Happy Birthday to Me (Part I)
While I was quite pleased to be along the Bay of Fundy in August, I was quite distressed that I was bringing in a new decade on the 29th. In preparation, I chose a lovely historic town on the water, and treated myself to a private room at a funky little inn. All good decisions!
From the 27th - 31st, I was in St. Andrews, New Brunswick, on the Passamaquoddy Bay, overlooking the state of Maine. Known for the Algonquin Hotel & golf course, St Andrews was founded in the 1770′s as a loyalist town, and was a shipbuilding center in the early history of Canada. This small resort town has a lovely historic district, a quaint Main Street, and honestly, it oozes charm. All of this without being snobbish! I've highlighted some of the sites in photos.
With much trepidation, I started my birthday with a bike ride (of course!), then a visit to nearby Minister's Island. However, the best surprise of the day was having my inn hosts join me on the pub patio for dinner and drinks. They raised a glass, and reminded me to take a close look at what I now call "life". I made it through the day but I'm still not sure I like the number!
Playing in the Park
It was one glorious week in Fundy National Park where I camped at "headquarters" on a cul-de-sac that was quiet and accessible to every activity I had in mind. From my tent, I could hike, bike, go swim, and walk into the quaint little village of Alma.
I love this Park, and I am enamored by the Bay of Fundy! This is a Park that you can bring along just about anyone as there's golfing, fishing, paddling, playgrounds, on and off-road cycling, hiking galore, and yes, a solar heated, saltwater swimming pool.
My hot and sunny arrival day was the culmination of a music festival onsite so I caught one act. From there, I plotted and planned all that I could fit in within a week -- cycling, hiking, a little work, some poolside reading, a ranger program, and a walk about town. The trails were not only challenging but scenic, as every trail I chose had waterfalls, a brook or a view of the Bay. This view never gets old as the tidal changes ensure that it never looks the same.
Two weeks here would have been great, yet I moved on to cope with the trauma of the big birthday (up next)!
Life's Little Surprises
I rolled into Moncton, New Brunswick for a few days, with a strictly utilitarian agenda -- oil change, food shop, laundry, etc. Moncton, a small town of 70,000 people, has a reputation for being culturally and architecturally challenged, so my plan was to be on task. I'd booked a hostel room at "C'Mon Inn" and had my list in hand.
Lo and behold, Moncton is a sweet little place with a 23 km riverside biking/walking path, and an old-fashioned downtown that works. There was also a festival that weekend where I enjoyed two hours of Canadian short films (free!) with a $4 glass of wine. At the hostel, a 19th century house in a residential neighborhood, I met people from all over the world. Best of all, the locals could not have been nicer.
Moncton is also where I discovered "chiac" which is a mix of French and English spoken in a single sentence. I loved it as I could completely understand what they said! Did you know that New Brunswick is the only official bilingual province in Canada? Me, neither! That said, it appears that the Eastern region is where you'll tend to hear both languages spoken more often.
When I left Moncton, I debated a stop at Hopewell Rocks: 40-70 foot tall formations caused by tidal erosion in the Bay of Fundy. Was I really going to spend $10 to look at rocks? As you'll see from the photos, I had quite a good time! In fact, I spent nearly five hours at Hopewell, touring with a guide, watching a peregrine falcon nest, walking wooded trails, and seeing the changes as the Bay went from low to high tide. This was my first Bay of Fundy experience but trust me, there's more to come!
Along the Cabot Trail
While on Cape Breton, I stayed at a sweet hostel in Pleasant Bay on the western coast of the island, and along the shore of the Gulf of St. Lawrence. About 150 people call Pleasant Bay home, and fishing is the main livelihood.
The hostel is literally on the Cabot Trail, and a blink to the Cape Breton Highlands National Park, one of the largest protected wilderness areas in Nova Scotia. The Cabot Trail is a scenic roadway that's 298 km (185 mi) in length with spectacular views of the coastline. It was known to me as a cyclist's route, and I did meet many Canadians touring the roadway. While I did ride short segments of it, there is little shoulder, winding turns, and hills with up 13% grade in many places to the north. In all honesty, it's NOT on my list, as I would be out of my comfort zone on this Trail.
I did enjoy hiking in the Park a few days, including the popular Skyline Trail, and the surprising view at the base of Fishing Cove Trail. The weather, however, is very much like Scotland, so cool, rainy and damp was on the agenda a few days. I took advantage of this to tour Gampo Abbey one afternoon, a Buddhist monastery where the residents are life monastics. It was interesting to see and hear what the daily life is like for these monks and nuns.
It was a good week of living with people from many parts of the world, testing my cycling stamina, hiking some gorgeous trails, and even relaxing with a book!
My tent was pitched at a comfy campsite in Glen Margaret, Nova Scotia for 5 days in early August. The big draw to this area is Peggys Cove, a small fishing community on the eastern shore of St. Margarets Bay, famous for the Peggys Point Lighthouse (c 1868). The village was formally founded in 1811 by six families of German descent, and while fishing continues, tourism is the dominant economic driver.
While the town is quaint, I was ho-hum on the entire scene. I suppose if you've never seen a lighthouse on rocks, it's intriguing. In fact, my comment in the Visitor's Center guest book was, "Great marketing job!". That said, I was drawn to the 100-foot sculpture there by William E. deGarthe, who emigrated from Finland to Canada in the 1920s. The Fisherman's Monument is carved into a granite outcropping behind what was his Peggys Cove home. It depicts 32 fishermen, their wives, and children enveloped by the wings of St. Elmo, the patron saint of sailors, as well as the legendary Peggy.
With a few days to go, I discovered the St. Margaret's Bay Area Rail to Trail, a multi-use trail that stretches from Halifax to Lunenburg, 119 km. I was excited as the area had little bike/ped infrastructure and riding the curvy, narrow roadways made me nervous. I hopped on to discover that the packed gravel trails were not well kept, and I was shocked to see both an ATV and dirt bike sharing the trail with me. When forest fires nearby closed the Rail to Trail the very next day, I was not that displeased.
Refusing boredom, I drove an hour to visit the town of Lunenburg on the southern coast. A UNESCO World Heritage Site, Lunenburg's architecture and design is "the best example of planned British colonial settlement in Canada," with a very specific rectangular grid form layout. The most noticeable building element is the "Lunenburg Bump," an enlarged dormer that extends out over the eaves, either five-sided or rectangular. An interesting historic town to tour by foot.
Nova Scotia didn't feel like Canada to me. Perhaps it was the unfriendly bike/ped scenario, or the lack of any cultural differentiation. Maybe I'm just annoyed by the history of the Acadian deportation. I'm not sure but my next stop is Cape Breton, so Nova Scotia gets another chance!
Cyclist, writer, teacher, avid reader, bike/ped advocate, nomad, pie lover