Sunday, September 22, 2013
On a Fall Color Cruise our very good friends from California Judy and Chuck had a scheduled stop in St John and we arranged to meet with them after our drive down from Moncton. So the previous evening we set the alarm; we’re not known to be early risers! We reached Rockwood Park, parked the RV un-hitched the car and headed downtown to meet Judy and Chuck. The day was grey and foggy so we spent most of our visit over lunch. We were a little late arriving at the Britt, in the meantime Judy had filled the waitress (who was a ball of fun) in on her traveling friends; the meal was delicious and we passed the time easily catching up on California news.
Judy took us on a quick walk about on the way back to the ship and after we had said our goodbyes we returned to our RV to hook it up to the water, electricity, Wi-Fi and sewer. The town center was a mere 5 minute drive away from this beautiful 2,200 acre City Park which has a zoo, a golf course, an RV Park and is a walking, biking paradise of trails around 10 manmade lakes; enough to keep a walker/biker happy for a year. Adele was in paradise and was up and about walking at 8am every morning. One of the lakes had a large function oriented pavilion with a restaurant, as there seemed to be a wedding party there every day we never got to eat there.The forecast for the following few days was for rain so we decided to visit the New Brunswick Museum which we found very interesting with three floors of different exhibits; one about whales where a docent gave a fascinating talk, others were the wood industry and ship building – which were a major employers for many decades. We watched a documentary on the hundreds of thousands of little sand pipers who summer in the muddy salt marshes of the Bay of Fundy and having doubled their weight feeding on sand lice and other bird delicacies fly home to South America – 4,000 miles non-stop. Thousands of United Empire Loyalists fled to Canada between the revolutionary war and the 1812 war setting up most of the port towns on Canada’s eastern coast and as one would expect the museum had an interesting loyalist exhibit from which we learned a lot there’s an abundance of loyalist history throughout the Maritimes. Back outside we discovered the day had very little rain.
We woke to a very foggy morning the next day but by 10am it had dissipated and turned into a warm sunny day; perfect we thought to take a city bus tour. The Queen Mary 2 had docked overnight and lots of people from the ship were on the tour; we had the funniest driver/guide with a wonderful sense of humor. While waiting in line for the bus Tom noticed a couple staring at him intensely and wondered “what’s going on?” Our first stop was at the reversing rapids and while there the man approached Tom and asked if he could take his photo explaining that Tom was his brother’s exact double! He turned out to be from Belfast in Northern Ireland. The reversing rapids are another Bay of Fundy phenomenon; as the tide comes in on the St. John River the rapids reverse and race upstream, then as the tide goes out the rapids flow with the river. This is caused by an underwater rock ledge which has a 30ft drop carved by the last ice age; the river is only navigable for a total of about 40 minutes every 24 hours at calm tide when the waters have leveled. The bus driver showed us a house whose chimney looked like a witch from a certain angle and told us that when he was growing up in St John right across the road from the witches house was the local Asylum (since demolished it’s now a park), the next building is still a funeral parlor and next is a grave yard – as you can imagine the driver had us in tears of laughter telling his childhood Halloween stories – imagine living as a child in that area. He also told us about the Irving (Irving Oil etc.) family who are very big benefactors to the city of St John and local charities. Several other successful businesses are located in St John including Moose Head beer.St John is an old town which was named by Samuel Champlain who landed there on the feast of St John the Baptist in 1604. At the end of the Revolutionary war 14,000 United Empire Loyalists arrived to make St. John their home. St John also encouraged and was very welcoming to immigrants, 30,000 Irish landed there during the Irish potato famine in the 1840s; many more started the journey across the Atlantic but succumbed to illness and disease, of those who reached St John their health was so bad that they did not survive. Overall, the Irish immigrant stories are heart breaking and are commemorated by a large Celtic cross on Partridge Island where all immigrants arrived and were quarantined; many Irish are buried on the island.
Devastated by fire in 1877 when the two-thirds of the town was destroyed the town Fathers’ amended the building code mandating that all buildings be constructed of stone and with flat roofs. As a consequence the town was rebuilt in an even grander fashion than before. The downtown is on a hill; however, one can cheat by going into the shopping center then use escalators and cross bridges to go uphill. There’s a wonderful indoor market open 6 days a week which is accessible from the shopping area; reminded Tom of the English Market in his native Cork.We had wonderful weather on our last day so we headed down town to take a walking tour of the places we saw from the bus. True to its loyalist heritage the major streets are King Street, Prince Street, Duke St, Queen Street, Prince William Street - you get the drift - how loyal was that? It did have a St Patrick Street! We enjoyed St John and Rockwood Park where we were parked; the park is on the Trans Canadian walking trail and naturally Adele thought that maybe she should walk to Vancouver and visit her brothers! 3,000 miles - how long would that take?
Tuesday, September 17, 2013
We stopped for a few days at Moncton and what a visit it turned out to be. To begin, having seen the Fundy tidal bore at Truro we wanted to see it once again as it is truly amazing. The town of Moncton has developed a boardwalk on the river front with story boards dotted about with information on the town and its more famous people; the boardwalk has a Bore Park in the shape of an amphitheater where a docent regales visitors with facts, tales and tall stories including that the bore represents the “pulse of the cosmos.” An intrepid surfer entered the river just as the bore was due although he did not manage to ride the wave however, it was fascinating to watch him being swept along by the incoming tide.
Another attraction is Magnetic Theme Park which has a Magnetic Hill where one drives to a designated spot at the bottom of the hill, then puts the car in neutral and release the brake - and the car reverses back up the hill. We found this so unbelievable that we did it three times, twice backwards and once facing front. Other cars were doing the same and we all enjoyed the fun of it and…yes the wheels were moving and so were we – uphill! From there we went to a nearby Casino; inveterate gamblers that we are we started to bet our $5 and try as hard as we did we just could not lose; after one and a half hours we had enough and cashed out + $1 at $6. The following evening we returned, lost our $1 gain but returned to the RV with our original $5 stake. We had hours of fun and like these Canadian Casino’s as it’s difficult to lose money.Our principal reason for stopping at Moncton was to visit the nearby Hopewell Rocks in the Bay of Fundy, where in designated areas one can walk on the ocean floor at low tide and marvel at how nature, tide, wind and erosion has created spectacular sculptures from what at one time were cliffs; these free standing structures are worn away the bottom, yet have vegetation growing on top – one is aptly named the Giant Flower Pot. Of course nature continues her work and throughout there are many caves and emerging new structures being carved ready to stand alone. On arrival we checked the time when the tide was due to turn to ensure that we would have plenty of time to walk on the ocean floor and later on watch the tide come in. All visitors had to leave the beach at a certain time so when the time came we went to lunch; there are very good facilities at Hope well Rocks and an excellent interpretive center. After lunch (40 minutes) we went back to see how far the tide had come in to discover that the ocean floor we had walked on was under water. The speed of the tide coming in is amazing, as is the high tide which can be from 25 to 50ft higher than low tide. Another feature of the Fundy basin is all the miles of mud cliffs and mud flats which are environmentally protected areas.
Not really a tourist oriented town Moncton is surprisingly, to us, a bilingual town with residents switching between French and English perfectly. It appears to be a busy financial center and the streets all have beautiful flowering hanging baskets. After Halifax Moncton is the Maritimes second largest city.
Saturday, September 14, 2013
Friday, September 13, 2013
While in Pictou earlier in August we checked on the nearby Nova Scotia to Prince Edward Island (referred to as PEI) ferry and decided for a change to travel by water to PEI. From Peggy’s Cove we drove back to the RV Park in Pictou and stayed the night so that we would not have to get up too early. At 10am we reached the ferry port for the 11.30am ferry; we lined up in the center lane, cars to our left and two lanes of great big trucks (looked like they would sink a ship) on our right. We wondered how large the ferry would be and how many vehicles would be left behind. The passenger cars were boarded first followed by the trucks so we thought that maybe us vacation folks would be the unlucky ones and be staying behind. No problem; we all got on with room to spare. The journey took one and a half hours during which all passengers had to leave their vehicles. Upstairs had a nice seating area and a canteen. Adele went out on deck to see if she could see any whales; nary a one to be seen; this is not where they come to feed as its way too shallow.
PEI looks like it does not have a rock or a decent sized stone on the whole island; to us it appears like all the silt from the Great Lakes flowed down the St Lawrence River to form PEI where all the land is red, as is the sand on the beach (flower pot or adobe red). We spent a day in Charlottetown named for Queen Charlotte wife of George 3rd. This is a fairly large town with some nice old buildings and is as flat as the island. PEI must be heaven for fans of "Ann of Green Gables" there’s a theme park for her in the town of Cavendish; as we walked around Charlottetown we passed several "Ann of Green Gables" shops and a theatre running a nightly "Ann of Green Gables" show. PEI has a population of 140,204 and is 121 miles (195KM) long; its 38 miles (61KM) at its widest narrowing down to only 4 miles (12KM) in spots.An interesting tourism initiative on PEI is the development of an old railway line into a biking/hiking trail on which of course Adele cycled every day during our 4 day stay. Day one Adele recommended to Tom that he should follow her by hiking east on the trail and she would meet as she returned. 40 minutes into his hike Tom receives a call to drive and pick Adele up from outside a blue house on road #113! Tom could not find either road #113 or the blue house however after many phone calls and U-turns later we happily found one another; the problem - was that the trail (railway line) does not always follow the road, as a result Adele was in the middle of the island on farm land - the main roads follow the coast so road #111 was hard to find!
We visited another smaller town called Summerside where on reading the information boards and learned that it has a Fox Museum, we would have been very interested to visit it, but it was closed. Believe it or not PEI had what is called a "Gold Rush" some local entrepreneurs succeeded in breeding and rearing silver foxes in captivity; PEI was the only place in the world to do this. It became a booming business, at one time in 1913 a fox pelt (yes one) was worth in excess of $2,600 and a breeding pair of first class silver foxes sold for $25,000 - truly a Gold Rush! So find all those photos of your Mothers or Grannies wearing fox stoles around their shoulders; it’s probable that PEI is where the fox came from. Then we remembered that as we were passing through Charlottetown on our way to the RV Park Adele spotted a red fox standing in the rain at the corner of the university.For our return trip to New Brunswick we drove over the nine mile long Confederation Bridge after paying a toll of $49 which included the ferry trip. Either way one pays to get off the island! A neat way to stop PEI residents from shopping in New Brunswick!
This is as far north as we are going; well Cape Breton was really and now that the weather is turning to autumn/fall the time when whales and birds head south so must we! The leaves on the trees are beginning to change and we’re looking forward to seeing spectacular fall colors as we travel through New England and the northern states back to Saint Augustine.And, of course we’ll post some amazing photographs.
Wednesday, September 4, 2013
Going to see the whales itself is an adventure and so was getting to Westport on Brier Island. First, we had to set the alarm which in itself is not part of our now normal life, then travel 200 miles (300 km) to get there.We set off, per plan, in beautiful sunny weather to drive surface (no highways) up the middle of the island to the Annapolis Valley; there was not much to see but it is more relaxing than freeway driving and we got to see houses, farms and the little town of New Ross. We just had to stop to take a photo – County Wexford in Ireland also has a New Ross. First stop was Kentville a big town on the west side of Nova Scotia; we parked the car and headed to a coffee shop. A most delightful, friendly lady served us, once again we admitted our accents were Irish but that we now reside in the US; as is usual the Irish part is focused on - she said she would brew fresh coffee for Tom and brought it to our table and engaged us is a loud chat (so all could hear) asking how did we get to Kentville? How long were we staying? Where were we going?
From Kentville we drove to Fort Royal, a quaint little town and on towards Digby a town at the neck of the Peninsula on Bay of Fundy. On our way we came across the Annapolis Tidal Power Plant which owns and operates one of the few tidal power plants in the world and the only one in North America. We just had to stop; a docent gave us a most educational talk on how they generate electricity for twelve hours every day; 3 hours when the sea is flowing and fills the reservoir and 3 more as the tide ebbs. The best part of the story is that they purchased (for research purposes) a state of the art underwater turbine, the latest in technology that had been tried and tested in other waters. The turbine was anchored in a deep narrow passage; a year and a day later they recover the turbine to discover it had worked for a little over 24 hours before the Fundy tide ripped its blades apart. The turbine had been tested in tides up to 6 knots; they discovered that the depth the turbine was at had an 8 knot tide – the tidal scale is like the earthquake scale, one number up is double the previous number. We were proud to learn that they purchased the turbine from and Irish company!We continued on west to Brier Island though towns called Middleton, Waterford (again mirroring Ireland), Kingston and Paradise with the sea to our left and mountains to our right; cascading over the mountains we spotted a thick bank of fog which reminded us of Highway 280 on the way to San Francisco - a Deja Vous moment! To get to our destination we had to catch two ferries; one onto Long Island and then another one half an hours later at the other end of the island to Brier Island. On reaching the first ferry there’s a heavy sea fog with visibility down to 100m. No problem to the ferryman and we reach the village of Westport to learn at the cruise company office that they have no record of our overnight reservation. Smartphone to the rescue, Tom had the email string on his phone; the Inn was full but not to worry Penny Graham the cruise company owner installed us in their big Guest house which is usually rented to families but we had it all to ourselves. After settling in we went to the local (only) hotel which is perched on a high hill for dinner. We were seated at a window but as the fog was by now a peasouper all we could see were lost seagulls.
Rain and strong winds greeted us the following morning which resulted in the whale watching being cancelled. So we decided to stay another night as the morrow looked like it will be a better day. Penny had organized breakfast for us at the Lighthouse Café where we met a man who was doing research on the Mountain Avens a rare flower considered native to New Hampshire but discovered in a nearby Brier Island bog. Intrigued we headed round the island to find the bog; we also found the flower! We walked to two of the islands lighthouses - there are three on this little island. Fishing, once a substantial industry in the Maritimes is now almost non-existent so local fishermen now catch lobsters which does not provide them with much of a living. We did observe a relatively large fish farm in the bay, not very popular with the locals.The next day dawned bright and sunny, a really lovely day so off we headed with Penny as our guide into the Bay of Fundy to watch the whales in their summer feeding ground. Humpback Whales are obviously a very social mammal; all those we saw stayed so close to the boat that the spray from their spout almost wet us; a fellow passenger asked “are we watching the whales or are they watching us?” They had no fear of the boat which allowed us to spend 3 hours going from one group of whales to another.
The privilege of observing these large Cetaceans up close was well worth waiting for and gave us a very memorable day to treasure. Adele made a little video which, once we work out how to post it we’ll upload to YouTube and let you know on a future blog; we will post photos in a day or so.
Tuesday, September 3, 2013
Monday, September 2, 2013
We are staying in an RV Park near Peggy's Cove which is about 20 miles from Halifax; our site overlooks a lovely lake which reflects the surrounding picturesque scenery. Having set up camp we headed for Peggy’s Cove stopping on our way at a poignant memorial to those lost in the Swissair Flight 111 crash off-shore from here in 1998. There’s a second memorial and graveyard where some of the 229 victims are buried on the other side of St Margaret’s Bay. Peggy's Cove is a little fishing village with spectacular scenery, a famous light house and massive granite rocks tossed about by the last glacier retreat; it was lovely and quaint and reminded us of the Burren in County Clare and the Aran Islands.
The following day we went to Lunenburg a town founded by the English in 1753 for settlers of Swiss/German origin knowing that they would get a good return from these industrious people; apparently all the British that had previously been sent over to Halifax spent their time in pubs, gambling and visiting ladies-of-the-night! The Governor never got an honest day’s work out of them. What the British did not anticipate is that these immigrants would establish Lunenburg as what it is to this day a German speaking and architectured town; they are bilingual. It is a big seaport town with many churches; the main one, Anglican is in the square in the center of town. The Anglicans schooled the children and loaned their church to the Lutherans for services on the stipulation that there be no sermons or preaching. The Lutherans learned that the Anglicans were going to Baptize all the children into the Anglican faith; it didn't take them long to build their own church and school!
Yes another Fort! This time it was the Halifax Citadel National Historic Site strategically located on top of a hill overlooking Halifax and the harbor. Once again a very interesting visit; here the docents were vacationing college students dressed up in the (original we think) uniforms of the 78th Highlanders. Some of the interesting history of Halifax - George Prince of Wales spent some of his early years here spending his time mostly in taverns and brothels; he spent so much money he was brought back to England as the coffers were getting low and England needed the money for wars where he continued his high-spending life: he is infamous for having secretly marrying a catholic and having succeeded his father George 111 as King George IV he forbade his own mother from his coronation. To reestablish the British reputation Prince Edward, Duke of Kent (fourth son of George 111 and Father of Queen Victoria) was sent to Halifax; he stayed sober, did a great job, in fact, much of historical Halifax is due to his endeavors. He had about a third of the hill removed and flattened to start the construction of the Citadel which took 28 years to build, it was finished in 1856; he built many other government houses and also had a house built for himself and his mistress (the wife of the Governor, if the Governor complained we reckon he would have lost his job) where they lived openly. We saw this on the local TV station; the Citadel docent/student didn't tell us this part of the history. Halifax was obviously one hell hole of a town for a long time, now it is a lovely big town that came into its own during WW 1 and WW 11; as it was a critical port for the Royal Navy, the Allies and as a supply port for the war effort. Halifax also played a part in the search and recovery effort after the Titanic sank, boats from here recovered 130 bodies most of whom are buried in a graveyard here.