Montreal to Fredericton is an eight hour drive. Quebec’s ice-scarred highway runs into the smooth double lane bliss of New Brunswick. My Mom and I listen to Dan Carlin’s Hardcore History, a thought-provoking three hour podcast about the decision to use nuclear weapons in World War II, which is more interesting than it sounds (especially after our recent visit to the Diefenbunker). It’s a smooth, uneventful drive east, although more and more snow appears on the hills that bracket the highway. New Brunswick, PEI and Nova Scotia got nailed with the worst winter in living memory. Everyone we meet tells us about it, shows us pictures, and is obviously relieved it is finally over. In Fredericton, I take my Mom to see the Dali masterpiece, and the Santiago el Grande delivers its magic. We pop into the Lunar Rogue, which offers over 300 whiskeys (described in a “bible” that defies description, see Gallery above), and I give a talk at the local Chapters. Onwards to Saint John, for a booksigning, polar bear dip, and a fascinating visit to the Jewish Historical Museum, and Moncton, where Magnetic Hill was closed due to snow. Without being able to see it, my Mom still doesn’t believe the car rolls uphill (it does). Our Moncton accommodation is in the new Sheraton Four Points, a welcome option if you’re visiting. Best line from a local in New Brunswick: “The Nova Scotia Tourism guys should give its annual award to the New Brunswick Highway Authority!” You simply won’t find better roads in the country, but the Bucket List has proven there are plenty of attractions in New Brunswick along the way.
There’s plenty of sea ice floating beneath the Confederation Bridge as we make our crossing on a crystal blue day, a welcome return the Gentle Island. Snow and rust-red earth had yet to turn Prince Edward Island’s countryside into the lush green hues I know from my summer visits. I’m reminded how different places look in different seasons. We head straight to the famous Water-Prince Corner Shop to feast on a lobster dinner, rejoicing that they’d opened for the season just the day before our arrival. I host a hilarious trivia night at my favourite pub The Churchill Arms, awarding prizes I’ve picked up along my journey, including a Voyageur scarf from Winter Carnaval in Quebec, Roughrider mittens from Saskatchewan and water bottles from Banff-Lake Louise. A book signing at the local Chapters, and blessed with a sunny day, I take my Mom to Prince Edward Island National Park, with the incredible Gulfshore Parkway practically deserted before tourism season kicks in. We gaze over the red cliffs at Orby Head, explore Cavendish, pop into the Dunes Gallery dusting off its wares after the long winter, and hear how the snow was piled up so high locals had to dig tunnels to their doorways. I also learn from my new friends at Bookmark on Queen Street that The Great Atlantic Canada Bucket List fills a niche, with nothing else on the shelves like it. I celebrate with a taster flight of a dozen brews from Gahan House.
Back across the Link, and now we’re in Nova Scotia, which instantly seems wilder and more untamed than the farmland of PEI. We roll into Halifax just in time to tape a segment with CTV’s Jayson Baxter at Garrison’s Brewery. It’s the second taster flight in 12 hours and not a pip of a complaint from me. Opposite the craft brewery is the grand Westin Nova Scotian, one of the original CPR Hotels with hallways bigger than highway tunnels. We drop our bags and head out for a lovely walk on the waterfront, locals in shorts and sandals already, on what we’re told is the first true day of spring. We’ve been bringing the weather with us, all the way from Vancouver. The next day, Ford gathers some of the city’s most dazzling lifestyle bloggers for me to wine and dine at the fabulous Ocean Stone Seaside Resort near Peggy’s Cove. We learn to shuck huge oysters, sip back sparkling pink Nova 7, and after a decadent lunch (lobster-stuffed chicken breast!) I give my final presentation about the importance of journeys. One of my key points is that a journey is only as important as the people you share it with. Illustrated beautifully by the afternoon’s visit to Peggy’s Cove and Lunenburg.
Last time I was here, the sky was muted, a dull grey failing to light up the wonder of these Nova Scotian marvels. This time, I’m with my Mom, the sun is shining, and she’s beaming on the rocks next to the iconic lighthouse, and exploring the grid streets of Lunenburg. The memorials of the Swissair Flight 111, which crashed near Peggy’s Cove with the cost of 229 lives, and the list of vessels and people that drowned off the coast of Nova Scotia, is a telling reminder to enjoy these special moments. Having spent 12 days with my Mom crossing the country, she has proved to be a friendly roadie, fun travelling companion, and proud promoter of the Canadian Bucket List. Not to mention a doting Mom. With two book signings in Halifax, a steady stream of people arrived to chat and talk about the book, having seen me on TV or my profile in the Halifax Chronicle. Many told me their own stories of exploring Canada, or ticking off their Bucket List.
A final hop to the Rock – St John’s Newfoundland, looking out over the port from our room at the Sheraton, exploring the jellybean houses the likes my Mom had never seen. We shopped for gifts on Duckworth and Water Street, had a delicious lunch at the Rooms, watched Irish music at Shamrock City (my Mom ordered tea in the Irish bar. I’m surprised the musicians didn’t fall off the stage). Hopes for an iceberg tour were dashed by poor weather, this being Canada’s windiest and foggiest city. The plane over was not fast enough to bring our weather system, for the teeth in St John’s icy wind cut right through us. I signed some books and that’s a wrap! We’d travelled 7500 kilometres promoting the joys and wonders of Canada, meeting t hundreds of peoples across a dozen events, not to mention in the many restaurants and activities we popped in along the way. The Great Canadian Bucket List sold out its 5th print run, and according to Amazon, we’re sold out the first batch of The Great Atlantic Canada Bucket List too. Don’t worry, more is on the way. As for my own Bucket List: I got to drive a Mustang, visit an urban castle, surf in a river, polar dip in the Bay of Fundy, and show my Mom some of the most incredible spots on Canada. Tick!