Accidental Adventures in Baie Sainte-Marie, Nova Scotia

No cars.  Not a one.  Despite having a copy of my reservation, there were zero cars to rent on Nova Scotia’s South Shore in June. 

Dear car rental companies,

Could you kindly fix your glitchy system that allows customers to go online and reserve vehicles, despite there not truly being any vehicles available?

Sincerely,

Stranded on the South Shore

The kiddos and I flew into Halifax in June.  My family loves to pick up/drop off at the airport, even though it’s 2.5 hours away.  We’re sappy like that.  There’s nothing like seeing your very own people coming down those stairs.  I had planned on picking up a car in Bridgewater for the week as I had a super fun event to attend aboard the ferry in Digby.  Despite the reservation, Yarmouth, it turns out didn’t actually have any. I thought that surely Bridgewater would come through.  Nope! 

My mother offered to drive us all the way to Digby, watch the kids for the day and we could plan to stay for the night somewhere along the French Shore.  These lemons were turning into lemonade right before my eyes.  She booked the Baie-Ste. Marie Cottages. They were stunning.  Cliffside and all windows with a breathtaking view to watch the Bay of Fundy tides flow in and out.  A staircase led down the cliff which allowed us to explore what the tides brought in.  We walked out a long way until – squelch – my oldest sunk into the sinking sand up to his knees.  Little sister thought it was so funny that she jumped in herself.  They were laughing so hard that they fell backwards accidentally on purpose.  After pulling them and their boots out we squelched and squrched our way back to the cottage and straight to the tub.  There were two twin beds in the downstairs bedroom and a Queen size bed in the loft.  The kids had already claimed their beds and after 73 emergency drinks of water they finally fell asleep.

The next morning, we hit up the local farmers market and picked up some hand painted decorations, a snack and walked out to a replica lighthouse on the wharf.  I had left a message that morning for Hinterland Adventures to see if we could get out kayaking.  As we were leaving the market he called back and said we could come out in a couple hours.  We quickly jumped into the car, grabbed a bite to eat and struck out along the long, windy road.  Just when we were positive that we’d taken a wrong turn we found it.  The owner, Hanford, has been a wilderness guide for 50 years and still guides 21-day kayak tours through the Tobeatic Wilderness Area.  He filled us in lots of local information and lore before we dipped our paddles into the Sissiboo River. This was my mother’s first time in a kayak and with his kind instruction she was an old pro in no time.  We weaved our way up the river.  I was in absolute awe of the peacefulness.  So was Maddie apparently, as she fell sound asleep for more than an hour.  That kind of peaceful feeling that you wish you could bottle and hang on to forever.  While paddling back we came across a nest housing a family of Bald Eagles. Mom, Dad and at least one baby.  They were keeping a close eye on us as baby’s head poked in and out before Dad spread his wings and soared away.  I stayed behind for a bit to quietly watch.  We made it back to shore and checked out the kayaks that he had for sale.  If you’re in the market for a sea kayak, he had the best price I’ve come across and with his 5 decades of experience, I’d trust his advice.

After the peace and tranquility of the afternoon we were down for some comfort food and found it at the Roadside Grill in Belliveau Cove.  The clams.  THE CLAMS!  Order the clams. They were super kid friendly with grilled cheese and chicken fingers, too. 

Back at the cabins we explored the ocean floor at low tide.  The kids found all kinds of shells and colourful stones and bet each other whether certain spots were sinking sand or not.  There was a long, loose stone breakwater that we climbed from one end to the other and back.

On our way out the next morning we stopped at Meteghan Family Park.  This is an ideal stop for young families.  I can’t list everything they’ve managed to include but our favourites were the small climbing wall, the climbers, a long slide, a fishing net to climb across and the perennial favourite, a zip line made from a fishing boat bladder.  Such a great idea!!  A skate park was found at the back of the park as well, but we aren’t at that stage just yet.

Next stop along the journey back was the Église Catholique Sainte-Marie in the aptly named, Church Point.  It’s the tallest wooden church in North America!  This was a surprise favourite.  Our guide knew just the things to point out to keep the kids interested. All of the intricately created stained glass windows were shipped from France. In Molasses! I swear, there’s nothing molasses can’t do. It’s the real super food.  The pillars are in fact tree trunks.  The most fascinating story involves the altar.  It came from Saint Pierre and Miquelon during Canada’s prohibition. The island is off the coast of Newfoundland but is actually part of France so wasn’t subject to prohibition. They brought the altar over with a bevy of bottles stashed away which weren’t even detected.  This is worth a stop if you are traveling in the area.

Our final stop was Mavillette Beach.  What a gem!  1.5 km of sandy beach.  The water was even warm (for June, anyway).  The kids ran, explored and jumped the waves until it was time to begin the drive back to Lockeport. 

Our car rental debacle had turned into one of the best getaways in a long time, made even better by getting in some real quality time with my mom because as Donovan Woods wrote “You can’t beg, steal, borrow or make time”. Living 2000 km apart makes these visits that much sweeter.  We can’t wait to explore more of the Acadian Shore this summer!

Living History on Nova Scotia’s Acadian Shore

While driving in Nova Scotia last summer we heard about an Acadian Festival happening in Pubnico.  It was a CBC radio show and the minute they mentioned it I saw a road sign for Pubnico.  “Clearly a sign” I say to myself.  We hadn’t learned about the Acadians in our high school history classes so this could be an education for all of us.

Quick History:  French colonists settled in the area, then known as Acadia, in the 1600’s.  They created a thriving community that worked closely the Mi’kmaq population.  The Acadians had modern irrigation systems for farming and were very conscientious of the land they were inhabiting.  The British eventually landed as well and unfortunately, in keeping with the spirit of the 1700’s, war broke out.  Beginning in 1755, the Acadians were forced out.  This event is known as the Acadian Expulsion. 

Come the day of the festival, we piled in the car and headed to Pubnico.  Don’t be fooled by the Manhattan Suburb-sounding West Pubnico, East Pubnico, Middle West Pubnico and Lower East Pubnico.  They are all teeny communities close to one another.  If you accidentally find yourself in the wrong Pubnico it’s only a hop, skip and a jump to the next.

The Acadian Museum played host to a BBQ, local vendors, great music and exhibits.  Unfortunately, the south shore had been on the receiving end of another rainless summer.  Great for beach days and exploring, but not if your thirsty or are partial to indoor plumbing.  The well had apparently gone dry that day, leaving the washroom out of order.  Best laid plans and all that.

When a 3 year old has to go, time is of the essence.  After looking around I decided to jump in the car and search one out.  This is where the Universe came into play.  We pulled into a large parking lot at the Historic Acadian Village in West Pubnico.  We ran in and begged for the bathroom.  Success! 

The woman at the counter asked if we were coming to explore the Village.  We were already there so why not?  Plus, it seemed like a way to learn about the Acadians that I knew embarrassingly little about.  Then she said that the admission was free today.  Free, you say?  That’s my very favourite price! SOLD! 

We found a little café in the welcome building which was great because we were all getting a wee bit hangry.  Best.  Grilled Cheese. Ever.  According to the kids anyway.  You can even get them to pack up a picnic basket and take it with you to the village for an al fresco lunch.

The Village was a similar to the pioneer villages we’ve been to but with a French twist.  Everyone we came across was bilingual and French swirled around us like a melody. 

The blacksmith was hard at work forging nails.  The amount of work that went into creating a single nail would have people nowadays running for the hills.  He made a nail for each person there with their first initial and age imprinted on the nail head.  Such a great keepsake!  He taught us quite a bit about Acadian history and culture.  I’d wondered in the past why there were so many Oxen, as opposed to work horses in Nova Scotian history.  He taught us that the poor quality of the grasses available were suitable for the strong and hardy Oxen because of their 4 stomachs. The saying does go “strong as an ox”, after all.

While on the subject of sayings, we learned the origin of “goodnight, sleep tight, don’t let the bedbugs bite” and “pull out all the stops”. 

Before the advent of box springs, a bed’s foundation was made of rope.  The rope would stretch and the knots loosen.  “Sleep tight” was a reference to tightening up the knots.  The mattresses were filled with hay – complete with tiny critters, which leads to the “bed bugs” portion of the phrase.  We were all immediately grateful for the critter-free beds waiting for us that night.

To “pull out all the stops” on an organ would make the sound loud, free and unencumbered, just like the saying means today.

One house had freshly made Rappie Pie.  Rappie Pie is an Acadian dish created by shredding potatoes, squeezing all of the liquid out of it and replacing that liquid with double the amount of broth.  Whatever meat the Acadians would have had on hand was then layered with the potato mixture and baked in the wood stove.  Luckily, it was made with chicken that day and it was delicious!

After having a Dory Day on the South Shore a couple of years prior, we’d been very interested in the history of the humble dory.  The Dory shop at the village did not disappoint.  The person on-site builds them bottom to top with hand tools.  It takes two summers to complete one dory.  He patiently answered all of our questions.  Sadly, this is a trade that is going to fade away if some younger people don’t take it up.  The dory builder that day said that they are continually looking for someone to take on the trade and learn, but so far, have come up short.

The fish shed was home to salt fish.  Isaac had agreed to try new foods everywhere we explored this past summer.  He tried dulse in Grand Manan, NB and Oysters in PEI.  Now, salt fish was on the menu.  He gathered his nerve and with some encouragement from the fella working there, went in for a big bite.  I don’t think he’ll be requesting salt cod anytime soon, but I was pretty impressed that my picky eater tried it.

There is a little lighthouse to explore and a trail to take around the village which would be a great spot for that grilled cheese picnic.

We were grateful to have stumbled across this little, very interactive and hands on museum.  We’ve been inspired to check out more of the Acadian Shore next summer and will be sure to head back during the next Acadian Festival.

A Grand Ole Time in Grand Manan, NB

I’ve been curious about the Island of Grand Manan since a Mars bar commercial years ago about renovating their local arena. Seriously. So, I guess advertising works, even if it takes 10 years.

The chance finally arrived and we jumped! There are two different ships ferrying people to and from the Island. We were aboard the ‘Grand Manan V’ traveling to Grand Manan. There was plenty of seating with a lunch counter with real, home cooked meals. While exploring the outside decks a crew member noticed the kiddos and asked

Continue reading “A Grand Ole Time in Grand Manan, NB”

Cape D’Or: Rugged and Unplugged

We were able to sneak away for a last minute escape to Lockeport, Nova Scotia this Spring. On our way back home to Ontario, we had the chance to make a couple of stops.

Like every 5 year old I’ve ever known, my little guy loves all things dinosaur, so we headed to the Fundy Geological Museum and Joggins Cliffs Fossil Centre. While looking for a place to stay in between the two, a few spots popped up including the Cape D’Or Lighthouse in Advocate Harbour. I’m a certified lighthouse junkie and staying at a lighthouse has long been on my bucket list.

Continue reading “Cape D’Or: Rugged and Unplugged”

The Beauty and the Brrrr: 5 Niagara Falls Attractions for Your Family This Winter

My name is Allison and I unintentionally lie to my husband and children every November, without fail.

Allow me to set the scene.  It’s mid-November, the leaves have all fallen off of the trees, the days are shorter and getting greyer by the second.  I grab my giant cup of coffee and proudly announce that this-this is the year I am going to enjoy winter!  We’re going to learn to snowshoe and cross-country ski and enjoy all of the parks that are open around us.  Then, before I know it it’s mid-January and I’m spending my spare moments wrapped in my Snuggie, Continue reading “The Beauty and the Brrrr: 5 Niagara Falls Attractions for Your Family This Winter”

Kids CanLit for Christmas! Explore Canada With Your Little Readers Through These Sweet Books

In the words of everybody’s favourite medical professional, Dr. Seuss

“You’re never too old, too wacky, too wild, to pick up a book and read to a child.”

My mother was an elementary school teacher with a great love for children’s books.  I so fondly recall crawling up on to her lap in the giant, wooden rocking chair while we uncovered the latest adventures of Curious George and Amelia Bedelia.

Lucky for us Canada also has a long list of entertaining and engaging children’s literature to broaden the imagination of our nation’s youngest readers. There is no feeling quite like Continue reading “Kids CanLit for Christmas! Explore Canada With Your Little Readers Through These Sweet Books”