My wife Sara’s birthday is ideally situated during primetime summer in Nova Scotia and we often take the opportunity to celebrate with a special adventure. We had limited time due to our son Jaden’s and daughter Lienna’s busy soccer schedules so this year we decided to do a mini-vacation. Another consideration for our trip was our spirited one-year old golden retriever Quentin – who was bound to make things interesting for us!
Our destination was Tidal River Ridge Retreat located along the beautiful Fundy Shore between Five Islands and Parrsboro (in Moose River to be exact). The sun was shining and I had put together a tasty picnic for us to enjoy along the way. The plan was to stop at the Thomas Cove Coastal Reserve in Economy where several trails lead to the extraordinary coastline there. The tide was out when we arrived and we were fortunate enough to have the expansive beach all to ourselves.
The awesome sandstone cliffs and unique landforms carved by the tides were tempting to explore, but with limited time before check-in we only had a few minutes to enjoy lunch before continuing on our way. While eating my sandwich and taking in the view I couldn’t help but notice a strange sight in the distance. It appeared to be a long line of large birds marching together, in single file across the mudflats. I counted over twenty of them. They were so far away that I couldn’t even tell what kind of birds they were. So I used the high powered zoom on my camera to take a picture and upon closer look at home discovered that they were Canada Geese – weird!
Heading back to the car and on our drive out, I found myself noting all of the beautiful wild flowers along our way. Apparently I made enough comments about them that even Sara and the kids thought it to be a bit strange. I’m not typically a flower kind of guy but perhaps it’s a newfound appreciation that comes with age – who knows?
We were excited when we arrived at our two bedroom cottage at Tidal River Ridge Retreat with plenty of time left to enjoy the sun and great outdoors. Following a quick tour and negotiations over whose room would be whose we changed into our swim suits and headed for the river. We brought along some inflatables to use, but I have to admit, I hadn’t fully thought through how exactly we were going to blow them up. I quickly learned that the small motorized pump that I brought was going to take forever. Luckily our hosts had an air compressor that did the trick and we were on our way to fun in no time!
Although the tide was out and the water was low the broad riverbed and surrounding hills and cliffs were grand. The bonus was that we had this fantastic piece of nature all to ourselves! The kids were the first to hop in to test the inflatables and surprisingly Sara wasn’t too far behind. I thought with the birthday and all that she might be getting to old for that kind of stuff (wink, wink). As we grew more comfortable with our spacious surroundings we even decided to let our pup Quentin in on the action. He was quite proud of himself being able to trudge freely through the water.
The afternoon exceeded all of our expectations and we lingered by the river as long as we could before having to pack up to get ready for dinner. We had reservations for a special meal at the Black Rock Bistro in Parrsboro and we couldn’t wait! Dining out is usually a pretty big deal for our family. Sara and the kids have numerous food allergies to contend with, making it difficult to find restaurants that can accommodate. I had contacted the Bistro a few days in advance and knew they were up for the challenge!
The restaurant is a trendy little spot along the main street with both indoor and outdoor dining and a neighboring wine bar. Our server was incredibly friendly and was more than prepared with a list of all of the menu items that would suit our allergy concerns. Often with numerous allergies our family would be confined to one or two things on the menu, but we were thrilled to learn that they had many options to choose from including appetizers, entrees and best of all…desserts! We started by sharing scrumptious pan seared scallops (my personal favorite). Sara and Jaden went with the blackened haddock for their entree while Lienna and I enjoyed a savory chicken dish which was all delicious. For dessert the kids were especially thrilled to have vanilla maple sorbet with a fresh strawberry on top (dairy, soy, corn and gluten-free) while Sara and I indulged in a scrumptious flourless chocolate cake! They even put a sparkler in it and we sang “Happy Birthday” to Sara as our server brought it out.
Following our awesome dining experience we had plans to head straight back to the cottage for a campfire and to roast some homemade marshmallows. However, I felt that the night was still young and decided to surprise everyone with a quick detour to a place I had always wanted to go – Wasson’s Bluff. Wasson’s Bluff is where several significant dinosaur and fossil discoveries were made including Canada’s oldest dinosaurs. The sun was beginning to set and the tide was on its way in so we didn’t have a lot of time to explore, but the view was absolutely extraordinary. We managed to work our way down the shore a bit and within minutes I heard Lienna yell “Dad! What’s this?” Assuming it was likely her active imagination, I casually strolled back to indulge her in her discovery. To my surprise it sure looked like a fossil of some kind. Definitely shaped like a bone! Before we were on our way I snapped a quick photo to send to the Fundy Geological Museum for further assessment. Maybe they could tell us more about what she has found.
We got back to our cottage a little later than anticipated but managed to finish our day off with a campfire as planned. Our only issue was that Quentin was a little jealous that we didn’t invite him to the restaurant. So he proceeded to be a bit of a handful the rest of the night. In addition to unexpectedly jumping up on my lap to snuggle while sitting by the campfire (an awkward scene as he’s not the smallest of dogs), he decided to sigh and whine all night long! Apparently he wasn’t as comfortable with the new environment as the rest of us were.
Waking up a little weary the next morning due to Quentin’s restless night, the kids and I decided to attempt a hike. We were told that it was about an hour walk to the beach. So in my wisdom I somehow figured that we could do in half the time and be back in time to prepare a French toast and bacon breakfast for Sara. We walked at a brisk pace, and even ran several portions of the trail. There became a point where I had to face the fact that indeed it does take an hour to get to the beach. Without reaching our destination we had to turn back so we would still have time to prepare and eat breakfast before check-out.
Now there aren’t many trips in the run of a year that I handle packing for snacks and meals (as Sara is far more skilled in this area than I). But for her birthday weekend I like to try and handle all of the details. Last year I forgot milk and sugar for our morning coffee but this year I thought for sure I had all of my bases covered until… I went to serve up the French toast. Maple syrup! Really?? I remembered everything else (juice, eggs, milk, bread, coffee, sugar, bacon…even cinnamon to add a little extra pizzazz) but forgot the maple syrup! With only minutes to spare I jogged down to see our host Charlotte at the office to see if she might have some to spare. Low and behold she pulled out the largest jug of maple syrup I had ever seen. She saved the day and we enjoyed a yummy breakfast to conclude our great mini-vacation.