So, when Pia left off we were at the end of the Gaspé Peninsula in Percé, Quebec, home of the famous Percé rock. We took a boat tour from Percé which took us to see their namesake then around nearby Bonaventure Island, a provincial park which is home to the largest colony of northern gannets in the world, and neighbourhood hangout for young punk seals with nothing better to do but lie around in the sun.
The boat stopped at the island for anyone who wanted to go for a hike and get a closer look at the gannet colony. Pia had, unfortunately, tripped on our hike the previous day and her knee was bruised and swollen to the point that she didn’t feel up to the hike, so she went back to Percé while I went bird watching.
It was pretty cool. You get quite close to the birds – close enough to smell the huge amounts of bird poo (actually, we could smell it from the boat, so that’s not saying anything). They’re really quite beautiful-looking birds and were quite interesting to watch because they would periodically stand up and start hitting their beaks together as if they were sword fighting or point their heads at the sky like a snooty French stereotype being offered American cheese.
The sound of 120,000 sea birds squawking, fighting, and generally having a noisy time was an experience on its own. It won’t do it justice, but here’s a video:
From Percé we followed the water the rest of the way down the peninsula and into New Brunswick where we followed the coast East again into the town of Caraquet. There we visited a really cool Acadian Historical Village with buildings dating back to the 1700s and staff in period costume demonstrating traditional crafts like broom making, weaving, and cooking.
When we were in Chicago someone actually asked me about the Acadians and I told him my understanding of their story, though I now realize that I had some details wrong, so Kurt, if you happen to be reading, here’s the correct answer: The Acadians were a group of French settlers who lived in what is now Eastern Canada. When England won the war for control of the region many of them fled to the US and settled along the east coast and Louisiana (where they’re called Cajuns). To my high school social studies teacher: I’m not sure which one of us should be apologizing for the fact that I didn’t know that.
Next stop for us was New Brunswick’s diminutive capital, Fredericton. We only spent about three hours there, but that was enough. The downtown area is only a few square blocks and some of the things to see close after Labour Day. It did have some nice old buildings, though, and with the leaves beginning to change colour the walk along the river was pretty, too.
From Fredericton we swung down to its slightly larger, coastal brother, Saint John. We have two guidebooks that we’re using right now: Lonely Planet Canada and Fodor’s Atlantic Canada. Fodor’s says “regardless of the weather, Saint John is a delightful city to explore”, while Lonely Planet describes it as “a grimy port city” and says “The city is surrounded by an ugly scurf of industrial detritus and a tangle of concrete overpasses”. On this one we’re siding with Lonely Planet.
To be fair, Saint John didn’t really have a chance. We had both slept very poorly the night before (especially me) and it rained all day (which, despite what Fodor’s claims, put a damper on things). To make it worse, as we arrived in downtown we had a bit of trouble in the parking department. To be specific, we passed a parkade and so we though we’d go around the block and return to it. Construction turned this into going around two blocks, which, since Saint John was founded before the invention of city planning, somehow forced us onto a highway. Our attempt to get back into downtown led us onto another highway, across the river and into West Saint John where, thanks to even more construction, every road the GPS told us to go down was closed (seriously, like 20 closed roads in a row). That journey “around the block” took us about half an hour in total, by which point we were thoroughly frustrated, grumpy, and hardly even cared if we saw Saint John at all. So… here are the two pictures we took during our very short, irritable wander around town:
We sullenly fled Saint John and headed to Fundy National Park, managing to stumble on this lighthouse along the way.
Fundy was lovely and we got a little hiking in, as well as this view of the Bay of Fundy.
The Bay of Fundy has the highest tides in the world, so we decided to stop and see a little bit of its effects at Hopewell Cape. We arrived at high tide and stayed long enough to see this…
turn into this.
turn into this.
And we got to “walk on the ocean floor”. Actually, I don’t think this is an entirely accurate statement, but I’ll let the earth and ocean scientists judge that one. It was very cool, though.
Next stop was Shediac, which calls itself the lobster capital of Canada, as is evidenced by this giant lobster statue.
There, to prove that this huge country isn’t so big, we stayed at a B&B run by a very nice couple who used to live a few blocks away from my brother, Paul, in Vancouver.
Next time on the Nomader, Pia will tell you what’s on the other side of this bridge:
(I’ll give you a hint it involves a precocious red-headed girl with pigtails)