Favourite Roadtrip Memories

Looking for dinosaurs in the Badlands, AB  Kayaking in Caliper Lake Provincial ParkMining for Amethyst in Thunder Bay, ONThe amazing sunsets in Sleeping Giant NPExploring Beautiful MontrealSwimming and Sunbathing in Shediac, NBLighthouse trail on Gaspiesie PeninsulaExploring the Maritimes in Nova ScotiaDriving the Cabot Trail on Cape Breton IsExploring Grassy Point in North SydneySeeint Whales and exploring St John’s, NFTracing heritage and hiking on Fogo IslandExploring Gros Morne National Park Ancient Pictographs in Lake Superior.Passing the centre of CanadaThe beautiful Prairies of SK & Manitoba

Advertisements

North Sydney – Edmundston – Ottawa

The trip across Nova Scotia and New Brunswick wasn’t too interesting, we are pretty much gunning it over to Lake Superior to do some kayaking and hiking. 

I did however get a very unexpected gift in my back account a couple of days after getting back to Canada. I checked my account to see how much I didn’t have and to my surprise it had shot up quite a lot due to a ‘credit memo’. After Googling that I was none the wiser and planned to visit a branch the following day to tell them how evil they were for mistakenly putting money in my bank at a time I needed it most. Maybe they might let me keep it? Hardly. It turns out my wonderful Mother and Stepfather had given me some cash as a gift. Mum said it’s for all the Christmas and Birthday presents I haven’t received in the 17 or so years I’ve been away from NZ. I’ll take that, thank you kindly. That wil pay for the remainder of this trip, my season’s ski pass and my first month’s rent. So very handy. Love you guys xoxoIn Edmundston we stayed in the Walmart and my was it busy! There must have been 20 campers three that night. I always feel a lot safer knowing there are plenty of fellow campers in the parking lot. Met a nice lady from BC, late 50s perhaps, in the washrooms the following morning who was a 1st time Walmart camper and as a veteran I was able to give her the ‘lowdown’, I basically told her we have done it a few times and haven’t had any issues. It’s a great way to travel. The drive through Quebec was long and boring, we bypassed Quebec City but went through Montreal which made things a lot slower. Quebecwans are bad drivers, much like France and Italy (probably most of Europe) they are a bit reckless and impatient, and indicating? Hell no! Drove across long plains of wheat fields with the occasional silo or factory of some sort, a Fromagerie here and there and glimpses of the Ottawa River.In Ottawa we stayed in an Air B&B, we needed to do a load of washing and have a proper shower so we stayed with Helen in Kanata. Had dinner in a local pub, The Brew Table, I had the liquria Chicken salad, it was great! The stay was pleasant and we got breakfast in the morning. The bed wasn’t as comfortable as our car bed is though. Our Woods Mattress is the best!

Day 18 – Phare Cap Madeleine to Campbelton

Had bacon and bean soup for breakfast and headed off early. Aimed to get to Perce for lunch but it took a lot longer than that. The road went along the coast but also headed inland in places and was very up and down. Took a detour in Grand-Valley to cross a covered bridge, just like the one in Beetlejuice! Went by a few more lighthouses but we’d seen so many we stopped looking for them, saw one on the roadside and took a photo but declined paying $3 to go in. Drove through Gaspe which is one of the bigger towns right at the end of the peninsula but there wasn’t much there and we were a bit behind in time so we carried on to Perce.

Perce is famous for Pierced Rock which is an 88 metre high, 476 metre long offshore rock formation containing an arch and a stack resulting from a second arch falling. There is also North Americas largest Gannet refuge on an island further out from the rock. We paid $1 to walk up to a lookout point to see the rock but it wasn’t a great angle and we couldn’t see the hole. Lots of people were walking along the rocky beach to walk out to it at low tide and we would have too if we had more time. The town was all hustle and bustle of a typical tourist town with souvineer ships, ice cream parlours, seafood restaurants and motels lining the busy street. Fergus said at one point it was worse that Banff!

Headed away from Perce and back East to follow the road back towards The Bay and New Brunswick. Stopped in New Richmond and bought a giant ham, cheese and salad roll each and some bits for dinner. 

About an hour later we turned off the 132 that we had followed all the way from Rivière-du-loup and turned onto the J.C. Van Horne Bridge and crossed the river to Campbelton, New Brunswick. Gone were the French signs and we were very happy to see English once again. Had a dinner of sausages, eggs and salad overlooking the bridge at sunset before heading to the town’s Walmart to bed down for the night. Saw a skunk rummaging through some rubbish….I didn’t get too close.

Day 16 – Quebec City to Rivière-du-Loup

We started our day with a breakfast of chicken noodles (yes I know that’s bad) that I had been carrying around in my rucksack for days.  Drove to a car park in town and paid $18 for 24 hours. The cheapest way as we had no idea how long we would be.

Walked up a steep street to Old Quebec which covers an area of 1.4 km. In 1985 it was declared a World Heritage Site and you can certainly see why. 

Office Buildings, busy streets and chain restaurants makeway for quaint French style cafes with hanging baskets and terraces, boutiques with brightly coloured awnings, art galleries with painted city scenes, squares containing statues of the citys founding fathers and fountains and of course, souvineer shops containing tacky Chinese made wares. Old Quebec really is a lovely area, I could have spent hours browsing the stores had I not been on such a strict budget. I considered buying a lovely print of the city in the Fall but it probably would have been ruined on our travels, maybe we will return on our way back to Banff?

The place I was really keen to see was the Château Frontenac. A famous Fairmont Hotel that is the most photographed hotel on the planet. It is very spectacular indeed and it must cost a small fortune to stay there, but for me, it doesn’t compare to the Fairmont Banff Springs. The castle in the mountains has a special place in my heart and in my opinion it’s just as grand.Wandered along the boardwalk outside the hotel watching tourists go about their day, street performers trying their best to secure loose change, water taxis ferry people from shore to shore across the wide river and people sunning themselves on the moored cruise ships, it was very hot and humid so I don’t blame them really.Walked up another steep embankment to the La Citedelle de Quebec which is an active military base as well as the official residence of the Canadian Monarch and the Govenor General of Canada.   There were free tours that took you around the barracks and Museam but we weren’t that interested so had a quick look around before heading down to the Funiculor.​​I’ve been on heaps of Funiculors in Europe, but they always give me the slight heebee geebies, this one was $3 for a 30 second ride. Easy peasy. We ended up on the nicest street in the old city (according to a friendly city representative we spoke to nearby) called Rue du petit Champlain. And it was very nice, again, just like the city streets of Europe.  Went to a creperie called Le Casse-Crêpe Breton for lunch and we assumed the place was quite popular due to the queue outside. After about 20 minitues we were seated inside the busy restaurant. After ordering we then waited nearly 35 minutes for our meals. We learned later that they o lay had 2 crepe hotplates a one girl making all of them so that is why it took so long! I had a cheese, mushroom and ham crepe with a salad, it was really good but the wait was far too long. Returned to Jean’s and collected our gear, played with the kitten for a while and hit the road again.Headed North-East towards the Gaspiesie Peninsula and getting out of the city was a bit of a nightmare but we were soon on the motorway to Rivière-du-Loup where Fergus had booked a Hi Hostal for the night. It was Fergus’s birthday so he wanted to sleep in a comfy bed for the night. 

Arrived around 7pm and checked in and went and got some wine. Sat outside on the veranda of the huge, old, white wood house and wrote my blog, caught up on my emails and chatted to fellow guests. 

Went up to a fire someone had started and chatted to the other guests well into the night.

Day 15 – Montreal to Quebec

Left Montreal late after doing a bit of shopping in Westmount and having breakfast. 

Drove about 2.5 hours to Quebec City. Not much to see on the way we drove, it was a lot like motorways in the UK, trees on either side of the motorway giving way to fields in places but mainly straight and flat. Getting into the city was easy and our host, Jean’s place was just off the main road into town. 

He lives in a 2.5 bedroom new-build, modern flat in a quiet area at the foot of a steep hill. We unpacked our gear and went out for dinner. Walked up the very steep hill where Jean told us his personal trainer takes him to train. Sounds like too much hard work to me! Chatted and he told us about the city. Went to a lovely French restaurant on Boulevard Rene-Levesque called Cochin Dingue. I was difficult and had 2 starters, steak with satay sauce and grilled cheese & salad. It was very good and I haven’t had satay aside in years, I’d forgotten how good it was!

Jean very kindly paid for our meal which we were not expecting but incredibly thankful for. We are so very lucky.

After our wonderful dinner, Jean took us to one of his favourite spots that he takes friends and family when they visit Quebec. Chocotats Favoris a legendary ice cream shop like no other I have ever visited. You choose a size, flavour of ice cream, type of chocolate dip and then your topping. The topping is nothing like ice magic either, it’s about 2cm thick! Overindulgence at its finest!Walked back to Jean’s for a nightcap and saw a lovely sunset on the way down the hill.

Montreal – a bit of Europe in Canada

I’ve always known there is a French speaking park of Canada but just how similar that area is to France I didn’t know. Being in Montreal was just like being back in Europe for a long weekend. We love Montreal, it’s a vibrant and energetic city. Started the day with a healthy breakfast of Avacado, Tomato, Omlette, Bread and Hummus before catching the Metro to Parc Jean-Drapeau to start our day of sightseeing at the Biosphere which is a dedicated to the environment. What an amazing structure! It’s huge at 76 metres high and you can see it from miles away. It used to be enclosed but after a fire, all that remained was the steel frame. We didn’t go inside but outside were a lovely series of photographs of places all over Canada. A lot we have now visited and a lot we now want to see, it’s such a diverse and beautiful country, I really have fallen in love with this place.Next on our days itinerary was the Biodome.  This was built for the 1976 Olympic Games and hosted the cycling and judo events. Now it makes up part of the largest natural science complex in Canada. There are 4 separate ecosystems inside:

  • The Tropical Forest is a replica of the South American rainforest.
  • The Laurentian Forest is a replica of the North American wilderness.
  • The Saint Lawrence Marine Eco-system is an estuary habitat modelled on the Gulf of Saint Lawrence.​
  • The Sub-Polar Region is a habitat that is divided into Arctic and Antarctic.

We spent hours in there just watching the different animals and birds in there different habitats. Just fascinating.
We then caught the Metro to a restaurant a friend from London had recommended to us which looked amazing. Schwartz’s is a famous sandwich shop that specialised in smoked meat. Openened in 1928 by a Romanian immigrant it was featured on the Food Network‘s ‘You gotta eat here’ and is a Montreal institution. There was a queue outside when we arrived but only after 10 minutes or so we got in, anyone getting take out was quite fast so it was moving along nicely. Sat with 4 others on a shared table. The place was packed, but our food came out really fast. Ordered a meat sandwich each and shared fries and a pickle. It was all hustle and bustle and families and couples chatting and laughing, a great city atmosphere.It was probably the biggest ‘just meat’ sandwich I have ever had, it was lean and juicy and I can understand why the place is so popular. 

Got a bit lost wandering around the city looking for the Circus Festival as we were unable to connect to the city’s free wifi but eventually found it. 

The street was alive with performances from acrobatics to tightrope walking displays and people walking about with fishbowls on their heads. The most impressive performance was ‘Red‘ which saw dancers preform on a large stage made of shipping containers with aerial acrobatics and both techno and classical music. ​​​Made our way back to Valerie’s and had a long chat with her before retirin to bed after a long, exhausting but very fun day. 

Day 13 – Ottawa to Montréal

Woke up super early because we had to be out of the house before our host Terri departed for work. Went to Tim Hortons for breakfast and to use the wi-fi to find a laundrette nearby. We have 12 days worth of clothes, sheets and towels to wash so it was high time we stopped having so much fun and got on with some chores. 

Left the city and drove the 2 hours to Montreal. When we crossed the border into Quebec the English signs disappeared making way for French. We pondered why in Ottawa and other provences they have English and French on their road signs but in Quebec it’s only French yet 21% of the population are native English speakers and 51% are bilingual. 

Visited some services for lunch and went to an information centre inside. The lady there was very helpful and gave us tips on Montreal and Quebec City and told us about a region we were going to completely miss but have now decided to shorten our time in Quebec City to explore. Pays to ask. 

Upon reaching to city we decide to drive up to Mount Royal, a large park sitting on a volcanic mound overlooking the city of Montreal. We visited the Mount Royal Chalet where we enjoyed a fantastic view over a city I had no idea it was so big. Wandered through the forest to the Mount Royal Cross where we sat and watched Squirrels play. Drove back through the suburbs of  Montreal to our Couchsurfing host’s home. We passed huge, beautiful, European looking houses on leafy streets, cute high streets and large parks before arriving at Rue Sherbrooke West. Valerie was not home when we arrived so we unpacked, changed and headed out into the city. Got a bit lost looking for the Metro initially but found astation only a couple of blocks away from the flat and purchased a day pass for $10 each. The network isn’t big so we will find our way around quite easily…I hope. Left the train at Place-D’Armes and wandered up to the Basilique Notre Dame de Montreal. Unfortunately it was closed so we headed down Rue Saint-Paul where we came across a busy European street scene of cafes, restaurants, bars, souvenir shops and tourists wondering what continent they were on. It’s so European and reminded us of Paris and the streets of Prague or Brussels.Wandered around the Place Jacques Cartier for a bit, considered getting a caricature done but decided it would probably get ruined and headed off to find a cheap place to eat.Funnily enough instead of going for French, Italian or Spanish Tapas, which there were plenty of in the area we opted to head to Chinatown and get Vietnamese food. Went to Pho Bang New York and had Tonkiniose Grilled Chicken soup and spring rolls. It was only $10 and I got a huge bowl. Fergus had Beef with Vermicilli noodles.Made out way back to Valerie’s and when we arrived she was having dinner with a friend. Had an interesting chat about travel,  couchsurfing, babies and all sorts of things. 

Valerie moved from France to Canada 25 years ago, is a translator for an accounting firm, has 2 daughters and enjoys, swing dancing and swimming. She is a lovely, very chilled out and beautiful woman. Her flat is very French. Mostly white with lots of clutter, but it’s cool clutter. Picture frames and easels, sarongs, glass jars and chess sets, lots of books, artwork and plants. She also has 2 very friendly cats. 

Ottawa – you have to know people to find the little Gems.

Having been to wonderful cities such as London, Paris, Rome, Madrid, Sydney, Capetown, Barcelona and the list goes on, we were a little disappointed with Ottawa initially. I think it’s one of those cities where you either have to know someone who lives there who can show you places to go or you really need to do your homework and not just wing it like we did.

We started our day early and walked to town on the overcast and slightly muggy morning. It’s a 4K walk which isn’t so bad but the walk is boring as hell. We basically saw, busy roads with busses and trucks constantly rushing past, huge areas of rail tracks under construction, grassy verges behind fences and office buildings. No bars, coffee shops, convenience stores or anything.

Once into the main city we headed to see the changing of the guards at Parliament Hill which was actually quite cool, I always love to hear the bagpipes. But man, those guys must have been hot in their uniforms!Our host Terri works for an MP so arranged for us to do the tour of Parliment which isn’t normally something I’d pay to see so we felt extra lucky doing something unexpected and for free! 

Our tour quide, Stephanie was a small girl but oh so very loud, I thought her high pitched voice would grill on me but I actually found her to be quite cute and very knowledgeable. She was in Ottawa from PEI working for the Summer. We saw the House of Lords, The House of Commons, the Reading Room, various impressive foyers, the incredible library and the Peace Tower. It was all very fascinating learning about Canadian history, their ties to the British and how the various provinces came to be. Went for a quick coffee before going to Terri’s office to drop off her umbrella. Went through security again and up to her office. She was the only one there so we got to look in Scott Brison‘s office! How exciting! There were photos all around the walls of him meeting Presidents and dignitaries, I kind of felt like I was in the Oval Office! By then we were ready to eat and we’re sure we would come across a cafe on the way to more tourist spots. We carried on down to the Rideau Canal and looked at the canal and the impressive Fairmont Hotel. No cafés. We then crossed the Alexandra Bridge to what we later realised was a completely different city called Ganineau in Quebec! The views over the river back towards Parliament Hill reminded me a bit of Budapest. I wonder if it’s as spectacular at night?No cafés over here either so we visited Mosaiccanada which is a park with huge sculptures made of bushes and flowers. They all depict important Canadiana (is that a word?) such as native animals, indigenous people, mining, the trainline, immigrant culture and fishing. It was quite spectacular and the work that was put into creating them and upkeeping them must be immense. I wonder what will happen to them once the show is over? I’d love a giant man gold-panning in my front yard!Very hungry, thirsty and hot & sweaty we headed up lle du hull to look for a place to eat. There was just nothing up there so walked back down and then along Boulevard Maisonneuve over the bridge through Victoria Island and back to Terri’s. It was so so so hot and the sun was beating down on us, we had sore feet and were starving. It was hard going and not fun!

Jumped in the car and drove South East to an area called The Glebe. Parked up and went for an early dinner at The Works. It was sooooo good! I had a burger with 3 different types of bacon in it! It was huge and came with fries and gravy. I was full after half of it but I ate the whole thing. We deserved a big dinner, we had walked 15 kilometres today! Had a look around the street that was lined with pubs, restaurants, quirky shops and clothing shops and realised this was the place we should have ventured to earlier! We had basically walked 15km around heavy traffic areas with no shops or bars. We should have headed the opposite direction to where we had been. Bugger! 

Returned to Terri’s and chatted with her for a while before retiring to bed. I was a bit burnt on my chest and forehead (wiped all my sunscreen off while mopping the sweat off my brow) and I had a rash on my arm. Heat rash probably. That’s unusual for me.