Brugge, Sept 15 and 16, 2010

Brugge was the first stop in a 6 week tour of Europe.  We arrived by train after a flight from Halifax to Heathrow airport.  We took the underground from Heathrow to Kings Cross-St Pancras.   Then we travelled from St Pancras Station to France where we caught another train to Belguim and a small regional train to Brugge.  I had allowed for several hours to reach St Pancras thinking that customs and the travel from the airport would take a lot of time.  This extra time allowance was not necessary, but we weren’t able to change our tickets for earlier ones.

Our accommodations were already confirmed at Hotel t’Keizershof for 44 euro per night including breakfast.  It was a short hop from the train station…if you departed by the correct door. We soon figured out our mistake and make our way to the hotel.

Hotel t’Keizershof was very clean, in an older building.  Our room faced the street.  I was excited to hear people going past from the train station with their wheeled suitcases; it seemed to match the feeling of being on the road.  It was to become a soundtrack for the next 6 weeks and remained consistent in every country.  There was a sink in the room, but we had to go down the hall to use the bathroom or shower.  A sign in the room told you not to wash clothes in the sink, which was a disappointment to me as I had hoped to do this every night.  The breakfast was served in a bright room overlooking the street.  Our fellow travellers were from all over the world.

We were an easy walk to the historic centre of Brugge.    Brugge comes from the Old Norse, “Bryggja” which means landing stage.  In medieval times Brugge became a centre of commerce.  Its beautiful canals and prosperous merchants earned it the name Venice of the North.  Named a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 2000, the city’s well preserved medieval buildings, canals, cobbled streets and market squares draw tourists from all over the world.

Brugge Town Hall

Quiet and peaceful Beguinage.  This monastery housed nuns from the Beguine movement for many centuries.

Along one of the canals in Brugge.

Bell tower Brugge

I have never seen a violin quite like this one before.

Weekly Photo Challenge: Urban

I have to confess, I haven’t lived in an urban area in over 25 years.  The following pictures are from Athens.  I loved this city.

The mix of old and new was amazing.

View of the city from the theatre at the Acropolis in Athens

We stayed in the Monastiraki area and it was great.  On first glance there was a lot of empty store fronts.  But, there were bars with wonderful musicians playing traditional music with the patrons singing and dancing along, the Athens flea market and the food market nearby.

The Athens market

Graffiti:  This is an urban sight.  Some is very good art and contributes to the urban landscape.  Other graffiti is not a welcome sight.

 

Pogey at the Lower Deck Halifax

On Saturday we went to a Patio Party at the historical properties on the Halifax waterfront.  It is a great summer venue a few steps away from the Halifax harbour.  The warm evening encouraged walking so the waterfront was a busy spot.  Tourists visiting the city and those who call the Halifax  home were out enjoying the evening and the show.

Historic Properties Halifax

The Lower Deck, a well known Halifax pub and music venue in Privateer’s Warehouse had bands playing inside and outside.

Pogey was playing outside between two beautiful stone buildings. The word ‘Pogey’ is defined as financial or other relief given to the unemployed by the government.  Pogey has been touring since 2001 providing ‘relief’ to audiences with their enthusiastic Nova Scotia Celtic rock sounds, their exuberant instrumentals and their tight harmonies. The band, Ray Mattie guitar and lead vocals, Warren Robert guitar and vocals, Jonny Grant bass guitar and vocals, guest fiddler Anthony Rissesco and drummer Mike Carroll had the crowd dancing, singing and totally engrossed in their highly interactive show.

Band members have played at every major Irish festival in North America and are off again to the Kansas City Irish Festival next week.

Pogey Lower Deck Halifax

For more information on the band and their touring schedule visit their website at http://www.pogey.ca.

Privateer’s Warehouse photo from the Historic Properties website.

Barlovento, Varadero, April 2012

My sister and I went for two weeks to Cuba this year.  We stayed at the Barlovento, a small resort on 1st Ave about 1 klm from city centre, near the entrance to Varadero Peninsula.

Barlovento was fine.  The rooms were clean, the beach beautiful and the evening entertainment was great.  The dance troupe was thrilling to watch.  It was a pretty chill place.  Our Cuban friends were able to join us under the shade of huge trees and we spent many days together enjoying the beach chatting with other beach goers and marveling at the lengths little boys will go to, trying to catch a lizard.

  One red flag day.  Waves were huge.

On the downside the resort ran out of wine occasionally, egad!  (we brought our own into the buffet with no problem).  The food wasn’t the best.  I found it worthwhile to wait in the line-up for eggs in the morning and pasta in the evening.  These were good but after two weeks nothing to look forward to.  We ate out at many of the restaurants around the resort.    Some of the restaurants we ate at included:  KiKi’s and La Sangria for pizza, LaiLai’s for Chinese food, La Casita (which is a treat to eat at and check out all the beautiful antiques including some of interest to Canadians) and Coral Restaurant on the beach by Aquazul.

La Casita, Varedaro  CubaPicture of Trudeau in La Casita, Varadero

La Casita had Pierrre Elliot Trudeau Liberal posters and a picture of Trudeau on the walls.

During one of our weeks there is was a school holiday.  It was a highlight of the trip to see all the young people enjoying themselves on the beach.  There was a kite surfing business set up on the beach just down from Barlovento and lots of young people were gathered there.

Many also spent time fishing in the canal across from the resort and jumping off the bridge which signals the entrance to Varadero.   They had lots of encouragement from their friends in the water and watching from the side of the road.  There were barracuda swimming in the water they were jumping into.

           

We took our cameras out to get some photos and met all sorts of friendly people, swimming, fishing or just out for a stroll.

Varadero has changed a lot in the past few years.  This year foreigners are able to stay in Casa Particulars in Varadero.  Casa Particulars are Cuba’s version of a Bed and Breakfast, and in past years they were not available for visitors to Varadero.  This is great news for people who want to visit the beautiful beaches but prefer not to stay at an all inclusive resort.

Casa Particular Cuba  These Casa Particulars are located on the street beside the Barlovento Hotel in Varadero.  

Particular cars are now licensed to take tourists.  This gives tourists an opportunity to hire an independent driver who has lovingly restored one of the beautiful old cars that Cuba is so famous for.

  This is Gonzalo Rojas’ particular car.  We hired him to take us to Matanzas and Boca to visit friends.  We walked across the bridge to an area where lots of particular cars were parked and discussed the price before we got into the car.

Small markets are popping up all over the place as well.  Free enterprise is becoming more and more a part of life in Varadero.  This is the biggest change and one that I am happy to see as it benefits the people of Cuba.

Dutch Mason Blues Festival 2012

Dutch Mason, 1986, Photo by Louis Siegal, from the Canadian Encyclopedia

When I first moved to Nova Scotia I was blown away by the richness and variety of the culture in this province.  I seldom missed an opportunity to see the Dutch Mason Blues Band.

Dutch played in rock and roll and rockabilly bands in Nova Scotia in the 50’s.  By the 70’s he had found his passion and performed in several blues bands.  During the late 70’s and 80’s he toured Canada developing a growing reputation for his tough urban blues style.   He was dubbed the Prime Minister of the Blues by BB King.  Dutch passed away in Dec 2006.  His son Garrett Mason is thrilling blues audiences from coast to coast these days.

Last night we attended the first night of the 8th Annual Dutch Mason Blues Festival in Truro, Nova Scotia.  As always it was a great experience.

Lukas Nelson and Promise of the RealLukas Nelson and Promise of the Real.  Lukas’ voice is similar to his father’s, but he has found his own style.

Lukas Nelson, Dutch Mason Blues FestivalLukas Nelson

Georgia Satellites, Dutch Mason Blues FestivalGeorgia Satellites.

The Sheepdogs, Dutch Mason Blues Festival Canada’s own Sheepdogs from Saskatoon.  The Sheepdogs won three Juno awards for Rock Album of the Year, Best New Group and Single of the Year.  They will be performing again in Nova Scotia in September.  Check them out if you get the chance.

SheepdogsTonight Charlie A’Court, James Cotton and Darrell Nulisch, the John Oates Band and Delbert McClinton hit the stage with an after hours Jam featuring Joe Murphy, Garrett Mason, the Dutch Mason Blues Band and special guests.  The music continues  Sunday until 7:30 pm.

Kudos to the people who put on this well organized event!

For more information go to:  http://www.dutchmason.com

Weekly Photo Challenge: Wrong

Swans, Red Light District:  AmsterdamSwans in the canal in the Red Light District of Amsterdam.

Swans, Red Light District AmsterdamFlood Platforms, St Marks Square VeniceThis is St Marks Square in Venice.  The risers are put up when the tide comes in and floods the square.  It saves the tourists from getting their feet wet.  I thought it was a kindness to put up the risers but found it wrong-looking just the same.  I didn’t climb on board.

St Marks Square, VeniceSt Marks Square again.  This is just wrong.  The advertisements cover the work that is being done to repair the buildings.

A new pet

I haven’t been doing well at filling my blog with tales and pictures of my travels.  I look forward to the weekly photo challenge on Fridays to add new posts to the blog.  (Any ‘comments’ and ‘likes’ I get act like a drug encouraging me to keep at it-thank you all so much!)

For the past few months my focus has been much closer to home.  I have a new puppy!

This is Koopa, the momma of 9 healthy english bulldog puppies which were delivered by C-section (a common procedure for bull dogs).  We were told not to leave the puppies unattended with the mother, so kept them warm in a box when she wasn’t feeding them.    When Koopa was feeling better she was a wonderful mother and wanted to have access to her puppies all the time.  In this picture the puppies are making noises in the tote where she is resting her head.

This is our new puppy, Princess Peach.  Many dogs in our family have been named after characters in the Super Mario game.  I think a full grown english bulldog snorting and snoring answering to ‘Peaches’ will be somewhat comical.

She already shows an aptitude and interest in gardening.

Her best buddy is her brother Bowser.  She is able to play with him every few days.  On this day they found mud and after a bath needed to be wrapped in a blanket to warm up.

Vacationing Close to Home

For our 29th Anniversary we decided to take a few days and be tourists around Moncton, New Brunswick which is a little over 2 hours away.

Our first day in Moncton we tried out Magnetic Hill.  Magnetic Hill is a place where the layout of the surrounding land produces the optical illusion that a very slight downhill slope appears to be an uphill slope. It was well worth the visit, although if many cars were testing the hill it could be a bit dangerous.  We were there after the park was closed so didn’t pay a fee to get in.  Cars are directed to drive down the hill on the right side of the road, stopping at the white post.  Pull the car over to the left side of the road and put the car in neutral.  The cars seem to roll up the hill backwards.  We watched lots of people turn their cars around and try to go up the hill forwards-I don’t think that was working.  Some people did not have very good steering skills rolling backwards.  It was fun watching other drivers figure out the hill.

Magnetic Hill.  The white car backing up the hill is doing it correctly.  The two cars going forward up the hill in the left lane are not.

We visited Hopewell Rocks.  It is about 40 klm or 40 min from Moncton along the Fundy Coastal Drive.  The entrance fee was 9.00 per person and this was valid for two consecutive days, so visitors could visit during high and low tides.  There are well groomed walking trails to observation decks and trails to the ocean floor.   It is safe to walk on the ocean floor three hours before and three hours after low tide.  We arrived at about three hours before low tide and were able to watch the tide go out.  There are also restaurants, playgrounds, boot wash and sea kayaking located at the Hopewell Rocks.

The tide is starting to go out here.

The tide is almost all the way out here.  For the most part the beach was rocky, but as the tide went out there was more mud.   Many people made use of the boot washing area.  If you go make sure you wear appropriate footwear.

Further along the drive we stopped at Cape Enrage on the Chignecto Bay, one of the Marine Wonders of the World.  The tides rise as much as 53 feet over a 12 hour period twice daily.  Admission is about 5.00 per person.  The site has a lighthouse, fog horn and hiking trails as well as a tremendous view from the top of the cliff.  The beach is reached from a set of stairs that descend 99 feet.  Visitors are warned not to linger near the foot of the cliffs as there is a constant danger of rock falls and to be sure to know the tide schedule.  Departure from the beach is only possible by the stairs.  The beach was made up of smooth flat rocks that made interesting clacking noises when they shifted while walking on them.  It was quiet walking on the beach so the noise of the clacking rocks was all you could hear.  Right before you get to the site there is a nice rock beach for swimming.  The site also offered a restaurant, rappelling, rock climbing and a zip line.

Cape Enrage.  You would not want to mistake the time for high tide.

The rocky beach of Cape Enrage.

We had stayed at the Crowne Plaza Moncton Downtown before and really enjoyed the experience.  We were looking forward to another great visit and were not disappointed.

We ate at the Tajmahal restaurant in Downtown Moncton.  The food and service were great.  On our anniversary we ate at Little Louis’ on Collishaw St.  The restaurant had received good reviews, but I found the menu did not offer many options and the meal was expensive for what we had.

Weekly Photo Challenge: Growth

It is amazing to see the capacity the natural world has for growth.  Trees and plants send down roots and grow in the most surprising places.

These trees are growing on the Hopewell Rocks in New Brunswick Canada,  Twice a day the tides rise to great heights, as they recede they take some of the rock and soil with them.

This is how they grow grapes on the Greek island of Santorini.

The roots of these trees climb down the hill and sustain small shrubs on this beach side hill in Santorini.

These unusual trees grow at the University of Havana