Monthly Archives: August 2011
Our vacation to the Cabot Trail was rather impromptu. In fact, we only decided to go the night before when we saw that we would be getting a few days of sunshine (this has been pretty rare this month). We left with our tent and some blankets, still not sure whether we would camp or check out some bed and breakfasts along the trail.
On the ride up, we stopped for some lunch in New Glasgow. If you happen to be in the area, I highly recommend stopping at Baked. It is a cute little place with some scrumptious food.
Our first night there, we set up camp in an area along the trail called Ingonish and went looking for a place to have dinner. We ended up at a pub called the “Thirsty Hiker”. We weren’t really expecting much when we walked in but we were simply grateful to have found a place that was open past 9. To my surprise though, that night turned out to be one which neither of us will never forget. We met and were invited to join a Cape Bretonian family that was gathered for a wedding happening two days later. We sat with the parents of the bride, uncles and cousins. They taught us all about the island of Cape Breton, its history, its people’s and its culture. J and I loved every second of it. In between stories they sang along with the performer (who was singing some Celtic folk songs). We were in awe of how they knew every song seeing as we had never heard any of them. The whole atmosphere felt magical, maybe because it was so unexpected. We felt like we were in a different world and yet we hadn’t even left the country. What fascinated us the most was how this little island (which is a part of Nova Scotia) has managed to blend and preserve its Scottish, Irish and Acadian roots so nicely. One side of the island is more Scottish and Irish (creating a general blend of Celtic culture) and the other side is completely Acadian (the descendents of the initial French settlers). That night we were on the Celtic side (hence the music), and the next day we would be continuing along our journey towards the Acadian side.
Our friends told us all about the history of the Acadian people and how they were expelled from the island in the 1750s because of their culture. Anyone choosing to stay had to assimilate rather quickly. In fact, our friend told us that one of his ancestors was named “Jeune” (French for “Young”) and that in an effort to assimilate, she changed her name to “Young” and completely stopped speaking French. It was terribly sad to hear about how these people had been treated, and even sadder that this is barely talked about today. J and I had heard parts of this story here and there but had never really put everything together. Interesting fact – when the Acadians were literally shipped off of the island , many of them wound up in Louisiana. We learned that the word “Cajun” actually comes from the word “Acadian”. Fascinating stuff! Only much later did some of them start to return to the Maritimes.
We left the next day with a much greater appreciation of the people and history of Cape Breton and felt more ready to see the Acadian side of the island. As we drove through many little fisherman villages, we admired the beauty of the land, but both agreed that it was the interaction of the people with their land that really spoke to us. As a side note, the soundtrack to our trip was the Peter, Bjorn and John album “Gimme some”. I recommend giving it a listen.
It was amazing to arrive to the other side and hear the Acadian French mixed in with English where the day before we had just heard Gaelic.
On our last day there we took a break from driving to relax. We went on a whale watching tour, saw some whales – and even spotted a moose! We also went to check out a beach near our camp site and spent a few hours relaxing and reading on the beach (I am reading Teta, Mother and Me and am really enjoying it). We felt like we had our own private beach because we were literally all alone there with our books (for anyone planning a trip there, this beach was called “Petit Étang”). Once we had enough sun, we decided to go for a swim. We had the option between the Ocean and a lake but chose the latter because it was warmer. Our experience in the lake added to the serendipity of our day because since it was fairly shallow and not too big we actually decided to walk all the way to the other end. WE WALKED ACROSS THE LAKE! At the other end was lush, untouched natural beauty. We were in a valley surrounded by trees and mountains and just as we thought it couldn’t get any better, an eagle perched itself on one of the trees nearby. We stood there watching the eagle and admiring the scenery for quite some time. Neither of us had ever seen a bald eagle before. We went home that night and grilled some turkey sausages and roasted some marshmallows and counted our blessings. What a special little vacation this was.
This is one of my favorite shots taken on our trip to Cape Breton. These lobster traps were all over the place in the tiny fishing villages that we drove through. As a born and bred city girl, I had never seen these before and though I am really not a lobster eater, I liked what they added to the landscape. I think that the locals thought I was kind of silly for taking so many pictures of lobster traps, but they were new to me and they caught my eye so I thought you might like them too. Happy Friday!
We’ve been able to get away from the boxes and the house work over the past little while and have gone out and to enjoy Halifax – we even took a road trip to Cape Breton to see the Cabot trail!
Last week-end we went to check out the Al Fresco Film Festo which is an outdoor film fest on the Halifax Seaport. It was so beautiful to be sitting outside with about a thousand other people watching “What about Bob?” (Did I mention that the theme of this year’s festival is “Bill Murray”? So random but amazing at the same time. They are screening a Bill Murray film every Friday!). We felt so Atlantic as we watched a few sailboats pull up next to the dock to watch along with us.
The next morning we checked out the Halifax Seaport Farmers’ Market which we also absolutely loved. Lots of vendors selling fresh, organic veggies as well as a variety of things from home cooked ethnic foods to pies to jewellery. It was fun to be out early exploring the market and tasting the yummy pastries. Once the market started getting a bit too crowded for our liking, we headed to Point Pleasant park for some Yoga by the ocean. If you’ve been reading my blog, you know by now that I am all about the outdoor Yoga. Having loved “Yoga on the hill” this summer, I was pleased to see that I could now join up something just as beautiful here. To me, there is just something special about being outdoors and in community with others. Anyhow, I thoroughly enjoyed the class and will be going back for sure. For such a small city, this place has a lot going on!
To make a great week-end even better, we checked out a local Pizza place called Salvatore’s that was recommended to us by a friend. We weren’t really in any particular mood for pizza, but it was the only place we could find that was open late so we decided to try it. I don’t even know where to start about this pizza. We got the “Pomodoro” – sun-dried tomatoes, black olives, feta cheese and fresh garlic. It was a perfect pizza. A ten out of ten. I’m not sure if I should be happy or concerned that we discovered this place at the beginning of our time here…
So we have been here for about a week – and I have already found a place to buy candied chickpeas!
Lucky for us, there is a Middle Eastern grocer about 5 minutes away from our home and, though it’s relatively small, it carries everything I would have wanted to find. Besides the candied chickpeas, I was hoping to find some Pomegranate molasses (and I did!). The Lebanese use this a lot in their cooking and I’ve been meaning to try it out because the few times that I have tried it, it was just so good. My mother in law makes particularly good use of this stuff and I’m hoping to follow in her footsteps. Once I’ve had a chance to try a few recipes with this little secret weapon, I will report back. Expect greatness.
J and I found ourselves feeling particularly at home in this shop and as a result we bought a lot of items simply because they were comfort foods, and not because we had any particular craving for them (though they will not be going to waste, I can tell you that). Its amazing how just having certain items in your fridge can make your little abode feel like that much more of a home. Here is a list of what we came back with:
- Labneh: a soft Lebanese cheese made by straining yogurt
- Pickled turnips (or in Arabic “lift”): you might have had these in a shawarma sandwich
- Macedonian feta cheese: this is what my dad always has in the fridge at home. J and I are hoping that the kind we bought will be just as good
- Za’atar: a mixture made up of thyme, sesame seeds and sumac. It can be used as a seasoning or can also be eaten with lebneh.
- Mango juice: reminds me so much of my visits to Egypt
- Halawa: a sweet crumbly spread usually eaten with bread at breakfast time but it can be eaten in a variety of ways any time of the day
- Candied chickpeas: these were not freshly made in-store as they are in the roastery in Ottawa and as a result they are quite expensive here!
The funniest part about this list is that the majority of these items are not ones we are accustomed to buying. They are tastes and flavours which we are usually fed when visiting family, or which our parents will just pick up for us when they go to the Middle Eastern grocery store. In fact, save for the chick peas, this is probably the first time I have ever purchased any of these items for myself.
The outing was special to us though. Though the Middle Eastern grocery store is not a regular stop for us in Ottawa, we naturally gravitated towards it here. I think it might be because we both have an unspoken desire and need to preserve our cultures and to integrate them into our new home. When we live close to family, we really don’t need to put any effort into this. Now that we are further away, it seems to have happened organically.
I don’t think I’ve mentioned yet on this blog that the reason J and I moved out here is because J will be starting law school here in September. We heard that Dal is a great school and that Halifax is a great city and so we figured this was our chance to see what living on the East Coast would be like. So here we are.
A few days ago, we attended J’s first law school function – a welcome BBQ. As is often done at such events, name tags were handed out in order to facilitate mingling. People were asked to indicate what year of law school they were about to enter by putting down “1L”, “2L” or “3L”. I fit into none of these categories and instead indicated that my place at this party was as the “wife of Jad”.
Though this comes as nothing new, I smiled to myself as I put on my label. There is a little part of me that always gets a thrill out of being in a new place where no one knows anything about me except what I tell them. In this day and age where the Internet makes it so easy to find out so much about someone just by conducting a basic search, I find peace in those moments where you are still in control of what people know about you.
In this particular case, I liked simply being “wife of Jad”. At a time in my life where I could potentially define myself in so many different ways, I found this particular definition to be simple and comforting.
Since my last post we left Ottawa, drove through 4 provinces, and made it to Halifax – our new home.
Our trip over was long but a lot of fun. For a long time I’ve felt like it was almost wrong to have seen so little of my own country. Making the drive fulfilled that desire to see what the rest of Canada looked like. Though you can’t really get much of a taste for how the rest of the country lives by quickly driving through the cities and towns, I still feel as though I’ve gotten a little sampling of what’s out there. Sort of like flipping through a magazine before going back to read the content. I hope to get to see more soon.
Another major highlight of the trip was that I got to drive a UHAUL truck for the very first time. I absolutely loved it. I felt like I was queen of the road!
For J and I, this move is a big one. It is our first time moving away to a new and strange new place by ourselves and it is also our first time being home owners. To add to this, we sort of kind of bought our place without having actually seen it in person (we did our due diligence, but still). You can imagine the build up to finally getting to see it in person when we arrived. Thankfully, we absolutely love our new place and are so excited for the life we are going to build here. I’ll post pictures once everything is up and ready.
Our first few nights in Halifax were met with much rain. In fact, within only a few hours of being here we took out the rain jackets that we were advised to buy before coming out here. Here we are in our new snazzy matching jackets.
We experienced what was apparently one of the biggest rain/thunderstorms that Halifax has ever gotten. We’re finding that the weather here is very different from what we know coming from Toronto/Ottawa. The weather here generally just seems to be more temperate – which is fine for us. We are told to expect a little less heat in the summers and a little less cold in the winters. Sounds good to me. They are forecasting lots of sunshine for tomorrow – so we plan on taking advantage of that and enjoying our very first Saturday in Halifax! Happy week-end all – wherever you may be!