After a tour of the Halifax Seaport, I joined 'The Avid Cruiser' Ralph Grizzle and crew as we hopped on an Ambassatours Big Pink Bus and did some quick sightseeing in Halifax.
That sightseeing included an extended stop at the Halifax Public Gardens where Grizzle wanted to highlight the best example of a true Victorian garden in Canada.
"What makes it the best are its meandering paths, cultured gardens with flowers always in bloom, a gazebo, a pond and it being surrounded by a fence," explained Ambassatours tour director Paul Emmons, who guided Grizzle at all locations throughout the day. "They also plant it so that every section has something in bloom at every time of year (that the garden's open)."
On the Big Pink Bus, Emmons also pointed out Point Pleasant Park, Argyle Street pubs, the Spring Garden Road shopping district, Bishop's Landing, Keith's Brewery and Grand Parade Square before we arrived at the Maritime Museum of the Atlantic at around 12 noon for the next filmed piece.
From the museum, we drove up to the Fairview Lawn Cemetery, the site where 121 of 150 Titanic victims were buried. It's chilling when you realize that many of the victims are unidentified to this day, as numbered, unnamed gravestones sit in their memory instead.
However, one identified gravestone that always seems to draw particular interest is that of J. Dawson, widely believed to be the inspiration of the character 'Jack Dawson,' portrayed by Leonardo DiCaprio in the film Titanic, though director James Cameron has never confirmed that speculation.
Though often associated with the romanticism of the 1997 film, the real story of J. Dawson is far less enchanting, according to Emmons.
"J. Dawson had the second-worst job on ship," Emmons explained to Grizzle. "He shoveled coal into wheel barrows."
After Grizzle and Stanley captured some footage at the cemetery, we headed down to Peggy's Cove. As Grizzle explained in the on-camera segment - and I tend to agree with - "No visit to Nova Scotia is complete without a visit to Peggy's Cove."
Arriving around 2:15, we had an extended stop in Peggy's Cove as we paused for a breather and a bite to eat, and also because Grizzle and videographer Chris Stanley were particular about grabbing the perfect shots to captures this "iconic" destination (their words not mine), which proved to be challenging due to intermittent rain.
A theme throughout the day was the rest of the group waiting for Stanley to finish getting the visuals of each location. It was obvious he really wanted to do this area justice, especially Peggy's Cove, where he spent a good 20 minutes to a half hour extra getting shots from all angles. It was good that the rain subsided long enough to do that.
Once Stanley got the shots he needed, we headed out to Upper Tantallon, the home of Acadian Maple Products. Owner Brian Allaway gave an abbreviated, but highly detailed and fascinating description of his business and the process of taking maple from trees to pancakes. He had some staggering statistics of which I wasn't aware, the most surprising being that 85 per cent of the world's maple supply comes from Eastern Canada (Ontario-East). Acadian Maple Products offers quite a variety, everything from maple soap to maple wine. I particularly enjoyed the bite-sized maple candy, which I think should be handed out with the bill in every Halifax restaurant!
At about 5 p.m. we headed down to Lunenburg, a small town on Nova Scotia's South Shore about 90 minutes from Halifax. Lunenburg, a UNESCO World Heritage Site, is known for its classic, unique architecture and for being the best example of a planned British colonial settlement in North America, which basically means the streets run on a grid - straight up and down - and the corners are square.
Tour guide Eric Croft showed us the stunning architecture of Lunenburg Academy, St. John's Anglican Church and beautiful historic homes featuring "Lunenburg bumps," "captain's walks" and "widow's walks," just to name a few features.
Last, but not least, Croft took us down to the Fishermens' Memorial, a monument shaped as a compass rose with eight three-sided granite columns which display the names of Lunenburg fishermen lost at sea between 1890 and now. Losing loved ones was a cold reality too often felt years ago in the fishing town.
"When a ship went down, a family went down," Croft said. "When tragedy struck here, it was quite hard."
Lunenburg was the final stop of the day, as Grizzle and Co. wrapped things up at about 6:30 p.m. and headed back to the city to prepare for Day Two in the Halifax area - also the final day of the Atlantic Canada tour.
As a native of Nova Scotia, it was nice to take in the day from the tourists' perspective. It will be nice to go back to the places I hadn't been before and take in the full experience after getting the "essentials" version provided to Grizzle on this day.
It continues to amaze me how as a lifetime resident of this province, the history, culture and significance of this region often escapes me. There's good reason why this is a tourist destination for people around the world, including Grizzle, who made his first stop in Halifax in 2004. Whether you're from here or from afar, take time to explore what Nova Scotia has to offer. Or, at the very least, keep an eye on Ralph's website for his take in the video, which should be up in a couple weeks.
I'm sure The Avid Cruiser will do an amazing job with the footage collected in Atlantic Canada and I can't wait to see the end result.
"Halifax could be a great turnaround destination for a big part of the spring, summer and fall," Grizzle said. "I think this area has not yet realized its full potential.
"Atlantic Canada is about a lot more than fall foliage. You don't need to wait until September and October to come up here."
I think after watching this teaser trailer for his new travel series, you'll agree.
Justin Dickie is a public affairs co-ordinator with the Halifax Port Authority. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.