Blogging Postcards From the East

I'm typing this in the internet station of the Confederation Library in downtown Charlottetown. Erin is, as I write this, being interviewed by CBC Radio for the Atlantic afternoon program Main Street. I'm to collect her just after three, so I'd better write fast.

We flew out of Hamilton Airport to Moncton on WestJet, and let me tell you this: if you have a choice between flying out of Hamilton and flying out of Toronto (Pearson), choose Hamilton, every time. WestJet offers cheap flights across the country, and you can check in just ninety minutes before your flight and comfortably reach the gate. The whole place has a much more relaxed atmosphere (the airport is undergoing renovations to increase its capacity to five million passengers per year) and set our trip off on the right foot -- which Pearson would have been unlikely to do.

Moncton is, by far, the most bilingual city I've ever visited. You can get by with English-only in Montreal, and still feel very welcome, but there is absolutely no doubt whose city that is. As for Ottawa, its bilingualism is very top-down, and the two communities tend to stick to their side of the river. In Moncton, French and English exist side-by-side, on equal footing. Coming out of a Sobey's, we heard two teenage friends talking to each other, flipping between English and French sentence by sentence.

My one complaint about Moncton is that its roads desperately need help. Disappearing lanes everywhere, and whoever designed those traffic circles needs to be condemned to them for all eternity. But we survived.

The first reading was at the Attic Owl bookstore in Moncton, and it was a great event. There were ten of us there, in an intimate circle, and Erin read for a half-hour and we sat around swapping war stories for the rest of the night. The next day, we headed to Fredericton, by a roundabout route that took us by the Bay of Fundy. We didn't get to see any tidal bores, but we did see a chocolate river and lots of red tidal flats. I took lots of pictures, and I'll upload them when I get home.

The Fredericton reading at the Westminster bookstore was far less attended, but was still a good event. The staff and our lonely visitor gathered close, and Erin personally signed three copies (including two of the staff). The low turnout was a shame, but the support of the staff was really encouraging. It's clear that they love the book, and they will be pushing it to their customers, especially as Remembrance Day approaches. It was good that we showed up to show the colours, so to speak.

We drove back to Moncton and stayed overnight to shave some time off the trip to Charlottetown. We followed the Strait of Northumberland for a while and got some excellent pictures before mounting the long bridge (or "the Bridge of Death" as Dan would say. Dan doesn't have a fear of heights so much as a fear of heights while driving over water -- but truthfully he would have been okay; you can hardly see the strait what with the concrete abutments on either side of us).

The soil of Prince Edward Island really is as red as they say. Charlottetown's downtown is a charming place, with narrow streets and distinctive Maritime architecture. It combines the opulance of being a provincial capital with a feeling reminiscent of an Irish coastal village. Again, I'll upload some pictures. We ate lunch at this hole-in-the-wall packed with locals (a good sign); Erin had a scallop-burger, and I had fish and chips, all reasonably priced.

So, we're still in the middle of this worldwind tour. Tomorrow, we head to Halifax by Ferry and highway, and then Friday it's Antigonish. We are enjoying ourselves, and everybody has been polite and very welcoming. Wish you were here, as they say. See you tomorrow, maybe, in Halifax.

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