Happy Birthday To The Gift-Giver

Paulo's birthday tradition

My generous husband turned 38 today, and he continued his two birthday traditions which are nothing like mine:

  1. bake a cake and take it to work for his colleagues;
  2. donate blood (he also donates platelets and plasma, and today he donated red blood cells, too — today the clinic gave him this t-shirt).

Can you imagine how much it would boost the general blood supply if everyone who didn’t donate at all — and could — at least did it on their birthday? Paulo donates all year and has been doing so for many years. He was given a certificate of recognition a few years ago for reaching a milestone, and since last year he’s been exempt from most of the small user fees that are associated with universal health care in Portugal, such as doctor’s visits.

This year Paulo took it up a notch: he invited the family over for dinner, which resulted in a slew of rapid housekeeping last night and a flurry of food-related activity today. (It should come as no surprise, then, that he’s fast asleep on the couch with Ice right now.)

Next year Paulo’s birthday is on a weekend, which means he won’t be baking a cake to take to work. Ice and I have time to come up with something better!

Paulo's birthday tradition

July 31, 2015
Album: Portugal [Summer 2015]

2015 F1H2O Grand Prix In Porto/Gaia

Grande Prémio de Portugal F1 | PORTO – GAIA I 31 julho a 2 agosto

Not since Fight For Independence 9 have I been this excited about covering a sporting event, but as the sport of powerboat racing is new to me I must admit it evokes an extra frisson of anticipation. I’ve got a press pass and I’ll be shooting for three days (Friday-Sunday), so I will leave you with a preview video and the relevant links to check out in the meantime.

Official website: http://www.f1h2o.com/
Porto race details: http://www.f1h2o.com/race/3
Official event guide in Portuguese: http://issuu.com/porto-lazer/docs/guiaf1h2o

Some fast facts:

  • In 2015 eight teams and 16 drivers from 10 countries will compete at eight Grand Prix in Europe, the Middle East and Asia.
  • Grand Prix locations are usually held on lakes, rivers, protected bays or inland waterways. Every race circuit is different in size, but are generally about 2000 meters in distance. Each circuit has at least one long straightaway and several tight turns, mostly left with one or two right turns.
  • F1H2O boats accelerate faster than even the most state-of-the-art F1 cars; they are capable of going from standstill to 160 km per hour in only 4 seconds, reaching top speeds of around 230km/hr and taking sharp turns at 4.5G.


  • There is one Portuguese driver (from Lisbon) who the home crowd will be cheering for: Duarte Benevente, currently in 15th place, in points.
  • There is one female driver in this field of men: Marit Stromoy of Norway, currently in 9th position, in points.

I’m A Transat Expat Expert For Porto

I’m very excited to share with you my participation in a new series for the Experience Transat website by Air Transat, a holiday travel airline based in Canada, where I get to talk about my new home base: Porto!

As an expat Canadian living in one of Air Transat’s European destination cities, I was invited to share my insider knowledge of Porto with other Canadians. They asked me to choose my three favourite spots here and write about them, and another three spots which we could film — these are places which you won’t find in most (if any) guidebooks. The biggest challenge was to decide which spots to show — I have so many, and by publishing time I will have more! How on earth do I narrow down my list??

I managed to complete everything just a few days before our anniversary trip, and my first article was published on the website last week. Click on the image to head straight to the article:

Miramar's Breathtaking Miracle Chapel in Porto, Portugal

My first article as a #TransatExpertExpat is up!


More of my articles will be rolling out over the next weeks, PLUS the video interview that was filmed last month in Porto. I’ve seen the first draft, and once the shock of seeing myself on a screen wore off, I was able to relax and enjoy it… :) As someone who is always behind the camera, I can tell you only my passion for Porto could get me in front of the camera!

You can find my bio here, and under that the links to my articles (and upcoming video):


Stay tuned for more!

13th Blogiversary

a birthday cake brought over from Dusseldorf for me (no, it's not my birthday)

Happy Birthday, Blog!

My blog is now officially a teenager (yikes) in human years, which makes me more of an elderblogger, except I’m still a ways from 50. But now that I’ve reached this milestone of 13 years, how old would this site be in internet years?

On Quora, some say it’s the same as dog years (x7), some say x2, or square the number. If I were to use dog years my blog would be 91 today, which means it’s old enough to do anything and get away with it… smoke, trespass, speed, wear slippers and pyjamas in the grocery store — why not? After 5,384 post titles, this blog has earned its stripes. I still cringe at some of the early vapid posts, particularly from 2002-2004, the same way I cringe at my school photos. But I would never delete those early posts, they’re snapshots in time. I started this blog when I was 30, in university and procrastinating on my essays. Little did I know what I’d be writing about in the 13 years since then.

If Only Blogs Could Talk (Like Humans)

And then, of course, there’s all the stuff I couldn’t write about, and wouldn’t write about. There are stories I can only tell in person, because they don’t belong on the internet. For every story I write here, there are dozens more I wished I could tell. As much as the internet is expanding and assisting and detailing our lives, it is not a medium best suited for human interaction. It facilitates, but it can be rather limiting in its ability to tell a story properly, even enriched with pictures and video.

You can travel vicariously through a blog, but it’s no real substitute for actual travel. Comment fields just aren’t the same as real discussions. I don’t receive many comments here, but I do receive more email and I value those more than comments, the same way I value one-on-one conversations more than group discussions.

Content Is Still King

The internet is an evolving technology and goes through as many fashion stages as apparel. And, just like fashion, those who chase the trends end up with a site that looks just like everybody else’s and cringe at those choices once they’re outdated. You can dress it up how you like, but content is still king.

I can’t tell you how many fancy travel blogs I encounter in my web wanderings that have the most superficial of content, pumped full of keywords and SEO. Sometimes I wonder if the writers even visited the location at all or were the words and photos scraped off of other blogs. When I see comments obviously generated from blog hops and other networks dedicated to building followers, it makes me quite cynical (and realistic) when it comes to the state of the blogosphere in general. People get very hung up on statistics — page views, rankings, popularity — and don’t bother with research, checking sources, spelling or grammar. Then there’s my personal pet peeve: writing posts that are antagonistic, contrarian, or just plain insulting with the sole purpose of making a post go viral. Nothing gets page views faster than controversy. Please don’t feed the trolls!

Learning To Ignore The Naysayers

I remember reading articles in the past that said blogging was dead, but you know what? I don’t care. I don’t pander to anyone, I have kept this space for myself to post freely. I have continued to blog through the boom of social networks and microblogging platforms like Tumblr and Twitter. I use them all, but my blog takes priority because I own my content here. One day those sites will be the victims of corporate mergers or acquistions or disappear altogether, but I’m still chugging along here with even more dedication than I had when I began. I can’t say that about anything else I do, except maybe photography.

On Being Consistent

But lets see if the numbers reflect my claim for consistency…

I’ve updated the Excel file to find that I’m only a few posts down from last year, which is encouraging since last year was the first time I stopped the decline in posts which started in 2009 and continued to 2013. Thing is, I have more pictures than ever I want to show but what slows me down isn’t the volume of pictures, it is this: I feel compelled to write about those pictures but writing is my major weakness. I mentioned this to a friend who was visiting recently and she was surprised to hear it.

“Really? But you’re prolific.”

Prolific is an illusion. Readers only see the end result, not what comes before. Ever watched someone churn out a book? The only people who know how long it takes writers to write are the people who live with them. I don’t call myself The Slowest Writer Ever™ for nothing, and my husband would likely agree. You would think I’d be faster at this after 13 years (I’ve exceeded my 10,000 hours!) but apparently it doesn’t work that way. Although it takes me approximately 10x longer than anyone to come up with the same amount of content, we are ultimately judged by the content than the speed so that’s what keeps me going.

13th blogiversary

5,384 posts (including this one); I’ve been trying to come up with original post titles since 2002!

Cheers to the blog for making it to that magic number 13!


Big Waves In Marsalforn, Malta

Marsalforn, Malta

photo by Paulo

While in Malta last month, we spent a couple of days on the smaller, quieter island of Gozo. We opted out of car rental and took the public bus instead, which worked just fine for us on the first day. On the second day we hired a private taxi and driver for five hours, which we shared with one of our couchsurfing hosts and a Finnish guy I’d met in Xewkija the day before. At €50 between the four of us, it was an efficient and economical way to get around the island.

One of the places we visited on Day 2 was Marsalforn, a little resort town on the north side of the island. Their bay was pummeled by waves whipped up by the strong winds that day. While the sun was blazing, the sea was ferocious against the sea wall — a sight to behold!

Marsalforn, Malta

Marsalforn, Malta

photo by Paulo

Marsalforn, Malta

photo by Paulo

Our Finnish cohort decided to take on the walkway in the bay. You can probably guess what happened… (click to enlarge thumbnails; hit escape key to return to the post)

Marsalforn, Malta

Of the four of us, I was the only one to explore further afield, and was rewarded by some interesting rock formations around the corner. The rest missed out!

Marsalforn, Malta

Marsalforn, Malta

Marsalforn, Malta

Marsalforn, Malta

Marsalforn, Malta

Marsalforn, Malta

Marsalforn, Malta

Big waves at Marsalforn #Gozo #MaltaPosted by Gail at Large on Wednesday, June 17, 2015

June 17, 2015
Album: Malta 2015