Quebec – Late Summer 2016 Road Trip – Day 14

Another long day, but this one had great promise, so we left the Delta Hotel in Fredericton before dawn. It was rainy and cool that morning but the forecast predicted warm weather. After a brief Tim Hortons breakfast stop for oatmeal and a croissant, we were back on the road for 55 miles to see the longest covered bridge in the world. The wooden bridge is 1,282 feet long located in Hartland, New Brunswick and crosses the St. John River to Somerville. The Hartland covered bridge is truly the longest covered bridge that I have ever seen.

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It seemed as if we had entered a tunnel as we drove through it. I learned that the bridge is actually seven small bridges joined together on six piers. The bridge is only one lane and we had to wait our turn to cross back to Hartland.

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Next up was Grand Falls, New Brunswick, which has a gorge in the center of the city that is used as a hydroelectric generating station. The gorge is the top attraction in the area, with a number of attractions surrounding it. We arrived before the Malabeam Center opened so we peered into the gorge from the zip line hut.

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The Malabeam Center gives tours climbing down 401 steps to see the wells within the rocks and tells the legend of Malobiannah for which the center is named. The story is of a young Maliseet woman who was captured by the Mohawks and forced to lead a war party to her village. The Mohawks promised she would live if she led them to the village but knowing how to navigate the Saint John River, Malobiannah guided a war party of forty canoes and 300 Mohawk to their death over Grand Falls.  Malobiannah sacrificed herself to save her people. A statue of a young Maliseet woman with and oar stands at the front of the center.

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Grand Falls is also the home of Ron Turcotte, a retired Canadian thoroughbred race horse jockey, best known as the rider of Secretariat, winner of the U.S. Triple Crown in 1973, and arguably the best race horse in history. A bronze statue of Ron racing Secretariat was featured in the middle of the boulevard. A plaque commemorating the famous race stood next to the statue, with his story in both French and English.

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Arriving at the border of Quebec, the visitor center guides were very helpful in providing maps and information for us to find Pohenegamook. Pohenegamook is a very small village on the border of Quebec, Canada and the United States.

The Pork and Beans War was a confrontation in 1838–1839 between the United States and the United Kingdom over the international boundary between the British colony of New Brunswick and the US state of Maine including the Pohenegamook area. With no shots ever being fired, the Pork and Bean war was more of a dispute, but resulted in a new border.

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The Mitchell Map was used as a primary map source during the Treaty of Paris of 1783 for defining the boundaries of the United States. Negotiations in 1842 between the countries referred to “Mitchell’s map”, which generally supported the American case as evidence that the entire disputed area was on the American side of the border.

The historic border dispute ended when the United States and British North America (now Canada) signed the Webster–Ashburton Treaty in 1842 under John Tyler’s presidency. Canada was unhappy, however, it viewed the treaty as the British improving relations with the United States by permitting American territory to separate Lower Canada from the Maritimes.

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Now the Quebec-Maine border cuts straight alongside a local street in Pohenegamook, putting houses close to the street in Canada, and those set back a few yards from it in the U.S. — with some houses split between the two borders.

Along one road you can see a Gulf Gast station 100 yards down the road, with the only access from Canada, however the station and pumps are in the U.S. This frustrates the locals as the gas is about 50% cheaper there, but they have to go through an extensive process to ‘enter’ the U.S. to go to the gas station that is in their backyard, with no fence, or any other physical barrier in sight

We drove the border road, to the railroad bridge near a small park. A stone marker in the park stood at the border showing street side as Canada and the yard of some of the houses in the USA. A bridge crossed the river between the USA and Canada. Flags of both nations flew at each end of the bridge. A State of Maine flag hung at one end of the bridge while a Quebec flag hung at the opposite end of the bridge.

A U.S. border inspection station stood a short distance from the park. So we actually sneaked into the United States the back way through Canada avoiding the border patrol because the true border angles away from the street at the park. Most amusing is one house which appears to have their front rooms in Canada and the rest of the house in the United States.

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Heading further into Quebec, we drove for almost three hours to an area twenty-five miles outside of Quebec City to St. Anne’s Canyon to see a powerful waterfall higher than Niagara Falls splash over rocks millions years old.

St Anne’s Canyon is a private park with a number of options for entertainment, as well as a having a small cafe that provided us lunch before our walk on the trail to the falls. After struggling a bit with the French language (a recurring theme) trying to understand the lunch specials, we managed to get chicken soup and sandwich, then headed out to see the falls.

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The trail looped us around the cliff top of the canyon to vistas overlooking the waterfall. The thunderous waterfall could be heard before seen raging over gigantic black rocks.

A suspension bridge crossed above the top of the falls for a bird’s eye view allowing us to continue our walk to the next vista for a closer look of the water that crashed so violently onto the rocks that the water sprayed up onto us and onto the trail.

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The second suspension bridge granted us a direct front view of the falls. This bridge really tested my fear of heights, so I requested a photo for proof I was there.

The waterfall looked amazing from the suspension bridge but even more wondrous was the fact that the substantial water force was only one-tenth the amount of water that flowed in early spring.

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It was hard to imagine so much more water barreling through that tight canyon. The trail led us down 187 steps to the third suspension bridge about fifteen feet above the river. The bouncy suspension bridge offered a view from the lowest level and the rocky river. We climbed the steps to reach the trail again for the last vista of the falls. Sainte-Anne Canyon also had wooden sculpted animals that we viewed before leaving.

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As we left to head back towards Quebec City and Montmorency Falls, we were treated with some great views.

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A few minutes drive brought us to Montmorency Falls, a tremendously voluminous waterfall, the highest in Quebec Province and higher than Niagara and Sainte-Anne Canyon. This waterfall is used in hydroelectricity so the flow is controlled. The waterfall is massive in size and reminds me of the extended width of Niagara Falls. We entered the park and walked through the welcome center to get to the trail and boardwalk.

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We were able to walk the entire trail including the very high viewing tower and the trail to the other side of the falls via a suspension bridge. Anyone walking the trail near the bottom of the falls got wet from the spray. Some daring ones ended up soaking wet just walking near the river to the front bottom steps of the tower.

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As we continuing trekking along we each guessed the number of steps to the top of the viewing tower which we had to climb to continue the trail. Mine was 250 steps, hers was 460 steps.  After reaching the last viewing deck where the cable car landed for a closer look of the waterfall, we started our return trip on the trail back down the tower steps.  As we climbed down the tower, I counted 475 steps; clearly I lost that wager. We got our exercise in for that day with over one thousand steps just to see two waterfalls.

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From here we had another great view of the city

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It was about a half hour drive to the provincial capital, Quebec City, from Montmorency Falls. Quebec City is the second largest city in the province and traffic was a mess when we arrived. The old adage you can’t there from here was true, no matter how I tried to maneuver around the streets to reach the Marriott Hotel.

We could see the hotel from where we sat but traffic prevented us from getting there. After circling the block again and thirty minutes of waiting in a jam, a traffic cop allowed us to get through the closed access to reach the hotel, gladly dropping off car with the valet and going inside to check in.

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The roads were closed for a bicycle race that ended just prior to our arrival.  We were eager to see the city so we immediately left the hotel and walked into Old Québec across the square from our hotel. Old Québec is a historic neighborhood comprising the upper town and lower town. Québec Ciy is one of the oldest cities in North America.

We roamed passed the Citadelle of Québec also known as La Citadelle, an active military installation and official residence of both the Canadian monarch (the Queen Elizabeth II of England) and the Governor General of Canada. The citadel is an uneven star shape and comprises four towers with 24 buildings constructed within its walls of cut stone. We did not tour the citadel but walked the promenade with the stationed canons and window wells into the past. Sections of the garrison wall still stand where we joined others atop the ruin for a beautiful view of the city.

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Old Quebec City is a collection of well-kept shops of thriving businesses catering to tourists. Luckily, the French shop owners spoke excellent English so it was easy to ask questions and converse with people.

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An Italian restaurant called Parmesan is where we stopped for dinner. The waiter spoke French and English and escorted us into an empty restaurant, where we dined on lamb in rosemary sauce and filet mignon.

It felt a bit odd to be the only customers but that soon vanished with the aid of an accordionist who entertained us in a charming room with bouquets of flowers in small glass bottles that hung from the ceiling. The accordion player spoke perfect English. His repertoire though included songs in English, French, Spanish and Italian. We learned that he was born in Rome, grew up in Montréal, and had been to the United States many times. His electric accordion produced multiple instrument sounds. At times we heard the accordion, saxophone, and guitar. He also had a smooth voice singing varied genres of music from Edith Piaf to John Lennon. It was a lovely evening of entertainment and good food.

The warm beautiful evening allowed us to walk the lit streets and see the city at night. Eventually we went to a pastry shop for gelato. We admired the architecture of the pastry shop with its high ceilings and large windows as well as all the ancient structures of Old Québec while we walked back to our hotel.

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Nova Scotia & New Brunswick – Late Summer 2016 Road Trip – Day 13

With most road trips we know we will catch a day a bit less interesting than the rest, this was that day for this trip. While we managed to sleep through the slightly rocky crossing to Nova Scotia, we drove out of the ferry at 7 a.m. into a bright sunny warm day in North Sydney, and after a quick breakfast were on our way.

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Afterwards we started our long drive of almost four hundred miles to Fredericton, the capital of New Brunswick. Our route would take back along much of the route we had come so we tried to make as good a time as possible, stopping every once in a while to stretch the legs.

Clearly Nova Scotia is blueberry capital of Canada, as we saw numerous signs along the road for fresh blueberries for sale. The blueberries grow wild in the area; we would often see parked cars with dozens of people along the road busy picking buckets of berries.

Eventually we made our way to Truro, Nova Scotia. The town has transformed dead trees into works of art with many notable figures from the town’s past are featured in forty-six tree sculptures which were carved in tree trunks after Truro lost most of its elm trees to Dutch elm disease in the 1990s.

Unfortunately only nine sculptured trees remain, but we cruised town to find them, photographing the tan painted wooden carvings of a lumberjack, colonial woman, and three others.

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Nova Scotia Highway 102 leave Truro to the southwest, running near the Bay of Fundy, where we once again had a number of opportunities  to see the low tide expose the ocean floor. There was a large area of mud that stretched along the edge of the Bay and inward so that the bay resembled more of a river rather than a bay.

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A river that led into the Bay of Fundy was also drained with the low tide from the look of the wet mud. The empty river dropped almost twenty feet leaving only a small stream flowing through its center low point. Twice each day, 160 billion tons of seawater flow in and out of the Bay of Fundy — more than the combined flow of the world’s freshwater rivers!  The Bay’s tides officially measure over 50 feet in height, but the incoming tide is not a 50′ wall of water. It takes 6 hours for the tides to change from low tide to high tide. That means it takes more than an hour for the tide to rise 10′ vertically. In some places, it can change the direction of a river or create tidal bore that flows against the current.

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As we drove away from the Bay of Fundy and onto the freeway, we heard Tab Benoit sing Muddy Bottom Blues. This is the third coincidence where songs related to our vacation spot. I suppose it was serendipity because there was no way to plan it so exactly.

Other than a brief stop in Amherst, Nova Scotia for lunch at Connors Family Restaurant, we drove. At least lunch was good.

Eventually we arrived in Fredricton, New Brunswick where we spent the night at a large Delta Hotel. Next to the hotel was the Chinese Canadian restaurant where we ate dinner, where the buffet seemed to be the popular choice so we dined on shrimp cocktail, moo goo gai pan, potato salad, rice, pork riblets and more. The food was ok and there was a lot of it; so we ate our share then left to explore the city.

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We found the Provincial Legislative Assembly Building, the seat of government in New Brunswick since 1882, when it replaced the old Provincial Hall destroyed by fire in 1880. Continuing, we passed the governors house and walked into a concert at the park for incoming freshman at the University of New Brunswick.  After driving through the city and walking the streets we went back to the hotel for the evening.

New Brunswick – Late Summer 2016 Road Trip – Day 8

Another early start, on the road by 6 a.m., and we were off to the northeast. After entering our first destination into the GPS I found that it had me turn off U.S. 1, which turned out to not only be the quickest route (bypassing one of the numerous wanderings of U.S. 1 along the coast), but it took us up and down some fairly large hills, across bogs, and through a couple of small towns resulting in a really fun 30 mile segment, not to mention really waking you up as I was really pushing the Audi on the smooth curvy road.

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After stopping in Machias, Maine for a quick McDonalds breakfast (have you ever noticed that in the morning every McDonalds in the world has what seems to be the same 4 or 5 old men in them solving all of the world’s problems – a great reality TV show would be to go around and pull them from really random places and have them argue it out on live TV – but I digress).

Another hour down the road and we arrived at West Quoddy Park, the easternmost point in the USA not counting the Aleutian Islands that cross the International Date Line. As we drove into West Quoddy Park the Travelling Wilburys sang “At the End of the Line” It was perfectly timed as we rolled into the drive of the park and reached the end of the road.

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The park has a lighthouse and cottage set at the bottom of a hill; below the lighthouse cliff were boulders exposed because of low tide. The water shimmered from the sun as a fishing boat chugged through the large isles of rock with only a small fence separated the hill where we stood and the craggy shore but we could see stretches of land across the water.

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After heading north a bit we reached the edge of Calais, Maine, where we were to cross into New Brunswick. After a brief stop at the border crossing where we were asked a few questions and had to show our passports, we were on our way onto a recently built freeway. Just ahead we rolled into the visitor center to get a map, where the very helpful visitor center workers recommended we make a brief stop to view the waterfalls in the town of St George, only 20 miles ahead (or as they said about 30 kilometers).

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Continuing on we arrived in St. John, New Brunswick, to see the Mortello Towers, small defensive fort that was built as a coastal fort. The tower stands up to 40 feet high with two floors and typically had a garrison of one officer. Their round structure and thick walls of solid masonry made them resistant to cannon fire, while their height made them an ideal platform for a single heavy artillery piece, mounted on the flat roof to fire in a complete 360° circle. The Mortello Tower, was used in the War of 1812. We were not able to enter the tower because of renovation but stood at the base of the tower looking out to the sea.

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St John is the largest city in New Brunswick with a metro population of a little over 100,000 people, as a result they have a decent downtown where we found the City Market, the oldest continuous farmer’s market in Canada, for our lunch. We ordered a shrimp platter and fish and chips from an open shop vendor. While eating our lunch, we noticed that all the signs were in English and French. Even my can of root beer was labeled in both languages, root beer on one side and racinette on the other side of the can. There were bilingual signs for street posts, and car license plates too; New/Noveau Brunswick.

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All of the southern New Brunswick borders the Bay of Fundy, on the places that was very high on my list to visit. As we left St John we found the Fundy Trail, a park featuring a road hugging the coast with stunning views in every direction that includes over 20 spectacular lookouts, a waterfall, and 600 million-year-old rock formations. We stopped at one of the vistas looking out into the New Brunswick coastline, sparkling water and a view of Nova Scotia in the distance.

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We followed the Fundy Trail as far as the Salmon River where we walked across the suspension bridge. The bridge had a ten person limit and bounced a lot as we walked on it but the bridge is only 25 feet off the ground so it was not a fearless act. Our journey took us pass the Sea Caves at St. Martins, New Brunswick but it was high tide and the caves were only accessible by kayak now and not accessible to walk to the caves.

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Leaving the Fundy Trail as the road across the coast is not completed, we traveled from St. Martins along Route 111 to Route 114 down through Fundy National Park where the coastal road continued until we reached Hopewell Rocks in Chignecto Bay, an extension of the Bay of Fundy. This area is noted as the highest tide in the world at an average of 39 feet high.

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The narrow bay funnels water out and the ocean floor is exposed three hours before and after low tide. We took the trail to an overlook and saw the towers of clay rocks covered with seaweed. Once we made our way down to the ocean floor we walked over seaweed, mud and rocks to see the sun shine down and through hallowed towers and crevices. In addition you could see bull eyes targets on the rocks thirty feet up or so, assuming those were probably placed there by kayakers at high tide. The park closed at 7 p.m. Atlantic Time so we left to climb the multilevel stairs and take the trail back to the car. We changed our muddy shoes and headed to Moncton, New Brunswick for the night.

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After our check-in at the Chateau Moncton, we walked to Woody’s BBQ North of the Mason-Dixon Line. Woody’s is a chain restaurant that started in Florida with a few restaurants in Canada. Our meals were meh, not good.

The Chateau Moncton hotel sits along the Petitcodiac River that connects to the Bay of Fundy which draws out water at low tide and then rushes in so forcefully at high tide (called the tidal bore) that surfers ride the waves on the river. We had hopes of seeing high tide roar into the city but high tide is set near midnight and it is too dark to see the river.