Tuesday, August 28, 2012

Three Weeks In The Maritimes

My family recently went for a visit to Nova Scotia to spend time with our extended family.
Our primary goal was to let the kids connect with their family and develop a feeling of Nova Scotia as a second home - 
and for me to see my grandmothers, and my sister who was visiting during our stay.
So naturally, most of our time was spent hanging out with our family,
but we also managed to fit in a lot of time playing on beaches,
tall ship viewing and a harbour cruise on a ketch,
a humpback whale watching tour, and a short side trip to Prince Edward Island.
We even squeezed in some grown-up time for brunch dates (just me and hubby!) 
and a handful of visits with dear old friends.

Let it wash over you. Conrad's Beach, NS.
Titanic model in the pond at the Halifax Public Gardens. Did you know about Halifax's connection to the tragedy?
Of course we also had to find the bench under the weeping willow, and have some Oxford blueberry ice cream.
Parade of Sail, Tall Ships 2012, viewed from the Nova Scotia Hospital grounds. Peacemaker (barquentine).
HMS Bounty, Gazela, and Amistad turning between Georges Island and McNabs Island (in the background).
HMS Bounty replica. Georges Island is in the background.
Amistad replica (topsail schooner) in a cloud of gunpowder smoke from her cannon. It was loud!
The enormous USCGC Eagle (barque).
Notice the Clock Tower and Citadel Hill behind downtown Halifax.
Tide's out, on Brier Island, NS, just before our whale watching tour. Brier Island sits at the mouth of the Bay of Fundy, a three hour drive and two short ferry rides from Halifax. We also visited an antique shop, a gift shop, a restaurant, a rug hooking studio, and walked the trail to Seal Cove while we were on Brier Island.
Humpback whale diving, photo by Joanne Merriam (my sister), from her blog post describing the whale watching tour. I didn't get any photos myself (too seasick), but WOW. We saw 8 adults and 2 very playful calves, lots of seabirds, and at one point witnessed a pod of Atlantic white-sided dolphins wake-riding - and one of the mother humpbacks vocalizing in annoyance to tell them to buzz off.
Balancing Rock (columnar basalt), Long Island, NS. We walked this steep trail with lots of stairs on our way back to Digby for a late supper (the most delicious scallop chowder ever, in my case).
Conrad's Beach (again), NS.

 Playing in the vast tidal flats at Scots Bay, NS. Photo by Peter Merriam.
This gives you a sense of how far out the water goes at low tide on the Bay of Fundy. 

 Martinique Beach, NS. Photo by Peter Merriam.
We drove to Prince Edward Island over the Confederation Bridge, which has turned the former ferry town of Borden into 'Gateway Village' and reduced the ferry service to a tourist curiosity. As we crossed the bridge, I joked that I was disappointed that they've not yet built a giant statue of Anne about to smash her slate over Gilbert's head. The Island is  ridiculously pretty, with its patchwork of farm fields and sea views and saltbox architecture,
but it was Green Gables that we had come to see (I have a nine-year-old daughter.).
The Lake Of Shining Waters, MacNeill's Pond boardwalk trail at Cavendish Beach, PEI.
Red sandstone cliffs, Cavendish, PEI.
Early 20th century pantry inside Green Gables. 
Green Gables is the former home of cousins of Lucy Maude Montgomery, and the inspiration for the Cuthbert farm where Anne Shirley is adopted. Parks Canada have the house set up inside to approximate what it would have looked like in the book (there's even a dress with puffed sleeves hanging in the closet of Anne's room), and outside there are walking paths along Lovers' Lane (which really does have a Babbling Brook), and through the Haunted Wood to the foundation of the house where Montgomery actually lived with her grandparents. 
The gorgeous wind turbine array outside Amherst, NS near the border with New Brunswick.
And an accidental self-portrait.
Instead of driving straight back to Halifax from PEI, we took the long (long!) way along the Parrsboro shore, through River Hebert (where my mother-in-law grew up) then over Cap d'Or to Port Greville where my Dad grew up, then through Parrsboro back to the main highway. This is the view of the Bay of Fundy from my grandparents' front yard.

Back in Metro, we took the kids for a harbour cruise on the Mar II, a two-masted ketch built in the fifties. This is one of the winches near the rear mast, with a chromed internal mechanism reminiscent of a three-speed bicycle's rear hub.

There was enough wind that once we were clear of the docks, the captain was able to cut the motor and operate entirely under sail. This 'pirate cruise' was also very child-friendly, with a crew member in costume whose job was to entertain kids below deck with stickers and stories. A group of kids (including mine) were recruited to help hoist the big sail on the rear mast, and afterward they all got to take a turn holding the helm for photos.
Three weeks is enough time to fool yourself into thinking you can fit lots more into your schedule, especially if you are planning to need another vacation after your vacation. My mental list for the trip had included visits to the local bike shops and harbourfront bike rental place, time roaming through antique shops and art galleries, meals at some favourite restaurants, and time at the archives working on my family tree. We had lined up a long list of rainy-day activities in museums that we never had a chance to use. However, we decided to take it easy and spend our summer the way we would if we lived in Nova Scotia, and recreated some of our childhood memories for the kids.
In the end, it was family, friends, and the sea that called us home
and we're very happy with how much we were able to share with our children. 

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