A Travellerspoint blog

19. Return to Montreal – the final stretch

Fredericton, a wonderful fish bistro and a wayward GPS

The main problem with driving across Canada in a rental car is the exorbitant charge for the return of the vehicle to the original location. The cost of leaving the car in Nova Scotia was such that we decided to return it to Montreal, which entailed a much smaller charge and a feasible journey. Another ferry trip took us from Digby, Nova Scotia to New Brunswick near St John. The crossing of the Bay of Fundy was a three hour journey but it eliminated many more hours by road. We followed the St John River north along very pretty roads, enjoying the soft scenery and rolling farmland, with just a hint of autumn in the leaves as some began to turn reds and browns.

Fredericton, the capital of New Brunswick and on the St John River, provided us with a lovely elegant B & B near the river, within walking distance of the tree lined city centre. It was reasonably newly opened and the lady of the house proudly showed us around the well-attired rooms in the beautifully restored old home. She was particularly proud of the bathrooms with their large mirrors, stylish free standing baths and basin taps that poured like waterfalls. For breakfast next day, she presented us with a fantastic spread of yogurt and warm peaches, French toast, sausages and blueberry sauce, and small blueberry pastries. Believe me, such breakfast feasts were not common in our budget-conscious accommodations.

We walked into town past the steepled Christchurch Cathedral encircled by lawn – it would have enhanced any English town – and the Legislative Assembly, undergoing restoration. The historic centre included the Garrison District with the Officers’ Square and the soldiers’ barracks, reminiscent of the strife between French and British. The lighthouse overlooking the river was a striking landmark, dating only from 1989; there were formerly over 30 lighthouses up and down river, indicative of the busy trade that once plied the waters. After a dinner of scallops and bacon for only $13.99, we found a bookshop still open and purchased several Canadian books featuring moose and bears for the grandchildren. We couldn’t go home empty handed.

The distance from Fredericton to Montreal was about 800 kilometres, to be covered in two days. When I divided the journey back home, I came up with the village of St Andre on the St Lawrence River in Quebec as a possible half way point for the night, meaning we had 400 kilometres to travel each day. The roads were very good and we did resort to motorways, so the distance was accomplished easily. We also found that Quebec was one hour behind New Brunswick, so we had an extra hour at the end of the day.

Our road from Fredericton continued to follow the river, with further gentle green scenery, though the autumn tinge of reds, golds and browns increased as we drove north. We took the road on the eastern bank, whereas coming down several weeks earlier, we had driven on the western side. We passed the Hartland wooden covered bridge and stopped again to admire its fine structure. At Florence-Bristol a little further on, there was another covered bridge dating from 1907. The town branded itself as the French Fries capital and included the Potato World Museum. There seems to be a museum for everything. Soon we were back in French territory in the northern part of New Brunswick with the occasional very large Catholic church in the centre of town, like Sainte-Anne-de-Madawaska.

St Andre was a narrow strip of a town, strung out for several kilometres along the only main road, running parallel to the river. The surrounding land was low lying and flat, but seemed to support prosperous agriculture. The St Lawrence River was several hundred metres from the back door of our accommodation, wide and grey and lacking the beauty of other sections of the river we had seen previously. When it came time to eat, we were unable to find a café or restaurant open in the town. The several that advertised their wares were closed; in fact, most of the town seemed to be closed for the coming winter season. Someone pointed us to the next village, Kamouraska, 10 kilometres away.

A stroke of genius, for we found the most wonderful bistro, Poissonnerie Lauzier. We lined up at the simple counter and tried to read the menu on the wall behind, but it was all in French, mostly a mystery to us. The couple in the queue ahead of us spoke good English and they explained the ordering procedure and some of the items on offer. Two young women worked industriously behind the counter, efficiently taking the orders and preparing the meals. We asked for panini aux crevettes – with shrimps. They arrived with a superb salad of lettuce, grapes, cranberries, red onion and capsicum and were beautifully fresh and soft. It was much better than the left-over remains of our lunch which, at one stage, we thought we would have to resort to. The bistro closed shortly after we received our meals, so we realised we had found the real treasure of an eating place just in time. Later by email, we mentioned our great meal to our Quebec friends and they replied saying we had certainly hit the jack pot there, for the bistro probably had the best reputation on the south shore.

The next day was another 400 kilometre trip, with all going smoothly until we reached Montreal. GPS Jane commanded us to cross the river on the approaching bridge, but lo and behold it was closed to traffic. By the time she had gathered her wits, we were passed the next bridge. She then redirected us, taking us miles to the south into the countryside and towards New York. No, we did not want to go there! The anxiety levels rose, especially on the passenger side of the car. Eventually we seemed to turn around and were taken across the river via another bridge and to our hotel. Oh, the joys of city travel with a GPS that had no idea that a bridge was closed.

At our hotel, we sorted our bags, throwing out things we couldn’t take home after nearly three months on the road, and repacked. The next morning we had another “Jane” experience. We set off for the plane, thinking we had plenty of time to return the rental car, when we hit an absolute mess of road works around the airport. Where were we going? Not the international departure area. We found ourselves in the cargo area, in another pond of panic and worry. Later we were told that many people got into trouble with the road reconstruction that was at least three years in the making. Praise the Lord, we found our way out, delivered the car back to the rental people with no hassles, and proceeded through the ticket and security routine with enough time to spare. GPS’s are wonderful, but they are like some humans in that they cannot cope with unexpected change. We flew out of Montreal for a four day stopover in San Francisco, before it was home to New Zealand.

It has been a great pleasure to write the Moosespin blog, working through my diary and photographs, remembering the many highlights and the few downlights of our sojourn across the land of maple leaves, Mounties and moose. I hope you have enjoyed travelling with us and are encouraged to plan your own trip to Canada. Bon voyage!

For our next adventure, go to www.rhinospin.travellerspoint.com - Two kiwis in Africa

Posted by moosespin 22:02 Comments (0)

18. Nova Scotia - of French and Scottish stock

Louisbourg, Peggy’s Cove and Annapolis Royal

Nova Scotia, perched on the Atlantic on the eastern end of Canada, has a shape and name indicative of its character. With a little imagination, you can see the province looks like a lobster, appropriate to its fishing activities, similar to those of New Brunswick and Prince Edward Island. It takes no imagination to work out that its name means New Scotland, derived from the birthplace of many of its immigrants. An hour and a quarter on the ferry from Prince Edward Island, blanketed in mist, we reached Nova Scotia and the small town of Pictou where a replica of the ship Hector celebrated the Scottish immigrants who reached the harbour front in 1773, followed by many more Scots in the decades to come as well as loyalists from the American colonies.

We headed for Louisbourg, 300 kilometres away on the eastern tip of Cape Breton Island, along the edge of Bras D’Or Lake, very like a genuine Scottish loch. Unfortunately we didn’t have time for the circuit of the Cape with its reportedly dramatic and scenic landscape and famous Cabot Trail, but we were able to squeeze in the visit to the fortifications of Loiusbourg. It was another very interesting history lesson, with familiar themes - the French, the unfortunate victims and the British, the vanquishing victors. We had been advised to give a good part of the day to the site. Indeed, it was large enough to warrant a bus trip from the headquarters to the fort itself. As the Lonely Planet says, it’s a whole town, not just a few buildings.

A very knowledgeable guide gave us an overview on our late morning tour of the mist shrouded site. By 1713, the French had lost part of their North American territories, but they retained some, including Prince Edward Island and Cape Breton, also an island by a very narrow waterway. Between 1719 and 1745 they built a sizeable walled fort with an accompanying village, home to fishermen and their families. The British attacked it in 1745 and again in 1758, both times exporting the ill-fated French back to France. Not long after, the British razed it to the ground where it lay in piles of rumble for the next two hundred years. In 1960 the Canadian government decided it would make an excellent work project for unemployed mine workers, and with the injection of $30 million, the fort, or an impressive part of it, was rebuilt. It has become the largest reconstruction of a historical site in North America.

The amazing thing was that it looked so authentic, the grey walls along the ocean and the buildings – homes, offices, stores, animal shelters, barracks - appearing as if they were the original items. Locals dressed in 18th century attire, going about their 18th century business, added to the sense of historical authenticity. We ate lunch in the little cafe – hot chocolate and apple turnovers that were so good that we bought two more to eat later in the day. The earlier fog lifted, making it better for using the camera and we revisited some of the streets to take in the atmosphere. The weather in this part of Canada can be very changeable, more often than not raining, so we were fortunate with the fine conditions.

The fog followed us to Halifax, the capital of Nova Scotia, where we walked along the waterfront, trying to imagine the attractive boats in the harbour, beyond the clammy whiteness. The Maritime Museum seemed the best option. It was another museum in need of an injection of cash and some new exhibits, especially the films which were far too long for today’s audiences. However we found two sections particularly interesting. The first was about the Titanic which went down in 1912 in the Atlantic between Newfoundland and Nova Scotia. Exhibits included a deck chair from the ship and a child’s pair of shoes, haunting reminders of the human cost of the incident.

The other fascinating and equally tragic story concerned the Great Halifax Explosion in 1917, something we knew nothing about. Two ships, one of them the Mont Blanc, a munitions vessel full of ammunition, collided in the Halifax harbour. The resulting explosion and fire caused the death of nearly 2000 residents and levelled much of the city. Though the world was at war, relief poured into Halifax, even from as far away as New Zealand. The US state of Massachusetts was particularly generous with donations and volunteers, and to this day, Halifax sends Boston a Christmas tree in thanks for their help.

The following day dawned clear and sunny. No fog or threatening drizzle to mar our travels. It was one of those splendid days that we would remember for a long time to come. Before we left Halifax, we had one more Titanic site to visit. The city played a significant part in the retrieval of the dead from the sunken Titanic and 150 bodies were buried in three cemeteries in the city, 121 in the Fairview Lawn Cemetery. We happened to time our visit with that of two tour buses, accompanied by their guide dressed in tartan. We edged closer to listen to his interesting stories of people buried there – the Finish woman who had her money sown into her coat for safe keeping, the violin player and the child aged two.

We set off west along the south coast of Nova Scotia towards Peggy’s Cove and Lunenburg. It was all so beautiful, an exquisite photo at every bend of the road. The sun shone in the clear blue sky, the calm waters sparkled, the fishing villages and old houses looked so attractive, hugging the shore line. So many stops to take photos! The male driver is very patient with his trigger-happy camera wielding companion.

Friends from our home group had visited Peggy’s Cove from their cruise boat and had reported its beauty. We were not disappointed. No wonder it claims to be the best known and most visited fishing village in Canada. Little old cottages dot the approach to the red and white lighthouse that stands in the centre of the cove, surrounded by smooth grey granite rock. Fishing boats, nets and lobster traps clutter picturesquely around the quaysides, and houses further up the hill are reflected in the still water. Martin catches on camera a huge pink articulated tourist bus, crawling along the road between the cottages, so incongruous in that charming place. Why can’t its passengers walk from the car park like we have and enjoy the beauty? No, poor things, they have to rush to their next appointed site, no time to stand and stare and breathe in the deliciousness of Peggy’s Cove.

We wander all over the rocks surrounding the lighthouse, photographing it from every angle. Notices warn the unwary that you can be swept off the rocks by wild seas; no one pays any heed today and we are glad the breeze is still and the seas calm. So lovely, we don’t want to leave. Further along the coast is the memorial to the Swissair plane that crashed into the sea nearby in 1998. This coast has witnessed some tragic events. We find a place to have lunch beside a tiny island. Perhaps it is someone’s summer-time holiday spot, but most of the holiday makers have gone now, even though autumn is turning on a superb day.

The road continued on to Lunenburg. St Margaret’s Bay near Hubbards where I paddled in the icy cold Atlantic (some weeks before it had been the icy cold Pacific at Tofino), a loop around the Aspotogan Peninsula, the inlet by the village of Chester, with its brightly coloured cape cod chairs on the jetties, Mahone Bay and its string of five churches lining the water – a lovely coastline. Lunenburg, with its coloured wooden buildings and wharfed harbour, was quite busy, a mecca for tourists. A wander around the town after dinner completed a most pleasant day.

We crossed Nova Scotia to the French Shore on the northern coast. The province is like New Zealand in that no part is more than an hour or two’s drive away from the sea. We called at Hall’s Harbour on the Bay of Fundy, where the tide was well out with the small fishing boats sitting on the harbour floor. Over lunch we got into conversation with a group of touring Canadians, who were surprised at the extent of our travels. We admitted it was time to go home, but assured them we had really enjoyed their country. In the nearby shop and café the we admired the live orange and brown lobsters crawling inside tanks and the shop assistant donned protective gloves and pulled a couple out for me to photograph.

Back through apple and peach orcharding country, we found a lovely German bakery at Annapolis Royal for a coffee and cherry turnover, before we wandered over the Fort Anne National Historic site. It was another early French fortification, taken over by the British. We skipped the museum of Acadian memorabilia but walked over the site with its sweeping green mounds and former moats. Our walk led us into town along the quiet main street and the dock area. Always interesting things at which to point the camera.

Our last night in Nova Scotia was spent in Digby where we celebrated the end of our cross-Canada journey with a delicious and inexpensive meal of scallops and lobster. Tomorrow we would be re-tracing our steps back to Montreal.

Posted by moosespin 02:04 Comments (1)

17. Anne’s Island – Prince Edward Island

Green Gables and Lovely landscapes

Even without Anne and all her trimmings, Prince Edward Island was a pleasure to visit. The landscape was such a contrast to New Brunswick with its ever present cover of green forest. Much of the island is in arable farming; potatoes - fresh, frozen and seed products for the large market of North America and beyond, and wheat, corn, barley and oats grown in rotation with the taters. Then there’s beef and dairying, and fruit and vege growing. It was a relief to the eyes to drive along small rural traffic-free roads and look out on fields ready for harvest or dotted with large circular bales of hay. I look back over my photos to mentally recapture the peaceful landscape; however, one doesn’t usually take photos of just wheat or potato fields!

But driving around the country side, you come upon numerous attractive photogenic little scenes – a winding stream or tidal inlet, with a few houses and boat sheds nestled at the water’s edge, some brightly painted in blues, greens and reds. Little fishing villages dot the coasts, small sheds lining the wharf side, their walls made of natural coloured cedar shingles. Outside are piles of old wooden lobster pots, decorative now, and along the water, white boats wait for the next trip to the sea. Other little harbours are more affluent, with well-heeled pleasure craft lined up beside the older fishing vessels, new well-built boat sheds beside rusted but picturesque fishing cabins. Lighthouses sit in the dune grasses, their sprucely painted white walls trimmed with red or wine. Other light houses have seen better days, their paint peeling and nearby buildings crumbling.

Lovely landscapes – French River, the light house at Cape Tryon, Tyne Valley, Rusticoville, and Covehead Bay – just some of the visual treats. Prince Edward Island or PEI, as it is known, is the smallest of Canada’s provinces, but it is not tiny. We had two full days to explore the island but felt there was much more to see. The excellent tourism people of PEI had armed us with maps and information before we left home. In the west we drove as far as Freeland and Bideford on the north coast and south into Region Evangeline; in the east we went as far as St Peter’s Bay on the north coast and Cardigan and Montague in the south. On the north side of St Peter’s Bay, we took a very pleasant walk in the Greenwich section of the national park, free now with the season closed. It was all a wonderful taste of an island lifestyle that by autumn had returned to its slower old world pace after the busy two months of summer.

As through the rest of Canada, we dipped into the nation’s history. At Miscouche to the west we spent time in the Acadian Museum, learning more about the story of the early French settlers in Canada. Life on the idyllic island has not always been beautiful blossoms and tranquil wooded lanes as pictured in the Anne of Green Gables films.

Here’s a very brief history lesson of European activity: The French arrived in the St Lawrence Gulf in 1534 in the person of explorer Jacques Cartier who claimed the area, Kanata, for France. Settlement was slow at first but by the mid-1600s, there were about 60,000 French dwellers, not only in Quebec but also in the Maritime provinces. In Nova Scotia, they called their land Acadia. The English and Scottish presence increased and in 1713 Acadia became British Nova Scotia. Tensions between the two peoples grew, resulting in various battles, where the British gained the upper hand. See all this against a back drop of conflict in the American colonies and in Europe. The Acadians refused to sign the oath of allegiance to Britain and a hard-line governor decided deportation was the answer. Thousands of Acadians were expelled in the 1750s from Nova Scotia, New Brunswick and Prince Edward Island, back to France, south to America and to other parts of Canada. Much misery and bitterness resulted. Years later some returned to Acadia. In 1763, in the Treaty of Paris, France relinquished the rest of its Canadian territories to Britain.

Today descendants of the Acadians endeavour to keep their language and culture alive, with museums, festivals and the flying of the Acadian flag. We saw the Tricolor with its yellow star on the blue band waving above homes and buildings in Acadian areas like the region of Miscouche.

We visited the brown brick Farmers Bank of Rustico, now transformed into an interesting museum, an example of Acadian enterprise established many years after the troubled times mentioned above. The bank which operated from 1864 to 1894 was a co-operative started by the local forward thinking priest who was concerned about the low economic status of his parishioners. It dispensed loans and accepted deposits but also issued its own notes, and for 30 years was an important factor in raising Acadian economic independence. The museum guide took a group of us to the nearby Doucet House, a restored Acadian house and the oldest home on PEI, and led us around the exhibits. Life was certainly not luxurious for the average Acadian.

The most popular tourist attraction on PEI was the House of Green Gables in Cavendish on the north coast. Anne Shirley’s creator, Lucy Maud Montgomery, used the house and property as the setting for her novel about the ginger haired orphan who came by mistake to the home of Marilla and Matthew Cuthbert, a middle-aged sister-and-brother couple who had requested a boy to help on their farm. Anne wound her way into their hearts with numerous humorous exploits, creating an unforgettable childhood heroine of myself and countless others. Martin, because his childhood was spent in Denmark or because his siblings were all male, had missed out on that important part of his education. So he added to his literary knowledge with the visit.

From our cottage nearby we made an early start to beat the busloads of tourists who descended on the site each day. Nevertheless we had to wind our way inside, through the rooms, with their turn-of-the-century décor, and up to the second floor in a slow moving line, with some elderly woman complaining about the steepness of the stairs and the lack of fire escape. “Goodness me, lady, just breathe in the atmosphere and appreciate it,” I thought. Outside it was easier to enjoy the surroundings – the traditional garden, the barn, the walk down Lovers Lane, the track through the Haunted Wood. We watched several films that provided interesting details about the author and her life.

We then walked through the woods to the site of L M Montgomery’s home where she was raised by her maternal grandparents and where she wrote some of her books including Anne of Green Gables. Beside the cellar and foundations of the home, there was bookshop run by one of the family descendants, who entertained us enthusiastically with details of Montgomery’s life, stories bound to encourage any would-be writer. She tried at least five times to find a publisher for her Anne manuscript, but each time she was refused. She put the book away for several years, and when she stumbled on it again, she tried another publisher, and it was accepted. It has been translated into over 36 languages with over 50 million copies printed. How is that for success! I just had to purchase a book for one of my nieces.

There were other ‘Anne’ sites on the island, including Montgomery’s cottage-like birth place at New London and the elegant Bideford Parsonage where she boarded during her first teaching position at Bideford School. Both of these we drove past in our island meandering, stopping to take photos but not going in. After all there is only so much you can take in as a traveller, especially after nearly three months on the road.

The supreme ‘Anne’ highlight for us came on our last night on the island. We attended ‘Anne of Green Gables, The Musical’ in Charlottetown, provincial capital and site of the formation of the Dominion of Canada in 1867. I had booked our theatre seats months before from home and we shifted accommodation from Cavendish to Charlottetown, enabling us to walk to the show and eat locally. It was pure delight, true to the essence of the book, with good characterisation and music. Lots of incidents from the book were included – Anne’s run-in with Marilla’s friend Rachel Lynde, the green hair dyeing episode, meeting her bosom friend Diana Barry whom Anne inadvertently got drunk, her relationship with Gilbert Blythe. So enjoyable and so funny, with tear jerking emotion when Matthew died from a heart attack. The whole musical was just the right way to finish our visit to Anne’s island.

The next day we took the early morning Wood Islands ferry to Cariboo in Nova Scotia. Fog descended on the island coastline as we departed, shading out the iconic white and red lighthouse that graced the shore near the ferry landing. Nova Scotia would be our third Maritime Province.

Posted by moosespin 02:02 Comments (0)

16. East along the Bay of Fundy

Fundy Trail Parkway, Hopewell Rocks and the Confederation Bridge

St Martins on the Bay of Fundy coast, with its two covered bridges over the Irish River, led on to the Fundy Trail Parkway, a 16 kilometre road along the rugged coast. We had arranged a night with a difference in the Hearst Lodge, which provided accommodation and meals. The Interpretation Centre people at Big Salmon River phoned George, our host, and we followed his vehicle further into the park. About two kilometres from the lodge we left our rental car, alone in the forest, and loaded the gear for the night into his four wheel drive vehicle for the rough ride over a track which our car definitely would not have managed. It was quite an adventure. The cabin, with an ensuite but no electricity, was comfortable and the food, both dinner and breakfast, was very enjoyable. We ate at the hospitably set table in the community room, warmed by the open fire; dinner consisted of salad, salmon barbequed on a wet wooden board and apple crumble and ice cream. We knew we were in the wilderness, but we had most the comforts of home.

However there were two little disappointments. One was that we were the only residents that night, when we had been looking forward to company in the lodge. But it was September, autumn and the season was coming to an end – how short the summer is in Canada. Only about four months long, if that. The other disappointment was the change in weather. We awoke to showers and by mid-morning the rain and fog had taken over. We had time for several short walks, up the Big Salmon River and over the swing bridge, and another down to the Fuller Falls, before the heavy cold rain set in, putting an end to our plans for further exploration. It was a shame, for from yesterday’s glimpse and in the photos, the area looked very attractive.

Contrary to our normal practice, because of the rain hosing down, we stopped for lunch at a restaurant in the coastal village of Alma. There we partook of delicious clam chowder, a frequently offered dish in the land of the Maritimes. Outside coloured fishing boats lined up at the wharves, perhaps the providers of the seafood we ate. In blues and yellows and reds, they looked like little boats in a children’s story book. By late afternoon, as we drove towards Hopewell Cape, there was the promise of fine weather for the morrow.

And the promise was fulfilled, a glorious sunny fine day with a touch of autumnal coolness. Our goal was the Hopewell Rocks, a series of huge flower pots on the ocean floor, large stunning rock formations with vegetation growing on top, against a back drop of high rugged cliffs. As with most of Canada, you paid to visit the natural phenomena, but with the throngs that came by mid-day, payment was a good means of crowd behaviour control. We were there early and were blessed not only with the weather but with the low tide, enabling us to descend the stairway to the beach and saunter among the formations. For those who arrived later in the day, when the tide came in, there was the option of hiring a kayak and canoeing among the rocks.

We walked beyond the rocks to Demoiselle Beach and Daniel Flats and back to the main access stairway. The mud flats were amazing – thick chocolate brown mud, carved out by the streams making their way to the sea. Notices warned against sliding in the mud in the important ecological area. Perhaps they were aimed at the temptation of young boys, with no thought for the brown stains the mud would impose on their clothing. Somehow we managed to flick mud up on the back of our trousers, and it took much rubbing to get it off. We cleaned our footwear with the hoses and brushes wisely provided for the purpose.

It was possible to witness the tidal bore of the Fundy coast, caused by the high tides, in several locations. Two days previously we had stopped as we came into St John at the bridge overlooking the Reversing Falls. People lined the walkway and the small park above, obviously expecting something to happen. They were waiting for high tide when the river current reversed, causing the water to flow upstream. Interesting as it was, it wasn’t as spectacular as the tidal bore at Riverhead, beyond Hopewell Cape. We came upon it by accident, calling at the information office about something else, only to be told that the tidal wave would be happening any moment. We rushed out and joined the line of sightseers along the river viewing platform. Down in the chocolate coloured waters a group of wet-suited young men waited on their surf boards. What were we all waiting for?

Soon it was whispered along the crowd that ‘it’ was coming. Then it appeared – a wave, not quite a metre high, across the river from bank to bank, coming evenly down the water course. As it reached the surfers, most caught it and rode their boards down the river, some managing to mount and stand up. It’s not every day you see a group of surfers, riding their way down an otherwise flat river surface.

After that excitement, we decided it was time for a late lunch. Where to buy some bread and to eat it? Usual problem. Though we were in a town, there were no small bakeries or even supermarkets to be found. And there must have been something odd about the way I said the word ‘bread’ that was foreign to the local inhabitants, for they did not seem to understand me. Eventually we found a loaf in the Shoppers Drug Market, which did sell some food items, mainly of a processed nature. Don’t be silly, you Kiwis, no one else eats their lunch at table and chairs beside the road in September. But we did eventually find a picnic spot near the water at Shediac. We had reached the Northumberland Strait and the east coast.

The next step was Prince Edward Island and the Confederation Bridge that would take us there. There were two ways to reach the island by car, by the bridge and by the vehicular ferry from Wood Islands to Caribou; you paid either the bridge toll or the ferry charge only as you left the island; the islanders were so keen to encourage you to get there that they made arrivals free. We planned to travel to the island by bridge and then on to Nova Scotia by ferry a few days later.

The Confederation Bridge, opened in 1997, is huge. It is almost 13 kilometres long, and the second longest bridge in the world. At the time of the planning of its construction, there was much opposition, with fears that the individual lifestyle of the islanders would be threatened by the negative factors of too much tourism and unwanted influences from the mainland economy. Apparently one of the results of the bridge has been the drop in tourists staying overnight and their ‘doing’ the island in a day. What a waste! How anyone could do justice to Prince Edward in one short circuit is beyond us. We wanted to stay longer and enjoy more the beautiful and unspoilt environment, sampling more of island life.

We motored into the Visitors Centre at Cape Jourimain and stood below the bridge, impressed at its towering piers marching into the distance across the strait. Prince Edward Island was only just visible on the horizon. A drive of about 12 minutes took us over to the island.

Posted by moosespin 17:11 Comments (0)

15. The saintly towns along the Bay of Fundy

A taste of lobster, dulse, and history.

We celebrated our wedding anniversary in St Andrews on the Bay of Fundy. After 44 years together, and two months on the road, we were still together and still friends! The motel for our two days stay must have been the most unromantic and characterless of our entire trip – a very plain 1970s motel, one of a row of rooms that issued straight onto the car park, chosen for its lower cost in the upmarket tourist area. But the town and the anniversary meal were memorable.

St Andrews was a beautiful historic small town, located on the coast in the south western corner of New Brunswick. We wandered out onto the sizeable wharf, large enough to drive vehicles to and from the boats, and peered miles down to the water and the few boats below. The masts of an old fashioned sailing boat were at eye level, for the tide was well out. In the Bay of Fundy, which flows between New Brunswick and Nova Scotia, the tidal flows are amongst the highest in the world, partially due to the narrow funnel shape of the bay. The sun behind us was setting, casting a warm beige glow over the houses along the coast and the boats anchored in the channel beyond the wharf. We decided to return the next day and find an outlet to buy crayfish, or lobster, as they are termed in Canada, for our anniversary dinner.

One of the business owners in the wharf area told us about a New Zealander, Sandra, who was involved in the whale watching industry. We called on her and chatted away about home, as all New Zealanders do when they are part of the Kiwi diaspora. We then enquired as to where we could purchase fresh lobster for dinner and she kindly introduced us to a small shop owner nearby, who agreed to cook us our order for which we would return later.

We spent the day investigating the picturesque town and area. We visited the Kingsbrae Gardens, with its ponds, windmill and extensive plantings of hydrangeas. Yes, we must plant more in our garden when we returned home, especially the quercifolia or oakleaf variety which were native to North America. We ate our lunch in the Blockhouse Park and inspected the historic restored wooden guardhouse, built to protect the local population during the 1812 war between the British and the Americans. Nearby, actually in the US, was an older aspect of European history, the island of St Croix, which could be easily viewed from the road north of the town. It was famous as the place where Samuel de Champlain wintered in 1604, the first locality for a French party to stay for any length of time in Canada. So we were continually re-acquainting ourselves with Canada’s history.

A pleasant afternoon drive included St Stephen, right on the US-Canada border, and St George, from where we explored the road to Back Bay and the Green Point lighthouse at the end of the peninsula. The Maritime Provinces’ coasts were littered with picturesque lighthouses in red and white, and the camera was frequently brought out to record yet another one. We returned to St Andrews to pick up our lobsters - $20.85 for the two. Now there’s a bargain anniversary dinner. We added a bottle of wine, a salad and some bread, and enjoyed our delicious celebration, even though the task of extracting the flesh from the legs and feelers, with implements provided, was messy work.

It was a pleasure to be exploring New Brunswick’s attractive coast. We decided later after spending over a week in the province that it was largely composed of an underlay of rock, covered by a mixed conifer-deciduous forest of green, with a fringe of beautiful coast in the east and south and the St John River valley on the west. So much forest - you could drive for hours and see only trees. Martin’s Danish family make the same comment about Sweden! By the way, New Brunswick has the honour of being the only officially bilingual province in Canada. Quebec is officially French only and the other provinces are English only. New Brunswick’s people include a mix of descendants from staunchly British Loyalist stock and French Acadian people, determined to remember their past. It made for a whole new history with which we had to become acquainted. More about the Acadians in another blog excerpt.

Along the coast to the city of St John, we tried to follow some of the back roads and made some interesting discoveries. Fishing boats and lobster pots, piles and piles of them, were a feature of the small harbours, like that of the picturesque Dipper Harbour. Near Lepreau, we noted people in boats collecting seaweed; as we stopped to take photos, we wondered at their purpose. Later we discovered the dried product for sale in the St John markets near the museum; it was called dulse and was edible, for those who developed a liking. The stall owner allowed us to try a sample, but it must have been an acquired taste for those born and raised in the Maritimes. Not for us Kiwis, we decided.

Exploring the back roads led to all sorts of things. Like the nuclear power plant in the same area. The road became very isolated with a vaguely desolate atmosphere; then notices warned us that we should not go any further, but there seemed little information about what was down there. We turned around and returned back to civilisation and happier landscapes. Later I discovered on google that it was the Point Lepreau Nuclear Generating Station, the only nuclear generating facility located in Atlantic Canada. Even now it gives me an uncomfortable feeling. Another thing not for us Kiwis.

Another feature of the back roads was the number of old Baptist churches in small villages, some sizable, mostly white and wooden, with an air of neglect around them, but demonstrating a once, more vibrant religious community. Perhaps it is more a reflection on rural depopulation than on today’s Canadian secular society, for census figures actually showed a 10% increase in the 10 years from 1991 to 2001 in those who identified themselves as Baptist in Canada. Interestingly we had stopped and read the historical panel earlier outside a back roads church near the Quebec-New Brunswick border. Called the Gospel Baptist Chapel of Rivière Bleue, the panel recounted the difficulties of the small French Protestant congregation in a community that that was overwhelmingly French Catholic.

In the city of St John, we visited the markets mentioned above and purchased some absolutely delicious and inexpensive marinated herrings, and then we went to the New Brunswick Museum. It was in need of modernizing with its lengthy films, too long for today’s audience to be expected to sit and watch. I suppose shortage of money was the problem. Nevertheless we enjoyed reading the panels, especially those about the 1812 war, where each side had a very different historical perspective.

The British were intent on defeating Napoleon in Europe, and for them the war was of minor importance in a much wider landscape. The Americans were highly indignant at British interference with their shipping and declared war. Though they failed to take Canada as they had hoped, they won some battles, including the final one on American soil, and from the war inherited their flag and national anthem. For them it was a nation-building experience from which they saw themselves emerging as victors over former Mother England. The Canadians endured numerous invasions from the US, but as Canada remained in British hands, they also regarded themselves as the victors. The First Nations groups sided with the British but in the long term, were disappointed with the results of victory and the further losses of their territory. Ah, there’s a study in alternative interpretations of history.

We set off along the coast to another saintly town, the little settlement of St Martins.

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