Getting away from our normal way of doing things for an extended period of time is often what we need to energize our bodies and souls. I just returned from six weeks away, taking the sabbatical that I get every five years--a month of time to reflect, learn, read, grow--and two weeks vacation that I chose to attach to it, so we were gone for six weeks. Having that amount of time to do other things than I normally do allows me to have a new perspective on life, on ministry, on work, on the community in which I live, and allows me to have experiences that I could never have at home.
I chose to have my sabbatical time in another country but in one that we could drive to. So, we loaded up the car with all the essentials we would need for our time way, put our little dog, Bo, in the car and my wife and I drove away in late July, not to return until early September. We set out on the road and drove across the midwest and into the east, fighting the construction zones and other obstructions that could get into our way, until we reached the border between the United States and Canada. We crossed the border at Niagara Falls, NY. A friendly Canadian crossing guard examined our passports and our dog's shot record and welcomed us to Canada. It took all of 3 minutes to get through and we were on our way. Immediately, we knew we were not in the US any longer as signs are generally bilingual everywhere you look--English and French---and gasoline is sold by the liter, about $1.35 per liter, or almost $6.00 a gallon. We drove through Toronto to a smaller town just east of it and spent our first night in Canada having a picnic in a park and looking around Lake Ontario.
Then, it was on to Quebec, driving all day in the rain, until reaching the border of the province and being greeted in French only, which became a sign of things to come. Quebec is home to the proud French people who have lived there since the 1600s. At one time they wanted to separate themselves from the rest of Canada and become their own nation. The Separatists, as they were called, demanded for full sovereignty and nationhood, but more moderate forces prevailed and they came out with the French language being used almost exclusively there and with the rest of the country being bilingual. Today, Quebec operates as a province within Canada as the other 11 do and the residents seem glad to see anyone visit who can spend money with them. We spent two nights in a nice cottage owned by a couple in one of the only small towns with British roots in Quebec. It was on Two Mountain Lake which pours into the St. Lawrence Seaway. Ducks drifted by, sailboats cruised around, and we sat in Adirondack Chairs near the dock watching the scenery and slowly relaxing.
That was until we drove into Montreal to look around. Montreal is a very large city, and when we had visited there before we had just parked our car and rode their subway system. We decided that with the use of our GPS we could navigate around town and sure enough we were able to drive around and park and look at things with little trouble. We drove up the road to Mont Royal, which is the high point over looking the city, and then down to the Atwater Market, where produce, meat, and cheese is sold. We ate at the market at one of their picnic tables, so that our dog could be with us, and looked around where we could. Then, we were back to our cottage to enjoy the lake before we moved on to Quebec City and the Isle of Orleans.
Quebec City is the capital of the province of Quebec and it is a beautiful and historic city. It is not as large as Montreal but it is large enough to cause some concern while driving around it. We chose to stay at an old historic house on the Isle of Orleans, which is just east of the city of Quebec City. It is reached by a bridge and has little villages that all bear the names of saints. The house we rented was at St. Francois. It is 250 years old and was present on the island when the British tried to burn all the French residents out in the late 1700s after the Acadian Expulsion. The owner of the house showed us beams in the loft that has burn marks on them that date back to that time period. It is a remarkable old house and is owned by a very hospitable woman. We explored the island for two days, looking at the little churches here and there and enjoying some of the local products grown there.
Then, it was off to New Brunswick to continue our journey on to Nova Scotia and to the cottage where we would spend my sabbatical time. New Brunswick is very forested and has mountains here and there. It also have an Acadian coastline similar to that in Nova Scotia where one can sample the Acadian culture. We discovered that it has incredibly rough and rugged roads to drive with potholes that will do damage to your car if you are not careful. One road was almost 100 miles long with one pothole after the next for the driver to dodge. We entered Nova Scotia and drove to the area where we would be staying for the next four weeks when I had my sabbatical time. I will continue the story again, telling some of the things that happened during my sabbatical at the cottage on the sea.
I wrote daily in my journal on my laptop and have 43 pages to share with my congregation and others who may wish to read about it. I need to edit what I wrote and put it in a form that would be good for readers who may wish to read it. It was a fantastic experience and I would be glad to share it with others who may wish to know more details about life in eastern Canada.