Friday, 28 June 2013

Sailing with Marine Atlantic on the M.V. Highlanders

by Keith and Heather Nicol  
    We ended our epic 4 province wine tasting trip by taking the M. V. Highlanders on Thursday, June 20 from North Sydney to Port aux Basques. All we need to do now is visit some Newfoundland wineries to complete our tour. The day was sunny and warm in North Sydney and the forecast was for light winds so we were looking forward to spending a day on the water. We pulled out right on schedule at 11:45 am and many people were on deck taking videos and pictures of our departure. We had never sailed on the M.V. Highlanders since it has been a fairly recent addition to the Marine Atlantic fleet.  This ferry is big- close to 200 meters long and it can hold upwards of 1000 passengers. The ferry has several seating areas with large television screens as well as 2 locations for eating on our trip.  The Barista is perfect for a quick snack like coffee and a sandwich and the MET offered a sit down meal with a variety of selections on the menu. On our trip you could get full dinners of braised beef, cod and even Thai curried vegetables. They also have a gift store, children’s play area and an area with computers with an internet connection so you can check your email or tomorrow’s weather forecast. Many locations in the ship have wireless internet access so you can also use your computer from your seat.  The ferry also has 96 cabins which are heavily used on the night crossings. 
The M.V. Highlanders is bright and well appointed
       Since the weather was good we spent quite abit of time on the deck 10 which has lots of bench style seating and a safe comfortable cushioned foam for walking on. We read our books and enjoyed the sun and fresh air for several hours on deck. Be sure to bring lots of sun screen if you plan to be outside since the white paint surrounding the back deck reflects lots of sunshine! We arrived in Port aux Basques around 5:45 pm and it was quite something to see the captain swing the rear of large ship around to dock it for offloading. We really enjoyed our smooth crossing of the Cabot Strait on the M. V. Highlanders and recommend heading for deck 10 if you have good weather. For more information on Marine Atlantic see:
The top deck was a popular place for pictures as we arrived in Port aux Basques

Thursday, 27 June 2013

"Two" kicks off the Gros Morne Theatre Festival in fine style!

by Keith and Heather Nicol
      Every year we look forward to attending the Gros Morne Theatre Festival in Cow Head since we like the emphasis on music and plays that deal with topics that Newfoundlanders can relate to. On our first night we saw “Two” by Jim Cartwright and it is set in a pub in Northern England. True to its name, “Two” has just 2 actors but they play over a dozen roles from the landlord and landlady of the pub to various customers that come in over the course of the evening. First we meet the owners of the pub and Jennifer Furlong and Stuart Simpson do a very good job of being the smiling owners of the bar who know everyone by name. But appearances are deceiving and through the night they constantly bicker suggesting a deeper problem with their relationship. The customers range from an elderly caregiver escaping for a quick drink to a couple more interested in watching the “tele” and eating crisps than socializing with other bar patrons. There is a very good scene involving an abusive boyfriend and his cowering girlfriend as well as one customer who has eyes for any woman in the pub. We were impressed with how good these young actors performed, seamlessly changing roles ranging from a young child to an elderly patron. The set is comprised of a bar and several tables and the actors do a fine job serving imaginary pints of beer and cleaning up imaginary glasses off the tables. TNL’s artistic director Jeff Pitcher told us that “Neddy’s Pub and Eatery” at the Shallow Bay Motel is Cow Head’s equivalent and so anyone feeling like a pint after the show only needs to walk a few paces from the theatre to the bar next door.  For more information on TNL’s Gros Morne Theatre Festival schedule or to book tickets to a show see- or call 1-877-243-2899. 
Jennifer Furlong and Stuart Simpson star in "Two" (photo - Johnny Cann)

     If you like to sit and relax, watching the waves roll in and the sun setting (and who doesn’t), then keep an eye for carefully placed Muskoka chairs throughout the park. These chairs are also known as Adirondack chairs and there are now 18 of them scattered around Gros Morne National Park in scenic locations. We have only found a few of them so far but for visitors to Cow Head area here are 3 that we have discovered. A great location for viewing the ocean and with distant views of Western Brook Gorge can be found at UTM 21 0437726 E 5520313 N at the end of the 0.5 km Steve’s Trail accessed by the Broom Point parking lot. Here you can watch the waves roll in and there is an extensive sand beach for walking. If geology is more your thing then the chair located at UTM 21 0430450 E 5503759 N which faces the low cliffs at Green Point is ideal. The rocks at Green Point display a world class geological boundary between the Cambrian-Ordovician eras. Lastly one of our favourites is accessed by the Coastal Trail from the Baker’s Brook Parking lot. Walk a few hundred meters along Baker’s Brook to the ocean and there is the chair facing the shoreline with views to the Lookout Hills in the distance.  The chair location is UTM 21 0430630 E 5501001 N. If readers come across other chairs that they recommend leave their location in the comments section below.
The Muskoka chair at Steve's Trail is in a meadow overlooking the ocean
       If you happen to be staying in Rocky Harbour or Norris Point or at Berry Hill or Green Point campgrounds and would like to access public transport to get yourself to a Gros Morne Theatre Festival production at Cow Head, contact the Festival Box Office 1-877-243-2899 no later than 2 pm on performance day to arrange transportation via the Shuttle Bus.

Wednesday, 26 June 2013

Sampling Wineries in Nova Scotia

 by Keith and Heather Nicol
     Our final province in our winery tour was Nova Scotia and we decided to check out Jost Winery located at Malagash just off Highway 6 on Nova Scotia’s north shore. This is the largest and oldest winery in Atlantic Canada according to wine maker Chris Frey. It was started in 1983 and they now produce 43 wines that come from 60 acres under vine. He told us that their biggest seller is Terra Rosa but that their new Tidal Bay white has been getting lots of acclaim. “Another popular wine is 4 Skins, a red wine that has been featured on the Jay Leno show” Chris added. He also told us that he is trying to “international “ their wines. “We want to freshen the white wines by making them crisper and more aromatic and we want to “dry” our red wines abit “he told us while he gave us a tour of the vineyard. Another bonus of visiting Jost Winery is that their tours are free. They are open all year around but tours run from June 15-Sept 15. For more information contact: 
Chris Frey is the award winning new winemaker at Jost Winery
The harbour at Beddeck is very scenic

     From Malagash we drove to Cape Breton enroute to North Sydney and the Newfoundland ferry. We love the community of Baddeck and decided to stay there so that we could enjoy the sunny weather by the water. We arrived at the Inverary Resort ( where we checked in before taking some time to explore the waterfront before supper. We drove a short distance to the marina and boardwalk with benches and snapped some pictures of the sailboats in the harbor. The next day after a huge breakfast in the Inverary Resort dining room  we set off for North Sydney and the 11:45 am sailing to Newfoundland. Overall we had visited 17 wineries in the past couple of weeks in Ontario, Quebec, New Brunswick and Nova Scotia and we realized that we had to return to Nova Scotia to better sample the wines of the Annapolis Valley which we didn’t have time to visit on this trip. 
Inverary Resort is great historic property in Baddeck


Tuesday, 25 June 2013

Sampling Wineries in New Brunswick- Part 2

by Keith and Heather Nicol    
    We started part 2 of our New Brunswick winery tour at Magnetic Hill Winery ( located on the outskirts of Moncton, New Brunswick. Here Janet and Jeff Everett have a great location overlooking the city and they have been restoring a 1867 house at the same time that they have been developing their winery. Virtually all of their wines are fruit wines from fruit that is either grown on their property or within a short distance from Moncton. They opened in 2005 and now have 14 wines. Janet told us that they are probably best known for their rhubarb wines and that they had just finished picking 5200 lbs of rhubarb for their next batch!  Janet also told us that they have been developing their dessert wines and a new one involves putting chocolate covered quinoa in a sweet maple wine.  “We are always looking for different experiences in wines and we also have “apple pie in a bottle” – a delicious combination of pear, apple and spices. It is one of our most popular dessert wines” she told us. One of their latest projects has been to add 2 rooms to their restored house to create a heritage style bed and breakfast. Our comfortable room had a large attached bathroom and breakfast consisted scrumptious waffles with fresh fruit. Moncton is a great place to spend a few days since it has 2 national parks in close proximity as well as lots to do locally including a large zoo, new casino, many kilometers of walking trails, a huge water park and of course Magnetic Hill. See for more information on Moncton.
Janet Everett at the tasting bar

The winery and bed and breakfast are in a 1867 restored house!

      The next day (Wednesday June 19) we visited Belliveau Orchards ( which produces 12 fruit wines. We met the owner Robert Brougeois who told us they have been operating since 1999. He said that their pear wine had won many awards and that their wild blueberry wine was probably their most popular . “Many of our fruit wines are dry since I always like to produce a wine that people can drink eat with their meal.” Robert added. He told us that they are now selling to the New Brunswick liquor stores and that their sales had gone way up. Belliveau Orchards also sells fruit juice and apples and other produce in season.     
Belliveau Orchard produces 12 fruit wines

Monday, 24 June 2013

Exploring the Florenceville Hartland area of New Brunswick

by Keith and Heather Nicol
Learn about the potato at Potato World

When we travel we like to stay at new places and explore new landscapes. As we headed into New Brunswick from our wine sampling tour of Quebec we decided to change the theme and swap wine for potatoes for a day. So what better place to do this than Florenceville-Bristol located in East Central New Brunswick just off the Trans Canada Highway. The Tannaghtyn Bed and Breakfast ( had come highly recommended and it turned out to be one of the best Bed and Breakfast locations we have ever stayed in. It didn’t hurt that the weather was stellar for our arrival-billowing cumulus clouds surrounded by a deep blue sky. The 4 star Tannaghtyn Bed and Breakfast is positioned on a large lot overlooking the St. John River and we sat in the B and B’s colourful Muskoka chairs drinking in the vista of river, forest and field. Our huge bedroom faced both the river and back garden and was very well appointed. If you find yourself in this part of New Brunswick, make a point at staying at Tannaghtyn Bed and Breakfast.

Tannaghtyn Bed and Breakfast has an amazing setting
Covered Bridge Potato Chip Factory offers fresh chips
Tannaghtyn owner Ruth Giberson told us that the next day we should visit the local art gallery and the potato museum. “You know we are the French fry capitol of the world”. Also Reader’s Digest  has named this community as one of the 10 places that every Canadian should visit this year! Potato World ( is well worth a visit to learn about the potato and its place in New Brunswick and specifically the Florenceville -Bristol area. Tammy Fowler, our guide, told us that 1 in 3 french fries served every day in the world are from a McCain’s plant and that many are produced right here at the plant in Florenceville.  We also visited the Andrew and Laura McCain Art Gallery
( and enjoyed a wide selection of locally produced art. Still on the potato theme we visited the Covered Bridge Potato Chip Factory ( ) in nearby Hartland, home of the world’s longest covered bridge. All too often people whiz by this part of New Brunswick on the Trans Canada Highway but you can easily spend a day here exploring. For more information on New Brunswick tourism see:   
Hartland has the longest covered bridge in the world