Eastern Newfoundland: A Road-Tripper’s Guide

Many tourists book their tickets to St. John’s or Deer Lake or Gander, and then announce that they’ve set aside a week to “see Newfoundland.” Newfoundland, for the record, is huge. Not huge like Paris is a huge city, huge like it will take all day (if you start early) to get from one side to the other and there are actually things to see in the middle so you can’t just ‘do it’ in seven days.

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View of the Battery, St. John’s, from Fort Amherst

That being said, there are plenty of things to do and see in seven days, and if you divide up the province, they can even be done well. This itinerary will cover the easternmost side of Newfoundland to get a taste for the cosmopolitan city life, as well as the small-town, quaint bits.

St. John’s

Fly into St. John’s International Airport, located about 20 minutes from downtown. If you’re lucky, the pilot will take you the scenic route, coming in over the ocean and the cliffs. Spend at least three nights in the city, if you can, to have enough time to see the sights, particularly if hiking is part of your plans. Take in various outdoor activities, including Signal Hill (from the Battery walk, and via the road) and Quidi Vidi Lake. Watch the sunrise from Cape Spear, the easternmost point in Canada, or coming in the fall to see the leaves at Rennie’s River Trail and Bowering Park.

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Have brunch at Yellow Belly Brewery or the Fifth Ticket on Water Street, pick up souvenirs and local goods in the independent shops on Duckworth Street, and take in a show at LSPU Hall or at the Arts and Culture Centre. Dinner at Get Stuffed, Blue on Water, The Fish Exchange, or any of the other many restaurants downtown will leave you satisfied with local flavours and products, many of which are sourced directly from the producers, farmers, and fishermen.

Visit The Rooms museum for Newfoundland history, and the Craft Council on Duckworth for locally, and lovingly, made arts and crafts. Visit one of the many historical churches in downtown St. John’s, and get your picture taken in front of the jellybean-coloured row houses (just head up from Duckworth, away from the harbour, toward Gower Street, King’s Road, or others). And if boats agree with you (they don’t with me) by all means head down to the harbour and take one of the highly thought of tours to see icebergs, whales, and various other oceanic sights. Let me know how it is – I’ll be on land with a coffee (at Coffee Matters, Fixed, or The Rocket!).

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Spend a day touring the Avalon Peninsula. From St. John’s, you are minutes from Middle Cove, Outer Cove, and Topsail Beach. Various East Coast Trail starting points dot the peninsula – visit their website for these details.

Trinity

You’ll want at least two nights in Trinity, to accommodate both day trips and the various activities in town. The main highlight of Trinity is Rising Tide Theatre Festival, a summer festival of Newfoundland classics and historical pieces, featuring a majority of Newfoundland actors. Spend a day at the Festival to take in the Pageant – a roving theatrical production outlining the history of Trinity and the surrounding area – the dinner theatre,  and a main stage production in the evening. If you wish to meet the actors, or locals, they can most likely be found at the pub – you’ll find it. Trinity Coffee Company is roasting small batch coffee in a very small town, and you’ll want to pick one up before heading off on the Skerwink Trail, near Port Rexton, an award-winning hike with spectacular views of the ocean, cliffs, wildlife and sea stacks.

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Accommodations in and around Trinity are lovely, and limited – so book early, particularly if you’re traveling in August and September. Stay right in Trinity at the Artisan Inn, or at Fisher’s Loft in Port Rexton, just a few minutes down the road from town.

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Port Union

This historical town plays an interesting and important role in Newfoundland’s past, and the Fisherman’s Protective Union. The entire town appears locked in the early 1900’s. Tour the factory building and see the printing press, as well as archived pieces and historical tools and household items in the museum. The surrounding area is picturesque and worth visiting once you have explored the town itself.

 

Elliston

One of the highlights of Newfoundland is wildlife. If you didn’t get a chance to see any puffins on your boat tour in St. John’s or Trinity, don’t miss a stop at Elliston. Bring your own binoculars, or, once you’ve parked your car on the side of the road, borrow a pair once you get there. You will be able to see the puffins – birds smaller than you might imagine – on the adjacent rock. Bring a blanket, or sit in the grass and enjoy the view. Stay all day if you wish – it’s not remotely corporate, and no one will ask you to leave. Traveling to Eastern Newfoundland - One Red Phone Box Travel Blog

Bonavista

Bonavista is day-tripping distance from Trinity, or another spot worth spending a night, depending on your schedule. First on the agenda is a tour of the Matthew, a replica of John Cabot’s ship, appropriately located at his first landing place. From Cape Bonavista Lighthouse Provincial Historic Site, you may be able to spot an iceberg, and you’ll get a taste of Newfoundland history in the quaint downtown.

Take in the cliffs, the fishing boats, and the rugged coastline, before heading twenty minutes down the coast in the direction of Newman’s Cove to Bonavista Social Club at Amherst’s Cove for lunch (open during the summer, only). The self-sufficient restaurant produces and grows their own products for breads, soups, salads, and pizzas.

Even more?

Eastern Newfoundland

If you manage to cover this segment of Newfoundland in a week, you’ll have been very successful (and potentially overwhelmed). But, if you still want more, carry on west to Gander, Fogo Island, Twilingate, and Terra Nova National Park. I would recommend taking as much time as you possibly can free up to see as much of the province as possible. Nothing you see will be remotely close to mediocre, and may even make you question your eyesight. Seeing that many cool things in a week can have that effect.

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Best of Old Montreal- Eat, Shop, Caffeinate

Vieux-Montréal, or Old Montreal, is one of the major highlights of a visit to Montreal, Quebec. Home to Notre-Dame Basilica, the old port, cobblestone streets, and a genuine European flair, travellers can spend an entire weekend in this urban district, one of the oldest in North America.

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In summer, the port comes alive with a variety of festivals, Cirque du Soleil performances, zip line rigging, and buskers. But for those who want to forgo the crowds and hype, the cobbled, restaurant-lined alleys are entertaining in themselves, with shopping and eating and coffee-drinking galore.

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Olive et Gourmando – This hipster cafe and eatery serves up fresh sandwiches, breads and pastries, and a delicious brunch. Thanks to some good publicity in the blogosphere, it is often very busy, and brunch-goers can expect to wait in the entry, or spill out onto Rue Saint Paul, before getting a cozy table beside other Francophone and Anglophone diners.

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Marché de la Villette – Across the road from Olive et Gourmando, Marche de la Villette offers modern French cuisine, deli meats, and fresh cheese selections in an traditional, cabin-like setting. Stepping in is like entering the perfect Quebecois cabin, with hard wood tables, low beams, and large, wholesome dishes. I highly recommend anything that comes in a skillet, hot from the oven, with a fried egg still cooking on top.

Cantinho de Lisboa Épicerie – For a quick bite of breakfast or a light lunch, try this Portugese-inspired market and cafe. Soup, salad, and full breakfasts are available in house, along with coffee, breads, and pastries. To go, pick up condiments and treats from Portugal, as well as those made in-house.

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Marché de la Villette

Shop

Lunch à Porter – Brown bag lunches will never be the same. Everything is Lunch a Porter is screaming to come home with me every time I stop in. From Bento boxes to water bottles and thermoses, lunching at your desk has never looked so cute.

Espace Pepin Home – The most chic and Quebecois-feeling shop I’ve ever been in for homewares, dishes, furnishings, and sweet things for the kitchen that I certainly don’t need but end up dreaming about for months following a visit. Stop in for elevensies to have a cup of vegetarian soup so you can imagine the cafe space at the back of the shop really is your kitchen.

Nüspace – I found this gem on my last trip to Montreal, and happened to be in while a group of very young children were entranced by a collection of vintage toys, a highlight of this spot. Also to be found: mix and match chairs, a room of rugs, housewarming gifts for the goof in your group, and the funkiest collection of accessories to brighten up your blank slate. Find them on Instagram (@nuspacemobilier) for inspiration, and to begin your wish-list.

Librairie Bertrand – One of my favourite independent bookstores in Montreal, the staff here say very little without prompting, allowing for solitary browsing through the huge stacks of both French and English selections. In March, Irish literary options were prominently displayed, as were recent award-winning French novels and poetry collections. Pick up a combined French-English translation of a classic to improve your language skills – one page, two languages, and no need for a dictionary!

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Caffeinate

Délices Érable & Cie – The Canadian maple syrup chain is expanding rapidly, and now has four stores in the province of Quebec (including this one in Old Montreal) and one in Vancouver. Stop in for gift sets of pure Canadian maple syrup (I brought one home with syrup, maple sugar, and maple butter – YUM) or have a coffee and maple dessert in the fresh and modern cafe. We ran in to escape a brief rainstorm, and were thrilled to find ourselves surrounded by maple everything. Try whatever is being sampled at the front of the store- it’s all delicious.

Flyjin Café – This hole in the wall espresso bar on Rue Saint-Pierre could be missed easily, but should be a destination stop for an afternoon caffeine hit. Serving high-test espresso (with beans from Anchored Coffee of Dartmouth, Nova Scotia!) and freshly juiced oranges,

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Want to see more of Quebec? Try this: Quebec’s Seven Secret Falls

 

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Where to Have an Authentic Acadian Lunch in Cape Breton

So you head off to Cape Breton in search of Nova Scotian ocean air and those autumn colours you know are out there. You drive through the national park, stop in cute towns, listen to Celtic music and eat lots of fish. And then, as you’re nearing the mainland again you think, god, I’ve heard so much about the Acadians. I’ve learned Acadian history in school, I’ve visited monuments and spoken French in Nova Scotia and Quebec and now, I’m in Cape Breton, at the edge of the world, and all I want is a true Acadian lunch!

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I know, I’m clairvoyant right? So you drive away from whatever adorable B&B you’re staying at, you stop at Pomquet Beach where temperatures rise to regular old beach temps even though it’s the Atlantic, and then you return to your thoughts of lunch. Just like I do. I got your back on this one.

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Head up to Chez Deslauriers (on a Friday in July and August) and say Bonjour to the lovely volunteers from the Pomquet Development Society who will take your contribution to their cause, seat you at a clothed table by a window looking out on one of the most gorgeous and calming views you’ll see, and eat beans. Or meat.

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You will dine alongside locals, while mothers and daughters serve lunch in both official languages, and be given a serving of strawberry shortcake so huge it’ll be hard to believe. After lunch, walk it off at the interpretive centre, and one one of the many Pomquet Acadian Trails the Society maintains. Bring bug spray – the mosquitoes particularly enjoy strawberry shortcake-scented blood.

Find a complete Cape Breton Itinerary here

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You will have then consumed a massive, delicious, and authentic Acadian lunch, including baked beans, ham, fricôt (chicken stew filled with potatoes and dumplings – giant balls of dough shoved in with gravy YUM), pâté (a tri-meat pie) and homemade bread. Obviously, you’ll be so happy and full, you too will look like this:

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The land and the buildings at Monk’s Head all have historical significance, but the real gem here are the people: lovely, welcoming, generous, and happy to share their history and heritage with visitors. The only downside of this beautiful place is that we were one of only a few groups of tourists! Go! Visit! Eat!

Visit one of Cape Breton’s beaches that’ll make you think you’re in the Caribbean

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Top Five Ways to Save in Paris

There are so many ways to break the bank while in Paris, why not give your wallet some time off and enjoy these cheaper options, while still getting the best of this city?

(1) Accommodation

Sure, there are amazing places to stay in Paris, and there are even less-than-amazing places that can still cost a small fortune. By opting for a week in Paris, the rates on Airbnb can be reasonable, especially for two. For just over $250CDN we had ourselves a room. This is not luxury accommodation, and the apartment was teeny tiny, shared with a Parisian business student. But remember – Paris is not where you come to stay inside. If you can get a place with a fridge and a hot plate or microwave, you’ll be able to cook, saving big on food costs.

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(2) Museums

If you haven’t seen enough art in your life, by all means check out some of the many galleries in Paris. If you’re like us, though, maybe one is enough. Some Paris museums and galleries are free all day, all the time, like author Victor Hugo’s house, or the Musée Curie (Institut du Radium), home to Marie Curie’s laboratory and chemistry lab. In the off season (Oct. 1-Mar. 31), the Louvre offers free entry on the first Sunday of the month. The Musée d’Orsay is open for free the first Sunday of the month, all year round. A whole list of free entry times for Paris museums and galleries is availablehere.

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If you want to get inside the Louvre but are not loving the massive line, try entering via the Palais Royal-Musée du Louvre Metro stop. You may need a Metro ticket to get in, but it’s much cheaper than the entrance fee for the gallery. Once inside, there is a beautiful tiled mall leading to the museum, and you are able to see some art, purchase postcards and people-watch from indoors.

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The Pompidou Centre is also accessible without paying a cent, and although you won’t be able to view any of the exhibits, the building itself is fascinating (all of the internal workings are on the outside of the structure, colour coded for plumbing, electricity, etc.). The gift shop is full of interesting books and home decor, you can see some art in the lobby. The grounds outside are often filled with buskers, and just around the corner is a little music themed water feature.

(3) Restaurant meals

Main entrées in Paris restaurants can be a huge drain on finances. Not that they aren’t delicious, and if you’re feeling flush, by all means eat away. But if you’re feeling strapped, skip the entrée, and go straight for shared appetizers. Oeuf mayonnaise (hard boiled eggs with French mayo), soupe à l’oignon (French onion soup), salads, and other specialties are all a fraction of the cost of a main dish, and perfect for sharing. Bread is often included with the meal, and coffee at a restaurant is a special treat, so sharing starters saves not only money, but room for dessert.

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Our favourite stopping place is L’As du Fallafel at on Rue des Rosiers, in the Marais. The falafels are excellent, and if you eat in, not only is it super speedy, but the atmosphere is really something to see. We took our dinner to go – even though it was raining – and ate them under a tent at a market. The falafels are massive, so sharing is definitely possible. Vegetarian friendly! Of course, picnicking is always an option, either in your AirBnB as we did, or in one of the many parks of Paris.

(4) Eiffel Tower

For me, the Eiffel Tower is no match for the Arc de Triomphe. The view isn’t as good, the crowds are bigger, and the touristy-ness doesn’t do it for me. But if it’s on the top of your list, save by taking the stairs the first two floors, visit at the end of the day as the sun goes down, and really make sure you want to go all the way to the top (not for those who are remotely afraid of heights).

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Once you’re up, take your time. There is no limit on how long you can stay, and make sure to ask a fellow tourist to take your photo. Sure, selfie sticks are great, but if you’ve gone all the way up, get a proper photo. Seriously.

(5) Souvenirs

The entrepreneurial Parisians would love to sell all you English tourists cheap souvenirs for triple their worth. Instead of indulging in a plastic Eiffel Tower model, try grocery stores for chocolate, funny snacks, and drink mixes to bring back (check your customs policies first – usually animal products, fruit and veg, and other related items are not allowed back into your home country). The department store Monoprix has everything from groceries to clothing to colouring books and stationary, and for kids especially has loads of fun activities to entertain on the plane, and they are guaranteed to be different from what you’d see at home. Outside of the touristy neighbourhoods, dollar stores are common, and have similar offerings, perfect for bringing back for a large group of family or friends.

Check out these five things to splurge on while in Paris here!

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Nova Scotia Summer Travel Bucket List {2016}

My home province of Nova Scotia is so much more than simply a stellar place to live and work. Summer at this end of the country is serious playtime, and the east coast cliches of sun, surf, and seafood are just the beginning of the fun. From culinary adventures to wild rides and outdoor activities, it really is difficult to be bored during the summer out here in NS.

As the first week of real, hot, serious, summer has come and gone already, I’ve put together my local summer bucket list, ten things I hope to get to see and do in this province by September 2, when real life starts back up. Let’s see Nova Scotia!
1. Hike the Skyline Trail in Cape Breton Highlands National Park
2. Soak in the sun at Melmerby Beach Provincial Park
3. Paint the Town at ARTs Unleashed! in Annapolis Royal, August 20-28, 2016
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An Annapolis Royal viewing spot
4. Kayak the Bay of Fundy around the Three Sisters rock formations
5. Get into the craziness at the 30th Anniversary of the Halifax International Busker Festival, July 27-August 1, 2016
6. Ride the Magic Winery Bus from Wolfville to taste all the goodness at Valley wineries
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The Magic Winery Bus departs from Willow Park in Wolfville, NS
7. See the jagged cliffs at Meat Cove
8. Walk by the seaside at Kejimkujik National Park
9. Drive the Cabot Trail in Cape Breton
10. Watch the sun go down over Peggy’s Cove

48 Hours on Nova Scotia’s South Shore

Nova Scotia’s south shore is a perfect spot for a weekend away from the big city, or a brief stint as part of a larger tour of the province.

Home base for two nights away will be Lunenburg, a small town on the southern shore of Nova Scotia. It is quaint and pretty, with colourful houses and fishing boats docked in the harbour. This description could suit many Nova Scotian and other Atlantic Canadian towns. Lunenburg differs, however, because the entire old town, established in 1753, is a recognized UNESCO World Heritage Site. Of all the planned British colonial settlements in North America, Lunenburg offers the best surviving example. The town is laid out in a grid pattern, an easy-to-navigate, orderly layout of streets filled with cafes, restaurants, and cute shops.

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Lunenburg is a one hour drive from Nova Scotia’s capital city of Halifax, and only an hour and a half from the Annapolis Valley, making it a great weekend destination, easily accessible after work on Friday.

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Have a late supper at The Grand Banker Seafood Bar & Grill, a seafood restaurant and pub with craft beer on Montague Street.

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Spend the night at one of Lunenburg’s many historic bed and breakfasts, or at the clean and simple Smuggler’s Cove Inn on Montague.  In the evening, wander across the road to Elizabeth’s Books, one of the three bookstores in town, that is only open in the evenings. It resembles more of a book museum, and is a great place for searching for hidden treasures.

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Saturday morning breakfast can be had at Savvy Sailor, a café on Montague serving up hearty brunch, homemade jams, and fresh espresso.

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Spend the day taking in the shops in Lunenburg. We managed to spend the whole morning in the other two bookshops, Lunenburg Bound – a new and used combo, with a well-read and engaging owner – and Lexicon Books (they have such a cute website!).

Before lunch, head down to the harbour and see the newly refurbished Bluenose II.

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Lunch can be had at any of the excellent cafes in town, but the Carrot Coconut Soup and fresh scones at Kate’s Sweet Indulgence was delicious.

The afternoon can be easily spent in the quaint shops in town,  including the sleek and modern Pentper, the packed Shop on the Corner, and Dots and Loops. Don’t forget to pop into the many galleries with art and photographs from local artists.

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Before dinner, take a walk around the harbour via Tannery Road, past the public school, in order to see the complete image of the picturesque town, a perfect spot for photo ops. For those who are interested in golfing, the course is visible from this point as well.

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For a special dinner, try Rime Restaurant + Wine Bar. Or, for a more adventurous night, head to Lincoln Street Food, with a freshly selected, small menu, and an open kitchen. The lentil fritters were excellent!

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Weekend nights are still quiet in Lunenburg. Due to the town’s UNESCO designation, no big-box stores are permitted within the old town, including grocery or liquor stores, making it sound more like you’re staying in a rural country inn rather than the middle of town.

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Start your Sunday morning with a freshly roasted Laughing Whale coffee from Shop on the Corner, roasted on-site. Not only do they have the cutest mugs, and the coffee is delicious, but the baked goods are worth bringing home. Help yourself to another biscotti and cappuccino.

After checking out of the inn, spend the day touring Mahone Bay, just a 15 minute drive from Chester, and home to the picturesque Three Churches on the water, and the well-known Mahone Bay Quality Shoe Store. Have lunch there, or, just twenty minutes farther down the road, in Chester. Graves Island Provincial Park is accessible from here, as is the yacht club and the Chester Playhouse.

From Chester, the drive back to Halifax is less than an hour, and you’ll be home in time for dinner!