And now I am writing this on Thursday, 13 June, at the Halifax airport awaiting a flight. Why you ask? I got an email on my IPod while having dinner last night in Peggy’s Cove (yes, free WI-FI does appear everywhere), that one of VIA RAIL CANADA’s unions may go on strike before my scheduled departure from Halifax thus affecting my sleeper travel accommodations. I could take a chance, or cancel for an immediate full refund without penalty. Not wanting to get stuck in Halifax (at my own expense – stuck in Zurich was caused by and hosted by SwissAir) I debated and checked options. While on the phone with WestJet I finally just bought an air ticket back to Montreal (via Toronto) for Thursday. VIA RAIL said that once the strike started no one would answer the phone to take my cancellation, so that pushed my decision to not lose the full refund without penalty.
I also fired off an email to the Mountain View Grand Hotel in Whitefield, NH to see if I could come in Friday or Saturday instead of my special deal reservation on Sunday. WOW – they responded late at night and said to come on in on Friday and I could stay Saturday too. So a fantastic new plan. Now back to the past two days.
Tuesday morning I headed right down to reserve a car for Wednesday, and then headed over to the Canada Museum of Immigration at Pier 21.
This is where over a million people entered Canada from 1928 to the early 60s, as I recall, and also troops departed for and returned from WWII. I spent two hours there. The excellent 3-D effect film portrays the multitude of reasons people left their homes and came to Canada. Next I followed a guide around as he discussed the exhibits and added anecdotes. He arrived himself through Pier 21 in the mid 50s and even showed us his papers. FAST FACT — The Kellogg’s Company, in the hopes to “hook” the new arrivals here and Ellis Island provided free Corn Flakes for nourishment. Little did they know that in Europe corn was not eaten but fed to pigs and other animals. The immigrants were insulted, and the children tossed the boxes onto the floor.
From there I walked along the waterfront which is wonderful having
undergone renovations since the late 1990s for tourism and resident enjoyment both. I had lunch on the Pier and then went to the Maritime Museum of the Atlantic AND Click on this link for a virtual tour. To my surprise I found it was open Tuesday nights and FREE from 5:30 to 8, so off I went on foot to further explore the city and its architecture. When I was here in October I enjoyed touring the Citadel, but now I walked the outside and the Town Clock.
A short rest for my feet and newly repaired left foot followed, and back to the Maritime Museum, spending almost the full 2 1/2 hours, which is not enough time to do it properly. I focused on the exhibit on Convoys which were always assembled at Halifax as such a secure port and close to the grand circle route to save time to Europe, then I explored in detail the Halifax Explosion of 1916 with a loss of over 2,000 lives, including the interesting film. Upstairs I took in a few more history videos and was thrilled to see the, albeit small, Titanic exhibit because there are actual artifacts on display including a complete original deck chair.
Halifax was the closest port to the sinking, and recovery operations brought back hundreds of bodies, most of which were ultimately buried there. As was the custom with wrecks, sailors helping would keep items found in the sea, and since the recovery boats came from here, the items
ended up in Halifax. I have now completed a “Titanic circle” having been to the docks where built, Southampton where she sailed from, Queenstown (Cobh) the last port she left, and I was within 25 miles of her final resting site – impressive, Yes? There was to be a lecture at 7:30 on ship surgeons, and finally I realized it was in another gallery on The Age of Sail that I had totally missed. What an animated and informative speaker.
FAST FACTS: Edinburgh at this time produced the most and best surgeons; canon balls did not usually kill people, but when they hit the sides of a ship the wood splintered and flew causing death; most combat was by shooting rifles, and the lead balls would splatter flat when hitting bone. There were large probes to find the lead, but the most effective way was to insert a finger in the wound to feel the lead and try to extract it. The Edinburgh surgeons were the best because they could amputate an arm in 2 minutes and a leg in 3. And this gent went on an on until the museum closed much to our dismay.
Tuesday turned overcast with sprinkles, but on Wednesday I awoke to heavier off and on rain. But still I picked up my car at 9 and headed off for Lunenberg (RAY RECOMMENDS: always best to go to the furthest point and work your way back). I took the newer “expressway” out through more pines and birches, and then the back roads to the popular Lunenberg, a UNESCO site. The town received this designation as providing the best elements of the 18th, 19th and 20th centuries, and as the best example of a British Colonial Settlement in North America with with 200 years of unchanged architectural styles. The iconic view across the bay of gayly painted buildings was shrouded in fog and the shops not of great interest to me. A lovely, and probably extremely busy and crowded, summer boating resort, it was deserted and I was about to leave, but then said, “Ray, you might as well take a look at the Fisheries Museum of the Atlantic . Learning about fish not high on my list, but was I ever wrong and had so much fun in my almost four hours there (including seafood wrap for lunch in the restaurant overlooking the water).
Just got an email at 2:17 from WestJet that my flight is delayed — thus I will miss my connecting flight from Toronto to Montreal — now what?? Will let you know, so back to my writing.
Three flours of exhibits, and ships outside, but I was intrigued by the next two films in the theater, so started there. The first made in 1960 was a story of a boy who stowed away on his Dad’s schooner to go Cod fishing. Here in detail I saw how up to the 1960s (as I later learned when trawling became more prevalent) a couple dozen dories would be
launched with 2 men in each to cast lines with 2,000 baited hooks. Once brought aboard work continued chopping heads, gutting the fish, saving the liver for Cod Liver Oil, and essentially opening the Cod into a fillet to be salted and stored below. Salted Cod can last indefinitely when properly dried and was an early staple, not just for those on sea voyages. When I later was outside on the Schooner, the guide there further reinforced what I had learned. The next film was a TV documentary on Rumrunning from the Canadian point of view. Many of the fisherman became smugglers since it was more lucrative, and built special boats. There is a French island off Newfoundland which became a pivotal staging point, and even Al Capone visited there to observe the operation. Will have to find this film, but I have already ordered the book BOTH SIDES OF THE LAW by a former rumrunner who became the respected Police Chief of Lunenberg. All the exhibits were very well done, especially the one on the history of fishing in the Outer Banks there.
Outside I toured a 1962 trawler and the 1938 restored schooner where the docent was very helpful. Needing to know everything, dumb me asked why the wheel (at the stern) was tilted backwards mounted on a
box assuming the helmsman had to stand in front of the wheel. “How can he see where to steer I asked?” The gentleman chuckled, “the helmsman stands to the side and leans on the housing for extra strength. The worm gear shaft is short and at a tilt to the rudder so there is less momentum and friction to overcome. Also standing to the side and rear of the tilted wheel saves his legs from getting hit.” So now you also know why the statues of helmsman always have him fighting the wheel from the rear and side!!!
Further dumbness, but a need to know everything, caused me to ask about the shape of the scallops shells in the Tidal Touch Tank. “Why the round shape of what we eat as compared to the shape of the shell?” I queried. “What we eat is just the dense muscle that opens and closes the shell. The heart and other organs surround it in the shell,” the young lady told me. The fellow on the schooner later also told me how the scallops are harvested, and husked at sea.
Not wanting to really leave the museum, I did and toured the streets some more looking at the architecture before I went back to the old Route 3 to follow the coast line (get out your maps) until I met Route 333 down to popular spot – Peggy’s Cove. I went through Mahone Bay, Chester, Hubbards, French Village — all with glorious fishing pasts and boat resort lives at the present.
Along the way on Route 333 I spotted this memorial to the lost Swissair Flight 111 that went down off the coast in 1998.
About 6PM I arrived at Peggy’s Cove — a small dot, but a few homes. Obviously because of the parking lot for buses (fortunately empty) this could be a horrific place to try to enjoy with crowds. Thus you see my rare image of the most photographed lighthouse in the world — rare because there are no people in it!
I had dinner at the gift shop/restaurant at the lighthouse, visited the dock, and headed back to my Inn in Halifax. Peggy’s Cove is a must to visit, just hope you are alone.
Then as noted, I spent an hour on Skype working on my new exit plan which went into execution this morning. I had plenty of extra time at the airport and then the flight was delayed making it obvious I would miss my connecting flight to Montreal. But Ray does not worry, except I had not worked out what to do Thursday for sleeping and shunpiking on Friday. Departing about an hour late I settled in to nap on the plane (awoke at 4AM today – in my short sleeping mode) – and then it struck me. “I have no place to stay, and by the time I get rebooked to Montreal and get my car and find a place it could be 10 or 11 PM, and I have not even had time to roughly plan Friday. Where are there places to stay easily found — AT AN AIRPORT! In Toronto WestJet had rebooked me, but my new flight was already boarding, out comes the laptop, finally get connected, fast googling, good rate with no hassle ($109.99 CAD) and a shuttle bus away. Fast typing, credit card out, get confirmation number, and get up to be the last person in line to board. Now, RAY is one of the smartest, quickest thinkers around who can be decisive in a crunch – with excellent results. I got into my Montreal room at 8:30, had dinner in the hotel, and can post this blog, and plan tomorrow’s adventures on the way to the Mountain View Grand. And, I am near a bus line the receptionist told me and can get that bus and transfer to the Metro for $3 total instead of the Airport Bus for $9 and then the Metro. Of course, with shunpiking tentative plans are made to be broken, but now to start that planning at 11PM. Thanks for listening, more to come once I am refreshed and off again tomorrow. As always, yours, RAY
BOTTOM LINE – RAY RECOMMENDS: Use your debit card every few months, if only to check your account balance. I have had a debit card for five years, but only use it at overseas ATMs to acquire Pounds, Euros, or Canadian Dollars. Everything has been fine (well, one time in Canada my bank’s computer was not talking out of country) until now. As usual I called my bank before leaving to say I would be using the card out of country, “that will be fine, Ray,” but for the past 3 days my attempts to get Canadian Dollars has only gained a computer response of “Denied by Your Bank.” Today when again rejected I Skyped my bank only to find that they decided my card had not been used so they inactivated it without telling me. “Right, last time I needed it was in London for Pounds in October.” “Well I was told, we can reactivate in but at least check your balance every three months.” Think I will do that every 6-8 weeks, but still when advising I will be using it out of country I will ask the question, “did you deactivate me again?”