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!

 

 

 

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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: 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!

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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.