Canadian Maritimes Tour: Day Five – St. John to Alma to Hopewell Rocks (all in New Brunswick) to Charlottetown, P.E.I.

We set out from St. John this morning, bound for Charlottetown, with stops planned in Alma, the Hopewell Rocks and the Prince Edward Island Gateway Village on the other side of the Confederation Bridge.

Alma is a tiny village known, by tour bus crowds at least, for Kelly’s Bake Shop – “Home of the Sticky Bun”. We weren’t long finding out why, with a good cup of coffee to accompany the sweet treat. Mmmm…those buns (a homemade version of ‘Cinnabon’) are absolutely delicious!

From Alma we headed for Hopewell Rocks, a much larger area than I had anticipated. It poured rain a couple of times while we were down on the floor of the Bay of Fundy (the tide was out), but we had a good look around. It would be worth a return visit, when the tide was in, to see these rocks surrounded by the high waters of the bay.

As we made our way to the Confederation Bridge, linking New Brunswick with Prince Edward Island, our guide Jessica told us that, at 12.9 kilometers, it was the longest bridge in the world to cross ice-covered water (relax, that’s only in the winter!).

Low cloud meant there was very little to see over the side of the bridge (something only bus passengers can do due to high guardrails) but through the front windshield I could see how the bridge rises significantly to allow ships to sail the Northumberland Strait unobstructed.

Just off the bridge, in Borden-Carleton, Prince Edward Island, was Gateway Village, a great place to acquaint ourselves with the island and the story behind the bridge. A support for the bridge (above) is on-site, serving as a tribute to the individuals and organizations which built the engineering marvel.

A drive through the bright green and iron-reddened countryside brought us to the historic city of Charlottetown where, after Jessica hopped off to pick up our theatre tickets for this evening, we checked into our delightful old hotel. The Rodd Charlottetown was originally built as a railroad hotel, and its elegant decor evokes images of the Big Band era. In addition to receiving my room key there was a fax from the can-do folks at Atlantic Tours, detailing a change of trains I had requested for the trip home. I’ve decided to take about eight hours and tour Montreal, then take an evening express train to Toronto.

I grabbed a bit of pub food at The Olde Dublin before joining the rest of the group at the nearby Confederation Centre for “Anne of Green Gables – The Musical”. What a marvelous production, clearly a major, albeit seasonal, employer in town with its full orchestra and large, talented cast.

Leaving the theatre with some friends from the tour I was of no help as we became lost mere metres from our hotel. Charlottetown is a small city – some might even say a large town – and the old town is on a perfect grid system. Somehow, nevertheless, we got lost – sober as church mice – and will, no doubt, have many a laugh about it in the days to come!

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