Monday, 26 February 2018

Out and About Playas del Coco, Costa Rica

Playas del Coco
We recently returned from our very first visit to Costa Rica .  We only explored Playas del Coco, fondly dubbed Coco, Guanacaste Province and surrounding area.  Our three weeks gave us time to look around and get a feel for the community but, in our opinion,  is not enough time to explore the country in the broader sense. Whenever we travel, our goal is to make a connection with the people we come across, with most of our efforts directed toward the local population.  In this way, we feel we come home with a better understanding of the culture we are visiting.

Bahia Coco
We chose Coco for a number of reasons.  First, you simply can't beat the weather.  Guanacaste Province is known for being sunny and warm year-round.  There is little to no rain from December to April and occasional afternoon rains during the wet season (May to September).  While that might not sound like much, it is during the rainy season that rivers run high and roads turn to mud, making travel throughout the country a much bigger challenge.  October 2017's Tropical Storm Nate wreaked havoc on area to the extent that many roads were impassable to all but four-wheel drive vehicles and horses.  Indeed, we visited a local farm a considerable distance from any waterbody which was under more than 1.5m (5)' of water during that time; and, if surging waters aren't enough to deter, consider crocodiles that might be roaming after the overflow! 

Playa Hermosa
Second, We understood that much of Costa Rica's Pacific
Coast has been developed for tourism. We tend to migrate toward communities where we can stay comfortably but still experience the local culture. Coco was suggested multiple times as a community that provided all the resources a tourist might look for, but without being over-developed.  While there is certainly a myriad of options for accommodation, there is limited choice in terms of all-inclusive and high-end resort communities, which suits us just fine.

Local 'sabanero' (cowboy) bull riders
Third, Guanacasta Province is known for its beaches and biodiversity and, lastly, the area is easily accessible by air and linked to any number of parks and cities by road.

Getting to Coco can be a little time consuming.  While Westjet offers a direct flight from Calgary, AB to Liberia for top dollar, other airlines  route through Toronto or USA destinations such as Houston.  Most Canadians are routed through Toronto.  It makes for a long day but we have travelled to Australia and that makes pretty much every other trip a hop, skip and a jump, by comparison.

Before leaving Alberta, we chose Maleku Tours to shuttle  us from the airport to our accommodation. Upon arrival at Liberia airport, Christopher was waiting for us and shortly after leaving the airport, handed me his phone to receive a personal greeting from Eugenia, the representative I connected with via email, prior to our arrival. Christopher helped us with banking and groceries, and shared his knowledge of his country and the local area. He never left our sides until we were safely at the door of our condo unit.  We used Maleku for all of our transportation needs, eventually meeting Eugenia, husband Geiner, brother Oscar, and sister-in-law Daniella.  The personalized service we received is second to none.  For dental appointments in Liberia we were not simply deposited at the door but, rather, escorted to receptions where arrangements were made for our retrieval upon completion.  Whenever we had a few minutes, we did a drive-by of local sites, always accompanied by tidbits of information about the community, the country, and the culture.  

Maleku is neither the cheapest or the most expensive but we got excellent value and always found our driver waiting for us (and we're always early!)  You can save a bit by paying with cash, be it in Colones or US dollars, which is preferred over credit cards by many businesses. From the moment we met Maleku Tours we knew we were always in good hands and, in case you're wondering, all our drivers were completely bilingual.

While it was suggested that a rental vehicle is a must, we didn't meet anyone who rented one for more than a few days here and there.  If you just want to putz around town, you can also rent golf carts, but the community is quite walkable and cabs are inexpensive.

Playas del Coco, Guanacaste Province map

Located approximately 32km (20mi) from Liberia, with a population of about 40,000, Playas del Coco is one of the oldest beach communities in Guanacaste Province and, we soon discovered, one of the fastest growing.  We met many Canadians who visited annually who were adamant that prices have increased dramatically over the past five years, blaming the introduction of a high-end resort to the area. Local salaries are about $1,000/mo CAD after taxes.  While food and lodging are somewhat less expensive than in Canada, you can still expect to pay $65 for a pair of Levis and $1.37/litre for gasoline.  

Evening Stroll Along Playa Coco
Main street is primarily restaurants and shops while the beach features a winding promenade frequented by the local Costa Rican families and tourists alike.  The water in this area tends to be calmer than the beach further east; while great for strolling it has a considerable undertow and was much less popular for swimming.  There are numerous other beaches in the area, including Playas Hermosa, Ocotal and Flamingo which are much more popular for dipping more than your toes into the saltwater.  Interestingly, each area seems to sport a different colored sand.  While Coco is dark and silty, Hermosa was coarse and golden and sporting many shells.  Ocotal is white.

Waiting for the Horse Parade
If you are of the opinion that Costa Rica is a third world country, you are mistaken. In December 1948, the military was abolished and those funds directed toward education, health care and a durable social safety net. 70 years later, Costa leads Latin  America and the Caribbean region in health and primary education, having a 98% literacy rate.  It provides universal health care and has a history of support for peace and conflict resolution without violence. Feel free to drink the water straight from the tap in all but the most rural areas.  Although it wasn't on the agenda, I found myself getting bridgework with Enrique Parra Dental Care at about one-third of my Alberta estimate and (I'm told) the materials are the same as those used throughout Canada and the USS, Personally, the temporary looked better than my previous bridge and I couldn't be more pleased with the permanent. We met several who found themselves requiring emergency medical care, including orthopedic surgery, all with glowing reviews! We found many who frequent Coco taking care of dental and vision needs simply because  the standards are the same or similar to Canada at about one-third the cost.

Coco has a sense of humour
While Coco is what I would certainly consider a safe community, there are incidents of car theft, drug trafficking and petty theft just as there is everywhere in the world.  Be smart and don't make yourself a target.  Leave expensive jewelry at home; don't leave possessions unattended on the beach;  or your purse on the table while you dance. Use your in-room safe or store cash, credit cards, documents and other valuables out of sight.  

Green Iquana
There is a vast array of tourism opportunities, from zip lining, horseback and ATV tours and myriad water-based activities such as scuba diving, snorkeling, surfing, sailing river boating and raft trips. Eric went off-shore fishing for red snapper; not only did he bring home dinner, he made new friends and had the satisfaction of helping a distressed dolphin caught in fishing line.  Here's the rescue on video!

Many visit the still active Rincon de laVieja Volcano where the fumaroles, hot springs and scenery are purportedly amazing and, if you are up to it, you can add a waterfall that we're told is absolutely worth a sweaty 10km round-trip hike.  We ourselves strolled beaches, boated a brackish river to find myriad reptiles, animals and feathered friends, and learned about the rich and extensive agricultural area from our guide, Oscar, himself a farmer. 

One of the many participants in' 'El Tope' Parade of Horses
Everyone loves a parade!
As Guanacaste is the heart and soul of Costa Rica's equestrian life, it is a fitting place to witness 'El Tope' Parade of Horses from a local soda. You don't even have to be a fan of horseflesh to appreciate poetry in motion. And did I mention, these people know how to party! If Canada thinks that it created 'tailgating', not so; since Colonial times, spectators and riders alike mark this event by filling the streets, all the while drinking beer and barbecuing meats.  

Coming from the land of the Calgary and Ponoka Stampedes, the local rodeo was a bit of an eyeopener.  Trust me when I say that the amount of testosterone in the air is palpable and I'm not talking about the bull. Held in an enclosure akin to a large round pen, young men test their courage by darting in front of the bull to distract it from the fallen rider. While there were no clowns, per se, there were definitely individuals highly skilled at this deflection.  There were many more fueled by a lot of beer but surprisingly, nobody got hurt while we were there.

The parade, along with bull riding and bull fighting, marks the beginning of some of the country's biggest parties and, admittedly, some of its best food! You simply must try the churros and pork and chicken skewers!  

We would also be remiss if we didn't mention the Leatherbacks. Calling Tamarindo home, it is one of the best classic rock cover bands we have had the pleasure of dancing to (not once, but twice!) in some time.  Sadly, we missed a third opportunity at the Blues Festival, held the weekend following our departure.

Be forewarned, you will be responsible for sourcing out much your own entertainment.  Advertising of these local events was all pretty much by word of mouth, and all but the Leatherbacks seemed to run on 'Tico Time'. El Tope, scheduled to begin at 3pm, really didn't get going until dusk, a fact that the locals seemed to be well aware of. Not a problem; we made this an opportunity to acquaint ourselves with the family of our server at the soda we were dining at.  With not a single word of English on the menu, and little more spoken by the staff, we put out best Spanglish to use.  Two things I know:  I'm always good to go with a meal of pollo and I don't want to be anywhere near camarones.

Guanacaste's 'sabanero' (cowboy) culture is alive and well

Hotel and condominium accommodation abound in every size and price range. We ultimately chose Unit #25, in the Las Torres complex, located in Las Palmas Urbanization (see map, above).  About 20 years ago, the area was home to numerous 'cabinas' and frequented by Costa Rican families during holidays. Located about a 10-minute walk north(ish) of Main Street and 5 minutes from the beach, Las Palmas is today a quiet residential community of condominiums and single detached homes.  A strip mall, with mini-mercado and several restaurants, is conveniently located at its entrance; there is a second mini-mall with a couple of restaurants at the other end of the development.  The main road can be a little treacherous at night (there are no sidewalks and the ditches are steep) but is otherwise perfectly safe and getting to the beach is easy-peasy; keep your eye open for the howler monkeys.

Las Torres Condominium Complex
Las Torres complex hosts 48 studio apartments, the largest centralized pool we saw, community laundry room and covered seating area.  The grounds are clean and well groomed, the lovely pool immaculate. There was activity around the pool throughout the day but by 8pm everything was quiet. The only downside we saw in the complex itself is the laundry; with 48 units vying for a single washer and dryer, you had to be on your toes!

Geoffroys Howler Monkey, found throughout Guanacaste
We rented Unit #25 for 3 weeks. While not a fan of ground floor units, this one was conveniently located close to the pool, particularly so, as there are no poolside chairs or loungers. You will want to ensure your unit provides seating appropriate for outdoors (all do not).  While layouts vary, they are all about 200m2 and include a 'bedroom' with closet, separated by a curtain or accordion wall; a kitchen with table and chairs and bathroom with shower. 

Unit #25 has no front-facing windows, which significantly reduces outside noise (we heard nothing) however that is where privacy ends.  The bamboo blinds on the other two windows are ill-fitting and you can see through them in the evening when the indoor lights are on. Both face directly into other units.  The unit is stocked with the most basic of dishware, cutlery, and cooking utensils. Cleaning supplies or typical household items such as coffee, salt, pepper, spices, etc. are not provided; you are expected to purchase these items. Since we were there for only a short stay, we found this both disappointing and wasteful. This unit is clearly a rental property, much akin to an efficiency motel room, not to mention, in need of a deep clean and paint job. In my discussions with others, it is also overpriced; where most units cost in the vicinity of $900-$1000 CAD/month, our unit was $500 CAD/week.

Do not let this deter you from Las Torres as there are some lovely units in this complex; we just didn't get one. Frankly, if you want us to respect a rental like a home, then provide us with a homelike environment. While we managed fine in our three weeks, we would never consider it for a long-stay and there are a few things I would insist upon, including a second set of sheets, particularly as the laundry is often unavailable.  Our final word:  while we recommend the Las Torres complex (see references below); we would not recommend Unit 25.

Faciated Tiger-Heron
We took a single organized tour of the Palo Verde Jungle, with Oscar, of Maleku Tours. Palo Verde National Park is a remote sanctuary best known for preserving wetlands.  Ironically, it's also one of the world's best examples of a tropical dry forest. Not only will you see a wide range of water fowl along Guanacaste's longest river, the Tempisque, there is a good chance of spotting at least some of the howler and white-faced monkeys, iguanas, scarlet macaws, anteaters, crocodiles and caimans, along its banks.  

American Crocodile:  prior to the 1970's they were hunted for their hide and almost extinct in Costa Rica
White  Faced Capuchin Mother and Babe
Our guides made a concerted effort to educate us on each species and remind us that feeding wild animals is prohibited by law. Not only is there a risk of injury (for us and the animal), but also one of transmitting disease, particularly between us and our not-so-distant relatives hanging in the trees.  We enjoyed a Costa Rican lunch and watched a demonstration of how pottery was made by indigenous Guaitil people. We visited Pedro, a lovely gentleman who resided in a 100+ home built by his father and grandfather.

Pedro, his sisters and neighbours make bread in his outdoor oven
So that you too can have a little taste of Costa Rica, I've included a recipe.  While Costa Rica fare is generally not spicy, Chilera can be found on many of its tables during the afternoon meal. If you are adventurous, or enjoy pain, dig deep to the bottom of the jar for the peppers, onions and other veggies.  Alternatively, simply scoop up some of the juice and add a bit of a kick to your rice and beans. You also might want to try a bottle of Lizano; we brought several home as gifts.

The Chilera is spicy; normally it is to combine with the lunch. In all the restaurants you will find it in the top of the table.

1-12 small hot peppers
2-3 large carrots sliced in thin round pieces
2-3 large onions sliced in thin pieces
4-1/2 cups of a cauliflower chopped in small pieces (optional)
2 cups of your favorite fruit vinegar
1 cucumber sliced medium

Combine all the vegetables, hot peppers, vinegar and enough water to fill a container.
Refrigerate for about two weeks until the vegetables and vinegar have absorbed the flavor of the hot peppers.
Used when serving rice and bean dishes and other meals. Shake on or add a few drops of the vinegar to the meal, or add to a soup use it wherever you would a hot sauce.
The pickled vegetables can also be eaten as a side dish. Beware, they are Spicy!

And so ends my reminisces of another vacation well spent.  If you find this information useful or pleasurable in any way, please feel free to share.  If you have questions, please ask them.  Until we meet again. . .


Las Torres Rentals
#8: location=Las%20Torres%20Del%20Coco%20Studios%2C%20Coco%2C%20Costa%20Rica&checkin=&checkout=&adults=1&children=0&infants=0&s=iFjrpeM5

Thursday, 4 January 2018

The Tale of Twelve Raisins: Or How to Incur a Humongous Vet Bill

I've written before of our trials and tribulations with our pets.  Those who know us well also know that we will go the extra mile for our fur-kids.  This story is no different.

For the past two months, our lovely  Quinn has been on a vet-prescribed elimination diet to determine what is making her so darn itchy. She is so itchy, in fact, that we now refer to her as 'Itchy Skin Quinn'.  We are fortunate to know hunters who are willing to provide us with those parts of the animal that are not used for human consumption so we can make Quinn's meals on a daily basis. And we don't stop at diet; she is bathed twice weekly with a prescription shampoo and receives a bi-weekly concoction of herbs and oils designed to be absorbed directly into the fatty layer of her skin.

We are now a fully 60+ days into Quinn's elimination diet; as such, I think it's fair to suggest that this limited palette is getting a little dull.  Fortunately (for us), she has never been a food thief, not even of her treats we keep on a side table used daily for brief training sessions.  Perhaps we counted our chickens (or our treats) too soon, as we proudly bragged her up at Christmas that she might sniff  but never actually helps herself to food without our permission, not even her own meals.  Perhaps, we need to be more humble; perhaps we need to learn never to say 'never'.

Only two nights ago, Eric made a deliciously spiced mix of burger, onion, dried bread crumbs and egg.  After a number of consecutive days of bitter - 40+C days, he excitedly went to fire up the bar-b-que in our -10C heat wave, only to return to find Quinn, forepaws resting comfortably on the counter, two burgers missing and confidently working on a third.  Suffice to say, he was not pleased.  Not only was this our supper; not only was this tasty little meal well outside Quinn's elimination diet; it also contained onions, known to be toxic to dogs.  After a bit of research we came to understand that one small dose is unlikely to create a significant problem, whereas several small doses over time would.   

While we were still not pleased with this new behavior, who can stay mad at a face like this?  'To err is canine. . . to forgive is devine,' and all that stuff.  

The incident was all but forgotten when, the very next day, Eric left a butter tart on the table unattended for a total of two minutes when it literally vanished.  Quinn was contentedly working on her moose-stuffed kong at the time. While looking somewhat guilty, when he returned, she was back on her bed, kong between paws.  But, as there were only the two of them on the floor, and one was sure he didn't eat the butter tart, there was only one place to turn. . . 

Here is where the story gets really crazy.  While we knew grapes and raisins were not good for dogs, we had NO IDEA just how toxic they can be.  We read several articles, every single one of which insisted the consumption of even a single raisin is sufficient cause for an immediate trip to the vet. We then phoned the after hours emergency clinic, only to be assured that everything we have read was correct.  Off we went!

The first step was to induce vomiting which would hopefully produce the offending foods.  Sure enough, Quinn threw up 12 wee raisins, which were then weighed to determine the potential level of toxicity.  We now know that there is no real understanding why a grape or raisin can be lethal to a dog.  Indeed, some dogs die from ingesting a single fruit, while others can get away with a handful and be unaffected.   What we do know is that there is no antidote; prevention is the best route and, when that doesn't work, it's a matter of purging the system of any offending substances,  and observation.  After sharing my experience with an on-line international dog group, I received myriad food-related comments that demonstrate just how toxic some things can be to our four-legged friends.  One woman who lives in an area where vineyards flourish said she has seen dogs eat grapes right off the vine and yet, her friend's dog ate some of the fallen grapes and died within 24 hours.

We now know that grapes, raisins and currants (Vitis species) can cause kidney failure in dogs.  Foods such as raisin bran cereal, trail mix, granola or, as in our case, baked goods, all have the potential to be toxic.  While dogs that ingest large volumes are more likely to suffer more severe consequences, and some dogs have more tolerance than others, there is no way to predict which dogs are more sensitive.

The most common symptom of toxicity is vomiting, usually within the first 24 hours, followed by lack of appetite, lethargy and possibly, diarrhea.  More severe signs are not seen until 24 - 48 hours after ingestion, when acute kidney failure begins.  The kidneys may shut down, the dog will not produce urine and blood pressure will increase dramatically. The dog then lapses into a coma. By now it is obvious that outcomes are poor.

So here sits poor Quinn, confined to a cage in a place with strange smells and too many bright lights.  In our ignorance, we did not immediately research the toxicity of raisins; it was a full 3.5 hours before we were standing at the door of the emergency medical clinic. As stated, induced vomiting produced the offending 12 raisins, after which Quinn was administered activated charcoal to prevent further absorption of the toxin. Intravenous fluids are being administered to flush any remaining toxins out of her body as quickly as possible.  After 48 hours her kidney values will be assessed to determine whether the treatment needs to be more aggressive.  Blood work may need to be repeated at 72 hours and even two or three days following. 

Prognosis depends on many factors, not the least of which is, how sensitive the dog is, how significant the poisoning, how soon the dog was decontaminated and whether there was any clinical signs of kidney failure. Because Quinn ate only a few raisins, this combined with her size, our relatively quick response and the medical treatment she is receiving, her prognosis is very good and we are cautiously optimistic.  As of a few hours ago, we have been advised by her veterinary caregivers that she is doing well and shows no signs of kidney damage.  If the kidneys become damaged and urine is not being produced, the prognosis is indeed poor and fatality becomes likely.

While it's all well and fine to joke about our beloved pets getting into mischief, we are painfully aware that our negligence can easily have outcomes that are not even remotely laughable.  Common foods that are toxic to dogs include onions, garlic, alcohol, chocolate, cocoa, macadamia nuts, fatty foods and all foods containing the sweetener xylitol to the list, all of which can be fatal.  In Quinn's case, ingestion of onions in the burgers she helped herself to the evening prior, may easily have compounded the problem.  And if her health (perhaps her very life) doesn't inspire us to take better care, perhaps the bill will; the estimate received starts at $1,200CAD, with the potential to double over as many days. We feel fortunate that we do not have to ask ourselves whether this is, in fact, an expense we can easily absorb.  Many would not only find this a significant hardship; they simply could not do it!

Grapes and raisins have only been identified as a potential problem for dogs, though there have been some anecdotal reports of cats and ferrets being affected so the best advice is to keep them away from all your animals.

We anxiously await the results of Quinn's kidney function tests, scheduled for 11pm tonight.  As with any other beloved family member, we are likely to be found at her side. If it's good news, we may get to bring her home with us!  I think it's fair to say, two nights without her near is two nights too many, for us and for her; while we know she is being cared for, it's certainly not home. . . and there is no place like home, right?

UPDATE:We brought Quinn home and she seems none the worse for wear except that her poop is like black tar (due to the activated charcoal) and she must not have enjoyed it going down because her coat is full of charcoal too lol. The bill was even slightly less than the original estimate so that's a good thing too! so here are a few other things we learned last night:
1. vets see a whole bunch of dogs over the christmas season, mostly due to being fed turkey or ham; either the bones cause a problem (cooked bones can also kill a dog) or with pancreatitis due to the fat.
2. if you have a dog that gets into something you should phone for advice. If you absolutely CANNOT get the dog in, you can induce vomiting but it is rarely recommended as it isn't always successful, which compounds the problem and there is only a short window of opportunity (about an hour)
3. the issue of toxicity is very complicated and not well understood for all substances. some dogs are highly sensitive to chocolate, while the one vet assistant talked of her little dog getting into the Halloween candy, eating many chocolate bars, and none the worse for wear. In other words, it's a crap shoot. We chose to err on the side of caution.
4. as with most things, prevention is the best option. We learned a rather expensive lesson; the fact that it pinches a little isn't such a bad thing.


Saturday, 14 October 2017

Cape Forchu: Perhaps Acadia's Best Kept Secret

We didn't so much as stumble upon Cape Forchu; moreso, we were guided by a friend involved in the lighthouse restoration; otherwise we would likely not have found it.  Cape Forchu, meaning 'forked cape' was so named by Samuel de Champlain in 1604.  Shipwrecks were common along this shoreline; also known as the Yarmouth Light, constructed in 1839, the light station became one of a chain of lighthouses which protected vessels along this coast.  

Standing on the headland of the most southwestern tip of Nova Scotia, the structure stands almost 23 metres high and 37.5 metres above sea level at the mouth of the Bay of Fundy. Nova Scotia's only intact lighthouse open to the public, the light station was the first 'applecore' style lighthouse. The original light, lit in 1840, consisted of ten carefully placed oil lamps which was later changed to kerosene.  Later, a mathematically precise globe, built in France by physicist Augustin-Jean Fresnel, refracted and reflected light to send rays visible up to 32 kilometers. The lanterns were eventually replaced when electricity finally came to the Cape, in 1940.  From 1840, to 1972, there were no less than twelve lightkeepers. The last three were not lightkeepers in the traditional sense but monitored the Coast Guard equipment.  With computerization and modern technology the station was no longer required and was decommissioned in 1994.

In much the same way as Western Canada's prairie sentinels, the grain elevators, in the mid 1990's, lighthouses were being decommissioned and still remain today in grave danger of being demolished as societies scramble to raise funds for restoration. In 1996, spearheaded by resident volunteer Craig Harding, the Friends of the Yarmouth Light Society was formed and in June 2000, it became the first operating lightstation in Canadian history to be transferred to a municipality and entrusted to the care of the Society.  In 2003 Cape Forchu Lightstation was designated a Provincial Heritage site.  

Along with the countless hours of volunteers and gifts of corporate sponsorship, private donations play a vital role in funding required for maintainance and operations.  The keeper's house, built prior to 1940,  has been transformed into a museum and cafe.  A second house is now a gift shop while the grounds have been developed to form Leif Ericsson Park, with walking paths, picnic sites and benches, not to mention fascinating geology.  Here's an interesting tidbit: The rocks that form the Cape were originally part of what is presently North Africa, joining Nova Scotia through the processes of continental drift! They were, in fact, already 200,000,000 years old when dinosaurs began roaming our planet!  

While you might be tempted to explore these rocks, beware the power of the mighty Atlantic.  On clear days, rogue waves have been known to crash over the rocks to the right of the lightstation and spill into the parking lot below.  That may mean nothing to you now but when you get there, you will see that the parking lot is a significant distance from the water's edge!

While the Lightstation may be the attraction, getting there is not only scenic but a reminder of Nova Scotia's coastal heritage, as one meanders through the charming and active fishing village of Cape Forchu.  The Cape may not have received the same level of fame as Peggy's Cove, on Nova Scotia's South Shore, but it is not without it's charm. Home to the largest and most diverse fishery in Atlantic Canada, Cape Forchu, is culturally and historically tied to fishing and its related industries. In the 1930s and '40's about 30 families lived on the bar.  While most of the homes are gone, the Cape still remains active.  

The stunning seaward vistas is what first catches the eye, however, if you take some time to meander along the docks, and chat up a few of the locals you will find a vibrant community of hard working and friendly fishermen willing to take a break from their chores and share a bit about their lives and their community. It is their kindness, their stories, that captured my heart.  

Incidentally Cape Forchu, along with the  Yarmouth, Digby, Annapolis, Shelburne and Queens Counties form the UNESCO designated Southwest Nova Biosphere Reserve.  One of only 18 biospheres in all of Canada, there is a plethora of information on the website (link below).

If you are in the area, plan to spend a few hours on this seaside adventure. 


Monday, 28 August 2017

A Throwback in Time: Priddis & Millarville Fair

Do you remember waiting, with eager anticipation for the local annual fair to commence?   As the date grew ever closer, it was a time that my parents found themselves with children eager to clean house, weed the garden or anything that might earn them a little extra pocket money.  While the fairway, petting zoo, grandstand show and pony chucks were often the main attraction, equally important were the many competitions, ranging from pie eating and rooster crowing contests, to heavy horse pulls, light horse shows and other livestock competitions, and let's not forget the bench exhibits, from field crops to flowers, vegetable gardens, arts and crafts, home cooking and baking, and woodworking.

Competitors took their competition very seriously.  The fruits of your labour, so to speak, not only had to be expertly crafted, but skillfully displayed as well. I can remember thinking how wonderful being a baking judge must be, if only because they actually got to sample every single entry! In hindsight, it was probably more of a challenge, knowing full well that each contest literally pitted neighbour against neighbour, friend against friend.

When all was said and done, there were important lessons to be learned from these experiences. Above all else, it was imperative to maintain the spirit of good sportsmanship and, if you were lucky, perhaps the proprietor of the winning entry would be kind enough to share a secret or two, that could be applied to your own arsenal of skills.

The Priddis & Millardale Fair, one of several events hosted by he Millarville Racing & Agricultural Society, has successfully lived up to its vision of preserving its history, traditions and natural environment while promoting rural and agricultural experiences in a welcoming and cooperative manner.   

As I visited the many displays I couldn't help but be reminded of the myriad talent and an eye for beauty that surrounds us in any waking moment of each and every day. While I studied the children's crafts, I knew there was someone in the background helping small hands mold one material or another into a work of art.  

How difficult it must be to come up with an original idea displayed in such a manner that will be sure to catch the eye of a judge or two; but to be the one who had to determine the winning entry must be challenging indeed!

2017 marks the 110th anniversary of the Priddis & Millarville Fair.  One of Alberta's oldest and largest country fairs, it has become a place where one can learn about the area's vast agricultural history, hold and pet animals, view the creations of local artisans, gardeners, photographers and wood workers.  From field crops to honey bees, these products are made, baked or grown in Alberta. 

While remaining true to its roots, the Fair has also evolved through the years. I'm not sure that someone would have deemed a salt lick a work of art but, I admit, it was one of the many competitions that caught my eye.   Nor would it have occurred to me that someone could build an electric guitar out of old fence boards but, now that you've seen it can be done, it's rather eye-catching, is it not? And I don't even know what to say about the cleverly crafted owl made of dryer lint!

If you enjoy rubbing shoulders with a close-knit community; if you take pleasure in admiring the fruits of someone else's labour of love; if you feel the need to share a walk down memory lane with someone, the Priddis & Millarville Fair is deserving of your time. There's something of interest for everyone.  Who knows; perhaps you'll be inspired to enter something yourself. . . everybody's welcome at the Fair. . .