Tuesday, July 31, 2012

Canada Part 8a- Cobequid Bay North Coast

Monday dawns bright and clear and looks like it's going to be a hot one. Far different to the day before's rain and fog.
We enjoy a great breakfast; scrambled eggs, Canadian ham and tomato for me, fruit, cereal and toast and jam for my girlfriend. I snaffle some of the delicious home baked cakes as well. After speaking to our hosts about places to go we are provided with a map and Larry highlights the way we should head out. Remember the punctured tyre from yesterday? Well Larry also gives us a recommended garage to go to.
So the first order of the day is to the garage. Rod Lynk's Auto Clinic to be precise. We leave the wheel and tyre with them as they are busy and head off.
It's one of those days where the sun is shining bright, the sky is a lovely blue and we've got no real place to be. We cruise along the road and upon seeing Masstown Market we stop in to try and get some Maple Syrup for our friends back home. Success!
I then find the ice cream bar, which has the most variety of ice cream I have ever seen. They also have hand made waffle cones, about the size of a pint glass.
I have to have one.
I think I chose a scoop of something like 'Moosey chocolate awesome' and another of 'butter, maple pecan yum'. I can't remember. Either way the serving lady, Patty, was taken by my British accent and I came out almost needing two hands to hold the ice cream!
It was delicious.
That lighthouse behind me is the fish market, and had I not eaten my own head-weight in ice cream I would have been tempted by the fish n chips there. I've got to say, there was some really good haddock and chips in most places along the East coast.
Ok, so on from food. The next roadside attraction to drag us away from our trip was an Antiquities store. There were three to be precise and I couldn't work out whether they were all owned by the same person or not. Either way I love to have a browse!
In the other one there was all manner of nick nacks and memorabilia. This advert reminded me of the piggums back home on Cinderhill Farm!
Oh to be a merry war lye hog!
And an exterior shot of the other shop with the truck wearing it's space saver spare wheel with pride!
Right, so that's brought us up to lunchtime. More tomorrow.

Saturday, July 28, 2012

Bristol birthdays

It was my mate Tim's birthday yesterday and he had a little soiree to celebrate. I saw the opportunity to ride from Pontypool to Portishead as a way of getting some miles in. After doing a route check I worked out that the Welsh side was pretty easy (apart from a couple of decent climbs) and then once over the bridge and past Avonmouth it got to be tricky cycle lanes.
Onward then.
I paused on the old Severn Bridge to snap a picture and also experience the bridge I normally pile over on the bike or in the car. I was amazed by just how much it moves. You can feel it bouncing and rumbling as vehicles pass.
 I resisted the urge to empty my bladder into the Severn from the side of the bridge. I did think about it for some time though.
Next bridge to cross both literally and metaphorically I suppose was the Avonmouth flyover alongside the M5. After snaking my way through the industrial parts of Avonmouth I managed to locate the cycle track that took me up alongside the M5. I pondered about bladder emptying as I was going over that one too. Again discretion got the better part of me and I found a hedge once back on terra firma. This interesting sculpture is called Stronghold and was created in 2001 by the artist Pat(rick) Daw Now adorned with low quality graffiti it was still a good point to ponder on things.
Pushing on and after numerous bollard threadings and passing by of car storage areas I was out on the Sheepway and not far from my destination. It felt good to be on the roads again after the gravelly cyclepaths.
It was a good party.

Monday, July 23, 2012

Canada Part 7- Oh no! Truro.

The plan had always been to head from Saint John across the Bay of Fundy to Digby on the ferry. This was a three hour trip and we got to go on a ferry. We had booked tickets, booked the B&B and were all set. Then we found out that the ferry had been pulled into dry dock for unscheduled repairs and all sailings were cancelled for a week.
Some frantic searching of various accommodation sites, some phone call for cancellation of the original B&B and for bookings of a new one and we were set. We said our farewells to new faces and friends, pointed the truck South East and set off into the rain.
It brightened up whilst we were driving, which was nice.
Here we are crossing the frontier...
Not too much else to say apart from oh yes, we had a puncture.
In the rain.
On a highway.
Just after a toll booth.
In one of the massive 275/60/20 tyres.
Late on a Sunday afternoon.
Bugger again.
After 5 minutes of panic as everything was shut and how do we deal with this, rationality settled in. There must be a spare tyre on the truck?
Hurrah there is, under the bed.
Hmm, there must be a toolkit?
Girlfriend finds it under the front passenger seat.
How do we get the wheel down from under the bed?
I ask several people and no one (including other Ram owners) know.
By luck a recovery driver pulls in to deal with another broken car, so I ask him.
After sorting his actual job out he shows me that several lengths of square tube click together and feed in through a little hole above the bumper and below the tailgate.
Here's a short video on how to do it...

Just in case you ever needed to know. It would have been helpful had there been a manual in the glovebox, but hey, we got sorted and were on our way again.
We got into Truro, our destination, around 5pm, met our new hosts Ann and Larry of Tulip and Thistle B&B and headed out for a meal to finish off the day.

Canada part 6- The Wedding!

This will be a short post, unless I hear otherwise, as it was a day for two people and their families, and it's not for an interloping Fenlander to throw loads of pictures up about it.
So here is the one.
Jen and Jason, best wishes for your life together.

Canada Part 5b- More Saint John!

So where were we? Right we are wandering the streets of Saint John, new Brunswick.
We wandered towards and into the market. Inside the market we found many glorious stalls, with the various scents of dulse, coffee, fruit and veg, meat, seafood, cooked foods and general people. I like markets.
 I indulged in a delightful coffee blend called Foghorn which served to perk me up somewhat, and bought a bag of Dusty Backpacker to bring home.

I also like books, I like to read books and I like what a book is. One of the market stalls was a bookstall, and the lady running it suggested we take a trip up to the shop. Well we did just that and although we had been forewarned about how lovely the door was, it was still pretty amazing to see.
 That's curved mahogany, with a curved window made up of leaded glass, in a curved alcove. It really was special. Inside the shop was floor to ceiling with old and really old, and even older books. Sadly nothing that too my fancy but still worth the visit.
So our first day in Saint John was coming to a close. The next day was the wedding.

Canada Part 5a - Saint John

Well there we were in Saint John, New Brunswick. We had a day to go before the wedding so we had a day to explore our doorstep.
First off the tourist information office we found was situated in the back of a tea store/museum. A really great mix of uses I thought.
There were some great artefacts on display, including pipes and footwear!

The STAG is a cutter for chewing tobacco, of which there was a reel just out of shot. All of the commodity artefacts were in effect, new old stock, and that was what made them the most interesting to me.
After sampling some of the tea we headed back out to continue perusing Saint John. Just outside the store/info centre were a group of carved wood statues-
There were more dotted around the town, but the artist John Hooper had a few cheeky touches in this example; People Waiting. His face is carved into the photograph on the front of the newspaper the man on far right is reading, and the gentleman in the green mid-pack has three arms and hands. One of the statues in this shot is real.
In the background is a branch of Montreal Bank. Which had been bought back by the bank and was being restored to becoming a bank once again after having been something else. Not sure what, but it was a refreshing change to see a bank building housing a bank and not something temporary.
We wandered out along Water Street and came to some of the older buildings, complete with period advertising still just showing.
Evan, this one is for you.
A little further along towards the Three Sisters and amongst the street level houses built of brick and stone, were older wooden houses peering out over the bay.
 They provided a reminder of what used to be as they surveyed the changing scene in front of them. There was a new cruise ship terminal being built as we looked on, and new apartments, all glass panels and moody black frames were lying empty and awaiting new tenants.
More next...

Canada part 4- Halifax to Saint John

After a nice evening in Halifax with beer and burger the massive bed welcomed us. Next morning we headed out to find breakfast and found Steve-O-Reno's Cappuccino where a good breakfast of egg and cheese muffin was consumed by yours truly, along with a very tasty espresso. Take out snacks of cranberry scone and oatmeal and raisin cookie were also bought. I have to say that the scone was bloody amazing.
So, after a phonecall to Enterprise we were picked up and taken to the depot/location where we could pick our hire car up from. The reason we had to be picked up is that the airport had no cars suitable, and this location did.
What was so special about our hire car?


Ah I could feel my neck reddening already; 5.7l Hemi crew cab, rolling on 20s (more on them later), in black. It was great.
So off we drove North-Westerly in the sunshine. The scenery around the roads was lovely, rolling pine forests and long vistas.
We arrived in Saint John and found the hotel car park, but then struggled to find the hotel reception. After taking stairs and lifts we found ourselves someone to ask, who then directed us to a different set of lifts and eventually we found reception.
Who told us that we needed to use the two different lifts to gain access to our room, but that we were best to drive up to the 6th floor to get our luggage out and into our room.
So we found our way back down to our truck and proceeded to drive up. I wish I had filmed the drive through the car park. There are signs on the entrance indicating maximum clearance is 6'6". Well I knew the truck was less than that because I had seen my 6'4" girlfriend standing next to it. The thing is you never know if there are parts of the roof that will hang down a bit lower, like the lights for example. It was a bit sketchy driving up there, that's all I am saying. I kept feeling like I should duck for the ceiling.
So there we were, in Saint John.
We had gone over for a friend's wedding; Jen, whom my girlfriend befriended and studied with at UNB, and Jason whom we had not yet met. It was nice then to be invited to the post-rehearsal bbq down at an old farmhouse that the family owned and maintained.

It was lovely. Truly old, 1850 was the build date if I remember correctly. There were other parts of it that had been extended and built in more recent times; the kitchen for example in 1915. Inside it was bustling with artefacts that had accumulated over time. It was fascinating to read journals of the people that had lived there in 1923, just there on the shelves.
There were many things dotted around and all had a story behind them.
 Some of the rooms didn't have matching level floors, ceilings, doors or windows, but everything worked as it should, it just threw my balance completely out. I really liked this ageing carpet that was still grasping onto it's pattern.
Outside was one of three lakes dotted around the property on land that totalled 750 acres.
There is no sound, but if there was you'd be able to hear nothing other than the bullfrogs crooning and the mosquitos preparing to eat you.
A great spread of food was put on by Sheri, the groom's mother, and the groom (complete with broken leg) and his father took care of the bbq. The bride's father let off some fireworks towards the end of the night and it was a good way to see the Solstice.

Sunday, July 8, 2012

Canada part 3, farewell Toronto, hello Halifax

A short day in Toronto, and the hottest so far. With the mercury chasing 35'C we had a morning to spend before we flew across to Halifax for the next stage of the trip. What to do?
How about a trip on the ferry over to Toronto Island?
We buy our ticket and take our ride. As we pull out of dock the towers of the Financial District dominate the skyline first and then give in to the CN tower as we get further away from the city shore. Camera shutters rattle and iPhones submit synthesised shutter sounds as visual experiences are attempted to be documented.
Here is my attempt.
The island is a green relief from the city and we walk around and enjoy the slightly cooler feel that grass, trees and water cooled air.
Back across to the metropolis and the spotting of an interesting home made cargo bike.
Interesting stuff.
Back to the hotel, shower, then jump again on the excellent TTC to the airport. Smaller plane and we're over to Halifax. A great trip with probably the nicest person I met on the trip, Tim the bus driver, and we were into the second city of our journey.
A good burger and a couple of pints down by the water and that was another day done...

Canada Hols part 2- Niagara

Clichéd, one of the wonders of the world, a must see... All these things are spoken about Niagara Falls. My first words; Wow. As a Fenlander two things struck me. First off was the size, the second the noise.
Striking off the tourist things to do we took a trip on one of the Maid in the Mist boats. They give you a free recyclable plastic bag/poncho to put on. This is useful as you will see.
The boats set off from either side, we went from the Canadian side. We passed the American Falls, a rocky toothy spray bound menace that leers at you from the side as you close on it.
Note the spray starting to form on the lens, it's only going to get worse.
Next up is the Horseshoe Falls. That plastic poncho comes into it's own as the spray and mist really belts at you as a phenomenal reminder of the power of the water.
The next photo is taken from under the poncho.
Holding station close to the Horseshoe Falls we were battered by the airbound water. So much noise and intensity consumes you.
We return back to the jetty and disembark. After a little lie down in the park for some rest we decide to walk over to another country.
The United States of America.
Totally different to the Canadian side. In a strange twist of sterotype the American side is actually more natural and less fucked up and touristy.
We walk around to both falls, taking in the sheer amount of flow coming from the river. There are plaques telling you the quantities but the numbers are incomprehensible.
If anything this is the point where you realise just how powerful the three falls are.

There is so much water and noise. Reaffirms your place in the grand scheme of things. A great day out.

Wednesday, July 4, 2012

Canada part 1, Toronto.

So, we begin. Our flight landed in Toronto International airport and we took the TTC system into the Financial District of Toronto where we were staying at 1 King West. A reasonable suite, but most interesting was the history below us. As a converted bank, the accommodation still has certain parts of the bank building in place. Including the vault.
Which was being used for functions. We had a walk around inside it and the workmanship and feel of the parts was outstanding. From memory 7' 6" diameter entry and 4' 6" thick door. Really beautiful engineering.
After a wander around to a couple of bars and a faceful of ribs and wings the bed was a welcome return.
Monday dawned and today the heatwave was really getting into it's stride. So we walked around Toronto. A few snaps from the Kensington Market area where I found a friendly bike shop with some interesting bikes
and the handlebars from the previous post. Thanks by the way to the girlfriend who then carried the handlebars around for the rest of the trip...
There was also a nice use of a car as a planter, with some flavourful decoration.
More wandering around as the heat built up and we passed the memorial to the fallen of the RCAF, beautifully finished in polished stone.
The time difference was playing up with my stomach and I succumbed to a burger and fries in the afternoon. This meant I was quite full still when we went for a Moroccan that evening. Still the skyscape was well lit up on the walk back, amidst burps.
Next up, Niagara...