The Grand Nova Scotian Adventure: Part One

One July morning, our little white converted camper van packed and loaded, Ethan and I headed to the Portland,  Maine seaport and eagerly sat in line to board the CAT ferry. Before we knew it we were speeding along at a nice clip, over waves waves waves listening to a wonderful musical duo play Celtic tunes on electric bagpipes and fiddles. We were heading to the Canadian province of Nova Scotia, across the Maritimes of the Atlantic between New England and Canada. Nova Scotia is a very “human-sized” place as I like to think of it- it’s easy to get to places, there aren’t huge distances between attractions (such as in the American West) and it isn’t an exhausting place to visit (it was actually the most relaxing trip I’ve ever taken). There are no real hazards or safety concerns to worry about, very low crime, mild weather, well-maintained roads, and very friendly locals. Scroll way down to the bottom if you’d like some practical tips. But now, enjoy some of my favorite photographs as I outline our 6 day itinerary in Nova Scotia~

Day One ~ Portland, Maine to Yarmouth, Nova Scotia

The CAT high speed ferry leaves out of Portland, Maine. Bring some reading material as you will be sitting in your car in the boarding queue for quite some time. After boarding the ferry, run to the front so you can get a seat facing forward! I am NOT prone to motion sickness, yet felt pretty queasy during the 5-6 hour crossing because we got a seat that faced sideways. Although it was beautiful to watch the ocean passing by (keep your eyes open for whales- I saw 2!), I felt much better when we finally snagged a vacated table that faced straight ahead. Maybe it was just an extra wavy-day. At any rate, I should have taken Dramamine. The on-board entertainment and food was excellent on the ferry, and cut 11 hours (!!) off of our driving time from New Hampshire.

We arrived in Yarmouth, Nova Scotia and after waiting to offload and go through customs and immigration (don’t forget your passport!) it was around midnight. We found a campground just outside of Yarmouth to stay at, Camper’s Haven. It was inexpensive, but very loud – I had trouble sleeping – it seemed people were up partying late into the night (to be fair we did arrive on the eve of a Canadian summer holiday – so that could be what contributed to the atmosphere) We just needed somewhere to park the van legally and sleep. We woke early the next day and set off, eager to see what this new country had in store.

Day Two ~ Yarmouth to Lunenburg

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Yarmouth to Lunenburg via the southern coastal “Lighthouse Route”

Day 2 Highlight: The Ovens

Naturally formed sea caves that you can climb down into!? Yes please! This hiking and walking park was gorgeous, and if I remember correctly cost us about $35 USD for admission and overnight camping permit. Set on the ocean with dramatic cliffs and beautiful evergreen trees, rocky beaches, peaceful ponds, and friendly farm animals, The Ovens is truly a place to see! 

One tip for The Ovens is, while Ethan & I generally don’t plan ahead, if you know for a fact you want to camp here, make a reservation well in advance so you can get a campsite right beside the water! As you will see in one of the photos below, there is a tent perched very close to the ocean. Of course all the sites like that were booked when we rolled up the day of, but if you are able to book in advance, try to snag a beach side site!

 

Day 2 Highlight: Lunenburg 

Lunenburg was a beautiful seaside town filled with quaint shops, art galleries and eateries. The buildings closest to the water were painted a brilliant red, and, along with all of the other colorful buildings, made for quite a colorful place. The docks alongside the town look across a small bay and out towards fields and pastures beyond. Really quite picturesque. There were old ships moored at the docks and when we visited, we were able to board one for free which was very fun and nautical.

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If you want further adventure and sights, down the road from Lunenburg is Mahone Bay – another gorgeous  and quaint little town which is worth going to. We only just drove to it to look, but I would have liked to explore further. (next time!)

 

Day 3 ~ The Ovens to Blomidon Provincial Park  

Instead of going on to Halifax from The Ovens/Lunenburg area we drove due north on route 10 towards Middleton. (Halifax is probably great – but, as my husband is not a fan of cities, we tend to avoid them). Once we reached Middleton, instead of getting on Route 1 we took Route 221 as I read on Trip Advisor that this route had more traditional Nova Scotian scenery. Since Route 221 runs parallel to Route 1, we didn’t worry about getting off our course and it was a beautiful route, filled with rolling old farmland and pastures, and dotted with pretty houses and neat old barns.  We took it for a ways, then meandered back to Route 1 on towards Wolfville and the Tangled Garden.

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Route 221 through Nova Scotia’s beautiful pastureland

 

Day 3 Highlight: Tangled Garden

Sigh. The Tangled Garden. I wish I could transport myself back there. Flowers, herbal infused honey and vinegar for sale, a sweet little garden cafe… I’ll let the photos speak for it~ this may be my favorite place we visited on the whole trip! (I’m a garden lover!) 

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Beautiful fields of Lupines on the drive from Tangled Garden to the Cape Split trail head

Day 3 Highlight: Cape Split Hike 

North of Wolfville is a peninsula called Cape Split that juts out into the Atlantic Ocean’s Bay of Fundy. There is a hiking trail that runs the whole length of the peninsula and ends with spectacular views of the bay. It is not a difficult hike by any means, no real steep or technical parts, it is just long – so bring food and plenty of water. There is really no where in the area to purchase these things either, so plan ahead! The long and winding woodland trail is really worth it for the stunning views at the end.

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Before your Trip Practical Tips: 

  • The price of the CAT ferry jumps up and down quite a lot from day to day it seems, so when booking, play around with the departure dates before you purchase, if you have the flexibility to do so, to secure the best price.
  • Change your money to Canadian currency before you get there. I didn’t find Nova Scotia to be an overly tourist-ey place, so money changing kiosks were nowhere to be found, especially when arriving so late at night from the ferry. We were so thankful we thought to get the money beforehand, so we didn’t even have to worry about it. Many places do accept other currencies but you get the best prices if you pay in Canadian currency. 
  • Don’t forget your passport! 

Well those were the first 3 days of our little Nova Scotian adventure. Stay tuned for the rest of the trip! Keep adventuring, Callie 🙂 

Autumn Farewell

It’s December 5th and the snow is falling softly this morning. It is really, really cold. Winter is upon us. It’s time for cozy fireside reading, tea sipping, and fuzzy blankets. I truly love this time of year. But before I dive headlong into winter, I wanted to post some shots that encapsulated my autumn season in New England. I’m happy to report that most of the items on my fall fun to-do list were completed! I Still didn’t climb Mount Monadnock though… I will have to add that to my spring fun to-do list 🙂

Processed with Snapseed.A lot of my favorite foliage shots were taken Columbus Day weekend, when the leaves are usually at their peak in New Hampshire. These lovely trees were found on the Monadnock Art Tour, which happens the second weekend of October each year. If you’ve never done the tour, which is self guided through the little villages around Mount Monadnock, put it on your calendar for next year! The foliage alone makes it worth the drive, never mind the open art studios you get to peak into.img_4304img_4291img_4243Gourds, apple orchards, and milkweed. Doesn’t get much more autumn-y than that! We picked apples this year at McCleod orchards in Milford, NH this year on a wonderfully overcast day, a bit gloomy feeling, yet still with warm undercurrents on the breeze. The apples were smaller this year, because of a frost in the spring, but we were able to get enough to make a big batch of crockpot apple butter, apple sauce, and an apple pie – yum! Apple baking day (more like weekend) is always a treat.img_4423

I also made it to a corn maze! And we found one that stayed open after dark! Making it all the more creepy-fun. We went to the 14 acre one at Elwood Orchards in Londonderry, NH. It took us over an hour to get out of, but  we made it! Another item on my fall fun to-do list was to plant bulbs, and plant I did! Daffodils, Narcissus, Crocus, Tulip, and tons of garlic! It will be exciting to see what comes up this spring after the bulbs’ long winter sleep under the soil and snow.img_4603img_4464Autumn, so brilliant and so fleeting. I like how you have to act on your autumn-y impulses (corn maze! pumpkin spice! knitting!) quickly before the season is gone. It’s the time of year that really reminds us to pause and take in the beauty that is all around. Or to gather with friends and family over a pot of soup. Or to stay in and read. To light some candles and settle in.

Farewell, autumn. You were lovely.

Antiques & Castle Hill

Recently, my mother in law and I have instituted Adventure Days- and I highly recommend  them. When both of us happen to have a free day at the same time, we fill up the gas tank, chose a direction, and set off to explore the area fully. Because it doesn’t happen very often, I think long and hard about our itinerary to make sure we see as much as we can and don’t miss anything special in the areas that we drive to. Our most recent jaunt took us to North-Central Massachusetts where we planned to spend our day checking out various antique stores we could find, having lunch in the historic town of Groton, and hiking to the ruins of a Castle on Gibbet Hill in Groton. We did just that, and it was splendid.

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img_1977Seriously, this castle ruin is amazing (Castle History and Map to Ruins Here).  All that is left now is the field stone shell, which is slowly being gloriously taken over by creeping ivy leaves (yes!). This place would be a perfect backdrop for any kind of photography session, especially an engagement shoot, you know, the romantic creeping ivy and all. Besides the beauty of the castle, there is also the hilltop setting to take in. The quick ten minute hike to get up there lends itself to a beautiful view of Groton’s countryside.

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Beautiful huh? You really need to go there to take in this view. Here’s how you get up there- From the town of Groton’s lovely center, take Route 40 (Lowell Road). Less than a mile up that road you will see Gibbet Hill Grill restaurant on the left. Soon after that, you will start seeing small dirt pull-offs on the left hand side of the road. Park in any one of these and the path to the castle runs parallel to Lowell Road and then eventually deviates uphill to the castle. Depending on where you park, it is only a 5 to 10 minute walk up to the castle, with gorgeous country views the entire way.

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We enjoyed lunch in Groton center at Salt & Light Cafe Bistro (159 Main Street, Groton MA) which served fresh and healthy food creatively- my favorite style. It was a well-decorated (look at that couch!), clean place with friendly service and a fairly large menu that we thoroughly enjoyed. Scattered throughout the day we visited a few of the area’s antique shops. The first shop was Hobart Village (445 Main St, West Townsend MA), a sprawling, 2 story, mixed-dealer shop filled to the brim with antiques. Also in West Townsend is my personal favorite shop that I’ve found so far, My Husband & I Antiques (443 Main Street West Townsend MA). Unfortunately when we visited the owner was in the middle of a messy re-decoration of the shop, so my mother in law didn’t get to have the full experience. But usually the shop is styled so well- a mixture of curated antiques (many from France) and natural objects. I love when shops take the time to chose and style their items. The other shops we visited, all of which were fun and worth a visit if you like antiquing, were  The Spaulding Cooperage (1 South St, Townsend MA), Jeffrey’s Antiques (62 Chase Road, Lunenburg MA), and Upton House Antiques (275 King Street, Littleton MA). Go to Upton House if you like primitives!

What a nice time we had, and not very far from home! If you know of any other great antique shops (especially in Massachusetts) please let me know in the comments. I’m always looking to poke around in new ones. Thanks for stopping by the blog today. I will finish up with my favorite photo of the day ~ Until next time, Callista.

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