Category Archives: Cross-Countries

September 2-3: Lots of falling water and color and history

September 2nd was a more or less catching up with life day, thank you so much, Christine and family. In the morning we went to one of the best needlework stores I’ve been in for a very long time, and I bought more patterns than I probably should have. I would give my eyeteeth to have a needlework store like that near me. In the afternoon I went and got my hair cut (third time on the trip, and the lady who cut it, bless her heart, fixed the disaster the lady in Quakertown, Pennsylvania created a month ago), and went to a quilt shop Christine had told me about, where I bought some completely unnecessary but adorable quintessentially Canadian fabric. And then they took me out to dinner at a very tasty Italian restaurant (well, the food was delicious, and the service was good – I didn’t try to eat the restaurant [g]).

Yesterday we got up at the crack of dawn to deliver Christine’s oldest son, Colin, to a boathouse down near Niagara for a regatta, then she and I went down to Niagara Falls. One wonderful side effect is that we arrived at the falls at about eight in the morning, before all of the crowds arrived. The first thing we did was do a tour called Journey Behind the Falls, which was exactly what’s on the label. We donned those funky plastic raincoaty/poncho things that keep everything dry except your head (yes, there’s a hood, no, it doesn’t stay up), your arms, and below your knees, and took an elevator down to tunnels that lead to the underside of the Horseshoe (Canadian side) of the falls. Thunderous is the word I’m looking for, I think. A solid wall of water pounding down just feet in front of your face, vibrating up through your feet and in through your skin and everywhere else. I had done the Hurricane Deck on the American side on my last Long Trip 17 years ago, but this was something else entirely.

A view from the balcony at the Journey Behind the Falls. A continual roar.
A view from the balcony at the Journey Behind the Falls. A continual roar.  And trying my best to keep my camera dry.
Looking across the farthest point of the Horseshoe Falls, which looks like the water is falling into a hole to the center of the earth.
Looking across the farthest point of the Horseshoe Falls, which looks like the water is falling into a hole to the center of the earth.
Another view from the rim of the falls.
Another view from the rim of the falls looking upstream.
See the people walking around at the bottom?  That's the Hurricane Deck I walked on 17 years ago.
See the people walking around at the bottom? That’s the Hurricane Deck I walked on 17 years ago.

The Maid of the Mist (American) or the Hornblower Adventure (Canadian) looking as if it's about to commit suicide [g].
The Maid of the Mist (American) or the Hornblower Adventure (Canadian) looking as if it’s about to commit suicide [g].
After that we walked along the promenade (I think it’s got another name, but anyway) for a ways up above the falls to the rapids, and down below the falls to where we could see the American Falls, which apparently only account for 10% of the water (according to at least two sources). The rest of it goes over the Canadian Falls, which explains why the view is so much more impressive on the Canadian side!

By the time we finished at the falls, the crowds were getting thick, and we had other places we wanted to go. We drove downstream towards Lake Ontario (the Niagara River flows north, which confused me no end), and stopped at the southern terminus of the Bruce Trail, which runs along the entire length of the Niagara escarpment (I’ll be passing by the northern terminus in a couple of days). Then we went to the Printery, which is all about the history of newspapers in Canada, among other things, and I got to operate a printing press, which was fun.

Further down the gorge, there's this bend in the river that causes a big whirlpool.  I want (close your eyes, Loralee) some quilt fabric that looks like this.  Isn't the color gorgeous?
Further down the gorge, there’s this bend in the river that causes a big whirlpool. I want (close your eyes, Loralee) some quilt fabric that looks like this. Isn’t the color gorgeous?
This is what the river looks like after it's had a chance to calm down.
This is what the river looks like after it’s had a chance to calm down.
The cast iron printing press that I got to actually print something on.
The cast iron printing press that I got to actually print something on, and the young woman who told us all about it.

Then there was Fort George. Fort George was all about the War of 1812, and played havoc with my so-called knowledge of North American history again. Plus we got to talk with some fascinating docents, see a scene from a play associated with the fort, and learn about the lot of a British soldier’s wife. Only 6% of them were allowed to travel with their husbands (chosen by lottery), and since the soldiers were conscripted for either 7 or 21 years all over the world, with no contact during that time, the wives left behind were considered to be divorced once the men were gone. Legally, from what I gathered. Talk about a hard choice.

A prisoner being hauled back to jail at Fort George.
A prisoner being hauled back to jail at Fort George.
The young woman who discussed the lot of British soldiers' wives with us.
The young woman who discussed the lot of British soldiers’ wives with us.

We were about walked out at that point, and Christine’s parents live nearby, so she called and asked if we could come over for a cup of tea. That turned into a really pleasant couple of hours’ chat plus dinner [g].  Thank you so much, Christine’s parents!

And then we went back to the falls to see the lights. That’s a spectacle and a half. Crowded as all heck, but what they do, once it gets dark, is play spotlights all over the falls in rainbow (and patriotic) colors. Staying that late to see them is not something I’d have done on my own (I don’t like driving in strange places late at night, and we didn’t get back to the house until almost midnight), but I am so glad I got to see that. It was beautiful.

Red falls.
Red falls.
Blue falls.
Blue falls.
Yellow falls.
Yellow falls.
Canadian falls.
Canadian falls.

August 31-September 1: Leaving Ottawa earlier than expected, and across Ontario

Well, part of Ontario, anyway. Ontario is Huge.

So, Fannish Night was a great deal of fun. I met Marna, and Ian, and Lorayne, and Cat, and the six of us (including Elizabeth and me) ate chicken and veggies and fruit and dessert, and watched a really funny movie called Bon Cop, Bad Cop, which is a buddy cop movie with a very Canadian twist. Well, a couple of them. Let’s just say that after six days in Quebec, floundering with my non-existent French, the whole French vs. English thing in the movie made things make a whole lot more sense. And there was hockey, of course. And there was Rick Mercer doing his Don Cherry imitation. It was laugh out loud funny.

When Elizabeth and I went out to the car afterwards, however, it was to find a parking ticket under Merlin’s windshield wiper. Since I’d not seen any no parking signs anywhere, that was a bit disconcerting. Also, when I tried to go online to pay it the next morning, neither the website nor the automated phone thingy would recognize the ticket number, and there was no way to talk to a human that I could find. I suspect it just wasn’t in the system yet, and I will try to remember to check it again before I leave Toronto, if I don’t lose the darned thing in the meantime. Anyway, it was more than a bit frustrating.

Elizabeth had a genealogy project (that’s part of what she does for a living) due yesterday afternoon, so I went ahead and left Ottawa yesterday morning, after stopping at an optician’s office that my friend Christine looked up for me. That was the other thing that went wrong this week. Continuing our theme of being nibbled to death by ducks, I lost my sunglasses the other day. I’m 99% sure they’re still in the van somewhere, but I can’t find them for love or money. They’re magnetic, made to fit my prescription glasses, and my prescription glasses are very small (I wear the absolute smallest adult frame size), so I hadn’t been able to find a clip-on pair to fit them (I find Fitovers very uncomfortable). Well, the ones the optician sold me are just a bit too big, but they work, and now I won’t get a headache driving the 3000 miles (not counting dawdling around) I still have to go to get home. Speaking of which, Merlin turned over 13,000 miles today.

Somehow I ended up on the wrong freeway headed west out of Ottawa, which actually turned out to be a good thing, because the drive was scenic, and it was six of one, half a dozen of the other which way would be faster to go to the provincial park I was aiming for that night, anyway. I like Ontario. I particularly like the fact that I can read the road signs [wry g]. But the scenery is lovely. Lots of rockfaces and woods and rolling hills and lakes. The provincial park was pretty, too, and the campground was very nice.  Somehow, however, the only three photos I managed to take that day were of clouds, and none of them are post-worthy.

This morning, I drove down to the main highway across southern Ontario, and then promptly got off it again to take a drive down along the lakeshore, on an island or a peninsula, the map wasn’t all that clear. Whatever it was, it was called Prince Edward, and it was peaceful and bucolic and pretty, and it was nice to see Lake Ontario.

A pretty little lake on my way down to the main highway yesterday morning.
A pretty little lake on my way down to the main highway yesterday morning.
A view from the top of a very tall bridge going down to Prince Edward County.
A view from the top of a very tall bridge going down to Prince Edward County.
I saw several sets of these quilt blocks decorating various farm buildings in Prince Edward County, which I thought were really cool.
I saw several sets of these quilt blocks decorating various farm buildings in Prince Edward County, which I thought were really cool.
A peekaboo glimpse of Lake Ontario from Prince Edward County.
A peekaboo glimpse of Lake Ontario from Prince Edward County.

Then it was lunchtime, and time to get to and through Toronto before rush hour. I was headed for Bujold listee and needlework friend Christine’s house in Mississauga, a western suburb of Toronto, and, she tells me, the sixth largest city in Canada in its own right.

Toronto has freeways like Crocodile Dundee has a knife. The one I was on had two sets in each direction, each set about six lanes wide. One set is express lanes, and the other has the exits, and they intertwine back and forth every couple of kilometers so you can get to the exits from the express lanes and vice versa. It’s very impressive. And I’m saying that as someone who grew up in Southern California. The traffic could have been much worse than it was, too.

I found Christine’s house without any trouble, and I’ll be here for several nights before I head north, and then on west again. We’re going to go to Niagara Falls among other things while I’m here, and it ought to be interesting!

August 29-30: Bilingual road signs again! Yay! And yet another really cool museum.

So, yesterday I drove back down to the main highway, where I crossed it and went to the Manoir Papineau National Historic Site. My friend Christine had recommended that I go here. At least I think this is where she meant. There’s also a big fancy hotel nearby, but I’ve seen more than my share of big fancy hotels (not to stay in, mind, just to look at) for a while, and the historic site looked interesting, so I decided this was what she’d wanted me to see.

And I’m glad I stopped. Another bit of Canadian history wrapped nicely in an elegant 19th century house that reminded me a lot of Washington Irving’s Sunnyside – minus the vines, thank goodness. Mostly, I suspect, because of the riverside frontage, but still. Anyway. Louis-Joseph Papineau was a mover and shaker in 19th century Canadian politics, who got himself in trouble in the 1830s for helping to ringlead a group that wanted to break away from England. He ended up in exile for a number of years in the U.S. and France, and then got pardoned or something, came back, and built this pretty house on the Ottawa River. It was very elegant so that his visitors would be impressed, and the tour guide told stories about how they tried to keep it warm in Quebec winters, and how Papineau’s wife was not impressed with being so far away (two days of steamboat trip) from Montreal, and so forth and so on. Unfortunately they wouldn’t let me take photos inside, though.

A three-hundred-year-old oak tree in front of the Papineau house.  Apparently it was a favorite tree of M. Papineau.
A three-hundred-year-old oak tree in front of the Papineau house. Apparently it was a favorite tree of M. Papineau, which is why they’ve got it propped up, etc., to keep it from dying.
M. Papineau's pretty  house.
M. Papineau’s pretty house.

After that it was on to Ottawa, where I ended up having to call Elizabeth because the street I thought was the right one didn’t go through to where I needed it to. But eventually I got there, and we had a good conversation, then went out to go buy her a new rotary cutter (she’s a beginning quilter!) and out to dinner at a very nice café. Then we came back and watched the Branagh version of Much Ado About Nothing, which turns out to be a favorite film for both of us [g].

I’ll be here at her place until Thursday, when I head for Toronto.

This morning I went to the Canadian History Museum. And I found it without having to backtrack once! Unfortunately, their main exhibit is being redone and won’t be open again until next year, but the other exhibits really made up for it. They had a whole floor devoted to the First Nations of Canada, which was fascinating. It was odd to see west coast things like totem poles here [g], but the whole exhibit was enormous and well done.

An interesting piece of public art in downtown Ottawa.
An interesting piece of public art in downtown Ottawa.
The largest indoor collection of totem poles in North America.
The largest indoor collection of totem poles in North America.
An interesting piece of art in the totem pole room.
An interesting piece of art in the totem pole room.
Louis Riel's jacket.  I've known who he was for a long time, but not that much about him.  He's sort of the Canadian version of Chief Leschi at home in Puyallup, only on a much larger scale.
Louis Riel’s jacket. I’ve known who he was for a long time, but not that much about him. He’s sort of the Canadian version of Chief Leschi at home in Puyallup, only on a much larger scale.
Comparative drawings of prehistoric bison and modern ones.
Comparative drawings of prehistoric bison and modern ones.  Not to scale (the prehistoric one was much bigger than the modern one).
A glass replica of a Morning Star (aka Lone Star if you're from Texas) quilt, although the exhibit persisted in calling it a blanket [wry g].
A glass replica of a Morning Star (aka Lone Star if you’re from Texas) quilt, although the exhibit persisted in calling it a blanket [wry g].
A view of government buildings, including Parliament, from the terrace of the museum.
A view of government buildings, including Parliament, from the terrace of the museum.
Part of the First Nations exhibit.
Part of the First Nations exhibit.
A quilt!  A photo of this quilt was once on a Canadian postage stamp (the museum has a nifty stamp room that I enjoyed very much).
A quilt! A photo of this quilt was once on a Canadian postage stamp (the museum has a nifty stamp room that I enjoyed very much).

Then there were the three temporary exhibits. One of them was about Napoleon Bonaparte (of all people, my fingers keep typing), mostly relating to his time in Paris. The second one was about the gold rush in British Columbia in the early 1850s, right after the California gold rush. I’d known a little about it, having run across it in my Okanogan Country research for Sojourn and Reunion (one of the trails to the Cariboo, which is what the gold country in BC was called, went through the Okanogan), but not nearly as much as I do now. I want to go up there and explore it one of these days now [g]. The third temporary exhibit was called Horse Power. A man in Montreal collected carriages and sleighs most of his life, and donated them. It was a seriously impressive collection, and fun to stroll through.

Bust of a young Napoleon.
Bust of a young Napoleon.
Another familiar story.  This is the crest of the Beaver, the first Mosquito Fleet boat in the Puget Sound/Strait of Georgia waters, which I learned about while I was researching my upcoming third Tale of the Unearthly Northwest, Voyage.
Another familiar story. This is the crest of the Beaver, the first Mosquito Fleet boat in the Puget Sound/Strait of Georgia waters, which I learned about while I was researching my upcoming third Tale of the Unearthly Northwest, Voyage.
That second from the top rifle is a similar model to the one Charley carried in Repeating History.
That second from the top rifle is a similar model to the one Charley carried in Repeating History.
Charley would have been envious of this smart little Quebec-made cutter.
Charley would have been envious of this smart little Quebec-made cutter.
The Canadian History Museum building looks a *lot* like the Museum of the American Indian in DC, all curvy, fluid lines.  This is the entrance.
The Canadian History Museum building looks a *lot* like the Museum of the American Indian in DC, all curvy, fluid lines. This is the entrance.

By that point I was pretty much done for the day. Tonight Elizabeth and I are going over to the house of Marna and her family. Marna’s another listee, and I think a couple of her family members are, too. We’re having something called fannish night, which is apparently a regular occurrence here [g]. I’m looking forward to that very much.

Then tomorrow I’m going to run a couple of errands, and maybe hit another museum. I’ve heard wonderful things about the War Museum, even if the subject matter’s not exactly my cup of tea.

August 27 and 28: Leaving Quebec, with a stop in Montreal and a trip to the hills

This morning I got up and out and made it out of the parking garage and Quebec City without any mishaps. Of course, the day I decided to leave, the weather turned off nice and dry and sunny and cooler, but oh, well.

I didn’t take a lot of photos. Basically what I did was drive down to Montreal, although I did get off the freeway for a little bit just to explore on some backroads. This did not turn out to be the brightest move on my part. Getting out of the tourist areas in Quebec has been problematic for me at best, and it was a challenge to make my way back to the highway, especially after I apparently got in the way of a fellow who backs around that particular corner every day and why didn’t I know that? (at least that’s what I think he was conveying with his gestures when I beeped politely at him because I was afraid he was going to hit me)

I have *never* seen a road sign quite like this one.  I didn't know signs could have accidents.
I have *never* seen a road sign quite like this one. I didn’t know signs could have accidents.

 

A pretty church in the little town where the guy almost backed into me.
A pretty church in the little town where the guy almost backed into me.

I spent the night in Montreal, and if you read my FB account, you’ll know I was dithering about whether to spend the next day there or to go up to the Laurentian mountains. By the time I went to bed I’d about decided to go to the botanic gardens and a fur-trading historic site in Montreal, then head on to Ottawa, but when I woke up in the morning, I changed my mind and decided to go up to the Laurentians.

Which turned out to be a very good idea. The Laurentians aren’t really mountains – as I’ve said too many times, I’m a mountain snob – but what they really reminded me of, in a very pleasant way, were the Adirondacks in upstate New York, which makes sense, as I don’t think they’re more than 150 miles north of the Adirondacks. Montreal itself is a lot closer to the U.S. border than I’d realized, only about 60 miles. I sorta did a doubletake when I turned on the radio in Montreal and found a station that was not only in English, but was doing weather reports in Fahrenheit [g].

Anyway, the Laurentians were really lovely, even when I noticed some of the leaves just starting to turn. Already! And it’s not even September! Rolling hills just covered with heavy woodlands, and rivers and lakes and a ski area (at Mont Tremblant) that really reminded me of Sun Valley, Idaho, or Jackson, Wyoming.

I found a campground in the little town of Brebaux, just south of Mont Tremblant, and I’m camped on a pretty lakeshore. The town has one of those “no franchises here, sir!” fast food joints, and I ate a smoked meat sandwich there, which sort of reminded me of pastrami, with lots of mustard. It was good. The town also has a really pretty waterfall right under the main road.

One of several ski areas in the Laurentians.  Looks like the black diamond runs are *really* short.
One of several ski areas in the Laurentians. Looks like the black diamond runs are *really* short.
A lake with an odd-shaped hill in the Lauentians.
A lake with an odd-shaped hill in the Lauentians.
The waterfall in Brebaux.  It looks much flatter than it really is from that angle.
The waterfall in Brebaux. It looks much flatter than it really is from that angle.
The view from my campsite.
The view from my campsite.

Tomorrow I’m off to Ottawa, and Elizabeth, who is yet another listee friend.  I’m looking forward to meeting her in person.

August 26: The lower part of Old Town, and the Musee de Civilization is amazing

So. They call the stairs that run from the upper part of Old Town to the lower part the Breakneck Stairs, and when they’re wet, as they were this morning, yeah, the name fits. But I was careful, and I made it to the bottom just fine. All almost 300 steps of them, or so I’m told (and, no, I didn’t have to climb back to the top, thank goodness).

Anyway, I knew there was another whole part of Old Town, but I don’t think I’d realized just how much more was down there. I’d gone down there because of a history museum (which turned out to be much more), but there’s a whole other warren of streets and shops and stuff (and a cruise ship dock, of all things).

The weather was still awful, but I was headed for a – hopefully air conditioned – museum, so I grinned and bore it.

The Musee de Civilization is, at least in part, a museum about Quebec-the-province’s history, so the local equivalent to a state history museum like the ones I’d visited in Kansas, Kentucky, and Maine. It was extremely well done, and since before I arrived here I knew next to nothing about how Quebec came to be Quebec (including the name, which is from an Indian term meaning where the waters narrow – the waters in question being the St. Lawrence, which narrows appreciably at Quebec City), I found it enthralling.

But that wasn’t all they had to show at the Musee de Civilization. There was a temporary exhibit about Australian Aboriginal art, which was fascinating (and completely unexpected by me), and an another temporary exhibit about cats and dogs, including a virtual reality thingy where you could see what they think it’s like to be a cat or a dog. That was hysterical, actually, esp. the part where the mouse went into the garbage can, the cat went in after it, and the garbage can lid fell on the cat, completely freaking him out [g].  And yet another temporary exhibit about Nanotech, which, for some reason, had a lot of SF stuff in it [g].

But the best part of all was the huge exhibit on Quebec’s First Nations (the Canadian equvalent, so far as I can tell, for Indian tribe). Artifacts were just the beginning. It was the stories that were the best part (and the part that’s really impossible to photograph). And these wonderful enormous screens in the background running this incredible film of Quebec’s natural world and how its original inhabitants relate to it. I could have watched that film for hours, and I did sit and watch it for a long time. It was moving, the same way I found the Women’s Rights National Historical Park in upstate New York moving when I was there on my last Long Trip seventeen years ago. I wish they’d had DVDs of that film for sale in the gift shop, but they didn’t.

Anyway, that’s how I spent most of today, and after I left (I ate lunch in the museum’s café – you know you’re in a place that values food when even the museum café has great food), I wandered through the lower Old Town towards the funicular.

The funicular is why I didn’t have to climb all those stairs back up. I’m not normally big on that sort of manmade height, but even though the weather had dried out a bit (and warmed up, but drier was better) while I was in the museum, I put aside my nerves and rode it back up to Dufferin Terrace.

The last thing I did today was go inside Chateau Frontenac. It’s got quite the lobby, but my favorite thing was a sculpture that you can see below. And then I stopped at a little grocery store for supper fixings, and realized about three blocks after I left it that I’d left my camera there. So I ran back, got it (thank goodness), and came back to the hostel for one more night. And here I am.

I have a motel reservation for tomorrow night just outside of Montreal. I still haven’t decided if I’m going to spend much time there. I’m sort of leaning against it right now, because I still have Toronto and Ottawa to go before I head across western Ontario (more people have tried to warn me against western Ontario in the last couple of weeks, for some reason) to the prairies.

At the bottom of all those stairs.
At the bottom of all those stairs.
An art installation on the way to the Musee de Civilization.
An art installation on the way to the Musee de Civilization.
A fou -foot tall Australian Aboriginal mask.
A four -foot tall Australian Aboriginal mask.
When they dug the foundation for the museum, they found the remains of some boats from the 18th century.  This is part of one of them. And it's blue because I was messing with my whiteness thingy on the camera, and this is what happened [wry g].
When they dug the foundation for the museum, they found the remains of some boats from the 18th century. This is part of one of them. And it’s blue because I was messing with my whiteness thingy on the camera, and this is what happened [wry g].
A full-sized set of Iron Man armor was part of the Nanotech exhibit.
A full-sized set of Iron Man armor was part of the Nanotech exhibit.
Part of a row of models of Quebec First Nations housing.
Part of a row of models of Quebec First Nations housing.
Those are made of thousands of beads, and they're meant to represent differing amounts of blood, and different percentages of "Indian-ness."
Those are made of thousands of beads, and they’re meant to represent differing amounts of blood, and different percentages of “Indian-ness.”
This was a funny little fountain I saw in a little nook in Lower Old Town.  Still blue because I was still figuring out how to get my camera settings back where they should be.
This was a funny little fountain I saw in a little nook in Lower Old Town. Still blue because I was still figuring out how to get my camera settings back where they should be.
A huge mural in Lower Old Town.  There's a sign (that I also took a photo of) that points out all of the historical figures and buildings in it by name.
A huge mural in Lower Old Town. There’s a sign (that I also took a photo of) that points out all of the historical figures and buildings in it by name.
See the funicular in the background?
See the funicular in the background?
The view from about halfway up on the funicular.
The view from about halfway up on the funicular.
This lady was in the lobby of the Chateau Frontenac.  I love her.
This lady was in the lobby of the Chateau Frontenac. I love her.

August 25: Dear godlings, the humidity! And Abraham Martin’s son.

I woke up to more than 100% humidity this morning.  Not all that hot, maybe 80dF by afternoon, but that wasn’t the point. I know more than 100% isn’t physically possible, but trust me, I think it was more like 142%. It did rain a bit, but mostly it was just air so thick you had to drink it. I sweated far more than I did in DC, and that’s saying something, especially since sweating in weather that wet does nothing but soak your clothing and drip into your eyes, making them burn.

Dear godlings. Seriously.

I went to the parking garage to look for my umbrella (no way could I actually put my raincoat on in this – it would be like wrapping myself in saran wrap or something), but I couldn’t find it, so I put my camera in a plastic bag and resigned myself to getting soaked. But by the time I came back out of the parking garage, the rain had stopped.

I had decided that today was the day I’d go to the Citadel and the Plains of Abraham, where British General Wolfe and co. fought French General Montcalm and co. to decide the fate of North America. Well, sorta. Or part of it. Or something. Anyway, I wound up in the Battlefields Park Museum (the official name of the Plains of Abraham is Battlefields Park nowadays – back about 100 years ago they turned the whole thing into a big, gorgeous city park). The museum about the battle was very interesting, but the bus tour through the park (the rain had begun to come down again, so a dry, air-conditioned bus was just the ticket) was what was worth the price of admission.

It was driven (he called it the Devil’s Chariot) and conducted by a young man playing the part of one of Abraham Martin’s sons (Abraham Martin was a local landowner the field was named after back in the 18th century), in full costume, and, yes, he was informative and interesting to listen to, but he was also fall out of your chair hilarious. His tongue was so far over in his cheek I thought it was going to come out of his ear. I really do wish I’d asked if I could take his photo, but I didn’t. That bus tour was one of the top five best things I’ve done on this entire trip so far. Seriously. I haven’t laughed so hard and learned so much simultaneously in my life before, I don’t think. If you ever get to Quebec City, go to the Battlefields Park Museum and ride Abraham’s Bus. It was so worth it.

After I caught my breath from laughing, and the rain stopped again, I walked over to the Citadel. Apparently it’s in dire need of reconstruction work or something, though, because the labyrinth to actually get through the equipment and stuff was quite the to-do. I did finally make it to the gate, however, and took a photo of one of the guards, but then the skies opened up again, and I was already so sweaty that I looked like I’d just taken a shower fully dressed, that I decided, you know, I’d seen the one at Halifax and I needed to call it a day.

Maybe tomorrow. Or maybe not. I’ve got another museum I really want to see tomorrow.

Along the wall between the parking garage and the  Citadel.
Along the wall between the parking garage and the Citadel.
Another view of the wall.
Another view of the wall.
I'd never seen a NW Territories license plate before, or a license plate shaped like a bear, for that matter.  This Transit Connect was just down the row from Merlin the Transit Connect in the parking garage.
I’d never seen a NW Territories license plate before, or a license plate shaped like a bear, for that matter. This Transit Connect was just down the row from Merlin the Transit Connect in the parking garage.
One of the gates in the wall.  There's a city street going through there.
One of the gates in the wall. There’s a city street going through there.
Battlefields Park.  This is roughly where the battle took place.
Battlefields Park. This is roughly where the battle took place.
One of the Martello Towers at Battlefields Park.
One of the Martello Towers at Battlefields Park.
Standing guard at the Citadel.
Standing guard at the Citadel.
This carving looks like celery to me!
This carving looks like celery to me!  Even though I know it’s supposed to be acanthus or something.

August 24: Quebec City!

It was only a bit over two hours’ drive from my campsite to Quebec City this morning, mostly on the autoroute (what they call freeways here). I managed to navigate my way to the old town and to the hostel without too much trouble, and was exceedingly relieved to discover that the hostel has a deal with an underground parking garage only a couple of blocks away so that I had a place to stow Merlin for the duration (I had already decided that I wanted three nights here, because there’s so much to see and do). Driving in Quebec City is interesting, in the Chinese sense, and I wanted as little to do with it as possible.

Anyway, I parked Merlin, gathered up my camera, and went exploring.

I like Quebec City. I love the narrow, winding, hilly streets (once I was on foot, anyway), and I like the shops and the scenery and even the crowds of tourists aren’t that big a deal. I mostly explored the upper part of the old town (the walled part of Quebec is divided into two sections by a huge cliff) this afternoon, just prowling around and getting oriented. Oh, and having lunch in a café called L’Omelette (no, I didn’t have an omelette, not today, at least) next to a very pleasant couple from Saskatchewan who were gave me some advice about what I should see in their province (apparently there is more to see there than endless prairies [g], just like in Kansas).

It was a nice sunny day, but rather humid, and, like I said, the streets were hilly. I paced myself accordingly, and came back fairly early to rest up for tomorrow.

Anyway, here’s an assortment of what I saw today.

A quintessentially Quebec view, with the tall Catholic church steeple marking a small town.
A quintessentially Quebec view, with the tall Catholic church steeple marking a small town.
At a rest area along the way.  Canadians will plant flowers in anything, bless 'em.
At a rest area along the way. Canadians will plant flowers in anything, bless ’em.
The bridge over the St. Lawrence Seaway into Quebec City.
The bridge over the St. Lawrence Seaway into Quebec City.
Quebec is the only walled city north of Mexico City, and here's part of the wall, taken while I was walking back from Merlin's garage to the hostel.
Quebec is the only walled city north of Mexico City, and here’s part of the wall, taken while I was walking back from Merlin’s garage to the hostel.
The main drag in the upper part of Old Town Quebec.
The main drag in the upper part of Old Town Quebec.
The obligatory photo of the Chateau Frontenac, which I'm told is the most photographed hotel in Canada or North America or something.  It's perched up on the edge of the cliff above the lower Old Town and the river.
The obligatory photo of the Chateau Frontenac, which I’m told is the most photographed hotel in Canada or North America or something. It’s perched up on the edge of the cliff above the lower Old Town and the river.
Dufferin Terrace, outside of the Chateau Frontenac.  Lots of really talented buskers here.  I was surprised that the whole thing is wood-surfaced, though.  Terrace to me generally means stone.
Dufferin Terrace, outside of the Chateau Frontenac. Lots of really talented buskers here. I was surprised that the whole thing is wood-surfaced, though. Terrace to me generally means stone.
The view from Dufferin Terrace out to the river and beyond.
The view from Dufferin Terrace out to the river and beyond.
A statue on Dufferin Terrace, apparently there to advertise a Dali and Picasso exhibit elsewhere in town (I never did figure out where, but it wasn't all that high on my list of priorities, either).
A statue on Dufferin Terrace, apparently there to advertise a Dali and Picasso exhibit elsewhere in town (I never did figure out where, but it wasn’t all that high on my list of priorities, either).
Samuel de Champlain, and I'm not sure exactly what that's supposed to be below him (the text was in French), on Dufferin Terrace.
Samuel de Champlain, and I’m not sure exactly what that’s supposed to be below him (the text was in French), on Dufferin Terrace.
This statue was tucked away in an alley off of a side street.  I saw it while I was walking back up to the hostel.  He's a river driver.
This statue was tucked away in an alley off of a side street. I saw it while I was walking back up to the hostel. He’s a river driver.

August 23: Two bouts of serendipity, and wishing for more than a few words in French

I woke up to a world that didn’t look like it rained a single drop yesterday. Not a cloud in the sky (for the morning at least – it did cloud up and shower just a bit this afternoon and started coming down good again about bedtime) and Goldilocks temperatures (not too hot, not too chilly).

I drove north on Trans-Canada Hwy. 2 until I saw a sign that said Grand Falls. That sounded interesting, so I got off the freeway (basically Canada’s answer to the Interstate) and drove down into a cute little town with an enormous waterfall right in the middle of it. A sign nearby said that during the spring freshet, the waterfall has 9/10ths of the volume of Niagara. Of course it’s late August now, but it’s still pretty darned impressive.

Grand Falls, New Brunswick
Grand Falls, New Brunswick.

My next stop was for lunch in the town of Edmundston, then a few miles almost to the Quebec line, where I saw a sign that said Jardin Botanique. Well, even I can translate that! The New Brunswick Botanic Garden, complete with butterfly house, was charming. Absolutely charming. The late summer flowers were in full bloom, the grounds were beautiful, and it was just the right size to while away a couple of hours on a perfectly sunny afternoon.

The entrance to the New Brunswick Botanic Garden, just outside of Edmunston
The entrance to the New Brunswick Botanic Garden, just outside of Edmundston.
Inside the butterfly house at the New Brunswick Botanic Garden
Inside the butterfly house at the New Brunswick Botanic Garden.
What the butterflies in the previous photo look like when they're in flight
What the butterflies in the previous photo look like when they’re in flight.

I had an interesting conversation with a gardener in the potager (kitchen garden) section of the place, my first real attempt at a conversation with someone whose English wasn’t much better than my all but non-existent French (northern New Brunswick isn’t quite as Francophone as Quebec, but almost). Anyway, I asked her what those berries in the photo were, and she told me they were related to blueberries, but needed to be cooked with a lot of sugar so they wouldn’t be disgusting (her word) [g].

 The subject of my first discussion with someone whose English was only slightly better than my French.
The subject of my first discussion with someone whose English was only slightly better than my French.
 An artichoke, which is apparently hardier than I gave them credit for
An artichoke, which is apparently hardier than I gave them credit for.

There were some rather odd sculptures, apparently a temporary exhibit, and a stonehenge, my second one of the trip (the first one was back in Washington state at Maryhill). And just a lot of lovely scenery.

The rose garden was pretty much over for the season, but the fountain was still pretty
The rose garden was pretty much over for the season, but the fountain was still pretty.
A view of the aboretum
A view of the arboretum.
Flocks and flocks of phlox
Flocks and flocks of phlox.
A sedum I'm not familiar with
A sedum I’m not familiar with.
Monkshood, which is one of my favorite perennials because it's such a true blue
Monkshood, which is one of my favorite perennials because it’s such a true blue.
 A view of the garden pond and gazebo
A view of the garden pond and gazebo.
 Isn't that an amazing dragonfly It's about 3 inches long and you can just see its transparent wings.
Isn’t that an amazing dragonfly? It’s about 3 inches long and you can just barely see its transparent wings.
 Looks like something out of Dr. Seuss, doesn't it?
Looks like something out of Dr. Seuss, doesn’t it?
My second stonehenge of the trip
My second stonehenge of the trip.

I crossed over into Quebec right after I left the garden, and all of a sudden everything was monolingual – in a language I don’t speak! I’ve never been to a place where my native language isn’t the primary language before, let alone driven there. It’s a good thing I had a couple of weeks worth of bilingual road signs before I arrived here, because at least I recognize most of the common road words (sortie for exit, convergez for merge, directions, that sort of thing). Anyway, buying gas (about 10 cents more a liter in Quebec than in the Maritimes) and getting a campsite were interesting exercises, too. The campsite is right on the water, and very lovely.

Now they're taunting me with moose in French!
Now they’re taunting me with moose in French!
The view from my campsite tonight, over the St. Lawrence Seaway at low tide.
The view from my campsite tonight, over the St. Lawrence Seaway at low tide.

I decided planning was the better part of valor, so I have reservations in Quebec City’s hostel for three nights starting tomorrow. That has me leaving QC on Saturday, Christine, Elizabeth and Marna, so it looks like I actually won’t get to Ottawa until at least Monday, and Mississauga after that, depending on whether I actually spend time in Montreal or not. I hope that works out for everyone!

August 21-22: Goodbye, PEI, and hello, rain

I knew I wasn’t going to leave PEI until late yesterday afternoon, and I was lucky that my last day on the island was such beautiful weather – bright sunshine and low 70s, like a perfect summer day at home.

I spent my morning driving along the north coast through the rest of PEI National Park, admiring more rust-colored beaches.

I've seen a lot of hawkweed in my time, but never in this bright an orange.
I’ve seen a lot of hawkweed in my time, but never in this bright an orange.
Dunes covered in grass at PEI National Park.
Dunes covered in grass at PEI National Park.
People actually swim in the Gulf of St. Lawrence at these beaches.  The water, according to a signboard I saw, was supposed to be around 16-18C today (upper 60sF).  Brrr...
People actually swim in the Gulf of St. Lawrence at these beaches. The water, according to a signboard I saw, was supposed to be around 16-18C today (upper 60sF). Brrr…
I love PEI's sand. Just look at the colors!
I love PEI’s sand. Just look at the colors!

I gradually made my way to Charlottetown. I’d planned on going to Province House, where representatives from Upper Canada (Ontario), Lower Canada (Quebec), Nova Scotia, and New Brunswick (but ironically enough, not PEI) got together and decided to confederate themselves into Canada, back in the 1860s. Unfortunately, though, the building was closed for conservation work, so I basically walked around town for a bit, then drove out to Victoria Park, which is on a stubby peninsula sticking out into Charlottetown Harbor.

Charlottetown (which had the only stoplights I saw on the island) has some really odd-looking (to my eyes, anyway) traffic signals.  Yes, the red lights are square and the yellow lights are diamond-shaped.
Charlottetown (which had the only stoplights I saw on the island) has some really odd-looking (to my eyes, anyway) traffic signals. Yes, the red lights are square and the yellow lights are diamond-shaped.
Looking out across Charlottetown Harbor from Victoria Park.
Looking out across Charlottetown Harbor from Victoria Park.
The Charlottetown (pop. 35,000, and the biggest city on the island) skyline from Victoria Park.
The Charlottetown (pop. 35,000, and the biggest city on the island) skyline from Victoria Park.

Victoria Park sort of reminded me of a miniature Stanley Park, with a waterfront promenade and lots of flowers and trees. But considering that I haven’t seen Stanley Park since I was a kid (in spite of the fact that Vancouver is only about four hours north of Tacoma), I could be wrong [g]. Anyway, it was lovely.

And so I started wending my way back towards the Confederation Bridge, with a detour to Fort Amherst/Fort LaJoye National Historic Site, across the harbor from Charlottetown. The double name is because the French settled it first, then the Brits took it over after the Treaty of Utrecht and renamed it. This was another site where the poor Acadians got booted out.

The Charlottetown skyline from Fort Amherst/Fort la Joye.
The Charlottetown skyline from Fort Amherst/Fort la Joye.
A monument to the Grand Derangement (the expulsion of the Acadians) at Fort Amherst/Fort la Joye.
A monument to the Grand Derangement (the expulsion of the Acadians) at Fort Amherst/Fort la Joye.
The remains of Fort Amherst.
The remains of Fort Amherst.

I was admiring the view when I got to talking with an older local couple, who I got to ask about the climate. I was astonished to learn that Charlottetown Harbor freezes over almost every year, just like Lake Erie does. I’m not sure why that astonished me, except that I guess it seems too far south for salt water to freeze over. Anyway, I find it very difficult to imagine this part of the world in the wintertime for some reason.

Field of what I think is rapeseed (the plant they make canola oil from) on PEI.
Field of what I think is rapeseed (the plant they make canola oil from) on PEI.

I drove on along the south coast of PEI, past fields and ocean and views, until I reached the bridge, where I paid my $46 Canadian to cross back to New Brunswick, and then turned west, looking for a provincial park that said it had campsites. It took me a while to reach Murray Beach Provincial Park, but it was well worth it, right on the water with a nice sandy beach and an incredible view, especially at sunset.

Sunset at Murray Beach, New Brunswick.
Sunset at Murray Beach, New Brunswick.
Doesn't it look almost tropical?
Doesn’t it look almost tropical?
One last sunset shot.
One last sunset shot.

This morning I woke up to clouds, which, since I’d figured on a driving day across New Brunswick, didn’t seem like a bad deal. It was when I stopped for lunch and groceries about noon, and came back outside to a driving rain at least as heavy as the one on Cape Breton Island the other day that I thought maybe this wasn’t so great. I did make it to Woodstock, NB, about an hour west of Fredericton, this afternoon, but there was no way I was camping in this, so I found a motel, and I am taking full advantage of Real WiFI [tm] tonight.

Tomorrow I shall cross the border into Quebec. Here’s hoping it won’t be in a downpour.

August 20: Cavendish, er, Avonlea, and beautiful red beaches

Okay. Is everyone familiar with Anne of Green Gables? The story of an orphan adopted by mistake (she was supposed to be a boy) who won everyone’s hearts over, anyway? The source of one of my favorite quotes? “Tomorrow is a new day with no mistakes in it… Yet.” Well, today I visited Green Gables, or at least the house L.M. Montgomery based Green Gables on (it belonged to some of her cousins). I also saw what’s left (just the foundations, alas) of the house where she wrote the book, and the house where she was born.

The path through the woods that I took to Green Gables, named after a landmark in the books.
The path through the woods that I took to Green Gables, named after a landmark in the books.
The Haunted Wood, which is actually quite lovely and not haunted at all [g].
The Haunted Wood, which is actually quite lovely and not haunted at all [g].
I did not expect to see jewelweed here, for some reason, but here it was.
I did not expect to see jewelweed here, for some reason, but here it was.
Hollyhocks in the garden at Green Gables.
Hollyhocks in the garden at Green Gables.
Green Gables itself.
Green Gables itself.
I thought this was clever.  This is the bedroom done up to look like the room Anne slept in the night she arrived.
I thought this was clever. This is the bedroom done up to look like the room Anne slept in the night she arrived.
And this room next to it was done up to look like her room as described near the end of the book.
And this room next to it was done up to look like her room as described near the end of the book.
I was walking back up the Haunted Wood trail to Merlin, when I spotted a little boy and his grandmother peering at something on the edge of the trail.   This caterpillar turned out to be what they were looking at [g].
I was walking back up the Haunted Wood trail to Merlin, when I spotted a little boy and his grandmother peering at something on the edge of the trail. This caterpillar turned out to be what they were looking at [g].
The view from the path to the remains of the house where L.M. Montgomery wrote Anne of Green Gables.
The view from the path to the remains of the house where L.M. Montgomery wrote Anne of Green Gables.
And another classic PEI bucolic farmland view.  The whole island looks like this.  It's so charming.
And another classic PEI bucolic farmland view. The whole island looks like this. It’s so charming.
This little dude was on the porch of the bookstore near where Montgomery wrote Anne of Green Gables.
This little dude was on the porch of the bookstore near where Montgomery wrote Anne of Green Gables.
The cellar hole of the house where Anne of Green Gables was written.
The cellar hole of the house where Anne of Green Gables was written.

Yeah, Cavendish, PEI, is to L.M. Montgomery and Anne Shirley what Hannibal, Missouri, is to Mark Twain and Tom Sawyer. There is one big difference, though. Most of the Anne sites are part of PEI National Park, so they’re not quite so commercial and in your face about it. OTOH, outside of the national park, there are amusement parks and wax museums and omigosh all kinds of silly stuff.

Touring Green Gables, and walking through the Haunted Wood was a lot of fun this morning, though. I took Lonely Planet’s advice, and parked Merlin at a little town park at the other end of the 1km long Haunted Wood trail, and approached Green Gables that way instead of from the huge parking lot and modern visitor center. They were right. It was much nicer. I had my parks pass in my pocket, so it wasn’t like I hadn’t paid or anything.

The Haunted Wood is just your basic spruce and birch woodland, but it’s a special spruce and birch woodland, because it’s the one where Anne got her wits scared right out of her because of her own imagination. Anyway, it was fun to make the pilgrimage, which is something I’d always wanted to do.

After a picnic lunch, I drove along the shoreline part of PEI National Park and admired the broad Gulf of St. Lawrence and the bright blue sky and the rusty red sands and cliffs. I’ve never seen an oceanscape quite like that one, and I enjoyed it very much. Then I drove around the island for a bit, and went back to my cabin, and chilled out for a while before I went out for dinner.

The northern shore of Prince Edward Island is gorgeous, isn't it?
The northern shore of Prince Edward Island is gorgeous, isn’t it?
Another view of the shore.
Another view of the shore.
This is the hamlet of French River, which apparently has been voted one of the prettiest towns in Canada for years.
This is the hamlet of French River, which apparently has been voted one of the prettiest towns in Canada for years.

I had a lobster supper tonight [g]. I ate soup and a half bucket of mussels (that’s how they serve them, by the bucket) and salad and a whole lobster, the mussels and lobster accompanied by melted butter, and the best dinner rolls I’ve had in a very long time. I finished the whole thing off with lemon meringue pie, and they basically had to roll me out of there when it was over. That’s more food I’ve eaten at one time since before I left home, I think. And every bit of it was delicious.

Lobster suppers are a staple of New England and the Maritimes, and especially of PEI, so this was a splurge I’d been thinking about making for a while now. Since I’m headed off of PEI and across New Brunswick towards Quebec tomorrow afternoon (I want to spend the morning in Charlottetown), I knew this would be my last chance. The supper place was just a mile or so down the road, and it came highly recommended by Lonely Planet, so I thought why not? And I’m glad I did!