Sunday 31 August : Classic Nova Scotia
After breakfast we took up our by now customary positions in the Cadillac XTS for the next stage of our trip, having decided not to try to do PE Island as it would have involved even more road travel and we were feeling somewhat jaded from the many hours we had spent in the car. (mental note – next time see more, travel less)
Halifax, Nova Scotia
Travelling south-west it wasn’t long before we reached the attractive town of Halifax on the south coast where we found parking near the waterfront and took a walk through the shopping area and other attractions, including the historic ships on display.
Lunch was at a very pleasant outside restaurant called Stayner’s Wharf.
There was time for a quick tour past some of the landmarks such as the Citadel Hill and Public Gardens before heading out-of-town to see some of the coast west of Halifax.
The next “look-in” was at Peggy’s Cove, certainly a desirable place to stop and visit, but unfortunately a few thousand other visitors had the same idea, so we did a slow circuit past the lighthouse where hordes of people were clambering over the rocks and filling the streets, followed by a short stop at a particularly scenic and picturesque spot and that was that.
The scenery from there along the coast was classic Nova Scotia and most charming, with many coves, bays and inlets (don’t ask me what the difference is between those three) lined with colourful Nova Scotia style clapboard houses. At the town of Liverpool we turned inland and drove across the breadth of Nova Scotia to Digby on the North Shore, where Sam had located an Inn at Smith’s Cove, which turned out to be one of the nicest locations we had stayed in.
Fried Clams to go
The manager’s recommendation for a late supper was a take-out in Digby, which we duly found alongside the road and ordered combinations of clams, chicken, fries and mushrooms – all were served in large quantities and deep-fried. This turned into one of those memorable meals, but for the wrong reasons, as we filled our hungry stomachs with masses of oily battered food, the effects of which followed us for the next two days. I’ll spare you any further details.
Monday 1 September : A Ferry, A Bore and the Wilderness
Ferry cross the Fundy
The 5am alarm was not very welcome but we had to be at the ferry in nearby Digby by 7am or wait half a day for the next one. Breakfast was at 6am, but we were a bit early for the owner’s wife who had the fright of her life when she saw me in the semi-dark house – the front door had been left open by her husband, so we walked in.
The ferry trip went smoothly, although heavy mist meant no bird – or whale-watching was possible as we traversed the Bay of Fundy, reaching the town of St Johns 3 hours later.
Once we had threaded our way out of this seaside town we headed north-east towards Moncton, where we hoped to catch the phenomenon known as the tidal bore in action, having confirmed via google that the tide was expected at 15h09, which was confirmed by the electronic display at the Park
We duly arrived in Moncton and let the gps guide us to Tidal Bore Park, where, with lots of time to spare, we walked in search of a restaurant and found the Pumphouse Brewery in a side street, which seemed to be the only open venue nearby. The food and service were good and we wandered back to the park to witness the tidal bore.
Now here I could get clever and call it “boring” but I’ll refrain from being so corny – suffice to say it wasn’t as spectacular as expected, nevertheless it was interesting to see the small wave progressing determinedly up the river to signal the change in tides in the bay many miles away – certainly a unique sight.
Into the Wilderness
That done, we set off to get as close to Quebec City as possible before finding an overnight spot which, with John at the wheel, meant non-stop driving until late at night. We followed a different route back via Miramichi and from there the GPS took us via the shortest route along Highway 108 which turned out to be an hour and a half of twisting bumpy road with very few other cars. This had me wondering what would happen if we broke down on this lonely, wilderness-like road with unbroken forest on both sides all the way along. Eventually we emerged out of the “wilderness” to our relief at a couple of small towns and were soon back on the Trans-Canada for the final push to Edmunston where we found a Days Inn.
Tuesday 2 September : Quebec City
Quebec City turned out to be another highlight of the trip as we explored parts of this absolutely charming and picturesque city, a fitting end to our lightning tour of the eastern provinces of Canada.
Once parked in the Chateau hotel parkade, we walked around the historic old town, admiring the handsome buildings and the narrow cobbled streets of the lower town, which we accessed via a series of stairs and pathways. A sudden rain shower forced us into a local eatery where we enjoyed classic onion soup, done in the oven with bread and cheese – very tasty and quite filling, just the thing for a rainy day.
The streets were filled with music from itinerant musicians playing a variety of instruments, adding to the already special atmosphere. The girls enjoyed some touristy shopping while John and I explored the streets further before they joined us again.
More walking took us to some monuments including one to the Canadian soldiers involved in the Anglo-Boer War.
All that remained was to get back to the farm, which we did by just after 8pm, thankful to be back “home”
Last few days – Local Touring from the Farm
Our last few days on the farm gave us a chance to do some local touring and just relaxing in the peaceful surroundings of rural Ontario.
Wednesday was a quiet recovery day with just a couple of trips into town, one in John’s 1950 MG TC which was a new experience for me – real “seat of the pants” motoring where you feel and smell the surroundings in addition to just seeing them. The area surrounding the farm is ideal for this kind of motoring, with long, mostly traffic-free country roads, bordered by lush farmland – perfect!
In town I admired some of the big “trucks” which we call bakkies, but they are mostly super luxurious and comfortable and make our “big bakkies” look very small by comparison. Prices were substantially lower than SA and American brands dominate completely.
Late afternoon we took the MG for a tour of some nearby historic sites, including St Raphael’s Church ruins (burnt down) and St Andrew’s Church where we were invited inside by the kind lady in charge, who showed us the beautiful wood interior.
Clearly the Scots have had a big influence on the area and many names reflect this. Back at the farm Sam made coconut chicken and corn on the cob for supper which was very welcome after all the fast food and restaurant fare of the past week.
Thursday brought another hot, humid day – never imagined we would be uncomfortably hot in Canada in early September, but apparently the first frosts are a mere 2 to 3 weeks away.
For lunch we visited Gaetans (a roadside caravan) in Alexandria for hot dogs (“all dressed”) and their version of Putine – said by Sarah and Rachel to be the best, which we could only agree with compared to the Calgary version – very tasty but soon satisfies you and you don’t want to see it for a while.
Heading back to the farm we popped in to see the neighbours and admire some of Ray’s “toys” including a pristine Ford Mustang from the ’60’s and a couple of Skidoos (Snowmobiles)
Then it was time to view John’s museum collection which was absolutely stunning and probably represents the finest collection of Canadian military uniforms spanning all the conflicts since confederation. John knows every detail of each one of the 60 plus mannequins, known as “the boys” – and there are even a few “girls” (the nurses).
Friday we visited friend Darryl to view his collection of exotic pheasants, mostly from China. His gun collection in an immaculate basement room was even more impressive and so was the trophy room – if you like the upper halves of dead animals filling every available space on the double-volume walls – most were animals well known to us and were the result of several trophy hunting trips to Southern Africa, which caused some mixed feelings for us.
Late afternoon we loaded the car and travelled the 90 kms or so to Ottawa where we stayed in John and Sam’s condo (fancy name for a flat if you ask me) and had melt in the mouth ribs at the Baton Rouge across the road.
And so our last day, Saturday, in Canada arrived – time to explore Ottawa, the Federal capital. Driving around the city, we passed beautiful gardens, parks and canals in perfect sunny weather – after parking we took a walk downtown towards the market and mall and admired the historic buildings from closer up – Parliament, the Chateau Hotel and several state buildings.
Finally it was time to get to the airport for our long flights to London and onwards to Johannesburg.
Plenty to reflect on and remember after 4 weeks in Canada and Alaska!