Category Archives: Travel

Canadian Potato Museum

We drove by the museum the other day on our way back from North Cape, but it was closed. Knowing how crucial the potato is to the history of Prince Edward Island, we were excited to come back another day and catch the exhibit. If anybody can teach you something about the potato, it would be this place, right?

I am happy I can now say the Canadian Potato Museum is one of the most fascinating museums I’ve been through and it ranks right up there with our experience of the Natural History museum in Dublin. The curators are doing an amazing job. I learned so much about the history of potatoes in the world and on the island in the hour or so spent going through the exhibits. Wonderful stuff.

Some of it is captured in these photos, but it is well worth the time if you find yourself anywhere near O’Leary, PE.

Prince Edward Island, Day 03

Prince Edward Island, Day 02

Today was a rainy one! But not rainy enough to discourage us a bit. The only thing we missed was eating breakfast on the porch. 🙂

We made the pleasant drive over and up to the North Cape, where the waters of the Northumberland Strait and the Gulf of St Lawrence meet. Of the many fascinating things we learned, one was that lobster season in this part of PEI moves from the Gulf of St Lawrence during May through June to the Northumberland Straight in August through October. This area is also big for Irish moss harvesting, which will be done with boats or horses.

After enjoying a walk along the red wind farm coast, we drove down to O’Leary to visit the potato museum. It was closed, but we’re hoping to get back in the next few days to take a closer look.

Prince Edward Island, Day 01

Our first full day on the island was a success.

We woke up late Thursday morning and had a great small breakfast on the porch of our cottage while looking out onto a sunny Gulf of Saint Lawrence. We then drove off toward Cavendish and got appropriately lost in the fictional and real houses and forests of L.M. Montgomery’s Anne of Green Gables. At the end of the Haunted Trail and on the property where Montgomery grew up was a bookstore where we met the wife of L.M Montgomery’s first cousin who did a fantastic job of explaining the lay of the land, both new and old.

After finishing up with Green Gables, we made our first visit to the sandy dunes of Cavendish Beach. Several fox friends kept watch in an overly domesticated way as we drove out along Gulf Shore Rd and enjoyed the beautiful coastline.

The day’s adventuring ended with amazing fresh lobster and mussels at the St. Ann’s Church Lobster Supper in Hope River with fantastic (!!!) live music from singer songwriter Dakota Oliver. What a great voice! She also informed me that locals enjoyed their lobster cold, which triggered my decision to order the lobster cold, and I am now a happy cold lobster enjoyer.

And as a side note, I am now familiar with the word tomalley.

Stuff Is Weight

Stuff is weight.

There’s a philosophy of life around that statement, one that I probably think about subscribing to, and one that I have often offered my amateur opinions on from time to time.

At the moment, however, I mean it in the most literal way.

Stuff is weight.

When we first left for Europe in April, I had the following in my bag:

  • 2 polo shirts
  • 4 t-shirts
  • 1 long sleeve shirt
  • 1 pullover
  • 1 heavy rain jacket
  • 1 pair of jeans
  • 1 pair light weight hiking pants
  • 1 pair hiking pants/shorts combo
  • 5 pairs long wool socks
  • 1 pair short wool socks
  • 4 pairs underwear
  • swim trunks
  • wool skull cap
  • rain/sun hat
  • 2 bandanas
  • 1 pair sandals
  • 1 pair hiking shoes

It’s almost laughable really. Depending on how you count, almost 30 items to cover 4 major parts of the body. Head, upper, lower, and feet. And we haven’t started talking about the toiletries, miscellaneous random bits, water, and food.

Right before we left, it was all necessary. Even though we had removed everything but the essentials, and even after hearing “no matter what you pack, you’ll only need half“, we thought we had been able to detach ourselves enough from our stuff to pack smart.

Seriously, we had just finished downsizing a household into a little over 9 or 10 Rubbermaid tubs, of course we knew how to cut out the unnecessary.

Fast forward a month to Tewkesbury, England as we relive the process. Prepared to ditch some of our all of a sudden unnecessary stuff on our wonderful friends to take home, we find ourselves doing the same dance.

“I’ll definitely start using this.” “We might need this after we’re done with the walk.”

Etc, etc.

We did good though. I sent back the heavy rain jacket (replaced by a new lighter weight wind/rain breaker), a polo shirt, a t-shirt, the long sleeve shirt, and the skull cap. Only the necessities were to remain.

Oh, necessities and jeans.

About our weakness for jeans. We knew they would be tossed sooner or later, definitely before the Camino, but we still insisted on wearing them while we had them. This lasted a handful of days after Tewkesbury. Once we had to walk around in the heat of Montpellier, any emotional attachment disappeared. When we left for Agde, the jeans stayed behind.

Which brings us to now. 3 days and 40 miles into the Camino de Santiago, each step with the full weight of our stuff on our backs. The definition of necessity has started to really show itself under pressure. I returned from the Correos a few hours ago, having hopefully filled out the correct paperwork in order for 3.43kg of our stuff to make its way back home.

What won’t I be missing? A pullover, the heavy hiking shorts/pants, another t-shirt, a pair of underwear, and the short wool socks.

Why won’t I be missing it?

Stuff is weight.

Zubiri

The only problem with a beautiful and modern looking albergue with a 20 foot ceiling and large expansive rooms housed in a building that is a thousand years old is the temperature control.

The wind howled around through much of the night, and even the body heat of those inside did nothing to raise the room temperature above 55 or 60.

This would be fine had we been prepared for the cold. While Michelle was smart and got a silk sleeping sack before we left, I still hadn’t picked up a sheet or anything similar for nights like these. The status quo for an albergue is a bed and a pillow, nothing else. As Michelle shivered through the night in the lightest possible sheet layer one could have, I slept in my clothes, waking up every couple hours to remark to myself how much nicer a comforter would be.

It should be noted that I’m not complaining. It was still a wonderful place to sleep and I awoke well rested and surprisingly ready to face what today had in store for us.

From France To Spain To Roncesvalles

The altitude heading out of St Jean Pied de Port is right around 170m.

Six or seven hours and 20km later, as you cross Col de Lepoeder at 1450m, you may find yourself wondering if it is possible to climb that long or if you have started hallucinating somewhere on the route.

It was at this point, after pausing for a minute inside a quiet storm shelter near the top of the pass, that we realized how cold and windy it had become. While we were still managing with our light wind breakers, the air around us seemed frigid and loud. A perfect time to start heading down towards Roncesvalles.

Of course, one should remember that what comes up must also come down. And so it was, as the trail turned almost laughable at times, sending our spent legs and backs down 500m over the next 5k.

What seemed like a never-ending climb now turned into a never-ending descent.

Muscles, required to work in new ways, had been doing the same thing for so long that they became angry. Toes started yelling, knees starting pinging. Ankles and calves worked in unison to try and bring the machines to a halt.

It was a blast.

9 hours and 24.8km later, after a day that provided ridiculously beautiful scenery throughout, from a sun sparked start to a cold howling finish, we found ourselves in Roncesvalles, Spain.

The emotion is hard to describe, especially when you are aware that exhaustion is half of it. But here we were. Our packs could be dropped for the night, our shoes could be taken off, and we could do something else other than walk for at least the next 13 hours.

So that’s what we did. For €10 we got a place to drop our stuff, take the best shower ever, relax, stretch, relax, stretch, and sleep.

Dispatch From St Jean Pied De Port

Camino de Santiago, day 0.

Heavy dark clouds define the morning. A steady rain falls. Cool fog curls around the surrounding hillsides.

The two car train from Bayonne works a slow, meticulous route through the hills, the pace only adding to the tension. An adventure is about to begin and almost everyone on the train is going to be a part of it.

The excitement is stunning.

Somewhere around the half way mark, I realize that I actually have butterflies in my stomach. The walk we are about to embark on has been only a thought, a guess even, for the last year. Now, we’re just over forty days into an amazing journey and only minutes away from the starting point of what could be the most important leg.

As the train pulls into the final station, the excitement boils over. It’s no longer to come, it is here. We plunge out of the train doors and into the rain, our faces smiling at the realities in front of us.

Tomorrow the walk will begin. Today we feel home in St Jean Pied de Port.

¡Buen Camino!