Monthly Archives: September 2020


We left Sicily and cruised overnight around the boot of Italy towards the eastern coast of the Adriatic. Nothing was to prepare us for the stunning cruise up the Bay of Kotor. It was a perfect sunny day as we wound our way up through magnificent twists and turns. Click on the play button below as you brouse the slideshow, you will relive the experience we had complete with classical music. Oceania out did themselves that day!

Kotor, pop. 14,000, is a small city in Montenegro with one of the best preserved medieval old towns in the Adriatic. It is at the head of an ancient submerged river canyon, cut deep into steep limestone cliffs. Of interest to tourists arriving on cruise ships, it has a long history: from Roman times; Venetian and Ottoman rule; annexation by Italy during WWII; and being part of Yugoslavia. Montenegro now is an independent country, pop. 650,000 after peacefully separating from Serbia by referendum in 2006. It has it’s own language – Montenegrin. The Serbian Orthodox Church is its largest religious institution with Islam being next. Relations are peaceful.

We certainly enjoyed our visit there. We explored the town square before hiking up the steep rocky path to the old walls, the Castle of San Giovanni and St. John’s fortress high above the city. It was a very steep climb with narrow with broken steps here and there. You had to be very careful and in reasonably good shape. The views of Kotor and Kotor Bay from the top were breathtaking.

On our way back down we stopped to rest. It was here that we received a message that Dave’s nephew Nicholas and wife Shelly had just had their first child – Alexander – and everyone was doing well. What a nice place to receive such good news!

Good news in Kotor!

When we got down we noticed a lot of stray cats around. They have become a symbol of the city. Kotor has several cat stores and a cat museum, as well as the Cats’ Square. Water and food is left throughout the city for the cats to feed on, and cardboard boxes are often arranged to be a place for the cats to sleep in.

The cats of Kotor

We continued wondereing through the narrow streets of old town marveling at the beauty, peacefulness and long history there.

Then it was time for some shopping and refreshments before heading back to Nautica in the evening.

Only one more stop before Venice.

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[We resume postings about our 2008 Eastern Med cruise on the Oceania Nautica.]

In Taormina looking down

Where in the world is Taormina you might ask? We had not heard of it either. If you have and know sort of where it is, congratulations! A hint – it’s near Mount Etna and Palermo… right, Sicily, on its east coast. Our small ship was able to take us to a small port like Taormina and what a treat it was!

You may recall that Sicily is famous for being the original home of the Mafia. But, did you know that it is the largest of all islands in the Mediterranean Sea and known for its arts, music, literature, cuisine and architecture? We were only there for a few short hours but saw enough to realize we would love to come back and explore the whole island someday. It’s a real paradise.

Our group boarded a mini-bus and headed for an apiary where we were introduced to the making of honey. We sampled a variety of delicious honeys with different wild flower flavours. They also sold Sicilian wines here too and boy were they a delight to sample! If you ever see a Sicilian wine for sale, go for it, you won’t be disappointed.

We then took a circuitous road route to near the summit of Mount Etna the highest peak in Italy south of the Alps, at 10,912 feet. It is one of the world’s most active volcanoes – but we were totally safe where we were. Its fertile volcanic soils on its lower slopes support extensive vineyards and orchards. A UNESCO world heritage sight with one of the strangest geographies we have ever seen.

Heading back to Taormina

We descended again to greener pastures and had some free time to roam around Taormina and do a little shopping. I hope you can see its quaint beauty from the pics below.

Nautica awaits our return

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Lake of the Woods Wrap-Up

Nestor Falls

After everyone left, we did a little sightseeing and hiking on our last day. Nestor Falls is a lovely little town, pop. 290. It straddles a 25 foot drop from Lake Kakibikitchewan to Lake of the Woods. We met Shane a pilot with Northwest Flying Co.. He grew up here and went to the 2 room schoolhouse pictured below.

In high school he had to bus it 1.5 hours to Fort Francis and back each day. When we mentioned this to Scott our BnB host, he said that their son had to spend an additional hour each day boating to shore as they lived on an island at the time. He and his family eventually moved to shore to run Canadian Haven. Shane the pilot now lives with his family in Fort Francis. He flies for the Northwest Flying company which has 6 float planes and several bush camps that they fly people into. Business was slow this year of the Covid but Shane figures they would survive somehow.

We also had time for a great 90 minute hike up around a beaver pond at Caliper Lake before later relaxing by the fire one more time. Did you know that hunting beaver was the reason Canada was colonized in the first place? I had never thought of it this way before. This is the heart of beaver country, an important piece of Canadian history.

The next day we drove to Fort Francis and stayed the night in a lakefront motel. En route we stopped by a memorial to the injustice of the indigenous Residential Schools era. We loved Fort Francis, pop. 8500. They have developed their waterfront and you can walk for several km along the bank of Rainy Lake to where it flows into Rainy River. Minnesota is just across the water. Wow, we were really impressed with its beauty, peacefulness and spirit. They lost their pulp mill several years back but a huge gold mine has taken its economic place.

Next day we drove the 3 hours back to Thunder Bay and stopped at the beautiful Kakebeka Falls for a look see. Definitely worth the stop.

Our family bubble up trip was coming to an end. We had had a great time and had visited a beautiful part of Ontario that we would not likely have gone to if it wasn’t for Covid. Some good things are indeed coming out of these pandemic times, don’t you think? Stay safe everyone!

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Lake of the Woods Family Bubble Up

Family bubble right to left: Ashley, Elias, Kyle, Marie, Dave

Our family arrived safely from Winnipeg and our bubble up vacation began. We were so glad to see each other again. We soon filled our days with playing with Elias (almost 2), hiking on the local trails, swimming off the dock, delicious BBQ dinners, beach time and even a round of golf. There were paddle boards and kayaks available and a rubber raft and slide. In the evenings we would have long camp fires complete with smores, then story time with Elias and family card games like cribbage. Elias was a champion eater and sleeper all week. At dinner he would clasp his hands together waiting for grace and then clink glasses with us all before eating. It was so cute! The weather was great and there were no bugs at all to spoil our bubble up.

Although he cannot speak yet, Elias communicates his needs very well by pointing, smiling or frowning and grunting in sentences and even paragraphs. He understands simple questions about who is who, where is this or that, when to be careful, stop, go, yes and no etc. He never panics when his parents aren’t around. As you can see he loves getting his hands on cell phones or TV remotes to push the buttons and have make believe conversations. He adores his Gran Marie and Poppa Dave and we him. We are so blessed to have him in our lives. This was the second time we got to see him and Kyle and Ashley this year. We are so grateful and can’t wait to do it again.

Ashley’s Dad, Rick paid us an overnight visit, driving his motorcycle up from Winnipeg on a perfect day. Elias’ little face lit up when he saw his Granpa Rick arrive. We had a great day together swimming, joking, eating steak and then smores and playing cards. It was a a great visit that passed much too quickly. Rick likes to drive his Harley whenever he can. He confesses to going to Sturgis, SD each year for the annual motorcycle rally there that attracts 500,000, and this year was no exception.

Probably the most fun everyone had was down at the dock swimming, paddle boarding, watching Kyle take Elias down the water slide and just hanging out in the warm sunshine. Elias had little floaties on his arms and went into the deep water bravely with his parents. Yours truly tried the paddle boat with mixed results.  Kyle and Rick swam about 500m to an island and Ashley joined on paddle board. The water was great and seemed even warmer then our local Madawaska River. There was some green algae around one day that disappeared quickly the next day. It was hot and we enjoyed the cool off.

Then again, the camp fires were pretty special too.  We gasped as Elias when flying high up in the air, his little arms spread wide and a grin on his face. 

The hiking trails were fun too. We found one suitable for families and Elias loved every minute of it. On longer ones his parents took turns carrying him. One day Kyle and Ashley went to Kenora and Elias became Marie’s little companion for the day. Another day Kyle and Dave went golfing at a lovely little 9 hole country course an hour west called Spruce Creek Golf. Ashley, Marie and Elias spent a day at the equally lovely Caliper Lake Provincial Park beach. All this activity increased our appetites for smores.

It is safe to say that everyone had a good time and if it were not for Covid, we would not have done this. We hope to repeat this experience next year. Thanks be to God for our safe family bubble up in pandemic times. Stay safe yourself and enjoy a family bubble up too!


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Lake of the Woods Family Bubble Up – Preamble

[Our Mediterranean Cruise series of posts is taking a short hiatus as we write about our recent family get together during this year of the Covid.]
We decided to meet our son and his family in Nestor Falls on Lake of the Woods in NW Ontario. They live in Winnipeg and we in Arnprior. This way we could avoid the need to self-isolate in Manitoba during this Covid 19 pandemic year. Manitoba is bubbled up with NW Ontario for travel purposes. We flew to Thunder Bay and rented a car. They drove directly from Winnipeg, about a 3.5 hour drive. So what’s it like flying during Covid? In a nutshell, calm. There are no line ups to drop off your baggage or at security. You are screened before boarding about any Covid related symptoms. They take your temperature at the gate. You have to drop your mask momentarily so they can verify it’s you with your photo ID. On board they give you a plastic bag that contains a bottle of water, head phones, gloves, mask, hand sanitizer and pack of pretzels. Everyone is masked. We were surprised that 3 of the 4 flights on this trip were completely full. However we were on smaller planes only 4 seats wide with an aisle in between. Everyone was calm and relaxed. Mostly young people and not many seniors were flying we noted. The only incident was that we could not land in Thunder Bay due to fog and had to return to Toronto to refuel and then fly back again lol.
Great walking path next to our hotel in Thunder Bay

NW Ontario is billed as Sunset Country
It is about a 4.5 hour drive from Thunder Bay to Nestor Falls. Just after the change to central time zone, we stopped briefly in Shebandowan an hour west of TB, for a little reminiscing. Way back in ’67, Dave spent the summer here in the Ontario Junior Forest Ranger program. Many fond memories of clearing bush, planting seedlings, eating cherry pies and steak and lots of laughs with 25 other teenage boys from all over Ontario. The government camp is now long gone, but not those fond memories. We continued on Highway 11 (Yonge Street north) and found a nice quiet spot to stop for a picnic lunch.

Lake of the Woods is over 100 km long and wide with 15,000 islands and over 100,000 km of coastline. It is located between Ontario, Minnesota and Manitoba and lined with First Nation communities, predominantly Ojibway who are also known as Chippewa. Nestor Falls is located on a long inlet on its north east side. We arrived first and were warmly greeted by our Canadian Haven (AirBNB) host Scott. Our lakefront cabin was a 3 bedroom, 1.5 bathroom cedar A frame complete with 6 beds, wifi, a/c and satellite TV – we were not going to rough it! Originally established to host mostly men on fishing trips (some of the best fishing in North America), the demographic is rapidly changing as more and more families opt to vacation here. Normally filled with Americans, this year was a quieter one but they were doing OK Scott explained. His wife Ruth who is disabled, does all the bookings and greeted us warmly too. Scott dropped off a pack of frozen Northern Pike and invited us to pick some tomatoes, cucumber and red peppers from their garden (yum). He pointed to the amble fire wood supply and wheel barrow.

So we are all ready for our Lake of the Woods family bubble up! :)😎😍:D:D;)

Anticipating the family’s imminent arrival

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