From the Atlantic to the Pacific Ocean

It turns out that the Gray line sightseeing tour bus was a great idea after all. On my third day, I was itching to get to Vancouver, for a number of reasons. Mostly, so that I could catch the Via Rail on the Monday afternoon. I felt that by arriving in Vancouver on Sunday I would have time to see the city and get to the train hassle-free in time. Since my hasty decision didn’t work out (or at least, I caught myself quickly enough….literally), I decided to use the tour bus as an opportunity to see more of the city that I might have missed.

Photo by cheyyenne north on Pexels.com

Let me explain what I meant by “I caught myself.” I was dressed and getting ready to check out of the hotel that Sunday but I was running late. I still had to drop off the rental car and get to the ferry on time. I began feeling a little anxious. My scarf got caught in the zipper of the suitcase, while the scarf was hung around my neck, and the zipper just wouldn’t close! As I was bent over the suitcase, I also noticed I wasn’t wearing my socks (the ones I had in my hand just minutes before being stuck). In that moment, the still small voice of the Holy Spirit asked me, Why are you in a rush to leave today? To that, I quickly assessed the position I was in and decided against leaving. Strangely, the zipper loosened right away, and I glanced at my socks in my handbag. Do you believe in these random signs?

READ MORE: Walking in the rain at Beacon Hill.

I left the suitcase where it was, unpacked some of the unneccesary items and looked at the time. 11:30am. New plan: I will catch the sightseeing bus at 12pm. As usual, it was raining. Non-stop. I arrived on Wharf street and I saw the tour bus down the road, but I went the opposite direction to order my meal to go. I looked at the time while waiting for the server to pack my meal, 11:55. When I finally got my order, I hasted. “Ticket for one” I shouted jovially to the conductor, once I knew he could see me. “Hey we waited for you yesterday for 2 hours” Commented Derek. I was surprised he remembered me. “No, you didn’t.” We laughed. I made my way into the bus and was seats away from Derek, who would conduct the tour. “Oh you’re sitting with me today.”

“Yes. Am I able to eat in the bus?”

“Certainly.”

I unmask my face and made myself comfortable. There were a few other tourists, but they chose to ride at the top of the double decker bus. On a summer’s day, I am certain I would have loved to sit up there. But, it was too cold since the top section was roofless.

READ MORE: When it rains, it pours.

My Sunday tour turned out to be perfect. I listened to the audio tour guide, combined with Derek’s interpretation of Victoria’s history, and updates about when we were stopping. Since I was sitting so close, I asked my own questions. And he answered them in between his announcements. We passed through some of the places I had visited already like China town. Once we left the inner harbour though, I could see the Pacific Ocean in the outskirts. I was itching to join the people at the scenic lookout points. It was a glorious kind of deep blue and the sun glistened on the water. We passed through Beacon Hill and continued again along the ocean.

I hadn’t realize how much of Victoria was surrounded by the sea. Of course, I knew it was an island. But, it was on the tour bus that I could to see much more of what the island had to offer in terms of scenery. I decided to get off at Oak Bay. I didn’t want to miss another opportunity to spend time by the ocean. “Be back here in 2 hours.” Derek told me. “I will be looking for you.”I stepped off the bus, in the cold, feeling sure I wanted to see the ocean up close. It was too beautiful not to. I walked down the hill, the bus passed me and disappeared from my sight. The sun that had come out earlier, had disappeared again. I kept on walking (yes, thoughts about getting lost, crossed my mind, but I ignored it.) hoping to see the ocean. It was too big not to miss. I passed houses after houses, and decided to turn down one street.

When I spotted the ocean, I followed the boardwalk that led to a restaurant. I could see the change of colour in the water. The deep blue emerged with large waves splashing on the rocks. What beauty. That’s when I realized, I have been from coast to coast. From the Atlantic Ocean to the Pacific Ocean. I was inspired. In awe. Absolutely amazed that I completed what I set out to accomplish eight years ago.

READ MORE: Travelling post Covid-19

These are the experiences you will have to experience for yourselves, because the telling of them doesn’t quite do justice. Like I said in an earlier article, travelling for me is a calling. I see things in a new way and experience life, in my opinion, the way it ought to be experienced. With Wonder.

Maritime Museum Of The Atlantic

How did I choose these tours? You can say, they were chosen. But after a while I begin to see a story forming about Nova Scotia. With this museum being the third one, I have now formulated an educated opinion about Halifax: Lots of people died here!

Maritime10This Maritime Museum tour was my preferred, because it speaks to Halifax’s long Maritime history. I could already see that this museum had more than meets the eye. I inquired at the ticket counter where I should start, and the woman gave me a black and white photocopy five by five map of the facility.  There is a movie starting in 10 minutes, she told me, perhaps you can start there. But, this is a self directed tour. The movie was called  The Halifax Explosion. I was one of the first person to sit in the theatre, but by the time it was about to start, all chairs were filled. I can’t recall how the movie started, but I will never forget the big explosion at the end. The bodies. All 2000 of them perished, without so much as a warning.

Maritime15December 6, 1917 approximately 9 ‘0 clock in the morning, there was a miscommunication between two vessels in the harbour, or what the Nova Scotians call, the Narrows. By just looking at the year this event took place, you may have already observed that World War I was going on. Halifax, being on the coast, and selected  to protect Britain, was deeply involved. “Serving as the assembly and departure point for transatlantic convoys carrying supplies and soldiers to the war effort overseas, the small city was quickly evolving into a world class port and major base of naval operations. (1)” Maritime14

One ship, the Norwegian vessel was leaving the Halifax harbour, while another ship, the French Cargo ship, loaded with high explosives, was coming into the the harbour. The two collided in the Narrows, the strait that connects the upper Halifax Harbour to Bedford Basin. The fire broke out on the French vessel, which confused onlookers. They stared out in the Harbour hoping to get an answer as to what was going on. The answer never came. Within twenty minutes the fire grew out of proportion and exploded. Approximately 2,000 people died, and 9,000 were injured. To make matters worse, the worse snow storm hit Halifax and covered the bodies for the winter. The Halifax Wreck exhibit also illustrated what I saw in the movie, except that I could now walk through the ruble myself, even if it was just an exhibit.

“The blast was the largest man made explosion before the development of nuclear weapons (2).”

Maritime8The Titanic connection exhibit was also another extraordinary experience. Unlike the Halifax explosion, most of us have watched the movie. We know what happened. Yet, it felt like I was there as I walked through this exhibit. I saw real artifacts from that time, and place. What does Halifax have to do with the Titanic? The White Starline’s headquarter, the maker of a fleet of vessels, including the Titanic, was located in Halifax. That might have been the reason why approximately 306 dead bodies were brought to Halifax, to be buried. In fact, there are three Titanic cemeteries located here in Halifax: Fairview Lawn, Mount Olivet, and Baron de Hirsch.

In order to ensure that the bodies were identified, and the families aware of their loved ones, the cable ship crew developed a unique system to identify the bodies. They would have kept pieces of the Titanic wreckage in their families, which has now become the essence of this exhibit: Titanic Connection.

Maritime9

A Selection of Titanic Artifacts

The “Unknown” Child’s Shoes
One of the most poignant objects that evoke the solemn and the personal devastation of the sinking are the shoes of Titanic‘s Unknown Child and a mortuary bag which was used to identify and safeguard the personal effects of Titanic victims (3).

My opinion? This is where I realized that Halifax had seen hundreds of brushes with terribly accidental tragedies, that tends to happen out on the sea. There were other exhibits at the Museum too, thereby providing the concept of the lives of those who chose to become sailors; as. a livelihood and maybe even as a calling.

The exhibits explained  that not only were boats built in Halifax, including the Titanic, but that they were maintained  as well. Stores like the Robertson store which was opened from 1841-1976 served to supply sailors with their shipping needs. It had closed after Mr. Robertson retired, around the time the Museum was looking for a home by the Harbour. You could call it providence, Julie my private tour guide told me later. In that the museum is made of two warehouses, along with this store we are standing in. The store has never been altered. I looked around, totally impressed that I was standing in a place that existed centuries ago. This was the feeling I got throughout this experience, and I bet that was the intension of the designers. To put you in a place were history occurred. This is why it’s my preferred museum.