Back in the UK – Rochester!

I’m back in the UK visiting friends and today we visited with their friends in Rochester. Like all good British towns, it had a cathedral, a castle and a nice high street.

First, the castle. Built in stages from the 11th to 14th century, quite a bit of it was still standing. I’m watching a great show right now called “Secrets of the Castle” which follows the construction of a 13th century castle using tools and techniques of the time. One of the things that I found interesting is that the castles of the time would have been covered with a white limewash. So, while we’re used to seeing the stone, in fact, both the inside and outside of the castle would have been covered. Looking at the Rochester Castle now was pretty impressive. It must have been quite a sight in white!!




The Cathedral in Rochester, built in the Norman style, is England’s second oldest and was founded in 604AD by Bishop Justus. The present building dates back to the work of a French monk, Gundulf, in 1080. Yes, I took a picture of “Gandalf”.




The high street of Rochester was lovely and although the french pastry shop was closed, we did find a little cafe to have tea and cakes.





Altogether, a lovely day with the added bonus of lots of sunshine.


Birthdays and island adventures

My birthday falls somewhere close to the long Easter weekend.  In fact, I was born on Easter Monday.  Which means that I can combine the long weekend with the need for a  birthday treat in order to do something extra special.  And lucky for me, I have good friends who are more than willing to use any excuse to get out-of-town and go on an adventure.


Birthday cheesecake made by a friend with homemade toasted caramel toasted port!

One of my favourite things to do is rent a cabin on a beach somewhere along the BC coast.  I am blessed to live next to the ocean and within a day’s trip of many, many islands. There is something about sailing away on a ferry that feels like leaving everything behind, no matter how short the ride might be.




This year we chose Quadra Island. The island is 310 square km in size; it is 32km long and ranges from 2km to 15km wide. Located off the northeast coast of Vancouver Island, it is separated from the island by Discovery passage. Which means that our trip involved one ferry ride from Vancouver to Vancouver Island, then a few hours drive north, and then a short ferry hop across to Quadra.




The cabin was perfect. A view out overlooking the beach. Hot tub on the deck.  I could lie in bed and watch the waves, and their soothing sound lulled me to sleep and gently woke me in the morning.

The view from my bed!

The view from my bed!







There were lots of hummingbirds, both at the feeder and the flowers.






The beach was full of character and interesting discoveries. Driftwood that looked like giant sea monsters with eyes and faces, rocks that were full of colour and personality.








When the tide receded, abundant tidal pools filled with creatures like sea stars and crabs.  And things that eat those things!


A well camouflaged heron!






And, oysters everywhere.








I returned a ball to a lovely old dog and met his owners who were harvesting oysters. They offered to shuck one for me to try on the spot. Having never tried this, I gave it a try. It was delicious! I thought it would be gross and gelatinous. Not so. It was lovely and firm, and salty.




It was a great weekend. There are so many more islands to explore. I hope I have enough birthdays!!!




Key West

What can I say about Key West?  It was, uh, interesting.

On the surface, kind of like a giant frat party. Muscley guys, bikini-clad girls, lots of drinking, shirt with dumb sayings, people driving up and down the main strip with their bass booming away, pretty much my idea of what to avoid.

But, look a little deeper (or to the side) and there were pretty houses, lots of art stores, lovely restaurants and fun stuff to do out on the water. And, a wider diversity of people, lots of snowbirds (aka older people avoiding winter elsewhere in North America), families with young kids and us!

I love warm weather architecture. Lots of deep porches, pretty house trimmings and white and pastel colours.






Two boat trips were called for. One to see dolphins and to go snorkelling. Our guides thought the water was a bit cold. As a Canadian, I thought is was a lovely temperature!!

And, my favourite part of the trip, a perfect evening on a sail boat. We watched the sunset as our hosts took us through eight wine tastings with paired snacks.






A few more shots to end the tour of Key West.  Next post … Hemingway House.