Wednesday, 28 November 2007

All Good Road Trips Must Come to an End. . .

Amy and I had experienced a great visit in Carleton County, New Brunswick. Our trip was coming to an end. The extra day we stayed was going to be over too quickly, and we had a train car to eat in, as well as some moose to find.
The Canadian Pacific rail cars that are Sara and Ian’s restaurant is so much more than my Corner Gas reference of last week.
The first train car is the dining car, the second, the kitchen. The dining car has been restored to its former glory, with shining wood and gleaming brass accents that provide a warm, comfortable, intimate feeling to the dining experience. With the candles lit, you can picture romantic proposals and anniversary celebrations happening all around you. Really, the atmosphere is wonderful.
I barely know Sara, really, but I was overcome with pride on her behalf. And then there is Chef Ian, who prepares everything fresh daily (thus, the name of their place. . .Fresh). The meat, the vegetables, the salads, the bread. . . everything was perfect. And finishing off our meal with those exquisite little chocolate crème brules was the absolute best.
I am sad that Sara’s restaurant is so far away, but trust me people, you must eat there at some point in your life. Trust me on this.
Now that Amy and I had experienced one of the best meals of our lives, we realized that this would be our last night in Carleton County. We chatted with our friends until late into the night, not really caring that our drive home would be long, and probably not nearly as fun as the anticipation of getting to New Brunswick.
As Amy and I drove away from Carleton County and a really great experience, we were already making plans for the next time Amy would visit. She promised she would never again go to New Brunswick without me.
It was at that moment when we encountered the bald eagles and took some great pictures. We laughed that it was happening as we left, that our ‘eagle watch’ wasn’t very helpful after all. But we were still proud of our pictures. Amy mentioned that the only thing that would make it absolutely perfect is if we could see a moose.
That didn’t happen for awhile. As we left New Brunswick, we were enthralled with the beauty of the Madawaska River and the surrounding landscape that we had missed in the dark of our arrival three days before.
We had travelled at least an hour before Amy saw her first moose. I’m pretty sure we were into Quebec at this time. The moose was ahead of us, on the highway.
Before you get too freaked that a collision was on the way, let me just say that this moose was well positioned . . . in the back of a pickup truck with a pole through its mouth and out its behind. Amy wasn’t exactly pleased. But hey, she saw her moose and two others on our trip home. And yes, both of the other moose (meese?) were dead in the back of hunters’ trucks.
Sure, it was gross, and not quite the way we imagined encountering moose. But she saw three moose, right? That counts.
I just can’t wait for Amy’s next visit.

Monday, 12 November 2007

If I’m Ever Missing, You Can Find Me in Carleton County, New Brunswick

Road Trip, Part Three of Four

Twelve hours of driving in the rain brought us to Amy’s dear friends, Sara and Scott. Amy told me that they lived just across the road from the St. John River, but in that dark hour of midnight, she could have told me the entire cast of Heroes parties naked across the road and I couldn’t disagree. The sound of water rushing lazily past could have been an indication. But then again, who knows how hard the cast of Heroes parties?

Sara’s parents were in the driveway right behind us. We hadn’t made it into the house yet when we’d been hugged and greeted like long-lost relatives (the good kind). I knew then that we would have a good time, just as I knew that Sara’s parents, Haze and Bonnie, were my kind of people.

After Sara’s husband Scott had us settled, I relaxed as Amy fell into easy conversation with her friends, catching up on everything that had happened in the past 6 years, up to the past month, in which Sara, just 32, had opened her first restaurant in a train car.

Amy and I were both excited about the novelty of eating in a train car, and I had visions of Corner Gas characters with a Mel’s Diner type crowd to engage in some New Brunswick banter. too bad Amy wouldn’t understand the Corner Gas reference.

When Sara returned from her restaurant that first night, she brought with her four small bowls of something I now call Nirvana, but which Sara calls chocolate crème brule. After one bite of that unbelievable morsel of Heaven, Amy and I shared a look that said, “We will eat at this place before we leave, and do everything we can to kidnap the chef.”

Daylight brought stunning beauty. Once outside I walked about 40 feet and stood on the bank of the St. John River. Gorgeous, lush, multi-jewel-toned trees reflected on its surface as it coursed by. Scott joined me for a moment and pointed to a haunted looking, barren, very dead tree looming overhead.

“I’m surprised there are no eagles there today.”
“Eagles? As in BALD eagles?”
“Yeah, some days there are half-dozen up there.”

Now, as much as I love Canada, there is still a strong US root in me, and the national bird, the bald eagle, in California, is as elusive as electing a non-actor to government office.

Amy and I flipped like 6-year-olds on Red Bull. Scott’s words changed the whole purpose of our road trip for me. I HAD to get a picture of a bald eagle before I left. HAD TO. It’s like getting a picture of Big Foot, or a unicorn, or Britney Spears looking good.

The following afternoon, Haze and Bonnie offered to take Amy and I on a ‘bumble’. A bumble is N.B. speak for wandering-aimlessly-and-loving-every-minute-of-it. Haze promised we would constantly be on “eagle watch”, just for me.

And the day went, as we wandered to the top of hills, to the banks of streams, to covered wooden bridges and suspension bridges, but saw no eagles.

Until Amy and I drove away two days later.

But before Amy and I took fabulous photos through the sunroof of my car, we ate in a train car and saw three moose. More on that next time.

Saturday, 3 November 2007

From Carleton Place to Carleton County, No Really (Road trip, part 2).

A 9 Hour Drive in 12 Hours

Amy and I were determined. No amount of protesting loved ones gasping “you’re driving WHERE?” could dissuade Amy and I from taking another road trip (practically five minutes after arriving home from Syracuse), straight to Carleton County, New Brunswick.

After many debates over how far the drive actually is to New Brunswick, Amy and I decided that the drive would be great. Amy had never seen an east coast Canadian autumn, and I knew that the farther east we drove, the better the colours would be. And even if they weren’t, Amy would be able to visit a dear friend she hadn’t seen in more than six years (ironically, they met in Sweden 14 years ago). And finally, what girl can resist a road trip that doesn’t include work or daily responsibilities, other than maintaining the speed limit and watching out for wandering moose?

Saturday morning, we took off for New Brunswick. This girl has never driven outside the province without her beloved Canadian husband to show her the ropes, so having TWO California chicks wandering the wilds of Quebec made Amy and I feel like real explorers.
It didn’t take long for the excitement to wane. That Champlain Bridge in Montreal put a thick, wet blanket over our enthusiasm. After being stuck for 30 minutes, Amy offered to get out and walk and meet me in New Brunswick. Nice. But we muddled through it – and at least by being stuck in that traffic, I knew I was going the right way.

We had driving instructions from Yahoo maps. The problem was, everything on the map was in English, and everything in Quebec is French. As a matter of fact, the farther we travelled through Quebec, the more residents looked at us as if they’d never even heard the English language. Amy commented that if it were Spanish, we’d be okay, but even Spanish wouldn’t help much at that point.

We had many stops for drinks and road-trip treats, and our conversation turned from witty banter to wondering what all the road signs said. Referring to our Yahoo map (brought from California, by the way), all we knew is we needed a Highway 20.

When our concern grew to thinking that we may have missed the sign we couldn’t read anyway, we took the first turn-off to clumsily ask for directions in English. We found that we had turned off right onto highway 20. It’s a good thing too, or we might have had to accept the offer from two Rastafarians who were happy to accompany us on the rest of our trip to make sure we made it safely.

Before dark fell, Amy’s eyes were filled with the dazzling, unreal colours of autumn that whizzed by on either side of us. Watching her try to take pictures from her passenger seat as we cruised through Quebec at 120 – er – 80/90/100 (whatever the legal speed limit is there) clicks an hour was quite amusing, especially in the rain.

The largest disappointment on our trip to New Brunswick was that we never did meet Prudence the deer or Prudence the moose. The signs were everywhere that we should be watching for them, but they never did show their faces, until the trip home. Until next time. . .