The Maritimes: day 6… Nova Scotia – Peggys Cove and The Citadel

A new city and a new adventure.  Day 6 was the day to visit Peggys Cove.  Peggys Cove is a cute litte cove with a lighthouse, fresh fish and lobster rolls for sale at the side of the road and little gift shops.  It is a really pretty area, unfortunately a little marred by the hoards of tourists and difficulty parking.  Yes, I realise I am a tourist, but I dont like others!  There was a restaurant at the top of the hill near the lighthouse, but it was very busy and noisy, not all relaxing.  The trouble I find in this neck of the woods is that I dont like seafood or salad – most eateries seem to have only seafood or salad.  I found a nice quiet restaurant 15 minutes further along the coast with risotto balls.  Lovely.

The sun was beating down and I was seeking a quiet spot to lay.  I found a beach by Chocolate Lake.  The lake was not chocolate.  The beach was lovely but very very busy, so I vacated and continued my search for relaxation.

I found myself visiting the Citadel.  There were guards all dressed up, people in different military dress reacting marche, bag pipes.  They must have been baking in the sun.  The guard hats are worn at an angle, one guy showed me the hilarious diagonal tan line it created on his forehead. 

The bottom of the hill was a lovely place to lie in the sun for a couple of hours, then off to the gym.  


The Maritimes: days 4 and 5…. Nova Scotia – Cabot Trail 

The Cabot Trail was a journey that was recommended personally and on numerous websites as a must do. I left Antigonish around 10 and set off for the Cabot Trail.  My first stop was Baddeck for breakfast/ lunch and then I was on my way.

As soon as I crossed over to Cape Breton, the accents seemed to change and they had much stronger dialects like Newfies.  I love these country accents.  

I saw a cute little School House near Goose Cove and stopped to take a photo.  The lady who owned the house was outside and invited me in to look around and have a drink.  The house was cute inside, really light with a huge open loft with nice wooden beams. The original wooden school floor was still there and also the blackboards still on the walls.  They ask visitors to sign the black board.  There were messages from years and years ago – I read messages in different languages, and messages that her mum, brother and first husband wrote before they died.  It was all dated and I saw them from as far back as the 60s.  Some less memorable ones have to be removed now and then for new ones.  

On the road again and I drove along the coast with lovely sunshine and views until I got to Ingonish Beach for an ice cream and some sunbathing.   My hotel for the night was in Ingonish. 

This morning I hit the Cabot Trail again.  True to Canadian form, the weather had a rethink and yesterdays glorious sunshine was replaced with rain and drizzle.  The views were pretty and I stopped in a few different places to look.  The trees were pretty and the road was winding up high in the forest until my ears went funny.  There was a cute little farmers market that I found, and a nice bakery.  It seemed to be the community get together with a guitar player and tea and coffee.  I stopped at a place in Cheticamp called Proud to be Hookers!  First I saw the sign saying Hooked Rugs and Crafts and thought, “no dont stop, you will only buy more stuff to pack”, then I noticed the other sign saying “Lolas” and “Proud to be Hookers”.  I was amazed by this this one room shop full of different hooked craft items.  It was fabulous.  Mats, coasters, rugs, christmas decorations, signs – everything you could want.  Years and years worth of work all in one room.  The shelves were piled.  The lady working there showed me how the to be a hooker.  I had to stop myself from buying all the supplies there and then as it looked fun and satisfying – I do love a craft project.  The technique looked a bit risky for someone who easily messes up wool based tasks, but I am itching to give it a go.  I have tried carding wool, felting wool, knitting… something has to stick.  Before I left, Lola the owner came in with a lovely dog called Chance.  Everyone in there was so chatty and friendly, I am smiling with a nice memory as I write.  I couldnt leave empty handed and came away with my very own hooked cow, and of course my ambitions to try it when I am home.

I finished up the Cabot Trail with a few more stops for photo ops, though pictures havent done it justice, and was glad to reach my hotel for night as it was a lot of driving and a lot of rain.  Hotel was the Dalhousie University in Truro which I booked so I could use the gym.  Unfortunately, the gym was closed, and there was no access to hot water for a cup of tea.  I sought refuge in a Goodlife.  It was a lovely gym and there was a little ladies only room off the changing room which was empty, so I set my ipad up and made the most of having the place to myself.  Tim Hortons chilli for dinner and here I am.

Tomorrow takes me to Halifax for my last 2 nights of this journey.  

The Maritimes… day 3 – PEI to Nova Scotia

Before getting the ferry to Nova Scotia, I went to see one more Red Sand beach.  Pinette park is around 20 minutes from the ferry.  I had a walk along the beach by the harbour – the water was sparkling in the sun and was warm like bath water.  There were a couple of houses with steps down from their gardens to the little harbour beach.  

I had a really lovely time on Prince Edward Island.  The whole place is peaceful – it was nice to hear birds, silence, wind in the trees, to smell the fresh clean air – and the cow smells, sea food and sea side.  There is no sense of urgency,  no hustle and bustle.  The people were friendly and helpful but not pushy.  There were purple and pink lupins everywhere dancing in the wind.

The ferry took around 90 minutes – enough time to get an ice cream and sit and read on the deck.

I went to Melmerby Beach when I got to Nova Scotia.  Very similar to the beach from yesterday with soft sand until the wind whipped it up in to my scalp and eyebrows and smashed it against my cheeks.  I kept my eyes shut and music in my ears.  

Tonights accomodation is Francis Xavier University in Antigonish.  Decent room with en-suite, used the gym, went out for dinner, did some laundry and to bed. 

The Maritimes… day 2 – PEI, Green Gables, Red Sand

Day two on Prince Edward Island.  I had a great sleep, the bed in my hotel was really comfy.  Breakfast was included,  bacon sandwich and a cup of tea, lovely.  I also got some bagels for lunch.

I headed North West to visit Green Gables, the house from Anne of Green Gables.  The car park was busy and full of coaches, I was worried it was going to be hectic.  I have no idea where the people were… was too busy at all which was nice.  The setting is so peaceful and relaxing.  The garden is surrounded by rose bushes and neat lawns and trees.  The house was owned by Lucy Montgomerys Aunt and Uncle.   It is not exactly as it was when Lucy Montgomery used to visit them as it was since sold, but it has been redecorated to fit with the era and with her descriptions in the book.  It was a cute house with really light bright bedrooms, and every room had at least one rocking chair in it.  I love rocking chairs!  There was a girl whose job was to wander around the grounds dressed as Anne.  I found this a little weird.  There were also children that had come to visit and were dressed with straw hats and plaits.   In addition to the house, I walked down Lovers Lane and around the Balsam Hollow and Haunted Wood trails.  There were signs with quotes by Lucy Mongomery around the grounds.  She said of Lovers Lane… “How beautiful it was – geeen and alluring and beckoning!  I had been tired and discouraged and sick at heart before I went… and it… stole away the heart sickness, giving piece and newness of life”.  How true this is.  It was so calm and relaxing with a slight breeze rustling in the trees.  Even though there were other people on the trail occasionally, the sound didn’t seem to travel and it felt like I had the woods to myself.  I just looked back at the quotes again to find photos and found another one that LM wrote… “The woods always seem to be to have a delicate, subtle life all of their own… in the woods I like to be alone for every tree is a true old friend and every tip toeing wind a merry comrade… I always feel so utterly and satisfyingly at home…”.  I heard a few people saying that that had seen the film and not read the book.  I haven’t read it for years and wish I had read it again more recently – I was going to buy a nice copy as a momento, but they were really expensive in the gift shop, and most of them had the covers with scenes from the film.  One of the nice things about the whole place was the lovely magical nature of it – to come and see it as a film destination seemed to take some of that away.  I had an ice cream – mint of course – and headed for the beach.  Oh yes, and the mosquitos, the mosquitos were out in their droves.  I have a big swelling on my forehead, and my right ankle is so swollen from one bite, it wont bend properly.

I left Green Gables and had a drive around the area looking at the views of the coast.  I stopped and read my book at a little beach, but there were lots of ants, so I packed up and moved to Cavendish Beach a five minute drive away.  The sand was so warm and soft, it was gorgeous just lying in the sun reading.  The sand was less soft when the wind picked up and used it as an assault weapon against my face.  I had a nice hour or two there and then pottered off in search of red sand.  

Argyle Sands – a great beach with big fields and steps down the red cliffs to the sand.  The water was warm, the sand was wet and very silt-y.  My feet sank in to it like clay squelching between my toes and under my toe nails.  I picked up some huge souvenir shells.  After lying in the grass at the top of the cliff for an hour, the tide had come in almost to the bottom of the cliffs.

McDonalds, Netflix, Bed.

Maritimes: Day 1 – Moncton, Prince Edward Island…. Bottle Houses and coastal drive 

Adventure time again and this trip I am back on the East Coast. A 9am flight to Moncton got me here for midday. I was one of the last on the flight to do my online check in and the only seats left were upgrades so I had snacks and water provided on the plane. This is the first Westjet flight where I have been on the tiny plane – now I see why some people arent sure about Westjet…. the seats are tiny! I would be okay except that the woman next to me was massivly encroaching on my seat. Luckily, the air hostess was a bit of a comedian on the tannoy, so the flight passed quickly. Approaching the airport and everything was so green – it looked like Moncton is just a forest. As soon as I see the green, the trees, fields, lawns, horses, cows, tractors – I feel more relaxed and almost emotional. I loved the East Coast when I visited Newfoundland, and the feeling stands so far. I did wander if the West Coast would steal my heart last month – but whilst the mountains are undeniably breathtaking, I feel like its a one trick pony, and my heart is firmly in the East.
Picked up a car and thought I should do something in Moncton while there. I went to Magnet Hill. A bizarre optical illusion where you drive down a hill and at the bottom, put the car in neutral and it reverses up the hill as if a magnet is pulling it. It goes quite fast as well.
The weather here today has been cloudy, rainy and humid, so beaches were out of the question. I drove to Prince Edward Island and along the coast to see the bottle houses. There are three buildings that were made by one man, obviously out of bottles. A bar, a house and a church. The gardens around are lovely and would be a gorgeous place for a picnic on a sunny day. I would also imagine the light would be fantastic shining through the bottles.  

The drive along the coast was really pretty – cloudy sky and the water looks reddish because the sand is red here. Lots of derelict houses along the way, houses with lots of fishing nets and equipment and all the ones that werent derelict had perfectly groomed lawns – huge plots of land with a wooden house in the middle, the houses with porches looking out at the water, but no fences and seemed to be no use for the giant lawns!  

Lots of houses around the bits of PEI have driven around so far (West side of the Island) have Acadian flags and people I spoke to speak Acadian French and English.  
My hotel is nice, a tv motel style place with parking outside each room.   

Queen Elizabeth Wildlands

Back from Vancouver and I was off for some more outdoor time with friends.  We went to Queen Elizabeth 2nd Wildlands which is a couple of hours north of Toronto.  It is actually the second biggest park south of Algonquin, but noone here seems to have heard if it.  

We were prepped and ready for a good few hours hiking in the forest – bug repellant an bear bells, water bottles and supplies.  It was good fun and warm, so it was good hard work climbing and navigating through the forest.  It had water, pretty views, a bright blue sky, full green trees and foliage and a precarious beaver dam to cross.  Alas, the whole place was like a big breeding ground for mosquitos.  They were all lying in wait for me.  We persevered as best we could, but they won the war and we had to turn back.  I shook dead mosquitos out of my hair when I got home.  

We went for a drink and some food at a nice pub in Coboconk and headed back to Toronto after a good day out.

Vancouver, Squamish and Whistler. Part 2

Bear viewing was a brutally early start and I drove as the sun rose up to Whistler for a 5.45am start. There were three of us in the car on the trip and we saw loads of bears. It was brilliant. I loved just sitting and watching one bear potter around eating grass. I learnt so much interesting stuff about bears from the lady who also worked in bear study and ecology. I was amazed to hear that around 10 nuisance bears a year are killed there. She said sometimes moving them works, but that they can come back, become someone elses problems or die of starvation if they are older and less adaptable.  I also learned about Spirit Bears – white black bears who have evolved to be white as they mostly eat salmon and white is harder to see above the water if you are a fish.

After the bears, I headed to the base of Whistler mountain and got the lift up to take the Peak to Peak Gondola acceoss to Blackcombe Mountain and back.  The Peak to Peak was impressive – I think had I not seen so many incredible sights lately it would have been even more breathtaking!  How incredibly ungrateful I feel for saying that!  It was great though and the mountains were covered with thick white snow still.  

I was up so early that I felt ready for a sleep by the time I had some food and pottered around Whistler.  I wanted to head back to Cleveland Dam for a nap in the sunshine, but there was a huge traffic jam.  After two hours stuck almost at a stand still, I had crawled far enough to reach a layby that conveniently had a beach nearby if I went accross some old train tracks and a golf course.  I had a swim in the sea and sunbathed and chatted to people on the beach.  A couple of other traffic jam refugees had also made it there.  Such a strange place where I can be in a winter wonderland in the morning and sunbathing in the afternoon a couple of hours away.

By the time I made it back to Downtown Vancouver, it was late.  I stayed at the University which was okay, but a downgrade from my lovely room in Squamish.  Cant really complain though at $35 a night.  I stayed here for my final two nights.  There was no wifi in the rooms, so the main reception foyer was full of people in their pyjamas using the internet.  Very strange.

It was time for my second go at Whale Watching.  Back in Steveson and better prepared for the open water breeze, I settled in with a packed lunch and a cup of tea ready for the excitment.  Success! Luckily, this time we saw whales.  Lots of whales.  Killer whales.  Groups of them, mums, dads, babies!  The guide knew which whales we were seeing by their marks so could tell us roughly how old they were and who was who.  There were whales all around.  And more boats.  The guide said the whales have never been bothered by the boats and there are strict laws enforcing how close boats are allowed to go.  We saw lots more sea lions hanging out on big buoys.

Back on land and I was off to see a old chum.  Before the adventure began, I met a friend on one of the moving to Canada Facebook groups and we met up before coming here.  That was two years ago and we were filled with excitement and questions and plans and no idea what would happen in the end.  He visited Toronto and is now living in  Vancouver, so it was nice to see him and catch up now we are closer to the end of the adventure.  We went to Kitsilano Beach for some chat and sitting in the sun.  It was really lovely seeing a familiar face. 

The final day in Vancouver and my excellent luck with the weather came to an end.  Oh how it poured!  I still had a few things to do before getting a 10pm flight back to Toronto.  I went to the Vancouver Police Museum which was interesting.  It was small compared to some others like the Mob Museum in Vegas, but it had some cool crime stuff and props, particularly in the old morgue part of the museum.  Unfortunately, there were strict rule not allowing me to open the drawers that hold the bodies.  I kind of wish I just did it.  There were preserved body parts that were once on display with a travelling circus.  They showed bullets and stab wounds through various body parts.  There were also preserved foetuses from illegal abortions – though I actually looked and it amazed me how real it was and not like a blob.  It is still legal to abort at this size in England.

After the museum, I drove around the “dodgy” part of town.  Vancouver has rare Supervised Injection Site where Substance Abusers can go to inject safely.  I wanted to go and look around, but was told it was benefit week and there was no space on tours available as the opening hours are extended.  This is a shame as people have been trying to get one of these opened at home.  There was a memorial wall on East Hastings Street for memories and photos of people that have overdosed.  The area was horrifying.  Absolutely horrifying.  I saw two blue light ambulances within two blocks.  It was clear that the busy street was crowded mostly with active users.  The shops looked closed up, but as I crawled along and looked closer, it was just that they all had bars on the windows and doors, but were still open.  The whole place was so incredibly sad.  I was amazed at Toronto when I first arrived, and the amount of people who clearly have mental health issues on the streets, but this was a whole other level.  I just dont understand how a city can let it get that bad – I wanted to open the boot and give out my clothes and go buy food to give out to people.  

My day was not all doom and gloom,  I was off in search of a donut my friend had told me about.  Deep Cove.  A really pretty lovely little seaside village with boats and cute little shops and cafes.  Im not normally a fan of donuts unless its a Krispy Kreme, but the donuts here were phenomincal.  And warm.  So, so good.  I managed to have a little walk around on the beach, but it was too wet to do the hiking trails when I had to get a plane.

My final stop was Wreck Beach.  I have heard all sorts of things about Wreck Beach.  It was raining, so I can not possibly comment on the optional clothing policy or anything else.  The beaches in Vancouver seem to have big telegraph poles and logs on them laid out.  I love it as it gives you are little area, your own space so its not quite so sardine like.   The steps down were insane, so I asked someone after walking along the beach for a while if there was another way up.  A chap who called himself “Mike, the mushroom guy” who seemed to live on the beach in the summer showed me where the cliff path was.  It was insanely steep and good hard work, but infinitely more satisfying than those steps would have been.  The mushroom guy was very friendly and slightly redeemed the previously mentioned unfriendliness from Vancouverites.

My flight home was uneventful.  I didnt sleep.  There was a gorgeous sunrise getting in to Toronto at 6am.  I was determined not to mess up my sleeping by sleeping all day, so I went home and resolved to have a quick power nap.  Then slept the day away!

Vancouver, Squamish, Whister – part 1: Wednesday to Saturday

Where do I begin with the Vancouver adventure…. due to my train delay I arrived later than planned, but was determined not to lose the whole day, so I checked in to my hotel and went out for a stroll.   I walked down to Sunset Beach and got the ferry across False Creek to Granville Island.   The market on the island was open and it was nice to have a look around, unfortunately hotel living does not support the buying of all the nice looking fresh veg as I had nowhere to cook it.  I looked around some shops and I remember commenting in one shop how the shop assistant was so friendly – until this point everyone I had encountered in Vancouver (apart from the friendly Vancouverite on the train) was unfriendly.  The hotel clerk seemed to be inconvenienced checking me in, shop assistants didn’t seem interested in helping me and I just had a generally unfriendly vibe.  Anyway, I said to the girl in the shop how it was nice to feel welcomed and how so far people were not friendly like the Torontonians.  She was actually from a Alberta.  The unfriendly Vancouverite theme continued whenever I was downtown, but that’s okay, it didn’t impact my time, but does leave me with a future expectation from them.

After the market, I had a lovely walk along the seafront last Sunset Beach to English Bay and back to the hotel for a nice long bath.  

My next day found me whale watching in Steveson.  Steveson is a cute little seaside village with a few shops, fish and chips and lots of whale watching adventures to be had.  Last week, Steveson hit the news because someone was pulled in to the water from the dock by a sea lion – hilarious clip here.  When I arrived they were putting up new barriers and signs telling people not to feed them.  My boat trip was 4 hours long and the company has a guarantee that if you don’t see whales, you can keep going back until you do.  Apparently someone went back after 12 years having kept the ticket laminated on their fridge.  Only 5% of their boats dont see whales.  Of course, my boat was in that 5%!  We saw lots of sea lions, bald eagles, porpoises and seals, but alas, no whales.  The islands we passed looked appealingly deserted with sparse houses and some islands were not inhabited.  I would love a house on an island.  I got off the boat and rebooked for another try at seeing whales a few days later.

I drove North from Steveson heading for Squamish (via Stanley Park to look at the views and scenery) where I stayed for three nights.  The drive along the Sea to Sky highway is lovely with constant nice views of the sea and the mountains.  I stayed in the Hotel Squamish.  It was great – nice restaurant downstairs, huge comfy bed with lots of pillows, hot and cold water machines in the hallway, a laundry room that was free to use and it was a great location.  I had a drive around and just wanted to see what was around the area in the evening.   Squamish is a very strange town.  I really liked it, but the mix of people is bizarre and the town itself seems very unfinished.  It has everything it needs, but the businesses looked empty most of the time.  There was a cool looking little barber shop that was little more than a garden shed with a shop front on it, pubs, a community garden, a yacht club, but then lots of empty lots in the middle of it all, and one lot with a big camper van that appeared to be living there.  As with Steveson, Squamish was also in the news last week for an animal encounter – there was a bear attack.  When I asked about where I could see one from the safety of the car, I was informed that this wasn’t really an attack and was little more than a bear scratching the human and saying “bad human”, they said I was unlikely to see one.  Despite this, there were signs around about bear safety and all the bins were the same as the ones in Jasper, special bear resistant bins.  Squamish has a cute little Farmers Market that I went to on Saturday and all the locals seemed to use it as a social gathering, eating and drinking in the sunshine while a man played his guitar at the front by the seating.  I could have stayed in Squamish for a week, there was so much stuff that was easy to get to nearby, trails and hiking, different mountains and activities.

My first full day in Squamish and I wanted to go up the Sea to Sky Gondola about ten minutes from where I was staying.  I did want to hike up the mountain, it said it was around 3-5 hours, but it didn’t advise doing it alone due to risk of injury and wildlife, so I wasn’t sure.  The lift was fun, it was little pods that seat around 8 people that travel up like a sky lift.  The views were incredible.  At the top is a gift shop, restaurant, bar and cafe.  There are a number of hiking trails from 10 minute trails to 8 hour hikes.  I did the Wonderland Lake Loop which was a little 1.6km scenic route.  It was closed off halfway and said not advised to continue due to uncleared snow and uneven wet terrain.  Not to be deterred, me and my flip flops continued.  Luckily, the ankle deep snow at times provided a nice relief from the burning sun.   There was also a suspension bridge at the top which had more fantastic views over the sea and surround around below the mountain.  The whole Sea to Sky gondola was great and I would definitely do it again if I went back.  I went back down the mountain and sought somewhere to lie in the sunshine – Alice Lake campground was my chosen spot and sunbathed and read my kindle for a few hours.  I had a drive around looking for bears and had a lemon and mushroom risotto from the restaurant below the hotel.    

Day two in Squamish and I pottered off to see the Capilano Suspension Bridge about 45 minutes south.  I was very disappointed with this one.  The bridge itself and the tree top bridges and walks were great, but they were so crowded with tourists, it was difficult to enjoy.  The bridge itself was packed with people and I was unable to take more than 2 or 3 steps before stopping again. in the crowds.  I left and went to Cleveland Dam around ten minutes up the road.  It was lovely,  bright blue sky, snow capped mountains behind the shimmering water and a huge lawn of bright green grass for me to lie in in the sunshine.  The evening brought more risotto, and more looking for bears.  The signs on the highway advertised bears, but they were not to be seen.  I should have been sleeping early, but I was still awake at 12.15am and my alarm was set for 4.20am to go on a bear viewing tour in Whistler.