Wednesday, August 26, 2015

Riding the Confederation Trail, Montague, PEI, August

The Confederation Trail uses the right of way from the original PEI railway, which ceased operations in the 1980s. The railway is quite a story in its own right, with a significant role to play in PEI joining the confederation.  The colony of PEI had got into some financial difficulties with the cost of the railway and looked to the Federation to get it out of those difficulties.

The trail goes 230km from East to West, with the total distance being more than 400km. The track is largely flat and very well maintained. We cycled from Montague, in the East of the Island.

Typical section of the trail -- watch for those mosquitoes! 

The old railway station at Montague. And the start of this part of the Trail.

Culinary Institute of Canada, Charlottetown, PEI, August

We had dinner at the Culinary Institute of Canada, Charlottetown, which is part of Holland College, a community college. It was an excellent dinner .. with innovative food. My main course was meant to represent all the seafood of PEI. The "sand" you can see underneath the various items was made from milk powder and parmesan cheese. The pickled fiddleheads are foraged on the island and represent seaweed etc. The "pearls" are from mushrooms. Apart from anything else, it tasted just great.

Atlantic Canada Air Show, Summerside, PEI, August

I had not been to an air show in more than 50 years, so it was great to visit the Atlantic Canada Air Show in Summerside, PEI. The airport is a repurposed Canadian Air Force base, so just perfect to close the airspace for the show. 

Highlights of the show were Yak Attack, who fly 1950s Chinese and Russian training planes -- how cool is that? -- and the Canadian Air Force Snowbirds, flying 50 year old CT-114 Tutors. The Snowbirds is a flight of nine aircraft, so they can provide continuous enjoyment for more than 20 minutes. Thank you, Canadian Taxpayer!

3/4 scale model of Spitfire -- 75th anniversary of the Battle of Britain

CJ6A Nanchang

Yak 52 TW



Summer Theater, Prince Edward Island, August

Given the population of PEI -- only 140k -- the summer music and theater is amazing. We passed by the old favorites of Ann of Green Gables (in its 51st season) for the 39 Steps at the Harborfront Theater in Summerside and Bittergirl The Musical at the Charlottetown Festival in Charlottetown. The 39 Steps was very innovative -- four actors playing 100+ characters ably assisted by innovative sets and equally innovative lighting. It was an homage to Hitchcock and to noir, more broadly. With some more recent references thrown in. Unfortunately, on the night we went there were less than 20 in the audience for a theater that can seat 300+. It stuck largely to the storyline of the John Buchan book (which I read when I was about 12 I think) but played completely for comedic effect. Not high art but great fun.

If Bittergirl The Musical comes to your town -- and it was the world premiere in the Festival -- rush out and see it. It is all about being dumped by crass boyfriends. The musical draws on the music of Rock and Roll and Motown  with many old favorites. The musical has been selling out each night and you can see why. Universal themes, great acting and singing, innovative staging and music wrapped around a very loose story line. The musical is based on a comedy from the mid-2000s but probably works better in this format. It deserves a wide audience beyond Canada.

Talking of high art, we also went to listen to "Music from the Sistine Chapel" featuring Studio de musique ancienne de MontrĂ©al at the Indian River Festival held in the lovely St Mary's Church in (no surprise here) Indian River. Magical church music of the renaissance sung a capella. This is obviously a fine group.

Tuesday, August 25, 2015

What is the first thing you do when you get to Prince Edward Island? PEI, August

The first thing you do when getting to PEI is to buy fresh lobster. Then poach in wine, garlic and ginger. Yummy!

View from Richard's Fish Shop

Sunday, August 23, 2015

New Brunswick Botanical Gardens, Edmundston, New Brunswick, August

 In St Jacques, on the northern edge of Edmundston, is the New Brunswick Botanical Garden. This is one of the best of its type we have visited over the years. What sets this garden apart from others is the range of activities within the garden. There is both an artist in residence and a herbalist in residence. We talked to both of these folk at length. Msr Cyr, the  artist in residence sculpts in wood. All of the sculptures relate to the people and history of the area. He is Acadian and we talked about the Acadians in the region as well as his work. The herbalist (and I lost his card, so cannot give him a name) told us about the herbs and medicinal plants of the Maritimes and Newfoundland. The gardens has a new building just for the herbs and medicinal plants thematic garden. We had thought we might take an hour for the garden but ended up taking more than four hours.

An Acadian stop, Edmundston, New Brunswick, August

Just into the New Brunswick border from Quebec are the towns of St Jacques, Edmundston and Saint Basile. This area is 95% francophone. Most are coming from the Acadians of Nova Scotia, PEI and New Brunswick who were expelled by the British in 1755-1764. Many went back to France or New Orleans but others went into the hinterland. We stayed at the campground in Saint Basile -- one of the best campgrounds we have been on the trip thus far. Most staying at the campground were there for the summer season and were locals from the region. Every Saturday night they have music in the camp meeting house -- the particular night we were there was "Halloween." Yes, I know, Halloween is in October but they celebrated a camp ground Halloween before the camp closed for the summer. The music was largely traditional Acadian but there was an 83 year old Elvis and a Johnny Cash lookalike!! A great night ending at 11pm. Everyone at the campground was very friendly and welcoming -- we stayed an extra three days.

A Comedy of Errors in the park, Ottawa, August

Canada just looves Shakespeare. Every city and town seems to have a Shakespeare festival. Throughout the summer, the Company of Fools performs Shakespeare in neighborhood parks throughout Ottawa. This year was A Comedy of Errors, which is a very silly and slight play. But it is a great play for kids of all ages and I laughed throughout the performance. The Company just set up their stage and away they go -- no amplification at all. The costumes were just brilliant as was the acting. The audience seemed to be all locals with several just walking from their homes. No tickets -- a donation hat was carried around after the show. A tradition that goes back to the magic plays of medieval times and beyond. Highly recommended!!

Montebello, Quebec, August

A little over 100km on the road from Ottawa to Montreal is the township of Montebello, on the shores of the Ottawa River. Apart from many restaurants and art galleries, the town is best known for the Chateau Montebello, now part of the Fairmont chain. The chateau is supposedly the largest log structure ever built -- I don't know if that is true, but it is very large and exceptionally pretty given its location on the river. We had an excellent lunch in the main dining room and explored the grounds as well as the adjacent Manoir Papineau

The chateau from the river .. showing only about one third of the building.

The main lobby. It is three stories high with wood paneling, log walls and timber supports. Very impressive.

Ottawa River

Ottawa River

The Papineau Mansion