From homestead to seashore: an update

Five months ago we drove north from Montreal and took a right at Rivière-du-Loup. Highway 2 took us deep into the Maritimes, through Moncton, and then on south toward Halifax.

It was a long trek for a holiday weekend, but the trip was not merely for pleasure – we don’t love road tripping quite that much; twelve hours is a heck of a drive just to see the ocean. And even though the crocuses were bursting through the ground along the banks of Sullivan’s Pond, we did not drive to Dartmouth in search of spring, either.

Our travels had brought us to Canada’s ocean playground on a different sort of Easter hunt: a real estate search. We were acting on a dream. Taking the first step – actual physical steps – to turn hopes and plans into reality.

Our car followed the coast down from Halifax, through Herring Cove and then up again past St. Margaret’s Bay, stopping here and there along the way to walk a beach, tour a home or catch the view from the end of a dock. The South Shore was showing off that day, beckoning us with distant lighthouses, glittering surf and dancing boats in harbour.

I distinctly remember coming around one curve where the road sloped down towards the shoreline. Two elderly men stood on the end of a dock, beers in hand and hats pushed back. They wore rubber boots up to their knees, faded blue jeans and checked flannel shirts, exactly as one would imagine a local fisherman to dress. In the instant we swished pass them in the car, they raised their beer bottles and clinked them together in a slow, deliberate ‘Cheers’. It was too much. The gesture, the moment in time, the sea behind them: it undoubtedly proclaimed: “Life here is some good”.

It’s heady stuff, dreams. And that moment you realize that there is nothing, not really, preventing a dream from coming true? That is purely intoxicating.

 

It’s no secret that we’ve been captivated by the Maritimes for a few years now. Our first road trip through Nova Scotia covered the Cabot Trail on Cape Breton Island and the wine country of Annapolis Valley. We learned history in Louisbourg and were charmed with the colours and markets of Lunenburg. We visited Prince Edward Island twice, casually looking up real estate on the Green Isle after each trip.

We packed up our presents one December and drove to Halifax for a white Christmas with my sister. There, we curled up in the award-winning library during snowstorms and drove to find a deserted beach on clear days. We cracked lobsters on Christmas Eve and toasted in the New Year with Benjamin Bridge bubbly.

On other trips we’ve stayed with friends in beautiful New Brunswick and traced Danny’s roots back to his Nanny’s childhood home on a charming Moncton street. Our last excursion was all the way out to Newfoundland, an experience my children still reference on a weekly basis – as in “When can we go back?”. If we were crushing on Canada’s Eastern provinces after previous trips, our Newfoundland travels fanned that flame into full blown love.

On these travels, we paid careful attention to how we felt while in the Maritimes and to how the children responded to the change of pace. It’s important to notice the little signs and signals that life sends your way.

“Man, people are really friendly in Halifax.” observed my son during our trip last April, as he skipped down the hill toward the waterfront. Later, back at our AirBnB, the kid from next door popped over to invite us to church on Easter Sunday.

I’ve seen a lot of Canada. I’ve traveled to every province and territory save two (NWT and Nunavut). I’ve lived in four distinct pockets of this vast country. No place has the warmth, the heart or half the charm as the Maritimes.

So, yeah. We’re taking small, but steady steps to move from our beloved Quebec homestead to a waterfront property just outside of Halifax. And we’re pretty excited!

This move is about so much more than the allure of a seaside city, of course. We wouldn’t transplant our family on a whim. The charms are the easiest to explain out loud; it is all the other, more personal reasons that are much harder to put into words. How do you explain a drawing? A gut-feeling? Somewhere, deep down, is a desire for a lifestyle change, a slower pace of life – and no one does slow like the Maritimes.

And the decision hasn’t been a snap one. Every time we’ve traveled to the Maritimes in the past five years we’ve had a conversation about relocating our family to Nova Scotia. Taking an extended trip offers the chance to examine your life from a distance. For a time, you are free from the day-to-day activities that are so encompassing, and there is opportunity to ask yourself – am I truly happy?

On our London trip last May, Danny and I actually had the time, as parents and partners, to finish that conversation. We concluded that there’s never a perfect time to make a move as big as this, but there are good times, and given our children’s ages (12 and under), this feels like a good time.

Quebec will always be where I found love, and an enormous extended family. It has been where I have made dear friends who are as close as family. It will always be where my journey as a food creative was birthed. It will always feel like home, in a way. For two decades this place has been the fabric of my story, and my life will always be the more colourful because of it.

However, despite its rich culture, joie de vivre and fantastic bread, life in Quebec requires….a certain stamina, at least for this English-speaking transplant. And I think that unless you’ve lived or traveled outside of Quebec for an extended period of time, you might not even notice that there are more gentle corners of Canada, like Halifax, which was recently voted as one of the friendliest cities in the world.

Danny has lived his whole life in Quebec (with a brief school year in B.C.) and I am coming up on 20 years in La Belle Province. We’re ready for a change. And ocean. And a gentler, smaller city, where traffic is scarce, family culture is upheld, and community spirit is tangible.

Once the idea to move took hold, it grew like a spring seedling during the April rains… I read Chasing Slow: Courage to Journey Off the Beaten Path, followed by Essentialism: The Disciplined Pursuit of Less. These two fantastic books confirmed what I was feeling in my soul: a deliberate change for a simpler, slower lifestyle could only be good for our family.

I started decluttering our home, donating baby clothes, used books and oodles of kitchen gear. Danny pared down the contents of our garden shed that was stuffed with tools, camping gear and everything else under the sun. In June we threw a huge garage sale and emptied the house even more.

In July, we power-washed everything that was nailed down on the homestead and shot photos of the exterior of our home in its lush summer glory. In August, we painted the interior for days and completed the pesky repair jobs that always get shelved. And in September, we listed our homestead on the market.

So this is where we are now… I feel like the pen is poised over a blank page, waiting to write the next chapter in our story.

I do not know how long this transition will take; fortunately, we are in a fairly unhurried position. There’s currently no job being held for Danny nor is there a particular property we are attached to yet. Everything hinges on the sale of our home, and if it takes a year, so be it.

We’re holding this dream with open hands, anticipating when it will transform from a hope to reality. Dreams are not meant to be tightly clutched, smothered in overachieving attempts to will them into coming true. Like most of the dreams in my life, such as world travel, finding love, becoming a mother, and writing books, it will happen when it happens.

I hope you will follow along on our journey from homestead to ocean.

Side note: If you are interested in our real estate listing, email me: aimee@simplebites.net and I will send it your way. Who knows, maybe one or two of you readers are looking for an urban homestead on the outskirts of Montreal. 

Side note Part II: Maritime readers, please pipe up and say hello! Perhaps you will all be part of my new food community out in Nova Scotia. I look forward to connecting.

About Aimee

Cooking has always been Aimée's preferred recreational activity, creative outlet, and source of relaxation. After nearly ten years in the professional cooking industry, she went from restaurant to RSS by trading her tongs and clogs for cookie cutters and a laptop, serving as editor here at Simple Bites. Her first book, Brown Eggs and Jam Jars - Family Recipes from the Kitchen of Simple Bites, was published in February 2015.

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Comments

  1. This is a very exciting project! I absolutely understand your decision… my wife and I moved to the beautiful state of Vermont 2 years ago after 5 years in Montreal, including about 3 years of planning and dreaming about our move. We went for mountains instead of the ocean but the most important thing is that we found the gentleness you mention. We are so glad our daughters get to grow up here. On a side note, I recently made the Do-Ahead Cider Ribs from your site for several people who have welcomed us warmly when we moved here. It felt like an accomplishment and I would like to thank you for this amazing recipe. (And many others from your book!)

  2. Dear Aimee,
    Good luck with your unfolding adventure. Some time ago I contacted you to inquire about your baking steel and how you liked using it in your kitchen. You suggested I get back to you at a later date once you had more opportunities to use it. And I am doing just that! Given the currency exchange difference between us and our neighbour to the south, a decision to purchase is not made lightly. Any feed back you can provide will be appreciated. Thanks. And on another note, I am very excited to have your new cookbook in my hands soon!

    • Hi Sherry,
      Thanks for following up. We are loving the Baking Steel and getting a lot of use out of it. My son turned 12 recently and we did a big pizza party for all his friends. It’s pretty cool to turn out restaurant-quality pizza from home. 🙂

  3. What exciting news! I live just outside Halifax with my family and we love it here. The ocean can be so majestic, powerful, and peaceful all at the same time. Now I’m looking forward to getting the next cookbook AND hearing how your plans unfold! And I would love to help if there’s anything I can do here on this end!

    • Angie, thanks so much for the offer. I really appreciate it. For sure once we get settled out there I will be asking for recommendations. PS Thanks for supporting the cookbook!

  4. Vic Gnaedinger says:

    All the best to you and Danny and the kids in realizing your dream. Although I live on the other coast, Vancouver Island, the same principles apply. Slower is better in a number of ways, including eating! And have you ever thought of getting a dog?

  5. It’s likely that many of your readers, as I, can relate to your desire to find a slower pace. We were seeking the same for our kids while living in central ontario. The small town,where my husband had bought a little fixer-upper before we met, had transformed greatly as the region, a commutable distance from Toronto, became a designated growth area.
    Our dream was to build an off-grid sustainable homestead on acreage further north. Certain realities altered our plans and we moved to south-eastern Ontario (I am not brave enough to move out-of-province, away from my sisters) outside of a small town on the Trent River, in a farming region . We love our new home and locale, the pace is calmer and our kids are becoming established. But we have found a few obstacles to moving into a small town- we do encounter more conservative views and narrower perspective, people are friendly but it can be difficult fitting into their fold- friendly but not intimate- maybe we’ll always be outsiders to some extent, although less so for the kids. And less diversity- with lifestyles mimicking one another, and schedules for extracurricular activities, soccer and hockey, etc., that rival hectic suburban households. We are way more laid back and stewards of the land than many of the farmers whose families have farmed here for generations. But it does have a more relaxed pace, we live a beautiful natural setting and spend much time outside. There is a strong foodie culture springing up, farm stores and farmers markets galore and I can buy the majority of our meat and produce locally. We do love our new home even though I long to be nearer to my family and dear friends.
    I do wish you well on your adventure and your quest for a slower lifestyle. It’s a worthy pursuit!

    • I so appreciate your perspective, Cindy. You brought up some valid concerns and it is good to be aware of them when moving to a more rural area. Thanks for sharing.

  6. Jenny Muise says:

    Greetings from Nova Scotia! I’m looking forward to reading about your move to the East Coast!

    • I’ll be keeping a notebook and taking photos, for sure, Jenny. I’m thrilled that so many people are happy for us. Can’t wait to join you out there in NS.

  7. How wonderful! My husband and I are from the US but we lived in Ottawa for the last year and a half. We traveled to Nova Scotia and PEI in June and loved it. What a wonderful decision for you and your family!

  8. How exciting for you! I live in a small sized city in Ontario but compared to Toronto this is heaven. Not too much traffic & a beautiful park area & river. I know what you mean when you say you want to escape & live a simpler life.

  9. Molly Desruisseaux says:

    I am a new culinary student that was on a trip to the Berkshire mountains this weekend for a wedding and stopped into a really cool grocery store named Guido’s Fresh Marketplace. I noticed on a poster that Alana Cernila worked there which was cool because I have been a fan of hers for awhile. So today I was perusing her Instagram and saw a post about your new cookbook… which led me to your blog.. and this post about Nova Scotia! And whats crazy is that my family and I ( kids age 12,7 and 5) want to move there too! My husband and I were obsessing about it the entire weekend and listening to Canadian immigration podcasts. We, like you, have realized that we can do this if we put in the effort. Might take us a few years because we are coming from America but we will get there. I wish you all the best and I look forward to reading updates on your blog. And the cookbook is on its way to my house! Take care. – Molly D.

    • Hi Molly. Welcome to my blog! I’m so glad you found me here. Our kids are nearly the same age (My three are 12, 9 and 5). Your dream sounds well worth pursuing and not out of reach at all, as we ourselves have discovered. Check out http://www.viewpoint.ca – which is Nova Scotia’s amazing real estate website. Best of luck with your journey and thanks for supporting my book!

  10. So happy that you, Danny and your children are reaching out to catch your dreams!

    I re-read your Cape Breton trip account when I prepared for a visit there this summer and you captured so many of the wonderful aspects of the island. We barely saw much of the rest of Nova Scotia but already intend to return.

    I wish you the best in happy buyers, gracious sellers and fantastic job offers.

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