Len & Jo's Northeastern Canada tripby Len & Jo Sackett
Our trip plan was to drive from Michigan across the 401 to Ottawa, Quebec City, around Prince Edward Island (Anne of Green Gables country), around the coast of Nova Scotia and back to Michigan via Maine, Vermont, etc. for a good chance to see fall colors. We planned on taking 30 days and covering about 4000 miles.
Our trip began on September 15 with a one-night stop in the Port Perry, Ontario area to visit the local historical museum and do some family genealogy work. We stayed at Lakeside Recreation Marina and Campground (yuck – but it served our purpose) for the night. We spent several hours at the very nice Scugog Island County Museum. It has several excellent historical buildings and the staff was extremely friendly and helpful. Most local town museums are small with only one building.
We drove to Ottawa and stayed two nights at a campground right on the edge of the city. We spent a full day seeing the government buildings and going to the Museum of Natural History. The free tour of the Parliament Building was well worth our time. It is funny how little I knew about our southern neighbors (south from Detroit that is) in Canada even though I live only 15 miles from the border and frequently listen to the CBC-2 radio station (good classical music and objective, in depth news).
Quebec City, Oh! We have to go back again! We stayed at the Quebec City KOA for three nights. Wish all KOA’s were as good as this one. Our first full day, we got picked up at the campground for a full day of touring (two tours): the old city tour and the countryside tour. They really helped us understand the layout of the town. The second day, because we took both tours the first day, we got a free round trip shuttle ride from the campground to the city. We really enjoyed all the shops, sights and things to do. Each day we had delicious, reasonably priced meals in the old walled city (Portolino’s the first day while on the tour and La Cavior the second while on our own). Construction is everywhere though, as Quebec City prepares for its 400th anniversary in 2005 (or is it 6?).
The drive from there to PEI was over very good roads through scenic countryside. Part of our route followed the St. Lawrence River, then we turned south through the beautiful hilly farmlands of New Brunswick. Traveling at this time of year we really missed the “crowds.” Even ho-hum campgrounds were O.K. because they were only 10% full and we were free to pick any spot that was to our liking. We camped partway across New Brunswick for one night.
PEI was very nice and very flat. Jo really wanted to see all of the “Anne Country” and her creator L. M. Mountgomery. Almost everything was still open. We also enjoyed camping and walking along the seacoast. So many lobster traps were washed up on the beaches! We had lobster dinners twice during our six days there and they were excellent. In the summer local churches put on lobster dinners as fundraisers, but we were too late for that.
Our last day there we took the car ferry from Wood Islands, PEI to Caribou Island, NS. We drove to the ferry dock early to see about the ferry schedule and luckily, they were just loading the 9 a.m. boat so we drove right on. The ferry was about 1/3 full. In the summer you REALLY do need to plan 1-2 days ahead.
Ah! Nova Scotia! Our initial pre-trip focus was PEI, but as we read more and when we actually got there…Ah! Nova Scotia, what a place! We were planning on spending about 7 days in Nova Scotia but we ending up staying for 11 nights. We stretched it as long as we could with our 30-day constraint. Took two days to drive the shoreline of Cape Breton along the Cabot Trail. This is really class-B and small class-C country. Lots of winding (8% + grades) ups and downs kept us awake and alert. Oh, but the scenery! The changing leaves, rugged shoreline and mountain roads made for a fantastic drive.
We really fell into a string of good luck. We stayed at Louisbourg, NS so we could visit the recreated fort/city (the last French stronghold to fall to the English in North America). There were several good places to camp in town (all less then 10% full … no rush, pick your spot, etc.). Based on looks we decided to stay at the municipal campground because it was in the center of town, right at the docks and we could watch the fishing boats come and go. Didn’t know it at first, but it was also 50 yards away from the Louisbourg Play House! We ended up staying two nights instead of the one we planned so we could take in two different evening performances of Acadian music. Met a couple, Neil and Margaret, from the Vancouver, BC area who were also traveling in a ‘B’ and went to our second night performance with them. They also stayed longer than planned and took in two performances. One person we met stays at campground for a week each year so she can sample seven playhouse programs! The playhouse is modeled after the Globe in England and there isn’t a bad seat in the house. The performers were great too!
Drove on to Sherbrook Village and spent a day touring it. We met an Acadian couple, Ken and Bonnie, at our campground and spent the evening talking with them and eating snacks in their 5th wheel. Being Acadian’s they are of course of French ancestry, but they do not speak French at all. They have a small cattle farm in Nova Scotia and were just getting away from it for a day or two. We spent some time talking about a pair of cyclists touring from Chicago that they invited to stay at their farm for a night. The cyclists were about OUR AGE. Now, two wheeled bikes are REALLY SMALL RV’s!!
Our next stop was Peggy’s Cove where we stayed at the King Neptune Campground right on the ocean. The scenery was to die for. Think we drained the batteries on our digital camera two or three times. Peggy’s Cove was just as picturesque as the campground was. After leaving Peggy’s Cove we spent some time camping on the shore of the Bay of Fundy. We spent a day at Annapolis Royal where we toured Fort Ann and the town’s very beautiful Historic Gardens. While eating lunch in a Café built in 1763, we saw and talked to the two cyclists our Acadian friends had told us about several days earlier at Sherbrook Village! What a small world! The following morning we went to Port Royal Historical Site, a truly fascinating restored early French fur-trading outpost. It was settled 2 years before the Pilgrims arrived in Massachusetts. The reconstruction was done in1935 by retired shipbuilders and it was beautiful! Such craftsmanship!
Then it was on to Digby, NS to spend the evening and arrange to take the ferry over to New Brunswick the next day. Digby is another picturesque town with docks, repair yards and fishing boats. The next morning while eating breakfast at a restaurant overlooking the harbor we ran into the cyclists again! They were debating about taking the ferry or not. The roads were starting to get to narrow and the motor vehicles too aggressive for them. They were beginning to feel unsafe.
The ferry, Acadian Princess, from Digby to Saint John, New Brunswick left about mid-day. While waiting in line at the ferry dock loading area we struck up a conversation with another Acadian. He and his wife take the ferry on a regular bases because of family. We sat with them (Pierre and Lisette) during the three-hour crossing. Had a great time. They are very proud of their French heritage and speak only French in their home. Their English is also excellent. Quebec Province’s official language is French; New Brunswick Province’s official language is French AND English. Public servants are required to be bilingual. Lisette got stopped for speeding once and the officer had to ask her if she wanted the ticket written in English or French. She was upset by the way he spoke to her and could tell his French was weak so she said “French.” A big mistake, it took the officer a half hour to write the ticket in French with many calls into headquarters for help. While docking at Saint John’s, Lisette invited us to spend the night at their home. It was great!! They live in New Maryland about 10 minutes from the provincial capital, Fredericton. They are very proud of it and we got personalized tour of the city. We spent a very enjoyable evening talking provincial and American politics and about our families.
Gas instantly dropped from $3 a gallon to $2 as we crossed into Maine. We made up for it by stopping at the L.L. Bean store in Freeport for a couple hours. The roads through the New England countryside were a kaleidoscope of color. Entire mountainsides were ablaze in oranges, reds, and yellows with greens still hanging on in small areas. One night we got into camp at Fairview, Pa. well after dark. We were very lucky because the campground was closing for the winter the next day. I noticed the class ‘B’ next to use when we got up in the morning. We were about the only rigs in the campground and I thought I had seen that rig before. Well, I had! Jo ran into the couple as she came out of the shower and they were our Vancouver, BC friends, Neil and Margaret, from Louisbourg, Nova Scotia! We spent 1-2 hours talking to them about all the great music we all had heard in Louisbourg. We promised to visit them next year when we take our U.S.-2 trip from Michigan to the Seattle area (the route is known as “The Great Northern”). So may nice people in Canada and so little time.
Our last stop on the way home was Sackets Harbor, New York to pick-up some sweatshirts and beer with our family name on them. They just forgot to add the final “t.”
The trip was 30 days, 4200 miles, $800 of gas and immeasurable amount of good times and great people. The cities and towns were all beautiful, the scenery was fantastic, but most of all the people were awesome. The friendliness and generosity of everyone we met truly made this trip one to remember.