I have yet to remember a winter as brutal as the one we had. It’s still holding on with its last dying breath. The east coast has had it rough, too. Many experienced leaky roofs, flooded basements and broken eaves troughs. I know our roof had a one-foot ice accumulation that took forever to melt. Thankfully, from now on, any storms coming our way will have the sun to deal with, which is a perfect introduction to my Freedom Friday post—summer vacation planning.
Last year, my family and I took to the highway to visit our country’s capital, Ottawa. I must say, we had a great time. We stayed at a well-known hotel, took in the museums, the restaurants, planned activities for the kids, and made it a point to have some much-needed downtime, something my wife and I always appreciate during a vacation.
This year, we’re not sure where we want to go. We talked about hopping in the car to head north where the resort communities lie. However, we haven’t made definite arrangements. Most of our travel plans involve extensive packing and unpacking. My natural inclination is to stay home, but where would the fun be in that? Although years ago, we did set up a gazebo in our backyard, plenty of deck chairs and enjoyed our virtual paradise all summer with BBQs and pool activities. Boy, we had fun.
Nova Scotia has been kind to us in past years, too. We traveled there in 2011 and in 2012. I wrote about the 2012 trip in my Nova Scotia post a year ago. We went twice because in 2011 the whole vacation was a washout. Rained the whole time we were there. I figured, the same thing couldn’t happen again the following year, so we took a chance and tried a second time. Sure enough, the sun apologized for the previous year’s misstep and obliged us with gorgeous sunny days.
I think what we’ll do this year is take a few weekend jaunts throughout the summer to various destinations throughout our province. We haven’t been to Algonquin Park, and I know many of my friends have raved about it from past conversations with them. Maybe we’ll take it as it comes and travel by the seat of our pants. After all, that’s how I write on occasion, so why not travel the same way?
Perhaps it’s time to toss our planning and go with the wind to see where it carries us. I know we’ve done it before. Who’s to say we can’t do it again? The most fun we had has always involved no GPS, plenty of time on our hands and an open itinerary.
For my summer vacation last year, my family and I had the opportunity to take a road trip to Canada’s East Coast. As part of my Freedom Friday series, this is how it all went down.
Every few years, my wife and I take the kids, load the car, and head to the rich culture of the Canadian province of Nova Scotia. My wife has family there, so we make it a point to visit as often as we can. Most of our trip involves hauling a trunk full of luggage across four provinces on a twenty-hour trek. Our trip starts in Toronto and ends in Halifax, home to the tall ships, the International Buskers Festival and Peggy’s Cove. We went there in 2011 but because the weather had been so dark and gloomy, and rain had ruined much of our plans, we decided to try again in 2012 under sunnier circumstances.
Our usual route consists of passing through Ottawa, Montreal and on through The Maritimes. Last year we decided to allow the GPS to take us through Maine instead. That’s where the adventure began. As soon as we passed the Canadian/U.S. border, we wanted to hit Bangor before dusk. Since I’d already driven close to twelve hours, I thought it would have been great to grab a leisurely meal and dip in the pool at an inn. The GPS, however, had other ideas. I’d programmed it to take us to Halifax via the fastest route. Well, that fastest route had nothing to do with Bangor. In fact, it had nothing to do with civilization at all. We found ourselves in Moose Country, home to vast forests and rural lanes. And when the sun began to set, things looked creepier than The Blair Witch Project.
My wife peeked at the GPS, “We’re lost.”
“Oh, we’re fine. We only have an hour or two before we hit a hotel.”
“Jack, I don’t see anything on that thing that suggests we’re even near a hotel.”
“This must be a beautiful place when all the leaves change color in the autumn.”
“Did you hear me? We’re lost!”
“I did hear, but I’ve chosen to march onward and upward.”
She rolled her eyes, shook her head and said something under her breath that I didn’t quite catch.
My son then interrupts, “I have to pee.”
That first day, I drove right through Maine and into New Brunswick for a grand total of sixteen hours. We stayed at a Best Western that evening. The next day, the hotel served a massive continental breakfast for their guests. We took advantage of it, knowing we only had a few hours of driving left.
Once we arrived in Dartmouth, Halifax’s sister city across the bridge, we stayed at my in-laws for a few days. While we were there, they took us to Lawrencetown Beach where rocks covered the entire coast. I’ve never seen anything like it. Walking along the shoreline proved painful. Although smooth from years of water erosion, the rocks had a bite when stepped on with bare feet. We had fun, nonetheless. We played in the water and watched the tide roll in.
A few days later, we packed and headed to my sister-in-law’s place in Sheet Harbour. It’s an hour-and-a-half drive along the Eastern Shore. What a beautiful place to live. With streams and shoreline all around town, I took some time away from the family to indulge in some heavy scenic photography. I’m glad I did because the weather was phenomenal and since we had an open schedule, all of a sudden it became full with BBQ’s and family gatherings.
Now, before I go on, the biggest surprise of the trip was our visit to Taylor Head Beach near Sheet Harbour. We had to drive a bit before getting there, cutting through a patch of wilderness off the main highway on to a gravel road. After parking the cars, we walked a ways on planks covered by white sand. Yes, white sand. The kind of white sand one would expect from the Caribbean where I visited some years ago. Oh, when I feasted my eyes on the sand meeting the blue, crisp water, my jaw hung so low I’d almost swallowed the Eastern seaboard. To me, that beach became a highlight of 2012.
Several days later, we said goodbye to everyone and headed back to the Halifax area. There, we stayed for the remainder of the trip at my nephew’s house in the suburbs of Lower Sackville. I have to say, my nephew and his wife didn’t have to, but they opened their doors and gave us their home while they stayed at his in-laws for a week. So here we were, a home away from home, with a pool, big-screen TV, come and go as we pleased, all in the heart of one of the most beautiful places in the world—Nova Scotia.
The highlight of that week was our visit to Peggy’s Cove, a historic community located on the edge of Saint Margaret’s Bay. This time, the sun blessed us with its warmth and goodness. No rain. I went camera happy taking shots of everything, including rocks. Some may say the beauty of Peggy’s Cove lies in the familiar lighthouse standing erect as the symbol of this Maritime province. But I say, the beauty of the area is the serenity of the ocean, the salt air, and the feeling I get when I sit on those rocks overlooking the bay. I can only describe the feeling as—a blessing.
A day before heading back home to Ontario, we took our time and spent the entire day in the pool. I don’t think I’ve ever spent a whole day in water before. And I don’t think we’d ever gone to Nova Scotia where the sun had beaten down on us every day either. In 2012, however, we lucked out. We had sunny days, good food, awesome family time and plenty of stories to bring back home for years to come.
Nowadays, in the quietness of the night in my bed, I still think of those afternoons in the pool. I remember the sun splashing its rays over my body as I lay floating on the water. I think, “If only every day was like this.” Then I fall asleep.
Do you have a memorable vacation you’d like to share? What’s the most unforgettable experience you’ve had while on holiday?