Sunday, December 29, 2019

Winter Weather ~ Coachella Valley ~ California

We have spent some time in the Coachella Valley, the home of Palm Springs, CA.  Although this is in the desert, which normally suggests hot weather, there can be a wide difference in the weather and temperatures.

Green grass of Coachella
We think of Palm Springs as blue sky, sunshine, lots of golf courses as well as many RV parks.  With given the choice of being here when we choose, the weather is usually very pleasant and it does mean we do not have to deal with the extreme heat of the summer.

The valley does get wind, which also means there are plenty of windmills in this area and for that reason, wind is very good.  Then on the other side of that coin, the wind can create some very strong sand storms, seen along the horizon of this photo.   We have also witnessed a haboob here, which is “a violent and oppressive wind blowing bringing sand from the desert”.

This quiet road is up in the San Bernadino National Forest where rain may only offer good things and not the threat of flooding.  Rain is also a welcome thing down in the valley for some but to most of the winter visitors, also known as ‘snowbirds’ it definitely may be an inconvenience.  Rain often causes flooding in some areas of the valley, which is then controlled by the ‘wash’, a canal design that controls the flashfloods, but other than interfering with some golf games, the flood does not stay for long.

The grey heron
This lonely heron has stopped on this pond which has overrun its’ edges.  Lucky for him, the fountain isn’t running and allows him to stand on it to get a good look as the pond looks different today.

Rainbows over Coachella
Rain can also offer rewards in the way of beautiful rainbows, like this one we witnessed.  The second rainbow is also there to help frame the view of the valley below.  

San Jacinto Mountains
First comes rain for the valley, then comes snow on those higher elevations.  Palm Springs is at the base of the San Jacinto Mountains and would feel the chill but can enjoy the views.  This amount of snow will not last too long but it does encourage some visitors to take the Palm Springs Aerial Tramway, the largest rotating tramway in the world, up the mountains so they can enjoy the snow even more near the top of the San Jacinto peak.

San Bernadino Mountains
Sand, sagebrush and creosote bush are all signs of a desert, and deserts can get very cold at times.  These mountains were the real draw during the big California Gold Rush days of 1860.  Development until that time had been very slow but since then, things changed.  By the early 20th century, recreational development began and resorts were built around reservoirs.  The nearby town is Desert Hot Springs, so named due to the natural hot springs which became a popular destination.

Hoodoos and mountains
The San Bernadino Mountains are home to the San Gregonio Mountain, which is the tallest of all in Southern California at 3,502m (11,489 ft).  These mountains are eleven million years old and still growing!  Or more technically speaking, ‘actively rising’ due to the San Andreas Fault, which is nearby.  This range gets a lot more precipitation than the surrounding desert therefore is the source for several local rivers.

Beautiful sunset

Who doesn’t enjoy a lovely sunset and this red sky suggests we can look forward to a great day tomorrow.  The old saying, “red sky at night is a sailor’s delight” can still be heard echoing through the valley.  The tiny white speck near the peak of the mountain on the far right is the Palm Springs tramway destination.  Imagine what that view would be!

Saturday, November 9, 2019

Victoria, BC ~ Royal Roads University ~ November Sights

An early November visit to Victoria, BC may offer a variety of weather and sights but we were able to enjoy some sunshine that offers the best of great fall colors among the many tree lined streets.  We did see some clouds but they didn’t stay long and views were spectacular.

Cedar Hill Links
The morning mist covers the nearby golf course giving a peaceful view.  The heron stands at the edge of the pond which allows a reflection of him on the rippled water.  Ducks and geese visit the course regularly, too.  Unobstructed morning sunrises are amazing.

My-Chosen Cafe
Our grandson chose a great place to enjoy lunch at.  My-Chosen CafĂ© has originality, an outdoor Critter Corner for the big and little ones to enjoy, a pizza place, a Sugar Shack for desserts and the best lunches we’d had in awhile.  It was very busy with great service, definitely a very popular spot for great reasons.

Hatley Castle
This is the Hatley Park National Historic Site.  It sits on the waterfront and is home to Royal Roads University, with this being their main campus in Colwood.   Previous to it becoming a public degree-granting university in 1995, it was the Royal Roads Military College since 1940 when it was commissioned to train reserve officers for WW2.  There is now a small Canadian Military Museum in the lower level of the Hatley Castle.

Royal Roads University
The Hatley Castle was originally built in 1908 for the wealthy James Dunsmuir who was the Premier of BC at that time.  Once he and his wife had passed away, the family sold this to the federal government in 1940 who planned it to be the home of the Royal Family when the war broke out.  The royal family didn’t make that move so it then became the Military College which Queen Elizabeth did visit in 1983.

Victoria wildlife
We did see quite a variety of wildlife while in Victoria.  The giant Mammoth with a young one is a driftwood sculpture by Alex Witcombe and sits on the Royal Beach Park.  The peacock was one of five who live at Royal Roads University.  This deer was one of many that we saw on our drives around the city.  They have a large population of deer here.  Deer can be seen near our home, too, but we sure don’t have any peacocks or mammoths.

Gonzales Observatory
The weather station was built in 1914 and was known as the Gonzales Observatory.  It recorded weather and took seismic and astronomical readings.  Environment Canada abandoned the building in 1989.  It was then purchased in 1992 and turned into a wilderness park that covers 1.75 hectares.  The views are great from up here.

Victoria International Marina
 A nice walk around the waterfront is a definite must when in Victoria.  Waterfront offers several large apartment buildings for residents to enjoy the unobstructed views from.   This marina is the first luxury built marina in Canada.  It offers “world class moorage, concierge service and superior amenities” for the wealthy to enjoy.  This is a quiet time of the year for boat trips but apparently they’re very busy in the summertime.

Seagull serenity
Victoria offers so many opportunities to sit by the water and enjoy the serenity it can offer.  There are miles of beaches, several rocky viewpoints, grassy parks and also paths that follow some of the bay’s waterfront to be walked, run or cycled.  

Ross Bay Graveyard

Victoria is rich in history, it is the second oldest city in Western Canada and became incorporated as a city in 1862.  Ross Bay Cemetery was opened in 1872 and is the oldest surviving formal landscape design in BC. This cemetery became the final resting place for many famous people, including Emily Carr, Billy Barker, Sir James Douglas who was the first governor in BC, as well as many premiers who followed him.

With only two days to spend in Victoria visiting wonderful friends and our incredible grandson, we were lucky to be able to see so many great sights that Victoria offers.  Not enough time to do it all but we sure enjoyed what we did see.  Until next time……..

Tuesday, October 8, 2019

Glasgow ~ Scotland ~ UK

Glasgow, Scotland, a city of industry and manufacturing has definitely changed over the years to become a much cleaner and attractive city.  There has been a lot of redevelopment in residential areas and an increase in the cultural activities.  Glasgow now attracts tourists successfully for their many events.

Streets of Glasgow
We walked among the 'pedestrian only' streets of their shopping area with so many similarities to home and many that were not.  It is always interesting to see the differences we don’t expect but enjoy seeing familiar as well.

Lots of Tartans
A good example of ‘different’ is the Tartan House.  We went inside and once we saw those beautiful authentic Scottish articles, decided to purchase some family plaids to gift.  There is no shortage of finding those here, we’d never find them at home.  

Accordian Busker
An unexpected sight was this senior lady playing the accordion on the street.  For one thing, the accordion isn’t often seen anymore let alone someone of her age busking. Buskers on our streets are usually younger and are singing and playing a guitar!

 University of Glasgow
The University of Glasgow was beginning a new season so there were many things happening involving the students celebrating the beginning of their year.  This university was founded in 1451 when the Pope gave permission for the university to be added to Glasgow Cathedral.  Through the next years, Glasgow became a very important academic and religious city so by the 17th century the university moved from the cathedral to its own building.  

City Arms
Throughout our tour of Glasgow, we saw several ‘signs’ which turned out to be a replica of the official coat of arms for Glasgow.  There were several variations but this design was granted a patent to the city. It represents “the Bird that never flew”, “the Tree that never grew”, the Fish that never swam” and “the Bell that never rang” that are shown on the original Coat of Arms.

Royal Exchange Square
This was what appeared to be a recent prank, a traffic cone placed on the head of the Equestrian Statue of the Duke of Wellington.  It turns out it was just that at one time but has remained there for three decades and shall remain.  The City Council tried to ban the cone in 2013 but received so many signatures in a petition against the ban which definitely shows the humor of the city, they decided to leave it.

George Square
Glasgow’s George Square has many interesting sculptures and monuments placed throughout the Square.  It is also home to many pigeons.  People gather here and some even spend time with the pigeons. These good samaritans were removing a thread caught on a pigeon’s leg.  The Cenataph was erected in 1922 to honor those who lost their lives in WW1.  This granite tower is almost 10 metres high.

Squinty Bridge over River Clyde
Known locally as the Squinty Bridge, the Clyde Arc opened in 2006 and is a very unusual sight.  We only saw it from the Hop On Hop Off bus so didn’t walk it but am told that it is an optical illusion when you do, it’s a curved design and crosses the River Clyde at an angle.  I wish we’d seen it lit up at night as that is when it is said to be a spectacular sight. 

Armadillo and Rotunda
The Rotunda was originally built to transport pedestrians, horses and carts, then later vehicles to the other side of the Clyde River. Built between 1890-1896, there were deep shafts that they would lower the traffic down to tunnels and haul them back up by hydraulic lifts on the other side, like an elevator. 

The building to the left is the Scottish Event Campus, SEC Armadillo, this was where Susan Boyle was discovered when she auditioned for Britain’s Got Talent.

The Griffin - Gin Palace

What better way to end a day of sightseeing in this great city than to visit the pub for a nice cold drink and a perfect dinner!  For gin lovers, they had a zillion choices of gin here, perfect for those who choose this as their drink of choice.

Join us for our day in Hamilton, Scotland.

Wednesday, October 2, 2019

Hamilton~South Lanarkshire~Scotland

Hamilton is a town in South Lanarkshire, Scotland and the birthplace of my paternal grandmother.  A special place in our family history and one I had hoped to visit one day.  That day had come.  We’d been in contact with cousins who lived in Scotland and arranged to meet them to show us around the town.  With my sister and our husbands, we flew from London to Glasgow to spend time with our cousins and to learn some family history.  

 Hamilton, Scotland
We stayed in a Glasgow hotel; Hamilton is situated 19 km (12 miles) away.  We took the train to Hamilton Central Station, which only takes about 20 minutes from Glasgow, a pleasant train ride.  The day was overcast but comfortable weather for our sightseeing plans.  

Downtown Hamilton sights
We arrived earlier than our planned meeting and wandered about the town, seeing the sights which would definitely have changed since my grandmother left here about 1905.  Most of her relatives remained in Scotland, only she with parents and siblings left for Canada then.

Great directions
The signs seen on our travels in the UK are interesting and this one measures the distance with walking minutes to the designation.  These aren’t something we’d see at home in our town.

David Livingstone Home
We meet with our cousins, Linda we’d met on a previous visit to England and Wendy and John were new acquaintances.  We then went to a local ice cream parlor they’d known for years and sat down for a visit and “get to know one another” time.  We couldn’t ask for a nicer welcome or better host/hostesses to join us on this visit.  I didn’t get a photo of the parlor but did get one of the sign next door that said “Dr. David Livingstone had lived here 1862 until his death in 1873”.  He was a missionary and explorer of Africa, a name most of us would be familiar with from high school history. 

We then went to the location of the “tenement building” that our grandmothers had lived in, a short distance away. The building would have had several entrances to the upper flats with stores on the ground floor.  The cousins’ grandmother also lived here and although the same building was no longer there, we knew it was a special place.  My sister and I could feel that, which was unexpected and amazing for me.  It was a thrill to be at this place where Grandma had once lived over 100 years ago.

Hamilton Mausoleum
Our next stop was at the grounds of the Hamilton Mausoleum.  This was once the location of the Hamilton Palace before it was demolished and sits on beautiful grasslands of the Hamilton Low Parks for the public to enjoy.  The Mausoleum was built as the resting place for the families of the Dukes of Hamilton.

Chatelherault Lodge
This lodge was “named after the Duke of Chatelherault, the title bestowed upon James Hamilton by Henry II of France in the 16th century.”  I don't have any French in me and it's even difficult for the Scottish to pronounce so I sure won’t tackle it. (:

Chatelherault museum
Inside the Lodge is a museum of the history as well as a souvenir shop so we had a nice look around to enjoy some of the history of the Hamilton family and the origins of the name of this town.   It was soon closing time and we had to leave.

Wall climbing exit
We’d all gone in two cars and we were with John who parked out front and we had no problem leaving the Lodge.  The others had parked out back and when we drove back there to meet them, they’d come outside from the Lodge to a closed gate!  The most chuckles we had all afternoon was getting them over the wall.


Cousins Linda, Wendy and John with my sister Jen (glasses) and I.  We had a wonderful visit with our lovely Scottish cousins, many thanks to them for sharing their time and this special visit with us.  Although this took place three years ago, (that’s hard to believe!), the memories are still vivid and we will hopefully have more visits in time to come.

Spend some time in Glasgow with us.

Sunday, July 28, 2019

Bluebell Steam Train Ride ~ Sussex ~ England

The Bluebell Train is one of largest tourist attractions in Sussex.  The railway is operated by “Bluebell Railway PLC” and through the Bluebell Railway Preservation Society, is majority owned by the volunteer membership, who also supply the labor necessary to keep the Bluebell running.  We may not have arrived early enough to see the beautiful fields of bluebells in the springtime in England but I can enjoy a ride on the Bluebell train.

Welcome to Sheffield Station
We chose to ride from Sheffield Park station for a return trip, which also offers adequate parking space, not always the case in other stations.  We parked and took the short walk to the rather grand looking entrance to the station, although the food adverts are slightly distracting! Lol

Stepney Special
Steamworks is the onsite museum that houses several steam engines and their history.  We had time before our train was to leave so we spent some time wandering about and learning some history.  I must admit that Stepney Special meant nothing to me, but lesson is coming. 

Tomas the Tank Engine
Now there is a familiar face.  So the story continues……Stepney was a real steam engine and became the cartoon train who befriended Thomas the Tank Engine who entertained our kids and grandkids on Saturday mornings for years!  It would have been great had his face been mounted on the front of the engine but this is real life and not cartoon world!  I am sure Thomas comes out on special occasions but here is the idea. 

Bluebell train arrives
Our train awaits us at the Sheffield Station so we get on board and get settled into our ‘compartment’.  There were four of us in a 6 seat until ‘Steve’ joined us at our stop in East Grinstead and entertained us with his stories for the rest of the ride! 
Students on travels
Out our window we see a class of students who are on an outing to honor D-Day and dress appropriately for the 75th anniversary of that special day.  They will be on the train for this ride today, although we won’t be hearing them while in our ‘compartment’.  I think the kind porter was well aware of that when he showed us to our non-reserved seats. 

Steam hangs over the view
We are enjoying the views and the ride on this old steam engine train.  The puffs of steam are visible out the window as we ride through the countryside of Sussex.  At one point this ride crossed the line between East and West Sussex.

Friendly waves
There was a lot of clearing being done along the rails and every group we passed took the time to wave to the passengers of the train.  It is likely these men are part of the volunteer team that so willingly give up their time to keep this Bluebell going. 

Here is Steve, an obvious regular on the train, who invited himself to join us and continued to tell stories until we finished our ride back.  He was very chatty, had quite a history to share and some of the stories seemed to be a possible ‘tale’; he must have told them before and he wasn’t going to stop now.  He was happy to pose for the photo. 

Pub lunch

What day would be right without stopping at the pub for a late lunch after that train ride.  Most pubs have been added on to since the original one was built but are still very old buildings.  They are so interesting, lots of ‘things’ to look at that can go back a long ways.

For more info on the Bluebell, click here to see their webpage. 

Monday, July 8, 2019

Sheffield Park and Garden ~ England

Sheffield Park and Garden is one of the many that are managed by the National Trust in England.  They are a large non-profit charity that was founded in 1895 to preserve Britain’s buildings, landscape and coastline.

Lily Pads
We are having a springtime visit to Sheffield Park and Garden to enjoy a different season than the autumn visit we had before.  We are here just a bit too early to see the water lilies that will be covering this middle lake about two weeks after our visit.  That would be stunning.  They offer a Water Lily Photography workshop, which would also be great. 

Pulham Falls
Interesting that Victorian engineering is still being used to pump the water around the garden.  They are now having Waterfall Walks this year.  They aren’t charging for it but one must book to walk along the bottom of the waterfall as it cascades down and give you a different perspective of the falls.

Although the day wasn’t sunny, as I’d love every day to be, the beautiful bushes of Rhododendrons brightened up the gardens. There were several large bushes around the Park as well as so many other trees and bushes, that visiting anytime would offer some beautiful sights.

Sheffield Park House
Privately owned, this was the home of the owners of Sheffield Park and Garden, who changed many times over the years.    One of the most memorable owners would be Arthur Soames, who is given much credit for introducing many of the treasured flowers still living in this garden.  Still privately owned, it has now been converted into several condos or flats, as they call them in England. 

Beautiful floral displays
This is a sampling of some of the flowers we saw on our visit this day.  The colors are gorgeous and they are blooming all over the Garden. There are several walking paths to follow, I am sure one could spend a week wandering the different Garden trails in order to see and enjoy it all.  This Map illustrates them and will give you an idea of the size of Sheffield Park and Garden. 

Large Gunnera plant
Granted, my sister is not very tall, but these plants are monsters.  There are clusters of them around the Garden, and hopefully I have the right name of this plant.  It is a Gunnera, which grows to incredible sizes.  There is plenty of room for these huge plants to grow here, there are over 250 acres in Sheffield Park and Garden and we have only walked a very small portion of that.

Bridge over Lower Woman's Way Pond
We eventually cross this bridge but we were waiting to see if we would see another waterfall.  We hoped that today they would open the waterworks to allow the water from Upper Woman’s Way Pond to fall down into this lake, and they have a chosen time of day to do that when need be.  As it turns out, the water level was too low so not possible, it didn’t happen. 

Canadian Soldiers legacy
The War Office requisitioned Sheffield Park during WW2 for the British soldiers and it eventually became camp for thousands of Canadian troops, as well.  They lived and trained on the grounds, which surely did some damage that took many years to bring the state of the park back to its’ former beauty, some of which the soldiers helped with.

Canada Geese and ducks

We found some immigrants who obviously came from Canada and had their young here.  The Canada Geese are part of a fairly small flock enjoying this lovely Garden.  Then a little duck decided to perform her ‘drying-off-water methods’ for me when she got out of the lake.  I’ve not spent a lot of time with ducks to know how they think so maybe she was looking for treats from me. LOL  She was in no hurry to stop, little did she know that I had no treats.

Click here to see our autumn visit at Sheffield Park.


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