About an hour after my departure from Annapolis Royal after a beautiful drive along the shoreline of the Annapolis Basin and through the early fall colours of the Bear River Valley, (also known as Little Switzerland. I arrived at the "Bear River" First Nation Heritage and Cultural Centre. I was greeted by Wanda Joudry-Finigan and Robert (Robbie) McEwan, while Frederick Harlow was manning the cash register. All are members of the Bear River First Nation, and Wanda and Robbie proceeded to celebrate my arrival with a special welcome song.Wanda explained that the song invites our mutual relatives, grandfathers and ancestors to join us at this occasion. The lobby of the Centre holds various artifacts and a Heritage Gallery that pays homage to current and former Chiefs and Elders of the Bear River First Nation. Wanda pointed out present Chief Frank Meuse Junior who also operates a lodge for adults and youth alike who wish to learn about the Mikmaq culture. Another image was of Agnes Potter, a celebrated leader and respected Elder of the Bear River First Nation.Then I was invited to view a brief movie about Willie Meuse, Franks grandfather, shown in footage from the 1930s on the Bear River. The film also highlighted the construction and launching of the first birch bark canoe built since 1927. The launching took place in 2004 and speaks to the importance of the ancestors.We left the vestibule and entered a large multi-purpose room housing a variety of interpretive displays about the life and history of the Mikmaq First Nation. This room is also used for theatre productions, games of sports for the youth, community card parties, holiday feasts and presentations. Frederick joined me and gave me an overview of the birch bark canoe. He explained that the canoe weighs about 90 to 95 pounds and was constructed using authentic historical canoe-building methods used in the area. The canoe is a sea-going canoe, evidenced by the high rise in the middle. Fresh-water canoes do not feature a rise in the middle of the canoe.The vessel is constructed of various types of wood including ash and birch and the outside is covered with birch bark. Any potential openings in the canoes skin are patched up with a mixture of spruce gum and bear grease. Canoes used to be the main form of transportation for the First Nations People and their navigation skills, fishing and hunting knowledge helped the French settlers when they first came to this area in the 1600s. This life-size canoe was made by Todd Labrador and Cory Ryan who is a seventh generation descendent of Malti Pictou, a well-known Bear River Mikmaq guide. Before Cory, he was the last person to make a birch bark canoe in the area.The next exhibit featured a variety of arts and crafts that are produced here using Mikmaq artistic traditions. Robbie came over to give me more insight into some of the local arts and crafts. He explained that leather is worked to produce mittens, jackets, dresses, moccasins and other items. Dreamcatchers are an important symbol to the Mikmaq. With their intricate web-like design they are hung to catch dreams floating through the night air. There is a saying that dreamcatchers let the good dreams through but protect you from the bad dreams.Jewellery is made using a variety of glass beads, bone beads as well as imitation sinew. In the past moose tendons were used to produce the pendants and bracelets. Decorated deer and moose hide are available for purchase as well. Robert indicated that he recently made an ornate dress for a native chief in Newfoundland. His artistic skills are evidenced by some of the most impressive pieces of work: Robert showed me a decorative jewellery box that he is currently working on. The box is made of birch bark and porcupine quills, bordered with sweet grass whose scent I was able to smell. He explained that porcupine quills are easily removed from the animal, and they are essentially used to stitch an elaborate design. For each quill a hole is poked and the quill is pulled through. By the time this item is finished, Robert will have invested over 200 hours to produce the elaborate pattern on this decorative box.Wanda joined us and took me to a display of a wigwam to explain certain rituals and conventions that would be adhered to in First Nations encampments. Visitors would be invited to sit in the most honourable space in the home or wigwam. The same would go for children so they would be able to see everything to the left and to the right of them in order to be able to learn. During winter mats made from rush would be used for insulation against the cold. Baskets were hand- made in order to harvest scallop, clams, or mussels. Each of these particular baskets could hold up to 10 pounds of seafood. Other baskets made from ash were used for potato and apple picking. These baskets were hand-made in large quantities in the 1900s as a major means of economic survival in changing times. Today these baskets are sold as decorative items.The tipi also features a variety of furs, including lynx, rabbit, mink, red fox and silver fox. During the 1920s and 1930s silver foxes were a real fashion craze in England and many women had a fox fur, complete with head and legs, draped around their necks as a statement of elegance. The fox head would be equipped with a clasp so it could be clipped onto the lapel of the ladys coat.I learned that the wigwam is made of birch bark. Wigwams were lightweight, which made them easy to move from one location to another and water-resistant. Encampments would be set up near the mouth of rivers, which would provide a plentiful opportunity for food and means of travel. A large part of native diet consisted of fish; the rest was made up of berries, fruits and meats. Often fishing weirs were used for catching eels. Wanda explained that in the last few years about 800 encampments have been found in Nova Scotia with more than 4000 artifacts dating back 2,500 to 4,000 years.Mikmaq hunting traditions included bear traps that were baited with fish. Once the animal was caught, women would remove the guts, the hide and the sinews and carry it back to the camp to prepare it. Excess meat and fat would be scraped off the skin with scraping tools, stones or shells. Wanda informs me that women were very highly respected in First Nations society, as they were life givers. Meals were cooked in a hollowed-out log that held red-hot stones that had been heated over a fire. Water would be poured over the food and the hot stones to cook the meal. Spices were gathered in the forest, and instead of potatoes a plant called the Jerusalem artichoke would be served with the meat. Fish and meat were dried or smoked, and eggs were gathered from marsh birds.We moved over to a display on Mikmaq language and Wanda mentioned that there were 7 Mikmaq districts, each with their own chief. The Bear River Reservation is located in a place called Kespukwik, meaning where the water stops flowing, referring to the Bear River flowing into the Annapolis Basin. Mikmaq language is based on action verbs, and pronouns are important indicators of belonging and possession. For instance, the words mother or sister can never be said by themselves, they always require a pronoun to indicate whose mother we are talking about. The Mikmaq words would say your mother, my mother, or his/her mother etc.At the next display we saw a 1936 picture of Wandas great-grandmother, Sarah Fossey who lived until 1961 to the ripe old age of 101. Wanda has fond memories of Sarah who used to bring her grandchildren and great-grandchildren oranges as a special treat. Sarah was captured in a movie from the 1930s that was displayed at the First Nation First Nation Heritage and Cultural Centre. Wanda was overwhelmed when she first saw moving images of her great-grandmother in the movie.We also discussed life as a Mikmaq today. Wanda explained that Mikmaq society was matriarchal until the arrival of the first Europeans. In recent years, from the 1920s to the 1990, the government instituted a policy of residential schools where young native children were taken away from their families and taught the white mans ways. This led to a significant loss in culture and heritage, womens status eroded as a result and Mikmaq family structure suffered. The government wanted to force native children to integrate into mainstream society and in the process an ancient way of life was destroyed. Siblings were often not allowed to talk to one another and families were torn apart. Many of the native children suffered from mental, physical and sexual abuse in the residential schools. As a result of these policies, today many elders are learning the Mikmaq language from the younger generation.Today there is a counter-trend where young First Nations people are rediscovering their language, culture and heritage. Of the conditions at the "First Nation" Reservation Wanda says that it is a managed forest and there is no poverty on the reserve, which holds about 100 people. Wanda herself has lived off the reserve for her entire life and has been self-efficient.Wanda also explained that having native status is an important issue in First Nations communities. Native status confers certain benefits in terms of health care, taxation and schooling. Bill C31, introduced in 1985, improved native womens status in the sense that they could pass native status on to their first generation children, even if the children were from a mixed native/non-native marriage. Men on the other hand can pass on native status indefinitely through the generations, even if they marry a non-native wife. This often creates economic inequality and friction within the same family where one set of cousins could have native status whereas another cousin would not officially be considered native. Even fairly recent legislation prolongs the European tradition of favouring male bloodlines.Wanda gave me the names of several books that would provide further education about First Nations life and communities and when I said goodbye, she generously gave me two books to read as a present: Lsitkuk The Story of the First Nation Mikmaw Community by Darlene Ricker, and We Were Not Savages A Mikmaq Perspective on the Collision between European and Native American Civilizations by Daniel N. Paul, excellent reading material to educate myself further about native culture and history. As a parting gift she gave me a handcrafted medicine pouch that she had made herself, an example of the Mikmaq tradition of generosity and peacefulness.I thanked Wanda and the entire team at the First Nation First Nation Heritage and Cultural Centre for their most interesting introduction to Mi'kmaq heritage and culture and resolved to read these books soon to educate myself. I started driving down the hill and all the people congregated at the local First Nation Band Office waved goodbye to me. It was time for me to continue my drive along the Evangeline Trail to tonights final destination: Yarmouth.
It seems that our busy lifestyles have got more Brits than ever looking for weekend retreats.At the end of a long week of stress and anxiety what could be better than heading of in the direction of one of the UKs many luxury health farms or spas to indulge in body envelopment treatments, relaxing massages and whirlpools?You will be spoilt for choice as the ever growing demand for spa breaks has meant that its not just your luxury health farms that are in on the act. Generally hotels across the UK are adding on fantastic spas to their existing leisure facilities. These hotels are rivalling the big UK spas by offering the same relaxing environment. You dont have to even stay over night as many hotels are opening their doors to day spa guests.This array of choice means that there are some bargains out there to be had due to the increasing competition. A new trend in online specialist weekend break agents is occurring. These agents will secure spa breaks and spa day packages at hugely discounted prices. Up to 70% off in some instances.When booking a spa break it is likely to include accommodation, dinner from a Table Dhote or A la Carte menu, full English breakfast, one or two treatments such as a back, neck & shoulder massage or a soothing facial and use of the venues leisure facilities. Dont be fooled by thinking that there is nothing for the male of the species either. Most hotels have a specific treatment programme dedicated to men. An option to add on extra spa treatments is usually available so you can leave feeling totally and utterly relaxed.Agencies usually have an array of weekend break, not just spa breaks. They may offer romantic breaks where youll get dinner and breakfast included plus extra little treats such as champagne and flowers in your room on arrival. Alternatively if you fancy a weekend of working on your handicap then golf breaks are available too.
What do you picture in your mind when you think of caves? Spelunking or perhaps crawling on all fours to fit through a small space may come to mind. Perhaps the experience of absolute and complete darkness, the degree of darkness so dark you cant see your hand in front of you? Maybe you imagine more sinister things such as spiders, cobwebs or other imaginable things in the dark. Caves evoke different ideas and feelings to many people. One idea is that of an ideal environment to age fine wine in oak barrels or age a sparkling wine in a bottle.Caves have been used for thousands of years for aging wines in different parts of the world. In Wine Trail Travelers trip to Sonoma and Napa Valleys in California, we experienced different caves. Chinese workers built some caves in the late 1800s after their work was completed on the railroads. These workers built miles of caves with the use of picks, axes and shovels. In contrast we also experienced caves built with modern technology such as a Welsh mining machine. The walls were then covered with shotcrete, a mixture of sandy cement and pea gravel.Some of the caves were very clean and lit by electric fixtures whether they were overhead bulbs or elegant electric wall sconces. Other caves were darker and lit by candles or lanterns giving a romantic glow to the oak barrels lining the sidewalls. Some caves showed lichen growth hanging several feet from the ceiling. One wonders why they were never cleaned with a broom or vacuum. We observed thousands of bottles, showing dust resting quietly for years.Early winemakers who came to the Napa and Sonoma regions in the 1800's from Europe were familiar with the use of caves. We trekked through two cave systems dating from the late 1800s.One advantage of caves is temperature control. The cave temperature is often constant yearlong and varies very little. It doesnt matter if the outside temperature is 110 degrees F or 10 degrees F, a cave system can maintain an even temperature often between 57 and 64 degrees F. This cool even temperature provides an ideal aging environment for wine. This constant temperature also provides economic benefits for a winery. Fewer resources are spent on heating or cooling a cave than a building. Often the land above a cave can be planted with grapevines.A second advantage of caves is darkness. Light can harm wines and caves are dark. This darkness is a particular advantage to sparkling wines undergoing aging in glass bottles.Humidity control is a third advantage of a cave system. Oak barrels breathe. Some of the wine evaporates. If the humidity is high, less wine will evaporate. In some cases caves have reduced the amount of evaporation from 6% to 1%. This also is an economic bonus for a winery since less wine is needed to top off the barrels.Although the lichen hanging from the ceiling looked eerie at one winery we visited, it actually helps to filter the air in the cave.Some wine caves have an area that can be used for special events. The atmosphere can provide a rewarding experience. All of these advantages led to an interest in constructing new caves during the 1980s. Expect to see more wine caves constructed in the future.
Before a game of golf, many people practice first in order to be able to play their best during the game. Driving ranges are open fields complete with yard markers that tell golfers how far they have hit the ball. After paying for a bucket of gold balls, golfers use their own clubs to practice specific strokes and techniques that they may struggle with on the course. Those who enjoy golf will visit a driving range once or twice a week depending on their time and skill level in order to improve their game.Driving ranges are easy to find and most gold clubs have them. If you are new to the game of golf, you should practice first in order to improve in areas where you are lacking. Using different clubs and practicing different swing methods, your game will improve over time. You can also hire a trainer that will give you tips and advice on improving your game. Once you feel you are ready to play an entire game of golf, you can feel confident knowing that you will be prepared for whatever happens on the course.Because every golfer has a weakness or two when it comes to executing the perfect shot each time, practicing can help golfers reduce their slice, lengthen their range, and learn how to become more comfortable with different clubs. When practicing on the "driving range" , you should try to use each club at least once. This will give you a better idea about which clubs are the best and worst to work with. Driving ranges are open every day of the week, so you will have plenty of time to work on your game.Golf has become more popular over the years because it is a challenging game that most people can play. If you are able to practice often, you will notice your control over your clubs and the ball will become greater. Take your time to perfect your swing when visiting the driving range. Use this practice ground to try new methods, improve older ones, and watch more experienced golfers. You will learn something new each time you visit the driving range.If you don't feel comfortable visiting a driving range yourself, ask a friend who enjoys golf. You can work together to improve your game and feel more comfortable on golf courses. Attending local matches will also help when you are trying to become a better golfer.
I sometimes read package holiday reviews by travellers before choosing a resort, and the Taj Green Cove was such a resort.Id like to give my review for what it is worth, and the first thing Id like to say is that we had a great time, and it wasnt that expensive, in fact cheaper than other options in Kerala.Indeed we met several young couples who were definitely on honeymoons on a shoestring budget, and although I wouldnt regard this Taj as one of the cheap honeymoon spots, eating out is so inexpensive that you can offset the cost of a good hotel by eating out.Here is my opinion on the Taj Green Cove Resort Kerala.The spa is amazingly good, the price was relatively cheap, but then again we hadnt bargained for the 25% taxes, but even allowing for that the cost is reasonable, but missing from the spa was a sauna and Jacuzzi.The nice pool and the spa make up for the fact that the Taj Green Cove is not on the beach, so you can be misled by the name, and although we realised this we didnt realise it was a ten minute ride in a tuktuk to the Lighthouse beach, and this can be off putting.To be fair the resort and the accommodation were well up to international five star standards. We were in a suite, lovely view, luxurious, DVD player, in fact most of the trimmings, including a beautiful view.The swimming pool is an infinity pool, with overhanging tropical plants, but kept especially clean when you consider all the foliage. We spent a lot of very relaxing time around the pool.The food did not inspire, and the Curries restaurant promised more than it delivered, and we were a bit disappointed in the breakfasts. As a result we ate out a lot, and whilst we found Lighthouse beach surrounds, and the beach itself pretty tacky, there were plenty of eating houses/shacks within easy walking reach.Finally the staff were all very helpful, very willing to please, and unobtrusive, always the sign of a high class resort.I would return to The Taj Green Cove, because I am not too concerned about being on a beach, but if you are then probably this isnt the place for you.