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 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 Nineteen: Bathurst, New Brunswick

Today it rained. And rained. And snowed. And rained.

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We crossed the border into New Brunswick first thing and stopped to buy a map. At the roadside stop, there were three larger-than-life semi-palmated plovers with some facsinating information about these and other shore birds.

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After breeding in the Arctic, they spend the summer months in the mudflats along the Bay of Fundy eating shrimp-like creatures. They eat until they have doubled in size and then fly 4300 km non-stop to South America.

We were lucky enough to see some semipalmated plovers on our travels.

Although the weather wasn’t great, we did identify a few more birds today. We found some Dunlin, Greater Yellowlegs, Hooded Mergansers and Black Ducks. I did try to take some photos but they didn’t turn out that well.

We stopped for our picnic lunch on Hay Island near Neguac. We were in the heart of the Acadian Peninsula, and the lighthouse was painted in the colours of the Acadian flag.

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For those unfamiliar with the tragic history of the Acadians, they were of French descent and settled in the Maritimes in the 17th and 18th century. Between 1755 and 1764, the British forcibly removed the Acadians and deported them to France, Britain and the Thirteen Colonies (which later became the U.S.). Approximately 11,500 of the 14,000 Acadians were deported.

As we drove along the coast of the Acadian Peninsula and out to the Islands of Lameque and Miscou, the Acadian flag was proudly waving in front of homes and businesses, painted at the base of telephone poles, on boats and even on buildings.

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Fortunately the rain lifted when we reached Miscou Island. It was one of the first areas explored by Jacques Cartier in 1534. It was a fishing base for Basque fishermen, fishermen from the Isle of Jersey and for Acadians. Indigenous people had seasonal hunting camps there.

Today, the majority of residents speak French and fishing is still the major industry (lobster and herring).

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Most of the island’s peat moss has not been harvested and there are boardwalks through the area.

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Miscou Island’s lighthouse was built in 1856 and is still in use.

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We were able to go inside for a tour right up to the top.

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Sheltered from the wind beside the replica of the lighthouse keeper’s house, we could see the coast of Gaspe (our destination tomorrow).

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Day Eighteen: Amherst

This is the view we woke up to this morning. Kelly’s Mountain near Sydney, Nova Scotia.

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As you can see, the fall colours are at their peak, and continued to captivate us during today’s drive.

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Beautiful as it was, I found myself missing Newfoundland and Labrador. The landscape there is so vast and wild, with more trees, mountains and coastline than people. Here there are rolling fields, cattle and sheep grazing, and plenty of towns with gas stations and coffee shops.

We discovered too late that the Celtic Colours International Festival is on now in Cape Breton. How wonderful it would have been to attend a ceilidh! Another trip perhaps.

We skirted away from the TransCanada highway to explore some coastal communities and we considered taking the ferry to Prince Edward Island but our timing was off for that too.

We did stop in Tatamagouche to visit some shops.

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And we came across this delightful lighthouse in Wallace Harbour.

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And this was our view of Prince Edward Island in the distance.

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We also came across a lavender farm in Seafoam (yes, that is a real place).

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And drove past Denmark!

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You never know where your adventures will take you 😁

 

Day Seventeen: Sydney, Nova Scotia

 

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I did mention that I’m not a morning person, right? My partner took the risky step of buying me a coffee. My first. And I’m sad to report that it went down far too easily!

The early morning drive along the coast of Newfoundland to the ferry was just as stunning as every other we’ve taken on the island.

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Right to the end of the drive, mountains rose on either side as if saying a fond farewell.

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The ferry ride was smooth and we scored the best seats ever. We paid a bit extra for cushy reclining chairs in the reserved section. We overlooked the stern of the ferry, on the 9th level (the only thing above us was the observation deck) and windows all around.

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About an hour into the seven-hour crossing, Newfoundland became the suggestion of a pencil smudge on the gloomy horizon. After that we were cocooned in fog.

The rain and clouds finally began to lift as we approached Cape Breton.

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As we drove away from the ferry, my first impression of Nova Scotia was one of brilliant colour. Oh maple trees of orange, gold and red, how I have missed you! It was dusk and too dark to take photos but I know tomorrow’s drive will be spectacular!

Day Sixteen: Stephenville

The highlight today was the landscape. We drove in sunshine from Rocky Harbour to Stephenville, albeit via a rather circuitous route. Why drive directly to your destination when there are so many things to explore?

Once again, we saw brilliant colours on tree-covered hillsides followed by rugged mountainsides around the next corner.

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At times, you could see for miles and all you could see was range after range of mountains. I was reminded of that children’s song about the bear going over the mountain to see what he could see. And all that he could see was…another mountain!

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As we approached Stephenville, we turned off and headed out to explore the Port-au-Port Peninsula joined to the mainland by a causeway with a stony beach.

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The area has the most diverse ethnic and linguistic mix on the island including Mi’kmaq, French (descendants of French and Basque settlers from the 1700’s) and Acadians. We saw the Mi’kmaq flag for the first time today, and many of the signs were in 3 languages – French, Mi’kmaq and English.

The drive to Cape St. George and back around was spectacular. Here are some of the amazing views.

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On the way back to Stephenville, we suddenly descended from the mountains to a low coastal beach. The beach itself was made of thin stones that sank under your feet like sand.

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Newfoundland continues to surprise us with its diversity.

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Tomorrow we will be up before the sun to drive a couple of hours to Port-aux-Basques for the ferry to Nova Scotia. I’m not a morning person (as some of you well know!) so it’s a good thing I’m not the one driving 😊

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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 Thirteen: Rocky Harbour

Just for a change, let’s go backwards through our day today.

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It ended in Rocky Harbour at the lighthouse, watching the sun set over the mountains.

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The drive there was spectacular, and couldn’t be captured in photos. The road followed the shoreline with the vast Gulf of St. Lawrence on one side and the towering range of Long Mountains on the other.

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We slipped in and out of tiny coastal villages and stopped at the breathtaking Arches Provincial Park.

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Before we left Port-au-Choix this morning, we went for another hike along the coast.

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We came upon a herd of caribou grazing. We counted ten: several young males off to the side and a large male with his “harem” at the other end of the meadow.

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We were able to follow the path down toward the ocean, passing quite close by the young males. Once we reached the trees, the large male began to charge one of the younger males. It was a bit unnerving to see how quickly he could cover the ground without any effort.

We now have two full days to explore the Gros Morne area. So many vistas and trails to choose from!

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!