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Back in the days when I ran a bed and breakfast business in the Stewart House, I was always on the lookout for attractive words and phrases I could plug into the minimal amount of advertising we did for the place.  The tourism season was very short (basically July and August), so it really didn’t pay to put a lot of money into marketing.

The province of Nova Scotia offered the best advertising around, a write-up in a telephone-size book called the “Doers and Dreamers” guide.  The books were widely distributed to tourist offices up and down the Eastern seaboard.

In the early years, I took great pains to put together an attractive brochure,  and get them distributed in time for the summer season.  They disappeared off the tourist bureau racks, but I never saw anyone walk in with one in hand.

At some point in our decade of doing business, the title of this post made it into our advertising.  I used to kid my wife about it, because it was her doing. We are only three kilometers from the Bay, but the trees across the road make it difficult to see more than a band of silver when the sun glances off the water. The attic has the best view, but our guests never went up there.

The phrase reminded me of “Fawlty Towers”, which was my favourite John Cleese vehicle, for obvious reasons.  At the end of every season I would get grumpy, beginning to identify with the irascible innkeeper in the show. In one episode, an unpleasant older lady with a hearing problem takes Basil to task for the rather ordinary view from her window.  Basil retaliates:  “It is Torquay, madame.  What did you expect to see, thundering wildebeasts?”

My guests at the B&B would inevitably ask, disarmingly, where they could see the tides.  That was is a difficult question to answer without seeming evasive.  The Bay of Fundy tides are the highest in the world.  One hundred billion tons of water rush in and out of the mud bathtub twice a day, but the land surrounding Grand Pre is flat, so instead of climbing up the side of a cliff, the salt water covers and uncovers vast areas of mudflats.

During low tide, one third of the basin is exposed to the sky.   Many thousands of migratory birds take advantage of that, stopping to stuff themselves with mud shrimp before tackling the long trip down to South America in the fall.

It is difficult to get a true sense of 17 meter (fifty-five foot) tides without a wharf or bluff or a very small harbour where fishing boats can be seen sitting on mud one minute, then heading out to sea the next.

For a good time-lapse view of the tidal change, have a look at this video– http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=_J2AtORivSY

Check out the “Not Since Moses” video to get a playful picture of the kind of a one of a kind race held once a year on the other side of the Bay of Fundy.  It is truly amazing–  http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=3LBYX4aj340


It is over 17,500 kilometers (10,874 miles) from Melbourne, Australia to Halifax, Canada, as the plane flies.  After watching more movies in one night than I had seen in the previous year, I was glad that I had scheduled a layover weekend in Los Angeles.

The drive from the airport to a  friend’s bungalow in Santa Monica felt very familiar, even after twenty-two years.  The road was still shabby, littered with discount stores, gyms, car dealerships, taco stands and tattoo parlors.  Only the Whole Foods store was new.  It signaled gentrification that seemed a little late in coming considering the value of the property.

I have moved many times since my seven-year stay in L.A., but I still have one old friend in LA who puts me up and a few others who will buy me a beer or a glass of wine.  Most of them worked in the “biz”, as the entertainment industry is called.

They were always working too hard or hardly working, which is the norm in La La Land.  Right now, the economy is in free fall and the state’s finances are in serious trouble.   Much of that can be blamed on the referendums that plague every election in California and, of course, the Terminator.

None of this impacts on the traveler.  I had a good time, catching up with the few friends who were in town and not otherwise engaged.  Gordon and I  went out to the Getty villa in Malibu (recently re-opened after extensive renovations) and took lunch at the fish restaurant we used to frequent 25 years ago.  It hadn’t changed at all.

On my last night in town, we went to the new “Terminator” movie.  My friend, Bob, who has been editing the most expensive animated film in history for the last three years, emerged from his cocoon for the evening.

The Terminator movie was one explosion after another.  My ears rang when we came out.  It is hard to believe that the “Gov” actually injected humor in the first one.  The latest battle-fest has virtually none.  Some good actors are wasted in their roles and the movie seems interminable, but it will no doubt make a fortune overseas.

When I arrive at Grand Pre and resume life in the Stewart House, some work compulsion creeps in and takes over my body.  A two hundred year-old house is in constant need of care.  Everything exposed to the maritime weather tends to rot, amazingly quickly.  Last year it was the back porch and the fasteners on storms and screens that needed attention.  This year it is the front porch, the attic, study and carriage house.  There is always more than I have time for.

On the plus side, there are the fiddleheads, strawberries and rhubarb, summer evenings with long light.  There are the rain clouds, intense green in the trees, and friendly neighbours with whom I have some history. There are dykelands for long walks, spectacular sunsets and a lovely room for curling up with a good book. For all that, I can easily do some work and not complain.

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