Swan Song, Full time RVing

The swan song is a metaphorical phrase for a final gesture, effort, or performance given just before death or retirement.  Hopefully, we’re not dieing, and technically, we are retired.  But we are retiring from the RV life.  We have moved into a condo and will sell the RV.

It’s been an interesting few years.  The life of a vagabond is not for everyone.  We’ve met many people along the way who say they’d love to do what we were doing but…….For one reason or another, they stayed where they were.  The RV parks, in Canada at least, are often nearly full of people who live there permanently.  Our idea was not to stay anywhere for too long.

The first year on the road started in November 2013, 2 months after retiring from our full time jobs.  We sold our condo faster than expected so  moved into the RV in June instead of just before hitting the road.  There is a lovely, well maintained, but expensive park in Burnaby, full of German tourists and a few full time residents from before the laws changed.  At one time, anyone could move into a RV park and live there.  Then one by one the city planners decided that was a no-no and only those grandfathered could stay for more than 6 months.

So, we moved into the RV and Cariboo RV park and continued working for a few more weeks.  We took our inaugural RV trip in August, to Edmonton, Alberta to visit Al’s oldest son.  Hardly out of town and a tire blew, taking out the wiring system and the black water tank.  Uh-oh.  When we got back to the park a week later, we discovered that the black water tank would have to be manufactured, no one had any in stock.  That meant a few months wait.  Oh, joy, every morning before work, we had to go to the main washroom for a shower.

We left Canada mid November in driving rain.  Into Washington state, the storm was hideous.  We had an appointment with a Camping World business to have a macerator pump installed.  That is a system that chews all the waste into such small bits it can pass through a garden hose.  The storm delayed us so that we arrived at our reserved overnight RV park too late; the office was closed, there were too few lights to find a spot to stay, so we went back to Camping World, pulled inbetween some of the RVs on the lot and spent the night.  Turns out there is an actual lot at the back.  Good news for another time.

We dawdled our way down the west coast.  Beautiful country.  Oregon coast is still our favorite place on any part of the planet we’ve explored (close second is Super natural British Columbia).  Eventually, we arrived in Galveston, Texas and booked into Jamaica Beach RV park.  That park was recommended by another traveler we met along the way.  In Jamaica Beach, we made friends who remain so, with whom we’ve visited in their home states in the next years and who have come to visit us in Canada.

We took two cruises out of Galveston, into the Caribbean.  Oh, boy, is cruising the best way to vacation.  Just love it.  After a few short weeks, we were on the road again, heading further east, right to the Atlantic coast with sojourns in Alabama, Louisiana,  and on the Florida panhandle, again from suggestions from fellow travelers.

From Florida, we took another cruise – Turks and Caicos that time.  Did you know that those islands have twice applied to Canada to become part of our federation.  Oh, that they had succeeded.  We could move there and have lovely weather all year round (except for the occasional hurricane).  Florida is far too expensive to spend much time there.  The keys were fun and we’d go again, but wow, the  pricing.  Yikes.  When we checked it out, it was cheaper to leave the RV in Ft. Lauderdale, rent a car and drive there.  RV spots, if you can get one, are in the range of $90 and up.  Not for this retired couple.

This is actually Cosumel, Mexico

We worked our way slowly up the east coast, visiting new places.  Love, love, love Savannah.  Not the RV park we stayed and left earlier than what we’d paid for.  It was terrible, to say the least.

Then a visit to family in Ontario once we’d crossed back into Canada, and back west across the prairies to our home province of British Columbia.  But we weren’t finished with travelling for that trip.  We drove up north all the way to Alaska, Hyder to be exact.  It’s just a whistle stop on the way to no where but we’d been to Alaska and could put up another sticker on our map of travels.  There’s lots to see and experience in BC’s interior.

On the recommendation of friends who are also full timers, we booked into the Peace Arch RV park, just above the US border.  Lovely park, reasonable.  We stayed there until it was time again to go south.  That winter, we spent most of our time in Jamaica Beach RV park.  Obviously we liked it a lot.  The park is family run and that family adopts everyone for the season.  Wonderful people.  Dora makes cookies every Christmas for the firefighters and police officers.  She also makes personalized gifts for every person in the park.  Creative, giving lady.

We didn’t travel further east that year but on our way north and home, we spent a week in Hemet, California thanks to an on-line special.  When we enquired about a longer stay, the price went up to double what we’d just paid.  So, off we went again, further north to Arizona.  We had discovered a park called Val Vista just outside Casa Grande, midway between Tuscon and Phoenix.  Fabulous place.  Just about the best place we’d ever stayed.  On the way south we stumbled upon this park for one night and determined to go back.  We spent 2 great weeks there despite everything more or less closing down for the coming summer. That park has a full time activity director who has only July and August off.  There’s just so much to do there.

But unfortunately for our long trip travel plans, Al developed spinal stenosis. We crossed the border back to Canada and went straight to the hospital. My poor long suffering-in-silence spouse spent a miserable summer but thanks to good chiropractic treatments from a wonderful doctor, Khalid Alibhi in Surrey, B.C., he could once again sit behind the wheel in some comfort.  Regardless, we determined that was basically the end of our long road trips.

About the end of the summer, Al’s daughter Angella, who lives in the Okanagan, told him about part time work as a tour bus driver, AL’s forte.  We spent a wet, cold winter in Peace Arch park and determined never to spend another winter in Canada in the RV.  Thousands of people do it, but we would no longer be part of that.

Summer of 2016 saw us in Oliver, B.C. at another great park: Apple Beach on Tucelnuit Lake.  Can’t say enough good things about the owners of that park who were as new to the park as we were, arrived the same day we did; we were their first customers.  Oliver is the wine capital of Canada, so says their ‘hello’ sign.  There are quite a number of wineries in close proximity.

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Because we did all of our major shopping in Penticton, we moved there for this past summer.  Despite the poor reviews we read on Trip Advisor about Oxbow RV park, we had no issues and were quite happy to stay there for 6 months. If we hadn’t found a great condo we decided to make our permanent home, we were booked back in there for 2018.  Wine country is a great place to have friends come to visit.
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A 17 day cruise to Hawaii for the first part of October rounded out a busy year for us. We came back to Canada’s Okanagan valley and determined to stay here.
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So, this is our very last post, our Swan Song to full time RVing.  Because we both enjoy writing, we will likely post again under a new moniker, no longer CUSIYC (catch us if you can).  If you are interested, we’ll be found somewhere under a title about Canada’s Okanagan one of these days.  There is so much going on here, along the valley, there will be lots of fodder for our ‘pen’.

Til we meet again!!! Cheers~~~

debea debea that’s all folks.

Al’s QOTD:  Enjoy yourself; no one gets out of this life alive.

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Full time RVing – but not on this trip

October 1. Beautiful autumn. We boarded MS Eurodam late afternoon for a 17 day cruise to the Hawaiian islands.
What a year we are having. Being retired means having time to go when the mood strikes us. Al is not retired anymore. He’s been working quite steadily all summer. But because he drives a charter bus, I have often been able to travel with him. We have spent countless nights in hotels since April. In fact, most of the moth of June was hotels in Alberta. Love those king size beds.

But now, here we are. On a cruise ship sailing for Hawaii. Hawaii in the 50th state in the union as of June 1959. It is actually an archepelego, 1500 miles long, made up of 137 islands, only 8 of which are well known. Maui is the 2nd largest at 712 sq.miles. Nawiliwili is new to the itinerary, is on the smallest of the main inhabited islands – Kauai. 60 major TV shows and movies have been filmed here including 3 of the Jurassic Park movies.

This cruise started in Seattle. We were told it didn’t sell out there so Vancouver was added to the itinerary and then it sold out fast. The largest contingent of nationalities was by far Canadian. That by show of voice in the theatre one night.

We have to say of all the sea ports we’ve cruised to, Vancouver is the most beautiful one anywhere.  The dock is right down town, not in any  industrial area; walk off the ship and into some of the best shopping in the world.  It is so lovely all around Canada Place, the ship docks.

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This is the seabus that travels between Vancouver and North Vancouver, part of the Transit system.
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But now, here we are. On a cruise ship sailing for Hawaii. Hawaii in the 50th state in the union as of June 1959. It is actually an archepelego, 1500 miles long, made up of 137 islands, only 8 of which are well known. Maui is the 2nd largest at 712 sq.miles. Nawiliwili is new to the itinerary, is on the smallest of the main inhabited islands – Kauai. 60 major TV shows and movies have been filmed here including 3 of the Jurassic Park movies.

This cruise started in Seattle. We were told it didn’t sell out there so Vancouver was added to the itinerary and then it sold out fast. The largest contingent of nationalities was by far Canadian. That by show of voice in the theatre one night.

This trip is definitely for the geriatric crowd. If all the walkers, canes and scooters were put in one room, they would fill it to the ceiling and then some. There are a few children on board, 2 of whom were in the adult only pool on the first night. There are a couple babies that appear to be crew members’ children. Those others must be of the home schooled variety or from across the other side of the world where school is out.

There is nothing too exciting about the décor on this ship. We’ve seen some pretty spectacular stuff on some cruises. Still, there are flowers everywhere, orchids on every table in the diner, a bowl full of cut flowers as a centre piece in the dining room, several displays of flowers around the ship in little hanging glass bottles. Then there are the artificial ones that are quite interesting, too.  These flowers are real.
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That round structure in the background (over Al’s shoulder) is one of Vancouver’s revolving restaurant.  I blogged about it a couple years ago.  Fabulous view!!  This huge fern is not real.IMG_1387//embedr.flickr.com/assets/client-code.js
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Those doors are elevators. Pretty.

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That last photo was the glass staircase going from deck 3 down to 2.  Our cabin was on the main deck.
We have taken a few cruises over the past 9 years. Our room has always been somewhere around the size of a good closet. This one!! WOW!. The bathroom is just that: a BATHroom. We have a tub.  Not that either of us take baths, we’re into showers, but, still…………a tub.  I used it once to wash socks, stomped all over them in the soap suds then hung them on the line that retracted into the wall.
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It is 3 times the size of the one in the MOHO. You know the size parameters: pull your pants down and back in. This one we could dance in, sort of, close together, no ‘old time rock n roll’, maybe ‘Can’t help falling in love’. And the room itself is almost as big as any hotel room. We have a window. Not a porthole, an actual window with a sill out to the never ending sea. And a table to play cards and 3 closets and lots of storage space for the 17 days worth of clothes we brought. How did we rate? I have to put in a plug for the agent who got this for us. His name is Harold Post from Vacations to Go. We found him quite by accident a few years ago when we were booking cruises out of Galveston, Texas. He’s been more than great. So, if you need a good travel agent, his contact info is at this email  vhpost@vacationstogo.com

Monday night was variety night at the main stage. Lots of energy, lots of good music, lovely stage.  We were not allowed to take pictures of the performances.

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There are hula lessons every day at the top deck pool area. When a couple men joined the group, the leader said that was ok, that back home in Hawaii, there were a few men who liked to be ladies, too.  They didn’tr come to the 2nd lesson.


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At the next table to us at dinner, one woman diner was overheard to say to her husband, you used your own brain tonight and you know you shouldn’t have. She had a couple other choice items of speech as well, but her husband just kept smiling and talking. We wondered if there is a bit of dementia going on there. It was more than a little off the wall

Tuesday night’s mainstage singer/comedian Brett Cave. He is a British entertainer who highlights Billy Joel and England’s queen, (as he put it) Elton John. He got the house rocking with lots of both Joel and John and lots of Beatles. He finished with Piano Man. The fellow is worth the price of admission, which on board ship, is free. Mr. Cave came on stage in a red suit. He told the Americans in the theatre not to worry, that just because he was wearing a red coat didn’t mean the British were coming back to get them.

We were at the BB King theatre for some R n B. The group were rocking things up. The girl singer was belting out: Let’s give ‘em something to talk about…………………..so, I turned to Al and started to unbutton his shirt – he slapped my hands!!! What??!! He slapped my hands. What!! Guess he wasn’t into the song.

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First landfall after 6 full days at sea was Hilo (pronounced Heelo), the second largest city in Hawaii with a population of 38000 – just like Penticton. How about that! Al and I did separate tours this time. He went to the volcano while I went to the water falls. If I never smell sulfur in this life or the next, I will be a very happy woman. Al’s trip promised there would be sulfur. There wasn’t any, nor was there any lava in evidence. He was disappointed.  And both tours were overpriced for what we saw and didn’t see.

We were awake by 6am (which is 9am in Vancouver) to see the first point of land we’ve seen since leaving Canada. Every second day the time rolled back an hour. This first stop is very reminiscent of Vancouver Island to us west coast Canadians.

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One of the common things on each tour is a trip to the Macadamia nut visitor centre. This nut is originally from Australia and was brought here as a plant in the 1870s. It certainly thrives and has most of us, I’m sure, believing it is true Hawaiian. The tour guide on my trip was Dennis. He was an excellent ambassador for the state of Hawaii, told us all sorts of interesting facts along the way. Actually, he made the tour.
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There are 2500 acres of Macadamian trees planted on this island, about 200,000 trees altogether. We were taken to the Mauna Loa nut centre but it is not the only company that has these nuts. It was a useless stop, only good for buying nuts. The cookie shack and the factory were not open, only the store. There are dark/milk chocolate covered, plain, honey mustard roast, nut flavored popcorn, and so on.

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There are 4 or 5 harvests a year. Each tree produces about 1200 pounds of nuts. The whole thing is used: the husk for compost, the shell is burned for fuel/power to run the plant, and of course, the nut. It takes about 3000 pounds per sq. in. to break those suckers open, too. No point in taking a bag full home unless one has a steam roller available.  Besides, it’s against the customs laws to bring in nuts in a husk.

The husks are harvested when they fall to the ground. A machine goes through the trees raking the nuts into wind rows, after which real people follow to pick up the strays from among the debris.

The top shelf in this picture shows the different states of the nut from the husk to the edible part.
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The homes in Hilo have lovely, lush green lawns and quite large lots. The starting price is around $250,000 for a modest bungalow/rancher.

Mauna Loa and Mauna Kea are the tallest mountains in the world. They start at the ocean floor about 30,000 feet below the surface and rise another 13000 or so into the sky, which makes them taller than Mt. Everest.

Banana, lemon, guava trees all grow along the roadside. And everywhere you look there are hibiscus flowering trees.

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I can’t get a small plant to thrive at home but here, they are everywhere. The Candlenut tree is the main Hawaiian tree. The nuts burn for fuel and are a good laxative. 2 or 3 makes a good movement, 6 or 7 makes you walk a lot faster but 9 or 10 and you’ll never make it, so says our guide.

At the 2 sets of falls we visited, there are many dead trees, their bare branches reaching high. They are the Abbiza trees which are being systematically destroyed. They grow to 150 – 180 feet tall in no time but are a brittle, weak tree which damage everything around them in high winds and huricanes because they break easily. So, they are being taken away before they can cause more damage.

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We ate in the main dining room for a few nights. But one night, Al was told he had to change into long pants to go there. After that, we mostly ate at the buffet. I admit I prefer to be served. The ‘buffet’ lines are not the way they used to be, where you pile your plate high and leave half of it to the garbage. The trays of food are distributed by the staff behind the counters. They give you a spoonful, more only if you ask. Better food management.

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Occasionally there is something that is ‘help yourself’. I’ve heard people saying: oh, I got 2, well, I’d better keep them both, that’s the rule. It seems the rule on cruise ships is eat, eat, eat. One tour guide told us that Hawaiians are so rotund because they eat til they’re tired.

One night we went to a Luau. Can’t come to Hawaii and not go to a luau. Waste of money. Sorry friends. It’s not what it used to be, or so we’ve been told. First I have to say we didn’t get ‘laid’. Or is it lei-ed? We got off the bus and were given shell necklaces made in the Phillipeans. Where are the flowers? Oh, there they are, in the fridge, available for purchace. Sigh.
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The pig was dug out of the ground where it had been cooking all day under a blanket of leaves and rocks. 2 men did a ceremonial ‘dig’ to get it out of the ground.
They put their hands into buckets of some ice cubes then pulled the hot rocks off the pile bare handed. Yikes. The roast pig was hauled to the banquet table.There were several hundred people at this luau. We all sat on park benches, then lined up to get our food. It was just ok. We tried poi, the local staple (like potatoes at home). Yuk! They can keep it. Everything was edible but not remarkable. The entertainment was great, costuming spectacular, but for us geriatric crowd, it was far too long to sit with no back on our seat, over 3 hours. I spoke with several people on the ship over the next couple days about a luau. Each said the same thing, that usually, the entertainment is great and the food is so-so, it’s too long, and too uncomfortable. Just what we discovered. Too bad.

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Another day, out of Honolulu, we took a full day tour around the island. Lots of time on the bus, lots of interesting information from our driver but nothing too much to see except that beautiful coast and surfers. No one was eaten by a shark while we watched.  There are several apartment buildings near the port and there are 2 that are, in my opinion, the most gorgeous ever built.

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We stopped at the Polynesian cultural centre for lunch. It’s a very pretty setting. The food at this buffet was better than at the luau. The whole place is a large market with lots of overpriced merchandise. Any time I saw something I really liked, it was too expensive. I have good taste but not the bank account to support it. We don’t buy souvenirs because we have no room too keep them.

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We also stopped at the Dole factory which turned out to be just another store.
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There was nothing to explain how pineapples are grown or processed. The only information we had was, again, from our driver. Apparently, Dole is a family name. The people who originally started this plantation are from the Dole family. But, way back in history, there was some political nonsense that prevented the use of that name. The business was purchased by another company and eventually, but after the death of Mr. Dole, the name was changed to honor his contribution to the industry.

We stopped at an incredibly beautiful Japanese Budist temple. It is a smaller replica of one in Japan. There was the ubiquitous koi pond in front. We’ve never seen such amazing grave stones, either. They all looked like they were made of marble.
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Another stop on this circle tour was a ‘view’. And what a view! Lots of chickens running around, some really, really ugly ones. They were feral descendants from cock fighting, so we were told. True??? who knows.
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This is sounding very sour to me as I write it down. Sadly, that’s what I think of this supposed paradise. It’s too humid for both Al and me. It rained everyday, not always where we were but we could see it rolling in, see it raining in the distance. Sure, the sun showed its face, but mostly the days were cloudy.

We went ashore on Lahaina for a couple hours, had a terrible lunch at Bubba Gump’s restaurant: $55. Pretty sad to spend that much US$ and not be happy with the food. Did we just make a bad choice? Again, lots of stores with lots of repeat overpriced merchandise. Al did buy a good looking Hawaiian shirt. Once you have what you want, don’t go looking any more because you’ll find it again at a lower price. I found a gorgeous dress in one store, couldn’t find the price tag.   The employee came to me to tell me it was hand made in Italy and sold for over $400. See, didn’t I say I have good taste? The dress didn’t leave the store in my bag. 

There is a banyan tree that covers 2 acres just a few steps from where we got off the ‘tender’ .  The ‘tender’ was one of the safety boats from aboard the Eurodam.  It is not possible to ‘dock’ the ship.  It had to say out in the bay and the passengers went to shore on small boats.

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In Honolulu, there is a line of Banyan trees along the street on the way to the cruise ship dock.  Each tree was planted by some celebrity whose name and the date of the planting was on a plaque next to each tree.  Those trees must be pruned on a regular basis because the way the roots drop down from each branch, those trees become enormous in no time.

The night we left Hawaiian waters, the entertainment in the main theatre was a flutist from Chili, Vivianna Guzman. Oh, was she good! She played several different flutes from an Irish tin whistle to a gold plated normal size flute to a cedar wood reed from south America. I would pay to listen to her play again.

Then it was Gala night in the main dining room so my man put on a tie and long pants and we dined. Crab was on the menu. 5 of the 7 of us at our table had the crab. And everyone said the same thing: delicious but not enough. I didn’t think to order another plate full. Years ago, diners were encouraged to do just that. But it doesn’t appear to be that way anymore.

The next night, we paid extra to dine in one of the other restaurants on board. It was called Tamarind and featured Asian cuisine only. The charge is $25 per person. One of the things on the table when we first sat down was a small white ‘tablet’ in a little dish. It looks like a peppermint. But, the waitress came along with a pot of boiling water, poured it over the ‘tablet’ which became a lovely, wet hand towel. Creative. There are 3 other dining rooms that charge extra. Mostly we hear people are not impressed with the ‘free’ food. One woman said to Al that the cooks don’t know how to use seasoning. I agree. For instance, I had hot and sour soup for one lunch which was neither hot nor sour. In fact, it had no taste at all.

We came on board not quite well. I had been sick enough to have lost about 10 pounds before we boarded. That’s a good thing because one does tend to eat more on these cruises. But even though my cold/flu got somewhat better, the coughing just didn’t go away. Al had just started to cough, a different-than-his-smokers cough. After 10 days he started sneezing and choking, just like me. We’ve both needed to nap every afternoon. And we’re not the only ones. Despite hand washing a dozen or more times a day and using tissue to open the doors, germs abound. One lovely elderly lady at our dining table apologized for her sneezing, saying she was allergic to the ship, not that she was sick.

That was funny to me, to say ‘elderly’. The young ‘uns likely call Al and me elderly, too. But this lady was at least 20 years our senior which really puts her up there. Al has made friends with a 94 year old man travelling alone. He is legally blind, smokes, uses a wheelchair but there are always people happy to help him if he needs it. He lives in Penticton so I believe Al will continue a friendship with him once we’re home again.

The sea must have been gleeful on our 5 day sail back to Vancouver. It was tossing the scourge of us hither and yon. Not quite an angry sea, but definitely gleeful. Can you say: rock me to sleep. All of us on board were reeling like drunks, teasing each other about too much to drink. In some cases, it was a true statement. The wind was so strong on day 2 of the trip back home, no one was allowed on an open deck for safety issues.

On the last Saturday of the cruise, the entertainment that night was a Winnipeg born magician: James Cielen.  He was very good, a gold medal winner in a Las Vegas contest. Usually the entertainment is just over a half hour. This night it went on quite a bit and finally he was offering his DVD for sale after the show which is usually the sign that the show is over. Several geriatrics got up to leave, a bit of an exodus. He called out: it’s not over, there’s more. One old fella called back: it’s the imodium, it’s starting to work. The magician nearly lost it. He said he was going to use that in the future. He said the profits from the DVD sales were to go to Charity, his ex wife. Haha. He did reiterate that the proceeds went to charity but didn’t specify which one. We eschewed. He was on stage again the next morning to show how to do some of the illusions. He uses 2 of his dogs in each performance, made them disappear, little balls of fluff called Pomeranians. He went on the explain how it is possible to travel with his animals when none are permitted on board.

The ship’s captain did a presentation and took questions one afternoon. He’s very witty person. His name is John Scott. Hey, you hockey fans: John Scott. Remember him of All Star fame. No, that John Scott didn’t change careers but it made his name easier to remember for us hockey nuts. Every day he gives the weather report from the bridge, telling us the swell, the sea, the humidity and temperature and how far we are from land. He then proceeds to tell the history of certain nautical terms: 3 sheets to the wind, let the cat out of the bag, and so on.  If I had total recall, I’d mention some of them here but, not only do I not have an eidetic memory, sometimes I have none at all. All I recalled are these two. Sorry. He told us he started this bit of info only a few months ago and found it to be well received.

Sunday night in the dining room was lobster night. There was a time in my life I bought lobster by the case. These days, one bite is enough. One sweet young thing in the casual foodateria asked me if I like lobster so I told her that I would have one bite of my husband’s and that would be enough. She then showed me the ad on the table, that lobster would be in the cafeteria. So we didn’t need to dress up to eat in the main dining room; we just went to the Lido.

Early in the day, Sunday, I went to the 9th floor where my spouse was filling his lungs with smoke and there they were, at last: dolphins. Oh, JOY!!! Now all that remains to see are whales. We’re hoping they would be evident when we’re closer to Vancouver. The very last day, once inside the Juan de Fuca straight, there was a whale.  Al got to see it.  I didn’t.  The dolphins looked so small from up so high but at least we got to see themMonday night was variety night at the main stage. Lots of energy, lots of good music.

There are hula lessons every day at the top deck pool area. When a couple men joined the group, the leader said that was ok, that back home in Hawaii, there were a few men who liked to be ladies, too.

At the next table to us at dinner, one woman diner was overheard to say to her husband, you used your own brain tonight and you know you shouldn’t have. She had a couple other choice items of speech as well but her husband just kept smiling and talking. We wondered if there is a bit of dementia going on there. It was more than a little off the wall.

Tuesday night’s mainstage entertainment was singer/comedian Brett Cave. He is a British entertainer who highlights Billy Joel and England’s queen, (as he put it) Elton John. He got the house rocking with lots of both Joel and John and lots of Beatles. He finished with Piano Man. The fellow is worth the price of admission, which on board ship, is free. Mr. Cave came on stage in a red suit. He told the Americans in the theatre not to worry, that just because he was wearing a red coat didn’t mean the British were coming back to get them.

We were at the BB King theatre for some R n B. The group were rocking things up. The girl singer was belting out: Let’s give ‘em something to talk about…………………..so, I turned to Al and started to unbutton his shirt – he slapped my hands!!! What??!! He slapped my hands. What!! Guess he wasn’t into the song.

First landfall after 6 full days at sea was Hilo, the second largest city in Hawaii with a population of 38000 – just like Penticton. How about that! Al and I did separate tours this time. He went to the volcano while I went to the water falls. If I never smell sulfur in this life or the next, I will be a very happy woman. Al’s trip promised there would be sulfur. There wasn’t any, nor was there any lava in evidence. He was disappointed.
We were awake by 6am (which is 9am in Vancouver) to see the first point of land we’ve seen since leaving Canada. Every second day the time rolled back an hour. This first stop is very reminiscent of Vancouver Island.

One of the common things on each tour is a trip to the Macadamia nut visitor centre. This nut is originally from Australia and was brought here as a plant in the 1870s. It certainly thrives and has most of us, I’m sure, believing it is true Hawaiian. The tour guide on my trip was Dennis. He was an excellent ambassador for the state of Hawaii, told us all sorts of interesting facts along the way. Actually, he made the tour. There are 2500 acres of Macadamian trees planted on this island, about 200,000 trees altogether. We were taken to the Mauna Loa nut centre but it is not the only company that has these nuts. It was a useless stop, only good for buying nuts. The cookie shack and the factory were not open, only the store. There are dark/milk chocolate covered, plain, honey mustard roast, nut flavored popcorn, and so on.
There are 4 or 5 harvests a years. Each tree produces about 1200 pounds of nuts. The whole thing is used: the husk for compost, the shell is burned for fuel/power to run the plant, and of course, the nut. It takes about 3000 pounds per sq. in. to break those suckers open, too. No point in taking a bag full home unless one has a steam roller available.
The husks are harvested when they fall to the ground. A machine goes through the trees raking the nuts into wind rows, after which real people follow to pick up the strays from among the debris.
The homes in Hilo have lovely, lush green lawns and quite large lots. The starting price is around $250,000 for a modest bungalow/rancher.
Mauna Loa and Mauna Kea are the tallest mountains in the world. They start at the ocean floor about 30,000 feet below the surface and rise another 13000 or so into the sky, which makes them taller than Mt. Everest.
Banana, lemon, guava trees all grow along the roadside. And everywhere you look there are hibiscus flowering trees. I can’t get a small plant to thrive at home but here, they are everywhere. The Candlenut tree is the main Hawaiian tree. The nuts burn for fuel and are a good laxative. 2 or 3 makes a good movement, 6 or 7 makes you walk a lot faster but 9 or 10 and you’ll never make it, so says our guide.
At the 2 sets of falls we visited, there are many dead trees, their bare branches reaching high. They are the Abbiza trees which are being systematically destroyed. They grow to 150 – 180 feet tall in no time but are a brittle, weak tree which damage everything around them in high winds and huricanes because they break easily. So, they are being taken away before they can cause more damage.

We ate in the main dining room for a few nights. But one night, Al was told he had to change into long pants to go there. After that, we mostly ate at the buffet. I admit I prefer to be served. The ‘buffet’ lines are not the way they used to be, where you pile your plate high and leave half of it to the garbage. The trays of food are distributed by the staff behind the counters. They give you a spoonful, more only if you ask. Better food management. Occasionally there is something that is ‘help yourself’. I’ve heard people saying: oh, I got 2, well, I’d better keep them both, that’s the rule. It seems the rule on cruise ships is eat, eat, eat. One tour guide told us that Hawaiians are so rotund because they eat til they’re tired.

One night we went to a Luau. Can’t come to Hawaii and not go to a luau. Waste of money. Sorry friends. It’s not what it used to be, or so we’ve been told. First I have to say we didn’t get ‘laid’. Or is it lei-ed? We got off the bus and were given shell necklaces made in the Phillipeans. Where are the flowers? Oh, there they are, in the fridge, available for purchace. Sigh. The pig was dug out of the ground where it had been cooking all day under a blanket of leaves and rocks. 2 men did a ceremonial ‘dig’ to get it out of the ground. They handled some ice cubes then pulled the hot rocks off the pile bare handed. Yikes. The roast pig was hauled to the banquet table.
There were several hundred people at this luau. We all sat on park benches, then lined up to get our food. It was just ok. We tried poi, the local staple (like potatoes at home). Yuk! They can keep it. Everything was edible but not remarkable. The entertainment was great, costuming spectacular, but for us geriatric crowd, it was far too long to sit with no back on our seat, over 3 hours. I spoke with several people on the ship over the next couple days about a luau. Each said the same thing, that usually, the entertainment is great and the food is so-so, it’s too long, and too uncomfortable. Just what we discovered. Too bad.
Another day, out of Honolulu, we took a full day tour around the island. Lots of time on the bus, lots of interesting information from our driver but nothing too much to see except that beautiful coast and surfers. No one was eaten by a shark while we watched.
We stopped at the Polynesian cultural centre for lunch. It’s a very pretty setting. The food at this buffet was better than at the luau. The whole place is a large market with lots of overpriced merchandise. Any time I saw something I really liked, it was too expensive. I have good taste but not the bank account to support it. We don’t buy souvenirs because we have no room too keep them.
We also stopped at the Dole factory which turned out to be just another store. There was nothing to explain how pineapples are grown or processed. The only information we had was, again, from our driver. Apparently, Dole is a family name. The people who originally started this plantation are from the Dole family. But, way back in history, there was some political nonsense that prevented the use of that name. The business was purchased by another company and eventually, but after the death of Mr. Dole, the name was changed to honor his contribution to the industry.
This is sounding very sour to me as I write it down. Sadly, that’s what I think of this supposed paradise. It’s too humid for both Al and me. It rained everyday, not always where we were but we could see it rolling in, see it raining in the distance. Sure, the sun showed its face, but mostly the days were cloudy.
We went ashore on Lahaina for a couple hours, had a terrible lunch at Bubba Gump’s restaurant: $55. Pretty sad to spend that much US$ and not be happy with the food. Did we just make a bad choice? Again, lots of stores with lots of repeat overpriced merchandise. Al did buy a good looking Hawaiian shirt. Once you have what you want, don’t go looking any more because you’ll find it again at a lower price. I found a gorgeous dress in one store, couldn’t find the price; the employee came to me to tell me it was hand made in Italy and sold for over $400. See, didn’t I say I have good taste? The dress didn’t leave the store in my bag.
The night we left Hawaiian waters, the entertainment in the main theatre was a flutist from Chili, Vivianna Guzman. Oh, was she good! She played several different flutes from an Irish tin whistle to a gold plated normal size flute to a cedar wood reed from south America. I would pay to listen to her play again.

Then it was Gala night in the main dining room so my man put on a tie and long pants and we dined. Crab was on the menu. 5 of the 7 of us at our table had the crab. And everyone said the same thing: delicious but not enough. I didn’t think to order another plate full. Years ago, diners were encouraged to do just that. But it doesn’t appear to be that way anymore.
The next night, we paid extra to dine in one of the other restaurants on board. It was called Tamarind and featured Asian cuisine only. The charge is $25 per person. One of the things on the table when we first sat down was a small white ‘tablet’ in a little dish. It looks like a peppermint. But, the waitress came along with a pot of boiling water, poured it over the ‘tablet’ which became a lovely, wet hand towel. Creative. There are 3 other dining rooms that charge extra. Mostly we hear people are not impressed with the food. One woman said to Al that the cooks don’t know how to use seasoning. I agree. For instance, I had hot and sour soup for one lunch which was neither hot nor sour. In fact, it had no taste at all.
We came on board not quite well. I had been sick enough to have lost about 10 pounds before we boarded. That’s a good thing because one does tend to eat more on these cruises. But even though my cold/flu got somewhat better, the coughing just didn’t go away. Al had just started to cough, a different-than-his-smokers cough. After 10 days he started sneezing and choking, just like me. We’ve both needed to nap every afternoon. And we’re not the only ones. Despite hand washing a dozen or more times a day and using tissue to open the doors, germs abound. One lovely elderly lady at our dining table apologized for her sneezing, saying she was allergic to the ship, not that she was sick.

That was funny to me, to say ‘elderly’. The young ‘uns likely call Al and me elderly, too. But this lady was at least 20 years our senior which really puts her up there. Al has made friends with a 94 year old man travelling alone. He is legally blind, smokes, uses a wheelchair but there are always people happy to help him if he needs it. He lives in Penticton so I believe Al will continue a friendship with him once we’re home again.

The sea must have been gleeful on our 5 day sail back to Vancouver. It was tossing the scourge of us hither and yon. Not quite an angry sea, but definitely gleeful. Can you say: rock me to sleep. All of us on board were reeling like drunks, teasing each other about too much to drink. In some cases, it was a true statement. The wind was so strong on day 2 of the trip back home, no one was allowed on an open deck for safety issues.

On the last Saturday of the cruise, the entertainment that night was a Winnipeg born magician: James Cielen.
He was very good, a gold medal winner in a Las Vegas contest. Usually the entertainment is just over a half hour. This night it went on quite a bit and finally he was offering his DVD for sale after the show which is usually the sign that the show is over. Several geriatrics got up to leave, a bit of an exodus. He called out: it’s not over, there’s more. One old fella called back: it’s the imodium, it’s starting to work. The magician nearly lost it. He said he was going to use that in the future. He said the profits from the DVD sales were to go to Charity, his ex wife. Haha. He did reiterate that the proceeds went to charity but didn’t specify which one. We eschewed. He was on stage again the next morning to show how to do some of the illusions. He uses 2 of his dogs in each performance, little balls of fluff called Pomeranians. He went on the explain how it is possible to travel with his animals when none are permitted on board.

The ship’s captain did a presentation and took questions one afternoon. He’s very witty person. His name is John Scott. Hey, you hockey fans: John Scott. Remember him of All Star fame. No, that John Scott didn’t change careers but it made his name easier to remember for us hockey nuts. Every day he gives the weather report from the bridge, telling us the swell, the sea, the humidity and temperature and how far we are from land. He then proceeds to tell the history of certain nautical terms: 3 sheets to the wind, and so on. If I had total recall, I’d mention some of them here but, not only do I not have an eidetic memory, sometimes I have none at all. All I recalled is this one item of the sheets. Sorry. He told us he started this bit of info only a few months ago and found it to be well received.

Sunday night in the dining room is lobster night. There was a time in my life I bought lobster by the case. These days, one bite is enough. One sweet young thing in the casual foodateria asked me if I like lobster so I told her that I would have one bite of my husband’s and that would be enough. She then showed me the ad on the table, that lobster is in the cafeteria. So we don’t need to dress up to eat in the main dining room; we can just come to the Lido.

Early in the day, Sunday, I went to the 9th floor where my spouse was filling his lungs with smoke and there they were, at last: dolphins. Oh, JOY!!! Now all that remains to see are whales. We’re hoping they will be evident when we’re closer to Vancouver. The dolphins looked so small from up so high but at least we got to see them.
This trip is definitely for the geriatric crowd. If all the walkers, canes and scooters were put in one room, they would fill it to the ceiling and then some. There are a few children on board, 2 of whom were in the adult only pool on the first night. There are a couple babies that appear to be crew members’ children. Those others must be of the home schooled variety or from across the other side of the world where school is out.
There is nothing too exciting about the décor on this ship. We’ve seen some pretty spectacular stuff on some cruises. Still, there are flowers everywhere, orchids on every table in the diner, a bowl full of cut flowers as a centre piece in the dining room, several displays of flowers around the ship in little hanging glass bottles. Then there are the artificial ones that are quite interesting, too.

We have taken a few cruises over the past 9 years. Our room has always been somewhere around the size of a good closet. This one!! WOW!. The bathroom is just that: a BATHroom. We have a tub. It is 3 times the size of the one in the MOHO. You know the size parameters: pull your pants down and back in. This one we could dance in, sort of, close together, no ‘old time rock n roll’, maybe ‘can’t help falling in love’. And the room itself is almost as big as any hotel room. We have a window. Not a porthole, an actual window with a sill out to the never ending sea. And a table to play cards and 3 closets and lots of storage space for the 17 days worth of clothes we brought. How did we rate? I have to put in a plug for the agent who got this for us. His name is Harold Post from Vacations to Go. We found him quite by accident a few years ago when we were booking cruises out of Galveston, Texas. He’s been more than great. So, if you need a good agent, his contact info is behind this link: Vacations to go.

Monday night was variety night at the main stage. Lots of energy, lots of good music.
There are hula lessons every day at the top deck pool area. When a couple men joined the group, the leader said that was ok, that back home in Hawaii, there were a few men who liked to be ladies, too.

At the next table to us at dinner, one woman diner was overheard to say to her husband, you used your own brain tonight and you know you shouldn’t have. She had a couple other choice items of speech as well but her husband just kept smiling and talking. We wondered if there is a bit of dementia going on there. It was more than a little off the wall.

Tuesday night’s mainstage entertainment was singer/comedian Brett Cave. He is a British entertainer who highlights Billy Joel and England’s queen, (as he put it) Elton John. He got the house rocking with lots of both Joel and John and lots of Beatles. He finished with Piano Man. The fellow is worth the price of admission, which on board ship, is free. Mr. Cave came on stage in a red suit. He told the Americans in the theatre not to worry, that just because he was wearing a red coat didn’t mean the British were coming back to get them.

 

We were at the BB King theatre for some R n B. The group were rocking things up. The girl singer was belting out: Let’s give ‘em something to talk about…………………..so, I turned to Al and started to unbutton his shirt – he slapped my hands!!! What??!! He slapped my hands. What!! Guess he wasn’t into the song.

First landfall after 6 full days at sea was Hilo, the second largest city in Hawaii with a population of 38000 – just like Penticton. How about that! Al and I did separate tours this time. He went to the volcano while I went to the water falls. If I never smell sulfur in this life or the next, I will be a very happy woman. Al’s trip promised there would be sulfur. There wasn’t any, nor was there any lava in evidence. He was disappointed.
We were awake by 6am (which is 9am in Vancouver) to see the first point of land we’ve seen since leaving Canada. Every second day the time rolled back an hour. This first stop is very reminiscent of Vancouver Island.

One of the common things on each tour is a trip to the Macadamia nut visitor centre. This nut is originally from Australia and was brought here as a plant in the 1870s. It certainly thrives and has most of us, I’m sure, believing it is true Hawaiian. The tour guide on my trip was Dennis. He was an excellent ambassador for the state of Hawaii, told us all sorts of interesting facts along the way. Actually, he made the tour. There are 2500 acres of Macadamian trees planted on this island, about 200,000 trees altogether. We were taken to the Mauna Loa nut centre but it is not the only company that has these nuts. It was a useless stop, only good for buying nuts. The cookie shack and the factory were not open, only the store. There are dark/milk chocolate covered, plain, honey mustard roast, nut flavored popcorn, and so on.
There are 4 or 5 harvests a years. Each tree produces about 1200 pounds of nuts. The whole thing is used: the husk for compost, the shell is burned for fuel/power to run the plant, and of course, the nut. It takes about 3000 pounds per sq. in. to break those suckers open, too. No point in taking a bag full home unless one has a steam roller available.
The husks are harvested when they fall to the ground. A machine goes through the trees raking the nuts into wind rows, after which real people follow to pick up the strays from among the debris.
The homes in Hilo have lovely, lush green lawns and quite large lots. The starting price is around $250,000 for a modest bungalow/rancher.
Mauna Loa and Mauna Kea are the tallest mountains in the world. They start at the ocean floor about 30,000 feet below the surface and rise another 13000 or so into the sky, which makes them taller than Mt. Everest.
Banana, lemon, guava trees all grow along the roadside. And everywhere you look there are hibiscus flowering trees. I can’t get a small plant to thrive at home but here, they are everywhere. The Candlenut tree is the main Hawaiian tree. The nuts burn for fuel and are a good laxative. 2 or 3 makes a good movement, 6 or 7 makes you walk a lot faster but 9 or 10 and you’ll never make it, so says our guide.
At the 2 sets of falls we visited, there are many dead trees, their bare branches reaching high. They are the Abbiza trees which are being systematically destroyed. They grow to 150 – 180 feet tall in no time but are a brittle, weak tree which damage everything around them in high winds and huricanes because they break easily. So, they are being taken away before they can cause more damage.

We ate in the main dining room for a few nights. But one night, Al was told he had to change into long pants to go there. After that, we mostly ate at the buffet. I admit I prefer to be served. The ‘buffet’ lines are not the way they used to be, where you pile your plate high and leave half of it to the garbage. The trays of food are distributed by the staff behind the counters. They give you a spoonful, more only if you ask. Better food management. Occasionally there is something that is ‘help yourself’. I’ve heard people saying: oh, I got 2, well, I’d better keep them both, that’s the rule. It seems the rule on cruise ships is eat, eat, eat. One tour guide told us that Hawaiians are so rotund because they eat til they’re tired.

One night we went to a Luau. Can’t come to Hawaii and not go to a luau. Waste of money. Sorry friends. It’s not what it used to be, or so we’ve been told. First I have to say we didn’t get ‘laid’. Or is it lei-ed? We got off the bus and were given shell necklaces made in the Phillipeans. Where are the flowers? Oh, there they are, in the fridge, available for purchace. Sigh. The pig was dug out of the ground where it had been cooking all day under a blanket of leaves and rocks. 2 men did a ceremonial ‘dig’ to get it out of the ground. They handled some ice cubes then pulled the hot rocks off the pile bare handed. Yikes. The roast pig was hauled to the banquet table.
There were several hundred people at this luau. We all sat on park benches, then lined up to get our food. It was just ok. We tried poi, the local staple (like potatoes at home). Yuk! They can keep it. Everything was edible but not remarkable. The entertainment was great, costuming spectacular, but for us geriatric crowd, it was far too long to sit with no back on our seat, over 3 hours. I spoke with several people on the ship over the next couple days about a luau. Each said the same thing, that usually, the entertainment is great and the food is so-so, it’s too long, and too uncomfortable. Just what we discovered. Too bad.
Another day, out of Honolulu, we took a full day tour around the island. Lots of time on the bus, lots of interesting information from our driver but nothing too much to see except that beautiful coast and surfers. No one was eaten by a shark while we watched.
We stopped at the Polynesian cultural centre for lunch. It’s a very pretty setting. The food at this buffet was better than at the luau. The whole place is a large market with lots of overpriced merchandise. Any time I saw something I really liked, it was too expensive. I have good taste but not the bank account to support it. We don’t buy souvenirs because we have no room too keep them.
We also stopped at the Dole factory which turned out to be just another store. There was nothing to explain how pineapples are grown or processed. The only information we had was, again, from our driver. Apparently, Dole is a family name. The people who originally started this plantation are from the Dole family. But, way back in history, there was some political nonsense that prevented the use of that name. The business was purchased by another company and eventually, but after the death of Mr. Dole, the name was changed to honor his contribution to the industry.
This is sounding very sour to me as I write it down. Sadly, that’s what I think of this supposed paradise. It’s too humid for both Al and me. It rained everyday, not always where we were but we could see it rolling in, see it raining in the distance. Sure, the sun showed its face, but mostly the days were cloudy.
We went ashore on Lahaina for a couple hours, had a terrible lunch at Bubba Gump’s restaurant: $55. Pretty sad to spend that much US$ and not be happy with the food. Did we just make a bad choice? Again, lots of stores with lots of repeat overpriced merchandise. Al did buy a good looking Hawaiian shirt. Once you have what you want, don’t go looking any more because you’ll find it again at a lower price. I found a gorgeous dress in one store, couldn’t find the price; the employee came to me to tell me it was hand made in Italy and sold for over $400. See, didn’t I say I have good taste? The dress didn’t leave the store in my bag.

The night we left Hawaiian waters, the entertainment in the main theatre was a flutist from Chili, Vivianna Guzman. Oh, was she good! She played several different flutes from an Irish tin whistle to a gold plated normal size flute to a cedar wood reed from south America. I would pay to listen to her play again.

Then it was Gala night in the main dining room so my man put on a tie and long pants and we dined. Crab was on the menu. 5 of the 7 of us at our table had the crab. And everyone said the same thing: delicious but not enough. I didn’t think to order another plate full. Years ago, diners were encouraged to do just that. But it doesn’t appear to be that way anymore.

The next night, we paid extra to dine in one of the other restaurants on board. It was called Tamarind and featured Asian cuisine only. The charge is $25 per person. One of the things on the table when we first sat down was a small white ‘tablet’ in a little dish. It looks like a peppermint. But, the waitress came along with a pot of boiling water, poured it over the ‘tablet’ which became a lovely, wet hand towel. Creative. There are 3 other dining rooms that charge extra. Mostly we hear people are not impressed with the food. One woman said to Al that the cooks don’t know how to use seasoning. I agree. For instance, I had hot and sour soup for one lunch which was neither hot nor sour. In fact, it had no taste at all.

We came on board not quite well. I had been sick enough to have lost about 10 pounds before we boarded. That’s a good thing because one does tend to eat more on these cruises. But even though my cold/flu got somewhat better, the coughing just didn’t go away. Al had just started to cough, a different-than-his-smokers cough. After 10 days he started sneezing and choking, just like me. We’ve both needed to nap every afternoon. And we’re not the only ones. Despite hand washing a dozen or more times a day and using tissue to open the doors, germs abound. One lovely elderly lady at our dining table apologized for her sneezing, saying she was allergic to the ship, not that she was sick.

That was funny to me, to say ‘elderly’. The young ‘uns likely call Al and me elderly, too. But this lady was at least 20 years our senior which really puts her up there. Al has made friends with a 94 year old man travelling alone. He is legally blind, smokes, uses a wheelchair but there are always people happy to help him if he needs it. He lives in Penticton so I believe Al will continue a friendship with him once we’re home again.

The sea must have been gleeful on our 5 day sail back to Vancouver. It was tossing the scourge of us hither and yon. Not quite an angry sea, but definitely gleeful. Can you say: rock me to sleep. All of us on board were reeling like drunks, teasing each other about too much to drink. In some cases, it was a true statement. The wind was so strong on day 2 of the trip back home, no one was allowed on an open deck for safety issues.

On the last Saturday of the cruise, the entertainment that night was a Winnipeg born magician: James Cielen.
He was very good, a gold medal winner in a Las Vegas contest. Usually the entertainment is just over a half hour. This night it went on quite a bit and finally he was offering his DVD for sale after the show which is usually the sign that the show is over. Several geriatrics got up to leave, a bit of an exodus. He called out: it’s not over, there’s more. One old fella called back: it’s the imodium, it’s starting to work. The magician nearly lost it. He said he was going to use that in the future. He said the profits from the DVD sales were to go to Charity, his ex wife. Haha. He did reiterate that the proceeds went to charity but didn’t specify which one. We eschewed. He was on stage again the next morning to show how to do some of the illusions. He uses 2 of his dogs in each performance, little balls of fluff called Pomeranians. He went on the explain how it is possible to travel with his animals when none are permitted on board.

The ship’s captain did a presentation and took questions one afternoon. He’s very witty person. His name is John Scott. Hey, you hockey fans: John Scott. Remember him of All Star fame. No, that John Scott didn’t change careers but it made his name easier to remember for us hockey nuts. Every day he gives the weather report from the bridge, telling us the swell, the sea, the humidity and temperature and how far we are from land. He then proceeds to tell the history of certain nautical terms: 3 sheets to the wind, and so on. If I had total recall, I’d mention some of them here but, not only do I not have an eidetic memory, sometimes I have none at all. All I recalled is this one item of the sheets. Sorry. He told us he started this bit of info only a few months ago and found it to be well received.

Sunday night in the dining room is lobster night. There was a time in my life I bought lobster by the case. These days, one bite is enough. One sweet young thing in the casual foodateria asked me if I like lobster so I told her that I would have one bite of my husband’s and that would be enough. She then showed me the ad on the table, that lobster is in the cafeteria. So we don’t need to dress up to eat in the main dining room; we can just come to the Lido.

Early in the day, Sunday, I went to the 9th floor where my spouse was filling his lungs with smoke and there they were, at last: dolphins. Oh, JOY!!! Now all that remains to see are whales. We were hoping they would be evident when we got closer to Vancouver. The dolphins looked so small from up so high but at least we got to see them.

We didn’t blog while on the trip except to write some of this in an off line program.  Internet on the ship was $0.75 per minute.  It had to wait til we were on Canadian soil again.

So, that was our trip. Been there, done that, won’t do it again.
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Al’s QOTD: To be a successful dieter, you must be narrow minded.

Summer in Penticton, British Columbia

Penticton is the epitome of summer in the city. This is a small city but a very, very busy one. There are so many things to do.
We have had plenty of company over July and August. We have no room to accommodate visitors in our MOHO but there is a plethora of hotels and motels with many close by our RV park. There is also family in Summerland so there are extra beds when needed for extra family.
Al’s daughter, Dayna was here from New Zealand for several weeks. And her husband, Matthew arrived at the end of August so we had a good visit with them and lots of hugs and kisses for the youngest grandson, Jethro.
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Al and I took that little family and my youngest grand daughter, Makenzie on the Kettle Valley Train ride.
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and even though the railway can’t spell her name correctly, we rode in her special car.
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Our Miss Makenzie checked out the route before we left the station.
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The staff gave all the children a ‘bingo’ type card with pictures to check off as they spotted the item along the route: a cross roads sign, a ladder, an orchard and so on. Something little to keep them occupied and interested. It’s a short route through the valley, then a brief rest and return the same way. This attraction is struggling to stay solvent. Operating costs, despite have mostly volunteers, are eating into the meager ticket sales, so they have fund raisers from time to time.
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My daughter in law, Catherine, took a break (mostly) from her social media business for a few days. We 3 visited Skaha lake beach on a very windy day. It didn’t stop the little fashionista from enjoying the water; her mother either, for that matter.  That day there were at least 10 wind surfers on the lake.  I just couldn’t manage a photo.
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They went back to busy, busy Vancouver; then 2 sets of friends arrived in their motor homes. We 6 took a wine tour on Bottleneck Drive in Summerland with Top Cat Tours.
Another couple from Calgary joined the tour and fit right in with the group of us who have been friends anywhere from 10 years to 30+. We enjoyed them so much, we hope they’ll come back so we can visit again.
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Our first stop this trip was to Sumac Ridge Estate Winery. Mona, our barista (may I call her that?) as she did not introduce herself as a sommelier, was passionate about the wines and made the tasting an adventure. So much so, that the chocolate she offered with the port ensured I would buy a bottle of the $30 stuff to take home. I detest red wine; I thought. Port is red. I drank it.
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There is an area behind the ‘bar’ where a larger group could do their tasting.  They sell other delectables, too, such as horseradish sauce and so on.  We had to have that sauce.
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That last photo shows our chariot for the day: Mercedes, no less. We left with 2 cases among the 8 of us.
Next stop was Backdoor Winery. Both of these 2 wineries are right on Highway 97; no need to travel the back roads to find them. Al had previously taken charter groups to Sumac Ridge but had never before been into the show room. We were all impressed.
Backdoor is a simpler place. Their logo has a crow on it. The story is that when the place was purchased, the only standing building on the acreage was full of crows. The owner kept the back door of the building as it was the only thing salvageable. It is now in the centre of the show room and stands there as the guest book; yes, anyone can sign it and it is covered with signatures.  Their full story is in their website.  It’s worth a read.  The link is behind the blue lettering above.  Some other friends recently bought a case and a half of their wines.
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Those grapes were delicious. I ate several before I had to get back on the bus; excuse me, on the coach.
Backdoor has a wine called ‘Nice Rack’. The crew at this winery are community minded, supporting causes. Money from the sale of this wine go towards breast cancer research; also donating $1 from every bottle sold of ‘Calling of the Crow’ white wine and ‘The Way Home’ red wine to the Canadian Red Cross specifically, the BC Disaster Preparedness Fund.

We started our ‘tasting’ early, so by noon we were more than ready for lunch.  Top Cat provides lunch at Zia’s Stonehouse restaurant in Summerland on the full day tours.  Our super-duper driver, Tommy, led us in to this lovely place. I am not fond of French fries but this time, I ate every one on my plate. Best I’ve ever tasted. The restaurant is open 7 days a week for lunch and dinner with live music most evenings. They offer a children’s menu and a Chef’s Daily Special. There is an inviting patio, weather permitting. When I looked up the Trip Advisor reviews, I noticed several diners had submitted pictures. One is an excellent frontal view.  Have a look.  Better yet, go for dinner.
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I have no idea what that bird is made of, but it intrigued me enough to warrant a picture.
Next stop on the tour was Dirty Laundry. As we’d been there recently ourselves, Al and I weren’t too interested in the tasting. But the place itself is always worth another look and a few more photos.
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The grape vines are covered with nets to keep the birds from eating the bounty.
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You can see the smoke in the background. It was very bad that day and prevented good picture taking of the special view from that vantage point so I’m including one, again, from our previous visit.
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On to Thornhaven Estate winery. For years, this winery had Al’s favorite Gewurztraminer wine. It’s still a favorite but we’ve since discovered others as good or better. It’s a pretty setting, too, but for the smoke.
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The final stop on the tour was Sleeping Giant/Summerland sweets. This winery makes only fruit wines, as opposed to grape fruits. We bought a bottle of apricot wine. Yum! Lovely summer patio drink. And a selection of jams and marmalades.
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After 5 winery tastings, we all needed a nap.  Tommy dropped us back at the RV park where he’d picked us up, hours earlier.  And later we went to Salty’s for a great dinner.  We six had a great time together that day and for the week the two couples were in town. We all trouped to the nearby home of another former colleague, Terry Prescott, for a pot luck lunch on the Friday. The Reddekopps came for the day from Abbotsford and the Peters’ came from Summerland. Next year, we hope to entice a few more friends to join us at another such get together. Who knows what next year will bring.

Al’s QOTD:  I laughed so hard the tears ran down my leg.

Peach Fest in Canada’s Okanagan

and Kinda Kenny, as in Kenny Rogers, sort of.
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We met him and his wife at Dirty Laundry Winery a few weeks ago. Of course he didn’t remember us. How could he? I heard so many people saying to him: we met at………….sure, sure, I remember. But it was a great show. Marty Edwards is the best Kenny Rogers impersonator on the circuit today. He put on a good show at the Penticton Peach Fest in it’s 70th year. It seems part of his schtick is to toss a Frisbee or 6 into the crowd. The wind had an opinion of how those things would fly, mostly right back to the stage. But he kept trying.
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The fellow in the back is Craig Brown, Al’s friend from his Prince Rupert days. Craig plays for Dale Seaman and Hwy 97 as well as for Kinda Kenny. We’ve written about the Hwy 97 band before.  We had gone to hear them once last fall and our friend fell in the dark on the way out and had to spend a week in hospital having a broken ankle repaired.  Not a good memory.

The next act was Renn Berry and his Motown tribute band.  Really, really good music.  We had hoped to stay for Powder Blues but the wind came up, it got too chilly to sit any  longer.  Believe it or  not, on such a hot day.  But this is ‘sorta’ desert, after all.  If there are hot, muggy nights like back east, we have yet to experience them.

The festival has 5 days packed with fun and frivolity.  We went to the parade and enjoyed it.  Pretty good stuff for such a small town.  Penticton has around 35000 permanent residents but that swells to about double in summer.  It’s a fun, busy, city.

Al and I both love bag pipes and there were 3 pipe bands in the parade.

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The parade was led by the Vancouver police motorcycle precision riders. Very impressive. We considered walking along the route just to watch them over again.
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Several towns in the area were represented in the parade Some floats and bands came from Washington state. Kelowna played the Ogopogo theme, as in our very own Loch Ness Monster.
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We got a ride to the parade so forgot our chairs in our car. But we found an ideal spot to watch, other than for taking good pictures; the building we parked ourselves at had a brick window ledge at the perfect height for a seat. Score!!
The following weekend, we took in 2 of the many local crafters’/farmers’ markets. The first one was in Peachland. The setting for this market is lovely, along the shore of Lake Okanagan and in a park.
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There was a snake oil tent.
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and amazing metal creations.
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and beautiful wooden items.
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loads of jewelry.
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I don’t know how I restrained myself and didn’t buy this one. Must be cause my husband had my hand and was tugging me in another direction.
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Smaller versions of the bubble wands were given out at the wedding I attended last month. I took 3, little kid at heart that I am. FUN.
And of course there are tables full of fresh vegetables. I saw orange beets, red and white striped beets, cantaloupe/honeydew melon cross breed. I bought some traditional red beets. We both enjoy them very much. No specialty baked breads, sadly. Those special breads are one of my favorite things to buy at a summer market.
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There are so many talented people out there, just looking for appreciative buyers. The young lady who makes these booties is one of them.
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They are certainly worth the high price that’s on them, but they’re too expensive for a retiree’s budget. There were a couple clothing vendors, too, same issue. Gorgeous stuff, locally made, but just too pricey.
Peachland is home to a 100 year old Masonic lodge. Or so says the sign.
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From there we went to Summerland. Timing is crucial as most of them are open only til 1pm. We made it with only 25 minutes to spare at this market. It’s here every Sunday so we’ll get there again another time. All we bought this time was one big cucumber. Fresh picked goodness.
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Because we did this market in such a hurry, I didn’t take in all the details of different things. But the sign on this booth appears to show support for survivors of breast cancer. I do know there is a dragon boat team or two made up of survivors.
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Our new friends Elaine & Tony from across the street in our RV park are creative, too. They make unusual jewelry. I took a picture of them but not their stuff. Not to swift.
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There are wooden products at this market, too, burl wood, beautiful pieces we have no room for in our 35 foot home, or at least one would grace a table. Good suggestion for a unique wedding gift.
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The Henna Hut has become a staple everywhere these days. I took a walk to Skaha Lake park the other day and there was one even on the beach.
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There seems always to be local entertainment to enjoy as well. In Peachland, the ensemble even had CDs for sale. This group didn’t, that we saw anyway.
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This one booth gave massages at the site. I believe I will be driving to Summerland for a treatment. It’s closer than my friends in West Vancouver at Kalyana whom I get to see only 3 or 4 times a year.
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Earlier, I mentioned the beach. Oxbow RV park, where we currently live, is across the street from Skaha Lake. It’s a busy, busy beach all summer long. This is the east side. There is a lovely park between the beach and the street.
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It really is a great place for leisure activities. There are multiple volley ball courts, some on sand, some on grass. There are bag dispensers for animal waste, recycle bins, trash bins, the ubiquitous Henna Hut, Tickleberries for icecream and hotdogs, a boat launch further along, and plenty of good, free parking, all found along this lovely beach.
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The west side beach, closest to our RV site, is right along the street. And it seems to be the busiest, or maybe it’s just because it’s a smaller space.  The reason I define the beaches by east and west is that there are a few waterfront houses between the two sides.
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This last photo shows how much smoke we’ve had here some days from the fires in the interior. The air really did get yellow.  We need a good, heavy rain but there’s none in the forecast.
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Just had to add this one. Finally, I got a good shot of one of the couple dozen quail that run around our MOHO. I took this picture through the kitchen window of our home. He, and it is a ‘he’, is atop the fence that divides our side of the park from the parking lot.
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Al’s QOTD: Not to get technical, but according to science, alcohol is a solution.  Bottoms Up!!

I’ve been invited to the Blue Sky Challenge????

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Several themes have popped into my brain in the  past few days for writing ideas.  I’d even write the first few lines in my head. Then promptly forget them.  But a fellow blogger sent me an invitation to take part in this process, so here goes.

I’d never heard of this Blue Sky Challenge but when Dawn of Random bits of Trial and Error sent the challenge to me, I was flattered that someone thinks enough of my ramblings to put my name out there.  The challenge requires that I answer eleven questions from the nominator.  I then nominate eleven beautiful and inspiring blogs and give them eleven questions to answer.

The questions, and my answers, from my nominator are:

1) What is the next item on your bucket list?  I don’t have a bucket list, never have.  I am happy to take life as it comes along.

2) What is your favorite movie quote? Now, that is difficult.  My favorite movie is ‘The Sting’ but I don’t remember anything quotable.  Mind you , “I’ll be back” comes to mind in Arnie’s distinct voice, from a different movie.  Frankly, my favorite quotes come from the quixotic brain of my husband.  An example: I will be posting telepathically today so if you think of something funny, that was me.

3)Which do you prefer:  Mountains, Ocean, or Desert?  Why?  Oh, Ocean, hands down.  I posted a blog 4 years ago about a stay on the ocean’s edge in our favorite state: Oregon.  Here is an excerpt from that blog: The ocean is endlessly fascinating.  Even when there is nothing out there, there is something out there: pelicans swooping into the waves, fishing boats now and again coming and going, a seal here and there popping out to take a look, of course gulls, and the waves, those incredible waves rocking and rolling again and again.  At night, the crashing sounds like a wicked winter storm in Manitoba. But then you hear the moan of the fog horn and you know it’s the ocean.  Once there was a fellow in a wetsuit with a surf board.  The link to that post is here.

4)What is your favorite city to visit?  That would be San Diego.  We once did a repositioning cruise there from Vancouver and fell in love.

5)If you had only 24 hours to live, who would you spend it with and where?  It would be with my beloved spouse at the ocean on the west coast.

6)What is your ideal relaxation day?  Definitely a day at a spa to be pampered with massage and manicure and pedicure and facial, ahhhh.

7)What words of wisdom would you offer the next generation? Remember the Sabbath day to keep it holy.

8)What is your most memorable pet?  We called him Pudgy.  He had a broken front leg when we adopted him off the street.  Dogs are so smart.  We lived in a town that had the distinction of being the garter snake capital of the world.  Pudgy never let a snake in the yard.  He’d grab them, whip them around, then drop them, dead, somewhere else.  Sweet dog.

9) Obviously, we are all writers.  If you were to write a book, what genre would it be? Science fiction.  I’ve been fascinated with outer space forever.

10)What is the purpose/goal of your blog? My/our blog is for our own memories.  We’re living a life many envy, the freedom to come and go as we please, few stressors, happy.  If anyone else gets pleasure from our writing, that, too, is a plus.

11)Who is your all-time favorite author? That is impossible to answer.  I read voraciously and have a plethora of favorites.

I am not, nor have I ever been,  a follower, so I do not have 11 blogs to recommend.  Sorry, folks, there are only 6.  But all are excellent.   I hope having only 6 doesn’t disqualify me.

Random Bits of Trial and Error

Travel with Ralph and Linda

Dutch Blitz

The Bakers Journey

FoodnThoughts

40 foot house

If you decide to take this challenge, please answer the following eleven questions, nominate eleven blogs you think are excellent, and inspire the authors by giving eleven questions for them to answer.  Please do not feel obligated to accept this challenge–I just wanted to take the opportunity to tag my readers to your blog.  Even if it’s only comments on your blog site.

1)What is the place you’ve visited that impressed you the most on this incredible continent where we live?

2)How did you choose your blog hosting site?

3)Are you encouraging vendors to advertise on your space?

4)Do you find writing comes easy when you sit down to blog or do you have to struggle to get things to write about?

5)Where is your favorite place to write your blog? or do you even have one?  Do you need one?

6)Have you ever had hurtful comments on any post? If so, how did it make you feel?

7)What is the best compliment you’ve had on your blog?

8)Do your encounters along the way inspire you to sing? to write about what a song is saying?

9)Who was the biggest influence in your life?

10)Is the photography on your blog a passion or just there because, like me?

11)What would be your ultimate vacation?

This has been an interesting exercise; it made me realize I ‘follow’ more than I realized.

 

Winery tour in the Okanagan valley of British Columbia

My middle grand daughter and her fella came to visit us. It would be Lauren’s birthday in 2 days so we took the two of them and my other ‘son’ and his wife, Al & Helen, on a wine tour with Top Cat Tours out of Penticton. Top Cat is the company my husband works for now and then (snicker); this time my Al is a passenger instead of a driver. Alan Mellon and wife Helen own and operate All Road Tours out of Winnipeg. They are on their way home to Winnipeg after a month in Alaska and had to stop in to see ‘mom’. So we brought Alan along for the wine tour.  Helen doesn’t drink the stuff.
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But before Lauren arrived, we’d been visiting with Al’s daughter, Dayna who is here from New Zealand with her 10 month old son, Jethro.  Grampa Al is happy to hold this little canon ball besides just seeing him on SKYPE.  The little guy has SKYPE visits with HIS daddy daily because Matthew is still in Wellington, NZ and he won’t get to sit in daddy’s arms for another month.  That’s a long time in a baby’s life.  Dayna is happily expecting Al’s 12th grandchild.  Gee, I have only 3 and no chance of more til the ‘greats’.  And my man will beat me to that, too, as his oldest grandchild, Paige, is expecting her first baby early next year.
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This was our chariot for the day.
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Our driver was Tommy. He picked up us 5 at our park at 10:30 and we were off in the general direction of Naramata. Our first stop was at Poplar Grove. This is a popular venue for weddings. The view is spectacular. Downtown Penticton is at the bottom left.
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The 2 Al’s (my ‘son’ and my spouse) were so busy swapping bus driver stories, they almost didn’t get to the bar to taste the wine. But we did buy 3 bottles here before leaving.
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This is our friendly and helpful wine steward at this winery.
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Then I had to have a photo op with my Lauren.
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Then she and her Garrett had to get in the picture.
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This is just the prettiest setting. Don’t you agree.
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Our next stop was at Ruby Blues. I’ve written about them last year. We did a tour that included this winery. Al particularly enjoys their Gewurztramener so we got a bottle to go. There were 2 German tourists with our little group. They were pleased to hear about this German grape variety.
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This winery is quite small, but typical of many in the Okanagan. They produce only 6000 bottles a year so it’s almost impossible to get their product anywhere but in their physical location or on line. A Swiss couple came to Canada about 25 years ago and fell in love with the wine industry. If you’re in Penticton any Saturday, they have their little bus at the local farmers’ market to sell a few bottles (aha!! there’s the 3rd venue)
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Deep Roots was next, on the Naramata Bench, which means on a level overlooking the lake.
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The same family has owed this property since 1919, really deep roots. It was originally an orchard with peaches, apricots and finally apples before being converted to a vineyard/winery.
Then it was time for lunch as we were all half blitzed after sampling 5 or so wines in each of those three wineries.
We were taken to Heritage Inn & Spa in the tiny town of Naramata. They served us BBQ chicken or salmon along with 4 different salads. Tasty. It’s a quaint, old hotel, very pretty setting. So what else in new in this area?
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There is a lovely indoor dining room but we chose to eat out on the patio.  Weather was perfect: 35*Celsius or 95* F.  And thank goodness for an air conditioned coach afterward.
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Stuffed to the gills and half asleep, we still had 2 wineries to visit. Next was Lang .  This too is a family run operation.
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The owners are German.  They purchased the winery when they immigrated to Canada in 1980. We were too full to really appreciate the wines here. They do have a lovely dessert wine with the taste of Quebec Maple. But we bought only a bottle of Gerwertz for Al and these adorable little things for me.
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Our final stop was a very small, very new venue: Kanazawa. It is owned by a Japanese Canadian. Our driver, Tommy in the green shirt, is waiting patiently for us by the door.
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The rustic building reeks of fermenting grapes. He’s very natural in his production, Mr. Kanazawa. None of us liked anything well enough to buy this time.
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We said goodbye to Tommy, our very capable driver, when he dropped us off at home. It was definitely nap time.  Then on to dinner a couple hours later at La Casa Ouzeria with Alan & Helen.  Lauren and Garrett went back to their airBnB in Kelowna before heading to Vancouver. This is the 3rd time this month we’ve been to this Greek restaurant.  I’ll have to do another review on TripAdvisor.  3 visits in less than 30 days must mean it’s a great place to eat, wouldn’t you say?
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Then it was time to say goodbye to my ‘son’ as they were on the road again headed south this time before finally giving in and going back to work. It’s tough to say so long when I see him so rarely. Such is life.
IMG_1094//embedr.flickr.com/assets/client-code.jsJust a reminder note that if the color of the type is blue, it means there is a link behind it to what ever it is I’ve just written about.

Al’s QOTD:“Beer is made by men, wine by God.”