Sydney, Nova Scotia.
Since we had been to the city of Sydney before on another cruise, we opted for an excursion into the country for this trip. From Sydney we drove through the lovely countryside (wooded hills and bodies of sea water) to the town of Baddeck, where we spent a couple of hours wandering around, looking into stores, sitting on the wharf, and enjoying the non-rainy weather (contrary to my expectation about the weather). Looking for internet, we entered the local library, which our guide had suggested as an option, and we downloaded our emails and Denise browsed a while. I was so impressed with the library facility. In addition to providing free internet and “washrooms” for tourists, it had books (!), spaces for children, a huge goldfish in an aquarium, a brown gecko in a terrarium, bulletin boards with local information, and a very friendly staff. Plus a lovely view of the water. I gave them a $20 donation because I was so taken with what they’re providing to the community. Back on the bus, we returned to Sydney via more forests and waterways. The land seems to be sparsely settled, and nothing is very far from the water.
Corner Brook, Newfoundland.
We could find no excursions of interest to us in Corner Brook, so, armed with a city map, we found the Corner Brook Stream Nature Trail, which seemed to be the main city attraction. We entered the park via a wooden stairway which went from the street level down to a pond. Right away, we could tell it was going to be a lovely walk. We were also able to remove our outer layers because the temperature had warmed up considerably. A plaque near where we entered the park identified it as a donation to the community from the main industry in the town, the Corner Brook Pulp and Paper Mill. Evidently, water from the damming of the brook provides all of the water needed to run the paper mill. The gravel pathway around the pond is well maintained and easy to navigate. Wildflowers have been planted along both sides of the path, and it goes through heavily forested areas with the glacial boulders, ferns, conifers, and wild plants typical of the other east-coast forests we have seen. As we continued downstream, we passed the dam and a fish ladder, which had been provided to enable Atlantic salmon to populate the stream once again. As we approached the end of the stream, the path turned and began to follow the property line of the paper mill. It was very interesting for us to walk almost in the shadow of a huge factory, which was making lots of noise and emitting plumes of smoke, or maybe steam. Clearly, the path had been constructed with the casual tourist (i.e., cruise passenger) in mind, because it was nicely landscaped with trees, lawns, seating areas, and wildflowers, and it led us directly to the port and our ship.
Red Bay, Labrador.
Even though we had signed up for an excursion in Red Bay, we soon realized that we need not have done so. Our guide was not informative, the community is very small, and everything to be seen there is well presented in the local museums. Red Bay is a tender port, so we rode to shore crammed into the tender craft in the usual way. The sea was calm, and I could see hills on all sides, but I could not tell what was the mainland and what were the islands. Once we embarked, I realized that there are no trees, just lots of big smooth rocks, short shrubs, vines, and an abundance of what I’d call weeds, except that they may really be valuable plants which I’m just not familiar with. We toured a couple of museums which explained the main features of local history: whales, whaling, and Basque settlers in the 1500s. Of particular interest to me was the figure of a Basque whaler who was clothed in what was supposed to be authentic fabrics, a coarsely woven blue and a finer red. The red shirt he was wearing had a faced slit opening at the neck, long set-in sleeves, and a band collar. His calf-length blue pants were gathered into a narrow waistband and fastened in the front. He also had on white stockings and leather shoes. Swatches of the red and blue cloth were available for visitors to examine, which, of course, I did carefully. We were told that the Red Bay community is dying. Only about 150-60 people live here today. They are gradually leaving, and no one is moving in. It is a UNESCO World Heritage site, so maybe there will be some attempt to keep this historical area available to the public. We remarked that it’s probably difficult to be here during the winter months because of the monotony of the landscape, sea, and sky. Even though the area we visited today seemed at first desolate and uninviting, I did find it attractive in certain ways – the abundance of plants, the bare rocks, the long vistas, the smell and feel of the ocean, and the respect accorded to the people of the past.