Busy End of Summer

The first day of Autumn. I love Summer and this one was particularly good however the weather has changed now, it’s still sunny but much cooler.

The last few weeks have been busy with some local travel going on. Kevin’s daughter had her housewarming party in Nanaimo a few weekends back so Kevin and I headed up there for the day. We got there early so enjoyed fish and chips on the wharf in downtown Nanaimo as well as some window shopping before heading to the party.

It was a beautiful sunny day especially considering it was Labour Day weekend. Picture perfect actually.

The next weekend my Mom and I took the ferry to the Mainland to visit my sister and her family. It rained the Saturday but the weather turned warmer on Sunday. Didn’t matter much though Mom and I spent most of Sunday at Ikea in Coquitlam doing some damage to my credit card. You should have seen us trying to fit everything in the back of the SUV and we still had to pick up my friend Karen from New York at the airport on the Monday. Ha we got it all in but it was a tight squeeze.

My wonderful nephew holding my sweet great niece Georgia. She is just too cute for words and loves to cuddle.

So on the Monday Mom and I picked up my friend Karen from New York and we headed for the ferry. We lucked right out and were able to see a pod of whales along side the ferry half way through the trip. Ha saved the money for having to take a whale watching trip.

I had made Karen a quilt (of course, that’s what I do) so here I am presenting it to her. The picture isn’t great. Kevin is awesome at editing videos, painting and music but picture taking isn’t one of his strengths yet.

It was fantastic seeing Karen again and getting to show her around the beautiful place where I live. I had a great time and it gave me the opportunity to see some places on the Island that I haven’t visited in quite some time.

We lucked out too as the weather held right up until her last two days here. We spent an afternoon touring Fort Rodd Hill which I hadn’t done in years. Above is a snapshoot of Fisgard Lighthouse.

Last Friday we went up the Island and stopped at Whippletree Junction for some shopping. I found a great old Elna sewing machine (which I haven’t taken a picture of yet) and two lamps. We had lunch at a great restaurant right on the water in Qualicum Beach and then stopped at Little Qualicum Falls. From there I took her to Cathedral Grove to see an ancient Douglas Fir ecosystem. It was so still and quiet in the Grove except of course for the cars on the highway. Oh well.

Karen flew back home on Tuesday and I miss her already. I had a great time playing tour guide and falling in love with Vancouver Island all over again.

With Autumn comes the cooler weather and of course quilts. People are starting to get back to sewing again and thinking it’s only a few months now until Christmas, so back to work to help my clients finish their projects.

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Panama Canal Trip Part 5

Well here is the last part of the trip, then we can move on to more quilting. It has been fun to relive the trip through these posts though as usually you take the pictures and then just file them away somewhere.

Our next port of call was Puerto Chiapas, Mexico. I had been to this port before and knew that Mexico had done a great job of fixing the port up and so Mom and I decided not to do an excursion but just take it easy.

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The above are photos of the scenery as the ship headed into dock at the port of Puerto Chiapas. At the port they have shops and a central sunken dance floor (sorry I only have videos of the dances and I still need to move my WordPress account before I can do video). The dance floor showcases local entertainment. I feel sorry for the entertainers they go for a long time and there is no air conditioning in the building so it is very HOT. The port has also included a bar/restaurant and a swimming pool which can be used by the ship passengers. Mom and I toured the shops and watched the dancing for awhile before Mom went back to the ship and I joined up with my friends I had met on board the ship. We walked around the grounds, then went for a drink and a swim in the bar and pool provided. It was a nice relaxing day.

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The next stop was Huatulco Mexico. I love this place! I have been there several times now and have even stayed and toured in the area. This is a truly beautiful spot with shops, restaurants, a market and beach great for swimming, all steps from the pier where the cruise ships tie up. Mom and I elected to just walk around and visit the market in the morning. We went back on board the ship for lunch and then back out to the beach for an afternoon swim.

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Here is the beach, the photo was taken as we were docking.

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The area is known for its weaving. This loom is set up outside of a shop but they lost out on a sale as they don’t take credit cards. I realize that there is a commission but how short sighted, tourists aren’t going to be walking around with wads of cash on them to purchase expensive hand woven rugs. It turns out the store doesn’t have a web site even, just think of the sales they could generate if they started doing social media, online sales and accepting credit cards. They lost $100.00 for a 4% commission.

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A look back at the ships tied up.

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Mom enjoying a swim. The water was exactly the right temperature for a refreshing dip too.

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The next two days were sea days and the ship welcomed a group of Mexican entertainers on board. This was actually really fun, they gave Spanish lessons, lunchtime performances and also gave dance lessons in the afternoon. They stayed on board until we docked in San Diego.

Our next port of call was Puerto Vallarta, Mexico.

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Views of Puerto Vallarta from the ship as we docked.

Mom and I have both been to Puerto Vallarta a few times so we decided to just check out the market within walking distance of where we were docked and then went back on board ship and enjoyed spending time by the pool and in the spa. That evening I had an unexpected opportunity to go to the Rhythms of the Night show. My friends had tickets however one couldn’t make it so offered me the opportunity. At the time we didn’t realize that the reason this person couldn’t make it was quite serious or otherwise neither Tom or I would have gone. The show was excellent though and I highly recommend it if you ever get the chance and our in Puerto Vallarta.

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You are taken on a boat ride to an island and are greeted my a mermaid.

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They also host day trips here hence the hammocks set up for relaxing.

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Characters dressed up as you walk to the open air theater.

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Some of the before show performers.

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Little islands you can swim out to when you are there in the daytime.

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The show included a buffet dinner after the performance.

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The sunset on the way back to the pier. It turns out I had to say an early goodbye to my new friend Tom and I didn’t get a chance to say goodbye to his sister. There is a story here however it is not my story to tell.

The next two days were at sea where we just lazed around in the spa and by the pool catching up on more reading. The last port of call for this leg of the journey was San Diego. Here we were saying goodbye to 800 passengers and hello to 900 new ones while a good many of us stayed on to sail back to Victoria.

Holland America did a really, really bad job of this transition. I won’t go into details however the lack of communication and organization at this port was really horrible.

Mom was not feeling well so she decided to stay on board. I was getting cabin fever so decided to venture out on my own. I was told I didn’t need a passport so got all the way off and ran into some friends on the way out but didn’t get far before being told I did indeed need my passport. The only port in the whole trip I needed it! Anyway I went back on got it and my friends (from our table at dinner) had waited for me so I didn’t have to go touring on my own. I thought that was wonderful.

I have been to San Diego numerous times but had never toured the USS Midway which is now a museum so the three of us wandered over that way. Wow we were there for hours and still did not see the whole thing.

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I took this from the flight deck on the USS Midway, you can see the Nieuw Amsterdam just across the way.

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San Diego as we are leaving port.

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Sea lions basking in the sun.

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The lighting is bad here but here is Mom and I dressed for dinner on our last night on board ship.

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We had another two days at sea and then home to Victoria!!

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Just clearing the breakwater on our very last leg of our journey.

It was a great trip and Mom and I really enjoyed ourselves but I have to admit I was so glad to see our familiar coastline and know we were home.

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Panama Canal Trip Part 4

Sigh OK it’s been awhile since I last posted. I have been working a lot and have had quite a few deadlines I needed to achieve. I have some hard decisions to make in the next few weeks as well but more on that later. Good weather finally arrived here in Victoria it went from winter to summer almost overnight and then after 10 days of awesome weather back to winter again. Oh well. I have 2 more posts of the Panama Canal trip and then I will post some customer quilt pictures.

So once we were through the Canal we had a day at sea and then our first port on the Pacific Coast side which was Puerto Caldera, Costa Rica. Mom and I had both been to Costa Rica before so weren’t sure what to do there. There is not much to do at the port so if you want to see something you pretty much have to take a tour. Most of the tours were 6 or more hours and neither Mom or I were up for that so we decided on a 3 hour tour that took us to a small town where some school children put on a performance for us. We then went to a small market and just generally got to see some of the countryside.

When we docked in Costa Rica there was what looked like a beautiful beach (somehow I didn’t take a picture of it) and I was thinking I might walk down and walk the beach, however it was really hot so I decided not to. Our tour left at 1 in the afternoon and once on the bus we drove by the beach I could see from the ship. Oh my garbage everywhere it was really disgusting. The town was little more than a shanty town and I would have been a lone female walking by myself. I am glad I decided it was too hot.

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I didn’t take a lot of pictures in Costa Rica as I really don’t like taking pictures from a moving bus. Above is a shot of the children just before they started their performance. I did get some videos of them dancing. Unfortunately I can’t load videos on this website and I haven’t had a chance to look into other options as of yet. Costa Rica was nice enough but it is not a place I would really want to spend a lot of time in although I know people that do like it.

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Random picture of the Easter desert on board.

The next port was Puerto Corinto in Nicaragua. Neither Mom or I had ever been to Nicaragua. We learned that the port was really an industrial port with not much to see so we decided to take a tour to the city of Leon.

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A look at the admin building at the port. It was defiantly a working freighter port. I sat outside writing an email to Kevin while there and boy was it noisy.

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The drive to Leon was very comfortable in an air conditioned coach. The countryside was pretty but there was garbage everywhere. The picture above is of a market located in the main city square of the town. The main cathedral was also located in the square.

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Here I am standing by the fountain in the square with the Cathedral de Leon in the background. The fountain could have done with a good cleaning and the water was green and full of algae.

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You can see the green water and the garden that could do with a little bit of loving care.

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Here are two pictures inside the Cathedral de Leon in Leon Nicaragua. It is the largest cathedral in Central America and it was beautiful but it was also didn’t have air conditioning and it was like a sauna in there. There were so many groups of tourists from two different cruise ships you could barely move. The temperature outside was 98F or 37C with almost 100% humidity. All I know is that it was HOT!! I would have loved to explore the surrendering streets around the square but after the sauna of the cathedral Mom and I were both done and we hightailed it (along with about 50% of the other people on the tour) back to the waiting, running air conditioned bus.

Now for those who know me well, they know I hate being cold and I am usually not a fan of air conditioning, however it those temps it was very, very welcome.

The next port was Puerto Quetzal, Guatemala. I have been there before. Again, there is not a lot to see at the port itself you have to travel an hour to the small city of La Antigua which is the colonial capital and is a UNESCO world heritage site. I LOVE this town. I loved it the last time I was there and I loved it this time also. I really, really want to go here some day and stay for more than a few hours and truly explore all the small city has to offer. The scenery up to the city is really wonderful and there is not near the garbage around like there is in Costa Rica and Nicaragua.

The city is made up of cobbled streets with traditional walled buildings all which have wonderful hidden courtyards in them.  Since we were much higher up in altitude in Antigua the temperature was much more conducive to sightseeing.

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Here is a glimpse of one of the original tiled entryways. There are a lot of them around the city. You can just glimpse the courtyard oasis beyond.

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Here is a picture of the courtyard of the hotel that is right in the middle of the town.

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Here is another courtyard. In this one the indigenous woman have set up there hand woven clothing for sale to the tourists. In Guatemala 60% of the population are indigenous to the region.

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Another view of the blouses for sale. All hand woven by the woman. Aren’t they colourful?

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In La Antigua there is a really cool market that you have to know where it is as it just looks like a hole in the wall. Once you step in though you are greeted by all manner of wonderful handwoven treasures of the area.

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This was a hidden gem of a courtyard that I glimpsed as we were walking by as the doorway was open.

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Look what I found in that same courtyard. A patchwork blanket made of all those wonderful handwoven textiles covering a bench. Look at the wonderful tiled floor under the bench.

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Another view of the cobbled streets and a very old archway.

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I loved these wonderful doors. You can just image the secrets they have behind them.

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We had hired a guide to take us on a walking tour of the city. Our friend Tom who we had met on board the ship had joined Mom and I as his sister Karen had seen the city before. Here we are in a chocolate factory and Jose our guide is demonstrating something.  Notice the wonderful tiled floor.

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After a time we were very hot and thirsty so stopped in a small cafe where we got real fruit drinks that were heavenly. Here is a shot of myself, Mom and our friend Tom.

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The last picture for this leg of the journey is a sunset at sea.

So one more post to finish up and then onto more quilting posts.

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Panama Canal Trip Part 3

It’s been a busy week so far and the next few weeks look like they may just be as crazy. Oh well. The weather has not improved at all here. We have had a couple of nice days where the temperature was warmer and the sun was out but all in all pretty miserable. Moving somewhere warmer is defiantly looking appealing these days.

So back to the Panama Canal trip. This post will be a little photo heavy.

After leaving Cartegena, Columbia the ship hightailed it to the Canal. We were scheduled to start the transit just before 7:00 am. When transiting the Canal the ships open up the front part of their decks (these parts are normally reserved for staff only) Now I have cruised through the Panama Canal twice before but each time it is a thrill. There is something very magical about the whole thing. I was up around 6:00 am and went in search of my new friends as we had made a date the night before to meet in the lineup. You have to line up early to ensure you get a great spot for picture taking without a lot of heads in the way. Upon finding my friends we still had about 45 minutes before they were going to open up the viewing areas so we each took turns heading out to take pictures so we didn’t loose our place in line.

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It was still dark outside as the ship approached the canal. As you can see there were a lot of freighters hanging around waiting for their turn to head through the canal.

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When you get down near the equator you will find that once the sun creeps up over the horizon it doesn’t take long before it’s daylight. Dawn and Dusk are very short in that part of the world. Here is a picture with dawn just breaking on the horizon.

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A couple more shots of the surrounding area just at dawn before we start our journey through the canal.

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Here we are heading towards the first of the locks on the Atlantic side. Panama is in the process of building a new bridge across this channel.

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Here is a small ferry waiting to go across the channel. There were a number of small ferries such as this along the way. Maybe that is why the building of the bridge.

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Here we are sailing by the original cut started by the French in 1881 but this turned into a disaster with the death toll upwards of over 22,000. The project was disbanded and the jungle claimed most of it however this channel still remains.

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A picture of the dense jungle that was on both sides of us at this point.

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Here we are coming up to the first lock. You can see one ship heading into a lock on the left hand side. We would be going into the right hand side one.

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Another small ferry and you can see the jungle in the background.

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Gates opening up to allow us to go into the lock.

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A look back at all of the people up watching as we enter the first lock.

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A view of the surrendering area, again, notice the jungle is not that far off.

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This little cart is called a mule. They have cables attached from them to the ship. They are there to ensure we enter in straight and not hit the sides.

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In this picture you can see how high up the other ship is in the background. The water has lowered for us to be able to enter the lock. The water will then rise up so we will end up at the same level as the ship shown in this picture.

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Well we made it through the first locks locks (see map above) and have now entered Lake Gatun. In the last picture you can see the freighter that was in the left hand chambers of the locks as it sails ahead of us into the lake. Now it was time to go and find Mom and head for breakfast.

It would take the rest of the day to sail through the lake and through another two sets of locks before we reached the Pacific Side. We sailed under the Bridge of Americas around 5:30 pm.

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The Bridge of the Americas is a road bridge which connects North and South America. It is located near Panama City. You can see all of the freighter traffic near Panama City off in the background.

I was just able to take this picture before heading to the dining room for dinner. The next day was a sea day and then our first port on the Pacific side.

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Panama Canal Cruise Part 2

Finally a nice sunny day today! The weather has been so horrible in Victoria lately that I have been dreaming about selling up and hightailing it down to Mexico for good. Oh well.

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One of the towel critters left on the beds at night. They were all really cute.

So after two sea days we sailed into the port of Cartagena Columbia. Now the first time I went to this city I wasn’t too sure what to expect as you hear all of these stories about the drug trafficking etc however what I found was a very beautiful city with a lot of culture and very warm and friendly people who were very proud of their country. I really loved the old walled city that I saw last time I was there so I really wanted to see that again.

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Here are some pictures of the Cartagena skyline as we were coming into the port. It is a busy port with a lot of freighter activity.

Mom was not really up to walking a lot so we opted for a horse and carriage ride through the streets of the old town. I am not sure what I expected, maybe something like what we have here in Victoria where we have laws about animal abuse. What we got was an older carriage a little worse for wear. Now this part doesn’t really bother me what bothered me was we had one horse pulling 4 people plus driver and the horse was skinny and not well cared for. This broke my heart and really coloured my view of the whole tour so this is one excursion that I wouldn’t recommend and I will be complaining to Holland America about.

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Here is a picture of a wonderful old door and that beautiful ocher colour. Sorry about the picture being a little off kilter I found it was a little hard to take good photos from a lurching carriage.

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Look at these wonderful colourful baskets someone hand made. I just love the abundance of colour that tropical countries inspire. Doesn’t it just make you want to start a very colourful quilt.

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Here is another picture with the old architecture with that wonderful ocher colour mixed with white.

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Another view of the city skyline. This is looking from the old walled city over to the new modern part of the city. Lots of new hotels like the Hyatt and other well known hotels have been built just in the last 5 years alone. Once we had finished with the carriage ride part of the tour we had 20 minutes to go shopping (what is a tour without shopping). Luckily that is not enough time for me so I didn’t buy anything. We then had an hour’s bus ride through the newer part of the city where we got to see expensive condo buildings and lots of beach areas. I didn’t get any pictures of that though as I hate taking pictures through bus tinted windows.

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Here is a picture of a flock of pelicans.

We stopped at the Castle of San Felipe for about 5 minutes just so we could take some photos. One day I want to come back, walk the old city and tour this fort which was built by the Spanish to protect the city from pirate attacks.

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A lone man on a drawbridge. This was taken as we were heading out to sea.

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Can’t you just see the cannons firing from the portals on this picture. Glad it is no longer used.

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Some more views as we head out to sea. The next day we started our transit through the Panama Canal itself. I guess that will need to be Part 3.

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