hey guys, my gf and I went on a two week trip to ME/NS. Here is the report.
Thursday,6/22: We left Takoma Park at around 10:30 am. We followed the route I495W→I270N→US15N→I81N to Syrcuse, NY. There was some traffic on the route, and that caused a slight delay. We reached Chittenango around 6:30 pm. We dropped my dad off, and spent around an hr with my sister, who gave us a tour of her new house. We had to get going, so we left at approx 7:30 pm and decided to stop at Utica, NY. We had dinner at Chipotle, and then stayed at the Red Roof Inn.
Friday, 6/23: Had breakfast at “Top of the Morning” cafe. Highly recommended. I had a huge plate of scrambled eggs with greens, while my gf had a nice omelette. Both very good. Hit I90E and reached Troy, NY, around 11:30 am. We walked around RPI, went to my old haunts (work and residence). Went over to the Pricechopper on NY7 (Hoosick Street). It had got a tremendous makeover! Now it’s called market 32 by PriceChopper. Walked around, and was duly impressed. It used to be a crappy market place that was the only choice, now the produce sections look very fancy. Quite cool. We started driving on 7E and followed some local roads (not quite sure which ones, we blindly followed the GPS) until we ended up in Standish, ME. We had a nice quiet dinner with the gf’s family. They had rented a cottage right by lake Watchic, and we spent the next three nights there.
Saturday, 6/24: Just lazed around the entire day, and then headed over to another family dinner at a rented farmhouse. This was a much bigger event with many more people, so just relaxed, ate, played games until it was time to go back to the cottage. Got to see the three cows in the pasture behind the farm-house, and played ping-pong in the farm-house garage/game room.
Sunday, 6/25: Again, a pretty lazy day. The day was sunny, so I decided to swim for a bit in the lake (one of the cleanest in Maine). It was a lot of fun, the water was quite warm. However, there was a breeze, and every minute out of the water ended up being chilly. After the swim, just read for a bit in the sun and relaxed. Some family came over in the afternoon, so just hung out with them and played with a 10 month baby.
Monday, 6/26: Got up very early, 2:45 am, to head over to Portland, to take pictures of the lighthouse. Reached there by 4:00 am, and then sort of hung around. The sunrise was around 5:00am, so took pictures until 5:15am. The golden hour was surprisingly short, so called it a day, and then headed back to Standish. I got back around 6:45 am, and actually took a short nap. Woke up and started to pack up! We had a big day ahead of us. We left Standish around 10:30 am, and reached Portland at around 11:15am. Went over to Whole Foods, and bought some supplies. Then we went over to the waterfront to catch the Ferry over to Yarmouth, Nova Scotia! The check-in was quite lengthy; we had to get in the line at around 1:00 and managed to get into the Ferry by 2:00pm. We got ourselves a nice window seat and made ourselves comfortable. The ferry was delayed, we left at 2:45pm. We went out to the deck and watched Portland recede in the distance. We actually passed by the lighthouse, where I had gone in the morning, but a very different vantage point! We then just went back to our seats and then read and relaxed. The ride was very comfortable and no turbulence at all. Quite pleasant. We started to go into the Yarmouth harbor around 9:30pm ADT. Luckily, we were one of the cars that were let out earlier, so we cleared the customs etc. by 10:30 pm. We had booked an AirBnB (Murray Manor Art & Culture House) very close to the harbor, so it was very convenient.
Tuesday, 6/27: We slept in, and then headed over to the Shanty Cafe for breakfast. It was atrocious, the service was so so bad and the food was mediocre. I would not recommend this place at all. But it was nutrition, so that’s that. We went over to the Nova Scotia information center (centre), and got some information on scenic drives etc. We headed out of Yarmouth on 101, but made sure to stop at McDonald’s to get our coffee. The drive was pleasant and we headed over to KejimKujik (Keji) National Park. We first went to the visitor center to get any information and maps (there really was no info available online). The visitor center was quite bad, given that it was a national park. There were no exhibits, and hardly anything to be learnt. Just as I was getting into the park, my tooth started to hurt and I started to get a headache! All we could do was to get to the campground, set up our tent and then just relax. That evening, we went for a walk along the lake, but nothing major. Had a very disturbed sleep, due to the tooth.
Wednesday, 6/28: Slept in, and woke up with a headache. Had a fever, so mostly just sat around. Drove around the park to different overlooks etc. and just did minor exploring. Tried to take some sunset pictures, but the light wasn’t that good. We were hoping to catch the night sky, since this was a dark sky park. But I started to feel lousy, and just decided to retire.
Thursday, 6/29: Slept in, and woke up feeling a lot better. Decided to pack up, and head to Halifax. We had our breakfast at the campsite, and then drove on Rte 8 to Liverpool. Stopped at the McDonalds and got some coffee. Took 103N and it was a fairly nice drive. We took a small detour onto the lighthouse route on the Aspotogan peninsula, and that was a lot of fun. Very relaxed and quite scenic—many little coves with picturesque fishing-shacks and vacation homes. Plus the lupines were in full bloom, with many wild-flowers all along the road-side. We stopped at different points and just took our time. Finally, we got back on 103N and hit Halifax at the rush hour. We found a very inexpensive AirBnB, which was conveniently located. We had dinner at Chef Aboud. The food was just ok, nothing great. The falafels were quite bad. Once done with dinner, we went across to Dartmouth to check the Halifax skyline and sunset shots. Once done with that, we retired for the night
Thursday 6/30: We had a busy day planned, so we got up early, and got our cup of coffee at The Nook. It was pretty good, and then we got to the Citadel just as it opened. This was a good visit. First, we did the guided tour of the citadel, and it was quite informative. Then we wore the period costume and fired an Enfield rifle, which was a lot of fun. There was also the Army museum, and it was ok. There were a few weapons on display. The day was extremely wet, and it was constantly raining. I think it kept a lot of people at bay, and the citadel wasn’t that crowded. We decided to walk down to Elle’s Bistro for our lunch. The food was again just ok, expensive with tiny portions. It also took a long time for the food to get to us. We got a coffee from Weird Harbor espresso bar. We walked over to the maritime museum. It was a decent museum, with different exhibits, such as one on the Titanic, Halifax explosion etc. Once done with the museum, we walked back up the hill to the citadel, and then drove to the old burial grounds. Walked around the cemetery and just checked out all these different graves. From there, we drove to the Point Pleasant Park, and walked to the Prince Of Wales tower. Unfortunately, it was closed so we couldn’t go inside. After this, we decided to call it a day. Headed back to the BnB, took a shower, and then headed to Cha Baa Thai restaurant in Dartmouth. The food was quite good, with very good veggies and service.
Friday, 7/1: Canada Day! We again got up fairly early, and went to the Halifax Farmer’s market. The market was quite good, with so many different vendors, all decked out in Canada Day finery. We started to drive out of Halifax on 102, and then merged with the Transcanada hwy 104. We then drove down to the Joggins Fossils cliff site. This day was wet, and constantly raining, so not many people around, even though it was a holiday. This is a very interesting site, right on the southeastern side of the Bay of Fundy. The low tide was around 1pm that day, so we could actually go out to the tidal pool, as much as we could. It was quite muddy, so we really couldn't walk out a long way. We toured the museum, and it wasn't very informative. We signed up for a 2 hr tour of the cliffs. *The guided tour also wasn't that great, our guide wasn't very knowledgeable and seemed a bit loopy. But she was enthusiastic, and was eager to show us some fossils. Most of the fossils at the site are from plants, but once you learn how to spot them, you can find them all over the ground. It was just pouring down all this time, and we could also make out the the tide coming in, it's amazing how fast it comes in. We then decided to have our meal there, so we boiled some eggs, and then had that with a nice lentil soup. We then went back to check on the tide and it had pretty much come in all the way! We decided to start driving out, to get into some dry clothes and shelter. We got back on 104, and drove further west, until we took the route 1 exit to Penobquis. We decided to spend the night at the PineCone motel, and boy, was it expensive, given the quality and the location! However, the couple running it were very sweet and extremely hospitable. We were glad to change into dry clothes and then we turned on the TV to see some Canada day celebrations.*
Sunday, 7/2: We got up a bit early, had our coffee at the motel, and then headed over to Fundy National Park. As usual, we couldn't really find any information/maps of the park online. We were hoping to go to the visitor center to get more information, but we had no clue whereabouts it was located. Turns out, we had to drive through the entire park to the other end for the visitor center! If we had known that, we could have come in from the other side. And to make it worse, the visitor center was just completely useless! At least we got a map, and the location of a few waterfalls. The park was much more beautiful than it seemed from the website. After the waterfall, we went over the beach near Alma, and the tide was at a low. It was just after dead low, and we walked out to the water’s edge. We actually measured how fast the tide was coming in. Very fast! Spent some time around the beach until the tide had come in a lot, then decided to just head back towards the US. We had to drive through the park again, so we stopped at a small boardwalk to finish off our trip. This was the caribou boardwalk and it was extremely beautiful. Much of the park was blanketed in fog during our visit, which made the scenery especially beautiful. We got back on 1, and decided to see how far we could drive. Well turns out, quite a decent amount! After crossing over the border, we actually made it all the way to Bangor, ME! Spent the night in Travelodge.
Monday, 7/3: Decided to have breakfast at Judy's diner. We both had omelettes and they were ok. We went back to the motel, packed up, and then hit Tim Horton's for coffee. We left Bangor at around 10:30 am. Quite a late start! The day was quite lovely and I95 was quite clear. We made very good time. Repeatedly stopped at a number of rest areas etc. for our regular breaks. We hit NYC at around 6:00 and surprisingly, there was really no traffic on the GW bridge. This was one of the best crossings we had ever done. Once we got into NJ, we stopped at a Chipotle for our dinner. That was a good stop and we had decent burritos. We were back on the road by 7:00pm and felt that we could make it to DC by the night, so we pushed on. The turnpike was very clear, with very few cars. We made good time and we reached home by 10:30pm!
It was a very good trip, and it was a novel experience, crossing an international border on the ferry. However, the National Parks in Canada were a disappointment, esp regarding the visitor centers and visitor information, or the lack thereof. I wonder how other parks are, but the US national park system is far far superior. We also found Canada to be quite expensive. Luckily, the exchange rate helped a bit. Overall, this was a good combination of some planning, with an overall idea of what to see, and then just being very flexible about when/where to go. I would label this trip a success.