St. John’s: Top 6 Winter Study Breaks

Although we had been to St. John’s before moving here a full year ago in January, we certainly became more familiar with what the city had to offer during the winter, and even discovered new favourite activities. We don’t have a vehicle, but we do have bus passes, and take full advantage of the transit system. Here are just six of our top cold-weather St. John’s activities!

St. John's Study Breaks

 

1. Cross-country skiing

We had no idea that just on the other side of town was a super cheap cross country ski rental spot, with all-level groomed trails, and snow shoeing paths! For $5 an hour each (that’s an incredible bargain for skiing) we could rent skis or snowshoes, poles, and boots, and make use of all of the groomed trails around Pippy Park. Read more about it here

2. Brunch at Yellow Belly

There is nothing better on those bitterly cold St. John’s winter days than splurging a little on brunch. Although there are dozens of places in the city to get a great brunch, Yellow Belly is our favourite. Not only is the full lunch menu available, with plenty of veg options, fresh pizzas, and beer made onsite, the brunch selections include the classics, with a Newfoundland twist.

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I almost always have the French toast, stuffed with cream cheese and local blueberries (or sometimes partridgeberries if we’re lucky), while Rachel loves the eggs Benedict – without the bacon- or the crab cake benny for fish eaters.

3. Skating at Bannerman Park and coffee

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Bannerman Park recently got a makeover, and the best part (along with the outdoor pool, cobblestoned pathways and Beaver Tail vendor) might just be the Loop, the skating rink that is open so long as the weather is cold enough to keep it frozen. Because it’s a) free and b) perfectly located on Military Road, it’s a popular spot on most winter days. All you need to bring is your skates! I

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It’s also conveniently located between Georgestown Cafe and Bookshelf, and Coffee Matters, our two favourite cafes in the city. After an hour of skating, warm up with an americano and a freshly baked bagel at Georgestown, or a fancy latte and a muffin at Coffee Matters. Both cafes also serve a great lunch. After a sugar hit, we’re always ready to go back to the books.

4. Arts and Culture Centre Library

If the wind isn’t blowing too cold, we will often take an hour off and walk up to the A. C. Hunter Public Library, located in the Arts and Culture Centre. The two storey library is the perfect place to kill a few hours. Always toasty warm, the featured books are forever changing, and the huge magazine collection upstairs could occupy anyone. Head downstairs for the cutest children’s library, filled with low bookshelves and books in both English and French.

5. Signal Hill at night

Our favourite place in the city to see the lights of downtown and the Narrows is from the top of Signal Hill. If you’re feeling ambitious, take a walk up the road, and don’t forget a sweater (or five, in Rachel’s case).

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6. See the lights at Bowering Park

Just as the Christmas exam period is looming, pop down to Bowering Park to see the Christmas lights. Early December brings the Festival of Music and Lights to the park, with choirs from the city performing, and free hot chocolate. The City accepts donations to the food bank, and the lights are officially lit for the Christmas season.

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Planning for Montreal: Top 4 To Do’s

For those who follow the university calendar schedule you’ll know that exams are in full swing. Our tiny house is battling six take home exams and five in class exams in the next 9ish days, which isn’t too bad, all things considered.

But hark! The light at the end of the tunnel is almost visible, and with the wanderlust coursing good and strong through our veins, I am now the proud owner of a ticket to Montreal. I know you’re thinking, “What?! That’s not a beach!” No, it’s not exotic. But it sure isn’t this frigid province (sorry NL – love you but seriously, what’s with the weather?!). Some Canadian city has to have more than just a hint of a green leaf.

So with 10 full days of spring weather, tulips, poutine, bagels, city living and no classes coming up, here are the top four things I’m looking forward to in Montreal & Toronto.

Top 4 Must Do's in Montreal - So with 10 full days of spring weather, tulips, poutine, bagels, city living and no classes coming up, here are the top four things I’m looking forward to in Montreal

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1. The Istanbul Exhibit at the Aga Khan Museum, Toronto, Ontario

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Both historic and modern photos, landscapes, and albums of the city are on offer in an exhibit entitles “A City Transformed: Images of Istanbul Then and Now”, and I am all set to immerse myself in the history and culture of Istanbul. Read more here.

2. Cafe Culture and Bagel Fixes

And Then I Met Rachel Top 3 Montreal Sights

Montreal is known – of course – for poutine and bagels. And although those are great, I am majorly ready for some coffee, french bread, and serious French Canadian brunch. This shot of Olive et Gourmando is exactly what I’m going for. Brioche French toast, here we come. (Image)

3. Bixi Biking on the Lachine Canal

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Not at night, because I don’t bike very well. But the idea of renting a bicycle from BIXI, Montreal’s bike sharing service provider, and pedaling down the canal is super appealing. There better be a bagel waiting at the end of all that calorie burning. (Image)

4. After all of that eating, exercise and culture, we’re going to need a drink. Potentially an espresso. Thankfully we have this handy chart, and shouldn’t have any trouble finding one. Board games? Yes please. (Image)

And Then I Met Rachel Top 4 Montreal To Do

See you soon Montreal!

 

jacob’s ladder and a witch’s cauldron

Oh Truro. Not exactly what we’d call a thriving metropolis here in Nova Scotia, nor a place that ever made it onto my bucket list. We stopped in Truro for on our way out of the province as we headed for New Brunswick, and although our lunch at Smitty’s was surprisingly good, we were even more (pleasantly) surprised when we decided to check out Victoria Park, Truro’s major attraction.

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In the interests of full disclosure, we did not have a straightforward time finding the park. Even though it is 1000 acres of nature in the middle of a not very big town, we were clearly circling it for longer than should have been necessary. We actually heard the park before we saw it. When we finally located the (duh, easy to find) park, a rock band was playing for an average size crowd, apparently a Sunday afternoon thing in the summer. Even though it looked like rain, the pool was full of small children, and the parking lot so packed that, unlike most parks we go to, you really oughtn’t change in your car.

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Knowing we were unlikely to cover all 1000 acres in one afternoon, we headed for Jacob’s Ladder, one of the key attractions, and aimed to see a number of waterfalls on the way.

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The 175-step staircase takes visitors up a cliff-face, to a viewing platform, and back down past a waterfall and natural swimming hole. Yes, we lost our depth perception on the stairs. No, we did not fall off.

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Cyclists were taking full advantage of the many paved roadways, and boardwalks were also available for pedestrians. The park also offers a canteen, playground, picnic area, and covered pavilion, perfect for birthday parties. For those who are still feeling like it’s Halloween, don’t miss the Witch’s Cauldron, a small waterway which, with a name like that, needs no description.

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Next time you’re heading to somewhere else, stop in Truro for lunch and think you should just keep driving, take a walk through Victoria Park, and let us know what you think!

coffee, with a side of cute {a quick read}

We love the bagels from Georgestown Bakery in St. John’s. Cheap, delicious, and (if you’re there early enough) still hot from the oven. The bright purple bakery is centrally located in our neighbourhood, and it’s as close to homemade as we’re going to get!

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So it’s no surprise that we have been eagerly anticipating the opening of Georgestown Cafe and Bookshelf, just across the street from the bakery. Serving Just Us! coffee and of course, their own bagels and croissants, they also collected almost 200 books which adorn bookshelves in a reading nook, for a ‘take a book, leave a book’ sharing system. Perfection.IMG_20151001_101830623

The drinks are reasonably priced ($2.25 for a cafe au lait!) and our cinnamon blueberry mini tart was delish. The cheerful staff and brightly lit space perfect for studying or reading will definitely make this spot our new go to.

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Head on up to Georgestown, meet the baristas, design your own sandwich (and have it with soup, it smelled amazing), and have an extra hot coffee. It’s so adorable, you won’t want to leave.

berry picking on the rock

With five days of rain in the forecast, we got out of the apartment today for a couple of hours of berry picking.

Newfoundland is an inhospitable place to live, work, and try to grow (as a plant, I mean, though I’m not sure how children do it either). But, the rocky terrain and generally wet climate make wild blueberries very happy. Within a fifteen minute walk from our house, are five picking spots (that we know of), so we headed out to the rocks, hills and bush to find some. IMG_2459-001

Wild, low-bush blueberries are harder to pick than the high-bush kind we know at home in Nova Scotia, but they were plentiful, and we collected a couple of yogurt containers-full this afternoon. We were in competition with six or seven other pickers. Next time, we’ll try another spot in the hopes of finding more berries, and fewer people to battle for them!

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our day on the avon

We took a day off a couple of weeks ago and decided to explore a part of our home province that we either hadn’t seen, or couldn’t remember seeing. I wrote an earlier post on Avondale Sky Winery, which was the first step on this little tour of the Avon River area of Hants County. Check that post out here.

​After our tour of the transformed church, we hit the road, arriving in Brooklyn, where we found The Bread Gallery. It was a great stopping place, serving fresh coffee, pie just out of the oven, and baked goods for us to take in the car for our picnic. In the back was a small art gallery, featuring a lot of what we call ‘cow art’ – cows, artistically presented in a variety of mediums, something we found was very popular during our travels in Ireland.

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To reach The Bread Gallery, take the 14 from Windsor, and follow the signs to Brooklyn, it’s quite hard to miss. There are some seriously iffy intersections on that road though, so don’t be distracted by the Bread Gallery’s signage and miss the turn – or those sneaky yield signs.

We also stopped on the Avon River to check out a lighthouse we happened to spot, and chat with a family who were fishing off a pier, despite the looming storm clouds. Truthfully, I have no idea where we were at that point. But the key was that we were going to stop wherever we saw anything interesting, and it worked out for us.

At this point, the rain poured down, and even though we were dry in the car, it wasn’t turning out to be a great day for a road trip. Fortunately for us, we drove right through the storm, and came out to clear skies on the other side.

Breaking away from the 14 to follow the 215 along the river, Summerville wharves drew us off the main road, as did the bright green of The Flying Apron, an inn and restaurant serving fresh, local food, curing their own meats, and selling a wide selection of jams and condiments. We stopped in for an appetizer and a coffee, and loved all the photography being featured. Their website has beautiful pictures of the rooms upstairs in the inn, and the staff even offer cooking classes in their lovely training kitchen.

Our final stop was Cheverie, where we came upon a salt marsh, and a large brick structure, kind of like a dome. It was finally concluded that it is some kind of periscope, and if you stand inside the dark inner room, theoretically you can see the ocean, and its tides, through the scope. We didn’t have much success, but that may not have had anything to do with the equipment. In any case, do let us know if you see anything!

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Just across the road from the periscope was a picnic table, and we watched the receding tides over a small picnic of mainly local foods – including some great white rolls from The Bread Gallery.

There are still huge sections of Nova Scotia we haven’t seen, but the distances between communities are so much smaller than they look on the map, these are very manageable trips, even for families coming from Halifax or the other shores. Every town has something new to offer, and many have playgrounds for restless little legs to get some energy out.

Here’s a map, let us know what you discover on your staycation!

nova scotia, new brunswick and quebec, oh my! {a snapshot journal}

Quebec City is a great road trip destination for Nova Scotians for a multitude of reasons. We love it because it only takes a little over 12 hours, if you didn’t stop, perfect for two 6-hour drive days, or for the really ambitious travelers, a day-long journey. And in those 12 hours, not only can you see a large part of pristine Canadian forest, coastline, and water, but you are transported from rural Nova Scotia into a city with European style, a whole other language, and an entirely different culture. Well worth the drive.

We just got back from a week of adventures in Nova Scotia, New Brunswick and Quebec, enjoying the outdoors, eating some great food, and exploring a part of the country we’ve never seen. Stay tuned for more detailed posts about our travels, but for now, here’s a snapshot journal of our trip!

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Hitting the rocky beach at Five Islands Park, Nova Scotia
Jacob's Ladder at Victoria Park, Truro, Nova Scotia
Jacob’s Ladder at Victoria Park, Truro, Nova Scotia
The cool rocks we discovered from a dead end road in Lower Economy, Nova Scotia
The cool rock we discovered from a dead-end road in Lower Economy, Nova Scotia
The World's Largest Lobster in Shediac, Nova Scotia, also known as the Lobster Capital of the World
The World’s Largest Lobster in Shediac, New Brunswick, also known as the Lobster Capital of the World
Spent a rainy hour at Parlee Beach Provincial Park in New Brunswick. The normally packed beach was almost deserted.
Spent a rainy hour at Parlee Beach Provincial Park in New Brunswick. The normally packed beach was almost deserted.
Explored the dunes at Bouctouche, New Brunswick
Exploring the dunes at Bouctouche, New Brunswick
Spent the afternoon in Kouchibouguac National Park, New Brunswick
Spent the afternoon in Kouchibouguac National Park, New Brunswick
Checked out the Bathurst, New Brunswick coastline from the viewing tower
Checked out the Bathurst, New Brunswick coastline from the viewing tower
Stopped at Le Canyon des Portes de l'Enfer near Rimouski, Quebec - the Canyon at the Gates of Hell!
Stopped at Le Canyon des Portes de l’Enfer near Rimouski, Quebec – the Canyon at the Gates of Hell!
Not suitable for those who aren't a fan of heights!
Not suitable for those who aren’t a fan of heights!
Had a little lunch and did a little shopping in the thriving community of Rivière-du-Loup, Quebec
Had a little lunch and did a little shopping in the thriving community of Rivière-du-Loup, Quebec
Took a walk in the woods in Le Parc des Sept-Chutes in Saint-Pascal, Quebec, the park with seven waterfalls
Took a walk in the woods in Le Parc des Sept-Chutes in Saint-Pascal, Quebec, the park with seven waterfalls
Spent a few days wandering the walls and narrow streets of Old Quebec City, Vieux-Quebec
Spent a few days wandering the walls and narrow streets of Old Quebec City, Vieux-Québec
Got soaked by the spray off Monmorency Falls, just outside of Quebec City
Got soaked by the spray off Montmorency Falls, just outside of Quebec City
Spent our last Quebec night on the Île d'Orléans, a small agricultural island just a short bridge away from Quebec City
Spent our last Quebec night on the Île d’Orléans, a small agricultural island in the Saint Lawrence River