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- Category: Canada (2005, world trip)
Today marks three calendar months away from home. In some ways it feels much longer, in others as if we have only been away a short while. The most frustrating thing at the moment is the lack of internet access. We are way behind in keeping up to date with emails and our website.
We woke late today to find it was still raining. We packed up quickly and headed down to town for our 10:00 whale watching tour only to find it had been cancelled. The wind us up and even though we would be quite happy to brave the seas the boat is not up to it! Slightly begrudgingly they gave us a refund - not happy because they do expect the 1:0 trip to go ahead but by that time we want to be pushing on. Quebec is a huge proving and the Gaspesie peninsula where we have been for the past few days is really just a small part. We had expected to spend one more night here but in fact ended up heading down into New Brunswick by the end of the day.
The drive from Percé was uneventful. The scenery on the south side of Gaspesie is less spectacular than the north and the kilometres clicked away. Chandler, the next big town came and went, as did Bonaventura and New Richmond. We had expected them to be larger than they were and I had mentally planned that we would be spending a night in one or the other of them, but not so.
We followed the 132 to Point a la Croix where we crossed over the water and into Campbellton, New Brunswick. At the Tourist Information office we were given a stack of leaflets and brochures plus a whistle stop tour of the main sights to go and see - a definite case of information overload that will require time to assimilate. Crossing into New Brunswick we have also changed time zone so we are now only four hours behind the UK.
It has been a long day driving and I for one just wanted to find a nearby campsite so we could stop moving. I got badly attacked by bugs on Sunday and have big bites around my ear and on my head that hurt lots and its making me feel quite woosy. Tourist Information suggested a campsite at Dalhousie about fifteen minutes away. It was not great and the road in front was being re-surfaced. Not wanting a noisy early start we decided to push on.
We followed the Acadian Coastal Tour down and through to Pointe Verte passing very small villages along the way. Somewhere today we passed a big sign in a field proclaiming "get high on milk, our cows eat grass". It made me chuckle especially as it had come not far after a road sign warning about ducks crossing the road.
The campsite we had chosen, Cedar Cove Camping, had pretty small sites and the ones down by the bay were mainly filled with what looked like permanently parked trailers. People here have wooden patios, garden furniture and big gas powered barbecues set up permanently. Some even come armed with a garden shed! One trailer had its own version of Blackpool illuminations (sorry no picture to prove it) with not just lights all around their patio but lit up garden ornaments to. It was a bit like the houses you see at Christmas that have gone over the top with external decorations and lights to raise money for charity.
Desperately needing clean clothes, we used the on site laundry, taking a risk that the cool setting on the dryers matched the definition of Rohan cool. If not most of our clothes have probably shrunk. Stef had cooked dinner, still managing to use pretty much everything in our small kitchen. Earlier in the day we had bought Sky Captain the World of Tomorrow on DVD and settled in to watch it. As expected, I fell asleep half way through - just like home!
- Category: Canada (2005, world trip)
We woke late again today. I was still plagued by my bites and felt pretty short tempered. In true male style, Stef decided today would be a good day to wind me up. Rather than having a blazing row about nothing I took a diversionary tactic and went for a walk along the beach leaving him to clear up from breakfast.
The beach was a narrow strip of shaley sand backing onto rocks. What I had thought was an isolated campsite was actually just one of several campsite and beach chalets all strung out along the bay. The Chaleur Bay is apparently one of the most beautiful in the world. It's big, wide, open and you can see across to the southern shore of Gaspésie but I am not sure I would rate it as incredibly beautiful. I must be missing the point!
By the time I got back we had both cooled down and focused on packing up and leaving, it was early afternoon by the time we left. Neither of us wanted to go far and we had planned to just head for Bathurst. When we got there thought we both decided it had little going for it and pushed on. At Pokeshaw we made a brief stop to see a rocky outcrop, nesting place for a colony of cormorants. Normally I would find that pretty spectacular but compared to three hundred thousands on the Ile Bonaventura it was a little bit tame.
We leant a helping hand to a family in the car park. They had locked themselves out of their car and even their mobile was inside to they could not call out the Canadian AA. Having done the same myself years ago on a cold night at a Brighton petrol station which ended up with me being towed the fifty miles back home to Croydon (I have still never gone back to that petrol station!) I had a lot of sympathy for them. As much as being annoyed at not being able to get into the car I was cross with myself for letting it happen!
Leaving the birds behind us we passed a farm selling its own beef. Needing dinner for this evening we pulled in to get some steaks. Seeing us coming, suddenly four people sprang to life. Outside was a little boy, no more than seven or eight years of age, with a red scarf tied round his neck cowboy style. He had an upturned cardboard box with his price list written in market pen on the side and was selling fresh vegetables. Inside, a huge man was accompanies by two skinny lads who were playing one of Stef's favourite games - fly swatting. The beef was all frozen but we bought some steaks and burgers hoping they would be thawed in time for dinner,
On the way in I had promised the boy that we would buy some vegetables from him after we had bought some meat. As we, veg-less, got back into Mortimer his face fell which reminded me we had forgotten to buy from him. As we got back out again his face lit up with a huge smile and he proudly showed us his wares - a huge courgette, some fresh peas, beans and beetroot. His confidence waned as we asked him how much for the peas and courgette as he could not remember. His Dad stepped in joking that he hoped we had not been fleeced - a few days ago the boy had sold two pea pods for a dollar - clever kid!
We carried on to Caraquet, again in search of internet access and stopped at Tourist Information to get a local update. Not only are there few that have access most will not let you connect your own laptop. They called around for us and found a church hall that would accommodate us. The only problems was that we found no evidence of a church hall at the place they had marked on our map.
It seemed like we drove backwards and forwards through Caraquet loads of times checking about internet access, then booking into the campsite and then going back for shopping. The campsite was close to the beach and had good open views of the sea. Over the last few days we had been commenting that for a vehicle that is supposedly very popular we had hardly seen any other Roadtreks. On this site there were five including us!
Having got ourselves set up I checked the meat, still frozen, so we had to pack up again and head back into town. This is one drawback with this size of van. The big monster ones all tow a car behind them but if we need to go somewhere we have to pack everything up before we move. We finally got to use our new hibachi barbecue, a little table top job. Having finally got our wood fire well and truly alight we both chucked when the chap who had glared at us earlier for having a very smoky fire (the wood is still a bit damp) had the same problem himself. The hibachi was good but we need more practice to get the charcoal ratio right. I also think it would be better to have the grills slotting in at both sides rather than just balancing on one side (you probably need to see a picture to understand what I mean by this)
In town we had bought some ex-rental DVD's and snugged up inside for a night in front of the telly!
- Category: Canada (2005, world trip)
Our trip today was to the Acadian Historic Village. We have been struggling to find out about these people. French speaking, they settled in what is now called Nova Scotia (they called it Acadia), When the French and the English were battling over Canadian territory they decided (for some reason we do not know) not to ally with either their French countrymen or with the English. For a while their independence was trouble free but at some point the English said they either had to swear allegiance to England or be deported. Not wanting to do the former, they succumbed to the latter but were not allowed to take any personal possessions or wealth with them.
|Happy as a pig in mud|
They travelled far and wide throughout Canada, the US even as far as the Falkland Islands looking for new homes. Some even settled in England which I found odd as the reason they were deported in the first place was because they would not swear allegiance to England. Like refugees today they were not always welcome in their new destinations and some were turned away. Eventually settlements reformed again along the New Brunswick coast. The village we went to today has relocated some of the old settlement buildings into a historic village showing the evolution of Acadian life from the 1700's to the early 1900's.
The Acadians were farmers and fishermen. It took about twelve to fifteen years to build a full farm with house, grain stores, cattle sheds etc. Initial basic buildings were extended and developed over time to accommodate what generally seemed to be large families and the increasing requirements of running a farm. The buildings on the site chart this development from simple one room houses with dirt floors to more sophisticated houses with separate functional rooms that also accorded family members more privacy.
There were a few different farms in the village. Between them they raised turkeys, chickens, goats, pigs, cows, ducks and grew crops of potatoes, corn and flax as well as having "kitchen" gardens. The pigs were enormous - it always amazes me how big they are - and were snoring away quite contentedly in the afternoon heat. They also had some big bulls with nasty looking horns.
In each of the buildings guides in period dress were on hand to explain what life was like at the time the buildings were made. They were also re-enacting some of the daily household chores and occupations. We were serenaded around the village by a fiddler, saw the blacksmith in operation, just missed the miller doing his stuff, talked to the cooper and the printer of the local paper and got caught by the school teacher who loved the sound of her own voice and would not let us escape. We had demos of how wool is spun (I had always wondered how a spinning wheel worked) and how flax, a type of grass, is turned into linen. Only part of the stalk is good for linen. The stalks are beaten then pulled through wire "teasers" to separate the tough stalks (which were then mixed with mud and used for insulation) from those used for the cloth. All the preparation was done in the summer so that the spinning and weaving could occupy the cold winter days and nights.
|Fiddling for his drinks|
We stopped at La Table des Ancetres for a spot of Acadian lunch (chicken stew with potatoes and beans) and later at the Hotel Chateau Albert for a glass of Acadian coke. This is in a newer part of the village, set up six years ago, the rest has been there for about twenty years. The hotel is great step back in time to the early 1900's. You can stay overnight for CAN$140 each and if you do you get a ride in a 1923 model T Ford thrown in as part of the package - a bit pricey.
Having expected to only be there for an hour or two we were actually there for about four hours in total. It is a similar idea to the Black Country Museum in Dudley in the Wets Midlands. It was interesting to follow the changes over time. The most recent house, the barrel makers, dates from 1937 and has a much more familiar look and feel to its layout and contents - the type of house your grandparents would have lived in was the explanation given. The changes through the years first really became apparent in the Maison Therault which was built in 1860. This had an internal well, separate room for the man of the house to conduct business and was designed for both harsh winters and hot summers.
The most unusual item in the village was in the Babineau Farm and it was an early form of sofa bed. A box shaped wooden bench in front of the kitchen fire opens up to reveal what they call the Beggars Bed, so called because it was made available, with a meal, to the beggar who came calling. AS the beggar (I think they probably mean tramp) wandered around from village to village he was a good source of information and gossip. A bed for the night and a meal was a small price to pay for keeping up to date with the latest news.
In the evening we headed up to Miscou Island for the night. The road wound through more small villages, one of which proclaimed internet access at the local school. We went for a look but the school was shut! The campsite, Camping La Vague, was small and basic, the plots were not well maintained and the place was pretty full of mossies. As it was by the sea we went for a look at the beach - long and sandy. Stef discovered that the supposed warm waters were not really that warm and had a very quick dip. He was not alone - either in having a dip or in the speed of it. With the bug situation being a bit dire, we gave up on the idea of al fresco dining and enjoyed the sunset from behind the protection of our bug screens (we were not alone on that either!).
- Category: Canada (2005, world trip)
The bugs were still pretty bad this morning so we also abandoned plans for al fresco breakfast. We have just re-entered the modern world and have mobile reception for the first time in days and picked up a call from my brother in law Andy. He is at home nursing his knee after an operation and I suspect I joined the list of people nagging him not to do too much.
Andy and my sister Caz were in this part of the world a few years back and have raved about the lobster in Shediac a bit further south since they knew we were coming here. This morning we did not expect to reach Shediac for another few days but we actually ended up there today. We had followed the Acadian Coastal trail down through Shippigan, Tracadie-Sheila and towards Miramichi, making a detour to Burnt Church along the way. Our local guide information says that there is an Indian Pow Wow here starting today.
|Andy wasn't joking about the big lobsters in Shediac!|
With a bit of trial and error we found the pow-wow but were too early, it was still being set up. It looks like it will be all the local Indian people getting together , in effect a fair or carnival. There will be speeches, dancing, drumming and story telling. The "everyone's welcome, come along" came tinged with a bit of a "you are OK because you are not Canadian - they really stuffed us over the lobster rights and we are not happy". There was a definite chip on the shoulder feeling (which I suppose I can sympathise with). One of the guys said how hew was a political science student. We both reckon that means we will be cornered to be told of all the injustices the Indian people have suffered, probably all true but not really how we want to spend our time. The main activity is tomorrow but by then we will probably be too far away to want to come back to see it, much as it will probably be interesting.
By the time we got to Miramichi, which I cannot even recall even though we only passed through less than a day before me writing this diary entry, we opted to leave the scenic route and head onto the motorway. Our planned stop was the Kouchibouguac National Park but en route we decided to save national parks until we reach the Bay of Fundy. We did not like the campsites at Bouctouche (their advertised internet access was simply plugging into the local payphone and the people were not very friendly) and carried on down to Shediac.
The coastal route had take us mainly through Acadian areas. Every now and again we hit a little English speaking enclave where road signs, posters, shop windows etc were all in English. Round a corner and it was all back to French again! Stef said he thought you could see a difference in wealth/pride in surroundings between the two, Acadian areas being better kept, but I have to say that I had not noticed.
We rejoined the Acadian trail at Kouchibouguac and drove through very pretty countryside. It was 30C and the sun was shimmering off the water all around us, some of which was so still it was like driving next to a mirror. Around the bays were forests of pine and fir with pristine white houses dotted along the way. It looks like an idyllic place to live .... if you like being in fairly isolated and remote places. We had stopped yesterday to buy some wine. The local supermarket only sells alcohol free wine (no good!) so we backtracked to the state run liquor store. Stef went in to buy the wine and I waited in Mortimer. Some pretty rum looking characters turned up - I reckon there is not much else they do other than work and then get drunk!
At Shediac we checked into a campsite, Etoile Filante Camping Wishing Star, just a few minutes walk from the edge of town. Opting for a view rather than facilities (water and electric) we positioned ourselves so that we would get a good view of the sunrise (assuming we are awake early enough). We headed into town in search of a cold beer and a good spot to write diaries. Leaving the campsite we had to walk through a swarm of mossies, more here than I have come across before. I did not want to breathe in in case they went up my nose!
Just before the bridge into town, and opposite the campsite, is a huge artificial lobster proclaiming that this is the lobster capital of the World. As we late found out, it is not a major lobster fishing port in its own right but more that it is the central point geographically of lobster fishing in the New Brunswick region. We walked up the main road in search of a small bar and a good place to try the local lobster. The town does not have much character. There are a few "village" style craft shops but those are dominated by big and newish looking malls. I am not sure what it was like when Caz and Andy were here but I think it looked quite different to today. We carried on down to the quay hoping to find a bar but only finding a yacht club where some "do" was in full swing. Trophies were lined up and from the number of teenagers around I reckon it must have been an awards ceremony from a youth sailing regatta.
We ambled back down into town and headed for the first restaurant we had seen in town (its name eludes me) as it seemed to be pretty full, normally a good sign. We both ordered lobster. Plastic bibs, nut crackers and long forks arrived followed soon after by our lobster. It was tasty, blokes eating Stef said as it was definitely a fingers job. I think this is only the second time I have had lobster. While I enjoyed it, the bill was a bit steep. We had been warned about a week ago by some local people that the prices at Shediac had been hiked to reflect the fact that it is well and truly on the tourist trail.
- Category: Canada (2005, world trip)
We kind of saw the sun rise but it was not quite as we had planned. Rather than being sat outside with cups of tea and coffee and camera to hand Stef woke up and said "Ness, have you seen the sunrise?". I twisted round, looked out of the window, grunted "yes, it looks great" and we both went back to sleep!
|A clear day, but where is the horizon?|
|McLobster is back! (oh no!)|
Having had an unexpectedly long drive yesterday we have decided to stay close today and do a short hop to Moncton. As it is a university town we are also hoping to get internet access. The short hop was very short and within thirty minutes we were checked in to our next campsite, City Trailers RV park, just outside town. It is a kind of camping hell for us - no tents in sight just big trailers and motor homes here and the individual pitches are also quite small.
We drove on to Magnetic Hill, now a theme park with big outdoor pools, a zoo, mini train and wharf full of cafes. It was all built around the Magnetic Hill, an optical illusion that makes you think your car is rolling up hill. It is quite clever but a $5 fee to have a g is really a bit of a rip off. I think we had more fun driving past the local McDonalds that was proudly proclaiming that the McLobster is back - the new lobster season started last week and it seems that even Maccie D's gets in on the scene!
Heading into Moncton itself we drove along Mountain which, like arterial roads into cities the world over took us through out of town shopping malls and some of the less attractive parts of town (we have assumed!). The lady at Tourist Information was very friendly and confirmed we had not yet seen the old part of town. She also told us that there was an internet cafe here. There is and we can connect up and it is a high speed connection - at last.
Things then started to go wrong. For some reason our web host failed to collect our annual subscription so our site has been unavailable for a while. That problem was easily sorted but when we checked the site we found that the forum section had been hacked. Some little "darling" had changed titles and permissions and had tried to lock us out of our site. Stef has regained control but we are not sure if the hacker will be back. We also had a couple of dodgy Russians join the forum member list adding messages with a link to a Russian pharmaceuticals site - they are no more either!
As the connection was fast we spent a few hours uploading photos and they are nearly up to date. Its just diaries and emails to go. Tired, we opted for another easy dinner and stopped en route to get a Chinese take away. Very tasty but hastily finished as the mossies also got hungry. We retreated inside and I managed to get my written diary up to date again, the first time in ages!
- Category: Canada (2005, world trip)
With access to a high speed internet connection, and not knowing when we would next get one, I persuaded Stef that we should stay put until we had everything up to date. He grudgingly agreed, his itchy feet ever pulling him forwards and onwards. Most of Sunday, Monday and Tuesday was spent typing up diaries, sorting photos, loading them on the site and catching up on emails. We hope you are enjoying the site and following us around.
We did get out and about to see a bit of Moncton too. It is a small town, the downtown area is compact with most of the shops seeming to be in out of town malls. Pretty much all of the buildings seem to be modern and there is not a bih feeling of history about the place.
On Monday we went to down to the river to watch the tidal bore - a surge of water coming upstream against the downstream flow of the river. You could just make out the wave. It was only a couple of centimetres high but apparently used to be much bigger. We got a bit bored waiting for the bore, it was about forty minutes later than expected, and I do not think I would hang around again to see it.
|McLobster lunch, we are not impressed!|
We also found Moncton's one and only Indian restaurant. It was our first curry in three months and while Stef enjoyed his I was not too impressed with mine, although it was better than a McLobster (we had to try one!). based on Main Street, it was in the middle of a small areas full of bars and restaurants, most with outside terraces. It would be a great place to while away a summers evening.
Talking of bars reminds me of how difficult it is to buy alcohol here. In the UK we are used to being able to go into the local supermarket and simply adding it in to the weekly shop. In Quebec you could do that but not here, or from the sounds of it in the rest of Canada. Here you have no option but to go to a state run liquor store. Each bottle you buy gets wrapped in a brown paper bag, so no one can see what is inside, and is then put into a plastic carry out bag. The bags have big THIS IS ALCOHOL type messages on them making you feel like you are an out and out alcoholic! I questioned, you also have to be able to prove that you are over 25 before you can buy!
The other thing that has made me chuckle is how lazy people here are. We were an oddity in Mont Louis for actually walking around the bay. On this campsite we are probably about forty metres away from the toilet/shower block. A woman on the pitch next to us yesterday got in her car and drove to go to the loo!
- Category: Canada (2005, world trip)
Today we finally made it out of Moncton. We had a slow start and then headed for our final visit to Ground Zero Networks to upload the last bits of the site and to send emails. On the way we stopped to clean Mortimer who, despite the rain, is still very dirty. It was a big powerful do it yourself car wash - quite a giggle and Morty was clean at last! With little food in our little home we stopped in Moncton for brunch so it was about 3pm before we made it out on the road to Fundy.
It has been raining pretty much all morning, not heavy but continual. It looks like Stef will get the wet and soggy camping experience over the next few days and it will be interesting to see if he is still as enthusiastic when he is soggy. At the junction for the 114 down to Fundy the road was flooded, still passable but slowly. Seeing an Irving petrol station we pulled in to fill up our propane tank (the hob and fridge run off propane). This is the last "new" experience we have to go through with Mortimer (although we probably still need to sort out our waste dump as it seems to leak). I was very pleased that they do the propane for you. The lady doing it was very friendly and we chatted away. She was equally wary of propose when she first started to work at the garage and realised she would have to do it. You have to be licensed to fill up propane so it looks like we will not have to do it anywhere along the way.
|Crazy formations at Hopewell Rocks|
Route 114 is the Fundy Coastal Drive running along the southern shore of New Brunswick. It was a pretty dismal day for views because of the rain but we were still passing through really scenic countryside. En route, we stopped at Hopewell Cape to go down to see the Hopewell Rocks, unusual rock shapes created by erosion. The whole are is set in the middle of huge mud flats about 4km long and 2.5km wide. Seeing a small channel through the mud both of us thought of Alex, who has a reputation for beaching his boat and "getting stuck in the putty" (a technical yachting term). (Alex - we know you have a good story to reciprocate with...!)
At low tide you can walk along the beach (or the ocean floor as it is marketed) to see close up the erosion and the shapes it has left behind - caves, rocks stacks known as the flower pots because they have plants growing on top. The beach is a mixture of shale, rock and mud. As we went down a family came up the other way and their two girls were covered in mud. "It's all her fault" said one of them pointing to the girl in front to me when she saw me chuckling. The mum came next saying she was disowning both of them!
It was a similar walk to the one we had done to the Rocher Percé but without the benefit of sunshine. Time was marching on so we kept our visit short and wandered down to the beach to leave at the North Beach access point. The walk down has a small section with an incline that was slightly steep and then the steps down onto the beach. Warning signs abounded telling people to take care on the steep sections. When we bought our tickets they told us that most people walked down to the beach and then got a little shuttle back up because it was steep. The walk up would not really have been strenuous (the steps up from the beach would be the tough bit) but as the shuttle was there when we wanted to come back we hopped on. It turned a fifteen minute walk into a two minute ride and was our luxury for the day.
We followed the 114 and then the 915 towards Alma. The 915 runs right by the coast through marshlands. The fields were full of what to me looked like wild plants in picture postcard style meadows. Given the climate and the rain I suspect there are mossies galore there! At Alma we stopped at the shops to buy dinner and breakfast for tomorrow. It is a tiny town with a couple of shops, a hotel, cafe, a petrol station but it had everything we needed.
Alma is the main access point into the Fundy National Park which we plan to explore tomorrow. We stopped at the park information centre and got a very envious "you're going to Yukon, I really want to go there" from the lady behind the desk. She was very helpful and gave us information on the park and available walks. We also opted to buy a year's pass for the National Parks and Historic Sites figuring that we will easily get our money's worth.
We stayed in the Headquarters Campground next to the Information Centre. It is large but most of the sites are for tents and are separate to the small RV park. Although it was raining we opted to barbecue our meat, setting up the awning to keep Stef dry while I sorted stuff inside. It is very humid here and looks set to be the same tomorrow. People have said that it is the impact of Hurricane Katrina that is pounding New Orleans. The rain is set to stay with us until Saturday!
- Category: Canada (2005, world trip)
|Sea mist rolling at Alma|
It rained overnight and was still raining this morning when we woke. We stayed snugged up in bed for a while just listening to the rain outside. We had planned to go for a good walk today but neither of us were in the mood for getting soggy so we had a slow start trying to suss out the weather.
For the first time in Mortimer we did not have our healthy breakfast (fruit yoghurt, cereal and maple syrup) as we have run out of cereals and fruit. The local shop did have bacon and eggs so we ha dour first fry up. Andy had told us how good the bacon was and he was right, even better we had en excuse for mopping up the bacon fat with a slice of bread, we could not possibly let that go into our waste tank! Calorie packed it was delicious!
By the time we headed out it was early afternoon and although there was still the odd shower it was starting to clear up. We had decided to walk to Herring Cove a few kilometres along and into the park. The way there took us part the Park's Information Centre and a little further on from there there is a lookout point down on to Alma beach, it is a pretty spectacular view. The tide was just starting to turn and you could just start to make out where the mud banks were in the bay. Further on we followed the road own to another beach where there is a small outdoor saltwater swimming pool. It looks closed now, either due to the weather or because it is the end of season, but it is probably pretty packed in high season.
The information board at the start of the walk confirmed that it was through forest all the way. Although the skies were clearing it was still very sticky and humid and even Stef was suffering from it (normally it is just me). Knowing it would be an unpleasant walk in the humidity, we had a change of plans and instead headed back into Alma. On the way we took a little detour around the amphitheatre, which is used for talks by the local rangers, and a little pond. The pond was formed by a little bit of glacial ice that got separated from the rest of the glacier. As it melted it carved out a big dip (crater) which is where the amphitheatre is,. The pond is in the middle of the crater and it is currently twenty metres deep. The water was totally flat and still and almost looked black.
In Alma we went to find their local internet connection. They have a Community Access Programme in New Brunswick (not sure if it is Canada wide) which aims to provide internet access to all communities. Most people have a home PC so it seems to be used mainly by people traveling around. We went round to the back of the Community Hall, up the stairs and were met with an incredibly friendly "hello, do ya wanna use the internet?". The hour or so we spent there was the most interesting and entertaining session we have had in an internet cafe so far. For most of the time we were the only people in there and got chatting to the people working there, a lady and a young chap. As it is the end of season they had been pretty quiet all day and were a bit bored. They were having the type of silly conversation we all have when we get bored. Another chap who works there kept coming upstairs and each time was met with "Hello, do ya wanna use the internet?" followed by laughter all round. Tonight is Bingo night. The bingo score (?) pads have ten games in them but they only have time to play eight so bored and desperate for something to do they spent the time ripping the top two sheets off each score pad.
We got talking about all sorts of things from our travel so far to thoughts on Charles and Camilla. We also got a whole load more recommendations of places to go. The connection was pretty slow, but amazing as it was a satellite link. Stef was trying to add some more information to our site but it was too slow so we gave up and headed out.
|Blistering barnacles, these things really cut your feet to shreds!|
Seeing a big sign for Colin's Lobster we stopped off to buy one for dinner. You can either buy them live or pre cooked. There were two tanks of live lobsters in the corner of the shop and an iced counter with the cooked lobster. Not having space to cook a live one we bought a pre-cooked one. The prices are written on their claws. We asked about how best to eat it and were told that no-one here eats lobster hot. We were told to simply mix it with mayonnaise and put it in a toasted roll and munch away, so that is what we did. On the wall they had the shell from a huge lobster that weighed 24 pounds.
We stopped at the general store for other bits and pieces then headed on to the beach - we are probably the only people who go beach walking taking our lobster and other shopping with us! As well as its national park, Fundy is famous for its tides, allegedly the highest in the world I had thought they come in quickly too but that is not the case. It was low tide and the sea was about one kilometre from the shore. Big stones gave way to mud and pebbles covered in barnacles and we wandered out towards the sea.
Looking to the left to the hills beyond Alma there were really unusual cloud formations. It was as if mist from the sea was charging up to the rocks and over the opt. A big cloud followed the contour of the mountain with different layers of colour, white through different shade of grey. To the right and behind us the clouds had cleared revealing clear blue skies, boding well for a good day tomorrow. In the bay, markers poles guided the fishing fleet through a narrow channel in the mud flats. They can only get in and out at high tide. Even the channel buoy (big floating marker with a bell on top) they wait by at low tide seemed to be stuck in the mud. On the other side of the bay another pole measures the height of the tide, it is twelve metres high.
Back at the campsite we were finally able to enjoy a long, lazy, al fresco dinner, washed down with a bottle of Jackson Triggs, a very pleasant and drinkable Canadian wine. We had bought nutcrackers and lobster forks and tucked in. Needless to say Stef baled out of pulling the lobster meat out of the shell as soon as he could!
- Category: Canada (2005, world trip)
Despite best intentions of an early start we were slow getting up and out today, partly due to another bacon and eggs breakfast and partly due to Paula and Tom, our neighbours, and their big fluffy labrador Mac. Paula and Tom are from Ontario and we whiled away half an hour or so just chatting and with them giving us loads of information about where to go in Ontario. Mac is an absolutely gorgeous dog.
|It's the "Spot the Dutchman" game!|
We finally left to walk from Herring Cove towards Point Wolfe just before midday only to find Paul, Tom and Mac on the same walk. The walk was through pine and fir forest pretty much all the way but it was much fresher than yesterday so it was bearable. Towards Matthews Head there is a steep uphill then a steep downhill, the reward though is fabulous views across the bay and back to Alma. While Paula, Tom and Mac turned back to go to Hopewell we carried on. There was a small uphill and them a relatively flat walk through the forest.
All along the path was criss-crossed with tree roots so you had to keep watch of where you were putting your feet. It was beautiful though and very peaceful, for the next two hours we saw no-one else but did have a splattering of Germans on the way back. Although the park is home to cougar, moose and brown bears we did not see any. We saw plenty of red squirrels though (one had paid Mortimer a visit yesterday but fled quickly on seeing me inside). They make an odd chirping noise high up in the trees, almost sounding like birds. Most of the time we saw them they were on the path munching away on a fir cone.
We followed the path to the end of the second section of the Matthews Head trail before turning back. We back tracked to Squaws Cap where a lookout gives views over the bay and stopped there for our picnic lunch. The walk back seemed to be long and more difficult than the way out. The breezes had dropped and it had got hotter and more humid,. My legs were rebelling not wanting to go any further!
In total we walked for about four and a half hours but only covered eight kilometres. The uphill bits were steep but the views were also so beautiful that we lingered longer than we normally would! If we lived in Canada this is probably the sort of place we would come to for a week or so just to enjoy the countryside.
|Lobsters and beer, yes, we're slumming it!|
Back in Alma we bought more lobster for dinner then headed back to the campsite with much needed cold beers in tow. The campsite is quite small compared to others we have been to. Each site has loads of space so you do not feel crammed in. Lots of people here had dogs who were obviously used to camping as they all seemed quite happy to be tied up and just watching the world go by.
Paula and Tom invited us over to their trailer and we spent a very pleasant next hour or so chatting about Canada, our travel plans and their traveling. They enjoy the open air, either boat camping around the lake near to where they live or golfing from their Florida time share. Trailer camping is relatively new to them, they only bought their trailer last year. Its spacious inside, a palace compared to Mortimer. Tom has camped a lot and seems to have traveled far and wide in Canada and Europe. As well as recommending more places to go to, we also have an invitation to stop off and visit them on our way through and to enjoy a typically Canadian dinner (moose amongst other delicacies).
We also talked about the indigenous Indians and the feeling we are building from people we have met that there is friction between their communities and the rest of Canadians. The Indians live on reserves, pay no tax (which is a definite source of friction) and basically live off state benefits. As such they have no incentive or motivation to improve their lot. It sounds though as if they have not exactly been fairly treated by the colonists and that both sides need to change to improve the state of play. Every year one of the Indian communities cross to the US en masse and go on one big shopping spree, refusing to pay taxes or declare items at customers on their way back. They claim to be upholding the rights given to them by an old treaty which gave them dual US/Canadian nationality.
- Category: Canada (2005, world trip)
We left the Fundy Campsite quite early and headed on up route 114 towards Fredericton. There are warnings all along the road to watch out for moose but we did not see any, or any brown bears!. The forest stretches for twenty kilometres or so, just one large expanse of fir trees, simple but stunningly beautiful. We passed a few other cars and vans but there was not really much traffic on the road, which surprised me. Today is a big day in Moncton as the Rolling Stones (or Strolling Bones as one local wit called them!) are playing there as part of their current tour. The town has a population of sixty thousand but eighty five thousand are expected for the show
|Fire buckets in Fredericton|
Where we could we avoided the main route 2 preferring instead to take the smaller roads through the surrounding villages. Generally these were very small communities, just a few houses, no evidence even of a local shop. We joined the 102 which took up past Fredericton's airport and into the town itself. The road followed the St John's river and again we enjoyed views of shimmering blue water with scenic green backdrops. On the outskirts were some very grand Victorian houses, creating an impression that Fredericton was a reasonably affluent area.
As the capital of New Brunswick, Fredericton is not an industrial town and retains a village atmosphere, even though most of the central downtown is new buildings. It has a long history, having been a seasonal stopping point for the local Indians before being colonised by the French and then the English. It was names after Prince Frederick, second son of King George III. We were looking forward to a little city break and when the city centre campsite turned out to be a good ten minute drive outside of the city we opted for luxury and checked in to a hotel instead!
As ever, the people at Tourist Information were very friendly and gave us all the local information. There was a historic tour of the city about to start, so we were too late for it, given by people in period dress. Outside the front door two soldiers stood on guard and there was a little ceremony as the guard was changed - hearing bagpipes was quite unexpected.
After checking in to our luxury pad, the Lord Beaverbrook Hotel (big beds, loads of floor space and a pool) we headed out to explore Fredericton. It is a small city and you can walk along the main street of sights in about ten minutes if you do not stop along the way. As it is Labour Day weekend there was the New Brunswick Fine Crafts festival on the Officers Square so no main changing of the guard parade (as we found out after we had rushed to get there in time!).
The central area has a strong military history and many of the sights have a military feel. British troops were based ere from 1784 to 1869 initially in wooden buildings that were then replaced by stone. As it is the weekend some were closed but we were able to get into the Guards House which served three separate purposes - rest area for the guards on duty, administrative office and a cell block. The guards rest area was very basic. There was a rickety table and chairs, a small fire but most of the room was taken up by a "bed". You cannot really call it a bed as such, it was a raised wooden platform sloping slightly from the wall to the middle of the room. On it were seven straw mattresses which the soldiers could lie down on to rest. They had to stay fully clothed and ready for action. Behind each mattress was a hook on the wall for them to hang their bits and pieces not currently in use. It looked like it was probably a pretty hard life!
The administration room, used by the officers, had a sturdier tables, a writing desk, bookcase , large open firs and a row of leather fire buckets along the wall by the door. The desk was crammed with different ledgers and piles of paper. On the top was a small bottle of ink made in Shoe Lane, London, where Stef's offices from Deloitte now stand. It was funny to see this address so far from home and in a different context.
I think a dismal fate awaited those consigned to the cell block. It was remodeled in 1847 so that five large cells remained rather than the original seven smaller ones. Even so, there is not much space. A simple, very uncomfortable looking bed takes up abut half of the cell. There is a window high up but no heating. A log charts who is in which cell, how many days they have been there and how many are left to go. The middle cell now houses a very small display of different techniques for giving someone a thrashing using a cat'o'nine tails, one of which hands on the wall at the entrance to the cell block.
|Flying the flag for New Brunswick|
There were other military buildings, soldiers barracks, militia arms store, officers quarters but they were all closed. At the Officers Square we ambled around the fine crafts festival. It was a collection of craft stalls with pottery, jewellery (silver and glass), home made jams and chutneys, beautiful wooden rocking horses, big wooden bowls and leather ware. If we were here on a normal holiday I am sure we would have bought some mementoes but conscious they would be too bulky and fragile to get in our packs we resisted temptation. In the centre of Officers Square there is a statue of Lord Beaverbrook. He was brought up in New Brunswick before he headed to England for a life in politics and the press - he founded the Daily Express.
From Officers Square we carried on past the Playhouse, closed, to the Legislative Assembly Building. As the provincial capital of New Brunswick is Fredericton, this is where its legislature sits. It is an impressive building from the outside. Initially we thought this was shut too but a peak through the small window pane in the door revealed lights and in we went for the last guided tour of the day, and of the season. The guide was difficult to understand, partly due to his accent but also because he sounded like he needed to blow his nose. His catchphrase after each sentence was "alrightly". He showed us the assembly chamber which has been refurbished to its original style with English carpets, Japanese style wallpaper and huge chandeliers, one of which crashed to the floor two and a half years ago and has only just been refitted. Paintings of a very young looking Queen Elizabeth and Prince Philip hand on the walls. The decor made both Stef and I think that the room looked more like a theaters than a parliament building. At the back of the building is a large unsupported spiral staircase and one of the few remaining complete copies of Audubon's (famous bird watcher) drawings of birds, now very valuable and unique. Somewhere in the loft is a bit of graffiti left by Prince Charles when he visited as a young boy. Unfortunately they no longer know exactly where his signature is - plasterers covered it up years ago!
By the time we left the legislative assembly we were too late for the Beaverbrook Art Gallery, a shame because it sounds like it has an interesting collection. Instead we headed back to the hotel and went for a swim in the pool. Like other bits of the hotel it was a bit shabby and in need of a refurb (the hotel is currently being converted into a Crowne Plaza) but it was nice and relaxing, especially the soak in the jacuzzi hot tub.
In the evening we went to a superb restaurant called Racines, that specialises in fish. It is new and not yet in the guide books. It is worth a visit and is good value for money. We had a three course meal, bottle of wine and coffee all for $100, the equivalent of just under £50.
- Category: Canada (2005, world trip)
|Saint John, looking a lot like Southampton|
|On the ferry to Nova Scotia|
We left Fredericton in the late morning and headed down to Saint John to get the ferry across to Nova Scotia. We opted for the non scenic route and took the motorway. Saint John, as it says in our book, is an industrial town and we were both pleased we had opted to stay in Fredericton overnight. Maybe we did not do it justice but it looked as it all the stored were discount shops and that life here was hard.
With time to kill we found a Sobeys (supermarket) and stocked up on some essentials before heading to the ferry. We checked in and joined the queue for the hour long wait before boarding. The beauty of Mortimer is that we had a cup of tea while we waited and made a picnic to take with us on board.
The ferry across to Digby on Nova Scotia takes about three hors. It is the same sort of thing as the cross channel ferries from the UK across to France only smaller. We parked ourselves on the upper desk at the front to sit our the journey. I have either picked up a cold, or its just the effect of the swimming yesterday, and have been sneezing all day. I was not great company, not even up to playing cards, and Stef was bored and twitchy all the way across.
Next to us was a group of six forty somethings who had been to see the Rolling Stones in Moncton the night before and I listened in to their conversation now and again. It seems to have been a good concert but just with the usual difficulties of facilities, mainly food and drink as no-one was allowed to take their own in with them. Also on board was a chap who looked like e must have had a pretty nasty accident of some sort. He had a contraption supporting his head and neck, not a padded neck collar but a brace that sat on top of his chest and back and had four supporting poles up to a collar around the top of his head. To turn his head he had to turn his whole body. It looked very uncomfortable.
The ride across to Digby was very smooth, calm waters with sunlight bouncing off them. We had booked into a campsite just by the ferry. A sign pointed us left when we should have gone straight on. As we turned back Stef went into German mode as he saw other camper vans heading to the ground. The first one carried on past the site but he cut up the next one which did follow us into the site and they were German! We hooked up for the night and still feeling grotty I was glad not to be moving any more.
It was about eight in the evening by the time we got there. I was not up to cooking and was not up to Stef cooking (which still means I cook!) so we opted for a take away instead. At lots of places we had seen poutine on the menu but had no idea what it was so we gave it a try - chips with curd cheese and gravy - different!
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