Monday, 24 October 2011

Off To Newfoundland

I should not go forward with this narrative without mentioning the visiting that I did while driving back and forth across Canada.

By this time a number of fellow students from Union College had been settled in various western locations and most of them were reachable from the east - west highways. For instance, while at Union College I had become good friends with John Palmer - the son of a minister who felt called to the same career and was ordained the year before I was. He was settled in Warburg, Alberta and I had the opportunity to visit with him.

I am the type of person who, when I like somebody, thinks that we will always remain in the orbit of each other. Nothing is further from the truth. There are none of my classmates - or their predecessors - whom I now know whether they are living and, if they are, where they now reside.

When I arrived back in Vancouver I found a letter waiting for me. This missive spelled out where I would be going (I knew that it was supposed to be Newfoundland but not where exactly). It was the Bell Island/Portugal Cove Pastoral Charge. Dr Furcha was correct in assuming that I would be placed within close proximity of Memorial University in St John's. Portugal Cove is only a fifteen minute drive from there - but, traditionally, the United Church of Canada minister always lives on Bell Island

The folk in Portugal Cove could receive spiritual help from St John's in minutes but those on Bell Island would have to rely upon ferry service to bring the clergy to them in an emergency situation. Therefore they would not hear of me living in The Cove.

The next oldest brother of Terry Shaw wanted to visit the Eastern Provincial Capitals so he opted to journey with me on my drive to Newfoundland. So, less than a week after returning from the wedding trip, I collected Lowell Shaw and set out again.

Another resident at Union College worked at the Chateau Lake Louise in Banff National Park. As he was the 'Night Auditor' he was able to let us have a room at no cost (the 'High Season' had not yet commenced) so we decided to take advantage of the offer.

At that time the Trans Canada Highway through Banff and Yoho was being rebuilt and, as the old highway had not yet been completely abandoned, we turned onto it at the west end. After driving along that road for a few miles we saw a number of cars parked off to the side of the road. We looked at each other and exclaimed "Bears!" so we parked as well, saw where we could get through a wire fence with ease and a few feet from there, came up to a group of people who were standing at the edge of a giant hole. Down below was garbage from Chateau Lake Louise and - presumably - from the Banff Townsite which is a few miles further east.

Rummaging through the garbage were SEVEN adult grizzly bears and a few cubs - what an awesome sight! We could tell that the bears could hear and/or smell us as some of them paused in their munching to look up.

After a few minutes we turned to walk back to the car and saw yet another grizzly crossing the road a few yards from where we were.

We drove across to Ontario on the Trans Canada Highway staying with friends or in hotels/motels each night. When we arrived in Barrie - north of Toronto - we turned onto Ontario Highway 9 for the beautiful drive over the Caledon Hills to Orangeville and then south to Niagara Falls. The Falls and the layout of the town were/are very impressive.

Leaving Niagara we drove northeast around Lake Ontario to Toronto where we booked into the Central 'Y' and then did the 'tourist thing' like the new City Hall, Yorkville, my first ride on a North American subway, and Casa Loma.

Lowell and I parted for a few days in Toronto meeting up again in Montreal. I made my way via Highway 7 up to Ottawa and went looking for the Brules. They had gone out to the summer cottages which they owned on White Lake. The village of While Lake was easy to find but following the roads to the other end of the lake - where the cottages were situated - was another matter. I made it eventually.

My ideal of a cottage on a lake is a bucolic house situated where one could sit on a porch and look out onto the water. There would be neighbors, of course, but not as close as they are in the city.

Not where the Brules had their cabin - their extended family's cabins and those of neighbors were so close that it was nearly impossible to walk between them! However, there were a number of horseshoe pitches nearby for land amusement. Of course there was swimming, boating and fishing as well.

After the weekend visit I drove on to Montreal and met up with Lowell who was staying at the 'Y'.

The twin to Ma Tante Mouisa (Sister Cecile) remained at the Mother House of the Order for all of her active life. The Mother House was on rue St. Matthew in downtown Montreal but she was at the retreat center at Pierrefonde which is on another island to the north and lying where the Ottawa River flows into the St. Lawrence. Ma Tante Cecile was quite different than Mouisa - whereas the latter was a heavyset woman, Cecile was petite, almost birdlike.
One of Dad's twin sisters, Cecile Lacasse - a Grey Nun - at the Pierrefonds Retreat Center, Montreal June 1971

She was obviously thrilled to meet me - my sisters, kid brother and I were the only nieces and nephews whom she had not met. Mouisa, because of living in the Northwest Territories , could speak English but Cecile could only speak French. My French was what I had learned in high school and I was no where near fluent in that language, but we managed to communicate. In her excitement, Tante Cecile would speak too quickly for me to catch what she was saying so my stock phrase became, "Lentement, Ma Tante, lentement!" ('Slow down, Auntie, slow down').

A few years after this I found myself living in Ottawa so I visited Tante Cecile a number of times - and took first Mom and then my brother, Dan, to meet her.

When Lowell and I reconnected we drove up the highway along the west bank of the St Lawrence River to Quebec City and found a lovely inn in the Old Town.

To my mind the two loveliest Provincial Capitals in Canada are Quebec City and Victoria - one very French and the other very English - and both of them are beautiful.

In Quebec City I loved the Old Town with its narrow twisting streets and old architecture. While Lowell and I were walking around we stumbled upon a street vendor selling paintings of Quebec City so I bought two and, later, had them framed.

Naturally, we visited the Chateau Frontenac, the Citadel and the Plains of Abraham.

Neither Quebec City nor St John's Newfoundland are large cities yet these were the only Provincial capitals where I became lost while trying to get from point 'A' to point 'B'. From Quebec City we wanted to cross the St Lawrence River to Levis on the old bridge - as opposed to the freeway bridge - but could not find the route to the former. We gave up and crossed the river on the less romantic freeway bridge.

On the south shore we drove northeast towards Gaspe. When we arrived in Rimouski it was past time for a lunch break so we pulled into a roadside cafe. For the longest time - in a virtually deserted eatery - we were ignored. We suspected that that was because we were speaking in English!

For me it is always a great thrill to physically see a place that is storied for its history and/or its scenic beauty. For me that was true for Gaspe and, a few miles further, Perce Rock.

We crossed into New Brunswick at Campbellton and, using secondary highways, found ourselves in the town of Shediac. We lucked out on that one - it was their annual Lobster Festival! My first taste of fresh lobster

We did not remain there for long but drove a few miles further to Cape Tormentine and the ferry to Prince Edward Island and the town of Summerside where, through a brochure we found while on the ferry, we booked into another charming B&B.

The next morning we set out to drive around Prince Edward Island - the only Canadian province that one can drive all around in one day! We saw Charlottetown and the place where Confederation was worked out in 1867, and out to Souris near the northeast corner. Our 'drive around' was shortened so we could cross back to the mainland and continue our eastward trek.

From Cape Tormentine we drove southeast towards Truro, Nova Scotia but. being adventurous, we did not drive the direct route but took a secondary highway. This road led us to Springhill which, by coincidence, was Anne Murray's hometown. It was her birthday and she was home for a celebration. Talk about a traffic jam! Unfortunately, we did not get to see Anne Murray in person.

The next day we headed southwest and saw one of Canada's prettiest villages - Peggy's Cove. We parked and walked along the seashore photographing that iconic lighthouse, the rocky shore and the thundering surf.

Our next stop was Halifax where we drove up to the Citadel and around that city leaving via the bridge across Halifax Harbor to Dartmouth. We had decided to drive that way following secondary roads to where another highway led north to Antigonish. We thought that that route would afford us some fantastic views of the coastline but the road remained inland.

On we went across the Canso Causeway to Cape Breton and the direct highway to North Sydney and the car ferry to Port aux Basques in Newfoundland. We did not have reservations - not being sure as to exactly when we would be arriving - but we were able to drive right onto the ferry and we were able to get a cabin.

The Ambrose Shea - the ferry - was a bucket of bolts and the water across to Port aux Basques was stormy but we slept fairly comfortably - except when the girls in the neighboring cabin woke us up by their retching. Fortunately, Lowell is like me - we have good 'sea legs'. We went to the restaurant for breakfast - not many people were there - and then were ready to drive off of the boat when we docked in Port aux Basques.

Newfoundland has made two dates statutory holidays which are not statutory holidays in any of the other Provinces - March 17 (St Patrick's Day) and July 12 (the anniversary of the Battle of the Boyne - the 'Glorious 12th' to Irish Protestants).

That 'Glorious 12th' was not glorious at all - rain poured down almost all of the way along the drive to St John's. I had been in touch with the Rev Dr Kewley who was Chair of the local Presbytery so he - and his wife - were expecting us. We stayed there for two nights.

On the intervening day Lowell and I drove around that quaint city sightseeing so Lowell could say that he had seen that capital. During the drive I went out to Portugal Cove so we could look across at Bell Island (unfortunately, Lowell had to fly back to Vancouver and never did see that place).

The next day I drove Lowell to the airport and he flew back to Vancouver

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