Having just been reminded about how important it's going to be to camp in Canada when the present crisis is over, I thought I'd roll back to our trip to Boston and Plymouth where, once done with the US, we motored north and spent a couple of days in Quebec City. Canada is truly a unique and beautiful country, and Quebec City is typical of the diversity the country has to offer.
Our run up through the US towards Canada took in New Hampshire and Vermont, through the White Mountains, then into the flat and rich farmland of the Francophone Canadian Province of Quebec. If you don't have any French at all, I can understand that crossing from one of the US States that border Quebec could seem quite alien, even daunting. Quebec is generally not bilingual; the people speak French and, quite rightly, don't feel the need to slip into speaking English in their own backyard. So, if you ever visit Quebec, brush up on that High School French because you're going to need it, especially if you need to read any of the signs, or order a meal in a restaurant.
Of course, Quebecers will help you out when they can as most will have better English than you have French, but it's important to at least try to speak to the locals in their own language. My French isn't great, but I'm happy to have a go, and it's much appreciated when you're trying to interact. I make these comments because I've read of a few natives of the US being initially surprised that Quebecers don't want to speak English (why would they?) and then critical of them because of it. To any of my English speaking friends I'd say visit Quebec, it's a great place, and rather than demand English, join in with speaking another language; if nothing else, everyone will have a laugh.
Anyway, onto the trip. We stayed at the KOA campground south of Quebec City. It's a little way out, but that's the way KOA operates. This campground was a little odd, though. It seemed to be wedged into a narrow strip of land on an industrial park, hemmed in on all sides by big warehouses. It was also really busy, with every tightly packed site occupied when we arrived. That's not to say that it wasn't a nice campground, though. The people in the office could not have been more helpful, and their little store was probably the best stocked I've ever seen, including much beer and wine. As a European, I really appreciate Quebec's European attitude to the sale of alcohol and how nice it was to see a campground treating its customers as adults.
As the photos show, the sites were not huge, and the space at the campground was, shall we say, efficiently utilised. However, we didn't spend a great deal of time there as the attractions of Quebec City and environs ensured we were early to head out in the mornings and late to arrive back. When we went to explore the city, we took the bus from the main gate of the campground. My memory fails me, but I want to say that it was free - maybe I'm wrong. Anyway, that meant a full day on foot in the city, exploring the sights and not having to worry about driving or parking. My schoolboy French was well employed in the fabulous restaurants in the Old Town, and we had a great day there.
Our second day there we went out in the car, up along the St Lawrence, to Île d'Orléans, pretty much the birthplace of European settlement in Canada. Even though it was August, the weather was cold and overcast, and it didn't seem that there was much open on the island, not even a Friterie. Still, we drove right around the island, savoured the old French strip farming system and the European style buildings, which was our reason for visiting in the first place. We stopped at a lookout tower at the northern end of the island and enjoyed the somewhat weather-limited views of Cap Tormente National Wildlife Area, and the ever widening St Lawrence River.
When we left Quebec, we were heading back into Ontario, but did make a stop at Gananoque for a few days; more great Canadian camping.
Thinking back to that trip, and forward to what the coming years have in store, it really does look like staying in Canada is going to be absolutely the right thing to do.
Today I have a few photos of a trip in 2016 to Inverhuron Provincial Park, Ontario.
This was a Victoria Day weekend (known by kids as "May 2-4", and the equivalent to the US Memorial Day), and we had a full house; both smalls and a small's friend. In Southern Ontario, May 2-4 is a big weekend for high schoolers to take over campgrounds and drink for the entire weekend, especially where the park is close to a big centre of population. Fortunately, Inverhuron is a bit of a hike from London (ON) and Windsor (ON), so this particular weekend at this particular park it was busy, but not with hyperactive youngsters.
For us, Inverhuron is a little outside our two hour weekend drive limit, which is why we only go on the holiday weekends, or in the high summer. It's right on Lake Huron which, even in late May, can bring the night temperatures right down; just ask the kids sleeping in the tent. That particular site was deep in the woods and had a hard-packed gravel pad; great for parking your Airstream but not so great when you're pitching, and sleeping in, a tent. Still, the trees were effective at deadening the noise from the rest of the campground and as I remember, I slept like a baby.
Despite the cold nights, the days were nice and warm, so we made a couple of trips out, most notably to Port Elgin. Not only does Port Elgin have a fine, sandy beach and a marina full of jolly, bobbing boats, but it has the best Fish and Chips I've yet found in Canada. Lord Elgin's, right by the Canadian Tire on Goderich Street, has some really excellent cod and halibut, and the chips (OK, Fries) were not half bad either. Still not to British standards (if you've ever had fish and chips in the UK, you'll understand), but a fair representation by anyone's standards. When you look at the names thereabout, Elgin, Kincardine, Inver and the like, the area must surely have been settled by the Scots. Thankfully they brought their fish and chips with them.
We love the drive up to Huron's eastern shore. It starts with a cross-country section, through the lush fields of corn and beans (so much corn, so many beans), before meeting the Bluewater Highway just to the west of that party capital, Grand Bend. From Grand bend we just stay on that road, hugging the shoreline of the lake, and we have a whole raft of Provincial Parks to choose from; Point Farms, McGregor Point, Sauble Falls, and of course, Inverhuron. That's not including The Pinery, back at Grand Bend, which is huge and yet always booked solid. Anyway, the road's called the Bluewater Highway because, guess what, the lake is a fabulous indigo colour, all the way up to Tobermory. as I said, one of our favourite runs, and one that the Toadmobile knows very well.
Other than that I don't remember too much about the weekend, now. I do remember eating fish and chips by the beach and chatting to a real, live Scotsman. I also remember there being a houseboat in the marina called "The Disorient Express", which is just the perfect name.
I'm not sure what camping this summer will allow, but I'd love to head up to Inverhuron again!
Here's another short piece about places we've been with Towed Haul.
Today it's our trip to Plymouth, (Massachusetts as opposed to Devon) and a few of things we enjoyed there. I say Plymouth, but it was a much longer trip than that; a few days in Cooperstown, NY, followed by time in Massachusetts, then to Quebec City and finally Gananoque, ON, on our way home. Today, though, it's the US Eastern Seaboard.
We set up camp at the KOA site a few miles west of Plymouth. As with all KOAs, it was fairly tightly packed and busy, but we were on the end of a line and just a few seconds from the campground's laundry, which was handy. Our neighbours while we were there changed frequently, from the German family struggling with their rented RV (a damaged power cord), to the mega-bus that had automatic everything and made our little trailer look like a toy. I was just looking at the photographs from the trip, and there were some taken in heavy rain; that darned stuff follows us around. As I remember it was cold at night, too, given that it was August; 10 degrees Celsius or 50 degrees Fahrenheit is not great at the height of summer.
Included in the photos here are the legendary traffic heading into Boston, on the weekend it was, too. Also memories of Salem, the Friendship, and the marker for Sarah Good, one of those hanged after the notorious Witch Trials. Salem was great, but we only washed up there after the kids allowed us just two hours in downtown Boston before snapping our patience with their moaning. A good day in the end, though, so thank you kids!
One of the reasons we wanted to go to Plymouth is that my DW comes from the original Plymouth in the UK. It had been just a year or two previous that we'd all stood on the Mayflower steps there, where the Pilgrims had set off from, and promised to visit the place the Pilgrims eventually landed, and here we were. For the historically accurate folks, we also visited Provincetown on Cape Cod, where the Mayflower is said to have anchored before making its way to what is now Plymouth.
We loved Provincetown (so crowded but so vibrant) and Salem, and I'm sure we'd have enjoyed Boston given a bit more time. We even visited Chatham MA, just because we could. Being a very expensive looking area on Cape Cod, with lots of fancy "cottages" and smartly maintained Colonial houses, only the name bore any similarities to Chatham, ON. Still, we went there.
Anyway, a few photos below as an illustration (Click on the picture to make it bigger). Enjoy.
Referencing the last entry in this blog, our non-plans for this year have changed to non-plans plus, what with this virus upset. With the new arrival expected in June, we didn't think there would be a whole lot of camping this year, but now that so many public and private places are shut down, I'm wondering if we'll even get away for the occasional weekend this summer. Still, onward and upward, I'll get Towed Haul out of storage at some point and see what develops.
For today, then, I thought I'd drag out a photo or two from a previous trip and see what I can remember about it.
This is Mara Provincial Park, near Orillia, Ontario. It's situated right on the north shore of Lake Simcoe and is well positioned to explore around the lake, the Trent-Severn Waterway and Georgian Bay. Great, you're thinking, what could be better? Well, sadly, this Park stood out as the biting-bug capital of Ontario. This little camp site was secluded and the Park quiet, but we couldn't sit out at any point during our stay for getting eaten alive. Even the copious amounts of bug-repellent we used only lasted a very short while before the little nasties were biting again. I have vivid memories of having to dump the tanks on the way out of the park and getting bitten to pieces in the 15 minutes it took me to complete the job, even with the bug-repellent liberally splashed all over me. I guess a roaring campfire and a ton of Citronella candles may have helped, but once bitten (often) and we really didn't want to go outside of the trailer. I've never known the like, before or since. At the next stop on the tour I can remember feeling that my ankles, red-raw from the bites sustained at Mara, were going to explode every time the sun caught them.
That said, we did get around the area, away from the bugs, visiting Midland, Penetanguishene and the Marine Railway on the Trent-Severn, as the photos below illustrate. I've included one from the second stop on that trip, Emily Provincial Park, of the Osprey family having lunch delivered. It wasn't nearly so buggy there, despite the trees and the proximity of water, which made the stay there so much more enjoyable.
Mr Toad - Airstreamer
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