Tea Journeys – Part Two

I like the pause that tea allows.” – Waris Ahluwalia

Sciue

It’s the first week of November and I’m sitting in an airy gallery space with a real china cup filled with a creamy hot chocolate (purchased from a tiny in-house Italian coffee bar called Sciue) instead of a fragrant tea.

The temperature has dropped resulting in a multitude of colourful falling leaves and frosty mornings – sipping hot chocolate at a small bistro table after wandering through the current art exhibit at the Pendulum Gallery, a perfect downtown activity.

Large canvases, unique sculptures and photographs showcase local artist’s creativity and talent, this free art exhibit an offshoot of the yearly Eastside Culture Crawl.

I may not be indulging in a cup of tea but the pause this delicious hot chocolate allows means I’ll revisit this space again when there’s a new exhibit to take in.

This tiny coffee bar also serves tasty pizza slices and other goodies for hungry art patrons!

I did return to take in another exhibit and enjoy part of the exquisite Floral Trail to celebrate the holiday season.

Tigh-Na-Mara Coffee Bar

In late November we find ourselves back on Vancouver Island tucked into another studio bungalow to experience more long walks through the forest and by the ocean. At the ferry terminal, an older woman or rather, her striped woolen socks caught my eye. Pretty autumn colours in pink, mustard and burgundy flashed from the tops of her worn dark coloured boots. She was prepared (as we all were) for the first significant snowfall of the season due to fall the next day. She quietly read her beloved newspaper while gulls wheeled outside the waiting room windows as bright sunshine made a mockery of the wintry weather to come.

Snow began to fall gently the next morning after our arrival dusting the rooftops of the many log structures and debris strewn ground from a recent windstorm. Morning tea and coffee were enjoyed inside this visit as delicate white flakes thickened and began to accumulate. By nightfall the holiday lights added an enchanting note to white flocked trees flanking quiet roads – our time here will welcome a new month with a wintry season arriving in just a few weeks.

There are delicious freshly baked muffins to buy at the miniscule coffee bar operating out of the professional kitchen and we picked up four (the Morning Glory ones are a favourite!) for the mornings in making our own fragrant coffee and organic blended black tea. The colder weather keeps us inside before lunch but afterwards we bundle up to go on hardy walks through the forest before returning to our cozy studio for another cup of goodness to warm our souls.

The coffee bar is closed but leaves one with a beautiful quote to ponder.

We walked nightly through a winter wonderland for a pint and a warm meal! Cedars Restaurant just glowed…

Faubourg Paris – Boulangerie . Patisserie

I’m sitting outside just before sunset on a mid-December day at a sweet coffee place downtown where I was taken to last spring to celebrate my May birthday. I’ve thought about the lavender rooibos tea and buttery croissant ever since! So after a leisurely stroll through two art galleries and taking in some of the yearly festive Floral Trail (gazing at lushly decorated floral arches and displays) I’ve ordered the same delights surrounded by twinkling lights, real and faux berry studded greenery. The city is alive with holiday shoppers and visitors. It’s rather refreshing to sit outside at one of the small tables and write a few lines…

My walk home underneath a canopy of sparkling green and white lights with darkness descending was enchanting and knowing that a soothing cup of tea awaited me made this solo adventure even sweeter!

The entrance to the Vancouver Art Gallery was festooned with floral beauty and the snowy streets added another layer bringing the holidays to life.

What a lovely floral invitation to tea, I enjoyed every minute…

A shout out to Kate of https://aroused.blog who commented that my beverage of choice doesn’t always have to be tea and I agree, it’s the pause that means the most!

May there be many beautiful pauses in your world in the coming new year…

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Tea Journeys – Part One

I’m re-blogging this post from the vault in anticipation of some unique tea journeys I plan to indulge in next month resulting in a Part Two – Vancouver has several new tea spots to explore and I want to visit one each week, some are a city walk away and others will be reached by transit!

anotetohuguette

Day after day we live on the edge of time. Sun and moon go as they may. Heaven and Earth change freely. With each cup of tea, I experience the birth of the universe. With each sip a new beginning. If you ask me to explain, I need only invite you to drink tea.” – The Minister of Travel

Recently while heading to a coffee bar with my mom, we ran into another neighbour of ours, Suzanne. She was on her way to the “Four Seasons” gathering at Huguette’s – where four dear friends come together to speak French, eat delicious food and toast the season. What I love about this celebration is that each friend hosts a different season! It is always a delight to be invited to Huguette’s apartment, her home is filled with bright colour, well read books, candles and an always listening ear. Her decorated…

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genius loci (the spirit of a place)

If you’re John Muir you want trees to live among. If you’re Emily, a garden will do. Try to find the right place for yourself. If you can’t find it, at least dream of it.” – Mary Oliver, Felicity

Tomorrow, we leave for the Island (Vancouver Island) to savour what we all hope will be the last days of a summer that has lingered long into October. A wet spring delayed fire season this year, its appearance now leaving us with smoky skies, eerie red moons and rosy sunsets,

Hopping on transit and eventually walking on to the ferry at Horseshoe Bay went smoothly and we eagerly looked forward to disembarking on the other side. We enjoyed a delicious salmon burger on board sharing a fresh green salad and a side of tasty French fries. The sun continued to shine strong despite smoke drifting over from Vancouver and up from Seattle (Washington) – as we neared the city of Nanaimo at Departure Bay, we were rewarded with several blows from a Humpback whale who eventually dived showing its broad tail, bestowing good luck (and so far, we’ve been blessed with warm sunshine with little smoke).

Our studio bungalow nestled in the forest at Tigh-Na-Mara has been a lovely bolt hole – it’s been almost two years since we were here last and we happily re-visited favourite trails (with “Caution, Bear in Area” signs posted) sitting on benches by the ocean and near a small crabapple orchard surrounded by tall cedar trees.

A delightful new find was coming across a wild apple tree rising above rose bushes awash in dark red rosehips, what drew us to this magical tree growing by the windswept forest across from the strait was an area of summer’s end grasses flattened by resting deer. The shiny red apples glowing in the sunshine teased us; there were a few on the ground with nibbles and bites and the ones we yearned for, much too high. A young girl picnicking with her mom nearby, came close holding a plastic football – she was also eyeing the lovely fruit, guess what happened next? We suggested she throw her ball at the laden branches to see if some might fall and we were rewarded with a few good ones. After her successful launch she returned to the picnic with her prizes, and we continued to add to our own bounty – the apples reminded us of Galas but tasted much drier on the tongue. After a long walk through the forest and park, the afternoon interlude harkened back to the days when this area (Rathtrevor Park) was a farm, the seaside apple tree seemingly far away from its orchard roots.

On other walks, we heard sleek seals barking out in the Salish Sea (Georgia Strait) fishing while dark ravens startled us with their deep, loud calls amid treefrog and towhee choruses – silver birch trees shed their golden leaves gently as towering green cedars dropped russet brown cones, too many to count beneath their boughs. It’s the spirit of this place that keeps calling us back…

Behind our studio (located in a small community of log-built structures), is a tangle of woodland consisting of mature cedars, birch trees as well as arbutus saplings. There are golden leaves and strips of brick red bark (from arbutus trees) scattered among pale rocks and dark soil. It was a joy to step outside on the patio with the last sips of morning tea, to walk amid the beauty around me and anticipate the day. In front of our small complex, we discovered a curving path strewn with crunchy leaves and pinecones that brought us quickly to our front door, adding an atmospheric layer to our stay!

On our last morning, we left the Island to return home, knowing that another element of genius loci awaited us – the same ocean and a very different forest on our doorstep to reacquaint ourselves with. And as I sit here at Veranda drinking a creamy hot chocolate on a very blessed rainy day, I find myself looking forward to a fall that has finally arrived in all its glory.

This amazing vista never fails to capture our imagination, it’s one of our favourite beachside walks!

Here’s just one welcoming bench at the edge of Rathtrevor Park near Parksville across from the Salish Sea, we sat on several and enjoyed the many views.

Here are some of the apples we collected from the wild apple tree sitting on our picnic table in front of the tangle of woodland I enjoyed each morning while sipping my tea.

This wild coast is the “spirit of a place” we love, it keeps calling us back!

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Flight

Travel brings power and love back into your life.” – Rumi

After almost three years of not flying we find ourselves above a dry patch of land with snow capped Mt. Baker (Washington) rising above dark blue winding rivers. There is some green to gaze upon but nothing compared to the lush rainforest we’ve left behind. We are on a whirlwind trip to Ontario to celebrate a special birthday and spend time with loved ones much missed these past few years.

After what feels like a quick flight (4 hours and 1 minute) thanks to the jet stream, we land at Toronto’s Pearson Airport to relative calm – the horror of hundreds of abandoned suitcases not seen with the usual airport activity seemingly stilled. A promising start to a long anticipated getaway…

It was a joy to arrive at home base in Ajax, to hug sisters and brothers, nephews and nieces all the while thinking about the upcoming party. Our visit was a surprise as well as the arrival of two beloved grandchildren (our great nephew and niece) from the UK whom we last saw in 2020. They fell into conversation with their Canadian cousins without skipping a beat!

A few highlights that stand out from our trip include a warm summer evening sitting at the new city square listening to a local 70’s cover band with a cold can of local craft beer while watching the sky for a severe storm that manifested on our last night in a torrent of rain, lightning and thunder. We were lucky – some parts of Ontario experienced tornado activity resulting in property damage and blackouts. The power outage we experienced didn’t last long upstaging the lit candles and glowing lanterns, it was exciting to watch the storm unfold in the semi-darkness with our bedroom window shutters opened wide.

Earlier in the week, we hopped onto the Go Train heading to downtown Toronto and got a bird’s eye view of several towns before the railway tracks and graffiti announced that Union Station (the last stop) was minutes away. A colourful outdoor festival greeted us at the station with happy patrons sitting in the beer garden surrounded by the fragrant aroma of good eats, summer in the city doesn’t get much better than this! The heat and humidity kept us to the many parklets dotting the lake, their shady interiors and worn benches inviting us to sit awhile. I wanted to wander through the beautiful Toronto Musical Garden after having seen footage of it on a documentary about ageless gardens. Its winding paths, grassy tiers providing seating for music lovers and views of sparkling water peppered with weathered metal sculptures and natural stone didn’t disappoint. Eating an ice cream cone with flavours reminiscent of cottage country (S’Mores) on the way to the garden added a delicious whimsical note.

Flying back home in the evening meant we could chase the rosy glow of a summer sunset against the twilight sky across Canada with images of the lake, gardens and family fun dancing in our heads!

Walking by Union Station with the iconic CN Tower in the distance, the colour and energy of a big city is intoxicating!

Terry’s brother Garth met us at the station on his bike and took us to this sweet dog park, one of several parklets to offer us respite!

This stunning capture was taken at the edge of the Toronto Musical Garden, what a lovely spot to wander through sheltered from the heat and humidity of the city.

We sat on a bench on the boulevard hugging Lake Ontario and enjoyed everything this wonderful city has to offer!

The next day we continued exploring shady parklets with more musical influences before heading to Ajax with a stop to buy some beautiful bouquets for the birthday celebration.

This post is dedicated to my wild hood friend, Patricia, who left us much too soon on her own flight August 05, 2022.

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Rhododendron Series (Part Two)

We know that in September, we will wander through the warm winds of summer’s wreckage. We will welcome summer’s ghost.” – Henry Rollins

Their voices are rusty but true after two years of silence, the yearly Strawberry Summer Party (formerly the Strawberry Festival) held at Barclay Square having been cancelled due to the pandemic to protect the vulnerable seniors who volunteer and those who are now singing songs that reach back reminding me of my own childhood and beloved grandparents.

I’ve missed spooning out delicious plump strawberries bathed in cool whipped cream on top of golden shortcake, it’s a joy to indulge today amid all these happy faces on a lush green expanse underneath the summer sun. What a beautiful start to summer…

A beautiful red camellia and rhododendron bush appear forever entwined just off a magical path in Stanley Park.

Apartment towers can be seen just beyond the Rhododendron Garden, this lush beauty is just steps away from where we live!

We just discovered a tuck shop (where passersby can buy an ice cream treat) at the miniature golf course where these beautiful rhododendrons stand sentinel!
The Camellia path offers glimpses of wild beauty on solo walks, it’s hard to believe that the Pacific Ocean is minutes away…

Coming across these stunning orange blooms is always a welcome surprise in the Rhododendron Garden!

Just behind this magnificent Gunnera is a plethora of lovely rhododendron bushes delighting the eye with promises of a beautiful summer!
Our favourite park gardener laid this flat stone at the end of the Rhododendron Garden for photographers to stand on, what a great idea!
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Rhododendron Series (Part One)

May, and after a rainy spring we walk streets gallant with rhododendrons.” – Alicia Suskin Ostriker

As of this writing, many countries have lost their traditional seasons (spring/summer) due to war, climate change destruction (fire and floods) and changing weather patterns…here in our province (British Columbia) winter has lingered through spring and like the above quote, has left our landscape gallant with rhododendrons!


A gorgeous dark pink rhododendron captured on the sea wall overlooking Coal Harbour in Stanley Park.

At the end of our street is a lovely wide path that accommodates bikers and walkers, this pink beauty guards a hidden pond across from Lost Lagoon.

Our cooler spring has resulted in lush abundance amid vibrant green here in the Rhododendron Garden.

A riot of purple near two tall tree trunks is what greets golfers on the course just beyond the Rhododendron Garden.

We love the beauty of the various pink and white blooms but when we come across the oranges, corals and brick red ones, it takes our breath away!

Many rhododendrons are years old and have grown in wild ways creating heavenly canopies, their delicate floral scent fills the air creating another layer of enchantment…

This lovely capture reminds us that this beautiful garden is tucked into an urban forest, we walk on this path often and sometimes spy a coyote on her morning walk!
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Arrival

This being human is a guest house. Every morning a new arrival.” – Rumi

Reading Rumi’s beautiful quote on a deep winter day disguised as spring made me laugh out loud! Every morning since the world paused I’ve woken up a new arrival adapting to ways of being not experienced in my lifetime and now seemingly overnight just as hope tentatively returns to our world, an ugly conflict half way across the world has ignited an almost forgotten fight or flight response.

To chase away thoughts of war, a sunny weekend day found us sitting on the worn bleachers at Brockton Oval in the park after a delicious lunch outside at Lumbermen’s Arch concession. Our vista against the backdrop of snow-capped mountains and green forest is filled with murmuring Canada geese, happy dogs chasing brightly coloured balls and people running or walking the oval track. A group of four with their small black dog spread out a feast on the lone picnic table and took turns running a mile or two before indulging. Above, against a sky not graced with instruments of war, we watched five Bald eagles lazily flying together, their wings gently touching. Nearby, gulls performed their own dance in the sky with the snowy triangle that is Mount Baker (Washington) rising majestically above the horizon.

A spring-like downtown walk not long ago led to the Vancouver Art Gallery to gaze upon the rare Shakespeare’s Folio (under protective glass) opened to the page introducing Romeo and Juliet in celebration of St. Valentine’s Day with plans to get lost in the iconic forest paintings of Emily Carr. Later, I was surprised at how many patrons were eagerly waiting to enter as I left, perhaps hoping to chase away thoughts of war as well. On my way home, throngs of pedestrians moved along Robson St. window shopping and buying treasures – I stopped into a tiny chocolate shop to buy six delectable pieces to enjoy over a weekend of afternoon tea, each sweet bite, a reminder to seize as many moments as I can! And I’m so glad I did, the chocolate shop is closing at the end of the month, yet another casualty of the ongoing pandemic…

Other arrivals come in the form of an unexpected greeting card or email brightening days overshadowed by too many outcomes when all the world wants is peace. They arrive in spring flowers and blooms emerging with their messages of hope – and today, a metal or wooden sign in the shape of a white house hung (we wonder how) high up on a forest tree with the words, Love Without Limits, an answer to a prayer after the worrisome news of the day.

The last day of winter unfolded in yellow and blue inviting winter bound souls to move around outside, new arrivals to the shops, coffee bars and benches in a neighbourhood more than ready for spring not war.

This beautiful vista greeted us as we left the bleachers at Brockton Oval in Stanley Park (Vancouver, B.C.).
Terry captured the encouraging words, Love Without Limits, deep in the forest on one of his daily walks.
I often sit on a polished wooden bench near this lovely Camellia bush with a thermos of tea and a book!
The air is filled with the heady scent of wood smoke and blossoms these spring days, this capture was taken at the entrance to Stanley Park.
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Daffodils Rising

Autumn arrives in early morning, but spring at the close of a winter day.” – Elizabeth Bowen

Mid-January is just around the corner and there are still sparkling lights to catch my eye as well as a magical lone sapling hung with pastel ice cream coloured balls tinkling against each other in the wind. A gilt edged holiday card lies abandoned on sodden grass conjuring happy moments just past – I recently received a greeting card decorated with three cheerful snowmen along with a letter filled with wise and beautiful words, it stands on top of a shelf in a corner of the living room bereft of festive colour adding a bright splash of winter whimsy.

My thoughts travel back in time remembering our flight home from Ontario two years ago after a whirlwind holiday to London, England just before lockdown. Traveling is on hold for now as we navigate through darker days overshadowed by the latest COVID-19 variant, so we continue to support local businesses, seek delight and count our blessings.

One recent delight unfolded in unexpected lingering sunshine, spring-like temperatures and a desire to spend more time outside. With just an hour until sunset, it was a joy to dress lighter (no scarf or gloves) and head out for a long walk on paths clear of ice and snow. Vancouver’s famous early spring weather is nearly upon us – snowdrops are in full bloom across from the Rose Garden in the park, the Christmas roses (hellebore) are out in delicate shades of sage and pale pink and small bouquets of daffodils are in bud waiting for a sunnier day to open.

This week atmospheric fog and mist has made an appearance adding a haunting note to walks by the sea and at the edge of the park. As darkness descends and the tea kettle gets plugged in, I turn on the string lights wound around a beloved Dickens book that belonged to my father, winding as well among art objects from our travels and a happy spider plant sitting on the same shelf that shares that whimsical card. A favourite Mikasa vase in graduated shades of purple holds dried blood red and pale pink roses with two branches of red winterberries – a single flameless pillar candle sits nearby waiting to chase away any lingering shadows. It’s lovely to sip on a fragrant winter tea and take it all in…

A series of foggy and unusually cold days have given way to a great golden light as the sun breaks through the clouds telling tales of spring. The bench I sat on in autumn is empty and I find myself enjoying a minute or two with the warm sun upon my face, The asphalt path behind me hosts a bevy of walkers and the ocean waves in front soothe my soul as they gently greet the rocky shore. Boisterous chickadees and raucous crows fill the air with sound and bare trees stand like sentinels waiting for warmer air and light before their leaves sally forth – it’s days like this that make the wait for spring worthwhile!

Daffodils are rising and so is my spirit having just realized that I can only embrace the now, enjoy everything and let how I wish the world to be, go…

A beautiful Great Blue heron captured at Lost Lagoon in Stanley Park (Vancouver, B.C.) waiting for spring.
This Bald eagle pair were sighted in conversation across from Beaver Lake!
We were thrilled to hear and see this sleepy Barred owl over a period of days in the Rhododendron Garden, he or she looks very feathery in this capture.
It was a surprise to see this small brown bat feasting on insects on a winter afternoon at Lost Lagoon in the sunlight!
Gorgeously coloured Varied thrushes can be seen on winter walks through the forest as they forage and gather.
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Bench Series (Winter)

Darkness is where the magic of moonlight lives.” – Unknown

Before our part of the world became a winter wonderland, there were two days where I happily found myself – sitting at an outdoor table at the “cabin in the woods” Reindeer Cafe near the miniature railway in Stanley Park. It was wonderful to greet familiar faces behind the concession counter after a closure of almost two years.

One visit with a dear friend included a festive cinnamon scented churro stick and a paper cup of warm apple cider. Despite the sunny afternoon, a late December cold spell added an atmospheric note or two – on our walk over to the concession to catch a flash of coloured lights from the Bright Nights event, we passed a partially frozen lagoon and patterns of hoarfrost that were grass and leafy greenery just a week ago.

My second visit was a delightful al fresco lunch with Terry (delicious veggie burgers with a side of freshly cooked fries and another large apple cider to share) on a balmier day that called for a long walk in the forest afterwards on trails we had to ourselves – a winter afternoon filled with the sound of birdsong and mist rising from the forest floor.

And now amid snow covered sidewalks and freezing temperatures from an Arctic outflow paired with roaring wind, I’ve found shelter at my local coffee bar to gather my thoughts over a soothing hot drink – poised between the ending of one year and a new one about to begin.

These lovely benches sit in the Rose Garden in Stanley Park (Vancouver, B.C.), we came upon them on one of the very last days of autumn.
I couldn’t resist setting the scene for some beautiful bench captures!
At the intersection of four forest trails in the park we find these two conversational benches, across from them, high up in a tree is an eagle’s nest!
Autumn leaf covered benches are now covered in powdery snow lit up by the sun, this bench is located in the Rhododendron Garden.
We often sit here in the warmer months overlooking Third Beach, winter has a unique beauty of its own even if we choose not to linger.
Our province is experiencing more atmospheric river episodes which have washed all the local snow away, this throne-like chair sits near Second Beach and looks very regal!
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Sweet Tidings

May and October, the best smelling months? December: evergreen, frost, wood smoke , cinnamon.” – Lisa Kleypas

A creamy hot chocolate and Harry Potter were my companions today after practicing yoga at home amid the tail end of yet another historical weather system. The sun made an appearance earlier in the afternoon but soon became swallowed up by stormy clouds and falling rain.

The West Coast has been hosting a rare weather bomb (Bomb Cyclone) for two days now resulting in falling temperatures, pounding rain and destructive winds. Trees bursting in brilliant colour dance as gracefully as they can holding fast to their fluttering leaves while others stand sentinel over heaps of soggy leaves ready for winter. On my way to the shelter of the coffee bar I walked on sidewalks blanketed in a tapestry of fallen leaves, the mingling of colour reminding me of another place and time – the weaving of burgundy, dark green and mottled pale yellow resembling medieval wall hangings.

Back at home we were treated to a darkening sky reflected in neighbouring apartment tower windows – with fast moving clouds in shades of smoky peach travelling in between shards of bright sunlight revealing heavenly blue. Lately, the unsettling weather has paused briefly before a welcome flash of sunset resulting in glorious double rainbows, sweet tidings to those of us struggling during an autumn bereft of sun. Rainbows are a sign of hope and the ones that manifested this fall lifted our spirits…

Late November erupted in a once in a century weather event that created widespread flooding, dangerous land slides and loss of life. A town (Merritt) that I lived in briefly in my early twenties was left underwater and its 7,000 residents evacuated. In the aftermath here in our neighbourhood, we were left with lots of debris with parts of the stone seawall and sand strewn across paths by high tides. A huge barge was flung upon the rocky shoreline near Sunset Beach (where it still remains with a sign recently erected, Barge Chilling Beach, as a holiday gift to our city) and a curious wander down to the sea brought part of those stormy days we witnessed to life.

Lately I’ve tucked into Veranda Cafe’s cozy environs to enjoy another small hot chocolate or two and recently after a beautiful dry autumn walk up to the bookstore left behind the previous week’s heartbreaking images and the bare shelves we’ve noticed in our local shops as folks grapple with the reality of possible supply chain issues due to the damage sustained by several highways, effectively cutting off the city of Vancouver from the rest of the province and country. Thankfully, a state of emergency has been implemented (and at the time of this writing remains in place), army service personnel have arrived and the cleanup has begun.

The holiday season is now upon us too and once again, we’ll have to be creative with gift giving and gathering. Sweet tidings still abound in rare sunshine moments warming my back and in long walks through the park greeting fluttering golden leaves still clinging to trees that survived the onslaught of rain and wind. Wood smoke wafts through the air as colourful lights beckon from once darkened windows and as I wrote to a dear neighbour this morning – as long as we have music, art, and beloved books upon our tables, we are happy and well.

This wishing well looks magical surrounded by late autumn colour in Stanley Park (Vancouver, B.C.).
The Reindeer Cafe located near the miniature railway has hosted many picnics and served some delicious food over the years. It’s lovely to stop by and say “hello” to Travis (and Terry, too) especially during Bright Nights in Stanley Park.
This beautiful capture of Third Beach from Ferguson Point looks so inviting, in the height of summer we can imagine ourselves on a beach in Hawaii!
Oystercatchers are a joy to watch at this time of year, they are welcome visitors in late autumn!

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