Between hiking on earth’s mantle and road-tripping the world’s famous Cabot Trail to cozying up inside an Eco Pod, I’m not at all surprised to be a month behind on posting.
They say time flies when you’re having fun and so it must be the case! Because time is flying.
Here’s what we’ve been up to and where we’re heading to next.
Days 43-44 of Van Life: Small-Town Newfoundland
Monday-Tuesday, Sept. 25-26
I last left off at Norris Point, a small town nestled in a bay on Newfoundland’s west coast.
It’s the start of a new week and we’re excited to get to work at the town’s only coffee house: The Old Store Cafe. It’s rainy and gray (and not to mention, cold), so we stick to our work plans and hunker down inside. That night, we drove back to our wild camp spot and I took Yoda out on an evening stroll by the water before settling inside for the night.
We’re the first to show up at the coffee house the next morning. Each time we visit we feel a little more at ease and at home. We stay through lunch and enjoy a homemade turkey-cranberry panini. I gladly welcome the fall-inspired flavors.
It was our last morning in Norris Point and at the cafe, but before we packed up and left, a nice local man and former high school teacher sits down and begins to ask about us. Clearly we weren’t from around these parts. Both the barista and the man are listening in on our story now and they both ask to follow our travels, so I write down my URL on a little note. (Hello if you’re reading this!) After lunch, we had to do the weekly deed of filling and emptying our van’s tanks. Each time we get faster and better at it.
We do a full semi-circle drive around the bay to reach the other side, a town we visited just last week. We are going back so that we can visit The Tablelands whenever the weather clears up.
Days 45-47: Bonne Bay/Woody Point
Wednesday-Friday, Sept. 27-29
It’s our first morning at Woody Point/Bonne Bay. It’s rainy and cold, so we find the only cafe/shelter there is around. For 2-3 days straight, we work in the morning at the Galliot Studies/Cafe. That means hot chocolates everyday and grilled cheese on Friday. It’s super quiet, we are the only clients apart from a few lost tourists and friendly locals with their dogs.
Friday night is finally here and we head to the town’s pub. We walk in and find a group of rowdy locals jamming to live Celtic music under cozy lights surrounded in fall decor.
I ordered the freshest fish and chips and Paul got a hamburger. At the end of our meal, since I had lots of fries leftover, I asked to have a few parcels of parchment paper (on which the meal was served) to go (to wrap the food and take home).
Both Paul and I thought this was clear, but the kind lady comes back with 5 or 6 pieces of parchment paper and lays them neatly on the table. We wait another 10 minutes for the food to come back, but it never did! I then leaned over and whispered to Paul, “I think, I think, she thought I only wanted the paper and not the food with it…” We burst out laughing because, indeed, she didn’t catch on that I wanted to take the food home!
Day 48: A Luxurious Stay in the Woods
Saturday, Sept. 28
We had parked at the edge of the water in front of The Tablelands, huge red-earthed mountains exposing earth’s mantle. Outside our window, I notice a gigantic bird – sitting alone in the gravel. I noticed him the night before when we pulled up, so apparently he stayed there all night.
It was a Gannet – the largest North Atlantic bird. I postpone breakfast and hop out to get close and take photos. He looked like he was hurt, and wasn’t bothered by me. After I got back in the van he took off, struggling at first but soaring high there afterward.
Today is Saturday and our goal for the morning is to go hiking on The Tablelands. The road and parking lot are completely empty. We start our hiking on the Tablelands Trail, bringing Yoda with us on-leash so he could get some exercise. The views were just breathtaking – and to think what we were walking on what was once under the ocean is insane!
For Paul’s birthday, I gifted him a stay in an Airbnb. And not any ordinary Airbnb, but an “Eco Pod” owned by a famous Canadian actor, who mounted this project in his small hometown of Burlington, Newfoundland, in order to bring a sustainable micro-economy and tourism to the area.
We drove north to Burlington after our hike, stopping at Deer Lake for lunch, fuel, and groceries for the evening in the cabin.
Our stay at the eco pod, which was minimalist and remote, included cozying up in front of our wood-fire stove, reading under the drizzling sky, grilled salmon steaks, and of course, a much-welcomed hot shower after going 9 days without one.
Day 49: A Moss-Covered Wonderland
Sunday, Sept. 29
Our lovely stay at the Eco Pod soon came to an end. We checked out, drove to nearby Middle Arm (another small town) and then headed back to Burlington to finish off the morning with a hike to the Limestone Caves under the rain.
It started drizzling as we headed down the trail path. Completely remote, our biggest concern was meeting wildlife. But despite being alone and despite the increasingly heavy rain, we trekked on through a moss-covered wonderland.
It pained Paul to have to tell me more than several times to “Come on!” as I kept stopping to check out the surroundings.
The ground was soft and plush from the thick moss. Every step squeezed out a liter of water, soaking our shoes to the sole. We continued up the path, curious as to what awaited us. We could only hear our tired out breathing as we hurried to beat the rain to the caves.
The trail suddenly stops and peers off down the cliffside. Ropes are attached to the trees to assist with the hike down. To go down we had to grapple down backward as if we were rock climbing. The limestone caves were a small 15-foot cave with not much to see. We stayed but 2 minutes before mustering the strength to climb back up the slippery mountain.
That night we drove back 3-4 hours down to Cornerbrook, a big town. There, we stayed two nights parked in front of Wal-Mart and Staples.
Days 50-51: Start of Week 8 in the Van
Monday, Sept. 30
The last day of September! Nothing exciting today as it’s the start of the week, so back to work! Worked at Tim Horton’s. We did our laundry and ate lunch. Then we went to other Tim’s and parked outside for the afternoon to work from inside the van. And then slept at Staples.
Tuesday, October 1
The first day of October! Worked at Tim’s in the morning, then went to a bookstore in the mall and worked at McDonald’s on the hill with a nice, fall-colored view of Cornerbrook for the afternoon. We took off after work and drove to Port-aux-Basques to take the ferry the next morning.
Day 52: Ahoy Nova Scotia!
Wednesday, Oct. 2
We work from the van in the morning until the time came to board the ferry to leave Newfoundland and go back to Nova Scotia. Once on the ferry, we try to work at the front of the ship to get a nice view. But I possibly couldn’t as I quickly felt seasick and decided to just rest. For lunch, we had sweet potato fries and soup, our way of distracting ourselves from the rocking waves.
The loud music over the speakers played Celtic music from a Newfoundland band called The Fables (look them up!). We spent the rest of the 6-hour ferry ride reading and napping in big comfy chairs, this time in the middle of the ferry where it rocked less.
We land back in Nova Scotia, two weeks after we left, and slept in a nearby park in North Sydney.
Days 53-54: A Long-Awaited Arrival
Thursday, Oct. 3
We woke up and drove straight to the UPS store to pick up packages for my blog/online business The Fluffy Kitty – packages we had been expecting for weeks now but could never get a hold of.
Then we went to Starbucks in Sydney and worked there. Went to Wal-Mart to do our oil change and have lunch. And then we worked in front of Wal-Mart on the McDonald’s wifi but from inside the van. We slept in Wal-Mart parking for the first night.
Lots of going back and forth to places finding wifi for work – as you can see!
Friday, Oct. 4
Went back to Starbucks in the morning. For lunch, we went to a nearby campground to empty the tank and fill our water (it was rainy, and I got to pet a cute ginger cat). Filled up propane at Canadian Tire and then came back and parked at Wal-Mart worked from inside the McDonald’s this time.
Friday night we celebrated our birthdays together at a chain restaurant called Montanas.
We sat at the bar and had a lime margarita and an organic beer and shared spin dip (our favorite). I got a firey Cheeto chicken sandwich while Paul got a burger. We stole the wifi and binge-watched and finished Jane the Virgin series from our van. Slept at Wal-Mart.
Days 55-56: The World-Famous Cabot Trail!
Saturday, Oct. 5
Took off to the Cabot Trail! The Cabot Trail is praised as one of the world’s most scenic drives.
We began our road-trip at Ingonish and the visitor’s center, stopping along the way to take in the magnificent views. Checked out the Keltic Lodge and then hiked up Broad Cove Mountain.
While hiking, we met an older couple and triathlete who showed us their wild moose footage from the Skyline Trail. In the video, the enormous male moose was groaning at the female moose who was laying on the grass. She wasn’t having it, and got up and ran away. This would later come to affect us (keep reading).
After our hike, we drove onward to small New Harbor where they had a lighthouse and a comfort station next to the fire department where we could take a shower for only 2 loonies (Canadian dollars).
Sunday, Oct. 6
Freshened up at comfort station and had breakfast on the road at this roadside store, fresh blueberry muffins, and tea.
Drove around the Cabot Trail stopping at viewpoints, etc, and finally reached the Skyline Trail around lunch.
Hiked 2-3 hours and packed a tuna lunch. The trail was super busy and partially closed due to an aggressive moose (yes – most likely the same moose that didn’t get what he wanted the other day if you know what I mean!)
The Skyline Trail is indeed an incredibly beautiful hike. There’s an ongoing re-forestry project to bring back Boreal forests (turns out the moose are killing everything).
After our road trip loop around the Cabot Trail, it was time to say goodbye to Nova Scotia. We drove several hours onward all the way to Moncton, New Brunswick, leaving Nova Scotia behind.
Our goal is to speed-up our road trip so that we can make it to Vancouver before it gets too cold and snowy to drive or stay in the van.
Day 57: The Start of Week 9! And It Sucks
Monday, Oct. 7
Week 9 was one of those weeks in life where everything seems to go wrong. Especially today.
We start our day in downtown Moncton. First, we struggle (and argue) to find parking because parking in the city with an 18-foot vehicle sucks.
And weirdly, very weirdly, a red car pulls up in the lot and out steps Jordan – the Operations Manager at Red Rock Adventure, the outdoor kayaking with whom I partnered for my blog at the start of our van life travels in New Brunswick.
Our moods lift because of the strange yet familiar encounter, but only for a short time. We struggle to find an ATM to pay for the parking, and long story short, we end up at the Starbucks in downtown. The barista gets our entire order wrong. Whatever, we brush it off. But just for the record, Earl Grey tea DOES NOT replace English Breakfast. Ever.
Next, Paul asks a couple nearby for a chair. The guy, jokingly, says no. But unbeknownst to him, Paul hates these types of jokes. So Paul goes red and we ended up arguing about that too.
Then, after months and months of creating a side brand and business under my blog Fluffy Kitty, I discover a girl on Instagram won’t “let go” of the username for my brand (her account had been inactive for 16 months!), because she “eventually” wants to develop a line of products under the same name. So this obviously puts me in a sour mood and I rushed to apply for protection of the brand.
What next? Did I mention the weather was cold and rainy?
After a messy meltdown, and a lunch break, and some consoling, we finally tried to put the day behind us.
But it wasn’t over yet!
While driving down the highway, under the pouring rain in the pitch-black dark, our window wipers decided to literally bend backward and stop working. So we pull over and Paul, with my phone light, is trying to see what’s wrong. We get one to start working again – and luckily it’s the driver’s side.
We end up at the back of a gas station beside the highway that night to sleep, just plain exhausted from a weird day.
Days 58-60: Comment ça va? Pas pire, pas pire.
Tuesday, Oct. 9
In the morning we tried to shake off the previous day and head into Fredericton, the capital of New Brunswick.
We spent the day working on our laptops and meet a friendly guy named Ken who was interested in hearing about the van while sharing some stories of his own.
That night we drive outside of the capital to a campground at the Mactaquac Provincial Park – a huge campsite and park decorated with fall colors. We needed to charge Van Rouge’s batteries again, to make sure we could use the furnace for the coming colder days.
Wednesday, Oct. 9
Shower day! We brace the freezing, dewy cold outside of the van to shower in the semi-heated washrooms. The air is so cold that even the hot water can’t warm us fully.
The sun comes out and lights ablaze the colorful trees and more importantly, warms up the van. We go to work at Starbucks, where funnily enough, we meet Ken again from the previous day.
In the afternoon we move location and work somewhere else and then take off toward Edmunston, but first stopping and sleeping over at Grand Falls – a quaint town named after its large cascading falls.
Thursday, Oct. 10
Before we carry on toward Edmunston, we go through the town to witness the falls. A man salutes us “Namaste” and tells us we’re in the most sacred location of the entire east of North America.
As we near the New Brunswick/Quebec border, the Quebecois French-Canadian accent becomes especially heavy and nearly incomprehensible – even for Paul the Frenchman!
We arrive in Edmunston and it reeks from the nearby paper mill, but it remains cute nonetheless with its old cafes and the local church.
Our window wipers are still broken, so we search everywhere for wiper linkage bushings and find them luckily at Carquest.
The afternoon we work at a fancy Mcdonald’s in a weird place by the highway. Local seniors pile in for dinner, so we go next door to have our own dinner at a nearby fast-food Thai joint. Both Paul and I slurped down a huge bowl of wonton soup, but it wasn’t enough to clear my headache.
Day 61: An Un-fur-tunate Copycat
Friday, Oct. 11
We start the day fresh in downtown Edmunston, starting with taking pictures of the beautiful fall scenery. We work that morning at Cafe Lotus, a vegan hippie-style cafe.
I have another meltdown because I find someone who has copied our Fluffy Kitty name and blog, despite us owning copyright ownership since its creating back in 2015. I sent an email to the copycat with no luck, just confrontation. To press the issue further, I’d have to seek out legal action.
We go to lunch at Pur & Simple to raise our spirits. We drive an hour 1/2 to a tiny town to do our laundry, another chip in the day that seriously stunts our work. We would set the washer timer for 30 minutes, drive to a nearby Tim Hortons to work from the van, then go back up the hill once the timer went off. Then we set the drying timer and repeated the same cycle until finally we were done and had a fresh bag of clothes.
That night we work at a Tim Hortons until dusk, but I can hardly muster any productivity. This week has drained my creativity and sucked out all inspiration. To get it back, I’d struggle for the following days to find a speck of hope among the rubble of my crushed spirit.
That night we drove the other hour and 1/2 to Quebec City, following the St. Laurent river. Once there, we slept at a Wal-Mart outside the center with a dozen other RVs.
On the way, our beauty Van Rouge passed 100,000 miles!
Days 62-63: Quebec City!
Saturday, Oct. 12
Today we’re exploring Vieux Quebec – the Old Quebec that looks like Europe. And it truly does!
The French-style buildings and shops along the Rue du Petit Champlain (Samuel Champlain being the Frenchman who discovered Quebec City in 1604) really give you the impression that you were picked up and dropped in Europe, despite being in North America!
We started our walking tour through Vieux Quebec from this street, winding all the way up to Chateau Frontenac and on around the Fortifications.
We ate at the cutest Quebecois restaurant and had wine or beer on the house, Grandma’s pea soup, an entree with nut-smothered turkey and three-mustard pork (Paul), with a complimentary dessert of pumpkin pie and maple syrup pie.
When Paul and I exited the restaurant, an older Asian lady quickly intervened, “Was it good?” to which Paul replied gently, “Very good.”
No sooner did the lady shout to her friend across the street a jumble of rapid-firing words with the recognizable “very good” in the middle.
Her outburst – and unwavering trust in Paul’s opinion of the food – had both Paul and me bent over in infectious laughter.
We spent the better portion of the day going in and out of the shops and sights of Old Quebec.
Come evening, we excitedly made our way to the movie theatre to watch Ad Astra with Bradd Pitt. (Quite a disappointing movie). We tiredly headed back to the van and went to sleep at the Wal-Mart for the convenience of having wi-fi and toilets!
Sunday, Oct. 13
We start our morning near the city at the Parc de la Plage-Jacques-Cartier. The park was lit with golden orange and yellow trees and initially attracted us because their washrooms offer free hot showers.
We take the opportunity to go running outside – since we don’t get to exercise as much as we’d like living in the van. And it’s even rarer to have access to a shower after working out. So we run the trail which went through the colorful forest up several sets of stairs.
After a shower, a good lunch, and a caress from a 3-month-old golden retriever puppy, we decide to venture outside of Quebec City to the Chutes of Montmorency – a huge waterfall about 30 minutes away.
The day was absolutely beautiful – perhaps the most perfect fall day of the year – so we weren’t the only ones who had the idea to visit the waterfalls.
Us, along with thousands of other tourists clabbered across the bridge above the falls.
The Chutes de Montmorency is famous because they stand a whole 99 feet taller than Niagra Falls!
The park itself is extremely impressive and beautiful, with vistas of the falls from below and above with an exciting zip-line that goes right over the roaring falls.
We climbed down to the bottom of the falls where the spray of the water jets out like an engine, wetting everything in its path! The atmosphere is quite impressive – and muddy. The climb back up the stairs was double-torture, considering we had already braced our fair share of steps that day.
Although it would’ve been lovely to stay an extra few days in Quebec City, we had to press on. That evening we drove 3 hours and arrived on the outskirts of Montreal, where we slept in an empty Wal-Mart parking lot.
I’m writing now from another Tim Horton’s (surprise) across from that very Wal-Mart. The days are flying by and this week we’re beginning our speedy expedition to cross Canada all the way to Vancouver.
The plan is to make lunch sandwiches in advance for every day of the week and drive 1 1/2 hours during lunch and another 1-2 hours after work.
Wish us luck! Next week’s Van Life Journal will recount our cross-country road trip. Pray for no breakdowns or meltdowns! I’ve had enough of those this week.