Saturday, April 6, 2013

Vague updates

I'd apologize for neglecting the blog, but ... I just haven't been able to bring myself to take photos of the damage Sandy wreaked on the House of Bich.

This point must be made: We were lucky. That Horrible Bitch Sandy did not destroy our domicile, leaving us homeless or with hundreds of thousands in damage (yes, we know people who suffered both fates). But we did get seven inches of water in our basement, which -- just as Irene, That Mean Girl, did the year before -- put my basement project on the back burner again. Well, sort of; the rehabbing is simply taking a different form.

Rich is still fighting with the insurance company to get the money we're due, dammit, and then we'll replace our 40-year-old boiler, one-year-old hot water tank, and (sigh) get a new washer and dryer. We haven't had a washer and dryer since That Horrible Bitch hit. It's April. Everything will be installed on blocks this time.

And then I'll get back to painting.

In a weird way, the flooding (and the fact that we had insurance in the first place) put us in a good position to replace the boiler at last. We'll be doing a conversion from oil to gas, and taking out the oil tank will give us that much more room down there for ... whatever it is I'm doing with it.

Rich also recently chose a contractor to replace most of the windows in our house, including the enclosed porch, which remains the last room in the house we haven't touched since we moved in nearly three years ago. So exciting -- I finally get to paint and make that a real room! I'm thinking a lively apple green.

So, lots of activity, clearly, and all things we knew would happen at some point. And I realize I should just take the pictures already and post them here, but I can't. It's too frustrating. I'll wait until I'm back in the process, getting my hands dirty again. Moving on.

Thursday, October 4, 2012

Goodbye, Canada

First, checkout and an amazing brunch.

'Bye, Delta Barrington.

Jane's on the Common rules.

Pumpkin seed muffin.

Coffee, Caesar, soup.

Eggs Benedict.

Chorizo sausage and potato scramble.
 And then we hit the road for the airport. But that wasn't the end of our adventure.

We pulled up to the gas station and filled the tank before we returned The Big American Gas Guzzler (seriously, we spent hundreds of dollars on that stupid car's gas, which I did not budget for). I was in the car, Rich was filling up.

He opened the car door.

"I can't get the gas nozzle out," he said.

Curious look. "Huh?"

Stuck. Seriously. The gas nozzle was stuck in the gas tank.

Rich got the attendant, who was befuddled. "Do you try pulling harder?"

Face palm.

Second attendant: "I've got a screwdriver ... want to try prying it out that way?" Sure, let's create sparks at a gas station.

I tried pulling it. That damn thing was stuck.

We called CAA (Canadian AAA). They were totally stumped.

We called Hertz. They were f***ing useless, as usual.

Forty-five minutes later, Rich -- using sheer force of will as I was about to call United and explain that we were going to miss our international flight due to the strangest thing that's ever happened to Bich -- managed to yank the nozzle out.

We finally left, dumbfounded.

Rich grabbed a much-needed beer at the airport bar. The bartender then informed us that on a weekly basis, some American asks her where the igloos are, because it is, after all, Canada. We apologized and promised her that we're not all idiots (though it should be noted that we had to explain quite a few times during our trip that "Jersey Shore," we promise, does not represent the vast majority of us).

Somewhere over the Atlantic
We had an amazing trip. Brooke discovered she doesn't hate camping, Rich was game for even the most touristy Anne of Green Gables stuff, Canadians are really, truly nice people, and I can't wait to go back.

I found out the other day that one of Halifax's sister cities is Norfolk, which just seemed right.

"I miss Halifax," Rich said.

House update

Before the very last Canada post goes up -- which includes Rich's favorite part of the whole vacation -- I should mention that I actually have worked on the house recently! Yes, I've been in the basement, doing more cleaning, organizing and painting, so it's coming along nicely (at last).

Pictures to come in the next couple of days, after I get a second coat on my latest sections.

Wednesday, October 3, 2012

Bich's Canadian adventures: Friday

Rich got his history fix on Friday.

Halifax has a primo maritime location, prompting the building of Citadel Hill at around 1750. Multiple walls were built over the years, eventually resulting in the current star-shaped fortress. It was never actually attacked or used during war.

Coffee in hand, going up the hill

Inside the grounds

Every day features the ceremonial firing of the noon cannon.

Overlooking the city

Drum corps

Between two of the outer walls
(we arrived during a reenactment)

Gunpowder room


After spending a couple of hours at the citadel, we headed back to the harbor for some fish, chips and beer.

And we continued our history tour at the Halifax Maritime Museum.

Lighthouse light

The Titanic exhibit is extensive. Halifax was the nearest
city to the disaster, so many of the survivors (and many,
many bodies) were brought to Halifax.
Until we dropped the bomb on Hiroshima, the largest manmade explosion happened in Halifax in 1917 when a munitions ship collided with a supply ship in Halifax Harbour's "Narrows." It devastated the city, killing more than 2,000 people, injuring more than 9,000 and destroying all buildings within two kilometers. We learned a lot about that, too.

Once the museum closed, it was time for more food. (Obviously.) Across the street, we hit the best-named joint in the city: McKelvie's Delishes Fishes Dishes. Seriously -- I'm a copy editor and was endlessly delighted by that!

Crab bisque at McKelvie's

Seafood chowder
Then it was off to Alexander Keith's Brewery. The tour is crazy -- it's a dramatization of the start of the brewery using costumed performers as they take you throughout the grounds. (It was one of the few buildings not destroyed by the explosion in 1917.)

Two full beers with price of admission.

Learning 19th-century games.

We wandered the city before hitting an awesome wine bar. We could have spent hours there, but that could have been more dangerous than it was.

Tasting flight of Canadian whites.

Bread, cheese, rabbit rillettes.
We walked some more ... and went back to the Plum for $3.99 mussels.

We then hit Argyle Street -- literally just one bar or restaurant after another crammed into one block (though it was just one block in a city full of great bars, pubs, wine bars and eateries). We found a seat at ... one of them. I really can't remember.

But we met up with a couple of people who had actually just met about an hour before. She was upset because her boyfriend wanted to go to bed -- they were on vacation from Boston -- and she wanted to go out, so she went out. She decided it was time to end the relationship anyway, and this was the icing on the cake.

Her new friend, who had just moved to Halifax the week before from somewhere in the sticks of Ontario -- was keen on her. We all kept drinking.

Honoring the kittehs.

Later, our foursome ended up at the Carleton, home to some excellent music and a nice, big cover charge, thanks to the Halifax blues fest going on that weekend. But we sneaked in and caught the end of the headliner.

It was time to say goodbye to our friends (so he could finally make his move, if you will). So at this point, we're hungry -- it's nearly 2 a.m., we're on vacation, we didn't technically eat dinner, and we've been drinking. I demanded food. (I would do that sober.) We were pointed toward a "very college" area of town, and sure enough, we discovered a few clubs crammed into one block that were open until 4 a.m., with the requisite pizza joint next door. A fight broke out, of course, which Rich watched while I exasperatedly went inside and ordered my pizza.

I felt old.

But we enjoyed our pizza, walked back to our hotel after dodging a few more skirmishes, and hit the sack.

Tuesday, October 2, 2012

Bich's Canadian adventures: Thursday

Sadly, for our Thursday morning adventure, we couldn't take the camera -- or cellphones or, well, anything. So I borrowed most of these from the Internet (thank you, Tidal Bore Rafting Park and Cottages).

Tidal bore rafting is a bit like whitewater rafting, but milder. The Bay of Fundy, on the eastern side of Nova Scotia, is full of amazing tides as the Atlantic Ocean comes in from two sides of the island; the Shubenacadie River, on the easternmost side of the bay, is fed by the bay and experiences tidal bores twice a day. Due to the river's geographic location, these tides are some of the world's highest and strongest. And that tide comes in fast.

After our day of wine tasting in the Annapolis Valley, we drove to Shubenacadie to our cottage at the park. It's pretty remote; there are many places that provide rafting, but ours had the innermost starting point, meaning we had four hours on the river (far longer than most expeditions), and because our date fell on the full moon, we had to be up early Thursday morning to beat the tide out for our "extreme" waves. Wednesday night, though, we opened a bottle of wine, Rich started a fire, and we cooked dinner in our little kitchen. And Brooke took the longest, hottest shower of the trip.

Our little cabin.

Low tide, early evening on Wednesday.
We drove to the local co-op and picked up a frozen meal
(yikes), salads, and we tackled the fresh artichokes we'd bought
from Luckett. They need work, but we did it.

Fireplace for winters.

And our kitchen.

Kinda neat.
We woke up early on Thursday morning and headed to the rafting cabin. Sixteen people would be heading out on two rafts; while I desperately had hoped to not end up in the "douchebag" raft (four 25-year-old bros), a very nice Nova Scotian couple were also in our raft, and the eight of us ended up having a blast.

The Shubenacadie River, at about 7:45 a.m. (low tide)

After riding about 20 kilometers out, which takes about 45 minutes,
we reached a sandbar -- about 10 minutes long,
about five minutes wide. How's that for exact measurements?
After relaxing on the sandbar for about 10 minutes, we heard our two guides yell, "Time to go! Get in the rafts!" They'd caught sight of the tide starting to move in. We hurried back into our rain gear and life jackets, jumped into the raft and pushed off.

And when the tidal bore starts coming in, you'd better
get off that sandbar, because this is where it is just
five minutes later -- that is, no longer visible.
A few minutes later, you would be completely under water.

The amount of water that comes in with the tidal bore each day
equals the amount of water in all of the world's rivers.

And that's what it's like riding the tidal bore back to camp.
The force of the rivers combined with the force
of a tide coming in from the opposite direction creates a roiling rapid,
and watching those waves hit each other and fight each other is fascinating.

In and out of the waves -- the raft guides take you
into the waves, then back out, then back in, depending on
where on the river you are. You're soaked from the start. And half the time,
our raft was almost completely under water because of the season
we were in (full moon just before autumn = rougher waves).

Hope you like water.

The force of the tide keeps the river muddy
all of the time as it pretty much never gets a chance to
settle. It also makes the banks clear as nothing gets
a chance to grow (though lots of people fish in the river).
And this is about the point where Rich fell into the Shubenacadie River. In slow motion, the river seemed to reach up and pull Rich and our native Nova Scotian couple into the water.

Later in the day, when I jumped out of the raft to go mud-sliding, I didn't realize how deep it was, and I went completely under. The mud makes it so dark, I panicked for a second and opened my eyes, only to see nothing but darkness (ouch -- thanks, saltwater). I swore I was under the boat (which made me panic more), so I scrambled to the surface ... which was all of about a foot above me. It was disconcerting.

We rode on an "extreme" day,
which means this is a peaceful picture.

Brooke screamed a lot.

This is Anthony's Nose. When the tide comes in,
you can't see this at all.
Toward the end of the day, depending on how your raft companions feel, you can go mud-sliding. For Rich, the entire day of rafting was worth it for this experience. For a spa girl like Brooke, it was a bit difficult, but there is nothing like this on Earth.

This is where we also realized that our companions were ideal: The other raft, which consisted of eight extremely nice people, all of whom were in their 50s and not super-adventurous, decided to not go mud-sliding, which would have been very disappointing for us. They reached base camp about a half-hour ahead of us, and much cleaner. But without the added fun.

Into a side stream, where you get out,
climb the muddy banks, and ...

... get muddy ...

... and slide into the river.

At the top.

Climbing up. (Rich said I was a prissy girl.
I broke a toenail and destroyed my pedicure.)

I also lost the "pants" part of my convertible hiking pants.
(I came onto the river in pants; I left in shorts.)

Seriously, these people are clean compared to what Rich,
Brooke and our rafting companions looked like.

Oh, and we saw lots of these.
After getting back to the cabins and taking a shower to rinse off all that mud -- which doesn't really work; I still had mud in my toenails three weeks later -- we got in the car again. Fortunately, we were only about 45 minutes from Halifax, so we returned to the city, dropped off our camping gear and checked into our hotel.

A hotel ... with a big shower ... and unlimited hot water.

I had bagged our river clothes, which are now permanently, joyfully stained with mud. I put them in the tub at the hotel and took a nap; being in the sun all day wears me out. So Rich headed out for a walk, and I joined him a couple of hours later for a snack and a beer. And then dinner, a snack, more beer, some wine ...

Looking down toward the harbor

This is a Caesar. It's a Canadian
specialty; it's a bloody Mary, but it uses
clamato juice instead of tomato juice.
It has a celery salt rim and uses a pickled bean
instead of celery.

Oysters at Five Fishermen
We kept passing an adorable basement apartment with huge windowsills, which were usually occupied by this crazy-cute cat. If you showed him the tiniest bit of interest, he'd jump up, start meowing, pawing at the windows, rolling over ... being awesome. (It reminded us of the Pooses.)

We stopped for a couple of tastes at Garrison.

After our beer, we decided to hit a comedy club for some giggles -- the place was packed. The headliner was pretty hilarious, but the others were awkward. It was odd to hear some 9/11 humor (don't ask) as Americans in the audience, though the Canadians didn't really find it funny, either.

Then we took a stroll along the harbor on our way back to our hotel; lots of people were out walking, taking in the landmarks and historical markers.
Mr. Cunard, outside the Farmers' Market