Day 28 – St John’s to London

Walked with Philippa in the morning to The Roomswhich is a Museam and archives facility overlooking the city.

Fergus wanted to ask about some family who had ties to the shipping trade in Newfoundland and Poole. Found out his family once owned a very large shipping company who had their headquarters on an island called Fogo, we plan to visit the island on our way back to Banff. There is more information about the company Here. Took some photos of the view and carried on into town.Wandered the streets of St John’s looking at souvineer and craft shops and viewing the massive ships moored in the docks. It’s a very busy and lively city, smaller that I’d expected it to be but very pretty, just like a small fishing village just on a larger scale. Met up with Ben for lunch and he took us to a funky little cafe called Rocket Bakery where we had a chicken burrito each. It was a nice place, quite hipster and lots of  city types and young families enjoying speciality coffee and slightly overpriced food. Fergus and I headed through town to walk up Signal Hill which is  St. John’s most popular landmark. It offers coastal hikes and sweeping views overlooking the Atlantic and is the site of St. John’s harbour defences.We did the North Head Trail which is the oldest and most popular of the trails on Signal Hill. It follows a trail along the narrows to the North Head. 

The trail started off relatively easy, walked around the hills on steps and boardwalks, lots of runners passed us and we passed others going at a more leisurely pace. Stopped to look at Whales a couple of times and watch a ship entering the harbour. The trail winded around the cliffs and at one point the path was so narrow a chain was attached to the rock face for safety, the stairs climbed up to the point where the track dissappared and you could wander around the rocks.We walked around the point and as we did the wind died down and the heat really increased. Watched more whales off the point before climbing a huge staircase to the top of the hill. It was tough going!I went up Cabot Tower, the fortification on the top of the hill where the  final battle of the Seven Years’ War in North America was fought in 1762 in which the French surrendered St. John’s to a British force. Walked back down the trail on the opposite side of the hill towards Quidi Vidi, a small cove with a brewery. That path was not as steep but still had great views of the ocean before descending into forest where Bald Eagles nest and then onto the cute little cove.There wasn’t a bar at the brewery and I didn’t really want to do a tour so went to a very quirky pub called Inn of Olde. It is a funny place, stuff is all over the walks and roof, number plates, hockey sticks, newspaper clippings, Christmas decorations, you name it. I’ll definately return there when we come back to St John’s as I hear it’s quite a lovely place. Just had one beer before the long walk back to the house.once back at the house we packed up the stuff we wanted to take and the stuff we wanted to leave in Canada and cleaned and organised the car. 

We then had a lovely dinner with Ben and Philippa of Salmon, sausages, salad, chips and pasta salad. It was such a nice meal and had a good chat while enjoying an Old Fashioned. Caught a cab to the airport at 9:45 and flew out around midnight. 

Bye bye Canada!


Day 27 – Channel Port aux Basques to St John’s

Our penultimate day started very early. I woke at 5:30 and went up on deck to get some shots of the sunrise over Newfoundland. The boat was very quiet except for staff and a few passengers stirring from their slumber or going for morning coffee.The ferry docked and we headed down to our car and disembarked around 7:30 and headed to Tim Hortons for breakfast and wi-fi. Started our journey around 8:15 and headed out onto the last leg of the Trans Canada highway.Almost immediately the landscape was beautiful. It was very different to Nova Scotia surprisingly. Newfoundland is like Central Otago whereas Nova Scotia is more like Southland. (only makes sence if you are familiar with New Zealand)

The hills were larger, not quite mountains but definately higher and a lot rockier. Large parts of the flatter areas were rocky too and in amongst the rocks was forest, shrubs and small lakes. Perfect environment for Moose I’ve been told. 

Did we see any? No! Nada! Nothing! Ziltch! Saw some amazing cloud formations over the hills and got some cool shots from the car despite the dirty windowscreen laden with the bodies of dead bugs who got in our path. The weather was cloudy but looked like it was going to clear. It didn’t.Stopped a couple of hours outside St John’s so Fergus could sleep before carrying on into rain and mist. It seemed to take forever to actually get over all the winding hills into the city but finding Ben and Philippa’s house was easy.They live in a 2 bed house in an area not too far from town. They are renovating the bathroom and have already changed the house dramatically from what they said. It’s a lovely wee place with a fresh maritime feel and lots of artwork and sculpture around. 

Had a few beers and a BBQ with Ben and chatted to Philippa when she arrived home.

Day 26 – Sydney to Port aux Basques

Slept in again and made bacon butties for breakfast….again. Wandered into central Sydney to find the library so I could print out my boarding passes for my return flight to Canada should I have any issues on my arrival at Gatwick. It was closed on Mondays, typical of a small town and very annoying. Walked along the boardwalk beside the inlet to the Big Fiddle, I’m not sure why Sydney has a big fiddle, I guess it’s due to the Celtic culture of the island but the town doesn’t offer much else so why not build a ‘big thing’ to attract people? It has been done many times before in other towns around the globe.Spoke to a lovely lady in a gift shop beside the information centre and Fergus bought some soap, out of guilt for being in there so long chatting to her I think. I don’t think many people visited the store so we were happy to chat. 

Wandered through town which was not the nicest, yet another high street with boarded up shops, restaurants with nobody in them and office buildings, ruined due to cheaper chain supermarkets and fast food restaurants built on the outskirts of town. We had seen a lot of this in small town Canada.

Headed back to our Air B&B house. Our host, Will had gone to work so didn’t get to say goodbye, he was a very nice chap. Grabbed our gear and headed up towards North Sydney. Left Sydney at 2pm and our ferry didn’t leave until 11:45pm so we had hours to fill in. Drove the coast route past small villages, inlets and small lakes. Stopped briefly for a walk around Petersfield Provincial Park. Walked along the stony beach and through forest for about an hour and a half. Carried on to North Sydney and printed out my boarding passes and ferry ticket at the library, visited the information centre and Tim Hortons to use the wi-fi.

Drove up the coast to waste time and as we were going through Sydney Mines we could see some sort of concrete structure out on the point. We had already noticed some battlements on the cliffs below us so got as close as we could to it and parked the car.

Walked down to the large structure which turned out to be part of the Chapel Point Battery Site. The main building was 4 stories high but you weren’t able to get above the ground floor which was just a series of graffitied, littered, dark rooms. A few meters from it, towards the cliff edge were 2 identical gun battlements and you could see where a gun of some sort once sat. The rails it would have sat upon were still there and there were various rooms and cubbies around it i’m guessing were used to store ammunition and other defensive material.There was one more area that was a large, very dark room that had steps from both ends leading to a lower level and then a second pair of staircases leading down to what looked like a door or doorway to another room. It was pitch black down there and even though I really wanted to go down the steps to investigate, I didn’t and chickened out. I will always wonder what is down that dark, dirty staircase….Decided to go to the ferry terminal and check in and leave the car in the queue while we went to get dinner. The man in the kiosk took the printout of our tickets, cave us real tickets and told us to go in row 9. There were about 15 rows full of cars, campervans, lorries and motorbikes all waiting patiently to board the huge ferry.Went to a local pizza shop and ordered a pizza and garlic bread and ate slowly while chatting and trying to pass the time. Sat in the terminal for a while, I bought a travel pillow then sat in the car for the last hour and a half. 

It didn’t take us long to get on the ferry once boarding began, we boarded from the back and parked on the 3rd level, right at the front. Went and got a comfy seat in front of 3 large tv screens on level 8. It wasn’t overly busy, a few seats were taken but most people slept on the carpet between the seats, although the safety video had mentioned this was frowned upon, I guess they do the journey often.It took at least an hour to actually start moving and by then it was dark so I could only watch the lights of North Sydney pass as we left the inlet when I ventured up onto the sun deck. Watched a bit of The History Channel and the News before heading off the sleep. 

TAX! Prices are not as they seem….

My biggest gripe, and one I face daily is the fact Canada (and America for that matter) add their tax on top of what is stated on the price tag, essentially they are false advertising. 

In every single other country I have been to in Asia, Europe, Africa and Oceana the tax is included in the final price so what you see on the tag or board is what you pay. 

There is Goods and Service tax, which is 5%, Provincial Sales Tax which varied from 0-10% and Harmonised Sales Tax which is 13%. So it varies depending what you buy and where you are buying it.A user of quoted “Let’s face it, sales tax system here is very outdated, causes too much inconveniences and has no consideration for consumers. One needs a calculator in order to determine how much he will need to pay before making any purchase. It also intentionally understates the price of products.” 

The above is so true, anyone who grew up not using this system is alarmed when they come to pay and sometimes decide against purchasing. I know I have done. 

The docket below is an example, an extra 15% tax or $2.11 was added on to a $14.06 bill. It’s not a lot but imagine buying a $300 handbag (which I have done so in the past in Europe) that would be an extra $45.00! This Trip Advisor page explains it all in detail and I understand why they do it as both Canada and the US have lots of provinces or states but then so does Australia and they don’t use the same system. Their tax is included in the final price. 

Everyone new to Canada needs to remember, if you are scrounging in your bag for coins at 3am after a night out and manage to find enough for a kebab as per the menu, it will cost more so you may be left disappointed and hungry. (This happened to me in Las Vegas on my first trip to America)So that’s tax, annoying and unexpected as it is, you also need to add on a tip if you are in a restaurant! Normally a further 15%! That’s a whole other post……

Couchsurfing – the best way to travel!

‘The website provides a platform for members to stay as a guest at someone’s home (homestay), host travellers, meet other members, or join an event. Unlike many hospitality services, Couchsurfing is an example of the gift economy; there is no monetary exchange between members and there is no expectation by hosts for future rewards’ – Wikipedia

Couchsurfing is a great way to travel, to some the only way.

I’ve spent years travelling since I left my hometown in 1999 and have been to 25 countries and lived in 4. I have stayed in 5 star hotels, motels, hostels, B&Bs, camping grounds, AirB&Bs and Walmart parking lots but I think Couchsurfing is the best. My 20th birthday at Dougies Backpackers in Port Douglas in 2000. Who are these people? 

Yes, you get to see the city/town you came to visit and in hostels you normally meet some fun people but it takes a local to show you their hometown for it to be an extra special experience. A treasured memory. Folks jamming at out host Chris’s mother’s birthday BBQ in Port Alberti. 2016

The local ‘hole on the wall’ eateries you would probably otherwise walk straight past but if you are in the know you will go in and experience the city’s most amazing cuisine. The secret local’s lookouts most tourists never view the city from, getting into attractions cheap or free because your host knows someone who works there, a tour driver, a dinner companion, a kareoke partner, a friend. Couchsurfing photos on my profile

We have couchsurfed in the following places so far, Victoria, Nanaimo, Port Alberni, Calgary, Medicine Hat, Sudbury, Ottawa, Montreal and Quebec City and all of them have been great experiences. Some lived alone, some had other couchsurfes and family staying at the same time, many had cats, some had dogs, some had children, some partied with us, some took us for dinner, some were hardly there and some were always there. Each and every experience has been different. A friendly cat in Montreal

You really have to go in with an open mind though, you never know what the host’s expectations may be despite what it says on their profile. If you just feel like chilling and being alone, don’t book a place on Couchsurfing as the host may well have plans to take you to dinner or show you around their town.

So go to today and sign up. It’s £13 per year to join but it’s so worth it, you save money after the very first time you stay with someone.

If you go in with an open mind anything is possible, that’s why we travel right?


Day 25 – Chillaxing in Sydney

Today was a day for relaxation. 

  • No driving (well not hours and hours at least)
  • No map reading
  • No cooking on our camp cooker
  • No arguing 
  • No worries about finding a place to stay

I woke up early as usual but lay in bed for a few more hours before getting up and having bacon butties for breakfast.

 It was another hot day, I even burnt my feet on the black mat as I was getting in our washing. It was hot but there was a breeze to so we decided to hit the beach. Dominion Beach Provincial Park is the closest to the house so we headed up there, it’s only 20 minutes out of town and offers a 1.5-km sandy beach, with boardwalks providing access to the beach and protecting the dunes. Other amenities include change houses, salt rinse showers, flush toilets and two large parking lots.We lay on the grass between the washrooms and the lagoon as the beach was so windy and a little cold. Had some pasta salad and sandwhiches, did crosswords, read the paper and relaxed. 

Went for a walk down the beach after a few hours of sunbathing and then around the lagoon. Found some great skimming stones too so did that for a while.In the evening we decided to go to the cinema. Fergus had wanted to go and see either the new Batman movie or Drive Baby for a while so we decided to go as we were in a city and there was a Cineplex close by. Good movie, not quite what I expected but it was enjoyable.  

Day 24 – Ingonish Beach to Sydney

We are both so tired. Tired of waking up early, Fergus is tired of driving, tired of living out of the car, tired of the heat. 

This has been a trip of a lifetime but to do it in a month has been really draining, we are on the road almost every day and haven’t had a lot of chill out time so we decided to head straight to Sydney to relax before catching the ferry to Newfoundland, driving 9+ hours across it and flying to London.   Had some very watery Walmart vege soup for breakfast and got on our way around the Cape Breton peninsula. 

Past Ingonish the terrain turned to steeper and more scenic as we climbed the coastal road to the Highlands.The skywas blue, the Atlantic was calm, the flora varying and the road wasn’t too busy, the road surface was still horrible though. Canadian roads are the worst due to the extreme weather, Manitoba and Quebec were the worst. 

Headed through the cantre of the Cape to the West side past a lot of roadworks, small towns and highland plains. (still no Moose) The West was even more dramatic and we twixted and turned down the windy roads and had amazing views of the now very choppy ocean. Stopped briefly at Lone Shieling, a tribute to Donald. S. MacIntosh who gave a lot of land to the province upon his death and asked that a small area be set aside and on it build a cabin in the same design as the Lone Shieling on the Isle of Skye. Stopped for lunch at an area overlooking the ocean and had chicken, coleslaw, mask and macaroni cheese rolls. After finding out yet another friend is pregnant we went on to discuss marriage and babies and what we want out of life. It’s hard to choose when you have chosen a life of adventure and travel so far, my freedom to travel is very important to me.  Carried on along the Cabot Trail and eventually arrived back at the turnoff we had taken the previous day. Headed back to Baddeck for an ice cream and a rest before crossing the impressive Seal Island Bridge onto Boulardeire Is and then on to North Sydney and Sydney. Arrived at our Air B&B host’s house and had a good chat before being showed to our room and doing some laundry (we had both run out of clean clothes!) 

Ordered Chinese for dinner and chilled out. 

Day 23 – Pictou to Ingonish Beach

Woke up feeling 100% better and cooked scrambled eggs and ravioli for breakfast.

Went to have a look around the small village of Pictou. The town has significant historical importance due to it being the site where the first Scottish settlers, fleeing the highland clearances, landed in 1773. 

We visited Hector’s Heritage Quay, a neat little Museam on the jetty which also insludes a full size replica of The Hector, the Dutch barque that carried the first 179 passengers from Loch Broom. ​​Wandered around the Museam, read about life in Scotland, on the ship and life in Nova Scotia, then we had a look around the ship. What aweful conditions they lived in, and for all those months. Went and got a yummy orange/pineapple ice cream and continued on our way. 

Headed up past New Glasgow, Antigonish and onto the Trans Canada to Cape Breton Island. Stopped briefly at the Tourist information centre where I bought my Stepfather’s sister, Lyn a Nova Scotian flag.

Stopped in Baddeck and got some ready meals of cold ham, mash and coleslaw and sat of the riverside and ate lunch. Went for a paddle in the bay and considered getting the kayak out but had some way still to go so got on our way.Headed North up the Cape Breton peninsula passing tiny coastal villages, many with signs outside the houses letting tourists know their craft, glass blowing, quilt making, pottery, it was all there in amongst the holiday homes and fishermans houses. Once we reached Cape Breton Highlands National Park we visited the Parks Canada office to get some info and then came across a Parks Canada campground so pulled in and got their last spot!

It was a busy camp compared to the other ones we had camped at and the next door neighbours were mere feet away. We were close to the toilet/shower block, the dishwashing area and the wifi hut. (yes, there are such things in campgrounds these days!) 

Went to explore the beach, freshwater lake and drove up to Keltic Lodge for a look before returning to camp for dinner.That night we were woken by a terrific storm. Loud, banging thunder and fork lightning cracking against the sky. I was glad I was in the car instead of in a tent!

Day 22 – Halifax to Pictou

Got up late and had noodles for brunch (it’s all we had) and packed up the car. Gave Serena and the kittens a ride to the vets in Dartmouth which is across the bridge from Halifax. 

Drove East to Lawrencetown to check out the surfing beach. A pretty beach but the waves were 2 ft at best. It was so great to be on a beach again though, an actual beach with waves and sand. The water was freezing but the salt air and sea breeze bought back wonderful childhood memories of the sand and surf. How I miss living by the ocean.Carried on up the 357 inland from Musquodoboit Harbour looking for a place to eat. The route was windy, forest lines roads and the towns, it you could call them that, were just a couple of houses and no shops or anything. It was hit and muggy and we were hungover and very tired so stopped by a river for a sleep. 

Carried on and decided to just find a cheap motel as we needed a proper bed, somewhere to relax and air conditioning. Fergus booked a cheap last minute motel in Pictou called Dolen’s Inn. Upon arrival we got a choice of 3 rooms (we picked the one that had been renevated) and had a chat to the lovely lady at the desk. Settled in and watched crap tv, did my blog, ate our Burger King meals (plus another meal I accidentally took thinking it was mine!) and had a bath. It was so nice just to vege.

Day 21 – Hubbards to Halifax

Made spam and egg rolls for breakfast and were on our way around 11. Such a lovely place to stay, if you are ever in the area see if the Rustic Cabin in Hubbards is available on Air B&B. I highly recommend it.Headed to Blue Rocks which is just outside Lunenburg for a look first thing. My manager at Brewster’s Mountain Lodge in Banff grew up in Lunenburg so very kindly wrote out some recommendations for us which we basically planned our day around! 

Blue Rocks is a small fishing village but various artists live there too due to its beauty. It’s a great spot for kayaking and just like Peggy’s cove the day before, thick coastal fog rolled in while we were there, you can see it in the pictures below.Lunenberg was our next stop and lunch was on the cards! It was a bit of a nightmare getting parking as town was so busy, found a spot on a residential street a few streets away from the Main Street after about 30 minutes of circling. Lunenburg is another fishing village located on the Fairhaven Peninsula at the western side of Mahone Bay. It’s also a UNESCO World Heritage Site, Its won most beautiful small town in Canada, Prettiest Painted Places in Canada and Port City of the Year so it worth going for a visit I’d say!

The buildings were all neatly and colourfully painted and had lush green lawns and gardens or flower boxes adorning thei windows. The streets were clean and contained cute shop signs enticing you in to the many gift shops and clothing stores. We headed down to the jetty for a look at the boats moored up. They say, Lunenburg is a holiday destination for the wealthy and by the look of some of the yachts moored there is say that us very true! There were some beautiful saitboays there full of deckhands cleaning and getting prepared for he next voyage.Didnt have much trouble finding the Grand Banker, the building is bright Aqua and overlooks the docks. This place was also recommended by Adam and it was started by a Lunenburger is 1996 and is now also run by Lunenburger so that was an attraction too, keep it local I always say. The menu is great and it’s always a good thing when you have a lot of trouble deciding. We both went for the Po Boy fish sandwich which was amazing! I could have had a second one for dinner it was so good! 

Went to a few gift shops and wandered around town before heading off to Ovens Natural Park.  Ovens is a 190 acre privately owned park that contains a camping ground, restaurant, shop, petting zoo, cliff trail and gold panning. It was also the site of a gold rush over a century ago.

We paid $23 to get in and did the cave and cliff self guided tour. 

Tour explanation: Experience the Park’s fascinating gold rush history, unique geology and diverse coastal environment as you enjoy our self-guided tour along the beautiful sea cliff trail that leads to the famous Ovens Sea caves. High points of the tour are the visits to Tucker’s Tunnel, the overlook at Indian Cave and finally, spectacular Cannon Cave, where you will be able to hear the resounding boom created as the waves enter the cavern. 

The trail was pretty cool and it was so nice to feel the ocean breeze and spray from the water rushing in and out of the caves on your face, it was such a hot day.Avter visiting the caves we hotfooted it to Halifax to our Couchsurfing host’s flat. 

Serena is a 21 year old uni student. Her flatmate was away in Toronto so we had her room. There are also 2 kittens in the flat, Tilda and Bear. The house is big and in a lovely street about a 30 minute walk to town.We all went out to a bar called Freemans and had some drinks with Serena and a bunch of her uni friends. They were all lovely and liked to tell us about Halifax and what to see & do.Fergus and I carried on to an Irish pub in town called The Halifax Alehouse. Met locals, drank and danced until about 4am. It was fun but spent way too much money and it was definately a night to remember!