Tag Archives: travel

Three days in Curacao

During the final days of summer, my husband and I got away from it all for an all too short stay in Curacao, in the Netherlands Antilles.  Every year, we make it a priority to share a few days alone, just the two of us.  The demands of parenting, working and urban living can make it difficult to really spend time together as a couple.  Both of us cherish the oppurtunity to share long rambling conversations, quiet, unhurried meals, and the new experiences that travel brings

_AWN6162

Neither of us can remember where the inspiration for this trip came from (although we both agree it was my idea).  Either way, I’m so glad I did.  Curacao was an ideal place to escape to.  We stayed in gorgeous Willemstad.  It was a pleasure to walk it’s gorgeous, historic streets, visit its numerous museums, and sample the live music, that floats out of nearly every restaurant and bar, in the city’s core.

_AWN6294

Willemstad's floating market

Willemstad’s floating market

On our second day in Curacao, we booked a tour and spent the day out on a catamaran, sailing to the beautiful and unihabited Klein Curacao.  I literally gasped at the sight of this beach, and even a mild sunburn and case of seasickness cannot tarnish the memory of snorkeling with some majestic (and remarkably unconcerned) sea turtles.

The beach on Klein Curacao

The beach on Klein Curacao

Abandoned lighthouse on Klein Curacao

Abandoned lighthouse on Klein Curacao

Shipwreck on Klein Curacao

Shipwreck on Klein Curacao

Our third day in Curacao involved hiding from future sun damage in the lovely Hato caves, and taking a road trip to along Curacao’s coast.  Now that summer’s waning, I’ll be carrying the memory of the warm Carribean breezes with me back to work. While September may mean a return to reality, it also means the beginning of my favourite season, and a chance to curl up and make some progress knitting the cozy fall sweaters I couldn’t fit in my carry-on luggage.

Advertisements

Rocky Mountain summer

Planning our summer vacation, and knitting this light cotton sweater has me thinking about my favourite trips in the Canadian summer. I love Toronto, but in high summer, it can feel like you’re living in an easy bake oven.  I’m dreaming of the more moderate, clear summer nights in the Canadian Rockies.

Mount Assiniboine Lodge in British Columbia

Mount Assiniboine Lodge in British Columbia

The inspiration for my overriding fear of grizzlies

The inspiration for my overriding fear of grizzlies

On our honeymoon in the Rockies, we engaged in most of the expected mountain activities: relaxing by the clear green water of Lake Louise, checking out the restaurants in Banff, and white water rafting and soaking in the hot springs in Jasper.

But it was one of the more tucked away parks that really stuck with me: Mount Assiniboine. I’ve never seen a mountain landscape as jaw-dropping as the area surrounding this one. Unlike its neighbours, Mount Assiniboine is accessible only by helicopter or 28 km hike over the continental divide from Canmore, Alberta. Few tourists make it here and they have to be committed. The hike was definitely not for the faint hearted, and I made the rookie mistake of wearing new boots – I still cringe when I think about the blisters.  That being said, every step (even when you factor in my all-encompassing paranoia regarding grizzly bears) was worth it.

_AWN5358

Finally thinking about nothing at all

Finally thinking about nothing at all

My husband had climbed the mountain before we met, and he wanted to share this special place with me after our wedding.  We stayed at Mount Assinboine Lodge, since it was such a special occasion (although the much more reasonable huts will be the location of our inevitable family visit in the coming years).

I’ve really struggled to articulate how special this place is to me. Peace and serenity are not things that come to me easily, but being surrounded by such huge, timeless beauty and profound quiet had a really powerful effect.  The Rockies, particularly in the places where you can find some solitude, are so big that they seem impervious to everything, even time.  Lying in the grass and flowers in front of the mountain, and thinking about absolutely nothing, will be a moment I remember for the rest of my life.

Mount Assiniboine, sometimes called Canada's Matterhorn (but seriously, doesn't it deserved its own name?)

Mount Assiniboine, sometimes called Canada’s Matterhorn (but seriously, doesn’t it deserved its own nickname?)

Letting my feet take the coward's way home, in the helicopter

Letting my feet take the coward’s way home, in the helicopter

On the creature comforts side, the lodge, built in 1928, is pretty special – in the middle of the wilderness, you can sit down to a delicious meal or even a sauna.  It is still pretty rustic, and it’s important to remember that the price tag reflects the isolation (everything is flown in by helicopter) more than any of the modern trimmings.  That being said, I challenge you to find anything as comfortable as a warm quilted bed, a glass of fine BC wine and these surroundings. The only question is: Is it worth it to bring your knitting on the hike?

I cannot wait to share this place with our son some day, and maybe I’ll even wear the sweater.

Knitting by the pool

Knitting toe-up gusset socks in scrumptious Studioloo yarn

Knitting toe-up gusset socks in scrumptious Studioloo yarn

At first, I was a little bit disappointed that we would be spending March break in Orlando.  Before having kids, we felt very clever heading to Europe for March break.  Canadians often flee south, for the sunshine, but have to face crowds and higher prices.  In Europe, spring had sprung and the hordes of tourists had yet to arrive.

Memories of March Break past. Paris.

Memories of March break past. Paris.

This March break has been a bit of an exception, with a house purchase on the horizon and a toddler along for the ride, Europe (or anywhere further afield) was pretty much out of the question.  We do plan to share our future travels with our son, but a time zone change with a two and a half year old was way more than these exhausted parents were ready to face this week.

Baby alligators, spotted on our Kissimmee swamp tour

Baby alligators, spotted on our Kissimmee swamp tour

So to Grandmother’s house (in Florida) we go!  So far it’s been a relaxing week of sunshine, morning runs, bonding with grandparents, free babysitting, restaurants with huge portions and of course, knitting by the pool.  Today we had a great time with our little guy on a fantastic swamp tour – just nobody tell him about Disney World…

Road tripping and road knitting on Route 66

My nephew in his raglan hoodie, the product of some recent road knitting

My nephew in his raglan hoodie, the product of some recent road knitting

Knitting in the car has transformed road trips for me.  The meditative nature of the repetitive motion and the feeling of productivity quiet my busy mind, and lets me appreciate the scenery, the radio and the lazy conversations.

Road knitting in New Mexico

Road knitting in New Mexico

Making this raglan hoodie for my nephew (in Cascade Superwash Paints), kept me occupied for the entirety of our most recent road trip, from Las Vegas to Santa Fe, loosely following the route of the mostly demolished Route 66.  It was the perfect road trip and the perfect road project: requiring just two skeins, two sets of needles (circular and DPNs) and knit in one smallish piece, that fit easily in my hands and my luggage.  I started and finished this sweater, while watching the surreal, constantly changing scenery of the American Southwest.  Driving in Nevada, Arizona and New Mexico really should be on everyone’s bucket list.

We started our Southwest road trip with a single night at the Tropicana in Las Vegas.  I was prepared to hate Vegas, but I found myself completely seduced by the tacky fun of it all.  The crazy buildings, the DSC_5502big hotel rooms and bigger portions, the novelty cocktails and of course, the Cirque de Soleil are all really fun in moderation.  It’s hard not to love Las Vegas, just a little. It wasn’t until we had water up to our knees the next morning in Las Vegas, that we discovered that August is monsoon season in the dry Southwest. Undeterred, we hit the REI and Whole Foods for camping supplies, and hit the road.

Our next stop was the Grand Canyon.  Along the way, we spotted the Hoover Dam and all of the kitsch that the Route 66 had to offer, with concrete wigwam hotels, and neon lights advertising cowboy steaks.  I wish we had allowed ourselves more time; our compressed 8 day itinerary didn’t leave a lot of room, and we didn’t give the Canyon or the gorgeous alpine towns nearby nearly enough time.  We did hike the rim of the canyon, and camp nearby.  I was astounded by how easy and cheap it is to find camping accommodation in the Southwest, anyone contemplating a road trip should have a tent stowed in their luggage. We had planned and spontaneous camping nights along the way, and they were fantastic – beautiful surroundings, quiet nights and clean, warm showers dotted our entire route.

After the Grand Canyon, we caught one of Route 66’s famed attractions: the Petrified Forest.  The Petrified Forest and Painted Desert are well worth a stop.  The million year old trees, and blood red desert landscapes really need to be seen to be believed.  We simply turned off the Interstate, wandered the paths (which are all reasonably short) and had a picnic lunch overlooking the Painted Desert.  When we crossed into New Mexico we lost an hour. (In the summer, Arizona doesn’t spring forward, so the time shift happens at the New Mexico border. If you are travelling in the winter, the time changes at the Arizona/Nevada border).  The lost hour and the way too ambitious itinerary meant finding spontaneous accommodation in Gallup, New Mexico.  Here, our Lonely Planet came through for us, and we camped in the shadow of the stunning cathedral rock, for $10! This campsite and the best tacos I have ever had (in Espanola, NM) were well worth the price of our Lonely Planet.DSC_5680

Petrified wood in Arizona

Petrified wood in Arizona

Our next stop was Chaco Culture National Park.  Surrounded by many kilometers of dirt road, it’s easy to see why many tourists miss this park, but it was the highlight of the trip for me.  Nearly a thousand years ago, the Chaco people built huge great houses in the canyon, the ruins of which are easily accessible by the ring road that runs through the park.  The reason(s) that huge houses were abandoned (well before Europeans arrived in New Mexico) remains a mystery.  While some travelers arrive in the park for the day, I strongly recommend camping.  I have never seen stars like the ones we saw from our tent that night, and travelling across the dirt roads does not leave a lot of time for hiking if you only come in during the day.  The scramble up the canyon walls to see the ruins from above is well worth the effort.

Chaco Canyon National Park

Chaco Canyon National Park

DSC_6221

Nightlife in Chaco Canyon

Nightlife in Chaco Canyon

After Chaco, we travelled to Taos. The Pueblo there had been the major draw, but when we arrived, we discovered that it was closed to visitors for the duration of our stay.  I gather this is a relatively frequent, and poorly publicized occurrence, but Taos is worth a visit either way. The gorgeous San Francisco de Asis Mission Church there was photographed by Ansel Adams and painted by Georgia O Keefe.  The accommodations and restaurants are fantastic (especially the Love Apple, which served me the best meal I ate in 2012).  The shopping is a thrill, the Navajo are world renowned for their textiles and jewelry, and I picked up a rug and turquoise bracelet there that I count as among the most beautiful things in our home.

San Fransisco de Asis Church in Taos

San Fransisco de Asis Church in Taos

Earthships sustainable homes outside Taos

Earthships sustainable homes outside Taos

A visit to the Georgia O’Keefe museum and the delicious Cowgirl Hall of Fame in Santa Fe rounded out our trip.  My only regret is that we didn’t have the time to see more that the Southwest has to offer.  Fortunately, there will always be more opportunities for road trips, and road knitting.

Fisherman socks and Canada’s Rock

Towards the end of One Week, on the beach in Tofino, a pair of German tourists tell Joshua Jackson’s character that he lives in a beautiful country.  On the one hand, it’s a little on the nose, but as Canadians sometimes we need European tourists to remind us of the total awesomeness of this country.  Too often, we look south or east for travel destinations, and miss the beauty, culture and adventure closer to home.

Chesterman beach in Tofino, BC

A few summers ago, in the spirit of patriotism and wanderlust, my husband and I decided to see both ends of the TransCanada highway.  Given our limited travel time and budget, we decided to fly to Newfoundland and drive across the province to St John’s in July, and to fly to Vancouver and drive to Tofino in August.

A carnivorous pitcher plant  in Grosse Morne, Newfoundland's provincial flower

A carnivorous pitcher plant in Grosse Morne, Newfoundland’s provincial flower

Newfoundland has been on my mind this week, as I cast on these fisherman socks (my second last Christmas gift!).  My father’s favourite travel destination is Newfoundland, so it seems appropriate to make him a pair of fisherman socks to keep his feet warm on his twice daily dog walks (surprise, Dad!).

Newfoundland is a place of stark beauty and contradiction.  The landscape is harsh and cold, and the people are warm and friendly.  Many people in Newfoundland have been hard hit by the collapse of the fisheries in the 1990’s, and will tell you how happy they are to have found seasonal work in the tourism industry. However, their hardships have done nothing to diminish their spirits. Everything you have heard about friendly, open and easy going Newfoundlanders is true. They also have fantastic knitwear to keep them warm on their cold and beautiful rock in the North Atlantic, and I came home dreaming of creamy woolens, cables and gansey.

We started our trip camping in Grosse Morne and the landscape must be seen to be believed.  It was worth the total lack of groceries anywhere near by.

A lighthouse on the West coast of Newfoundland

A lighthouse on the West coast of Newfoundland

The spectacular beach at the end of the Green Gardens trail in Grosse Morne

The spectacular beach at the end of the Green Gardens trail in Grosse Morne

From Grosse Morne, we traveled east to St John’s. We missed a lot in Newfoundland’s north, including the Viking settlement at isolated L’anse Aux Meadows, but it’s always nice to have a reason to go back.  In St John’s, we walked the brightly coloured streets, got a sense of Newfoundland’s history at Signal Hill, and saw first hand the reason for Newfoundland’s hard partying reputation on George Street.

The bright painted houses of St John's

The brighty painted houses of St John’s

Puffin!

Puffin!

We also had one of the most spectacular travel experiences of my life in Bay Bulls.  My parents tipped us off the Colbert’s Puffin Tours.  A friendly former fisherman took us out in his fishing boat to tour a landscape that I cannot believe wasn’t covered in BBC’s Planet Earth.  I was awestruck and humbled by the beauty and power of nature, as we toured the bay, spotting puffins, terns and a humpback whale and calf.  I cannot wait to share this experience with my son, who I hope will one day be as transformed by it as I was.  It is impossible to see nature in this way, and not feel a desperate need not to protect it.

Humpback whale in Bay Bulls

Humpback whale in Bay Bulls

_DSC6930

Puffins!

We have no immediate plans to go back (writing this post has put Newfoundland on my summer shortlist though!).  For now I’ll have to content myself with fisherman socks and those PC holiday commercials!

Update (December 16):

Fisherman's sock in Cascade Superwash Sport

Fisherman’s sock in Cascade Superwash Sport

I’ve finished the first fisherman’s sock.  The pattern was really small, but the 5 stitch repeat and the 1×1 ribbing made increasing the size a little tricky.  I cast on 46 sts, decreased to 45 sts in the first row below the cuff, worked a 22 sts heel flap and decreased down to 44 sts through the gusset (so that the top of the foot is 22 sts – 1 purl, 4 repeats of the pattern and 1 knit). It was a little twisted before blocking but warm, cozy and attractive on a foot!

Winter is coming…

My impulsive project in progress

There’s really no denying it anymore.  Every morning, I wake up in the dark and there were flurries in the air here last week.  Most knitters are probably be turning their thoughts to fuzzy hats, scarves and mitts. Instead, I’m letting my mind wander back to Costa Rica, where my husband and I escaped winter’s clutches last year.

On the advice of some good travel agent friends, we decided to travel indepedently and stay in hostels and hotels in La Fortuna, Turrialba and Liberia.  Costa Rica is fantastic –

Relaxing at Arenal’s “five star hostel”

our accomodations were cheap, comfortable, safe and the perfect place to arrange any kind of adventure from.  The local food (or “typical” as they describe it) was plentiful and FRESH in a way that almost no food in Ontario is.  Having breakfast at our lodge in Turrialba was probably the only time in my life that my coffee with sugar and fruit salad were grown within walking distance.

The food and accomodations were extremely reasonable, but budget lots of money for adventures.  We ziplined, white water rafted in a setting worthy of BBC’s Planet Earth, toured the Cano Negro and soaked in volcanic hot springs.  Even without a toddler to wake us up (he was with his grandparents), I was often up at 6 am, sipping local coffee and watching the birds. The golden sunlight and lush vegetation is haunting my dreams these days, when I look out my window to be confronted by gray skies and naked trees.

La Fortuna

It wasn’t all sunshine in paradise though, we made some mistakes that should be avoided.  Renting a car in Costa Rica was probably our biggest travel mistake in the last few years.  There was an extra insurance cost sprung on us at the last minute, and the car was more of a hassle than it was worth.  The driving was beautiful, but the Lonely Planet, and many other travellers that we met, recommended never leaving valuables visible in your car.  So on long drives, with all of our luggage in the trunkless jeep, we were forced to eat in the car and take turns in the washroom.

A spider monkey on the Cano Negro

This mistake was made all the more glaring when we saw the ease with which backpackers navigated the country.  Inexpensive tour buses operated between every major destination in Costa Rica, and in some cases made it easier to get to isolated places, like Monteverde.  Thanks to our jeep, Monteverde remains on our to-see list – maybe once our son is old enough to get into the ziplining, rafting and wildlife spotting?

As much as I’d like to be holding a ticket back to Costa Rica, there comes a time when we all must face facts.  Which is why you’ll find this on my needles this week:

The colour chart from my impulsive design project

Turkish Delights and Noro Inspirations

The Hagia Sophia

Our travels often influence both my own personal style and my knitting; but no trip was more inspiring this way than our 10 day sojourn in Turkey.

The surreal fairy chimneys of Cappadocia

In the spring of 2011, we had planned to visit friends teaching in Cairo.  Fortunately, we looked at our tickets, and decided that our 48 hour layover in Istanbul could be easily extended to fill the entire trip.  After long negotiations with Turkish Air (I’m reasonably certain at this point that our travel agent winces when we call) and extensive perusing of our Lonely Planet, we had a new itinerary.  Our friends met us in Istanbul, and we spent 10 days in what has become my favourite travel destination.  Our trip was limited to Istanbul and the surreal landscape of Cappadocia, but the seacoast and East remain on my bucket list!

Turkey is a feast of colour and texture for fashion and textile lovers.  The streets, clothes and buildings are a wash with soft yellows, oranges, blues and greens.  As a knitter, the gorgeous chaos of Istanbul’s bazaars was awe inspiring.  Sandwiched between piles of pottery in saturated mosaics, and artfully arranged spices from across Asia and the Middle East are some of the most beautiful, hand crafted textiles and accessories I have ever seen. On the way home, our bags were packed with scarves in pinks, greens and turquoises for our moms and friends, and colourful silk ballet flats and earrings.  A rug was mostly definitely not within my maternity leave budget, but I went home dreaming of thick, handcrafted swirls of burgundy and gold to rest my feet on.

The view across the Golden Horn (Istanbul)

Turkey is geographically quite spread out, but domestic flights are very reasonable, and we were able to escape the bustle of Istanbul, and visit Cappadocia.  A long history of bizarre geology (the fairy chimneys) and human habitation make it a fantastic place.  People are extremely friendly, the food is terrific, and everything is waaaaay cheaper than Istanbul.  If you make it to Cappadocia, do not miss the eight story underground cities, used by ancient Christians to hide from Romans, or the magnificent local cuisine – I’m still dreaming about the tomato soup!

The shops of Goreme

Since the trip, I’ve thought about designing a scarf pattern inspired by the intricate colourwork of Turkish rugs and scarves, but may, in the end, have to leave that to the experts.   However, one of my favourite yarns has given me an outlet for all of this Turkey love: Noro Taiyo.  The combinations of earthy and saturated colours bring me back to the Spice Bazaar, and the uneven, organic texture is reminiscent of Cappadocia’s surreal hand carved architecture. Since coming across this yarn shortly after our trip, I’ve been using it everywhere.

The yarn itself can be frustrating to work with.  It’s thickness is purposely inconsistent; which can give your work a beautiful organic texture, but can also be an absolute pain when a particularly slim section pulls apart in your hands (full confession: I’m a tight knitter).  Each multicolour colourway contains a clear outlier, a colour that looks nearly ugly in its contrast to the rest of the yarn.  In the right project, the outlier makes the entire work more beautiful, but it in the wrong project, it can make an intricate pattern or adult sweater look plain wacky.

My top Noro successes have been relatively plain patterns that embrace it inconsistency and 70’s colourways.  The Paintbox Log Cabin blanket (available for free at Katherine Keyes’ blog: Get Your Hook On) was designed with Noro in mind and it shows.

The Spice Bazaar

My log cabin blanket

This blanket took months to make (and upwards of $100 in yarn), but was worth every minute and penny.  Katherine Keyes used Noro Kureyon, while I used Noro Taiyo, it is less expensive per yard, and a little easier to care for.  This caused a major overestimate in the number of skeins required, and I’ve been experimenting with remainders ever since.

Elizabeth Zimmerman’s Baby Surprise Jacket has eaten up a few of the leftovers.  I used the 1968 pattern to make one for each of my two year old nieces, on 5.5 mm needles, it’s a perfect fit.  The pattern is technically really easy, but difficult from a reading comprehension perspective, and I highly recommend the 6 episode YouTube videos for anyone unfamiliar with her patterns.  It’s knit in one very strange piece, with a single pair of seams across the top of the shoulders.  The wacky colours and uneven texture make for really beautiful, obviously retro sweater.  The great thing about toddlers is that they can get away with a fashion statement this bold!

Amelia’s toddler surprise jacket

Finally this really simple Entrelac cushion cover is now a staple in our living room.  The variety of Noro colourways makes it easy to match any couch, or living room and I’ve since knit cushions for half the family.

Entrelac cushion