Family, Travel

Guest post

I’m home again, settling in to my new reality.  It was great to get home and see my little family and to try to find routine again.

While I do that, Dad and Nicholas have set off on an adventure – well deserved, I’d say. So without further ado, I’ll introduce my first guest poster: my brother, Nicholas.  A much better writer than yours truly, that’s for certain!

In the wake of mom’s passing last week, dad asked me to join him on a road trip to the Maritimes to clear our heads and gather our thoughts.


13 Years ago, I drove with my mom to the Maritimes for my first time ever as we drove  King`s College for my first year at university. 3 years later, Dad drove me back for my last year at STFX. Both were very special trips for me, but this one evokes more memories and emotions than either.

It’s been nice and somewhat out of character for both Dad and I to have a free form vacation. We have an idea of how far we want to go East, but no set itinerary or agenda: we’ve simply hit the open road with some ideas of places to visit and of which old friends we could call in on along the way.

Our first stop was Westmount for lunch on Thursday afternoon with Bill and Patty Smith (parents of Maryann) who, over the years have proven time and again to be excellent and reliable friends. Patty served delicious homemade sandwiches and bruschetta salad, followed by coffee and a great conversation – mostly regarding the recent Quebec provincial election. Patty also made sure we left with a tin-full of home made chocolate chip cookies which we have been making short work of along the way.

I have driven back and forth to the Maritimes more times than I can count, and so has dad. So, for a bit of a change, we decided to drive the first stretch along the north shore of the St Lawrence to Quebec City, then on to dad’s friend Gilles Rivard’s farm in St. Joachim, at the base of Mt. Ste Anne. The drive through La Mauricie, past Trois Rivieres is so much more entertaining than the Trans- Canada on the south shore – more rolling hills, more vistas…, and by late afternoon we were pulling into the driveway at M. Rivard’s farm. Built and completed in 1779, M. Rivard and his wife have owned it for 35 years, and have worked diligently at acquiring all the bits of land surrounding it. Today it is a magnificent spread with waterfront on the St Laurence, a full working cattle farm, sugar shack, and numerous outbuildings. M. Rivsard is exactly what one thinks of when the term “bon vivant” is used. He loves good scotch, eats rich foods (“Steak. Bleu!“) and pulls no punches in regaling us with his stories.

I took a seat quietly while dad and M. Rivard reminisced about all the people they had worked with in the professional careers, and a litany of hilarious stories from their days as young upstart lawyers (Conservative, at that!) in Quebec City. M. Rivard treated us to a lovely meal at St. Bernard Steakhouse in Ste. Anne de Beaupré before dad and I adjourned to our private cottage for the night. We retired but not before a stroll out into the back field under the stars to listen to the river and watch the lights of Quebec City in the distance to the west.

We woke up early, had a cup of coffee watching the river flowing East some more before quickly saying “adieu!” to Mme. Rivard (Gilles, bon vivant, was still in bed. Good for him!). We got back on the road, continuing East along the north shore, past Le Petit Massif de la Rivière St. François, and venturing beyond my experience of the Lower North Shore. Along the way, Dad, as is his wont, occasionally dropped anecdotes about villages and landmarks we passed along the way: the time during the ’72 campaign when they…, or once, while caucus was sitting at Murray Bay, the wives went to… etc.. etc… We stopped for a light breakfast in Baie St. Paul and pushed on to La Malbaie, where we pulled over to take in the view over the river before pushing on, all the way to Baie Ste Catherine.

As we waited there for the ferry to cross the Saguenay River, dad went inside to speak to the people operating the ferry terminal. I am not sure what he said, but when the young lady behind the counter came by to count the cars and passengers waiting for the ferry, she was in hysterics (“Ton pere est crampant!’she said, virtually in tears.) We crossed the mouth of the Saguenay to Tadoussac, where we promptly found our way to to the Hotel Tadoussac which was made famous in the film version of John Irving’s “The Hotel New Hampshire”. We had a lovely lunch *Christine: dad actually ordered (and ate!) une assiette de crudités* before doubling back on our tracks to St. Siméon, where we caught a ferry over the river to Rivière du Loup, where I am writing this now.

Tomorrow, we will try (but not too hard) to make it to PEI, choosing wisely, in my opinion, to speed through northern New Brunswick. This time, and the first time for me, we will head further East after Grand Falls towards the Miramichi and follow the coast to Shediac before crossing over the Confederation Bridge to PEI. I have a wonderful photo of Mom and Cathy Morris up to their knees in the Northumberland Strait with the bridge behind them from that first trip in 1999.

That’s all the news that is fit to report for now. We are happy, healthy, well fed and sleepy. Looking forward to more fun tomorrow.

Stay tuned.

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