At the end of August, I had the pleasure of going on a vacation with my family to the east coast, where I discovered that friendly people abound, airplane rides are a little rougher than I expected, and ocean water is much saltier than I thought it would be. Yes, last month marked not only the first time I had been to the lovely Province of Nova Scotia, but also the first time I had been in an airplane, and the first time I had seen the ocean.
Our journey started with an early morning ride in a jumbo jet. It was only a 77-minute flight for a journey that would have taken 17 hours by car! Our kids were, of course, fascinated with the plane, just as I was. The views were spectacular, and it seemed almost in an instant that we landed in the quaint-yet bustling coastal military city of Halifax, Nova Scotia.
Other than the staff at the airport, our first experience with the east coast locals came just 15 minutes after we departed in our rental car. Our GPS provided a route which was significantly faster than all other routes, but didn’t warn us that it was because it was a toll route. As we first noticed the toll station, we were scrambling too much to notice the one staffed lane where payment with bills or a card could be done. Seeing only lanes for either electronic passes or coins, I signaled to enter the lane to pay the toll with coins. Two men in a convertible smiled and waved us ahead of them. As I pulled up to the toll booth, which only accepts coins for the $1.25 toll, my wife handed me a $5 bill. It was the only cash she had, and it was useless for the lane we were in. Embarrassed about holding up the lane for the men who had let us go ahead of them, I now had to park on the highway and get out to ask them for money. I explained that we were from Ontario, and I got a look that could only mean “enough said”. They handed me a toonie with a smile, and we were on our way. It was a simple, nice gesture that left a great first impression on us regarding the folks from the east coast.
We spent six days in “Canada’s Ocean Playground”, and there were many highlights. While my wife had been to the east coast previously, the kids and I discovered just how salty the ocean really is, and the strength of its massive waves. The kids loved the waves the most. We toured downtown Halifax in a very unique vehicle – the Harbour Hopper. The Harbour Hopper begins its journey driving through downtown Halifax, and winding up and down to the citadel, before finally plunging into the Atlantic ocean! It is an amphibious vehicle that runs on both land and sea. Our amazing tour guide taught us much about Halifax, including its military history, and the story of the infamous Halifax explosion of 1917 which was the biggest human-made explosion prior to the dropping of the atomic bombs in Japan at the end of the second world war. We also ended up getting to see the kindness of the east coast yet again, as our oldest son left his wallet (with $195 cash inside) on the Hopper, and it was kindly returned to us the next day.
We of course visited the east coast “must sees”, including Peggy’s Cove, the Cabot Trail on Cape Breton Island, and the Alexander Keith’s brewery (okay, perhaps that was more of a “want to see”). Vacations are special and a much-needed break from the daily grind, but I will never miss returning to our quaint little southeastern Ontario town. It is true what they say – there is no place like home!