You know you’re in Atlantic Canada when you see this…

…a sign in downtown Fredericton warning motorists against cutting across traffic to get to Timmy’s.

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Or this, near Florenceville – home to one of the world’s largest frozen french fry producers.

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Or this – a food truck unabashedly dedicated to potatoes, cheese, gravy, chocolate, bacon and Mars bars – most of it deep-fried.

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We LOVE Atlantic Canada. If I refer to this area as “the Maritimes”, I am always politely corrected – we are in the Atlantic provinces (this area was the Maritimes prior to Newfoundland joining Canadian Confederation in 1949.)

We lived in Halifax for five years, leaving for the west coast in 2005. The last time we were both back for a visit was over 10 years ago. It feels long overdue.

People who have never been “down east” can sometimes overuse the word “quaint” to describe it – a word that is inaccurate and a bit condescending. Doilies are quaint. Atlantic Canada is just busting out with life. Still…they do have their picturesque barns.

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And their covered bridges. This one, in Hartland, is the world’s longest covered bridge at 1,282 feet.

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If you are currently renting a basement apartment in Vancouver or Toronto, or have managed to buy your first 450-square-foot condo, houses like this are the stuff dreams are made of – classic style with steep roofs, carved trim, shutters and welcoming front door. We have no idea what these homes are worth, but a quick glance through MLS shows similar homes for between $250,000 and $500,000.

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Another example of Maritime style:

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And another one:

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Fredericton frequently ranks in the “best-of” lists – prettiest, most livable, best place to retire, etc. It makes sense – it feels more like a large town than a small city – walkable, accessible, with several kilometres of walking and biking trails along the river, and filled with interesting shops, cafes, restaurants and brew-pubs. It has both history in abundance and a face-forward to the future. We visited the Beaverbrook Art Gallery, which is currently under renovation for an expansion that will open in the fall. The grounds and sculpture garden set the tone.

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The gallery carries important painters from other countries, but with a focus on Canadian artists for the 150.

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I liked this ceramic of P.E.T, done in 1982. I think artist Joe Fafardi captured the elder Trudeau’s familiar F-U expression very well.

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The Gallery showcases young artists who have been part of their youth program and the current exhibit was by Sebastian Kennickell, son of Drew Kennickell, artist and professor at UNB and New Brunswick College of Craft and Design
Sebastian is 12 years old, but already has a body of work.

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There are numerous buildings of note – the Legislative Assembly, The Fredericton Playhouse, the Library, The Justice Building, etc. Most municipal buildings have the sombre and dignified air that one might expect of their station and era.

City Hall:

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There are numerous significant places of worship – Christ Church Cathedral is one of the most striking.

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The downtown streets are filled with bookstores – we found at least three within two blocks – a rarity in this day and age.  Music also rules – Tony’s has been a mainstay on Queen Street since 1975.

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We passed by a number of men who were panhandling. We usually drop a loony or two in the hat.  And then we saw this – “Kindness” meters placed around the downtown streets.

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The sign asks us to make a change in someone’s life by dropping our coin in the meter instead,and donating to community services that help people in need. It’s a conflict – to walk past someone sitting on a sidewalk and drop a coin in a meter feels like a judgement on them and yet, we definitely get the intention.

We’re not sure the transfer of funds would work that neatly and  think we would still rather say hello to someone and put money in their hand.

Every Saturday, the Boyce Farmer’s market is in full throttle, so even though it was pouring rain, we could not resist heading there. The poor outside vendors – mainly plants and fresh produce – their tents offered scant refuge from the storm.  It didn’t stop the buyers – they were out in full force. We had fun watching this lady – she was mightily annoyed that the market manager hadn’t called it a day and let everyone go home. She was standing guard over her preserves and watching as the puddle in front of her stand turned into a lake.

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Inside, we met up with several very interesting vendors. We talked to Debbie Pugh – she and her firefighter husband Bill have developed a terrific business called Out of the Ashes. They use decommissioned fire hoses and turn them into useful and decorative objects like bags, dog leashes, floor mats,firewood carriers and growler bags.

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We were stopped in our tracks by the display of hand-woven bedspreads, throws, napkins and dish towels.  Tissage Magely Weaving is a second-generation family business – the queen bedspreads for the incredibly reasonable price of  $200, (either wool or cotton), were exquisite. If we had a home, we would have bought one on the spot.

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And last, but not least – The Royal Barbershop. Stephen and I arrived in Fredericton feeling a little road-weary and scruffy. I’ve discovered that one of the challenges of being “unhoused” is that I no longer have a hairdresser. My big thick hair is at the mercy of whomever I find along the way. Lately, I’ve been turning to barbershops (but only the “cool” ones), and it’s been working out well.

We walked by The Royal Barbershop by chance, and got scrubbed up real good. Ashley texturized the daylights out of my hair and did a fantastic job – a fresh modern cut emerged out of a mushroom cap. Stephen came out with a neat beard trim and hair cut.

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Next stop – Halifax. I’ll try and send shorter, more frequent postings – so much to report in the next 10 days.

 

So long Ontario, bonjour Quebec et Nouveau Brunswick

Five bucks goes to the first person who can tell me what a duster is.

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This ephemera is part of the Lorne Katz collection. Another five bucks goes to the person who knows who “Ed” is.

Ed is Ed Mirvish, the late, great one-of-a-kind businessman who built theatres, restaurants and Honest Ed’s –  a square-city-block emporium to bargain shopping. He helped put Toronto on the map back when it was still competing with Montreal. Shoppers lined up for his specials – such as the one shown – the $6.99 duster. When Honest Ed’s closed its doors last year, among the items for sale were thousands of these signs – each one hand-painted and many of them speaking to an era that is now gone forever.

You have to be at least my age to know this, but a duster is also known as a housedress – garments universally hideous and instantly identifiable by their gaudy florals, often embellished with ric-rac trim and a front zipper.  Long before the days of yoga pants or even sweatpants, women threw on their dusters to vacuum, scrub and…dust. My mother wore them. Another item of note – the use of the word “misses” was for women of average height and weight, while “ladies” indicated a curvier body. I haven’t seen the use of “misses”  or “ladies” for a very long time – “vanity sizing” has taken over.

Back to Lorne and Anne Katz – dear friends from our pre-children days in Toronto. We grew up together.  Eventually we moved west, but stayed close and now one of their sons, Jacob, has a child of his own. Their other son Aaron, just got married three weeks ago in Germany to Vanessa; they are living in Berlin and back in Canada for their honeymoon. We had a fabulous multi-course dinner with them when we stopped by for a night with Lorne and Anne – a lot of laughs, but another reminder of time just flying by.

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I have little to report on Toronto – we’ve been in twice to see friends and I will likely be back again at least once in August. I love Toronto – even though housing prices are now rivalling Vancouver, it is still a city of neighbourhoods and nationalities and has retained enough grit and personality to keep it interesting.  Toronto would require a blog of its own, so my best advice if you haven’t been there yet, is …go! Discover it for yourself. I’ll talk about other things.

Like Farren Lake, in eastern Ontario.  Kris and Gord (whom we met two years ago in Mexico and who are partially unhoused) have the perfect solution. They sold their home in Windsor  and moved to their cottage on Farren Lake, where they live from mid-April to mid-October. The rest of the time they travel. Their lovely cottage, which they describe as “rustic” (it’s not – it is snug, beautifully furnished with unique finds and has a screened-in porch), is my happy place. Rock and floating dock, with pristine lake, loons and canoes. It is iconically “150” Canada – all they need is a Mountie and a jug of maple syrup.

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There was a good wind and a chop on the water – the only one who braved a swim was Stephen. You will never see a photo with me jumping into cold water – that is a promise.

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After a great gab and delicious dinner, we all settled down on the dock to watch the sunset.

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Good-bye to Kris and Gord – a la prochaine.

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The beautiful little town of Perth is just a half-hour away, so we stopped by for a visit. It is filled with stone buildings and weeping willows and reeks of history – a photographer or painter could spend hours here.

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So could architecture buffs. This appears to be a private home (I saw no B and B or municipal signs). Typical of the fine details and stately proportions of many Perth homes, although on a larger scale.

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The River Tay runs through town, with lots of shops and restaurants lining it, and the main street.

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We passed by the statue of Big Ben, the champion show jumper from the ’80s, ridden to victory by equestrian Ian Millar, who owns a stable near Perth.

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Their outstanding accomplishments are listed on a nearby plaque.

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And with that, we left Ontario behind and drove straight into La Belle Province. My family is from the Gaspe coast and I was born in Montreal, but entering Quebec is like a foreign country. It always feels a little je ne sais quois, including my inability to make myself understood in my high school (plus one teenage summer immersion in St. Pierre) French. While in Quebec I feel somewhat ungainly and upon leaving, I resolve to buy only fabulous shoes.

Minor insecurities aside, being in Quebec is a buzz. The following photos are just a preview on our way to the Maritimes. We will spend much more time in Quebec on our way back in August.

We called in at the Fairmont Montebello hotel, located about 90 km. from Ottawa.  The world’s largest “log cabin” was built in 1930 in just three months, in the form of a six-point star, out of 10,000 hand-cut B.C. red cedar logs.

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Set on the Outaouais River, used by the first voyageurs, Montebello is a destination for history buffs.

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I spoke to the very friendly concierges, Jessica and Rosalie, posing here with the very shy hotel mascot, Bello.

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We spent our night in Trois Rivieres, drove over the bridge at Quebec City and up the coast toward Riviere-de-Loup, taking the old highway as much as possible.

Some of the sights along the way:

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Quebec has a tradition of wood carving – everything from lamps to furniture to toys. Must be the long, cold winters.

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Habitant-style homes – dormers, stone or wood foundation and steep roofs to allow snow to slide right off.

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Making our way into New Brunswick (Nouveau Brunswick – the other French province). Beautiful scenery on our way to Edmunston – a stop for many on their way to and from the Atlantic provinces.

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We are staying at Motel Cleo – a combination hair salon, spa and themed-room motel (five rooms appropriately decorated – we are in La Chine; Paris and Rome were booked). Our first dinner in the Maritimes and fittingly, it was seafood – at La Pirate de Mer. Stephen had fresh haddock and chips, and I had a lobster roll – split toasted hot dog roll filled with big, fat chunks of lobster. More great food stories to follow.