Chateau Frontenac

We had left Ottawa just after 9:00 am and found highway 20 east easily. The drive was uneventful except for the usual waving, horn tooting fans. We completed the near 200 miles in three hours arriving in time for lunch. Bridget was still running well.

It was immediately apparent to anyone that has travelled anywhere in Canada that the city of Quebec is different. Regular readers will have already deduced that I am not really a city person and as we approached the end of this journey my patience with city ways was diminishing. Quebec changed all that and I quickly realised what I had been missing for much of the second half of this adventure; history!

One of the few figures I learnt about in school, and remembered, was General James Wolfe and he is one of several characters I had always felt akin to in that he attempted tasks that others felt were unlikely to succeed just because they were difficult. I can’t say much more as my cousin who lives in France has forbidden me from making any disparaging remarks surrounding events from the campaigns of 1759, or any similar subjects!

The central area of Quebec is easily accessible on foot. The hotels have a feel about them that is different to most other locations in the Americas. The architecture is obviously, and some might think overly, European, but it gives an atmosphere to the city that is lacking in most others. Unlike Ottawa, which I enjoyed, Quebec is not a major shopping experience. The big fashion houses are not present pushing their latest design, which is not to say that Quebec doesn’t have good shops, it does, but they are not displayed as a major event in life. Quality of life is more important with food and drink being the major players, along with music, the arts and historical interest. Certainly tourism is a major contributor to the city’s coffers, but it is achieved with class.

Our second day in Quebec brought with it the first rain we had had since the deluge in Panama City. The temperature was noticeably lower and I wondered if this marked the official end to Canada’s summer.

Tomorrow we would leave Quebec on the last part of our journey through the North Americas. We were going to go to the northern part of the province then around New Brunswick and Nova Scotia before entering Halifax to prepare to return home.

We left Quebec early and took route TC-20 following the St Lawrence River north and east. The scenery improved with every mile covered. The trees were really colourful in places but many still had their summer coverage. Once again I kept a keen vigil for Elk, Moose and Bears, and once again saw none. I did however see plenty of seals sunbathing on rocks just off the beaches. Once we were just past Saint Maxime du Mont Louis we turned right and headed into the mountains around Murdochville.

Now we were back to the elementary pleasures of beautiful forested mountains, fast moving rivers and deep opal coloured lakes. I have to add though that we also discovered the worst road surfaces in all of Canada and the USA. Bridget had coped well, but I would have to check her thoroughly to make sure nothing had shaken loose. I’m afraid her rear licence plate had fallen victim to a steep slope again and the fixing screw that Peter Tilbury so kindly replaced in Vancouver was lost. I would have to do a temporary repair with an electrical tie once more.

Several people had mentioned the town of Gaspe as a possible stopover given my propensity to look for animals. There are purported to be many in this area plus the opportunity to go whale watching. I decided to splash out the dollars and took a boat out into Gaspe Bay and if necessary into the Gulf of St Lawrence. The trip normally lasts around 2½ hours. Everything started well, on time and with an excellent guide that explained what whales were in the area and their habits, and what we might expect to see. He overlooked mentioning the plunging temperature and rain.

We quickly came across dolphin as the boat ploughed steadily out into the bay. As we cleared the Cap-Gaspe headland the swell became noticeably more yawning, but then we spotted our first whales. They were Minke, the second smallest variety averaging only 7 metres in length, and they were fairly close to the craft. Shortly after we found our first Fin whale, also called the Finback or Razorback. This is the second largest mammal after the Blue whale, which are also in these waters. I had always wanted to see a Blue whale since seeing the one in the Natural history Museum in London as a child, but this was not to be the day.

Suddenly disaster struck! I turned to get a snapshot of a Fin Whale blowing when a gust of wind whipped my blue MG cap from my head and I saw it flying through the air several metres from the boat. We heard, on returning to port in the afternoon, that a whale with a go faster stripe and blue MG cap was spotted cavorting around the bay but I think someone was having a laugh at my expense.

The sea then became more severe and the cold was really penetrating, even the icebergs were turning blue. We returned to the wharf at around 12:30 and it was 3:00pm before I had thawed out, but it was well worth it. Bridget was refuelled, oiled and ready to go on to Fredericton, my wish was that the road condition would improve again.

The drive from Gaspe to Fredericton was as varied as it was beautiful. It started as a coastal drive then we turned inland through forests and hills with the resultant rivers and lakes. The trees generally still had some way to go before they gained their full autumnal foliage, but some had already changed colour and the mix was just fantastic.

Fredericton is the Capitol City of New Brunswick. I had some difficulty getting accommodation as they were hosting a week long Jazz Festival which is an annual event, however I eventually managed to find a room.

I sent an e-mail to David Nielsen, my contact at the Fredericton Area British Automobile Club, and within half an hour some dozen members who had been attending their monthly meeting arrived at the hotel to welcome me and chat about the trip. The following day I was treated to lunch by David and Jim Bleakney, then shown around the city before doing interviews with the Daily Gleaner, CBC Radio and CBC Television. Following a lovely dinner prepared for us by David’s wife Carolyn, Jim and his wife and daughter, Ellie and Jill, took me to a “Shine and Show” meeting. All in all a very good day and I extend my hearty thanks to everyone that made my visit special.

After leaving Fredericton Bridget and I drove the short distance to Moncton. It was looking most unlikely now that I would see any bears during my visit which was a little disappointing. I did however see a couple of deer grazing at the side of the highway.

The weather stayed fine until the evening when there were a couple of light showers, but the temperature had noticeably dropped from a week earlier. People were starting to talk about the onset of winter so our departure timing was probably about right.

Our last day of travelling started with the discovery of a crack in Bridget’s windscreen. It was not the type caused by a stone but appears more like a stress fracture, so anyway it means a replacement when we get back to Oxford. The list of things to be done was growing.

Arriving in Halifax I went straight to a ‘Show and Shine meeting in the suburb of Bedford. I had been invited along by Bob Hamilton of the Halifax branch of BATANS, British Automobile Touring Association of Nova Scotia. It was a great way to meet some of the members and view some very nice cars.

The following evening I was invited to spend some time telling the members about Bridget and our adventure at the end of which they presented me with some lovely mementoes. They also made a very generous donation to the UNICEF fund.

On Wednesday I took Bridget to the container yard to be packed snugly in her container for the voyage back to England. I am returning on Friday 25th September and will hopefully meet up with her again in Liverpool around the 7th October. It seems funny not having a drive ahead of me tomorrow.

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