Published: October 13th 2006October 1st 2006
One of the many lighthouses, dotted all round the rugged shoreline.
Nova Scotia …… I have to say in all my travel planning and dreaming, Nova Scotia had never really entered my consciousness. As we were now poised to travel around the area, I began to give it some thought. The name Nova Scotia…..New Scotland, may give a clue, but it remains to be seen how accurate this analogy is.
Nova Scotia is Canada’s 2nd smallest province. It is almost an island, surrounded completely by water, but for the slender 9.73 mile border it shares with New Brunswick .The coastline is varied and beautiful & where the Atlantic meets the East coast, there are hundreds of beaches, rugged coves and headlands. On the interior shores the world’s highest tides ebb and flow along the Bay of Fundy, creating long stretches of deserted red sanded and pebbled beaches. This gave us 4626 miles of coastline to explore and enjoy……. but how to choose where to go?
As we entered Nova Scotia from PEI, our natural route was to head north to Cape Breton, which is an island, connected to Nova Scotia by a causeway. Here we would drive the Cabot Trail which is listed in the “top 10 “ most beautiful
We spotted this huge eagle as we walked along the coast of the Cabot trail.
natural places to see in the world.
Tourist information offices are a great source of knowledge, and, as the name suggests they hand out great maps and associated literature marked with the scenic routes and places of interest etc. So, with our scenic colour coded map in hand, off we went. Now, things have not changed that much whilst we have been away. “Oh”, I exclaim “there is only one route round the Island this will be easy”……..
I had been pondering for quite a while why the water was on the wrong side of us before I had to admit to Graeme, things were “ not quite right”. A quick review of the situation established we were on the only other road it was possible to take and were in fact travelling though the Islands centre…..
A not so quick (narrow roads) U- turn set us back on our way.
The Cabot trail is a spectacular scenic drive. There are no “attractions” here other than the natural beauty of this wilderness area, the fauna and flaura & stopping along the way to take in the view, or hike on one of the many trails. You can visit
Typical scene along the Cabot trail
the Whale interpretive centre and tiny isolated harbours en route, all the while keeping a close eye on the ocean in case you are lucky enough to catch a glimpse of Dolphins or Whales.
Now with all this natural beauty to entertain us, what more could you want?
Well, as it happens, over the last few months of our travels, initially by chance, we had managed to catch a program called “Rock Star Supa Nova” (did you get it in the UK?) and become addicted to it. What began as a bonus if we caught it became essential viewing……. (sad, eh)
It’s the usual format, a load of hopefuls audition, get reduced to the final few and now are competing for the chance to be lead singer with the so-called “super group” Supa nova that consists of Tommy Lee (Motley Crue drummer, however, more famous as the star of candid video made with ex-wife Pamela Anderson), Gilby Clarke (one-time rhythm guitarist for Guns N’ Roses) & Jason Newsted (the bass player for Metallica) Surely a winning combination….
Well it was finals night and we had stopped for the night in a hidden away camp ground which was at
These rocks are pink granite with quartz lines in them, they "twinkle" in the sunlight.
the farthest point east we could get before we hit England……..well if you don’t count Newfoundland.
As we checked into the campsite we asked casually if they received Global TV. The woman looked a bit dubious and said they could only manage 2 TV channels here, on a good day. If we parked on the hilltop we might get 2 channels but not Global. We dithered for a while, and she asked why? Somewhat embarrassed we confessed we were desperate to see this programme. We decided to retreat to the rig to consider if there was another solution. Soon after, we answered a tap on the door, to find the owner of the park. He said he had a holiday cottage down the lane with satellite, and if we wished, he would give us the key and we could watch TV there!!!! Such nice people here. We quickly parked up and settled in.
In retrospect we should have used the daylight hours to reccy the location….
Later that evening, in the inky pitch-black, (no such thing as light pollution here); we set off down the lane to look for a green-painted wooden house… number 236. Well, all the
The solders are about to parade a prisoner through the streets. I think the really enjoy their jobs here.
houses are wooden here, and in the dark they all look green, the numbers are useless. I think they must number them from the beginning of the Island, as there were only about 10 houses in the entire 2 mile-long lane so why 236?
We walked up and down, setting off barking dogs, that chased us every time we went by. Great fun… Peering up lanes at peoples houses, giggling. Try explaining that you are not breaking in, you just want to watch “Supa Nova”.
Eventually, walking past number 184 we discovered 236 was the next house…. of course.
It was really creepy, letting ourselves into a dimly lit cottage. Even more so as it was furnished completely in a turn of the century style, like a film set. You expected “The Walton’s” to appear at any time.
Still we managed to settle in to enjoy the show on a 1960s type TV …. Quite a surreal evening in all.
The next day the owner told us his family hd built the cottage at the turn of the century. There were no roads then, so they had floated all the timber down the river, or bought it in
"New Paris" Lunenburg is built out on a pennisular, around a natural harbour. It has it's own weather front and can be freezing. Probably not a favourite posting in its day
by boat. They were oyster fisherman then and still worked the oyster beds today. It was immaculate inside, in fact it was maintained exactly as it had been as his family home. (Apart from the 1960s TV perhaps).
Oh…… Not our choice but we did identify the winner, the Canadian bloke won…… so that’s OK.
Next day, now relieved of the burden of having to be within a Global receiving area on Wednesday night we went on our way.
Time for some sensible stuff. We decided we would visit the Alexander Graham Bell Museum, which is in a lovely place called Baddeck on the Bras d’Or lake. AG Bell, a Scotsman by birth and, during times in his life, resident of Edinburgh, Ontario and Washington said:
“I have travelled the globe, I have seen the Canadian and American Rockies the Andes and the Alps, and the highlands of Scotland, but for simple beauty, Cape Breton outrivals them all.”
He then built his family home here and named it Beinn Breagh, Gaelic for “Beautiful Mountain”.
I guess we all know AG Bell was famous for inventing the telephone, but that is just the tip of the iceberg. By studying
This is one of the most photographed sites in Canada. So not to be left out here is our photo.
vocal anatomy he developed a system of “visible speech” enabling deaf people to speak & opened a school for the deaf, invented the hydrofoil, a forerunner to the iron lung, a metal detector (commissioned to search for the bullet still embedded in President Garfield’s body), helped design the craft for the first airflight in Canada, an iceberg detector and the photo phone, to name a few things.
The Museum was fascinating, in almost every field he invented something that affects our life today.
Just think, all this fame topped off, when 50 years later “the Sweet” (remember them) recorded a song about him……..
Louisbourg was our next stop. It is a remote area which was economically decimated when the coal mines closed. So, in the 60s, as part of a regeneration project the Government decided to retrain the miners in the traditional building skills to enable them to reconstruct the Fortress of Louisburg. This created many jobs and a financially successful famous tourist attraction, thus killing two birds with one (or many thousands,) of stones.
The Fortress was strategically very important in the French / English conflict. Following their defeat at Port Royal the French made this seaport
their capitol; they decided not only to make it a fortified port but also a “New Paris” for New France. The population grew to about 2,500 civilians plus troops. The occupants were very cosmopolitan for the time, consisting of Bretons, Normans, Basques, French, German, Swiss, Irish and Africans. The Mi’kmaq Indians were regular, peaceful visitors and traders. For 20 years they lived a hard but peaceful life, but all the time, expecting the British to appear over the horizon….
Never being ones to disappoint, in 1745, 4,000 British troops appeared and blockaded the Fort for 6 weeks. The Fortress fell and the British then deported the occupants back to France.
Bit of a waste of effort really, as in the treaty of 1748 it was returned to France and many of the original occupants returned.
(What I have learnt about this period of history is that this stretch of ocean was kept very busy with the deportation of people from one shore to the other, and often it was the very same people!)
10 years passed and…… back came the British, this time 30,000 of them and retook the fortress. Off go the occupants back to France again. .
Peggies cove lighthouse
It was along this coast the Swiss Air flight crashed. There is a memorial stone for the victims and for all the volunteers.
Two years later, the British abandoned the place and Prime Minister William Pitt demanded it be destroyed. It was never again occupied or re-built upon.
Despite the destruction they were able to reconstruct the Fortress in fine detail as there were thousands of pages of detailed plans, letters and documents in museums in France. From this they were able to reconstruct 50 of the Forts original buildings, correct to the minutist detail of window fastenings, colours and doors. They also had records of all the people who lived within the Fortress.
It turned into an amazing labour of love and many of the people who helped recreate the Fortress still work there today.
The Fortress recreates a spring day in 1744, just before the British attack.
As you explore the houses people are dressed as the occupants of the day. They really enjoy themselves when, having asked you where you are from, and you reply England they can abuse you as the enemy, what a great days work, another job I fancy.
We spent all day wandering around “New Paris” but couldn’t find a croissant or cappuccino for love nor money, Ale and turnip soup yes, but
no cappuccino. It was getting late and time to leave. We were offered a filthy straw sack in the local “cabaret” for the night, for a very reasonable fee which included a bowl of soup. We considered it for a brief moment, but declined the offer and decided to return to the comfort of the rig. It was 5ish when we left so we decided to camp in the village. This was becoming a regular event on this part of the journey; we must have travelled all of 20 miles this day. It turns out that was quite good, as we moved on it got less!
It was late in the season and most places were beginning to close. That night we were the only rig in a really nice park, on the front overlooking the Fortress.
Next day we continued our meanderings through Nova Scotia, liking the place more at each stop.
We were heading to the Capital, Halifax. We didn’t know anything at all about Halifax. At one time we were going to ship the rig home from here, so knew it was a port…… that’s about it.
A slight difference of opinion between the sat
All the buildings here are brightly coloured. We were sat here having a nice coffee overlooking the fishermans memorial,
nav and me (it’s not going well) resulted in us approaching the city over the wrong bridge, No large vehicles allowed, oops ….. Anyway no one stopped us, we squeezed through the toll booth and paid the car fee of 25cents (11pence, a bargain).
We parked in a lovely lakeside park and next day set off on the bus to visit the city.
Well as always happens, upon investigation, we found it a very interesting place. Firstly, it’s in a sort of (very nice) time warp. its really quite 60s, It’s a university city, (= lots of coffee shops), and appears quite bohemian, lots of arty, ethnic shops, old records stores, organic cafes, ethnic clothes, and people dressed up as pirates? We did our bit and visited the Fort, but quickly got distracted by the coffee shops.
Halifax has several claims to fame though. It has the second largest natural harbour in the world (after Sydney); it launched three ships to pick up bodies from the Titanic. The Cunard shipping company started here, and it was home to the worlds largest man-made explosion prior to the atomic bomb….. Oh and it has an excellent brewery.
All your for 70,000+
is self explanatory. It has always been an important port for Atlantic shipping and played a vital part in providing supplies and troops to Europe during the two World Wars. It was also Canada’s “Ellis Island” as here, many thousands of immigrants, evacuated English children and war brides were processed during, and after the war.
The Titanic…. It was the wireless operator on Cape Race, Newfoundland who received the SOS, but it was from Halifax that 3 cable ships were chartered to search for, and retrieve the bodies.
Following a 2 week search the MacKay Bennett, and Minia recovered a total of 328 bodies, some of which were then buried at sea. They returned to Halifax with the tragic cargo of 209 bodies. The 150 bodies not claimed are buried in three cemeteries in Town each marked by a black granite headstone, each inscribed with the same date, April 15, 1912.
It is a stark reminder of the disaster.
Today, using the modern techniques now available they hope to identify some of the victims, by exhuming the bodies for DNA tests
There was one grave marked “unknown child”. The crew were so distressed by the finding of
Cap't Pugwash boat
Not The boat that exploded.....
Good job we saw this before the beers.
the child they paid for a headstone to mark his grave. 90 years later they have been able to add a name. A 50-strong Canadian-based team of scientists, historians, genealogists and dentists discovered the little boy's true identity after matching DNA from fragments of bone and teeth to a family member from Finland. The name “Eino Panula” can now be added on the stone. A 13 month Finnish boy who’s family all perished in the tragedy.
The explosion….. On Thursday Dec 6th 1917 Halifax harbour was busy with warships bound for Europe.
A French warship called the Mont Blanc was heading into the harbour. It was a 3000 ton ship carrying a somewhat explosive cargo of 2,300 tons of wet and dry Pitric acid, 200 tons of TNT, 10 tons of gun cotton, and 35 tons of Benzol. It also had fore and aft guns, with 300 rounds of ammunition on deck. (This is not a recipe to make at home). Unfortunately it was not flying the red flag to indicate it was carrying explosives. Maybe the response of the Imo might have been a little different if they had known.
The Imo, a former Norwegian whaler, was on
I think by now you must have the "flavour" of Nova Scotia
its way to New York to pick up relief supplies for Belgium. Due to traffic it was on the wrong side of the channel to exit the harbour. “Move” signaled the Mont Blanc, “no, you move” replied the Imo. You know what’s coming next don’t you?
At the last moment the Imo swung away, but struck the Mont-Blanc on the bow. Although the collision was not severe, fire immediately broke out on board the Mont-Blanc.
People gathered to watch the spreading fire with great interest. Unfortunately they did not take note that the terrified crew were abandoning ship and wildly rowing towards the opposite shore and, once on shore were all running like mad away from the harbour……. A clue perhaps of the events to follow?
At 9.05 the Mont Blanc blew up, resulting in the obliteration of 130 hectares of downtown Halifax, the death of 2,000 plus people and the wounding of 10,000 more. The explosion was so huge the ships cannon was hurled 3 miles in one direction whilst the anchor landed 1 ½ miles away in the opposite direction, the harbour was emptied of water by the following Tsunami and the shock waves were felt 50
It not easy you know.....
There is a museum display for this event which featured some survivor’s stories. One young woman, came-to, only to discover she was almost a ¾ mile away from where she had been standing at the time of the explosion.
That night, on top of all this devastation, 16 inches of snow fell. Some of the bodies were not found until the next spring.
Oh….. The crew of the Mont Blanc all survived.
After all this information we needed some refreshment, and headed to the Brewery……..
Here, for C$15, and accompanied by local “wench”, you could take a brewery tour, see the ale making process in action , visit the old bar, sing a few shanties and get a half of ale…..
Guess what, we cut out the middleman and went straight for the ale, sometimes you just don’t need to know how…… just, why.
It was good but ….. Still not quite as good as a pint of “Tongham Tea”
We liked this City and lingered a day longer. At this point we started to look in Real Estates windows and could not believe our eyes. We thought they had missed a
The tidal surge begins in the southern Indian ocean and results in 100 billion tons of water moving in and out of the Fundy bay every 25 hours. The water can rise up to 16 meters here. It says on a sign, "if you get trapped by the tide find a rock without seaweed on and sit on it for 3 hours".......
decimal point off or something.
A large, detached, 4 bedroom houses, on the water front, with acres of land, all in an area where people at home would trample over you in the rush to buy a house, for £120,000? Could this be true? Well not quite, as it happened we had picked an expensive one. You can buy a modest (big to us) house for £50,000. Makes the UK market look a bit overpriced doesn’t it?
We continued to follow the twisty coastal scenic route, each bend revealing a bay more picturesque than the last. Although not wishing to disagree with AG Bell, we thought this the prettiest part of the coastline. All along the way were tantalising “for sale” signs on houses that would attain front page status on “House and Home” Where are all these people going to?
Nova Scotia was fast becoming a favourite place.
The weather changed, it was a hideous rainy day when we stopped at a place called Annapolis Royal, which is a great little place. Again, for such a small town, it has several claims to fame.
It is the oldest continuous European settlement north of St. Augustine, Florida, and
Searching for her lover...
was the Capitol of Nova Scotia until Halifax came along...The first social club of North America “The Order of Good Cheer” was formed here by Samuel de Champlain. (Typically it was the French not British who did this). It has been voted the worlds no 1 Most Liveable Small Community in the “population of under 10,000” group. It fits easily into this category as the entire population here consists of 500 people.
It has the first and only tidal power facility in operation in North America. The building of which also houses the tourist information centre.
It was from here that the tourist information man, when asked “what should we do?” gave us the local “What’s On” & said, “it’s the graveyard tour tonight, it is highly recommended”. It is not just any old graveyard either, it is the oldest English Graveyard in Canada
So, that night, in the rain, we walked in to the little town to check it out.
It was very dark and absolutely no one else was around as we walked into town. The only vehicle to pass us, as we splashed along the road was a solitary Police car which later
This area is famous for its covered bridges, They stop them freezing over or being buried in snow. There are not many we can fit under
on we discovered was THE Police car of Annapolis Royal. The police force here consisting of one car and two policemen, well……. 2 ½, there is a weekend stand-in.
We arrived at the graveyard a bit early, (I can’t change old habits even though we knew the occupants couldn’t leave) and thinking no one else would turn up we were not sure where to wait. How wrong we were, apparently this is quite a famous event, written up by the New York Times. Out of nowhere people started to arrive, & before long a little group were gathered around the lantern-lit door of the old fort.
We were greeted by a Victorian gentleman. He escorted us around the graveyard, stopping at various headstones, weaving together the stories of the occupants lying within to the present day history of the town, and, as he knew everyone and their family history it was a really entertaining evening. His presentation was wonderful and so believable.
The next day when we returned to town to see it in daylight, we called into the Fort and saw the same gentleman. As we chatted he revealed that he was Acadian and told us
We did see a bit more whale then this. It is a hump back about 30ft long. One swan right up alongside the boat but didn't surface.
of his family history, which wove in with the stories of last night. He noted our interest in the Acadian people, & suggested that we stop at Grand Pre and visit the Evangeline Museum. It was on our way, so we marked it as a stop.
During the conversation I was completely fascinated, because, as I watched him I thought he looked so much more comfortable dressed as a 19th century Gentleman than as a 21st century historian. I now like to think it was his heritage showing through. .
The weather didn’t improve, so we abandoned the Scenic Route and headed to Grand Pre to visit the Acadian Museum, where the history of Acadians struggle to survive is graphically displayed.
We wondered what it was about these people that so captivated us. Was it because they have such a strong heritage, but have never had, or wanted a Country of their own or that, in the days when most ordinary rural people lived in a feudal system, they were free. They were wonderful farmers and dyke builders (although they had to watch out for those beavers!), they reclaimed acres of land, which still shapes the landscape here
I decided if i were to stay in Canada for the winter I would wear one of these suits all the time. It is really warm
today. They had no army, fought with no one, and had respectful relationships with their Indian neighbours. They developed a free and open system of government without a hierarchy or literate bourgeoisies. They considered themselves to be “Their own people”.
It was their stand, not to bear arms against either side during the French/ English conflicts which led to the commencement of” Le Grand Derangement” of 1755- 63
The story of the deportation is encapsulated in the epic poem “Evangeline” written by Henry Wadsworth Longfellow. It is the tale of a young woman separated from her lover the day before their marriage by the Derangement. Her search for him takes her south and west across the American landscape searching for him for the rest of her life.
The sculpture of Evangeline is a representation of all the families separated and searching for their loved ones, during and after those times.
Many years later, some Acadians did manage to return, but found their lands had been given to “New English” people. So they settled in the more remote regions of the Maritimes. This explains the pockets of French speaking communities we passed through on our travels.
We have 3 types of heating inside, but a log fire is so much beter. Look at all the empty spaces behind us, on this beautiful site. Must be time to go... The locals have.
deportation, because of the destruction of their society and the lack of a written history they did not have a complete picture of their past, but survived in isolation.
In 1994 Moncton, NB, held the first Acadian congress. Over a quarter of a million Acadian people attended from all over the world. The United Nations recognised it as the cultural event of the century. People met the descendents from parts of their families that had been scattered all those years before.
To finish our visit we watched the film presentation of the Acadian people’s history and were delighted to spot our “Victorian gentleman” only now he was an Acadian peasant spokesman. His name is Alan Melanson, heritage interpreter, Acadian actor and graveyard host, a man of many talents it seems.
We discovered that this area suffers foggy conditions (oh! it’s not just England then) due to facing the Atlantic, but as we went up the coast things improved. We were now travelling along the Bay of Fundy which is renowned for having the world’s highest tides.
We stopped at St Andrews to go whale watching. It was a lovely site overlooking Passamaquoddy Bay. We were walking distance
Not a bad view
Looking in from the boat. We are the middle vehicle.
from the little town and its coffee shop, which happened to sell the largest cinnamon buns you ever did see. Graeme was very happy with this discovery!
In the past we would not have been quite so well situated as this was not the original site for the town.
Thinking they would be in Canada when the border was settled the loyalists originally built their town further down the coast at Castine, However as happens, the powers-that-be then chose a new border, which was to be at St Andrews. This left the loyalists sitting on the wrong side of the fence and still in America, so what could they do? They dismantled their houses, put them on a barge floated them up the river and reconstructed them, where they still stand to this day The town is like a preserved heritage site, each house had a plaque informing you which family was awarded the land, what they did for a living, and how long they had lived in the building..
It was a really nice place to spend our last few days in Canada. The weather cleared for whale watching, we had beautiful views, and we could spend our
last few Canadian dollars on coffee and cake……. What more could you want, other than a bit more warmth. .
We know from last year, that, by now a lot of Canadians are preparing to head south, through that transit corridor called America, to winter in Mexico.
The huge mountains of logs we noted outside almost every home gave an inkling of the weather to come, and although the locals were still in short sleeves I was now wearing 5 layers of clothing.
It was time for us to leave and for Canada to snuggle down for the winter.
Things didn’t start well when, as we approached the border, we could not find the receipts we had identified for the tax rebate, therefore causing a small traffic jam whilst we blamed each other for losing them!!
Having resolved that issue, we approached the border fully prepared, passports, documents, empty fridge, all ready for inspection.
Well, our previous warnings eventually proved correct. Only no one had mentioned it is the American border that is so tricky.
After a few initial questions our passports disappeared and we were requested to “park up around the
Main route 1
Nice road! They had dug up both sides for miles.......
back and then step inside”
We waited patiently in a typically dowdy office to be reunited with our passports. We had a sneaking feeling this one might not be so easy.
“Please step forward” a voice requested. So we did. “Can we have the keys to the vehicle?” OK ….. We sat back down and waited, visualising them emptying out all the contents out into the rain.
Next came the Mastermind question section on “your lives” and a starter for 10…..
Where do you live,? what do you do?, how long have you been in the USA?, where are you going? …………
They were very interested in the fact we claimed to be not working but Graeme had a previous working visa in his passport.
Question, “What do you do for a living?” Graeme replied “Drive buses”. “You didn’t drive buses on this visa did you, what were you doing?”
At this point our respectability as a boring responsible couple began to fade. Graeme said “I was Tour managing a Band” We knew what was coming next……. Name of band please.
If only it had been something like “The Osmonds” or “The Carpenters” But no, it
Sunset from Mar Rosa
Maleno from Mazatlan sent us this picture. We think he is trying to tempt us back for the winter......
was the “21st Century Schizoid Band” …….. Sorry chaps, this didn’t put us to the top of the queue. We just waited a bit longer whilst they disappeared again …
More questions, what is your status in the US?, do you have a property in the UK? , empty pockets, tip bag out, sit back down. ……….
Eventually, sometime later, we were called forward, keys returned, finger prints and iris scan completed. Passports; now tantalisingly within our grasp. The Officer then said, “Do you know what this is all about?” “No” we reply, “well, we just wanted to check you didn’t want to stay in our country” ……. They should have just asked.
During that day we had been following a news story where, yet again a man had gone into a school, this time an Amish one in Pennsylvania and, having separated the girls in the class, tied them up& shot them in the head, many children died.
On the radio later that day, a Senator from Pennsylvania was discussing gun law in his State, and how they could prevent this type of incident happening again. He said “we have to have a serious clampdown on guns”. When asked what did he mean by that? He replied “to limit the purchase of guns to one a month for each individual" ! Just how many guns did he think it takes to kill someone?
SO ……Welcome back to the USA, land of freedom and the individuals rights, particularly those of the second amendment. . We drove off somewhat amused about our “warm welcome” wondering if non-working, hundreds-of-thousands-of-dollar-spending; travelling Brits are 2nd on the list to dodgy looking Hispanics as undesirable aliens?
As we bounced along the muddy track otherwise known as Scenic Route 1, the main Maine coastal road and, as we avoided the largest of the potholes we considered the response we could make to the next person who “tells” us how difficult those Canadian and Mexican border crossings are and how impossible it is to drive this size rig on the tiny, poor roads in Europe …….
To be cont……… We are heading south on what is to be the last part of our N American trip.