Tuesday, 16 June 2015

Oh Canada! How Great You Are!

In celebration of Canada's birthday, I thought it might be nice to take you along on a trip down memory lane.  Over the years, I have driven across Canada on three different occasions.  The first time, a girlfriend and I took three glorious weeks to go from Alberta to Nova Scotia.  The second time was a few years later but it was much less leisurely.  We drove from Nova Scotia to Alberta in 6 days, stopped for a couple of weeks in Alberta and then ventured on to Vancouver.  The last time it was a little like reliving the original trip in reverse.  That same original girlfriend and I hopped a plane to Nova Scotia, picked up an SUV and then ambled on back toward Alberta.

On all three occasions, we saw some spectacular country but I think what I found the most interesting is, even though we stopped in many of the same places and even visited the same tourist areas, it was like seeing it all over again with fresh eyes.  There is little more that I can say except that we have one huge, glorious country that I can't imagine ever getting tired of.  Here are some of the highlights.

International Buskers Festival, Halifax, Nova Scotia
Tall Ships Saling Festival, Halifax, Nova Scotia
Halifax  is an awesome City; anyone visiting needs to spend some time here, if only to stroll along the waterfront. In the mid 1970's, the waterfront wasn't very pretty.  A mix of parking lots and derelict homes and warehouses, these were slowly purchased, rehabilitated or removed and the downtown seawall is now a a beautiful historic tourist area.  Let me tell you, it's nothing short of spectacular.    The area bustles with the activity of a vibrant shopping area, artesans markets, restaurants and historic sites year round but it really comes alive during the summer months with its myriad festivals and, if you're really lucky, tall ships.  Halifax and surrounding area can easily provide you with several days of site seeing and entertainment.  Accommodation is as varied as your budget, with everything from the YMCA for the budget minded, to B & Bs and 5-star hotels.  You will also find the cusine as varied as your appetite. Of course, you won't be able to beat the seafood, but you will also find Old English fare, along with some of the best donairs you will find anywhere.  And now on to the 'real' South Shore. 

Peggy's Cove, Nova Scotia
Most Canadians are well aware of the world-famous lighthouse at Peggy's Cove.  Fishing and shipbuilding were the backbone of many of the scenic communities along the South Shore.  Mahone Bay is simply one of the most picturesque communities I know.  Lunenburg is not only a UNESCO World Heritage Site but also home to the Bluenose II, the ship found on Canada's dime.  Many communities along the South Shore, including Lunenburg and Shelburne continue the tradition of boat building just as they have since the early 1800s.  
Mahone Bay, Nova Scotia
Lunenburg's famous red waterfront buildings, Nova Scotia
As you make your way north, you will find yourself travelling through New Brunswick.  With the slogan, 'East of Ordinary', New Brunswick is what I would consider a truly bilingual Province, where French and English live together in harmony and nobody dies. . .at least not anymore. 

Though it was a different story about 400 years ago, Acadians not only proudly display their heritage but gladly share it with the rest of the world. Sharing the Bay of Fundy, highest tides in the world, with Nova Scotia, there are opportunities galore to bury your feet in the red clay just to see how long it takes to come off, dig clams or fish for flounder. 

Kings Landing, New Brunswick
Just outside of Fredricton (fondly referred to as Freddy Town) is Kings Landing Historical Settlement.  Created in the 1960s, the buildings were relocated to the current site to make way for a hydro electric dam.  King's Landing is virtually an outdoor living history museum, recreating what life was like in New Brunswick in the 1800s.  Each home is recreated to a specific time period with authentic clothing, tools, and utensils. It's also part of a back breeding program for livestock, vegetables, and fruits for  varieties once common in the 19th century.

Hartland Bridge, New Brunswick
While you on the road, you may as well cross the St. John River by way of the Hartland Bridge. Spanning just less than 400m and joining the communities of Harland and Somerville, the framework is seven small truss bridges joint together along size piers.  And did I mention, it happens to be the longest covered bridge in the entire world?

Old Quebec City, Quebec

I can't imagine why anyone would travel across this great country without stopping to spend a little time in Quebec.  While Montreal is still on the bucket list,  it's easy to spend a day or two wondering around Quebec City.  The history of the old Fort, along the St. Lawrence Seaway, is time well spent and it doesn't take one long before you realize what a cultural mosaic this area is.

As you make your way westward, you may enjoy the outdoor opportunities of County of Renfrew.  A scenic community in the Ottawa Valley, which includes the Towns of Arnprior, Deep River and Brudenell River, the area is permeated with what one might consider the best of both worlds; not far from a major urban centre, but far enough to have maintained it's rural roots and close community feel.

Ottawa River, Arnprior, Ontario
Bruce Mines, Ontario
There is nothing to bring your senses to an awareness of the size of Ontario as driving across it. Whereas most provinces can be crossed in a day or less, not Ontario.  We truly marvelled at the distance between communities, particularly when coming around the east and northern edges of the Great Lakes.  And trust me, they are great!  In one of our travels across the country we had to let one of our passengers out of the car so he could taste the waters of Lake Superior.  By the wave action, he was convinced it was salt water, even though logic told him otherwise (logic was right).  The Tran sCanada Highway hugs the eastern edge of the Great Lakes where you will come through towns such as Bruce Mines and Batchawa.  While these areas struggle economically, they are not only scenic but filled with an entrepreneurial spirit.  

Katherine Cove, Ontario

Thunder Bay, a city of about 110,000 and the most populous region of northwestern Ontario, has been an important transportation hub since the late 17th century.  From fur trading, it is now an important link for shipping grain and other products from western Canada, through the Great Lakes and St. Lawrence Seaway.  Kenora, Ontario has never failed to impress us.  A small city on the Lake of the Woods, close tothe Manitoba border, and with its own colorful history, it's the only city I know where the local grocery store has its own boat dock.  
Thunder Bay, Ontario
Marathon, Ontario
There are a few things one might want to be aware of when travelling in Northern Ontario. First, the wildlife is abundant. The local people constantly warned us about the dangers of driving at night on the narrow, winding roads.  Moose, in particular, are plentiful and large; there has been many an accident.  Second, the wildlife is abundant.  Did I just repeat myself?  It's worth mentioning, t's not just driving that can be hazardous but walking around anywhere after nightfall.  We found this sign on the door existing our motel.

Though not on the Trans Canada Highway, we have an inquisitive nature.  Having only recently discovered there were sacred salt water lakes in the province of Saskatchewan, we decided to check it out.  Sure enough, Little Manitou Lake holds a magic all its own.  Formed by receding glaciers, and fed by underground mineral springs, the salt content of Little Manitou Lake is about half that of the Dead Sea.  Since the 19th century, the local Assiniboine people believed diseases such as smallpox could be cured by drinking and swimming in the water.  Manitou became a tourist destination throughout the Depression and interest was resurrected in the 1980's when a resort spa was constructed, using the mineral waters of the lake.    While the resort has seen better days, the rooms are adequate and clean, the food is good and the pool is quite special.  constructed to provide access for all types of disabilities, there are those that regularly frequent the community in order to take advantage of the healing waters.  

The salt water isn't all the area is famous for, it's also the home of Danceland and its Wold Famous Dance Floor Built on Horsehair.   This unique structure makes one wish they lived in the era that made Danceland famous.

As we slowly wound our way back to Alberta, we paid tribute to the few Prairie Sentinels that continue to disappear from the landscape. 

Stalward Saskatchewan

If you haven't explored this great country, perhaps you should add it to your bucket list of things to do.  You won't regret it.