Yorkville University has announced the date for its 2017 Graduation Ceremony. It is set to take place on June 23, 2017, at the Delta in Fredericton, New Brunswick. For some, travelling to the ceremony can involve some distance. But, in 2015 one graduate decided to make an East Coast road trip out of it. Here, Bachelor of Business Administration graduate, Clive van Rensburg, share’s his travel diary and the reminders the trip held about expanding your mind and experience.
My East Coast Trip to Graduation
I was born and grew up in South Africa and at the ripe old age of 22, found myself in Canada with my family. Moving to a new country is not for the feint of heart and I found myself in the work to live situation a lot quicker than expected. In this country, the only way you will ever go anywhere career wise is to study. It took me 4.5 years part time to acquire an Accounting Diploma . This was still not enough for career advancement and a degree was looming on the horizon. After two years of late nights and occupied weekends of study, I graduated from Yorkville University’s Bachelor of Business Administration. I hadn’t previously had the opportunity to go to a university graduation, so I decided that I would make the trip out to New Brunswick and attend the ceremony.
But why stop there? This would be the perfect opportunity to see more of Canada. I’ve never been out to the east coast and it has always been on my bucket list. Can you say….road trip?
Day 1 of 13
We flew from Toronto to Halifax. The Halifax airport is quite charming when you start out at the monstrosity of Pearson. They even sell one of my wife’s favourite products, namely Crabtree and Evelyn right in the airport. After seamlessly picking up our luggage, we jumped into a cab and directed the little old lady (yes, you read that right) it was a little old lady that could be mistaken for somebody’s grandmother driving our cab. She whisked us into the city, giving us some valuable tourist tidbits and hidden gems on the way to the hotel.
The hotel was ideally located at the bottom end of the city. After checking in, the first order of business would obviously be…lunch. A pub caught my eye – Durty Nellys. I can’t tell you which was more appealing, eating something “durty” or meeting Nelly. The food was top notch, though. We needed to walk this lunch off as I was stuffed like a red pepper full of rice, so we headed up the street to the fort. The view of the city was great from the top of the hill. We missed the noon firing of the cannon, but not to despair – we still had a lovely hotel bed to catch a quick afternoon nap. We decided to take a walk along the boardwalk for the evening and since we were still full from lunch, a dessert might be the only thing on the cards for the evening. Along the boardwalk, there are these lampposts that seem almost human. One was lying drunk on the ground while another was looking concerned. Reminded me of my early 20’s. Yes, I was always the concerned one. We stopped at the famous Cows for ice cream which is certainly a must stop for any ice-cream connoisseur. We retired fairly early for the night as tomorrow was our first driving day.
We decided to take a walk along the boardwalk for the evening and since we were still full from lunch, a dessert might be the only thing on the cards for the evening. Along the boardwalk, there are these lampposts that seem almost human. One was lying drunk on the ground while another was looking concerned. Reminded me of my early 20’s. Yes, I was always the concerned one. We stopped at the famous Cows for ice cream which is certainly a must stop for any ice-cream connoisseur. We retired fairly early for the night as tomorrow was our first driving day.
Day 2 of 13
We picked up our vehicle the day before – a Chevy Sonic. I know what everyone must be thinking. Jeez Clive, you are 6’3″ and 250 lbs – Don’t ya think it might have been better to get a bigger car? The smaller car was all we needed, though. Air Conditioning, light on fuel, easy to park. No need for anything larger in this case.
Another godsend would be the GPS we brought with. Halifax itself was easy-peasy to navigate but the outskirts…that is another ball of wax. And if you weren’t confused enough, let’s throw in a bunch of construction to add to your misery. The GPS expertly guided us towards Peggy’s Cove.
It’s somewhat of a surreal experience when you near Peggy’s Cove. You drive for about 45 min until there is a sudden change in the landscape. You’re casually driving along between the beautiful cedar trees then pow! No trees, a little brush and rocks – all over the place. When we arrived at Peggy’s Cove, we were treated to typical maritime weather. Cold and Rainy. Fantastic. I guess someone really wanted us to feel right at home. At Peggy’s Cove, we saw the lighthouse and the rock formations. There is also a wonderful carving out of rock near the information centre depicting harvesting the fish, carrying and an angel watching over them.
We hopped in the car and cruised down to Lunenburg after a quick run through the curio store. So why Lunenburg? It stemmed from a show we watched on tv called the tall ship chronicles where a bunch of people get on a tall ship and sail around the world. It’s worth checking out. The point of origin was Lunenburg. Lunenburg is basically a fishing town with a little side of tourists. They were actually shooting a movie or something there. Walking around town and along the waterfront was nice, but really uneventful. Back in the car on the way to Halifax. After dropping the car at the hotel, we decided on another walk along the waterfront. There were huge cruise ships pulled into port. One of the coolest things we saw on the was a bicycle repair stand not to mention talking to passengers from the ship. The repair station itself had a set of tools and a pump – all for public use. Along the waterfront, I got a little peckish and settled on a fish burger. It also happened to be a free night at the Maritime Museum after 5pm.
Let’s just get something straight…I’m not a museum guy. Those things bore me to tears. I’d rather hang upside down on a zip line. The museum was surprisingly informative. The huge explosion in Halifax was such a fascinating event. There was also a great piece on a Titanic.
Day 3 of 13
On the road again….Going places where I’ve never been. Yes, that is a cheesy song. We headed over the toll bridge ($1 toll and totally worth it) as we made our way to Dartmouth.
From there we hit winding roads and finally Oceanside. We saw a bunch of cars pulled over to the side and had to stop and see what’s cookin’. Happened to be a bunch of surfers. And in case you were wondering, yes they were wearing wetsuits because the water was cold. I’m talking hypothermia cold.
The first stop would be the Hope for Wildlife sanctuary. They honestly do some good work there. Most of us tend to donate to a charity and never see where our money goes. We got to see first hand how they rehabilitate wild animals and release them. Those that cannot be released due to severe injury are kept and cared for until they die of natural causes. Pretty incredible stuff.
From there we headed up the coastline, stopping at a nature reserve to admire the beach and take a short break from driving. We decided to stop in a town called Sherbrooke for lunch (mostly, because the wife saw a lovely little Bistro). We had a latte and fajitas. Then we got a little nervous as to where we were going to sleep for the night as we had no plans and no reservations. We talked to the waitress and asked about Cape Breton. She directed us to the Mabou Inn, which I promptly called and reserved for 2 nights.
Then an RCMP officer walked in and started talking to an older gentleman. My wife’s eyes lit up and she said “Clive. We’re living an episode of Corner Gas” She was right. I did feel like a Corner Gas episode. I talked a bit to the cop. He asked where we were from and I said “Toronto” He replied “I’m sorry to hear that” Hahaha. I guess if I lived up here I’d likely feel the same. We got in the car and tackled the road to Cape Breton. It was a cool drive across the causeway into Cape Breton, then up the coastline to Mabou.
It sure was a beautiful drive with a rich, dark blue ocean on the left. This is where we learnt about the limitations of GPS. If we kept driving along the coast, we would have ended up in Mabou with little fanfare. Instead, the GPS looked for the shortest route and pushed us up a logging trail. It was mildly put, a white knuckle ride. I thought for certain that we would get stuck a few times. My wife got quieter and paler as I navigated some rough dirt and mud road. Finally making it out the other side she simply said “We can’t rely only on the GPS, we need to look at physical maps to” No argument from me.
After getting our room, we walked down to the red shoe pub for a bite to eat. The Red Shoe pub is owned and operated by the famous Rankin family. We caught the tail end of a traditional Irish performance. I was awesome music. Enjoyed a light but scrumptious dinner and walked back to the Inn to call it a night.
Day 4 of 13
Today was Cabot trail day. We have learnt the value of a good breakfast. If you ever find yourself doing a road trip of this nature, eat a good breakfast (and stay at a place that offers breakfast with your stay) so that you’re not starving on the road for no apparent reason. The Cabot trail was easy to find (without the GPS) and a good way to start our day. We drove through Inverness and along the coastline, which was beautiful. Just before we entered the National Park area of the Cabot trail, we pull over at an information centre. This is another little tidbit of travelling advice. Stop at the information centres. They are awesome. You get free to use, clean washrooms and information galore.
We had to pay a nominal fee to get into the National park area of the trail, which was completely worth it when you see what it’s for. Not only to maintain the trail but along that portion of the trail are 26 lookout points. A safe place to pull over and admire the view and of course take pictures. Driving along this stretch is an unreal experience. It is probably one of the most stunning places I have ever been. The mountainous terrain, coupled with the coastline was truly breathtaking. There was only one little glitch. At one of the lookout stops, I was bitten by a black fly. I can honestly say that no mosquito bite ever itched this much. Whenever I scratched the area I was in true ecstasy from the relief. The one thing you may note along the way is the way is the many arts and crafts stores. They can vary tremendously in price and quality (and who truly needs a quilt), so you have to be very careful what and where you buy. I settled on buying some trinkets for the ladies at work that were made of pewter and handmade in Cape Breton. On the far side of the Cabot trail, we stopped at a coffee shop just outside of Ingonish Beach. Naturally, we had to stop at the beach too and chill for about 20 min before hitting the trail again.
At the bottom end of the trail, we stopped in Baddeck which was also the major tourist town in Cape Breton. This is where you can find the Alexander Graham Bell museum and a few tourist trap shops. Information centre of course to use the washrooms – they were spotless yet again. We got back around 6pm. When you read online you may find people who say the Cabot trails is only a 3 to 4-hour drive. These are what I like to call idiots because they have obviously never been on the Cabot trail whatsoever. It is an all day thing. Yes, and that’s with minimal stopping. Bloody hell. The Mabou Inn make their own pizza and was a great option instead of trying to find a restaurant.
Day 5 of 13
Cape Breton was so magnificent, that I truly believed we didn’t have enough time there. Just as well though as the weather was turning. Driving in a beautiful place doesn’t seem quite as breathtaking when it’s pouring with rain. After crossing the causeway, we stopped at our trusty Tim Hortons and sipped on the wonderful coffee on the way to Caribou. This is where we were getting onto the ferry to Prince Edward Island. You don’t pay to go to PEI (whether it be by ferry or bridge) but you pay to get back. Seeing as there is no alternative, it makes perfect sense. The ferry is a slick operation. Cars, campers, Logging truck etc. all get on and enjoy the ride. Getting off was simple too which immediately had us driving up the coastline to Montague. We were able to secure a Bed and Breakfast in Montague and were happy to try something a little more intimate. The B&B was run by a lovely couple named Frank and Rosie. There is always this fear of trying to be hospitable and ending up spending your vacation trying to entertain the people you’re staying with. This was not the case. Rosie and Frank just let us do our thing and only offered information when asked. After a soggy day, we were keen to get out and see some of PEI.
Day 6 of 13
It was time to get our feet wet in PEI. Basically, you can drive anywhere on the island in just a couple of hours. Charlottetown was going to be our first stop. On the way out there, we had to stop and admire the beautiful green countryside and red soil. This is of course where our red skin potatoes come from. I wonder what else you can plant that would turn red in that soil? I wonder if you plant something that’s red like tomatoes or strawberries if it will go really very red? Charlottetown is smaller than you may think. You always think that a capital of a province would be huge, but this is certainly not the case. After parking the car, we walked along the harbour front where they were setting up a market for the Saturday tourists. Turns out it was a summer solstice celebration. The tourist stores here were top notch and very reasonably priced. I think in Halifax they see the tourists coming a mile away and fleece them thoroughly. Then when they have a little cash left over, they come to PEI to buy what they really wanted in the first place. Charlottetown doesn’t really require more than about an hour to walk through and see what you need to see. Unless of course, you may be coming back later in thee evening for a theatre performance. From there we headed to the Anne of Green Gables museum about an hour north of Charlottetown. I always expect to pay a small fortune for these things, since they tend to drive the prices on gullible tourists. For once I was pleasantly surprised as the entrance fee came to $12.
The Anne of Green Gables phenomenon is a Canadian success story. I can see why the author became inspired here as this is a beautiful area. I am convinced there is something in the water in our modern age because the interior of the house seemed so small which indicates smaller people in general. Well, maybe it’s just me. Of course, having done some research and having had our fair share of vicious mosquito attacks we were prepared with bug spray for our walk through the haunted woods. We did feel sorry for some people and offered them the bug spray to stave off these mini-vampires. We could have sold a spray down and made our entrance fee back in no time. It was well worth it to see this iconic piece of Canadian history. Seeing that it was a sunny day, we set out trying to find a beach. The word was that Cavendish was the best spot in proximity. We paid a $1.50 each for entry and enjoyed the afternoon catching some rays. Another day in the books.
Day 7 of 13
Word was that the weather would turn today, and not for the better. Thus after breakfast, we searched for a beach once more. This time, we headed up the east coast to a place called the singing sands. I was picturing a lady standing on the beach or maybe a choir. But before my grand entrance, I found a play park with no kids in it! I decided to become a kid for a brief moment and played on the slide, swings and monkey bars. Whoo-hoo. When we got to the singing sands I was waiting for my choir…to my disappointment. Nobody singing? False advertising. Then I walked on the sand and they made a peculiar noise. I little like very tiny bubble wrap. The sands were the choir! We found a quiet spot and tried to enjoy the wonderful cloudy day. I found a huge piece of driftwood and thought it quite funny to carry it around for a bit.
Then it got really cold and started raining. Time to grab a coffee and hit the road again. We continued to skirt along the coast and made our way back to Charlottetown from the north end. The rain kinda put a damper on our afternoon, so we decided to crawl into bed with Netflix. Dinner was Chinese take-out, which was scrumptious.
Day 8 of 13
The rain is staying, unfortunately. Go figure, as today we cross the famous 15km bridge over the ocean to New Brunswick in the pouring rain. Did I mention it was raining?
The trip across the bridge was uneventful since we really couldn’t see anything. After reaching the other side, we skirted along the coast (on a very poor road). This got aggravating, so we pulled back toward the highway and headed into Moncton. The rain was really coming down, so driving south along the coastline was not an option anymore.
We pulled into a Four Points Sheraton, which was great timing because it was a brand new hotel (only open for 2 weeks). The room was fabulous. And the bed was even better. After a bit of chill time, we thought about what to do on a rainy day. Movies of course. We went to see Jurassic World.
The rain let up briefly, thus Magnetic Hill was close to our hotel. Apparently, you put your car in Neutral and your car rolls up a hill? Sounds a little weird. Turns out that it does work, but it’s just an optical illusion. They’ve actually built an entire village and amusement park around the attraction. Back to the hotel for a quiet evening.
Day 9 of 13
It’s time to get serious about our road trip again. We headed along the river to the coast and enjoyed the wonderful scenery. I saw a sign for Hopewell Rock Conservation area, so I decided on a small detour. After paying the entrance fee, we headed down to the viewing area. Apparently, the tide had eaten the rocks away and they tend to have this unique flowerpot shape. Very cool. We hopped back in the car and continued our trek south toward St. Andrews. Drove through another conservation area and through Saint John. As we pulled up to the Rossmount Inn, it was like a scene from the movies. Driving up a line of trees to the main house was just magnificent. The Inn itself was like a page from downtown Abbey with a gorgeous wooden staircase and white tablecloths in the restaurant. The room was a little small, but it was very charming. We quickly nipped into St. Andrews to do our laundry. Tonight we had reserved our spot in the Inn’s restaurant. The food was outstanding as I finally had my lobster. It was delicious.
Day 10 of 13
Today we were set on whale watching. We headed into town and had many choices of tours from a tall ship to a zodiac. We decided to walk around a bit and think about it. At the end of the day, it was too early in the season to guarantee whales thus opted out. They day was still fairly young, so we needed something else to do. All I had to say was Chocolate Museum in Saint Stephen and the wife readily agreed.
The drive was short and uneventful. The museum itself was a little small but interesting. Seeing all the teenagers working at the museum made me wonder what these kids actually do around these parts year round. It has got to be boring, needless to say. We still had half a day left and opted for lazing around the pool. Close to the Inn, we drove past a place called Clam Digger. It was a little shack that sold burgers and fries. Sound like a plan to me. The food was fantastic. Who needs fancy lobster in a restaurant?
Day 11 of 13
Off to the Delta in Fredericton, the location of Yorkville University’s Graduation! The drive to Fredericton was lovely and much fewer cars on the road than I expected.
It was a lovely hotel. Dinner that night was in Isaac’s way. I would highly recommend this restaurant. The food was outstanding at a reasonable price. That even was a meet and greet with some of my fellow students (BBA program), instructors and the Dean of Business, Jana Comeau. It was fantastic to put a face to the name as we all tend to get lost in the online world. We seem to get wrapped up in out digital world and there is nothing like getting to know someone face to face.
Day 12 of 13
Today was the big day. It was ceremony time. I collected my robe and sash – ready for it. I must admit that the whole thing was superbly organised. We started on time with walking into the hall behind a man playing the bagpipes. You read that right – playing the bagpipes! There is something about bagpipes that just makes things special. It somehow puts a lump in your throat and you don’t even have to be Scottish. We heard some speeches and I walked up proudly to receive my degree.
It was truly fantastic. I can see why Universities put a lot of emphasis on these types of events. It brings a sense of pride and elation – a fitting end for the hard work you commit to when completing a degree. I never had this opportunity in South Africa. My new adopted country has given me so much and to add this wonderful experience was truly amazing to me.
Day 13 of 13
On our last day, it was pretty much a leisurely morning and making our way to the airport. The airport is smaller than you think with only 2 gates. It serves the purpose, though. This is a trip I will never forget. It makes you realize that Canada is truly a beautiful country and to coop yourselves up in your little hovel makes absolutely no sense whatsoever. Expand your horizons, expand your mind and experience something new. That after all, it the purpose of life – isn’t it?