Tuesday, November 4, 2014

Nova Scotia: Ferry, Yarmouth, Keji, Lunenburg, Halifax

Earlier in October, the Mooses took a trip to Nova Scotia. This was an awesome trip! We were there a bit past peek season, close to peak color, but before it got too cold and everything closes up for the winter.

We had toyed with this trip for a while, but couldn't execute until this year. Why? Because it's actually really tough to get to! One might naively think, as we did until we investigated it, that Nova Scotia isn't all that much farther than Maine. Well, no: to get to our main destination on Cape Breton Island would be some 13 hours in the car! We wanted the car because we wanted to bring bikes - the touring around Cape Breton on the Cabot Trail is excellent. Plus we wanted to bring Jasper. But the prospect of packing everyone in the car for that long did not really appeal. So we shelved those plans for another day.

Then we noticed, while having a post-race pizza in Portland last fall, that a ferry service was starting up between Portland and Yarmouth. Cutting across the Gulf of Maine at 25 knots does not actually save time versus driving up through New Brunswick, but it is so much more comfortable. We could have a cabin, with beds, and a whole ship to roam around in, and none of us would have to actually drive.

After a very busy week of preparation, we booked it down to Portland after work on a Friday. We had just enough time to give Jasper a last run around on the grass, and scarf some awesome pizza, before driving out thoroughly-packed Subaru onto the Nova Star. Jasper, alas, was not permitted to roam the ship or share our cabin. He spent the trip in the car. We went back and forth on this one a lot. We would not be able to visit him (or the car) at all during the trip. There is a kennel on board, and we could visit him there once or twice. But Jasper has never been crate-trained, and we thought that visiting him, but then leaving him again, would just upset him. We made him as comfortable as we could in the car - dropped the back seat, doffed his harness, and laid out food and drink - and hoped for the best.

(We did, for future reference, get a chance to see the kennels on the return trip. We made the right choice: the kennels are small cubes of stainless steel with barred doors. Definitely not happy or spacious accommodations.)

The transit time is about 11 ours, meaning they get one round trip in each day. The Portland-to-Yarmouth leg is and overnight, so we very gratefully slept (another ferry advantage). There were moderate seas that night, and one could feel the motion of the boat as you lay there. But we were all exhausted enough that it didn't bother us.
We pulled into Yarmouth harbor around 7:30 in the morning. We were pleased to find that Jasper had not ransacked the car, pooped all over the place, nor died of anxiety. He didn't seem pleased to see us, but we'll count it a success nevertheless. After clearing customs, we drove about four blocks down the waterfront and took him over to a small municipal park. He perked right up.

Happy puppy!
Fun with the HDR mode of the camera.
Memorial to those lost as sea.
Fully revived from being at sea
We found a nearby cafe for some much-desired coffee. B gives her approval to hot chocolate.
Because it was a Saturday morning, we did what we do most Saturdays: go to the farmer's market. Yarmouth's happens to be right next to the ferry terminal. It's late season, but there was plenty of fine stuff to be had, such as these excellent pears.
Late season strawberries!
Before leaving town, we tried to get our phones squared away with the local cell networks. We didn't need to be connected, but being able to make local calls, access maps and navigation, etc., without paying out the nose was a good idea. I had done some research on our options beforehand, and had settled on some prepaid plans through Bell Canada. (There were other options, and if anyone is curious I can get into more detail, but let's skip that for now). It is possible to walk into many big box stores, purchase a SIM, pop it into the phone, purchase a card with some credit to top off your account, and go from there. Some additional potential hoops, however, made me want to search out some actual help. Unlike when we went to New Zealand, there was not a helpful kiosk at our point-of-entry to get us squared away in twenty minutes flat. We had to search around a bit to find the Bell store. Significant problem, however: the entire Bell activation network was down. No phones for today!

No worries: we had country to explore. We started driving along the southern coast, stopping for lunch at a small national park: Kejimkujik ("Keji" for short).
PB&J on the hood of the car. This must be vacation!
What's not to like?
Fog and Bog. We took a short hike from the parking area, through woods and bog, and down to a rocky shore. At least, we thought the ocean was nearby.
Insect-eating pitcher plant!
Lo and behold! We found the ocean!
Brynna was thrilled: there was much scrambling to be done on the rocks
This bolder has been cloven in two. Last year? A thousand years ago? Who can say?
This heavily tortured rock reminds me of a Picasso or other modern art.
We had a fine violin practice when we got back to the car (had to do it sometime, right?). After their much-needed romp, the creatures napped in the back while we pushed further along the coast. We eventually stopped at Lunenburg for an early dinner at this fine establishment.

After a bit more driving - including cruising through the Scarecrow Festival in nearby Mahone Bay - we pulled into Halifax, the major city in the province, and our destination for the night. We had little energy for anything besides pulling into the hotel and getting everyone off to bed.

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