Wednesday, 14 June 2017

Eagles put on a fine show on latest sea kayak trip to Pt Holmes

By Keith and Heather Nicol
There is a nice sandy section east of the boat launch
     It has been a late start to the sea kayaking season for us. This has been in part due to the cool spring and early summer and also because we have been recently traveling out of the country taking in our niece`s wedding in Italy and touring Tuscany for 2 weeks.  However we finally got out on June 12 and headed to the point and around toward Kay Bay. We were surprised to see little seal activity or bird life but that would change as we as turned around and paddled to a sandy beach for a stretch and to enjoy the sunny warm weather. Although much of this section of shoreline is quite cobbly at lower tides there is a small section of sandy beach east of the boat launch which is useful to know about if you want a relaxing place to come ashore. 

We like paddling in this area for the views of mountains across Georgia Strait
  Soon after we launched from the sandy beach we saw an eagle perched on a rock and it let us approach to within a few meters and then as we returned to the boat launch ramp we saw a swarm of gulls squawking at the water`s edge. We also saw about 10 eagles diving toward them diving and swooping. It turned out someone had just dumped some fish entrails off at the edge of the boat launch and the birds were having a free lunch. The launching is not that wide and so as we pulled in the eagles were reluctant to leave so we had a perfect view of the eagles fighting over the scraps with the gulls darting in when they thought it was safe.  We have kayaked at Point Holmes on many occasions but never had this sort of eagle viewing as we loaded our boats onto the car. My only complaint was that I didn`t have my DSLR camera and had only brought my small waterproof camera. Next time!!  For those people new to this area Point Holmes is a good place to launch since they have a boat launch which means that you can kayak on just about any tide level. Be sure to drop your money for launching in the box to help pay for this convenient facility. The boat launch is on Lazo Road near the Southwind Road intersection. 
We were met by lots of eagles at the boat launch

Tuesday, 13 June 2017

Last Stop Florence Italy

by Keith and Heather Nicol

After leaving reluctantly San Gimignano we headed to the Florence airport to return our rental car
David by Michaelangelo
and then taxied in to Florence to the Wow Florence Hostel. We had planned our trip to finish in Florence since although we started in Florence 2 weeks earlier, at that time we were just getting our bearings and getting over jet lag from our long flight from Vancouver. This time we wanted to see the famous statue David in the Galleria dell'Accademia which was just a few blocks from where we were staying. Since it was Sunday and we knew that the Galleria dell'Accademia was closed Mondays this was our last chance since our return flight to Vancouver was 10:00 am on Tuesday morning. The front desk staff at the Wow Florence Hostel told us that the first Sunday in each month many museums were free and we thought that this meant we had no chance to get into the Gallerie since there are usually long lines to get in and if it was free entry the lines would be extra long. Well were we surprised when we arrived to a line that was just 2 minutes long!! We couldn’t believe our luck and so spent the next 90 minutes touring the Gallerie with its many statues and paintings. No wonder Florence is considered to be the centre of renaissance art in Italy.
View of Florence from the Tower
The Cathedral and Tower
    The next day (our last in Italy) we got up early and headed for the Duomo and bought a 15 euro pass to see a variety of buildings in this extremely popular part of Florence. We were glad we got there just as they were opening (9:00am) since we had wanted to climb the tower, see the museum, tour the cathedral and see the crypt. By the time we left at noon the long lines were snaking from all venues and by this time it was much hotter and shade was harder to find. We really enjoyed the museum which had an intriguing section on the building of the huge dome with models and examples of period construction techniques and tools. We also thought the tower was well worth the climb and our only regret was that we had not planned ahead and booked a spot to also climb to the top of the Duomo since it is so popular you need to reserve ahead. We spent the afternoon wondering down to the Arno River before returning to the hostel to pack and get ready for our departure the next day. We had hoped to see the Uffizi Gallery (it was closed Monday) as well as get to several other sites but that will have to wait until our next visit. Arrivederci Florence. 
Along the Arno River in Florence

Sunday, 11 June 2017

We loved San Gimignano, Italy

by Keith and Heather Nicol
Heather exploring San Gimignano
    From Lucca our next stop was San Gimignano where we spent 3 nights at a comfortable airbnb called the “Central apartment in San Gimignano”.  It was within 500 meters of the gates of the walled city of San Gimignano which is ideal since parking can be a problem in this popular hill town. Elizabeth our host had a ton of information about San Gimignano and the surrounding communities and she also told us where to get some good pictures of the tall towers that the village is known for.  We spent our first day exploring San Gimignano and the views from the top of the tower were splendid. We also enjoyed going through the museum of anthropology and visiting the Rocca di Montestaffoli which had its own very pleasant enclosure. A harpist playing under an olive tree made the whole setting magical.

The view from the tower was superb

The second day was spent touring some nearby communities and we checked out the glass museum
San Gimignano is known for its numerous towers
in Colle di Val D’elsa which it turned out had been a big glass producer in this area. We then set our sites for Siena which was busy with tourists but well worth the visit. We especially liked the elaborate cathedral and duomo as well as the huge Piazza del Campo where the famous Palio (a horse race) occurs twice each summer. We had hoped to visit some of the other hilltowns that our airbnb host Elizabeth had suggested but once again we were out of time. Unfortunately the next day we were scheduled to head to Florence to wind up our Tuscany adventure and return to Canada. So sad to leave.

The Piazza del Campo is where the Palio occurs each summer in Siena

On to Pisa and Lucca, Italy

by Keith and Heather Nicol
Heather and Michael in Pisa
    From the scenic Cinque Terre area we headed for Pisa and Lucca which were just a short drive away. In Pisa we had the typical tourist agenda and stayed long enough to see the leaning tower and surrounding buildings. Again we had only allotted a day and a half in this area and we wanted to see Lucca and the surrounding area as well. We found parking near the leaning tower and although some people had said it was difficult to get parking so close to the tower we parked just a couple of blocks away. From there we headed for Lucca where we stayed at another airbnb location – “La Casa di Norra Lore” which was located near Lucca in Capannori. After getting check in and getting information about Lucca from our host Giuliana. She gave us a local map and showed us where to find free parking which was a big help. After getting unpacked we did some grocery shopping at a nearby store and then headed in to Lucca to walk on its famous treeline wall. Many of these early Tuscan cities are walled but most of the walls are not walkable on top. Here we saw many people biking and running with a grand view of Lucca from the top of the wall.
The Piazza dell' Anfiteatro in Lucca
 The next day we explored part of the inside of the walled portion of Lucca and loved climbing its
Sampling wine at Buonmico
tower (which featured trees on top) and seeing the views of tiled roofs stretching into the distance.   The Piazza dell’ Anfiteatro and Duomo are also well worth visiting. From there we headed back to “La Casa di Norra Lore” for lunch and then drove into the country side to visit Montecarlo which our airbnb host Giuliana had recommended for wine and olive oil tasting. We especially loved going to the Tenuta del Buonamico where we sampled numerous wines and olive oil. Of course we had to get some to bring back to Canada. A perfect way to spend the afternoon. See: for more info.
Eric, Kristie and Michael from the tower in Lucca