It’s a cold spring day and frost is in the air, but I have never visited Peggy’s Cove and I don’t know when I will next get back to Halifax. I conclude that at least it won’t be crowded yet and convince myself that I can overcome the winds off the ocean, and handle the remaining snowdrifts that still punctuate the ground.
I feel a palpable thrill as I near the cove and spot the now-famous lighthouse poised at the point of St. Margaret’s Bay. The lighthouse is said to be the one of the most photographed sights in Canada. And it is no wonder. It was the welcoming and warning beacon to fisherman for almost a century and a half. It marked the entry to the cove and its small settlement of rough, tough fishermen and their wives, many of whose children and grandchildren have followed them into their backbreaking profession.
The past enlightens the present as each summer thousands of tourists arrive to honour its history and beauty.
Walking along the shore, the blue sky and bright sunshine help take some of the edge off the crisp breeze. Even the fishing boats in the cove have chosen to rest safely in the harbour until it warms up enough to lead their owners to some of the best fishing and lobster grounds in the world. These very fishers and their families who inhabit the few colourful homes that remain in the village will ship these tasty delicacies to restaurants and grocery stores around the world.
But why wait? The Sou’Wester Restaurant and Gift Shop on the site overlooking the lighthouse will cook it for you when you arrive. I place my order then sit back, sip tea, and watch the waves lap over the rocks in a syncopated rhythm as I make ready to dig into the claws of a Nova Scotia crustacean.
Maritime lobster is always a tasty treat, but consumed over the very waters where the local fleet returns back to each day of lobster season seems to make it taste even better.
On the road back to Halifax the perils of the sea are reinforced as I pass by one of the three cemeteries that mark the remains of the victims of the world’s most memorable ocean disaster, the sinking of the Titanic in 1912. Between the Titanic artifacts housed in the Maritime Museum in Halifax and this gravesite, the story of the event and the people who buried the dead and cared for the survivors will live on forever.
Halifax harbour represents a major piece in Canada’s naval history. Inside the Maritime Museum, which is situated right on the waterfront, you can travel through time as you examine shipwrecks, naval galleries, as well as the many Titanic artifacts, including the shoes of the Titanic’s unknown child. A journey through history takes time, and the time invested in this museum pays dividends in grasping the appreciation of the struggles and emotions of a people whose culture is tied to the sea.
From my room on the fifth floor of the Westin Nova Scotian, I watch modern freighters being hauled in and out of the harbor with their own cargos for import or export. In its own way this is a majestic sight.
Recollections of my own sea experience come flooding back as I recall that my own personal travel addiction began many years ago on an adventure that included working my way across the ocean to Europe aboard a Danish freighter. In its hold we were carrying empty kegs of Long John Silver scotch. The crewmen would drain and drink the dregs of those kegs; it was then that I came to fully understand the term drunken sailor, before the captain stepped in, fastened the hatches, then punished all aboard by cancelling their rations of Carlsberg beer, sold on board for 10 cents a bottle.
It is a long hard walk, but I needed to retrace my steps which proved so important in creating my unending interest in discovering worlds away from home. I try to find the pier where we signed on our ship. I can’t recall the exact number, and side by side they look similar.
The ships in their moorings, other than the colour of the paint and the flag they carry, also look much like they did then. But I am content. I have relived some of the memories of the grind of trudging from one pier to the other, hoping someone would take me and my travelling partner on.
Like a lot of things we experience in life, success came just as we were about to give up. And it came to us only because it would be the last voyage before our freighter, the Jill Cord, would dry-dock to be re-outfitted for its new Greek owners.
The freighters in the harbour may look similar to those of the past, but not the Halifax waterfront area. Then, city planners were only beginning to realize its vast tourist potential.
Today the streets running on or near the water in the centre part of the city are dotted with fine restaurants, bars, and shops. Excellent entertainment can be easily found in the quaint pubs and will vary from rock to old-time country or Celtic.
With summer, the other major attractions that bring thousands to this scenic part of our country will have moved into full swing. The Halifax Citadel, the Bluenose II Museum, and Pier 21, Canada’s historic and last remaining immigration shed, will open a world of discovery to Canadians and others.
Spring, summer, or fall, Halifax and its surrounding areas offer plenty of opportunity for exploration, with lots of places to contemplate your discoveries over an Alexander Keith’s brew, or a plate of fresh seafood.