Sunday, August 23, 2015

A Day at the Movies

This week, hubby and I went to a movie. It's a rare occurrence. He doesn't really like going to movies. He selected and we were off for a matinee at our local theatre.

We were both somewhat dismayed that movies now seem to have a captive audience and thereby take advantage of the opportunity to foist commercials on the unwary. Since when did this become the norm? Long gone are the days of newsreels, cartoons, and singing, dancing snacks prior to the feature. And yet, wait...I am in fact in error There was performing popcorn. There were dancing drinks, there was candy with legs, all in faded colour with a hollow sounding soundtrack "Let's all go to the movies and get ourselves a treat." Was this meant to appeal to the "older" movie goers? Ah yes, nostalgia and entertainment for those without pirated movies or netflix.

After viewing some previews which made me realize that I had just seen the entire plot of all upcoming movies, it was time. At last, what we'd been waiting for. We were about to see a one hour twenty-five minute movie spinoff of a British t.v. series. Hopefully, it would be as good as the television episodes.

We were not disappointed. The main feature began. The music was wonderful. The pastoral scenes riveting. Before long, I was fully immersed in the story. I was very impressed with hubby's film selection.

Several times, I was on the edge of my seat...not only because theatre seats are less than comfortable, but because of the intriguing plot. The movie contained romance, suspense, comedy, social commentary, brilliant cinematography, fantastic music...I could go on and on. The theme was simple, nothing new, reminiscent of Ferris Bueller's Day Off. The acting was believable, the plot fast moving.

Basically, the story revolved around the daily routine in the life of the characters. As I said, based on a t.v. series.  It delves into the hard work and yet the boredom associated with each passing day. The characters decide they need a change of pace, a break, a day off as it were. They get more than they bargained for when catastrophes develop. They must then restore order and repair the chaos which they've created. All along the way, there are obstacles and surprises.

Finally, the end of the movie helps all the characters realize, that there's no place like home.

Again, I must say, this film had a lot to offer and I can't believe I'm saying this, I'd see it again.  I think I missed a lot of innuendos and some of the underlying humour. I was so caught up in the story. Not only that, it was family friendly and was presented in a universal language. Very clever.

Go see Shaun the Sheep. Watch Shaun, the flock and the dog rescue a lost amnesiac farmer from the horrors of the big city. Hopefully, you too will be glad you did.

Wednesday, August 12, 2015

Summer To-Do List Revisited

At the beginning of the summer, I made a list. ( My Summer To-Do List 6/29/15).

 I also wrote,

I can't see making a list of ridiculous, time consuming things. But then, who am I to judge someone else's interests? If someone really feels they want to have a weed picking contest, or a frozen t-shirt competition, go for it. Perhaps others will think my list is silly.

A few days ago, I went to a friend's cottage for a short visit. We sat and gabbed. At some point, as all good friends do, she pointed something out.  Interestingly enough, what she pointed out had already settled into my thoughts. She told me that my summer to-do list seemed very small and ordinary for me. My lofty, grandiose schemes, creativity, spontaneity, and adventures no longer seemed to be a part of my persona. To a point, she was correct.

After recently reviewing my summer list, I decided that I in fact made a list for the sake of making it. Most of those things were not anything I really wanted to do, plan to do, or need to do. I was desperately clinging onto something. It's true that I didn't want to fritter away the summer. Winter gets frittered away enough through bad weather captivity. By using a list,  I thought I was planning a direction, a guideline. I wasn't.

What I actually accomplished was to come up with mundane things that some people might be happy to complete. I made a list of "safe", old lady activities. Has it come to that? Have I become fearful of creativity, spontaneity, and adventure? Am I so old now and so in tune with my own mortality, that I feel my ship has sailed?

I've come to realize that eventually, our world gets smaller and smaller. There's the joke about regressing to an infantile state....soft food, drooling, crib like bed, diapers, when one gets old. Actually, if you think about it, that's all pretty true. Senior years for some become more and more like infancy.

My dad and stepmom moved to a condo full of older adults. Their world was pretty much contained in that building. Everything from friends, to entertainment was right there with little need to think, plan or venture out without a preplanned tour. Of course there were some people within those walls who were freer and more willing to live a larger life.  I'm not saying there's anything wrong with either choice. It happens. Some gain comfort from knowing what each day will bring, rather than having to deal with uncertainty. This lifestyle offered the best opportunities, safe opportunities until death. Some people's worlds become even smaller if they end up in a nursing home or are hospitalized. Their community becomes the community of doctors, nurses, orderlies.

So my point I suppose is this. At this present time, I am very fortunate that my community continues to be the whole world. I have to stop living as though it isn't. I don't need to be tied to a place of safety and comfort where I can enjoy myself on a miniscule scale until I die. I need to stop making ridiculous lists that contain baking and berry picking as highlights.

 I don't imagine there'll be many more activities crossed off that list this summer, unless it's something I really want to bubble blowing!

Friday, August 7, 2015

Ferry Across the Gulf to the Mainland

When we crossed to Port Aux Basques Newfoundland, we were aboard the ferry MV Blue Puttees. This boat was named as a tribute to a regiment which represented Newfoundland in WW1. The group was known for their non standard leg gear "blue puttees" which they wore because there was a shortage of khaki on the island.

On our more lengthy overnight return voyage from the Avalon Peninsula to the mainland, we were on this boat, the MV Atlantic Vision. We had no idea what to expect but were pleasantly surprised.

We by no means expected to have a cabin of the quality of a cruise ship, but what we did receive was more than we anticipated, comfortable, and all we needed.

There were two comfortable beds, a bathroom with shower, desk, window and large screen tv...more than adequate for one night.

We went outside as the ferry began to move and we bid a fond farewell to beautiful Newfoundland.

 The scenery as we pulled away from the dock was not to be missed and never to be forgotten.

Before long we discovered a lovely restaurant onboard called Flowers. It served terrific meals complete with vegetables! We had missed vegetables. Not to be too critical of our previous week's food, but two vegetables which had often been served with our dinners were mashed potatoes and french fries.

The overnight transportation went smoothly and by the time we woke up, got assembled and had breakfast, it was time to disembark the ferry. Our large group got to head for the vehicle deck early in order to expedite movement prior to the exit.

On our return trip home, we stopped at several more places. I had never experienced Magnetic Hill and was glad to have the opportunity to go there. It was an unusual sensation to be sure, as our bus coasted what appeared to be uphill. There, I met and hugged my last New Brunswick lobster.

As we drove along the St. John river to Fredericton, I couldn't help but think and marvel about the many things I had seen and done in the last few weeks.

Fredericton too was a historical and scenic place in our only truly bilingual province of New Brunswick. After our tour, there seemed to be too little time in a city that I would have liked to enjoy further on my own. I won't share a lot of photos because most things can be found through google. I'll just add a few of my favourites.

Freddy, the little nude dude outside city hall
has historical significance and an interesting story.

Memoria Address a sculpture in granite
representative of the NB balsam fir.

We received much information about author's houses, however, one of greatest significance to me was this little building with the blue shutters. It was where Mary Grannan wrote the popular Maggie Muggins children's books. These stories were used as a basis for an early CBC tv series, one of the first tv programmes I remember watching as a young child. What a terrific and inspirational little house for writing.
As we continued west, the Hartland covered bridge was another of our many tourist stops. It boasts of being the longest covered bridge in the world at 1282 ft. Although the speed limit is posted at 10, the locals seem comfortable in using this as a drag strip to the other side of the river.
Our final night was spent back in Quebec where our group enjoyed a wonderful farewell steak dinner in Old Montreal prior to coming back to Ontario the next day.

Well, what can I say? It was a terrific journey....somewhere in the area of 6500 total km. I'm told.  I had no idea at the onset that I would see and do so much in a mere 17 days. I met wonderful people, saw and learned things I could have only dreamed about, and clearly, had much to share in my blog. If I had written about everything, I'd still be here a month from now and since I have tripadvisor reviews to complete, I'd better transfer my focus now.

Thursday, August 6, 2015

Food, Fun, Fond Memories of Newfoundland

So clearly, or not so clearly, the weather was not the best while we were in Newfoundland. In fact, I found 11C to be down right chilly. There was no precipitation except for the fog. Nonetheless, I have no regrets. I can only imagine how much more spectacular all the places would have looked had we had sunshine or blue skies.

A few new things which I learned while in Newfoundland...actually, there were many but here are some.

A person from Newfoundland is called Newfounese, not a Newfie.

Things made in Newfoundland from icebergs eg. beer and vodka, are delicious. The beer is made by the Quidi Vidi Brewing Company and water from 25,000 year old glaciers off the coast is used. It is brought into the facility by tankers and is tested for purity. Vodka is similarly produced. Other drinks designed to keep people warm on this island, (eg. Screech) are just fine as well.                                

The touton is a type of Newfoundland pancake. I first saw it in an ad in a brochure and figured I should test this local delicacy. It is produced by frying bread dough in a pan with butter or pork fat and it is served with molasses. I'm, glad my friend and I shared one because all I can apologetically say to this item is "Yuck! Disgusting." Definitely not suited to my tastebuds.

Mummers fascinated me. Apparently, it's a Christmas tradition, where people dress up in costumes and masks in an outlandish and humourous way. They go door to door and celebrate mostly with neighbours and friends who try to guess their identity. It's an excuse for a big party from what I could see although it is based on some European traditions. Sounds like a great time.

One of  my trip regrets is that I did not pick up a Newfoundland ugly stick. It's a percussion instrument which consists of a boot containing an upside down mop, often with a face and braided "hair". There are cross sticks with jingly beer caps attached and the instrument is pounded onto the floor in time to the music. What fun! On the other hand, this sounds like it could be a spare time craft project.

Washroom facilities are not as desperate as they appear. I figured out that it's not a drop at bottom of the foot on the right side but rather the other foot (from crossed legs).

By the way, lest anyone wonder, the gas price in Newfoundland in July was $1.19....not bad.

After leaving St. John's, our destination was the most easterly part of our fabulous country of Canada, Cape Spear on the Avalon Peninsula and our eventual overnight ferry ride from Argentia back to the mainland.  

I can now brag that I have been at the farthest eastern edge our coast. In fact, I was standing at a point that was closer to Greenland (1527 km) than it was to Toronto (2700 km). Amazing.

The Cape Spear lighthouse is the second oldest in Newfoundland, built in 1836.  During the second world war, a gun battery was installed here to defend the entrance to St. John's harbour. Barracks and underground passages were built for the troops who were stationed here. This provided a sheltered view of the ocean.

 Numerous signs and warnings are posted all around the area since it is notorious for rogue waves. Tourists have been frequently lost here in the past. Although I was quite lost in the magnificence of it all, I was not one of those unfortunates who ventured too near the edge.

All too soon, we were off to Argentia to board the overnight ferry back to the mainland.

Wednesday, August 5, 2015

St. John's Days

We spent our final Newfoundland days in St. John's. After checking in to the Delta hotel, and having the excitement of an unexpected Rick Mercer sighting, we went on a tour of the gorgeous city. A local guide took us to see major landmarks and explained a lot of the city's features and claims to fame. It was a wonderful overview of an unusual city, built on rock, on cliffs and around water, inlets, and tarns. Although the weather was overcast and foggy, it was still easy to see the beauty of the surroundings.

 One of our tour stops was on signal hill. This is where merchants were given notice that their supply ships were arriving through a series of flags matching the corresponding ship. There were sculptures of dogs  positioned in several locations and the breeds obviously represent Newfoundland and Labrador.

The boats were fascinating as they moved through the water with ease.
We also had the opportunity to see historic, some infamous, and a lot of colourful art and architecture including my personal favourite, jellybean row houses.

 I even managed to bring back a souvenir to remind me of my Newfoundland experience.

Tuesday, August 4, 2015

Take A Gander...the road to St. John's

As we travelled through Gros Morne park to Gander, I continued to be dazzled not only by the magnificence of the landscape, but by the vision that many people of Newfoundland seemed to share. The environment, conservation, and re-population of species, seemed to be an ongoing theme. I was impressed with how they took responsibility for past mistrakes and how advanced their thinking now was. At the same time, they were politically realistic with statements like "We have to look after ourselves since our few federal ridings don't make a lick of difference in the scheme of things."

One such conservation effort we visited was the Salmonid Centre where they are regenerating the Atlantic salmon (real ones not the farmed ones that some people eat). Wouldn't it be nice if in our children or grandchildren's time, there would once again be true Atlantic salmon, free from chemicals to help them grow, colouring to make them look appealing, sea lice, and so on?

It's impossible to include everything we saw into my blogs. I'm trying my best to give an overview and some of the highlights. Believe me, it's tough to select only a few high points of this magnificent trip. What was great for me might have been less so for others on the tour.

 I believe my second best day of the trip was when we arrived at the Cape Bonavista Lighthouse and puffin island. I did what I could with the camera I had. If you look carefully, you'll see the puffins and their nests. I could have watched them for hours. Puffins live ideal lives. After hatching their one egg, the youngster  goes out to sea and doesn't come back for two or three years until it's ready to have its own sibling rivalry, no teenage angst, no massive food or education costs, no gray haired, stressed parents.

Someone else on the trip with a sharper lens sent me some unbelievable close up shots of puffins, moose, whales, and icebergs, all of which we enjoyed on this visit. Unfortunately, I can't share those images as they aren't my own. Here are mine.

Sadly, we had to say goodbye to the puffins far too soon. We headed to the tiny but historic and colourful fishing village of Trinity, named so because it was discovered on Trinity Sunday 1501. This town of only a few hundred has many museums and buildings which have given it heritage community status. We were pressed for time to explore this area to its full extent. Recent claim to fame was the use of the town to create authenticity in the movie "The Shipping News".

Lovely lupins were blooming in Newfoundland
    but had already finished in the other Maritime provinces.
Our evening in Clarenville capped another terrific day. The screeching in ceremony had us all doubled over with laughter. We were sworn in with songs and stories by an official citizen. He dubbed us with a paddle, after we kissed the cod, recited a lewd sounding phrase, and downed a jigger of screech to become an honorary Newfoundlander.

It was a late evening and tomorrow was another day. We would go to the provincial capital city of St. John's for more adventures.

Monday, August 3, 2015

Newfoundland, Another World

It doesn't take long after getting off the ferry in Port Aux Basques to realize that you've entered another world; a world full of rocks, trees, rivers, mountains, wildlife, and beautiful people. Sounds just like (insert someplace else here) you might say. Not so.
Although I was more interested in seeing puffins, the rest of our tour group began their search for moose almost immediately. After all, it's an odd thing seeing that sort of wildlife on an island isn't it? The moose, so the story goes were transported to Newfoundland in the early 1900's and released near Gros Morne Park, our eventual destination. A few moose, after a century of living here, have become many moose....hundreds of moose....maybe more.

I was excited when we reached the park and I had my first moose sighting (see photo). Then....another. But seriously, by the time our trip was finished we had seen no fewer than nine real, live moose. One even crossed the road in front of our bus!

We stopped for lunch in Trout River where we were served delicious chowder, sandwiches, and bakeapple, or partridge berry tarts. What an interesting place. I loved this town and the fascinating people. Not only did they provide us with many opportunities for online shopping....
they regaled us with whale tales. Apparently, this small town of approximately 700 people was the site of nine ice trapped whales last year. One of these massive blue whales washed ashore and took up much of the beach area...over 76 feet long. What to do with a huge dead whale? There were headlines in all the large Canadian newspapers. For example, this one was in the National Post on April 30, 2014.

As the world waits for the Trout River whale to explode, the town grapples with the attention

Not wanting to show my lack of whale knowledge, I didn't ask the obvious question about exploding whales, what causes this to happen, and what would be the consequences of such an event. All turned out well, however, when the whale was picked up, towed away to rot someplace in Ontario (I'll refrain from political commentary here) where the skeletal remains will later become an exhibit at the ROM.

The shores of Trout River are whale free, smell free and safe from carcass explosion once again.
On we travelled toward our evening's destination of Cow Head, population 500. Here we would be spending the night at the trip advisor highly ranked #1 of 1 hotels in Cow Head.  The scenery along the way continued to be magnificent. When we arrived at the hotel, there weren't sufficient rooms so a few of us had the good fortune of being sent to cabins. What a treat. Not only were they spacious and clean, but there were two bedrooms, a living room, kitchen, bath of course, and a fireplace. Awesome. I could see how this place was ranked #1 (even if there had been more options). 
After a good night's sleep, we would be off to Gander.