Monday, September 19, 2011

Land At Last; Halifax, Nova Scotia

Map picture

Our seven day odyssey across the North Atlantic finally came to an end when we arrived yesterday morning into Halifax, Nova Scotia. What had begun as a straight four day crossing from Ireland to Newfoundland had instead turned into a seven day adventure in which we roamed the North Atlantic dodging one storm after another. We first had to avoid the tropical low off of Ireland, then dodge hurricane Katia, and finally came the mad effort to avoid hurricane Maria. All in all over our seven day journey, we traveled more than 2,800 miles.

However, yesterday morning that all came to an end, when we awoke to find the ship was not rolling about as had become the norm. When we opened the curtains, we were greeted with a marvelous sunrise.

Halifax, Nova Scotia I am absolutely certain that not a single person, crew or passenger, failed to go ashore yesterday. I myself came down the gangway, and promptly leaned over and kissed the ground. I was thinking to myself, enough already!

Halifax is the provincial capital of Nova Scotia, itself a part of Canada. The city has a long history dating back to the 1600’s. We met our car and driver at the pier and set off immediately to visit Peggy’s Cove, one of the most famous and most photographed spots in Canada.

Halifax, Nova ScotiaThis small fishing village of no more than 40 homes hangs precariously to solid rock outcroppings. The homes are all colorfully painted and its small harbor is home to a colorful collection of fishing boats and colorful buildings. At the end of the peninsula is a picturesque lighthouse.

Halifax, Nova Scotia

The morning had dawned bright and sunny, and the early chill quickly dissipated into comfortable warmth. Our driver chose to drive the coastal road to Peggy’s Cove, so along the way we were able to catch a number of truly beautiful pictures in the quiet of the early morning. Our drive there took almost one hour, and while we did not beat all the tour buses, the little town was not yet crowded when we arrived. I must tell you that in all honesty, I was somewhat disappointed in the Peggy’s Cove of today as compared to when I first set eyes on it almost 40 years ago. Then the little harbor was full of small brightly painted fishing boats, and there were no tourists’ facilities. That has all changed over time. Now there is a large parking lot for all the tour busses and private cars that flock to this little cove. In fact, our driver said that by noon, it would be virtually impossible to get into the town itself. The next thing that I noted is that I saw only a few boats in the harbor, and several of them were to provide rides to the tourist.

Halifax, Nova ScotiaThe wide open little harbor that I remember has now been encroached upon by piers and galleries, so that it is only a remnant of what it once was. I guess the lack of small fishing boats only shows that the locals have found tourism more profitable than fishing. Anyway, not to detract from a beautiful day, we did get some very nice pictures before the crowds descended and while we still had sunshine.

From there we continued our drive southward to the UNESCO World Heritage City of Luneburg. This picturesque old city can trace its founding to 1753, and as with Peggy’s Cove, it is a protected site. The thing I found most amazing about Luneburg, as well as the many little towns through which we drove on our 6 hour ride, were the number of churches in each town. There was literally a church on each and every corner, and they were all old and quite beautiful.

Halifax, Nova Scotia

Eventually we headed back to Halifax, and along the way our guide shared with us a unique part of the history of the area. I had seen signs to the Titanic Museum, but really did not understand the connection to this city. As it turns out, when the Titanic sank, the White Star Lines maintained a large regional office in Halifax, and even though Newfoundland was closer to the tragedy, it was from Halifax that the company was able to send a fleet of vessels to assist in the search for survivors or remains. The survivors were taken to New York, but the deceased were brought to Halifax, along with a large amount of wreckage which was found floating at the site of the disaster site. That wreckage has become the basis for the large maritime museum in Halifax. We then visited a cemetery where many of the victims from Titanic are buried. Here the simple graves are laid out in the pattern of a ship. In some cases, the tombstone bears the name of the victim if it was known when buried, but if later DNA revealed who was buried, then the tombstone was later modified to put the name on the side of the tombstone.

Halifax, Nova Scotia Many of the victims have been identified over the years, but of course not all. Interestingly there was a tombstone to a J Dawson, and even today it had fresh flower placed in front of it. There is also a tombstone to an unknown child, and it is always covered with small plush toys and coins dropped onto the tombstone. It was a sobering moment to stand amidst so much tragedy.

We reluctantly climbed back onboard our home away from home, and set sail once again towards the end of our journey. Tomorrow we are to briefly visit Newport, RI, before continuing onto New York the end of our cruise. When we awoke this morning, it was sunny and the seas were calm, so the ship had setup chairs around the pool and arranged seating for people to eat outside for lunch. However, sometime around mid-morning, the skies begin to cloud over, and before long the ship was rolling pretty badly again. The wind came up as if from nowhere, and started to blow all those carefully arranged chairs and tables around, forcing the crew to quickly secure everything again. At this point the Captain came on the PA system to inform us about our arrangements for tomorrow, and he announced that as unbelievable as it may sound, yet another low pressure has developed just off the coast of New York. This system will give us high winds and seas for the remainder of the day and early tomorrow, but fortunately it is headed east into the Atlantic and should not impact our arrival into New York on the 21st.

I am going to make this my last blog for this trip since our day at Newport will be so short, and then we must pack to depart the ship the following day. I have posted the final pictures from Halifax, and I do hope that everyone has enjoyed our journey. With any luck, we will be arriving home late on Wednesday, the 21st.


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