Autumn Splendour: Admiring Fall Colours in Eastern Canada

Cooler weather has finally settled in to Eastern Canada after a long hot dry summer. While I thoroughly enjoyed the sizzling  temperatures, I was apprehensive about what the fall months would bring.  After having lived on the Caribbean island of Dominica for almost 20 years, who could blame me for fearing the worst, in terms of a plummeting thermometer!

As it turned out, semi-tropical weather accompanied me on a mid-October  Canadian Thanksgiving journey to the east coast of Canada to visit relatives.  Unusually warm, sweltering, sunny days preceded the heavy deluge that Nova Scotia received from the remnants of Hurricane Matthew on October 10th, Thanksgiving Monday.

But several days before that powerful storm drenched this Maritime Province, spectacular scenery occupied the shorter autumn days of my train journey on ‘The Ocean‘.  When I booked the excursion from Kingston Ontario to connect with the east coast train departing from Montreal, Quebec,I had forgotten that I would not have the  long  summer hours  of daylight to see the sites/sights along the way. But no matter: I was better rested during the overnight segment of the 27 hour trip and was duly rewarded with colourful landscapes the next morning as the train passed through the upper St. Lawrence Valley of Quebec, crossed in to northern New Brunswick, following along the Mirimichi River in a southerly direction to the innermost marshlands of the Bay of Fundy at Sackville, New Brunswick and Amherst Nova Scotia. By the time we approached Halifax around 7 p.m., weary passengers were rewarded with a sensational sunset over a lake situated just north of the provincial capital of Halifax.

For a map of my rail journey, click here.

On the train, some of nature’s palette of colours that I admired from my window seat:
Thanks to the gorgeous weather which continued during my visit with relatives in the Annapolis Valley, it was easy to go on long walks and drives every day except the one when heavy rains kept most people inside, recovering from their Thanksgiving feasts.
The fall festive season in the Annapolis Valley of Nova Scotia completely reflected the abundance of the harvest. While there had been a prolonged drought during the short growing season, certain crops definitely did thrive. The hues of orange and related shades on the spectrum blended sweetly  with the greens and browns of the now-barren fields:
On a fine day after Hurricane Matthew’s remnants had lashed Nova Scotia, my cousin Greg took my Aunt Vivian and me on a drive through part of the Annapolis Valley. Then my cousin Dwight and ‘sister’ Patricia took me over to historic and scenic Grand Pré UNESCO World Heritage Site just before I departed for Halifax the next day. While some leaves had fallen due to the high winds of the previous Monday, there was sufficient foliage to admire in the heart of this beautiful Canadian province:
 There were even vibrant flowers, sweet berries and hardy plants to admire, thanks to the temperate weather in Wolfville, Nova Scotia.  But I am sure that my cousins’ green thumbs had something to do with that too:

On my way back to Kingston (by air!), I spent a short time in Halifax, the major urban centre in the Maritimes and my home for many years.  As the weather remained fine well into October, I was struck by the beauty of this lovely city and remembered other times there when the prolonged autumn was moderated by the post-summer warmer waters of the Atlantic Ocean.

And now that November’s here, in multi-shades of grey, I am thankful to have had such a sensational and scenic autumn in eastern Canada.  While it did not offer the endless greens found in Dominica,  the region’s pre-winter natural beauty was definitely good for my soul!

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One Long Lovely Summer in Eastern Canada: Family Connections, Fond Memories and Fun in Nova Scotia!

Distant Cape Blomidon,verdant fields and the historic Grand Pre church with its dramatic Acadian history are prominent features in Nova Scotia's Annapolis Valley.

Distant Cape Blomidon,verdant fields among the protective dykes and the historic Grand Pre church with its dramatic Acadian history are prominent features in Nova Scotia’s Annapolis Valley.

Whenever I am in Canada, I enjoy taking a trip ‘down east’, because I’ve got lots of good reasons to spend some time there!

This past summer, I made my plans to be in the Annapolis Valley by July 7th, because there is a very special birthday to celebrate on that day.  Whenever possible, I delight in joining my cousins to honour their mother, my Aunt Vivian as the one and only nonagenarian on my side of the family.  Last year, there was a big bash for her 90th, which coincided with the unanticipated arrival of Hurricane Arthur. However, his unwelcome presence did not deter any of the 100+ guests from making their way through the storm to be there for her memorable day. Despite the inclement weather, it was a joyous occasion that I will never forget! You can read about it here.  This

Aunt Vivian reads a birthday greeting from my immediate family on her 91st. Her grandson Adam looks on, and other family members are listening nearby on this special occasion.

Aunt Vivian reads a birthday greeting aloud from my immediate family on her 91st. Her grandson Adam looks on, and other family members are listening nearby on this special occasion.

year, per Vivian’s wishes, the gathering  for her 91st was more intimate and family centred, and I was honoured to be a part of it two years in a row!

It's fun to walk along the trails along the dykes near Wolfville, and take in the tides and the late summer sunsets!

It’s fun to walk on the trails along the dykes near Wolfville, and take in the tides and the late summer evening sunsets!

However, before I made my way to attend that special day, I first visited with my environmental health specialist, Dr. Jonathan Fox, M.D., whose office is located at Integrated Chronic Care Service  in Fall River, a short drive from the Stanfield International Airport, which is north of Halifax.  It’s always extremely helpful to consult with him, as his counsel helps me to better manage my environmental-based illnesses, whether in I am in Canada or Dominica.  This facility is the only one of its kind in Canada, and I feel very fortunate to benefit from the services that cater to my specific health challenges. I am also grateful to Dr. Fox for his ongoing care through phone consultations, which aid me in maintaining an improved quality of life wherever  I am situated.

Cousin Dwight and his wife Patricia are my super-fun, high energy hosts. They've always got 'something cooking' that amounts to another adventure for me!

Cousin Dwight and his wife Patricia are my super-fun, high energy hosts. They’ve always got ‘something cooking’ that amounts to another great adventure for me!

After this important appointment, I drove down the highway en route to Wolfville, to rendez-vous with my super hosts, cousin

Wolfville is a thriving town in the Annapolis Valley and is the home of Acadia University, a small but well respected academic institution.

Wolfville is a thriving town in the Annapolis Valley and is the home of Acadia University, a small well-respected academic institution.

Dwight and his wife Patricia for my first Nova Scotia supper since last year.  Of course, it included fish! Their home is a safe haven for me when I am in their area, as they are well versed in dealing with allergies and

Folk art is a popular genre of artistic endeavor in Nova Scotia, as evidenced in Wolfville.

Folk art is a popular genre of artistic endeavor in Nova Scotia, as shown in Wolfville.

sensitivities. It really helps to have their understanding and support and makes travel much easier when away from my home environment. Unfortunately, there is considerable pesticide application throughout the Annapolis Valley at that time of year, as it is a major ‘bread basket’ in Canada with its ubiquitous fertile soil and ideal growing conditions.  Thankfully, my ‘relations’ are big on ‘organic’, ‘free-range’ and ‘non-toxic’, so I am definitely in the best company, for which I am very grateful!

As usual, there were loads of incredible meals – most with seafood, as there is nothing like the ‘fresh fish’ that is readily available in this east coast province. I took my aunt on a road trip or two, to check out places once familiar and to visit some other relatives too.  Then I was treated to a couple of excursions by my cousin Greg. He has a knack for venturing off of the main route to explore out-of-the-way places.

These house are on stilts at Bear River because teh Fundy tide can be very high at times.

These houses are on stilts at Bear River because the Fundy tide can be very high at times.

The quaint art galleries in Bear River contain exceptional works of art - in many genres. It's definitely worth the drive off teh beaten path to this pretty hamlet.

The quaint art galleries in Bear River contain exceptional works of art – in many genres. It’s definitely worth the drive off the beaten path to this pretty hamlet.

I was very lucky to be along for a couple of those rides.  The most memorable of all was the day trip to Bear River and Digby, in the western part of the ‘Valley’. The terrain is decidedly different from the eastern area, as it

I discovered that it really is a small world when I met Simone at the Visitor Information Centre in Bear River. Her parents live on the road to my favourite Three Little Cottages where I spent a lovely 6 weeks, near Battersea Ontario.

I discovered that it really is a small world when I met Simone (l) at the Visitor Information Centre in Bear River. Her parents live on the road to my favourite Three Little Cottages where I  later spent a lovely 6 weeks, near Battersea Ontario.

becomes more densely forested and closely skirts the Annapolis River which empties into St. Mary’s Bay on the Bay of Fundy.  I was particularly intrigued by the abundance of artistic creativity, as evidenced in the shops and galleries around somewhat secluded Bear River.  And at

Digby Nova Scotia is a famous fishing village. It is renowned for its abundant catches of deep water scallops.

Digby Nova Scotia is a famous fishing village. It is renowned for its abundant catches of deep water scallops.

Digby, I enjoyed a feed of deep water scallops,for which the town is famous, as well as a tour of the historic and stately Digby Pines

In Digby, the clock in the town square even tells the time of the high and low tides

In Digby, the clock in the town square even tells the time of the high and low tides

I posed with cousin Greg in the entrance to the dining room of the famous Digby Pines Resort, which has a lengthy history and a constant stream of guests!

I posed with cousin Greg in the entrance to the dining room of the famous Digby Pines Resort, which has a lengthy history and a constant stream of guests!

Resort, where Aunt Vivian once worked in the early 1940’s.

Evangeline Beach at Grand Pre is a great place to hang out - whether the tide is in or our. Cape Blomidon is in the background.

Evangeline Beach at Grand Pre is a great place to hang out – whether the tide is in or out. Cape Blomidon is in the background. The fog does cool things off on a hot day though!

On another outing, Greg took Vivian and me around the  world-renowned Grand Pré area near Wolfville, which is a UNESCO World Heritage Centre. The dykes, which hold back the strong tides which prevail in the nearby New Minas Basin were first constructed by the Acadians in the 17th century and continue to protect valuable farmland to this day. Some of my Nova Scotia ‘roots’ originate in this area, so I always feel immediately at home when I visit this beautiful locale.

On some other occasions, I felt completely awed by the extent of my connections to the central Annapolis Valley.  I really enjoyed the get-togethers, where I got to see and speak to several generations of my extended family – all the way to cousins three times removed.  I can imagine Aunt Vivian’s tremendous delight at being able to enjoy and experience the accomplishments and experiences of her children, grand children and great-grandchildren.  I am  so happy for her!

My week with the relations was short, but definitely sweet.  I parted with assurances that I would return as soon as possible, although likely in the fall when the crops are in and exposures to pesticides would be greatly reduced. Autumn in Nova Scotia is generally gorgeous, with colourful leaves and bountiful harvests. Sounds like a plan!

From downtown Halifax, the Town Clock on historic Citadel Hill is a prominent landmark.

From downtown Halifax, the Town Clock on historic Citadel Hill is a prominent landmark.

Then I headed back down the highway to Halifax, my home of about 12 years –

I love 'the vibe' in the Halifax Public Gardens. And I know I am not the only one. Everyone can find a spot enjoy some solitude and natural beauty.

I love ‘the vibe’ in the Halifax Public Gardens. And I know I am not the only one. Everyone can find a spot  to enjoy some solitude and natural beauty.

a long time ago!  It’s such a lovely and lively east coast port, which brings forth wonderful memories of my time well spent there – learning, living and working. Despite the fact that I became very ill there,I consider this vibrant city as the place where I ‘grew up’ after graduate school and pursued  a career as a  government librarian and .seriously developed my leisure pursuits as a singer.

This fountain in the Halifax Public Gardens is a popular setting in which to sit nearby and enjoy the scene!

This fountain in the Halifax Public Gardens is a popular setting to sit nearby and enjoy the scene!

Nowadays, I like to wander around the bustling city centre, which has changed considerably, as now there are multiple high

Downtown Halifax is a mix of old and new that complement each other very well.

Downtown Halifax is a mix of old and new that complement each other very well.

rise buildings in the business district.  In contrast, serenity is easily encountered in its beautiful Victorian era-designed Public Gardens and the naturally sculpted Point Pleasant Park at the

As the fog lifts, a container ship enters Halifax Harbour, as seen from Point Pleasant Park.

As the fog lifts, a container ship enters Halifax Harbour, as seen from Point Pleasant Park.

entrance to Halifax Harbour. My tour of my second home town was a little short this time, and allowed for only a brief visit with an old

The waterfront of Point Pleasant Park is rugged and brisk, as it faces the open Atlantic Ocean. This anchor is a monument that pays tribute to men and women in the Canadian Navy who died in peace time.

The waterfront of Point Pleasant Park is rugged and brisk, as it faces the open Atlantic Ocean. This anchor is a monument that pays tribute to men and women in the Canadian Navy who died in peaceful times.

Halifax is and always has been an active sea port. This mural depicts the tall ships that once anchored in the harbour.

Halifax is and always has been an active sea port. This mural depicts the tall ships that once anchored in the harbour. Sailing replicas are honoured every so often in festivals.

friend from my days at Dalhousie University’s now-named School of Information Management.  It’s always a treat to catch up  on news as the years fly by.

As I headed back to airport to begin my retreat in the wilderness north of Kingston Ontario, I acknowledged that a  longer return visit to Halifax and the Annapolis Valley will be a priority on my next trip down east!

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

enjoyed a good sweat and free-flowing sinuses!

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

much he enjoyed his recent visit to the Nature

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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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!