Friday, August 7, 2015

Home again, home again, jiggety-jog!

Ottawa, ON – That’s the little chant we used to say to the kids when we were back from any outing – and that my parents said to me when I was little. It has a comforting ring, plus a little jolt of joy that all is well, and home is the best place in the world to be.

That’s the way Val and I feel today, having completed the last leg of our six-thousand kilometer trek to the eastern edge of our country and back. It was no surprise that we were wide awake at 5:30 this morning back in Drum-mondville, eager to do the standard departure routine and get on the road one last time.

Our route home – so much more direct than the convo-luted out-ward-bound journey we took through the northern US – was smooth (mostly), straight and wide, skirting Montreal on Highway 20, then 30, then 40, past farm fields ripe with corn and other crops, and changing from rural to urban as we got closer to the cities.

The talismans of industry and commerce – shopping malls and hydro towers – contrasted greatly with the charming fishing villages and unsullied landscapes of Newfoundland. Even the weeds and wildflowers growing by the roadsides failed to match the stunning arrays of colour and beauty on Newfoundland hills and fields. Am I prejudiced? Maybe – or maybe the charm and natural allure of Newfoundland and Labrador still have me in their thrall. This is the first time, on coming back to my beloved home, I have felt a tug of nostalgia for what we’ve left behind.

We will be telling and re-telling our adventures and expe-riences in the coming days to any-one who will listen. And to anyone who has considered a trip to Newfoundland, we would say go! You will not be disappointed!
That’s it for now. The Zanin blog will go into sleep mode till the next time. Thanks for joining us over the last seven weeks!

Thursday, August 6, 2015

La belle province

Drummond-ville, QC – One more sleep and we’ll be home. If we had pushed it, we might have arrived home today, but we didn’t want to overdo it and take unnecessary risks. We have had a good travel day, and are settled in at the “Camping des Voltigeurs”, a provincial park by the St Francois river on the outskirts of Drummondville.

The park is huge, with hundreds of sites, and lots of folks are enjoying its beauty and amenities, which include playgrounds, and even a pool for the kids. Most of the sites have electricity, and some have water and power, and there are even three-service sites. We actually got lost trying to find our site! It’s right by the river, and the breeze is whispering through the trees.
We had another early start today, and the sun was shining – a great way to head out on our next to last day of travel. The countryside was beautiful; rivers and mountains as we left New Brunswick, and lots of prosperous farmland as we entered Quebec, with narrow stripes of crops in the typical Quebec arrangement.

The mighty St Lawrence came into view when we turned eastward at Riviere du Loup – wide and brown – and it remained to the right of us along most of the trip, though it wasn’t always visible. Nearly every town or village we passed was named after a saint, but my favourite was St-Louis-du-Ha!Ha! – complete with exclamation marks. I’ve no idea how this place got its name, but it’s certainly unique.
Highway 20 took us past Quebec City, which we only glimpsed between some trees and buildings. Of course, it’s on the north shore so there was a bridge between us and it. The highway was quite good and quite well-traveled as well.  The other nice thing was that the province provided frequent rest stops that were well-marked with generous parking spaces for trucks and trailers.

So, here we are, settled for one last night on the road. After listening to our CDs of Newfound-land music on the way, our heads are swimming with all the wonderful memories of our trip.

Wednesday, August 5, 2015

On the open road

Edmundston, NB – It was before six when we got up this mor-ning, per-haps be-cause we haven’t got-ten over that Newfound-land half hour, or maybe it’s because home is getting closer.  In any case, we were pleased to see a sunny morning shaping up.

The Moncton site was one of few campgrounds we’ve visited that had a coin-operated shower. A quarter buys you five minutes, and it meant I had to buy ten minutes’ worth to rinse off that last slippery bit of soap for all of 30 seconds into my second quarter. Somehow that doesn’t look like saving water to me!
We were on the road by eight, and had a very enjoyable trip across New Brunswick and northward alongside the border with Maine. The highway was in good shape and a pleasure for Val to drive without potholes to dodge around. It was also a four-lane the whole way, so we got lovely wide vistas of farmland, rivers, forested areas, rock cuts and…..clouds.

Clouds! Masses of them in wonderful profusion across a huge blue sky – they were amazing! Against a backdrop of pure white ones, there were streaks of wispy, blue-grey clouds and great poufy ones like enormous cotton balls. Off in the distance, we could see some shedding rain in soft grey fingers that caressed the treetops.
We pulled off the highway in Woodstock to pick up a few groceries, fuel up and have lunch. It was actually warm enough to eat on the outdoor patio at the restaurant, although a staff member had to come out and dry off the table and chairs before we could sit down. She said it had rained and stormed so hard last night they were worried that trees might be toppled.

The River-side RV park just outside Edmundston was nearly empty when we arrived in the early afternoon, so we got a good pull-through site. It has since filled up quite a bit. It’s a lovely spot with green, grassy lots, mature trees, and a pretty stream flowing by. We actually pulled out our lawn chairs and sat outside for a while, but it began to cool down and then it sprinkled, so we put them away again.
Into the supper hour, the sun came out, then it rained, then the sun came out again AND it rained at the same time – so I suppose somewhere, there must be a rainbow, but I’d have to get wet to go out and look for it! That’s it for today – with extra room for cloud pictures. Enjoy!

Tuesday, August 4, 2015

The long sail

Moncton, NB – We’re two provinces away from Newfoundland already – and looking forward to being home! We had another perfectly beautiful driving day, with sunshine and warm (really warm!) temperatures.

We had calm waters for our crossing, and a lovely stateroom with windows at the bow of the ship, so we got a great view of the docking process this morning. And last night we had a tasty seafood alfredo dinner in the Flowers dining room – complete with a celebratory dessert.

As we settled into bed, the gentle rock-ing of the ship put us to sleep in no time. Unfortunate-ly, the gentle rock-ing did a number on me; I woke up this morning with a blazing headache and was sick as a dog. Not even my strongest pill had any effect, so I was a very poor traveling companion today.
The trip to Moncton went well – it was great to have a decent driving surface on the TransCanada Highway. It would have saved us a few convoluted detours if the signage about diesel fueling spots had been better – or had actually existed. Anyway, we found fuel eventually and made it to our destination without difficulty.

Val fended for himself supperwise while I took to our bed, but later I was able to eat a bit and I finally started to come around. What a day. Tomorrow will be much better, of that I am sure.

Monday, August 3, 2015

Anchors aweigh!

Argentia, NL – Outside the window where I’m sitting is the Atlantic Vision, a huge ferry docked here for our de-parture four hours from now. We’re second in the queue to board from Lane 11, where we were directed to park when we arrived about an hour ago.

Another sunny day greeted us this morning, to our de-light. We were packed and ready to leave the hotel after our complimentary breakfast, just waiting to get the call from the Mercedez-Benz dealership informing us that the RV was ready.
Dire scenarios continued to roil our minds as we waited. What if…? Then what…? But finally the call came. We were over there in an instant, and Matt at the service desk greeted us with a big grin. The work had been completed, and it was all on warranty, including the labour – and on the worksheet, the final cost came to more than a thousand dollars. All covered! The old “born lucky/born rich” mantra echoed in our minds yet again!

As soon as we were hitched up, we headed out to the TransCanada Highway, heading south and west toward Argentia. Such a relief.
Wistful would describe my feelings as we traveled our last few Newfound-land miles; we have so many wonderful memories of our adventures, of the beautiful sights we’ve seen, the deep and colourful history we’ve learned about, and the dear people we’ve encountered at every stop on the way.  It’s hard to believe the trip is coming to an end – with only a few days of travel on the mainland before we reach Ottawa again.

We’re told the ferry will not have wifi once we board, so I am getting this off a bit early today. Our arrival in North Syd-ney is set for 9:00 tomorrow morning, so we’ll have a full day’s travel on the other side before I can log on again.

Meanwhile, here are some pictures from our travels throughout this lovely place, and some lines from the Newfoundland anthem: "When sun-rays crown thy pine-clad hills/And summer spreads her hand....When blinding storm gusts fret thy shore/And wild waves lash thy strand...As loved our fathers, so we love/ Where once they stood, we stand/ Their prayer we raise to Heaven above,/God guard thee, Newfoundland."

Sunday, August 2, 2015

A day in the sun

St John’s, NL – When we quickly ga-thered clothes from the RV to bring to the hotel, my blue jeans were the only pants I brought, so today, for the first time ever, I wore blue jeans to church. I chuckled at the irony when I joined in singing “Just as I am”!

For the first time in weeks, the day dawned sunny and clear. Everyone we encountered today had to say some-thing about this unusual weather! It sure was uplifting to feel the sun’s warmth on our shoulders, and to dispense with sweaters and jackets.
There were a few tourist attractions we hadn’t seen this time around, so we set out first to climb Signal Hill, visible this morning from our hotel room window where before it had been hidden by fog. Lots of other people had the same idea; the parking lot at the top of the steep incline was full, but we found a spot not far from the top by the roadside.

The view was terrific. The city was spread out below, circling the sparkling blue waters of the harbour, with every landmark clearly visible. A bit lower on the hill, on a flat sec-tion, we could make out a troop of drum-mers practising a tattoo and marching about. On the ocean side there was a dif-ferent sight: a band of blue reaching out se-veral kilometers, and then white cloud wrapped along the horizon like a woolly muffler!
It was interesting for us to read about Guglielmo Marconi’s historic telegraph exchange from this spot with Cornwall in December of 1901, just a day after we learned about the first transatlantic cable message in 1858. I wonder how many of the tourists today, idly glancing at their mobile devices, had an appreciation for the magic they were witnessing and the years of effort and experimentation that preceded this banal activity.

Our next re-quest to our GPS was to bring us to the House of Assembly for the province. Down the hill we went, and into the confusing angles of cross streets, on hills and diagonals, trying to follow the GPS instructions, which included “kweedie veedee” for Quidi Vidi! In the end, as our device announced our arrival at our destination, we were actually in front of the YMCA. No problem, with a bit of unaided sleuthing, we found the spot, which was nearby. It was locked up like a drum, but we had a look at the statue of John Cabot and the impressive coat of arms laid out in polished stone in front of a lookout over the city.
We also had a look at the Lieu-tenant Governor’s residence, an impressive stone building com-plete with a moat and lovely lawns and flowerbeds. Nearby was a waterpark jammed with sun-deprived kiddies and parents, re-veling in the heat and sunshine. There were hundreds of them!

Back at the hotel, we prepare to leave Newfoundland tomorrow, hopeful that the RV repairs will be completed at the promised time so we can get to our ferry for the five o’clock departure. We will spend the night on the bounding main (well, not too much bounding please!) and wake up Tuesday in North Sydney. Hard to believe our sojourn here is winding down; it has been terrific.

Saturday, August 1, 2015

A tiny town links two worlds

St John’s, NL – Our day trip today took us west of the city and up the branch of the Avalon Peninsula that divides Conception Bay from Trinity Bay. We didn’t drive the coast all the way around; once we reached Victoria on the east side, we crossed to Heart’s Content on the west side and down again, with-out going around the top. It would have made the trip too long.

Rain splattered the windshield for the first part of the drive, but it eased up after a half hour or so, and it wasn’t too cold. The map names town after town on Highway 60 out of St John’s, but as we drove they seemed to be all melded together – Paradise, Conception Bay South, Sea Cave.
When we reached Holyrood, we pulled off the road to read the plaques at a lovely little park at the inner basin of the cove. The park was built on the old railway land, and was trimmed with well-tended planters with colour-ful flowers. On the hill behind us was a huge openwork cross above the town, where ambitious hikers can climb for a commanding look over the bay. Squid-jigging used to be a lucrative activity in this area.

Our route continued up the coast, and each town seemed to have its own small bay to nestle around, where a few boats were moored, and well-kept houses looked down on the water from the hillsides. There were little museums in almost each one, but we had seen plenty of vintage sewing machines, musty World War I uniforms and sepia photographs of days gone by. The coastland, inlets, rocky cliffs and wildflowers were more our speed today.
We did stop, however, once we crossed the peninsula to Heart’s Content, to see the Cable Station provincial historic site. This tiny village, by a deep bay shaped like a heart, was the end point of a transatlantic communi-cation cable that joined it to Valentia, Ireland and revo-lutionized international affairs for the entire continent.

The cable station, now a museum, still houses the original equipment used to read and transfer Morse Code messages from over-seas to North Sydney, NS and on to New York. The entrance floor is covered with a large world map, showing all the under-water cables that existed in 1901 – an impressive array!
Muriel, our guide, showed us pieces of the steel-wrapped copper cables that were strung along the Atlantic Ocean floor – some 2,600 kilometers of it. Three huge reels were transported on a specially-built ship, the Great Eastern, that uncoiled the cable in a single piece as it sailed from Ireland to Heart’s Content in 1866. This pro-tected bay was chosen because it was deep enough to receive a ship of its size.

We learned about the determination of Cyrus West Field, who sank all his savings into the project and overcame early failures and public disenchantment before achie-ving success. The museum also described the social change the cable caused to Heart’s Content, where cable company operators made a princely salary and lived in upscale housing next to poor fishing families. It was a fascinating visit.
We enjoyed a lunch of pan-fried cod at the local eatery before continuing south, passing through Heart’s Delight, Green’s Harbour, New Harbour and Dildo on the way back to the TransCanada Highway and our hotel, just in time for a hot cuppa and a cozy evening.