Peggy’s Cove Tour, St. Margaret’s Bay

Halifax is known for more than it’s wartime or maritime experiences. There is much to see here. Upon boarding the Tour bus, Ambassatours, by the Halifax Harbour near the Maritime Museum of the Atlantic, we went on our one hour drive to Peggy’s Cove, with our driver and tour guide, Ed.

Peggy’s Cove, located in the St. Margaret’s Bay, is one of those breathtaking experiences. It is a small village of approximately 40 residences who live there year round. The lighthouse, Peggy’s Point Lighthouse, established in 1868 is situated  right on the coast. I come to see that everything has some history behind it, even Peggy’s Cove. Apparently, no one is exactly certain where the name came from, but has made up stories, which passed down orally. One of the stories is that, in 1766, Saint Margaret’s Bay was named by Samuel de Champlain, after  his mother, Marguerite, and her nickname being Peggy. Another folklore about the name being, a woman was found on the Cove after a shipwreck, and later married a resident from the Cove. Since she was named Peggy, she became Peggy of the Cove.   

peggy5Millions of years ago, tectonic movements in the Earth’s crust, caused the rocks at Peggy’s Cove to be formed. The breathtaking landscape at the Cove was and is because of the migration of glaciers, and the thrashing ocean tides. Now, imagine standing on these rocks looking into the horizon across the big Atlantic Ocean, watching  the powerful waves beat on the rocks, and feeling the strength of the wind. The wind carrying with it small droplets of the sea that you feel on your face. Your eyes are fixated on the sea because truly there is nothing quite like it. The sea has gone wild, it seems, and the waves are tumbling over each other, in every direction. There is no order here.

We only had 75 minutes to experience Peggy’s Cove before Ed had to take us back to the city. While there were other parts of the island to walk, I felt that this section by the rocks: Walking over the rocks, and looking into the sea, far required my time and attention. How long can one stare into the sea? Til when your thoughts begin to reflect back at you. Til you can hear the ocean whisper its secrets. Til you can feel the waves in your core, with every splash or crash it makes on the rocks. Something happens. In the stillness and subtleness, something always happens. 

peggy8I’m walking back towards the lighthouse. There was still 30 minutes before boarding. I passed the lighthouse and looked yonder. More rocks, and more thrashing waves. Others were out there, battling the rock climb, and the wind. I decided I had to try as well. A stranger was ahead of me, though it appeared she was climbing downwards. Now I stood above her, walking horizontally, and awkwardly. Are you going to walk across? The stranger wearing brown boots down below asked. Her boots were not the kind to be climbing on rocks. Who knew we’d be going rock climbing? It’s true. I had a whole other thought about what I’d be doing at Peggy’s Cove. I imagined I’d be on a ferry ride going out to sea, spotting whales. Sometimes, things don’t go as expected, and you simply reshape your thinking. Patty, who was from North Carolina came down on a cruise line, and now we were rock climbing together.

We made it to the top. There were so much more rocks in the distance, but we were satisfied in that instant. Standing there at the highest point, and looking across at the lighthouse, and the sea. There is that powerful feeling that you know how minute you are compared to the grandness of nature. All you have to do is respect your place, and stand there in awe. 

peggyApparently, this small village was formed in 1811, when six German families were given a land grant by the government of Nova Scotia. The families built their economy on fishing, farming, and pasturing cattle. Today, tourism in this area has grown, and is of great economic importance. The government has restricted land use, and regulations about who can live in the region.

In 1962 the Peggy’s Cove Commission Act was passed, declaring the Peggy’s Cove a preservation area to ensure no development can occur, in order to protect the natural appearance of the Cove. So, that does it. I know that I can come back in 10 years and expect that Peggy’s Cove will remain the same. Nova Scotia’s beautiful coastal regions has gotten to me. Who wants to live on an island when we have all this beauty here in Canada? I can finally see what others have told me. Canada is a grand country. A judge once asked, Can you swim? I can. Good, you need to know how to swim if you live in this country. His point was, there is lots of large bodies of water in this country, and swimming shouldn’t be optional. Well, even though I swim, I don’t think I’d like to let myself slip into this part of the Sea at Peggy’s Cove. I’m certain these powerful tides would ravage my body before I can a chance to make one stroke. But, I love the feeling of looking at the natural rustic beauty, and let my mind flow with the wind. Until next time. Farewell Peggy’s Cove

   

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.

 

The Halifax Citadel: Lest We Forget

According to my travefy app, my next activity was: The Halifax Citadel. But, lethargy began to kick in. Ten hours had passed since I woke up, six hours since I boarded the plane. I was tired, and hungry. But, the adrenaline pumping through my blood kept me going. It’s only 10 minutes away from Africville. I followed my GPS on Sackville Road, and then up a hill. Signs were pointing to the parking lot, but where was it? Round and round the Fort I drove. Then, I saw an arrow with the P and pointing down a hill. I followed the sign into the parking lot. I am here. But if I don’t eat, I don’t know if I will last through the tour. 

I climbed up stairs into the Fort, and walked around an alley, then into a building. A woman was standing by a cash register. She punched in one ticket for me to see the  tour, quoted me the price: $7.80, then told me what came with it. There is one leaving right now, you can catch them. I didn’t have the energy to rush. Do you happen to have a cafeteria here? Yes. Just behind you, walk all the way to the end. There was an opening there between the wall, with empty dining tables. I continued walking until I found John standing behind the counter. John too had only been in Halifax for three months. He recommended the chicken sandwich. I paid for it, along with a bottle of water, then waved goodbye. I sat in the other room with the dining tables. It was quiet, except for a few couples sitting in the outskirt. Excuse me, when is the next tour, I asked a worker who had been passing. The next one begins 5 pass the hour. My watch said I had all of twenty minutes. Enough time to catch my breath, check voice messages, and return phone calls.

20181002_141953The temperature seemed like it had dropped. After eating, I still had time to walk back to the car to grab my fleece sweater. Now, I was ready for my tour. I returned to stand inside the quadrangle with everyone waiting for the tour to begin. A man neatly cladded in military attire stood erect. Not unapproachable. I wondered if he was allowed to speak. When does the tour begin? In about five minutes. I will be your tour guide. All that, without moving, except for his mouth.

20181002_160115My attention diverted to the loud cries at the other entrance. I didn’t see what was going on, as the crowd surrounded the gate. It’s the changing of the guards ceremony, the officer behind me said. It happens every hour on the hour. More loud cries came from that direction. Then without warning, our tour guide took off towards where the loud cries were coming from. There goes our tour guide, someone said. And in no time, another military officer dressed differently, in a bushy squirrel tale like hat, a kilt, and thick wool black dress jacket covering the kilt. He stood with his riffle in arms, staring where his fellow officer was running. Are you going to give us the tour? Someone asked. He returned a witty response, I’ll try, I’m not prepared for this. He maintained a level of sarcasm throughout his tour. He gave detailed information about the riffle he held in his hand, the history of it, what it was used for, then took us to another location to observe the sergeant shoot with the riffle. Don’t worry, they are all blanks. Or else, we wouldn’t have a wall. His head lifted to point to the wall where the sergeant was aiming.

20181002_141936The information being dispensed about riffle, about shooting, and the cannons that was our next stop, was rather dry; and I wanted to find other interesting things to see.  I stepped out of my place, and moved to the back to observe what else was going on. But, I stayed close to the group. Should I bother staying for the rest of this? It reminded me of sitting in one of my military classes, on my Basic Military Qualifications course, well over a decade ago. Those classes made me battle with my eye lids to stay up. I trekked on with Avery, our sarcastic tour guide. From the cannons, to learning about gun powder. They were all stored in this dark room. We walked though, observing all the barrels of powder, and came out another door. We climbed up the Fort to look at the positioning of the cannons. Everyday at noon, this cannon is fired. You know when it’s lunchtime here in Halifax.

Halifax Citadel Living History

The Halifax Citadel is anything but a simple museum. Every day, the Citadel comes to life with the sounds and colour of its re-enactment interpreters, the 78th Highlanders and the Royal Artillery. Dressed in the same uniforms that their respective regiments wore in the mid-1800s, the 78th Highlanders guard the Citadel’s entrance and conduct marching and band drills on the parade grounds, while the Royal Artillery fires the Noon Gun every day at 12 pm – a Halifax tradition that is one of the oldest in the world. See Website.

After Avery told us all that we needed to know, he took us back to the location where the tour began. I veered off by this time, into the little rooms, curious about what else was on site at this huge Citadel. I sauntered from room to room. Not totally fascinated, but hate to walk away from the Fort of history. I would be dishonouring all those great men who served right here during the world wars. It wasn’t until I walked into the war museum that the dreariness and disinterest lifted. I entered the site of World War I, then World War II, the Korean War, and what shocked me was the sign at the other end of the room: Afghanistan 2001-2014. That took place during my lifetime. Not something I read in the history books. Wars are still happening. That was the end of the exhibits.

20181002_152857Wars are still happening. It’s why we need to keep remembering the past. The Citadel isn’t used anymore, but sits high atop the hills, so that everyone can be reminded, because we just can’t forget. Men and women had given their lives for the cause of freedom, protecting our soil from the enemy, for independence. Wars are still happening. Not always close to home, but across the seas, men and women are still fighting for great causes, including their own lives. History has spoken loud today. I’m left in a somber mood. Reality has set in, again, I must not forget.

 

Part II: Africville’s Story

I looked around the museum, observing the scanty room with banners hanging orderly by clothes pegs. There was a small jukebox-like machine in different corners that you could listen to elders talk about their experiences of the events that unfolded in their lifetimes. I should have asked the significance of this antique equipment when so many other modern technology could have sufficed. The thought didn’t come to mind then. I was still in a daze when Brittany left me to do my self-directed tour. What else would I need to know after she eloquently filled my head with centuries of history? All that was left to do, was see the  pictures, read the banners, and fill in the details.

Our Church, Our Community

“To understand Africville, you have to know about the church. The church in Africville, founded in 1849, was always a focal part of the community. In 1885, it changed its name from Campbell Road to Africville, and later to Seaview African United Baptist Church. Social life revolved around the church and its leaders were essentially the community’s leaders. Baptisms, weddings and funerals instilled a sense of community in the people. Everything was done through the church: Clubs, youth organizations, ladies’ auxiliary and Bible classes’. It was the centre of unity and belonged to everyone in the community.

See article: Africville’s Story: The Spirt Lives On

20181002_124410I walked in a chronological direction, that way I could follow the sequence of the stories. From the banners, I gathered life in Africville was typical of any rural community. People went to church, their children played together: soft-ball in the summer and hockey in the winter. They went to school, church, and played with friends.

Adults went to work. They farmed, fished, and raised cattle. With the growth in the city, some residences went off to the city to work for the government; as porters on the railway, labourers, stevedores on Pier 9, and in the factories. Women also found work as domestics, seamstresses, factory workers, and at the Infectious Diseases Hospital.

Africville had its challenges. It was separated from the city geographically and because of its racial make up. The residents struggled to obtain a level of services within their community. They just didn’t have political power or influence with City Officials. Perhaps one of the reason the residence didn’t want to leave was the loyalty towards the founding families.

Founding Families: The first purchases of land were made by William Arnold, William Brown, Eppy Carvery, Henry Hill and Bennett Fletcher.

One day though, everything changed. The songs stopped. The playing stopped. How could the government be so, so… But I cannot judge. I will take in this piece of history, not through lens of anger, but with an open heart that seeks to understand. With the bulldozing, and the evicting, the trauma, and the death, Africville was no more.20181002_124735

“Oh Africville, Africville

No more can I call you my home

Oh Africville, Africville

I want to go home”

Written by: Ruth Johnson

History sure has a way to open your eyes to reality. The one we live in was a fight for our ancestors long ago. Does Halifax’s history have anything to do with me? This was were Jamaican Maroons also came. Probably, they lived in Africville too. They may have had to face the same unimaginable lack of services. Was that the price for freedom? Separated, but equal?

How can we take it for granted when it wasn’t always so…

See Video: I Did Not See The Flowers

Africville’s Story: The Spirit Lives On

There is this feeling when you’re driving in a new country, or in this case Province, for the first time. You don’t actually know where you’re going, where each stoplight will be, where the highway is, or how the roads merge; you simply obey instructions from the GPS. With a great GPS though, all you have to do is absorb the terrain around. Then there is this other feeling. I am driving on the streets of my dreams. You know that feeling of wanting to do something for a long time, and now you’re actually doing it. There is nothing like it. Driving was smooth the whole way from the airport until I was about 7 minutes from my destination. I needed to keep straight on Lady Hammond Road, but it was hard to read the signs up ahead.  The lane I was in, was in fact a turning lane, and I could not see it until it was too late. I tried merging into the lane on my right, but was honked by incoming traffic. I realized, that lane too was also turning. I needed to be in the third lane over! The signs were totally off. Those sign makers didn’t seem to notice that the lanes curved and don’t reflect where the arrows were pointing. I followed the turning lane, then did a lane change after passing the traffic lights. The GPS rerouted. I obediently followed, for what felt like forever. I was beginning to think it was confused. It’s hard to know now, but I might have done three circles, and hadn’t noticed; at least not until when I saw Lady Hammond Road sign again. She didn’t fool me this time!

20181002_124355Now that I was on the right track, I followed the GPS into what seemed like a truck park. All I could see were big trucks. The GPS insisted that I was going in the right direction. I decided to stop and ask to be sure. I mean I was only 2 minutes from Africville Museum. The man I asked, pointed up ahead. It was the same direction my GPS was taking me. Now I could see an actual two-way road. I was on a street called Africville. Finally, I spotted the Museum sign on a post, but all I saw was a small house overlooking the sea. Where is the rest of the Museum? Had it closed? I parked my car and decided to try opening the doors. It opened. Brittany, who was standing at the entrance, greeted me. Immediately we bonded. I went straight to telling her how hard it was to find the museum. How I stumbled on some trucks, and was confused. How I made a few circles. How this was my very first stop in Halifax and I had just gotten off the plane. And how I was so excited to be there. Brittany said I wasn’t the only one that had difficulty finding the museum. That couple walked for 54 minutes trying to find the location. She pointed to the couple who had turned around to validate with a nod. She empathized with me. I was done venting, and was ready for my tour.

Brittany walked me to the first banner, Welcome to Africille, it read. She talked me through the entire history. I decided I had to take notes. Slaves had arrived in Halifax as early as the 1700s, but it was not until the 1800s when they were promised they could purchase land. Back then, Africville was called Campbell Town. These men and women paid their taxes, but did not receive services like other communities: No paved roads, no sewers, and no running water. Eventually, these deficiencies became the norm.

AfricvilleIn the 1940s, Africville was now on the Government’s priority list. It was a prime location as the community was located on the harbour. The Government needed these people to leave. As a result unwanted services were sent there: Bone Crushing company, Slaughter Houses, Infectious Disease Hospital for men who came from the war, and a Medical Waste Dump. To add to that, in the 1950s when the government was deciding on a possible location for the city dump; Africville was selected, as it would pose a health risk for other communities like Fairview. People got sick, and it cost people their lives.

20181002_120927By the 1960s the government realized the people of Africville still hadn’t left their homes as they had anticipated. Drastic measures had to be taken. Government staff went door to door to make promises of a home-for-a-home in a different community. It didn’t work. The community wasn’t buying any more unkept promises. As a result, the city came with a garbage truck to evict the residences. Houses were bulldozed, including the only community church. A beacon to the community. The entire experience of being evicted from their houses, and having to leave the only home they knew, was totally traumatizing. They ended up living in subsidized houses. To this day, generations of the earlier families are still living in subsidized housing.

However, in 2010, Mayor Peter Kelly apologized. But, what was the purpose of the apology? Could it undo the scares that already had its crippling effect? Funds were offered by the government to purchase 2.5 acres of land. This is the land in which this church, and now museum stands. Brittany paused. The story had settled inside my heart. Does the community still exist? This museum is the only remnant of the existence of Africville. But, it also exist in the hearts of those who experienced it, so the spirt lives on. It’s hard to forget.

FIRST TIME FOR EVERYTHING

Approximately six o’clock this morning boarding began for Swoop Airlines in Hamilton at gate 3, leaving for Halifax. It was my first time on this airline, and my first time going to Halifax. Swoop Airline is new, has ultra low fare, and takes you anywhere around Canada. For a one way fare from Hamilton to Halifax, I paid $99. The fine detail is that everything has a price, and you decide what you need. My carry on cost $30, which was still at a reasonable $129. Boarding was on schedule. I took my seat in a somewhat confined space. I had the corner seat, fourth row from the front. I stealthily took my jacket off, trying to avoid hitting the lady sitting in the middle seat in the face, then tucked it under the seat in front next to where my purse was sitting. The flight attendants came with their food tray about an hour later. I didn’t bother asking about the price, as I had my french vanilla from Timmys that I purchased earlier. It was only a two-hour flight, from take off to landing.

 

For the first time since I’ve been flying, more than 20 years ago, I had a chance to go inside the cockpit to meet William, the pilot and the co-pilot, all thanks to the flight Attendants, Danielle and Nicole. This marked the beginning of an extraordinary day, even if I didn’t know it when I stepped off the plane.

There is a first time for everything.

I stepped into Halifax on a mission. I was going to learn as much as I could about the City. First, I had to pickup my Rental Car from Enterprise. Mark was soft spoken and weaved in personal information about himself as he conducted the business transaction. Without looking up from his computer, he responded to a question I had asked about his wedding band. No, I wasn’t trying to pick Mark up! His wedding band was nothing I had seen before. Like a flower shaped diamond on the top of a thick band. My Dad had given it to me before he passed, and my wife insisted that I wear it. I’ve only seen one other person wearing the same ring. Mark was also wearing a logo of the Chicago Cubs as a cufflink. I didn’t bother inquiring about that. I could see that he had a few sentimental pieces, that he was proud of wearing. After he completed the transaction; my request of a seven day rental, and a free upgrade, he directed me to sit in the waiting area. Kayla would call you when the vehicle is ready, Mark informed me. 20181002_102154Kayla marched to the area with her iPad in hand, called me by last name, and walked me into the parking lot. We gave you a free upgrade, it’s sort of like a SUV and it comes with a built in GPS. I don’t care what kinda vehicle it is Kayla. We both laughed. This is it. She pointed to the blue Nissan Rogue Sports vehicle. This is perfect. After the typical routine of walking around the vehicle and checking for damages, I signed my initial on her iPad. Kayla did a quick review of the general car features (upon my request), then sauntered off to the next customers. We’re here if you have any questions. Have a great trip!

I loaded the vehicle with my one luggage, took out my cell phone to view my itinerary on the travefy app: A Tour of Africville museum.