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07/2019: Canada and New England road trip – Part I

This year’s summer vacation ended up as a road trip. After long hesitation and considering, probably, 7-8 destinations in both Eastern and Western hemispheres we decided not to fly, but instead drive to Acadia National Park, the closest national park to us, and visit our relatives in Boston on the way. This is not enough for 2 weeks though, and, driven by nostalgic feelings, we decided to also take a trip to the place we visited once, before our youngest team member was born. It’s a place where Saguenay River flows from Lac Saint-Jean into Saint-Lawrence River (which at this point is both as wide and as salty as a sea). Not a destination we hear often about in USA, it is located about 3 hour drive north-east of Quebec City (for the record, this is really really far from Brooklyn) and features a fjord, a formation not frequently found around here, and generally picturesque shores. I mean, how often are we going to drive so far north-east and when will we have a chance to visit it again? By the way, here is an old photo from our trip, taken from a whale-watching boat in Saint-Lawrence River.

Saguenay, Lac Saint-Jean

On our trip 15 years ago we stopped in Ottawa, Montreal, Quebec City and Baie-Saint-Catherine (a town on Saguenay River). I think it was a one week trip.

This time we have two weeks and decide to spend it on other destinations as well. “How about Saint-John?” – Tamara suggests. We visited Saint-John on our short cruise to Canada when Anne was tiny. We didn’t do much, she was so small back then – “I remember people taking a tour to Bay of Fundy…” I have no recollection about any people from that cruise going to any bay, and the name Fundy doesn’t ring any bells, in fact it sounds rather like a name for a Muppet Show character or, maybe, Sesame Street. Clearly, my memory is not nearly as good as Tamara’s, as a quick investigation confirms her idea, as there is a actually a Fundy National Park of Canada, clearly a place worth visiting. “There is also a place called ‘Reversing Falls’ in Saint-John”, – Toma remembers, might be interesting too.

If you draw a line on the map that goes through Brooklyn, Quebec, Saguenay, Fundy National Park of Canada, Acadia National Park of USA, Boston and back to Brooklyn…. well, you would need a lot of ink… This trip will require a lot of planning. And so planning we did, for the next couple of weeks. The plan involves a lot of parks and hiking trails, more than any of our previous trips except Utah/Arizona. If weather turns out to be as rainy as the beginning of summer has been so far… this might become a very boring trip indeed. I’m not going to go into much details of the planning process, let’s just say there was a lot of “ooh, this trail looks good too, and aah, look at this view, but we definitely won’t have time for it”. Instead, let’s dive in right into it… well, let’s not actually, as one of the items on our itinerary is crossing Saint-Lawrence River on a ferry, instead let’s go right towards our first stop, which is

Day 0

White Mountains, New Hampshire

Our first planned stop was Quebec City, and my original plan was to drive up to New Hampshire on Sunday to minimize the traffic and stay somewhere on Canada side in striking distance of Quebec. Looking at the White Mountains region smack in a middle of New Hampshire made some more oohs and aahs and we decided to start on Saturday instead and stop there to see some landscapes (which fits well into the theme of this trip), and maybe even get to the top of Mt. Washington and experience its famously horrible and unpredictable weather.

On Saturday afternoon traffic turned predictable bad, with multiple accidents and jams on the way. The drive took more than 7 hours and by the time we get off the highway and drive through the western area of White Mountains we are rather tired, but the surrounding views wows us. These mountains are really beautiful indeed! I could not not stop after another lake as there was a parking lot and a trail head. The trail didn’t get to the lake but it was still beautiful.

White Mountains, NH

It’s getting late however and we do want to see some other views today because the forecast for tomorrow is “rain and heavy thunderstorms with possible hail”. The beginning of our our trip definitely sounds ominous, meteorologically speaking.

Our hotel for today is in Lincoln, NH, in the middle of the region, which seems to be an area filled with both beautiful landscapes, all kind of hiking trails, and family friendly attractions. One can spend a week here easily. However, while talking to a girl at the hotel reception we are sad to find out that most trails are closed for today. Such is the price for… having to pay for a ticket to enter a park I guess 🙁. It is laughable I think that a hiking trail can be closed in the summer at 5PM just because they decided to charge an entrance fee for it and the cashier’s day ends at 5. I mean, people are losing almost 4 hours of day time, among them the beautiful hours (minutes really) of sunset because the state cannot automate an entry payment 😠. Ridiculous IMHO… Anyway, based on the girl’s advise we drive to a place called Sunset Bridge, which we think sounds great to visit around sunset 🙂, a rather short drive from Lincoln.

White Mountains, NH

A tiny spider crawls under a metal railing

White Mountains, NH

The view is nice with the mountain tops covered in clouds, but it’s rather hazy, and to our disappointment, a rain starts getting in and we have to pull our windbreakers from the car. After enjoying the views for a bit we decide that today is enough and we can just hope to get some decent weather tomorrow and go get some dinner.

White Mountains, NH

For the place to eat we select Plain Kate’s Riverside Saloon in Franconia, which has good reviews. I’m glad to say that we can wholeheartedly confirm the positive reviews (in fact I added another one). Anne still recalls Plain Kate’s mashed potatoes fondly…

Day 1

Franconia Notch State Park, New Hampshire

The forecast changed to “partly cloudy in the morning, then rain, thunderstorms, hail and no good horrible weather later”, which is actually an improvement comparing to yesterday’s prediction, so the only reasonable plan is to see what we can and deal with the weather later. First on the list is Flume Gorge, which is a part of Franconia Notch State Park, which is a part of White Mountains region. The place gets probably best reviews around here, though I didn’t find the pictures proving that on the internet. Besides the gorge itself it also has a couple of covered bridges, a feature highly coveted by Toma.

Flume Gorge exceeded my expectations. I thought it would be similar to Watkins Glen we visited in Finger Lakes, that is, basically, a very picturesque gorge, but it is not. I don’t mean that it is not picturesque, or is not a gorge. However, it is also an easy and enjoyable hiking trail, going through a very nice forest with birds chirping all around. There are some people, but not a lot. Here and there the path passes boulders, some huge and some… just large, leftovers of the glacier activity.

White Mountains, NH
White Mountains, NH

The trail soon leads to a well maintained covered bridge.

White Mountains, NH

Boulder or not, if you are a surface and lie here long enough, there will be a tree hugging you… and some moss…

White Mountains, NH
White Mountains, NH

Something scary is lurking in the forest 🙂… or maybe it’s just my imagination…

White Mountains, NH

Mushrooms are also abundant

White Mountains, NH
White Mountains, NH

The girls are trying something… No, they are not trying to chirp as birds, they are practicing a French “u” sound (we are going to Quebec next, remember?). I think they scared away all the animals for miles around…

White Mountains, NH

Passing some brooks

White Mountains, NH
White Mountains, NH

we finally arrive to a straight gorge that ends with a beautiful waterfall (well, if one follows the water, it would be more correct to say the gorge begins with the waterfall)…

White Mountains, NH
White Mountains, NH
White Mountains, NH
White Mountains, NH
White Mountains, NH
White Mountains, NH

But that’s not all folks! The trail is a loop and it also goes over Pemigewasset River with some breathtaking views from the high cliffs and another covered bridge.

White Mountains, NH
White Mountains, NH
White Mountains, NH
White Mountains, NH

This vacation is supposed to be relaxing and we do not rush our hike. Rushing hikes does let one see more, but it takes away from enjoying the environment. We spent 2 hours on Flume Gorge trail and I wouldn’t change our walk a bit.

This morning it seems the clouds cover the whole of White Mountains (is that what gave it the name?) 

White Mountains, NH

Next stop on our way is The Basin. It’s a curious natural tub made by a stream of water in a large rock, located very close to the highway. The tub is very smooth and round, with a natural whirlpool, granite walls and pebbles. I don’t think we can call it a “jacuzzi” because hot water is not working right now…

White Mountains, NH

There is a trail leading to small falls but we feel rain drops and get back to our car. There is another outlook I want to visit, and I would like to see how the view from the Sunset Bridge looks during the day, but as soon as we get to the highway the rain changes to a monsoon, and the wind gusts with gusto. I continue driving, but with the road construction, rain and wind this is actually dangerous. We get off the highway and wait under an overpass until the rain weakens, observing streams of water running across the road.

I guess that’s how much time we got from Mother Nature today. The weather radar shows multiple thunderstorms in the foreseeable future. We drive to Paine Kate’s to get some lunch but, alas, it is only open for dinner. Yesterday in the dark we didn’t notice the sign. We get an unimpressive lunch nearby and start driving. On the plus side, since we start driving earlier, we should be able to get very close to Quebec City today.

One of the advantages of road trips is that we don’t have to stay close to attractions, where the prices are high and hotels get sold out. We did reserve hotels in places we intend to stay for 2 nights (Saguenay region and Acadia National Park), but for an occasion like now, when we are not sure where we turn out to be, flexibility works well. Tamara finds a hotel in Lévis, right across the river from Quebec City. Looking around google maps she also finds a park with a waterfall. A waterfall? We’re in! Well, figuratively…

Chutes de la Chaudière

Chaudiere Falls turned out to be impressive indeed. A huge waterfall, a pedestrian suspension bridge, though a good distance away from the waterfall, still gives nice views on both sides. A stairway leads down to where people can hop on the rock ridges to get closer to the waterfall, or the river if that’s what you want.

Chutes-de-la-Chaudière, Levis, Canada
Chutes-de-la-Chaudière, Levis, Canada
Chutes-de-la-Chaudière, Levis, Canada
Chutes-de-la-Chaudière, Levis, Canada

   The riverbank is composed of flat diagonal slices of three stones: a beautiful, very fragile red shale, thicker light-grey shale and a much thicker one we are not sure of the classification (seen in the aerial photo). The geologist in Tamara and the photographer in me are both fascinated.

Chutes-de-la-Chaudière, Levis, Canada
Chutes-de-la-Chaudière, Levis, Canada
Chutes-de-la-Chaudière, Levis, Canada

We get closer to the waterfall but decide not to get too close, mainly for the reason of getting hungry, since it’s already evening and moving on these extremely uneven rocks among little water canals takes quite a bit of time. We slowly get back to the stairs and up to the parking lot.

Chutes-de-la-Chaudière, Levis, Canada

By the time we check in to the hotel it’s late and, rather than driving to the marina, we opt to eat nearby. Toma has really wanted to try poutine and a fast-food place nearby, Chez Ashton, specializes in them. They were alright, though, personally, I wasn’t super impressed, but I guess if one must eat french fries, poutine is nice way to do it.

Getting out of the elevator here is an… unusual sign. I guess to get to some rooms I need to jump up and for some – go through the floor down 🤣.

Day 2

Quebec City

Today we have a day dedicated to walking around Quebec. Though me and Toma have done it before, I don’t remember much of it. Toma knows the city much better and leads us on a walking tour.

Quebec City
Quebec City
Quebec City
Quebec City
Quebec City

Today is Canada Day and there are multiple groups of street performers around the city center. 

Quebec City

This group is Les Chinels, and they are from Belgium.

Quebec City

While they are not very impressive as a ballet, gotta admire the persistence of street performers in a considerable summer heat.

This group on stilts is also, apparently, from Belgium.

Our Cricket Wireless phone service includes roaming in Canada in Mexico, but it has not worked since we crossed the border. Yesterday, on Sunday, calls to support were useless – there is no one. Today morning I spent an angry half an hour with a woman from Cricket, after which she claimed: “we have a contract with some cells, but not all, it may not work in some places”. I hoped it would work at least in a major city like Quebec, but no. Getting ahead of myself, none of the places in Canada we visited had roaming service from Cricket. We got some service near Edmundston but I think it’s only because it’s so close to the US border. This Canada and Mexico service from Cricket is a complete sham.

As such, I spent some time looking to buy a sim card around Quebec. A guy in the visitor center suggested a gas station and we walk there from Rue Saint-Pierre, encountering an interesting fountain on the way.

Quebec City

We end up back near the chateau and decide to have a lunch, and then walk around the promenade, when we realize that we pretty much have seen what wanted in Quebec City.

Quebec City

The sun is still high so why don’t we drive to our next destinations and see them today instead of tomorrow? The next point is located right outside Quebec and it is

Montmorency Falls

or, in proper Quebecoise, Chute Montmorency. It is astounding by the way how persistently Quebec province is trying to ignore the existence of English as one of the official languages of Canada and the native tongue of Her Majesty Queen of the United Kingdom and Commonwealth, you know, the official head of Canadian state. Not a sign of English anywhere. Oh well…

Chute Montmorency may be better known than Chutes de la Chaudière, but it is relatively minor as a Quebec City attraction, undeservingly, as it is an impressive waterfall. We arrive half an hour before the funicular closes and use it to get down and up. Not many people around, the sun is setting, which makes for a nice atmosphere…

Montmorency Falls, Quebec, Canada
Montmorency Falls, Quebec, Canada
Montmorency Falls, Quebec, Canada

Yep, there is also a (much shorter) suspension bridge, hanging above the waterfall, providing an observation point and a place to have a conversation…

Montmorency Falls, Quebec, Canada
Montmorency Falls, Quebec, Canada

This collection of sticks that looks from above like a bunch of matches is actually a pile of logs!

Montmorency Falls, Quebec, Canada

The smell of peonies and other flowers among the walkways is very pleasant and we stop for a bit before leaving.

Montmorency Falls, Quebec, Canada
Montmorency Falls, Quebec, Canada

Day 2

Sainte-Anne-de-Beaupré

Sainte-Anne-de-Beaupré is a small town just 30km east of Quebec with an impressive basilica. We make brief stop, enjoy the views and continue on.

Sainte-Anne-de-Beaupré
Sainte-Anne-de-Beaupré
Sainte-Anne-de-Beaupré
Sainte-Anne-de-Beaupré

The drive to Saguenay takes almost 3 hours. Provincial roads in this region of Canada are not especially speedy, and most of them lack the shoulders to avoid closures in case of road work. Several times we see sad road workers holding a “stop” sign in front of standing line of cars with only one direction moving at a time. 

After Saint-Siméon the road turns from the coast of Saint-Lawrence into the woods and hills, and becomes very picturesque. Lakes are everywhere, meadows sprinkled with flowers… Lots of birch trees, pines. The nature around here is beautiful indeed, and, because we are ahead of time, we can see it up close today.

In fact, there is enough time for the longer hike in Saguenay Fjord National Park.

Parc national du Fjord-du-Saguenay

Did you notice the order of the words in the French park name is completely opposite to the order in the English name 🙃? What’s up with that? Anyway…

Today we visit Baie-Éternité sector of Saguenay Fjord National Park. On the short drive to the visitor center a bird runs across the road. My thinking was, “man, this brown pigeon is running really fast… wait, why is a pigeon running?” Of course, the answer is: cause it is not a pigeon! Looking it up, I believe it was a Raffed Grouse.

We finally arrive to the parking lot, and Toma gets out of the car first, and exclaims, like, probably, so many explorers of Saguenay fjords have before: “My god, there’s so many bugs!!!” 🤣The bad thing is, we forgot our anti-bug remedies home. The good thing is, we remembered it in New Hampshire and bought a bottle of spray in a pharmacy there. The amount of flying insects around is indeed impressive. It’s better to move, or they attack.

The hike to Halte Bellevue is not particularly challenging but it goes up, and up, and up, totaling 230 meters of elevation at a beautiful outlook, not that the outlooks along the way are too shabby either. There were several “hautes” (stops) along the way, cutely named in French, translated as: “breathing stop”, “resting stop” etc.

Saguenay
Saguenay

A huge stone on the way is set up with benches

Saguenay

After Bellevue the path goes further to Notre-Dame-du-Saguenay, a statue at the end of the trail, which is significantly further. Since we are near the top of the hill right now we assume that the way there will be mostly flat or slightly up, but after awhile the path gets deeper into the forest and starts going down. At this point the ladies protest. Obviously what goes down must come up, and the repetition of the walk up is not in their plans. So I leave them behind (they ended up waking back to Haute Bellevue) and go to the statue. On paper the trail goes higher up (280 meters total elevation) and I thought it would end at the highest point of the hill, but at the end it actually goes sharply down, going by staircases in many places. The statue is about 15 feet tall I think, standing on a small natural granite dome overlooking beautiful, albeit quite hazy today, views of the river.

Saguenay
Saguenay
Saguenay
Saguenay

The way back from the statue is of course sharply up and this time I’m kind of in a hurry both because I hate it when we’re separated and because I hear the rolls of thunder. Back at Bellevue Point, I think this ascent shows in me.

Saguenay

When we are finally down to the river level the sun starts setting down. The thunderstorm either missed the area or didn’t materialize…

Saguenay
Saguenay

To our horror Toma discovers a thin stream of blood on Anne’s neck. Whoever bit her just slurped off a half an inch of the top skin layer a millimeter or two wide!

We use a cleaning wipe to put some antiseptic on it when Anne notices a smaller but also bleeding bite behind Toma’s ear 😯! Curiously, neither Anne nor Toma felt any pain, these insects pack some serious anesthetic! We show the bites to a lady at the visitor center, curious about what insect does that and what medical school the local bugs get anesthesiology degree from, the but she doesn’t really understand English – just says “it’s ok, put ice”.

Speaking of ice, some refreshing drink would be nice… Oops, my wallet is missing 😲!!! Ok, looking back, it was stupid to keep the wallet in the pants pocket on a hike, but that’s where I always keep it, to use for all kinds of things, like paying for the park entrance… My new Columbia hiking pants not only have mesh pockets (an idiotic feature I think), but also have those pockets very shallow. At any rate, this is already evening and going to the statue and back takes at least 3-4 hours. I leave my email and the work mobile phone number with the lady that does speak a little English, and we leave hoping that an honest hiker returns it to the visitor center. “If not, the statue will take a good care of it” – the lady sadly jokes. I’m not cheered much… Also, unfortunately, the credit cards Toma has with her are all for the joint accounts, so if we cancel mine, hers will get cancelled as well and we will end up with only a debit card and no Canadian cash. We could find a bank tomorrow and deal with it, but there is still a chance for someone to return it. There is still a better chance of my wallet falling into some crack or under a wooden step and some raccoon nibbling on its leather for the next two weeks. Another consequence is the loss of my driver’s license, which means Toma has to drive us around now.
Needless to say, what with the bites and the losses, the dinner was not the merriest.

Day 3

Zoo sauvage de Saint-Félicien

The original plan was to spend today in Saguenay Fjord Park, but, since we did a half yesterday, we decide to go to the zoo and have less rush tomorrow than previously intended.

Zoo sauvage de Saint-Félicien (The wild zoo of Saint-Félicien) has a reputation of having animals roaming freely, and should have some interesting animals, like caribou for example. To be honest, the distance to the zoo is almost prohibitive if one stays in Chicoutimi, as we did – it is almost a two hour drive each way. It’s probably more appropriate for someone staying in the Lake Saint-Jean area, which seems to be high on tourism judging by the look of the towns we pass.

The highlight of the zoo visit is, indubitably, the tram ride along meadows, lakes and the forest teeming with bears and other animals. As we prepare to board the tram we are greeted by a local beetle about 2 inch long (not counting antennas) crawling around our seat. He (or she) was a good host and vacated the seat before we boarded.

Zoo Sauvage de Saint-Félicien

Our driver seems to be a pretty good guide, though we don’t know for sure since it was all in French.

Since our arrival to Canadian forests Toma has wanted to see a moose. This comes up often in our conversations. Amazingly, it turns out that looking for a moose in a forest can be a base of many quality jokes, especially considering its patterns of behavior, looks and the grammar of the word, if you know what I mean 😂. We did see a moose on this ride, though it’s not really the same…

Zoo Sauvage de Saint-Félicien

There are many animals, including baby bison. That’s right, it’s plural, not a typo, I’m not missing an “a” here.

Zoo Sauvage de Saint-Félicien
Zoo Sauvage de Saint-Félicien
Zoo Sauvage de Saint-Félicien
Zoo Sauvage de Saint-Félicien

Sure enough, this is where animals have the right of way

Zoo Sauvage de Saint-Félicien

We walk around the zoo, including the petting zoo area. This photo is not from the petting zoo.

Zoo Sauvage de Saint-Félicien

There is also a pavilion with baby animals

Zoo Sauvage de Saint-Félicien
Zoo Sauvage de Saint-Félicien

Another highlight should be feeding of the animals. We catch the feeding of River Otters, together with Martens and Racoons, and even a Fox approached, but it was not interested in their food. The lesson we learned from the feeding session: do not mess with the otters!

Zoo Sauvage de Saint-Félicien

This cute animal is American Marten, someone we have not seen before.

Zoo Sauvage de Saint-Félicien

These guys we are familiar with…

Zoo Sauvage de Saint-Félicien

A visit to a wolverine

Zoo Sauvage de Saint-Félicien

A pair of wild turkeys decide to give a concert…

We thought of visiting a couple of picturesque places between the zoo and our hotel in Chicoutimi, but the road to the first one, Chute Ouiatchouan, is closed. Oh well.

While we were on the road my work phone rang. The news is – someone found my wallet and brought it to the visitor center!!! We decide that this event is worth a long detour. Yes, we will go that way tomorrow but we want to retrieve that wallet NOW! We ended up covering a lot of miles that day… But on the way from the park to the hotel I was driving again. On the plus side, we are driving back from the park at the time of sunset and have an opportunity to stop at several outlooks along the road in

La Baie

Saguenay
Saguenay
Saguenay

We fill the time on this drive discussing relative merits of Saguenay residents and visitors versus other areas, like metropolitan New York, and what would happen to my wallet if I lost it there 😂. We have found a lot to say about it! By the way, in case you’re curious, nothing was missing from the wallet.

Needless to say, we are looking ahead at our trip in a brighter mood now.

Day 4

Parc national du Fjord-du-Saguenay

Today we are visiting L’Anse-Saint-Jean sector of the park. A stop along the way in La Baie to look at the hazy morning view of the river. 

Saguenay

I think this might be the same ship we saw yesterday…

Saguenay

Passing another beautiful lake on the way, I decide to stop.

Saguenay

I didn’t see any signs for the park, and missed the turn. We navigate via google maps and reach the park entrance. Today we start from the easiest and shortest hike in the park, Anse-de-Tabatière. This is an absolute must visit if you are in the area as it provides simply the best outlook of the fjords. At least out of the places we’ve been…

Saguenay
Saguenay
Saguenay
Saguenay

Today is even hotter than the last two days and we are keeping our options completely open. Most of the hikes in Saguenay Fjord National Park are rather long so I planned one of the shorter one, a couple of miles to a waterfall and back, but neither Toma nor Anne are expressing any excitement about hiking today, and this waterfall (which doesn’t promise to be anything grand) does seem a bit extraneous after the falls we saw in New Hampshire and Quebec, so we decide to stick to the short trails and leave the park. 

There is a charming meadow on the way, filled with buttercups, chamomiles and some purple flowers. It looks like it is not a part of the park and has a wire fence around it… and an opening in this fence… and a little area off the road that we can use to put the car to… This time I’m taking pictures!

Saguenay
Saguenay
Saguenay

After driving out of the park we go to a place I found on google maps called “$1000 bill vantage point“. This is a view of the river and the town with a covered bridge that was on the back of 1954 Canadian 1000 dollar bill. Anne is trying to be difficult, but we insist on taking this short uphill hike and arrive to the view, and a plaque (in French only 😀).

Saguenay

Since we skipped a hike today we have ample time to drive to Saint-Siméon for the ferry, with some stops along the way. One of them,

Anse du Petit Saguenay

is a place where Petit Saguenay River flows into Saguenay. “Anse”, by the way, is French for “cove”. There is a small picnic place there, and a beach. The water in Saguenay in early July is quite pleasant (no, we did not swim).

Saguenay
Saguenay
Saguenay
Saguenay

All-in-all this is a pleasant drive, most of it by small highways past the forests, hills, meadows and lakes of Saguenay region.

Did you know that about 60% of the world lakes are located in Canada, at least according to worldatlas.com? After visiting Saguenay I am not surprised at all. There seems to be a beautiful lake every half a mile. We are passing one of them when it happens…

There is a moose! What? Where? “It was standing in the lake,” – Toma and Anne say – “It was a beautiful sight”. I chose not to stop and make u-turns on a narrow highway with 100km/h speed limit. Not everything about photography, as weird as it sounds coming from me…

Our next stop is very far away, so far in fact that there is no way to reach it today. We are driving to Saint-Lawrence River, will cross it on a ferry (the river is, basically, a bay around here, to cross it takes more than an hour), and then cross almost all of the province of New Brunswick from north-west to south-east to get to the Bay of Fundy. The ferry website recommends arriving an hour before the departure time, and that’s about when we get there, with some time to spare walking around Saint-Siméon beach and getting some ice-cream.

Saint-Simeon, Canada

The cars are packed rather tightly on the ship and we are up where the air is fresh. Anne, on the other hand is having a bout of idontwantis and confines herself in the indoor area reading a book. Me and Toma are enjoying the ride, watching the birds… a seal swims right near the ship (I was too slow getting the camera out).

Saint Lawrence River

Before arriving to Rivière-du-Loup I managed to get Anne out to the open air and right after we got out three Beluga Whales appeared like they’ve been waiting for Anne.

Saint Lawrence River
Saint Lawrence River

The way to the highway lies through the town, Rivière-du-Loup, which seems to be an attractive place in its own right, but we have a long drive ahead of us and don’t stop.

Going south we pass this town, whose residents must be emphatically humorous, judging by its name.

2019-07 Canada - New England

Looking up the origins of the name after the trip I found (unsurprisingly) that it is not necessarily related to laughing, at least not directly, but to a French term “ha ha“. There is also Ha! Ha! River connecting Lake Ha! Ha! to Saguenay River at La Baie. We crossed it 4 times on our drives from Saguenay Fjords National Park to Chicoutimi and back and didn’t even notice! There were no signs… Well, all I can say is “ha!ha!”

We stop for a dinner in Edmundston, a city in New Brunswick not far from the border with Quebec province. To our delight, the signs (and the menu) are in both English and French, and our waitress speaks fluent English. “After several days in Quebec we are glad to be on English speaking territory” – we tell her. “Oh, we speak French here” – she says. “Yes, but what is your first language?” – “French”. Toma makes it more specific, “When you study in school, in what language is it?” – “We study in French. Well, actually our French is pretty bad, it’s a dialect, it’s called Brayon“. Wow, so French is the first language in at least the northern parts of New Brunswick. She was however speaking English considerably better than almost all people we’ve encountered in Quebec province.

The Quebecois should really take notice of the way The NewBrunswickians (may not be a real word) handle the languages. In fact, I think New Brunswick is the best place for an English speaking person to start learning French because literally every sign is in both languages. Even street signs has both designations together with the street name, so by now we know that “street” is “rue” and “road” is “chemin”. The sign on the nearby KFC, however, is the franconized PFK, which entertains Anne quite a bit. PFK, of course, stands for “Poulet Frit Kentucky”. By the way, KFC in France is called “KFC”. New Brunswick, as we later found out, is an officially bilingual province.

Driving down Route 2 we see fireworks somewhere to the right. Ah, this is the 4th of July, we almost forgot! We are passing so close to the border we see fireworks from somewhere in Maine!

We get a hotel in Fredericton, about 2 hour away from our next destination, late at night. Only in the morning we see the confirmation that New Brunswick’s fauna may just be as rich as Sagenay’s, at least by the number of insects 😀. We gathered all that in just over 2 hours of drive between Edmundston and Fredericton (I washed the car in Edmundston), though I grant that at night they were probably drawn to the car headlights.

Day 5

Fundy National Park

Today we have a dilemma, and it’s caused by the weather forecast. Frankly, it seems unavoidable on summer vacation trips. Wherever we have gone in July or August, at some point the weather gets disgustingly hot. This time, New Brunswick is having a real heatwave, with highs today 91-92F. There is an option to drive farther, to Prince Edward Island, and return here tomorrow, but the drive would be considerably longer. Also, looks like the day after tomorrow is going to be rainy, not something we want in the park. Also, the forecasts for Fundy National Park are all over the place depending on the website we look at, ranging from 91F to 75F, which seems a complete misinformation. But, taking a chance that maybe at least some of them are right, and maybe it’s 85F and not 91, we decide to go according to the plan. 

Entering the park from the north, we stop first at Caribou Plain, a short hike around a swamp in a forest. The path is under construction and we turn back. It’s still morning but the temperature outside is 88F 😒.

Fundy National Park
Fundy National Park
Fundy National Park

  The construction cuts our stop here short and we are back in the car going south through the park towards the shore when I notice the temperature reader on the the dashboard changing to 86F… then 83F… 81F… 77F… It goes down and down! When we get to the shore the temperature shows 66F and getting out of the car we are welcomed by sunshine and an extremely pleasant cool breeze 😲!!! I’m telling you, the place to be on a hot summer day is the shore of Bay of Fundy! Go figure, all those forecasts were correct. And useless…

Bay of Fundy is famous for its high tides. The water level difference between a high and a low tide on the same day can be as high as 16 meters around here. We want to visit Alma Beach both at high and low tide and currently the level is pretty high, I think we are about 1-1.5 hour away from the high tide time.

Toma and Anne are walking along the pebble beach looking for pretty stones. I call for patience, as I suspect there will be more choices of pebbles once the tide subsides.

Fundy National Park

We walk Matthew Head Trail, a nice walk in the forest. The lady in the visitor center mentioned to Toma, somewhat cryptically, that this trail should be nice to go on after a dry weather, and now we know why – the trail crosses many brooks and in a couple of places it actually goes on the brook, that is on the stones sticking out of the water, lengthwise… So it’s nice that they are not overflowing, as our footwear was not chosen with water in mind. Anne still complains somewhat that the trail is long but it is just so pleasant, with a refreshing breeze, shade, birds singing, the smells of flowers and pine cones, that her complains really lack the juice.

Fundy National Park
Fundy National Park
Fundy National Park

The trail approaches the shore in several places, exposing the grand view of the dark red sandstone cliffs. They are going sharply to the water. The tide is still high…

Fundy National Park

Fundy National Park
Fundy National Park

A short trail leads to Herring Cove, another beach.

Fundy National Park

Our plan for the park includes driving to Point Wolfe Bridge, a covered bridge in the park, and going on Shiphaven Trail, a very short walk to the Point Wolfe River estuary.

Fundy National Park

The tide is low now and the the whole estuary is essentially devoid of water, instead covered with multitude of polished pebbles, to the excitement of the girls.

Fundy National Park

The time starts heading towards the evening and the weather actually turns chilly with a strong cold wind. We return to the car and put on our windbreakers.

Fundy National Park
Fundy National Park

Time to get some linner (lunch+dinner). Stopped on the way near a small pond close to Alma, Toma is delighted to find wild irises growing here in numbers. This is one of her favorite flowers, and apparently it favors wet and swampy environment. The tiny lake tuned out to be of glacier origin, it is in fact very deep.

Fundy National Park
Fundy National Park

A relaxed linner in a local inn in Alma where I have an opportunity to disassemble a lobster (I think this was the first time for me). By the time we finish the tide is pretty low. It’s still a good 2-3 hours away from the lowest point, in fact the lowest point will be around 10PM, in the dark, but the effect of it is clearly visible already. The same beach is almost unrecognizable, with seabed exposed for hundreds of yards.

Fundy National Park
Fundy National Park

We spend some time walking along the beach, or along the sea, depending on the shoreline position you prefer (I guess the technically correct way would be “along the foreshore“). My pebble prediction turned out to be incorrect – although there are plenty of pebbles, many are muddy and a lot of them are rather boulders than pebbles. Many serve as a residence for rows of Barnacles.

Fundy National Park

This one looks like a balding hairdo died green. Don’t worry, it is not, this is just a boulder with seaweed 😀

Fundy National Park

The marina looks ridiculous as the boats have no water to stand on, so to speak…

Our plan was to spend the night somewhere reasonably close and go to Hopewell Rocks tomorrow morning, the idea being that we want to see both Alma Beach and Hopewell Rocks at the low tide and, since these two places are about 40 minutes drive apart, we cannot do it at the same time. The lowest tide times are about 10AM and 10PM. Now, however, that we did spend some time on Alma Beach and the tide is low enough, maybe we can see them both tonight. It is 8PM and google maps says that Hopewell Rocks are closing now, but it’s been wrong before…

We take a “scenic” route, i.e. a small road detour. Turns out it that although it passes close to the shore it doesn’t really offer any views of the sea. It does offer some nice views of the countryside, including… That’s a polder! – Toma exclaims, there must be dikes here somewhere. It sure looks like the polders we’ve seen in The Netherlands, and turns out she is correct. There is some land here that was indeed created by dikes. One field is filled with a great number of cows. Just like in The Netherlands…

Bay of Fundy

Hopewell Rocks

Hopewell Rocks are large – maybe 40-50 meters – dark red rock formations at the Bay of Fundy shore. During low tide the bases of the rocks are exposed, the Bay of Fundy tides cover them by about half twice a day. 

What I expected is a parking near the shore, which might be closed because of the late hours, and the rocks. Nope! I underestimated the business acumen of NewBrunswickians (I think it only compares to Belgians from what I see). We encounter closed gates to what seems to be a huge parking lot. The good thing is, we are not alone, there is about a dozen cars just parked near the gates. The bad thing is, the shore is not anywhere in sight. The gates only lock out cars, so we walk in, but instead of the shore and the rocks we are met with a big parking lot followed by a modern visitor center (closed of course) with large advertisements, a gazebo, a children playground. I bet there is a movie theater here somewhere 😆. Where the heck are the rocks? Instead of the rocks there is a trail map that offered us 2 trails in the opposite directions. It says we need to hike about a kilometer to get to Flower Pot Rocks 😒. That wasn’t in the plans. It is what it is though, we should still have about 30 minutes of visibility left. The hike is, basically, a slow decline towards the sea that ends with stairs leading to the bottom.

The sun is set and it’s getting dark. The rocks are enormous and we can walk among them, treading carefully as the sea floor is very muddy… and seaweedy… 

Hopewell Rocks
Hopewell Rocks

These are called “Flower Pot Rocks”, for an obvious reason…

Hopewell Rocks

Remember what I said about rushed hikes? Well, this one certainly turned out to be rushed. I also wanted to see the other outlook and darkness is settling in. I did succeed to do that but did not enjoy the rushed walk.

Hopewell Rocks

By the time we get back to the car it is totally dark, but we can start tomorrow’s drive without spending time here, and can also cover some distance tonight. This should give us some additional time in case rain tomorrow spoils our plans.

Day 6

Prince Edward Island

Toma has been wishing to visit Prince Edward Island for awhile, impressed by L.M. Montgomery books, but it is just so far away from anywhere one usually visits from New York, she has never been there. Anne is a big fan of “Anne of Green Gables” as well, so on this trip Prince Edward Island overcame the competition from Nova Scotia and some places in Maine as one of our destinations. 

The road to Prince Edward Island goes over Confederation Bridge, an impressive 8 miles long bridge that also features tolls that I haven’t thought about ahead. We do not have any Canadian cash with us, but the toll is only due from Prince Edward Island to the main land, so we’ll figure it out.

The roads on PEI are a network of small roads, so it takes some time to get from the bridge to Cavendish, where Green Gables Heritage Place is located. This is basically The Green Gables, the place where the book is taking place. The farm was owned by relatives of L.M. Montgomery when she was young, and, apparently, quite favored and frequented by her (she also lived nearby). There is a brand new museum and a house, the same house that stood here in the 19th Century, with its gables still green.

Prince Edward Island

The house is original, but it’s furnished with a different interior that was there back, although the current interior is also appropriate for the age described in the book. The furniture and wallpapers are designed to be typical to a more affluent household than that of Anne’s. 

Prince Edward Island

A photo session with characters

Prince Edward Island

There are also walking trails among little forests full of birch trees, trails that are mentioned in “Anne of Green Gables” that inspired the author and her character.

Prince Edward Island

This is our main attraction on PEI, but not the only one. Price Edward Island seems to have some very picturesque beaches. One of them, Cavendish Beach, is nearby but there seems to be an event, a concert or something (today is Saturday after all), and there is an unexpectedly large amount of cars around. A more interesting place should be

Thunder Cove Beach

but it is not that easy to find. Prince Edward Island is not an especially tourist friendly place, there isn’t many signs around at all, which is fine. We finally find the unpaved Thunder Cove Road that leads to a bunch of cars parked at the sides, and finally a path down to the shore. Lupins, abundant along many roads in Canada, seem to flourish here. Toma loves them…

Prince Edward Island

The beach is covered in beautiful and very fine red sand that is a pleasure to walk on. The water is not that cold, though we are not equipped to swim here anyway. 

Prince Edward Island

We don’t have a chance to walk much either because we feel drops of water. Remember the rainy forecast? A storm is not far away so we will need to cut our beach visit short. There should be, however, a formation called Tea Cup nearby and I really want to see it. Of course there are no signs at all about it. There is a path on the top that we take in a direction that I think it is likely to be, but the beach cliffs are shaped sort of like “barriers” going to the water so you can’t see the beach far ahead, only to the next barrier, usually 50-100 meters away. Maybe it’s beyond the next one… or maybe the one after that… or the other… The shore certainly looks beautiful as it is, but I’m persistent. Finally, here is the Tea Cup.

Prince Edward Island

While the Tea Cup is beautiful, it seems there are beautiful views at every curve of the red sandstone. I decide not to check this hypothesis too much, however, as the rain is near and I need to walk back.

Prince Edward Island
Prince Edward Island

We are back in the car and start driving when it really starts drizzling. We find a place to eat called simply “Family And Friends Restaurant” (a very nice place indeed) where we tried our first ever lobster rolls (that is, Toma and I did). They made lobster rolls with celery and onions which, as we will find out in the future, is not really done in the US. We like the PEI lobster rolls better…

We did not stop to photograph Confederation Bridge on the way here because I didn’t want to waste precious time (who knew what time the rain would start, and we were right in our decision as it turned out), and it is certainly not a good idea to do it now as the rain is now pouring and visibility is very poor. We can pay toll with a credit card, which is good. The toll by the way, is 47.75 Canadian dollars, so one should really want to visit Prince Edward Island to actually do so. I told you they don’t want those annoying tourists 😄.

The only thing left is to drive to our next stop through the rain. In all that we totally forgot about visiting Magnetic Hilla place where cars seemingly roll upwards (not really of course). I’m not very sorry, it seems to me it is likely to be a tourist trap by the tricky NewBrunswickians.

Our next destination is in Saint Martins, NB, but the nice hotels there seem to be booked so we decide to stay about an hour an a half before it, in Sussex, NB. It’s not on the shore, so it should be away from the tourists, just seems to be a small town between Saint-John and Moncton. We stayed at Amsterdam Inn and it was I think the most enjoyable of all the hotels on this trip. Those in-between stops often feature good hotels for a decent price, something we’ve found on our other road trips too…

Here is part II of our trip

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