Honey, the Ocean is on the Wrong Side

SD  056SD  008After having spent three and a half months crossing this big continent, we’ve finally arrived at our winter destination, San Diego, California. And will stay here for a couple of months.  To think that just last year around this time we were in Fort Lauderdale, Everglades National Park and Key West,  Florida. SD  050

SD  005And having started our westward journey at the northern end of Nova Scotia, it’s really exciting to have reached the opposite side of the U.S.  And we’re so happy to slow down the pace of travel, a welcome change after a lot of shorter stays in recent months.

I was fully prepared for cooler temperatures than we had in South Florida since San Diego’s latitude is close to that of Charleston, South Carolina, but the weather here has actually been warmer than normal for this time of year.  So we are very fortunate, especially in light of the awful weather that the rest of the country has experienced this winter.SD  094

SD  087Warmer days = happy tropical island girl.

And in our first couple of weeks, we’ve settled into the urban lifestyle.  We’ve strolled and biked along nearby beaches and their neighborhoods:  Pacific Beach, Mission Beach, Ocean Beach, and La Jolla.

The Ocean Beach neighborhood is a standout, parts of it frozen in time in the 60’s, with some rasta flavor added in.

SD  012SD  011SD  014

SD  034At La Jolla, we spent a long time just looking at some adorable seals.  SD  033

And were lucky to catch a glimpse of a mom nursing her new baby underwater.   The lady standing next to us, who seemed to be in the know, informed us that the baby was one day old.SD  032

These guys make lots of funny faces and cute poses.  We could watch them for hours!

SD  086And Pacific and Mission Beaches are just around the corner, so we’ve visited a few times. We watched some beginner and experienced surfers flowboarding at the Wave House, an artificial wave machine where you can watch the action up close.SD  002

And every morning and evening we walk Angel by the shores of Mission Bay right by our RV park.  Angel is happy to be walking on soft grass and sand since some of those desert areas we visited recently were pretty rocky.SD  003SD  004

SD  043SD  045San Diego has lots of dog friendly parks by the water.  Angel visited Fiesta Island across the way from our campground, where doggies can go leashless.  And we went to the dog beach in Ocean Beach.  A really pretty place for dogs and humans.  Alas, the crab huntress found no crabs.SD  051SD  036SD  052SD  042SD  040SD  046SD  038SD  037SD  041

SD  081SD  077We also happened to catch the Chinese New Year Food & Cultural Fair.  It’s a small fair run by the San Diego Chinese Center, which serves as a cultural bridge between Chinese and non-Chinese communities.  The lion dances were especially fun and colorful.

SD  072San Diego also has lots of farmers markets, at least one every day of the week in various neighborhoods. We love farmers markets and visited four of them so far.SD  057

There are some small and some large ones and others that offer more arts and crafts than food.  Our two favorites so far are: the Ocean Beach (most funky) and the Hillcrest (most elaborate) markets.SD  065

And being food lovers, we couldn’t resist all the great ethnic food offerings and have found tasty and inexpensive Middle Eastern, East African, Vietnamese and Indian food, most at the farmers markets. And yes, we also sampled the famous In-N-Out burgers.

SD  092Oh, and Hector and I are taking some group swing dance lessons. We’d been taking ballroom dancing lessons two years ago before we left Denver but had to stop because of my foot surgeries.  So it’s fun to be back in the “swing” of things.

And the beautiful sunsets continue.SD  093

SD  006There is only one minor problem.  Hector, who has an excellent sense of direction, occasionally gets thrown off course because the ocean is on the “wrong” side.  Having lived most of our lives on the East coast, having the ocean on the west gets him turned around.  And I’m no help at all, since I’m directionally challenged no matter where I am.  But he’s getting used to it and becoming quite the California boy.  Could bleached blonde hair be next?SD  068

SD  007We’re having a fabulous time in San Diego.  This is an ideal spot to spend the winter.  Even though the ocean is on the wrong side.

~ Brenda

Land’s End

Perce  016Forillon  044The drive from Percé out to Forillon National Park on the eastern tip of the Gaspé peninsula is very scenic.  And it’s an exciting drive on a very steep road with multiple 10-15 degree inclines and one 17 degree incline.  They don’t much believe in switchbacks here.Perce  017Perce  024

Perce  015Perce  014Forillon  005Forillon  002Forillon National Park offers hiking and biking trails and is a Parks Canada National Park – another chance to use our Discovery Passes :-).  It also has several lovely  beaches, so of course we couldn’t resist a walk on one of those beaches on our first visit.

Forillon  014That same afternoon, we rode our bicycles on the trail that leads to the Cap-Gaspé, which is also a walking trail.   The point at the end of this trail is called land’s end and is the easternmost point of the Gaspé Peninsula.  Forillon  011

It’s also the end of the International Appalachian Trail, which runs from Maine to Quebec.  The International Appalachian Trail connects to the Appalachian Trail in Maine and continues to Georgia.  The most common route followed by those that want to hike the entire trail continuously is to begin in Georgia in the spring and head north.  Hector and I spent a little time hiking on a couple of sections on the Georgia end of the Appalachian trail in the 1980s when we lived in Atlanta.  Little did we know then that we’d one day bike on the extreme opposite end of this trail.

Forillon  022Forillon  013The Cap Gaspé trail parallels the shore, and is known for good whale and seal watching.    We didn’t see whales but we did spot and hear some gray seals in the water. Forillon  012

We also saw quite a few porcupines on land, in fact, this is the most porcupines I’ve ever seen.  Cute little guys from a safe distance.

Forillon  017Forillon  018There’s a great view of the Gulf of St. Lawrence from the top of the trail with a pretty lighthouse.  Another very short and steep walking only trail led us down closer to the edge of the cliff and the water where we were rewarded with yet another gorgeous view.   A great day.Forillon  025Forillon  023Forillon  026Forillon  043Forillon  029Forillon  031We returned to Forillon National Park another day and visited Cap-Des-Rosiers Lighthouse, the tallest lighthouse in Canada, 112 feet, or ten stories high.  There was a guided tour in French about to begin, and since it was the only way to climb the lighthouse, we decided to join in.  Fortunately, there was only one other couple on the tour, and the guide spoke a little English, so he threw in an English word now and then to help us out.Forillon  034

Forillon  033Forillon  037Forillon  039Forillon  035Forillon  038
Forillon  036
Forillon  041Forillon  028Forillon  030The Cap-Des-Rosiers Lighthouse shone its first light in 1858 and has a fabulous first order Fresnel lens, which was automated in 1981.  The exterior bricks of the lighthouse were rebuilt in white marble in 1984, and the walls are seven feet thick at the bottom and three feet thick at the top.  One of the most impressive lighthouses we’ve seen.  And, of course, it’s perched on a scenic cliff, placing the light 136 feet above sea level.Forillon  045Forillon  047

It was a cool day so we had Angel with us, and stopped at a couple of other beaches.  Angel found a few more crabs and we discovered more spectacular beaches with cliffs overlooking the water.  Then we had a picnic lunch looking out over the beautiful view.

Within Forillon National Park’s  deceivingly compact area, there is tons to see; lighthouses, mountains, forests, cliffs jutting into the water, beaches, waterfalls and more.

Forillon  046So on this last day there, we also hiked to a beautiful waterfall with Angel.Forillon  057

And Forillon National Park is just one of many beautiful spots in the Gaspé Peninsula and sadly the last place we visited in this area.  This remote peninsula is truly a memorable place.

~ Brenda

The Windy Side of PEI

PEI  061PEI  057PEI  058PEI  064The tourist literature divides Prince Edward Island (PEI) into three distinct coastal drives:  North Cape, Central (which includes the Green Gables Shore and the Red Sands Shore) and Points East Coastal Drives.  But distances on the island can be deceiving, since those coastal roads can be slow-going.  So it’s a good idea to build in time for activities along the way, or for gawking at the beautiful scenery.

We set out for the North Cape Coastal Drive (a bit misleading since this is Western PEI) first, which we’d heard was the most spectacular.  This is the (mostly) French Acadian part of the island and also has a Mi’kmaq community – on Lennox Island.

Like the rest of PEI, the area has  many picturesque farmhouses on beautiful patches of pastoral land all along the way.  We make a brief stop in Tignish, a fishing community.

PEI  063PEI  056PEI  065

As we approach North Cape, which is the northernmost point of PEI, we see a few giant wind turbines, then more and more appear in the sky.  We are fortunate that there is a clear blue sky today, making the white wind turbines stand out even more as we reach our destination.PEI  075

PEI  068PEI  066Here on the windiest side of PEI is the Wind Energy Institute of Canada Test Site established in 1980 as Canada’s National Wind Energy Laboratory, a 38-acre facility that houses wind turbines of all shapes and sizes.  Using data collected by the test site, the North Cape Wind Farm was developed with 16 Vestas wind turbines that have a total capacity to power 4,000 homes.

The North Cape Wind Energy Interpretive Centre has lots of interesting information and displays, many of them state-of-the-art, and offers opportunities for hands on learning about the importance of wind energy and how it can be harnessed.  Another very educational center.  Outside, there is a section of a wind turbine on the ground which really helped me appreciate their enormous size.PEI  073

PEI  067This site is also home to the longest natural reef on the continent, and, at low tide, you can walk out almost 2,500 feet.  We were there at high tide, but could still see much of the reef.   There are sheer red cliffs going into the water, and we walk along the rocky red shore.  PEI is known for its red sandstone, and we’ll see much more of it before we leave here.

PEI  069Out on the rocks, we spot some cairns, these stone sculptures always fascinate me.  Many of the ones here are actually inukshuks, which are cairns formed into a human shape.  Some are quite elaborate and beautiful, they look like works of art.

PEI  071PEI  072We also found a different kind of cairn, a human sized seat that a very ambitious person created with large stones.  The seat is large enough for Hector to sit comfortably in.  It’s well reinforced in the back as well and seems to have withstood the tide.   Very cool!PEI  074

High winds and a long reef are definitely a formula for a lighthouse. The North Cape Lighthouse was built in 1865, remodeled in 1875 and has been moved due to erosion.  It’s now fully automated, with a signature of a one second yellow flash and four seconds off and stands guard by the wind turbines.PEI  077PEI  076

As we come around the north side of the coast, the gargantuan wind turbines continue for miles.  It’s such a contrast to see the farmhouses amongst fields of gold and green and then see the wind turbines as a backdrop.   I’m not sure whether it’s beautiful or surreal or both.PEI  079

I smell crab ...

I smell crab …

PEI  089PEI  091We reach the village of West Point, to see another lighthouse that I’ve really been looking forward to seeing.  I love the black and white lighthouses and this one does not disappoint.  The West Point Lighthouse was constructed in 1875 and is the tallest lighthouse on PEI. And the black and white looks great against the red sand.PEI  085PEI  092PEI  087

PEI  084PEI  086The light was automated in 1963 and the structure is now a lighthouse museum, country inn, restaurant and craftshop.  Very enterprising.PEI  083

PEI  096Continuing down the road, we make another quick stop overlooking the Cape Egmont lighthouse, which was built in 1883.  Due to erosion, the lighthouse was moved back from the cliffs in 2000.  It has a signature of a two second white flash and three seconds off.  Yet another beautiful scene with the lighthouse sitting on more of those red cliffs by the sea.

PEI  095PEI  097Our last stop is at the community of Mont Carmel where Our Lady of Mont Carmel, one of the island’s oldest churches, constructed of island brick, is located.  The church is striking, but it’s unfortunately closed when we arrive. PEI  098PEI  105

We notice lots of cars parked along the road, and ask someone arriving what’s going on.  She tells us that it’s a free event commemorating Acadia Day and the public is welcome.  So we take a peek, and what do we find, fiddlers and dancers step dancing, in French of course.  Very interesting how the cultures intermingle in some ways.  It’s standing room only, and quite a happening, but It’s getting late so we stay to listen and watch for only a little bit.

PEI  104We cut across the last little segment of the coastal drive as we need to get home.  And I can’t say whether this is the most spectacular side of the island, but beautiful pastoral land, pretty fishing villages, a natural reef, lighthouses, gargantuan wind turbines and red cliffs along the sea do make for a spectacular combination.

We’ll just have to check out the rest of the island…

~ Brenda