A Chocolate Welcome
Jul 14, 2008
|And a walk out a quarter mile at low tide - Monday, July 14
We checked out of the Hilltop at 10:30, but it immediately became 11:30 when Madolyn reset our clocks in anticipation of crossing the border. The Maritime Provinces are on Atlantic Time so we are now an hour later than our family in Florida and four hours later than our family in California.
The border is about 15 miles up the road, but on the way we spotted St. Croix Island International Park so we turned in to see what it was all about. It is a joint Canadian/American park honoring an attempt by the French to establish a settlement on this continent in 1604. The settlers built their community on an island at the mouth of the St. Croix River, and while it only lasted through one winter (which is better than the English did at Roanoke Island) the lessons they learned were put to use on their next settlement on the mainland. This settlement at Port Royale did succeed.
There is a nice little park with interpretive signs and very impressive heroic bronze sculptures, and there were two nice rangers to talk to us. The island was fogged in and we couldn’t see it, but as we returned to the motorhome the fog lifted very fast and we finally did see the island offshore. Later we saw it again from the Canadian side of the river, where there is another corresponding international park.
From there it was a short drive to the border at Calais, Maine, and we had an easy crossing to St. Stephen in New Brunswick. They allowed us to bring in our bear pepper spray, and the Canadian Customs officer was very nice. The border between the two countries here is the St. Croix River and it is not very wide, so on the Canadian side you can look across at Maine and it’s hard to believe you’re in a different country. But we very quickly got into it when a quarter mile up the road we came to the Ganong Chocolate Factory. Ganong Chocolate is a big deal in Canada but so unknown in the States that spell check doesn’t even recognize it as it does Hershey or Ghirardelli. It should recognize it!
We parked on the street right in front of it, and went in for a visit to their Chocolate Museum. Here you can spend as long as you wish, looking at their interesting displays on the chocolate and candy making processes, while you’re at it you can sample as much chocolate candy as you want. Needless to say, I wanted to camp there for the night!
The company was started by two brothers (named Ganong) who operated a grocery store in St. Stephen back in the 1870’s. The store wasn’t doing well so the brothers put in candy, which in those days was a specialty item. Right away things picked up, and soon the brothers were making their own candy to sell in their store.
Every time hard times would threaten they would come up with a new innovation to keep things going. One of their innovations was the first heart shaped Valentine box. They hired artists to come up with ever new box designs, and soon they were also a leading box manufacturer in Canada. At one time they employed over 700 people which was huge in this small community. Today there are still Ganong’s working at the factory, and while automation has reduced the work force to less than 300, the company is still going strong. We had lunch at the Old Chocolate Factory Restaurant on the grounds, and bought some candy to take with us.
On the way out of town we stopped at the Visitor Center and picked up some more good information. A camper at Acadia who had spent a lot of time in Canada told us “When you cross the border you’ll spend the first three hours talking to the first person you meet!” That didn’t quite happen, but everyone we did talk to was extremely friendly and helpful. The Canadians really go out of their way to make you feel welcome in their country.
A word on the currency rate of exchange. The advantage is now on the Canadian side. Where we used to get as much as $1.35 Canadian for each dollar of ours, we now get about $0.98. A large reason for this is that the Canadians have an intelligent administration in Ottawa while we have nothing but Bozo's in Washington.
But the downside for them is that it has cooled off tourism. So much so that their biggest supermarket chain is about to close one of it’s two stores in St. Stephen.
We continued on Highway 1 and 3 into the little seaside town of St. Andrews. It is a picturesque town on the water, and we were lucky enough to score a campground right on the waterfront, with a view of the tides and the fog coming in over the offshore islands.
After we got settled in I took a walk out on the tidal flats. The tide was out and the water had receded about a quarter mile. The bottom was covered with seaweed and clam and mussel shells. I took a number of pictures, and then we returned four hours later and took some more of the tide about 2/3 in. An amazing difference, and this isn't even the tides the Bay of Fundy is famous for.
Such a lovely place that we paid up for two nights. The pictures above will show you why.