Canoeing on the French River (video)

We acquired a second-hand Go-Pro camera from my brother this year, and the kids have been having a lot of fun with it. When we went camping in Tatamagouche last week, we mounted it on the front of our canoe as we explored the tidal French River in Tatamagouche. At around 2:20, you will see footage of our bald eagle, “Joe”. Thank you to our son, Alex, for editing all the footage to make this five minute clip. Swansburgs, this one is for you!

A night away

Historically, bookings during the first week of July have always been slow. Earlier this week, we had a night without any reservations, so we closed out our online booking calendar, and packed up the van to spend the night at our property in Tatamagouche, on the Northumberland Strait.

What a wonderful getaway we had, spending time together as a family without distractions. Our property has a bunkhouse and an outhouse, with no power nor running water – unless you count the river! We chatted, played cards, went exploring the riverbed while the tide was out, had a bonfire, made s’mores, stargazed, canoed, swam, set off bottle-rockets, had a washer toss tournament, drove the van up & down the lane (a 14 year-old-boy’s rite-of-passage), skipped rocks, and laughed. We ate well – everything tastes better outside! We had risotto with asparagus, sausage, and cheese cooked on the campstove for supper. (Along with some local wine & beer for the parents.) Breakfast was bacon, fruit, yogurt, and homemade brown-bread toast made over the campfire with homemade jelly.

We have eagles – now named Joe & Josie – who were quite interested in what we were doing and circled around often. When we were canoeing, “Joe” was swooping down close to us and then perched on the treetops, watching the kids swim. I was hoping that he didn’t think Olivia was a fish!

We don’t have any more nights without bookings in the coming weeks, so we won’t get another overnight for awhile. However, we’ll try to get back for a few hours during the day again soon.

Summer fun, hanging out together

Summer fun, hanging out together

Playing cards and laughing together while catching some shade in the tent

Playing cards and laughing together while catching some shade in the tent

Exploring the river while the tide was out.

Exploring the river while the tide was out.

Relaxed

Relaxed

Sibling fun around the campfire at dusk

Sibling fun around the campfire at dusk

Alex's charred marshmallow

Alex’s charred marshmallow

Early morning washer toss tournament

Early morning washer toss tournament

Making toast on the fire

Making toast on the fire

All food tastes better outside!

All food tastes better outside!

Canoeing on the French River

Canoeing the French River

The 2015 McDonah Family canoe photo

The 2015 McDonah Family canoe photo – we’ll soon all be too big to travel together

A happy & relaxed dad, paddling in his handmade canoe

A happy & relaxed dad, paddling in his handmade cedar-strip canoe

Summertime in Nova Scotia

We had a bit of a whirlwind start to our summer vacation here at the Belgravia. The last day of school occurred on June 28, while I was still at Cornell. I arrived home late (2 am) on the night of June 30 and my cousins arrived from Portland, Oregon, a few hours later. Phil & Susan are the same cousins whom we spent this past Christmas with. His younger brother, Richard, arrived with his wife, Aletha, from Mobile, Alabama, the following day. They stayed with my parents, and on July 5, Phil’s daughter Lori, her husband Adam, and their four children arrived from Florida for a week. The next few blog posts I make will attempt to chronicle our travels around the province while they were here. Because we are usually working full-out at the B&B, we don’t often get the chance to explore our backyard at this time of year.

We started off on Canada Day with a trip to Pugwash, to the Festival of the Gathering of the Clans where our daughter, Sarah was competing in the highland dance competition. This is an interesting competition which takes place in a beautiful setting, on a wooden stage with the water in the background. There are street vendors, a midway, and a parade throughout the day. It was fun for me to run into a number of my childhood friends who were also visiting. Sarah danced well, winning a 1st place ribbon for her Highland Fling, and 2nd place for her sword dance.  Afterwards, they rode two rides on the midway and got some cotton candy before we left to drive along the Sunrise Trail to Tatamagouche.

The dancers line up, waiting for their turn on stage.

The dancers line up, waiting for their turn on stage.

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Sarah, #201, awaits the music for the Sword Dance

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Proud of her two medals and second stamp

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Scrambler!

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Scrambler!

My maiden name is Clark and the Clark family homestead is located in Tatamagouche, which is a beautiful little town on the Northumberland Strait, along the North Shore of Nova Scotia. Between the cousins, we still have somewhere close to 100 acres of farm and wooded property along the French River, which is the perfect place to picnic. One thing you should know while traveling in Nova Scotia is that certain parts can be buggy on certain days. If the wind is breezy, they usually aren’t too bad. On Canada Day, however, there was little breeze and we all had to use bug spray and put up a mosquito tent to avoid being bitten while we picnicked.

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Playing in the French River

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How many people does it take to set up a mosquito tent?

 

After we had a late lunch, we stopped in at the newly opened Tatamagouche Brewing Company and picked up a couple of growlers of their Hippy Dippy Pale Ale and Butcher Block Red to take back home. Phil and Susan had to be at the airport to pick up Richard & Aletha at suppertime, so we drove straight home.

We ordered pizzas for dinner, I got in the pool for the first time this year and everyone came back to join us around the fire for the evening. We climbed out onto the roof to watch the Canada Day fireworks – even my mom!

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The Canadian “wannabe” from Oregon. 😉

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Happy Canada Day!!

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Roasting marshmallows while waiting for the fireworks

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My parents, Dave & Deanna, enjoy their family

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Our American cousins – Phil & Susan from Oregon and Richard & Aletha from Alabama

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We were lucky to have our family in town for almost two weeks, and took the opportunity to travel around the province a bit with them while they were here. I will chronicle these travels in my next few posts.

Belgravia Bed & Breakfast website

Orca gives Whale Watchers Unusual Thrill in Bay of Fundy

 The following article was originally published in The Chronicle Herald, the Nova Scotia Provincial newspaper on Thursday, September 20th. Written by Staff Reporter, Clare Mellor, please click here to link to the original article. Special thanks to Penny, of Mariner Cruises Whale and Seabird Tours, located in Briar Island, Nova Scotia, for the fantastic photo!

Photo credit: Penny, of Mariner Cruises Whale and Seabird Tours, Briar Island, Nova Scotia

 
“Orca Gives Watchers Thrills
 
It was like hitting the whale-watching jackpot.

An orca, or killer whale, not commonly seen in Nova Scotia waters, put on an hour-long show Tuesday for a whale-watching tour boat off Brier Island.

“It was a pretty amazing sight to see,” Roy Small, who captains the Island Link for Welcome Aboard Whale Watching Tours on Brier Island, said Wednesday.

“Everybody was just ecstatic, including (the crew). It was a very, very, good day.”

The last reported orca sighting in the Bay of Fundy in Nova Scotia was about two years ago, Small said.

“This is the very first time I’ve seen one,” he said.

Small, his crew and roughly 10 passengers had been on the water for three hours Tuesday and had already been treated to sightings of several humpbacks, a fin whale that was surface-feeding, a minke whale, dolphins and porpoises.

The boat was about 12 kilometres northwest of Brier Island watching a group of about six humpbacks when a passenger spotted an unusual fin nearby.

Crew member Tania Campbell was up on the bow when she heard Small shout.

“All I heard was, ‘Holy smokes. I think it’s an orca!’” Campbell said Wednesday.

Small said an orca’s dorsal fin is very distinctive.

“It is about three feet high,” he said. “There is no mistaking it.”

He said the male orca measured 7.5 to nine metres and was travelling alone.

Small, who has also been a lobster fisherman for 22 years, said he has not done much reading on orcas and wasn’t sure what to expect.

“He was really friendly. I was really surprised,”

he said.

“He came right to us. He made a close approach to us a couple of times. We watched him from a distance and he’d come over and check us out, go around the boat and underneath. He’d roll up on his side and look at us.”

Hal Whitehead, a biology professor at Dalhousie University who specializes in the study of whales, said orcas are not often spotted in Nova Scotia waters but are more frequently seen off Newfoundland and Labrador.

“They are pretty rare around the Maritimes in general, but they are seen from time to time,” he said.

“They come by from time to time. We don’t know quite why or what they are up to.”

Campbell said she felt a little shaky when the orca made such a close approach.

“It was a slightly different feeling, just that really tall dorsal fin,” she said. “It is just a different sort of presence — I think, I guess, maybe because it is a toothed whale.”

The orca breached, or leaped out of, the water three times, and Campbell was happy that she managed to snap a photo of the unusual sight.

Small radioed another whale-watching boat nearby so its passengers could also have a chance to see the killer whale.

“I think the other boat got a pretty good show too,” Campbell said.

Small said it seemed a shame to finally have to call it a day.

“Nobody wanted to go in. We all wanted to stay and keep watching it.

“The weather was starting to deteriorate so we had to go.””

(cmellor@herald.ca)

The Belgravia Bed & Breakfast Website

Surf’s Up in Nova Scotia!

Last  March, when our son Evan went on a school exchange to Brazil, one of his favourite, most memorable activities, was the surfing lessons he took. Proclaimed “a natural”, he was anxious to continue surfing in Nova Scotia. We warned him that surfing in Nova Scotia would probably be much different than surfing in Brazil, but he was keen to try.

His 14th birthday coincided with back-to-school for D’Arcy and me, so we promised him that we would treat both him & his brother, Alex, to surfing lessons before the end of the season. Last weekend, with Hurricane Leslie approaching up the Atlantic Seaboard, the waves had been churned up and conditions would have been too wild for our beginners.

This weekend, Saturday dawned bright and beautiful and calm. I made a call to Nico at the East Coast Surf School to see if there might be a possibility of lessons for the boys at the last minute. We had a full-house on Friday, so arranged the lessons for 2 p.m. which would give us enough time to get the rooms changed over. We called my parents and they were happy to come over to welcome guests until we returned. D’Arcy, who is very comfortable in the water, growing up sailing and being a certified scuba diver, was slightly disappointed I hadn’t booked him into lessons as well!

The weather was beautiful and the tide was coming in.As it turns out, the water on the Atlantic Coast of Nova Scotia is warmer now than it is in the summer – we’re spoiled by spending most of our summer water time in the warm waters of the Northumberland Straight on Nova Scotia’s northern coast. The boys were provided with wet suits and Sam took them out for their lessons while we played with the girls on the beach. Sam also declared that the boys were both “naturals” but Evan was frustrated that it was not as easy to surf in Nova Scotia than it was in Brazil – the waves were more powerful…

They had a great afternoon, trying to master the art of “hanging ten”. The best part was that when their lesson was over, they had the use of the boards & wetsuits for the rest of the afternoon. D’Arcy even tried to surf a couple of times while Evan was taking a breather…  I can see that we’ll definitely be trying this again next year!

It’s only a 1 hour and 22 minute drive from Truro to Lawrencetown Beach where there is year-round surfing – an easy day trip from the Belgravia Bed & Breakfast.

Heading into the water at Lawrencetown Beach

The girls kept themselves occupied while their brothers were at their lessons by playing in the surf.

Almost…

So much fun to watch – even more fun to do (from what I’ve been told)!

Regrouping…

Alex is trying to get up…

Wipe out!

Sam shows Evan and Alex how it’s done…

The girls have fun burying Dad in the sand.

‘Return to the Belgravia Bed & Breakfast website

Flooding in Truro

Many people who follow the news have heard that yesterday in Truro, we had the “perfect storm” which created massive flooding in our town. Hurricane Leslie, which hit Newfoundland today, was feeding a low pressure system which stalled over our area. The heavy rain (145 mm+) combined with high tide in an already swollen Salmon River, caused the dykes to be breached and the water to flow into town.

Luckily, at the Belgravia Bed & Breakfast, our guests were warm, cozy & dry and our home was not affected – which seemed amazing because streets very close to us, and the golf course in our neighbourhood were closed. We’ve heard stories about one friend who was rescued from her home by a canoe, other friends who were rescued from their homes in the bucket of a front end loader, and another friend’s son, who was wakeboarding in the flood water in their backyard!

I am happy to report that although this amount of water was a huge inconvenience to many, I have not heard of any injuries or worse – fatalities as a result.

Thank you to past guests, friends & family from away who have contacted us to inquire about our safety – I’m happy to report we’re all just fine!

The Joe Howe Falls in Victoria Park, Truro. Photo Credit: Truro Parks & Recreation

Fletcher’s Restaurant, located just down the street from us. Photo credit: Robb Scott

A lake at the Truro Golf Club – located on the other end of our block. Photo credit: Truro Golf Club

The first time I’ve ever seen so much flooding at the Truro Golf Club – located at the opposite end of our block. Photo credit: Truro Golf Club

Lorne Street looking South. Stanfield’s Factory on the left, the Stadium and High School on the right. Needless to say, all were evacuated! Photo credit: Tim Roland

The parking lot of the mall on Robie Street last night; this is the main artery in and out of Truro. Photo credit: Bobby Harroun

A friend’s son, wakeboarding in their backyard. Notice the water is as deep as the trampoline is high. Photo credit: Susan MacQuarrie

The Long Way Home

When planning our itinerary, D’Arcy & I knew it would be faster to drive through Maine from Sherbrooke, rather than going back up to Quebec City then home, but late in the trip we started to wonder how much time it would add to drive through Vermont so that the kids could say that they were there. We talked to Scott about it and made the decision to take that route. This would mean that we would be traveling through three provinces and three states in one day. (Quebec, Vermont, New Hampshire, Maine, New Brunswick, and Nova Scotia.)

We got up shortly after six and started to pack the van for the trip home. We all had a wonderful, non-rushed breakfast together in Scott & Jennifer’s big farmhouse kitchen. There was lots of great coffee, hot chocolate and conversation. The goal was to leave by eight, but by the time we said all of our goodbyes, and had hugs, it was about 8:20 when we started our 1300 km journey home.

The new friends!

 

The old friends! (Just number of years, not age!) 😉

We drove into Lennoxville and pointed out Bishop’s University to the boys. The older brother of one Alex’s best friends goes to Bishop’s. We crossed the border with no problems and visited the Information Centre to pick up a map of the State.

It’s unfortunate that we had to complete such a long drive in one day, because we would have liked to have stopped in many different places along the way. We’ve made notes, in case the Ottawa opportunity comes up again another year. The White Mountains were gorgeous, and we drove past Mt. Washington and Santa’s Village in New Hampshire, both places I remember visiting with my own parents when I was a child.

I was glad that Jennifer had sent along those treats for Olivia, as other than the delicious breakfast at their house, the rest of today’s meals were eaten in our van while we were on the move. The kids did remarkably well in the van, especially considering they were on the road for nine hours yesterday and almost fifteen hours today. There was only once, in Maine, when we told Olivia to pick out a house she liked so we would leave her there. She decided that we couldn’t leave her there, because “Pepper” (D’Arcy’s brother’s dog) would miss her. Oh my!

We filled up with gas one last time just before we got to Calais. It was only 76 cents per litre there, as opposed to $1.32/L here at home.

Our Border crossing back into Canada wasn’t as fun as our first crossing through there two weeks ago. This time, we were flagged for a random check. The Boarder Agent that checked the car was quite nice and I think he realized that we weren’t smuggling anything in to the country. He moved as quickly as possible and let us go. In fact, he allowed the kids to stay in their seats.  I’m sure it helped that I had my receipts ready and offered them to him to check. With six of us in the car, and having been in the States for six days last week, we were allowed to bring back $800 worth of goods each, duty free. We’re nowhere  even close to that, despite supporting the US Economy in Freeport!

After traveling 5,260 km by van in fourteen days; covering three provinces, five states; going from 156 feet underground to 1100 feet above ground; two different subway lines, a commuter train, an amphibious boat, numerous roller-coasters, many kilometers and stairs on foot; numerous shoulder rides, elevator rides, and luggage cart rides; seeing five major waterfalls, exploring twenty major museums and/or historic sites, swimming in pools, waterfalls, and a river; visiting with twenty-five people who are very special to us but we don’t have the opportunity to see often enough; we arrived home just after midnight to a full house at The Belgravia Bed & Breakfast and went right back to work.

It’s time to start saving for our next trip…

*This post was written during the 15 hour drive home from Quebec to Nova Scotia on July 15th.