“Twenty years from now you will be more disappointed by the things you didn’t do than by the ones you did do. So throw off the bowlines. Sail away from the safe harbor. Catch the trade winds in your sails. Explore. Dream. Discover.”

Gaspé & Percé and Halifax

Sunday in Gaspé & Percé

After an early breakfast, we were loaded into an enclosed lifeboat for transfer to the port of Gaspé. It was very windy and cold, but at least not raining yet. There we met our guide for the day, Elizabeth, a born and bred Gaspian. Aboard the motorcoach to Percé, she related facts about the two towns and the countryside. Percé was a very small village with a few shops and restaurants for the tourists. 

 

After looking around for a bit, we boarded a boat to sail around Percé Rock — one of the world’s largest natural arches with steep faces on all sides. Rising from the choppy waters and towering overhead the Rock was quite an impressive sight.

We then circled nearby Bonaventure Island; home to thousands of gannets. Gannets are large birds, white with black wing tips and dark yellow to orange heads, with a wing span of six feet. They circle up to 100 feet above the water and when they spot fish, they dive as deep as 30 feet to catch their prey. We saw hundreds of them scouting for lunch. Bonaventure is also home to gray seals and we saw many frolicking in the water and sunning on the rocks at the island’s base. By the time we reached Bonaventure it had started to rain and the water got very rough. Standing out on the open deck to take pictures was challenging for the more intrepid passengers, being jostled about, bumping one another, and laughing about the adventure of trying to get the best picture. We were all happy to get back to terra firma.

We walked around Percé until we got our land legs back and chose Café des Artistes for sangria, fish ‘n’ chips, and poutine (Canada’s national dish). This version had shredded pork topped with French fries amid cheese curds and delicious brown gravy.

When we got off the motorcoach in Gaspé, we decided to do a bit of exploring and set out down a gravel path from the pier, across the bridge into Ville Gaspé. The wind on the bridge was biting and cold although the sun was out. There wasn’t much to see, just a few shops, so we headed back to the tender for our return to the ship.

Monday is a day at sea as we transit to Halifax.

Tuesday in Halifax

At Halifax we circled the harbor for about an hour until 8:01AM. The crew explained that, if the ship docks prior to that time, Viking has to pay all the dock workers for a full day of overtime. We did wonder how much money the Captain spent on fuel as he circled around the harbor all that time.

We actually docked in Halifax, so there was no need to ride a small boat across the choppy water! We did a Hop-On Hop-Off tour of the city on board a bright pink, vintage English double decker bus and our narrator was excellent, supplying interesting facts about the various places sprinkled with a joke here and there. Among his stories, he told of the Titanic survivors being landed in Halifax along with the dead recovered from the scene and also of the horrific Halifax Explosion in 1917 when a ship loaded with munitions for the armies in France wreaked great devastation on the harbor. We left the tour and walked to three places we wanted to see.

St. Mary’s Basilica was built in the 1820s in the gothic style with the tallest granite spire in all of North America.We briefly walked around the church and the spire is very impressive.

 

The Halifax Public Gardens, the oldest public gardens in North America, were originally planted by the Nova Scotia Horticultural Society who wanted a place for the “cultivation of choice fruit trees, vegetables, rare plants and flowers.” In 1874 their garden was amalgamated with the adjacent civic garden to become the beautiful gardens known today. The park is surrounded by an impressive iron fence and the entrance is a large iron gateway. Among the beds and orchards, we came upon a gazebo surrounded with benches for outdoor concerts, as well as fountains and ponds.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

After lunch, we continued on to the Fairview Lawn Cemetery. Halifax was the closest port to where the Titanic went down in 1912 and the survivors and recovered bodies were brought here. The cemetery has a section that holds graves of a hundred fifty of the victims. The White Shipping Line, owner of the Titanic, erected granite headstone markers for each of the bodies, marked with the name of the person, the date of death, and a number indicating the order in which they were recovered, including those that were never identified. There is also a special marker in honor of the children lost in the disaster.

With these somber thoughts, we bid farewell to Halifax and boarded the Viking Sea.