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Heading off - AGAIN!!! I started life with nothing ... and I still have most of it

Some thoughts and musings thus far

CANADA | Saturday, 15 November 2008 | Views [740]

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Thoughts / Observations and Musing on our Travels Thus Far.


*          Besides accents, there are regional / cultural differences even though many of the places we’ve been share the same base language. In Nova Scotia and PEI we saw advert and roadside signs for “Housekeeping Cottages or Housekeeping Cabins”. On investigation, we found that these are (basically) self-contained accommodation facilities where all of the necessities are provided for the renter to be able to prepare meals, entertain etc etc while on hols and not have to bring the pots, pans bedding etc. In other words, fully self-contained units.

*          One of the sets of road signs (painted on the road) we saw in Ireland tickled our fancy and that was the warning “SLOW” followed some distance further on by “SLOWER” and if there was really sharp turn the final warning read “DEAD SLOW”.

*          Throughout North America there are traffic lights strung above intersections. Nothing remarkable about that I hear you cry – but wait: in Nova Scotia where this happens the lights are hung horizontally NOT VERTICALLY as elsewhere. Now we come to the real difference. Because the lights are arranged differently, and to allow for those with colour blindnesses, the shape of the lights are all different! Red remains circular, amber is a diamond and green a square. None of this would have been possible until the light emitting diode (L.E.D.) lights were put into widespread use. I found it a good feature.

*          Because of the requirement for both French and English to be displayed on all signs, packages, schedules, timetables etc in Canada, the very clever folks at the equivalent of our Roads and Traffic Authority (M.O.T. for the Brits) have devised a series of graphic signs which require neither language. In parts of USA there are warnings that bridges freeze before roads (indicating that the bridge may well be slipperier than the roadway either side). The Canucks have put the standard sign for a slippery road (car with skid marks changing sides etc) and added a picture of a thermometer showing 0ºC. Others show a school bus (complete with RED blinker) and a couple of kids alighting or a truck / fire engine / snowmobile / bicycle / pedestrian at right angles to a marked road indicating that there could be others crossing nearby. Although the red octagonal sign with the word STOP on it is accepted elsewhere throughout the world, it isn’t in parts of Canada – there the French word Arrêt is also shown. Once we hit Ontario, however, the Arrêt had disappeared entirely and the sign stated simply STOP. Hmm.

*          The Province of Quebec is a foreign country within a sovereign nation. Once one hits the Provincial boundary a couple of things happen. The price of petrol (gas for those who use that term) rises by (about) six cents per litre; the standard of the road surface deteriorates to abysmal (at best) and the English language disappears entirely unless it is a sign erected by the Federal Government or one of its agencies – even McDonalds have their signs in French. Quebec City is an architecturally wonderful city and a joy to walk around and view. Its position overlooking the St Lawrence River (with ocean going ships passing or moored along the wharf areas) is nothing short of spectacular and some of its streets are colourfully lined by pastel painted buildings or stone ones with bright trim. It’s a small city which encourages one to walk or catch the free electric (ecolobus) buses which run throughout the city. The name is so that people will treat them as they did the free school bus they caught to school and ride them everywhere. Because the ‘Museum of the Fort’ which details the attempts to defend “New France” by the use of strategically placed forts, is owned and run by Quebequois it has an interesting slant on the Battle of Quebec or the Battle of the Fields of Abraham as we learnt it in year five social studies. The British didn’t play fair at all and they tricked the sentries is the way the whole thing is portrayed and the fact that they scaled what had been factored into General Montcalm’s defences as unclimbable cliffs is ignored. 2008 is the 400th anniversary of the founding of the city. Makes Sydney (and therefore the rest of Oz) pale into insignificance. I felt that the Quebequois were rude to ignore the rest of the population of Canada which bends over backwards to accommodate their requirements for their language to be used, by ignoring English entirely. Everyone was friendly and hospitable (except one chap in the post office) – particularly once they found that we were Aussies. And they went out of their way to use whatever English they had to help us to understand.

*          It’s real fun trying to read instructions, ingredients lists etc on Canadian packaging. The packet is the same size as elsewhere but because two lots of words have to fit into the same space the writing is tiny.

*          In Ireland I expected to find road signs in Irish Gaelic (with or without the English equivalent) and in Wales I expected the Welsh form of Gaelic with the English being shown as well and I also expected the French an English signs in Canada. What I hadn’t expected and what really blew my mind was to see the Scottish form of Gaelic and English on road signs in Canada!!! (no French, however). In Cape Breton there is a strong Scottish community spirit. One of the picturesque routes around and through the cape is called the Ceilidh Trail (pronounced Kaylee). A Ceilidh is a Scottish gathering for singing, dancing and fiddle music as well as the usual suspects of bagpipes and haggis. There is even a Celtic College (the only one in North America) where one can learn weaving to produce such designs as tartans, Gaelic classes, and even a kilt maker who offered to measure me for a kilt. We are now aware that there is a ‘Walters’ tartan and I am also entitled to wear the ‘Tara’ which is the tartan for the Merediths. Frederick Meredith is a forebear who came to Oz on the first fleet (as a steward on the Scarborough – no not as a convict so there). He did however share his favours with three separate convict lasses and I am descended from one of those unions. Hence the entitlement to that tartan. I declined to pay the $CAN750 to be as she said “A man in a kilt is a man and a half”.

*          The overseas terminal for cruise liners at Sydney (Nova Scotia – not New South Wales) has a seven metre high fiddle beside it. Inside the tourist information centre is an eight foot tall fiddler carved from wood (started as a chainsaw carving and completed with chisels etc). The carver’s brother sells CDs and DVDs of Cape Breton (mainly fiddle) music at his general store at Cheticamp. Both brothers carve but one makes a living from it. Cape Breton fiddling is a music form all of its own. It started out as Scottish music but the Arcadians and the First nation musos added their interpretation and integrated all of the various forms into what now has a distinctive sound of its own.

*          The Unicorn is the mythical beast of England. As far as we’re concerned, the moose is the mythical beast of Canada. We’ve seen all sorts of signs warning us of the increased danger of collisions with moose; of the necessity to “Brake for Moose – it could save your life” and have seen signs with a silhouette of a moose and the word ‘Attention’ on a red background. We have been warned by people in Tourist Bureaux, by Charlie when we bought a fiddle CD that they (the persons doing the warning) had encountered moose -but we haven’t seen a moose. We know they exist ‘cause we’ve seen them in Montana and Utah but not in Canada and not in Michigan where one town claimed to be the moose capital.

*          One thing I did not expect to have offered over 1000 (probably closer to 2000) miles from any ocean was a tour on a glass-bottomed boat to view shipwrecks! The boats which take the punters out are up on the hard and shrink-wrapped for winter now but ‘In the Season’ one can take such a trip. There is even a museum of shipwrecks (closed for the season – of course) and we can imagine just how rough these Great Lakes could become. At Blind River, we awoke beside Lake Huron (which is not the biggest of the lakes) to a gentle zephyr of a wind but even that was causing whitecaps about 600mm tall so just what sized waves would some gusts of Arctic storm winds cause I hear you cry.

*          Probably the funniest political sign we saw was actually on the US Election Day and it had been in storage for some time (or maybe it gets wheeled out for every election) but it read “Goldwater for President”.

*          We’ve also done some research into what trees make up the ‘Colour’. They include the maple, the sugar maple (which gives the best variation through to the scarlet), the birch, the aspen and the hemlock. Add to this the wild blueberries and the willows and … now you has not jazz, jazz, jazz but gold yellow, red scarlet, black and all of the colours which go to make up why people go to New England and Canada in the Autumn.

*          We found out from one of Jeanne’s friends who lives there that there are four seasons in Maine viz Winter, Winter, Winter, NOT Winter. There are two seasons in Chicago: Winter and road works but there are SIX seasons in Vermont (and I guess the rest of the New England) and they are: Summer, Autumn (when the colour is actually on the trees), Fall (when the colour does just that), Winter, Mud (that must be fun) and Spring.

*          Merran’s cousin is doing a couple of house exchanges in France and has ignored the instructions from the female voice in the GPS/Sat Nav device (to his chagrin and delay). They claimed they needed a name for said female so I offered James and Anne’s title of Tina (There Is No Alternative) which they did not use, We now have the Sat Nav device my brother Lach bought when he used the van as he was on his own without any other navigator. I have dubbed her Tiaaa. There Is Always An Alternative. I have Merran whom I consider the best navigator in the World, so this is true.

*          One thing I forgot when writing about Nova Scotia was the UFO site. http://www.mysteriesofcanada.com/Nova_Scotia/shag_harbour_ufo.htm tells the story much better than I can. As all of this happened while we were almost totally out of communication in New Guinea it was a total surprise for us.

*         When Merran told Sean that Jackie and Annmarie (two of his exes)were both pregnant, he said well if you want it to be three then you and dad had better get busy!

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