Our plans fell through, then they were on again, then fell through and then we went. The weekend before we left for our University tour of the Maritimes, I posted on Facebook and had family and friends respond with invitations to visit and recommendations for hotels and restaurants. It was fabulous.
Originally we were going to forego our Down East plans as Claire was to write her SAT exam on the weekend we'd planned to be away. It turns out she deferred them to November and kind of forgot to tell me, our family travel coordinator. I never saw my university before my first day on campus and I think it's very important for my kids to visit the area and get a feel for a place before they decide to live there for (hopefully) four years, or more.
WEDNESDAY | Trans Canada Highway
We headed out of Oakville on a Wednesday, with a plan to stop at a hotel en route. Well, that didn't happen. Since we had a 2PM appointment for a tour of UNB Fredericton, it didn't make sense to check into a room for three hours. We went straight through. The total drive to Frederiction was 1,396km, 17H15M, one nap, lots of fog and a carload of grateful non-French speaking fans of XM radio!
On the road. The fog was thick until we hit the other side of Toronto. We were all talking until around 1AM, aka at another standstill in Montreal as there was a traffic jam. And a lot of this:
CONSTRUCTION! Honestly, from one end of Quebec to the other it was one big construction zone and I was glad to be driving it through the night. I couldn't imagine the back-up should we be driving during the day. Combined with the fact not one sign had any English on it I have to admit I was a bit fearful I'd forget my gauche (left) from my droit (right) and end up in a ditch - or worse! That is what provided the impetus to just continue.
THURSDAY | Fredericton, New Brunswick
I took an hour-long nap somewhere outside Riviere du Loup and then drove on. By the time the kids woke up we were encased in fog again. Serious fog. Hello Northern New Brunswick!
When we arrived in Fredericton around 11AM our hotel room wasn't ready so we went off to Boston Pizza (ick) for lunch. I was more than a bit blotto so no photos of UNB! Claire and Cole went on a guided tour and I checked into the Lord Beaverbrook with Chloé and Caden. We had an early dinner at the Grampy-recommended Swiss Chalet (my kids love that) and then hit the sack!
FRIDAY | Rothesay, New Brunswick; Amherst, Nova Scotia and Halifax, Nova Scotia
We woke in Fredericton and I tried to make up for my lack of photo taking of the day before:
They make me laugh!
Then we were on the road. A perfect opportunity for Claire to get in some practice:
We met my parents for lunch in Saint John at a great new hamburger place:
Then a quick trip to their place in Rothesay. It is so beautiful. Then it was time to head to Amherst, Nova Scotia to see my friend - and first year at Mt. A roommate, Wendy. For the first time in 28 years I could be found in Sackville. Never in my wildest imaginings did I ever think I'd ever be back. The bookstore was closed so no sweatshirts for the kids' growing collections. I can't say I'm terribly upset about that.
We arrived in Amherst to see this sign: "Closed for Renovations". It really should have said Closed for DEMOLITION. There was no evidence of a McDonalds except for the remaining drive through signs.
Then we met up with Wendy and her family for dinner. It was so great to see her. It's been far too long and though we keep in touch via Facebook it really is no subsitute for the real thing. I don't know how my kids are going look at me in the same way after stories of togas and smurfs.
Yes, she's as sweet as she looks!
Back on the road ...
We arrived in Halifax around 9PM and the city was gorgeous with the sparkling lights reflected on the water. The kids were enamoured from the start.
SATURDAY | Halifax, Nova Scotia
My friend Elaine sent me with a care package for her daughter who is at Dalhousie, taking the course Claire is looking into. Mission accomplished! Marissa then took the kids on a tour and hung around with them for the "official" tour, too!
My girl LOVES stone and I knew she'd fall in love with the Dalhousie campus. She did.
Then it was time for a late lunch. We met another daughter of another friend who is up from the US to attend King's - which is affiliated but separate from Dal. An option for Cole who is considering journalism. I can only hope when I ask my children to entertain random unmet internet friends that they show the same kindness and confidence as we received from Hope!
That night Claire went back to Dal and stayed overnight with Marissa and her friends. How better to get the full university experience? She had a great time and really got an understanding of life in residence - which is not the same as residence at high school. While she was doing that, I met on online friend who I think I can safely say is now a friend for real! What a lovely evening trading stories of parenting, backgrounds, ideas, observations and dreams. I hope to spend more time online and off with my friend, Sue.
SUNDAY | Truro, Nova Scotia
We got all packed up again and checked out of the hotel. Fortified with breakfast from Cora's we were on the road ... again! This time to Truro to visit with and share Thanksgiving dinner with my cousin Peter and his family. Before arriving at his place, I bored my kids silly with a tour of the town as I spent just about every summer and many Christmases of my childhood in Truro.
We arrived at Pete's place and the kids were introduced, by his son Taylor, to the fine art of Washer Toss:
We were then treated to a FEAST! Kathy totally outdid herself. Turkey and ham and potatoes and carrots and best of all ... GREAT COMPANY. My aunt Beth, a dear and lovely woman, was there and I'm sure overwhelmed with the noise and energy of my four - but in a good way, I hope! She is so sweet and if I'm in the least bit considered a good mum it is completely due to her example.
Liz and Paul were there with their daughter and her boyfriend. It was such a wonderful visit - a true kitchen party. I do wish we were closer. I'm so glad my kids were able to experience my family and friends. So kind and generous - all of them. The whole trip was tossed together with such short notice to see all of these people was such a great lesson for all of my children.
Sadly, our evening came to an end:
Until next time!
MONDAY | Trans Canada Highway
6AM came early ...
We managed to make it in 18, even with a couple of rest stops for food, etc. The photo above is the only stop in Quebec. I had forgotten about the 401 parking lot between Kingston and Ajax. What a grind!
We had a deadline. Claire had to be back in boarding for 9:30PM. It was extended to 11PM and we drove up to the doors at exactly on time.
We didn't do the "tourist" visit this time around and next time I hope to take the kids to see some of the gorgeous sites enjoyed in my youth: Cabot Trail, Peggy's Cove, PEI, Shediac - though last Thanksgiving I was happy to have a chance to take them to the incredible Hopewell Rocks. This was more business: UNB and Dalhousie/Kings are under consideration. Nope, no Mount A, where I went for my days and nights of whist and rye. Too small, too cold.
This trip taught all of my kids a few things: how gorgeous the Maritimes are, how friendly the people, how wonderful my friends and our family are no matter the distance of time and location. Most important, and the biggest shock when I left Ontario for school in NB, though this part of the world looks small on a map but it takes forever to get anywhere and no one is in a hurry. THAT will take some getting used to if any of them choose to go to school Down East.
So many wonderful things to consider.
Of the places we go, this is one of my favourite.