We are in Verona as part of Jean’s birthday extravaganza, as organised by Vicky! The opera was magical, Tosca on a glorious summer’s evening, Aida after a tremendous storm the next, sightseeing, gelato, Campari spritzes, shopping, passeggiata and sitting in the Piazza Bra watching the people go by! Such fun! Here we are at the top of the Torre dei Lamberti, overlooking this oh so pretty city.
it is great to be here, catching up with our nearest and dearest, always wonderful wherever and whenever we have the opportunity, usually accompanied by good food and great wine, stories galore, much fun and laughter!
but first I have to tell you about our lovely time with Frank and Judy, who were the most amazing guides, showing us so much of their beautiful Nova Scotia. We arrived in Moncton, having traveled across the Confederation Bridge in a bus in the pouring rain, it was disappointing as the visibility was so poor! Still, we have gone across the longest bridge in Canada and we have seen it from the land which was such an impressive sight!
a long journey back to Wolfville, via Sackville and a great lunch at Joe’s, where Frank and Judy live, WolfVille that is, not Joe’s! This was the start of our Nova Scotia adventure, it is a beautiful university town with some grand Maritime houses. The next morning we set off for Lunenberg, a UNESCO World Heritage Town, a whole town with such a status, and also famous as the home of the Bluenose II. See if you can spot Frank In the photo of us aboard the Bluenose II! We stopped at a very lovely town Mahone Bay for lunch and also to go to Amos Pewter, it was fascinating to see how pewter is made, poured into rubber moulds, but if it doesn’t come out properly, the pewter is just melted once again and re used. Then into a quilt shop, such lovely quilts!
Onto Lunenberg, Judy giving us our first impression from the golf course opposite where you Get a great view of the town and the beautiful brightly coloured wooden houses for which it is so famous. Into Lunenberg we went down to the Harbourside and took a horse drawn carriage tour around the town, with a very droll guide. Some of the houses dated back to the 1700s and there were stories of rum, Prohibition and fishermen, ghosts and cod. Back to our B and B, Atlantic Sojourn, where our every need was met and it was warm, comfortable and homely. Back into town to see the Bluenose II which had sailed into view whilst we were on our tour, a splendid sight. It was so interesting to go on board and talk with the crew, see where they have to climb up to lather the mast with grease to help ease the ropes that haul up the sails, these young sailors were literally learning the ropes! We had dinner at the Rum Runner, recently re-opened and a very yummy new menu.
After a tasty breakfast at the Atlantic Sojourn and a chat with the owners, Sebelle and Susan, we went to the Fisheries Museum. The history of cod fishing was well explained, it played such a large part in that part of the world, with many men lost for the sake of salted cod, a stable food in times gone by so much so that fishing went on through treacherous storms. The men often hanging on for dear life by one short rope if they fell overboard into the icy seas. We went onto a sloop which was still being used, with the small dories in which the men fished, until 1963, so recent!
Onto Annapolis, a different Maritime smaller town, beautiful houses and a very beautiful Historic Garden which we wandered through after a delicious breakfast at our next B and B, The Bread and Roses Inn. The rain was torrential the previous night so we didn’t see as much we might have but what we saw was, once again, so lovely. back then to Wolfville and we went to Grand Pre to learn about the Acadian people and their forced expulsion from their land in the 1600s by the English, a terrible story of 10,000 people who suffered so much, immortalised in the story of Evangeline. It was very movingly done, with stories from the viewpoints of children and a “film” of the event. It made the suffering of refugees worldwide which continues to this day so vivid, we were all very moved. Once again, Simon said, as he did at the Museum of Human Rights, everyone should see this and I agree.
Frank was really keen to show us the highest tide in the world at Halls Harbour, a wonder of the natural world and amazing to see the heights of the boats in the harbour before and after our lobster dinner, and what a delicious dinner it was!
Then back to Moncton in the morning, having seen so much of Nova Scotia in such a short time thanks to Judy and Frank. We enjoyed it all! And there is still so much to see so we will have to go back another time!
and now, here we are in London! More of that later!
Back to yesterday since it was too late last night. We started our day splendidly with a swim and a few shrieking waterslide rides (me, not Simon!) after Simon had done his homework. Then we set off to Anne of Green Gables house with a meandering drive along the coast where the waves were a little wilder than at Greenwich. It is hard to imagine the wild storms and long winters now that the sun is shining and the lupins are blooming on the side of the roads, pink and blue bursts of colour every now and again. We are too early for the fields of lupins and wild flowers which are normally blooming by now as the snow lay so long this winter.
The house which inspired Lucy Maud Montgomery was laid out as she described in Anne of Green Gables as was the farm, together with a film about LM Montgomery’s life. She wrote so well about life in the 1890s through Anne and in her 19 other books. Even though Anne of Green Gables is so greatly loved, perhaps her most interesting writing is in her journals with her insightful observations about the lives of women at that time and later as a wife and mother living through the First World War. We finished off by enjoying the beautiful walks through what Anne calls the Haunted Wood and also Lover’s Lane, she fails to mention the pesky mosquitoes when she is waxing lyrical about communing with nature!
With my trusty navigator we then made our way to see the Confederation Bridge as we realised that on our bus trip the bus won’t stop to let us take photos! I was very impressed by Simon’s new map reading skills, he told me where to go (!) and which towns we were approaching, this ability, we felt, was another unexpected bonus as a result of all his hard work at Arrowsmith! We talked about how he would have been distressed had I asked him to map read this time last year, where now he enjoyed doing it! Having seen the bridge, which is a truly magnificent sight, we made our way back to Charlottetown with Simon directing me perfectly through the winding hills and pretty farmland.
We found Piatto Pizza for an authentic Neapolitan margerita pizza to share for dinner.
And today we didn’t have time to start our day with a swim as we had booked “the taste of Charlottetown” walking tour. There was our guide, Bill, and us! He was so interesting and we spent three hours learning more about PEI, the food produced here and island life. We started at the Lobster Wharf, a restaurant and fish market. Bill showed us the not altogether obvious differences between male and female lobsters. Interestingly, females keep the sperm in their bodies for up to year until they think the conditions are right at which time they release their 10,000 eggs, they harbour the fertilised eggs until they turn into teeny lobsters and then let them go. At this point the teeny lobsters float so most are eaten either by birds from above and fish from below, only 2 to 4 (of the 10,000) becoming large enough through shedding their shells several times to grow heavy enough to sink and continue on with their lives. And then they grow more and then we eat them! Oh my, it doesn’t sound like a good life, does it? The lobster business together with mussels and oysters makes a huge contribution to the PEI economy, all of which are shipped all over North America. Both Simon and I were brave to taste an oyster and were surprised that they were quite nice – much sweeter and tastier than those I have previously tried. I was amazed that Simon was so game. Onto Liquid Gold where we tried some olive oils, not from PEI, and various balsamic vinegars – Simon loved trying them all! Then a micro brewery to try a blueberry ale in the Gahal ale house which was a former convent, Bill giving us what he called the Reader’s Digest version of the manufacture of ales. Another pub, The Dublin, and mussels this time, cooked in a classic fashion, delicious. Back to the Chip Shack – You again! said the lady there, more chips which were as delicious as the other day! Then to Dave’s Lobster, where I had to eat two lobster tacos as they were a bit spicy for Simon! All the while Bill kept up an interesting and informative commentary, a really great morning.
Back to our hotel for a quick swim before turning in our hire car before we headed back into downtown for a delightful evening. We sojourned to the roof terrace at Fishies on the Roof to relax with a pre-dinner drink and then made our way to Terre Rouge, a Bistro Marche, where I enjoyed one of the best meals I have ever eaten (and that I do not say lightly, having been very spoilt over the years). The description read Scallops and Mussels, dill gnocchi, arugula pesto, bacon, mushrooms, pickled parsnip, pinenuts – it was a beautiful combination of flavours and textures and I savoured every mouthful! Off then to the musical of Anne of Green Gables – it was corny but heart-warming and a perfect rendition of the much loved story. Simon made this very pertinent observation afterwards when he said “I just realised now that in movies and musicals someone has to die for the other people to appreciate them”!
And on that now, we will see you in New Brunswick! We are going across the Confederation Bridge tomorrow.
Yesterday we explored around Charlottetown, starting at the visitors centre, Simon having done the first of his holiday homework sessions first thing in the morning and two sessions of reading, as he had missed one the previous day. I was most impressed as I was still snuggled up in bed! Our hotel is a higgledy piggledy arrangement of adjoining buildings, the result of which is that our window looks out onto a corridor and a brown wall so we can’t tell what time of day it is or the weather. It is very uninspiring but we don’t spend much time here so it doesn’t matter too much. The one fun thing at the Rodd Royalty is the 105 foot water slide which I shrieked my way down the first time I went down it! Simon was much more contained but loved it nonetheless!
We went on the Harbour Hippo bus ride, a trip around the city and then into the harbour itself! The bus was used in the Vietnam war as an amphibious supply vehicle though never saw any action. According to our guide all the duck tour vehicles around the world were used in warfare before having a new life as tourist attractions!
We couldn’t resist the pull of the Chip Shack and reputedly the best chips on the Island! They certainly were good! A wander through the downtown, into St Basilicas Cathedral which was very beautiful, into the Confederation Festival Centre and back to the Confederation museum where we learnt how the Confederation was formed, basically because of a big party in Charlottetown in 1864! And the reason that the conference/party was held here was that the PEI premier wouldn’t go to the mainland so everyone else came here! The Confederation was a changeable beast, evolving over many years, most recently with Nunavat being formed in 1999, this was to allow the First Nation peoples more involvement in the government of the huge area where they make up over 85% of the population.
The evenings are long here so we decided to drive to PEI National park in the east of the island, Greenwich, for a walk and to see something of the coastline. As it turned out the coastal drive doesn’t hug the coast so we drove through little towns, the road winding over wooded hillsides and alongside ploughed fields with the red earth for which PEI is known. The red coming from iron in the soil which gives the PEI potatoes their distinctive flavour. PEI, small as it is, produces one third of the potatoes produced in Canada! We had a long and beautiful walk through the wood, though the huge mosquitoes were out in force and determined to feast on us! It was a relief to reach the very long boardwalk, the longest I have ever seen, which went across a huge marshy lake where swallows were swooping and diving, chirping all the while. The boardwalk finally led up and over huge sand dunes to a deserted long white beach where Simon skimmed flat red rocks into the gentle waves. The huge mosquitoes In the woodlands were out in force, determined to feast on us! We spent a lot of time batting them away! We headed back towards Charlottetown, stopping for the perfect light dinner at St Peters Inn overlooking St Pe ters Bay. The drive back in the pouring rain took longer than I thought I would so no water slide and swim before bed for us!
Today was a good day too but it is getting late.Today will have to wait until tomorrow!
Simon’s first meal in Charlottetown!
Charlottetown has a very pretty historic centre and a typical outskirts much like Peterborough with the usual Canadian shops and Tim Hortons. Our hotel is in the outskirts, a higgledypiggledy arrangements of interconnecting buildings with our window overlooking a brown wall! But it has got a 105foot water slide, which is such fun! I shrieked my way down it last night, Simon was much more contained!
Off to discover and explore more of this lovely island now, us and the passengers from the incoming cruise liner!
I can’t believe a year ago it was the day before graduation and we were all feeling so sad with so many friends leaving. This year is not quite as sad though I know Simon will miss Matt (don’t panic, not Matt Coppins, Matt the student!) and I will miss his Mum, Sylvia but the main gang is staying and we are happy for that! September will be a grand reunion!
This is Simon being a bit crazy at the end of the day! I was hoping there would be some inspiring words from Mr Coppins to encourage the students through the summer, but no! Instead he has given Simon a homework schedule to keep him going!
More news later but that is it for now, as I am busy re-living the Alaskan adventure so there is no time for other writing!