Thursday, December 31, 2009

Atlantic Canada and New England – Our Trip – Part III

Day 7 – New Brunswick

We got up bright and early and had a lovely breakfast at the Hunter’s Point Inn in PEI.  Although the house was only heated with a central wood stove (and the Inn was a good size), it was nice and toasty warm in the breakfast area. 

After breakfast, we hoped in the car and made our way down the western side of the island to the Confederation Bridge.  Although we’d come to PEI on the ferry, it was fastest to get back to Halifax via the bridge and New Brunswick.  It was a relatively clear day, and we managed to get some good pictures of the bridge.  It was quite a long ride over (~25 min) from PEI to NB.


Since we only had a day to drive through NB to get to Halifax, we made only a few stops. 

The first was at a series of dunes, where the guidebook claimed lots of pure white sand.  Just as a funny side note, when we got to NB, we saw lots of moose signs which seemed (and perhaps this was only my imagination) to portray the moose as a giant (aka 2x larger than a car).  You can see for yourself in the photo below.


From the picture of the bridge, you can see how reddish brown the sand is for the most part there, so we decided to drive over and see a different set of beaches on the opposite coast.  Turned out they were more like the usual US east coast beach color, but still pretty none the less.  What was striking was how windy (and therefore cold) it was on the north coast of NB.  Surprisingly, there were still people at the visitor’s center and we got some information before heading out to walk on the boardwalk on the dunes and through the neighboring woods.  The park was called La Dune de Boutouche.

We spent the morning at the dunes and headed into the town of Moncton, NB for lunch.  It was rather a sad little college town and after not finding anywhere of note to each, defaulted to Tim Hortons.  By the end of the trip, I was a bit tired of TH’s.  Coffee and donuts can only take you so far in the morning…

On our way out of New Brunswick to Nova Scotia, we stopped at a National Heritage Site that was a militarily strategic site (to whomever held it at the given time) where on the bluff one could see both provinces.  Although it was closed, we could still drive in and walk about the park, as a small film was being shot at the park that day.  When ES and I asked one of the crew what it was about, we were told “short, historical film.”  Perhaps coming to a museum near you.

We hopped back in the car and headed on our way to back to Nova Scotia.


We’d tried to go to Bay of Fundy National Park in the morning on our way from PEI.  Unfortunately, the tides were against us and it was high tide right before 12.  We’d not have seen any of the “famous” Bay of Fundy sites on the NB side, so we tried our luck on the Nova Scotia side.  One of the best places to see the tides of the Bay of Fundy was at the UNESCO World Heritage Site at Joggins.  We were excited to find our way here with an hour of time to browse the museum and wander down to the beach below.  It was pretty empty (one of the last days of the season it was open) and one of the staff walked through with us giving us the highlights of the collection.  It’s claim to fame is that it’s home to the world’s oldest reptile fossils.  Lots of fossils just along the cliffs, which we could easily see from the beach and in the museum itself.  Quite a treat.  When we headed outside, it was a little under an hour closest to low tide and and the water line was several kilometers back from the shore.  Indeed, the world’s most dramatic tides from high to low happen here.  It was pretty incredible.

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We watched the sunset and piled back in the car for the 2+ hours down into Nova Scotia, and stayed at a town just shy of Halifax for the night.

Day 8 – Halifax – The Museums

By week’s end, we were ready for a little city exploring and for getting out and doing a bit more walking than car touring tends to allow.  Halifax is on one big hill overlooking a bay that spills right into the ocean.  Very strategic, but also very hilly.  Interestingly enough, they had a series of tunnels that went through the city, which combined with escalators, stairs, and/or elevators, made the trip swift and much preferred to the very cold outdoors (one of the drawbacks of going in October). 


We visited the Maritime Museum, the Immigration Museum, and a few various landmarks along the Halifax harbor (runs 2+ kilometers along the shore).  Although it was chilly and windy, we kept going inside enough to things that we didn’t become completely frozen.

Pictures of the Maritime Museum.  We saw the 3-D “Titantic” movie.  Ok, but not really worth the extra $$ to see it. 

Pictures of the Immigration Museum: (note – although the guys in the photo at the mocked up immigration desk doesn’t look happy at the fact I’ve just taken his picture, I did ask first…).

Pictures along the water and near the waterfront area:

We ended the day at the Wooden Monkey – a very yummy restaurant right across the street from our hotel (The Prince George).  Although not normally a fan of the Manhattan variety of chowder, this was made from all fresh and local ingredients and was heavenly.  ES had a chicken salad with pita.  All of it was homemade and really good.  So good, in fact, that we broke our usual rule of only eating someplace once so that we keep trying new ones.  We went back the next night, too.

Day 9 – Halifax – The Citadel and Victorian Gardens

It was still a pretty cold and miserable outside (and raining off and on), but we ventured out (and up) to the Citadel.  Like other Canadian Citadels (we’ve been to the one in Quebec City as well), this one was star shaped and up on the highest part of the city.  Unlike the one in Quebec, this is decommissioned and is now operated as a park.  We hiked up the stairs and got there early enough so that we saw the museum there in relative quietness (aka before the tour busses arrived en mass).  A woman was walking through the exhibits at the same pace we were just behind us.  ES mentioned something to me, and she spoke up that she was a little girl during the war (we were at the WWII section of the exhibits). It was quite interesting hearing her perspective, as she was now a Canadian, but was originally from Britain. 

We saw the changing of the guards and didn’t quite make it through the now throngs of people to hear the noon day gun fire, but we sure did hear it.  We saw staff members plug their ears, so we took a cue and did the same.  Good thing – it was loud even with our ears covered. 

The surrounding view of the city was pretty amazing from the top, even on a cold and grey gloomy day.

We took a quick lunch break to eat down along the water front at the famous Saltys.  I have hand breaded fried clams.  Not normally one to each much fried food, but these were a treat.  I’ve never had fresh clams prepared this way and they were really good.

After lunch, headed back up the hill to the Public Gardens.  They’d been designated so since the 1800’s.  Thankfully, they were still open for the year and we strolled around the grounds.  We saw lots of swans, ducks, and LBBs (little brown birds).  Flowers were pretty much gone for the season and the leaves were now in the process of falling off the trees.  However, still a lovely site and a pretty place to visit.

We wrapped up night two with dinner at the Wooden Monkey and turned in a bit early, as we had an early flight back to the States in the wee hours of the morning.

Day 10 – Massachusetts, New Hampshire (for about 15 min – literally), and finally Maine

We flew into Boston the following morning.  It was nice to be back in the States.  We picked up our rental car and headed up to Portland, Maine to see my best’est of friends.  It was a pretty drive up through Maine, the 15 min of New Hampshire, and the southern portion of Maine.  While it was nice to be back in US soil, we’d used up all of our remaining US money and didn’t think to stop at an ATM in the airport…A word…Tolls.  We lived on the East Coast for many years, and we should have remembered these.  Alas, I think our years away erased the memories of our “Easy Pass” from our minds as we were now back in “Toll Town” as ES called it.   We literally were 10 feet out of the airport and boom – first toll.  I think the toll operators at this booth must hear the same sob story time after time, as he just handed us an envelope and said “no problem, you can mail it in.”  We stopped at the next town where we could find a bank ATM. 


We soon made it up to Portland to JB and SB’s house.  We’d not yet met their little wee one EJ, and were excited to finally see her. 


She was a real charmer and such a sweet disposition. SB and I went to pick up Scout from the airport, as she was flying in for the weekend too.  A mini grad school friends reunion.  It was so great to see everyone, as it had been several years since ES and my wedding that we’d all been together.  We did the usual shrieking all excited and hugs at the airport. 

We cooked out that night, with JB smoking some meat and ES helping.  The lady folks stayed inside and cooked and told stories and just laughed.  It was like time had never passed and we were back in grad school getting together for our usual weekend dinners, except we were eating a lot better (aka real meat) than we used to eat (hot dogs and lots of pasta) back in grad school.  I really cherish these friendships -- good friends who laugh, cry, and will always be there for you 100%.

Day 11 – Portland, Maine

We spent the next morning hanging out at the 3 B’s.  We ate bagels from this really yummy bakery (Sprinkles, I think) in Portland.  JB and ES went out to pick us up some grub while us ladies made coffees and hung out with little EJ and Mrs. S. 

We headed to downtown Portland to walk around and do a little shopping.  Little EJ looked so cute in her little flowered hat and shoes.  We had fun browsing in the downtown shops.



ES, Scout, and I headed to waterfront and took a little walk around the shore.  We saw an old boat launch, some off shore boats, and a little scenic train go by (Scout decided she wanted to chase it).  They waved us to from the train and we even got a whistle.

Day 12 – Portland, Maine

After a return trip to Sprinkles (bagels were just so good), we hung out at the house and had a nice time visiting on Friday.  Scout had to leave mid-day so it was bitter sweet. 

Day 13 – Portland, Maine and Boston, Massachusetts

ES and I spent the morning with SB touring the Portland Headlight.  The lighthouse was quite striking, as was the surrounding rocks.  We only had the morning left for our visit, as we needed to begin the drive back to Boston and wanted to get there before Friday rush hour set in.

Day 14 – Seattle, WA and onwards to home

After a couple weeks of traveling, we hopped back on a plane home and flew to Seattle.  We drove back home and took one more day of rest before heading back to reality (aka work…).

Wednesday, December 30, 2009

Snow, Ice, and Sleet - Oh My!

I grew up in snow. Real snow storms. Wyoming snow. The kind that snow feet and they still don't consider cancelling school. I remember skiing (yes - skiing) on our cross-country skis into town when weather hit and staying with friends. It was like camping out, except we still had school. You just knew how to drive, walk, shovel, and generally navigate in the stuff. Only when the winds kicked up and you had complete white outs did things start to get dicey.

Even when we moved to OH and I later to upstate NY, we still have snow. Lots of snow. Lake effect where storms would often be measured in feet. I love the stuff. Cut my teeth driving a 4x4 Bronco II (forerunner to the 1st generation Ford Explorer back when it was the size of the Ford Escape). The stores didn't loose their supplies of bread, milk, and toilet paper.

So I have to chuckle when I see the great lengths that people go to when we get storms here. An inch of snow results in 2 hour delays. Sometimes cancellations. We're supposed to get 4-6 inches tomorrow - Friday. I predict a mass extinction of toilet paper, milk, and bread over the next few days....

Holiday High Lights

It was our year to spend Christmas with my family. Once you couple up, and unless you're lucky enough to have both families within driving distance, chances are you're doing Christmas at various families alternate years. Last December, we spent the last week of the month in Albuquerque, New Mexico with ES' family. NM is beautiful in December and the tradition of putting out lumenarias all over the central plaza in the old part of town (in other towns such as Santa Fe too) is really beautiful. This year, we headed to Vancouver, WA for Christmas with my family. The Portland/Vancouver area is also really pretty during the holidays. The gorge was beautiful as we headed down.

It was so sweet seeing Christmas through the eyes of child. My little nephew, MB is over 3 now. He told me all about Santa and being a good boy and how Santa had "big boots" and "white beard."

We had fun opening our gifts from "Santa". Amazingly, Santa took on many identities that night. We had cold poached salmon, green beans, and cheesy potatoes. Topped off with my mother's famous peanut butter balls and other yummy confections.

We ended the night (and the next few nights) playing Scrabble. I'd gotten ES "Super Scrabble," which is a jumbo board with 2x the tiles. Lots of premium letter spots. ES noted that Scrabble is a blood sport in my family. Very true. Lots of challenges, bluffing, and a little luck. Usually my dad wins, but every now and then someone else wins (what he calls "even a blind squirrel finds a nut sometimes).

We visited the Grotto the next day, a Shrine in Portland. It was a wickedly cold day, so we all bundled up. As much as we teased my dad about his hat, we were all secretly jealous, as we knew it was keeping him very warm.

We spent our final day down visiting with my brother and his family. ES and I played with their 2 little boys and had a ball. KB made a really yummy lasagne for dinner and cobbler for dessert. We drove back to my parents for our final night. We drove back through snow, reminding us that although the weather may look good 4 days out before you go, you should take the train. December is too fickle in the Gorge.

Monday, November 2, 2009

Atlantic Canada – Our Trip – Part II

Day 5 – Ferry to Prince Edward Island and a Day at the Beach

We got up bright and early and headed up to the Ferry dock. We were grateful the winds had come down a bit, as we’d heard on the radio that ferry service had been suspended the night before due to high winds and rain. It was however (as the picture from our rental car shows), very cold…


The sun started coming out during the crossing, although we had a few of those stomach dropping moments where you’d hear a random “oh my” from folks as the boat pitched up and down through some large waves. Here are a few snaps shots from the ferry leaving Nova Scotia and landing at Prince Edward Island (PEI).

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Given the weather was getting better as we were getting closer to PEI, we decided to make it a day at the Anne of Green Gables (cliche, but we had too…) Parks Canada and PEI National Park.

Here are a few snaps across the PEI as we drove towards Green Gables. One of the first things we noticed that a lot of the roads (even those marked as pretty main roads) didn’t have shoulders in the traditional sense. The road went right to grass. Gave one more the impression of driving along a country lane. Definitely gave the place a whole lot of character.













We’d had a good portion of the Green Gables park to ourselves (it was still pretty early) and then the tour buses (ES and I do our best to “our run them” so that we aren’t battling for space/sites/etc when the busses dump off large groups all at once…) pulled in. We headed in for the introductory movie and each person (in turn) felt the compelling need to come to our specific row (there had to be at least 10 rows) and cross in front of us (there were entrances on either side)…ES and I just shook our heads and chuckled. Sometimes human behavior is so odd that people saw those in front of them do this so it just kept happening….I digress. We saw the intro movie then set out to see Anne’s House (or at least what they have re-created as Anne’s House) and got a little history on LM Montgomery. We walked down "lover’s lane” as featured in the book and saw the “haunted wood.” The whole area does loose a little of it’s charm given it’s next to an 18 hole golf course. It was, however, still a beautiful day and we took advantage of the the day and took a stroll and went through the house. I even managed to get ES into the “Anne wig” for a photo!




































We had a lovely picnic at Green Gables (complete with Lobster rolls) and headed off to PEI National Park. The views were amazing. Given it was such a lovely day, we headed out for a long walk along the dunes, marsh, and the beach for a few hours.



























Next stop…Charlottetown (PEI capital). Although it looks big on the map (scale is very small as we were driving), it didn’t take long for us to cross half the island and make it to Charlottetown for our 1st night on the island.

We stayed at an Inn close to Victoria Park (see below) and found this amazing Italian restaurant for dinner, where we both had homemade ravioli with prosciutto and cream sauce. We got there early and a good thing too – we heard the waiter tell the next set of diners that they were out for the night.

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Day 6 – Charlottetown, PEI and points west

We headed to downtown PEI to do a little exploring the next morning. Our first stop was Providence House, the site of meeting that worked out the confederation proceedings for all of Canada. We also visited St. Dunstan’s, the island’s largest basilica.


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After walking around the streets of Charlottetown, we decided to head out “west” to the West and North Cape coastal drives.

Along the way, we stopped at a wonderful bakery, called the 3 Sisters bakery, where we had homemade hot turkey and beef sandwiches and bought yummy treats called “tweeds,”” which were a chocolate cake treat with a maple frosting sprinkled with nuts.

IMG_2281We visited an Acadian (said with a hard ca unlike in the US) museum. There is a large French population on the island; after visiting the museum it made more sense why we saw French flags with a yellow star – the Acadian flag. We only wished we’d found a restaurant open for the season….Alas we did not.

We kept driving to the west, looking for the “bottle house” as noted by our guide book. When we found it, it was closed for the season, but ES inquired at the door if we could just take a few photos (which we were graciously allowed to do). If was really interesting. Three of the houses were made entirely out of different types/colors/sizes of bottles. It was a grayish day, otherwise we may have seen even more brilliant coloration with our photos.

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We spent the remainder of the day driving along the coast and heading up to North Cape, the northern most point of the island (on the western portion). It was so windy, that it was unbearable to walk around for more than a few minutes. The folks there have taken good advantage of all that wind….a good bit of this area was covered in turbines to harvest the wind power. We were pleasantly surprised that we found the Visitor’s Center/Gift Ship still open (a large number of places on the island were already closed for the year). It was the last day it was open…and it closed in ~30 from the time we got there. Even more surprisingly, 2 more cars pulled up in the time we were there. Nothing like a last minute rush.

We stayed at a small B&B (we were the only guests that evening – like many of the places we stayed). The Inn was in a very small village and had beautiful wood work. ES and I walked through the Inn and admired all the handwork that must have gone into the trim, staircase, furniture, etc. It was however, a very old house, and for a time (the Innkeepers stated they’d be out until late that evening) we were all alone. And it made lots of scary house sounds.

It was, alas, our last night on PEI. Off to the Confederation Bridge and New Brunswick the next morning.