Wednesday, 31 May 2017

That's May in the Bag

Sitting at my desk today thinking about the topics I wanted to talk about on here, I suddenly realised it was May 31st and I had completed my month of blogging... except for two days I made the conscious choice not to blog.

I wouldn't say that the blogs were of any great calibre but I did something after months of nothing. I'll take it.

I've set my goal going forward to post (at least) three times a week, with an aim of posting Tuesdays, Thursdays, and Sundays. I'll see how that works for June and adjust after that if necessary.

You know, I never did write a post where I was wistfully nostalgic for Switzerland...

Thanks to the magic of Facebook, I've been reminded that it was four years ago this month that I was last in Switzerland. For those who don't know about my love of Switzerland, you can read how I ended up there here.

The Swiss use the term Röstigraben for the divide between the French-speaking and German-speaking parts of Switzerland. It means 'Rösti ditch' and refers to the cultural differences between the two sides. (Rösti is a staple in German-speaking Switzerland.) In Fribourg, is one of the only places where there is a physical representation of the Röstigraben. In the picture below is the River Saane (German) or Sarine (French). To the left of river was the German settlement of Freiburg, to the right was the French settlement of Fribourg. While both sides speak French now, the river is still considered the border of the Röstigraben.

Bern: come for the culture, stay for the bear porn. When I first visited Bern almost two decades ago, the Bear Pits were just that: pits in the earth. Small, miserable, depressing pits. Since then, the city has cordoned off a sizable chunk of the hillside leading down to the Aare (the river), and has even fenced in part of the river for them to swim in. Above the bear area is a lovely restaurant and bar called the Altes Tramdepot. The food's decent, but the beer (they brew their own) and view are divine.

Karin and I took the slow boat to her parents' house across Thunersee (Lake of Thun). I was there in May. There is snow on those mountains. THERE SHOULD NOT BE SNOW ON THOSE MOUNTAINS IN MAY!!! Of course, all the snow was rain by the time it reached us. Such a wet visit.

It rained heavily every day I was in and around Thun. It even snowed when we were in Sigriswil due to the slightly higher elevation. Woke up the morning I was leaving and it was absolutely beautiful and forecasted to stay that way all week. I'm not bitter.

Looking down the Aare towards Eiger and Niesen (mountains in the background).

My deal with myself is that I'm allowed to return to all these places I love as long as I see some place or thing I haven't seen before. This trip, I decided to visit Lugano in the Italian-speaking part of Switzerland. This was the only sun I saw the entire time I was there until, you guessed it, the day I left. Seriously, not bitter at all.

The rain was so awful one morning that I stayed in bed instead of going for breakfast. The dining hall was outside in an old converted barn and it was raining so hard that the trees just 15 feet from the French doors were just shadows. Warm bed and a book trumps swimming to breakfast any day.

The view from my friend's balcony in St. Gallen. To the right of the house you can see the line of white markers. That's a firing range for the Swiss Army. Because of that, no building is permitted on this field. Given that the range is only in use three or four times a year, it means that the field is a giant playground for all the neighbourhood kids. Hard to believe this is a 10 minute walk from the centre of town!

My favourite part about visiting Basel is walking across the border to Germany just because I can.

Basel City Hall.

 The cloisters at the church.

On my way back to my friends in Elfingen, I decided to make a stop in Rheinfelden. I had heard that it was a quaint town, it has a fantastic brewery just on the edge of town, and I could do the annoying thing of walking back and forth across the bridge between two countries.

The town was adorable and I wish I had given myself more time to explore instead of leaving it as an afterthought on my way home.

When you visit the Roman ruins in Brugg, you cheer for the non-existent gladiators. That's just a fact.

One of my friends and I spent the day at Habsburg Castle. That's right. Austria's most powerful family were actually Swiss. Boo-yah! The family took their name from this castle which remained in their possession until the mid 1400s when the lands and castle were taken by the Swiss. The family had already shifted to Vienna as their power base about a century before so it wasn't a huge loss to them, but I hope it irked them. The castle that gave them their last name forever in the hands of the democratic and independent Swiss. Mwa-ha-ha-ha-ha-ha-ha! The castle affords lovely views of the surrounding areas and has a breath-taking collection of china. We may have wandered into an out-of-bounds area where they were setting up for a black-tie dinner.

The Swiss parliament buildings in Bern. Bern is usually listed as the capital of Switzerland but, fun fact, Switzerland doesn't have an official capital! Switzerland is a confederation with equal power sharing between all the cantons*. Bern becomes the de facto capital, however, as it is home to the parliament buildings and most of the government offices.

(*They have a federal counsel that are elected by the Federal Assembly to a four year term but rotate their positions on the counsel every year so none of them hold power for the entire term.)

Looking up Kramgasse towards the Zytglogge. (I love Swiss-German. That would be Zeitglockenturm in "real" German.) The old town of Bern is a UNESCO World Heritage site. With its covered arcades, hundred-odd fountains, and cobblestone streets, it is just so darn beautiful. And I hate it because my first 24-hours in Bern were awful and I vowed to dislike it forever. But it's winning me over.

Stupid pretty Bern.

Back in Thun on a bridge crossing the Aare. Thun will forever and always have a piece of my heart.

Crossing the Panoramabrücke and looking back at Sigriswil. Sigriswil is yet another part of Switzerland that will forever have a piece of my heart. Long after the Hostettlers have moved on from this area, I'll be coming to visit. Crossing the bridge, sitting under the oak tree at the look out, mailing letters at the post office and saying 'I once knew the Postmaster here'.

Ah, Swiitz! Ik hab Di gärn. (Switzerland. I love you.)

Tuesday, 30 May 2017

BC Politics: The Gift That Keeps on Giving

Today, Christy Clark showed that she would not go quietly.

It's her right, and the Liberals are spinning it as 'not allowing political deals to happen behind closed doors', but it reeks of just prolonging their power. We are now forced to wait until the next time the House of Commons convenes which will be Christy Clark calls for it

I don't believe she'd delay the next session just out of spite, but the Liberals are still in power. I do believe she and her party will promise the moon in the Throne Speech and present a generous budget they have no intention of passing because the NDP and Greens have to vote against it to take over.

Why would they do this? Because then, come the next election, they have their campaign platform: we wanted to give you this but NDP/Green denied it! THEN WHY DIDN'T YOU GIVE IT TO US OVER THE LAST SIXTEEN YEARS?!?!?

A power-sharing deal has been made. The Liberals, despite winning the most seats, have lost this election and they know it. Now, they're just posturing for their comeback.

At this point, I'm just so done with them.

Monday, 29 May 2017

The Neverending Saga of Canadian Politics: BC Edition

Twenty days after the province went to the polling stations, we have a government.

Sort of.

After all the ballots were counted, including a few recounts, the final standing was:
  • Liberals: 43
  • NDP: 41
  • Green Party: 3
Majority in BC is 44 seats. Today, the NDP and Greens announced a power-sharing arrangement for the next four years. That gives them the required 44 seats needed for a majority.


You knew there had to be a 'but', right?

But Christy Clark is still Premier.

No party formed a majority on their own, so she remained Premier after the election. Now, she will remain Premier until she either steps aside or loses a confidence vote.

(For those who don't live in a political system with confidence votes, the Wikipedia page. tl;dr: a member of parliament can call a motion of no confidence - certain bills, such as the budget, are automatically confidence votes - and the members of the house vote. A non-confidence means the Prime Minister or Premier loses their position. I'm looking at you, Joe Clark.)

With today's announcement, Christy's days are numbered. First day of parliament, a motion of non confidence will be called and she won't have the votes to stay in office.

And that's how John Horgan became Premier of BC... eventually.

Who knew BC politics would be so entertaining?

Sunday, 28 May 2017

Sunday Sundries

I didn't post on Friday and Saturday as I really had nothing to say. Incredibly, day three and I still don't really have much to say. Well, unless you really want to hear about buying new sheets.

1. I had brunch at Spinnakers this morning. I've been a disappointed with their evening service the past few times I've been there, but the brunch was fantastic. Definitely going to make the trip out to Esquimalt for it again. Especially given how beautiful the view is... which I didn't take a picture of because the company was fun.

2. I started the weekend with dinner at the Flying Otter. Nothing says summer quite like that first beverage on the floating restaurant. After a lackluster spring, summer is here and it makes me happy.

First mojito of the summer.
After dinner, we walked to the end of the pier. Looking back at the Empress.

I can't believe May is over in a matter of days. I'm still thinking April was just last week.

Thursday, 25 May 2017

Sports Ball

This video appeared in my Facebook feed today.

The other countries making bids for 2023 are South Africa and France. They've both previously hosted the World Cup - South Africa in 1995* and France in 2007 - so I'm hoping that works in Ireland's favour. Ireland's hosting the Women's Rugby World Cup later this year in August, so fingers crossed that goes well and also works to their advantage. 

Any excuse to visit the family. 😉

Keeping with the sports talk, I decided I was going to give baseball a chance this season to see if I could become a fan. I've always sort of poo-pooed American football and baseball - wimpy rugby and too slow, respectively - but I have some very good friends who are fans. Having never really watched either sport, I decided that I should give them a chance. Well, I'll give baseball a chance. American football will remain wimpy rugby until the day I die. 

The best way to become invested in a sport is to follow a team, so I sat down in March and made a list of what I wanted in a team so I could narrow it down. I didn't want Toronto Blue Jays or Seattle Mariners because they have large fan-bases in Victoria and I wanted to find a team that I wouldn't be quizzed on by people judging how committed I am as a fan. I wanted a team that had a chance at a post season, I wanted a team that didn't have a racist name or mascot, that had a history to learn, etc, etc. 

I ended up going with the Baltimore Orioles and, so far, they've been a good choice. Dare I say it? I actually look forward to getting the game updates on my phone app.

Might actually make a baseball fan out of me yet.

*This was the Rugby World Cup portrayed in 'Invictus'. If you enjoyed the movie, I highly recommend the book it was based on, 'Playing the Enemy'.

Wednesday, 24 May 2017

Mr. Sandman Has Caught Up With Me

Not a real post tonight because I have been fighting to stay awake since about 7. I lost the fight for a good hour. I've been pretty go-go-go since last Friday so I'm not surprised, but I could have done without the upright "sleep" on my couch.

Facebook reminded me that on this day four years ago, I was having a cheese fondue in Switzerland with the Hostetters.

Only three months until I see them again. That's a good memory to have as I head off to bed.

Tuesday, 23 May 2017

For Your Eyes Only

It's funny the moments in your life that your brain decides are worth retaining as memories, to be recalled years later.

I remember so many inconsequential details about the night I saw "For Your Eyes Only", my first Bond film. It's just snippets, really. I was six, maybe seven. I remember being in the video store and that it was my brother's pick for movie night. I can't remember what I picked.

I remember thinking that mines were going to be a much bigger issue when sailing than they turned out to be. It was also 100% responsible for my childhood fear that every sunken boat would have dead bodies on it. Childhood fear? Who am I kidding? Still an irrational fear that raises its head every time I think about learning to scuba dive.

What I really remember about the movie was Meteora. The place looked so magical. And to ride up the side of a mountain in a wicker basket?  What an odd bucket list I had as a child have. The wicker basket part of the bucket list is negotiable, but visiting Meteora is still on there.

That night was also the start of a life-long love of Bond, James Bond.

After the news out of Manchester yesterday, hearing about the passing of Roger Moore this morning left me numb. While he wasn't my favourite Bond, he was my first. Like kisses, hangovers, and the Doctor, you never forget your first.

Tonight, I'm drinking a Gin & Tonic (due to a lack of vermouth) and watching my first Bond in my first Bond film.

To Roger Moore.

Monday, 22 May 2017

That's a Wrap

It is the end of the long weekend and the end of the 154th Victoria Highland Games and Celtic Festival.

My day of volunteering was my easiest yet as, due to reasons, there was no hurling. There was, however, further discussion about starting a GAA club in Victoria. When I think about what we're committing to doing, I get really excited... and then question my sanity.


But let's not think about that right now.

Monday is the day of the Irish camp competitions. They had two stages set up. I have a couple of the little kids and they're adorable, but I don't have time (or energy) to blur all the faces right now.

This gentleman and his wife were delightful. I was just sad that I only ever saw them together at a distance.

The grass is always greener...

"Is it step-one-two-three or one-two-three-step?" They were practising their moves, but I wasn't quick enough with my camera to catch them.

The Highland Games portion of the weekend ends with the keg toss. What's the over/under on the organisers getting the damage deposit back on this keg?

I watched the 12" and 13" bar. They keep raising the bar until only one person successfully gets it over the bar. Given the clearance they were getting on the bar where it was, I could tell it would be a long time before the competition was over.

After three days of being the sun and heat for hours upon time, I called an end to my day there in time to go see "Alien: Covenant". Sit in a dark air conditioned theatre for two hours? Yes, please!

The movie was okay. I enjoyed it but I wasn't blown away. It set up a series reboot in the way Prometheus wanted to set it up. (Which is to say that I actually want to see what happens next after this movie. After Prometheus, I didn't give two hoots if we ever got another movie in the franchise.) The scare factor seemed tame compared to previous Alien films... or it could just be that I'm getting older and not as easily taken-in by jump scares. The one thing that the movie did share with Prometheus was that Michael Fassbender was the stand-out performance.


He plays two AI characters, different versions of the same prototype, yet the nuances of the two characters. Just masterfully done.

And with that, it's back to reality tomorrow.

Sunday, 21 May 2017

Highland Games 2017 Day Two

Another day down at the Victoria Highland Games and Celtic Festival. The hurling had a later start time today, so I took advantage of the extra gift of time and a half-charged camera battery.

I *knew* I forgot to do something Saturday night.

Oh well, I still got a good hour of wandering time before the battery died.

Practising for the band marches.

Caught up with some of the dancing.

Letting off some steam before the judging begins.

Tuning the bagpipes... but how do you know when you're done?

 I tried to be a stealth photographer but occasionally I was spotted.

Colours of the clans.

 Spinning wool.

Squad goals.

Floofy dog running the agility trails.

Good boys get a treat.

I found out that I hadn't missed the falconry demonstration. Two of the three falcons were molting and had lost tail feathers making the demonstration difficult for them. It was the third falcon's first time attending a festival and she was only there to get used to the crowds. It does, however, making taking photos of them much easier!

That's when my camera died.

The rest of the day went well, and I may have joined in on a discussion about approaching the GAA to start a club here in Victoria.

Happy Victoria Day weekend to me!

Saturday, 20 May 2017

Highland Games 2017 Day One

Day One in the bag and I'm beat. 

I had a fun time volunteering with the hurling. The clubs pretty much take care of the games, so my job was getting the water set up and then explaining hurling to the spectators that came to watch. Quite possibly the easiest volunteering gig of the whole weekend, but I'm as happy as a clam.

Once my shift was over, I went to visit the dog events. I caught the end of the herding and was really impressed to learn that the sheep used had never been hearded by a dog prior to Thursday. They were amazingly calm.

They sheep were hearded into a holding pen where they would stay until the sheep shearing demonstration. While I love the sheep shearing (the woman who does it every year is incredible!) I needed to sit down so I moved on.

Who's a good boy? Are  you a good boy? Yes, you are. You're a good boy.
 I missed the falconry demonstrations, but I did get to watch this guy eat half a quail. That was something.

I did catch Blood & Iron's sword demonstration. It was really interesting and I hope I can catch the full demonstration Sunday or Monday.

And the highlight of the day? They have Tayto Crisps!!! I posted this picture on various social media and now I have three different orders to pick them up for friends and family. Hey Tayto, it's time to expand into Canada!

Looking forward to see what the rest of the weekend holds.