Sunday, April 11, 2021

Last Tango in Halifax—England, not Canada

It being a rainy day I decided to spend a couple of hours watching the last two episodes of season four of “Last Tango in Halifax.” Gilda and I started watching “Last Tango in Halifax” after erroneously believing Halifax referred to the capital of Nova Scotia which we visited on our honeymoon 47 summers ago. 


Turned out, the Halifax in Last Tango is in Yorkshire, England, the setting for the convoluted lives of two semi-dysfunctional, extended, amalgamated families of Britons. (Friends tell me it’s similar in concept to “This Is Us,” which Gilda and I have not watched.)


So it was understandable, at least to me, that I was immediately interested in a New York Times first person commentary from last November on how Halifax, NS, residents have coped with the coronavirus pandemic. Quite well, it turns out (https://nyti.ms/2UCuWcl).


After reading the article I asked Gilda what’s the first thing to come to mind when she thinks about Halifax. I thought it would conjure up the memory of the time she erroneously entered the men’s room in a Chinese restaurant our first night in Halifax. Instead, she recalled how seasick she felt for three days driving up the eastern coast of Nova Scotia after our voyage across the Bay of Fundy from Bar Harbor, ME, to Yarmouth, NS.


Let’s start at the beginning. We wed late January 1973. As I had been working just four months for The New Haven Register, we had to defer our honeymoon until the summer. We mapped out a two week journey winding its way up north, first to Bar Harbor and Acadia National Park, then a six-hour ferry ride to Yarmouth, a leisurely drive up what we hoped was the scenic coast of Nova Scotia, then Halifax, followed by a quick trip through New Brunswick en route to Quebec, then homeward bound with a stop at the Basketball Hall of Fame in Springfield, MA (Gilda’s must see, not mine), and finally back to our apartment in Seymour, CT.


If you like lobster, as we do, Bar Harbor is the place to visit. Picturesque (at least it was 47 years ago), with every restaurant presenting the town’s signature vertical way to serve a sliced up lobster. Acadia National Park offered spectacular views of the Atlantic Ocean coastline. 


Our honeymoon was off to a most enjoyable start as we drove our 1973 Chevy Vega onto the ferry to Yarmouth on a clear, crisp summer day, what appeared to be perfect sailing weather. What we hadn’t known is that the Bay of Fundy is considered by many to be among the choppiest bodies of water in the world. Something to do with it having the highest tides anywhere. Within a couple of hours of rocking side to side almost all the passengers were seasick. I was prone on a bench. Though tempted to, I did not barf. Two hours later even crew members were turning green.


After finally, thankfully, docking in Yarmouth, we drove off the ferry and headed north along the coastline. Far from being a beautiful vista, the landscape resembled what was left over from a forest fire. Scraggly trees. 


We occasionally stopped along the way, including a visit to what might have been the world’s largest outdoor model train setup. At one tourist shop we bought a lobster trap with a curved top. We turned it into a foot rest/coffee table back in Seymour. We even bought a bright red stuffed lobster toy to place inside the trap. Kitschy, for sure, but remember we were just 24 at the time and managing, scrimping really, on my $7,800 a year salary (Gilda was starting nursing school in September). 


Halifax was quaint but really provided no long term memories. On the way to Quebec we stopped at Moncton in New Brunswick to experience Magnetic Hill, a place where vehicles placed in neutral seemingly go uphill in reverse. 


Quebec lived up to expectations, its quaint cobblestoned streets, European architecture and small town squares providing an atmosphere of French living. We biked on the Plains of Abraham where in 1759 the British defeated the French. At the end of the French and Indian War the British took control of all the land from the east coast of North America to the Mississippi River.


After driving for more than 10 days it was a pleasure to relax on the balcony cafe of the Château Frontenac overlooking the city while enjoying the most delicious lemonade we have ever had. 


The ride down from Quebec was punctuated by a stop in Springfield, MA, at the Basketball Hall of Fame. My only memory of that visit is of Bob Lanier’s sneakers, an astounding size 22. 

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