• Ultimate Road Trip: Day 2: April 24: Easter Sunday

    May 1, 2011
  • Our ferry across the Cabot Strait was on the Motor Vessel Blue Puttees. Her name is historically relevant to Newfoundland as she is named after the Royal Newfoundland Regiment that fought in many battles in the 1st World War. In the Battle of Beaumont Hamel 801 Blue Puttees were sent to fight, 733 were killed or wounded. It was a dark day in our history as the Country of Newfoundland, as we were a country back in 1916. We became a Province of Canada in 1949! We definitely lost our Independence in 1949! But we were very poor by then as Britain did not want us as a burden anymore even though we had enriched her treasury many times over with fish, which was the commodity of the day! I digress!

    The MV Blue Puttees Docked at Port-aux Basques, NL

    The ferry left on schedule at 11:45 AM. You are required to be on the parking lot at the Marine Atlantic Dock at least one hour before departure in April, two hours earlier in the peak summer months. There were only about ten cars ahead of us in the line-up. The MV Blue Puttees is a beautiful ship for sure! The Forward Lounge has reclining seating, the seats are very comfortable, plenty of leg room, and lots of flat screen televisions around the entire room with great viewing vistas!

    Starboard Lounge MV Blue Puttees

    We had unnecessarily booked reserved seating, which meant we got to enjoy the Starboard Lounge with three other people. The seats in the Starboard Lounge are larger, leather appointed, and very, very nice. The view from the Starboard Lounge is panoramic as it wraps around the rear of the ship. The cost of $11.00 each, but unnecessary if you are traveling in April when there is little passenger traffic. Now in more peak times like June to September, you might very well want to invest in the Starboard Lounge seating area! This area is also located near the sleeping quarters of the ship!

    Hubby Enjoying the View from the Starboard Lounge of the MV Blue Puttees

    The restaurant on the Blue Puttees is also quite nice. We had baked Cod Dinner, with soup, salad and dessert, about $30.00 for two. It was Easter Sunday and we were grateful that they did have something decent to serve and eat. There were other selections available as well, if I remember at least three dinner items to choose from! You can of course have the canteen food which consists of hot dogs, sandwiches, soup and miscellaneous snacks. It costs almost the same though if you have sandwich and soup for two!

    Loading the MV Blue Puttees April 2011

    You need to be careful which side of the Cabot Strait you are traveling from when you want to eat on these Marine Atlantic Ferries! We were leaving Newfoundland (The Rock) and when they announced that the Dining Room was open from 12:00 Noon to 2 PM, it was open for only two hours, not enough time in our opinion as there were others coming in after we left looking for dining room food and remember this was on a very slow crossing day! The announcements weren’t always that pronounced either about anything on the Ferry!

    Leaving Port-aux-Basques Easter Sunday 2011

    This became a problem on the way back to Newfoundland from Nova Scotia, when the Dining Room was not kept open for 2 hours, but for 1 and 1/2 hours until 2 PM. However the kitchen staff were operating on Newfoundland time and closed only after 1 and 1/2 hours. You see Newfoundland is an 1/2 hour ahead in time than Nova Scotia and I can only guess that the Staff on the NL and NS Ferries take this time literally! There were some very disturbed Ferry goers on the way back to Newfoundland when they found that the main Dining Room had closed after being open for 1 and 1/2 hours, not two hours because of the time change! The was certainly lots of food left too from what we could see! This was certainly confusing and might I say as a Newf, a real Newfie Joke for sure, but not really very funny!

    Easter Sunday Dinner on the MV Blue Puttees

    The Marine Atlantic Staff were very friendly and attentive. We remarked to them that the Cod Dinner was a good Easter Sunday Dinner, certainly the best on a ship at sea that we had!

    The trip across the Cabot Strait was good. It was a very blustery day, wind warnings were up for the Gulf of St. Lawrence, but the stabilizers on the Blue Puttees worked very well. Apparently this was not the case a few weeks earlier when the stabilizers did not perform and the ship rolled violently in the big waves! The Blue Puttees was new to the Gulf run at that time and it took some adjustments to get her working right! We didn’t notice the wave action on the ship at all! We arrived on time at 6 PM and decided to see how far we could get before dark.

    MK on the MV Blue Puttees on the way to Nova Scotia

    We got on the road in North Sydney, Nova Scotia around 6:30 PM. The roads through Cape Breton were among the worst that we experienced on our road trip. There is very little twinning, and much of it resembles a country road in many places, only two lanes most of the way. We were listening to Cross Country Check-Up on CBC – Canada’s Public Broadcasting Radio Station, as many of the other stations don’t work on the way down to Cape Breton! CBC is though a stellar station with very interesting talk shows and radio banter! The talk was the upcoming Federal Canadian Election.

    One caller predicted correctly that Ignatieff would be looking for another university teaching job in September. Another caller from Quebec correctly predicted the beginning of an Orange wave for the New Democratic Party or the NDP as they are known locally! This took our minds off the poor roads with few or no places to stop. So gas up  before you get on the ferry or in North Sydney when you get off the ferry! Be prepared for very little services once you get off the Ferry in Nova Scotia! Really reminded us of the poor cousins of Canada! Appalling for sure as this is an entrance and exit to the most easterly part of our Country which is so severely neglected that we should be ashamed as Canadians that this has not been rectified! Shame on Canada for this neglect!

    Hubby on Deck in the Cold Atlantic crossing to Nova Scotia

    By the time we reached mainland Nova Scotia it was beginning to get dark. There was a lot of road construction leading to Antigonish. It looks like they will have a newly upgraded TCH at least in this part of Nova Scotia. My Mom had given us the address of my Aunt Mary but we could not find her street in Antigonish! We were not brilliant enough to find a street map and we could not find her home! Mother said it was just off the main road as you go through, not the case! We could have found it in a month of Sundays after we did obtain a map after we got the New Glasgow!

    We trailed back to the main road and decided to push onto New Glasgow for the night as it was getting really dark and not being familiar with the area we decided to find a place to stay for the night. We booked a Holiday Inn Express on the www.hotels.com call centre. Hubby had carefully placed a piece of paper on my lap as we were coming up the TCH (he must have known that we would need the slip of paper). I booked the hotel using our Hands free Bluetooth Cell Phone System which comes with the Kizashi, a very great convenience on the road for incoming and outgoing calls. Our daughter who is computer savvy connected our cell phone to the Bluetooth system in our car before we left.

    If you think that you can’t use this feature because you are too old, don’t believe it, as it is one of the best features ever put in a car and so easy to use! The Hotel.com call centre confirmed a room with our credit card so we knew we had a place to stay  (booking number and all). We arrived at 9 PM, a little tired after a day on the ferry and the road!

    The Holiday Inn Express in New Glasgow, Nova Scotia is a brand new hotel located in a a commercial/industrial park just off the highway and really well marked. The room rate was $115.00 per night, a lot more value for the money that the hotel in Port-aux-Basques. The room had a king size bed, a large flat screen TV and was very modern and well appointed with a great bathroom, lots of towels and breakfast was included in the price of the room, a bonus, we thought! Internet connection was free also, another bonus!

    The Sun Setting Over Port-Aux-Basques the Evening before we left for Nova Scotia

    However, the Holiday Inn Express in New Glasgow does not have a full fledged restaurant for evening dining and the probability of finding a restaurant open in New Glasgow on Easter Sunday evening was not really great! Another road trip hazard especially in Eastern Canada! We did find an A & W restaurant not far from the hotel and did find something to eat; just what we needed more fast food! Thank God for the bottle of wine we took in our cooler to make our A & W Easter Sunday supper go down good!

    MK