Part II – Montreal, Quebec, New Brunswick, Prince Edward Island
Against all advice, we drove into Montreal. Driving in Montreal is not for the faint of heart, the easily frustrated, or especially those given to episodes of road rage. While other Canadian Provinces opt to use signs in both English and French, Montreal would have none of that, and all road signs are in French only. Highway construction and detours added to the issues, and to make matters worse, we learned that the Canadian Grand Prix was being held that day. Some drivers appeared confused and seemed to think they were driving in the event.
Once downtown, we found the district of Old Montreal and a parking space. We visited a few shops, had lunch, and watched some street artists. We then did a walking tour, which included the beautiful Hotel de Ville (City Hall) and the Notre-Dame Basilica.
The next morning, June 12, we stopped at Tim Horton’s for coffee and a bit of breakfast. Although it doesn’t match the quality of our home-roasted coffee, it is decent. Timmy’s are everywhere and they are open 24 hours a day. We were many times thankful for this!
Soon we were on our way out of Montreal and on the way to Quebec City.
Getting into Quebec City was a breeze and we easily got down to Old Quebec and parked at the Plains of Abraham.
We walked most of the old city, which is enclosed by fortified walls, some very old, some rebuilt or restored. Old Quebec was built on a promontory overlooking the St. Lawrence River, which, along with the fortifications, provided it a good defensive position.
We made our way down its narrow streets to the square at the St. Lawrence River and stood in awe of the historic Chateau Frontenac, with it’s 611 rooms and 18 floors.
We enjoyed the art and architecture of Old Quebec, although Salvador Dali’s elephant did seem a bit out of place on the boardwalk next to Chateau Frontenac and the statue of Quebec’s founder, Samuel de Champlain.
We then took a 30-mile detour north to Basilique Ste. Anne de Beaupre. It is cavernous, with multiple chapels and alcoves, and fantastic artwork. It is both awe-inspiring and a bit troubling when one contemplates the enormous expense of both building and maintaining such monumental architecture.
We drove from Quebec City to Fredericton, New Brunswick, the next day and saw the only moose of the entire 9-week trip. There are miles and miles of “moose fence” on the highway in New Brunswick, with one-way “moose gates” to allow them off the highway but not back on.
The first one we saw had gotten out and was being herded toward a gate by a highway worker in a truck. The only other moose we saw was grazing just inside the fence by the road.
Between 1995 and 2000, there were 5,000 collisions and 21 fatalities involving deer or moose on the New Brunswick section of the TransCanada highway. An adult moose can weigh from 800 to 1000 pounds! Thus the moose fence – at least 250 miles of it so far, with wildlife underpasses as well.
Driving on to Fredericton, we found a laundry, drove through the downtown, got a coffee at Starbucks, and settled in at the local Walmart parking lot for the night. We went to bed early as the sunset also arrived earlier with the change to the Atlantic Time zone.
We digress here to mention one of Canada’s staples – Poutine. For the uninitiated, poutine is french fries and cheese curds covered in brown gravy. Larry had taken a liking to this dish on a previous trip to British Columbia, but Maggie had rejected it as unhealthy. Nevertheless, Larry continues to lobby to have it added to our daily fare.
June 14 – We were up early and headed to Prince Edward Island, driving through a lot of beautiful country – lakes, rivers, forests, hills, and rock outcrops.
There are two ways to reach Prince Edward Island if you are driving: The ferry, or the Confederation Bridge. We opted for the bridge, an 8-mile long 2-lane bridge, on a very windy day. It was difficult to hold the bus steady and in our lane.
On our way to Cedar Dunes Provincial Park, we passed through Summerside and visited the harbor there. This was our first taste of Scottish influence in the Provinces as they have a “piping college”
Driving further, we noted a lot of agricultural fields, mostly potatoes – and a potato museum! We were told that those Lays potato chips you are munching on are made from potatoes grown on PEI.
We arrived at Cedar Dunes to discover that there were only a couple of other campers on site, as full tourist season doesn’t start until July. Due to the high winds, we opted to camp in a sheltered spot. This turned out to be a mistake, as we had not counted on the mosquitoes, lots of mosquitoes. So many mosquitoes that Lar decided not to grill outside. Before the mosquito apocalypse, we hiked to the West Point Lighthouse, which is now a functioning lighthouse, museum, and bed and breakfast.
Temperatures were in the 40s during the night and made morning coffee even more enjoyable. We drove up the scenic west coast of PEI
and stopped at the harbor in the small town of Miminegash where we visited with a fisherman, who was on the dock with his dog.
As happened with others on our tour of Canada, he wanted to talk about American politics, and Donald Trump in particular. “We never thought he could get elected”, he said of 45, also remarking that, “He needs to stop tweeting!” He then talked about the local fishing seasons – lobster, mackerel, scallops, etc., and how over-fishing in the past has diminished the numbers that are caught. He voiced concerns about the impact of agriculture, with its pesticides, and the muddying of the waters near shore from runoff.
We bid him farewell, and continued our drive to the town of Tiglish, where we had lunch and bad coffee before heading off east along the coast. We passed Jacques Cartier Provincial Park, which looked like a nice camp spot – small, quiet and right on the coast. We continued on, planning to camp at Cavendish Beach, only to discover it was closed for construction.
We found a private campground, the New Glasgow Highlands, picking a site in one of the cleanest and quietest campgrounds we’ve ever encountered.
We then drove into the town of New Glasgow to the famous and well-advertised New Glasgow Lobster Suppers. We were afraid that it might not live up to the hype, but were pleasantly surprised. Being the fishy one in the family, Larry got lobster, while Maggie had steak. Dinner included the one entrée and all the soup/chowder, mussels, salad, potato salad, veggies, rolls, and dessert you could eat. The food was good and we were seated next to a window overlooking an inlet.
June 16 – we were up early and decided it was too cold to shower given the 40 F and no heat in the bathrooms. We drove up to PEI National Park’s Barkley Beach, where we parked and walked along the beach with no one else in sight.
We passed by the home of Lucy Maud Montgomery, the author of Anne of Green Gables, which is now a tourist destination.
We continued on east along the coast before heading south towards the capital, Charlottetown, to search for coffee and late breakfast.
We walked the downtown
and stumbled across a First Peoples dance performance outside the art museum.
We then toured the art museum
before heading to the Woods Island Ferry, which would take us to Nova Scotia.