Day 13: Hopewell Rocks and Moncton

Today we drove from Halifax to Moncton to Hopewell Cape to see Hopewell Rocks.

Hopewell Rocks are on the Bay of Fundy, and are where you can see the highest tides in the world. You can also walk on the sea floor and look up at giant rock formations.

The tidal erosions form giant flowerpots out of the rocks at the site. So you have a combination of giant rock formations, and the impressive visuals of the waterline well above your head as you walk on the sea floor.

To get a sense of the highest tides in the world we were told it’s about as high as a four story building.

We’re on the 5th floor of the hotel we’re staying in – and looking down to the ground I’m getting a good sense of just how much water must move in and out of the Bay of Fundy every few hours. Lots.


The Seafood Chowder Challenge

Throughout the trip out East, Travelling Companion has been ordering Seafood Chowder. Every time she gets it I’ve asked her to talk to me about it and see what makes for a good seafood chowder and what makes for, well, a not so great seafood chowder.

What we’ve noticed so far is that the PEI based chowders are “thicker” soups – kind of like you’d see with a creme of mushroom or a creme of broccoli. In Nova Scotia the seafood chowders have a more “watery” consistency. So they’re more like vegetable soups with chunks of seafood.

I’m going to write down places we’ve bought seafood chowder and ask her for some quotes about each. (As I don’t like seafood I’ll just gather the information) This is 12 days into our trip, so TC’s memory is going back a bit:

1. Gahan House, Charlottetown PEI: Everyone remembers their first chowder. TC: “Ummm, I remember thinking it had the most herbs in it. Did it have bacon in it? Only one of them had bacon and that was the Grubstake.”

2. Water Prince Corner Shop, Charlottetown PEI: “It was too thick – like it had been cooking too long. it actually didn’t have that much flavour. It tasted like you would expect a mass produced variety to be like – if you opened a can. I didn’t like that one.”

3. Sandbox Grill, Cavendish PEI: “Umm – I only had a cup. I think it was quite thick. I wasn’t too crazy about it.”

4. A small East Indian restaurant/cafe in Antigonish, NS: She really liked this one. I thought because it was “watery” that it wouldn’t be as good. But TC said she really really liked it. TC:  “That one was really good. It was watery and hot — and it had noticable chunks of celery and carrots and big bits of potato. Really good flavour.”

5. Grubstake Restaurant, Louisbourg NS: “Grubstake was awesome because it had bacon in it, and it was watery. It had a good homemade taste. It had nice big hunks of fish. Noticiable hunks of fish. Like salmon, and haddock. The only thing i didn’t like was they used baby shrimp – and I prefer giant shrimp. I remember it being super good.”

6. Economy Shoe Shop, Halifax NS: “Did I have chowder there? I don’t think I had chowder.” Sorry. I got it wrong.

7. Dockside Pub I forget the name of in Halifax NS: “Heart and Thistle? [COLLINS SPELLS IT WRONG – corrected by TC] H-A-R-T. It was watery broth – it tasted very fresh. It was nice because they put two mussels in the shell in it. It was only in a cup.”

8. Sou’Wester, Peggy’s Cove: “The only one I noticed that had lobster in it. It was also kind of watery – It had paprika sprinkled across the top that made it kind of nice.”

9. Lakeside Grill in Halifax NS: Okay she didn’t order the seafood chowder here. She had a turkey soup. Perhaps she’s had enough of seafood chowder. However, tonight she ordered a seafood pasta that she loved.

Okay i’ve asked her to rank them in top 3  – in the order from her most enjoyable:

1. “Probably that Antigonish place.”

2. Grubstake.

3. Gahan house.

“Maybe the Peggy’s Cove was better than the Gahan house. So, maybe Peggy’s Cove would be higher. That was their specialty and it was good.”

3. Sou’Wester (Peggy’s Cove).

So there you have it.

We continue on to Moncton tomorrow, so if there’s a good seafood chowder up there, we can add it to the long list of chowders that she has enjoyed along our trip thus far.

Days 10, 11, and 12: Halifax

Here are our Halifax highlights:

1. looking up our grandparents’ (and Travelling Companion’s mom’s) boats that they emigrated to Canada on at Pier 21. The people who work at the research centre are very helpful and very quick. I mentioned the boat, and our helper had information in less than a minute.

2. seeing James Wolfe’s cloak at the Halifax Citadel. (!!!!!!!!!)  It was the cloak he wore on the Plains of Abraham in 1759, and on which he was lain after he was killed in action. I had no idea it was here in Halifax. It is on loan from the Queen of England. It was very fitting to see it, as on our way home we’ll be stopping in Quebec City (TC has never been there) where I’ll be taking her to see the Plains.

The Halifax Citadel itself was interesting. It’s constructed in the same manner as the citadel in Quebec, as well as Fort Henry in Kingston. The Halifax Citadel marks the last place that the British Army was stationed in defence of Canada. In 1906 they left, and we took responsibility for our own defence.

3. seeing Sidney Crosby’s childhood home (as mentioned in a previous blog entry) as well as the famous Crosby family dryer at the Nova Scotia Sports Hall of Fame. The dryer was in the Crosby family basement and is covered with puck marks and the buttons are broken off.

4. dinner at a restaurant called Il Mercato. It was very good. Also attached to this (seeing as it’s the food entry on this list) was going across to Dartmouth after dinner one night to visit the Celtic Corner for a drink, then to come back again to Halifax on the ferry –in part so we could live out that Joel Plaskett line “I took the Dartmouth ferry into the town….”

5. The stay at the Chocolate Lake Best Western — which is the second hotel we stayed at here in Halifax. The CLBW is located on a lake, has clean, spacious rooms. And a very good staff of people who are helpful. The restaurant was good as well (we had a nice lunch there one day). We wished we spent the whole time here.

6. The sunset at Peggy’s Cove. Yes after seeing the lighthouse in Louisbourg I thought that i had seen enough lighthouses. But the Peggy’s Cove lighthouse is, well, spectacular. It’s clinging to rocks. The rocks are pounded by the ocean. And it’s very windy. And it’s beautiful to look at.

7. Visiting Canada’s last corvette: The Sackville. The corvettes were the guard dogs of the Atlantic convoy crossings in WWII. The helped protect men, materials, and foodstuffs as they were transported from North America to Britain. They fought against U-boats. And they were pretty small ships. It was sad to think that while there was a busker fest going on and there were thousands of people lining the boardwalks of Halifax that, for most of my visit, I had the Sackville to myself. While on the ship, you really get a sense of how turbulant a trip on a corvette would have been. Even docked I could feel the ship moving when below deck. When you look at pictures of corvettes in action, you see them really getting moved by the waves. Their primary weapons were depth charges. And after that, well, there are stories of a corvette actually ramming a U-boat in order to sink it. After reading about them (and hearing from guide at the Canadian War Museum in Ottawa talk at length about them on a visit there last summer) it was a great experience to actually walk around, and go on one.


Walking back today from having our final walk around town (seeing the Province House, which said it was Canada’s first legislature and opened in 1819) I had to laugh when I heard one of the many buskers in town yell over a microphone during his performance: “I’m from Australia and I’m a freak.” So yes, it seems that Halifax could safetly call it the Australian busker fest.


I continue to try to update the trip — and I’m a couple of days behind.

On day 9 we left Louisbourg and drove past Sydney Nova Scotia, down Cape Breton Island, towards Halifax.

Oh – very quick.Forgot to mention a few things about Louisbourg.

While in Louisbourg we did take in some local entertainment. We saw a play/concert called “One Night in a Cape Breton Kitchen”. It had elements of comedy, music, and cookies. (They give you cookies and tea during the intermission.)

It was entertaining. The crowd was mostly people who were tourists (like us) so they didn’t really get into the music. (So they didn’t stomp their feet, or clap their hands to the rhythm of the music.) We lucked out to sit beside two locals who were very enthusiastic for the performances.

As well we drove out to visit the Louisbourg lighthouse.

The current lighthouse is the third lighthouse on the site. The first one (if i recall correctly) was from the early 1700s (the same time period the fortress was built) and so the lighthouse in Louisbourg has the distinction of being the oldest one in Canada. Very cool.

We went around sundown and TC got some great shots of the lighthouse, with rocks and greenery around it.

Okay – back to the trip to Halifax.

We drove past Sydney, and through Cape Breton Island and made our way to Halifax. (This drive too took much longer than the Google maps suggested time.)

We stopped in Enfield for a car wash (I was driving a ball of mud.)

As we’re driving toward Halifax, we see Cole Harbour. TC gets very excited. You see, Cole Harbour is the home town of Sidney Crosby. And Travelling Companion is a huge Penguins fan.

As well, the day we were driving through was actually Sidney Crosby’s birthday. (August 7)

So it was fitting that we go to Cole Harbour. We saw the rink where Sid played as a kid. We also photograph the sign that says “Home of Sidney Crosby.” TC also pointed out a Subway where Sid would go, as well as their local Sobey’s.

The highlight, however, was when we drove by his parent’s house. It’s on a nice, quiet residential street. And TC even says she saw a hockey net in their backyard.

We continued on to Halifax where we checked into a downtown hotel. I’m not going to mention it by name because it was a poor hotel experience.

I had high hopes for this hotel, they had promised a harbour view when I made the reservation. As well, as a brand, they’ve branded many of their hotel experiences (from shower heads to towels etc) so to seem that they’re going to be good.

At any rate, this hotel overpromised and underdelivered. The worst combination.

We checked in. The rooms they had left/available were, umm, not great. The woman at the front desk who was helping me was actually helpful, and honest. She described the room as “dungeon-like with a small window.” That’s exactly what it was.

The magical towels, or whatever they were supposed to be, were actually just run of the mill (a poor excuse for a weaving mill actually) low grade towels. And the shower head – well, actually was just okay (more a result of the poorer water pressure at this particular location.)

Wow. I’m taking a lot of time here on this. Suffice it to say, it wasn’t that great.

Our dinner the first night wasn’t great either. (It arrived late, cold, overcooked, the demi glace was just fat). But we had a great waiter who comped the offending meal in question. Even if it wasn’t a good meal, that waiter created a good customer experience.

Between the poor experiences at the downtown Halifax hotel and dinner on our first night, it really made Travelling Companion and I miss the meals and the accommodation we had in Prince Edward Island.

We also wandered into Halifax during the Busker festival.

Busking involves a large group of people gathering around a performer. The performer can be an individual or a group. The performances, from what I’ve seen, tend to either be about fire, getting out of straitjackets, balancing axes on your chin, or playing music that consists of a drum set and didgeridoo (spelling?).

Actually it’s fitting that one used a didgeridoo (again, spelling?) as all the performers seem to be from Australia. Okay – I heard one guy (he was on a unicycle) who may have been from Quebec. But the rest seem to have a) Australian accents and b) either a mowhawk or rocker mullet and some c) look like they could have been extras on Mad Max: The Road Warrior.

Day 7 and 8: Fortress of Louisbourg

Woke up early.

Went to the Fortress of Louisbourg.

They say you need at least three hours to visit. I took two days.

You arrive at the visitor’s centre, where you board buses to the Fort.

On day one it was very foggy. So as the fort came into view it had a ghostly feel to it. The buses drop you off and you experience a day in the life of the fort in 1744 – just when hostilities between France and Britain were resuming.

(It was attacked and taken by the British in 1745, returned to the French by treaty, and then attacked and taken again by the British  in 1758)

The Fort, as it currently stands, was constructed in the early 1960s in part to give jobs to unemployed coal miners. This reconstruction rebuilt 1/5th of the site.

The first day we took a walking tour, and visited the buildings to speak with the interpretors (people in period costume relaying information about their day-to-day lives in the Fort.)

The second day we took an archaeological tour of the ruins (parts of the other 4/5ths of the site). There are a lot of the parts of the fort that have been lost and destroyed because of the changing shoreline, crashing waves, and erosion – the work of nature.

What remains of the original buildings are foundations. These foundations are under fields of sod and growth. By the shoreline the foundations have been covered up with rocks that have been pushed ashore by the powerful waves of the Atlantic ocean.

While we were there, a group of archaeologists were unearthing both a French and a British powder magazine (The British built theirs when they occupied Louisbourg after 1745). To uncover the walls, the archaelogists had to move many rocks.

Earlier in the day I visited what had been a battery (Battery Royale) across the bay, and it consisted of piles of rocks and depressions in the earth. Again at this location the rocks had been pushed to their location by the powerful ocean.

As we walked around the site (the ruins) it was clear that Louisbourg could never be rebuilt to represent its original size – not just because of the sheer enormity of the work that would have to be done (never mind cost) but seeing that so much of the site was essentially swampy and/or threatened by the sea, it just isn’t practical.

It was also a realization of how much higher the ocean level is today than it was in the mid-18th Century.

As we walked around Louisbourg it also serves as a testament to how we look at historical sites in Canada.

The British levelled the place after the 1758 siege – because they didn’t want the French to be tempted to retake it/rebuild there. The British were content with their chosen fortress at Halifax, so they didn’t need/want to maintain Louisbourg.

For years the site was just rubble.

People came and took rock to build other buildings.

In the 1930s they build a museum. It’s design is very, umm, government of Canada. Complete with copper roof (you can picture it — sort of like a mini-parliament building style)

Inside the present day incarnation of this museum they have a good scale model of Louisbourg, as well as a recreation of what the museum would look like in the 30s. So it’s a museum, of a museum.

Which is exactly what the 1960s version of Louisbourg looks today.

It has that “rebuilding the past” historical approach that was 60s, 70s, and 80s. Buildings built on original foundations, with materials that would have been used at the time, so that visitors can get a sense of what life would be like back at a certain time.

For a really good example of this visit Ste. Marie Among the Hurons in Midland, Ontario. There were no structures that existed from that missionary. In the 1960s they rebuilt a whole missionary to show what it would look like. As a kid, I thought they were original buildings. But, no, they weren’t. It’s the same in Louisbourg. While the foundations are for the most part real, everything else is just a faithful reconstruction.

Which, going back to our archaeology example, this sort of reconstruction could be looked at as, well destructive by the way they treat the site today. Today’s approach may be compared to the archaeological walk. As in – y0u walk around, without trying to disturb too much of the site, and talk about what is there.

I think the other “museum in a museum” is the 1960s version of Louisbourg — just the way it was designed.

There is an exhibit (possibly my favourite “museum in a museum” moment) entitled the “Theme Lounge.”

Travelling Companion had no idea why I loved the Theme Lounge so much. She hated it.

I think I like it because it captures Louisbourg in the early 60s perfectly. It felt like opening a time capsule. It smelt kind of musty in there, so it could have been a time capsule.

In the Theme Lounge there are these plush chairs. They’re sort of orange. There are books. They’re pretty worn out. They probably are the same ones that were there in the 60s. There’s a small theatre area (with the same groovy plush chairs). The best part is probably the dead end that has one plush chair, one small side table, and an ancient pay phone (one that just has a slot for coins. No digital display, no place for a swipe card.)

A close second to this ‘museum within a museum’ theme would be the display they created about the creation of Louisbourg. Some highlights in this exhibit include the room with the microfiche machine (for display purposes only) and the one where they have a early 1960s “historian” who is hunched over a typewriter beside some books doing some research about the Fort.

All excellent.

Other things about Louisbourg (the Fort) that were great (and perhaps a bit more traditional):

– the enthusiasm of the interpreters. They had incredible passion for the subject material and stayed in character. It was entertaining, informative, and available in both official languages.

– the food! We at at all three places. Everything from the roast beef at L’Epee Royale to the turkey pot pie and soup at the other places was delicous and all in good 1744 fun. (TC loved this stuff.)

– the weather. Seeing it in fog and sun gave different feels for the fort. During one tour we saw a photo of the fort getting hit with waves in the winter time. It was quite incredible. I was happy to have visited in the summer. 🙂

Okay, it’s late, so I’ll continue to update in the next couple of days.

Day 6 and more: (yes i’ve been away from a computer for a while.)

Day Six:

We drove in the pouring rain from our AMAZING B&B in Charlottetown through the rain (did I mention the rain?) to Louisbourg NS.

It’s a long drive.

One thing I’ve realized about Atlantic Canadian roads — don’t believe the google. Google will tell you that it takes X many hours to get from place A to place B. This isn’t going to happen. It takes a lot longer. I can’t really explain it. Even accounting for rest stops and refuelling, it takes a lot longer. Just like reading this paragraph. Sure you could have gotten this message in a much shorter sentence — yet it just seems to carry on, and on, and on, about how long the driving distances are.

That being said, once we got into Nova Scotia the landscape seemed to change. It probably had more to do with us being really close to sea level. There were fewer trees (compared with New Brunswick) and a lot more windswept grasslands.

We drove through NS and onto Cape Breton Island.We followed the Trans Canada up to Sydney, and took the road to Louisbourg.

We arrived late and had a dinner at the Grubstake restaurant. I mention it because both Travelling Companion and I loved the house salad dressing at this place.

Secondly I mention it because Louisbourg is so small that we ended up eating there each of the three nights we were in the town.

Day Five: Last day in Charlottetown

Very quickly: 7 things about today:

1. The birthplace of Confederation: Province House.

2. Visited first European settlement on PEI

3.  Vistited a wind-swept fishing village called Victoria-By-The-Sea

4. .Toured the  lieutenant-governor’s residence and saw the room where the Queen slept when she visited PEI in 1959.

5. Was reminded (as I had forgotten) that the way to pronounce lieutenant-governor is “left-tennant” and not “lou-tennant.”

6. Ate my first scallop.

7. Think I liked it only because it was wrapped in bacon.