Tag Archives: Ferry

No Fundy Sundy

Sundy Sunday 2 October 2022 – Our itinerary for today featured, as its main event, a tour round the Bay of Fundy, a bay some 90km north of Halifax, on the border with New Brunswick. “Tour” in this case, meant a hike of about 17km in total, and the reason for going there was to witness the tides, which are the highest in the world – as much as 50 feet between low and high water levels. We had instructions to present ourselves at the Maritime Museum entrance, about 15 minutes’ walk away, at 0830. So we got up nice and early (‘coz we’re on bloody holiday) and shot down to the hotel lobby at 0730 to discover that breakfast on Sunday didn’t start until 0800.


There wasn’t much we could do about that, so we just dressed ourselves up in the expectations of a cool (10°C) windy (northerly, 20mph) day (yes, I know that’s mixed unit systems. Deal with it) and set off breakfastless to our rendezvous.

Which didn’t happen. No-one turned up to collect us.*

To be honest, we weren’t altogether surprised. Jane had tried to contact the operators of this particular tour to confirm things, and there had been no answer on their phone number over a couple of days. We gave them until 0900 and then gave up, but used the time in going back to the hotel to see a few new things on the streets of Halifax that we’d missed before: artworks;

a shack which would offer the Canadian national dish were it open, which thankfully it wasn’t;

more artworks;

some buildings of curiosity – the Pacifico Dance Club and the Press Block, the remains of which are shored up in dramatic fashion in order to act as façade for new apartments yet to be built;

and a chance to get some photos on the Grand Parade unobstructed by the celebrations of other folk – the town hall, the monument and St. Paul’s Anglican Church, the oldest building in Halifax and the oldest Anglican Church in Canada.

So we got our breakfast after all. Having partaken, we rested a while and then went out for a walk. Obviously.

Before we had our chat with Tim the concierge, he had been giving another couple some tips about places to go and things to do. Jane had earwigged this and used it formulate a Plan B – take the ferry across the harbour to Dartmouth and take a late lunch at a restaurant called the Wooden Monkey. So we walked to the Ferry Terminal via the Historic Properties

which now house various small boutique-y businesses.

I noted this highly retro offering in the ferry terminal.

The ferry is astoundingly good value for money. Two dollars will get you across the water to the Alderney Landing in Dartmouth and that price also includes what they call the “transfer” – a return journey if undertaken within two hours of the start. The only hurdle put in our way was that not only did they only accept cash, but also you had to proffer the exact amount. We managed to get some notes from an ATM (which was erroneously marked as Out of Service) and thus some change from a change machine, but this was the first time that only cash was acceptable for such a long time that I had given up taking any with us.

Anyhoo… the ferry journey gives some decent views in the 10 minutes it’s in motion: views of Halifax city

(our hotel visible between the two buildings), including the large Casino complex;

a view of the Alderney Landing, unsurprisingly;

and a view of the two major bridges across the water, the Macdonald Bridge and, through it, the Mackay Bridge.

Seeing the two bridges gave an opportunity to reflect on something I’d never come across before we visited Canada (first mention of it was in my brother Chris’s blog post on his earlier visit here) – the Halifax Explosion of 1917, the largest man-made explosion before the first atomic bomb. On the morning of 6 December 1917, the French cargo ship SS Mont-Blanc collided with the Norwegian vessel SS Imo in the area between where those two bridges now stand. The Mont-Blanc, laden with high explosives, caught fire and exploded, devastating the Richmond district of Halifax. 1,782 people were killed, largely in Halifax and Dartmouth, by the blast, debris, fires, or collapsed buildings, and an estimated 9,000 others were injured, many by flying glass. It’s amazing that I’d never heard of this incident until this year.

Dartmouth is quite a large area in Halifax, but the downtown part near the ferry terminal is quite limited. We had time before our restaurant reservation, so we walked around a bit. Obviously. There’s a waterside trail which features a couple of curiosities: the propeller of HMCS Macdonald, broken by ice when assisting another vessel in crossing the North West Passage (astonishingly the damage was only discovered later in dry dock);

the World Peace Pavilion, dating from the 1995 Global Economic Summit and containing symbols of peace from nations around the globe;

and a decent view back over to Halifax.

We had an excellent meal in the Wooden Monkey,

(above – the lift lobby going up to it from the ferry terminal)

which takes local produce and environmental issues very seriously. My theory about the restaurant name was that it was called such because it wooden monkey around with the quality of its offerings (actually, we were told that it came into being in the Chinese Year of the Monkey when wood was the element associated with that year).

Afterwards, wandering back for the return ferry journey, we came across more artworks.

It really is a pleasure to see such trouble being taken, pretty much wherever we’ve been in Canada – and Alaska – to use art in various forms to make places more attractive. I hadn’t got a mental picture of Halifax before I arrived, but such a bounty of interesting and quirky touches was not something I had expected, and they make it a nice place to be.

Whilst waiting for the ferry to go back to the city, I caught sight of this chap in a wheelchair, nonchalantly doing stationary wheelies; very impressive balance and control.

And, as we walked back to the hotel, we passed yet another mural that we hadn’t seen before.

We decided to try to find a Pedway route back to the hotel, doing which gave us this final nugget about the city.

One hopes the future will see the place developing and improving itself even further. It’s been a pleasure discovering the city. Even though we missed out on the Bay of Fundy hike, we’ve had a really nice two days here.

We leave tomorrow to go to the final new adventure before we return home – St. Johns, Newfoundland. Here’s hoping that our last couple of days on this nine-week odyssey will be a pleasant conclusion to what has been an excellent holiday. Join us, if you will, to find out….

* It turns out that there has been a miscommunication between the various agencies behind our intricate and ever-evolving itinerary. Our UK agency had thought the Canadian agency had nailed it down whereas the local operator had cancelled. It’s a shame, but it did mean we had a more relaxed day here.

Well Empressed with Victoria

Saturday 20 August 2022 – The plan for the day was pretty straightforward – catch a coach to take us to a ferry to take us across the Straits of Georgia to Victoria, on Vancouver Island, dead south of Vancouver city itself.

A coach duly appeared and we climbed on board, to find that we were the first passengers to be picked up and that there would be several more stops to collect more before we got to the ferry.  The driver made the ride very entertaining, and not by the usual means of commentary about landmarks or other tourist matters of interest.  Jane immediately picked up from a few spoken words that he was a Brit, and it soon became clearer, even without him saying very much more; it was the way he drove.  Drivers in North America, and particularly bus and coach drivers, have a very relaxed way of getting around, waiting patiently at lights or for decently long gaps in the traffic before carrying on.  Our driver, Paul, who turned out to be originally from Guildford, drove like a Brit: edging forward at lights before they changed; edging out at junctions and going for small gaps in the traffic; and generally taking no prisoners as he swung the bus around.

As well as that, since we were sitting just behind him, we could hear the muttered commentary he was making about other road users as he went along.  It didn’t help that his efficiency – for he was undoubtedly an experienced and competent driver – got him to the cruise terminal for his penultimate pickup some ten minutes early, so he sardonically explained that he was driving round the blocks to pass the time, and wasn’t actually lost.  This is Paul, at his final pickup, where he was impatiently awaiting the final people to turn up and board his bus.

When he was using the microphone to talk to the passengers, Paul was (largely) exemplary and free from editorialising. But in other places, when pedestrians were slow to cross the road, or when other drivers dithered or drove erratically, his subvocalised comments were very pithy.  The ferry terminal was chaos because several sailings had been cancelled due to lack of staff, and his comments about that, and the argument he had with officialdom, contributed greatly to the entertainment value of the ride.  The queue of cars, and indeed of hopeful passengers waiting to board, was not insignificant.

Paul’s view was that not everyone would be allowed on board our ferry, and that we should give ourselves a pat on the back for being on the bus, which had a guaranteed place.

The ferry we rode was a big one, capable of carrying over 2,000 passengers.  For most of it, we simply sat in a lounge, though the coffee that Jane went to buy was very welcome and the chat we had with a chap called Bob, originally from Manchester some 40 years ago, was diverting. Also somewhat disconcerting was a sign at each urinal in the gents.

Sources tell me that these signs were up in the ladies, too.

After an hour or so of crossing open sea, we neared land and popped out to take a couple of photos.

Paul found out that there was a big bicycling event, the Tour de Victoria, on, for which local roads in downtown Victoria would be closed, so, in his characteristic way he set our expectations low about how much fun the journey would be.  However, in the end, the roads he needed to use to get to his drop off points were eerily quiet, so he reached the grandly-named Capital City Bus Station with ease.  This actually turned out to be no more than a place where three buses could pull up behind each other, but no matter.  From our point of view it was Our Stop and so we collected our luggage and wheeled it round to the front of our hotel, an enormous slab of masonry called the Fairmont Empress.

Outside, it had lawns of great lushness – a distinct contrast from the dried up turf we’d seen elsewhere – and inside a sizeable reception atrium.

Our room is nice enough; not huge, but with rather a decent view over the harbour.

Our original plan had been to take it easy for the rest of the day, as we have a couple of days here getting up to various things.  But the weather was so lovely that we couldn’t resist going out for a quick walk around and to check up on where we had to check in for those activities.  We passed a harbourside restaurant called Milestones, which could fit us in in about 10 minutes, so we used that time to wander about and take a couple of photos of an undeniably photogenic location.

At lunch, one of the gins on offer was Empress Gin.  The name is not a co-incidence; apparently the Empress Hotel collaborated in its elaboration, and provide the pea blossoms that enable it to turn colour from its naked state

when you add tonic.

(Empress Hotel in the background – see what we did there?)

After lunch we wandered round some more.  There was Something Going On whilst we were lunching which involved some really quite ghastly screeching and caterwauling that was accompanied by a band.  Someone clearly fancied themselves as Clare Torry, but “The Great Gig In The Sky” it was not.  Fortunately this unfocussed keening was eventually replaced by something a bit more ear-friendly, so we wandered over to gawk. The source turned out to be a part of  Victoria’s first ever BIPOC music festival. BIPOC means Black, Indigenous and People of Colour and the festival is an event by BC Black History Awareness Society.

We also visited the Netherlands Centennial Carillon, cunningly arriving there just as it struck 5.

There are 11 carillons in Canada.  I don’t know why.

I think we’re rather going to like Victoria – certainly around the harbour area, it’s very attractive, and there are any number of interesting statues around,

even in the very edges of steps and lawns.

Cars are not the only mode of transport

and there are some lovely displays of flowers and topiary by the Empress.

There was a nice sunset

and when darkness fell, we took a further wander to see if what we had been told earlier, that the Legislature Building was nicely illuminated at night, was true.

Since we were out (and, to be frank, since the noise from the festival was going to stop us from getting any sleep) we extended our walk along Government Street, which was extremely lively.

Even as late as 9.30pm, many shops were open

and, it being Saturday night, there was a great buzz about the place. Thankfully by the time we had finished our meanderings the loud festival music had stopped!

We shall discover more over the next couple of days.  We  have a couple of formal tourist activities planned, but it looks like there’s much scope for wandering around and stumbling across good things. So please check in to see what we got up to and what we found.