Saturday, 13 September 2008

Toney River (Nova Scotia Vacay Part 2)

Toney River is a teeny tiny town in Pictou County on the northern coast of Nova Scotia, about a two hour drive from Halifax. There's a community centre and some boats and a whole bunch of cottages and that's about it. Stéphane and I met our friend Sue at university lo these 12 years ago and took our first trip to Nova Scotia (including Sue's family cottage) in 2000. We've been back a bunch of times since but this of course was our first time with a kiddo. I had always imagined us coming back with (a) kid(s) because it's such a perfect vacation destination and I always thought it would be one of those fun family road trips. We weren't up for 15 hours of driving with a wiggly 10-month old but maybe in a couple of years we'll give it a go.

This time around, Stéphane really wanted to do something besides sit on the beach and read (my #1 cottage activity besides sitting on the deck with a drink and reading) so since the weather was crappy anyway we went to the next teeny tiny sorta bigger "town" called River John to see the Lismore Sheep Farm.

When we pulled up the rain had let stopped and we were the only car in the parking lot.

The barn was warm and cozy and full of quietly baa-ing sheep. We made a beeline for the lambs:

This surly young girl (Employee? Member of the Lismore family? Random neighbour?) showed up, silently carrying a big ol' bundle of bunny love. I made her please "pose" for a picture. Nobody farted or anything, that's just the look she had on her face.

I think he was sleeping.

General happiness about hanging out with sheep. Sheep are cool.

Right after we took this picture we strolled into the gift shop and as we were browsing, two big tourist buses pulled up and many many many middle-aged to elderly folks descended upon the once-peaceful farm. I clutched the single pair of pink sheepskin slippers that I could find in Liliane's size and swam upstream to the cash register as the little shop quickly filled up with grandmas with credit. We made it out of there, slippers intact and peeled out of there before any of the ladies could come after me and jump me for my prize.

On our way to see the sheep I spied a sign for a lavender farm so we set out to find it. I have wanted to visit a lavender farm in the Montréal area all summer so I was pretty excited.

My two travel mates were less enthusiastic. This is Stéphane saying "good for you for getting out to see the lavender bushes in the rain! When can we get the heck out of here?!"

Liliane didn't even get out of the car. Slacker.

I have to admit, the lavender was less than impressive. I went a little crazy with the saturation in these photos to make it look better and it still doesn't look that great. Oh well.

We did buy some neat things that they make there (granola with lavender, lavender lip balm, dried lavender in a sachet that made my suitcase smell like soap, a bouquet of fresh lavender for the table) which left me satisfied with my lavender farm experience.

We stopped into the grocery store outside of Pictou to pick up some stuff. This is Liliane's first time in the big-kid seat of the cart!

We had two nights at the cottage on our own (brilliant suggestion by Sue's Mom, we so enjoyed ourselves) then on Thursday Sue and Dave and their little lovebug Louis (he turned 2 in May) joined us.

They brought some gorgeous weather with them so Stéphane was able to fufill his other holiday wish: to fly a kite. He ALMOST got it in the air. Liliane thought the whole thing was great fun, flying or no flying. I guess watching Papa run back and forth across the field trailing the kite behind him was just as good as seeing it go up in the air!

We headed to the beach that afternoon. Its official name is Upalong Beach and it's completely private.

Notice Liliane's flamingo pose here.

She liked the water, but she just wasn't ready to have both feet in the sand.

I love this picture. I'm such a water baby myself, I hope Liliane will like it, too. We'll see.

Future happy couple? We plan to torture them with this photo when they are teenagers.

There was lots of fun stuff to do inside as well thanks to Louis' excellent toy collection. Liliane is getting a harmonica lesson here:

She really loved crawling in and out of this fire truck tent! I never would have guessed. We are now on the look out for something similar so if you have one you don't need anymore, give me a call!

On Friday we spontaneously took the ferry over to Prince Edward Island. The cottage is super close to the ferry terminal (we see the ferries going back and forth from the beach) and I didn't realize this, but PEI is small enough that you can see a lot in a day. It reminded me a lot of taking the ferry to Vancouver Island and it was weird to think that I was on the absolute opposite side of the country!

Here is the boat itself:

Instead of the Sunshine Breakfast that we enjoyed so often on the crossing to Victoria (day-glo orange "hollandaise" sauce and all), the PEI Ferry had its own version which was delicious, lack of myserious sauce notwithstanding.

We shared our homefries with Liliane who sat in her high chair like the worldly, well-travelled young lady that she is :)

The crossing only takes about an hour and the first building you see as you drive off is this lovely yellow one:

On the road (technically it was a highway but when the "highway" has as many tractors on it as cars, it becomes a road to me) towards Charlottetown, all the buildings are lovely and charming like this one. Everything is so well kept up, freshly painted, warm and friendly looking. The landscape is much more gentle than Nova Scotia. Lots of picturesque farms with big green fields sloping into red sandy beaches and the Atlantic ocean beyond.

Our goal was to see the Anne of Green Gables house in Cavendish (on the north coast) via Charlottetown. It only took about a half an hour to get into Charlottetown (already? but it's not even lunchtime!) and Liliane was still sleeping, so we drove around a little (as far as capital cities go, it's pretty small. Miniscule even.), then hopped back on the highway (at least two lanes in each direction now, no farm vehicles in sight) and booted on up to Cavendish.

Let me just say that if you only have a day to spend in PEI, please do not waste any of it in Cavendish. Go for the Anne of Green Gables thing, then GET OUT. It's an unattractive little grouping of incongruous tourist-trap crap with not a drop of water in sight. You can pay $8 to go to the beach if you want, or you can join the busloads of Japanese tourists and see all the Lucy Maude Montgomery memorobilia/significant landmarks that you want (and there are many, the whole Anne of Green Gables thing is really squeezed to the last drop) but then do yourself a favour and hie thee to the really cute town of North Rustico and have lunch there. We didn't do that but next time, we will.

Here we are at the aforementioned tourist trap. We had just eaten an expensive-ish mediocre meal and sadly weren't even hungry for ice cream, otherwise, this would be the place to do it.

We got the heck out of there and went to the farmhouse where Lucy Maude Montgomery spent time as a child and eventually used as a backdrop for the stories of Anne Shirley. We arrived close to the end of the afternoon so there were hardly any people (no buses in the parking lot) and getting around was easy. The house itself is beautiful and the garden surrounding it is even lovelier. There was lots to see and do there but it was hot and we had a ferry to catch so we stuck to the house and the grounds.

I really really enjoyed seeing all of this, more than I thought I would. I haven't read the Anne of Green Gables books for ages but I remember loving them and I kinda couldn't believe that I was really there. A worthwhile stop, I recommend it, even for the most cynical traveller.

Then it was already Saturday, our last full day of holidays. In exchange for the impromptu daytrip, Stéphane agreed to let me have a few hours sitting in the sand, reading my book, swimming, whatever I wanted. After he went on a bike ride with Dave of course.

He took a bunch of great pictures while he was out on his ride, so maybe I'll ask him to be a guest blogger so he can post and describe them himself.

We girls went to the beach in the morning.

That's PEI in the distance.

Stéphane came back around lunchtime and took over baby duty. I was free to head back to the beach, no tiny sand-eating machine to distract me. I read, Sue and I swam out to the raft, we chatted, we swam some more, we soaked up some sun, it was heaven.

Stéphane and Liliane eventually came down to join us. I already posted some of these, but when it comes to my baby in sunglasses, frankly, I just can't get enough.

I took these at breakfast one morning. I know the day will come when her hair will not be like that anymore so I snap it whenever I can!

I got to spend all of Saturday in my bathing suit (always a good sign) and as a bonus, I got to scrub off the salt and the sand in the spectacular, completely private, outdoor shower:

I cannot BEGIN to tell you just how much I loved that shower. I watched the sun going down from there, I enjoyed the cool ocean breeze (not to mention the excellent water pressure), pure joy. It was like a shampoo commercial.

Sue's parents had come in from Halifax by then and we gathered outside to eat BBQ and drink rosé. The mosquitos also gathered to feast on our feet and ankles, but it was worth it.

Being a bunch of photography/film people, we took group pictures in the glow of sundown. That's me, post shampoo-commercial shower:

A couple of shots of the cottage itself. Man, I love that place.

I have always felt very much at home there, right from the first time we visited. I haven't really ever known anything like their cottage community - it's a really warm and wonderful group of people. Most of them are second or even third-generation cottage owners so most of them go back a long time. We are always treated so very well by all the citizens of Upalong Beach and look forward to bringing Liliane back in a couple of years.
So that was our first family summer vacation, warts and all. What you don't see is Liliane's not-so-great sleeping (randomly waking up in the night, often, and loudly) and our general bleary-eyed state and more-than-occasional wistfulness for the peace and quiet of past, pre-baby trips.... But I'll just remember the good stuff anyway. Dipping my daughter into the ocean for the first time pretty much trumps the rest!

This post has already taken me two hours so that's it for me. Next up: Pierre and Ariel's wedding!


mom said...

What a great trip!! And such wonderful pics - I can almost smell the ocean (and the sheep, but that's not SO great). The pic with just L's face in front of the Green Gables house looks just like you at that age.

BTW, Xavier had one of those fire engine tents. Jennifer?

Mary Jean said...

What a wonderful account of your
vacation. Hope you come back so
Liliane can bake a cake, slide down the slide and climb the rock wall at the Upalong Treehouse.
We are Sue, Dave and Louis'relatives in the front row.

Helen said...

I loved the travelog of your holiday.I especially liked the pics and comments re the shower!
Hope to see you at Upalong again soon.

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