North Shore Exploration

Saturday, August 22: Leaving Roomba behind, we set out to explore the North Shore of Nova Scotia. We’d read about an island called Annapolis Royal, restored to its historic nature for tourism; and of course, the famous Digby scallops. 

Digby was a far piece away, but we decided to have a lunch of famous scallops there, then work our way back Blomidon way, hitting Annapolis Royal after lunch.

On the way out, with the tide out, we saw some of the enormous differential between Bay of Fundy related high and low tides. The photo doesn’t do it justice – it’s nearly unbelievable.

 

At high tide, there is no red mud visible except along the high sandstone embankments, and the “structure” at the end of the point is surrounded by water and nearly submerged.
 
I was really looking forward to Digby, as it sounded like (from our NS guide book) a quaint fishing town, and on the map it looked beautifully situated in a harbor protected by land, but with a narrow opening to the Bay of Fundy. Jack was looking forward to it because of all foods, scallops are among his faves.

It began raining as we ventured south, and we took the “interstate” 101, so there wasn’t much to see along the way. We passed through the Annapolis Valley, a serious growing region for everything from apples and grapes to oat straw and hay.

Upon reaching Digby it was still foggy but the rain had turned intermittent. The guide book recommended a place called Fundy Restaurant for our scallops, and our first clue to the coming disappointment should have been that the place was nearly empty on an August Saturday.

The meal we got was lunch-priced and sized, but it was their special scallops (supposedly) pan fried in garlic butter. The waitress said it was served with fries and cole slaw.

When it came, the scallops appeared nicely browned, but we bit into them and found a) little to no garlic and b) they were overcooked and tough. The slaw was watery and uninspired, and the fries were pretty good. We paid quite a lot of money for these “famous” Digby scallops. Too bad.

The rain came and went, and I still wanted to get out for a quick walk around the harbor, so we left the restaurant for a wander. The harbor was a good walk – I love taking pictures of fishing boats and floats and such. The gray day added to the impact of the colors. 

   
    
   
And then the fog rolled across the steadily increasing tide of the bay. Very interesting shots to be had there, one of which I took in black and white because I felt it would be most striking without color.

  
    
   
But Digby itself was seedy and drab. There were many empty store fronts, and lots of run-down apartments and dilapidated homes. The only people we saw about were elderly locals and maybe one family of tourists. It looked to me like a dying community.

And we drove 1.5 hours for this?

At this point, the rain began more steadily, and walking about a restored old downtown (the largest collection of pre-1800 buildings in NS), or the historic gardens (!), so we did a drive-by (I got a photo of the sculpture in front of the garden entrance):

  
And then headed to the Annapolis Tidal Station Interpretive center. A great storyteller explained the history and theory behind the turbines installed 30-some years ago to test theories about generating energy from the enormous Fundy Bay tide surges. Some of the ideas, including the one we could see at work at this center, were great theories, but in practice, proved to be far from practical for useful energy generation. It was quite interesting and we were dry for the experience.

Highlights of the drive (alongside the excellent tidal generation presentation) were: sighting of a bald eagle, a redtail, and an osprey. As we drove the back road to our campground, we saw an enormous, very dark-colored rabbit. And saw another right in camp. On the ‘other wildlife’ side, we saw a flattened fox and skunk along the road. And CROWS! I think I’ve never seen so many crows in my life. Thinking of CJ almost constantly.

  
We had briefly discussed combining efforts on a dinner with Mike and Mary (the Alto 1743 owners in camp), so we stopped to get a small amount of additional provisions to add to the effort. And we heard from our friend’s mom, who’s going to shelter our Roomba at her home while we take our ride, starting Monday. While both trying to eat our store of food down in anticipation of leaving everything behind for 10 days, we decided to get some asparagus and a little more wine. But as we emerged from the grocery place, it was positively tipping with rain, and thunder and lightening had entered the mix. A quick google on our Canada phone showed weather warnings for dangerous amounts of heavy rain. So as we headed back to our site, we stopped at Mary & Mike’s to see if they were in and to postpone our sharing a meal until they get to Meadows of Dan in mid-October.

As we rounded the bends back to our spot, we saw that the wind and/or rain had played havoc with our awning, and everything was wetly draped over everything else. The good news was that the bicycles and the one open window in Roomba were dry; and that most everything else could be wiped down pretty easily. The bad news was that my slippers for indoors were soaked, and our two camp chairs were holding pools of water.

Pretty easy to set everything back up, but boy is the ground, air, and most everything wet wet wet. And since it was foggy and/or rainy all day, Roomba’s solar panels didn’t give the battery much help while we were gone. But we didn’t use much, being gone, so we felt sure we’d be able to make it through the night. Hope tomorrow is – if not sunny, then brighter and drier.

Saw this as we ate dinner, so maybe the weather will break tomorrow.

  

Stockholm days 1 & 2

Stockholm is big. Really big. Happily, the public transport system is great, and there is a “Stockholm Card” that you can buy, that covers all public transport, a good number of city tours, and an enormous range of museum admissions.

We wimped out on our first night by hitting a British-style pub called The Queen’s Head. It was nearby, easy, and familiar — had yummy fish and chips. But of course, expensive. The best part was they offered Real Ale pulled from a cask. On the downside, each pint was about $12. We made one beer apiece last.

Managed our first trip on the underground to head out early Friday to meet Page’s ship. They arrived slightly later than what he’d anticipated, but we watched the Europa motor in, drop anchors, settle, begin prep for the tender boats to be lowered, and finally, Page rode in on the first tender. We sat on the quay until customs had “cleared” the ship, and after the first load of passengers came ashore, we hopped the tender back and Page gave us a comprehensive tour of the ship, including the crew-only areas, the navigation area, his photo lab/work areas, and we even got a peek at one of the passenger suites. I was particularly impressed with how much art decorates the whole ship, but they also have a gallery full of rotating exhibitions. It was really a “once in a lifetime” because I will never be able to afford to go on a cruise like the ones Page works every day of his life. It is truly top-class.

All the staff and crew we met were very welcoming and helpful. We thank every one of them for hosting us to a memorable event.

After the tour, we entered the “Old Town” of Stockholm (Gamla Stan), seeking lunch. After a great sandwich eaten in a secluded church/museum courtyard (during which every church bell in the city must have tuned up for the mid-day sound-off), we went to see the changing of the guard at the palace.

More wandering found us in the high, cliff area of the city, sometimes known as the more “bohemian” region of the city, called Sodermalm. From the heights, we saw the Europa from another angle, walked by ancient houses built on top of rock outcroppings, and took many stairs up and down, here and there. We found and were invited in to see a community garden in which folks had cute little garden houses behind their incredible flowers and paths. It was truly spectacular, and I cannot resist taking flower photos under any circumstances, and these circumstances were particularly special.

After taking tea and a sweet at a wonderful shop called Vincent & Eleanor, we were studying our map on a street corner, apparently lost to a passer-by, who helped by guiding us toward an amphitheater where the entire neighborhood was gathering with picnic dinners to enjoy a ballet performance from the state ballet corps. It was going to be quite an evening, but we decided we would decline high culture in favor of a serious recommendation from one of Page’s colleagues for a photo exhibit. So instead, we hiked to the Fotografiska, a museum for photography. It was quite interesting, and of course, Page was in his element. Our Stockholm card got us in without paying additional.

Back up the cliffs to find a beer, and then dinner at a really great Indian place where you could choose from two dishes and eat as much of them as you wished. A young woman we ran into at the grocery store, who was from Iran, but studying (?) in Sweden, referred us to this place. It was delicious and very reasonably priced (for a change). The restaurant was called Chutney, I think.

After one final celebratory beer, the time had come for us to send Page back to his ship. Our extraordinary day ended around 11PM. We were slightly afraid that he’d have trouble catching a tender back to the boat so late, but he assured us that the shuttle boats would be running until midnight or later. The Europa will head out of the harbor toward Helsinki at about noon or 1 tomorrow. Next stop after Helsinki for them will be St. Petersburg, but their schedule will not jive with ours again during this tour.

So here is the first flood of photos from our first two days in Stockholm.

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