Working trip to PEI

I don’t get to travel often for work and not far either but I was happy to head to Prince Edward Island for training last week.

I left at noon and got to Summerside around 4. I had tickets for Anne of Green Gables – the musical at 7:30 so I headed to a restaurant close to the theatre. I had a lovely seafood chowder at Terre Rouge because I wanted to save room for ice cream after the show.

Those of you who know me know that I love Anne of Green Gables. I’ve seen the movies dozens of times, visited the site a couple time and saw the other musical Anne and Gilbert.

This show was true to the story and I really enjoyed it 🙂 if you’re in Charlottetown during the season, it’s definitely worth seeing.

I was also there during le Congrès mondial acadien but the big events had already moved on to New Brunswick.

The training was super helpful and my co-worker who joined me during our training has family there so we ended up at the horse track the next evening.

It was a great couple days and wish I could have stayed a bit longer to actually do touristy stuff but it was still nice to have a little getaway.

Summer is coming to an end and we’re trying to take fully advantage of the remaining warm days. ☀️

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Bienvenue en Clare

My husband and I decided to take a little road trip this past weekend. We weren’t sure where we wanted to go so I went on Airbnb, typed in Nova Scotia to guide our search and found a cute little place to stay.

I found a spot where we had our own loft with the owners on the property. It was situated on a lake outside of a small town. They offered kayaks to use as we wished. I booked and we started making plans for our weekend away.

We left Friday afternoon and drove about 3 hours before arriving in Meteghan. I had done a little bit of research and knew that about 15 minutes away, Les beaux vendredi was taking place at Anse-aux-Belliveau. During the summer, it takes place every Friday (weather permitting) at the community park/wharf and they sell lobster, crab and clams and there’s live music. I actually saw an old colleague of mine who gave me recommendations for the rest of the weekend. It was nice seeing her again 🙂 It ended up being a beautiful summer’s evening as we watched the sun go down.

Saturday morning we woke up and got geared up to go kayaking. The lake they’re on is a nice size and we were gone for a couple hours discovering the different little coves. There’s only about 7 or so cabins on the lake so we ended up being the only ones on the lake and it was so nice to just take our time and paddle around.

Once we got back, we had some lunch and went to discover the region a little. Not far from our Airbnb, we drove to Smugglers Cove also known as Le Fourneau. While we were there, it was low tide so we were able to walk down and discover the beach-like cove and look at some cool rock formation of what I assume are formed by waves. At high tide, the cove is inaccessible as it fills back up. There is a viewing platform once it’s high tide. As the name suggest, the cove was used during prohibition to smuggle liquor to the shore and in the cave.

We then headed over to Mavilette beach which is a provincially run park. It is a beautiful hidden gem of Nova Scotia. There are kilometres of beautiful sand to walk and that’s exactly what we did. As it was still low tide, we could have spent a couple hours just walking along the beach with our feet in the water. It was pretty cool too as it was a little misty when we arrived but the sun was still quite warm. We will certainly return to visit Mavilette beach and perhaps even spend a day.

We had to head back to our Airbnb to get ready for our supper reservations at la Cuisine Robichaud that I was looking forward to all weekend. If you want to eat there, I suggest you make reservations. It’s a quaint old house turned restaurant owned by a local couple with probably 10 or so tables. We could have sat outside (seemed like another 5 or so tables outside) but it was a little blustery. There were young and old people alike there coming to taste the delicious seafood menu. It’s also BYOB. I started off with mini fishcakes and Jonathan had bacon wrapped scallops. Jonathan’s main dish was haddock with creamed lobster which was tasty, the lobster was definitely the star of the show with the haddock melting in your mouth. I had the best seafood lasagna with amazing seafood and a creamy sauce. I highly recommend it and the seafood lasagna.  

We headed back to the lake to drink our wine (that we forgot to bring to the restaurant) by the lake. We sat watching the sun go down on the floating dock listening to the water gently rippling by us, listening to the hummingbirds’ wings flap beside us. It was a perfect finish to our day in this beautiful region.

Sunday morning I woke up relatively early and enjoyed the sun filtering through the loft as a read. We got ready and headed out before noon and stopped at Sip café, a cute café just minutes away from our Airbnb. We made our way to Yarmouth and then headed back to Halifax by driving on Highway 3 most of the way on the South shore. We got back early evening and got ready for the week ahead. We had such a lovely time and I would do it again in a heartbeat.

Au Sip café

 

Wineries in the Annapolis Valley

The August long weekend creeped up on us and summer is half way through here. July was a hot one and we’ve made the best of the weather.

My friend and I decided to take a little staycation and drove to the valley Saturday morning. We had booked an evening winery tour so we had a couple hours to get some lunch, check in to our hotel and get ready.

We stayed at the micro living boutique in Wolfville which ending up being ideal. Not super big but it had everything we needed, including AC and a great view.

We had lunch at the Church Brewery across the road, a new venture started by two SMU alumni. A brewery started in an old church.l, very unique and interesting idea.

The burger was delicious and for someone who doesn’t like beer, it was pretty good.

We met our tour at the first winery at Benjamin Bridge, a favourite of my Nova Scotia wineries.

The girl giving us the tasting was super knowledgeable and had lots of stories to share.

Then off we were to Grand-Pré winery for our second tasting. We had some time to walk through the vineyard and also got to the look off point where Grand-Pré UNESCO site starts.

Last but not least we went to Luckett vineyard where dinner was waiting for us as well as a magnificent view.

We had a couple hours there to eat and wonder in the vineyard and take a few pictures.

On Sunday, we had a slow start to the day but we ended up having a breakfast crêpe at the Naked crepe which I still very much enjoy. We then walked to Lightfoot and Wolfville winery to have some more wine. It’s a newer estate and very beautiful.

We had a late lunch there then headed back to the city. A great way to spend the weekend not too far from home.

More Halifax visitors!

This time it was my niece that came to the city for a week. She’s nine and we’re pretty close, she’s the first born of the four girls and is now grown enough to spend a week without getting homesick.

I went to get her in Cape Breton and brought her back Saturday so Jonathan could hang out with her on Sunday. We went to the Discovery Center and saw a sloth, tortoises, an iguana and spiders, yuck! But it was a good exhibit with great information.

We had a later lunch at Morris east and then later we went to the library.

Monday morning we headed over to Citadel hill. I had never been inside and we didn’t stay very long but it was nice to see. I’ll likely go again to be able to visit it fully.

After that we took the ferry to Dartmouth and enjoyed a short walk on the Dartmouth side. We met Jonathan on the waterfront to take the Harbour Hopper which was pretty good. We ended up at A Mano’s for supper which has a nice kids menu and it’s always one of my favourite 🙂

Tuesday we headed to Peggy’s cove. It was a hot day so it was nice to get close to the water and have a cool breeze.

Once we got back to the city, we picked up some things for a picnic on the citadel hill. We finished the evening off with a walk in the Public Gardens.

Wednesday was a shopping day. She got some nice stuff and spent some of her chore money.

Thursday, I was running out of ideas but we decided to check out Maritime museum of the Atlantic. There’s a lot of information regarding the Halifax explosion, the Titanic as well as other maritime information that’s pretty interesting. You can also learn how to use Morse code which I thought was interesting.

Thursday night we ended up visiting her mom and sister who arrived in the city early evening.

We also met up with them Friday morning and they played on the play ground and the wave on the waterfront. Always a favourite with kids.

We went to clay café in the afternoon and ended up at the Lion King movie Friday evening. I liked it but it was a little scary for the littlest one.

I had a great week with my niece and so happy we were able to spend time together 🙂

As Sunday comes and goes, I’m just tidying up and planning for the work week ahead. It’s hot and humid here on the east coast, 30 degrees but reaching 40 with the humidity!

Celebrating 60 years in business

The year was 1959 and my grand father, Alexandre, started a bakery. He had spent some time in camps baking bread and he was ready to open his own place with his wife Annie-Blanche with three kids in tow.

Aucoin’s bakery was born with a small loan to start the business. The business grew as the years went by.

Once my pépère and mémère got a little older, my dad took over the business in 1988.

I was five years old at the time and about to start school.

My dad and mom grew the business quite a bit, extending the building and taking courses to better understand the process of making the best bread possible. He also extensively grew the item list (different breads and sweets) to reach a larger market.

Since my dad passed in 2010, my mom and brother have been working together to get it to where it is today, with more extensions and expansions.

My dad and his siblings all worked all the bakery growing up. My siblings and I also worked at the bakery in high school and university (during the summer months). You could say that my work ethic was taught and learned at a young age.

We didn’t take many family vacations, I worked after school and during summer vacation but I was able to choose a couple extracurricular activities. I learned a lot of lessons like giving people a second chance, work hard and you’ll get rewarded, family above all else, and entrepreneurial stuff that you won’t learn in school (helping with payroll, paying bills, staffing issues, etc.).

Even if I don’t work there anymore, I still feel like it’s a part of me and I want it to succeed and do the best that it can do.

We had a lovely day Saturday celebrating with the community, my grand mother, aunt, family and friends who continue to support us.

Visiting my own city

There’s no way like getting to know your own city like having friends visit from another province. Michelle and I met when we worked at the Embassy in Paris. I invited many of my friends that I met in Paris and I knew Michelle would be the first to visit. She’s always up for a trip.

We got back to Halifax Friday evening from Moncton and although it was raining all day Friday, we tried to make the most of the gloomy weather.

Friday we went to Shuck, a seafood restaurant that we had never been but it will not be our last time there. We enjoyed the food and wine, and the atmosphere was quite nice as well.

Saturday morning we visited the Seaport market where we bought a few things to make supper and breakfast for the next day. We also walked along the waterfront and decided to have a drink before heading to the mall for some retail therapy.

Our evening was low key with some more catching up.

Sunday ended up being a beautiful day so we visited Citadel Hill and the Public Gardens before heading to beautiful Peggy’s Cove. Citadel Hill and the Public Gardens are just steps away from our apartment. We walked up to the Citadel Hill so we could get a great view of the city and it didn’t disappoint. The Public Gardens are just so nice to walk through and we enjoyed the flowers in bloom.

The drive to Peggy’s Cove is about 45 minutes away and it was already busy with tourists. It was a little chilly by the water and very windy and the seas were quite angry so we enjoyed a couple sea sprays.

We enjoyed lunch at a food truck nearby and we found a little trail to walk through and enjoy the beautiful views.

I think Michelle really enjoyed her time with us and discovering our side of the coast. We also enjoyed having her and being able to show her our home.

 

Work travels

I started a new job at the beginning of April as Financial analyst and got to travel for our team meeting for the first time last week. It wasn’t far and nothing too exotic but we still had lots of fun.

I left a little later then I would have liked to so I could pick up my friend at the airport that was visiting for a few days.

We arrived in Moncton, New-Brunswick late Tuesday night and our meetings started Wednesday morning. The weather was amazing during our time there, +25 Celcius with the sun shining. Felt like summer has started!

My friend walked around the town and ate all the seafood which she was excited for, understandably!

Our first evening, we had made reservations at a restaurant downtown Moncton and afterwards we sat on a patio and just chatted (along with the musquitoes).

The second evening, we took a small drive to Shediac, the town over in order to sit on the Pointe-du-Chene wharf and visit Parlee Beach. Michelle and I had lots of catching up to do, which was so great, even if it had only been about 3 months since we had seen each other.

Although it wasn’t our original plan to be in New Brunswick for her first visit, we had a lovely time and made the best of it.

I lived in Moncton before and always enjoy going back, speaking in French most of the time and running into people on the street…it’s a small place and that’s not a bad thing. People are very friendly and want to help you out.

Differences

We all have our own ideas of what is ‘normal’ to us. We noticed big differences or even subtle ones during our year abroad that we either find endearing or frustrating and I thought I would share some.

La bise

In France, whenever you see someone (that you know) for the first time during the day or when you leave, you touch/kiss cheeks better known as ‘la bise’. In Canada, if we haven’t seen someone for a long time, we’ll hug but we tend to enjoy our own bubble. Jonathan had difficultly getting used to this and I’m not sure that he ever would.

Speaking of bubble, there is no personal space in France, especially if you’re in a place where there are a lot of people. Maybe it’s because we’re used to having a lot of space in Canada but even in a line, people tend to be a tad bit too close. If you’re not close enough though, people will try to cut in line.

Getting back to la bise. We watched the soccer games during the World Cup at the same bar/restaurant and we met this lovely older lady (probably in her 70s) who chatted with us after the second game. She was going on vacation but came back especially for the final and when she came to say hi, she did la bise. Caught Jonathan by surprise but it was sweet of her to come by just to say hi and chat.

Stores

Stores tend to be more specialized in what they sell. There are bakeries on every corner street (although you can still buy bread at the super market but it’s never that great), pâtissiers specialize in only pastries, there are still many cordonnier shops (shoe repair shops) but when you’re looking for something very specific, it’s not always an easy task. We were looking for a fan when we were in Nantes so we decided to take a trip to the mall. We didn’t find one and ended up finding one at Monoprix (my favourite super market…think Loblaws/Superstore in Canada). It is getting ‘better’ as bigger stores are starting to carry more variety but that leaves smaller stores that just carry specific things out of business a lot of the time.

Every store has their own hours and google is no help! Restaurants usually close for a couple hours in the afternoon and only open at 7pm for the dinner service (although touristy restaurant may have ‘service continue’). Bakeries have their own made up schedules as they see fit; some are open all week, some are closed on weekends or just closed Sundays, and like our neighbourhood bakery that we frequented in Nantes, they closed for the month of August.

Some banks are closed Sunday and Monday, some are closed Monday and Tuesday and others Sunday and Tuesday. It’s hard to keep track!

Pharmacies only carry drugs, nothing else although parapharmacies sell beauty products as well. You won’t find any Lawton’s or Shoppers. I also find their drugs a bit on the weak side. We had bought allergy medication for Jonathan but it did nothing for him. He joked that maybe they just substituted them for candy.

From my understanding and observations, most people have their neighbourhood stores where they shop and they know their hours by heart. We, as a car driving population in Canada, drive wherever we may need/want to go to find the item we’re looking for, not necessarily in our own neighbourhood. I find Nantes to be very pedestrian friendly and inconvenient for cars which I enjoy.

One of my biggest shock coming back to Canada (Halifax specifically) was once we were past the hello, people asked how you are. I forgot about that or maybe I just hadn’t noticed it before.

Food…and wine

The best part about France is their food and wine. We have noticed that there are less varieties of fruit and vegetables but that isn’t such a bad thing. Their fruits and veggies are from not so far away so they are usually fresh. Things are a lot less sweet and we had gotten accustomed to it and enjoy it.

And the wine, I can’t forget the wine! It’s cheap and so good. We have had a couple misses but for the most part, we have enjoyed the wine selection at around 5 euros. I guess selection could be another point. There are so many different vineyards that you could likely drink a different wine for a year.

French people often eat their foods with fork and knives. If you’re in a restaurant, you’ll see them eat a burger with a fork and knife, which seems a bit odd to us but I’m sure we look odd to them! Portions are smaller and that’s also a good thing.

Transportation

France in general seems to have transportation down path. In most cities we’ve gone, they have busses and either trams or metros (subway). Even with it being old cities, they’ve managed to make it work and help their people get around.

The train system is also great to travel from city to city (or town). You can travel by TGV (very fast trains), TER or intercité. All of these are viable options, the difference is mostly where the financing comes.

It’s pretty amazing that you can go from the north of France to southern France in less than day and at a pretty reasonably price.

Odds and ends

This is definitely a frustrating part for me; every place we’ve stayed, not one window has a screen and mosquitoes love me! I had bites on my hands, on my face, on my legs and arms.

I love that the sun sets so late in the summer. Nantes is more northern than Halifax or even Cheticamp at 47.21 N. Halifax is at 44.64 N and Cheticamp at 46.62 N but on June 21st, it wasn’t dark until almost 11pm. And if Nantes is more northern than most of Nova Scotia, why doesn’t it get the cold climate in the winter? Regardless of it all, we enjoyed the late evenings with plenty of sun and warmth.

All of this to say that we may see or perceive many differences but that’s why we wanted to live in France for a year, to get another perspective and live another culture. Although sometimes we may have been frustrated, most of the time we’d go with the flow and see that we’re the ones that have to adapt. We made the most of our stay and we are thankful that we got to see many parts of France.

La Cuisine Paris

When my family came to visit me in November, I tried to find something fun for them to do while I was at work.

A cooking class seemed like a fun idea! We booked a private class since my nieces are 5 and 9 years old.

They decided to do the tart class and thoroughly enjoyed it as well as my husband who attended with them.

My friend and I decided to try the chocolate tart recipe and hope they would be as good as the one we had tried in Caen that we loved so much!

We used chocolate from a local chocolatier here (who’s originally from France). The tarts are quite easy to make and I also made a couple notes for next time.

I had french butter brought from France and also used butter from here. There wasn’t much of a difference thankfully so I won’t need to buy french butter lol it could be costly!

We’ll cheers to that 🍾🥂

Job hunting in France

I thought I would write a post about my work experience in France. I’ll be honest, I was quite naïve thinking that I would easily find a job once I arrived in France. Being Canadian and bilingual, I thought that I’d be able to find a job in the restaurant industry or tourism industry in the summer.

I applied to many places before leaving last year and heard back from maybe two places out of the 20 or so that I sent my resume to (to tell me that I hadn’t been chosen for the position). In the end, I was happy to have our workaway planned for at least our first month.

Finding a workaway wasn’t too hard but just time consuming. Some people who have ads on there already have found someone and there’s a lot of back and forth, trying to make sure that it’s a good fit. Workaway is a website where traveling people and those who need some help around their home or business come together. There’s usually no pay but room and board is offered. It was hard work but we have fond memories looking back.

Once our workaway was done, I started looking for jobs in Blois, and then in Nantes once we arrived there. Once we finally found an apartment in Nantes, I seriously started to look (mostly in administration instead of hospitality) and even went to agencies. Most of the agencies were specific sectors which I wasn’t familiar with at all.

At the end of July, I was relieved when the Embassy of Canada contacted me to offer me a 3 month contract.  When we registered with the Embassy before we left Canada, I had also sent an email to HR with my resume and cover letter. I wasn’t expecting a call but I was more then happy once they offered me that contract.

Paris wasn’t originally on our list because it’s costly and it’s a very big city. In the end, it was a great decision. We were able to discover the city like a local, less like a tourist. We met amazing people and I went to work in my home country every day.

Some of my lovely coworkers

My 3 month contract turned into 6 months, and if I could, I would have stayed longer but it was just not meant to be. I will treasure my experience at the Embassy and the people that I got to work with each day. I was also honoured to meet our Ambassador, the first female Ambassador to France, Isabelle Hudon and participate in different activities.

Wine tasting at the Government of Canada Workplace Charitable Campaign

Many expats living in France are self employed or are very specialized in a field. It’s definitely not an easy feat as an outsider to find work.

Anyone else have any expat work stories to share? I’d love to hear from you!