Cdnpearly's Blog

Pearl's musings

Tourists on the loose! November 2, 2014

IMG_3483Our final few days in Cape Town we were 100% tourists.  Instead of opting for in-depth, one-on-one experiences like our Table Mountain hike and the Cape of Good Hope excursion, we opted for the Double Decker Hop-On-Hop-Off bus!

With trusty maps in hand, cameras slung around our necks, and copious sunscreen applied, we ventured onto the big red bus. Cape Town has several routes canvassed by the HOHO* Bus.  Our first stop was the Kirstenbosch National Botanical Garden.  It’s a beautiful property, showcasing many specialized florae.  Paths meander through native species, trees, historical plants and medicinal/traditional flora.

Since it was early springtime, many of the trees and plants were not in

Jonkershuis

Jonkershuis

bloom–likely in a couple of weeks it would be spectacular.  Still, we really enjoyed our stroll through the garden.  Cape Town and Santa Barbara seem to share a similar climate in that we observed Jacaranda, Coral Trees, and many succulents we see here at home.

Jonkershuis

Jonkershuis

From the garden we rejoined the HOHO Bus route to the legendary Constantia Wine Estates.  This region is as rich in history as it is in its breathtaking scenery.  Groot Constantia has been an important vineyard since 1685, with connoisseurs like Napoleon (he had cases of Constantia wine shipped to him whilst in exile on St. Helena!)

Tasha and I enjoyed a tasty lunch at Jonkershuis–recommended by Albert.

Camps Bay

Camps Bay

Next day, we took advantage of the HOHO Canal Tour–it was a leisurely cruise through the very ohlala waterfront area, home to many celebrities…alas we didn’t see any.

Back on the HOHO Bus, we hopped off at incredible Camps Bay.  You’ll recall that we saw Camps Bay from the peak of Table Mountain earlier in the week, but really to appreciate its beauty, you need to be at sea level.  It has a Malibu feel to it–beautiful ocean, beach and people, great restaurants, high property values etc.

Bo-Kaap

Bo-Kaap

Our final stop was at Bo-Kaap.

Bo-Kaap

Bo-Kaap

This historic neighborhood was my favorite part of Cape Town.  Our HOHO tour guide lead an informative and respectful tour through the cobblestone streets and brightly colored homes.  He explained that the homes were originally built for slaves.  Dutch settlers brought Asian slaves to South Africa and gave them homes–so slaves could live as family units, separate from their masters.  After slavery was abolished, these former slaves painted their homes with bright colors as a statement of

Bo-Kaap

Bo-Kaap

freedom.  Houses in this enclave maintain these hues as an historic homage to their residents’ story.

Tasha and I both felt somewhat uncomfortable walking through neighborhoods, taking pictures** etc.  However, our Uber driver assured us that residents were very proud of their homes.  They never dreamed that their neighborhood would be of any interest to anyone.  The driver had first hand knowledge of this since his grandparents and parents were born and raised in Bo-Kaap.

Happy Anniversary Pauline & Graham!

Happy Anniversary Pauline & Graham!

We also had the great fortune to meet up with our dear friends Pauline and Graham!  We celebrated their 47th wedding anniversary at Karibou.  Congratulations!  And more about Pauline and Graham in the next post!

GOLD!  At Albert’s excellent

Gettin' Down at Gold!

Gettin’ Down at Gold!

recommendation, we spent our last night in Cape Town at a wonderful restaurant called Gold. Per Albert’s suggestion we

Gold Drum Teacher

Gold Drum Teacher

arrived at 6pm to take in the drum lesson.  As super keeners, we were the first to arrive and sat in the front row, center to take full advantage of the instruction!  30 minutes of bliss!  Our teacher was AWESOME!  We were remedial amazing talented fun students!

Following the drumming, we enjoyed a fabulous dinner featuring a tasting menu of African dishes from all over the continent.  Tasty!  Even with my precious Canadian taste buds!

Tasha & "Friend"

Tasha & “Friend”

The pièce de résistance was the troupe of singers/dancers that circulated throughout the restaurant.  I think you would have to be a hunk of wood to not resonate with that lively music!  So, as I chair danced to the rhythm, the troupe pulled me up to join them in a dance.  Full disclosure:  I am a terrible dancer!  However, I gave it 100% effort and as a result, I was invited up a second time!  Tasha was singled out by an admirer!

Albert!  We had the best time and it was the perfect finish to our Cape Town experience!

*HOHO = Hop On Hop Off

** Our tour guide explained that we were all welcome to take photos of the homes, but if we wanted to take pics of the residents, please ask permission first–fundamental manners, really.

 

Cape of Good Hope, 2 Oceans and Some Penguins! October 26, 2014

Long Beach, South Africa

Long Beach, South Africa

Hout Bay, South Africa

Hout Bay, South Africa

A full and complete day!

On our recent South Africa holiday, Tasha and I spent an entire day exploring points south of Cape Town.  And it was epic.

Sandra from Africa Dynamics set us up with a wonderful tour guide–Albert Pote.  Albert picked us up at our apartment and the day started with a stop at Hout Bay–a little fishing village with a lovely marina.  Lots of sea life makes this a popular spot to view seals.

From there we wandered down the coast and over some hills with incredible vistas including beautiful Long Beach.

 

 

 

Tasha and the ostrich!

Tasha and the ostrich!

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Cdnpearly and the ostriches

Albert stopped at an ostrich ranch.  He taught the finer points of feeding these HUGE birds!

 

Pincushion

Pincushion

From there we entered the Table Mountain National Park.  The pincushion flowers were spectacular.

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Two Oceans Restaurant

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Two Oceans Restaurant

Two Oceans Restaurant

Two Oceans Restaurant

Lunch was at the incredible Two Oceans restaurant at Cape Point.  Albert had arranged an amazing table overlooking False Bay.  The restaurant is open air and the views are as good as the food!  Birds and baboons also enjoy the Two Oceans, so squirt bottles are placed strategically along the railing–guests and staff “encourage” the creatures to move along with a well placed squirt of water!

 

 

 

 

Cape Point

Cape Point

Following our lunch, we took the Funicular (cable car) to the top of Cape Point.  It was bustling with tourists, but Albert expertly guided us to the best vantage points where we took photos and simply soaked in the location–the southern-most tip of Africa.  Also, we could see the delineation of the two oceans–Indian and Atlantic.

Cape of Good Hope

Cape of Good Hope

Well, actually, that’s not quite true–the oceans don’t seem to mind where they co-mingle!  However, tradition suggests that Cape Point is the meeting place of these 2 bodies of water.

Albert recommended hiking between Cape Point and the Cape of Good Hope.  Since the weather was glorious (again!) and the views promised to be spectacular, we strolled along the well maintained board walk/path hugging the coast line high above the beach.  Tasha and I loved every moment of this hike.

 

 

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African Penguin

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African Penguins, Boulders Beach

From here we traveled north and stopped at Boulders Beach in Simonstown where the ever popular African Penguins hang out. These adorable creatures were formally known as Jack Ass Penguins due to their distinctive mating calls!  Everyone loves penguins!  So it was pretty busy here, however, once again, Albert knew the best place to view and take pictures.  A lovely boardwalk lead us through a wooded area where we saw the penguins’ burrows (nests).  As we approached the beach we were delighted by these sweet birds–waddling on the beach, swimming in the surf, falling/jumping off boulders in the water…mesmerizing!  Definitely worth stopping here for awhile!

Cape of Good Hope

Cape of Good Hope

And just like that, our very full day of sightseeing drew to a close!

If you have the chance to explore this remarkable area, I recommend a tour with Albert.  He immediately understood the type of activity we enjoyed and tailored the day to suit us.  Albert’s knowledge of the area, history, culture, sights etc. was impressive.  He also suggested some other activities to take in during the rest of our holiday–and offered to help us book reservations.  We took him up on his generous offer and in my next post, you’ll see how much we really enjoyed them!

 

 

Olympic National Park August 2, 2014

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Marymere Falls

Crescent Lake

Crescent Lake

Recently I travelled to Olympic National Park in Washington State.  I’ve never explored Washington beyond working at a conference in Seattle years ago.

It is a beautiful spot in the world for sure.

cdnpearly on the ferry

cdnpearly on the ferry

We flew into Seattle and rented a vehicle to reach our destination.  The drive to the park included a ferry ride from Seattle to Bainbridge Island and then across several large bridges.

The weather was perfect–sunny and warm.IMG_2796

Arriving at the NatureBridge campus I was amazed at the lush greenery and the peaceful vibe.  Located on the shore of Crescent Lake, the historic property showcases many charming cottages and a dining hall that takes you back to bygone times.  I heard rumors that this location was a favorite of IMG_2840President Roosevelt!

Lake Crescent is unbelievably clear, with a teal blue color that reminded me of the Caribbean.  I actually looked forward to waking up early to enjoy tranquil mornings on the dock!

Our guide provided many opportunities to explore the area.

We canoed across the lake to hike The Spruce Railroad trail that was repurposed from an old train track. Wood from these forests was used in World War 1 for creating airplanes…to make it easier to get the lumber to the plane manufacturer, a rustic train track was constructed.

Tunnel on the Spruce Railroad trail

Tunnel on the Spruce Railroad trail

One of the most thrilling parts of the trail was through a tunnel.  Abandoned rail road ties littered the ground and made for challenging navigation.  I have some claustrophobic tendencies, so I was somewhat terrified reluctant to go through the gaping chasm that ended in the center of the earth tunnel.  Emerging on the other side was a relief!  It was a growth opportunity for me for sure!

Second Beach

Second Beach

Storm King Summit

Storm King Summit

One day we climbed Storm King.  This mountain overlooks Crescent Lake and provides a good burn for the quads as you ascend.  The views at the top were worth the effort, even on a misty day!

This region is also known for the Twilight movie(s).

Evidently Second Beach was the setting for some of the well known scenes (full disclosure:  I have never read the Twilight series or seen the movies).  We hiked along a beautiful trail that opened up onto the beach.  Interesting rock formations and the marine layer rolling in and out like the tides…well, I could definitely picture vampires, werewolves and whatnot cavorting here!

banana slug

banana slug

barred owl

barred owl

In addition to these “imaginary” creatures–we saw a number of other wildlife.  IMG_2871The ubiquitous banana slugs…a barred owl…a snake…ducks…crawfish…a deer…And the flowers were spectacular.

 

What an amazing experience.

Scottish Broom

Scottish Broom

 

Rachel the pig

Rachel the pig

We made a quick stop at the Pike Place Market in Seattle–saw  Rachel the pig and grabbed a tasty fresh salmon sandwich.  And then it was time to go home…IMG_0658

If you haven’t had the chance to explore Olympic National Park, I definitely recommend adding it to your list!

 

 

The Epic Birthday Week December 21, 2013

I recently celebrated my birthday!

I’m not sure if it’s because I’m a mix of scorpio and fire horse (Chinese zodiac), but I really believe that my birthday should be is a national holiday.  In fact, I go as far as extending this special day to a full week at a minimum and I have stretched it to an entire season if warranted.

IMG_1984Anyhoo, my Canadian BFF:  Cyndi, also celebrates a scorpio birthday so she flew down for a full week of festivities…

And now  I give you “The Epic Birthday Week”!

Cyndi arrived in beautiful Santa Barbara late Saturday night…IMG_1991

Next day we took a class at The Painted Cabernet.  As my readers will recall, this is a local art studio/wine bar.  Our “Venice at Sunset” masterpieces are stunning!  AND I won a free class while I was wearing the honorary Birthday Tiara!  Following the class, we enjoyed a lovely meal at The Palace restaurant–one of my favorite places in Santa Barbara…cajun food in a happy, festive atmosphere.  It was tasty as usual!

The BacaraMonday we enjoyed a spa day at the Bacara.  IMG_9191This 5 star resort is magnificent.  They featured a local’s special:  Bliss Day.  Cyndi got a massage and I got a facial, followed by a complimentary glass of champagne and access to the facilities for the day.  It was a spectacular day, so we lounged poolside for hours…felt like we were celebrities on a weeklong holiday!  We even managed to dodge those pesky paparazzi that constantly stalk us!  😉Santa Barbara Art Glass

IMG_2008Tuesday we took a glass blowing class with Saul Alcaraz at Santa Barbara Art Glass–always a great experience.  We each made 3 spheres with various colors and finishes.  Saul expertly lead us through the process and we are both delighted with our globes.  So pretty!  Thanks Saul!  A lovely lunch at the Arts and Letters Cafe and then off to Other World Tattoo for Cyndi’s birthday tattoo!  J did a fabulous job!  Cyndi opted for a forearm tattoo that says “Courage begins at the wound” in gaelic.

IMG_9201Wednesday we drove up the coast to see Hearst Castle in San Simeon.  The weather was idyllic…so sunny and warm.  As we approached the castle, I mentioned that there was a legend claiming some of Hearst’s exotic animal collection could be seen in the hills…although I have never seen any, and I have never met anyone else that had.  Don’t you know we saw 13 zebra right then!  It was amazing! Hearst ZebraIMG_9204We selected the Designing the Dream tour–it’s a relatively new offering available for a limited time.  I recommend it.  It’s a longer tour–1.5 hours and a smaller group.  We were 6 in our group plus Mary K the guide.  She was amazing, having worked there for many many years.  We wandered around following the tour, basking in the late afternoon glow.

The Burton Inn in Cambria was our over night destination.  We were greeted with a complimentary bottle of wine and recommendations of a nearby restaurant featuring live music and appetizers.  Once we settled in, we ventured out to the charming streets of Cambria.  An hour of apps and guitar music was followed by a tasty dinner at the Sow’s Ear.

Piedras Blancas LightstationNext morning we headed north to Piedras Blancas Lighthouse

Sidebar:  I have been to that stretch of rugged coastline before and it gave an Ottawa blizzard a run for its money in terms of cold and wind!!  Me and my hearty Canadian parents were miserable in spite of the epic views and wildlife!!IMG_9232

Back to Piedras Blancas on this trip…we met up with our guide who toured us around a number of the historic buildings and natural phenomena on the site.  Since it is a designated area, no one is allowed to just arrive and traipse around–you must be escorted with an official docent.   Lucky for us, a tour was available on Thursday morning!  I had prepared Cyndi for a blustery gale…lots of layers and warmth!  However, we arrived to a balmy day with light winds and sparkly sunshine.  The guide remarked repeatedly, “It’s NEVER like this here!”  In fact, he explained that life on this remote outpost was arduous for the light keepers and their families…getting supplies was challenging due to the treacherous surf and high winds.  The constant cold also took its toll.  However, based on our perfect day, you would never imagine their hardships!

IMG_2047Next we stopped at the Elephant Seal rookery–about a mile south of the lighthouse.  It is the season for adolescent seals to congregate.  For the most part they lounged around and ignored the adults–typical teenagers!  Every now and then one of them would get a little feisty and engage in a tussle….and then return to sleeping and sun tanning!

A meandering drive South and we arrived back home, refreshed.

Brophy Bros.Friday was an odds & sods day where we did errands and picked up our glass…had lunch at Brophy Bros. to celebrate Cyndi’s actual birthday.  And Saturday at the crack of dawn (literally) Cyndi flew home to Canada.

It was a jam-packed epic week of art, creativity, nature, scenery, decadence…I thoroughly recommend it!

I just wonder what we’ll do for next year’s Birthday Week???

How about you?  Do you make a fuss for your birthday?  Let’s hear some stories!

 

Santa Barbara Open Streets–Calles Vivas! November 2, 2013

Open StreetsAs if I needed another reason to love Santa Barbara!  Today was the inaugural Open Streets event.  Per Sunday Streets in San Francisco, the concept of “Open Streets” originated in Bogota, Columbia in 1976.  “Ciclovia” has been expanded there and now encompasses 70% of 20 different neighborhoods!  A great idea like this catches on fast and now cities from Kiev to Tokyo enjoy Open Streets!IMG_1965

Beautiful Cabrillo Boulevard hugs the beach as it curves through Santa Barbara.  Usually it’s jam-packed with tourists and locals alike, driving and taking in the beauty.  But today the street was owned by pedestrians, bicyclists, and skateboarders.  Truly, it could not have been more idyllic!  The weather was perfect, the stroll-ers were happy with lots to see and do…

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We arrived early in the day and parked at the Amtrak lot.  A few steps later, the traffic was forgotten as we meandered smack down the middle of Cabrillo.

We sampled a great dance class provided by Santa Barbara Dance Institute and took in some face painting along the way.

IMG_1974An on-the-spot poet created magical poems for us on topics ranging from Cats, Birds to Pearls!IMG_1969

IMG_1967Meg and Cat Girl were the first to try out the Firefighters obstacle course and set the bar high for following competitors!

The carousel is always popular!IMG_1962

After walking the 2.5 miles of the Open Street, we decided that our dogs had had enough.  Chris from Santa Barbara Pedicab delivered us back to our car in style, with a side stop at the amazing BIG tree in the Amtrak lot!

IMG_1972What a great day!  I hope you had a chance to take it in.  AND I hope it becomes an annual event.  It’s a unique way to see and enjoy our beautiful city!

 

Running and Painting… September 24, 2013

Not at the same time!

Prepared Girl & Me before the She Is Beautiful 5k

Prepared Girl & Me before the She Is Beautiful 5k

Last weekend Prepared Girl and I participated in the 2nd annual She Is Beautiful Run at Santa Barbara’s East Beach.

Katie, Me and Kimmie

Katie, Me and Kimmie

It was a glorious celebration of women and pink and fitness and the spectacular Santa Barbara beach.

Despite a hiatus in my training, Prepared Girl and I finished the 5k a respectable 23 & 24 out of the 252 women in our age group!  We ran the whole course–no walking!  Even on the hills!

Sneaker Bling

Sneaker Bling

BeeCause Sneaker Charms offered a great selection of shoe bling!

We had a cheering squad to meet us as we sprinted across the finish line!  Thanks Katie and Kimmie!

If you are a runner, or are thinking about becoming a runner…if you live in Santa Barbara or need an excuse to visit:  I recommend trying this event next year.  There is a 10k race and a mommy/baby category as well.  It’s a super-positive and fun run!

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Blank Canvas

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Getting started…

And now for the painting!

Crafty Mama and I took advantage of a sweet Living Social Deal at the Painted Cabernet in Santa Barbara.  It’s a delightful wine bar/paint class–quite civilized really!

We arrived to find paper-covered tables topped with blank canvases.  Our welcoming hostesses walked us through loading up our palettes and selecting our beverage.

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About half way…

Our artist/instructor was awesome!  She took us through the creative process step-by-step, meeting each “artist” at their comfort level–some had painted before and didn’t require much hand holding, while others were timid and appreciated her positive encouragement and suggestions.

Me & Crafty Mama

Me & Crafty Mama

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Almost finished…

As we worked on our masterpieces, a kick butt sound track played in the background–a great mix of upbeat tunes.

It was fascinating to wander around the studio seeing all the incarnations of the sample picture–we are all truly individuals!  If you look closely you can see that I included a tiny elephant as homage to my wonderful Africa safari (can it really be a year since I was there??)

This is another Santa Barbara experience that I wholeheartedly recommend to locals and tourists alike.  Browse the Painted Cabernet’s Calendar to see which project strikes your fancy and then book it!  You won’t regret it!

 

Resolutions: 2013 January 4, 2013

The hoopla is behind us and we are in the midst of the next season:  resolutions…the making and breaking of.

I generally make a list at the beginning of the year. I check in with them at Half Christmas (June 25) to assess/toss/renew/add to the list.

It has proven an effective method of changing and introducing habits.  For example:  last year one of my resolutions was to change over and stick with iCal (calendar app for MAC).  One of the best things I’ve done!  Phone, iPad and computer all synced automatically…color coded for events and personnel.  It rocks!  And, it’s now part of my day-to-day world.  Success!

This year I’m committing my resolutions to the cyber world by means of my blog.  I’ve found that if I announce decisions to the public, I’m more likely to follow through–public shaming is an effective tool in sticking to a goal!

In no particular order:

IMG_11981.  3 Day Body Cleanse/Detox

Alison, Heidi and I are done with the Dr. Oz’s 3 Day program.  It has been an interesting, but manageable regime.  If you are thinking of doing this, let me give you some of my successful tips:  Use a Vitamix or some other powerful blender–it melanges the shake ingredients into a smoothie-type consistency…no chunks of kale or cucumber at all.  Also, for those with precious taste buds like me, I recommend dialing back the cayenne in the dinner drink…it was WAY too spicy for me.  So far I’ve lost a few pounds (which is good), but more importantly, it brought my snacking habit  into full view.  I didn’t realize how many times I grab a few macadamia, or almonds or dark chocolate from the pantry.  I had the idea that since I wasn’t snacking on carbs (processed carbs = Satan), it didn’t really count.  I definitely need to look at the quantity of between-meal snacks I enjoy. I’ll give this cleanse another whirl at Half Christmas.

2.  Half MarathonIMG_1197

8 years ago I achieved Black Belt…which was great.  But, I need a new fitness goal.  It must be challenging and defined.  Santa Barbara hosts an annual International Marathon in November.  I know many participants and their successes inspired me to give it a try.  I interviewed several runners and researched my training options–I am NOT a runner by any stretch!  I settled on the Couch to Half Marathon program.  It really takes you from no running to 13.1 miles in a very civilized and do-able manner.  The early stages involve a series of interval training workouts.  I found the Seconds Pro app to be perfect for these runs.  This app allows you to share programmed intervals with others–very handy when you’re training with a group.  I am fortunate to be running with a posse of 3 other women.  The peer pressure has been very effective in keeping us on the schedule.  I haven’t missed one run yet!  Oh, and I bought some awesome running shoes:  Brooks Adrenaline GTS 13.  The fine people at Santa Barbara Running helped me make the selection.  Thanks for your help!

3.  Progress Toward Travel Writing Career

I love traveling.  I love writing (my university degree is actually in english literature).  I recently discovered a new genre:  Travel Writing, thanks to Bill  Bryson’s In A Sunburned Country.  It was a revelation!  I can combine 2 of my favorite things!  Part of my purpose in writing this blog is to develop my audience and writing skills.  In November I submitted an article about my Africa adventures to a great website called the Bucket List.  Imagine my delight when it was accepted and published!  Check it out here:  Bucket List Publications.  I plan on honing my writing skills and developing a larger following…stay tuned!  This is also a wonderful way to expand my travel adventure opportunities!

IMG_0738 IMG_57904.  Celebrate My Parents 50th Anniversary

Maurice and Ruth were married in August, 50 years ago.  We will gather in Canada this summer to observe their inspiring accomplishment.  You can be sure there will be a blog posting about this momentous occasion.

5.  Raise Funds For Foundation Fighting Blindness

As my readers know, our daughter has been diagnosed with Stargardt’s disease.  Simply put, it is a rare juvenile form of Macular Degeneration, resulting in rapid vision loss.  Presently there is no cure.  Foundation is an amazing group that funds research aimed at finding cures for retinal disease.  We participated in the annual Santa Barbara Vision Walk last year.  Shortly after that wonderful event, we were invited to join a clinical study at UCLA–Jules Stein Eye Institute which involves extensive testing and data tracking.  This study, amongst many others, is funded by Foundation.  It feels like the right thing to do–support a group that will find a cure for our daughter and many others who suffer with devastating vision loss.  Interesting in joining us?  Here’s the website for Meghan’s Posse–our team at the 2013 Santa Barbara Vision Walk.

IMG_62006.  Create Some New Art

I plan to create some new stained glass mosaics.  And, take a few more glass blowing classes with Saul Alcaraz…photos to follow!

7.  Enjoy Santa BarbaraIMG_8539

I’m lucky enough to live in paradise.  I’m always dismayed how infrequently I get to the beach.  I resolve to visit the seaside regularly.  It’s tonic to my soul…and it’s free!

I’m sure that I will come up with some other resolutions, but that’s a wrap for now.

Did you resolve anything?  What are your New Year’s plans?