Flashback Friday: Niagara-on-the-Lake

Niagara-on-the-Lake (February 2012)

For this Flashback Friday, I decided to go back to the earliest season I could find on the current external drive’s RAW files, and it happened to be the Winter of 2011/2012. I opened up an early folder and February was where I landed. These selfies were some of my last in years, because I lost the patience for making them. (Have you seen how heavy my camera is?) I don’t know why I didn’t upload them, but here they are, more than three years later. Here’s what I did upload and post of that day: sunset pictures.

As it turns out, the day I shot these is a significant for me. I had just finished a full day of volunteering at a wedding show representing The Brides’ Project in Niagara-on-the-Lake. When I drove home to Toronto, all I could hear on the news was information about the VIA Rail train derailment in Burlington that afternoon, a tragedy that claimed the lives of all three locomotive engineers and sent many of the 75 passengers to the hospital. It happened on a section of track that ran parallel to the highway I was driving, and the hospitals where the passengers were airlifted to were in almost immediate vicinity. The aftermath was all around me. In the time that it took me to drive home (about 75 minutes), I made a decision that changed my life — what would become the Turning 40 Series, which was completed on February 5, 2013. That’s about all I can divulge here, but if you’re interested in knowing more, all you have to do is ask.

Niagara-on-the-Lake (February 2012)

Niagara-on-the-Lake (February 2012)

February 26, 2012
Album: Toronto [Winter 2011/2012]

Blogging In 2015

Gail at Large, shooting in Iceland

shooting in Iceland with my first DSLR (Pentax K100D)

One of my objectives for this blog in 2015 is to (further*) throw chronology out the window in favour of diversity. In other words, expect trips to get chopped up into smaller posts and spread out across months, interspersed with other trips and mixed in with posts that follow a theme rather than a timeline. It’s a practice I began in 2014 by adding dates and album links at the bottom of every post, because one of things that drove me bananas when reading other blogs is the lack of a date stamp (for pictures and sometimes on text). Although it flies against the very nature of blogging (a neologism of web+logging) which shows posts in reverse chronological order, I want to make the blog more diverse than it has been and dust off the archives more often, instead of abandoning them to the whims of keyword searches.

Let’s face it: the world is constantly changing, information gets obsolete, even historic buildings get renovated or even destroyed, and my pictures are (generally) not time-sensitive unless it’s a special event — they’re only but a time capsule, anyway. For me, it makes much more sense to break down content into manageable pieces and present it over time with date stamps rather than attempt large posts and present them as complete packages. As well, I never get an idea that a place is “done” — I can return to places over and over and see new things every time.

Another reason to be diligent about date-stamping is the fact that the web itself is constantly changing, too. It’s an extremely ephemeral place with annoying headlines like “10 Places To See Before You Die” and “Top 20 Things To Do Before You’re 40″ and “Best Travel Blogs Written By People Who Only Blog For SEO and PR Reps”. (OK, I made up that last one, but the weird world of blogging has taken a sharp commercial turn, to the point where people won’t blog without monetization.) Online presence is a fickle beast, and I’ve been publishing on the web for long enough that I’m more aware of this than ever. I installed a plugin for my website about six weeks ago that alerts me every day to broken links, and I’m continually surprised at the number of sites that I’ve outlasted. My blog is almost 13 years old, can you imagine how many broken links I had?? It’s taken me at least six weeks to whittle it down from 1,000+ to around half of that. The Wayback Machine must be running on overtime.

In the past I set goals to achieve this gargantuan task of processing entire albums (download, cull, tag, edit, upload, rinse, repeat) for trips and write text for the post in a timely fashion, and it still amazes me that I kept it up — mostly — for more than a decade while working, acquiring new skills and competencies, starting a business by myself, and maintaining a social life. It was always a running joke in my previous lives that I was a vampire who never slept. But the harsh reality is that something was always sacrificed, whether it was picture quality (editing takes time), or the text (writing is not my forté), or my sanity (not my forté, either). The archives are there to remind me. But now that I’m in my 40s, I’ve officially earned Old-Timer Blogger status and I’ve decided to try and write more to get the stories and ideas out of my head and into the website before I forget everything. (This post may or may not be prompted by seeing the movie Still Alice last week. Cue bucket lists!) It’s not easy because like I said, writing is not my forté and I’m the Slowest Writer Ever.

For the present my plan for the blog is to maintain its focus on places, culture, food and drink, but at the same time I need to remind myself that this is a blog and not a brochure for Life in Portugal, although it looks that way sometimes. Time to mix it up.

* First draft had “One of my objectives for this blog in 2015 is to throw chronology further out the window in favour of diversity.” Somehow, that just sounded a bit too violent…

February, Short And Semi-Sweet

February, the month we all love to hate

São Jacinto Dunes

I don’t know anyone who loves February, do you?

** crickets **

Did you know the Roman calendar didn’t even have February at all? They were smart, those Romans.

For users of the Gregorian calendar — and I’m guessing that would be most of you — it’s the second month of the year, the only month with less than 30 days, the third month of winter, and the stage where we’ve lost our minds to cold, because in some places we let a furry animal become the harbinger of spring.

If you’re wondering where the word February comes from, let me save you two seconds of googling:


It was named after the Latin word februum, which means purification because the month was a time for purification.

  • Middle English – Februarius
  • Latin name – Februarius mensis – Month of Februa
  • Latin – dies februatus – Day of Purification
  • Old English – Solmonath – mud month

Mud month?? I was going to suggest we reclaim the month for its original purposes, snatch it away from the commercial scourge and modern life pressure tactics of Valentine’s Day, but I’m not sure mud month is a good substitution. How about purification? I don’t know what purification involved back then, but I’m guessing it’s probably not legal these days.

So what should we do with February besides set up a base camp in the Southern Hemisphere where it is summer, you ask?

Well, for one thing I think we should make February 14 a day to adopt a rescue animal, but something tells me this idea won’t catch on. (I may be a married woman now, but I won’t give up my annual railing against Valentine’s Day.)

Failing that, I think we should be kinder to one another. All relationships need nurturing, not just the romantic ones. And I’m all for making February a month to perform random acts of kindness. Are you with me?

On that note, I should mention that today is a big anniversary for me: it’s the 2nd Anniversary of my Turning 40 Series Finale. If you are remotely curious about it, please contact me for access to the page — it must remain behind a password for the general public but I would like to share it with readers of Gail at Large.

Road Trip Preview: International Douro Natural Park

International Douro Natural Park (Portugal/Spain) (1)

me and a Miranda donkey (photo by Paulo)

Our last bit of travel for 2014 has sadly come to an end, a post-Christmas 1,100km road trip around International Douro Natural Park. On the Portuguese side it’s called Parque Natural do Douro Internacional, and on the Spanish side it’s called Arribes del Duero Natural Park. More about the trip after the photos are sorted and labelled — I need Paulo’s help to identify all the places and he’s down for the count after all the driving!

Screen shot 2014-12-30 at 2.11.33 AM

International Douro Natural Park (Portugal/Spain) (2)

near Freixo de Espada à Cinta

International Douro Natural Park (Portugal/Spain) (3)

me, Ice, a hydroelectric dam, and a curious sheep

International Douro Natural Park (Portugal/Spain) (4)

Paulo and Ice at a viewpoint in Castile and León (Spain)

International Douro Natural Park (Portugal/Spain) (5)

Arribes del Duero Natural Park (Spain)

International Douro Natural Park (Portugal/Spain) (6)

Faia da Água Alta (near Lamoso, Bemposta, Mogadouro)

December 26-29, 2014
Album: International Douro Nature Park 2014

Before I Was At Large, I Was A Style Hostage

Gail at Large, Grade 3

my hair about to take flight in Winnipeg, 1979 or 1980

A freshly-unearthed archaeological find on a drive of scans, likely Grade 2 because I wasn’t wearing glasses yet. Those clothes and that hair was 100% my mother’s idea, and I fought the good fight with her hairbrush moments before this picture was taken, but sadly I lost. It was decades ago and I still remember crying my eyes out at the indignity, but by some miracle the school photographer got me to smile just in time. I don’t know if I’d be as successful if I were the photographer!

Lest you think this was an anomaly in my grade school pictures, I present to you class photos from the next few years in Winnipeg. This first one below isn’t so bad, but it looks like a Queen Elizabeth wig was placed on my head. My mother must’ve shellacked it with hairspray so I could not attempt a repeat of the previous year’s Picture Day. I’m the only one looking away from the camera, though. I was in Grade 3 and my brother was in Grade 4 (back row). Our school was tiny!


class photos, RRVJA (Winnipeg)