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Festival of Inner Lights, Burlington December 9th, 2017 from 2-4pm-FREE Admission

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On Saturday December 9th, 2017 please join us at the Art Gallery of Burlington for the Festival of Inner Lights happening between 2-4pm. The Art Gallery is on Lakeshore rd., across from Spencer’s Restaurant and Spencer Smith Park, and the Shoreline room is near the front entrance facing the lake. A dynamic and heart warming event about Yoga Connection, igniting the spark we all have inside to bring back more joy and peace into our lives. This is a family friendly event which includes a guided meditation for Mother Earth we can all participate by sitting in a chair or on the floor in you prefer. Children love to meditate with us!

The word Sahaja in Sanskrit, a very ancient mother language, means “spontaneous” and “born within.” Through a simple guided meditation and just a few seconds of a method known as “thoughtless awareness,” the life force that lies dormant is awakened and can be verified scientifically by each person. The Yoga state can be achieved and felt as a cool river or cool breeze on the hands as it rises along the spine as well as the central nervous system (enlightening the nerves) like the sap that nourishes the tree of life we all have within. At this point we go from being collectively unconscious to collectively conscious human beings. We become aware of a new dimension to our lives. We get connected to the mains and a new reality enlightens our path.

Sahaja Yoga offers the actualization of attaining the Yoga state, also known as moksha, nirvana, enlightenment or simply connection. The poster is an unretouched photograph of pure energy that is awakened from within through Sahaja Yoga methods. Many people who have experienced getting what is known as their “self-realization” have experienced positive, transformational life journeys that will be shared.  The energy feels wonderful, no experience necessary, just come with an open heart and mind.

Expect Youth Ambassadors to inspire your family, listen to a magical flute, watch a creative dance performance, enjoy drums and music from around the globe that will wrap this season up in pure love for community, diversity, brother-sisterhood and positive energy. Please join us and spread the word about this Festival that celebrates our Inner Lights. Please visit and like our articles for more information at http://www.free-meditation.ca/archives/23047

 

 

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Countdown to Croatia Direct Flights 2017; Plus Must See, Do, Experiences of the Adriatic Coast-Selce-Crikvenica to Rijeka

It’s not too late to get a great deal flying direct to Zagreb with Air Transat airlines now servicing Croatia’s capital Zagreb twice per week in 2017. Visit http://www.airtransat.com to fly to Croatia for around $1000 direct! 20160621_221009(Above, image of Kava Tava, Zagreb, all images photographed by Paula Erskine)

(Smart travellers booked end of season last year, around September, October and took advantage of round trip fairs for around $800 for 2017, by booking in late 2016!) Book as soon as you can for prices that still are very decent for truly direct flights to Zagreb, averaging 8 and a half hours flight from Toronto to Zagreb (although the flights are blocked for 9 to 9 and a half, it is less than that.) The new Zagreb airport will be open in 2017 and many are looking forward to landing at an airport built to accommodate the volume of tourists that have just discovered Croatia, or are introducing their kids and grandkids to the mother land and keeping them connected to familial roots.

Let’s take a photographic journey through the Primorje Region (pronounced Preemor-yeh) of Croatia’s Adriatic coastline and discover great things to see, do, eat…starting with Selce and the Crikvenica villages, and later heading towards Rijeka for a dessert bakery with ancient evidence of a mill displayed from under the floor of the café. We will also enjoy the view of Selce has of Krk island and its treasures. Selce behind the scenes, behind Marsala (Marshala Tita) street has many unique alleys and vignettes that please the artist within.

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Inspired artworks can be found by Marijan Mavric, local Croat artist in this Art Laundry Gallery in the village of Selce. Just walk up the hill of Slavka Jelicica street (left, and behind the Tourist Agency on the Riviera) for a local Croatian artist with real talent. It is my mother’s childhood friend, and without prejudice, has many stories expressed in paint and canvas. A great place for contemplation away from the madding crowd of the Riviera. After doing and visiting Art Laundry, head further up the hill to Marsala Tita on your right (single file as the sidewalk is tiny), take a right then first left and get lost in the alleys of Selce. Find your way back to the sea by walking downhill towards the Adriatic sea and panoramic Riviera.20160926_10502920160926_105900Marijan Mavric, Croatian Artist can sometimes be found in the evenings in Selce, at Art Laundry, or his gallery in Grizane . His landscapes capture his surroundings, resembling in some paintings the island of Krk just across the way, where many Selce residents have simple farms with stony-stacked fences, fig trees, potatoes, tomatoes and many other crops. My mother asked him if he is in front of these places when he actually paints them…he said, “It comes from my head, my imagination, my memories…” Having visited many of these corners of Krk island and other Adriatic gems, I can affirm, these places exist, and they are beautiful.

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Selce has a variety of beaches, you can watch Mihuric Scuba Divers suit up and set out to explore a shipwreck. In the distance past the campground, is the beaches of Slane, Selce, and up the campground steps, follow the forested trail to one of Selce’s many pristine beaches.

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Selce’s beach in front of the Tunar Restaurant shaped like a boat is great for families who want to ease in to shallow waters with kids and eat at Tunar’s restaurant. I enjoyed the generous, protein packed salads grilled with salmon (lots of tasty options at Tunar) and along with Kava Anka (kava means coffee, café) on the other side of Selce, are two of the best places to eat locally home-made ice cream. Both places also do coffee very deliciously, and the combination of them both, is quite decadent. Café Bonino in Selce has delicious food and a beautiful view of the beach and the docked boats of locals, with generous sized pizzas and fried squid (ligne, or calimare in Italian) all on Selce’s Riviera.

Next, we peek at my mother’s childhood home in Selce, a place I got to know and love as a child enjoying home-made morsels cooked by my grandmother and my mother with love oozing straight from their hands to my satisfied belly.

Be sure to buy fresh figs while on the Adriatic coast or you can sneak a fig from many of the houses that enjoy their fruits. Then enjoy the home-made jam and bring it home. You can bring anything back into Canada that does not grow in Canada. But a fresh fig, is mouth watering. Below the fig jam beginnings, potatoes coated with spinach, garlic and lemon, grilled zucchinis, and chufte (breaded meat-burgers), any meat you like, with delectable garden spices and parsley. Don’t forget the sautéed garlic and onions!

Also my mom’s cabbage rolls (sarma, similar to the Romanian style) with slabs of pork juices on top melting into the flavours of mixed meats and rice. I always make my mom add extra water a little at a time to make it soupy for me. I just love that sour-savoury combination. And don’t forget that other than home-made, the best place to eat Croatia’s seafood delicacies such as lignje (leeg-nyeh) or calamari or squid, grilled or fried, is Venus on Selce’s Riviera which is always packed with locals and tourists. Their grilled squid is drizzled in olive oil, parsley, garlic and melt in your mouth. Café Bonino and Rokan across from Tunar have good squid too, but Venus is the best.

Krk island has at least 3 great places to eat fried squid in the village of Vrbnik, including Lucy’s up the hill (very generous portions), the port restaurant, and in the many restaurants for a lunch time trip across the Bay of Kvarner.

My grandmother’s home…also known as my baba…

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Selce’s artistic and quaint corners…

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Savoury cabbage rolls only mama can make…

Fried squid, or grilled, or both…worth a try…if they are too big or too chewy, you got “tultsi” which are cheaper, and not real squid. Many good restaurants do have pictures to explain the menu and accommodate the many world-wide travellers that enjoy the Croatian cuisine. 20160927_192733

Selce’s Riviera…just park that convertible and stroll, swim, eat, explore…

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On the border of Selce and Crikvenica (Selce being the beach town portion with superior beaches and atmosphere, a Zabavna (Fun/Arcade) Park and Crikvenica being a bit more of a city with more variety of shops), right next door, is Duga Mall which houses a café veranda view of a section of Krk Island’s rocky coastline that will take your breath away. You can park underground, go above ground level, and this photo does not do the view justice. The cappuccinos and drinks are good but the view is priceless. It was very hard to leave the serene vista, so we took our time. Duga Mall has a few shops and groceries, but in general, Croatia is very affordable.

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Around the corner from Duga Mall is Café Ognjisce (Ognishchyeh) which has the best, most tasty cevapcici (chevaps, or chevapchichi) I have ever had in the area. My local cousins took me here and we ate these barbecued meat morsels with Ajvar (mild red pepper chutney) with such pleasure. We took the rest, to go. We fed lots of relatives with this platter. It was heaven. Ask your Taxi driver to take you here, then go for coffee at Duga Mall upstairs on the veranda (write down the names, show the driver). Well worth it. Come hungry. You know it’s a good place when you see Construction employees and locals frequenting Croatia’s restaurants, it fits their budget too.

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Another wonderful place to enjoy is the bakery Cukerin in Rijeka (take a bus or get a ride from Selce to Reeyehkah. (also known as Fume, Foohmeh in Italian). Cukerin (comes from the word meaning “sugar”) and has wonderful pastries and coffee (kava). Unique to Cukerin, is that when they constructed it, they discovered evidence of ancient wheat stores below, so they gave the café a glass bottom to enjoy a history of a wheat mill in this very spot. The atmosphere is creative, colourful, and well worth navigating the tricky alleys behind Rijeka’s bustling shopping streets. There are very unique shops hidden behind the main promenade. I personally know the bakers at Cukerin, who bake with lots of love and care. You can taste it! We pre-ordered lemon cookies, cinnamon cookies and chocolate pie to bring to friends back in Canada. The chocolate pie is one of my favourites! And it kept very well.

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Beside Cukerin in the old town part of Rijeka is Konoba Volta, their fried squid was absolutely delicious. It has a very romantic atmosphere with outdoor dining and candlelight, and you can go to Cukerin for dessert afterwards. Then meander the alleys and cobblestone streets of Rijeka and soak up the historical architecture.

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Back in Selce, we explore the back alleys behind the smallest church in front of the tourist agency near Kava Anka (arguably the best coffee and icecream in all of Selce). Be sure to visit behind the church all the alleys of 13th division and beyond for surprisingly charming vignettes.

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Crikvenica (below) has more of a city vibe, but a small one, beware the one way streets when driving! Shopping and groceries and the Crikvenica aquarium as well as the promenade and famous “dog beach” and of course “people” beaches are here. Selce-Crikvenica are often paired together, as Selce is a simple, small town that swells in the summer, and reverts back to small village after October. (Selce also has a “dog beach” for those with pets, in a small area near the campground.)

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Selce sunset, a monument to the Tunar perch that honours the tuna fisherman of yore and is lit up at night, like a stairway to heaven. A great view from most of Selce, but Café Bonino has a nice vibe any time of day, as well as Tunar which is the “tuna boat” restaurant just 100 feet away.

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My mom, a “Selcanka” (Selchanka, person raised in the village of Selce, Croatia) enjoying the spectacular view of Krk’s rocky coast from the café veranda of Duga Mall, on the border of Selce-Crikvenica.

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Selce’s walking promenade is very long with a lively panorama of lights, music, fashion and people watching.

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Vrbnik village on Krk island, accessible by boat from Selce, a great day trip.

Croatia Day Trips

Selce’s kupaliste (Kupah-lishteh) beach, (below) great for families with fine rocks added to ease your way into the Adriatic with a larger shallow end. Tunar’s boat shaped Restaurant in the background.

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Mihuric Scuba diving outfit in Selce is a great place to participate in some interesting dive sites at least one of which is a shipwreck. Ahoy! Hope this gives you enough reasons to visit Selce, Crikvenica, Rijeka and Krk. Explore this blog for many more places to visit in Croatia such as Plitvice Park, Rastoke, Zagreb, Krk Island and more!

Don’t forget to leave yourself at least 24 hours after diving before you fly to decompress from the effects of the dives which can interfere with your body’s ability to adjust to flying’s extreme altitudes of 30 to 40,000 feet.

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Scuba diving was my first foray into meditation…a world of beauty, just beneath the surface. Hope this blog inspires you to visit Croatia, leave a comment, meditate or share.

Thoughtless Peace, Andaman Sea, Thailand

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Vrbnik on Krk Island across from Selce, a great day trip

Croatia Direct Flights from Toronto and Montreal Continue into 2016-2017 with Air Transat

All photos and article by Paula Erskine

One can book an Air Transat ticket for a direct flight to Zagreb, Croatia right now for as early as next year, for example, May 30th, 2017 at a price of approximately $871 Canadian dollars and enjoy the comfort of Air Transat’s Airbus 330 fleet. Visit http://www.airtransat.com to book ahead and take advantage of cheap flights to Croatia flying directly out of Toronto, Canada and Montreal, Canada. Air Transat will likely add a second flight weekly to Zagreb, Croatia as of May 2016. Book early to get the deals! Here are some places to visit in Croatia that may delight your senses.

Below, Plitvicka National Park, known to visitors as “paradise,” is less than 2 hours away from Zagreb and enjoyed year round. Easy hiking, hundreds of waterfalls, 16 turquoise lakes.

Rastoke Village, in Slunj (above), is 1 and a half hours from Zagreb, Croatia on the way to Plitvice Park. Imagine opening your window shutters and overlooking a waterfall below your window, with the sound rushing through your veins and the fresh, cool mist rising up through the atmosphere. In this valley, one is surrounded by trees whose roots run deep, taking a drink from the rivers they call home. Eat at Petro, visit Unique Rastoke park (just that part is closed on tuesdays) and eat there too,  the food is fresh and authentic throughout the village…or stay at many of the apartments built on waterfalls in this fairy tale mill town on pristine waters. Simply unmissable and picturesque, any time of year. A peaceful place. Take advantage of the pleasant off season weather with more elbow room than mid-summer to enjoy Croatia even more.

If you are still on the fence, wondering if Croatia is the right destination for you, let me share with you some favorite places to visit that are off the beaten path. Even within the usual hot spots, there are great tips to be shared on how to get the maximum value and enjoyment from your Croatian vacation. For those who travel yearly to the motherland, direct flights to Croatia this summer of 2016 have been a dream come true. In addition, Zagreb has proven to be a great hub for native travelers of Serbia and Bosnia and bordering nations visiting their families. It is very moving to see people of all these nations “going home” to introduce their children and grandchildren to the beautiful lands, lakes, rivers, mountains and the crystal clear Adriatic Sea which were their playgrounds.

It was especially convenient for the older generations to travel “home” on direct flights, most of them wanting to look out the window or watch the air show rather than the individual movie screens at each seat. The atmosphere on board is one of gratitude, appreciation and social friendliness without borders. Although the blocked time of the flight is 9 and a half hours, depending on head and tail winds, the average flight to Zagreb, Croatia from Toronto on Air Transat’s Airbus 330 consistently took only around 8 hours!

Air Transat flights were packed all summer with added adventurers from Quebec and Greater Toronto Area as well as Americans enjoying the tour packages that were very reasonable and action-packed! Below, Ozujsko Pub in Zagreb, beside the Naive Art Gallery Egg in Upper Town serves tasty meats stuffed with cheese and prosciutto (pershuto), grilled vegetables and chicken shishkebabs wrapped in bacon. Tender, fresh, tasty and very reasonable!

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Vinodol Restaurant, lower town, superb eating, Zagreb Croatia

Vinodol Restaurant (lower town), Zagreb Croatia above was absolutely superb eating, with a wonderful indoor skylit atmosphere and outdoor seating too. Below, Kava Tava (upper town)…find an excuse to eat palacinke (palachinke) the Croatian stuffed crepes, dessert, cappucinos, breakfast or sandwiches. Then,  for all you airline buffs, Kava Tava’s decor boasts passenger seats and airplane tables. 20160621_192442

Zagreb’s Upper Town can be reached by Funicular or stairs and is full of incredible places to eat with no lack of creativity, history, architecture, naive and modern art, fountains museums, bird’s eye views, Lake Jarun, shoe shopping in particular in the lower town, and delicious food everywhere. To say Zagreb is hip would be an understatement.

A hidden gem in Zagreb is MS Grill run by Olga who will cook like only a mother can, and specializes in Bosnian dishes such as cevaps (barbecued chevaps are mixed meats, usually lamb, on home made grilled bread served with kajmak (k-eye-mahk) cream cheese, chicken paprikash, and many stews and famous crepes.The truth is, I ate most of the mouth watering meat before I remembered to take a picture. The secret to all the juicy meats, especially the grilled chicken, is the time they take to marinate it all…and I enjoyed it very much on my flight. The portions are too generous, and the prices are ridiculously cheap! You can find them around the corner from the Sheraton Hotel, Zagreb, with the orange canopy, simple. Olga is open from 7 or 8 am till midnight and serves fresh, home made food, her most evident ingredient, is love, warmth and enthusiasm. I do not leave the restaurant without my goodbye hug.

https://www.facebook.com/pages/Ms-Grill/1549760118614667 This is the facebook page.

Air Transat flights were packed all summer with added adventurers from Quebec and Greater Toronto Area as well as Americans enjoying the tour packages that were very reasonable and action-packed! See you in Zagreb! Check out my other posts for more great places to visit in Croatia! This is StrossMarte, at the top where the Funicular station stop is. Very artsy, great views, puppet shows, and very whimsical somehow.20160906_18551320160906_18555220160906_185448Sveti Marco Square, tiled roof, straight ahead from the Funicular. Many ways to see the city, including a vintage car ride. Fresh fritule, powdered mini doughnuts sometimes filled with jam at a window in upper town. We drop in on an orchestra practicing amid rows of fountains, it was lovely. The architecture, the old gate to the city, is so interesting. I hope to visit Lake Jarun where locals swim and bike in the near future. Until we meet again, Zagreb, I will enjoy my memories. See you in Croatia until early October of 2016 and May 2017 onward.20160906_18491320160823_18350320160823_19023920160906_18403120160906_18503220160817_19534320160906_19051620160906_18185320160906_21042620160817_191813

Up Close and Personal at Burlington Sound of Music’s Grand Finale 2016

The Mohrs singer channeled Janis Joplin and the whole band was incredible. See and hear them here, they will knock you out of the park! http://themohrsband.com/home. Jackie Mohr fronts the band and has music running through her veins. Coolest chic EVER.http://www.newcanadianmusic.ca/releases/p/perfectly-sane-single/the-mohrs/2014-03-26

20160619_142105Unlike the local newspaper, I am not focused on the numbers that attended the free music festival. 200,000 fans is not too shabby over the course of 5 days. If you ask anyone how successful it was, just ask its fans! The atmosphere was so positive, so groovy, like minded music fans saw the Sound of Music Festival as a chance to celebrate Canadian music, show our appreciation for artists trying to change the world, one guitar strum at a time. Yes there was a heat warning. Did we find shade? Yes marvelous shade under the cherry trees, under canopies, at the city hall there were plenty of shady spots too.

The best part was getting up close and personal with the artists. Sean McCann formerly of Great Big Sea took fan photos after his set, and I was not more than 10 feet in front of the stage, sitting comfortably, with no one blocking my view.

Many of the acts were easily accessible, and for a few minutes here and there, you could approach the stage, take your awesome close up photos, get shooed out for not having a press pass, claim innocence, back out towards the gate and retreat victoriously to the shady trees at your leisure with smart phone photos galore. With the breeze coming off the lake, it was totally do-able.

The Mohrs offered original music, with lyrics reflecting modern poetry, like “nobody perfectly sane would want to be with you…” Super catchy, and we’ve all crossed paths with someone in our lives that fits just that bill. Which makes it so much fun to sing along and nod, yes, we love this song! We were very impressed with their energy and charisma and solid talent. Great to see you all perform in Burlington!

Jordan Haller performed on Brant street on Sunday and was very impressive. http://www.jordanhaller.com/#music-section (below, bottom, second from left). Definitely talented. Even a non-tween can appreciate his original music and pop-vibe. The Lighthouse (bottom center picture) may surprise you when you realize you grew up with their songs being played on your parents radio, their fan base was huge on the OLG stage and you can reminisce and enjoy their music here…http://www.lighthouserockson.com/history.html. They relive their glory days these days performing much to the delight of their appreciative fans.

Junkhouse https://www.facebook.com/JUNKHOUSEHAMILTON a band that has performed all over the world, showed that we were truly heart and soul, rock and roll. It was great to hear them praise Hamilton, just across the bridge, and tell their story about their humble beginnings. You see, Hamilton and Burlington are neighbors. We share the same air, the same Lake Ontario, we share the Royal Botanical Gardens, we share a love for music. Russ Wilson on bass below…20160619_153908

Not only is Junkhouse cool, interesting, and talented in an off the beaten track kind of way, lead singer Tom Wilson has that “smart kind of funny because it’s true”, story-telling personality. Unbelievably true! I laughed my head off at those inbetween song stories. Best part is, this is a cool guy with tons of presence, that actually cares not only about his fans, but about the world. Hamilton’s The Red Hill Valley http://theredhillvalleys.com/ fans below, attended the Junkhouse show which was fantastic. I happened to meet lead singer in a guitar shop in Oakville, then I see these fans sporting the t-shirt. That is a good enough reason to mention them in this Hamilton home grown section of talent. A victory for one Hamilton band can pave the way for more steel town talent to take on the world. http://theredhillvalleys.com/music20160619_155015

Tom Wilson of Junkhouse did not depart the stage without leaving a lasting impression by addressing the crowd to be proud of who they are, where they came from, about being nicer and more patient with the people we share this planet with, and that he had faith that this world can and will be a better place to live for all of us if we just start with that. Benevolence becomes Junkhouse, thank you for that.

The Burlington Sound of Music was a first hand experience of artistic musical expressions. As each artist took each fan into their confidence, they drew us closer. Many of the musicians understood that they had a medium to bring people together beyond language borders by entering through each and every one of our hearts.https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=0de2W97x_Yg, https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=O-FuQ0h0zPo That you did, Junkhouse, keep shining.20160619_153859[1]

 

Burlington Sound of Music 2016 Rejuvenates the Crowds of Fans

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Young Rivals rocked the TD stage on Saturday June 18,2016…all photos and article by Paula Erskine

Still one more day left for seeing free concerts in Burlington Ontario Canada have a look and listen to the jam packed list of talented acts that will make you proud to be Canadian or impressed by your Canadian neighbors who don’t all live in Igloos… http://www.soundofmusic.ca/schedule.

In no particular order in terms of talent, I can share some wonderful images and a commentary about one of the best FREE things to attend in this end of Ontario, which is the Burlington Sound of Music Festival, of which I was privileged to attend at least three partial days due to my limited time in Canada during the flying season.

I cannot hide the fact that I did not see all of the acts, so I am no judge, and nobody likes a critic, but, of the acts I did catch, I cannot deny that there were some favourites. In other words, the following acts will exceed your expectations and actually blew us away because their music emits tremendous heart, soul and talent. The three acts that we loved so far:

Leahy, a family from Lakefield Ontario that performs with a family of 10, with violins, accordian, irish dancing, guitar, drums, gorgeous harmony and a family of 10 brothers and sisters that came from musician parents. Music is in their blood, heart and soul, and if you know anyone who has an inkling for music, they hold a music camp http://www.leahymusiccamp.com. I have no pictures, but they won the entire crowd over, with many surprises, reminding us what it is to have both top notch yet down to earth performance skills as well as incredible talent. They were delightful to watch, what a show on the OLG stage!

Another favourite was Dylan Menzie whose cd I bought called adolescent nature. https://www.bing.com/images/search?q=dylan+menzie&view=detailv2&qpvt=dylan+menzie&id=48F237B3EBC74EC1BE9121F9DA7EBFC3A2D3BC24&selectedIndex=2&ccid=ikjuwZ6z&simid=608001154928674259&thid=OIP.M8a48eec19eb3746632131a31166a2df7o0&ajaxhist=0 Dylan Menzie blew us away, he is so talented, musically, vocally, he is the real deal, with terrific lyrics and great vibes. You have to hear this guy! He is young, with a finger on the pulse of the youth, yet somehow, a wise soul, singing his heart out. We feel you Dylan!https://www.facebook.com/dylanmenzieband. If you want your kids to listen to what talent really sounds like, he is it. And as an adult, I did not find it juvenile at all, only that it brought back memories and that youthful feeling we all hold in our hearts, which never ages.

Sean McCann, formerly of Great Big Sea, really poured his enlightened heart out, and bravely, boldly, shared personal details on his journey through sobriety, the friends he gave up, and the incredible soul searching journey that has given him a new perspective that took his already talented self to new heights in terms of musical giftedness. Sean McCann absolutely has emoted into a higher self that is very much down to earth, very deep, undeniably talented all on his own. His music, his presence poured vibrations out into the entire atmosphere starting from the Cogeco stage on Brant street in the city hall square. His music will make your hair stand on end! He is oozing with incredible vibrations, you can call it the X factor, and perhaps his journey of ups and downs made him who he is today. He is what we call a realized soul. His power, inspirations and talent were previously clouded, but now they pour out through his songs and presence, unimpeded, just free flowing, and without ego.He admitted that he was previously an angry man, but had discovered, that anger, just wants to hurt. Great music in my view, does not necessarily come from an uneventful life, but rather, can be a positive outlet to work out  painful situations that others can relate to. We feel you, Sean, and we can relate.Sean McCann at Burlington Sound of Music Festival 2016. All photos and article by Paula Erskine

It reminds me that there are people, and musicians out there, who have the power to touch our soul once they wake up from the material world and get back to the reasons they got into the music business in the first place. His music is authentically filled with reflection and beauty. Sean McCann also played some favourites from the Great Big Sea days for the crowd and encouraged everyone to sing, saying “we’re all on this path together.” http://www.seanmccannsings.com/ find his wonderful new self here.https://www.facebook.com/GreatBigSean.

Having named names in terms of favourites, and only because it is impossible to see all 100 concerts because many of them are happening simultaneously, I will share a few more acts that I curated from my limited time to attend the festival this year. Here we go…

Let’s talk about the Young Rivals! What most impressed me  and my friend Kathleen about the Young Rivals was the drummer who took turns seamlessly singing and drumming at the same time, try it, just the thought of it! Kathleen and I felt that they way they played was reminiscent of how the Beatles harmonized and sang and rocked. We enjoyed them in the afternoon under some shady cherry trees in Spencer Smith Park. Young Rivals can be found here if you want to watch and listen to their music https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=-b8CwNHAx54 and are one of over 100 FREE concerts offered over a 4 day period every year around Father’s Day Weekend which is not to be missed! On second listen, they definitely have a Beatles vibe.

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Young Rivals above.20160618_145531

Enjoying shade under the cherry trees of Spencer Smith Park while breathing in Canadian music, and soaking up the summer.20160618_200016

The boats docked at Burlington’s inlet for some superb views as the music carried over the waves of Lake Ontario, Canada20160618_201223

A few of my favourite attendees…20160618_201744

The Fast Romantics infused the stage with talent, style, charisma, groove, with 6 members in chic rockin’ black and white. They are all so talented and good looking, if you will permit us to say, when the female keyboardist surprised us with playing the horn, we kind of wished all the arrangement had allowed us to hear only her playing, so she could shine a bit more. As it is, they are pretty great, but we would love to hear some musicians shine during different periods throughout the songs. When I heard they had  played with the Sheepdogs from Saskatchewan, I knew they must be talented, takes one talented band, to know another talented band. Well worth seeing, and you can see them here too http://fastromantics.com/

 

Hawksley Workman rounded out the evening talent at the Cogeco stage on Brant street with a huge crowd that spilled in to the streets. Hawksley it seems, is a poet, generally is very down to earth, has some interesting things he does with his voice, mostly at the end of his songs, which we would love to hear more of. But we didn’t mind his artistic, poetic ramblings about trees wrapped in decorative Christmas lights and Thomasville has a sale. His rantings were smoothly and poetically delivered, revealing a calm appreciation for life and a tough journey http://hawksleyworkman.com/. This is someone who was not shy about his spiritual ponderings and gratitude for quiet mornings drinking tea and filling up the bird feeder. Very pleasant and curious, we enjoyed his company. See Hawksley Workman working it in the pic below.

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Sean McCann at the Burlington Sound of Music Festival 2016-Heart and Soul

Sean McCann at Burlington Sound of Music Festival 2016. All photos and article by Paula Erskine

The Fast Romantics were super cool…20160618_20154620160618_201550

Day Trips From Dublin, Ireland…Hiking in Howth

Hiking in Howthe, Ireland

Hiking in Howth, Ireland

Priceless views

Priceless views

A Howthe point of View

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Not to be missed as you Hike Ireland's coast, Howthe

Not to be missed as you Hike Ireland’s coast, Howth

Irish Blooms

Irish Blooms

Yup, still Howthe

The Port of Howthe is 25 minutes by train from Dublin, Ireland. The hiking trails offer spectacular coastal views. All photos and article by Paula Erskine

The Port of Howth is 25 minutes by train from Dublin, Ireland. The hiking trails offer spectacular coastal views.
All photos and article by Paula Erskine

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Still Meandering the seaside trail and all it's preciousness

Still Meandering the seaside trail and all it’s preciousness

20130605_194450HowtheHowtheHowthe viewsHowthe20130605_174912

Before or after your hike, grab a giant cup in the Port.

Before or after your hike, grab a giant cup in the Port.

Burlington Sound of Music Free Outdoor Concerts and Reviews 2014

What is so attractive about Burlington’s Sound of Music Festival?

Free music performances, all day, all night, for 4 nights from June 12th to June 15th. A little known fact is that on June 7th, 2014, there is an additional round of concerts to kick off the festival that starts the father’s day weekend after that. Some notable acts for the kick off are Teenage Head, Kim Mitchell, Stone River, Carol Pope of Rough Trade, Lou Gramm: The voice of Foreigner and Coney Hatch. For a full festival lineup to plan this concert mecca, visit http://www.soundofmusic.ca/bands. The website is excellent since you can read about all the bands, listen to samples of their music, and get really pumped!

Burlington Pier 2013 Debut at Sound of Music Festival. Photo by Paula Erskine

Burlington Pier 2013 Debut at Sound of Music Festival. Photo by Paula Erskine

Based on last years festivities, I have a few tips.

The festival is located primarily at Spencer Smith Park where Brant Street meets Lakeshore road. Lake Ontario is a magical backdrop to the festivities, usually hosting nightly fireworks.

Bring a fold-up portable chair. If you bicycle down, you will have to walk your bike in Spencer Smith Park. There is a bike corral behind the Waterfront Hotel where you can lock up your bike under supervision for a few bucks. I have never done either of these things, but always say I will next time. Bring a blanket to sit on, or wander freely from stage to stage enjoy the musical notes infiltrating the air. There is also a “sea” wall to sit on and people watch.

Brant Street gets closed to traffic and becomes pedestrian. Brant Street usually has several stages, looks like 4 this year, with many bands scheduled in close proximity to the viewer. The Brant street acts are great for those who want to sit on the surrounding patios, but are situated on the streets so any passer by can have an intimate concert experience and meet some musicians up close.

Parking-there are shuttle services that you can inquire about from the festival organizers and Burlington Transit. There are some paid parking spots at the No Frills Plaza north of Caroline street on Brant, and some public lots near the Burlington Performing Arts Centre. The Burlington and Mapleview Malls have huge free parking lots and buses going to the festival. Fairview Go/Bus Station (west of Guelph line, east of Brant street) has shuttles going to the festival as well.

Thursday June 12th is usually less busy, even in the evening, and this helps if you want to get closer to the outdoor stages in Spencer Smith Park and have some elbow room. My advice, no offence, is to avoid the “tribute bands” based on the U2 tribute from last year (Bono is a tough act to follow). But you be the judge. I would much rather listen to original music acts which will be featured from 7:00 pm Gentlemen Husbands, Young Rival and am particularly interested in The Sheepdogs at 9:45 pm based on the videos I spotted on the festival website. 

The Sheepdogs exceeded my expectations at the Burlington Sound of Music Festival 2014. Influences from The doors and other great rockers, but still having their own authentic sound. Unapologetic about their guitar ballads. Photo by Paula Erskine

The Sheepdogs exceeded my expectations at the Burlington Sound of Music Festival 2014. Influences from The doors and other great rockers, but still having their own authentic sound. Unapologetic about their guitar ballads. Photo by Paula Erskine

The afternoons are filled with family friendly bands starting on Friday June 13th at 1pm.

You may attend during the day, but you don’t want to miss the cooler summer evenings and the fabulous and infamous Burlington Pier which made its debut at The Sound of Music Festival in 2013.
Once it gets dark, the pier’s rocket ship structure becomes a rainbow of changing colours which make us Burlingtonians proud to invite music lovers from all over the world to enjoy its glory too.

Think we have a bunch of no name acts? Think again…Just because they are not on the Top 40, doesn’t mean they are not excellent bands. Many are singer-songwriters and have won Junos, accolades, and have enjoyed great success or about to get really big. But you can see them in Burlington, first. Yes there are some amazing acts that we grew up with that we perhaps never had a chance to attend their concerts.

But there are many bands that are coming up with new material, and on the verge of creating something new and exciting. Read my account of last year’s festivities to see old acts re-invent themselves. You might not recognize their names, but they have always been in the music industry, going from band to solo to new combinations of fabulous music.

Sundays closing concerts on June 15th are also very enjoyable, but start earlier. A lot of dance/Justin Timberlake type acts and singers from 1:00pm to 3:45pm like PRTY H3RO, JRDN and Karl Wolf which I definately recognized once I listened to their videos embedded on the The Sound of Music Festival website. I will probably attend Trooper at 5:30pm on the Festival Stage since they were famous when I was a wee lass. Plus I really enjoyed the closing concert last year of 54 40 where everyone was so chilled after days of free music and you could feel that universal love in the air. I narrowly missed April Wine preceding them which were literally heros for 54 40. So great to hear bands praising other bands that inspired them to become who they are today.

Notable acts this year June 2014 and famous for kicking up his kilt, award winning, modern and legendary fiddler Ashley MacIsaac on Sunday June 15th at 3:45pm.
Sloan plays Saturday June 14th on the OLG stage (there are 3 stages in Spencer Smith Park with Jumbo Tron screens).
Jarvis Church plays the Cogeco Stage on Friday June 13th at 9:45pm.
Colin James, Gord Downie and The Sadies, Trooper, Chilliwack, Hip hop artist Classified, Sons of Revelry, and Maestro Fresh Wes want you to come on down and let your backbone slide.
Many wonderful musical acts to relate to and appreciate and this year’s fantastic, bombastic, get your groove on music festival that is not to be missed. I wouldn’t miss it for anything!

Get off the couch, go to Spencer Smith Park in Burlington, and feel the music!

POST SOUND OF MUSIC 2014 REPORT AND PHOTO JOURNAL

The Burlington Pier continues to emanate a light play since it's inaugural debut at the Sound of Music Festival. Photo by Paula Erskine

The Burlington Pier continues to emanate a light play since it’s inaugural debut at the Sound of Music Festival. Photo by Paula Erskine

It was impossible to see all 100 free concerts in 4 days in Burlington, Ontario this past June 2014, but I certainly put a dent into my concert repertoire. I just wanted to report on the best acts. I took about 15 minutes to plan my concert outings by going to the sound of music website, view the music videos attached to each artist, printed out a chart, and circled the bands that intrigued me. Some quick notes on following my musical tastes are as follows:

The Sheepdogs played opening night and absolutely rocked it at the Sound of Music Festival 2014. One of the best of 100 free concerts held in Burlington, Ontario. Photo by Paula Erskine

The Sheepdogs played opening night and absolutely rocked it at the Sound of Music Festival 2014. One of the best of 100 free concerts held in Burlington, Ontario. Photo by Paula Erskine

The Sheepdogs, I believe orginally from Saskatchewan, were all about playing great music, and we enjoyed them on opening night in our Canadian Tire fold up chairs. The Sheepdogs humbly stated that the last time they had played in Burlington in a bar, they played to “zero” people. So they played with talent and might and thanked the crowd of thousands for coming out to Spencer Smith Park for the festival. Their music was original, lots of guitar, rhythm, at some points I felt there was some Doors influences, sometimes Zeppelin, but it was all their own sound and very enjoyable. Thursdays are opening night, and the BEST night to go, because the bands are usually some of the better ones, and it is not too crowded…people are very respectful and leave each other alot of space to enjoy the concert on the lawn, even among thousands. The Sheepdogs were understated with their beards and plaid shirts, they would probably blend in with a crowd. But up on stage with guitars in hand, they were unbelieveably talented, totally rocking the show. My friend Tanya and I really enjoyed their energy which seemed to exceed the expectations of the crowd.

Don't let the Dixie hat fool ya. The Walkervilles were entertaining and handsome. Sound of Music 2014, photo by Paula Erskine

Don’t let the Dixie hat fool ya. The Walkervilles were entertaining and handsome. Sound of Music 2014, photo by Paula Erskine

The Walkervilles did not dissapoint in their slim suits and cool vibe. They suitably preceded Smokey Robinson look and sound alike singer Jarvis Church who has had his share of hits. Photo by Paula Erskine

The Walkervilles did not dissapoint in their slim suits and cool vibe. They suitably preceded Smokey Robinson look and sound alike singer Jarvis Church who has had his share of hits. Photo by Paula Erskine

Jarvis Church soul singing  at Burlington's Sound of Music Festival 2014. Photographed by Alexis Lagos of www.lacedupimagery.com

Jarvis Church soul singing at Burlington’s Sound of Music Festival 2014. Photographed by Alexis Lagos of http://www.lacedupimagery.com

I also had a chance to witness Jarvis Church in an intimate concert at the Burlington City Hall on Brant Street. He is still looking smooth with his backup singers in slim, shiny suits. He looks alot like a young Smoky Robinson and it such a chillaxed performer. He sounds as good as ever, and we found seats easily not too far from the small stage. Yes Jarvis Church had his day, but he is still truly talented, and I would rather listen to his motown, upbeat, groovy sound than alot of talentless, electronic noise radio stations are paid to play repeatedly polluting our air waves and preventing a variety of great sound and real voices to be enjoyed. I enjoy many different genres of music, I like them shuffled about, old and new, but quality should always be the goal. Anyone who enjoys the “happy style” of music made famous by Sinatra and more recently, Michael Buble, should definately check out Jarvis Church, who appeared somewhere inbetween. Jarvis is looking fine, and still singing his soulful tunes, old and new, and has a feel good intention he generates through song.

Gord Downie's descent into madness after being Tragically hip for so long. The Sadies accompanying him are not to blame, only the terrible sound mixer and unlistenable singing. Sound of Music Festival 2014, photo by Paula Erskine

Gord Downie’s descent into madness after being Tragically hip for so long. The Sadies accompanying him are not to blame, only the terrible sound mixer and unlistenable singing. Sound of Music Festival 2014, photo by Paula Erskine

Saturday was just insanely busy, impossible to get from one end of the park to the other with any sort of speed. Bathroom lineups were long, the park was fenced off so you couldn’t just escape, you had to go through a giant crowd along the lake for anyone to exit. Having said that, I thought that Gord Downie and the Sadies (Gord of the Tragically Hip) would have been a good choice. I don’t know if it was partially the sound mixer’s fault for that west end stage, but the more intimate stage was impossible to get close to, because the sound was horribly distorted and loud even at the furthest point. Further to our collective disappointment, Gordie warbled, burbled, like a crow, for about 2 or 3 songs, pretended to polish his shoes with his handkerchief, wore a too small jacket, and impressed us not. It was so bad, we left. I am sure the Sadies are quite good, but I could not hear them too well over the crow caws. Maybe he thought he was the singer from Midnight Oil, a want to be. But it was unlistenable. My friend Alexis who had a chance to see Sloan, said, the should have fired the sound mixer for the west end stage. Even Sloan was not sounding so great…she really felt the sound was “off.”

Sound of Music? 2014

Tupper Ware Remix Party revel in their annonymity here. Makes for an interesting photo I suppose. Perhaps they have joined us from another planet. Mork from Ork would approve. When did music get so complicated? Oh ya, maybe it was Kiss.

Sunday the finale, I finally dragged my husband back to the festival (after Saturday’s devastating impact) to watch Ashley MacIsaac, famed fiddle player, to rock the Burlington City Hall on Brant Street. What a following he has, because it was absolutely packed in the square, and his music was oozing wonderful tunes and drawing people in all over Brant street. Ashley MacIsaac healed all of us, and renewed our faith in good music. He had a standing ovation to which he humbly obliged. Terrific show, no antics, just love of music being shared into the atmosphere.

I said goodbye to everyone, and headed down to see Trooper in the main park. I was surrounded by chilled adults of a certain age, and we thoroughly enjoyed listening to the hits we grew up with. I always enjoy the final few concerts of Sound of Music. Sunday rocks of course, but usually they are comebackers from the 70’s, 80’s and in this case, the 90’s. The singer compensated any unachievable notes by holding the microphone a little further away to blend in to the background music. We all knew the words anyway. Originally from British Columbia, it was nice to hear they still rock. The long and grey haired keyboardist had a a very hip black button down shirt from the back, which lay open to reveal a tie dyed t-shirt and rosy cheeks as he played a magnificent medley solo. And they invited fans to come meet them again after the show, just like old times. You can tell that they totally enjoyed themselves on stage. That is what makes a great show.

Costa Rica’s Wild Beaches, Pura Vida, Liberia

Costa Rica indeed has it's version of a whitish sand beach, Playa Coco

Costa Rica’s Remote Beaches, Playa Coco
Photos and article by Paula Erskine
In the case of Costa Rica, pictures speak volumes of the remote or lightly populated nooky beaches. Although renting a car for just one day can be more expensive than longer periods of time, the roads are well signed and beaches easy to get to. Word to the wise and the wordpressians…do not speed and take note of the changing speed limits in Costa Rica. The police will gladly ticket you and are on the lookout for unlawful drivers. We split our truck rental 6 ways and if you have a credit card that covers car insurance on rentals, that will save you from taking insurance from the rental company. Even though we only had a day to spend at Play Flamingo and Playa Coco each, those few hours away from a hotel atmosphere felt like a week in relaxing chill land. Play coco is a place I would definatly return to. It had one main restaurant on the beach where we watched the sunset and listened to their local two piece band. There was also a small resort midway across the street with a pool, but 99% of them were at hotel pool. Which left the beach for just a few of us. As day turn to dusk, people filtered into the reggae bar to enjoy and marvel at this wild, and fairly undisturbed beach and it’s glorious sunset.

Costa Rica's sunset melts into the ocean at Playa Coco.

Costa Rica’s sunset melts into the ocean at Playa Coco.

All photos by Paula Erskine Loco Coco at Play Coco served up delicious food right down to it's coconut ice scream! on the beach dream.

All photos by Paula Erskine
Loco Coco at Play Coco served up delicious food right down to it’s coconut ice scream! on the beach dream.

The food was very innovative, adventurous and delicious at Loco Coco Restaurant in Playa Coco. Some of the best appetizers and meals I have ever had in Costa Rica. They had a two piece band that filled the background to the spectacular Costa Rican sunset. Great tables on the beach, which for some reason, has a whiter cast than other more volcanic brown beaches. Then again, I have never met a beach in Costa Rica I did not like.

The food was very innovative, adventurous and delicious at Loco Coco Restaurant in Playa Coco. Some of the best appetizers and meals I have ever had in Costa Rica. They had a two piece band that filled the background to the spectacular Costa Rican sunset. Great tables on the beach, which for some reason, has a whiter cast than other more volcanic brown beaches. Then again, I have never met a beach in Costa Rica I did not like.

Backlit by the Costa Rican Sunset, Playa Coco

Backlit by the Costa Rican Sunset, Playa Coco. Striped Navy and cream cotton maxi dress from BH department stores, England

Don't let the small waves fool you, they are tall enough to knock you over and spin you around. Be careful on all beaches, the currents are strong. Most of us chose to stay at knee or waist level and battle the waves, and refresh ourselves from the heat of the sun. Lots of fun, laughter and unexpected wave slaps. Just to keep us all in check. Playa Flamingo

Don’t let the small waves fool you, they are tall enough to knock you over and spin you around. Be careful on all beaches, the currents are strong. Most of us chose to stay at knee or waist level and battle the waves, and refresh ourselves from the heat of the sun. Lots of fun, laughter and unexpected wave slaps. Just to keep us all in check. Playa Flamingo

Why Costa Rica is One of My Favourite Places Costa Rica is the destination to rent a car and visit the many simple, unspoiled, nooky beaches all along the coast. It takes just a few hours away from a hotel to feel refreshed, energized, peaceful and gain the feeling that you alone have discovered these beaches with a handful of locals and very few outsiders. Playa Flamingo is very simple, feels very local and was not without it's own quirks. The beach sand had a thin film of water that was an incredible mirror to our own images and the sky. It is so great to be unplugged in paradise. Forget what you know about white sand beaches. Despite the volcanic brown sands, Costa Rica's beaches can really make you feel you have entered another world. The monkeys slept lazily in the trees above, the restaurant owner showcases his parrot pair, and the ocean's breaking waves can really throw you around, so be cautious with the current and stay close to the shore. I would say a picture says a thousand words in the case of Costa Rica, several pictures, a rented car, two wonderful beaches in two days, and keeping the great company of people who are not satisfied with cookie cutter vacations. Costa Rica is still wild, still unspoiled, and unpredictable. Go Wild and carefree, in Costa Rica.

Why Costa Rica is One of My Favourite Places
Costa Rica is the destination to rent a car and visit the many simple, unspoiled, nooky beaches all along the coast. It takes just a few hours away from a hotel to feel refreshed, energized, peaceful and gain the feeling that you alone have discovered these beaches with a handful of locals and very few outsiders. Playa Flamingo is very simple, feels very local and was not without it’s own quirks. The beach sand had a thin film of water that was an incredible mirror to our own images and the sky. It is so great to be unplugged in paradise. Forget what you know about white sand beaches. Despite the volcanic brown sands, Costa Rica’s beaches can really make you feel you have entered another world. The monkeys slept lazily in the trees above, the restaurant owner showcases his parrot pair, and the ocean’s breaking waves can really throw you around, so be cautious with the current and stay close to the shore. I would say a picture says a thousand words in the case of Costa Rica, several pictures, a rented car, two wonderful beaches in two days, and keeping the great company of people who are not satisfied with cookie cutter vacations. Costa Rica is still wild, still unspoiled, and unpredictable. Go Wild and carefree, in Costa Rica.

A simple beach restaurant on Playa Flamingo with it's owners perched to entertain us from above. (A couple of small hotels there, but not necessarily open to public.) Very local and spanish speaking atmosphere throughout, very unpopulated, they way we like it.)

A simple beach restaurant on Playa Flamingo with it’s owners perched to entertain us from above. (A couple of small hotels there, but not necessarily open to public.) Very local and spanish speaking atmosphere throughout, very unpopulated, they way we like it.)

Fascinating to watch these monkeys, some of which woke up long enough to trek along with their young from tree to tree. Playa Flamingo

Fascinating to watch these monkeys, some of which woke up long enough to trek along with their young from tree to tree. Playa Flamingo

Half way through my plate, I can say Playa Flamingo's simplest beach restaurant was tasty, but likely store bought fillets prepared with local, buttery goodness and again, store fries. Then again, some people prefer their fish filleted. We donated some clothes to one of the servers, used clean washrooms, and enjoyed their beachfront location, their pet parrots and onlooking monkey natives in the trees above all of which were keeping us entertained. My sunglasses hiding behind the water bottle would soon be swallowed in a fight with the waves at Playa Coco weeks later. The moment I survived several tumbles in the surf is the moment I said goodbye to my, ahem, "designer," prescription glasses. Several gulps of salt water cured my pining their loss for more than the hour that I searched for them to wash back up onto the beach.

Half way through my plate, I can say Playa Flamingo’s simplest beach restaurant was good, but likely store bought fillets prepared with local, buttery goodness and again, store fries. But we donated some clothes to one of the servers, used clean washrooms, and enjoyed their beachfront location, their pet parrots and onlooking monkey natives in the trees above all of which were keeping us entertained. My sunglasses hiding behind the water bottle would soon be swallowed in a fight with the waves at Playa Coco weeks later. The moment I survived several tumbles in the surf is the moment I said goodbye to my, ahem, “designer,” prescription glasses. Several gulps of salt water cured my pining their loss for more than the hour that I searched for them to wash back up onto the beach.

Other than the 2 hotels, which was lightly populated, we gladly visited this lone restaurant and it's humourous, rest station.

Other than the 2 hotels, which was lightly populated, we gladly visited this lone restaurant and it’s humourous, rest station.

Nature's Art Museum, the road to Playa Flamingo.

Nature’s Art Museum, the road to Playa Flamingo.

Of course, buses take local currency the equivalent of an American dollar. However, many buses later (and about 2 hours in the blazing sun across the road from Liberia's airport, and a spanish speaking qualified person interpreting our urgency to reach the beach the same day we set out, had us pondering the taxi alternative. Two hours in the blazing heat, we started to negotiate with several taxi drivers. Negotiating from in front of the airport is not in the least advantageous to getting a good price. But eventually, we came up with a $40 ride for 4. Time was ticking, and later we found out that the bus was in a major accident and had blocked traffic for miles. On the way back from Playa Flamingo, we saw these spectacular flower bushes. After visiting the local grocery store, we negotiated for a ride home with a Tina Turner type taxi driver. We pretended we only wanted to go to a certain stop half way and take the bus back to the airport from there. But in the darkness, and winding roads, our spanish qualified brother figure managed to negotiate a $25 direct to hotel rate. Which made us realize what a bad deal we got on the way to Playa Flamingo. Buses may be cheap in Costa Rica, but out of many buses that passed us, each one said it's "right behind this one" in vain. So if it the bus never comes, and you don't get to visit this quirky beach, then you can't afford not to take a taxi. Well worth visiting. Be prepared with american dollars and local currency and know the exchange before you set out. The hotel at Playa Flamingo had already sent their deposits to the bank and could not exchange  any money for us so we could eat in the simple beach restaurant. Upon leaving the beach area, we found a grocery store and one of us got it on good authority that there was a bank machine quite a bit down the road. The cabbie gave him a ride, quite a walk, to be nice. Nothing worse than facing a bank machine dispenses millions in local currency and not knowing the exchange. Enough said.

Of course, buses take local currency the equivalent of an American dollar. However, many buses later (and about 2 hours in the blazing sun across the road from Liberia’s airport, and a spanish speaking qualified person interpreting our urgency to reach the beach the same day we set out, had us pondering the taxi alternative. Two hours in the blazing heat, we started to negotiate with several taxi drivers. Negotiating from in front of the airport is not in the least advantageous to getting a good price. But eventually, we came up with a $40 ride for 4. Time was ticking, and later we found out that the bus was in a major accident and had blocked traffic for miles. On the way back from Playa Flamingo, we saw these spectacular flower bushes. After visiting the local grocery store, we negotiated for a ride home with a Tina Turner type taxi driver. We pretended we only wanted to go to a certain stop half way and take the bus back to the airport from there. But in the darkness, and winding roads, our spanish qualified brother figure managed to negotiate a $25 direct to hotel rate. Which made us realize what a bad deal we got on the way to Playa Flamingo. Buses may be cheap in Costa Rica, but out of many buses that passed us, each one said it’s “right behind this one” in vain. So if it the bus never comes, and you don’t get to visit this quirky beach, then you can’t afford not to take a taxi. Well worth visiting. Be prepared with american dollars and local currency and know the exchange before you set out. The hotel at Playa Flamingo had already sent their deposits to the bank and could not exchange any money for us so we could eat in the simple beach restaurant. Upon leaving the beach area, we found a grocery store and one of us got it on good authority that there was a bank machine quite a bit down the road. The cabbie gave him a ride, quite a walk, to be nice. Nothing worse than facing a bank machine dispenses millions in local currency and not knowing the exchange. Enough said.

Reflecting on the beautious Playa Flamingo beach... Seeing the sky mirrored across the glassy sand was magic.

Reflecting on the beautious Playa Flamingo beach… Seeing the sky mirrored across the glassy sand was magic.

all photos Paula Erskine Nothing better than a live sunset.

all photos Paula Erskine
Nothing better than a live sunset.

Single Travellers Can Avoid Single Supplement Fees in These All Inclusive Hotels

Your doing fine, Fidel...revolutionary guerilla fighter Camilo Cienfuegos overlooking Revolution Square, Cuba.

Your doing fine, Fidel…revolutionary guerilla fighter Camilo Cienfuegos overlooking Revolution Square, Cuba.

My father is retired and I am an active flight attendant and can share that trying to book a resort for a single person at an all-inclusive resort is like trying to find a needle in a haystack. Most single people end up paying double or a hefty premium on their vacations just because they want to vacay solo. As far as avoiding the single supplement fee, Cuba is your best chance in the Caribbean to get non single supplement all inclusive hotels. Also Cuba has places that are not all inclusive called “Casas” (houses) where you sleep and perhaps walk or bus to the beach. They used to be about $25 a night, not including food.

The three resorts in all of Cuba that came up for my single dad that were minimal fee to none single supplement fee were the following major all inclusive resorts as if this spring 2014:

Husa Cayo Santa Maria
Iberstar Daiquiri Cayo Coco
Blau Costa Verde Holguin

Your welcome, single supplement people, to Cuba’s pristine white sand beaches. They actually value your patronage and realize that just because you are travelling alone, doesn’t mean you should pay double. 

Another tip is to stay at private condos, bed and breakfasts that don’t penalize you. Hotels and Casas can be found off the beaten path, but are sometimes much more rewarding vacations. You get a chance to walk through the town, interact with the locals,and sample local foods and local prices.

Who does he think He is?

Which reminds me of a story of a van full of crew members and a tour we took in a taxi van with a 300lb. driver for $70 U.S. each. Our Spanish speaking crew member translated what became hilarious interactions and observations by our driver. Some Cubans in general rely on “sages” to help them, for example one seemed to cure his son of a bronchial illness. It seems that, because of communism, alot had taken to imported African customs and rituals to put it nicely. As the group of us joked more and more, it seems that I was laughing the loudest to which the driver looked back through his rear view mirror, sweating, and remarked, (translated), “We have a saying in Cuba…that someone who laughs alone, is possessed by the devil.” To which the whole van roared with laughter, mine the loudest. I tried to get my colleague to explain, that everyone was in fact laughing in the van, it’s just that…mine was the hysterical sounding laugh. But I was not laughing alone! To no avail. I made him nervous. Then we proceeded to park and visit a viewpoint in which we could watch Che Guevera’s house from atop a cliff. We self guided ourselves to the hill and the back of an imposing, giant statue with long hair. I was thinking from the back, a bearded character, maybe it is a statue of Che overlooking the house he used to live in. Yet, our driver did not mention the statue, the 20 metre statue on a cliff overlooking a good portion of the city. As we rounded the base of the statue, we were all wondering why our driver had not mentioned it. We all thought it peculiar in proportion to the tiny house of Che which was clearly overshadowed. As we stared up, a few of us realized by our own deductions that this indeed was a statue of Jesus in a communist country. Immediately I tried to understand the driver’s perspective and I said, “Well then, who does he think He is?” Even when we got back to the van, there was clearly an absence of detail about the site. We don’t know what the driver was thinking, but this was an unoffical tour which also did not mention the military shooting ranges we passed on the way there.
The tour continued on to Havana, again self-guided, wandering the streets. Upon our return towards our hotel in Varadero, after a long day, our superstitious driver invited us back to his home. None of us wanted to go, but didn’t want him to pick up on that. So in case he in fact did understand any english whatsoever, we decided to communicate to each other in a language we deemed “non-latin derivatives.” Sure, we used the word “dwelling” instead to refer to his house, and other vocabularly challenging references to discuss excuses to get out of it. Our eastern block colleague, looked at all of us giggling, and said, “I don’t get it,” with a straight face. Maybe that’s because we weren’t playing the game right. In the end, we could not gracefully bow out, and we actually enjoyed the tour of his house the most. The van had a huge garage, with ceramic black and white tile, and a few cloves of garlic hanging randomly. The kitchen was very tiny, with his wife handing him his bag of prescriptions as we came in. The bathroom had no toilet seat, which seems to be a luxury anywhere. And The 1 bedroom had two beds, in which they slept with their kids. The driver mentioned he was so grateful for having a van that could provide an income for his family and took up most of his house. Considering that the average Cuban makes $30 per month, it was pretty humbling. But this taxi driver, just made a a year’s income in one day with a van full of flight attendants. We still talk about how much we laughed to this day.

Who does he think He is?


Money Matters

For your airplane ride, nearly all airlines now only deal with credit cards and absolutely do not accept cash, debit cards, credit/debit cards or gift/visa cards. So please do get a credit card for your airplane journey in case you want something that is not provided onboard. Do not assume your airline is obliged to feed you and accomodate any special food needs you may have. Do not assume you will get your first meal choice onboard if there is a meal at all, as an airplane is NOT a restaurant. DO travel with snacks for your plane ride and DO buy your water after passing through security. You will be cold or hot on the plane and there is nothing you can do about it except buy a blanket or don’t. So may I humbly suggest, layer your clothes, bring that pashmina, wear socks, long pants, closed toe shoes (or socks and sandals), or those nifty convertible pants that turn into shorts. On your return flight you will be dressed for the sun but it gets cold in the plane fast, so DO bring your coat over your arm through security, you will be glad you brought it onboard and can sling it over legs when you realize you are only wearing shorts. Fleece zip up tops work great.

The subject on money in Cuba and other destinations…

Keep in mind, tourists do not have access to Cuban “convertible pesos”, but you can buy and pay for everything in regular Cuban pesos. Be sure to get some pesos if possible before you go. If it’s not possible, try the airport exchange or bank machines when you land as your best bet. You will need cash to convert for emergency funds, in case the ATM or bank machine is acting up at your hotel. You can also convert money at exchange kiosks for example in hotels. The lineups are sometimes long, but don’t expect that you will get a fair price for your dollars. It’s been my experience that we asked what the rate was, went in with our calculator, and checked the math, and the girl was ripping people off by a few dollars each time. The posted exchange rate, which sometimes puts their pesos at par with Canadian currency, is the rate you will get. It is futile to argue the posted exchange rate. I am referring to their “calculations” of that rate, so go in with your calculator and show her the facts if their is a discrepancy. Be polite but firm. Rudeness will get you nowhere. I have seen many drunk people go in to kiosks looking for more cash, perfect victims.

When using a bank machine down south, or anywhere other than your own bank…

-Do not ask for your balance, even if the machine offers. The machine’s brain cannot give you a balance, and then will inexplicably refuses you funds.
-Try your checking and/or your savings account.
-Try another “brand” of bank machine or another bank
-Research the approximate exchange so you don’t take out too much or too little, it will likely ask you how much you want in local funds, I repeat, local funds.

American dollars in Cuba…

Cuba does NOT accept American dollars due to the embargo imposed against them. Bring your calculator and check them astutely for any money exchange, but you have to accept whatever rate they give you, and the commission charged. Don’t expect locals to take credit cards, sometimes hotels won’t either, or they will not be able to process it as everything is a bit outdated in Cuba. Having said that, keep in mind that the average Cuban makes about $30 a month across the country, and the food will be quite reasonable. Always remember to go with the flow, and not try to westernize the countries you are visiting. We are privileged guests, and Cuba is generally one of the safest places to go in the Caribbean.

Image

Stuff your suitcase with unwanted, gently used items, donate them to staff or if you get a chance to interact with locals who do not have access to such luxuries, do that. I once gave 7 dresses to seven ladies to the wait staff of the dining room. Shoes, clothes and any supplies are always appreciated.These make great tips, as do tips in local currency. I learned in Africa, that leaving a tip in local currency is good, but over tipping when a local is making $30 is not a good idea either. Some airlines will give baggage extra baggage allowances for which you must fill out an official form to donate goods. You may have to declare these goods when you come in to the country. The best way is just fill your regular suitcases and go home a little lighter in every way.

footnotes: Thank you to http://www.talkingcuba.wordpress.com/tag/havana/ for the image of Jesus.

Jully Black and More at Burlington’s Epic Sound of Music Festival 2013

Jully Black and more at Burlington's Epic Sound of Music Festival

Burlington’s Sound of Music 2013 reached epic proportions with incredible talents like Jully Black, 54 40, Dirty Radio being the acts we were able to catch. These were among the greatest musical talents this city graciously offered to hundreds of thousands of visitors.
Jully Black’s performance just blew us all away with her power, her ability to verbally frame her songs and sing to the heart and soul of every member of the audience. She kicked up her stillettos, ran, punched through “the glass ceiling” referring to pushing past the mind’s limitations. She cried at one point from happiness and then transformed herself into this mighty image of Jully Black I had the privilege of capturing. Fans of Jully Black can check out her wonderfulness at http://jullyblack.com/

Burlington Sound of Music Festival 2013, Night Crowd, photo by Paula Erskine

Burlington Sound of Music Festival 2013, Night Crowd, photo by Paula Erskine

On of the many notable acts included Raine Maida of Our Lady Peace singing with his wife singer/songwriter musician Chantal Kreviazuk playing piano. Check out Chantal at her official website http://www.chantalkreviazuk.com/ and Raine Maida at http://www.rainemaida.net/. My friend Alexis reported it was an inspiring performance. If I can say anything negative about the Sound of Music Festival, is that there were so many great acts playing at the same time, it was impossible to enjoy them all! Even the smaller bands featured along Brant street,(which was blocked off for pedestrians), were extremely talented but I was only able to get some musical snippets as we headed to Spencer Smith Park to the massive 3 stages.

Backtracking to the first night of free concerts offered on Thursday, it was not as insanely busy and we managed to get another great spot, near the stage and discovered the band Dirty Radio. My cousin and I marvelled at the singer Farshad Edalat’s ability to sound like Justin Timberlake’s falsetto but then bring it back down to a low, smooth groove. They managed to woo the crowd with their rock-funk-rap-edge with some middle eastern mysticism peppered in that was very easy on the ears and eyes. Even though we were not familiar with this Vancouver band’s music, it was completely danceable, heady, and I would buy their album in a heartbeat. For more info. you can become a facebook fan and listen for yourself to their unique vibe at https://www.facebook.com/DiRTYRADiOMUSIC. Following them we caught a glimpse of Down with Webster which boasts more fans and a similar vibe, loads of fans and lots of energy. You can find them at https://www.facebook.com/downwithwebster. If we may be so bold, Dirty Radio won us over, big time.

54 40 at Burlington Sound of Music Festival 2013. Photo by Paula Erskine

54 40 at Burlington Sound of Music Festival 2013. Photo by Paula Erskine

The Burlington Sound of Music concert series was bigger than ever with 3 main stages in Spencer Smith Park and Brant street had at least 4 bands and tons of patios to enjoy. Sundays final performances were fan filled with hip favourites 54 40. Singer Neil Osborne and indeed the entire band never cease to emanate cool as they confessed their fanship of playing on the stage following April Wine. “It just brought back our own memories of high school, pizza and listening to April Wine,” he confided to the crowd of thousands. “I love music,” he proclaimed which sent a ripple into the mounting excitement of the crowd.
Using the “excuse” of it being Sunday, and Neil feeling all spiritual, he asked the crowd if he could get an “AMEN!” Not only that, he initiated then conducted the crowd with his energy to sing the well known gospel hymn with a series of Amens which filled the air up with gratitude for sharing music with our favourite singers. There was not one audience member that was not singing this gospel with one of the coolest bands in Canada.

Sharing my love for music with my cousin Valentina and the Burlington Sound of Music Festival 2013 and Burlington's new pier.

Sharing my love for music with my cousin Valentina and the Burlington Sound of Music Festival 2013 and Burlington’s new pier.

Fireworks topped off each evening lighting up the sky after unforgettable concerts. Where in the world can you see so many headline, mainstream, underground and new acts and high school favourite acts all in one massive festival? Burlington’s unique music festival united hundreds of thousands of people in their love for the Sound of Music in 2013.

For links to all the music offered and samples just visit http://www.soundofmusic.ca/ before it gets taken down! Click on all the links to terrific music! And don’t forget to visit next year! It is not Burlington’s only music festival, as there is also a Jazz and Rib Festival that lures people in with their Best Ribs contests and Jazz Blues rifts. But Burlington’s Sound of Music is the hippest, coolest, free-ist concert series this side of the border!

Burlington Pier 2013 Debut at Sound of Music Festival. Photo by Paula Erskine

Burlington Pier 2013 Debut at Sound of Music Festival. Photo by Paula Erskine

To compliment the entire festival, it cannot go unsaid that Burlington’s long awaited pier was so spectacular that all the mistakes associated with the construction eyesore and its abandonment was forgiven. Burlington’s pier has an Amsterdam, modern-UFO vibe to it that makes for incredible photos especially at twilight and night. I can’t say enough good things about the Burlington pier as I was so proud to show off it’s rocket ship qualities. The ever-changing colours infiltrating the Burlington waterfront skies has an international, modern yet inviting feel. The pier photo I captured emanated the musical energy of the festival, depicting notes and bars streaming through the atmosphere. The magical pier at Burlington’s waterfront is a strollers paradise. I suspect it will become a tourist hub that inspires, unites Burlington and reaches out in its appeal to those that appreciate its long awaited debut. Congratulations to the organizers of the most successful, moving, heart opening, world-class music festival in Burlington’s history that easily rivals any music festival on this great earth!

The Burlington Pier 2013 Debut, photo by Paula Erskine

The Burlington Pier 2013 Debut, photo by Paula Erskine