Thursday, November 6, 2014

Oh (Eastern) Canada -- August 22 - October 2, 2014

We're currently in Sacramento, California.  Bryce and his new right hip are bonding well and we're slowly making forays into the world outside of our little rental house - Bryce using his ever-so-dapper cane.  And that's really all we want to say or you want to hear about that. It's just not fun to read or write about physical therapy, medication schedules, or even the grumpy hospital roommate who watched The Jerry Springer Show (who knew that show was still on the air . . . ?).    

This post is about something much more fun: our most recent land-based travel adventure -- a five-plus week road trip through Eastern Canada. 

This trip was more organic than well planned.  It came about because we got itchy feet in August while sitting around waiting for Bryce's surgery date and decided to play our favorite game of chance: The Travel Points Game.  Tada!  We "won" a partially-paid trip to Canada and off we went.  

The Reader's Digest Version

For those who want to get right to the point, here's the summary version of our travels. 

  • flew to Buffalo (low-points airfares and cheaper rental cars) on August 22;
  • drove 3,263 miles (5251.3 kilometers) through five Canadian provinces (Ontario, Quebec, New Brunswick, Prince Edward Island and Nova Scotia);
  • took a car ferry from Nova Scotia to Portland, Maine (very cool, great beer);
  • flew through everyone's least favorite airport in Atlanta, Georgia where, due to air traffic control SNAFUs along the East Coast of the U.S. (painful and boring) we spent a bonus evening at an airport hotel; and
  • arrived in Sacramento only one day later than planned, on October 2.  
And we did our road trip it the Old School way -- using a Paper Map!

Along the way we:
  • visited with friends and family;
  • toured forts, fortresses and citadels - and learned the difference between them;
  • learned a lot about the War of 1812;
  • drank some mighty fine beers and some okay wines;
  • ate a lot of seafood (fabulous, good, deliciously fried and overly fried);
  • learned to appreciate real french fries (Molly experienced a whole new potato world);
  • attended ceilidhs ("kitchen parties");
  • visited many, many museums; 
  • learned about different kinds of whales and lobsters;
  • did as much hiking as an immediately pre-hip-replacement-surgery guy can do;
  • saw the Bay of Fundy and its legendary tides;
  • visited marinas on the Bras D'Or Lake and the Atlantic Ocean;
  • learned that we really prefer modern hotels with big rooms to charming bed and breakfasts; and
  • got too close for comfort to some courting moose.  
If that's enough for you, feel free to skip the rest of this post and the next few posts. 

However, for those who want to stick with us, we'll start with the three themes that kept coming up for us:

Canada -- it's "Europe Lite"

Our Fellow Americans.  Do you think about visiting Europe but are too shy to try out your high-school French (or Spanish) - or maybe you took Latin and all those folks are dead?  Or maybe you would like to visit the British Isles but don't feel confident about driving on the "wrong" side of the road?  Or perhaps you're afraid that the French really are as rude as rumor would have it?  

We have a suggestion for you: Visit Eastern Canada.    

Large parts of Eastern Canada are very "Europe-y".  But it's easy Europe.  English is one of the two official languages of Canada and even in Quebec most people speak English. Canadians are famously polite. And they drive on the right side of the road - politely.      

You can have French-lite experiences in Quebec:

White Wine and Salad at an Auberge in Rural Quebec

Chateau Frontenac (a Fairmont Hotel) in Quebec City 
The Walls of the Quebec City Citadel

Watching American Tourists Pass An Outdoor Cafe in Quebec City

It is so French-lite we even had one very un-Canadian rude waiter.  We left him a dollar tip.    

Or if it's Scotland you would like to visit -- you can have Scotland-lite experiences in Prince Edward Island and Nova Scotia:

Charming Catholic Church in PEI

Rough Terrain in Nova Scotia - Just Like In The Olde Country
A Ceilidh (Celtic Music "Kitchen Party")
in Baddeck, Nova Scotia
Youthful Celtic Music Buskers in Halifax

And Even Men In Kilts!

And there are England-lite experiences to be had everywhere in Eastern Canada.  QEII is on the money, things called "Royal" this and that are everywhere, and every little town has at least one monument to the brave who fell defending The Empire.  

Anglican Churches Abound - in Lunenberg

and in Halifax

Halifax Church
Royal References


And Remembrances of Men 100-Years Gone

Go visit our Neighbors to the North.  It's a delightful mix of Europe and North America. 

Geography Matters

At some point during every trip one of us asks (rhetorically) why Geography was such a boring subject in school. Perhaps you had a different experience, but what we remember are lists: of capital cities, longest rivers, highest mountains, and our favorites: the five major imports and exports. Lists without context.

It is only through travel that we have figured out why those things matter.  And when we travel, we wonder why something so interesting -- wasn't.   

Take trees, for example. On this trip we learned that a major reason England fought to retain its control over Canada was that The Empire needed trees to build ships. Britain couldn't rule the waves without Canadian lumber. And as one drives across New Brunswick one sees thousands of acres of trees that in the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries would have become English wooden ships rather than French wooden ships.  

Or, take cod. The Catholic church prohibited consumption of the flesh of warm-blooded animals on various days (Friday, during Lent, etc.) and pre-refrigeration Europe needed dried cod. Canada had a lot of cod. And now it doesn't (there's been a moratorium on cod since 1992). Areas once rich aren't because the cod are gone. They fish for other fish and seafood - but the big business of cod fishing is over. Many young people travel west to Alberta for work, leaving behind crumbling mansions that once housed shipping barons and fishing fleet captains. And over many of the houses and churches metal cod still point the way.

A Cod Wind Vane in Lunenberg
In Prince Edward Island they are proudly touting the 150th anniversary of the first gathering of the Fathers of Confederation in 1864. But the story takes a bit of a tortured path when they try to explain why when several British colonies joined together to form the Dominion of Canada in 1867, Prince Edward Island was a no show. Blame the cod. In 1867 Prince Edward Island was a "have" colony because of cod fishing and ship building, and the leaders of the colony didn't think it was advantageous to join the Confederation. 
Big 150th Anniversary Sign in Charlottetown

So really, those five major imports and exports are important.  They make history.  

Geography also impacts other aspects of a culture. For example, Summer isn't just a time for recreation in Canada.  It's Road Repair Season.  

Drive Patiently - Roadwork Ahead . . . and Behind . . . and Around

Road Warning Pylons Everywhere
 And when Road Repair Season ends . . . Falling Ice Season is not far behind.

So - What Do You Do, Duck?

History May Be Written By The Winners -- But the Other Guys Sometimes Have An Audience . . .  

For example - the War of 1812.  

Molly's recollection from a history class at Woodrow Wilson Junior High in Tulsa, Oklahoma is that (a) the mighty British Navy press-ganged U.S. sailors; (b) the tiny, weak, fledgling U.S. defended its citizens against the might of the British empire; (c) the evil British burned Washington, D.C.; (d) Dolly Madison rode out of town with the portrait of George Washington in a wagon with flames rising behind her (though this seems to be somewhat mixed in Molly's memory with Scarlett O'Hara leaving Atlanta); (e) the U.S. won the war (though it was not made clear how we get from (c) to (e) . . . ); and (f) the U.S. defended New Orleans after the peace accord because communication was really slow in the early 1800's but that was later fixed by the telegraph. 

Well, apparently this is only partially true.  


Yes the British Navy press-ganged U.S. sailors - their bad.  But one might point out (if one was a Canadian, for example) that: the U.S. declared war in an attempt to expand its control over British territory in North America; the British were allied with various Native American tribes and the U.S. was busily attempting to expand into Native American territories; the U.S. tried to invade Canada three different times; Washington D.C. was burned in retaliation for the U.S. having burned Fort York (now Toronto); and the real losers in this conflict were various Native American tribes.  

And if you want to know more, visit various sites in central and southern Ontario and in particular the Queenston Heights historic site. Queenston Heights is where Major-General Sir Isaac Brock died in defense of Upper Canada (now Ontario) against the army of the evil expansionist invading United States.  

In short - the Americans invaded, the British fought back, oops the American reinforcements didn't show, Brock died in the battle, and eventually the British won.  

Brock's Monument

A Monument to Laura Secord - Canada's Molly Pitcher
Laura Was A Spy Who Got A Chocolate Company Named After Her

Enemy Territory (New York As Seen From Ontario)

Thus ends our Thematic Consideration of Our Adventure In Eastern Canada.  Our next posts will be more about what we experienced in each province.  Just in case you decide to take us up on our suggestion to visit Canada.

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