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