Autumn Splendour: Admiring Fall Colours in Eastern Canada

Cooler weather has finally settled in to Eastern Canada after a long hot dry summer. While I thoroughly enjoyed the sizzling  temperatures, I was apprehensive about what the fall months would bring.  After having lived on the Caribbean island of Dominica for almost 20 years, who could blame me for fearing the worst, in terms of a plummeting thermometer!

As it turned out, semi-tropical weather accompanied me on a mid-October  Canadian Thanksgiving journey to the east coast of Canada to visit relatives.  Unusually warm, sweltering, sunny days preceded the heavy deluge that Nova Scotia received from the remnants of Hurricane Matthew on October 10th, Thanksgiving Monday.

But several days before that powerful storm drenched this Maritime Province, spectacular scenery occupied the shorter autumn days of my train journey on ‘The Ocean‘.  When I booked the excursion from Kingston Ontario to connect with the east coast train departing from Montreal, Quebec,I had forgotten that I would not have the  long  summer hours  of daylight to see the sites/sights along the way. But no matter: I was better rested during the overnight segment of the 27 hour trip and was duly rewarded with colourful landscapes the next morning as the train passed through the upper St. Lawrence Valley of Quebec, crossed in to northern New Brunswick, following along the Mirimichi River in a southerly direction to the innermost marshlands of the Bay of Fundy at Sackville, New Brunswick and Amherst Nova Scotia. By the time we approached Halifax around 7 p.m., weary passengers were rewarded with a sensational sunset over a lake situated just north of the provincial capital of Halifax.

For a map of my rail journey, click here.

On the train, some of nature’s palette of colours that I admired from my window seat:
Thanks to the gorgeous weather which continued during my visit with relatives in the Annapolis Valley, it was easy to go on long walks and drives every day except the one when heavy rains kept most people inside, recovering from their Thanksgiving feasts.
The fall festive season in the Annapolis Valley of Nova Scotia completely reflected the abundance of the harvest. While there had been a prolonged drought during the short growing season, certain crops definitely did thrive. The hues of orange and related shades on the spectrum blended sweetly  with the greens and browns of the now-barren fields:
On a fine day after Hurricane Matthew’s remnants had lashed Nova Scotia, my cousin Greg took my Aunt Vivian and me on a drive through part of the Annapolis Valley. Then my cousin Dwight and ‘sister’ Patricia took me over to historic and scenic Grand Pré UNESCO World Heritage Site just before I departed for Halifax the next day. While some leaves had fallen due to the high winds of the previous Monday, there was sufficient foliage to admire in the heart of this beautiful Canadian province:
 There were even vibrant flowers, sweet berries and hardy plants to admire, thanks to the temperate weather in Wolfville, Nova Scotia.  But I am sure that my cousins’ green thumbs had something to do with that too:

On my way back to Kingston (by air!), I spent a short time in Halifax, the major urban centre in the Maritimes and my home for many years.  As the weather remained fine well into October, I was struck by the beauty of this lovely city and remembered other times there when the prolonged autumn was moderated by the post-summer warmer waters of the Atlantic Ocean.

And now that November’s here, in multi-shades of grey, I am thankful to have had such a sensational and scenic autumn in eastern Canada.  While it did not offer the endless greens found in Dominica,  the region’s pre-winter natural beauty was definitely good for my soul!

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A Canary Flies North: Taking the ‘Ocean’ train east to historic Halifax, my second Canadian Home!

The Halifax Train Station where the Ocean ends its 1,346 km (836 mi) journey from Montreal.  2014 marks the 110th year of this unique excursion. I've done it twice now!

The Halifax Train Station where the Ocean ends its 1,346 km (836 mi) journey from Montreal. 2014 marks the 110th year of this unique excursion. I’ve done it twice now!

I boarded the OCEAN VIA train at Charny, across the St. Lawrence River from Quebec City around 10:30 p.m., en route to Halifax. Then I quickly settled in to my seat and covered myself with several layers of warm wraps.  I would be sitting up all night and I had discovered from previous experience that the A/C was far too cold for me in the middle of the night.  In fact, some sniffles and a cough had already commenced in Quebec City, reminding me that re-circulated indoor air and air conditioning did not sit well with my health challenges. (It could have been other irritants, such as pollens too). Nevertheless, I was intent on repeating this adventure one more time, as I did enjoy the diverse Maritime landscapes and charming serene towns along the way on my first trip in 2011.

I slept off and on throughout the night, awakening when the train stopped or flashing red crossing lights penetrated my closed eyelids.  Although I am not a large person, it was somewhat difficult to get comfortable, so I consciously chose to doze  until daybreak.  When I finally fully opened my eyes, clear blue skies, verdant green forest and the sparkling Restigouche River on the Quebec/New Brunswick border distracted me from my cramped muscles and  fuzzy head.

One of the 24 cars on The Ocean headed to Halifax shines in the brilliant sunlight at Campbellton New Brunswick.

Two of the 24 cars on The Ocean headed to Halifax on June 30th shine in the brilliant sunlight at Campbellton New Brunswick.

When the train came to a complete stop at Campbellton, New Brunswick at 7:30 a.m., we were notified that we would be there for about half an hour as the train was early!  Therefore, we had to wait until its usual departure time, to allow boarding passengers a chance to catch the train as per its regular schedule. I took the opportunity to step down and go outside for a walk along the platform.  I dodged smokers here and there, as they are not permitted to attend to their habit on board.  Away from the  smoke puffers, the air was pure and sweet.  I chatted casually with one of the friendly train staff.  She told me that this train was 24 cars long!  As the sleeper cars were towards the rear, I never made it all the way to back.  The farthest I got was to the dining car, and I usually went at last call, when there was hardly anyone there.  That allowed me to converse casually with cheerful staff and to overhear their intriguing conversations! (I couldn’t help it  – they weren’t exactly speaking softly about their woes… not enough vacation… when I was younger,things were better, etc…) I couldn’t agree more!!!

I occupied myself by frequently gazing out the window, occasionally getting up to eat or go to the toilet, and checking my email on a secured table  in the wireless car now and then.

I really enjoyed blueberry pancakes with other fruit and real  Canadian maple syrup, along with good coffee for my late breakfast in the dining car.  It was fun!

I really enjoyed blueberry pancakes with other fruit and real Canadian maple syrup, along with good coffee for my late breakfast in the dining car. It was fun!

I was able to read my tablet without too much jiggling on this train.  It was bigger and seemed steadier than the other ones I had travelled on.  It wasn’t slow though, as you must have gathered by now!

Perhaps I should confess to being a real day dreamer, and as such, the time generally passed very quickly.  I was getting a little impatient by the time we reached Amherst, the gateway town to the rest of Nova Scotia.  At that point, there was only three more hours to go!  I think I was becoming a bit squirmy by then, and so were some children sitting not far from me.  They got on the train at Moncton, New Brunswick and I am certain that the four hours to Halifax must have seemed interminable to them.

At long last, there were signs that we were on the approach to this historic east coast port.  We rounded the Bedford Basin and I could see the MacKay and McDonald Bridges crossing the Halifax Harbour between said city and its neighbour, Dartmouth.  Finally, we were there right on time!  I hobbled(like everyone else) off of the train at 6:40 p.m., awaited baggage for only a few minutes and then walked out into the salty air of a most lovely seaside city on the eve of Canada Day. Halifax, here I am – back ‘home’ again!

Here are some photos of the journey.  I’ve noted their locations wherever possible, so that you can refer to the map above, which was copied from ‘The Ocean Train’ on Wikipedia. Kindly note that the ‘Ocean’ does not go to the Gaspe Peninsula, but travels in a southerly direction from Campbellton, New Brunswick to Halifax, Nova Scotia.

Most likely a church spire in the town of Campbellton New Brunswick.  there is still a French feel to this area and many people have Acadian roots in this region.

Most likely a church spire in the town of Campbellton New Brunswick. There is still  traditional French influence and many people have Acadian roots in this region.

A typical farm home in Northern New Brunswick.

A typical farm home in Northern New Brunswick.

This field appears to be rape seed (Canola) according to plant specialist/friend Karen. See her comment below for additional info. I admired it in the Miramichi New Brunswick area.

I would love to know what this staely building represents - somewhere in northern New Brunswick. I could not see an identification sign from my train window.  Does anyone know?

I would love to know what this stately building represents – somewhere in northern New Brunswick. I could not see an identification sign from my train window. Does anyone know?

Th Miramichi River in New Brunswick is very wide and has an international reputation for the best salmon fishing anywhere!

The Miramichi River in New Brunswick is very wide and has an international reputation for the best salmon fishing anywhere!

There is a lot of forest in New Brunswick.  My father might have called this 'moose pasture'.  I didn't see any this time.

There is a lot of forest in New Brunswick. My father might have called this ‘moose pasture’. I didn’t see any this time.

At Amherst, Nova Scotia, the Bay of Fundy tides are definitely noticable

At Amherst, Nova Scotia, the Bay of Fundy tides are definitely noticeable

In the flat breezy marshes near Sackville New Brunswick and Amherst Nova Scotia,  wind turbines are generating energy.

In the flat breezy marshes near Sackville New Brunswick and Amherst Nova Scotia, wind turbines are generating energy.

Truro Nova Scotia is a quaint little town that holds special meaning for my immediate family - and reminds me of my Maritime roots!

Truro Nova Scotia is a quaint little town that holds special meaning for my immediate family – and reminds me of my Maritime roots!

The murals at the Truro Train Station are colourful and thoughtful.  They really hold one's attention while the train is stopped there.

The murals at the Truro Train Station are colourful and thoughtful. They really hold one’s attention while the train stops there.

Some farm fields and possibily the Shubenacadie River, between Truro and Halifax.

Some farm fields and possibly the Shubenacadie River, between Truro and Halifax.

Looks like Grand Lake, about a half hour's  northerly drive from Halifax.  i have lots of memories of canoeing adventures there.

Looks like Grand Lake, about a half hour’s northerly drive from Halifax. I have lots of memories of canoeing adventures there.

Halifax Station! "Home" at last!

Halifax Station! “Home” at last!

Much of the Maritimes is covered in rivers and trees, as you can see!

Much of the Maritime Provinces are covered in rivers and trees, as you can see!

 

A Canary Flies North: Family, Friends and Rides on the Rails between Toronto and Quebec City, Canada

Toronto's statuesque CN Tower stand out clearly against the beautiful blue backdrop on a perfect Sunday in June.

Toronto’s landmark CN Tower stands out clearly against the beautiful blue backdrop on a perfect Sunday in June.

I enjoyed my daily dose of fresh raw foods at Rawlicious on Brock St. in Whitby for the week I was in the area. Pcitured here  are soft tacos with side salad.  Every item on the menu is gluten, dairy and refined sugar free.

I enjoyed my daily dose of fresh raw organic foods at Rawlicious on Brock St. S. in Whitby  Ontario for the week I was in the area. Pictured here are soft tacos with side salad. Every item on the menu is gluten, dairy and refined sugar-free. Their lemonade is one to beat! The meals were creatively prepared and tasted divine.

When I finally arrived in Toronto (right after a tornado had touched down just north of the city), I was mildly shocked by the cooler, damp weather.  By the next morning, the clear skies and strong sunshine indicated lower levels of pollution and I felt relatively well in this industrialized, highly populated area.

I regained my Canadian bearings in Whitby, a pretty city with tree-lined streets  about an hour east of Toronto.  As I attended to medical and other personal matters there,  I appreciated the friendliness of the people and an organic restaurant near a conveniently located small motel called The Lucien.  It is a family run business and I am a repeat guest over a several years.  The rooms are clean, quiet and unscented per my special request.  I don’t need a car there as everything is within walking distance or can be accessed by a regular bus system.

When my business had been completed, I headed down the highway for a special event:

my one and only nephew’s graduation from Grade Eight!  In the Canadian system, this is the educational milestone one achieves before continuing on to four years of secondary school.

I was a very proud auntie indeed, as my young relative received top awards for science, geography and for his exceptional contribution to school music activities.  The biggest surprise was his distinction as class valedictorian, and he delivered the address in both of Canada’s official languages, English and French.

Nephew Dallin the Grade 8 Graduate with his proud Auntie before the ceremony and the valedictory surprise.

Nephew Dallin the Grade 8 Graduate with his proud Auntie before the ceremony and the valedictory surprise. Photo taken by Mum Sharon.

Dallin and his sister Mara after the graduation ceremny - my two pride and joys.  Mara is in her last year of high school and is an outstanding scholar and musician too.

Dallin and his sister Mara after the graduation ceremony – my two pride and joys. Mara is in her last year of high school and is an outstanding scholar and musician too. They are the lovely children of my brother Marc and his wife Sharon.

I’ll just say, that with the bit of extra noise that I generated during the applause after his speech, everyone knew that I was ‘related’ to the young graduate!

Brother Edwin and Sis-in-law Beth get ready to to have a little birthday feast with me.  This delectable cheesecake was purchased at  the renowned Mariposa Market in Orillia, about 1 1/2 hours north of Toronto.

Brother Edwin and Sis-in-law Beth got ready to have a little birthday feast with me. This delectable cheesecake was purchased at the renowned Mariposa Market in Orillia, about 1 1/2 hours north of Toronto.

Then I was off to visit my other brother and his wife. Edwin and Beth had met and married since I was last in Canada, so it was another joyful occasion.  It was a delight to meet this lovely woman, and to get better acquainted.  We had plenty to celebrate, as I was there between both of their birthdays . I surprised them with a delectable summer fruit cheesecake from the renowned Mariposa bakery about a half hour north of their city.  They in turn spoiled me with all kinds of treats and meals. We parted with assurances that we would meet again in a few weeks time, after my trip to Nova Scotia for Aunt Vivian’s milestone 90th birthday.

While I was in the Orillia area, I took time for an all important face-to-face appointment with my longtime naturopathic physician, Shawna Clark, N.D.  We consult regularly by phone, but there were a few tests that required my physical presence.  This helped tremendously with my ongoing treatment of environmental-based health challenges.  Shawna has helped me enormously to have an improved quality of life over the past 18+ years.  Her professional assistance has been invaluable to me and I do not know what I would do without her highly trained, professional, complementary

After a delcious lunch at Apple Annies, friend and naturopath Shawna Clark, N.D. took me on a tour of Mariposa Market in Orillia Ontario.

After a delicious lunch at Apple Annies, friend and naturopath Shawna Clark, N.D. took me on a tour of the Mariposa Market in Orillia Ontario.

medical knowledge and  techniques.

Between all the above-mentioned visits, I spent one day in the big city of Toronto expressly to visit a friend from Dominica who had returned to Canada a few years earlier.  I had promised John in our Christmas correspondence some months earlier that we would get-together this time so I could bring him up-to-speed on the latest news on the Nature Island.

The GO transit systme is a great way to get around the Greater Toronto areas - it's convenient, economical and ecological!

The GO transit system is a great way to get around the Greater Toronto area – it’s convenient, economical and ecological!

On a beautiful Sunday morning, I took the GO train into downtown Toronto from Whitby and arrived at Union Station, not far from the CN Tower, just before midday.  John met me across busy , congested and construction-clogged Front Street.We headed to Le Marche, a cosmopolitan eatery nearby for a freshly prepared delicious lunch and an intensive two-hour chat. As I provided John with my latest perspectives on my  life as an expat in Dominica, he filled me in on his forays and projects.  It was no surprise when he informed me that he was writing a book because he has “had an unusual life.“

From John`s condo, the southerly Toronto skyline beyond St. James Cathedral portrays urban beauty at its finest in this booming metropolis.

From John`s condo, the southerly Toronto skyline beyond St. James Cathedral portrays urban beauty at its finest in this booming metropolis.

I won’t give anything away, but I can’t wait to read it.

John Carson is a nonagenarian with boundless energy and a brilliant mind.  He spent about 25 years of his life in Dominica, with his wife Renie.

John is a nonagenarian with boundless energy and a brilliant mind. He spent more than 25 years of his life in Dominica with his late wife, Renee.

John is the kind of person who carries through with all of his goals.  All best wishes, John!

I think this is the VIA Rail train station in Kingston Ontario - my hometown.  You'll ave to excuse me -over the course of a few days and many kilometers,  I passed by quite a few!

I think this is the VIA Rail train station in Kingston Ontario – my hometown. You’ll have to excuse me if I am wrong: over the course of a few days and hundreds of kilometers, I passed by a few!

After all my pleasant meetings in central and eastern Ontario, it was time to go’ down east’.  On a clear Saturday morning, I boarded a VIA Rail train in Oshawa, just east of Toronto, en route to Quebec City where I would overnight before hopping aboard The Ocean to continue my rail  journey to Halifax, on the east coast.  It was a pleasant trip to Montreal, where I had one hour in between trains before the next departure to Quebec City.  My only complaint is that I was not aware that baggage could no longer be checked.  As such, I had to hoist my 20+ kilo suitcase on to the raised platform with minimal assistance.  In doing so, I twisted my back and coped with the pain for the rest of my Canadian visit.  Fortunately, I had visited my Canadian chiropractor, Dr. Leanne Bruni ,D.C. in Whitby  the day before, and she had set me straight.  Perhaps it is good that I had been adjusted before the start of the journey, otherwise it could have been much worse!

On the way to Montreal, I engaged in conversation with a young man who was sitting beside me.  He was returning from a quick overnight visit to Toronto to take in some of the World Pride events. I quickly discovered that he is a heavy metal musician with roots in jazz and classical.  From our discussion, he also disclosed that he was raised in two cultures with a French-Canadian mother and an English Canadian father – a genuine ‘Canuck’ if there ever was one! Although he looked the part of his style of music (body piercings, spiked hair etc.), he was a real gentleman – and even carried my heavy bag off of the train in Montreal! I have long ago learned not to judge people by their outward appearance – genuine souls reside in all guises!

The train transfer in Montreal was smooth and easy.  I also started to practise my French!  At first, I was a little shy, but it became easier during my two-day stay in Quebec.  You’ll hear more about it in subsequent posts.  I hope I will have made my French teachers at Alliance Francaise de la Dominique proud!

I really enjoyed day dreaming and watching the clouds, as well as  the verdant, varied  scenery that passed by my window.  Occasionally, I worked on my new mini-tablet.  Although the train rocked from side to side, thereby making my eyes and hands jiggle as I familiarized with this device, I quickly adapted.  Below are some shots from my train window.

Next post: A Night  and Day in Beautiful Quebec City!

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This is Canada along the flat lands above eastern Lake Ontario near the St. Lawrence Seaway.

Eastern Ontario Summer Sky.

Eastern Ontario summer sky.

An eastern Ontario town - Brockville, perhaps.

An eastern Ontario town – Brockville, perhaps.

Montreal skyline and greenery.

Montreal skyline and greenery.

Taking in the hay at a large farm between Montreal and Quebec City.

Taking in the hay at a large farm between Montreal and Quebec City.

Abundant crop and dairy farms dotted the landscape along the St. Lawrence River Valley.

Abundant crop and dairy farms dotted the landscape along the St. Lawrence River Valley.

Although not far from Quebec City, the trained passed through some dense forest with sparkling little rivers.

Although not far from Quebec City, the train passed through some dense forest with sparkling little rivers.

This pretty Quebec country house had a 'traditional 'habitant' look to it.

This pretty Quebec country house had a ‘traditional ‘habitant’ look to it.