About Sherry Ott
Sherry Ott is a refugee from corporate IT who is now a long term traveler, blogger, and photographer. She’s a co-founder of http://www.briefcasetobackpack.com, a website offering career break travel inspiration and advice. She posts over on https://plus.google.com/103115118174711820529/posts as well.
Additionally, she runs an around the world travel blog writing about her travel and expat adventures at http://www.ottsworld.com.com.
Latest Posts by Sherry Ott
An island surrounded by the abundant fruits of the sea and a landscape of rolling hills and little patchwork farms make up the culture of Prince Edwards Island. This combination of fishermen, farmers, and small town feel make PEI the perfect destination for culinary adventures. They call PEI “The Gentle Island” but after a few days of exploring the island I thought it should be renamed the “Culinary Island”.
Filled with restaurants and seafood shacks that source everything locally, not because it’s the ‘in’ thing to do, but because that’s what you do when you live on an island. It really is the ‘perfect storm’ of PEI food all coming together on a small island; a foodie’s dream destination.
As you drive around the island you see little vegetable stands placed at the end of driveways, sometimes manned by the farmer or kids, and sometimes it’s just self serve and a little money box is left for you to place your money.
In addition to vegetable stands, you also see hundreds of churches on the island. Each little community has multiple churches; white wooden buildings that remind you of small town life. In fact, there were so many churches on the island that many of them were put up for sale and being refurbished into homes, B&B’s and anything else you could dream up.
So why not bring the two together – fresh food and churches? Yes, it’s a little strange – but when you have a design vision like Annie does, it actually works! Annie bought the New London church that was up for sale near her home.
She not only had a desire to refurbish the church, but she also wanted to satiate her hobby of cooking. She made the church into a spiritual kitchen mecca – with the plan to host culinary classes there within the shell of the old church. She kept beautiful details from the original church such as the alter, and somehow fit in a professional, industrial kitchen. When I first stepped inside, I gasped at how beautiful it was, who wouldn’t want to cook here in such an unusual space?
Annie and her chefs, Norm and Sarah, offer a variety of classes and cooking styles including PEI food farm to table – with each class being hands on. This is not a class where you just sit and watch and take notes, you actually do the cooking as a group. After everything has been prepared then you sit down in the church at a long communal table and enjoy the meal that you just made a as a group.
The Farm Experience
White Gables Farm
I was excited about the hands on aspect, as I tend to learn so much more when I actually do something for myself. My parents and I just arrived and suddenly we were back in our cars driving to the nearby White Gables Organic Farm to pick up our ingredients for the meal we were learning to prepare. We met the family who ran the farm, divided up the ingredient list among our cooking classmates, and soon were tramping through rows of vegetables. We all spread out and picked leafy greens, beans, raspberries, carrots, potatoes and garlic; ingredients we would need for our afternoon feast.
I had a pitchfork in hand and started digging up potatoes and garlic – transporting me back to my childhood memories of doing gardening chores all summer that I hated. My parents were slightly amused and confused by this ‘farm to table’ cooking class since they have a large garden at their home in South Dakota and do this sort of ‘farm to table’ cooking every day. Regardless, it’s not often that people actually get to harvest their food, prepare, and eat it all in the matter of hours, and I loved the idea of using only what we needed and supporting the local farmers directly.
Me collecting the famous PEI potatoes
Much to my mother’s surprise, we used beet greens in our salad…a part of the vegetable she normally throws away!
My dad picking raspberries to turn into our raspberry sorbet!
The Kitchen Experience
Chef Sarah, Annie’s daughter, passed out aprons to each of us, and soon Chef Norm had us cleaning all of the veggies and fruit we brought back from the farm. Our menu today was pork tenderloin with apples and stuffing, fresh green salad, and raspberry sorbet for dessert. Chef Norm immediately had my parents working on the raspberry sorbet while I washed and chopped greens.
Things started to get more complicated when Chef Norm showed us how to cut and tenderize the pork, stuff it, and roll it into the perfect looking sushi roll. You could participate as much or as little as you wanted.
Like any good meal, the preparation was filled with socializing, drinking, and learning all coming to a crescendo with everything being ready at the right time. I’ll never understand how chefs do that…timing is everything. The pork had come out of the oven smelling delicious and was settling and cooling while Chef Sarah showed us how to make a zesty salad dressing, and the remaining people set the table. By this time I was starving and ready to devour all of this delicious smelling food!
Chef Sarah and Annie working in the kitchen together – it’s a family affair!
My mother taking instruction from Chef Norm while my dad watches on….just like at home!
Sarah chopping apples for the stuffing. Don’t let the tattoos distract you, she’s one smart and together woman. Heading back to school for her PHD.
The pork tenderloin (wrapped in bacon) resting to the right temperature before we carve it up!
The Table Experience
By now everyone in the class had all got to know each other a little bit as we all took a seat at the table and Annie topped off all of our glasses of wine. I was actually surprised to find out that our fellow students were not tourists, but were from PEI and just wanting to take the course and learn more about cooking. It was a spectacular afternoon meal with new friends learning about the area, and even getting a few tips for our remaining time on the island.
The communal table in the beautifully redone New London Church!
Fresh green salad
Pork tenderloin in bacon with apple stuffing, potatoes, and fresh carrots.
Raspberry sorbet – all made up in 2 hrs time…delish!
Annie and Norm are entering their 4th season of farm to table cooking classes, so check out their calendar and see what’s happening in the little white New London church this summer!
Disclosure: I was a guest of PEI Tourism, however all opinions expressed here are my own.
The sun was rising up over the mountains with wispy clouds around the Three Sisters peaks, making it look as if the clouds were strands of their hair blowing in the wind. I stopped in the middle of my run and took a look all around me and realized what my new home in Canmore, Alberta was all about. It’s about mountains. I fucking love mountains. They make me feel small. They make me slow down. They remind me that our lives are miracles. They speak to my soul. They remind me that the world is big and we need to appreciate it. They somehow reach deep into my psyche and whisper to me to stop, breathe, and enjoy life. It’s fitting that Alberta’s tag line is “Remember to Breathe”.
As I continued my run I thought about all of the great things I was going to be able to do for the first time in these mountains – some excited me, and some scared me. But in the matter of a month I would experience these mountains to the fullest; they would be my winter playground. In fact in the span of 2 days I had plans to soar over the top of the Canadian Rocky Mountains, and the next day I would find myself deep down crawling inside the Rockies. How often can you do that in a place? It’s a unique opportunity to experience the true range of these mountains – the top and bottom!
Watch me experience the Top & Bottom of the Rockies – Video
As you can tell – the Canadian Rocky Mountains really do offer something for everyone – from the top to the bottom to things in between. During my time in Alberta, I had a love affair with the mountains, waking up every morning and being greeted by them, running amongst them, playing in them during the day, and watching the sun light them up in a soft pink glow at the end of the day.
These days you can do anything combined with a helicopter – hiking, skiing, snowshoeing, dog sledding, fishing, and you can even have a heli wedding. It allows you to go deeper and more remote, something we are all looking for in travel. The heli tours run year round and give you a different perspective on the Rockies. We did the heli snowshoeing which included lunch complete with special cheesecake to celebrate my birthday that day!
Canmore Cave Tours
Get a darker perspective on the mountains by going inside them. This is ‘wild’ caving – no interior lighting, no handrails, no walkways; a cave in its natural state. You must be ok with small spaces! I did the 6 hour Adventure Tour where we spent 4 hours in the cave (it felt like 1 hr!), including a 60 ft. repel in the dark and the laundry shoot where you had to slither through a long tunnel section. Not for the faint of heart; a true adventure.
Grizzly Paw Brewery
Set among the mountains peaks, this newly built facility highlights the culture of Canmore and great bear. Head to the Grizzly bar pub for beer and food on Main Street.
Canmore Curling Club
The Canmore Curling Club was created for the 1988 Winter Olympics. Orginally it was the athlete’s village during the Olympics and then was transformed to the Rink it is now today. You can just be a spectator and watch league play or you can rent the ice and play yourself. Since we were complete beginners, we received special lessons, and it was a highlight of my activities in Alberta.
Canmore Winter Carnival
The Canmore Winter Carnival is a celebration of the season and a popular community tradition for more than 20 years with events including ice carving, snow sculpting, dog sled racing, family events, and more!
Disclosure: I was a guest of Travel Alberta – however all opinions here are my own.
He held the aqua-green rough shell in his hand with a rubber glove, and with the other hand he swiftly pried the shell open making it look easy, yet I know from experience that oyster shucking is not easy.
The top shell popped off and he handed me the bottom shell with a perfectly plump oyster. I smiled, looked at my dad as we ‘clinked’ our oyster shells and did a ‘bottoms up’ move and I let the oyster slide into my mouth. No sauce, just pure oyster. Unlike most people, I actually like to taste my oyster, so I chewed it up to enjoy the delicious briny flavor. “Do you want another?” Johnny asked ready to shuck more.
“Of course, how many opportunities do you get to have fresh oysters for breakfast?” I replied. Yes, oysters for breakfast, it may sound strange, but much like eating fresh sushi in Japans’s Tsukiji Fish Market for breakfast, you can’t pass up fresh oysters at Colville Bay Oyster Company – never, never, never – even at 9:00AM. After all, if you are looking for things to do in PEI, then eating seafood really should be at the top of your list – at any time of day.
“We were flying by the arse of our pants. We weren’t too scientific, “ owner Johnny Flynn described the startup of the Colville Bay Oyster Company 22 years ago. Like many seamen I had met in PEI, Johnny started as a Lobster and Cod fisherman, but due to the cyclical and unpredictable nature of that business, he decided that he wanted another business that was a bit more predictable and brought in money year round. They decided on aquaculture and harvesting oysters.
One problem, they really knew nothing about Oyster farming.
A Story Book Beginning
Johnny’s family history read like the Anne of Green Gables Novels that made PEI famous. Johnny’s father was an orphan, and he was ‘given’ to a family who needed a farm boy to help out around the farm. The mother felt like it was all just too much to take on so she said that either they boy (Johnny’s father) or the dog would have to go. So they shot the dog, and his father was raised on a farm near Souris PEI.
Johnny pointed across the street to the little one room schoolhouse. “That’s where I grew up, “ he said, “and I never could’ve imagined 57 years ago that this would be my life now, working across the street.”
As he says this I can feel goosebumps forming on my arms. I adore moments where you look at your life and bask in the unpredictability of it. Even 3 years ago I never would’ve thought I would be in PEI on a press trip learning about oysters. As much of a control freak as I am, I get the most joy out of just going with the flow.
I really like Johnny, he was a small town guy who oozed laid back calm – he definitely seemed like a guy that knew how to go with the flow. I am so enthralled with people like him who take risks and are entrepreneurial in fields that they know little about. It was actually inspiring to listen to him. Even though Johnny didn’t know much about aquaculture, he learned quickly, and after a number of years of time and investment, he had his first ‘crop’ of oysters. I’m quite familiar with agriculture, since my family tree is full of Nebraska farmers, but I had no idea what Aquaculture was. It was hard for me to imagine farming principle applies to the water.
“You don’t have to put up hay or scoop manure,” Johnny replied when I asked him how it was like agriculture, “they (the oysters) take care of themselves, and they take about 5 years to form.”
How to ‘Grow’ Oysters
It all starts with a Chinese Hat – actually a form that looks like an Asian conical hat. They coat the hat form with porridge like mixture of cement and lime and place them in the river. The spat (baby oysters) are drawn to the mixture and fixate themselves to the hat and grow. After 4 months they bring the hats out to dry full of little beginnings of oysters about the size of your fingernail. They crack the hats like it’s an ice cube tray and the little oyster shells fall off.
From there they go into French Tables and are placed in the river. No, it’s not dining tables set in the water. French Tables are basically racks or bags that are full of holes and are placed in the water where the tide comes over them, water flows through them, and then lowers leaving them exposed to the air. Johnny said it was like a giant tea bag that allows the water to flow through. Where they are located in Souris River is the key to growing great oysters, as it’s close to the mouth of the ocean so the river undergoes tidal changes and has a mixture of fresh and saltwater. Plus they have a natural sandbar that helps protect the oysters.
As the oysters grow through the years in the bags, they need to be moved to bigger bags with more space – just like growing kids. I learned pretty quickly that that there is a lot of ‘tending to the crops’ that has to take place. They also go about moving the entire oyster crop each winter to warmer waters in a nearby lake, and then back to Souris River in the summers. The process can take up to 5 years to get the perfect Colville Bay oyster.
They then harvest the crop and pick out the ones that are ready with tongs and move them to the little shack/office where they get ready to be shipped. They are separated, washed, boxed, and shipped all by hand ensuring only the best oysters bear the Colville Bay name.
“I don’t get caught up on the shape of the oyster shell,” Johnny explained while showing us how the separate them, “What’s in between the covers is what’s important.”
As I slurp down my 3rd oyster for the morning, I’m pretty happy with what’s between the covers. They have a hint of brininess to them, but they also finish buttery sweet. Even though I’m slurping them down for free this morning from the source, you’ll find the Colville Bay oysters on menus mainly in Canada and also in parts of the US. However you can find them for about $1 an oyster all over PEI – which is just another reason to get yourself to this culinary island for a seafood holiday!
Johnny’s son is now studying Aquaculture in university with the desire to work in the business. For a family that knew nothing about oysters when they started, they are in the process of building an oyster empire. As I said goodbye and drove away from the little oyster shack, I looked at the old home where Johnny grew up across the street. Sometimes you really don’t have to go far from home to have wild adventures. Life takes strange twists and turns and you have to let go and just go with them. Sometimes they lead you to great things, great people, and great breakfasts.
Where you can go to find Colville Bay Oysters in PEI:
Johnny and his brother also own a Lobster Shack on the bay in Souris. If you are looking for things to do in PEI it’s a great place to stop for picnic of oysters or lobster near the beach. The “shack” is located on the boardwalk at Souris beach. Specializing in Colville Bay oysters and PEI lobster. Promoting PEI seafood one species at a time!
Waves overtake the ocean pool on Mona Vale Beach – yes – it was a wild surf day!
He said if the ocean horizon looks bumpy in the evening it means it’s going to be a big surf day tomorrow. He was right. The waves came in fast and furious landing on top of each other in a powerful white wash eruption. They slammed against the reef and sprayed high up in the air as the wind took the little droplets and blew it all ashore in a fine salty mist coating my face and lens. I wanted to walk further out to the ocean pool where the waves were lapping over the side forming a waterfall that a couple of brave local teenagers played under, but I decided against it once the entire walkway filled up with water and I found myself in ankle deep water filling up fast.
This was not a day to be out surfing…for anyone – but it was a great day for photography.
Even though most people think that I’m mainly gallivanting the world just having fun, there is a lot of work involved too. In fact, I have to purposefully slow this merry-go-round down so that I don’t end up motion sick blowing chunks. And no, I’m not talking about physically getting sick, I’m talking about mental sick – I have to slow down for my sanity, balance, and well being.
The last few weeks I’ve been laying low in the Northern Suburbs of Sydney, Mona Vale, with two good friends who traveled here with me and spending time seeing old friends in Sydney. I adore staying in local people’s homes via Airbnb, taking public transit, getting familiar with a neighborhood and the markets. Charlie, Dan and I had an agreement; they cook, I clean up. This is perfect considering they are great cooks! I ate like a queen the whole week; shrimp, lamb, waffles, banana bread, and even kangaroo!
Charlie carving up the lamb with Dan’s help
In addition, this trip was special as I was able to connect with a few old travel friends and pre-travel friends in Sydney. It’s the best thing about my nomadic life; I can go any major city in the world practically and I will have a friend there.
My friend Warwick takes me hiking to the Barrenjoey lighthouse – spectacular views!
Even though I spent most of my time working, I found time to get out surfing twice (yay!), I got back into running regularly, and I was able to do a number of afternoon and morning photo walks.
The beach culture here in and around Sydney is strong, and even though I’m a mountain girl – this beach time was much needed. I’m sad to leave the sand and crashing waves behind, but at least I leave with lots of good memories and photos!
While you finish your weekend we begin our week in Australia . Monday sunrise at Mona Vale beach with Dan looking on.
We went as far as we could until the road stopped and we were surrounded by water on all sides on Barrenjoey Head just North of Sydney. Loved this naturally lit view of the lighthouse!
Staring down a pelican on the beach this morning. I think he might have been eyeing my morning coffee.
Charlie catches a wave. Spent Easter walking on the beach in Mona Vale watching the rhythm of the ocean.
Craft beer and a pint of bacon. A match made in heaven! Who wants some?
Fancy a swim? One thing I love about the northern beaches in #Sydney is that they all have ocean swimming pools filled up with water from the high tides or in this case overfilled with water from a big storm! Who wants to jump in?!
When waves and clouds mingle.
April Showers bring May flowers. And they also bring out the umbrellas around the world. One of the first things that surprised me when I was traveling in Asia was that people used umbrellas when it wasn’t even raining. I used to think it was strange, until I realized what a great way it was to shade yourself from the intense sun of Southeast Asia or the Middle East. Now a little travel umbrella is one of my ‘must pack’ items – they are small and helpful rain or shine!
I’ve collected a few of my favorite umbrella shots from around the world to celebrate this last day of April…and spring showers…
Colorful umbrellas in create some shade in Antalya Turkey
A unexpected shower in Oahu
A monk and his sun protection in Laos
Beach umbrellas dot the beach in Brazil
Spectator in the rain. A woman watches a boat race in Nova Scotia in the pouring rain
One of my students in Nepal plays with an umbrella which has seen better days.
Umbrellas on motorbikes…where else but Vietnam of course
A grass umbrella in Aruba
Girls in Lao wait for the ferry in the shade of an umbrella
Seeing double umbrellas in Cambodia
Summer showers in Cork Ireland leave the street glistening.
It rolls in, it rolls out. It’s never still, much like me. Maybe that’s why I am so fascinated by the Bay of Fundy. However, the Bay of Fundy takes motion to new levels boasting the highest tidal changes in the world rising and falling up to 53 feet a day in some areas. It compares with more than 600 unique landscapes in over 100 countries in the world that have been recognized as World UNESCO biosphere sites. I recently made a whole driving holiday with my parents to see this tremendous natural wonder. You may think going to see a body of water for a whole holiday is a bit odd, but it’s not simply a one hit wonder, there is more than you can imagine to see and do on the Bay of Fundy – from adventure to wildlife.
We spent a week road tripping in New Brunswick that borders one side of the Bay of Fundy with Nova Scotia on the other. I spent time on it, in it, and under it and was surprised at all of the unique Bay of Fundy activities.
Fundy Parkway Drive
Take a scenic drive and soak in the cliff views of the Bay on the Fundy Parkway Drive. The 10 mile trail starts outside the town of St. Martin and opens up to beautiful panoramic views of the Bay. Complete with lookouts and observation decks you’ll have plenty of chances to stop and soak in the views. Or if you want to go at a slower pace, you may want to park the car and hike or bike the trail. There’s a separate walking and biking trails that run along the drive too. In the middle of the trail you’ll find the Big Salmon River Interpretive Centre providing historical information on the logging, fishing, and shipbuilding days near the Bay of Fundy. The drive doesn’t yet go all the way through – so it is an out and back experience, but the views are so nice who doesn’t want to see it twice!
More Info: Fundy Trail Parkway
Bay of Fundy trail for biking and hiking
Bay of Fundy Parkway hiking to a waterfall
Bay of Fundy Whale Watching
At the southern end of the Bay of Fundy in the little seaside town of St. Andrews you can hop on a charter with Captain Chris from Island Quest and head out through the foggy waters and hunt for humpback whales. Or if you are looking for something a bit more hands on – then you can actually go shark fishing (catch and release of course) also in the Bay.
More Info: Island Quest Marine Whale Watching Website
Humpback Whales seen in the Bay of Fundy
Fundy National Park
Stop and stay at Fundy National Park, New Brunswick’s first National Park. Running along the perimeter of the Bay of Fundy means beautiful hikes and trails. We did a small hike to a waterfall and covered bridge with our short time in the area. There is plenty of camping and other unique lodging options that will give you a great homebase for exploring more of the Bay of Fundy. Plus the park is the core area for the UNESCO Fundy Biosphere Reserve. UNESCO Biosphere reserves serve as models for demonstrating a balanced relationship between humans and the biosphere.
More Info: Parks Canada Fundy National Park
Fundy National Park views
Covered Bridges in Fundy National Park
Walk on the Ocean Floor
Ever wonder what the bottom of the Bay of Fundy looks like? Just wait a few hours and you’ll find out at the Hopewell Rocks. Check the tide timetable and follow the trail to the lookout point. Head down the stairs and soon you’ll be walking on the bottom of the Bay of Fundy. Slightly muddy, but it’s worth it to walk through the archways of the eroded rocks also called Flower Pots. Sure, you can do this anywhere along the Bay of Fundy during low tide, but the tidal change is especially evident when gauging it against the backdrop of the unique weathered Flower Pots.
More Info: Bay of Fundy Hopewell Rocks
Walk on Bay of Fundy during low tide at Hopewell Rocks
Flower Pots at low tide
Bay of Fundy Kayaking Hopewell Rocks
Wait a few hours and soon that same area that you just walked on near the rocks becomes filled with water and waves. My dad and I decided to get a new perspective and did a kayaking tour during high tide. It turned out to be a real adventure the day we went as the winds were wicked and the waves were powerful. It made it hard to maneuver the kayak near the cliffs and rocks, but my dad was a great sport and we muddled our way through it without tipping the kayaking and going for an unwanted swim!
More Info: Baymount Adventures
Kayaking around the Flower Pots
Take a Seat and Watch the Tide Roll In
Want something a bit less active – then just take a seat in one of Maritime Canada’s famed, colorful Adirondack chairs and simply watch the tide roll in or out. I suggest you take a seat in Alma behind the Parkland Village Inn. Owner Andy and his crew has a number of chairs set up that allows you to watch the fishing boats go out and come back in at the appropriate time.
More Info: Parkland Village Inn Alma New Brunswick
Low Tide at Parkland Village Inn Alma
Bay of Fundy Bird Migration
Watch the skies above the Bay of Fundy to see one of the largest populations of shorebird migrations happen near Hopewell Rocks. Each July 1-2.5 million shorebirds (up to 75% of the world’s population of the Semipalmated Sandpiper) congregate in waves at several key locations in the upper reaches of the bay. The Bay of Fundy is their only stopover on a 4,000 km migration south. It’s like watching an interactive art display as the bird fly, dive, and glide in a quick swarm – it’s absolutely mesmerizing.
Bay of Fundy Tidal Bore
Are you ready for this – you can even surf on the Bay of Fundy – sort of. Stop at Bore Park in Moncton and take a seat on the bleachers to watch the tidal bore roll through the Pedikodiak River filling the riverbank with new fresh water every day. Each day the tidal bore time is posted and there is a little talk before the tidal bore rolls through upstream into the river.
The river is normally shallow and muddy and ends 79 km later in a little pond, but the Bay of Fundy high tide fills the riverbed twice a day. Now – let me be clear about this – I’m talking about a tidal bore, not a tidal wave. This is not some huge tidal wave – it’s simply a wave, but it’s special as it goes on for a very long time. The tidal bore actually produces a surfable wave and it attracts surfers who are looking to ride the longest wave in the world. The day we were there to watch it there was one surfer making a valiant attempt. The furthest surfers have surfed the bore is 29km. This really is one of those weird phenomena’s to go see and bring your surfboard if you are interested in breaking the record!
Disclosure: I was hosted by New Brunswick Tourism during my time around the Bay of Fundy, however all opinions here are my own.
Tourism in Hawaii is one of the main industries – unless you are on Molokai Island. The saying “One of these is not like the other” kept running through my head my first few days on Molokai as it’s nothing like it’s other island siblings – and of course – that’s why I loved it.
I spent my last week on the “Friendly Island” soaking up the culture and sun of Hawaii on the little and relatively unknown island of Molokai. There’s only 1 hotel and 2 liquor licenses on the whole island to put things in perspective.
Tourism seems sort of like an afterthought there – but don’t take that to mean there isn’t anything to do. There’s plenty to do if you are looking for a relaxing cultural holiday. It’s home to the tallest sea cliffs in the world, miles of empty beautiful white sand beaches, waterfalls hikes, and and you can visit the old leper colony of Kalaupapa, now a National Historic Park.
The week included hiking, kayaking, cultural presentations, hot bread runs, mule riding, and a few history lessons. However the most important part of my week was meeting the people and families of Molokai. There’s a lot to this island if you just slow down, listen, and be willing to talk story.
I love a place so slowed down and unpopulated that grass grows in the middle of the road.
The view from my lanai at the one hotel on the island. So basically i have the best hotel view on the entire island.
The west end of Molokai is the dry side of the island. Spent the day driving around the beautiful and empty beaches.
Cheesecake with fresh mango sauce. Oh so worth it at Hotel Molokai!
The ancient Hawaiians were aware that without breath there was no life so they adopted a greetingwhen meeting each other called Ha – meaning breath of life. Foreheads and noses together and inhale. Better and more meaningful than a handshake!
Shady bread. Do the hot bread run after 9pm in #Molokai – go down a back alley behind the town bakery and order your loaf of Hawaiian sweet bread with fillings like cinnamon and butter for $7. Sometimes the best things are the hardest to get to – or in this case – find.
The mule ride to the remote village of Kalaupapa was a nail biting 2 hour ride descending the tallest sea cliffs in the world. What an adventure!
Molokai sunset – pretty in pink.
If you were in Molokai this weekend you could take a swim in a waterfall. Sound tempting? Our Halawa Valley hike ended here for a dip. Wish all hikes had this ending!
She told me she used to come to this spot as a young girl and practice her hula and oli (a chant of long phrases in a single breath) here. It was great practice to try to raise her volume against the power of the wind gusting up the valley. Not to mention that it is a stunning and moving view.
I love hidden beach trails like this. It leads to Papohaku Beach in Molokai. A huge and practically empty white sand beach
Disclosure: I was a guest of Molokai Tourism during my time on the island. However all opinion here are my own.
Before they end up on your plate next to melted butter, lobster start small, very small. Lobster eggs have the odds stacked against them, only 1 or 2 in 10,000 will survive and become an adult. But for those who do, this is their life cycle that takes them from that little tiny egg to being on your plate and all of the people involved in the process. In most destinations you’ll experience a food by simply eating it in a restaurant; however, in the Canadian Maritimes, you can get the complete lobster lifecycle experience.
From the boat, to it’s life in the market, and then finally on your table. I spent a couple weeks traveling with my parents in New Brunswick and Prince Edward Island learning about the lobster industry that is a lifeline for many locals. In doing this research, I was forced to eat a lot of Canadian lobster. It’s a tough job, but someone had to do it.
Under the Sea
Way down on the bottom of the Bay of Fundy or Atlantic Ocean the lobster life-cycle is tough and long. If they survive youth and don’t get eaten by predators then they go through a process of survival that is quite a roller coaster. We know them as having hard shells when they end up on our plates, but in order to grow they have to moult that shell leaving them completely exposed – at which time they hide under rocks and hope for the best. They outgrow and shed their shells up to 25 times during the first 5 years of their life.
In addition to that cool fact, I learned they also have magic powers – they can drop and regenerate claws, arms, eyes, and legs like a superhero! However, if the body and tail get separated they’ll die. Water temperature is key as it determines their molting and hibernation states, which is why you see live lobsters kept in circulating cool water bins as it keeps them in a mild state of hibernation while we get around to buying and eating them.
Fishing huts line the docks of villages all over Maritime Canada.
It all starts with the trap – a container that a lobster backs into and never can get out of thanks to the design. I went on a lobster fishing charter out of Charlottetown PEI with Mark at Top Notch Charters to learn all about how the hearty crustaceans are caught. He runs a tourist charter that teaches you how to fish for Canadian lobster, you even get to set buoys, pull the trap out of the water yourself, and band a claw.
In addition to doing a whole bunch of hands on stuff on the charter, I was also able to learn all about the fishing industry. Captain Mark is part of a fisherman dynasty. He’s a 4th generation fisherman. His family has 6 lobster licenses and they work together as a team via 2 way radio during the appropriate fishing seasons. That’s a big deal considering a commercial fishing license costs $350,000. Maybe that’s why people live on their boat.
Catching lobsters on Captain Mark’s Lobster charter boat.
My dad pulling up traps with Captain Mark
Lobster Fishermen make 70% of their income in 2 months time. It means they have to not only be great at catching lobster, but they also have to be great at managing their money. Most of them have to figure out another career for the other 10 months and that’s how Mark and his brother Cody started the Top Notch Lobster and Tuna Fishing Charters. Mark continued to entertain me with lots of fishing tidbits such as:
• There’s an unwritten rules among the fishermen – you don’t fish on Sunday.
• Don’t put your traps where they don’t belong – they will be policed by other fishermen. Everyone has their ‘territory’ that is known – don’t mess with it. After hearing this – I wondered if there was a fishing mafia.
• The colors of the buoys go with the boat and is ‘approved’ by the village which sort of serves as the jurisdiction. Mark’s are black, white, and yellow for the Boston Bruins.
• Lobster makes up 70% of the fishing in the Maritimes.
• Lobster was considered a poor man’s food. It was traditionally fed to prisoners. Mark’s dad used to have lobster sandwiches as a kid in school and he’d pick the lobster out and throw it away else the other kids would think his family was poor.
• Bands are put on the lobster claws to protect them, not the humans. If left unbanded, they will fight to the death – the ultimate cage match.
• 80% of the lobster he catches go to the US.
The afternoon was spent with my dad and I pulling up cages and learning how to determine gender, size, and if there are eggs – all of these things determine if you need to throw the lobster back or if you get to keep it and sell it.
The Middle Man
I went to Alma New Brunswick to learn all about the stuff in the middle and meet Mike from Collin’s Lobster. However it ended up that Mike was as elusive to catch in person as a lobster, so instead I began my talk with Kelsey, the pretty 21 year old blond who smiles at me and says, “I’m sick of picking up lobsters,” as she continues to move the lobsters around in the tank while talking with me.
Like Captain Mark, Mike’s family was also in fishing industry for generations. His father was a fishermen and Mike got started selling lobster door to door in the community when he was a kid. He was go-getter even at a young age – or who knows – maybe his father made him do it like my father made me mow the lawn.
Mike now buys from the local fisherman (50 or 60 in the area in a town of 236 people) as they bring in their catches to the docks. Fishing lobster is a tough job in Alma – it’s all based on tide schedules around the Bay of Fundy. You can’t just take the boat out whenever you want as twice a day the boat is sitting on the muddy bottom thanks to the massive tide changes.
As a wholesaler he sells 20% direct to the public and 80% wholesale which mainly consists of a contract for cooked lobster with Sobey’s, the big grocery store chain in the region. And of course he also sells to restaurants. Despite the fishing season restrictions, Mike provide lobsters year around by storing the ones under 4lbs in tubes putting them into hibernation. He moves a max of 30,000 lbs of lobster a day through the shop during the busiest season.
When I asked what makes the Bay of Fundy lobster the best, I was told that it had to do with the colder water which gives it more flavor and the rocky bottom (they don’t walk on the muddy bottom of the Atlantic). I asked what real effect that had and the only answer I got was that they didn’t taste like mud. I’m not sure that sounds too accurate – but what the heck, people come from great distances to get Bay of Fundy lobster so it must just be good.
“Who’s the best fisherman in town?” I asked Mike. ”I can’t say or may get in trouble. Everyone’s good,” responded Mike thoughtfully; a smart answer by a guy who relies on the local fisherman for a living.
On My Plate
What about the financial life of the lobster lifecycle? It’s like any business…by the time it gets to your plate, there’s a lot of expense added that you, the consumer, will pay for. Fishermen get approximately $3.75/lb for market lobsters, and the wholesalers turn around and sells it for around 8.99 per pound around town. Then it ends up as $15 and up when it lands on your plate – or $35 in a fancy restaurant.
The claw – I always save it for the last bite. What’s your favorite part of the lobster?
We decided to skip the fancy restaurant part and instead by directly from the wholesaler, Collin’s Lobster. With Kelsey’s help we picked out 3 big lobsters and went down to the adorable little Parkland Village Inn in Alma run by Andy and his wife. Yet another family business, Parkland Inn ended up being my favorite place we stayed in all of New Brunswick due to the great hospitality from Andy and the setting in this adorable small town.
In addition to being a great place to stay, the Parkland Inn had a beautiful backyard near the fishing docks looking out at the Bay of Fundy. We sat out on the picnic tables and ate our fresh lobster from Collin’s Lobster as Andy brought us out cold beer. It was a perfect sunny day as we dawned our lobster bibs and prepared for a simple feast and watched the tide start to roll in. Subsequently the fishing boats started returning to the docks since they could make it back with the high tide.
Low Tide at the Alma Docks. These fishing boats have to wait a while to go out.
There is no better feeling than sitting outside with a lobster bib on, cracking claws, eating with your hands, and drinking beer with people you love. I savored every last bite always leaving the big claw for the end. As we dumped all of our shells into the garbage and finished up our last sips of beer, I though about how we were the end of this long complex lobster lifecycle – and I was completely happy with that. My belly full of lobster is always a reason to be happy.
Our Lobster Picnic at Parkland Inn.
How to Recreate the Lobster Lifecycle Experience Yourself in the Maritimes:
Prince Edward Island:
Top Notch Charters Website
Lodging in Charlottetown – Elmwood Heritage Inn
Buy Fresh Lobster – MacKinnons Lobster Pound Charlottetown
Great places to Eat Lobster – Lobster Shack in Souris Beach
Dave’s Lobster – known for their lobster tacos
Buy fresh lobster at Collin’s Lobster Website
Lodging in Alma – Park Village Inn
Great Places to Eat Lobster – Park Village Inn Restaurant – let them prepare it for you!
Buy & Eat Fresh Lobster – Halls Habour Lobster in the Rough
Great Places to Stay and eat lobster – Guysborough at the Des Barres Manor Inn & Restaurant
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