Arran, Scotland, September 2009
Even though I don't play much golf anymore it is still very enjoyable to have a golfing break with a good friend. We opted for the Isle of Arran on the Scottish Westcoast. As we now know this place is famous for continuous rain and infested with midges... It is a small island, I gues about 20 miles from east to west and 40 miles north-south. Lots of mountains and still home to 7 golfcourses. It is a long haul to get there, the ferrie to Newcastle and a 4-5 hour drive across and another 1 hour ferrie crossing to get to Brodick where we had booked a stay in a B&B. A depressed landlady almost made us turn on our heels when she told us there had been rain every day for almost 2 months... But we were lucky. We've seen some spells of rain but most days we could play our rounds of golf without a drop.
Apart from the golf there really is not much to do on the island. Only a few places to go out for dinner and during the day all there is to enjoy is the scenery. If you love nature there is a lot to enjoy onthe island but that is certainly something to take into account should you have plans to visit this place. So, did we have a good time? Yes we did, especially the Shiskine 12-hole golfcourse really is a gem. But will I ever return? Not likely.
Nova Scotia, Canada, June 2009
It has already been several years since my friend and ex-colleague Steven moved to Nova Scotia with his family. High time I payed him a visit to see if it it really is such a relaxed and beautiful place. It is a peninsula at the extreme south east of Canada. Roughly the same degree of latitude as the north of Spain. So when the sun peeps through the clouds, it can be hotter than you would expect. Less than 1 million inhabitants means that there is still lots of space and the roads are very quiet. In advance we bought an old Yamaha FJ1100 motorbike for me so we could do the famous Cabot Trail around Cape Breton and I could go where I wanted without burdening him and his family too much. The bike was a bit of an adventure, even thought the big lump of an engine pulled strongly and the bike was stable and safe on the brakes, electrical reliability was another thing. So a few hairy moments and a visit to a workshop were also included in the trip
Steven lives and works in Windsor and that is a fairly central point of Nova Scotia. The Capital Halifax, the valley at Anapolis Royal and the northeastern Cape Breton are all within reach. Roughly 375 miles from SW to NE and on average 70 miles across it still is a sizable peninsula.
Making a living over there is not too easy. But housing, no trafic jams and fuel at half our price do compensate. Booze may be dearer, but where else will you get a fesh lobster meal for 12 Euros? Anyway, I know the grass is always greener somewhere else but living out there is no punishment. Except maybe in wintertime, when you can be locked in by snow and frost.
In the 9 days we also fished at a few spots targetting the striped bass. The power plant at Annapolis Royal and the Gaspereau river are prime spots for them. But this early in the season they hadn't really started their trek upriver yet. We saw just a few specimen being caught, but not on our hooks, there stil is something for me to come back for some time in the future.
The wildlife is pretty special too. Even though I haven't seen any of the black bears or mooses, and the only porcupines and racoons were roadkill. But seeing lobster from the pier, spotting whales just from a road view at Cape Breton, plenty of special birds like blue jays, gannets, falcons, ospreys and bald eagles meant there still was a lot to be seen if you are into wildlife. 9 days may be a bit short when you cross 5 timezones by plane, but I prefer strong espresso to weak tea. It was well worth the travel. Steven and family, thanx for the hospitality and until we meet again.