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!

 

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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!

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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!

 

A Canary Flies North: A Night and a Day in Unforgettable Quebec City, Canada!

The Chateau Frontenac, situated within the Old City of Quebec, is a sight to behold from any vantage point in the area.

The Fairmont Chateau Frontenac, situated within the Old City of Quebec  is a sight to behold from any vantage point in the area. This photo was taken on the expansive  and historic Terrasse ‘Boardwalk’.

After my pleasant train journey on VIA Rail from Montreal, I arrived in Quebec City on a lovely warm Sunday afternoon in late

So many talented artists display their creations and sell them on La Rue Des Artisans, a short walk from the. Chateau Frontenac

So many talented people display their creations and sell them on La Rue Des Artisans, a short walk from the. Chateau Frontenac. I was not allowed to photograph their work, so an artist took my picture instead!

June.  A taxi collected me and we drove a short distance through pedestrian congested streets to a special holiday treat for my overnight: the world-famous five-star Chateau Frontenac!  No, I did not win the Canadian lottery, but I did have enough travel points accumulated to be able to ‘afford’ this luxurious stop-over.   I only additionally paid for breakfast and I relished every minute of my stay there.  This historic hotel, which was originally built in the 19th century  on the site of an ancient military fort, deserves every distinction as the ultimate accommodation. I don’t think I could ever do better than that – except to save enough points for two nights next time!

When I checked in, I was immediately informed that my room had been upgraded!  I looked at the clerk quizzically and explained: “But I am not paying for this room, it is through travel points.”

My river view room had a window that opened and fresh breezes off of the water - just perfect for someone who dislikes A/C!

My river view room had a window that opened for fresh breezes off of the water – just perfect for someone who cannot tolerate A/C and air tight buildings!

She smiled as she informed me that there was a river view room available, so instead of looking inland at the architecture of old city (equally appealing!), I would be able to look over the

I was looking up to see if I could figure out which window belonged to my room in the elegant Chateau Frontenac.  I think I did know at the time

I was looking up to see if I could figure out which window belonged to my room in the elegant Chateau Frontenac. I think I did know at the time.

 "In 1944, Fairmont Le Château Frontenac became the action center of the Quebec Conferences of World War II, which involved U.S. President Franklin D. Roosevelt, British Prime Minister Winston Churchill and Canadian Prime Minister William Lyon Mackenzie King." This historic photo recalls a time when these world leaders were strategizing the end WWII - at this same hotel!

“In 1944, Fairmont Le Château Frontenac became the action center of the Quebec Conferences of World War II, which involved U.S. President Franklin D. Roosevelt, British Prime Minister Winston Churchill and Canadian Prime Minister William Lyon Mackenzie King.” This historic photo recalls a time when these world leaders were discussing strategies to end WWII!

Boardwalk and the St. Lawrence River! I appreciated this welcoming gesture and was further charmed when a pleasant bell-hop brought my bags to the room by service elevator.  When he came in, he explained every feature of the tastefully decorated room – in French, when he discovered that I could speak the language. (Both English and French are capably spoken by tourism industry workers in Quebec City).  I unpacked a little and freshened up, but I was eager to hit the streets. I had not been to this Belle Ville for over 20 years, and that had been in mid-winter – at that time of year the river breeze is frigid and less conducive to a leisurely stroll unless all bundled up!  Mind you, I have been here several times in my younger years, thanks to my parents, who usually stopped  for the night when we were driving to Nova Scotia in summertime, There were a few other forays, with my high school French class and my brother Marc, to name a few.  I can’t remember off-hand, but I am sure my brothers will remind me if I ever went downhill skiing at nearby Mont Ste. Anne – maybe we just went to have a look in summertime.  Or maybe they slalomed without me!

The winter winds may be frigid, but there is plenty to do to keep warnm during Quebec City's annual winter 'Carnavl', which takes place just before Lent, just like Dominica.  This 'Bonhomme' invites you to discover this unique winter celebration, which is full of fun!  (i've been there - it is that, and more!)

The winter winds may be frigid, but there is plenty to do to keep warm during Quebec City’s annual winter ‘Carnaval’, which takes place  before Lent, just like Dominica. Above, ‘Bonhomme‘ invites you to experience this unique winter celebration, which is full of fun! (I’ve been there, and can vouch  for good times to be had!)

A beautiful street scene - don't you agree?

A beautiful street scene – don’t you agree?

As I wandered around the quaint narrow streets, dodging occasional vehicles (along with thousands of other visitors), I admired the beautiful buildings that had been proudly restored.  Quebec City had celebrated its 400th anniversary in 2008 and is now recognized as a UNESCO World Heritage Site.

Samuel de Champlain, the father of new France, founded Quebec City in 1608.  It was orignally called Kebec, an Aboriginal word that means 'where the river narrows.'

Samuel de Champlain, the’ Father of New France’, founded Quebec City in 1608. It was originally called Kebec, an indigenous Algonquin word that means ‘ the river narrows here.’

I could easily see why – as it is the only city in North America that has preserved its buildings to represent ‘a fortified city of the colonial era.’  While the little lanes were packed with tourists, I did not see any garbage or  other forms of detritus about. Every park, lane-way, monument,  house, restaurant, hotel and sidewalk was immaculate and totally litter-free.  What an example for other cities to follow!

I also strolled along La Terrasse (Boardwalk)  until it merged into la Promenade des Gouveneurs.  I walked up the steps, admiring the river views until I came to

The Promenade des Gouveneurs ascends to the grounds of the Quebec Citadelle

The Promenade des Gouveneurs ascends to the grounds of the Quebec Citadelle from the scenic river view walkway.

the grounds of the historic Quebec Citadelle, a Parks Canada site. I covered a good portion of the grounds but did not go inside this time, nor did I venture over to the notable Plains of Abraham where Wolfe (eng) and Montcalm  (fre)battled it out in 1759 and both died as a result of fatal injuries. The French surrendered at that time.  But you can read a  Canadian history book to find out more!

It was getting late (for me) and as I hadn’t eaten any dinner, I popped into a creperie around 8 p.m for a light meal.  A folk singer performed some easy listening oldie goldies in English and

The Creperie is actually situated on a patio behind the entrance way.  It was lovely!

The Creperie is actually situated on a patio behind the entrance way. It was lovely!

French on his  guitar, which complemented the casual but congenial ambience of the outdoor patio.   Again, it was only a few steps from the hotel.  I could feel fatigue coming on, so I quickly savoured my egg/onion crêpe and headed back to the Chateau Frontenac.  There, I slept very well on a supremely comfortable bed!

Next morning, after a huge breakfast in my room, I decided that a walking tour would give me a little more background on this fascinating city. I did take a tour in English with a group of Americans who had arrived by cruise ship.  Robert, our guide plied us with so much information that I truly regretted not having brought my voice recorder!  What I am now left with are impressions, and the need to re-read that Canadian history book to reinforce what I heard on this sensational two-hour walk around town.

We covered quite a bit of ground, and a few of the principle sites of the city include the following in photos:

The old part of the  city is confined by walls or ramparts, as seen in this photo.

The old part of the city is surrounded by walls or ramparts, as seen in this photo.

I had recently read about Marie de l'Incarnation, who came to quebec City in 1639, founded the Ursuline Order right here, as well as teh first school for girls.  She was an exceptional woman!

I had recently read about Marie de l’ Incarnation, who came to Quebec City in 1639, founded the Ursuline Order right here, as well as the first school for girls. She was an exceptional woman!

The Quebec Parliament sits here and faces the pretty Tourny Fountain.

The Quebec Parliament sits here and faces the pretty Tourny Fountain.

The entrance to the Girls' School and Ursuline Order.

The entrance to the Girls’ School and the Ursuline Order.

The Notre Dame de Quebec Cathedral/Basilica is a sight/site to behold and is a testament to the strong longstanding Catholic religious practice in Quebec.foundation

The Notre Dame de Quebec Cathedral/Basilica is a sight/site to behold and is a testament to the strong foundation of Catholic religious practice in Quebec.

The Anglican Cathedral of the Holy Trinity was completed in 1804 and was teh first of its kind to be built outside of the British Isles! There is definitely an Anglophone influence in this church!

The Anglican Cathedral of the Holy Trinity was completed in 1804 and was the first of its kind to be built outside of the British Isles! There is definitely an Anglophone influence in this church!

Robert, my walking tour guide and I parted here as I had to check out of the hotel.  I left after he had described this site, which was a seminary/boys' school originally established by  Laval, the first Bishop of Neew France. The Seminary became  University of Laval in 1852.

Robert, my walking tour guide and I parted here as I had to check out of the hotel. I left after he had described this site, which was a seminary/boys’ school that he had attended. It was originally established by Francois de Laval, the first Bishop of New France in 1663. The Seminary section became University of Laval in 1852.

On the tour, I encountered a place I visited in 1976 when I visited Quebec with my French class for Carnaval in mid-winter.  Aux Anciens Canadiens is a well established traditional Quebecois restaurant in the heart of the old city.

On the tour, I encountered a place where I ate a warm meal on a very cold night in 1976 when I visited Quebec with my high school French class for Carnaval in mid-winter. Aux Anciens Canadiens is a well established traditional Québécois restaurant in the heart of the old city.

Aux Anciens Canadiens is the site of the oldest existing house in Quebec City.  It's been there since 1677!

Aux Anciens Canadiens is on the site of the oldest existing house in Quebec City. It’s been there since 1677!

After I checked out (late – with the gracious hotel staff’s permission!), I left my baggage in a safe storage room behind the desk of the concierge.  By then, my big breakfast had worn off and my feet were worn out from Robert’s comprehensive tour.  Guess where I went for lunch? Aux Anciens Canadiens, of course, for a repeat gastronomic experience after a 38 year absence! Although it was mid-summer and not mid-winter,  I still consumed all the filling courses, but for only $20.00 CAD, I wouldn’t need another meal that day!  I started with Quebec Pea Soup, which was followed by stuffed slices of duck in a divine  fruit sauce with tender-crisp vegetables and a healthy serving of mashed/baked potatoes.

My incredible lunch at Aux Anciens Canadiens.

My incredible lunch at Aux Anciens Canadiens.

I love this mural - which is very realistic in its presentation.

I love this mural – which is very realistic in its presentation.

Then I found room , somewhere, for a gigantic slice of sugar pie with whipped cream (tarte au sucre).

My delightful server presented me with what looked like two servings of sugar pie!  No, I did not leave any on the plate...

My delightful server presented me with what looked like two servings of sugar pie! No, I did not leave any on the plate…

I really did roll down to the Old Port (Vieux-Port), below the Old City’s walls after that.  The steep uphill return was difficult because I was so overstuffed.  But I do NOT regret it – that was traditional Quebec dining at its finest with a price that could not be compared with anywhere else!

By now, it was mid afternoon – I was hot and felt very sluggish, but I am glad I took some  time to see a few more points of interest.  Then I spent the rest of the day and into the evening lounging in little parks, gazing at the river from the Boardwalk and later sitting in comfy chairs in the lounge at Chateau Frontenac.  Around 8 p.m., I collected my gear, picked up a taxi and headed to the Palais du Gare (train station) where I waited for a bus to take me across the St. Lawrence River to connect with the famous Ocean train, which would depart around 10:30 p.m.  and carry me for the next 20 hours all the way to Halifax Nova Scotia!

Down by the harbour, the cruise shippers could easy take in many of the attractions of the Old Port and a little higher up, the Old City.

From the harbour, the cruise shippers can easily walk to many of the attractions of the Old Port and a little higher up, the Old City.

The Vieu Port or Old Port section of the city is charming and beautifully restored.  They are many specialty shops and cute cafes in this area.

The Vieux-Port or Old Port section of the city is charming and beautifully restored. They are many specialty shops and cute cafes in this area.

A Canary Flies North: Family, Friends and Rides on the Rails between Toronto and Quebec City, Canada

Toronto's statuesque CN Tower stand out clearly against the beautiful blue backdrop on a perfect Sunday in June.

Toronto’s landmark CN Tower stands out clearly against the beautiful blue backdrop on a perfect Sunday in June.

I enjoyed my daily dose of fresh raw foods at Rawlicious on Brock St. in Whitby for the week I was in the area. Pcitured here  are soft tacos with side salad.  Every item on the menu is gluten, dairy and refined sugar free.

I enjoyed my daily dose of fresh raw organic foods at Rawlicious on Brock St. S. in Whitby  Ontario for the week I was in the area. Pictured here are soft tacos with side salad. Every item on the menu is gluten, dairy and refined sugar-free. Their lemonade is one to beat! The meals were creatively prepared and tasted divine.

When I finally arrived in Toronto (right after a tornado had touched down just north of the city), I was mildly shocked by the cooler, damp weather.  By the next morning, the clear skies and strong sunshine indicated lower levels of pollution and I felt relatively well in this industrialized, highly populated area.

I regained my Canadian bearings in Whitby, a pretty city with tree-lined streets  about an hour east of Toronto.  As I attended to medical and other personal matters there,  I appreciated the friendliness of the people and an organic restaurant near a conveniently located small motel called The Lucien.  It is a family run business and I am a repeat guest over a several years.  The rooms are clean, quiet and unscented per my special request.  I don’t need a car there as everything is within walking distance or can be accessed by a regular bus system.

When my business had been completed, I headed down the highway for a special event:

my one and only nephew’s graduation from Grade Eight!  In the Canadian system, this is the educational milestone one achieves before continuing on to four years of secondary school.

I was a very proud auntie indeed, as my young relative received top awards for science, geography and for his exceptional contribution to school music activities.  The biggest surprise was his distinction as class valedictorian, and he delivered the address in both of Canada’s official languages, English and French.

Nephew Dallin the Grade 8 Graduate with his proud Auntie before the ceremony and the valedictory surprise.

Nephew Dallin the Grade 8 Graduate with his proud Auntie before the ceremony and the valedictory surprise. Photo taken by Mum Sharon.

Dallin and his sister Mara after the graduation ceremny - my two pride and joys.  Mara is in her last year of high school and is an outstanding scholar and musician too.

Dallin and his sister Mara after the graduation ceremony – my two pride and joys. Mara is in her last year of high school and is an outstanding scholar and musician too. They are the lovely children of my brother Marc and his wife Sharon.

I’ll just say, that with the bit of extra noise that I generated during the applause after his speech, everyone knew that I was ‘related’ to the young graduate!

Brother Edwin and Sis-in-law Beth get ready to to have a little birthday feast with me.  This delectable cheesecake was purchased at  the renowned Mariposa Market in Orillia, about 1 1/2 hours north of Toronto.

Brother Edwin and Sis-in-law Beth got ready to have a little birthday feast with me. This delectable cheesecake was purchased at the renowned Mariposa Market in Orillia, about 1 1/2 hours north of Toronto.

Then I was off to visit my other brother and his wife. Edwin and Beth had met and married since I was last in Canada, so it was another joyful occasion.  It was a delight to meet this lovely woman, and to get better acquainted.  We had plenty to celebrate, as I was there between both of their birthdays . I surprised them with a delectable summer fruit cheesecake from the renowned Mariposa bakery about a half hour north of their city.  They in turn spoiled me with all kinds of treats and meals. We parted with assurances that we would meet again in a few weeks time, after my trip to Nova Scotia for Aunt Vivian’s milestone 90th birthday.

While I was in the Orillia area, I took time for an all important face-to-face appointment with my longtime naturopathic physician, Shawna Clark, N.D.  We consult regularly by phone, but there were a few tests that required my physical presence.  This helped tremendously with my ongoing treatment of environmental-based health challenges.  Shawna has helped me enormously to have an improved quality of life over the past 18+ years.  Her professional assistance has been invaluable to me and I do not know what I would do without her highly trained, professional, complementary

After a delcious lunch at Apple Annies, friend and naturopath Shawna Clark, N.D. took me on a tour of Mariposa Market in Orillia Ontario.

After a delicious lunch at Apple Annies, friend and naturopath Shawna Clark, N.D. took me on a tour of the Mariposa Market in Orillia Ontario.

medical knowledge and  techniques.

Between all the above-mentioned visits, I spent one day in the big city of Toronto expressly to visit a friend from Dominica who had returned to Canada a few years earlier.  I had promised John in our Christmas correspondence some months earlier that we would get-together this time so I could bring him up-to-speed on the latest news on the Nature Island.

The GO transit systme is a great way to get around the Greater Toronto areas - it's convenient, economical and ecological!

The GO transit system is a great way to get around the Greater Toronto area – it’s convenient, economical and ecological!

On a beautiful Sunday morning, I took the GO train into downtown Toronto from Whitby and arrived at Union Station, not far from the CN Tower, just before midday.  John met me across busy , congested and construction-clogged Front Street.We headed to Le Marche, a cosmopolitan eatery nearby for a freshly prepared delicious lunch and an intensive two-hour chat. As I provided John with my latest perspectives on my  life as an expat in Dominica, he filled me in on his forays and projects.  It was no surprise when he informed me that he was writing a book because he has “had an unusual life.“

From John`s condo, the southerly Toronto skyline beyond St. James Cathedral portrays urban beauty at its finest in this booming metropolis.

From John`s condo, the southerly Toronto skyline beyond St. James Cathedral portrays urban beauty at its finest in this booming metropolis.

I won’t give anything away, but I can’t wait to read it.

John Carson is a nonagenarian with boundless energy and a brilliant mind.  He spent about 25 years of his life in Dominica, with his wife Renie.

John is a nonagenarian with boundless energy and a brilliant mind. He spent more than 25 years of his life in Dominica with his late wife, Renee.

John is the kind of person who carries through with all of his goals.  All best wishes, John!

I think this is the VIA Rail train station in Kingston Ontario - my hometown.  You'll ave to excuse me -over the course of a few days and many kilometers,  I passed by quite a few!

I think this is the VIA Rail train station in Kingston Ontario – my hometown. You’ll have to excuse me if I am wrong: over the course of a few days and hundreds of kilometers, I passed by a few!

After all my pleasant meetings in central and eastern Ontario, it was time to go’ down east’.  On a clear Saturday morning, I boarded a VIA Rail train in Oshawa, just east of Toronto, en route to Quebec City where I would overnight before hopping aboard The Ocean to continue my rail  journey to Halifax, on the east coast.  It was a pleasant trip to Montreal, where I had one hour in between trains before the next departure to Quebec City.  My only complaint is that I was not aware that baggage could no longer be checked.  As such, I had to hoist my 20+ kilo suitcase on to the raised platform with minimal assistance.  In doing so, I twisted my back and coped with the pain for the rest of my Canadian visit.  Fortunately, I had visited my Canadian chiropractor, Dr. Leanne Bruni ,D.C. in Whitby  the day before, and she had set me straight.  Perhaps it is good that I had been adjusted before the start of the journey, otherwise it could have been much worse!

On the way to Montreal, I engaged in conversation with a young man who was sitting beside me.  He was returning from a quick overnight visit to Toronto to take in some of the World Pride events. I quickly discovered that he is a heavy metal musician with roots in jazz and classical.  From our discussion, he also disclosed that he was raised in two cultures with a French-Canadian mother and an English Canadian father – a genuine ‘Canuck’ if there ever was one! Although he looked the part of his style of music (body piercings, spiked hair etc.), he was a real gentleman – and even carried my heavy bag off of the train in Montreal! I have long ago learned not to judge people by their outward appearance – genuine souls reside in all guises!

The train transfer in Montreal was smooth and easy.  I also started to practise my French!  At first, I was a little shy, but it became easier during my two-day stay in Quebec.  You’ll hear more about it in subsequent posts.  I hope I will have made my French teachers at Alliance Francaise de la Dominique proud!

I really enjoyed day dreaming and watching the clouds, as well as  the verdant, varied  scenery that passed by my window.  Occasionally, I worked on my new mini-tablet.  Although the train rocked from side to side, thereby making my eyes and hands jiggle as I familiarized with this device, I quickly adapted.  Below are some shots from my train window.

Next post: A Night  and Day in Beautiful Quebec City!

DSCF2436

This is Canada along the flat lands above eastern Lake Ontario near the St. Lawrence Seaway.

Eastern Ontario Summer Sky.

Eastern Ontario summer sky.

An eastern Ontario town - Brockville, perhaps.

An eastern Ontario town – Brockville, perhaps.

Montreal skyline and greenery.

Montreal skyline and greenery.

Taking in the hay at a large farm between Montreal and Quebec City.

Taking in the hay at a large farm between Montreal and Quebec City.

Abundant crop and dairy farms dotted the landscape along the St. Lawrence River Valley.

Abundant crop and dairy farms dotted the landscape along the St. Lawrence River Valley.

Although not far from Quebec City, the trained passed through some dense forest with sparkling little rivers.

Although not far from Quebec City, the train passed through some dense forest with sparkling little rivers.

This pretty Quebec country house had a 'traditional 'habitant' look to it.

This pretty Quebec country house had a ‘traditional ‘habitant’ look to it.

 

 

 

A Canary Flies South to go North: Beautiful Barbados: Beaches, Bargains and Best Friends

It  seemed incredible that three years had passed since I had ventured off of Dominica (with the exception of a day trip to Marie-Galante, French West Indies). A long-awaited trip to Canada was about to unfold for a special celebration: my aunt’s 90th birthday in Nova Scotia!  There were other fun things to do and  special people to see as well.  You’ll read more about it all in subsequent posts.

Air Canada at Grantley Adams International Airport in Barbados . Time for me to board that plane and fly north for the summer.

Air Canada at Grantley Adams International Airport in Barbados . Time for me to board that plane and fly north for the summer.

A little challenge in living on this lovely tropical island of Dominica is its lack of direct flights to North America.  I have always opted to fly to Barbados and overnight there before taking Air Canada to Toronto the next day.  I could get to Canada in one day ( if flights are on time and luggage arrives on the same flight) but I find that it is more relaxing to enjoy this popular tourist destination which is historically a Canadian favourite.  It is completely different from the Nature Island – except for the friendly people found in both locales.

To start the journey, I flew on a direct one hour  flight south on LIAT.  The only downside for this canary is the mandatory

Barbados has loads of pretty white sand beaches all over the island.

Barbados has loads of pretty white sand beaches all over the island.

regulation that planes be ‘dis-insected’ (sprayed) just before take-off. I carry a charcoal-filtered cotton mask and a wet face-cloth.  I also cover myself in long pants and sleeves and wear a scarf to put over my head.  I also take homeopathic remedies prescribed by my longtime Canadian naturopath, Dr. Shawna Clark, N.D. to help counter the ill-effects of those chemicals.

Since 2009, I have stayed at the Butterfly Beach Hotel,

DSCF2361 which is about midway between the airport and Bridgetown, the capital city.  It is a pretty hotel, modestly priced (ca. $100. USD per night) and has a lovely bar/restaurant ocean-side with entertainment and a Caribbean buffet on Monday nights. (I always seem to be there on that particular day).  It’s quiet and comfortable, with friendly staff.  The peaceful setting certainly suits my in-transit status for a one night layover.

View from my room at Butterfly Beach Hotel.  Fresh breezes and salt air!

View from my room at Butterfly Beach Hotel. Fresh breezes and salt air!

Of course, on the outbound journey, I was eager to leave the Caribbean for points north and my Canadian adventures.  I had hoped to meet longtime friends, David and John, Canadian expats who are presently living in Barbados.  Unfortunately, David had a meeting on my pre-departure night, so we rescheduled our rendez-vous for the evening of my return journey.

Fast forward five weeks, and I am back in beautiful Barbados again.  This time, it’s mid-July and there are sales galore in the city.  But first, a few important priorities: an almost-immediate sea bath after check-in at Butterfly Beach Hotel. Then a dinner get-together with David and John.  I was glad to have enough time to take a dip before they came to pick me up.  I had just experienced an unanticipated insecticide exposure on Air Canada about 15 minutes before landing .  I had no idea that they had begun this practise, I assume according to Barbadian regulations, as a method of insect control.  Chikungunya, a mosquito-borne illness was slowly creeping into this country.  By now, the pronounced effects of this disease were being felt throughout all the other islands – no exceptions.  Unfortunately for me, I was not prepared with mask or homeopathics.  I grabbed a scarf in my bag to cover my nose and mouth, closed my eyes, held my breath for as long as I could, and hoped for the best!

David (l) and John are two of my oldest and best friends.  I firts met David in 1977, when we were first year students in the School of Music at Queen's University in Kingston Ontario. He could tell you a few stories about me...

David (l) and John are two of my longtime lifetime friends. I met David in 1977,  on the first day of first year as students in the School of Music at Queen’s University in Kingston Ontario. He could tell you a few stories about me.  He’s done it before!

I was somewhat refreshed after half an hour of bouncing around in the strong Atlantic surf.  There was little time to spare as I dressed up for a long overdue get-together with longtime friends, David and John.  They were even early (typical Canadians!) and I hastened to meet them outside of the hotel.  After greetings and hugs, we headed off to Champers, an exclusive restaurant on the outskirts of Bridgetown.  We were seated on the expansive oceanfront porch, with  crashing waves providing background sound.  We delayed looking at the menu as we were so engrossed in catching each other  up on  the past  few years of our lives. It was a very leisurely meal, as we talked away about life events between bites.  My friends had settled easily into their newly adopted country and were really enjoying it.  John, an interior designer, had recently joined the Barbados National Trust and had been intrigued by a recent  presentation from Dominica’s Lennox Honychurch, PhD about the restoration of Fort Shirley in the Cabrits National Park.  I then urged them to come and see it (along with me!) for themselves.

I can see why this dining establishment has a superb reputation.  The tables were all filled, even though it was a Monday night.  I followed David’s lead with a savory Caesar Salad, followed by Cajun Mahi-Mahi.  It was sensational – only mildly spicy which suited me fine. I further indulged in dessert: coconut pie with coconut ice cream and tea. My five-pound weight gain was well deserved!

After our pleasant reunion, they dropped me back at the hotel where I enjoyed a good night’s sleep.  As my LIAT flight to Dominica was not until 2 p.m., I decided to take the bus to Bridgetown and have a look around for a couple of hours in the morning.

Unfortunately, I hopped on the wrong bus, and as I did not ask the driver where to stop for the capital city, I overshot it.  Fortunately, I asked the passenger beside me when we about 10 minutes longer than what I thought the drive should have been.  He and some other riders kindly gave me quick instructions to get turned around and back on track.  The bus was packed with people and I am sure I stepped on a few toes as I squeezed through the congested aisle.  However, I made sure to loudly thank everyone for their help.

It's called Bridgetown for good reason!

It’s called Bridgetown for good reason!

Another short bus ride, with specific directions to notable landmarks found me in the centre of the bustling city a few minutes later. I was amazed at the hustle and bustle on the narrow streets and I soon came to realize  the reason for commotion on what I thought would be a quiet summer Tuesday.  While there were not many tourists about, I noticed that the stores were filling with eager shoppers.  Yes indeed, it was sale time on that fair isle!  I had read about the famous Cave Shepherd Mall, but honestly, I was ‘shopped out’ from my five-week foray in Canada. My dollars were now scarce and I did not dare to venture inside.  That is on my agenda for next time!

Cave Shepherd Mall on Broad Street seemed to be offering bargains galore in downtown Bridgetown.

Cave Shepherd Mall on Broad Street seemed to be offering bargains galore in its duty-free shops in downtown Bridgetown.

The Bridgetown Boardwalk is a pleasant (but hot!) stroll a few steps from the busy commercial centre.

The Bridgetown Boardwalk is a pleasant (but hot!) stroll a few steps from the busy commercial centre.

Instead, I wandered around the back streets until I came to the scenic boardwalk.  After a stroll in the hot sun, I became aware of my enormous thirst.  As I looked up a little lane, I noticed a little restaurant called   Mustor’s , which is famous for local Bajan food.

Mustor's on McGregor street is a popular eatery with Bajans and tourists alike.

Mustor’s on McGregor Street is a popular eatery with Bajans and tourists alike.

I was a too early for lunch, so the friendly attendant described all the tempting sweet snacks in the enclosed glass case. I chose a coconut cake and homemade lemonade – very refreshing.  Lunch there is also on the agenda for next visit!

By now, my couple of hours of free time had slipped by and I wandered along the Boardwalk again in search of the main Bus Terminal a little distance away.  As I slowly walked, I admired some historic monuments, the cenotaph

Erroll Barrow was the first Prime Minister of Barbados. The monument is a permanent tribute to his memory and contribution to the development of Barbados.

Errol Barrow was the first Prime Minister of Barbados. The monument is a permanent tribute to his memory and contribution to the development of Barbados.

and stately churches.  By the time I

The Cenotaph in Central Bridgetown.

The Cenotaph in Central Bridgetown.

The building stone in Barbados has soft hues.

The pretty building stone in Barbados has soft hues.

reached the bus terminal, I had just missed the one heading back towards my hotel near the airport.  I could have waited for the next one, but I was hot and sweaty and wanted a little quiet and cool down before the last leg of my journey  home to Dominica. A taxi took me quickly back to my temporary Bajan base. Then by the time I arrived at the airport, I was more than ready to return to the Nature Island.  And there was one last surprise: my friends David and John were heading to Canada for a visit around the same time and lo and behold – I laughed out loud when we actually met by chance at a coffee kiosk in the terminal for one last hug and good-bye for now!

By evening, I was back at my home and working up a good sweat after my time spent in a cool Canadian summer.  I didn’t mind.  I was anxious to rid myself of any residue from the ‘non-toxic’  pesticides I had experienced on both airlines by breathing in the steamy clean air and drinking lots of pure spring water.

By now, you’ve yet to hear about the adventures (and there were a few!) of this canary who flew north for a few wonderful summer weeks in Canada.  Next post, I’ll tell you more!

 

 

 

Karen Sutherland and Roots Farm: Sustainable Living on the Nature Island*

Ti Domnik Tales

I had heard about Karen Sutherland some time before I actually met her here on Dominica. Then one Saturday  morning at the Roseau Market, I practically

stumbled upon her. That fortuitous meeting took place several years ago, and since then, it would be rare for me to miss a weekly purchase of her organic produce! During this time, I have come to learn that she and I have similar environmental health challenges and live in Dominica for basically the same reasons. Because of her  self-described obsession with gardening and a great passion for sustainable living ventures, many of us on-island have benefited from the ‘fruits’ of her labours. She and her partner Roy run Roots Farm, a 100 per cent organic farm (uncertified but in accord with all U.S.  Organic certification standards — there is no local Dominican certification agency) high in the mountains near the village of Cochrane Dominica.

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