Mackenzie shared his knowledge of Pier 21 in Halifax and we decided this was a must see visit. The first time that we walked down the boardwalk after our dinner at The Bicycle Thief, we arrived too late, so we planned another visit.
This time we knew we were early enough to visit both the museum and the Halifax Farmer’s Market where George and I got to indulge in some raw food goodies from Fruition.
Once inside the exhibit, we walked through the displays towards an auditorium for a modern film about immigration to Canada.
It was the most remarkable and moving film showing many of the stories of new Canadians and how this country is so valued throughout the world. We all walked out in tears swelling with pride and having a better understanding of the struggles our friends and family had in coming to this country and we dressed up in period costumes at the end of the film to lighten the mood.
At the end of the tour, we had the opportunity to search for the records of our family’s journeys to Canada.George was able to get a copy of the original manifest as his family left Ireland and he learned that he was 5 years old when he left for Australia.
My parents came through a port in Quebec, but the employee helping us gave me a form to request copies of the manifest which I’ll do soon.
We started the day with a breakfast at The Bluenose II Restaurant where we had “the best breakfast” in town, and it was the best breakfast in town! Sean had a stack of pancakes that he couldn’t finish, and Mackenzie had eggs, bacon, sausage, and home fries that were truly, home fries. George and I broke with our raw food diet and indulged in the homefries, but stayed true with a bowl of fresh fruit on the side.
On our way back to the hotel, walking through a light rain, Mackenzie noticed the Nova Scotia Art Gallery and we decided to drop in on a whim. This visit was amazing and we were all captivated by the art of Maud Lewis and other artists from Nova Scotia. The house of Maud Lewis was so small that it fit inside the museum; her story beginning with arthritis which stunted her growth and disabled her for most of her life, is compelling and inspiring. We bought Christmas cards adorned with her art, and a few other small gifts for family.
Mackenzie paid close attention to the wood cutting boards and creations as he is looking at making a small business out of wood working.
Sean expressed his enjoyment with art galleries and museums which surprised me and I vowed that we would visit the Alex Coville exhibit at the National Art Gallery before the summer is out.
We left the gallery feeling energized and ready to explore more of this remarkable gem of a city. But first, we needed some clothing and sundry items. After a quick workout at the hotel gym, we found a large shopping mall in the centre of the city and found some great stores with lots of selection. The boys already knew about East Coast Lifestyle clothing so we found a store and stocked up on hoodies and tank tops.
As we drove back to the hotel, we came across the Halifax Public Gardens, so we spontaneously pulled over, parked and took in the beauty of a myriad of plants and trees and wildlife; this santuary in the heart of the coastal town is a unique space and it revitalized us, energized us, and brought a sense of peace only found in nature.
Sean was really taken by the cherry blossoms and both boys commented on the calming effects of being in a natural setting. Sean said that he wished we had something similar in Ottawa, and I reflected on the Experimental Farm and the National Botanical Gardens realizing that we needed to explore our own city when we get home. Mackenzie said there is a special exhibit at the war museum in Ottawa, so we will plan a family visit soon.
I thought of my mother and her gardening prowess wishing she were with me to tell me about the plants and flowers we were seeing.
Supper at The Argyle closed out the evening, hand made sundried tomato and cheese pizza for Mack, a massive burger for Sean, and we all flopped into bed exhausted but contented. We felt like real explorers today and so proud to be Canadian.
After our remarkable whale watching boat tour, we drove down the eastern side of the Cabot trail through Ingonish towards Louisburg. This is a very small town with few local restaurants, but the people are friendly and welcoming for the most part.
We checked into The Fortress Motel and the receptionist told us that she had recently moved from Ottawa to Cape Breton since her husband had grown up on the east coast. The rooms were old and this was not our choice to rest our heads, but we made do given that all other hotels were full.
We decided to eat at The Lobster Kettle as the boys wanted to continue the experience of trying varieties of local seafood. They both had crab legs and muscles which were good, but nothing compared to the lobster in Cheticamp.
After dinner we ventured towards the local trail and lighthouse along the coast. Night was falling and Mackenzie wanted to get some shots of the sun setting.The coast was rocky and the two boys became explorers venturing near the Atlantic ocean and marveling at the power of the waves.
The lighthouse has an interesting history; this is the location of the first lighthouse in Canada build in 1734. The current lighthouse dates back to 1923, but remnants of the older lighthouses still remain and we climbed over these ruins thinking about our history and whose footsteps preceded ours.
The sun began to set, the mosquitoes found us, and we took cover before the blood-letting could begin.
We woke early the next day and drove to the Fortress of Louisburg for our tour. This was our last day before the 16 hour drive home, so we wanted to make it memorable. While waiting for the Fortress shuttle bus, the boys posed for what became their “album cover” shot.
I’ve always thought that it is best to ask the locals for information, so I asked a park employee which events were the best. She told us that only two people per session get to fire cannons, but that this is the best activity in the fortress. The boys were excited but we knew that we would have to rush to the check in site in order to be able to register them. Sean felt sure that everyone would want this activity and they would miss out, but we made it in time and got them signed up.
Before they knew it, they were changing into period costumes, and getting trained in the art of “black powder”.
The heavy fog added to the eerie nature of the ceremony and when the canons fired, everyone felt the booming thud in their chests, an echo in their ears as the dense smoke from the block powder blocked out everything from view. It is truly a lesson in the struggles of early military life as our nation took shape; although the French were defeated and Louisburg was leveled, it is a testament to our current cultural paradigms of inclusion that we have resurrected a French fortress once defeated by the British.
We were greeted by clog wearing men and everywhere you walked or looked, staff were in costume and role played the lives of real people who once lived in the Fortress.
By noon, the rain began to fall, so we stopped into a few buildings to gather as much information as possible, then took the shuttle back to our car, and headed for the open road back to Edmundston, New Brunswick and the long leg of our journey home.
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