Tuesday, September 25th, 2018
The water sparkles like a million jewels as the sun shines down on the Atlantic, and as I look on, I know that the beauty and wonder of the ocean will never cease to amaze me. I am Vó Zilah’s granddaughter, and at the risk of quoting a famous Disney movie, the ocean… “it calls me.”
I am never more at peace than when I’m listening to the tides, beholding a beautiful wave, and seeing the way the water reflects the beautiful sunshine. The only natural phenomenon that rivals my love for the sea is a waterfall. When we look at these wonders of nature, it can remind us both how insignificant we are, and how grand an impact we can have, for better or for worse.
After a wonderful stay in Newfoundland, where we learned about plate tectonics, carnivorous pitcher plants and more, we said our goodbyes and left for Nova Scotia. The ferry that takes us from Port-Aux-Basques to North Sydney looks more like a cruise ship than a ferry, though I admittedly have never been on a cruise. However, I have been on a few ferries. And none compares.
Although crossing from Newfoundland to Nova Scotia is expensive, you can’t put a price on this kind of opportunity: learning about every province in your country through hands on, first-person experience, seeing dolphins in the wild as they race alongside your vessel, and taking in the vast expanse of the Atlantic and the wonders that this country presents, from coast to coast to coast (though I’ll probably stay away from the Arctic, thank you very much).
Ten years ago, before we had children, my husband and I did a very similar trip to the one we’re currently on. But we did it in two months. Although I don’t regret a single thing about that trip, I am quite enjoying a more relaxed pace this time around.
During that trip back in 2008, we almost didn’t go to Newfoundland. The price of gas had significantly increased from the time we planned and saved for the trip to the time we set off on our adventure, and we were slightly worried about funds.
But for me, the main point of that trip was to see every province. After all, it’s not every day you get an opportunity to see your country like this. I am so glad we made the decision go go, and this time around was no different. The experience of the ferry alone is already quite something, but the beauty of Newfoundland is not to be missed. If the cost of visiting Newfoundland is a deterrent, I encourage you to save up and do it. You won’t be disappointed.
After getting off the ferry, we stayed overnight at a Walmart. The next day, we returned to a very special place in Nova Scotia.
Wednesday, September 26th, 2018
Many years ago, before I was born, and before my husband was born, a boy was growing up in Glace Bay, Cape Breton Island, Nova Scotia. His mom would hang up clothes to dry even in the winter, and there was no better starch than the cold air from the Atlantic shores.*
That boy’s father and uncle built a house in Glace Bay, and that house still stands to this day, and continues the tradition of the MacDougalls on Cape Breton Island. Or is it McDougalls? There is debate about which of these names is the correct one. Regardless, here on the East Coast, everyone is family, blood-related or not, extra or missing letter. The friendliness of the people here has touched our hearts, and we are deeply thankful for the friends we have made and the extended family with whom we’ve reconnected.
That boy who lived on Glace Bay many years ago grew up, and like many others, moved to Ontario. There, he got married, and had three kids—a boy, a girl, and a boy. Years later, the youngest boy met a Brazilian girl at the swing dance club at The University of Western Ontario. They fell in love, got married, and also had three kids. And that adventurous, out-of-the-box family took off on an adventure, and returned to that Glace Bay home.
If you haven’t guessed by now, the boy who grew up on Glace Bay is my father-in-law, and his youngest son and the Brazilian girl are my husband and me. The welcoming nature of those from the East Coast never left my father-in-law’s personality, and I’ll be forever thankful to him and my mother-in-law for welcoming me as a part of the family when I moved to Kingston all those years ago.
We shared a wonderful visit with Greg and Ruth MacDougall, my father-in-law’s cousin and his wife. We also met Wayne, Greg’s brother, and Greg & Ruth’s daughters, plus one granddaughter. We were welcomed with open arms, fed delicious meals, given lots of tea, and enjoyed delightful conversations around the kitchen & dining room tables.
We even got to see a beautiful DVD montage of old photos of the McDougall (or MacDougall) family in Glace Bay. Seeing a picture of my father-in-law as a young boy in front of the same house in which we were standing was really neat.
We were able to park overnight in their backyard, and the children enjoyed playing with more Lego, which Greg & Ruth were generous enough to gift to the kids before we left. Lego is a current obsession for our kiddos. We are deeply thankful for the conversation, love, and hospitality that we experienced at the MacDougall house.
Thursday, September 27th, 2018
After saying goodbye to the MacDougalls, we headed towards one of the main attractions in Glace Bay. The mine museum is full of history, and a retired Glace Bay Miner is a great story teller and mine guide. Here, you can tour a coal mine which was built specifically for the museum, but was never a producing mine. This tour is not the best place for those who struggle with claustrophobia, but I have a pretty good handle on mine, and came on this tour 10 years ago without issue.
Unfortunately, I may have passed my unreasonable fear of tight spaces to my boy, who really couldn’t handle the submarine visit back in Quebec. We thought it may have just been that time, but he lasted about 10 minutes in the mine before begging to leave. We still enjoyed listening to the miner’s stories, especially about what the song 16 tons was about. I have swing danced to that song many a time, and never knew it was written about the coal mines. It wasn’t specifically written about Glace Bay, but the story of the song repeated itself across the coal mining industry, including here. Hearing the stories of working conditions during these times makes me all the more thankful for the freedom and legal working rights we currently enjoy in Canada.
Although the visit to the Mine Museum didn’t last long, we still learned some things about how the mining industry used to operate, and the kids still enjoyed seeing some of the artifacts. The favourite was probably the mine cart.
After the mine museum, we made our way to Glenview Riverside Campground in Whycocomagh, NS. It was a lovely area, and offered a community room, where I was able to work all by myself in the evening, which was nice. This room offers a library with several books in different topic areas, a TV with DVDs & VHS movies, board games, and a reminder not to dance on the tables.
The campground also has an outdoor pool, but it’s closed for the season, with good reason. Brrr! The owners are lovely people, and I had a chance to spend some time with one of them the next day.
Friday, September 28th, 2018
Before leaving the campground, I headed for my usual morning walk. But early morning walks in our part of the world look more like night walk these days. I’ve bought myself a safety reflective vest, which keeps me highly visible to cars… and wildlife.
As I walk in the dark, looking for the entrance to the campground, two little eyes shine in the dark at me. I’m startled, and ignorantly, turn my flashlight towards the eyes. The fox stops in its tracks and stares right back at me. I continue to walk towards the campground, but, worried, shine the flashlight back towards the fox to check where it is. This time, the fox doesn’t stop. Instead, it starts running straight towards me. I collect myself, make a loud noise, and continue to walk briskly towards the campground, turning off the flashlight this time. Thankfully, I lost the fox (or it lost me). Apparently, my fear of the fox is entirely unfounded, but I’m still glad I didn’t make its acquaintance.
After my early morning adventure, I returned to the community room to get more of my freelance writing work completed. After about an hour of work, one of the owners of the campground (it’s managed by a couple) came in, and we had a lovely conversation about the East Coast, immigration, and I even got to practice a bit of my Spanish (Miroslava is from Mexico). That conversation was both lovely and a reminder that if I don’t want to lose the languages I know, I need to practice them more often.
After leaving the campground, we drove to Truro, NS, and found a gorgeous Community Centre with an awesome swimming pool.**
There is a lane pool and a smaller, warmer pool with a slide, small fountain, splash buckets, and a bubbling jet in the centre of the pool. In addition to the awesome aquatic facility, The Rath Eastlink Community Centre also offers rock climbing, a fitness centre, hockey rink, and more.
We spent all our time in the pool with the kids, and swam for about two hours. The older kids enjoyed the water slide (M-girl was not tall enough for it), and all kids really enjoyed jumping off the diving board. It’s a gorgeous pool in a beautiful facility, and we were happy we decided to go into the centre that evening. After the pool, we called it a night at the Walmart parking lot across the street.
Saturday, September 29th, 2018
On Saturday, we drove from Truro to Herring Cove, NS. Herring Cove is a beautiful community on the outskirts of Halifax. We parked at a school and visited with our homeschooling friends, Carrol, Chris, and Honey. They were recently posted to Halifax, and are currently renting a gorgeous home with an incredible ocean view.
We enjoyed delightful conversation, the kids had fun climbing and playing on the rocks and we (more specifically, the boys) fished for our dinner. We only caught one mackerel, so everyone was glad that there was back up fish in the fridge.
Chris is an incredible cook and we enjoyed a delicious meal outdoors on the deck, with a beautiful ocean view. It was really nice to finally meet Chris and to catch up with Carrol and Honey. Here’s hoping their posting will stretch as long as possible—it’ll be hard to leave this incredible place.
After a lovely visit, we walked back to the school where we had parked the RV for the night. The school was right next to St. Paul’s Parish, where we attended church the next day.
Sunday, September 30th, 2018
St. Paul’s Parish was a beautifully welcoming church, and the homily spoke right to me. We met several members of the Herring Cove community, including a Brazilian exchange student, who’s from a place not far from São Paulo, my hometown. After mass, we had the pleasure of meeting many of the parishioners, one of whom invited us to an impromptu brunch at her home.
We ate delicious food, enjoyed wonderful conversation, and in addition to getting to speak in Portuguese for a bit, I also got to practice my Spanish and Polish with the other two exchange students, one from Bolivia, and one from Poland.
Kathy & Conrad are wonderful people, and hospitality like theirs is found in plenty here on the East Coast. I can see why people love living here; the scenery is breath-taking, and the friendships offered warm the heart. We thank everyone who made us feel welcome in Herring Cove.
After brunch, we visited with our homeschooling friends again, and then headed to Peggy’s Cove. It was surprisingly busy there. I thought this was the end of the season, but it turns out that it stays this busy right into November.
My heart skipped a bit every time the children decided to run on the rocks, and I wasn’t able to go as far as the children and Daniel when climbing, as I had forgotten my knee braces in the RV. As my knees have given out a number of times on climbs lately, I was glad I listened to my body and sat out of some of the climb.
With my braces, I can go much further, but without them, I now run the risk of falling. Although it’s frustrating to see people much older than me who were climbing much further, I am learning to accept my limitations, and in doing so, preventing further injury to my unstable joints.
It could be much worse, and I’m thankful that I can still do all the things I love if I wear the aids that I am fortunate enough to have access to. After a lovely visit at Peggy’s Cove, we headed back toward Truro, on our way to P.E.I. We stayed overnight at the community centre parking lot, in expectation of another great swim the next morning.
October 1st, 2018
After another awesome time in the Rath Eastlink swimming pool, we hopped back in the RV and drove through New Brunswick to the Confederation Bridge to P.E.I. This marvel of engineering has to be seen in person to be truly appreciated, both while you’re on it, and while you’re on the island looking on.
We stopped at the visitor’s centre to play for a bit, and the kids had a lovely time. On our way to the River Mill Campground, we found an awesome hay playground at Kool Breeze Farms. The kids had a blast climbing and sliding, looking at the neat displays, and “riding” the hay train.
We ended our first day in P.E.I. at the River Mill Campground, which is also a golf resort. The grounds and facility are beautiful, and the kids looked forward to another swim in the morning.
October 2nd, 2018
M-girl squeals in delight as she can finally go down a water slide, and gets caught at the bottom by Daddy. I will join them later—after finishing up a work email with a new freelance writing client. After getting my work affairs in order, I too get to enjoy a fun slide down to the salt water pool at River Mill Campground and Resort.
After swimming to our heart’s content, we hop back in the RV to explore P.E.I. On the North Cape Coastal Drive, we find lobster claws, a dead crab, plenty of shells, and even a vertebra.
Rocks that are cracked and fragile offer an excellent opportunity to review the rock cycle again, and the kids have fun “making their own sand” by beating some red rocks together. The red sand is a sight to behold, and gives P.E.I. a distinctive scenery that you can’t find anywhere else in Canada.
After enjoying our foray at the beach, we stopped at a fish market, where not only 1, but 2 rare blue lobsters are currently residing. The employees were sweet enough to allow the children to hold one of the lobsters, who are the lucky ones—these will be returned to the sea.
We drove to North Cape, stopped in to look at the gift shop, where M-girl was amazed by another rare sight: a working payphone. She insisted on returning to the RV to get her money and make a phone call, but we convinced her that perhaps she should save her money for something else, and borrow one of our cell phones instead.
We finished our first full day in P.E.I with a visit to the Potato Museum, which offers fascinating facts about this abundant P.E.I. vegetable, as well as a lovely community exhibit presenting artifacts from local personalities, and such interesting things as an iron lung.
You can also view antique farm equipment, learn about all the diseases to which potato plants are subject, and why we should invest more time and energy into growing potato from true seed. You can also taste some delicious potato fudge, which we’ll be certainly making one of these days.
Next to the Potato Museum is a lovely playground which the kids enjoyed thoroughly, as well as some historic buildings that are interesting to behold. M-girl especially enjoyed the train and the little wooden swing.
To end the evening, we drove to the Walmart in Summerside, P.E.I. I worked in the evening at the upstairs cafe area at the nearby Real Atlantic Superstore. Nice large tables, a place to plug in the laptop, and free wi-fi make this a great place to work.
We have only been in P.E.I. for one and a half days, but I am absolutely in love with the island. Last time we were here, 10 years ago, we really only saw Charlottetown. I want to explore the island more fully this time, and we’ll probably be spending a few extra days here.
October 3rd, 2018
The rain falls on me, and the wind sweeps my hood off my head. But the rain doesn’t take away from the experience of walking into a book. Although I have admittedly not yet read Anne of Green Gables, walking through Green Gables heritage place is still a wonderful experience.
Here, the Green Gables house that inspired L.M. Montgomerry’s many novels has been preserved for future generations to enjoy. Green Gables’ surroundings have been conserved as a heritage site, and the “haunted forest” through which you can walk provides beautiful nature views, even in the rain.
Going through the Green Gables house is like walking into the past, and provides an excellent opportunity to study history: from what chamber pots are and why they were needed, to how clothes were washed before washing machines, and even how fashion and interior decorating have changed over the years.
Before leaving Green Gables heritage site, I grabbed a copy of Anne of Green Gables, and I’ll be reading it aloud to the kids once we finish Charlotte’s Web.
Have you ever been to PEI? What’s your favourite thing about the island?
Notes about this post:
* I am telling these stories second-hand, from conversations I remember from years ago. If I’ve misplaced my memories of these conversations, I’d be glad to correct my narrative—just let me know 🙂
** Dates are becoming all jumbled up in my brain, and I may have confused the dates we went to Truro. I know we were there twice, but the dates may not be exact. I need to write everyday so I can remember the proper dates 🙂 I’ve been neglecting my journal; it’s time to bring it out again.
2 thoughts on “Canadian East Coast: Friendly & Beautiful”
I really enjoy reading your article and seeing the photos.
So glad you’re enjoying it Marg!
And I also wanted to thank you for the gift you left for us to find in the RV for the kids. Sorry it took this long to thank you! It was so kind of you to do that 🙂 We haven’t told the kids yet—we will surprise them on a rainy day 🙂
Mariana, Dan, Katia, Giovanni, and Maya