Day 703: Nuuk

When Laetitia began doing tours in Canada, her original plan was to tour all of the provinces and territories while she was here, but she changed her mind. Now that she was getting used to the far north, she decided to stay a bit. She would go to Greenland next and come back to Newfoundland and Labrador later. Today her tour began in Nuuk, Greenland’s capital city. Those used to visiting large bustling cities will find Nuuk surprisingly small. This town of 15,000 has only one stoplight.

Laetitia’s group began the day with a visit to the Nuuk Cathedral. It is a small red building resembling a rural village church, but is designated a cathedral because it is the seat of the Lutheran Bishop of Greenland. Later they went to Greenland National Museum and the Nuuk Art Museum, which featured a collection of prints by a local photographer. One photograph, entitled September Morn, had nothing to do with the Chabas nude painting that shocked Chicago in 1912, but was a stunning picture of a Nuuk sunrise.

After lunch, the group went by chartered boat to visit some Viking ruins. The Vikings came to Greenland in the tenth century and lived there for 500 years, disappearing for unknown reasons. The last historic document from the settlement records a wedding that occurred in 1408. Hvalsey Church, where the wedding occurred, is one of the better-preserved ruins in the area. The harsh climate, lack of trees, and lack of tillable land, no doubt made maintaining the traditional Viking farming and seagoing culture difficult. About 80 percent of Greenland is covered with an ice sheet, and much of the rest is low-tundra vegetation atop boulders.

Laetitia sat on a barstool and sipped a pint of Greenland Ice Cap Dark Lager. Later she was taking her group to a local Thai fusion restaurant named Charoen Porn, so she was amused at some bar gossip she overheard about some Air Force men in town on liberty who went there thinking it was a sex shop. It became the limerick of the day.

If you’re feeling aroused and forlorn
In Nuuk and go to Charoen Porn
You’ll find there Thai food
That is wholesome and good
But no gals dressed like September Morn.

Day 702: Nunavut

One of the virtues of imaginary tours is they can be taken any time of year. So it was that Laetitia, who had conducted a tour of Yellowknife in midwinter the day before, chose to go to today’s destination in Nunavut in midsummer.

When Nunavut became an entity separate from the Northwest Territories in 1999, Iqaluit became its territorial capital. With a population of 6,700, it is the smallest capital in Canada. Founded during World War 2 as an airbase, the town was called Frobisher Bay, sharing the name of the inlet on which it is situated. In 1987, its traditional Inuit name became the official designation.

Laetitia and her group spent the day on an excursion boat that made a landing at a prehistoric dwelling site and involved other shore excursions for wildlife viewing, including a polar bear that missed being on the ice when it went out and was spending the summer on meager rations, waiting for the ice to come back. Other sightings included summering snow buntings and a pod of orcas. During the group’s walkabout back in town Laetitia noticed how many huskies there were, most of them tethered outside without shelter.

“There are probably as many huskies in town as there are people,” said the bartender at the drinking establishment where Laetitia went for a pre-dinner libation. “Dog sledding is very popular here,” he continued. “Some mushers have more than 20 dogs.” Among the stories floating around the bar was one about a man whose young husky was more of a pet than a working dog. The dog had a voracious appetite and liked to steal meat off the grill. The owner tried to mimic his dog’s habit of practically inhaling the stolen meat before it could be taken away. This odd case of “monkey see; monkey do” made a lame story, but Laetitia decided to use it for a limerick anyway.

When a fellow who grilled in Iqaluit
A large steak with dark porter to follow it
Like his dog did aspire
To eat it entire
He found that he just could not swallow it.

Day 701: Yellowknife

Refreshed from her much-needed day off, Laetitia scanned her email in the Emerald Victorian’s library. Among the messages was one from Sophie recounting the previous day’s tour. The email ended with, “There’s a lot to do in Yellowknife besides Aurora Borealis. You should take a group there.” And so she did. It was the only tour she ever conducted in a down parka and wearing sheepskin mittens and a ski mask, but at winter temperatures in Yellowknife, exposed skin quickly becomes frostbitten. The day included snowshoeing, viewing ice sculptures and the Snowking Castle on Great Slave Lake, the Prince of Wales Northern Heritage Centre, and a shopping opportunity at the Original Weaver and Devore General Store.

After dropping her group at their lodging, Laetitia wanted to find a bar for a pre-dinner libation and to write a limerick. When she asked the desk clerk for a suggestion, he recommended the Gold Range and then grinned and said, “It’s also known as the “strange range.” As one whose limericks often involve slang, Laetitia was aware of the Urban Dictionary’s definition of “strange ranger,” i.e. “Someone who marches to the tune of their own sequin-clad boot-wearing Star-Wars-lovin’ drummer.”
Although Laetitia didn’t know quite what to expect, she went there and perched on a barstool. She talked to the bartender, but only briefly. He was so busy that Laetitia believed his contention that the Strange Range sold more beer than any bar in Canada. No particular incident occurred that sparked a limerick, but she enjoyed watching the lively crowd having fun and the burst of vapor that occurred every time someone opened the door and the warm air from inside collided with the frigid outside air. She went to dinner with the limerick of the day scribbled on a notepad in her purse.

The Gold Range that’s in Yellowknife
Is a place where beer drinking is rife
And where locals and strangers
And even “strange rangers”
Can go for the time of their life.

Day 700: Ragged Ass Road

Sophie kissed her husband as he went off to work and delivered Emma to school. Then she sat quietly in her living room in Alberta, Canada, closed her eyes, and moments later was standing in front of the Emerald Victorian. She had accepted an invitation to lead today’s tour so Laetitia could take a day trip with friends. By the time she had taken the first few sips of freshly brewed coffee in the Emerald Victorian library, she knew where she would take her group. They would go to Yellowknife in the Northwest Territories to see the night sky ablaze with the Aurora Borealis.

The northern lights can be viewed from many places in the Northern Hemisphere, but Yellowknife’s geographic position and clear skies make it one of the best places to see this natural lightshow, which occurs when charged particles in the solar wind react with gasses in the earth’s atmosphere. Large numbers of tourists brave winter temperatures—often below -30° F—to view this phenomenon.

Sophie chose as their lodging a Bed and Breakfast located on Ragged Ass Road, an appellation that started as a joke when a couple of guys posted a street sign as a testament to the bad luck they’d been having while prospecting in the region. The name stuck, and it is now one of the most frequently stolen street signs in the world. After Sophie’s guests arrived, they all convened in the B & B’s living room. Sophie was used to extreme winters, but most of her guests were not. When she offered a walkabout her guests all declined, preferring to stay inside until their evening adventure.

The B&B featured a Canadian blended whiskey tasting in late afternoon. During the tasting, Sophie met a Los Angeles couple celebrating their first wedding anniversary. The husband, Dan, arranged the trip as a surprise. When he revealed it to Millicent, his wife, she was filled with trepidation, especially when he told her they were staying on Ragged Ass Road. She envisioned a remote rustic cabin, cold and dark without running water, and was pleasantly surprised when they arrived and found that their bedroom had a brass king-size bed, silk sheets, and bathroom en suite.

That evening the light show was fabulous, and those on Sophie’s tour were comfortably dressed in rented outerwear designed for extreme temperatures. (There were also heated seats available for the wimps in the group.) Guests from southern climes marveled when hot water thrown into the air immediately froze and came down as snow. Before returning to their lodging around 2:00 a.m., Sophie presented a limerick to the group.

Young Millicent thought it lacked class
To make love on the road Ragged Ass
And was startled to find
That Dan kissed her behind
On silk sheets in a bed made of brass.