Monday, September 5, 2011

Holiday in Nova Scotia

We have just returned from the most wonderful family holiday in Nova Scotia. I used to spend summers as a child in Canada so this felt like we were giving our kids the same opportunities of special memories as I had. Ben had spontaneously rented a log cabin on a lake after a friend mentioned his mum had spent her summers there about 50 years ago!! When I looked at the pics of our cabin online, I was a bit gutted as it all looked a bit un-rustic and shiny piney walls on the inside. I dreaded we were going somewhere with zero charm and for a person as affected by aesthetics as I am, I was a bit worried (aka bratty to poor Ben who had planned the whole thing to give me a break). But was I was so wonderfully surprised by the very rustic and oozing with charm place as it turned out. It was called Milford House and was in the south of the islands. The holiday was full of canoes, pedalos, fishing, frog catching, mushroom spotting, hiking, climbing, jumping, exploring, early bedtimes, chilly nights, cosy fires and early misty mornings. A little bickering between the kids, but mostly just so much fun - love and good times shared by us four - we loved every moment and can't wait to go back.

Milford House is a historic Inn near several lakes and surrounded by acres of natural woodlands. Spotted all along the lakesides are the darling cabins - think there are 20 or 30 in total, each with it's own dock and dreamy view. This was our cabin. It was called Beaver and had 3 bedrooms though we only used two since the kids can't bear the idea of being separated. Made us imagine years down the line when the kids may bring a friend each or perhaps even next year have a few families all go at the same time and rent cabins so the kids (and adults) can all hang out together. We had logs and kindling for easy fire making right there on our terrace and Adirondak chairs to relax in. We spent many an afternoon looking out on our view as you can see below, sipping peppermint or ginger teas and watching the kids chase dragon flies and try to net little critters.

Collecting acorns was another fun pastime. We had a chipmunk who lived under the terrace and came to collect anything we dropped so the kids were sure he would be very thankful for all the acorns.

Oslo is a notorious early bird and even though we would go to bed shortly after the children did, it was so cold in the cabin by morning that the idea of getting out of bed was unbearable. Half way through the trip, after a 9 degrees Celsius wake up with our breath in the rooms, Ben realised that by waking in the night and adding more logs to the fire, then the cabin wasn't quite so chilly when we rose. But when we did, if we did when Oslo did, we would always see the most beautiful sights outside. The mists were different every morning. One day, it was so foggy, we couldn't even see the nearby raft, but other mornings, it just danced this way and that on the glassy surface and with the sun behind it, it was like a light show.

But as soon as the sun rose and the mists rolled away to wherever they go until the next morning, the air warmed too and we started our day, full up from a big eggs and hash browns breakfast.

Can you believe the colour of Oslo's arms and legs under the water? It looked inky black until you went swimming and then you could glimpse its stained red hues. So pretty.

This beaver dam was close to our cabin and we loved to row (or "oar" as the kids day) over. There were turtles on a driftwood branch sunning themselves whenever we came near too and turned out they were really rare (endangered actually) so we felt blessed to have had a sighting.

The pedalo is a less stealth than the canoe, but definitely more fun in terms of moving around without the fear of tipping over. Bit of a clunker but was a nice change from our canoe.

This little guy landed on Oslo's knee - they came in every colour it seemed, though the most common ones were orange, blue and purple.

It was amazing - anytime we walked into the woods, about 4000 mosquitos would land on each of us. Our skin, our clothes, our hair. I had brought some organic toxic free stuff which claimed to work for up to 2 hours but Ben said it worked a charm... for 10 minutes. I loved it though and it was still worth it to me rather than the kids getting their poison spray covered hands in their mouths all the time as we collected berries.

There were some gorgeous trails around the cabin. We got lost a couple times and ended up being out for hours with no food when we had planned to just go for a quickie but the kids were troopers and loved the adventure of it all, though Indigo did get a little freaked when she'd think we were lost forever and ever and ever. She sobbed how she missed our animals and wanted to go home.

We loved playing Pooh sticks off this bridge. Ben ended up by mistake playing Pooh sticks with his sunglasses except we didn't see where those went.

Do you like Ben's belt - it was a rope he found in the canoe - day glow yellow and really bristlie and perfect for holding up his trousers, of course.

See, I was there!!!

Sling shot warfare between Oslo and Ben was a constant on the trip.  They spent half the holiday looking for the perfect elastic to use on their slingshots and I ended up having to walk miles through the closest town to a sewing shop since Ben said what we really needed was clothing elastic rather than rubber bands.

And sword fights were the norm too. As you can see, Ben sure knows how to play fair with a six year old!

There was a plethora of very fuzzy caterpillars. I guess they felt the cold at night too. I wish I had photographed all of them but only had a camera with me a couple days and never on the canoe trips sadly where it was the most beautiful.

Sorry for all the wide angle shots of myself but the only way I will be remembered as even having been around at all is if I take the pic myself! It seems Ben has decided that since I am a professional photographer, he therefore in incapable of ever taking a single snap. So I will show the kids they were not raised by him on his own - that I was in fact there too, even if it means I will always have a spread out face and potential double chin!!! How cute are my little darlings here - I can't believe how open they were to my photo taking on this trip - more than ever before. So thankful.

Anyone who knows me knows I am obsessed with moss. I love fur covered forests and my whole life, I have longed to go to this one place in New Zealand because of a photo I once saw in National Geographic. So you can imagine how excited I was to find fuzz covered trees and rocks and dells. It turns out that moss is one of those things that is more romantic in notion and image than in reality. The truth is it wasn't soft and snuggly, but kind of soggy and prickly. Purty though! The kids know how much I love moss so they offered to lie down on it just for me - so cute.

Ben and Oslo constantly went ahead. Indigo and I decided that we were more about the journey and they were more about the destination. Indigo stopped at every leaf, mushroom, flower or berry. Ben and Oslo were always miles ahead but I think the real reason is that they were looking for hiding spots so they could ambush us, which they did on a regular basis. Luckily, Oslo hums so sometimes gave their position away. Or in this case, blew his little frog whistle.

The mushrooms were amazing - so many vibrant colours and textures - just gorgeous. I took all these shots with my little Canon S95 so not an L lens, but pretty good I think for a camera that fits in my back pocket - and it shoots in manual so I love it!

About a 40 minutes away from our cabin was a mini amusement park called Upper Clements Park. We went there the day after the night Hurricane Irene had blown through. Half the rides were closed due to the wind and it was freezing on the water rides in the icy breeze, but the kids had a blast. Think they went on the roller coaster a few too many times though - very scary but they thought it was just the best thing ever. I was partial to the merry go round where I could actually enjoy the ride and take a photo rather than fear for my life.

While I was on the merry go round shooting the kids, I saw myself in the reflected in the mirror so - kinda fun. That is the other camera I took on the trip - it is a retired Canon 20D - my second digital camera ever. It is a bit fungusy but does the trick for holiday snaps and if I lost it, wouldn't be the end of the world so perfect for the trip.

The closest town to where we were is called Annapolis Royal and it was about a half hour away. We found a great seafood restaurant (can't remember the name) and had a lovely dinner there. Aren't Oslo's missing front teeth adorable. I was hoping he might get a lisp or some sort of temporary signs in his speech, but he sounds exactly the same as usual - how does he do that? And did you see his silver tooth? It is actually a cap on a tooth that was filled. Can you believe my six year old who never has any sugar at all got cavities? I am 40 and have no fillings, but he does. Turns out, his mouth is teeny weeny and so his teeth are really close together and unless he flosses after every meal, it is inevitable. He also needs some teeth yanked out at some point to make space, but for now, we will just floss daily. So we are trying but it is so hard - I didn't start flossing until my mid 30s and here he is such a little guy - heart breaking. He thinks his silver tooth is pretty cool though don't want him to think it is so cool he decides not to floss so he can get more - happy balance we need to find here I think.

Oslo picked a dandy lion and made a wish aloud. He wished next summer, we could come to Nova Scotia for a whole month. That is the sign of a good holiday so I was thrilled. Not that his wish will be able to come true for the time amount, but pretty sure we can repeat the Canada bit.

Along the same lines of the organic bug spray of which you have to use a ton and often for it to actually work, the same is sometimes true of some of the sunblocks I have purchased. Ben always says that even mayonaise would block out the sun if you spread it on as thickly, but I think it does work. It just happens that the easy ones to carry in my pocket are the sticks, but of course, they melt in my pocket so when we go to apply, a little too much and too thick comes out and it is impossible to rub in. But it works and so I am happy - bit dorky looking, especially in pics but never mind. Happy skin at least. And can't really tell in black and white!

Bit more obvious in the colour snaps I suppose, but I think it adds charm, like our rustic cabin - no shiny piney here! Lighty whitey perhaps, but not shiny piney! So charming - and it's all about charm in our family.

On our last day in Nova Scotia, we headed out to the Kejimkujik National Park. Don't worry - you can just call it the Keji Park! We went to the seaside part of it since we had spent the rest of the holiday on quiet lakes and in the forests so this was a great change of scenery. It was so dramatic and different from Bermuda - just heaven. Along the 2 1/2 kilometre path, we searched and found the last of the season's blackberries and gobbled them up along the way. Helped the kids not notice what a long what it was there and back.

Through the telescope, we could see these seals really close up - there were two kinds and one was more rare so we were psyched to see a few. I thought the common Joe Schmoe ones were cuter though with their scoopy snoots and speckledy freckles.

How darling are these rainboots. Indigo's Aunty Tiffy brought them back from North Hatley last year so fun that they end up back in Canada again.

That night, we went to a little town called Somerville for dinner at the Quarter Deck over looking the beach. It was amazing and they even had a special gluten free menu which blew us away. After dinner, we walked down the massive grey beach collecting sand dollars and stepping on the over sized seaweed and feeling it squelch through our frozen toes. The sunset was absolutely stunning and lit up the whole coast and made everything glowy and gorgeous. It was such a splendid send off for our last night. Apparently it rained all the time for most of the summer, but we were so lucky to only have one day of rain and even then, it was not all day or very hard. The rest of the time was blue skies and perfect late summer days with the tinges of reds and golds in the trees hinting at the end of the season.

Thank you Nova Scotia for being so glorious. We loved everything about our trip. The big skies, empty roads, lush forests, peaceful lakes, dramatic sea scapes, great restaurants, and lovely people. We just had the most wonderful family holiday and will treasure these memories and our time together forever. xxxx

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