Archive for the ‘Travel and Tourism’ Category


Lovely Craftsman house in Laurelhurst with snowdrops galore!

I spent last weekend in Portland (Oregon, in case some of you might have thought I was very ambitious and had popped across to Maine for a couple of days).  Portland is just far enough from Vancouver to make any visit there feel special (I take the proximity of Seattle for granted so much that I’ve never actually visited) and it more than rewards its visitors with wonderful neighbourhoods, excellent restaurants, and, of course, one of the largest book stores in North America.

Thanks to a long weekend in BC, I was able to spend three nights in Portland and packed quite a lot in to the visit.  I visited neighbourhoods I had never seen before (Laurelhurst made me nostalgic for the way Vancouver used to look – and for the prices we used to have!), stood in line with hipsters for twenty minutes at Salt and Straw for ice cream (a scoop of Strawberry Honey Balsamic with Black Pepper that was actually worth the wait), revisited favourite restaurants, attended the very enjoyable Italian Style exhibition (on loan from the V&A) at the Portland Art Museum, and visited Powell’s bookstore.  Twice.

Let’s be honest: book buying is half the attraction of visiting Portland.  I’m not as practised as some of my fellow bloggers but I came home with what, for me, is a large haul:


Dr. Wortle’s School by Anthony Trollope – it is never a bad thing to grow one’s Trollope collection.

The House by the Dvina and A Home by the Hooghly by Eugenie Fraser – I was reading a library copy Fraser’s wonderful memoir The House by the Dvina just before we left for Portland and had to pick up a copy of my own.  And I couldn’t resist her second memoir either, about her married life in India

Anthony Trollope by Victoria Glendinning – Audrey has been reading this and sharing wonderful excerpts from it.

Talks with T.G. Masaryk by Karel Čapek – an interview of Czechoslovakia’s first president by one of its great writers.  I’ve been meaning to add this to my collection of Czech books for years.

The Letters of Sylvia Townsend Warner edited by William Maxwell – STW is possibly the best letter writer I’ve ever come across.  A collection edited by Maxwell – a close friend and equally devoted correspondent – promises to be good.

The Virago Book of Women Gardeners a wonderful collection (and one of my favourite books that I read in 2014).

Essentials of Classic Italian Cooking by Marcella Hazan – Hazan is frequently mentioned by many of my favourite food bloggers and, having fallen completely for the few recipes of hers that I have tried, I knew I had to add this cookbook to my collection.

Now to find somewhere to put these books – my shelves were already overflowing!

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It was cool and crisp here this morning – an inspiring and invigorating start to 2015.  Now, after an embarrassingly scenic morning walk (dear readers, I am sorry you don’t live here.  It must be difficult for you), I am looking forward to spending the rest of the day reading.  I am almost done the excellent How to be a Heroine by Samantha Ellis, which has been reminding me how differently each reader reacts to the same story.  We have very different feelings towards some books (she doesn’t like Emma Woodhouse, which, obviously, I find inconceivable) but that is no barrier to my enjoyment of this engaging and highly entertaining memoir.  Once that is done, I’ll have a tower of books to choose from – a rather overwhelming prospect, actually.  Shall I go for Nevil Shute?  Ruth Ozeki?  Guy Gavriel Kay?  Alistair Cooke?  There is nothing nicer than starting a new year with plenty of options!




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The more time I spend in Switzerland, the more jealous I become of Heidi.  And of the all the (non-fictional) Swiss who are lucky enough to live and play there.  I spent a full week in the Berner Oberland region of Switzerland this summer, hiking every day and getting the absolute maximum value out of my regional transit pass, and there hasn’t been a day since I got back when I haven’t thought longing of it.

Since I can’t go back any time soon, I thought I’d relive my happy memories of the mountains by sharing some of my many photos.  Enjoy!


Alpine cow! Solidly 50% of what attracts me to the Swiss Alps are the cows.


View from Schynige Platte to Brienzersee


Iseltwald on Brienzersee


View of Grindelwald Valley from Kleine Scheidegg (random literary trivia: AA Milne proposed to his wife while on holiday in Grindelwald)


Walk from First to Grosse Scheidegg


Lauterbrunnen Valley from the valley floor


Lauterbrunnen Valley from Wengen


Lauterbrunnen Valley from Männlichen (notice a theme?)

At the Jungfraujoch

Slightly windswept at the Jungfraujoch

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Europe Trip: Meersburg



The first day of my vacation was a long one – or, to be accurate, two. I don’t think I’ve ever flown to Europe and spent the first night in the city where I have landed. That would be too easy. This year was no different. After two planes, a train, a bus, and a ferry, we arrived at our first destination: Meersburg, a small town on the German side of Bodensee.

Meersburg A

Meersburg was delightful. It was quiet and beautiful, the perfect place to get over our jetlag and ease into our vacation. We hiked, we swam (in the lake, to my delight), we visited the local sights, and we generally just had a wonderful time. We also marvelled at the zeppelins constantly floating overhead because, really, in 2014 where else do you see zeppelins on a daily basis?

An almost as exciting – though not as frequent sight – were the glimpses we got of the Swiss Alps on the other side of the lake. There are few things more lovely at dusk than purple-pink mountains.

Meersburg 5


Meersburg 4

Mainau Island

Meersburg 2

View to Birnau from Unteruhldingen

Meersburg 3

View of Meersburg from the lake

This was my first visit to this region of Germany but I know I’ll be back again. The water, the vineyards, the hiking paths, and the nearby mountains provide all the things I could want in a holiday destination.

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I’m Back!


I have safely returned home after a wonderful two weeks in Europe. I was back in the office today, which was a bit of a shock to my vacation-slackened system but no doubt very good for me. I hope to be back to regular blogging (won’t that be a change!) in the next week or two.  Prepare yourselves for many, many vacation photos. For now, hi!

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Horseshoe Bay

Horseshoe Bay before an early ferry

I have not been a good blogger or reader this summer but I have been having a good time.  Without books.  Who knew?

Instead of reading, I have been exploring, getting reacquainted or simply introduced to some of the amazing sights in and around Vancouver. From beaches to mountains, I’ve been taking it all in and counting my blessings yet again that I live in such a stunning place.

Since I don’t have any book reviews to present to you (yet), I thought I might as well share some photos of my recent adventures.


Deep Cove


View from Grey Rock down on Indian Arm and Deep Cove


Cleveland Dam (aka the city’s very scenic water supply)


Early morning at the beach on Canada Day


View to Bowen and up Howe Sound


View from Dog Mountain


Looking down on the city from Dog Mountain

Morning Ferry

Taking the ferry across to Bowen Island

Snug Cove

The marina on Bowen


Marina-side shops and restaurants in Snug Cove (Bowen)

Ferry 2

The view from the ferry, heading back to the mainland

I’m off to spectacular Switzerland later this month but I already feel like I’ve had a bit of a holiday this summer, thanks to these weekend adventures.

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Welcome Summer!


This was my view this morning. To celebrate the beautiful weather ON A SATURDAY NO LESS (good weather seems to have an inverse relationship with non-working days, I find), the family headed off on a rather muddy two hour hike in Mount Seymour Provincial Park.  I hadn’t been up Mt Seymour since I was seven or eight and going snowshoeing with Brownies.  This experience was significantly better than that, containing a minimum of snow (but still some, I was bewildered to find) and a maximum of amazing views.  It was a great reminder of just how stunning this province is and how close and accessible the outdoors are.


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Palms to Pines


View down to Coachella Valley

My holiday is almost at an end but it has been an excellent one. It has been pretty quiet, with lots of time spent reading and enjoying the warm weather, but yesterday we went on a fun family road trip up into the San Jacinto mountains.  After almost two weeks surrounded by palm trees, it was wonderful to trade them (at least for the day) for pine trees and slightly cooler weather.  We spent several hours hiking near the mountain town of Idyllwild, enjoyed a delicious lunch in town, and then took in the amazing views on the twisting road back to the desert.  It had been years since I travelled along this road and I’d forgotten how absolutely stunning the scenery is.  It was a great way to spend the day!


Near Idyllwild


Hiking near Idyllwild


Looking down on Hemet and Diamond Valley Lake


Coming down into San Gorgonio Pass

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Home Sweet Home


Lucky thing that I am, I did not have to work on my birthday yesterday.  I managed to have a busy and rather stressful day (good stress, but still stress) nonetheless but one of the least stressful and most delightful parts of it was an afternoon walk along the beach.  It was a perfect reminder of why Vancouver is my favourite city in the world and why I would not want to live anywhere else.  Especially in February.

Vancouver2 Vancouver3 Vancouver4


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By the time we arrived in London (having stopped briefly in Windsor enroute from the Lake District), my codependent relationship with my camera had evaporated.  Maybe it was because I have been to London so many times before or that I was exhausted after three and a half weeks of photographing everything I saw.  Regardless, there were not a lot of photos taken in London (and even fewer in Windsor, which is why I’ve skipped talking about it altogether) but that does not mean I did not have a wonderful and very busy time.

We were in London for four days and, though not as ambitious as on previous trips, still managed to fit a lot in.  I bought lots of books, saw one of my best friends who is the process of moving to London for work, finally visited Westminster Abbey, explored the Tate Britain, browsed along Oxford Street, wandered through beautiful parks and neighbourhoods, and saw a fabulous musical.

London1 London2 London4 London5 London6

But, let us be honest, the real highlight of my time in London was getting to meet Rachel.  After three and a half years of online friendship, we finally got to met in person.  I have only met a handful of bloggers in real life (the others being Carolyn, Simon, and Darlene) and every encounter has been wonderful.  It is so strange but delightful to be able to sit down with a person for the first time but already know them so well.  Rachel and I had a very chatty dinner and then she took me to one of her favourite bookshops on Charing Cross Road.  It was a great evening but the downside of getting on so well with someone is realising that you have to go back home and probably won’t see them again for years!  Still, it was the perfect way to end an already eventful and memorable trip.

Claire and Rachel


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