high mounds of rock, we bump up against ourselves. I am home in these parts unknown.

I had my love to keep me moving and we were the last people on earth. Is there anything better than this?

Well, yes, in fact, there was an alpine hut waiting, with cold beer, wild blueberries and fish almost as blue. A note of caution when ordering poached or “blue” fish from the menu, it is in fact, just that: blue.

The alfresco meal gave us momentum to push on, for the next, slightly steeper ascent, strewn with twigs and other hazards to trip you up, should you falter, you in your Birkenstocks. Hiking boots would have tipped the weight balance of my suitcase, so there! The end of the path is the beginning of another long ascent, to a higher peak where a lake shimmers. Alas, we turned back, time waning and knees whining, but were rewarded with a view that kept us company all the way down.

We had been gone for hours. If I had a little skip in my step, it may have been the anticipated swim in our inn.

Gruner Baum hotel Hoteldorf in Badgastein

Although most come to the Gastein valley to ski, it is known across Europe as a health resort town, due to thermal spring waters.

We loved to end the day in the healing pools.

That and glass of wine, and I might never have come home.

I will take up picnics to workers in the hills, I thought, and hand out beer between hikes.  Braid my hair and wear dirndls, plunging neckline and all.

But there was one last adventure. To do it, I had to stare down a phobia. I didn’t know I had any until I slid into forty. Spiders and snakes? I went to summer camp. Podiums before a crowd? I am the middle of five and was encouraged to speak up. Heights? The higher the better. But… I won’t peer over the cliff. There it is. I love being on top of a ski hill but don’t have me ride shotgun, cliffside, on car routes that lead to magical spots. Just beam me up, Scotty.

There is evidence somewhere in our home movie tapes of me panting and emitting tiny shrieks. Shut off your dirty minds, naughty readers, I was in jeep, racing to Myrtos beach, known as one of the most spectacular on the planet, high praise in Greece where there are pretty beaches everywhere.

Myrtos Beach, Kefalonia island, Greece and yes, the water is really that colour.

To get there, drivers must negotiate steep hillsides and “you’re kidding me-we’re driving that?” roads.  Along the route are little shrines to remind drivers of all those who took the turns to a tragic end. With shaky hands, I handed the video to my kids in the backseat and gripped the seat in a cold sweat. We made it but it was only floating in the stunning water that brought my breathing back to normal. Four years later, I am in a convertible, on a much, much, higher trek, on the Grossglockner High Alpine Road.

Note the tight grip on my bottle and no, it is not vodka.


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The road winds through meadows and ice to the highest mountain in Austria, the Grossglockner (3,798 m) and its glacier, thePasterze. Hugging cliffs, our car began the climb as I cursed myself and my stupid ideas. Yes, it was my idea and the Friendly Greek jumped on it. His idea of a great date once was to drive me from Toronto to the Big Apple on the 401 for a piece of apple pie. This is a man who loves to drive (and eat pie).

I was making deals again. Forget Bush Woman and giving up my backyard BBQ bashes, pedicures and TIFF.  How about trying not shout more than half a dozen times, “Slow down!” so that he didn’t drive off the road. Somewhere between a gasp and a tremble, I began to sink back in my seat and take it all in. We were travelling through a tunnel, snail’s speed, built through the mountain, and as we came out into the light, I sat on my fear. If I was going to die, this was the place. It would be a sensational dive. There would be a crowd to witness my scream. I’d have that chance finally to yodel as I went down.

Joining us on the road were tour buses, a parade of Porsches, packs of motorcycles, cyclists, all of us, tiny dots moving in circles, round and round the mountain, the car temperature gauge slowly dropping. We stopped for a picnic and I gulped down the mineral water. It was heaven.

48 kilometres. 36 heart stopping bends. Altitude 2,504 metres. All of it spectacular.

The best kind of holidays leave you wanting to return.
I want to shout from the cliffs,

” BRING IT ON, BABY”.

You have to stomp on your fear.

Life is out there waiting.

Auf Wiedersehen, Austria.
For other posts from my Austrian Adventure, see:

* My oldest was on her last trip with the choir as she graduated in June. To hear how we celebrated, read here.

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