The Dreadnoughts – Chaos, Cider & Pumping tunes!

We only recently discovered this band during our roadtrip around Nova Scotia. I downloaded a random playlist of sea shanties on Spotify and it was filled with a selection of Dreadnoughts tunes. 

I assumed they were Irish and was very surprised that they are in fact from Canada.  

The band formed in 2006 in Vancouver and play fiddle, accordion, mandolin, tin whistle, guitars and drums. The music is powerful, chaotic and ruthless Punk strewn with polkas, gypsy dances and sea shanties. In 2010 they announced an indefinite hiatus but luckily for us they are back and played a gig at the Underworld in London while we were bank. Great timing! I have seen loads of bands at Underworld, Gnarwolves, Argy Bargy, Agnostic Front, Old Firm Casuals, my mates band Lost Gravity and plenty more. The venue isn’t huge but it’s over 2 levels and has 2 bars so on busy nights you don’t have to wait too long to get drinks and you can usually find a place where you can see the band or get in the mosh pit, whatever takes your fancy.The Dreadnoughts put on an amazing performance and probably one of the best I’ve seen at Underworld. The energy was insane, from the very first smash of the drums my feet were invested in a frienzied kind of jig and the whole crowd followed. 

Polka’s Not Dead from the album of the same name started the night off with smash in the face burst of oomp-pa-pa celtic punk and the crowd energetically joined in chanting the chorus and fistpumpimg the air with gusto.My favourite song on the album, Turbo Island, is about a Cider pub in Bristol called Turbo Island, funilly enough I actually walked past the pub earlier in the week. I wish I had popped in now, if the song is anything to go by, the pub must be one hell of a party!

The pumping track Poutine went off with a bang despite most of the audience probably not knowing what Poutine actually is. As the evening continued on the frenzy of the crowd reflected off the band and they had us singing, chanting, jigging cumulating in everyone dancing in one giant circle pit. There was pushing, there was shoving, drinks were being spilled and the crowd was like a bunch of drunken Irish sailors. 

It was a fantastic night, the sound was great and both the band and crowd feeding off each other was crazy and chaotic. I really hope the new album about to come out is as good as their last offering and they have lots more success. I’m going to keep my eye on these guys. Lucky for us they have a Canadian tour in November so we will be off to Calgary to see them again and I can’t wait. 

Polka, is definately not dead.

Bristol, a short trip to see my oldest English pal.

Megabus is great, it cost me all of £12.50 for a return ticket from London to Bristol, a journey of approximately 2 hours 45 minutes. Pretty good value in my opinion. The coach, which was full due to it being school holidays, followed the Thames down to the luxury riverside flats of Chelsea before heading through Hammersmith and over the flyover to the M4, a motorway I used to regularly travel on when I lived in Newbury, just West of Reading. Once out of London it’s a pretty boring drive. Windsor Castle can be seen from the M4, today there was no flag flying meaning the Queen was not in residence.I have so say, England’s roads, well the M4 at least is so nice and smooth compared to most of the 9000 kilometres we travelled in Canada. The lack of substantial snowfall and extreme weather in England means the  motorways last a lot longer than the poor Canadian motorways that get months and months of snow and ice covering them each year.  This meant it was a very smooth journey and I had plenty of naps.I did however have my trashy magazine for the journey, I used to buy them all the time, who’s wearing what, who had broken up and who has put on weight, who really cares to be honest but there was no wifi so why not? 

It was slow going getting into Bristol, why I chose to arrive in rush hour traffic I don’t know but we were only 10 minutes late and Jasmine was already there to collect me.

Went to her lovely ground floor flat on Ashley Down road and had a tour before walking up to The Wellington on Cheltenham Road for a couple of lager tops (they don’t do these in Canada and I’d forgotten how good they are!) and a catch up. It’s strange, when someone isn’t overly active on Facebook, (unlike me) it can be just like the old days when you meet up with them. You find out how much their lives have changed and vice versa. It was so nice to hear she is happy and has lots going on, it was also lovely to have someone so interested in our Banff life, partly because she hadn’t seen the thousands of photos I’ve posted online. Afterwards we enjoyed a lovely meal of Sausage and Mash prepared by Jasmine’s boyfriend Andy. Had a few beers,  looked though a few of my photos and played with their 2 very cute cats.

The following morning after a lovely breakfast of fried eggs, we said our goodbyes and I headed off for a wander around town. I walked down a very pleasant Cheltenham Road which was filled with quirky shops, bars, galleries and cafes.  It’s nice to see an area of independent shops, minus the odd chain store, thriving. It’s such a lovely area and I could have spent hours there browsing through record stores and charity shops and having coffee and cake at one of the many shabby-sheek cafes.  I headed into the town centre via The Bearpit, an area in the centre of a huge roundabout where there was lots of funky grafitti and pop up cafes to Cabot Circus, for a look around. It’s your typical inner city huge mall so headed for Castle ParkThe park is suituated next to part of the harbour and has the ruins of St Peter’s Church in the centre. The church is surrounded by pretty gardens and a fountain and has views over the harbour and park.I had time for a quick manicure (it’s been so long since I’ve had my nails done so I thought I’d treat myself) before jumping back on the megabus to London.It was really great to see Jasmine. I met her on 24/02/2006, I remember that date as it was when I first moved to England, I met her the night I arrived and despite living in different parts of England and the world at times, we have remained good friends. 

Paying to use the washroom? Err no way!

One of my biggest gripes about London and some other cities in Europe is pay to use washrooms. 

Using these facilities is a human right, we all have to use them every day of our lives so why should we pay for the privledge?

At Victoria Coach station and the mall opposite the public must pay 30p to use the washroom. What a bloody joke! I understand they need to pay an attendant but what I experienced was a dirty toilet, no hot water, broken driers and an attendant that only appeared to be there to make sure people paid. Why pay to go to disgusting washrooms when I could just walk into the nearest 5 star hotel and do my business in luxury for nothing? 

Canada knows how to do toilets, in Banff the public washrooms in town are clean and free. They have solar panels on the roof so are environmentally friendly and also save on electricity. And most, if not all of the tourist stops and rest areas have toilets, they are usually longdrops but I have always found them to be clean and tidy. 

So a warning when in the UK, especially if you are a card user and rarely have cash on you, check to see if the train/bus has washrooms on it before your journey and also go at home before you leave, this means you won’t have to pay at the stations. 

Day 28 – St John’s to London

Walked with Philippa in the morning to The Roomswhich is a Museam and archives facility overlooking the city.

Fergus wanted to ask about some family who had ties to the shipping trade in Newfoundland and Poole. Found out his family once owned a very large shipping company who had their headquarters on an island called Fogo, we plan to visit the island on our way back to Banff. There is more information about the company Here. Took some photos of the view and carried on into town.Wandered the streets of St John’s looking at souvineer and craft shops and viewing the massive ships moored in the docks. It’s a very busy and lively city, smaller that I’d expected it to be but very pretty, just like a small fishing village just on a larger scale. Met up with Ben for lunch and he took us to a funky little cafe called Rocket Bakery where we had a chicken burrito each. It was a nice place, quite hipster and lots of  city types and young families enjoying speciality coffee and slightly overpriced food. Fergus and I headed through town to walk up Signal Hill which is  St. John’s most popular landmark. It offers coastal hikes and sweeping views overlooking the Atlantic and is the site of St. John’s harbour defences.We did the North Head Trail which is the oldest and most popular of the trails on Signal Hill. It follows a trail along the narrows to the North Head. 

The trail started off relatively easy, walked around the hills on steps and boardwalks, lots of runners passed us and we passed others going at a more leisurely pace. Stopped to look at Whales a couple of times and watch a ship entering the harbour. The trail winded around the cliffs and at one point the path was so narrow a chain was attached to the rock face for safety, the stairs climbed up to the point where the track dissappared and you could wander around the rocks.We walked around the point and as we did the wind died down and the heat really increased. Watched more whales off the point before climbing a huge staircase to the top of the hill. It was tough going!I went up Cabot Tower, the fortification on the top of the hill where the  final battle of the Seven Years’ War in North America was fought in 1762 in which the French surrendered St. John’s to a British force. Walked back down the trail on the opposite side of the hill towards Quidi Vidi, a small cove with a brewery. That path was not as steep but still had great views of the ocean before descending into forest where Bald Eagles nest and then onto the cute little cove.There wasn’t a bar at the brewery and I didn’t really want to do a tour so went to a very quirky pub called Inn of Olde. It is a funny place, stuff is all over the walks and roof, number plates, hockey sticks, newspaper clippings, Christmas decorations, you name it. I’ll definately return there when we come back to St John’s as I hear it’s quite a lovely place. Just had one beer before the long walk back to the house.once back at the house we packed up the stuff we wanted to take and the stuff we wanted to leave in Canada and cleaned and organised the car. 

We then had a lovely dinner with Ben and Philippa of Salmon, sausages, salad, chips and pasta salad. It was such a nice meal and had a good chat while enjoying an Old Fashioned. Caught a cab to the airport at 9:45 and flew out around midnight. 

Bye bye Canada!

Day 27 – Channel Port aux Basques to St John’s

Our penultimate day started very early. I woke at 5:30 and went up on deck to get some shots of the sunrise over Newfoundland. The boat was very quiet except for staff and a few passengers stirring from their slumber or going for morning coffee.The ferry docked and we headed down to our car and disembarked around 7:30 and headed to Tim Hortons for breakfast and wi-fi. Started our journey around 8:15 and headed out onto the last leg of the Trans Canada highway.Almost immediately the landscape was beautiful. It was very different to Nova Scotia surprisingly. Newfoundland is like Central Otago whereas Nova Scotia is more like Southland. (only makes sence if you are familiar with New Zealand)

The hills were larger, not quite mountains but definately higher and a lot rockier. Large parts of the flatter areas were rocky too and in amongst the rocks was forest, shrubs and small lakes. Perfect environment for Moose I’ve been told. 

Did we see any? No! Nada! Nothing! Ziltch! Saw some amazing cloud formations over the hills and got some cool shots from the car despite the dirty windowscreen laden with the bodies of dead bugs who got in our path. The weather was cloudy but looked like it was going to clear. It didn’t.Stopped a couple of hours outside St John’s so Fergus could sleep before carrying on into rain and mist. It seemed to take forever to actually get over all the winding hills into the city but finding Ben and Philippa’s house was easy.They live in a 2 bed house in an area not too far from town. They are renovating the bathroom and have already changed the house dramatically from what they said. It’s a lovely wee place with a fresh maritime feel and lots of artwork and sculpture around. 

Had a few beers and a BBQ with Ben and chatted to Philippa when she arrived home.

Day 26 – Sydney to Port aux Basques

Slept in again and made bacon butties for breakfast….again. Wandered into central Sydney to find the library so I could print out my boarding passes for my return flight to Canada should I have any issues on my arrival at Gatwick. It was closed on Mondays, typical of a small town and very annoying. Walked along the boardwalk beside the inlet to the Big Fiddle, I’m not sure why Sydney has a big fiddle, I guess it’s due to the Celtic culture of the island but the town doesn’t offer much else so why not build a ‘big thing’ to attract people? It has been done many times before in other towns around the globe.Spoke to a lovely lady in a gift shop beside the information centre and Fergus bought some soap, out of guilt for being in there so long chatting to her I think. I don’t think many people visited the store so we were happy to chat. 

Wandered through town which was not the nicest, yet another high street with boarded up shops, restaurants with nobody in them and office buildings, ruined due to cheaper chain supermarkets and fast food restaurants built on the outskirts of town. We had seen a lot of this in small town Canada.

Headed back to our Air B&B house. Our host, Will had gone to work so didn’t get to say goodbye, he was a very nice chap. Grabbed our gear and headed up towards North Sydney. Left Sydney at 2pm and our ferry didn’t leave until 11:45pm so we had hours to fill in. Drove the coast route past small villages, inlets and small lakes. Stopped briefly for a walk around Petersfield Provincial Park. Walked along the stony beach and through forest for about an hour and a half. Carried on to North Sydney and printed out my boarding passes and ferry ticket at the library, visited the information centre and Tim Hortons to use the wi-fi.

Drove up the coast to waste time and as we were going through Sydney Mines we could see some sort of concrete structure out on the point. We had already noticed some battlements on the cliffs below us so got as close as we could to it and parked the car.

Walked down to the large structure which turned out to be part of the Chapel Point Battery Site. The main building was 4 stories high but you weren’t able to get above the ground floor which was just a series of graffitied, littered, dark rooms. A few meters from it, towards the cliff edge were 2 identical gun battlements and you could see where a gun of some sort once sat. The rails it would have sat upon were still there and there were various rooms and cubbies around it i’m guessing were used to store ammunition and other defensive material.There was one more area that was a large, very dark room that had steps from both ends leading to a lower level and then a second pair of staircases leading down to what looked like a door or doorway to another room. It was pitch black down there and even though I really wanted to go down the steps to investigate, I didn’t and chickened out. I will always wonder what is down that dark, dirty staircase….Decided to go to the ferry terminal and check in and leave the car in the queue while we went to get dinner. The man in the kiosk took the printout of our tickets, cave us real tickets and told us to go in row 9. There were about 15 rows full of cars, campervans, lorries and motorbikes all waiting patiently to board the huge ferry.Went to a local pizza shop and ordered a pizza and garlic bread and ate slowly while chatting and trying to pass the time. Sat in the terminal for a while, I bought a travel pillow then sat in the car for the last hour and a half. 

It didn’t take us long to get on the ferry once boarding began, we boarded from the back and parked on the 3rd level, right at the front. Went and got a comfy seat in front of 3 large tv screens on level 8. It wasn’t overly busy, a few seats were taken but most people slept on the carpet between the seats, although the safety video had mentioned this was frowned upon, I guess they do the journey often.It took at least an hour to actually start moving and by then it was dark so I could only watch the lights of North Sydney pass as we left the inlet when I ventured up onto the sun deck. Watched a bit of The History Channel and the News before heading off the sleep. 

TAX! Prices are not as they seem….

My biggest gripe, and one I face daily is the fact Canada (and America for that matter) add their tax on top of what is stated on the price tag, essentially they are false advertising. 

In every single other country I have been to in Asia, Europe, Africa and Oceana the tax is included in the final price so what you see on the tag or board is what you pay. 

There is Goods and Service tax, which is 5%, Provincial Sales Tax which varied from 0-10% and Harmonised Sales Tax which is 13%. So it varies depending what you buy and where you are buying it.A user of city-data.com quoted “Let’s face it, sales tax system here is very outdated, causes too much inconveniences and has no consideration for consumers. One needs a calculator in order to determine how much he will need to pay before making any purchase. It also intentionally understates the price of products.” 

The above is so true, anyone who grew up not using this system is alarmed when they come to pay and sometimes decide against purchasing. I know I have done. 

The docket below is an example, an extra 15% tax or $2.11 was added on to a $14.06 bill. It’s not a lot but imagine buying a $300 handbag (which I have done so in the past in Europe) that would be an extra $45.00! This Trip Advisor page explains it all in detail and I understand why they do it as both Canada and the US have lots of provinces or states but then so does Australia and they don’t use the same system. Their tax is included in the final price. 

Everyone new to Canada needs to remember, if you are scrounging in your bag for coins at 3am after a night out and manage to find enough for a kebab as per the menu, it will cost more so you may be left disappointed and hungry. (This happened to me in Las Vegas on my first trip to America)So that’s tax, annoying and unexpected as it is, you also need to add on a tip if you are in a restaurant! Normally a further 15%! That’s a whole other post……