So we started our family road trip from Mississauga through the Maritimes and back, by car with two – shall we say – restless/energetic kids. That’s probably as diplomatic as I can be. It’s been a very stressful time with a move to a new home, a longer than expected renovation phase (most of which we spent it with the kids in the same house surrounded by crazy dust, and a more stressful than usual workload due to election times. This is meant to be the much deserved break and to ease ourselves into it we started our trip by doing the 6 hour ride or so to Montreal where we visited the in-laws and had a 3 day recharge vacation. Lots of good food, did some laundry and left behind some extras we didn’t need for the actual road trip. We left late this morning for the 3 hour drive past Quebec City (our first stop) to Ile d’Orleans for a drive around the country side. The three hours for some reason seemed longer than the initial 6 hours from Toronto, and there was a major accident which thanks to Google Maps I as able to avert, but I can see the car bumper to bumper queue, and it looked like a nightmare.
We finally made our way to the bridge and past to the Ile d’Orleans and it was amazing! Quant and rustic – at times a post card picturesque little towns dotting the island. Unfortunately we weren’t lucky to find a good lunch spot for the first 2 thirds of our drive and so we were a little preoccupied, but still managed to appreciate the scenery. We finally ended up at the Bistro du Hangar, had a chicken burger and some of my left over kids pizza – the food was great, but it was no lobster rolls. I had originally planned for a stop at Chez Mag, La Fine Cantine, but the line up was long and there didn’t seem to be a place for us to sit down. After lunch we did have a nice drive, with full stomachs around the rest of the Island, but the proverbial construction close routes to our other planned destination to the Choclaterie de L’ile d’Orleans a Sainte-Petronille. This was another disappointment in a series of disappointments given I didn’t take enough pix on our drive (hungry looking for a lunch spot remember?) and not stopping at the Jam and Goat cheese factories. Till…saw some pretty stunning views and it was well worth the visit and I’ll have to rely on my memory’s strength with a little help from internet images if necessary.
We made a quick drive to the nearby to the Mont Morency Falls, the were pretty substantial, the walk back up the stairs was tiring but it was still a visit worth making, even if it was a quick one, it was also close enough to Quebec City. After driving back to Quebec City to check in, and the usual getting lost and driving around the same circle a few times (looking for parking as well) we finally managed to rest up and head back out to fulfill our promise of ice cream (since we missed the choclaterie at Ile d’Orleans). We went to Cow’s ice cream which is probably the best rated ice cream joint in the old town and grabbed a quick shawarma dinner on the way back. Quebec City is beautiful as always and I can take pictures of every random alley way if I had the time, could spend days here and love the atmosphere. I was surprised that the city outside the old fortified area is a major industrial and office hub – I was able to see that from the Ile d’Orleans and then again after the falls.
Tomorrow will be a bit of a ride to Fredericton about five hours, with a planned lunch stop at Riviere-du-loup which is almost exactly half way. Hopefully the ride is less tedious and the kids will be able to handle the longer drive. Technically they survived a good 5 hours today if we count the island drive and the drive to the falls. So shouldn’t be a huge issue – famous last words.
(Day 1, Aug 15 – Quebec City, Hotel Port Royal at 8:50pm)
Woke up nice and refreshed today, but found out I got a scam where someone charged my credit card through Groupon and ordered a flower delivery service, and redeemed the voucher which was about $200 – not a great thing to wake up to! After collecting my patience and contacting Groupon to look into it, we headed out the Royal Place to try out the Smith Café, but as expected it was full we ended up going to Café Baude (which was exactly what happened the last time we went to Quebec City). The service was a bit slow but the food was delicious and very filling, especially my massive cappuccino that come in a small bowl. Soon after we made our journey passing through beautiful country side and impressive bridges, especially one from Quebec City to the south shore.
The plan was to stop at Riviere-du-loup, but just before reaching we thought we keep going because we filled gas just before (had to readjust the little ones pillow since she fell asleep), and since our little girl was asleep we thought we take advantage and keep going. Plus we were still full from the breakfast. Just before reaching Riviere-du-loup she woke up but we decided to keep going anyway. It was some beautiful scenery despite the long journey.
We made a stop instead at Grand Falls in New Brunswick, we ended up in a diner place but the fish and chips was incredible for me, while the kids got pizza and lasagne which were equally impressive. Had a stop at the actual gorge and fall and although the scale was not huge it was still impressive. After a long trip, where kids somehow stayed on their best behaviour, we check in and quickly made use of the pool which the kids were promised early on in the trip. We got complimentary breakfast because we got a room with luggage and people still in it apparently, so we got another room with the bonus perks – not bad for not doing much really. After we exhausted them we had a quick bite at the 540 Grill where I had a delicious Moroccan Salmon and harissa, and now trying to get the kids to sleep.
Tomorrow we will have a quick swim in the pool, use our complimentary breakfast before we head out to Halifax Nova Scotia for a couple of days.
(Day 2, Aug 16 – Fredericton, Crown Plaza Hotel 10:00pm)
It’s only the third day and it already feels like a long journey! So today we had out complimentary breakfast at the hotel and made our way to Moncton. The weather was not ideal and we didn’t spend much time walking around the City, but it did feel like a great place to hang out. We went to the Tide and Boar Gastropub and I had a good but not amazing Haddock Parm, although the Chowder side was amazing. The kiddos ended up having a light soup and a fish and chips dish respectively. The wifey had a seafood roll which looked delicious. We topped it off with a cinnamon bread ice cream and then made our way back. Would have like to explore the murals around the City but off to Halifax we went.
We didn’t have a very eventful drive although it wasn’t the easiest given the occasional downpour and the rest was a combination of mist, fog, and drizzles. We made our wat to the hotel and soon after walked our way to the Halifax Central library which was impressive both inside and out. The kids enjoyed free playtime around the library and we had a quick look at the building. I, of course take my set of pictures admiring the architecture. We made our way to the nearby Casablanca Moroccan restaurant for an early dinner and had the lamb tagine, bastille and some fired seafood/chicken and cheese rolls. We topped it off with Moroccan mint tea but opted out of what would have been a treat of Moroccan desserts. This was partly due to the slightly slow service but also the place was getting rowdy and loud. The place wasn’t anything fancy but the food was delicious, we haven’t had good Moroccan for a long time – seems to be a gap in the Toronto area for that type of cuisine. We did have some good conversation with out 10 year old about his anxiety starting Middle School, bullying and smoking. Heavy stuffy which ended up I think upsetting his stomach and he more than ran into the restaurant toilet (even before the guy before him was able to walk out!).
We took a slightly longer route walking through the Spring Garden Road and up to the Halifax Citadel before making out way to the hotel room and having a quick swim with the kids to tire them out. The little guy learned to do flips in the water and my 3 year old never had so much one on one learning to “swim” by moving her legs and arms. The City is beautiful despite the weather and although we didn’t much walk around the water front the cluster of student life vibes and modern low rise building gave us similar impressions to Vancouver City. Specialty shops and cafes just reinforced that and it was a pleasant city to walk around.
Tomorrow was supposed to include a trip to the nearby beaches but due to the rain continuing for a second day we will likely head out to Peggy’s Cove and finally treat ourselves to some Nova Scotian famous lobster. We also hope to fit in the harbour front boardwalk in tomorrow’s outings. So far so good Halifax!
(Day 3, Aug 17 – Halifax, Homewood Suites 10:35 pm)
A productive day and one where I thought the weather was not going to cooperate but ended up having some great sun lit photos. After a quick breakfast we made our way to Lunenburg last minute. I read about it but my wife got a last minute message from her friend recommending the place so we went there first. After an hour or so in slightly overcast weather we ended up in sunny Lunenburg, saw the Blue nose II and walked around the town. The buildings were incredible giving us a sense of historic Nova Scotia and the traditional architecture. Although the smell of delicious seafood was all over the place and hard to ignore, we stayed strong for lunch at our next stop – plus the line ups in every eating dive didn’t help either.
After a scenic route drive we ended in Peggy’s cove our next stop. After Lunenburg I was thinking of skipping Peggy’s Cove and heading to Crystal Beach – our original plan. Especially since it was clear the weather was going to be mostly sunny, but thought we can always swim in the pool – for now – so decided to head to the cove see what all the fuss was about. I have to say the fuss is underrated. Although touristy, Peggy’s cove is still stunning and a place that needs to be visited. It’s a relaxing setting that is just light and airy in more ways than one. Proximity to the Ocean also makes it very inspiring. Loved exploring every nook and cranny but I am sure there was more that I didn’t have to see.
After a slightly tedious drive back through the scenic towns around Peggy’s Cove we headed back to the City. A quick stop at the hotel we went out and strolled through the Halifax Harbour Walk. I wasn’t expecting much but was incredible. Casual and full of things to do and see, especially for the kids – including a playground, the food shack in Salt Yard were great (we ended our day there with a Beaver’s Tail). Even going to the boardwalk we passed some historical Halifax buildings which were great to see in and of themselves. Although I was itching for more seafood, I compromised with the family and headed for some Persian at the Shiraz restaurant. It did not disappoint and the walk back was equally great catching the subset around the boardwalk and the constant sound of ferries going to and fro.
Finally made our way back, the wifey started to feel a bit tired given “the time of the month”, and having to go to the bathroom – urgently – did not help our walk back. Plus the steep walk up pushing a stroller and two anxious kids piled on the “fun”. All in all though I have to say the kids have been pretty impressive with all the car travel and I couldn’t ask for better behaved kids…in the car. Outside the car is another story.
One hiccup was the last minute cancellation of the whale watching tomorrow due to weather. Got the message today, o I can’t cancel the cabin near the tour place nor can I book another date with them due to the high season. Managed to find one the next day early in the morning, and probably a shorter time. Although they were rated less and not sure if we will be able to see any humpbacks (we already saw Orcas on the west coast in Victoria BC last year). Although I’ll take what I can get at this point. It just changed our plans slightly and will mean that tomorrow there isn’t much to do, which is probably a good thing. Time to rest up and charge, I think the travel is starting to ctch up with the wife (more so than anyone else). It also means we have to leave pretty early the following day to make it to the other whale watching tour. Beggars can’t be choosers I guess.
(Day 4, Aug 18 – Halifax, Homewood Suites 10:00 pm)
An eventful day in terms of scenery but not much else, especially after the jam packed day we had yesterday. Finally tried out the Asian Taiyaki 52 café across the street from the hotel, known for Taiyakis- fish shaped waffles with fillings. In our case we got sweet ones with vanilla custard, which was hot!, and hazelnut chocolate spread. We also got a delicious kimchi Tuna sandwich also with the waffle based Taiyaki instead of bread.
We headed back to the hotel for a quick swim to tire out the kids for the drive and headed out to the Cabot Trail and the La Digua suites room. We opted not to do a stop at Antigonish since the little one was already asleep and stretched it all the way to our destination – she had a long 2.5 hour sleep at least, thank you swimming pool!
Upon arriving to the room – I was surprised to see that it was a massive compete apartment. Right off the main road the town is tiny but we were right smack next to the fisherman’s wharf, you can really smell the salty sea. We walked to nearby La Gabriel restaurant, and because it was full and we had no reservations we got seated at the Casino/bar. It was a huge place, much bigger than it looked on the outside and between the slot machine casino, the live country signing, the massive moose head overlooking our table and the mosaic of memorabilia hung on the wall it had a unique character. Opted for some Acadian fare with the Fricot soup or meat stew, which was rustic, hearty and so good. Then had some Acadian fish cakes which were also delicious then some lobster club sandwich which was so-so but very filling. The kids had the usual combination of mac and cheese bites and fish and chips while my wife got the seafood linguine.
We had are fill and then walked back, just before calling it a night after watching half of the 1992 kids movie Beethoven on Netflix, I passed by the nearby pharmacy for essentials. Mainly a new toothbrush after realizing I was using my son’s which made me gag for a good 10 minutes. Had a good sleep on the Murphy bed and now ready for some whale watching….hopefully!
(Day 5/6, Aug 20 – Cheticamp, LaDigua Suites – 6:30 am)
We left early to make it to the whale watching tour and glad we did. Leaving early gave us the chance to see the early mist over the Cape Breton Cliffs – it was magical. No matter how many videos and pix we take form the car – nothing compares which is a little frustrating. It was a long scenic ride and the little one got a little antsy despite the fact that is was a relatively short drive compared to some of our other ones in this trip – but I guess it is starting to catch-up with everyone a little.
We made our way to the boat tour and expectations were low, but the weather was great so it was hard not to enjoy ourselves. We managed to see bald eagles on top of trees, curious seals giving us a little bit of a show and a blue tuna fish jumping up in the air and diving for some mackerel feeding. We also come up close to a Sunfish or Mola Mola which was incredible and was worth the trip. No whales unfortunately but that is the risk we take on these things. It was still enjoyable and helped us work up an appetite.
We stopped mid-way at the Main Restaurant and got a combination of shrimp tacos, fish and chips and grilled cheese – the usual for everyone else. I had to do my trip splurge and got me a fresh steamed lobster caught that day, set me back a cool $65 which was crazy for me but well worth it, the veggies and mashed potatoes alone were very delicious but the lobster was an experience, especially with the garlic butter. Ended it with an equally luxurious sticky toffee pudding and London Fog tea latte.
Headed to our Cabin (1 of 3 in a primarily trailer park). It was quiet the experience and seeing travellers from all over that we wouldn’t necessarily see in our hotels. We didn’t do much other than head out to the near by Big Red Barn for a few souvenirs and the Co-op for some basic groceries and snacks for our movie night (we finished the movie Beethoven). All and all we re-energized but woke up to a small hiccup where I found out due to construction there could be some delays for our drive to PEI which will set us back an extra 30min for a total 5 hour drive. We’ll stop mid-way but hopefully we can make it there without too much fatigue accumulating from the rest of the trip. Highlight was the Cabot trial and all it’s scenic glory, it was stunning.
(Day 6/7, Aug 21 – Beddack, Adventures East Campground and Cottages – 8:45 am)
We had a late wake up kind of day and took it easy. For once we lingered with not much waiting for us time wise. So the kids played with the water gun and skipping ball they got from Cheticamp a couple of days ago, got to appreciate the veranda and the “smaller” wildlife (dragonflies, butterflies) and slowly go ourselves ready for the dive to PEI, the last Maritime province to see. We passed by a local Tim’s but my wife got a coffee without her sugar, she let it go but feeling bad for her we went to another Tim Horton’s just to get a pack and a stirrer. Little did we realize it was going to be a 30 min wait – Crazy! It was soooo slow but the kids were troopers and they held their own, they were pretty patient, more than I was anyway. After that longer than expected detour we went on our way to say goodbye to the Cabot Trail, Cape Breton, and Nova Scotia. It was a beautiful setting for a very relaxing part of our vacation with lots of scenery and great seafood.
We had our put stop at Truro and had some fast food Lebanese shawarmas, just to break the seafood overdose we were experiencing. Then off we went again, through to the PEI bridge (Confederation Bridge) and driving through the rolling farms of PEI before we made our way to the B&B. What a nice surprise it was incredibly specious and a literal 5 min walk from the City’s main street. After a quick rest we made our way through the city centre walking through Queen Street (a 5min walk from our B&B). Although many stores were shut down because it was a Sunday evening we still got to see some life in the restaurants and café, took some photos of the old architecture, including Victoria Row and the Basilica, and then to the harbour waterfront before we made our way back with some bubble tea in hand. The bubble tea, another of my wife’s ideas, took a nice 20 minutes when we were already tired and thirsty, but it was actually worth it (unlike the earlier Tim Hortons incident).
Getting ready to explore more of the Island tomorrow with a trip to nature (Greenwich Dune Trail) and back to the past in the village of Avonlea! Can’t wait.
(Day 7, Aug 21 – Charlottetown, Charming Colonial Inn – 8:00 pm)
This second day in PEI was eventful, crossed off a couple of PEI related bucket list items. First thing we did after our breakfast was to go to the Greenwich Dunes Trail Park. I have to say though, the dining area of our B&B breakfast was super charming as was the owner who took the time to greet us and ask us some questions about our trip, so the “charming” part of the B&B name is well earned. The drive felt a little longer than expected but we made it early enough to take advantage of slightly cooler weather and a smaller crowd. Learned a few things on my hike, my son is terrified of any insect (which was not ideal – he was muttering and being extra dramatic the whole way through), my wife has a natural phobia for safety where is too protective to the point of being exhausting to deal with both for my kids and myself. My youngest is apparently not a fan of wet things and water in general, which is weird given that we were heading to a beach and walking through a marsh area. So yes…learned a few things…none of them helpful really.
The beach was stunning, the stereotypical rose coloured sand, soft, clean, clear waters, beautiful fairly untouched beach – I was mesmerised. I could have stayed all day, but then crowds started streaming in and the sun started to get to us about two hours in. So we called it a day, headed back to our inn and took a quick breather.
We made our journey to the second part of the trip, but wanted to get a bite to eat. Headed to the Cavendish beach area which was full of well rated restaurants but all were well full to capacity and no reservations were being taken. The only place that had room was the kitschy, slightly off kilter Fisherman’s wharf. It was a buffet style, all you can eat, maximum quantity and so-so quality. But it was more than filling and did the job after a desperate run through a few restaurants that had no space for us. I got the lobster again but it was much less fresh and at some point seemed a bit off than what I had a few days ago in Cape Breton, but I got a few morsels in there. The breaded shrimp and chicken fingers were ok for the rest of the family. Salad bar was impressive, so was the chowder and buns we got in the beginning as part of the buffet, as were the blue mussels. All in all content with the food and the service was great.
We quick had our coffees and desserts (bread pudding for me, cookies, muffin and cinnamon roll for the wife and kids and headed to the Anne of Green Gables historical site (before it closes, we had about an hour). Some of the information panels were interesting but all-in-all not super impressed. The historical house was also interesting in shedding some light into the furniture and daily lives of yester year but nothing I hadn’t seen closer to home in similar protected heritage homes. Did get a nice magnet from the gift hop though which was relatively reasonably priced. Then off to Avonlea Village which was also another kitschy tourist trap of quant looking homes with some brand and franchise retail eateries and stores – nothing worth buying from my end.
Finished our day at the Cavendish Sandspit Park where the kids rode through some smaller scale rides than what we would find in the Toronto CNE or Canada’s Wonderland. It was perfect scale for our 3 year old though and she had the time of her life I have to say. Today was all about the kids from the beach to the amusement park with some sites for my benefit. But they were so tired out that the little one is in bed already (from the car to the bedroom) and the older one is relaxing on the side sofa – for once not dancing and crazy jumping off our ears and sanity. Off to Hopewell Rocks tomorrow for a final major site to see in the Maritimes before we start to head back home. We’ll be missing PEI, slow paced and quant – a little too slow paced for my linking – but beautiful nonetheless with its rolling farms and beautiful architecture. I was thoroughly impressed with everything I have experienced here.
(Day 8, Aug 22 – Charlottetown, Charming Colonial Inn – 7:07 pm)
After an earlier than usual breakfast we packed our bags and left our charming B&B in PEI on a rainy and cloudy day. The breakfast was more impressive than the day before, and despite my son dropping a glass full of Orange Juice all over the place accidentally, we had come deep conversation about work and future careers with him which is nice and different from the usual silliness. The B&B was so charming and the setting was so quant we sat next to the working gramophone and the owner gave our kids hand made crane origamis as parting gifts. We also got to see her12 year old son helping her out in serving breakfast – which was what started our conversation in the first place.
The rest of the day it was pretty much driving through the rainy highway to Hopewell Rocks in New Brunswick. We got to the centre and walk through the area to see the Diamond and Flower pot rocks from up above. Then my son and I walked down to the famous ocean floor while the tide was relatively low, it was in between because we did see some kayakers nearby. After a shuttle bus back – mainly to impress our 3 year old who wanted to ride a “bus” we had lunch in the restaurant there. I have to say the walk through the park, although wet, was easy and stroller friendly. The lunch was ok and as expected overpriced. Had the lobster poutine and kids had the usual mac and cheese – at this point they have to be nutrient deficient from all the fires and mac and cheese lunches. My son gave me a small scare by leaving the washroom without me noticing and I was waiting for him still thinking he was still in there – but after a telling off we moved on, as usual.
The rocks were magical especially with the fog, would have been nice to have a sunny day for some nice picture lighting but it had its own mysterious quality so no complaints. Got a few Knick knacks at the gift shop then made our way to the hotel near St. John.
After a small rest and unpacking at the hotel we made our way to St. John for a small walk and a coffee at Second Cup. It was the only thing open, would have been nice to go to an independent café instead but apparently they all shut down early. We did pass by a cool candy store and we each got a treat – lots of funky and nostalgic candy and chocolate bars. Had a quick stroll through foggy St. John downtown. I like it more than Moncton, especially with the nearby ocean, which I couldn’t see much because of the fog but heard the constant screeches of seagulls. It also had more topographical variation with steep hills and older buildings which gave a sense of history in one of the older cities of the country.
Finally made our way back to satisfy the kids with a quick swim in what seemed like a pool just for us. After a few rounds of pool tag and Marco Polo we made our way back for a quick rest to get ready for the last leg of our trip. I had some urgent last minute work things to do but other than that all went smoothly. It’s been quiet the trip and although we enjoyed it a lot I think we are all ready to go home and back to the routine (except maybe for our youngest) and ease up on the car rides for a little while.
(Day 9/10, Aug 24 – St. John, Quality Inn & Suites Amsterdam – 6:18 am)
Coming to our last day of the trip, we made our way to our final stop in Edmundston, New Brunswick. Mid-way we stopped along Woodstock and had lunch at an Indian restaurant aptly title Indian Cuisine which is linked to what seems to be a small family run motel. The food was incredible, we had Indian all over the world (including India) and this one was one of the best. Very unassuming setting but the service and y spicy chicken tikka was delicious.
Continued on to Edmundston and reached slightly earlier than expected, was able to check in the Auberge (which was a cross between a hotel and a motel). Very clean and quiet, although we were one of the first guests that day and many more would arrive later in the day – the parking was pretty full by day’s end. Had a chat with the only other guest there when we arrived, a Floridian who used to work in Toronto and now visits his brother around the Edmundston area with his wife. Nice long chat, then found out he was staying in the room next door, so I pretended to keep walking, just in case the kids are so loud he doesn’t know it was me…yes I am embarrassed of my kids every now and then. Speaking of which had a nice fight with my son later in the day, so hoping that straightens hi out for a good day or two until we are back in familiar territory in Montreal.
Walked to the nearby Botanical Gardens which was about to close in just over an hour. It was bigger and better than I thought. In addition to the flowers and plants there were a few quirky displays that made it memorable. IT was a little on the humid and hot side but all in all the weather was great. Got out just before the closed and bough some freshly made lemon iced teas which was excellent, a little like hibiscus tea with its sourness but very refreshing. Made our way to the nearby Republique Provincial Park, and may have trespassed onto their kid’s playground. Had our kids take out some of their energy – just some – before walking back to our room. When I booked the hotel I didn’t realise it was that close to the gardens, the only thing I wanted or had time to see in this stop. Lucky coincidence.
Got a little peckish in the evening and drove to the nearby Jose Pizza and ordered a couple of mediums for our dinner. Nice to see more of the town, seems like it has a big Acadian presence here, definitely more French than other parts of the Province. Given that it’s on the border with Quebec that is not surprising.
Pretty much chilled the rest of the night and got ready for tomorrow with some early packing. Nice little town, might see more of it when we have breakfast (planning to go to Pu and Simple in the town’s centre) and start our way to Montreal, with a small planned lunch pit stop near Quebec City (at Levis, Quebec).
What a memorable road trip, first one really, with all the family. Got to see my kids really bond together, which to me is worth the trip 10 times over. Got to see a part of the country that is underestimated and one I always was curious about. I do have a lot of Wikipedia articles reading after this trip to learn more especially about Acadians, and the individual cities and provinces we saw. I was also grateful everything was smoothly – i.e. no speeding tickets or car issues. The weather was really cooperative, despite some spells of heat and rain here and there. Can’t wait to see Newfoundland one day and round up the exploration of Canada’s east, if anything I want to see more after this, including the New England area of the US which is nearby (especially Boston) as well as the Yukon and Northwest Territories of Canada to see the aurora borealis…..it just doesn’t end, but what a privilege it is to be able to not only plan to visit but make it happen eventually.
(Day 10/11, Aug 25 – Edmundston, Auberge Micky – 6:28 am)