This weekend, I am hitting the rewind button, taking us back to the summer of 2005 – if you are interested in further time travel experiences, send me an e-mail and we’ll talk. The Bickfords set their sights on the mighty Maritimes for a memorable family vacation, suggested by our newest family member at the time, my sister-in-law, Melissa. The Atlantic is a part of this great country that has holds a special place in my father’s memories and is truly an incredibly friendly place. I love Maritimers. My father spent most of his youth in various remote settlements throughout Nova Scotia and New Brunswick when his family immigrated from the United Kingdom. These rural settlements may not have evolved much since his childhood, much like Geneva, according to Rousseau.
|Edmunston, New Brunswick on a magical summer night|
My Dad wanted to take this trip since his return to Canada in 2001, but for various reasons, it had not come through. He managed to gather precious years of strategic intel and even designed a mock itinerary. In 2002, Brian got married, which led to a more Ontario-focussed summer delightfully deviating him from his objective. After all, Niagara-On-The-Lake is quite a colourful place to spend some quality summertime and I actually got my first ever sister at the tender age of 21. The following year, he gave us a real scare with a serious heart attack on his way home from work. His prolonged stay in our healthcare facilities coincided with the infamous SARS epidemic that hit Ontario pretty hard, especially our tourism industry. Every single visit to the Ottawa General Hospital’s Intensive Care Unit included a routine interview, screening visitors through a series of questions gauging potential exposure to the virus. I was asked every day for updated travels to Asia – I never told them that I went to China overnight and came back just to spread the virus – and regarding obscene consumption of Imperial Pork or General Tao Chicken. It was nerve-racking to observe so much prejudice on Chinese Buffets, the silent heroes of university students and their budgets.
In July 2005, the Ottawa delegation of Bickfords hit the road due East, making a few pit stops on our way to Ingomar, Nova Scotia’s wildest tourist attraction. For those who are not familiar with this part of the mapa mundi, you can do a quick Google Map query for McNutts Island, home of the Sea Loins – much like regular sea lions, but these are the Nova Scotia kind. The first of these breaks included a brief overnight stay in beautiful Edmunston, an entirely bilingual city on the New Brunswick panhandle. They spoke both official languages simultaneously which can be quite challenging for most of us but very patriotic nonetheless. We tried one of the local delicacies in our hotel restaurant which is a thin buckwheat pancake called “ploy” and must be injested (at your own risk) with a generous cover of “creton”. Creton is a meat spread blending onions, spices and pork butt – sounds yummy, doesn’t it? Pork butt is not the first thing that comes to mind especially when you lack a strong agricultural or butcher background – like most of us out there. It is a specific cut of pork but I thought originally that they were goat brains. Well, whatever doesn’t kill you makes you stronger, as THEY say. All kidding aside, it is worth a try although it is not exactly a low-cal meal.
The following day, we enjoyed a delicious bag lunch in the city of Fredericton, the provincial capital. The drive down is spectacular, as the road hugs the Saint John River and provides a wonderful waterfront in the heart of the city. I had never been there before and I was blown away by the beauty of the downtown. Don’t walk more than five blocks or you’ll be lost in the suburbs. The old buildings are incredibly well preserved, surrounded by sculpted parks and colourful summer gardens, really adding a touch of elegance to all the cultural heritage. Even the tourist office has an official armed Red Coat guard – I certainly don’t envy wearing a thick wool military uniform in thirty degree weather – to thwart any serious terrorist attack. The settlement was first established by the French during the colonial era but there is much more of a reflection of British history as control of the town changed into the Empire’s hands. The population is slightly on the older side of the age scale yet there is some presence of youth thanks to the University of New Brunswick campus, one of our finest post-secondary institutions in the area.
|Fredericton's picturesque downtown|
On the drive down to Saint John, New Brunswick – not to be mistaken for Saint John’s, Newfoundland, St. Jean, Quebec or San Juan, Puerto Rico – I had a chance to see the longest covered bridge in North America, perhaps even in the world, in Hartland. Many nations have built bridges spanning several kilometres (a few less miles) but nobody builds covered bridges like Canadians do. We are the envy of the world. If you need a covered bridge, we will be happy to share our expertise. After all, it is our gift to the world. Next time you walk across a bridge, struggling against the wind and precipitation that seems to be falling horizontally rather than vertically, you will think of us and our humane constructions. Maybe I am reaching too far – or maybe not – but maybe that is why we are one of the best countries to live in on our planet. Never underestimate the power of a bridge.