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Start to plan a trip like this Cat's Canada Blog

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The Start - Wednesday 9th September 2015
Well what can I say; I managed to get to through the chaos that is Heathrow. It is a city in itself with its own system and rules. The National Express actually did such a good job in getting me here that I believe the god of buses actually made the lights green and for the bus driver to put his foot down. In other words, I don't travel well in buses so I'm impressed.


I arrived into the bus station and I have to find the Heathrow Hoppa to my hotel for the night. The Hoppa bus doesn't go from the bus station, it’s down one level to go underground to get the lift up to Terminal 2 Arrivals. When I get there, it is down again one level to get the hotel buses. If you are not confused, I'm impressed! The lift from the underground doesn't go to every floor so when you reach arrivals come out, turn right and get in the next set of lifts that you see to go down one floor.

The Hoppa Bus stand is easy to find as there is a sign and a timetable. There are eight different buses serving certain hotels. I am staying at the Travelodge central hotel so my bus was H7 and you do have to be prepared that you might have to wait a while for your bus. The return ticket is £9 and I brought it from my personality derived bus driver and we were off.

The Travelodge Central Hotel
canada tripNot as glamorous as some of the other hotels (though one beautiful hotel's look was slightly ruined by having a McDonald's almost in front of it) but it does the trick. I had low expectations as it was just a bed before a great trip.

Reception was OK but what made it up was that it was quick to check in, in that I said my name and was just handed a key card. The room was huge with double glazed windows and a good bathroom. I arrived quite late so I was grateful that the restaurant was still open and not badly priced. I will shock my colleagues by saying that I declined dessert. HA I can say no!!! In the room it was so quiet because of the windows. As you can't open them they have air conditioning which I was grateful for.

Did I do anything else.... Absolutely not!

Head down and ready for a good nights' sleep before my trip...can't wait! Goodnight!

Thursday 10th September 2015
The first day of my trip

Yes the shower has flooded. Before you ask it is not my fault but the shower overflowed so there was a large puddle. The other thing to mention about the Travelodge is that you don't come here for the WiFi it doesn't work, so rather than stress about it. do something else which in my case with watch TV or read a book. You can go down and complain like I saw so many others doing but it is just not worth it. If you want WiFi go to another hotel, if you are not fussed and would like something cheap and convenient come here. The other thing to mention for the ladies & indeed the gents, there is no hairdryer in the rooms. I saw so many people with wet hair at breakfast but just go and ask at reception and they will give you one as well as an iron. They also have the resort hoppa timetables which was useful, especially as I was internetless!

I liked my view. I could see Heathrow in the distance with the planes and with the double glazing there was no noise. I can't speak for the rooms overlooking the ever busy London road, but I even felt I had the whole floor to myself as I didn't hear any neighbours. True to form, my experience had to be a touch unusual as I watched green parrots flying around in the trees. Yep green parrots, quite a few of them too. Why? I don't know so let's move on.

I decided to have breakfast at the hotel as I had an early afternoon flight and for the value get the full breakfast option which includes everything and is unlimited. There is a lighter food option which is basically continental (which you can help yourself to with the other option) but there wasn't a lot of choice. When I went down there wasn’t any fruit so it was cereal, toast and yogurt, you might as well pay a bit more and be full.

I arranged to be on the Hoppa at 9.45 to give me time as the bus goes to Terminal 3 first. Check in was reasonably simple but it is all mainly self service and you will be directed to machines that will not only check in for your airlines but others as well. Departures have an extraordinary amount of people to help. All I seem to do was turn around and someone was there so if you do get stuck help shouldn't be too far away.

Security was uneventful, I wasn’t taken aside and the alarm didn't go off- I am having a good day. In departures there are quite a few shops, the standard duty free (though I would love to know why someone was dressed like a princess), the designer shops and funnily enough two WH Smiths.

What I will say is that it takes about 15mins- depending on how fast you walk to get to the gates for the Canadian flights. There are moving walkways and for those who may need some help. There is also transportation in the form of golf buggies that will take you to the gates at the bottom of the really long escalator- be careful this escalator is quite steep.

I had the privilege of being able to go into the Maple Leaf Lounge and it is lovely, beautifully decorated with leather seats as well as complimentary food and drink. I enjoyed some champagne and entrees as I chatted with others on my trip.

Before I knew it, it was time to board. No, I wasn't upgraded but that didn't matter as the seat configuration was 2:3:2 and I was in the two and I had an aisle seat. I had plenty of room and was more than comfortable. Not sure I can say the same for the guy next to me. He was comfortable enough to sleep but he kept losing everything as he moved.

I had my own TV and I was given headphones so I was set for the journey but there wasn't a lot of choice to watch - whoever did the selection does love their Downton Abbey!

The food was OK. I had pasta which was the vegetarian option and even though it was just pasta with tomato sauce and a bit of cheese, it was really quite nice and looked a lot better than the pink mush that was the salmon. The cookie was very good and it took away the taste of the vile lentil thing. Drinks were replenished a few times during the journey and all free including the alcoholic ones but I just kept to the soft stuff!

To make sure everyone is aware, there is a declaration form that you need to fill in.

As we were landing, it was raining hard but I was in awe of how green it was. I didn't see any buildings or anything man made just an endless forest. It was exactly as I hope it would be.

Halifax airport is beautiful, really lovely. As you go down the escalator to immigration there is a water feature with a waterfall.

Immigration was its usual interrogation. I had to explain what a familiarisation trip was and the purpose of it but don't worry, I wasn't taken into a separate room so the trip continues.

canada tripWe had to wait for the arrival of some others on the trip so after meeting up with three travel agents from Germany we went to the Alt hotel to wait for the final three people. The hotel is a modern airport hotel but the style and layout was amazing, really nice pieces of art and furniture. We relaxed in one of rooms while we waited and ordered food. They do serve a decent brownie and they served a local white wine which was dry but without the aftertaste.

Thank the gods I wasn't on the Manchester flight to Halifax via Toronto. The flight was delayed and so the final three weren't arriving for another three hours. We decided to head off to Pictou and when the other flight arrives the delayed party will stay at the Alt hotel and join us in the morning.

It is an hour and 30 minutes to Pictou and it was dark so I can't really describe the journey. The Pictou Lodge is actually situated outside of Pictou and while there is a main building there are lots of cool lodges dotted around the site. It has that rustic charm that you want to see in Canada.

canada tripWhen we got our keys, we were dropped off by our tour bus to our lodge for the night. I was sharing with fellow Brit, Susan. Our particular lodge is a two apartment building. Our apartment was the bottom one which did involve steps... in the dark. Yep, the light was not switched on for our arrival but we managed to get our cases down the stairs to then try and get the door open.

It turns out the door has two keyholes but thanks to the magic of mobile phones. we were in! Mercifully the apartment was impressive that I forgave the light situation, though I did go and rescue someone was also struggling. Note to self, when leaving own apartment, the door locks automatically.

Even though it is 9:30 it is 12:30am back home so I am giving up for the day and going to test out the soft bed, my favourite test.

OK the bed was too soft. I know I may be hard to please but all I need is a decent bed and shower and also not to wake up at 4am. I'm not sure what I need to do but I am sure that I will adjust in time for coming home. Breakfast was uneventful. There wasn't a lot of choice but it was what we needed to start the day. If you want a hot breakfast you might be a little disappointed but there is plenty of choice for a continental breakfast.

I woke up at the beautiful time of 4am and so treated myself to a lie in until 6.30am. The weather was no better well at least it's not raining but it is slightly foggy. After a confusing time with the shower in which I had to use force to get it to work and then I gave up on making the stream more powerful, I got ready and went outside. It really is peaceful even in this kind of weather. We were overlooking the enclosed lake and you can see to the right the sea with Prince Edward Island just visible in the distance. In daylight you can really see why people come here. After breakfast at the main lodge, I headed to the storefront to watch the seabirds. There is a small beach but I loved is that there were colourful deckchairs placed in area along the coastline and if it had been dry I would have gladly sat for a minutes but we had to leave.

It was a quick bus journey to Pictou. The housing in this area are in that unique almost Victorian style in pretty colours and verandahs. We visited the heritage quay and the Hector. It is in this area that the first Scottish settlers came on a promise of a new life. 189 people including children boarded the Hector and came across the Atlantic. While they suffered a bad storm and that the promises made weren't completely true, they managed to forage a new life. Today, the Heritage Centre works to keep the settlers memory alive and there is a reconstruction of the Hector in the dock onsite so you can experience what it was like for the passengers and crew. Believe me, the passenger quarters were tight and cramped. Two years the Centre held a memorial and managed to gather up all the descendants they could find to mark a special tribute. The Centre is small but is worth a visit especially if you have Celtic in your blood. I also want to mention that Carolyn, our guide is a sixth generation of the family Matherson that came over on the Hector.

If was a three hour drive to our next destination which was fort Louisburg but on the way we stopped off at Tim Horton's where I indulged in some Tim bits. Small donut balls, to those who are new to this Canadian experience which comes in a variety of different flavours. The idea is that because they are smaller the less guilty you feel! The journey seemed long but the scenery was great. Lots of green paradise. We had lunch at Rita Macneil’s tea rooms. Rita Macneil was a popular Canadian singer who grew up in the area. She passed away in 2013 and her family keep her spirit alive with this restaurant. There are pictures showing her career as well as her awards and memorabilia. The food was good after a long drive with excellent clam chowder and wraps. The strawberry sponge cake was particularly wonderful.

Fort Louisburg is now a reconstruction of the French fort that once stood here until the British blow it up at the end of 7 year war. When you arrive you appreciate the massive scale of the fortress especially when you are told that it is only a fifth of what was originally here. There is the military compound and then there the town with various buildings of note. Our guide max, was fantastic as our host as he took us around the buildings to discover the history. If you are not a guided tour they have costumed guides around the buildings that will give a taste of what life was like. The sweetest part was the running of the sheep (and goats). They move the sheep from one pen to their bed for the night through the street. Because they do it so often the sheep know where they are going and so without much guidance they run the distance. One sheep wasn't as fast as the others and was very vocal about it being left behind.

One thing I didn't know is that the fortress stored rum and still do to this day. We were able to sample some in two different forms depending on how people used to drink it. So the lower classes drank it neat or with some water. Or you have the more well refined classes that had it as a sort of cocktail. We all discovered what class we were that day. And of course I was upper class. The rum is available to buy on site and would a nice purchase for anyone who appreciates a good rum. The firing of the cannon was a 515, still not sure why then. One of our group was chosen and even though i wanted to do it, I was pretty excited as I have never seen witnessed a cannon fire except those they show on TV. We all gathered for the ceremony and you definitely feel it in the chest when the cannon goes.

We were treated to a different sort of dinner. We went to one of the inns in the town of the fortress and are dinner in the style that they would have done years before. We sat at long tables with candlelight, utensils and crockery from that era. Napkins again had to placed as they would in the well refined class so ladies draped it over their shoulders while gents tucked it under their armpits so it looked like...well a corset. The poor guys. Especially when the soup came because it was the man's job to serve. The whole experience was unique and I loved it though I would recommend that for the main you have salmon and not the chicken (it was a bit dry or either that I am too modern with a taste for sauces). We actually had dinner when the park had closed to the general public so we had that extra VIP treatment of being able to explore more at leisure. It was then on to Sydney, a town known for the steel industry where we would spend the night at the Cambridge Suites.

canada tripI was excited because today I was going kayaking and I was delighted that it was going ahead despite the bad weather we have been having. It was still raining when we got to Saint Anne's bay but that wasn't going to spoil my mood. It has been pretty poor weather on Cape Breton Island so rather than be stuck in the car to look at fog and wet you are better off the exploring in a different way. North Shore Kayaking - run by the charismatic Angelo - will take you along the bay to where the bald eagles nest in a kayak.

We were in two person kayaks with the person in the back having pedals to steer. You can all stop laughing because I wasn't the one in the back I was navigating (I can hear the comments from my director now). We did not fall in at any time nor did we get swallowed by any kind of whale! This is what I had been looking forward to because this area is an outside lover’s paradise even in winter. Our guides had said that in winter everyone comes out to this bay when it ices over as it becomes a large ice-rink.

We were lucky to see two bald eagles and a half grown chick, quite a few times as they seem to watch us with indifference. The guides were great at pointing them out as well as other birdlife and certain points of interest along the way. We stopped at a waterfall for refreshments which included homemade banana bread with strawberry and rhubarb jam before heading back. In all we paddled 8kms. One point worth saying. We were at the start of our journey when someone pointed out a black dot at a distance in the middle of the bay, and asked if it was a bird.

'No...oh I think that's my dog'
Yep, that's how we came to know Jengo, Angelo's dog.

He was there when we were setting up but he seemed like a quiet and relaxed dog who looked like he was going to snooze when we all departed. How wrong was I? When we were getting into the water he somehow went a mile or so down the road and then swam out to the middle of the bay. It is fair to say that he wasn’t in the middle of the bay for us but in the endless pursuit of the seabirds. Kind of disappointing when you swim out that far and the bird is rude enough to notice and fly off, but maybe one day. As we got closer he was swimming back to shore and was perfectly OK (despite that swam out to get a bird that wasn't even close to shore)

He then either walked or swam with us the whole way to the waterfall. Why? Because there was going to be banana bread. Dedication to this tasty treat was worth the 8km in total. I'm not sure if I can say the same as my arms were starting to hurt on the way back but I am glad I did it and I would highly recommend to anyone. I figured that in this weather you might as well have fun in it than be miserable.

canada trip From the kayaking we headed along towards our accommodation, the Keltic lodge located just outside the Cape Breton National Park. We first stopped at the Clucking Hen Restaurant which is just a roadside eatery and it does a mean crab sandwich and I hear that the lobster sandwich is just as good. Keltic Lodge is in a fantastic location found near Ingonish Beach. The resort itself does have that old world charm of a bygone era. I was placed in one of the cabins at the far end. It would be best to say that the resort has recently been sold and it looks like a refurbishment is in the pipeline for the future as at the moment it does appear a bit run down.

The bed was intriguing as it was high. Not that the bed had high legs but the base of the bed was high as was the mattress. I feel that I am tall enough but if I was smaller I would have to hop to make sure I make it on. Falling out is going to hurt- I hope my travel insurance will cover that. As we had some free time before dinner I explored the exterior and you can see why people would take a detour to stay at this resort, the views are unparalleled by any other. I decided to explore a hiking trail and was slightly amused by the coyote warnings and what to do in the event. Needless to say I took note and walked on. I did see one other couple but I was primarily by myself and there were no coyote sightings. I would love to know what I would have done. Perhaps thrown a shoe but I won't know this time.

Now dinner...I may have reservations on the accommodation but none with the food. All the courses were excellent. I had sushi, chicken and a chocolate and caramel deluxe. Full and happy! See you soon

I had a good nights sleep. I am now accustomed to the time difference as I didn't wake up at 2am. It was a pretty warm night and while there didn't seem to be a ac system the ceiling fan did a good job in cooling down the room.

Food heaven carried on today as the breakfast buffet seemed to have everything. I had blueberry pancakes and it doesn't get any better than that. Leaving the Keltic lodge, today we were going to experience the Cabot trail, one of the most scenic drives in the world. There is a saying that in Nova Scotia it is where the mountains meet the ocean and that is what you get as well as forests as far as the eye can see. The drive around can be steep and a number of twists and turns. You do have to be careful especially in a larger vehicle. The while trail can get a whole day as I would recommend to take stop at the several view points that are strategically placed on the route at the best views.

We were fortunate to have a beautiful day so as well as seeing the mountains clearly, the ocean was seen in all its glory. I could see for miles and it was impressive that I doubt my photos have done it any justice. If the whales had been in the area, I reckon I could have easily have seen them from land.

We indulged in some hiking and it planned that we would walk along the skyline trail. We had Jean Marc as a guide as he informed us as we went along about the process of the national park and the processes to protect the flora and fauna. The park has a mixture of boreal, acadian and taiga plantlife as as well as some plants left over from the last ice age. One such protection is that you are only allowed to walk on the path or boardwalk as the headland plants are very fragile.

The skyline trail took us through the woods to the outlook that gives a spectacular view of the ocean, mountains and you can see a pretty waterfall in the distance. It also showed us our route that we will continue along once we have completed the walk. At the end there are steps down to various viewpoints. The trail itself was easy as were the steps down but it was tiring on the way back up as I won't lie but you don't notice as you go down as you are admiring the scenery but coming up you realise that there quite a lot of steps. There is quite a lot of wildlife and I will have to rely on my guides knowledge as there are 3000- 4000 moose in the area but I'm guessing they were on holiday or something as I didn't see one.

Back on the bus we are heading to the town of baddeck. Due to the schedule this route is different from what I would recommend. In baddeck, we were here mainly to visit the Alexander Graham bell museum. This town is very proud of their association with this great inventor that a lot of care and attention has gone into the museum. Alexander Graham bell had a summer home onnthe coast line near the town and had thought of Nova Scotia as his favourite place on earth. Most of the artefacts were donated by his family and you can see his summer estate in the distance from the museum.

We were led on a guided tour of the museum and our guide who had only been there two months was so knowledgeable about the inventor that you could hardly believe it. We explored his past, what lead him to his inventions in communication such as the telephone, his personal life and his other inventions such as aircraft. The highlight of this tour was the voice recording of Graham bell that was to prove that he can record his own sound.

We were then treated to the white glove experience tour. It wasn't a long tour and were led to a private room where on arrival we had to put on gloves. We were shown the inventor's notebooks, clothes and the photos he took to record his work- believe me he captured everything. After the museum we were free to have some time in the town. It was here that I did see that at designated crossings the vehicles will just stop. There are no traffic lights in fact little in the way of signage but the cars will stop and let you cross. After years in England where you have to be very sure in crossing the road even at traffic lights and zebra crossings, this was slightly unnerving and I am sure I had a sign above my head that yelled tourist.

We stayed the inverary resort. It is one of the many wonderful properties in baddeck. They have different buildings all called something Scottish related. My room was in the glasgow house. It was clean and basic with another high bed. We had dinner on site at the thistle lounge. What I like about all the places I have eaten at is that they do use as much local produce as possible and that includes the wine. The local wine is excellent and the ones like jost and luckett. I will say that this Provence is more known for the white, fruit and icewine but the red is not popular not even with locals. I would ask for recommendations before ordering. If you prefer red then do ask if you can taste before having a glass.

The thistle pub is located under the restaurant and I would pay a visit to round up the evening as they usually have local music playing and there be might be a opportunity to dance.

It was a peaceful night but I hope that if you stay here that you will have a better shower. Ours was another kind of power shower as I was pinned to the wall so do check your facilities on check in. After another breakfast of mainly pancakes for me- when in Canada. If you don't love pancakes like me then there was a full breakfast buffet. On our itinerary today, we could a drive along the eastern shore. It is an area that not many tourists visit which is mainly due to time constrictions but if you have the time it is a more scenic drive than the highway between baddeck and Halifax. As we left cape breton island we passed rugged shore lines and ocean vistas. As we drove along we stopped at Sherbrooke. In Sherbrooke, we were introduced to the Sherbrooke heritage villiage. Here there is a depiction of a Nova Scotia village from 1860 to pre World War I. The village has been renovated with 25 of the original buildings which includes a blacksmith, grocery store and courthouse.

We had a guided tour around the village and I was amazed by the skills of the costumed staff found in various buildings. We watched the blacksmith make a patterned steel ornament as well as his skills on a penny farthing. We observed the art of looming as well how to use a spinning wheel. We also learnt about wood carving whittling. It doesn't sound like much when you read this but you do have to appreciate that these skills are becoming a dying art. Lunch was served in the restaurant which was surprisingly modern compared to the rest of the village. I would recommend the fisherman's pie if they have it.

After lunch I explored independently and it was interesting to go and out the houses that were open. I will admit that there is more to do in the peak months as now they are slowing down so I did find that I was wandering down the street at one point by myself. They do have animals on a farm which consists of horses, sheep and geese. I do think that if you are exploring the eastern shore then Sherbrooke is a good place to stop on enroute to wherever you are going to see some local history especially as the locals are so passionate about it.

Continuing on our way, we stopped for the night at liscombe lodge which is situated on the bank of the liscombe river. In my view my favourite hotel based on its location. It is stunning, I could quite happily stop here for a few days to either relax or do some exploring. A few of us decided to explore one of the hiking trails and we choose the one that if we had more time goes right up the liscombe river and then cross the river so you would do a full circle round back to the lodge. That route would take 4 hours and we couldn't risk being out when it gets dark so we decided to see how far we would could go before we need to come back.

It seems that any hiking trail I do independently, I need to be careful about some form of wildlife. In this case it was bears. To be exact, black bears. So we get to the entrance of the trail to see a basic form saying that a bear had been spotted recently on the trail. From what I remembered about black bears is that they generally cautious of people but to be in group is better. There was no instruction like the coyotes on what to do in the event but I know to be completely aware of my surrounding and make some noise to aviod a surprise encounter.

My terrified fellow hikers were making a lot of noise any way so that was covered. When one of them screamed I knew there would be no bears- there was however a frog and a snake. We did meet with other hikers so despite the bear warning it is still popular with guests bit like I said do go with a buddy. If you do come on this hike there is a perfect look out spot that has a waterfall which would make incidentally a great white water rafting course. Further on we came to another sign, it has gone from bear to bears. Another thing to note that we should have checked in with reception before commencing our walk so do keep this in mind when you stay. There wasn't a note when we entered the trail but they have fixed that sign now. Later on in the walk there was signs saying as such so it was out luck that we came across the one sign that didn't advise.

Once we came to the sign that now states bears as walked on a little further before turning back. The hike was what I needed which was some outdoor adventure where in the brief moments of silence you couldn't hear anything but the nature around you. If you don't fancy hiking there kayaks and canoes available if you wanted to explore by water. There is also a gym with heated pool and tennis courts. We are in the lodge restaurant which has large windows to show a great vista of the river while we ate. In terms of the food, I would recommend the ribs as they were cooked to perfection and the meat fell off the bone, amazing. After an after dinner cocktail it was to bed ( again the bed was high, not sure what the appeal but in this lodge we had a helpful stool).

After a buffet breakfast we were back on the bus destined for Halifax. We watched as the scenery changed along thw way. It was hard not to be envious when you see some of the people's homes as you got closer to the city especially along the bays. To commute to Halifax and then come back to some of these properties would be a dream come true. Halifax is the second largest natural port rich in history and culture. What I do like is that is that the city is green and is more relaxed than other cities I have been to. I'm not a big city girl and I can just about cope with london so Halifax was wonderful to see.

On arrival we went to lunch at the Waterfront Warehouse which has a good ocean theme and the food is delicious. I started with mussels that I was dying to eat all this trip and the wait was worth it. After it was a blackened cajan haddock burger, not something I have would have considered before but I was in a seafood frenzy and it was very tasty. I had to admit defeat and did not have dessert. One thing about Nova Scotia is that you can help but taste it all. To walk off dinner we took a stroll along the boardwalk which give us not only a view of the opposite side of the bay which is Dartmouth but also shows off Halifax's culture as well. You will find some of the best museums such as pier 21 and the maritime museum. It is also to see the various boats, ships and even yacht s that are moored. Some of the yachts I saw must have cost a couple of million.

We stayed at the marriot Waterfront, a modern hotel which had good sized comfortable rooms. My roommate was glad there was beds that were a normal height. We had some time free before the group was meeting for dinner sona few of us decided to walk the fill length of the Waterfront to area where pier 21 was located. We did mean to go in the museum but we found the farmers market first and ended up spending most of the time browsing through the stalls. A cruise ship was in port so the market was extra busy but what I liked is that there was a mixture of unique items on sales and that even the touristy parts didn't have a lot of the repeated souvenirs between them.

As we were embarking on a full city tour in the morming, our group decided to meet up and go for dinner. We found a restaurant again on the Waterfront called the bicycle thief and as I have over indulged in seafood I had some nice Italian food with cocktails. The service was nice and attentive and as it was a nice night we ate outside. We have a full day on the morning so it is off to bed.

The mega fam is to begin. I think we were the first group to arrive but other groups had been arriving all yesterday even turning up at midnight so with breakfast at 7 it was great to see everyone, some a little tired but all excited. The hotel put on a breakfast buffet for us as we listened to the welcome speeches before we were spilt into our groups for the day. We were spilt into what choice activity we wanted to do. Some went to Peggy's cove, lunenburg and Annapolis. For my group, we went sea kayaking on terence bay. First things is first. We need a tour of Halifax. Our guide Dave took us around the streets of the city to see some of the iconic buildings and green spots. The public gardens is one of the most beautifully maintained parks I have ever seen. The architecture of some of Halifax's oldest Victorian building are stunning and in some circumstances very colourful. When visiting do have a look at the governors house, St Paul's Church and city hall.

As we travelled we learned of the Halifax's historical points such as the explosion of the ship, the Mont Blanc, the early settlers and the titanic. We drove past Fairview lawn cemetery where some of the victims that were recovered were put to rest. We travelled up hill to the citadel. This star shaped fortress was constructed by the english in 1749, it was a strategic hillside position was ideal to protect the harbour. Here you can step back in time to see what it was like back then for the 78th highlanders and the 3rd brigade royal ancillary, where they are, slept and the different areas that they were stationed to keep watch.

If you make sure that you are within the fortress at midday you can witness the cannon being fired. Though I have heard that the locals can also hear the cannon downtown. We also witnessed at rifle demonstration and maybe one I will see what it is like to fire one for myself. We had lunch on board the bus as we made our way of the city to Terence bay where we would participate in kayaking. The conditions were different from the first kayaking. It was windy so the water was choppier than St Anne bay and the sun was shining. I was back in the kayaking in a double kayak. I was sitting in the back and so had control of the pedals which was difficult to start with. I managed in the beginning to almost beach the kayak.

We went along the bay with our guides and we observed the rugged coastline as we paddled towards the open ocean. We didn't actually go out into the open sea which I was more than happy about because the sea was a little rough. What was great about the area in whichnwe paddled was the little islands dotted around the bay and if we had more I would have loved to explored one of them. We circled a couple and I was amazed to see another bald eagle flying above. My trip really has been a bird watching extravaganza. Negotiating back to the kayaking pier was a mission but funny. Our kayak had a good pace and we were considered by another as a tow kayak until we got stuck then it was goodbye, see you later. We had to be rescued by a guide as we were close to shore and the kayak was turning so we would be very close to being stuck on another rock. The guide rammed us off the rock and we pushed hard to get into deeper water.

Getting into the pier was tricky as the small waves were pushing us towards the piers but there was a good twenty kayaks all in the same area so there was a lot of 'reversing' but at least my arms had a good workout. Once we were back on land, I was surprisingly pretty dry but I was dusted in salt so after getting much as I can off it was back on the bus to Halifax to get ready to the evening festivities.

The mega fam organised a huge lobster dinner for all of the participants and organisers at pier 21. We were greeted on arrival with the taste of Nova Scotia reception. There was about twenty stalls serving local drinks and canapes. A bagpiper then led the way into the great hall where we all sat at long tables. After a small introduction by the touist board of Nova Scotia, the lobsters were brought in and was again led by a bag piper. The lobsters were already cooked and ready to eat so that remained was the tricky business of cracking open the shell. It was an experience and though I am not sure I will do it again at least I did it once. It wax served with a coleslaw with lemon and a potato salad. I was so full that I only had a bite of dessert. I think my stomach has had too much over the past few days.

With everyone finished eating we were able to dance. It was a local band called big fish and they were fabulous as they sung classic and modern hits as well as some local tunes. As the Nova Scotia group we really got into the swing of things, quite literally as we weaved in and out, linking arms. It was a great night with my now tired feet.

After such a great night, I still had to get upnat 630 am to be ready for the Fam breakfast. Once more I enjoyed a breakfast buffet as we listened and watched group presentations and in the case of ours we cheered loudly. Before we knew we had to vacate our rooms but our flight wasn't until the nighttime so the hotel stored our luggage and had a interesting system of giving colour coordinated tickets for our various bags. We were then escorted to our Fam farewell lunch by a bagpipe through the Waterfront to Murphy's restaurant. The restaurant is situated on the end of the many piers. It is a seafront restaurant and there is good views of the bays. Can I just say that the weather is just glorious today, I might just get a tan.

After we started saying our farewells to our other trippers from Australia, France and Germany. As we Brits weren't leaving until late I had some more opportunity to visit some of the landmarks. Big shopping is a bit of a problem in downtown halifax, there are shops but they are more or less spaced out. If you would like to visit a mall, there is one in Dartmouth across the bay that was highly recommended by the locals. I did visit the tourist shops on the Waterfront, of course the farmers market and Spring garden. But what I wanted to head to and visit itnin my own time was pier 21. My mum has always been interested in family history and I heard there was a good facility to look for relatives to help build our family tree.

The record office was located in the foyer near the front desk. When I entered there were staff that were more than happy to help me search. All i had surname i wanted to try and to see who I could discover. When a search for the surname I thought was uncommon yielded 116 names, I was at a lost on how to proceed as I wasn't doing the family tree. The gentlemen that helped me, printed off the names and gave me a card so if I could narrow down the list, I should contact them and they would be more than happy to assist further. It did make my mums day giving her the list and the contact details so hopefully we will have found some long lost relatives.

After I went to the maritime museum, it was impressive. I admit I was there just to see the titanic exhibit but I found myself wandering around large and small scale models of boats. I learnt more of the MOnt BLanc disaster that shaped Halifax in the 1900s. Finally I made my way to the titanic exhibit part of the museum and marvelled at the artefacts that were recovered from the ocean after the boat sank. Dinner was at Gahan located not far from the marriot in a small boutique mall. It was busy which was a good sign and I would recommend if you can to sit outside. We watched a very wonderful sunset.

It is now time to leave Halifax and indeed Nova Scotia as we made our way to the airport. A journey that only took about 30 mins for us. Once at the airport it was self check in machines though I did have to go to the desk when my check in failed. It was only a minor inconvenience. Once going through I did Tim Horton s was still open but not much else. In the departure lougne they have a couple of the magazine type shops open and a small duty free so I was very glad I ate properly before coming to the airport. Any wayvit is all board

Goodbye Canada as before you have left an everlasting impression on me. I can't wait to come back

Final chapter

Yes I don't sleep on planes and I am envious of those that do. The saving grace is that I have a good blanket and when they came round with breakfast I was delighted that I would be able to have pancakes in a berry sauce. Delicious. I could not fault Air Canada, it really was a very good service.

There is not much more I would like to say on my trip but I would like to thank Visit Canada and Nova Scotia tourism for inviting me on the trip. Richard from Altantic Tours and Linda from Nova Scotia Tourism for being our guides whilst in Nova Scotia and Ed our driver. Finally thanks to all my fellow Fam Trippers, it was great meeting you all.

The Independent Traveller has over 35 years experience sending customers on holiday to Canada
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