Thursday, December 12, 2019

Victoria to Begin the Holidays

Victoria Parliament Building Decked Out for the Holidays

Holiday Harbour Lights

For the past three years we’ve gone to Victoria, BC, around the beginning of December as a way of celebrating our anniversary (Nov. 23) and getting a good start on the Christmas season. This year we added visiting with our good friends, Nick and Kathryn Delany, 
Kathryn and Anne in a small gallery in Sidney with Kathryn's art on the wall.

who have recently moved to a beautiful home in a development at Brentwood Bay near Butchart Gardens. 
View from the Delany's front window.

This year’s plan was to stay two nights with the Delanys after taking an early ferry from Port Angeles, then moving to our timeshare at Worldmark Victoria on the harbour and near town. 
Worldmark Victoria

The view of Fisherman's Wharf from our Worldmark balcony.

The Delanys, both outstanding photographers, planned a day of photo touring around their area as well as some outstanding meal, including rack of lamb for an American Thanksgiving in Canada. When in Victoria we planned some touring, some dining at our favorite spots, and lots of shopping.
Rather than a chronological narrative for this post, I thought I’d present the trip in topical fashion: food, photo touring, shopping, and…

We’re Lucky We Didn’t Gain a Bunch

We always eat well on our trips and this trip was no exception. Good meals started in Port Angeles our first night of the trip. We decided to try something different and we’d seen good reviews for Coyote BBQ Pub near the ferry terminal.

The restaurant is owned by the same people as Kokopelli Cafe, always a top rated restaurant in Port Angeles. Coyote BBQ was more cafe-style than a pub but the brisket sandwich was wonderful with a nice choice of house-made BBQ sauces. Our trip was off to a good beginning. I’ve mentioned the great meals we had at the Delanys, but they also took us to a fun find for lunch. Between photo stops we lunched at the Italian Kitchen at Grove Hall Farm in Duncan. Besides a specialty Italian market, the Kitchen serves delicious pizza and other Italian delights.  Another market to mention is in James Bay (one of the “neighborhoods” of Victoria). James Bay Thrifty is an upscale neighborhood grocery always crowded with locals and tourists (especially timeshare holidayers). Its butcher shop is superior—we stock up on the double-smoked bacon so we can bring a few pounds home—
Anne shopping for produce at James Bay Thrifty.

and the bakery and produce sections are both top notch. Even with the great food from Thrifty we still went out to the Beagle Pub in the Cook Street neighborhood. We've been to the Beagle several times before and know it has an interesting menu and serves good portions—it was a bonus that we could gets halves of cider instead of drinks too big for us weaklings.

We mostly ate bacon and sausage from Thrifty for breakfast, but we did go out once. Jam Cafe near Victoria’s Chinatown is a cafe not to miss. Funky atmosphere, good service, and a wild menu make this spot uber popular—check out the menu at
Funky JAM Cafe

One last lunch needs to be mentioned. We met Nick and Katheryn again in our stay for a trip to Afternoon Tea at White Heather Tearoom in the Oak Bay Area.  The tearoom is quaint and nicely decorated with tea pots and cups. The Christmas Wee Bite is quite a spread. First, we needed to select our tea from about 25 choices—I had Mountain Berry. Next we had a three tiered (course) lunch brought to the table—scones, sandwiches, sweets. 
Afternoon Tea at White Heather Tearoom

The egg salad sandwiches on the second tier we the best, although everything was good.

It was more than any of us could eat, so much of the sweets tray was sent home with us.  At White Heather the Tea wasn’t as fancy a lunch as we’ve had at The Empress Hotel in downtown, but the food was as good, as plentiful, and half the price. We’ve been three times and they remembered us. Check them out at

A Photo Tour of Victoria

Nick and Kathryn took us to two special photo stops in their area of the island. First, we drove to Goldstream Provincial Park—a large park on the west side of the island (16 km from downtown) with hiking trails, waterfalls, trees (mostly fir and red cedar), birds, and fish. The stream has a noted annual salmon run which attracts gulls and eagles which attract crowds of tourists. We were about a week late to see the eagles dining on the salmon, 

but it was both fascinating and gruesome to watch the gulls attack the dead fish. Along one of the trails and again near the entrance of the park we did get views of eagles in the trees,

but sadly no closeups.
About 40 km from Goldstream Park we did get up close and personal with mighty birds at The Raptors in Duncan. This is a sanctuary raising raptors in captivity and caring for the recovery of injured birds. 

Raptors such as bald eagles, hawks, falcons, vultures, and owls are available for viewing on perches and in cages. Daily at 1:30 there is a flying demonstration designed both as informative and a photo op. 

The eagle has landed...on her arm.

Nick, Kathryn and I (as well as a couple of other photographers) had a great time trying  to photograph the beautiful birds in flight with our big lenses, while other audience had Bald Eagles, Harris Hawks, Great Horned Owls, Black Vultures, and Blue Falcons flying right over their heads. 

The staff control the flight of the birds most of the time—the owl went off script when it saw a bunny run from one bush to another. The owl went for the extra meal and the bunny barely escaped—a real wildlife moment. You can find out more about The Raptors at
Later in the week Anne and I visited Fort Rodd & Fisgard Lighthouse in Colwood, north of downtown. The fort is a 19th century artillery fort where we could walk among the the buildings, but they are only open for display on the weekends during off season. 
Fisgard Lighthouse from the fort.

Next to the fort is the 1860 built Fisgard Lighthouse. It’s available for viewing, but also is only open on weekends. The lighthouse was automated in 1929 and has a lovely location on an island connected to land by a walkable causeway. The light sits at the entrance of Esquimalt harbour  
A real Canadian Goose in Canada.

Our last photo tour was of the Royal BC Museum next to Parliament in Victoria. The museum hosted a special Maya Exhibit and Nick and Kathryn drove up to meet us there before Afternoon Tea. 

Portions of Mayan texts.

The Maya exhibit was interesting, but there was almost too much information to take in on one visit. 
Mask in the First People's exhibit.

Though, it was fun to photograph both it and the museum’s First Peoples exhibit.

A Grand Place for Christmas Shopping

Anne and I love shopping in Victoria, especially around Christmas time. The downtown stores are interesting and festive and we have fun finding Christmas presents for each other. 
Ann trying on a hat in the Irish Shop. She got this one for Christmas.

This year we each got hats from the Irish shop, Anne found earrings in couple of places, 
Downtown Victoria window display.

Victoria Street Artist

I got a great deal on a photo book, and we both got special Lamy rollerball pens.  We also enjoy wandering the shops in the neighborhood such as Cook Street Village and Oak Bay Street. 
Latte and pasty at Demitasse Cafe in Oak Bay neighborhood.

Oh Dear Me! Those deer aren't statues.

Wild meat sticks in a local butcher shop. All we had were delicious, though the crocodile had quite a bite.

In fact, while shopping in the James Bay neighborhood I saw an ad for a concert on Sunday afternoon at the Oak Bay United Church. It turned out that the 3:00 concert called “Gathered by the Fire—Ancient Music Celebrating Yule” featuring the Banquo Folk Ensemble was one of the highlights of our week. 

The group, formed in 1998, consists of five members who sing and play early instruments including recorders, guitars, hardy gurdies, citterns, bag pipes, and a variety of percussives (if that’s a word). The small church was a perfect  venue for the group and sound was glorious.
The Finest at Sea food cart near Fisherman's Wharf serves great fish tacos.

The entire trip was enjoyable as usual. We were blessed with good friends, good food,  decent weather, and a smattering of good photos.


NEXT: I’ll be working to find interesting photos and topics for the 165th post to this blog which will begin its 7th year of publishing.

Saturday, November 2, 2019

A Literary Adventure

     For this post I went to some classic literature,,,my books. I selected something (or a couple of items) from four of the five books we are currently selling on Amazon. From the Scotland in Black and White: 90 Photos I included the photos that went with text. For the text from the other books I selected photos that relate in some way but which aren’t necessarily in that book. 

     Warning—here comes the crass commercial announcement: All the books are available from me or can be ordered from Amazon.

From Scotland in Black and White: 90 Photos

(7) The Three Fishermen of Cromarty

Commercial fishing has been a major industry in Scotland for hundreds of years. Although Scotland only holds a little over eight percent of the UK’s population, it lands 60% of the total commercial fish catch. In recent times fishing restrictions by the European Union have affected all EU fishing fleets, but Scotland has been severely hit in the cod, haddock, and whiting boats. Demersal fleets (cod, haddock) have declined from 800 vessels to just over 400. The nephrons fleet (Scampi or langostines) is building slightly. The pelagic sector (herring) has almost been completely terminated. Fraserburgh and Peterhead on the North Sea coast, once prominent fishing towns, are now depressed villages with rows of closed shops and half empty harbours.
At Cromarty in the far north at the edge of the Cromarty Firth we saw these three fishermen whose body postures tell the story of the local commercial fishing industry.
[Nikon D5500, Sigma 18-300mm, 1/400, f/9, ISO 640]

(27) Glen Lyon

An Crom Ghlearn (the bent glen or Glen Lyon) is the longest enclosed glen in Scotland, running from Fortingall to Loch Lyon, a distance of 34 miles. It’s been home to MacGregors, Lyons, Menzies, Stewarts, Macnaughtons, MacGibbons, and Campbells. As this photo shows, Glen Lyon is the quintessential example of a Scottish “small road.” The events of the following poem didn’t happen in Glen Lyon, but well could have.

One More Story by Bob Jones

Ben Nevis shimmers in the distant mist
as we wind our way through lands
which both starved and called 
to our ancestors.
Stone fences,
built of rock
pulled from the land
and mortared by the sweat
of fathers, mothers, children,
separate field from field
and farm from farm.
Roofless crofts stare
down weathered roads,
pitted and buckled.
The highland tour bus, 
filled with glaring travelers, 
clips the mirror of our rental.
It’s only one more story
we can tell
about the broken mirror
in a land long on reflection.

[Nikon D600, Nikon 28-300mm at 42mm, 1/100, f/5, ISO 400]

from Sixteen Years off Travel in Scotland, Ireland, England, and Wales

Scottish Pounds--Not in England 
     Ireland uses the euro for its economy, but Great Britain has remained true to the Pound Sterling. It might have something to do with a rebellion against the European Union, or perhaps the fact that the British couldn’t put the Queen’s image on a euro note or coin. Regardless, when we travel in the UK (England, Scotland, Wales, and Northern Ireland) we use the Pound Sterling. At least that’s how the system is supposed to work.
The Cotswald Cheese Shop

A Typical Scene in Central England

A Place to Spend Pounds--English or Scottish.

     During the summer of 2010 Anne traveled to Scotland to meet up with our Scottish family and then the girls (Anne, Jacky, Ailsa, and Paulette) got the train to spend a long weekend in London. Talk about your JetSet crowd. In Scotland Anne hit an ATM and drew out some Pounds for the trip. In London, though, she found that many of the businesses refused to take her Pounds because they had been issued by the Royal Bank of Scotland. In the UK monetary system each bank will issue their own paper money; it’s all Pounds Sterling, but would be issued by RBS, Clydebank, Barclays, or others. Businesses would look at the Royal Bank issued notes and say, “That's Scottish money, we want English money.”  It’s all the same money: Pounds Sterling!

The Lovely Architecture of Stratford upon Avon

     When in the fall we visited Wales, a pub in Caernarfon refused to take my £20 bill because, as the barkeep said, “That’s Scottish funny-money and we don’t take it.” I scrounged in my change to find coins enough to pay for our two halves of Guinness. Our B&B gave us the strategy to use when our Scottish Pounds were refused. It didn’t happen again until Anne and I were boarding a bus to go from Corsham to Bath in England. I handed the Scottish note to the bus driver and he said, “I’m sorry, we don’t accept foreign money.” I simply turned the bill over and pointed to the inscription which read, “Pounds Sterling.” He looked at that, turned the note over, and said, “That will be fine.”
A Unique House over Water in the Lake District 

     We now have the clue and traveling from Scotland to England has just gotten easier for us. 
     Futze - verb. Anne’s definition: to organize. Bob’s definition: to mess about with things or obsessively organize. Anne is a futzer (one who futzes).
With Robert Burns in the Birks of Aberfeldy...Burns was relatively quiet.

When we leave on a trip she must spend many hours futzing (organizing) all the items we’re taking in the car. For example, water bottles have to fit under her seat, books under mine, spare bags (the main tool of a futzer) just so between the water and books, etc. There are some real advantages to being married to a world class (I don’t believe anyone else is even in her league) futzer. If I need a paper clip, Anne has them and knows where they are. If we have a leftover quarter of a sandwich, Anne has the proper sized baggy and knows where it is. If I need first aid cream Anne knows it’s still in the car in the first aid kit underneath books on the driver’s side back seat floor.

     There are also several disadvantages to having a world renown futzer in the family. At times on the golf course Anne will fall behind because she stopped to reorganize everything in her golf bag. Every morning when we leave to play a new golf course for our writing, we must carry out six or seven different bags full of items for that day--one of which is my camera case. The others are our traveling maps and papers, extra clothes for the day if we get too wet, enough snacks to feed a small third world country, and some mysterious bags that I dare not ask the contents.
At Old Moray GC

     The one major drawback to being the champion of futzing is that it’s a catastrophe if something is out of place. If Anne can’t find something, she will search and search until it either turns up or she remembers where she re-filed it in the last futz-a-rama. In one instance on Narin and Portnoo Golf Course in Ireland, as the rain started Anne began looking desperately in her golf bag, which she had re-futzed the night before, for her rain hat. By the time she found it most of the contents of her bag were scattered on the fairway and the rain had stopped.
Anne and her Scottish sister, Jacky Clifford at St Fillans GC.

For me, the disorganized, bumbling non-futzer, when I can’t find something, I either give up with a “It’ll turn up,” or more likely, I ask Anne; after all, she knows where everything is.
Hard to futzed very much on an Alaskan cruise.
     I’ve learned to live with and love having the Futzing Queen always around. I almost never go wanting because Anne has everything. Need a rubber band on the golf course? Anne will have several sizes in her golf bag. I don’t have to do the packing. Anne sends me away because she’d just have to repack what I did anyway. I am glad, though, there’s only one futzer in the family--can you imagine the fights with two futzers competing! 
Golf in Scotland:The Hidden Gems from the Introduction
Boat of Garden GC is one of our favorite heathland courses.

In Fort Augustus, Scotland, we stopped at the Tourist Information Bureau, the “I” of Scotland we term it, to make reservations for a few days ahead in yet another town.  The girl behind the desk knows just the place for us in Crieff.  “It’s the best place in all Perthshire,” she exclaims, “and it’s got the awards to show it.”  She lets us know it will take at least an hour to confirm our lodging and suggests a place we might want to “...have a wee bite of lunch.” Thanking her and wishing her luck at getting us a bed in the best of Perthshire, we take our leave and head for lunch in the direction she indicated.  Our first question after leaving the “I” is, “Perthshire?  What’s Perthshire?”  A quick stop at the car retrieves the map which shows Perthshire.  “Stirling to Perth and up towards the Highlands,” says Anne with a little authority, after all, she’s been map reader now for about 1500 miles.  We both hope the Tourist Bureau girl reserves it for us.
Tossing the map back into the car, we strike out on foot towards our lunch goal, a place called something like the Loch Inn.  Before we go half a block we make two discoveries.  First, a tour bus lets out in the parking lot in front of us.  Hordes of tourists--well, at least a dozen or two--hustle off the bus and rush over, cameras clicking and whirring, to a bridge ahead of us.  Second, we discover the reason for the shutter-bugging: the bridge crosses the Caledonian Lock.  As we work our way to the bridge, my camera clicking, we see several medium sized pleasure craft working their way along the lock.  
Typical Scottish Pub Scene, The Kinneuchar Inn

There across from us is our objective, the Lock Inn and Gilliegorm Restaurant.  The inn turns out to be a positively quaint pub with an enticing selection of single malt scotches, real ales on tap, interesting soup specials, and a friendly barkeep who allows me to shoot a couple of interior photos, including one of him wiping a glass.  Trite, maybe, but definitely quaint.

Royal Dornoch GC, a Top Ten in the World Course

If you look closely my ball is still in the bunker.

The walk back to the “I” to check on our Perthshire lodging yields a pair of surprises.  The first is just across the lock from our lunch pub.  A small museum dedicated to the Caledonian Locks provides insight into the history and significance of the system.  Even a ten minute stroll through the museum is enough to make us more appreciative of what we’ve been seeing.  The second event is one of those easily missed or overlooked happenings that enrich our lives if we let them.  As Anne and I approach the Tourist Bureau office, I spy a dog in a stone-fenced and iron-gated yard across the road.  Though I consider myself a “dog person” (having raised and raced Siberian Husky sled dogs for twelve years), what attracted my attention is the red ball in the mouth of the black and white Aussie standing at the gate.  As a pedestrian, probably from the tour bus, walks close to the gate the Aussie tips her head (so coyly I’m sure it is a she) and drops the ball so it bounces in front of the approaching person.  He looks first at the dog and then at the ball which has rolled in front of him.  He picks up the ball and throws it back over the gate and continues his walk.  The dog chases the ball, grabs it, mauls it a little, then scampers back to the gate, ball in mouth, to wait for the next walker who can be enticed into playing ball.  Clever, these Scottish Aussie dogs!
Old Moray GC and Lossiemouth Lighthouse

Back at the “I” the girl greeted us all smiles.  “I’ve got great news.  You’re booked into Merlindale in Crieff.  It was awarded Best B&B in Perthshire.”
This hour-and-a-half visit to Fort Augustus was so typical of our trips to Scotland over the past twelve years.  Surprise, discovery, friendliness, history, beauty, and more surprises.  As we immersed ourselves in the culture, Anne and I fell in love with Scotland.  Anne has Scottish and Irish ancestry and I have Welsh (and we both have a little English heritage which we don’t admit to when in Scotland, Ireland, or Wales).  Definitely in Scotland we both feel so comfortable, so at home, so connected.
One of our joys is meeting the golf club managers. in this case Andrew Shinny.

Nairn Dunbar GC

It was early in our first visit in September 2000 that we started to feel the connection.  We had just finished playing golf at West Linton GC, a lovely 1890 built track set in the middle of the Borders countryside, and were sitting in the Golden Arms Pub sipping a coke and sharing a bag of crisps (chips) with a golden retriever and a Heinz 57 pub mutt.  The piano next to us had a note on it which read: “I like to be played. Please feel free.”  We gave each other that look that after thirty-five years of marriage says, “You’re thinking the same thing, aren’t you.”  I said, “Wouldn’t it be fun to write about this...the golf...the pubs...the dogs?”  Anne replied, “You do the writing and I’ll help with the research.”
At Machrihaish Dunes GC the bunkers are so deep they check every night to make sure to feed anybody who didn't get out.

Anne is either a polar explorer or a caddie at Orkney GC.

From that kernel of an idea, and after several trips to Scotland with golf every chance we could, eating in pubs for most meals, this book was born.  Scotland’s Hidden Gems: Golf Courses and Pubs was researched by two newly retired teachers and golfing duffers making their first excursions in international travel.

Golfing Ireland: A Comprehensive Guide…A Great Day in Ireland

Icononic Irish Scene near Doolin

Our last breakfast at Rathmore House B&B in Killarney was just as good as our first—large portions, well prepared. Pat, our host, had time to visit with us this morning. It’s always a treat to get to talk with our Bed and Breakfast hosts about local attractions or issues of the day. The international perspective is quite enlightening. Having packed the car, we said our good-byes to Pat and Mary and headed for our golf for the day at Dooks Golf Club.
The route from Killarney to Dooks GC passes right by Killarney Golf and Fishing Club where we had played Mahoney’s Point course the day before. We stopped in at the pro shop to meet head pro, Tony Coveny, a member of the Senior European Tour, who hadn’t been in yesterday. Tony gave us a more personal history of the Killarney courses and some insights of life on tour. We broke off our visit sooner than we wanted in order to make our 10:00 tee time.
Dooks GC

Declan, the manager at Dooks

The drive from Killarney to Dooks took longer than I anticipated for a couple of reasons. First, it always seems to take longer to get where you’re going in Ireland—small roads, great scenery, farm implements on the roads. Second, we had to negotiate through an accident scene. A motorcyclist had collided with a car just minutes before we arrived. The Guardia were directing traffic around what we found later was a fatal accident. The accident reminded us that as foreigners (even though driving in the British Isles seems so natural now), we need to always drive cautiously, especially when the motorcyclists in Ireland and the United Kingdom tend to drive fast and wild. We did arrive at Dooks GC in a timely fashion, and after greeting Declan, the golf manager, made it to the first tee ten minutes ahead of our time. An American tour group (several fourballs) were waiting impatiently for us to tee off. As we teed up, they were loud, obnoxious, and made a couple of snide comments about having to follow a woman. I think that paying big money for a tour where every detail is arranged for you, leads some to act as if they own the course. Luckily, we both hit fine drives and none of the groups ever came close to catching us. We did see some of the Americans again as we helped them find the correct tee on one of the newly redesigned holes. Their attitude changed a little after we helped them and they found out we were writing about the course. One even ordered a copy of our Scotland book. The golf at Dooks was outstanding. A lovely course on a lovely day, and without wind. When the wind’s up, Dooks can play wildly tough.
Macroom GC

A Lovely Green at Cork GC

After our round we browsed the new golf shop (I browsed, Anne bought) and had a Guinness in the lovely lounge which we’d seen under construction last year. From Dooks we drove back through Kiloglin to pick up our route to one of our favorite Irish towns, Dingle. The drive on R561 along Castlemaine Harbour is spectacular in the sun, with grand vistas of the harbour, Inch Beach, and across Dingle Bay to the Kerry Peninsula. Anne and I stopped a couple of times for photos before the road turns a little inland near Anascaul.
Ceann Sibeal (Dingle) GC with the Three Sisters in the background.
     Arriving at Dingle starving, our first stop in town was to grab a small bite of lunch at a tearoom, followed by a Guinness ice cream cone. Okay, we tried it, and it isn’t a do-again flavor. Hunger slacked, we wandered from shop to shop, enjoying the pleasant day, watching locals and tourists, not shopping for anything in particular. We did visit a small deli next to the Old Smokehouse Restaurant for some flavorful Irish cheese we could have for lunches on the courses. By now it was 4 PM and time to check-in at our Dingle lodgings.
Connemara GC

     Milestone House B&B is about a mile west of town on the main tourist route around the Dingle Peninsula (R559). It’s hard to miss Milestone House because right in front is a 14-foot-tall 4,000-year-old standing stone (the milestone). Proprietor Barbara Carroll met us at the door with smiles and hugs—not everyone gets that reception, but this was our third visit—and an offer of tea and biscuits (cookies). In the guest lounge we visited with two young Americans from Los Angeles and Barbara until our friends, Scott and Jane, arrived. Several times we’ve arranged to meet friends at some point in a trip, and it has always worked out well. The six of us visited for a while as Barbara brought tea and biscuits for Scott and Jane. We decided to meet again in the lounge just before our dinner reservations in town. Scott and Jane headed to their room for a rest; they had driven in from Kilkenny. Anne went down to our room to do some futzing (a form of obsessive organizing). I walked down to the edge of Dingle Bay for photos.

I'm playing the funky little Achill Island GC, one of Ireland's best kept secrets.

Cruit Island GC in Co. Donegal is an absolutely gem of a 9-hole course.

The town was crowded with visitors taking advantage of a three-day holiday weekend, so we were thankful that Barbara had suggested making reservations ahead of our arrival for dinner at Out of the Blue, a fantastic seafood bistro across from Dingle Harbour. The four of us had to wait only a short while for our table in the cramped, busy restaurant. The wait was pleasant, but great smells were making us even more hungry. Scott and Jane were ending the second day of their trip and we were a week into ours with lots to share from all sides of our corner table. Our dinners were as fine as Anne and I had remembered from a previous visit; Anne had scallops and I had seafood chowder and mackerel salad. All our meals were so artistically presented that I took photos of each person and their plate. Other patrons must have thought we’d never seen high class dinners before.
Enniscrone GC

By the time we finished our repast the evening pub crawl had begun. With more than a dozen interesting pubs in the small Dingle shopping area, the town is built for a pub crawl. We started by listening to a session at O’Flaherty’s, then moved to John Benny’s, and ended with a stop at Cronan’s, one of three special pubs in town which are shops by day and pubs at night. For many, a pint or two at each pub is the order of the day, but for those of us light drinkers, a half Guinness can be nursed a long time. That’s one of the lovely features of most Irish pubs, nobody pushes you to buy more drinks. A lively session at O’Flaherty’s, poor seats at John Benny’s, and crowds at Cronan’s left us ready to return to Milestone House.
Some of the greens are very small in Ireland.

As we walked from the top of town down to the car at the harbour we made our plans for touring together tomorrow. Anne and I enjoy touring alone, but we also enjoy sharing our travels with good friends.

NEXT: Stories and Photos from Victoria, BC