The Dinosaur in Nova Scotia
June, 2009: Day one.
We flew from Las Vegas to Toronto, sat for a couple of hours, then went to our hotel. By the time we were settled, it was midnight, local time. Fortunately, it was eight o’clock Las Vegas time, so we weren’t exhausted. The next morning at the car rental place, we were supposed to get a mid-sized car. What they gave us is a Buick SUV, which they don’t consider that full sized according to the lady at the rental desk.
I got a little freaked out when I backed up. Part of the rear view mirror disappeared, because this thing has a back up camera which shows you what’s behind you. Of course it’s wide angle, which means it shows you what’s there but you can’t really judge the distances.
We started our drive to Louisbourg; it was nice but just a little longer than I would have liked, since that was our ‘jet-lag’ day, but the driving was nice. Everything is to a scale: the speed limit is often 100 kph, which works out to being somewhere around sixty-two miles per hour, but also got down to 80 kph, which is less than 50 mph. On the other hand, we were only going a couple of hundred kilometers anyway. Often we were the only car on the road for long stretches. We have been told that there are about a million people on Nova Scotia, which seems a little under estimated. However, that would explain why we never felt rushed on the roads.
We came across a middle-class river along the way, called the Bourgeoisie River. I guess means it didn’t live up to the expectations of other rivers in the area. Another sign further down the road, told us we were near a place called ‘Marshy Hope.” We looked for a ‘Quagmire Faith’ and perhaps a ‘Backwater Charity,’ but didn’t find any of those. Coffee was our mainstay, since we were both ragged out, having gotten up at eight o’clock (or four o’clock Las Vegas time), and on the road about the time we would normally be getting up at home.
McDonald’s was advertising McLobster sandwiches at their stands, so we had to stop and try one. It cost six dollars for lobster salad on a couple of pieces of lettuce in a plain hot-dog bun; expensive and cheap at the same time. We had to try it once, but we won’t order it again.
Our B&B at Louisbourg was nice, the four poster bed needed a footstool to get into. It’s one of those places where the bedspread matches the wall paper and the lampshades, a lot like Hyacinth’s bedroom in “Keeping Up Appearances.” This is also where I discovered that my computer will not work. We will have to depend on the kindness of strangers.
Things started out well with a great breakfast, but then I went upstairs, sat down on a bench and broke the darned thing. It turned out to be one of those faux-antiques. Our host told me not to worry about it, because this was the last of several benches and they had all broken. I was worried because there are several real antiques in the B&B. One antique was an adult ‘potty chair’ with a removable chamberpot, which might have been used for sick people, sort of a maple bed pan.
We went to the lighthouse at the head of the bay and walked down a trail of crushed rock, about the size of a chicken egg for a couple of kilometers. The larger stones will eventually be covered with a finer material as time and money allows. There were piles of this finer stuff stockpiled along the way.
The trail included some trestles across the swampy areas. Our B&B host explained that they built the trestles wide enough for the ATVs used to haul the fine materials up for the trail. However, they didn’t plan well because the trestles are JUST wide enough, which means in some cases, not wide enough at all. We had seen some 2×6’s tacked on to the side of the trestles, and now we knew why.
It was a nice, brisk morning, the flowers were out and the poison ivy was dark read and glittering in the sunlight; we paid especial attention to those guys. The tide was coming in, making really dramatic waves that crashed up high on the rocks. Very impressive. After almost an hour, I started hearing a bell, but didn’t see any source for that. Well, being an old guy, hearing bells without cause is not necessarily a good thing. I kept quiet about it and just listened for the tolling: “Ask not for whom the bell tolls” and all that garbage. Anyway, a couple of minutes later, Patsy says, “Wonder where that bell is that’s ringing.” This was a good thing and I stopped worrying about what the near future held for me. We talked about it and decided it was probably a bell-buoy somewhere near the cliffs. We never did see it, but we heard it for a long time.
We kept seeing stack of rocks like the Boy Scouts make, the ‘go this direction’ sort of thing. There was one stack that looked like a Viking burial dolmen, with one large, rather flat rock supported by three upright smaller stones. It was about a foot and a half off the ground. Since Cape Breton is not so far away from Newfoundland, we checked the flat rock for Ogam or runes, but didn’t find any.
We read all the plaques along the trail and finished our walk and then decided it was time to head on over to the fortress. There’s a small island between the fortress and the lighthouse which used to be a French battery during the 1700s. Between the guns of the fortress and the battery, they had a clear field of fire over the entire harbor… except for the place where the British landed and set up their own cannons. They demolished the small island battery and then took the fortress in 1745 and again in 1756. Some one didn’t learn much the first time.
We were informed by the first docent we met, that this was a fortress, not a fort. A fortress is a fortified town, not just a stronghold. The docents stay more or less in their roles, but not as deeply as RenFaire people do. We were met at the town gates by a French soldier who was obviously an apple-cheeked young lady. We were told that any English would be considered spies, so we had to be French while we were there. I greeted her with my best ‘Bonn Sewer’ French hello.
The fortress is very interesting. It’s the largest reconstructed historical site in North America. Louisbourg was a very prosperous place when it was active, with lots of stone houses. There are also a lot of ruins that have not been excavated. The ruins are being saved for the future, but what has been rebuilt is worth seeing.
We had a traditional lunch at a place with long tables and benches. The meal included mussels in a broth that was, if not to die for, at least worth a hard punch on the arm. Our only utensil was a spoon, which gave our apple tarts an interesting taste after using the spoon on our baked cod-fish and root vegetables. We were given long napkins to tie around our necks. Good thing, because the lunch included a pea soup that was tasty, but a little thin; I’m used to the thick variety. There was also bread served with the meal, soldier’s bread, a thick, dense substance that never saw a speck of yeast. Imagine a slab of something like congealed oatmeal, only thicker, maybe closer to the consistency of plaster.
By around three, we were worn out, having spent the time earlier, walking around the lighthouse trail, so we headed to the B&B. We laid around, trying to unkink our leg muscles. After a bit of rest and some groaning, we made our way over to a place called ‘The Grubstake.’ If you make the trip to Louisbourg, The Grubstake is probably the overall best place to eat. (1st)
We lost the sunny weather and were getting little spits of rain most of the time now, On our second visit to the fortress (we didn’t learn our lesson on the first visit), we again walked ourselves into the ground. The wind was brisk and we got a little wind burnt. We had gone out to the ruins along a trail, that took us closer to the ocean and into the wind. After a couple of hours doing this, we headed back into the main fortress for something to eat. This was a school trip day, so there was a herd of children packed into wherever we wanted to go. Eventually, though, we shoehorned ourselves into a place that sold chili. Imagine, coming from the Southwest to eat chili on Cape Breton Island.
Two things about this second visit: first is that there’s a big well by the side of one of the main streets. The well is dry, but people have been throwing money into it. Now as far as I know, the only reason why you throw money into a well is to bribe the Nixie that lives there into granting your wish. So, would this work with a dry well? No water, no Nixie, right? The second thing was, we found a young man who was supposed to be an itinerant Irish fiddle player. He played some songs for us and let me take his picture. I’ll try to attach it to this email.
I bought a small loaf of bread, the kind baked for the middle class. I knew the upper class bread would be regular white bread, and we had already had the lower class Soldier Bread, so I wanted this middle class bread for comparison. The loaf was sold to us by a young lady wearing a basket over her shoulder. Her costume included sabots, which we had seen her using to do a clog dance the day before. Middle class bread is whole wheat that has had some sort of leavening, but it’s still, a lot denser than we modern folk are used to. I wondered whether this was authentic or not, since our ancestors knew about sourdough rising. Maybe this was someone’s interpretation of an old recipe, one that didn’t mention leavening because the bakers all knew you used a pinch of old dough to make the bread rise.
While writing this particular excerpt, I was sitting in a warm area of the B&B, looking out at the harbor. There were a lot of colored dots out on the water, which I figured were lobster pot buoys. When the boats go out to check their pots, they are followed by a troop of gulls, but not as many as you might expect. I think it’s too cold for a lot of the gulls.
An odd thing: my cell phone doesn’t seem to work. I haven’t been able to pick up a signal since we got to Nova Scotia.
Friday had us driving to Dingwall. We though this would be a good middle-of-the-drive around Cape Breton to stay. On the way, we stopped at a church/tea room for lunch, where we had very good bowls of seafood chowder. The ladies running the tea room rent it from the church. I mention this because the churches up here are interesting. They run the gamut from small chapels like this one, to big places with enormous steeples. There’s a thesis about Cape Breton churches waiting for someone, if they can find the time.
We made a wrong turn at Englishtown, but it turned out to be the best idea because it cut off about an hour or so traveling time. There was a ferry at Englishtown that took us across a fifty yard stretch of water. It took longer to load the ferry than to take the trip! This shortcut allowed us plenty of time to stop at a nursery/garden/bakery, where we bought some muffins that would travel with us for days. The muffins were delicious, but I guess we just weren’t in the mood for them.
We stayed at an out of the way resort. It’s actually big and nice, but we were here very early in the season. Since it was so early, they hadn’t even set up their dining room yet, so we made do with stuff we picked up at a tiny market. Our cabin was at the end of a long road and almost the last place in the line. We made ‘Tony Perkins Memorial Motel’ jokes about the place. If you read this journal, you know we were only joking about it being spooky. If not… well never mind, you wouldn’t be reading my log anyway.
We were near the ocean and there were the ubiquitous Appalachian chairs, plus a nice bottle of Nova Scotia wine, so even with the remote location and the soft weather, it was nice to just sit and enjoy the night.
Here’s a funny thing: most of the road signs along the route are in English and French, but up in this part of the island, they are in English and Gaelic. There’s supposed to be a Gaelic college up here somewhere. If there was, we couldn’t read the sign to tell us anyway. We were reminded that Gaelic spelling is more involved than English; why say in two words what you can say in thirty-six syllables?
The countryside was beautiful; green and bountiful like eastern Pennsylvania. The majority of houses and churches are painted white, which makes the green even greener. The place was dotted in villages, a term which I have now come to understand more fully. Some of these places are fairly large, maybe with dozens of houses, but most don’t even have a gas station in them. There will be a store of some sort, maybe a DIY store, and that’s about it.
Tim Horton’s cafes are very common around here. This is a quasi-fast food joint that makes actual sandwiches and soup. They have a large selection of baked goods as well. There are tons of bakeries along the way. We stopped at one coffee house that made French kind of pastries. I had an almond scone that was very nice and I would have liked to take a couple along for later on, but we still had the muffins..
Cape Breton is an incredibly beautiful place. There are the green, green hills and the road is right next to the ocean. The speeds sometimes got down to 40 kph, or just about 25 mph. As beautiful as this drive is, if we were to do it again, we would probably go to Louisbourg, spend three or four days there and then double back to Pictou. Like I said, the area is beautiful but there is so much beauty in Nova Scotia and PEI, the long drive could be sacrificed.
The place is lousy with artists and you can burn up a lot of time with stopping at all the quaint shops. They have the names of the shops and galleries on signposts along the road. We bought a lovely glass orange ball about the size of a grapefruit. Patsy also got a great warm sweater.
We drove Pictou to be near the ferry for Prince Edward Island. Pictou is a lovely village, but once again it seemed that we were either a day too early or a day too late for live music. We walked by one place that had a chalked notice on the sidewalk, advertising Irish music the night before. Oh well.
If the last place we stayed was strange, the Evening Sail B&B in Pictou made up for it. This is the kind of place you think of when you look for a B&B. The room was great and the breakfast was very tasty. We bought a bottle of wine and sat on the balcony behind our room, listening to the rain and looking out at the harbor. A pattern seems to be developing here.
The cell phone mystery has been cleared up! I forgot to get my phone set up for being out of the country. We went to a Sobey’s story, a super market thing, and bought a program that would help us to use the phone in Canada. Unfortunately, the young man sold me the wrong SIM card for the phone, so that didn’t work. When I changed back to my original SIM card things worked like a charm. The next time we travel out of the country, I have to set up a roaming program with my cell provider. Oh, about the wrong card? This was Saturday evening when we went to Sobey’s. The young man said that I had to wait for a half hour so the system could get adjusted to my phone. Wel-l-l-l, he was closed by the time I realized the phone wasn’t going to work. We would be on the ferry the next morning, so I thought I was stuck. I resolved to go to the Ralph’s Network when we hit PEI.
It was still rainy, but a soft rain that went very well with the local Chardonnay.
We got down to the ferry on time and sat around in the rain. It was coming in bursts now, soft, then hard, then back to soft again. The ride over to PEI was not bad, no high seas or anything. Nevertheless, there were some folks who didn’t do well and I noticed there were barf bags scattered around the place. The interesting thing is, they don’t charge for going to the island: you have to pay to get off of it. Once we got off the ferry at Charlottetown, it was two left turns and a stretch to our B&B.
Our B&B in Charlottetown is again a winner. It was central to everything we needed, and even had a laundromat nearby. We ate at a steakhouse, having surf and turf at the first reasonable prices we’d encountered so far. Every place we went, there was lobster for sale, but at about $25. Heck, we could get a better deal back in Las Vegas.
Everybody thinks our coming from Las Vegas is a big deal. That’s okay, it makes us feel special.
Patsy lost an umbrella somewhere, so we bought one at the museum, then walked outside and the wind turned it inside out. I took that one for myself, since I can hold the broken strut while I hunker down under the undamaged part. The museum had a Starbucks, so I got a decent cup of coffee. Not that the coffee has been bad, but even at Tim Horton’s, it ain’t Starbucks.
Found us headed over to Avonlea and Green Gables. Patsy has been reading “Anne of the Green Gables” in preparation for the visit. Mark Twain said it was the sweetest child’s book ever written. When Twain says something like that, you want to look at the compliment very closely.
We were going to walk through the Haunted Forest part of the farm, but there’s a golf course in the middle of the park and the path kind of peters out between a green and a tee, then takes back up somewhere further along. We just turned around and went over to the author’s home. We realized there wasn’t enough time to do everything that was nifty, so we went to the art museum for a walk around, dinner and then to a musical “Anne of Green Gables,” go figure. The show was great! The dancing was so vigorous and well put together, it took a while to realize just how hard these people were working. What was amazing was how hard these people were dancing, but they could still belt out a tune immediately afterwards. I’d like to say that the museum meal was outstanding, it was, but not as outstanding as the meal we’d have in Alma or in Halifax, later on.
By the way, we talked to several locals and one man from Newfoundland about which prince Edward the island was named after. Nobody could tell us. Turns out it was named after Edward, son of George III, you may have heard of him. Edward was the only one of his sons to have never worn the crown. He was governor or regent or something like that, over Canada instead. Sort of like John Lackland being given Ireland, although he eventually wore the crown and signed the Magna Carta. The capital city is Charlottetown, named after George III’s consort. There’s that name again. If you go to Prince Edward Island, you may be the only person there that knows who the names belong to.
The weather was a little more rainy than it had been. We drove down to the bridge. Let me rephrase that, we drove to the BRIDGE! This is the longest bridge over frozen water, in the world. What a claim. Of course it was misty, so I couldn’t see the whole expanse, thank God. But I will say it kept going and going and then it humped in the middle and then kept going… I think it cost us something like $25 Canadian to get off PEI. Well worth it.
We drove down to a small burg named Alma, which was near the Hopewell Rocks and the Fundy National Park. The Hopewell Rocks are really interesting, they look like the Hoodoos at Bryce Canyon, except that they are islands when the tide is in and big, tall lumps of land when it’s out. I’ll try to attach a picture to this email so you can see.
I’ve divided day eight into two sections because there was so much to talk about. So on to Hopewell Rocks and other
adventures. We went to Fundy National Park first, because the tide was going out and we wanted to get the full benefit of the visit to Hopewell. We went down to the beach at Wolfe Point, quite a haul, and walked along the shore. Someone had written a pro-marijuana message in the sand, which we thought was funny and maybe a little retro. I picked up a green stone with a notch in it and carried that around. Just what I needed, more weight while climbing back up to the top of the cliff.
On our drive over to Hopewell, we saw one of those deer crossing signs, the one with the leaping deer silhouette. Well actually, we saw a lot of them, but someone had painted it so that the deer was smoking a giant doobie. Shades of the 1960s.
Hopewell Rocks were incredible. I promised so send some pictures, but have forgotten to do so, so far. I’ll try to remember to send one this time. If I do get the picture sent, remember that those things at the bottom of the hoodoos are people, not ants, and the green line at the top of the hoodoos is the high tide mark. Incredible.
By the time we were done with the Hopewell Rocks, we just wanted to go back to the B&B and relax. There was a store right next door so we could pick up a bottle of wine (remember the pattern that seems to be emerging?), and a restaurant across the street. We expected the usual lobster etc. at the restaurant, but found a wider selection instead. The chef is a young man who is interested in experimenting. We had a lobster chicken rollade with a nut crust and fresh vegetables with fiddle head ferns. The French fries were crispy on the outside and melting inside. I’d like to get this guy to come to Las Vegas.
We made the mistake of having dessert, which was a delicious apple and berry concoction, but it was too much of a good thing. I spent the rest of the night regretting that.
By the way, I forgot to mention a meal we had in Charlottetown, in an Irish pub. It was a Boxty potato pancake folded over a mixture of sauted fresh veggies and chunks of ham. I’m going to try to make that myself.
We passed through the Fundy Park on our way to St. John. The rain was a lot stronger now, but still intermittent. St. John is another retro adventure. We stayed in the Earle of Leinster B&B, down in the older part of town. This looks and feels like San Francisco in the 1960s. We went down to a massive indoor market for lunch and then decided to walk to the Reversing Falls. This is a rapids area of the river where, when the tide is in, the river flows backwards. The walk was supposed to take about forty-five minutes, but we were more tired that we realized, and so it took us twice as long. We stopped to rest a lot. Anyway, yes, the river is tidal here and yes the rapids do flow backwards.
The way to the market was through a Loyalist graveyard, so we stopped and looked at some of the stones from the 1790s. Most of these are covered in lichen and are hard to make out. The market had a great variety of food places and was connected to a museum by a glass walkway. Inside the mall where the museum was located, there were lots of whimsical sculptures. One group was of a little girl flying overhead, holding onto a bunch of helium balloons and being accompanied by a couple of WWI bi-wing airplanes, also whimsically carved. There is a sort of totem pole outside the mall, supposedly carved by the same sculptor. It starts out with a series of businessmen sitting outside their doors. As the pole climbs, it has candy cane spiraled pillars that support another group of smaller figures. By the time it reaches it’s height of maybe twenty feet, there is a group of people sitting at a table under an umbrella. Having coffee? Who knows?
We opted for Greek Salads back at our room, some television and of course, a bottle of wine. There is a type of Chardonnay grape called l’Acadie grown up here. To me, it has a citrus/pineapple mouth and a green apple finish. This is our wine of choice on this trip. We wanted to watch some Canadian television because in the past, this has always been an interesting diversion. Canadian humor is slightly different that US humor. We ended up watching some PBS program out of Maine. This had something good for us, because we were supposed to stay with friends in Maine the next night. Well, Maine is an hour different from New Brunswick and we had reservations on the ferry the following day. If we missed that, we would have been in bad shape.
When we got up the next morning, it was just spitting a little rain. We headed off to St. Andrew to meet our friends. St. Andrew is another retro thing. You could pick the town up from almost anywhere along the California coast and drop it here. Except for the whale watching tours, there would be no difference. There was a Farmer’s Market going on, so we wandered through the stalls, passing time until Colm and Honour showed up. We found a coffee shop where we could sit for a while, plus of course use the facilities. I bought an apple foccacia bread tart. It was nice, but a bit dry.
There were cannons along the boardwalk. There seems to be a lot of these here in New Brunswick. I think this was a much contested shore, especially from the US. Right after the Revolution, we tried to take over parts of Canada several times.
Colm and Honour showed up and we had a marvelous lunch that lasted for well over two hours. We offered to vacate the table, but our waitress told us to not rush, since the lunch business was over. We talked about our going to Maine and realized that this was not a good idea. We stood a good chance of missing the ferry if we did. However, we also talked about maybe going there in the fall.
By the time Colm and Honour left, it was almost evening and we went back to St. John to be near the ferry. We stayed in a regular hotel that was not as prosperous as it had been. There were great stained glass windows set in oak window frames, but the place was being used as a dormitory for Polish pipeline workers.
Some things to mention before I forget: first is the lupines. They are everywhere and they are beautiful. There were drifts of lupines between the trees and on the verges. Even so, people still plant them in their yards. I think I have a picture of lupines, if so, I will attach it.
The next thing is the polite way that the waiter at the museum reminded me the proper pronunciation of Niceoise is neese-wah, not nick-wah. And this even though I know the name of the city is neese, not n-ice. My command of foreign languages amazes even me sometimes.
The Canadians are way ahead of us in recycling. They have bins everywhere for recycle, and there is usually one for ‘compostables’ as well as the glass and paper ones.
I had heard of ‘hanging valleys’ before, but had not really gotten the term down. So at one of our stops, there was an information board telling about ‘hanging valleys.’ What the term means is the smaller side valleys feeding into a main valley that subsides faster than the smaller ones. This leaves them ‘hanging,’ so that any stream coming out of those valleys, will be a waterfall. Simple, no?
Now, on with the story. Half the Polish workers had the day off, so they all wanted to wash their clothes at the same time. Fine, except that there was only one small washer and dryer. We sat there to guard our clothes while five Poles came through, asking in Polish if the washer or the dryer were available. At least I hope that’s what they were asking. We did the pantomime thing and lots of pointing. The Poles have no problem with pulling someone else’s clothes out of the dryer, putting in their own and then walking away. Anyway, we pulled our drying out when it looked like we were bottle-necking the procedure and stuffed semi-dry clothes into plastic sacks. We would finish the drying later on. One more interesting thing about the Polish workers, they all smoked and when they did, they smoked the cigarette down to the filter. I think the last inhale must be nasty.
In the morning, it was raining cats and dogs. We got down to the ferry on time, but the ticket booth’s computer wasn’t working, so the attendant told us to go on down to aisle three. We were about the fifth auto there. After about an hour, they started loading vehicles. We were among the last, which bothered me, because I needed the bathroom. Also another cup of coffee. Go figure. As we were loading, the man at the gate asked me for my ticket. I told him I didn’t have a ticket, just a reservation. Well, we had to get out of line, I had to walk through the rain with my reservation number and a rather full bladder, to get a ticket.
When we finally loaded, we were at the head of the center line, which would help later on. The hold made me think the last batch of autos must have been hauling very old fish. Anyway, once we were loaded, we had to make a mad dash up the stairs, looking for the washrooms. Once we got that taken care of, we went to the cafe for something to eat. The interesting thing is, the cafe only served sandwiches, while the lounge had real food, hot soup and so on. We found this out after we had some sandwiches that would have done justice to an airline or maybe a hospital.
The trip from St. John New Brunswick to Digby Nova Scotia is a little over three hours, so we had some time to kill. With the rain lashing the windows, we killed a certain amount of the time with some Starbuck’s coffee and small talk. However, as we got closer to Nova Scotia, the weather improved until it was sunny when we got to Digby. Being at the front of the line paid off now, because we were able to get to our B&B in less than fifteen minutes.
We stayed at the Thistledown Inn, and what a perfect place to wrap up the vacation. Okay, so we still had a couple of days to go, but they would be spent in Halifax, so this was the last of the good places.
There was a Laundromat nearby and we finally got our clothes dry. Best of all, we didn’t lose any socks along the way!
Anyway, we went down to a place that served excellent sea-food and had tiger shrimp. On the way back to the B&B, we passed a place that advertised LIVE MUSIC!!! Finally! We dropped in and listened to a singer who played both a guitar and a dulcimer. When we got there, they gave us a booth, even though we said we were only there for the music, and the beer, of course. We sat there long enough for a couple of Keith’s Amber Ales and enjoyed the music. There was a big party there, making noise, so the musician was being ignored. Patsy and I started clapping after every song until eventually, we got other people to join in.
We made our way back to the Thistledown and sat out on the lawn in the ever present Adirondack chairs. We finished our last bottle of l’Acadie wine and watched the peaceful sunset. I half expected whales out in the water, and there may have been, but none of them came near us. I don’t take this as a personal slight.
The next morning should have been an easy drive into Halifax, but it was the start of a long, long travail that ended only when we got on the airplane to Las Vegas.
When we got on the edge of town, near Lower Wolfville, and called the hotel where we would be staying, to get directions. The young lady at the desk gave me complete directions, but then suddenly realized she had given them to me backwards! We could drive from the hotel to where we were, but not the other way around. She proceeded to give me what she thought were the correct directions, but she left out a few things, such as that one of the major roads changes names when it turns. Shades of Las Vegas! Well, I get lost with simple directions, so these complicated ones were guaranteed to give us an adventure.
After being lost for an hour, we stopped at a Tim Horton’s to use the washroom and to ask for more directions. One gentleman told us to just go up to the corner and turn right, take the next right turn and we would be on the road we needed. Yeah. Well, we found the road, but again it turned and changed it’s name. We finally stopped at an RCMP office for directions. The officer showed me a map and told me to go down this one street, that it would take us right into downtown Halifax. What he didn’t tell me was that the road ended in a chain-link fence. I thought maybe I had gone the wrong way, so I went around the block, or tried to. Things didn’t work out and we found ourselves in Lower Wolfville again.
I went to the RCMP station in Lower Wolfville; it was closed, but there was a telephone outside, so I could call and ask for directions. The person who answered the phone wanted to know where I was calling from…
I eventually got another set of directions and headed off toward the airport, figuring we could find that, turn in the car and get a shuttle to the hotel. Well, almost. We did get the car turned in and we did git the shuttle, but the closest drop off was about five or six blocks away. We had to trudge uphill with all the bags and stuff.
Once we were in our room, a very lovely room on the third floor with two dozen stairs per floor, we took a short nap. I headed down to make reservations for dinner and to pull up our boarding passes.
Now, an odd chicken came home to roost. Before we left home, I called the credit card companies and told them we would be in Canada for two weeks. What I had forgotten was that my Compuserve bill is paid by credit card, so since the charge came from some where other than Canada, it didn’t get paid. My service was suspended, but I didn’t know why. Maybe if there had been a ‘Pay up, you deadbeat’ message, I would have known. I didn’t find out about how this snafu happened until we were home.
Meanwhile, it’s raining hard now, we don’t have boarding passes and our pick-up point is several blocks away. We had one day to spend in Halifax and then the next day, we had to be at the airport no later than 5:30, the first shuttle was at 4:45, so we decided to shift hotels so we were only five minutes away from the airport. The people at the front desk were really kind; they let us back out of the second night reservation with no problems. Canadians! They’re too damned nice.
Dinner that night was superb. This was the second of our memorable meals, starting off with scallops in rice paper wrappers. We had wild boar medallions wrapped in bacon, served on a polenta with a pasilla pepper sauce. Being a sort of Nouveau Cuisine kind sort of dish, the veggies consisted of two asparagus spears, a couple of slices of red pepper and a slice or two of yellow squash. That’s okay, the scallops had been dressed with a bunch of greens, so we considered the deal as done. Dessert was interesting. Patsy opted for an apple pie sort of thing, while I went whole hog for something they billed as ‘Dessert to the third power.’ it was a sampler, a small fruit tart, a small Crème Brûlée and a wodge of chocolate cake.
I had planned to end the log today, but there is so much that happens after this, I will draw out the adventure for one more time.
So we had the adventure getting to our hotel. After putting our bags in our room, we walked around Halifax, enjoying the waterfront. It was still fairly clear, just a little cloudy. That night, we had the great meal I described before. The next day was when things started to get strange. The Airporter, the shuttle that goes from the hotels to the airport, didn’t stop at our place, so we made arrangements to meet at another hotel about four or five blocks away. It was raining, but not too hard.
As we stood out waiting for the Airporter, which was late, a taxi pulled up and asked if we were the ones waiting for the Airporter. I thought he said he was there to take us to meet the shuttle, so we loaded our bags into the trunk. He said he would be taking us all the way to the airport, at the same rate as the Airporter. About the time we pulled away, the shuttle showed up. I felt guilty, because we had made special arrangements for the shuttle to come there, and now we were sailing away in a gypsy cab. In the long run, this was a good thing, but still.
The driver was an old guy, and believe me, if I say he was old, he was old. Anyway, he kept telling us interesting things about Halifax as he drove, which was good. He illustrated his talk by using his hands, both hands at the same time, while still driving down a rainy freeway. This was not good. We of course survived, but it was still scary. We learned, by the way, that there is an American cemetery in Halifax. It’s a graveyard of Americans captured during the War of 1812 and taken to Canada, where they were allowed to die without care, much like Andersonville in our Civil War. The taxi driver said that they had started to use DNA and had identified some of the skeletons.
So the other good thing about our gypsy driver is he took us directly to our new hotel. If we had taken the Airporter, it would have dropped us off at the airport in the rain and we would have had to wait a half hour for a shuttle.
At the hotel, I went to the business center and tried to get on the Internet again; I was still blocked. I went to the Aircanada site and tried to get our boarding passes there. What a fight that was. First, the site refused to acknowledge me, although it called me by name. Next, it refused to acknowledge we had reservations, even though it showed that, if we had reservations, they would take us to Toronto and then on to Las Vegas. Well, after about a half hour of this, I got our boarding passes. Things were looking up. We asked for a wakeup call at 4:00 A.M.
Did I mention that the wind was blowing and the rain was coming in at an angle?
Good thing I made coffee in the room, because the hotel didn’t have any. When we got to the airport, nothing was open, either. The coffee shop opened just as they were loading us onto the airplane. I didn’t realize it at the time, but some enterprising souls had gotten cups of coffee and were carrying them on the plane with them. Oh well, they would serve coffee on the plane, right? Wrong. We did get some juice and water, however.
When we got to Toronto, we should have had an hour and a half to our next flight. However, our baggage didn’t get unloaded for almost an hour. Then we rushed over to our connecting flight and had to go through security again. As we’re being s-l-o-w-l-y checked through, we heard our flight being called for final boarding. We were not quite at the head of the line for inspection.
As we got to the inspection point, one of the inspectors started loading plastic trays upside down in front of us. I’m trying to get my useless computer into a tray,.but there’s not enough room what with the upside down trays. Now I am flustered because they are announcing that all passengers for our flight must now be on board. I put my traveling vest on the conveyor, even though Patsy reminded me that I would need my passport and boarding pass to show. They were in the vest pocket, the one that was now on the other side of the x-ray machine.
Patsy handed me my vest, I pulled out the documents and sent the vest back through again. Now we were on the right side of the inspection area, but as I picked up my vest and computer, my passport fell and I kicked it across the room. More panic. Another call for final boarding. One of the inspectors decides she has to wand the computer case, very very carefully. I told her we were in a hurry, but she said we shouldn’t have waited so long to get to the airport. Well, this wasn’t the time to get into all this.
We made it to the boarding area and had one more stop. We had to show our passports and boarding passes one more time. Well, Patsy had hers in hand. I reached for my passport and it wasn’t with my boarding pass. I didn’t know what to do at this point, because our baggage was on the plane, the plane was waiting on us and I couldn’t find the damned passport. Now why they thought we could have gotten to this point without a passport, God only knows, but I wasn’t leaving Canada without showing the document. I had a panic attack thinking about having to learn how to speak French.
At the last moment, I felt the passport in one of the dozen or so pockets of the vest. In my haste, I had stuck it there rather than in the place it should have gone. I showed it and we made it! Okay, so there were some glares from the other passengers as we got to our seats. We had to roust out a teenager who thought he could just move in on our window seat. I don’t blame him, I probably would have done the same thing if I were his age. Fortunately, there was another family that got on after us. They had also been on the Halifax and had not gotten their luggage on time.
Well, there it was. We had six hours of stale sandwiches, mediocre coffee and trying to pee in a closet while bouncing up and down. But we all know what airplanes are like, right? So we made it back to Las Vegas, leaving a cool, rainy 70 degree temperature, and landed in our 103 degree temp with the sunlight pouring down like honey… wait, that’s a line from Leonard Cohen’s “Suzanne.” Never mind.
Hope you have enjoyed the Dinosaur Log from Nova Scotia. Thanks for listening.
Tony and Patsy