Month: May 2018

616. Sunday 26th May 2018. From Nova Scotia to PEI to Calgary, Alberta. From cold and rain to sunshine and warmth…

A slow week and a chance to just relax. Very few photos but stay tuned for next week.

Monday 21st May

Woke to brilliant sunshine with no fog or mist obscuring our view of Port Hood bay.

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Last night fog shrouded view.
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Our view this morning.

We are heading back to PEI today and we could have tolerated a wet day, instead we get a brilliant sunny day which is what we wanted yesterday.

Sigh!

We drove through three Provinces, Nova Scotia, New Brunswick and PEI.

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Throughout, New Brunswick Nova Scotia and PEI there are many wind farms.

Alecia researched somewhere for lunch and found Murphy’s Fish and Chips at Truro. It was some distance off the motorway but it is rated as the best fish and chips in Truro. It was a strangely located restaurant in what might be called a strip mall. Externally it did not look all that interesting but once inside, the décor made us feel more comfortable. The crowded tables also gave us more confidence. That said the fish is a local Canadian haddock and is quite tasty. Once more we were pleased they serve real fish and not the imported catfish, Basa, from South East Asia. Unlike many Australian fish and chipperies which serve up the yukky un- Australian Basa. Shame shame shame.

The highlight of the trip was from New Brunswick to PEI on the 12.9 Klm long Confederation Bridge.

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Joining the Confederation Bridge on te New Brunswick side.

There is a big hump in the middle to allow cruise and other tall ships to pass underneath. (I would not be surprised if an iceberg or two passed underneath too)

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Ahead is the hump where cruise ships can pass underneath.

Tuesday 22nd May

Today was a lay day for us to recover. Tyler went to work, Vianna went to school and Alecia went shopping for fresh veggies to take on her flights to Calgary when she returns to work tomorrow.

Checking our tickets which incidentally Air Canada have modified twice since we booked in December. We now have a 6 hour layover in Montreal before our connecting flight to Calgary. Grrr!

We called Air Canada and after a 23 minute wait were told there is not an earlier flight. Double Grrr!

We drove Alecia to the airport at 5pm for her several connecting flights to the Alberta oil sands site to begin work tomorrow.

Wednesday 23rd May

Up early. We drove Alecia’s car to the airport at Charlottetown and left it in short term parking for Tyler to collect later in the morning. At the ticket counter we found there is an earlier flight to Montreal. We were booked onto that earlier flight (at no extra cost but we did have to pay an extra $57 for our bags. There is no free baggage allowance) Instead of a 6 hour layover in Montreal and arriving at 9.30pm we now just have time for a quick lunch and arrive in Calgary at 4pm.

At Calgary Donnis neice, Simone was waiting for us but surprise, surprise so were Myah and Ivan were there too (they are Simones in-laws) Unbeknownst to all of us they were on the same flight as us. There were sitting just forward in First Class. They have just returned from a trekking holiday to the mountains of Peru.

We dropped Myah and Ian at their home. They have been travelling for more than 24 hours and are severely jet lagged. From there we went to Simone and Lazars house for dinner. Lazar used the last of his wild caught red salmon. He goes on an annual fishing excursion in the wilds of Princess Charlotte Islands which is north of British Columbia in the permanent ice fields and 365 days snow- capped mountains. He cooked the fish in his smoker/barbecue and we had a delicious smoked salmon dinner sitting outside. It is amazing really. We left the cold east coast of Canada and a few hours later at Calgary the temp is 27° and people are in shorts and Tshirts and can eat outside. We were somewhat overdressed in warm clothes and jackets.

Finally we arrive at Joan’s house, a hot shower and we were ready for bed.
Tomorrow is not planned although we expect family here in Calgary will make some plans for us.

There is talk about going to “the mountains” next week and perhaps joining Myah and Ivan for a few days travelling to Banff and on to Golden and to their resort ski lodge at Kicking Horse Mountain. Lazar commented there was still skiable snow there last week.

On the news tonight was a report that Nova Scotia had snowfall today. That would have been fun if it had occurred while we were there on the weekend.

Thursday 24th May

Another lay day. While Donnis went to visit her mother I stayed around home getting up to date with my notes and photo editing.

In the evening we drove to Ivan and Myah’s house for a barbecue.  Joan, Simone and Lazar rounded out the numbers. They put on quite a huge meal, Bulgarian style, including toasts with grappa. First up there was a cold yoghurt based Tzatziki  soup followed by various salads including a wonderful roasted capsicum in a simple marinade of vinegar and olive oil. The green salad had these wonderful Pickled Peruvian Peppers about the size of a little finger fingernail. Only then did we start eating the steaks which had been resting. Dessert was a tiramisu with fresh berries.

Lots of good food, good conversation and good fun.

Simone gave us the use of her Audi for a few days.

Friday 25th May

Today I tried to get a simple Pre-Paid SIM card from local telcos.

I will never (and I ask others to do the same) never complain about Telstra again. Telstra is easy to deal with, has Australia Wide coverage and phone and data costs are reasonable.

I tried talking with Freedom Mobile. Nope. Do not have a simple plan. Nope your phone is not compatible in our system. Try going to Telus. If your phone is not compatible on their system it will not be compatible anywhere in Canada. I mentioned I was on foot so he directed me to an obscure Telus office where I only had to cross two major roads. Funny thing about footpaths here in Calgary. They simply end in the middle of nowhere then start again 200 metres later.

The Telus office was obscure and the only officer there was curious how I even found the store which is located in a lcomplex mainly used by panel beaters and accident assessors. Geoff, who served me, said he has never had a walk in client in two years. Go figure.

Geoff, the only person in the store listened and retained what I told him. He used his SIM card in my phone and it worked. Next I needed a plan and this where we ran into the first of several hurdles. The plan for $45 included half a Gb of data and unlimited local calls. Hmmm! I will want to use it in British Columbia. It is no longer a local call and it will cost 61 cents per minute extra but data is Canada wide whereas phone is limited to the Province for which it is set up. I could pay an extra $5 per month to modify the extra fee down to 25 cents per minute. Sheesh! No problem said Geoff when you want to make calls from BC, call me and I will change your location. Hmmm!  I am getting a little antsy about now but agree to proceed. Now comes payment. Geoff could not get his computer to accept my Master Card Pre -Paid Traveller Card which I have used everywhere we have gone in Canada including buying meals, groceries, WalMart purchases, airline baggage payments and ATM withdrawals. He rang a colleague who, maybe, should be able to process the card. Nope! Nor could they process my regular Visa credit card. Telus will only accept Canadian or US based Credit Cards. WTF. Hmmm! Geoff found a solution. A 48 hour free call was attached to the phone so I can go to a convenience store and buy credit and then activate my account. But first they need an address. I do not have an address I am travelling and have no idea of my address because it has things like SE and SW and North and 98 street W in the name and I only walked the 2 Klms to get here and memorised the way so I can walk back. Hmmm! So Geoff uses his address. OK so far but wait. I have to pay $20 for the SIM card. OK $65 for the convenience is acceptable. But we are not finished. There is a $1 tax on the card.

Sigh!

I walk the 2.5 Klm to the convenience store only to find the minimum card is not $45 but $50. But wait there is still the tax to be added. The simple $45 pre- paid SIM card has now cost $73.50 and I can only use the phone and text part of the deal while I am in Alberta. If I want to go to BC to use the phone I have to get Geoff to change my location. The service by Geoff was fantastic. He went way beyond my expectations even when I was ready to call it quits early in our conversation. His dogged determination to get me what I wanted or at least most of what I wanted was worth a round of applause. The trouble is with the inflexibilty of the Telus and Canadian mobile phone system.

At least now we have access to Google maps so we can find our way around and people can call us and vice versa…provided it is in Alberta. It seems if somebody from BC or elsewhere calls it will be a long distance call. I am unsure after discussion with Geoff who pays that long distance call. The caller or the called?

Later… I looked it up on the internet. Hmmm! The Canadian system is complicated. It seems both called and caller pay a fee. Seems wrong to me but that’s the way it works in Canada.

Saturday 26th May.

It rained overnight but has since turned sunny. Maybe I can wear shorts again today.

As it turns out …no shorts.

In the morning we took Joan’s “truck” a Toyota Tacoma Ute, to the tyre depot to change to summer tyres. This is interesting. There is a set of tyres for winter conditions, big chunky knobbly tyres to cope with the snow and ice conditions. In the summer those tyres are not needed as they are uncomfortable, noisy and increases fuel consumption. It’s probably what helps to make a mess of local suburban streets. Today the tyres were changed to summer. The winter tyres are wrapped in plastic then stored in the basement near the furnace. Imagine if you will. Every house has a basement with a furnace and stacked nearby are a set of tyres with or without rims. I wonder what people do where there are several cars in the family!

I now understand why the suburban streets are in such a poor state and why there is a build up of fine grit or gravel on the edges of the road. During winter and the heavy snow a salted grit or gravel is laid down by road workers. The cars and trucks with their chunky tyres grind the git and slowly little holes are formed followed by bigger holes. The gritty substance gets pushed by the traffic to the edge of the road. Sometime in the spring…now… the grit is scooped up by front end loaders to be used next year. This further damages the roads.

Donnis and I used our new Telus pre-paid card with data to find our way to Simones house so we can water her garden. On the way back the data disappeared and so did the phone network. Using Joans WiFi I finally got through to an operator who explained my account was set up as a Pay By Use and not the $45 plan Talk Text and Data Plan I asked and paid for. Eventually after being on-line for nearly an hour they called me on the mobile, apologised and gave me an extra 500 Gb of data. I now have a $60 talk text and data plan. Tomorrow will be a test when we go to Andrea’s house for dinner.

Sunday 6th May

A whole day can go by leaving you wondering why it took so long to get things done. It’s the driving back and forwards to relatives living in different parts of the city.

Today was a good workout with our Telus data plan and it passed with flying colours.

After leaving Simones house – where we went to water her veggie patch – we were passed by an ambulance and shortly we were stuck in a gridlock of traffic. We turned around and had coffee nearby. After coffee we discovered the gridlock was even worse. Somewhere along our route had been a major accident. Luckily we were able to plan an alternate route  back to Joan’s house.

Apart from watering Simones plants again we drove to visit Donnis mom in a nursing home then took her to visit niece Andrea and husband Brett and their two boys. After a barbecued dinner we took mom back to the nursing home where Donnis decided to do a load of washing and drying. We finally left there at 8pm.

So ends the fourth week of our journey. It has been a pretty quiet week but things will get busy again in a few days and the camera will get a big workout again. I am looking forward to going into the mountains. There is still some snow and the black bears are moving around looking for food and lady black bears.

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615. Sunday 20th May 2018. Rain! Cabot trail to Pleasant Bay and on to Port Hood…

Sunday 20th May

Woke around 6am to a heavy overcast and horror of horrors, it was raining. The rain was heavy at times. Today was planned as a long travelling day so we needed to get on the road early. The original plan was to follow the entire Cabot Trail which would be about 8 hours allowing a limited time for viewing and photo stops. Early, meant we were on our way before 8am. As we joined the Trans Canada highway which is also labelled as the beginning of the Cabot Trail here on CBI, the rain became heavier. So much so that water across the road meant the car was aquaplaning making driving difficult and risky for Tyler. The original plan was to continue on the Cabot Trail in an anti- clockwise direction.  That plan was changed due the conditions so we decided to do a partial Cabot Trail in a clockwise direction as far as Pleasant Bay. This meant a detour and travelling through the small coastal towns of Margaree Harbour and Cheticamp and a host of smaller villages.

First stop was at Cheticamp, a village of mainly French speaking Acadians. A Robins Donuts coffee franchise   http://www.robinsdonuts.com/    was open and a group of loud French speaking men most likely Acadians, were dominating the dining area. Apart from the noise at the table of 10 men, the coffee was terrible. So bad in fact that I have to place it in second place of the worst coffee ever. I forget who holds first place. Along with the noise, Tyler and I were unable to finish our coffee so we were soon on the road. It was that bad. For some reason Robins makes their coffee with an added vanilla and sweetener. Yuk!

Avoid these if you like coffee   http://www.robinsdonuts.com/

We stopped to look at an impressive church called The Eglise Paroissiale Catholique Saint Pierre.    Have a look at this website. http://www.historicplaces.ca/en/rep-reg/place-lieu.aspx?id=8821

The cost to such a small town must have been enormous.

Vianna although only seven attends a French speaking school so she has been able to interpret or teach us the pronunciation of the local French names.

Cheticamp seems to have been known as a fishing village as far back as 1689 and most likely a long time before that as a summer fishing village by the First Nation Tribe the  Mi’ Kmaq.  (pronounce Mik Mak) The name has gone through several variations but the name Cheticamp, penned by a missionary in 1815 seems to be the favoured name ever since.

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Cenotaph and gun emplacement at Cheticamp.

We soon entered Cape Breton Highland National Park and missed out on paying the fee as the summer season is not here and the ticket booth was still closed. The area was declared a National Park in 1936 and yes there are still wild Black Bear, Linx, Puma and Cougar. Stick to the marked trails I always say.  The scenery in this park is breathtaking, spectacular, awesome and at times frightening with steep curving roads often with a low stone wall beside a sheer drop of over 400 metres to the ocean.

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Scree slope and towering granite at Le Butterea. I am told that during winter this is all covered in snow.
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Looking north along the Cabot Trail
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Cabot Trail – Cape Breton Highland National Park. This is the road from Cheticamp to Pleasant Bay.
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The coastline below the cliffs is dotted with calm bays and estuaries.
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Looking north Pleasant Bay is somewhere up there.
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and the rugged cliffs and steep hillsides go on and on.

By now the rain had eased but the wind was getting dangerously strong. At French Mountain there is still snow beside the road and amongst the pine trees.  We stopped at The Bog to explore a boardwalk near French Lake. Halfway through the walk rain came rushing across the moors and we beat a hasty retreat back to the Toyota 4 Runner.  On a clear no wind day I would have loved to have stopped to look at the varieties of orchid and the various pitcher plants which abound here.

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The Bog. Timber boardwalk winding through wetlands.
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The Bog

I found a wallet in the carpark which we handed to the Royal Canadian Mounted Police at Cheticamp on our return.

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Pleasant Bay is down there. Like so many other villages we have seen they are closed for the weekend in fact the entire autumn and winter and spring seasons. I am still trying to understand how the fishermen can make a living in such a short season.

Eventually we arrived in Pleasant Bay and not unexpectedly found most stores and eateries are still closed. There is no phone or internet reception either. Luckily we came prepared with lots of ham sandwiches Alecia made this morning.

The wind at the harbour was so strong it was difficult to stand upright. All the boats are safely berthed in the harbour. Again there was nobody but us at the harbour. Sensible people are at home with a fire keeping them warm and away from the wind and rain.

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Hard stand and lighthouse at Pleasant Bay.
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Pleasant Bay.

On our return through the National Park at French Mountain the cloud descended once more, dropping heaps of rain and reducing visibility, forcing a drop in speed to 30 KPH in places. Strangely the wind was nearly calm.  Once we started to descend once again we dropped below the cloud level and found the road dry but it was still windy.

From here we retraced our steps to Cheticamp and chose an alternate coastal route to our cabin for tonight. The rain followed us to Port Hood and the mist rolled in blotting out our view of the bay, the harbour and even the house and shed in front of us.

Unfortunately our drive around the Cabot Trail was interrupted but we were fortunate to see the most spectacular section. The wind and rain put a dampener on the view but it was special anyway.

It’s a pity really because the scenery and the colours would have been so vivid in the photographs. Instead everything looks almost black and white.

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Such miserable cold wet windy conditions almost seen in black and white.
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Here is how it looks in black and white.

A local supermarket was still open so we could buy supplies for dinner. Tonight was chicken, baby potatoes, a crispy salad along with an entre of mussels in a garlic, butter and cream sauce.

Tomorrow begins our trip back to PEI, this time via the Confederation Bridge. The route will take us back along the coast of Cape Breton, across the Canso Causeway to Nova Scotia through parts of the coast we have not seen.

So ends our third week away from home.

614. Saturday 19th May 2018. From Pictou Nova Scotia to Baddeck Cape Breton Island…

THIS WILL BE ANOTHER POST COVERING ONLY ONE DAY BUT LOTS OF PHOTOS.

Saturday 19th May

I woke early as is my wont.

Had a quick walk around some of the old parts of town. From what I could see most of Pictou is the old part of town.

Breakfast, if not something special, was quite good. By the time people wade through cereal with fruit, yoghurt with fruit, fruit juice, a savoury scone (which was a bit of a puzzle because it was more like the American/Canadian “biscuit” and had cheese and herbs in it but was also very sweet) before the main plate arrives. Today it was eggs benedict, a toasted half muffin with ham, a poached egg, topped with béarnaise sauce and a side of finely cubed fried potatoes , sort of a loose hash brown. I chose not to get involved in the fruit and cereal and yoghurt. There was too much to eat.

About an hour after we got underway we stopped at a remote location called Cape George which has a nice solid lighthouse sitting 400m above sea level.

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The well maintained gravel road to the Cape George Lighthouse

Although the lighthouse is still automatically operational it has been unmanned since 1978. Ownership of the lighthouse was passed to the local Cape George community who maintain it. I must say it is the best maintained lighthouse we have seen.

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The wonderfully solid clean well maintained and impressive lighthouse at Cape George.
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The sun was shining it was almost warm (out of the breeze) and just a pleasant place to relax.
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Alecia and Vianna at Cape George.

Below the cliffs there was a boat going through the drill of pulling in their lobster “pots”.

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Lobster fishing boat.

Nearby a Police patrol boat seemed to be going through practise loops. Although we were 400 metres above and about the same distance across water we could hear the men talking on the lobster boat. A channel marker was bobbing in the swell and making a slow and languish clang. I could imagine this sound on a dark and misty or foggy night. Dunno why but an image of “JAWS” came into my mind when I heard the clang.190518 channel buouy

Eventually we crossed the Camso Causeway which separates Nova Scotia  from Cape Breton Island. (Actually Nova Scotia is a Province and Cape Breton is part of that Province but for purposes of writing I will refer to them separately).

The rock for the causeway was extracted from Martin Marieta Porcupine Mountain by the quarry company located only 200 metres from the causeway. We could see huge mounds of granite being pushed over the edge and tumbling down the mountain, leaving a plume of dust and grit in its wake.

Once on CBI we stopped at a place called Port Hawksbury for lunch. The second most awarded restaurant in town is the Fleur de Lis and it was located in a dusty strip shopping mall. That said the food was good. It seems the good food places are found in the unlikeliest of addresses. Perhaps it is the cost of rent.

Approaching Baddeck, our accommodation for the night, we were stopped by the Police. They were carrying out a licence, registration and insurance check of all vehicles in and out of town. They pointed out the registration is due at the end of the month and to make sure the car is registered BEFORE the due date.

Yessir!

We proceeded to our cabin for the night.

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This is our cabin beside the water at Baddeck. (actually there is a road between us and the water.)

We were pleasantly surprised to find it within a few metres of the water overlooking the Bay of Baddeck.

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What a great view out the kitchen sink window.
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What a great view out the front doors.

Alexander Graham Bell built a house here in 1885 and spent many years there until 1922. It was a favourite summer escape for the family. Depicted in photos we saw around town are the family enjoying a romp in the water.

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You never know who you are going to bump into on a walk around Baddeck. Here was Alexander Graham Bell and his wife Mabel forever taking the salt laden air at the harbour.

It is approaching summer and the water is still frigid. Too cold for this brown duck to go swimming.

It was while we were unpacking I realised we have left one of our power adapters behind at Pictou.

Grrr! It is not a huge loss but an inconvenience. At least our spare is a double adapter.

The cabin, on the waters edge is called Bute Arran named after a couple of regions in Scotland. Our cabin looks out across the huge multi channelled Bras d’Or Lakes. Although there are multiple lakes which are described as an inland sea, it is connected to the Atlantic Ocean and is tidal.

It did not take long for our sunny almost warm day to dissipate when a cold breeze moved in across the water to remind us we will still need our coats when venturing outside.

It is Saturday of a long weekend and the Esso garage in town closes 1pm and is closed all day Sunday. Luckily just out of town is an Irving Fuel outlet which means we fuelled up and can continue our trip following the Cabot Trail tomorrow. We are unsure where and when fuel might be available on this long weekend especially in view of the number businesses which are still closed for Winter.

This is an attractive community with some interesting buildings and a small but busy marina.

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The original Baddeck Post Office built in 1886.
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Victoria County Courthouse at Baddeck. Built 1889.
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The Baddeck Provincial Building. It has no particular historical inteest other than it is a nice looking building it house various departments of the Nova Scotia Provincial Government such Health Building, Licences and Natural Resources. Perhaps in 100 years it will be given a hands off order and be placed on the National Register of Heritage Buildings.

Wonderful views across the bay can be had from almost anywhere in town.

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Lovely views around the harbour at Baddeck.
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Baddeck Harbour

It’s a pity we have to be on the road tomorrow and will not have time to explore.

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I have always wanted a Ford Mustang. Big motor convertible red leather upholstery and all the trimmings.
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Here it is. A 2018 model. Seen in Baddeck. Even with the top down the leather still smells new. If I had somewhere around CAN $80,000 I could purchase one just like this. Hmmm! In AUS it would cost a bit more than $90000. The dream lives on.

613. Friday 18th May 2018. Sunnyside to Wood Island then by ferry to Pictou and New Glasgow in Nova Scotia…

THIS IS A SHORT POST OF ONLY ONE DAY. INSTEAD IT HAS LOTS OF PHOTOS.

Friday 18th May

We were on our way almost exactly on time. When you consider 4 adults plus one 7 year old all wanting breakfast and showers and preparing lunch to get away on time is a miracle.180518 wood1180518 wood

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A couple of lighthouses and a mock up village at Wood Island beside the ferry terminal. Both lighthouses are still active. On the day of our visit a couple of Amatuer Ham Operators were setting up antenna to communicate with Darwin Australia.

We drove to Wood Island on the south east corner of PEI to catch the Northumberland Ferries Limited car ferry CONFEDERATION to Nova Scotia.

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The Newfoundland Ferry Lines ferry CONFEDERATION enters the Wood Point area of PEI.
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Cas and trucks begin to leave the ferry which has a capacity to carry 220 vehicles. on two decks. Those cars and trucks are unloaded in less than 15 minutes.

https://www.ferries.ca/ns-pei-ferry/   Of course we are all rugged up the same as if we were on an Alaskan dog sled expedition.

Is it cold?

You betcha.

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Tyler and Alecia at Wood Point waiting for the car ferry to arrive. Their warm clothing shows what sort of day we experienced.

The trip over the Northumberland Strait was straight forward, no rough water and 75 minutes later we were on Nova Scotia which by the way is Latin for New Scotland. That should explain why there are places called Hallifax, New Glasgow, Sunnybrae and a bunch of other Scottish names.

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Our first sight of Nova Scotia at Caribou. The lighthouse on Caribou Point can be seen.

We drove from Caribou Harbour to the town of Pictou where we are spending the night at a bed and breakfast called The Willow House Inn   http://www.willowhouseinn.com/   which is 178 years old.

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Willow House Inn at Pictou Nova Scotia. We spent the night here.

I was told by other guests breakfast is something special so there is no way we are leaving early.180518 pictou4

The name Pictou derives from the language of a First Nations Tribe, the Mi’Kmaq who lived and still live in the area. The name means “explosive place” a reference to the troubled tidal waters against wind found in the area.

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This building was opened as the Pictou Post office in 1895. For some reason it had a window built into the chimney shown on the left side. To this day it is not known why it was built this way but it seems it is the only known example of a chimney with a window, anywhere in the world. The building has been fenced off for several years to allow renovations to take lace. Apart from the fence nothing else has been done. Another interesting feature is the building is made of sandstone. It is different from all other buildings in town. The sandstone was quarried and cut in Scotland and shipped to Pictou.

During the evening I met a couple from England. They wanted to sell their house and buy elsewhere but UK prices are so out of control they could not afford to move anywhere else in the UK. They have sold their house and have 200,000 UK Pounds to spend. They are in Pictou looking at real estate. She is a office specialist and will look for work. He is studying management for two years at the local university. She can work while he is on a student visa. They both plan to apply for citizenship or resident status. In the meantime they are looking at real estate. For between $80,000 to $90,000 they can buy a 3 or 4 bedroom home near the centre of town. They will budget $10,000 for any renovations or improvements and will buy a new car. At current exchange rates they should have near CAN$500,000. They plan to move here permamently. I looked at the 5 houses they have looked at so far and am impressed by what they can buy for CAN$80,000. Of course you would have to put up with lots of cold and snow and businesses which are closed most of the year. I wish them the Best of British Luck.

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The first contingent of Scottish immigrants arrived in Pictou Nova Scotia to take up settlement in 1773. The replica ship HECTOR” is probably in worse condition than the original ship which made the crossing.

It seems the nearby town of New Glasgow is larger and there is more likelihood of finding somewhere for dinner. So we traipsed over to NG and had dinner at The Dock Irish Pub before traipsing back to Pictou.

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THE DOCK Irish Pub in New Glasgow. The original Georgian townhouse was built by Squire James Fraser in 1845 and is one of the oldest commercial structues in Nova Scotia.

The Irish specialty was Bangers and Mash and lots of Irish and local beer.

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We are waiting on our meal at The Dock. Note the original stonework and timber door lintel in the background.
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The Dock doorways, linyels and stonework

New Glasgow does not have the benefit of a nice view across a harbour like Pictou does. However Pictou has a view of a wood pulp mill across the bay. It is not so good to look at.

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What view. Athe bottom of this street is a functioning lighthouse but across the bay is a wood pulp factory.

Walking around NG it was apparent that many of the businesses are struggling financially or have given up entirely. Perhaps the downtown businesses have moved to a nearby shopping centre. NG is also hampered, traffic wise, by a railway line which runs through the centre of town. Every few minutes traffic is backed up at the crossing and then have to navigate very narrow streets which were designed for horse and buggy traffic. It was strange to be having a cold beer at the pub when a train came shunting beside the building.

A walk around Pictou shows much the same redundant business struggle.

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This Georgian Style house was built in 1811 and is listed in the Canadian Register of Historic Places. It was, back in 1850 it became the US Consulate building for Nova Scotia.

Also the number of eateries which are still closed for the season meant we may have struggled finding a place to eat but the  Chinese Restaurant like Chinese Restaurants everywhere were open and doing well. There is a lesson here for the locals and the locals everywhere. The Chinese are willing to work even when the going gets tough.

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More modern buildings one used as a Solicitors Office and another used as a Tattoo parlour.

A thought occurred to me during the walk. Often rural towns in Australia were described as having a pub on every corner. Here in PEI, Nova Scotia and Cape Breton you could say that they have a church on every corner. Of course that also includes a cemetery.

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The Pictou War Cenotaph erected after WWI. It seems to depict a soldier embracing or welcoming a young boy. To one side a woman with flowing robes seems to be trying to place a wreath on the soldiers head. The woman is carrying something in her right arm. Look closely. She resembles the “Blind Justice” sculpture. In fact the object in her right arm is a set of scales.I wonder why Blind Justice is walking beside a soldier while here scales are kept in her arm.
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Now for something completely different. A timber building with what in Canadian houses was once and still is very popular with houses within sight of the sea, a viewing deck.

Our room is on the third floor. Walking up and down creates an appetite and ensures you get enough exercise to sleep well. There are two sets of stairs for each floor and depending on which set you choose you end at the opposite end to your room. That creates a few moments of disorientation.

Tomorrow begins our Cabot Trail adventure on the island of Cape Breton.

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I am unable to gather any historical information about this building. Currently it is a H&R Block Tax Agents office.
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Another old sandstone Georgian style home in Pictou. Note the gabled roof and rooms which seems to be a common feature of this type of building.
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The Scotchmans Inn Pictou was built around 1845 and retains the Georgian style of architecture. The Georgian building next door was built in 1878 for the Pictou Bank. It became the Bank of Nova Scotia sometime in the 1880’s and has been the Bank of Nova Scotia since.

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This building on the Canadian Historic Buildings Register is 188 years old.

612. Wednesday 16th and Thursday 17th May 2018. North coast of PEI and a lay day…

LOTS OF PHOTOS SO WILL CONFINE THIS POST TO TWO DAYS. SOMETIMES WE HAVE NO WIFI AND SOMETIMES IT HAS LIMITED UPLOAD. TODAY IS THE FIRST WIFI WE HAVE HAD FOR THREE DAYS.

Wednesday 16th May

The sun was up when I woke so decided to step outside to feel the sun on my face. It was a case of one small step for Donnis, one small step for me and one giant leap back into the house. It was still cold despite how it looked through the windows.

Today we started on Highway 2 which basically divides the island into a north half and a south half. We turned off to head through the town of Kensington which is like many other communities, villages and towns on the island. You sort of take a step back in time as far as some of the houses are concerned. Some houses and sheds on the outskirts of town are in various stages of collapse. There is no one reason for the collapse but often it is the foundations and basement being on unsuitable moist ground which eventually sinks as does one side of the house. There can be no arresting this decline . Another reason seems to be early barns and houses used unsuitable timber to span a long roof area. After awhile the soft timber sags from moisture seeping through old cedar roof shingles and the roof slowly caves in. In our drives we have seen many examples of collapsing buildings in every town or village or on the farmhouse properties.

First stop was at Kensington where bakery shops abound.  I mention bakeries because we made the mistake of stopping here to buy some gluten free bake items for Alecia…and me. They do not bake gluten free but a pack of cinnamon scrolls caught Donnis attention as did some coconut chocolate macaroons for Alecia. I was intrigued by their cheese biscuits which is basically an Australia scone only less fluffy and a bit crispier.

The railway ran through here once upon a time but came to a stop in 1969. The station house, the third on this site in the brief 100 year history of rail travel in PEI. The third station house was built from field stone and is quite an impressive building. The station property was purchased privately, the line outside the building was left intact. The railway line into and out of Kensington has been removed as have the sleepers. The remaining gravel has been covered in crusher dust and the entire 470 Km line converted into the Confederation Trail walking track. The station house has been made into a popular pub. I wonder if it is open all year round?

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The old railway station at Kensington has been retained along with the railway line and sleepers. It has been turned into a pub.

After about 20 minutes we found ourselves in the Malpeque area specifically Darnley Basin a fishing harbour which today was almost full of empty lobster boats.

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The fishermen speak an interesting dialect as we found when visiting the harbour. It was too rough to venture out lobster fishing so had an opportunity to speak with them.

We stopped to talk with a couple of local fishermen who told us with the northerly blowing it was too rough and cold to go fishing.

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The boatharbour at Darnley has a collection of these old fishermens sheds. In their own way they are colourful and intriguing

One fisherman pointed he was wearing 5 layers of clothing to keep warm. Listening to the fishermen and their local dialects it was like listening to a North Dakota conversation from the movie Fargo.

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The lighthouse at Darnley

Moving along we drove into New London.

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The lighthouse in New London (actually one of a pair known as front and back ligthouses) This one is set just behind the sandhills in a swampy area with bulrushes growing around.

At this point I should mention the entire island is a convoluted series of bays, headlands and tributaries. Literally there are thousands of twists and turns in the coastline.

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A lobster boat comes home at New London.

It is easy to get lost as many sealed roads turn into dirt roads then bumpy tracks and eventually goat tracks leading nowhere or at least nowhere the car could go. Let me hasten to add we were never lost. Several times we were not lost but we did see some amazing scenery. At the risk of repeating myself many buildings are old and in a state of collapse. Many are old and badly needing maintenance. Many are old and moving past being restored by maintenance. Mixed in amongst these tumble down properties are the marina and harbour buildings mostly still closed and I wondered how they manage to still stay erect. In fact with my marine insurance background I wonder how they get their insurance renewed each year. Or do they?

We descended a hill and crossed a bridge into New London and found a dining place which was open.

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A glass of wine while waiting fo lunch and enjoying the view. It was cold and windy outside.

The SouWest Bar and Grill specialises in seafood and beer.

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This a popular bear on PEI. They also make a beer called Radler which is a light beer of 4% alcohol plus a mix of citrus juices. It sounds pretty gruesome to mix fruit juice and beer but I tasted it…reluctantly. Actually its not bad tasting. I might even look for something similar when we return to Australia.

https://www.facebook.com/souwestbargrill

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We had a delightful lunch at Sou West Bar and Grill at New London.

Mostly they serve mussels done a dozen different ways including by the bucket…with chips of course.

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Waiting for lunch at Sou West.

Donnis and I had the Seafood Chowder which included lobster, mussels, oysters and scallops amongst other things. Alecia opted for a lobster roll which is served in a gluten free bun. The normally wonderful view was still on display but all from inside . It was simply too cold and windy to sit on the deck.

Around here the main fishing is all about lobster and mussels. Some fishermen still catch Bluefin tuna or other pelagic species but marine fishing regulations make it too difficult to comply for all but a few fishermen. We saw quite a few oyster and or mussel farms in the many tight bays.

The more coastline we saw the more lighthouses which caught our attention. I thought maybe there are too many lighthouses to see. Then again, maybe not.

From here we went to the Cavendish Beach area which is inside a Canada Parks area which normally has an entry fee. At the moment the park is technically closed while open season rolls towards us. Today several workmen are building a new fee collection station so we rolled on passed them. The north coast, particularly here at Cavendish is open to the north. Apart from Newfoundland and Labrador to the north the next northerly stop is the Arctic circle. That means all the bitter cold northerly winds have free access to this coastline. This is the first time I have seen surf while on PEI and the first time I have seen sand which is not quite blood red.

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Cavendish Beach

Further along the parkway road the usual red soil comes back and the erosion is plain to see especially in one part of the cliffs where the sea has tunnelled an opening through the headland.

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Showing the erosion at CAvendish which is typical of most of the coastline at PEI.

Our last stop on the north coast drive was North Rustico and the name seems to say it all.

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The harbour at Rustico

Most of the houses and businesses are rustic.

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At Rustico, all the houses we saw were closed or boarded closed waiting for the end of winter. On our visit winter has not left.. Notice the effects of time and climate on the pint on the walls.
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House in early stages of collapse at Rustico.
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Lighthouse and lighthouse style house at the Rustico Harbour.

In fact some have gone beyond rustic. The wharves, jetties and decking are badly in need repairs but I guess nothing will start until the tourist season.

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THe buidings look nice from a distance but up close they show the signs of wear and tear due to the harsh climate plus saltwater tides and prolific marine growth.
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A shop right on the harbour also showing the effects of time, tide and weather conditions.
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There were lots of old caravans near the harbour which are obviously used as a summer accommodation.

It was here we saw the skull of a whale beached here in 1927.

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With a bit of patience you can see this is the skull of a whale. What happened to the rest of the body? Perhaps the harbour or the beach was different in 1927 as I puzzled why it was so high above the water line in the dune area.
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Funny sign especially at the time of our visit. All the shops around the harbour were closed. We were the only people we saw during our visit. Nearby, none of the houses have a fence. When we walked to the beach we could never be sure if we were on a vacant block or in somebody’s yard.

On our way home we were thankfull Alecia was driving as Donnis and I snoozed off and on.

For dinner tonight it was lobster and scallops. I know its tough work but somebody has to do it.

Thursday 17th May

Today is a lay day. That is, we do not have any trips planned and have to do a few domestic chores.

Donnis and Alecia went shopping for groceries and other goodies for our trip to  Refrigerator Freezer umm no, that should read, Nova Scotia tomorrow. They dropped me at WalMart to explore. I have to say thank you to my friend Graham who lent me a warm coat. Since arriving not a day has gone by without me wearing it. Perhaps I should have invested in a coat before I left. I did bring a pair of long johns which I am sure I will need in coming days and weeks.

We stopped at a coffee shop called Samuels for a light lunch. Donnis and I shared a curried sweet potato soup accompanied by a lobster and coleslaw on rye. The additional good news is they serve real espresso coffee. Bliss!

Dinner was the remaining scallops and lobster.

611. Tuesday 15th May 2018. Summerside, WalMart, Tim Hortons, a birthday, Charlottetown and a bit of history…

I know by the end of the week I will have a huge portfolio of photos. I also know I will probably not have access to WiFi. I will post what I can now instead of waiting until I have too many photos to upload.

Monday 14th May

Today was Alecia’s Birthday and a school-day for Vianna.

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Tyler gives Alecia a birthday hug while all the time he is waiting on that Angels Food Cake.

She had a sore throat so Alecia took her to the doctors. Getting an appointment was not easy so Alecia sat with her in the surgery waiting room until a doctor saw her. He said it was strep throat and issued a script for antibiotics and some childrens pain relief.

While waiting, Donnis and I went to WalMart and spent money. WalMart seems to be a cross between a Kmart and Coles or Big W and Woollies. As well as the usual stuff Kmart or Big W sell they also have a large grocery section plus a photo developing lab. They have a Mens, Womens and Childrens wear section called…George. The big difference between WalMart and the Australian equivalent is the number of staff. There are staff everywhere. The difference is in the wage structure. In Canada the minimum wage is about $11.15. In Australia it is $17.70. As well in Australia the employer must pay 12.5% superannuation contribution on behalf of the employee. In Canada for whatever reason, the staff are eager to help. In Australia, for whatever reason, the staff are reluctant to stop what they think they are doing to offer assistance.

We had coffee at Tim Hortons until Alecia and Vianna were ready.

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This is the house we are staying at on the Eastern side of Summerside. It is 50 metres from the beach but with the icy winds the beach is not an attraction at the moment.
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Just love those colourful uncomfortable beach chairs.

The rest of the day was spent lazing around the house watching some very brave locals and our neighbour windsurfing.

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The local say, “whats a bit cold between friends” even in icy waters and a wind chill factor which sends skin blue they still like to get on the water for a bit of windsurfing.

We had a great nosh up of fresh lobster for dinner. Whole lobster that is, not just the tails.

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About to start on our lobster bu Vianna is more interested in her food.
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One whole lobster each.

Donnis baked an Angels Food Cake. With fresh cream and strawberries it was a nice dessert treat.

Tuesday 15th May

Vianna went to school today.

We dropped Roxie the dog at the vets. She needed a bath and a haircut. Really needed both.

On the way to our first destination we stopped at Hunter River to view a covered bridge.

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Covered bridge at Hunter River.
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The covered bridge was made to provide access to one property. Seems like a bit of an overkill.

There is no tradition of covered bridges in PEI so this is probably the first and only covered bridge in the Province. The bridge was built on a dam over Bagnalls Pond in 2007.

From there we continued to the capital of PEI Province, Charlottetown.

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Charlottetown Town Hall.

We looked at the empty marina which, like most other commercial ventures here are seasonal.

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I love this cute little Chip Shack. It only opens during summer days from 11.30 am to 7pm or as required when cruise ships come to town.

During Wintertime the harbour freezes, nobody ventures out to buy a cup of coffee, hot dog, hot chips or even pizza. It is too cold, snowed in and iced over to make it worthwhile to buy takeaway.

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The empty marina at Charlottetown. It is simply too cold to want to go boating.

You might spend hours just trying to stay warm and navigate frozen streets to find your way home. The next few months most people are on Unemployment Insurance referred to as EI.

St Dunstans Roman Catholic Basilica Cathedral was built somewhere around 1907 but destroyed by fire in 1913 and rebuilt in its current layout in 1919. In fact the church dates  back to 1721 when two Catholic Missionaries ministered to the spiritual needs of the early settlers.

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Interior of St Dunstan’s Basilica Cathedral.

Most of the centre of Charlottetown business community is a Designated Heritage Resource.

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Heritage Houses are given this plaque to display on their front wall.

In simple terms you cannot pull down or in other ways destroy a building. You must maintain the original façade in its historical material, paint, brasswork and design. (Sydney Brisbane and Melbourne have similar Heritage listed properties and have similar restrictions placed on the buildings.) Owners of current buildings cannot sell because of the restrictions and cannot maintain the property due to the cost.

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A fine example of restored and well maintained period housing in Charlottetown.

Many such houses are slowly deteriorating but the Heritage Council will not or cannot, assist owners with funds to maintain the houses.

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Another Heritage House.

It is strange to see a row of beautifully maintained and painted houses in a street and suddenly come upon a house in a state of virtual ruin.

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Heritage House. Note the paintwork is not peeling or blistering or being blown away.

What is also noticeable about houses both here in Charlottetown, suburbia and even rural and small town locations is the paint. It seems those houses which have an external cladding of say weatherboard (or whatever is called by Canadians) usually has a nice paint job. Those clad in the cedar shingles seems to have a terrible paint job with paint peeling all over. I guess with the extreme cold and icy blasting winds, the cedar just does not hold paint very well.

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Look closely and you can see a little bronze mouse on top of a canon…yes it is a canon. There are 9 of these bronze mice around Charlottetown. There is a scavenger hunt…in season…when children are encouraged to find all 9 mice and mark them off on a street map. More than half the canon is buried in the street. It was once on a clifftop at Fort Amherst and toppled into the sea after heavy erosion. A local rescued t from the sea and brought it into town and planted it here. It has served more than a century of tired citizens, town drunks, hitching horses, and flying flags during Royal visits from England.
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It’s a pretty big claim “Canada’s Best Ice Cream” but from there its a quantum leap to claim “Worlds Best Ice Cream”.
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Yep, the same red dirt which nature uses to discolour the ocean around the island is used to dye TShirts and charge twice the price to gullible tourists. Hmmm! Aren’t we lucky the shop was not yet open for the season.
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Amazingly as I was taking my camera out of its bag, the man in the red jacket sat down, said something to the statue and proceeded to clean his glasses. I am not sure what the statue said but the conversation continued after I took the photo.
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Sometime in the past. Discussing the price of potatoes most likely with St Dunstans in the background..

We stopped at the same coffee shop we had lunch when we arrived last week. I asked them to please serve the coffee at a hotter correct temperature. Sigh! They still have not learned how to serve a hot cup of coffee. Instead they serve it luke -warm or tepid.

From here we went to Fort Amherst National Park which actually has three names. The first name is in honour of the Skmaqn First Nations People who, it is claimed occupied the area up to 10,000 years before being ousted by the French around 1670. The French built a fort called Port la Joye with some of the foundation  stones still able to be located in the long grass. Finally around 1720 the British battled the French over a seven year period and won the land from the Acadian French who were moved elsewhere. The original British earthworks are still in place and at one stage the fort housed 190 soldiers.

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We found this Skmaqn First Nation teepee at Fort Amherst. It was made with birch logs and birch bark. Inside it was cozy out of the wind and although it looks small could probably sleep a family of 6 around a central fire. The top is open to let out the smoke but would also let in the rain or snow.
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Charlottetown, including the spires of St Dunstans Roman Catholic Basilica Cathedral as seen from Fort Amherst across Charlottetown Harbour.

Two lighthouses on Stony Point, one called Warren Cove Front Range Lighthouse

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Warren Cove Front Lighthouse

and the other higher on the hill, known as Warren Cove Back Range Lighthouse.

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Warren Cove Back Lighthouse

When lined up they form a direct line across the bay to Confederation House in Charlottetown. They are also used for navigation by mariners of all types entering or leaving the harbour.

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Erosion is continuing all the time at PEI. This is just one example of stairs either falling down completely (as this one will) or being left high and wobbly.

Tomorrow, Wednesday we plan to travel around the northern part of the island. Thursday will be a lay day and Friday we begin a 4 day road trip taking us off island to to Nova Scotia via a sea ferry then over a bridge to Cape Breton Island. We are unsure what WiFi facilities might be available and if I can write up diary notes AND edit photos while on the trip. We have no idea when we will be able to post again. We do expect that Nova Scotia and more to the point Cape Breton Island will be COLD.

610. Sunday 13th May 2018. Prince Edward Island, Summerside, Indian Head, Boredon-Carleton, Victoria and Thunder Bay…

Friday 11th May

As long as we have regular and steady WiFi connection I will try to post every few days if I have lots of photos. Next week I expect several days of no WiFi whatsoever.

Well, we achieved what we set out to achieve.

Get a load of washing (and drying – too cold to hang on a line outside) done. Check.

We rested. Check.

Alecia took us for a drive to Seacow Head Lighthouse.

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Seacow Head Lighthouse.
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Seacow Head Lighthouse has been moved from its original location due to continued erosion, not only by the sea but also by rain and snowmelt.

It looks very attractive from a distance. Up close it is easy to see it is clad in thousands of cedar shingles which have been painted white (or red as the case may be) but appear not to have any maintenance in recent years. It is now an automated light. The last lighthouse keeper was in 1967 when it was switched to automatic. The point where the lighthouse is located is subject to erosion by the sea and also by erosion from rainwater and snow meltwater runoff.

Almost all the island has a red soil soft enough for erosion which accounts for the red colour of the ocean surrounding the island.

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Seacow Head showing the continual erosion.

The soil is mudstone (sort of like a low grade sandstone) with a high concentration of Iron Oxide which gives the deep red colour. Like other areas with similar soil composition it is great for growing potatoes. PEI is known for its potatoes.

In the distance we could see Confederation Bridge which is 12.9 Klms long and joins Prince Edward Island to New Brunswick on the Canadian mainland.

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Erosion at Seacow Head with the Confederation Bridge spanning Northumberland Strait in the background.

The bridge has a one way  toll. Tourists believing the bridge is free do not realise the cost of the toll to leave the island. At its highest point cruise ships are able to pass underneath. For 5 months of the year the straits below the bridge can be covered in ice.

Tonight we had PEI Mussels and PEI Scallops for dinner. It is rumoured that tomorrow we will have PEI Lobster tails for dinner. Dessert tonight was a cheesecake topped with fresh cream then drizzled with a layer of caramel sauce followed by a drizzle of chocolate sauce.

Saturday 12th May

Woke to a sunny but crispy cool morning. As the day progressed the wind got stronger and the temperature dropped. It was cold weather clothes, gloves and toque every time we got out of the car.

We first visited Indian Head which is located at the end of a crudely built breakwater.

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Indian Head Lighthouse.

So far the lighthouses we have seen are similar in design. That is, square or hexagonal in shape with an all white body and a red top. All are in need of maintenance. The views around here are quite interesting with further examples of the iron oxide laden mudstone which is slowly eroding and leaching into the ocean. Gradually the cliff face falls away and any building, trees or other structures also fall into the sea.

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Erosion at Indian Head
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Alecia Donnis and Roxie at Indian Head.

Next up we visited a town on the coastline called Borden-Carleton which is where the 12.9 Klm Confederation Bridge crosses the Northumberland Strait to New Brunswick.  It is also where vehicles leaving PEI pay the $47 toll.

For all the fans of Anne of Green Gables let me tell you we visited the school where the author, Lucy Maud Montgomerey, was educated. In fact the island is going through a resurgence of L M Montgomerey memories with visits to her birthplace, schoolhouse and even a stage play about Anne of Green Gables.

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This little schoolhouse at Lower Beduque is the place where Lucy Maud Montgomery, author of Anne of Green Gables received her education.

Next on our list of towns was Boredon-Carleton which is the gateway to Confederation Bridge.

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Boredon-Carleton Marine Railway Station with Lighthouse and Confederation Bridge
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Beginning of Confederation Bridge at Boredon-Carleton
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Boredon-Carleton Lighthouse overlooking Cumberland Strait.

It still has an unloved unlived in feel to it.

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Three houses on this location at Boredon-Carleton have been abandoned and are not even listed for sale. I guess they will slowly deteriorate ovr time and collapse when somebody somewhere sometime will have to clean up the mess.

Looking around the small towns we visited or drove through I was struck by the number of shops which are closed. Still closed that is from the annual winter closure and do not open again until summer.

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Prince Edward Island has many churches. Most still operational, many abandoned and some converted to some other use. Mostly they are Catholic or Protestant. Most little communities have at least one church some two, three or more.

That was the case today. Most of the food shops, coffee shops and hotels or taverns are still closed with signs saying they will open first of summer. I asked how business owners and employees make a living. Simply, at the end of summer they all go onto unemployment benefits. Many of the houses we saw in the woods or on the coast are still closed for the winter. Owners come to the coast for the summer then close the house for winter and return to more populated towns or suburbs where the snow plough opens roads regularly. Those outlying houses in areas where the snow plough does not visit could have as much as three or even 4 metres of snow surrounding the house. Charlottetown, the capital of PEI experienced a record 549 CM of snow in 1971.

Have a look at this You Tube video   https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=u5GTZhvh69s

We also visited the coastal town of Victoria which has some unique houses and a deteriorating harbour.

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Old boathouses at Victoria Harbour.

Only two businesses were open today, a coffee shop in the middle of town and a tavern at the harbour. The rest of the businesses had signs saying they would open on 1st June.

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Cute little brightly painted but badly in need of maintenance shops at Victoria Harbour. I took a look in the windows of those shops which had a sign say back at summer. One had an indeterminate use and looked like a place to grow vermin. The other seemed to have a very greasy griddle and a vomit invoking deep fryer inside. I sure hope it does not open to serve food to the public. Checking around it seems there is a loose attitude to health standards on the island.
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Once upon a time this was a lobster boat.

As the day progressed it got colder when the sun sunk into the west.

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Victoria Lighthouse
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We compared this freshly painted pink house at Victoria Harbour with a Google Mps photo from two years ago. Then it was a dirty brown colour with green trim and no top floor observation tower. Many houses on PEI opt for a tower.

As well as a quilted jacket and a toque I needed a hood and ski gloves. If this is Spring imagine what it is like in Winter!!! Alecia and Tyler’s house is centrally heated. Inside is just comfortable but we still need to wear warm clothes.

Tylers daughter Vianna has come to stay with us for a week. She is full of energy and has an enquiring mind. Although aware that we come from Australia she is still unsure where we live.

We had spaghetti Bolognaise for dinner. I do not know what happened to the lobster tails.

Sunday 13th May

Woke to a beautiful sunny morning. Inside in the warmth of central heating it is easy to forget that just outside those thin walls you will need your lined parka’s with gloves and a toque (pronounced Touk).

We drove to Thunder Bay.

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A beautiful Spring day to cavort on the beach in the sunshine.

Once we stepped out the car the realisation dawned  on us that the blasting wind must be coming straight from the Arctic. We needed our quilted winter jackets, toque and thick ski gloves. A nice Canadian Spring day at the beach was had by all.

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I;m looking at you.

In our travels over the past few days I have noticed something which would be nice to be taken up in Australia. Instead of waiting for one day to clean up rubbish as in Clean Up Australia Day, local families spend an hour or two a week and walk along the roadside verge with a bag. They collect rubbish and when near full, tie it off. It is left beside the road. When the garbage trucks come along they stop and pick up the bags. PEI residents are very conscious of keeping their island home clean of rubbish while also being conscious of recycling.

We stopped in a town called Summerside at a drive-through coffee shop. It was amazing that they had such a choice of hot and cold drinks including the best cappuchino I have tasted in Canada. It was a great location the only drawback being they only sold drinks, there were no pastries, cookies or muffins.

We went to Thunder Bay where many houses are hugged in just below the dune line so they are not sandblasted by the powerful winds that often visit

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Summer house tucked down just below the dune line at Thunder Bay. No thunder just a chill wind blowing flat out. All the summer houses are unoccupied and boarded up. They are just waiting on summer to arrive on 1st June.

. Today was a day of wind visitation. My hands got so cold I could barely press the shutter button on the camera.

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This lighthouse is still operational having been built in 1922. The cedar shingles have been blown off by the relentless wind. The paint is peeling and is surrounded by weeds, grass and bush. It is known as the Malpeque Outer Range Light.
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Interesting eroded rock formation at Malpeque near Thunder Bay

So ends our second week.

609. Thursday 10th May 2018. Niagara Falls, Mississauga and Charlottetown PEI…

AS LONG TIME READERS WILL KNOW i USUALLY POST THESE PAGES DATED EACH SUNDAY NIGHT. DURING OUR CURRENT TRAVELS WE WILL SEE AND DO LOTS OF INTERESTING EXCURSIONS. I HAVE THEREFORE BROKEN DOWN THE POSTS TO A FEW DAYS WHICH ARE RELEVANT TO EACH OTHER. IT IS ALSO EASIER WITH LOTS OF PHOTOS ESPECIALLY WHEN WE ARE WORKING ON WIFI AND  ONLY HAVE LIMITED DOWNLOADS/UPLOADS AVAILABLE. 

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Niagara River seen from the train while crossing Friendship Bridge.

Wednesday 9th May

Oh what a blissful nights sleep in a delightfully comfortable bed.

We went to a place called All You Can Eat Breakfast $7.99. We also had a cup of coffee for Donnis and a cup of tea for me. I expected to pay $16. The bill which now included the tax and $2.99 each for a cup of tea and coffee and I ignored the tip came to almost $26!

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Canadian Falls lit at sunset.
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American Falls at sunset.
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Looking at Canadian Falls from the top of Murray Street.

There are a myriad of things to do at Niagara such as a boat trip to the bottom of the falls,

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People lining up to wait their turn on the Maid of the Mist cruise. On the Canadian side the plastic ponchos are red while on the American side they are issued with blue ponchos.

a walk behind the falls, a jet boat trip, a helicopter ride, a ferris wheel, a huge tower

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Tower with revolving restaurant .

and so many more I cannot name. We opted to just walk around and enjoy the view as getting in a queue would perhaps put us at risk of missing our bus connection. Interesting to see as we walked along the snow still piled on the rocks above the waters edge.

Special note about Tim Hortons   http://www.timhortons.com/ca/en/index.php?gclid=Cj0KCQjw28_XBRDhARIsAEk21FhNbjloI4WFXJpewHxH8l9-Ly2vafLPO6IKA8qnsQt4g44v3HEvF9QaAsmUEALw_wcB   which is a fast food coffee and doughnuts type of place.

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View of American Falls from Tim Hortons

They also do breakfasts, soups, chilli’s and salads. Even better they now have espresso coffee which they have come to realise there is more and more demand for a good cup of coffee. We had a simple lunch and know that like McDonalds their food is consistent as are the prices (plus tax). Three years ago they only had the typical dripolator type insipid coffee but gradually their restaurants are being upgraded to include a fresh espresso machine or a push button espresso machine. Either way it is an improvement.

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This neat and happy couple were spotted at Canadian Falls.
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Walking down Murray Street with American Falls in the background.
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At first I thought this sign was an exaggeration until I experienced it for myself. The sight of snow still on the banks of the river wee a reminder too.
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Passengers on Maid of the Mist having fun getting wet from a chilling spray.
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A heart stopping bridge taking walkers to the edge. Within the building are elevators which take visitors to the attractions below.
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American Falls seen through wrought iron panels of the safety fence.
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American Falls with a Maid of the Mist boat heading towards Canadian Falls.
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American Falls with a bridge joining the American Niagara with the Canadian Niagara.
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Canadian Falls up close.

We collected our bags from Wyndhams and caught a cab to the bus depot for our next accommodation at Super 8 at Mississauga.   https://www.wyndhamhotels.com/en-ca/super-8?tel=8005360719&iata=00065402&cid=PS:SE:20160201:GGL:TM:SECA:Exact_Trademark   This hotel chain is part of the huge Wyndhams group but with accommodation on a slightly less bells and whistles basis. Many provide a simple breakfast included in the price. This one had the benefit of being close to the Toronto Pearson International Airport.

I have made a conscious decision that where we need accommodation we will try for hotels in the Wyndham group. Like McDonalds and Tim Hortons they are consistent. Our room contained two Queen sized beds but tonight, again, sleep eluded me except for the two hours before  we were due to wake at 5am. It is the syndrome of setting an alarm which signals my brain to worry about the alarm not working.

Grrr!

Thursday 10th May

The alarm went off as it was intended to do. We quickly packed and a cab picked us up at the front door as scheduled.

At the airport we queued to get a boarding pass and were slugged an extra $55 by Air Canada for luggage. Every other ticket on Air Canada includes luggage. The flight to PEI – Prince Edward Island – does not. Next we queued in the most frustrating security arrangements I have ever encountered. The queues were slow moving and people treated like cattle. I saw one woman step forward slightly out of turn when she was pulled back by a security person and held until another dozen people passed by then allowed to proceed to the scanner.

Somehow we survived despite having to remove some clothing and pull things out of our carry on bags to pass through security. Phones and laptops and tablets had to be removed from bags.

Afterwards we had time to queue again for a bacon and egg croissant and a cappuccino from Tim Hortons before finding our way to the boarding gate to find the flight would be an hour late.

We arrived at Charlottetown PEI at around noon and were met by Alecia and some rain. In the brief look around  I was amazed at how big this town is. I noted the houses, in the majority, are of a simple design of a square box like two story weatherboard. Charlottetown, like many of the places we have visited in Canada and the USA are painted in subdued tones of grey, charcoal, brown drab green or cream. We stopped for lunch at a local hippy coffee and healthy food place. That is one of those places which serve up lots of boiled beetroot, bean sprouts, brown rice, lentils Quinoa and kale and pretend it is tasty. From there we  travelled to Alecias home where I caught up on some missed sleep before dinner.

All going well we will have caught up on our sleep by tomorrow morning. I think we will declare a day of rest and sleep whenever we feel like it. Oh and of course get some washing done.

608. Wednesday 11th May 2018. Chicago, Buffalo and Niagara Falls…

Monday 7th May

I managed to sleep until 8.30am. We plugged in our phones and computer and logged onto WiFi to advise our Niagara Falls hotel we would be a day late and to reduce our booking to one night. It was midday before we checked out of the Swiss Hotel and taxied back to Union Station.

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Playing for coins. Taxi’s although regulated seem to have different rules of what constitutes a clean cab. One which took us to the station stank of urine. We did not know if the seats were the source or if it was the cranky driver. Of the two taxi trips we took in Chicago it seems drivers speak taxi English which is a variation of American English.

Chicago, known as the Windy City is built beside Lake Michigan and is criss crossed with bridges over canals.

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A number of buildings are glass, almost mirror like, reflecting each other.
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This was once an opening bridge to allow larger vessels to pass underneath. Now it is kept permamently open.
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This dumb barge is being pushed and manouvred along the canal to a construction site further up the canal. It seems easier to move the building site rubble and materials via a barge system as trucks usually cannot get to some sites.

It is the birthplace of modern skyscrapers and has The El. The El is an elevated commuter railway system. Trains seem to be running in every direction every few minutes.

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Here we can see the canal with bridge and the elevated railway above it and a work barge below.
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This clock in a prominent position above the roadway and on the elevated railway system. Another tunnel in the city had a limited height restriction. We saw one very long and very high truck was barely able to fit under the bridge. The driver must have realised his error could only drive slowly forward. At one stage his exhaust which was the highest part of the truck managed to scrape the roof of the tunnel.

We took the time exploring some of this high rise city by leaving Union Station and keeping one of the canals on our right.

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Chicago Union Station. An ants nest of activity especially at 5pm. Each entrance was populated by people trying to obtain money by asking for donations as they were homeless or by a musician playing for coins.
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Lots of tourist ferries cruise up and down the canals with a running commentary usually delivered by the skipper.
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This was a group of canoeists learning from the guy in front paddling backwards. A few minutes later when the Police boat zoomed past with siren screaming we were concerned perhaps the canoes had capsized or been hit by a tourist boat.

After 90 minutes we turned around and kept the canal on our left. We witnessed an incident and here is the brief news report.

“A boat capsized Monday afternoon in the Chicago River near downtown.
The incident occurred at about 3 p.m. No one was injured.  The small boat belonged to a contractor and a Wendella employee was on the boat and rescued by a larger Wendella tour boat.
At one point, the employee was standing atop the overturned boat.
The boat was towed away to Chicago police’s marine unit. Wendella said the employee was working on the boat when it took on more water than could be pumped out. It was not a Wendella boat.
It was immediately unclear what caused the boat to take on water.”

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Police on their way to the site of an incident. We were concerned it may have been the canoeists tipped over by a canal tourist boat.

What the report did not say was the number of Police cars, Police boats, Ambulance, helicopter, rescue truck, fire truck and scuba search and rescue teams which arrived on the scene.

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Police have taken a capsized dinghy under tow. The scuba team had already determined nobody was trapped underneath.
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The Chicago Fire Department Scuba Team truck.

After another bit of a wander around the canals we decided to head back to the station.

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The original timber bridges over this canal were much wider. Pylons on this side and opposite side show just how wide the bridge was.
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Along some of the canals were these floating gardens. Spring has just sprung so I am sure these gardens will be in full bloom i time for summer.

It was after 5pm and beginning to get quite cool with a cold breeze blowing along the canals and streets. Workers were on their way home. It seems they all catch the train. Standing back and watching from the relative safety of a bridge, the mass of people looked like a scurrying line of ants pouring out of an ants nest. We seemed to get pushed and shuffled by the mass of seething humanity. Finally we made the safety of the first class lounge. (a sleeper ticket gives you first class entitlements) Here they serve coffee – American coffee as well as Espresso, tea, milk, soft drink, juices, some wine and cheese tasting, vegetable sticks, spicy nibbles and hand-made chocolate. All this in a comfortable lounge atmosphere which included baggage storage, tables, chairs, benches, lounges, WiFi and power outlets and TV on every wall. We felt privileged. The staff were constantly cleaning and sweeping and ensuring food is available and walking around the lounge offering hand- made chocolates. We were impressed.

Amongst all this seeming wealth is a reminder all is not well. The streets are littered with homeless people either playing an instrument for coins or they sit with their belongings, often with a dog and a sign saying they are homeless and hungry and looking for money. Inside the station there were men walking around asking for money or offering to eat the unused part of our meal. Obviously they could not get into the first class lounge but could move about freely in the food court concourse area. Another reminder is the violence or potential violence lurking just around the corner. I saw one man drop a Crocodile Dundee size knife, still in its scabbard. He quickly picked it up and put it in his long The Matrix type of coat.

We used our meal voucher to dine upstairs in the main concourse.

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This hot dog outlet in the food court concourse caught our attention. Gold Coat Dogs. Donnis actually had a dog from here. They used a Kransky sausage, mayo, mustard, lettuce and onions on a crusty bun.

Yuk what rubbish food was dished up. We had far better options in the first class lounge.

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There are different sized water taxis, some as large as a bus while this one is more like what I consider a water taxi should look like.

Soon it was 9.30pm and time to Shuffle Off to Buffalo. The train, Lake Shore Limited is not as nice as the Empire Builder. It was cramped with nowhere to store luggage except in the room. We could cope with that but not the terrible noise and rock and roll motion of the train. The faster it went the noisier and rockier it became.

I did not sleep at all.

Tuesday 8th May.

Finally arrived in outskirts of Buffalo. What a dismal untidy area this is. On the approaches to the station the ground is heavily littered with rubbish. Old abandoned buidings attesting a once busy and wealthy area with lots of work. Old rusting cars and other rubbish is piled up beside the tracks. The windy day and dust adding to the loneliness  of Buffalo station. The town centre is quite a few Klms away and by comparison is quite attractive. The station attendant did her best USA hospitality for us allowing us to sleep on the waiting room benches. I slept for two hours solid but as there are no shops or anything of interest within a half hours walk I spent the time looking around the station…that took 1 minute…and chatting with the station attendant. After more than 6 hours our train to Niagara arrived.

It was late.

No sleeper berth required as it is only a 90 minute train ride to Niagara Falls Canada. Finally arrived on the Canadian side after travelling  the Friendship Bridge which spans the raging Niagara River. Friendship Bridge? Not sure with whom as the customs and immigration authorities here are not as nice as when entering the USA which is a surprise because I had expected the reverse to be true. The train stopped at the station and we were all told to remain in our seats until told otherwise. Then they locked all exit doors except one. Then we were told to collect all our luggage and personal possessions and assemble on the platform. People struggled to manoeuvre their luggage along the narrow corridor and down the steep steps. The train crew were not allowed to help. Slowly the line shuffled forward as we did all the passport stuff and asked our reasons for entry and where we were going and how long we will be in Canada  etc etc. Eventually they told us to get back on the train. But this is our stop! OK then exit here. All carried out in an unfriendly manner.

A bus took us near our hotel, the Wyndham Gardens   https://www.wyndhamhotels.com/wyndham-garden/niagara-falls-ontario/wyndham-garden-niagara-falls-fallsview/overview?CID=LC:GN::GGL:RIO:National:42255&iata=00065402    (a ten minute walk to the falls) which was a nice friendly surprise, with very helpful staff. The night manager found that as soon as we wanted to hire a car and drop it at the Toronto Airport there were no cars available.  She found a bus company which would take us to our next hotel, the Super 8 at Mississauga, for $25 for two of us. That was a done deal.

We left the hotel, went for dinner at Applebees      http://www.applebeescanada.com/     . I might comment here that food in both USA and Canada is supposedly cheap. Not so. In fact prices are much the same as what we experience in Australia but then comes the two surprises. Tax is added to the advertised price. So a $12 meal when you go to pay for it has a tax of $1.50 added. Then of course there is a TIP which in most instances is virtually compulsory. Tips are 15% 20% or 25% with an option to make a higher or lower or no tip at all. This is true of all goods and services across the US and Canada. That simple $12 meal if you choose the 15% tip option ends up costing $15.30. Even buying a simple loaf of bread advertised at $4 really costs $4.50 with tax.

Afterwards we walked to the falls. You can hear the roar of the water before you can see the falls. Signs along the road warned, “Freezing Mist”. We soon found out that was true but would really, really be true in Winter. It also explained why so many people wore quilted coats or were wrapped in warm clothes and scarves. By comparison we must have seemed underdressed.

Soon we could see the falls even in the late evening. Both the US and Canadian falls are lit at night. Even at night there were sizeable crowds taking photos and selfies. Both sets of falls are impressive but I have to agree with comments we have heard. The Canadian Falls are more impressive. We are looking forward to seeing the falls in daylight.

 

607. Sunday 7th May 2018. Chicago 12 hours late and we are tired…

Saturday 5th May

Woke to an overcast and drizzly morning, still beside the platform at Spokane. After breakfast another smaller train appeared on the track beside us. It seems this was the final two carriages, including the observation and saloon carriages which were supposed to be attached yesterday. That train was delayed so we had to wait in Spokane for it to catch up. A bit of unhitching and hitching and we were good to go again, only 6 hours behind schedule. We have not yet left the state of Washington. The good news is that going through the Rocky Mountains of Montana and Oregon will now be in daylight hours.

Speaking with a passenger from the other train it seems the train was stopped behind a freight train broken down ahead of it. They were delayed 8 hours. It will be interesting to see how those lost hours are made up in the coming trip.

Today we began the slow ascent through the American Rockies. We are in the state of Montana, stopping at the town of Whitefish and dropped off some passengers. This seems to be the best place to stay while enjoying Glacier National Park. Gradually we saw fast racing mountain streams cascading into even faster racing rivers.

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View of the Kootenai River from the Panorama Viewing carriage. We spent lots of time here enjoying the view, conversation with passengers, WiFi and reading.

We followed the Kootenai River (which rises in British Columbia Canada) for some time as it and the track meandered through steep canyons. As our height increased so did the snow on the mountains and even piled beside the track. The train slowly made its way up Bryants Pass where we were  able to see great vistas of tall snow covered mountain peaks. This is an area where passengers on this train would not see as it would normally be passing through late evening or even in the dark. The only benefit of being 8 hours late is getting to see the Glacier National Park.

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Snow still blankets the hills in Blackfoot Territory.

Once we reached the top of the pass the descent into the valley below brought an entirely different type of countryside. Gradually the peaks and raging rivers gave way to gentle hills covered in snow.

A teepee somewhee in the Blackfoot Reservation around Flathead Montana.
A

My only regret is the train does not stop nor does it have an open deck where I can take photos. I had to take video through grubby windows. Perhaps I will be able to break down the video into frames and select a still. Not yet though as I need a video editor app.

Tonight we discovered the fixed menu aboard the train despite being interesting does not get changed all that often. At least there are enough options we do not have to repeat a meal on our three nights on board.

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Three meals a day and fruit juice and bottled water, tea and coffee available 24 hours a day. All included in 1st class.

The crew commented they have to make up as much time as they can but by being 8 or 9 hours behind schedule the train has now lost its priority status. That means more often we have to give way to freight trains rather than they give way to us.

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The long long Amtrak 16 carriage train called The Empire Builder. Mark our carriage attendant has thinning hair and decided to put a burgundy coloured rinse through his hair. It turned his scalp burgundy too.

To add to our delay the train had to stop twice for fuel due to all the waiting around we had done.

It seems more likely we will not reach Chicago until several hours after our connecting train has already left.

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One of hundreds of what seem like railway graveyards along the three nights travel

Tonight I had trouble sleeping again. The train driver, trying  to make up time is pushing the speed a bit more than is comfortable. Add to that is the sleepers are now timber instead of the more stable concrete sleepers to the west. The train rocks a bit more and even in bed I can feel the corners at speed. I guess I can say I did sleep but fitfully.

So far I can say that provided you have the time, travel by train is more interesting and comfortable than by air. At least we can get up, walk around, have a shower, have a meal with more options and get to sleep in a bed with sheets and blankets. In our case we have opted to have bunk beds rather than try to sleep two in what is basically a King single. We also get to see the scenery and can stretch our legs at town stops which are designated “smokers stops”. Or as our carriage attendant called them, “fresh air breaks”.

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I just had to take a photo of this whistle stop station in Montana. I have a granddaughter named Shelby.

Sunday 6th May.

Despite the best efforts of the driver to run the train off the tracks he still has not made a significant change to our loss of time. It was a bit difficult to sleep but I suppose I did sleep a little.

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I am a fan of the Fargo movie and the TV series which followed. Eagerly awaiting season 4 which will probably not happen until 2019. Nice to see the town. It is bigger than depicted in the series.

The driver had to blow his whistle at every road crossing and there were hundreds of them during the night. Those crossings did not have automatic lights, bells or boom gates.

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Somewhere in North Dakota after Fargo.

Tonight will be interesting.

The countryside has changed from flat and dry to not so flat and not so dry until we entered the area where the mighty Mississippi River wanders all over creating lots of backwaters, swampy areas, lakes and ponds and green green grass.

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The Mississippippi River at St. Paul Minesotta. Although not technically in flood, there is a lot of meltwater bring rubbish and trees and so forth along the river.

Although we were 9 hours late the conductor was confident we could make up some time although we had lost our scheduled train priority. We passed through two time zones but still seem to be 9 hours behind schedule. Then, we stopped for a good half hour. It seems up ahead a car had rolled upside down on the train tracks. The wreckage (and human casualties I suppose) had to be removed. Then a track inspection team was called in to ensure the track was suitable for travel. Only then could trains be allowed to move but those with priority moved first. Our train was down on that priority list. Once underway the conductor breathed a sigh of relief and said surely nothing else could slow us down but it was unlikely we would get to Chicago on time.

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St Paul Station

Famous last words.

Somewhere in the darkness a drunk made a nuisance of himself, frightened some women and vomited all over a sleeper room. The conductor, rail Police and carriage attendant were not happy particularly as he became aggressive. The drunk was carrying a baseball bat in a threatening way. The Police put him in handcuffs and radioed ahead to the next town Police. The train made an unscheduled stop and town Police came aboard and arrested him and took him away. It seems public drunkenness and on trains is an offence. Donnis had seen the man drinking and becoming offensive in the viewing car and she left. He then came into our carriage, vomited and went back to the Saloon car before they caught him. That incident put us even further behind schedule.

We rolled into Union Station at 2.30am. (we were scheduled to arrive at 3.30pm and connect with the next train at 9.30pm)  We were given a hotel voucher, a return cab voucher and a meal voucher. We were also reminded that we are first class passengers and have access to the first class lounge and all the amenities it has to offer.

Once installed in the hotel it took a little while to wind down but sleep soon claimed us.

So ends our first week.