Thursday, 30 June 2022

 

ÎLES-DE-LA-MADELEINE

COVID restrictions deprived Elva of the thing she wanted most for her 70th birthday on February 4; a gathering of family and friends. To make matters worse, we awoke that day to a howling snowstorm, so bad that I had to cancel dinner plans and make a mad dash to Sobeys for a couple of lobster and a store-bought cake. A Plan B emerged as Elva and her friend, Lise Journault, opted for a few days of hiking on the îles de la Madeleine’s (ÎDM) long-distance walking trail, Entre vents et marées. Ferry and accommodations were booked, and they left on June 18.

Elva’s good friend, Martha LeBel, passed away on June 24, 2014. She owned a summer house in her home village of Bassin on Île-du-Havre-Aubert, and Elva and her Prince Edward Island friends visited her there several times. Elva and Lise spent five days on foot, averaging 18 kilometers per day. I joined them on June 24, accompanied by Lise’s husband, Barry Hunt, and friends Betty and Ivan Bordage. The photos below show Elva and Lise and Martha's house.


I’d been to the ÎDM twice, the last time at least fifteen years ago. It has changed a great deal in that time. The archipelago sits in the middle of the Gulf of Saint Lawrence and consists of eight major islands, all inhabited except île Brion: île du Havre-Aubert, île du Cap-aux-Meules, île du Havre-aux-Maisons, île de la Pointe-aux-Loups, Grosse-Île, Grande-Entrée, and Entry Island. All are connected by bridges and causeways except Entry Island, accessible only by boat. Route 199 runs from La Grave on île du Havre-Aubert to Grande-Entrée, a distance of 84 kilometers, with nice, wide shoulders for we cyclists.

When I travel, I try to understand what makes a place tick; what are its vitals. In the case of the ÎDM, it has a land area of less than 4% of Prince Edward Island’s and is home to some 13,000 people. The population must surely double in the summer months as tourists flock there, mostly from Québec. The main industries are fishing and tourism. A salt mine operated by Windsor Salt provides employment as well.

The principal fishery is lobster with Magdalen Islanders holding 325 licenses, compared to 1,200 on Prince Edward Island. Many islanders work in the lobster and snow crab fisheries as well as in the associated processing plants, although the jobs are seasonal. This year, the average lobster fisher will catch 50,000 pounds and sell at $8.00 a pound or so. An attractive return, yes, but, with a license, gear, and boat going for 1.5 million dollars or so, fishers must work hard and smart to make a go of it.

We arrived on a typically rainy and foggy day and met up with Elva and Lise at Martha’s house in Bassin. Over the next two days, we were entertained and fed by Martha’s extended family: Marie-Berthe and Martin; Ghislaine and Céline; Denise and Martin; Jacqueline and Gérald; and Louise, who’s husband, Jean-Yves, was cycling from Val d’Or to Bassin as a fund-raiser. Spending time with them couldn’t have been more pleasant. They are friendly and genuine people who appreciate the true meaning of hospitality. We marveled at how close they are as family and friends and how well they've adapted to the sometimes-harsh climate and the winter isolation.

On Saturday, I pedaled from Bassin to Laverdière and back to La Grave, near where my uncle, Dr. Raymond Reid, was born. Elva had prepared a meal of chili for the gang. On Sunday, Elva and I played tourist, visiting l’île du Cap-aux-Meules, l’île du Havre-aux-Maisons, and the beach at Sandy Hook. We learned that the Tim Horton’s in Cap-aux-Meules is closed on Saturdays and that the nearby Subway and A&W are closed permanently, all due to a shortage of labour. My, how our world has changed! The photos below were taken at Étang-du-Nord.


The photos below show La Grave and the beach at Sandy Hook with Entry Island in the background.


We visited Estelle Thériault and Marcel Eloquin at la Dune-du-Sud. We knew Estelle from time she spent working on our Island as a teacher assistant. That evening, we’d invited members of Martha’s family and friends for a supper of lasagna. As the photo shows, it was une belle tablée!

Elva and I left Bassin the next morning, but not before having breakfast at the home of Martha’s sister, Denise. She lights a fire in the back yard and invites family, friends, and neighbours to coffee every morning at 5:30! Stuffed, we said goodbye to Martha’s family and headed north on Route 199 toward our destination, Grande-Entrée.

Along the way, we stopped at the Cap-Dauphin wharf in Grosse-Île and at Old Harry, one of my favourite spots on the islands. The harbour at Old Harry was abandoned several years ago but on a clear, windy day, it offered  spectacular views of the capes and La plage de la grande échouerie, one of the islands’ many beaches, 300 kilometers or so of white sand as far as the eye can see. On a far sadder note, we came across two dead gannets half-buried in the sand and, to my shock and amazement, a nearby front-end loader holding a bucketful of the poor creatures, all dead from avian flu.


Our host for our last two nights on the island was Lucie Coulombe, a woman we’d met on a South Pacific cruise in the fall of 2019. She’s spent summers in Grande-Entrée since buying a house there some eight years ago. We drove to the wharf and watched lobster boats ride the pounding surf as they came into port with the day’s catch. Some 130 lobster boats fish out of Grande-Entrée, making it one of the largest commercial small craft harbours in Canada.

We drove down the Pealey Road and walked out to the point to watch wind and kite surfers and took these pictures, bracing against the wind.


Lucie and her partner, Jean-Rock, laid on a feast for us and three other friends from Québec, Josée, Jocelyne and Roger: smoked salmon and scallops and, of course, all the lobster we could eat, topped off by a dessert made of bread soaked overnight in maple syrup. All of that enjoyed in the comfort of Lucie’s gazebo as we watched the sun set over the Havre de la Grande-Entrée.

The next morning, Lucie gave us the grand tour of the community, including the ÎDM’s only roundabout, located strategically at the northern terminus of Route 199. Why? God only knows. We visited the Catholic church and the business where Jean-Rock works and saw a monstrous 50-foot fibreglass lobster boat being built there.

The neighbouring community, Grosse-Île, is English-speaking, one of only two on the ÎDM, the other being Entry Island. The English make up only 5% of island residents but they have their own school, their own lobster and crab processing facility, and Grosse-Île has its own municipal government.

We stopped at St. Peters Anglican Church and admired the display featuring photos of all the Magdalen Islanders lost at sea. Next, we visited the Little Red School where our excellent guide told us about island life as it was in the past. Then she led us to the Veterans Museum, the best display of its kind I’ve seen anywhere. It features photos and stories of all the Magdalen Islanders who served in the two World Wars. Next on Lucie’s list was a stop at Holy Trinity Anglican where we took in the beauty of the stained-glass windows above the altar. The churches, the old school and the museum are all projects of CAMI, the Council of Anglophone Magdalen Islanders. I wondered what impact Québec’s Bill 96 might have on a minority like them with such deep roots on the islands.


After enjoying a hearty lunch at the Fish Shack, I pedaled through the village and back along Route 199 through the Réserve faunique de la Pointe-de-l’Est and the village of Grosse-Île, past the Mines Seleine and the islands’ two lone windmills before turning back for home. We said our goodbyes to Lucie and Jean-Rock and thanked them for their amazing hospitality and for educating us on the realities of island life.

The next morning, we got up bright and early for the drive for the ferry at Cap-aux-Meules, where we rejoined Lise, Barry, Betty, and Ivan for the trip back to reality. The Madeleine II is an impressive ferry; very smooth, well-appointed, and with an excellent cafeteria.

We packed a lot into the days we spent on the ÎDM, Elva especially. It is a wonderful place to visit, better still if you know someone there. To the wonderful people who hosted us, laughed with us, and taught us about life on the islands, un gros merci et à la prochaine!


Saturday, 12 March 2022

 

SPRING BREAK WITH FAMILY

We were supposed to link up with Sylvie, Ghislain, Samuel and Natalie in Mexico and spend a week with them at an all-inclusive. COVID got in the way of that plan, so we had to come up with an alternative.

We’d been to the Orlando theme parks before. I don’t think Elva and I will ever tire of them. So they flew down from Bangor, we drove up from Fort Myers, and we met at the nice house they’d rented in Davenport. Sunday was a rest day, time in the pool, time to pick up some grub, and a lesson in billiards for Samuel.

After a day of shopping (a day off for me!), we landed at Animal Kingdom after fighting the Florida traffic for what seemed like an hour. This would be a pattern for the five days we spent together: the only hitch in an otherwise perfect visit. We’d been there a few years ago with Jacques & Co. but hadn’t yet experienced the Avatar ride called “Flights of Passage”, the best virtual experience I’ve ever had!

Hard to explain for those who’ve never been, it’s a 3D flying simulator attraction that allows guests to take flight on a native mountain banshee and soar across the landscape of Pandora. There are some pretty good videos on YouTube but nothing like the real thing. It was well worth the one-hour wait and I’d go again in a heartbeat.

Animal Kingdom was very busy that day, and we spent more time than we’d planned waiting in line for the Kilimanjaro Safari and the Kali River Rapids. It was a very hot day and the thorough soaking we took in the rapids cooled us off wonderfully. After 15,000 steps or so, we crashed early. 

Day 2 at the theme parks saw us visit Typhoon Lagoon, one of my favourites. Due to the threat of thundershowers, the place was quieter than we’d ever seen it. We started with a half-dozen rides on the Crush ‘n’ Gusher, a few more on Miss Adventure Falls, and finished off Round 1 with the water slides. I kept up with the kids as well as I could and eventually made my way to the massive pool, enjoying every one of the big waves that give Typhoon Lagoon its name. Fittingly I suppose, it claims to be one of the world’s largest wave pools. After enduring a lunch-hour downpour, yours truly had a nap, no longer able to keep up with the young’uns.

We’d invited Samuel and Natalie to decide on an activity for the last day, and they chose SeaWorld. I’d never been but I knew what I was in for: rollercoasters! As with the previous day, thundershowers threatened, keeping the crowds at bay. Good news for us as there was hardly a line at the first coaster, Manta. Good God, what a rush! Once you’re strapped in, the seat tilts 90 degrees forward so that you’re suspended from your back. The ride starts with a head-first inverted nose-dive; and that’s just the start of the thrills. It was amazing! 

We tried Mako next. It’s rated as one of the top coasters in the US, and no wonder. You hit a top speed of almost 120 kph and are weightless at least four times! I was pretty woozy when I got off that sucker, let me tell ya. But I had to try one more, Ice-Breaker. It turned out to be a bit of a disappointment but, after three death-defying trips, the old carcass had had enough of the rides.

Elva and I visited Sealand of the Pacific in Victoria, BC, in 1978. We’d seen the orca, sea lion and dolphin shows there and knew what to expect. It was a first for Samuel and Natalie though, and they enjoyed them. I’m not a fan of keeping orcas in captivity. The practice is controversial, due to the separation of their familial "pod" during capture, and their living conditions and health in captivity. Once again, the heavens opened, and we were treated to a couple of too-close bolts of lightning as we tried to find shelter.


We thought our day was finished and called in at Guest Services where a kind attendant gave us complimentary “rain tickets” because of the weather. No questions asked! Then, miraculously, the rain stopped, and the young folk went off in search of the last of the coasters, Kraken. Sylvie, Elva and I spent an enjoyable hour or so people watching before we called it a day. Too soon, we said our goodbyes.

Sylvie & Co. were a bit nervous coming down here. Understandably so. Cases have been higher here than in Canada and virtually no one wears a mask. But, after four days of intense mingling in theme park crowds, they all tested negative before heading home.

Elva and I have been on Florida almost a month now. I’ve ridden almost 800 kilometres and Elva about half that. The Caloosa Riders Bicycle Club is our peer group while we’re here and they’re a great bunch of healthy, active people. We’re comfortable in our modest mobile at Poinsettia Park and enjoying the heat. We go to the beach once a week, I do a bit of HR work, and Elva is deep into a diamond art project. Life is good here. We’re convinced that, all in all, we’re able to stay healthier here than we would be on the Island.



Growing up with my mother in Wellington, I learned that few things are black or white and there are no absolutes. Life just isn’t that simple, and there are at least two sides to every story. I’ve lived and worked comfortably in the grey zone for most of my life and been fortunate that Elva has been by my side on this life journey for going on 54 years. We are not risk-averse. Being in Florida, supposedly surrounded by COVID, may be too far a stretch for some. We respect that. But we keep reminding ourselves that opportunities to spend time with family are too precious to miss.

Sunday, 20 February 2022

 

LIVING WITH COVID – PART 4

Is it over yet?

We crossed the border at Calais on February 13, twenty-three months to the day after Canada declared the infamous COVID Travel Advisory. The friendly (masked) US Border Agent looked at our passports and proof of vaccination, asked us the standard questions and, apparently satisfied with our answers, wished us a pleasant visit. As we rolled through Maine, New Hampshire, Massachusetts, Connecticut, New York, Pennsylvania, Maryland, West Virginia, Virginia, North Carolina, South Carolina, Georgia and, finally, Florida, we kept our distance where we could and behaved pretty much as we would have back home. It’s clear though that most Americans have experienced the pandemic far differently than we have.

I’ve felt compelled to follow the science since the pandemic began and I’ve got three holes in my left arm to prove it. Here in Florida, Elva and I mask indoors and try to limit our contacts. I don’t want to catch COVID but neither is it in my nature to live in fear when I know the risk is manageable. Based on experience with the Omicron variant, being triple-vaccinated is no guarantee. I’ve yet to receive a satisfactory explanation as to why so many triple-vaccinated people are being infected, including even Queen Elizabeth.

The day after our arrival in South Florida, Elva and I were on our bikes, getting out the kinks and stretching our legs after three long road days. I plan to ride four or five times a week and Elva will ride three. We were very glad to see our cycling friends after a two-year absence; we feel right at home here. While I did have fun fooling around on a fat bike at Brookvale a couple of times, there’s no substitute for riding in the heat, even if it’s on flat ground.

There used to be four subjects one had to be careful about when speaking to Americans: health care, gun control, politics, and religion. I’ve added COVID to that list. It may be a controversial topic in Canada, but here it’s downright divisive. Florida’s population, at 21.5 million, is about 55% of Canada’s. Total cases reported are 5.78 million, meaning about 25% of Floridians have had the disease, and 69,000, or 0.3% of the population have died from COVID. In Canada, 8.5% have had COVID and 0.09% have died from it. Prince Edward Island numbers are much lower. The numbers show that we’ve done a much better job of living and dealing with the disease. The question is: where do we go from here?

Our decision to spend eleven weeks in Florida is based on our personal assessment of the risk involved. While the disease is more prevalent here and our chances of getting it are probably greater, we must balance that against the reality of yet another miserable Island winter. At 68, I can count the number of good travel years I have left on the fingers of both hands. That’s reality and that’s if I’m lucky. Besides, I don’t own snow tires and refuse to buy any more!

So, what’s it really like in the US? As we drove through the New England States, we saw signs that COVID was still being taken seriously. Everyone in a Pennsylvania Starbucks wore a mask, baristas, and customers. A Sheetz gas station had a sign on the door that said: “You look great in a mask!” As we crossed the Mason-Dixon line, there was a noticeable change. Things are different in the South.

The social contract between individuals and government in the US differs greatly from ours in Canada. The COVID pandemic has further highlighted that divide. The wording on New Hampshire’s license plates, “Live Free Or Die”, really means something here. While in Canada, we tend to abide by rules made by public health experts and our elected officials, such is not the case in the US. Our Charter of Rights and Freedoms has been set aside during COVID in favour of the greater good. Here, people stand by their right to freedom of choice and have not bowed to authority the way we Canadians have. It’s not for me to say who’s right and who’s wrong. In fact, I don’t even think it’s about right and wrong. It’s about choice.

After scoffing a delicious meal of grouper at one of our favorite hangouts, we walked through now-familiar haunts in downtown Fort Myers on a busy Friday evening. The temperature was perfect. We enjoyed hot beverages outside Starbucks and watched the crowds stroll by, stopping to listen to the live bands playing on almost every street corner. It’s Edison Festival of Lights weekend, and the place was buzzing. It’s what we like best about Fort Myers; always something going on downtown. We could count on the fingers of one hand the number of people wearing a mask. As a Canadian, one is tempted to ask: “Are they all crazy?” It’s a question without an answer. Only time will tell.



This morning, we joined a group of twenty or so riders on a leisurely jaunt along bike paths and had a coffee afterwards. What a wonderful way to start the day! Tomorrow, we’ll spend part of the day at nearby Fort Myers Beach.


Elva and I have found our happy place here. We understand that we must adjust our comfort zone. We won’t wait for some expert to tell us when COVID is over. It's time for us to accept some risk while making informed choices. We’ll get our second booster as soon as we can and continue being careful. Life is short. Getting old is easy. It’s staying young that’s hard. Carpe diem!


Saturday, 1 January 2022

 

LOOKING BACK ON THE YEAR THAT WAS

 

I wrote my last blog on October 8, 2020, about a trip Elva and I took to the Fundy Isles in New Brunswick. As readers will know, although I do write about other topics occasionally, most of my blogs have been about travel. A friend asked me recently about our travel plans for 2022. My response: “With COVID, the term ‘travel plans’ has become an oxymoron!” In truth, most of the things that happened to me in the past year or so have been positive and it’s time to write about the more notable ones.

After a year of limited travel and with COVID staring us in the face again as we began 2021, I decided to hang out my shingle and look for some HR work. In the fall of 2020, I’d worked on a project for Holland College, a feasibility study for the establishment of a Centre or Excellence in Watershed Management to be located on the property of the Andrew family in East Royalty and a piece of work I’d really enjoyed. But I missed working with the Acadian and francophone community and saw an opportunity to get back to a project I’d worked on in 2005. La Société acadienne et francophone de l’Île was looking for a person to help set up a shared HR service for local NGOs.

I jumped at it and, long story short, turned it into two contracts and a part-time job. The service launched last October, and we’ve signed up 12 partner organizations so far. I’ve found the work very stimulating, and the best part is that I get to work with some very smart young people! I’m learning as much as or more than they are.

In March, I received a surprise call from la Fédération acadienne de la Nouvelle-Écosse. Their HR person had just left for another job, and they asked me whether I’d be interested in part-time work. They’d heard about the work we were doing here. I accepted, and now work with 10 partner organizations there. While my employers and I both realize that I’m not the long-term solution they need, I’ll ride the wave for the time being and see where it takes me.

The year 2021 hasn’t been all work of course. One cold and miserable day late last December, as I walked along the downtown section of the boardwalk, I looked at the new apartment building going up on the waterfront near the yacht club. We’d lived at 297 Allen St. for going on three years and, while we liked it there, we missed downtown. After selling our condo on Hillsborough St. in 2017, we’d looked to rent downtown but there just wasn’t anything available. The idea of moving stayed in the back of my mind; I discussed it with Elva and sent an inquiry to the developer.

In February, having heard nothing, I contacted them again to see where we were on the list. We were sent a set of floor plans and asked to choose which one interested us. It took us all of five minutes to choose one that was the same size and layout as the one we had. I sent off an email with our choice, together with references, and waited patiently for a response. “Yes”, the developer answered, “we can offer you space when the building is ready for occupancy in the summer. Which unit would you like?” “Waterside, fourth floor”, I replied. “How much is the rent?” His reply hit me like a ton of bricks and left us with a major case of sticker shock. After mulling it over for a day or so, we decided to stick with the unit we wanted. It’s simple. As we grow older, we don’t want to have any regrets. The time for second chances has passed.

With the help of our family, we moved in on August 1, and are thankful every day for our decision. We have Charlottetown Harbour for a front yard and downtown for a back yard. It’s like having a cottage in the city. These photos illustrate the chaos of moving, the view from our balcony, and our building taken from the yacht club.




The various and unpredictable COVID lockdowns have made it very hard on families, ours included. Several times, we had to cancel planned trips to Saint John to visit with Sylvie and her family. Our grandchildren, Samuel and Natalie, have had to deal with distance learning off and on since the pandemic began. Lucie has been more fortunate as there haven’t been as many closures in Island schools. And, of course, we’ve been able to spend time with Lucie and her parents now that they live here. We’re thankful for that.

But things were more difficult with Clément, Julia, Estelle, and André. Other than a very brief visit to Edmonton shortly after Estelle was born and one here in the summer of 2019 when André was a newborn, we’d had to make do with FaceTime, better than nothing but a totally inadequate way to get to know someone. Finally, soon after our province opened to visitors, Clément & Co. arrived in August for a ten-day vacation. We got to spend quality time with them and even babysat Estelle and André a couple of times.

On a very special Saturday afternoon in August, the thirteen members of our family got together for only the second time at the KOA in Cornwall. As these photos show, it was a very special day!




In September, we flew to Edmonton and spent ten days with Clément’s family. While it’s never long enough, time spent with family is a treasure. André had even progressed to calling me “Pépé” by the time we left. He’d figured out by then that Elva and I weren’t both called “Mémé”!

On a more negative note, I was diagnosed with a heart condition in November, atrial fibrillation. I’d known there was something wrong since May of 2019 but, despite many tests, nothing had been found. Finally, I got the bad news when the irregular heartbeat showed up on an echocardiogram and EKG. The condition itself is not life-threatening but it carries with it the risk of stroke. So, I’ll be on blood thinner medication for the rest of my life. As I write this, I am in a-fib. It’s not painful but, when it lasts for more than a day, it can be exhausting.

There are treatments available but, until I get a more precise diagnosis from my cardiologist, I can’t move to the next step. I find waiting for my turn very frustrating, especially knowing that the system takes better care of those who don’t look after themselves than people like me who do. It’s the one time in my life I wish I could buy my way into a heart-specialized clinic and get the service I need.

Yes, we do have travel plans for 2022. We always have travel plans! Our place in Ft. Myers is booked for March and April and we’re planning a trip to northern Europe in the fall. We’ve seen 86 countries thus far and there is much of the world yet to see.

In November, on our way to see Jacques perform in the opera, L’Orangeraie, in Québec City, we visited with friends Gilles and Fleurette Cloutier in Thetford Mines. They’re both well into their 80s and in good health. They were getting ready to leave for a six-month stay in +their condo in Fort Lauderdale. I asked Gilles what his secret was for a long life. He answered, “Have something to look forward to every day and don’t be afraid to take chances whatever your age.” Good advice to begin another year!


Thursday, 8 October 2020

 

THE FUNDY ISLES

Saying “Nothing to see or do there!” to Elva and me is like waving a red flag in front of a bull. Experience has taught us that there’s always lots to see and do if you travel with the right attitude and an open mind.

We left Saint John after spending the weekend with Sylvie and her family and headed to Black’s Harbour and the ferry to Grand Manan Island. The 9:30 crossing wasn’t that crowded and it was a beautiful fresh fall morning, ideal for standing in the wind on the passenger deck, watching the seabirds and taking in the sights. We slipped past the Swallowtail Lighthouse and into North Head two hours later and headed south to explore the island. Sylvie had recommended we cross over to White Head Island if we had the time, so we drove right to the ferry dock in the village of Grand Harbour.

Like North Head, Grand Harbour is a busy fishing port. I watched as a crane lifted a boat out of the water, rolled it halfway across the parking lot and deposited it in its winter resting spot. Three men in dories off-loaded rock weed (Ascophyllum nodosum) into a tractor-trailer using a modified hay rake. The rock weed is raked and gathered at low tide and spread out to dry before being shipped off-island where a compound called alginate is extracted. Alginate is used as a thickening agent in foods, cosmetics, and some paints.

White Head Island is a jewel; just about the right size to walk around in a day. As we sailed into the harbour on the tiny ferry, I thought of the fortunes we’ve spent on cruises that took us halfway around the world, sailing into places that couldn’t hold a candle to White Head. We even had a welcoming committee of local cormorants. One of the ferry deckhands told me about 200 people live on the island year-round; the only store closed down two years ago; you can’t get gas there anymore; and the elementary school is down to five students. Still “I wouldn’t live anywhere else”, he said. “The deer on the island are terrible small, so I go to the mainland to get mine every fall.” Now there’s a man who’s got his priorities straight!


From Grand Harbour, we turned south, came across a venison farm, stopped in pretty Seal Cove, then drove to the southern tip of the island, Southwest Head. Its basalt cliffs rival those of the west coast of Ireland and the colours were magnificent. Our B&B, the Compass Rose, offered a perfect view of the busy harbour and breakfast over the water.







We had the better part of a day to explore remaining roads and attractions before our scheduled ferry departure and we made the best of it, starting with a drive along Whistle Road to the Long Eddy Point Lighthouse. We watched as a group of fishermen climbed out of a dory and walked up the beach. One explained that they’d emptied a nearby weir of the day’s catch of herring, half to be used for lobster bait and the other half destined for the Connors Bros. sardine factory in Blacks Harbour.




We began Day 3 of our Fundy Isles adventure with a delicious breakfast at the Garden Gate B&B in Saint Andrews, our home for three nights. Our plan was to visit Minister’s Island, the summer home of Sir William Cornelius Van Horne, best known for overseeing construction of the first Canadian transcontinental railway, a project that, under his leadership, was completed in under half the projected time. To access the island, you drive over a gravel bar at low tide. The island itself covers some 500 acres and the estate is quite impressive. The “cottage” has seventeen bedrooms and eleven bathrooms. The barn is a massive two-storey timber structure, renovated in 2015 at a cost of $2 million! Van Horne even had a bathhouse built for his guests and carved a six-foot deep pool out of the sandstone for the comfort and enjoyment of bathers.






Building on the railway theme, we took a detour to MacAdam, home to one of the most unusual railway stations in Canada. This imposing granite structure, closed in 1994, totally dominates the village. Built by the CPR in 1900, the station was meant to cater to wealthy passengers changing trains at the junction before continuing on to the resort town of Saint Andrews where they would stay at the CPR’s stately Algonquin Hotel. The station was built in the chateau style, resembles a Scottish castle, and boasted a dining room, lunch counter, and twenty-room hotel in its heyday. Van Horne’s private railway car would have passed through and he stayed in the hotel from time to time. The station is now owned by the local municipality and operated by a non-profit. Unfortunately, it was closed due to Covid-19 but we enjoyed taking a stroll around this most impressive structure.


The wind howled as we drove to the dock at L’Etete, hoping to make it across the channel to Deer Island. Sure enough, the little ferry arrived right on time and, before we knew it, we were back on solid ground after a pretty rough crossing. Not bad service when you consider that travel on the Confederation Bridge was restricted that day and the Wood Islands ferry wasn’t running at all. We drove straight to Deer Island Pt. where we hoped a second ferry would take us to nearby Campobello Island. But our luck had run out; it was cancelled for the day.

Not a problem! We spent an enjoyable few hours driving around Deer Island, taking every road we could find, discovering cute coves along the way. We took a hike through the Clark Gregory Nature Preserve before viewing the Old Sow, said to be the second-largest whirlpool in the World! For sheer excitement, it’s rivalled only by Moncton’s Tidal Bore…

Along the way, we learned where Deer Island got its name. They’re everywhere! This guy stood out from the crowd with his white body and brown head. I imagine the does will come from miles around to keep company with this young buck when he grows into his antlers. And what could be more Canadian than a meeting of these two icons, whitetail deer and Canada geese!


Our five-day visit to the Fundy Isles was an opportunity to see a part of the Maritimes that had thus far eluded us. Although they’re a bit off the beaten track, Grand Manan, White Head, Minister’s, Deer, and Campobello islands are well worth visiting. The fall colours were spectacular and the smells and sounds of the ocean added a pleasant dimension to our explorations. We learned things about the fishery and met many friendly people along the way. While this may be the last of our travels for a while, it was a good way to say goodbye to the summer season.