Monday, July 25, 2011

Coda: The Return

In the wee hours of the morning, it was a quick jaunt from the hotel to the car rental place, where I enjoyed this "worms 4 sale" sign while I waited for the shuttle back to Halifax.

And waited. And waited.  After about 45 minutes, I called them to see what was going on.

Apparently, the driver decided that the address I gave them did not exist, so he did not bother looking for me there.  (?!)

The dispatcher explained all this with the comment that she had told him the address but "Men don't listen."

Ultimately, I got a taxi to a neighboring town and met up with the shuttle there.  They paid for the taxi, of course, but I will not take this shuttle service again. 

Sadly, I also ended up spending a lot of time at the Halifax Airport.  But there was really no help for it.  Even if I'd known the flight would be delayed for 5 hours, they still insist that you check in at the original time.

There was plenty of room at the airport, so I took a nap.  That was nice!  All in all, a subdued ending to a really enjoyable trip.

Sunday, July 24, 2011

Skyline Trail

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The highlight of the day was Highlands National Park.  I reached the Skyline Trail a bit later than I'd hoped, so I set off briskly on my way down the easy forested path.

A bit of mille fleurs effect.

As I approached the main scenic overlook, the mist was rather thick.

But gradually, imperceptibly, it began to lift.

A nice view of the Cabot Trail...

...and the shoreline.

There's a nice boardwalk down the hill to multiple viewing areas and benches.

It was quite pretty from every angle. 

The second half of the loop (after the main boardwalk viewing area) was not as beautiful.  At one point, I ran into some folks who had seen a mother moose and two babies.  They told me to be very quiet so as not to disturb the moose family.  Apparently it was a wonderful experience, but for the life of me I could not see them, even when I ventured cautiously into the woods.  :(

The entire expedition took about 2.5 hours, complete with stops for photography and for some futile moose-hunting.

Afterward, I continued on through the park and along the Cabot Trail.  I wanted to reach Sydney before nightfall, and there was a long way to go. 

I was getting tired - and I'm not used to long drives these days.  So of course, that's when I hit the steep corkscrew descents!!!  Some spectacular views, but a bit hairy at times.  When corners are marked 25 kph, they mean it.  But a lot of people wanted to take those turns quickly.  I pulled over at many of the scenic overlooks to let them pass.

Fortunately, everyone survived.  I got to Sydney, found a hotel, and watched about 10 minutes of Star Wars on TV before I crashed.  Er, I mean, went to sleep.  I would get up early the next morning, catch a shuttle van back to Halifax, and then a plane back to the NYC metro area after a wonderful whirlwind trip to Nova Scotia.

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Hello Cabot Trail

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The day brightened up considerably as I went on.

The distances looked perfectly reasonable on the map, so I hadn't thought to check how far I'd actually be driving.

It turns out the Cabot Trail is 185 miles, so it was a bigger commitment than I'd originally anticipated.

At one point, I saw a faded painted sign on the roof of a building which said "Last Esso 180 km" or something like that.  I remember thinking, Ha! They're not saying it's the last gas station, just the last Esso.  I'm not falling for that one!

But I resolved to get gasoline at the next opportunity just in case.  So I kept driving.  And driving.  For maybe 20 minutes.  And I started to get nervous.  What if that really was the last gas station in this direction for a good long while??

I turned around and headed back, looking for the "last Esso"... and somehow I missed it completely.

 I went through the area where I thought it had been, and beyond.  I got to a bridge, and I was sure I'd seen the sign after the bridge.  But now I was getting anxious, so I figured I'd just continue backtracking until I found another gas station.  Nothing.  I stopped at an ice cream stand and got some truly mediocre raspberry cheesecake flavored ice cream, plus the advice that there was just one gas station on the way north (the direction I wanted to go), and it was a good 30 miles away.  So I turned around again and started heading north.  I found the building with the "last Esso" message (it's only visible to north-bound drivers), but could not see any sign of actual gas pumps.  The place was desolate.  I spoke to a guy who was mowing a lawn nearby, and he said there was a station about 20 minutes up.

It turns out that the gas station was just about seven minutes after I'd given up and turned around the first time.  Grrr. 

But I fueled up and continued onward to Highland National Park.

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Farewell Iona

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Day 4 dawned eerily in black-and-white; these are color pictures of a silver gelatin print day.

I went to the Highland Inn for brunch with the wedding party and some of my fellow out-of-town guests.

I packed up my things and headed off to the Little Narrows ferry.  You can buy discount tickets at the convenience store across from the ferry, and I did.  I'd have gotten an ice cream as well, but they only had three flavors - and odd ones, at that.  I think one of the available flavors was cotton candy .

I headed north and west to the Cabot Trail, with the idea of driving up and around clockwise and hitting the Skyline Trail (for hiking).

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Saturday, July 23, 2011


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After the wedding, we had a bit of time before the  reception.  A's kids played outside.


I believe the historic buildings at the Highland Village were transported here from elsewhere, much like the Henry Ford Museum.  But this farm building, in particular, seemed very well-suited to its environment (see above).  The mysterious contraption (see right) was apparently a treadmill for dogs.  I wouldn't have thought such a device would be in high demand in a rural setting...

Below, some farm equipment juxtaposed with the church.

All of us elementary school buddies posed for photos together, plus a few spouses and offspring.

How cool is that?!  


The reception featured some delicious food plus a congratulatory cake (see above).  Decorations included bobble-head lobsters in salvaged lobster traps (see right).  The bride and groom also offered gifts of homemade blueberry jam to their wedding guests!  Each jar was beautifully decked out with a bit of tartan.
Some musicians played Scottish jigs.  There was a caller to guide us novices in the set dancing, later on, but as you can see, the bride and groom were in excellent form without any outside assistance.  (Not fair, I think they've been practicing!!!) 

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They Do

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The skies cleared and we were treated to brilliant sunshine for the main event.

As wedding guests, we were granted not only free admission to the Highland Village, but we were also permitted to drive up the "Authorized Personnel Only" road on the far side of the regular parking lot. The steep, unpaved road led all the way up to the decommissioned church at the top of the hill. Breathtaking views.

E's dress was lovely. The design was simple and unfussy, with clean lines, and  projected a folksy feeling in a  sophisticated way.  A little quirky and cool, just like the bride.
(I think this is also my best picture of one of the hand-felted bouquets.)

E looks radiant as she gazes at her beloved.

T is looking quite happy as well (note again the felted corsages):
E3 graciously consented to slow down long enough to pose for this picture:
The happy couple:

The ceremony was entirely in Gaelic, so I sang and prayed along with the congregation based on my idiosyncratic view of how to pronounce the words on the left-hand side of the program.  The officiant was a judge who drove around with a pro-Gaelic bumper sticker; apparently, E  spotted the sticker while driving, and managed to introduce herself without causing any traffic incidents (woot!).  She found singers, musicians and a student minister who all could express themselves in Gaelic (apparently the purists noticed a variety of accents among the participants, but that was far too subtle for a neophyte like me to discern).  E had mentioned that the Gaelic-only ceremony was a very "political" choice - a subversive one - but I  maybe out-subverted the subversion a bit by reciting the Lord's Prayer in English while everyone else said it in Gaelic.  (Cue maniacal laugh here.)

One of the most amazing parts of the ceremony was one that E had alluded to beforehand --  I think she said something about wanting to include E3 in the ceremony -- but it still took me completely off-guard.  Whatever vague idea I had envisioned, it was nothing like this.  It was section 8 of the program, entitled "Promise to the Child".
E: You are my daughter, and I promise that I will give you love, as I was; and that I will take care of you, as I was; as long as I live.
T: I promise that I will welcome you into my life, and that I will support E as your mother and that I will take care of you as a parent, as long as I live.
E: [W]e are giving you this [item] as a symbol of each thing we have promised you, and of the new family that we will have together.
There are surely many challenges when building a blended family; you only have to look at literature, fairy tales, movies, and the news media, to know this.  But every now and then you come across a family that approaches those challenges with absolute beauty and grace.  This is one of them.

(The other one I can think of, off-hand, is R's family.  When his father and stepmother married, or maybe when they had their first child together, they commissioned a painting, an idealized portrait of their blended family.  The family is portrayed in a lush manoral type setting, each one given an air of nobility and happiness.  They literally shared their vision with the kids. Independent of the artistic merit of the painting, it is so incredibly cool and so incredibly moving.)

The paparazzi were out in full force. G, a high school friend of the bride, served as videographer:

A pre-teen girl near me was holding her family's camera, so I asked if she was the photographer. She said, "No, I just take pictures."

Others who did not bring old-fashioned cameras used whatever recording devices were available to them:
The receiving line looked quite glamorous, with many of the ladies in ivory…
and the men decked out in formal kilts:

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On Day 3 - the wedding day - early morning clouds provided atmosphere:

The B&B owner's cat:

View from the graveyard across from the B&B (very convenient if guests happen to pass away during the night):

But right behind the graveyard is the McCormack Picnic Park with some lovely views:

I decided to walk over to the Highland Village - sort of casing the joint, if you will, or seeing if it would be a comfortable walk in heels later this afternoon:

A field of flowers (maybe the lupins, not quite sure):

Bridge to Grand Narrows:

I kept noticing all the wonderful patches of wildflowers along the road, taking mental note of where they were in case we needed to freshen up the vases for the reception:

First glimpse of the decommissioned church in the Highland Village - very pretty!


I liked this mailbox sailboat, floating in a sea of trees:

This shed seemed to reflect the architecture of the bridge (which itself was reflected in the water):

When I got back to the B&B, I had breakfast and met Emily's aunt and uncle (her mother's brother). They were super-nice.

The rest of my morning still stretched out before me, so I sent emails to some of my fellow wedding guests to let them know I was available to hang out, and then drove around the entire island to get oriented.

Maskell's Harbor:

Little Narrows Ferry:

Best. Birdhouse. Ever. I think it's a mock-up of the B&B itself (which is supposedly a former convent, though it looks like a regular house).

Finally, I headed over to the Highland Heights Inn to see if I could track down Annie or Bob.   Annie and her family were at the playground down the hill from the Highland Village!  The boys were really into Star Wars and did their best to educate me about all the latest developments.  I ran a few races against them and their sister on the playground, but they kept winning.  ;)

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