Wednesday, August 30, 2017

Landing in Nova Scotia

It had been three decades since I stepped foot in Nova Scotia, Canada. It was actually on a cruise with my family I took when I finished college.
I had remembered it’s beauty (which I relived many times watching Anne of Greene Gables) and had been excited about the trip ever since the invitation first came across my email from Fox Harb’r Resort.

It’s not often I get to travel with my daughter, so I was looking forward to this trip even more than most.

She was traveling from New York and I was coming from Champaign. Both trips were fairly long and we decided we’d take an extra day and see Halifax before heading to the resort.

I contacted Nova Scotia Tourism and they arranged for our 24 hour stay in Halifax.

The air travel didn’t go quite as expected (see this post) and we arrived in Halifax much later than we hoped, but we were both very hungry and anxious to have dinner.

We had the driver wait while we quickly dropped our beds at the Lord Nelson Hotel and then had him take us to dinner at Five Fishermen.

I would learn more about the history of the Five Fisherman on my Halifax tour the next day, but I was still quickly impressed by the restaurant. It was two levels and everything from the décor to the lighting was welcoming.

We were late for our original reservation, so we sat at the bar while we waited for a table. It would be our first introduction to Tidal Bay wine, this one from Gaspereau Winery.

This light, semi-sweet and tropical white was the first appellation wine in Nova Scotia.

Although it was touted as perfect with the region’s seafood, I didn’t need any to enjoy it.

We didn’t wait long to sit at the table. Our waiter sensed that we were very hungry and immediately brought us some warm house made herb rolls and butter.

A few minutes later he came back with a sampling of a flavorful risotto from the chef.

We then shared a grilled cauliflower appetizer, with polenta, leeks, and mushrooms, which was delicious, and I also had a soothing pumpkin soup. 

For dinner, Sam decided to take advantage of our location and savored the Acadian Shellfish Tagliatelle, a pasta in a light cream sauce with Nova Scotia mussels, scallops, and shrimp.

I thoroughly enjoyed the short rib, which was tender and served with perfectly roasted potatoes.

We couldn’t resist ordering dessert when we looked at all the options. It was so hard to decide, and our waiter suggested bringing us four mini desserts. We loved every bite of the fruit, chocolate, and cream filled creations.

I also had my first of the many local teas I would discover on the trip. This was a Higgins & Burke Honey Coconut Oolong Tea.

We headed back to the Lord Nelson Hotel and were quickly asleep. It had been a hectic day and we were ready for some rest and relaxation ahead.

Wednesday, August 23, 2017

Make sure you #SkipAirCanada

I had an amazing trip to Nova Scotia, Canada, recently. I didn’t want it to be marred by horrendous travel with Air Canada. I’ll get to the trip in the next blogs, with all its details, but I wanted to first warn travelers about this airline.

If you read my blog, you know by now that I try to focus on the positive and rarely post negative. I just don’t see the point in talking about the bad when there is so much good. Occasionally, I need to change that strategy. This is one of those times.

Here is the letter I sent to Air Canada, which details what happens. At the time, I was suffering from an arthritis flare AND had a respiratory infection and fever. I was traveling in a wheelchair.

> From:
> Sent: 20/08/2017 12:27 PM
> Subject: Treatment by Your Airline
> I don't even know where to begin with my (first) experience with your airline. I guess it started weeks before my flight when I wrote that I was a journalist flying to do a tv segment and a story. No response in weeks. That should have told me how much Air Canada cares about customers.
> Despite the fact that I have been going through chemo and recovering from a respiratory infection, I got up at 4:30 am and drove an hour and a half to Indianapolis airport. This trip was for my job-to cover a day in Halifax and then three days in Fox Harbr. I expected Air Canada to do its job too. I was wrong.
> Ten minutes before boarding, it was announced that our flight would be delayed for two hours. It hadn't left Toronto yet. Obviously, everyone knew before boarding time that it hadn't left Toronto yet (lie 1). The agent told me that it was too late to get me on the flight through Montreal and I was going to miss my connection and there was nothing he could get me (lie 2).
> I called Air Canada and explained that I only had a short time in Halifax with the tourist board to do my story and she said she couldn't get me in until 10:30 at night (lie 3). She said it was because of bad weather in NY and Canada (lie 4-at that moment, my daughter was boarding an on-time plane in sunny NY to Canada).
> When we finally got on our flight, the pilot apologized for the mechanical problems in Toronto (proving 4 was a lie). He said he would try to make up some time so we can make our connections. We did, but when we got there we couldn't get to a gate. "Oh, well," was all he said.
> Since I was ill, I was traveling in a wheelchair. I asked the flight attendant and the wheelchair attendant if there was a way for me to get to that flight. "I don't know, we'll ask the next person. " everyone continued to chat and pass my wheelchair around until someone finally said, "that flight left!"
> I was taken to a desk where they told me that I was on the 4:30 plane. Then I was taken in the wheelchair to security, where the woman told me there would be a wheelchair on the other side to take me to my gate. There wasn't and I was told they didn't have enough, so they dropped me a distance from my gate.
> Exhausted and wheezing, I made my way to the desk. I said there wasn't a wheelchair and if they can't find one, please give me time to get on the plane and a seat toward the front. He said, “no problem.”
> Well, he continued to give out seat assignments for 30 minutes. When he finally got to me, I was in row 32!! I said there was no way I could walk back there and I was told I didn't have a choice, he had given out the closer seats. I was exhausted, coughing and couldn't breathe by the time I made it back there. The flight attendants are more human than the rest of your staff.
> Since you fly out of the U.S., I would think you are held to the same standards when it comes to treating the disabled well, but it doesn't seem that anyone on the ground cares.
> If it was up to me, I would never step foot in an Air Canada terminal again, but I cannot afford to buy another flight. PLEASE make sure that I am treated with dignity and respect on my return flight, which I hope will run smoothly-or we will at least be told the truth if there are problems.
> I would really like to re-write the current opening to my stories and TV segment... Head to Nova Scotia for a wonderful vacation, but stay away from Air Canada.
> PS your social media which is usually my go-to for help during travel,
> also had no interest in going out of their way

No response from Air Canada in the five days before my next flights, which were just as bad. Both flights were delayed, the second of which I was rushed to the gate, told that there was no time for food or the bathroom. Again, at the gate, we were told we were boarding soon, when the agent knew very well that the plane had not only not arrived, it hadn’t left its previous destination!

The response from Air Canada was not only a ridiculous denial of everything that happened, but a “gesture of will” $150 e-coupon. I informed them that the coupon wouldn’t get me even a one way flight and I’m not about to gamble on paying for flights and being treated so badly again. This is all I got..

“To show our regret about the service you received, we offered you the travel discount as a goodwill gesture. We hope you understand that we have made an honest effort to address the situation and we hope to have the opportunity to welcome you on board in the future.”

I didn’t even respond.

I urge everyone to give serious consideration before you book anything with Air Canada. Not only did I experience horrid customer service with FOUR consecutive flights, but they refuse to even credit them.

#SkipAirCanada I definitely will.

P.S. Stay tuned for the report on that wonderful (on land) trip to the Halifax region of Nova Scotia, Canada

Tuesday, August 15, 2017

King Tut and Dinner on the River in St. Louis

It was a beautiful summer day and my friend Betty and I were heading to St. Louis.

We were going to spend the afternoon at the St. Louis Science Center before taking off on a Gateway Arch River Cruise for dinner.

We decided to leave the car in the lot by the boat and take an Uber to the museum and back. 

The cruises left right below the Gateway Arch and we had quite a view from that spot.

The St. Louis Science Center is located within Forest Park. Like the other museums there, it is free to the public.

We didn’t realize that the museum closed at 5:00 pm so we couldn’t see it all, but we had enough time to go through the main thing we came for:

The King Tut Exhibit.

With our tickets we received our recorders for the guided audio tour. 

I really didn’t know what to expect since it had been many years since I had seen anything on King Tut. 

This exhibit was so much more than I ever expected.

It is set up so that you are walking in the steps of archaeologist Howard Carter when he discovers the King Tutankhamun site in 1922. Nothing else like it had ever been found.

The exhibit then takes you through the tomb and the artifacts, including the mummy cases and tomb treasures. 

It consists of lots of gold in every shape and form.

Betty and I were both amazed at all of this splendor, created thousands of years ago with minimal tools.

The King Tut Exhibit is open at the St. Louis Science Center through January 7, 2018. There is a charge for this exhibit, but it is definitely worth it.

We had some time before the river cruise and we had Uber driver take us around Forest Park. 

I had been to the Art Museum and the Zoo, but hadn’t spent any significant time in the park since I was a kid.
Our driver had us back at the boat in time for the cruise. We had not had any substantial food all day and couldn’t wait.

The tables were reserved and the buffet was set up when we boarded. There was a banjo player and Betty and I each order a glass of wine and began to relax.

Dinner on the Gateway River Cruise included a beef carving station, chicken, fish, vegetables, potatoes, fruit, and pasta salad.

We helped ourselves to full portions and the food was very good.

The dessert was a choice of Red Velvet and Chocolate Fudge cakes. I had a little of each and they were both delicious.

It was a beautiful night and the ride along the Mississippi River was wonderful. 

We went outside to catch the sunset and watch the boat get ready to dock.

Dinner cruises, which you can reserve on the website, run through October and start back up in April.

The one-hour sightseeing cruises go until November and start again in March.

Tuesday, August 8, 2017

Quick Trip to Columbus, Ohio

I go to New York every few months to visit family and friends. I almost always fly, but my friend Lynn suggest she drive back with me and spend some time in Illinois.

I had recently received an invite to check out the new Hotel LeVeque in Columbus, Ohio, and decided it was a perfect place to stop.

Hotel LeVeque, part of the Marriott Autograph Collection, was opened in the Leveque Lincoln Tower in downtown Columbus.

The history of the 100-year-old building has been preserved, and even improved since the opening added additional artwork to the marbled historic building.

We arrived late in the evening. The hotel does not have a full restaurant open yet, but we decided to check out The Keep Liquor Bar.

It’s a very welcoming area, with leather couches and soft lighting. It has delicate touches with go perfectly with the hotel’s décor.

They don’t have a full menu, but the bar menu was inviting. 

We decided to share the Watermelon Goat Cheese Arugula Salad, a cheese charcuterie plate, and burrata with tomatoes.

The dishes were all fresh and delicious, and went perfectly with a glass of Sauvion Vouvray from Loire, a very light white wine with just a hint of sweetness.

We were pretty tired and headed up to our room at Hotel LeVeque right after we ate. It was quite luxurious, but also equipped with modern touches, such as the outlets by the bed and the television ready to sync with our cell phones for live streaming.

The beds were also extremely comfortable and we slept quite well, with a “starry night display” on the ceiling.

In the morning, we enjoyed the hotel’s European style breakfast buffet, which included eggs, pastries, bagels, oatmeal, and fresh fruit.

We took some time to look around before heading over to Bicentennial Park and lunch at Milestone 229.

The park has an open, modern feel, with plenty of fountains for kids to cool off on hot days. It was especially hot when we were there and a few grownups were also enjoying the chance to cool off.

The drink menus at Milestone 229 was very interesting and included a lot of local spirits, wine, and beer.

It seemed like a relaxing day to enjoy one before lunch and two caught my eye:

Royal Peach, with Crown Royal Vanilla , peach syrup, and Peach Schnapps, and 229 Cosmo, a blend of Pineapple Infused Finlandia Vodka, Cointreau (Use code DRIZLYFIVE to save $5 with these links at Drizly liquor delivery) , cranberry juice, and lime.

The warm pretzel bread with house made whole grain butter was a perfect starter with the cocktails.

For an entrée, I had Try the Baked Vegetable Croquette with Baba Ghanoush.

It sounded unique and wonderful, and it was.

Lynn had the roasted chicken with side of macaroni and cheese, which she really enjoyed.

After lunch, we hit the road and headed to one of my favorite stores, the Eddie Bauer Warehouse. 

I happen to come across this place about 10 years ago and I always stop when I am in Columbus.

The bargains are unbelievable, with specials every day, in addition to the 30-50% off on everything, every day.

On this day, the deal was $12.99 for all dresses, which originally cost up to $100.

Lynn bought me a couple of birthday presents, as well as a few things for herself, and we hit the road. 

We had a bought six hours to go before we were in Champaign