Wednesday, June 30, 2010
This is how Canadians see their maple leaf.
This is how we see their maple leaf.
Happy Canada Day!
(Full disclosure: The illustration above is a simulation of Canada Day fireworks, made from authentic fireworks photographed elsewhere. No fireworks are planned in Sydney tonight, and it's a good thing, because they would be rained out. A fireworks display here last night was mostly obscured by fog.)
We try to engage all our senses in our quest for life-long learning, and we are happy to use our tastebuds to enhance our travel adventures.
We are eating lobster almost daily, as we hoped. But, we never imagined that we would be eating lobster at McDonald’s.
Here in the Maritime Provinces, select McDonald’s have signs out front proclaiming it McLobster Season, and we were curious to discover what this meant. So Jim, Jan, Dick and I headed over to McDonald’s to sample McLobster as an appetizer before our real dinner (because, as you may recall, we have a rule against eating at chain restaurants, especially McDonald’s). We found that a McLobster is a lobster roll—cold lobster meat (and plenty of it) stuffed into a hot dog bun with some lettuce and mayo. At $6.19, it undercut the price of every lobster roll we have seen in our travels in Lobster Country (and was about half the cost of our first lobster roll of the trip consumed back in Maine while waiting for our lobster trapping voyage on the Lucky Catch). We are wondering how they can be making any profit off of it, and our numbers man Jim hypothesizes it is a loss leader.
We have tried some more unexpected regional specialties, as well. Having read a newspaper review nominating Ketchup Chips as Canada’s national food, we bought a bag and shared them four ways with our traveling companions. We all agreed that they really did taste like potato chips dipped in ketchup, and that this was an item we would not be likely to repurchase.
Speaking of ketchup, the Heinz 57 Ketchup up here is sweeter and has less vinegar bite to it than our ketchup in the states.
Yesterday we all shared a regional specialty called poutine. The recipe is simple—take a big pile of French fries, top them with cheese curds, and pour a generous ladleful of canned brown gravy over the top of the mountain of cholesterol. Appetizing as it sounds, this was another item that we agreed we would not be likely to repurchase.
We have seen cod cheeks on several coastal fishing town menus, but not screwed up the courage to actually order it yet. Stay tuned.
Tuesday, June 29, 2010
June 29, 2010
We have experienced Canadian weather long enough now to understand why so many people have beautiful gardens here. Mother Nature takes care of the watering, and doesn't burn the plants up with too much sun or heat. All the gardener has to do is control the weeds. At least that's our take on it.
Monday, June 28, 2010
Antigonish to Baddeck
We take to the rainy roads again today with Jan and Jim. Our original plan was to get a start on the Cabot Trail, reputed to be one of the most scenic drives in
Along the way, we stop at St. Peter's Canal, which crosses a very narrow isthmus of land separating the Atlantic Ocean from
We are fascinated by the canal lock, which has two doors at each end, since both sides of the lock are tidal, and the water could be higher at either side, depending on the tidal cycle at the time a boat locks through. We have been through hundreds of locks, some of them quite unusual, and the St. Peter's lock was the first one of this type we had seen.
Just up the road from the lock, we see this little Dalmatian fire hydrant in front of the volunteer fire department garage. He reminds us of the New Carlisle fire hydrants we enjoyed last week.
On a larger scale, in Wycomagh we are greeted by a lawn covered with life-size wooden cut-outs of every character that has ever appeared on the Simpsons television show. Roadside attractions really brighten up a rainy day.
All whimsy aside, the best part of the day is our visit to the
Here are some interesting new things we learn about
While he was developing the telephone, he was a teacher for deaf people, and he eventually married one of his students, Mabel Hubbard. By then he had patented the telephone and had a major interest in the Bell Telephone Company, which he gave to Mabel as a wedding gift.
Not content to rest on his telephone laurels, he had lots of other patents, and in 1919 developed the fastest watercraft in the world, a hydrofoil. The remains of the original hydrofoil are in the museum. It is made of heavy wood, and it is hard to believe that it could have risen out of the water, given its weight. Too bad he couldn't invent fiberglass.
He also spent a lot of time developing massive kites in his pursuit of manned flights. He succeeded in flying people on his kites, and developed the first plane to fly in the
I particularly like what his son-in-law said about him: "He always made you feel that there was so much of interest in the universe, so many fascinating things to observe and think about, that it was a criminal waste of time to indulge in gossip or trivial discussion."
Monday, June 28, 2010
Sunday, June 27, 2010
3860 miles traveled
Two Interesting Tidbits from this Morning's Chronicle Herald:
#1: There are two photos in this morning's paper that capture our attention, because they are taken in two places we think of as home. One is a photo of people lining a beach in protest against offshore oil drilling—taken on
#2: Jim hands me an article from this morning's Chronicle Herald that I somehow missed. It notes that there are a number of cities and towns named
One Interesting Tidbit from Today's Main Event:
"If one took all the rivers in the world and measured how much water they discharged into the surrounding bays and oceans, it would equal the amount of water that moves in and out of
We read this mind boggling fact at the
The Rest of the Story is a Bore:
Since we get to the
Figuring that this first stop is just a slow spot and maybe the bore will pick up some steam at the official Observation Area, we go back to watch the bore there. While we are standing around for a long time looking at nothing happening, Dick talks with an expert researcher with a big notebook full of data, who tells him about the opposite effects of the full moon and the moon in perigee on the strength of the tidal force and a lot of other mumbo jumbo, but, simply put, the tidal bore is, yet again, a bore. We decide to forego the third viewing opportunity.
We Save the Best for Last:
Fortunately, the morning newspaper also provided us with an idea for one more thing to do in
Intrigued, we stop in the
We especially like the story behind this sculpture of John Glassey. Our booklet tells us he was Mayor of Truro for 24 years; served for more than 42 years on the Fire Brigade (including six years as Chief); was active in, and served as president of, the Rotary Club and United Way; and won tons of awards and honors. His car dealership was a longtime
In driving around looking for the sculptures we get a great little tour of the town and a unique insight into its values.
Once again, the highlight of our day is not as we planned it. But, somehow, every day turns out to have at least one highlight.
Sunday, June 27, 2010
Saturday, June 26, 2010
Halifax to Peggy's Cove Loop
Jan and Jim and Dick and I all pile into our car (after Dick does some complex luggage and accessory compression to make it possible to get the back seats up and make room for passengers) for a trip to Peggy's Cove, a tiny fishing community clinging to a rocky granite shore not far from Halifax. Dick sets the rule—anyone who wants to stop for any reason, say so. Since the coastal ride to Peggy's Cove takes us by many picturesque dock houses, lobster traps, bays and wildflowers, and there are now four of us rather than two, we find frequent reasons to stop and all get out of the car to snap photos, even though it starts raining within five minutes of our departure from the hotel parking garage.
When we finally emerge from the car at the Peggy's
This is the famous Peggy's Point Lighthouse, the most well-known and most photographed lighthouse in
After wandering every street of the island and finding the bagpiper, who turns out to be a woman with extraordinary lung power, since she plays with hardly a break for at least two hours straight while we are there, we are ready to continue on our seaside adventure.
We dine at a waterfront restaurant down the road a piece, and then drive to Lower Prospect to find our roadside attraction of the day—an enchanting detailed reproduction of a fishing wharf and town in miniature on the front lawn of the now deceased folk artist Joe Norris. Tiny islands in the bay have live miniature evergreens with wooden ravens roosting atop their branches. The lobster boats have tiny traps with floats. Laundry is drying on the clotheslines of the little houses that dot the hillside above the wharf. We can even see a school of dolphins and the tail of a whale out in the bay.
With all our photo stops, side trips and detours, it takes us almost a full day and 50 miles of driving to do the 30 mile Peggy's Cove Loop. Maybe you can understand why it took us so long if we show you a few of our favorite shots. Know that there are plenty more wonderful views where these came from:
Saturday, June 26, 2010
Halifax is in full festival mode this weekend. In celebration of the Canadian Naval Centennial, an international fleet of ships is assembling in the harbor. In celebration of the 400th anniversary of the baptism of Chief Membertou of the Mi’kmaqs, a huge powwow is taking place on The Common. We are in the center of the action at the Delta, a modern seven story hotel in the center of downtown Halifax—our finest accommodations of the trip (and a far cry from our dumpiest accommodations of the trip last night—in a room with no air conditioning; pearlized plastic tiles on the bathroom wall, some of them missing; a bathroom door that would not close and was rotting at the bottom due to water damage; and mismatched furniture that was probably all picked up at the curb by someone prowling on the evening before trash collection day; but, in its defense the wifi internet signal was quite strong).
Editorial Note: Dick does not want me to talk about “staying in that dump.” I override his veto, but you will note that a photographic illustration is not included.
Back to Halifax: We arrive midday, and head down to the harbor boardwalk area for lunch on a patio overlooking the wharf. I have a local specialty, the Donair, which is somewhat like a Gyro, but made with spicy beef instead of lamb, and topped with a sauce of condensed milk and garlic instead of yogurt. I wash it down with a Keith Light, made by the local brewery just down the street, established in 1820.
Later as we do a self-guided walking tour of the town, we note that brewery founder Alexander Keith did quite well in the beer business--his house appears to be larger than the elegant Government House built in 1800 by Governor Sir John Wentworth, “to gratify his own sense of propriety and that of his glamorous wife,” according to the plaque out front. The Government House is the oldest official government residence in Canada, and now home to the Lieutenant Governor.
We also admire St. Mary’s Cathedral Basilica, which boasts the tallest polished granite spire in North America, and we add a picture of this beautiful church to our collection.
There are many great sights along the way, and one of our favorites is the tranquil Public Gardens. A Victorian Bandstand surrounded by formal garden plots sits in the center of the park, paths twist through green lawns dotted with formal flower beds, and a large pond with ducks is tucked in one corner. This time of year, roses and freshly planted colorful annuals are in bloom. There are plenty of benches in shady spots where we see locals relaxing with good books, people-watching like us, and relaxing with friends.
Speaking of relaxing with friends, our friends Jan and Jim just arrived in Halifax by train last night, and this afternoon they join us at the Delta. We walk to dinner at a restaurant across from The Commons, where the powwow is just getting started.
After a great meal, we wander back across The Commons, admiring First Nation people in their colorful native attire. Buffy Ste. Marie is performing a free concert, and we stop to listen for a while. A Canadian Cree, she peppers her music with commentary, expressing some ambivalence about performing at an event celebrating the Catholic missionaries’ collision with the First Nations. She says that there is a lot of bad history between the Church and the Aboriginal People, but that her father reminded her of the goodness and kindness of the priest who served their reserve community. “At least they have shut down all the boarding schools,” she said, to very loud cheers from the audience.
An explanation, for those not familiar with Canadian history: The Canadian government set up a boarding school system for Canadian First Nation children in the latter half of the nineteenth century. The purpose was to remove children from their homes, families and native culture, and to assimilate them into the dominant culture—a mission concisely summarized as “kill the Indian in the child.” Funded by the government, the schools were administered by churches, 60% of them Roman Catholic. Around the turn of the century, 35-50% of children died within five years of entering Indian Boarding School. The schools went beyond killing the Indian in the child to killing the child entirely. Throughout their history, the schools were plagued by disease, physical abuse and sexual abuse, as well as the psychological abuse of teaching children that they, their families, and their traditions were inferior. The schools were finally closed in the 1960s, yet another significant civil rights victory of the era.
Back to Halifax: Although we see this pretty little light on George’s Island in Halifax Harbor during our waterfront walks, we can learn very little about it. Tomorrow we will visit the most famous light in Nova Scotia, the Peggy’s Cove Light.
Thursday, June 24, 2010
Thursday, June 24, 2010
We are taking the scenic route today, following the jagged eastern coastline of
A little history: Acadians first came to
The Acadian flag flies from front yard flagpoles, many telephone poles and mailboxes are painted with the Acadian red, white and blue stripes, and a favorite yard decoration is a red, white and blue striped wooden lobster trap with a gold star attached. The Acadian flag has a yellow star placed on the blue stripe of what otherwise looks like the flag of
Despite the rain, we decided to visit "La Dune de Bouctouche," a sand dune that stretches 7.5 miles across
Back in the car, our drive took us past men raking for clams along the sandy shore, and a man packing his black lab and his bucket of clams into an old row boat which he set out to row across a placid bay. The quay was full of fishing boats at what looked like a processing plant. Men were busy loading, unloading, and cleaning their boats. Down the road a fisherman was spreading his nets out on his lawn, in front of a boat on blocks and a back yard full of lobster traps.
We also couldn't resist a stop at
Wednesday, June 23, 2010
While we were cruising the waters around
Along the coastal road today, we are passing through the center of one small town after another, many named for saints. The houses and businesses along our route are modest and undistinguished for the most part, but the Catholic Churches are built on a grand scale, and their steeples are richly ornamented. Several of the churches have silver roofs that shine like mirrors in the sun.
Our drive is a steeple chase—we drive from one church steeple to the next, stopping to admire each one, and there are many.
In addition to a beautiful Catholic Church, each little town also has at least one scenic roadside park with picnic tables and rest rooms. Most of the parks overlook the ocean. We enjoy our picnic lunch at a table beside the entrance to a marsh nature trail. Hundreds of gulls are resting and fishing in the tidal pond nearby.
Today is a beautiful day. Most houses have colorful laundry billowing on the lines in their backyards. The full clotheslines remind us of Narda, our Jonesport Seaview House landlady, who apologized to us in case we noticed that the sheets on our bed were a bit wrinkled. She had laundered them and hung them on the line to dry, but it rained, and she had to put them in the dryer. She was very sorry that she couldn't offer us line dried sheets, which are, apparently, far superior. Not having slept on line dried sheets since childhood, neither one of us can remember what we are missing. But I digress. The point is, we know the laundry is hanging on the lines to dry today, because tomorrow it will rain again, as we continue south to
Wednesday, June 23, 2010
June 22, 2010
We added 800 miles to our New Brunswick/Nova Scotia vacation plans just to see the largest gannet breeding colony in the world off the Gaspe Peninsula in
Was it worth the trip? Absolutely!
We got on the first boat of the morning at 9 am, and came back on the second to last boat to leave the island, so you know we maximized the experience. Before we even set foot on the island, the boat circumnavigated the high cliffs of its shoreline, where we could see thousands of gannets, as well as other ocean birds, such a black-legged kittiwakes, murres, and guillemots. We saw razorbills in the water, and a couple seals basking on rocks. We knew we were in for spectacular sights once we disembarked.
Bonaventure Island is a mere mile or so offshore from Perce on the mainland, and multiple tour boats travel there every hour on the hour from nine am to five pm, or nine hundred to seventeen hundred, as they say here. So, it is much more accessible than our puffin island journey of two days ago (a maximum of three boats, each limited to less than twenty passengers, are allowed to land at Machias Seal Island each day).
But, the Bonaventure gannet colony is on the opposite side of the island from the boat landing area. So we had to haul all our equipment (three cameras, multiple lenses, a tripod, a backpack with our lunch and water) nearly a mile uphill to get to there.
We knew immediately when we arrived at the colony that all our efforts would be richly rewarded. There are 120,000 gannets on this island—it makes the
Dick asked this very good question: How do the gannets who leave their nest to go out to the sea to feed find their nest again when they return? It is imponderable.
We watched birds come in from the ocean bringing seaweed to their mates to enhance their nests. The mate would accept the seaweed, then the two would rub their heads and necks together to express their pleasure. (Males and females look alike and share duties, so we couldn't tell who is getting the gift of seaweed and who is giving it—male or female.) The one time we can tell male from female is in mating, which looks brutal—the male hops on the female's back and grabs her neck in his beak while he seems to jump violently on her.
The female lays just one egg, and the pair share in incubating it—keeping it warm with their big webbed feet. Although most chicks are born in mid-July, we saw some early chicks lying protected beneath their parents. It sometimes seemed as if the parents were stomping on them, because they held them with their feet.
After a couple hours of watching the gannets, we hiked a trail that followed the perimeter of the island. The spring wildflowers are still in bloom here, and the rocky woodland and meadow vistas were beautiful. It was an unexpected bonus pleasure of our trip to the island, although Dick would have enjoyed our five miles of hiking more if he had not been toting his tripod with a camera and long telephoto lens attached the whole way.
Another unexpected pleasure of our time here was the charming town of
The main street of town is lined with brightly colored souvenir shops and restaurants, and a long dock stands in the harbor where the tour boats depart and arrive. In the mornings, we watch the lobstermen tending their traps just offshore.
Our hotel, the Manoir de Perce, is a family business, and the owner spent at least half an hour with us when we checked in. He asked about our interests and made all sorts of suggestions about ways we might best enjoy our time in Perce. The staff are all friendly, and seem, like the owner, genuinely concerned that we are having a good time and that absolutely every aspect of our stay there is perfect.
We love it that everyone we pass says "Bonjour" as we pass on the street or enter a shop. When we say "Bonjour," everyone immediately responds by switching to English.
The restaurants in town all serve a Table d'hôte menu with one price for many courses, and the expectation that you will spend the whole evening dining with them in a leisurely fashion—tres French. Begin with an amusee, then some fish-based appetizer from the chef (they are big on smoked salmon, and pickled or smoked cod or mackerel around here), next soup and/or some other appetizer you choose, on to the main course, then cheese, and finally dessert. Both last night and tonight we dined like the French—we need to leave tomorrow, or we will never fit in our clothes by the time we get home.
Tuesday, June 22, 2010
June 21, 2010
Just in case yesterday's main event, the Sardine Museum, was not to your taste, today we offer a food museum we are sure you will enjoy—the Covered Bridge Potato Chip Factory Tour and Museum, in Hartland, home of the world's longest covered bridge (more on that later).
The Covered Bridge Potato Chip Company is owned by two generations of the Albright family, who grow 500 acres of potatoes on their farm nearby. Their factory makes kettle cooked potato chips in sixty pound batches, and we could look through big windows to view the factory floor, seeing every step of making a batch of chips, from trimming the potatoes by hand and feeding them into the slicing machine hopper, to seeing the thin slices dump into the big oil vat and be fried for six minutes, to their trip on an assembly line where inspectors pulled out the bad ones, to the place where they are blown into a bag with nitrogen (to extend shelf life and keep the chips from being crushed in transit) and sealed, then packed into cases to ship out.
We learned that four pounds of potatoes translates to one pound of potato chips, so we figured out that they make fifteen pounds of potato chips every six minutes, or 150 pounds of chips and hour. For perspective, the McCain Foods plant just up the road in
The Museum was full of interesting potato facts, beginning with a little potato history. Potatoes were first cultivated by Incas in
You may blanch to learn that the average American eats 140 pounds of potatoes per year, making it the second most consumed food (milk is #1). Potato chips are the #1 snack in
Which brings us to the most fun part of our tour. We were each given a bag full of hot potato chips fresh off the line, and walked out of the factory area to a long table with shakers of 31 different flavorings to sample on our chips. The flavors included lobster, chocolate (yum), vanilla espresso, pizza, pickle, orange, s'more . . . you get the idea. We each tried at least twenty different flavors, and my favorite was spaghetti, Dick's was loaded baked potato. We got to vote for our favorites and suggest any flavor ideas for them to add to the line-up. Call us unimaginative, but we could think of nothing appetizing that they hadn't already tried.
Our next stop was the
Most of our roadside attractions this trip have been larger than life, but in New Carlisle, Quebec, we found their fire hydrants, painted as fanciful cartoon characters, were enchanting. We turned around several times for second looks at the 30 or so hydrants which line Route 132, the scenic coastal highway that passes through this little town of 1,430 people.
We are staying for two nights in the charming Manoir de Perce, in a room with a view of Perce Rock and
Sunday, June 20, 2010
June 20, 2010
It is time to leave Seaview House, where all the pillowcases are hand embroidered and the coat hangers are crocheted—the women of
We head to the only place in town serving breakfast on/Sunday--a combination gas station, DVD rental place and quick mart. A dozen men are sitting around the one table in the place drinking coffee and engaging in a lively debate. A half-assembled jigsaw puzzle sits in the center of the table. This is clearly a neighborhood hang-out, with no room for us to hang out and eat—so we get our coffee and egg and sausage biscuits to go.
After breakfast, we head to Jonesport's Maine Coast Sardine History Museum, owned and operated by Ronnie and Mary Peabody, who live in the house next door. Mary Peabody opened the museum up early just for us, and she followed us around the exhibits, telling us stories of how she and Ronnie found and rescued all of the artifacts of sardine fishing and canning that are on display. It is really Ronnie's museum, but he just had a heart attack last month and is awaiting back surgery, so she takes over and helps when she can, although it is only on weekends, since she works five days a week doing six part-time jobs.
The first sardine cannery opened in
Sardines are actually small herring, to be technical about it. Mary explained the catching and canning processes to us, showing us the equipment, machinery and tools used every step of the way. A wall dedicated to all the hard working women of the canning factories is full of scissors with the names of the women who used them beneath each pair. The women spent twelve hours a day standing on the line cutting the heads and tails off cold herring, and most brought their own scissors to work because they felt the "loaners" on the floor were inferior or uncomfortable in the hand.
When she learned that we had been out to see the puffins, she told us that she went to see them, too, nine years ago when she retired early from her government job. Her co-workers took up a collection and gave her $97, and the trip cost $50 back then, so she used over half her retirement gift to go, and it was worth it.
With the last sardine factory in the country closed now, we are grateful that Mary and Ronnie have turned their hobby into such an outstanding museum preserving history of this region that would otherwise be lost as the old processing plants fall into the sea or are cleared to make way for tourist-drawing waterfront developments. Our appreciation may not be widely shared, though--when Dick signs the visitor register, he notes that we are the first visitors here since the museum closed for the season last October.
We continue north up the coast, making a slight detour to Bucks Harbor, where Jasper Beach is famous for its colorful jasper and rhyolite stones tumbled by the ocean. When we get to the beach, we face a dune of stones thirty feet high. We climb to the top, where we can see the colorful smooth stones stretching far out to the low tide ocean. Short on time, I gather a handful, and watch others on the beach filling five gallon buckets with their treasures.
On to Lubec (population 800), the Easternmost town in the country, where we stop in the Water Street Tavern to order a sandwich to go. Chatting with the owner while we wait, we learn that the place has only been open two weeks, and we have the distinction of being the first people to order take-out from the Easternmost tavern in the
No time to rest on our laurels, we are on our way to Campobello to see Franklin D. Roosevelt's 34 room Canadian "cottage." Ten days ago we were at FDR's
We explore the rest of the island, and photograph what is reputed to be the most photographed light in
Back on the road again, we stop at a stone marker the townspeople of Perry erected in 1896 to mark the point where surveyors determined that the 45th Parallel passed through their town—making them halfway between the Equator and the North Pole.
Our last roadside attraction of the day is
this big fiddle in front of the
Tomorrow, we head further north, to see the world's largest breeding colony of gannets.