We were scheduled to make the following stops on our 12-day voyage across the big ocean:
- The Azores
- St. Johns, Newfoundland
- St. Pierre & Miquelon
- Sydney, Nova Scotia
- Halifax, Nova Scotia
- Bar Harbor, Maine
You know from my previous post that due to really bad colds, Joyce and I didn’t see anything that the Azores had to offer except for the port office where we could latch onto free wifi for a few minutes before heading back to our beds! Below is a photo I grabbed off the web showing what we missed – beautiful, isn’t it?
Well it turned out those on the ship who signed up for their excursion missed seeing it as well. The weather was terrible! It was raining and foggy. Those that tried to maneuver the path to the edge of the overlook wished they hadn’t as it was very slippery and dangerous. So if we had to be sick and miss a stop, this was the one to miss.
Four days of nothing on the horizon but water makes for four days of rest, reading, eating and getting much better. When we arrived on a perfectly gorgeous day in St. John’s, Newfoundland, we were ready to get off the boat and explore!
St. John’s is the oldest post-Columbian European settlement in North America, with fishermen setting up seasonal camps in the early 16th century. Modern day found an American Army Air Force Base here during the World War II. The area was terribly hurt by the collapse in the 1990’s of the northern cod fishery but in recent times, their proximity to the Hibernia, Terra Nova and White Rose oil fields led to an economic boom that spurred population growth and commercial development. As a result, the St. John’s area now accounts for about half of the province’s economic output.
Not far from the ship was parked a Pepto-pink 25-passenger van calling itself Newfoundland’s only hop-on-hop-off bus! For $15 we could tour the area for an hour and a half with a guide who sang and played the accordian – seriously – thankfully when not driving! We hopped on and thoroughly enjoyed this way to see much more of the area than we would have any other way.
We finished our visit to St. John’s with a absolutely delicious fresh seafood chowder and local brew. We would have loved to have spent the rest of our time onshore shopping but it was a national holiday and everything was closed! Not good planning on the ship’s part as I know just how much the local economy depends on the tourist dollars.
This island is a self-governing territorial collectivity of France. With a population of around 6,000 full-time residents, the language spoken here is French and the Euro is the currency. What I can’t tell you what we saw during this stop – as it never happened.
Now is the time that I tell you that for the rest of our voyage we were dodging the possibility of meeting a little hurricane by the name of Dorian head-on! It had already caused havoc in the Caribbean and was barreling up the East Coast of the USA.
The forefront of this storm was making for waves so large that the our visit to St. Pierre and Miquelon had to be cancelled as we were to be tendered from the ship to shore. The captain cancelled our stop at almost the last minute and chose to cruise on to Sydney, Nova Scotia where the port with a large dock was available to tie up. We heard lots of complaints from our shipmates as many had taken this cruise specifically because of its planned stop on this rarely visited island.
As you will note from the above photo, the weather was not cooperating. Though Sydney is located in the stunning Cape Breton area of Nova Scotia, the town is quite small. What draws folks here is the well-known and stunning coastline Cabot Trail. Unfortunately, this is a full-day excursion and with the Captain cutting our on-shore time short due to the weather conditions, no Cabot Trail tours were available. We chose to make this a day to catch-up with emails and news from home.
We lugged our computers into a cute coffee shop in the middle of town and spent several hours sipping hot tea, getting crumbs on our keyboards from fresh-baked scones and catching up with the world.
Lunch was at a nice restaurant dockside where we discovered the locals had set-up a craft fair just for the ship’s population. I found a beautiful sterling silver, hand-made, irregular-links necklace that I am sure you will see me wearing lots in the near future.
I mentioned earlier that one of the joys of traveling the world is the people you meet along the way. Last winter during my getaway to the beach in La Manzanilla, Mexico , I meet my wonderful downstairs neighbors, Suzanna and Greg, who were from Halifax, Nova Scotia. When I told them I was headed their way in September, they said be sure and contact them so they could show me around! You just know I would take them up on their kind offer!
Greg, a lawyer, was in the middle of a big litigation we we arrived, so his beautiful bride Suzanna picked us up early in the morning at the dock. We were off for a wonderful day of exploring Halifax and the surrounding area with a most knowledgeable of guides.
Our first stop was Peggy’s Cove. Known for its lighthouse and extremely weird and enormous rocks, this small fishing village has been overwhelmed with tourists. Though we arrived early in the day, the place was already packed with bus-loads of visitors. But that didn’t stop us from thoroughly enjoying our time there.
I do have share with my women readers one of the best photos I snapped. You all know how we have to stand in line forever waiting to get into ‘the ladies’ while men just breeze in and out of their facilities. Peggy’s Cove was the exception and I had to make a photographic record of the line outside ‘the mens’ while the ladies breezed right by!
Just down the road, we stopped to see the memorial and pay our respects to the 229 passengers and crew who lost their lives on Swiss Air 111 on September 2, 1998. The crash was just 8 kilometers offshore and entire population and Peggy’s Cove and nearby Bayswater took to their boats to help in anyway they could.
We returned to the bustling and very beautiful downtown area of Halifax. We made a tour around Citadel Hill National Park. This hilltop, where the British established a fortress in 1729, gave them the extended views to defend Halifax’s very important harbor from enemy evasion.
Suzanna even was kind enough to take us to her lovely home for a potty break and a tour of her typical Halifax neighborhood before heading for a delightful lunch at their family tennis/swim club. The weather was perfect, the food was delicious and the view toward downtown, spectacular. We couldn’t thank Suzanna enough for giving us so many hours from her busy schedule to show us an up-close a very personable view of her hometown.
On our walk back to the ship we slowly strolled past shops, restaurants and some rather sad-look light fixtures. One in particular looks as if it just gave up and laid down!
I would happily return to Halifax. It is a beautiful city and there is so much more of Nova Scotia to see that you miss when only stopping by for a day.
Our next, and last stop on our Atlantic crossing was Bar Harbor, Maine. This typical Down East town is located on the Mount Desert Island. Before a catastrophic fire in 1947, Bar Harbor was known as the summer home of America’s extremely wealthy. With most of their homes destroyed, the rich moved on to other locations and today it is well-known as the gateway to one of our most-visited national parks, Acadia.
We tendered in from the ship on small boats. Seeing the ship from under the bow gives you a whole new perspective of just how big the ship really is!
And Bar Harbor looked just like I had always thought a Maine fishing village would look!
I had booked a half-day tour of Acadia before we left the States so all we had to do was find our departure point and hop on the bus! We had a great driver/guide and learned so much about how the area became a national park. It was truly beautiful and fun to see our ship docked below Cadillac Mountain on crystal blue water.
We returned to town for a very typical and must-eat lobster-roll lunch! The Fall Art Fair was in progress and we enjoyed wandering through, chatting with the artists and seeing some exceptional artwork before returning for our last night onboard ship. (Note the wreath pictured below was made entirely of lobster claws!)
Once onboard, the Captain let us know that he would be going full-speed to Boston, hoping to get us there before Hurricane Dorian made landfall. Whoa! That announcement sure made for an uneasy last night on board the ship.
We made it safely into Boston Harbor during the middle of the night. Dorian left Boston with lots of rain and very chilly temperatures as it headed to Bar Harbor. It did little damage there but the next day hit Halifax head-on. Thankfully, our friends were ok but Halifax suffered some major damage.
The next morning Joyce and I departed the ship at different times. The shuttle buses that were taking us to the airport were based on when our flights were departing, which for us were a couple of hours apart and departing from different terminals at Logan International Airport.
It’s always hard to say goodbye! After almost 4 full months together it was so strange to realize Joyce wouldn’t be there when I woke up the next day, ready to head out and explore some place new.
It was also hard to adjust to dry land, not packing up and moving someplace new every few days or hearing a language other than English when I walked out the door. Bad news – I was still fighting my ‘upper respiratory infection’ which took almost 2 months and another round of much stronger antibiotics to finally cure. Good news – my orthopedist told me that my scheduled September 16th knee replacement surgery didn’t seem to be necessary after all – at least not at this time.
After spending a wonderful week just readjusting to normal life with good friends Janet and Bob at my Wilmington residence, I headed up to Burnsville, North Carolina, smack in the middle of the Blue Ridge Mountains, where I am presently renting the guest house of my good friends, Karen and Don.
Since arriving in mid-September, I made a trip to San Miguel de Allende to pick up some winter clothes, see friends and move my stuff into a more secure and much cleaner storage unit where it will stay until I can return in the Spring and find a permanent home.
I had a great time trick or treating over Halloween with my grands in southern California and will spend Thanksgiving with my East coast son and his family. I fly to Chicago for Christmas and will begin a 2-week housesit in Wrigleyville (Go Cubs!) on the 26th. From there it’s back to Europe with visits to Belfast, Amsterdam, Brussels and maybe Ferragudo. Housesits are scheduled for the Isle of Man, Oxford, England, and possibly one in Prague. Right now my plan is to return to Mexico on or about April 1st!
My choice of a nomadic life wandering, seeing and learning so much about our big, beautiful world continues. And I promise to continue take you along with me in words and pictures. But for now I’m going to say goodbye to posting for awhile so you and I can enjoy a Happy Thanksgiving, a very Merry Christmas and Joyous New Year!
I do hope you have enjoyed traveling along on this past summer’s wondrous adventure.
Until next time…..