Saturday, September 30, 2006

Above Ground and Below

The next morning began my last full day in Newfoundland. While Keith and Rikke had planned a two week trip and were preparing to head north to visit L'Anse aux Meadows and to do some wandering and hiking, I had to head back to Ontario on Tuesday.

We got up in time to get breakfast at the hotel, then headed south, out of St. John's and down to explore the Irish Loop and the Avalon Peninsula. We took our time, driving along the coast and stopping frequently at the side of the road to take pictures of the blue and green vistas that kept opening to us.

At one point near Tor Bay, we had stopped near a house where some people were working outside, and Keith heard a woman remark, "If I only had $500 for every tourist that stopped here to take a picture! I don't know what they think they see!" Here's what we saw:

It's funny how one can become so used to anything - including beauty - to the point where it isn't even visible anymore.

We stopped at the Colony of Avalon, an historic site where you can see the open archaeological digs, and take in yet more stunning views. You can see some of the open pits in the picture on the left (kind of).

We stopped at the visitor's centre briefly, but decided to bypass the tours and displays in favour of wandering around on our own.

By this time, I was glad that I'd brought my clapotis, and had it secured snugly around my neck, protecting against the very cold wind and the occasional gusts of misty drizzle. (Oh, yeah - I made a second clapotis for myself in a more reasonable, wearable colour of Silky Wool.)

[Arrgh. Here's where blogger stops letting me add pictures. Back to good old Flickr. Maybe there's a secret quota and I've far surpassed it.]

Keith and Rikke at Colony of Avalon

I started to keep track of the pictures in my little knitting note book, marking how many pictures I'd taken of Witless Bay, Tor Bay, Calvert, Avalon, Bear Cove...

Rikke Takes Pictures at Bear Cove

Bear Cove

We drove south down to the barren area approaching Cape Race, whose claim to fame is that it was a Marconi station here that received the Titanic's distress calls. The open, empty landscape reminded me a lot of the Burren, a very similar landscape near Galway in Ireland. It was as we drove through this area that it began raining. We decided to cut the day trip a bit short, since stopping for pictures wouldn't be as easy or productive.

Instead, we headed back to St. John's, where we visited the Geo Centre, situated with its entrance and lobby on the side of Signal Hill, and the rest of the attraction located beneath the surface of the ground. It was an interesting visit, though we could have gotten more out of it if we'd visited first thing in the morning, rather than after a day in the car.

Part of the Centre is a large display of Titanic information, including many, many panels telling the entire story of the ship's building, history, financing and final voyage. It was quite interesting, and very comprehensive, if skewed and accusatory of... well, everyone involved. By the end, we were all a bit tired of hearing how it wasn't the fault of the iceberg, but of every single person involved, who had all been greedy and lazy and acted without conscience. Thanks. Got it after the first 20 panels.

Anyway, as I said, we may have been more impressed if we weren't a wee bit tired.

The part of the exhibit I found most interesting, if a bit creepy, was a model of the Titanic as it appears now - broken and crumbling on the floor of the Atlantic Ocean.

Titanic model

We next headed up Signal Hill to take in the amazing views from this spot above St. John's.

This is pretty much the same picture as the one in my first Newfoundland entry, only now in daylight.

St Johns seen from Signal Hill

Signal Hill down

I'll restrain myself from posting all of these pictures. Check out the group in Flickr by clicking on any of the last few pictures to see more.

That evening, we headed out to Vanessa and Aaron's house near St. John's, for a wonderful dinner.

I thought this would be my last Newfoundland entry, but I think I'll leave our morning in downtown St. John's for a last, brief story, since this is getting too long.

Imagine I'd been there more than five days!

Wednesday, September 27, 2006

The Travels of the Screeched In

When last we left our intrepid heroes, we'd just been made honourary Newfoundlanders.

The next day, we made our way to Vanessa's parents' house, where we watched the couple opening some absolutely gorgeous gifts. And many, many similar gifts - the shop where people had gone to buy certificates for place settings had wrapped them all (and there were a lot) in little gift boxes about the size of a kleenex box, and all in identical wrapping paper. It became something of a joke after the first dozen or so.

There were some really amazing gifts, including a really nifty porthole mirror that made it to St. John's all the way from Oakville (which means I may be able to find one of these myself).

Gift Porthole

And an absolutely stunning quilt done in blue waves. Amazing, and one of a kind. Maybe I should take up quilting...

Gift Quilt

After the gifts were opened and thoroughly oohed-and-ahed over, we headed out back for some casual playing of fiddle and guitar and banjo. Just... wow.

After the party, Rikke, Keith and I started to really get into our roles as tourists. We headed out to Cape Spear, making plenty of stops for picture-taking along the way.

Cape Spear is the easternmost point of North America. And it's a beautiful spot.
Cape Spear Lighthouse

Cape Spear

Maybe a little cold, with the Atlantic right there, you know, and the sea air and all. (I was at the sea!!)

Kirstie at Cape Spear

This may be my favourite picture from the whole trip.
Cape Spear House

And this is a close second.

Cape Spear Visitor

Sorry for the picture-heavy post. It's so hard to self-edit when everything I saw and pointed a camera at was just so amazing.

And now, I have officially been at the southernmost and the easternmost points in Canada. If I really want to hit all four geographical extremes, though, I've left the most challenging for last.

That evening, we met up on George Street for dinner, then we headed back to the hotel so we could get an early start on the next day.

Up next: The Irish Loop, the Geo Centre, and Signal Hill by day!

Monday, September 25, 2006


Yes, this post is terribly overdue. Sorry. Things have been rather crazy in the past two weeks what with changes at work and avoiding housework, travelling - with all of its packing and unpacking loveliness, and then finally a cold that moved in last week to kick my ass thoroughly all weekend.

But enough of that - now to the trip!

I have been wanting to go to Newfoundland for years now, but until last weekend, have only made it as far east as Quebec City. When Vanessa invited me to her wedding there this September, I decided (after much hemming and hawing) that come job or come no-job, I was going to make it out there.

I flew out Friday morning, and was blessed with a fairly uneventful flight. I was met at the airport by Vanessa and her maid of honour, Joanne, who was my host for my first two nights there. We spent some lazy, resting time at Joanne's house in nearby Paradise (really - that's the name) - Joanne trying to get through a cold, and me trying to recover from the travel lethargy that always grips me. Check out the view from my guest room window.

view from window

Next, Joanne drove me into St. John's, where we saw the main streets and the harbour, and then headed up Signal Hill to see the city from above. By this time, it was dark, so the picture isn't great.

St Johns at night

We met up with a bunch of people who were going to be attending and involved in the wedding for dinner at the Keg, narrowly avoided a screeching in on George St., then headed home to rest up for the big day.

The day of the wedding was lovely and sunny and warm. Perfect. The ceremony was beautiful, the church impressive and gorgeous, and I got through my reading without stuttering or cursing involuntarily, so that was good. I also didn't fall down on my way to the pulpit, which was a real danger. I seem to be falling down for no good reason fairly frequently.

Wedding party

Aaron and Vanessa in front of the church

After the ceremony, I met up with Keith and Rikke, two friends I get to see far too infrequently. I have to say, though, that meeting up in Newfoundland was probably a lot more fun than meeting in, say, Mississauga would have been. We wandered around downtown, visiting shops and seeing the sights. And I snagged my first purchase of the trip.


Which interested nobody but me. When we stopped for a few pints at a pub on Water Street, I got to sit and pet my yarn possessively between sips of Strongbow.

We eventually headed for the reception, and were seated at the "George Street" table, which should have tipped us off immediately that we were in the place to be. We sat with a bunch of Vanessa's friends from work, who were all crazy and funny and made dinner a hoot.

Later in the evening, the sudden appearance of a man dressed in a bright orange rain slicker and carrying a broom made me wary. Sure enough, shortly after, all the 'come-from-aways' were called to the front of the room to be officially 'screeched in' and made honourary Newfoundlanders. As honoured as I am, I could go for the rest of my life never kissing a fish again. Though the screech was kind of tasty. There seemed to be an awful lot of it in that little glass. We had to repeat a heavily accented, slangy Newfoundland phrase, eat some bologna, hard bread, and a peppermint knob, wash it all down with a generous miniature of screech, and then kiss the fish. It's not so easy to find a cod as it once was in Newfoundland, so we were invited to pucker up for a trout.

I don't have any pictures of the screech-in, as I was one of the victims - er, I mean 'honourees', but I'm hoping someone else's camera caught some of it. But here is us proudly displaying our certificates declaring our Newfoundlandiness.


I'm going to save the rest of the trip for another post, because this is becoming very long and I am hungry.

Thursday, September 14, 2006


So. An update.

Things have changed again. And again and again.

After the emotional roller coaster that has been the past two months, it looks like I finally know where I will end up. And that's about 30 feet away from where I started.

Yep. I'm staying at the same place. This is making me feel kind of like I was handed a chance to really try something new and see what else is out there and try to find my passion, and, instead, I took the chicken way out and took a job that walked up and bit me.

But the truth is that this job is something new and different and it's something that I was thinking about getting into anyway, it's with a new company and I have a new boss and a completely new set of responsibilities. So it isn't just a matter of my being lazy and frightened.


In other news, I am getting ready to head out to Newfoundland tomorrow morning, and feeling better about the cost of a flight etc. now that I have an income again. Tonight, I'm tidying the house and packing my suitcase and trying to make sure I remove every stick of chapstick and concealer from anything I'm not checking. I hope to come back with lots and lots of amazing pictures and maybe a few good stories.

Thursday, September 07, 2006

The Geek Story

As promised, I have a geeky story. But first, to gear you up for the geekery to follow, I have some geek toy recommendations. First, you have to check these out. They are the niftiest keychains around - you can plug into your tv from them and play old Atari games. From, of course.

And this t-shirt, also from thinkgeek. Just because I love it. Poor Pluto. We'll miss you, eccentrically orbiting little buddy.

The story really begins last November, when my brother Scott told me about a concert in Toronto that he and a friend were planning on seeing. It was cancelled, and he was devastated. Last weekend, the concert came back to Toronto, but my brother's friend couldn't make it. Still owing a birthday present (from February - yes, I suck) I bought two tickets and agree to go. The concert?

Video Games Live.
Donkey Kong

It's a show with a live orchestra playing music composed for video games. I've never seen so many geeks all in one place at one time. They filled the halls, the stairways, and the sidewalks, in their cryptic t-shirts and comfortable pants, and filled the air with geekspeak. And of all these geeks, my brother and I had the best seats in the house. And I have to admit that I had a pretty good time. A lot of the music for video games is very complex and dramatic, and the orchestra played it very well.
Video Games Live Act II Progress Bar
But my favourite stuff was the fun stuff. The show started off with Pong, leading into a medley of classic 8-bit game music.

They had a guy come up and pretend to be the shooting ship from Space Invaders. They had this guy, who apparently is an internet celebrity, who played piano faster than I would have said was humanly possible. Yes - he's blindfolded here.

Martin Yeung

And the very best part was the Frogger game. I did take video, but so did someone else - you can see their video below.

There has never been such an exciting game of Frogger -this is the way you've always wanted to play - with an entire audience cheering you on - applauding when you get him onto that difficult far left lilypad, and crying out in dismay when your timing is off just a little bit and you get creamed by a semi. And, of course, winning fabulous prizes for the high score.

Aside from the concert, it was a nice weekend with the family. Cards, Trivial Pursuit, the market, and lots of cheese made for a good visit.

Warners in Mississauga

Monday, September 04, 2006

Le Plus Ca Change

Sometimes there’s too much going on to blog about.

I don’t mean that I’ve been so busy that I haven’t had time to sit down and think and write. I haven’t been keeping up with vacuuming or banking or clearing the old vegetables out of the crisper, either. And none of it is for want of time. As a matter of fact, I’ve had quite a bit of time at home this week, including the last short Friday of our summer hours, and two shortened workdays. What has really thrown a wrench into my plans and my peace of mind and caused me to pursue a non-stop schedule of programmed distraction in the form of television and internet and to eliminate all moments of quiet and reflection is change.

What do you do when someone removes the framework of your life? How do you go about rebuilding from scratch? Do I want to recreate the same kind of structure, or do I want to take this golden opportunity to examine what I really want to be and what I really want to do? But that introduces the delicate question of what that is.

I’ve always felt somewhat adrift in terms of ambition. My worst interview question is always ‘Where do you see yourself in five years?’ I always give a very malleable, positive answer involving ‘seeing what doors open’ and ‘continuing to be alert for opportunity’ and that’s because I really have no plan. I have never truly had a ‘dream’ for my life. I can’t say that I’ve “always wanted to be” anything in particular. I know that I can be fickle and that my interests tend to wax and wane. So maybe I’m doomed – or blessed – to redesign my life every few years. Or maybe the next job, the next place will click with me in a profound way.

What is exhausting me right now is the need to tell people. Because I told people about the impending changes at work, I now have to tell all those people the results of those changes. And I don’t want people to worry about me. Mainly because I kind of feel like I don’t deserve that worry, that concern, because I haven’t started to take any real actions toward resolving everything for myself, and I haven’t really freaked out about it all yet. So I tell people, and then feel compelled to immediately blurt out, “But I’m fine. Really. I’m good. Things will work out. I’m fine.” Which is all true. But keeping all this maintained is kind of exhausting. At work, I constantly joke about the situation, which at first made people flinch a bit.

So. There. There is what is filling my head and emptying it at the same time. In the meantime, I will be sharing a story of the Geek Kingdom. Soon.