Day Twenty-Six: Home Again!

After almost a month on the road, we arrived back home today. We covered five provinces and about 7500 km (4660 miles) in 26 days, over dirt, mud, gravel, rock, treacherous potholes and occasionally paved roads, up steep mountains and into deep valleys, around tight turns and across flat plateaus. Our trusty Mini handled it all (and so did my fearless driver!)

This morning dawned cold but sunny and as we left L’Orignal, we decided to check out the Gingerbread Capital of Ontario. Vankleek Hill has over 250 homes with Victorian era decorative gingerbread woodwork on porches, gables, windows and rooflines (and you thought I meant the edible kind of gingerbread, didn’t you?)

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The town also has a series of murals including this one depicting real residents and the history of the community.

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Further down the road, south of Alexandria, we stopped to visit the St. Raphael ruins.

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It was one of the earliest Roman Catholic churches in  Upper Canada. Built in 1821, it was gutted by fire in 1970.

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Walking through the ruins, I felt like I was in Scotland or Ireland, exploring the ruins of an ancient church or castle. The remains have been stabilized and it is now a National Historic site, yet the stonework is just as stunning as when it was first built.

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It comes as no surprise that the church was built as the centre of a community of settlers from the Scottish Highlands. Many of them and their descendents now lie in the old cemetery beside the ruins.

And now we’re home, laundry done, feet up, enjoying a cosy fire in the woodstove, dreaming about the next adventure…😊

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Day Twenty-four: Lévis

The rain had stopped this morning, but the strong cold winds continued unabated as we packed up the car for the day. The snow geese were making the most of the tail wind, thousands glistening bright white against the black clouds. Such a beautiful sight to start the morning.

We took the main highway rather than the coastal route but still had good views of the mountainous north shore of the St. Lawrence.

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I’d read that Kamouraska was considered one of the top twenty prettiest villages in Quebec so we took a detour to check it out. It’s a small village right on the shore of the St. Lawrence and the houses are all unique. Some have big front porches, many are narrow wood siding, some are old stone, and at least one was this unusual tile that I have often seen along the coast.

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I don’t think I need to explain what this shop is. 😊

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And yes, we stopped even though it was only around 9 am.! So many choices…a tough decision!

The landscape was constantly changing. From rocky hillsides to long stretches of fields.

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We also stopped in Montmagny, the Snow Goose Capital.

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Every year in October, they hold a snow goose festival. We missed that but thought perhaps we’d see some of the birds along the water’s edge. Instead, they were all overhead so we’re glad we had the chance to see them in Matane.

Montmagny does seem to have some resident artists. This rock was near the waterfall.

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And this mural was in town on the wall of the bookstore.

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By noon the sun was out and the colours along the road and across the river were vivid.

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We drove past the sign for Grosse Ile and the Irish Memorial site. This trip has taught me a great deal about our uncomfortable history.

Grosse Ile was set up as a quarantine area by the Lower Canadian government in the 1830’s to contain a cholera epidemic thought to be caused by the influx of European immigrants. It was reopened in the mid 1800’s for Irish immigrants who had contracted typhus during their voyage (escaping the Potato Famine).

Over 3000 Irish died on the island and over 5000 are buried there, many having contracted typhus from the unsanitary living conditions on the island. Ships were not allowed to sail past Grosse Ile until they had assured authorities they were free of disease.

By 1847, the island was overwhelmed and did not have sufficient facilities or medical staff to care for the numbers arriving. Requests to the government for additional funds and staff apparently fell on deaf ears.

Many who arrived healthy often died within a short time, hundreds left lying on the beach with no shelter, food or water. Even doctors and nurses became sick and died.

Although we didn’t stop at the site (it is a National Historic site and is closed for the season), just reading about the tragic history was yet another reminder for me of the many times we, as a people, have misunderstood, ignored, neglected, harmed and turned our backs on those in need.

As a nation, there is a large part of our history that we must remember and acknowledge the role we played.

While we can’t change the past, we can take a different approach to the future.

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Day Twelve: Port-au-Choix

If a picture speaks a thousand words, this was our day.

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End of post.

Only kidding. It did rain, hard at times. It was foggy in spots, and the potholes were deep enough to swallow a truck whole (and we’re driving a Mini!) However, the sun did eventually shine, it warmed up to 18C, and my partner now has the skills to navigate any obstacle course imaginable😁

Two things that have been puzzling us were explained today. From the moment we got off the ferry, along the coast and inland, we have passed enormous piles of stacked wood.

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Often there are numbers written on the side, and there are wooden “wagons” on sleighs for dragging wood out in the winter. It turns out that people can apply for a license to log areas owned by the forestry service. They just leave the piles there at the side of the road until they need them and no one else touches them.

The other puzzle was garden plots along the side of highways, often nowhere near any community. They usually have a wooden fence around them.

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People apparently just claim an area of flat land and plant it with vegetables. The only requirement is that they not use any wire fencing so as not to injure moose or caribou.

Speaking of which, we saw a moose today. It graciously posed long enough for me to get this photo.

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And then, when we reached Port-au-Choix, we went for a hike and saw…caribou! Four of them.

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In addition, we saw whales out in the St. Lawrence, and a bald eagle near a roadside lake.

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Tonight the wind is howling outside our B and B. I’m grateful not to be in the fishing boat that we saw heading out at supper time.

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Tomorrow we’ll hike again and see if we can find any more moose or caribou near the Point Riche lighthouse. And then we’ll continue south into Gros Morne Park. Hoping for a few sunny days to explore the mountains!

Day Five: Labrador City

This afternoon we arrived in Labrador.

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But let me back up bit.

It’s September 27th, and we had our first taste of…snow! It is cold and we were pretty high up but I thought it was rain blowing in sheets across the mountains. Wishful thinking!

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The next surprise was a spot where the road split into a divided highway with a grass-filled median, a sidewalk along one side, and openings for driveways…but no houses. In fact, no buildings at all.

This was the site of the former town of Gagnon. It was a bustling mining town of 4000 between 1959 and 1985. It had a school, churches, a hospital, stores, a mall, an arena, a curling rink, an airport and much more. And then the mine closed, all the jobs were lost, people moved away, and the entire town – all of the buildings – was demolished. All that is left now is a flag and three memorial plaques beside the river.

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It was a stark reminder that nothing is permanent.

When we reached Fire Lake, another mining area, the road changed from paved to the same slippery muddy clay we had experienced a few days earlier. This time I was whiteknuckling it as we curved up and down, across railway tracks (11 crossings on the same road!) and came way too close to washed-out ditches for my nerves.

I’m sure many of the truck drivers who saw us today were shaking their heads at the sight of a Mini navigating these roads!

I wasn’t prepared for the magnitude of the mines here. Photos do not capture the size, or the layer upon layer of tailings.

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We eventually made it to Fermont, another  community built around mining.

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The town of Fermont is known for The Wall. The Wall integrates shopping centres, apartments, schools, a library, cinema, daycare and a sportsplex so that people never have to go outside in the winter.

You have to look closely in this photo, but you can see the long line of red, brown and white building joined together to create a solid “wall”.

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And tonight we’re in Labrador City. We entered a new time zone when we crossed into this province (one hour ahead), and the language changed from French to English.

We headed out for a lovely walk around Tanya Lake, savouring the sunshine, although the wind was strong and cold.

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Tomorrow, Churchill Falls as we continue the journey north and east.

 

 

Day One: Quebec City

Our next adventure has begun. We are on a road trip to Labrador and Newfoundland for the next month.

Day One found us in Quebec City. We’ve been here before, and have a few favourite haunts. We revisited part of the Old City, wandering along the cobblestone streets, and browsing the shops.

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Old Quebec is always a treat for the senses: colour, fragrance, tastes, sounds… Here are a few more photos to illustrate what I mean.

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Then we drove to the breathtaking Montmorency waterfalls.

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Spectacular, even if you don’t climb the many stairs to the various viewing platforms opposite the falls. The cliff face into which the stairs are anchored is sheer slate.

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It does make me wonder how stable it is! But hundreds of tourists climb up and down the stairs every day. If you’re really adventurous, you can even take a zipline across the falls!

 

The Road Less Traveled

Two roads diverged in a yellow wood,
And sorry I could not travel both
And be one traveler, long I stood
And looked down one as far as I could
To where it bent in the undergrowth;
and I—
I took the one less traveled by,
And that has made all the difference.
~ Excerpt from The Road Not Taken by Robert Frost
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Into The Woods…photo by Julie Wise

Stuart, Dave and Morley

Yesterday, I lost a beloved friend. I’d never met him, but his voice and his stories had been an integral part of my life for over 40 years. Stuart McLean, like Peter Gzowski before him, had a remarkable ability to weave together all the diverse threads that make us Canadian. Peter accomplished this through his Morningside program on CBC Radio; Stuart through his stories of Dave and Morley and smalltown Canada.

Many times, I remember driving home listening to CBC and The Vinyl Cafe with Stuart McLean, tears streaming down my face, laughing hysterically, and nearly having to pull over as he told tales of Dave cooking the turkey, or Dave and his neighbour’s bike, or Dave on the roof.

One year, we went to his annual Christmas show. He would tour the country, sharing old and new Dave and Morley stories with audiences young and old. He’d also feature Canadian musicians, and that’s where I first heard the lilting music of bands like The Good Lovelies and many more.

Yesterday, I drove home, listening to CBC, tears streaming down my face, nearly having to pull over, as I heard that he had passed away at 68.

Thank you, Stuart, for the stories and the memories and, above all, the laughter.

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Thanks for the stories, Stuart. May you rest in peace.

Giving Thanks

This weekend in Canada, we celebrated Thanksgiving.

There are so many things to be thankful for…family, friends, good health, the beauty that surrounds us, walks in nature, a country at peace.

And this weekend’s weather: picture perfect!

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A Canadian Thanksgiving postcard moment!

Define Joy, If You Can

What does joy mean to you?

Is it a feeling? How do you know when you’re experiencing it?

For me, joy is often a quiet inner knowing; a feeling that bubbles up from deep within and expands until it bursts out all around me. The whole world seems brighter and lighter in that moment and I feel like I’m being carried on the wind.

Sometimes I experience joy in certain places, or with specific people. Other times, it comes upon me unexpectedly. I find it’s elusive, hard to define, yet unmistakable when it arrives.

What brings you joy?

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Flying across the water, wind in the sails … that’s joy!

Joy is…

One my my many joys is driving my Mini. I smile every time I see it. It makes me feel happy inside. Plus it’s so much fun to drive (especially on roundabouts)!

Another joy is having matching black and white accessories 😉

Mirror covers and car by Mini Canada; capris and clutch by escherly design. Such joy!

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Mini me!