This August Tucker and I drove from Owen Sound to St. John, New Brunswick to visit long time friends that had recently moved there from Prince Edward County, Ontario.
I broke the journey up into three days in each direction, but they drove from Kingston, Ontario to St. Johns last fall in just one day. In two cars, so there was no switching up drivers. Even dividing it into three days, did I experience much of what Ontario, Quebec or New Brunswick has to offer along the way, no, because I mainly drove on highways. It started to make me think about childhood journey’s by car.
I would not describe my parents as intrepid travelers, but we had a VW campervan, and the only way that we could see the world as a family of 7 was to camp. And we were lucky enough to have a university lecturer as a father. That meant we could travel for the whole six weeks of our summer vacation from school. In 1965 and 1966, yes, an age ago, we went to the south of France. It took us a week to drive through England and France, and a week to get back, which left us four weeks to play on a Mediterranean beach.
Although I was very young, I distinctly remember arriving in France. Everything was so different from England, immediately. We did not drive by highway, which, if they did exist, and I am not sure they did, we certainly did not use them. Each village had a sign indicating you were entering the village, not unusual anywhere, but when you left the sign was repeated with a red line going diagonally through it. You were out of the village. No inviting sign asking you to return soon. And the villages did not look like English villages, even apart from the style of buildings. There were women walking around, mainly older women, wearing head to toe black, permanent mourning was de rigueur . They were often carrying a baguette, a form of bread that we had never seen before. Bought fresh daily. And the vehicles, Citroen, Renault and goodness knows what else, did not look like vehicles in the U.K.
We stopped every day for lunch, often by the side of the road in a pull off, and it was very common for anyone riding by on a bicycle, yes, were were on very small roads, to call out bon appetit.
So we meandered through France, stopping to look at things along the way. One time is was the Bayeux Tapestry in Normandy. It depicts the Battle of Hastings, 1066, the last time was Britain was successfully invaded. It is 70 meters long, and when we saw it it filled three rooms. Even at the time I wondered at how long it must have taken to create it. https://www.bayeuxmuseum.com/en/the-bayeux-tapestry/ I wanted Mom and Dad to rent one of the listening devices you carry round to hear about the tapestry, but Mom quickly dashed those hopes by saying that Dad would be able to tell us all about it. I also remember wondering why the tapestry was in France, not in England, and I have to admit that it just dawned on me that it is there because they were the victors! The Battle of Hastings is such a seminal date in British history, but I never think of it as a defeat!
More exciting was the visit to the to the Pont du Gard Roman Aqueduct in southern France. We were able to get to the highest level that is now closed to the public.
It was built to bring water to the city of Nimes. It carried 8,800,000 imperial gallons of water a day (thanks Wikepedia). An amazing feat, created two thousand years ago! However, for us it was just something to climb all over, which we did. One advantage of being young back then is that a lot of things were easier to explore, now, as I said, the only part you can walk on is the lowest tier. When we visited Stonehenge, again, sometime in the 60’s, it was not fenced. We parked on the road and walked right up to it and played on and around the stones.
Dad made the journey as much a part of the holiday as he could. Not so the trips that my sisters and I took driving across France in more recent years. We definitely used the highways, and we drove as far as we could each day, making it to Provence in two days. As we drove off the ferry into France the cars were no different. Now all makes are available everywhere it seems, and they all look the same to me. Now the French are very clever. Most of their highways are toll road. They make the tourists help pay for them. And yes, if they build it, we will come. There were cars from all over Europe, and we would have opinions as to which were the worst drivers. And as we drove along we passed all kinds of signs for places of interest, but we forged on, just seeing the country immediately next to the road.
On my return trip from New Brunswick one sign in Ontario did catch my eye, and I did go and have a look. It was a lock on the St. Lawrence River, and a freighter was going through it as I watched.
It made me very nostalgic for my time on Little Star, and fueled the stirrings I have for another narrowboat holiday in the future.
Two things before I go.
Firstly, my friends Caroline and Arlene want to spend some time exploring using a camper van, and while we visited Nova Scotia from New Brunswick we went to see a 1985 (or 86) VW Westfalia, or a Westie as they are now known apparently down in Chester Basin.
Although they did not buy it, it sure was a walk down memory lane for me, and probably got me thinking about my childhood holidays. While they chatted to Jeff, the mechanic that restored it, I had lunch at the Seaside Shanty. I had previously had a lovely dinner there years ago with friends that my friend Lori and I met up with while traveling the east coast. The best scallops, and Blueberry Grunt anyone?
Secondly, I am going to be part of a Pop-Up Studio Sale at my home on Saturday, September 25th. Would be great to see you if you are in the neighbourhood.
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