Walking with fossils

We got up earlyish on Friday, our final day in New Brunswick. We wanted to get over to Parrsboro with enough time to walk along the beach at low tide so we had to time it right. We left later than we expected, however, stopping for breakfast in the hotel before zooming out of the province and into Nova Scotia.

We were heading for Parrsboro but saw the signs for Joggins and decided to go that way instead. I’m so glad we did. We soon arrived at the Fossil Centre at Fossil Cliffs in time for the centre to open. We had a look around their interpretive centre before joining a free half hour tour down to the beach in search of fossils.

This part of Nova Scotia is a treasure trove for fossils from 310-325 million years ago (or around there, I can’t quite remember now). The place has been mined for coal since the 1600s and Joggins was quite a bustling town because of the mine, particularly in the 1800s, when geologists started paying attention to the area and found a lot of fossils.

All this would be rather ho-hum if not for the fact that you can still see the fossils in situ today. Of course, they not the exact same ones that people saw a couple of hundred years ago due to the erosion of the cliffs, but new fossils are appearing all the time. We walked past one that had only shown up in the past week.

Now, the fossils aren’t giant T-Rex skulls. Most of them are tree trunks and tree roots with a few small reptiles thrown in and a 2m long millipede. However, it was really cool to walk along the beach, looking at the cliffs and seeing these rod things in the rock and knowing they’re fossils. Or to see a rock lying on the beach and then turn it over and see the imprints of prehistoric leaves, or two types of tree trunks crushed together.

After the tour, we continued our walk along the beach and found some more fossils before deciding that we didn’t want to get caught by the incoming tide and headed back up to the visitor centre. It was definitely a worthwhile experience and I highly recommend it to anyone coming to this part of the world.

Because we’d spent so long at Joggins we decided not to go to Parrsboro. The tide would have been in by the time we got there and so there wasn’t much reason to go at that time. Instead we went for lunch in nearby Amherst, ate some salad, and then decided we’d just head to the airport early. We flirted with the idea of driving across to Prince Edward Island but thought the drive wouldn’t really be worth it.

We got to the airport, returned the car, went through security and waited for our flight back to Toronto. We e really enjoyed this mini-break. It hasn’t been strenuous and we’ve seen more beautiful things. There’s definitely been some sadness while on this trip as consider it our last adventure before leaving Canada. Been thinking a lot about what and who we’re leaving behind (as well as what and who we’re going to be seeing next). If only we could live in two places at once.

We landed at Billy Bishop on time. Rather than take the shuttle and the subway we jumped in a taxi to get home. While we had been away our furniture was removed by the people who bought it, so we returned to a near empty apartment. Our suitcases and food are the only things left–plus a lot of cleaning. All that can be sorted over the next few days.

Julian, Glen and I then went for all you can eat at Spring Rolls. Perhaps needless to say, we ate a lot.

Water, water everywhere and I really need to pee

The reason for going down to St Andrews, apart from seeing the coast, was to go whale watching. This part of New Brunswick is well known for it, as are the three main islands just off the coast. There are plenty of whale watching companies operating in the area but the receptionist recommended Tide Runners, which happened to be the one I’d been looking at a few weeks ago. I knew they had a tour starting at ten, but we woke up at 9:30am and decided to take it slow checking out.

We should have eaten breakfast at the hotel, or tried to because the buffet stopped at ten, but when we got down to the Main Street of the town, every restaurant was either not serving food until 11:30 (it hadn’t yet got to 11) or was in the crossover between serving breakfast and serving lunch and there is some law punishable by death of serving any type of food in that in between time. Seriously.

We wandered up and down the street. I found Tide Runners and they had one space left on their 1pm tour. Glen wasn’t all that keen about being thrown about on a zodiac so I booked it. Because we’d wandered so much, it was eventually 11:30 and against my internally held concerns we settled on a Chinese restaurant. To be fair it wasn’t the worst Chinese food I’ve had in Canada (A place in Lewisporte, NF, and Mother’s Dumplings in Toronto share that honour) but probably not the best breakfast food. Anyway, we ate.

I then went to my tour, going not once, but twice to the washroom, the thought of being out for two hours on a boat making my bladder quiver. We donned our orange flotation suits and walked out to the jetty and got in the zodiac. We had been warned that the likelihood of seeing a whale–let alone whales–was slim as they hadn’t put in much of an appearance yet. However, I was just as excited about seeing seals and porpoises that not seeing whales wasn’t going to ruin my experience.

We climbed into the boat, took our places and immediately I felt like I needed to use the loo. However, there was no way I could so I just had to hold it and think of other things.

We headed out into the bay and as far out as we could get on the two hour trip. Long story short, we saw two bald eagles (one a baby in a nest), a couple of Harbour Porpoises (the world’s smallest cetaceans), Harbour Seals and a Grey Seal. I was thrilled. Also, the whale we’d most likely see would be a Minke and I’d seen one of them in Newfoundland so didn’t feel like I’d missed out.

We also saw lobster fisherman hauling in their traps. The season ends on 3 July and so they have to bring them in or any traps left out are fined and confiscated. We watched as they pulled in a few traps, throwing out the fish they didn’t want or the lobsters that were too small (the catch is regulated by season and carapace length). It was interesting to see them work.

While the sea itself wasn’t rough, there were nevertheless waves and our captain took them with great gusto, giving us a thrill ride as well as a nature watching experience. Every slam made me clench and while holding on, I also held on. I was overjoyed to get back to dry land and go in search of a loo.

I met Glen and we got another drink before jumping in the car and heading back to Moncton. We made a detour into St John to see the Giant Brick (no, seriously), and then I reversed into someone’s car, though luckily didn’t make a dent. I was going very slowly.

We arrived in Moncton sometime around 6:30pm, our hotel entrance blocked for the Atlanticade festival, Atlantic Canada’s largest motorcycle event. We parked the car elsewhere, checked in, and then I went back and got it. We chilled for a little while in our room before going for dinner at a restaurant called Gusto that was around the corner.

We ordered drinks, a calamari starter, a pizza and chicken parmigiana to share. Surprisingly it was a bit too much food. It certainly filled us up. Our server was very nice and we chatted to her, a Glen going over what we’d done and where we were going tomorrow. He said we were going to Parrsboro in Nova Scotia. I expected her to ask us why the hell we were going there but she was actual,y a regular visitor to that part of Nova Scotia and told us to visit the Fossil Cliffs in Joggins. It turned out to be an excellent tip.

We waddled out of the restaurant, walked past the motorcycle enthusiasts and then sought the refuge of our hotel room where we watched Sense8 before hitting the hay.

Walking among the flower pots at Hopewell Rocks

A month or so ago, we decided to squeeze in one last trip before our flights back to Australia. We were keen to see New Brunswick, it being one of the remaining provinces/territories that was within easy distance and had a few things we were interested in seeing.

So on Canada Day (Wednesday) we got ourselves up at 7am, crept out of Bec and Al’s place, got our stuff from our apartment and caught the subway down to Union Station. With it being a public holiday, it was pretty quiet out in the city at that time of the morning.

Once at Union Station we walked down Front St to catch the Porter airport shuttle bus. This part of Front St had been under construction since before we arrived, but now that the PanAm games are on, it’s all complete and looking pretty nice.

The shuttle bus was waiting for us when we arrived and we soon got to Billy Bishop airport for our last Porter flight out of Toronto. Even though the airline doesn’t go to all the places we want to visit, it’s an easy(ish) airport to get to and the experience is nicer than having to schlep out to Toronto Pearson. Unfortunately the underwater bridge hadn’t yet opened so we took the short ferry ride over.

We made the most of our last chance to eat free cookies and peanuts at the Porter lounge before our flight departed, going via Ottawa to Moncton. We landed in Moncton at about 1pm, collected the hire car and head off to Hopewell Cape to check out the rocks.

First impressions of New Brunswick were very favourable. Because it’s summer, everything is green and the lupins–in purple, pink and white–are in bloom everywhere. When it’s not summer, New Brunswick is covered in about 8 feet of snow so we lucked out with this weekend, especially with the sun shining.

We stopped in Moncton for fish and chips at Deluxe Fish and Chips–I really didn’t need fried food–then continued our drive south, stopping at a cafe for a tea/coffee and lemon square, and then arriving at Hopewell a Rocks by about 3:30.

This worked out to be a good time to be there. The tide was heading out so the beach was accessible. When we talked to people about our trip to New Brunswick, they warned us (much as the people in Churchill warned us about polar bears) that the tide comes in very fast and not to get caught out there. New Brunswick is well known for the Bay of Fundy and the world’s largest tides so it’s not something to be taken lightly.

We walked down to the beach and onto the sand, joining the rest of New Brunswick on this public holiday as we walked around the ‘flowerpots’ (standing rocks with trees and other vegetation on them). I put my feet in the chilly water and we walked around, taking photos of rocks. The best part, I found, was not going the same way as everyone else, which is south down the beach, but to head north where there are a couple of very attractive flowerpots. One looks like a head. And the best part is that there are far fewer people.

After our stroll we headed back up, had an early dinner at the cafe, watched the tide go out a lot more, and then got in the car and drove to St Andrews by the Sea. The drive was very pretty, lots of green trees everywhere and multi-coloured meadows (due to the flowers). We had been warned about moose, and as we were getting into dusk, I thought perhaps our luck might change and we’d see one.

Alas, no. No moose this entire trip. Or deer either. Thanks for nothing.

We arrived at St Andrews by the Sea at about 8:30pm and checked into The Algonquin Resort. Vincent had to,d us about this hotel, one of the more upmarket resorts in the province, and he told us that it was the inspiration for the hotel in Stephen King’s The Shining. I can see a resemblance though I’ve not watched the film or read the book so can’t comment too much. The hotel actually looks a lot like the Del Coronado, which we stayed at in San Diego.

We went for dinner in the hotel restaurant. The service was painfully slow, though I think that probably had a lot to do with staff having the public holiday off, or just not coming in. We ate our food, listened to the popping of the local fireworks while eating our dinner and then headed up to our room for bed. I was a bit knackered after all that driving.

Dealing with Stupid People

Tuesday was a big moving day. Because we’d squished in a three-day trip to New Brunswick and the people who’d bought all our furniture were taking everything on Friday (while we’re away), everything had to be dismantled and sorted into going/not going.

The mattress disposal guys came at about 10:30, one of the guys an Australian from Newcastle who’d been here for five years. He loves it here. Lucky guy. When they arrived I got a call from the guy who was picking up the freight stuff.

He was going to go to the Rogers Centre, which is a big baseball pitch way downtown. Our street, though sharing a common word, is not anywhere near it, yet for some reason it was now my problem that this moron, who delivers things for a living, didn’t know where my street was.

It took an age to get him to understand that I did not live at the baseball pitch and that he would have to come uptown further to get to me. My tone was not pleasant by this stage yet he seemed to take it all in his stride.

Meanwhile, the mattress was disposed of without issue. I paid my money. They went away.

I then got another phone call from the delivery guy saying that one of the streets near me had been blocked off by police. I wanted to ask him why this was my problem. Instead I said he’d have to find another way to get there, to which he asked if the part of my street was open. I said it was, as it had been when I was there a few minutes before. He then waffled on about something else before finally asking if he needed to bring in a trolley. I said I’d bring all the boxes down to the lobby (because I could trust him to not get lost inside our condo).

He eventually arrived, blocked the driveway for the condo parking. I helped load the boxes into his van while he tried to make chit chat but I just wanted this man out of my life by that stage. He said the weather (it was raining) must make me feel like home and I said I wasn’t English but Australian. He then wanted to chat about the gym but I’d had enough. With the last box loaded onto his trolley, I asked if I had to sign anything. He said no. I said goodbye.

I have no idea whether we will see any of those boxes again.

By then it was time for lunch so I walked to the Nespresso store to recycle the used pods and then had Japanese for lunch. The rest of the afternoons I spent dismantling the bed and the day bed, doing loads of washing, and making sure that everything that was going was all stored in one area for ease of taking. 

In the evening Glen and I went to Bec and Al’s for dinner. They’re very kindly letting us stay in their spare room for our last nights in Toronto. Al had made a really nice pasta. We then rounded that off with some ice wine that had been chilling in our fridge for months, and some chocolates that Glen had received for his birthday. We chatted for a bit and then Glen and I watched a couple of episodes of Sense8 before going to bed.

It’s a bit sad looking at the apartment in its state of disarray, especially as we’re not really moving this stuff but we are moving home. When we come back on Friday to an even emptier apartment, I’m going to feel even more conflicted about this move home (I’ve been able to keep most of those feelings at bay by keeping busy). I did get sad going to bed in a bed that was not my own king size one. 

But life is full of changes. We adapt. We’ll be fine. The trick will be to make sure we’re happy as well. :)


Sculpture in Yorkville


Soaking up the sun at Woodbine Beach

I tried to stay in bed as long as I could on Monday but that wasn’t working. There was too much to do. The freight stuff was being collected on Tuesday so I needed to make sure it was all ready to go. I went out to buy masking tape and luggage locks and finished that all off with time to spare. I could have done other things but, amazingly, the day turned out to be really nice so I went to the beach.

I went to Woodbine Beach. Toronto is on a lake so it’s not a beach as I’d consider it but there was sand and sun. There was also water but when I got there the red flags were out which means no swimming because of the pollution. By the time I left the green flags were out but I’m not game enough to go swimming in that.

The sun felt good. I lay down and relaxed for a bit but couldn’t sleep. I read my book for a bit and then after an hour or so, couldn’t take the inactivity much longer and so headed home.

In the evening, after Glen got home from work, we went with Julian for dinner at Lee’s with Bec and Al as well. Glen didn’t like it here the first time we came about eight months ago, but I enjoyed it then, and this time we both did. The winner was the Singaporean salad slaw with ’19 ingredients’. We also had Peking duck, lobster ravioli, rack of lamb, tofu and green chicken curry. Oh and drinks as well. And dessert.

We got home about ten and fell into bed. With all this trying to fit in as much as possible before we go, we’re easily going to be able to sleep on the flight home.

All you can eat, drink and dance at Toronto Pride 2015

Waking up on Sunday morning was not pleasant. I really could have done with a few more hours sleep but we had plans for brunch. We joined Pete, Royden, Eliano, Marcio, Dave, Josh, Antony and Julian for all-you-can-eat brunch at a Brazilian restaurant called Copacabana. 

It was one of those restaurants where they bring meat on sticks around to your table and they carve bits off for you. They also had a salad bar, crepe and omelette station and other things. The food was really good quality and tasty too. Unlike Glen, I didn’t eat all I could and stopped just before I got too full. Smart move, I think.

Josh (Dave and Antony’s) one-year-old was the star of the show and stole most of everyone’s attention. At one point Julian took him out of his high chair to walk around. Josh has just started walking so once started, he didn’t really stop. But by that stage he was Julian’s responsibility haha.

We finished at about 1:30 and went our separate ways. Julian and Glen went shopping while I went home to nap, unsuccessfully unfortunately. Glen eventually came home and tried to nap too but it wasn’t working so eventually we decided to just get on with it.

Curtis, another neighbour in the building, invited us down to his place for ‘a drink’ before they headed out. I thought we’d be there about 20 minutes at the most but that easily, and happily, turned into nearly two hours as we chatted with him and his three friends and talked about his dog, Caleb, who is more cat than dog and has the personality to match.

Well oiled, we decided we’d head down to something on Church St so we left them to drink some more, collected Julian, and walked down the street. Hallelujah, the rain had stopped. We were planning on going to the hastily arranged indoor event at the 519 for $25 but as it wasn’t raining, we went to their free outdoor event instead. (We donated anyway.)

The ground was practically mud. Services had been shut down and it was about a third full but it was good place to start. We had some drinks. Curtis and his group arrived. We talked to people. Danced a bit, though the music wasn’t that great, and eventually we decided to abandon this party in favour of the indoor warmth of Woody’s.

Thankfully there was no queue so we went straight in. Being a smaller venue it was more crowded but not painfully so. We had some more drinks. We danced. We met new people. Eventually Glen and Julian went home (they had work the next day) while I stayed for another hour or so. I’d made friends by then and found some others so I was having a good time.

However, tiredness and sore hips eventually encouraged me to go home. I left at 1:30, met Curtis outside, and we walked back to the condo and said good night. Bed never felt so good.

While it wasn’t the Pride I’d hoped for, I had a blast and I’m so happy we got to experience three of them–one of them World Pride–during our time here. And sure, it rained and I didn’t see much of the parade (except for a bit from my balcony) it was filled with friends and fun, and that’s what matters. No doubt we’ll be back for another one one day.


Julian and Josh


Don’t rain on my prade


Toronto Pride 2015: Saturday

Despite beautiful weather during the week, Pride was a washout. We woke on Saturday to rain, a grey and depressing day that did not inspire much joy. We had been invited to a pool party in the afternoon, but the day’s dreariness put a real dampener on it. Still, we couldn’t not go just because of the rain.

We went down to Julian’s at around 1pm. Our internet and cable had been cut off on Friday in preparation for the move so we were there draining his supply. At one point I was out on the balcony watching the wet people below. We live near enough to Church St that we can see bits of the festival stuff and a lot of people in rainbow coloured clothes.

While on the balcony we heard a woman scream and then a couple of loud pops. At first we thought it was gunshots, the woman’s screams fearful enough that we didn’t just assume it was party-goers. But hearing no further screaming from anyway (because if there had been someone with a gun, surely there’d be more screamin) and the police on their bikes below continued on without care, we went back inside.

Unfortunately, it was not nothing. A return to balcony showed us that the street next to ours was being cordoned off by police. Emergency services were there as well, positioning themselves outside the X2 condo nearby, and behind the building, on the ground, was an orange blanket covering something body shaped. This led us to the conclusion, later confirmed, that someone had jumped. 

We don’t know the circumstances of why they jumped but whatever they were, it was sad and an unpleasant reminder that in high density living situations that you’re more likely to encounter this sort of thing. I’m just glad we didn’t see it actually happening. The sound was bad enough.

We left at about 2pm, feeling a little uneasy about what had been going on, but life does go on, as unfortunate as that is. We walked through the rain to the subway and caught it up to Rosedale where Richard and Alastair lived. They have a beautiful house in this beautiful part of town. Four stories, all stylishly decorated. The pool wasn’t so much a pool as a long hot tub, almost swimming pool sized, so it was heated and enjoyable in the rain.

We met a lot of people that we already knew through Ur and Israel, as well as a few newbies. There was food and drink (strong drinks once again). We chatted to people, including Eric who was an opera singer for 20 years. The afternoon rolled into the evening and before we knew it, it was midnight and definitely time to go home. 

We caught an Uber back to our place, the rain still coming down and making the night rather unpleasant. Once home we considered going back out again to Woody’s or Buddies but after getting messages from friends who were out and them saying the queues were ridiculously long, we decided to stay in. Another good choice on our part, I think.