Nova Scotia – small in size, big in heart and full of diversity…..
Nova Scotia is one of Canada’s three maritime provinces. It is the second-smallest of Canada’s ten provinces, with an area of 55,284 square kilometres. Nova Scotia is Canada’s second-most-densely populated province, after Prince Edward Island, with 17.4 inhabitants per square kilometre. Consisting of a peninsula and 3,800 offshore islands including Cape Breton, it’s home to whales, puffins and seals, and popular for water sports like kayaking.
Mabel Bell, wife of telephone inventor Alexander Graham Bell, describing a cruise on the Bras d’Or Lakes (Cape Breton) in 1886, provided a good picture of Nova Scotia in general when she said:
“Such magnificent landlocked harbours I never imagined…Every moment something new to please and enchant, to make the mere act of watching as the vessel rounds each curve a delight…this trip was a constant joy for us.”
A relaxing & fun time…..
Before arriving in Truro, on Meta’s recommendation, we stopped off at the Masstown Market, a family owned business focussed on providing fresh, local foods. It has fruit and vegetables, home-style baked goods, a delicatessen and gourmet products, a café and dairy bar, giftware and even a garden centre. It also has a Lighthouse Interpretive Centre where we could read more about the Fundy tides and tidal bore and a fish market, where we enjoyed a lunch of lovely fresh fish and chips.
Having visited his sister, Margaret in Bath, we were glad to be able to spend some time with Gary and his family in Truro – and see Meta again as she was staying with them over the summer. We played a board game (which we lost dismally) and took a hike through Victoria Park, a beautiful green area in town, with two of his children. Time with Gary was spent walking along one of the local trails and watching his boys play soccer. The highlight of the stay was dinner with everyone at a fabulous fish and chip restaurant. Sadly, we missed Carla, Gary’s wife as she was off working on her MBA at a university in Sydney, Cape Breton.
Exploring the southern coast…….
Following our relaxing stay in Truro, we headed through Halifax, the provinces capital to the beautiful but rugged southern coast.
The South Shore was one of the first areas of North America to be colonized by Europeans following the French settlement at Port-Royal in 1605. The region was only sparsely inhabited by the Acadians – descendants of French colonists, although several settlements were established in present-day Shelburne County and the LaHave River valley. When the British took control of the region in the early 1700s, they initiated a program of importing colonists from continental Europe, mostly from Germany and Switzerland. To this day the South Shore retains many German place names and surnames as well as a distinct accent compared to the New England settlers’ influence in the Annapolis Valley or the Highland Scots’ influence in northeastern Nova Scotia and Cape Breton Island.
During the 20th century, the South Shore became the centre of Nova Scotia’s fishing industry, as fishermen in small boats operated from numerous tiny villages dotted along the coast. As in many parts of Nova Scotia, many South Shore fishing communities all but disappeared as residents moved to larger urban centres in search of new opportunities. The decline in the fishery coincided with growth in the service industry, and specifically tourism. The culture and economy along the South Shore gradually changed as the scenic area became a more common tourist destination. As more tourists came to appreciate the beauty and culture of the region, coastal land prices rose, small businesses catering to the industry sprouted up, and a vibrant art community took root.
The rugged coastline….
Peggy’s Cove is one of the most widely recognised locations in the area. Although the maritime coast is laden with lighthouses, the one at Peggy’s Cove is thought to be the most photographed one in the world. For this reason, the small fishing village draws huge numbers of tour buses and cars, with thousands of people hopping across the rocks each day. To be able to enjoy the quiet of the mornings and evenings at the cove when the tourists had gone home, we decided to stay at the Peggy’s Cove bed & breakfast for a couple of nights. With the balcony overlooking the serene waters of the cove and the aforementioned lighthouse, we made a perfect decision.
Evenings were spent enjoying the vista while sipping on a glass of wine and munching a simple meal. After dinner the first evening, we wondered down to the lighthouse to join those that had stayed on to watch the sunset.
The following morning, after going for a run to nearby Polly’s Cove for a view back over Peggy’s, we shared the rocks around the lighthouse with two other people wandering around marvelling at thunderous surf and taking photos.
Rather than spending the day at Peggy’s with the mad crowd, we took a drive down the coast to Lunenburg, avoiding the freeway and taking the windy coastal road instead. It was truly g.orgeous. Stopping off at the pretty village of Mahone Bay for a coffee gave us a nice break. We also passed ‘Queensland Beach’ on the way
On arrival in Lunenburg, we were surprised that it was bigger than we had expected. Lunenburg is a UNESCO World Heritage Site with narrow streets and unique architecture. The only downside was the prevalence of electricity wires passing between the brightly coloured buildings.
After finding parking and getting some tips for a walking tour from the information service, we stopped off for a lunch of fish and chips / lobster roll (you have probably noticed that fish and lobster is by far the most common food of the maritime region!). It was hot sitting outside in the sun, but we couldn’t resist the lovely view across the harbour.
Our visit to the Fisheries Museum of the Atlantic on the Lunenburg waterfront gave us a great overview of the history of fishing in the region as well as the extent of the illegal rum running “industry”. We were also able to explore on board an old schooner on the dock. Lunenburg is the home port of Nova Scotia’s sailing ambassador, the Bluenose II, a replica of the original fishing boat that found fame as a racing schooner -unfortunately we were unable to see her as she was off on a voyage (more on that later).