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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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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Bench Series (Autumn)

Benches and books have things in common beyond the fact that they’re generally to do with sitting. Both are forms of public privacy, intimate spaces widely shared.” – Mal Peet

During the last two years, my partner and I have spent many peaceful moments wandering through our beloved Stanley Park, one of its magical entries located just down our street…we often find ourselves on a variety of benches offering gorgeous vistas and respite from busy neighbourhood streets. On my solo walks, some of the benches have hosted a thermos of tea, my latest read, or a flaky croissant from a local bakery. Terry has found rest and tranquility on a variety of benches on his forest walks which gave rise to this series…he wanted to document some of these meditative spaces so I could share them with you offering a breath or a moment to linger over.

A late October offering on a bench dedicated to a lost friend found on a forest trail near Brockton Oval in Stanley Park (Vancouver, B.C.).
This very popular bench faces the miniature golf course in the Rhododendron Garden in Stanley Park, a morning walk on this path is a favourite of ours.
This lovely spot overlooks English Bay, I’ve sat here many times with my notebook in hand and a Mason jar filled with ice tea or a thermos of chai tea nearby depending on the season!
This fantastical Lord Of The Rings bench sits in front of the iconic Tea House Restaurant at Ferguson Point.
Terry revisited these beautiful benches down a flight of stairs at Prospect Point overlooking Lion’s Gate Bridge and the North Shore beyond.
We often find ourselves on this path located between two favourite concessions (Lumberman’s Arch and Railway), in spring the trees that this peaceful bench faces erupts in beautiful cherry blossoms!
Terry couldn’t resist this picnic bench shot showcasing the hind ends of two polar bear sculptures waiting to be put in place to herald the reopening of Bright Nights in Stanley Park for December wanders and rides on the miniature train. I wonder if they were looking for a picnic basket?
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Listen! The wind is rising, and the air is wild with leaves, we have had our summer evenings, now for October eves.” – Humbert Wolfe

It’s the first day of autumn and after an early morning rain and atmospheric mist, I’ve found a weathered bench to sit on above gently rolling waves – slate blue with the bright afternoon sun sparkling like champagne upon them dazzling my eyes, A lone paddle boarder makes their way across the expanse between two large leafy trees adding a grace note to the unfolding day. I hope it’s a sign of more beautiful days like this to come…

I try to collect grace notes throughout my days as we make our way out of this pandemic and the reckoning left behind. Every once in awhile I see someone walking down our busy urban sidewalks reading a book and it makes me smile. Despite collective worries they’ve managed to create a mobile sanctuary adding yet another grace note to the vista from my outdoor table at my local coffee bar. Although, my favourite readers are those I find reading in the fragrant grove just down our street enticing me to wander and get lost in my own book!

Any hope of more fleeting days of forever summer have been extinguished by cooler than normal temperatures and early storms, bringing relentless rain and fierce winds. Our bucolic neighbourhood lost another great tree one street over leaving part of the leafy street naked. It fell across the road taking one or two smaller trees with it while striking the side of a three story building and shattering a window. I wonder if those now unshaded windows will reveal dusty corners and surfaces creating extra fall cleaning for the tenants affected after the loss?

This October weekend has been awash in rain resulting in many cups of tea inside, catching up on correspondence and gathering the ingredients for hearty fall soups. In between the rain showers today I stepped out with only drops of water from the canopy above falling upon me from golden leaves, the summer sun stored within creating much needed faux light. Other colours compete for my attention too – glowing reds, burnished ambers and dark green.

A stop later by our local library and community centre yielded two gifts, a new magazine to take out and a notice board filled with the musings of fellow West Enders describing in beautiful poignant words what our vibrant community means to them. One magical excerpt described a swathe of green grass that became an oasis for a young father and his children during the harrowing lockdown of last year. Located beside a parking lot closed to discourage large crowds and movement, they named this sacred space Greenhill Park where it hosted many a picnic and precious playtime hours. I often walk by this lush parklet and after reading this man’s words I know I’ll be thinking about this West End space differently. Another writer wrote about her childhood wanders with her mother to the Saturday morning West End Farmers Market with her current read a constant companion. These two offerings lifted my spirits in place of the warm sun making the errands of the day effortless.

November-like weather has also wandered in early chasing away any lingering summer-like days of fall, luckily we’ve found a local sanctuary of our own to wander to in the aptly named Park Pub – a safe place to raise a glass against all storms and celebrate life!

This is the route I take to the fragrant grove down my street, I never fail to meet someone I know!
We went on a three hour wander through the forest and visited this ephemeral garden, this photo was taken earlier but even with a deluge of colourful autumn leaves, this sunburst design warmed my heart.
This gorgeous capture was taken on that three hour wander on a trail we call Jack’s Trail, it’s a wide open space where one can stretch out their arms and breathe deep…I stood for several minutes in sacred silence with only the falling rain, it was heavenly!
This beautiful capture is found above Third Beach, we came upon this peaceful spot after walking several favourite trails.
This stunning shot of English Bay (Vancouver, B.C.) was taken at the end of our rainy Saturday walk, we came home invigorated and settled in with a coffee for Terry and an English Breakfast tea for me!
As an added note from our rainy wander, a capture on one of our favourite trails showcasing the height of the trees in Stanley Park (Vancouver, B.C.).

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Second Summer

By all these lovely tokens September days are here, with summer’s best of weather and autumn’s best of cheer.” – Helen Hunt Jackson

A burnt orange crescent moon rose in the night sky late this week, ushering in a glowing red sun smothered in smoke. Breezes that were absent during the heat dome in early summer have made the last few days of a third heatwave bearable but stalled yesterday resulting in a 10+ dangerous air quality reading and a strong smell of wood smoke. Thankfully we had thawed a simple supper allowing us to heat up some delicious vegetarian chili rather than fry or bake something. We anticipated another sleepless night but managed to create some movement in the apartment with our tower fan and air purifier. Autumn arrives in a few weeks and we hope to have a second summer rather than a prolonged fire season (some fires in the Interior might burn until the first snowfall).

Today the smoke and heat have fled and a cool breeze kept me company as I walked up my street to a heritage home to check out a Postcard Era exhibit called Wish You Were Here – highlighting the art of the postcard, connection and communication. There was a touching poster board note about the pandemic and how important it is now, connecting – posting a photo or commenting on a blog site, today’s version of mailing a postcard to a loved one or friend.

The collection of sepia-toned and pastel hued postcards came from all over after a call-out to the many small museums up and down the coast, giving them a chance to be seen in the big city. I was amazed at the similarity to my own postcard collection with their cursive sentiments echoing my own. I had the whole house to myself to wander through on a beautiful sunny afternoon and I’m so glad I went!

As I write these words, a fragrant cup of rooibos tea steams gently in a delicate English tea cup decorated in bold black stripes and an array of stylistic animals and birds (some holding fans, beloved books or playing amid autumn leaves in sepia toned colours of their own). I’m at a delightful coffee place and gift shop called Goodge that I try to visit every summer. Sitting outside at their bistro tables near a lushly scented florist shop is divine…

A second summer has emerged with sundrenched days and some welcome rainy ones – on one of these perfect summer days we left the city to spend some time at the Shipyards (formerly the Wallace Shipyards), just a short Seabus ride across beautiful Burrard Inlet to the North Shore. The Shipyards sit adjacent to a very vibrant Lonsdale Quay where we sat dockside recently enjoying some delicious teriyaki take-out. Today’s lunch (tasty burgers and glasses of cold beer) was at the Original Tap and Barrel restaurant where we sat underneath a bright yellow patio umbrella at a scrubbed wooden table facing the stunning Vancouver skyline. Ravens as black as night flew overhead to sit on a large crane left behind as industrial sculpture while the ocean breeze kept us cool.

As we revel in this second summer, autumn is quietly painting the tops of the chestnut tree one street over and I kick through fallen acorns on my way to write at Veranda Cafe, thankful for the warm sunshine and the freedom to sit outside, to savour a cup of tea and take it all in.

A view of Lonsdale Quay (North Vancouver, B.C.) where we sat dockside overlooking the Burrard Inlet.
The stunning Vancouver skyline captured just steps away from The Original Tap and Barrel restaurant.
The Shipyards area offers quiet spaces, hidden patios and a long pier to eat an ice cream on, there are many industrial and marine touches to enjoy on a sunny wander.
This is a shot looking back towards the Original Tap and Barrel restaurant and that huge crane that the ravens like to sit on!

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