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Thursday, January 15, 2015

Back in Yelapa Again!

Where is Yelapa?
Right now I’m sitting in Yelapa, Mexico.  I’m here with my wife, Michele, for three months. It’s a unique experience to be writing about the actual location I’m actually situated in.  Usually I take notes during my travels and compose my blog entries after I come home.   Most of my excursions I’m constantly traveling – never in the same place for more than a night and that doesn’t allow time to compose well thought out illustrated blog entries.

My love affair with this little town goes back seven years when I first came here for three weeks to study Spanish. When I disembarked from the 45 minute water taxi trip from Puerto Vallarta my first instinct was to get back on board and head back to Puerto Vallarta.  As I made my way up the cobble stone roadway to my rented accommodation I wondered what I had got myself into.  The town appeared so…. primitive.  
There were no cars – just burros and horses.  The narrow roadway had aromatic deposits from the aforementioned animals. 

Wednesday, January 7, 2015

Maritimes Wrap-up: Thumbs up & Thumbs down

Rather than go through all the sites and attractions in boring detail, I’ll simply list them and our opinion of each. 

  1. Halifax:
  2. Halifax's Citadel
    1. You can easily this small city in two days.   The key sites are:
    2. The Citadel - – this is any easy walk from anywhere in  downtown.  We debated staying out Halifax and commute in;, but in the end opted to stay downtown at  the Cambridge Suites Hotel and save the time and money of commuting in.  The Citadel was right across the street and is an impressive  site even though it was operating with a reduced staff.  Allow yourself at least two or three hours and definitely take the tours.
    3. Take the little ferry over to Dartmouth and back.  You get a nice feel for the harbour and city.  Allow about an hour – depending on how often it runs.
    4.  Alexander Keith’s Brewery – definite thumbs down     on this one for us.  Expensive and
      super tacky.  Save your    money (more importantly your time) and buy beer with it.
    5. The Maritime Museum. Thumbs up on this one.   I  found it very interesting and really well done. Allow at least   a couple of hours for this attraction.
  3.  Peggy’s Cove
  4. Light House at Peggy's Cove
    1.  This iconic site is a half hour out of Halifax on the way to Lunenburg .   It’s probably the most photographed lighthouse in Canada.  You definitely need to stop and hour and get the “must have” picture of you with the lighthouse.  We were prepared to be underwhelmed but really enjoyed the lighthouse and the surrounding village.
  5.    Lunenburg:
  6. Lunenburg
    1.  This World Heritage Site is a definite must see on your trip.  The town with its iconic brightly painted houses is a pleasure to stroll through and enjoy the centuries old  beautifully restored century old structures.  It is also the site of the Bluenose.  Unfortunately the ship was still under repair.  If you have your heart set on a Bluenose cruise check to make sure it’s operating
      1.   If you’re looking for a great place to eat check out the Lunenburg Pub & Bar.  It’s a pub that caters to locals and tourists.  Normally Michele hates pubs, but we liked this one so much we went back a second night.
  7.   Annapolis Royal and The Habitation  at Port Royal
  8. The Habitation at Port Roysl
    1.    Michele had her heart set on seeing this 17th century recreation of a French fort.  We drove over  an hour to get there – and guess what?  It was closed.      We learned to our dismay that many attractions move on to winter hours right after Labour Day – so if you’re not travelling in peak season CHECK to make sure  they’re open.  Some of them are even closed on weekdays. We still managed to walk around Fort Anne and the surrounding area.
  9. Digby
  10. digby ferry
    1. Digby is famous for scallops and where you catch the ferry over to St. John.  The ferry is an old smelly tub, and ten minutes after you leave Digby there’s nothing to see but sea – for  a couple of hours.  It’s definitely not an enjoyable cruise like taking the BC Ferry to Victoria.  If we had to do it again, we’d drive and take the scenic route.
  11. Bay of Fundy
    1.   What’s the point of going to the Maritimes if you’re
      Low tide at Alma
      not going to experience the Bay of Fundy and its amazing tides?( See preceding post for details).   We opted to see the tides from the New Brunswick side and chose the little town of Alma.  We lucked into the Cliffside Suites on the outskirt of town.  This was by far the nicest place we stayed in on the entire trip  Besides having a luxurious suite complete with Jacuzzi bathtub and comfortable living room, each unit came equipped with its own deluxe BBQ.  But by far the most impressive thing about the place was the magnificent view it had of the seaside town of Alma and the Bay of Fundy.  We could watch the tide rise and fall right from our  living room.  If you’re going to New Brunswick try and stay there.  I’m told it’s usually booked months in advance.  We called anyways and found they just had a cancellation.   So you never know.
    2. Cape Enrage
      1. Cape Enrage
        From Alma it’s a twenty minute car ride to Cape Enrage – another interesting lighthouse and a great view of the impressive ocean current raging by.  It also has a zip line and rock climbing face – but those attractions only run during peak season.
    3. Hopewell Rocks
    4. Hopewell Rocks
      1.    Hopewell Rocks is another well documented attraction.  Plan to spend a couple of hours there.  But be warned: there are lots of stairs down to the beach.  You can easily do Cape Enrage and the Hopewell Rocks in a morning or afternoon.  Just check the tides before you go.  You might want to try and catch them at both low and high tide.
  12. The Confederation Bridge.
  13. The Confederation Bridge
    1.    Originally we were going to take the Confederation Bridge to PEI and the ferry back, but  after our experience with the Nova Scotia Ferry we opted to take the bridge both ways.  The best place to get a picture of the bridge is on the PEI side just before the bridge.  You’ll  see the bridge as you approach.  Just pull over to take your picture.
  14. Malpeque Bay
  15. Malpeque Oysgters
    1.  Is covered above.  If you’re an oyster lover you’ll definitely want to go there.  If               you’re   going after Labour Day and want your oysters I recommend Carr’s Oyster           Bar in Stanley Bridge.  If you’re not an oyster fan, you can probably miss the side trip     to Malpeque but don’t miss the…
  16.   Alexander Graham Bell Museum in Cape Breton
  17. Alexander Graham Bell Museum
    1. This was an absolutely fantastic museum.  A definite must.  Who knew that he had invented so many things besides the telephone.    You can easily spend two or three hours poking around the exhibits.  It’s definitely worth the side trip to Baddeck.

  18. Louisberg
    1. Louisberg was another highlight of the trip.  This is a
      reconstruction of part of the original town that was one of the biggest cities on the east coast in the 1700’s.   Because of meticulous record keeping they were able to faithfully reconstruct the houses and stores.   Again we were in off season so the amount of exhibits open were drastically reduced.  The guides are dressed in period costumes and are extremely knowledgeable about the era and the characters they play.  There there is nothing amateurish about their presentation (see Alexander Keith’s Brewery).  Big thumbs up for this place.
  19. Sydney
  20. Sydney
    1. Sydney is billed as the largest “city” in Cape Breton.  But that’s relative.  With a population of only 30,000 it’s actually smaller than Campbell River in BC.  We spent a Sunday there and the town was absolutely dead.  Evidently they still don’t have shopping on Sunday in most places (Some of the malls are open).  The downtown was so dead that Sunday morning that kids were playing street hockey on the main drag.    Nothing much happens in town unless a cruise ship is in port.  We’d just missed one and the next one due in was re-routed due to almost hurricane force winds and rains that hit the town the second day we were there.  
    2.   The Cambridge Suites organization had another hotel in Sydney. We were so impressed with the one in Halifax we booked to stay there for two nights.  While it was nice and the staff tried hard to make our stay pleasant the hotel is desperate need of a face lift.  It’s getting a bit threadbare.
From Sydney it’s about a five hour drive back to Halifax.   We return our car to the Budget people, have yet another confrontation with them over repayment for fixing a flat we experienced on the first day.  Their roadside assistance told us to take it to a garage, have it fixed, and present the bill for repayment when I return the car.  When I present the bill they absolutely refuse to pay for it even though I’d been told they would.  It’s only fifteen dollars, not worth making a big fuss over, but it is the final straw when dealing with Budget.  So be warned.  The lesson learned is that I should have gone with my automobile association club instead of calling their roadside assistance which provided neither. No sympathy from me if you use them.

In conclusion while we enjoyed many of the sights in the Maritimes we found it an awful lot of driving.  In hindsight we might have looked for a tour that included the sights we wanted to see and left the driving to someone else. 


Off to Yelapa Mexico for….    Three months!

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