Looking at the second half of 2012 we begin with July.

July 6th marked my 27th wedding anniversary. Nana and Poppa stayed at our house with Mathew so John and I could get away for a night. It was the first time in 19 years ~ since the kids were born ~ that we have gotten away together, by ourselves. It was the best anniversary gift! John and I lit out across the border (ha ha and thought about never coming back!!) and drove to Portland for the night. Although the drive there and back was about 5 hours we chose the scenic route back and meandered along the coastal route, stopping here and there for a break. In Portland we had an anniversary dinner on a boat that is permanently docked. I had lobster of course…not sure what John had. Portland is a city with lots of shops and nooks and crannies to wander through. There was an outdoor sidewalk…carnival? the night we arrived. The weather was beautiful and it was so relaxing to get away from everything, if just for a short while. I wouldn’t mind if this becomes an annual event (hint, hint Nana and Poppa!).

Kristen earned her full driving license this month. New Brunswick has a graduated licensing program and even though all the restrictions were lifted one year after passing her driver’s exam she has to have a 0.0 blood alcohol level until the age of 21. This means no drinking, not a drip or a sip if she wants to drive for the next 3 years. It is a good rule. In fact it makes so much sense why doesn’t the government extend it to include ALL drivers? Of all ages?? Instead of those alchol commercials that suggest “Drink Responsibly” how about “0” blood alcohol level for any driver? Oops, sorry Kristen for venting…congratulations on your license!

Mathew attended his first mini-comicon here in Saint John. Him and his buddy went and I tagged along. Comic conventions aren’t my thing but they sure hit the spot for those two! They enjoyed themselves ~ for a full 8 hours before I got them out of there! It was the inaugural convention for our little city and it was small. No matter, the enthusiasts were out in full force and the shows were well attended. My music and ear plugs came in handy as did my ever-present Kindle. After a couple of hours Mathew eventually was comfortable enough for me to retreat to a quiet location outside. That one event unleashed a monster in my kid though. He is now seraching for all similar adventures in our area over the next year… We did find the Megafest in Boston and attended that in November – but that is later and I will post about it further on.

In early August John, Mathew and I took a mini-trip to Boston. I don’t have any photos of our trip as I was busy hanging out with Mathew. We ended up parking and using the subway system to get around. I have a suggestion for the city of Boston….those ticket dispensers for the subway? Ya’ think you could make them just a teensy bit user friendly? Or if that isn’t doable….how about a friendly employee to help figure the confusing machines out? We weren’t the only utterly frustrated visiters pushing buttons and watching our money getting eaten up. In fact, couldn’t a tiny portion of the tourism income (like the money those machines sucked from us for starters) be used for this very thing?

Mathew and I wandered through the Boston Aquarium for a second time while John took in other local sights. I love that place. Somehow we beat the crowds and left as the building became crowded. Mathew was more interested in shopping as he had saved his allowance for just this occasion. The cash was burning in his pocket and he had places to go. His favourite store turned out to be Newbury Comics as he gets things there he can’t find elsewhere. We must have hit every Newbury store in Boston… We did a lot of walking through the downtown shopping area and Newbury Street. These areas of Boston are so pretty and charming to wander through. The weather acted up a bit and while we ducked some admittedly nasty weather, we didn’t realize how bad it was until later at the hotel when the television put on tornado and severe weather warnings! One of the underpasses we drove through had a flash flood…probably right after we drove through it. The water was pretty deep when we drove by. Our GPS was handy in getting around but Boston driving is a bit nerve wracking! Our trip occurred during some no-tax event so it was mad-house everywhere we went. We didn’t know this was going on or we might have bypassed IKEA for example…or the Kittery Outlet place. The traffic was INSANE.

The highway heading to IKEA was backed up with the state troopers directing traffic and the roadsigns blinking out “Expect delays – take alternative routes”. We took an alternate route and realized it was the IKEA and other shopping stores that were backing up traffic once we hit the parking area!! The really sad part? I didn’t buy one damned thing in IKEA. I picked out a few small items but once we saw the checkout lanes my willpower collapsed and we left without making one purchase….

Kittery was also insane. There is one street running through the shopping district and it was backed up, way, WAY up in both directions. We parked at the first possible location and ended up walking. It is a fair distance from one end to the other and I had Mathew, of course. Overall he was patient but weariness won out and I cut our shopping short. One must search high and low for a good deal at these outlets even though they are known for cut rate prices. My only shopping coup was a pea coat for Kristen. It is a Guess brand, not that I care about that but the tailoring and finish was superior to anything I’d seen locally…for…get this… $60!! It fits Kristen and she loves it. That made all that traffic and hoardes of people worth it. (We prefer the Freeport outlet town. Although it has the same one street set-up the shops are much closer together and it is a pretty area to walk through. Just don’t go on L.L. Bean’s 100th Anniversay like we did, unwittingly….)

Shortly after our Boston trip Kristen finished her job and her and I took a little trip to PEI and Halifax. We took off on a Wednesday and returned on the Sunday. PEI was our first destination. The Confederation Bridge was the closest means to getting over to the Island. Check this out:

Confed Bridge Water Angle

The bridge is 8 miles long and is the longest in the world crossing ice-covered water (link: http://www.confederationbridge.com/about/confederation-bridge.html). It’s also free crossing over to the Island…they get you on the way back for the round-trip. For our vehicle and 2 passengers it was $80. The Provinces know eventually you’ll want to get off the Island so they lure you there with the free on-island passage…smart, guys, very smart. The only other way off (besides flying) is the Ferry and it charges the same amount. I sure hope that money goes to the upkeep of that bridge. I want to see it in sparkling, just-like-new condition every time I cross over!

Kristen and I stayed in Charlottetown for two nights. Charlottetown is not only the capital of this tiny province/island it is also steeped in history because it is the “Birthplace of Confederation”. On July 1, 1867 the British Colonies became Canada. There’s a lot of history in this beautiful, little city of less than 35,000 people. Most visitors know PEI for Anne of Green Gables, that famous book and television series by the famed Lucy Maud Montgomery, but don’t overlook this capital gem! Here are some photos I took while Kristen and I walked about the city centre:

Kristen meets a fish!
Charlottetown Fish

Some outdoor eating on a fine summer’s eve

Shops to meander and pass the time
Charlottetown Street

How about this wonderful little storefront setup? I love that fox!
Charlottetown Store

An old, original building
Charlottetown Oldest House

A quaint row of homes
Charlottetown Houses

Or perhaps most important of all ~ Kristen chatting withSir. John A. MacDonald, Canada’s first Prime Minister
Kr and PM4

Kristen and I wandered around some of the oldest buildings and came across a collection of rocks. Each rock represents the Province it came from. Silly me, I didn’t photograph any of the captions or the one depicting why the rocks were there. It is by memory that I’m placing these rocks with their perspective Province and I apologize in advance if I screw up. Feel free to correct me so I can correct my photos. Kristen models the rocks for our viewing pleasure:

This rock is from Alberta. This is the Province that Kristen spent 10 years of her childhood growing up in. The rock was puny for a rich province that has a lot of Canada’s wealth under its land!!
Charlottetown Rocks3

This huge piece is from British Columbia ~ the province Kristen was born in (Nanaimo). I wonder how they transported that sucker? Probably by truck!
Charlottetown Rocks5

This oddly shaped stone was from Newfoundland. Otherwise known as “The Rock”. Newfies are a little different than Maritimers and it is just like them to put an interesting spin on their donation!
Charlottetown Rocks10

I believe this rock represents New Brunswick. The province we currently reside in (for the last 5-1/2 years).
Charlottetown Rocks7

I may stand corrected on those rocks, by the way. I’m going by memory and we all know how dependable that is when you are in your late 40s! If I stand corrected I will happily change the headings to read the correct provinces! In fact…I’ll take another trip out there to photograph the write-ups as well next time!

These 2 photos show the area where we spotted the rocks. They are on the grounds of the Province House…if memory serves me right…
Charlottetown Rocks8
Charlottetown Rocks4

It was a gorgeous evening so Kristen and I kept walking until we hit the waterfront. There were more touristy stores and this cow.Kristen really didn’t want to be seen with this cow but I managed to persuade her so ignore her enthusiasm please. It was one of those “really Mom? REALLY? Do I HAVE to?” moments.
Kr and Cow2
The Cows Creamery is another tourist attraction on PEI, represented by this cow Kristen is leaning on and the store in the next picture. For more information about this iconic landmark, tours and stores, etc, here is a link for you to visit: http://www.cowscreamery.ca/tourinfo.php. On this trip we didn’t stop to check out the Cows’ huge store but I do plan another trip over there!

This was the area we found ourselves and if you look closely you can see the cow from the above-mentioned photo.
Charlottetown Harbour
Here are a couple of other photos I took in the same area:
Store Window2

Kr and Totem
I’m not sure what that totem was all about…hopefully it means happy travels and good times and not some evil omen if you don’t purchase any souvenirs from the stores beside it!

After a good night’s sleep we headed out in the other direction the next day. It was a beautiful day and the rolling hills reminded me of Alberta. Kristen had her eye on a spooky house located in the village of Kensington. A gargoyle greets you outside the mansion:
Kr and Gargoyle
Next the attic window opened and this lady (mannequin) leaned out…but guys?

Scared lady opening attic window

Scared lady opening attic window

A blood-curdling scream and a panicked cry for help would have gone a long way to scaring us. Instead, the normal tone voice droning, “Help me. Help me please…” didn’t inspire fear in our hearts!

As you can see in the next picture Kristen was ready to head into the black void beyond:

No fear here!

No fear here!

After this point my camera didn’t work while we toured the haunted mansion. A curse perhaps? A witch’s spell? Maybe. I will tell you it is a very large mansion and was a lot of fun. There were 3 floors to walk through and lots to see. A few spooky things and a couple of truly gross scenes – remember the ghoul in the bathroom, Kristen? Complete with sound effects? I haven’t laughed so hard in ages while Kristen gagged. At one point we stepped into a darkened hallway. Rather, Kristen did (come to think of it…did I push her first?) It was dark except for a floor only the floor seemed to be missing. You could see to something below and it looked awfully fishy. With our feet we could feel a narrow edge along our side of the hallway so Kristen started edging through and I followed reluctantly behind (it was the only way you could go). All of a sudden I heard a peculiar whoosh and the wall pushed out bumping Kristen onto the “no floor only light” area. She screamed as she tumbled out ~ but wait…she didn’t disappear! Even though I had dipped my foot over the apparent edge, the clever folks had installed a plexiglass floor about 2 inches lower than the ledge! A bit deep for wandering toes like mine so we wouldn’t catch on to the trick easily. It was a GREAT move guys! We loved it!

The other area that Kristen was thrilled to try was the final passage out. You had to go through a suspended hall. There was a huge drum-like wall turning around the hall (like those crazy houses you find at a local fair) with lights. The hundreds of little florescent lights spinning made it almost impossible to walk straight across the hall. I’m leaning as I remember it! I had to finally close my eyes to get across without falling or crawling. I grew rather nauseous and waited in a side area until Kristen was done goofing around in there.

Once we finished with the mansion part of the attraction we found ourselves in a secret garden. It was a perfect area with walkways, hidden gnomes, little pools of fish and small areas for kids to play on. Kristen found a few things to amuse herself too:
The fortune teller! Yes, that is my really distorted self reflecting in the glass (ha ha ha). I don’t recall what the wise old woman in the box predicted for Kristen.
Fortune  Teller2
Then Kristen tried the mood chair. Remember those old mood rings? It changed colour depending on your mood? Well I figured this chair lit up depending on your heat…having a hot flash I figured I’d blow the thermometer right off into the sky so I skipped the test (either that or my weight would sink the seat into the ground!) but Kristen was game. Evidently we should lock her up for the next few years according to the “hot seat”:
Secret Garden2
Secret Garden

In fact the secret garden has just the thing to keep Kristen home! check this out:
Secret Garden4

SIGHHHHH… apparently not – Houdini escapes her bonds…
Secret Garden5
and heads off on her next great adventure!
Secret Garden3

If you head over to PEI and are considering a visit to the Haunted Mansion, check out this link: http://www.hauntedmansionpei.ca/
Keep your expectations grounded (as in low and simple) and you will have a good time there.

Once we finished at the haunted house we headed off to meet up with one of Kristen’s university friends. We weren’t able to find his house even with the aid of a GPS so stopped at a toy store where Kristen amused herself outside
Butterfly Seat2
Kr and Rocking Horse2

Princess Kristen at your service!

Princess Kristen at your service!

Gentleman Tom (Kristen’s friend) met us after these photos were taken and we spent an enjoyable afternoon with him. We had a lovely dinner followed by some delicious gelato after which we parted ways. Kristen and I headed off the Island and to Halifax. I didn’t get to see some other things of interest like the Red Cliffs or the Singing Sands. This is definately on my list of places to go back to!

Now I’m going to sign off of this post and carry on the next one with our Halifax portion of the trip. This post is getting long and I did take many photos of the next part. See you in the next post!