MosaiCanada 150, Gatineau Quebec

There is something endless magical about a topiary garden, nature springing into imaginative forms.

Seeing images of MosaiCanada [Jacques-Cartier Park, south end 164, Laurier street, Gatineau (Quebec) J8X 3V8] sparked my intrigue to visit the Ottawa/Gatineau area – and a lovely long weekend blossomed from there.

Canada is celebrating its 150th anniversary as an independent nation right across the river from the capital city is a dazzling display of art and horticulture. Hop aboard the train to a dream like topiary extravaganza.

There are forty arrangements that explore Canada’s history, values, culture, and arts.

A single path winds around these sculptures, just over half a mile long.

I marveled at the puffins, smiling back to days spent breathing in the fresh Nova Scotia air.

Smiled thinking back to visiting Vancouver and learning about the first nations cultures.

Even Anne of Green Gables made an appearance, helping me remembering my time on rural Prince Edward Island.

From the popular puck passing pastime,

to the Mounties that enforce the law of the land,

classic images of Canadian culture from every corner of the country are artfully crafted. I’ve never seen anything quite like this vibrant show – a must see, only once in 150 years does an event like this occur!

Good to know:

+Admission is free

+Display runs through October 15th

+It isn’t too difficult to find free street parking if you’re willing to walk a few blocks

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Dinner at Calactus Restaurant in Moncton, New Brunswick

Vegetarian or not, you don’t want to miss a meal at Calactus [125 Church St, Moncton, NB E1C 4Z8, Canada] when in New Brunswick.

Local and organic ingredients are prioritized in the tantalizing menu featuring bites from around the world, pakoras, nachos, falafel – oh my! Our night seemed to focus around Mexico, trying something new and an old favorite. The Oaxaca Deep Dish was comforting, deeply satisfying, and absolutely delicious.

The flavorful spicy tomato sauce blanketed rice, black beans, and veggies – the cheese on top was gooey with a perfect crisp. Light garlic bread and a little salad made this meal perfectly well rounded. Enchiladas came out with a cheerful presentation.

Wrapped in a whole wheat tortilla were black beans, cheese, and a veggie Bolognese sauce – some of the best I’ve ever had! The portion is so huge, good luck finishing the rice, chips, guac, and salsa! If you have room for dessert, its homemade and vegan. How easy would it be to go vegetarian if this café was around the corner?!

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A guide to Fundy National Park, New Brunswick

Twice a day, every day, the tide comes in and out of Fundy National Park. This is no normal tide, but a 50+ foot wave, the biggest of its kind on earth. You can experience the changing of the tides over a course of six hours in the park and surrounding areas. More than just the bay, this park protects maritime forest with dozens of waterfalls and 25 hiking trails. Stop by the Visitors Center to grab a map, see what activities are available, and have with you the complimentary booklet complete with tide timetable.

+Walk the Bay of Fundy at low tide

From the Visitor Center heading towards the town of Alma, right before the bridge there is a parking area for access to the bay. On this wet day my rain boots were perfect, but I think any day they would be great for sloshing through the tide pools and puddles of the receding ocean floor.

At the lowest tide walking out towards sea, I couldn’t even find the water. It was too far out. The ripples which it left behind were mesmerizing, as were the cliffs disappearing and reappearing due to the rain.

Some areas of the ground were covered in a compilation of colorful rainbow rocks.

Walk as far as you’d like, looking for life and admiring the landscape – but just be very aware of the time that the tide will start coming back in.

+Ship Haven Trail

A short trail filled with beauty, this ½ mile round trip, out and back walk is perfect for those short on time. Just after driving over the covered bridge the parking lot pops up on the right. You have to cross the street to get to the trailhead. Instantly there is a great view of the bridge,

and the Wolfe River which is exceptionally green.

I am unsure of why the water is this color in the area, but I love it.

After climbing up some stairs and over boardwalks, a picturesque view of the estuary is revealed.

+Matthews Head Trail

In a loop that is just under 3 miles, this trail meanders through fields of wild flowers

and forests draped with lichen.

The highlight is a vista that looks out to sea, and a subtle face of a stone man that looks out with you.

Can you see him? A small beach and sea cave may be exposed if the tide is right.

+Kinnie Brook Trail

A level hike through an Acadian Forest leads to a set of stairs which descend down to a streambed. The trail is two mile out and back, round trip.

As you are heading down the stairs pass by a massive monolith.

Another one sits at the base of the streambed, which you may explore.

On some days, especially in spring and after heavy rains, the water level reaches the stairs. On other days, the stream seems dry – unless you walk out onto the flood plain to find it appearing, hence the name ‘the disappearing stream.’ Be sure to look for wild mint growing nearby.

+Kelly’s Bake Shop8587 Main Street, Alma, New Brunswick E4H1N6

Just over the bridge in the nearby town Alma is a little bakery known for their sticky buns, a wonderful treat after a long day of hiking.

Good to know:

+Free to enter in 2017, during Canada year

+ Solar-heated saltwater pool and 9 hole golf course

Posted in New Brunswick | 2 Comments

Dinner at Blue Mussel Cafe, Prince Edward Island

Dining out throughout life I’ve always noticed PEI mussels on menus. Back then, I never gave the item an extra thought. I’d never even heard of Prince Edward Island all those years ago. As my interest in travel and Canada grew, I put two and two together and eating PEI mussels on PEI became bucketlist to do! Dinner at Blue Mussel Cafe [312 Harbourview Dr, North Rustico Harbour, PE C0A 1N0, Canada] was the perfect choice.

Whimsical décor and natural setting adjacent to the bay. If you have a wait for your table, put your name on the list and head to the bar – or look for birds out back.

We spotted plover and heron hunting for their own dinner.

There are multiple seating areas, on a sunny day grab one of the rooftop tables,

sit inside the screened in patio, or out on the deck.

Once seated and after ordering food came out promptly. The dishes are fresh and local with an emphasis on seafood. Of course, you have to try the namesake mussels. They will call to you as you drive around the island and see the farms in the water, and they do not disappoint. Two options are available, steamed in white wine and garlic or with local gahan blueberry ale, lime, and garlic.

Tender, flavorful, hot, and a whole lot! A scrumptious CHECK on the bucketlist. A unique dish on the menu, the seafood chowder poutine was phenomenal! PEI potatoes, seafood, the warmth, the spices – I loved this dish.

All of the tables near to us had the lobster mac, it looked too good to miss out on.

Vibrant and delicious – totally filling, and paired with a delightful Caesar salad. Good to know:

+Open seasonally

+No reservations by phone, but you can come in and put your name on a list and receive a text when your table is ready

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Experience Prince Edward Island National Park

Prince Edward Island National Park is clustered into three segments on the north shore of the island: Greenwich, Cavendish, and Brackley-Dalvay. Driving to and from the part property it is easy to enjoy the rural beauty and rolling hills of PEI, if you’re lucky you will pass canola and potato fields in bloom.

The park boasts swimming beaches, paved trails for cyclists, campgrounds, history and hiking trails through a variety of ecosystems. Birds are abundant, along with coyote, foxes, beavers, and mink – but there are no deer or moose on the island.

+Greenwich Dunes

Unique in North America, take a hike through the crescent shaped mobile parabolic dunes on the three mile trail, round trip – out and back. Down the paved path from the parking lot summer paints an idyllic picture. Mussel farms dot the water in the near distance.

Wildflowers relentlessly coat the flanks of the path.

Enter the Acadian forest and look for the bright blue northern parula warbler under the shade of the white spruce. The vibrant painted leaf hopper also lives here, jumping through the lichen of the grey dunes.

An expansive boardwalk floats over the marsh where birds can be spotted with a keen eye.

The dunes are covered in Marram grass, a very important plant that spreads quickly with its specialized roots. They help hold the sand dune in place and provided a home to many animals. It is so important not to walk on the dunes because it only takes ten footsteps to kill the grass, and then the dunes lose their stability.

At the end of the boardwalk the trail turns to sand, watch where you step, for frogs sake.

Head out onto the beach where the water is surprisingly warm, head back the way you came.

+Cavendish Trails

From the parking lot stop first and admire red sand cliffs, so vividly contrasted by the sea.

Next stop the sign that points towards the trail head and make your way there. The Dunelands Trail is three miles round trip, out and back.

Queen Anne’s lace bounced and bobbed in the breeze lining the trail.

Admire the lush rolling hills of the dunes.

Take the boardwalk over to the beach as you reach the concession stand area equipped with restrooms – but note the trail continues quietly behind this area. Into the woods filled with quiet scenes.

A short herd path leads to an overlook coveted by cormorants.

A wasp attempts to penetrate a webbed nest filled with new caterpillars.

He almost gets trapped to become dinner himself, but makes it out safely with no meal.

Birds sing and wildflowers bloom – berries of all colors were plump in the happy summer season.

History

+Lucy Maud Montgomery the author of the popular book Anne of Green Gables, published in 1908 lived in Cavendish on her grandparents farm for the first 37 years of her life. The homestead is open to visitors seasonally for a minimal fee, along with the Green Gables with the Haunted Wood Trail, Balsam Hollow Trail and Lover’s Lane which inspired the book.

+Oil tycoon Alexander McDonald built his luxurious summer home Dalvay-by-the-Sea in 1896. The Queen Anne Revival style was popular during this time in Canada. The house is now a resort hotel.

Good to know:

+Free in 2017 during Canada Year

+Tours and wildlife walks are available

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Lunch at Handpie Company, Prince Edward Island

The perfect grab and go bite just as you cross of the Confederation Bridge to Prince Edward Island is without a doubt a savory pastry from The Handpie Company [105 Abegweit Blvd, Borden-Carleton, PE C0B 1X0, Canada].

You don’t have to grab and go, you’re more than welcome to sit out back and eat on one of the rainbow tables.

Or bring your meal across the street to the cheerful park.

Have a kitchen? You can even buy some frozen ones and cook them at home. No matter what you do, you want to try these. There are multiple flavors and I was lucky enough to sample three. The curried chickpea was my favorite, look at those gorgeous plump veggies!

The flavor was dead on, it was super warm, and the flaky pastry is just incredible. The organic chicken pot pie was phenomenal and Acadian pork tourtière tasted like Christmas. PEI is also known for its potato crop and this potato salad was as fresh as can be.

From ingredients like free-range meats and local organic flour, and service with a smile, this restaurant delivers good feelings inside and out.

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Hike to Tea Cup Rock, Prince Edward Island

The red sandstone cliffs eroded away leaving an odd and magical geological formation on the north shore of Prince Edward Island at Thunder Cove Beach. Well off the beaten path, but a must for tea lovers – the hike to Tea Cup Rock [226 Thunder Cove Rd, Kensington, PE C0B 1M0, Canada] is short and sweet. Park at the 90 degree bend in the road, quite obvious, but highlighted because other cars will likely be there as well. Find a heard path down to the sand and set out with the ocean is on your right and the cliffs are on your left.

When you get to the end of the beach where the water meets the cliffs, climb up the rocks.

You need to be relatively sure footed to complete this hike, it includes some scrambling and navigating some seriously sheer cliffs – but only for a few minutes!

Amble around the narrow rock ledge to reach a cove with some interesting eroded cliffs.

Just around the corner is that red hot tea cup!

Walk from the rock out onto the sand to get a closer look. The contrast between red rock and green ocean is stunning.

The tea cup is absolutely perfect, complete with saucer.

If the water is shallow enough, you just might be able to walk on out to the island.

Head back the way you came.

It is imperative to time your expedition with the tide low and use caution around eroded cliffs and formations.

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