As Canada’s 150th year nears the end I feel quite fortunate that I was able to visit three different parts of the country for the first time this year.
A fall wedding in Quebec’s Eastern Townships afforded a wonderful getaway that allowed me to experience the famed “fall colours” as well as a couple of days in Montreal afterwards to reminisce about my old stomping days of the early nineties.
Prior to that was a trip to Halifax, exploring the hilltop Citadel, sailing on a tall ship and enjoying the Nova Scotian pub and music scene.
But the most remote and perhaps the most beautiful was a spring trip to the Magdalen Islands.
Though they are part of Quebec, Les Ile’s de la Madeleine lie in the Gulf of St Lawrence just as it becomes the North Atlantic, sitting in between Prince Edward Island and Newfoundland.
They can be reached by a five hour ferry ride from PEI or as we did a short flight from Quebec City calling at Gaspe on the way.
Despite having 15,000 inhabitants it is still so remote that Google’s Streetview cameras have yet to visit.
It is a chain of six islands connected by causeway with a couple of outlying ones, one of which Brion Island is uninhabited.
But if they are not remote enough there’s Entry Island accessible only by ferry from Cap-aux-Meules on the archipelago of the main islands.
Entry Island has a scant 65 residents each of whom gets to ride the twice daily ferry at no charge.
The MV Ivan Quinn has a capacity for a few dozen passengers and a couple of vehicles for the one hour journey.
The few children resident on the island must take this twice daily ship to school.
We just visited for the day, there’s not much there, the main attraction being a large hill known succinctly as Big Hill and a small restaurant which was unsurprisingly empty when we arrived.
Our base for the week was on Grosse Ile in a delightful small little house on the water with an unobstructed view of the salt mine and just down the road from the very scenic Old Harry beach.
This being the main English speaking part of a distinctly Francophone community. Yet it sounded strange to hear the locals speak with their strong Newfoundland accents.
But not quite as strange as Saturday night bingo. Sur le “I”, vingt-deux. No wonder I didn’t win.
Besides mining salt the main industry on the islands is fishing, specifically lobster fishing at the time of year we were there.
A trip down to the docks just before noon as the boats come back to port is a hive of activity not to be missed. With good deals on lobster that you know is fresh.