During my most prolific jet-setting years (translation: younger and less cash-strapped), I would select my next vacation destination based almost entirely on its culinary offerings and photogenic features. That would explain my frequent visits to Italy — daily gelato everywhere, making tiramisu in Tuscany, designated pasta courses, stunning masterpieces at every turn. You get the picture.
But these days, the world is turned upside down and travelers are faced with an entire suitcase worth of challenges. Like terrorist alerts, expenses and where might it be OK to be stuck indefinitely.
That is how I found myself satisfying my latest attack of wanderlust in the Canadian Maritimes on a seven-day bus tour with Gate 1 Travel. It’s close! It’s affordable! It’s celebrating its 150th birthday this year! It’s breathtakingly beautiful and has some of the best seafood on the planet!
Nova Scotia and Prince Edward Island are THE source for some of the tasty delights I hold most dear: PEI mussels (Bertha should get a load of these), fresh and gorgeous lobsters (sorry, still not kosher, but so, so delicious), snow crab (ditto — even if I do feel like a Maryland blue crab traitor), Malpeque oysters and haddock in fish and chips form. Let’s just say the seafood is fresh and wonderful in the Maritimes for those who partake.
OK, back to the road: The tour included 40 travelers mostly of the retired variety, which was a little disappointing as it would have been nice to hang out with someone my own age. But it’s a pleasantly easy trip, logistics- and weather-wise.
Within a week of traveling, I’m pretty sure we saw everything there was to see from Halifax to Charlottetown. (Though I never did get to see a moose, just lots of moose crossing signs.)
Here are some highlights from some of the most astounding topography on Earth:
This was my favorite stop. The tides here are the highest in the world. They can reach 40 to 70 feet high. Twice a day, the entire surroundings are completely covered in water. It’s pretty awe-inspiring.
Anne of Green Gables Museum, Prince Edward Island
Much of PEI is completely Anne-crazy. There are dozens of historic spots in honor of Lucy Maud Montgomery’s beloved, plucky, smooth-talking young adult fiction character. It’s a bit of an obsession.
Charlottetown, capital of Prince Edward Island
This was probably my favorite “city.” It’s a Victorian tourist town with theaters, lots of cutesy boutiques, a walkable waterfront and tons of seafood spots.
This includes a lot of inventions not normally associated with Bell. There are telephones and tetrahedral kites, but there are also airplane models and hydrofoil watercrafts. Bell’s family owns property on an enormous island just across from the museum on the Bras d’Or Lake, and only descendants are permitted to live on it.
Cape Breton Island, Nova Scotia
Cape Breton Highlands National Park and Cabot Trail is what you’re picturing when you’re picturing Eastern Canadian landscape. Just wow, wow, wow. There are old-growth forests of evergreen trees, scenic overlooks into pristine bodies of water, prehistoric rock formations, meadows dotted with wild purple or white lupine and a large population of 1,000-pound moose that I never saw. It’s all very intense.
Maritime Museum of the Atlantic, Halifax
This features two really fascinating exhibits. One is about the 1912 Titanic disaster – the recovered dead bodies were brought back to Halifax to be claimed. It has the most people buried from the Titanic in the world. At Fairview Lawn Cemetery, we saw the gravestones of more than 100 victims.
The other exhibit — “Collision in the Narrows” — is about a horrific explosion in 1917 that destroyed the entire city when two boats collided in the harbor. Some 2,000 residents were killed, 9,000 injured, hundreds blinded by flying glass and debris. Whole houses collapsed.
Peggy’s Cove, Nova Scotia
A bucolic, picture-perfect way to end a vacation to Eastern Canada. This was my second favorite stop after Bay of Fundy. The landscape features big, volcanic rocks surrounding the iconic Peggy’s Point Lighthouse — one of the most photographed structures in Atlantic Canada.
To bring this journey to a reluctant end, if you’re a history buff, a nature lover or a serious foodie, the Canadian Maritimes should be on the top of your getaway list. But book soon, the season is only June through October and national parks are all free in 2017.
Top photo: The Bay of Fundy at low tide (Photo by Amanda Krotki, Jmore)
Amanda B. Krotki is Jmore’s digital manager and content editor.
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