Not having done a great deal of research about any of the regions of Canada that we are visiting, my thoughts were that Atlantic Canada was predominantly rural and rustic. My image of this part of the world was of quaint and bucolic villages by the sea and long stretches forest and farmland for as far as the eye can see. Atlantic Canada certainly does not lack for any of these iconic scenes. The real surprise for me has been how many well-populated cities exist in this region.
The largest among those cities and populated areas is Halifax. Halifax was originally home to the Mi’kmaq tribe and was later settled by the Acadians. Britain took over the area in 1749 and the Acadians were eventually expelled from the region. In 1996 the Halifax Regional Municipality was formed amalgamating the cities of Halifax and Dartmouth, Bedford and the towns of Halifax County. The population of the municipality is approximately 403,000 with 316, 000 living in or near the city. The major employers in the city are private sector companies as well as the military, universities and shipbuilding. The larger area includes agriculture, fishing, mining and forestry.
Our campground, Wayside RV Park, was located about thirty minutes outside the city on St. Margaret’s Bay. The ride to the campground was a constant view of several harbors along the bay on Peggy’s Cove Rd. or Route 333. When we arrived, we were given our choice of four or five sites sitting along the road across from a small harbor and next to the office. We chose a site in the middle that seemed the widest. At first, I doubted that the site was a pull through because there was only 40 or so feet in front of us bordered by the road and some brush. With potential neighbors pulling in on both sides of us I was doubting the ability to go forward to get out. I was assured by the owner that we could in fact get out and was shown another exit that made the turn a bit easier. I trusted what I was told.
The site had a very nice view of the small harbor and the sunset. It seems that we have been finding sites that afford direct sunset views all along our journey. I was chided by my friend and former colleague, Jeff Tedesco, that I was posting lots of sunsets on Facebook but he hadn’t seen any sunrises. I responded that we had not gotten any opportunities yet beside the fact that sunrises at that times were at 5 a.m. and I was not getting up at that time just to verify and record the fact that the sun was coming up.
Sunset from our campsite
Sunday was a beautiful day so we decided to take a ride to check out the most visited site in Atlantic Canada, and probably in all of Canada, Peggy’ Cove, which was about eight miles from our campground. On the way we saw signs for a path along the rocky shoreline and a parking lot. We decide to stop and check it out. It turned out to be a memorial to Swissair Flight 111 that had crashed in the area off the coastline in 1998. The flight had left New York and was headed for London when it met its demise. 229 passengers died in the crash and the people and towns on both shores in the area were instrumental in assisting with the recovery process. Two monuments sit together on a large rocky ledge overlooking the Atlantic. Many people stopped to view the memorial and pay their respects.
Monuments to Swissair Flight 111
We left the memorial and continued on to nearby Peggy’s Cove. Given the early season and the light crowds we have encountered so far, we did not expect the throng of people gathered at the site. The road up to the cove is a narrow one, but that did not stop RVs and tourist buses from climbing the hill and taking the tight turn into the lower parking lot. After walking around the town for a short while we decided to leave and return on week day when the crowds might prove to be thinner.
Images of Peggy’s Cove and the Lighthouse from a distance
After lunch we decided to take advantage of the beautiful day and head to Lunenburg, which is an historic seaside town about sixty miles west of our location. We decided to take Route 3, also referred to as the Lighthouse Trail, which hugs the coast as you venture West from Halifax. It was a bright, sunny and warm day and we were presented with some breadth-taking views of the western shore of St. Margaret’s Bay as well the south shore of Nova Scotia. There was a faster route along Route 103, but the longer ride was worth it. We passed through the small harbor town of Mohenes Bay, which is touted as one of the nicest towns in Canada. From appearances I would tend to buy that claim.
Lunenburg lived up to its reputation. It is said that the town provides as close a representation of an old English seaside harbor town as can be found in Canada. The town rises from the harbor up a steep hill filled with streets populated by 17th and 18th century houses of a variety of styles and bright colors. It has tried to maintain the flavor and feel of an 18th century port town. There were a few ships, both old and new, docked in the harbor.
Houses in Lunenburg
The harbor in Lunenurg
The next day we went into Halifax to tour the city. We parked at the renovated pier area that includes a large indoor farmer’s market with several vendors and food kiosks, a brewery/restaurant and our first destination, the Canadian Museum of Immigration at Pier 21.
Canada has a rich tradition of immigration that was the most active during the late 19th century and well into the 20th century. Canada has welcomed immigrants and refugees from all over the world for many years which has allowed them to grow a diverse population, representing many cultures, and to build a strong workforce. At one point in its young history Canada was desperate for workers to build their growing economy. Immigrants helped serve that purpose.
Exhibits at the museum
The museum is located on Pier 21 which is the old ocean liner docking area and where troop ships during WWII would leave in the dead of the night to attempt to avoid detection by enemy ships. Immigrants arriving at Pier 21, especially those with the proper paperwork, were provided with food and other necessities by volunteers from churches and other charitable organizations. They could also see health care workers if they were sick. A family with the proper paperwork and no other problems could be through the process and on a train waiting outside the pier in eight hours.
After some lunch from a kiosk at the Farmer’s Market, we decided to take a ride through the city and visit the Citadel. The Citadel was built in 1749 to protect the city’s harbor. It sits very high on a hill in the middle of the city. You can take the road up to the fort or park at street level and take advantage of the walking paths that wind through the park area outside the fort. Although there are many multi-story buildings that now surround the area, you can see that the British would have had a very clear sight line to the harbor.
The city has an international flair. There tons of pubs and restaurants and many highrise apartment buildings. One thing we do at every stop is try to find a viable YMCA, and although we were disappointed that the Halifax Y was not yet available, the new Y that is being built is going to be amazing.
After leaving the city we needed to find someplace to buy a space heater. The cold nights since we have left Florida have necessitated the use the heat much too often and we have been through a few thirty-pound propane tanks. It would be more cost effective to use an electric heater especially as we are getting electric included with our sites.
We found a Walmart (they are everywhere} outside the city in an area that is populated with every store you can imagine including the NSLC or Nova Scotia Liquor Corporation. This is a massive liquor store that sells wine, beer and liquor. Each province has its own laws concerning how spirits are sold just like each state in the US. In New Brunswick you can buy wine in the grocery store, but beer and liquor have to be purchased in the province liquor store. One neat feature in all of the liquor stores is that they all have a refrigerated beer room which is usually quite sizeable and offers a wide variety of beer. I have not been in one yet that carries or even recognizes Yuengling. I hear that they sell it in Ontario. They do have Corona and Newcastle. And I have found a couple of really good Canadian stouts.
We returned to Peggy’s Cove during the week and found that the crowds were much more reasonable and we could get into the parking lot adjacent to the lighthouse. We met a gentleman who had a photo booth taking pictures of visitors with the lighthouse in the background. Of course, we bought a framed picture of ourselves. We started a conversation with him and found out that he had been a sportscaster and reporter for Canadian national TV and had covered big events around the world like the Olympics and the Ali fights. He had settled in retirement in the area and decided this would be a good way to meet people and supplement his retirement at the same time. We talked a little politics as he was personal friends with former prime ministers and knew Justin Trudeau when he was a child. He was a very friendly and interesting guy. Needless to say, we had a lively discussion about American politics and American-Canadian relations.
The coastline at Peggy’s Cove
Peggy’s Cove Lighthouse
The next morning we sought out a place to do a little hiking. We found a rough trail by Kearny Lake which was about thirty minutes from the campground. It was a beautiful lake but the trails were rough and unmarked. When you read a sign at the entrance disclaiming any responsibility for lost or injured hikers, you take pause. We started out and stayed on a trail that ran parallel to the lake so we would know where we were at all times. It was a nice hike dominated by the bugs once again.
That evening, having viewed a few sunsets from our chairs at the campsite, Eileen suggested that we see what the sunset at Peggy’s Cove was like. We were not alone in that pursuit as there were many people there for the same reason. The sunset was very nice, but the unexpected highlight was the effect of the sunset on the lighthouse area a little further to the south. It had not been a completely cloudless sky all day and the presence of some clouds a little to the south created a somewhat ominous but beautiful creation with pinks, oranges and purples as the background to the lighthouse.
Sunset at Peggy’s Cove
On Friday I decided to try out a local golf course. Granite Springs is a public course about thirty minutes from our campground. It seems like all of the courses in this part of the country are very hilly and this course was no exception. I was a singleton so they matched me up with a woman who seemed to be about my age and played the course regularly. She was a good golfer and made me look bad a couple of times. She was a very interesting person; a TV producer who worked for a company that produced content, mostly animation and documentaries, for companies like Disney and Netflix. She also had a home on Cape Breton and had a ton of information about good golf courses to check out. We shared an enjoyable round and good conversation.
While I was golfing Eileen went for walk on the road across from the campground. The road led to the bay that feeds the small harbor that was across from us. On the way back she met our new neighbors Pat and Natasha. Pat is retired from the Canadian Navy after twenty-five years and working in the private sector. Natasha is still active Navy and stationed in Halifax. After living in Ottawa for some years, they now live in downtown Halifax and enjoy weekend camping.
We invited them to share a fire and we sat out and talked for a few hours. On Saturday they returned the favor and we enjoyed some food and a fire as rain threatened. They are very interesting people having travelled all over the world. It is unbelievable that they were both in the Navy and were able to raise two daughters at the same time. It must take a great deal of patience, commitment and creativity to accomplish that feat.
On Sunday we pulled up stakes and were able to safely pull out of the site and make our way around the office to exit the campground. The owner had not steered us wrong. We were off the Cape Breton and some new adventures.