Hello one and all and welcome to my latest little escapade here in the blogosphere, as I believe it is called by those who know about such things, which is my attempt to keep myself from going even further insane during this pandemic.
Apart from that very valid reason, I have explained in my previous post several others why I chose this particular trip instead of a number of different adventures I could have written about but we are off to Canada as you have probably guessed from the image above.
Canada is a vast country, just shy of 10 million km² so I’ll narrow it down for you. This little ramble is to what are called the Maritime Provinces (guess why!) of Nova Scotia, New Brunswick and Prince Edward Island or NS, NB and PEI as Canadians refer to them when writing.
If you fancy six weeks in that stunningly beautiful part of the world then please read on.
So what took me across the Atlantic then? The facile answer would be WestJet but I’ll try to do better than that. The reason was my dear friend Lynne and a somewhat lunatic scheme we had concocted to go touring in a campervan, or RV as Canadians call them round NS and wherever else we ended up, but I am getting ahead of myself. Let’s get to Canada first.
18th June, 2014.
I flew from London Gatwick to Halifax with WestJet as I mentioned and it was fine, although it was booked in the basis of price and they certainly are a no-frills operation. That doesn’t bother me at all and the flight was so unremarkable that I did not take single image which is unusual for me.
The only thing that slightly vexed me was their policy of payment as, being a “cheapo” airline they really push duty-free and there is no such thing as “a free lunch” (is there ever?) nor a complimentary drink, which is fine. I had Stirling and Canadian dollars but it was no cash accepted, credit card only. Note credit card, not debit card which is all I have as I will not have a credit card so that was me out of the game.
If the flight was uneventful, the landing was, shall we say, lively. We came through what I found out at ground level were almost monsoonal rainclouds with a fair crosswind but we made it OK or I would not be writing this! The above image of the ‘plane on the apron gives some idea and there will be more later. So far so good and then it all went sideways in a big way.
If you haven’t read any of my previous offerings on my site here I should explain that of my text comes from notes written for a brilliant website called Virtual Tourist. Don’t bother looking for it as it was closed down a few years ago. I shall make this clear as we go along. This is what happened next, with original heading and very slightly edited.
I thought I wouldn’t get in!
“I arrived at Halifax airport on a flight from London Gatwick in a pouring rainstorm which wasn’t the best introduction to Canada. Fortunately, it cleared up later. After we had deplaned a pretty short walk took me to a lengthy queue for the Border Agency check or whatever they call themselves. This is where it all started.
I was given the absolute third degree by the first official although it must be said that he was very polite and professional. The same was true for the other three officials I had to give exactly the same details to.
Yes, four different people wanted to know my entire life history, financial status, marital status, family composition and just about everything else. I was waiting for one of them to ask me what I had had for breakfast that morning.
The absolute nadir of the whole experience was with a female officer and the questioning went something like this. How did I know Ms. XXXX (Lynne)? We met online, I replied and you could almost see her eyes lighting up in delight. How long had we known each other? Did I have her full details? It was a real third degree but the clincher was when she asked, “Are you having a sexual relationship” and I promise I am not making this up.
I could not believe what I was hearing as I never thought I would hear this in a civilised country, nor indeed an uncivilised one. I was flabbergasted and not overly pleased. We had already established it was my first visit to the country and I could not resist asking how that would have been possible at a distance of a couple of thousand miles.
Then, naturally, I was taken off for a full baggage check. There had been two recent international arrivals and I appeared to be one of only three people to have been singled out for this particular “honour”. Of course I was not carrying anything illegal and only had my official allowance of alcohol and cigarettes and so I was eventually allowed to go on my way after about an hour and a half.
I have been lucky enough to have travelled a bit and I can say in all honesty that I had never had a “going over” like this anywhere else in the world. (2021 edit, their actions were equalled, if not actually surpassed, by their colleagues in Edmonton three years later!) I genuinely did think at one point that I was going to be refused entry.
I am completely in favour of keeping a country’s border safe and wish we were somewhat better at it in my country but if their idea of profiling is to pull someone just because he is middle aged with longish hair and an unkempt beard, I suggest they might want a rethink.
Having eventually cleared the bureaucracy I entered the main building and was surprised at how big it was. I had been expecting a much smaller place. It has all the facilities you would expect from an international airport and has ample adjacent parking which is more than you can say for many airports.
It even has it’s own art gallery which is something I have not seen elsewhere. Not a bad place at all except for the officialdom”.
Poor Lynne had naturally seen the flight long since arrived and no sign of me so I was worried she would think I had missed the flight or something and go but she stuck it out, thankfully. After a long flight I was certainly in need of a smoke and the antics of the Stasi, sorry Canadian Border authorities certainly suggested a drink was in order and in that order.
I am not normally a fan of airport bars but needs must, and this one wasn’t bad. Here’s what I wrote about it.
Not bad for an airport bar – Maritime Ale House.
“We were greeted by an extremely friendly lady who was kind enough to explain the different draught beers on offer in some detail to me as I had no idea of the local brews. I settled for a Rickards Red which is an “Irish red ale” and a type of beer that seems very popular here.
My friend, who was driving, had a Virgin Caesar which I shall explain elsewhere. I thought the prices were pretty reasonable by my home standards and it was only later on that I found out that, like most airport bars worldwide, it was a little pricier than locally but not overly so.
Although we were not dining, there was a fairly extensive menu and the food I saw served looked well-presented. The surroundings were spotless and it was generally a very decent bar, you could do a lot worse than to pop in here”.
With me suitably calmed down, it was time to go so we grabbed the car and hit the road, my first time in Canada and the weather was still abysmal as the succeeding images will show you. For a moving image you might want to have a look here but there is a slight background distraction of me singing Yarmouth Town along to my late friend Nick’s band. You have been warned. I think I was just so happy not to be sitting on the return flight to LGW that I felt like a song.
It was probably the singing that led to my first proper experience of NS as I think that after about an hour or so Lynne was so fed up of it that she suggested we take a short detour and go and have a look at Wolfville, what a great name.
“Wolfville is a typical small Nova Scotian town.
Perhaps the place most worthy of note here is the Acadian University which really forms the heart of the town. It was founded in 1838 by the Nova Scotia Baptist Educational Society. The founders were New Englanders who had settled here following the expulsion of the mainly Catholic Acadian French in 1755.
Wolfville is very much associated with this event as it is close by Grand Pré which as the centre for the expulsion as immortalised in the famous poem by Longfellow called Evangeline.
It is a pleasant, tidy little town and well worth a detour off Highway 101 if you are passing”.
We parked up just opposite the Wolfville Fire Department, who looked like they were all ready to go, and went for a bit of a walk but it wasn’t really the weather for it. Time for my first “real” Canadian bar then and my beer homing instinct led me straight to the Anvil, here’s my report.
Get hammered at the Anvil.
“Let me start this by saying that I do not advise drinking to excess but I just could not resist the title of this tip, given the name of the bar that it refers to.
We had already passed a fairly posh looking bar but I took one look at this place and my inner drinker knew that it was my kind of pub. I tried to explain it to Lynne later on and she doesn’t get it but I have an unerring instinct for what are going to be good bars anywhere in the world.
We wandered in and I was glad to see that my sixth sense had not deserted me on my flight across the Atlantic. It was a sizeable bar, mostly sports orientated (there was a particularly good collection of rugby memorabilia in one display case) and was obviously set up to cater to students of the local Acadia University which is a short stumble up the road.
We visited on a midweek afternoon and so there were only a few people sitting at the bar. We were greeted by a very friendly young barmaid and this seems to be industry standard for the region, bar staff are universally friendly and helpful.
On hearing my quite pronounced Belfast accent, the locals immediately engaged us in conversation and made us feel most welcome, which again seems par for the course in Nova Scotia, they really are very sociable people.
The kitchen was closed as they only seem to open at lunch and for their “wing night” on Friday when the kitchen remains open until 2000 hours.
A quick look round revealed a pool table, some gaming machines (very popular in Canada) and a dance area complete with DJ booth. Advertising posters indicated that there were regular music events in the evenings.
If you like your bars a little rough and ready as I do, this place is a little gem and recommended”.
On the way back to the car I spotted something I had to have a look at, the War Memorial and this will come as little surprise to regular readers as I have a great interest in them, war graves and military history in general. This was to be the first of so very many I was to see on this trip, all of which were immaculately maintained, Canadians really do honour their fallen.
After that, it was a straight run to Lynne’s Father’s home where I was immediately made to feel most welcome but this post has gone on long enough I think and so, if you want to find out about it and what else I get up to then stay tuned and spread the word.