St Andrews by-the-Sea was initially on my itinerary as a stopover to Grand Manan Island, but once it was on my radar, I had to visit. This historic town has been a favorite of mine for 6 years now, and while there are some changes, I was so pleased to see that they're minor.
Prior to arrival, I knew that my usual old Victorian home, Salty Towers, had been sold. Yes, after 29 years, Jamie & Deb are caring for their private homestead and were off sailing in British Columbia, so I didn't get to visit with them. This had me anticipating change, but thankfully, the Water Street commercial blocks have not gone by the wayside. There are a few more boutiquish shops and one too many brew pubs, but nothing disturbing at all.
Let me begin by admitting how happy I was to arrive at a former British settlement. At this point, I was in the last 90 pages of the last English language novel from a bag of books I'd brought with me. I'm pleased to report that the library has a lovely book sale nook and the town has numerous Little Library boxes! Let me also admit that while I have been working very hard on my French for nearly two months, it was an absolute pleasure to have a 45-minute conversation along the Van Horne Trail. Since this was my third visit, I'd toured all the historic homes and museums, so I spent time simply enjoying the ambience, people watching, chatting as much as possible, biking and walking, and peacefully sitting by the bay. It's a special place.
My next stop takes me on the ferry across the Bay of Fundy into Digby, Nova Scotia with a couple of weeks in the tiny town of Bear River.
I Heard Champlain Crying
I’ve been in place for nearly a month and have made three crossings to visit Quebec City; staying away my first week as the Pope arrived with an expected crowd. This marks my fourth visit to Vieux Quebec since the late ‘70s so I’ve witnessed both the preservation of this beautiful city, and the cultural changes over a number of decades.
On my first day, I felt a little bored and a little stunned. Bored may be the wrong word versus feeling I’d “been there, done that” regarding the sites to see. The awe of seeing Le Chateau Frontenac, Petit-Champlain, Place Royale, etc. has worn off, though thankfully they’re still beautifully preserved. Unfortunately, what I did see is the degradation seen in Dubrovnik – overtourism – too many visitors and a deterioration of cultural quality. Yes, I’m going to rant, but yes, my time here gets better.
There’s a Starbucks at the Chateau with a sign facing the Dufferin Terrace near the tour bus congestion. Rue Saint-Jean is filled with places serving pizza, burgers and Italian food, and as I walked by the Irish pub, the guitarist was singing “Take Me Home, Country Roads”. I saw a McDonald’s, a Subway, and multiple Boutique Mary’s Popcorn shops, as well as redundant souvenir shops within the walls of Vieux Quebec. And while I understand the need for multilingual tours, most of the signage is now in French and English.
J’ai vomi un peu.
Thankfully, I've learned when to take a deep breath and how to hit the restart button. So I left the neighborhood to sit outdoors at a quiet epicerie with a tarte au citron and ponder the map. There were indeed places I wanted to revisit, areas I’d never passed by, and a public art circuit of interest. And so it began...
My original plans were to return to the USA in 48 hours and be in New England for my birthday. I've now decided to stay in Canada a few more weeks, and head to New Brunswick then Nova Scotia. More on that later as a bike ride along the river is calling me.
As I was driving toward Levis, I was seriously questioning my transition from a quiet village life to a small city at the peak of summer travel season. Yet, I was optimistic that my selection of a room in a lovely auberge in Old Levis would be a wise choice. Indeed, both Auberge de la Visitation and Vieux-Levis have exceeded my expectations.
The city sits along the St. Lawrence River opposite Quebec City, and the neighborhood has a friendly, village-like feeling with steep streets. The Auberge is a spacious, three-story Victorian home decorated to original character with garden seating, a lovely, well-traveled host, and an accommodating staff. The majority of guests are Canadian, and the atmosphere is quiet and peaceful. Using the kitchen is keeping my budget intact, but I'll admit that there has been no resistance to the croissants and baguettes at nearby boulangeries.
So, can you say "quality of life"? If not for winter...
During the past two weeks, I've taken more than 250 photos, including a day trip to Quebec City. Since this is a weekly visit, I'll save those stories for another day. A bientot.
Cyclist, writer, teacher, avid reader, bike/ped advocate, nomad, pie lover