12.14.2007

soliciting canadian travel information

It looks like we'll be able to take a good trip next year, and thank goodness, because it's been too long for me.

Travel in 2007 was limited to smaller getaways - the cottage in the Kawarthas, our friend's wedding in Vermont, and of course, the Ice Hotel back in January. I also went to California, in addition to our annual New York/New Jersey trips.

As fun as these smaller trips are - and I do love them - I missed taking what I consider a "big" vacation, for a longer period of time, someplace I've never been. Nothing does it for me like travel.

For a while it looked like 2008 might be our long-awaited dogsledding adventure, but we can't swing it financially, and Dogsled Stacie isn't quite set up for visitors yet. So now we're talking about the Yukon in '09.

But, finances permitting, we want to travel in Canada next year, and my first priority is heading east. I'm eager to see Newfoundland, thanks to those beautiful ads that ran during the Torino Winter Olympics, and also Nova Scotia. We haven't decided between the two yet.

Should we try to do both on one trip? Or go to Newfoundland and leave Nova Scotia for another time?

Do we start with a couple of days in Montreal? We haven't been there since 2004; I can always use a Montreal fix.

If we choose Nova Scotia, we can easily work in a bit of New Brunswick, too. But I hear Newfoundland calling me.

If possible, we like to travel off-season, while kids are in still in school and every place isn't over-run with tourists. Is the spring a good time of year to visit Atlantic Canada?

These are the questions we are kicking around.

If you have suggestions: we like natural beauty, scenic routes, and small towns, and we'll explore any city of any size. We love history, and always work in some historic sites. We'll take easy hikes, but we're not climbing mountains, and we do not go camping.

Fire away!

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24 comments:

L-girl said...

Just remembered: I've been to the Bay of Fundy, as a child on a trip to Arcadia National Park in Maine. I've always wanted to go back... but not necessarily on this coming trip.

M@ said...

How many days are you going for? I don't think it's impossible to see quite a bit of NS in only a few days. If you're going for longer than a week (even from a Friday night to the following Sunday), it may be possible to see both. There's a ferry from Cape Breton to Newfoundland, too, so maybe you could combine the trip somehow. Then again, I know I hate to rush things on vacation myself...

For my money, nothing beats Cape Breton Island for scenery. We were there for only two days, all told, and I'd gladly go back again today. Well, after the snow thaws.

I think spring would be a great time to visit the east coast. One thing to do is to check when the "high season" rates begin with the B&Bs, and get there before. We stayed at quite reasonable rates in some really nice places in October.

I've been through New Brunswick twice and I'm still not sure what there is to see in that province. But we were just burning through on highways at the time so, yes, I could have missed something...

Sarah O. said...

I love the seasons out here, but you should probably know that "spring" comes late - that is to say, we actually have a nice, slow spring, and don't jump straight into summer like you do in Ontario, and the leaves aren't fully open on the trees until June.

I went to Newfoundland in late September-early October (I have one more blog post to write to sum up the trip), and it was wonderful - enough travelers for most things to still be open (although on a reduced schedule), but not busy at all. If you take the ferry (and you will need a car to see the province), I would suggest you take the Argentia ferry there, drive across the province westward, and then take the Port-aux-Basques ferry back to Sydney. If you time it properly, you can see the fall colour in Newfoundland and Nova Scotia.


Good lord, I could go on. If you're interested in hearing more from me, let me know and I can email you.

Jere said...

I've always wanted to go to northern Maine and above. I'll never forget a friend of mine describing it as "where the St. Lawrence Seaway becomes, like, an inland sea." Always intrigued me.

Whatever you decide, you're always welcome to stay with us down in the Boston section of Canada South, and we'll take you and Allan to a Sox game.

L-girl said...

How many days are you going for?

10 days to 2 weeks? I think.

There's a ferry from Cape Breton to Newfoundland, too, so maybe you could combine the trip somehow.

Ah, that sounds nice! We love ferries.

For my money, nothing beats Cape Breton Island for scenery.

Duly noted. I'm very intrigued.

I've been through New Brunswick twice and I'm still not sure what there is to see in that province.

Me neither! You never hear about it.

L-girl said...

I love the seasons out here, but you should probably know that "spring" comes late - that is to say, we actually have a nice, slow spring, and don't jump straight into summer like you do in Ontario, and the leaves aren't fully open on the trees until June.

Good to know. Traveling off-season, I'm used to not having things like that - like in Tuscany, rolling hills of brown sticks where the grapes would be. But IMO it's always worth the trade-off.

and you will need a car to see the province

Oh, for sure, I assumed that.

I would suggest you take the Argentia ferry there, drive across the province westward, and then take the Port-aux-Basques ferry back to Sydney.

Thanks for that! Good to know while I look at the map.

If you time it properly, you can see the fall colour in Newfoundland and Nova Scotia.

We definitely won't be there in the fall. That's baseball time. We'll settle for the colours in Ontario. (And I have horrible luck coordinating travel with autumn leaves.)

Sarah, thanks for all this. It's great. Feel free to post as much as you like or email if you want.

L-girl said...

Whatever you decide, you're always welcome to stay with us down in the Boston section of Canada South, and we'll take you and Allan to a Sox game.

Thanks, Jere. That's very sweet of you. This trip will definitely not include Boston - it's not exactly on the way.

But we will be seeing the Sox in Detroit next year. Gito, if you're reading, I'll be in touch about that!

Jere said...

Nice job on Detroit. I think I might see the Sox in Cincy this year.

Ferdzy said...

I second the person who mentioned Cape Breton Island. Really lovely. Very rugged.

New Brunswick and Saskatchewan to me are Canada's most under-rated provinces. Since New Brunswick is the one in question, I will agree that the middle can be dull, with long stretches of somewhat scrubby coniferous forest. The north-east coast (opposite P.E.I.) is really lovely, I think. You need to get further up from Moncton though, where it is wall-to-wall cottages. And once you are up that far, the Gaspé is not far away and it too is spectacular. New Brunswick is also Canada's most bilingual province which makes for an interesting culture.

In Trois Pistoles we stayed in a fun and funky bed and breakfast that was built in the 1660's. If you are interested I will see if I can dig up the name.

Also in Quebec, les Jardins de Métis is a place I have never been, but I am really hoping to go this June to see the famous blue poppies. What they will have earlier in the spring I don't know, but worth checking it out.

http://www.jardinsmetis.com/

Jen said...

East coast- fun! Leah and I were in Halifax at the end of April last year.

Obligatory Cdn weather commentary: I would second Sarah O that spring definately comes later. We left an Ottawa of temps in the 20's and totally over the tulips. We arrived in Halifax to high singles/low teens and winds that made it very chilly (freezing rain & fog on the last morning, well before dawn though-- but still, brrr), the grass still dead, no leaves.

We were there from April 27 to the 30th which is perhaps the worst possible timing. We went pre-season as this is cheaper, but the place literally doesn't open until May 1. We took a spontaneous road trip (as the bus service to Peggy's cove was ltd in the off season) as a result. However, because of the timing alot of the signs to cool sounding sights were up (artisan's workshops, farms, other touristy things along the roads) but not open, so we knew EXACTLY what we were missing.

This was great as we ended up going to Wolfville and the Annapolis (sp)--beautiful. Would recommend reading "The Birth House" and then going to Scott's Bay where the novel is set, or vice versa. Would recommend Lunnenberg. Whole lotta Lunnenberg bumps--very cute.

Here's two photo albums from that trip. Scroll over the pics to see details, click the pic to embiggen:

http://uottawa.facebook.com/album.php?aid=17320&l=a3d8c&id=858760603

http://uottawa.facebook.com/album.php?aid=17607&l=c8d66&id=858760603

Jen said...

Oops-- I meant "The road trip was great as we ended up in Wolfville and the Annapolis Valley..."

MSEH said...

m@ wrote: I've been through New Brunswick twice and I'm still not sure what there is to see in that province. But we were just burning through on highways at the time so, yes, I could have missed something...

I've been through New Brunswick twice and I'm still not sure what there is to see in that province.

And L-girl replied:
Me neither! You never hear about it.

I think there's some expression about NB being a drive-thru province or some such. We, of course, are moving to Fredericton and LOVE it. Would I call it a tourist destination? Not really. Though, they would disagree. I think the entire province is one of Canada's best kept secrets!

We went to the beach in Shediac and 6YO had a wonderful time and again in St. Andrews which we all just loved. NB puts out a TERRIFIC tourism booklet (http://www.tourismnewbrunswick.ca/) that gives you an idea of the variety. We didn't get to go kayaking on the Bay this time, but we did spend the day at Hopewell Rocks to see the tides. Check out http://www.thehopewellrocks.ca/english/index.htm.

We also did the traditional things on NS - Peggy's Cove, Lunenberg, etc. and had a great time. I really liked Halifax because of its size. But, we didn't make it to the Cape. Though I can't wait.

Thank goodness ferdzy wrote:
New Brunswick and Saskatchewan to me are Canada's most under-rated provinces. Since New Brunswick is the one in question, I will agree that the middle can be dull, with long stretches of somewhat scrubby coniferous forest. The north-east coast (opposite P.E.I.) is really lovely, I think. You need to get further up from Moncton though, where it is wall-to-wall cottages. And once you are up that far, the Gaspé is not far away and it too is spectacular. New Brunswick is also Canada's most bilingual province which makes for an interesting culture.

I've not been able to get farther North than Shediac (near Moncton), but am looking forward to doing so.

jen wrote: Would recommend reading "The Birth House" and then going to Scott's Bay where the novel is set, or vice versa.

Ditto! I'm not much of a fiction reader and I could not put the book down. BTW - relevant to this crowd - Ami McKay, the author, is originally from the US.

Anyway, we just fell in love with NB. I don't know that I'd make it my primary travel destination, unless I really wanted to just relax and enjoy the peace and quiet, but I would strongly discourage one from just blowing through on his or her way to someplace else.

BTW, if one were to enter at Calais, ME (which, L-girl, I can't imagine you will), a stop at the Ganong Chocolate Museum is a must. The displays are brief and of moderate interest. The platters of free chocolate are another thing altogether! ;-)

L-girl said...

Ferdzy, Jen and MSEH, thanks for the info! I knew a mention of NB would draw a comment from our MSEH, a soon-to-be resident of said province. :)

Given an excuse, I'll go anywhere, and I'll find good stuff to see wherever I go. There are cool things to do in the most unlikely of places, and even just to see the landscape and what an area looks like is interesting to me. So I won't miss Sask and NB - eventually. Before I die, I intend to at least step foot in all 50 states and 10 provinces. I don't know why, but this is important to me.

And now "The Birth House" is on my list, having been recommended in two different contexts. :)

This is all really good info. Thanks all, and please feel free to pile on more, anything you think of.

James said...

Lori has this to say:

1) Newfoundland is great but it depends on what you want.
http://www.explorenewfoundlandandlabrador.com/
http://www.newfoundlandlabrador.com/
http://www.coastalsafari.com/
are good places to start to get an idea of the types of things available

2) The roads in Newfoundland can be a bit rough - especially off the Avalon if you don't stick to the main highway. Take that into account when you rent a car.

3) Whales and iceburgs are one of the big tourist things for Newfoundland - if you're interested in them - humpback are May-Sept but other whales have other common sighting times. Check what you're interested in. Iceburgs are March-June/July. April/May is generally good.

4) I wouldn't recommend doing both in one trip unless you are a) only interested in seeing a brief glimpse of both places or b) have a fairly long time to spend. I don't know about others but I could easily spend two weeks in Newfoundland and not get bored but take that with a grain of salt since mom was from Placenta.

L-girl said...

Thanks Lori! (And James.) I was waiting for Lori to weigh in.

sassy said...

As Fredzy mentioned,

.. the Gaspé is not far away and it too is spectacular.

The people are great and the prices for food and lodging are reasonable. Lots of good rest stops as well

Bonus is that on the southern part of the Gaspsé is the BAIE DES CHALEURS and on the southern side of the Baie des Chaleurs is New Brunswick.

And when you do make it out that way, be sure to visit the rock

Sounds like you have a lot of good suggestions so if not the Gaspsé this time, put it on your must see list for later. It is really worth your while (including the Jardin Metis)

In that area (not far from Jardin Metis) there is also the Centre d'art Marcel Gagnon with its wonderful sculptures in the river, a lot of fun to see.

Happy travels.

p.s. afterthought - take a week or more and drive around the whole Gaspsé

mike w said...

If your mind isn't set already: don't forget the Rockies, starting in Jasper and Banff. Everyone should see it.

I think 1 in 10 Ontarians have actually travelled West, so you'd be treading new ground as a newly-minted Eastern Canadians.

L-girl said...

Sassy: thank you for the info. This trip is definitely either Nova Scotia or Newfoundland, but I'm sure that will come in handy one day.

Mike W: See above. :) We'll see all of Canada eventually, despite the non-traveling tendencies of most Ontarians. This next trip, we are heading east.

L-girl said...

Those comments reminded me of an old post of mine. See numbers 2 and 3.

L-girl said...

Some quick research tells me it might not be possible to visit both NS and NL on the same trip anyway.

It seems like it's prohibitive to rent a car at one airport and return it at the other. If anyone knows otherwise, I'd be happy to hear from you.

Sarah O. said...

That's unfortunate about the car rental. Do you make many long drives? Because it is only 20 hours from Toronto to Halifax or Toronto to Sydney, and if you are going for at least two weeks, it may be worthwhile to bring your own vehicle.

I personally find it a bit tedious having to re-trace my path. If you drive across Nfld. to see Gros Morne (and if you're really into it, all the way up to St. Anthony's and L'Anse aux Meadows), you'll have to drive the length of the island again to get back to the airport. Of course, that may be a reasonable sacrifice in a 14-day vacation!

Nova Scotia has a number of loops you can make, so you don't need to retrace the same paths of road. If you take the more scenic, slightly rambling old highway routes rather than the 100-series highways, you get more of a feel for how the province grew up. We only have the two cities, and a large town in NS is 18,000 people - I think we have 2 or 3 of those.

I absolutely LOVED Newfoundland, so my first impulse is to tell you to go there. But I'm a very loyal bluenose, a Maritime Canadian historian, and have actually studied Nova Scotia tourism and landscape history for the last two years, so I should also say I love this province, and think you might like it too. I can also drop the false modesty and tell you I am a wealth of information on the topic, at least historically speaking. Not sure you really need to know when the Cabot Trail was first constructed, but I can give you an idea about our more and less "authentic" tourism spiels, and some of the out-of-the-way gems. :)

Derek said...

Having grown up in the east - I love NB a lot and have a cottage there. For me nothing beats Parlee Beach - long warm beach. Also some lovely drives up the coast.

NB does not have a lot to see though.

I agree with most of the comments here - Cabot trail is wonderful. Gaspe great.

Also have to see the Conferderation Bridge.

One thing you may want to see is the Les Îles-de-la-madeleine - which you can do from PEI.

A lot to see and do - but lots of driving.

L-girl said...

Because it is only 20 hours from Toronto to Halifax or Toronto to Sydney, and if you are going for at least two weeks, it may be worthwhile to bring your own vehicle.

I think we'll fly from Toronto. I don't think I'd want to "use up" that much time driving back and forth. Plus I like breaking up the drive and seeing stuff along the way... which would really cut into our time on either NL or NS.

If you drive across Nfld. to see Gros Morne (and if you're really into it, all the way up to St. Anthony's and L'Anse aux Meadows),

Which I will :)

you'll have to drive the length of the island again to get back to the airport.

That's a drag when that happens. It's nicer to make a loop. But if you're going somewhere where you must retrace your path... then there you are.

Nova Scotia has a number of loops you can make, so you don't need to retrace the same paths of road. If you take the more scenic, slightly rambling old highway routes

That sounds really nice. Tempting!

Sarah, thank you very much for the information and the offer. I'm sure I'll be taking you up on it.

After New Year's, I'll start thumbing through some travel books and see what happens.

L-girl said...

Derek, thank you. :)

It all sounds great, even the driving. That's why we'd be unlikely to also drive from the GTA, since the vacation is bound to be a lot of driving.