Saturday, October 31, 2009

Atlantic Canada – Our Trip – Part I

We recently returned from a two week trip back to the East coast. We had a great time both seeing new places (Atlantic Canada) and visiting with old friends (Maine).

Day 0 – This was really our travel day. We ended up driving to Seattle (much better price vs flying from the Tri-Cities) and flying to Halifax via Newark. We took a red eye on Saturday night getting us bright and early (11 am) into Halifax. Despite my usual apprehension on planes, I slept a good deal of both flights. On the flip side, poor ES was awake a good deal of them as well. Amazing weather (despite rain forecast for the foreseeable future when we were to land) met us when we landed….

Day 1 – Halifax/Peggy’s Cove, Nova Scotia

Given it was a such a great day, we scuttled our original plans and headed out to the coast to a place called Peggy’s Cove. The guide book warned us this was one of the “most photographed spots” in Canada. They were right on it’s quaint charm. Peggy’s Cove is a little fishing village about an hour SW of Halifax. There are lots of little houses, all colorful and bright, as well as a light house and some really interesting geology (lots of erratics (rock formations made by retreating glaciers) up to the coast – see photos below). We walked around Peggy’s Cove, took a few pictures, and finally realized we hadn’t eaten a meal in almost 20 hours…..We headed to the gift shopand found they had a restaurant there (the place I usually avoid at all costs). However, turned out it wasn’t too touristy and the food was pretty good (despite being a bit expensive)….

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We took the scenic loop back up to Halifax and headed NW up toward Annigonish for the night.

Day 2 – The Cabot Trial/Cape Breton Island, Nova Scotia

We woke up bright and were getting ready for the day when we caught wind of the weather forecast. It was supposed to be “nice” (meaning a slight change of rain and only 25-30 mph winds…) on that day and crummy the remaining 4 days (all the rest of our time in the Cape Breton Island area of NS). So we made a change in plans and decided to head out for Cape Breton Island National Park (along the Cabot Trial).

It was amazing. The Trail starts along Cape Breton Island (looks rather like a lobster claw grew out of NS and forward CB Island), where it was a gray day when we woke up with a fine mist of rain. It was the wind that really got us. Upwards of 40-50 mph gusts. I got out of the car in one place and had the door literally slam into my arm before I could get around to shut the door. Ouch.

We had a few breaks of sun, and when we rounded the tip of CB, the other side of the island was a little sunnier and the winds a lot less gusty.

We found a few places to get out of the car and got for some hikes – one in a marsh area (boardwalked so technically I suppose not a “hike”) and the other in the woods which was very rocky, muddy, and cold. We got caught up a in a hail storm during our hike and one back in the car noticed it had snowed as we headed up the road. A bit later the sun came out and the winds died down.

We didn’t see too much wildlife, save a mama moose and her baby which we saw just as we pulled up for a hike. There were other people there trying to take her picture. One guy yelled out to someone in his group down the way and the mama took off…So alas no picture (stay tuned though for more – we did see 3 moose).

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Final note for the day: weather is all local. I mean really local. What may be dark and gloomy one place is bright and sunny 20+ miles away. And the only adage about waiting 5 min and the weather will change. We saw this in action. Every day. Oh, and the weather forecast wasn’t even right for the given day we saw it in the morning, let alone the rest of the week. Not even close….

Day 3-4 – Cape Breton Island (inland)/Bras D’Or Region, Nova Scotia

After our Cabot Trail adventures we headed a little more inland and explored the Bras D’Or region (large inland “lake” of seawater) as well as the east coast of Cape Breton Island. We did some hiking along Bras D’Or. We’d get peaks of sun and catch the leaves looking pretty in reflections against the varies lakes, ponds, and rivers we’d encountered. We took a “scenic diversion” as our map called it and headed to loop around park of the lake. We were pretty sure that it wasn’t a well traveled area….We’d stopped to take a photo along an area where the lighting was great and the colors were really pretty. We noticed some cattle in the adjacent field. Interestingly enough, they’d noticed us too. Each time we moved, so did their eyes/heads. We got back in the car and moved down a little ways just to see if they’d keep looking as us. They did. ES and I chuckled and I snapped a photo of the cattle….which ES thought perhaps might want to get up close and friendly so he insisted at that point I don’t get out of the car, but rather take the photo from the car with the window down…

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We also visited a historic fort – Fortress at Louisbourg – and learned a little about Canadian history in the process.

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In traveling through this region, we crossed over on 2 of the shortest ferries I’ve every been on. When I mean short, I mean we were already moving and half way over (5 min crossing) before I even realized we’d left short. They were cable ferries that were $5 a pop going over. They were convenient to cross the lake versus having to drive around. We got a kick out of them. There’s a photo below of one of the ferries.

Bras D'Or 1 - Smallest Ferry

I’ve also included a photo of 3 moose we saw in the back of a guy’s truck near Baddeck, Nova Scotia. We and his son (who proudly proclaimed this while pumping gas) had shot 3 moose just that afternoon.

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We left Cape Breton island on the evening of day 4 and headed back to the mainland – Pictou , Nova Scotia. This was the closet town to the Prince Edward Island Ferry. At this point we’d done our fair bit at trying to eat our way through the shellfish family – we’d had fish, clams, and crab so far. Nothing too memorable until we got to Pictou. There’s a resort up a few miles from the B&B where we were staying (Evening Sail B&B – quite lovely and recommended it) which was one of the few places still open for the season. ES and I had amazing meals (and one of the two I’ll blog about…). He had crab fettuccini and I had maple sear scallops with a maple/pumpkin risotto. Even the vegetables were roasted in maple syrup. If my veggies tasted this good as a kid, I’d have eaten entire bowl fulls. The food was incredible.

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Note: It’s always a good idea to find out if the B&B (and in our case, there weren’t any full scale Inns that we could find that were still open) you are staying in isn’t going into receivership or being sold. The place were we stayed in Baddeck was awful (and for sale). No hot breakfast and the place was in a very undesirable location.

On to more fun adventures…Day 5-7 – Prince Edward Island. See Part II (to be posted).