Wednesday, 27 September 2006

Can anything be more perfect than this moment?

Thursday 21st September

Spent the morning sitting out on the terrace, both immersed in our own thoughts and activities – not sure what R is up to but there is a lot of frowning, face screwing up and note taking... A poem? A diary? No doubt I will find out soon enough. It was another glorious day weather-wise. Bluest of blue skies and not a cloud in the sky. It was a great start to the day and this holiday has lived up to every single expectation we had. We are totally relaxed and chilled and you can see the weight literally lifting off R’s shoulders. It is really wonderful to see.

This afternoon, we finally managed to do the Middle Head trail which leads from the hotel along the peninsular right to the end where there is nothing but cliffs and ocean. The trail is really very beautiful, one minute in deepest forest and the next out in blinding sunshine walking along a precarious cliff edge where 50 metres below, white surf crashes down on the rocks. Exhilarating. The nature here was very varied with lots of small flowering plants, loads of insects and a myriad of trees. We saw an eagle soaring high above us although once again, could not quite catch it on film – but you have to believe me! The sky started on the horizon with the palest of grey blues and it gradually darkened as it rises above us to the deepest, clearest “sky” blue, while the ocean was a mix of white, green, blue, turquoise and, at the furthest horizon, dark, dark blue-black. Clouds were forming off the mountains and were white as snow, scudding across the sky, carried along by the strong breeze that was blowing both off the sea and from the mountains behind us.

The end of the trail really feels like the end of the world. I could see Cape Smokey to my right and Ingonish to my left – both pieces of land sort of encompassing the peninsular, both forming perfect bays, but at the same time, if you just look out there is nothing but deep, menacing water for as far as you can see – all the way to the most perfectly curved horizon. Can a day get more perfect than this? Time seems to stand still while were are sitting there watching the angry waves crashing onto the vast rocks below. This never-ending motion has been going on since the dawn of time – millions and millions of years. In and out, wearing away at the rocks, creating sand, washing up debris, providing food and shelter for untold millions of fish and water life. Makes you think....

We definitely had the best of the weather. By the time we were back at the hotel, the dark black clouds were rushing over the mountains and the perfect blue sky was gone. Rain arrived, just for a short time, but it could not spoil what was a really wonderful day, finished in the bar once again listening to the local musician and both of us absorbed in our own thoughts and activities.

Folk songs and sea shanties!

Wednesday 20th September - Just sittin' and thinkin'

Another misty morning made us think that the weather was probably not going to improve all that much for the rest of the day. Therefore, still not really recovered from the mixed experiences of the previous day, we settled in for a quiet day based at the hotel.

We had a really nice morning with R checking out his photos and making notes, and I read, took some photos, blogged a bit, finished up my journalling notes and generally just chilled out, totally! It was so nice to have time to just sit and think. We hardly exchanged a word but were both content and satisfied. This has been such a wonderful holiday so far and it was great to have a bit of time to contemplate it all.

The rest of the day was a bit jumbled as we tried to go for a walk but it started raining so we raided the gift shop, spent some regular time on Ingonish Beach chasing waves, sighted another eagle, and sat on the hotel grounds just soaking in the atmosphere and feeling the wind in our hair.

It is really hard to describe the weather here - it is typical sea wind but it is SO warm. It is not really a chilling wind nor is it penetrating, it is really refreshing. The air this day almost tropical – guess that must be the damp in air coupled with the mild temperatures.

The evening was quiet as it has been the whole week – we sat drinking cocktails, G&Ts, cognac etc, listening to the musician play typical Cape Breton sea shanties, Irish and Scottish songs and a bit of country and western thrown in for good measure. Not something I would want to listen to all the time (or maybe ever again outside the holiday), but it was fitting for the holiday and I have really enjoyed it. I have even been known to sing along a little (in my head of course!!!).

Sunday, 24 September 2006

NEVER underestimate the kindness of strangers

Tuesday 19th September - waterfalls, petrol and wildlife

Up and out of the hotel by 9.10 which is really getting very bizarre. But the weather was pretty terrible and we figured that this might be the day to go across the island to the Whisky distillery. The clouds were depressing and low – misty, wet and dark – so a few hours driving over the north of the island along the Cabot Trail seemed like a good idea.

We stopped off at a few places along the way and with each stop, the weather seemed to be improving. The clouds started to lift off the mountain a little, just wisps clinging to the trees here and there, blue skies were peeping through and the green of the trees started to show again.

By the time we reached the MacIntosh Brook waterfalls, the weather was really much better and it was bright and almost clear. A 2km walk along to the falls was worth it with the sun glinting down on the water and the whole place was so pretty. We stayed there a long time – at least a hour or more – with R taking lots of photos and me just sitting, looking, contemplating life and the universe! As far as wildlife goes, we saw a snake which made us jump a mile and loads of these gorgeous squirrels – don’t know exactly what they are. Are they chipmunks? I need to look that up.

Past Wreck Cove Point where we had yet another fabulous view of the ocean (if you don’t like trees and water then this is NOT the place for you!!!!), and onto Corney Brook falls. This was an 8km round trip hike which was quite some effort with the camel loads of photographic equipment that R insists on taking with him (and me!!!). We walked through some simply stunning forests and along the brook with the constant babbling of the water as company. Walking along the path, I once again realised just where we were and checked with R that we had a "bear plan". We decided that ours consists of talking at a reasonable level so that any local bears could hear us and would keep away, and in the unlikely event of coming across a bear on our path, stopping, stooping low to show no aggression, and backing off slowly and calmly (yeah right!). Sounded like a plan, even if it was rather a terrifying one! I kept my fingers crossed that we would not have to put our plan into action! Luckily for us, the only wildlife we came across were the squirrels, mosquitoes and a frog – so all ok there!

At the falls, which were really nice but not as beautiful as MacIntosh Brook, I dropped R's lens cap into over the edge of the cliff! So, not only is R missing a cap, but there is now some hideous plastic there in the wilderness which will never decompose and will remain a reminder of the townies that passed by and sullied the pristine wilderness! I have been so careful not to drop a single scrap of anything and am really cross with myself.

Yet again, R felt the need to strip off to his boxers and jump in the water – I just hoped that nobody else came along to see him in all his glory!

On the way driving back over the mountain, I suddenly heard a beep that I had not heard before and then, horror of horrors, we realised that the petrol tank was almost empty – and we were in the MIDDLE OF NOWHERE!!!!! How stupid can we be? We had both completely forgotten that we need to be careful of the tank and we had no idea where the nearest petrol station/pump was. We have since found out that it was at least a 30 minute drive which we would never have made, but at this point we both freaked out and R pulled over into a parking area at the entrance to Benjies Lake walk. (The photo shows just how bleak and remote this place was!) He flagged down a few cars to ask if anyone had a spare fuel can but nobody did – I was silently (or maybe not so silently) panicking!!! And then, a couple came back and offered to drive R into the nearest city to fetch some. I am talking that 30 minute drive I mentioned earlier – and then of course, 30 mins back! Talk about lovely, lovely people. They were a really young couple and R found out that they had just got married last Saturday and they were on their honeymoon. She told me that she just could not have gone on their hike without offering us help first! I was totally overwhelmed by their generosity.

We carried on our way and counted our blessings over and over that we had chanced upon such wonderful strangers.

On our way home, still shaken and definitely stirred, we stopped off at Lone Shieling which features the oldest believed maple trees in Canada (350 years old) and our final stop being Beulach Ben falls for the final waterfalls of R’s series. We had to travel along a rather precarious 2km unpaved road which I was convinced we would never make back again! But the falls were a bit of a disappointment.

Firstly the light was not good but also, there was not really enough water. I am sure that they must be considerably better after a good rainfall but compared with being spoilt with the others, this was a bit of a let-down. However, the power of nature was there to be seen. Huge rocks that have seen millions of years roll by, huge tree trunks which must have been carried down by the water and forests on either side of us which were dense and forbidding. In fact, it made me really nervous. I could swear that I could hear voices whispering to me in the sound of the water. I found myself turning around to see who was behind me but there was nothing. It was really eerie and the sun was so low that the light coming into the forest was almost non-existent. I could have been convinced at that moment of the mystical properties of the forest.

By the time we made our way back along the road, it was really dusk and then suddenly there was movement from my right.... And at that moment a creature came out of the forest on the right, crossed diagonally in front of us and carried on into the forest on our left. No, not a bear.... It was a WOLF!!!!!! Absolutely unmistakable. The form of the head, the body, the colour of the body, the black bushy tail and the movement. I was completely speechless. I know that of ALL the wild animals to be found here, you are least likely to see a wolf! I found myself shaking – with fear and excitement. We were in the car, so there was nothing really to be scared of, but at the same time, we are talking about a wolf here!!!!! Talk about a privileged experience. I still cannot believe it really but it is true!

We spent an obligatory 10 mins on Ingonish Beach in the dark, watching the stars, listening to the sea and counted our blessings on meeting kind strangers and experiencing some of the best Canada has to offer.

Mmmm … They call these shops??

Monday 18th September - Sydney, Cape Breton - not the most exciting place in the world!

Once again we freaked ourselves out by being up with the lark and managed to get ready and on the road to Sydney by 8.30! R had heard from our waitress that Sydney was the place to go round here for shopping (ha ha! More later!) and so we headed south along the coast road, deciding to take the cable ferry rather than the more scenic route. The cable ferry crosses to Englishtown and takes just a couple of minutes but is really quaint.

We found our way into Sydney and R had already decided that we needed to go to a photographic shop to check out a super duper zoom lens and so we were looking for George St. Well, we stopped to check where we were compared to the address and it was so strange – we were literally next door to the shop! So R starts buying up the shop which was really freaking me out so I consoled myself with a few scrapbooking supplies, including a Nova Scotia sticker sheet which made my day! I had no idea just what R was wanting OR just how expensive it is!

We popped up the road to the local “mall” and had an all-American breakfast while R talked me out of my panic situation. When they call these places “malls”, what they really mean is a tiny collection of small shops! It really made us realise that we are in Nova Scotia and not Calgary! Culture shock!

We had expected something to see in Sydney, but it became clear really quickly that there was really nothing there worth seeing! We looked at the guidebook and there were THREE things listed –
· a Gaelic cultural centre which is not really my thing
· St Patrick’s church (oldest and first Catholic church in Cape Breton , 1828 including a small history exhibit) – which we found and I was really up for seeing but it was CLOSED!
· Cossit House – 1787 – a restored house originally inhabited by Sydney’s first Anglican minister which we drove past and decided we could not really be bothered!
The only other thing that Sydney has to offer is a sort of anti-tourist site – the Tar Ponds, left over from 100 years of toxic coke oven waste being dumped into the estuary. But we couldn't even get close enough to it to catch a glimpse of this curiosity. (And one of the most annoying things is that I did actually take a couple of photos of our brief excursion but they seem to have gone walkabout and I cannot find them in any of the files we have - so nothing to do and certainly nothing to see!)
So basically, Sydney was nothing really for us! No shopping, no sights, no culture – nothing! On the way out of town we tried once more to salvage something by stopping off somewhere where I had a scrapbooking shop listed but, guess what? It had closed!!
On our way back to the hotel, we stopped off at Ingonish Beach for some fresh, salty, ocean air. The sea looked pretty cold and uninviting but it is so nice to just sit for some minutes and check out the waves.
We tried the Lobster roll special in the bar which was really delicious and then crashed out early. All this excitement is too much to cope with!
By the way, during the day I caught up with mum and heard that Libby is expecting a baby girl! HOW COOL IS THAT!!!!

Friday, 22 September 2006

Sunshine on the Atlantic

Sunday 17th September - Glorious sunshine, beautiful day ...
We were once again attacked by jet lag in the middle of the night (for us) and were both wide awake at 6.30 – just too freaky for words!!! With our bedroom window open, all we could hear was the gentle sound of the waves washing up on the shore of Ingonish Beach across the bay and we marvelled at the beauty of the peace and quiet while watching the daylight creep in. We were at breakfast for 8am which I think is a record never before achieved by the Hausmanns! I scoffed down the obligatory pancakes with maple syrup and bacon (SCRUMPTIOUS!!!) and then we decided to get out and explore.

We decided to check out the local beach – Ingonish Beach. What a brilliant decision! It is an absolute treasure of a place. Just a small stretch of sandy beach with only the waves and a few seagulls for company. I think we must have been there for two or three hours and we only saw two other couples. We were really alone on this small patch of paradise and I revelled in paddling in the waves, making words with stones in the sand (Nova Scotia!) and just watching the ocean. If I keep repeating myself, then I apologise now. I just love watching the waves roll in, the white surf bubbling across the sand and the perpetuity of it all. Makes me feel very mortal and also very honoured to have the opportunity to experience it. I really appreciate how lucky I am to have this chance to visit such a wonderful place and have the luxury of time to just sit and enjoy. The feeling of the ocean on my feet and the sand between my toes was something I had been looking forward to more than anything, and at last, here I was. I can honestly say that I WAS IN HEAVEN! Ralph took loads of photos but I just took it all in and savoured the moment.

The weather was totally fantastic, something we tried to make the most of. We drove north along the Cabot Trail which took us along the coast, past picture-book houses, churches, tiny communities and two boat fishing harbours. The sky was the bluest of blues and the ocean was clear and a million shades of blue, grey and green.

We stopped at lookout point Lakies Head and sat on the rocks, staring out to sea – Ireland is the next land you would come to... Makes you feel so small and insignificant – just a speck on the Earth and just a second in a millennia of seconds. The rocks there showed us just how old the planet is and it felt good to get such perspective in just how precious it all is. I am not a rock expert but it makes you realise just how little you do know and made me wish I knew more.

After continuing north for about an hour, we decided to head back south and take one of the scenic routes which would go past – hopefully – small fishing communities where we could take some photos. First of all though, we stopped at Scotch Cove where we stood on the top of a cliff and looked down at a tiny cove right out of pirate movies. The water was crystal clear and shades of blue and green and even though we were maybe 100m above, we could see to the very bottom to the stones and sea plants. I know I am repeating myself, but it is all just so incredible!

We made our last stop of this particular driving tour at White Point which was a tiny fishing harbour surrounded by about 20 or 30 houses. Three small boats and a tiny landing spot was perfect for a few minutes fresh air and photos! The gulls looked at us warily and insisted on moving away (hobbling away as we came nearer), waiting for us to leave so that they could continue with their lunch of crab – bits of which were scattered over the road. The smell was rather pungent, but you could still tell how clean the air was and the slight salty smell in the air was so refreshing.

We headed back to the hotel and had lunch on the terrace overlooking the bay and once again, we found ourselves marvelling at the beauty of the place – something which, at the time of writing - after 5 days here, has not waned whatsoever!

R saw on the map of the park that there were several waterfalls to be visited and decided he would like to make a photo series so we headed over to the first one which is approached by a single lane gravel road. At the Mary Anne Falls, R stripped down to his boxers (!!) and went down to the river bed to get better shots of the water. While this is ok for me, the other visitors who came down to the falls while we were there were a little shocked to find a “large” German in his underwear busy taking photos in the water!!! The falls themselves were very pretty with rather brown murky looking water. But R tells me that the stones on the bed of the river are concentrated with iron which gives the water its distinctive colour. The water is not dirty at all, just the mass of it makes it look pretty brown. Up close, it is still crystal clear and refreshingly cold. I enjoyed the time sitting and watching R enjoy himself with the intricacies of the camera and I think we must have killed nearly two hours there. It amazed me to see how many visitors came along, took a few photos, looked around a minute and then left – is this drive by tourism at force here or do they just not realise how incredible this all is? It made me think...

Realising that the afternoon was drawing in, we went back over to Ingonish Beach (which has since kind of turned into “our place”) and sat a while watching the ocean roll in once more. The tide had come in quite a way by now and the power of the ocean was very clear. Of course, just looking was no challenge for R after a while and he decided that he just had to go in for a swim. Not having any trunks with us, what did he do? Go in with his boxers of course!!!! He was like a child, running in and out of the waves, lying down so that the waves would flow over him, jumping around and generally “frolicking” in the water! The temperature was fresh but surprisingly not too cold and I think it helped to wash out the cold that he had caught from me!

Coming back to the hotel once more, we both went for a swim in the hotel outdoor pool – we had it all to ourselves and it was great to just float in the slightly warm water and look out over the bay – water water everywhere!!! I guess that is what you call making the most of your first day! At the end, we felt like we had already been on holiday for weeks and weeks and this single day had gone on for days....

Again, surprisingly for us, we decided to skip dinner and just sat in the bar, enjoying a cocktail and listening to the local musical entertainment – Rob MacLean. Very gentle music which matches the gentle setting.

All in all – it was a FANTASTIC day!!

Thursday, 21 September 2006

Trees, trees and more trees ...

Saturday 16th September... cont
We headed out of Halifax and onto the main highway north. When I say “main”, I should say that it is not exactly the M25! The sky was clear blue and so the colours of the leaves on the trees along the road just shone and shone. We were in true heaven! The further north we got, the more rugged the landscape and the more we felt, yes – this is what we were waiting for. We crossed from the mainland to Cape Breton Island along the Canso Causway which was a bit weird but exciting all the same. We decided to take the more scenic route rather than the short cable ferry crossing and with every turn of the street, you just could not stop yourself from exclaiming how beautiful it all is. After about 4 hours, we started to climb Cape Smokey, which was a bit hair-raising… Sheer drops down to the ocean, hairpin bends, no metre of straight road, steep climb – you name it, it had it all. But boy, the sights were amazing. Poor R had to really concentrate on the driving so I am not sure he really got to appreciate the spectacularity of it all, but for me, it was simply stunning! The sun was reflecting on the lakes and the ocean, there were trees of all colours as far as you could see, and every now and again, small houses like out of a picture book. No photo could possibly capture it all so I must hold it in my memories.

Overall, there were not as many blazing autumnal colours as I had been expecting, but just when I thought that there were only evergreen trees, I would suddenly spy a flash of yellow or orange or red and against all the green, it was somehow even more incredible.

We pulled up at the National Park entrance and purchased our park pass. We needed to buy an annual pass as our hotel is situated inside the park and therefore, it was cheaper than buying 10 day passes – that alone is special for me – our hotel is IN the national park!!!! While I was there, I very sensibly picked up a Bear Aware leaflet! Black bears total about 3000 here in Nova Scotia so I guess we would have to be pretty unlucky (or lucky depending on which way you look at it!) to come across one but it pays to be prepared!!!!

On up the road to the Keltic Lodge Resort and the reality was even better than I had been expecting! It is smaller than I first thought, but that means less people and more personal. We checked in and I experienced my first “down” moment. Our room is a TWIN – I mean a real twin, with two single beds and a small bedside table in the middle! I am TOO young to be starring in my very own Doris Day movie!!!! However, they have no other doubles in the main lodge and we don’t want to stay at the Inn (no biblical references intended!) so we decided to keep the room and I calmed down from my hysterical level!!!! The ocean view was, after all, everything they promised – clear out across the ocean and over to Ingonish Beach . And the room has a certain “charm” (photos to follow!) We are obviously in the Butterfly room as the whole room is decorated with butterflies and motifs – including the light switches, the mirror, the shower curtain, the cups – the lot!!!! We are way younger than most of the guests – I reckon the average age here is about 109, but you know that R and I are old fogeys at heart so that it ok!!!

So here we are on the top of a cliff – both sides of the hotel, with one road in and one road out of the place. Just what the doctor ordered. The hotel is located on a small narrow peninsular – Middle Head – and the only way to get to the end is an hour long trek. Can't wait to do that in the glorious sunshine that met us on that first evening. We strolled around the grounds and lo and behold, I saw a Bald Eagle – COOL! Only in the country a few hours and I have already sighted one of the most famous wild animals around. It was truly magnificent, gliding down across my line of vision with that distinctive white head and enormous wing span. Strike 1!!!!

We decided to eat at the Purple Thistle restaurant which is the “fine dining” restaurant – but of course this is a bit different to German standards! But after we had moved table, turned down the tap water that is given out to everyone at every restaurant, and R had “trained” our waitress a little, we had a wonderful dinner. The food was divine – lots of fish and shellfish of course – and we rounded it all off with a bottle of Dom Perignon which always smoothes everything somewhat! One thing that surprised us was that even here, if you want a lobster dish then it is complete with plastic lobster bib, claw cracking and poking out the meat – all things which do not appeal to me totally, but which is completely normal here! So, on the first evening, we avoided the lobster!!!

After dinner, we went to the bar (11pm) only to find that it had just closed and the bar staff just left without saying anything – things are certainly a bit different and take some getting used to. But it is all part of the charm of the place!

Wednesday, 20 September 2006

Blue skies and scrapbooking ...

Saturday 16th September - We have arrived!

Jet lag kicked in for both of us in the middle of the night when we both woke up, wide awake at German getting up time! Drifting in and out of sleep for the rest of the night, we both found ourselves more than wide awake at a rather unusual time for us – as anyone who knows us knows! We were up, dressed and ready by 8am – freaky!

R and I had our first “disagreement” of the holiday, the details of which I would rather not go into, but we both pulled ourselves together and stepped out into the glorious Halifax morning. Blue skies, and sun rising in the sky was just a great feeling. We were on our way to find the obligatory Starbucks for breakfast, and headed down Hollis Street. After about 25 minutes of walking, we thought that maybe we had gone the wrong way, which of course was right. But it did not matter, because the morning was so lovely and we saw some nice sights which we would not have caught otherwise. We doubled back on ourselves along Barrington Street when we noticed an art supplies shop. Ralph dragged me in saying that they must have some scrapbooking supplies in there. The shop had only just opened which was so fluky – if we had not gone the wrong way, we would never have seen it and then R could not have bullied me into buying up the shop! In fact, we did a “Hausmann”!!! Make a guess what that could be if you don’t know!

One beautiful Making Memories, pink leather tote filled to the gills with papers, embellishments and goodies later, we staggered off to finally make it to Starbucks. I have to say here and now that much of the stash that I bought was chosen by my beloved, who intends to create his own scrapbooking pages on our holiday to include in the Canada album!!!! This I have to see!!! Watch this space....

There were NO Halifax mugs in Starbucks which created a minor crisis but he managed to find something to satisfy his mug urge so all was not lost! So, about 12 hours into our holiday and we have doubled our luggage already!!!!

Generally, I thought Halifax was a really nice city and we could have easily spent more time there – I would have liked to see Pier 21 and there is a museum which features the sinking of the Titanic – including many artefacts that were either picked up from the scene or washed up over the following months – because Halifax was the nearest port to the incident and was the port that received the mayday call. Maybe, one day we can get back there and spend a bit more time there - it has a load of quirky facts associated to the place. Like the Titanic thing and also the largest explosion ever (up to the time when Horishima occurred) right in the port. Just weird little things which makes the place interesting.

Over the Ocean and Far Away

Friday 15th September - Up, Up and Away ...

We got up at a regular time which is most unlike us (!) and had a „good, hearty breakfast“ at the hotel. So, stuffed to the gills, we headed off to the airport and got there SO early. I mean, the flight was 2.45 and we got there without needing to check-in before 12. In fact, considering we had done ourselves such a favour checking in early, we messed up big time! For some reason, once inside the airport we rushed through and did not look at any of the shops outside the security area – including the Harrod’s shop which I had been looking forward to – but rather went straight through the x-ray machines, passport control etc and then found ourselves in the departure area WITH NO DECENT SHOPS whatsoever! No clothes shops, no gadget shops nothing! Just the usual Duty Free, magazines and books and some really “lovely” gift shops. If only I had stopped to buy some rather tasteful beer jugs or mini-Brandenburg gates! So we walked up and down for a while aimlessly and decided that we would both feel really cheated if we didn’t buy something in the Duty Free shop – you have to get something don’t you? Feeling my age over the last few weeks, and certainly looking it when I looked in the 5x mirror at the hotel in the morning, I opted for some heavy duty age defying creams that I would never usually look at! But once I had the little bag on our trolley, I felt as if I was at last on my way at last ... Silly isn’t it? Stocking up on litres of water for the flight (I was still coughing like a 60-a-dayer) and then we needed to sit and wait.... and wait..... and wait.....

The flight itself was pretty uneventful – which is a good thing huh? I mean, who wants an “eventful” flight! R of course would not let me listen to my music until he was ready to switch off from me, he beat me at Scrabble (in my own mother tongue), and the movie choice was terrible. However, despite that, the flight seemed to go really quickly and before long, I had my first sighting of Nova Scotia from the plane window. Obviously, the detail was a bit hazy, but I could certainly see a lot of green trees and plenty of water which meant that they had not had a freak snow storm in the last 24 hours – I was relieved ....

Arriving at Halifax airport, everything was just SO Canadian – how can I describe what makes it so Canadian? Well of course, the flag gives it away a bit, but there is just something about the place ... Can’t really put my finger on it. Everyone is so friendly (even though the passport control guy tried very hard to put on a stern face) and there is just a feeling in the air. We collected our hire car and I am not kidding when I say that from landing to driving out of the airport was no more than 40 mins! And then we were on the highway, heading into Halifax .... past the “downtown” sign, along past some just FAB old buildings like out of a movie, and along the port area and to the Westin. The Westin is a 1930’s hotel, overlooking the port of Halifax (which just so happens to be the second largest natural harbour in the world, next to Sydney, Australia). Our room was on the 8th floor and I was so impressed with the view – the port, the ocean, Pier 21 (Halifax’s equivalent to Ellis Island in New York), the beginning of the Boardwalk – oh I don’t know – just all of it.

We strolled out along the Boardwalk and it was a mild and balmy evening. Bands were playing, people were walking along and the lights were beginning to twinkle. We ate our first Atlantic fish of the holiday at Salty’s which was recommended to us by our Bell Boy. We made it romantic! It was a great start to the holiday!

Friday, 15 September 2006

Phew ... Off we go ....

Thursday 14th September

Well, our holiday has begun - not bad for the first holiday in nearly 4 years!

Talk about a hectic day - up at 5.45am to try to fit everything in and I hardly had time to catch my breath. But at last, I had collected everything from the dry cleaners, dumped all the rubbish, unplugged all the sockets (I am rather paranoid about the flat going up in flames while I am away!), squeezed the suitcases shut and tried to cool down (all this rushing around was carried out in a flat of over 30°C!).

R arrived back from the dentist - yes, all very last minute - and then we were off. We have so much luggage that he had to drive me to the station and then go back and park the car. So there I stood, in good old Recklinghausen main station, waiting for him to come back and for the train to arrive, surrounded by all this luggage! But I knew that we were only minutes away from the beginning of our holiday .... the sun was shining down, the sky was blue and all was well with the world. Tick, tick, tick - the minutes counted down, R arrived back and at long last the train arrived. We stepped on board and at that very second, our holiday began! I am so excited I can't tell you! I took the obligatory photographs and we just started to unwind. Heaven! This is just so cool .... starting the holiday early....

So, there we are at the airport - Frankfurt is a horrible place - huge and sprawling and you have no idea where you are going and everyone is rushing. I suppose it is just like all these international airports. Maybe I am just so used to these tiny places now where there are only a dozen easyjet flights a day, or maybe I am just turning into a small town girl! Anyway, we finally found our early check-in desk and of course, queued! Ahead of us were dozens of sunbed tanned, middle-aged Germans obviously travelling to the sun. The couple in front of us included a man with the most disgusting handlebar moustache - literally three or four inches thick (as in the depth of hair off his face!) YUK YUK YUK.... They were x-raying all the check in suitcases which slowed things down a lot, but hey, it did not matter because we had all the time in the world! It was great to see our case on the x-ray - all the cables, chargers and stuff and we packed the laptop so that was really cool to see! All checked in, a really cool and friendly check-in guy who gave us emergency exit seats (so R is happy) and informed us that we actually have another thirty kilos of luggage allowance left so we could do some shopping in Canada (so I am happy!!) All in all, full of feel good feelings!

So there we were, all checked in and the whole evening ahead of us with nothing that needed to be done. How cool is that! I have never done this evening before check-in but I tell you, I am a TOTAL convert!

We headed over to our hotel where we had a really lovely, romantic dinner and toasted the beginning of our adventure with some bubbles of the "Veuve" variety!! What a great way to start a holiday!

So here we are, Friday morning and all we have to do is leisurely make our way over to the airport and work our way through security. After that, we can just do what I always wanted to do at these big airports - just do some window shopping (or maybe a tinsy winsy bit of real shopping). We are not sure about the security restrictions of our flight but we are so chilled right now that I feel that nothing can spoil our day today!

So, greetings from Frankfurt-am-Main ...... Speak soon



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