Sunday, September 30, 2012

Andie's Big Adventure: Exploring Portugal Cove

The backyard of our rental house.

The first week we settled in. We wandered the neighborhood, took lots of pictures, picked the last of the blueberries from the bushes behind the house, lost internet for two days, got internet back, met some of the neighbors, had a tropical storm and lost power for two days, then got power back. It was exciting!

Tropical storm or no, Dinky still had to go outside. Yes, those are real foulies. We used to have a sailboat, remember? My, that's a good look for me, don't you think? As is the nice rear view of me taking pictures. Dinky is always a hit with the kids.  And those are all the blueberries that were left.

Of course, internet and power were restored and normal operations could begin.

This, ladies and gentlemen, sums up "normal operations".

We grocery shopped, as I mentioned. But I'll delve a little deeper here. It is a food blog, after all.

One of the grocery stores is named Dominion. They have the same private label brand (President's Choice) as the Teeter back home. The one we went to had two stories. Talk about feeling like a gawking hillbilly. They have these cool cart escalators next to the regular escalator. You attach the cart to it and it rides up (and back down) next to you. Pretty slick.

Now I will make observations about the differences in grocery shopping here and back home. These are OBSERVATIONS, not COMPLAINTS. I honestly couldn't be any happier. This place rocks. The first thing I noticed was that there isn't nearly the selection of fresh vegetables that we have back home. Perfectly understandable, since we're on a rocky island and most everything has to be shipped over. But for you guys back home, appreciate our variety. I was a little surprised that there wasn't more seafood available. But again, colder waters, so I suppose maybe sometimes less is available. Shrimp aren't up here in abundance, for example. They are also a little lacking in the Hispanic food area. They have Old El Paso taco shells, jarred salsa and fajita kits, but finding canned beans and chilis is a challenge. So we may be eating at La Costa for three straight months when we get home. They also have things we don't. Like little tins of herring.

And of course, they have cod. Delicious filets! And heads. I guess maybe you make fish stock out of them. I'll find out. Here's the cooking part of the blog. I got a fresh cod filet, salted and peppered it and sprinkled it with paprika and sauteed it in a hot pan. The end. The fish is so good you just really don't want to smother it with a bunch of flavors. It tastes clean and fresh and is flakey and tender. It ain't Mrs. Paul's. Although I confess to liking those when I was nine.

They also have gummi worms, Dad. So it's safe to come on up for a visit. See the cool cart escalator? If there hadn't been a bunch of people there, and ice cream in my bag, I probably would have stayed and played with that for a good hour.

And of course, besides cooking cod myself, I had to get to a local cove restaurant lickety-split to try the traditional fare.

Brown food. Just my thing! The fish and chips were amazing. Wild Horses Pub and Restaurant is a couple of blocks away from the house, so we just walked. Which was good, since it burned off a couple of chips. Maybe. I won't be eating that too often or I'll have to have my own separate ferry to get me back to the mainland in April.

Besides buying groceries and eating, we spent some time taking pictures of the gorgeous scenery here in Portugal Cove. It's a small community about 15 minutes from the MUN campus. We're renting the lovely blue cottage from Coleen and John. It's on North Point Road, which dead-ends into a field running over the rocks at the edge of the water.

I walk Dinky there in the mornings.

The bottom picture is Bell Island, across the water from us. I've been informed that the body of water between Portugal Cove and Bell Island is called the "Bell Island Tickle". Y'all didn't know I married Encyclopedia Brown, did you?

The houses in the neighborhood are saltboxish and painted lots of different colors.

There's a ferry just down from us that runs back and forth between here and Bell Island all day and into the night.

Mornings are beautiful. Even the fog is pretty.

And the sunsets are even better.

I'm sure I'll want to go home eventually, because I'll need some Mexican food. But for right now, I'm just fine.

Sunday, September 23, 2012

Andie's Big Adventure: Errand Running in Newfoundland

This is not the front door. It's the dungeon. Now you KNOW you want to come visit!
So there we were, and here we are. 8 North Point Road, Portugal Cove-St. Philip's Newfoundland. Renting John and Coleen's wonderful little cottage on the water. The Sunday after our arrival on Saturday, we didn't stay to enjoy the view very long. We had to get out and provision up.

A lot of our friends had a little bit of a misconception about where we were going to be. I got lots of questions like "You're going to go crazy being so isolated! Where on earth will you shop?? What kind of food will you be able to get?!"

I think this is what they pictured.


Let me introduce you to the St. John's Costco.

And it was about this crowded.

Honestly, I've never seen so many people at a Costco in my life. Getting around in there was like trying to get to the stage of a Stones concert in 1978.

We managed to get what we needed and stood in line for half an hour to check out. We had a LOT of stuff. Our US Costco card worked just fine, but guess what didn't? Right. Our US debit card. And this is how you make writing about a trip to Costco interesting. Introduce some stress and humiliation.

We had just assumed our debit card would be fine since we'd already been using it all around town. But you know, Costco has that weird thing where they take only debit cards, cash or AmEx. The supervisor was summoned. Canadians in line behind the stupid crass Americans (we had on matching Hawaiian shirts) looked like they wanted to cut us. I don't blame them. The supervisor suggested we try the ATM and use cash. The Costco ATM didn't like us any better than the cash register did. I think it even called Phillip a hoser. So the Costco people gathered all our stuff up and set it aside. The employees were incredibly nice to us. The supervisor said maybe they could take a check, so we left to go back to the house and get the checkbook. On the way there, she called and said no, the manager said they couldn't take a check (I wasn't surprised), but there was a bank branch open where we could probably get cash. We came home, got the information on the bank, and drove over. They weren't open, as it turned out. Holiday weekend. So much for Mom saying I had to work Monday because Candians don't have Labor day. But the ATM worked just fine with our card, thank goodness. Cash in hand, we returned to the scene of embarrassment and degradation and claimed our purchases. They had to re-check us out, and were going to break us in line and I said oh HELL no. We'd wait like everyone else. I didn't want to get shanked by a mob one day after getting here.

After that three-hour ordeal, we headed out in search of a desk. Staples. Next, rounding out of the kitchen supplies. Bed, Bath and Beyotch. In the same area, they have a Best Buy and the Wal-Marks. Plenty of civilization. Well, maybe not the Wal Marks.  But I don't think we'll starve or be deprived of stuff while we're here. We also had to swing into a sports shop and let Pootie get some workout clothes because homeboy left those in Wilmington. Finally dragged ourselves and a truckload of stuff in the door at 5:00.

But you know, when this is what greets you, it's hard to stay grumpy for long.

For our first REAL night in our new borrowed home (thanks again Coleen and John!) after enduring a fairly stressful day, I needed a little comfort of home. And I don't mean Wilmington, because really fresh shrimp are scarce here right now, and I forgot grits. I mean childhood comfort. It's beautiful here, but The Costco Incident on top of the trip and leaving home discombobulated me a bit. I made my childhood favorite. Chicken Paprika. It's orange, like Cheetos, so that means it's good. I've blogged it here before, and to reward you for being such a loyal reader and getting all the way to the end of a blog talking about shopping for groceries at Costco, here is the recipe in .pdf format.

Aloha, peoples! Stay tuned for more scenery and precious little cooking right here!

Thursday, September 20, 2012

Andie's Big Adventure: Road Trip Leg 7

I slept fine. Why do you ask?
This is it, kids. The very last leg of the journey!

Still on the ferry. It was about a 15 hour trip. We were supposed to arrive about 9:30 AM. We got up and had a little coffee, then went to tend to Dinky. He was fine. Very calm. But of course, absolutely refused to use the provided facilities. None of the other dogs would either.

You have no idea how much faster this trip would have been if I had his bladder.

We stuffed him back in his crate and went to get some breakfast. By the time we made it back to the cabin, they were announcing that our arrival was about an hour away.

It wasn't a very pretty day.

We docked, and John and Lacey helped us gather up all of Dinky's stuff and his crate and get it and him down to the truck. He had to be muzzled again, and liked it about as much as he had the day before. I'm chucking that thing in the bin. The muzzle, not the dog.

We didn't have long to wait for them to unload us. Dinky and I went first and pulled over with the rest of the dog people to let our poor guys find some grass to use. He wasn't speaking to me, by the way.

We waited for P to unload about ten minutes, then we started on the road to St. John's and Portugal Cove. The sun came out about half an hour into the drive and made it a lot more pleasant. Before we went to the rental house, we stopped at the grocery. I was pretty determined to provision up so we didn't have to get right back out again after six days on the road.

We found a grocery and I went to the restroom first, of course.

Then we had some lunch.

I know. You've seen that shirt before. I didn't bring a lot of clothes. We shipped most of them ahead.

And then we went shopping.

They had some things we didn't at home, of course.

No, we didn't buy any.

Everyone kept telling me before we left how much more expensive groceries were here. Actually, they're about on par with Harris Teeter in Wilmington, with a few exceptions.

We got the basics to get us through a couple of days, then went to the adjoining liquor store. Priorities, people. Priorities.

This stuff has quite the reputation. We did not buy any. We're going to wait for a native to give it to us and make us kiss a cod so we can be screeched in.

I will note that wine prices are WAY higher here than at home. Ouch. At least 1.5 times as much. Sometimes double.

Then we piled our purchases in the back of the truck with Dinky, who still wasn't speaking to us, and headed for the house. It was a sight for sore eyes. We've been looking at it online for a year and a half. It felt like home already.

We unloaded everything. I did some laundry and started making a list of stuff we needed, and we got a very nice visit from Mona and Fred, relatives of Coleen and John, the owners of the house. They welcomed us and gave us a lot of information about getting around, where to shop, how to reach them, etc. It was nice to have a personal welcome.  We were kind of shell-shocked after the trip and the time change and new landscape and everything.

But it was good to finally be here. And you can't feel shell-shocked for long with this as your front yard.

So here we are! Newfoundland! Canada! At last! We'll be broadcasting from our new location until April, so stay tuned!

The view is worth it.

Monday, September 17, 2012

Andie's Big Adventure: Road Trip Leg 6

I can hear you asking from the back seat, and no, we're not there yet. But almost!

We had some time to relax in Sydney since we didn't need to leave for the ferry until 2:30. So of course, we did laundry. And in doing laundry, learned a little about Canadian money.

Toonies. Two dollar coins. And let me just note right here that Canadian money is WAY prettier than ours. It's very colorful.

When I wasn't doing laundry, I was busy driving Pootie crazy about the dog. I was very worried about the ferry ride for him. We were putting him in a kennel room in his crate for the 15-hour trip. (Dinky, not Pootie.) I had no idea where we were going to walk him, if we'd be allowed to go feed him, etc. Their regulations on paper are pretty strict. I'd read some information about it on Travelocity and it sounded horrible. Then there was the whole unloading thing. For the ferry, you park your car, take your stuff and go to your room, if you have one. Given that we would have an absolutely enormous crate (seriously, I could fit in there with the dog) food and water and bowls for him, the dog himself, and luggage for us for overnight, it was a multi-trip thing, and I didn't know how long we'd have to do all that. Oh - and the dog crate had all our computer gear in it. So we had to unpack everything and redistribute it between vehicles.

In other words, I was stressed out.

But we did the redistribution and packing at the hotel, it went smoothly, and at 2:00, we headed for the ferry station and arrived about 2:30.

We parked in an orderly line of vehicles and got out to wait for loading. Turns out, the guy right in front of Pootie was from Greensboro, NC and living in Nova Scotia now. Small world.

While P was chatting up people from back home, I found a group of dogs and went to talk to them. Well, and their humans, too. Met a nice young couple who went to school at Memorial.  The girl was Lacey and her dad was there with them and their dog named Kobe. Another couple had Toby. He was a border collie mix and didn't like Dinky. Oh well. There were a few others with smaller dogs, and it was reassuring. A couple of them had done it before, and said it was just fine. And that you have a lot of time to make multiple trips to unload and get everything settled. So I relaxed. A little.

Pretty soon, they called us to board. As usual, my fears were mostly unfounded. We sat on the deck for a good while, waiting for them to get everyone parked and situated. They'd put all the dog people together, so we all got to chat while we waited. The traffic guide crew were amiable and helpful.

We had plenty of time to unload and get set up, and Lacey's father John helped us with Dinky's crate. The only thing that was as bad as I figured it would be was putting a muzzle on Dinky. They make you do that when you're getting them from the car to the kennel room. He did not like that one bit. He also wasn't too keen on getting in his crate, but I can't really blame him. There was some horrible, horrible little poodle that had a bark that would split eardrums and he did not stop barking the entire time. Poor Dinky.

That door that's open is the kennel.

Turns out, our cabin was on the same level as the kennel. We were on the 10th deck and just right around the corner. We put our bag in our room and went to poke around the boat. First stop - the lounge. We needed a snack. And I needed a glass of wine.

The lounge. Groovy, isn't it?
We poked around the boat and looked at the restaurants and the seating areas for people who didn't want a cabin and such. Then we went back to the cabin and I sat on the sofa and enjoyed our view while we got underway.

We left around 6:00 PM. Pootie and I went to dinner at one of the restaurants. Not the best I've ever had, but perfectly serviceable.

Yes. I am rumpled, slouching, and a bit the worse for wear.
I went back up to the kennel and met Lacey so we could walk our boys on the deck. No muzzles. We saw one of the crew and he just smiled. Didn't say a word to us about having the dogs out without regulated head gear. Thank goodness. I was afraid they might keel-haul us.

Then P. and I retired to our cabin and settled in for a little movie-watching.

 And on that note, I will leave you until tomorrow and the final (yes, FINAL) leg of our journey. We're almost there!

Thursday, September 13, 2012

Andie's Big Adventure: Road Trip Leg 5

We got up late and left Moncton around 10:30. It was kind of a wreck of a morning. We had several false starts. Left the hotel, drove to find a gas station, couldn't find one, got on the highway. Found a gas station, got gas, got back on the highway. Had to stop for a break, found a place, got back on the highway. Then it was time for lunch. I know. We're never going to get there. But look! We stopped at Wendy's and see what they have!?

I think that's pretty cool. Granted, it takes longer to clean up from lunch, especially when you have to stand there and read and sort and figure it all out.  We need this in the states. I'm sure we have it somewhere, but not down South. But at least we don't throw the used Wendy's bag out of the pickup truck, like we used to before we made the Native American cry.

I loved that ad. The Canadians have a leg up on us with that.

Other Fast Food differences include the "McLobster" and the Subway sign saying "Lobster is back!" Lobster. In fast food joints. Holy sheez. This place may be too fancy for us.

The route was still beautiful.

We did actually stop to take these pictures.


Traffic was light and we finally started making good time. We were almost there, then right as we were getting to one of the highways to turn off to Sydney, there was an accident. The police were diverting traffic and we wound up driving all over this neighborhood with everyone else, trying to figure out where we were going. My GPS wasn't helping a whole lot. It put us square in the parking lot of a Day Care, which is probably where it decided we needed to go, what with the tantrums and crying and all. We switched to P. leading, because the GPS in Armijo (the car - long story) wasn't cutting out on him the way mine was. He led, I followed, and finally we wound our way out of the neighborhood and onto the highway. Hooray!

We drove into Sydney, Nova Scotia and to the Cambridge Suites. I was really looking forward to this particular stay. Not only did we have a decent amount of down-time, we had a suite. With a couch! And a chair! And a fridge! And a desk! All separate from the bedroom! Look!

Dinky liked it too.

I was excited about this suite because most of the time we've had suites, it's been kind of inadvertant and we've just checked in and right back out and haven't had time to really sit and enjoy the luxury of a real sofa and coffe table. Also, remember I haven't had a sofa or a coffee table in several days now.

See? A whole separate room for the bed! We didn't close the doors, but we COULD have!
We also had a nice view.

We settled in and then P. went to the gym to work out. I didn't. I plugged into internet and got some work done. Because I'm that guy.

Then he got back and we went to dinner. Downstairs. In the hotel restaurant. We were seriously sick of driving. 

I'm usually much more beautiful than this, and all decked out in pearls and a black dress and stuff, but I'd been driving for four days. My clean clothes were limited.
Guess what we had?

I think it's a law or something. And it was cheap! Relatively speaking.

I tried not to think about the next day, when we were getting on the ferry. I'd been anxious about that for months and months, even going back to last year, when we were supposed to go and didn't. Thanks, cancer. Anyway, putting Dinky in a crate on a boat for 15 hours was causing me some angst. More than it caused him, most likely. But I still slept pretty well.

It was having all that room, I'm sure.

Or, you know... maybe it was the wine.

Tomorrow! The ferry! And Trauma for Dinky! And me.

Monday, September 10, 2012

Andie's Big Adventure: Road Trip Leg 4

We had a really lovely breakfast at the hotel, then managed to hit the road by 8:30 to drive through Maine and up into Canada. Next stop, Moncton New Brunswick! (Karen Doyle, I apologize for not making arrangments to meet, but we were pretty much a train wreck on tires and had no idea when we'd get there.)

Pootie was bad and snapped phone pictures while he was driving. The above is Highway One in Maine. It was absolutely beautiful. And very little traffic, which was nice for a change. We drove through windy roads lined with rolling hills, rocks, conifers, and beautiful houses and barns and churches with the odd glimpse of the ocean and a lighthouse here and there. We had a beautiful day and it was a gorgeous drive. Then, all of a sudden, there was the Canadian border. (!)

We made the mistake of stopping at the US checkpoint since it was actually first. P. was excited and got out and snapped a picture. The place wasn't marked or anything. A rude American officer came out and we asked what we needed to do and explained that we were headed into Canada, etc. Officer Charming informed us that this was the US checkpoint, not the Canadian, and it was a felony to take pictures of a US Federal Installation, and almost confiscated Pootie's phone. P. managed to pull the pictures up and show the officer that he was deleting them. After they were deleted, he kept going with the whole "don't take pictures" thing and said there was a $30,000 fine for taking photos. Our first experience with someone rude on the trip. He was such a jerk. He grudgingly gave us directions on how to get to the Canadian checkpoint, and we left. And I mumbled a curse of mild gastronintestinal distress for one day as we drove away. I hope he's nicer to the Canadians coming into the US than he was to us. If he's not, then on behalf of the United States, I would like to apologize for his behavior. We're not all that rude.

We managed to get to the right checkpoint, and went inside to get our paperwork done. It didn't take too long, and we had our visas for school and work. Here's the fine print on mine.

I don't know WHAT we're going to do for money now. I'll have to come up with something else.

Back on the road, the scenery was still beautiful. Look! Windmills! And the back of my car!

Look! The Trans-Canada Highway! And the back of my car!

Look! The Bay of Fundy! (No, really! I don't know why we couldn't have stopped for a real picture.)

Sorry y'all. It's really pretty hard to make a road trip compelling. This must be why when Hollywood does them, there are guns and explosions and scantily clad women. (I was not scantily clad, before any of you decide that's why they put that caveat on my visa.)

We drove into Moncton, New Brunswick for the night and got in a little late. When we got out of the car, it was chilly! Yay! Dinky and I were well pleased. And there was internet, of course, so I could get a little work done before dinner, then bed. Tomorrow! Sydney, Nova Scotia!