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Tuesday, July 29, 2014
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Published: Sunday, 7/30/2006

Limit your itinerary, boost your pleasure

It seems to us that some of the biggest mistakes travelers make these days involve packing.

As in uber-packing by taking so much stuff on the road that you end up having to chaperone your unwieldy belongings for the duration of a trip, leading to almost certain mega-frustration and a sore back.

It s also about over-packing in the sense of trying to cram too much territory into too little time and then racing from pillar to post just to fulfill the basic itinerary instead of taking time to smell the roses.

We ve made the same mistakes, of course. Many times. But once we really understood the problem and learned our lessons, we became proselytes for lite-packing.

Our recent trip to the Canadian Maritimes is an example.

At first we looked longingly (and quite seriously) at combining Nova Scotia with Newfoundland, and even a touch of Labrador. But when real time kilometers came face to face with a finite number of days, it became clear the concept was totally implausible and possibly even idiotic.

So we eliminated Newfoundland and Labrador from the list, saving them for another time, and concentrated instead on Nova Scotia, with a two-day excursion onto Prince Edward Island.

It worked out beautifully. And while we still only scratched the surface of these delightful destinations, our 15 days were a reasonable length of time for a good look at Maritime highlights.

We had time enough, for example, for a full four days of sightseeing in the lovely port city of Halifax with its impressive stone-walled fort, the Citadel, always ready, never attacked, never taken and charming Province House, Canada s oldest seat of government.

We had time to explore the waterfront of one of the world s great harbors second only in size to Sydney to have scrumptious lobster meals on the deck at Murphy s On The Water, visit Halifax s crown-jeweled, four-star Maritime Museum of the Atlantic, and take an amphibious Harbour Hopper cruise/tour of the city, as well as an instructional and highly entertaining architectural walking tour.

Our newly relaxed itinerary headed next to Cape Breton Island and the Cabot Trail. We stopped at a barn in the Margaree Valley for the ultimate in ceilidhs (Scottish knees-up) where Nova Scotia s most famous fiddler, 81-year-young Buddy MacMaster, arthritic fingers and all, played his way into our hearts with some worthy backing from younger local fiddlers, guitarists, and step dancers.

A couple of days later we ferried over to Prince Edward Island, where in the middle of bucolic farm country, we made the obligatory stop at the fabled house of Anne Shirley (of Green Gables) and at the home of her creator, Lucy Maud Montgomery. (Tip: Go early in the season and/or early in the day to avoid major crowds and to experience the best of this surprisingly charming site operated by Parks Canada).

As planned, our three-day visit to remote Brier Island was just long enough to not only out-wait one of the Bay of Fundy s infamous fogs but also to do a load of laundry, some serious cliff walking, and an afternoon of fabulous whale watching luxuries our original breakneck schedule would never have accommodated.

Then it was on to Cape Sable Island and the charming hospitality of sisters Christine and Heather of the Island Breeze B&B. They laid on a lobster boil in the backyard that had all the neighbors pitching in and then rounded up some local fishermen and lighthouse keepers to regale us with their brave-heart stories.

Other Cape Sable highlights: huge holding tanks where lobsters sleep in condos at 36 degrees for several weeks until the market is ready to receive them, and the workshops where the famous Cape Island fishing boats are built.

To cap it all off in a most appropriate way, we went to sea in one of those very boats on a foggy day and heard authentic fishermen s tales from the captain and his crew.



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