We have again experienced a sad departure, this time from our dear Welsh friends Huw and Nina Thomas. We have left Portsmouth England by ocean ferry for Guernsey Island.

The 7 hour cross-channel passage was unusually rough, and unusually empty.

We would learn later in the day that the lack of passengers to Guernsey was due to this being “Liberation Day”, Guernsey’s national holiday that commemorates the anniversary of it’s release from Nazi occupation at the end of the Second World War.

Guernsey is located off the coast of France. Both English and French are spoken here, with English carrying an unfamiliar accent that will take a bit of getting used to. It has an unusual political status as an independent protectorate of Great Britain. It is not part of the United Kingdom, nor is it part of the European Union. However, it has a favored trading status with each. Guernsey prints it’s own money, which is linked to the Pound Sterling, a currency that is also accepted here.

The Bailiwick of Guernsey is comprised of three islands, Guernsey being the largest of these “Channel Islands”. Nearby Jersey Island is a separate Bailiwick that we will visit in three days. Together these two Bailiwicks comprise the Channel Islands.

Although the largest of the islands, Guernsey is small. It is approximately 25 square miles, and has a population of 65,000. Trails provide a 27 mile walk of the coastal circumstance, or for a Pound one can just ride the entire circuit by bus. It boasts an unusually temperate climate that is influenced by the surrounding waters. Temperatures are rarely below freezing and rarely above 75 degrees. It features one of the largest tidal swings in the world, an average difference of over 33 feet between low and high tide every 6 hours.

Guernsey has been inhabited for at least 6,000 years, and until the end of the last Ice Age it was connected by land to both England and the Continent. It has been a trading crossroad since ancient Roman times, an outpost of England’s Crown for over 900 years, and a notorious haven for pirates throughout the Middle Ages.

Guernsey was occupied by Nazi troops on June 30, 1940 and liberated by Great Britain from that occupation on May 9th, 1945. The German’s installed heavy fortifications throughout the Island in expectation of it being an instrumental part of a planned invasion of England. Those fortifications remain intact and are a significant draw for tourism.

Guernsey became known to us when we happened to watch a marvelous movie, “The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society”, based upon the popular novel of the same name written by Mary Ann Shaffer.

https://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Guernsey_Literary_and_Potato_Peel_Pie_Society

It is a tale of challenged love between a Guernsey girl and a German soldier during the occupation of World War 2.

We look forward to wandering this quaint “Bailiwick” and relaxing as we are well into the last third of this journey.

Peace Everyone. Pete

John Churchill was named 1st Duke of Marlborough by England’s King William III in 1702.

This was in recognition of his military service to the Crown. His career went on to amass a remarkable string of 26 military victories without defeat. Churchill’s most noted victory occurred at The Battle of Blenheim where over 100,000 troops were engaged in combat.

Churchill dealt a stunning defeat to the French army which suffered over 30,000 casualties. Churchill dispatched word of his success in a note that he personally wrote on a tavern bill.

Shortly after this victory the King granted him an indeterminate lease of the estate that came to be known as Blenheim in honor of that victory. In 1704 Parliament authorized nearly a quarter million Pounds for the construction of a palace upon the grounds.

The Duke contributed another 60 thousand Pounds. The result was the construction of the monumental Blenheim Palace, the only non-royal “country home” in England to bear the designation of “Palace”. It is now a UNESCO World Heritage Site.

England’s monarchy remains owner of the property so long as the Dukes of Marlborough continue to pay the “rent”, which consists of delivering a French battle flag to England’s monarch at Parliament each year on the anniversary of the Battle of Blenheim.

The First Duke died without a surviving male heir. Parliament acted to protect the family’s rights by passing legislation that allowed the Churchill family to pass and hold title through its females, the first and only time that such an Act has ever been granted. Twice this has preserved the family’s hold on Blenheim.

The Estate has remained in the hands of the Churchill’s and Spencer-Churchill’s for over 300 years and is currently the possession of the 12th Duke of Marlborough, James Spencer-Churchill. The Spencer line of the family included the ill fated Princess Diana. The Churchill line included the famous Sir Winston Churchill who was born on the property in 1874.

He is buried in a modest family plot in nearby St. Martin’s Church, at Blandon.

The Palace is incredible in its size, design, and contents. Upon visiting the estate one of England’s kings was heard to say, “We have nothing to equal this!”

The various reception rooms display remarkable art, priceless tapestries, and artisan created furnishings of incredible rarity.

There are 22 clocks in the palace, the oldest dating to 1690. They all are in operation and are maintained by a staff clockmaker.

The library is the second longest room in the entire United Kingdom.

Apart from the Palace’s historic interest, this was the birthplace and home of Sir Winston Churchill. A portion of the tour was dedicated to his memory and considerable accomplishments. Aside from his role as Great Britain’s Prime Minister during the 2nd World War, his oratory stirred the soul of the United Kingdom during it’s “darkest hours”. He was a polymath, accomplished as an artist who’s works (submitted anonymously) were accepted for exhibition at London’s Royal Academy.

He was also a Noble Laureate in Literature for his “…mastery of historical and biographical description, and brilliant oratory in defense of human values”. His life works include writing 42 books in 60 volumes, plus 5,000 speeches and articles… in all over 30 million words!

Sir Winston died January 24, 1965. He is only the 4th former Prime Minister in Great Britain’s history to have been afforded a full State funeral. 110 world leaders were in attendance and the ceremony was watched by over 350 million television viewers around the world.

Our evening and this chapter of our journey concluded with dinner at a Portuguese restaurant in Portsmouth England with our Welch friends Huw and Nina. My thoughts turned to a 15 minute encounter in Porto Portugal with Mafalda and Rita, 2 young ladies who extended us a favor. We consider them friends for life even if our paths never again cross. Our life has become punctuate by many of these friendships. Far flung places take on the faces of these people and become personal to us.

Just today these posts have been read by scores of people in at least 15 countries. In 1869 Mark Twain said, “Travel is fatal to prejudice, bigotry, and narrow-mindedness…” 2000 years ago Christ compressed his entire philosophy into a single admonition that directed us to love our neighbors as we love ourself. (Matthew 22:35-40)

“Neighbor” is not defined by race, creed, gender, or geography. A neighbor is any person who celebrates the birth of a child, or mourns a child’s death. A neighbor is one who’s empty belly craves a meal, or who rejoices at the breaking of bread with those who are held dear. A neighbor knows the sweetness of first love or the bitterness of first love lost. A neighbor is anyone who sings with the wind, smells the flowers, or smiles at seeing what is whimsical in the clouds.

Travel and seek your neighbor. Travel in your heart, travel with your mind, and travel to any place where a common language may be spoken with just a smile.

Peace Everyone. Pete

The day for us began in the center of Lacock Village at the Red Lion Inn with a “proper English Breakfast”. The sad thing about this spread is that a week from now I will again be hungry.

Breakfast concluded we walked a through the village to its namesake, Lacock Abbey. A number of the village buildings date to the 1300’s, including King John’s hunting lodge, and the old stables.

This was also the “home of Harry Potter’s parents” located next to the 14th Century church.

The Abbey itself was founded in 1229 by Countess Ela of Shrewsbury. She was the widow of the illegitimate son of King Henry II, and dedicated the Abbey to his memory. Even though she was a very powerful woman in her time she joined the Augustinian Order of Nuns and became the Abbey’s first Abbess where she lived out the remainder of her years.

The Abbey and grounds are stunning and have a remarkable history.

The Abbey prospered through the Middle Ages until the time of King Henry the 8th’s dissolution of England’s monasteries in the 1500’s. Most abbeys were destroyed by Henry, but he sold Lacock Abbey to Sir William Sharington who converted the grounds and many of it’s austere buildings into a private estate.

Next is a photograph of original stonework that bears the stonemason’s mark or “signature”. The three chevrons on the right side of the mark signify that this was made by a fourth generation member of the family of stoneworkers.

From it’s simplicity as an abbey parts of Lacock were converted into a palace.

The estate passed through the hands of many noble families over the years that followed, eventually becoming the property of the Talbot family in the 1700’s. It was inherited by one of photography’s earliest pioneers, William Henry Fox Talbot, who in 1835 took a picture of a lattice window.

This was the world’s first “negative image” picture. That photograph ushered in the era of modern negative process photography that was to remain the dominant media into the late 20th Century, finally superseded by the digital cameras of today.

The Abbey became the property of England’s National Trust in 1944. The Trust has maintained the property not only in its forms as an ancient abbey and country estate, but also as a museum dedicated to the scientific genius of Talbot.

Our tour of the Abbey and grounds occupied our morning and much of our afternoon. There was still time to enjoy a driving tour of the Cotswolds which included brief stops in the towns of Bourton-on-the-Water, Slaughter, and Stow-on-the-Wold.

Much of the Cotswolds countryside and many of it’s villages remain quaint and untouched. The same can not be said of Bourton which draws tour buses and large groups of selfie-taking tourists like a magnet.

Our home for the night is the Kings Arms Inn located in the pleasant Cotswolds town of Woodstock. The evening concluded with dinner in a charming Italian restaurant and a post dinner glass of an excellent golden grappa.

We continue on tomorrow at Huw and Nina’s direction with a tour of Blenheim Palace, the birthplace of Sir Winston Churchill.

Peace Everyone. Pete

We were met at the Cardiff Wales central train station by our Welch friends, Huw and Nina Thomas. This friendship dates back nearly 20 years and includes travels together both in the States and abroad.

Huw has laid out a plan for our 3 days together and as soon as we had loaded our bags into the “boot” of his car we were off to Bristol and the S.S. Great Britain!!

Designed by the noted engineer I. K. Brunel (represented here by an actor) the ship was launched in Bristol England in 1845.

When launched she was the largest vessel ever built and the most technically advanced. At 322 feet long she was the first ship to combine the elements of an iron hull, advanced reciprocal steam engine, and propeller drive. She was a hybrid in the sense that she was equally capable as either a tall masted sailing ship, or a steam propelled vessel, and she could sail using both features simultaneously. When not under steam power her sailing efficiency was enhanced by a remarkable (even by today’s standards) feature that allowed the crew to disengage the huge prop and in a matter of minutes raise it into a recess within the hull, all by remote control.

The ship has a storied history that included over 1 million miles of sailing throughout the world. She could carry up to 700 passengers in accommodations that ranged from barely tolerable steerage to opulent first class.

The S.S. Great Britain last sailed commercially in 1884 and was abandoned in the Falkland Islands where she became a floating warehouse. She was scuttled and sunk in 1937.

In 1970 UK philanthropist Jack Hayward resolved to recover the Great Britain. He spearheaded her recovery, return, and restoration. She is now a remarkable museum ship that is located within her original construction dry dock in Bristol Harbor.

Actors dressed in authentic Victorian era attire stroll the area lending realism to the experience. Included was a detachment of British soldiers from the Crimean War who put on a demonstration of rifle fire and close order drill.

My highlight of the day was the opportunity to climb 100 feet into the ship’s rigging and out to the end of the yard spar. Christine and our companions documented the effort with still photos and video. Below are links to the video clips.

Up the Mast: https://youtu.be/8aPzd910mH8

Out on the Yard Spar: https://youtu.be/EGTJttAl5q4

Our day continued with a drive through amazing countryside and villages and included a pint in a ancient tavern in the town of Castle Combe.

Combe’s environs, including the tavern and church, have been the location for many television and movie shows, including scenes in the Harry Potter movies.

We spent the night in the village of Lacock, which is a living museum owned and preserved by Great Britain’s National Trust. The homes and businesses are leased under condition that the authenticity of the village is maintained.

We dined at the George Inn. The fireplace still sports the original meat rotisserie that was powered by a small dog running in a wheel!

Our chambers for the night were wonderfully appointed at the Red Lion Inn which had also been the setting for many period movies and television programs. We continue on in the morning.

Peace Everyone. Pete

After 3 days in historic Chester, which included another day trip to Liverpool, we have bid farewell to our Canadian travel partners, Tom and Nanci. We shared some adventure on the canals, iconic historical sites, great pub food, and a “few pints”. Partings such as these are tinged with sadness, but at dinner last night we began formulating “what-if” travel possibilities for the future. Will it be a long distance bicycle ride, a sail down the St. Lawrence to the Madeleine Islands, or camping in the Yukon?… only time will tell.

Waiting for us in Cardiff Wales are our Welsh friends Huw and Nina Thomas. We are looking forward to a 3 day auto-tour of southern England at Huw’s able direction.

Our train departed at 8:19 and is scheduled to arrive in Cardiff at 11:15. Departure was precisely on-time for this comfortable 2 car train. We have found that timeliness is the rule rather than the exception when it comes to overseas train travel. I am taking this 3 hour transit as my opportunity to write this post.

A question persists for me. Would I plan another narrowboat trip? Certainly the 3 weeks that we experienced on the canals of England and Wales were filled each day with new sights and experiences. We estimate that we covered over 250 miles, navigated over 60 locks, at least 15 drawbridges, 10 long underground tunnel passages, and accomplished 4 high aqueduct crossings. While this may sound like a lot, it really just scratches the surface of the 2,000 miles available for the intrepid canal pilot.

Much of week one was spent tackling the learning curve with the assistance of two “competent women”, Christine and Kris. Week two was solo with Christine and spent further honing our skills. Week three brought Tom and Nanci aboard, both eager to lend a hand and embrace a totally new experience. By week three I had grown comfortable enough to consider myself unconsciously competent… reacting to the vessel and circumstances more with instinct than focus. As we approached Middlewich on the final day there was a lock that is sized to fit two narrowboats at the same time but with only inches to spare. The pilot of an especially attractive 70 footer and I approached the opened lock gates in tandem and each executed a perfect entry with nary a jostle of the other’s craft. We began to speak, each at our respective helms. He was surprised to hear my North American accent as it seemed inconsistent with the accomplished execution of our joint maneuver. With satisfaction I realized that the canals had presented me with a surprise “final exam” and I had passed.

Given the right opportunity I would not hesitate to reprise this experience. However, with each passing year I am increasingly aware that the horizon of opportunity is limited and ever closing in upon us. The gift of good health is a fragile one. We experience the loss of friends and acquaintances with increasing frequency. The possible “next things” waiting to be explored may be many, but the opportunities may be few. Our choices must be made mindfully and with a balance drawn between time spent at home with loved ones and time spent in the pursuit of our next adventure. I have often said, “Don’t put off until tomorrow the things that you may find you are then unable to do.” Those things include giving and receiving love from those who you hold dear.

Peace Everyone. Pete

May 2nd was our 21st and final night aboard Salten-Fjord. I confess to some sadness in the parting, having fulfilled a 45 year ambition.

We left the vessel “clean and tidy” as required by our charter contract, took time for a final picture, and then were greeted by Andy of AK Private Hire who transported us and our luggage 30 miles to our accommodations in the City of Chester. This will be our home for the next 3 days.

We have always preferred the non-typical in our choice of travel lodging, and the selection of 3-Kings Studios is no exception. This converted 500 year old home was once the Tithehouse of the Earl of Shrewsbury. Persons were required to stop and pay a toll here to enter the city. It is no accident that we are located next to one of the city’s fortification gates. Our rooms are accessed by climbing 34 steep and narrow stairs, no elevators here. The floors, walls, and ceilings are uneven, but the effect is marvelous!

Chester is littered with old buildings.

No other city in the entire United Kingdom has as many listed historical structures. Next door to us is the iconic Bear and Billet, a pub that dates to the 1500’s.

Chester was established in the First Century AD, when it was founded as a Roman garrison at the farthest western extent of the Roman Empire. The region was valued by Rome for salt production. The garrison town quickly expanded into a center of commerce that provided all the comforts of Rome.

A 7,000 seat amphitheater was built…

Baths were constructed in the classic fashion with centrally heated Caldarium, Tepidarium, and Frigidariums. (Hot, Medium, and Cold rooms)

The town’s ancient Roman history was largely lost by the Middle Ages, but 20th Century urban improvements uncovered a trove of artifacts and the foundations of many ancient structures.

The Roman theme has inspired adults and children alike. One can not go far here without encountering a “Centurian” and his cohort of “little Legionnaires” enjoying a school outing as they learn the finer points of shield defense and sword play.

The end of a hard day drilling the troops may even bring the fatigued Centurion into a neighborhood pub for a pint or two.

Chester is a town still surrounded by it’s fortress walls. Over two miles around, one can still walk atop these fortifications that envelop the old city.

The wall was built upon the earlier Roman fortifications. In the 1600’s this was the site of some of the most intense fighting in England’s Civil War. A monument to the dead is maintained as the location of a major breech in the wall and a clever display allows one to “see” the carnage unfold.

King Charles Tower, located on the wall, is the place where on September 24, 1646, King Charles I saw his troops defeated at the Battle of Rowton Moor.

Within the fortress confines are two remarkable churches. St. John’s was built by the armies of William the Conqueror shortly after his successful invasion in 1066.

Chester Cathedral, also 1,000 years old, was built on the site of an ancient Roman temple. More than just a church, it has beautiful gardens, presents daily demonstrations of falconry, and is a venue for art… including a very unusual display of classic Triumph automobiles next to the worship space.

We enjoyed Evensong sung by the Cathedral’s exceptional youth choir. I look forward to returning for some reflective time to satisfy the yearning pilgrim within me.

Peace Everyone. Pete

Our Canal Companion Guides have been invaluable. Each page dissects a 4-5 mile (about 2 hours travel by narrowboat) section of the canal offering a detailed map and an informative narrative. One such section on today’s travel upon the 200 year old Trent & Mersey Canal enticed us into pausing for two very rewarding hikes.

Yesterday’s post provided photographs of the enchanting Longacre Wood that is cared for by the Woodland Trust. If you have not yet seen those pictures they are worth the “visit” to that post and give some insight into the beauty that surrounds us on these ancient canals.

The second hike mentioned in the Guide is to the Dutton Locks on the Weaver River Navigation. Less than half a mile walk down a public right-of-way that travels along farm fields we intersected this inland waterway.

Into the late 20th Century one could see large coastal vessels navigating these waters. From the Trent & Mersey Canal the upper decks of large ships would seem to magically appear and ghost across the land and woods in the distance, the Weaver waterway being hidden from the eye. Sadly, the perfectly good Weaver has been abandoned by commercial trade and is slowly falling into disrepair for want of the funding required to maintain it. The sunken hotel boat Chica may well be a predictive metaphor for the future of the waterway and locks.

It is almost comical to see the two huge Dutton Locks (one of which has been out of service for 30 years) serving small pleasure craft. The lock-keeper told us that upstream is a narrowboat club and on holidays the club will send as many as 60 vessels into the lock where they assemble in an orderly fashion and pack together like so many LEGO blocks for a single downriver discharge. At the end of the day, presumably after a few pints, the boats return and present an impossible confusion of narrowboats colliding into one another in slow motion. For some reason their skippers are unable to replicate the morning’s feats of seamanship.

The locks were first opened in 1874, technological wonders of the 19th Century. 14 water turbines powered the valves and gates, controlled by large iron levers and windlass handles. Today the task is powered by electric motors and is controlled by the lock-keeper at a switch laden panel. He candidly states his preference for the reliability of the old system.

Another nod to the remarkable ingenuity of the 19th Century looms in the distance. In 1837 Joseph Locke designed and built the imposing Dutton Rail Viaduct. Composed of 22 sandstone arches, it has carried rail traffic across the the river valley for 180 years, from steam railroading’s infancy to the bullet-trains of today. It remains one of Englands busiest rail corridors bearing up to the scores of trains that cross is every day.

In contrast to the bustle of the distant viaduct was a peaceful green and well placed bench that provided us with the perfect opportunity for a self-timer group photo.

Peace Everyone. Pete

PS. I am typing this post in the very early morning hours of May 2nd. This is our last travel day on Great Britain’s canals as we will be returning to our Middlewich port this afternoon. Salten-Fjord has been our home and our transportation for 3 weeks. The inevitable question presents itself, will we do this again. I have to reserve judgment but promise more on that another time. We still have 3 weeks left ahead to us to this journey.

11 pence UK is roughly 14 cents US. I am 67 years old and in my experience it has been 60 years since 11 pence could purchase anything meaningful. As a child of 5 it bought a candy bar or a small bottle of Coke… a cup of coffee for an adult, even an order of french fries (called “chips” here in the UK) at a McDonalds. It has been decades since the equivalent of 11 pence was usable pocket tender… Now it doesn’t buy a stick of gum or even 15 minutes of time on a parking meter. Today it was the price of a priceless experience. Please read on.

On January 1, 1894 Queen Victoria dedicated and officially opened the Manchester Ship Canal. At 36 miles long it is a major commercial shipping artery that connects Manchester to the Irish Sea. It can accommodate vessels that are up to 65 feet wide and 600 feet long. Then the largest ship canal in the world, it remains the world’s eighth longest, slightly shorter than the Panama Canal.

Today our narrowboat plied the the tiny Bridgewater Canal and took us to within a short hike of The Manchester.

We moored near the town of Thelwall, an attractive village that traces its origin to the year 923 when “Edward the Elder Founded a Cyty Here and Called it Thelwall.”

From Thelwall we walked to the set of the major shipping locks on The Manchester, strolled along the edge of the chamber’s open chasm, and then across the actual lock gates. A pleasant stroll marked for the public, this is something that would NEVER be permitted in the States.

We continued back along the north shore of The Manchester to a point across from Thelwall. Hundreds of yards of water stood to thwart our return. But read on…

Before the founding of Thelwall, perhaps reaching into the recesses of pre-history, there was a footpath at the place where we stood. Under English Common Law that footpath had become a public right-of-way. When plans were laid to dig the massive ship canal that small footpath could not be ignored. An accommodation was reached whereby the canal company would establish and maintain a ferry crossing for pedestrians. We stood on one side of the canal and hailed across to the other. In response, a lean man who appeared to be tending a small green on the opposite bank picked up a very long oar and boarded a small aluminum boat. He “sculled” the boat across the channel to us much as a Venice gondola-man might have.

This was Kevin. A very pleasant man who for 17 years has been providing this one man ferry service as an employee of the canal company. He lives nearby and except on Sundays and bank holidays he rows folks back and forth between the two established wharves that he maintains.

Kevin spoke of his early years at the tiller. The waters were oil polluted and immune to freezing. Clean water legislation thankfully changed all that, but when the unusually cold winter of 2010 struck the canal froze. It was no impediment to shipping which just punched through the 3 inch thick sheet of ice, but it stopped Kevin for a time. Little else does.

He pauses his service during ship passings and for the occasional vacation (another local takes on Kevin’s duties to allow him to take his holiday). Understandably, the passage is not free. Since 1982 price increase the established fare, including tax, is precisely 11 pence UK, or about 14 cents US. Although it does not appear upon the sign, experiencing the short crossing with Kevin at the helm is priceless.

Peace Everyone. Pete

How many “Big Things” can one really expect to see and experience in the course of travel? Big Things are the major sites and attractions that are featured in tourist brochures, Trip Advisor, Wikipedia… They are the things that friends and family ask about upon our return home. 2 or 3 in a day? 7 or 8 in a week? Certainly not more.

The remainder of time on the road must then be occupied by something, and it occurs to me that they must then be the “Little Things”.

Little Things give context to be big ones. They provide texture and depth… they are the Kodachrome of daily reality that give the color of life to the otherwise black & white starkness of Big Things. They are also the overlooked joys that mindfulness reveals.

A warm shower is something taken for granted at home, but aboard a narrowboat where water conservation is required that shower becomes a celebration that sparks a 10 minute conversation.

A sunrise, a formation of clouds, a sunset. These are the ever changing “art” that hangs upon the endless horizon of our experience.

In the weeks of extended travel we compress a closet full of clothing into a small backpack. A change of socks or a fresh t-shirt bring an appreciative sigh to one’s spirit, not to mention the olfactory senses of self and others!

There are countless things that are taken for granted at home but become little moments of happiness on a journey. They are inadequate if measured against their home equivalents but become huge in the context of travel. Gratitude springs from the Little Things as awareness brings appreciation.

Relationships also come into sharper focus. At home we suffer the distraction and background “noise” of daily life, media, bills, house and myriad other duties. Appreciation for those we love often suffers accordingly. However, in the compressed spaces that we inhabit on the road attention is forced into a refreshed appreciation for the qualities of our life partner and for the absent loved ones who we miss.

The friendships that we share with our travel companions are not an occasional evening out, but are minute by minute experiences.

In 2001 a chance encounter at a restaurant in southern France brought our daughter Alexis into acquaintance with Huw and Nina Thomas of Wales. From that 20 minute conversation sprang a friendship that continues to this day. They have are like family to us.

In 2013 while Christine and I walked the Camino de Santiago in Spain we were passed afoot by another “pilgrim”. Peeking out from a recess on her backpack was a small stuffed bunny. That sight brought a smile to my face and sparked my greeting to the pilgrim. She was from Denver Colorado and the “bunny’s” name was Marshmallow. Conversation ensued, she offered to take a picture of Christine and I together, and what sprang from that insignificant moment was our enduring friendship with Kris Ashton.

In 2018 while we walked the Portuguese Camino a gentleman commented upon the hat that I was wearing. It was a “Tilly Hat”, made by a small firm in Canada and well regarded for sailing and travel. He commented, “Nice hat!”. I turned to see that he too was wearing a “Tilly”. Pleasant banter ensued which quickly included our spouses. They were from Ottawa Canada and the friendship that sprang from those hats brought Tom and Nanci to share this week with us aboard Salten-Fjord. How different life became because of a stuffed bunny and a couple of wide-brimmed hats.

Our “stories” abound with moments that seemed small and meaningless, but in the rear view mirror of time they loom large as the major crossroads in our life journey. One such moment brought Christine and I together. That “Little Thing” became the biggest thing in my life.

Peace Everyone. Pete

PS. Sometimes the “little things” come as sample sized glasses of really excellent British cask ales!