Category Archives: Canada

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

Brain Tracking, Psycho, and a Pig’s Head

I’ve always loved Halloween: the macabre, the colour, the scents and sounds of autumn. When I think “Halloween” the image of  sinister jack-o-lanterns, crows, and yellow leaves come to mind. This year, the holiday featured a different kind of delight: headwear that tracks your brain waves, a screening of Psycho accompanied by a live orchestra, and a dance party with a talking pig’s head, where you could sign-up for your own funeral.

People standing in an alley, looking at the buildings

Psychology on the Street walking tour

Psychology on the Street

The holiday fell on a Saturday this year and it took no time to fill up with festivities.  I started my day at the Urbanspace Gallery at 401 Richmond for Psychology on the Street. Since the summer, I’ve been fascinated by how urban design affects our day-to-day well-being. Combine that with my love of assistive technology and new gadgets, and you have one happy Nell. This walk promised to do both.

The walk was part of a university study on how different urban environments affect our state of mind. Each participant at the gallery was given a Muse electroencephalogram (EEG) headset and a smartphone with a tailor-made app for the study. My master’s thesis had been on eye-controlled technology when brain-control technology was coming onto the consumer market. I was ecstatic to finally  handle a Muse headband.

Muse headsets in hard cases on the floor

Muse headbands

The headband felt delicate in my hand and took some time to position correctly on my head. We calibrated it through thinking and association exercises, followed by playing some games on the phone app were were provided. Once we were all set-up, we were guided through the neighbourhood, stopping at specific locations to observe and perform tasks on the app. Tasks included rating out emotional response to the environment on a scale 1 to 5, word association, and occasional number games on the phone.

I found myself wondering how the study would reflect different perceptions of space. For example, one alley screamed “Photoshoot!” to me, while the Art Deco typeface used on an otherwise bland building captivated my attention during our minute of silent observation. How did our life experiences and professions affect our perceptions?

After the walk, we handed in our headsets and phones. The principal investigator gave a short spiel on the study. It wasn’t anything new really, having read the information boards in the gallery and listened to the feature Spark on CBC did a couple weeks back. I looked longingly at the galvanic skin response sensors we hadn’t got to use, and left.

Psycho

Alfred Hitchcock’s Psycho is a classic! My first introduction to Psycho had been a Royal Canadian Air Farce parody with a Furby, but when I saw the actual film later in life, a shower was never the same… Combine it with the Toronto Symphony Orchestra, and you have the perfect Halloween date!

I dressed up as a dark angel with black wings, a vamp dress, and my heel-less heeled boots. Matt wore costume make-up and ghoulish contact lenses, turning into a very handsome zombie. The theatre was full of people in costume,  including the symphony. One of the members was even dressed up as an actual shower – genius!

I had forgotten much of the film’s story and became totally engrossed in the film. We had excellent seats from which we could comfortably see both the screen and the orchestra below. Matt pointed out that it was all strings – no wind, brass, or percussion. I had never noticed that in the music before.

It was fantastic!

Dark stairwell lit by red lights

Eerie entrance to Ghost Hole

Ghost Hole

After the show, I met up with some friends at Ghost Hole, a Halloween party at the Jam Factory. The place was packed! I had difficulty navigating the crowds with my wings on, but everyone else had such elaborate costumes on that it didn’t matter.

There were abstract projections on the screen, sound art, and a band that reminded me of the Flying Lizards. At the door was a bloody ghost dancing next to a pig’s head mounted on the wall. Caitlin urged me to go talk to the pig. I was resistant at first, but was glad once she convinced me as it was highlight of the event for me! Once I approached, the ghost handed me a headset and directed me towards a mic between the pig’s teeth. The pig and I had then had a short but delightful conversation about the meaning of life, which according to the pig, was bacon!

My friends had signed up by SMS to have their funeral that evening. This involved being lead into a private room with a funeral director and an organist. The director had quick words with the ‘deceased’ before leading them to a child’s coffin. She would then make-up on the spot a hilarious speech based on whatever the deceased had isolated as her passions. This was followed by strobe lights and a masked devil jumping out from behind the curtains. It amused us every time!

I didn’t stay late as I was quite tired from a week of 5am wake-up calls. So, I took the bus home in the rain and curled up in bed. It had been a wonderful day! Perhaps the best Halloween since I paraded the streets with a pillowcase of candy as a child!

Happy Day

Canada Day fell on a Wednesday this year. It felt like a weekend, bordered by two two-day work weeks. When I awoke at 6:45am I was greeted by a wondrous sight. The view outside my window was blurred by white fog. It was so thick that I couldn’t see the houses one street over on the west side of Dovercourt Road.

I tried to take a picture of the view with my iPhone, but it wasn’t translating well to digital. I was still groggy from the night before, so I went back to bed. When I awoke again at 9am, the fog had cleared and the sun was out! It was almost as if I’d dreamed the whole fog thing…

As it was Wednesday, I took advantage of the $1.50 special at the Laundromat at Hallam/Ossington. I try not to go there as the old lady working there is a very difficult personality to deal with, but $1.50 for a double load is too good a deal to miss sometimes!

In-between loads, I finished packing for my trip to Europe on Friday (minus a couple things of course). I bought some asparagus and a lemon at the grocers’ and set about making myself a late lunch. I tended to some emails, phoned my Mum, and before I knew it, it was time to go pick up my tickets for the Fringe Festival.
Photo of strawberries, a theatre ticket, and a hand reaching for a rhubarb pie on a white table

Cheese to Theatre

I was going to support a friend’s local theatre production called the Woolgatherer at the Fringe, directed by a recent ex of mine. On route to the show, I stumbled across a farmers market in a parking lot just off of Bathurst and Bloor. It was full of people, vendors, and good natured dogs enjoying the sun.

I love farmers markets, and one of the vendors was from Beamsville, a town near where I grew up, so I bought fresh strawberries and a rhubarb pie from them. I also picked up some cheese too – I love cheese!

I’m not quite sure what cheese I bought, but it was cut into sweet little triangles with a grey rind – and under $5! I love the different textures and tastes of real cheese – not the crap you buy in the supermarket, but real cheese. This stuff actually has flavour and texture to it. That and the cheese lady had an incredible hairdo – shaved at the sides with a purple and blue victory roll at the front!

Come 6:15pm, I cycled over to the theatre in good time for the show. The play Woolgatherer was about a crazy young girl and a trucker who falls in love with her. To my surprise, not only Yehuda and his new girlfriend was at the show – but his entire family! I was unprepared for that.

After the show, Yehuda and his family came over to me to say hello. Everyone was very happy and it was nice to see Yehuda’s family one last time. However, once hugs and kisses on both cheeks were exchanged, I quickly went to find the nearest washroom to go cry in.

I had meant to do work that evening, but was feeling distracted by all the emotions that came up. So, I went to Civil Liberties with a good book (totally enthralled with Happy City) to have a glass of Islay whiskey among people, candlelight, and vintage tunes. However, the atmosphere wasn’t as communal and chatty as usual, so I left after only one drink.

An Unexpected Gathering

To my good fortune, my friend Kitty was zooming down Bloor Street on her bike as I was getting onto my own. “Nell! Come to my house! I’m late for my own party!” She yelled towards me as she continued down the street.

Destiny.

I stopped in at my house to drop my book and pick up a beer. I found Kitty in her backyard breaking twigs around a fire, accompanied by our mutual friend Jamie and a fellow I didn’t know.

“Nell, you look nice!” Jamie said as I sat down.

Without thinking, I replied back, “Thanks! I just saw my ex who I hadn’t seen since we broke up in February.” Then realizing I was in the company of another, turned to Kitty’s friend and said, “Hi! I’m Nell.” to which laughter ensued.

More and more people slowly joined the fire, many of which were accompanied by instruments. There was an accordion, a ukulele, two types of guitars, and a cello. I was tempted to run home and get my harp, but the atmosphere was too enjoyable to leave, even for a minute!

Kitty was being the ideal hostess, getting everyone drinks, lighting candles, and being charming as usual. Someone brought marshmallows and soon fireworks were going off overhead from the neighbouring yard. It was lovely!

Once I started getting dozy, I moseyed on home to the song of House of the Rising Sung being sung around the fire. It was beautiful, and lasted with me the whole ride home.

Now I sit at home with the scent of campfire still on my clothes and the distant sound of fireworks going off in the distance. Today really was a wonderful day – it really felt like a whole weekend in one day!

A happy day indeed.

Roughing It With Espresso

Cup of espresso, pen, and journal on a picnic blanket

We went on our third annual interior camping trip to Charleston Lake Provincial Park this past week. Last year we stayed at Hidden Cove, and this time around we returned to Buckhorn where we stayed our first summer here. Both are canoe-in sites with hiking trails behind them.

We set up our tent at 501 rather than 502 which turned out to be shadier and a direct path to the out crop of rock that serves as a landmark of Buckhorn.

canoe on a lake at sunset

This camping trip was much more laid back than usual. Normally, our days are riddled with hikes and paddles, but this time around, it was reading, writing, and napping that took place most often. We enjoyed tea and espresso made on our camp stove while away, making for a most comfortable stay. I became quite accustomed to powdered milk in my tea by the end of the trip!

cup of tea by a campfire

 

I enjoyed working on the plot line and excerpts for a creative writing project I’m starting, writing postcards, reading a David Bach book on finance planning and starting a Diana Gabaldon book Yehuda had given me after I finished reading Susanna Kearsley’s latest novel last week. The joys of summer reading!

It was lovely to sit on the rocks by the lake, listening to the lapping water and the wind in the pines. There were owls at night and loons calling across the lake. Five days away were not enough! I am eager to return next year to savour the sights, sounds, and beauty of Charleston Lake.