Wednesday, October 15, 2014

The Maritime Museum of the Atlantic

The Maritime Museum of the Atlantic is one of the favourite stops for people on Arch's bus tour. And, believe it or not, we have never been there - the shoemakers children and all that, I guess. So one rainy afternoon a couple of weeks ago we decided to see what it was all about.

What an amazing place. Full of so many stories about Halifax and how our city has been impacted by its location on the North Atlantic Ocean. It would take many blog posts to tell you all of them so I will do three - one about the museum in general, one about the Halifax Explosion and one about Halifax's participation in the war of 1812.

So for this post let me give you a brief over view of the museum. It is located in the centre of the 2 to 3 km long boardwalk that runs along Halifax's waterfront:

When you enter you are greeted by Merlin, the talking parrot;
Merlin is so famous he even has his own camera on Nova Scotia Webcams

Theodore Tugboat is a Canadian children's television series about a tugboat named Theodore who lives in the Big Harbour with all of his friends. The show, which is no longer made, originated (and was set) in Halifax. It was filmed on a model set using radio controlled tugboats, ships, and machinery. At one time it was shown in 80 countries around the world. If you had small children during its hay day you may remember Big Harbour "the friendliest harbour in the world". It is now on display at the museum.

Most of the Museum focuses on the many wars that impacted Halifax and the people of Nova Scotia. Halifax Harbour is the second largest ice free harbour in the world (Sydney Australia's being the largest) and as such was a valuable resource to various navies in many armed conflicts.

The British founded Halifax in 1749 to counter the French fortified naval base at Louisburg and for 200 years Halifax's history has been shaped by the fact that we have contended with almost continual warfare. First as the British and the French fought to control North America, then through two world wars and on going conflicts around the world. Including the current conflict in the Middle East.

A small part of the museum is devouted to the sinking of the Titanic;

Of greater interest to most visitors to Halifax is the cemetery where the Titanic victims are buried.

There are many models of ships, a complete area telling about the Age of Sail, a naval ship at the dock that you can tour and much, much more. If you are interested in naval history plan to spend at least a day, and maybe two, here. It is a lot to take in.

Next blog post will be about the war of 1812 and the role Halifax played in it.

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Tuesday, October 14, 2014

A Nova Scotia Summer

It was quite a trip we took this past year. We saw so many interesting things. Met many wonderful people and made lots of new friends. And had a fantastic time.

And we saw so many beautiful places: The Great Smokey Mountains, the amazing beaches on the Gulf of Mexico Coast, the spectacular and endlessly beautiful deserts of Texas, New Mexico, Arizona and Southern California, the Big Sur Coast, the Oregon Coast, the Rocky Mountains, The spectacular and endless Prairies, the rugged beauty of the Canadian Shield. But the fairest of them all is our home province of Nova Scotia. It seems to have a little bit of everything we saw (except the desert) compacted into a small, user-friendly space.

In this post I am going to give you a general over-view of our Nova Scotia summer and in subsequent ones I will tell you about specific things we did that you may enjoy when you visit.

We entered Nova Scotia on a spectacular summer day and drove through the Cobiquid Pass to Truro to spend a night visiting Arch's family in Truro:
Cobiquid Pass
 before heading south the Atlantic coast:
Peggy's cove in the distance
And The Wayside RV Park:
That is us, second from your left
The view from our window: sunset from the Wayside
The Wayside was (and still is) our home base off and on all summer. This bay is across Peggy's Cove Rd from the campground and we were able to enjoy this view for most of the summer.

When we were not here we spent one month at Graves Island Provincial Park - two weeks as paying guests and two weeks as campground hosts - a job we really enjoyed. We recommended this campground to many people and all of who came loved it. It is hard to get into on weekends and there are limited hook-up sites that book up fast. Nova Scotia Provincial Parks open booking for their campgrounds April 1st of each year. If you are coming to NS and want to stay here I suggest you book as early as possible. We booked our two week site for mid July in early May.

The park is a small island near Chester, NS and you cross a causeway to get to it:

All the hook-up sites and most of the other sites have views of the ocean:

The boats participating in Chester race week. This is a very distant shot.
I asked permission to go on someone else's camp site to take this photo.
The park has a boat launch (great for canoes and kayaks), a small pebble beach (bring beach shoes) and a walking/cycling trail circles the Island. It is also close to the Halifax to Lunenburg trail as well. Lunenburg, Mahone Bay, the Annapolis Valley and Halifax are all within driving distance.

We also spent 6 weeks house sitting for friends who live in our old neighbourhood. This gave us a great chance to have the Adventure Bus serviced, to clean it out and repack, etc. It also reminded us of why we sold our big house - so much work, so little time! The things we really miss from our days in a sticks and bricks house are our great neighbours and the view. This stay gave us an opportunity to enjoy both.

The view from the deck of the home we house-sat
Unfortunately my computer gave up the ghost a couple of weeks ago and I lost many photos from our stay here so no pictures of the neighbours. We are having dinner with some of them next week and will post them then.

And most important of all has been time with our family:
A small part of the clan.
I am not going to bore you with a lot of family photos but have to show you this one. It says so much about Nova Scotia:
Jonah, Oliver and a lobster. Two boys fishing, Nova Scotia style
These are two of our great nephews. My sister's grandchildren. There is a neighbourhood wharf and beach in front of her home. Jonah and Oliver spend a lot of time scuba diving and looking for treasure there and caught this lobster one day. They brought it up to the house for a photo-op then returned it to its home on the bottom of the ocean. Lobster season does not start in this area until the end of November and anyway, they do not have a licence to harvest lobster.

Any of you who know Arch know he is much for sitting around and he was worried about what he was going to do all summer. And then, through the magic of Facebook we learned that Ambassatours - a Halifax based company who runs tours for visitors - was looking for tour bus drivers. He applied, got  the job, underwent training to upgrade his licence and learn to drive the double decker antique tour buses:
This bus is a training bus. He actually drives a pink bus
You will notice that they are right hand drive - quite a challenge at first.

So he spent the last two months driving cruise ship visitors around Halifax on a pink hop on hop off tour bus. And having a grand time.
Halifax is an old (for North America) city and the downtown streets are narrow and crowded
 and challenging to drive these big buses through.
He often works very long days as the cruise ships arrive at dawn:

And leave at sunset:
Photo from Nova Scotia Web Cameras
Giving the passengers lots of time to tour Halifax attarctions, or go to Peggy's Cove or Lunenburg, or visit the wineries in the Annapolis Valley, etc
Buses waiting for passengers from the ship
Some days there are so many cruise ships in town that the overflow ships are docked at the container port:
These folks are on such a ship and are waiting for the bus to transport them to the main cruise terminal.
Arch in his uniform. Note the Pebble Beach sweater - folks get a kick out of that
This picture is a little blurry but I included it to give all you oldsters a bit of encouragement. The man with Arch in the Scottish kilt, et al is in his late 80s and comes to the port everyday that cruise ships are in town to play the bagpipes to greet the arriving passengers.
So to all you 50 and 60 somethings out there planning your retirement be sure to include the possibility of a job of some type. Hanging out around the house will get old very fast.

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Monday, September 1, 2014

Montreal and Home

There is a strong connection between Montreal and Canada's east coast. It is our nearest "big" city and, back in the day, the place to go for shopping, big city holidays, etc. Or maybe that was just our family. Mom grew up in Montreal, my sister Ruth lived in Montreal for 40+ years, we went to university in Montreal and it was always our first night stop when driving between London, Ontario and Nova Scotia. So once we arrived in Montreal we were home - the rest of the drive was simply a trip over familiar roads.

The purpose of our stop in Montreal was to visit with Ruth's family so we planned a family bbq party at the Adventure Bus. Not many pictures I am afraid. I was too busy visiting. But here are a couple:

My niece Rachel and her partner, Michael
Rachel is a lecturer ar LSU in Baton Rouge LA. You may remember that we dropped in on her in Baton Rouge at the beginning of this trip. She took a leave of absence to be with her mom while she was ill and was to head back to Baton Rouge at the end of the month. (Which she did).
From right: nephew Jon's future mother-in-law and super chef, Rivka. Barry, Rivka's husband, brother-in-law, Bill and Arch
We timed our visit to coincide with Rachel's 40th birthday and the next night Bill hosted a dinner party at the local yacht club to celebrate:
My sister Mary and her husband, John (across the table), Barry Bill, Rachel,.
Beside Rachel is her brother Jon and Rivka across from him.
Our nephew, Jon, is engaged to marry Rivka's daughter, Amanda, next May in Nova Scotia. It will be a happy celebration we are all looking forward to. Rivka is generously allowing the aunts to participate in the wedding planning. Additionally, she voluntarily served as the family chef during Ruth's illness, preparing delicious meals and treats we all looked forward to. What a sweetheart she is!!

At this end of the table, Arch, Linda beside him and Al.
They  returned to Montreal from the cottage to attend the dinner and host Mary and John overnight
Jon and Rachel. Rivka made Rachel's "cake" - is is a raw food, vegan key lime pie!!
She is a genius cook.
Jon and Amanda are both working on Phd's at universities in North Carolina. Amanda at Duke and Jon at UNC. We will see them next on our way south in November. I don't think we will see Rachel until next May.
Boats in the marina at the yacht club - Bill's boat is out there somewhere
The next morning we were up and off to our next overnight, the Walmart in Edmundston, New Brunswick.

There is much to see and do in Quebec - if you are visiting for the first time plan to spend two or three days in Montreal (the KOA south has a bus service into the city), at least 2 days in Quebec City (stay across the St Lawrence River in Levis and take the ferry back and forth to visit.). And be sure to drive around the Gaspe Peninsula - a terrific drive that doesn't receive enough attention. The province also has a terrific trail system for hikers and cyclists.

We have done all this before so we were headed straight to Moncton, NB to have some repairs done on the Adventure Bus.

We left Edmundston on a hazy morning for to drive down the beautiful St John River Valley:

The weather cleared quickly as we drove along New Brunswick's seemingly endless section of the Trans Canada Highway.
Beautiful, isn't it? New Brunswick is very hilly (some would say mountiany, so, if you are in a large RV drive through with empty water tanks if possible.) 
Our next planned stop was Woodstock, New Brunswick which is just 10 kms from the USA border crossing and the Walmart at Houlton, ME. The plan was to unhook the car, drive across the border and pick up several cases of wine at the Walmart (we are allowed to import and pay taxes on 40 litres of wine per person for personal consumption.) Then we were going to spend the night at the Woodstock Walmart.
Not a bad spot to Wally-dock
Unfortunately, we weren't able to get as much wine as we wanted (Houlton is not exactly a major metropolis) and when we got back to the Adventure Bus it was very hot out - about 30C - much too hot to spend the night without electricity (i.e. air conditioning). So we decided to drive on to Mactaquac Provincial Park near Fredericton. Not our best idea. We should have realized that something was amiss when we saw a man selling a generator at the side of the road on the way into the park. Then we saw this:

And this:
And then this:

Oh! Oh! This is really not looking good
As it turned out this was storm damage from post tropical storm (aka hurricane) Arthur which blew through the week before. We had no idea the damage was so extensive and it turned out there was a whole area which still had no electrical service and had not yet seen a repair crew. They were not happy campers.

It was getting late (about 5 pm) and we had no idea where to go next so I called our friends Elaine and Rick of  E & R's Travels. They live in Riverview - 170kms away- and were our next stop after Fredericton. I was hoping they could suggest a campground close to where we were where we could spend the night. No such luck. Elaine suggested that we drive straight through to their place instead. We were frustrated, tired and the idea of doing this broke all our rules for RV driving, but after some discussion off we went. We knew that a late evening visit with them and a great RV hook up site on their property would be just the cure for a difficult day.

We spent two nights with Elaine and Rick. The plan had been to get our range oven repaired or replaced at the RV dealership where they both work but, as it turned out the part we needed was obsolete and a new range was $900+ so we decided to let it go for now and seek other solutions. Instead we enjoyed a great visit with Elaine and Rick, (thanks guys) a brief visit with my nephew David and his family who live just a few blocks down the road and then on to Truro for a two day stop at Arch's sisters and then home to St. Margaret's Bay.
The view from our window, Wayside RV Campground, Glen Margaret, NS
And thus we ended a 16,000 km trip around North America from Halifax to the South Padre Island, to San Diego, to Vancouver, and then across Canada on the Trans Canada Highway. Not one breakdown, no crises situations (unless you count the "Car in the Imperial Sand Dunes" episode), just a great time seeing lots of interesting sights and things and meeting lots of great people. The old Adventure Bus did us good as we say in Nova Scotia.

Whats next? Well, summer and fall in Nova Scotia (more blog posts to come) then winter in Florida. After that, who knows.

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Thursday, August 28, 2014

Canada Day in Ottawa

Before I get to our day in Ottawa I want to tell you about a quick stop we made on our way from London to the Thousand Islands (I forgot to include it in my last post).

When we first started to think about the RV lifestyle one of the blogs I found (and continue to follow) was that of Mike and Dee White: GoneRVing. Eventually we became Facebook friends. (I love facebook, such a great way to keep up with friends in far flung places). When we were in Mission Texas this winter Dee noticed that they were close by and suggested we get together for coffee. She also told us about Ruth and Ken, fellow RVers and bloggers, who were staying at the same resort as we were. So one afternoon we all got together at our site for coffee and conversation:
Me, Ruth,  Mike, Arch and Ken. Jackson (the retriever - Ruth and Ken's dog) and Timmie (Dee and Mike's dog ).
Dee took this picture.
Dee and Mike are full-timers who spend the summer at Musselman's Lake, north of Toronto and Ruth and Ken live nearby. (They are not ready to give up the "sticks" house yet).

So on our way to the Thousands Islands we made a detour to spend a night at the RV park where Mike and Dee are. Mike, Dee, Timmie, Ruth and Ken came to our RV for supper. Jackson stayed home - we missed him.
It was great to catch up with them in person.

Then on we went to The Thousand Islands and Ottawa"

It was a short drive from our campground in Gananogue to  the municipal campground in Ottawa and we arrived before lunch. And this is where our only mishap of the whole trip happened. The road to the campground was very rough and must have loosened something under the front end of our car. Which hooked into the dolly when he went to remove the car and tore the facia off. Arch made a temporary repair with duct tape (duct tape seems to fix everything) but we have a big bill in front of us I'm afraid.
Eventually, Arch added a few screws underneath and removed the duct tap. So far ( almost 2 months later) it is holding.
Our campground in Ottawa was not far from where some of our college classmates were living so they dropped in for drinks later in the afternoon:
Darlene Graham, Sue (Ward) Bryson, Don Graham, Don Bryson and Arch
We attended university with Darlene, Sue and Don G (Don was in our class) - Don B joined the group when Sue chose to marry him. It is hard to believe that we will be returning to Montreal this October to celebrate the 50th Reunion of our class. Another lovely visit.

Our entire trip across Canada was timed so we could be in Ottawa on Canada Day so we were up bright and early July 1st to take the bus from a stop near our campground to downtown. Recommended - traffic downtown was a zoo.

We visited Ottawa many times in the past and have been to all the major museums and attractions at one time or another but, The War Museum was recently moved to a new, much larger, building with a much improved exhibit space so we decided to spend the morning there.

The museum is Canada's national museum of military history and covers all facets of Canada's military past, from the first recorded instances of death by armed violence in Canadian history several hundred years ago to the country's most recent involvement in conflicts. I especially like that it did not glorify war and emphasized the human experience of war and the manner in which war has affected, and been affected by, Canadians' participation. Go if you are in Ottawa.

We spent 4 hours there and could have spent another 4 but it is a huge place and we did a lot of walking while there and were exhausted. So we had lunch in the museum's cafeteria - excellent by the way - and took the bus back to the Adventure Bus. For a rest and a change of clothes then back downtown for the celebrations on Parliament Hill:

People were arriving from all points:
And The Hill was crowded:
We found a grassy spot and settled in to watch the stage show and the people. The show on stage had entertainers representing all types of Canadian musicians. It was fantastic. But, of greater interest to me was the makeup of the audience. It is said that Canada is the most ethnically diverse country in the world and I believe it. Here are some photos of faces in the crowd:

It is so great that so many people with such diverse origins have chosen to call Canada home.

As the stage show ended the sun set over the parliament buildings:

And the fireworks began:
The workers in this office building across the street gathered in the windows to watch.
Not sure why they were working on Canada Day night.

And then, as the fireworks ended, it started to rain and 350,000 people made a mad dash for home. And that is when we discovered to only disadvantage to taking the bus.
Canadian politeness went out the window as everyone pushed and shoved to get on the right bus
There was no organization to this. Buses for all destinations stopped in the same spot and you never knew which was going to open their doors where so people were running back and forth trying to get on the right one. Chaos. But we did get on the right bus and made it back to the campground unscathed.

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