Thursday, October 31, 2013

Happy Halloween 2013

The Monarch Butterfly, Navy Seal, and Geisha Girl wish you a Happy Halloween.

Monday, October 28, 2013

Perk of Camping at the Fairgrounds

..... on the last night of the North Carolina State Fair. Jonah got to
watch the fireworks from his bunk. Elisabeth, who really dislikes the
noise, was thankfully sound asleep.


Saturday, October 26, 2013

Newfoundland in Photos

These were taken in and around Gros Morne National Park, Newfoundland in August/September 2013.
Broom Point interpretive area - Gros Morne National Park
From a fishing shack at Broom Point 
The mouth of Bonne Bay 
Vintage snowmobile
Gros Morne Mountain from Bonne Bay Road
Moose Track
East Arm of Bonne Bay from Discovery Center Overlook Trail 
Red Chairs at Discovery Center Overlook Trail Summit 
Woody Point Lighthouse with Gros Morne Mountain in background
Black Fox
Arches Provencial Park
Lewis Pond with the cliffs around Western Brook Pond in the distance

For more Newfoundland posts and pics go here.
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Tuesday, October 22, 2013

The Age of Innocence

Hand in hand with friends on a visit to the Durham Museum of Life and Sciences.

Monday, October 21, 2013

The Cabot Trail: Nova Scotia's Must See!

If you can only visit one place while on Cape Breton Island, it should most definitely be Cape Breton Highlands National Park (CBHNP) and the Cabot Trail. I read about this area a few months ago in a National Geographic Traveler magazine. After reading the article, I knew we must see this place if at all possible. Unfortunately, when selecting a campground, we had our primary goal of getting to Newfoundland in mind and chose one close to the ferry rather than the Cabot Trail. This is where conflicting goals and desires and too little time gets us in trouble.

The goal on our first full day in Canada was to get our internet situation figured out so that my husband could work during the week. After that, we wanted to go sight seeing. Well, it was mid-afternoon by the time we got on the Englishtown Ferry to the Cabot Trail (driving it nonstop takes 5 hours).

Englishtown Ferry, Nova Scotia
We enjoyed the view along the Cabot Trail: steep mountains, rocky coves, blue water. After stopping at several overlooks, we eventually made it to the other side of the CBHNP where we had our close encounter with a moose along the Skyline Trail. It was nearly midnight when we got back to the campground that evening.  Keep in mind just the day before we drove 565 miles from Bar Harbor, Maine to North Sydney, Nova Scotia, a journey that took us 16 hours. And that morning we moved the RV to a better site within the campground, searched for (stopped at the wrong place twice) and bought SIM cards, and ate lunch. See what I mean - we wear ourselves out trying to squeeze so much into a short period of time. Nevertheless, I'm glad we did it. It was a memorable day on all many levels. However, a half-day is not nearly enough time to take in the rugged heights and seaside views along the Cabot Trail and CBHNP. Assuming we get to visit the area again, I will plan on a week at the least.

Views from the Cabot Trail
There are many great cultural experiences along the Cabot Trail as well. The area around CBHNP was predominantly settled by Gaelic Scots and, ironically, the ancient mountain range that makes up this island is part of the very same that make up the Scottish Highlands. No wonder Scots migrated to this area given it's similarity to their homeland. If you have an interest in Scottish history and culture, this is a great place to visit. (The road signs are in English and Gaelic.) There are numerous Scottish heritage museums and craft stores including the Gaelic College of Celtic Arts and Crafts in St. Annes. On a visit there with just me and the kids, we sat in on a "great kilt" demonstration where we learned about the history, uses, and production of kilts. And we participated in a Gaelic milling frolic - a cultural tradition of singing/chanting in gaelic while you and numerous neighbors sit around and beat new fabric until it's soft.
Watching a Great Kilt Demonstration (the gentleman volunteered to be kilted)
Typical Jonah - posing in a Milling Frolic display
There is so much to see and do along the Cabot Trail. Here are a few others not mentioned above:
North Highlands Community Museum
Cabot Landing Provincial Park
Whale watching tour
Alexander Graham Bell National Historic Site
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Saturday, October 12, 2013

Friday, October 11, 2013

Tour the Nautilus at the Submarine Force Museum

The USS Nautilus parked in the Thames in Groton
Did you know that the Submarine Force Library and Museum in Groton, CT is home to the Nautilus? After reading about an actual submarine named for the iconic vessel in Jules Verne's 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea (his absolute favorite story), my son begged and pleaded to visit. The weekend of our roadside breakdown, we were en route to a campground nearby so that we could make his dream a reality. Fortunately, it all worked out, and we were able to go while the RV was repaired.

Getting ready to explore inside the ship
While there, I learned that the USS Nautilus is a significant part of US Naval History as the first nuclear powered submarine, in fact the first nuclear powered vessel of any kind. Being a nuclear powered submarine allowed it to stay underwater for much longer and, therefore, much like the fictional Nautilus, it could go places that diesel powered vessels of the day could not. For instance, it was the first vessel to travel across the North Pole while submerged. I was amazed that admission into the museum and the submarine itself was free to the public!

The officer's mess
We were able to see a good portion of the interior including the officer's quarters and dining area, as well as, the enlisted men's quarters and mess hall. A handheld listening device is given to tourists that plays information on the different areas of the ship as you pass through pressing the corresponding numbers displayed on signs. Even my 5 and 7 year old kids were able to operate these accompanying tour devices. We learned many things from the tour, but, one of my favorites, was that the submariners had the best food in the navy in an attempt to make up for their long undersea deployments.
Officers quarters


Listening to information about the control room
Mess Hall
Kitchen
In addition to touring the submarine itself, the museum is a repository of US Naval Submarine History from Bushnell's first attempt at sinking a British War ship with his "Turtle" during the Revolutionary War through the modern submarine advancements. My son was excited to see the replica of the Turtle another famous submarine he learned about from books. 

Jonah stands by a replica of Bushnell's Turtle
The museum also had several interactive areas for the kids to press buttons and feel like they were on a real submarine. There is even a working periscope that allows visitors to see the parking lot outside.

Fighting over the controls
Checking out the periscope
The larger circle shows the circumference of a modern Ohio Class submarine

For a list of other submarine tours, visit: http://www.squidoo.com/submarine-tour
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Monday, October 07, 2013

Arm of Gold Campground

When choosing a campground in Nova Scotia from which to make our journey to Newfoundland, we discovered Arm of Gold Campground. It is literally minutes from the North Sydney ferry terminal.

Wi-fi
The campground had wifi so my husband could work until our ferry ride across the Cabot Straight. If you use too much bandwidth their network will throttle your bandwidth, so downloading an application like Slowy will help you stay under their threshold. Once you get throttled, the internet becomes super slow. Some areas of the campground have a stronger wifi signal than others. As a backup, my husband tethered his Nexus 4 android phone with a Virgin Mobile prepaid data plan. Virgin runs on Bell's towers, so the coverage was very good in general, and excellent at the campground. (It was surprisingly good in Newfoundland as well.)

Playground
We made sure to get a spot next to the playground. It was small, but the kids really seemed enjoyed it. The cute little playhouse added to the experience. There is also a basketball court adjacent to the playground with several balls laying about.

Our campsite with playground in background

Playground and basketball court
Laundry
The laundry facilities were well kept and maintained. But when the campground is busy, four washers and three dryers just isn't enough.

Information/Work Space
There is a separate building with tourist information, a payphone, tables, and books and DVD's to borrow. 

Washrooms
In Canada, they don't call them restrooms. We didn't use the showers as they were pay showers. But the facilities were clean. 

Walking Trail
The campground is on the shore of the Bras d'Or Lakes which is French for Arms of Gold. There is a nature trail down to the water and all around the campground.

Bras d'Or Lakes
The metal roof of the nearby church reflecting the sun
While at first I was turned off by the proximity of the campground to the Trans-Canada highway, it was a very good campground experience and it's convenience in accessing the ferry is undeniable. The area is windy and there aren't any trees so shade is hard to come by. Fortunately, the temperatures were very mild during our stay (mid-August to early September).

Arm of Gold Campground makes a great base for visiting points in and around eastern Cape Breton Island such as the Highlands Village Museum,  Fortress of Louisbourg, and Alexander Graham Bell National Historic Site. It is not, however, the best place from which to visit Cape Breton Highlands National Park. This park is so extensive, one really should be somewhere on the Cabot Trail to ensure easy access to the best features of the park (i.e The Skyline Trail).
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