Category: Family Travel Resources

Family Fun and Celebrity Sighting at Rissers Beach, Nova Scotia

Our walk near Rissers Beach, Nova Scotia

Our walk near Rissers Beach, Nova Scotia

Weather in Nova Scotia can be unpredictable, but this past weekend we lucked out!  We had planned a family trip to Rissers Beach area to stay in a family friend’s cottage.  It was a 3 bedroom, winterized cottage with views of the ocean and surrounded by farmland, walking trails (and this may sound creepy but…) a beautiful graveyard from the 1800’s.  We went with my husbands parents and his sister, her husband and their daughter.

In the evening before bed and early in the mornings, Nana and Papa took the girls for a walk to find deer and they spotted some each time.  They apples from the trees along the way and loved their time being wrapped up in blankets and carried on their little adventure.  Saturday was warm and sunny.  Warm enough that when we went to the beach, my little bug immediately wanted to get in the water.  She gleefully ran in and out of the waves as if she didn’t even notice that it was freezing cold water!  The first beach we went to was Crescent Beach with white sands that appear to go forever.  It is one of the few beaches in Nova Scotia that you are allowed to drive on.  A few cars were there, and a small plane flew by but didn’t land.  Later there were people horseback riding as well.  One of them looked exactly like Nicole Kidman, but I’ve googled this fact and can’t find any information that she may be visiting this weekend.

Not far down the road is Rissers Beach, with a campground that has sites right on the ocean.  Sites 21,22 are good ones, because they have trees for privacy but are also still on the ocean.  Washrooms are nearby.  In between beaches there are antique stores and a kayak adventure business.  Kayaking would be perfect for families with older children as there are many coves and islands nearby to explore.  A little futher down the road is Petite Riviere where we visited The Maritime Painted Saltbox which was a quaint barn housing paintings, folkart and furniture created by the owners of the property.  There is also a vineyard and a river for fishing in the area.  Green Bay is a road leading along the ocean again, with many cottages for rent.  It offers beautiful scenery and small sandy coves to sunbathe, swim and walk.  This is where we ran across local celebrities, ‘Ricki and Julien’ from the Trailor Park Boys television show and movies.  They were apparently there to celebrate a friends birthday that weekend, but this picturesque setting was far removed from the trailor park we see them in on T.V.!

Overall, I highly recommend this area of the province.  There is lots to do with the kids in nearby towns of Bridgewater and Lunenburg.  On the way home on Sunday, we took the Lahave Cable Ferry across the river and took the scenic lighthouse route back towards Lunenburg.  In October the leaves are brilliant colours of orange, yellow and red.  It is a great time of year if you enjoy hiking and outdoor activities.  Alternatively July and August would be great for a beach holiday.  If you want any more information about the area, feel free to post a comment!

Crescent Beach

Crescent Beach

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Open Farm Day in Nova Scotia

This past weekend, the government of Nova Scotia, Canada, hosted an event called Open Farm Day.

photo courtesy of Nova Scotia Agriculture website.

photo courtesy of Nova Scotia Agriculture website.

There were 52 farms across the province participating featuring all different types of farming and various activities planned at each site.  We chose to visit this one.

Farm: Sunni Knoll Farm
Type: Dairy
Host: van de Riet family
Civic Address: 234 Mill Village Road., Shubenacadie
County: Halifax East Hants
Directions: Take exit 10 from highway 102, come to 3 stop signs and turn right at each. Drive approximately 1 km down Mill Village Road until you reach civic number 234

There were lots of activities for the kids at Sunni Knoll Farm! It was a beautiful afternoon, bright sunny and not too hot, not too cold.   As we rounded the bend on approach to the farm, we were overlooking bright green pastures as two horses came bounding along pulling a wagon of laughing kids and parents up and down the rolling hills.  We parked and got out to meet our friends who had been there a few minutes.  A fellow Mom was quick to inform me that she wasn’t sure about the llama, but the farmer taking her around to the kids was worth a second look, so we headed in that direction first!  My daughter wasn’t so sure about petting the llama, but she really enjoyed saying the word over and over again.

Next we went to visit with a goat that a young girl was showing off to the guests.  We thought it must have been pretty cool to have your own goat, and she told us that she actually had 6 goats of her own (and was quite proud of that fact).  I had to make a quick escape from the goat because my ‘little bug’ became fascinated with its rear end and started trying to stick her finger there.  The other adults pretending not to notice as I quickly pulled her away.  Luckily the next area had a bottle of hand sanitizer for public use.

The cows were pretty exciting for all of the kids.  They fed them grass and moo’d back and forth.  The baby calves were also very sweet.  At 4pm they started to milk the cows and you could go in to watch the process.

The cows

The cows

I loved this whole experience but was a little disappointed with this because I thought we’d see a demonstration by hand.  I guess that is rarely done these days.  It was all done by machine.  I think the highlight for the kids was the display of antique tractors.  They got to sit on them and pretend to drive and none of them wanted to get off.  There were also chickens to visit and a really neat version of a sand box.  Instead of sand, the box was filled with dried corn (feed) and it had plenty of tractors and farm toys to use to dig around and play.There was some art for sale including traditional hooked rugs and painting exhibits and a BBQ provided by the local Shu-Mil 4-H Club as well.  The trails and the fields made for a beautiful place to take a stroll with some peace and quiet.

All and all it was one of the best afternoons we’ve had in a while.  I will definitely be taking our family to visit some more farms at next year’s event!  It has also inspired me to look into some more fall activities in Nova Scotia and I found a great website for U-pick farms and associated activites.  It lists farms in U.S., Canada and several other countries.  Check it out and let me know if you have any other suggestions for fun fall family outings!

Serious tractor driving going on!

Serious tractor driving going on!

The farm version of a sand box.

The farm version of a sand box.

Argentina: A Themed Staycation

A staycation (or stay-cation, or stacation) is a period of time in which an individual or family stays at home and relaxes at home.

As there are many families going through tough economic times right now, I thought it would be a good time to talk about Staycations.  Even if you can’t afford to go far during your vacation time this year, you can still take the opportunity to make it a fun time for your kids and add a little culture while you’re at it.  Recently, we hosted an Argentinian Wine Tasting Party and I thought why not extend this fun to the whole family and make a week out of it.  I love a theme, so I’ve come up with some ideas so that you can pretend you are visiting Argentina for the week.

Most important thing you need is food. Argentinians love their beef and barbecued meats so stock up.  This recipe for ‘Best Chimichurri Sauce’ was found in House and Home Magazine in August’08.  Chimichurri Sauce is an Argentinian condiment.  I served it with beef tenderloin, barbecued and then thinly sliced, placed on top of fresh bread slices and topped with this garlic and parsley condiment.  It was delicious and easy to make!

For best results, use a mini food processor to turn the aromatics into a paste.

3 large cloves garlic, peeled
2 shallots
1 bay leaf
2 tbsp red wine vinegar
1 tbsp lemon juice
1 tsp fresh thyme leaves ( or 1/2 dried)
1/2 tsp dried red pepper flakes
1/2 tsp salt
several grindings of black pepper
pinch sugar
2 cups flat-leaf parsley leaves ( gently pressed into measuring cup)
1/2 cup olive oil

1. Combine first 10 ingredients in mini food processor and puree to a paste.  Scrape into bowl.
2. Finely chop parsley in food processor.  Add to garlic mixture.
3. Stir in olive oil.  Chill at least one hour (or overnight) before serving with barbecued meats.

Next the family needs to learn to Tango! You can watch instructional videos on youtube such as this one:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=jMZDCk6dT6c&playnext_from=PL&feature=PlayList&p=072C38A00E96724B&playnext=1&index=18

Get some roses (real or plastic) for the kids to use as they tango around the room.  You can also find tango music to play on itunes by listening to the Latino radio stations or find music to purchase by typing Argentina tango in the search box.

Greet your kids each morning with ‘Ola Buenos dias’ and say ‘Gracias’ at every opportunity.  Encourage your kids to learn some new Spanish words.  You can find free Spanish lessons on-line at:

www.learnspanishtoday.com/

www.studyspanish.com/

Plan activities that you would normally do on vacation, but near your own home such as hiking, swimming or kayaking.  Before you go, you can watch some videos on Argentina so that you can imagine the scenery while you are there.

Youtube videos:

Ushuaia, Argentina- penguins-http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=dk-FIi0kSKY&feature=related

Buenos aries- http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=XYirXGk9ysI&feature=related

Patagonia- Argentina- http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=y0jlOF7Bci8

Iquazu waterfalls-http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=y0jlOF7Bci8

Other ideas:

  • organize a soccer game with friends and family
  • For young children give them a snorkel and mask in the bathtub to find the penguins and seals

Do you have any other ideas?  Post a comment and share!

Inexpensive Family Vacations

The website www.1001-vacation-ideas.com, recently published my story about our family vacation to Portugal.  I spend a lot of time planning vacations, and always try to get the most value for the least amount of money without compromising too much comfort or missing out on experiences.  This article shows how we went to Europe for $2500 Canadian (approximately $2000 U.S) and had a fabulous time.  Check it out!

Itinerary Series: Morocco

A journey to Morocco requires the following characteristics in a traveler:

1.  The ability to keep your wits about you as your mind is assaulted with a flurry of sensory experiences.  Fragrant odors wafting from every street vendor and spice market, constant commentary from the street tout that will follow you relentlessly throughout town and high pressure sales pitches to buy ‘beautiful carpets’.

2.  A willingness to change your itinerary at some point or multiple points during your trip as dictated by your bowels.

3.  An appreciation for the stillness that will come, after you’ve watched the sunset over a Saharan dune and are relaxing under the starry sky.

Morocco is a country rich in culture and culinary experiences, not to mention fascinating shopping adventures.  We traveled to Morocco in 2007 using the 2 week itinerary below but I will recommend a shorter duration when traveling with children.  The experience will be amazing but perhaps a bit intense for long periods of time.  If I return with my daughter, I would go to Marrakesh and stay in a hotel in the Ville Nouvelle or Hivernage area that has a swimming pool.  It is still close enough to the medina that you could walk or take a quick taxi ride in to see the snake charmers and performers at the  Djemaa-el-Fna.  At night the stalls sell all types of food, but some fun ones for kids to see would include the goats heads.  Marrakesh has lots of culture and educational experiences but it also has waterparks and camel rides to keep the kids happy.  After Marrakesh, I would fly to Ouarzazate and arrange a camel trek and overnight in a tented camp in the desert.

For those who are interested in a 2 week itinerary, here it is:

Day 1- International flights from North America, often arrive in Casablanca.  If you can get one to Fes directly, I would recommend it.
Rent a Car in Casablanca ( airport ).  Drive to Fes. Stay at Dar Roumana in the Qarmosa Suite.  Fes is an ancient labyrinth where you can enjoy getting lost as you walk past interesting stalls and shops.  There are some good restaurants and you can visit a tannery to see where they dye the leather. 

Day 2
Transfer to Batha Hotel in Fes.  (Dar Roumana was beautiful but booked the other 2 nights.  Batha Hotel was very basic but had a swimming pool and a better location for walking at night.) Spend your time getting lost in the medina, shopping along the way and sampling some food.

Day 3-6
Drive from Fes to Merzouga.  Pass through the middle Altas mountains, stop in Ifrane, a town that looks like it should be in Switzerlimg_0663_editedand.  Continue on to drive through beautiful palmeries until you reach the desert.  Stay at Kasbah Derkaoua for 2 nights and spend one night in bivouac under stars in desert after a camel trek to get there.

Day 6
Drive through Todra Gorge and do some hiking.  Stay overnight  outside Ouazarzate at Chez Talout.  The dining terrace overlooked a palmerie, riverbed and village which we enjoyed walking through the next day.  

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Day 7

Drive from Ouazarzate to Marrakesh
1 night at Riad Nejma Lounge (this riad was a bit far away from the main tourist areas but nice place to stay).  Shop, dine and be entertained at Djemaa El-Fna, wander the medina, visit medersas and view mosques.

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Day 8
Transfer to Jnane Mogador in Marrakesh 2 nights

Day 10
Atlas Mountains – hiking and camping ( this part of our trip had to be cancelled due to gastrointestinal upset)

Day 12-14

Drive to the Atlantic coast, visit the town of Essaouira.  Continue on to Oualidia and stay at Hotel-Restaurant L’initiale.  Relax on the beach and enjoy meals of fresh seafood served by locals on the beach or at nearby restaurants.

Day 14- Drive back to Casablanca for return flight home.

Introduction: Itinerary Series

Travel is ninety percent anticipation and ten percent recollection. – Edward Strecter.

This will be my first entry in a series of ‘Itineraries’ that I will share on my blog.  Over the years, I have spent countless hours researching destinations in order to create the perfect trip for my husband, friends or family.  It is always a lot of work, but one of my favorite parts of travel.  In theory, it would sometimes be nice to just hop on a plane and wait to see what treasures we will find and experiences we will have.  If I was planning a year to wander the world, I might actually consider this option.  In reality, we always have a limited supply of time and money, so I want to make sure we make the most out of what we have.  I don’t want to waste time, searching for a place to stay or backtracking because we missed a major landmark or a beautiful piece of scenery.  I also like to avoid tension on the road, when we take a wrong turn ( which will inevitably happen anyway and always still turns out to be a good experience in the long run).  I don’t want to exchange words with my husband when neither of us understand the subway system or how to find a taxi in a foreign land.  So… I plan.  I google, I read forums, I stake out the travel section at our local book store.  I don’t stop until I have maps memorized, found places to stay that will enhance our cultural experience without breaking the bank and figured out the easiest way to get from point A to B.  Now that we are traveling with a child, the planning becomes even more intense.   I make sure that we can take a stroller everywhere we need to go, that there will be places to stop for diaper changes, meals and naps, and that there will be activities that she will enjoy as much as we do.  Then I ensure that there will be a way for us to continue our holiday after she has gone to bed that night by indulging in some good food and a regional bottle of wine.

I love this part of travel, the anticipation and planning, but realize that many people do not.  For that reason, I am going to start a series, that will detail past itineraries and include recommendations for traveling with children.  These are meant to be used as a guide when planning your trip, however, please keep in mind that some details may have changed since the time of writing.  I always suggest booking in advance and where possible, I will provide website addresses to do so.  Enjoy!


 

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