From Nova Scotia to Prince Edward Island: Meandering Through the Maritimes
The Epoch Times








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VIEW OF THE ATLANTIC: Celtic Lodge and the Atlantic Ocean seen from the Cabot Trail in Cape Breton. (Beverly Mann)

“Cheticamp has the best hookers in all of Nova Scotia,” announced our tour director Heidi from the front of the bus.  While some of the women lifted their eyebrows (and the men grew big grins), she added, “Rug hookers, that is.”

Acadian Art and Culture

We had just stopped at Les Trois Pignons, a museum dedicated to Acadian culture and the art of rug making. Some of these remarkable handmade rugs depicted presidents of the United States and a portrait of Jacqueline Kennedy designed by Elizabeth Lefort, a noted artist.

 

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A delicate demonstration of the local art of rug hooking (Beverly Mann)

This folk art form was brought to Nova Scotia by French Acadians in the 1700s. They were eventually ousted from their homes after the British claimed Nova Scotia as their possession, but some Acadians returned years later after the 1763 Treaty of Paris. American poet Henry Wadsworth Longfellow wrote about the plight of the Acadians in his epic poem Evangeline.

The modest fishing town of Cheticamp, northeast of Halifax on Cape Breton Island, was my first overnight stop on a 10-day bus journey with Caravan Tours. The journey took us through the glorious, green coastal region of the Gulf of St. Lawrence and the exploration of Canada’s majestic Maritimes—Nova Scotia, New Brunswick, and Prince Edward Island (PEI).
  Besides rug hooking, music prevails throughout the province, particularly fiddle playing and lively Celtic songs brought by the Scottish hundreds of years ago.

Music and dance are part of the fabric of their lives, as is the strong European influence of the English, Irish, French, and Scottish. After all, Nova Scotia, means New Scotland. I also couldn’t help but notice the red, white, and blue French Acadian flags waving proudly throughout Cheticamp, and the giant welcome sign of Bienvenue by the water. The city celebrates its 225th anniversary this year.

It appeared that many Nova Scotians were raised with a bow and fiddle in their hands. Several of the ceilidhs (Gaelic for song and dance parties) that we went to were hosted by 16-year-olds, which was very impressive.
 

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The awe-inspiring coastline of Cabot Trail in Cape Breton Highlands National Park (Beverly Mann)

Along the Cabot Trail

After two days relaxing in the town, attempting whale watching (unfortunately, no whales or dolphins were sighted that day) and listening to music at Doryman Tavern, the town’s only bar, we were ready to continue along the most scenic route of all, the breathtaking Cabot Trail.

We snaked along the serpentine roads of Cape Breton Highlands National Park, which unfolded into miles of craggy rock formations, sweeping coastlines, and densely forested mountain ranges—a photographer’s dream.

 

Pleasant Bay was our pit stop for a closer ocean view, where I climbed up on a small hill to observe the fishing boats bringing in huge baskets of crabs. This was definitely crab, lobster, and haddock country, judging by the menus at most of the restaurants and cafes along our route.

Our final day’s destination was the lakeside gem, Baddeck, also once the part-time residence of inventor Alexander Graham Bell. An interactive museum dedicated to Bell and his wife, Mabel, was built on a hill overlooking the clear, calm Bras d’Or Lakes. There I later went for a sail on the Amoeba, a 66-foot handmade boat.

The museum features an extensive retrospect of Bell’s life. I learned so much about this incredible humanitarian that I never knew before: how he was a teacher of the deaf, married one of his students, assisted and befriended Helen Keller and her teacher Anne Sullivan, and even invented the hydrofoil.

Bell once said, as quoted in my tour booklet, “I have traveled around the globe, and for the simple beauty, Cape Breton Island outrivals them all.”

Gisele’s Country Inn was the perfect stay for my two days in Baddeck. It featured gourmet-style meals, great service, and beautifully appointed rooms.

The next day we visited the famous Fortress of Louisbourg, just outside of Baddeck, which was built by the French in 1713 and almost totally demolished by the British in 1760. Restored today, the historic site of Louisbourg is the largest reconstructed 18th-century town in North America. Costumed characters roam about the grounds to give an authentic flavor of the era.

The Jewel of the Maritimes

Canada’s smallest province, with 2,185 square miles and 140,000 inhabitants, Prince Edward Island (PEI) stands as the jewel of the Maritimes. The colorful capital of Charlottetown, once known as Port de La Joie (Port of Joy), was renamed after the wife of George III of England. This historic city held the first meeting in 1864 which eventually led to the formation of United Canada.

 

The House of Green Gables in Cavendish, which provided the backdrop for Lucy Maud Montgomery’s epic, Anne of Green Gables. (Beverly Mann)
However, to many young lassies PEI is associated with writer Lucy Maud Montgomery’s heartfelt tale of Anne of Green Gables set in the town of Cavendish. I couldn’t leave PEI without a visit to the legendary House of Green Gables and a walk along the tree-lined Lover’s Lane, which inspired the author to write this long-lived story.  

I highly recommend the musical based on this book, which has been playing in Charlottetown for 47 years now—and for good reason. The cast is brimming with talent in a Broadway quality production.
  We left PEI for New Brunswick via the eight-mile Confederation Bridge with its hefty toll of $42.50. Before our final destination to Halifax, we took an awesome respite at the Bay of Fundy, known for the highest tides on earth, sometimes reaching a phenomenal 50 feet. Twice a day, 100 billion tons of water flow in and out of the Flowerpot Rocks, giant sculptured mountains crested with trees.
 

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PEGGY'S COVE: A memorial rock bears the names of the victims of Swiss Air Flight 111 on the solemn shores of Peggy's Cove. (Beverly Mann)

The Capital of Nova Scotia

The trip would not be complete without our two-day stay in Halifax, Nova Scotia’s capital, where I felt an immediate sense of place—it was like a bit of my hometown of San Francisco with its elaborate Victorian buildings, wharf, and hills.

The city’s magnificent Public Gardens was in full bloom. Just close by, the Citadel stood boldly atop a birds-eye view of the city. A must-see is the Maritime Museum that features the rescue of the bodies and relics from the Titanic, which occurred so close to Halifax’s shores on that tragic day of April 14, 1912.  

  This area is noted for yet another disaster, the Swiss Air crash of Flight 111 which happened at nearby Peggy’s Cove, home of what may be the most photographed lighthouse and landscape of white, barren boulders. A memorial rock with the names of the victims looks out from the solemn shores.As the trip came to a close, I was curious how some of my fellow travelers felt about our journey. Darren Lewin, a postman from London who visits family and friends in Canada each year, commented,  “This was my first time to Atlantic Canada, and now I would like to return to further explore the vast nature and beauty of this area.”

According to retiree Bill Amades, who came with his lovely wife Mariann, a social worker, “Two words come to mind when I think of Nova Scotia—charming and enchanting.”

Donna DeMille, an assistant director for the School of Hospitality and Tourism at Chicago’s Roosevelt University has enjoyed this bus trip three times. “Each trip tends to be just a little different,” she said.

My own reflection became apparent to me, as I peered through the window on the flight home as my plane banked over the endless patchwork greenery carpeting Halifax.

Lasting Memories

Images of the quaint fishing villages and luxurious landscapes that I had experienced on this journey came alive as I relaxed and listened to Song for the Mira sung by Nova Scotian Anne Murray. The song is about a river in Cape Breton, not too far from her birthplace, in the coal-mining town of Springhill where there is now a museum in her name.  

Her lilting voice described lasting memories of her rich, fertile homeland—which I realized was also forever imbedded in my mind:

“Can you imagine a piece of the universe
More fit for princes and kings?
I'll trade you ten of your cities for Marion Bridge
and the pleasure it brings.”

Beverly Mann has been a feature, arts, and travel writer in the San Francisco Bay Area for the past 28 years. She has received numerous accolades in the fields of travel writing, education, and international public relations, including a Bay Area Travel Writers Award of Excellence in Newspaper Travel Writing.

 

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