Mini Adventure: Transformation

After being deterred from visiting the Hatley Park Gardens due to the rather hefty fee I was pleased to discover that Father’s Day was slated for free entry. Gardens only, the castle was closed to the public. All we had to pay for was parking, $3.00 for three hours seemed like plenty and it was. I ended up passing along my parking receipt to another visitor. My friendly good deed for the day.

I stand by my beliefs that entry was free due to all the film paraphernalia and areas close to the castle, as well as some garden sections were closed off. My astute daughter took a quick look at the recently added embellishments hanging from the castle and flowers tucked into bushes before stating this was the setting for the Disney TV film Descendants. She was even able to provide some background information about the show. I had no idea she still harboured interest in the film industry. Look closely at one of the banners to see the Beast. The blue flowers in the bushes and front garden are all fake. According to my daughter blue flowers are the go to choice for the movies! (We do get blue hydrangea) The castle itself, and it is a real castle, depicts the school where the children of well known fairy tale characters attend. Ergo, Descendants. The fact the whole space was – since the 1940s -and remains, a university is a fun fact. The history is interesting, more can be found at http://hatleypark.ca/

Unfortunately the Italian Garden was closed. Most likely the most appropriate section for filming outdoor scenes: walled in, formal and a lovely loggia and pergola make this a romantic or eerie setting depending on lighting and the imagination. I can see Belle hanging over the balustrade dreaming of home; or the prince from Sleeping Beauty grabbing a low hanging wisteria to pull himself over a low sandstone railing to discover the castle glimpsed was not a vision.

There are benches dedicated to individuals for visitors to have a pleasant rest or to drink in the fragrances and feast the eyes. One couple commented on the filming, they said the helpful security person told them the set was for the Big Sleep. When I expressed doubt, it being a well known Bogart & Bacall movie and that this is a Disney film they were adamant. I mentioned this to my daughter who laughed before she told me many film settings have a false title to prevent crowds from descending on the setting. She did say, however, it may be the title of the latest installation – so I looked it up and indeed that is the case. Even at 60 I am learning things.

who needs fake flowers when nature provides beauties like these!

The castle had not been our focus so we were not too disappointed, I had already been inside on a few occasions many years ago. We headed to the rose garden, an enclosed space to keep foraging deer from decimating the rose bushes, a delicacy for them. Although beginning to look a little worse for wear as we approach the final days of spring the bushes and vines had enough colour and fragrance – without overwhelming allergies my daughter has – to encourage guests to linger before leaving through the rose handle gate at the far end into the fruit bearing garden. We found apple and pear trees roped along the fences, beginning to plump up, yet again having missed the full glory of flowering. This bounty does not go to waste, all the fruit is donated to food banks. I guess students are not considered in desperate enough need for fresh fruit in mid-September. (Student loans tend to last at least to mid-October)

We returned through the rose garden, remembering to carefully close the door behind us, to head to the Bog Garden and Japanese Garden. My daughter was not about to miss a Bog Garden! For some reason I was expecting something more along the line of a peat bog, but this was far more interesting for how clear it was. The underwater flora was just as interesting as the variety floating atop the water. Swift dragonflies and smaller insects did not always outrace the small birds skimming above, slight splashes indicated a successful catch and meal. These were some very happy birds. In addition to the splashes there were tiny bubbles rising from the depths – although we tried to figure out what caused these we really had no idea. We could see to the bottom, we could not see any living creatures. I was intrigued by the thin green spines rising from the water, they appeared to be horsetails. Upon closer inspection we were convinced they were, albeit much thinner, and not at all spread out as ones along banks of ditches.

No idea what this giant leafy plant is – it looks dangerous!

As with most of the plants in the various gardens the Japanese Garden was no longer as full of flowers as it would have been even two weeks earlier. However, it is still rather magical with its three hump curved bridge to a pavilion sitting on the manmade lake. The quiet, trees, slight breeze and water had me wishing I still lived in the little cottage at Grouches Lair (of course the name enthralled me) I rented for several months now nearly ten years ago. How fortunate we are to live so nearby such lovely gardens and wilderness.

Despite missing the rhododendrons in full bloom, the cherry blossoms and wisteria the gardens still remain welcoming. Perhaps the giant, ancient Douglas Firs providing natural shade, and soft ground for laying down a picnic blanket, the rugged appearing paths that are actually easy to traverse, and the mountains in the far distance beyond the ocean are enough. It was a pleasant, easy afternoon wander.

All it needs is a Prince, or these days a princess, to scale the walls

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Wedding Wednesday: the final countdown

The final countdown! The bride returned from a holiday in Florida a week or so ago, I hope she is well rested. We set a day to discuss everything that still needs to be dealt with, changed, confirmed, cancelled. Since then we have had at least three lengthy conversations!

While she was away her sister and I struggled with the wedding budget. It is not that we have to pull off some magic to make the dollars stretch – that is for the bride to deal with – we were working on a spreadsheet. I still do not understand how it works. The one we settled on has four columns for money. Estimated cost, actual cost, monies paid, balance owing. Simple, right? Except it was not and we still had to pull out pencil and paper. All I know is that the bride will go over budget. She already knew that. Like I said, not anything I need to deal with. When I was growing up we used to say count your buttons – no recollection where it came from, perhaps Paddington?

I share a place with a daughter which means when shopping needs to be done we usually go together. I was clever and bought my dress in January. She however ordered some items online, nixed some, then discovered a flaw in one, before deciding to start all over. We took a few trips to town to search for something different. Which basically means thinking beyond her usual go to colour – black. This time she looked at shoes first with a plan to build from there. It worked! What colour did she choose to go with the shoes? Black. Thank goodness the shoes have colour. I will keep that a secret for now. Too bad they are two sizes too big for me. I found them and one of the other items she chose. It is always nice when your 32 year old still takes your choices into consideration. Even more so when they are perfect. (a rarity)

Lately I have been dreaming about the wedding. I thought the bride did that. I have visions of orchids, hydrangeas, canapés, or are they H’ordeuvres, high heels and country music swimming through my head, fitting I suppose – the venue is a paddle boat after all and, apparently, the band is more on the country spectrum than rock. The most recent dream had the venue in the far reaches of Mongolia! Perhaps I am subconsciously thinking about escaping to parts unknown….to me. I would love to have one of my daughters wear one of these traditional wedding outfits. Only two more left.

Look up some of the fabulous traditional outfits for Mongolia – the headdresses are amazing!

I was quite happy to erase March, April, and May from my calendar as well as wiping off nearly everything from my whiteboard. I like seeing lists vanquished. Of course a master list is still necessary – I take no chances, on paper and my iPad. My daughter keeps wondering how it is that the lists are not getting smaller. Of course they are, items are just being moved from TTD (things to do) to things done.

Some notes on the frustrating bits or organizing a wedding. Organizers in different provinces – in Canada that is 4620km, a three hour time difference, minimum 5 hour flight non-stop. Factor in a job that has 12 hour shifts, my daughter is an RN, there is not a lot of useable time. I will arrive nine days before the big day. Jumping right into the fray with a meeting to go over everything for the venue the day I arrive. We might also be checking in with the seamstress one last time if the bride has any concerns. I do sew and did make some suggestions, I just was not willing to do any of the alterations.

Food. The wedding is in the evening, so no need for a full course meal. The main problem is trying to not order too much but also to ensure no running out. (Planning way ahead I did some footwork when in Kingston last summer to wuss out where we could take leftovers – seems nowhere on a Saturday and certainly not a holiday) A bit of a balancing act when trying to figure out three passes – in normal terms that means servers offering various delights on two levels but not at the same time. Speaking of which, there will be poutine and pizza after midnight!

As for the cake I am all for the continued trend of cupcakes! There will also be a small cake, purely for show though. My sister is the keeper of the now 89 year old sugar dove that was on my paternal grandparents cake whose wedding was on June 30th, 1929! (My father was born six years later on June 30th) We have no idea if there were two doves although assume there must have been. Perhaps I should ask my aunt if she knows of any photos from that long ago day. I will place it on the cake, let photos be taken then quickly remove it again for safekeeping. Perhaps it will last long enough for when my grandson gets married. I would have said ‘if’ if he had not told his mother several years he plans to marry and still live at home – the innocence of children.

slowly, slowly shrinking my lists despite adding to them. Today my daughter asked why I keep adding to it.

Farewell Bike

After agonizing over the best action to take regarding cycling I finally hit the dust with the permanent decision to focus on giving my meniscal tears heal without feeling guilty that Bike was dripping oily tears from its gears. Not that gears are supposed to drip or be oily. We did try, Bike and I. A tune up and new front tire, nice cozy spot in the bike room, sturdy lock but no trips this season.

My first attempt was in February – we generally have great cycling all year round unless there is a rogue snowstorm. Chilly, knee highly sensitive. Fine, I could wait. Finally, May arrived, the weather has been great and I had gone for an x-ray and an MRI. The results were positive – actually worse than what I thought. All because I tripped on the road in Beijing. I also refused to go to a doctor, which meant my travel insurance was not used. Oh well. It also took several months to convince a physiatrist and my GP I had really done some possible major damage. I figured the cut, and now lovely scar, on my knee should have been a clear indication it was more than a scratch.

Dropped the physiatrist (that was for my other knee) insisted my GP do more. So, now that we know the extent of the damage – I also managed to pull the medial collateral ligament, damaged (not broken) the patella, and tore those darned menisci I am waiting to see a surgeon to discuss if surgery is necessary. It is amazing just how much injury a person can do just by walking! Put me on a bike; go on a hike; climb umpteen steps no problem – well, until recently.

Bike looks rather forlorn – I had not realized I was so attached.

So why give up riding? Why not wait? Go back to the guilt. Bike belonged to my mother, she could no longer ride I took the bike. She had named it Bike because it was rugged and zipped. My mother was never a keen cyclist and, like me, eschewed riding on the road. Bike is meant to be ridden. Bike is also, like me, getting on in years. I decided Bike should live out its remaining years being ridden. I contacted Island Metis Community & Family Services – in the same building where I once worked – where there is a donation ‘cupboard’. Larger items are not usually taken. However, it was decided that a sturdy bike, two helmets, etc. would be quickly snapped up.

As for me, I have a sturdy stick and walking poles. I also still have my stubborn streak. Perhaps I will see bike zipping by when I am walking one of the trails.

Beach Walk: driftwood art

When my daughter said she did not feel like walking in a forest again I suggested we head to Esquimalt Lagoon, a five minute drive from where we live, where we could enjoy the ocean on one side and the lagoon opposite. It was a perfect day for such a meander, not too hot, only a light breeze, and plenty of fresh air. Little did we imagine we would stumble on an aviary. Of course I have also included some random shots of just how stunning my part of the world is. Thank goodness we are on an island. Without further ado – wild Vancouver Island. Can you name all of these lovely winged creatures?

Mini Adventure: Francis/King Park (path less travelled)

The Victoria Day long weekend tends to make me want to stay put. The long waits to catch a ferry, longer lines of vehicles clogging the highways, and crowds downtown do not mean a relaxing time. Fortunately we do have places to visit that are within a 5-15 minute drive and many of them can be visited without seeing another person. Expecting a slightly clouded over lazy Sunday I had hoped to visit the Hatley Park Gardens – once a family castle and gardens, then a military college and now the Royal Roads University I had enjoyed the gardens a few times over the 33+ years I have lived in Victoria. It was not to be – the summer months now see a fee being charged to see the gardens. Plus parking unless walking or transit. Thank goodness we always look for a second possibility when making plans.

We wanted an easy walk. Francis/King Regional Park, a 15 minute drive without highway driving, is the perfect spot with its accessible, cedar boardwalk and gravel, Elsie King Trail, to the moderate Centennial Trail that has more difficult offshoot trails. After passing 2-3 interpretive sidebars (pleasant seating, excellent information, and space for more than one stroller, scooter, or wheelchair) we tripped past a post pointing towards a Shooting Star Trail. I could not resist latching onto the trail of a shooting star! We were leaving the comfort of the manmade trail for the depths of the less travelled yet still within the limits of safety for us and the forest. With eleven trails in this 107 hectare park there is enough nature, ranging from 500 year old Douglas Firs to tiny meadow flowers and giant skunk cabbage, to please all visitors. A small, largely untouched, oasis surrounded by farms and modern life.

We enjoyed a peaceful, enchanting two hours, roughly six kilometres, accompanied by the light thunk thunk of a lone woodpecker, the far off call of a raven, light birdsong and many insects. Everything seemed muted by the soft sphagnum mosses in meadow, Grandpa’s Beard moss hanging from trees and the deeper green mosses wrapping the branches of grand, bare limbs. Roots and rock provided natural steps and designs far more original than any paintings. I was on the hunt for fungi knowing this was perfect weather. I hit the mother lode! To add to the perfect day we also discovered a small, floral clad roof cave – I could almost see the magic beginning to peek out.

There were a few trees that appeared to have been hit by lightening, shot through their cores and split; the remains of one lay across the side of the path, already renewed with growth. Although we did not seek out Skunk Cabbage Loop Trail we were happy to find that Shooting Star Trail closed the loop. The leaves reached up and across 2-3 feet up and over one foot across, out of a relatively small marsh. These beautiful plants (even the smell) always make me think of the arrival of spring, we had entered the stage of full renewal. (No photos, I could not figure out how to do the leaves justice)

I love looking up when on walks, in the notch of this host tree a holly plant was growing.

One of the still standing split, blackened trunks with a gnarled tree to its right that I only discovered when going through my photos

Sometimes taking the path less travelled, or at least giving the sense of unexplored, makes for the best adventure.