Franada

IMG_4184Bonjour, Bienvenue au Québec! (Hello, Welcome to Quebec!)

The French Provence of Canada embodied the spirit of hospitality and the moment we crossed over into the eastern Provence of Quebec, we felt right at home. Yes, all of the street signs were in French, and we don’t know French, but there were welcome signs everywhere and all along the way, the people met us with smiles, even the construction worker on the highway waved us through with enthusiasm. And, the efforts the locals made to meet us where we were at, openly sharing the richness of their culture, food, family, and the delight of community, really made our trip through the area a fantastic memory we hope to revisit again someday.

IMG_4403Our host family, Vann & Chantal and their awesome children welcomed us to their tiny hometown of Saint-Séverin, where we would park for a week, and enjoy life through their local eyes.

Our first night in town, we drove up the road to Saint-Frédéric, for a “Tent.” Local life in the summer means all the little towns in the area create a rotating tent that rolls through a different town every weekend. It includes a fundraising night of festivities, a beer garden and a rock band, usually a cover band, to come and play music. The night that we went a Bon Jovi tribute band took the stage, and let me tell you, they looked and sounded just like Bon Jovi. Craig got a bit of loving that night for his epic mustache. Dudes were enviously staring at him all night, and one bloke actually came up to him and began to enthusiastically reach out to pull his mustache, stating “j’aime ton pinch.” Which translated I love your mustache. We were all a little taken aback by the fella’s forwardness but it was flattering.

The next night we performed in Vann and Chantal’s barn for a good handful of their friends and neighbors. The barn was a fantastic venue, with twinkle lights, candles and a great sound system. They had a potluck style dinner and performed two sets of Hollands songs but continued sharing music in the round well into the wee hours of the night.

IMG_4272Sunday morning we roused for mass at the local parish just a block from the house. It was lovely to be so close. The service was all in French but we had enough experience with the format to be able to follow along. Our favorite part though was the beauty of the cathedral. Although just a small town of 250, the cathedral was grand. Actually every single little town we drove through had an iconic cathedral in the heart of the city center. After church Chantal took us an hour drive up to Quebec City, where she toured us around the famous walled city. It was awesome having a french translator to help us get a lay of the ground. However, everyone was quite friendly and happy to speak to us in English as needed.

IMG_4379Monday the warmer weather drew us to a local secret watering hole. We enjoyed cooling off in the little stream, walking rocks and especially loved the challenge of swimming upstream against the waterfall current. It was relaxing and lead to an evening dinner, and later while the fella’s played a rousing game of poker in the barn, the rest of us sat around a fire and talked well into the night about all the important things of life, like why are we here, who is God and why do bad things happen to good people.

IMG_4396We spent a few more lazy days with our host family, doing laundry, getting groceries, sharing meals and story. Chantal cared for my health by offering to share her gift of Chiropractic with me. Her office was lovely but more than that, her gentle and healing spirit straightened me right out.

On our last day with them, we took a stroll down the road to a local garden owned by an eccentric millionaire. We wandered around the gardens and enjoyed the fresh air and kind companionship.

IMG_4341It wasn’t easy to say good-bye when it was time, as these kinfolk in the Northwoods and rolling hills of Quebec had become family.

And, even now as I write this a few weeks later, we all pine to get back. Specially Craig, who decided although Australian of Scottish decent, that he must somehow be French because he felt so at home.

So I don’t doubt that someday, we’ll roll back through!

 

 

 

 

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Canadian Travel Log

It’s a rare treat to get ahold of Craig’s travel log, but today he let me have a gander. Here are his notes from our recent trip to Canada, in his bus language.

 

IMG_4037“We just ran our first trip into Canada, 1600 miles over two and a half weeks. Wasn’t quite sure what to expect crossing borders with the bus but everything went real smooth on both sides. We entered Canada from Maine at the Calais/ St Stephens crossing and headed up the New Brunswick Coast. Cell coverage was limited so went back to using paper maps for the two and a half weeks, which I prefer anyway.

 

IMG_4068First stop was the Hopewell Rocks in the Bay of Fundy. On the way we drove through Fundy National park which I’m glad we came from the Sth because the climb coming the other way looked pretty serious. The coastline along the Bay of Fundy was pretty awesome as well as walking the sea floor when the tide was out.

 

We then drove hwy 11 North through Moncton, Miramichi, Bathurst, Campbelltown and then onto 132 over to Rimouski. The section of the drive on 132 between Cambellton and Rimouski was my favorite, followed the Matapaldia River most of the way with some really long covered bridges to see. Not really any climbs and then a gorgeous drop to Rimouski and the St Lawrence River. Oh by the way everything was in French once we crossed into Quebec which made for interesting navigation, especially when it came to road works and detours. Being an older bus I had to make a cheat sheet of Miles/ KM conversions so I could figure out my speed. We stayed at an Rv park called Camping Motel de l’Anse in Rimouski that had cool views over The St Lawrence, really nice park and real helpful with restaurant recommendations etc.

 

 

Next stop was Quebec City where we stayed for almost a week with some friends about 45 sth in a village of 250 called St. Severin. Loved our time here, taking in the local French culture and driving into the city was quite beautiful. Everyone has been so nice especially as we can’t speak french. The food here has also been amazing, found a local Gin we’ve been enjoying called Ungava.

 

 

Headed to Montreal for a few days, stayed just west of town, parking thanks to a referral at St. Edwards of Canterbury in Beaconsfield, right near the St. Lawrence River. Was a busy city to drive the bus through, glad we have a toad for going back and forth into the city. Loved the markets and neighborhoods of Montreal and would definitely go back. Had trouble starting the bus to leave here, ended up purchasing new starter batteries and seems to have fixed the problem.

 

 

 

IMG_4802Our last stop in Canada was Toronto and I have to say after all the scenery of NB and Quebec, Ontario all of a sudden became quite flat and predictable. We liked Toronto well enough but were kind of itching to get back to Quebec. We visited Niagara Falls on the Canadian side and were wowed by the size and power of all that water.

Our trip went real smooth, Canadian dollar was favorable to us from down Sth. As long as I remembered that the prices didn’t bother me. The weather was awesome and after doing it once, we can’t wait to go back. Next time we want to spend more time in Quebec, New Brunswick and also explore New Foundland, Nova Scotia and PEI. ~Craig”