The Fayette Citizen-Weekend Page
Wednesday, September 16, 1998

In love with the

Great White North





Thud. That's me, falling in love again with the most exquisite part of the world I've visited since well, since the last time I fell in love with a destination. I know, I know. Every time we go somewhere, it's more beautiful, more charming, more awesome than anywhere we've ever been before. Whether awesome Alps or Canadian Rockies, beflowered villages in Bavaria or classic English walled cities, canals in France or the Inward Passage winding past Alaskan glaciers, the sharpness of immediate memory makes the most recent experience the best.

And the latest experience of spirituality or cuisine or language is the most fascinating, be it the Tex-Mex-Saxon blend of German-settled Fredericksburg, Texas, or the Inuit-Russian meld of Sitka, Alaska.

But really, this year's jaunt will rank very high on our list of favorites. And it was an easy couple of days' drive from home, mere hours for fortunate souls who fly. This has been the Year of Canada for us. Rather by coincidence, counting last summer's crossing from west to east British Columbia through most of Ontario we've traversed eight of Canada's 10 provinces, missing only Quebec and Newfoundland.

Our fondness for our neighbor to the north is enhanced by memories of a family camping trip to Fundy National Park, Prince Edward Island, and Cape Breton when the girls were little tykes. That was about 1968 and we were hauling a pop-up tent trailer behind a VW bus. One child stayed in the trailer with us, while the other two escaped parental jurisdiction briefly by sleeping in a tiny pup-tent nearby.

We still talk about a wild and stormy night near Bedeque, Nova Scotia, when rain sluiced down the hillside we were camping on and into the waterproof bottom of the tent - deep enough to float the girls' inflatable mattresses. Alice braved the tempest to dash to the trailer; Jean slept through it, literally rocked in the cradle of the deep.

Somehow we got through the night, and the next morning, a still-rainy Sunday, we strung soaked sleeping bags and clothing on lines inside the camper, turned the Coleman heater up high and left for the day. We found a church (don't ask me what we wore) and then went sight-seeing, ending the day with dinner in what must have been the only Chinese restaurant in the province.

When we could delay no longer, we returned to the trailer and found, to our amazement, every bit of our gear perfectly dry and ready to use. So it was with nostalgia that we steered northeast in mid-August, stopping for some family business in Maryland and a high school class reunion in Pennsylvania, then on up through New England, crossing into New Brunswick at St. Stephen.

First order of business after crossing international borders, you know, is to get some of the local currency and change your watch to local time. We quickly learned how smart we were to visit Canada this year. Besides "gaining" an hour that day, we gained unprecedented buying power. Each of our American dollars bought about $1.50 Canadian. Or, put another way, $10 for fish and chips for two of us was actually costing $6.50.

Even with gas more expensive than in the States (roughly $1.30 per gallon), we came out ahead in most of our spending. Prices are reasonable, even without the dollar's superiority, and Americans have taken advantage of that this year in record numbers. (Conversely, however, Canadians who winter in Georgia, Florida, and Texas will be home shoveling their driveways this year.)

We spent two nights at Fundy National Park, reminiscing about how we divided camping chores among the girls 30 years ago: one was dispatched to collect downed wood for a fire, and two went for water, struggling with a 3-gallon water-can between them.

I had a piece of costume jewelry, a bejeweled fly, that became the award to the Camper of the Day. Mary thought it was silly; Jean had more fun playing prankster than model child, so Alice got more or less permanent custody of the merit badge. Now we "camp" in a small motor home with hot water and a microwave. It's not the same.

Nor is the approach to Prince Edward Island. Several years ago, Canada built a bridge to tether that bit of Paradise to the mainland, and we fear that they have lost more than they gained. It's a very long bridge.

The price to cross the Northumberland Strait is the same that it used to be to take the ferry $35 Canadian for cars, $40.50 for our vehicle but the time saved is time that used to help set PEI apart from the ordinary world. Even with that tariff, soon the differences one cherishes in a far-off place will yield to the way things are done everywhere else, and PEI will just be another province.

But for now, it's as lovely as we left it. We parked next to the cottage of an acquaintance who became a friend, and shared his shower and local expertise for two weeks.

Not too shabby, if you can stand two weeks of exquisite seascapes, steamed mussels, Victorian architecture, and the best local bakery ever....

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