GIVEAWAY!

Attention fellow cyclists! We are excited to announce that one of our tours – Iceland Dramatic North Bike – has been elected as an Unordinary Trip of the Month by InfoHub.com, the #1 travel portal on the Internet specialized in the out-of-ordinary vacations.

We are thrilled about this nomination. The Dramatic North tour fits perfectly into the concept of unordinary adventures, with its surreal pseudo craters, waterfalls, glaciers, and river valleys, and we hope to see more people from all around the world joining us for their holidays in Iceland this year!

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Photo credit: Martha A. & James G.

Iceland: Dramatic North Bike

Photo credit: Mike M.

In light of this, we are glad to offer our guests a chance to win a special giveaway prize  from InfoHub’s sister-company GPSmyCity, publisher of travel apps for Apple and Android. The GPSmyCity app features offline city maps, self-guided walking tours, and travel articles for 1,000 cities worldwide, using which you can turn your mobile into a personal tour guide. With this app you can explore any major urban destination in Europe and everywhere else in the world on your own, at your own pace. The GPSmyCity app works offline so there’s no need to worry about roaming charges when traveling abroad.

Anyone who books an Iceland: Dramatic North tour before December 5, 2017 will be entered in a draw for a one-year full membership of the GPSmyCity app, including access to all GPSmyCity content – over 6,500 self-guided city walks and travel articles.

Our Join A Group page is a great resource to view tours already forming, or you can contact us at 1 800 672 0775 to discuss your dates and plans. We look forward to hearing from you!

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Stories and Shorelines

The first of a three-part Freewheeling Adventure, Stories and Shorelines details Doug and Cathy Hull’s experience on the Newfoundland: St. John’s & Trinity Hike.

By Doug and Cathy Hull

A cod-killer is a good thing, while a smatchy brine is not. Newfoundland’s rural fishing villages are long-abandoned, but the stories are not lost. A fisherman born in Kerley’s Harbour, Captain Bruce educates and entertains us with tales of everyday life in the enchanting coastal communities near Trinity, one of Newfoundland and Labrador’s best preserved historic towns.

Learning about Newfoundland’s rich maritime history is a bonus, because hiking is the main focus of this one-week trip.

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We sample nine different hikes on the East Coast Trail and the well-mannered footpaths near Trinity. Icebergs are not in season, and the puffins are flying away to northern seas, but for berry-picking, our late-August timing is perfect.

Blueberries without bears

Where are the bears? Wild blueberries galore! Back home, we would be sharing these ripe berries with grazing black bears, but here on the East Coast Trail it’s just us, our guide Pascal, and thousands of squawking seabirds.

The Cape Spear Path follows the sea edge for eleven kilometres, weaving through woods, heath, and meadows. It’s a misty, moisty day, but we brighten up when Pascal pulls a thermos of coffee and three cute little cups from his day-pack. Mid-afternoon we reach the Cape Spear Lighthouse, Newfoundland’s oldest surviving lighthouse, built in 1836. Another distinction: Cape Spear is now the most easterly point on the Great Trail (formerly called the Trans-Canada Trail), the longest recreational trail in the world.

Wringing rainwater from our socks gives us a second wind, so we head to picturesque Quidi Vidi village (pronounced Kiddy Viddy), a small harbour with fishing stations, a brewery, and flocks of seagulls at the base of a cliff.

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Bogs without boardwalks

It might be a good idea, but we will never know. On a travel blog Cathy notices a 1.5-km inland cart track that, in theory, makes the Brigus Head Path a loop. Loops are so appealing! Pascal proposes a one-way hike (6.5 km) with a taxi shuttle, but being an agreeable young man, he consents to trying the loop.

We lose the trail, or else it is overgrown. After an hour of bushwhacking through thickets and slogging through sock-soaking bogs, we close the loop. “This could be the highlight of the week,” says Doug, proud that his GPS has come in handy. And aren’t we lucky? Our heritage inn apartment has a full kitchen, so we can toast our soggy shoes in the oven.

Talking about cod

When you say fish in Newfoundland, you are talking about cod. As Captain Bruce talks about his childhood, we are transported back to a time when fishing was a process that involved the whole family.

A child’s first contact was at the flake (an outdoor platform on which fish were dried), where they were given a fish to play with. Next, youngsters went to the stage (a platform where fish were landed and processed for salting and drying), where they pronged fish into a box which holds ungutted fish. Men caught and gutted the fish. Women split the fish, a lost art, says Bruce. Often, a woman was the stage boss, standing up to the big men sent by the merchants to grade – or downgrade – the catch.

During our three-hour Rugged Beauty Boat Tour, Bruce helps us explore the now-quiet harbours once occupied by the bustling communities of Kerley’s Harbour, Ireland’s Eye, and British Harbour. Confederation and resettlement destroyed these small communities, which are now only evident from the ruins of abandoned churches, stages, and sheds. Bruce sure knows the local history – and the politics!

Well-mannered trails

Our shoes remain dry on several well-maintained trails. The award-winning Skerwink Trail is a stunning five-km coastal loop lined with stairs in the steep places and walkways to cover the boggy sections.

The Klondike Trail is short (3 km), but there is a lot to see as we walk from forest to sea: pitcher plants, a lichen-covered rock garden, and two moose in a swamp. The Lighthouse Trail boasts rocks arranged like cake layers.

Gun Hill Trail is short, too, but it leads straight up for a 360-degree view of the Trinity area. Another spot with a stunning panoramic view of Trinity? Yes, indeed: the Sweet Rock Homemade Ice Cream stand on High Street.

Jellybeans and big dogs

Our hiking tour starts and ends in lively St. John’s, known for its jellybean-coloured rows of houses, raucous nightlife on George Street, and striking statues of a Newfoundland dog and a Labrador Retriever. We visit The Rooms, an impressive cultural space. We marvel at the artifacts and art, and we learn a new word: teuthologist, a person who studies squid and other cephalopods.

The North Head is the most popular hiking trail at Signal Hill, site of the first transatlantic communication. This trail is rated Difficult. It isn’t particularly difficult, but hang onto your hat; Signal Hill is a windy place.

Travelling with thirteen bicycles

Self-drive tours are popular in Newfoundland and Labrador. In fact, each and every couple we meet at breakfast tables is driving a rental car. Bucking this trend, we are taking a guided St. John’s and Trinity Hike tour with Freewheeling Adventures.

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We two are the only customers on the hiking tour. Pascal is our guide and driver, and we attract attention by travelling in a van topped with thirteen bicycles (for cycling tours the week before and after our hiking tour). Serendipity! Pascal is a recent graduate of Queen’s University. Every day Pascal patiently answers our questions about campus life, and we relay his advice to our grandson Nick, who is packing for Queen’s Frosh Week.

Now, we are flying on to Prince Edward Island for our next adventure. This time, bicycles will be involved!

Read more of Cathy and Doug’s adventures on their blog, https://bootsboatsbikes.net/.

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Canada Turns 150!

Why you should visit Canada in 2017

By Alana Lojek

2017 marks Canada’s Sesquicentennial, the 150th anniversary of Confederation. Not coincidentally, Canada has been named the Top Country to Visit in 2017 by Lonely Planet, and took the number one spot in the New York Times’ 52 Places to Go in 2017.

Interest in Canada is soaring. Our charismatic prime minister, the second-youngest (and arguably handsomest) leader in the country’s history, has garnered attention, but it is the diverse landscapes and dynamic cities that are drawing visitors from around the world. The generous current exchange rate with the US dollar probably hasn’t hurt, either.

A (very) brief history

The Dominion of Canada was born July 1, 1867, when the British North American Act melded  Upper Canada, Lower Canada, Nova Scotia, and New Brunswick. The remaining provinces and territories were stitched together over time, with Nunavut being the most recent addition, officially becoming its own territory in 1999. Canada as we currently know it, with 10 provinces and 3 territories, is only turning 18, but that doesn’t have quite the same ring to it.

What to expect

Don’t let our polite demeanour fool you: we Canadians know how to party. Here in the north, festivities are in the works from coast to coast to observe Canada’s 150th. Provinces are planning year-long events to celebrate the anniversary, with particular emphasis, of course, on Canada Day, July 1st.

While each city will provide its own cultural flair, highlights will be Vancouver, where First Nations art and music will take centre stage; the nation’s capital, Ottawa, which will host a massive street party with flyovers by the Snowbirds (and maybe even a special appearance by the Queen); and an all-day concert showcasing the musical talents of PEI‘s Charlottetown, the Cradle of Confederation.

Anticipate high volumes of traffic in city centres, and hotels booked to capacity. Parks Canada is offering free admission to National Parks, Historic Sites, and Marine Conservation Areas for 2017, so these areas will be busier than usual. A little extra planning will make for smoother travels.

Join us this year to see what all the fuss is about!

 (ses·qui·cen·ten·ni·al – perfect the pronunciation and dazzle your friends)

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Careful Mr. Lobster Man!

 

I’m riding my bicycle to music class on Tuesday morning, late November, cold and sunny. I hear a big big grumbly rumble behind me, and tense up. The driver is kind: I hear him gearing down. He is treating me like vehicular traffic! I smile, and as the road continues in its narrowness, I see a paved area and pull off to let him pass. Holy crap! He’s carrying a load of lobster traps that takes up nearly the whole of the road on his side of the centre line! I pray silently: “thank you!” and wave to the driver. Just at that moment, my son waves and beeps as well, coming in the other direction on his way to work at Freewheeling Adventures. He always tells me how proud he is to see me – his momma – brightening up the road in my fluorescent green vest and cheery smile.

 

I’m riding my bike to music class on Tuesday morning, cold and sunny, one week later. I hear a big big grumbly rumble behind me, and tense up. There is no gearing down. Instead, the engine revs. I scan the road ahead: there is oncoming traffic, and no shoulder except a steep gravel drop off. For some unknown reason, I have chosen to ride my sturdier hybrid bicycle this morning rather than my faster road bike, even though there is no ice or snow. So grateful for my stronger wheels, I brace and pop off the road, just in time to feel the wind of the truck’s load millimetres from my left elbow. I scream at the top of my lungs as I put my foot down and watch the lobster man barrel past me with his wide load. Had I not pulled over, I would have been creamed, smeared, broken into small bits. I pray silently: “thank you” and wave to the sky.

 

This is dedicated to Ellen Watters, who was not so lucky on her bike ride a few weeks ago and was killed. Drivers: please be kind! Catherine Guest, December, 2016.

         

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Waving at Crosswalks

By Cathy Guest

There has been a rise in pedestrian crosswalk accidents here in Nova Scotia, with ensuing talk of pedestrians waving a ‘thank you’ to the car driver who has stopped for them at a designated crosswalk. Why should we wave a thank you? says the angry pedestrian. It is the duty of the driver to stop. Why indeed! We hear that in Montreal, if a pedestrian steps out to cross the street, the driver will veer towards him, just to give him a ‘heads up’ that this is ‘car territory’ – pedestrian beware!

There was talk here in Halifax of eye contact – not always a guarantee, we hear, of compassionate behaviour. But persevere at the crosswalk we must! Already, jay walking tickets are exorbitantly high – perhaps more than a drunk driving fine, minus the loss of the license and impounding of the car – since there isn’t one…

What got me thinking, as I rode my bike leisurely last Sunday on a quiet country road, was about all that waving. If the pedestrian waves her thank you, and the car driver also waves, may not others wave also, just for fun? We humans are great pranksters – what mayhem could ensue if we are all waving and making eye contact, even at people we don’t know, loving our neighbours, saying “Hey!” No one could drive in that madness! We would all have to switch to non-motorized vehicles for safety’s sake.

I confess, I nearly fell off my bicycle from laughing so hard at the thought of all that waving, and drivers getting all confused about who was saying thank you and who was just kidding around. Bicycles rule! Cyclists can wave and drive!

 

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Kitchen Folk

[an ode to all the wonderful people that have worked in our Freewheeling kitchen over the years]

I’m writing to you so that, in

the passing of one year to another,

one season to another,

your presence in my life will not go unmarked.

 

So deeply have I been moved

and blessed

by those spaces of overlapping time

that we have spent

elbow to elbow at the kitchen sink,

aprons on and smartly tied,

Robot Coupe flying

under pressure of walnuts and feta,

taming of butter chunks,

pestos with herbs and nuts and beans,

hummous for days;

still thrilling to the perfectly timed,

perfectly cooked

batch of brownies

 

Side by side, we dug in the garden,

in the compost,

and picked black currants for weeks

 

hanging napkins and tablecloths on the clothesline

folding napkins and tablecloths

ironing napkins and tablecloths

and then washing, washing, washing

examining for stains, holes, fading, fraying –

only the best and brightest

for our Freewheeling picnics!

 

And the bleach…scrubbing coolers

and Tupperware, and the bits from

the Robot Coupe…rubber gloves wiping

our sweaty brows in the heat

 

Why is it, you beauties of spirit,

that I hear from you that

you loved these summer spaces

in the thick soupy-ness

of all the ingredients that make up

the ideal Freeweeling adventure experience:

the tried and true recipe,

with heaping servings of well maintained equipment,

liberal dashes of excellent humour,

more than a few pinches of compassion,

and the most gorgeous landscape of the world

under the amphitheatre of sky?

 

Yet, as much as there is pride in

the good work done,

this is life being lived in the now

of that soapy water, the black fly

swatted, the whirring of blades, and the scrape of

batter to pan, cooling rack to tin.

All the while, the blue skies

beckoning, the waves breaking along

the rocky edges

 

Summer was always with us,

always precious,

and dreams a drifting mind away….

planning bonfires, bike rides, midnight swims,

and times together with our summer friends.

 

Thank you, oh beauties of spirit –

Kitchen folk

We’ve been sneaking into every Victory

square, every jar of salsa, every

loaf of banana bread

the secret ingredient

for success, for joy, for fun, for

adventures that remind us that we are

travelers together on this earth journey –

Yes, love – we put the love in.

 

Blossoming abounds.

 

You are forever welcome in my kitchen.

 

Happy New Year! Love, Cathy

December 31st, 2015.


David Brennan, inventor of the walnut feta, serves a picnic at Bayswater.

David Brennan, inventor of the walnut feta, serves a picnic at Bayswater.

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Spring Fever!

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If you’ve been whiling away the winter in a fabulously warm locale, tropical fruit-laden beverage in hand, you probably won’t experience the spring fever that has hit us East Coasters with a vengeance! After a winter that felt as though it had no end in sight (and I am a one of the few who actually enjoys the snow), the little glimpses of spring we’ve had over the past week have been downright glorious. 

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Finally some vitamin D! Sorting compost, planting seeds, sneaking in a game or two of Frisbee golf…it’s been a long time coming.

 

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At Freewheeling this spring, it’s not just the longer days that have us excited. Reservations have been rolling in – Nova Scotia seems especially attractive this season – and we have new team members (meet our office staff and guides here: http://www.freewheeling.ca/meetTheTeam.html).

And…drum roll, please…our Quebec: Magdalen Islands Multisport tour has been selected as one of National Geographic Traveler’s “50 Tours of a Lifetime.” Not too shabby! http://travel.nationalgeographic.com/travel/tours/

The magical Îles de la Madeleine form a small archipelago in the Gulf of St. Lawrence. Before the days of lighthouses, the high, strong waves around the islands were blamed for over 400 shipwrecks, resulting in a population melting pot of Anglophone shipwreck survivors, Francophone settlers, and Mi’Kmaq descendants.

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Our Magdalen Islands tour will be featured in the May 2014 issue of the magazine, which hits newsstands April 22. The rigid selection process chose tours acclaimed for their authenticity, innovation, stellar guide reviews, and sustainability. Freewheeling’s six-day tour explores a new island of the Maggies each day. A family-friendly adventure on bike, sea-kayak, and foot, participants relish the chance to try kite-buggying, dabble in kite surfing, cave swimming, sailing, and snorkeling with seals.

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Jacques Cartier, credited as the first European to visit the islands, described “beasts as large as oxen and possessing great tusks like elephants, which, when approached, leaped suddenly into the sea.”

Throw in some amazingly delectable cuisine and first rate inns, and everybody’s happy.

http://www.freewheeling.ca/adventures/QuebecMagdalenIslandsMultisport.html  

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