Day 27 (9/27) – Digby to Bethel, ME

We arise at 6 AM to get in line at 7 for the 8 o’clock ferry from Digby, across the Sea of Fundy to St. John’s and then back to the US in Maine. The ferry ride from Digby to St. John’s, NB is relaxing. We reflect on what a wonderful time we’ve had exploring previously unknown lands in Canada, from the shores of northern and eastern Lake Superior, to around Craighurst and the Lake Huron area, to Niagara Falls, across the 1000 Islands to Quebec, to seeing the amazing tide changes at Hopewell Rocks, to exploring the seashores of Prince Edward Island, to our week fun and fascinating week in Nova Scotia.

Once we cross the border, from New Brunswick The ferry ride from Digby to St. John’s, NB is relaxing. Maine, the fall foliage magically begin to really show. The Briar Lea Inn containing the Jolly Drayman English Pub, in Bethel, ME is a small and unique stopover.

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Day 25: Halifax to Digby, NS

Today’s highlight was a long planned visit to Grand Pre and Wolfberg, the area that had been settled by French from Normandy that they called Acadia, meaning bountiful, rich land that they had reclaimed from the sea with dikes. They were a center of a rebellion against the British takeover of Canada in the 1750’s and most were banished to the US colonies or back to France. It’s a long story, and if you’re interested, read Longfellow’s long poem, “Evangeline”. The bottom line is that many of them made their way to Louisiana and settled in the marsh land in the southwestern part of the state and became known as “Cajuns”. Some escaped, others made their way back and ultimately resettled back in this area and preserved their ancestral heritage. Evangeline became their heroine and Longfellow their patron saint. We visited the Acadia Memorial site in Grand Pre (see photos), where the Acadian’s story was retold in exhibits, chapels, lovely gardens, and movies. I had read about all this in anticipating our trip and had planned this byway. After visiting the site, we had fish cakes and a fresh fruit peach/blueberry crisp in the cafe of the Evangeline Motel.

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My Mother’s maiden name was Wolf and I was very close to my Wolf Grandparents, so I was also looking forward to visiting the adjacent town of Wolfville. Without any reality basis, I imagined that a branch of my Alsatian relatives might have made their way to Acadia. Wolfville turned out to be a substantial community, with beautiful old mansions. Our great discovery was a Dollar store where we purchased some warm socks and a needed toothbrush for Lois. We then rode on to Digby.

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Day 26: Digby, NS

Weather is windy and quite cool. We arrived late afternoon to the Dockside Suites- on the outside, a dubious looking enterprise, on the wharf alongside a cafe and bar – I was ready to bolt, but Peter prevailed and we took a look at our reserved accommodations. Turns out, the interior was quite nice, better than most, and we stayed for a most lovely sunset over the cove – as was todays’. Again, the weather was too cold and windy to play golf at the Digby Pines (a world rated golf course). We did go by and it is beautiful, but had to cancel our reservation. We had a most leisurely time walking the very short Main Street of this fishing community, rode out to the Lighthouse and around the grounds of the famous Digby Resort Hotel. Digby claims to be the Scollop Capital of the World, so naturally, we had scollops for dinner. A relaxed. laid back day, watching the tides go out and come back in, with a 30′ variation at this head of the Bay of Fundy.

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Day (Sept.) 24: Halfax – Lunenburg and back

This was a banner day. Even though it was cloudy, chilly gray weather, this was a banner day, leisurely driving along the coastal road south of Halifax, though many small communities on lovely little coves, and the fall crimsons are finally appearing.

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Our AAA travel consultant, Jane Henninger, as well as several friends, had highly recommended going to Peggy’s Cove. It’s the site of an iconic lighthouse perched on an extensive bed of huge rocks. But there were about a dozen tour busses there and we felt like we were in a crowded penguin colony with paunchy birds waddling all around us. So we took some photos and quickly departed. We would recommend going there only in the months of January and Feburary.

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Jane also recommended continuing south to Lunenburg, a large (2300) town for this area. The AAA guide says it's "the best surviving example of a planned British colonial settlement in No. America", and was founded in 1751. It's a charming towm, with many very well preserved and lived in old homes and beautifully designed and well maintained old churches. Other towns should take note and learn how much varying the colors of individual houses add to the appeal of a community. We had one of the best fresh lobster (plus mussels) lunches we've ever had. Fortunately for our stomachs, though not for our wallets, they were out of their regular 1 1/4 lb. lobsters and just had 1 3/4 ones in stock. What a difference, and right out of the bay outside the restaurant. A yummy treat. After wandering around Lunenburg we took an empty back country road to a highway back to Halifax.

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Day 23: Baddeck to Halifax, NS

Today our grace with the Weather God expired and it was raining when we left Baddeck. So instead of taking the coastal route down south to Halifax, we opted for the freeways. Faster and safer. We arrived in Halifax around 1 PM, checked into the motel and went downtown and had lunch at a seafood at Salty’s on the Waterfront, overlooking the bay and looking back on downtown. Peter had delicious crabcakes and Lois had a yummy boulibaise. We walked down the boardwalk after lunch and Peter went to the Maritime Museum. Lots of shiplore and a most interesting section on the sinking of the Titanic in 1911. Halifax was the closest port to the site of the wreck, so the 700-800 corpses that were recovered were brought and buried here. So there was lots of gruesome stories about the shipwreck. Ugh. We went to the Art Gallery, of which half was closed for repairs and the other half closed because it was Monday. Halifax is the capital of Nova Scotia, and has a population of about 373,000 and is a major sea and naval port. Seems like a nice city, but we were underwhelmed. We decided not to see the 18th century Citadel (we’ve been to many forts) and come back to the motel and chill out. Tried to watch the Bronco-Raiders game (yea, yea!!), but TV glitches prevented seeing more than the 2nd quarter. Not a banner day, but OK.

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September 22 Baddeck, Nova Scotia

Weather was lovely, Road trip around Cabot’s Trail (6 hours). Drove up the east coast of Cape Breton – pleasant drive through rolling heavily wooded hills to the largest National Forest in Canada to the Keltic Lodge. The lodge was one of the lovely old fashioned resorts which also included on their grounds one of the most famous and expensive golf courses in the world. We didn’t play. After talking with our cousin, Hugh in New York, whom we call while having lunch (Peter with the best lobster roll he’d ever had and me with excellent french onion soup), we decided to extend our original plans and complete the loop on the west side of the Cape. Glad we did, beautiful scenery- extremely steep hills with crashing waves on rocks on the shore quite different from the east side- but again, very heavily forested. It reminds us of the coastline around Carmel, CA. The guide book says that 3/4 of Nova Scotia is forested. Quite a contrast to Prince Edward Island, which is mostly farmland.

This evening, Peter opted to go to the Baddeck Gathering Ceilidh – for those of you who are not up on your Gaelic vocabulary, that means Cape Breton Fiddle Music, Song and Dance. Lois opted to stay at home and read a trashy novel. In the Ceilidh, there was a fiddler, a pianist and a guitarist, mostly playing reel and jig music. Very jumpy and lively, with everyone (including the audience) tapping their feet. One of their friends showed up and performed incredible toe dancing. The co-ordinator coaxed 4 couples from the audience to come up and do reels, which she coached and led. In between numbers, the performers talked with the audience about their music and about Cape Breton, which they experience as an oasis of preservation and teaching of the Gaelic tradition, separate from the mainland of Nova Scotia and Canada. There is even a Gaelic College here. This is probably the only place in the world where many road signs are bilingual in English and Gaelic.

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Day 21: Charlottetown – Baddeck, Nova Scotia

Bad start to the day. Driving out to the ferry, there were endless yard sales on the highway. TV news said that it went for over 75 miles, with over 150 sites, selling everything from clothing to tractors, the biggest provincial yard sale in history!. We averaged about 3 mph for miles and miles!
Speaking of driving, another downside of being in Canada is the high price of gas. $1.30-$1.43/liter, which translates into over $5/gallon. A really big hit at every fill up.

The 1’15” ferry ride from PEI to Nova Scotia was very pleasant. Then back on the transcanada highway up to Baddeck, which is a large island off the northern tip of Nova Scotia. The goal of coming here is to do the John Cabot trail all around the island, and perhaps another round of golf.
We’re lodged in a small “Chalet”, really a modern one room cabin, at a resort. Beautiful view of Baddeck Bay.

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DAY 20 – CHARLOTTETOWN

GOLF DAY. We played at a very pleasant course called Fox Meadows. Rolling hills, bucolic landscape, not difficult. The absolute highlight was the sighting of a young red fox on the 4th fairway and his mother, a gorgeous red head (body and white tipped bushy tail) joined us on the 5th – we’re sure that is why we parred that hole. Lobster lunch on the wharf – delicious.

Charlottetown was a disappointment . Extremely touristy – there was a cruise ship in the harbor. The major cathedral was rather dull compared to that in Quebec. For the first time, shabby houses were spotted, and the town itself was just not much.

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Days 18 &19: Quebec-Moncton, NB-Charlottetown, PEI

Day 18: An uneventful, long driving day on the Trans-Canada highway, equivalent to our interstates.
Still only the occasional red leaf spotted.

Day 19: 20 miles south of Moncton are the Hopewell Rocks, a unique site where the tides rise and fall more or less 40′ (44′ today). This is the narrow end of the huge funnel shaped Bay of Fundy, off the Atlantic Ocean. We were expecting that the tide would come roaring in. WRONG! It is very gradual, but still dramatic. Peter goes down 98 steps to the beach shore and strolls around. At high tide, the water will be 20+ feet above the bay mud flats, and the same height above the beach.
See pics and note the water marks on the immense rocks and tiny Peter on the beach.

We then drive on to Prince Edward Island, named after Queen Victoria’s father 40 years after the Brits had won Canada from the French at the Seven Years Wars in 1758. The population of PEI is only 135,000 and it is Canada’s smallest province. The license plates state “Canada’s Greenest Province”, which seems accurate. Many small communities surrounded by farmlands. There must be a code, or provincial pride, for the people to keep their houses and community buildings in pristine, sparkling condition. We drive all around the central section of the island, including the PEI National Park, around Cavendish. For women readers, Cavendish was the setting for Lucy Maud Montgomery’s “Anne Of Green Gables” and 7, or more, sequels, written in the early 1900’s. At Debbie Gaensbauer’s suggestion, I had read the first book. Really sappy, at least at my age. We chatted with a young woman on the beach boardwalk who said she was enraptured by all the books when she was age 10. Lois vaguely recalled reading one of the books, devoid of rapture, when she was a girl. Montgomery is wildly celebrated around Cavendish. We skipped the celebrations but really enjoyed the bucolic scenery of the northern shores, especially the beautiful sand dunes and beaches around Cavendish. We started off our island tour with, what else?, a magnificent lunch of PEI mussels at a pub in Summerside village. Each order was two pounds of mussels, which the waitress estimated to be about 50 mussels each. She was not surprised that PEI mussels are flown to Denver, but stated that “they are so much better here, where they are fresh”. She is so right!

We were quite surprised that PEI is so agricultural – huge farms, cattle, and Cavendish Industries dominate the countryside. We were expecting more of a Maine coast atmosphere – craggy coastline, crashing waves against the shore, etc.. One of the more striking things are the absence of trees around homes and in yards. Lots and lots of grass – no trees, even though there are large patches of forest interspersed among fields.

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Day 16 & 17: Old Quebec

Arrived mid-afternoon , following a pretty drive, much along roads overlooking the St. Lawrence River.. Trees just beginning to turn all along the drive.

After our last visit, 40+ years ago, Quebec city has certainly changed – many more contemporary offices and businesses – this is a big time city – but here in old town, other than many more shops catering to the multitude of tourists, the atmosphere remains the same. We enjoyed the best (and most expensive, since our last trip to Paris) lunch we’ve ever had: escargot and ris de veau for me and fresh crab/hollandaise and veal medallions/mushrooms for Peter. All toped off with a wonderful sponge cake/hazelnut filling topped with a marvelous chocolate sauce. We literally waddled down the street upon leaving the wonderful Le Continental

A P.S. to L’s culinary expository: We really enjoyed staying in old Quebec, in spite of the hotel that some friends had recommended that had une plus petite chambre with one queen bed. Not recommended. We felt squeezed. But the location was magnifique, right across the Place d’Armes from the stately 1893 built Chateau Frontenac hotel (see multi pics). It reminded us of living in the New Orleans French Quarter, when we were first married. Historic buildings, some dating back to the 18th century, all over. Great place to wander around. Cocktails in the lounge of Chateau F., with a terrific view of the St. Lawrence River below. Fun window shopping. Stuffy museums. I enjoyed practicing my fractured French. A fun two days.

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