Friday, June 6, 2014

Some More of my Favorite Place Near and Far

Baddeck Boardwalk – It doesn’t matter where I’m going – around the Cabot Trail, to Halifax or just for a drive along the Trans-Canada Highway – I always stop in Baddeck, even if it is just for five minutes. One of the things I like to do when I stop in the little village is grab a coffee and drink it on the boardwalk that lines a part of the harbor. I can sit there and kick my feet in the water and watch all those luxurious yachts float by and wonder what famous person might be enjoying some time away from the limelight in the peace and tranquility of little Baddeck where no one realizes who they are or pays any attention to them.
The Driveway at Anamaya – I’ve only been there once and may never be there again but I will always remember going for my nightly strolls down the driveway to Anamaya Yoga Retreat in Montezuma, Costa Rica, a place I had the opportunity to stay at for a week last year. The reason I loved taking this stroll every evening before bed? The calm, warm, tropical air, the sights and sounds of exotic animals and insects going about their nocturnal business and the quiet and peaceful atmosphere that was only compromised by the distant sound of the waves crashing on the Pacific coast below.
The Drive over Cape Smokey Mountain – I spend most of my summer in Ingonish, Cape Breton so I’ve driven over Cape Smokey hundreds of times. I often hear stories of tourists hiring local drivers to take them over the mountain because they find the hairpin turns and high cliffs terrifyingly dangerous and I often take people over that mountain because I know that road like the back of my hand. I’ve driven it in the winter, in thick fog, in heavy rains, in thunder storms and on clear summer days. I’ve driven it in the morning and in the dead of night. Every trip is different and I never get sick of that view from the top, no matter which way I look!

The Skyline Trail – I drove past this hiking trail hundreds of times before I decided to hike it myself…and I am glad I finally did! Nature, scenery, wildlife – this trail has it all and the best part of it is the end where the sea meets the sky and a boardwalk spirals downward toward the rocky coastline where whales can be seen frolicking in the surf below. I can sit there until the sun goes down and what a sight it is to see a sunset from that place!

The St. John’s Battery – Right at the bottom of Signal Hill at the end of the trail and right before you enter the little village at The Battery are some old army barracks. The barracks cannot be entered but there is a little hill right beside it that leads to the top of the small building and a flat concrete surface. When I lived in the city, every morning before the sun came up, I started the walk around that trail and rested in that spot to watch the sun come up and the boats come and go through the narrows. Some evenings I went there to watch the sun go down or just admire the spectacular view of the city at night with its distant city sounds - so close but yet so far away.

The Joseph and Clara Smallwood ferry – This ferry is no longer in operation, I made the crossing between North Sydney to Argentia, Newfoundland at least a hundred times over the years. Although I may have sometimes dreaded impending trips across The Gulf, looking back, I have very fond memories of some of those eventful crossings. Impromptu bands made up of traveling musicians from all around the world getting together for jam sessions in the bar, last minute excursions across “just for something to do”, card games with new friends made in the cafeteria area, long talks with complete strangers on the outside deck and even life-long friendships made simply by being stuck on a ship together for all those hours and having nothing else to do! Sometimes the seas were rough and I would retreat to “my spot” on the seventh deck – a reclining chair in the Baccalieu lounge, way back in the corner away from everyone else and in view of the TV in case I wanted to watch whatever was on.
Corner of Bond and Prescott, St. John’s – I moved away from home for the first time when I was 19 and made my new home in St. John’s, Newfoundland. Although I had several apartments during the twelve years I lived in the city, the last one I lived in is the one I will always remember the most. With so many run-down, outdated and expensive apartments around, I was lucky to find this near-perfect gem at a decent price and in a good neighborhood that was close to everything. The apartment was located right downtown but far enough from the main roads to be surprisingly quiet. It was only a short walk from my work and all the other services I needed. It had been just renovated right before I moved in. It had wood floors (I hate carpet). It was high off the ground on the third floor of a house that was at the end of row of attached houses which meant I didn’t have to worry about floods or dampness. And it had a spectacular view of the downtown area and the harbor which allowed me to watch the sun come up over Signal Hill and the boats come and go.
Black Brook Beach – I visited this beach with friends many years ago and have been returning every summer since. It is one of my favorite beaches on all of Cape Breton Island. When I was younger, I loved the main part of the beach where the waves are quite large and all the young people tend to congregate. As I got older, I started to migrate to the lesser used side of the beach where the waves are smaller, the water is calmer and there are less people. This beach has everything; several hiking trails, some look-offs, picnic areas, a waterfall, freshwater swimming area and a beach with warm water, lots and sand and hardly any jellyfish!

Jasper National Park, Alberta – The Rocky Mountains were something to see for sure but it was Jasper National Park that won my heart in the end. In comparison to the other mountain towns in the Rockies, Jasper was more to my expectations in terms of ruggedness, untouched beauty, nature and wildlife. The lodge was exactly how I pictured a Rocky Mountain Lodge to be and that fresh, mountain air made me feel so alive and in touch with my surroundings.
Gampo Abbey Monastery – I heard this place existed but no one ever seemed to know where it was located. I found it one day quite by accident when I decided to drive down a road I had never been down before. I was driving through Pleasant Bay in Northern Cape Breton when I noticed a sign for Red River Road. It looked vaguely interesting and I had some time to kill so, out of curiosity, I turned down. I passed over a small bridge and continued on a windy, country road that soon turned into a gravel road that ran between some rolling hills and the ocean. I soon realized what the road led to when I happened upon a Buddhist shrine on the left-hand side of the road. Not much further passed that was a small parking lot. I parked the car and wandered around and found a little trail that went into a wooded area along a little brook. Little Buddha statues were scattered around the area and I soon happened upon the monastery itself; a simple facility right on the water. The area was so peaceful and immersed in nature that I could see why the area was picked for the sight of a Buddhist monastery.

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