Extended Disney World Trip: Phase One Complete

I’m looking at this trip in three phases: phase one, with mother. Phase two, with friend. Phase three, with self.  And phase one is already over, as my mom flew home yesterday.

It was an interesting first phase–and probably the most stressful.  First I had to learn my way around, which I’ve never had to do before as I’d always just taken the free Disney transportation.  Plus I had to do all of this learning with my mom watching.  I love her, but she doesn’t seem to understand that I’m not a just-learning-to-drive 16-year-old anymore!

I also had to balance trying to do research with trying to make sure that mom was having fun.  To be fair, it would be really hard for my mom (or anyone) to not have fun in Disney World.  But still–it was something I was aware of.

So how did it go?  Pretty well I think.  I got a lot of things crossed of my ‘to research’ list, my mom had a good time, and I didn’t get a sunburn.  That’s the very best possible scenario that I can think of!

So far I have…

  • Spent a day at Animal Kingdom with my mom, where I got to see the new baby elephant on Kilimanjaro Safari and she got to watch Finding Nemo the Musical…again.
  • Located a Super Target, grocery shopped, and learned my way around the kitchen in my condo.  I made tilapia with sauteed spinach, mushrooms, and tomatoes for our first meal here.  It was quite good!
  • Spent one very hot, very sunny day in Epcot.  We planned to stay open to close, but pooped out around 3:00.  It was really, really hot walking around World Showcase in the sun.

    In Epcot's World Showcase with mom--you get why this is funny, right?

  • Showed my mom The Boardwalk Inn, as she’s staying there on her next visit (in a little over a month–she learned it by watching me!)
  • Took my mom to The Wizarding World of Harry Potter to ride Forbidden Journey.  We also did the highlights of Universal Studios–Shrek, The Simpsons, and Men In Black.

    Mom in the Wizarding World!

  • Spent a day in The Magic Kingdom, where my mom and I watched Mickey’s Philharmagic twice and checked out The Monster’s Inc Laugh Floor, which I’d never experienced.  It was really cute.  We also rode Buzz Lightyear…

    She said she 'let me win', which I believe...because I suck.

  • Spent a solo day walking around Epcot’s World Showcase taking notes…and having some relaxation time, too.

    You know what they say about 'all work and no play', right?

  • Spent another solo day–supposedly my ‘day off’–taking photos in Animal Kingdom.  I also finally had a meal at Flametree BBQ, which was delicious–even though there is no inside seating area.  Ribs and coleslaw in the 90 degree heat?  Sure!
Which brings us to Phase Two, as my friend Melissa Sue is arriving tonight!  In fact, she’s likely boarding a plane right now.  Yay!  Our schedule is jam-packed for the next four days, but if I have a free moment, I’ll attempt to write a phase two update…or even continue sharing my Epic Road Trip stories.  Up next in that thread is ‘Cape Breton Island’, one of the highlights of the trip (though really, they were all highlights!)
I’m thinking it is kind of funny that I have so much to write about now…but come October or, worse, November and December, I won’t be traveling at all.  Or…will I?

Day Trip from Halifax: Peggy’s Cove and Lunenburg

It’s been so hot here in Orlando that I actually want to write about the coldest, most miserable day of our road trip–our day trip from Halifax.

I originally planned three full days in Halifax–two to enjoy the city and one to do a road trip.  But I lost one to Cape Breton.  Yet I still wanted to ‘do’ Peggy’s Cove and Lunenburg.  Travel Tip:  When you start thinking in terms of ‘doing’, you’re probably planning too much.

We woke up to a steady sideways rain, yet still pushed on with our plans.  There was one point, maybe ten minutes outside of the city, where we contemplated just turning around.  We’d stopped for gas and it was raining so much we were even getting wet under the little gas station roof thing.  But we continued on.

Peggy’s Cove was our first destination.  I was wearing a black dress and sandals.  That was quickly–yet awkwardly–remedied.  My hiking boots were in the car, and I threw on a pair of my husband’s jeans–in addition to an old waterproof golf shirt that I brought along on the trip ‘just in case’.  I looked super hot.  Here I am…

Peggy's Cove in August is cold!

I realize I’m really little, but my husband has photography issues.  I’m also wearing ‘the hat’–but it’s around my neck a this point.  I’ve never looked more stupid–but I was happy because it briefly stopped raining long enough to take some photos, which was my main goal for this stop.  I wanted a good lighthouse photo, damnit, and I was willing to stand in the rain for really long periods of time, waiting for that one moment where there wouldn’t be another tourist in the photo.  Here’s one of the results…

Peggy's Cove Lighthouse, looking very postcard-esque.

We then continued to Lunenburg, a good hour farther away.  Of course it started raining as we drove, but we eeked out maybe 45-minutes of sightseeing in the town itself before the weather became unbearable again.  Is Lunenburg beautiful?

Lunenburg--maybe more quaint than beautiful. But I love quaint!

Yes.  But so is Paris–and I didn’t like it there, mainly because I made everything we did into a checklist.  I feel that this portion of the trip suffered the same fate.  Because we had such limited time–and so many things we wanted to do–AND such crappy weather…it turned into a Louvre-like march to check things off of our must-do list.  Mona Lisa?  Check.  Winged Victory?  Damn it is surrounded by tourists…but check.  That’s how we approached Halifax–and it was the wrong way.  But it taught us an important lesson–and we did not repeat this mistake for the remainder of our trip.

And really, that’s the best kind of lesson.  The kind you actually learn from!

You Know You Have A Travel Blogging Problem When…

…you have to leave on your next trip before finishing your posts about your last trip.  I guess that’s why I really should have been posting from the actual trip, huh?

I hate to do it, but this post is out of order. And by that I don’t mean ‘it doesn’t flush’! You all know that my OCD pretty much demands that everything be orderly, and I really wanted to finish posting about our road trip before I left for my next trip. But, well, that’s not going to happen, as I still have five road trip destinations to write about…and about three hours before my plane leaves for Florida!

If you're looking for me for the next three weeks, this is where you'll find me!

Did I mention that I’m leaving for Orlando for three weeks? Because I am–tonight. Which is insane, because I feel like I just got back from our last trip. I actually took things directly out of my road trip suitcase and put them in my carry-on backpack!

I’ll be in Orlando mainly to do research in Disney World for my hopefully-coming-soon book, The World is Your Classroom.  I’ll be spending twenty days visiting the various Disney parks, resorts, and restaurants.  While I will have company for the first half of the trip, the second half will be truly on my own.  But that’s ok, because I have a lot of work to do.  Nose, prepare to meet the grindstone!

Of course this doesn’t mean that I’m going to give up sharing my adventures and lessons from our road trip.  It just means that they will be interspersed with ramblings about Disney, Orlando, and the surrounding area.  I’m hoping to take at least one day ‘off’ and do a road trip to St. Augustine–so expect a post about that as well.  But I also have to finish telling you about Peggy’s Cove and Lunenburg, Cape Breton, Prince Edward Island, Fundy National Park, and Portland, Maine!

Between all of that and the writing I’ll be doing for my book, I see a serious hand cramp in my future!

Halifax: Rain and Forts and Pints and Pitchers

The day we arrived in Halifax the weather was amazing.  Little did we know it would be the last amazing weather day for the next two weeks!

I had not really planned much for Halifax, as it was supposed to be a stop for my husband.  And my husband only wanted to do two things–see the Citadel and check out the local bars.  So that’s what we did.

Fortunately the weather held out for our Citadel visit, and we arrived just as they were shooting off the noon cannon.  Because of my love for guided tours, we then met up with the very first guided tour of the day and learned all about the Citadel from a nice man dressed in a funny costume.

Our tour guide

Things we learned about the Citadel:

  • Even in the 1800’s, the media affected the real world.  Because of the ‘invention’ of photojournalism, the barracks were made ‘nicer’ so that they wouldn’t get any bad press that may prevent enlistment.
  • The best offense is a good defense–the fort was never attacked.
  • Working in the powder battery was scary, as you could blow up at any time.  No one ever blew up, though!
  • Old habits died hard–they still tried to use the flag/mast system to transmit messages, but weather in Halifax often made this impossible.  Fortunately the telegraph was soon invented.

After the tour we decided we were cold, so we walked along the ramparts to warm ourselves up.  There were lots of kids running around up here, which I thought was funny.  It was almost as if parents went here just to let their kids loose for a while.

View from the ramparts

By this point my husband was getting hungry, so we went off in search of food…er, really, beverages.  We invented a fun activity–rain hopping.  We’d find a pub that my husband wanted to visit and stay there until the rain stopped…and then hurry to the next one before the rain started up again!  It was great exercise, and my husband had a little too much fun. Watch him get progressively…happier…as the day progresses:

Our first stop--random waterfront pub

At Alexander Keith's--best bartender ever, by the way!

Our final stop--thank goodness!

By the end of the afternoon I’d decided hey–if you can’t beat ’em…

Joining him at Maxwell's Plum

We had an absolutely disgusting meal at this last bar that I think counted as dinner.  Here’s a travel tip for you–when something is called ‘the best burger plate in town’…it probably isn’t.  We made it back to the hotel just in time for the skies to really open up–and they remained open for the duration of our stay.

Did the weather stop us from driving to Peggy’s Cove and Lunenburg the next day?  Nope!  Up next–quaint seaside towns…in the sideways rain!

Halifax Travel Tip: The Bridge is Closed on Natal Day

It was a long drive from St. Martins to Halifax.  Nova Scotia is bigger than it looks, and the shortest distance between two points isn’t always a straight line–or, rather, there isn’t always a road going in a straight line between your two destinations, even if one of them is the largest city in the province.

But it was a beautiful day–big, puffy white clouds greeted us at the immaculate and well-stocked visitor’s center.  While my husband obsessively washed his hands in the aptly-named washroom a second time, I collected a few brochures and guides for the city and the province as a whole before we continued on our way.

As it turns out, it was a very, very good thing I collected those pamphlets.  One, in particular, saved the day.  Here it is:

The art map that saved the day!

You see, the 18 pages of directions I’d printed out before we left did not take into account things like detours, traffic, or, in this case, bridges being closed.  The MacDonald Bridge–the bridge we were to take to get to our hotel–was closed to car traffic and covered in pedestrians enjoying the national holiday.

What do you do in a situation like this?  Well, I don’t know what you’d do, but we used a combination of directions given to us from a very nice girl working the register at a pharmacy and the guidance of aforementioned art map–which was not drawn to scale or in any detail whatsoever.

But we made it to our hotel!

I must have grown some coping skills since last summer, because all it took was a light lunch and one drink to calm me down enough to actually enjoy the rest of our first evening in town.  We spent some time exploring the beautiful Public Gardens across the street from our hotel before venturing down to the waterfront area.

Doug relaxing in the Public Gardens

There just so happened to be a Natal Day celebration going on at the waterfront–so we checked that out for a bit and then headed back up the steep hill towards drinks and dinner.

Natal Day celebration on the waterfront.

After a brief stop at The Economy Shoe Shop (a bar, not a shoe store) we located the absolutely amazing Thai restaurant I raved about in a previous post.  All in all, it was a great day.  Minus the snafu with the bridge, that is.

So what did I learn?

  • Always grab tourist literature.  You never know when it may come in handy!
  • Canada knows how to create amazing public spaces.  The Public Gardens were clean, well-kept, beautiful, educational (plaques everywhere–and an exotic dahlia garden)…and had free public restrooms!
  • Halifax has an awesome number of amazing bars.
  • Even if things get off to a bad start, it can still be a good day!

Up next–our two full days in Halifax don’t go exactly as planned.  Why?  The weather!

PLEASE NOTE:  This is the first post that will be duplicated on my self-hosted travel blog, The Suitcase Scholar.  In a few weeks I plan to have completely switched over to posting only at that address.  Don’t worry–I’ll let you know when that happens. 

The blog will continue as it has been, it will simply be located at a different URL…and hopefully look a little prettier!  If you subscribe to this blog, please consider switching over to the new URL.  I will inform you via a ‘PLEASE NOTE’ when I have figured out how to include a subscription widget on Suitcase Scholar.  Thanks for understanding!

Salmon River B&B: The Couple that Saved Our Night

I don't have photos of Janet and George or any of the inn itself--but here's the beach on the property!

Before we left on our road trip, we played the ‘what are you most looking forward to?’ game.  My answer was always ‘the people we will meet along the way’.  And while we didn’t actually meet as many people as I’d hoped, the ones we did connect with often really were the best part of the day.

At the end of our overly long St. Martins day, we retired to the little third floor deck of the inn, overlooking the Bay of Fundy.  We took a bottle of wine up with us.  Maybe five minutes after we arrived, another couple appeared–bottle of wine in hand.  It seemed they had the exact same idea–relax out on the deck before dinner.

As we talked with them–Janet and George–we found that we had a lot more in common than a love of dry red wine.  They had both been teachers–they were now retired–and shared the same love of travel as we did (not surprising–after all, we were at an inn!)  They basically were ‘us in 25 years’–or, at least I hope we will be like them in 25 years.  They’d traveled much of the world and told us about those adventures (of course I was extremely jealous!)  They’d also found the same frustrations in teaching that we have encountered–and I shared my reasons for attempting to leave the profession so early on in my career.

We ended up having dinner together, which was a huge blessing in disguise.  You see, the restaurant at the inn was having some issues that night.  It ended up taking hours to eat dinner–no one even brought us our drinks for the first half hour or so that we were seated (and even then, they were six dollar two ounce glasses of cheap red wine.)  We’d have gone somewhere else…if there was anywhere else to go in St. Martins at 8pm!

Dear reader–you know me.  You saw how cranky I got in Paris when mealtimes didn’t work out well.  So you know that if it hadn’t been for this awesome couple–and the conversations we had that distracted and cheered me–I likely would have lost it and stomped off to bed without dinner.  But instead, we had a lovely evening and then walked out to the beach to watch the tide come in–even though it was almost fully dark by that point.  It was on the beach that my husband confessed to me that he was so grateful to Janet and George for ‘saving our dinner’.  They had no idea they’d done their good deed for the day!

I was right–the best part of the trip really was the people we met.

Trying To Do Too Much: St. Martins, New Brunswick and the Fundy Trail Parkway

If you’re thinking ‘damn, that’s a really long title for a blog post’, I absolutely agree.  But this is a post about one VERY long day!

For the first week of our trip I’d done a pretty good job not going overboard on planning and activities.  Yet, for some reason, as soon as we crossed the Canadian border, all common sense flew out of my head.  The plan for the day was ‘drive from Bar Harbor to St. Martins, eat dinner, sleep.’  That was it.  Nothing else.  But of course that’s not what happened.

After a minor meltdown related to the inability to find food, an ATM, a restroom, or the charming touristy town of St. Andrews (it wasn’t as ‘on the way’ as we’d hoped, but we didn’t figure that out until we were ten miles off of the highway and still nowhere near the town) we stopped at a little road side restaurant right on the exit to St. George (they like their saints in New Brunswick!) and finally had something to eat.  With the combination of the meltdown and the meal stop, we arrived in St. Martins around 3:00 in the afternoon.

This is when it all went wrong.

The very friendly innkeeper said something that didn’t seem dangerous to her.  When I said that I didn’t know if we’d be going to see the Fundy Trail Parkway, her response was something like ‘oh it would be a shame to be so close and not see it!’

So of course we had to go.

After driving all day, the aforementioned minor melt down, and only a brief stop in our rooms to drop our stuff off, we got back in the car and set out for the Fundy Trail Parkway.

The husband on a very precarious staircase on the Fundy Trail Parkway

To be fair, the parkway would have been a great way to spend a day.  An entire day.  Like after a leisurely breakfast and before a long night of relaxing.  It was not a good way to spend one very hurried late afternoon.  But even though we were worn out, we had a good time–for the first three quarters of our visit.  We checked out some scenic overlooks, found a waterfall, and generally had a nice time.  but then we pushed onward and got very cranky.

The reason we walked down the scary staircase

So around 6:00ish we finally decided to leave.  Did we go back to the B&B to relax?  Of course not!  After all, we passed by this place touting ‘the best chowder in the world’, and it shared a parking area with a beach strewn with sea caves–and the tide was out.

This is as close as I got to the sea caves

So we tried to get this famous chowder–and failed (the line was around the building) and then tried to walk out to the sea caves–and failed (I was wearing birkenstocks, possibly the worst shoes in the world for walking on a rocky beach.  Finally, finally we returned to the B&B.

We didn’t try to do too much again for the remainder of the trip.  So, at the very least, it was a good way to learn that lesson.  See?  I’m totally growing as a person, don’t you think?

Up next–the dinner at the St. Martins B&B and the couple that saved it from turning into another melt-down.