Wednesday, July 30, 2014

Engines, Exhaust Pipes, and Oily drip Pans

Ok, so girls, you may not want to read this blog post. I’m afraid it is about my visit to the Canadian Warplane Heritage Museum in Hamilton Ontario, and I admit it, I love the engines, exhausts and oily drip pans. This one may not interest you.

On the way back from Niagara-on-the-lake I decided to stop at the Canadian Warplane Heritage Museum with my daughter’s significant other, Mark, who was really interested in visiting this attraction. It is a really nice museum featuring Canada’s aviation history with an emphasis on warplanes from the Second World War. What is interesting about this museum is that it is a working restoration and maintenance facility. As you walk around, you see the planes as they are being worked upon.

This is not a government museum, it is a charitable foundation started by two friends with a love of old planes. They started with a Fairey Firefly, that needed restoration, and now have over 40 planes in a hanger at Hamilton Airport. Their most significant airplane is a Lancaster bomber from world war two that is one of only two currently flying. Their mandate is to maintain a collection of aircraft from the second world war to the present, but a visit to their facility clearly shows that a strong emphasis has been placed on actually maintaining and flying these planes. Rather than sitting safely in a museum, the planes of the Canadian Warplanes Heritage Museum are used, the engines run, and they are flown on a regular basis.

As I walked around the museum, it was fascinating to see these planes being restored and maintained. One side of the museum is a working restoration facility, and you can see the planes in various stages of completion, and you can read about the trials and tribulations of the process. As I walked around, the huge Lancaster bomber was sitting in the middle of the hanger surrounded by people actively working on it. I watched as new tires and brakes were installed and the four massive Rolls Royce/Packard engines were exposed and being worked upon.

A closer look at the group of people working on the planes shows a mixed group of mostly older grey-haired airplane technicians, because although the foundation does have paid employees, 100% of the work done on these amazing planes is performed by volunteers doing it out of a love of Canada’s avation history. As I toured the facility I asked one gentleman who was cleaning a B25 Mitchell Bomber if the engines worked. He explained that any plane that had an oily drip tray under the engine could be started and flown. As I continued my tour I discovered that most of the planes had a dented oil stained metal tray under the engines. I was told that the Lancaster Bomber was being maintained for a transatlantic fright to England for a tour.
Interested in taking a flight? One way the foundation raises money to maintain the planes is to take people up for flights. The price varies depending on the plane, but I was told that someone had given over $200,000.00 to be on the Lancaster’s upcoming flight to England.

Sunday, July 27, 2014

Wine Tasting

Waiting to ripen
The area around Niagara-on-the-Lake is rapidly being taken over by vineyards. Where they used to grow peaches and other fruit, the wine industry is encouraging the planting of grapes. The last peach canning plant closed years ago, and many farmers have cut down the peach trees and planted grapes. Everywhere you look there are neat rows of tidy grape vines, and all these grapes are being processed into wine by the many wineries in the area. Spending three days in the area tasting wine, we found at least two new wineries that had only opened in the past few years. The production of wine and the popular tourist wine tasting tours is becoming a major industry in the area.
Sit with a glass

Visiting some of the wineries in the area and tasting the wine has been very entertaining, and I have learned a lot about wine and wine tasting. One thing I have learned is that the person guiding the tasting makes a huge difference. On Saturday the wineries were very busy, and although we did taste many glasses of wine and bought some good bottles, it wasn’t until Sunday when we actually found some good hosts and did some real wine tasting.

The difference is subtle but important. All the wineries have someone behind a bar who will pour wine into a glass and let you taste it; the good ones have a person who pours you wine, talks to you about it, decides what you like and dislike and guides your tasting based on what he and you learn. Some have a list of wines you can taste and start at the top and work their way through allowing you to decide what you like, and hopefully want to buy. The good guides (I actually have no idea what these folk are called), start by asking you what your preferences are in wine. Then instead of just working through the list, they tailor the wine you taste to your preferences. They also ask you about the wine and based on what you liked or disliked suggest different options. I found that servers who expressed their own preferences and opinions ended up being very helpful. “Oh, I really like that one too, and I really like this other bottle, would you like to try that?”

Hmmmmmm. . . .
I enjoyed the knowledgeable servers who instead of just pouring a little wine in your glass, and stand back waiting for you reaction, add comments such as telling you what grapes are in the wine, and even food pairings for the wine. The very best servers had stories about the wine and how it was developed or how the wine maker developed the wine.

On Saturday I had wine poured for me, but on Sunday I had at least three servers who actively engaged me in the tasting and from these people I learned something about the wine and about how to taste wine. I discovered that I actually have pretty subtle and distinctive taste for certain wine, and those servers who worked with that were able to sell me some very nice wine.

Wednesday, July 23, 2014

Back To Portsmouth

Last year, during a trip to New England we stopped in Portsmouth over night. I searched Google Maps for places to eat, and discovered that Portsmouth has an amazing number of really good restaurants. However, they must also have a lot of hungry restaurant patrons, because every place I choose had waits of over an hour. One place I was interested in told me it would be at least two hours. We ended up having a decent meal in a chain restaurant in a huge mall out near the Interstate – BORING!
The Hotel Portsmouth

This year while going through New England on our way to Niagara On The Lake for another Wine Tour with the Children (We believe in demonstrating a positive parental attitude towards alcohol . . . . .), we decided to return to Portsmouth and give it another try. We booked a room at The Hotel Portsmouth, right downtown within walking distance of all the best eating establishments - really beautiful old hotel with reasonable rates, comfortable rooms and a wonderfully helpful desk clerk.

Wall Art In Portsmouth
We left early and walked downtown to Jumping Jay’s Fish Café, and had no problem getting a nice table at the window. This place had amazing reviews and it lived up to all of them. I literally have never seen such fast and efficient service. Someone here knows how to work a kitchen. We had our drinks and our shared appetizer arrived, thoughtfully served on two plates. We finished our appetizer and had barely time to chat when our mains arrived. Both dinners were cooked to perfection and delicious.

Good Seafood!
Now although we were pretty busy enjoying our meals, I did have time to spend some time “People Watching”. Sitting beside us was the oddest group. Two couples were enjoying a meal, but it was interesting to listen and observe them. They obviously were “old friends” who had gone their separate ways but got together on a fairly regular basis. Although “friends”, these two couples could not have been more different. One couple was fashionably thin, trim and stylish, the other were overweight, over dressed and out of their league. One couple ordered a bottle of chardonnay, asking the server for a recommendation; the other ordered a beer and an over ordered cocktail  - something with Southern Comfort and extra cherries . . . . . Huh?. In fact everything she ordered was a “special” order  -  “Could you blacken the fish and give me different vegetables?”. I had the meal she “changed” and in my opinion she ruined a delicious dish; man those roasted beets with balsamic reduction were “to die for”. . . . . .
Fun in Portsmouth

I am very glad I went back to Portsmouth . . . . .