Welcome to our monthly series we are running on Flat Earth! Our weekly blogs only touch the surface of what we’ve been up to, so we’ve decided to dive in a little deeper every month so you can see what travelling and living abroad is really like.
Recap our previous entries here.
Places Visited: Toronto (ON), Quebec City (QU), Sackville (NB), Chéticamp (NS), Cabot Trail (NS), Halifax (NS), Lunenburg (NS), Vancouver (BC), Nelson (BC).
Being back on the road. YAY! After 6 months in the sprawling concrete and asphalt of Toronto, it felt liberating to finally pack in our jobs and fly into the unknown. We’d been getting cabin fever for the last few months of our stay in Toronto so a change of scenery and pace of life was definitely needed.
Culture-shock in Quebec City. We had heard stories about French Canada and had met multiple French Canadians whilst we were working in the cafe. Yet this pocket of Canada still held a sense of mysticism. It seemed like such an alien concept that there was a large pocket of Canadians who spoke French as their first language and included some who could barely speak English. How had this culture been able to continuously thrive for hundreds of years surrounded by and often pressurised by their English-speaking compatriots?!
It couldn’t be that French, we had reasoned before touching down in Quebec City. Surely it would have been diluted over the centuries? Yet when our shuttle bus driver picked us up from the tarmac, he was quick to inform us that he only spoke very broken English. And this was someone who worked in the tourist industry!
We quickly found out that Quebec City itself could have been plucked from the streets of Europe with its charming boulangeries and bistros dotted along narrow winding streets. We muddled through with our basic French skills and were thankfully greeted with knowing smiles from baristas and waiting staff who expertly switched to perfect English.
We were lucky being in the city as we had heard rumours that the most loyal French speakers in the Quebec countryside can be a lot less accommodating to English speakers…
Fall colours. We arrived East at the perfect time to see the autumn leaves. Even the most boring sections of highway were flanked with some of the most spectacular burning foliage we had ever seen. Experiencing the Cabot Trail in all its autumnal glory was a real highlight and I can’t think of a better time to visit.
Driving the fantastic Cabot Trail and Lighthouse Route. We had planned our whole trip East around driving the Cabot Trail in Nova Scotia. Our guide-book had it pinned as one of the country’s highlights and it definitely did not disappoint. Rolling hills, steep drop-offs to the stormy ocean, breathtaking hikes and empty winding roads all came together to make an unforgettable trip. We only had a day to tick off the Cabot Trail which wasn’t nearly enough time to delve into the many walking trails and scenic stops.
A secondary reason for us visiting the east coast of Canada was to visit the historic, harboured city of Halifax and to delve into the deep-rooted maritime aesthetic and culture that epitomises coastal Nova Scotia. We stumbled across the Lighthouse Route at the last-minute and diverted our journey away from the highway and along Nova Scotia’s quintessential coastline.
We spent the afternoon passing through small fishing villages like Lower Prospect and making a stop at Canada’s most famous lighthouse at Peggy’s Cove. Whilst not as dramatic as the mountains in the northern part of the province, this area was no less beautiful and is a place we’ve bookmarked for future visits.
Staying in a cabin overlooking the Atlantic Ocean. We tried to keep this trip under a strict budget. With the car rental, food on the go and petrol costs we kept accommodation simple for the majority of our time on the road.
However we stumbled across some cosy, wooden cabins nestled on the coastal hillside just outside Ingonish and had to splash out a little extra for the privilege. The cabins are a small part of The Dancing Moose, a quaint concept that incorporates accommodation and a beautiful cafe and restaurant overlooking the Atlantic Ocean. We watched the meteor shower flash across the clear starry skies, drank wine in bed and woke up to watch the sun rise out of the waves. We would have done anything to spend another peaceful night here!
Seeing a family of Otters in Stanley Park, Vancouver. Stanley Park is a must see for any visit to Vancouver. Snaked by miles of walking trails and covered in thick forests, it’s a true escape from the city which is just a few kilometres away.
Our walk around the park was made even more special with the appearance of an otter family! Four of the critters slipped through the water and stopped right at our feet, chewing on a fish they had just caught. We had never seen otters in the wild before and we spent a good 20 minutes watching them silently before they ducked beneath the water again.
Arriving in Nelson. After a 13 hour Greyhound ride from Vancouver (more on that below…) we finally arrived at our new home of Nelson! We have wasted no time in getting settled in and have already found an apartment, hiked up a mountain and frequented most of the coffee shops in this vibrant little town. It’s still early days but winter in Nelson is looking good!
Too much driving! We had planned such a tight schedule for our trip out East that we ended up spending the majority of each day in the car. This was less than ideal, but it did mean that we were able to see a good cross-section of Nova Scotia, New Brunswick and Quebec. Just remind us never to drive from Quebec City to Halifax and back, again!
Moving admin and costs. On top of our indulgent road trip, we have had a lot of outgoings this month. Without a steady paycheck coming in until December, there’s going to have to be a lot of scrimping and saving in the meantime! Kitting out our new apartment, buying outdoor gear and socialising in Nelson ends up being pretty pricey…
Website issues. I’m sure you noticed our website went down for a couple of days this month (as I’m sure you refresh the site on the daily!). After a lot of nail-biting, laptop hitting and painfully slow conversations with customer service, we are finally back! On the plus side, I now know A LOT of utterly useless information about domains.
Drama on the Greyhound. Bus travel has a slightly infamous reputation in North America. We had no complaints about our journey on the Greyhound (apart from the painfully long travel time!) but unfortunately it wasn’t without the drama it is famed for.
After warning passengers against the use of narcotics of the bus, one passenger unfortunately became very ill with a suspected overdose. After lots of stops in the middle of nowhere to check on him, an ambulance came to meet us at the next stop. Luckily it seemed like he was OK and he was whizzed away to hospital for a check-up.
Leaving Toronto. We are going to miss this city! Saying goodbye was tough and a further reminder of how much we’ve loved our time here. Our final weeks were filled with dinners and drinks with all the lovely people and families we have met during our time in TO which made it even harder to leave! I’m sure we will be back though…
Most Liked Instagram
Despite all of our Instagram posts from our trip out East, this stunning sunset from our Algonquin getaway came out on top. You really can’t beat a good sunset snap though, can you?
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Destinations of the Month
The Cape Breton Highlands were everything we’d wanted them to be. Wild, beautiful and dramatic. We’ve already gushed about them too much in this post – you’ve really got to go and experience it for yourself! A special shout-out to the village of Ingonish on the border of the Highlands National Park. A cute little town, home to the remarkable Salty Rose’s & The Periwinkle Cafe where we sipped on delicious flat whites and planned more adventures.
Lunenburg had been on Ryan’s wishlist for a while. This quirky fishing town is a UNESCO World Heritage site and filled with rainbow coloured colonial buildings. The quaint high street gets choked with tourists in the summer but as we were a couple of weeks out of the season we had the place to ourselves!
Quebec City is the beating heart of French Canada and it needed to live up to expectations as it added a cool 20 hours driving time to our overall journey. Old Quebec is one of the oldest colonial cities in North America and the only walled city north of Mexico. Walking around the cobbled, winding streets of the old city felt a world away from Canada as we had come to know it and made us completely reassess what Canada was and is today.
Coming up Next Month
We’ll be settling into our new lives in Nelson. Trying to acquire all the necessary winter gear for working up on the mountain and bracing ourselves for our first real winter in years! As well as plenty of time up on the mountain we hope to get involved in the local community and taking a few trips out into the surrounding mountains and parks to explore this abounding wilderness.