Eastern Canada - August 2003
Eastern Canada Roadtrip

August 2-17, 2003


From Big Rapids, we drove across Michigan to Stratford, Ontario to the Stratford Festival of Canada. This is theatre at its very best. We saw an exciting Old West interpretation The Taming of the Shrew and a flamboyantly staged The King and I. When in Stratford, there are dozens of nice bed and breakfasts to stay at. Not far from Stratford, on Lake Ontario near Niagara Falls, is the summer Shaw Festival which also offers world class theatre. We'll go there one of these summers.


The most visible attraction in Toronto is the CN Tower which is the world's tallest building. The view from the upper observation deck at 447 m is pretty impressive. On a clear day, you can see New York state across Lake Ontario. We also spent some time on the Toronto waterfront. There was great live music at the Carnival Toronto in the evening, also boat rides and great restaurants. If we'd had time, we would have included a visit to Casa Loma.

In Toronto, we began to notice the impact of the 2003 Toronto SARS crisis. Because of this exaggerated health risk, we enjoyed lower priced accommodations and short lines for events and restaurants all across eastern Canada.


In 1857, Queen Victoria chose this half-English/half-French logging town to be the capital of Canada over Quebec, Montreal and Toronto. Today, Canada's stately government buildings sit atop a magnificent bluff overlooking the Ottawa River. During the summer, there are hourly tours of parliament and a changing of the guard. At night, there are free sound & light shows. These events and tours are a wonderful way to learn all about how Canada is governed and how Canada differs from the U.S. There's a convenient Infocentre right across from parliament where you can get all the schdules and information that you need for your visit.

If you visit Ottawa, try to find a hotel downtown where you can walk around the friendly old section of town after dark. There are street performers and sidewalk cafes that make for pleasant evenings.

There are many wonderful free museums in Ottawa. We spent some time in the thoroughly modern National Art Gallery. You can learn more at the Ottawa Information Kiosk.


Find a budget hotel in the Old Port. Walk the cobblestone streets of the waterfront. Ride in a horsedrawn carriage. Be entertained by the street musicians, jugglers and magicians. Eat wonderful food. Ride the subway under the town and the ferry across the river. There is a lot to see and do in this beautiful, friendly city.

Our most memorable experience in Montreal was our evening visit to Notre-Dame Basilica of Montreal, constructed from 1824-1829. The design was inspired by the Sainte-Chapelle in Paris. Yet, because the interior is made entirely of beautiful carved wood, the building has a warmer quality than any of the stone cathedrals of Europe. We strongly recommend the sound and light spectacle Et la lumiere fut.

We found the Montreal Biosphere to be worth a visit. This sphere was designed by Buckminster Fuller for the 1967 World's Fair. Today it houses a hands-on museum all about water. Did you realize that 20% of the world's fresh water supply is contained in the Great Lakes, which drain past Montreal in the St. Lawrence River.


Quebec is a piece of France in North America: The language, the food, the narrow streets, the old fortress, the cathedral and the romantic period costumes. A wonderful experience.

Thanks to the SARS scare, we were able to score a penthouse in the extravagant Chateau Frontenac for a budget price. This is the hotel that appears in all the photos of Quebec. It's the crown jewel of the Fairmont Hotel chain and it's a beauty. If we were to visit Quebec again, we might stay at either Hotel au Jardin du Gouverneur or Auberge de la Place d'Armes.

Allagash River

The Allagash Wilderness Waterway is one of the premier unspoiled rivers of the eastern U.S. If flows north through the forests of northern Maine up the Canadian border. Dan, Mikka, Julie and I joined seven other folks on an adventure on this river. Our guide was Blaine Miller of Allagash Guide, Inc. If you're considering doing this river, I wholeheartedly recommend our guide. He knows the river well and is a very experienced guide. He'll make sure that your trip goes smoothly and that you have fun. He's also an excellent outdoor cook and a great guy.

I've done a lot of canoing. The trip that Dan, Mikka and I took through the Quetico Wilderness in 2001 was our best lake trip. The Allagash was our best river trip. We saw a lot of moose and eagles. I loved hearing loons and wolves night. The whitewater wasn't difficult, but the river moved along fairly swiftly. There are designated campsites with fire pits, picnic tables and outhouses all along the route. During the summer, the Allagash is well-travelled by other groups like ours. Yet, because everyone travels in the same direction at about the same speed, we saw very few other people. All logging activities are prohibited within about half a mile of the river on each side. Consequently, the waterway functions as a long thin strip of untouched wilderness. I was pleased that we could travel for five days without seeing any signs of civilization and not more than about 30 other people.

We put in at Churchill Dam. Five days and 70 miles later, we took out at the village of St.Francis, which in on the Canadian border. Click on the first picture below to start the slide show.

Start of the trip at Churchill Dam

The dense Maine forests

Dan and Julie say hello to a moose

Getting a tow on Long Lake

Mikka and her father

Shooting the rapids

Mikka, below the rapids

Julie and Dan

Blaine Miller, our guide

Dan, Julie, Mikka in Round Pond

Round Pond

Campsite at Round Pond

Julie, Allagash Falls

Dan, Allagash Falls

Mikka, Allagash Falls

A refreshing swim

After the portage

Below the falls

Dan and Julie

Drying out the tent

Bay of Fundy

The Bay of Fundy has the world's highest tides. At low tide, the Bay drains away, leaving vast tidal flats and pools that make for spectacular beach combing. At high tide, the ocean laps against narrow beaches that edge the dense Nova Scotia woods. This change in scenery every 12 hours and 25 minutes is remarkable to behold. Spend a night at one of the many cozy B&B's in Maitland or anywhere along the south coast of the Bay. (We stayed at the Foley House Inn and were quite satisfied.) Take nature walks throught the park along the ocean. Watch the Bay come in and out a few times.

At mid-tide, the flow of water into the Bay of Fundy equals the combined flow of all the rivers and streams on Earth. This rush of water creates a tidal bore that one can surf on. Three concessions in Maitland ( 1, 2 and 3) operate high-powered Zodiacs that will take you out onto the in-coming tide to chase the tidal bore. If you can time your visit to the Bay of Fundy, go at new moon when the tides are the biggest. Full moon isn't bad, either.


I shiver to think what Halifax is like in February but on a clear sunny day in August, it's one of the loveliest cities I've ever seen -- a mix of old and new architecture and really friendly people. We managed to visit during the Halifax International Buskers Festival, which is an 11-day event in the first half of August. The waterfront was busy with street performers from morning until midnight all week long. So we ate lobster and watched performers in harlequin ride unicycles while juggling flaming torches under a starry sky. Fabulous entertainment -- and free!

From Halifax, we followed the coast road south along the Atlantic coast. The scenery was terrific, especially in the St. Margaret's Bay Region and a place called Peggy's cove. It would be easy to spend a week visiting all the picturesque towns along this route. We particularly enjoyed the town of Lunenburg where the Bluenose II is berthed. This ship is a replica of the original Bluenose, the world's fastest sailing fishing boat and the symbol of Nova Scotia. It's open to the public in the summer for short sailing excursions.


On the old wharf along Water Street is the Killam Brothers Shipping Office, which was jointly owned by my great-grandfather William K. Dudman and the Killam family from the mid-19th century until we turned the store keys over to the Yarmouth County Museum in 1991. In the store, Dan, Mikka and I were amazed to find the original ledger books from the 1850s sitting on worn wooden desks. Opening these ledgers, we read in elegant quill pen script the details of every transaction and purchase made by the Killam and Dudman families a century and a half ago. Note to Stifler family members: If you're ever in Yarmouth, be sure to visit the museum where Momo did much of her research and where you can see paintings of The Martha and The Sarah.

We returned to the U.S. (and our flight home to California) via The Cat. This was certainly the biggest, fastest and smoothest boat I've ever been on. Be sure to make your reservations in advance.

If you have any questions about our trip, feel free to contact me at nick@zoa.com.
If this trip looks like fun, you might want to read about our other adventures.

Shakespeare Festival, Stratford Toronto, Ontario Ottawa, capital of Canada Montreal, Quebec Quebec City, Quebec Allagash River Wilderness Waterway Bay of Fundy, World's Highest Tides Halifax, Nova Scotia Yarmouth, Nova Scotia