Bay of Fundy – “Hopewell Rocks”

My main goal in travelling to New Brunswick was to see the Bay of Fundy and the Hopewell Rocks. This had been a bucket list item for me for quite some time. After doing some research and discovering that the Hopewell Rocks are only a 3 hour drive from Halifax, I knew I had to go.

After my exhausting but amazing day in Nova Scotia, I made sure to set my alarm to wake early the next day so I would have plenty of time to make the 3 hour drive to the Bay of Fundy and be able to witness the Hopewell Rocks at low tide. There is a small window of only a few hours where one can walk on the sea floor to explore the beach around the rocks.

The day I arrived just so happened to be the day after the park officially closed for the season. Not to fret because as you will find out with some simple research on their website, visitors can still enter the park (free of charge) but you can’t park in the parking lot at the front gate. You have to either walk down the road (maybe 7 minute walk) or drive down a back road to another parking lot. The second option proved to be the better since the only thing at the front gate was the restaurant and interpretive centre which were closed.

Arriving 1 day after the park had closed meant 1 big benefit… less people. There were no large tour buses filled with people and I was able to capture some great photos with no people in them. There were points when I felt like I was the only person on the beach. Like I mentioned before there is only a short window where people can walk on the sea flood before the tides rush back in. Because the park was officially closed for the season, this meant I had to be very aware of the tide times. There was a few park staff who were on the beach removing the safety ropes who I stopped to talk to briefly who mentioned to me that the tide can come in so quickly that in certain spots on the beach, you think the tide is far away and the next minute you are trapped. Being there in the off season means no one is going to help you if that happens.

The large rock formations are 40-70 feet tall and are made of red sandstone. Walking on the sea floor it is truly amazing how large and unique these rocks really are. Carved out from millions of years of water and wind erosion, it is easy to see why it has been deemed a Natural Wonder of the World. In one area of the Bay of Fundy, where the bay meets the Saint John River, a unique phenomenon happens where the flow of the river actually reverses.  This is knows as the Reversing Falls Rapids. During low tide, the river empties into the bay causing a series of rapids and whirlpools, as the tide rises in the bay, it gradually reverses the flow of the river and again rapids form peaking at high tide. Remarkable!

Wanting to witness both low and high tide (11:30AM and 5:22PM), I planned ahead and packed a lunch. The weather was quite nice that day (sunny and 14C) so I was able to find a spot on the picnic tables and relax to enjoy the views. At around 4:30PM, I made my way back down to the beach via a wooden plank walkway only to discover the water had already risen so high that it looked like a completely new area. The only place to safely watch the tides come in was at the iconic spot with the metal staircase leading to the beach. Here I could stand on the staircase and watch as the tide rushed in. Now when I say rushed in, it was almost that. Using a series of rocks as my guide, I timed how long it took for the water to move up 1 foot on the beach. 1 foot per minute was the rate I discovered. I went from standing on the beach to only being able to stand on the staircase because the water had completely covered the bottom few steps. At its highest the tides can reach a whopping 5 stories high!

This was truly an amazing experience to witness Mother Nature at her finest. I am always in awe how the Earth, without any human interaction can create such beautiful and amazing scenery.

 

Nova Scotia

Since I had never been to Atlantic Canada (mainly due to the high cost of flights within the country), I decided that since WestJet has the option to layover in either Toronto or Halifax on the way to London, that I would take advantage of an extra long layover (4 days) on the east coast of Canada. Touching down in Halifax, Nova Scotia at 6:30AM after a short 4 hour 22 minute red eye flight, I knew I would’t be able to check into my hotel at 8AM, so I decided to kill some time by driving out to Peggy’s Cove (1 hour drive south). Even though I was absolutely exhausted (sleeping on airplanes is not my thing, even with being the lucky one who got all 3 seats to herself), I was excited see a whole new part of Canada. Coming from Calgary, where it seems it has been winter since the start of September (yes snow and unseasonably cold), driving through the countryside of Nova Scotia was absolutely stunning. The fall colors were almost neon they were so bright. Seeing all the wonderful colors – especially while the sun rose, creating what seemed like the sky was on fire – immediately woke me up. I could not stop saying to myself how absolutely beautiful it was. There were multiple times I stopped along the winding roads to take photos of the fall foliage. At that time in the morning, with the sun creating the perfect light and the temperature warming to create a mist across the many lakes and ponds that line the roads. I was in awe.

After multiple stops and countless photos, I arrived at Peggy’s Cove just before 8AM. To my delight, I was the third person to arrive (the other 2 left about 10 minutes after I arrived). I was able to capture some amazing photos as the sun shone on the landscape of massive smooth boulders and iconic white lighthouse with a red top. It didn’t seem to matter where I stood or at what angle, all my photos looked like a postcard.

After I hoped from rock to rock exploring the shore, I took a quick stroll through the surrounding village (population 35) before stopping to have breakfast at the cafe. Just as I was about to pay the bill, 6 huge tour buses pulled up and I watched the people flood out. What perfect timing I had! After sitting for a moment and eating, I realized how tired I was getting and thought it best to make my way to the hotel in Halifax.

Driving a different route back to the city, again I stopped multiple times for photos. I was not the only one. There seemed to be a small convoy of cars that would stop at all the same spots to take photos. We laughed as each one of us commented how it was going to be a long drive back when there was a gorgeous photo opp every 2 minutes.

After arriving to the hotel, I had what seemed like a quick 1 hour nap and was off to explore downtown Halifax. Arriving on a Sunday in the off-peak tourist season, downtown Halifax seemed a bit of a ghost town, but beautiful non the less. Positioned on a large hill, right on the water, there is a long boardwalk with an abundance of little shops that are in refurbished, colorful shipping containers.  By this time, since I hasn’t eaten lunch, I was starting to get hungry and all I could  think about was seafood. Living in landlocked Calgary, it can be hard to get good seafood at a reasonable price. So the hunt was on for a seafood dinner. After a stroll through the streets, I decided to stop at a restaurant called Shuck. The name gave it away that they would have oysters. And they did, on a happy hour special!

I filled my belly with delicious oysters, lobster, a couple glasses of local Nova Scotia white wine and a peanut butter chocolate mousse and fell into a food coma. As much as I would have loved to explore more and possibly some local pubs, I could barely walk I was so tired. That and the fact I needed to get an early start to my day to drive to New Brunswick (next province over), to see the Bay of Fundy and the Hopewell Rocks. My goal was to make it there on time to see the area at low tide and stay for the day to watch the high tide. The Bay of Fundy is known around the world for have the highest and fasted rising tides in the world. Rising an astonishing 5 stories in 6 hours!

Stay tuned for my next blog about my New Brunswick experience…

Beautiful Vancouver Island

After I packed up my apartment, my intent was to spend 1 week visiting family in Edmonton and 1 week back in Calgary before flying to Halifax on my way to London. But, when the opportunity came up to make a last minute trip to Victoria to see some of my favorite people, I could not pass it up. This led me to driving the U-haul to my Dads just outside of Edmonton, unload boxes and spend just 1 night before boarding my flight to Victoria.

In the past few years I have made several trips to beautiful Vancouver Island. Living in dry, land-locked Calgary, having a wonderful escape spot like lush, humid Vancouver Island is such a treat. I really feel like it has become my second home. Victoria is a small city but is the capital of British Columbia. It’s located on the southern tip of the island and is always buzzing with tourists. Mostly from the many cruise ships that stop there. One of my favorite things to do is walk along the waterfront and stop at the many restaurants to have a glass of wine and oysters. British Columbia is well known for the world-class wines and of course an abundance of Pacific oysters. I can spend hours people watching and gazing out at the open ocean. Of course it makes it much more enjoyable when I am also spending that time with some of the amazing people I know live there. (I won’t name names to protect their privacy).

While Victoria can be a buzzing little city, once you take a short drive out of the city, it is a whole different feel. It is extremely lush and people take life a little slower.  Vancouver Island is actually classified as a Temperate Rainforest and close to 25% of the world’s Temperate Rainforests are found in British Columbia. Driving along the Malahat highway is one of the most beautiful drives I have ever experienced. The winding road is either nearly covered by massive green, mossy trees or you are able to gaze out at the rippling blue ocean. This last time the road was a bit foggy but that just added to the beauty of it all. I wanted to stop and take photos but unfortunately there is no place to pull over unless its a designated pull out area. There is something so calming about being in that type of environment. There are countless little towns off the highway but they are all tucked in the trees. Passing by you wouldn’t think it’s a whole town but only a few shops and a gas station and each town seems to be known for something. The town of Duncan is known for the Totem Poles and the town of Chemanius has the murals.

All of Vancouver Island has gorgeous lakes in addition to the surrounding ocean. There are countless hiking paths some clearly marked but the best ones are not of course. You might get a little lost as you wander through the trees and climb mountains but that’s all part of the fun and adventure. The best views are from the top of a mountain when you are completely winded from the climb.

To be honest, I was going back and forth for while on the decision to move to London or Victoria. I finally made my decision based on the fact that with me holding a Polish passport, with Brexit happening in the UK, I can still currently live and work there. Since that can all be changing very soon, I thought I should take the opportunity while I have it. Living overseas has always been a dream of mine and I couldn’t let the opportunity pass. While Vancouver Island is wonderful and I know I would be very happy there, it ( and Canada) will always be there if I ever choose to come back. I am someone who truly believes you only regret the things you did not do. Seize the opportunity when they come because they may not come again.

Having The Stars Finally Align

It might sound crazy but I am going into this move with no real plan. All I know is that when I made the decision to move overseas, everything kind of fell into place, which never seems to happen to me in life. Now it does help that my brother already lives and is well established in London and I am able to stay with him for a few weeks until I find a job and get a little settled, but that a friend who also lives there was looking for a flatmate. Accommodation SORTED! The next thing I would need to do is find someone to take over my lease in my apartment in Calgary. It was getting down to the wire with only a week left in the month and I won’t lie, I was starting to worry. I really did not want to have to pay out the remaining 4 months on my lease. But I kept telling myself that it would all work out. Everything else about this decision has worked out and this will too. I started to think that if I couldn’t find someone for October 1st, that I could at least find someone for November 1st and I would only have to pay 1 months rent. But with only a few days left, someone contacted me and was looking for a place for October! Problem solved!

It’s funny when things start working out for you, you think ‘why was I fighting this for so long?’  For years I had wanted to live overseas, but when I was in Europe on vacation, I would come back to Canada for one reason or another and often think ‘why did I come back?’ I didn’t own a house or a car, I don’t have kids, my family doesn’t live in the same city as me and my job as a hairstylist at the time was transferable around the world. For some reason I always felt a little out of place in Calgary and I felt that things were always a bit of a struggle for me. Don’t get me wrong, I have some amazing people in my life but I always felt there was something else out there for me. Sounds crazy but I have even had other people tell me the same thing. So now, here I am, I made this choice to move overseas and see what happens. To be honest, I don’t know what will happen. All I know is, I have to go and find out and it feels right. Of course I am nervous, but not once have I freaked out and thought ‘I change my mind. I’m not going anymore’.

Stay tuned for my next  blog about my adventures in Victoria (where I currently am) and then back to snowy Calgary before I explore the east coast of Canada for a few days…