Ferry Tales, Part Deux

April 21, 2011 at 10:49 am Leave a comment

All three of us were varying degrees of sad to leave St. John’s, partially because we’d had such a good time there, and also because we were dreading the return trip on the hospital ship ferry. This time, though, we were going to be a little better prepared. I had Lee map out a stop on the way out of St. John’s, because we needed a couple of meals, and we needed SHEETS. I think I paid $7 for an ugly, sandpaper-rough brown & creme plaid sheet, but at least I knew I’d have a new, clean layer to protect me from a suspicious mattress.

My mom drove us to the ferry terminal in Argentia and instead of boarding at almost midnight, as we did on the way there, our return trip left in the early evening. This turned out to be so much more agreeable. It was a lot better to have the sleepy time in the middle of the long crossing to break up the trip.

First thing when we got on the ship was to check out our accommodations. We were in a different steerage compartment this time. Instead of freezing on a lower deck in our own little nook, we were in a room on an upper deck that held about 40 bunks. It was a little disconcerting, at first, to think about sleeping in the same room as 37 strangers, but at least it wasn’t as cold. And at least we had sheets! A girl with pretty pink shoes (that you can see in the photo below) and a matching shiny Lululemon bag stumbled into the bunkroom with the same dazed look that we’d had on our first crossing. I felt bad for her, but I knew that she, like us, would emerge from the crossing much wiser and with a resolve to bring a sheet next time.

Cheers for NL

By this point, we were all exhausted and a little (or a lot) silly. I was just looking forward to getting back to the mainland and I approached the return trip with a great deal of acceptance. Que sera sera! We made up our beds and since we knew that the prime seating on the main decks gets taken fast, I wanted to stake out a spot in the back room of the movie room, near one of the power outlets I’d found so I could work on some photos and keep my phone and iPod charged.

Since we’d gone straight to bed on the way there, we’d missed a delightful (and really long) safety video (made longer by repeating the whole thing in French), but we were happy to catch that feature film the second time around! Pretty soon, it was time for dinner, and we’d all bought containers of fresh fruit for some healthy snacks, however, none of us had thought to buy utensils. I’m not sure why none of us thought to get some from the cafeteria on the ship, but maybe no one was up for braving the hospital food smell.

Eating fruit

So we made it work.

Bugs & Debbie were entertaining, of course, and for a while, I kind of wanted to head down to the lounge and enjoy some fine accordion playing over a beer, but exhaustion won out. Two of the previous three mornings, I’d been up before the sun, so it was awesome to fall into a bed (with a sheet on it) completely exhausted and sleep as long as I could. Then once we got up in the morning, we didn’t even have two hours to kill before we docked in North Sydney!

On the boat

I was thrilled to see a) land and b) a beautiful day for more sightseeing and driving! I had hoped that we would see the Cabot Trail winding down the mountains, like on the magnet that I’d bought, but I think that you only get that view from the Port-aux-Basques crossing.

The least fun thing about being a walk-on passenger for this ferry is that you’re not permitted to walk on or off; you have to ride a shuttle bus from the ferry terminal to the boat and vice versa. Boarding the ferry, this is pretty sweet, because you get to board first, so they can drive the shuttle off the ferry before all the cars get on. But when it’s time to leave, you’re trapped until everyone with a car drives away. It felt like it took forever to get off the boat that morning, especially since we wanted to hurry to Halifax to hit the Maritime Museum before it closed, per Jules’ request.

So we finally get to the terminal and head across the street, where I was thrilled to see that my rental car was still just where we’d left it. We started tearing apart the back of the car, changing clothes, repacking suitcases, etc. It’s a flurry of activity.

Remember the guys who stared at us while we parked the car before we boarded the ferry a few days earlier? Yeah, it turns out that maybe they were parking attendants, or maybe just locals who found it amusing to stand in the lot and stare at tourists, we’re really not sure, but either way, we think they knew something about parking fees. We’d driven into the lot and hadn’t seen a sign that indicated it wasn’t free, or a booth collecting money, or a machine where you pre-pay for parking for a certain amount of time (that’s how we roll in Chicago), or anything. But it turns out that there were parking fees, because a guy sitting in his pickup truck with his dog got out of his pickup truck and swaggered over to us, holding a clipboard.

“You ladies didn’t pay for parking before you left.”
“Ummm…I didn’t know there was a fee,” I said.
“Yeah, there’s a fee.”
“There wasn’t a sign or anything.”
“Yeah, a lot of people don’t know,” he said, leaving me wondering how people are supposed to know, given the lack of signage, and who you’re supposed to pay when you drive in. The clump of guys, smoking and staring? How do you know if they’re the right people?

So then he consults his clipboard and tells us that we owe a whopping $35 for five days of parking fees. No late charge, no fine. Just $35. I am totally unflapped because at home, you can’t even park overnight in the Loop for $35. So the girls shove money at me and I give the guy $35, and then he bends over and proceeds to begin UNLOCKING A BOOT FROM MY WHEEL. None of us had noticed…I’m sure we would have gotten in the car and tried to drive away if he hadn’t been sitting in his pickup truck when we arrived. Now I was flapped. I couldn’t believe that I’d driven in both Chicago and Miami without ever getting my car even ticketed (although Jules’ car did get towed while visiting me in Chicago and we had to get it out of the auto pound in the underbelly of Wacker Drive…that’s a good story), but I managed to get a rental car booted in North Sydney, Nova Scotia, in a parking lot that wasn’t even paved.

Fortunately, we were soon on our way post-boot, and our first stop absolutely had to be Tim Horton’s for iced coffees. The cashier greeted me with a super cheery “Whatchoo GITTIN’?” Then she proceeded to tell us that they were out of iced coffee. Yet they had coffee. And I presume that their ice machine wasn’t out of ice. And I definitely saw cups. So I’m not sure what the problem was, but the woman could not sell me an iced coffee. I had to settle for Pepsi, which just isn’t the same. But after the ferry and the boot, I wasn’t really fazed, and at least we did get yet another trip catchphrase out of the stop.

Sans iced coffees, we were finally on our way out of the Sydney/North Sydney area. We stopped first at the Gaelic College of Celtic Arts and Crafts, which has an awesome Scottish store that was closed when we drove past earlier. It’s near the east end of the Cabot Trail and worth a stop if you are in the area and like Scottish things! Jules wanted to get something for her Scottish brother-in-law, and I wanted something in my family tartan. My maternal grandma’s maiden name was McCaghren, and from research done by relatives, I knew that McCaghren is related to the MacDonald clan. I have a really pretty red & green tartan scarf that my aunt & uncle brought back from Scotland for me a few years ago, so I thought it would be fun to get a magnet or a bookmark or a souvenir spoon.

All MacDonald items were sold out. Seriously, someone must have come through just before me and bought up the place. No bookmarks, no magnets, no historical pamphlets, no snowglobes, no Christmas ornaments, no bow ties. But Jules got some things and a scrawny boy was practicing the bag pipes in front of our car when we left, so the stop wasn’t a loss.

From there, we were on to Halifax, which is definitely a topic for another post. Lots of photos to come!


Entry filed under: Cape Breton Island, Ferry Crossing, Newfoundland, Nova Scotia, Photos.

Mile Zero! Halifax!

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A serial road tripper chronicles her adventures.


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