Miles Meets New Brunswick

For Jim, Miles, our mascot, had led us to the highlight of our trip…The area he was born and spent the first eight years of his life! We arrived in Tide Head, NB in the late evening.  Lee and Henny got settled into their little house at Sanfar Cabins while Dave, the owner, guided us into a spot on the grass behind.  There had been so much rain in the area over the last few weeks that our van sunk right in!  Unable to move forward or back, a tow truck was called to pull us to higher and firmer ground a few meters away!  And that’s where we parked for the next four nights.  

Original plans were that two of Jim’s sisters and a granddaughter each would be joining us for a few days, driving from London.  Due to some unfortunate last minute circumstances, Shirley Ann was looking for a flight as she ended up being the only one of the four that could make it.  After much planning, she was able to coordinate four flights to get her from London, ON to Bathurst, NB the following afternoon.  Thank goodness!  Jim and Lee were only young boys when they moved from New Brunswick to Alberta so they needed someone here with more knowledge.  Shirley Ann had been back a number of times and is older so she is a wealth of information when it comes to family history…not to mention she’s a whole lot of fun to have around!

We took a quick look around the area the first morning, finding the spot that their house used to be in Atholville.  It burned down back in the 60’s and was replaced by a small bungalow.  A house two doors away is still standing that would be indicative of the style of the house his family lived in except that their’s apparently never saw ” a lick of paint”.  From the hill they used to live on, we could see the Restigouche River and the lumber mill that their Dad had worked at as a log jammer.

We decided to take the scenic highway along the Baie des Chaleurs to Bathurst to pick up Shirley Ann.  Thankfully, Lee and Henny had mistakenly been given a van from the rental company…they had requested a compact since Shirley Ann had planned to drive her car from London…five of us would fit comfortably in the van for the next  three days of touring around.

Before arriving at the airport in Bathurst, we made a stop at the little town of Belledune and wandered along the shore of the Chaleurs Bay.  So peaceful and scenic.  The downtown area of Bathurst was closed for a parade but we found a great ice cream shop while we waited for the plane to arrive.

She arrived on a small prop job…we were amazed how many people got off the plane!  Apparently, many people from this area work in Alberta and come home on their days off.  The job situation around here is very depressed.

The next two days were a whirlwind of re-living memories by visiting with family friends and relatives we had never met or not seen for a very long time.  We visited many graveyards, tracing the roots of Jim’s parents back a few generations.  

We checked out their school, their paternal grandparent’s farm in Glencoe and even saw the inside of it thanks to the wonderful couple who live in it now.  

We saw where their maternal grandparents used to live in Campbellton and their aunts operated a bakery from the front.  

We wound our way up McDavid Mountain to see where the clan originally settled when they came from Ireland in the 1700’s.  The original home of one of the earliest McDavid settlers is still there and now owned by another relative who uses it for storage.

There are still a couple of McDavid families on the mountain but the little community that used to exist with a school, store, and church is long gone.  One of their relatives has a two hole golf course on the mountain but we didn’t pull our clubs out!

We went to Morrisey Rock and the old swimming hole on the Restigouche River and visited McDavid’s Convenience Store for ice cream.

We visited their Uncle Bill’s farm in Flatlands, now vacant, and their Aunt Lucy’s farm in Upsalquitch which is now occupied by their cousin and has never seen any paint or changes in over 50 years!

Everywhere we went we met someone with some sort of connection to the family.  We even found out about some of the shadier bits of family history that we’re not so proud of, like murder suicides and horse thieving. Many of the older people remembered the family when they were kids and offered tidbits of information about their lives in the area.  We learned the local dialect too…a person could “take sick”, be “dead as a nit” and then “get planted” and it didn’t matter if “they was a bastard”…they all came from “nice f***ing families”!

When we were back at the cabins in the evenings, we were visited by friends and relatives. 

All in all, a very emotionally charged few days for Jim, Lee and Shirly Ann…and a chance for Henny and I to get things straight in our minds.  All these little towns that our husbands had alluded to over the years…Tide Head, Flatlands, Atholville, Glencoe,  Campbellton, Upsalquitch, McDavids Mountain, Mann Settlemennt and Matapedia…now made sense to us.

Wednesday, July 27, was Jim’s birthday…quite exciting for him to be in his home town with a brother and sister on his birthday. They were leaving after breakfast and we hung around for most of the day in Cambellton.  

Campbellton today is the major hub for the area and has a lovely waterfront and bridge connecting it to Quebec over the Restigouche.  It is a favorite destination for salmon fishing, canoeing and kayaking.  It is very mountainous, with houses built on hillsides and Sugarloaf Mountain standing behind it proudly!

By late afternoon we were heading east to Bathurst again.  This time we were able to cross the bridge to the downtown area for a quick look around and then onto the Acadian Trail past the small fishing villages that line the coast of Chaleur Bay.  Tiny houses, weather worn, had wood piled for the winter and lobster traps piled for the summer.  Fishing boats sat ready, colourfully painted.  The lobster season in this area is just recently over.

We camped on the beach at Caraquet, a tiny community on the bay.  We were treated to more than an hour of splendid heat lightening over the water with a few sharp strikes in the distance and rumbling skies overhead before the storm blew in on us, cooling us off for a good sleep.  Such a perfect end to Jim’s birthday…Mother Nature’s light show.

On the road early the next morning, we wound our way along the coast and up the Acadian Peninsula through the islands till we got to Miscou Point, the north eastern tip of the peninsula. This is where the Chaleur Bay meets the Gulf of St. Lawrence.  Standing at the point is the second lighthouse built on the shores of the Gulf of St. Lawrence, completed in 1806 and still in use today.  

The rugged shoreline with the tide receding, offered up vagrant lobster cages, seaweed, shells, and the odd crab here and there.  

A mid morning snack of warm tea biscuits served with homemade jam accompanied by tea in China cups was wonderful on the deck overlooking the water.  I mentioned to the waitress that Jim had celebrated a birthday yesterday and next thing we knew, the waitress and the cook were singing “Bonne Fete” to him and offering him a piece of cake with a candle!  

Everyone here in the Maritimes is so friendly!  Even on the highway, when we had to stop for construction, the young lad holding the stop sign saw our Edmonton Eskimos licence plate and sauntered over to chat with us!  Life seems simpler here and much less hurried.  We love it. 

By afternoon, we were back on the Acadian Trail with a stop at Neguac, headquarters of Beau Soleil cocktail oysters, for any of you oyster lovers.  This is the oyster hub of the Atlantic and they are farmed here year round.  We also saw the simple home of Otho Robichaud, a man from the 1700’s who had a huge impact on the re- establishment of the Acadian community after the Great Expulsion (1755-1763)

The Acadians are a group of people who settled this area in the 1700’s, coming up from France and sharing their cultures with the Micma’q who were native in the area.  Mainly fishermen, they used their big canoes in the waters throughout the Maritimes and enjoyed a simple life.  When the English conquered the area from France,  they were allowed to remain on their land and then 45 years later they were asked to sign an oath of allegiance to the Crown but they refused, wanting to remain neutral.  Consequently they were expelled from the area, many going to the Thirteen Colonies and Upper Canada.  Those who remained are extremely proud of their heritage.  Their homes display their flag and are decorated with banners…even the telephone poles are painted in the colours of their flag.  The government has proclaimed July 28 as Grand Expulsion Day in memory of the events that took place so long ago but Acadians celebrate their heritage on August 15 with parades and parties. 

By late afternoon we were booking into Kouchibouguac National Park to camp.  We no sooner got our awning out and our table pulled under and the rain came!  It rained all evening, stopping around 11 pm, forcing us to stay under the awning or in the van all evening.  I was beaten badly at Yahtzee too many times!  The campsites are beautiful in the park, each site surrounded by lush green forest and lots of hiking trails.  

We packed up our wet campsite in the morning and got back on the Acadian Trail through more pretty little fishing villages, the Gulf of St. Lawrence to our left.  At Lower Kent, just past Bouctouche, we hit the 10,000 km mark in our journey!  That means we’ve averaged about 150 km a day…perfect pace for seeing this great country. 

As we travelled south, we noticed that the closer we got to Moncton, the wealthier the area looked.  Instead of simple fishing villages, we were seeing big homes and summer cottages.  Small farms and vineyards were still dotted with lobster traps but that was obviously no longer the main source of income. 

We stopped at Cape Caissie and walked through the water at low tide.  We saw giant blue herons and plenty of evidence that gulls feast on what gets left on the beach as the tide goes out.  Open clam shells and crabs litter the beach along with seaweed. We spoke with someone that has a cottage there on the strait and found out she has a friend in Fort Macleod!  Small world! 

Shediac was a beautiful little city with restaurants offering fresh lobster.  We will wait for Nova Scotia for that!  

Leaving the city and heading towards the Confederation Bridge, we noted the soil was becoming more red.  We eventually drove through the marshlands and onto the 13 km bridge.  

We left New Brunswick for now and are moving on to the next chapter of our vacation…Prince Edward Island.

Miles Meets Quebec (Part Two)


When I left you last, we were just picking up a rental car for the week.  You may be wondering why.  Well, before leaving on our trip, we thought that by about the halfway point…which this is…we may be ready for larger living quarters for a bit.  Since we own  timeshares at Panorama, BC, we were able to trade a week there for a week at Sainte-Anne-de-Beaupre just half an hour east of Quebec City.  This would give Miles, our mascot, a new dash to sit on, give the van a rest and a good cleaning and we would explore the area by car.


After settling into our condo in the ski region of Mont-Sainte-Anne, we set out to explore the area east of us along the St. Lawrence River.  This area is called the Charlevoix and is one of the prettiest areas we’ve seen.  The landscape is mountainous as you would expect in a ski area but the scenic road…the Route du Fleuve..takes steep declines to coastal towns and ports along the river. We spent a full day covering about 250 km and saw so many different things.

Our first stop was Petite-Rivière-Sainte-Francois.  A 15% grade took us into this little summer town, the first village established in the area.  In the 1800’s it would have been a schooner and ship building town. It was here, as we looked out over the mud flats from the pier, we discovered that the St. Lawrence River is affected by tides.  It’s not something I would have thought about since it’s a river, not an ocean, but of course it flows into the Atlantic not far from here.  You could tell the village was old because the houses were built right up to the roadside, clearly before there were proper roads.  Big, new summer homes have been built as well as lots of rental cottages.

Next was Baie-Saint-Paul.  Wow!  This is an artist’s paradise!  In terms of tourists and size it reminded us of Banff but no mountain atmosphere here!  The streets were lined with restaurants, art galleries and artisan shops with artists set up painting in various spots around the town.  Many famous artists have lived there including A.Y.Jackson, the founder of the Group of Seven artists.  If ever you’re looking for a good piece of art and your wallet is full, this is where you need to shop.

Taking the north loop of the highway, we passed through St-Hilarion and Clermont.  These are small mountain towns situated at the edge of the back country.  From here, you could go salmon fishing or take part in all kinds of mountain sports…the Laurentians beckon!  Rounding the east end of the loop, we stopped for lunch at a little French-style bistro at Port du Pointe-au-Pic in Malbaie.  Yummy homemade soups and sandwiches accompanied by local “Biere et vin” while overlooking the bay was a perfect way to curb the growlies.  After lunch we strolled out to the end of the pier, watching barges and sailboats sail past.  Malbaie is an early 20th century resort town where the wealthy from New York, Toronto and Montreal would spend their summers.  The majestic Fairmont Le Manoir Richileau with its world class golf course overlooks the river and tour buses can be seen everywhere.  This is the last stop for the Train de Charlevoix which carries sight-seeing passengers from Quebec City through the Charlevoix region.  The scenery was stunning as we drove along the river, climbing back up onto the highway.

Saint-Irenee was the next little village, built into the side of the mountain with abruptly steep roads down to a sandy beach at river level.  Jim tested the water but wasn’t willing to swim in it!  After leaving the beach and climbing steep roads back to our circuit route we stopped at an Alpaca farm where we got lots of photos of these cute creatures.  I thought I might do a bit of Christmas shopping at the store there but changed my mind when I saw the price of a soft alpaca scarf was $175.00!  Too rich for my pocketbook!  (Sorry, Holly)

After we went through Les Eboulements (named for the landslide that followed a major earthquake in 1663) and the summer town of St-Joseph-de-la-Rive, we joined the line up for the 15 minute ferry crossing to Ile-au-Coudres.  A thunderstorm hit us while we were crossing but cleared shortly after we arrived on the island.  There are three main small villages on the island but houses are positioned around the whole 23 km perimeter of the island, some big mansions and others small old cottages.  Lots of hotels, B&B’s and cottage rentals are evidence that it’s a popular summer vacation spot.

We caught the 8pm ferry back to the mainland and drove with caution back to Mont-Saint-Anne, being reminded every few kilometres of the risk of moose and deer crossing.  It had been an amazing day.

The next couple of days were spent exploring the immediate area of Beaupre where we were staying.  The town of Beaupre is situated between the St. Lawrence River and Mont Sainte-Anne.  It is the centre for outdoor activities in the Laurentians Mountains.

Mont Sainte-Anne is on the World Cup downhill ski championship circuit and the mountain is open during the summer for all kinds of outdoor activities.  We drove up the mountain where we had panoramic views of the St. Lawrence valley all the way west 30 km to Quebec City.

Mont Sainte-Anne Canyon was spectacular!  The falls are 75 meters high…15 meters higher than Niagara Falls but not as wide.  The river is fed by more than 30 lakes and then tumbles over the rocks into the canyon and makes its way to the St. Lawrence.  It was here that I decided to try something for the first time in my sixty years.  I gathered up my nerve, tucked my mature rolls into a harness, donned a helmet and snapped a caribiner onto a zipline to cross the canyon.  It was not scary at all!  Why had I waited till now to try it?   I tried to convince Jim to go but since he’s scared of heights, he was stressed enough by taking photos of me from the middle of the suspension bridge!

Back in the valley we drove around Sainte-Joachim where the first farm settlement in the St. Lawrence valley was established and visited an old cemetery with headstones dating back to the early 1800’s.

We also checked out Ile d’Orleans, an island in the river that was connected to the mainland in 1935.  It is a rural farming island…fruits, vegetables,vineyards…with a number of historical buildings.  It also has amazing homes with beautiful views and a great Chocolaterie!

Crossing the river from the port of Quebec by ferry, we had an amazing view of Quebec City and its beautiful skyline.  The iconic Chateau Frontenac stood proudly overlooking the water.

While in port, we saw a barge filled with shipping containers pulling out into the seaway.  Attached to the side of the barge was a smaller motor boat.  Apparently all ships, while in port, must  be captained by a Quebec captain because of the difficulty of navigating the boats in the port. Once the boat is out in the Seaway, the Quebec captain hands the wheel over to the ship’s captain and leaves by the small boat.

Arriving on the south shore of the St. Lawrence, we followed highway 173, the “Route du President Kennedy” through St-Henri to St-Marie.  This is the town that our son, Michael, lived in for three months when he participated in the volunteer program Katimavik.  Then 10 km further south to Vallee Jonction where he worked painting the old train station museum.  The Quebec Central Railway started serving the Eastern Townships in 1870 as one of about 80 stops but no longer operates. The museum has many artifacts related to train travel at the turn of the 20th century and showcases both a mens and a ladies waiting room as they would not have shared back then!  The station itself looks like it needs another paint job…it was about 15 years ago that Michael painted it!

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Late on Wednesday afternoon, we were greeting Jim’s brother and his wife at the Quebec City airport.  Lee and Henny were on vacation from Edmonton and would be spending three nights and two days with us at the condo before renting a car and travelling to New Brunswick with us for a few days. It was great to see them and catch up on family news.

The four of us toured around Old Quebec.  The Chateau Frontenac, standing as a reminder of a grand era of luxury train and steamboat travel, was one of my most favourite stops.  Chauffeured limos still pull up under the portico to drop off or pick up guests with much deeper pockets than ours !  On the streets outside, tourists sit on benches eating icecream in the shade of the square while musicians play and horse drawn carriages trot past. Cameras click everywhere, mine included.

We also marvelled at the opulent architecture of the huge cathedral built in the 1800’s without the aid of modern machinery…stained glass windows, intricate carvings and the huge domed ceilings are the work of true craftsmanship.

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Parks Canada manages the Governors’ Walkway which is a combination of boardwalk  and stairs that took us from the front of the Chatea Frontenac to the Plains of Abraham.  From there we could enter the Citadel and see the fortified city that still houses the Governor General’s second official residence. The poor guards in their red serge and black hats….I don’t remember what they’re actually called…must be ready to faint in the heat!  Excavations and restoration is being done to the wall around the Citadel, revealing the original wall built by the French in the 1700’s.

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Like Old Montreal, the ancient buildings are now home to shops, art galleries and restaurants.  The streets are much narrower here so there are less restaurants with patios but they all have windows that open to the streets and are bright and beautiful with awnings and flowers.


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After walking for miles in the heat, we were glad to get back to the resort for a swim and a hot tub then out for dinner.

Our last day in  Quebec was rainy for the most part so we spent it playing board games and getting our van ready for travelling again.

We were travelling with Lee and Henny when we left the condo.  They were in a rental car so we sent them along the scenic route along the north shore of the river to cross by ferry from St-Simeon to Rivière-du-Loup.  We had travelled that same road earlier in the week.  We had to return our car to Quebec City so we decided to cross the river there and take the Trans-Canada to Rivière-du-Loup where we would meet up with them and travel to New Brunswick together.  Our drive skirted along the north edge of the Appalachians with farmland stretching north and south. We passed numerous RV’s, something we weren’t accustomed to seeing since we’ve rarely travelled main highways.

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From Rivière-du-Loup we left the main highway and followed the St. Lawrence to Rimouski. Sailboats dotted the river on our left, pastures dotted with purple rocket and hedges of pink wild roses on our right.  The landscape became much more mountainous as we neared Rimouski.  It reminded us of the Cowboy Trail in southern Alberta without the backdrop of the Rockies.

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A short while after Rimouski, we headed south through the Gaspe Peninsula.  We were immediately in the densely forested Appalatian mountains. Rain had recently fallen so we travelled past lumber mills, dairy farms, and lakes with a beautiful rainbow arching over the highway in front of us. The mountains are very old and rounded and very picturesque with quaint little French towns nestled into them.  I loved the drive but twilight would be upon us soon and the threat of hitting wildlife…especially deer and moose was very real so there was no time to stop.

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Two and a half hours later we were wandering around a small cemetery in Mann Settlemennt where Jim’s Mom was born.  Minutes later we were entering New Brunswick.  Jim and his brother were born in Campbellton, NB in the 50’s and moved to Alberta in 1958…just young boys. Jim has been back once three years ago and Lee has never been back!  It was an emotional moment as they stood together in front of the “Welcome to New Brunswick ” sign.

Next week I’ll fill you in on the “homecoming”!

Miles Meets Quebec (Part One)

Leaving the rain behind us, we headed straight east through fields of corn and soya beans, passing smaller wood frame houses and dairy farms along highway 43 into Quebec towards Montreal.  Miles, our mascot, knew we were craving some interaction with family so he steered us right into St. Lazare where Jim’s nephew Ken and his wife Lynn live.  It was so good to wrap our arms around family!  And the timing was perfect because Lynn would have two days off and Ken was on holiday.  How lucky for us!

A cold drink on the patio was followed by dinner and it wasn’t long before we had the board games out.  We played a game called Buccaneer which involves gathering treasure legitimately as well as stealing treasure from opponents by attacking them if they passed by.  Twice I missed the chance to attack and I was soon labelled the “nice pirate”…a name that would remain with me the duration of our stay there!  Incidentally, nice pirates don’t win!

The next three days were packed with fun.  Ken and Lynn were wonderful hosts, touring us all over the area.  They live west of Montreal where little towns like St. Lazare,  Hudson, Senneville, and St. Anne de Bellevue merge into each other with little winding roads lined with huge oak, ash, maple and elm trees.  There are flowers everywhere and historic buildings and homes are interspersed with modern homes, all with what we would consider pretty large yards.  In one spot, they showed us a stone fence that was built by hand by piling stones of various sizes with no mortar and it was as straight as could be!  The Ottawa River and the St. Lawrence River meet in this area and surround the island that Montreal sits on.  Traffic to and from Montreal is heavy but Lynn has it mastered so we relaxed in the back seat while she just took it in stride!

We spent a full day in Old Montreal and the Old (Vieux) Port.  Cobblestone streets and three hundred year old buildings give it so much charm, not to mention the horse drawn carriages and the musicians in the squares. One could tell that so many years ago, Upper Canada was bustling with everyday commerce.  Today, the old liveries and warehouses are filled with restaurants, art galleries, museums and upscale shops.  Awnings and flowers adorn their facades and tourists fill their spaces!  The Old Port is lined with outdoor artisan markets and expensive luxury yachts are moored at the marina. Climbing apparatuses have been installed as if they are masts of old ships and it’s not unusual to have someone zip line above your head as you walk along the promenade.

We toured the Notre Dame Basilica in all its extravagantly ornate glory and wondered how much it must have cost to build back in those days.  I was amazed at the intricate details in the carvings and the stained glass.  Not a corner of the church was left unadorned in some way!




We also checked out the Bank of Montreal, the first banking institution in British North America.  This particular bank was erected in 1847 and is still in use.  I thought the BMO in Winnipeg was beautiful…this one is even more magnificent with black granite columns and marble floors.  It also has a small museum in it that shows the cage that the teller would have stood in as well as money and bank books from the Dominion of Canada to present.

We saw the Hotel de Ville (City Hall), the Chateau Ramezay which was Quebec’s first building to be deemed a historical monument and lovely parks and gardens. We wandered the streets and checked out a couple of galleries until our feet were aching. The day was hot…we were glad to sit in the rooftop patio of one of the pubs and enjoy some cold beverages at tourist prices!

The highlight for me while visiting Ken and Lynn was going for a ride in a glider!  Ken is a member of the Montreal Flying Club so he took me out for a morning.  I was rigged up with a parachute and a quick lesson on what the various controls are for and how they work.  Then I climbed into the front seat of a dual glider and Ken took the controls in the seat behind me.  Either person can operate the controls but I left the flying up to him!  Once we were strapped in and the cockpit was closed we were towed by a small plane to 4000 ft.  My job was to release the tow line when we reached that elevation, at which time Ken swerved the plane to the right and the tow plane swerved to the left.  Now we were on our own at the mercy of the atmosphere.  It was an extremely hot day with very stable air.  Ken tried hard to find a thermal that would give us lift and take us higher but we weren’t able to gain much in elevation.  So we settled for a nice slow glide over the Ottawa River in the area of Hawksbury, Ontario.  We flew over Quebec on one side of the river and Ontario on the other.  Eventually we glided our way back to the Flyimg Club runway to land and my job was to let the landing wheels down.  Woohoo!

Jim was merciless with his crib games against Ken, skunking him more than once so we thought it was time to repack the van and move on before we got kicked out!

Next stop was to see another former roommate of mine from the U of A.  Sally is a Postmaster and lives with her husband and three boys in a little village called Durham Sud on the edge of the Eastern Townships, not far from Drummondville. We had lunch with her at her little house which is 116 years old…yellow with a white veranda on the front…so cute. Then she took us to see the house her husband has been building for them in his spare time on a 25 acre parcel of land they own.  She’s looking forward to the day he tells her it’s ready to move in but she’ll miss being able to walk home from work on her lunch break. It was great to see her after so many years and we were thankful that she could so easily switch from speaking French to English because my French needs a lot of work!

By late afternoon we were on the road again travelling through little towns and villages marked by church spires rising above the trees.  The landscape was changing as it became more hilly.  Large crop fields and pastures were defined by strips of thick forest.  One town after another was named after a Saint…we felt well protected as we headed through a thunderstorm so heavy we had to stop to let it pass!

Arriving in Trois Rivières, we were met with open arms by a dear friend from Claresholm who had moved away about 10 years ago.  Jeanne was the reason we had moved to Claresholm back in 1994 in the first place…she and my sister Kathy were selling their little restaurant, the Old Fox, and we bought it from them and operated it for the next ten years.

After many years in western Canada, Jeanne decided to move back to Quebec to be near her family.  We spent two nights and a day with her and had a chance to meet a few members of her crazy family!  When we first arrived, she was rattling off a whole conversation to us in French.  I must have looked like a deer in the headlights!  I know a bit of French but she was speaking so quickly I couldn’t make out a word she said! She suddenly realized, laughed so hard and then started over in English.  Her French speaking  sister and brother-in-law arrived and she would do the same to them but in reverse.  It was so funny…everyone was so confused! Finally she settled into a groove and switched back and forth, interpreting for all of us.

The next morning, after a gourmet breakfast, we were joined by Jeanne’s bilingual sister and walked downtown to see Trois Rivières.  The city was incorporated in 1634 making it 382 years old!  This would have been a major shipping port carrying goods down the St. Lawrence River to Montreal.  Even as we were there, a huge barge was sitting in port.  Hard to believe that a river could be wide enough to carry these big ships but it is.  Also in port was a luxury yacht from Great Britain.  Apparently it has been docked there for a couple of weeks now.

I’ve heard of cities putting pianos in their downtown public areas but never seen it until now.  What a good idea…two little girls were having fun with it as we went past.

We walked everywhere, through Champlain Park, past old monasteries and ancient hospitals, as well as modern theatres and office buildings.  Old houses backing onto the river were converted to B&B’s and restaurants with outdoor patios lined the downtown streets.

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When black thunderclouds started building we made our way back to Jeanne’s place, arriving just in time to avoid a heavy rain.  From her balcony we watched it pound down, welcoming the cooling effect it had on the hot, humid air. Sleep would come easier tonight.

It had been a great week of visiting family and friends.  We left Trois Rivières via the Chemin du Roy (the Kings Highway) which followed the north shore of the St. Lawrence past little farming villages.  Houses painted in cheerful colours…red, purple, bright yellow, and navy blue…all with white trim and verandas were so pretty surrounded with orange day lilies and large hostas.  “Fruites et Legumes” were being sold at roadside stands all the way to Quebec City. img_2173 img_2175Once we arrived at Beauport, just east of Quebec City. we picked up a rental car for the week.


Thanks to all who are reading this faithfully.  I love sharing this trip with each of you.  Until next week, au revoir!

Miles Meets Ontario (Part Four)

From his viewpoint on our dash, Miles, our ever faithful moose mascot, confirmed our next destination point.  It was Canada Day and we knew we wanted to be in a bigger city as opposed to a small town but which one?  We were fairly close to several but we settled on Barrie…the main reason being that it is situated on Lake Simcoe so we were pretty sure the fireworks would be over the bay.

Canada Day in Barrie is actually the kick-off for the town’s Promanade Days so there were plenty of activities happening.  Unfortunately, the weather had decided to be less than cooperative for the day.  A cool rainy drizzle caused problems for many of the outdoor vendors that lined four or five streets  blocked to traffic other than pedestrians. But the restaurants on those streets saw a booming business as people needed to get inside to warm up and dry out!  We had fully expected to be out and about all day but we were cold and wet so we headed back to our van, which was parked for the night in the Walmart parking lot, to play a few games of cards and dry off.  By evening, we were ready to venture downtown again…due to parking restrictions in the centre of the city, the day pass we had purchased for the city transit had definitely worked out to our advantage!  As 10:00 pm approached, the skies began to clear and we joined the throngs of people lining the stone wall around the harbour in anticipation of the fireworks.  As expected, the fireworks display was amazing over Kempenfelt Bay.  Following that, the evening warmed up and we enjoyed wandering around watching people and listening to music spilling from various bars for the next little while…the last bus got us back to our van for the night.  Canada’s 149th birthday had been fun, not withstanding the weather.

We were on the road early the next morning heading north to go around Lake Simcoe. By the time we had passed Orillia and rounded the north end of the lake we were entering the Kawartha Lakes region.  This is a huge area of lakes and rivers that can be travelled a full 386 km through the Trent Severin Waterway from the Bay of Quinte on Lake Ontario to Lake Huron’s Georgian Bay.  Back in the mid 1800’s it would have been the main mode of transportation for steamers getting lumber, supplies and people to and from Toronto.  Today it is used mainly by pleasure craft and is protected by Parks Canada, whose staff operate all the locks throughout the waterways.

We had seen a small locking process last week in Port Colbourne but what we witnessed here in the Kawartha’s was far more interesting!  We stopped first in Lindsay, which in itself was a very pretty town with huge churches, a farmer’s market and a patio that sold cold beer!  The lock was operated manually, meaning that the lock operators opened the gates using a turnpike system.  Upon speaking to the lock master there, he suggested we also go visit locks at Fenelon Falls and Bobcageon, so off we went.  Fenelon Falls transport boats 50 feet up or down, depending on the direction they are travelling.  Bobcageon, just a few kilometres further up the waterway was the original lock built back in 1833 and is built of timber. It has a swing bridge to stop traffic crossing the river when the boats are locking whereas most locks have lift bridges. The little town by the lock is so pretty and offered an ice cream place with many flavors to choose from!

From here we travelled on to Peterborough…an absolutely beautiful small city with a peaceful riverside walk, a beautiful garden planted in honour of all children who had passed away and streets lined with red brick two story homes with white verandas. As evening was approaching, we decided to walk along the river.  We could hear music playing in the distance and we eventually ended up at the marina and beside the marina we could see that something was happening in Del Crary Park.  Apparently, throughout the summer, the city has a Music Fest and offers free music in the park every Wednesday and Saturday night.  We were fortunate to stumble upon the park on the night that I Mother Earth was playing.  Although we weren’t completely familiar with their music, we knew it had been played in our house when our kids were in high school!  Amazing that a city offers so many free concerts…they are huge supporters of the arts, even displaying a Walk of Fame along the edge of the Marina as a tribute to journalists, writers, musicians, songwriters, etc who have made significant contributions to the Arts in the city over the years.

Peterborough is also known for the hydraulic lift lock in the middle of downtown.  It is the highest lift lock in the world, built in 1904 and still operates today.  We took a cruise in a steam boat to experience the locking system firsthand.  The lock lifted us something like 88 feet and deposited us in the next lake.  It was amazing how quickly the whole operation took.  We passed through a second lock, where we turned around and came back the same way, this time we were lowered 88 feet.  Quite amazing!

Following the Loyalist Highway through large cornfields, wineries and orchards, massive solar panels,  and past many “Turtle Crossing” signs, we arrived at a beautiful campsite at Sandbanks Provincial Park in Prince Edward County.  As the name suggests, there is plenty of sand…long beaches lining the north shore of Lake Ontario.  A  day at Dune’s Beach was just what we needed!  The water was clear and warm and the day was hot!  I was beginning to understand what “humidex” means!

Then we were on the road again, through a beautiful little town called Bloomfield, established in 1799 and then Picton, where Sir John A. MacDonald grew up.  We stopped to see the Lake on the Mountain where a very pretty lake seems to maintain a constant level even though it falls continuously into the Bay of Quinte.  It is a mystery as to how the lake remains constant but it is believed that there must be underground streams feeding it yet none have been found.  Legends offer much more interesting theories!

The Glenora Ferry carried us further along the Loyalist Highway past many more historic sites like the launching spot of the Frontenac at Bath and the Fairfield House at Amhustville.  This was interesting because instead of showing the Loyalist farmhouse as it would have been when it was built in 1793, it showed the changes it had gone through over five generations of the Fairfield family until it was offered as a historic site by the last member of the family.  The original limestone and timber construction is evident as well as the changes made to accomodate for a growing family, electricity and running water.

The Loyalist Highway brought us to Kingston, a city founded in 1673 by Count Frontenac of  New France where he set up a trading post.  It was later conquered by the British and established as a  colony of Britain.  It is located at the point where the Saint Lawrence River, the Cataraqui River and Lake Ontario meet.  Because of it’s position at this point, Fort Henry was built during the War of 1812 to guard against the threat of American invasion.  The fort never saw battle and the cannons have only been fired for ceremonial purposes but it is an imposing structure and it’s very presence may be the reason it never saw action.

Sir John A. MacDonald was the first mayor of the city and later went on to be the first Prime Minister of Canada.  While in office, he was instrumental in the building of the Rideau Canal as a means of transporting supplies from Kingston to Ottawa and on to Montreal without having to use the St. Lawrence River, which was always under threat of attack.  Kingston was originally to be the capitol city of Upper Canada but after the city built a huge and ornate City Hall in 1843 with money lent to them by Queen Victoria, the government of the day changed their mind and moved the Capitol to Ottawa as it would be less likely to suffer attack from the Americans.

While in Kingston, the Buskers Festival was happening so the historic downtown area was packed with people and fun.  We took a Paddlewheeler cruise into the 1000 Islands where we saw beautiful homes situated on tiny islands and learned about the history of the area.  Later that day, we took a trolley tour around town and through Queens University.

The next morning we were touring Kingston Penitentiary, the longest continuously running prison in Canada. It closed down in 2013 but over its time in operation it saw 3 major riots…1932, 1954 and most recently in 1971 when inmates were protesting overcrowding as preparation was being made to move some of them to Millhaven.

By afternoon we were ready for some downtime again.  Heading north through Smith’s Falls, which is the half way point of the Rideau Canal, we arrived at Rideau River Provincial Park.  Expecting some beach time and relaxing, we were disappointed to get rain, rain and more rain!


So much heavy pounding rain, in fact, that we ended up with a leak in our roof, possibly from the seal around our vent.  There we were at midnight trying to position a tarp across the roof of the van to keep the water from dripping through!  Soaked to the bone and giddy with fatigue, all we could do was laugh!  But the highlight of the stop was a visit in the little town nearby with old friends from our days in Edmonton.  Karen and Tom, who now live in Florida, were visiting family in Ottawa so it was easy to meet up with them for lunch.

Packing the next morning was not fun…tarp, tablecloth, stove, towels…everything was soaking wet!  Time to get out of Ontario and head for Quebec!  Family near Montreal was expecting us.  Join us again next week to hear more!




Miles Meets Ontario (Part Three)

Miles, our trusty mascot, settled himself once again on the dash of our van to guide us east toward the Niagara Escarpment.  We would end up staying in various places along the escarpment over the next week.

After saying goodbye to our lovely and hospitable family in London, our laundry done, our fridge restocked, oil changed, minor repairs looked after,  our gas and propane tanks full, we travelled east through farmland…fields of tobacco, strawberries, corn and all other grains and vegetable crops.  Even with no rain in the past few weeks, the crops looked good.

We stopped in Ingersoll first.  Ingersoll was known for its production of soft cheeses until the cheese factory was bought out by a big corporation and eventually closed down.  The museum there highlighted the difficulties and achievements experienced by the agricultural industry during the war.  Farmers were needed to feed the troops on one hand and scorned for not enlisting on the other hand!

Another noteworthy fact about the town is that in 1937 a young man named Douglas Carr set out to journey around the world by bicycle, travelling for thirty months. This impresses me in two ways; first because my brother Richard and his wife Barbara attempted a similar journey but for a shorter time and secondly because we find there is so much to see in a four month journey by car in only one country!  What he must have experienced!

We travelled through Amish country; Tillsonburg, Delhi and Simcoe until we stopped at a little campsite at Cayuga on the Grand River.  Another pretty spot to stay where people fishing in the river were pulling up perch, pickerel and bass.  We enjoyed the sunset and hit the sack after a full day of travel.

We were up and gone fairly early the next morning, stopping for breakfast at a park in Dunnville, a pretty little town not far from the southern beaches.  We’re missing our grandsons so it was fun to watch a family with similarly aged children play in the park.  In our distorted minds we saw Carlo and Lewis on the swings!

Port Colbourne, at the south end of the Welland Canal was an interesting stop.  We watched as the lift bridge across the canal rose for a ship entering the last lock, making its way to Lake Erie.

We visited the museum where we learned about the Fenian Raid on Fort Erie in 1866.  Irish Americans thought they could conquer Canada by invading the fort but they were stopped by a quickly assembled battalion of volunteers in the night.  Many were honoured for their bravery and offered land or cash for their efforts.  Some actually chose the $50 cash reward!

Port Colbourne also served as a means of transportation for smuggling liquor into Canada from Buffalo during the years of prohibition.  Apparently, the liquor would be lowered into the water with salt blocks to keep it down and would then be dragged along the bottom by boat.  The salt would eventually dissolve on the other side of the border and the loot would float to the top and be gathered up by the Canadians!

On to Fort Erie where the Peace Bridge spans Lake Erie, accessing Buffalo, NY.  It celebrates the longest continuous peaceful border between nations.   We walked along the lake, under the bridge and into town where we sat in the sun enjoying a cold drink and a hot lunch!

From there, we followed the Niagara Parkway passing massive estate homes facing the Niagara River.  Lack of money is obviously not a problem for the residents of this part of the country.  Being the scenic highway it is, motorcyclists also use the road.  At one point we pulled over for a group of about 100 of them to pass!

Later in the afternoon we arrived at Niagara Falls. Jim had been there before but I hadn’t.  The first indication of the falls was a mist off in the distance…I was pretty pumped!  We got into town, drove along the river so I could really see them before we booked into a campsite.  Wall to wall people and bumper to bumper traffic reinforced the fact that we would bus in to town from the campsite!

After settling in to the campsite at an exorbitantly high price of $59 a night… a plot measuring about 12’x24’with water and electricity where the neighbors could undoubtably hear us snore… we had a quick supper and then hopped on the WeGo bus back into town to see the falls at night. Because the temperature was dropping, the mist was like rain.  We bought ponchos to stay dry and snapped a million photos of both the American Angel Falls and the more impressive Canadian Horseshoe Falls with the rainbow coloured lights projected on them. Horse and buggies carried tourists along the promenade and as the lights came on in the various restaurants, towers, hotels and parks, it felt like we were in Vegas!  We caught the last bus back to the campsite at midnight and fell quickly asleep with aching feet from the miles we had walked today.

Early the next day we packed up and moved the van to a shopping centre where we could leave it while we spent the day in town.  We had booked three activities.  First was Journey Behind the Falls.  We were transported by elevator down to tunnels that took us to a lookout beside the falls and behind the falls.  The power of the water was incredible!

Next, we were ushered into a round room where we watched a 4D movie about the formation of the falls over time.  With the surround screen, we experienced the fury of the falls from the ice age to now, the fourth dimension being touch.  We were hit with snow, rain, wind and mist from the falls.  It was a spectacular experience!

Finally, the Hornblower Cruise, formerly named the Maid of the Mist.  We boarded an open double deck boat and sailed right out to the falls.  The perspective from water level was unbelievable! And the wind and mist created by the never ending rush of tumbling water soaked us.  Fifteen million litres of water spill over those falls every minute!  What an amazing force of nature!

By late afternoon we were back on the bus to our van and away from the crowded streets of Niagara.

We stopped at St. Catherine’s, the entrance to the Welland Canal from Lake Ontario.  We watched the complete locking procedure.   Because Lake Ontario sits at a much lower elevation than Lake Erie, boats go through a series of 8 locks to lower them.  This being lock 3 meant they were nearing the end.

First the gates at each end were closed, then the canal lock filled with water until it was level with the south end of the river.  A horn blew and the bridge in the distance rose to allow a yacht from Toronto with 50 foot masts enter the lock.

Then the south gate was closed, the lock was drained, lowering the yacht about 50 feet to the level needed to move north.

When the lock master gave the signal, the gates at the north end opened and the yacht sailed on.  The whole procedure took approximately an hour.

After that interesting diversion, we headed to the outskirts of Hamilton where we had dinner out and took advantage of the free accomodation at Walmart!  The weather turned extremely humid and calm.  We popped into the store for a couple of supplies and came out to a torrential downpour!  Thankfully the wind blew as well so the van cooled nicely for sleeping.

Hamilton is known as the city of steel with Stelco being one of its biggest employers.  After the hoards of people at Niagara, we didn’t feel like city exploring so we headed down through the city to Burlington Bay, the largest freshwater bay in North America, where we took a cruise to learn about the harbour city. This harbour was at one time so polluted that even the birds avoided it.  Since the 1970’s when industries became more conscious of the environmental effects of their production, the bay has slowly returned to a viable habitat for fish and waterfowl alike.  The shunned dirty neighbourhood of the north of Hamilton has seen a transformation with old historic homes facing the water being  remodelled and new luxury homes being built.  Plans of new hotels and condos along the waterfront are part of the city’s plan for revitalizing the downtown area.

The city is known also for its Royal Canadian Yacht Club as well as a working mans yacht club with a waiting list of ten years!  The existing marina houses about 700 yachts with plans of tripling its size in the next few years.

By afternoon we were fighting traffic to get out of the Hamilton and greater Toronto area.  This is the point where all highways lead to the infamous 401 and we wanted no part of it!  At the advise of some locals we met at the bay, we headed west through Dundas and Guelph and stopped for a couple nights of camping downtime at Elora Gorge campground, a part of the Niagara Escarpment again.

The Elora Gorge is on the Grand River.  The gorge itself has 22 meter high cliffs bordered by dense forest of spruce and maple.  The campground we were in is popular for tubing and kayaking with designated spots for putting in and getting out of the gorge with minor rapids along the way.  We didn’t tube or kayak but we walked the full length of the gorge, watching a family of tubers far below.

After two nights at the campground relaxing and playing numerous rounds of Yahtzee, we were on the road into the towns of Elora and Fergus.  The Elora Falls in Victoria Park feed into the gorge we had camped beside.

These two communities are the oldest towns in southwestern Ontario, settled originally by a Scot named Ferguson.  Today, they maintain the look and feel of Scotland and hold the annual Highland Games every August. The old limestone quarry is now a hertage site used for swimming.


Our general destination was northeast but we realized we had missed stopping in Brantford.  Being an avid Oiler fan, Jim couldn’t miss seeing the Wayne Gretzky Sports Centre!  Filled with memorabilia and facts about The Great One, we were happy to see that it also recognized many other athletes from the Brant area.  The centre housed hockey rinks, swimming pools, weight rooms, etc. and is surrounded by ball, soccer and football fields.  It was worth the trip south again.

While in Brantford, we also visited the Bell Homestead.  It was at this location that at the age of 23 Alexander Graham Bell perfected his idea of transporting voice through wire with a rudimentary telephone.  The first long distance call from Brantford to Paris, Ontario, utilizing the existing telegraph lines happened at this residence. Nowadays, it’s hard to imagine life without a telephone.  Even more so since I am presently using mine to publish this blog!

North again, skirting Burlington and Brampton and stopping in Orangeville to pick up a few groceries.  Orangeville has amazing wood sculptures lining the streets, all carved by different artists.  Such talent!

We also came across a car show that Jim thoroughly enjoyed.  We’ve seen so many beautiful sports cars across the country…this was great to see so many in one spot.

A short drive further north and we arrived at Earl Rowe Provincial Park, checking in for two nights.  This is the one and only Nudist Provincial Park in Ontario. The weather cooperated by offering hot sun during the day with cool nights.  We caught up on laundry and blog posts and cooked yummy meals on the barbecue.  We were entertained by lightening bugs in the trees while we sat by our campfire in the evening.  I haven’t seen lightening bugs since I was a kid!


Now I know what you’re thinking….a NUDE campground?  Haha!  Our friendly neighbor suggested I write something like that to find out who is really  following the blog!  I couldn’t resist!

So that brings us to the end of June.  We will head to Barrie for Canada Day.  One more Ontario instalment to come so stay tuned.  Thank you for all your encouraging  comments.  We miss you all and we’re happy to keep in touch this way.  Happy Canada Day!