Day Twenty-five: L’Orignal, Ontario

We crossed the bridge from Grenville-sur-la-Rouge, Quebec to Hawkesbury, Ontario mid-afternoon and decided to call it a day. We found a lovely B and B in nearby L’Orignal on the Ottawa River.

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It feels strange to be back in Ontario after almost a month on the road. However, since 89% of the people in Hawkesbury are francophone, it still feels like we’re away from home. It is considered to be the third most bilingual town in Ontario.

We started the day in a downpour so gave up plans to explore the view of old Quebec City from the waterfront of Lévis. Instead we took the Pierre Laporte bridge across the St. Lawrence and began our journey west to Trois Rivières.

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The skies did clear en route and the vast flat fields began to remind me of southern Ontario.

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We wandered around the busy port area of Trois Rivières.

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On the side of buildings in the core as well as along the river promenade I saw a number of silver plaques.

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Each one was engraved with a love poem, in its original language as well as in French, and gave the name of the poet and country of origin.

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I checked it out online and discovered that every September, Trois Rivières hosts the International Poetry Festival with 40,000 participants, events all across the city, readings by poets from around the world and even a “poetry line” (like a clothesline) where you can hang up your poetry for others to read.

We came across this 100-year old covered bridge not far from Berthierville, the birthplace of racing legend, Gilles Villeneuve.

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As we drove through Saint-Lin-Laurentides, we saw a small picturesque brick house that turned out to be the birthplace of Sir Wilfrid Laurier, Canada’s first francophone Prime Minister.

It continues to surprise me what you can learn along the backroads of your own country.

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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 Twenty: Percé, Québec

We started and ended today in the fog. The drive began in Bathurst, New Brunswick which I am sure is beautiful in the sunshine and the summer.

As we drove to Campbellton, the colours in the trees were stunning in spite of the foggy conditions.

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We crossed the bridge at Campbellton and arrived in a new province and a new time zone.

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As the day progressed, we travelled through history once again. This mural, in the shape of a Canada goose, captures the life of people in the Carleton-sur-mer region and celebrates the 250th anniversary of the community.

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The fog finally lifted for a while and we were able to get some spectacular views of the surrounding countryside as we headed east along the Gaspe Peninsula.

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We climbed Mont Saint-Joseph in the hope of getting a better view. Instead, we found snow and entered an even thicker fog bank.

 

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In Bonaventure, we stopped at the Quebec Acadian Museum to see a display of work by two local rughooking artists. Unfortunately the museum was closed for lunch. So I took this photo instead.

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A little further along the coast in Paspébiac, we came upon a series of buildings that had been built between 1783 and 1900 by fishing companies from Jersey.

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Paspébiac was Quebec’s first cod fishing port. It has Basque roots and the residents’ accent is different from the rest of the region.

In Chandler, we took a walk along the beach to stretch our legs and enjoy the crashing of the waves along the shore.

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And tonight we’re in Percé. Although we can’t actually see the Rock because of the fog. Since it’s past the tourist season, very few restaurants are open. We went to one that was recommended but we were turned away because it was fully booked by a large group. We went to a pub that only offered drinks, no food (although we were told we could go to the grocery store next door and bring some food back to the pub).

We ended up at a small bistro where we were the only customers. The menu was limited to four items (end of season) but it was just what we needed.

Here’s hoping for clear skies tomorrow!

 

Day Fifteen: Gros Morne Park (Part Two)

We are now halfway through our trip. We have seen so much yet it feels like we have only skimmed the surface.

Speaking of which, today we had the rare opportunity to walk on the Earth’s mantle. The Tablelands in Gros Morne National Park look like a barren desert with steep slopes rising to flat-topped mountains.

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The golden brown rock – peridotite – is thought to have been forced up from the depths several hundred million years ago during a collision between tectonic plates.

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The rock has toxic amounts of heavy metals and lacks nutrients to sustain plant life so the area looks like a moonscape.

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Yet the land and mountains on the opposite side of the road are lush and green.

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The plants that do grow on the tablelands are alpine and found only in the lower part of the landscape. The pitcher plant (a carnivorous plant like the Venus flytrap) is vibrant red and prevalent.

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So is the creeping juniper. We saw some tiny ferns near a waterfall as well as some purple asters.

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The whole day was one of contrasts. I had no idea that this part of Newfoundland was so mountainous. Every time we came around a corner, a new breathtaking view arose before us. And what a mix! Snow-covered mountains, jagged peaks and flat table tops, lush valleys, deep lakes and fjords…

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We stopped as always in a few coastal villages along the way. We were particularly charmed by Norris Point nestled between Bonne Bay and the East Arm and surrounded by rolling hills and mountains in glorious fall colours.

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In a couple of valleys we saw the unmistakable crimson of maple trees – the first maples we’ve seen since Quebec. It actually made me feel a bit homesick for the range of fall colours we usually see this time of the year.

Tomorrow we continue south to Stephensville, and the next day, we’ll be catching the ferry to Nova Scotia. Only two more sleeps in Newfoundland. I will miss the extraordinary land and sea as well as the open and welcoming people who have made us feel so at home.

Oh, and the partridge berry pie!

Day Fourteen: Gros Morne (Part One)

Today, we travelled back in time. Way back. To a place where millions of years of Earth’s history are visible.

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Green Point is a long cliff, best viewed from the rocky beach. It has layer after layer of limestone and shale and shows clearly the geological development of ancient mountains. Over time, as the tectonic plates shifted, these layers were forced upward resulting in vertical layers of varied varied colours, textures, shapes and thickness.

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As we walked along, our eyes following the lines of rock up the cliff, we wondered how many millions of years of Earth’s history we were passing with each step.

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Once again, photos don’t do it justice.

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We could have spent a whole day there, just wandering and exploring. On our way back to the car, we stopped to chat with a fisherman. He told us that he’s the only fisherman left at Green Point now although there had been about 30 at one time. He also mentioned only another two or three in the neighbouring small coves, and they’re all over sixty. He wonders what will happen to the fishery when they’re gone since there are no young people interested in taking it on. It’s the story we keep hearing.

We hiked to Western Brook Pond next, a striking fjord in Gros Morne Park. It was formed by a glacier which, when it melted, left a fjord 16 km long (10 miles) with 650 metre (2000 foot) cliffs on each side. During the summer, you can take a boat tour of the fjord. It wasn’t an option today, but it was still spectacular to see.

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I think my favourite part of the day, however, was at the Lobster Cove Head lighthouse. We went there last night to see the sunset and returned this morning to explore the trails and the lighthouse keeper’s house.

What a treasure trove of history and culture! The house is set up as a home and has many stories, photos, hands-on materials. Not just about the lighthouse and its three keepers and their families, but also those who used to live nearby. Since the light of the lighthouse had to be kept lit at all times, the families in the area tended to congregate at the lighthousekeeper’s house for social gatherings. There were first person tales of music, storytelling, games and food shared.

We wandered down the path to where the lighthousekeeper’s family had their vegetable garden and then further down to the rocky beach. So much to see in the tidal pools.

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And in the distance, a few remaining fishing huts in Lobster Cove.

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Day Eleven: L’Anse-aux-Meadows

L’Anse-aux-Meadows was the destination of this trip from the start. It’s the location at the northern tip of Newfoundland where an archeological site showed beyond any doubt that the Norse established a settlement around the year 1000.

It was fascinating to travel back in time and see the remaining grass-covered mounds of the foundations of their homes and workshops. The reconstructed buildings further along were warm inside in spite of the blustery wind.

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The walls were constructed at least 6 feet deep in peat moss and the roof was layers of peat, birch bark, more peat, and then living grass.

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With recognizable navigation marks nearby, easy access to the ocean and its food sources, a fresh water stream and plenty of wood nearby, it is understandable why they chose this area.

The rest of our day was spent driving around, visiting coastal villages, hiking and taking photos that seem to tell stories all their own.

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The moratorium on the Northern cod fishery in 1992 was a turning point in the Island’s life, culture and history. The closure ended almost 500 years of fishing in Newfoundland and Labrador. It is still a part of current conversation and its impact was evident everywhere we went.

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The smaller communities are losing their younger generations and, as a result, the future of many coastal villages is time limited.

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Even where we’re staying, the government offered a buy-out program if the few remaining residents would move away. They would still own their homes and could return when they wanted, but within a year, there would be no services like hydro. A 98% agreement was required among the residents and three didn’t want to move, so no one could go.

We read about such situations but it takes on new meaning when you meet people for whom this is their daily reality.

Tomorrow we start to head south toward Port-au-Choix.