Wednesday, 24 July 2019

Summer 2019 Part 2: Cruising on Pelagia

(Photo: Looking down at Pender Harbour from top of Mt. Daniel) 

After 2 weeks of relaxing (and hiking) and enjoying home in Whistler, we are off again.... 

Heading North/West on Pelagia, briefly to Desolation Sound, then likely up to the Broughtons. 

Cruising on Pelagia is so much nicer than driving across the continent! 

Monday, 8 July 2019

Across Canada and back: Trip completed (home in Whistler)

Blackcomb Mtn, after hiking up "Heartburn" ascent trail

After 17,916 km of driving, we are finally home in Whistler.

Got to get hiking to work off the extra weight after over 7 weeks of driving!

Sunday, 7 July 2019

Driving across the prairies...

Saskatchewan is flat (but driving is easy)
Drove to Regina from the Ontario border. Next day, made it to Edmonton. 

Originally, we had considered spending some time in the National Parks in the Rockies, but finding everything booked out (campsites and most hotels) or overpriced ($300-400 for a lousy motel in Banff or Jasper?!) deterred us. No point visiting these National Parks in July/August.

Rainy weather in Jasper (still, it was packed with tourists) sealed the deal: we continued driving. 

Made it to Kamloops last night. Should be home in Whistler today. (Yay! NO more motels/hotels!) 

Thursday, 4 July 2019

What are the chances?

Well, we almost made it out of Ontario yesterday. Got to within 15 km of the Ontario-Manitoba border.

After driving past Kenora ON, we decided we needed to stop for lunch. About 20 km west of Kenora, we pulled in to a lone cafe. As we walked in and admired the sandwiches, we noticed a woman pointing at us. Coming closer, we were dumbfounded to realize she was longtime Vancouver (and Whistler) friend and colleague Cindy. We hadn't seen her for a few years. Excited shouts of "What are you doing here?" and other exclamations of surprise followed, Then Jamie, Cindy's partner, showed up. More exclamations.

Turns out Cindy and Jamie have a cottage on Lake-of-the-Woods, perhaps 20 km away from this cafe, and they were stopping in for ice cream on their way back from their weekly grocery shopping trip in Kenora.

They invited us to stay with them at their cottage. So we "detoured" for the day and night. We had a great time with them, catching up, swimming in the lake in (first swim on this trip), good drinks and meals. Thanks Cindy and Jamie. We'll likely see them next in Whistler this coming Winter.

What are the chances of such an unexpected, surprise meeting? 

We left the next morning, finally driving out of Ontario into Manitoba and the Prairies.

Wednesday, 3 July 2019

Last morning in Ontario

Michelle at Niagara Falls... finally

We decided last minute to detour so that Michelle could see Niagara Falls. This also allowed us to visit friends in Toronto (and a brief visit to Toronto).

Kingston was a quick 1-night stop. We drove around and in the evening, walked around and went out for dinner. Home of the Tragically Hip, Michelle seemed most interested in the many (!) prisons in the region with "Kingston Penitentiary"... the Pen being of most interest (where a tour works out to over $40/person... crazy).

Kingston renamed a street after their beloved 'Hip

At the suggestion of friends T&N, after leaving Kingston we headed to Prince Edward County (via the Glenora Ferry) and visited a couple wineries. Then it was on to the madness of the 401 (highway) in rush hour. People who think traffic in Vancouver is bad have no idea! 16 lanes, with our side bumper-to-bumper at a crawl speed. Can't see how (or why) someone could/would put up with this on a regular basis. Not us, that's for sure.

We stayed with friends (and mentors and colleagues) T & N in their North York (now amalgamated into Greater Toronto) house... a 2-day stay that was like an oasis in the middle of our hotels, motels, eating out and driving (Thank you N & T... you were too good to us!).

We had a bit of adventure (with Toronto's TTC... their transit system) and a good day in downtown Toronto. Surprisingly, our visit to Ripley's Aquarium was the highlight. Quite the amazing experience (though one wonders if they cram too many fish into small spaces). The many types of rays were impressive (and interesting to touch).

Next, we headed early morning to get to Niagara Falls before the crowds (it was Canada Day weekend). Busy traffic (to us) but flowing fast. Arriving Niagara, we scored a free parking spot 10 minutes walk from the falls (most visitors who drive there pay $20 or $25 to park closer). The Falls are indeed spectacular: 1/5th of the world's fresh water pours over these falls.

Niagara Falls

More Niagara, as the crowds begin to grow

Too bad the Falls area has been turned into a Disneyland-like theme park (however, unvisted by most, are many kilometres of trails in parks). The crowds started really filling in, so we made our exit.

However, we had to make a stop to see Brock's monument at the site of the Battle of Queenston Heights. Sir Isaac Brock was Commander of British (and allied) troops in Lower Canada (now Québec) then Upper Canada (now Ontario) before and at the start of the War of 1812 with the USA.  He is known for his cunning in capturing Detroit. Brock was killed while leading his troops trying to retake Queenston Heights, a battle that ended with the Americans suffering a severe defeat. Brock, the "Hero of Upper Canada" was originally buried in nearby Fort George (with funeral attended by more than 500 persons!). A monument was built in his honour at Queebston Heights, and his remains buried there. The original monument was damaged by a bomb. A new monument, tge current one, was built and, in 1853, Brock was reinterred.

Brock's Monument, Queenston Heights

We were taken aback at the height of Brock's Monunent. A sign of Brock 's importance, this monument, at 56 m (185 ft) , is even taller than Nelson's column at Trafalgar Square. We climbed the narrow claustrophobic stairway to the top, to be disappointed by the restricted views. Nevertheless, we were very impressed.

Not much a view from the top.
Also at Queenston Heights was a monument to Laura Secord, whose house was nearby. Sadly, neither of these sites were busy (which was good for us); Canadian history seems little match for the nearby "attractions" of Niagara Falls.

We left Niagara Falls to stay a night in Kitchener. Next day we headed north, but with a stop in Kleinburg at the McMichael Gallery. Canada's Group of Seven are normally well represented here. However, there were several special exhibitions so fewer were on display. The exhibits of Maud Lewis paintings and Inuit artist Itee Pootoogook were excellent, as were Louie Palu's sometimes disturbing, sometimes curious photographs of the military in the arctic.

After Kleinburg, we hit the road north. But we were slowed by bumper-to-bumper traffic all the way until Barrie (really? on a Sunday?!). We made it to Sudbury for the night.

Next night, Canada Day, was spent in a cabin on Catfish Lake, just north of Wawa. Too bad there were so many biting flies.

This morning finds us at a lovely motel on the shores of a lake in Ignace, Ontario. Lots of wind last night -- take that, flies! -- so we were able to barbecue and eat outside by the lake.

Today we drive into Manitoba.

Monday, 1 July 2019

Happy Canada Day!

Canada Day finds us driving from Sudbury to Catfish Lake (just north of Wawa), after our "detour" to Kingston, Toronto, and Niagara Falls. (More on these in a following post....)

Very Canadian scene for us, sitting in chairs outside a cabin overlooking a northern Ontario lake (and surrounded by biting flies!).

Happy 152nd birthday Canada! This cross-country trip is our celebration of Canada.

Tuesday, 25 June 2019

New Brunswick's Acadian Coast and Québec's Gaspésie

Percé Rock, Gaspé
After Charlottetown, we decided to drive up New Brunswick's Acadian coast. Both Nova Scotia and PEI  (and, indeed, Québec) have historical and current connections to L'Acadie, but nowhere as strong as in New Brunswick. New Brunswick is the only officially bilingual province in Canada.

French language (specifically, the Acadian dialect, and sometimes the hybrid chiac) and the Acadian Flag (often flown together with the Canadian flag) were predominant along the Acadian coast. Views on the drive were lovely, towns/villages very tidy. (We found it interesting that we never saw fences between houses in Acadia.) Lobster seemed king along this coast (Shediac calls itself the lobster capital of the world). We're glad to finally visit this vibrant community.

Flag of Acadia (adopted in 1884)

Shediac's "Largest lobster in the world" Left to right: Flags of Canada, New Brunswick, L'Acadie, and Shediac.

After Acadia, we decided to continue around Québec's Gaspé peninsula. It was Québec's "Fête National" (or St. Jean Baptiste day) and Québec's blue and white fleur-de-lis provincial flag was everywhere (usually without a nearby Canadian flag). Gaspé's most famous site is the Rocher Percé (Percé Rock), out near the end of the peninsula. The rock is indeed beautiful, though the village, while quaint, was rather overtouristed. For us, the whole Gaspé coastline, south and north, was stunning. Beautiful villages, tiny harbours, dramatic vistas, this 800+ km "detour" was worth it!

South coast of Gaspé

Percé Rock, from a different angle

Village on Gaspé north coast

After Gaspé, we headed West, stopping again in Québec city for one night, then off to Ontario (Kingston).