Tuesday, 7 October 2014

Quebec - and our last days in Canada

As we entered the Province of Quebec the weather was becoming cooler with grey skies and rain showers. The odd few leaves on the deciduous trees were changing colour and some trees were almost covered in their autumn (fall) finery of red, yellow, orange, burgundy and lime green. If only we had another two weeks to experience the full onslaught – I'm sure it would be absolutely stunning.

We had several days of road travel eventually linking up again on the previously travelled Route des Navigateurs to travel westward this time along the St Lawrence River towards the Province’s capitol, Quebec. Accommodation in the old city area of Quebec was hard to find, so we found a hotel about 20 minutes away for our final few days in Canada. We decided on a small guided tour and were picked up from our hotel at 9am for a very good tour with commentary of the very beautiful old city in the morning with a tour around the picturesque area just outside the city in the afternoon. The old city centre is truly very European looking with the cobbled roads and French style of architecture. Musicians busking outside small bistros and coffee shops add to the sense of being in Europe and far away from the North American continent.

For our final day in Canada with drove to the nearby traditional Huron settlement (Onhoua Chetek8e [sic] Native). A young native woman guided around explaining her ancestors lived in the past. Being mainly settled (non migratory) in one place, they erected quite substantial communal huts and tended theland growing their food as well as hunting. The settlement welcomes visitors and has a restaurant where we had a substantial lunch of sunflower soup with Indian bread, followed with deer sconoton (for me) and bison sausages for Peter then by a dessert of maple cake. Very interesting (different!) and delicious food. There was also a herbal hot drink provided.

This was, to me, just the perfect way to end our Canadian trip – a reminder of how the first nation people lived in that part of the world and how their descendants have both integrated into white society, but also managed to keep alive their traditions. Although the Huron people don’t own their land (the Government does), they have the advantage of living  in the settlement without paying any taxes. Education is encouraged and their artisans are happy to pass on their skills to younger people. With a steady stream of interested tourists/travellers, and a settlement well run by their elders, this particular branch of the native north American people seem to have found their niche and worked hard to promote themselves and their traditional way of life in modern society.

On our departure day, we packed up, drove to the airport, surrendered our hire car, congratulated ourselves on arriving early, checked in our luggage and then had our lunch. On fronting up to security, though, I had completely forgotten the miniscule amount of liquid you are allowed in your carry-on luggage and confessed to 3 containers of maple syrup. Oh dear, we had quite a ‘Monty Pythonesque’ time re-organising. I was sent downstairs to the check-in counter to see if I could send it separately and pay the departure tax. The very helpful lady decided that would be far too expensive and suggested putting the three containers in one of our suitcases (already checked). “What is your luggage check number and I’ll go and fetch your case” said she helpfully. Umm – those luggage slips and the suitcase keys were with Peter who had already gone successfully through security.  Upstairs I went but Peter had already disappeared and the friendly staff had been replaced with a new shift of people. I was sent downstairs again to arrange a P.A. announcement, and this had to be done in both French and English. Eventually Peter heard his name and came downstairs (through Domestic Arrivals!) and we fronted up once more to our friendly check-in lady who had in the meantime, looked up our details on the computer, noted the luggage number and had retrieved my suitcase. So there we were squatting on the terminal floor opening my suitcase and packing in three plastic bottles of maple syrup – with a prayer that they wouldn’t leak. Thankfully the suitcase was still under the allowable weight, so we breathed a sigh of relief and thanked profusely the very helpful check-in lady who had thought it so lovely that we wanted to take home some genuine Quebecois maple syrup. What  a drama!

Our flights home (Quebec to Toronto, change to the ‘big’ plane, next  to Vancouver, a stop for re-fuelling and then the long flight across the Pacific to Sydney, thence to Melbourne) was quite uneventful but it was extremely lovely to be back in Australia and to be picked up by our son, Rohan, for the drive home.

Our Alaskan and Canada trip over almost three months was a great experience. We loved the amazing Rockies with their spectacular views of glaciers in BC with all the various climate zones, also  the short break in the USA when we drove to the huge Boeing factory and the lovely coastal scenery as we island-hopped our way back to Canada was an unexpected delight.  The prairie lands in the centre part of Canada  were a complete contrast with hundreds of miles of perfectly flat land and the seemingly endless crops of canola and flax. The train travel via VIArail’s The Canadian was most enjoyable but sadly, NOT the long delays at train stations. In the east the Maritime provinces were just lovely and we especially liked the Gaspe Peninsula in Quebec Province with its coastal views and silver churches. Prince Edward Island was just about the most picture perfect island – beautiful scenery with hills and trees and lovely little villages – it surely must be the place where all those white snowy  scenes are photographed for  Christmas cards. Nova Scotia was also interesting to us – loved the Maritime Museum in Halifax and also its amazing Citadel and again there were great coastal roads with wonderful views and everywhere all the lighthouses throughout the Maritimes. 

Newfoundland was a place which had been a long time on the bucket list, but the long distances and the short time we had left to us meant we were rather limited in what we experience. It would have been lovely to travel way up north to Gander once the first stopping off place for flights across the Atlantic and also to L'Anse aux Meadows the Viking Settlement dating from around 1,000 AD, but we did very much enjoy our day at the Avalon Settlement archaeological dig, the Whale & Puffin boat trip, our day in the capital, St Johns, the views from Signal Point and the day trip to the small historic village of Trinity.

The distances we covered on our travels across Canada were quite vast - by car it totalled around 10,000 kilometres with train travel accounting for another 3,500.

Finally, I must say in all our travels we have never seen so many trees – the world will never be short of trees as long as there is Canada. We have so many good memories of our trip – thank you Canada and your friendly, welcoming people.  This will be a hard trip to top. Until next time ....

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