A 23 day adventure

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This trip started on Tuesday 6 September, it is our habit to leave one day ahead of schedule when we have to fly to catch a flight in Montreal or Toronto. Though I much prefer to fly from Montreal if possible. We do this because in Canada you never know with the weather or possible storms, Summer like Winter. We left Charlottetown on a bright sunny day, as the plane took off we could see the Hillsborough River and the entrance into the Strait of Northumberland. The island is very green and I got a better appreciation for its topography from the sky. A short flight to Montreal only 90 minutes. Always a pleasure to return to Montreal a city filled with childhood memories.

By being a day ahead we went into Montreal, my home town, to see a special exhibit presented by Hermès, the famous 179 year old French Design House. The exhibit titled Man and Horse was beautifully curated and presented the private collection of Emile Hermes 1871-1951.

We explored the private collection of Émile Hermès. For the first time in its history, Hermès of Paris has agreed to share 250 remarkable objects, which travelled from the enthusiast’s office at 24 rue du Faubourg Saint-Honoré in Paris. The tremendously rich collection—in terms of both history and heritage—traces the history of the horse and its relationship with man. Until now, only a few privileged visitors have been able to see the collection. An exclusive world premiere at the Musée Pointe à Callière in Montreal. https://pacmusee.qc.ca/fr/  The Museum is located in the oldest part of Montreal, the founding site of the city, c.1642.

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Duc-Carriage with horse logo

Being in Old Montreal, we also visited the Basilica Notre Dame c.1676 which is built in the French Gothic style and has been beautifully restored to show the great stain glass ceiling which brings lots of natural light into the church which can sit 3000 people.

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Old Montreal, Place d’Armes with the monument to Paul de Chomedey, Sieur de Maisonneuve 1612-1676 who with Jeanne Mance founded Montreal or Ville-Marie as it was then called. What is interesting about the origin of this great French Metropolis is the original foundation project was strictly a religious one. Ville-Marie was to be a religious settlement for the propagation of the Catholic Faith, things turned out differently.

We had a very good lunch on Place Jacques Cartier by the City Hall at Terrasse William Gray.

On Wednesday 7 September we left from Pierre-Elliott Trudeau International Airport on Air Transat for Dublin, a 5 hour 30 minute flight.

 

 

 

We are back Home

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This is the first of several instalments on our 23 day trip to Ireland, UK and Atlantic crossing back to North America. So I am starting by our return home.

Returned home, our last stop was New York City the Cruise Terminal in Brooklyn. We arrived in NYC on the Queen Mary2 at 05:30am, the ship docked opposite Governor’s Island and the Tip of Manhattan Island with the new tower replacing the World Trade Centre lost in the clouds. The Captain had stopped the ship first in front of the Statue of Liberty so we could get a few good photos of this famous monument. It was the first time I saw it in person despite having been to NYC many times.

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Statue of Liberty at 05:30am as the Queen Mary 2 docks at the Cruise Terminal, Brooklyn.

We then left the ship at 12:30 an hour later than scheduled due to the fact that US Customs and Border inspection only had 9 Officers instead of 17 to process 3000 passengers, it took 5 hours to complete this process of going through Customs for all passengers. I just thought that this type of obtuse management of tourists by the US Customs is an abuse. Passengers coming off an expensive Ocean liner being inconvenienced is in fact killing tourism and giving a poor first impression of the USA. All passport information had been available to the US Authorities 8 days in advance. Many including ourselves who had planned to spend the day in Manhattan decided to simply go directly to the airport. In heavy choking traffic on poorly maintained roadways, we made it to LaGuardia with 90 minute to spare before our departure for Canada. It is unfortunate because I had not been in NYC in 22 years and now it is unlikely I will ever return, too much of a hassle, not worth it.

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The flight to Toronto was uneventful, though I find Toronto Airport an unpleasant experience. To be fair Canadian Border Agency is no better and grossly understaffed, 4 officers to handle hundreds of travellers at the Security check point on the second floor for connecting flights. The flight to PEI was fun, passengers mostly from the Island returning home, it seems that everyone knew everyone else on the flight.

So after a day of line ups in Customs and airport security circus, it’s for your safety don’t you know, this is what our lives have become, cynicism and inefficiency is a virtue, we made it home safe and sound, quite happy to be here in our own beds with our puppies.

All this said, it was a wonderful trip, thanks to Will who organized it all and made it a success, it was another great trip like so many he has planned in the past. We can say that it was the celebration of our many years of adventures together. Thank you Will!

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At the Cliffs of Moher, Liscannor, Co. Clare, Ireland.

 

Travels and Packing

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Every trip means packing a suitcase and bringing what we need and nothing else. I always ask myself what do I really need to wear on this trip, what are we going to do during the day and evening. Any formal nights or parties we might attend, then do you need a tuxedo which means all the accessories that go with it, luckily nowadays a dark navy coloured suit will do with a white shirt with French cuffs and a dark blue uni-colour tie, dark black shoes polished which I call European formal dress seen in France. Italy, Germany and elsewhere in Europe. On this trip we will need a jacket for dinner every night and we have four formal nights.

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First part of the vacation is a touring vacation which means walking in the Irish countryside, so good walking shoes needed, a hat and a rain proof coat. Then at night, jacket with a shirt no ties for dinner, however no jeans and no T-shirt look, keep that for your backyard. The cruise back, we are seven days at sea and this is were we will have formal evenings. Cunard gives instructions on what is appropriate.

The trick is not to over pack and not bring things you really do not need, common sense must prevail. Don’t forget you will have to carry that suitcase. I have the same suitcase for the last 40 years, a Samsonite oyster. So I think out loud and look at what I am putting in the suitcase, making a mental list of clothing and shoes needed and then toiletries. I know more or less what we will do, so I can see what I will wear and it needs to be comfortable but at the same time elegant.

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If you forget something, you can always buy it abroad, best to avoid complications. I will also bring a pocket camera and my Kindle but no computer, unnecessary weight to carry around, after all I am on vacation and I feel there is a need to put electronics away. I lived most of my life some 50 years without it and survived I am sure I can continue to divorce myself from the social media etc. when you want quality time with yourself and others.

I did check the weather and it will be cooler in Europe, early Fall end of Summer weather. Looking forward to it all, the food, the wines, the sights and seeing friends.

 

L’Irlande

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As you can tell from my new header photo, you are looking at Ireland and its dramatic scenery. In a few days we will fly from PEI to Dublin, the ancestral home of the O’Beaulieu clan of Limerick no less, but I won’t mention them again, they were all under four foot tall and called Leperchaun’s, spendthrift who wasted their pot of gold, the shame! However it is the home of Will’s family, they are not Leperchaun’s and well over four feet tall from Belfast.

We planned this Anniversary trip more than one year ago, well before we thought of moving to PEI, Will’s 70th and my 60th and our 40th with not a cross word in between, Ok maybe one to two cross words.

 

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We will be in Dublin for a few days, I have not been in that city since 1969. I am looking forward to visiting the city again and see if I can remember anything of what I saw as a lad.

We will then proceed to travel around the Republic on train with Belmond see website belmond.com for all the details.

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Train and crew

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Bar on board

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room cabin on the train

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restaurant car one of two on the train

We will visit several cities and take part in excursions, it is described as a touring vacation, good walking shoes required and some rain gear, just in case.

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The Key stops on this trip, but we are not going to Dundalk or Portrush

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Then we fly to London to see friends and proceed to Southhampton to board the Queen Mary 2 for our return journey, which is 7 days at sea.

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the Cunard line, Queen Mary 2

So this is our little excursion for the month of September. I am not planning to take my laptop with me on this trip, one less thing to carry. I will bring two books to read on the trip back by sea. So you will have to wait our return on the 28th September to read about our adventures.

 

Dental Office as an Art Gallery

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Going to the dentist on regular basis has been something I have been doing since the age of 6.  My parents believed in the benefits of good teeth and a regular check-up. This may explain why I have such wonderful teeth today, which I am told, by several dentist, is not so common in our society. Most people dread going to the dentist and will avoid it if at all possible.

Me, I go twice a year for cleaning and check-up, the last time in February it was for a root canal my first ever at age 60. We all heard the horror stories about the dentist and how unpleasant it is. The root canal was done on tooth number 15, our teeth are numbered, it is easier for the dentist to locate them, most of us have 32 teeth.

I also had a question about tooth 31, result of today all is in good shape and nothing to report. One thing a lot of hygienists find disconcerting with me is the fact that I fall asleep in the chair at the dentist. Even during the root canal treatment which lasted a good hour, I was fighting the urge not to fall asleep and then I asked my dentist afterwards, when was he going to do the root canal. He looked at me with an expression of surprise on his face, what do you think I was doing all this time, he says. In my best Peggy Lee, I said; Is that all there is to root canal?

So today I went to a new dentist in our new home town, the clinic is in Cornwall, a small town just a few minutes from my home. The building is rather unassuming, vintage 1960 and probably an old post Office. The door and the handles gave me that impression, the building looks like a small bungalow and is on a dead end street beside a big United Church and an old cemetery, across the street is the old general store under massive renovations and it will become the new dental office.

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The practice belongs to Dr. D.A.S. who is an obvious Art lover with a very good eye. The minute you enter the reception area you notice the art work everywhere including the various sculptures around the building outside, it’s original art and not prints you can buy at Winner’s. The paintings on the wall reminded me of Canadian painter Jack Bush, the style is modern vintage 1950-1960, abstract expressionism. I did not tour the whole clinic but I will have to take a closer look on my next visit. It sure beats watching Ellen on TV, she seems to be very popular in dental offices these days. All this to say that it gives the clinic a very elegant European feel and certainly takes your mind off the dental work. Let’s hear it for original art work in the dental or medical office.

I will have to enquire as to the name of the artists on display in the Office. The final result of this visit to the Dentist was that I could be the poster child for Crest! As Norma Desmond would say; I am ready for my close-up Mr DeMille.

 

fashion likes and dislikes

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I am old enough to remember the 1960’s  and the debate then about the Bikini, mind you I was a kid then but nonetheless I paid attention to what was going on around me.

Then society in general did not approve of such an apparel, this also included pants for women, morality came up a lot in the conversation then, this type of clothing was risqué. Up until the 1960 women who according to societal norms had to wear skirts or dresses. In the mid 1950’s some fashion designers brought out pants for women to wear. This was quite revolutionary and not really the norm of what was acceptable then in society. But in large metropolitan centres like NYC and in Los Angeles it was seen among the rich and the famous who could flout society’s conventions.

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Some movies also started to show women wearing pants, though such women were always portrayed as independent, upper middle-class and sporty, going to the beach or at some party around the swimming pool of their expensive homes, the Country Club set. In Canada you would really have to wait until the mid 1960’s to see such changes and even then it was frown upon. For those of you who remember The Tonight Show with Johnny Carson from 1962-1992, he started to mention almost as a provocation to his audience that if the Bikini was now Ok for prudish American society, well look at Saint-Tropez the women are topless. This was in the 1970’s and it was the subject of much comment and hilarity on his show.

So we now jump forward to today, since 1979 when the Shah of Iran left ”on vacation” due to the Iranian revolution under the Ayatollahs who imposed on Iranian women a strict dressing code which shocked Western countries and with the strong migration from Middle-Eastern countries since 2000 and the war in Afghanistan, the public through much media hoopla has become very aware of how women wear for various reasons in many countries with so called Islamic values various veils. The other question is if this is a religious requirement, on that topic a lot of misinformation exist and the worst convoluted stories circulate, much is hearsay and not based on fact.

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I lived for 8 years on various countries in the Middle-East, Egypt, Sudan, Jordan, Syria, Iraq, Lebanon and Palestine. I also visited Iran in 2002. When people in Canada would speak to me about the Middle-East the one remark that always came up was how, 1. women could not drive a car and 2. how they had to cover up. In most cases people were thinking of Saudi Arabia and assumed that all other countries where Islam was the majority religion must be the same. I quickly learned that it was pointless to say that this was not the case, that each country was very different and societies were complex with their own history and evolution. What I learned was that people had their prejudice and would not be dissuaded.

If it is true that I saw some Hijabs in Egypt and less so in Syria or Jordan, I did not see them often in other countries like Lebanon. In Iran, women wore usually a kind of lomg scarf over their hair. I also saw and this was more a function of social standing, women from poor neighbourhood wearing more conservative dress than the more affluent women, usually these women would wear a chador.

Unfortunately in Canada the message is broad and general and makes no distinctions. It does not try to understand how societies far from us function in a context far removed from our own experience. Canadians do not always understand that various cultures in other continents function much differently than ours and do not care for what we think. We do make a lot of assumptions, clothes send signals in any society, clothes can be the basis for prejudice, racism, intolerance and discrimination.

Some in our society would like to dictate to others how to dress and behave for the sake of imposing a point of view as the correct one. You will hear comments on so call Muslim dress but in general in Canada we have not taken the French position on this matter which is now bordering on the ludicrous. A message of inclusiveness is more the Canadian norm.

With all the talk this Summer about France and Europe not adapting well to their changing societies. In France with politicians wrapping themselves in the French Flag and going on about Laicité and secular principles, what I take from that is how France has never got over its lost of prestige and influence in the World since September 1939. How it did not make the necessary effort to integrate its various ethnic population from former French Colonies. How the war in Algeria and the independence of that country was never accepted by the French. How they still try to pull political-economic strings in the Levant and in Africa. France does have the largest Muslim population in Europe but would like you to believe otherwise in the image it present of itself. So the latest spat on beach wear in various towns in France is the cherry on the cake. The social problems in France and many European countries are not new and stem from historical circumstances which we in Canada are free.

In Canada women in the RCMP can wear a hijab with their regulation uniform. There has not been much notice in the newspapers. Already and for 30 years now Sikh men can wear their turban as long as it is regulation colour with their police uniform.  In many ways Canada has taken a more mature approach to this topic. The general idea is that women can wear what they want, the question is why should it bother anyone. Society is not being threatened in any way by people’s dress, it was not in the 1960’s with the mini skirt or the bikini or women’s pants and it is not now.

We did have the spat during the Harper Regime with the issue of face covering or Niqab in Courts of Law and during Citizenship Ceremony where people have to take an Oath in order to become Citizens or when giving testimony in Court. The rule is and this was not sufficiently explained that any women who wanted to take her Oath of Citizenship could do so in private, if wearing of the Niqab was an issue for them, the Judge can see her face and administer the Oath. In this instance the Harper Regime made quite a lot of hullabaloo about the whole affair to please its extreme right wing base, that is behind us now.

All this to say that if we think of ourselves as a mature open society, intent on not repeating the errors of the past, we have to get over these dress behaviour hysterics and stop dictating what can and cannot be acceptable in women’s dress on the street. Just because it bothers or offends one person or a group based on so called modern personal views or belief.

The other day at Brackley Beach I did notice a women wearing a Burkini swimming. My concern was the severe undertow on the North side of the Island and I wondered if she was aware of the warning signs and the danger.  There were some people on the beach but it is quite a long beach many kilometres long and many parts are deserted with no lifeguard in sight. She was quite far from the shore and I hoped she would be ok. She did make it safely back to shore and then went to sit with her husband who was reading. I know that in France or elsewhere in Europe the reaction would have been quite different.

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Arts and Culture

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Since arriving in PEI, I have been impressed with the abundance of arts and culture in PEI. Tonight I participated in the ART in the OPEN Festival. This festival takes place over a period of 8 hours in the parks of Charlottetown with music, art installation, projections, lights, parade. A fascinating spectacle and is entirely free. Walking through old Charlottetown installations were everywhere, starting with the parade of the Crows, we do have at all times a large crow population. Victoria Park had a lot of installations, from the floating pop tents in the river, all illuminated like Chinese lanterns. Or the dancing cows in Connaught Square, architecture in the Park, the Gauntlet a game of 3 riddles with monsters like the Sphinx in attendance in the forest of Victoria Park, this was surreal surrounded by the thick forest with only small ground lights to light the path, eerie sounds, projections and what surprised me the most was the night sky above full of stars and the outline of our galaxy the Milky Way, so strange to see that in the City. The cannons at the battery instead of firing cannon balls had been decorated to give the impression they fired a cornucopia of fruits and vegetables. Then there was United States of Anamensis a fixed multimedia electroacoustic sound installation with 8 projections.

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Seen in the day light and then how I saw them at night around 09:30pm

In the forest we had to walk in the dark past Dead Man’s Pond which in Charlottetown is the stuff of legend and myth. Every kid will tell you not to go there at night, it seems no one knows how deep is the pond. We also had to walk past Fanningbank which was all lite up like a great white palace that it is surrounded by its stately gardens. Then in the great green area of Victoria Park was at least 20 camp fires speaking to the myth of the ancient to keep the darkness at bay with fire. There was a lot more to see, I found it enchanting. The whole show had to be put up in one day and then dismantled before 4am so that in the morning it had vanished like by magic. I had never walked in the city and in the area of Victoria Park at night, it looks so very different with the great body of salt water and the night sky.

It was great fun and again spoke to the strenght of volunteer work in PEI in organizing such events. The number of artists and the enormous amount of talent.

Art in the Open asks that we discover the artworks in unexpected places and in unexpected ways. The public participates by discovering the artworks and by exploring their surroundings. A Free contemporary art event.

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A long four months

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We, I, have been here in PEI for the last 4 months. Will finally arrives on 1 September, what a relief. However we leave for Ireland on 6 September for our Anniversary and Birthday trip. We planned this more than one year ago. It was planned before we thought of moving to PEI. Yes we do plan ahead that includes the Holidays and menus, I don’t think the Queen is that organized.

Summer as come and now it is almost gone. The house has been set-up and I have a new routine with favourite shops etc. I have been busy with quite a few social events and trips around the Island. Will discovered that across the street from us is the Chip Shack which serves the best french fries. The owner Caron Prins is a great lady and she is so busy, wait time is usually 15 minutes. All hand cut, all fresh, made on the spot.  No I do not eat lobster everyday, I really do not care for it that much, oysters and their variety are better.

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Will has visited on weekends here and there during the Summer but coming to the Island can be difficult since all the flights are booked solid, there is the train from Montreal but it is a long trip. The train also does not come to PEI, the nearest stop is in Amherst, Nova Scotia about 90 minutes away on the mainland. Anyway all this is behind us now.

Made several trips to Point Prim to the old lighthouse and the very good restaurant which is only open in the Summer months. It is just nice to sit on the rocks and look out to sea, it is such a quiet area, if there is noise it is the birds chirping. The beach also is minutes away I like Stanhope, though there are lots of beaches to go to. Then I have been busy at the Gallery and on any given day we have a lot of people, which makes it so interesting.

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I am happy things turned out so well for us, in this big move.

Bourreaux de l’Etat

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I follow a blog written in French by Marie-Christine Pénin called www.tombes-sepultures.com which specialize in locating the tombs of famous people in France. The period covered is usually 17th, 18th  and 19th centuries. I often wonder where is so and so buried, a famous name does not necessarily have a famous grave. Each entry gives you the story of the person and how it ended with often some strange family detail about the burial. One entry recently was about the French Revolution (Civil War) and how the Kings and Queens of France buried in the St-Denis Cathedral were dug up and their tombs smashed. Some with vivid description of the cadaver, like that of Louis XV whose body was black and gave out a powerful stench despite the fact that he had died some 17 years prior.

This week it is about the family Sanson, who for 7 generations where the Official Executioner of France, from 1688 to 1847. A profession that no longer exist, but a profession nonetheless required for putting to death the great and the not so great of France who had been condemned by the State. Official Executioner was a title given by the King and then at the Revolution by the Committee in charge. It was  a paid job with honours and benefits. One benefit was on the death of the Executioner, he was entitled to a Funeral Mass with full Civilian Honours. So for 159 years the Sanson, from fathers to sons where in charge of executing by whatever means decreed, prisoners. They not only exercised their profession in Paris but also in several other cities of France. The head of the Family usually had Paris and his sons had other cities, some  sons were also helpers in the putting to death of a condemned person. They were responsible for maintaining the tools of their trade and setting up the scaffolds etc ensuring that all would go well.

A very grim business and not always a quick affair, sometimes in the 17th and 18th centuries executions which were a public spectacle required some showmanship. However amongst the duty of the Executioner, he had to meet with the condemned prior to the execution, they would have a surreal conversation about what was to take place and the condemned could make a request that he be dispatched quickly if possible, often giving the Executioner a sum of money. One of the Sanson was known for his consideration and kindness toward the condemned person, his job was to put them to death not to make them suffer unduly or turn a public execution into butchery.

It was Charles-Henri Sanson who had to execute King Louis XVI. Though he had been a revolutionary in 1789 by 1793 he had lost his appetite for the revolution and turned against it. In his opinion far too many innocent people had been condemned by comedy show trials, where the results were more important than the facts or the truth. When he was given the paper ordering the execution of the King, Charles-Henri Sanson said he felt faint and wanted to run. He knew the trial had been rigged against the Sovereign and Sanson was hoping for a last minute reprieve or a plot to free the king. This royal execution would haunt him for the rest of his days and in his will he left money so that a Mass could be said  monthly to ask God for forgiveness for this horrible business.

Sanson’s son would execute 9 months later Queen Marie-Antoinette, who was leaving behind two young children. The day of the execution the Parisian crowds were in an ugly mood and sullen, very much against putting the Queen to death. He also dispatched other revolutionaries like Danton and Robespierre. He like other members of his family are buried around Paris in churches or in cemeteries amongst other dignitaries.  We do not know much about the Sanson family except for the journals and correspondence they left behind, they had a job to do and it required a certain amount of discretion.

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The boardwalk

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Today was another nice sunny day in Charlottetown, so I took Nora for a walk on the boardwalk around Victoria Point. A very nice park area all along the North and Hillsborough rivers looking out towards the strait of Northumberland. Sail boats and luxury yachts.

Nora likes to walk and her attitude is, the boardwalk belongs to me so get out of my way.

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I made her sit for a little while but she is sniffing the air and there was a good breeze so I am sure she picked up a lot of scents. Victoria Park is known for its numerous aggressive crows, Nora does not care, crow pie she says. There are also Foxes and skunks though not usually seen in the day time.

A very nice area to walk but with Nora it is always quickly as if she is on a mission.

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Yes you have to look where you are going because a Fox can appear out of nowhere. Nora of course would given the alarm with her hound howling before I would see anything.  The other night coming home, walking down Great George Street there was a Fox sitting on the grass just a few feet away from me. He startled me but he did not move, they are very bold.

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and once a week Holland American cruise ships enter the Charlottetown harbour.

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This map shows the park, it was once the entire estate of the Residence of the Lieutenant Governor of PEI who is the personal representative of the Sovereign. In the 1960’s the park was open to the public and the Crown kept one third for the Official Residence. So I walk with Nora along the brown line and back which is a fair distance for her about 3 km but she does not mind.

At least today she did not try to jump into the river. It is salt water and I would not want to have to go after her. As for our Nicky, he does not like to walk any distance so there is no point is taking him. I would end up carrying him.