(or "The Longest Blog Entry I Will Probably Ever Make")
Recently I decided I needed some away time from my sometimes complicated life (at least to me ;) here in Durham Region. I targeted the Maritimes for my destination with my specific target being to arrive in Halifax, New Brunswick, on Canada Day (July 1st).
Now, I’ve driven from Toronto area to Vancouver a couple times. A long long journey. Ontario itself takes over 20 hours of straight driving time to get to the Manitoba border. The prairies of Saskatchewan seem like they will never end and the sight of a tree can bring tears of joy.
But I’d never been east of Montreal. Hmmmmm….
Looking eastward from my current home town of Whitby Ontario, Halifax is actually about two driving hours CLOSER to Toronto area than the farther western border of Ontario. And, nice though the 20+ hours of winding roads and lakes and trees and rocks and more trees and more lakes and more rocks can be for some people, I found the trip out to the coast of Nova Scotia a whole different bag of chips… or should I say different bowl of poutine 😉.
Getting out of Ontario, heading east, only takes about 4 hours of steady straight driving along the mind-numbingly busy 401 highway. This gets you pretty close to Montreal and to the end of speaking English as a primary language. I will be blunt here: Ma capacité à parler français est une merde. Now, my ability to use this line - first out of my mouth - with the local Francophones let them know that I respected their language, had a sense of humour too, but that hopefully they could help me out with the communication cycle.
Quebec is pretty much as large as Ontario. Travelling along the St. Lawrence river for yet another 7 hours or so would get me to one of my prime stops: Tadoussac. At the mouth of the Saguenay River it is a beautiful little town with great views and some nice places to get a variety of good food. But I’d already been on the road for over 4 hours so I decided for a stop in Quebec city.
One rumour I need to dispel for some folks in English speaking Canada: the people of Quebec are wonderful. Yes, english is limited, but most of them speak better english than I do french. And their love of life, their "l’amour de la vie", was very present in the people I did meet along the way.
After quick tour of the "OLD" Quebec, which I’ll need to explore more in the future for sure, it was time for a relatively short hop up the St. Lawrence to Tadoussac.
A short 15 minute ferry ride across the mouth of the beautiful Saguenay River and I arrived in a wonderful little seaside port. Nice patios with fine local beverages, good food and friendly people from all around the world. Apparently whale viewing is a prime industry here, and sure enough I saw a few during my stay… spouting off about something or other out in the large natural harbour.
Now it was time for the long haul to Moncton. First step was a 90 minute ferry ride across the now VERY wide St. Lawrence river. That was pretty amazing. This is one of the largest rivers in the world, with all the waters of Canada’s Great Lakes system flowing through it.
Once on the far side I was into a different world - green rolling hills and farmland and big skies. After about 3 hours travel I was finally at the end of Quebec and the start of New Brunswick.
I had heard about the drive through N.B. and how it MIGHT get a bit boring. First off, New Brunswick is beautiful. And big. And it has a LOT of evergreen trees. That go on for about 4 hours! And very very few "rest stations" along the way. One needs to keep the gas tank topped up and one’s own "reservoir" somewhat empty. ;)
Moncton itself was a quick pit stop along the way, though I did head downtown that eve and found a great patio gastro-pub called the Tide & Boar. (You’ll get the joke if you google "Tidal Bores") Wow! Great food and few local brew!
Then, next morning, on to my main target of Halifax and its immanent Canada Day celebrations.
Halifax is a great city, as far as I could tell in a couple days (and also based on everyone I’ve talked to that has been there). It definitely has that "coastal" feeling that I relate to from my 10 years in the Vancouver area. And good community spirit, it would seem based on the more than 20,000 people who showed up in Halifax Commons to celebrate the 150th anniversary of Canada’s confederation. It was very interesting being "alone" amongst so many good spirited and friendly folk. True, it would have been so much better to have my partner with me, but as that was not to be for this particular trip, I was happy to feel the positive vibe of the celebrants.
Next day, a trip out to the ever popular Peggy’s Cove. Which, despite warnings of it being Over Rated, I enjoyed greatly. Again, it tugged my heart strings which I’ve still got a few attached to British Columbia’s magic coast. It was a foggy day, and that added to the mood greatly - the rolling moors and boulder-strewn fields had a mysterious deep and old feeling to them. I felt very Canadian standing on those rocks by the Atlantic ocean indeed.
Time for some Halifax That evening I had a hell of a good time dancing until after midnight down in the Halifax Harbour area. A buddy of mine told me, before I left, if I should get a chance to see a band called Signal Hill I needed to check them out. And he also told me that the best place to see them, if possible, was at a patio-pub called The Lower Deck. So I felt über-blessed when both band and venue aligned for me. The pub had blocked off the local courtyard area and set up a temporary outside stage and two to three hundred folk got off their asses and boogied to the great music these musicians provided non-stop for the next few hours.
Next day, after a wonderful coffee at my new "fave" from-away coffee shop, Dilly Dally’s, it was time to get in the car and point her Westward.
The trip homeward (and this is good news for you who tire of all my words and more words here 😏) was more of a concentrated effort. It was time to get back to Durham Region and my life there. Yet one more wonderful pause along the way before I left the Maritimes for now. A great stopover in the little town of Woodstock NB. After 6+ hours of driving the pine-tree lined highways of New Brunswick, the lovely patio vista of The River (downtown Woodstock) was very welcomed…
Early next morning, I set out on the big leg of my return trip home… traveling along the St. Lawrence river for many hours… beautiful rolling hills and small European styled towns nestled in the misty green hills of Quebec. My last fix of AQP (Actual Quebec Poutine) was consumed and I returned to Ontario and my loved ones here.
A great trip for my Soul and my Heart’s Eye (as I call my "inner camera" from time to time). So looking forward to returning to the Maritimes and Eastern Quebec again - hopefully with a co-pilot to share in the wonderful scenery and culture - as well, truth be told, in the driving duties!