Canada: Ottawa, Montreal, and Quebec City; April 2017

This past week for my spring break, Chris and I visited Canada. We started off in Ottawa, visiting two friends, Stuart and Malle. They gave us a nice car tour of downtown Ottawa, as well as the falls along the river, and made sure we tried the delicious Ottawan dessert of a “beaver tail”: fried dough covered with toppings ranging from maple icing to sugar and honey.

Stuart grilled an awesome dinner at home that night, and the next day they took us out into the backcountry to a sugar shack, where we saw how maple trees are tapped for syrup and had some delicious pancakes and maple syrup.

So basically we ate our way through Ottawa. Then we took a train to Montreal, where we spent a day exploring the Vieux-Montreal area, near the waterfront, with its old port and museums and French architecture.

The really lovely Basilica of Notre Dame is there- worth going into even though they charge an entrance fee- really one of the loveliest cathedrals I’ve been in. It was the first Gothic Revival church built in the Americas (1824), and has featured the funeral of Pierre-Elliot Trudeau, the wedding of Celine Dion, and a visit from Pope Jean Paul II. Happily for us, a choir was inside practicing for Easter services, so it made the visit even nicer.

The next day we hiked up to the top of Mount Royal, to see the city from above. Along the way, we meandered through the Plateau district, which largely houses students from the city’s universities, as well as the main library for the province of Quebec. I really enjoyed looking at the literary-themed murals painted on buildings near the library. The area had a fun nightlife, and we enjoyed visiting a micro-brewery there that evening.

After another round of poutine and maple donuts, we boarded a train bound for Quebec City. Checking into a super cute hotel, the Port Royal, we headed up… and up… and up for old town Quebec City. Built on a cliff, the fortress and the old city look out over the┬áSt. Lawrence River.

The most famous building in Quebec is probably the Chateau Frontenac (said to be the most photographed hotel in the world, according to Guinness Book of World Records), so we made sure to take our requisite number of snaps there. We also toured the fortress (for Chris), and visited the Morrin Center, the oldest existing learning society in Canada, now a working library and museum (for me).

On our last full day, we took a public bus out to Montmorency Falls, where there was still quite a lot of snow and ice. The Falls are actually the tallest in Canada, but obviously not as wide as Niagara. Really beautiful to look at. That night, we took a ferry across the St Lawrence River, to get a look at Quebec City lit up at night (plus we had to get a final shot of Hotel Frontenac).

At the airport we had just $20 Canadian dollars left- enough for lunch and half a dozen Tim Horton donuts to bring back with us (maple iced, of course).

Next up for us: Chris will be hiking the Camino Santiago in May, and Deah joins him in Italy in June. Check back soon!

Canada: Nova Scotia, New Brunswick, and Prince Edward Island

After Chris finished the Appalachian Trail in Maine, we figured it would be the perfect chance to see what Canada’s maritime provinces are all about. So we headed to points furthest NE and found ourselves in Nova Scotia.

The main thing we did in NS is the John Cabot Trail, and by trail, I mean we did the drive. Poor Chris’s feet were still really hurting from the AT, so some car tripping was all we were good for. But the drive was amazing, all through the Cape Breton highlands, long windy narrow roads with the ocean beside you and in front of you. Majestic views.

John Cabot Drive


John Cabot Trail
Cape Breton Highlands

While in Cape Breton, we also attended a caileigh (pronounced cay-lee), which is a Celtic gathering, usually involving several Gaelic fiddle players. The one we attended featured Ashley MacIsaac, who from what we learned from others in the crowd, was quite the famous musician a few years back. Well, he was amazing. I will definitely be downloading some of his stuff.

In Halifax, we went to the Atlantic Maritime Museum, which has a great Titanic exhibit, among others. Halifax was the closest port on that fateful night, so that is where they sent out rescue boats, and where the recovered bodies were taken. Tragic.

In Nova Scotia, we also visited Fort Louisbourg, a fort from the 1740-1780 time period that has been reconstructed and frozen in time to show you what life was like in that time and place. There are about a dozen buildings you can go into, and talk to the re-enactors about their daily lives. It was pretty neat.

Fort Louisbourg
Fort Louisbourg
Making Lace




From Nova Scotia, we took the ferry to Prince Edward Island. In Charlottetown, they were having a festival celebrating 150 years of confederation, so we attended that and listened to singer/guitar players Ben Caplin and the Mellotones. And ate lobster. Lots of it. Also on the island, aside from the unique geography and the stunning Gulf of St Lawrence views, are the settings and artifacts from the Anne of a Green Gables books. The author, Lucy Maud Montgomery, grew up on PEI and wrote the Anne books based somewhat on her childhood.

House of Green Gables
Prince Edward Island
Prince Edward Island

And finally, New Brunswick. No time for the Acadian drive (think Evangeline, “this is the forest primeval”), so we centered ourselves on the Bay of Fundy, this amazing place where the ocean tides recede up to 40 feet each high/low tide. In Moncton, we saw the Tidal Bore, which is a channel cut so that as the high tide comes rushing in, it creates a 23km long wave, that surfers can crest on. We saw three surfers attempting it on the day we were there. Also in the Bay, at Hopewell Rocks, we visited at high tide, where you can kayak around in the water and look at the interesting rock formations. Then the next day we visited at low tide, and we were able to walk on the ocean floor, looking up at those same rocks! Very fun and very muddy.

Bay of Fundy low tide: The Kissing Rocks
Bay of Fundy low tide


Bay of Fundy high tide


The days were cool- never above 75- and the nights were downright cold. We alternated between camping and hotels, and saw some amazing stars on the nights we camped out. We ate lots of seafood and poutine. Lobster!!On the way home we stopped for a night in Bar Harbor, Maine (I’ll include it in this post because its practically Canada). Cute little town- crowded! And the Acadia National Park was lovely as well.

Such great sight seeing, in our own nation and our neighbor. Next up: the cruise to Australia!