Driving across one a man-made marvel, Confederation Bridge took us from PEI towards New Brunswick and began our trip home. We still had plenty to see and do ahead of us, but would now be following back along the original route that brought us to the East coast.
What better place to launch our voyage than from Shediac NB, the lobster capital of the world and home to Parlee beach, which boasts some of the warmest waters north of Virginia.
Meeting up with Shediac Bay Cruises on one of their boats we learned all about the Acadian culture and its history with lobster fishing. Ron Cormier, who runs the business with his wife Denise, has been catching lobster for three decades. He eagerly shares his passion on his tours by explaining all about lobsters, catching and eating them – the Acadian way.
Acadians were French settlers who originally came and inhabited much of the modern day Maritimes & Quebec. Many were expelled by the British and returned to France or moved to Louisiana as Cajuns. Today, the Acadians are proud inhabitants of East Coast Canada, and many homes sport the Acadian star quite prominently on the outer walls of their homes.
The kids had a great time dragging lobster traps up onto the boat, and Ron even talked Ali and Isabella into kissing the first catch of the day, as per tradition.
The following day marked the biggest test on this trip so far for both the kids and me. We drove from Moncton to Quebec City; a seven-plus hour drive. That is a lot of driving in one day, and the kids really rose to the occasion. There is no question the in-car entertainment systems were a huge help – but regardless, they could have made the long journey even longer if they had not been really great. Fortunately the travelling-gods were smiling upon me and it went off without a hitch.
Following our long trek to Quebec City we made our way back towards Montreal, as we’d short-changed her a bit on our way east. Along the way we stopped in at Cabane a sucre Chez Dany (maple sugar shack). Here the kids got to see how maple syrup has been harvested and made for generations in Quebec, and to sample some of the golden goodness.
Once in Montreal we made our way to the old port for a very modern take on cooking classes. Hidden away among the cobbled streets of Old Montreal, Ateliers & Saveurs has been turning heads in the city’s culinary circles. A new concept in cooking schools, they are open to the public for drop-in cooking and wine classes at very reasonable prices. The kids and I took part in a lunch-time cooking class with Chef Benoit Fiemeyer and a couple of other students. In about 30 minutes we peeled, chopped, seared and plated our way towards an absolutely delicious dish of salmon served atop a diced salad of mango, avocado, onion and tomato all served on a plate lovingly decorated with balsamic vinegar by the kids. It was a lot of fun and a really cool way to spend a lunch hour or evening! Also, the results were nothing short of delicious.
Just across town we headed for Marche Jean Talon and a tour of one of Montreal’s many farmer’s markets. The markets in Montreal do their utmost to remove the middleman from the market equation. In other cities you will often find market stands run by third parties; in Montreal most of the vendors are the farmers or their families selling directly to the consumers. Anything from Quebec proudly sports a fleur-de-lis sign. In addition, Montrealers have a number of other opportunities to purchase farm-fresh food. Many of the city’s subway stations have fruit and vegetable markets on site, and in the summer months, city bikes known as Fruixis go to communities throughout the cities selling fresh produce.
The following morning before leaving Quebec we headed to Laval. There we met up with Samuel Ouimet and his mother Suzanne Latour to learn how their family’s goat farm has quickly become known as one of Quebec’s leading goat cheese makers. At La Fromagerie du Vieux St. Francois we learned how the goats are raised and cared for and how their milk is then lovingly turned into artisan cheeses. The farm has recently opened a small museum to show visitors how their small operation runs.
Last year, Fairmont The Queen Elizabeth in Montreal chose this goat farm to make the hotel’s signature cheeses for the legendary Beaver Club. This was done as part of the hotel’s ongoing commitment to supporting local cuisine and small artisan producers. The Beaver Club’s Chef Martin Paquet uses the goat cheese in a variety of dishes to complement the restaurant’s renowned cuisine. I definitely recommend that you stop in to try some of their delicious cheese.
All-in-all, while there was a lot of driving on this leg of the trip, it was certainly worthwhile to see what delicious stops we could find on our way from Moncton to Montreal!