Thursday, October 02, 2008

St. George's Dream Part Ten - The Water and Chocolate of Canada - ALL LIES

At the moment I am in Bermuda... no need for glittering alliterations or sweeping metaphors... it's just that simple... I AM IN BERMUDA. Thank God... Outside my porthole the sun is out, but every ten minutes it gets dark and sheets of rain pour down. Then, just as soon as it started, it clears up and it's sunny again. Yeah, I know what you're thinking... what good is Bermuda when it's raining? A hell of a lot better than the most perfect day in Sydney, that's for damn sure. But, before I get into our first week back in Bermuda, and our seventeenth so far in this contract, it would only be fair to mention the last week of Canada and Maine.

Fortunately, this time around I had some help from a friend of mine, Margaret, who accompanied me through all those wonderful Canadian ports of call (and Maine... don't want to forget about you). I must say that having a fresh set of eyes take in places that I've been to several times already made the week more fun... so, what did we see and do? First stop, St. John, New Brunswick.

You'll recall the time before we didn't even make port, due to fifty knot winds and torrential rain that tore through the port. This time, however, the weather was perfect, and we had no problems getting in. Upon arrival, we decided to look for a cab to take us to the Reversing Falls at the Bay of Fundy. We ended up taking a one hour private guided tour with our taxi driver, Philip. Now, when you agree to do something like this, you are at the whim of your driver, and you never know what you're going to get... Basically instead of something official like a Gray Line tour, you're getting shown around to places that may or may not be of any interest to anyone except for the driver/guide... More on that in a moment.

So, the Reversing Falls. Say that to yourself... “Reversing Falls.” What comes to mind? Well, I stupidly envisioned a waterfall... Like what you see in tropical locations. You know, a great big waterfall. Thinking about how water would flow up is very confusing to me. I mean, they call this thing a waterfall... what else could it be? Right? You're asking yourself the same thing... right? Is it just me? Okay, well, here's Canada's version of a waterfall.

It's a RIVER people... A RIVER!!! Dammit, I spent three weeks envisioning some miracle of nature sending water UP a rock wall. Stupid stupid stupid!!! Seeing this “Waterfall” for the first time regressed me back to the time when I found out that Santa Claus was really my parents. And just like when I was twenty-four, I cried a little.

Okay, so the big deal here is that the tide change is so dramatic in the Bay of Fundy that it sends water upstream for something like twenty minutes, until everything levels out. And I say big deal. If you had told me that it was a river changing directions, maybe I wouldn't have built it up in my head so much... but you ruined it for me, New Brunswick... you blew it out of proportion, and now your little white lie has made me resent your little river. Oh, and by the way, the paper mill that looms over the whole mess really steals the focus away from your water trick. I going to shoot a moose now.

After visiting the Reversing Fal... Reversing River, we hopped back in our taxi and Philip, our guide and driver, took us to several scenic places, and laced in his own life's story along the way...

Here is the view from the Carleton Martello tower, an old fortification that overlooks the Bay of Fundy. It was here we found out that Philip has been sober for eighteen years, claiming he got thrown out of bars for being a swinger (which I hope is Canadian for a scrapper), but still likes to go to the bars for Karaoke.

Here is Margaret and I at some beach that Philip has been going to since he was a child. The water never gets above fifty-five degrees, but folks around there, including Philip, like to swim there. It was here that we found out that Philip's mother had a sister that she kept hidden from the family, and that crack is a major problem in St. John.

Finally, here is a picture taken from a place where a fort used to be. Philip calls this St. John's version of the Hollywood sign (we were getting close to the end of the tour... can you tell?) It was here that we learned about Philip's dead sister.

Boy, did that hour go fast! After politely declining a second hour with Philip, where I am sure we would learn about his extended family, and perhaps more juicy details of the underground drug scene in the area, we took a walk into town, had a late breakfast, saw some old churches, and finally made a stop at the Loyalist house.

So, while I forget the dude's name, this guy basically got out of America and moved to Canada during that whole skirmish with the Red Coats and all... turns out some folks were still loyal to England, so off to Canada they went. Our tour guide for the house was this kind old man, whose name I forget. The house had been in the same family until it was donated to the city, so most of the furniture and stuff are original to the house back when it was occupied in the late 1700s. Strangely enough, the house was occupied by members of the family until 1959, and electricity wasn't put in until much later... huh...

In the house they had stuff like a piano that could switch to an organ... um... a dining room... beds... ahh... yeah. House stuff. Then our guide's friend and coworker, Mr. Nibs (that name I can remember, mostly because, as Margaret said, it's a better name for a cat), showed up. We engaged in a lively debate over whether mason jars should be called bottles, played a guessing game of “what do you think this thing does” in the kitchen, and were later shown a pair of crotchless bloomers. All in all, not a bad tour for three bucks... Oh, if you're curious, the bloomers were crotchless because the contraptions women called dresses back then were too difficult to take off in order to go numbers 1 or 2... Why? What were you thinking?

Mr. Nibs, explaining why jars should be called bottles... Riveting, I know. Next stop, Halifax, Nova Scotia.

On this day we essentially repeated the same tour that I went on during my first week in Canada, starting with Peggy's Cove, and ending with a ride on the Gray Line's Hop On Hop Off buses. If you'd like to learn all about Peggy's Cove, take a look back to St. George's Dream Part Eight.” Basically it's a place that's got a lighthouse. Pretty, don't get me wrong, but nothing that I haven't already written about. However, the only difference was that this time it was sunny. Here's a picture of the lighthouse, with sunshine.

Back in town, it was a afternoon filled with hopping on and hopping off buses, visiting the Halifax public gardens (the “crown jewel” of Halifax), the Citadel (the “Citadel” of Halifax), and finally grabbing some ice cream (the “ice cream” of... well, that doesn't work at all).

That's two blogs in a row, friends, where you're seeing me with ice cream. Tough work, this job... So we get this ice cream at a place called “Sugah!”, as the name on the fridge implies. We were drawn in initially from the smell of chocolate emanating from the place. Once inside, the woman at the counter explains to us that they are a confectionery, but that they also mix their stuff into the ice cream, a la Marble Slab. She then gives us a sample of some chocolate made with coffee beans. It was very good, so we decide to get a cone.

Starting with vanilla, we were asked what we would like to mix into it. “Some of that delicious chocolate we just had” I said, to which she replied, “Oh, we don't mix that into the ice cream.” Huh??? After offering no explanation as to why, she tries to smooth it over by offering to mix actual coffee into the ice cream. What the hell am I missing? You tell us that you mix stuff into ice cream, have us try some chocolate, then tell me I can't put it into the ice cream? But... but... why? Sometimes I don't get you, Canada... On to Sydney.

Margaret had already been well warned about wonderful downtown Sydney, and since neither of us were in the market for used CDs or a haircut, we took a sailing tour. Our three sailed vessel waited for us outside of Sydney in the town of Baddeck. It was a nice tour... about 90 minutes on a sailboat with a wise cracking Captain (whose father built the thing some thirty years ago) who proudly held up a “Dummy's guide to sailing” before heading out.

As we left the dock, we were immediately tailed by two bald eagles, who have come to understand that when this boat, “The Amoeba”, leaves the dock, they get fed. So Captain... uh, whathisname, throws fish out into the water, and the eagles swoop out to get it. Pretty cool. Here's what an eagle looks like:

The captain of the Amoeba, whose name I still can't remember.

So, basically we sailed for awhile, learning things we would all soon forget, and seeing stuff like Alexander Graham Bell's summer mansion and... trees. It was all very scenic. Then it was time to get back to Sydney, so we hopped on the bus and started our trip back. Normally I wouldn't bore you with the details of a bus ride, since most of it involves pretty scenery and rocks that look like stuff, but we passed by a fried chicken restaurant that deserves a little attention.

You know, this place could have the best fried chicken in Nova Scotia, but “Lick A Chick?” When I say those words “Lick A Chick”, I imagine catching a chicken (and like Sylvester Stallone illustrated in “Rocky II”, this is not an easy task) and giving it a great big lick, getting dirt and feathers in my mouth. Mmm... licking a squirmy chicken makes my mouth water. Down the road is the sister restaurant “Lick a Treat.” No kidding...

So, after the bus ride back to Sydney, we still had two hours to kill. So we ate some fried scallops on the blue school bus (something else you saw back in St. George's Part Eight), and got our picture taken in front of the great big damn fiddle.

Man, that's one great big damn fiddle. And with that I can positively say I will never see that great big damn fiddle ever again... ever. Final stop: Bar Harbor, Maine.

We ate lobster. End of story.

And, like I said earlier, we are back in Bermuda! Once again I look out my portholes and see rain... and I couldn't be happier. It's Thursday, October 2nd, and we've been here since Tuesday, September 30th. Tuesday was a perfect day for the beach, so that's what I did. I went to the beach... and I sunned and swam. The water is a little colder, but nowhere near too cold to swim in. The weather is actually still warm and in the 80s, but without the humidity that we had back in August, so there's nothing to complain about! I brought my camera to the beach, but didn't even bother taking a picture. Still, I would hate to disappoint, so here's a picture of St. Catherine's Beach that my buddy Victor took.

Wednesday I toured the Norwegian Majesty, who has just left Bermuda for the last time. She's been with us in St. George's since May, and I've always wanted to go on board and look around, having heard from her crew that the Dream is better. You see, hearing that my dear sweet Dream is better than another ship is something I'm not used to, so I wanted to see for myself. Now, I didn't go into any crew areas, but I walked around all the public areas of the Majesty, and actually... I was impressed.

She's a smaller ship, and older, but her layout is nicer. Wider corridors take passengers through the public areas, and her color scheme has a more classic approach, choosing darker wood tones over the Dream's lighter (and dare I say pastel at times) themes. Of course, I was most interested in the theatre... here's a picture:

To compare, here's the Dream's Stardust Lounge

I'd say, first of all, that the theatre seats half what our Stardust does. It also trades a basic proscenium thrust for a theatre in the round hybrid that is seated around 80% of the stage, with a small band area at the upper most area of the stage. I saw a cabaret act perform there, and the space works very well, giving the entertainer more versatility in his performance. I did not see the production cast do their thing, but I imagine it's a little more difficult for them... Oh, did I mention the stage has an eight foot ceiling?

Here I am, almost touching it. All in all, the theatre still a nice space, and the Dream could take some lessons from the Majesty's layout and amenities.. Oh, like this...

Hey, NCL!!! Why don't we get soft serve? Huh? I think Canada's behind this...

Since this was the last time the Majesty was going to be in port with us, I thought I would go out to the cut and catch her sail away. Lemme tell ya, seeing a ship go through that cut is even more impressive than actually being on the ship. Wanna see for yourself? Check out the video below:

And, that'll just about do it for me... It's still raining outside, so I think I'll venture up to the Sport's Bar for a cookie... Oh, the shows are the same.

Keep on Livin' The Dream,

Michael Lamendola (watching the Majesty sail back to Philadelphia)

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