Category Archives: Travel

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.

New Brunswick in July

photo of a meadow and low mountains on a sunny day
Our journey began with a train ride to Whitby to meet Matt’s aunt Donna. I followed the train route on the map I’d recently designed of Toronto’s Gardens and Conservatories, announcing the nearby parks to Matt with enthusiasm. Donna picked us up from the Whitby GO Station and we made our way onto the highway around 8:45am.

It rained on and off for first part of the drive, making me glad I wasn’t driving! It made for beautiful views though, with dramatic skies against lush green trees and the occasional silo next to an old farmhouse. Once we hit Quebec City we had beautiful mountains to admire against a wide open blue sky. With nightfall came a distance lightening show over the mountains and deep within the cumulonimbus clouds overhead.

We arrived in Moncton at half past midnight. It was dark, but the air smelled lovely! Even in downtown, it smelled like evergreen trees to me. “Thats what fresh air smells like!” Matt told me.

photo of a cross against a blue sky

Day One: Pump House Brewery and Magnetic Hill

My first day in New Brunswick was spent driving around Moncton and surrounding areas with Matt showing me all the important places from his life there. We also took in some tourist sites too, such as Magnetic Hill that I thought was a total rip-off for $3/person. It didn’t have monetary value in my opinion.

I was surprised how small Moncton was! We stopped for lunch in the Pump House Brewery where I did some beer tastings, settling on the blueberry beer and sharing a radler with Matt. He got his favourite – the Cadian beer, with a mushroom burger and beer bread.
After lunch, we continued our “Tour de Matt”, walking around downtown Moncton. We stopped by the historic Lutz house and the memorial to the first eight European settlers of the area – one of which was Matt’s family, the Steifs. Funnily enough, the monument was also a Pokémon Go stop, so it was crowded by young people on their cellphones playing the game that had recently taken the world by storm.

We had dinner with Matt’s family back at Riverview, and then set back out to go to the family cottage at Cape Enrage on the Bay of Fundy. I saw my first moose on the way – it was pretty exciting!

photo of two glasses of pink wine cheers-ing
We got there just in time to see the sun slip behind the clouds. We cheers with glasses of strawberry-rhubarb wine to the view. Matt got out his telescope and did some stargazing before it clouded in to look at Mars and the rings of Saturn. I saw my first ever shooting star! I was pretty excited.

It started to rain soon after nightfall, so we sat in the dark for a while listening to the pitter-patter outside. Once we retired, the ominous hum of mosquitoes kept us awake. By morning, I was covered in bites! Matt joked that it looked like I had chickenpox!

photo of a mug on a railing, overlooking the green landscape of Cape Enrage

Day Two: Hopewell Rocks, Fundy Park, and Alma

Matt prepared a nice breakfast of baguette and granola with yogurt. It was a beautiful clear day, so we planned to go for a walk on the beach before heading into Fundy Park. However, when Matt went to do his morning budget he discovered his credit card had been victim to fraud, so spent the morning on the phone making various enquiries and arrangements.

photo of red stones on a beach on a sunny day
I wandered down to the beach with my camera, following a footpath behind the cottage to a springy meadow of wild berries, moss, and flowers. I crossed the meadow to the gravel path and onto the beach. As the tide was out, Cape Enrage was an expanse of sand with snail trails patterning the sand, ridges from the water, and colourful pebbles. Steam with rising up from the small pools of water leftover from the tide.

After wandering about on the sands, I made my way towards the cliffs where the occasional dribble of shale would ring out like falling ice down the cliff-side. It was a magical yet eerie reminder of the impermanence of the world around us. The large rocks near the base of the cliffs were intriguing too – such as variety of textures and colours.

photo of a cottage at the top of a fern covered hill
Matt met me on the rocks and we walked back up to the cottage together. We loaded up the car and headed to the Cape Enrage lighthouse. As we were pressed for time, we didn’t pay to go in, but parked just outside the lot to view the lighthouse from afar.

Next on our list was Fundy National Park. We made a quick pit stop at two trails, just to walk in for a couple minutes then go back into the car. It was a Fundy tease! Matt’s favourite hike is the Coastal Trial, but unfortunately we didn’t have time for that.

photo of fishing boats and a hook on the dock
After our mini-hike, we drove into the tourist/fishing village of Alma for lunch. We shared a seafood platter at Fundy Take-out, which the locals raved about. It wasn’t the best seafood we’d had, but enjoyable nonetheless. We got a milkshake and a seafood platter of lobster, battered scallops, clam strips, shrimp, haddock, and fries, which we ate on a picnic bench outside.

On our way back into town, we stopped at the Hopewell Rocks to see them at high tide. Fortunately admission is good for 24 hours, so we made plans to come back at low tide. There was a nice walk down to the rocks though, and multiple wheelchair-users were enjoying the gravel path. We snapped a couple pics of the rocks, then headed over to the visitation for Matt’s grandmother.

The visitation was in his grandmother’s childhood home, before it was repurposed as the Bishop Funeral Home. I had not been to a visitation since I was a child, so it felt like a new experience. I met Matt’s extended family and friends of his grandmother. Coming from a small family, I was amazed at how many relatives Matt had – and all from the area too!
After the visitation, we went back to his parent’s house in Riverview where we took their two west highland terriers for an evening walk along Petitcodiac River and up through residential areas before settling back into the house. We then had a glass of wine with Matt’s sister on the patio before heading to bed. It had been a busy day!

Day Three: Funeral and Family Time

The funeral for Matt’s grandmother took place on Tuesday morning. We drove in as a family: Matt, his parents, his sister, and me. The service was at the Albert County Funeral Home, followed by tea and sandwiches. Matt really wanted to show me the Hopewell rocks at low tide, so we slipped out in our funeral attire to make our way down to the rocks.
The rocks were much more fun at low tide than high tide. I found hard to get a good photo with the position of the sun, but enjoyed walking along the ocean floor and under the rocks themselves. Amusement was added to the fact we were wearing suit and dress, mucking around in the wet sand.

We caught up with the funeral procession, taking wildflower lined country roads down to Waterside Cemetery. The cemetery once had a church with special meaning to Matt’s family, but had been struck by lightning in January a few years back and burned down to the ground. Now a plaque and charred hydro-lines remain.

Matt joined the other pallbearers to carry the coffin to its final resting place. The children and sisters threw roses onto the coffin and the grandchildren placed a metal rose by the gravestone as Matt played Amazing Grace on his harmonica. Even though I had never known Matt’s grandmother, I found it very moving.

After the ceremony, Matt and his parent’s gave me a tour of the cemetery, pointing out their favourite epitaph, written by a young man who had accidently shot himself while hunting. He had a good sense of humour even on his deathbed apparently.

After everyone had left, we made our way up to the family cottages on Cape Enrage. We went to one cottage for leftover sandwiches and veggie dip, then Matt walked me down to his old cottage by a small lake before heading back up his parent’s cottage for wine and cheese.

photo of a small cottage by a misty lake in the woods
The fog started to roll in and as we made our way back up the hill, I noticed a large bird coming towards us. At first I thought it was a seagull, but as it neared I realized in was a bald eagle! It flew right over us, disappearing into the mist. It was magical!

Back up the hill, Matt and I hung-out on the deck for awhile, watching the fog roll in while listening to his dad’s bluegrass music coming through the living-room walls and the fog horn at the Cape Enrage Lighthouse. The bald eagle swooped overhead two more times before the darkness of night soaked up everything in sight.

photo of purple wildflowers by a misty lake
Matt and I went for a nigh time walk along the beach, stopping to sit on a piece of driftwood to listen to the tide coming in. Soon we saw a flicker of light through the fog. We recognized it as a bonfire and made our way back up the hill to join his cousins around a blazing fire of foraged driftwood. We sat around the fire for quite sometime, talking and watching the flames, making it back to the cottage around midnight to sleep.

photo of two glasses of pink wine cheersing in the fog

Leaving New Brunswick

We woke up with sun streaming in the windows, the Bay of Fundy in view with fog nestled on the treetops. We packed our bags and Matt made coffee, which I took out onto the porch to enjoy with a bouquet of flowers as Matt updated his budget. The fog soon covered the Bay, hiding all but the trees lining the cottage garden. I washed the dishes and Matt dried while listening to Tempo on CBC Radio 2, enjoying our domestic moment.

photo of a small bouquet of flowers in a mason jar

Ha Ha Cemetery & Mary’s Point

Come noon, we packed up the convertible and drove off down the road. The fog cleared once we neared the main road, revealing a beautiful summer day fit with blue skies and cheerful, fluffy clouds. We drove down to Mary’s Point, stopping in Ha Ha Cemetery along the way.

Ha Ha Cemetery was a beautiful cemetery – quiet, private, with both shade and sun, nestled in with trees and wildflowers. Apparently it had been a lost cemetery until it was discovered when someone was clearing bush one day. I thought it to be one of the most beautiful places of rest I’d ever been.

photo of a beach covered with driftwood and debris
We drove past Mary’s Point at first. It had a Government of Canada sign out front that read “Shepody Wildlife Reserve”. We parked the car and walked down to the shore, but unfortunately there were no shorebirds in sight to enjoy. The tide was out, so the birds had plenty of land to search for food. Apparently it is best to come 2 hours before until 2 hours after high tide to get the best shorebird experience.

photo of a meadow with a covered bridge in the background

Hillsborough

Matt took me down a variety of back roads, stopping at the church his parent’s had been married in. It was a gorgeous old building in Hillsborough, now serving as a storage locker, German bakery, and medical clinic. One of the fathers of confederation, one of Matt’s ancestors, is also buried in the cemetery next to the church, which gives the church an additional layer of interest.

photo of an ice cream cone
We went to the neighbouring gas station where Matt used to get ice cream as a kid. They didn’t sell ice cream anymore, so we drove out to Momma T’s Ice Cream Shop. Matt was pleased to see they sold Northumberland ice cream, a co-op dairy. We each got two flavours of ice cream on a waffle cone, which they took their time scooping each order. However, each cone was gigantic (we ordered a small) and totalled only $6! It was an absolute bargain in comparison to Toronto where a single cone will set you back more.

Homeward bound

We got back to Matt’s parent’s house in time to pack for the plane and have a quick shower. Matt’s mom packed us a lunch for the airport with local strawberries, green beans, and homemade egg salad sandwiches with sourdough bread. His parents took us to the airport where we sat in the cafeteria to eat our sandwiches before it was time to board the plane.

Getting through security at the Moncton airport was a breeze. We flew Porter, which is always a treat. The airline served us cocktails and Terra chips on the first leg of the trip. I wrote a couple postcards and Matt settled into his podcasts after he gave me the birds eye tour of Moncton out of the plane window before we rose up above the clouds, home to Toronto.

photo of a convertible car on a country road

San Diego and the CSUN Conference

colourful condo buildings and elongated trees

Condos in downtown San Diego

Day One

Matt walked me to the CSUN conference at the Hyatt Hotel from where we were staying in Little Italy. Once registered, I scurried off to my first session. My favourites from the day were on WordPress backward compatibility and accessible PDF design. I saw a couple friends from the Canadian accessibility scene – and lots of cute guide dogs!

After the conference, I went back to the hotel where Matt and I had a disco nap before heading back out into San Diego for the night’s festivities. We had a social with accessible karaoke and networking with beer ahead of us!

blue sky and contemporary building

View above the pool at the Hyatt Hotel

San Diego was a very strange city. It looked as if everything had been built in the last 20 years, kept sanitary, and manicured. A Lyft driver told us the city had been built on a dessert – every palm tree had been placed with purpose.

Matt and I went to the Deque social in the evening, but it was loud and we both felt awkward. We then made our way down to the hotel lobby bar, Redfield’s, which I was told was the place to be, but I didn’t see anyone I know.

So, we wandered over to a park in a marina where we saw lots of small rabbits by the water. Matt pointed out constellations in the stars to me, guessing which were stars or planets. We walked up the the convention centre where locals were exercising on the steps, making our way to the Gaslamp District.

I thought I might see some friends on the patio as the Gaslamp District had been applauded at the Toronto Accessibility Meet-up. We didn’t, but found cheap tacos and $2 beers at a Mexican bar to end our night that didn’t quite go as planned, on a tasty and economical note.

My notes from Day 1 of the CSUN Conference.

open doors into an old train station

Santa Fe train station in downtown San Diego

Day Two

Matt packed me a sandwich lunch while I got ready (CSUN does not offer snacks or lunch) and walked me to the conference before parting ways to do professional networking of his own in the Los Angeles’ film industry.

My favourite talks at CSUN that day were on Accessible Maps and a discussion on diversity, focusing on Whole Food’s orange controversy. At lunch, I went and sat by the marina to eat my sandwich where I watched the boats and tourists go by. It was very relaxing to sit in the sun listening to the birds in the trees, the water lapping the rocks on the shore, and the breeze in the leaves.

After the conference, I went and sat in at the Hyatt’s bar, Redfield’s, where I was told all the good discussions happen. Unfortunately, I didn’t see anyone I knew and the Narwhal stout I decided to try was undrinkable (fizzy water with corn syrup anyone?). So, I left my full beer at the bar and wandered about outside, taking pictures of downtown San Diego until it was time for the CSUN Tweet-up.

palm trees against a sunset

Palm trees outside the Hyatt Hotel

Usually I thrive at accessibility meet-ups, but instead anxiety took over despite knowing people there. I went and sat outside for a bit, admiring the sunset behind the palm trees before going back into for Round Two of the Tweet-up. However, I felt even worse the second time that not even the prospect of free pastries or booze could entice me (two of my favourite things!). So, I wandered back to the hotel feeling like the worst human being to have passed up the best opportunity ever to hangout with the crème de la crème of my industry.

My notes from Day 2 of CSUN.

photo of a low rise condo building

Condos and office buildings in downtown San Diego

Day Three

The last day of CSUN went by very quickly. There was a live broadcast of the Viking & Lumberjack with pizza and beer. I always enjoy their performances – it’s so great to laugh about one’s own industry and shared experiences.

I went to two sessions by Adobe, both uninspiring, but had some big news dropped: Adobe is adding an undo function to Acrobat for tagging, reading order etc! No release date set yet, but this is pretty major. I made sure I had heard correctly 3 times before I tweeted out the news. It’s a game changer.

Matt returned from LA at the same time I got back to the hotel after CSUN finished. We walked up India Street to a new part of town we hadn’t explored yet. It was lined with breweries, little boutiques, and old cottages, which was a pleasant change from the overly touristy downtown core.

photo of a plane flying overhead of a patio at a bar

A plane flying above the patio at El Camino

We ended up at El Camino, a chic Mexican bar under an airline approach path. We sat on the patio and watched the planes come in while enjoying $3 and $5 Mexican food during a very happy hour(s). We had a great time! It was perfect way to cheers the end of our big feats – my time at CSUN and Matt’s trip to LA.

My notes from Day 3 of CSUN.

The Great Big List from CSUN 2016 (slides and other attendee’s notes)

photo of Nell's CSUN badge on a table

Post-conference celebrations at El Camino

Driving the Californian Coast

 Big Sur mountains and beach 
We awoke groggy and tired. Neither of us had slept well. When we went down for breakfast, CNN was showing footage of a terrorist attack on an airport in Brussels. We ate our blueberry waffles and yogurt in silence.

It was 8:30 by the time we hit the road. The drive along the coast was beautiful. Moss covered trees, cliffs, and huge waves! Big Sur was particularly beautiful and we even saw some seals a little later on. They looked like dead bodies in sacks to me.

 Big Sur mountains and beach 
As we were pressed for time to reach San Diego by nightfall, we didn’t make many stops along the way. We took the Cabrillo Highway until it ended, then continued as close to the coast as possible.

The further south we drove, the more exotic the roadside became. The scenery changed from lush, old growth forests to shrubs and palm trees, red stone cliffs to yellow stone covered in low lying wild flowers. Architecture had a distinct Spanish influence, pale yellow with red tile roofs. 

 Matt taking a photo of the ocean 
The weather remained constantly sunny, but gradually grew warmer until I could discard my spring jacket. We sang along to 80’s music, accompanied by Matt giving me rock music history lessons and answering science questions I had on passing phenomenons.
 mountain in southern california 

Once we got into Santa Barbara, the horizon was lined with oil rigs against the hazy backdrop of the Channel Islands of California. We drove through Malibu and Los Angeles (LA). We hit rush hour traffic in LA where it was stop and go for about 3 hours through a combination of diners and shops, including a thrift store that doubled as a HIV testing clinic.

The sun began to set outside of LA. The sky had hints of lavender blue, pink and orange smog over distant jagged mountains with a large, bright moon overhead. Looking back, the sky was pale blue with candy floss pink clouds. 

We arrived in San Diego around 8:30pm. Once we checked into our hotel, Urban Boutique Hotel, we went on a mission to find beer and tacos. However, everything was closing at 9pm on a Tuesday. The only place that had an open kitchen was a pasta and pizza place where we shared a plate and each had a beer. Fed and watered, we went home to bed. island off the coast of california 

San Francisco

coffee and a croissant

Matt enjoying an almond croissant at farm : table

Day One

We started off our day with breakfast at Farm : Table, a small but very popular cafe near our hostel on Nob Hill. Matt had a quiche, i had an egg and ham croissant with a Pug ‘n Honey latte, with an almond croissant to share on the sidewalk patio.

We walked all over San Francisco. The morning air was full of the scent of jasmine, the song of birds, and the rustle of leaves in the breeze of exotic trees. Our first stop was Crooked Street, a steep and windy road in a leafy residential district. Matt wanted to climb every steep road we could find and eventually we found ourself in a surreal district of billionaires’ mansions overlooking the city.

palace of fine arts

Palace of Fine Arts

 

We made our way back down to a historic fort with cute military cottages that reminded me of the Bain Co-op in Toronto. Then we went to Fisherman’s Wharf where we had our first good view of the iconic Golden Gate Bridge. We walked along the water until we got to the Palace of Fine Arts, an ornate neo-classical structure overlooking a peaceful water garden.

Approaching noon, we made our way to the jazz district. Matt wanted to catch the Palm Sunday service at the Church of John Coltrane. The colourful little room was full of people playing musical instruments, singing with big smiles on their faces, all in the style off the jazz musician John Coltrane. They handed out palm leaves which everyone waved around to the music, which was fun. I enjoyed looking around at the audience – in classic Californian style, there was even a smartly dressed woman with a tiny dog in her purse!

Civic Centre in San Francisco

The Civic Centre

 

We walked past City Hall and the ornate performing arts buildings, through interesting low income housing. We stopped in a cafe my friends had recommended to have an americano and lemon square before wandering back to our hostel to nap before meeting Matt’s friend Ted for dinner.

Ted took us to Hog Island Oyster Co at the San Francisco Ferry Building. The lineup was quite long, but we had a great time chatting in the rain about Toronto food and drink destinations. We shared an oyster sampler, chicken fried oysters on waffles (Matt loves waffles), chipotle grilled oysters, and Old Bay fries. We sat on the patio overlooking the water and the ferry, cozy under a heat lamp in the rain.

 

stormy ferry dock

Bike on the ferry port near Grey’s Bridge

We finished our evening at an ice cream parlour in the Ferry Building. After tasting a couple flavours (including savoury pepper and mint), all three of us settled on bourbon and cornflakes – with Matt adding caramel-bourbon sauce to his! Then we went home to bed and CBC radio.

 

seagull on the ferry dock

Seagull outside the Ferry Building

 

Day Two

We found a small sandwich shop using Yelp for breakfast. They had great coffee, very strong – and we each had an turkey egg sandwich while reading the San Francisco Chronicle. I quite enjoyed the newspaper – interesting stories and nice layout.

 

beetle parked on a hill in front of a row of town houdes

Beetle on a residential street in San Francisco

I was really feeling in from the day before. I’m not used to so much walking. We made slow progress to the Painted Lady, ornate pastel coloured houses, then to Haight and Ashbury on our way to Golden Gate Bridge.

I loved Haight and Ashbury! I treated myself to a small Smorkin’ Labbit figurine for my kitchen and found a nice blazer at Goodwill for $7.50. I was quite pleased!

It really started to downpour once we got to Golden Gate Park. We were hoping it would be a short spurt like all the rain we encountered yesterday, but it persisted. Matt was concerned about my limp, so we took a Lyft (like Uber) back to the hostel to check out.

 

golden gate bridge at sunlight

Baker’s Beach with a view of the Golden Bridge

After checkout, we went to Sushiritto for a sushi burrito. It was very good value! We got huge sushi rolls that filled us right up. By then our car rental was ready, so we took another Lyft to Hertz.

Keys in hand, we drove our little Mitsubishi across the Golden Gate Bridge, up to Battery Spenser, and to a couple lookouts along the cliff. Battery Spenser was pretty cool – abandoned military buildings and a great view of the bridge. We also went to Fort Miley, Cliff House, and Baker Bridge. I had an exhilarating time on the beach – I’d never seen waves so big in my life! They were huge!

We hit the road around 6:00pm. We had trouble finding a cheap place to stay, eventually settling on a Super 8 Motel in Salinas. I was exhausted and fell asleep as soon as my head hit the pillow.

 

look out over the ocean at Cliff House

Lookout by the Cliff House