Today we travel to Halifax. We wandered around a bit, looking for a drug store in vain. We did find a topless dancing place next to a Catholic School – no wait, no lines, come right in! Armed with our GPS (changed to a man’s voice for variety) we headed on – and on – and on. Straight highway, lots of trees. I thought there were lots of trees in Maine, I really did. Ren & Stimpy weren’t kidding when they said Canada reeked of trees. Each hill we crested I imagined would show Halifax in front of us – and at each hill I was disappointed. It sure doesn’t SEEM like that long of a drive when you are looking at it on a map. I stand humbled and corrected L We almost broke the GPS – we tried to calculate the route to Halifax, but had it in ‘avoid highway’ mode. Well, there is no way to avoid highways to get to Halifax, not over the land bridge. It froze, we had to reset it.
We stopped at Tim Horton’s again for breakfast (go figure) in Amherst, and discovered that they use jet engines instead of hand dryers in the ladies room. I had to struggle to keep my hands under it! But it dried me off quickly.
We stopped at one town off the highway to get gas, and had a lovely drive across the swamp to get there. The river beds were low, and the mud looked like it would be alligator heaven. Luckily, it’s a bit chilly up here for such creatures. Put it in Florida and you would have a swamp party.4-+
As we got closer to Halifax, we saw more farms than trees, but such big farms they were! We weren’t talking the little family farms of Maine, but large industrial farms with 4 or 5 silos, acres and acres of land, big nasty tangled farm equipment at every corner. Definitely a bread basket area.
When we got to Halifax, we went over the scary bridge (well, scary to our driver) and made the mistake of listening to the GPS rather than following the map. The blue line, we have discovered, is much more accurate than the spoken voice, and this is of great importance when navigating around the wharf in Halifax. One run red light later, we found the Marriott Harbourside, and were delighted (and relieved we made it in one piece). I found this hotel via Priceline for $75 a night, and it was great. The lobby was clean and beautiful; it was right on the water, next to great little touristy shops and restaurants. The rooms were spacious, and oh, the beds were so heavenly soft and comfy. Especially after the monk-like pallets of the night before. Bliss! (http://www.marriott.com/hotels/travel/yhzmc-halifax-marriott-harbourfront-hotel/)
They couldn’t fit the big truck in their normal parking garage, so we were asked to park in the receiving area. Odd that, you wouldn’t think a pickup truck too tall, but there it was. Perhaps they haven’t yet caught on to America’s love affair with SUVs in Canada. Or, at least in Nova Scotia.
We settled into our rooms, and picked a place for lunch from the information left in our rooms by the hotel. I finally got a ‘local’ place, at my insistence, but mainly because it was within walking distance. We really didn’t want to venture out with the car again if we didn’t have to, as the hotel is on a one-way access street, and difficult to find again.
We chose O’Carroll’s (http://www.ocarrolls.com/), an Irish-style pub, for lunch – it was about a block away from the hotel. It was a charming place with nice old ironwork on the radiators and tables. Jason and I had a wonderful steak-and-kidney pie, not so great calamari, and the in-laws both had salmon. I finally got my long-awaited pint of cider, and loved it. We had dessert (divine!) and chatted with the staff about live music that night.
We wandered around the market shops near the wharf for some touristy shopping. I picked up several post cards for gifts to my co-workers, and saw a pirate ship launch from the quay. There were several local artists selling their wares, lots of shoppers and diners at the food court, and boats skipping across the harbor – from tugboats from a children’s show to pirate ships. Ahoy!
We decided to go explore Peggy’s Cove after lunch, so off we go into the arms of a spiteful GPS. Apparently my mother-in-law drives too fast to allow the GPS to recalculate after her wrong turns, and it led us on a merry chase through the heart of traffic-filled Halifax during rush hour. While the street we were stuck on was quite pretty with lovely Victorian houses, we were much relieved when it released us from its grip and deposited us on the highway out of town. I believe the street was Connaught Street, ironic as I know the lonely, rolling moors of Connaught in Ireland is quite different from this distinctly urban area.
It was a nice one-hour drive to Peggy’s Cove, full of twisty, turny roads achingly reminiscent of Irish coastal roads. There were small fishing villages strung along the road like a string of pearls, each one with quaint plastered all over it. We even passed one road called ‘Round Tuit’. As we got closer to the lighthouse, we drove through an area where it was patently obvious glaciers had visited – and deposited its load of boulders on rolling hills. It definitely reminded me of the west coast of Ireland, with miles of boulders among green pastures. The Irish dig up the rocks and make fences out of them to allow the land to be used. The Canadians evidently just leave them where they are and fish instead.
When we arrived at the fishing village that housed the lighthouse called Peggy’s Cove, we were amazed at the extent of the boulders on the shore, and resolved to climb them. Charity would have had a blast, climbing to and fro – we would likely have never found her again, lost in the white endless maze of rock.
Jason used the binoculars to whale-watch (he saw one spume of water in the distance), while I concentrated on not falling (again in the sandals – I don’t learn) and catching dramatic shots of the area without too many people in it. The clouds behind the lighthouse were wispy, and made it look like there was smoke coming from the top of the lighthouse. With the sun beginning to set behind, it made for dramatic silhouettes. The cries of the seagulls and the crash of the waves drowned out the jabber of tourists on that lonely outpost.
I wandered down to the village for some more interesting photographs while everyone relaxed for a while. Evidently I had the right idea, as several other photographers also came down to take similar shots. There must have been about a dozen of us at one point; great minds think alike. Then we got back in the car and reversed our route to Halifax. We giggled again at ‘Round Tuit’ road, and opined on what it would be like to retire to this area. As beautiful as it is, I’d likely go batty pretty quickly with so little to do.
We were going to have dinner at the hotel pub, but the fare looked very staid and uninviting, so it took not much persuasion to convince the group to head to O’Carroll’s again for some dining adventure. Lunch had been a bit pricy, but dinner was even more so. There was some live music, but nothing wonderful – the same set of popular songs I’ve heard over and over, done not much better than our local medieval group bardics. However, the dinners were delicious. I had the salmon with chili maple sauce; it was incredibly savory and delicious.
It had been a long, tiring day full of driving and climbing, exploring and running red lights, and we all went to a deep sleep in our heavenly pillow-top beds… sigh!