It was a relief to land back in the soft bosom of Nova Scotia after a couple of weeks on the stony, windswept lap of Newfoundland. We had never completed the full circumambulation of Cape Breton so this was our opportunity to do so before a scheduled meet-up in Mabou!
Everyone who has ever been to Cape Breton, or even thought about it, had told us that we had to see Fort Louisbourg. As far as National Parks go, it is one of the best, with staff actors on hand in period dress to animate the re-creation of one of the most significant places in the history of British and French colonialism of North America. They paint a pretty dismal picture of the life here in the mid-18th century, which says a lot about the commitment of those two countries to this part of the world.
After dutifully fulfilling our obligations as tourists, it was time for friends, both new and old. We found ourselves back in the area of Big Harbour, to say hello again to Jim and Heather O’Brien, and to take up the offer of accommodation that had been made by Nicolene and Doug, whom we had met at the soirée the last time we were in Cape Breton. As travellers they made us feel like dilettantes – they made a career of teaching internationally, and have lived in Peru, Uzbekistan, China and Bangladesh. It says a lot of this place that they have chosen to settle here. Nicolene’s Dutch mother treated us to nasi goreng and we spent a beautiful night at their harbour.
After the wonderful hospitality in Big Harbour, where gracious new acquaintances had offered up their property as a home to us, it was time to connect with a long-time friend, Janice Beaton, in Mabou. She had grown up there but, like many Maritimers in the 80’s, had made her way to Alberta to seek her fortune. Her lasting legacy is Caffe Beano, still one of the best coffee shops ever. As well, if you have ever enjoyed Liz’ cooking you can thank Janice for that, as she was one of the early inspirations for Liz to begin exploring that aspect of herself – I certainly do! We were excited that Janice had invited us to a kitchen party at her sister’s house where we got to meet her siblings and their spouses, as well as Janice’s “new” husband of eight years, Bob Chelmick. He is a long-time TV and radio host and still records a wonderful program called The Road Home (look it up).
Again, we were graciously offered a place to stay on the property where Janice’s sister, Kathy, and her husband are building a new house, and they suggested that we could gather our own oysters from their beach – a forager’s dream! Of course, we checked with a local who actually farms oysters to confirm that were wouldn’t poison ourselves with red tide and the following morning went on the hunt. As you will see, we had no technique and had to learn as we went.
After buying some ridiculously good and reasonably priced food at the Mabou Farmer’s Market, it was time to see the rest of Nova Scotia. We were en route to see James O’Brien (no close relation to Big Harbour O’Briens), another long-time friend with whom I had participated in a few hijinks while we were cadets at Royal Military College back in the black powder era. We arranged to meet in Truro at the Raging Crow Distillery, owned and operated by another ex-cadet with whom I had played rugby (a different set of hijinks). Al Bégin has done well at creating a remarkable array of spirits in the shop at the back of his house.
After re-kinding a friendship and taking care of a significant amount of administration in the metropolis of Halifax, it was time to continue our exploration of Nova Scotia. We were armed with a map of the mainland that was as extensively detailed with notes by James and Robin as our map of Cape Breton has been by the O’Brien and Fuller and Beaton clans. We have a wealth of time to spend here, and the weather has been unseasonably cooperative, so we are determined to see everything that has been suggested. From Halifax we are going to do a circuit of the Bay of Fundy shore, down to Yarmouth and then back to Halifax via the South Shore.
We have been gobsmacked at the beauty of mainland Nova Scotia. The crazy tides of the Bay of Fundy and the numberless coves and bays of the Atlantic shore, along with the long history of settlement (and accompanying conveniences) make this one of our favourite places so far. And it only continued, as you will see in the next post (and probably the one or two after that, as we will be spending so much time in this part of the world).
Married mother of two awesome boys who is now living full time in a self converted Camper van and seeing more of the world.
We gave up something super special to live our dream of living a free and simple life on the road exploring new places and taking joy in the discovery of the extraordinary
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