Category Archives: Down East With Madeleine

Day Fourteen – Driving, driving and more driving

After a windy cold night and a morning sky full of grey clouds, we packed up and were out of the campground in record time. We were on the road by 10 am and planned to find a place near Riviere du Loup for the night. Three hours later we were eating lunch in the van outside of Riviere du Loup and revising our plans to get to the south side of the river opposite Quebec City for the night. Madeleine took the wheel for the next couple of hours and before we knew it we were revising our plans yet again to carry on to Montreal before settling in for the night. The weather had turned sunny and the traffic was good although the roads, though straight, were in rough shape. Before we got to Montreal we revised once more and decided to carry on to Cornwall after checking with Sue’s brother Paul to see if Joey would mind us camping out on her doorstep once again. So here we are and tomorrow at this time we should be home.

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Day Thirteen – Homeward bound

So today we packed up and left Cape Breton. We figure it will take four days to get back to Belleville travelling at a pace we can manage.

Madeleine was so pumped from yesterday’s achievement that she decided to try driving.

The day passed mainly without much ado although Sue saw the tail end of a coyote as he disappeared into the bush on Cape Breton and then much later a really healthy looking coyote crossed the road in front of us about an hour south of Fredericton.

We had run out of propane but managed to find a fellow running an Irving gas station on the edge of New Glasgow who was able to fill our tank. He was a very talkative character and regaled us with stories in his thick Nova Scotian accent.

So now we are back at our old stomping grounds – Mactaquac Provincial Park – and have set up camp. Madeleine is cooking supper before we settle down for another episode of Bones.

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Day Twelve – The Cabot Trail

The day started with a long and treacherous drive up the Cabot Trail. Along the way we encountered a lookout point where we were privy to the spectacular view of a whole bunch of pilot whales frolicking. The locals said they had never seen so many pilot whales in one spot before. They figured there was a mackeral run happening. Sue was fortunate enough to be able to catch a few with her camera.

We continued along the west leg of the Cabot Trail and stopped off on a side street just outside of Cheticamp and watched lobster fishermen pulling in their catch. The wife and three daughters of the Captain were there as well so we had a nice chat with her.

Finally we reached our destination – the Skyline Trail on French Mountain – which is purported to be the most beautiful hiking trail on Cape Breton. This 10 km walk began with an easy wide and flat gravel path. About a quarter of the way along, Sue spied a moose grazing on a ridge across a deep valley.

From here we headed out to the Lookout which was a challenge for Madeleine but one she didn’t hesitate to take on. There must have been a hundred steps.

At the end of the lookout, while we gazed down to the water from our clifftop view, a minke whale surfaced as he headed up the coastline.

The trek back along the outer loop of the trail was a bit more arduous but we eventually arrived back in one piece at the end of the trail.

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Day Eleven – Lunenburg to Cape Breton

The day started off with a visit to the sights of Lunenburg via a horse-drawn carriage. (We didn’t get a good picture of the horse and buggy, sorry). We learned that Lunenburg has some of the oldest houses in Canada. And do they like their colours!!

How would you like to teach in this school? It only just closed last Christmas. Hopefully it will be converted into something that retains the original flavour.

We had an amazing meal – the best tomato soup Madeleine has ever had – in a little cafe called the Scuttlebutt. And we bought matching (except for the colour) hats in a wonderful shop across the street. It was a good shopping day for Madeleine.

Before we left lovely Lunenburg we visited the Bluenose II where it was undergoing restoration work. It is slated to hit the water by July and has been out of the water for nearly two years. The original Bluenose was built in 100 days over winter in 1921. The Bluenose II was built in 1963.

Next we headed on a very long Roadtrek to Cape Breton passing through Truro (say that three times fast) and Antigonish (love the sound of that one). Now we are ensconced in the Roadtrek (heater on cuz it’s chilly out there) having just completed a wonderful toasted tuna sandwich and are settling in for an episode of Bones (the first camping trip Sue has been on where she gets to watch TV).

Tomorrow we hit the Cabot Trail!

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Day Nine – Shipwrecks Galore

After a night in a lovely B&B in Pictou, with a talkative hostess who served a wonderful breakfast we headed to Halifax.

For those Dowlings who might remember the lifeboats in our backyard, we found the one lifeboat that was miraculously transformed into the vision that John Dowling had and it was surprisingly named Madeleine. It resided in the Maritime Museum of the Atlantic in downtown old Halifax. And what a museum it was with artifacts and photos of the Titanic, the Halifax Explosion, the famous cable-boats that laid the trans-atlantic telegraph cables, and details of many shipwrecks in the waters off the atlantic provinces.


For those who have ever been to Halifax, you will probably recognize the aggravation of driving the roads of this wild and crazy city. The roads change names in mid-stream, split into two or more without any notice and often go for blocks without any names. For those using GPS’s check your avoidance settings. Lee’s toll avoidance nearly took us 20 km out of our way when we tried to get to our B&B in Dartmouth.

Through the mist we caught a glimpse of a three-masted schooner in the waters between the city and Dartmouth. And as we navigated through the maze of streets of Halifax the Citadel rose up poised in the middle of the downtown core.

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Day Ten – Peggy’s Cove

Audrey Brown’s Autumn Leaves B&B turned out to be quite nice. Audrey herself bent over backwards to make sure we had what we needed.

The rain has let up though the skies are still quite grey. The plan was to camp out tonight if it isn’t raining. So we figured out the roads out of Halifax before we even left the B&B and headed for Peggy’s Cove.

The biggest surprise about Peggy’s Cove was the lack of trees. It is very tundra-like but amazingly picturesque. We spent quite a bit of time wandering among the rocks around the lighthouse and had a lovely lunch at the gift store nearby.

The artist William deGarthe sculpted a granite outcropping near his home dedicated to the  fishermen of Nova Scotia.  It is an amazing piece of work but what is incredible is that he was in his sixties when he started it.

We headed up the winding road around St. Margaret’s Bay which was absolutely gorgeous. Eventually we arrived at the beautiful Mahone Bay but didn’t stop because we needed to get to the Ovens Natural Park and Campground before dark.

So now we are all set up at our campsite. Sue did a hike of the Ovens – seacliff caves that give the park its name and Madeleine rested in the lovely Roadtrek. We haven’t seen many other Roadtreks in our travels, but surprisingly, there is one just across the way in this campground.

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Day Eight – Anne of Green Gables

Two nights at the same spot!! Unheard of – yet we stayed another night at Bayside Campground. Both nights were frigid but I (Sue this time) was wrapped snugly in a flannel blanket Madeleine leant me tucked neatly inside my mummy sleeping bag so I slept like a baby.

Today was our first day of clouds but the rain held off until the tent was packed away and we were on the road to Cavendish. The rain came and went but seemed to hold off long enough for us to tour the Green Gables homestead and nearby Cavendish Beach. For Madeleine the farm was a trip down memory lane. And, of course, we are both fans of Anne so we enjoyed touring the old farmhouse. Afterwards we trekked the loop through the “Haunted Woods” which also brought back childhood memories of playing in the woods near our homes. Here is Madeleine emerging from the woods with Green Gables in the background.

From here we headed to fabled Cavendish Beach where we touched the waters of the Atlantic Ocean.

On to the Fisherman’s Wharf in North Rustico for a taste of lobster.

Delicious but very rich. This place also had a great salad bar.

And now we are heading for Nova Scotia. We’re lined up for the last ferry of the day that will take us across to Pictou, Nova Scotia where we have a bed and breakfast waiting. This will be our first night indoors since we left Cornwall.

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Day Seven – Cleanup and Learn day

Madeleine slept in while Sue got the local lowdown about places to go and see while we are here in PEI. Today I (Madeleine) decided it was time to try out the wig that I bought on my way out of town last week. Comments would be appreciated although an in person viewing may be better. Sue and Carol think it looks great, but they may be just biased.

Then we travelled to Charlottetown for an educational journey through history at Founders’ Hall.

Did you know that the signing of Confederation was not in Charlottetown at all? … it was in London England.

Did you know that the original Charlottetown meeting was meant for just the Atlantic Provinces, but Canada East & West crashed the party (of course communication is not what it is today)?

After all this our tired brains needed nourishment, so we headed across the road to a celebrity hotspot called Prince & Water Restaurant. Sue had deep fried clams and I had grilled salmon. Of course this was after an amazing cup of clam chowder. We are saving ourselves for lobster tomorrow night!!!

Notables known to have visited this area of Charlottetown are Kate & William and Regis & Kelly.

To celebrate this wonderful meal, we returned to the campsite to do laundry and wash the bugs off the van. They make the bugs bigger out here!!!!

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Day Six – New Brunswick to PEI

After the crazy aggravation of trying to find a campground we ended up in the lovely Mactaquac Provincial Park and enjoying a grrreat night’s sleep. We awakened to yet another beautiful day – a little chilly, but who’s complaining?!

We headed off to Fredericton to see the old town centre and explore the art gallery. Lee, our trusty GPS, got us right into town and found us a parking spot right in front of old city hall. There was some kind of festival going on right by the van which was serving free hotdogs. So that was our lunch.

Nearby was a park sporting a Robbie Burns statue with bronze plaques illustrating lines from some of his  celebrated poetry.

Things don’t seem to open early in Fredericton on a Sunday so a leisurely stroll checking out the local seventeenth century architecture filled in the time before the art gallery was ready to receive visitors.

After an expensive visit (for Madeleine) to the gallery, we carried on our journey towards PEI.

Andy’s warning about traversing Confederation Bridge and dealing with the wind in our high-riding van, turned out to be a non-event. But the trip across was spectacular. We were in PEI before we knew it.

And then began another campground search adventure. The provincial park at Chelton Beach is closed this time of year. Sigh. And the two guys that run the Bayside Campground don’t seem to read maps well. The directions they gave us on the phone left a lot to be desired. Eventually we figured it out, though. And now we are nestled once more in our cosy abode.

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Day Five – Miles and ZZZZZ’s

Today had a slow start. Madeleine needed a “down day” so we didn’t rush things and got away from Rivier du Loup by noon. We managed to find a grocery store and stocked up on fruit and some essentials – like drinks. I had forgotten that they sell alcohol in grocery stores in Quebec.

The trip down the highway towards Fredericton was uneventful – no moose or deer sighted. The scenery got progressively more beautiful and by the time we reached Fredericton I thought we were in the Muskokas.

Madeleine slept most of the trip and recouped energy for our next adventure which turned out to be finding a campsite near the city. Chasing illusive campgrounds listed on the ipad was humbling. Maybe we aren’t quite as technologically savvy as we thought. At one point we thought we were in the Ozarks. A very drunk but very happy fellow approached the van while we were studying maps and ipads and declared he was in love with our Roadtrek. I guess it is widely recognized as superior in these parts. We have been getting longing stares all day. Anyway, this fellow and a couple of his friends were able to send us on a long and winding trip to the Mactaquac Provincial park where we happily set up for the night.


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Day 4 Whale Watching

It was an early start as we arrived at the campsite late last night and had to get whale watching tickets and pay for the campsite first thing this morning. Luckily because of our technological savvy, we have been able to find campsites and get the directions with GPS and IPad expertise!!!

The first whale Sue saw was decidedly alien to these parts:

We set out whale watching at 10:00 and very shortly were able to spy some Minke whales and a family of Beluga whales. One Minke whale was very close to the boat, so we were able to get a good view, but not a great picture of the elusive creature.

Following the whale watching, we had a tour of the Fjord, which I (Madeleine) slept through most of, but Sue was good to awaken me for spectacular views (not in quite the same manner as Keith did in our trip through the mountains, last Fall), so I only missed one water fall.

We nearly made the mistake of clambering off the boat in Tadoussac where the majority of the other sight-seers were headed.  I think if they had made a better effort at ensuring that announcements were also in English, we would have been prepared.  Luckily, we caught on as we headed across the nearest parking lot and quickly made an about-turn, jumping back on the boat before it headed back to beautiful Baie Sainte Catherine.

We then had a lovely lunch down the road and went to line up for the ferry to Riviere du Loup in Ste Simeon. The crossing was uneventful and, again with the aid of our trusty IPads we found a nearby campsite. We have the campsite setup action down pat and had our home ready within fifteen minutes. Even setting up the tent in gale force winds doesn’t seem to slow us down.

Tomorrow New Brunswick!

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Day Three – May 24, 2012 – Ste Anne de Beaupre

This is my (Madeleine) first contribution to the blog. The day started off with a leisurely rise and shine and breakfast in the camper van. It has been well worth the investment so far. I have slept wonderfully on the bed and everything is so readily available and convenient. After a stop at Timmy’s, we travelled south from Shawinigan to Cap de la Madeleine where we had a few picture opts before continuing to Ste. Anne de Beaupre.

The church and story of St. Anne is well worth the visit. I touched the healing stones of the Statue of St. Anne and I prayed for some healing for myself if it is meant to be. The pillars at the front of the church were loaded with discarded canes and crutches. If that is an indication of the healing power of St. Anne, who knows, I may have a chance at some small miracle.

Then after a late lunch, we continued on to Baie Ste Catherine, so we could go whale watching tomorrow morning. We travelled up and down through many picturesque “Monts” and had a panic moment when we thought the tires or brakes had gone, but luckily it was just the awful road conditions.

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Day Two – May 23, 2012

We got away from Cornwall mid-morning and headed east. Just outside Montreal, Sue realized that what she was interpreting as a half-full gas tank was actually the battery meter and, in fact, we were running on empty. Luckily we were able to remedy the situation before these two uni-linguals were stranded on a Quebec expressway. Wouldn’t that have been an adventure! Another lesson learned.
Despite construction, we managed to maneuver our way around Montreal – keeping to Uncle Mike’s advice about staying in the centre lane – and headed down highway 40 EST.
When we saw the signs announcing Shawinigan ahead, Madeleine began to dream about the Memorial Cup. What the heck – we headed north to Shawinigan, and lo and behold found the arena with a little help from a really sweet young fellow in a hardware store. We were able to pick up a couple of tickets and got invited to the Tailgate party. We found a campground right on Melville Isle in the middle of the city – five minutes from the arena. Was this meant to be or what?

Shawinigan was playing last year’s champions so the crowd was “enthusiastic” to say the least but sadly, they didn’t quite have what it takes to bring the big boys down. …But we did get to see the “little guy from Shawinigan”…


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Day One – On the road

So by morning the fridge was working. I guess these van fridges don’t have noisy compressors and don’t start spewing cold air as soon as they are turned on. Lesson learned. No need to stress. After a full morning of puttering, picking up some groceries, making sure Madeleine’s plants were watered, and various pre-trip last-minutes, we were on the road by 2 pm. The beautiful sunshine that we had the last few days gave way to cloudy skies and intermittent downpours. The 401 was relatively quiet so we made good time and got to Joey’s place on the edge of Cornwall by 5:30 pm. Paul and Joey welcomed us to this beautiful home on a huge lot surrounded by horse farms – right up Madeleine’s alley. Joey’s brother Rocky joined us for a lively discussion and wonderful meal. It was a full day for Madeleine so carrying on tonight didn’t seem a wise move. Joey offerred us a couple of rooms and we didn’t hesitate to accept. Tomorrow Quebec.

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Day Zero – May 21, 2012

We met up in Belleville at Madeleine’s place late Monday afternoon. The van is incredible – fully equipped with fridge, stove, microwave and TV. We will be travelling in luxury. Matt helped us figure out the water system but we got stumped on the fridge, trying to convert it from propane to AC power. We’ll call the original owner tomorrow for further instructions.

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Planning Stage

Nothing can stop Madeleine!  I called to check up on her the other day and she announced that she had bought a camper van.  “Let’s take a trip out east!” she suggested. “And the sooner the better.”  So I am busy checking the Fodor’s website looking for places to see and stay while we wend our way towards the east coast.  We’ll probably trek through Quebec following the Trans-Canada then find our way down through New Brunswick, checking out the Gaspe Peninsula as we go.  We have to see Prince Edward Island.  And hopefully we can check out the Reversing Falls of Saint John and a trip to beautiful Fredericton.  We will make our way to Halifax and up to Cape Breton.  Will we have the time and stamina to take the eight-hour ferry across to Newfoundland?  There is just so much to see that I’m not sure we have the time to see it all. 

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