Back to Japan

Wilf and I just can’t seem to get Japan out of our system, so off we go again. We’re starting in Osaka this time. I’ll be back with the details of our adventures- until then here’s a little bling from a shop across from our hotel:

U-huh – that’s a convertible Benz completely covered (seats, too) with rhinestones. As one does.

The first time we came to Japan in 2009 Hallowe’en was a low key affair. It gets bigger each time we visit.

They call it fishing, not catching

Wilf and I headed to the north end of Vancouver Island recently to see if the pink salmon were schooling at the mouth of the Cluxewe River. After the miraculous summer of 2014 and the no show of 2015 our hopes were high. Wilf has been following reports from his fishing buddies throughout the north island, and the reports were…… inconsistent. Some fish around, but they were not biting.

Wilf sets out to see who’s out there.

 One of the nice things about being at Cluxewe is running into friends. Don and Peggy, Margaret and Denise were on hand.

 Margaret did catch fish – one of which we ate!

 Our last night there was perfect – sunny, no wind. Margaret took a break with us while Miss Emma kept a close eye on Don.

There’s at least one fish out there and Don wants it.

 James wandered by

 Eventually Don came in to join the log sitters.

I wandered up the beach

 And found Wilf and Denise returning from the mouth of the river.

There were a few fish out there, and a few were hooked but they weren’t being landed. Once again- lots of fishing, not much catching.

Chacun a son Gout

Once upon a long time ago Wilf and I were in a pub in London. We were looking at the bar snacks, and on offer were packets of potato chips – crisps – in the flavour ‘roast beef’. I decided that was too weird to eat and passed. And I’ve always kind of regretted that – after all – a bag of chips? Don’t like ’em, don’t eat ’em. Since then we’ve been to Japan twice and Turkey and India and have sort of adopted ‘Sure, I’ll try that’ as a motto to live by.

And then I was in our local Fairways market. And there, in the ‘ethnic’ section was a display of potato chips from Scotland:

Steak flavoured crisps! I’m in. And, after tasting them I’d have to say – apparently texture contributes a lot to the taste of something. Do they taste like steak or beef? No. What do they taste like? I don’t know. But you know what they aren’t? Salty!!! Half the salt of a similar sized package of North American chips.

Of course, if I’m going to continue on my path of ‘brave eating’ I guess I’ll have to go back and get the package that was beside the aberdeen angus steak flavour.

What do you suppose ‘Haggis and cracked black pepper’ is going to taste like?

Christmas 2014

When we were writing this letter last year it looked like 2014 was going to be a quieter year than 2013, which seemed like a good idea after all the activities of that year. Then….. 2014 happened!
After 14 years in this house we finally bit the bullet and took on the big project – hardwood floors. In January we packed up the contents of the house, moved out and let the contractors at it. Six weeks later we moved back in to beautiful new floors throughout. Many thanks to Joan & Doug for letting us bunk in with them for the duration. Over the summer we had the outside of the house repainted, finishing off the sprucing up that began last year. And next year – kitchen counters?
Once again 2014 was a year of travel. Sharon’s Mom celebrated a big birthday with all the family in Las Vegas over Easter – shows, excursions & helicopters made for an action packed trip. In August both Sharon and Wilf had big trips. Sharon joined girlfriends Nan & Lisa in Birmingham, England to attend the “Festival of Quilts” – a week of shopping and looking at quilts at the Big Show! Later in the month Wilf’s fly-fishing club had an excursion to the north end of Vancouver Island to fish for salmon on the beach at the mouth of the Cluxewe River. According to the locals, it was the best salmon run in 20 years. It was a wonderful experience we shared together.
In September we returned to Istanbul – Wilf celebrated his 60thbirthday there and this year he celebrated his 75th in that great city. We enjoyed the city once again, then boarded a cruise of the Black Sea. After 12 days of interesting ports, including Bulgaria, Romania, and Russia we arrived in Athens, Greece then moved on to a week in a villa on the island of Crete. It was a truly memorable trip full of great sights, great food and time with good friends, Nan and Greg.
Christmas will be spent with Sharon’s parents and brother Bill in Victoria. We will cross Australia off the bucket list this winter and a family trip is planned for fall 2015. Truly, we are blessed to be able to travel the world and come back home to our wonderful spot by the sea. We appreciate so much our family and friends and look forward to another year of adventures.
Wishing everyone a very Merry Christmas and a healthy and prosperous New Year.
Love,  Sharon and Wilf


More adventures in bathing.

And so the great adventure, Autumn 2914 version, begins. We are in Istanbul – we were last here in 1999. It was pretty straightforward to travel from Victoria – Victoria to Toronto direct (~4 hours) followed by Toronto to Istanbul direct (~9 hrs). Long flight, but not complicated. 

Because we arrived at 9:30 am I figured that we’d be too early to check in to our hotel – and we’d be tired. So maybe a visit to a Hamam would be in order. One thing and another, we found a Hamam that met our requirements and made a reservation. 
Most hamami are segregated – there are either seperate facilities, different times of the day or different days of the week. Which is fine, but the first places we found would have had me going in the morning while Wilf did??? And then Wilf off in the afternoon leaving me unattended. But we found a place – for tourists- that is co-ed. 
After a visit to the Hagia Sofia (in the 15 years since our last visit they’ve moved the scaffolding from one side to the another) we found ourselves at the Hamam, tired, disheveled and hours early for our appointment. No matter – they swept us in and got us settled. 
As is traditional men get a large towel wrap to wear in the bath. To preserve modesty women are given a pair of shorts and a bikini top in addition to the wrap. A pair of wooden clogs completes the ensemble and off we went. 
The main room is a large domed area with a huge marble platform in the centre – 8 people can lay out easily. The platform is heated – as is the floor – and we layed down to relax in the heat. Around the outside of the room are big marble sinks and small basins. We could go and pour water over ourselves – mostly to cool off. After awhile we were called into a smaller room where there were two marble massage tables and two muscular guys. First up we sat down by the big sinks for a rinse and then a scrub. Sort of like being worked over with a potscrubber. 
Once we were scrubbed there was the small problem of hauling my weary slippery self up off the floor, but big guy helped me get the job done. I’d forgotten about the Ottoman sitting on the floor thing…
Next up was the soap bubbles – the masseur had what looked like a big pillowcase in a pail of soapy water – the case would be full of air and bubbles – it was a strange sensation as the hot bubbles poured over me – by the time he was done I was covered from my neck to my feet in a layer of bubbles about 4″ thick. 
After the bubble bath and a rinse – a massage. That worked out the kinks! In a more traditional set up there would have been a very thorough scrubbing to take off a couple of layers of skin followed by a massage that takes you apart and then puts you back together. None of this was quite as rigorous but it was just the ticket. 
After it all we changed out of our wet things and into a dry towel. The attendants then used more towels and lots of flapping and wrapping to get us all bundled up – we sort if looked like gift wrapped packages by the time we got to the lounge area to enjoy fresh and delicious orange juice. 
My bathing beauty!

What I did on my winter vacation

2014 is half gone and I haven’t checked in for an age – so this will be a quick recap.

Rather than take a winter vacation this year we underwent another project.

First – pack up about 85% or our belongings and have them moved to the garage:

Second – have a lot of wood delivered:

We then moved out for six weeks, while a lot of this went on:
And when it was over – new hardwood floors throughout!
Along the way we repainted our bedroom, changed some appliances and light fixtures. We did NOT do the heavy work ourselves. Alain, Nathalie and Kyle of Woodfellow Flooring did the work on the floors and it is beautiful. With an open plan house they had lots of strange angles and no places to hide. And they did a wonderful job. The installation is lovely and the finish just gleams. And they took extra special care in getting our home back in shape when they were done. We would recommend them if you need new floors in the Victoria area.
While I’m in a recommending mood I have good things to say about AtoB Moving – they came to move our stuff and did a great job. They were quick and careful and had the contents of most of the house packed into the garage in very short order. They really worked hard. And when the time came to move back in they were as quick and careful as the first time around.
Moving out, having our house in an uproar made for a strange winter. But the end result is worth it!