Finding everyone's rows to be immaculate was a surprise but not unexpected. They were eagerly waiting for their treat of raspberry cordial. What was surprising was when I opened up the front door to sit down in my seat I was caught in an avalanche of bottles garbage books and paper. I guess I didn't win the contest :) but I think I know where all their garbage went.
Tuesday, September 22, 2015
Keeping the van clean is always a challenge on a long trip. Over the course of six weeks we have collected a lot of souvenirs, snacks, water bottles, and brochures. The van is a complete mess- and the kids are the worst culprits as they just throw everything on the floor. So I came up with a brilliant plan: a contest! We have three rows of kids and I announced that whoever had the cleanest row in 4 days would win a prize! This worked wonderfully for a few days. Everything was immaculate! Some people took it a little more serious than others so a few fights broke out over water bottles and crumbs but all in all it was a success. I woke up on weds morning (the end of the contest) to find everyone dressed and outside sweeping out their rows with the broom!
Saturday, September 19, 2015
After we enjoyed that, we went into the museum part of the building. It is a very small exhibit, but really fun. The first part talks about the history of music on Cape Breton and gives you examples of the different types of songs that they play. After that, there is a little room that has 3 little working fiddles that you can pick up and practice on. There is a video runing in the room explaining how to play an easy song, and the kids and Sean spent a long time just trying it out. What fun to be able to pick up a real fiddle and try to make some pretty music come out of it.
I wasn't sure the fiddles were even real ones, as none of us were able to make much music come out of them, but then along came this old guy with a lovely European accent who picked one up and started to play a pretty song on it. Yup- it was real all right! He said he was from Switzerland and learned to play when he was 5. He was a very nice gentleman.
While some kids were learning how to play the fiddle, the other kids were in the next room learning how to do the various step dances. Even I tried this out and was surprised by how difficult it was. I was tempted to buy a celtic dance DVd so I can practrice at home. It's a great work-out.
Anyways, he moved to Cape Breton because it reminded him so much of his native Scotland.. and I can see why- Cape Breton really is what I imagine Scotland to be like. The town he lived in, Baddeck, is still small, peaceful and lovely.
After the museum, we wandered down the main street of Baddeck and had a nice lunch at the Yellow Cello where we were able to find yummy gluten free hot dogs and burgers-what a find! We even splurged and ordered a round of Shirley Temples. So yummy! We are always such a sensation when we go into restaurants. Everyone wants to know if the kids are all ours, and they almost always stop to comment on how well-behaved the children are! After lunch, we went in a few shops where the kids spent lots of their spending money and daddy treated us all to fudge and ice cream. We must have stayed in one store for over an hour looking at all the treasures. I found a pretty hooked wall-hanging and a kit to make my own! And Sammy bought an Irish Whistle. Peter picked out a metal puzzle, Zach added to his growing coin collection he has been nurturing since our visit to the Mint. Traveling after Labour Day has been wonderful – no crowds, nice weather, and most everything is still open for another few weeks. The ice cream stores are usually low on flavours- this one only had vanilla or strawberry, I think... but it was still yummy!
One amazing coincidence happened in the museum! I was just going around a corner when I looked up and saw my very-next-door-neighbours standing right in front of me!! I thought I must be mistaken, but when I heard her voice, I knew it was them! What a small world!!!! The kids couldn’t believe it was even possible, and even I was wondering what the chances could be. Apparently, they weren’t as surprised to see us, because our other neighbors have been following us on facebook and told them we were in Halifax the same time as them a few days ago. What a strange coincidence! I’ve never even ran into them in the grocery strore in my own city!
After Baddeck, we made our way around to the other side of the island to a little town called Port Hood which is where grandpa Ed’s grandma was from. She was the only Catholic on his side of the family for a few generations, and it was fitting that we stayed in a campground right below the church that she was baptized in! The campground was nice and quiet, and it even had a ‘heated pool’ though the heat part was debatable. None-the-less the kids enjoyed a dip and spent a lot of time taking silly slow-mo videos of themselves jumping into the pool and going down the slide. I don't know how they are going to decide which campground was their favorite at the end of the trip. They have had so much fun t each stop along the way.
I was thinking how travelling with a trailer and staying in campgrounds is really the best way to travel long distances with children. It gives them time at the end of each day to burn off some steam the old fashioned way - by playing out doors. They climb and run and chase each other, and generally just have a blast. In fact, a lot of their journal entries have focused on the campgrounds we've been at instead of any of the actual destinations :)
If we were in hotels every night, we would end up eating more junk, and the kids would end up watching TV or just getting bored all cooped up in a little hotel room. I would totally do a trip like this again one day again.
It was fun to cross the causeway going into Cape Breton. I remember it vaugely from when I was visiting here with my parents as a child. We wanted to drive all the way to Fort Louisbourg to spend the afternoon there, as it was the last day of their summer season so we got up nice and early and were on the road before 9 am. Almost a record for us!! I think we are finally getting used to the time zone out here. It was a beautiful, clear day. The sun was shining, it wasn’t too muggy or hot, and we just enjoyed the beautiful scenery as we were driving along the big ‘lake’ Bras d’or.
We were enchanted by the island within the first few minutes as it is filled with rolling hills, beautiful water and charming houses and cottages. The roots of Cape Breton are mostly Scottish and some people still speak gaelic thered! In fact all the road signs were written in both English and Gaelic. It was so interesting. Cape Breton is so beautiful. It’s very rugged and hilly. Everything is green, except the crisp blue water, and there is hardly anyone living here. But those who we met were very friendly. The kids didn't like it as much as we did- with all the twisty up-and-down roads that make such a scenic drive for the parents, they felt it in their stomachs and were all motion sick in the first 20 minutes. It was a long drive to Fort Louisbourg for them.
Luckily, we just about had the fort to ourselves. There were hardly any tourists there! All the costumed soldiers, characters and shop owners were there and it was like walking back in history to an old French fort in the 1800s.
The highlight of the day was when we got to see the soldiers load and fire a huge cannon along the fort’s walls. Because there was hardly anyone there, one of the ‘soldiers’ who was keeping the tourists from getting too close spent a lot of time talking to the kids about the fort and the cannon. She even gave Sammy a real piece of flint that is fitted for the inside of a musket. (I had no idea that’s how they worked… when you pull the trigger it scrapes the flint and makes a spark to light the gun powder). She told us that to fire a cannon, you need 1/3 the weight of the ball in gun powder to pack into the cannon. When the English took the fort and turned the cannons on the village, they ended up blowing themselves up as apparently they didn’t know the right ratio for these finicky cannons.
Louisbourg is very authentic and so gluten free food was rather scarce. There was a big loaf of bread (one loaf was a week’s ration for the soldiers at the time), and a restaurant that sold fried fish and pea soup which the kids turned their noses up at. (plus the restaurant fit about 20 people, and I’m not sure they would have been happy with our big brood). We ended up having chocolate bars and doritos from the gift shop for lunch. The first of a trend in unhealthy lunches for the rest of our sans-Wiens trip.
After one last cannon blast, we slowly made our way back to the trailer, through the gift shop (of course) and drove to an interesting KOA past North Sydney and had a quiet evening of mini golf and cards. The kids have enjoyed playing this fast paced game called James Bond which has been keeping them busy every evening for the past week. Even Sammy can play- and its so nice to see them all getting along so well.
Today ended in an authentic beach day in a beautiful, sandy spot. I think it was called Bayfield beach - it’s not far from Antigonish (where we stopped for a yummy treat of ice cream… what a pretty little city). We wanted to dip our toes in the ocean and find some shells to take home. This beach did the trick! It was sandy, warm, and the tide was going out, revealing all sorts of treasures to pick up. We stayed until the sun went down and reluctantly dragged our sandy selves back to the van to find our next campground in the dark (again).
Sarah loved the water. She would walk right in up to her knees and then run back to the shore as a wave would come. She was trying to throw all the rocks on the beach into the ocean one at a time. The boys had a blast going out deeper into the water (it was nice and warm) and checking out all the hermit crabs. There was more than a little bit of screaming and running away from them. As the sun started to go down, the color of the water changed slowly from deep blue to a yellowy green that glistened with the waves. It was so beautiful – I wanted to stay there forever. I couldn’t imagine a prettier place on earth and it was so enjoyable watching the children play.
Earlier in the day we had found a little church to go to mass (it was Sunday) and then drove to a local park to have a quick lunch before heading to the coast. Except for having to back out the entire drive into the park (a good 3 or 4 blocks), it was a lovely place to stop for lunch. We must have looked pretty funny with me walking in front of the trailer making sure Sean didn’t bump into anything and Zach behind, waving the cars to go around us, Sean was born to be a truck driver, I think. He is so confident with all of this driving. I would have never made it out…. Can you call AMA to get someone to come and help you out of a parking lot LOL?
The pace of life in the maritimes is so peaceful and slow. We are really loving it and I could see us fitting in here pretty easy. I'm not sure I'm going to want to leave this place. The ice cream is yummy, people are friendly, scenery is beautiful and the air is clean. We do miss our dry climate as the humidity is a bit much for us prairie folk, but the stress-free life is very alluring. Tomorrow we will head to an even less-populated area: Cape Breton.
Wednesday, September 09, 2015
Onwards through New Brunswick!! A required stop was in Florenceville-Bristoll, which is the home of McCain foods. Our family eats a lot of their potatoes because they are gluten free, and just plain yummy.
The rest of the day was a lot of driving, gas stations and a little grocery store ‘date’ for mom and dad. We pulled into our campground in Truro, just across the Nova Scotia border well after dark (again) and were glad to have the long drive into the Maritimes out of the way.
We made it to Nova Scotia! When you look at a map it's hard to believe we drove all this way with eight kids in tow!! In the morning we met up with Bobby and Joyce, my dad’s cousin, and had a nice breakfast at the Masstown market with them. They are so kind and sweet and we had fun visiting with them. They insisted on giving Sean some spending money to buy the kids lunch later, and so the kids took the opportunity to run into the store and each pick out a bottle of pop. What a treat for them! My dad grew up with Bobby in a town called Trenton, which we will visit in a few days. It’s a short drive from Truro.
We found a little place there that sold gluten free fish and chips. Elizabeth and I were so excited!! We haven’t had fish and chips since we went gluten free years ago, so this was a great find. It was so fresh, and so good.
We stuffed our faces and laughed at Sammy who was trying to tell Mary that it was just like chicken nuggets… ‘fish is just a weird kind of chicken, Mary!’.
Even if they didn’t like the fish as much as we did, the kids loved the little play place beside the restaurant: they had a big area just filled with lovely white sand and lots of beach toys. They played there happy as clams for a long time and Sammy was delighted, thinking he was playing in a huge pile of ‘Magic Sand’ like the expensive stuff we had bought for him at Christmas time. Such prairie kids.
Halifax was our destination for the day. We wanted to go see the ocean – so we headed south and decided to stop in at the Citadel first. The citadel was a British fort that was built to protect their interest in Canada. It was really quiet there, nearing the end of the summer, and so we pretty much had the place to ourselves.
Afterwards we made our way down to the Harbour area to wander around. Our first time to wander by the ocean! Everyone wanted to go on a real boat so we were lucky that the HMCS Sackville was just about to close because they let us on for free to tour around. It’s an old Canadian Navy boat (Corvette) that they have preserved and leave docked in the Halifax harbor for people to tour around. The kids had a blast here – they were especially interested in the ship’s wheel and the radio room because Sean’s grandfather was some sort of communications guy on a boat in the Second World War. Pretty interesting stuff! The kids tried sleeping in the hammocks under the deck, and were sufficiently grossed out by the medic’s room with blood and knives.
After that we went in search of the perfect ice cream cone, which led us all the way to the other end of the harbor, past merchants selling jewelry on the dock, an awesome playground, and a very unsafe but alluring wave to climb on (again- what is it with the easterners in this country? No guard rails, crazy big statues to climb!!).
Gluten free food was abundant on the harbor, except we were a few hours too late as the farmer’s markets were closed, so we chose the familiar and went to a Boston Pizza on our way back to the campsite but not before we toured all the gift shops and bought some fun sweaters, a cool navy bag, and magnets and stickers for our trailer. We are getting the full tourist experience.
A late night the evening before meant a slow start to day 19. We were supposed to be driving further east to New Brunswick, and our friends were heading south to Boston, and neither of us was really motivated to press on. For one thing, we didn’t have any campground lined up for the evening and as it was getting closer to the long weekend, things were booking up. So far, we haven’t had any problems finding spaces, but I know Dana was up in the night worrying about where they were going to camp, and I was in denial.
|The amazing pyrmid of boys|
The boys had been bouncing on the big bouncy pillow while we were packing up, and they had organized an amazing acrobatic circus show for us to come up and watch. It was really good, though it wasn’t until after that I saw the sign about no flips! After the circus show everyone wanted to go for a swim and even the dads got in the pool this time. It was a beautiful, hot day and such a relaxing end to our time with our friends I don’t think we got out of the KOA until well after lunch, and we had a long drive ahead of us – but at least we had a great morning, and could follow the progress of our friends on mommy’s phone as we headed our separate ways.
|Great Travelling Friends!|
As for us, we drove through some more of La Belle Province, and then crossed into New Brunswick (and yet another time zone change!). We adjusted our destination because of the falling dusk, and were just about to the camp ground (so proud of ourselves for being somewhere before dark), when we made a wrong turn and ended up in a cemetery. We were admiring the pretty statue and flowers in the turn-around loop when we heard this loud noise that sounded like we had run over a shopping cart… and then daddy loudly exclaiming…. And we stopped… because we had accidentally run over the little wall around the statue and popped a tire! The noise I heard was the air leaving the tire in a big gush!
Monday, September 07, 2015
Old Quebec is the most beautiful town to visit in Canada by far. It is like walking 300 years back in history- wandering around cobblestone streets past artists and musicians, outdoor cafes selling wine and baguettes, and shopping in historic old buildings from the 1600s and 1700s.
We spent a fair bit of time just wandering around, sampling different treats as we went, and enjoying the ambiance. My oldest daughter and I took off in search of something gluten free (we are both celiac) and had an adventure going from store to store asking for something ‘sans gluten’ in a bad French accent. Finally we found a lovely little restaurant with a patio that offered a delicious gluten free maple-chicken salad.
I had a glass of wine and we sat on the patio and enjoyed watching the people go by. We meant to go back and try their gluten free cake but never had the chance as it started raining and we decided to head back up the steps to the area near the Chateau Frontenac.
Meanwhile, Sean and the kids had eaten some yummy sandwiches and were treated to maple syrup on a stick while listening to a guy playing the fiddle and spoons and singing French drinking songs!
On the way up the hill we stopped in at the beautiful Cathedral and quickly looked in – but we were pretty much done with pretty churches by then so it was a short visit. I also stopped in where the artists were selling their paintings, and I found a very nice one of Quebec City to put on my wall at home. After we got to the top of the hill again, everyone was ready for a rest and what luck- we came upon a circus act going on outside the Chateau. There was juggling fire and knives, diving through flaming hoops and walking on stilts and ladders! What fun!
The rest of the day was spent by watching a multimedia show about the historic battles that shaped Quebec City – Plains of Abraham was the most interesting for the kids. After, we walked up a long boardwalk and stairway (308 stairs) to see the very place where the famous battle was fought in 1759.
By this point, the kids were getting pretty tired, and were missing their friends as we had separated from the Wiens in the maze of the lower part of Vieux Quebec so we slowly walked (dragged the kids) back around the Citadel (could spend 3 days in Quebec city!!) and met up with our friends in search of something else to eat (found some great gluten free burgers!) and then headed back to the campground.
All the adults decided that we needed to come back without the kids one day and have time to enjoy the city a little more – sit out on a patio with wine and fondue and enjoy the night life. As it was, we enjoyed the nightlife of the KOA campground with its bouncy pillow and campstore. It was our last night with our friends, and none of us wanted to go to bed too early – though we did end up shuffling the kids off to bed so we could enjoy a little quiet time together.
Kevin asked our camping neighbors to join us at the fire. We met them earlier at the playground and discovered that we had so much in common! They were another catholic homeschooling family travelling with their 5 children on a Canada trip from Cape Breton across the other way to Ontario and back again. It’s funny how we can all be from the same country but live such different lives. He is a lobster fisherman with this wonderful Cape Breton accent, and we were all interested in hearing about lobster fishing and his adventures on the sea…. It sounded like another world to us prairie folk and more than a little dangerous. The other coincidence is that they are from Port Hood which is this little town in Cape Breton where my great-great-grandparents are from on my dad’s side. The only Catholics on that side of the family! And the priest who was travelling with them happens to be the pastor of the church that my great-great-grandma was baptized in! What a small world! We exchanged contact information with them and they insisted that we call them if we need anything when we are in Cape Breton. I hope they have a great trip and enjoy the shrines that we already passed through.
Our new friends travelling west, Dana and Kevin going south and us going east. Quebec city was a cross-roads for a meeting of like-minded families. Maybe we’ll meet up again one day and we can show them our big mountains and little churches. :)
The kids will always remember the bouncy castles at the campgrounds of Quebec, but the adults will remember the beautiful shrines and the French culture. What a fun province!
We have been enjoying it here so much. The people are very friendly, the churches are so beautiful and the geography is picturesque. I imagine it’s a delightful place to live. We didn't really want to leave the lovely Lac-St.-Michel camp ground we were in. In fact, before we even drove past the office on the way out, the kids discovered this massive bouncy castle there, so we ended up staying an extra hour just to have fun bouncing and taking slo-motion videos of flips and crashes. Everyone had a good time.
It was probably a good thing they had so much fun there, because we found another Shrine to visit at lunch time in Trois-Rivieres. This is the city that I stayed in for 6 weeks when I was on a government sponsored exchange in university. I remember loving the French culture back then too. The Church is called Notre-Dame-du-Cap, and it is so pretty (like all the other ones). It wasn't nearly as crowded as St. Joseph’s oratory, so it was nice to wander around and make hot dogs in the parking lot.
This little detour meant we were late getting to St. Anne-de-Beaupre later in the day (still having time zone issues LOL), but we made it to the museum just in time to tour around for half an hour to get some historical background on the church. The church is really stunning. It really took my breath away, and I have been there before when Elizabeth was only 10 months old.
You drive along a highway beside the St. Laurence to get there, past farmer’s fields and trees, a big waterfall, and little stores sprinkled here and there… then all of a sudden this huge European style church rises up on the horizon! What a testament to the faith of the people living in this area centuries ago. You really should come see it one day if you have a chance. The attention to detail on the inside is remarkable.
I spent awhile praying there for my friends and those who I had promised to pray for.
Saint Anne is the mother of Mary, so that makes her Jesus’ grandma. Isn’t it fun to think of Jesus having a grandma? It’s not something I have ever spent thinking about. I know I have loved both of my grandmas so much – I can online imagine how much He loved his grandma. They are special!
In an alcove beside the main altar, they had an actual relic of St. Anne. Now that has got to be very old- she lived before Jesus did!
“God is the author of all blessings. HE is the one who raised you, O Good Saint Anne, to such radiant heights of holiness. Today it is through you that I offer my prayer to my loving and merciful God. It is He whom I honour as I venerate your holy relics as I lay my humble supplications at your feet.
Kindly pray for me, Saint Anne. Pray for us all. Bring us closer to Christ, our Redeemer, and through Christ may we be closer to God our Father.
Through your powerful intercession, may the Kingdom of God spread throughout the entire world, so that all people may come together and live in peace and harmony. AMEN.”
Where St. Joseph’s Oratory was strong and masculine, this church, dedicated to his mother-in-law was pretty and feminine and peaceful. We spent a long time just sitting in the pews in the quiet, taking it all in.
After we left, we wandered across the street to have some ice cream- trying to make the last days of Quebec linger… because after Quebec, we will be parting ways with our travelling companions. Our large crew (4 adults and 11 kids in total) took over the whole store, and the locals just sat and enjoyed the chaos. It’s been a lot of fun trying to communicate in broken French with the people we meet. They always want to know if we really have 8 kids, and where we are from. Everyone has been so friendly.
The Wiens left ahead of us, making tracks to the KOA we were scheduled to stay in for the night, and we took our usual time to get organized. A quick stop at McDonalds gave us a lot to laugh over! In the smaller towns of Quebec, there isn’t much English – even in the McDonalds, I can speak a little bit of French because of school, and the 6 weeks I spent living here in university, but I’m not very good… and so when I tried to order “sept frites” (seven fries), the lady just sort of looked at me with a funny look on her face. You see, the kids were all in the car and here was this crazy Anglophone trying to order SEVEN fries? Who does that? She obviously decided I couldn’t count in French and kept asking me if I really wanted ‘sept’, even showing me seven fingers. I just laughed and tried to tell her I had beaucoup enfants. Then I tried to order a burger without a bun. All communication broke down then… I couldn’t remember the word for bun or the word for bread or meat. So I was making hand motions and she wanted to know if I wanted one without onions… mustard? Ketchup? Finally a guy in line had pity on me and told her what I wanted. She still thought I was crazy. :)