Thursday, June 16: Toronto to Quebec City
A sickness bug and a dodgy rental vehicle weren’t going to delay the start of #GrynseySummerSixteen roadtrip by any more than one day! It was Thursday, June 16 and we were on the road to Quebec City, day one of our grand summer masterplan.
After 10 hours of being on the road (various stop-offs and one vehicle change), we arrived in Quebec City. Quick check-in to the Airbnb and out again to explore, after all, we had spent the entire day in the car and it was 7.30pm. Heading in the direction of the Old Town, we wandered down Grande Alee where there was a street festival. Crowds of revelers lined the streets to watch live performances and soak up the warm summer evening. We watched the sunset from atop the Old City wall, which was lovely. Old Quebec City was beautiful; very historic and European – it didn’t feel as if we were still in Canada. Lots of tourist-friendly (if you spoke French) cafes, restaurants, and bars lined the small cobbled streets which gave the area a very distinct feeling. We enjoyed a burger and fries looking onto La Chateau Fairmont Hotel, a truly beautiful building which stands tall in the center of the Old Town. After a long day of being on the road, we headed back to our room for a sound sleep.
Friday, June 17: Quebec City & Riviere du Loup, Quebec
The morning saw us up and out early to make the most of our half day in Quebec City. First thing, we took a short car journey to the outskirts of the city to see Montmorency Falls. They were spectacular! Much more impressive than I had thought they would be. Past experiences of tourist-touted waterfalls have sometimes resulted in an over-hyped letdown. These were a different story though – they were colossal! We walked the 100+ stairs to the bottom of the falls and felt the spray on our faces.
Afterwards, we wandered the Old Town again, taking in its uniquely continental feel. We walked the boardwalk from La Chateau right around the Citadel to the gates of the Old Town. We had spotted the perfect picnic spot the previous evening, so armed with those thoughts we sourced sandwiches from a little deli and whipped out the picnic mat. Great lunch in a great spot. 3pm saw us hop in the car and head out of the city, onwards to Riviere du Loup, which is a couple of hours north of Quebec City. After a problem, and latterly a cancellation from the Airbnb we had booked, we found a nice motel on the outskirts of the town and walked to the beach with our red chairs which we had just purchased at Canadian Tire. We got to the beach just in time to see the sunset which was a nice end to the busy day.
Saturday, June 18: Hopewell Cape, New Brunswick
Another early start (I can see a theme occurring) and we were on the road south to our second province of the trip so far; New Brunswick. As brief as our stay was in Quebec, we were looking forward to experiencing a new province. Much of Quebec City and in particular the small town of Riviera du Loup was French spoken and many of the people we encountered didn’t speak any English which was rather surprising. I suppose it is a bi-lingual country afterall.
The drive over the border into New Brunswick was gorgeous. Sprawling greenery and big mountains as far as the eye could see. After a second Airbnb mishap from our host in Moncton, we decided our base for the night would be Hopewell Cape, home of the Flowerpot Rocks, New Brunswick’s biggest natural wonder and tourist hotspot. We found a nice motel a 2-minute drive from the Bay of Fundy and arrived conveniently at low tide, perfect for walking on the ocean floor before the tide rose by 10+ meters only a few hours later. The red chairs made an appearance yet again and we sat on the beach for a couple of hours before heading to the viewpoint. The Rocks were quite a sight – carved out into weird and wonderful shapes by tides coming in and out of the bay twice a day for the past hundred+ years.
Much of Canada’s finest seafood is sourced in the Maritimes region. As we were in the region, I was excited to sample some of the best! Lobster dinners were advertised on every roadside billboard, so I figured the seafood here should be pretty epic. For dinner, we went to the Country Cabin – a cute wooden restaurant next door to the motel. I opted for the Seafood platter, served with fries. What arrived was actually a mountain of fries topped with two scallops, two shrimps and two tiny pieces of fish. And unless I was eating a tiny goldfish, I was fully unimpressed with the size of both the fish and the rest of my ‘platter.’ This was not a good introduction to some of ‘Canadas best seafood’. But hey, maybe it was a one-off bad experience.
After dinner, we went on a scenic drive (as if we hadn’t done enough that day) to Anderson Hollow Lighthouse, a remote little lighthouse which allowed you to go inside, climb the stairs and take a look at the views.
Sunday, June 19: Lunenburg, Nova Scotia
Breakfast was ‘help-yourself’ style in the Country Cabin next door. Taking advantage of this and trying to make up for the overpriced seafood ‘platter’ the night before, we hit the road armed with yogurts, muffins, coffee and orange juice. We crossed the border into Nova Scotia and hit up the Visitor Centre to stock up on all things ‘New Scotland.’
We headed to Lunenburg, a small fishing town an hour or so south of the capital, Halifax. On arrival, we were so impressed. Horse and carts trotted down the streets lined with brightly colored cute houses. Much of Lunenburg is classed as a UNESCO World Heritage Site which means that a lot of the buildings are extremely old and are to be preserved. We were lucky enough to have secured a room in a heritage home through Airbnb (our luck was looking up!) Our host told us the house was unlocked and to go in and make ourselves at home, a clear sign that this neighborhood is extremely safe and friendly. We took a look around the town – down to the harbor to look at the boats and onwards to the distillery. This was followed by a short drive to Blue Rocks, a remote fishing area with one tiny store – The Point General, a shed-type building which our host also owned. We enjoyed some amazing ice creams on-the-house before heading back to the town to sunbathe and chill out at the Bandstand in the center of town. This was followed by an epic meal at the Rum Runner Restaurant down by the waterfront. Best meal of the holiday so far! We then walked along to the pier to speak with the local fishermen who were out grabbing their evening meal. Beautiful sunset followed by a walk home to our Heritage home for the night. Lovely place.
Monday, June 20: Halifax, Nova Scotia
Early morning, and time to leave Lunenburg to hit up Halifax. We head out of Lunenburg to Mahone Bay where we grab a coffee and a muffin on the patio of a cute little coffee shop on the main street. Onwards to Halifax via a very scenic drive where we checked into another Airbnb room. A quirky home with newspaper as wallpaper and vintage treats scattered throughout the room. We headed out for the day; down to the Citadel, followed by a quick stop at Nova Scotia’s Hockey Hall of Fame which was interesting enough, despite having no prior knowledge of the sport. We then went down to the water-front harbor which was lovely. Lots of big ships and vessels which reminded me of home. We had been advised to not miss out on Alexander Keiths Brewery. Therefore, since we were in town we headed on over to sample some of the Scotsmans finest beers! Great enthusiasm and energy were put into the tour by all of the actors who demonstrated the history of Alexander Keith and the brewery. A few brews on the rooftop patio was enjoyed after the tour.
Tuesday, June 21: Halifax, Nova Scotia
Our second day in Halifax was a particularly nautical day! First, we located the famous Bluenose Ship, which was docked and had arrived from Lunenburg the previous day. We were allowed to tour the ship and speak to the crew which was interesting. The CSS Acadia was the next vessel to lure Greig in. This was followed by a great visit to the Museum of the Atlantic; the Titanic Museum. We were lucky enough the get a guided tour by a Titanic historian who worked at the museum, who told us of stories from that fateful night and beyond. We then went to a pub to watch the World Cup and it just happened to be $5 nachos, $5 wines and $5 pizzas…and you really can’t say no to a deal like that!
Wednesday, June 22: Cape Breton, Nova Scotia
Off to Cape Breton we go! A fairly nondescript four-hour drive northeast of Halifax to our destination. Accommodation titled ‘Luxury Camping Cabins’ on their Airbnb ad, failed to live up to the luxe we had expected. A cute, but extremely basic wooden hut slap bang in the middle of nowhere in Cape Breton. There was four or five little huts located a 2-minute walk from the ocean. We didn’t mind – it was just going to be a place to lay our weary heads after a day of exploring the island. We headed to Mount Franey – the ‘most challenging’ of all of the hikes on the Cabot Trail. The hardest part of the hike was avoiding the mosquitos that plagued any skin left uncovered during our ascent and descent. The views were spectacular! Really was. We spent around 30 minutes at the summit before making our way back down. We then checked out Ingonish beach which wasn’t too far away, just as the rain began to fall. We went back to our accommodation which included no means to cook a meal, (there wasn’t even a kettle in these ‘luxury’ ‘cabins’!) We were informed by the wooden-clogged owner than our nearest access to any food would be a 25-minute drive south to a pizza joint. Back in the car we went, arriving 25 minutes later to somebodies house, where they took orders for pizza and made them from scratch in their kitchen! Not much in the way of variety around here, but we enjoyed it none-the-less.
Thursday, June 23: Cape Breton, Nova Scotia
A day to explore the best of the Cabot Trail! It was an absolutely stunning day – blue skies and sunshine. We explored many different stop-off points around the island throughout the day. My favorite had to be the Skyline trail, located on the West side of the island. We began our hike which took around 45 minutes to get to the viewpoint, high up and overlooking the sea and the mountainous surroundings. Truly breathtaking views. Having joked most of the trip so far that we didn’t think we’d ever see a real life moose, can you guess what happens next? On a secluded, tree-lined narrow path, we came across our first wild moose. In disbelief at how large it was, Greig’s first reaction is to run back to where we came from! My first reaction was to whip out the camera! Unable to get any good footage, the moose made his way into the bushes, totally unphased by our presence. Because he was on the path, we thought it best to avoid any conflict and retrace our steps back to the car ‘the long way’.
Friday, June 24: North Sydney
A lazy start to the day, as tonight we take the overnight ferry to Newfoundland! A missed left turn saw us end up quite literally at the ‘end of the road’! We found ourselves accidentally in line to get on a ferry to get back to mainland Nova Scotia. Oh well, that was different and unexpected!
We spend most of our day trying to keep busy in North Sydney, a small town on the northern coast of Nova Scotia, a town most likely known as ‘the place to catch the ferry to Newfoundland’. We stocked up on food and drink for our time in Newfoundland as we had heard that due to Newfoundlands remote-ness, food supplies can be pricey. The small town of North Sydney seemed to come alive in the evening as we waited to board the ferry. The local bandstand on the shores of the beach had a band playing against a gorgeous sunset. Cars were lined up in rows, almost as if attending an outdoor movie theater. People would beep their horns, clap and cheer each time a song ended and another began. It was very cute. As we lined up for the ferry, we couldn’t believe the size of some of the vehicles, mainly the colossal RV’s that were in line to go to the island of Newfoundland. After speaking with a local who ‘does this journey every couple of weeks,’ we were advised to head straight to the top floor of the ferry where the best seats in the house would await us! The cafeteria wasn’t open during the overnight ferry journey, so low-and-behold, this room would be our bedroom. There were long leather seats which we used as makeshift beds for the night. We both slept well. Myself more than Greig, I woke up to people milling around me as I slept, looking for their coffee and breakfast fix from the cafe!
More on Newfoundland in the next post!