Back in May on Mother's Day weekend, I wanted to do something special for my wife Sara (mother of our two beautiful children) and of course for my own mother and mother in-law. With my mom and mother in-law both living almost 2 hours away in the Annapolis Valley, I knew the logistics could pose a challenge. So I began to carefully plan the ultimate weekend.
Our destination was Shangri-la! Well...Shangri-la Cottages in Burntcoat Head to be exact. I am no literary expert but with a brief Google search and some help from Wikipedia I quickly learned that the cottages were named after a fictional place described in the1933 novel by James Hilton called Lost Horizon. In the book Shangri-la was a mystical and idyllic place that was isolated from the outside world. -So naturally I was pretty excited to get to the cottage!
We travelled the winding country roads from Truro through Old Barns with glimpses of the Salmon River and the Cobequid trail along our way. As we crossed the Gosse Bridge into South Maitland we were wowed by the incredible view overlooking the Shubenacadie River. Before checking into Shangri-la I decided that it would be fun to stop by to see my artist friend Sharon Laska at Studio Glass in Maitland to try her "junk-de-verre” workshop.
I wasn't really sure what to expect when we arrived but upon greeting us the first thing Sharon said to us was "Well, are you ready to play with broken glass?" My 10 year old son Jaden and 8 year old daughter Lienna smiled politely, but I could tell by the looks on their faces that they were probably wondering what I had gotten them into. Playing with broken glass is typically one of those things in life that we try to discourage.
But sure enough, that is exactly what we did. And with a few minor precautions we thoroughly enjoyed creating our very own fused glass creations. Sara and I decided to share a project while Lienna created a piece for Nana (my mom) and Jaden did one for Grandma (my mother in-law). I may have enjoyed the workshop a little too much as I unintentionally took over the project that Sara and I had planned to work on together. Thankfully she was happy to assist the kids with theirs and allowed me to run with my creative vision for what would later be my gift to her.
Sharon showed us the kiln where our pieces would be “fired”. Typically they would have been fused and ready to go the next day but because Sara and I had decided to make a spoon rest for our project, it required an additional firing in the kiln to slump it into shape. Before heading out we took some time to peruse the studio gift store. It was all so beautiful that the kids were tempted to touch everything. Being that the majority of the items were glass, Sara and I became a bit on edge as we found ourselves repeatedly warning "be careful...keep your hands to yourself...don't touch" over and over again. With a few purchases in hand we all left happily without incident and looked forward to returning another day to pick-up our handmade gifts.
The Fundy tide was at its lowest when we met our friendly host Nancy who checked us into our 2-bedroom Shangri-la cottage. Burntcoat Head is on record as having the most extreme tides in the world and we were excited to have the ultimate front row seats to this natural wonder during our stay.
It was raining a bit when we arrived so we decided to settle into our cozy new accommodation with a snack. The cottage had a modern decor and was well equipped with a spacious kitchen, dining and living room area. Lienna especially liked the big comfy beds and gave them a “two thumbs up”.
When the rain subsided we went for a walk to the neighboring Burncoat Head Park where we could access the beach to explore the ocean floor. Jaden, Lienna and I had visited the park in November and shared it with Sara at work by webcam. This time we were excited for her to experience it for herself in-person!
Sara and the kids popped on their brand new rubber boots for the occasion as it was still a little too cool to stroll on the beach in bare-feet. Jaden and Lienna sprinted across the field toward the park’s lighthouse and were excited to lead the way. We reached the shore and I was reminded of how brilliantly the tides have sculpted the coastline. It’s a natural gallery of endless works-of-art!
The tide was already on its way back in as we began to circle the island offshore. Although we had timed our visit carefully, we still had a slight sense of urgency to move quickly to avoid becoming trapped by the brisk moving tide. The kids enjoyed the hint of danger and began playing a version of the reality TV show “Survivor” despite never actually seeing an episode of the show before.
We returned safely to the cottage to have a barbecue and to spend a relaxing evening together before retiring for the night. As part of our mother’s day tradition the kids and I got up quietly the next morning to allow Sara a little extra time to sleep in. Keeping an 8 and 10 year old quiet in confined quarters for any length of time is virtually impossible, so I suggested that we go for a morning walk to the beach. Jaden opted to go back to bed, leaving Lienna and I to head out on our own. With a bag of Corn Pops in hand we set out for our adventure.
From a distance I spotted a small rabbit on the edge of the lawn and decided to see how close we could get before it would scamper off. Despite the occasional crinkle of Lienna’s cereal bag we managed to get within about twenty feet before it became spooked and hopped into the woods. We then ventured a little further down the shore this time. We found more unique landforms carved by the tides including a mini cave as well as a really neat little archway that we crouched our way through to get to the other side. We were gone for about an hour before returning back to prepare breakfast.
With the sun shining, our plan for the day was to drive along the Fundy Shore on Route 215 to the Avondale Sky Winery in Newport Landing. From there we would meet with Grandma and Grandpa (Sara’s mom and dad), then we would return to Shangri-la for a Mother’s Day barbecue where my mom and dad (aka Nana and Grampie) would later join us.
We had a quick lunch before getting on the road but noticed from the cottage window that it was high tide. I decided to take the kids down to the beach to show them how different things would look with the tide in. Sometimes what adults find amazing is not always consistent with what children might find interesting, but as the water came into view I could tell that both Jaden and Lienna were impressed by the transformation. In fact, the tide was so high that we couldn’t even access the beach. The island we had circled the day before was completely surrounded by water. To enhance our experience even more we had a visit from two Canada Geese that seemed to be having fun riding the waves in the turbulent water passing by.
We rejoined Sara and hopped in the car for our Sunday drive down the shore. The Avondale Sky Winery store is located in a former church (est. 1844) on the Avon Peninsula surrounded by the tidal landscape of the St. Croix and Avon Rivers. The church was actually transported 42km to its new home by a ferry boat from the community of Walton. Moving the church took over 24 hours due to the challenging tides! As we pulled into the parking lot Grandpa and Grandma greeted us with a fresh tin of homemade oatmeal cookies. Following a round of welcoming hugs we proceeded to the store to look around. It was neat to see how the old church had been transformed to such a beautiful showroom while maintaining its original charm. Knowing “Nana” is quite partial to the occasional red wine I decided to pick her up a bottle of Miller’s Creek before heading back to the cottage for our Mother’s day shindig.
My mom and dad had joined us and all marveled at the view of the bay and our spacious accommodation. I got to work preparing some homemade gluten-free chocolate chip cookies, fired up the barbecue and we even had a champagne toast to honor our moms. The kids were proud to show off their homemade cards and gifts that they had presented to Sara earlier that morning. Lienna made a painting of a colorful butterfly and Jaden made a beach-glass broach. Both were priceless!
A wonderful mother’s day was had by all and the best part was that we still had our junk-de-verre master pieces yet to reveal! We could hardly wait!