Weekend in Wolfville

The joy of a weekend in Wolfville is not knowing what little treasures you will uncover. After a community breakfast and visit and socializing at the Saturday Farmers’ Market, I strolled down Main Street and learned April is poetry month.

To celebrate, the delicious Box of Delights book store turned their front windows into a poetry happening. There are poetry books to buy. On the outside of the window are posters inviting passersby to take the blank pieces of paper available in a folder on the poster used the pens also attached (in case you lack your own) to write a favourite verse, quote a favourite poet or write your own. The Box of Delights also includes rolls of tape so anyone can post to their window. And people do post!

Come on by. The Box of Delights’ poetry windows await.



Remembering Vimy

I have written about Vimy Ridge and what there is to see and experience there:



My genealogical pilgrimage


When my friend Jennifer started researching her family genealogy I joked that she was just looking for an unclaimed title, an estate or a fortune. Trying to change the subject she asked, “Is your family Irish?”

Once upon a time, but my branch have been in Nova Scotia since 1765. So it’s not like we’ve got kissing cousins there. Still, when I finished school and earned my own money, Ireland was the first country I paid to visit. I’ve been back nine times. I know all the Lynches where I live and thought if I went to Ireland I might bump into someone who turned out to be a long, lost relative. It’s my type of casual genealogical pilgrimage.

For my first trip I didn’t bother with any type of traditional genealogical study. I just asked my grandfather, who was born in 1878, where we were from. He thought Galway or Cork. Apparently we weren’t too sentimental about the old country. So I bought a cheap plane ticket to Dublin and did my best to acquire a taste for Guinness. There are four “black beer” in Ireland and at the risk of never regaining citizenship I can’t say I am enamored of any of them. They just make me sleepy. Sober and awake, I rented a yellow Escort and set out “to do” Ireland by following the coast.

Trying to drive on the left while reading a map is not easy. I was lost a lot of the time.

Which is usually how I discover things, like the ancient monastic community of Glendalough. In Wexford I learned a way around bar closing hours was to join a hotel bridge club. From Waterford and Cork, I always drop down to the south coast to spent time in Ireland’s culinary capital, Kinsale (pronounced kin-saaaaaale, as if expelling all air from your lungs). It’s a colourful little town where every second door seems to be a pub or café. From here I follow the Ring of Kerry, a winding, roller-coaster strip of pavement cut into hillsides in the southwest corner of the country which takes you to towns with fantastical, musical-hall-sounding names like Skibbereen, Killarney and Tralee.

The Ring ends in Limerick where I met two elderly Canadian couples with the station wagon version of my Escort. I couldn’t find the horn and they couldn’t get theirs into reverse. They showed me the horn – on the end of the directional signals – and I showed them how to put the car into reverse (push down on the stick shift and pull back). They had been putting the car in neutral, then three of them would jump out to push it backwards.

When I finally got to Galway, I found Lynch family history pretty quickly. Instead of running into a living relative, I learned about dead kinsmen. Our history starts on the corner of Shop and Abbeygate Streets in the foyer of a small grey stone fortified house called Lynch’s Castle. I had no idea we had a castle. Well, we don’t. Not anymore, it’s a branch of the Allied Irish Bank.

Lynch's castle 2

The family castle. More like a fortified townhouse. (Allan Lynch Photo)

This was a time when I still travelled with traveller’s cheques, so I marched into the ornate banking hall to see the teller’s reaction when I presented a cheque with a Lynch name on it. She said nothing. Obviously I was not the first traveling Lynch to appear and being a Lynch in Galway isn’t that unique. We’re pretty much the whole phone book. The streets leading to the castle are lined with Lynch-owned businesses: Lynch’s Cafe, Lynch’s restaurant, Lynch’s Fashions, Lynch Locks (a hairdresser), and so on.

So whenever a friend is travelling in Ireland, I send them to Galway to see the family castle. They look at me as if I’m fibbing. On my most recent trip, I took a California colleague to Galway and didn’t brief him about our history. I thought it would be fun to watch his facial expressions as he read the extensive family history on display in the castle foyer. In the 15th century we were Lynch Fitzstephen. In 1493 a popular young man-about-Galway, Walter Lynch, and a young Spanish count fell for the same girl. It’s an old story: drinks, raging hormones and a little sword play. The count’s body ended up in Galway Bay. Alas, the tides brought him back. There was a trial and the ever so remorseful Walter was convicted and sentenced to death.

The citizens of Galway took the position, ‘boys will be boys’ and tried to have Walter pardoned. Public opinion was such that the city executioner declined to carry out the sentence. As the young Walter sat in jail awaiting his fate, upset citizens formed a mob and prepared to break him out of jail. They were the first Lynch mob. Contrary to popular culture, Lynch mobs are not to attack and string up a convict, but to free the prisoner.

Walter’s father, James Lynch Fitzstephen, was the Lord Mayor and a stickler for the law.


The Hanging Window. (Allan Lynch Photo)

To ensure the mob didn’t prevail, James visited Walter in jail on the eve of the execution. As father and son sat together, the father slipped a noose around his son’s neck and pushed him out the window, thereby giving the language the concept of Lynching and Lynch law. It’s why we say people who are hanged are Lynched.

My colleague David jeered, “This is your family? You’re proud of this?”

“Mock all you want, have you got a family castle? Come, we’re not done.”

I walked him down the street past all the other Lynch businesses to a lane by St. Nicholas Church. At the end of the lane is the ruin of a stone wall. Above a skull and crossbones a plague explains this is the window from which Lynch Fitzstephen hung his son. David shakes his head and starts to put distance between us, as if he was having second thoughts about sharing a car with me.

There may not be an estate, title or fortune to be found, but I’ve dined out on the story of our family history for decades. Who knows what others will find digging into their genealogy should they make their way back to the ancestral homeland.

My first time – in Paris

February was an anniversary month for me. Hard to believe, but 40 years ago I went to Paris for the first time.

My friend Jane was spending a term of in London. Her term stretched into seven years. During that time she worked in a gin distillery, put the balls in roll-on deodorant, managed travel for academics and, critical to the travel to Paris, worked the bar in what was then a scuzzy Ozzie hangout in Earl’s Court called The King’s Head.

It was the first year I qualified for three week’s vacation. Just as I was about to book my annual trip to London, it was announced that the Orient Express was being taken out of service. I called Jane and suggested we take the train before it was terminated. There are so many things in life we miss. She agreed and I booked us two first class tickets on the Orient Express.

The King’s Head where Jane worked was popular with Ozzies and Kiwis. Because they had to travel so far to go anywhere, they tended to take two years for their travel. It was like a right of passage. They would head to London, hang out for a bit, pick up some part-time work, which for colonials was easy in those days, then head off on a grand, cheap tour.

At the pub Jane met two nurses from New Zealand. The girls had been working at the Great Ormond Hospital, put together some money and were about to head off for a year in a sixth-hand VW camper van they picked up. The thing was so beat up it took three of us to slide the side door open.

The girls’ plan was to drive across France, Spain and Portugal, catch a ferry to Morocco, drive across North Africa, then back via ferry to Greece and Italy, driving up the boot of Italy and eastern part of Europe before returning to the UK.

We caught a ride with them to Versailles. It took them hours to figure the way out of London. We drove to Ramsgate and caught the hovercraft to Calais. It was in France that we learned the girls had never driven on the right hand side of the road. And while they raced down the highways waving and screaming at the French drivers to “get on their own side of the road”, we realized we had to keep reminding the girls “Other side!”

It was traumatic, so we stopped for a “drinkie” at one of the first roadside bars we encountered. In those days rural bars closed in the afternoon. (So did British pubs.) We banged on a door until an old man opened it and in a type of under the table transaction since we were in violation of liquor laws, pulled out the thickest black rum I’ve even seen. No amount of Coke could dilute it’s breath-taking potency. It was so strong I can only imagine it was left over from Napoleon’s time. Drinks downed we headed to Boulogne for the night. We found a cheap hotel with parking and went to dinner.

On the way back to the hotel from dinner, we witnessed an accident between a car and motorcycle. The cyclist lay in the gutter while the motorist strutted in the street like a triumphant matador waving to residents who came out on their balconies to see what had happened. A blue van of Gendarmes arrived and in the interest of getting traffic flowing, one officer started to kick the downed cyclist pushing him further into the gutter.

This sent the nurses running to the cyclist’s aid. They tried to keep him from being moved lest he have a spinal cord injury and was paralyzed from being moved. That caused the Gendarmes to shout and flail their arms at the nurses. The nurses shouted back, pointing and crouching over the downed cyclist. The Gendarmes shouted in French. The nurses in English. Jane, with some high school French tried to translate, but both languages were flowing faster than her abilities.

Eventually an ambulance arrived and the cyclist, with the aid of the nurses, was carefully placed in the ambulance and taken to hospital. We were taken to the police station. After awhile it was determined we weren’t attempting to interfere with the police and that the nurses were acting in a professional capacity. Then we had to give statements about the accident before being released.

The next day we drove to Versailles, tromped around the palace and went for a farewell lunch. Handed menus in French, the girls turned to Jane to order for them. “Jane, order us some cheese toasties.” “What?” “Cheese toasties.” “I don’t know what they are.” Motioning to the waiter, they say, “Tell him, he’ll know.” Jane did her best to translate cheese toasty to the waiter, who was thoroughly confused.

We later learned that a cheese toasty is a grillled cheese sandwich.

We took a train from Versailles to Paris. On the train we were being very careful to keep our luggage close. I put the bags on an empty seat. Ten minutes into the trip an older man started pointing and saying something. We didn’t understand what he was saying. A younger man – 30ish – began translating for us. The older man was upset that we put our luggage on a seat. We promised to remove it if anyone needed a seat. No one was standing, there were empty seats and I don’t recall the train stopping.

Several people joined in the conversation, voices were raised, the man who was translating was doing his best to keep us up to speed. That caused an older woman and the older man to turn on him. Fortunately, Paris presented herself. We made it to the street and with no idea which was to go or how to find anything and anxious to dump our luggage we hailed a cab. “Hotel de Pantheon, s’il vous plait.” “Le Pantheon ce n’est pas un hotel.” “Pantheon, s’il vous plait.” He shrugged and drove.

The driver humoured us and delivered us to the Pantheon. Facing it, the Hotel de Pantheon is/was a sliver of a building to the right. As we walked in the doors I whispered in Jane’s ear, “If they ask, we’re staying one night.”

She had recommended the hotel. It was as we squeezed into our robin’s egg blue room I asked how she found the place. All the pub’s Ozzie travellers had recommended it. I should have asked sooner. Ozzies travel cheap. We had a room for two of us with breakfast (thick stand-your-spoon in coffee and bread) for $7 a night. We ended up staying four nights. It fit Jane’s budget. She had just read Arthur Frommer’s Europe on $10 A Day. It was an interesting theory. That was her budget, I made up the daily differences.

Our room had a separate cubicle for a sink, shower and bidet. The toilet was across the hall in a shoulder-wide, long closet. There was a window above the toilet, which was kept open, which made the room in February “chilly” and not a place to linger. The other quirk was the lock. The door had three locks. All three had to be engaged for the electrical circuit to be completed and the light to come on. This meant that as soon as anyone undid the first lock, the room when dark, leaving users fumbling in the dark for the other two locks. All night long we would hear people scratching at, pounding, pulling on the door trying to free themselves in the dark.

Toilets were a theme to this trip. There was the shock of finding radically different toilets than we were accustomed to, like a hole and two footprints. At one restaurant, Jane stood in the doorway, waving at me and in a stage whisper, “Al, come here!”

As small town kids we also weren’t used to pay toilets or co-ed WCs. In those days men and women shared an entrance. There were uniformed women working all the public WCs. Some had machines that took your money, others had a basket on a counter in front of her. The looser French attitudes to privacy and decorum were a shock to me. I have never experienced a cleaner, let alone a strange woman with a mop, asking me to lift my foot while she cleaned around me. Jane and I made a joke out it by treating each other. “Let me pay for this…” “My treat.”

It was two or five Francs, mere pennies, but we got a lot of entertainment from our washroom breaks.

We crammed as many of the usual touristy things as possible in to our few days in the city. We did no planning. It was wake up and head out. We spent as much time walking places as we did seeing sights.

First we walked the Champs Elysees looking at all the things we couldn’t afford till we got to the Arc de Triomphe. Like the little rubes we were, we spent 30 minutes trying to run across the infinite number of lanes of traffic circling the Arc. There was finally a break in traffic that we could do. Fortunately, Jane was a track star. When we managed to spirit to the other side and make the island containing the Arc we wondered how the others managed the insane traffic? Then we found out there was an underground walkway. That’s how everybody made it across.

As we stood at the base of the Arc we realized you could go up it. So, we paid our money and climbed the hundreds of steps up the narrow circular stairway to the top. Inside the museum we realized that there was an elevator in the next pillar

Our other discoveries were chocolate flan kiosks in the Tuileries Gardens. Less nice was the night we opted for fondue. We were mostly living on French Onion Soup and crepes. It was clichéd, but we were young and semi-broke. We couldn’t afford anything more than appetizers. On our last night we decided to have a more substantial meal. We went for fondue. Only when the menu was presented to us a second time so we could place our dessert order did I read, “fondue au cheval”. I had missed the au cheval. We have eaten horse. It tasted fine, but the idea of horse made me weak. Jane almost had to carry me back to the hotel.

We “did” Notre Dame, the Luxembourg Gardens and the Eiffel Tower. That’s where I learned that when you are on the Eiffel Tower, the one thing missing from the view is: the Eiffel Tower. Each time I return to Paris I return to the Tower because it is stunning how much they manage to put on that structure. It’s like a very tall village.

Of course, we went to the Louvre. We spent hours walking miles of galleries. And, we had


Mona is Paris’ most popular girl.  (Allan Lynch Photo)

to see the Mona Lisa, which was mostly glimpsed over the heads of a large group of Japanese tourists and flashes from their cameras.

The gallery that held the Mona Lisa had an opulent round banquette in the centre of it. While I waited for a break in the row of illegal photographers, Jane sat on the banquette. When the crowd blocking my vision parted and I could finally see the painting, a booming, heavily accented voice behind me said, “So that’s the Mona Lezza. Huh. Sur got big tits.”

I snapped around to see a tall, heavy-set man in checked jacket, plaid pants, and checked shirt. I couldn’t wait to tell Jane. “Wait till I tell you what I just heard!” She laughed, “Have I something to tell you!” The man behind me was married to the older woman on the banquette, father of the younger woman, and father-in-law to the man. The kids had just been married and a European honeymoon was their wedding gift. Annnnnnd, to make sure the kids had a really good time her parents decided to go on the honeymoon with them!!! That explained the shell-shocked look on their faces.

On our last day in Paris we added a market visit to buy food for the train. We learned that the Orient Express didn’t have a dining car. The train had been and later became an elegant experience, but in these final days the decline in passengers resulted in a decline in services, which further fed the decline in passengers.

Our trip to the market became a trek. We walked for hours and hours. Finally, standing outside a fortress-like prison in a distant, unfashionable neighbourhood we realized we had the map upside down. (It happens.)

Eventually we found the market, loaded up on cheese, bread, wine – clichés, but necessary for a three day trip and collected out luggage.

That evening we went to Gare du Nord to catch the Orient Express. It was a trip. Because we were in first class, we had a compartment that had a sofa, which made into beds for the night. There was a fold-away sink and inlaid panel walls.

The train was to leave at 11:55 pm. A few minutes before the conductor asked us to follow him. At the carriage doorway he asked us to lean through the open window and wave goodbye. On the platform was a five-person film crew from Belgian National Television. They were travelling with us and wanted some footage of the train’s departure. Or what would look like its departure.

Jane and I leaned through the window, madly waiving goodbye to imaginary friends as steam drifted up around us. Rather than going to the cost of moving the train, the cameraman moved backwards down the platform away from us to give the impression of travel. It was the start of an insane adventure.

This is the first of four parts: next the train trip, then Istanbul, and our return to Paris.

Airport security’s achilles heel

The ironically named Rick Derringer has been fined $1,000 for carrying a pistol and ammunition on a commercial flight.
Derringer has a concealed weapon permit which he believed allowed him to travel with the pistol in his carry-on. It is something he does 30-50 times a year.
Only once before did airport security find his gun and then because of the carry permit let him travel with it. That was in violation of security regulations, but since the security agent didn’t know the rules, no surprise that the gun owner didn’t know them.
This time the pistol was found while he was making connections in Atlanta after flying in from Mexico.
I get that a weapon might be missed once, but 30-to-50 times!?! It doesn’t say much for airport security, but them much of what passes for security is for optics.
The real security story is the scanning equipment. I once travelled with a security manager from Pearson International Airport. When the no-liquid ban was introduced he learned of a flaw in their security system. The airport security scan found a passenger travelling with a large bottle of shampoo. When the security agents opened the traveller’s bag to confiscate the shampoo they also found a handgun.
The handgun didn’t show up on their scanning devices because these machines could only be set to look for metal or liquid, not both.
Pearson, like all major airports replaced their scanning equipment. But those older, less effective machines were recycled to smaller, secondary airports across North America, and I presume around the world. That is the security Achilles heel.

Chillin’ at Nova Scotia’s Icewine Festival

Tick, tick, tick – it’s time for the Nova Scotia Icewine Festival. We get to show our hardiness by sitting around a bonfire, sipping this year’s ice wine. Or not. There’s inside tasting, noshing, dining, socializing and partying. Back outside, there’s a pig roast, daylight ghost walks in the vineyard, snowshoeing though a vineyard with a wine maker and more sipping.

The event is held over two weekends, Feb. 25 & 26, and March 4 & 5, 2017.

Seven Nova Scotian wineries come together at Domaine de Grand Pre in the Annapolis Valley for the event. Domaine de Grand Pre is near the National Historic Site in Grand Pre. Their vineyards overlook the UNESCO World Heritage Site.

You need tickets, but in return the seven base wineries (Domaine de Grand Pre, Luckett, Blomidon Estate, L’Acadie, Saint Famille, Gaspereau and Planters Ridge) will be pouring from their vintages. Each pour is accompanied by a food pairing from a local chef or restaurant.

I say ‘base wineries’ because three more wineries (Avondale Sky, Benjamin Bridge, Lightfoot & Wolfville) are also participating, some on a casual basis, as well as the Annapolis Cider Company.

They’re tasty and active weekends in Nova Scotia’s wine country.

For information and tickets click on: http://www.nsicewinefest.com

Winter eagles

Looking up at an eagle on a branch 50 feet above me. (Allan Lynch Photo)

Looking up at an eagle on a branch 50 feet above me. (Allan Lynch Photo)

The formal Eaglewatch Weekends may be over, but it’s not too late to still see the eagles up close.

These are photos I shot on the weekend in Sheffield Mills. The advantage of going back now is the lighter traffic. As with anything in nature, it’s not a given that you’ll see eagles, but they’re around. I counted 26 in two trees. Five more were across the street and three in a tree across the field from the others. In total, standing in one space I could

Another tree, another eagle. (Allan Lynch Photo)

Another tree, another eagle. (Allan Lynch Photo)

see 34 eagles.

For more about eagles and Eagle Watch Weekends, go to: