Lamenting the Loss of Summer

Oh Summer, Summer, where did you go?

You’ve left us all without your glow

Where do you go when the season’s done?

Are you hiding just beyond the sun?


Warm nights are gone, you’ve left us cold

The pool supplies have all been sold

The cottage at the beach sits still

To bring you back, we’d probably kill


Summer fun’s been packed away; the soup is on the stove

There are no more beach days, or swimming at the cove

We’ll wait for you impatiently, till you show yourself once more

We’re all a little worried what Old Man Winter has in store


School is in; it’s that time of year

When all you want is pumpkin beer

Summer sun, we’ll see you soon

For now, I guess, we’ll have the moon


I love to watch the seasons change

I know to some that might sound strange

Spring, Summer, Winter, Fall

But you, I’ll miss you most of all


Oh Summer, Summer, where did you go?

You’ve left us all without your glow

Where do you go when the season’s done?

Are you hiding just beyond the sun?

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The Magdalen Islands: Charm and Awe, Part 2

Our second day on the Magdalen Islands was all about working off that incredibly decadent seafood risotto and maple syrup souffle we had at La Table des Roy the night before.  And work it off we did.

Our first stop of the day was to explore the beautiful red cliff views at Le Gros Cap (you can never have too many cliff views).

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After that we drove down to the other end of highway 199.  We strolled around the marina among the quaint shops and cafes at the historical site of La Grave.


We then hiked to the top of the hill at Butte Les Desmoiselles for a panaromic view of the area.  It was starting to cloud over at that point.  Then back down the hill for lunch at the quirky and charming Cafe de la Grave.


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We needed a little rest after all this exploring so we made our way back to our room at the Auberge Madeli.  The Auberge Madeli is a very comfortable and modern hotel with a great location, almost a stone’s throw from the CTMA ferry terminal.  It’s located on Cap aux Meules, the most populated island in the archipelago and was a great home base for us on our travels around the islands.

After a little rest, we checked out Parc des Buck but as these are mostly forest trails and didn’t really have the sea views we were craving we quickly jumped in the car and ended south again, this time in search of the very southern tip of the island, Sandy Hook. We parked the car, climbed over the sand dunes and stood in awe of the miles of white sand beach that lay in front of us.  We started out, determined to make it to the end of Sandy Hook, where the islands meet the sea.  We walked for what seemed like forever.  I hate to say that there is such a thing as too much of a beach walk but I think we found it. After walking 6km we finally made it to the end of the sand dunes.  There is a nice view of Entry Island from here, as this is the closest point to it from the archipelago.
  
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After hiking the 6km back to the car, we were hungry and tired and really quite sandy so we booted back to Cap aux Meules and settled on Les Pas Perdus for dinner, which seems like a hot spot for locals and tourists alike.  I was really happy because I got to have a gluten free burger, hard to come by on the islands.  And after almost 20km(!) of walking that day, a burger and fries was well deserved.

That pretty much wrapped up our trip to the Magdalen Islands.  After dinner, it was time to return to the hotel and pack up for an early call at the ferry terminal the next morning.  If we had had more time on the islands, I would have made the short ferry trip over to Entry Island.  I would have loved to hike Big Hill and see Sandy Hook from that perspective.  There are some other things we would have liked to do as well, like the stairs at the Cap aux Meules port.  I don’t mind leaving a few things undone however, I feel it encourages a return trip.  And the Maggies are definitely worth a return trip.

A few parting thoughts on our trip:

  • We didn’t have to pay an entrance fee to any of the parks, beaches or attractions that we visited.  I absolutely love that and think other provinces should take note.  It encourages visitors to explore the islands freely and at their own pace.
  • Speaking a least some french is helpful but not required.  Most Madelinots speak at least a little english and are very friendly and welcoming.  Thankfully my husband’s french is very good, so we got along just fine.
  • The Maggies are the kind of place that encourages you to go further – we were determined to venture to the furthest edges of the archipelago that we could reach.  It’s a wonderful place for those with an adventurous spirit.
  • If you haven’t made a trip to the Magdalen Islands yet, what are you waiting for?  I would encourage anyone from the Maritimes and beyond to visit this paradise-like gem a least once.  You won’t believe the surreal landscape you find yourself in, and you won’t ever want to leave.  Thank you to everyone who made our trip such an memorable experience.
A keepsake of our trip by artist Marie Marto

The Magdalen Islands: Charm and Awe, Part 1

Yes, I’m aware that the Magdalen Islands (also known by its proper french name: Iles de la Madeleine) is not part of the Maritime provinces.  Geographically located in the Maritimes but technically part of Quebec, this little hidden gem of an archipelago is close enough for me.  The powers that be in Quebec seem to think so too, because the islands are classified as part of their Quebec Maritime region.

The Maggies charm and awe from the very first moment you glimpse Entry Island from the CTMA ferry: with those treeless, grassy hills, those towering red cliffs and those tiny, colourful houses dotting the countryside.  It sets the tone for the rest of the islands.

First glimpse of Entry Island. The only island in the archipelago not connected.
Those cliffs and grassy knolls…
Coming into the Cap aux Meules harbour
Our arrival is so well timed at sunset.

With our home base on Cap Aux Meules, we decided to take our first day to drive east on highway 199, which stretches from tip to tip of the archipelago.  It was an incredible drive. Between each towering, green island lay kilometres of sandy dunes, with white sand beaches and crashing waves just beyond.  I wanted to stop the car every other minute to get out and take pictures.  It was a wonder we made it to the end at all.

Lots of long, flat stretches between islands.
Colourful houses.

We drove all the way to the east end of the 199, finding most restaurants closed for the season. However, local artisan Marie Marto was still open and we bought a couple of her pieces to take home.

We also hiked across the (very windy) beach to Boudreau Island (actually more of a peninsula) where we trekked through wildflower meadows and stood cliff side, overlooking the Atlantic Ocean in all its ferocity.  The views were certainly worth the struggle crossing the beach against the wind.  A benefit of coming in September is that we had the whole island to ourselves.  I didn’t want to leave that place.

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Entering Boudreau Island.
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Hiking across wildflower meadows.
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Lots of cliffs.
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A WOW moment.
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A place to take a break…and never leave.
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Lots of great views on this hike.
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The wind fought us all the way across this beach but it was worth it.

A great first day was capped off with drinks at local microbrewery A l’abri de la Tempete and a delicious meal at La Table des Roy.  We can’t wait to see what the Maggies have in store for us today.

A Quick Visit to P.E.I.

I’ve missed you so, PEI!  It’s not that I don’t love you just as much as NS and NB, really, it’s not. I adore your rolling green hills and laid back island vibe.  And I chose you to spend my honeymoon with just 2 years ago.  It’s just a little bit harder for me to come up with legitimate excuses to come and visit you, that’s all.  But I’m here now for a short visit so I’m hitting up all my favourite spots in and around Charlottetown before we make our way to the Magdalen Islands.

I’m beginning to realize I have a big thing for islands.  Most of the time when I am looking for a place to go on vacation, I end up choosing an island: from chilly, surreal Iceland to tropical Caribbean paradises, I’m drawn to them all.  My husband has already asked what island we’ll be visiting next September.  I would love to visit Sable Island and their wild horse population.  Is there anyone out there that can make that happen?

The thing that all islands seem to have that larger land masses lack is a specific feeling; an easy way of life.  You feel different when you’re there.  You’re on this island, disconnected from any other land mass, away from it all.  It forces you to stop, take a breath and look around you.  PEI has this feeling.  Plus it’s just really pretty.  The depth of the greens, reds and blues hits you almost immediately upon crossing the expansive Confederation Bridge.  Lucy Maud Montgomery said that PEI was made up of shades of ruby, emerald and sapphire and that certainly is true.

Coming to Charlottetown always feels a little bit like a homecoming for me. I lived here for a year in the early 2000’s.  While I was here I worked at the historic Rodd Charlottetown Hotel and witnessed first hand the cycle of life the island goes through over the course of a year: from quiet springs to busy summers and falls to some of the harshest winters I can recall.  No matter the season, however, PEI is always worth the visit.

Here are a few photos of our quick trip through PEI:

Confederation Bridge on a cloudy day
Beautiful view from our room. I loved that window seat.
Love the modern feel at Delta Prince Edward
First stop was Receiver Coffee on Victoria Row
Followed closely by dinner and drinks at The Gahan House
Love this art installation downtown
Confederation Centre of the Arts
Breakfast at lovely Leonhard’s Cafe

Anniversary Celebration in Uptown, Saint John

Two years ago tomorrow, my husband and I used Chipman Hill Suites as a home base for our wedding. The historic residence of former Mayor Walter W. White, 71 Sydney St. had everything that we needed to create beautiful photo memories of the day and was a comfortable place for out-of-town guests to stay.

On Saturday night, we ventured back Uptown to celebrate our 2nd anniversary, this time at 1 Chipman Hill.  After having been in several of the Chipman Hill Suites buildings, I can tell you that they are exquisitely beautiful with all of the incredible opulence of their time of construction (1854-1857 for the buildings on Chipman Hill). They boast crown moulding, colourful stained glass windows and ornate wood carvings.

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1 Chipman Hill exterior
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Our gorgeous room at 1 Chipman Hill
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Pretty stained glass windows
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Lobby and staircase at 1 Chipman Hill

The furnishings have all been chosen to complement the style of the homes.  I loved the carved wood armoire in our room and admired the lovely chess set and light fixtures in the common areas.

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Ornate armoire
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Loved this little detail in our room
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Chess anyone?
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Lobby light fixture

Susan Fullerton and her team go above and beyond to ensure their guest’s comfort.  I remember having many email conversations with Susan throughout the wedding process on what we needed and how best Chipman Hill Suites could provide it.  She was so helpful.  I guess this is one reason why they are ranked #1 on TripAdvisor among B&B and Inn’s in Saint John.  They are definitely worth checking out if you are planning a trip to Saint John or if you just want a night away from home.

Even though I had a cold and was feeling a little under the weather, I didn’t want to miss out on having dinner Uptown.  We decided on Italian by Night: it was a romantic night after all, so we felt Italian was called for.  All I can say is WOW.  We had an incredible meal and I was so impressed that the chefs had gluten free options so that I could enjoy every course fully.  And I thought the meal was a great value: we split the bruschetta, each had a main as well as dessert (those GF brownies – chocolate heaven!) and a couple glasses of wine for around $80.  For such a fantastic meal – that’s a bargain.

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Bruschetta. ‘Nugh said.
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GF penne for me and and pizza for Joel
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GF brownies for me and tiramisu for Joel

After dinner, we ended our evening out at Bourbon Quarter, where we had a nightcap of Pollen Angels mead for me and a Hammond River brew for Joel while we enjoyed the music from their weekly open mike night.  Then we strolled back to 1 Chipman Hill, having thoroughly enjoyed our romantic evening Uptown.  Saint Romantic, indeed.

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Some fine NB-made nightcaps

Hard to Make a Stand: On the Syrian Refugee Crisis and Animal Cruelty

I was all set this week to write a pretty, happy little post about how great September is in the Maritimes, but I feel that I’m just not up to it.  I’m not up to it because I’m sad this week.  And I’m sad this week because cats are getting stuffed into dog crates and left to die and because families are being forced to flee war-torn countries, stuffed into little rubber dingys and children are being left to die.  So I feel I just can’t write that happy, pretty blog post this week.  I hope you’ll forgive me, dear readers.  It happens to the best of us.

Even die-hard optimists have off days.

I’m sure I’ll be back on point next week but for now, let’s talk about some serious stuff that’s happening around us, shall we?

By now, everyone should know about the little Syrian boy who died fleeing his country with his family.  If not, where have you been all week?  I’ll give you a moment to find the story.  Just go to any major news outlet.

Are we all up-to-date?  Good.  So, here’s why we should all care about what happened to that family and so many more just like them: because it could happen to any one of us.  I’m not saying it’s going to happen, but it could.  And if it did, I would want someone across the world to care enough to want to help me.

Sometimes we forget just how good we’ve got it here in the Maritimes.  We sit in our comfortable homes and spend time with our families on this lovely long weekend and we feel like these kind of troubles are a million miles away from us.  The vast majority of us have no idea what it’s like to have to flee your country in the middle of the night with your family, with just the clothes on your back.  The Kurdi family was crammed in a little rubber dingy, trying to cross the Mediterranean Sea to Greece, to safety.  As we know, not all of them made it.  Every time I see that photo of the little boy’s father crying, I can see how he will carry his grief for the rest of his life.  It’s absolutely devastating.

Now there is a sea of refugees making their way to Austria and Germany, where these countries have generously set up refugee stations.  Icelanders have been offering up spaces in their own homes.  I think of this vast, wealthy country we have and I can’t help but think: we can do more.  We should do more.  What if we added our voices to the multitudes urging our government to take action?  What if we inundated the policy-makers of this country and let them know: this is not okay with us.

This week, Brian Gallant announced that the province of New Brunswick would be sending $50,000 to help Syrian refugees and that he would be open to welcoming refugees to N.B.  Smart move, considering we are a shrinking province and could use a boost to our population.  I applaud him for taking action.  But these people need help now.  And I know so many Maritimers are seeing these news stories and want to help, but don’t know how.  There are things that we can do.  Here’s a link to a CBC article telling Canadians how they can help.

The other story that gave me a hard time this week was the story of 15 cats found crammed in a dog crate and half buried, left to die in a field on the west side of Saint John.  Six of the animals were found dead at the scene, another seven were euthanized upon arrival at the Kannon Animal Hospital. In the end, only one cat survived.  All of the cats were reported to be wearing collars, so they were obviously pets.  The Kannon Animal Hospital released a video this week of the lone survivor, appropriately named Fanceen, meaning “to be free”.

There is an ancient quote by Terence which states: “I am a human being.  Nothing human can be alien to me”.  I really try to understand this and look at life with this quote in mind.  But I find it extremely difficult when I hear stories like the one about those 15 cats.  The person(s) who committed that crime must have known how those animals would suffer, left to starve to death in a box there was no escape from.  Some people out there might even say, “hey, it was just some cats”.  But here’s the thing: if this is how we’re going to value life, it’s a slippery slope from it’s just a cat to it’s just those people over there, to it’s just one little boy.

Life is life is life, no matter where it comes from or what form it takes.

We have to respect it, in all it’s forms, or we have nothing.

I have so much respect for those people around the world, and close to home, who are fighting for the rights of humans and animals alike.  The work you do is good.  The work you do is important.  Thank you.

I’m reminded of a song I love by Sheryl Crow, Hard to Make a Stand.  Because it is hard to make a stand.  But it’s so very important.

“Hey there, Miscreation.  Bring a flower, time is wasting.”