Monday, August 07, 2006

New Brunswick

For several weeks now we have been vacationing with Canadians. We have been staying in RV parks and state parks where the locals spend their weekends, their holidays, or the summer season. Canadians who don’t have cottages buy an RV and park it somewhere they can stay for the summer or on weekends and holidays. We have encountered very few RVers who are traveling and seeing different parts of the country. Most of those in these parks live within a few miles (or kilometers), or at the most somewhere within the same province. We’ve known a few people in Colorado who owned cabins or condos, but we’ve never before experienced this kind of RV park. It gives us a real insight into a different lifestyle.

When we left Quebec we drove through an incredibly beautiful Matapedia valley where we saw lovely farms with lush green, long narrow fields bounded by bushes and dotted with large rolls of cut hay covered in white plastic. Then we followed the Matapedia River, obviously a mecca for fly-fishermen. There was even an Orvis shop on one town along the way.

Our first stay was at Parc Malybel on the North Shore of New Brunswick. The province is officially bilingual (French and English) and so signs are in both languages and shop people speak both languages. It has been easier to function here. The highlight of our stay there, in the town of Beresford, was a visit to Village Acadien, a living history park where we could experience the lives of the French who first settled in this part of Canada in the 1600s. The French were defeated by the British twice in the 18th century and the Acadians--French settlers--were deported, forced to leave land and possessions behind. Eventually, after feelings cooled, they were able to come back and live quietly in the rural areas. Not till the 1900s was their language officially accepted. The village had staff demonstrating life at various periods over the centuries and we learned about growing hay in salt marshes, making shingles, tinsmithing and fishing. It was really well done and very interesting.

Canadians come to New Brunswick to spend time on the beaches. We have seen more women in two-piece bathing suits--all day long--who have no business wearing them except in the water. And men going all day in swim trunks or shorts with no shirt on, who would do us a favor by wearing one. We think swimsuits are for swimming, not living in. Oh well, what do we know?

The last few days in the province were filled with some of the problems of living on the road. At our RV park in Cap Pele, we had to move from one site to another in order to extend our stay for two extra days. The second site was right in front of the washrooms and other campers kept walking through it. Then we drove into Moncton to get the mail Eric had sent on to us. We planned to read it while the truck had its 3,000-mile servicing, which normally takes 30 minutes. This time we were at the dealership for 3 ½ hours. Who knows why? We didn't receive that much mail. So we read the local newspaper and got our exercise walking around the parking lot.

Then we drove to St. Martins, where we had reservations for five days. But when we arrived they said they had left a message on our cell phone that we could only stay two days. Our cell phone doesn't work well here and costs 30 cents a minutes, so we haven't checked messages. This is a holiday weekend--New Brunswick Day--and they are full.

The waters off the coast of New Brunswick are warm, "the warmest waters north of Virginia" they say. Ocean breezes make kite flying a natural occupation. Because we have been on the Northumberland Strait and then the Bay of Fundy, the waves have been gentle, the beachcombing uninteresting. But New Brunswick is beautiful and we've seen potatoes growing for the first time--at least that we are aware of. We also bought a cooked lobster, which we struggled to eat in the trailer. Hot lobster with lemon butter is good, but cold lobster without the proper tools to access the meat leaves us cold. We’d rather have a good streak, thank you.

St. Martins is an old shipbuilding community on the Fundy Coast, north of St John’s. One day we drove about 80 miles to Blacks Harbor (the headquarters for fish smoking and herring export) and took the 9:30 am ferry to Grand Manan, the largest of Fundy Islands. The 90-minute ferry ride to the island is free. The return trip, round-trip fare is $10.20 per adult. On the island we hiked to the Swallowtail lighthouse on North Head, then back into town for lunch, then returned on the 1:30 ferry. It was a cool and cloudy day, but we enjoyed the ferry rides and the hike. The wooden lighthouse is called a salt shaker lighthouse. We saw seals around the herring weirs along the Pettes Cove shore and many porpoise during the day.

We also hiked the Fundy Coast Sentier trail for about 5 ½ miles. Another misty cloudy day, great for hiking. We felt we were in a rain forest. Then we went to sea caves, carved out by the extreme tides of the Bay of Fundy. Ontario and central Canada has been experiencing a heat wave. We’re glad to be on the Atlantic coast, where it’s been cool.

Liquor stores in Canada are operated by the provincial governments. The names changes from province to province. When we wanted to buy wine in Ontario, it is LCBO--Liquor Control Board of Ontario. In Quebec, SAQ. Don't know what that stands for. In New Brunswick, NB Alcool. What will it be in Nova Scotia? I wonder why anyone would want to buy wine or beer here. Beer is $10-$12 for a six-pack, plus bottle or can deposit. Boxed wine is $30-$40 for four liters.

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