Monthly Archives: September 2017

Atlantic Adventure: Last Day in Halifax

photo of a lighthouse in the fog
When we awoke the next morning, we discovered our AirBnB had no water. Neither of us had slept well either, making us two grumpy travelers. We packed up our bags and jumped in the car in search of coffee. However, a quick Yelp and Google scan of the area showed no coffee shops open until we reached downtown Halifax!

The landscape was covered in thick fog. Boats hung like ghosts in the water, sea and sky the same colour in the grey morning air. As we neared Peggy’s Cove, Matt pointed out how there were less trees and large boulders randomly dropped by glaciers. It reminded me of Iceland in a way.

Peggy’s Cove

We arrived in Peggy’s Cove at 7am. Hardly anyone was there and nowhere was open. Peggy’s Cove is supposed to be one of the most beautiful places in the world, but we couldn’t see much through the thick fog!

Train Station Bike & Bean Cafe

We retraced our steps to the Train Station Bike & Bean Cafe, a bike shop and cafe that opened at 7:30am. It was a very sweet place with lots of cozy seating. We each got a coffee and a breakfast sandwich, feeling much more alive with every sip and bite. Commuters stopped in on their way to work and everyone seemed to know one another. It was a friendly place.

photo of Peggys Cove lighthouse

Peggy’s Cove: Take Two!

The sun came out by the time we returned to Peggy’s Cove around 8:15am. There were a few photographers and videographers out on the rocks. The tour buses didn’t arrive until a bit later, giving us adequate time to snap some pictures of the famous lighthouse without swarms of people around.

photo of Peggys Cove
Once I’d exhausted the lighthouse, I wandered into the small village of Peggy’s Cove to take pictures of fishing boats. The fog returned without warning! My pictures went to blue to white sky without a transition. Fog goes well with fishing boats though, photographically speaking.

photo of white ricks in ocean water
Matt and I walked up to the Visitor Centre where we found a little path behind the parking lot. It led down to the water where we could enjoy the splash of waves and rocky landscape in solitude. Matt and I sat on a bench to watch the water for a bit before heading back in the car to continue our drive into Halifax.

photo of an empty taster glass at Propellor Brewery

Halifax

Propellor Brewery

Matt had spoken many times of Propellor Brewery from his days living in Halifax. It was his favourite Nova Scotian craft brewery! We stopped in at 10:30 (Nova Scotia serves beer a hour earlier than in Ontario) and shared a taster flight of pilsner, honey wheat, fiestbier, and a rye IPA. Our favourite was the honey wheat. It was a sweet, light, easy drinking beer.

photo of coffee cups

Gardens & Coffee

We decided to pick up some coffee before going to the Citadel to watch the noon time canon. Matt took me to Just Us, a large cafe in an old mansion that sells fair trade coffee and treats. They made a very good cup of coffee there!

We walked through the Halifax Public Gardens on our way to and from the cafe. I was very impressed by the landscaping of the gardens – it reminded me of fine gardens of Europe! It had a gazebo, a Victorian fountain, and lots of shaded benches to sit at where you could admire the pristine flowerbeds.

photo of a glowing lamp on a stone wall

Halifax Citadel

When Matt had lived in Halifax, he had always enjoyed the sound of the noon day canon at the Halifax Citadel. No matter the weather, you could depend on it for the time! However, he hadn’t actually seen it go off since he was a young boy, so we made our way up the hill in time to witness the daily rituals.

The canon was manned by five people in traditional military costume. It used 1LB of black gunpowder with no projectile. Apparently they used to use 4LB of powder which is the amount necessary to project a canon ball, but it would set off car alarms and shake windows. So they don’t do that anymore!

After the canon, we went to check out the Vimy Ridge exhibit. We walked into a recreation of a WWI trench. I was very impressed with the wooden periscopes you could look through with coloured photographs of Vimy Ridge over the top of the trench. It was very immersive and well done!

photo of a ceiling fan on a blue ceiling

The Economy Shoe Shop Restaurant

For lunch, Matt took me to the Economy Shoe Shop, a pub he used to frequent when he worked in the Halifax film and television industry. It didn’t look like much from the outside, but it was huge! Reminded me a bit of the Winter Garden Theatre in Toronto with its fake tree and old-fashioned ornate wood interior.

We ordered the nachos which Matt swore by. He got a pint of Propellor’s IPA and I got a watermelon wheat beer from Nine Locks in Dartmouth Nova Scotia. It was one of the best watermelon beers I’d ever had! The beer was very refreshing. Our waitress was wonderful as well – the Shoe Shop was all round a great place to go!

photo of a coromont in the Halifax Harbour

Halifax Waterfront Boardwalk

After lunch, we strolled down Salter Street and down to the Halifax harbour. There was a commuter ferry shooting across the harbour, which is part of the regular public transit service in Halifax! Apparently you can take a ferry from Dartmouth to Halifax just like you’d take a subway from East York to downtown Toronto!

The Drive Home

Doggy Disappointment

One of the highlights of the trip was finally meeting the breeders of the rare dog breed I want to adopt. We had tried to visit during the Christmas holidays, then I’d called on Monday and again today in addition to email and Facebook message to try and set up a time this trip. With no success, we decided just to drive by to see what the kennel looked like. It was set back from the road with a high hedge, so we couldn’t see much. We left disappointed – but at least we now know where it is. We figured we’d try again at Christmas, and if that still fails, we may have to look elsewhere.

photo of marshland bordered by evergreen trees

Joggins

We made a stop in Joggins on our way home to Moncton. It had a fossil beach that Matt had always wanted to visit but never found the time to when living in the Maritimes. Sadly, the Joggins Fossil Centre was closed early for the off season. So, we stopped to enjoy the view from a bridge opposite Matt’s family land on the Bay of Fundy. He’s always been curious to see Cape Enrage from across the water!

photo of a winding river sparkling in the sun

Apple River

We drove past Joggins to Apple River, a tiny collection of houses set back from the coast. The road up there was narrow, windy, and bordered with trees and shrubs – hardly a house in sight! As a kid, Matt had a pen pal from Apple River. He had sent a message in a bottle that Matt had picked up on the beach at Cape Enrage. We stopped on the bridge the that went over the river, imagining a little boy throwing a bottle over its edge many years ago on a sunny day just like this.

Moncton

We drove back to Moncton where Matt’s mother had a huge spread out on the table. It was a feast well worthy to end our whirlwind Atlantic Adventure! We’d traveled over 1800 km in three days – what a road trip!

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Atlantic Adventure: Cabot Trail to Black Point

photo taken through a car windsheild on a rainy day with a vintage Airstream RV ahead on the road

The Cabot Trail

We left our AirBnB in North Sydney at 9am. We hadn’t slept well so were quite groggy. The drive out was treacherous! It was raining with heavy cloud and fog obstructing the epic highland views. There were lots of road works too, where we had to navigate around big chunks of rocks, on one lane of highway with deep gullies below! However, even in the heavy rain, the friendly Nova Scotians would wave as we passed!

photo of a coffee cup on a map

The Clucking Hen Cafe

We stopped at the first decent spot we saw along the Cabot Trail – a cafe and bakery called the Clucking Hen. It was a nice spot overlooking the water. The staff were very friendly, helpful and the Cafe offerings were great! We each got a big bowl of oatmeal porridge with fresh blueberries and brown sugar for $4 and a piping hot cup of coffee for $2 with what seemed like bottomless refills. We reviewed our map, watching the rain fall outside the window. We got some oat biscuits and macaroons to go in a paper bag to sustain us for the road.

photo of tree covered slopes in the fog

Cape Breton Highlands National Park

The Cabot Trail took us in and out of the the Cape Breton Highlands National Park. We made a short stop on their visitor centre where I picked up a park map. I’d love to come here my mum here sometime – I think she’d really like it! I’d really like to come back when the view isn’t shrouded in fog and sheets of rain.

I was also impressed to learn the park offers a picnic service! They pack you a wicker basket with a checkered cloth for a scenic picnic. So sophisticated! An Instagrammer’s delight…

Matt and I began calling out “Rocks!” whenever we could see any rocks of the coastline. We couldn’t see the highlands or waterways through the fog, so rocks became the next most exciting thing.

photo of a hut in Neil's Harbour

Neil’s Harbour

The fog began to lift by the time we arrived at Neil’s Harbour, a small fishing village along the Cabot Trail. It had a lighthouse that sold ice cream within, and a very rustic chowder but that was packed full of people, and boats at the dock. All of this was draped in fog, giving the village a ghostly feel.

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Cabot Trail Lookouts

Our AirBnB host had recommended we hike the Skyline Trail. Due to the time we’d lost with roadworks and poor weather conditions, we couldn’t stop for a hike. I had come prepared with Wellington boots, waterproof pants, and a hooded rain coat though!

Fortunately the rain and the fog subsided in the afternoon. We made use of the many lookout points along the Cabot Trail. We stopped just long enough to snap a couple pictures then hopped back in the car. I was often running from one point of the lookout to the other to utilize time better.

I had no idea if my pictures even turned out! Matt and I both agreed we had to come back one day and spend more time – contemplating a Cape Breton and Gros Morne road trip in the fall of 2019.

We turned off the Cabot Trail at Margaree. Our farewell view was a picture perfect farming community nestled in green rolling hills with a river winding through it. It was like something out of a picture book!

photo of a winding river between tree covered mountains

Scotland V2

Scotland had risen quite high on my Bucket List since getting into the TV show Shetland. So, Matt made a point to point out all the Scottish names we passed: Inverness, Skye, and New Glasgow! We wondered how similar the Scottish highlands were to Cape Breton.

Antigonish

We stopped in Antigonish for dinner. We went into four different restaurants looking for affordable menu options under $15 that had a good protein hit. Eventually we gave up, settling at the Main Street Cafe. I had the lobster mac ‘n cheese and Matt had the mushroom and steak penne. We were very grumpy and hungry by then.

photo of a street lamp lighting evergreen trees in the dark night

Black Point

We arrived at our AirBnB in Black Point outside of Halifax at 9pm. It was a rustic hostel full of young backpackers. We were greeted by a woman who made she we knew she was ‘just filling in’ and was really a computer engineer student – not a professional hostel hostess. Oy…

When I went downstairs to look up the wifi password, I noticed a chalkboard with various information about the hostel and nearby attractions: yoga on the beach, lobster boil, farmers market etc – and that the beach was a 5 minute walk away! So I told Matt I was going on a walk and went on my way.

As soon as I left the house, I was greeted by the distant sound of waves. Following the noise I soon found the rocky shore, an expanse of black water in the darkness, breaking into white swirls and spray around the boulders. The air was damp with fog, the street lamps breaking the night with triangles of light on the road. Dew glistened on the evergreen trees that lined the road like glass decorations on a Christmas tree. The air smelt like the sea and beyond the street lamps, all I could see was deep, unknown blackness.

Both Matt and our previous AirBnB host had stressed never to go near the dark rocks on Peggy’s Cove. Apparently people get swept out to sea by sudden swells in the water every year – never to be heard of again! These words of warning added a sense of fear to the otherwise serene surrounding. I kept my distance from the water. Being a child rural Niagara, I have no clue how to read the signs of the sea, beyond my common sense!

After standing and listening to the waves for awhile, I headed back to the hostel. Walking on the opposite side of the road now, I could enjoy the chirp of crickets in the long dewy grass. Condensation sparkled on my autumn jacket adding to the allure of the evening. Soon it was just me and the crickets, the crunch of stones on cement underfoot, as the waves faded again into the distance. It was a peaceful end to a whirlwind day!

photo of grassy cliffs sloping down into the see

Cape Breton Highlands

Atlantic Adventure: PEI to Cape Breton

photo of red cliffs and low tide at Cape Enrage
After three relaxing days at Cape Enrage, we headed back to Moncton as the springboard for our road trip. Our Atlantic Adventure will take us through three provinces: Prince Edward Island (PEI), Nova Scotia, and back to New Brunswick in three days with stops in Charlottetown, Cape Breton, and Halifax.

Rush Hour in Moncton

Matt and I left Moncton at 8am. Rush hour traffic was surprising heavy for such a small city. Matt started dancing in his seat at one light, trying to get his hourly stand goal in for his fitness tracker – and the woman in the car in front of us started enthusiastically dancing too! We’re not in Toronto anymore 😉

photo of Confederation Bridge

Confederation Bridge

The Confederation Bridge is as important part of the “PEI Experience” as Matt put it. We took the Trans Canada to the 995 past Murray Beach Provincial Park to approach the Confederation Bridge from the side along the Acadian Coastal Drive. It was barely visible on the horizon across the Northumberland Strait at first, but it soon came into focus.

Matt reminisced on watching it being built, walking across the bridge with his mother when it first opened, and taking the ferry along side it another time when there was still service. It is the longest bridge in Canada – maybe North America!

The toll to cross is $47 on the way back, but no coat on the way in. It was so long I couldn’t see it’s end – just disappeared into the sky! At 80km/hr, it took us about ten minutes to cross the bridge. Even though I’m not as fascinated by feats of engineering as Matt is, the Confederation Bridge was still fun to cross!

Charlottetown, PEI

The residential area of Charlottetown reminded me of Niagara-on-the-lake with its pristine colonial houses. Downtown was very underwhelming – a bunch of tourist traps and posh oyster bars. It looked like it be a nice place to go for dinner if you like seafood!

Confederation Building/Province House

To our surprise, the Confederation Building (Province House) was under restoration – during Canada 150!!! Apparently it had been closed for two years and was expected to remain closed for a total of five. Of all historical sites to be closed during Canada’s 150th birthday, you’d think the birthplace of Confederation would be open!

Receiver Coffee Company

We wandered down to the water, past a large cruise ship and fancy pleasure boats. Anne of Green Gables and giant lobsters were everywhere!

We stopped in Receiver, a charming bistro on a pedestrian street. I got a blueberry tea and a pecan square for $7 and we sat on the patio while Matt caught up on the news. Someone at a table next to us had a lovely looking salad and poached egg – looks like a good spot for brunch!

Outside Charlottetown

The drive was very pleasant. There were lush green rolling hills, vibrant red dirt showing through the tractor marks, sweet old farmhouses, and trees all along the property lines. There were lots of vegetable stands along the road. Most sold potatoes, but one had a whole bunch of pumpkins!

There were an awful lot of for sale signs along the road. I had been amazed to learn you could buy a huge house outright on the Bay of Fundy for less than the minimum down payment on a tiny condo downtown in Toronto or to buy a nice hybrid car these days! Now every time I see a for sale sign at a particularly beautiful place, I romanticized for a brief moment what it would be like to leave it all behind in the big city and live in the country again. Matt’s plan to retire down East is more and more appealing.

photo of weathered fishing huts at Wood Islands Provincial Park

Wood Islands Ferry

Pre-boarding

We arrived at the ferry a little ahead of the mandatory 1 hour pre-departure time. The Northumberland Ferry Limited (NFL) from Wood Island to Caribou cost $77 for our vehicle and only traveled every couple hours, so we couldn’t afford to miss it!

We were the third car to arrive. We gave the gatekeeper the confirmation number for our online reservation and pulled up right in front! We wandered along the perimeter, down to the wharf, and over to Wood Islands Provincial Park where there was a lighthouse museum and fisherman huts. It was very picturesque!

There was a really yummy looking menu outside a seafood takeout hut on the wharf (scallop burger anyone?) but it was closed for the season. We wandered around taking pictures until we could see the ferry pulling in. Cars began emptying a little before 12:30 and we began boarding at 12:38. We were the first vehicle on!

photo of a lifeboat on a ferry

On board the ferry

There was a cafeteria on board where you could get seafood chowder for $6.25. As a treat, we decided to get a bowl to share between us in addition to the egg salad sandwiches Matt’s mom had packed us that morning. There was an information booth, a charging station, and free wifi. Apparently there’s live music during peak times too!

We split our time between the top deck, mid deck, and cafeteria. Matt loved how the wind pulled on his moustache! There was a beautiful collie dog on the top deck, it’s long hair blowing majestically in the wind.

We drove off the ferry ramp at 2:19 at Caribou, Nova Scotia. It was fun being right up front and watching the dock come closer and the boat attach to the plank!

Cape Breton

Big Spruce Brewing

Our first stop in Cape Breton was a brewery near Baddeck that I’d seen in a travel guide on the ferry. It was just off the Trans Canada highway, on a hill overlooking the Bras d’Or Lake.

Big Spruce Brewing was a very small brewery with a boutique and screened patio. We ordered a taster flight of three beers at $2 each: an Apricot Milkshake IPA made with lactose, Cereal Killer oatmeal stout, and our favourite – Regetta Ale. In the screened patio, staff were sorting through large tubs of green hops while sipping glasses of beer. The place had a very contemporary hippy, indie feel to it! It was a pleasant stop along the way.

photo of an empty taster glass from Big Spruce Brewery

AirBnB in Sydney, Nova Scotia

The drive from the brewery to North Sydney was particularly beautiful: thick forest, layers of mountains, and blue water. We’d love to come back in fall sometime to see this all a burst of colour!

Our AirBnB was in North Sydney. It had been tricky finding cheap accommodations along the Cabot Trail. It was a lovely old house, decorated very eclectically. Our room had Victorian portraits on the wall, which I found rather creepy, but our hostess was very friendly.

photo of the Cape Breton highlands at dusk

Ceilidh at the Gaelic College

One of the things I’d wanted to do this trip was go to an traditional east coast concert! Matt found a listing of events on the Nova Scotia Tourism site, one of which was a ceilidh at the Gaelic College in St. Ann’s.

The college was just off of the Trans Canada Highway. There were two college staff, one on the keyboard, another on the fiddle. The concert was held on a hall that reminded me of summer camp. Entrance was $10 and we were the youngest people in the audience! There was no food or drink for sale and the energy was somber – I felt like I was at a church service!

The music was good and the personal anecdotes were interesting, but we were looking for something more lively. Maybe I’ll go back one day for Gaelic lessons – that would be fun! We decided to check out another music venue after a few songs.

photo of a full pint glass at Governor's Pub

Governor’s Pub

There was daily live music from 8-11pm at Governor’s Pub in Sydney, NS. The music was on the second floor of a charming old building overlooking the Sydney River. There were 6 musicians sitting in a circle and the place was packed! We got the last two seats in the house at 9pm – it was busy for a Wednesday night! They had Big Spruce on tap, so we ordered the Regatta (red) Ale and the Kitchen Party Pale Ale.

Our server was fantastic! Matt had the local haddock (in Big Spruce beer batter!) and I ordered the Mira Bay cold water shrimp fritti.

Driving home

After all of Matt’s driving today, it was my turn to drive home. Heavy fog had rolled in with the moon hidden behind the clouds (apparently the Northern Lights may have been visible had it not been cloudy). Fortunately our AirBnB was just 20 minutes away! We crawled into bed and went to sleep.