Travel Report: Nova Scotia
It seems a little crazy that it was almost a month ago now that my boyfriend and I set out for our summer vacation! We left by train to Halifax at the end of June and spent a very full ten days visiting friends and family, and exploring the province in our trusty little Prius borrowed from Carshare Atlantic.
I'm not the best travel photographer, as my tendency is to leave the camera behind in favour of just relaxing and enjoying the moment. I did manage to remember to snap a few photos here and there though!
Our first stop after Halifax was to visit friends and family near Antigonish, in the north-eastern part of the province, and from there the real explorations began as we headed over to Cape Breton. We spent our first night on the island in Baddeck, a charming little tourist town on the Bras d'Or Lake. We woke up to a rainy morning there, so after spending a couple of educational hours at the Alexander Graham Bell Museum we headed over to the local yarn shop.
Baadeck Yarns is a charming little spot, which managed to feel bright and cozy inside even on a grey rainy day.
We had a nice chat with the owner, Patricia, and I bought my only souvenir of the whole trip - a beautiful skein of sock yarn from Celtic Ravens Fibres (a local Nova Scotian indie dyer). I haven't cast on yet, but I'm thinking that Elizabeth's new design for Pizzicato Pinstripe Socks might be the perfect pattern to show of these gorgeous colours.
From Baddeck our plan was to drive up through the Cape Breton Highlands National Park to Pleasant Bay, a tiny town at the tip of the island where we'd booked a hostel for a couple of nights and were looking forward to doing some hiking and whale-watching.
But while we were in Baddeck several of the friendly locals had mentioned that we should try to check out a place called Meat Cove on our way to Pleasant Bay. So, when we arrived at a turn-off that said it would take us there, and we were still a few hours away from dinner time, we thought what the heck, let's drive up and see what the fuss is all about.
We drove along the little winding highway, which eventually seemed to end in tiny fishing village on a little bay.
We weren't quite sure what it was we were looking for, but Jon's attempts to use his phone to tap into the collective wisdom of the internet had led us to believe that there would be a little dirt road somewhere that ended in a spectacular view. We just had to find that road!
Our phone reception was pretty spotty though, and so the best course of action seemed to be to stop and ask for directions. We found a little fish and chip truck, and told the owner we'd heard there was a great view around somewhere and we were looking for the road to take us there. He thought for a minute or two and then directed us back out of town to where he said we'd find a dirt road that'd take us up.
Following his directions we did indeed find a very rough and rutted road that led us up past a quarry, to a little clearing that overlooked the bay.
The view was very pretty, but I was getting a bit grumpy because I was finding it a tad stressful to drive our tiny little carshare vehicle down roads that were obviously intended for great big trucks. Jon, however, was convinced that although this spot was nice, it wasn't spectacular enough to have been so highly recommended that we go out of our way to see it. The road continued on, and he convinced me we should keep going, as the "real" view was likely to be just up ahead.
We drove and drove down that completely deserted road, until we arrived at some sort of telecommunications tower - obviously we were on some sort of service road. Although the road did still continue it was getting rougher and narrower (and it was getting closer to dinnertime and I was getting grumpier) so we turned around and headed back to the main road. All throughout this little adventure we'd had a bit of a sneaking suspicion that maybe we were in the wrong place completely - and it turned out that suspicion was right. We'd taken a wrong turn without realizing it, and had been in a town called Bay Saint Lawrence all along, not Meat Cove! If we'd thought to mention the name of the place we were looking for when we asked directions I'm sure we would have been put straight right away, but we'd only said we were looking for "a view". I guess we've learned to be more specific next time!
The rest of our time in Cape Breton went much more to plan - we hiked the Skyline Trail (where we learned all about the destruction to the landscape that's being caused by the skyrocketing moose population in the area) and went on a very foggy whale-watching tour (where we did in the end get to see a young minke whale).
Our last big adventure of the trip was to head towards the Bay of Fundy, because Jon had heard about the world-record-setting tides there and wanted to check them out for himself. We'd picked Wolfville as our destination for the evening, but on the way there we happened to cross the Shubenacadie River at low tide, and the view was dramatic enough that we stopped at a local visitors centre to check it out.
Because the river feeds into the Minas Basin (an inlet on the Bay of Fundy) the river empties out almost completely at low tide, revealing the red mud riverbed.
The local animators at the visitor's centre told us we happened to have arrived just in time to watch for the tidal bore, and handily they were going to do a little presentation to explain to us what exactly that meant. It turns out that as the tide comes in it changes the current of the river, and the tidal bore is the name for the first wave of the incoming tide. Apparently it can sometimes be quite spectacular. On this particular afternoon however there was no real drama, but we did get to witness the river change directions, and see how rapidly the water levels rise with the incoming tide. This photo was taken less than an hour after the previous ones, and you can see that already the riverbed is fully submerged.
We'd been hoping to see more of the Minas Basin while we were in the area, and possibly hike up to Cape Split, which was another spot we'd heard would provide a dramatic overlook onto the water. But I was feeling a bit under the weather and I think we were both a little tired of chasing after "views", so after a pleasant evening in Wolfville we headed back to Halifax for a more urban end to our adventure.
One of the highlights of our day there was a trip to the Art Gallery of Nova Scotia, where there's a large permanent exhibit of Maud Lewis' work, including her entire house! She had painted every surface of the interior of her tiny little home, from the wood stove to the stair rail, and it's been restored to represent how it might have looked when she lived there.
We'd also had a recommendation from a friend in here Montreal for Halifax Press, a food truck specializing in gourmet grilled cheese sandwiches. We managed to track them down and Connor and Jill provided us with not only a delicious lunch, but also the only photo of the two of us together from the whole trip. Thanks guys!
Writing all of this out has reminded me what a full trip it was, and we barely scratched the surface of exploring the province. Someday we'll get back and see more of it, and maybe we'll even find our way up to the real Meat Cove!
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