Southampton, Ontario

I grew up swimming in Georgian Bay in crystal clear, cold water. When I first moved to Massachusetts and went swimming in a lake, I was horrified. The water was warm and the bottom of the lake was squishy! What a treat to return to Ontario this past weekend and swim in Lake Huron. This is what a lake is meant to be!

We traveled to Southampton to attend my nephew Sam’s wedding. Friday evening we gathered to meet family and friends and then walked on the beach path to the Canadian flag. The flagpole is the town gathering spot for the sunset and a bagpipe player!

Our accommodations were wonderful…Beach Rocks B&B, located directly across the street from the water. The ground floor of the owner’s home had two bedrooms and a large living space to share. A delicious, filling breakfast was served upstairs on their screened porch.

The B&B also provided easy access to a multi-use path along the water. We walked both directions on the path, observing birds, bikers, rocks and Lake Huron.

We had dinner at Duffy’s Fish and Chips, which was a short walk from the beach on the main street in Southampton. The panfried Lake Huron Whitefish was delicious.
We were told to try the jelly donuts at Offshore Bakery so we made a stop on Saturday afternoon for some. And of course I bought a couple butter tarts because they make me happy! The donuts and the tarts were the perfect snack with our pre-wedding G&T made with Georgian Bay gin.
Barbara and Alan MacLeod, the B&B owners, recommended swimming at Beach Street and also suggested the fries from Gerry’s Fast Food, a little take-out place at the beach. We followed their suggestions and after swimming got an enormous order of fries which we split between five of us! Excellent recommendations!

Then we headed to the wedding…

Congratulations to Sam and Ellen, I’m so glad they chose Southampton for their wedding!

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Thirty six square miles of paradise in the Caribbean Sea.

Peaceful, beautiful and lush with blue-green water and long stretches of sandy beaches.

Nevis Peak dominates the center of the island and is frequently covered with clouds.
The island was named ‘Nuestra Senora de las Nieves’ (Our Lady of the Snows) since the volcanic peak appeared to be covered in snow. In the 18th century, Nevis was nicknamed “Queen of the Caribees,” due to the fact that 20% of the British Empire’s total sugar production came from Nevisian plantations. Sugar cane is no longer grown on the island and tourism now drives the economy.

We stayed at Nisbet Plantation, a former sugar and coconut plantation on the beach, where dinner is served in the restored Great House dating back to 1778.
The beautiful grounds are lined with palm trees, the beach is perfect,

and the staff is friendly! Violet had a big smile for us everyday at breakfast.

Colorful fishing boats are all over the island with creative names on them.

Not surprisingly, fresh fish is on the menu in most restaurants. I had grilled lobster at Sunshine’s Beach Bar, grilled Mahi Mahi at Double Deuce and grilled Wahoo at Bananas. All of it was prepared simply and delicious.

Piggy has been the gardener at Oualie Beach Hotel for 27 years, tending to the grounds, the coconut trees and the guests. We have stayed at the hotel many times when our kids were younger and Piggy was always a friendly face.

He is quite skilled at chopping open a coconut for the freshest coconut water ever.

Charlestown is the capital of Nevis and worth a visit to walk the town center and explore the local architecture.

A new addition to the limited selection of shops in town is the Charlestown Art Gallery, coordinated by the effusive Deborah Tyrell of Nevis Island Living.

The weather was perfect except for an occasional downpour. The rain never lasts long and usually leaves behind a rainbow and beautiful droplets on the plants.

There is a decent road that circles the island and is worth the drive. Goats, sheep and monkeys often dart in your path, adding to the fun.

Reggie Douglas of Nevis Adventure Tours is an excellent guide for a hike in the rain forest or a bike trip. He is knowledgeable, patient and energetic.

Like I said, 36 square miles of paradise.

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Paris (the 100 mile journey, part 3)

The subtitle of the last three blog posts, the 100 mile journey, should be a clue that the 37 miles we walked in Paris brought our total for nine days to 100 miles!
Emerging from the train station to bright sunshine, we walked to our hotel.
We saw three different brides having photos taken at various scenic locations.
This bride had sneakers on and moved effortlessly through the crowds.

A rain storm moved in quickly, soaking this bride at the Eiffel Tower.
On our first afternoon, we walked to Rue Cler and enjoyed the market scene and lunch. When the rain moved in, we took the Metro back and ended up in the basement of the department store BHV. Since it was raining, we had fun riding up the escalator to every floor and window shopping. We also checked out the department store Galeries Lafayette and were amazed at the view from the 3rd floor! The store also has a rooftop terrace that provided beautiful views of the city.
Everyday started with some amazing bread product and coffee
and usually included at least one sidewalk cafe for people watching.
Our one museum visit was to the Musee Marmottan Monet, a self-described beacon in the field of Impressionism. It was the perfect size museum, housed in a former hunting lodge in a quiet residential neighborhood.
We stayed at the Hotel Beauborg in the Marais district so we explored the area by following Rick Steves walking tour and visiting the Marches aux Enfants Rouge, the oldest covered market in Paris. Even the radishes look fabulous!
Everything we ate was delicious but some standouts were falafels at L’As du Fallafel, olive bread from Eric Kayser and dinner at L’Acanthe.

And then it was time to go home — 3 cities, 9 days and 100 miles later!

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London (the 100 mile journey, part 2)

We arrived in London the day before the Scottish independence vote, which might explain the bagpipe player on Westminster Bridge. In case you missed the news, the final vote was 55% no, 45% yes and an amazing 85% voter turnout. So Scotland will remain part of the UK, but with a need for greater involvement over their affairs.

Our first stop in London was the half-price ticket booth for theatre tickets. We had three nights in London and saw three plays! I love the 7:30pm start time and many of the theatre’s are much smaller than in NYC so you sit closer to the stage.
We saw Shakespeare in Love, Matilda and The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night.
The weather was great in London so we continued everywhere on foot, logging an additional 27 miles for a total of 63 miles. We set off on our first morning for the Borough Market on the south bank, a feast for the senses.

We continued on to the Beefeater Distillery for a tour of the only gin still made in London. Beefeaters has 9 different herbs and botanicals in it but the predominant one must be juniper to be considered a London Gin. The tour included a chance to touch and smell all the ingredients, and a gin and tonic!
Another activity was to take pictures of signs that made me laugh.
As a fan of Yotam Ottolenghi, I was excited about dinner reservations at his restaurant NOPI. If you are curious about what all the buzz about him is about, I’ve attached a link to a Dec 3rd, 2012 New Yorker article about him. His food is creative, innovative and delicious.
Our only sit-down dinner was at NOPI but we had delicious take out salads from Baker & Spice, a gourmet takeout place right around the corner from our bed and breakfast, B+B Belgravia. Our B+B was clean, simple and provided a full English breakfast. We were on the top floor, 50 steps up, which added to our daily mileage!
We squeezed in a visit to the National Gallery and took advantage of a free tour that highlighted several paintings and gave us a good orientation to the museum.
And then we were off, taking the train to Paris which delivered us across the channel in just over two hours.

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Oxford (the 100 mile journey, part 1)

While visiting Oxford, London and Paris a few weeks ago, I wore my pedometer and managed to cover 100 miles on foot! Walking is my favorite mode of transportation, particularly in cities, so it wasn’t that difficult to do. You see things on foot that you don’t get to see from a car window or even a bicycle, which seemed to be the preferred method of transportation in Oxford.

I was warned to watch out for aggressive bicylists by the tour guide from Footprints, a company that provides a free walking tour of Oxford. You ‘pay’ a tip at the end if you enjoyed it. The tour provided a great orientation to Oxford.

The university doesn’t have a central ‘campus’ but is made up of 38 different colleges.
Each college is self governing and financially independent. Most of the grounds were closed to visitors or charged admission so I just peeked in at several.

Christ Church Meadow is a large area of tranquil pasture in the heart of the city, owned and maintained by Christ Church and bordering the rivers Cherwell and Isis.

Christ Church College was used in the filming of Harry Potter movies, as was the Bodleian Library.

The Botanic Gardens provided a beautiful escape from the hustle and bustle of Oxford.

Oxford is known as the city of dreaming spires, for obvious reasons.

Our hotel, The Cotswold Lodge Hotel, suggested dinner in a nearby neighborhood known as Jericho and we had three great meals. Indian food at The Standard, fresh fish at Loch Fyne and Italian food at BRANCA.
Between the Footprints tour, the Bodleian Library tour, walking to dinner each night and just general exploring, we left Oxford for London with 36 miles logged on the pedometer!

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Southport, ME

This summer has been quiet as far as traveling goes so with September fast approaching, we decided to take a couple days and travel to Maine to an inn on the island of Southport, just a few miles south of Boothbay Harbor.
We stopped for a lobster roll on the way at Portland Lobster Co. and arrived at the Newagen Seaside Inn in time for a hike along the shore,

and a beautiful sunset.

I was wide awake at 6am the next morning and slipped down to the dock for an incredible sunrise over the water.

Apparently at 7am there was a polar plunge for anyone interested…my toes were numb just dipping them in the water so I skipped that activity!

The little island of Southport has a general store and the Hendricks Head lighthouse, allowing me to take the quintessential Maine lighthouse photo!

I made sure to have a lobster roll daily…

and a gin and tonic!

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San Diego

Despite the overcast cool weather, we enjoyed three days in San Diego last weekend.

We met a friend for lunch in Del Mar where we watched the surfers and ate our lunch outside on the patio. On the way back to our hotel, we stopped for an easy hike at Torrey Pines State Reserve. The park has preserved 2000 acres of undeveloped land and is home to the rare and elegant Torrey pine trees, miles of unspoiled beaches, and a lagoon that is vital to migrating seabirds.

Friday we headed to Balboa Park, described as a landscape of arts and culture. It is a 1200 acre oasis in the middle of the city. There are beautiful gardens and over a dozen museums all housed in the park. The visitor center was a useful first stop for a map and overview of what to see and do.

We did a quick walk through the quilt exhibit at the Mingei International Museum,

had lunch at The Prado and then decided to brave the Good Friday crowds and go to the San Diego Zoo. The lines were long with plenty of strollers to navigate but the up close access to the animals was worth it!

Our evenings were spent comparing fish tacos and margaritas. We ate at Miguel’s Cocina in Old Town, the Red Marlin bar at our hotel, and World Famous in Pacific Beach.
Saturday the sun came out so we enjoyed lunch outside at Georges at the Cove in La Jolla.

We had plenty on our list that we didn’t get to on this visit — Coronado, the gaslamp district, Old Town, so we will happily return to San Diego.

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