Photo: Chaleur Bay, NB.
We left Riviere du Loup, Quebec and took the Trans Canada to Edmunsdon, where we hooked up with the Appalachian Trail, Highway 17. The Acadian Peninsula revealed to us our second major gap in our education about The East, the first being that of the astonishing beauty of the Great Lakes.
It turns out that Acadia is a large, distinct society that is very much alive, well and thriving. The Acadians occupy at least a third of the province. Even the NB license plates say New – Noveau Brunswick. They retain the French language, although it seems to a person that they are bilingual – we ran into more people in Montreal and Quebec City that spoke English than we did in Acadia. They even have their own flag that they’re very proud of flying from just about every household. The Acadians are very welcoming though: Bienvenue to Acadianna.
An entire holiday could be made of visiting Acadia. It’s where the Atlantic Ocean starts to make it’s presence felt, where the culture is so different, but welcoming, and where you can get a genuine and distinct taste of a piece of the fabric that makes up Canada.
On our first night in NB we stayed at Campbellton which, given its’ name, we thought might be a Scottish settlement, but no, French is definitely the flavour here. We stopped at the tourist info centre to ask about campsites and were told to head south along the beach for twenty kilometers. While driving along the beach right in town, we noticed a lot of RVs with their stabilizing jacks down. We stopped and asked one of the RVers if it was legal, and free, to stay the night. He replied in very broken English that indeed that was the case.
It turned out that most of the RVers were from Quebec or NB, all spoke French and a lot of them hung out together there. When I saw a guy get out his guitar, and people gathering, I thought I was in for a real old fashioned Acadian jam session. Alas, the players were pretty old (older than me) and played very French, very slow waltz kind of stuff, not the kind of music that lent itself to any kind of drumming. The real Acadian music is mostly fiddle and accordion, sounding, to me, like a mixture of French and Zydeco. I was still hoping we’d get lucky and run into the real thing before we got out of New Brunswick.
We thoroughly enjoyed their playing as background music though, while we sat drinking wine, reflecting on our good luck in finding such a beautiful, free campsite. Our view to the east was the glassy Tracadish Bay while, to the north, we gazed across the Restigouche River to the Gaspé Peninsula.
Photo: Like the Acadians, Janice helps bridge the gap between Quebec on the right and New Brunswick on the left.
Photo: From our free site at Cambellton, the view of the Restigouche River.
Photo: In front of our campsite at Campbellton, NB.
In the morning we took a walk around the town, and then hooked up and drove across the bridge to the Gaspé Peninsula, briefly snooping around Listugui, Quebec, before returning to NB. We hit the road again and followed the coast and the Acadian Trail on the slow but scenic Highway 134.
We stopped for lunch at a picnic spot on Nepisquit Bay at Bathurst. After lunch we found a place for Janice to get a haircut. Her stylist recommended that we stop and camp at Caraquet, (kind of sounds like carrot cake), because there was a campsite there right on the water, at the municipal marina. We followed her advice and it turned out to be a beautiful spot overlooking the marina and Chaleur Bay.
Photo: Fish boat at Caraquet.
Photo: Tim and Janice with thier fold-up bikes at Caraquet harbour.
It was while touring Caraquet later on our bikes that we got our first taste of fresh Atlantic Lobster when we stopped for a Lobster Roll at a roadside mobile cantina that the Acadians would call a Casse-Croute. We also stopped at the waterfront fish market where we bought fresh lobster, ocean perch, cod, shrimp and scallops so that Janice could make Ceviche.
Photo: The Casse-Croute at Caraquet where we had an excellent little lobster roll. You can buy the same thing at Subway or even McDonald’s out here.
Janice started the fish cooking in the lime juice and then we took a drive up the road to Shippagan, another fishing port, where we saw hundreds of fish boats sitting high and dry, evidence of the now defunct cod fishery.
Photo: Just a few of the hundreds of fish boats left high and dry in Shippagan, NB.
We had Ceviche around the campfire and discovered that; there too, the mosquitoes come out after dark.
The woman managing the marina and campground moved quickly along the dock, like a wild sea-witch. Her long hair, so tightly curled and windswept, made her appear to float rather than walk. Up close though her hair had a reddish luminescence, and she was warm, smiling and charismatic. I found her quite compelling as she seemed somehow to embody the best attributes of what seemed, to me, to be the authentic, fun-loving, hard-working, seafaring Acadian personality. She invited us to stay because she knew we would enjoy the Festival Acadien starting that weekend.
I’m sure we missed some good times at that Acadian Festival but we’d pretty well seen the town so we decided to hit the road again. It was a beautiful sunny day as we drove south on The Acadian Trail, Highway 11, down the coast to Val-Comeau where we stopped at a road-side restaurant for a sandwich. It was there that we noticed that the French/English language being spoken was beginning to equal out.
It was hot as we drove into Kouchibouguac National Park. We walked out the long boardwalks to the beach intending to go for a swim but there were too many jellyfish. We returned to the truck and put the bikes together in order to scout the park, to see if we wanted to stay for the night. The park is famous for its tidal pools but the water in them was so warm that they didn’t hold much allure for me.
I convinced Janice that we should move on, to Richibucto. The municipal RV Park there had a big pool complex but it was full of kids so we walked down the beach to where the Salmon River meets Northumberland Straight. Because the water was shallow and moving in odd directions, we crab-walked, belly-up, into water that was deep enough to allow us to cool off.
There was a good internet connection at the park so we talked to our mothers and to our friends, Peter and Debbie, who announced that they’re getting married in October. We had a ripping campfire later on.
t rained through the night but the morning gave way to high clouds. It was muggy as we pulled into Bouctouche to have a look around. We knew there was a large old fort and historic compound there with lots of shows and themed restaurants, but nothing of real interest coincided with our timing. We pulled back onto the highway and continued south to Shediac, which proclaims itself to be the home of both the “Warmest Beach North of Virginia” and the “Lobster Capital of Canada.
There are several large RV Parks in Shediac. We got a site within a kilometer of the beach and biked down for a swim. It wasn’t long though before a storm blew in and drove us back to camp. After it finally passed over we drove to town for a look around, stopping to buy some scallops and prawns at the market.
Photo: A storm blows in over the beach at Shediac.
Shediac is very much geared towards tourism and for good reason. Canada’s first commercial air traffic also started at Shediac when Pan American Airlines started flying seaplanes back and forth to Great Britain in 1937.
Back at the trailer, Janice started some seafood chowder simmering before we took off biking to the pier. Some locals had told us that we hadn’t had the world’s best lobster until we tried one of the restaurants at the fishing pier. The idea was to have a beer and a lobster snack but neither restaurant had anything besides full lobster dinners. We sat at the bar, ordered a couple of Moosehead Lagers, and chatted with another couple from Ontario. They couldn’t believe, considering how close we were getting to wanting to go to Newfoundland, that we hadn’t made ferry reservations yet.
Photo: The storm creates some dramatic light near the shore at Shediac. You just know there’s got to be a rainbow behind us.
After leaving the bar we rode into town to take in Music in the Park but were disappointed by a run-of-the-mill, mediocre rock band.
Back at the trailer we had some excellent seafood chowder and then got online to see if we could book some ferry tickets to Newfoundland…