The long way home

August 25, 2011

The sun began to shine just in time for us to board the ferry to go back to Newfoundland from St. Pierre.  “Boss”, the guy who lost it with his sick family on the way over, was also on our ferry on the way back.  Alex was incredulous as he listened to him telling other passengers about the harrowing crossing the day before.  He told everyone that they had been “deathly ill” and all he could do was run back and forth between them, saving their lives…

We chose to sit outside because the weather was finally so nice.  The temperature hit a balmy 14*C.  The island of St. Pierre was just beautiful from the water.  We were able to see seals, and the captain drove the ferry close to the other islands so that we could see the puffins.  The sky and the water were full of them!

St. Pierre, France

The Cathedral is in the middle of the photo, and the apartment building on the right is where the Gendarmes live.

We bought a magnet that looks just like these two!

Filling out the Customs sheet - they had to give me two because we don't all fit on one form!

All those black specks in the air, water and on the cliffs are puffins!

As we left French waters and entered Canadian waters, the crew took down the French flag and raised the Canadian flag.  (Something we didn’t notice traveling inside on the way over!)

We stayed outside the whole time and saw some dolphins.  We enjoyed the sun and passed the time playing cards;  Olivia & I were partners.  It took about an hour-and-a-half to get back to Newfoundland, but then we had to go through customs.  We had only brought back $50 total in souvenirs although we were allowed $50/person.  We also hadn’t brought any alcohol because we hadn’t been gone long enough.  Once we got to the front of the line, we sailed through customs.  None of our bags were checked.

D’Arcy had to go and pick up our van and then come back to get the rest of us.  By the time we hit the road for Argentia, it was close to suppertime.  We put in a movie for the kids and set out on the two-hours-of-nothing road from Fortune to Goobies for the 4th time!  Not far down the road, we saw a woman hitchhiking and recogized that she had been sitting near us on the ferry, so we stopped to pick her up.  Her name was Geri and she was from Alberta.  She was traveling across the country on her own and we hope that she might stop in to the B&B when she’s in Nova Scotia!

Every child but Sarah fell asleep during the drive and about half-way into it I realized that there was no way we would make it to Argentia that evening.  Because of the potential of moose on the road, we didn’t want to be driving in the dark and we knew it would soon be dusk.  I suggested that we try to find a place in Clarenville, about 15 minutes from Goobies.  We dropped Geri off in Goobies, as she was headed to Come By Chance, in the other direction from where we were going.  We drove to Clarenville and called around to some motels.  They were either full, had only smoking rooms, or cost over $200 for the night.  We knew we could set the tent up, but didn’t really want to; we had to be at the ferry to Nova Scotia by 1:30 and had hoped to get to Cape St. Mary’s in the morning.

D’Arcy looked at the map to see what there was in the other direction.  We called a motel in Arnold’s Cove, just a 30 minute drive, and booked a room.  The price was right – only $70.  (You get what you pay for!)  We checked in and realized we had been given a room next to three girls who looked ready to party.  One of them was standing out on the deck having a cigarette.  D’Arcy questioned the woman at the front desk who told him that it was just three girls and there shouldn’t be any noise.  We hadn’t even taken anything out of the van when three guys pulled up and the noise level increased.  The walls were quite thin and I was tired.  D’Arcy & I went together to the front desk to ask if we could have a different room.  The girls from the room next door were ahead of us, asking if there was a shot glass they could have.  Needless to say, we were moved to an efficiency unit at the other end of the motel for no extra charge!

We spent some time checking for bed bugs, then brought our things in.  The room was adequate for our needs, and I actually slept quite well.  D’Arcy ended up on a futon with Sarah, so his sleep was not as good quality, and the boys each had an air mattress & sleeping bag on the floor.  We got up early in the morning and checked out as soon as possible.  We drove to a grocery store to buy some cereal and picnic supplies for lunch, then made our way to Argentia, but not before stopping to find a geocache in Arnold’s Cove!

Arnold's Cove, NL

Found the geocache - this makes 10 in Newfoundland!

Our original plan was to go to Cape St. Mary’s for the morning and then return to the ferry by our 1:30 check in time.  However, with the fog and because of all the rain, we were advised at a lovely cafe in Argentia that we shouldn’t try it.  I had wanted to go to Cataracts Provincial Park, but the road was bad and the weather wasn’t great.  We ended up souvenir shopping in Argentia and then going to Castle Rock National Historic Site in Placentia, where we toured the facility and did a quick walk of the fort’s remains.  I’m sure it was beautiful, but the fog was so thick, we didn’t get a feel for the view.  We had fun exploring, but I had what I assume was a drop in my blood sugar.  I got the shakes and had to go back to the van and eat a granola bar and have a drink of juice.  It wasn’t long before the others came to the van and we drove to the ferry.

Exploring the fort in the fog

The view of Placentia Bay - I'm sure it's beautiful...

The kids on the cannon at Castle Rock

We left and went back to Argentia to catch the ferry.  Again, as we checked in, they commented, “We’ve been waiting to see who the peanut allergy is!”  We had our van washed to remove all soil from Newfoundland.  The kids thought it was fantastic to watch the women with the fire hoses washing our van!

We boarded the ferry and found out we had the same cabin that we’d had on our crossing to Newfoundland.  We dropped our few things off (the girls were dressed in track suits that they could sleep in) and we went out onto the deck – in the sunshine – to eat our picnic lunch.  We had eaten and cleaned up and there was still time before we sailed.  We positioned ourselves on the deck and watched as they prepared the ship for sailing.

Alex & D'Arcy

Alex & the girls, chatting during our last few moments in Newfoundland

Removing the line from the buoy so we could set sail

Evan & Sarah

Before long, the kids all wanted to go inside.  We sailed at 3:30 p.m. and grabbed a seat in the lounge where the entertainment was and started to play games.  Sarah, Evan, Alex & I played Monopoly while D’Arcy & Olivia played My Little Pony Memory.  We stationed ourselves in one spot and went back & forth to the cabin, the playroom, outside, etc.  We had some snacks, but had thought that since they were so accommodating about Olivia’s allergies that we might be able to have supper in the restaurant.

A big move in the My Little Pony Memory Game...

Getting the Monopoly game started.

Admittedly, I was tired by this point. We went into the restaurant at about 7:30 when the crowd had died down.  As we walked in, there was a woman working at the bar.  I asked if they were still serving and she replied, curtly, “For what?”  Now I know that she probably meant for the restaurant or for the buffet, but her tone implied that we were not welcome.  We stood at the doorway of the sit-down section of the restaurant without being acknowledged.  There were about five tables that had guests still eating, but the rest of the tables were dirty.  Servers walked by us without even making eye contact and we left to check out the buffet side.

Now anyone with food allergies knows that a buffet is dangerous territory – especially with the chance that people will use one spoon in more than one dish.  Before we were seated, we asked the hostess if we would be able to get something safe for Olivia to eat and she went to check with the kitchen.  We waited and she came back to say that they could feed her macaroni & cheese bites from the buffet.  I explained that she can’t eat from a buffet and that the macaroni & cheese bites were probably made with egg.  I suggested that perhaps she could have some steamed veggies & ham – if the ham had not made it to the buffet yet.  Long story short, the chef did not feel comfortable feeding her, so we all left the restaurant.

We bought the kids hot dogs at the take-out place and fed Olivia from our cooler.  She had turkey, cheese, mandarin oranges and cereal and we got her some chocolate milk.  We played some more games and bought a fun new game, “ImagineIff” from the gift shop.

We went to our cabin to put the girls to bed and had intended to keep playing the game, but I realized I couldn’t keep my eyes open any longer.  I knew that we’d dock by 6 a.m. and remembered what it was like when I worked on the Scotia Prince and we docked at 8 a.m.!  I knew it would be an early morning.  I don’t know how long the rest of them stayed up, but Olivia & I curled up on our top bunk together and let the swaying of the ship rock us to sleep.

It was morning before we knew it and we just got up in our clothes and went to the car.  It was a beautiful morning and none of us were quite ready to be home.  I sent my parents a message, asking if we had anyone booked for the night.  (When we had left, there hadn’t been anything booked.)  I left them a message that we were going to drive the Cabot Trail, so they should leave the mess and we’d look after it when we arrived home in the afternoon.

We took the Englishtown Ferry to the Trail (We had to borrow cash from the kids for the $5.25 crossing!) and started around.  The scenery & weather were beautiful.  D’Arcy, Alex & Sarah searched for a geocache right when we got off the ferry, but didn’t have any luck finding it. They finally gave up, figuring that it was no longer there.  We stopped for coffee  at a cafe in Ingonish and at that time it was still only eight-ish.  The weather was gorgeous and we stopped at some of the look-offs for photos.

Cape Breton Island

Cape Breton Island

View of the Skyline Trail. If you look on the top of the mountain, in the centre of the photo, you can see a couple of tiny people walking the trail. We hope to do that with the kids - maybe in the Fall? Probably next year... I can only imagine how beautiful the view is!!

Heading towards Cheticamp, Cape Breton

We stopped in Cheticamp for lunch, although it was not quite 11:00.  (When you’re on the road by six, you’re ready for everything early!)  We looked for a place that was open that we thought we could find something safe for Olivia since there is not much traditional breakfast food that would be safe.  Even things being cooked on the same grill as eggs are a problem.  We found a restaurant and she was happy to have another pizza – our go to “safe” food.  Sarah wanted to buy some candy, but I wasn’t sure if it was safe and I was getting anxious to be on the road, not knowing if my parents had left the rooms for us to finish when we arrived home.

I drove from Cheticamp and D’Arcy had a nap.  We went through the Margaree Valley and stopped for gas after we crossed the Canso Causeway.  We high-tailed it for home, arriving around 3:00.  My dad was sitting on the front step reading a book and my mom was just pulling into the driveway.  We were tired and dirty and grungy so turned down their offer of hodge-podge for supper.  No one was really hungry at that point.  We chatted for a bit in the driveway while D’Arcy unloaded the van.

It was hard to imagine that the two weeks had flown by so quickly!  We realize how fortunate we were to have that time together – despite the hiccups along the way!  My Facebook status updates were few while in Newfoundland, but the day we arrived home, I posted the following:  “After 13 days, 3400 km of driving, 562 km of water travel on three different ferries, 39 different bathrooms, and 11 successful geocashes, we are home safe, sound and still speaking!”

It was a family vacation that I’m sure none of us will ever forget!



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