Thursday, September 30, 2010

true hosers

Yes, still here and trying not to be too impatient about getting everything back to normal again, although I'm really not sure what normal means anymore. Now the daily grind involves listening to the workmen right outside our 7th floor windows as they scour cement with power tools from 8 to 5 including Saturdays. It adds an element of distraction to the creative process but I'll try not to complain while I sharpen a few pencils in hopes they find the sound annoying and go home early today.

Meanwhile here are a couple of pictures I've taken of nearby pubs of which there are many in this town. It's interesting to see they have a tendency to spread furniture and flowers over the sidewalk from whatever building houses them with extra walkways built out onto the streets for pedestrians. Some extend up staircases to the roofs and most have heating lamps to keep the patrons warm on chilly evenings until the effect of the liquor kicks in.

I may have to take up drinking again to get the full benefit of their ambience.. and to get away from the construction at my house.

Speaking of drinking, everybody knows Canadian beer is more potent than the American variety but did you know Canadian tea is strong enough to strip paint off houses? I may have to suggest that to the construction workers who are now hosing the premises with a combination of sand and water. What next?

Do you get the feeling the renovations are driving me mad? The management here says it will all be done in another 6 weeks - just in time for winter.

❉ ❊ ☃ :-)

Saturday, September 25, 2010

composing myself

Our stuff finally arrived late yesterday - very late - so with very few lights available, we counted the boxes and checked off all the furniture and extra bits. Now we're looking for places for everything so in the fullness of time everything will be in its place.. never mind shopping for all the grocery items I had to toss or give away.

What I'd really like to do is go for a walk and take more pictures but today I've been stuck inside.

See you soon.

☆ ★ ☆

Wednesday, September 22, 2010

new city ramble

Halifax is a very walkable city and we've been having a good time doing just that. I'd love to have you join me for a stroll, but pictures are the best I can do for now so I'll just have to hope you enjoy them. This one is a photo taken of the restaurant we first noticed from our hotel window which quickly became our favorite so far - the Wooden Monkey. It was still closed when we went past this morning so I wasn't able to go inside to take pictures of the big carved monkeys and all the other neat things inside but you get the idea.

Although I mentioned all the little shops in another post I figured that was a bit too vague so here are the first pictures that describe what I meant. The Black Market was a very cool surprise both outside and even more so inside. There was an amazing collection of silk saris, beaded and mirrored cushion covers, clothes, lampshades, jewelry, carved figures.. oh what the heck, I'll just put up some more pictures.

(btw: You can look at any of these pics full-size by clicking on them. I've never had so many images to post before and I'm having a hard time deciding how to size them.)

We walked past this place again on our way home and saw some kids had snagged part of the street across from the Market by laying out grass rolls for a parking space picnic. They were having fun with chalk writing 'Free This Space' and 'No Car Zone' on the road. Nobody appeared bothered because nobody who needed a parking space came by while we sat.

 We saw a policeman stroll by who paused to smile at the group before he kept going. Have I mentioned before that cops walk a beat around here? We thought we were hallucinating the first time we noticed them.

Speaking of hallucinating, this is the entrance to the first 'head shop' I've seen in about 20 years. (Randal, take note.) Yes, they do stock pipes and bongs and whatever peripherals might be required for your enjoyment of a product that's been decriminalized but not sold openly. That's okay, we're not quite that relaxed yet..

but we may get there :-)

Sunday, September 19, 2010

jobby an' whiskers

I usually put a picture at the top of every post and sometimes another at the bottom, depending on what I'm currently nattering on about, but I don't have the hang of posting lots of pictures of a place that's entirely new and very different to me after living for 17 years on the west coast. Portland really is one of the best American cities but when we first moved there I wasn't in the habit of walking around with a camera, so now I'm unable to show you how it changed between '93 and this year when we expatriated ourselves.
this one has pictures of old time movie stars
There were a lot of reasons for doing that, not being rich and needing guaranteed health coverage was definitely one, yet another was the callousness we witnessed when not just older buildings but entire city blocks were torn down to be replaced with 'modern' glass, steel, and poured concrete monstrosities. The attitude was nothing much was old enough to be considered historic anyway so why not bulldoze? It's not strictly an American habit but one that certainly defines all west coast cities to one extent or another.

What I've been doing while writing this is sticking in a few pictures of some buildings we passed in downtown Halifax, NS yesterday. They do renovate here and there are a number of modern buildings too, but mostly the architecture is considered too historically valuable to be demolished and replaced. That makes for a very esthetically pleasing walking environment as well as a guaranteed tourist magnet.. for those who know. Who would ever have guessed Halifax is the Riviera to the Scots?

'Och, lassie, fa at haem woods imagine hoo warm it is haur?' 
'Hey girl, who at home would guess how warm it is here?'

Yesterday we walked downtown (doontoon) to get a couple of things and later took our little Tracker (Fuschia) for her promised portrait on Citadel Hill. She was the heroine of our trip and deserves some appreciation.

Then I heard something about 'Teabuggers' having been sighted a few hundred miles south of here. I wanted to let you know we're getting ready if any dare show the whites of their myopic eyes in this neighborhood. I have the Clans to back me up and I do mean the ones whose names start with Mac.

Thursday, September 16, 2010

hi teching it

This is as far as we've got so far with our furnishings. As you can see we're cableized and have an honest to goodness chair which numb carried home from the consignment antique store yesterday. I had my eye on a lovely wing-backed armchair with a footstool, a Jacobean side table, and a stained glass table lamp but he'd neglected to bring his backstrap harness. That meant I had to put the plum colored Victorian sofa back on the shelf for another day too.

I'd like to tell you we've comfortably settled into this place or this one but that would be telling a fib, something I try hard not to do. They're both houses not too far down the block from where we actually do live in a neighborhood of equally magnificent places interspersed with apartment buildings much like ours.
We've been going for long walks every morning and finding many places and views worthy of photos. We're both thinking Halifax is a very well kept secret among connoisseurs of North American cities. Today we walked all around Point Pleasant Park at the southern tip of the peninsula but it was so early the sunrise killed any attempt at picture taking of the seaside panorama.

This prospect of Victoria Park Gardens is what greets us every day and weekend mornings are especially quiet. Further up the street is the much larger area of the Public Gardens with the lake, bandstand and all the associated things you'd expect. Of course, if you live in many cities you're glad enough to see a patch of dirt and a tree now and then so I shouldn't generalize.

The photo isn't very clear because the building is having facing work done and the balconies repaired so cement dust has accumulated on the windows. Still, you can see we overlook a cool park with a fountain just beyond and below us and an old church across the way.

We were very lucky to find this place and the fact we can easily walk downtown, to the waterfront, to tons of little cafes and odd shops all around us makes it well worth the wait for these guys not to be showing up at our windows first thing on weekday mornings. In a way I'm just as glad our stuff isn't here quite yet because I'll have enough to vacuum once they take their jackhammers away. In the meantime, numb is prepared to hold a towel up at the bedroom window so I can make it safely to the bathroom for a shower and my clothes at 7:30am.

The adventure continues.

Tuesday, September 14, 2010

waiting for albert camus

I don't mean to complain, or bitch, or grumble, and I don't as a rule, but what the hell else is a blog good for if you can't speak your mind? I can't recall another time in my life (other than school) when I've had long periods of inactivity forced on me.

I'd like to draw, or paint, or make something. I'd like to sit in a chair. I'd like to hang a picture or decide what to wear before going out. I'd like to cook a proper meal. I'd like to vacuum the carpet. I'd like to get a book from a shelf. I'd really like to go on-line. But I can't do any of those things right now. I can't even call a friend on the west coast because even though it's after 9am here it's still it's 5am there and nobody likes me that much. I don't even like anybody enough to want to chat at 5am.

We're waiting for our belongings that haven't left Portland yet. It took us 9 days to drive here at an average speed of 70mph in between good hotels in the northern wilderness. There are more of them than we'd expected. We sat out a day waiting for a hurricane to blow past. Even if the truck leaves this morning we're unlikely to see our things until the last day the moving contract stipulated - a week from this coming Friday.

Now I'm sitting at the edge of our only piece of furniture - the futon we had delivered on our first day here - while we wait for the person who's coming to hook up the cable for our phone and internet. I'm trying to ignore the men with jackhammers on the suspended platforms outside our 7th floor windows as they grind down the cement on the balconies above and below us. I saw one of them stumble a while ago and my heart skipped a beat. Apparently all that work will be done in a few weeks too.

♡ Hurray! The cable guy just left so now I can post this. I'll come back to visit a little later since now would be a good time to go for a walk and get away from the racket. It already feels better not having to hope for random wi-fi access or having to go outside simply to find a connection spot.

Things are looking up.

Friday, September 10, 2010

home at last

The drive across the northern part of the US, then a good chunk of Canada, was amazing, something never to be forgotten. One of these days, when I have my drawing supplies and scanner (still in Portland with 13 days to get here), I'll write and draw a few episodes for Adventure's Ink. 

Right now I'm sitting on the floor of the room that will be our bedroom in a very cool 7th floor apartment on South Park Street, overlooking Victoria Park and a couple of blocks down from the Lord Nelson Hotel. I think we finally arrived :-) Things got a little crazy, closing in on desperate, when the apartment we'd thought would be waiting for us turned out to be a pit. Just so you don't feel too envious of us being in Canada, I'll just mention now that all the assholes aren't only on that side of the border.

The city is compact, easy to walk if you don't mind hills, and with at least 6 colleges and universities, has a large population of young people. We're thinking a lot of them use copious amounts of beer as a study aid. 

We don't get our own wi-fi connection until Tuesday but I was happily surprised to find one open and available now. It's later here than anywhere else in North America - Atlantic Time - and I'm worn out from driving, walking, lugging and all the rest. This hasn't just been an adventure, it's been a trip.

More soon and love to you all. 

Monday, September 6, 2010

me and the sea

After 10 days on the road and 3850 miles of mostly high speed highway driving we finally made it to Halifax early yesterday afternoon. It really is a very cool city with a surprisingly nice mixture of very old and modern buildings. A breath of fresh sea air was the first thing on our agenda - well, right after we'd been to check out the building where we've leased an apartment for the next year. It's not quite what we'd been expecting (or told to expect) but we can take our time looking for a more suitable place once tourist season quiets down.

 The journey itself was amazingly beautiful but I wouldn't recommend it if you tend to get fidgety after being in a car for 6 hours and still have 200 miles to go before the next town with good hotels and half decent restaurants. We aren't as young as once was the case and do need certain comforts. Then again, I think I've always preferred luxury. Had it been up to me anything west of a comfy bed and a china teacup would never have been discovered.. which may have been just as well for many.

Now we're here and I don't even know what picture to post of the ones I took yesterday and today as we walked around so maybe I'll show you the one taken of the view I saw a lot this past week and more - capable hands fighting powerful wind gusts as we closed in on our destination.

Thank you all for continuing to visit phantsy during this long journey; reading your comments helped to keep us both connected while we were in between. It's going to be a while before things settle but I'll soon be back to my regular blogging duties - at least the visiting part.

Saturday, September 4, 2010

cooling our jets

There comes a time after a long wearying journey that you'd just like to go home; but once we get to Halifax, after the rain stops falling and the winds stop blowing, we'll still be somewhat stuck for a while. All of our belongings, except for the computers and a few of our clothes, are still in Portland while the Mayflower driver waits to have his truck fully loaded for points east. Having seen for ourselves what a truly long haul it is between the one place and the other I have no complaints other than a vague wish our stuff would just be there all nicely arranged, waiting for us.

Since that won't be the case, and we want to get out of the hotel habitation scene sooner rather than later, we're making up a shopping list whose first item is a bed - or a sofa bed. For that we'll need sheets and pillows - then a lamp to read a book by - then towels and stuff for the bathroom - then a kettle, a pan, 2 plates, 2 bowls, 2 cups, 2 knives, 2 forks, 2 spoons.. the list goes on but hopefully, it won't get too much longer. To think we were concerned about getting all the way here before our stuff arrived at the border in Nova Scotia is laughable now.

The contract says it will be here no later than Sept. 23rd but I've been scoping out this hotel room to see what they could spare. Hmpff.. gone are the days when you could collect hotel towels; anything missing they just add to your credit card bill. The other temporary aggravation is we'll have no internet service until next Friday so I guess we'll be spending some time in wi-fi connected restaurants and sports bars. It will continue to be interesting for a while yet - never mind the fact it's 8:30 in the evening here and still 4:30 on the other coast. That still feels very weird as did losing an hour every other day on our way across.

One thing I can safely say about Canada is that it's much like the US in many respects but without the hand guns. That's a definite plus.

Tomorrow we travel to our new home by the sea. Crow flew in this evening to let us know the skies have cleared between here and there. He's relaxing on his travel perch now and sends his greetings.

Bon soir, mes amies.

Friday, September 3, 2010

road hogs

We're pretty damn close to our destination now after 8 days on the road and 3600 miles on the odometer but it appears we're stuck in Fredericton, New Brunswick until a hurricane makes its way through some time tomorrow. I mean, really, what else was going to stop us or at least slow us down?

The huge surprise we got today was our discovery that Rte 2, the part of the Trans Canada Hwy that traverses this province, is a beautifully built and maintained divided four lane that allowed us to drive over the northern Appalachians at 110kph. We'd been imagining a 2 lane road with a speed limit of 45mph. Considering 110kph translates to approximately 70mph and people usually add 10+ mph to the posted speed you can see what I'm getting at here. You're allowed to drive at 80+mph but then they post signs to say you might find a moose standing on the road so be careful. What! The signs belabor the point of how big moose are by showing a graphic of one that towers over a car. That wasn't very reassuring; we were half expecting antlers to appear over the treetops.

The other menace we've seen a lot of is trucks - big trucks and bigger trucks that can also drive at or above the posted speed limit. Most of them are cool but sometimes they like to race alongside each other which can be quite disconcerting if you see them barreling down a 9% grade in your rear view mirror. Your only choice is to speed up or drive off the highway, which is not recommended in any driving manual for travel at speeds over 20mph.

Anyhow, we're here now safe and sound after what was really another surprisingly beautiful drive. The good news is this province is right next door to Nova Scotia so we'll be neighbors and can come back easily if we get bored with looking at the Atlantic.

Good night and remember to keep an umbrella handy. Hmm.. That might be a quick way of getting to Halifax tomorrow.

☁ ☂ ☁

Thursday, September 2, 2010

vagabonds heureux

What can I say to add to this? It's a photograph taken of the place we arrived at this afternoon - Riviere du Loup, about 200 miles further up the St. Lawrence River from Quebec City, and a stunningly beautiful place it is.

We've been traveling through Quebec all day and you may not believe it but everybody around here speaks French. Mine is mostly pretty rusty after so many years away but I've been getting along okay at the quickie marts and restaurants as well as here au Hotel Universale (if you consider almost all can speak English when I fail with French). It will be fun to work on being fluent again even if I do speak it with an English accent. My friends used to laugh at my pronunciation when I lived in Montreal years ago.

Speaking of Montreal, we've decided the reason why the US never successfully invaded Canada was because they couldn't make it through the traffic in the city. Now that the place has had 30 extra years to get bigger it also continued to develop a highway system that would defy a team of NASA engineers. It was pretty insane coming through there to say the least.

Up to now we've driven 3250 miles and still have about 500 to go before we get to Halifax. We're both a little wiped out but happy to have made it so far safely and fairly comfortably. Early on we realized that a motel that advertises $40 a night means each so it's just as well to spend $120 for both of us and have a nice place with breakfast included. We needed them even though neither of us generally eats a morning meal.

That's it for tonight. I hope you're all well and rest assured that one of these days soon I'll be able to visit again at leisure.

Wednesday, September 1, 2010

way north then east

It's been quite a ride since I updated last - seems hard to believe it was just yesterday morning we were still in Superior, MI. Tonight we're in Ottawa - Canada's capital city and this is our second night in the country.

The first was weird since we almost got arrested in a way north town called Elliot Lake while we were trying to find the entrance to a hotel that was on top of a shopping mall which was itself on the top of a tall hill. We drove all around the mall and the hill looking for an entrance and even got out of the car at one point to see if it was hidden. By then we'd been on the road for nearly 13 hours and were tired, very tired.

Sault Ste. Marie, where we crossed the border, is in the middle of No and Where. So we drove and drove and it got darker and darker and there were two heavy downpours and there were no hotels on the Trans Canada highway. In fact, that far north there wasn't much at all and Elliott Lake was the closest town on the map but it was miles (should I say Kilometers?) up another long dark road and everybody in town was in bed when we got there. Except for the policemen who caught us not wearing our seatbelts while we were searching for the hotel entrance. He checked us out to make sure the 63 year old woman and her 60 year old accomplice hadn't stolen a 16 year old Geo Tracker.

After he gave us a stern warning we asked him HOW to get into the hotel. It turned out there was one door to the mall that remained open for hotel guests. I'll tell you about the hotel another time. Leave it for now to say there was a rusty beer bottle opener on the bathroom wall.

We laughed and went to bed - happy the policeman hadn't seen us run a red light when we got bored of waiting or making a couple of illegal u-turns.

Thanks for checking in on us. The picture at the top is one of Lake Nipissing - just one of the beautiful lakes seen from the Trans Canada Hwy today.