17 October 2013: the Saguenay River and La Baie, Quebec

The Fabulous Story of the Kingdom of the Saguenay

By Corey Sandler, Destination Consultant Silversea Cruises

The Rivière Saguenay – the Saguenay River – is one of the major rivers of Quebec, the largest fjord in the province.

Quebec extends nearly 1,200 miles north from the Saint Lawrence to the top of the Ungava Peninsula. I’ve been there: it looks nothing at all like Quebec City or Montreal.[whohit]-FABULEUSE SAGUENAY-[/whohit]

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Silver Whisper at the dock in La Baie, and as seen through a window of the cruise terminal. Photos by Corey Sandler.

The Saguenay drains Lac Saint-Jean in the Laurentian Highlands; that lake is filled by thousands of streams and rivers in the watery north of Quebec. The nation of Canada possesses about 8 percent of the world’s fresh water. Quebec alone has 3 percent of the water reserves.

One of the world’s longest, the Fjord du Saguenay cuts through the Canadian Shield. The huge rocky plateau occupies nearly half of all of the Canada, extending from the Great Lakes and the Saint Lawrence Valley northward to the Arctic Ocean.

The river was an important trade route into the interior for the First Nations people of the area. During the French colonization of the Americas, the Saguenay was a major route for the fur trade.

Few roads connect with the area from the south and east, and only one road connects from the northwest. No roads go north from the area into the wilderness; the last roads north end just a short distance from the city—still within the Lac St-Jean area.

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Cartier arrives in New France. From La Fabuleuse. Photos by Corey Sandler

There are no human settlements due north of Saguenay all the way to the Canadian Arctic islands, except for a few isolated Cree and Inuit villages.

The Kingdom of the Saguenay

Another name for the region, one which was latched upon by the early French explorers . . . looking for riches . . . is the Royaume du Saguenay or the “Kingdom of the Saguenay.”

The grandiose name is either the result of a misunderstanding . . . or a bit of a jest or even a calculated trick put upon the French by the locals.

When the French arrived to colonize New France in the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries they learned from the Algonquins of a legendary kingdom to the north.

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The loggers and the famers arrive in the Kingdom of the Saguenay. From La Fabuleuse. Photos by Corey Sandler

When French explorer Jacques Cartier arrived at Stadacona in 1534, he did not come with a bouquet of flowers and a box of candy.

The key to the Kingdom may lie with Chief Donnacona, the leader of the Iroquois village of Stadacona, at the place now occupied by Quebec City.

Cartier kidnapped two of Donnaconna’s sons and brought them back with him to France. They told Cartier of a place they called Saguenay, populated with blond men who were rich with gold and furs.

We have no reason to assume that Cartier or Donnaconna and his sons believed there really was such a place. But the story served as a golden ticket: it gave Cartier something to sell to the king so that he could make another trip to the New World, and it assured Donnaconna’s sons of a trip back home.

La Fabuleuse Histoire d’un Royaume

Since 1988, a cast of more than a hundred locals presents an astonishing pageant that tells some of the story of the Saguenay region. It is presented in a massive amphitheatre constructed by the town. They’ve also built a handsome dock for cruise ships, and each season the number of ships increases.

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The pageant includes some astounding special effects. Photos by Corey Sandler

On this cruise to La Baie, a rare full-day visit, we were able to attend a performance of La Fabuleuse.

There’s Jacques Cartier, Chief Donnaconna, the Generals Montcalm and Wolfe to stage the battle of the Plains of Abraham, loggers, farmers, capitalists, horses, chickens, geese, a trained pig, barn dancers, flappers, twisters, and hippies.

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Modern times to a grande finale. Photos by Corey Sandler.

It’s not Shakespeare, but the Bard of Avon never put on a show that included explosions, lasers, floodwaters, and a field of grass the sprouts on stage.

It was a fabulous pageant, un grand spectacle.

All text and photos copyright Corey Sandler 2013. If you would to purchase a copy of a photograph, please contact me.

 

14-15 October: Sydney, Nova Scotia and Charlottetown, PEI

Time Travel in the Canadian Maritimes

By Corey Sandler, Destination Consultant Silversea Cruises

To me, one of the appeals of Sydney, Nova Scotia is that it allows me to time travel back to a time I once knew: the 1950s.

It is one of the only places in North America where I could direct you to a cobbler to have your shoes resoled.Or a seamstress or tailor.[whohit]-SYDNEY-CHARLOTTE-2-[/whohit]

Or old Doc Archibald with his office in an old Victorian behind a white picket fence.

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Sydney, Nova Scotia. The colors of autumn in a place frozen in time. Photo by Corey Sandler

From 1784 to 1820, Sydney was the capital of the British colony of Cape Breton Island. The colony was merged with neighboring Nova Scotia when the British decided to develop the abundant coal fields surrounding Sydney Harbor.

By the early twentieth century Sydney was home to one of the world’s largest steel plants, fed by the coal mines of the Dominion Coal Company. By the late 1960s both coal and steel industries were failing, and were taken over by federal and provincial governments. That lasted until late in 2001 when they could not be sustained any further.

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The cruise terminal in Sydney with Silver Whisper at the dock and a super-sized fiddle along the water. Sydney is one of the centers of Ceilidh, the Celtic-based barn dance centered around that instrument…in a hand-sized version. Photo by Corey Sandler

With apologies to some of my Anglophone Canadian friends, when I speak of this region I use French pronunciations for places like Bras d’Or (the Golden Arm) and Louisbourg.

I do this knowing that for the locals, the same places are often called LEWIS-BURGH and something close to BRASS DOOR.

See my Blog entry of 3 October 2013 for a recent visit to Sydney and Louisbourg as well as some details about Baddeck and Alexander Graham Bell.

Queen Charlotte, the Orphan Anne, and Prince Edward Island

When you think of Stratford-upon-Avon, you think of a certain poet and playwright by the name of William Shakespeare.

We are talking apples and oranges …or jellyfish and lobsters here… but in certain circles around the world…in some of the most unlikely places…Charlottetown on Prince Edward Island is not known for Queen Charlotte, not remembered for the Charlottetown Conference of 1864 that led the way to Canadian Confederation, and not thought of at all for almost anything else…except for the work of a relatively minor author named Lucy Maud Montgomery and a series of novels that begin in 1908 with “Anne of Green Gables.”

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More colors, in a house near the waterfront of Charlottetown, PEI. Photo by Corey Sandler

Anne of Green Gables began as a Canadian bestseller, became an American success, and went on to become an international phenomenon.

For reasons no one hasfully figured out, you are quite likely to find a tour group from Japan…looking for Anne. I think it has to do with the fact that Anne is a girl who is for some about as un-Japanese as possible: feisty, independent, and decked with freckles and braided red hair. They love her in Japan, and come to PEI by the planeload.

I last wrote about Charlottetown in a Blog entry on 2 October 2013.

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A study in angles and colors in Charlotteown. Photo by Corey Sandler

Charlottetown is the capital of Canada’s least-populated province, Prince Edward Island. The city is the country’s smallest provincial capital, with a population of about 35,000. (Canada’s three territories: Nunavut, Yukon, and Northwest Territories have smaller populations, but they are not provinces.)

The town was named in honor of Queen Charlotte, consort of King George III from 1744 to 1818.

Like Sydney, it is a place where time seems frozen.

I spent the day walking Charlottetown with a group of guests as we conducted a photo safari, hunting the colors of Prince Edward Island.

All text and photos copyright 2013 by Corey Sandler. If you would to purchase a copy of a photo, please contact me.