The Maritimes

You may not know this about me, but I’m partially of Canadian descent.  So our road trip was partially a trip back to the land of my ancestors.  My mother’s father’s mother’s parents, Auld and Linkletter, had come to the US from Prince Edward Island late in the 19th century.  That’s right, Anne of Green Gables probably used to hang out with my peeps back in the day.

My third or fourth cousin a couple times removed probably owns this vehicle

We left Quebec City on a gray morning and headed northeast on the south bank of the St. Lawrence River.  The region is the confluence of three geological areas: the northern extent of the Appalachian Mountains, the Lawrentian Mountains, and the Lawrentian lowlands.  We drove along through the lowlands surrounded by forested hills and signs all in French.  (It turns out it is illegal in Quebec to post signs in English.)  At Riviere du Loup we headed east and into New Brunswick/Nouvelle Brunswick, the only officially bilingual province in Canada.  We continued along through forested hills seeing little other than beautiful trees, moose crossing warnings, and the obligatory Tim Hortons in each town.  We spent the night at a HoJo in Frederickton, again cooking out of our trunk.  I availed myself of the sad pool and sauna because a sad pool and sauna is still a pool and a sauna.

The next morning we took a jog past the University of New Brunswick and headed off to Prince Edward Island.  We crossed the incredible Confederation Bridge, 13 km long and the world’s longest bridge over frozen water, out onto the island.  Prince Edward Island has a population of about 140,000 people, but receives over a million visitors each year, so much of the economy is tied to tourism.  And because most of the tourism is tied to the weather not being miserable, many businesses shut down beginning in October.  Thus, we had quite a challenge finding lunch that first day.  But after lunch we headed to some sights that bare my family name, Linkletter, and did a general tour of the central part of the island.  We stopped through the village of Linkletter and Linkletter Provincial Park and then continued on scenic routes up to Prince Edward Island National Park, where we were met by about half a dozen foxes hanging out nonchalantly by the side of the road.

That’s my town!

That’s my park!

A fox, just kickin’ it outside of PEI National Park

Although the park is formally closed for the season, the roads were open for visitors to come in and hike, but do without park rangers and the like.

The beach at Prince Edward Island National Park

After a walk on the beach we continued on through Green Gables and east to Charlottetown, the main town on the island.  We stayed in a lovely bed and breakfast within walking distance of the center of the town.  That night we went out for local beer, fish and chips, and mussels.

PEI mussels on PEI

The next morning we got up early to go on a clam dig.  (For more on our day of mollusks, see Bowen’s post on her blog.)  We picked up another woman staying near us and drove west to meet our guide.  He took us to a tidal flat in the small village of Maximeville.  We spent about an hour and a half digging soft shell clams, tossing back any that were too small, and then headed back to an old railroad caboose to cook and eat them.  They were easily the best clams either of us had ever eaten.  After that we took at tip from our guide and stopped by the garage of a man who grows oysters and quahogs (a kind of clam that is edible raw) in Malpeque Bay and will shuck them and let you eat them on site.  We showed up and Don Marchbank was sitting on a recliner watching TV and smoking a cigar.  He agreed to open some shells for us and so we sat around eating incredible oysters and quahogs he had harvested the previous day right there looking out at the main highway while he spun tales of the visitors he’s had over the years.

Mudflats at Maximeville

A softshell clam, showing its stuff

A perfect place to eat clams

Dale Marchbanks, master of mollusks

After our second shellfish feast of the day we headed back to town.  Bowen rested while I went to wander the town.  Prince Edward Island, like the rest of the Maritime Provinces, is a mixture of Anglophone and Francophone, though everyone speaks English.  Unlike Quebec, the Francophone Maritimers are Acadians, not Quebecois.  That is, they originated in the south of France, rather than Normandy, and after the Battle of the Fields of Abraham, did not receive the autonomy and cultural protections that the Quebecois did.  Thus they were forced either into hiding or to move to Louisiana territory.  After the US purchased the Louisiana territory from France, many moved back to Canada.  Supposedly there are some towns on PEI where people speak French in their homes, and others where the residents have French accents, even though they don’t speak any French.  Charlottetown, though the provincial capital, is quite small and quiet, with many old Victorian homes.  It is also the site where Canada was born, in a sense, as the Fathers of Confederation met there in the nineteenth century and decided to push for independence from Britain.  That night, we continued the theme of the day and went out for oysters and trout for dinner, including oysters raised by a Linkletter, i.e. likely a distant relative of mine.

The next morning we hit the road again.  Along the way back to the bridge we stopped to buy potatoes (a major PEI crop) at an unmanned stand along the highway.  We also stopped at a small cemetery where I found gravestones from the other side of my family, the Aulds.  Then we paid our $41.50 toll and crossed back to the mainland.

PEI potatoes for sale by the side of the road

Headstones for my distant relatives

The red soil of PEI

Confederation Bridge

We headed to Moncton, NB and then down along the Bay of Fundy.  It was low tide when we started and upper part of the bay was a completely open mudflat (the Bay of Fundy has the distinction of having the largest difference between high and low tide in the world).  We stopped at Fundy National Park to take a hike along the bay, which ended up being much longer than we expected, but was still quite nice.

The Bay of Fundy

Then we headed back to the road and drove through the uplands of the park and on to the town of Saint John, where we spent our last night in Canada, again cooking out of the trunk of the Prius.

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2 responses to “The Maritimes

  1. Loved seeing your story and the pictures. It makes it feel real!

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