Sunday, October 28, 2018

East Coast Cruising - Halifax, Nova Scotia

September brought a cruise to the East Coast for Annette and I. We started in New York, visited two cities in Maine, then sailed over the International Boundary into Canada and visited several cities in the Maritime region. The cruise ended in Quebec City and we ended our holidays after spending time in Montreal.

Click on an picture to see it full size, of course, all the pictures can be seen on my Flickr site. Link is at the end of the story

Today is a fun day; we are in Halifax, Nova Scotia and we not only get to visit one of the oldest cities in Canada, but I get to meet a guy named John Drake. "Who is this guy" you ask? 
John works for the same company as myself, and has been the manager of the Halifax branch for 15 years or more. I have talked to John for all those years on the phone and have yet to meet him in person..
When I announced months ago that I was coming out that way on a cruise John said "let me know when and I'll be your guide for they day". What a great offer!

True to his word John was waiting dockside when we got off the boat, whisked us into his car and we set out for world famous Peggy's Cove.

John is a true East Coaster, born on Saint Pierre and Miquelon, which is a French owned archipelago just south of Newfoundland, and has lived on the East Coast all his life.
John had a ton of local stories to tell us as we took the 45 minute ride out to Peggy's Cove. The stories were neat to hear as they helped us colour in the life of a Maritimer. Definitely a different flavour of life compared to the West Coast. But I think our view is already tinged by living in the big city of Vancouver, which adds another layer to the West Coast vs East Coast dichotomy.  

I have heard of Peggy's Cove, and see the pictures of the light house on the rocks and John has sent me pictures of storm waves crashing over top of the light house, but I did not know that there was a beautiful village in the tiny cove as well.

It was a tiny fishing village of which I'm sure there were dozens of them up and down the coast in the old days. I'm just as sure many of those have died out as the fishing did but for some reason Peggy's Cove has survived and become a "must see' tourist destination. Much to the chagrin of the few locals I'm sure. There are approx 700 people in Peggy's Cove, (incorporated 1811), and there has to be a few hundred tourists every day wandering around the small hamlet. 500,000 visit yearly, you do the math.

Two huge parking lots serve the hundreds of people that come here daily to enjoy the village and the rugged coastline.
You have to walk through the tiny village to get up and over a rise of land before you see the light house and the coast line. But we were spell bound by the beauty of the village itself so it took us 30 minutes to walk the 400 hundred feet or so to the coastline.

The old fishing boats stranded on the shore, the net shacks and their associated gear, and the small fisherman's houses in their bright colours of blue and yellow or white washed with bright red roofs were just a feast for the eyes. The tourists with cameras among us, (myself, Annette, and Linda), took tons of photos of the village and the fishing vessels as we meandered along the road closed to the rugged shoreline.

We crested the rise and there it was, the Peggy's Cove lighthouse !   
For a West Coaster this was the epitome of reaching the other side of Canada. Looking on a map there is much more of Canada past this point on the map, but none is as well known or defined as Peggy's Cove. 

The rocky coast line around the light house was awash with people, so much so that they resembled ants scrambling over the rocks.A look at the license plates in the parking lot showed many were from other parts of Canada, and a healthy showing of East Coast states were represented as well.

Standing on the rocks on a warm, calm day it was hard to imagine the storm waves crashing so hard that they washed over the top of the light house. But John says this is one of his favourite places to come storm watching. And I have seen the pictures John has taken, so seeing is believing 

We hung about for a while, snapping many more pictures before we headed back to the car and took up our wanderings again.
On the way out of Peggy's Cove I had John pull over so we could find a geocache. John is a geocacher as well, so he had the benefit of signing his name in the log book for a "QEF" (Quick Easy Find).

We went for just a half mile down the road before John pulled into small roadside parking lot. This was the somber site of the Swiss Air Flight 111 memorial which crashed September 2 1998.. The stones are pointed 8 kms out into the Atlantic Ocean; matching memorial stones in nearby Baywswater also point out to sea. The two memorials and the crash site forming a larger triangular memorial area.
John told us that a wiring fire caused the plane to lose control, and they estimate the plane crashed nose first into the water at a speed of 555 kmh
The sonic boom of the plane striking the water was easily heard in Halifax and surrounding areas.
Many of the local residents were involved with the search for survivors that night, and for the recovery operations the next day and the days that followed. Many of these residents are still affected by that night and many, like John, will never forget it.

By the now the morning was gone and lunch time was nearing. John took us back into town and found us a spur of the moment restaurant which turned out to be Greek where we had a great meal and learned so more local history for our guide.

After lunch we did a time check and realized we only had three hours before the ship set sail. Not enough time to visit our next "must see' on the agenda, which was the Halifax Citadel Historic Sight built by the British in 1869 in a star shape pattern.

Ken, Linda, and Annette wanted to walk the boardwalk that stretches the length of the downtown area and ultimately leads back to where our ship was docked.
That worked out well for all concerned, as I had told John I wanted to visit the store which was located over the water in the Dartmouth area, and I had promised to say hello to Lyndsay whom is another person I have spoken to for years and not yet met. 

We dropped the other tourists off at the far end of the promenade, and John and I headed over the bridge to Dartmouth.
As we were going over the bridge John pointed out that right below us is where the French cargo ship carrying munitions, collided with a Belgian relief vessel in December of 1917. The resulting explosion killed 2,000 people and injured 9,000 more. It was the largest pre-nuclear explosion the world had seen and it was devastating to the Halifax and Dartmouth cities.

By 4.30 PM we were back on board and by 5.00 PM we were under way steaming our way out of the harbour like so many ships have done since Halifax's birth as a city in 1749. Even before then in the 1400s and 1500s European ships were docking here to set up fisheries. We were just many of the thousands of ships passing through the harbour on our way from somewhere and going to somewhere else.   

On our way out of the harbour we passed a small island that has obviously been a military stronghold and researching the island brought some confirmation of facts and a surprise as well.

George's Island is a glacial drumlin and the largest island that is situated within Halifax Harbour.
It has been used as a military base for 200 years and it's infrastructure has been upgraded multiple times over the two hundred year service 
George's Island is the site of Fort Charlotte, named after King George's wife Charlotte. Bet you didn't know that, did you?

I would have like some more time in Halifax to explore more of the history of one of Canada's "original" cities, and would have liked more time with John and Lyndsay. These are friends I've had for years but just now met - kinda like old fashioned pen pals.  :)

Halifax is definitely on the "return to" list of places to go to in the future.

Now, as usual I only posted a few pictures, many more of gorgeous Peggy's Cove an be found on my Flickr site.
Click here to see the beauty of a small Maritime village

Saturday, October 20, 2018

East Coast Cruising - Saint John, New Brunswick

September brought a cruise to the East Coast for Annette and I. We started in New York, visited two cities in Maine, then sailed over the International Boundary into Canada and visited several cities in the Maritime region. The cruise ended in Quebec City and we ended our holidays after spending time in Montreal.

Today we are in Saint John, New Brunswick. It is the oldest incorporated city in Canada, the city was incorporated in 1875. Saint John is on the Bay of Fundy which has the worlds highest tides.

The agenda for today is a bus tour of the city, then we head out to the small village of St. Martin were there are sea caves recognized by Unesco as a conservation site.


The first stop of the day is on the Saint John River at the Reversing Rapids. At low tide the Saint John River flows out into the Bay of Fundy. At high tide the water in the bay rises 28 feet and the ocean now flows into the Saint John River basin.
It is early in the day, and the tide is out, so in the picture above the water is running to the sea. Later in the day we will come back to this same spot and you will now see the water is almost covering the dark rock on the small island 

I took a lot of photos here so we could compare later - even better Ken and I found a geocache here so we can now add another province to our list of "Found" geocaches.

Back on the bus and we head north along the coastline for 30 minutes to the small village of St. Martin. Founded in 1783 by soldiers from the disbanded loyalist King's Orange Rovers. These were British soldiers raised in 1776 to protect British interests in Orange County, Province of New York, and generally around the colony of New York. They also seen action in Nova Scotia protecting Liverpool in the Nova Scotia colony.

A couple of small tourist businesses and a covered bridge were the highlights at this stop. New Brunswick has the most covered bridges in North America, which was a surprise to us. Common thought would have been New England or Main, but nope.

Up the road a short ways was a section of the bay were there are the Unesco recognized sea caves. There are several in the area, but we did not have time to explore them. Instead, as the rain moved in, we sat in a diner and had a wonderful bowl of clam chowder and biscuits and gulped down some coffee to help warm up.

Outside there was another tourist shop, this one with locally hand made art, everything from earrings to smooth flat rocks with folksy sayings on them. Annette bought some earrings which is a must almost every time we travel. It's her way of remembering places we have visited.

Back in Saint John we had an hour to wander the Saint John indoor market in a building built in 1876. The building is a long city block in length and as the town is built on a hill the building slopes down as you walk the length of the building. 
We purchased a couple of snacks to have later on the boat. This is also a farmers market but having a 5 star floating restaurant on the shape of our cruise ship it didn't make sense to buy any other food.

Last stop on the tour was at an authentic Irish Pub were we were treated to free samples of Moosehead Beer.
Moosehead Brewery is Canada's oldest independent brewery in Canada. Founded in 1867 it is owned by a sixth generation of the Oland family.
And the beer was fairly good and worth a stop on a rainy day.    

This was the end of our visit to Saint John as we were back on the boat and set sail by 5.00 PM.
This was the way most of our ports of call would go - arrive in the morning and set sail by dinner time. 

As usual I just gave you just a peek of Saint John and the surrounding area, but you can see more of Saint John by clicking here to see all the photos.
Go ahead - CLICK - CLICK !!

Monday, October 15, 2018

East Coast Cruising - Kennebunkport Maine

This portion of the shore excursion was titled "Portland and Kennebunkport Maine". In reality it was a fly by of an ordinary mid size town called Portland with a stop at picturesque Fort Williams Park to see the lighthouse and military battery, and then off we went down the road to Kennebunkport.

Kennebunkport is a name that sticks in your mind as it is an odd name to start with, it also associated with American President's names as it is a fave recreation place of many presidents.

It is a very pretty town, kept pretty I'm sure for the hordes that come here every day aboard cruise ships like our own, and from the wealth of the local citizens.

The houses on the edge of town are well tended, and many houses hint at their original function as true summer houses for the well to do. Two story wooden houses sit on an acre or two of land, old trees front the yard with swings hanging from a lower branch were possible. You can still imagine kids playing on the swings while adults picnic in the grassy front yard.

The tour bus dropped us off in a back lot off Main Street and we were free to wander for an hour to spend as much money as we could to help the local economy.
As I stated, the town is pretty and you can see the amount of money spent on buildings and paint and sidewalks and lighting and everything else that goes into making a town tourist friendly.

The town is a typical tourist trap but we still enjoyed wandering in and out of the shops, and we found some good kid stuff to buy for the grand kids as things Grandma and Grandpa brought back from their "boat cruise"
Soft lobster stuffies and sea side hats were the items that were purchased and stuffed into the back pack to be carted back to the cabin for packing into suitcases.

The hour went fast and soon enough were were back on the bus for the 45 minute trip back to the ship.

On the way out of town we took the sea shore route and passed a beach where Barbara Bush walked every day. It's said that she would have her Secret Service men walk up on the sidewalk so that the towns folk would not be afraid to stop to talk to her. And they did regularly - the town loves the Bush family and vice versa.

Barbara Bush would often sneak into the local area hospitals in Portland to read books to the kids in the hospital. There was no fan fare involved, no photo ops, most of the time no one knew she was there. She would just come in to read to the kids to brighten their day.

We went past the Bush family compound which sits on a small peninsula on its own. George H and George W, as well as Jeb and other family members. The Secret Service enforce the "no stopping" policy on the road that winds around the compound. It took all of 30 seconds for a couple of tourists whom stopped to take a picture to have a big black Suburban leave the compound and make it's way over to them to move them along.

So, a short spin around Portland, a trip to Kennebunkport for a bit of shopping and sightseeing, then we were back on the point in time for dinner.
The meals were consistently good, at times really good, and we were beginning to look forward to dinner times.

 It was Ken and Linda's 41st wedding anniversary, so Annette and I bought them a bottle of champagne to celebrate their happy day, as well as a fun cruise with family.

For Annette and I, every day is a wonderful day that we are together. Yeah, right she says  :)

And you are right as well if you just said "not many pictures here"
I only gave a couple of teasers.I know, what a pain I am.  :)

All of the pictures of Kennebunkport can be found here on my Flickr site.   

Friday, October 05, 2018

East Coast Cruising - Bar Harbor Maine

September brought a cruise to the East Coast for Annette and I. We started in New York, visited two cities in Maine, then sailed over the International Boundary into Canada and visited several cities in the Maritime region. The cruise ended in Quebec City and we ended our holidays after spending time in Montreal.


Our second port of call on our East Coast cruise was Bar Harbor, Maine.
The coast line of Maine is one of the playgrounds of the rich folks from the New York and Boston areas and has been for over 100 years.

By 1880 there were 30 destination resorts in the Bar Harbor area. These were very large buildings and were designed to house their guests for the entire summer. It was an adventure in itself just to get to Bar Harbor as the only way is by boat as the town is on an island..

We chose to come by boat as well but I think we had it a bit more luxurious than days of old. Where the old wooden boats may have brought 100 or so people at a time, we had 3200 tourists from many countries descend on the small town from our ship alone. The Rotterdam was shadowing us from port to port and it has 1500 passengers aboard. That was 5,000 tourists in a small town of only 5,000 residents. I can't help but think us tourists are a blessing and a PITA at the same time for the townsfolk.

We jumped on a tour bus to take us on a tour of Acadia National Park which is a large park occupying much of Mt. Desert Island on which Bar Harbor is located. 
There was a large fire in 1947 that wiped out most of the forest and destroyed 9 towns on the island, nearly destroying the town of Bar Harbor as well. As a result the forest has large spaces between trees and little underbrush to impede sight lines. 

The National Park is encouraging regrowth of native species and have created a small garden area to aid in plant growth and small animals and reptiles. This provided a break for the passengers and a chance to stretch our legs. The rest rooms were a hit with the bus passengers - use them when ever you get the chance.  :)

At the end of the tour was our first East Coast lobster lunch, I got a couple of great pictures of the bright red lobsters on the plates, but you have to go to my Flickr site to see the pictures.  :)


This picture captures almost all of the shopping district close to the harbor area. A couple more blocks behind me, and a block or so to the left and you have the entire town in your hand.

It was a cute town, being on an island helped to keep the population growth down, plus the residents are not inclined to let the larger chain stores or coffee chains onto the island which helps keep the town's "local" feel.

We picked up a few souvenirs for the folks back home and caught a late afternoon tender back to the ship in preparation for a dinner time sailing and a diner time, well, dinner our fancy three story dining room I might add  (Pictures of the cruise ship to come on a later post)

Our next port of call is Portland, Maine and the famed Kennebunkport, playground of America's political powerhouses with names like Kennedy and Bush. 
Watch for the upcoming post with more pictures to enjoy.

Thursday, October 04, 2018

East Coast Cruising - New York City

September brought a cruise to the East Coast for Annette and I. We started in New York, visited two cities in Maine, then sailed over the International Boundary into Canada and visited several cities in the Maritime region. The cruise ended in Quebec City and we ended our holidays after spending time in Montreal.
I'll divulge the full itinerary over several posts - today we'll just talk about New York city with a few pictures to back up the tale.


We had one of those early morning flights were you have to be at the airport even before the Starbuck baristas wake up. In the past we have stayed at a local hotel to save some time as it is an hour from our house to the airport as long as there are no traffic problems.
Better to spend the night close to the airport and safe some time and stress in the early hours.
We checked the airport hotels and they were all almost double what they typically cost - oh yeah, it is the September long weekend and every one us travelling.

The Fairmont Hotel at the Vancouver Airport is pricey, but today it was only $40.00 more than a Best Western room, so deluxe accommodations here we come.
We were able to get a room overlooking the airport terminal which was just ideal for Annette as she is an air plane junkie - she just loves flying.

I think this is one of the sweetest photos I have of Annette - seeing her spell bound like a little kid with the airport at her feet melts my heart. Annette sat for hours at the window watching the coming and goings of the various planes until it was time to go to bed.

Up early, we got dressed, checked out, took the escalator down to the check in gates and we were there! 8 minutes from hotel room to the check in counter, that even includes checking out of the hotel - that was an awesome commute. :)

We stayed in Newark across the water from New York city. As luck would have it our hotel room had a view of the Newark runways so I lost Annette to another night of her watching jumbo air planes take off on their way to somewhere only she could imagine.

We took a 25 minute train ride into New York and found ourselves at Penn Station. This put us in good walking distance of the Empire State Building which was the only must-do on my list of things to see.


The view provided from the outdoor viewing area on the 86th floor is amazing, you can walk around the perimeter and see in all directions. The skylines of the buildings below, and in some cases above, was varied and you could almost see the generation of buildings as they progressed from the 1940s right through until today which includes the new ones that are currently being built.

To provide a rough idea of the island, we were on the west side about 1/3 of the way up the island. The collection of tall buildings in the distance is the south end of the island. This is where the twin World Trade Centers stood. As well, Wall Street stock market with it's large bull statue is located in the area.
After a trip up to the 102nd floor of the Empire State Building we wound our want back to ground level and tackled the subway system.
Surprising, during our days in New York we had several people randomly stop to help us traverse the ins and outs of the system as well as suggest subway stops to get off at to put us closest to our destination.

We headed south to the 9-11 memorial which consists of two large fountains that now take up the footprints of the original towers It's still surreal to think at one time there were two sky scrapers here and over 3,000 people lost their lives on this spot.

On day two in New York we were joined by my brother Ken and his wife Linda who would be joining us on the 10 day cruise to the East Coast, as well as joining us on our travels in Quebec City and Montreal.
Linda has visited New York several times, for the rest of us it was our first time in town. Our first stop of the day was Grand Central Station. For many years we have all seen the train station in movies, films, and on TV shows - so naturally we had to see it in person.

First thing you think is - it's smaller than I thought.
The "grandness" is there, if somewhat overshadowed by your unmet expectations of the scale of the building.
Still, had to come see it after hearing about it for so long.

The Rockefeller Center with all of it's associated attractions of Rockefeller Center, Rockefeller Tower, NBC News studio, Radio City Music Hall, and more was high on the "must see" list.
We went up the Rockefeller Tower to the 70th floor open air observation deck and were rewarded with more stunning views of New York City. "chic-chich" went the cameras non stop as we all took loads of pictures from our vantage point on top of the building up on the roof with the antennae and satellite dishes.

Back on the ground we visited St. Patrick's Cathedral, wandered past the British Empire Building with it's gold plated figurines, past the Waldorf Astoria, which surprisingly was closed as it was being renovated, and found ourselves at Tiffany's and Company. A dangerous place to go shopping for sure.

That was the end of day 2 in New York. We took the train back to our hotel in Newark for the night. The next morning we would be a 20 minute cab ride from joining another 3,200 people on the next part of our journey.

First point of call on the cruise - Bar Harbor, Maine.
Picture and story for Bar Harbor are on tap next time.