25 June 2007
Last week, the USS Wasp pulled into Halifax Harbour to help with a joint hostage-taking simulation exercise with the Canadian Navy, RCMP, and other Canadian and US government agencies. The exercise started yesterday, with (according to the understandably few details in the local paper) the RCMP getting a call in about an off-shore hostage taking. The whole thing is supposed to take place in both national and international waters.
Since the whole thing is out at sea, there is really nothing to see here. However, I was keen to see the Wasp actually leave, seeing as I didn't see it come in. People who know me know that I am a total nerd when it comes to big moving things (after a few fraidy-cat false starts when I was a wee one). I don't mind being stuck at a rail crossing when a train goes by - I just think it's cool to be seeing the train, I look up when a plane or a helicopter goes over (living so close to the hospital helicopter pad in Minden is a constant source of joy for me), and big boats have now made it onto my list of cool things to watch.
So Sunday I decided to take the day and spend it in the park overlooking the harbour with my book, waiting for the USS Wasp to truck out, heading off to rescue some "hostages". Not much happened on Sunday, and the 250 metre tall Wasp stayed in it's spot, dwarfing everything else in the harbour. But, I enjoyed the sun, breeze, and reading so much that I easily spent most of the day outside.
Unfortunately I forgot to put on sunscreen, so I now have a very red face.
Cool stuff did happen on Sunday though. Every so often when the wind was right you could hear announcements made over at the Naval Base. And at one point when I though I might go and leave, 3 Canada Coast Guard helicopters came flying over the park and landed on the Wasp, followed by 2 more half-an-hour later. (EDIT: My friend Aaron tells me that they were actually US Coast Guard helicopters, not Canadian... and upon closer inspection I agree. I didn't realize that the US Coast Guard colours were also red and white.)
I was a bit glum that I might have missed the Wasp's grand exit from Halifax Harbour, but started to think it might sneak out under the cover of darkness or something equally James Bond-ish.
However today as I made my way down to the ferry terminal, I saw that the big yellow line snaking around the ship had been removed, and the tug boat was in place ready to pull the ship out. When the ship sounded it's horn, you could feel it in your toes. The Wasp and a number of Canadian Naval ships headed out, and were seen off by none other than Theodore the Tug Boat - how funny is that.
I've added links (to the right) to two webcams at Halifax Harbour for you to enjoy. The one facing south (out of the harbour) is a little more interesting. It is on the Dartmouth side, and the little triangular form at the bottom left is the World Peace Pavilion. The one facing north isn't quite as interesting, but a nice view with a light house nonetheless.
17 June 2007
After the meeting we went to a restaurant and I had seafood penne... they do really good seafood over here. We didn't do much else in Sydney, since the meeting was the main mission. It's also a 4-4.5 hour drive out there, so it's a long journey.
I did get to see the Big Ceilidh Fiddle at the visitor info centre. It's a giant 17 m 8 ton steel fiddle with a loud speaker in it that plays the same song over and over and over again. I could see how that could get annoying after awhile.
Yesterday I took the time to go out to the farmers markets in both Dartmouth and Halifax. Both are very good. The one in Halifax is in the indoor courtyard of the historic Alexander Keith's Brewery building, so is slightly more impressive than Dartmouth's which is in the same complex as the ferry terminal. However, content wise both are about on par, with the one in Halifax having the added bonus of a wine and spirits room. I bought myself a reasonably priced bottle of Nova Scotia wine in Halifax, and some bread and spinach in Dartmouth. Both markets are definitely dominated by artisans, selling everything from handmade beaded jewelery, to wood carvings, to tea cosies made from the Nova Scotia tartan.
The Scottish and Irish influences are definitely present in Nova Scotia, as well as some French from the Acadian culture. On my walk from the ferry terminal to SMU (short for Saint Mary's University) there is a Robbie Burns statue, I've seen hotel workers in the downtown wearing kilts, and there is a big Highland Games and Tattoo here in the beginning of July (which I am definitely going to attend).
Thursday night I went out to a pub across the harbour called The Lower Deck to hear some live music. The girls I went with said the band wasn't the best one there, but if they were the worst of them than the rest must be great because I thought they were pretty good! The pub is in one of a group of historic buildings on the Halifax side of the harbour which contain shops, restaurants and pubs. I had great fun, and since the pub is located right next to the ferry terminal, it was easy to get back to Dartmouth (though unfortunately I had to leave only halfway through the set). Also along the Halifax side of the harbour are a number of tourist attractions including a museum, tourist info booth, souvenir shops (pirates and lobsters are a bit theme), boat tours, fish n' chips stands, and a giant Theodore the Tug Boat where kids can look around and then sit on the dock for story time.
That's all that fit to print for now. Next weekend I'm hoping for warmer (if not drier) weather so that I can go down to Pier 21 and check out their genealogical records, and take in a few more of the harbour-side attractions.
08 June 2007
This is what I get to see just about every day. This is Halifax Harbour from the Dartmouth side. I take the ferry across to Halifax. It's just $2.00 a ride, even less since I bought a transit pass. Riding the ferry is nicer than taking the bus across the bridge, though I will take the bus back to Dartmouth if I want to go to the mall or grocery store before heading back to my place.
The harbour smells like being at the beach. A nice little quip on Wikipedia says:
"Landlubbers say it smells like the ocean, sailors say it smells like the land; both are correct as the smell comes from decomposing seaweed on the beach."
I wouldn't say it smells bad down there. I'd rather the very slight smell of Halifax Harbour over the smog of Toronto.
06 June 2007
On Tuesday, May 22nd I hopped a plane back to Canada to start my placement in Halifax, Nova Scotia (which is Latin for New Scotland dontchaknow). The flight between Glasgow and Amsterdam made me want to take a boat home, but the flight from Amsterdam to Toronto was loads better.
I first took 10 days to visit Minden. The flowering crabs were in full bloom and smelled beautiful! But the blossoms were soon falling like snow, and then hydro came along and cut one of them back because it was interfering with the hydro lines.
I flew out to Halifax on June 1st. I'm living in Dartmouth right now in a bachelor apartment. I get to take the ferry across to Halifax where I have the option of working at St. Mary's University, Dartmouth, or the Medical Examiner's Office. I have yet to get full ethics approval for my project due to circumstances beyond anyone's control, so I'm concentrating on the literature review part of my dissertation and getting generally settled in.
You might have noticed the massive update I just did... school got so busy in Scotland that I neglected my blog. I took full advantage of my tv-less and internet-less weekend to catch up on writing. Enjoy the extra reading material, and I hope that my spelling isn't too bad!
15 May 2007
We had a party the Tuesday before the exam which we dubbed “The Last Supper”. We had a great time taking goofy pictures and whatnot. It was a great way to end off my time in Flat A-13. I’m definitely going to miss the girls… they are the best possible roommates that I could have wished for.
19 May 2007
So this is what has put me so behind on my blogging. Well, that and the multitude of essays foisted upon us this semester! I think the exam went well. Again, it was 3 hours of straight writing, but this time I think I managed my time better. I stuck as close as I could to what I viewed the salient points to be, and did not stray. So much so that I wound up with an extra half an hour at the end to fuss over a question that in retrospect I probably should have passed over for another. I went through both my special left-handed pens, and another on top of that. After the exam the class went out to the Chinese Buffet for dinner, and a great time was had by all!
20 May 2007
The day after the exam Lesley,
The Botanic Gardens are beautiful and smell wonderful. The greenhouses have all sorts of interesting plants including orchids, tropical trees, and carnivorous plants. Outside there is an herb garden, rose garden (unfortunately not in bloom when we went), various interesting trees, and heirloom flowers.
After the Botanic Gardens we had a leisurely brunch at a church-turned-restaurant and then headed through
Farewell Strathclyde – for now
22 May 2007
Monday there was a farewell tea for the class in our common room, and we spent some time running around the
The weekend after
After the seagull ridden
am told) because it was the place from which family members could watch the ships departing for North America for the longest before they disappeared on the horizon. Back in those days it may have been the last sort of contact they ever had with those loved-ones.
After hiking up and back down Canada Hill (we never did find the top… it’s a residential neighborhood and we didn’t want to risk trespassing on private property), we decided to grab a drink and then take an open air bus tour of the island. The bus tour was nice, but since
It is not often that stopping for a bathroom break becomes a notable mention of a journey, but
On May 3rd, Lesley and I decided to head over to
After the castle we headed down to the bottom of the Royal Mile to Arthur’s Seat. We hiked up Arthur’s seat, which is a good half hour of a steep incline. Once we got to the top and round the bend, we were greeted by the sight of a handful of people either lazing about or having a snooze. From Arthur’s Seat you can see most of
Sir Walter Scott was the poet who wrote The Lady of the
There are another 2 levels at which to stop before you get to the top, which make for a good rest if you are so inclined. As you go up the already small staircase gets smaller and smaller – I am surprised that people larger than I could manage. Once you get to the top you squeeze out of the, at this point, almost too tight stairwell onto a very small top platform with (thankfully) plenty of rails to hang onto. The view, unfortunately, isn’t great, and is dominated by Waverly Station. But the fact that you are so high up and on such a narrow precipice, makes it very impressive. After going back down I found Lesley in the park and, since she was still on the phone doing her interview, I decided to lay on the grass and have a snooze… I felt the need to be in direct contact with the planet for a little while.
After the interview we did the Royal Mile again, this time stopping for dinner at the Deacon Brodie Pub (across from the Deacon Brodie Café). After dinner, we walked leisurely back to Waverly Station and went back to
Hot pot is like a really big, and slightly more involved, fondue. You get a big pot of simmering broth in front of you with spices in it, a plethora of weird and wonderful raw foods, and a dipping sauce made up of sesame, soy and other stronger flavours, and you sit down and make your meal. You drop your food into the broth and let it cook, cooking and eating as you go. I enjoyed the thinly sliced meats such as pork and beef, but stayed away from the lamb (which I've discovered I don't like that much). I also liked the squid and fish ball, but stayed away from the prawns (which in the UK still have their eyes... so creepy). I was especially fond of the leafy green veggies.
I even attempted to eat with chopsticks. Kate was quite impressed with my l33t chopstick wielding skillz. Especially handling them with my left hand (which looks harder than it is when being viewed by a righty).
I pretty much jumped at the chance to go to the
Our first stop was
By the time we got up to Loch Ness and
Before the sun got too low on the horizon, we left Inverness for
In the morning we headed out bright and early north to
I think I’ve mentioned before on this blog that I’m not too keen on the castles owned by the Scottish Trust. They are all pretty modern (late Victorian and early Edwardian), as families actually lived in them up until it became unaffordable. However, Dunrobin is proof of the old real estate adage “Location, location, location.” It is on the sea, with expansive back gardens. Inside looks pretty much the same as most of the Trust castles, but with more rooms open to the public (and I think one in the process of being discovered if my eavesdropping on the staff is interpreted correctly). As well, the castle is home to a falconry exhibit, where a number of rescued, and offspring of rescued, birds of prey are kept.
The falconry demonstration was the most fun I think I’ve had. Our falconer was extremely knowledgeable, and clearly enjoys his birds. He first introduced us to Plop, the white barn owl. Our first sight of Plop was on the perch in front of us, with the realization that he had gotten there by swooping over our heads, completely unheard. He demonstrated how owls are silent flyers, swallow their prey whole, etc. All stuff you learn in school or out of National Geographic, but way cooler when you see it in action. He let the children in the audience hold Plop… never have I wished so much to be a 10 year old again!!
He then showed us a 14 year old female gyr falcon and demonstrated how they feed and how good their eyesight is, as well as pointing out the challenges that face a falcon’s survival outside those that man imposes upon them. He then showed us a younger male gyr falcon, and demonstrated how they can catch their food in the air. Unfortunately, this poor falcon hadn’t quite worked out how to transfer his food to his mouth on wing, and swooped up to the castle with it. It turned out to be a bad choice of dining area, as there were a ton of other birds up there vying for his snack. The falconer spent a good 10 minutes trying to coax him back with the lure. When he got his next snack, he took it to a quieter perch on the garden wall.
Then we went back down to Loch Ness so that Lili and
We went back into
The next day we were at a bit of a loss of what to do, or which way to head home. In the end we decided to go via
We then went to Edradour Distillery, the smallest distillery in
After Edradour we went to
After Doune we went to Loch Katrine – which I’d been to in December, and then Aberfoyle. By then it was getting late and all the attractions were starting to roll up, so we headed back to
In April we got a week off for Easter, so I took the opportunity to catch up on some work, cleaning, and a little traveling. I took a quick half-day trip to
After Lili rejoined us by the art gallery, we went over to Edinburgh University and I took a picture of the plaque dedicated to Sir Arthur Conan Doyle – creator of Sherlock Holmes (for which I have a gradually expanding collection of strange memorabilia). Afterwords we walked up the Royal Mile and checked out the stores. Lili had to run off early because she had so much work to do, and
Easter Break – Wii!!
Not much to say here except that Ice (classmate) and I went over to Doug’s (another classmate) and had some fun playing with the Nintendo Wii. Very cool console. Generally spent the sunny day playing the Wii and watching Pulp Fiction. I seem to be better at tennis on the Wii than I am in real life... stands to reason if my golfing skillz are anything to go by.