Trip back to the homeland

During the middle of February, I took a trip back to the UK and brought my partner back to see Europe for the first time and to meet friends and family.

On arrival at Gatwick airport, it took him 45 minutes to get through passport control, where he was asked similar questions to what the USA asks me every time I enter.

We rented a car and got an upgrade from a Toyota Aygo to a Nissan Qashqai. As I was the one doing all the driving (my partner had never driven standard/manual or on the other side of the road), I was hesitant but with parking sensors, the knowledge of when I was entering variable speed limits on the motorways and a diesel engine I was more than happy with this as the two weeks went on.

Our first morning included a full English breakfast – something I had missed but chances are my body would not thank me.

Complete with black pudding…

The first weekend was spent seeing my mum in Northamptonshire and attending a wedding evening in Gloucestershire for some friends from University. The evening was good fun with a hog roast and me managing to stumble back to the hotel, a little tipsy in 6 inch heels (with some help).

Me and my Uni friends at the wedding

The next day and (with large hangover),  we all met up at a local pub for a carvery. Unfortunately my eyes were bigger then my belly and you could only go up once for all your veggies.

Way too much food for me, only quarter was eaten and I felt bad about the waste as there was no option to take away

After visiting an old school friend at Cribbs Causeway, who now lives in Bristol, we travelled up to Birmingham Airport for a swanky night at the Hilton Metropole Airport.

Dublin, Ireland

The next day was our flight to Dublin. Both of us had never been before and we flew with Ryan Air of which there were no issues with THIS flight.

Flying into Ireland

Arriving in Dublin and a relatively smooth passport control, we took the airport express to downtown (€6 each). Our hotel was on Parnell Street, just North of O’Connell Street and north of the Liffey River. We spent some time exploring O’Connell Street and seeing the General Post Office (GPO) – scene of the 1916 Easter Rising.


There is a lot of building work and construction going on along O’Connell Street due to the tram lines so it was quite hectic.

South of the river construction

Looking North along O’Connell Street

Temple Bar

Of course our first evening would not be complete without a trip to Temple Bar and to ‘The Temple Bar’ pub. Just a shame a Guinness and Irish Larger came to €13 (C$18/£11) *shocking! The bridges across the river were great fun though (see bottom right photo). I really liked The Ha’Penny bridge.

Temple Bar pub in Dublin

The next day we decided to do the Dublin Bus Hop-on Hop-off tour, which took you around all the major attractions in the city. I also discovered that there was only one time slot available for Kilmainham Gaol (to feed my old prison obsession) so that got booked straight away via the Tourist Information Centre. The Gaol gets very booked up so it’s worth booking it beforehand in order to fit it in with holiday plans.

We boarded the bus at 10am that morning and went past Trinity College, St Patrick’s cathedral, Dublin Castle and the house of Oscar Wilde. We wanted to go to The Jameson Distillery but unfortunately that was closed due to refurbishment until St. Patrick’s Day weekend.

Guinness Storehouse 

No trip to Dublin is complete without a visit to one of the most famous breweries in the world. I had previously heard mixed reviews about The Storehouse and for the €20 entrance fee, I have to admit I was skeptical but as Adam wanted to go I went along. I was to be pleasantly surprised…

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The Storehouse is a glass atrium with seven floors dedicated to the black stuff: information on the brewery process and the story of Arthur Guinness. There was also a small tasting area with a small shot of Guinness given to everyone. I am not usually a fan of Guinness, I find it very overpowering and filling but for some reason in Dublin, the Guinness tastes much smoother and silkier and I loved it.


My favourite floor was completely dedicated to Guinness advertising. Some of their most famous advertising campaigns were showcased including John Gilroy’s zoo keeper and animals from the early to mid 20th century. There is also a 360 degree cinema with the TV campaigns including ‘The Surfer’ (the one with the waves that turned into horses).

 

The cinema made you feel like you were inside a pint of Guinness.

 

 

My other favourite part of the advertising section was ‘The Whistling Oyster’ – this was a very old advert from the 1920s and the museum decided the bring the oyster into 3D whistling the William Tell theme tune. So random and bizarre but I loved it!

 

The next floor was ‘The Guinness Academy’, where you could learn the art of pouring the perfect pint of Guinness. Included in the entrance fee is a pint of Guinness and you can pour your own or wait until the next end bar. We both got a certificate to prove we knew how to pour a Guinness 🙂

Ozzy enjoyed some Guinness in the Academy bar

The last part of the Storehouse was the seventh floor and The Gravity Bar. It had windows all around with 360 degree views of the city.

Top of Gravity Bar in The Guinness Storehouse

Posing with our Guinness in The Gravity Bar

Kilmainham Gaol

The main attraction for me to see in Dublin was Kilmainham Gaol, a decommissioned prison that held the rebel leaders of the 1916 Easter Rising as well as Irish Republicans during the Irish War of Independence (1919-1921) and the Irish Civil War (1922-1923).

We were lucky to get the last remaining time slot at 3.15pm as every other day was sold out. I enjoyed learning about the history of the jail and seeing the East Wing of the prison, which has been featured in many famous TV series and films (The Italian Job, In The Name of The Father).

The East Wing was amazing architecturally speaking. The amount of light let into the jail as well as the panopticon design and iron staircase was fascinating to see.

We also got to see the courtyard, where the republican leaders of the 1916 uprising were executed by the British soldiers. It was chilly to see some gravestones there to remember the leaders, who became martyrs to Ireland.

Kilmainham Gaol

Northern Ireland

The next day, we took a tour to Belfast in Northern Ireland. We stopped off at the remains of an old monastery called Monasterboice.

The 10th century round tower of Monasterboice ruins

West Belfast

On arrival in Belfast, we were given the opportunity to take a black cab tour around West Belfast and the areas known for ‘The Troubles’ (1969-1998), a conflict between paramilitary groups: Irish Republicans/Catholics (including the Irish Republican Army – IRA), Loyalists/Protestants and the British Army. The tour took us around the famous murals along Falls Road (mainly catholic area) and Shankill (mainly protestant area).

Without going into a history lesson as there is plenty of information on the internet, I studied Northern Ireland in GCSE history around two years after the Good Friday Agreement was signed (1998). I have always wanted to see this area of Belfast.

Our cab driver never really disclosed which ‘side’ he grew up under but I suspected he was from the Loyalist area. He was knowledgable about the murals and showed us some photos from the time of the fighting and when the British Army were patrolling the streets. It was very poignant to see the ‘Peace Line’ – a 25 ft iron fence separating the catholic and protestant neighbourhoods. There are gates that are kept open during the day but locked up at night to prevent violence.

The tour took around 2 hours and on arrival back to Belfast city centre, there was just time to see the City Hall building and for a bite to eat at Greggs.

Titanic Belfast

The main part of the tour was the relatively new Titanic Belfast. Built in 2012 to show the heritage of the ill-fated ship, which was built in the city.

The building is very impressive and is designed to look a bit like ship. There was a lot of information on why it was decided Titanic should be built in Belfast and the construction itself as well the maiden voyage and subsequent sinking after hitting the iceberg.

The tour took about 2 hours to get back to Dublin and by this point we were exhausted but we did go out to  enjoy some drinks and live folk music at some of the local bars.

Flight back to the UK

Due to a storm called Doris, we noticed at the airport that many flights to the UK were getting cancelled. Ryan Air did not cancel but coming into Birmingham, the pilot could not land the plane due to the high winds. Instead, the plane got diverted to Bristol Airport (2.5 hours south). All passengers were informed that shuttle buses would be provided to take us to Birmingham but after waiting at arrivals for 45 minutes and with no representative from Ryan Air keeping us updated; we decided to take the offer of a lift from a passenger sitting next to me on the plane who had just hired a car. It still took another 4 hours to get to Birmingham due to trucks overturning on the motorway. We finally got back to Northampton at 10pm that evening and both decided to pay more money next time and never fly with Ryan Air again.

London

After spending some more time with my family and friends in Northamptonshire, we headed to London for a few days. I found the trip very stressful and many of the London Underground employees quite rude compared to what I am used to the Skytrain in Vancouver. I did show my partner all the major sites and introduced him to Wetherspoons pubs (lol).

We also went to the London Dungeon as we had a 2 for 1 voucher however, I was very unimpressed with new location and structure and prefer the old dungeon from 15-20 years ago.

We also managed to get to see the dinosaurs at The Natural History Museum – something I have never managed to do before and really pleased that I managed to see the exhibit.

The last few days were spent fitting in other friends that I had not seen in a while as well as trying to cram as much of my stuff that I left before emigrating in two extra suitcases. I was also anxious about the flight after the Ryan Air disaster but there were no issues at all.

Re-entering Canada by plane as a PR for the first time which so easy. The scanners at the YVR only wanted to see my PR card – it took 5 minutes!

I will remember the last night as it was a lovely meal with my mother, step father and partner. I felt sad that I would be leaving family and friends behind but pleased to be heading back home to Canada! 🙂

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2016 into 2017…

Highlights of 2016 – My Permanent Residency also being one of them


So I see it has been awhile since I posted. The only thing that has prompted this is because I had emails from WordPress this morning saying my blog was getting a lot of traffic; they were not wrong either! 

Some lovely person must have posted a link on the express entry page on Facebook.  I am no longer in this group unfortunately but I am still around to help/answer questions about the process. 

Anyway I’m glad some of the information is still useful for people planning on emigrating to Canada. 

2016

After October, very little has occurred apart from finally purchasing a set of wheels and being raped for car insurance from ICBC. 

Say hello to Mildred


I’ve also only managed to get up to the ski hills twice although one of those times was Grouse Mountain, where I had never been before and probably won’t go back to (I feel Cypress and Seymour are better). However, the view was still pretty awesome.

View from Grouse Mountain


My friend, Nick from Banff (who I had already visited twice) came out to Vancouver for a visit with his brother in November. It was great to host them and to have some long missed British humour. They got to experience Granville Island, Stanley Park and a Canucks game before they went to Vancouver Island. 

Nick even got to say hello to those random laughing men 😂. 

Christmas was a nice time spending it with Adam’s family in Surrey and of course seeing my favourite pup dressed as Santa 😍. 

I don’t think she was too happy with us when we accidently brought her cat treats though. Sorry Ems x.

New year, although I was at the start of my yucky flu/cold thing (see below) was a lot of fun and definitely made up for the last two terrible NYEs. 


2017

From the start of the year, I have struggled with a very bad cold/flu and I am putting it down to the rather unusual cold weather in Vancouver. It’s put pay to a couple of snowboarding days and a trip to Victoria but I won’t let it defeat me. 

I did get out to Merritt, BC to try Ice fishing. It was -16 in the interior but it was nice to be out of the city and to see all the amazing views. Didn’t catch any fish though :(. 

I also finally got myself to The letter Writing Club at The Regional Assembly of Text

Every first Thursday of the month they put out a dozen old typewriters, supply some free paper/materials and you can write letters. They also have a table with stamps and ink pads to add on to your letters. 

The evening was a lot of fun but it is best to get there early otherwise you have to wait for a typewriter to free up. 

My creativeness on the typewriters and stamps


That’s it for now. 🙂 

Travel journals II

After my recent trip to Nova Scotia, the time has come to start another crafting project and therefore another travel journal. 

I completed one last year just for Vancouver and my trips to Banff and Las Vegas. Unfortunately I took it back to the UK (at that point I didn’t know if I would be staying in Canada or not) but I hope to bring it back out in February. 

Luckily I took some photos of it before I took it back. 


This journal along with Pinterest has given inspiration for the new journal. 

I did bring back some postcards, tickets, brouchures, leaflets etc. to fill it with.

Most of the time I use the dollarstores for materials especially a store called ‘Your Dollar Store’ by Cambie and Broadway. 

The other little gem is Urban Source on Main Street. This place has bins of recycled materials and you can fill a bag for $10 or just pay for what you want. They have a great stick of coloured cardboard, wrapping paper and boxes/ takeaway containers you can use to wrap up gifts. 

all of my supplies

My living room has been a mess for the last 3 weeks with strips of paper and car everywhere but finally it is complete (almost – still have to add some written information to the sections).

I’m very pleased with the end result. 🙂

Homemade scrubs and masks 

On Friday, I drove one of my work colleagues in the work van to get some soap and scrub making supplies for the monthly Girls Night on a Monday evening.

Enter The Soap Dispensary, a small store that enables refills of soaps, cleaning products, edible liquids and DIY ingredients – all natural, fair trade, organic and eco friendly.

Looking around the store was memorizing: all the cute aromatherapy bottles, essential oils, sweet smelling soaps and the array of large tubs enabling customers to purchase products by weight and capacity.

I decided to come back another day when I wasn’t working and in the meantime, look up home made scrub and skin mask recipes online. I was shocked at how easy these are to make at a fraction of the price compared to Lush, The Body Shop and other skincare stores. Therefore I decided to give it ago and try and make a body scrub, using natural ingredients and free from any chemicals/toxins.

My favourite body scrub is by Sanctuary Spa from Boots in the UK. It’s a dead sea salt scrub with oils and minerals, which softened your skin. I usually purchase some of these sachets when I visit or my lovely mother has sent some out to me in the mail.

At £1.75 (around $3) for 60g it isn’t bad and I can easily get 2-3 body scrubs out of it, however I wanted to find a more natural alternative.

I also decided to try and make up a clay mask after visiting Sephora and having one of their beauticians show me this amazing pink clay detox treatment mask. However, at $45 for 250ml – it’s not a price I want to pay.

I went back to The Soap Dispensary and spent $25 on some sweet almond oil, lemon essential oil (to add to the scrubs), some rhassoul clay (for the mask) and a small pipette bottle (to add droplets of the essential oil).

I also purchased some glass containers from dollarama, some corse sea salt and brown sugar from superstore. I already have coconut oil that I use for cooking. Previously I used refined oil but this stuff below is unrefined so I am concerned that my fried eggs are going to taste of coconut…

Salt Scrub

I mixed 1 cup of the sea salt with half a cup of coconut oil (melted as coconut oil is usually in solid form) .

I then added some of the almond oil plus a few drops of the lemon infused oil and mixed it altogether.

The paste was chunky but not overly oily. I then spooned the mixture into one of the jar containers.

Next was the fun bit and trying it out. I only used the scrub on my body and feet. I avoided my face as I don’t know how harsh the salt would be. I came out of my shower with much softer and smoother skin!

Face mask

Next step was the face mask using rhassoul clay. Rhassoul is found in Morocco and contains many natural minerals. It is great for sensitive skin and is meant to improve dry patches and skin texture; it also absorb toxins + excess oil and help with elasticity of the skin.

Rhassoul is also good to use as a hair mask So I will have to try that one.

I added 3 tablespoons to a ceramic bowl* and added enough water to create a paste when mixed together with a plastic/wooden spoon*. I then added 2 drops of the almond oil and some lavender essential oil that I already had. The paste was not overly thick but you can added more clay to create a thicker texture.

* Many recepies will tell you not to use metal spoons or bowls as the clay can mix with the metal toxins.

As I applied the paste to clean skin, I realised that I didn’t need a lot of it to cover my face. I was going to leave the mask on for around 10 – 15 minutes, however after 8 minutes the paste was starting to dry and it was time to wash it off.

This part was messy and it did take a while to get all of the paste off but the results were amazing, my skin felt softer and looked clearer.

Sugar scrub 

Sugar scrubs tend to be less abrasive then salt scrubs and are therefore better for sensitive skin. I have previously used sugar scrubs and do not find they exfoliate as well, however I decided to make a home made sugar scrub for my face.

I used one cup of brown sugar and half a cup of coconut oil. I also added lemon essential oil and mixed it altogether. 

After trying out both scrubs,I much preferred to salt one. It was more rough on my skin and therefore made it feel cleaner and smoother. 

I’m definitely happy that I tried to make my own body scrubs and face mask.

Day 7 – Rainbow Haven Beach, NS

Day 7 and our last day 😦

As it was lovely sunny weather, we took the car out to Rainbow Haven Beach Provincial Park in a Dartmouth area called Cole Harbour.

Cole Harbour is also where the famous Canadian hockey player, Sidney Crosby is from.

The beach did not disappoint and it was so quiet with very few people there.

We also went back into Halifax for our last visit and to get some souvenirs for family and friends. We didn’t get the ferry and took the car over the bridge however, as it was rush hour and very limited parking in the city, it took awhile to get to downtown.

I decided to have my last fish and chips at Murphy’s restaurant and wow were the portions huge!

It was great to look out over the water again but as time went on and it got darker, it was time to drive back to Dartmouth – we also had to get back before 7pm as that is when they were shutting the bridge for the night.

Last stop before getting back and packing (early flight at 6am) was Battery Park. It was much busier then when we went in on Sunday evening. We were seated out back on the patio where there is also another bar. Beers and oysters were ordered but there were not as good as the oysters in PEI.

It was hard to pack and I also had to purchase checked baggage for Air Canada ($25) so I could bring the wine back (I didn’t drink it all and wasn’t going to waste it). I left a nice note in our Airbnb host’s guest book.

Flight back to Vancouver 

Getting up at 3am and leaving at 4.30am was not fun but at least the drive to the airport was fast.

Halifax is such a tiny airport so it was easy to navigate and the flight took 1 hour  and 30 minutes to Montreal.

On arrival there was only 1 hour between connections and Montreal airport was huge and badly signposted.

On top of that my phone decided to die and it took 6 attempts to get it back on again and then the back button decided to switch my phone off rather than lock it.

The rest of the flight took 5 hours and I just watched movies throughout. Arriving at Vancouver around 9am, my luggage took a bit of time to come through but all alcoholic liquids were in tact. It was then time to go home and sleep.

My next project is to start another travel journal for the trip with everything I have collected

I’ll definitely be returning at some point in the future. 🙂

Day 6 – Halifax, NS

The need for a chill day was in order and there was still some things to see in Halifax.

We grabbed some coffees and croissants from a cafe called If Two By The Sea recommended by many people from NS. I grabbed an almond croissant, which was so large, I saved some of it for lunch.

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We took the ferry across from Dartmouth to Halifax again and walked along the waterfront boardwalk to the Canadian Immigration Museum at Pier 21. Halifax was the hub for all new immigrants to Canada via boat and Pier 21 was open from 1928-1971 in order to process new arrivals. It is said to be the Canadian version of Ellis Island. Most immigrants arrived after the war.

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As a new immigrant to Canada myself, I found the museum fascinating and could identify with people anxiously waiting to here on a decision about their application to stay in the country.

There was a small-scale model showing the building layouts as well as a recreated welcome area for the arrivals.

A 30 minute free tour is available that took us through the arrival at Pier 21 but the museum has a lot of interactive information and real life accounts. Many people come to Pier 21 to do some historical research on their families, there is research centre at the museum that contains ship manifests and other information.

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You can write on a luggage tag about why you are visiting Pier 21. I added one to the wall.

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I found this sign from 1966. This must have been CIC’s old name

Outside the museum along the boardwalk is a bronze statue called ‘The Emigrant’ depicting a man leaving his country for Canada. What I don’t quite understand is he appears to be leaving his family behind (in the background).

Regardless, Halifax also done a lot to celebrate its history with immigration.

Next up was the Alexander Keith’s Brewery Tour. The brewery is one of the oldest in Canada and opened on 1820 by Keith who came to NS from Scotland in 1817. The main beer that you will find in NS is Keith’s

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The tour itself lasts for one hour and cost around $26. As interesting as the story on AK is and the fact that the staff dress up, it wasn’t really worth the money in my opinion. We got a few samples (my favourite was the red amber ale) and we got to hear a Ceilidh – a traditional Gaelic social event with folk music and poetry. We also saw the copper brewery vats but the majority of AK’s beers/ales are produced at a commercial brewery.

The pub next door to the brewery is called The Red Stag Tavern and they also did samples of Keith’s as well as a good seafood chowder.

One place that had been recommended was The Middle Spoon for their cocktails and desserts, however there is a ‘secret’ speakeasy bar under the main floor and we quoted a phrase to get access down there. The bar is called Noble and you just sign up for the weekly emails to get the code/phrase.

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When we went downstairs we entered a dimly lit room with a small bar and tables around a bookcase of old books and encyclopedias. The cocktails are much stronger in Noble then they are in The Middle Spoon but damn are they good. I also decided to be naughty and order one of the famous desserts – a chocolate lava cake.

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…complete with ice cream, whipped cream and some fruit – yum!

 

Even when you pay the bill and leave Noble, the bar staff take you out via a back entrance to the alley behind.

On return to Dartmouth, via the ferry we went to Celtic Corner again to watch the hockey world cup game with Canada. There was also some great live folk music playing in the bar at the time.

Day 5 – Ferry to Prince Edward Island (PEI) & Charlottetown, Confederation Bridge and New Brunswick (NB)

Another early start in the morning to make our way from Iona in Cape Breton to Pictou (back on the main island) to get the ferry to Prince Edward Island (PEI).

The NFL (Northumberland Ferries limited) ferries are very similar to the BC Ferries that run from Tsawwassen/Horseshoe Bay to Victoria/Nanaimo on Vancouver Island. They only run at certain times of the day and can get booked up quickly if you are taking a vehicle on board.

The main difference is that you only pay the fare when you leave PEI (either by the ferry or via a bridge – more on that later). If you are only travelling one way on the ferry, you cannot make a reservation and just have to hope you get there early enough to get a spot.

As I was the only one driving (due to Adam having a hangover…) I was in a rush to be able to make it to Pictou for 10.30am. I managed to arrive at 11.00am and lined up in the area for non-reservations. Fortunately we could get on the ferry otherwise we would have waited until 15:30 for the next ferry.

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Line up for the ferry at Pictou terminal

The ferry trip took around an hour to get to Woods Island in PEI and it was a nice calm trip across the waters.

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Arriving in PEI on the ferry

PEI is Canada’s smallest province that is part of The Maritimes. The main economy is farming and this was clear from the drive to Charlottetown where I saw many farms and fields. PEI is also the famous location of the novel ‘Anne of Green Gables’.

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The green fields of PEI

It took around an hour to drive from Woods Island to Charlottetown, the capital of PEI and the Birthplace of the Confederation in September 1864.

We didn’t have too much time to look around Charlottetown so we spent most of it by the waterfront area.

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One of the highlight’s of Charlottetown was trying oysters for the very first time at Peakes Quay restaurant overlooking the harbour. The restaurant was really nice with live, traditional islander music.

After the delicious lunch, I treated myself and Adam to an ice cream from Cow’s. I have been to one of these in Banff but the company started in PEI and there are only 8 locations across the country. I chose a chocolate rimmed waffle cone with a scoop of ‘Fluff N’ Udder’- chocolate ice cream with marshmallow swirls and Reece’s Pieces . No photo of the ice cream but it was yummy!

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The houses in Charlottetown are very colonial looking and Victorian in style, there are very few modern buildings and certainly no tall condo towers. I really liked the city and its traditional style.

Leaving Charlottetown, we drove towards The Confederation Bridge. As I previously said, the only options to arrive/leave PEI is either by the ferry or by bridge and you only pay the fare/toll when you leave. For some reason it is cheaper to travel to PEI via the ferry and leave by the bridge then it is the other way round. The ferry costs $71 return and the bridge is $46 return.

The Confederation Bridge was built in 1997 and is a 13km route between PEI and New Brunswick, it is meant to be the longest bridge across ice waters in the world.

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Unfortunately for much of the 13km route, you cannot see too much of the view because of the high barriers but it does go up and down in gradient so when you are at the top of a slight hill you can see across. As it was a beautiful day and coming up for sunset it was quite a sight.

When you arrive in New Brunswick, you are greeted with a sign and a lot of fields and greenness. If more time allowed, I would have liked to visit Moncton ad Fredericton but alas that will have to wait for another trip in the future.

New Brunswick is the only bilingual province in Canada, recognizing both English and French. All the signs have English and French translations.

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The rest of the journey took around 2.5 hours to get back to Dartmouth and I was exhausted when we arrived. I had driven 600 kms for around 6.5 hours, taken a ferry and crossed the most expensive toll bridge I have ever seen.

It did feel good to know that we had visited three separate provinces in 1 day 🙂

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Day 4 – Cape Breton, NS

One area I never thought I would be seeing on this trip was Cape Breton Island, mainly because it is approximately 3 hours away from Halifax and it there is so much to see that you need a few days there. My biggest regret on the whole NS trip was not spending more time here as it is beautiful.

The island is famous for the Cape Breton Highlands National Park (run by Parks Canada) and the Cabot Trail – a 300km scenic drive around the Highlands with hikes, whale watching, biking, kayaking etc. The most recent fame of Cape Breton is the
tongue-in cheek joke regarding the island welcoming American ‘refugees’ if Donald Trump gets elected president.

Our journey to the island took us North West of Dartmouth through Truro, New Glasgow, Antigonish and on to Port Hastings, where you cross the Canso causeway to get on Cape Breton Island.

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Turning west from Port Hastings takes you along the Ceilidh Trail (100kms) up to the start of the Cabot Trail.

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This was a lovely drive in which we stopped at a tiny village called Inverness with an awesome beach and golf course overlooking the ocean. Even though it was a windy day, we must have spent about an hour there along the beach and boardwalk.

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Ozzy also came on the trip and enjoyed the beach siting on top of the rocks.

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We also found a memorial dedicated to the first Scottish settlers in Inverness in 1803 as well as some other people who are buried on the site. Kind of sad in a way as the plaque doesn’t really tell you what happened.

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As much as we would have loved to go North onto The Cabot Trail and to Cape Breton Highlands, there just wasn’t enough time and as we had already been travelling for 4-5 hours, we were getting tired.

We drove south from a place called Margaree Forks along a rural route past Lake Ainslie to an area called The Little Narrows. To get across to the other side we got the car ferry – this cost an eye watering $7 and only took 3 minutes to get across the water. We did find out later that evening that there is a road you can use to avoid the ferry toll.

The final drive of our day took us to Iona, another small community and where our accommodation for the night was located – The Iona Heights Inn. Iona sits on Bras d’Or Lake and it honestly does remind you of the Highlands of Scotland. Most of the towns and villages have the Gaelic name under the English as part of their Scottish heritage. Iona has the Highland Museum, which focuses on NS’s Gaelic culture and language but we didn’t go into the museum.

We did find a little pebble sandbank to sit and look out over the lake.

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Overlooking Lake Bras d’Or

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I wasn’t sure if this area was private property or not but we went along some train tracks to get to it

The evening meal was spent in the pub & grill in the hotel, which had been recently renovated. The facilities also have a chocolate shop (made on-site) and a small convenience & liquor store.

The evening was also the Canada vs Europe Hockey World Cup match and what with Adam being Canadian and obsessed with hockey, we had to watch it. I do believe we made friends with another guy at that bar from NS and engaged in a tequila shot and a sambuca/strawberry liquor shot along with pints of Keiths beer. :S

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The route to Cape Breton that we took

Day 3 – Peggy’s Cove, Lunenburg, Mahone Bay, NS

One of the biggest attractions in NS is around 45 mins by car from Halifax. Peggy’s Cove is an old Maritime rural fishing village on the South Shore. It is sometimes in the news as people have unfortunately slipped and died on the black rocks on windy days. Never the less the place is beautiful and luckily we got a good day.

After driving over the Angus McDonald Bridge between Dartmouth and Halifax (eerily like Lions Gate between Stanley Park and West Vancouver). We went through Halifax and down to coast. This drive was gorgeous with many wooden houses and boats along the shore.

Peggy’s Cove did not disappoint and it was great seeing all the views of the Atlantic Ocean. It was very windy though but also fun jumping on the rocks. I can see why on very windy, stormy days people can get badly injured.

After Peggy’s Cove, we made our way to the little fishing town of Lunenburg – a UNESCO World Heritage Site.

We stopped off at The Fisheries Museum of The Atlantic, which gave detailed information about the history of fishing complete with an old fishing trawler and a collection of lobsters and other fish as part of an aquarium.

The Bluenose II was also docked in Lunenburg. This is a replica of the famous fishing and racer schooner (The Bluenose) that won sailing competitions in the 1930s. It is also the ship featured on the NS licence plate.

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After lunch in The Knot Pub in Lunenburg, we decided to drive through Mahone Bay, another little quaint village. When we visited there was a scarecrow festival happening and it obvious the local residents had put a lot of work into their creations.


The houses were also very cool and colourful. I did try to knock on the door of my friend’s father place that lives on Mahone Bay but unfortunately he wasn’t in at the time.

I also found a restaurant named after me :).

Last stop of the day was a winery that was recommended by the locals. The Lunenburg County Winery is about 45 minutes north of Mahone Bay in a village called Newburne.

The winery is locally run by Heather on Hackmatack Farm, which has blueberry bushes. Most of their wines are fruit wines and both myself and Adam tried many different types (sample size luckily lol). I decided to purchase a bottle of the Blueberry wine (the most popular) and a desert wine made with maple and apple.

It was great chatting with Heather, who explained the processing they use and just generally about NS. It also turned out age used to live in Vancouver, so we talked a lot about BC as well.

One of the best bits about the winery are her two beautiful black Labrador (Piper and Pete). When we first pulled up in the car, we thought they were territorial but as it turned out they were friendly and loved getting attention. You did have to fuss both if them though otherwise the other one would get jealous.

It took approximately 1.5 hours to get back to Dartmouth and it turned out the Angus McDonald Bridge had closed at 7pm (the bridge closes at night for repairs at present). It took me another hour to drive around Halifax to find the other bridge (Murray McKay Bridge) that was still open but we made it back in the end.

Day 2 – Halifax, NS 

After waking up rather late (midday), we decided to head into Halifax. As we were in Dartmouth we knew we could either take the bridge (Angus McDonald Bridge), which is $1 each way or the ferry-boat that travels between Dartmouth and Halifax ($2.50) one way. As we didn’t know the parking situation in the city we decided to take the boat across.

The ferry-boat is almost similar to the Sea Bus between Vancouver and North Vancouver except it takes less time.

The boat takes you to Waterfront area in the city, which is the main tourist area with all the cruise ships coming in and out around the piers.

The boardwalk area around the waterfront is a nice walk. We saw Theodore the Tugboat (popular with children). Fishing and sailing are the main attributes associated with NS.

We also saw some other ships and an interesting bicycle sculpture by a restaurant called ‘The Bicycle Thief’ – I’m not sure why Vancouver doesn’t have a restaurant like it seeing as that is where a lot if bikes are stolen lol.

Many of buildings looked Victorian and really added to the history of the city. It was also very similar to some cities in the UK with the style of architecture.

Walling along the boardwalk, there was a lovely looking island across the water complete with a lighthouse; this is Georges Island, which held a military fort on it (Fort Charlotte). The island is own by Parks Canada is under going restoration to become a tourist attraction.

At lunchtime, we stopped off at a place called Murphy’s over looking Georges Island. The seafood chowder was amazing!

Citadel Hill is the large star-shaped old fortified summit (Fort George) over looking the rest of the city and Halifax harbour; it was founded in 1749 and was a stronghold for the British to make sure no ships were coming in to attack. The view from the hill is pretty cool but the fort area wasn’t open when we went up there. Citadel Hill is owned by Parks Canada as it’s a heritage site.

View from Citadel Hill. The building to the left is The Scotiabank Centre where the junior hockey team , Halifax Mooseheads play. The night we were there, The Toronto Maple Leafs were playing a pre-season game against the Ottawa Senators

After spending some time in an awesome little pub called The Lower Deck and drinking Keith’s, we got chatting to one the bar staff (Josh), who gave us tips on where to go in NS and on Cape Breton Island. The bar itself feels like you are inside a boat and there are many Maritime artifacts on the wall. It is also meant to be a good place for live music.

We took the ferry back to Dartmouth in the late evening (the ferry runs till about midnight) and checked out another recommendation by a friend called Battery Park before heading back to base.

This bar only opened last December and is a craft beer bar with a selection of beer from different breweries. You can grab a flight of 4 beers for $12.

Downstairs there is also a small brewery called ‘North Brewing Co.’ this is independent from the bar upstairs but similar to the Vancouver craft breweries, you can get beer growlers filled up.