It is easy for Americans to take our Northern neighbor for granted because it is so close. The cities along the border with the United States are very much like those you left back home, and there are times you definitely don’t feel as though you are in a “foreign country”.
But Canada is a huge place, and if you get away from the major cities close to the border with the United States, you will know you are certainly in a place different from what we call home. There are many tempting possibilities for travel, so it is well worth your time to do some research before deciding where to go. This chapter will be divided into several distinct sections of the country. No effort is made to be all-inclusive, rather to whet your appetite for a great travel destination.
Some time ago, the Discovery Channel broadcast a show about the Polar Bears in Churchill, Manitoba, Canada. Nancy adores animals, and after going to the Antarctic, it seemed only natural to go to the opposite extreme.
For someone in a wheelchair, the number of transfers it took to get to Churchill, Manitoba, was demanding. I was exhausted, but it was ultimately well worth the effort. On arrival, we settled in, unpacked, then went outside.
As we were walking to a nearby restaurant, we looked up and suddenly saw this weird formation of light in the sky. We can laugh at it now, but at the time, it was kind of scary because we had never seen such a thing before. It was freezing cold outside, and I was having trouble setting up the camera with gloves on. I put the camera on a small tripod, set it wide open for a 2 minute exposure, and caught this shot of the Aurora Borealis in Churchill.
A ton of surprises and new experiences on this trip- some which were really "way out" and unusual. The kinds of things that make you awaken in the morning, eager to start the day so you can see what's next.
We loaded Nancy into a small "bush" plane at the small Churchill airport and headed for Dymond Lake Lodge, a short flight away. I was sitting in the front seat, next to the pilot, and had an excellent view of herds of wildlife as we flew low level over the terrain.
The following morning after breakfast, we went out looking for whatever wildlife was in the area. We were crossing frozen Dymond Lake. I had not yet motorized the wheelchair, so I was pushing the "Dune Buggy" through 6 inches of newly fallen snow. It got to be too much for me, and so we radioed back to the main base. They sent out a team to "rescue" us, providing this extraordinary photo.
We were lucky to get back to camp. I was totally exhausted, both from the physical strain of handling the wheelchair, but equally more so from the stress of realizing how dangerous a position I had gotten us into.
We had come to Churchill to see Polar Bears, and got our wish fulfilled. A group of us went out into a bus on huge wheels, called a Tundra Buggy The driver parked at a spot where the bears are known to congregate, and we saw these two young cubs pop up from behind a snowbank.
A few minutes later, the Momma Bear appeared to protect her youngsters. She ambled over to the Tundra Buggy and stood up on her hind legs to see us inside. She was just inches from Nancy's face, and the fact that there was a pane of glass between us was not of much comfort! Those animals are BIG.
We had been warned by our hosts to protect our cameras from rapid changes in temperature, especially if coming into a warm room from the cold outside.
At Dymond Lake Lodge, while we were out crossing the frozen lakes in search of wildlife, they constructed a ramp I could use to get Nancy and her wheelchair into the main dormitory area. When we returned from a morning excursion, they were so excited for us to see what they had built for us, and couldn't wait for us to try it out.
As one of the young staff members held the door open, I pushed the wheelchair up the new ramp, right into the dormitory. After I had gone not more than a few feet into the warm room, I suddenly gasped, realizing what I had just done!
Sure enough, I looked down and there was moisture condensing on the inside of my lens. For the remainder of the trip, I was not able to accurately focus my camera, and I had no idea if I was able to get any photos or not. I was crushed.
One of our fellow expedition members taught Photo Shop at the community college in his hometown, and suggested I check it out when the trip was over. Thank Goodness for his suggestion, as I was able to save all those priceless pictures, many of which are in the book, Disabled Travelers Guide To The World
I would have been disappointed beyond belief if I lost this picture because of moisture on my camera lens. There was quite a "Dance of Life and Death" between these two predators, something we had never seen before- or since.
And finally this last shot of us in a real dogsled! You can't imagine how hard it was to get Nancy into this contraption, but we smile every time we look at this picture, and that makes it all worthwhile. Certainly it can be more challenging for "additional needs" people, but like we say, "If We can do it, You can do it."
On the Western side of Canada, spend time in Vancouver. If you are on the Eastern side of the country, spend time in Quebec and Montreal. If you are in the extreme Eastern part of Canada, spend time in Nova Scotia and the Maritimes.
Quebec is an almost ancient city (by US standards), occupying a strategic site overlooking the St Lawrence Seaway. French speaking and foreign feeling, it is home to some of the finest cuisine in all of North America.
It was a cool, bright day, and our bi-lingual guide asked if we were interested in seeing something somewhat off the beaten path. He took us to Montmorency Falls, barely more than 10 or 12km from the heart of Quebec City. Glad he did, too. The leaves were changing as Fall approached, treating us to a spectacular splash of color all along the river.
The Falls, higher than Niagara, spill over and empty into the Saint Lawrence River, one of the most important river ways on the North American Continent.
Further East, out in the Atlantic Ocean, are the three provinces that make up the Canadian Maritimes. Nova Scotia is here, and its provincial capitol, Halifax, is a bustling town that is pure fun to explore. We ventured out our first afternoon along the recently rebuilt wharf, stopping to watch the children scrambling over a thoughtfully placed tugboat.
There are several places of special interest in the Halifax area. One is the particularly scenic town of Peggys Cove, an easy half hour or so drive from Halifax.
The idyllic town (population: a hundred or so) has one or two tourist trap joints, but is not overwhelmed by them to the point where they distract you. It is sheer delight to meander through the place, taking in the casual lifestyle. Of special interest is the Peggys Cove Lighthouse.
Built in 1868, the lighthouse (which does not lean like shown here) is built on a rock pile of especially large, photogenic, but inaccessible boulders. We were not able to get closer than you see here, but it was worth the effort to get this far. The lighthouse contains an official post office, where you can purchase special memorial stamps and letters.
Also of note in the area are the graveyards of the Titanic disaster. The Titanic sank in 1912, and the closest area to mount rescue and salvage operations was Halifax. We visited to graveyard to pay our respects to those who went down with the ship.
One hundred twenty one victims are buried here in Fairview Lawn Cemetery. More are buried in the Mount Olivet Catholic Cemetery, and more yet in the Baron de Hirsch Jewish Cemetery.
Forty four of the bodies were never identified. The grave markers seen in this photo carry no names, just date and order in which the body was recovered.
There is one particularly poignant marker in the graveyard- dedicated to an unknown child- representing unidentified children everywhere. We saw several families at this grave site, and you could feel the special bond between parent and child as they stood before this monument.
There is also a most interesting museum in Halifax, the Maritime Museum of the Atlantic, which is well worth your time for a visit.
Sprinkled throughout the provinces are a number of small towns, all French, all of individual dialects, that have been close knit fishing communities for centuries. This one, Baddeck, is typical
As was befitting for a man of his wealth and stature, he kept a serious yacht, Elsie, on the lake. We were offered a chance to sail on her- and we grabbed it!
Before her strokes, Nancy, I, and our family would sail in the Chesapeake Bay, which was not too far from our home outside Washington, DC. Nancy was afraid of boarding the boat then, but this time she got aboard with no trouble. Of course, Bell's yacht was much, much larger than anything we sailed!
Yes, I look like some stupid drunken sailor, but for the afternoon, with fresh wind, it was a very pleasurable reminder of the pre-stroke days.
The course set by our skipper sailed past Bell's mansion, a most impressive place which also houses an interesting museum dedicated to the work and inventions of Bell.
This is lobster country throughout the Provinces, and the signs of that industry fill many of the villages in the area. We passed one such place (French Cove), which provided an interesting precursor for a post- sail dinner.
Coming off the Elsie, we walked the short distance from the dock to a local restaurant where we were treated to- what else- a spectacular all-you-can-eat fresh lobster feast! Nancy stopped just long enough for me to snap this shot.
There is a great deal to explore in the Maritimes. The population is small, the people helpful and friendly to a fault. If you have the time, we suggest you allow yourself an extra day or two to do it justice. Don't worry about being disabled. They will take good care of you here.
Please feel free to contact us if you have questions, suggestions, comments or just some friend words by clicking on our contact form