Our start was delayed today because we were chatting to a couple at breakfast. He was a Presbyterian minister based in Bathurst, whose parish seemed to extend far and wide and included Campbellton. They had lived in various places before going into the ministry and had been brought up on Cape Breton, so gave us some handy tips on where to go and what to see.
Consequently, we didn’t set off until about 10.45am and then had a very long drive to Saint John. The bulk of it was on autoroute through vast tracts of forest, although it wasn’t enclosed and we had some distant views. The trees are changing more and more, so there were many splashes of bright reds and oranges amongst the green. The weather was appalling to start off with (driving rain), but improved considerably as the day went on and was positively summery when we detoured to find lunch.
This, however, was a little tricky, as the town we had picked, Florenceville, when we eventually found it, had no cafe. So, we ended up in the ubiquitous Tim Hortons, which is Canada’s answer to McDonalds. The coffee hadn’t improved since I tried it in Toronto!
Our destination for tonight was an Airbnb place in Rothesay, just outside of Saint John. I have had a lot of trouble registering to join Airbnb. However, it finally seems to have happened and this was my first experience. The house is in a modern estate and owned by a young couple, who are both paramedics. We were greeted by Steven, who was just off on a night shift, and then met Jaclan later when she returned from her shift. We have a lovely room, bathroom and living area, and use of the kitchen so we feel as though we are in luxury after the last few nights.
After chatting to Jaclan for a while, we went out for dinner at a local wine bar, as recommended. What a difference to last night! Whilst it wasn’t seafood, the food was excellent and much more appropriate for a birthday dinner, which is what it ended up being. We were both feeling a lot happier when we went to bed tonight.
After breakfast and without seeing our hosts, we drove the short distance from where we were staying in Rothesay, into the city itself. By the time we arrived, I was in quite a bad mood, having lost the signs to the centre, so parked in the first car park I came across and we walked from there. Luckily, it wasn’t far. Unluckily, the nice man in the tourist office said it was in a permit only parking area and cars without permits got towed away. Had I not been in a temper, I might have read the signs!
We grumpily stomped our way back and moved the car to a multi storey park and then had a look at the tourist brochures, at which point we realised the tide was right to see Reversing Falls. Fundy Bay has the highest tide difference in the world and at high tide, the water coming up the river is so strong that it pushes the water back up the lake and the rapids run backwards at Reversing Falls.
We arrived and took our position on the Observation Deck and were seriously underwhelmed! However, we got chatting to a young Australian couple who were (surprise, surprise) travelling around in a seriously dilapidated van, off which the exhaust had dropped, and which would have looked more in place with a couple of surfboards on the top on the Queensland Coast! They were sleeping in it, of course, and said that they realised they had reached rock bottom when they spent the night in a Walmart car park and had to use the toilets in McDonald’s in the morning. They were very entertaining and none of us took much notice of the natural phenomenon that was taking place before our eyes. It was only after I walked across the bridge, in fact, that I realised we would have had a better view at the actual rapids where all the tour buses were parked. Oh well….!
After chatting for quite some time, they roared off (once the van’s engine had warmed up sufficiently) and we drove back in to town, parked in a different, cheaper car park (more by luck than judgement) and joined the cruise ship passengers in the market, where we selected from the food stands for lunch. I felt I had to have a lobster roll (an expensive disappointment) and Robyn had an excellent chicken pitta.
We then wandered around town, stopping for a little browse in a second hand book shop where Robyn (note: not me) added to our supply of books, admiring the outdoor art by John Hooper that I had also seen in Ottawa and looking in one or two craft shops. Robyn then decided she wanted to try a Beavertail, there being a stand in the park, as I had mentioned them from Ottawa. This one we shared and it was actually a lot more palatable than the Ottawa one, as it was thinner and crunchier.
Our final stop of the day was at Rockwood Park, which is a very large park, designed by the same person that designed Central Park, on the outskirts of the city. We took a short walk along the lake and up to an underwhelming viewpoint before driving back to the house along the ‘scenic’ route.
Today was a wonderful day. We left the house without saying goodbye to our hosts who hadn’t emerged from their room. The sky was blue and the sun was shining as we drove towards Fundy National Park, which we reached about an hour and a half later.
We stopped to admire a lake and then Fundy Bay itself, before arriving at the Visitor Centre where they relieved us of some money and gave us a map in exchange. Our first, very small walk was to a waterfall that didn’t even warrant a photograph, although the lady in the Visitor Centre seemed anxious that we see it. We then drove on and parked at the entrance to the Mathews Head trail.
This trail was a couple of hours of easy hiking through forestry to Mathews Head and then along the coast to Squaws Cap look out. Whilst we were at the furthermost point of the trail, a couple of Park Rangers appeared with a wheelbarrow and a red chair, which was to replace the blue ones that were currently there. Apparently, someone in the office had decreed that the chairs should now be red so they were all being changed! It was quite a mission for the rangers to manoeuvre along the track and over the tree roots and they had a number to do so I didn’t envy them. Robyn had been admiring these chairs as we had seen them at all the lookouts in the parks. They are extremely comfortable and I could do with some at home!
We had quite a chat to the rangers, who were extremely friendly, as all Canadians seem to be, and then continued onwards. Once back at the car, we decided to go to Herring Cove, at the end of the road, and walk down to the beach for a little fossick amongst the rocks.
After this, we were starving, so headed to Alma for a very late lunch. This is a small fishing village at the edge of the park that is famous for its sticky buns (delicious) and its lobster and scallops. Unfortunately, as I had learned from the rangers, the season didn’t start until 15 October. I was most aggrieved. Lobster still seemed readily available though so I assume it was frozen.
We settled on seafood chowder and fish cakes in a virtually empty restaurant (not surprising as, by then, it was a very strange time to be eating) and declined the desserts, as we had our sticky buns. After a quick wander, we hit the road again and aimed for Hopewell Rocks, which have been formed as a result of compression over thousands of years and very strong tides.
The park was closed when we arrived but we, along with a number of others, went ahead anyway and walked down to the beach, where it was now low tide. It was quite a walk down and we spent some time wandering around, admiring the view of the ‘Chocolate’ River estuary and the rocks themselves.
It was getting dark by the time we were underway again and it was almost 8pm before we reached the motel, having stopped at the supermarket along the way. I wondered if we had gone to the right motel when we arrived as it seemed far more luxurious than some of our other abodes. Sure enough, it was the right place and it was more luxurious! However, it was actually cheaper than some of the other more seedy places we had been in. Miracles do happen and we have to make the most of them! Needless to say, the rest of the evening, such as it was, was very comfortable.
We had a very late start this morning as, for some reason, I thought it was an hour earlier than it was. We had the housekeeping staff knocking on the door before we were even dressed!
It was another beautiful day as we started our drive to Halifax, with the aid of the French speaking sat nav lady with the strange accent, who lives in Robyn’s phone and who got very irate and then sulked when we took the scenic route instead of the autoroute. However, she deigned to assist us again once we were back where she wanted us to be.
We arrived in Halifax at about 3pm by which time we were both quite hungry, so the first stop was a cafe. Afterwards, we wandered along the waterfront with the myriad of cruise ship passengers and admired the view. On first impression, it is a very attractive city with a large deep water port which appears to be very busy, not just with cruise ships but cargo boats as well.
Afterwards, we made our way to our accommodation for the night, which is another Airbnb. We were warmly greeted by our host, Roz, but the room is in a basement, a bit dark and did not do wonders for my already frazzled frame of mind after coping with the traffic. Her small dog also seemed to like being on the settee, which I also object to (and wasn’t in a tolerant mood). The atmosphere consequently was a little tense!
A bit later, we decided to go to the Food Truck Party that Roz had told me about. This was a short drive away (parking problematic again) but worth it. There were a number of trucks there and extremely long queues for some of them. We settled on a Mexican bowl of some sort (very tasty) and attempted to get doughnuts but the queue didn’t seem to move so we gave up. Afterwards, it was back to the room, which didn’t seem quite so bad with ‘mood’ lighting!
After a very large breakfast and a long chat to Roz, we caught the bus into the City Centre and then, using the transfer tickets that we obtained from the bus driver, caught the ferry over to Dartmouth. (When you use a bus or metro, here, you can get a ticket that allows you to go on another bus/train/ferry for free within the next couple of hours.)
After a short walk along the waterfront, which was a little disappointing as the had map indicated we could walk all the way along when, in fact, the path ended very quickly, we then hopped back on the ferry to the city. There didn’t appear to be a huge amount happening in Dartmouth but it is always good to see a place from the water!
Robyn was hungry again so, after dithering around the food stalls on the waterfront and then going to the brewery where there was a tour guide in full swing, we decided to get a bus to Hydrostone Market and away from the cruise ship passengers. Hydrostone is an area that was rebuilt after the Halifax Explosion in 1917 when 2 vessels, one a French munitions ship, collided in the harbour, causing a huge explosion and killing 1,600 people.
I had got the impression that the market was a particular building but, in fact, it was a whole area with a number of small shops. We picked on a Thai/Asian fusion sort of place and had a very good noodle lunch, sitting in the sun.
Afterwards, we caught the bus back towards the centre and walked up the hill to the Citadel, which is a fortress in the middle of town. All we could see, without paying to go in, were the grassy areas outside, which, admittedly, had a lovely view of the surrounding area. Apparently, inside, there is a changing of the guard every hour, bagpipes and drums ‘concerts’ and a tattoo festival, held there. Halifax is an attractive city and, seemingly, has a lot of art and activities, with a number of festivals of varying sorts held throughout the year.
Having admired the view, we continued on and down to the Public Gardens, which are very Victorian in style. It was late afternoon/early evening by this stage and still very warm, so we had a lovely meander through the park and then sat and had coffee/hot chocolate overlooking the bandstand. There were quite a number of other people enjoying the evening there as well.
It was back to the house after this, catching a bus, which took its time arriving and which was very full. I got a seat next to a young lady who must have been the slowest, most awkward looking knitter on the planet! She was knitting a scarf and I didn’t like to tell her that at the rate she was going it might be finished by the end of next summer! Knitting (and crafts generally) are quite predominant here. In fact, I am missing a class that is taking place next Saturday, where they are teaching you how to do illusional knitting, which I had never heard of. Apparently, in one light it looks stripey and in another there is an image. An interesting concept….
It was yet another beautiful day and we headed off to Peggys Cove, Mahone Bay and Lunenberg, which are all east of Halifax. We started quite late and drove through some very beautiful scenery, past coves and through small villages.
Peggys Cove, when we arrived, was teeming with people, which took us a little by surprise. Consequently, I drove in and drove out! We did, however, stop at the Swissair Memorial that was a little way up the road, which marked the going down of a Swissair plane off the coast in 1998. This area certainly seems a little prone to disasters – not only the Swissair plane, but also the Titanic and the Halifax Explosion.
A little further on and I suddenly noticed, out of the corner of my eye as I raced passed, a bakery that was painted bright pink, green, red and yellow stripes so turned around so that we could buy some lunch. It transpired that it had won all sorts of awards and was therefore very busy. We bought sandwiches and cakes for lunch and continued on.
It was definitely the scenic route. We eventually arrived at Mahone Bay at about 3.30pm, having been delayed not only by the windy road but also by a marathon/some sort of race, which meant that traffic slowed to a couple of kilometres an hour for several miles.
Mahone Bay was an attractive small town. We sat by the water and ate our extremely large and tasty sandwiches and then spent some time in a pewter shop/workshop, which was very interesting.
Having come this far, we had to visit Lunenberg, which was very close, even though it was after 5pm and time to turn around and head back. We were very pleased we did though as it was yet another very attractive area with a lovely waterfront. We would like to have stayed longer but we had decided to try and see the sunset at Peggys Cove so it wasn’t long before we were back on the (main) road to try and reach it before sunset.
The sun went down whilst we were still on the way. However, it was, nevertheless, still beautiful and there were still a large number of tourists there! We took some photos, admired the view and headed back to Halifax in the dark.
I was ready for bed by this time but Robyn ended up going to Glow in the Dark Bingo with the Korean girl that was also staying at the house. Consequently, we all went to sleep very late!