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Very general planning advice for family trip, in May to maritime Canada (NS, NB, PEI?) and/or possibly some of Quebec

Very general planning advice for family trip, in May to maritime Canada (NS, NB, PEI?) and/or possibly some of Quebec

Old Dec 28th, 2005, 12:23 PM
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Very general planning advice for family trip, in May to maritime Canada (NS, NB, PEI?) and/or possibly some of Quebec

This is a very open-ended, very naive question, seeking some general advice about time allocation - - on a trip of 7 days (or 6? or 5? or 4?) to Halifax, and "nearby" destinations. We are a family of six (my wife and I early 50's, three daughters early 20s and one son-in-law). We travel well together domestic and abroad (Europe). None of us have ever been to eastern Canada, other than southern Ontario. The trip would be May 23-30 (oe terminate sooner), followed by 2 days/nights (or more if Canada gets less) in NYC (which we have all visited quite a few times).

Our best option for getting there seems to be American Airlines directly in Halifax, using FF miles, as we can get the seats we (tentatively) need, and the stopover, of several nights in NYC, is included in the 25000 mile award (we have lots and lots of AAdvantage miles to spend).

The big picture question is: how best to use 6 days/7 nights beginning and ending in Halifax? Francophone culture is moderately interesting to me - - thus, I was thinking, the Gaspé peninsula?

We will rent a van or two sedans for moving around within Canada. I don't know that any of us fancies going sailing per se - - though we're not ruling anything out. I am telling the family that Montreal is a bad idea (too far away); less sure about Quebec city, and I have not even begun to read about what might be of interest in the far eastern reaches of Quebec (province). By corollary, I think we will not want to go to Newfoundland (nor sadly, do I think it's worth the time and expense to go to St Pierre et Miquelon).

Thanks in advance for any general advice, or links directing me to websites I should explore.

Best wishes,

Rex (Bickers), Floyds Knobs, Indiana
(from the Europe forum)
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Old Dec 28th, 2005, 12:42 PM
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Rex: With 7 days, I think that you would be best to confine yourself to Nova Scotia. You won't have time to do justice to the rest of Eastern Canada, or even the Maritime provinces. (Halifax to Quebec City is a good 11 hr drive without stops). Save Québec City and the Gaspé for another time. You'll want close to a week for that.

If you fly to Halifax, consider spending a couple of days there, either starting or ending. I would devote two days exploring the south coast as far as Lunenburg (Peggy's Cove, Mahone Bay, Chester) with an overnight at Lunenburg. That leaves only 3 days, and you will need all that to visit Cape Breton, which is a must. If anything, I would give it 4 days (1 day travel, 2 days around the Cabot Trail and a full day at Louisbourg.) If you need more time for Cape Breton, consider a one day trip to Lunenburg and back.

The Nova Scotia tourist department has a great guide (Doers and Dreamers) which will help you plan your trip.

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Old Dec 28th, 2005, 01:15 PM
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You may wish to take a short trip to Prince Edward Island. It's a bit of a drive from Halifax but not impossible. You can go by ferry or by the Confederation Bridge. The capital, Charlottetown, is very scenic. It is a provincial capital and therefor has a legislature (which figured prominently in the discussions leading up to Confederation), and the Lieutenant Governor's house is interesting. Also, if your daughters read Anne of Green Gables, you can go and see that site.
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Old Dec 28th, 2005, 01:52 PM
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Since you are interested in francophone culture - don't miss Louisberg (restored fortress) on Cape Breton
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Old Dec 28th, 2005, 02:07 PM
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The Maritimes is bigger than it looks, which means Gspe is further than you think.

Just playing...

Day one
Arrive in Halifax, take a couple of cabs downtown, find your hotel, relax from the trip, get your bearings, take a walk, have dinner.

The taking a walk part can be hours long, depending on when you arrive.

Night one - Halifax

Day two
Devote this to Halifax on foot. Take the ferry to Drtmouith, visit the immigration museum and the maritme museum, the parks, etc. Halifax is good for a whoole day.

Night two - Halifax

Day three -- rent your car.

Drive north to Louisberg, Cape Breton, the Cabot Trail

Day three, four and five in Cape Breton, and then afternoon of day five

Ferry to Prince Edward Island

Night five -- PEI

Day six, drive around PEI, take the bridge back to New Brunswick, go see th4ee rocks at Hopewell Cape near Moncton, overnight in Moncton.

Day seven, drive back to the Halifax airport.

OPTIONS -- reduce the time in Cape Breton and go south of Halifax to Mahone Bay, Peggy's Cove, Chester, etc.

Anyway, this gives you an idea of where you can go and how long it takes.

BAK
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Old Dec 28th, 2005, 03:53 PM
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Greetings Dr. Bickers

It is with great pleasure I hear you are contemplating a visit to my home region. It is with some concern, though, that I notice the proposed dates.

Spring here is a tad on the sluggish side. Indeed, some would say that when God was handing out the seasons, He was a bit absent-minded when He got to our end, and forgot to give us a spring at all. In April, temperatures are about what you would experience in Floyd's Knob in February, if the climate stats on zip code 47119 I have read are to be believed. This is on top of a much colder winter than you are familiar with. I love my home region but quite frankly, April here is when I cannot wait to leave for somewhere else, for I am sick to death of winter. Even by late May, temperatures are only about what you would have in, say, late March. That said, in late May here, you will see green grass, lots of spring daffodils and tulips, but it's a toss of the coin as to whether the leaves will be out. Up in the Gaspe, which as you know is considerably to the north of Halifax, it is almost certain the trees will still be bare. It is a vastly different story once you start heading inland to Quebec, and most certainly in Montreal, which by that time of year will be well ahead of Maritime Canada weather-wise.

On the other hand you might get lucky. When spring does come here it does so very quickly, almost violently. The buds almost smash open, the birds burst into song almost in a state of shock, and office workers wander deliriously into the sun, trying to convince themselves it's all real.

During your proposed period of travel it is very early in tourist season and outside of the cities, things will have just opened up. For example, the fortress at Louisbourg will be open, but on limited hours until June 1, and without the presence of the people in period costume, etc.

So, in a nutshell, I don't say don't come, of course, but I feel obliged to warn you of the state of things that you will find at that time of year. On the other hand if you enjoy fishing, it might be a very good time.

If you want to take a run up to the Gaspe from Halifax during a 6 day visit, my guess is that it would be possible, but just. Frankly it might be a better fit with Quebec city, but in that case you might wish to change your arrival gateway.

You are an experienced and capable planner, I'm sure you'll figure it out. But I will be glad to render such help as I can. Ta for now...
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Old Dec 28th, 2005, 04:10 PM
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Welcome to Canada Rex.

I think that you will find plenty to do in Nova Scotia in a week. We certainly have on two occasions. As has been said Louisbourg and the Cabot Trail on Cape Breton are very worth while. There is an Acadian presence in Nova Scotia so it is not totally devoid of French culture. One of the great things about Nova Scotia is exploring the beaches which you often have almost all to yourself. Nova Scotia is best not rushed or you will miss the point.
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Old Dec 28th, 2005, 04:32 PM
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Rex,
We spent 2 weeks in Nova Scotia a few years ago, and it was a wonderful vacation (if you ask my husband, it was THE BEST, better than Italy – can you imagine that?) Anyway, there is enough to do and see there for a lot more than 7 days. Maybe you can add a few days to your trip, you will not regret it.

We only spent a few hours in Halifax (the afternoon and evening the day we got there, and just the night prior to our flight back) so I can’t help you there. But don’t miss the waterfront with its restaurants.

You definitely need to go and see Cape Breton – allow for 2-3 days there. Whatever you do, do not miss that. You could take a whale watching boat trip, but I’m not sure if they go out in May. We did not do that, the sea was too rough both days we were there. We hiked the Skyline Trail – great, easy hike, with a great panoramic view at the end, from the top of the mountain.

We also loved the Bay of Fundy and the area beyond Parsborro (the Five Islands Park and Cape D’Or). If you go there, you will need another couple of days to explore the area. If you get to Pictou, stop at Pictou Lodge for dinner (great food, very nice setting) – and have a chocolate marquee for dessert for me.

Some people think of Peggy’s Cove as too touristy and too crowded, but we loved it; you can do that as a 1-day trip from Halifax. Add another day (and a night) if you also want to get to Lunnenburg (UNESCO site); not sure if you can get there and back in one day. Check the map and know your tolerance to long drives (our tolerance is very low, and we like the slower paced vacations). We did not go to PEI. I heard it is very nice, but all flat – compared to NS, where you have a variety of shapes, hills, mountains, plains, etc.

The only guide we used for planning was the ‘Doers and Dreamers” – free, order it from this web site - http://www.destination-ns.com/forms/guide.asp. Great source of all you need to know. Keep in mind, Nova Scotia looks small on the map and distances are longer than what they seem, but roads are generally good and there’s no traffic. And they have the best chowder in the world.

You can see our pictures here - http://ioana-mark.smugmug.com/gallery/401452

Happy planning, you will love Nova Scotia!
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Old Dec 28th, 2005, 05:52 PM
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Thank you, thank you, thank you... I knew that knowledgeable folks would come to the rescue (and give the kind of answer that _I_ would give... a week? in Normandy? No, you don't want to try to include Brittany and the Loire, also!) LOL

But keep it coming. I'll refer my family to read this.
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Old Dec 29th, 2005, 04:42 AM
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PEI is not " all flat " at all ...... The prairies , yes . But PEI is all gentle rolling hills , bordered by evergreens , with the different crops , and bright red soil so you get the charming effect of a patchwork quilt .
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Old Dec 29th, 2005, 06:53 AM
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What are the chances of getting you to postpone your trip for even two weeks?

In southern Ontario, the 24th of may weekend is the number one flower planting time, because that's when we think it is safe.

Considering the maritimes is "Later" than southern Ontario...

That said, the ocean is still there in May, and the evergreen res are still there, and the museums are still there, ... but the crowds are not.
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Old Dec 29th, 2005, 08:20 AM
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Hello all,
Now that we've gotten some starting advice, I thought I'd thrown in some additional thoughts and questions. Just like my dad, I write tons, so sorry this is so long in advance.

I am the baby of the family (the only one still in college) and last year I studied abroad in Scotland. My favorite part of all my travelling was a weeklong solo adventure to the outer Hebrides. It was cold, the weather was kind of bad, and it's an adventure just to get there (6-7 hr boat trip). These were many of the downsides you've warned us about so far, but I LOVED it. To me, it taught me so much of what Scotland is all about: harsh land inhabited by tough but spirited people. I've never been able to share this experience with my family, and I can't help wondering, are there any parts of Nova Scotia/maritime provinces that still seem particularly Scottish or capture this spirit?

It's also worth noting 2 things.

1. When we travel, we split up if necessary (shocking that people would rather shop than view geological structures!). Between the six of us, have just about every interest out there
Mom--history
me--geology
sister 1--shopping
sister 2--outdoors/fitness
husband--photography/esp scenic places to take pictures of
dad--culture/music
everyone--food!
so we'll take any advice on any subject.

2. I think right now we're all in the mood to go slowly. Living in Great Britain taught me you can spend 3 days covering 40 miles (something in the US I would do in about 35 minutes). So don't hesitate to tell us about places that are remote or don't have that much to do. If you think it was worth it, let us know.

Sorry so long, thanks in advance,
Kelsey
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Old Dec 29th, 2005, 08:37 AM
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Rex, I started to read this and wondered whether anyone was going to warn you about the weather. But I see Sue_xx_yy has done that, and she is absolutely right. I live in Halifax, and will simply add that in some years late May is divine; in other years, it is cold, wet, and windy. Just to put it in perspective, no one puts their bedding plants in here before the last week of May, and I generally wait until mid-June!

If I had seven days or less, I'd limit my touring to Nova Scotia, and even then you would be wise to concentrate on a couple of areas. Others have suggested the Halifax area, the south shore as far as Lunenburg, and Cape Breton. I'd second that approach as well.

Safe travels, and welcome to Nova Scotia.

Anselm
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Old Dec 29th, 2005, 08:54 AM
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Kelsey, a "harsh land inhabited by tough but spirited people ... "? Cape Breton is where you want to go, and I would sincerely recommend you read Alisair MacLeod's No Great Michief before you go. I am unaware of any book that portrays as well the link between Cape Bretoners and Scotland, nor one that captures as perfectly the unique heart of some of its residents.

For your own interest in geology, you might find the Parrsboro area most interesting. (I didn't suggest that area in my earlier post, but you could fit it in.) Take a look at this link to the geological museum there: http://museum.gov.ns.ca/fgm/informat...formation.html

I'll think a bit more about the interests of your family and post some further suggestions.

Anselm

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Old Dec 29th, 2005, 08:59 AM
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Hmmm ... that should be Alistair, of course.

A
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Old Dec 29th, 2005, 11:07 AM
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Kelsey, here's something else that may interest you. There is a publication called the Nova Scotia Geological Highway Map available through the Nova Scotia Government Map Store (http://www.gov.ns.ca/snsmr/maps/default.asp). Click on "Recreational Maps" and you'll see a description and ordering information.

There are many other publications available through the map store that might interest you or other members of your family. I'd recommend Michael Haynes Hiking Trails of Nova Scotia in particular. Click on "Books and Nature Guides" to see a description.

You might also find this NS provincial park site helpful: http://parks.gov.ns.ca/welcome.asp If you click on "Day Use," for example, you can get lots of information on beaches, trails, historic sites, etc.

Anselm
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Old Dec 29th, 2005, 12:15 PM
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Hi Rex,
we made a 2 week trip last summer which included a little of Nova Scotia, NB, Maine, and a week in PEI. so mostly I agree with what everybody said, let me add a few thoughts:

--it takes a long time to get anywhere. And the driving between places on highway was not terribly interesting. So if you want to stop and see things, it will take a VERY long time.

--we didn't go to Cape Breton. My feeling was one should chose either CB or PEI and not both. Both would be too much to cover.

-- we spent 3 nights, with 2 full days in Halifax. We found plenty to do, but this was probably a little more than necessary. We were there during the Buskers festival, so spent a lot of time strolling hte waterfront and watching the performers. I would recommend a visit to the Maritime museum, and a visit to the Citadel. You could do both the same day. 1/2 day for shopping and wandering, and that might be enough.


--PEI is a lovely place. But i think its more of a summer destination. Great beaches, and charming scenery. If you're interested in more, click on my name and find my trip report.

--I hope you like scallops and mussels. Because if you do, you can eat a lot of them!

--It's cool to see the Bay of Fundy and the tides. Make sure to plan to be in the area of the Bay at high and low tides. But its not necessary to see it from New Brunswick. yes, the flower pot rocks at Hopewell Cape are cool, but its the tides, and the color of the water thats most impressive. I'm sure you can see it just fine from the NS side.

happy planning!
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Old Dec 29th, 2005, 03:24 PM
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Hi Rex, I agree with everyone on here. We did a NB trip years ago, taking the ferry back and forth from Portland, ME. I felt like we spent a TON of time in the car, and really, NB should be explored better than that. We did hike a bit, and that was great, but don't underestimate the driving distances or you will feel like all you did was drive.
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Old Dec 29th, 2005, 06:21 PM
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Well, Kelsey, as it happens there's a statue of Robbie Burns in Halifax, the Scottish poet who wrote: oh would somebody the giftie gie us/to see ourselves as others see us...

Which about sums it up. It's hard to imagine how one's home culture looks like to outsiders. Even though I've travelled to various large European and North American cities, it took a trip to NYC this year to convince me that the entire Maritime region, even including the largest cities therein, is the global equivalent of a small town. This has its upside and downside. People are the driving force behind the cultural engine, and our population is sparse, in the main. And yet if you go looking and you have a bit of luck, you will find we have a culture - simple, as a rule, since money doesn't exactly grow on trees here, but it is definitely there. I can't exactly tell you what to look for, but when you find it, you'll know. As you get further along in your plans I can get more specific.
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Old Dec 29th, 2005, 06:40 PM
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"... It wad frae monie a blunder free us,
And foolish notion."

LOL, Sue_xx_yy. We are indeed a small town. Charming, however, as visitors keep telling us. But I think the Bickers family will enjoy us nonetheless.

Anselm

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