Nothing Gold Can Stay: Exploring The Places of Our Youth

While visiting my hometown this past week to help my parents with the wild blueberry harvest, I took my camera out to explore some of the areas of my youth, mainly the fields around the old homestead that me and my friend Meranda used to frequent.

You see, we were kind of horse crazy in our early teen years, and Old Man Russell had a little farm just down the road.  He had cows and work horses and lots of cats.  He liked to sell and trade the horses often, so there was always a new resident to welcome.  We often walked down to feed the horses a carrot, clean out the barn for Russell and sometimes even go for a ride around the fields.  It was a pretty perfect setup for a couple of horse crazy young girls.

Russell died some years ago and the old homestead stands empty now, the house long ago torn down and the old barn now collapsed.  The vegetation has grown up so that it practically envelopes the abandoned buildings.  Where trails and pathways across brooks used to be, now only stands a wall of shrubs and trees.

I was struck by how different everything looked to the picture I had frozen in my memory. It’s funny how you expect things to stay exactly the way you remember them, frozen in time.  It’s just not the truth.  It reminds me of that Robert Frost poem, Nothing Gold Can Stay.

Nothing Gold Can Stay

Nature’s first green is gold,
Her hardest hue to hold.
Her early leaf’s a flower;
But only so an hour.
Then leaf subsides to leaf.
So Eden sank to grief,
So dawn goes down to day.
Nothing gold can stay.

Despite the fact that nothing gold can stay, there is still plenty of beauty here.  You just have look for it.

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A Trip to Kingsbrae Garden

Kingsbrae Garden is a flower lovers dream.  Even for non-gardeners, stepping through the gates of Kingsbrae Garden into these lush grounds feels like entering the Garden of Eden, perhaps even heaven.

Sprawled over 27 acres, Kingsbrae Garden is located in the beautiful town of St. Andrews-by-the-Sea.  The gardens contain over 2500 species of perennials as well as numerous types of trees and shrubs. There’s also a nature walk through the Acadian Forest, a sculpture garden, a windmill and animals to entertain the kids.

I had never visited the gardens before but after seeing a stunning shot of the entrance taken by a friend, I knew I had to drop by for a visit.

I was absolutely stunned by the size of the Kingsbrae Garden.  As Donald would say, it’s huuugge.  You really need several hours to fully explore the grounds and see everything. All I kept thinking while I was walking around and marveling at everything was how much work it must be to maintain this perfectly manicured tribute to nature.  There are so many interesting things to examine, and so many flowers bursting with colour.  I’m sure it’s a full time job for a whole staff of green thumbs.

I would say that the flower trees at the entrance and the sculpture garden were two of my favourite areas, but literally everything is worth seeing.  Kudos to those who work so hard to maintain such a wonderful addition to our province, for tourists and locals alike. It’s truly something that everyone can enjoy.

Below are some photos from my visit.

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A stunning entrance
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How beautiful is this?
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Entry Garden
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Looking back at the Visitors’s Centre
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Entering the Perennial Garden
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Perennial Garden
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This place is the bee’s knees!
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Perfectly manicured Knot & Rose Garden
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Alpaca’s hangin’ out
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And goats
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There’s a windmill.  A WINDMILL.
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A nature photographers dream
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Whimsical sculptures abound

 

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Heath & Heather Garden
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Sculpture Garden
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Sculpture Garden
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Big red chair overlooking the Cafe

If you’ve ever wondered if Kingsbrae Garden is worth a visit, or if you haven’t been there lately, please go!  For anyone who likes to take photos or who is a gardener, this place is amazing.  I couldn’t stop taking pictures and every one was as beautiful as the last.

For more information on Kingsbrae Garden, visit their website kingsbraegarden.com.

On Top of the Maritimes: Our Mount Carleton Trek

Mount Carleton, located in the north of New Brunswick, is the highest peak in the Maritimes, at 820m (2,690ft).  The mountain is located within the Mount Carleton Provincial Park, where there are 4 peaks and more than 42,000 acres of wilderness to explore.  Mount Carleton is the highest peak, followed by Mount Head at 792m, Mount Sagamook at 777m and Mount Bailey at 564m.

On Saturday, Joel and I got up with the sun and headed for Mount Carleton, an almost 5 hour drive from our home in Saint John.

We arrived at the park just after noon.  We would have loved to be able to hike some of the other peaks but we only had a few hours and we definitely wanted to bag the highest peak in the Maritimes so we headed straight for the Mount Carleton trail.

The trail is a roughly 10km loop.  Park staff suggest doing the hike in a clockwise fashion, up the left side of the trail and back down the shorter, right side of the trail.

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The trail is considered moderately difficult, but we found that it was a steady uphill climb until you get to the last kilometer or so, where you can split one of two ways: one a more gentle roundabout climb and another that takes you right along the cliff edge, with a lot more boulders to climb over.  We took the more exposed side as we wanted the better views.

The trail up the mountain is a pretty one, following a babbling brook for part of the way. Headwaters campground is on this side as well, if you’re looking to camp overnight.  Once you hit the fork in the trail marking the last kilometer, you very quickly begin to climb out of the tree line, revealing some amazing views of northern New Brunswick.  It truly is spectacular.

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It is said that on a clear day, you can see more than 10 million trees from the top of Mount Carleton.  Standing at the summit on Saturday, I definitely felt like I could see that many trees.

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You are truly in the wilderness, unplugged from the grind of life, and connected to your immediate surroundings.  This is what I love about hiking.  It gives you a goal to achieve, it’s a great workout, and it allows you a chance to connect with yourself and the quiet solitude of nature.  Joel remarked afterward that there were a few moments of the trail of absolute silence, and how peaceful he found it.

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There are so few moments of silence in our everyday lives.  So much information coming at us at once, from all angles.  We must make time to unplug from our lives, and to make time for silence.


After we were finished hiking, we headed back to the pretty town of Perth-Andover and The Castle Inn.  The Inn was first built in 1932 as the private residence of Bill and Pauline Lewis.  The structure has a Norman Chateau facade and features many local river rocks collected by the couple themselves.

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The building suffered a fire in the 1940’s and when the structure was rebuilt, the tower was added, along with a stunning, spiral staircase.

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After his parents passed away, Lance Lewis planned to turn the home into a Bed and Breakfast but died unexpectedly and was not able to achieve his goal.  The building is now owned by Peter Dunlop, who began building on to the existing structure in 2004 and turned it into the charming Inn we stayed at on Saturday night.

The food was great, the service warm and the rooms were lovely and well appointed.  There is a great spa area with pool, hot tub, gym and saunas.  It was fun to wander around the Inn and examine the beautiful woodwork and rounded doorways original to the house.

We had fun hanging out with the castle cat, Smoky, who comes and goes as he pleases and can often be found curled up on a comfy seat near the front desk.

It was great to cross something off my 2016 goal list this past weekend and to discover some new places in my own province.  Now, on to the next adventure!

Canada’s Symbol: The Maple Leaf, A Photo Exploration

As Canada Day 2016 approached and I was in my backyard practicing photography in the evening light, I started wondering about the maple leaf and how exactly it became the most widely recognized symbol of this country.

In 1834, at the inaugural meeting of the Societe Saint-Jean-Baptiste, Montreal’s first mayor, Jacques Viger, called the maple leaf, “The king of our forest;…the symbol of the Canadian people”.

After this, the maple leaf slowly became used more and more as a symbol of Canada. The golden leaf was often used to represent Ontario, and the green leaf was often used to represent Quebec.

It wasn’t until the maple leaf was incorporated into the national flag in 1965, that it was officially cemented as the central national symbol.  The maple leaf represented on the national flag is a generic, stylized version, with 11 points and does not to represent any specific type of maple tree, of which 10 species grow naturally in Canada.

As I examined the trees around my neighbourhood, I saw several types of maple trees, including red, silver and Norway maple.  I noticed that no two maple leaves were exactly alike.  The choice of the maple leaf as a national symbol seems therefore rather appropriate, given our rich history as a country of immigrants.  Just as no two maple leaves are the same, no two Canadians are the same, either.  We are all as unique as the symbol that represents us.

Here is my photo exploration of the maple leaf, as a symbol of our Canadian culture.

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No two maple leaves are the same
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Not the classic 11-point leaf, but a maple leaf all the same
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Layers of maple leaves
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Sun soaked maple leaves
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Canada Day festivities on the Saint John boardwalk.  The maple leaf is everywhere.
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Take a leaf
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The leaf flys proudly at Market Square
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Canada Day parade.  This is Canada.  We all wear the leaf.
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Carrying the leaf
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Even Spider-Man carries the maple leaf.
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Draped in the maple leaf.
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Boardwalk maple leaf
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Streetscape maple leaf
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The leaf flys at Fort Howe
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The classic 11-point leaf

Tourist At Home: Nova Scotia Road Trip ’16

The Smith’s are back from a whirlwind 6-day road trip of the western half of Nova Scotia!

What I love about vacationing at home is that it usually costs significantly less due to the decreased travel costs and you get to discover some really cool places in your own backyard that you might not have known were even there.  In my case, I wanted to hit all the spots I’ve heard about and wanted to visit for years, but had just not gotten around to.

The first leg of our journey took us across the Bay of Fundy from Saint John, NB to Digby, NS.  It was fun as neither me or my husband had ever traveled to or from Saint John by boat, and this offered a cool perspective of the city and the harbour.

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Later, Saint John!
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Views of Partridge Island on the sail out of the harbour
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Leaving New Brunswick behind

The Fundy Rose is very well appointed and fast!  We arrived in Digby is just under 2 hours.

Observation deck
Nice lounge and cafe on the Fundy Rose
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Checking out the views on the approach to Digby
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We’re in Nova Scotia!

Our first adventure in Nova Scotia was an overnight backpacking trip to Cape Split, a provincial park reserve that juts into the Bay of Fundy and features dramatic cliffs and incredible scenery.  The drive was to the park was lovely and we stopped to take some photos at a lookout along the way.

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The Annapolis Valley

When we arrived at the parking lot of Cape Split, our spirits fell a little to see it packed with cars – there were so many people!  Undeterred, we set off with our backpacks, sure that many hikers would not be staying overnight and that we would soon have the place to ourselves. The hike is about 6km long and is easy to moderate with gentle uphill slopes.  The trail is well marked; it would be very difficult to get lost along the way.   It was extremely windy at the cliff edge when we arrived!  I was afraid to get too close in case I lost my balance.  It’s a long way down!

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Checking out the views
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The famous Cape Split rocks
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The gulls love this place!

After setting up camp, we hiked down to a rocky beach where we sat on the rocks and took in the beauty of the Bay of Fundy.  And our camping buddies got engaged!  Congrats, Mahshid and Jason!

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The happy couple
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A rock that rivals Cape Split itself!

After spending a lovely evening on the cape, we parted ways with our friends who were heading back to Saint John and set out for Yarmouth.  We were pretty tired after the backpacking trip and it was raining (a theme we would encounter for the rest of our trip) so we didn’t make many stops along the way.  Once reaching Yarmouth, we had much-needed showers, strolled through the lovely Frost Park, had dinner and went back to the hotel to crash early.

Frost Park in downtown Yarmouth
Frost Park in downtown Yarmouth

The next morning after a quick breakfast in Yarmouth, we headed out to discover the South Shore.  It’s a long but beautiful drive along this rugged coastline.  We made a stop in Cape Sable Island to see The Hawk Beach, the most southerly point of Nova Scotia.  The beach here is a stunning grey/white sand and is home to the tallest lighthouse in Nova Scotia, at 101 feet.  The lighthouse is some distance from the beach so we couldn’t get up close but the stop was well worth it with the beautiful views it offers of the Atlantic Ocean.

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Cape Sable Island
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The tallest lighthouse in Nova Scotia in the distance

By early afternoon we arrived at our next destination, Lunenburg, a picturesque port town and home to the Bluenose II.  We quickly discovered that Lunenburg is a major tourist destination; the place was swarming with visitors, just like us, gawking at the brilliantly coloured buildings and snapping photos along the way.  We were lucky that the sun decided to make a rare appearance, just as we were exploring the downtown area.

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Colourful shops in downtown Lunenburg
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Bluenose II
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Pretty waterfront
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More colourful buildings

We quickly discovered Ironworks Distillery, a local company that makes spirits inside an former blacksmith’s shop.  We sampled many of their delicious products and learned a little about the process, leaving with several bottles to take home.  I would definitely recommend a stop here if you are in town.

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The old blacksmith’s shop, now Ironworks Distillery
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Beautiful wood fired still

We stayed the night at the Rum Runner Inn, a lovely spot right in downtown Lunenburg, which serves a gluten free fish and chips, so I was in heaven!

The next morning was gloomy and after a quick and delicious breakfast at The Savvy Sailor, we headed out for the small community of Blue Rocks, just a few moments from Lunenburg.

This might be my favourite place we saw along the way.  It had true Maritime charm, even with the light drizzle and moody skies.  This community is famous for the slate rocks that give it its ‘blue’ name.

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The gloomy morning didn’t diminish the beauty of Blue Rocks, NS
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Fishing huts at The Point
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The famous blue rocks

After Blue Rocks, we headed for Halifax, where we visited with friends and did some shopping.  We had a fantastic meal at The Bicycle Thief and did as much sight seeing on the waterfront as the rain would allow (not much, as it turned out).

Red bicycles at The Bicycle Thief
Love this art installation on the Halifax wayerfront
Georges Island views


The next morning we set out for my home county of Cumberland, stopping in Truro to check out Victoria Park.  I had wanted to visit this park for some time, after seeing photos of the waterfalls and the daunting Jacob’s Ladder and it did not disappoint.  I wish we’d had more time to explore more trails but we had to get on the road and the weather was pretty chilly (we’ll have to come back!).

That’s a lot of steps!
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Joe Howe Falls
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Witches Cauldron
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Cool tree roots

The discoveries continued with my parents when we took a drive to the historic mining town of Londonderry.  Once a bustling community of almost 5000 people, it’s now a collection of just a few homes.  The town square is still well maintained though, where a few artifacts of the mine are preserved for visitors to see.  It’s a reminder of what once was, and what is not likely to be again.

Londonderry Memorial Square
Fly Wheel used from 1903-1910
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Boiler used from 1849-1908, and an abandoned bike
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Country bridge

And that pretty much wrapped up our tour of the western half of Nova Scotia.  We look forward to exploring the eastern half and Cape Breton later this year.

I would encourage everyone to be tourists at home, and to explore spaces in your own backyards.  You never know what you might find.

Spring in the Maritimes: Colour has Returned!

It’s the Victoria Day long weekend and it’s sunny and 20+ degrees outside!  It’s the unofficial start to summer, meaning: BBQs, camping, and lazy days at the beach.

Summer doesn’t officially arrive for another month, and really, it feels like spring is just getting started.  The grass is green now (we mowed ours for the first time last night), the leaves are popping out on the trees and bright blooms can be seen on every corner.  In short, colour has come back to our world.

I’ve been playing around with a new camera I bought myself for birthday recently (happy birthday to me!).  It’s my first DSLR so I’m still learning my way around it (there’s so many buttons!).

When I started this blog, it was mostly about wanting to write.  I didn’t realize how much I would fall in love with photography.  There is something wonderful about telling stories through pictures, and no better way to share the beauty of this place.  And I guess the principles of writing and photography are really the same when you boil it down: it’s about noticing things.  Like noticing the way the evening light hits a flower, creating delicate shadows from the stamen on the petals.  It’s about exploring too, and seeing things through fresh eyes.  I would encourage you to take an exploration with your camera or phone, and try to see what you can notice around you.  I promise, it will open up a world of wonder.

So, that’s what I’ve been up to recently.  I’ve got my new Canon Rebel T5 and I’ve been zooming around Saint John taking shots of pretty much everything.  I love the way the DSLR can get you so much closer than the iPhone, which is what I’ve been taking all my photos on.  I thought I’d share a few spring shots with you today.

I hope you all have a fantastic long weekend and enjoy the sunshine while it’s here!

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Irving Nature Park salt marshes
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Saints Rest Beach, Irving Nature Park
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Looking across Saints Rest Beach to the Bay of Fundy and beyond.
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Reversing Falls bridge and the city of Saint John in the pretty evening light.
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Adventures in backyard photography
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Love those little raindrops
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Fresh new maple leaves through soft evening light
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I can’t get enough of that light!
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Here’s those lovely shadows I was talking about.  At Saint John Public Gardens.
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Lily Lake, Rockwood Park
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No swimming yet!
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Forsythia in bloom
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From Fort Howe to the Coast Guard station, SJ is stunning.

Where the Land Meets the Sea

Is there any place more beautiful than where the land meets the sea?

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By the Seaside: The Secret of the Sea

Ah! what pleasant visions haunt me
As I gaze upon the sea!
All the old romantic legends,
All my dreams, come back to me.

Sails of silk and ropes of sandal,
Such as gleam in ancient lore;
And the singing of the sailors,
And the answer from the shore!

Most of all, the Spanish ballad
Haunts me oft, and tarries long,
Of the noble Count Arnaldos
And the sailor’s mystic song.

Like the long waves on a sea-beach,
Where the sand as silver shines,
With a soft, monotonous cadence,
Flow its unrhymed lyric lines;–

Telling how the Count Arnaldos,
With his hawk upon his hand,
Saw a fair and stately galley,
Steering onward to the land;–

How he heard the ancient helmsman
Chant a song so wild and clear,
That the sailing sea-bird slowly
Poised upon the mast to hear,

Till his soul was full of longing,
And he cried, with impulse strong,–
‘Helmsman! for the love of heaven,
Teach me, too, that wondrous song!’

‘Wouldst thou,’–so the helmsman answered,
‘Learn the secret of the sea?
Only those who brave its dangers
Comprehend its mystery!’

In each sail that skims the horizon,
In each landward-blowing breeze,
I behold that stately galley,
Hear those mournful melodies;

Till my soul is full of longing
For the secret of the sea,
And the heart of the great ocean
Sends a thrilling pulse through me.

– Henry Wadsworth Longfellow

Share Your Maritime Love: Nicole Boutilier and Colby Veinotte

Driven by a passion for adventure, photography, food and culture, Nicole Boutilier and Colby Veinotte started Explore the East as a way to share their adventures and highlight lesser known areas of the Maritimes.  They love to collaborate with other East Coast adventurers and they seek to prove that the Maritimes has just as stunning landscapes as any other part of the country.  They were happy to participate in our Share Your Maritime Love project and I’m so happy to have them here.  Here’s what they had to say:

Do you live in the Maritimes?  Where do you call home?

NicoleI was born and raised in a small rural community in Cape Breton called Gardiner Mines. I moved to Dartmouth to study photography at the NSCC Waterfront campus for 2 years but made my way back to the Cape shortly after graduating and I’ve been here since.

ColbyMahone Bay will always be my home, though I currently live in Halifax.

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Photo courtesy of Explore the East

What do you love most about life in the Maritimes?

Nicole – I love just about every aspect of life in the Maritimes. Of course the obvious… the incredibly breathtaking landscape and unspoiled natural beauty.  It doesn’t matter where you are in the Maritimes you are only minutes away from the ocean, mountains or all the awesome things in between.  As a photographer I couldn’t possibly dream up a more beautiful place to call home.  I also love the people, I dare say you will not find kinder, caring or more generous people then Maritimers.  It’s a place where your neighbour will always let you borrow a cup of sugar or lend a helping hand. Our laid-back and relaxed atmosphere combined with our great sense of community is incomparable to any place I’ve ever been.  And lastly I love all the fascinating history that we hold in every Maritime province, I never get tired of learning about our heritage and culture.

ColbyIt’s hard to narrow it down to just one answer.  First off I’d have to say the cuisine. Growing up with farmers and fisherman in the family makes it so easy to appreciate the food that ends up on our tables.  Second, the scenery of the Maritimes.  From the highlands of Cape Breton to the world’s highest tides of Fundy.  It’s only a few hours of driving to see some of the most diverse landscapes.  Most of all I love the people and the culture.  I’ve never met anyone as friendly as someone from the Maritimes.  Every person is as friendly as the next.

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Photo courtesy of Explore the East

What do you find most challenging about living/doing business here?

NicoleBeing from Cape Breton, there are definitely some obstacles that make growing a successful business and life here more difficult.  It’s unfortunate but the population is steadily on the decline and we have the obvious economic struggles.  Last year, Cape Breton had the biggest loss in population over any other region in the country.  I’ve seen half of my family move to other parts of Canada to find employment, and it always breaks my heart to see people leave this beautiful place.
Personally I feel like many Maritimers are stuck in their ways, not too keen on taking risks or change.  I believe the open-minded creative people are what’s keeping this island and other parts of the Maritimes going strong.  We need more people who are willing to do whatever it takes to make living here long-term possible.  I love seeing people going out on a limb and starting a new business.  During a time when the economy is struggling it’s so rad to see people taking a risk and following their dreams.  It would be great to see more people supporting our local businesses.  Even if it means stopping by a little cafe for your morning coffee over Tim Hortons every now and then.
Two of my biggest passions are photography, exploring and promoting the Maritimes. That is why Colby and I started Explore the East, we want to share how incredible this place is. We want to showcase not only the cool scenic places but also the small businesses that make this part of the country so special.  If you are dedicated and willing to put in the extra work anything is possible.  As Maritimers we don’t give up easily.

ColbyOne of the toughest things I find is the old-fashioned mind set people have.  People being set on their ways of thinking and not accepting change.
I also find that far too many people seem to give up and make the move out west for work. There is much that one can accomplish here with the will to work for it.  Especially with all the modern day resources available such as a myriad of social media platforms. Communicating and networking has never been so easy as it is today.

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Photo courtesy of Explore the East

What is your favourite places(s) in the Maritimes?  Why?

NicoleThis one is easy for me, Cape Breton.  One of my favourite places in particular is the Cheticamp area.  It’s where my grandfather is from, and where lots of great childhood memories were made.  It has always been our go-to spot for summer vacations.
I believe growing up in Cape Breton shaped me into the person I am today.  I grew up always being outdoors, and I’m sure that played a massive roll in my love and appreciation for the island.  It might sound a bit cliche but Cape Breton is in my blood and it will always hold a very special place in my heart.  We are surrounded by the ocean, mountains, and wildlife that are simply stunning.  We have endless hiking trails, beaches and little villages to explore.  We are home to some of the most artistically talented people in the world, so there is no shortage of inspiration.
The people are hard working, kind-hearted, strong and generous.  I love that when you walk down the street, everybody greets you even if you are an unfamiliar face.  I recently spent a weekend in the Highlands of Cape Breton exploring the Cabot Trail.  As I was driving through the little communities I noticed that every person walking or every vehicle I drove by, would wave and greet me.  I had dinner with some local folks and they couldn’t have been nicer.  I felt like I was eating dinner with people I had known my entire life, even though we had just met.  It’s the small gestures of kindness and big hearts that make Cape Breton, along with the rest of the Maritimes, so special.

ColbyI would have to say my hometown and surrounding area.  I’ve had so many great memories in Lunenburg and Mahone Bay and continue to make more with every visit.

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Photo courtesy of Explore the East

What do you think we can do to build a better Maritimes?

Nicole I’ll say it again the Maritimes are one of the most beautiful parts of Canada.  From the Bay of Fundy’s rising tides, to the sandy beaches of Prince Edward Island, to the mountains surrounding Margaree Valley.  While it’s scenic beauty may be the first thing that springs to mind when you think of the Maritimes (with good reason!), it’s the people who call it home that are really at the heart of it’s beauty.  Many musicians, photophraphers, writers, sculptors, painters and other artists have created works of art that mirror the beauty of the land.  It is through their creations that we are able to experience the Maritimes for what they truly are.  It is for this reason that it hurts so much to see the provincial governments cutting funding to the arts.  It is unreasonable to remove the funding for an arts program and then to expect the artists to remain in the Maritimes.  Tax credits, grants, and scholarships are relied upon by many in the arts community.  We need incentives, not only to keep our artists here, at home, but also to attract foreign artists to the Maritimes.  The Maritimes has no shortage of artists, but unless we’re able to give them a reason to stay, the art community has a serious risk of facing an upcoming departure of talent.  And I’m positive this is also relatable to many other industries and fields of work beyond just the arts.  If the government isn’t going to support us, we have to take it upon ourselves to make a change.  Support each other, and do whatever we can to keep Maritimers here.  Shop local, support our artists, small businesses and keep promoting that we are just as great as Western Canada or anywhere else in the world.

ColbyWe need to realize that the Maritimes are just as important as Canada’s other more-celebrated provinces.  We’re still growing in some areas but we are well on our way. We need to learn from our Canadian counterparts that social networking and similar platforms are just as important as other tools in the workplace.  Collaborating and working locally can only do good for the economy. We also need to remember the beauty of our own provinces.  We have few landscapes that are publicized, but Peggy’s Cove is just the tip of the iceberg.  There is so much more to discover and share.

Thanks so much for participating in our Share Your Maritime Love project, guys!

If you would like follow along with Nicole and Colby as they Explore the East, you can visit their Instagram account here.