Dr. Doom and a fond farewell

Future Inn

Clean sheets, water pressure and Movies on Demand, am I in heaven?

You don’t realize how much you miss having space until you haven’t had it for five months. Even the Dog is impressed as he saunters through the lobby of the Future Hotel in Halifax to our first floor room.

Leaving the Grey Ghost in Phil’s hands involved stuffing various clothes and sundries into cloth shopping bags. Suitcases are a moot point when your house travels with you. We bring to mind the Beverly Hillbillies on vacation, dog bed draped over shopping bags with clothes spilling out, as we wheel the luggage rack through the lobby.

Halifax harbour

Back to Halifax, as least the weather is good

We rationalize the Grey Ghost’s troubles as a mini-vacation from our vacation, a few days in a nice hotel room, sight-seeing around the area and back on the road.
The Dog and I renew our love affair with Point Pleasant Park and The Dude renews his love affair with the poker game at the Halifax casino.

And then Phil called.

Phil is what we’ve come to view as a typical Nova Scotian, friendly, plain-spoken with a gift for the gab, in this case a point by point breakdown on the abysmal state of the underside of our fifth wheel and a less than heartening overview of the state of repair. He’s like a cheerful Dr. Doom, happy to find his opinion of the motorhome industry has been verified. The three days has suddenly turned into a week and even that is tentative.

Stanfield factory

When in Truro be sure to stock up on underwear, lots of underwear, just ask the Dude

We head for Truro to further explore the Bay of Fundy. The motel is a step down from Halifax, but we invested in a twenty dollar rolling tote bag from Canadian Tire so we can look fancy rolling up to the our room, which is sparkling clean with a typical motel configuration and a door that opens out into a parking lot.

Truro is in mourning for a female police officer recently murdered in Halifax. A memorial in front of the police office affords family members, other officers and members of the public a place to pay their respects. It puts our recent inconvenience in perspective.

The Fundy Tides are the draw in Truro. Tourists are directed to the Salmon River at the edge of town to view the tidal bore that occurs twice a day. It’s like watching a tide come in on a river that has been drained of water. Unfortunately we have come at a time when the tides are at their lowest level. Curses batman!

A hidden gem is Victoria Park. The Dude will confirm the grass in the park is perfect for napping and the other two members of the Meanderers that the park has great trails, two waterfalls and a plethora of butt-busting stairs.

Victoria park Truro

Truro’s Victoria part, this is the flat part before the stairs from hell

Though we don’t know it, our visit to the Minas Basin and the Five Islands area will be historic. A quaint lighthouse sits near the cliff on the basin’s edge, surrounded by fields of wildflowers. The tide is out when we arrive and we spot tiny bumps in the distance on the panorama of red sand. Binoculars reveal the bumps to be ATVs, parked while the drivers/oyster men dig in the sand. The sea arch, a large hole through one of the rock faces that comprise the Five Islands, is a famous area landmark. Er, let me re-frame that, the sea arch was a key landmark. Last week the arch collapsed. Not to worry, I’ve got some of the last pictures of it.

Minas basin

See that hole in the rock, it’s now just a pile of rubble.

Another call from Phil and more bad news, the axles need replacing. After sourcing every parts outlet in his 30-year repertoire, he locates them in Quebec but it will take time to have them shipped.

We’ve worn out our welcome in Truro and decide to head back to Halifax where we book at the Chebucto Inn. The reviews are mostly positive, though the surrounding area is given a less than glowing review. It could be charitably called industrial chic. The rooms are clean, food in the restaurant is good, and the surrounding area is a blend of condos, industry and Tim Horton’s. Have I mentioned that Tim Horton’s is a plague on the restaurant business? They are everywhere, like a donut and coffee-selling version of Walmart.

New and old Halifax

Halifax downtown, history meets condo hell

The days are spent walking the streets and along the city’s waterfront. I take the opportunity to visit a salon and shop at the Halifax mall as we wait for Phil to call.
When he does call it’s to inform us that despite his explicit instructions and measurements to suppliers, they managed to screw things up. He has to turn down other business while the Grey Ghost takes up his shop space. He’s makes a reference to the Grey Ghost as the trailer from hell.

The Dog at Pleasant park

The Dog is a poser at Pleasant Park

Finally the wait is over and we pick up the Ghost with its new shiny axles, brakes, bearings and assorted paraphernalia, which Phil feels the need to explain in detail. Coffers somewhat depleted, we head for Fundy’s western shoreline, the money shot featured in brochures – New Brunswick’s Hopewell Rocks.

Grey Ghost’s tribulations are forgotten as we watch billions of gallons of seawater cover the sand in a ritual that is as old as the earth, rising 48 feet up the rock faces in the space of a few hours. Back at the almost empty campground, where we are parked on the ocean’s edge, we view a blood red full moon eclipse while sipping Bailey’s and hot chocolate.

Moon

Moon gazing on the Bay of Fundy

The lovely languid days of Fall have begun and as promised the east coast is a landscape of burnished red, orange and gold trees. The scenic Okanagan landscape has nothing on this area when it comes to Autumn colours. We spend a couple of days in St. John before finishing up the Canadian portion of our trip in the resort town of St. Andrews. Famous resort area is code for “seriously rich folks summered here”.

One of them was Sir William Van Horne, who oversaw the construction of Canada’s railroad way back when and is among the bearded men in waistcoats in the iconic famous Last Spike picture. Not content with building a railroad from coast to coast he turned his attention to his country estate on Minister’s Island, which is only accessible by road when the tide is out. To get to it we must drive “across the ocean floor.”

Cape Ediate stairs to Fundy

The high and low tide warning signs at Cape Enrage between Moncton & St. John

His family summered on the island, travelling from their Montreal home to the island mansion, where they entertained the era’s swells with sumptuous dinners followed by brandy and billiards. A Renaissance man whose landscape paintings decorate the mansion, Van Horne was a successful farmer, growing crops and raising prize-winning livestock on the self-sustaining estate. Or rather, overseeing the people who did the actual work. And he did it all without putting his head to the pillow for more than four hours a night. An antithesis to the Dude, he viewed sleep as a time-wasting bad habit.

Buffalo head Ministers Island

What is it with rich guys like Van Horne and their need to mount animals on their mantles, compensating much?

Thanksgiving at the Algonquin hotel was a trip back in time — elaborate table settings, beautifully embossed china, discreet décor, attentive waiters. I have decided yet again that I am meant to be rich. Make it so, Jeeves.

St. John Trinity

St. John NB great site for Halloween shenanigans

We are eager to begin the U.S. portion of our trip before the weather changes and the exchange rate gets any worse. For a political junkie like me, with our Canadian election season ending and the American one rolling into high gear, this is going to be fun!

Maybe we’ll see Trump or Hillary somewhere during our travels.

Hopewell Before

Hopewell Rocks, what we call the “real” Bay of Fundy. In a before shot

Hopewell after

Hopewell Rocks, an hour later, the tourists who made it up the stairs have quite the tale to tell

Next…Paging Stephen King

What’s with the Wonderbread?

Marois island

New Brunswick has some pretty spectacular parks to Meander through

First of all, bless their little hearts, everyone is bilingual here. New Brunswick advertises itself as the only officially bilingual province. I sense a little self-promotion, but so far so good in our dealings with the Acadians.

Base of operations is Camping Colibri. Fronted by an enormous waterslide, it’s an enormously popular stay-all-summer spot for Acadians. Campgrounds, by and large, are divided into two sections: those who view them as places to stay for a few days and those who park their units, build decks and populate garden areas with gnomes who live amongst an assortment of shiny, fluttery ornaments in a ten-square-foot yard for the entire summer. I imagine their home bases as permanent garage sales, which is unkind because, as previously noted, Acadian homes are meticulously maintained and warmly evocative of pride and culture. But the proximity to next door means you better love thy neighbour.

Acadians are easily spotted, their campsites are festooned with red, white and blue lights, ribbons and other paraphernalia. They are loud and enthusiastic. To my ears the rapid-fire French leaves absolutely no opportunity to eavesdrop by pick out a few words to interpret the conversation. I simply nod and throw out a couple bonjours and bon nuits to fit in. I am tempted to buy a jaunty Acadian baseball cap to solidify my street cred.

Acadian signage

The ‘Ole Red White and Blue, Acadian-style

We’ve all been to them. Those historical villages with staff dressed in period-appropriate garb, with the fake gunfights or spontaneous dance-offs with the town-folks. Invariably there will be opportunities to feed your face with ice cream or buy a t-shirt logo’d with a snappy slogan related to the venue.

Horse & buggy

It looks like the transmission has seized up

We’ve settled for a week at Bertrand a tiny village outside of Caraquet, the heart of Acadian country. One of the main attractions is the Acadian Historic Village which is like experiencing a master’s class in how to showcase historical content in an entertaining way.

Lady on the loom

Martha whips up another blanket for the church bingo

The site is enormous, surrounded by old growth oaks and pines, the pathways are dirt roads in keeping with the authenticity of the place. No made-in-China costumes and fake old school furniture here. Employees who work here toil for their wages churning butter, baking bread, making shoes, forging horseshoes, tending crops and farm animals, even milling their own wood, all while providing little anecdotes about the history of the Acadians who settled here beginning in 1770.

A shoemaker explains that each pair of the leather moccasins he makes by hand take about eight hours to complete. The price of $35 seems a bargain in relation to the work involved.

Miss Bessy

Maloney, get the hell out of my face!

Our inner child comes out as we moo at cows, make faces at sheep grazing near the fences and throw out a few cock-a-doodle-doos at the Roosters strutting through the hen house. The animals, used to the asinine antics of humans, largely ignore us.
Even the restaurant remains true to the time period. It serves only food that would have been consumed in the 19th century with ingredients on hand at that time. I am picturing whole pigs roasted on an open fire with a side helping of ‘head cheese.’ (Truly the most disgusting food on earth and a horrific childhood memory, but I digress.)

Sepia scene

Finally, I get to use my “Old Western Town” camera option

The menu turns out to be much simpler: beef stew or vegetable soup with freshly baked bread served by a waitress in traditional dress on the wooden deck surrounding the building. We have a clear view of the community church where a group of men in period costume appear to be hosting a town hall debate. We hurry past the crowd gathered around the men as I fear The Dude will jump into the discussion with a few Rene Levecques to stir up the crowd.

Old gas station

Ahh, the good old days when buying gas didn’t empty your bank account

Day-tripping around Caraquet and surrounding area we search for an authentic seafood restaurant without cutesy lobster bibs or names like Lobster Mania or The Crab Crawl. You know the type, tourist traps with a McDonalds line-up of tried and true food that non-locals think are authentic East Coast dishes.

Donkey by fence

Eeyore retires to New Brunswick, Pooh and Tigger, lacking Canadian passports reside in the Florida Keys

We head towards Miscou Island, a lobster and fishing mecca and the historic Miscou lighthouse built in 1856, one of the oldest in the region. The island is home to around 650 residents and we counted four churches during the drive. The Island, once a hotbed of hallelujahs, is now strangely mute about organized religion. Despite their pristine appearance, many churches appear barely used, their congregations dwindling and with them the ability to maintain them. We suspect many of them function mainly as tourist stops. Some may be turned into condos as we’ve seen in other towns.

Marois church pic

One of four churches on Miscou Island

As we drive back, we spot it, perched on the bay, surrounded by working boats, decks piled with lobster traps and fish nets. Terrasse a’ Steve, a veritable shack, surrounded by aged lobster traps, the terrace essentially a sand pile with picnic tables under a thatched roof. It looks so authentic we expect a peg-legged pirate to emerge from the kitchen.

Steve's place

Lobster traps surround Steve’s, a good sign we hope

The Dude is excited, the Dame cautiously optimistic about fish and chips or a non-shelled food item. A childhood where fish dinners were pre-packaged stick-like items has not prepared her for actual seafood. It starts well, a big platter of steamed mussels that The Dude slurps down with enjoyment. With trepidation the Dame opts for mackerel, served with potatoes, reasoning that anything that comes with potatoes can’t be bad. A lobster roll for The Dude, which in these parts is the New Brunswick equivalent of a P&J sandwich.

Steve's terrace

Funky outdoor eating area, sand floor, weathered beams, what could possibly go wrong!

Steve, you of the cool terrace and funky lobster cage décor, maybe your reviews have gone to your head, maybe undercooked microwaved potatoes, dry fishy tasting mackerel and, horror of horrors, a lobster roll served on what appears to be Wonderbread folded around a mound of mayonnaise and lobster, are what passes for authentic seafood. I gotta hope it gets better than this. Really enjoyed the view though.

coloured ships

Crayon coloured ships near Miscou Island

Next..the land of the Spud

Love Acadian Style

Gaspe to Beresford New Brunswick 010

Umm, how do we get to New Brunswick….anybody?

I gotta confess, I’m glad to leave Quebec and head into New Brunswick. Don’t get me wrong, Quebec is a beautiful, culturally rich province with great historical significance. Okay, that’s the good stuff; the bad stuff is that it’s also in many cases really, really ethnocentric.

Gaspe to Beresford New Brunswick 078

New Brunswick, making it easy to buy booze in either of the official languages

Trois Rivieres, is a prime example. All historical sites, of which there are many, have lengthy placards with descriptions of the historical significance. We would have loved to know what the significance was, but there was none of that namby-pamby French/English translation stuff.

It feels like a big middle finger to any non-francophones who might visit. Where’s the love Quebec?

Gaspe to Beresford New Brunswick 065

One bridge, two solitudes

Even our exit from Quebec over the bridge to Campbellton N.B. feels like we’re leaving another country. The Quebec side, Pointe-à-la-Croix, has duty free stores selling 60 packs of beer for a relatively cheap price and a “cheap smokes” hut fronts the entrance to the bridge.

Gaspe to Beresford New Brunswick 063

Wysote where the saying is who needs a six-pack when you can have a 60 pack

Okay, on to New Brunswick. Truth be told, I know little about the province, other than it is in the east, New Brunswickers I’ve met are lovely folks, and its coastline encompasses one side of the world famous Bay of Fundy, which operates like the ocean’s washing machine, twice a day.

Mick and Acadian bldg

Wow somebody likes primary colours

Northeast New Brunswick, is Acadian country. A soccer team you say? Perhaps a secret society devoted to the preservation of wooden accordions?

No, they are in fact French speakers descended from the original French settlers in Canada, many of whom have French and Metis blood. If you go down to Louisiana you will find more Acadians, called Cajuns, with their strange mix of pigeon French.
Acadians aren’t like Quebecers in that they have their own flag, culture and a much better sense of humour. They are fiercely patriotic to their Acadian heritage. As we head down the Atlantic coastline we notice the flags, blue and white with a yellow and red star in the top left corner. The image abounds. The flags are often complemented by red, white and blue coloured barrels, garden planters, chairs. The Americans flag-fliers have nothing on these guys.

flag house

Pierre hung his Acadian bath sheets on the deck in anticipation of the festivities

We are aiming for Bathurst for no reason other than we’ve heard the name before and believe it will have a movie theatre. We’ve got a hankering for a night in a darkened room with sticky floors and a tub of over-priced greasy popcorn. It gives The Dude an opportunity to vent about the lack of quality films, price of said popcorn and the virtues of Robert DeNiro, an acting god in The Dudes’ opinion. Given her opening, the Dame explains the concept of escapism, profit margins and why DeNiro hasn’t done anything worthwhile in years. All-in-all, an exhilarating and air-clearing night out.

Sometimes your intended destination doesn’t cut it, sometimes the open road feels more appealing than the stop. We move on past Bathhurst, heading south and end up in Beresford, N.B., a one-stop fantasy fun-land RV Park with a massive waterslide and a kabillion munchkins running amuck. In other words hell on earth.

The dog on the pier

You know a nice walk on a wooden pier is just what The Dog needed after a long day in the truck

But, hey, it’s a happening place. The bingo game is in full swing when we arrive. We resist the temptation to grab a dauber and dive in and instead settle for a plate of Poutine pour moi (Oh, yah baby!) and the traditional hamburger/French fry combo for The Dude. These last-minute, one-night stops play havoc with the good intentions of eating right. Damn you, plate of deep fried potato, gravy and cheese goodness.

With the bingo and fried food stop over, the road takes us down the Acadian trail, and winds along the Atlantic coastline past clapboard houses with multiple additions tacked on to the original two-story structure. They’re like Lego houses, here’s an empty wall, let’s add a room for Grandma.

White acadian home

A standard home in this part of New Brunswick, car lot flags optional of course

Some are so adorable with their tidy gardens, yard adornments and well-kept lawns it makes the viewer yearn for simpler times. A brisk business in miniature windmills, lighthouses and wagon wheels is being done in New Brunswick, I sense a franchise opportunity.

Next…wonder bread and the Full Acadian

Dude’s addendum

What’s the difference between a tree house and a twee house?

Answer: Elmer Fudd.

twee house

Okay, wishing well, check. Sailboat, check. Miniature lighthouse, check. Acadian flags, check.

But seriously folks, a tree house is made of wood and built for children to have fun in. A twee house is made of wood and built for adult viewing pleasure

A tree house is most often basic, little more than a rectangle in a tree. A twee house is never basic. It has gingerbread and curlicue trim below the eaves, colourful shutters and window treatments, bright paint in primary colours with a contrasting roof and door and immaculate front verandas with chairs places just so.

A tree house is in the backyard. A twee house may have a treehouse in the backyard, along with the aforementioned miniature windmills, lighthouses and wishing wells.

Twee house

Meet the winner of the life-size gingerbread house, East Coast edition

A treehouse relies on natural leaves and branches for its charm while a twee house is dependent on its riding lawn mower to keep the grass clipped to the standard of a Home and Garden cover.

Let’s hear it for the Acadians, Canada’s original twee huggers.

signs

A twee sign made out of twees