As we drove out of Quebec we crossed the bridge to Lévis, the settlement across the water and could look back at Quebec in its hilltop glory. Following the Saint Lawrence river, we made our way through uban sprawl before emerging into countryside which had held strong to its French roots. Quebec as a province has over 300 cheese producers and lays claim to poutine, a dish of chips, gravy and cheese curds. I had recently learnt that it is acceptable in Quebec to eat cheese curds from the bag, and as they are better when squeaky fresh, they provide the perfect excuse to finish the bag in one sitting. Having had a big night and an early start, Melanie, whose roadtrip I had butted in on, and I were unable to make the afternoons drive in one sitting and had to pull over for a roadside nap before continuing. We camped the first night in Rimouski, and by this point up the river it stretched so far from the other river bank it looked like we were already at the ocean.
The next morning we continued inland, saying goodbye to the Saint Lawrence and after a few hours of driving, to the province of Quebec also. There was a stretch of water marking the line between the two provinces, and as we crossed the bridge we were now in New Brunswick, my seventh province, and Canada’s only officially bilingual province. The two towns glanced at each other across the water, surrounded by greenery. For a better look, we climbed Sugarloaf Mountain. In summer, this adorable park is a ski hill and it was funny to make out the few runs carved out of the trees. From our vantage point atop our climb, the coastline seemed to extend forever. After descending, our drive wound along the coast through smaller villages. We crossed into “the Arcadian coastal drive” which appeared to be announced by French flags with a small gold star on the blue section. We weren’t to know until the next day that the Arcadian people are French descended, displaced when the British took French lands in North America in the Treaty of Paris. Arcadians who refused to sign over to the British rule were put on ships and scattered around the world, killed, or left of their own accord. The Acadians were settled on todays Prince Edward Island, and parts of Nova Scotia and New Brunswick, so many have returned to this area and are being remembered annually at this time.
After camping the night at Bathurst Marina, we went into town to visit a coffee shop and the information centre. We were given the usual friendly, bilingual welcome, and a couple of pin badges along with the information we needed for our coastal drive through Acadian country. The first stop was an Acadian village, built to show the lives of the people from 1770-1950. The Acadian settlements from before this time were burnt, however here the small settlement showed a simple life with churches, schools, a liquor store, printing press and farming. As it was the lead up to Acadian Memorial Day, there was music and dancing, as well as lots of extra visitors, some returning to the area for celebration or family reunion.
Now in seafood country, we made a stop for fish and chips, before eventually happening on the hard to pronounce, Kouchibouguac national park. In the park the trees touched the ocean and after making our way down to the sand dunes, I was able to dip my toes in the ocean. I had made it coast to coast across Canada and was now looking easterly out to sea, rather than westerly.
The next morning we continued to follow the winding coast. Bridges joined prongs of land which the water intersected. To get to Prince Edward Island we had to cross the Confederation Bridge. It was completed in 1997 at 12.9km long and the worlds longest bridge over ice covered waters. Welcome to PEI!