Ma Petite Tete de Fromage


I recently wrote an article on a trip to the east coast, and it made me think about an adventure I had in Northern New Brunswick, several years ago. I flew into Fredericton, rented a car, and drove to the remote and wonderful town of Edmundston, about three hours away.


It was a time before the Trans-Canada Highway was completed, and the last leg of the trip, albeit only 70km, took at least two hours. It was pothole after pothole, and nothing but trees on either side. There were no other cars to be seen, and I was quite pleased, and somewhat relieved, when I finally entered the Edmundston city limits.


I landed in Fredericton Thursday morning, and spent most of the afternoon driving north. My reservation at Keddy’s, a Maritime hotel chain, was waiting. Friday morning I woke early and spent the time photographing the area. I was honoured to have lunch with Laurier Lévesque, a member of the Legislative Assembly of New Brunswick , after which I went back to my hotel to check out and head home.


I was shocked when I saw my rental car. It was totally surrounded by a dozen or more vehicles, parked haphazardly, for reasons unknown to me. With absolutely no way of getting it out, I walked to the local police station to ask for help. The duty officer laughed, and explained it was the start of the fête du fromage, which translated, is the annual Cheese Festival. He went on to explain it would be impossible to retrieve my car, until late Sunday.


Not sure what to do, I decided to go back to Keddy’s, and see if my room was still available. Fortunately it was, and the first thing I did was call home, to explain I would probably not be arriving that evening… nor the next two days.


I called the rental car company and described what happened. They were quite accommodating, and asked me to return the car Monday afternoon. I wandered back outside, in the unlikely event, my car had been freed, but alas, it did not happen. I returned to the hotel, and called the airline to change my flight to Monday.


Edmundston is a predominately French town, and aside from a few words, including, ma petite tête de fromage, I was at a bit of a loss. The Cheese Festival was by now well underway, with live music, people dancing in the streets and everyone eating cheese… and of course, the odd glass of red wine.


I met a few musicians who were quite friendly and it seems we had a lot in common, in that we all enjoyed cheese. Saturday and Sunday were a continuation of Friday evening, and the event turned out to be a great deal of fun, not to mention memorable.


I woke up early Monday morning, walked out to my car, and was surprised that it was sitting all by itself. It seems everyone had left the area, and I was now free to return to Fredericton for my plane ride home.


Twenty-four hours earlier, I had never heard of a Cheese Festival, but now I think of that weekend every time I cut into a piece of cheddar.


Jonathan van Bilsen is a television host, award winning photographer, published author, columnist and keynote speaker. Watch his show, ‘Jonathan van Bilsen’s photosNtravel’, on RogersTV, the Standard Website or YouTube.


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