FIVE DAYS in the HIGHLANDS

FIVE DAYS in the HIGHLANDS

You know you are living in paradise when you struggle with the idea of going away on vacation….but we did….for five days!  

In our past life we would have thought five days was not nearly enough….one week either….two weeks minimum would have been needed to re-balance and re-set our stress levels.  Now five days seemed like too much…but we did it.

Fall in Nova Scotia is really the best season. The air is fresher with a slight chill and the changing colours bring ‘leaf peepers’ by the bus load.  

We had a couple of reasons to take a break from R.E.D. by the Sea.  Francois had never travelled the Cabot Trail and neither of us had visited Fort Louisbourg.  Next year the plan is to trailer R.E.D. to sail the Bras d’Or Lakes so we wanted to scope out marina locations in advance.  And what better time to visit than Nova Scotia’s best season.

Cape Breton

We were not disappointed!

Peace by Chocolate

I had made a wish list of things to see, one of which was a stop in Antigonish to visit Peace by Chocolate. You can read all about this heart-warming success story here.  What better way to support a local business than to purchase their delicious chocolates for gifting.

On the Road

It was difficult not to stop at every fence post to take pictures of the stunning colours but we resisted.  There would be many more ahead of us.

Bilingualism in the Highlands

Many of the signs in Cape Breton are bilingual.  English/Gaelic, because of a large Celtic population and English/French because of many French speaking communities as well.

#32

Free range critters were abundant along the way, both wild and domestic.

Iron Art and Photography

Cape Breton is also rich with artisans and very talented unique crafters.  We stopped at a few looking for that perfect souvenir.  

Room with a View

I had just one criterion for choosing our accomodations while away: a room with a view.  Each one a vista of colour and salt water.

The route was a series of nail biting curves ( at least for me the acrophobically challenged) with hair pin turns that wound through the highlands.

From time to time we would encounter those less fearful.  Sitings of extreme sports enthusiasts on road skiis and bicycles careening down the steep inclines were frequent.

Fog on the Water

When visiting the Cabot Trail, viewing in perfect weather is 50/50….a toss of the dice.  Sometimes you could be socked in with fog, sometimes clear blue skies all the way. Throughout our five days we were lucky to have a mixture of sun, rain and fog which made for some interesting photography.  

Vibrant Colours

I don’t think I’ve ever seen such a variety of colours.  So many shades of reds, oranges and yellows intermingled with the eternal greens.

Colours Everywhere

The hills were definitely alive with the energy of the season.

Never Far

No matter where you are in Nova Scotia you are never more than sixty-seven kilometres from the ocean and because it draws us like a magnet, we always seem to gravitate toward the shore. 

Keltic Lodge

Ingonish Beach was a must see stopping point with waves crashing the shore.

Look Off

Side trips of hiking trails were the perfect way to stop, take a break, breathe in the salt air and get a little exercise.  Some of the trails were closed though because, as the agent at the park entrance said, some tourists had upset the wildlife and the moose were retaliating. 

Force of Nature

Reconnecting

Neils Harbour

North Shore Lobster Season

The Shed

Mira River

Our route took us along the Mira River and Marion Bridge bringing back memories Anne Murray and her “Song for the Mira”. 

Out on the Mira

Red Chair Initiative

Our final stop was Fort Louisbourg, a Parks Canada site. Along the road toward the entrance were the two iconic red chairs placed in so many Parks Canada locations across the country.

“Whether it’s a place to rest after a leisurely stroll or to cheer your successful completion of a strenuous hike, the red chairs offer a place to slow down, to relax and to truly discover the best that Parks Canada has to offer.”

Harbour Lighhouse

Louisbourg Harbour was once a lake but with the rising waters it is now officially the entrance into the town of Louisbourg.

Prelude to Peace

I won’t go into details here but if interested you can read more about the very interesting history of the fort here

We pretty much had the place to ourselves.  One of the guides gave us a personal tour with tons of information about the fort’s history and their plans for future changes.  He was also an exceptional photographer proudly showing us images he had taken during special events at the fort.

Taking Flight

There were moments of silliness with Francois chanelling his inner Harry Potter…muggle!

Outside

Inside

Details

French Kitchen Garden

Beach Combing

We couldn’t leave without walking along the rocky shore past the fort to search for bits of unique driftwood.

The Entertainer

Our last supper and last night in Cape Breton was spent with Brenden and Nathan, owner and chef of a charming restaurant in Louisbourg. Actually it was the only restaurant open, as being a mainly tourist town, many businesses had closed for the season.  Even if there had been other dining options it would have been sad to miss this experience.

The decor was quirky with old doors fronting the bar, rough barn board cladding the walls, interesting local art lining the walls and Brenden was so entertaining.  We sank into comfy leather chairs in what Brenden called his living room and sipped a glass of chilled local wine while Nathan threw together for us the most delicious fish stew with homemade biscuits.

Melmerby Beach

Final on my must visit list was a stop at the much photographed beach, Melmerby, then we headed back to our dear R.E.D. by the Sea, loaded with treasures and so many great memories.

Our Souvenirs

So there you have it, another adventure completed for the crew of three:  Captain Francois, Communication Officer and Galley Kat, and First Mate Major Pig.  

We weren’t totally distracted by the Cape Breton beauty and hospitality though and did find the perfect location to launch R.E.D. into the waters of the Bras d’Or Lakes next year. 

Bras d’Or Lake

 

For those who prefer to read our story in French, please forgive the automatic translation

WINE COUNTRY EXCURSION

WINE COUNTRY EXCURSION

”Wine improves with age.  

The older I get, the better I like it”.

Country Roads

A short while ago we signed up for a wine tour to the Annapolis Valley.  Five wineries for a day-long journey of fun and sipping.  

Pastoral Scenes

An added bonus was the drive through the beautiful country side.

The Aging

Each place offered explanations of their processes.  Individually different in method. 

L’Acadie Tasting

The tasting at L’Acadie was a unique one in that they are designated 100% organic.  No herbicides are used to control the vegetation around the vines so they invite sheep from a nearby farm to graze, then they use sheep manure to fertilize the earth.  Very healthy grapes indeed!

Gaspereau Tasting

We were offered two samplings of each vineyard’s specialties.

Lucket Tasting

Luckets was very ‘showy’…and very busy…, obviously a popular stop for tourists, but the amusing animator with his charming cockney accent, who poured our samples more than made up for the wait.

Domain de Grand Pré supplied us with a sample of their dangerously delicious Pomme d’Or Apple Cream Liquor served in a dark chocolate cup

Choices

 

More Choices

 

The Extras

Honeys, jellys and other local delicacies rounded out our selection choices

Tipping with Humour

This cashier was quite proud of her comical tip jar.

Time to Harvest

 

Let’s Make a Call

At Luckets we found an old British phone box amongst the vines where anyone could make a free call to anywhere in North America.

Stopping to Dine

If we planned on visiting all five vineyards we had a generous one hour at each, including an extra hour at one of our choosing for dining.

Tasty Local Treats

  Our easy pick was Domain de Grand Pré.  Patés, rillettes, jams, jellies and cheeses all, either produced on site or supplied from local sources.  Served with a glass of crisp surprisingly dry Reisling of course.  DELICIOUS!

Spectacular Views at Lightfoot and Gaspereau terrioir.

 

Colourful Gardens

 

A Bagful of Local

 

Our Picks

 

Like Herding Kat

Our tour animator, Michael, kept us laughing till we cried the entire time.  On the final stop he gathered us together for the bus ride home saying it was like herding cats.

Jacques our chauffeur and ‘Magic’ Mike our guide

We cannot wait to share another excursion on the Magic Winery Bus with our next guests.

THE AUGUST THAT CRASHED INTO SEPTEMBER

THE AUGUST THAT CRASHED INTO SEPTEMBER

Ten months we’ve been here on the East Coast.  Ten almost eleven!  Not even a full year.  Not even a full compliment of four seasons. There are days when it seems we’ve been here forever, it feels that comfortable, and days when it feels as though we just moved in.  Another month has flown by…so much so that two birthday notices flashed across my screen and I actually thought the computer had gone crazy.  Why was I being notified of August birthdays when it was still July?  I should have a notice that says ‘it’s August you fool’!  

We continue enjoying a fairly active social life here by the sea with almost weekly invites.  Francois has found himself a fun group of guys who brunch bi-weekly at a local golf club.  They call themselves the Romeo’s…an acronym…not really sure of the meaning…maybe Retired Old Men Eating Out…or something like that.  There’s also a yoga group that meets weekly ‘just down the road’.  I can’t quite count myself as a regular but maybe once the ‘busy’ stops or at least slows down and the beautiful summer weather fades away I’ll feel more motivated.

It’s been another mixed bag of a month with more house projects.  I’ve secured a company to replace our roof.  We knew when we purchased last October that the roof would need replacing within three years so decided to proceed sooner than later…just in case…and before we start seeing any obvious signs of damage.  

Roof Guy

Francois has begun construction of our Crow’s Nest…a combination she-shed/he-shed/storage/green house.  Yes, I know. That’s a lot of activity for one little edifice but thanks to our time spent aboard R.E.D. we’ve become very adept at space economy.  There are some who actually live full time in less space and to put things in perspective, it will be just half the foot print of R.E.D. by the Sea, weighing it at 12’ x 13’. It’ll be a fun project for the fall and winter months.  

I’ve found a local contractor to do the concrete pour for the base of the shed now that Francois has completed constructing the formwork.  

Expert Opinions

Ready

You know there’s never a shortage of expert opinions and advice or offered help no matter how we might think we have everything under control and for this project, we’ve heard it all. 

There was an old tree, partly on our property, but mostly on our neighbour’s land whose branch could pose a future risk to our little shed so with permission, Francois cut her down…the roof-crashing menacing part…just in case.

 

The Limb That Was

Concrete Guys

August was also our annual ‘cousins weekend’ when fourteen of us got together in three cabins at Falls Lake for three days of fun and family time.

Family

More guests from away have decided to visit our little paradise by the sea. Even though our 24’x26’ abode has just one main bedroom and one guest room we’ve managed to fit in an overflow of bodies without too much trouble.

For a future road trip we purchased a tent.  Two people…two person tent…right?  Not according to the-soldier-who-camped for a living.  So I present you with our latest acquisition.  The tent that could house a village.  Eight-person…referred to as Papa’s Bouncy Castle.  But we’ll be so comfortable, he said.

The weekend in question, our place was bursting at the seams with nine over-night guests.  It turned out to be one of the best times to date at R.E.D. by the Sea with tent pitching, hanging with good friends, grandbaby sitting, a super delicious fish dinner and home fries with individual cheesy omelettes for breakfast all cooked by our friend Tim.

Two Guys and a Tent

Holy cow!  Can this guy cook!

Kitchen Invasion

One day during the visit, he picked apples from one of our trees and while Francois prepared the fruit he whipped up some very flakey pastry for a delicious apple pie.  We all agreed it was the best we had eaten.

That Pie

Having out of town guests means we get to play tourist, visiting popular sites near our own back yard.  

Even for those who would rather follow the road less travelled, a stop to Peggy’s Cove is a must…and standing in line at Dee Dee’s for ice cream is not optional.

Where Tourists Gather

The Cove

We have no trouble at all finding an excuse to drive along the shore to visit Lunenburg with its colourful buildings, UNESCO status and shops selling local treasures.

Iconic Lunenburg

And we were lucky to be able to see the magnificent Bluenose II, in port for the day.

Bluenose II

The four hour deep sea fishing trip we took was as much a treat for us as it was for our friends.  

Fish Talk

Dinner (photo cred: Beth Burlingame)

And amongst the four of us, we caught a bucket full.  Mostly cod and mackeral which the second mate filleted for us.

Second Mate at Work

We brought home our bounty from the sea in two large bags…the cod we devoured…easily feeding our nine guests, and the mackeral I prepared for the freezer…15 packages with four filets each.  Not too shabby for a few hours of off-shore fun.

Where Problems are Solved

Evenings, this month especially, we spent sitting outside in front of our fireplace, sipping and chatting into the wee hours.

August Selection

Speaking of sipping,  I’ve abandoned the meal delivery service replacing it with buying our food from local markets and farm co-op services but I found this cool online wine and whiskey delivery service.  The monthly choices are curated by five sommeliers and so far we’ve been quite happy with their selection.

Happy Birthday

Birthdays come and go without much notice for us but when the Wildling arrives early in the morning on Francois’ big day with a bouquet of confetti-filled balloons for his Papa, we have to take notice.  The heart-warming thoughtful gesture will have us picking confetti out of the floor boards for months to come.  Like the gift that keeps on giving long after the special day has passed.

Wildling

So there you have it…all caught up with our antics for another month.  Looking ahead to October, it could be another wild ride of activities…more guests expected …and…you may even read about how we actually took a vacation.  That’s right!  Vacation.  Not to be confused with Stay-cation.  

A couple of years ago I posted on social media about creating an existance as free as possible from stress, devoid of financial worries, one that embraces simplicity.  A life from which we didn’t feel the need to escape.  So when we started to plan this trip, instead of being excited about getting away, it became one of those head scratching moments when we wondered why.  Why go away at all?  Then the lights came on and we realized we had reached our goal.  

Goal-setting

We will vacate regardless because in part, it’ll be a vacation with an important purpose…  

…and it involves R.E.D. … 

…sort of.

Curious?  

Check back with us next month for an update.