Friday, January 13, 2017

The Beauty of Canada by Kathy Fischer-Brown


Salmon Beach, Chaleur Bay
Twenty days after setting sail from Saint-Malo in Normandy in April of 1534, Jacques Cartier reported: “The fairest land that may possibly be seen full of goodly meadows and trees.” His small fleet had just arrived for the first time on  the coast of New Brunswick. He named the bay where his ships moored “Chaleur” (now Chaleur Bay), which means “warmth” in French because of the heat they encountered in May of that year. His first impression of the interior of Canada was not so favorable: The land should not be called New Land, being composed of stones and horrible rugged rocks…. I did not see one cartload of earth and yet I landed in many places… there is nothing but moss and short, stunted shrub. I am rather inclined to believe that this is the land God gave to Cain.” Cartier obviously was no naturalist; nor did he have an appreciation for the untamed beauty that greeted him. His mind was fixed on discovering a western route to China.


View from Mount Royal
In 1535, Cartier made a second voyage across the Atlantic to New France, ever hopeful of finding riches for his sovereign. Instead, he was greeted along the St. Lawrence by natives of Iroquois-Huron extraction at Stadacona, now Quebec City. From here he was determined to sail farther west upriver to Hochelaga, an Iroquois town of over 1,000 people living in bark longhouses surrounded by palisaded fortifications. By then, autumn had settled over this wild country, coloring the leaves in bright hues that astonished these French seafarers, who remarked they were “the finest trees in the world.”


From there they continued their journey west in long boats up the St. Lawrence, ever hopeful of finding that elusive Northwest Passage. Thirteen days later they came upon open fields in the shadow of a great mountain. “On reaching the summit,” he wrote, “we had a view of the land for more than thirty leagues round about. Towards the north there is a range of mountains running east and west. And another range to the south.” Cartier named this summit Mount Royal, today’s Montreal. Again, no mention of the colors of fall against an azure sky, or the sheer thrill of viewing nature in an unspoiled state.


Countryside in Quebec Province
Four hundred-and-thirty-some-odd years later, during my childhood and a few times while in my teens and early 20s, I visited a few of these same places in Canada on vacation excursions—mostly with my family to visit historical sites and landmarks—and later with friends. Even though the weather was cold and drizzly that spring in 1964, our trip to Quebec was remarkable. With its narrow cobbled streets, ancient brick buildings in the characteristic New France architecture, and the magnificent Chateau Frontenac of late 19th century vintage rising above the Old City walls, I experienced a sensation of having been taken back in time. I remember during the drive through the countryside that the land around the area was rustic, with miles of open farmland and everything just beginning its transformation from winter to spring. Set against the gray dippy sky, the scene resembled a water color painting.


View of Ottawa
Montreal’s Plains of Abraham were memorable—if not a bit soggy in the rain—as were the restaurants and shops and trying to speak French with the wait staff. The sun finally came out during our jaunt to Ottawa, where we toured the imposing Parliament with its gothic revival style and posed for pictures with the Mounted Police on duty there. (That was an extra-special treat for me, as I’d been a long-time fan of the TV show, “Sergeant Preston of the Yukon” since I was a kid in the mid- to late 1950s.) 


On another trip, we ventured to New Brunswick, where to our amazement, the Saint John River magically reversed its course as the Bay of Fundy’s changing tides exerted a power I’d never seen before or since. 


Montreal a second time had its charms in wintertime, especially the underground shopping and dining, which I experienced anew during a romantic weekend getaway prior to an enormous blizzard that closed down the Northway just hours after our harrowing escape return to upstate New York. Unfortunately, we did not get to see the city blanketed in snow, but that is all well and good, since I’ve never been a fan of cold and snow anywhere.


A visit to Toronto in 1971 with a friend, whose parents had relocated there from Connecticut, was also memorable. The nightlife was spectacular, especially for us young ’uns. Although not exactly a natural beauty, the city’s subways—the trains and stations—which we utilized to get around, impressed me with their bright white tiles and exceptional cleanliness


Street scene in Old Quebec
Beauty is many things to many people. While I greatly appreciate and admire the natural beauty of lakes, rivers, and mountains, of foliage in spring and autumn, sunsets and moonrises, fireflies on a warm summer evening, I take special pleasure in the monuments built and left behind by rugged pioneers and settlers—their homes and places of worship, their struggles to survive and thrive. My travels in Canada have left me with lasting memories and a few faded photos. It is my hope to return again soon.


~*~



Kathy Fischer Brown is a BWL author of historical novels, Winter Fire, Lord Esterleigh's Daughter, Courting the DevilThe Partisan's Wife, and The Return of Tachlanad, her latest release, an epic fantasy adventure for young adult and adult readers. Check out her The Books We Love Author page or visit her website. All of Kathy’s books are available in e-book and in paperback from Amazon.
 

14 comments:

  1. We hope you return soon to Canada too! Great post and very informative. :)

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    1. Next time, I'll make a point to stop by your place for one your elegant and delicious dinners :-)

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  2. What a great and informative look at an amazing country.

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    1. Thanks, Tricia, I'm finding there's lots to learn and having fun as well.

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  3. I thoroughly enjoyed your post, Kathy. Some more information about Canada that I had no knowledge of.

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    1. Neither did I, Vicki :-) Glad you enjoyed it.

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  4. enjoyed the history and your own experiences.

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    1. Thanks, Diane. I wish I could have used some of the old pictures, but the slides were all faded.

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  5. Enjoyed your post, Kathy. We plan to return to Canada too. Every time we visit the people are so friendly and helpful. We're in Michigan, so we're pretty close.

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    1. So glad your enjoyed the post. And yes, we found the people friendly as well.

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  6. When I lived in Connecticut I drove to Prince Edward Island one summer. It was so beautiful there! About 4 years ago, my husband and I went to Old Québec in November. Wonderful food, art galleries, history, and the most charming buildings! My Christmas card that year was us standing in front of the restaurant, Le Lapin Sauté. My friend, who is a rabbit lover, was horrified! All decorated for Christmas, it did make a beautiful setting. I have the exact same picture of the village you showed .....standing at the top of the stairs, looking down onto the cobbled streets and quaint shops. It was a wonderful time in Canada!

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    1. Thanks for commenting, Natalie! My memories of Old Quebec are on the ancient side. I envy you and your husband for having the opportunity to visit more recently. I did have a nice chuckle over your friend's reaction to Le Lapin Sauté. I do like the little varmints (and so do our hounds), but they do taste like chicken :-)

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  7. What a great post Kathy, I've never been to Quebec -- a much anticipated trip coming this spring, along with New Brunswick and I'm even more excited after reading your post. Thanks for the fascinating history as well as the opportunity to share a virtual journey through parts of my own country I've yet to experience.

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    1. I'm sure you will enjoy your trip, both for the beauty of the area and for the history. I'm hoping for a visit there again soon, especially to stand on the ground my characters trod upon.

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