Meet the Woman Who’s Visited Every Province in Canada—Plus the Arctic and Antarctic
Seasoned traveller Miriam Roberts has visited every province and territory in Canada, capturing gorgeous images and a lifetime’s worth of stories along the way.
From the U.K. to Canada
I first arrived in Canada from the U.K. on August 11, 1967, with two friends, Mary and Marilyn, to work as nurses and to see the country. Mary’s sister met us at the Montreal airport with a stretch limousine, and it made our eyes open wide: In the U.K., the cars were much smaller. We spent the first few days visiting Expo ’67, which set the stage for our stay and gave us an idea what to expect in Canada.
London, Ont., was our next destination, where Marilyn and I worked on the intensive care unit in a newly built wing at Victoria Hospital. Mary worked on an orthopedic unit. While in London, we travelled around southwestern Ontario to see Toronto, Grand Bend, Port Stanley and, of course, Niagara Falls on New Year’s Day. We worked in London for a year, but realized we couldn’t see too much and work in 12 months. So, Marilyn and I bought a car and set off to start work at Foothills Hospital in Calgary in September 1968, driving across parts of the United States on the way. As we worked on the intensive care unit on the west side of the hospital, the scenic Rocky Mountains were a backdrop for us, beckoning us to visit them many times.
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While I was in Calgary, I met and married my husband, and we had two boys. As our boys grew, we camped many times with them in the Alberta Rockies. Our mode of travel was a three-quarter-ton pickup, to which we added a canopy. The boys slept on a foam mattress on the plywood-lined floor of the truck, and my husband and I slept on a bed made across the top of the pickup box. This “camper” kept us dry and safe—well, most of the time. One night as we were sleeping at Kootenay National Park in British Columbia, I awakened to a scratching noise outside—only to find a bear paw print on the hood of the truck in the morning.
British Columbia was a definite draw for us, as we lived in west central Alberta. Eventually we made it to Vancouver Island. A loggers’ festival attracted us to Sooke. It was fascinating watching the men scale and hew the trees, as well as a demonstration of running on the logs in the water. Near Victoria we spent a day at Butchart Gardens, admiring the flowers in the daylight and at dusk, when they were lit up. On our way to Tofino on the west coast, we stopped to see the giant cedars at MacMillan Provincial Park near Port Alberni. On one B.C. trip with my niece and nephews from Wales, we all enjoyed going to the Okanagan Valley and looking for Ogopogo—the legendary lake monster—while canoeing on Okanagan Lake.
By 1985 we had graduated to an eight-foot camper, complete with a furnace, stove and the luxury of a fridge. This time, we headed east to Saskatchewan, with a canoe we had purchased a few years before. We stayed at Prince Albert National Park, where we played and canoed in the water at Waskesiu Lake, and Meadow Lake Provincial Park. We also stopped by the Fort Battleford National Historic Site; the fort was established by the North-West Mounted Police in 1876.
Vancouver beckoned us to Expo ’86. We were fortunate that we could park our vehicle at Pitt Meadows, where my sister-in-law lived, and we borrowed her small car to drive to Expo. Rain delayed us here, but it was a blessing in disguise; we were saddened in December of that year to hear my sister-in-law had passed away suddenly of an aneurysm at the age of 50. We still remember the time spent with her and the family at Tsawwassen Ferry, boating and catching crab.
Canada’s Coastal Towns
While our boys were still willing to travel along with us, the Maritime provinces were our next destination in 1987. We rented a car and stayed at B&Bs in New Brunswick, Prince Edward Island and Nova Scotia. Although the boys were 14 and 16, they did enjoy flying kites at the Alexander Graham Bell National Historic Site at Baddeck, N.S., on the shores of beautiful Bras d’Or Lake. At Antigonish, the Highland Games kept the boys’ interest, but a fiddle festival was not on their wish list. Most of the B&Bs were welcoming, especially one on P.E.I. When our son became ill, we felt like we were staying with family. Visiting the beaches was a definite attraction, and eating seafood—especially lobster and clam chowder—became a cherished pastime. (Find out where to find Canada’s must-try dishes.)
Although this was our last family holiday together, none of us stopped travelling; our trips had actually whet our appetite for travelling even farther away.
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Passage of Time
I ventured to the Northwest Territories in 1990 with my niece, whose sister—the daughter of my sister-in-law who passed away—had also died suddenly of a brain aneurysm, leaving a 21⁄2-year-old daughter alone in Hay River. We went there to pick her up, and it was an emotional trip. The only thing I remember was that the children were playing ball in daylight after midnight.
My husband and I made a trip to Ontario to meet his cousin and her husband, who came from Wales to sing in a festival. We flew to Ottawa and stayed there a few days, visiting the Parliament Buildings and then the ByWard Market, where we couldn’t resist the specialty of sweet beaver tails. We left Ottawa and drove through Toronto, staying in the Kitchener-Waterloo area. It was April and the daffodils were blooming; we went to the St. Jacobs Farmer’s Market and found the homemade furniture well worth seeing. We also made a brief stop in London, Ont., to see Victoria Hospital, where I had once worked.
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From London we drove down to Point Pelee National Park, the southernmost tip of Canada, and did some bird-watching, and then we were off to Niagara Falls, where we rode aboard the Maid of the Mist, wearing plastic ponchos. While there, we met with the choir and attended the festival in which they sang. On our way back to Ottawa, we took the route south of Lake Ontario and back into Canada, and then visited Kingston, swinging by Fort Henry.
We’ve also grown to love going on cruises. We took one to Alaska, continuing on for a tour of the Yukon and travelling upstream by catamaran to Dawson City. We even tried our hands at panning for gold—and did find a few flakes. On the return journey, we rode the White Pass and Yukon Railroad. The scenery was awe-inspiring; the trails the miners took in their quest for gold were still visible in the rugged terrain.
True North Strong and Free
After travelling to the Antarctic, we learned there were small ships cruising the Arctic. This was on my husband’s bucket list. Our preparations included having a medical and purchasing evacuation insurance: My doctor said I was the most adventurous of all her patients of any age. The first part of the trip was a flight to Ottawa, where we were booked into the elegant Château Laurier. From there we flew to Resolute to board the 100-passenger ship with a reinforced hull, equipped to sail the ice-filled water. The most northerly community we travelled to was Grise Fiord. We met with the Inuit there, who shared some of their culture and showed us the clothing they wear to survive the harsh Arctic winters. (We take a look at Canada’s 10 most unforgettable natural habitats.)
The expedition team on the ship continually searched the waters for wildlife, and when they spotted any, they anchored the ship and allowed us off. We wore boots, parkas, waterproof clothing and life vests to board Zodiacs, which were lowered from the ship to the water. We saw polar bears, walruses and muskoxen—and my husband even caught a glimpse of a narwal! We also enjoyed seeing all the birds clinging to the cliffs of Prince Leopold Island, especially the young common murres gliding off the cliff to meet up with their male parent to journey to Newfoundland.
The Magic of Newfoundland
Speaking of, we had never journeyed to Newfoundland, so we made it a destination. Our mail carrier Dora comes from Newfoundland and suggested we visit her parents on Fogo Island. We took an organized tour of the rest of Newfoundland by coach. Of course, we kissed the sacred cod and consumed Newfoundland screech, becoming members of the “Order of Screechers” on a cruise of Bonne Bay. We also walked amid the stunning scenery of Gros Morne National Park, where we saw moose and caribou. A guitarist entertained us at L’Anse aux Meadows National Historic Site, and then we crossed to Labrador to see the Red Bay whaling station.
We also stopped in the Grand Falls-Windsor area and saw the Salmonid Interpretation Centre, with salmon migrating upstream. The Cape Bonavista Lighthouse was a must-see, and fortunately it was a clear day. The day we were to head to Fogo Island to see Dora’s parents, a storm was brewing on “the Rock,” but we managed to drive and take the ferry without incident. Our visit with them was very warm, but bless them, we had trouble understanding their accent. We stayed at a bed-and-breakfast, but it was terribly noisy and sounded like motorcycles were racing up and down the roads. The next morning, we found out the storm was a hurricane! We were fortunate we had booked an extra night there, as the ferry did not run the next morning. When the storm finally abated, we were taken for a tour of the island.
Journey of a Lifetime
The only province left for me to visit was Manitoba. Since we had plans to travel to Toronto last September, we took the train and made a two-day stopover in Winnipeg—except the train arrived 41⁄2 hours late at 3 a.m. Still, we made the most of our time there, visiting the Museum of Human Rights and the railway museum.