A Canadian Canary Visits Paris: Food, Fabulous French Food!

Bread is a ubiquitous  staple  of countless variations in France!

Bread  (le pain – pronounced ‘pan’) is a ubiquitous staple of countless variations in France!

I expect that everyone knows that France is famous for its gastronomie, among other things. My culinary

Here is a little visual to make your mouth water!

Here is a little visual sample to make your mouth water!

experiences in Paris took me almost completely off of my established tropical régime  (diet)  of bountiful fruits and vegetables in Dominica.  But that was part of the plan and I was well prepared to sample some different flavours and textures, without any regret!

Because of my environmental health challenges, I tend to avoid common processed  and/or refined foods (bread, milk, sugar) that can give me allergy-related problems. However, it was impossible NOT to eat ‘French’ bread: the scent, the texture, the taste and its appearance at EVERY meal broke me down at least once a day.   YOLO (you only live once!), as some of my friends would remind me.

This rich pumpkin soup sustained me for the better part of a day!

This rich pumpkin soup sustained me for the better part of a day!

As I am not much of a meat eater, I fared well with hearty soups:  a pumpkin variety and popular zucchini were rich, energizing and filling as a midday meal.

I'd never had zucchini soup until Paris.  I did benefit from its popularity while I was there!

I’d never had zucchini soup until Paris. I did benefit from its popularity while I was there!

For protein, I did ingest abundant eggs in omelettes and galettes (a savoury crêpe),

French omellettes suited me very well; with home fired potatoes and salad, I was satiaited for many hours!

French omelettes suited me very well; with home fired potatoes and salad, I was satiated for many hours!

occasionally chicken or fish dishes  and mild goat cheese (chevre). I did break down one Sunday afternoon between outings to have a big  traditional dinner:  delicately seasoned pork charcutiere, mashed potatoes and green salad. It reminded me of one of my late  mother’s special concoctions, so of course, it was divine!

As it was still the yuletide season, I appreciated sweet Clementine oranges from Spain and Corsica, which brought back childhood memories of discovering this tasty foreign fruit in my stocking on Christmas morn.  Bins at every grocer and market were spilling over with this Vitamin C rich fruit and I purchased them frequently at very reasonable prices.  I also gorged on apples; while not likely organic, I peeled off the skin and ate them with the chevre and oat cakes for a light supper snack.  Speaking of which, I was able to find organic oatmeal and local honey, which I cooked  into a hot, sweet porridge to start my day when I stayed in a lovely AirBNB apartment in Montmartre.  (Details to follow in a subsequent post).

The cheery staff at the Solar Hotel served me an organic cafe au lait every day!

The cheery staff at the Solar Hotel served me an organic café au lait every day!

But for the first week of my stay, I was situated at the Solar Hotel, where a 100% organic breakfast was offered

The bright dininig room at the Solar Hotel was set fronm breakfast: the organic apple juice was already on the tables!

The bright dining room at the Solar Hotel was set for breakfast: the organic apple juice was already on the tables!

every day as part of its ecological philosophy.  There, I was able to enjoy French foods that had not been treated with pesticides:  cider-like apple juice and compote; jams; yoghurt; croissants and breads; hearty granola;milk; tea;coffee; hot chocolate; sugar; and honey. While there may have been other organic offerings around the city which escaped my notice or knowledge, I did happen upon a pizzeria in Montmartre( Pizza Pink Flamingo), which offered this Italian delight with an organic crust, and other chemical-free toppings, when available.  It was located only a few steep steps from the famous Sacre Coeur cathedral, and did very well from the tourist business! While it was winter, fresh vegetables were scarce, but I was able to eat mesclun (green salad mix) every day. If by chance they were grown in greenhouses, then I would hope that they were organic!

Okay, I admit that I did not suppress my sweet tooth: that would have been a distasteful thing to do in Paris! I didn’t overdo it but I did succumb to the sugary flavours in a few  delectable desserts: the carrot cake at the Joe Allen  Restaurant and Bar was hearty, nutty, spicy, creamy, and rich: a meal in itself!

The Carrot Cake at the Joe Allen Restaurant almost disappeared from my plate before I remembered to take a photo of it!

The Carrot Cake at the Joe Allen Restaurant almost disappeared from my plate before I remembered to take a photo of it! I tried it at my second visit to this popular American eatery.

Isn't this incredible?  This is a traditional French wedding cake - made from macaroons, which was served and Carole and Gildas's wedding!  More on that event later.

Isn’t this incredible? This is a traditional French wedding cake – made from macaroons, which was served and Carole and Gildas’s wedding! More on that event later.

Macaroons, for which France is famous were too sweet for me, that is, after I had eaten two!  Little patisseries (pastries) with coffee perked me up with a café au lait on the side for a mid-morning break. Generally, I avoided bakeries as there were always  other temptations everywhere I turned.  Chocolat chaud, thick and creamy with a biscuit and a bitter chocolate square on the side proved to be the perfect mid-afternoon energizer.

Hot chocolate was the perfect  afternoon pick-me-up during my fun-filled days in Paris.

Hot chocolate was the perfect afternoon pick-me-up during my fun-filled days in Paris.

After a delcious chicken ceasar salad at the Joe Allen Cafe, I refreshed myself with a few glasses of water from that carafe.

After a delicious chicken caesar salad at the Joe Allen Restaurant and Bar, I refreshed myself with a few glasses of water from that carafe.

I also drank lots of tap water, as it did not taste as if it were heavily chlorinated.  I also caught on to the French habit of  asking for a carafe de l’eau (carafe or glass of water) with every meal or even just a coffee.  That way, I stayed hydrated, despite the winter cold.

And as for those extra calories, well, I might now understand why most French people stay slim!  It may be the wine (I only had a few sips of alcohol at the wedding), but it must also be the hundreds of steps or stairs that one encounters everywhere(Métro (subway) access, buildings with no elevators, hilly Montmartre, parks on different levels, basement toilets in restaurants etc.) or the quick movements necessary to cross wide boulevards before the light changes or the collective inclination to walk fast (and keep warm)! I even picked up my pace and was glad of my prior physical conditioning in Dominica.  Therefore, I have NO guilt  about(and nothing to show for)  any of the fabulous foods that I relished in Paris!!!

In Paris, a cafe and a plate of patisseries is sure to provide a mid-morning boost!

In Paris, a café and a plate of patisseries are sure to provide a mid-morning boost!

This Crepe Breton is actually a galette, made from buckwheat flour. It contains spinach, fresh cream, and the soft egg on top. Delicious!

This Crepe Bretonne is actually a galette, made from buckwheat flour. It contains spinach, fresh cream, and the soft egg on top. Delicious! Mild apple cider (2 %) complemented the meal perfectly.

Groom-to-be, 'Chef' Gildas prepared a tasty omellette for Carole and me. It fortified me for the three hour mystery tour that followed our 'dejeuner'.  More on that adventure in a post-to-come.

Groom-to-be, ‘Chef’ Gildas prepared a tasty omelette for Carole and me. It fortified me for the three-hour mystery tour that followed our ‘dejeuner’ (lunch). More on that adventure in a post-to-come.

This was the first of an unknown quantity of  cafes au lait that I enjoyed during my visit to Paris!

This was the first of an unknown quantity of cafes au lait that I enjoyed during my visit to Paris!

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A Canadian Canary Visits Paris: the Palace of Versailles, an Extraordinary 17th Century Creation!*

Gwendominica is completely mesmerized in the Hall of Mirrors at the Palais Versailles, a 17th century marvel southwest of Paris.

Gwendominica is completely mesmerized by the Hall of Mirrors at the Palais Versailles, a 17th century Chateau southwest of Paris.

When bride-to-be Carole and I stepped onto  an RER train in central Paris bound for  Versailles on a foggy morning in late December (my second day there), we had

Louis XIV, a.k.a 'The Sun King' was an extraordinary man, to say the least. He was a long-lived powerful monarch who apparently had a number of reasons for identifying with this brilliant planet.

Louis XIV, a.k.a ‘The Sun King’ was an extraordinary man, to say the least. He was a long-lived, powerful, and highly creative monarch who apparently had a number of reasons for identifying with this brilliant star and using it as his emblem.

no idea that thousands  of residents and visitors would be of like mind! This was to be my only excursion to a suburb of Paris, and I was curious to experience  a historic site that many people had highly recommended that I see while in the City of Light.

But when we first arrived at the Palace of Versailles, we collectively gasped at the  very long line of people patiently waiting their turn to enter ‘the State Apartments’ section of the grand complex.  While I held a place in the queue, Carole went off to another line to buy our entrance tickets.  We were both thankful that I was wearing my brightly coloured Rasta tam and canary yellow Canadian ski jacket, as it did prove to be highly helpful when she returned to the growing, moving line of darkly attired bodies and easily spotted me in the massive crowd.

I wasn't the only one enthralled with the Hall of Mirrors...

I wasn’t the only one enthralled with the Hall of Mirrors…

A smal section of the queue who waited patiently to enter the Palais Versailles. Thank goodness it wasn't raining!

The seemingly endless winding queue generally waited patiently to enter the Palais Versailles. Thank goodness it wasn’t raining!

While I waited for her, I gazed around me in complete astonishment. Yes, I had previously learned bits and pieces about Louis XIV, the ‘Sun King’ (as my former professor at Alliance Française de la Dominique, Carole had introduced me to this memorable monarch!). But I had really no idea of his power, influence, personality or creativity until I ‘set foot’ on the grounds of his palace.  Of course, the massive structure was not his doing alone.  Obviously, the highly skilled and talented artists, artisans, sculptors, builders and landscapers of that  era could design and construct beyond the capabilities of most people, I daresay, even in the 21st century!

After a three-hour wait, we finally approached the entrance way.

But after all that time spent shivering, a bathroom was my first priority, once inside.  I trembled with the chill and was thankful that the sun started to shine (appropriately!) as I could not shake the feeling of cold that penetrated my very being.  Thankfully, my lovely friend had gone off in search of food a little earlier, and brought back the most delicious sandwich I have ever tasted in my life!  It was a warmed soft (tortilla) wrap, containing three types of mild, barely melted cheeses ( I recall Emmenthal as one of them), which were covered in a mildly piquant sauce. That quick meal succeeded in reducing the shivers and hunger pangs for a few hours!

The Chapel was my introduction to the splendor of the rest of the Palace.  I only wish I could have heard the notes emenating from those organ pipes!

The Chapel was my introduction to the splendor of the rest of the Palace. I only wish I could have heard the notes emanating from those organ pipes!

Now that I was comfortable, I concentrated on the massive ‘rooms’ and ‘ornaments’ which were everywhere to be seen: in all directions, as well as above me.  I quickly observed that many of the hundreds of people around me had their mouths open.  I don’t think they were being intentionally rude:  tilting one’s face upwards towards the decorated ceilings and then absorbing the stunning artistry of the paintings overhead

In every room, there was a good reason to look up! This scene was located in the Mercury drawing room or 'bed-chamber'.

In every room (salon), there was a good reason to look up!Each ceiling depicted a scene related to a different mythological god or goddess, angels or demons!

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Elaborate busts, ornate doors, marble table tops…if I hadn’t seen this with my own eyes, I would have sworn the setting must have appeared in a dream!

compelled visitors to “drop their jaws” in amazement and awe!  I am not well versed in mythology, but anyone who is would truly delight in the depictions of the gods that Louis XIV preferred. It was truly incredible that this long-lived and long-reigned king had turned his father’s hunting lodge into such an opulent abode.  It certainly defies the extent of my imagination and I know I am not alone, as evidenced by the thousands who viewed the site along with me that day.DSCF3771

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The King’s Chamber must have been the epitome of comfort (and privacy!) for Louis XIV!

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Imagine the coördinated efforts it would have taken to light the candles on the chandeliers in those days!

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The Queen had her own ‘salon’ too. But do you think there was only one beloved? I am not going to tell!

Carole did make every effort to explain so many pertinent details to me.  But I was so taken with the grandeur of the place that I could only nod, then gawk and gape some more! I simply marvelled at this structure and its elaborate contents.  But I did also  naïvely wonder how or if a building of such proportions with its elaborate artistic displays could ever be built in today’s world. The ‘Sun King’ certainly was a creative visionary, and he couldn’t have been worried about the cost of his mansion, even in the 17th century!  There is definitely more to that story, so if you’re curious, I am sure you will search for the facts!

After more than an hour, I felt satiated by this artistic feast and was now in need of some fresh air. Carole suggested that we spend a little time in “the Gardens,” and I eagerly agreed.  We found a little food hut that offered hot chocolate, so we sat down (finally) for about 20 minutes and sipped the sweetness, while giving our weary legs a much-needed rest from  the many hours we had spent standing up!

Carole poses with the stately Palais Versailles behind her.

Carole poses in  ‘the Gardens’ with the stately Palais Versailles behind her.

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The trees along the pathways in the Garden of Versailles were perfectly symmetrical and evoked a feeling of serenity in me. The canal is on the far right.

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Gwendominica stands by the Dragon fountain.  The Sun King certainly loved mythology!

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The Apollo fountain is situated between the Palace and the Canal.. Louis XIV apparently identified with this sun-god! The Grand Canal is in the background.

After that little break, we both felt refreshed and decided to take a walk by the Fountains around the grounds, even though it was the middle of winter!  We were not deterred, and as we walked around, I was mesmerized once again by the natural and created beauty: stone sculptures, fountains, the mile-long ‘ Grand Canal’ and perfectly pruned rows of trees. As I breathed in the fresh cool air, I became entranced with the stillness and the silence. It was late in the day,we were almost the only people there. Occasionally, a bird chirped or a runner passed beside us.  Sometimes we spoke and other times we retreated to  our private thoughts.  My mind drifted to an earlier time:  I could almost visualize Louis XIV and his court strolling around the grounds in any season to improve health and well-being. Our leisurely saunter took us along the small body of water to its opposite side.  At this point, it was quickly becoming dark. When I glanced at my watch, I saw that we had been on the move for over an hour!  There were no artificial lights, so we  turned around and hastened our steps back to the Palace where we exited the gate and walked a short distance  to take the train back to the city.

It had been a very long day and we were both pleasantly exhausted.  As I look back on that magical experience, I realize how lucky I was to have  had a good look  and a new appreciation for the artistry of a fascinating time and place in France’s history!

*This piece is dedicated with gratitude to my dear friend and former French professor, newlywed Carole! XO

 

A Canadian Canary Visits Paris: A New Year Adventure in the City of Light

Gwendominica (in canary yellow!) shivers at the top of Arc de Triomphe, having arrived in Paris only a few hours earlier.  Photo taken by Carole.

Gwendominica (in canary yellow!) shivers at the top of Arc de Triomphe, having arrived in Paris only a few hours earlier. Guess what’s in the background? Photo taken by Carole.

My first-ever trip to Paris, France from  Roseau,Dominica had been anticipated for several months.  From the moment French friends Carole and Gildas extended an invitation to their wedding ceremonies to take place on January 10, 2015, I focused on preparations for this big trip overseas. I never dreamed that I would see them just under a year after they left Dominica. And it would be my first winter foray in 18 years! Fortunately, my Canadian visit during the summer of 2014 enabled me to buy winter clothes at bargain prices! However, it wasn’t a simple matter of packing my bags and boarding a plane.  With my environmental health challenges, I ensured that my immune system would be in good shape for this exciting

Gwendominica enjoys her first cafe au lait on the Champs d'Elysses. After a very long flight, very little sleep and a confused internal; clock, it certainly tasted sweet!

Gwendominica enjoys her first café au lait in a cozy café on the Champs d’Elysees. Despite a very long flight, very little sleep and a very confused internal clock, it certainly tasted sweet! Photo taken by Carole.

 

 

adventure. As a conscientious ‘canary’ (that is, a person living with significant environmental health challenges), I consulted by phone with my longtime Canadian naturopathic physician, Dr. Shawna Clark, N.D. , whose clinic is located in Orillia, Ontario. She advised me about helpful nutritional supplements and homeopathic remedies which would provide support throughout this new  and unfamiliar journey.  Although she knew that I was somewhat apprehensive about what could happen, her positive encouragement enabled me to put my fears at rest and expect only the best!

I have been fascinated with ‘French’ for most of my life. I guess that makes me a ‘Francophile‘ who grew up in a Francophone country – Canada! However,  I was born to Anglophone parents in La Belle Province, which means,  in essence, that I  really am Québécoise! I actually spent some time there in June 2014, and if you’re interested in that French adventure, then you can read about it here.

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This little beach near Princess Julianna Airport in St. Maarten is a popular spot to see, hear and feel big jets landing – and taking off! I kept well away but the distraction help to pass the time while I was in-transit to Paris.

As I boarded the WINAIR flight at Charles-Douglas Airport in Dominica, I looked inland towards Morne Diablotin, which was shrouded in clouds.

As I boarded the WINAIR flight at Douglas-Charles Airport in Dominica, I looked inland towards Morne Diablotin, which was shrouded in clouds.

Over the Christmas season in Dominica, I rested as much as possible, and continued with my walking, so that I would be in good shape for the Big Trip. My French friends, Carole and Gildas (the bride and groom) had asked me well in advance

My French friends, Gildas and Carole took time from their busy schedules to take my on a day-long mystery tour of Paris a week before their wedding!

My French friends, Gildas and Carole took time from their busy schedules to take me on a day-long mystery tour of Paris a week before their wedding! More on that in a subsequent post.

for a list of things I would like to see and do.  After I submitted it for their recommendations, they surprised me by informing me that during my first few days,Carole would escort me and then they would both take me on a mystery tour later  that week. They had also provided me with detailed instructions so that I could more easily find my way  from the airport to the Solar Hotel (an ecological hotel), where I would be spending several days. I had my agenda at the ready and I was determined to check everything off of my list.  You’ll find out later whether I succeeded or not!

Finally, Sunday December 28th arrived.  I left before daybreak to travel across the island to board my flight on WINAIR from Douglas-Charles Airport at Melville Hal,l Dominica to St. Maarten. From there, I spent a few leisurely hours before boarding my Air France flight to Charles De Gaulle

There's my Air France plane.  I am ready to board and fly away 'across the pond' to France, a land of my dreams!

There’s my Air France plane. I am ready to board and fly away ‘across the pond’ to France, a land of my dreams!

Airport (CDG) near Paris.  While there were some slight delays, I was well occupied by watching planes land not far from a crowded beach, just a short walk from the airport. I also studied the guide-book that my Dutch friends Gijs and Georgie had loaned to me.  And I also carried a mini-tablet, which proved to be an invaluable tool for communication with friends and family, ordering tickets for a jazz concert,  getting detailed travel directions for locations around the city, and reading  frequent updates on the terrorist attacks during this unforgettable trip.

Although I only slept a little on the overnight flight, I was almost beside myself when the plane crossed over the southwestern coast of France en route to CDG. As we neared Paris, and started our descent, the bright lights of the city kept my attention, as I marvelled at the unrelenting darkness. It was well after 8 a.m. local time!  I had forgotten about the very short days this far north just after the winter solstice!  I certainly did gain a full appreciation for the lovely City of Light, as the displays of illumination at night were breathtaking.

The RER train station (Denfert Rochereau)where I first surfaced in the City of Light!

The RER train station (Denfert Rochereau)where I first surfaced in the City of Light!

Thanks to those specific instructions from my French friends, I easily made my way from the CDG Airport by RER train to the Denfert Rochereau station, a mere five minutes walk to my hotel.  However, after I stepped out of the warm train and then dragged my 50 lb. bag and other paraphernalia up a steep flight of stairs, I walked out into the cold air and gasped. My hands turned to ice quickly as I  searched  for my gloves without success. I had Carole’s map in hand, but I felt so disoriented in the dim light that I did not know in which direction I should proceed.  As I dragged my heavy  load across a busy street, I noticed a taxi stand. Although I knew I was close, I approached a driver  for directions and he graciously pointed the way.  He could see that I was uncertain, so he kindly offered to take me without charge to the Solar Hotel, which as it turned out, was just around the corner.  No sooner had I stepped out and thanked him, than Carole ran up to me and embraced me warmly.  I said (in English) “I have to pinch myself.  I can’t believe I am really here!”

I, like millions of others, enjoyed admiring the Tour Eiffel from various viewpoints - this one from the top of the Arc De Triomphe.

I, like millions of others, enjoyed admiring the Tour Eiffel from various viewpoints – this one from the top of the Arc De Triomphe.

I did not feel tired due to my immense excitement, so I dropped my bags, quickly showered and located my gloves while Carole patiently waited for my in the

Some sections of the Paris Metro have been around since 1900!  I like the older signs: this one was located 5 minutes from the Solar Hotel in the 14th arrondissement. (Denfert Rochereau)

Some sections of the Paris Metro have been around since 1900! I like the older signs: this one was located 5 minutes from the Solar Hotel in the 14th arrondissement. (Denfert Rochereau stop)

foyer.  We had a light lunch (I savoured a big bowl of French Onion Soup!) and then we headed off by Métro (underground) to the Arc De Triomphe and the Champs d’Elysées.

Sacre Coeur Cathedral is a prominent landmark as Paris's highest point. I had many adventures in that area, including an unforgettable wedding ceremony!

Sacre Coeur Cathedral is a prominent landmark as Paris’s highest point. I had many adventures in that area, including an unforgettable wedding ceremony!

The vibrant Champs d'Elysees ia a sight to see at any time of year!

The vibrant and lively Avenue Champs d’Elysees from atop the Arc De Triomphe is a sight to see at any time of year!

I was still chilled, so the first order of the afternoon was a café au lait!  As we strolled along the broad boulevard, surrounded by thousands of darkly attired Europeans and tourists, I realized that my brightly coloured Canadian ski jacket was not in vogue in this fashion capital of the world.  However, I did stand out in the crowds, which proved to be helpful during the next few days. Carole  could easily spot me in long queues when she went elsewhere to buy our tickets or find food to sustain us during lengthy waits to enter tourist sites!

When we commenced our climb up the winding stairway inside the 50 metre high Triumphal Arch (I was too close to take a proper photo of it), I was indeed thankful that I liked to walk up hills in Dominica.  What I didn’t expect was a little shortness of breath due to the cold air – a dramatic climate change for me!  While I admired Napoleon’s handiwork, I was more than mesmerized by the 360 degree views of Paris. Carole continued as my professor by pointing out numerous sites and explaining their significance.  My head was not just spinning from the height!  I took in what I could, knowing that I would follow up in my guidebooks and online references.  Meantime, we circumnavigated the structure, and I swooned when I looked through a sheet of glass down to the Memorial to the Unknown  French Soldier during WW I (1914-1918)beneath the arch, far below! After our descent, I spent a few moments there, thinking of my late paternal grandfather who as a young man, served in the British Army  and spent time in the trenches in northern France.  While he did survive, I wanted to pay tribute to him on French soil as that was one of the important priorities on my list of things to do here.

I hadn’t yet been here a full day, and I had taken in some important points of interest with my wonderful guide and teacher, Carole.  We decided that we should continue our explorations the next day, so we boarded the Métro with plans set for a few hours hence.  When I arrived back at the Solar Hotel, another

The eternal flame beneath the Arc De Triomphe pays tribute to the unknown French Soldier who died during WWI.

The eternal flame beneath the Arc De Triomphe pays tribute to the unknown French Soldier who died during WWI.

Season's Greetings were plentiful in the City of Light.  Despite recent tragedies, let us remina hopeful that peace and love will prevail this New Year.

Season’s Greetings were plentiful in the City of Light. Despite recent tragedies, let us remain hopeful that peace and love will prevail worldwide this New Year.

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I, like the merchants on Rue Daguerre in the 14th arrondissement wish you happy celebrations and all the best in 2015! I took this photo on Monday January 5th, two days before the terrorist attacks.

warm shower and a cup of organic herbal tea enabled me to lie down for a restful night in anticipation of the many adventures that lay ahead!

 

 

 

 

 

 

A Canary Flies North: ‘Home’ to Kingston, Ontario, my lovely ‘Limestone City’ and its familiar Environs

The Kingston waterfront at Flora MacDonald Confederation Basin Marina has always been the perfect place to cool off.  The limstone structure is a martello tower was one of six built in the mid 1800's as part of a military defense system against the U.S.!

The Kingston waterfront at Flora MacDonald Confederation Basin Marina  on Lake Ontario has always been the perfect place to cool off. The limestone structure is a Martello tower which was one of six built in the mid 1800’s as part of a then-military defense system against the U.S.!

Kingston's limestone City Hall was completed in 1841 and is a National Historic Site of Canada.  the nations's first Prime Minister, Sir John A. MacDonald lay in state in this building after he died in 1891.

Kingston’s limestone City Hall was completed in 1841 and is a National Historic Site of Canada. The nation’s first Prime Minister, Sir John A. MacDonald lay in state in this building after he died in 1891. Kingston was the first capital of Canada!

By the time I arrived in Kingston, I was more than ready for a little down time around my old haunts.  Mind you, I had enjoyed every minute of my visit to Canada thus far.  Now, with few obligations, I simply wished to relax and take it easy before heading back to Dominica.

My first home in Canada never disappoints:  the Limestone City was in the midst of a Buskers Festival.

A Hip Hop Troupe from NYC was teaching some boys how to make the right moves to the rapper's beat.

A Hip Hop Troupe from NYC was teaching some boys how to make the right moves to the rapper’s beat.

A young juggler from Montreal sets his cap on Princess Street, the main drag and attracts passersby with his clever throws.

A young juggler from Montreal sets his cap on Princess Street, the main drag and attracts passersby with his clever throws.

Although I was tired from a day of travel from Halifax, I quickly perked up when I watched some of the entertaining acts on the streets.  I was staying overnight just off of the Queen’s University Campus so I spent a little time wandering around the student ghetto, revisiting some of my old digs.  It was fun to see that they still looked the same, although I am certain in 30+ years, much had changed!

The sunflowers at the Kingston Farmers' Market brought back fond memories of my parents' garden, just north of the city.

The sunflowers at the Kingston Farmers’ Market brought back fond memories of my parents’ garden, just north of the city.

I fondly recalled my two year spent in this house on Earl Street with three other roomies.  My room had the upstairs window, was large and airy, and was referred to as the 'Executive Sweet'!

I fondly recalled my two years spent in this house on Earl Street with three other roomies. My room had the 2nd storey window, was bright and airy, and was referred to as the ‘Executive Sweet’!

Edwin and Beth dance a two-step to a little Cajun music emanating from tow saxophonists who were playing on  an anchored tour boat wihile passengers boarded.  Everyone smiled at their spontaneous fun!

Edwin and Beth danced a two-step to a little Cajun music emanating from two saxophonists who were playing on an anchored  paddle wheel river tour boat while passengers boarded. Everyone smiled at their spontaneous fun!

Next morning, my brother Edwin and his wife Beth came to meet me in town before we headed north to the cottage where I would be staying for the next week.  We did spend a little time walking around the Saturday Farmers’ Market, and also enjoyed part of the trail along the Kingston waterfront in MacDonald Park (named after Canada’s first prime minister who lived here).

Gwen hams it up on the restored century old Gaskin Lion in MacDonald Park.  She was a bit more demure when the last photo of her was taken here - 50+ years ago!

Gwen hammed it up on the restored century old Gaskin Lion in MacDonald Park. She was a bit more demure when the last photo of her was taken here – 50+ years ago!

Brother Edwin has a  more stately demeanor while astride the stately historic lion in MacDonald Park.

Brother Edwin had a more stately demeanor while astride the  historic lion in MacDonald Park. Lake Ontario is in the background.

The Kingston Farmer's Market offered numerous varieties of fruit in mid-July.

The Kingston Farmers’ Market offered numerous varieties of fruit in mid-July.

After I picked up my rental car, we drove in a northerly direction, bought groceries in our long-time local grocery store in Glenburnie (where we grew up), visited our parents’ graves at  the Latimer Cemetery and then headed further northeast to the village of Battersea.  There we took a side road to Dog Lake, where I would be staying at one of the Three Little Cottages, owned by  family friends Sharon and Will Freeman.  Another longtime neighbour from our childhood days, Jean (Sharon’s mother) lives

I return to this "Little Cottage"  on Dog Lake again and again.  It is so peaceful there and I always feel really well during my stay.

I return to this “Little Cottage” on Dog Lake again and again. It is so peaceful there and I always feel really well during my stay.

close-by and I felt as if I were really coming home.  They also run the Freedom Farm,an organic operation offering Community Supported Agriculture, wherein clients buy shares in the weekly harvest.

This beautiful mosiac sign welcomes clients and guests to the Freedom Farm property, which included the Three Little Cottages.

This beautiful mosaic sign welcomes clients and guests to the Freedom Farm property, which includes the Three Little Cottages.

I settled in easily with help from Edwin and Beth.  It was a lovely day and we took a walk around a pretty point of land with a little community-supported beach, a few minutes walk away.  It felt a bit cool to me so I was not inclined to take a dip!

Later that evening, the American fishermen in the adjacent two cottages returned with their catch.  We watched them come in and then noticed that one who had already disembarked from the boat had returned with a machine that at first we thought produced smoke to keep away bugs.  Almost instantly, I felt it was something more harmful.  In half a minute, without my bidding, my brother went outside and politely asked: “Is that smoke?” “No, it’s insecticide,” came the reply. “Turn it off please! That will make my sister very sick!” shouted Edwin.  They quickly complied but even though the fogging machine was only on for a couple of minutes, I could smell it in the air and had to leave the windows closed all night.  I did attempt to contact Sharon and Will, but they were out.  However, early next morning, Sharon came down from the farmhouse to tell the fishermen that insecticides were not permitted on the property, as an organic farm is in operation and there are  also bee hives on site.  This was a most unusual occurrence and we were all very surprised by this freak incident.  I think the fishermen felt very badly and had not thought about consequences of chemical use in this extremely pristine area.  I am sure they will think twice before they ever do that again!

The granite rock outcrops form part of a bio-diverse region, called the Frontenac Axis.  The topography is dramatically and naturally snesational, and is recognized as a UNESCO World Heritage Area.

The granite rock outcrops on Dog Lake form part of a  unique geographic region, called the Frontenac Axis. The topography is dramatically and naturally sensational, and has been recognized as a UNESCO World Biosphere Reserve since 2002.

Dog Lake is a fisher's  and draws hundreds of enthusiasts every summer.  I believe there is ice fishing in the winter too!

Dog Lake is a fisher’s delight and draws hundreds of enthusiasts every summer. I believe there is ice fishing in the winter too!

The scenery around the Three Little Cottages  on Dog Lake is restful and restorative

The scenery around the Three Little Cottages on Dog Lake is restful and restorative

The view of early morning mist on Dog Lake from my cottage porch evoked a feeling of complete serenity.

The view of early morning mist on Dog Lake from my cottage porch evoked  feelings of complete serenity.

Chef Edwin tends to the savory homemade turkey sausages (no additives!) that we purchased at the Glenburnie Grocery.

Chef Edwin grilled the savory homemade turkey sausages (no additives!) that we purchased at the Glenburnie Grocery.  It had just started to drizzle. Dog Lake is in the background.

Later that evening, Edwin and Beth returned to their hotel in Kingston and came back early next morning for a big breakfast. It was a rainy day, only the second one in my five-week Canadian stay and I could not complain about the weather despite ‘Hurricane’ Arthur’s unforgettable appearance in Nova Scotia.  Our meal was a team effort, and we did certainly overindulge as torrents of rain pounded on the roof for a couple of hours.

Part of the lock system at Jones Falls on the Rideau Canal between Kingston and Ottawa Ontario.

Part of the lock system at Jones Falls on the Rideau Canal between Kingston and Ottawa Ontario.  A few boats were waiting to go through at the highest lock en route to Ottawa.

Beth and Gwen pose on the bridge at Whitefish Lake at the Jones Falls Lock Station on the Rideau Canal.

Beth and Gwen posed on the foot bridge at Whitefish Lake at the Jones Falls Lock Station on the Rideau Canal.

It cleared up somewhat just as we started out on a little trip to Jones Falls, a scenic and historic site  half an hour further north.  It forms part of the Lock System  for boaters on the Rideau Canal, which is a UNESCO World Heritage Centre.       The locks have been operational since the early 1800’s!  The walk-about in the fresh damp air was most reviving and we even worked up an appetite for ice cream, which we purchased at a little café near the parking lot.

We returned to the cottage for a quick lunch, and then Edwin and Beth departed in the early afternoon so that they would stay ahead of heavy Sunday afternoon traffic returning to the Greater Toronto Area from points north, commonly called  “cottage country.”

I was then left to my own devices: naps; books; walks; visits with my friends on the farm; and occasional half-day trips to Kingston.  It was a little cool the week I was there, but I bundled up and warmed up with plentiful cups of coffee and tea.  One evening, the plaintiff yips of nearby coyotes reminded me that I was on the edge of the wilderness – and it was wonderful!

While I did have a few moments of guilt about not helping out on the Freedom Farm, I recognized that my abilities in that specialty are limited and my allergies to grasses and bugs would not have made any task easy.  Therefore, I sometimes walked around the organic farm while staff and WWOOF volunteers toiled away to raise the finest organic produce one could ever consume.  The air was sweet and pure.  I took pleasure in

This artistically appealing organic raspberry pie tasted as good as it looked.  It was prepared by Bill, another amazing nonagenarian.  The Freedom Farm staff, volunteers and I quickly devoured t eh whole thing!

This artistically appealing organic raspberry pie tasted as good as it looked. It was prepared by Bill, another amazing almost nonagenarian. The Freedom Farm staff, volunteers and I quickly devoured the whole thing!

my little chats with the workers and partook of the demolition of a delectable organic raspberry pie, baked by Jean’s almost 90-year-old brother, Bill.

Here are some scenes from Freedom Farm in production:

The green house shelters special produce such as gigantic egg plants.  I've never seen any that big! (sorry -did not have camera with me to capture them)

The green house shelters special produce such as gigantic eggplants. I’ve never seen any that big! (sorry -did not have camera with me to capture them)

This is one of the two mini-horses on the farm.  Children adore them and so do I!

This is one of the two mini-horses on the farm. Children adore them and so do I!

Sharon and a WWOOF volunteer tend to the organic plants with TLC.

Sharon and a WWOOF volunteer tend to the organic plants with TLC.

Sharon proudly holds up some beautiful beets - a Freedom Farm specialty.

Sharon proudly holds up some beautiful beets – a Freedom Farm specialty. And look at those incredible carrots in the background!

Jean, mother of Sharon is an energetic septagenarian who is actively involved in the farm's operation . She is seen here harvesting pole beans.

Jean, mother of Sharon is an energetic septuagenarian who is actively involved in the farm’s operation . She is seen here harvesting pole beans.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Whenever I ventured in to the lovely Limestone City, I was aware that I did not feel as well as I did in the great outdoors north of Kingston.  I would be very tired and feel  nauseated after a few hours in the urban centre, but that would gradually clear once I was back at Dog Lake.  Such is the life of a person with environmental health challenges! I have no regrets, however, about time spent in my hometown, as there were some people to see and things to do, such as a long-awaited  tour of Queen’s University, my alma mater.

I had been in touch with Faye Ransom, from the Arts and Science Advancement Team with respect to my small bequest to  the Queen’s School of Music.  We had corresponded for a couple of years and it was she who offered to show me around the campus next time I was in town.

We met at a predesignated street corner on the edge of campus.  I was dressed like a tourist, but that didn’t fool Faye.  She greeted me with a huge smile and a warm hug, as if she had finally found a long-lost friend!  I couldn’t help but feel welcome with her cheeriness, enthusiasm and easy-going demeanor.  She didn’t mind all of my questions either!  There were a few unfamiliar buildings on campus.  I was particularly interested  in the new library, as that is one of my areas of interest and training.  We went inside the massive complex, and while it is certainly technologically current, I was relieved to see that books still exist!

The new sports complex is state-of-the art and also houses other facilities for the students and faculty.

The new sports complex is state-of-the art and houses other facilities for the students and faculty.

The Stauffer Library (social sciences and humanities) was completed in 1994 and is the largest building on campus.

The Stauffer Library (social sciences and humanities) was completed in 1994 and is the largest building on campus.

I did wonder about the music library collection, as it is no longer housed in School of Music.  No more said, and Faye took me to Special Collections, found within the old Douglas Library (from my time).  She introduced me to the new librarian, and he took us into the stacks where I observed ‘classical’ LP’s that I know I had listened to during my studies.  How did I know for sure?  As a librarian, I recognized the accession numbers on the jackets, which dated back  to the 70’s and ’80’s!  There were even a few turntables in the listening room. I am glad that not all is obsolete!

Gwen and Shirley Roth, Administrative Officer of the School of Music at Harrison-LeCaine Hall, which was built in the early 1970's.

Gwen and Shirley Roth, Administrative Officer of the School of Music smile on the steps of  Harrison-LeCaine Hall, which was built in the early 1970’s.

The highlight of this foray was of course, a visit to the Music School.

Music 1981 alumni and longtime friends Gwen Whitford and David Self recently got-together in Barbados, where David is working and still playing piano/organ. Gwen was on her way home to Dominica, where she still does some singing.  Photo taken by John.

Music 1981 alumni and longtime friends Gwen Whitford and David Self recently got-together in Barbados, where David is working and still playing piano/organ. Gwen was on her way home to Dominica, where she still does some singing. Photo taken by John.

They were in the midst of some renovations, but the workers pointed to a stack of composite  photos on a table and I quickly came upon my dearest Class of 1981.  Ever-efficient Faye also introduced me to Administrative Officer Shirley Roth, who updated me on many of the latest in-house developments.  I was also honoured to meet Dr. Margaret Walker, current Director of the School of Music.

Faye Ransom was the perfectperson to take me around the campus.  She was very sensitive to my interests, and also gave me a great overview of Queen's today.

Faye Ransom was the perfect person to take me around the campus. She was very sensitive to my special interests, and also gave me a great overview of Queen’s today.

I love the blend of oldand new on the Queen's Campus.  Here is some limestone again.  This is Kingston Hall, which no doubt dated back to the 19th century.  Queen's was founded in 1841.

I love the blend of old and new on the Queen’s Campus. Here is more limestone – one of Kingston’s claims to fame. This is Kingston Hall, which I believe dates back to the 19th century. Queen’s was founded in 1841.

I briefly updated them on my music endeavors on Dominica and told them I was very touched to revisit this special building where I spent untold hours and made lasting friendships between 1977 and 1981.  I didn’t have time to see the new world-class Isabel Bader Centre for Performing Arts, which is opening in September 2014, but I will certainly check it out next visit.

After 1 1/2 hours, I felt very satisfied with the overview of my beloved Queen’s, and I thanked Faye profusely for showing me around, bringing back some sweet memories and wowing me with what

is new!

My remaining days at the Three Little Cottages passed quickly. I was fortunate to see both brothers one more time before I left, thanks to tremendous efforts on their parts.  I went back to Dominica with a firm desire to spend quality time with my Canadian family again very soon!

My niece Mara is graduating from high school in June 2015.  I plan to be there for the celebration - God-willing and weather-permitting.

My niece Mara is graduating from high school in June 2015. I plan to be there for the celebration – God-willing and weather-permitting!

My nephew Dallin (pronounced day-lin) performs with the Stirling Festival Theatre every summer. I've got to see him in action next summer!

My nephew Dallin (pronounced day-lin) performs with the Stirling Festival Theatre every summer  This year, he was in the cast of Footloose, the Musical, which received rave reviews. I’ve just got to see him in action next year!

 

 

 

A Canary Flies North: Adventures in Annapolis Valley, Nova Scotia: ‘Hurricane’ Arthur and Aunt Vivian’s 90th

Gwen and her Aunt Vivian just before the 90th birthday party , which took place the same day as 'Hurricane' Arthur's visit!

Gwen and her Aunt Vivian just before her 90th birthday part,y which took place the same day as ‘Hurricane’ Arthur’s visit! Photo taken by Patricia.

By the time I got to my cousins’ place in Wolfville, Nova Scotia, my nose was running like a faucet. Since Quebec City, I had been plagued by

Arthur blew in to Nova Scotia with quite a presence.  Despite downed trees, toppled signs and power outages, the birthday party carried on!

Arthur blew in to Nova Scotia and made his presence known with winds gusting to 140 kilometers per hour. Despite downed trees, toppled signs and provimce-wide power outages, the birthday party carried on!

sneezing, wheezing, coughing, swelling around eyes and face, bloated abdomen and urinary frequency with burning, but no infection.  In Halifax, I walked with a large box of tissues and went through about one a day! I guess I was being reminded that eastern Canada was not an ideal environment for my health challenges.  However, the upside this time was that I did not feel too sick, nor did I feel as tired as I had during other visits.  I credit the treatments I receive from my Canadian naturopath, Dr. Shawna Clark in Orillia Ontario and ongoing support from Dr. J. Fox, M.D. at the Integrated Chronic Care Centre (Environmental Health Specialty) in Fall River Nova Scotia for enabling me to manage my quality of life much better.  Ultimately, that is why I live in Dominica!

It was great to see everyone, and ‘cousin’ Patricia had made  a delicious fish chowder to suit everyone’s preferences and health issues.  I did make one amazing discovery that first dinner:  I was ‘allergic’ to strawberries!  They were just in season, at their peak and so I indulged.   (I was previously around my Nova Scotian relatives in blueberry season, which is later in August).  As soon as I ate them, I sneezed repeatedly, tissues placed in front of my face, garbage bag close-by, with a beet red face and stomach cramps.  Well, now I knew…for sure!

Despite the howling winds outside, I sang with joy for the celebration of Vivian's 90 years, to date. Vivian (r) and her granddaughter Jennifer (who was a superb MC) look on appreciatively. Photo by Patricia.

Despite the howling winds outside, I sang with joy for the celebration of Vivian’s 90 years, to date. Vivian (r) and her granddaughter Jennifer (who was a superb MC) look on appreciatively. Photo by Patricia.

I didn’t let that annoyance get in the way of my excitement about being here for Aunt Vivian’s 90th – I had thought about it for three years – since the last time I saw her! I was only a little

Arthur left an imposing impression on the waves just off of Evangeline Beach, near historic Grand Pre in the Annapolis Valley.

Arthur left an imposing impression on the waves just off of Evangeline Beach at high tide on the Minas Basin, near historic Grand Pre in the Annapolis Valley.

concerned about singing at the party, but if I squawked or squeaked, at least I was among family!  What we didn’t fully expect a day and a half before the big event  was that Arthur was determined to make his presence known!  But what that huge tempest did not realize is that Maritimers have no fear!!  That was proven to me in part by about 100 attendees who did not allow a storm to keep them away from this memorable occasion!  I did mention to my cousins that if we were in Dominica, we would not even stick our noses out the door and any event would have been postponed.  I’ll remember this special day the next time a hurricane visits Dominica, but I still won’t be inclined to venture outside – unless my cousins are here!

Suffice to say that despite the inclement weather, Vivian’s 90th birthday party was a big success.  We were all delighted to gather together to honour this retired teacher, who has taught hundreds of students in the area where she has lived for most of her life.  While the birthday was only publicized in the local church bulletin, it was felt that had a notice been placed in the newspaper, the turn-out would have been completely astounding!  This nonagenarian is a very active church member, “never say [s] no to an invitation,” and “doesn’t think of  [her] age.”  Many family members live close-by and  there always seems to be a function or activity to attend or take part in.  She is proud, and rightly so, of her dedication and ability to walk 2.5 miles 5 days a week.  I envy her skills as an avid card-player and crossword puzzle aficionado and scrabble expert.  And of course, she thanks God for the gift of her life.  Wise counsel, to those of us who are paying attention to the actions and words of wisdom from this long-lived woman.

Vivian acknowledges the assembled guests at her 90th birthday party before the cake is cut and enjoyed by all.

Vivian acknowledges the assembled guests at her 90th birthday party before the cake was cut and enjoyed by all.

Olivia (centre) and her sister Rachel help their great-grandmother blow out the candles on her cake.  Olivia is an award-winning young soprano and Rachel loves to dance!

Olivia (centre) and her sister Rachel helped their great-grandmother blow out the candles on her cake. Vivian’s daughter Kathy(r) assists with the process. Olivia, who is an accomplished young singer also performed at this party and wowed everyone with her beautiful soprano voice.

As  it turns out, this party was the first of a number of celebrations that took place over the course of the week that I was in “The Valley” and I was so thrilled to be part of it all. “I don’t think of you as a cousin, you’re more like a sister,’ professed Donna, wife of my cousin Raymond.  I was very touched by her comment, which made me feel even closer to my extended family!

Apart from the festivities, I was having a lot of fun going on long walks with cousin Dwight and his wife Patricia, who were my gracious hosts in Wolfville during my visit.  They took me out on forays of several kilometres each day, and with the weather being somewhat tropical, thanks to Arthur, I

Gwen and Cousin Dwight take a breather on  the trail passes through Wolfville and other towns in the area.  it is set up on an old rail road track.  The tide is out at this time, and all is peaceful!  Photo taken by Patricia.

Gwen and Cousin Dwight took a breather on the trail that  passes through Wolfville and other towns in the area. It is set up on an old rail road track. The tide is out at this time, and all is peaceful! Photo taken by Patricia.

enjoyed a good sweat and free-flowing sinuses!

Vivian is a keen card player and one to beat at 45's!  Cousin Raymond (far right) was my coach.  He is a brilliant strategist and I had only to follow his instructions.  Otherwise, I didn't have a clue! (But I did learn a few things).

Vivian is a keen card player and one to beat at 45’s! Cousin Raymond (far right) was my coach. He is a brilliant strategist and I had only to follow his instructions. Otherwise, I didn’t have a clue! (But I did learn a few things). Photo taken by Patricia.

Vivian and Gwen enjoy the surroundings at the old homestead in the Annapolis Valley.  Photo taken by Patricia.

Vivian and Gwen enjoy the surroundings at the old homestead on Blue Mountain in the Annapolis Valley. Photo taken by Patricia.

One of the biggest highlights of this unforgettable week was a picnic that the cousins organized near the site of the old homestead on ‘Blue Mountain’.  While a structure no longer exists, we brought goodies to munch on, told stories of days-gone-by when our grandparents (Vivian’s parents) ran a farm there and we would visit them , my family less often as we lived  in eastern Ontario, a thousand plus kilometers away! I actually attempted to sing a song that my grandmother (Vivian’s mother) had composed and written in the 1960’s. It was an awesome experience to

Dwight assists his mother Vivian with some gifts that she received at the old farmhouse site where she was born.

Dwight assists his mother Vivian with some birthday gifts that she received at the old farmhouse site where she was born.

perform it for her daughter, Vivian right on the spot where it had been created!

A little later, there were a few scary moments (hours) when some of the gang discovered that ticks had attached to us during our forest picnic.  Fortunately, those of us who were so afflicted quickly discovered the little critters and removed them post-haste.  Lyme Disease is carried by some species, but as far as I know, we are all in the clear.  Interestingly, those nasty bugs did not touch Aunt Vivian – at all!

We certainly spent considerable amounts of time feasting and I devoured fresh fish at every opportunity.  Good thing Dwight and Patricia were taking me on all those long walks!  On my last day in the area, we gathered at Hall’s Harbour for another big meal of seafood.  This tiny hamlet is renowned for its fresh fish and its picturesque setting.  Along the way, Cousin Gregory took me and Vivian on a circuitous route, where we visited some old haunts that were once loved by my parents too.

Gwen recalls family times at Kingsport Beach with her brothers and parents - a long time ago!

Gwen recalls family times at Kingsport Beach with her brothers and parents – a long time ago! Photo taken by Cousin Greg.

Alex Colville's Grave Marker in a secluded cemetery near Wolfville Nova Scotia

Alex Colville’s Grave Marker in a secluded cemetery near Wolfville Nova Scotia.

We also stopped at the  secluded grave site of renowned Nova Scotian artist, Alex Colville, who was world-famous for his unique style of

Kingsport Beach is a great place for a long walk - and a swim, when the tide is in!

Kingsport Beach is a great place for a long walk – and a swim, when the tide is in!

painting.  He died in July 2013. When we arrived at Kingsport, a pretty seaside village with a smattering of summer cottages along a long beach, Greg and I got out and took a walk, while Vivian remained in the vehicle.  I recalled earlier days, when my family would spend a day at the beach here.  It was fun to watch the dramatic turns of the tide on this part of the Minas Basin in the Bay of Fundy.

After we had driven around this  historic farming area, still confined within Acadian  and New England Planter constructed dikes that date back to the 17th  and 18th centuries, we headed over the North Mountain to another famous spot: Hall’s Harbour.  I took another walk down memory lane as I remembered how much my parents  liked to come here in search of mackerel, a very strong-smelling/tasting fish and dried dulse, a seaweed snack!

A group of the cousins, my aunt and I, the one niece present (of two others) gathered at the busy restaurant overlooking the harbour.  After we had placed our orders (I chose scallops this time), Cousin Raymond noticed a man sitting behind me who was wearing  what he thought was a Dominica cap. “Gwen, turn around,” he said, ‘Doesn’t that man’s cap with the Dominica flag on it?’  I took a look and sure enough, it was the real thing!  I boldly walked over to the man’s table with a big smile on my face and asked if he had been to Dominica.  He replied in the affirmative and went on about how

Hall's Harbour Nova Scotia on the Bay of Fundy shore.

Hall’s Harbour Nova Scotia on the Bay of Fundy shore.

This uprooted tree was a reminder of Arthur's visit to Hall's Harbour several days later.

This uprooted tree was a reminder of Arthur’s recent visit to Hall’s Harbour.

The fishing boats were in as the tide was out at Hall's Harbour, a pretty village on the Bay of Fundy Shore.

The fishing boats were in as the tide was out at Hall’s Harbour, a pretty village on the Bay of Fundy Shore.

In the slanting rays of lovely afternoon at Hall's Harbour, my aunt, several cousins and spouses and I relax after our big seafood dinners.

In the slanting rays of  a lovely afternoon at Hall’s Harbour, my aunt, several cousins and spouses and I relax after our big seafood dinners.

much he enjoyed his recent visit to the Nature

A lone Bald Eagle entertained us as a pair of seagulls chased it round while we dined outdoors at Hall's Harbour.

A lone Bald Eagle entertained us as a pair of seagulls chased it around while we dined outdoors at Hall’s Harbour.

Island.  I urged him to speak to my cousins about his visit, and sure enough, he came over to our table a little later and did just that!  Now, that I’ve had some reinforcement, I expect to see a cousin or two down here very soon!

It was a wonderful way to end my visit to the ‘The Valley’ and I felt truly refreshed by the  fresh stiff breezes coming from the Bay of Fundy. While I was a little sad to say good-bye to everyone after such a memorable week, I was consoled by the fact that I would see everyone soon – next summer, I hope!

Patricia and Dwight were my fun-filled hosts who really have a zest life and know how to make a 'stranger' feel at home!

Patricia and Dwight were my fun-filled hosts who really have a zest life and know how to make a ‘cousin’ feel right at home!

Early next morning, I bid farewell to Patricia and Dwight and headed down the highway again.  My last task was a long-awaited appointment with my environmental physician, Dr. Jonathan Fox, M.D. at the Integrated Chronic Care Centre in Fall River, a short distance from the airport.  From there, I would take a plane to Dorval Quebec (near Montreal), pick up another Via Rail train to take me west to lovely Kingston Ontario.  There, I would spend some time around my first hometown, see my brothers again, stay at a lake-side cottage on an organic farm, tour Queen’s University, my alma mater and more before returning to the Nature Island!

 

A Canary Flies North: Revisiting Halifax Nova Scotia: Friendly, Patriotic, Historic and Progressive!

Canada Day 2014 in Halifax started with a grand parade in which a contingent of 'Mounties' proudly participated.

Canada Day 2014 in Halifax started with a grand parade in which a contingent of ‘Mounties’ proudly participated.

After a good night’s sleep in my lodgings near the Halifax train station, I woke up refreshed and ready to celebrate Canada Day as only

I feel such pride and nostalgia when I recall my halcyon days in Halifax.

I feel such pride and nostalgia when I recall my halcyon days in Halifax.

Haligonians can!  In other words, all the stops are pulled out in this fair city to pay tribute to ‘our home and native land’!  I had, in fact numerous reasons to feel joyous in the Canadian city that I fondly refer to as my second home.

On Spring Garden Road in downtown Halifax,  pretty planters were adorned with flags for Canada Day.

On Spring Garden Road in downtown Halifax, even  pretty planters were adorned with flags for Canada Day.

It was such a thrill to also meet up with  a longtime friend, Dr. Peter Wells, a Professor in the International Ocean Institute   at Dalhousie University.  From 1984 until the early 1990’s, Peter and I and other friends had numerous  intrepid wilderness adventures in Nova Scotia’s great outdoors.

While I was on the ‘Ocean’ train en route to Halifax,  Peter and I corresponded by email. ( I was so glad to have that mini-tablet with me!)We arranged to meet along the Canada Day Parade route, and I got the biggest chuckle when I saw Peter first, approached him tentatively and  then boldly asked (en francais) if he spoke French!  “Oui…,” he started and then recognized me after half a second.  What a laugh we had on the crowded sidewalk!

DSCF2705

McKelvie’s Restaurant, with the Halifax Waterfront and Dartmouth shore in the distance.

We watched the parade until it ended, then wandered through the lovely Public Gardens and lunched at a middle-eastern restaurant as we caught up on many years of our lives.  Later, over a

Gwen and Peter point to a sailboat 'decked out' for Canada Day just before a festive eve of fireworks commences over the harbour.

Gwen and Peter point to a sailboat ‘decked out’ for Canada Day just before a festive eve of fireworks commenced over the harbour.

delicious haddock dinner at McKelvies, a longtime fish-specialty restaurant near the Halifax Waterfront, I convinced Peter to try

This bandshell in Haifax's Historic and Beautiful Botannical Gardens was teh focus for a few hours on Canada Day as a small 'rockabilly' (Elvis-style) had the crowd hopping.  The petite lady playing the bass sure knew how to make that huge instrument sing!

This band-shell in Halifax’s Historic and Beautiful Public Gardens was the focus for a few hours on Canada Day as a small ‘rockabilly’ (Elvis-style) group had the crowd hopping. The petite lady playing the double-bass sure knew how to make that huge stringed instrument sing!

Dominica’s Waitukubuli National Trail.  He’s an avid hiker and had recently taken on the Himalayas (serious stuff!).  I insisted that his hiking forays would be lacking if he did not try some tropical treks.  Renowned local bird authority, hiking guide and forestry officer Bertrand Jno Baptiste is already on notice to assist with this adventure, if he isn’t already booked!  I think Peter will time it to be here for Carnival celebrations too.  I expect to see him on the Nature Island next February – and I’ll go along on some of the hikes!

As I only had a couple of days to spend in this historic port city (and former hometown) before heading to the Annapolis Valley for my aunt’s 90th birthday celebrations, I selected a few main sites to see, leaving the rest for next visit.

I certainly walked down memory lane when I spent a couple of hours in Point Pleasant Park, a popular green space at the most southerly point of the peninsula of Halifax.  This lovely setting had taken a beating during Hurricane Juan in 2003.  It caught everyone off-guard and the damage to this forested park and the Public Gardens was extreme.  Fortunately, Mother Nature and citizens alike put things back in place before too long, and these parks are once again as lovely as ever.

These fragrant wild roses in Point Pleasant reminded me of the field behind my grandparent's farmhouse in the Annapolis Valley.

These fragrant wild roses in Point Pleasant reminded me of the field behind my late grandparent’s farmhouse in the Annapolis Valley.

It was a foggy morning when I walked around Point Pleasant . These monuments reminded of sober times in Canadian naval history.

It was a foggy morning when I walked around Point Pleasant . This monument pays tribute to men and women of the Canadian Navy who have died during peacetime.

 

Memorials always make me shed a tear or two.  This one no different - there were a few wreaths remaining from the previous Remembrance Day (November 11th)

Memorials always make me shed a tear or two. This one no different – there were a few wreaths remaining from the previous Remembrance Day (November 11th) when those who have died in Canadian naval service  are remembered.

 

Here are a few photos of this serene setting:

There are several entrances to Point Pleasant, a runners strollers and dog-walkers' paradise!

There are several entrances to Point Pleasant, a runners, strollers and dog-walkers’ paradise!

Serenity can easily be found in Point Pleasant Park - short walk or drive from Halifax'z bustlling city centre.

Serenity can easily be found in Point Pleasant Park  – a  short walk or drive from Halifax’s bustling city centre.

As the fog lifted, I leisurely walked for about 20 minutes

The Cafe in the Public Gardens is an ideal spot to sit, read chat and/or enjoy a treat with coffee or tea.  Featured here is a blueberry-oat bar, with Nova Scotian berries, of course.  (They were not in season yet, but the frozen ones taste great too!)

The Cafe in the Public Gardens is an ideal spot to sit, read, chat and/or enjoy a treat with coffee or tea in glorious natural surroundings. Featured here is a blueberry-oat bar, the Nova Scotian variety, of course. (They were not in season yet, but the frozen ones tasted great too!)

towards the Public Gardens, where I treated myself to a delicious snack:

The Public Gardens in Halifax has retained its botannical beauty since Victorian times.

The Public Gardens in Halifax has retained its botanical beauty since Victorian times – 1867, in fact.

Rhododendrons are in full bloom in late June/early July in the Public Gardens.  I have memories of time spent admiring them with my dearly-departed parents, who really loved this idyllic place.

Rhododendrons are in full bloom in late June/early July in the Public Gardens. I have memories of time spent admiring them with my dearly departed parents, who really loved this idyllic place.

Energized once again, I took my time walking towards the waterfront from the Public Gardens.  I  admired abundant shops, new developments and my favourite historic sites that have always ‘been there’ during my lifetime, and well before!  Like Quebec City, Halifax played an important role in the founding of Canada and of course, its defense!

Here are some of the buildings that have always captured my attention, along with some historic street scenes:

I love the wooden homes with bay windows.  The Halifax climate must be ideal for Rhododendrons!

I love the wooden homes with bay windows. The Halifax climate must be ideal for Rhododendrons!

St. Matthew's United Church is one of the oldest structures in the city.  It was completed in 1754. Halifax was founded in 1749!

St. Matthew’s United Church is one of the oldest structures in the city. It was completed in 1754. Halifax was founded in 1749!

Stately buildings on the south end of Barrington Street, not far from the harbour.

Stately buildings on the south end of Barrington Street, not far from the harbour.

This restored building houses the Split Crow Pub, a Halifax landmark in the Historic Properties near the waterfront.

This restored building houses the Split Crow Pub, a Halifax landmark in the Historic Properties near the waterfront.

There are plenty of placques about the place.  This one is found at the Nova Scotia Legislature and honours Joseph Howe, a well-liked 19th century politician who lobbied for freedom of the press and fairness in politics!

There are plenty of plaques about the place. This one is found at the Nova Scotia Legislature and honours Joseph Howe, a well-liked 19th century politician who lobbied for freedom of the press and fairness in politics!

At the Nova Scotia Legislature, the Rainbow Flag flew high, honouring people of the LGBT community and their individual rights and freedoms.  Canada had just hosted the 1st World  Pride celebration in North America in Toronto.

At the Nova Scotia Legislature, the Rainbow Flag flew high, acknowledging people of the LGBT community and their rights and freedoms. Canada had just hosted the 1st World Pride celebration in North America in Toronto.

 

There are some new buildings too.  I gazed upwards with some trepidation as I took in this monstrosity in the city's downtown core - an engineering feat to me!

There are some new buildings too. I gazed upwards with trepidation as I took in this monstrosity in the city’s downtown core – an engineering feat to me!

You will appreciate that I had been ‘hoofing it’ for a few hours and it was time for a late lunch.  I looked about the busy streets – so many choices.  Suddenly, a prominent hanging sign caught my eye: The Old Triangle Irish Alehouse:

The Old Triangle offers delicious organic and homemade meals, along with entertainment most evenings.

The Old Triangle offers delicious organic produce and homemade meals, along with entertainment most evenings.

I instantly remembered that Peter had recommended it, as it was near to McKelvie’s where we had dined the previous evening.  My meal was large, tasteful and wholesome.  I couldn’t have asked for better anywhere, I don’t think.

At the Old Triangle in Halifax, I devoured a savoury meal of organic greens with homemade dressing, codfish cakes and delectable vegetarian baked beans. Of course I ate teh whole thing!

At the Old Triangle in Halifax, I devoured a savoury meal of organic greens with homemade dressing, codfish cakes and delectable vegetarian baked beans. Of course I ate the whole thing!

As you can imagine, I was not able to walk far after that feast.  As I was in close proximity to the waterfront, I decided to hop aboard the Dartmouth Ferry and take a quick trip across the Halifax Harbour and back.  The waters were calm and I sat for a while, enjoying the views of the  Nova Scotian capital city as we approached the opposite shore.

On a sultry summer afternoon, this serene scene betray the busy-ness of the Halifax harbour, a major  port on the eastern seaboard of North America.

On a sultry summer afternoon, this serene scene  of the Dartmouth shore betrays the busy-ness of the Halifax Harbour, a major port on the eastern seaboard of North America.

The Halifax skyline as seen from the waters of the harbour. This city is the major commercial centre of the four Atlantic Provinces.

The Halifax skyline as seen from the waters of the harbour. This city is the major commercial centre of the four Atlantic Provinces.

Halifax is a very deep, long harbour and is a thriving industrial port.  The MacDonald Bridge in teh foreground, and the Mackay Bridge in the distance link Halifax with its twin city, Dartmouth, on the opposite shore.

Halifax is a very deep, long harbour and is a thriving industrial port, which culminates in the Bedford Basin. The MacDonald Bridge in the foreground, and the Mackay Bridge in the distance link Halifax with its twin city, Dartmouth, on the opposite shore.

The Queen Mary II was in port while I was in Halifax. She was anchored near Pier 21, which is the area where many immigrants have entered Canada over the years.

The Queen Mary II was in port while I was in Halifax. She was anchored near Pier 21, which is the area where many immigrants  entered Canada from the 1920’s until 1971 .

It had been a full and active couple of days in my second Canadian hometown and I enjoyed every minute of it.  But I was expected to arrive  in the Annapolis Valley later that afternoon, so I picked up my rental car and headed out-of-town and down the highway.  The ‘Relations’ were gathering for the first of a number of celebrations to salute my aunt’s 90th birthday.  I was delighted to be in Nova Scotia for this momentous occasion.  In the next post, you will see why this grand event will never be forgotten!

A Canary Flies North: Taking the ‘Ocean’ train east to historic Halifax, my second Canadian Home!

The Halifax Train Station where the Ocean ends its 1,346 km (836 mi) journey from Montreal.  2014 marks the 110th year of this unique excursion. I've done it twice now!

The Halifax Train Station where the Ocean ends its 1,346 km (836 mi) journey from Montreal. 2014 marks the 110th year of this unique excursion. I’ve done it twice now!

I boarded the OCEAN VIA train at Charny, across the St. Lawrence River from Quebec City around 10:30 p.m., en route to Halifax. Then I quickly settled in to my seat and covered myself with several layers of warm wraps.  I would be sitting up all night and I had discovered from previous experience that the A/C was far too cold for me in the middle of the night.  In fact, some sniffles and a cough had already commenced in Quebec City, reminding me that re-circulated indoor air and air conditioning did not sit well with my health challenges. (It could have been other irritants, such as pollens too). Nevertheless, I was intent on repeating this adventure one more time, as I did enjoy the diverse Maritime landscapes and charming serene towns along the way on my first trip in 2011.

I slept off and on throughout the night, awakening when the train stopped or flashing red crossing lights penetrated my closed eyelids.  Although I am not a large person, it was somewhat difficult to get comfortable, so I consciously chose to doze  until daybreak.  When I finally fully opened my eyes, clear blue skies, verdant green forest and the sparkling Restigouche River on the Quebec/New Brunswick border distracted me from my cramped muscles and  fuzzy head.

One of the 24 cars on The Ocean headed to Halifax shines in the brilliant sunlight at Campbellton New Brunswick.

Two of the 24 cars on The Ocean headed to Halifax on June 30th shine in the brilliant sunlight at Campbellton New Brunswick.

When the train came to a complete stop at Campbellton, New Brunswick at 7:30 a.m., we were notified that we would be there for about half an hour as the train was early!  Therefore, we had to wait until its usual departure time, to allow boarding passengers a chance to catch the train as per its regular schedule. I took the opportunity to step down and go outside for a walk along the platform.  I dodged smokers here and there, as they are not permitted to attend to their habit on board.  Away from the  smoke puffers, the air was pure and sweet.  I chatted casually with one of the friendly train staff.  She told me that this train was 24 cars long!  As the sleeper cars were towards the rear, I never made it all the way to back.  The farthest I got was to the dining car, and I usually went at last call, when there was hardly anyone there.  That allowed me to converse casually with cheerful staff and to overhear their intriguing conversations! (I couldn’t help it  – they weren’t exactly speaking softly about their woes… not enough vacation… when I was younger,things were better, etc…) I couldn’t agree more!!!

I occupied myself by frequently gazing out the window, occasionally getting up to eat or go to the toilet, and checking my email on a secured table  in the wireless car now and then.

I really enjoyed blueberry pancakes with other fruit and real  Canadian maple syrup, along with good coffee for my late breakfast in the dining car.  It was fun!

I really enjoyed blueberry pancakes with other fruit and real Canadian maple syrup, along with good coffee for my late breakfast in the dining car. It was fun!

I was able to read my tablet without too much jiggling on this train.  It was bigger and seemed steadier than the other ones I had travelled on.  It wasn’t slow though, as you must have gathered by now!

Perhaps I should confess to being a real day dreamer, and as such, the time generally passed very quickly.  I was getting a little impatient by the time we reached Amherst, the gateway town to the rest of Nova Scotia.  At that point, there was only three more hours to go!  I think I was becoming a bit squirmy by then, and so were some children sitting not far from me.  They got on the train at Moncton, New Brunswick and I am certain that the four hours to Halifax must have seemed interminable to them.

At long last, there were signs that we were on the approach to this historic east coast port.  We rounded the Bedford Basin and I could see the MacKay and McDonald Bridges crossing the Halifax Harbour between said city and its neighbour, Dartmouth.  Finally, we were there right on time!  I hobbled(like everyone else) off of the train at 6:40 p.m., awaited baggage for only a few minutes and then walked out into the salty air of a most lovely seaside city on the eve of Canada Day. Halifax, here I am – back ‘home’ again!

Here are some photos of the journey.  I’ve noted their locations wherever possible, so that you can refer to the map above, which was copied from ‘The Ocean Train’ on Wikipedia. Kindly note that the ‘Ocean’ does not go to the Gaspe Peninsula, but travels in a southerly direction from Campbellton, New Brunswick to Halifax, Nova Scotia.

Most likely a church spire in the town of Campbellton New Brunswick.  there is still a French feel to this area and many people have Acadian roots in this region.

Most likely a church spire in the town of Campbellton New Brunswick. There is still  traditional French influence and many people have Acadian roots in this region.

A typical farm home in Northern New Brunswick.

A typical farm home in Northern New Brunswick.

This field appears to be rape seed (Canola) according to plant specialist/friend Karen. See her comment below for additional info. I admired it in the Miramichi New Brunswick area.

I would love to know what this staely building represents - somewhere in northern New Brunswick. I could not see an identification sign from my train window.  Does anyone know?

I would love to know what this stately building represents – somewhere in northern New Brunswick. I could not see an identification sign from my train window. Does anyone know?

Th Miramichi River in New Brunswick is very wide and has an international reputation for the best salmon fishing anywhere!

The Miramichi River in New Brunswick is very wide and has an international reputation for the best salmon fishing anywhere!

There is a lot of forest in New Brunswick.  My father might have called this 'moose pasture'.  I didn't see any this time.

There is a lot of forest in New Brunswick. My father might have called this ‘moose pasture’. I didn’t see any this time.

At Amherst, Nova Scotia, the Bay of Fundy tides are definitely noticable

At Amherst, Nova Scotia, the Bay of Fundy tides are definitely noticeable

In the flat breezy marshes near Sackville New Brunswick and Amherst Nova Scotia,  wind turbines are generating energy.

In the flat breezy marshes near Sackville New Brunswick and Amherst Nova Scotia, wind turbines are generating energy.

Truro Nova Scotia is a quaint little town that holds special meaning for my immediate family - and reminds me of my Maritime roots!

Truro Nova Scotia is a quaint little town that holds special meaning for my immediate family – and reminds me of my Maritime roots!

The murals at the Truro Train Station are colourful and thoughtful.  They really hold one's attention while the train is stopped there.

The murals at the Truro Train Station are colourful and thoughtful. They really hold one’s attention while the train stops there.

Some farm fields and possibily the Shubenacadie River, between Truro and Halifax.

Some farm fields and possibly the Shubenacadie River, between Truro and Halifax.

Looks like Grand Lake, about a half hour's  northerly drive from Halifax.  i have lots of memories of canoeing adventures there.

Looks like Grand Lake, about a half hour’s northerly drive from Halifax. I have lots of memories of canoeing adventures there.

Halifax Station! "Home" at last!

Halifax Station! “Home” at last!

Much of the Maritimes is covered in rivers and trees, as you can see!

Much of the Maritime Provinces are covered in rivers and trees, as you can see!