SpringHill Suites by Marriott Atlanta Airport Gateway

Day one. \240After a three hour drive to Atlanta, we’re now tucked away in our airport hotel, waiting for tomorrow’s flight to Toronto, then on to Halifax. \240Both kids went insane the second we walked into our hotel room, pent up energy finally finding a vent. \240Our hotel is the same one we stayed at when we went to Colombia, a year and a half ago. \240It’s nice as it lets us keep our truck parked at the hotel during our vacation, and it has a tram right outside that leads to the international terminal. \240

The rest of our group: Kevin, Barb, Forest, Heleen, and Mies will arrive in Halifax today. \240 Looking forward to meeting up with everyone in a different country once again, with different food different music, different smells; exposing our kids to the world, one country at a time.

Halifax Marriott Harbourfront Hotel

Day two. \240Travel from Atalanta to Toronto then to Halifax. \240 Atlanta-Toronto leg was pretty painless, upgraded seats on Delta helped with long legs and antsy kiddos; Bloody Marys helped the chi flow. \240 Toronto’s airport is weird and confusing, to us anyway, as the signs are not really helpful and the auto check in kiosks are prejudiced against non Canadian passports. \240That’s according to one helpful airport whisp that was floating near by. \240 Final leg to Halifax aboard WestJet was spent observing two older women, my seat mates, kick and squish their beloved cats, entombed in their pale purple mesh cages, under their seats, until the “sweet darlings” were completely and thoroughly fucked...err, safe and secure, muttering the entire trip, “never again”... \240

Halifax arrival and car rental accruement; nice and shiny with the new car smell Jetta, kids strapped and Google maps loaded...downtown Marriott inbound. \240

The place is nice, right on the harbor nice rooms and walking distance to all things beer and lobster. \240 Time is limited unfortunately and we hit up the first generic Halifax, “come eat lobster here Americans” restaurant... But you know what? It was good...very good, the lobster was fresh and big, and the meat oh so wonderful. \240

Ice cream on the short walk back, the Mint Cownadian was the best chocolate mint ice cream I’ve ever eaten... \240The bar in the hotel also makes a pretty damn good Old Fashioned...but, and here is a golden travel tip... If you want to drink said beverages in your hotel room, you can’t order at the hotel bar and carry those wonderful concoctions up your self...nope, the only way to drink a hotel bar drink in your hotel room is to request the help of room service foot soldiers to bring them up to you. \240Genius! \240

We’re off tomorrow on a 4 to 5 hour drive to Cape Breton to meet up with the rest of the clan. \240Halifax looks like fun, it tastes good... I’d like to see and eat more of Halifax sometime soon, but it’s not on the plan... for now the promise of music, beer, liquor, family, and oh yes.. lobster, await.

Cape Breton Island

Day three. This morning was beautiful in downtown Halifax, the sun was blinding over the bay but it was worth the pain to dumbly stare at the hot orb as it’s reflection slowly moved in the sky. \240Warm too for Halifax, by 7am the temps were in the 70’s and highs were going to be well into the 80’s; those are temps for the locals to be concerned about! \240Shorts? \240Where did I pack those shorts back in 86’?

We were packed and on the road by 10 am, headed north into Cape Breton and away from the oppressive heat!! \240The drive was nice but mainly we were driving in forests with occasional glimpses of the sea. \240 We stopped halfway through at a local bakery for a pit stop and some lunch. \240It was local and simple, old chairs and tables on a stained rug throughout the small dining room...but the food was honest and good and came with a friendly, and very happy hostess. \240 I had a steak sandwich on a recently homemade bun with a delectable au-jus that was so good I drank the remaining dregs straight from the small pitcher. \240Both kids had breakfast for lunch, French toast for Addie, also home made bread, and a waffle for the boy. \240Heather had a bowl of seafood chowder that was...you guessed it, homemade and fresh as you can get when you live on an island. \240

Two hours down and two to go, the driving is easy and actually pretty pleasant, when the two evil demons from the back seat are behaving and mindlessly sucked into iPad purgatory. \240 I’m kidding, they were truthfully being...somewhat good, I only lost my mind twice. \240

When we arrived at the house it was just what I wanted: secluded, exposed to nature, a small jaunty skip away from the beach, and big enough to accommodate the entire family. \240The ocean is the main focus, just about viewable from every window. \240The grass that surrounds the area is really an extension of the ocean, it moves and flows like the water, creating an illusion of sorts of what’s land and what’s water. \240In other words, the place is dramatic, and cool... and I like it here. \240

The afternoon was mainly spent by the ocean walking around the cliffs that border the beach and talking with the rest of the family. \240Plans are being made and details sorted...the nitty gritty of traveling with large numbers. \240But thank god we have more PhD’s on the trip then the average college... I think we’ll be ok. \240If we study hard.

Cape Breton Highlands National Park

Day four. The sun sets late and rises early here on Cape Breton Island. \2406am and the sun thinks it’s 9:30. \240So does James apparently, he’s triggered to rise at the point in time when we’re the most tired, or relaxed, or...something else. \240But after clambering up the bed and kneeing me in the groin for good measure, he actually fell back to sleep again...well good for him, I’m up. \240

Pancakes and black coffee, fruit salad and really good Dutch cheese. \240 Breakfast is on the large dining room table and the morning conversation is a mix of English and Dutch and toddler speak. \240Somehow we decided to drive a short way into Cape Breton National Park and take a hike, the resulting outing was awesome! \240The drive alone is worth doing over, maybe with a good dose of whiskey and about triple the speed. \240I’m just kidding of course...that would be irresponsible. \240But probably fun.

The hike was about 3 miles, not bad, and climaxed when we were just about blown off a cliff in 50 mph wind gusts. \240I’m not kidding of course. \240 We did the Skyline trail that is very popular apparently with parents of young children. \240The shear cliff faces and hurricane winds must be too tempting for parents to NOT bring their offspring. \240Some primal survival test must awaken within us that makes us experiment on our children to see if they’re fit for this world. \240Most make it...

Once you are at the top, you are rewarded with amazing views of the Gulf of St. Lawrence and the French Mountain...and 50 MPH gusts of freaking wind man...I mean major blowing going on. \240Wear a poncho at your own risk dumbass and sail away. \240 James being 3, had morphed into a koala and found some marsupial pouch I didn’t know about on Heather and waited it out; smart kid. \240

The hike down was like all hikes down...boring. \240James fell asleep and stayed asleep if Heather carried him. \240He’d awaken quickly and violently each time we tried to put him in my arms, bear cub sensing that papa bear might eat him I guess. \240No matter, Heather likes lifting toddler kettle balls on a mountain. \240

Car ride to ice cream, ice cream on car seats, home... \240rest... relaxation for like 10 minuets until we scramble back into our respective automobiles and scurry off to a nearby restaurant by the sea...they’re all by the sea, and order us up some lobster! \240

Lobster is done right in this country, they’re big and juicy and it’s a meal that you get to break things to eat. \240They give you tools to eat this crustacean; pliers and picks and big plastic bib, because nobody can cleanly eat a lobster; we’re all reduced to toddlers with this kind of meal. \240This particular boiled little screamer had a nice surprise of roe hidden under its shell...a nice creamy bonus of lobster caviar!

Some homemade blueberry pie came next and I decided I’d live here quite comfortably. \240Drove back to our house and capped the night with some 14 year old whiskey that was distilled about 20 miles away and I decided to sell our house back home. \240Who knew.... Canada!

467 5309 Rd, Grand Γ‰tang, NS B0E 1L0, Canada

Day five. The morning came with brilliant speed and strong winds that brought the smell of the ocean into our home. \240The open windows in our bedroom forced us to layer up with another blanket half way through the night, a welcomed inconvenience. \240 Smells of eggs and spinach, potatoes and strong coffee came from the kitchen where Forest has been cooking up a mad storm of breakfast quiches. \240God bless him. \240

Waiting the recommended 10 minutes after eating, I decided to go out for a run by the sea. \240There is a pot hole infused dirt road in front of our house that borders the ocean cliff; a fine place for a run. \240The wind was a training partner that I came to love and loathe. \240In one direction it’s a helpful coach, literally pushing you here and there when you need it, in the other direction it’s the hand of the devil pushing you backward and blowing dirt in your eyes, but I pushed out 3 1/2 miles under 7:30 per mile so that justified all the alcohol I would consume today. \240 We all wanted to do some more hiking in the Highlands, so.... we didn’t. \240 Instead we made it to the visitor center right before the park entrance to let the kids play around on the playground. \240We did do a “hike” sorta... more like walking really slowly beside a river for a mile up then back. \240We stopped at our turn around point by a section of the river that was small and slow moving so the kids could play on the rocks and sand. \240When does the adult stuff begin? \240Must be soon... \240

We heard that a local bar in the town of Cheticamp had some Cape Breton fiddlers playing this afternoon so we headed over to the small pub only to be told we couldn’t come inside...because we had kids. \240Apparently in Canada when the music starts playing the restaurant turns into a pub, and kids aren’t allowed. \240But the owner said with a wink that if we order some food and eat real slow then technically we would still be doing the restaurant thing and not the pub thing and it would be ok...but once we’re done eating that’s it. \240So we listened to about 30 minutes of really good fiddling before we had to leave...but really, once you’ve heard 30 minutes of world renowned fiddle music in the highlands of Cape Breton where children are taught to play the fiddle before they feed themselves who needs to hear more? \240

So home we went and home we stayed for the rest of the day. \240It was warm today, windy, and not a cloud in the sky. \240Addie got her chance to swim in the freezing ocean and the Adults finally getting their time to do adult things...napped. \240

Tomorrow we say goodbye to Cape Breton; time to move onward and northward toward the new land they found just a few years back. \240 They called it Newfoundland, because that makes so much sense.


Day six. It’s easy to rise with the sun when the sun smacks you in the face... \240I was grateful however as this was our last day in Cape Breton. \240The morning became busy and a little frantic as 6 adults dogging 3 children scoured the house for all belongings and tried to re organize our luggage. \240 Once we packed, ate, and caffeinated ourselves to sufficient levels we took the obligatory group photo and got on the road. \240The plan was to meander around the famous Cabot Trail that takes you through the Cape Breton Highlands National Park from one end to the other. \240The road borders the sea for most of the way and the views and driving were dramatic. \240

In most of the travel and guide books they say that July is the high tourist season and to expect crowds. \240Well if this is an example of Nova Scotia’s busy travel season then they either have no concept of “crowds” or our expectations of crowded is just ridiculous and an example of what we’ve become used to in the states with huge lines, bursting amusement parks, and claustrophobic beaches...I want to live here. \240

We drove for several hours stopping a few times to gawk at the beauty, and once to swim in the freezing waters of a beautiful cliff lined beach ( i didn’t swim...I’m too smart).

We arrived at the ferry terminal in Sydney and waited in a long line for a long time before we drove into the belly of the big ferry that would take us to Newfoundland. \240 It was a cruise ship circa 1984... \240it tried to be a nice experience for its travelers, it tried to have entertainment, it overall *tried* to be everything we wanted it to be. \240But, no matter how to you twist it, we were all sleeping in a 4 person coffin with nothing but the sounds of your neighbors and the unvarying drunk spinning kinda feeling from the rise and fall of the ocean waves the entire night. \240It was a 14 hour ferry ride, they had beer...thank God, it would be complete mutiny if they didn’t, and of course ridiculous overpriced, over cooked, re-used...(just hypothesizing here) food. \240But, after only 5 toddler breakdowns we made it into Newfoundland. \240The last 45 minutes of the journey was beautiful as the big ferry navigated through the channel with the rugged coastline on our flanks. \240The wind was unrelenting and managed to find any opening, no matter how small, into your clothes and to your skin. \240But none of that really mattered as we watched the approaching harbor get closer. \240We were in a new place, a rugged place with cold and wind and unsurpassable beauty, and...ready to get off this fucking boat.

Signal Hill National Historic Site

Day seven. The ferry purged us from it’s bowels at 10am and we were in Newfoundland. \240The juxtaposition of the cramped ferry and the wild desolate surroundings \240we found our selves in was not lost on me. \240From the colon to the forest floor, we were free... \240

We had an hour and a half drive to St. John’s, but our quandary was time as it most always is. \240We had 3 hours to kill before we were allowed to take up residence in our new dwelling, so after a brief meeting that we had no part in, it was decided we would spend that time looking at goats and smelling their shit...to the petting zoo we go! \240

To be fair it was also a huge produce farm and market of sorts, the goats along with the Emu’s, bunnies, Eeyore, ice cream, and sandboxes were all well thought out and designed to entrap us and rob us of all our pocket change. \240It worked. \240Thankfully they had carrots and eggs that we bought so we wouldn’t starve in the big city tonight. \240

Finally, being allowed to enter our rental we found the townhouse without issue and debated on who would get what bedroom and all the pros and cons of each option. \240We celebrated our accomplishment by walking to a little coffee shop nearby then to an over crowded park that must have been in the middle of some camp outing...I believe all the kids in this city were there, all being polite and nice to one another...it was unsettling. \240

Heather, James, and I escaped and drove up to Signal Hill, a national historic site that overlooks the surrounding bay and the city of St. John’s. \240 It was beautiful and of course windy as hell. \240James had been really struggling most of the day, he was cranky and irritable and frankly just a little unstable...reminded me of a 3 year old...humm. \240But he did enjoy the view I think, a really big red boat went through the the little harbor creating a perfect photograph and he said, “boat”.... \240 he was really excited. \240

To capitalize on his good mood we took him to a local brewery called Quidi Vidi. \240It was oh so tasty and beautifully snuggled in a small little harbor in St. John’s. \240James did us a huge favor and didn’t scream the entire time were there, letting us fully enjoy our craft beers and for a time, forget about all the struggles that come with traveling with a toddler. \240

From there we drove to a local grocery store that was beautiful. \240I’ve never written those words before but it’s true. \240It was big, somewhat out of place, and had all the goodness we were after. \240They even had a escalator for the grocery carts.... and I thought I’ve seen it all. \240

Home now, dinner was prepared, ( it was vegetarian....”what?” \240Meat is bad...) and James didn’t disappoint by preforming one last encore. \240He is now passed out from all of that work and dreaming of sabotage and mayhem, just like all boys his age. \240Tomorrow brings new things, and we’ll be first in line.

St. John's

Day eight. The old townhouse was in a great location, it was close to the waterfront, close to coffee shops, and close to a kids park with a pool, slides, and swings. \240It was pretty damn perfectly placed for us, but the insides reflected the house that the mad hatter probably lived in with Alice, Tweedle Dee, and the Queen at some point I think. \240The town house was tall and narrow, as town houses tend to be, it was old and redone several times; the latest attempt of uniqueness backfired is some ways however. \240 The basement, that is accessed by a dangerous spiral staircase has been christened a bedroom by its owner by simply putting a bed in a basement and calling in a bedroom. \240It also had a toilet with teeth...literally. \240The main floor was the communal living space with kitchen and living room. \240Middle floor was our bedroom that had its own living room and a bedroom with a spongy hospital like mattress that was not comfortable and probably not hygienic. \240Top floor had another bedroom and bath and same bed setup...so we didn’t really sleep well needless to say but sleep is for the rested and we have no time to rest. \240

First outing was to the Ocean Science Center that had a small tank of sea sponges and starfish that kids could pick up and torture. \240Most of the starfish were missing appendages that haven’t grown back yet. \240We also saw some seals that were learning the difference between white and gray... you know, because that’s an important seal skill. \240I personally think that they just wanted the fish and will do what the fuck ever to get it. \240

After all that fun, we headed to a little beach we read about called Middle Cove Beach, or better known as Middle Earth. \240I fully expected Gandoff to appear on the cliff above us on his horse and to fairy float down with his pipe. \240This place was cool... black pebble beach with jagged cliffs that went right to the water. \240Water was blue green like an iceberg because one just melted in it I think. The water was just slightly above freezing...nobody swam. \240But it was a fantastic place for a picnic and an opportunity to let the young wildlings run and roar. \240I attempted to fly my drone for the first time while on this trip here. \240For once the wind wasn’t hurricane force and I was NOT in a drone prohibiting environment...freaking national parks...but, stupid me did not charge my RC so I just threw it off one of the cliffs thinking it would somewhat sail down... \240

After all that relaxing crap, Forest, Heleen, and myself thought we would take a small hike that just so happens to start at a brewery. \240Heather, James, and I already visited it once so I was a regular by now and loved by all the staff. \240I showed Forest and Heleen around, introduced them to the hip hipsters, and we enjoyed ourselves a tasty beverage before our hike. \240 It was quick as hikes go, but beautiful as hikes should go... exposed for the most part on cliff sides and rock outcroppings, the wind was unrelenting. \240We ended up at the point of the inlet that led to the harbor and took in the view. \240Canada parks have started placing two red chairs in their national parks in certain places that offer a beautiful setting to sit down and relax for a bit. \240The idea started in Gros Morne National Park and has spread to others around the country. \240We found two and tried them out on our hike; they didn’t disappoint. \240

After arriving back at the house, Heather and I got all prettied up to head out on a date in St. Johns. \240A few days before we left on our trip, we both watched Anthony Bourdain’s travel show, “No Reservations”, where he featured a restaurant in St. John’s called Raymonds. \240He said in the show that it was one of the country’s top restaurants, and it was extremely difficult to get a table. \240For some reason I can’t explain we got one, a two seater at 9:30pm, the last one. \240

There are a few times in life where you have an experience that you really can’t do justice in explaining how it made you feel. \240It’s like when you take a photo of something beautiful, something unreal that you’re sure once you share it everyone will be instantly transported into your shoes and say...”Holy Shit!”. \240But it never really works that way; there are just things that have to be seen or felt or tasted to really understand the magnitude of the experience. \240Eating at Raymond’s was one of those times... \240We both had the 7 course tasting menu with wine pairing. \240The whole meal, from bar cocktails to the after dinner cappuccino was a story. \240Each morsel of food or drink came with a tale to tell; the manner in which it all was presented was an art form in itself. \240We left Raymonds knowing we wouldn’t eat like that for a very long time if ever again. \240

Walking back to the house was nice, the night was cool and we were both basking in the experience of the amazing food we had just eaten. \240All of that came to a stop however when we walked inside to find that James had decided to have a melt down in our absence, it was past midnight and nobody in the house was sleeping...

Petty Harbour-Maddox Cove

Day nine. We awoke early, not hard when your bed decides to eat you and your wife by sucking you down into the middle of it. \240We all gathered in the kitchen to pound some coffee before our whale watching adventure began. \240We drove about 20 minutes out of town to a little harbor with a well reviewed whale watching boat floating in the bay. \240We were welcomed aboard and all sat on the top observation deck; cold but excited. \240 \240The outfit was named O’Brian’s and they promised fun, puffins, and whales...what more could you ask for?

The weather was foggy and cold, the captain forewarned that the low level fog could make spotting the whales difficult but tried to sell us on the puffin thing to make up for it... \240So we slowly cruised by “Bird Island” and saw thousands upon thousands of birds, puffins, gulls, and a few other species of sea fowl all making a symphony of squawks and defacing the rock cliffs they were perched on. \240It was a very impressive site, and it was pretty cool to see hundreds of puffins all sitting outside of their little borrows on the side of the cliff. \240Watching them fly would be like watching a penguin successfully fly I think, it’s awkward and amusing all at the same time. \240

We left the bird paradise and went further out to sea, still somewhat enclosed in the large bay in search of water spouts as whales resurface to breath. \240Soon the captain spotted a few spouts close together not far off of our port side...(that’s left in captain speak). \240He ran on top to the bridge to control the boat better while maintaining a higher vantage point. \240He was getting excited you could tell as he called out the locations of the whales for all the passengers to find. \240Soon we easily saw three different spouts appear, all moving closer to us. \240The Captain informed us that we were watching three Fin whales approach; the second largest marine mammal in the sea with the Blue whale taking first. \240The Fins came closer, no doubt curious about the noisy humans and smelly boat that constantly roams the water. \240They spouted a few times and said goodbye, letting us all marvel at their size, mysticism, and our good fortune. \240

On the way back to the harbor I was screeched in along with Heather and Heleen. \240We became honorary Newfoundlanders by wearing a stupid hat, repeating something stupid, and drinking a shot of “screech” that is supposed to resemble some sort of rum. \240 I think the whole initiation is just so Newfoundlanders can make stupid Americans look stupider. \240But I got a hat out of it.

On to Petty Harbor for a seafood lunch where we ate Moose. \240Some of us ate Moose anyway, Moose is good...sorta like venison but a lot bigger. \240I personally ate moose stew with a big heaping bowl of lobster mac and cheese; comfort food for sure on these chilly July afternoons... I wonder what they eat in January, seal fat and whale blubber perhaps. \240

On the way home Forest and Heleen felt like they needed to hike off the 200 calories they ate during lunch so we dropped them off at a trail head nearby that apparently led them along some really breathtaking views. \240We have to take their word for it because they don’t take pictures of anything. \240We were tasked with kid wrangling for the evening as it was Barb and Kevin’s turn to experience Raymonds. \240

We took the kids to the park, that’s just what you do when you don’t know what else to do, but they don’t seem to mind. \240Addie swam in the pool, naturally, and James and Mies ran around like insane small people. \240All had fun...all the kids had fun. \240

Addie and I had a date; so we all headed home after prying little fingers away from slides to get ready. \240

Addie and I had dinner alone this time at a nice downtown restaurant called Travola. \240It was a tapas bar and slightly out of Addie’s norm for dinner fare, which was the point of taking her here. \240Addie is a amazing big sister, she’s a natural at appeasing James when he’s being hard to deal with, and because of this we, her parents, often call on her to help when nothing else is working. \240The toddler often rules the roust, so tonight was just me and her. \240Addie surprised me by ordering without any prompting from me a summer salad to start, followed by pan seared Cod with vegetables, a side of Gnocchi, and a side of truffle oil fries. \240We shared. \240Before we ordered dessert I talked her into trying a raw oyster for the first time...she did too, she ate one oyster prepared with a little lemon and some sea salt. \240She only had one, but she said it was “unusual” and “interesting”. \240Not bad considering I fully expected her to tell me it tasted like a huge snot ball going down her throat. \240That girl always surprises me. \240

After dinner Addie and I walked around the harbor for a bit wasting time before our haunted hike. \240 St. Johns is a very old city, the oldest in fact in all of North America. \240So with all of that history there are some ghost stories to be sure. \240Awhile back some local history buffs started taking people on a “haunted hike” at night, walking around the downtown area to different sites where murders and revenge crimes were thought to occur. \240The guide is dressed all in black and has a wooden staff adorned with a skull. \240This has become a popular thing with tourists and locals alike; tonight was proof as there were roughly 80 people in attendance. \240It was a fun hour and a half, being led around the town by this person in black; making traffic come to a halt while 80 people suddenly streamed by coming out of some dark alleyway. \240Addie really enjoyed it and loved retelling the stories to everyone back home. \240 It was a fun ending to a great stay in St. Johns. \240I hope to return to this little seaside city in the future; I could see spending a lot of time here.


Day ten. We woke up and started packing for the long road trip across Newfoundland to Gros Morne National Park. \240Originally, we had planned to spend one more night in St. John’s and to do the 8 hour drive in one go. \240But word was a tropical storm was on its way and pretty soon St. John’s would be swathed in rain and wind. \240So the new plan was to leave today and only drive half way to a town called Gander to spend the night. \240Forest and Heleen were worried about Mies being in the car for so long I guess, and the other point was the weather, what would we do in the rain all day besides stay cooped up together in that wonderland house? \240I’ll tell you, bars...pubs...drinking holes...St. John’s is famous for the pub scene. \240

Regardless, we did as we were told and we left the city headed west. \240About an hour in we found out that the storm had missed St. John’s all together and instead settled in the middle of the island, more precisely, the middle of us. \240 So we drove in the pouring rain for several hours until we reached Gander and the Comfort Inn, our accommodations for the night. \240Hotels are great fun for children. \240The elevators, the hallways, the ice machines, the double beds...all a playground mecca for the young, and a hellish, headache inducing prison for the old. \240

Luckily for us there was restaurant next door that was the top reviewed eatery in Gander...it was also the only place in Gander to eat dinner so we headed over. \240James poured ice water in his hotdogs and fries, Heather hated her scallops that were bathed in some weird cream sauce, ( I had the same thing as Heather and didn’t mind the cream pudding). \240Addie had Cod tongues...yeah, Cod tongues. \240She actually saw Cod tongues on the menu and said, “I’ll have that!” \240Good on her too, she’s a hell of a little traveler. \240 Anyway, that meal sucked. \240So back to the Comfort Inn we go where I have a bottle of 14 year old whiskey waiting for me. \240

Gros Morne National Park

Day eleven. The drive to Gros Morne was a lot better than the drive to Gander. \240The sun was out doing its job; the storm had moved north and out of our concerns. \240We did the 4 hour drive in fairly good time with only one pit stop along the way. \240

We drove into Gros Morne and followed a narrow road along a huge inlet that flanked several small towns and villages. \240Our rental for the next two nights was in the township of Woody point, nicely situated above the harbor with views that were simply amazing. \240Walking out on the covered back porch was a pleasure each time you did it. \240 The water below and the cliff walls that came to its edge were as postcard perfect as you could ask for. \240The rest of the house was very nice, probably the nicest of all of our rentals so far. \240It was a wood cabin with plenty of space for us all, nice bathrooms, and a very functional kitchen. \240The house also had a viewing room, high on the top floor there was a small room with floor to ceiling windows in all directions that allowed us to soak up the views when the wind was a little too much on \240the porch. \240I could have lived in that room, watching the boats and birds and clouds and the sun, then moon. \240

This house was also the perfect location to deploy my drone. \240I probably flew my drone further than ever before. \240I had perfect line of sight with nothing but open space to fly in. \240Up and down the inlet I flew, I hovered over kayakers and took a great photo of an older couple on a small cliff next to a lighthouse that I didn’t even know about until later as I looked at the photos. \240They were smiling for the photo too...

We all agreed that we wished we had more time here in Gros Morne. \240Our shortest stay in the most beautiful area just doesn’t make sense to me...oh well, next time.

Woody Point

Day twelve. James found our bed at some point in the night...I thought we confused him well enough before he went to bed by telling him our bed was really Kevin and Barb’s...smart kid; I think he can sense Heather’s aura or something. \240

Coffee on the porch: \240Holy shit what a place for coffee on the porch. \240I could walk out that back door with coffee every morning for next 60 years and it would never get old or boring. \240So we did the breakfast thing and the indecisive thing and the debating thing until someone..... until someone came up with the plan to go hike on the Tablelands. \240Sounds pretty cool I thought, hiking on the tablelands sorta implies dramatic vistas with high altitude and condors soaring around your head. \240Well I had a different country in mind apparently because this hike was full of migrating tourists that came by the bus load; all equipped with huge backpacks and the ever important trekking poles! \240So they don’t suddenly tip over I guess. \240James was being his toddler self and refusing to go an inch unless he was carried by Heather. \240She was developing some impressive arms I’ve noticed. \240The trail was ehhh... and the destination was umm.... but the overall setting was cool and different. \240The looming mountains were borrowed from Mars and we all learned we were looking at an exposed portion of the Earth’s mantle. \240So that was neat. \240

Heather threw in the towel after about an hour of James’s dead weight and went back to the car with Barb. \240Addie stayed behind and learned about the Pitcher plant; a carnivorous plant that kills it’s prey by digesting them in acid that is kept in their pitcher like leaves... nasty. \240I followed the trail to it’s end and sat on the bench that was my reward for doing so. \240

Back at the cars we drove to the little bay of Trout River to dine at a very good, we were told, seafood restaurant. \240We were told correctly as it turned out, I had Newfoundland cakes; a crab cake like dish with cod instead of crab. \240They REALLY like Cod here, it being in their diet since...well since forever. \240But it was delicious and it came with a bowl of pea soup...yummy!! \240

From here we split up the group with Barb coming with us. \240James needed a nap and nothing makes him nap better then a curvy bouncy road, so we decided we would drive over to Norris Point, about an hour away and see what it had to offer. \240

Not much... but we did get gas and Heather and the kids DID tour a small aquarium actually; the kids liked it. \240I stayed out of the aquarium and walked along the rocky shores being artsy and creative with my camera. \240

At the last minute Heather and Barb took the kids back to Woody point via a water taxi. \240The hour long drive it took to get here, took them 10 minuets by boat to get back to Woody point. \240I drove the car home alone, stopping when I wanted to to take pictures. \240The quite car was weird and unsettling for a few seconds...then it was marvelous. \240

Home for the night now, more view soaking up, more whiskey soaking up, bath time for kids, and nightie night we go.

Green Gardens Trail

Day thirteen.The morning was beautiful, coffee out on the porch is a gift from the airbnb gods. \240It is our last day here in Gros Morne, we have a ferry to catch late tonight that’s about a 4 hours drive away. \240So we wanted to fill in the time with as much as we could. \240Heleen suggested that Heather and I hike the Green Gardens trail alone, while the rest of the group check out the park’s Discovery center and then play at one of the local beaches for a time. \240We accepted. \240

The hike was a 6 miler round trip; so we packed a half a bottle of water and a banana and set off. \240To start the hike Heleen dropped us off at the trail head so they could use our car while we were gone for kid transport logistics. \240The beginning of the trail is very exposed on a rocky hill face that slowly winds you up to the top. \240Once there, it’s a slow decline into a very thick forested area with \240a lot of wooden steps needing repair. \240We were beginning to become skeptical about this hike and wondered if we made a mistake by not choosing a different one. \240

Soon the thick trees and underbrush opened up a bit giving us a glimpse of the sea and the craggy, dramatic coast line below. \240The trail then took us out of the woods and into a prairie of sorts...the grass was long but not overgrown due to the sheep that were roaming around. \240We had not expected sheep on the trail, but there they were, about two dozen some with lambs, all baaaaaing about as sheep do. \240It looked staged to the cynical hiker. \240This was just about as perfect of a landscape as you could ask for. \240The black cliffs merging with the black sand, the green grass in all it’s shades matching the blue of the sky just right; the off white of the lamb’s wool as it grazed next to a patch of wild purple lillies; all mixed to created a scene that was truly beautiful. \240And the best part...the part that made it all so wonderful, was for a time Heather and I were the only humans on this cliff prairie. \240

We explored the area like two children, each twist of the trail a new discovery of beauty. \240 The cliffs were perfect observation platforms to view down the coast side and provide that little kick of thrill each time you stepped to the edge. \240The crashing of waves, the gulls with their calls, even the sheep, all played together creating nature’s version of Beethoven’s symphony #3 in E flat...

Ahh, but all good must come to an end, and our time on the cliffs of the Green Gardens was up. \240So back through the dense underbrush, back UP the steps in bad condition, back DOWN the rocky trail to the road parking lot to wait for Heleen to pick up back up; which she did, precisely at 3:00pm.

We rendezvoused with the rest of the family in the little fishing town of Trout River still in the park and prepared for the 4 1/2 hour drive to Port Aux Basques to catch the midnight ferry to Nova Scotia. \240

Traveling with kids just means that you’re gonna stop, and stop often...it’s a given. \240Traveling with a group of 9, three of which are kids, 2 of which are *little* kids means you’ll be lucky to accomplish 50 miles in 2 hours. \240 Two cars trying to stay together in unfamiliar roads with funny numbers on signs is tricky...add crying, whining, fighting to the mix, throw in some hair pulling for good measure and brief moments of insanity and it’s a small miracle that we didn’t end up upside down in a ditch. \240 After one such stretch, we pulled off the road at the only restaurant Google had in its brain that was nestled inside a gas station, and apparently the only “restaurant” in the area. \240 When we walked in the small, cramped, busy I’ll admit but probably because there wasn’t another choice, dining room the place literally went quiet. \240We just discovered Newfoundland’s deliverance... \240

These people were related, you could tell...and not in the normal, “ you’re my sister I’m your brother” kinda related... more like “you’re my sister and my grandma and I’m your cousin and your uncle”. \240The “waitress” looked at us and sorta sneered, said something like “good luck” and scurried back into the dark recesses of what I presumed to be their kitchen. \240

So naturally everyone in our group is just tickled pink to be eating here and settled down in some tables that were free of people, but not free of the last 7 meals it looked like still sitting on plates and dirty napkins, with dirty forks still wet and shiny from something...all this mess just collecting flies and not a concern, not at all... to the friendly “waitresses” that were still casting looks of severe annoyance in our direction. \240The two young kids in our group, and with good reason I’ll add, picked this time to start making a lot of noise. \240James just wasn’t happy, he could sense I think, the deviant thoughts of child eating ogres, ogling his veal like shanks. \240I was not having it... \240Heather quickly took James and left, motherhood instincts in full bloom, and went back to the relative safely of our car. \240I told the rest of the group that we’re not eating here, because I enjoy my health, and left as well. \240Thank God they listened and agreed, otherwise I don’t think we would of left. \240That place had to have been a portal to the twilight zone. \240

The remaining drive was beautiful, the landscape turned desolate and dramatic. \240This part of Newfoundland is very sparse, not much here except amazing mountain ranges that when hit with the setting sun, glow gold and green. \240When we arrived in Port Aux Basques we found a simple seaside restaurant that catered to the ferry crowd. \240It was nice, because they mainly wanted us there and were normal. \240The food wasn’t bad either. \240After eating we drove a short distance to the ferry terminal and prepared to wait forever until we were allowed to board like last time. \240Thankfully that wasn’t the case, soon after we cued up we were told to drive aboard the ferry. \240We unloaded our bags and found our small, cozy, windowless cabin and settled in for the overnight ferry ride. \240Addie wasn’t satisfied yet until she explored the ship, we had to find the snack bar, the observation deck, and the gift shop before she was ready for bed. \240

The night was hot and stuffy in our small room; but it was our small room, we had privacy and our own space and the kids slept soundly.

2 Jones St, Baddeck, NS B0E 1B0, Canada

Day fourteen.The ferry provided a pleasant wake up call promptly at 6am, by alerting us with nautical tones on the speaker system with no volume control in our room... in my fitful sleep my initial thought of abandon ship was quickly replaced with thank god this is about over. \240

We pulled into Sydney at 7am and slowly purged ourselves from the ferry, following the long line of cars out off the little port town into Nova Scotia. \240The plan was to distance ourselves from the busy restaurants and gas stations that surround the ferry terminal and find someplace quieter along the way towards Halifax, about a 4 hour drive away. \240

We did find that spot in Baddeck; a small lake side town that had a beautiful harbor and quaint little restaurants and mom and pop bed and breakfast joints sprinkled about. \240We all settled down in such a place with the morning fog slowly lifting around us as we ate a delicious breakfast on a wide covered porch that belonged to *lovely* little Inn. \240In reality the hostess wanted to segregate our toddler infused group to the chilly, still damp, outside deck so we wouldn’t disturb the other guests... No matter, it was the better option anyway and one we were all glad for. \240 Afterwards we walked down to the harbor where there were many sailboats tethered in the bay and ample room for the kids to get out their energy. \240We also spotted a huge, beautiful double masted sail boat that was at port with lots of people milling about it. \240We discovered it was the famous “Bluenose II”, the “sailing ambassador of Nova Scotia”. \240The Bluenose II sails around the world for the most part with a crew of 23 full time sailors. \240Today we were lucky enough to catch them here in Baddeck, a stop for them during their summer sailing schedule. \240They open up the top deck for anyone wanting to see first hand what a classically trimmed sailing vessel looks like. \240It was beautiful and shiny, the deck just recently washed and all the brass just polished. \240We spoke to a few crew members who were scattered about answering questions for people. \240Like, how in the hell does anyone get so lucky to call this a job? \240The crew are mostly young 20ish folks who still have freedom in their lives, that committed to a six month stay aboard the Bluenose. \240The crew is then run by 6 officers and one captain as they sail around Nova Scotia and other far away ports spreading the nostalgic image of their beautiful ship wherever they go. \240It made me a bit jealous I have to admit, sailing has always been something I’ve wanted to do. \240So I pulled Addie aside and tried to plant as many seeds in her head about doing something like this when she’s a bit older... \240I’ll live vicariously through her.

When we finished drooling and wishing about future sailing adventures...that may of just been me... we loaded back up in our caravan of two and drove the rest of the way to Halifax.

For the last night we found another airbnb, an apartment near other apartments that could easily accommodate us all. \240So the ensuing debate of room selection and dinner options commenced, for one last time...

I’ll just say here that my suggestion of staying at the harbor front Marriott, that had next to it the boardwalk, the restaurants, the view, the all things I thought we would enjoy on our very last night here...was rejected unanimously in favor of this apartment in the apartment district of Halifax next to nothing... \240but hey, I’m just along for the ride and need to keep my mouth shut and drive the car! \240

Ok, the Marriott *was* very expensive...but I’m very easily able to rationalize such things while on vacation, especially when it’s our last night. \240

Anyway... \240to celebrate our last night in Nova Scotia, we got pizza take out and ate it in the apartment. \240 \240Ok... so everyone, including me was tired...the kids were bordering on mutiny and if we did drag them out for one last hoorah they probably would of suffered a complete breakdown and made us all, and the rest of the restaurant, miserable. \240So, it was probably a good decision to stay in...damnit. \240At least we had one more night’s worth of 14 year old whisky.

Toronto Pearson International Airport

Day fifteen. The bed had no sheets, just a fitted covering and a scratchy blanket...the blanket probably a welcome nighttime commodity in winter. \240It was July...

So no real sleep, again... hot, humid, uncomfortable bed...James. \240We dragged ourselves out of bed and began the tedious chore of packing one final time; we go home today. \240

Vacations are a mixture of emotions, experiences, challenges, and rewards. \240Traveling with a large family and small children carries its own special category of all those things. \240Today, at this moment, I was happy to be headed home. \240

We washed one last load of clothes, herded the scatterings of clothes, toys, and shoes into our bags again and extinguished any signs of our stay in this apartment. \240Barb and Kevin were the first to depart, we said our goodbyes and hugs all around and watched them drive off to the airport; leaving us, Forest, Heleen, and Mies. \240

We had a few hours to kill and had to be out of the house soon so we all went to a park nearby to let the kids play. \240James had a close call here; \240he’s become interested in trying to stalk then capture birds lately. \240If he sees a bird in the near vicinity he will start his predatory advance until the bird flies away, followed by him chasing it as far as he can. \240He went after a bird at this park that is pretty close to several roads...he spotted his target, and off he went. \240The bird, either very wise or very stupid, sought refuge in the street. \240James was going for it, Heather of course wasn’t far behind and in a few long strides scooped James up just as his little feet were about to cross off the sidewalk. \240Toddlers.... no sleep for the wicked. \240

After the near brush of toddler frogger...(that’s a game where you are a frog and you try to cross a busy street)...(clever), we grabbed some nearby pizza because nobody was tired of pizza, then said our goodbyes to the Netherlands contingent of our group. \240

We returned our trusty rental car at the airport and proceeded to do the airport shuffle in Halifax, Toronto, then finally Atlanta; finishing the already long day of travel with a 3 hour drive to our home. \240We arrived at 2am eastern standard time...about 3am our body time. \240But we were home, our home, our bed...sheets on the bed too...our pillows, our dogs happy to see us. \240

Travel these days is so damn frustrating, the lines, the security, the price gauging...(talking airports here), \240it’s a challenge no doubt, similar in ways to running a marathon. \240It’s exciting at first, followed by the thrill of your exertion; pushing yourself because you know you got this...then comes the what the fuck have I done? and WHY?? \240 \240But then comes the reward of getting to your destination, the excitement of a new country, and of all the things your about to see and do. \240And when you come home you get that afterglow of having done something pretty awesome, of having seen things and tasted things, and shared things with people who you love and who love you. \240An accumulation of combined experiences that somehow become tempered into one strong memory, and the planning for the next adventure begins.