09 July 2007

On the Road Again...

(actual moose tracks - not ice cream)

Now that our Canadian roadtrip has officially come to an end-- a few words to finish off our time in New Brunswick. We spent the morning and early afternoon in Fundy National Park. We hiked a shortish loop called "Matthews Head". Despite the park's claim of having the most concentrated wildlife population in Canada- we still didn't see any moose--- darn. Regardless- it was a nice hike and we followed it up by trekking out to Herring Cove. As you may or may not know, the Bay of Fundy has the world's biggest tide-- there's a difference of 40 feet between the highs and lows. This means that huge stretches of the ocean floor are revealed around every low tide. Sure enough-- we checked this out on an immense rock covered beach that will only be covered again with water this evening. After checking out the barnacle and snail covered stones and seaweed covered rocks- we ventured to a sea cave. I fear that on the way-- many a snail was sacrificed. Our shoes indiscriminately crushed the poor little guys-- they were impossible to avoid!

On our way out of the park-- we narrowly escaped being tagged by the park police-- you see we arrived after the permit booth was closed the night before, so we were permitless and living on the edge. After flying in the face of such danger-- we stopped in a wee town called Alma for some tasty lunch and to check out the boats that had inadvertently been dry-docked by the tide. With full bellies- we set our sights for Bar Harbor.

We made it across the border without difficulty-- it seems like Tom threw out that sweet potato we had just in time. Incredibly enough-- our "Just Married" masking tape sign, seems to only have come more permanent. We hope Avis sees it as humorous as we do. Our adventure certainly doesn't end here... but it seems that our honeymoon does (well- the first one anyway). Here I'll sign off as Cara Jane Costello.

Nova Scotia with a side of catchup...

Catch up time. So time really does fly... who knew? Last we reported we were in PEI with sore legs and bums-- and now we're back in New Brunswick nearing the end of our voyage. So... what we neglected to report on was our Nova Scotia adventure.. I guess our lack of journal entries show that we had a great time! In the sake of brevity and getting to sleep tonight-- I'll make a brief rundown of the highlights of our Nova Scotian journey:

We arrived to Nova Scotia via ferry- a much cooler way to travel than the bridge

-Once on the island-- we made a beeline for the island off of the island-- Cape Breton Island...  As there were blue skies-- we decided to try our luck at camping again:

-- spent the night at MacLeod's campsite--

we watched the sunset on the beach

Tom even got a fire going where we were able to toast some marshmallows, and he impressed me with his jiffy-popping skills over an open flame. Even though the night was frigid and we came away with a few battle wounds (ok... so they were just bug bites)-- the night was a success-- A fun time had by all. I even got to sunbathe the next morning while Tom (the good hubby he is) did the laundry and packed up.

- After MacLeods,we aimed our sights on the Cabot Trail-- it was a beautifully clear day to boot. We received many honks and hoots from fellow travelers (especially the motorcycle type). While we had never regretted having the convertible-- this day was meant for it. We stopped for some photos-- had a brief jaunt to Benjies Lake searching for Moose (alas- while we found much evidence of Moose-- they were in hiding that day...) We then decided to try our luck at a lodge in Meats Cove- the northernmost point of Nova Scotia.

-The drive to Meats Cove alone was worth it... tons of twists leading to vistas overlooking the ocean which happens to be pilot whales' playground. The drive turned from incredibly beautiful to incredibly rural as the pavement ceased to be and the drive only got more intense. We made it to our destination-- a lodge that surpassed our expectations. It was shabby chic before shabby was chic.

-We then searched out the only ice cream in "town" and hiked up (or rather climbed straight up) to a grassy cliff with the most amazing view of our journey so far. It was fully panoramic from the top of a point on the top of a peninsula. It was also completely impossible to photograph.

-The next day-- still incredibly beautiful-- we completed the Cabot trail. The scenery was great-- it's amazing how easily you get used to breathtaking vistas. We stopped at a beach, climbed to a small waterfall, drove on, then stopped at the Keltic Lodge to take another hike to a very very windy and scenic point. Afterward, we rewarded ourselves with some greasy beach food at Ingonish Beach.

-We spent our next night at J Kerr's B&B... a remarkable place all in all. Joan herself was full of life and stories even after 27 years of running a B&B that had "uniquely no rates". A hand-built spiral staircase graced the center of the house-- obviously a lot of thought and care had gone into the aesthetic of the old farmhouse. The experience was completed by Rocky-- a good sized terrier with a serious ball fixation... literally. He loved his ball. We had a great breakfast and chat with Joan the next morning and left feeling inspired.

-After Joan's, the weather turned cloudy- so we headed for Halifax. The first night we searched out some beer and food-- and tried "The best nachos in Halifax"--voted 10 year in a row.  As Tom says- "Bullocks!" We may be nacho snobs--- and to be fair the nachos were big-- but bigger isn't always better. Well... I guess Halifax is a long way away from Mexico. We'll leave it at that.

-The next day we prepared for the live earth celebrations--- which turned out to be a disappointment. The events in the major cities (NY... London...) seemed to be great-- but Halifax seemed confused about the day. If was just another Saturday night-- lots of drunken teenie boppers-- some of them were wearing green.

-We blasted out of Halifax this morning and headed back to New Brunswick to witness the wonder that is the Bay of Fundy. We stopped at Hopewell rocks-- there was a medium tide---but it was pretty nonetheless. Here we sit in our room at an inn in Fundy National Park. We cooked a dinner-- the first time in weeks- so what if it was hamburger helper... it was yummy. Tomorrow we'll check out the ocean floor at low tide and maybe get a short hike in before we had back to the US of A... That's all for now!

05 July 2007

A day of healthy clean fun

So... we left off with Tommy's sore bum-- and oh my goodness- we just realized it's July 4th! Yay! Obviously the fourth of July is less of a big deal in Nova Scotia than back in the US of A... but regardless, it's amazing we remembered cause we never know what day it is. A good sign of a honeymoon if I do say so myself. Anyway-- back to our tandem adventure. I had a blast-- and I think that if I could convince Tommy that I was peddling as hard as he was- he would agree. We started off in the rain-- I was exclaiming--"Wow this is great!" and Tommy was declaring "Wow- this is terrifying!" Of course, this was mostly due to the fact that I was the "stoker" while Tommy was the "captain". This meant that I simply peddled and enjoyed the ride while Tommy had the task of steering a hugely cumbersome bike with a turning circle bigger than our Eclipse-- who knew? Seriously-- at times I was wishing that I had a book to read while I was peddling. All that aside-- while we were both excited about exploring the hyped up "confederation trail" of PEI, we soon came to realize that it was not all that exciting. Even after the clouds cleared and we had scraped some of the iron colored mud off of our legs, the gravel and extreme flatness of the trail started to wear on us. Finally-- after about 3 hours- we made it to our destination and turning point-- Mt. Stewart or Stanley or some other masculine "S"  name...

Once in Mt "S", we searched out a place to replenish our blood sugar. After a week of enjoying the high life of convertible transportation-- our hair was very windswept but our thighs hadn't seen much exercise... So- with the sobering knowledge that we had to ride the 16 miles back-- we ate our fair share of "protein a la grease" at the local family restaurant. We then made the wise decision of traveling back to Charlettetown via the roads. As expected, the tarmac and hills made the ride back much more exciting-- if not terrifying at times. The first downhill was much steeper than I had anticipated-- and just as Tommy was shouting for me to keep my feet on the peddles no matter what... my poor little legs couldn't keep up and I found myself with both feet in the air and fingers crossed. Luckily-- we made it to the bottom of the next climb without incident... Other highlights of our trip back include encounters with very very large farm machinery and traversing the four lane bridge back to Charlettetown. Something that is probably not recommended to do in a tandem recumbent bicycle. Amazingly-- we made it back to the bike shop with time to spare-- although our legs were a wee bit wobbly.

Having done the bicycle thing in PEI, we decided to head to Nova Scotia. Before heading to the ferry terminal the next day-- we stopped at the island's winery and tasted a few wines-- including a maple wine that tastes eerily of the maple candy we often get that the duty free... A few bottles of wine richer-- we skirted our way onto the next ferry to Nova Scotia-- where we now sit. Before we make it up to present-- we had another camping adventure (this time was slightly dryer), and we've now landed at a great B&B in Meat Cove-- the northernmost point of Nova Scotia. More details to come-- but first... sleep.

03 July 2007

a bicycle built for two

Okay okay. Well, after touring for over a week in the convertible, and nearing 2000 miles logged, we decided that we weren't nearly exposed enough. So yesterday, amidst rain showers we headed towards the bike shop intent on renting something a little more open to explore Prince Edward Island on. You see there's a very famous rails-to-trails network of trails here, and we'd be bad little bicyclists if we didn't ride it. So while everyone else in canada was shaking off the previous night's festivities, we decided to sweat it out on a bike or two. Our plan was to get a tandem, because after all, what are newlywed cyclists supposed to ride? And we did. With only 6 hours until the shop closed we set off on what looked like on the map to be an easy journey. A nice short 50+km loop to a little town called Mt. Stewart (or was it Stanley?) and back. Now that's not a lot to real cyclists, but bear in mind that after living in Dublin and Pittsburgh, and planning a wedding, in the past years the most riding that we've done is the 12 mile out and back down Wellesley Island. Always ambitious, we climbed aboard a tandem recumbent and hit the trail.

In short, we made it, but we're sore and not motivated to write about it at great length yet. Recumbents are fun, but we're new to them and my ass hurts, despite a VERY cushy jelly seat. Much more later, we've big plans today too.

02 July 2007

Oh, Canada, da da da da da...

Well, yesterday was Canada Day, the 1st of July and these PEIers do like a good night out. We are spending a couple days in Charlottetown, the capitol of PEI, so needless to say we dug right into the celebrations. The harborfront was full of carnival and state-fair like spectacle, but the big build up was for the fireworks display. It is billed as the biggest fireworks display in Canada, so we couldn't miss it.

Mid-day we explored the happenings on a very hungry stomach, and made the dreadfully unforgivable mistake of trying to grab a slice of Pizza from a stand called Pizza Delight. Now everyone knows that both Cara and I are indiscriminate lovers of pizza, but without a solid baseline in Canadian pizza joints, I can soundly say that Pizza Delight is not the answer for a food craving, much less a pizza craving. We could fill a page with just why it was so bad, but it's not even worth the effort spending any more words on it. At least it didn't make us violently ill.

After that culinary disaster, we righted our honeymoon ship at a nice little greasy spoon diner called Linda's. Then we got our plans together for the grand Canada Day evening. We started off at the brewpub, "Gahan Brewery" which brews up PEI's best beer. It is also PEI's only brewery, so that title doesn't take much to earn. Unlike our earlier brewpub experience in NB, Gahan's was just about average - maybe even a bit sub-par. They seemed to be trying too hard to make their restaurant classy and fancy, and their beers were on the weak side. Their stout was reasonably tasty as was their cream ale, but that's about it. Their other beers were really lacking and their red tasted like the first beer to emerge from my beer machine toy brew kit in high school. No surprise when you look at the website (www.gahan.ca) it's flashy but lacking character; just like their beer labels, and just like their beer. They charge $8 for tours of the brewery (which are generally free on demand at most brewpubs) and they do it in period costume. Strange. (Need we say more?) They're definitely putting lots of effort into the place, but it doesn't taste like much of it makes it into the beer. Then again, maybe our taste buds are tainted by big beer expectations...

On to the firework display - did I mention that it is the biggest in all of Canada? We earned ourselves a coveted spot in Peake's Quay, a big party pub/bar with a massive deck overlooking the water where the fireworks were to take place. It was jammed, not unlike the IB on a saturday evening, but we managed to grab a couple Canadians (beers that is) and secure a spot on the deck to take in the fireworks. A girl behind us grew very keen on singing the national anthem as soon as the fireworks started, and despite the fact that none of her friends were into it, they went along with it to pacify her. She asked us if we'd join in getting it started, so I told her that we'd be glad to help... with the first line or so... Needless to say the whole endeavor amounted to about 8 people singing "O, Canada..." and then mumering the next few lines before it petered out. The song-starter was unimpressed, but the fireworks went on. That is, the BIGGEST FIREWORK DISPLAY IN CANADA continued. It was about on par with what Alex Bay or Clayton put up any given 4th of July.

Back inside the bar, Cara and I became engulfed in teenagers partying their heads off. Never before had I admired the drinking age of 21... Lowering the bar to 19 sure means you've gotta choose the right place to drink. All in all, it was a good evening, despite the teeny-boppers and their gallons of alco-pop.

We decided to stay another night in Ch'Town, and we're currently investigating opportunities to rent a bike or two and hit these famous bike trails.


01 July 2007

Anne, Oh Anne!

So... Tommy did a fairly thorough job of recounting the excitement of Moncton... We had thought that we might spend 2 nights there- but when we realized that we had already hit the towns main attractions, it was back on the road for us. After a hearty, yet early, breakfast at our B&B we set our sights for Prince Edward Island (affectionately known as the home of Anne of Green Gables...) We stopped at both tourist info stations (before and after the bridge)- and the difference between the 2 tells the story quite well. On the New Brunswick side- there was a bird/nature walk and viewing areas of the Confederation Bridge. Once into PEI, the information center was adorned with "Anne" shops galore- accompanied by Irish dancers and tourist girls of all ages in 1900's garb and braids. Welcome to Prince Edward Island! After scanning a book of a billion or so B&B options-- and being shot down by a few cheaper options in Charlottetown- we found a B&B in a nothing town on the southwest coast. Upon arrival to a rather normal looking home close-ish to the sea, we were greeted by the owner-- a Grandmotherly type who finished her basement with a few rooms and added a toilet and shower to her laundry room. Definitely not the most scenic or sought-after B&B on the island- but comfy and clean does the job. After checking out our new temporary abode- we hopped in the car towards Cavendish. Tommy agreed to battle the Japanese tourists at the Green Gables house and I agreed to test my seafood palate at a lobster supper. An exciting day for all!

On our way to Green Gables- we were nearly distracted by all of the other "Anne Museums" and "Avonlea Parks"... but we eventually found the real thing (or fictitiously real as you would have it...). As an avid Anne of Green Gables reader back in the day, and star of my very own high school production back at Tri-Valley- I was excited to see the house that inspired the tale. An added bonus-- we even got to wander the trail through the "Haunted Woods" and stroll down "Lovers Lane". It was all very exciting (at least for me)-- but some of the thrill of the Haunted Woods was constrained by the construction project (or landfill... we're not quite sure) that seemed to be infiltrating the wooded area near Green Gables. After we strolled the grounds- we even browsed the gift shop. To Tommy's disappointment, they didn't sell the "Anne Hats" complete with red braids that he so wanted. Alas-- we're still on the search for a convertible hat or two...

So... after our Anne adventure, we headed to St. Anne's for one of PEI's famous lobster dinners. This one was in the basement of a church. The story goes that their dinners started as a fundraiser for the church's mortgage-- and now they rake in millions of dollars of profit. In the name of charity- we stuffed ourselves full of seafood for the bargain price of 70 bucks. While Tommy got the fanfare of wearing the bib-- I wimped out and opted for the scallops. The mussel appetizer was adventuresome enough for my taste... in fact- I could only stomach a few (even with all the butter and salt). After our stomachs were stuffed-- we headed back to the B&B and even managed to chase down a sunset on the way. After braving the ravaging mosquitos yet again, here we rest in our cozy basement. Tomorrow, we're off to Charlettown where we'll help celebrate the one and only Canada Day. Oh Canada!!

St. Anne of Green Gables

Alas, we're on PEI. My how time flies. So our first camping adventure (remember that last entry, in Gaspé Nat'l Park) was very rudely interrupted by rain. Yes, our first evening in the tent we got rain. I, of course, was sleeping soundly when the liquid weather moved in. Cara kindly woke me asking "is that rain" to which I soundly replied "no" - moments later it was clearly raining. Ah well, I was tired. Cara went on to warn me of the perilous animals waiting to devour me outside the tent, and luckily they never appeared while I fastened the rain fly and made a little rain of my own.

So yes, our first camping experience was a bit of a downer. It was quite fun drinking some wine and beer in the tent while hiding from the mosquitos, but rain (nearly) always steals some of the joy of camping, especially when it comes to packing up wet stuff. We did get out of it pretty easy - it wasn't really raining when we packed up, and our tent is quite waterproof, so it was far from a dashing-into-the-car-in-the-middle-of-the-night manouver.

After the camping fiasco, we were pretty done with frenchy canada, so we pointed it towards new brunswick with a vengence. The Eclipse had been treating us pretty well, although the major inconvience turned out not to be it's lack of room, but rather it's lack of bargaining power. Although I am an ardent bargainer, those skills are really put to the test when we roll up to a motel in a brand new convertible that can only truely be described as bling. We've gotten to know the vehicle well by now, and one thing is for sure, every time we walk by it it makes us giggle a bit. Not that we like it, but just that its design is just so damn sexy. It's hard to explain - we don't like the looks, in fact, although we love convertibles this Mitsubishi Eclipse is the opposite of our style. It's viciously designed - designed well in fact - but so bling. Slung forward and curvey - it has no roadster appeal, it just screams pimping with a low punchy growl at idle. All fun and games, until you try to pitch the poor student line to a motel owner. Conversation quickly turns to the car and even the most savvy lines about it being a rental don't help. Damn you Avis! We get a cool car on the cheap and wind up paying for it a few bucks at a time at bo-hunk motels across Canada. Go figure.

Back to the story at hand, we blast out of the national park and continue on 134 (now westbound as it wraps around the bottom of the peninsula). The towns click by rapidly and soon we can smell Anglophone Canada just around the corner. We set our sights on a place called "Chandler" as a lunch stop. Yes, we should have known it would suck. I mean it's called Chandler! Well, it was a rough-and-tumble sort of town, and way further from new Brunswick then we had thought. In fact, even when we did make it to NB we realised that we'd been fooled and that it was still frenchy land for another hundred miles, but that's a whole nother story. So yes, pulling into Chandler I first worried because all the vehicles on the road seemed to be muddy, as did the residents in a sort of way. But after a few miles it became clear, Chandler had decided to tear up all its few miles of route 134 at once, so it was a bumpy, muddy trek through town. Our lunch turned into a mini meal, which was fine, and after finding out that the ferry to NB runs once a week, we decided to keep on driving until we hit NB. Cara took over the wheel and did a fantastic job not only getting us to the new brunswick, but like an energizer bunny she kept on all the way to Shippegan. True to its name, we found a it to be a great town, home to the biggest fishing fleet of the province. Although our accomodation was on the pricey side, we had a great dinner, the first real nice proper sit down dinner of our honeymoon at a little bistro a short walk over a bridge from our B&B, and literally in the shadows of the dry-docked fishing fleet. Very nice. Apparently the main catch of the town is crab, so that's what I had, and it was fresh and great.

The next day (now, yesterday) we travesed the coast down the side of NB, which was, as the map indicated, not all that scenic. The drive was nice, but offered only fleeting views of the sea. We decided to make our next stop Moncton, a bigger city and one that sounded fun enough. By this time we were well aware that it was Canada Day weekend, so accomodation pickings might get slim. Somehow the honeymoon-fairy was shining on us and we landed a coveted spot in the Bonaccord B&B. A dear little place with 4 rooms, and legendary in both our travel guides. Alas, upon arrival we were back in native-english land, replete with an owner apparently very keen on England himself. Which worked out nicely - he was very hospitable and cooked up a mean english breakfast for us. Now, for those of you new to Moncton, it as two sights for which it is known. "Magnetic Hill" is an ultra kitschy tourist trap a la Route 66 where gravity has gone wrong and you can park you car at the bottom of a hill, shift into neutral, and then watch it roll backwards up the hill. Strange and mildly amusing, but not worth the $5 entry fee (not that we paid it.)

The other big feature of Moncton is the Tidal Bore. Check it out - Moncton has a river, right, and it flows into the sea. Now, when the tide switches from low tide to an incoming tide, a tidal wave builds in the river as the tide fights the rivers flow. As the tide wins the battle, the wave builds and flows up the river. Just one single wave, rolling right up the river, followed by the tidal currents. So if you do the math, this wave comes through town twice a day. So after we were settled in to the B&B, we walked down to Tidal Bore Park to see what the story was. They built this big amphitheatre and boardwalk on the river so people can watch this wave roll by. Fancy. Now obviously there's only one bit of info that tourists to this attraction need: the time the next wave will come. There's a big sign for this purpose, but the sign was broken. And the tourist office was closed because of the holiday weekend. So we had a look at the river, noted that it was strangely far away from the seating but gave up and went about our business. We stopped into a gift shop where I asked half-jokingly if they knew when the next big wave was coming. After a moment's pause the very helpful staff gave a chuckle said "oh, the tidal bore - well it's not what it used to be, you know, since the sludge." "Ah yeah" said another, and we all had a good laugh. They said that we might want to run over to city hall and ask, since they might know.

So we left the shop, and decided to do one better. Right next to city hall was a brewpub, called the Pump House, where we decided to just sample a few local waves of our own. After some great food and 9 different kinds of beer we began wonder wether we could do a future road trip around north america only eating at brew pubs. They're just so good and the food is great and the beer is generally tasty and it's supporting a good thing from top to bottom. Case in point, when we first walked by this brewpub, it was jammed with people, around the corner on the same block was another bar without a soul in it. Voila. After beers and a vegie platter and a tasty little wood-fired pizza, we decided to stumble back down to the tidal bore park, which the locals call the Total Bore park... While there we begin to see the larger picture. The river is really silty, in fact, it looks exactly like chocolate milk. All sand and clay and silt. And when the city built the boardwalk and viewing area for the wave, they changed the hydrodynamics a bit. They built it right on the river, in fact it used to overhang the river, and then the river just moved away. You know how rivers deposit stuff on the short side of a bend and cut into the far side and then make oxbow lakes, etc. Yep, well this river is running away from the viewing platform like there's no tomorrow. In fact there's probably now about 100 yards of grass between the platform and the river. Funny the way things work out. Anyway, wouldn't you know it, but after those beers we walk down to the river and talk ourselves into a hoopla declaring that the wave must be coming, because the river is so low that there is barely any water in it. And wouldn't you know it but the wave comes. Right then. Out of nowhere a single little whitecap rolls right up the river bringing strange rapids of tidal water. And we were the only ones to see it. True this wouldn've been even more special if it was a once in a decade thing and not a twice a day thing, but still, what are the odds?