The things you find on the way to a toilet

Lepreau Falls, New Brunswick

Lepreau Falls, New Brunswick

We were heading west on Hwy. 1 through New Brunswick on our recent overnight trip to and from the US/Canada border (that’s a story for another time). We’d just passed Saint John and decided we needed to find a gas station to use the public toilets and would fill up the gas tank while we were at it. We came off the highway at exit 86 where a sign indicated there would be a gas station. We turned onto a smaller road and found it. But it turned out that both of their public toilets were out of order! Yikes! That shouldn’t be allowed, it really shouldn’t.

I leaned over and asked the busy cashier where the next one was. He thought a minute and said there was something about 10 minutes down the road but someone else in the queue suggested Lepreau. Ok, that’s good. We started driving and passed a sign for Lepreau Falls and drove over a bridge that was signed for the Lepreau River. We’ve got to be close. But we didn’t see anything that might have a public facility in it. Nothing. No more houses. We turned around and took the little road for the Falls but it looked pretty quiet.

My husband thought perhaps it was a park and might have public facilities. Sure enough we spotted a small shack like building that had potential and to our relief, it was indeed a two sided public toilet (one side for men and one for women, naturally). We parked and availed ourselves.

When I came out of my side of the building, I could hear water running and went to the back of the building where spotted a wooden planked and fenced platform with a picnic table and it overlooked a view of a lovely little waterfall! That, then, was Lepreau Falls.

We went back to have a look and take a few pictures. It was a very pretty place and we noticed on the drive out, there were 2 or 3 more look off points over the the falls and the river, again with picnic tables. I have since discovered this is a provincial park and there is camping nearby as well.

The things you find on the way to a toilet! Little discoveries like this are what make road trips fun!

Impromptu Road Trip!

StAndrews-Map

Well now.

For all my moaning about not having an upcoming trip to plan, one just fell into my lap. It’s only a quick road trip for a “YAY!!” reason but it counts!  We will be organizing a major trip, hoping to do that next year sometime depending on how the savings are mounting up but until we know for sure, I could only do some general websurfing.

I have the first week in August booked off holidays from work. I booked a rental car yesterday morning, and we had a couple of possible day trips or an overnighter to my cousin’s cottage, exploring the south shore of Nova Scotia. Backtracking a bit to June, my husband was informed that his application to be a Permanent Resident of Canada was approved. We’ve been waiting for the official paperwork/certificate to arrive at the office of the Immigration consultant who would then have us in for a meeting to go over the last bits and pieces. We knew that we would have to cross the Canadian border for an official “landing” though we had thought we could actually do it here in Halifax.

Yesterday, I called the office and they said they were just going to call me and tell me they’d received the papers but also to tell me that we couldn’t do the interview in Halifax and we’d have to go to the border after all. That means…road trip!

It’s about a 6 hour drive to the US border at St. Stephen, New Brunswick/Calais, Maine. There is another border crossing a bit further north at Houlton, Maine and it’s about the same amount of driving time. It’s a long way to go to come back the same day so an overnight in a hotel is in order. While looking around, I came across some nice hotels at St. Andrews, New Brunswick and have discovered that it’s a historic old resort town and a lovely little spot.

It’s high tourist season but I did find a nice place and booked it. I discovered today that it’s closer to the border than I thought. I got mixed up with directions on Google maps yesterday but when I double checked today, it’s only about a half hour. That’s great and gives us a little more time to see a bit of the town in the evening. If we leave early, we can get to the border mid afternoon. I don’t know how long it will take there, but, optimistically, let’s say about an hour and we can then be in St. Andrews by about 4 pm. A good few hours yet until sunset with time to walk around and take in the pretty main streets and little shops..

Perhaps a bit more exploring in the morning before heading out on the road again.  A possibly stop in St. John to have a cuppa with a cousin and a stop in Moncton for supper with my best friend and home by dark! It’s a quick trip but it’s necessary to gather up and tie  the red tape in a bow. I don’t think we’ll go into the US and do any shopping this time but another trip might be planned to do that, and visit Campobello Island perhaps.

I’ll write another post later on the town of St. Andrews. It’s quite historic and is one of Canada’s 10 Most Beautiful Towns, in the opinion of this site (though I beg to differ on their inclusion of Niagara Falls. The falls themselves are amazing but the city is neon-tacky. Also, a few of their choices are cities, not towns but that’s being pedantic, I suppose. I heartily endorse the lovely Mahone Bay in my own province)

Proud

In a departure from my usual travel related topics, this post is about pride, in more definitions than one.

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau at Toronto's Pride parade, 2016

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau at Toronto’s Pride parade, 2016

Toronto had their annual Pride parade over the weekend. They have a huge parade, one of the biggest in the world. For the first time ever, a Canadian Prime Minister made history by  participating and marching in the parade and from all accounts and photos, looked like he had a fantastic time. It’s not the first Pride parade he’s marched in, but the first as the Canadian Prime Minster.

He dressed casually, not in a suit, he allowed himself to be doused with water pistol ammunition. And a young man who marched with him  in his group turned out to be a short, gay HIV+ Syrian refugee whose life has probably been saved by immigrating here, considering he had more stacked against him in his former country than just politics.

PM Justin Trudeau and Syrian refugee Bassel Mcleash to the right, holding the Canadian flag

PM Justin Trudeau and Syrian refugee Bassel Mcleash to the right, holding the Canadian flag

I am proud to live in a country that took on some of the refugees. I am proud that my Prime Minister even went to the airport late at night to greet the first families that arrived and invited at least one refugee who was gay to march in his entourage in the parade. I’m proud that the PM did march in the parade and celebrated with everyone.

Halifax has a fun Pride parade later in the month, in a couple of weeks and I will probably go unless it’s teeming down. In anticipation of Pride Week here, several main intersections downtown and one in Dartmouth have had rainbow panels painted on them. Awesome!

I know that there’s still a lot of negativity towards LGBTQ folks and they are often still targets for violence, even here in Canada and I’m not proud about that but I think,… I hope, little by little it’s changing for the better.

Technology school

Parading in Halifax

Be proud of who you are.

And should you wish to travel to Halifax for the Pride festival, which runs from June 13 – 24 this summer, Check out the website for all of the events happening locally.  In addition to the Parade on the 23rd, there’s the fan favourite Dykes and Divas softball match, a theatre festival, drag shows, a drag queen Bingo night, family barbeques and picnics, concerts, lectures,  a Lip Sync battle, and a lot more.

Five Photos / Five Days – Who lived here

East coastal route HouseDriving along a rural road in the tiny province of Prince Edward Island on the east coast of Canada, we spied this little house. What made it unusual is that the garden growing in front was very well tended. It’s clear nobody lived there but someone nearby had taken advantage of the extra space to plant their own garden!

I’ve taken up the Five Photos/Five Days Black and White Challenge and one of the “rules” is to nominate someone to take up the challenge as well. I don’t want anyone to feel obligated and since I’ve nominated two already, that’s it on that account. Feel free to take up the challenge if you like!

A Word A Week – Traditional

It’s that time of the week again when Sue at A Word in Your Ear posts a random word for a photo challenge. I can almost never pick just one photo and this is no different. This week’s challenge word is “Traditional”.

I’m lucky to live in a city with lots of history. We are a sea port and Halifax was founded as a military establishment originally. We have a citadel fort on a hill overlooking the city, the fourth structure on that spot since the city was founded in 1749 but it has never fired a gun in aggression or defence.

There is a tradition of firing the gun off at noon every day, though. You could set your watch by it! The fort also has a regiment of infantry foot, a reenactment group representing the original regiment stationed at the fort in 1869 – 1871. They are the 78th Highlanders and there is also a pipe and drum band for the 78th as well. If you visit the Citadel you can see the infantry drills and hear the music of the pipes and drums.

Another tradition that is still kept is a ceremony every summer in front of City Hall, on the spot that has long been a Grand Parade Square (though much smaller than it was when the city was founded). The 78th Highlanders are ceremonially given the Freedom of the City by proclamation of the Mayor. They march from the Citadel down the hill to the parade square for a public ceremony. That’s pretty interesting to watch, as well.

For a number of years, there were Highland Games held in Halifax though they haven’t been held for the last few years. Lack of funding, I fear. Highland Games are a very long standing tradition in Scotland and are also held other places around the world. In addition to the games themselves, you would see music, traditional folk dancing and see lots of booths and displays from the various clans. The town of Antigonish in Nova Scotia still does have a weekend long Highland Games festival and one of these years, I’m going to go.

Here are some photos of local Highland Games and the 78th Highlanders. There’s a video of them in drill formation here.  And there’s a video of one of the participants tossing a caber here. It’s quite something to see.

Freedom of the City for the 78th Highlanders

78th Highlander Drill Team

78th Highlander pipe and drum band

Highland Games – Hammer Toss

Getting ready to toss the caber, a long pole that has to be thrown end over end in a straight line

This is how long the caber is

Clan MacLeod with an impressive set of whiskers

Highland dancing competition

Canadian Passport-to-go

passport_leafI’ve been the owner of a Canadian Passport continually since the early 1990s. I would take it with me into the United States even before they insisted Canadians must have a passport to enter the U.S.A. Up until recently, we had to renew our passport every five years which always seemed ridiculous to me. Most other countries’ passports were good for 10 years and for an adult, that’s sufficient. I’ve always said I’d pay a little extra for a 10 year passport and now it seems I’ve finally got my wish!

My coworker is renewing hers this year and told me that we now have the option to renew for either five or ten years! The current passport fee is a stinging $120 (it was just under $100 last time I renewed, about 3 and a half years ago) but for only another $40, it’s good for ten years (plus the cost of the photo, of course, so you can add another $20 on top of that.). That’s great news and about bloody time, Canada!

Little by little, over the years, the Canadian government has started changing their requirements to make it simpler to get or renew a passport. You used to have to have a guarantor that could only be someone of a specified list of professions like doctors, lawyers, politicians, teachers, dentists, pharmacists, clergy, etc. who have known you for two or more years to certify that you are the person who is applying for the passport. Now, the guarantor just has to be a Canadian Citizen who has a valid passport or one that has expired less than a year, though the two year familiarity rule still holds.

The next change was not really for the better though it’s an understandable one. The technology is changing and many aiports now use retinal recognition so now, if you wear glasses, you must take them off for the photo or ensure that the frame doesn’t cover any part of your eye or eyebrow whatsoever. Easier just to take them off. Avoids glare as well. The part I really hate is that you can’t smile in the photo anymore. I really hate that. Passport photos are bad enough without being able to at least attempt to soften the “Prixoner in Cellblock B” look with a smile. I suppose, again, it’s to do with your eyes needing to be completely visible. Still sucks though.

My passport isn’t expired until, I think, next year so I will definitely be going for the ten year option.

Online forms to download here
Canadians should probably register here before they travel out of the country. Helps if they need to contact you in an emergency.
Here’s a general “dashboard” for links and resources for Canadian travellers.

Cee’s Black & White Challenge – Abandoned

Cee’s Photography blog issues weekly photo challenges, this one in black and white.

We were driving through the back roads of Prince Edward Island, Canada’s smallest province. We’d arrived by ferry and were traveling along the east coastal route, heading for Georgetown (PEI’s original capital) where my cousin lives. As we drove along, I spied this little cottage that looked abandoned and indeed it does seem to be but the garden out front was lovingly tended.

East coastal route House

Prince Edward Island, along the eastern coastal route

082713-bw-banner-1

A Word a Week Challenge – Boat

This week’s challenge is “boat”. Oh, where do I start? I live in Halifax, the city that hosts the Canadian East Coast Navy. There are boats and sailors everywhere. Living on a large natural harbour, there are also marinas all over the place and there are many lakes as well with people kayaking and canoeing, fishing and rafting.  And because it’s a large harbour, there are huge container ships and cruise ships and the harbour ferries and, oh, well you get the picture.

But my very favourite thing of all is the Tall Ships Festival that comes to Halifax every 2 or 3 years. I love walking along the waterfront looking at all the ships, large and small, docked there and even better, whenever possible, I find a spot on the waterfront and watch the Parade of Sail as the ships leave Halifax. I could post many, many photos of those. Here’s my Flickr set of Tall Ships from the various visits.

Nova Scotia’s own Bluenose II. The first Bluenose is on the Canadian 10 cent coin.

The USCG Eagle, a Coast Guard training ship

The Pride of Baltimore, the Halifax Ferry and a speedboat in front of the Halifax Waterfront

The Sagres

There are too many more and I can’t post them all!

Weekly Photo Challenge – Curves

This week’s WordPress challenge is Curves. I have lots of curvy photos. I couldn’t decide on what to choose or post a scattered random selection.  This was one of the photos I was definitely going to include and I think I’ll just post the photo and blog about where to find it.

Morin Centre library, Quebec City, Canada

The Morin Centre was the first English library in Quebec City, in the province of Quebec, Canada. Quebec is very much a French city in contrast to nearby Montreal which has a larger English population. I have a friend who lives in Quebec, she is the minister for the only English church inside the old walls of Quebec City (St. Andrew’s, Presbyterian, itself a very historic church). She lives in the Victorian manse which is next to the Morin Centre and took us over there when we visited last year.

It was originally a defensive area, next to the city walls. They used it as a military barracks and also to house prisoners of war.  (This would be during the 18th century).

From 1813 to 1868, the building housed a jail. The interesting thing about it is that it was the first house of correction rather than just detention, with prison reforms giving the prisoners the opportunity for education rather than regular physical punishment though that still did occur on occasion as did the occasional public hanging.

The prison grew and needed a larger space so it was moved out and an English college founded by a Scotsman was opened. It was the first English college in the city and gave out arts degrees and was also used to train Presbyterian ministers. They were also one of the first colleges to admit women in the late 1800s.

Also during the same time as its life as a college, the Literary and Historical Society of Quebec shared some of the building, setting up a library and research centre.  You can visit the library but you have to be a member to borrow books. The library is filled with artifacts and posters and the upper gallery has these wonderful curved staircases. They have some rare books and papers on display in various cases and there’s also a childrens’ story area.  They do guided tours where you can see the old jail cells as you find out about the history of the building and the city itself.

I like the stairs in particular because they’re also reminiscent of the staircases in Montreal outside the houses in the older neighbourhoods of the city. They’re built with outside steps to the upper flats to maximize the living space inside the buildings, I would imagine. I like that they’re a bit of a curve/spiral instead of just a plain staircase because it’s a little unusual, a bit of flair and style though they’re probably a bitch in the winter, covered in snow and ice and Quebec and Montreal are not short of that! I don’t know if these curved staircases are used in other cities but when I think of Montreal, they’re one of the “icons” that stand out in my mind like all the fire escape staircases cladding the sides of the buildings in New York City.

Where in the world is Newfoundland

Gros Morne National Park, Newfoundland

I’m always thinking about my next trip, and the one after that, and sometimes the one after that. And I often think about where I’d love to go if I had the time and money though will probably never get to those places, miracle lottery win aside.

This year is New York City in May and a road trip around Scotland in October. We’ve already talked about a couple of destinations for next year. If Graham can manage to get the vacation time for the end of August for my niece’s wedding, then we talked about maybe a few days in Iceland. IcelandAir flies from Halifax through the summer season and they do decent packages with hotels. Everyone I know that’s been there enjoyed it.

If that doesn’t work out, he asked about Newfoundland. The easternmost province of Canada only became part of this country in 1949, having remained a British colony long after the rest of the territories joined Canada.

The province of Newfoundland is mostly remote and rural. It is sparsely populated by the most wonderful people you will ever meet. The city of St. John’s is the oldest English-founded city in Canada, even in North America according to Wikipedia. It’s purported to have been discovered by John Cabot. Here’s the rest of a potted history of the city quoted from Wikipedia:

Newfoundland was claimed as an English colony in the name of Elizabeth I in 1583, temporarily captured by the Dutch in 1665, and attacked three times by the French who captured and destroyed its settlements in 1689 and 1707. St John’s was retaken each time and re-fortified. British forces used St. John’s fortifications during the Seven Years’ War in North America, the American Revolutionary War and the War of 1812. St. John’s served Allied needs in World War ll by providing an air base for the US Army Air Corps and a harbour for antisubmarine warfare ships.

Colourful houses on the steep streets of St. John's

Colourful houses on the steep streets of St. John’s


The City of St. John’s is very hilly, some streets are so steep that there are stairs built into the sidewalks! The City that’s there today really only dates back mostly to the beginning of the 20th century. There was a devastating fire that wiped out a lot of it so it was rebuilt. There’s a couple of nice cathedrals, a Catholic and an Anglican one and there are a couple of old neighbourhoods that are intetresting to explore, the Battery and Quidi Vidi.

There are a couple of nice museums and some nice parks to enjoy the outdoors. There are also more bars and pubs per capita than anywhere else in eastern Canada!  It isn’t a city of skyscrapers and the tallest building has only about 12 or 13 floors. The provincial legislature is here and there are some interesting old buildings and houses open to the public as well so there are good reasons to visit the city.

View from Signal Hill over St. John's

View from Signal Hill over St. John’s

Another claim to fame for St. John’s is Signal Hill. On this spot was received the first transatlantic wireless signal in 1901, sent from England by Marconi. There’s a tower built to celebrate the 400th anniversary of John Cabot’s discovery of the province back in 1497 and there are excellent views and hiking around the hill.

Outside the city, there are plenty of little coastal towns and villages to see. Most of Newfoundland’s population lives around the coastline since fishing was the mainstay of the economy for centuries. It’s suffering now and there’s a lot of unemployment since the cod stocks have been depleted. That’s a whole other issue that I’m not getting into here.

There are not a lot of roads around the province so it often feels like you have to drive the long way around to get places but you will see some spectacular scenery while you do it.

There are some great national parks and there’s a national historic site where they’ve found remains of a Viking settlement, at L’Anse aux Meadows which is on the northernmost tip of the western “arm” of the island near Labrador and the mainland. That kind of kicks John Cabot to the curb for discovery! There’s a national heritage park there and you can see the excavations. It’s a long way to go to get there, though not quite so bad if you fly into Cornerbrook or Deer Lake and drive from there, but it’s worth it.

caribouAs I said, the people of Newfoundland are warm and friendly. You won’t find nicer! It would be a different sort of holiday in Newfoundland. There’s a bit of urban living but most of the attractions are outside the city. Bird watching, whale watching, fishing, hiking and camping. You need to watch out for moose on the highways, though, especially at night. In a confrontation between a 1 ton 7 foot tall moose and your car, the moose will probably win.

There are two main ways to get to Newfoundland. You can fly into St. John’s, Gander, Deer Lake or Cornerbrook or you can catch a passenger ferry from North Sydney, Cape Breton. There are sailings to Port aux Basques and Argentia, both on the south coast of the province. There are also ferries from Labrador in the west. If you aren’t restricting your visit to St. John’s, you’ll need a car to get around though there are some bus tour companies available. Cruise ships also dock in the small harbour through the summer season.

Another place you can visit is France. Oh yes. There are a group of small islands near the towns of Grand Bank and Fortune called St. Pierre and Miquelon and they still belong to France. They are small villages and there isn’t a lot there but they’re quaint and peaceful. You can take a ferry there from Fortune and stay overnight though there are a few day returns through the summer for a one day visit. I haven’t had the chance to do that because I wasn’t there on the days that the ferry came back the same day. (My cousin lived in Grand Bank and later in St. John’s so I’ve been to Newfoundland a couple of times).

Newfoundlanders have a distinct accent. It’s strongly reminiscent of an Irish accent for the most part. That’s one of the non-native groups that settled here.

Oh, one last thing. Pronounciation. I’ve found that most people that are not from Canada pronounce the name of the province as “New *FOUND* Land”. Canadians know it’s “NEWfunland”. Just so you know.