30/08/2015/8:32 pm, crew in Nova Scotia/Madcap at Tortugal Marina, Rio Dulce, Guatemala
In the 4 months we've been home, we have experienced pretty much all of life's big events - and most of Nova Scotia's seasons too.
We returned in April to find our back garden still covered in snow and the spring blossoms nowhere near bursting forth. So, after some good visits with local family and friends, we set off to visit Alex in Ontario where spring comes sooner. And we had a lovely time - seeing our guy and visiting Mary and Blair (Strathspey) and Charles and Linda, and Mireille and Christian (Nomades). We tiptoed through the tulips along the canal, relaxed in the Austin's leafy back yard, lunched in the Massé/Belanger garden, and Mary and I spent a WHOLE DAY shopping! And we found my dress for the wedding!
Back in Nova Scotia, where spring did eventually arrive - just in time for summer - we cleaned up the garden, opened the cottage and set off in the other direction for a visit with Mary Beth and Graham in St John's, Newfoundland. We picnicked at Ferryland, squawked with gannets at Cape St Mary's, and enjoyed good food and conversation in their cosy home.
And then it was time for the celebrations to start. First off was my Dad's 90th birthday party in July. My sister, Linda, and I arranged an Open House in Amherst. He said it wasn't necessary, and he wasn't sure how many people would come, but he was thrilled to welcome over 100 friends and receive just as many cards. It was the best of small town parties - the women of First Baptist Church catered - with all the traditional goodies they (or their mothers) have been making for as long as I can remember - pretty little tea sandwiches, brown bread and cheese, banana bread and lemon bread and sweet treats of every description. He cut a huge chocolate cake and we all sang Happy Birthday, and he declared it to be "better than a funeral!"
At the end of July, we packed up all our finery and flew to Calgary to celebrate the next life event - the marriage of our daughter, Mary Beth, to Graham Cook. Although they live in Newfoundland, most of Graham's friends and family are in Calgary while Mary Beth's friends are scattered coast to coast, so they chose to be married in the west. It turned out to be a fine plan because our family decided to turn it into a real vacation. We loved exploring Calgary for a week, and then we spent an extra week in the Rockies.
Oh what a wonderful wedding it was! Our son, Liam flew up from New Zealand, Alex came from Ontario, my dad and sister came from Nova Scotia, Jim's sister and her daughter and grandchildren flew from New Brunswick and her son came from Vancouver. A couple of days before the main event, we hosted an East Meets West party at the house we rented, where 35 people feasted on lobster dip, steamed mussels, and Alberta beef burgers, washed down with Tidal Bay, Lucie Kuhlmann, and l'Acadie Blanc wines from Gaspereau Winery in Nova Scotia, and an assortment of west coast beers.
On the big day, August 2, we all gathered at The Lake House on Bonavista Lake for the wedding. The weather was perfect, the bride and groom looked stunning, the service was lovely, and the dancing was lively. It was really fun to see many of her friends with whom we celebrated a year ago at their Medical School graduation, and to meet Graham's family and friends for the first time. Mary Beth and Graham had done all the planning from afar and everything was beautiful - flowers, food, photography, music, speeches and kisses. The tables were named for Newfoundland places (Witless Bay, Come By Chance, and Dildo among them - they placed the rugby players at Dildo and the police officers at Witless Bay!) and the guest favours were little jars of partridgeberry and bakeapple jams, made in their own Newfoundland kitchen.
With the matrimonial celebrations over, we headed for Golden, BC to spend a few days with Mary Jean (Jim's sister) and her family, and to focus on life event number 3. Mary Jean's husband, David Beatty, has lived in Drew Nursing Home in Sackville, New Brunswick for several years, his body and mind affected by the ravages of Lewy Body Disease - a disease with both Parkinson-like symptoms and dementia. In a strange synchronicity of events, Dave passed away during Mary Beth's wedding - with Mary Jean receiving a series of messages during the ceremony, before the dinner, and during the speeches that he had taken a turn for the worse, that he had stabilized, and finally that he had died.
It seemed so strange, that this happened right out of the blue - and I have to say that the latter part of the wedding celebration was a little bit surreal. Dave had been on a kind of plateau for months and months. Many family members and friends had recently had really good visits with him. But in the remarkable way things sometimes happen, the timing also meant that most of the family was together. At any other time, their son Daman would probably have been in Vancouver while daughter Margaret and her children Catherine and Oliver were in New Brunswick. Jim could have been anywhere, and our children would also be scattered. We spent that next week in a combination of making funeral arrangements and hiking, of game playing and story telling, of remembering the past and celebrating the present.
One week later, we gathered once more - at the chapel at Mount Allison University where Dave had been a passionate history professor for so many years - to celebrate his life. And once again, there were stories, tears, laughter, music and food.
The last of the life events is yet to come. Daman (Mary Jean and Dave's son) and his wife, Fatima, are expecting a baby in September. Fatima couldn't attend the wedding and the funeral - but she will sure be centre stage at this next big event!
And as for us - we are back to enjoying the simple life on land in Nova Scotia. We have had a remarkable stretch of lovely hot weather - perfect for enjoying the cottage. After the excitement of the last couple of months, we are enjoying some quiet time. Jim is starting his annual perusal of marine catalogues and the box of boat parts and spares destined for Rio Dulce this fall is starting to fill. We are shipping down a box of things we can't carry on the plane - flares and soda stream canisters along with heavier items. Our thoughts are starting to turn toward life on the water - but we will pull them back for a while yet. There are many things still deserving our attention here, and we look forward to autumn visits with both cruising friends and land-based friends.
I will post more of our plans for this sailing season as they become clear(er) to us! And in the meantime, both Jim and I send our best to you all. Thanks for reading, for your friendship and interest - whether in person or through this blog. We are grateful for your presence in our lives!
19/04/2015/7:56 pm, boat in Rio Dulce, Guatemala/crew in Halifax, NS, Canada
We are safely back home in Halifax after a wonderful week at Tortugal Marina in Rio Dulce and a couple of fun and friend filled days in Antigua.
14/04/2015/9:10 pm, crew in Antigua, Guatemala, boat in Rio Dulce
In one of those small world experiences, we chatted with Diane and Dale at the mid-trip bus stop on our way to Antigua. They had been visiting with Marilyn and Glen on the catamaran docked next to us, and when they told us they live in New Zealand, we said, "Our son lives in Wellington and works at Gordon's outdoor store." "Well I bet he sold me my sunglasses!" said Diane. Wouldn't that be cool if it really was Liam?
We have stayed at a number of different Antigua hotels, but I think we have found our Antigua "home base" now. Two different friends recommended Las Camellias Inn on 3a Calle Oriente, and we wholeheartedly agree. It is mid-range, just a few blocks from the central square, spotlessly clean and pretty. So many of the Antigua hotels have lovely courtyards and this one is no exception. Breakfast is an extra $5. US and is well worth it.
We have spent quite a bit of time in Antigua now, so we didn't feel pressured to fill our days with exploring ruinas and striding along the cobbled streets. Instead, we sat in the leafy park watching families visit and children play and women in their colourful dress sell scarves and textiles. We drank excellent coffee as we watched locals and visitors crisscross the streets - and that is how we came to meet up with Angie and John (Angela G). Fortunately, they weren't in a hurry to be anywhere either so we followed them down the street and up the stairs to the gorgeous little terrace above the gardens at La Posada de Don Rodrigo. It is a wonderful new find for us and we spent a delightful hour with them recapping the sailing season before they go back to England and we go back to Canada.
The next day as we walked in the square once more, I looked at a gentleman on a bench and exclaimed, "Doug!" at the same time he said, "Beth!" We knew Doug (formerly on Serendipity) was in town but we weren't really expecting to see him so it was a lovely surprise - that continued when we saw Nancy (my yoga teacher last year) come around the corner. It's a funny thing when we are more apt to see friends in the square in Antigua, Guatemala than we are in Halifax, Nova Scotia!
Our friend, Lori, knows where to find music in town so we met her for drinks at La Taverna and moved on to Travel Menu where Zed was playing beautiful jazz guitar. We loved catching up on Lori's news over good food in a lively bar.
On our last day, we joined Kathy and Brian (Tundra) for a trip to Cello San Cristobal - for lunch on the terrace of their organic gardens high above the town. That turned out to be a little more of a mixed experience than we had planned. While all the reports of the place were glowing - free shuttle from N'im Pot in town up the winding road to the top of the hill, delicious food, beautiful views, opportunity to stroll through the lovely veggie gardens - the fact that we had to wait 2 full hours past the time we had expected to return, for a bus to come pick us up put a real damper on the day. It was even more frustrating because no one gave us any information for the delay for the longest time, and then when we were told there had been an accident and a new bus would come, it was a series of "Quinze minutos" (15 minutes) again and again. This became a problem for us, because we had arranged for Senor Soto, our cab driver, to pick us up at the hotel, and we were still on the hill with the sun going down when we were supposed to be meeting him for our ride back to Guatemala City. The lack of any particular concern about the delay left a bad feeling with us, and we won't be going back in a hurry. I won't say never, although I would pick a clear day when the visibility is good, have only salad for lunch, and call my own cab if I had to wait more than 20 minutes. As it was, Senor Soto was very gracious about having to wait for us (and very appreciative of the extra 100 Q we paid him.)
Back at Villa Toscana in the city, we repacked our bags, weighed them and fell into bed. The 5 am wakeup came early, but all the flights were on time (We were routed through Miami and Philadelphia on the way to Halifax) and our luggage arrived intact with us.
It never did feel like we were ready to come home but the stopover in Antigua certainly helped us make the transition between hot, humid weather on the Rio and chilly spring air in Nova Scotia, between boat life and land life. And now that we are here, it feels good.