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-One: Cap-aux-Os

You never know what the day will offer.

This morning at breakfast, we were chatting with a couple from France. They told us about a boat tour around PercĂ© Rock and Bonaventure Island. It was a beautiful morning – clear sky and sunshine – so we decided to do it.

It wasn’t until we had bought our tickets and were approaching the boat that I questioned my sanity. The boat was bouncing up and down at the wharf like Tigger having an exuberantly happy day. My stomach lurched and I reached for gravol (which I carry in my purse just in case!)

Getting on the boat involved two men pushing a passenger on board in perfect timing as the edge of the boat rose with the swell to meet the wharf…and two other men catching the passenger on the other side.

The swells increased as we headed out into the Gulf of St. Lawrence but the photo opportunities were worth it (although we nearly froze even with all our warmest layers on). Thankfully, the gravol helped!

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The view of PercĂ© was extraordinary and as we passed Bonaventure Island, we saw grey seals and a huge gannet nesting area. All the photos are on my good camera though and I haven’t had a chance to download them yet.

We dawdled around Percé all morning, checking out historical buildings, and wandering along the shore.

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Then we continued our drive along the coast. Once again, the view was awe-inspiring – mountains in every direction and more hues of orange, yellow, red and green than I dreamed possible. We certainly lucked out with our timing for this trip in terms of seeing the peak of the fall foliage.

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As we came around the other side of the bay, I was able to capture one more shot of Percé Rock with an abandoned house in the foreground.

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The City of GaspĂ© is nestled into a mountainside on the Bay of GaspĂ©. It’s a picturesque spot with great views in all directions including these tidal flats.

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Tonight we’re staying in a former school in Cap-aux-Os, about 20 minutes east of the city of GaspĂ©. The bedroom appears to have been a classroom with the original wooden cupboard doors in one corner, and big windows overlooking the playground. Funny how schools always feel like schools no matter how they are repurposed.

Tomorrow we get to explore Forillon National Park. And it looks like another nice day.

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 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 Nine: L’Anse-au-Clair

This morning dawned frosty and a little cloudy.

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We decided to take a walk around Mary’s Harbour before continuing our journey. It is still a busy fishing port and very picturesque, nestled in the shores of a salmon river.

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The drive started out, once again, smoothly on pavement. I had understood that the entire route from Mary’s Harbour to L’Anse-au-Clair was now paved. I was wrong… gravel deteriorated to deep scattered potholes, with sporadic sections of blessed pavement.

Fortunately the view was lovely, and the terrain continually changing. We drove up steep hills and into deep valleys. The trees became shorter and more sparse.

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At one point we stopped to climb one of the hills. The view was spectacular – hills in every direction, and the island of Newfoundland right in front of us.

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The ground was an array of colour – mosses of every shape and size, low lying plants, rocks, and lichen.

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After today’s drive, I now understand why Labrador is called The Big Land. Its vastness is unimaginable and the variety of its terrain is unmatched.

It rained most of the afternoon so we didn’t stop much. But we did pause at L’Anse-Amour to see the lighthouse (still active and the tallest in the Maritimes) and a burial mound dating back 7500 years!

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We also learned that the Basque fishermen used to sail here every year for whaling in the 1500’s. It’s a land with a long history.

Tonight is our last night in Labrador and on the Trans-Labrador Highway. We handed in our satellite phone (thankfully we didn’t need it). We’ve certainly had some memorable experiences.

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And tomorrow we head to Blanc Sablon, Quebec to take the ferry across to St. Barbe, Newfoundland. I’m not fond of ferries so I’m hoping for smooth seas and an easy crossing!

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!