We are heading west to our home in Kansas City. Our estimated day of arrival is Sunday, August 7th. In.the meantime we have just spent two wonderful nights camping near Quebec City. This is our third visit to this delightful place which exudes more of a European than North American flavor.
We weathered a bit of rain, but when the sun came out so did the people, the colors, and the street performers.
On each visit we have “splurged a little“ in the bar at the Hotel du Frontenac. Just drinks and a charcuterie for 2 was well north of CA $200 before tip.
Ahead of us before Kansas City is a two night visit with friends in Ottawa, Ontario, Canada, and a brief stopover to see a longtime friend in my hometown of Crete, Illinois.
I anticipate that I will be “going silent” now until we are back home.
Once home I will then begin preparations for a 10 week journey that returns me to the Portuguese Camino, extending my foot-trek beyond Santiago de Compostela to Finisterre and Muxia in Spain, a total of nearly 500 km.. This will be part of a grand journey to 4 continents, 9 countries, covering over 30,000 km. Included will be a transit by ship of the Southern Atlantic Ocean. Stay tuned!
At the end of this post are a few more pictures from yesterday. For those who wish to dig a bit deeper the following link will take you to my pictures and travelogue from September 2018. Enjoy!
We arrived back in Nova Scotia early the morning of July 29th. The ferry deposited us and a shipload of passengers and vehicles on shore at 7:30 a.m.. Mira River Provincial Park was less than an hour away. We had our fingers crossed that the campsite we had reserved for that night would be unoccupied and we could prevail upon the park staff to let us set up early. Technically, check-in was not until 2 p.m. We hoped to catch up on the sleep that we had lost in the overnight passage.
Luck, or so we thought, was not with us. The campsite was still occupied and the campers had until 1 p.m. to vacate.
On the way to Mira River we had noticed a number of signs advertising Fortress Louisbourg, a Canada Parks Historic Site.
We had not intended to visit, but it was only 20 minutes down the road and we had previously purchased Parks Canada Annual Access Passes. What did we have to lose?
The year was 1713, and King Louis XIV, also known as the “Sun King“, was nearing the end of his reign. Louis XIV is the longest reigning monarch of a sovereign country in history, having held his throne for 72 years,110 days. England’s Queen Elizabeth II may yet eclipse that record.
The population of France was overwhelmingly Catholic.
Catholics were required to abstain from eating meat every Friday, every holy feast day, and throughout Lent. For over 1/3 of the year French people relied on fish as the approved substitute for meat in their diet. However, France’s offshore European fishery was in collapse due to overfishing.
Fishing stocks in the New World were already legendary, especially off the shores of what would later be named Nova Scotia, the Grand Banks, and what became Canada’s other Atlantic Provinces. As the result of the Treaty of Ultrecht, entered into that year with England, France was granted control over Ile-Royale (now Cape Bretton) and Ile-St. Jean (now Prince Edward Island). Louis turned his attention across the Atlantic and asked the question, could the fisheries of Cape Bretton provide a sufficient harvest, particularly of Codfish, to economical justify shipment to France? If so, what infrastructure and military presence would be required to secure the endeavor?
The answer to the first question was yes.
By 1731 New World French fishermen were exporting over 35 million pounds of Codfish and 1,600 barrels of cod-liver oil annually.
Over 400 local fishing vessels and 60-70 ocean going schooners were engaged in fishing the waters near and off-shore from Louisbourg.
The answer to the second question was to build Fortress Louisbourg. Note: A fort is military installation. A fortress is a fortified city.
The settlement was founded in 1713. Beginning around 1720 French engineers toiled for the next 20+ years to construct and expand Fortress Louisbourg and its harbor. At its zenith the town was enclosed by a wall 30 feet tall, 30 feet thick, and 2.5 miles long.
Additional security was provided by a broad surrounding ditch, ramparts, and fortifications with cannon that commanded the entrance to the deepwater harbor.
The original budget of 4 million French livres exploded under King Louis XV to 30 million. Fortress Louisbourg was named after Louis XIV, who died in 1715.
Within the walls over 2,000 people made their homes, with another 1,000 living outside the walls.
On any given day there were over 150 ships in the harbor, either unloading goods for Louisbourg or being loaded with preserved fish bound for France.
Properly dried and salted Cod have a shelf life of up to 2 years, and when soaked and reconstituted taste fresh caught, or so we were told.
A mercantile economy was imposed on the colony by Mother France. In other words, Louisbourg was not allowed to become self-sufficient. It could produce nothing for its own consumption, except fish.
Everything had to be exported to and imported from France. This ensured a stream of tax revenue for the Crown, and continued dependency upon France by the population.
What could possibly go wrong!?! Massive income to the King, a harbor with armed security second to none, a dependent population, one of the most extensive European fortification complexes in North America…
Plenty could go wrong, and did. Louisbourg was built on low ground. The high ground was located on the land-side of the fortress which provided an artillery advantage to attacking land based troops. Louisbourg also focused the majority of its defensive capacity on protecting the harbor. Finally, if put under siege it was too far from France or Quebec to count on timely reinforcements. In the eyes of England Louisbourg was a golden goose ripe to be plucked.
In 1745 British colonists captured the fortress after a lengthy siege. The fortress was restored to France in 1748 courtesy of the treaty ending the War of Austrian Succession. However, in 1758 it was again captured by British forces during the Seven Years War (aka The French and Indian War). This time the British resolved to permanently eliminate the threat of Fortress Louisbourg. British engineers systematically blew up the walls and many of the buildings within the walls.
Fast forward to the 20th Century. Interest was growing in the history of the derelict site which had been designated as a National Historic Site in 1920. The first building was reconstructed in 1930.
Beginning in 1960 the real efforts at reconstruction got underway. Using a remarkable trove of archive documents from France, archeological excavations (that continue to this day), and examples from other sites of that time, one-quarter of Louisbourg has been painstakingly and accurately reconstructed.
Today, Parks Canada operates the restored Fortress Louisbourg as a living museum.
It is staffed by scores of knowledgeable reenactors dressed in period garments.
Many are engaged in common activities of that time.
Such activities that we observed include baking (the bread is for sale to visitors), black smithing, lace making, animal husbandry, gardening (the vegetables are for consumption by the staff), music, and shop keeping.
There is even a tavern which we took advantage of.
For a price, one can fire a musket, and even a cannon. One can even apply to be a prisoner for the day.
The staff people often maintain the role of a particular historical person, answering questions “in character”.
We arrived at the Fortress at 9:45 a.m. and did not conclude our visit until 6 hours later. Our bad luck with the occupied campsite turned out to be our good fortune in visiting this amazing place, the largest historical reconstruction in North America.
Peace Everyone. Pete
PS. At virtually every turn in our travels there have been people who immediately became dear to us. Such was the case at Fortress Louisbourg.
I approached a staff person who was in period attire and I addressed a question. Within minutes we were engaged in a far ranging conversation. A connection had been made.
Frith, working their fifth season at the park, fairly burst with enthusiasm for the job, and life. They had just completed extensive study and coursework in advanced carpentry. Frith was looking forward to their forthcoming position in the trade at the close of the Louisbourg tourist season.
We talked about family, life, travel, future goals (ours and theirs), and Star Trek. Star Trek reignited our conversation when as we were preparing to part I raised my hand in a split finger gesture and wished Frith, “Live Long and Prosper!” Frith fairly shouted, “You’re a Trekkie! So am I!!”
I truly wish for Frith a long, happy, and prosperous life.
Frith, you have the tools and attitude to, in the words of Captain Jean Luc Picard, “Make it so!”
Our original plan had been to spend only the nights of July 23rd and 24th at Dildo Run Provincial Park. We would then drive nearly 300 miles for a 2 night stay on the west coast at Blow Me Down Provincial Park, followed by some back-tracking and another long drive for a one night stay at Barachois Provincial Park. The plan deserved reexamination.
Up to this point, with the exception of Pippy Park in St. John’s, every stay had been 2 nights long. Cancelling Blow Me Down would allow us to add a third day to Dildo Run, eliminate one of two long drives that lay ahead, and add a day to Barachois Pond, from where we would have a 100 mile drive to the ferry on July 28th. That made enough sense, and so it is what we did.
As my prior posts detailed, the longer stay at Dildo Run was fortuitous, allowing us the explorations of Fogo Island and Twillingate.
Barachois is not particularly near anything noteworthy, but on-line pictures promised a scenic and relaxing 2 night stay.
We knew the park was large with 150 unserviced sites. Upon arrival we were surprised to see that most sites were occupied by large pull-behind trailers and equally large 5th wheel campers. These were typically over 25 feet long. Furthermore, it was mid-week when we would expect more vacancies. That was not a problem since we had a reservation.
Our assigned spot was beautiful.
We were lakeside with a 50 foot walk to the shore. There was a beach, a well maintained bathhouse with laundry, and limited wifi available in the park. After making camp we took a walk through the park.
It was a ghost town. Virtually no one was home at the campsites! Further examination revealed that many of the sites had stocked in large quantities of wood, had large on-site generators, tented storage sheds, and the site next to us even had a propane tank that was large enough to serve a home. This was a park largely dedicated to season-long campers occupying their sites mostly on weekends.
When evening arrived, so did a few of these “residents”. The park became illuminated by multi-colored “party lights”, and music played (too) loudly from a number of sites. The residents of the campsite behind us remained absent, but their solar powered party-lights came on automatically at dusk.
So it was with many of the sites with absentee residents. This was not our style of camping. Hopes for a real dark-sky experience were dampened, but since we faced lakeside I was able to take an after-midnight time exposure sky shot that turned out reasonably well.
Sunset also brought stunning illumination to imposing Mount Erin across the lake from our camp.
During our earlier walk I had noticed a trailhead and signboard that detailed a 5+ mile hike up the mountain. I added that to my mental check-list of things to do tomorrow.
Our evening rounded out with a tasty Dutch Oven Pot Pie, a few adult beverages, and a campfire. All was good, in spite of the fairyland of party lights that surrounded us on three sides.
The next morning we decided to do some pre-ferry grocery shopping before my afternoon hike. The large community of Stephenville was about 20 miles away with a couple of large grocery stores, and at least one coffee shop that had wifi superior to the anemic signal in the park. I didn’t figure there would be any photo opportunities so to my regret I didn’t bring my camera.
Driving through town we were struck by the array of huge warehouses. It struck me that they looked like converted airplane hangers. Furthermore, many of the cross-streets bore US placenames: Minnesota Drive, Carolina Avenue, Oregon Drive, Dakota Drive… It was time to consult with Mr. Google.
This town of only 6,600 residents has huge runways and an international airport! Why? Because from 1941 to 1966 this was the home of Ernest Harmon United States Air Force Base. The US airbase featured two runways, one nearly a mile long and the second nearly 2 miles long! This is how the airfields look today:
Until 1949 this was the independent country known as The Dominion of Newfoundland, established in 1907and consisting of both Newfoundland and Labrador.
It gave up its self-governing status in 1934 because of a crisis in public finances brought about during The Great Depression, allowing the United Kingdom to temporarily administer it through an appointed Commission of Government. This continued until Newfoundland and Labrador officially joined Canada after a hotly contested referendum that included options to remain a dominion of Great Britain, join with Canada, or join with the United States. The final election did not include a US option. Canada Confederation won by a slim 52% majority, Newfoundland and Labrador becoming Canada’s 10th Province in 1949.
The US Air Force Base was maintained until 1966, and was one of the United States’ largest airbases located outside of the US. It had a deepwater port, and serviced the largest transport aircraft in the US arsenal, fighters, and nuclear armed aircraft. This is how the airfield appeared in the the 1940’s and 50’s…
And some images of what is left today, courtesy of the internet:
We returned to camp and I “girded my loins” to tackle Mount Erin. A little over 5 miles and a steep climb of 1,150 feet, brought the reward of an amazing panorama that my lens does not do justice to.
The view took in Bay St. George, the Gulf of St. Lawrence, and the Long Range Mountains which are the northernmost extension of the Appalachian Mountains.
I returned to camp two and a half hours later beat and in need of a beer revival. The hike stood as a caution to me. This trip has not provided me with the opportunities to hike and exercise as is my custom. Furthermore, we eat really well when we camp, too well by at least one measure.
On September 29th I leave Christine and fly out of Kansas City bound for Lisbon, Portugal. From there I will proceed to Porto Portugal and hike to Santiago de Compostela, Spain, continuing on to Muxia and Finisterra on the Atlantic coast, finally returning to Santiago. From there by transport as yet undecided I will meet Christine in Barcelona, Spain not later than November 6th. The portion of the journey I will pursue by foot will cover about 300 miles (500km).
In the past training for such and undertaking seemed prudent but not necessary. At 70 years old it has become both prudent AND necessary.
Peace Everyone. Pete
PS. We boarded the ferry late the night of July 28th, landing in Nova Scotia 7 hours later. We left behind wonderful sights, experiences, and fast friendships. We hold all of these as precious memories to be treasured.
We also left behind the Province’s odd slang, unique cuisine, the thick Irish/Scottish accents, and weird half-hour time zone. It took some time to adjust to the hourly news feeds from NPR, CBC, and BBC broadcasting on the half-hour. The rest was easy.
On the morning of July 25th we set out from our camp at Dildo Run Provincial Park for the fishing community of Twillingate. Located about 15 miles from camp and on the Twillingate Islands of Notre Dame Bay, this town of 2,100 people is nicknamed “The Iceberg Capital of the World”.
Unfortunately, we arrived too late in the season to see any near-shore icebergs. We did take in a pleasant drive to the highway’s end where a brief hike rewarded us with wonderful views of the harbor and rugged coastline.
For over 200 years Twillingate was an important trade and service center for the Labrador and north shore fisheries. Once a thriving fishing port, Twillingate has had to turn its eyes to other commerce because of the collapse of fishing stock due to overfishing and government imposed fishing moratorium of 1992. The moratorium has slowly brought back fish numbers and restored some commercial fishing, but remains unpopular with many local fishermen.
Twillingate has found success in fostering local tourism and is favored as an “artists colony”.
For 40 years it has played host to the annual “Fish, Fun, & Folk Festival”, drawing thousands of visitors. Sadly we just missed this as the week long event began a few days following our visit.
As we continued to explore Twillingate, Christine noticed a small winery up ahead and suggested a visit.
We pulled into the parking lot of the Auk-Island Winery expecting to spend a few minutes there out from the overcast drizzle that had developed.
Though small, Auk-Island features a wide array of wines and has hosted visitors from around the world. We inquired about tastings.
For CA $20 the two of us were presented with pourings from 20 of the winery’s 22 offerings.
With the assistance of of Brandy, and her great sense of humor, we set about tasting and rating… tasting and rating… and tasting…
I think that there is method to this as the wines loosen both inhibitions and one’s wallet.
We found many of the wines wonderful to our palate. Some wine “connoisseurs” might not be impressed with the non-grape based varieties, but we especially enjoyed the offerings created from dandelion and rhubarb, not to mention more pedestrian fruits like raspberries and strawberries.
Grapes are not native to Newfoundland or Labrador. When Leif Erickson mentioned “Vinland”, he was identifying New Brunswick, or perhaps coastal Maine, not Newfoundland where his camp, now known as L’ Anse aux Meadows, is located. It is thus most appropriate that Aux-Island focuses on creating excellent non-grape wines.
Wine tasting concluded, Christine lined up a case worth of bottles at the cash register.
As Donna was running the tab she turned to me and asked if I’d kissed a Cod yet. With some regret I replied that I missed my chance in St. John’s. “Well, I can get you ‘screeched-in’ here if you want. All I’ve got to do is get Chris!”
I gave my assent and soon Donna returned, wearing a Sou’wester hat and foul weather coat, “Chris” lovingly cradled in her arms.
Other customers became interested in this bit of theater and soon a number of others lined up to be “screeched”.
“Chris” is a once alive, now frozen, Codfish. As Donna advised, I could consider “Chris” male or female, depending on my preference. Chris is female.
I thought that all I had to do was to kiss the Cod in order to be “screeched-in”. How wrong I was.
In disabusing me of the notion Donna explained that I first had to demonstrate language proficiency with a number of common Newfoundlander phrases. Then I would kiss the Cod, drink a toast of screech in one fell swallow, and finally take the Oath that would earn me the Certificate and status as an Honorary Newfoundlander. Sounded easy enough.
First, as a “come from away” (mainlander or foreigner) I had to ask properly to be screeched in by responding, “Yes b’y!” Then the impossible began.
Donna: “Repeat after me….” followed by a series of incomprehensible phrases that I and the others haplessly tried to imitate. The attempts brought roars of laughter from Donna, Brandy, and all others present as witnesses.
Next came kissing the Cod, to which Donna added that technique and passion would be rated by applause. “Tongue or no tongue?” I asked. This question earned an applause, as did my full-on embrace of the fish.
Finally there was the shot of the “adult beverage”, followed by the Oath and required answer to the question, “Is you a Screecher?”
“Deed I is, me ol’ cock, and long may your big jib draw!” Was the proper response, but uttered quickly as one long word and sounding like you had just left the dentist’s chair with mouth and tongue still numb from novocaine injections.
Our “brief” impulse visit to the Auk-Island Winery expanded to almost 2 hours and has become one of our fondest memories of our time in the Province.
It was not quite 5 p.m. and our stomachs had begun to cry, “Feed me”. We didn’t find anything in town that excited our tastebuds, but I recalled some crude signs on the way to Twillingate that indicated a seafood restaurant and “Lobster Pool”. We were off to pick up that trail.
10 minutes down the road and there was the sign. We turned and a few miles more brought us to “Sansome’s Lobster Pool, Dockside Dining, Kitchen, and Restrooms.”
We were not alone. Sansome’s must thrive on word of mouth, and those mouths must really have been talking. This was a real hidden gem!
Here is the “Lobster Pool” and soon to be victims…
Here the lobsters are being cooked…
And here we are at table with Floridians Suzanne and Brad, along with francophones Simone and Oliver from Quebec.
Not more than an hour earlier we had been strangers. However, the tiny restaurant had developed an imposing waiting list. Christine and I were next in line. Staff eyed the table that had just opened, a table for 6.
Christine reached out to the two couples and asked if they wished to join us. The replies and relief from each of them and the restaurant staff were immediate. Thus began one of the finest and most memorable dining experiences of this trip.
It takes just a moment and a kind word to turn a stranger into a friend.