Hello all! It’s been quite some time since I took a trip out East to where I grew up, and I recently had the perfect excuse(s) to do so. Firstly, my dad was celebrating his 70th birthday this year, and my sister and I decided that we wanted to throw a little celebration in his honour and invite friends and family from around the world to attend. Secondly, Deanna has never been further east than Quebec City, and it was high time that she experience a little Maritime hospitality and meet some more of the family. As a result, we booked a week off work in July and made our plans for a whirlwind driving tour of the area. Over 4,000km of driving in about 9 days! Lots of time sitting in the car, but also some quality time with friends and family. Check out a whole pile of pictures then head on back for a taste of what we did and what the highlights of each day was for us! We definitely wished we’d had more time down there, but with another vacation already booked in October, we just couldn’t spare the time.
Now, this isn’t the first time I drive back home, and it probably won’t be the last, but every time I make the drive, I realize just what a big country we actually live in. Luckily, for this trip, there were two of us ready to do the driving. However, apart from the ’empty corridor’, which in my mind is the 1000 or so kms between Ottawa and Fredericton, I would be doing most of the driving so that Deanna could just take in the scenery. Once the trip was all said and done we both agreed that making the trip was totally worth it, and we definitely enjoyed ourselves, but it really would have been nice to do a bit more actual relaxing. You know, sit at the beach and read a book, spend an extra 2 hours at the pub listening to locals and their stories, take that harbour cruise and go whale watching, hike that great trail in Cape Breton Highlands, etc. This was definitely the ‘Taste of the Maritimes’ tour, which doesn’t quite to justice to all there is to do.
that being said, we hit a lot of great places, and Deanna was most impressed with our trees, rocks, and water :-). For a general sense of our tour, you can have a look at a google maps representation of the route that we drove. You’ll see there was very little overlap. We hit Fredericton, Moncton, Pictou County, Cape Breton Highlands, the East Coast of Nova Scotia, tour of central PEI, and finally, the run back up via the north shore of New Brunswick, and heading back via the Gaspesie. Plenty of great sights. For accomodations, we had a combination of staying with friends, hotels, and even some camping.
For starters, we made a straight shot through to Fredericton, leaving Ottawa around 3:30pm, and hitting Fredericton around 3am local time. While there, we stayed with Trevor and Julie and their uber-cute kids. Highlights of that part of the trip includes the market, touring all my old University haunts, bbq meal of lamb, and some declicious Piccaroons beers. A lot remains the same in Fredericton, but there were some changes. including new buildings as part of the engineering building, and the loss of my beloved ‘Pillar Pub’ room, which is now a lab! While there, Deanna and I also wandered around downtown in the sunshine.
On Sunday morning, it was off to Moncton to stay with Troy and Tanya and the dogs for a night. Upon arrival, Troy joined us for a side trip to Hopewell Rocks so that we could all walk on the ocean floor at low tide. Our timing was absolutely perfect, and we had a great time wandering around there, again with brilliant weather accompanying us. After that, we headed back to the Stokes-Jones casa for some beers in the backyard, with Troy and i attempting to jam with a guitar and a banjo while we decided on supper, which was at the Pump House downtown, where Megan also joined for a bit! Included in this was an ill-fated attempt at catching the tidal bore as it came in. Good times were had, and we even popped into another place for some live jazz. To cap off the night, Troy and I retired to the basement once the ladies headed off to bed, so that we could jam into the wee hours of the morning. It was a long time coming and quite… umm… familiar!
Monday morning had us ducking out early for breakfast, then hitting the road to Pictou County to stay with dad. However, we couldn’t leave without a visit to Magnetic Hill, which was very magical to Deanna who still can’t quite believe it, and insists she will return with a level. We took the scenic route to Pictou, stopping at Jost Winery to sample and purchase some awesome NS wines to bring back. Once at dad’s, we had a quick visit with he and my aunt and uncle before I dragged Deanna out to see all the places I remembered as a kid, including schools, buildings, etc. It was a whirlwind tour of memory lane. For supper, it was back to dad’s, where we had a great meal with family and with wine. After eating, the highlight for me was drinking another glass of wine and all of us sitting in the solarium outside sharing stories of our various adventure throughout the world. Dad’s story about stolen pajamas in St. Petersburg probably takes the prize for best-told story. Eventually, it was off to bed to get set for Cape Breton.
Tuesday morning we awoke unfortunately to some rain falling. Not a great sight to see given that we were about to head off to the most scenic part of our entire trip, the Cape Breton Highlands. 🙁 However, there was nothing we could do, so after a hearty breakfast made by Nicole, we piled back in the car and started out, once again following the scenic routes. They aren’t the quickest, but they were virtually free of traffic, which was nice for driving. Along the road we noticed a lot of cyclists. Turns out it was the Heartland Tour, a big cycle tour around Nova Scotia. The poor buggers were in the thick of the heacvy rains! By the time we hit Cape Breton, the rain had all but petered out, and we were treated to grey skies, but almost no fog, which are good conditions for viewing the scenery. The first glimpses of the hills left Deanna with a good impression and the rest of our tour around the Cabot Trail only reinforced that. we finished our day off by camping at the Ingonish Beach campground in the Highlands National Park, risking the weather. We also popped into the ‘Thirsty Hiker’ pub down the road for beers and food. Before finally turning in, we managed to go for a nice sunset hike to the beach, to walk along the shore and to give Deanna her first chance to dip her toes in the Atlantic Ocean. We had the beach almost to ourselves, so it was pretty special. We got some great shots on the day, and crawled into the tent thoroughly pleased.
Upon waking up, the skies were still grey, but at least it wasn’t raining. We packed up the tent and gear, and headed off to find Deanna a coffee as quick as we could. We decided to drive to Baddeck for breakfast, stopping at ‘The Yellow Cello’, a great little spot near the wharf. Bellies full, it was time to head to Liscomb Lodge to meet up with all the family for dad’s 70th birthday celebrations. Once again, we took the scenic routes, stopping from time to time for pictures, snacks and/or geocaching. We arrived at the Lodge in the late afternoon, but still beat my sister’s family. As a result, I took advantage of the time to hop on the bike for a good one hour ride along the coast, my only ride of the trip unfortunately. It was nice to get out of the car and stretch the legs a bit, and also helped me gather my thoughts on what to say at dad’s supper the next night. For me, that was the highlight of the day. Upon returning, other family had arrived, and we had all arranged to meet up for supper as a group. It was great to hang out with cousins, my aunt and uncle, nieces and nephews, dad and Nicole, Andrea, Patrick, and friends for a nice meal. After eating, the socializing picked back up in our 4-room cabin which also had a nice common room. Even though things were still rolling on, Deanna and I ducked out to take advantage of the hot tub. After all, we were paying a fair bit of coin on this place, so wanted to maximize the facilities 🙂
Thursday morning saw me ambitiously getting up early to go for a trail run early in the morning before we were meeting everyone for breakfast. There is a cool trail, the Liscomb River Trail nearby. This 10k trail was rated as pretty tough and claimed to take 3-4 hrs. However, I managed to do it in under an hour, and even did some geocaching and sight-seeing on it. Quick shower, and met everyone for yummy breakfast, after which we were almost all heading to Sherbrooke Village. This was a great little visit to a living museum town which was literally fun for the whole family! Between me riding an olde tyme bicycle, and Deanna and I getting an ambrotype photograph done, it was a hoot! And a great way to spend several hours on a dreary day. Later in the afternoon, many of the others opted to do a pontoon boat cruise from the lodge, but since it was pretty full, Deanna and I instead went out for a quick 1 hour paddle. After all, Deanna really wanted to do some paddling while out east. It was short, but still worth it. We would have gone longer, but I had some family duties to attend to as well, getting set for the evening festivities. As it was, I ended up being the host for the pre-meal get-together, acting as bartender, nametag guy, and all around social butterfly. Even more people had arrived so we had a great group of assemble guests from far-flung reaches of Canada and the world, all there to share in the special celebration for my dad. He was pretty nonchalant, but I’m pretty sure he was having a good time as well.
The meal itself was well prepared, with a variety of options for each course. There were a myriad of speeches, some of which (okay, most of which), were bordering on roasting rather than just toasting. We were all laughing together though, so that was a good thing. The meal went well into the evening, and culminated in yet more celebrating back at the Meyer cabin. There was some bassoon playing by one of my nieces, and lots of flowing bubbly and rambling stories being told by all those who knew my dad the best. Some were about young Hans in Switzerland, while others were from antics in Canada. It was a great night, and I’m sure we’ll all remember it for years to come. The entire day was a great highlight in my mind, and probably the best of the vacation (and not just because we didn’t have to drive anywhere!)
Of course, the next day, it was back into the car to continue the journey. On the schedule for Friday was the super-tour of PEI. We were awfully thankful that it was a small province. We did our best to start early, but between breakfast with the whole family, and then the inevitable wait for a ferry in Pictou, we really didn’t get to PEI till the mid-afternoon! To make things easy, we booked a bed and breakfast as soon as we got on the island, so we wouldn’t be rushed. Next stop was Charlottetown where we squeezed in a visit to Confederation House before hitting Gahan House, a brewery nearby. It was absolutely delicious! A little more wandering, and it was off to visit the famous beaches (Brackley and Cavendish), Green Gables, and Cows Ice Cream (yes, it was a destination for us!). I will say this. I have been unkind to PEI in the past, but after actually spending more time around the beaches and seeing the views, I’m actually thinking I’d like to do some cycle touring out there. Flat, well-connected, and great scenery on the coast. Two thumbs up. Highlight of the day was probably seeing how happy Deanna was to have her picture taken at Green Gables (and the tasty Ice Creams that followed!). It was a quick trip for sure, but still glad we did it.
For the final day of our tour, it was back to New Brunswick, and a visit to some of the places I spent a lot of time at as a child. My mother was born in the Acadian region in a town called Petit Rocher (near Bathurst). It was where my parents met and got married as well. As a result, I spent many a summer playing by the ocean there. It was pretty cool to go back, and even swim in the same spot I did as a kid. We spent over an hour there. When we realized we had to keep moving, we sort of lamented that it was too bad we had to rush so much during the trip to make it to our next sleeping spot. Unfortunately that’s just the way we had to do things. This was, after all, just a taste of the maritimes. Before leaving NB, we hit the liquor store in Campbellton to grab some Picaroons Beer to bring back with us. Our cooler was over-flowing with beer! Yum! It was then over the border and back into Quebec for our final night of the trip. We ended up finding a pretty awesome campground near a ‘National Park’ (Quebec version) called Le Bic. For $23, we had a totally private site, complete with a 12×12 raised wooden platform for tent, and great shower facilities. Deanna and I took the car down to the beach to enjoy a sunset supper of cheese, crackers, veggies, and coolers while taking in the sights of the Gaspesie. Again, this WILL be a region we’ll visit properly some time. Probably on the motorbikes!
Although the weather had called for sunny skies, the next morning we were awoked rather early with the early sounds of rain! We scrambled to pack everything up even as the drops started coming down. Luckily it was pretty light, and didn’t ‘dampen’ our spirits. However, we looked at the clock and realized it was only 7am when we were already on the road! Craziness. That was okay by us, since we had some things to get sorted at home before heading to work the next morning, PLUS poor Deanna had picked up a cold somewhere along the way and really wasn’t feeling too well. As a result, we pretty much drove straight back to Gatineau from our campsite. The drive was pretty uneventful, giving us some time to reflect on the great week we’d had and the future adventures we’re planning to do together. When stuck in a car almost all day every day for a week with someone, you’d think there would be some tension, but yet again, we proved to ourselves just how well we get along. We had an absolutely amazing time, and all week, we’ve been bemoaning the fact that we need to spend so much time apart now that we’re back to the grind. I’ll take that as a good thing! If you’ve hung in this long, congratulations! I know a lot of this wasn’t too exciting, but how do you summarize a whole week? That was my best try, and if nothing else, I’ll be able to re-read this years down the road and remember all the great highlights of the week! That’s it until my next race post, on City Chase.