Snowed In – Charlottetown

Who’d a thought, spring and we get 30cm of snow!

This is what happened over our first night in Prince Edward Island and so in the morning our plans to drive along the beautiful North Coast of PEI were cancelled, replaced with a day of movie watching.

We did venture out for a coffee but after getting the car stuck once and a face full of snow (it was very windy) we decided to retreat back to where we were staying. Today the snow had stopped falling and whilst the roads were much improved it was still not ideal sightseeing weather. We headed back for Halifax and spent the evening preparing for tomorrow’s flight to New York, hopefully we wont get snowed in again.



Confederation Bridge

While today’s travels have been largely uneventful, we did get to cross the bridge pictured here. 

The Confederation Bridge links New Brunswick to the island province of Prince Edward Island (P.E.I.). Opened in 1997, the 13 kilometre bridge took 4 years to build and cost aproximately 1 billion dollars. It is hard to imagine how large it really is until you realise you have been traveling for 5 minutes at 80km/h and only just past the halfway point.

P.E.I. became part of the Dominion of Canada in 1873 and as part of the agreement the Constitution was amended to include a regular steam ferry service to provide P.E.I. with services such as mail and passenger transit. This proved problematic as the closest point between the island and mainland (where the bridge now stands) freezes over during winter. Early suggestions for a permenant link were made surrounding the possibility of building a causeway. However these ideas were dismissed as the phenominal tides in this area flowing through a narrowed shipping gap would create currents strong enough to move rocks the size of houses and stronger than any freight ship could oppose.

The company that built the bridge now recieves aproximately $44 million from the canadian government annually as payment up until 1932 when ownership will be handed over. They also charge a $40 toll on the south bound trip.


Like four season in one day

Ok so we may not have seen any summer but we did get a glimpse of spring, a fair bit of fall and a good dose of winter. When we left the mansion the wind was blowing a gale but the sun was out and the waters of the lake were glistenting. About a half an hour down the road the clouds rolled in and the weather became quite chilly so that by the time we arrived in Digby (the scallop capital of Canada) it was well and truly winter, snow included!

The drive today, despite the weather, was beautiful. The Annapolis Valley is a series of rolling farms and apple orchards carved by the winding Annapolis River. Old timber homesteads of all different colours gazed over the crops and big barns added flashes of red throughout the valley. For lunch we stopped by the Bay of Fundy at Morden, where this picture was taken.

We spent the night in Wolfville at the Garden House B&B, and anyone who is planning a trip to Nova Scotia is urged to drop in on Brian and Lisa as their hospitality is wonderful. They have a lovely home, a friendly dog named Whiskey and Brian throws together a pretty good breakfast before you leave.

Lighthouse Route, Nova Scotia

Picture this, scenic coastlines, crashing waves, picturesque light houses. That is what we had planned for our drive from Halifax to Yarmouth, what we didn’t plan for is the ice-rain, 50km winds and 2 degreee tempreatures!

First stop was Peggys Cove, about 40 minutes from Halifax. You may recognise the lighthouse as it is very popular to tourists and photographers. With a year round population of only 40 it was not what I expected of such a well known spot. The houses where dotted across the rocky coast and fishing boats and lobster traps weathered on docks waiting for the summer.

We followed the Lighthouse Scenic route to Lunenburg a 200 year old fishing village and now a UNESCO Heritage site. Unfortunatley given the weather we were unable to take any good photos but the town is very quaint with its streets of colourful weatherboard homes and red fishing sheds. Whilst it was a larg fishing port and ship building town Lunenburg is now a haven for tourists, artisists and historians.

Our final destination Yarmouth is a more practical port for fishing and the car ferries from New Brunswick. It does not have the charm of Lunenburg or Peggys Cove but has just as much history. It is believed that the townsite was actually visited in 1007 by Leif Ericson (a Norse Explorer) and it was later settled in 1759 by the French. Our accommodation for the night is Churchill Mansion, perched on a hill overlooking Darling Lake and the Bay of Fundy. Built in the early 1900’s the home’s original owner has quite a heroic seafaring tale which can be read on the mansion’s website

– Gemma

Halifax, Nova Scotia

We arrived in Halifax at 4:30pm last night not really feeling like cooking after our 18hour train ride, we headed out in hunt of a good pub meal. Gemma’s colleagues are known to enjoy a schooner at a Chippendale local called The Duck and Swan so when we stumbled across The Thirsty Duck we took it as a sign. We had a great meal in there and the bartender even gave us a free welcome drink. Nice!

Not having planned anything, this morning we hit up the Tourist Information Centre and found a short walking tour of Halifax and saw a few old buildings, the Old Town Clock, another Citadel and a closed park which we were kicked out of by the grounds keeper.

In the afternoon we took a ferry ride across the harbour, by the way it is the 2nd largest natural harbour in the world (second to Sydney of course), to wander around Dartmouth and take the photo above.

The highlight of the day would have to be on our way back to the hostel when Gemma decided to stick her head into the Bank of Nova Scotia to inspect the interior decor. The bank was closing but a friendly gentleman asked if we would like to see inside. He knocked on the door and had the bank manager unlock it and let us in. Turns out this gentleman has a bit of sway here as he is Counsillor for District 11 – Halifax North End. We had a good chat with him and Larry the Bank Manager. Counsillor Murphy has invited us for tea tommorow morning, although we were planning to head off early.

Everyone we have encounted here thus far has been very pleseant. From the VIA Rail staff giving directions, the checkout lady at the grocery store and the stranger who thought we looked lost, the city seems relaxed and good natured. If only it wasn’t so cold!

Almost everyone has commented that we should have come here in summer, lots of tourist destinations don’t open til may or later. Mabye we should have started here and worked our way west, I could have worked restoring a tall ship… No use dwelling on what could have been, we’ll make the most of what time we have.


18 hour train trip

Eighteen hours in a confined space is never easy, throw in a family with 3 young boys in the seats next to you and a frantic child down the aisle who’s tantrums where only matched by those of her mother and sleep is pretty much out of the question.

We left Quebec city at 9pm on a ‘shuttle bus’ (otherwise known as a taxi) to Charny station, about 30 minutes away. Quebec isn’t on the same train line as Halifax so this is a service offered by VIA Rail. They should select there drivers a little more carefully though as the ride was a bit scary.

The trains are pretty comfortable with plenty of leg room and as you can see from the photo we were well prepared, donuts and movies passed the time quickly. There was some beautiful scenery on the way as the railway follows the coast for much of the journey.

We arrived in Halifax at around 4:30pm with only a short walk to our hostel.  I hope I get used to sleeping on trains a bit better as we have plenty more coming up in Europe, although none quite as long as this.


Salut Quebec

After all these sunny days you can imagine our suprise when we awoke to snow on our third day in Quebec. I was actually pleased as it gave me a good excuse to rest my weary legs!

Our only sightseeing stop was the Notre-Dame de Quebec, yes our third Notre-Dame church of the trip. Not as grand as the one in Montreal but I prefered it, less imposing. From there we headed back down to Petite Champlain for a coffee in one of the little cafes and some last minute photo taking.

I enjoyed our time in Quebec, it was a charming city and because it is smaller we were able to enjoy the atmosphere at a more relaxing pace.

Citadel and Plains of Abraham

Today we had a leisurely walk around the The Plains of Abraham, the battle site of the British Army, Royal Navy and the French Army in 1759. After loosing a battle with the French in Nova Scotia earlier, the British focused its efforts on the St Lawrence River and the key city of Quebec, protected by fortified walls.

Cutting to the chase, the Britsh won a landmark victory providing a strong foothold to claim Canada for herself.

Some interesting side points. The French had intended to build a Citadel however, were denied funding by the French King of the time, Louis XIV. The citadel seen here was built by the British after they took control of the city and was designed in such a way as to join to the French built Enceinte (city walls).

The Quebec Confrences were held in the Citadel to decide on Stragery in World War II. Winston Churchill, Franklin D. Roosevelt, and William Lyon Mackenzie King were in attendance.

The battlefields are now a park where many leisure activites take place, we were still able to see people cross country skiing today. The Citadel is the current base of the 22nd Regiment of the Canadian Forces.


Petite Champlain, Quebec City

From Montreal we travelled deeper into Canada’s history to the city of Quebec, three hours north east on the VIA Railway. Perched on a cliff-face overlooking the St Lawrence River, Quebec has retained much of its old world charm and bustling atmosphere.

The old part of Quebec, where we spent much of today, is made up of the Upper Town, contained within the city walls, and the Lower Town which wraps around water’s egde. The photo here is of North America’s oldest street, Petite Champlain, lined with houses dating back to the early 1600’s, now filled with cafes and art galleries.

Behind Petite Champlain, looking over the old port, is Maison Chevalier, a stately homed once owned by one of Quebec’s wealthy elite. There is a small lane behind the home which because of its close proximity to the waterfront, was regulary used by farmers and merchants to sell their wares. Looking out onto this lane from inside Maison Chevalier it doesn’t take much imagination to know it would have been a very lively place to live.

– Gemma

Notre Dame Basilica, Montreal

Erected between 1824 and 1826, the Notre Dame Basilica was at the time the largest church in North America. The twin bell towers stand 66m high, the internal height from the floor to ceiling is more than 24 metres.

Make sure to click on the photo to see the larger version, the interior is truly impressive. I can’t help but wonder how the designers missed Mathew 5:5 ‘Blessed are the meek, for they will inherit the land’. Their pride does not stop at the paintwork as the enormous organ has over 7000 pipes, no wonder Celion Dion chose to be wed here.

We have now seen the Ottawa and Montreal Notre Dame Basilicas, Quebec also has one and of course Paris. We should be able to make a good series of prints following this trip.