About Sherry Ott

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

Behind the Scenes of the Ever So Beautiful Molokai

April 14, 2015 by  

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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.

Molokai Island Kalaupapa

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.

things to do in molokai hawaii

I love a place so slowed down and unpopulated that grass grows in the middle of the road.

molokai island

The view from my lanai at the one hotel on the island. So basically i have the best hotel view on the entire island.

Molokai Island

The west end of Molokai is the dry side of the island. Spent the day driving around the beautiful and empty beaches.

molokai island food

Cheesecake with fresh mango sauce. Oh so worth it at Hotel Molokai!

molokai island hawaii culture

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!

Things to Do on Molokai Island

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.

Molokai island mule ride

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!

things to do in molokai hawaii

Molokai sunset – pretty in pink.

Molokai island waterfall

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!

molokai island hawaii culture

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.

molokai island things to do

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. 

 

All Things Lobster, From New Brunswick to Nova Scotia

April 14, 2015 by  

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Canadian Lobster

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 Maritime Canada

Fishing huts line the docks of villages all over Maritime Canada.

The Catch

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.

Canadian Lobster Fishing charter PEI Canada

Catching lobsters on Captain Mark’s Lobster charter boat.

Canadian Lobster fishing PEI

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.

Canadian Lobster Market New Brunswick

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.

Canadian Lobster Maritime

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.

Bay of Fundy Lobster

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.

Canadian Lobster for lunch in New Brunswick

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

New Brunswick:

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!

Nova Scotia:

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

 

The post Ocean to Table Lobster in the Canadian Maritimes appeared first on Ottsworld Unique Travel Experiences.

Australia, From Blue Skies & Waterfalls to Blue Waters & Mountains

April 13, 2015 by  

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Last fall I won a trip for two to Australia’s Blue Mountains at the Adventure Travel World Summit.  The next day I found myself out on the blue waters of Sydney Harbor sailing an American’s Cup class boa.

Since I had experienced the sea, now it was time to experience the mountains.  A short 2 hour drive outside of Sydney is the Greater Blue Mountains World Heritage Area  – 2.4 million acres of mountains, cliffs, caves, and Eucalyptus trees.

We stayed in the town of Katoomba at the oldest hotel in the area, the Carrington, which opened it’s doors way back in 1883.  Our week was filled with great hikes, and new adventures in the Blue Mountains parks.  And yes, the blue mountains are really blue as evidenced by the images below.

We tried canyoning and abseiling for the first time which leads me to the biggest accomplishment of the week – abseiling down a 80 waterfall.  As I peered over the edge, I about cried, but thankfully our guide, Tim, knew just what to say to get me down that waterfall.  My week of Instagram adventures went from Sydney to Blue Mountains – from blue skies, to blue waters, to blue mountains, to blue waterfalls – sometimes feeling blue is a good thing!

sydney harbor bridge opera house

Guess where I am this week!

Sailing Sydney Harbor

This is one serious adventure! Racing today on an American Cup class boat in the #Sydney Harbor. And no I didn’t fall in even while taking photos!

Three Sisters Blue Mountains

“It looks like the Grand Canyon but with trees” this was my first reaction to seeing the Blue Mountains in #newsouthwales Australia.

Why are blue mountains blue

Why are the #BlueMountains in Australia blue? They are given that name due to the blue haze that hovers above them. It is an area renowned for spectacular scenery, plant and wildlife and densely populated forests of oil bearing Eucalyptus trees. Thus, it is commonly believed that the blue haze blanketing the mountains is created by the atmosphere whereby dispersed droplets of Eucalypt oil combine with dust particles and water vapor to scatter refracted rays of light which are largely blue in color.

Carrington Hotel Blue Mountains

In the parlor, the butler, with a candlestick. Love the old feel of the Carrington – the Blue Mountains oldest hotel.

Blue Mountains abseling

Learning to abseil today in the Blue Mountains. There are tons of great canyons and cliffs that you can dangle off if here! #newsouthwales

Canyoning blue mountains

My first time canyoning was chilly but oh so much fun. Its like a waterpark but no manufactured experiences here – this is the real thing! Sliding down rocks, slithering through crevaces, jumping into pools, all in a stunning lush narrow canyon. Blue Mountains Adventure Company runs tours for beginners to advanced. #Australia #newsouthwales

Blue Mountains

Tourist spotting in the Blue Mountains. All of the people tend to congregate at the lookouts, however I enjoyed hiking the trails on the ridge and below instead. Thats the quickest way to get rid of the looky-loos carrying selfie sticks!

Repelling a waterfall blue mountains

He said “Think like a guy – and just dont think.” And with that over the ledge of Empress Falls we went one by one. 80 ft repel with pounding water – I gave myself a pep talk the whole way down. When I landed in the waterfall and looked up from where I came thats when I could breathe in the pure joy.

Blue Mountains Kanangra Walls

I love lunch spots like this. It just reinforces why I left my corporate American cube. Bushwalking the Kanangra Walls trail in the Blue Mountains today.

Ireland’s Wild Atlantic Way Road Trip Guide, 1,600 Miles of Pure Beauty

April 12, 2015 by  

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Wild Atlantic Way Ireland

The Wild Atlantic Way Coastal Drive

Ireland’s Wild Atlantic Way takes on the status of one of the longest coastal drives in the world at 1,600 miles. It joins the ranks of other great coastal roads like Nova Scotia’s Cabot Trail, Big Sur, Maui’s Kaekili Highway, and South Africa’s Garden Route.

Drive down narrow one-lane roads to see secret beaches, towering cliffs, ancient stone architecture and more. This drive really does have it all; views, culture, and of course beer. The whole time I was driving along the Wild Atlantic Way I thought about the admiration I had for the Ireland Tourism Organization. Not many tourism offices would decide to take the smallest, single-lane, dangerous roads in the country and market them out to the world to come and drive on them! But thank goodness they did as that’s what really sets it apart from other coastal drives I’ve done.  It really does offer some driving thrills.

Here’s the nitty-gritty to help you plan a trip like mine for yourself with this Wild Atlantic Way Map and Route Guide providing answers to your frequently asked questions.

Wild Atlantic Way Map

1,600 Miles is a big area. Here’s an overview map so you can plan at a high level:

Wild Atlantice Way Map

The complete 1,600 miles of the Wild Atlantic Way is a lot to tackle in a car!

However, my best advice for a Wild Atlantic Way map is to use Google Maps for day-to-day driving directions. Or simply throw the map out and simply follow the Wild Atlantic Way Signs either North or South. There’s an abundance of signage to follow and if you get lost for a bit – who cares, it’s fun to get lost!

How Long Does it Take to Complete?

To do the entire Wild Atlantic Way would take a solid 2 ½ to 3 weeks hustling and not really stopping much. The distance of 1,600 miles is deceiving, because you have to take into account the state of the roads. They are small, narrow, and don’t allow you to get up any speed really. (unless you are a local!) These are not roads you can set your cruise control on and speed through. If you have 4 weeks do the whole thing and take your time – that’s the ideal situation. However, the reality for most people is that you only have 1 or 2 weeks, so I then suggest you pick one area and focus on it in depth. I personally really loved the Sheepshead and the Dingle Peninsula in County Kerry. I also really loved the Burren and County Donegal where it seemed even more rugged and the hiking was superb.

When is the Best Time of Year to Go?

Wild Atlantic Way Weather

Travel in October and you’ll be treated to Autumn colors.

Most people would tell you to go during the summer months – and if you ask the Irish they would say that September is ideal. However I went during October – a traditionally volatile weather month in Ireland (aren’t they all?) and I really loved how quiet it was. I also loved the moodiness of the weather from a photography standpoint. I much prefer the shoulder seasons to travel in – spring and fall would be ideal on the Wild Atlantic Way. However if you want to take advantage of all of the beautiful beaches along the way, then go in the summer.

Size Matters – What Kind of Car To Rent

This all depends on how daring and comfortable you are driving on small roads in foreign environments. Even though my rental company wanted to ‘do me a favor’ and upgrade me to a bigger car, I had no desire to be driving a big car on the WAW. I requested the smallest car they had since it was only me on the trip.

Wild Atlantic Way car rental

I preferred small and zippy for the little roads.

Be aware that most Americans want only automatic cars, so they go fast and you’ll need to specifically request an automatic when you rent the car else you may be grinding gears and struggling with a clutch for 1,600 miles! Before you go I recommend confirming the reservation for an automatic with your rental car company just to be sure.

I had two different rental cars I used (long story), both compact and strangely both red. One thing to take into account is there is an extra fee to drop the car at a different location than where you started. And, since many of the towns are small along the WAW, you have to be sure that there is an office in the village you want to drop it off at. Most airports along the WAW (even though they are small) have rental car drop-off facilities, but you’ll want to make sure of their opening hours as it’s a small operation and they aren’t 24 hrs.

Places to See Along the Wild Atlantic Way

Now – to the fun stuff! There are so many places to see you could spend your whole time outside of the car! So do a little research before you go and determine what you may want to see.
Check out my list of my favorite stops I made on Trover. A map is even provided to get you to each of these places!

What Gear Should You Pack for the Wild Atlantic Way?

Weather on the Wild Atlantic Way is completely unpredictable. Sun, rain, wind, sideways rain, and hail are all possibilities – all in the same day! My most used piece of clothing was by far my rain gear.

Bring a rain jacket and rain pants. Bring clothes to layer, and SmartWool socks that dry fast.

Exofficio rain gear ireland

Exofficio makes great bad weather travel gear. Quick drying, light, and durable!

On the tech side, bring multiple cameras/video as you’ll be salivating at the gorgeous views. A GoPro is also highly recommended for all of the driving shots!

It’s great to drive on the Wild Atlantic Way, but it’s even more fun to stop and really experience it from the cliffs and from the water! I kayaked, jumped off cliffs, and did a lot of hiking in all kinds of weather.  

Best Places to Stay On the Wild Atlantic Way

By far my favorite places to stay were the little family owned B&B’s along the way. It was at those little homes where I had the most fun and got the best local advice and tips. Plus, as a solo traveler it was a super way to socialize. The Irish are so kind and welcoming, and they love to show off their home. I never made reservations more than an day in advance, however I was traveling in October, an off season. If you are traveling during the summer, I suggest that you book ahead more than a few days in advance as the B&B’s are small and fill up fast.

Some of the owners did my laundry, let me borrow rain pants, went to dinner with me, took me to visit their family, and more. On the other hand, the hotels were nice, but they just couldn’t compete with the hospitality of the B&B’s along the way. 

What to Eat and Drink Along the Route

What to Eat and Drink on Ireland’s Wild Atlantic Way – a photo list by Sherry OttI spent a lot of time just going to local pubs and eating a lot of fish and chips, burgers, and seafood soup. However there were a few new things I tried too such as learning how to adore vinegar on fries. The more the better! I also of course had my share of Guinness and Murphy’s Irish Stout (the other Guinness).

Disclosure: A small part of my trip was supported by Failte Ireland, however all opinions are my own.

How Best To Explore Prince Edward Island

April 10, 2015 by  

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Things to do in PEI

Prince Edward Island may be small, but that doesn’t mean it’s boring! This island is packed with things to do and see, and the best way to tackle Prince Edward Island is by car.

You can easily cover the whole island and have plenty of time to stop and enjoy the myriad of things to do in PEI that are food and farming focused. It’s like following a bread crumb trail, just drive following the sign with the picture on it and soon you’ll be traversing the whole island. The island is split up in little sections like puzzle pieces each with a name and picture/mascot making it easy and fun for any child to follow the route. This is one of the things that makes PEI the perfect place for a short driving holiday as you can break it up into little manageable chunks and get to see a bit of everything and every type of landscape.

I took my parents there last summer and we were able to drive all of the scenic routes to some extent and see some of the main sights that appealed to us. But with a week of time, we really only scratched the surface of this experience rich island. There are so many things to do in PEI we barely scratched the surface, but that always gives us a reason to go back! Here were a few of our favorite stops and things to do along PEI’s scenic driving routes.

Points East Coastal Drive (Starfish)

Follow the starfish sign around the Points East Coastal Drive.  This was my favorite coastal route thanks to the colorful fishing villages, white sand beaches (they even sing!), and the beautiful PEI National Park and trails.

PEI Points East Coastal Drive

Follow the starfish sign for the Points East Coastal Drive!  My best starfish impersonation – how’d I do?

Things To Do

Don’t miss the Greenwich Dunelands Trail in PEI National Park.  It is really one of a kind as you walk on a flaoting boardwalk  over wetlands and end at the sand dunes and can spend the day on a secluded beach!

Greenwich Park Floating Board Walk hike

Greenwich Dunelands Trail

The little town of Souris is definitely worth a stop.  They have a boardwalk where you can enjoy the bay and the beach or simply stop for lunch and have a fresh lobster picnic by the water! Plus – it’s home to some yummy oysters – Colville Bay Oyster farm is nearby!

Things to do in PEI Souris

Souris Boardwalk

Stop at Basin Head Beach for some beach time AND be serenaded by the sand there!  I’m not kidding, the sand actually sings.

Things to do in PEI Basin Head Beach

Basin Head Beach where the the sand sings!

Stop at East Point Light House and climb to the top to see the awesome views from the easterly most point of PEI.  There’s a small admission price, but it’s one of the only lighthouses that you can actually go into and to the top!

things to do pei east point lighthouse

East Point Lighthouse

Get to the heart of what makes PEI unique – visit the little fishing villages of Bay Fortune and Annandale to see a slice of day to day life.  Colorful fishing huts built in rows line the harbors and if you are lucky you may even meet some fishermen out on their boat like we did!

Things to do in PEI driving routes

Annandale fishing village

Things to see in PEI

Historic one room school house near Fortune Bay

Green Gables Shore Drive (White House)

Follow the white house with green gables around the Green Gables Shore Drive.  Probably the most touristy drive on PEI thanks to the wild popularity of the Anne of Green Gables book series. On some points of the drive near Cavendish it sort of resembled the Wisconsin Dells to me, very family oriented and water park like. But for those who love the book, it’s worth a stop.  And if you want to avoid the tourist crowds – then just keep driving because there’s a ton to see along the drive!

PEI Green Gables Shore Drive Map

Follow the white house with green gables on the Green Gables Shore Drive.

Things to Do

Get hands on farming and cooking at Annie’s Table Cooking Class near New London.  Held in an old wooden church that has been redesigned as a large industrial kitchen  – book ahead and come hungry!  Annie will even take you out to gather your own veggies first at one of the nearby organic farms and then turn around and use those ingredients in your cooking class!

Things to do in PEI cooking class

Cook up a feast at Annies Table Cooking School!

laundry drying at the farm

Visit an organic farm as part of the cooking class

French River Fishing Village will add some color to your day.  This bright and cheery fishing village can be admired from afar along the route or enjoyed up close.

French River PEI

Colorful French River Fishing Village

Drive along the northern coast and beaches and be sure to stop at the Covehead Harbor Lighthouse.  You can’t miss it as it has a big Canadian flag painted on it!

Things to do in PEI lighthouse

Cove head lighthouse proudly displaying the Canadian flag

Red Sand Shores Drive (Red Seacliffs)

Follow the sign with red cliffs along the Red Sand Shores Drive.  This is the drive that starts it all as it includes the major point of entry onto PEI, the Confederation Bridge opened in 1997. Once off the bridge and deposited on the island you can catch the REd Sand Shores Drive where you’ll be greeted with rolling hills and lots of farmland.

Things to Do

The Confederation Bridge spans the Abegweit Passage of Northumberland Strait. It links Prince Edward Island with mainland New Brunswick, Canada and is 8 miles long.  Prior to 1997 the only way to get to the island was on a ferry.  You can stop on the New Brunswick side at a visitor center and learn more about the bridge that you’ll be crossing as well as have a great vantage point to take pictures.

Farm stands along the coastal drives have a small town feel – just take what you need and leave the money…they trust you in PEI!

Things to do in PEI

Self Serve veggie stations

Stop at Rocky Point Lighthouse and Picnic Area and you’ll be treated to a great view of Charlottetown and the star shaped harbor.  This is where big cruise ships come in and out so it’s a fun place to take a picnic and just enjoy the boat traffic!

Things to see in PEI

Rocky point lighthouse – stop for a picnic and a great view of Charlottetown

North Cape Coastal Drive (Lighthouse)

Follow the light house signs along the North Cape Coastal Drive.  The North Cape Drive is known for it’s Acadian culture. We spent the least amount of time on this route, but we were able to hit the Southern section until a massive storm descended upon us and rained out any views we had. The storm also drove us to find a great little café for shelter and fish & chips and a malt which were a highlight of the day! Even though we ran out of time I had originally hoped to get to the quirky roadside attractions of the bottle house and potato museum, however we sadly ran out of time to visit them.

 

Follow the lighthouse signs for the North Cape Coastal Drive!

Things to Do

Run through the meadow – you know you want to.  As we drove along this route it was filled with wildflowers and meadows.  However as you can tell – the ominous clouds are fast approaching!

PEI things to do

Meadowlands along the Points North Coastal Drive

Visit the Mount Carmel Historic Church.  We stumbled upon this  historic gem before the storm.  A beautiful cemetery and huge parish church of Mont Carmel that is definitely worth going into and learning about the architecture and Acadian history. Such a huge church for what is left of a small community of 650 people.

pei church and cemetery

Mount Carmel church and cemetery – full of architectural and island history.

CharlotteTown

Where the Red Sand, Green Gables, and Points East Coastal Drives converge and is the focal point of the Island when it comes to art and food and culture. Charlottetown is the capital city of PEI and home to universities and a beautiful harbor where cruise ships dock occasionally. I would suggest trying to avoid a cruise ship day if possible, if you are looking for the sleepy small town feel.

Things to Do

Confederation Centre of the Arts – Anne of Green Gables The Musical was showing for it’s 50th year. It’s dubbed the world’s longest running musical production.  It is an enduring classic told through elaborate sets, modern staging, and charming choreography. I was expecting a small town production, but what I got was Broadway caliber – I was blown away by the production and cast.  Plus – before the show go early and check out the Confederation Centre Museum full of great exhibits year around.

Confederation ARts Center PEI

Confederation Centre of the Arts – museums, Broadway caliber theater, and more

Province House National Historic Site is the birthplace of Confederation and the seat of Prince Edward Island’s provincial legislature since 1847, Province House National Historic Site stands as a landmark in Charlottetown.  Check the visitor center as throughout the summer they have live reenactments of the founding story of Canada – fun and educational.

Confederation Hall PEI

Founders Hall – where they do daily re-enactments of the Canada’s founding story.

Spend time walking around the town and enjoying it’s quaint feel.  Old wooden homes are still maintained and it seems like the whole town is a large flower garden with beautiful landscaping at every home and town corner.

Things to do in PEI Charlottetown

Charlottetown homes

Charlottetown PEI

Charlottetown is clearly loved – it’s pristine and filled with flowers on every corner!

Terre Rouge Bistro Marche is the ultimate in farm to table eating. You’ll be greeted by a cool, hip atmosphere and an inventive fresh, local-focused menu.

Things to do in PEI Charlottetown food

Fresh and local cured meats, cheeses is a great way to get a feel for the island food culture.

Now you have everything you need to explore the island.  Hop in the car and follow the signs!

 

Disclosure:  My trip was hosted by Prince Edward Island Tourism, however all opinions are my own.

 

All Things Deliciously Fried in Charlottetown

April 9, 2015 by  

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PEI food

The Fry Queen working hard on fry domination!

“I want fry domination, ” she stated with a determined smile. I like it when people dream big and Caron, otherwise known as the Charlottetown Fry Queen, had a big dream. I met Caron while on a Taste the Town food walking tour in Charlottetown and even though every place we stopped was wonderful and yummy, Caron was the person who stood out to me. She had passion, drive, and an entrepreneurial spirit – but most importantly she had fun.

“Who wants a free hug?” Caron yells out to the crowd enthusiastically. She’s upbeat and beautiful, of course people are lining up for free hugs even though she may smell like a giant French fry and has fry ‘goo’ on her black t-shirt! Her personality dominates the shack. She yells out to people while eating – she makes all the fries in the shack in a somewhat manic state, and always has a smile on her face. The Fry Queen knows how to work a crowd. I was so taken by her passion and enthusiasm that I knew I had to learn more about her fry domination plan.

I Have a Dream….

PEI Food

The tiny chip shack – it’s cozy!

I came back to the shack when she was finishing up for the day to get her whole fry history. She started the fry shack 4 years ago; however, she wasn’t always into fries. She grew up in Charlottetown but left at the age of 19, and didn’t think she’d ever come back. She traveled, had various careers around the world (yes I knew there was a reason I liked her beyond her fries), but eventually she had a desire to get back to her roots and spend time with her family. When she came back home, she had a dream – literally – a dream about her starting a chip shack. Ok – so Caron’s a little woo woo – but that’s what actually drew me to her. I like myself a little woo woo. She set out to make the dream a reality.

As we talked about her fry ‘story of origin’ she mentioned this phrase a number of times, “The universe takes care of you.” Prescribing to this mantra, she took the leap and she bought the shack and maxing out her credit. Even though her grandfather was a PEI potato farmer, she didn’t even know how to make fries or use a fryer. Determined to make her vision a reality, she locked herself inside her new fry shack for 4 hours with the fryers trying to make fries. Sadly, yet not surprisingly, she had no luck – her fries sucked.

Beer Solves Everything

Caron got over her discouragement and learned that one of her friends apprenticed with Bud the Spud in Halifax a while back. In exchange for a case of beer he offered to show her how to make great fry shack fries and be her fry Yoda.

“Do you want to try some?” she asked with a big grin.
“Absolutely!” I responded

PEI Potatoes Fries

Double fried golden goodness!

The fries start with PEI potatoes of course, and then are beautifully double fried to perfect crispiness. She serves them up plain or with her homemade aioli’s (garlic, spicy garlic, and cagen). She even has a gluten free line as well. It was reminiscent of the best Frites in Brussels to me as a savored every golden fried bite.

Caron won’t call her fries the ‘best on PEI’, she says it’s not for her to decide – the people have to decide that. Now it’s time for you to do your homework, go check out Caron’s fry shack and see for yourself – are they the best? And if you are lucky, you’ll get those fries with a side of aioli and a hug.

Disclosure: My trip was hosted by PEI tourism, however all opinions expressed here are my own.

An In-Depth Walk Through Cork Ireland

April 9, 2015 by  

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It’s a sunny, brisk day in a city that is new to me; the perfect day to grab my camera and go explore.  Fluffy clouds, blue skies, people out bustling around city center, a river bank, fall trees, it doesn’t get much better than this.

Walking Map Cork City Ireland

 

But wait…it does.  Cork City in Ireland has a series of self-guided walks around the city that will lead you through this picturesque town and it’s history.

Walking Map Cork City Ireland

Cork Ireland is a great walking city. The Shandon Walk, City Center Island Walk, University Walk, and South Parish Walk all start at Daunt’s Square and there are information panels and color coded signs (red walking man for Shandon Walk, orange walking man for City Center Island Walk, green walking man for University Walk, and blue walking man for South Parish Walk).

These signs are found along the way of each route to ensure you stay on track.  In addition, you can get a brochure and walking map to guide you.

I took the University Walk with a local friend and found lots of little gems I never would have otherwise knew about or found without the map.  We walked through little neighborhoods, stopped at museums, meandered through the University campus, stopped in riverside parks, and enjoyed the artistic graffiti along this route.  A perfect day for a photo walk.  Here were some of my favorite captures from the day.

Walking Map Cork City IrelandWalking Map Cork City Irelandgrafitti cork cityWalking Map Cork City IrelandRed abbey cork city irelandWalking Map Cork City Irelandgraffiti cork cityCork city universityWalking Map Cork City Ireland

 

The Renovated Algonquin Resort in St. Andrews By-the-Sea

March 31, 2015 by  

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algonquin new brunswick

 

St Andrews By-the-Sea is an idyllic maritime town in New Brunswick bolstered by the famous Algonquin Resort established in 1889. The moment you see the Algonquin in St. Andrews you’ll feel like you are in a time warp. I felt as if I had stepped right onto the set of Dirty Dancing, with this old style family resort feel complete with wrap around porch and a castle like appearance. This was one of the few remaining resorts owned and operated by the Canadian Pacific Railway shuttling tourists to their grand resort in the 1900’s. Having just undergone massive renovation, the resort looks better than ever, and is welcoming visitors into St. Andrews By-the Sea once again.

So once you arrive at Algonquin, next you’ll need to determine what things to do in the little town of St Andrews New Brunswick. Luckily I found a nice mix of relaxing and more adventurous activities to keep you busy during your stay.

Games at Algonquin

Most hotels have a lobby that is seldom used but for checking in and out. They are often beautifully designed, and untouched. But the Algonquin Resort is different – it had one of the most inviting and social lobbies and porch I had ever experienced.  Just wander around the lobby area and you’ll see families sitting around on couches playing games, reading books, and socializing. It felt like a giant family room and gave the entire resort a vibe of fun. Games were found on all of the coffee tables; scrabble, chess, checkers, cards, and more.

algonquin resort st andrews new brunswick

Games grace the coffee tables in the Algonquin Lobby

Algonquin st andrews new brunswick

The welcoming Algonquin lobby – take a seat!

More Information:  Algonquin Resort Website

Katy’s Cove

Have a beach day in some of Canada’s warmest saltwater swimming. Katy’s Cove, a supervised sandy beach ready for swimming, volleyball, sandcastles and summer fun, offers picturesque views of Passamaquoddy Bay. Cost to use the beach facilities is only $2 and it’s open from 10am to 6pm in the summer. It’s a great day out for the family, but on the day we visited it was a bit stormy – but still beautiful.

Katy's Cove st andrews new brunswick

Katy’s Cove a great swimming hole for the entire family!

Whale Watching

It’s a family affair at Island Quest Marine Whale Watching. Captain Chris comes from a long line of fishermen and grew up scalloping and lobstering. However he changed gears when he started to study boat building and decided to move the family business into tourism. He built his own boat that you’ll board and take out on the Bay of Fundy for whale watching.

The day we went out the tide was low when we left the docks in St. Andrews and the weather was really foggy. You could barely see the shoreline, but as the morning went on the fog burned off and whales revealed themselves, along with lighthouses, seabirds, and aquafarms. We spotted a number of humpback whales on our outing and we were thoroughly entertained by the crew who educated us on whales and other sea life. It was a great way to get out on the Bay of Fundy and by the time we got back to the dock the tide was higher and the whole waterfront looked different!

Whale Watching new brunswick

Setting out to see whales from the St. Andrews Pier. The Bay of Fundy tide is out as we leave on our excursion.

whales new brunswick

Spotting a humpback whale off the coast of St. Andrews

Kingsbrae Gardens

Add a dash of color to your stay by strolling through the Kingsbrae gardens. 27 acres of botanical paradise. Beautifully kept and landscaped, the gardens are bursting with color and bees with over 50,000 perennials and various themed gardens! In addition to wandering around the gardens, we also wandered back in the woods and met the latest artist in residence at Kingsbrae, Joe Palmer, a chainsaw artist who was in the middle of making some large and complex creations! It was fun to talk to him about his craft and see him at work.

kingsbrae garden st andrews

Kingsbrae Gardens

chainsaw art new brunswick

Joe Palmer – artist in residence. Creating art with a chainsaw.

Seafood Traditions

A short drive out of St. Andrews in the little town of Bethel you find the famous Ossie’s Fried Clams diner/truck stop. It’s been a staple in the area since 1958. We drove up to the white building parked the car, ordered a full meal of fried clams, scallops, and fish – plus milk shakes and got ready to stuff our faces. Sit at picnic tables and enjoy this basic yet historic experience of eating the best fried clams in the region! It’s absolutely worth it…and don’t skip the milk shakes!

Things to do in st andrews new brunswick

Ossies Fried Clams – an institution in Bethel

Ossies fried clams new brunswick

Delicious, crispy fried clams.

Fine Dining at Rossmount Inn

Known throughout the Maritimes for it’s creative market fresh cuisine and upscale yet small town atmosphere, the Rossmount Inn is a must stop for foodies. The menu changes daily depending on the local ingredients and harvest season for Chef Chris Aerni. The big yellow Victorian at the top of the hill was bustling the night we went to dinner. We dined on oyster shooters served in a shot glass, halibut ceviche with sweet potato, quick seared yellow fin tuna in hoisin glaze chia seed black peppercorn crust, and a carrot-ginger puree. Make sure you make reservations well in advance, as this is a popular stop in St. Andrews By-the-Sea.

food st andrews new brunswick

Oyster shooter

Rossmount Inn Restaurant

Halibut ceviche with sweet potato

Go for a Run

One of my favorite things to do in a town is to go running. It’s a great way to cover more ground than you can walking, but yet you are still going slow enough to take it all in. St. Andrews is a perfect little town to run around(it’s relatively flat!) and get to see a diverse set of sights in a simple little 5k. I started at the Algonquin and ran around the peninsula on Water Street.

It took me by the coastline at low tide, all muddy and foggy, and then it turned the corner around the peninsula and it took me into the heart of the colorful town. Cute little homes and neighborhoods, and eventually the business district of St. Andrews full of restaurants and shops. It was a great way to see the town wake up. And if you really love running, check out the unique Beat the Tide 10k or 5k where you actually run on the ocean floor before the tide comes back in!

things to do in St Andrews new brunswick

Run along the coast.

St Andrews New Brunswick

Water Street – the heart of St Andrews By-the-Sea

Porch Nightcap

After seeing all the sights, it’s a great time to sit and relax on the big open porch of the Algonquin and sip a martini. The bar, Braxtons, served up my favorite drink in the world; a gin martini with blue cheese stuffed olives. It was a great evening to sit out on the porch with my parents, sip a martini and watch the sun go down on this idyllic town.

Things to do in st andrews

Algonquin porch – grab a chair and relax with a drink.

Algonquin st andrews

Martini from Braxton’s

Disclosure: I was a guest of New Brunswick Tourism, however all opinions are my own.

 

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