Sunday, October 31, 2010


Sometimes the easiest question is actually the hardest. You want something so bad and it’s what you have worked so hard for everything you have done has brought you to this point and then someone says why do you want this and your mind goes blank. This should be easy but for some reason it isn’t at all. I am trying to apply for my dream job getting paid to travel and write about it. Although I felt like I completely messed up on the telephone interview. The guy asked me why I wanted this job and I stumbled my mind went blank I couldn’t get the words out. If a random person on the street had ask me what I want to do, what would be my dream job in two seconds I would have a reply, I would say I want to be a writer, a travel writer, I want to be able to get paid to do what I love; travel. Why couldn’t I have just said that over the phone instead of first stumbling over my words then rambling on? Then I remembered an answer to his question that I could actually get out of my mouth, my favourite book the Alchemist. In the beginning of the book Paulo Coelho says there are four obstacles to confronting our own dream.

First; we are told from childhood onward that everything we want to do is impossible

Second; Love. We know what we want to do but are afraid of hurting those around us by abandoning everything in order to pursue our dream.

Third; Fear of defeats we will meet on our path.

Fourth; Fear of realizing the dream for which we fought all our lives for.

I think the fourth obstacle rings true in my case. Paulo says you need to believe your worthy of the thing you fought so hard to get. He says he has known many people who, when their personal calling was within their grasp went on to commit stupid mistakes and never reached their goal when it was only a step away. Hmmm how very true I wonder if Paulo knows what verbal Diarrhoea is. Hopefully the interviewer realizes how daunting a telephone interview can be. Also I had just finished the video and my resume the night before and had sent it in at midnight, they called the next morning when I had just gotten out of the shower and was only wearing a towel, and I was so not ready to answer questions.

With a little help from the wisdom of Paulo and a good friend of mine I am going to meet these obstacles head on and laugh at them right in the face. I am worthy of my dream! My friend always tells me I am a writer but I down play it a lot because I don’t get paid for this blog. I am changing my way of thinking I am a writer! I write a travel blog, I have written for a newspaper in Mexico, I wrote on a travel site and I am currently writing walking tours for an Iphone Application. I was so thrilled at my realization that I e-mailed my friend and told him. He wrote back and said, “I think now that you figured out you are a writer you need to do what writers do and just write.”

In the Alchemist they speak of omens a lot some people may or may not believe in them but I have an open mind and I do believe in the simple messages in the Alchemist "When you want something, all the universe conspires in helping you to achieve it.”
On my way to pick up my friend to go to Niagara-on-the-lake to write my Niagara winery pieces for my blog there was a SUV in front of me. I couldn’t believe it when I read the license plate it said “WRITENOW” It was bizarre, now you non believers out there can’t tell me that isn’t a sign. I had my camera in my hand bag on the seat beside me so when we came to a stop sign I took a photo. Maybe I should carry a copy of that photo to remind me what I should be doing.

Here is to getting the job and if I don’t then I will not let this defeat bring me down. It will just be an obstacle on the path to my dream.

Wednesday, October 27, 2010

African Hoof Prints are off again

Travelling you meet all sorts of people but in Africa where there isn’t so much of a Gringo trail you meet adventurous, strange, weird and fantastic people. For example the Danish guy we met in Sinai who was riding a bicycle from Cairo to Beijing or the Spaniard who travelled overland from China to Jerusalem to buy a traditional Jewish hat but found out the hats were made in Seville Spain a neighbouring city to where he is from. Then there was the Canadian dive instructor and his German girlfriend who we shared information on the best koshary, ½ chicken deal or cheapest accommodation in Egypt with.

Most people traveling in Africa that we met were not on a one week holiday or a gap year; people travelling in Africa were staying for months doing long overland expeditions. My boyfriend at the time and I bussed it all over but sometimes came across groups travelling in overland jeeps on tours. There weren’t many travellers along our way, especially because we left the popular Cairo, Luxor, Aswan route in Egypt and checked out off the beaten path locations. Mersa Matrouh, Egypt was one of these places we went to where there were no tourists and no other travellers. The small city sits on one of the most beautiful Mediterranean beaches and in the summer is packed with Egyptians on holidays. It was off season and the place was empty and shut down. It was the ideal place for us to relax and unwind from a busy summer season working in Greece. We read books, took walks, watched premiership football while drinking coffee and smoking sheesha.
One day we stumbled upon some scouts playing and they told us we should meet Billy. They took us to the scout camp and that was when we were introduced to the South African couple Billy and Christy. They were the only white people we had seen in over a month it was bizarre.

We soon heard Billy and Christy’s story and became fast friends. Billy from South Africa and Christy originally from Zimbabwe had spent a long time planning their African expedition. They had planned to travel on horseback from the most Northern point of Africa, Cap Blanc in Tunisia to the most Southern point of Africa, Cape Agulhas in South Africa. The thing that is different about Christy and Billy is their love for horses. Their horses are as much part of their expedition team as any human member. Billy a Ferrier by trade and Christy a riding instructor in South Africa who has worked for many riding stables and for an Olympic gold medalist in England are both strong examples of hard work, persistence, compassion and striving for a dream. We met them in November of 2006 after they rode east out of Tunisia through Libya and into Egypt. They had not started their ride south at that point towards their goal. They had been in Mersa Matrouh for quite a while rehabilitating their horses. I believe at that point one had fallen sick. Reading in my journal from my time there I remember being so excited to have met them and even more excited to have someone to share my birthday with, Christy’s birthday is November 25th and mine November 23rd and the dates were soon approaching. We had Billy and Christy over to our place for dinner for our birthdays. They brought me a birthday card with a horse on it and two chocolate bars. They also brought juice, a bag of chips and sweets for dessert. Because they needed to bulk up for their journey ahead they ate a lot of sweets which we noticed at the many meals and picnics we had with them. We soon coined a term “A Billy and Christy meal” which consisted of the best confectionery Egypt had to offer.

December of 2006 Billy and Christy were preparing to continue their journey; their horses were ready and so were they. It was sad to say goodbye to our new friends. We hung out with them as much as we could before they left and they even let us ride a horse. On the day they left they woke us up and we opened our bedroom shutters to see them on the street on their horses waving goodbye. We kept tabs on them as we continued travelling through Egypt seeing if we could meet up again.We were never able to but as we travelled then to Jordan and Israel and onto to live in England we would check up on them on their website and hear from them by e-mail updates here and there.

I moved onto to Mexico myself and have stayed mostly travelling in Latin America. Through the years every now and again I think of Egypt and wonder what Billy and Christy had gotten up to. Had they finished their journey? Had they given up? Were they still together? With the help of facebook I was able to reconnect with them and just recently I started getting new e-mail updates after years of wondering.

Billy and Christy are at it again. They never gave up; they are still together and riding towards their dream. Christy had spent the last three years in Sudan turning around the Khartoum International Community School's (KICS) riding stable and doing fantastic work for the community. They have now decided to continue their journey and are now entering some of the most dangerous terrain on their expedition. This trip may be taking them a lot longer than expected but isn’t it true that; “It's not the destination but the journey that counts” They probably don’t realize how many lives they have touched along the way from working in a riding school in Sudan to just a simple wave to a child as they ride by on their horses. I wish them all the best on the rest of their journey and I am just happy to have met them during their time in Egypt. I encourage anyone to check out their blog to see where the hoof prints have taken them at

Twilight Zone of Great Abaco Island Bahamas

My lifestyle doesn’t suit too many people. Especially in small town Ontario where I am from, where most people collect hunting tags instead of stamps in a passport. As well I have absolutely nothing to tie me down and a job where instead of the normal five day work week, I work 10 days and have 5 days off. Fortunately with the flexible life style a handy passport in the waiting for another stamp and my easy going travel savvy personality this suits my jet setting pilot friend just fine. His ideal co-pilot would have been a tall, thin, blond model type but unfortunately for him those girls either do not have a passport or cannot string a sentence together without using the words “Oh my god” “Like” “Awesome” and “Louis Vuitton” or they do have a passport and ask him where he summers. So instead of a Bimbo I agreed to go away to Abaco island Bahamas to help do some research on a resort down there.

I got off my boat, unpacked my uniform and boat clothes then quickly replaced them with sarong, sandals, sun block and a bathing suit. I felt like I was going on a road trip, I packed us a lunch, I threw books and magazines in a bag on the back seat and my blanket and pillow up front with me. The only difference was we were flying in a four seater plane instead of driving. It took us 7.5 hours in the single engine plane with a 45min stop in South Carolina to refuel and use the washroom. We had however brought on plastic orange juice containers just in case a pee emergency happened in flight.

Most people envision the glitz and glamour of Nassau when you mention the Bahamas. They think of white sand beaches, fancy resorts, The Atlantis and Casinos. I didn’t go to Nassau I stepped through a portal into the twilight zone otherwise known as Great Abaco Island.

The view out of the plane on our approach to the run way was a deserted land covered in tall green trees. On our drive from the airport to our hotel we had our taxi stop at the super market to buy juice and water. With the meter running we got stuck behind a woman paying for her groceries with food stamps that she had to individually sign. I often question how my life is real, this could only happen in a movie.

We were beginning to think we had literally landed in a deserted island. Our hotel’s beach was completely empty and there was no one is sight. We had found out later on this being hurricanes season a lot of the hotels and businesses shut down to re-evaluate and renovate before the busy season picks up again. So when our waiter told us this was the only restaurant open he wasn’t just trying to keep our business it really was the only restaurant open. In the evening we did find signs of human life, a group from a Canadian company building a power plant and another group attending the Bahamas environmental convention.

We decided to explore Marsh Harbour, I did the girl thing and dragged my friend into clothing and souvenir shops but found only the same tacky stuff you would find anywhere no good discoveries. That was until we walked a bit further and found Conky Joe’s, a small floating shack on the water with a guy sitting on his motorcycle beside. Was he Conky Joe? We walked down to plank to the shack to discover what it was and met the owner whose name turns out isn’t Joe. He used to run a dive shop out of the floating hut that he built but recently converted it into a little kitchen where he servers Conch. His wife is a chef who also works at Snappas, a local bar and restaurant. He made it the floating style so if a hurricane came he could attach the hut to his truck and pull it out of the water to safety (this was just the first example of how redneck this island is). We decided to order some conch salad and crack conch with peas and rice to go. We sat and chatted with the owner while I watched him cut the conch and vegetables with a very large knife thinking if that was me it would read “conch and finger salad in a red sauce” on the menu. We did find out a lot about the island from him. Apparently the United Empire Loyalists received land in the Bahamas during the American Revolution in the seventeen hundreds. Many generations of white ex Americans have lived on the island as well as decendents from African slaves. They have the strangest accent; a combination of British, southern United States drawl and island Caribbean English. The black and white mixed residents of the island are referred to as Conky Joes just like the name of the floating Conch shack.

We discovered more of this strange culture mix when we walked into a typical American looking diner complete with the greasy eggs and grits, it was fantastic. My jaw was dropped open the entire time we were there. Black island ladies were cooking up the breakfast while in walked a man with a mullet and his hill Billy family wearing matching camouflage shirts. It was like we were transplanted into a country western song but we were on a tropical island.

I stumbled upon the most amazing travel technique ever and apparently the senior crowd have already thought of this. We got a guided tour of the island completely free of charge; we just had to look at a few houses. Well to be honest my friend was interested in buying and we were only going to look at one house but the very friendly and informative realestate agent took us all over the island. Most of the realestate is second home owners from the U.S and Canada. We met a fellow Canadian who stopped his quad bike to have a chat with the agent, turns out he lives quite close to where my boat docks. He spends his winter on Abaco and his summers on a lake in Ontario.

After our tour of the island and the houses it has to offer we decided to take our waiter’s advice and check out the live music at Snappas the one bar open on the island. After a few drinks at the hotel I put on a dress, did my make up and hair only to be way over dressed for this island. I packed for the Ritz and got Motel 6. Everyone was wearing jeans and old t-shirts drinking beer with the occasional person in a cowboy hat. I grabbed a few rum punches and enjoyed the music from Sweet Caroline to Bob Marley.

The next day Just when I thought this four day trip couldn’t get any weirder I was spotted by a rowdy group on the beach. They had pulled up in their yacht and were looking for the party. Apparently they didn’t get the memo that this island is shut down either. For some reason I decided to hang out with the middle age king and queen of Kinky, the sister in law that liked to flash her breasts and their gay Bahamian friend who they picked up along the way. After a few drinks with them I had to slip away, they were making me very uncomfortable I felt like they were sizing me up for a threesome. I felt so violated by her eyes alone.

On our way home we spent the night in South Carolina and my friend flew me back directly to Ottawa where I was to meet my boat. Everyone was curious to know about my trip and how the Bahamas were. The only thing I could think to say is, “Nothing that you would expect.”

Sunday, October 17, 2010

Niagara-on-the-Lake Part Three: Wine, Chocolate and Dirt

Being the traveller that I am I spend many birthdays and Christmas’ in different countries, usually celebrating with whomever random traveller I have met up with at the time. I do not believe in presents so much but I remember one birthday when I was in Guatemala I wrote in my journal the only thing I wanted was chocolate cake and red wine. Nothing in the world is truly more pleasurable than chocolate and red wine...for a single person.

Coyote’s Run Estate Winery has caught onto this. Coyote’s Run was the second winery on my Niagara-on-the-lake tour. They had me from Merlot... that is when it was paired with chocolate. They sell delicious chocolates from Brix chocolate that pairs with their wines ( We tasted a Merlot Shiraz with Brix medium dark chocolate. The extra dark Chocolate went with their 2008 Meritage. The Black Paw 2009 Cabernet Franc went with a delectable medium dark chocolate.

I was already feeling quite good from the amount of wine I had tasted in the previous winery apparently all you have to do is tell them you are writing about the winery and the wine keeps flowing. With chocolate added to the mixture I really couldn’t complain. I had however noticed something that caught my eye as I entered the retail store a chalkboard advertising workshops with the viticulture team in the vineyard. The guy behind the counter kind of laughed when he told us about it. "You get to work in the dirt doing physical labour and you have to pay for you but people love it." He didn't seem to understand why, I however had to pull myself away from signing up. I have been fascinated with working in a vineyard picking grapes for years. Perhaps it’s because when I think about it images of the movie A Walk In The Clouds with Keanu Reeves always come to my mind. The men are all hot and sweaty from picking the grapes in the field then when they are harvested the women dance in a giant wooden barrel while the men dance and clap around the outside. The music gets faster as the women and eventually Keanu are wet covered in grapes juice then the scene switches to them running into a bedroom...right, now what was I talking about here?

I am sure most of the middle ages wine lovers who sign up for these workshops do not have the same imagery running through their heads as mine but they still enjoy the experience to learn more about their favourite vintage and go through the entire process in and outside a classroom setting.

The other unique thing about Coyote’s Run winery is the different soils naturally occurring on the vineyard. They use the same grapes but on different soil, red and black clay. They have named the two different types of wine along with the Coyote theme; Red paw and Black Paw. Red paw is on a red orange coloured soil and the wine is lighter fruitier and more fragrant. When the grapes are planted on the back soil the wine turns out full-bodied spicier.

The vineyard has had a good summer for growing this year they were 2-3 weeks ahead as all the fruit was early this year. Their 2007 Pinot Noir Black paw sold very fast with it being Cherry strawberry in the nose and very earthy. You can also get an oak, smoky oak or spicy scent from the pinots here. This winery does Pinot Noir very well and they are saying 2009 will be the best across Ontario the conditions have been great for this wine. It’s been a perfect storm for Pinot Noir with the hot dry days and cool nights. Cool nights create colour sun develops flavour and sugar. I discovered the Cabernet doesn’t fare so well in these conditions. I was excited to try the Ice wine Niagara is famous for. Coyote’s Run has one of the best in the region, I am told. It is an absolutely delicious dessert wine that tastes like liquid cake.

After finishing at Coyote’s Run we were going to try out a different winery where I could learn more about organic farming but instead we decided to take our purchases to try out at a friend’s house which is located on a vineyard. We finished the night at the Old Winery restaurant and Wine bar. I felt like I learned a lot and maybe I could even keep up with these children of the grape or perhaps this saying is true for me;

“Wine gets better with age, I get better with wine.”

Get your Hands Dirty!
Experience Coyote's Run like you never have before - by working in the vineyard. Bring your boots and your sunscreen to actually learn in the vineyard from our winemaker. This fun and informative full-day workshop includes fun 'classroom' classes, hands-on vineyard training, soil studies and a delicious lunch in our outdoor vineyard pavilion - and don't forget some special tastings from our barrel cellar. Reservations required.

Coyote’s Run also offers wine and cheese tours as well as wine and chocolate tours for more info:
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