A Travellerspoint blog

"Me Old Cock" Talk of the Rock Day 2

12 °C
View The Rock on imalazyj's travel map.

If I started lazily yesterday, today set a new record. After ending yesterday with maybe one of the best tasting menus I have ever experienced (and tasting every critter possible including lobster, rabbit and duck) we fell into a food & wine coma only to emerge way later this am.

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Photo Credit: The Rooms

Today's activities started first by sourcing breakfast (shout out to Rockets Bakery for an amazing cup of coffee) followed by a few hours spent discovering Newfoundland & Canada's history at The Rooms. We walked up the hill (St. John's is like San Fran, it is either up or down and really steep). The Rooms is a cultural facility (museum, archives and a couple of galleries are within its "rooms"). The colourful building was constructed on a hill overlooking the city at a historic location once occupied by Fort Townshend. The building can be seen from almost any point in St. John's and is an odd contrast to its neighbour, Basilica of St. John the Baptist. Both Ger and I have visited numerous museums in our travels and even a couple in Canada, this is by far one of the best I have ever been in. The building itself is spectacular, the content was well laid out and very educational (maybe even more so because I am Canadian) and the view of the city and harbour from the museum were breathtaking. A super interesting day, felt like a sitting in a social studies class as a child again. From the Norseman, to Cabot, to Confederation, whaling, the rise and fall of the fishing industry, to the first oil from Hibernia (kudos to Husky who clearly provide substantial funding to the construction of The Rooms) = time well spent. Useless info interjection, Newfoundland has the largest population of Irish outside Ireland (50% of those who settled here were Irish).

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The Rooms as has a substantial exhibit of a local artist, Christopher Pratt (he is no schmuck artist, he has received the Order of Canada). The collection is of his art all painted from scenes in Newfoundland and has an impressionist feel. To say we both loved his style and paintings is an understatement.

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All the educational activities created an appetite (and a craving for a glass of wine) so we sauntered into a lovely local establishment for my first bowl of cod chowder and fish cakes. Devine. We spent the rest of the afternoon wandering through downtown and browsing in local galleries and oddly supplied tourist stores. We capped our day off with a visit to Quidi Vidi (pronounced Kiddy Viddy) a small fishing village within St. John's which is home to the Quidi Vidi Plantation, "a craft enterprise incubator for emerging artists wishing to pursue careers as professional craftspeople". An awesome stop to see some original art and other assorted crafts.

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So two days in and I would safely wager we are in love with this province. The people are so friendly and polite. I have never been anywhere that people always (and I mean always) hold or even move quickly to open the door for you. Yesterday we were waiting to turn left on a busy highway and beginning to think it might never happen, when a gentleman turning right off the highway (and clearly had the right of way) waved us out. If you attempt to jaywalk here, the traffic stops (not that we would jaywalk ever)! Small gestures but it makes a difference.

Tonight we are headed back to Quidi Vidi (what a great name) for dinner at another top ten Canadian restaurant, Mallard Cottage. I foresee another food coma in my future.

Tomorrow we leave St. John's and head out deeper into Newfoundland (including the place where they believe Cabot may have landed in June 1497 (it appears there is some dispute)).

Until next time,
G^2

P.S. The title "Me Old Cock" is part of the screech ceremony or the "screech-in" (which we have not had to complete yet involves drinking screech (rum), reciting the Screecher's Creed and kissing a cod) and is an old English Cockney term meaning buddy or friend. It is Newfoundland's way of making one a token Newfie.

Posted by imalazyj 15:35 Archived in Canada Tagged and newfoundland labrador

Rock Talk Day One

20 °C

Tip of the trip: While suffering Booze Blues from a solid 7 day effort at Stampede, do not, I repeat, do not watch even a slightly sappy movie on the airplane.

Flights were awesome, there is something to be said for staying within one's borders and not having to deal with customs. We arrived in St. John's right on time (lost 3.5 hours, yes we lost a half hour, Newfoundland is the only place in North America that uses half a time zone and the reason I learned is because it is exactly 3.5 hours from UTC "Coordinated Universal Time" (thank you google)), grabbed our car (free upgrade to a snappy brand new Chev Equinox) and headed to our abode, the Murrary Premises to settle in for the next 3 nights. The hotel was built in 1846 and served as a warehouse for most of its prior life. Tons of charm, rooms are quirky with exposed beams, located right on the water front and a block from George Street (think Electric Avenue but much more charming).

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We grabbed the first of many meals of seafood I expect, a bottle of wine (drying out was killing me) and then out about to check out the area. A brief walk to George Street to catch some local music before heading back to get some much needed sleep.

A 3.5 hour time difference means which actually slept in (and sheer exhaustion from the prior weeks activities) so after a slow start in the morning we headed out. Signal Hill is likely the most visited attraction here, first, it is maybe 2 km from downtown, second, it provides a great view of the city, third, it was an important landmark in many wars, fourth, Cabot Tower was built as a monument on top of it and likely most important the first transatlantic wireless transmission was received here by Guglielmo Marconi (that's pretty cool)! From Signal Hill we wandered through a small neighbourhood, The Battery, noted for it's steep slope, outcrop rocks, small (very small) colourful houses and again importance in many battles.

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Given I am of the generation that tracked Terry Fox's progress across the country the next stop was his memorial built where he dipped his toe in the Atlantic in April 12, 1980 (to very little fanfare). Stopping to think about the magnitude of the resources this one man has raised (during his life and after) for a cause is staggering. Even more humbling is that Terry Fox ran the equivalent of a Marathon almost every day for 143 days. I run (I won't call myself a runner) but a half marathon on two good legs leaves me sore and crippled for weeks. To even comprehend the physical and mental strength of this man is impossible.

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A couple cultural stops and we were off to Cape Spear, the most eastern point in North America. As we were standing admiring the view of the Atlantic Ocean, Ger spotted an iceberg off in the distance and I followed by quickly spotting some whales. Trifecta! Made for a fantastic start to our small "a" adventure. I suspect when we head north on the coastline to "iceberg alley" I will get better pictures of the berg. As for the whales, there is likely a kayak tour in our near future to try to get closer so I will leave the details on their migration and abundance for another blog.

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The rest of the afternoon was consumed by a meandering drive down the coast of the Avalon Peninsula on what is coined the "Irish Loop". Took about 3 hours to work our way through several tiny fishing towns (tiny, as in less than a 1,000 people and likely closer to 100 in each town). The topogrophy ranged from hilly with trees (think Salmon Arm, BC but the trees are skinny and quite windswept) to almost barren and marsh like (like North Alberta). There is no shortage of water here, with the ocean on one side and an endless abundance of lakes, you need to like water front property to live here.

So here are your useless facts, 250k people live on the Avalon Peninsula or 51% of the population of the province. And almost half of those people live in St. John's. The province is Newfoundland and Labrador (as of December 6, 2001 from March 31, 1949 or entry as the tenth province it was just Newfoundland). Cod fishing used to be the major contributor to GDP but energy (think Hibernia, Terra Nova, Grand Banks) has since become the biggest contributor. The province also produces 55% of Canada's iron ore.

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We are now back downtown enjoy a pint with the other locals before we head out to dinner. Dinner tonight is in honour of my White Trash Reiner partner. I think she will be proud, we managed to get reservations at Raymonds, rated as one to the Top Restaurants in Canada.

Until next time,
G^2

Posted by imalazyj 14:08 Archived in Canada Tagged and newfoundland labrador

Drying out in NewFoundland?

Is that even possible?

Well, it has been awhile since our last adventure (well one that I will journal, I have had a decent start to the travel this year with a spring trip to Scottsdale and a week with my besties in Hawaii). Given Ger has logged more golf rounds this year than the previous two already, I was able to negotiate a trip in the summer and we have decided to conclude our Stampede activities early and head East.

So where? We are going to Newfoundland!

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"Why?" Seems to be the most popular response to that declaration, to which we answer "we have never been there" which is usually followed with "cool, I have always wanted to go myself." It seems most people (us included) don't really consider travelling in Canada unless there is a reason (wedding, family, work etc...). Ger and I are both really excited about this trip and packing is a breeze for travel within our own borders. No need for an arsenal of 'just in case' pharmaceuticals, power adapters or different currency. Hell I don't even need my passport!

As I head out for my final day of Stampede (which has been fantastic so far) I checked in for our cross-country flights tomorrow (9:40 am departure which might be aggressive after today's Stampede activities which include the rodeo, dinner and Sam Hunt at Cowboys.) The day is a full travel day (I expect lots of napping time), Calgary to Toronto and then on to St. John's. We are in St. John's for the first couple days and have a car rented to get out of the city and do some exploring. And while I had made an assumption that leaving on Thursday of Stampede will be good for liver longevity, most people's feedback is that was a foolhardy thought. So instead we have shifted our thinking and are looking forward to switching the vodka waters for some lager and wine.

So happy stampeding and until next time,
G62

Posted by imalazyj 09:38 Archived in Canada Tagged newfoundland

Farwell Africa

overcast 23 °C

Last day in Africa. Thank you for a lesson on perseverance. We started our trek home with a leisurely morning where Ger zipped off and got an African style buzz cut, I got my hair washed and dried (yes, "thank you Karen" Ger is quipping) and we did some last minute 'touristy stuff ' shopping. We ended with a splendid lunch on Nelson Mandela Square in Sandton and one final South African bottle of wine.

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Johannesburg has really surprised me, I expect a lot more shanties and gates around houses. While they do exist it is really quite a bit more picturesque than I had anticipated. Jo'burg is well aware it is has bad rap for crime and is just a pass-through for tourists so it has dedicated some resources to try to change that image. There are cameras on every corner of downtown streets and all South Africans are fingerprinted (there has been some debate among the four of us whether that would fly at home, I think it is a good idea myself.)

Jo'burg is the largest city in South Africa, and the largest city in the world not situated on a body of water (river, lake, ocean). According to survey the population is around 10 mm, likely add another 5 mm at least to include all the unknown millions that live in the shanties or informal housing. Well we didn't spend much time out of our bubble (our hotel is one of 3 on Nelson Mandela Square which is also connected to a mall) we felt safe an welcome the entire time.

We were met at 1pm for our tour of Soweto, a separate city untill the 1990's. The name is an acronym for "South-Western-Townships," or an informal nickname for "So where to next?".

The area is home to over 4 mm people 96% black. It is odd and slightly uncomfortable given our upbringing in Canada to hear people so easily referred to as Black, Coloured or Indian but it rolls of the tongue here with no malice intended. The area was started in 1886 when people moved to work on the nearby Gold Mines (the gold mines were basically in the center of town and the tailings are still very visible (large table mountain like structures)).

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The gold mine was a big part of history for Jo'Burg making it a wealthy city (mines have moved now although the local amusement park has a ride that allows you to go 200 m below ground down an old shaft). In 1904 British controlled cities moved Blacks to the area following a reported outbreak of plague.

Soweto suffered many tragedies over the years but was thrust into the world's attention June 16, 1976 when government police open fired on a group of students (young students) 600 students were shot including one minor Hector Pieterson who was just in the wrong spot at the wrong time. We visited the site of the shootings and the Hector Pieterson museum a sobering dose of reality.

Soweto was also home to Nelson Mandela for various periods in his life and Winne Mandela still resides there (we drove by her house) also Desmond Tutu lived down the street from Mr. Mandela at one period. Pretty sure that is the first street I have driven down with tiny houses (under 1,000 sq ft) where Nobel Peace Prize Recipients lived.

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Our final stop was at the Regina Mundi Church, located in Rockville, Soweto it played a key role as a place of gathering during the anti-apartheid struggle. It houses a "Black Madonna" created in 1973 to help raise funds for African education. It contains a highly symbolic element which is a large eye under the Black Madonna, which represents the Township of Soweto, with two forks representing the violence against the people and the cross in the middle to illuminate hope. Several famous political leaders have visited the Church including the Mandela several times, Desmond Tutu, Bill Clinton, and Michelle Obama.

The whole afternoon reminded of these people's struggles and while you look at the shanties you see just past them then revitalized state-of-the-art soccer stadium (from the World Cup in 2010) and are reminded they still have along ways to come. I am again reminded of how grateful I am that I was born in Canada.

We boarded our 9 pm flight and I managed to sleep almost the whole way to London (yay, me). We have almost 8 hours of a layover so I booked a couple rooms at the airport Hilton and Ger and I slept another 4, showered and feel human, ready to board our next 8 hour flight home. The only hiccup is I forgot to grab my shoes before my checked luggage was tagged straight to YYC. Whoops, so I will be the idiot in sandals coming off the plane in minus 17. Dumb ass.

It has been an amazing journey. I learned so much, have many great memories (and more than a couple extra pounds). I am constantly reminded when we travel how special Canada is (even the wintery crap we are headed back to).

I am so grateful I could share this with my parents and we all have our health and wits to survive 3 weeks together. A special thanks to Ger for hanging out with 3 Greenalls for so long. My mind has shifted to looking forward to getting home to my dogs and horses (thanks Austin).

Next stop is Arizona in Feb for a half marathon and a horse show (perfect combination) after that Ger and I are still toying with ideas. My list had a couple additions (again) this trip. We survived a couple long flights with layovers so I won't be so scared to try them again.

Until next time,
G^2 & 2 Greenalls

Posted by imalazyj 04:49 Archived in South Africa

Hakuna Matata

overcast 23 °C

Well a year to plan and book (thank you again Tara) and 3 weeks to experience it, both seemed to pass quickly. I had spent some time thinking today the most valuable resource we have is time and no matter how much wealth you have you can't buy more. So use it wisely.

Yesterday was a little less 'bootcamp' with a relatively quiet game drive in the morning, a long nap before lunch and a 3 pm departure before the afternoon game drive. The morning drive was beautiful but no really exhilarating sightings, a couple jackals up close and more of the same (impalas, baboons, giraffe). We joined a local family (this was not their first game drive and the husband was an excellent spotter) for the afternoon game drive and karma blessed us. We were able to see all 4 of Chobe's Big 4 (elephant, buffalo, lion and leopard (no rhinos here)).

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We started with an elephant sighting, it was lightly raining so they were out to enjoy it. On our last trip to Africa, the warthogs and their silly ways made an impression on me, this time it was the elephant. Absolutely spell bounding to watch in nature. They crossed the road in front of us wandered into the bush and disappeared (gives you an idea how thick and lush it is here, the bush can hide elephants and they are not small). The elephants walk silently it is so surreal and peaceful to watch (and ride). They have cushions (Nike Air) on the bottoms of their feet that soften any noise, making these massive animals silent as they move.

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Pleased with a chance to watch the elephants we continued onto the "stretching point" for our evening sundowner (aka drink) only to have our guide hustle us back in the ranger for a reason unknown to us (not our first rodeo, we figured it was something good). We sped (instead of 10 km/hr it was more like 20 km/hr) down towards the river and pulled up to see two giant female lions resting on the river banks. It was specular. Oddly though, Shidi, sort of rushed us away from the lions (normally you just sit and watch) and we were back out on the trail. We could see a couple rangers parked ahead on the road and Shidi instructed us to look left at the old tree. Perched up on a thick branch was a leopard, licking her paws. It didn't look like the most comfortable place to partake in a bath but Shidi figured it was due to the close proximity of the lions (lions kill leopards). It made for a great evening game drive.

The buffalo are sighted almost everywhere here so while we saw them we didn't stop to watch them for any extended period of time. We also were able to see some hippos out of the water (they like cool temperatures) which prompted me to wonder why they aren't part of the Big 5 (I mean a buffalo isn't that exotic, sorry buffalo lovers). Turns out the Big 5 were designated by big game hunters as the most challenging and dangerous to hunt. The buffalo is likely the most dangerous animal to humans of them all as it gives no warning of its charge (elephants and rhinos will head fake so you have a chance to get the hell out of dodge) and kills more locals and farmers than any other animal.

We capped our last evening at the Lodge of with a dinner that included Kudo roast and impala stew (I am not kidding and both are quite tasty) and of course a bottle of local red. Given our flight was not until 2 pm today we were able to enjoy one last 4:30 am wake-up and one final game drive. Yet again, we were not disappointed. While sitting back and just taking in the surroundings (and impalas and baboons...) we turned a corner and came across a pride of lions (5 in total) drinking.

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What an end to our safari adventure. Every drive we experienced was different and wonderful for unique reasons. We returned to the lodge and were shuttled to the little Kasane, Botswana airport for our last stop in Africa before heading home. We are off to Jo-burg for the night and have tomorrow to rest up and a half-day Township and Apartheid Tour (a good dose of reality to leave with) before we depart at 9:45 pm for our overnight flight to London. Getting back to Canada is a bit ugly, we arrive in London at 7 am and don't depart until 4 in the afternoon. I have a couple rooms booked at the Hilton at the airport for the layover so we can at least shower and maybe (hopefully) nap for a couple hours. We leave London at 4 pm Sunday afternoon and arrive in Calgary at 5 pm Sunday evening (I love time travel it is the only way you can buy more time).

I am looking forward to one more fantastic meal and a bottle (or two) of South African wine. Ger is looking forward to one more breakfast with croissants and chocolate before reality sets in and our holiday is over.

So until next time,
G^2 & 2 Greenalls

Posted by imalazyj 10:29 Archived in Botswana

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