Posts Tagged With: Canada

Exploring Flowerpot Island

I’ve been wanting to explore Flowerpot Island for a few summers now and with Covid-19 continuing to impede international travel plans, this seemed like the perfect time to explore more of my own province.
Flowerpot Island is one of twenty islands found in Fathom Five National Marine Park, located off the coast of Tobermory on the beautiful Bruce Peninsula in Ontario.


We booked a glass-bottom boat ride with Bruce Anchor to take us out to the island, 6.5km from Tobermory.
Before heading to the island, we sailed into Big Tub Harbour to see two of the over twenty historic shipwrecks found in the Fathom Five National Marine Park.

Through the clear turquoise waters, we came across the Sweepstakes wreck. This schooner was built in Burlington, ON and was damaged off Cove Island before being towed to Big Tub Harbour where she sank in September, 1885. It’s amazing how much of this ship is still intact 135 years later.

The second ship found in Big Tub Harbour is the City of Grand Rapids, a passenger steamer built in 1879 in Grand Haven, Michigan. On October 29, 1907, a fire broke out aboard the Grand Rapids while docked in Little Tub Harbour. To prevent the fire from spreading, the ship was towed out of the harbour and released to burn itself out. Eventually, the charred remains sank in Big Tub Harbour near the Sweepstakes, where it can still be found just offshore.

The cold water found here has helped to preserve these wrecks, and just sailing over them, it was clear why this area has some of the best freshwater diving opportunities in Canada.

From here, we sailed past Big Tub Lighthouse, which was originally lit in 1885, over to Flowerpot Island. As we got close, you could see the ‘Flowerpot’ rock pillars sticking up from the water.

We docked at Beachy Cove and decided to do the full Loop Trail, 2.6km, including hiking the Marl Trail.

It was a beautiful day to explore the island, although we came across a few too many snakes for my liking!

By the time we made it around to the Lighthouse station, we stopped to have our picnic lunch. Here, we found out that there are also an abundance of little red squirrels just waiting for you to leave your lunch unattended!
The Lighthouse museum was closed this year due to Covid-19, but you could still wander around the buildings and down to the white rocky beach.

If you trade the rocks for white sand and the trees found here for palm trees, with the beautiful turquoise waters, you can almost imagine that you are in the Caribbean instead of Canada.

Unfortunately, the caves were also closed this year, so we just got to see the outside walls. The rock formations along the trail from the Lighthouse station to the Flowerpots were really cool.

The Flowerpots were definitely the highlight though. They were the reason I wanted to come here and they didn’t disappoint, standing tall against the clear turquoise waters. Crazy to think that these have been here for hundreds of years!

I took off my shoes and stood with my feet in the glittering cold water taking it all in (and wishing it was less crowded…) Such a beautiful spot.

After taking a bunch of photos at the Big Flowerpot, we headed over to the less crowded Little Flowerpot, finding a spot to sit and relax on the rocks nearby before catching our cruise back to Tobermory.

*We spent 4 hours on the island which was the perfect amount of time to hike the trails, have a picnic lunch and spend some time at each of the flowerpots

For more info check out: https://www.pc.gc.ca/en/amnc-nmca/on/fathomfive/activ/flowerpot https://explorethebruce.com/mobile/story/your-flowerpot-island-experience/67/

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Sunshine and Sunflowers

Like so many others, my travel plans so far in 2020 haven’t exactly worked out as I had hoped. I’ve really been missing getting out and exploring, especially during this beautiful summer weather.

I may not be able to journey as far as I usually do, but for August, I promised myself I’d get out and explore local tourist spots.

So today, I went five minutes up the road to check out The Sunflower Farm, located just outside my little town of Beaverton.

This beautiful farm, with 10 acres of sunflower fields, just opened a few weeks ago and I’ve been dying to check it out. (Apparently I wasn’t the only one as the wait to get in with current Covid regulations was over an hour…. so be prepared!)

Once inside, you follow the trail past 1000s of bright yellow sunflowers. I was in heaven.

Sunflowers have always been my favourite flower so wandering along the path here, with a sea of yellow stretching on and on, was the perfect way to spend a sunny, summer afternoon!

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Watching the Tidal Bore in Moncton

I’ve been spending a lot of time in Moncton, New Brunswick with work this winter, and on a rare day off, I decided to go check out the famous Tidal Bore. This natural phenomenon is caused by the Bay of Fundy tides and takes place twice a day. As the Tidal Bore comes in, the water in the Petitcodiac River rolls back upstream in a rippling wave that can get to a height of 60 cm.

The one I witnessed wasn’t anywhere near that high. In fact, a man passing by commented that it was one of the smallest he’d ever seen. Oh well – at least I can say I saw Moncton’s Tidal Bore, one of the world’s highest tides!

You can find the estimated daily Tidal Bore times online. From downtown, the best viewing area is at Bore Park. Be sure to arrive early as many factors may affect the time of the Tidal Bore by 15 to 20 minutes either way. 

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Playing Elsa in Edmonton

Winter has never been my season. Although born and raised a proud Canadian girl, I prefer to watch the snow from inside, cuddled up with a blanket and a cup of coffee instead of outside bundled up in all my layers, still freezing. But, when on a recent trip to Edmonton, Alberta, my friend suggested a trip to the Ice Castle there. So, I decided to channel my inner Elsa and go explore this frozen wonderland, and I definitely wasn’t disappointed!

The original Ice Castle was built in Utah in 2011 and has since expanded to six locations across North America, including Edmonton.

Each year, the Ice Castles are built by skilled ice artists using hundreds of thousands of hand-placed icicles and then lit using LED lights.

The result is a magical fairytale world of ice with tunnels, slides, thrones, fountains and beautiful displays to enjoy.

With fireworks lighting up the sky above, making the ice twinkle brighter, it certainly is a winter wonderland worth exploring!

Planning your trip:

The Ice Castle is open daily but keep in mind that dates and hours are weather dependent. Entries are timed and pre-booking your tickets is highly recommended.

For more info and to book your tickets, click here.

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St. John’s by land and sea

Newfoundland was the only province I hadn’t been to, so for Canada’s 150th, I figured it was time to visit the last province to join Canada.

With only a couple of days, I spent my time in St. John’s trying to see as much of the city as I could!  After getting screeched-in, exploring Quidi Vidi, visiting the two local craft breweries and wandering around enjoying the colourful “Jelly Bean” houses, I had checked a lot of ‘must-do’s’ off my list.

Two remaining were visiting Signal Hill and taking a boat ride out into the Atlantic Ocean in search of whales.

Signal Hill

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Signal Hill is one of the most famous landmarks in St. John’s. It’s part of the capital’s historic past, offering a beautiful view of St. John’s and the Atlantic Ocean, as well as great hiking trails along the coastline.

Signal Hill is significant as it was the site of St. John’s harbour defences from the 17th century to the Second World War as well as being the birthplace of modern communications. It was here that Guglielmo Marconi received the world’s first transatlantic wireless signal in 1901. It’s a good hike up the hill, so be sure to have proper footwear. Part way up is a visitor’s centre, which this year hosted a huge Canada 150 sign to pose with.

There was also a statue of the mascots- a Newfoundland and a Labrador dog!Newfoundland & Labrador dogs

The view from the top was great. On one side, you could look back over St. John’s harbour and from the other, straight out for miles into the Atlantic Ocean.

You could also see where it narrows into the harbour, with Fort Amherst Lighthouse standing guard at the entrance.Looking down at Fort Amherst

At the top, you could climb up Cabot Tower, which was built as a monument to John Cabot’s 1497 voyage to North America and Queen Victoria’s Diamond Jubilee.   Cabot Tower    Throughout the tower, as you made your way to each level up steep, winding stairs, you could read all about the history of the tower, the history of communications, and the historic first transatlantic signal that happened right here. The view from the top of the tower was even more incredible.

I made my way back down and continued to wander around Signal Hill. As I was at the top, looking out over the Atlantic Ocean, a thick fog started to roll in until you could barely see 10 feet in front of you.

I decided not to head out on all the hiking trails since the beautiful view had vanished. Instead, I made my way down to the harbour to catch a boat ride out into the Atlantic.

Iceberg QuestIt was the wrong time of year for icebergs, but I took an ocean cruise with Iceberg Quest, hoping to find some whales. We set out of St. John’s harbour in the thick fog, which didn’t seem to want to let up. Our guide told us all about what we would have been seeing if the fog wasn’t blocking our view, and we made our way out of the harbour into the Atlantic Ocean.

We couldn’t see much, but had an enjoyable cruise listening to Great Big Sea. Just as we were heading past the sea caves on our way to Cape Spear, the fog began to lift!

We passed by the famous lighthouse on Cape Spear, the most easterly point of North America.

(Another spot I missed visiting on this trip, but seeing it was still cool!)

Puffin flyingWe saw tons of puffins flying and swimming around, but sadly no whales on this trip.

By the time we were on our way back, the fog had lifted and you could see the mouth of the harbour,  Fort Amherst from the water and all the colourful houses greeted you as you entered St. John’s harbour.

While I may have checked out most of my ‘must-do’s’ in St. John’s on this short trip, I quickly added many more and realized I’d just have to come back to this beautiful province for more exploring soon!

 

 

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Picturesque Quidi Vidi

Picturesque Quidi Vidi Harbour

Not far from downtown St. John’s is the picturesque village of Quidi Vidi. A historic fishing village located in Quidi Vidi Harbour, also known as the Gut, it’s just off Quidi Vidi Lake, where the annual St. John’s Regatta takes place.

Quidi Vidi, NewfoundlandPronunciation seems to vary, even amongst those who have lived there all their lives, but the most common is “Kiddy Viddy.”

The village of Quidi Vidi was used after World War II for the construction of the United States’ Air Force Base.  Today, it’s a great spot to go for a hike around the lake, check out artisans at the Quidi Vidi Village Plantation and walk around the harbour to Quidi Vidi Brewery. After a tour, you can sit out back by the water and catch a glimpse of the Atlantic Ocean from inside the Gut.

Quidi Vidi Brewing

Quidi Vidi Brewery offers tours and tastings. For $10, you can learn the history of the brewery and the beers and taste five of them, including their popular Iceberg beer. It’s made from the water of 20,000-year-old icebergs and bottled in a shiny blue bottle. You can then take a tour of the facility they are quickly outgrowing!

So head to Quidi Vidi, grab an Iceberg beer and enjoy a peaceful afternoon at the harbour.Enjoying an Iceberg beer at the brewery

 

 

*For those looking to try craft breweries in the city, after stopping at Quidi Vidi, head to Yellow Belly Brewing downtown St. John’s.  (The seafood chowder is delicious!)

 

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Becoming an honourary Newfoundlander

You can’t go to Newfoundland without getting screeched in. (Well you can, but why would you give up the opportunity of becoming an honourary Newfoundlander?)

This was a chance I wasn’t going to miss and was told by a native of St. John’s (thanks Phill!) that the best place to go was Christian’s. So I signed up and sat at the bar with my Quidi Vidi 1892 beer, waiting for the ceremony to begin.

A Screech-In Ceremony has to be conducted by a native Newfoundlander. Ours entered with his paddle, wearing his Sou’wester. He did a little speech about Newfoundland and being a Newfoundlander and asked us all if we were ready to become honourary Newfoundlanders, to which we all responded with a firm “YES B’Y!”

He then asked us all our names and where we came from before handing us a piece of “Newfie Steak” (fried bologna) and continuing on with the ceremony, where we had a shot of screech (Jamaican Rum) and kissed a codfish.

Before we were handed our certificates stating that we were now officially honourary Newfoundlanders, though, we had to recite an oath. When it was my turn, he asked, “Are ye a screecher?” I proudly replied, “Deed I is me ol’ cock, and long may yer big jib draw!”fullsizeoutput_ba1

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The colourful Jelly Bean houses of St.John’s

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The brightly coloured houses known as “Jelly Bean Row” have become one of the most popular photos used in St. John’s, Newfoundland tourism, but if you come looking for a specific “row” of houses, you’ll be surprised to learn that these brightly coloured homes can be found all over the city.

fullsizeoutput_b25Ranging from vibrant to pastel shades, a rainbow of colour hits you as you wander up and down St. John’s hilly streets. Many homes and shops are enhanced with “gingerbread” trims, in an equally bright, contrasting colour.

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These houses were constructed as temporary accommodation after the Great Fire of 1892, but many remained as permanent residences.

So where did this colourful tradition come from?

Some say it started with the fishermen who painted their homes bright so they could find their way home in the fog (or after having a few too many drinks at the pub). It was also cheaper to buy large amounts of one colour of paint, so they’d paint their boats and their homes the same striking colour. fullsizeoutput_afa

As fun as those stories are, the majority of the Jelly Bean houses appeared in the late 1970s as a way to inject new life into a rundown-looking city.

fullsizeoutput_bc1And they have certainly done their job. Walk along any street in St. John’s and you’ll come across a brightly coloured home (or a row of them!) Many even have Jelly Bean Row mailboxes posted out front, adding just one more splash of light to these already sunny homes!Jelly Bean Row Mailbox

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Sleeping on ice at the Hotel de Glace

Let me start by saying that I’m a beach girl.  I love the sand, the sun and the heat.  Although I grew up in small-town Canada, where as a kid, snow meant days off school, snow forts and tobogganing, I have long since outgrown my love of winter.  Even though I spend my time shivering and wearing multiple layers as soon as the temperature starts to hover around the freezing mark (and trying to stay indoors as much as possible once it goes below -10), this year, I decided that sleeping on a bed of ice sounded like a great idea!

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The magnificent Hotel de Glace in Quebec City, Canada.

I’ve seen photos of the Hotel de Glace in Quebec City for years and always wondered what it would actually be like to stay there.  So this year, I booked a room and set off to find out.

Of course, the day before we arrived, Quebec City had been hit with a major snowstorm and the temperature was sticking between -20 and -23 degrees celsius – perfect weather for sleeping in a room made of snow on a bed made of ice….

Upon arriving, I almost forgot how cold I was. The Hotel de Glace is incredible. I felt like I had stepped inside the Disney movie Frozen, into a palace created by Elsa herself.  Now in its 16th year, the theme at the hotel this year was “Rivers.”  Here, dozens of artisans work to create a truly magical world of ice and snow.  Each year, the hotel opens in early January and runs until the end of March. The hotel is built in four phases throughout the month of January.

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Map of the Hotel de Glace, stating when each of the four phases were completed.

The Hotel de Glace has 44 rooms, 16 of which are suites, each sculpted with a different River theme: an African river with hippos; an Arctic one filled with polar bears; a whitewater raft where the rafters have been thrown overboard and more. The rest of the rooms feature a bed made of a block of ice and a bedside ice table.

The hotel also has several ice bars, where you can have a drink served in a glass made of ice.

In the centre of the hotel is an ice slide surrounded by an orchestra of sculpted penguins.

You can even get married in the chapel here, if a frozen tundra theme is what you’re going for. (Personally, once again I’d prefer a sandy beach!)

After checking in, we set out to explore, humming songs from Frozen along the way.  Before dinner, we had an orientation session. Here, we learned how to properly get into our Arctic sleeping bags and what to do to stay warm. The key lesson here was “If you sweat, you die.”  While layers during the day were a necessity, at night they would most likely leave you shivering.

During the day, the hotel is open to the public, so you can only access your room after 9pm.  This is also the time when the hot tubs and saunas open.  After freezing all day, a nice soak in the hot tub was in order before drying off in the sauna and heading to our room to try and get some sleep, all the while chanting my mantra for the evening: “You will not have to pee. You will not have to pee.” Once I finally got myself situated in my sleeping bag and blew out the candle, I was not getting up for anything.

Sleeping on a block of ice turned out to be exactly how it sounds.  While there was a mattress on top of the ice, some of the coldness still seeped through. Every time you rolled over, you’d have to re-warm the surface under you. I had the hood of my sleeping bag pulled so tight, only my eyes could be seen (and I even had them tucked inside most of the night). Sleeping like a mummy inside my sleeping bag took some getting used to, but eventually I did manage to fall asleep – at least for a little while.

I’m sure I’ve never been so excited to see daylight creep through the curtain door – I had made it through the night without freezing to death! I had slept on a bed of ice, in a hotel made of ice and actually made it through!

What an incredible experience. I had channeled my inner Elsa (although really the cold DOES bother me…a lot) and checked another item off my travel list. I usually leave a place wanting to go back, and this is one I’d love to see again. Although next time, I’ll opt for the day trip option!

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Montreal Craft Brewery Tour

Montreal is a gorgeous city.  Head down to Old Montreal and you almost feel like you’ve touched down in Europe with the old buildings and cobblestone streets. Here, street performers are abundant and the Basilica at night is a sight not to be missed.

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Apart from the beautiful setting, Montreal is a foodie’s playground, with just about every type of food you can imagine found within her streets. Treats from around the world, as well as local classics like Montreal smoked meat, steamies and poutine.

While the food is good, the craft beer scene here is great and constantly growing.

Here’s just a sampling of what Montreal has to offer the beer lover.

Brutopia

1219 Crescent Street, Montreal

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Frosty Morning brew    

The unique layout of this place, with three bars spread across three floors, Brutopia is a great spot for the craft beer lover. They brew a bunch of their standard beers directly on site, including an IPA, Honey, Brown Ale, Blonde and a fruity Raspberry Blonde (which is my fave!).  Throughout the year, they also offer selections like a Chocolate Stout, Scotch and Cream Ales like Frosty Morning, plus many more. Brutopia imports other craft and micro-brewed beer, so their stock is always changing.  Aside from the beer, the neat thing about Brutopia is they have a viewing deck overlooking the stage, where they routinely host live music, open mic and trivia nights.

Dieu du Ciel

29 Laurier Avenue West, Montreal

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Dieu du Ciel is the perfect place to end your Montreal Brewery tour as they are open seven days a week until 3am. With a beer menu that is updated constantly (They rotate up to 17 different styles on tap), visiting beer drinkers often head straight here to see what’s new. Always packed with both locals and those just visiting, Dieu du Ciel is known as a contender for top beer spot in the city.  Whether you’re looking to warm up in the winter or cool down in the summer, this is the spot. Favourites, like the creamy Aphrodisiaque and the coffee-infused Péché Morte make a stop here worth it. Add their more experimental brews and a visit here is an essential and worthy one.

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 Chai Ale at Dieu du Ciel

L’amère À Boire

2049 Saint Denis Street, Montreal

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Trying a flight or two at L’amere a boire

L’amère À Boire specializes in classic English, German and Czech ales and lagers, from Hefeweizen to Czech-style pilsner.  They also have a great selection of tapas and seasonal menus to pair with their 22 house beers, including the German-inspired Montreal Hell Lager.  The bar itself has a sleek, café vibe to it, with a loft, backyard terrace and a small patio out front for the summer if you’re looking for a quick beer (or flight) along St. Denis.

Benelux Brewpub

245 Sherbrooke Street West, Montreal

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 A perfect summer drink- Pamplemousse 

Benelux Brewpub has two locations offering a menu of a dozen or more craft beer at each spot. They switch up the selection available, moving between old favourites and new contenders. The focus is on Belgian and American styles, with interesting one-offs like Amalgame, a sour brown with cherries aged on oak for one year, or the refreshing summer Pamplemousse. There are plenty of options ranging between blondes, ales and stouts. When hunger hits, Benelux offers the $7 Eurodog and praise is unanimous that it’s a must-try.

Les 3 Brasseurs

1356 Saint Catherine Street West, Montreal

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            Blanche brew at 3 Brasseurs

Started in France and now with four locations in Montreal, Les 3 Brasseurs is more than just a restaurant and pub chain. They maintain a steady menu of beer crafted on site, including a White, Blonde, IPA, Amber and Brown. In addition, they offer a monthly brew and a seasonal brew, always keeping a new beer inspiration part of their brewing routine. There’s plenty to choose from in the way of food and they specially design menu options to be paired with certain beer.

Next time you’re in Montreal, be sure to cross at least a few of these breweries off your list!DSC_0031

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