Mini-Adventure: Witty’s Lagoon, Metchosin, Vancouver Island

The morning started with crisp air, pale blue sky semi-shrouded in grey-white cloud. Where had the double digit temperatures disappeared to? Ah yes, although clocks may have been set to spring forward Mother Nature was sticking to her timepiece. A quick telephone call to discuss when to meet with my sister – not solely based on the 8c – ensured we would most likely be finishing up our beach hike as high noon approached. As I had also suggested heading for lunch to the local, and afar, favourite Mychosen Cafe I was hoping a later arrival might be in our favour so we would not have a long wait for a table. I also woke my daughter up to ask if she wanted to join us – she did! I was definitely not going to be unattended.

We did not head out until just past 11:00! At first I thought that would be a rather late start, however, being only a ten minute drive away it really was not. Driving to the lagoon is fairly straightforward, the parking lot is off of Metchosin Road, with Mychosen Cafe barely a two minute drive further down the road. More on that later. This time I did not second guess taking my sturdy stick. I had taken my usual precaution to read up on the trail I expected we would be taking. One warning is that the trail can get muddy and slippery in some areas, along with narrowing at times I decided throwing caution to the wind would be asking for trouble. My sister and daughter think I tend to over prepare, I always carry water and a snack with me, plus a small emergency kit. I would rather have it with me and not need it. Fortunately, if anyone did suffer a fall or anything else there are usually several people walking the trail. Many had Alpine poles. I had my stick and my knee brace. We were ready to plunge into the forest.

Witty’s Lagoon Regional Park has two main trails, the Beach and the Lagoon, that branch off from the Nature Centre situated at the beginning of the walk. Both trails are classed as moderate. The trail slopes down towards a bridge and platform where the lovely Sitting Lady Falls can be viewed. (I later discovered there is better viewing from the Lagoon Trail, sadly not until we had finished for the day) Before we could see anything, other than a stream merrily heading beside, then under us, we could hear the Falls. Much like my love of lighthouses, trains and the ocean, I love waterfalls. Moss covered rock walls, ferns clinging to the sides, slick logs choking sections, the Falls were many feet below us, pouring into the relatively serene lagoon below. By far not as majestic as many Falls it was still pleasant to view. Sometimes a walk in a park does need grand gestures from nature.

The trail continues its downward spiral, indeed muddy and narrow in places, hikers here seem to have an unspoken code that allows passing without crowding. Several good mornings and hellos along the way provided a pleasant acknowledgement of spring finally in the air. From the Falls we entered into the cooling environs of green forest. We discovered one ancient arbutus, entwined around an ancient, craggy Douglas fir nestled in the cradle of the arbutus limbs.

A variety of soft mosses, blackberry spines still without new shoots, many shades of green dappled by the sun. Oh yes, the sun! We could hear and see birds – the haunting call of a raven, the triumphant call of return from Canada geese overhead, seagulls in the distance, ducks paddling in the lagoon, crows giving chase to something. There are 160 species of birds in the park – birders flock the area.

As we continued to wend our way down, it is always at least a slight decline going – steeper in several areas – I started to pick up the slight decay and renewal of forest with an undertone of ocean. Despite our many stops along the way we were soon entering marshlands before the trail opened onto the beach access. Slivering waves, kissed by sunshine, its rays enticed a bare cheek to lift the face to the far reaches of ocean and deeply inhale the salt, algae and tiny, damp stones that meet the finely ground sand. First beach day! Picnics appeared, children with boundless energy hopped from giant, ocean smoothed logs, dogs joining in the delight of the warming day. (For me the only negative the whole time was the dogs – they are not allowed on the trail or beach from June to September)

the ultimate in log cabins

50 Shades of Blue

We chose to walk along the beach at the narrow line where small stones meet the soft sand; although a little trickier at times so much more enjoyable to feel and hear the skitter or pebbles underfoot, or the soft shush of sand as it slipped around my shoes. Shells dropped by seagulls are plentiful, shining purple whorls insides are all that are left inside. A piece of blue glass, always a treasure when my children were young, a small, pale, quite dead, crab. And always the glitter of the ocean as it gently lapped the shores. Beyond, snowy mountains and still the pale blue sky from the early morning. When summer arrives families, teens and many others, will crowd the beach and go swimming in the shallows. For now it is the ducks and seagulls who rule. I wish I could have filmed one very funny seagull high-stepping its way across a sand bar, even as the water became deeper it appeared this gull was not about to ruffle his under feathers as he stretched his legs and twinkle toed it’s way to that eventual dip where swimming took over.

Too soon our stomachs reminded us that it was lunchtime, we reluctantly turned around to traverse uphill, the same slippery, muddy spots waiting to challenge us. Going in the opposite direction there is a whole new perspective. While we took our time to enjoy everything in reverse Lunch beckoned.

One young boy had an ice cream sandwich that was nearly as big as his face! I will have to share a treat with someone next time.

Seems everyone else had a similar plan. Mychosen Cafe opened in 1987 and quickly became a reason to go for a drive to the wilds of Metchosin. I have probably eaten there maybe ten times over the years, not once was I disappointed. Hopping busy, we were told to expect a 25-30 minute wait for a table. This despite being after 1:30. A good reason to carry snacks. Alright, there really are not too many choices when in Metchosin. The Sugar Shack is the ice cream and bakery that belongs to the cafe, or there is Mychosen Pizza. (Heading home I did see a newer place on the next property) Patrons do not mind waiting. You can visit the goats in the Critter Corral, check out the various fowl, or chat with a neighbour – even if you have never met before. Metchosin is still very much a country place.

The wait was worth it. The menu could be considered too extensive if they were not practically the only place in town. Gluten free choices are available (not good for anyone who cannot tolerate possible cross-contamination), several salads, French onion soup(nearly ordered that), of course hamburgers, sandwiches, wraps, breakfast and dessert. There is also a dinner menus for after 4:00pm. Choices, choices! I decided on the Metchosin lamb Greek Wrap with a 1/2 order of fries and 1/2 order garden salad. Garden salads are far too often disappointing, a chunk of iceberg lettuce, tomato and maybe a slice of cucumber, all with bottled dressing. Not at Mychosen. A fantastic mix of lettuce including baby red, beets (these have never seen a can), carrot, cucumber, croutons and one cherry tomato. (I do not like tomatoes so that was fine) I chose their raspberry vinaigrette house dressing. This was enough salad to have as a light meal. However, I still had the lamb burger wrap to tuck into. Yum. Nicely seasoned lamb, generous, wrapped with feta cheese, tzatziki, lettuce, & cucumber wrapped in a warm tortilla. The fries were fine, not heavily salted. I liked them better when I had half of my wrap and chips for dinner. The servings are that generous. No need to cook that night!

Another weekend adventure to rejuvenate the soul, exercise the body, and discover, or rediscover, a little more about where I live. I invite everyone to take some time to discover the hidden or forgotten jewels in their area.


Sheringham Point Lighthouse

Sixty kilometres from the British Columbia Legislative buildings is the Sheringham Point Lighthouse, in Shirley BC. From where I live in Langford it is roughly a 45 minute drive that goes through Sooke and Otter Point before reaching Sheringham Point Road, anchored on either side by the red, Shirley Community Hall and Shirley Delicious. Although only a few minutes drive down the narrow, windy road to the first Regional parking lot a sense of the wild begins to calm anyone in need of a break.

People in Shirley know who the visitors are. I had barely pulled into the small parking area when another driver motioned for me to roll down my passenger window – had I mistakenly entered private property despite the signs clearly indicating a path marking the entrance to the Lighthouse? Not at all, he wanted to inform us there was another parking lot closer to the Lighthouse! We thanked him, indicated we were planning to walk the trail, and headed out. Anytime I go on on a hike into the woods I try to be somewhat prepared. Particularly this early in March.

Sturdy footwear, layered clothes – hat, gloves, a small bag to carry water and a snack. I also have a whistle on my keychain to scare off any grumpy bears or hungry cougars. I also look at a map to determine the type of trail: easy, moderate, difficult. Based on the ‘easy’ I had read I chose to leave my stick at home, in my car. I also do not go on hikes alone in an isolated area. I was with my sister. The trail was closer to being moderate than easy with its rises and falls that were covered in soft, springy moss, leaves, and mud in some areas. Considering I have been wearing my knee brace for hikes from now on I will take my stick.

There are two routes to the lighthouse, we chose the approximately 1.1 km, direct trail. Sure enough, there is another parking lot at the top of the gated entrance to the Lighthouse. The area is locked between 9:00am to 5:00pm, a precaution against vandalism and thrill seekers meeting an early death. The cliffs are steep and unforgiving. The vista is breathtaking. Peeping through the trees we came upon the first glimpses of the lighthouse jutting 20 metres up from the sheer rock. Every time I am lucky enough enough to visit a new place with a lighthouse I am awed by how these simple structures could withstand the fury of the ocean and warn sailors to steer clear. As we approached the cement steps and path to the structure I was stopped by the heaving sound of waves crashing on rocks – and this was a relatively mild day for wind. Trees and shrubs are windswept back, as though combed into a pompadour. Daffodils carpeted small areas, a sunny welcome in unforgiving territory if a wrong step is taken.

A bee was also enjoying the lovely, slightly stunted, sunny daffodils

Sheringham was built in 1912, (one of 12 to serve the area after many shipwrecks). Automated in 1988, declared surplus in 2010, the lighthouse was declared a heritage site in 2015, giving the Lighthouse Society (est. 2004) the green light to begin restorations in 2016. The land and the lighthouse are now protected as a community park, free to all visitors. After we managed to pull away from the enthralling view, the breaking water against the rocks and shore, the many shades of blue to grey of sky and sea we slowly made our way back to the relative quiet of the trail with thoughts of lunch beginning to form.

My goal was to introduce my sister to the craziness of Shirley Delicious. A wonderful, quirky restaurant that serves fabulous, delicious food, and great Fernwood coffee. I had warned that the place is very popular and usually extremely busy – we arrived before noon. Indeed it was hopping. The owner was flipping paper coffee cups, playing with the music and acknowledging everyone with a quick hello, quip, or handing over coffee – all with a smile behind his South African accent. I do not get out there often, and am always bouyed when I do. I had one of their focaccia sandwiches (they were all only $9.00) each has a silly name, of course I cannot recall what mine was, all that really mattered was that first bite. Warm, soft, perfectly seasoned focaccia bread filled with turkey, cranberry sauce, although I am not a fan of cranberry sauce I was intrigued by the combination with the light touch of chutney and brie plus fresh greens. Heaven. Except for the tomato slices. I hate tomatoes. These are eat with both hands sandwiches. Right away we knew we would need boxes to pack away at least half. Recyclable of course.

Now we know where the dragons are.

The air was too damp to sit outside – an absolute delight, and necessary if planning to stay to eat, during warmer weather. Take a walk along the paths, look down and around. There is much to delight the eye before or after your meal. A mini-Sunday adventure. I was home after only four hours. My body and soul were full.

Slow Down, You’re Movin’ too Fast

Or: Woe Is Me

Sometimes I look in the mirror and wonder who that reflection is only to admit it is definitely me after attempting to outrun age and common sense. So, after having fun in TO, visiting my daughter, ‘SIL’ (they are the ones getting married) and my grandson in Kingston and finding a dress I slowed down a bit after arriving in Kitchener. Just a little though.

When I arrived my other SIL and 3rd daughter greeted me at the train station and I foolishly agreed a twenty minute walk would be fine. I am happy to say I survived that, the temperature had started to plummet. I seriously wonder why the whole population of anywhere beyond the south west coast of Canada does not head to a warmer climate during winter. I guess Canadians are just too polite to overtake another nation. Besides, what would we have to talk about if our weather woes were taken away?

By the next day it seemed to be warming up enough to venture out. We decided to check out The Museum, an interactive space that encourages visitors to actively experience the space. We were disappointed to discover half of the third floor, and all of the 4th were closed. No idea why for the 3rd floor section, but the 4th floor was being changed over for a new exhibit.

Although a bit dubious we would find much to engage us for a couple of hours we decided we would take a look. Indoor activities during winter can be a challenge so we were happy to discover a large self serve coat check. Divested of coats, hats, mittens and scarves makes it easier to explore.

The space for children under 4 looked inviting to my daughter, when she was encouraged to enter she tried out all of the big buttons that lit up various boards before heading to a low peek-a-boo window for little ones to wave at unsuspecting patrons. Of course my travel companions were by now quite excited. I had stuffed them into my pocket at the last minute when I worried they could get lost if sitting in the coatcheck.

My daughter and SIL had a marvellous time and, although I did try to get into the mood I would have enjoyed myself more if I had been feeling a little healthier. However, just look at the fun we had! The Museum is a great little gem. We did indeed visit for nearly two hours before hunger took over. I was taken to Crabby Joe’s where I ate half a chicken prosciutto sandwich (with only half the crusty bread) and a small Caesar salad. Dinner ended up being the other half. I had half expected to not be able to taste anything due to my cold but it was good. We took the bus home with minor plans for the following day.

A playroom like this would be fabulous.

A real bed of nails!

who hasn’t wanted to try out a bed of nails?

We had a little help from a visitor with small fingers to extract the bears.

Who would have thought my parents Commodore 64 might have become a museum exhibit! Most of the computers were in working order.

Àq1An extremely rare photo of me (I look as old as the dinosaur) with my somewhat worried travel companions.

The next day my SIL stayed home to cook while my daughter and I headed to City Hall Rotunda Gallery art exhibit with a stop for lunch at a place called Slices. I ordered a gyro breakfast that was enough to feed both of us – I convinced my daughter she was hungry. There is a small skating rink outside City Hall where happy looking families were enjoying a somewhat warmer day as they glided, spun and tumbled on the ice.

The title of the exhibit, The Face to Face Project, by Eva McCauley is 38 pieces, mixed media, with two common threads – people (understandable considering the title) and a turquoise hue in all of them. I have no idea if the colour was significant, my daughter read the information to me as I had left my glasses behind. A small number of the paintings were of the artists students while the majority were photographs of single or groupings of people from several decades ago that were then painted over to enhance, reveal, or possibly hide some aspects. It was an interesting view to the past.

I now want one of these coffee bean bins!

As we headed home we discovered a coffee shop in the Tannery, Balzac’s Coffee Roasters. So of course we had to go inside. My daughter was quite pleased to see they also had Turkish Delight – have I missed something – seems this delicacy is making a comeback. I had coffee, my daughter had hot chocolate made from Lindt chocolate – sinful! I ate a piece of the pistachio Turkish Delight, and we just relaxed.

We also saw an interesting wall mural along the way that at first we thought was a structure with a person standing on it. From another point of view it appeared to be 3D with several cut outs of people, it was not until we were across from it we realized it is a flat surface. It was colourful and fun on what was quickly becoming a chilly late afternoon.

Imagine how happy we were to arrive home to home cooked lasagna!

When morning arrived the next day plans to visit Waterloo University, where my daughter is a PhD student, were postponed when the guest speaker for a workshop had a flight cancelled somewhere out of the States. Coupled with more dipping temperatures plus wind it was a perfect day to stay inside and finally listen to everyone who had told me to SLOW DOWN!

Xi’an: So Much More than Clay (allow me to present ‘Your Dinner’)

After bravely buying train tickets in Vietnam, Nanning and Guilin I felt ready to try one more time. It was fortunate I would be leaving Liaoyang to head to Xi’an from the same train station I had arrived at and where I had caught the bus to the Grottoes. I was feeling like a local. It always amazes me that the stations are so large in China, and most cities have more than one! Liaoyang was definitely the easiest station to get to, a mere, if that, 15 minute walk – and only because I was carrying my pack. By this time I was finally down to the fine art of packing. Big pack, day pack, carry things in roll up bag only if necessary. I knew the train to Xi’an would not be a long trip – perhaps five hours tops. Once again I arrived early, this time with my list of departures with train numbers. Although I most likely had time to catch a train leaving in about 15 minutes I chose the next one as I did not want to worry about getting to the departure lounge on time. It is security that slows me down. Each time I depart from a place I have to unbuckle my hip and chest straps, remove my daypack, and sometimes the extra bag I have, fling everything onto the security belt while fending off everyone else in a hurry to get through. Then I have to hitch the pack on again, buckle up, loop my travel pack over my shoulder (plus that extra bag – although empty this time) before finding my gate number – this usually means a precarious ride up an escalator. Well seasoned by now I continue with my stop for coffee at KFC, pull out my book, do some breathing then relax with the knowledge I will not be late for my train. Unlike some people I have seen. I have also become good at requesting a window seat having finally discovered I really do not have to take the first ticket available. The only stop of interest along the route was Huashan, (literal translation – Flower Mountain)a city where many visitors head for the mountains for some rugged climbing. It was shrouded in smog. Not fog or mist. My young friend had left earlier in the day to go there. I would wonder for weeks if he ever made it or had become lost when we did not connect as sort of planned. Typical mothering instinct. (i have since seen him logged into Facebook but have yet to say hello)

Like Nanning and Guilin, the last time I was in Xi’an a subway system was not even a dream – it now has three lines. Unlike Yangshuo, I was provided with excellent directions, get off the train find the appropriate line, get off at specified station, even the exit letter was provided and a landmark. The hostel I had chosen was just around the corner. Perfectly situated for visiting many sites on foot, by bus or metro. One of the first things I noticed about Xi’an, after checking into my very own room – I needed the break from sharing – was how clean the streets were. This was great except for the music that the street cleaning trucks played – ‘it’s a small world after all’ – over and over and over. I kept singing the rest of the line in my head. There were also street cleaners keeping sidewalks swept and garbage cans emptied. First time in China I thought they may have had too many! Then there were the bike shares. All neatly lined up, easily borrowed using an App such as AliPay (we in the West are so far behind in financial technology). Xi’an got this right, wide roads for traffic, separate paths for motorbikes and bikes and great sidewalks for pedestrians. People were constantly hopping on or off bikes that seemed to always be carefully left in assigned spots whenever possible.

I had booked three nights for Xi’an, I ended up staying five. (Having the freedom to make such changes is one of the main reasons I prefer to travel solo, or at least without an attachment to a tour. However, it is always important to know which countries insist on visitors having an exit ticket – which China does.) So what does one do as the afternoon is waning into evening in Xi’an? Dusk descends early. I left my hostel at 3:30 in the afternoon to head towards the Bell and Drum Towers.

Lights turned on at dusk – Bell Tower, Xi’an China

These were an easy 20 minute walk, and can most likely be done in 15, or one stop by subway. Of course, since I last visited much around the towers had changed. Immediate access by crossing the road was no longer possible, and an area that had been a simple gathering spot was now built into a very nice lower park with easy access to the Muslim Quarter on the far side of the Drum Tower.

Main Street taken from the Drum Tower – the trees provide a wonderful, natural canopy for any weather.
Unfortunately I can only read the first and 4th characters so they have no context. (unless old…meat is something to worry about)This is where I got my first night’s dinner in Xi’an
Dem bones, dem bones, dem dry bones. The meat was succulent.Some serious cooking going on.
Jiangbing, coffee made by me.

This quarter is often given a bad rap by locals – seems to be a common theme worldwide – which, in my opinion, is uncalled for. Primarily ethnic Hui Muslims live in Xi’an, descendants from ancestors who travelled to what is now China 2000+years ago. Two things stood out for me on this trip, the trees and leaves and it was extremely crowded! My last visit I arrived on a freezing cold, new year day of Spring Festival – so, although many families were out everyone was also trying to keep warm, which meant they were mainly going indoors for food. Which is why anyone goes the Muslim Quarter. The food stalls are what draw visitors and locals.

By the end of the night more than one lamb carcass would have been cut to the bone. Skewers being prepared.


As Cogsworth says in the animated version of Beauty & the Beast, “Your Dinner.” From that first lamb carcass hanging all the way to the end of the Main Street with smaller stands selling walnuts. It would be easy to over indulge. I arrived at a perfect time, around 4:30, only managing to walk down then up the Main Street. My senses were overwhelmed. Lamb carved for cooking into delectable chunks to then be minced for roujiamo (far better than any hamburger anywhere) right before your eyes. I found one place doing mad business, three young men singing the wonders of their roujiamo while collecting money hand over fist and handing out reusable cards to the ever increasing line of anxious, hungry patrons. This was indeed dinner and show! Of course I chose them. Oh my goodness, food for the gods. The meat melted in my mouth, the ‘bun’ – not quite pita bread and definitely not a bun – was fresh, warm and did not overpower the meat.

Dinner out of the way I carried on to discover another delicacy I had not enjoyed for fifteen years, and to this day I still do not know what it is called! Sliced into thin pieces, much like cake – not Nian Gao (New Year cake) – I have always been under the impression it is a sweet, rather rare for Chinese dishes.

One of several stalls along the boulevard near my hostel. I could easily find breakfast, lunch and dinner in this quarter of a block if I had wanted. (neighbouring stalls sold: muffins, waffles, toast; soup; seafood on a stick; potatoes; eggs)
Hot dog/sausage on a stick with spices; perfect to assuage hunger pains after a full day of exploring

All in all I visited the quarter every day until my last – even then I ate food that had a definite Muslim flavour flare. Perhaps it was the Persian tastes I was fortunate to encounter over two decades. I ate Xi’anese potatoes – like new potatoes, tiny, fried, add a dash of chilli, green onion, insert a couple of short skewers and there is dinner to go; hammered candy – nuts and/or seeds hammered into small bits then mixed with honey or a form of sugar, much like toffee, before being formed into lengths to be cut into bite size pieces and packaged. How anyone manages to buy these to give as gifts is beyond me – I bought a small package and ate all of it by the time I left Xi’an; persimmon doughnuts – yes, more deep frying deliciousness; cold noodles – these ones were rice noodles with, I believe, cilantro and probably spinach mixed in to make them a lovely jade green, then topped with garlic and a light sesame oil. Yogurt in a glass bottle. Rounds of beautifully designed bread, to be broken off and dipped into a bowl of thick, mutton stew. (As I write I am wondering how soon I can return)

On the boulevard of the main road where I was staying, I checked out a huddle of people waiting for slurp worthy dumplings – no words were necessary for the women doling out these golden, hot pockets of deliciousness. Twice Breakfast was provided by a vendor making jianbing (Chinese crepes) which seem to vary slightly from region to region. Of course I had to have youtiao (deep fried pulled dough – better know as churri in the west. Of course I also had to have lamb kebab, as well as spiral, fried potatoes – these days found at various locations throughout the world. I was in gastronomical heaven and managed to keep my blood sugar within normal range! Only once did I decide a sit down dinner, in an actual restaurant, after realizing i really was not getting enough greens. This is often a challenge unless there are pictures or questionable translations. I ended up with chicken with garlic – garlic scapes. As usual far too much to eat in one sitting so i had it packaged up to take back to my room – only to throw it out the following evening after my foray to the inner streets nearby for more delectable choices and to gather supplies for my train trip to Beijing.

Dinner on a real plate!

Vietnam: Hoi An

My ten day trip ended in Hoi An where I met with my daughter who had arrived there the previous day. Unfortunately, she was not happy with my choice of hotel and let me know it every s i n g l e day. We were there for FIVE days! This was a major reminder as to why I travel solo – I was beginning to doubt the upcoming four day trip we had booked would happen. So much so that by the second day I was in Hoi An I cancelled my driver and was looking into flights back to China or even home to Canada – always follow up on consequences once stated. My daughter was shocked enough to ask me to try to reverse that decision. I mulled over it, told her some concessions were necessary, then contacted my lovely guide. The trip was on, my daughter and I agreed to only spend some of the time together – Hoi An was looking friendlier.

I liked that although our hotel was not within the immediate vicinity of Old Town it was close enough to withstand the heat and humidity that I found it was only just bearable. Each day I left with my hat, umbrella and a full bottle or two of water as well as a granola bar. When my daughter asked if I needed anything from home I asked for more granola bars. She threw in a pair of sandals she had travelled in the previous year – to replace the pair stolen from me in Saigon – because she knew how much my knees would suffer if I only had flip flops. These ended up being my main footwear for the remainder of my travels except when my sturdier walking shoes were necessary. It is these actions that remind me my daughter is basically a good person. We just have to take each other in small doses.

We visited Old Town a few times. This is definitely what draws tourists. The area has a quaint, lazy bustle feel to it during the daytime with many opportunities to visit small, local museums, a couple of old courtyard homes and of course the 18th century, Japanese wooden bridge that sits at one end of the old town. This a favourite spot for photos – nearly impossible to get one without a complete stranger staring out from one section or an entrance. I do not think I growled at everyone to get out of my way for the shot above. Depending on the time and disposition of the ‘guards’ posted at each end there is a fee, or no fee. When we were caught in a downpour everyone nearby huddled at an entrance to avoid paying to go further along.

as we widened our walks behind the main walkways we stumbled across this wonderful house sitting rather forlorn, a beautiful remnant of French influence with enough of an Asian twist to have both of us exclaim in delight, “I want this!” We remained for a few minutes of adoration and dreams. It really was close enough to the heavily visited Old Town to seriously consider for anyone with the money and time to turn it into a boutique hotel.

Evening brought a different vibe. This is when the area becomes very crowded, vendors are out in full force, a wonderful market with all sorts of delicious food and fabulous goods open their stalls and everyone is in a great mood. We ate too much. We joined many others posing with stunning lanterns – my daughter was quite swift at ducking in, angling for a shot, then bowing out with one of her winning smiles. Red lanterns are strung above, beautifully crafted lanterns in all sorts of designs and patterns are lit up to entice buyers, lanterns to drop in the river as prayers to dearly departed, or the gods, are sold left, right and centre. I am quite sure this is not great for the environment. It did cross my mind there are most likely people who drag the soggy remnants out at the end of the nightly revelling. Happy, easy revelling. People may have been a little drunk but never belligerent. A place for families, single people, couples, old and young.

We mainly took it easy for the five days in Hoi An. I had a pedicure. My daughter had her hair coloured and cut. We even made it to the beach. I walked – 40 minutes of insanity in the heat. My daughter sent me a message to say she was taking a TA I and would meet me. I was nearly there by the time she showed up. We seemed to have hit a time when a storm was brewing. This meant absolutely no swimming. However, all the many, many ocean facing restaurants and bars had great seating for viewing the waves, sand and anyone silly enough to get too close to the water. (The two photos show just how close I came to being swept off my feet by an exuberant wave) Dare to sit down and a lifeguard was immediately there to chase you away. Our day wandered into lunch, some cocktails (I drank water), reading and relaxing. The storm did not arrive.

It was soon our last night, time to pack our bags before heading out on a four day Motorbike Tour into my guide’s home country. He had rather happily cancelled a trip from Hanoi, in the north, to Hoi An when I had first suggested a second tour. His home is about a 30 minute drive to the country – he had time to go home for a few days before our tour. I was looking forward to discovering more of this wonderful, diverse, beautiful, small country.