Province 2: “Canada’s Ocean Playground” Nova Scotia

Nova Scotia (New Scotland) is split in two pieces just like Newfoundland, with Cape Breton Island on the mainland’s northeast side and the mainland.  Nova Scotia was one of four provinces which formed the original nation of Canada (the others are New Brunswick, Quebec and Ontario) in 1867.  The province has had a lot of wars in its early days—everyone seemed to want a piece of it including Britain, France, America, and, the original Mi’kmaq people.  Eventually, Canada won out and everyone was able to start getting along.  Sort of.  The Brits and French hated each other, but what else is new?

By the way, did you know it’s Canada’s 150th anniversary this year?  Of course you did. It’s a pretty amazing time to be road-tripping across the country because of 1) all of the blatant and kind of awesome patriotism everywhere and 2) all the National Parks stuff is free!  Hooray!

The ferry from Newfoundland to Nova Scotia was a 7 hour ride.  I thought I’d be super bored so I brought up from the car my computer, my kindle, my iPod, and my pillow.  I used my pillow.  All this travelling makes a girl tired and I was quite happy to sleep most of the 7 hours away.  It was quite an experience with a real sit-down restaurant with service which is a lot different to the cafeteria style I have been used to on BC ferries.

Once arrived in Sydney, we had to drive nearly two hours to our hostel for that night.  We stayed in a town called Ingonish in a hostel kind of like a barn and left it promptly the next morning.  Our plan was to take it kind of easy-ish for the day and just really enjoy the scenery.  We were going to drive only a 100 kms  or so through the Cape Breton Highlands National Park to Chéticamp which is where we were going to stop for the night.  The idea was to stop at all the interesting walking points along the Cabot trail and get to Chéticamp for dinner time and bed.  It was a lovely day and we did three walks with a more significant one being the popular Skyline trail, which is an easy 9.5 kms, mostly flat offering great views of the sea.  A few people we met on the trail excitedly boasted of seeing a mother moose and two young calves, so we light-heartedly traipsed through the forest, getting more and more excited.  I actually inwardly doubted we’d see them, but Callum was on cloud nine thinking about getting to see more moose.  We did not see them.  Sigh.  Another time.  I did point out to him that every time we’ve seen wildlife, it has been unexpected.  Like the caribou, moose, rabbits, and the black bear we startled while driving early one morning.  We enjoyed the views nevertheless and made our leisurely way down to Chéticamp where we found a bed and breakfast owned by a lonely old man who wanted to chat a bit more than we wanted to.

We made our way to the province’s capital of Halifax, which I found rather wonderful.  It felt like a very liveable city to us, and I liked it’s vibe a lot.  Small feeling but with everything you need, on the water, cute old buildings, and the ever-fascinating Canadian Museum of Immigration at Pier 21.  We spent a good two hours at this museum and probably could have had another hour, but it was closing.  The port is still used by cruise ships and indeed, there were heaps of tourists crowding the museum and its gift shops.  Halifax was a very important entry point for Canadian immigration in the 1920’s to 1970’s.  A fifth of the nation’s immigrants came through Halifax at this time.  I felt a bit of a kinship with those whose stories were on display, either on the ground floor where migrants who are still alive have their story represented, or in the old hall where migrants from long ago are remembered.  I guess I am sort of going through the same things with the long process it is to become an Australian citizen.  I recommend this interesting museum to anyone going to Halifax.

We had a big day our second day in Halifax.  We first visited the Citadel which was alright.  We saw people in costume/uniform.  We heard a canon.  We visited the war museum, which made me emotional.  It was alright.  Then we made our way to a winery and had a scrumptious lunch.  I drank a glass of the most delicious strawberry rosé and wanted to buy a bottle for my parents, but, I was literally drinking the last of the collection with my pizza and cheeses and meats, and couldn’t do it.  Apparently, just that week a restaurateur had visited the winery and bought several cases of the stuff.  I was disappointed. Nothing else I tasted seemed quite right.  Sorry, Mom and Dad.

After lunch we visited two small villages which are rather touristy: Lunenburg and Peggy’s Cove.  We wanted to see the Bluenose II, a famous ship (or rather, the replica of a famous ship) which features on the Canadian ten-cent coin and is normally in port in Lunenburg, but she wasn’t in.  She was in route to Quebec.  The ship is famous because it was an undefeated racing ship from 1921-1946 and became sort of a proud Canadian icon.  I was disappointed she wasn’t in, but, the town of Lunenburg itself is gorgeous and worth the drive out to see it.  Peggy’s Cove was a total tourist trap and was overrun with people from all over, which made it kind of unenjoyable. The lighthouse was quaint and the views really good, though nearly impossible to get photos without other people.

We’d go back to Nova Scotia for sure.  It was picturesque and seemed to have a lot more exploration opportunities than our time permitted.

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