Day 14 – Almost the end

It is 6:15 on Wednesday, June 20th, and we are safely ensconced in the Super 8 in Sudbury. We could have made it home tonight, but it would be another loooooong day of driving. We opted instead for an early night and a fresh start in the morning. Dr Fox is pleased – he is very tired from all his adventures.

14 fox in hotel

We had a lovely visit with our friends Jennifer and Henry, and also got to see Judy Reynolds, another friend that I met at the same time – which is over thirty-five years ago! I didn’t even know Dr Fox then!

Last night Henry and Jennifer took us out to see three plays at the Ottawa Fringe Festival. Neither of us had been to a fringe festival before, and weren’t sure what to expect. We had the best time! The first piece, “The Geography Teacher’s Orders”, was a monologue about Argentina’s return to democracy, seen through the eyes of a high-school student. I liked the way Marta Singh stepped from character to character to tell her story and was engrossed from beginning to end. The second piece, “Heirloom Toys Circus”, was a perfectly delightful and very skilful one-hour set of aerial and ground acrobatics set in the story of a toymaker who takes on an apprentice. I’d watch it again anytime! The third play was “Faustus”, a compact rendition of the classic play. Two actors onstage played Faust and Mephistopheles, while other characters showed up only on computer screens. While the play used the classic dialogue, the setting was computer-themed, with multiple screens, Skype calls, passwords and other features of the wired age. I enjoyed it, although sometimes the dialogue was hard to hear.

This morning after a breakfast of local sausages and rhubarb muffins, we were on our way home. Dr Fox was sad to go.

14 fox jennifer henry

To paraphrase Calvin and Hobbes, the days have been just packed! We’ve visited zoos, museums, botanical gardens, the Ottawa Fringe Festival, lots of beaches, lots of fossil sites. We’ve eaten so much good food and had great conversations, and seen wildlife that we have never seen before. I have collected sea glass and shells and stones and postcards, and met so many kind people. And, of course, we’ve bought – and eaten – some wonderful cheese and delicious chocolate.

Tonight, an early night and a long sleep, and tomorrow we return home, pick up Sky and Pharaoh, and return to our regularly scheduled schedule.

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I declare a holiday!

I have decided, completely arbitrarily and unilaterally that henceforth I will celebrate February 28th and August 28th as Post Something Day. You are all invited to join me, or not, as the whim takes you.

Post Something Day has one requirement: You must send something nice to someone you like through the mail. Period.

It can be a postcard, a note, a letter, a gift if you’re that way inclined, or a poem or a doodle. Send it to a friend or relative or acquaintance or workmate – whatever your fancy, um, fancies. Send one, and you have kept the spirit of Post Something Day.

Why did I decide to institute this holiday? I’ll tell you exactly. At Christmas I sent a small gift to a friend, and in January I received, in my mailbox, an actual letter from him, in an envelope, with Wonder Woman stamps on it. The level of joy that I felt at just getting something that was addressed to me from a real person was almost literally breathtaking. My mailbox usually contains flyers and bills, and I’m sure most people’s mailboxes are the same now. A real letter, and from my friend Stephen, was a reminder of why I actually have a mailbox in the first place.

After a few days I thought: wouldn’t it be nice to have that kind of joy spread around a bit? I could send a card to any one of a number of friends or family with whom I most often communicate online or by phone. Then one of them would have that little jolt of happiness, too. I like sending post almost as much as I like getting it, so I would be happy to mail the whatsit, and then I’d be happy thinking of them getting it, and then they’d be happy getting it. That’s a whole lot of happiness for one stamp.

Also, I make a lot of cards, and if I don’t start mailing them out, I will one day be found crushed beneath an avalanche of clever pop-ups. Bonus, I’m saving my life.

pharaoh portal 2

This one is called “Pharaoh Guards the Portals of Time”

I picked February 28th because it is the arse-end of winter here in the northern hemisphere, and a time when we could all use a pick-me-up. And then I picked August 28th because it is summer here, when we are often on vacation and inclined to mail a postcard from some exotic venue anyway. And the arse-end of winter and vacation season are opposite in the southern hemisphere, so those dates work there, too. (Actually, I picked July 28th, because I miscounted my months and thought July was halfway around the calendar from February. My friend Barbara pointed out the discrepancy. You could send a card in July, though, if you’d rather.)

Post Something Day is entirely voluntary. It only has the one requirement. There are no official “Post Something Day” cards – and if you ever see one, I suggest you ignore it. You don’t have to reciprocate. You don’t have to send a bunch of stuff to a bunch of people. You don’t have to send stuff to the same people. You just have to mail one nice bit of post to one person you like, and then you may treat yourself to whatever libation you feel suits the season, say “Happy Post Something Day!” to the world at large and get on with your life, knowing that you have made someone else’s day a little happier – even if they don’t know it yet.

It’s an idea whose time has come.

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Day 11 – On the power of wishes

Our Sunday was long – lo-o-ong – and eventful. We got up at 6:00, and our host, David Girard, at Gite des Oiseaux Migrateurs, made us crepes with homemade jam and local maple syrup for breakfast – plus some of the best coffee I’ve had on this trip. Fortified, we started out for what Google told us would be nine hours of driving to get around the Gaspe peninsula and on to Rivier-du-Loup.

We had talked about seeing puffins on this trip, although we knew it was unlikely to find them on the mainland. David also kept asking, “Any seals? Any whales?”, to which my reply was always, “No, sorry – no seals, no whales.”

We stopped once to walk on a beach and pick up rocks and sea glass, and for David to stick his toes in the Atlantic,  11 david but when we reached the next town, we realized that we were way behind where Google said we should be. We began to understand why our host at the B&B had said, “You’re going to drive it in one day?”

Still, it was a beautiful drive. We stopped a few more times for pictures and for lunch and tea. We were late anyway, right? We had been finding crab shells (casts from when they grow and shed) on almost every beach, but we actually saw a live crab.

11 crab

We also saw guillemots, which are in the same family as puffins, and then, while we drove along the coast, we spotted – yes – whales. We watched them for about 15 minutes. There seemed to be three – one would surface and blow, then a second one a few seconds later, then a third one a few minutes after that and they’d start over.

They were rather far out, but definitely visible. When we looked them up later, it seemed they were either fin whales or, more likely, minke whales.

Finally we moved along. But we weren’t done yet. David put on the brakes about twenty minutes later and out in the water, perched on a rock, was a seal!

11 seal

I’m just grateful he hadn’t asked to see a mermaid!

We arrived back in Riviere du Loup about 11:30 p.m. The next day we drove to Ottawa to stay with our friends Jennifer and Henry and have a visit. After that, we’ll be on our way home.

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Day 10 – Stones and sea glass

We got up at 6:00 am today and were on the road – fed and packed – by 7:10. We planned to see Joggins Cliffs fossil site, but before that we wanted to have a look at a nearby beach that had been recommended to us a couple of days ago by Karen at Maritime Mosaic.

That first beach was as good as advertised. Karen said that you could find trackways and fossils, shells and sea glass at the beach. We saw lots of fossils and took many photographs. We got there just before low tide, so the tide was still going out. There were lots of little snails all over the place and David, who wandered way out while I was poking along closer inshore, said he saw live clams, too.

I was walking along thinking “I’d really like to find a piece of sea glass,” when what to my wondering eyes should appear but…


… and in no time, it seemed, I had nine pieces of sea glass, and one piece of sea ceramic.

Eventually David returned from the far reached of the Atlantic and we went over to the far end of the beach, where there were large, light-coloured slabs of rock. Here we found a trackway – it was pretty exciting to be able to identify one myself!

10 trackway

The “x”  marked spots are two tiny footprints.

Then we went to the Joggins Cliffs museum – I can’t say enough about the small but incredibly well-organized and informative museum, or about the enthusiastic staff. We couldn’t get down to the beach because of the tide coming in, but we saw everything else. Before we left, we succumbed to the delicious-smelling and still-warm biscuits made by Joyce at the little coffee shop in the museum building. Dr Fox was into my biscuit as soon as it hit the table!

It was a long drive to our last visit of the day, Miguasha National Park. Again, a museum I can’t recommend too highly. The big thing at Miguasha is fish, and the fish are amazing. I really, really wanted a T-shirt, and I’ve had a hard time finding one in my size. Linda at the admission desk found one for me with one of the fish on it – Dr Fox was so happy that he wanted a picture with Linda as well.

fox & linda

Behind Linda on the wall is one of the fish for which Miguashi is famous, Eusthenopteron foordi.

David had a quite unexpected adventure in which he thwarted a pair of fossil thieves and rescued a valuable specimen. But I need to go to bed now, because we have another long day tomorrow, driving around the Gaspe Peninsula and sticking our feet in the Atlantic again!


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Day 9 – A day at the beach!

No, not catching some rays in my bathing suit – this was Blue Beach, a rocky stretch of coastline where all kinds of fossils are found. We spent over an hour there as the tide was turning, photographing all kinds of amazing things. Every rock – or almost – had some kind of fossil residue on it.

But first – the bumblebee bridge. When we saw the sign I started to say, “I wonder why they call it that.” Then the wheels hit the parallel metal gridwork, and a huge buzzing sound ensued. Question answered. The gridwork is narrow, but still might be wide enough to catch narrow bicycle tires.

Blue Beach was amazing. We had to drive nearly three hours to get there, and I learned from the drive that Google Maps sucks. Signs didn’t say what the Goog said they should. Turns were not obvious. Nerves were frazzled and tempers a teensy bit frayed, but we made it in the end.

We went down to the beach right away, rather than going to the museum first. That was good, because the tide was starting to come in again by the time we left the beach. You can’t take fossils from Nova Scotia; as most other provinces do, they protect them. We did pick up some pebbles – granite and quartz and stuff like that – and we took hundreds of photographs. Hundreds. Here are a few.

On the left is a fossil which I think is the tail of something, most likely a fish. Bones are black/dark, according to the gentleman running the Blue Beach Museum, so I think I might be right on that one. The piece at top right is kind of scaly looking, probably the “bark” of one of the plants, and the bottom right may be trace fossils from another plant.

Dr Fox grabbed some sun on the beach while I photographed rocks.

And he also sat beside my “maybe a tail” rock for scale. As I strolled down the beach I found a weird little something that looked like it might be seaweed but, on a cursory examination, turned out to be half a dead cat shark.

half a dead shark

Then we went up to the museum, where we learned all kinds of fascinating things about what lived around here, too much to detail in this post. The museum is privately run, depending on donations, and the owner/curator is extremely knowledgeable, personable and friendly. He also knows how to explain things for laypeople without making them feel stupid. Highly recommended.

By three o’clock we had been up for eight hours, and were getting hungry. We stopped in Windsor for lunch – clams and haddock for me, scallops and haddock for David. Of course we swapped shellfish! Lisa’s Cafe – very good food and good, friendly service.

I try to draw every day, but some of my attempts do not succeed. Here are a few incomplete or unsatisfactory sketches. I will probably work on them again once I’m home.

An ice-age mammal skull – it was the end of a long day and I was tired.

A beginning of drawing the moose at the Museum of Nature – but I needed to eat lunch and then David dragged me off to the Earth Gallery to look at minerals. That was wonderful, but I never got back to Mr Moose.

moose attempt

Finally, the dinosaur at Fundy Geological Museum. A bit to high up to see easily, but I do have a photo, so I can see all the skull processes to draw them.

Tomorrow we leave Nova Scotia with some beach pebbles, some postcards, a few bottles of Jost Vineyard wine and many fond memories. We’ll be at Joggins Cliffs fossil site for a few hours, then back to Quebec and on the homeward leg of our vacation. That leg still has a few days to go.


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Day 8 – Weathering it

Today it has been raining everywhere we’ve gone. Can’t complain – the weather for our trip has been wonderful. We haven’t been too hot, or too cold, or too much of anything, and it has to rain sometime.

We went this morning to the Fundy Geological Museum in Parrsboro, N.S. It’s a delightful little museum with a spiral walkway through geological time and lots of stuff to touch. It is here that the sandstone slab with the tiniest dinosaur footprints ever found is preserved. That you can’t touch.

8 smallest trackway

That slab was found in 1984 by a man named Eldon George. He collected rocks, shells and fossils from the time he was eight years old. He’s found probably almost anything you can find around Parrsboro.

There was one complete dinosaur assembly on display, but too high for me to draw comfortably. I did get a sketch, and a photo, so I may have another go working with those. Dr Fox posed with the dino, but was anxious that he might be about to be grabbed. He was much happier posing with the huge slice of local amethyst.

After we’d been through the museum, we stopped at Glooscap Family Restaurant for lunch. David had fish and chips made with local haddock, and I had clams, also local. It was all delicious. Then we drove back to Amherst through the rain and found a laundromat, because we needed fresh socks and undies. I wrote postcards and walked up to the post office to mail them, and also to ask where I could get postcards from Amherst. Those of you who followed Dr Fox in September may remember that I had trouble finding postcards for some places. The pleasant woman at the post office directed me to Dayle’s Grand Market, a building containing several businesses on the open plan.

At Maritime Mosaic Karen had exactly what I was looking for – postcards of Amherst. Imagine! I was very happy, and when I looked around the store, I was even happier. There were antiques, and also just plain cool old stuff, lots of handmade art and craft items, jewellery, honey, some lovely beeswax bowls and, in the back, books.

There I found a treasure; a book of poetry called “The Deer Yard” by a local author named Harry Thurston and West Coast poet Allan Cooper. The book is a correspondence between them through one winter, an exchange of poetry, modeled on that written by two long-ago Chinese poets. I hadn’t heard of the form, or the poets, but I’m up for new poetry, and a new form. Besides, the book was printed by a small press, and the beautiful cover felt like it had been done with typesetting and a wood engraving, or perhaps a metal cut. The whole book felt like a piece of art in my hands.

When Karen found out that we were interested in fossils, and were planning to visit Joggins Cliffs, she gave us the location of a beach where we can see all kinds of cool things. I plan to take my tracing paper and crayons and see if I can get some rubbings. Who knows, I may find a trackway, too!

Finally, on our way back to the motel, we stopped at the liquor store in search of Jost wines. We had opted not to go tour the winery in the rain, but my sister had recommended two of their reds, and the nice woman at the liquor store took me right to the Jost wines and extolled their virtues. Yes, I bought wine.  I also bought a half-bottle of the Jost Marechal Foch because I’m not opening a whole bottle while I’m travelling and getting utterly snockered. Just saying.

Tomorrow we are off to Blue Beach to look at more fossils. Hooray!

Also we saw this sign while we were driving out to Parrsboro. Guess what a “Bumblebee Bridge” is? Answer tomorrow!

8 bumblebee

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Day 7 – A zoo and rocks, too!

We got up earlier today, with two things on our agenda. One, we wanted to look at the Hopewell Rocks. That, however, is dependent on the tides. We didn’t want to spend the whole day there watching the tides go up and down, so we took the morning to do our second thing – the zoo at Magnetic Hill.

It’s a nice little zoo, 40 acres, 70-some species, including the ever-popular big cats. They have cougars, black jaguars, lions, tigers, and an Amur leopard. They also have zebras, including a beautiful little foal. My heart was stolen by the peccaries, which were in the first enclosure we visited. They were just so plump and cute! After we’d been all around the zoo and looked at and photographed everything, I went back to draw the peccaries. Wouldn’t you know it, they all three hung out down at the back of the enclosure and hardly showed themselves at all. The trick to drawing animals is to pick your critter and wait for it to come around again so you can fill in a little more detail. Only these guys weren’t coming around at all! I still managed a small drawing, which will do as a reminder of the real thing.

Then we went to the Hopewell Rocks. This is the place where the highest tides in the world happen, on the Bay of Fundy. Our guide, Kevin, explained that this had to do not only with the amount of water coming in, but with the shape and depth of the Bay of Fundy. It’s funnel-shaped, and very deep at the wide end, but becomes shallower as it narrows, leaving the water nowhere to go but pile up, so to speak. This means that the high tide can reach 46′, although even the lowest of high tides is 32′. These tides have sculpted the “flowerpot rocks” of the bay, and at low tide you can walk on the seafloor among the rocks. At high tide you can kayak around their tops. Very cool.

7 dr foX at hopewell rocks

This is the Lovers’ Arch – the top of the arch is 18′, and at the highest high tide, it is full of water. The tide has to rise 28 feet just to get to the foot of the rocks.

7 the lovers arch

After we left Hopewell Rocks, we stopped for a lobster dinner – our first this trip, but probably not the only one we’ll eat. Then we drove to Amherst and the hotel where we’ll be spending the next three nights. That will be relaxing. Dr Fox wanted his picture taken on the lighthouse that welcomes visitors to Nova Scotia. David found a way – he’s our hero!


The downtown old-town part of Amherst has some lovely buildings in it, and we expect we’ll be spending some time photographing them over the next few days.

David also managed to find a greenhouse/garden centre where he scored a cactus with many flower buds. Attached to it was a market featuring lots of local produce. Although we’re not in the market for vegetables at the moment, I did get some fruit leather, locally made, and some not-nearly-as-sweet-as-usual dried cranberries, which have a very refreshing tang. I also scored some Grand Manan dulse at the Hopewell Rocks gift shop – yay!

Tomorrow it’s supposed to rain, so we have a museum trip lined up. I hope my poor, sore feet have recovered!

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Day 6 – A Frolicsome Day

Today we got off to a later start than expected, and then changed time zones to boot. We had a long drive, but we also did some fun things.

The day started with breakfast at Mike’s in Riviere du Loup. The coffee was good, the service was efficient, and the food was excellent. Fivetified (because it was better than fortified) for the day, we started with a walk out onto the pier to look at the St Lawrence. It was breezy and chilly, but a beautiful day. The boats in the marina were all aground, sunk in the mudflat left when the tide went out. We could see it coming in and notice the difference even between our walk out to the end of the pier and then back again.

6 dr fox at pier

David wanted to check out Botanix, a garden centre in town, so we did that. He succumbed to some cacti and lithops (stone plants). I congratulated him on holding out until day 6, because on our western vacation he had bought his first plant on day 3. If that’s not progress, I don’t know what is.

On the way out of RIviere du Loup we stopped at two other garden centres. At the first one David found another succulent, and I found a pair of handknit socks. Then we headed out in earnest for Moncton.

Before we reached the Quebec-New Brunswick border, we saw a sign for a fromagerie. We’d seen several fromagerie signs on our trip, but this place was right on the frontage road to the Trans-Canada, so we took the exit and pulled up in front of Fromagerie le Detour. Aptly named.

Well, you know me. I like cheese. David likes cheese. We like to try new things, so we bought a couple of the local cheeses, including one called “Grey Owl”, which looked like it was coated in ashes. I’ve heard of this before with some soft cheeses. We also bought some real, unrefrigerated squeaky cheese curds, the like of which you cannot get in Ontario any more.

Julie, who coped very well with my long-unused high-school French, was so nice that Dr Fox wanted his picture taken with her. He’d never been in a fromagerie before, either.

6 dr fox & julie

We had some of the cheese curds when we stopped at the New Brunswick border, along with grapes and croissants. They were so yummy it was hard to save any for later!

Just after we got into New Brunswick, we saw signs for the New Brunswick Botanical Gardens. We stopped in and spent perhaps an hour there. The gardens are small, and there was not a lot in bloom, but it was well laid-out, easy to navigate, and interesting. They have an artist in residence, who may or may not be responsible for the vegetative sculptures – definitely not topiary – we saw at the entrance.

That’s Dr Fox riding the giant vegetation-feathered mallard.

Our last stop was at Hartland, where the world’s longest covered bridge – 1282 feet – is still in use. We drove through it to get to Hartland, and the Fire and Ice pub, where we had a couple of good burgers and left refreshed and refueled.6 bridge

We made it to the hotel just after 9 p.m. Tomorrow, Magnetic Hill and Hopewell!

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Day 5 – Today I learned…

This was a travel day, from Montreal to Riviere du Loup. We took it easy, leaving late, stopping for breakfast and lunch, and to visit a chocolatiere in Otterbourne Park.  We still arrived just before 6 p.m.

So today I learned that I could read French well enough to understand that Trump thinks Trudeau is feeble and dishonest because he spoke to the press after Trump left the G7, and that the president of the European Counsel thinks there is a special place in Heaven for Trudeau, probably for exactly that reason. Since I haven’t used my French for many years, I was quite pleasantly surprised.

Dr Fox doesn’t read French, but he gave it a try anyway.

dr fox and journal

David pointed out the sign for La Cabosse d’Or along hwy 20 E, and asked me if I wanted to tour a chocolate factory. Of course I said yes! It was ten kilometres off the highway, but we were looking for things to do to make the drive fun. It may have started with David indulging me, but I think he enjoyed it as much as I did. We were enlightened as to the workings of making good chocolate by a lovely young woman named Laurence, whose English was more than enough for the job.

Then we started poking around the store, which was really amazing. There were all kinds of beautiful chocolate goodies – sports-themed, fish-themed, truffles, fudge, chocolate coins, almost any animal you’d care to name and a chocolate Kama Sutra. Wowsers! In dark and milk, may I say, and also one done with Malitol, a sugar which does not require insulin to be digested. I bought some of the Malitol chocolate, although not the Kama Sutra.

Before we left we each had a sorbet. Mine was cacao, very dark and rich, and hardly sweet at all. David had mango, which tasted almost like eating a fresh, cold mango in a cone. Highly recommended, and worth the detour from the highway. Just be prepared to go over budget on the chocolate. This is not cheap chocolate, and by that I mean that it is very good quality, something you’re not going to find every day, and worth the price. They even make chocolate chips on-site – dark, milk and white chocolate. I will be making a premium batch of chocolate-chip cookies when I get home.

For those of you who are curious, here’s one panel of the Kama Sutra.


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Day 4 – Beetles and bonsai

Today we sallied forth to see the Jardin Botanique and the Insectarium. Both of these are well worth the trip, dare I say even the trip from Wharncliffe.

The Insectarium is an incredible collection of insects and information about them. The whole tone of the place is to make us see that insects are living things and a vital part of the planet. It’s awe-inspiring, delightful, brilliant, and a great way to spend a couple of hours, although in the two-plus hours I was there many people came and went. Of course, I did spend some of that time drawing one of the leaf insects. I’m going to try to draw something every single day – a visual diary of the trip.

The Jardin Botanique is – well, incredible. We didn’t see all of it, even though we spent seven hours there. We did tour the exhibition greenhouses, all nine of them, and walked through part of the rose gardens, and the bit of the Chinese Garden that was open (they’re  renovating). David went to see the Japanese Garden while I rested my knee – which held up very well through the day, but finally started to whinge.

The greenhouses were themed – bromeliads, cacti, orchids, ferns, begonias, bonsai, food plants and so on. They were beautifully arranged, and the plants all looked healthy and happy. David went through them while I was drawing in the insectarium, and when we met after I was done, he said, “You have to see these greenhouses!” And he was right – I’m glad I didn’t miss them.

This is going to be another place we have to come back to again. Oh, and if you do go, and have lunch in the little restaurant just off the park, try the rose kombucha – it’s delicious!


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