Travel in the time of (mid? post?) Covid throws up additional hurdles. I’ve never enjoyed the hassle of travelling out, with the various hoops to jump through with regards to entry visas, packing up the house, transport, etc.
In autumn 2019 I booked myself into a rather exclusive private game reserve in South Africa. February 2021 I decided it was very unlikely that I’d be able to travel to South Africa, so I cancelled the trip. In March I booked to go to China, but a month later the travel company decided to postpone the trip to 2022. Visiting Nova Scotia, preferably in the autumn for the changing of the leaves, had long been on my list. So I booked flights and car rental, as well as accommodation on a driving tour.
Over the months I keep an eye on whether Canada would open to international travellers. In September the country did so, for those who were double vaccinated. A PCR test, taken within 72 hours of the departure time of one’s flight, was required, as well as the completion of an on-line form with details of vaccination and a ‘quarantine plan’ should one be denied entry at the border.
In all the focus on obtaining the necessary Covid related procedures, I’d forgotten that Canada runs an e-visa system. Only two days before I did apply for that on-line, and it was a very stressful 30 minutes before the authorisation came through.
Although my flight wasn’t until the afternoon, I decided to drive down the day before and stay at a hotel overnight. Heathrow airport offers walk-in Covid testing centres, so I went early to the airport with the intention of obtaining another test should my original one be rejected.
As it happened, the Air Canada staff were happy that my PCR was within the 72 hours (by two hours only!). I was checked in without issues, and therefore had four hours to kill at the airport. I spent much of it in a coffee shop, as masks were not required when eating or drinking. Although masks were supposedly mandatory in the airport, around 20% of those I saw weren’t wearing them.
Masks were required on the flights. I endured it best I could. I’d bought a couple of silk ones, and these did prove to be more tolerable than cotton. One chap on the flight had to be told three times to put on a mask before he finally obeyed.
My nerves kicked in again after we’d landed at Toronto and I presented myself at the border. The official didn’t ask to see my PCR test result (so I suspect that this has been left in the hands of the airlines) nor my vaccination record, as these had already been uploaded to the system. He asked my reasons for visiting and stamped my passport. I was in!
On the second flight, this time to Halifax, I ended up sitting next to a mother and daughter from Florida. They were visiting Canadian relatives for the first time since the start of the pandemic. I was advised that Monday was Canadian Thanksgiving, something of which I’d been unaware. I gave them a card to my websites, with my contact details.
We landed around midnight Nova Scotia time. I’d pre-booked a taxi, and he was waiting for me. At 1am we arrived at the hotel. I checked in, went to my room, brushed my teeth, and collapsed into bed.
I stayed in bed until 9am, sleeping mostly well despite the time difference with the UK (which is four hours ahead). In order to have breakfast at the hotel, I had to show my vaccine passport. Nova Scotia brought in the requirement for double vaccination before going into indoor leisure areas on 04 October, and although I disagreed with them on principle, there was little to do but to bear with it. Fortunately my England version (on my iPhone) was accepted.
After breakfast I headed out. The hotel was around two minutes’ walk from the waterfront. I enjoyed the views and visited several stores. Masks are required for indoor areas, so I donned the detestable thing as/when necessary.
In the early afternoon I boarded a ferry (double vaccination required!) to visit Georges Island. (Seems there is no apostrophe.) The British came to the area in 1749 to build a naval base to counter the threat posed by the French at Louisbourg. Fortifications were built on the island due to its strategic location for harbour defence. Over the centuries, newer buildings and defences have been added. An anti-aircraft unit was stationed on the island during WWII. In 1965, the island was declared a national historic site.
The only visitor facilities on the island are a couple of compost toilets. A number of people had brought picnics with them, and there were plenty of tables and some rather nice wooden chairs for enjoying the sunshine.
I climbed up the hill, enjoying the views across to the waterfront. Information panels were plentiful, and written in English and French. A couple of separate houses still stand, one for married officers, another for the lighthouse keeper. The latter was lived in until 1972, when the lighthouse was automated.
A number of people, dressed in military uniforms, offered talks. I joined a tour which went into the tunnels built to store the ammunition. Afterwards I enjoyed listening to a chap who knew a lot about Winston Churchill.
I caught the boat back to shore and went to the hotel. The woman I’d met on the plane sent me a text inviting me to join their family Sunday evening for a Thanksgiving dinner. I’d also had an email cancelling the excursion I’d booked for Sunday afternoon, so I was pleased to accept the invite.
At 6pm I headed out again for an evening dinner cruise. This was on the same ship which had taken me to Georges Island, but now with tables dressed for dinner. A jazz player provided entertainment as we chugged along the shoreline. The three course meal consisted of a salad starter, short rib of beef, and strawberry compote. I had two glasses of sparkling wine to celebrate a lovely day in Halifax.
I’d decided to attend church at St Paul’s, the oldest church (and oldest building) in Halifax. Setting out confidently from my hotel, I headed for a nearby spire, only to discover that this took me to a local Catholic church. A local asked if I needed help, and directed me to the correct destination.
I arrived several minutes before the service started. A woman asked me to record my contact details (for the Nova Scotia version of ‘Track and Trace’) and I headed to a pew. Masks were required for the entire service, and even the ministers wore them throughout. (In the UK, officiants have been permitted not to wear masks so the congregation could see their faces and read their lips.)
The service was All Age, celebrated Thanksgiving, and was Book of Common Prayer. There were two youngsters present and several babies, out of a congregation of around thirty. A choir sang well through their facemasks. The homily was rather amusing, with the minister comparing her disappointing home grown carrots to those purchased from a store.
Communion was in both kinds. We took socially distanced positions at the front of the church, collecting a small glass on the way up. Wafer into hand, then wine poured from a flask into the glass, consumption done rather quickly to minimise lack of mask time.
I took a couple of quick photos after the service. The funeral hatchments intrigued me, as I’ve seen them inside churches in Northamptonshire. A member of the congregation noted my interest and told me a bit more about them.
Coffee and cakes were served outside. I took off my mask with a sense of relief and talked to various people, including the minister. He expressed concern about the low attendance numbers. Pre-pandemic they usually had around 150 in the congregation. Were people too frightened to return, or had they simply lost the church-going habit?
Then it was a quick march down to the waterfront. I had a 12pm tour booked for Alexander Keith’s Brewery. I located the correct street, but couldn’t find the entrance. Accosting a young man, I asked him for directions. ‘Oh, I’m one of the tour hosts,’ he told me cheerfully. ‘Follow me.’ Due to ongoing renovations to the property, scaffolding covers the entrance, and no obvious sign had been put up to help the general public.
So I was a couple of minutes late presenting myself (masked) at the visitor check in desk. I had to show proof of vaccination and, for the first time, ID before being given my ticket. The tour was still in the first location, so I was able to join them.
The tour was very entertaining. We were given a small sample of the stout near the start, whilst the guide told us the history of the brewery. A trip into the brew area followed, and then more tasting in a bar area. The young man who had rescued me worked in this area, helping to serve beers as well as playing the piano and singing. We had several musical numbers and then two instrumental pieces.
Feeling that I should bring something to the Thanksgiving dinner, I bought four beers before heading out to the waterfront. I spent a couple of hours browsing shops, eating a hotdog, and enjoying the warm weather.
I was collected by mother and daughter from the hotel at 4.30pm. It was about a 45 minute drive to the lakeside house. The trees were showing autumnal colours. More family members were already at the house when we arrived. I had one of the beers and sat outside, chatting to people.
The house had been built by the mother and father (grandmother and grandfather) of the collected family. Sadly, father died two years ago, and mother is selling up and moving. The house is a bit remote, and only accessible by a gravel road which is dangerous in winter.
The Thanksgiving dinner comprised of turkey, ham, corned beef, sweet potatoes, carrots and peas, along with stuffing. Several puddings were on offer, and I had lovely cheesecake along with a coffee. At 8pm another member of the family took me back to my hotel in Halifax.
Another sunny day. I headed uphill to the Citadel, pausing to photograph St Paul’s along the way. Yet again, I had to show vaccination status and ID (British driver’s licence) in order to enter the historic site.
The British military founded Halifax in 1749 because of the large hill which overlooks the easily defended harbour. A wooden guardhouse was the first structure, and over the years more fortifications were added. Officially called Fort George (after King George II), what remains now is the fourth in a series of forts. The star shape gave the garrison sweeping arcs of fire. I have visited similarly shaped forts in the Netherlands and in South Africa.
A good number of guides in various military outfits roamed the site. I joined a short tour, which took us up on to the ramparts. The guide explained how the hill had been dug out to provide the high walls. The Citadel was one of a series of forts (Georges Island being another) to protect the coastline against the French and, later on, the Americans.
The main building houses various exhibits as well as a gift shop. I visited these before returning to the battlements for the noon firing of one of the cast iron cannons. I also bought a small bottle of the rye whiskey which is matured on site.
After dropping bits off at the hotel, I visited the Maritime Museum of the Atlantic (again proving vaccine status to gain entry). A number of exhibits were spread over two floors. Small boats filled the lower section, with placards explaining their origins. Upstairs provided displays about shipwrecks in the area, the 1917 explosion which flattened much of the city and killed 2000 people, as well as an area dedicated to the Titanic (a number of those who died are buried in Halifax). I also visited the macaw, Merlin, who lives at the museum. He climbed in and out of his cage and said ‘Hello’ and ‘Peek-a-bo’ to me, but didn’t seem that interested in hearing about my own parrot.
After a couple of hours of walking around, I was developing what my mother calls ‘museum feet’. It is more tiring walking around exhibits, I find, than going for a hike. So when I left the museum, I headed back up the hill, passed the Citadel, and visited the Public Gardens.
The Public Gardens were founded by the Nova Scotia Horticultural Society in 1836. Many people were enjoying the warm day, sitting on the benches and drinking coffee and reading books. Cheers from a local sporting event filled the air, and I asked one woman for information. The stadium of the local football team (‘soccer’ in North American English) lies nearby, and a match was underway.
I admired the trees, flowers, and lake. Ducks waddled contently across the grassy areas. At the Horticulture Hall, now a café, I bought ice cream and rested my feet whilst I ate.
I’d spotted a brew pub on the walk up, so I called in for food and drink on the way back. The chap at the entrance gave my vaccination status the most thorough look I’ve experienced thus far before accepting the details and my ID. I ordered fish and chips for my meal, and a tasting platter of four beers to wash it down. After the meal, I ordered a further half of my favourite, the oatmeal stout.
Well fed and watered, I headed back to the hotel and tried not to worry too much about picking up the rental car the next day. It’d been several years since I’d driven on the right side of the road.
Amazing how possessions can spread out across a hotel room. I packed everything up and checked out at 9am. Although the car rental office was about a half mile away from the hotel, I decided I couldn’t face fighting my cases for that long. So I took a taxi to the train station (which houses the car rental office). At the counter I had to make the decision whether or not to pay CA$6.99 per day for breakdown cover. I’ve only used a breakdown service three times in my life, and never abroad. But I decided that I’d have greater peace of mind if I swallowed hard and paid for it.
The car, a bright white Kia Forte, was waiting in the station car park. I loaded my luggage and took a few minutes to work through the controls, as well as put a smartphone holder (which I’d brought from England) so I could easily see the SatNav screen on my iPhone. Then, with a deep breath and fervent prayers to St Christopher, I set off, regularly muttering out loud, ‘Drive on the right, drive on the right.’
My first stop was still in Halifax, namely at the Fairview Lawn Cemetery. When the Titanic sank, ships which had hoped to find survivors ended up with bodies instead. (Even those who wore lifejackets died of exposure to the cold ocean.) Several cemeteries offered space to the dead, and Fairview took in all those who were thought to have been Protestant (others are buried in Catholic and Jewish cemeteries) and/or couldn’t be identified. Some of the grave markers still bear no name, but a number of those buried previously have since been identified.
It was rather sobering to walk past the one hundred and twenty one markers, most of them plain, some more fancy because their next of kin had paid for better gravestones.
I set the iPhone’s map function to Sherbrooke, my destination for the day, and set off. After crossing over to Dartmouth, I found a supermarket and pulled into the car park. Using the supermarket’s free wifi to check my data usage for the morning made me gulp at the roaming charges. The supermarket didn’t sell SIM cards, but they directed me to a nearby Walmart, where I purchased a Canadian SIM card along with a data and calls package.
After some grocery shopping, I headed off again. A detour to visit an arch erected to mark the place where Prince Albert (son of Queen Victoria) had visited made me lose the 3G signal. And the iPhone stubbornly refused to find it again, or perhaps coverage along the Nova Scotian coast is patchy? Fortunately I’d downloaded the relevant maps to an app called ‘Maps.me’, which meant I could still use GPS and their SatNav system.
The road followed the coast. I passed bay after bay, although I didn’t see any sandy beaches. The autumn colours had already appeared, very promising for photography. I saw a bald eagle flying overhead, and several blue jays. The day was bright and warm, the roads mostly empty, and I settled into driving.
One bend, at a place called Marie Joseph, revealed what I can only call a ships’ graveyard. I parked the car to photograph the many decaying ships, wondering why so many were there. Internet searches reveal that at least one of the decaying vessels has caused local controversy, including concerns about possible damage to the local environment.
I arrived at my accommodation around 4.30pm. The reason for staying at Sherbrooke as I had hoped to visit the large outdoor museum nearby. Sadly, it shut for the season in September. I drove up the small cabin which I’d rented for the night. As the afternoon was still warm and bright, I sat outside for another hour.
As the website had promised, the cabin had a small kitchen. I pulled out my pasta and sauce which I had planned for my evening meal. However, I could not work out how to turn on the rings on the cooker. The oven worked, so I knew the unit wasn’t broken. So I boiled up water in my travel kettle, pouring the hot liquid over the pasta to soften it into edibility. It took several kettlefuls, but in the end I had my meal.
Rain early in the drive north couldn’t hide the fact that the autumn colours continued to be stunning. I had to remind myself to keep my eyes on the road. The weather cleared, and I pulled off into picnic areas from time to time to admire the scenery.
I crossed over a bridge on to Cape Breton around midday. The road signs were in both English and Gaelic, which intrigued me. There’s great pride in the Scottish heritage (with a nod to the Irish, but nothing said about any Welsh, so perhaps they didn’t immigrate to Nova Scotia?). I visited the tourist information centre, yet again showing my vaccination status and ID to gain entry. A couple ahead of me had to leave, either unable or unwilling to show this information. The nearby gift store had no such requirement.
After a short stop at the Celtic Music Interpretive Centre, which was offering live music, I drove on to the Glenora Distillery. There are very few distilleries in North America which produce barley whisky—most use rye. I checked in, unloaded my bags, and at 3pm presented myself (along with, you guessed it, vaccination proof and ID) for the ‘Behind the Scenes’ tour.
This tour was a much more expensive but thorough option than the usual tour offered to visitors. There were three of us, a couple from Canada and me, with a very knowledgeable guide.
The guide explained the history of the distillery. They used to import their barley from Scotland, but they are now able to source this in Canada. It is malted off-site. We viewed the mash tuns and the pot stills. The distillery concentrates on visitors in the warmer months, and distils in the winter.
We collected water from the stream before going onto the warehouse. There our guide pulled whisky directly from a barrel for us to sample. We carefully added water, noting how this changed the flavour (and made the 60% spirit easier to drink).
Afterwards we walked back down to the main building and went into the pub to sample five more whiskies. One was raw spirit, the rest were of different ages and finishing. The distillery uses bourbon casks for maturation. My favourite of the five was a seventeen year old whisky made with peated barley, not something the distillery has often used.
As the expression goes, by now I was feeling no pain. I went into the gift shop. The peated whisky was in a barrel, and you bought a bottle (and paid for the whisky) which you filled straight from the barrel. Although I don’t expect to be pulled over at customs when I return to the UK (I never have anything to declare), if I were stopped, how could I explain an unmarked bottle of spirits? So I bought a packaged bottle of the thirteen year old, less peated version of the same whisky. The price was rather higher than I would usually spend, so I shall have to keep it for special occasions.
I went back to my room to work on photos and drink lots of water. At 7pm I presented myself at the pub (usual documentation check) for an evening meal. My starter was bread with various spreads, main course BBQ pork ribs with a salad. The guide from earlier was working in the pub, and when he saw me, he asked which whisky I’d purchased. I explained my thought processes behind buying the thirteen year old. He disappeared, and returned with a glass of said whisky for me, compliments of the house.
Dinner was washed down with a very nice oatmeal stout, and I finished off with one more whisky (distilled using beer from Alexander Keith’s Brewery). A chap played Celtic tunes on a guitar to keep us entertained. I forced myself to leave before I could indulge in yet another whisky.
The shower in the bedroom didn’t work. Inspection revealed that the spigot for the bath (a lever used to redirect water to the shower) had been pulled away from the bath. Hardly any water came out. I washed myself as best as I could. When I reported this to the front desk, the woman immediately apologised and she reduced the cost of my stay in compensation. Great customer service!
The weather had turned grey and wet. I headed further north, stopping at the visitor centre at the entrance to the Cape Breton Highlands National Park. Signs had changed from Gaelic to mixtures of England and French.
Before leaving England, I’d purchased a ‘Discovery Pass’ as this gives me a year’s access to national parks and historic places in Canada. The website advised that, due to postal delays, I could print out the confirmatory email and use that to gain entry to places. There is a daily charge for visiting the national park, so I wanted to double check that what I’d printed out would, when placed on the car dashboard as stated, would satisfy park wardens. The woman at the counter looked very puzzled by what I showed her, and in the end I decided to trust what the email stated.
The colours of the trees, rising row and row on the hills, remained amazing, even in the grey weather. I hadn’t quite appreciated that there are no petrol stations in the national park, so I decided to drive north to admire the landscape and to fill up the tank. At several look offs (as they’re called here in Canada), I pulled over for a few photos. I also came across an old barn which called out for a photo.
Grey weather is perfect for waterfall photography. I followed signs to the Beulach Ban Falls, which was only a short distance from the car park. Other people came to have looks whilst I fiddled about with tripod, filters, and cameras. A number of them asked if I’d take photos of them (with their own cameras or phones) posing in front of the waterfall, and I was happy to oblige.
Mist and rain started to come in, and as it was nearly 4.30pm, I decided I’d done enough for the day. I drove to my accommodation, checked in, and unpacked what I needed from the car. The car has a huge boot, which means I leave behind items I don’t need on a daily basis. Makes my main bag much lighter!
The motel has a restaurant on site, so that’s where I went for my dinner. The place felt very much like a family diner, with home cooked food like pasta dishes, steaks, and pork chops. A lot of my fellow diners appeared to be locals, as they greeted each other as they went to their tables. One couple turned out to be a father and daughter, whom I’d photographed at the waterfalls. (Daughter is currently visiting father.)
I had a glass of Jost wine, a lovely white from a vineyard here in Nova Scotia. For dinner I ordered a pasta with prawns in a garlic oil sauce. As I finished, a musician appeared who sang covers, accompanied on guitar.
The waitress told me, as I finished, ‘Your meal has been paid for.’ At first I wondered if the place had simply added the meal to my credit card, but then I decided this couldn’t be the case. I’d paid for my accommodation when I’d arrived. Then I wondered if the daughter/father had paid? I couldn’t work out how to ask her, so the mystery shall remain. As time goes by, I wish I had worked up the courage to approach them.
Weather forecast had predicted grey skies and rain. However, as I headed out, a brisk wind was pushing swathes of clouds past the sun. This meant the sort of mixed light which is excellent across broad landscapes, and I stopped at several look offs to take advantage of it.
Mid morning I reached the Skyline walk. Signs warned about remaining on the boardwalk, so in my innocence I expected the walk to be a short distance to the cliffs and then a long boardwalk. Instead, I found myself tramping through woods (which smelled wonderful, a mixture of wet vegetation with hints of pine and spice) for quite a distance. Most of the people I encountered were Canadians on holiday, but I did converse with a couple of Germans in my second language.
The boardwalk led to excellent views of the road which clings to the sides of the sea cliff. I used this road yesterday, so it was interesting to look back at it. Various people decided that remaining on the boardwalk was not a rule which applied to them, and they tramped across the area for their own photography. One young man stood a rock very close to the cliff fall off. He was wearing a face mask, so I wondered about his ability to judge risk.
The walk back led through a gated ‘moose exclusure’. There has been a great increase in the moose population, which means that the creatures have eaten young trees and turned forested areas into grassland. The fenced off area is an attempt to re-forest the area. Sadly, I didn’t see any moose, although their droppings littered the path from time to time.
Mid afternoon I was back at my car. I drove to another site, simply called ‘Bog’, and that’s what it was. A boardwalk provided a short path through the peated area. I was distracted on the drive by an ant crawling over the dashboard as I wrestled with an ethical dilemma. Said ant was now far from her colony, and faced a slow death by starvation. Should I squash her and give her a quick, more merciful death? Somehow I couldn’t bring myself to do that.
Rain came in shortly afterwards. As I headed back to my accommodation, the sun came out, and I halted at a couple of look offs for more photography.
I decided to eat again at the on-site restaurant, particularly as this meant I could enjoy another glass of the lovely white house wine. I had fried scallops with a baked potato, coleslaw (sweeter and smaller chopped than in the UK), and vegetables. The live music was the same singer as last night, but with different songs. I stayed for a while to enjoy the ambience before heading to my room for the night.
Rain greeted me as I made my morning coffee (I’d brought a travel kettle and coffee bags with me for places which didn’t offer coffee makers or a kettle in the room). This cleared away to overcast skies as I packed up the car and headed off to a local waterfall.
The walk to the waterfall was less than a mile. Rain appeared again just as I’d set up my tripod, so I covered camera backpack and self with waterproofs and waited for the drizzle to pass. Once it had, flashes of sunshine emerged. I took various photos before returning to my car and having my picnic lunch.
More sunshine and showers as I visited the Lone Shieling, a replicate crofters hut built to honour Professor Donald S. MacIntosh, who bequeathed 100 acres of nearby land to the Province of Nova Scotia. A short walk allows for a visit to one of the largest old growth hardwood forests in the Maritimes. Most of the area is not accessible to the public in order to preserve it. Many of the trees are maples, and the forest floor was filled with maple saplings.
I drove on through the national park. It was Saturday, and unlike the previous two days, the roads were very busy. The world, her grandmother, and his dog seemed to have decided to visit the area. One couple I spoke to said they’d driven up on a whim on Friday and had found it difficult to find accommodation. I did see many ‘No Vacancy’ signs as I passed hotels and motels. I’d booked all of my accommodation months ago.
Clouds were now broken, chased by a brisk wind across the sky. The look off points became rather dangerous, as people tried to find a place to park. Some merely pulled the car over to the side of the road, rolled down the window, and took a photo without getting out. I set up tripod and camera, taking shots as light trickled down the mountainsides. The colours of the trees were even brighter than the day before, and one local told me that he thought the colour had peaked over the past two days. I was again asked by couples to take photos of them, and I was happy to oblige.
My next destination was Cabot’s Landing Provincial Park. Although it’s not for certain where John Cabot made his first landfall in Nova Scotia, the beach at this locale is a probable location. I took photos in the mixture of sunshine and shadows, and visited the nearby Cabot monument.
The last of the clouds blew away as I made my way to my accommodation near Ingonish. My motel room possessed a small balcony which overlooked the bay. I bought a take away (or ‘take out’, as the North Americans call it) and ate outside whilst enjoying the sunset. The evening was rounded off with a very nice Nova Scotian cider.
I had decided to visit the Cape Smokey cable car tomorrow, but as I approached it this morning, I turned into the car park to go up today. The weather was grey, but not wet, and I paid for the ticket (just over CA$50.00 with tax) and walked over to board a gondola.
I was alone in my cab, so I ignored the signs stating ‘Masks must be worn’ as soon as the gondola was out of the station. Glancing into the cabs passing me revealed that everyone else had made the same decision. I took photos on the way up, and put the mask back on just before I disembarked.
The views back out to sea and the nearby mountain were lovely, even in the grey. I took my own photos and several of couples with their phones. The site is still rather unfinished, with gravel loosely thrown onto the ground and very few facilities. Plans are in place for a café, shop, and a treetop walk. Although it was fun, the cost does feel a bit high for what is currently there.
I went back down and on my way. I passed a number of yard sales (people putting out a table with various wares for sale) as I drove back to the national park. I reached the car park for the Mary Ann Falls just as rain came in, so I ate my lunch in the car whilst waiting for the weather to clear. Bursts of sunshine accompanied me on the short walk to the viewing platform for the waterfall.
I set up my tripod. And waited. Today was Sunday, and there were plenty of other people out and about to enjoy the day. I waited patiently for over 30 minutes until there was a gap in visitors and I could finally take photos without including people. The waterfall ends in a large pool, and I understand it’s a popular swimming spot in the summer.
After packing up, I headed up the coast. There was parking at various coves, and I pulled in to admire the rocky coastline. A few more flashes of sunshine came, then went, as the clouds drew in. I returned to my car and headed back to my accommodation, buying some take out for my evening meal. Despite the grey weather, it was still warm enough to eat on the balcony.
Rain settled in overnight. The forecast was for the wet weather to continue into the afternoon, with more sun to found further south. So I decided not to return to the national park but to start my drive to Sydney.
It was hard to leave. I think I have left part of my heart in the flame-coloured mountains of this region. Even if I were to return, would I have the same luck with both the weather and hitting the peak in the turn of the leaves?
One section of road was populated by a series of small craft stores, selling wares created on site. I stopped at a glass studio (and watched a glassblower at work), a woodworker, and a leather worker. I’m always on the look out for birthday and Christmas presents, and I came away with some good finds in this regard.
Lunch was at a small café. I decided to splurge and ordered a lobster sandwich. One of the bread options was ‘porridge bread’, which I’d never heard of so of course that’s what I ordered. The bread, the server explained, was oat-based, and it proved to be rather tasty.
When I asked for the bill, the server told me that the meal had already been paid for. A couple who had been sitting at a nearby table (and who had already left) had not only paid for my meal, but also for a couple eating outside. This unexpected generosity brought tears to my eyes. The second time in a week! Was this some Canadian thing or just prevalent in Nova Scotia?
As I neared Sydney, I stopped at a couple look offs. At the second, a chap with a large Canon camera of his own approached me to ask if I knew good spots to take photographs in the national park. I pulled out the free map I’d been using, and showed him the places I’d visited, including the location of the old barn. As I have no further need for the map, I gave it to him, waving off his thanks with the explanation that I’d been given it for free at the information centre.
I arrived at my motel hoping to check in early at 2.45pm. A sign at the office stated that the hours were 9am to 11am and then 3pm to 10pm. So I waited. And waited. Another person trying to check in appeared just after 3pm, and he phoned the owners on the number provided on a post it note on the office door. With fulsome apologies, the owners appeared at 3.20pm, having been detained at some legal appointment.
As the afternoon was drawing on, I decided to do practical things rather than sight seeing. I found a supermarket to restock on breakfast and lunch options, and then made my way to a liquor store. Here in Nova Scotia, alcohol is sold in separate stores. To my amusement, one could also purchase cannabis in the same locale.
I wandered through the store, picking out four Nova Scotian beers (only one stout was available) and two bottles of the cider I’d enjoyed a few nights ago. Although there was a good selection of Nova Scotian wine, I plan to visit some vineyards in a few days’ time, and I’d rather buy a bottle on site.
I’ve been using an app called Maps.me for navigation. The maps are downloaded to the iPhone, and the SatNav works offline. But Audrey (as I’ve named the voice) has some strange little ways. When I’m on a freeway, she wants me to come off at each off-ramp and then rejoin the freeway again. (???) This time, she took me of a tour of a sea-fronting neighbourhood rather than return me directly to my motel.
The sun had finally decided to emerge. I sat outside for awhile until the sun set and the air chilled. Then I went inside to have a salad dinner (purchased at the supermarket) and to plan the activities for the next few days.
The day dawned bright and sunny. I headed to the local Membertou Heritage Park, a small centre dedicated to the history of the First Nations tribe which still lives in the area. They were forcibly relocated away from the main part of the city decades ago, and the museum had exhibits both of their previous way of life and the relocation. I spent some time in the shop, buying a few things. ‘You should stay here, it’s far safer than England,’ the woman at the counter told me. ‘I hear you have a lot of infections over there.’ I pointed out that, in England, there’s also a lot of testing going on and cases are in children, who rarely suffer badly from Covid. ‘At some point we’re just going to have to learn to live with this disease.’
I headed off to Louisbourg. The main attraction is a reconstruction of the French town and fort which used to be here. The Canadian government started the rebuilt back in 1961, and most of the buildings were put up by the 1980s. The reconstruction aims to show around a quarter of what used to be on site during the 1740s.
In the main season, the buildings are open to view and actors wander the streets as townspeople and soldiers. I was visiting in the low season, so there were no actors and most of the buildings were shut, which I had realised before adding Louisbourg to my plans. The advantage of the low season was the lack of people, which meant empty streets for photography (although, rather annoyingly, a car was parked on the main thoroughfare).
I wandered happily, taking photos, and stalking a herd of sheep (which also featured one goat). I later spoke to two people hauling out manure from the herd’s pens. The sheep are a mixed breed of Cotswold and Devon, and they weren’t sure of the goat’s breed. During the main season the herd are kept in their enclosure, but in low season they are allowed to roam the site. They return to their pen of their own accord in the afternoon.
I headed back through the small town and to the lighthouse. The site featured the first lighthouse built in Canada, back in 1734. The current lighthouse is the fourth to be erected, and is nearly 100 years old. I climbed a small hill to photograph the lighthouse, doing a few handheld before going back for tripod and filters. As it turned out, the handheld photos turned out better than the later, more crafted images.
After I’d packed up the equipment and walked to the cliff edge to admire the scenery, I met a woman from Switzerland who loves Cape Breton. She has visited Nova Scotia thirteen times, and was approaching the end of a five week stay.
As I drove back to town, I pulled over to take some photos of the buildings across the channel. A young man was walking past, and we chatted for some time. He comes from Louisbourg, but works in Nashville, Tennessee as he’s a folk musician. He didn’t have a business card, so I gave him one of mine, and asked him to email me with a link to his music. His favourite time of year is winter, when beluga whales and orca swim close to shore and everyone heats their homes with firewood. He said the lovely smell of the wood smoke lingers over the town.
I checked in to my motel and tried to work out the options for dinner. All the restaurants I walked past were shut for the season, and when I returned to the motel, the owner told me his restaurant was also closed. There was one place serving food, ‘Just past the post office’. As I had no idea how far this would be, I decided to drive.
The restaurant was busy, but a table was found for me. I had rib steak with chips (‘fries’) and vegetables. I asked for malt vinegar for my fries, and this was brought to me in a small dish! Made pouring a bit difficult. After my lovely meal, it was back to the motel to bed down for the evening.
Woke up to the sound of rain. The forecast showed better conditions in westwards, the direction I was headed. The chap I’d met yesterday had recommended a nearby scenic road, but looking at the downpour, I decided not to visit it.
I headed back towards Sydney, then followed the road which followed the edge of Bras d’Or Lake. This large estuary is fed both by freshwater rivers and tides from the Atlantic.
At a picnic area, I pulled off for a loo break. The toilets were, as a sign declared, ‘Shut for the season.’ As others had done before me, I arranged my own little break behind the buildings. Unfortunately, I didn’t look closely enough where I walked, and one person before me had obviously suffered some intestinal difficulties. My regular readers will know that my reports are ‘warts and all’, but perhaps we’ll gloss over my efforts to ensure that my boots were once again clean.
I stopped at one of the access points for people to launch boats on to the lake. A nearby church (most of those I passed were Catholic, perhaps reflecting the fact that French immigrants settled in this region) had a shrine to Our Lady of Guadalupe behind the main building. I decided to visit and pay my respects.
The shrine has seen better days. The steps up were decaying, and the statues sported patches of green. But this didn’t detract from the obvious dedication which had built the shrine in the first place. A number of rosaries hung from the statues. At first I thought visitors had brought them, but closer inspection revealed that the rosaries were similar to each other. I decided that they were there for people to use in prayer, in case they hadn’t brought their own.
I had decided to visit St Peter’s Canal. This was built between 1854 to 1869 to allow for a connection between Bras d’Or Lake and the Atlantic ocean. Once used by commercial traffic, the channel is too small for today’s shipping vessels so mainly pleasure boats use the canal. A lock regulates the water levels, as there can be a tidal difference of 1.4m (4.5 feet) between lake and ocean.
I stopped for a pizza lunch in the town of St Peter’s, expecting to find a sign to the canal to visit afterwards. However, I found myself heading out of town with no sign of a turn off. I headed on west, and took an enjoyable thirty minute drive around Isle Madame. The skies were beginning to clear, and as it was still early afternoon, I decided to make another attempt to visit St Peter’s Canal.
So I headed back the way I’d come, using Maps.me this time to assist me. There was indeed no sign to direct anyone to the canal, but Audrey gave me the turning. I parked up, waited for a rain shower to pass over, and collected my camera.
A number of small boats were tied up along the canal. I watched a man cutting up fish for baiting lobster pots. A little further down, a National Parks ranger told me that the official lobster season was over, however First Nations people can, under their treaty rights, fish for lobster throughout the year so long as this is for personal consumption only.
As I walked back along the canal, I noted that many of the boats flew the Mikmaq Nation Flag, showing that the vessels belonged to someone from the indigenous population. I stopped to talk to several men, who confirmed what the ranger had told me.
I was asked if I’d been to the Cabot Trail. We shared appreciation for the glorious colours. One told me, ‘It wasn’t so great the other year. A hurricane came in and blew off most of the leaves. What was left looked like shit, dry and brown.’ I declined to tell him that this description didn’t match what I’d experienced earlier in the day.
A couple of them had climbed up to a local viewpoint the day before, and they showed me photos they’d taken at dawn, both on phones and from a drone. I thanked them for their time and returned to my car.
The afternoon had become sunny and warm. I decided to enjoy the area, so I sat down on a boulder and read for a while. A sailboat went by, hoisting sails as she reached the sea. As clouds drew in again, I headed off to find my motel for the night.
By mid morning I had left Cape Breton and was driving west. One of my guidebooks had recommended driving what it called ‘the Little Cabot Trail’, namely a shoreline trip around Cape George. I stopped early on to photograph a trailer offering pumpkins for sale. The sunlight chased through clouds, offering wonderful mixtures of sun and shadow, usually where there was no place to safely park! I enjoyed the views but did manage to duck out of my car for one photo.
A visit to St George’s Lighthouse put me at risk of being late to meet up with a friend for lunch. I hopped back into my car, set up the destination of Pictou into Maps.me, and worriedly watched the prediction as to how late I’d be. I managed to claw back (legally) some time, then ended up behind a motorcaravan for a long stretch before I could pass.
I reached Pictou slightly late, and sweated as I tried to locate the restaurant in which we were to meet. I was 15 minutes late, but I was forgiven.
Melissa and I’d met on-line over five years before because we both wrote fiction and we each had a parrot. She had recently immigrated to Canada, and when I realised she lived near one of my tour destinations, I suggested we meet up. We hugged before ordering lunch. She very kindly paid for us both.
Afterwards we visited an art gallery before parting. She offered dinner at her house, but I declined, as I worried about driving when tired. I haven’t mentioned it, but the other day I did accidentally drive on the left side of the road for a short distance.
I wandered around Pictou for some time afterwards, taking photos of parked vintage cars and the interesting buildings. I drove back out, looking for the Pictou Lighthouse. Maps.me took me down a small road, and I parked to look around. A local informed me that there was no lighthouse, as such. I took some photos looking back at the town, and talked to man who was out to photograph birds.
I set up Maps.me to take me to my accommodation. My love/hate relationship with Audrey continued, when she neglected to advise me of a turning and I had to backtrack. As ever, she wanted me to come off each freeway junction, but I’ve learned to ignore her now.
The bed and breakfast I’d booked turned out to be a charming house built by the proprietor and her husband. Both the name with which she introduced herself and her accent led me to ask ‘Sprechen Sie Deutsch?’ This was indeed her first language. We conversed in a mixture of English and German thereafter. Her son helpfully carried my main suitcase up to my first floor room. A balcony gave access to a lovely view. I headed back out with camera to photograph the house and the owner’s chickens before returning to settle in for the night. After a series of soulless motels, chosen on the basis of cost, it was nice to stay somewhere a bit more individual.
I was given a nice breakfast of bacon, fried potato chunks, eggs, and toast. When I asked what I owed (as I wasn’t certain breakfast was included in the price), the woman waved my offer of payment away.
My first visit was to the Balmoral Grist Mill, just a few miles down the road. I knew that the mill itself was closed for the season, but I was happy to see and photograph it. The mill was opened in 1874, and is still used to grind grain into flour.
As I headed south, rain and clouds closed in. Once I’d driven over the hills (too low to be called mountains) and headed for the coast, I encountered a mixture of clouds and sunshine. The temperature rose to 20c. I’d packed some cold weather clothes for Nova Scotia, and thus far I hadn’t used them.
Although there were stretches of colourful trees, on the whole it appeared that the peak was past. The maples were turning rust and brown, and shedding their leaves.
I drove east to visit the Five Islands area. Well, more precisely, to look from the shore at the five islands. The lighthouse was built in 1913 and relocated to its current position. The area leading up to the (locked) door had been decorated with pumpkins, fake leaves, and a scarecrow.
As I waited for the sun to re-emerge, I ate a small lunch. After taking numerous lighthouse photos, I headed east. I passed various buildings which made me pull over and grab my camera. The area was farming territory, both arable and dairy (haven’t seen many sheep), and I saw barns in various stages of disrepair. One of my guide books also directed me to a small island on which trees cling precariously.
I decided to head to Shubenacadie. I’d paid for a two night stay at a cabin near the river. After checking in, and doing my best to park off the road without the car sliding down the embankment, I unpacked into the one bedroom cottage. Remembering the problems I’d had with the cooker at the cottage earlier in the holiday, I made certain the rings worked on the hob in this place. Success! I’d be able to cook my dinner (cans of food, not my usual diet, but sometimes needs must).
Then I grabbed camera backpack to go to the (closed) restaurant, standing on the deck to photograph the river.
The day’s warmth lingered long into the evening. I sat outside, first at the deck, then at my cottage, enjoying the sound of the wind of the trees. It was with reluctance that I went inside for the evening.
I’d booked the cabin in order to be on site for rafting the tidal bore. The Shubenacadie River empties into Bay of Fundy. Twice a day, at high tide, the sea surges into the river, forcing salt water upstream against the flow of the fresh water. The waves can reach up to three metres.
I reported to the office at 10am, dressed in bathing costume, half wet-suit, fleece, and shorts. We were advised to wear ‘shoes that won’t come off,’ so I had my hiking sandals.
We signed waiver forms, and collected waterproof coats and lifevests. The walk down to the speedboat was interesting. The gravel path was already a bit tricky. Then there was slippery mudbank. I decided safety was more important than dignity, and I sat down and slid.
Our group consisted of me, two friends, and a bachelor party. Members of the latter were slightly worse for wear, as they’d also arrived the evening before and celebrated with beer. Our guide assured them that the wet water would soon cure any hangover—it always worked for her.
We climbed into the boat, a zodiac, and sat on the inflatable outer section. As we headed slowly downstream, following the river’s current towards the sea, we saw a number of bald eagles. At one point, the water was too shallow, and people jumped out to pull the boat to deeper water.
Around two hours later we hopped out to walk on a sandbank. Our guide kept an eye on the water conditions, and ten minutes later called us back into the boat. We could see the trailing edge of the seawater, foaming as the tide rushed in.
The next ninety minutes consisted of our guide turning the boat to head into the waves. The silty brown water crashed against the prow and heaved over us. Water filled the boat (‘Now is a good time to pee if you need to,’ quipped our guide) time and again, draining away when we headed upstream before heading back to combat the waves.
The water was cold, but not freezing, and I’ve swum in worse. I had an old waterproof camera with me, and I did my best to take photos and video. We hit some rather large swells which meant that I needed both hands to hold on to the ropes. A couple of times the waves knocked me from my seat into the boat (better that than overboard!). We laughed and whooped and, to my surprise, no one swore.
Our trip was the last one for the season, and our guide seemed determined to make the most of it. We were all thoroughly soaked (despite the jackets, water even got up our sleeves) by the time she decided it was time to head back.
Although the tide was in, there was still a good bit of muddy bank to walk up after we disembarked. All of us commented how rubbery our legs felt, which didn’t help combat the slippery mud. I used my hands for extra purchase (it was rather steep) and washed them off once we were back at base.
In the outdoor shower area (a boarded area under a large tent), I washed off the seawater and changed into dry clothes. I headed down to the cabin to have a proper shower, spending quite some time under the hot water to warm up.
The power went off during my shower, and after I’d dressed I went back to the office area. The bachelor party were there, drinking beer, and they cheerfully advised me that the electricity was out across the site but it was due to be restored by 5pm. ‘Oh, good,’ I said, ‘because I’ll need to cook my tea.’ This expression quite amused one of the group, and after he ribbed me, he bought me a beer.
A rather convivial time followed. As the rain came in, we sat outside (under a large awning) and I chatted to various members of the party. The groom was a fisherman, with licences for lobster and for Bluefin tuna. He showed me photos of his son, his fiancé, and his boat, as well as some of the Bluefin tuna he and his father have caught. At the moment, Bluefin tuna sells for CA$9.00 a pound, so one of their recent catches put CA$2700 into their pockets. He loves his occupation.
After a couple of beers, and the electricity restored, I wandered back to my cabin. It was still warm (the group told me it’s been an unusually warm and sunny October), so I sat outside. Rain began to fall quite heavily, but I was sheltered and enjoyed the sound and watching the leaves fall from the trees.
I heated up my dinner, and whilst I was eating there was a knock on my door. The guide had come down to let me know that the group had returned to the main building, were drinking and playing darts, and I was welcome to join them. I thought about it after she’d left, and somewhat reluctantly decided it was best to decline. I know myself far too well. I could see myself enjoying the company and therefore the beer far too much, and a lack of self-control could lead to a hangover the next morning. Safer to stay away from temptation.
A bit of a drizzle greeted me as I packed up and carried everything to the car. At the office, I thanked our guide (who was at the desk) for inviting me over and explained why I’d not come.
The weather cleared as I drove to north to the Annapolis Valley. I stopped at the Grand Pre National Historic Site view point. The landscape was lovely, and the winds were very high and cold. I pulled on my jacket, warm hat, and gloves before taking photos. The scurrying clouds did provide that mixture of sunlight and shadow which I enjoy when photographing vistas. There was no point trying to put up a tripod.
The site grounds were open, but the museum and facilities were shut for the season. The area was settled by the Acadians, immigrants from France, in 1682. During the French and Indian War, the British suspected that the Acadians were aligned with France. The Acadians were forcibly deported between 1755 and 1764. Around 11,500 were removed, and a third died from disease and drowning.
I made a brief visit, then headed off to Luckett Vineyards. The place was very busy (it was a Sunday), but I didn’t have to wait long for a ‘tasting pod’ to open up (plexiglass screens had been put up at the tasting counter to keep people in their ‘bubbles’). I went for the three wines, rather than five. The Riesling was delicious, the sparkling wine of a dry variety I’d never encountered before (L’Acadie Blanc). The red wine was also decent.
I ordered lunch along with a glass of the Riesling. My intention was to slowly sip the white whilst waiting for my food. However, food and wine both arrived within five minutes. So I sipped the wine afterwards.
Then I spent around ninety minutes walking around, taking photos, visiting the shop, and finally doing some reading in the car before I felt safe enough to drive off. Luckett Vineyards has an old British red telephone box in their vineyard, and many people walked down to be photographed next to it. The door was locked shut, and a sign inside explained that this was due to Covid precautions.
I stopped at another vineyard to take some photos, and along the valley as the light was excellent on the hills. My second wine experience was at Benjamin Bridge. They didn’t offer tastings, so I bought a small glass of their sparkling wine and, as it was cold outside (although they did have heaters on), a coffee. I drank both whilst admiring the views.
So again I took time to walk off the wine. More photos and a trip to the wine shop. I talked myself out of a hoodie (overpriced) but was intrigued by their red wine. The person in the shop insisted on fetching me a sample from the bar. ‘Try before you buy.’ It was rather nice, and I reluctantly limited myself to a few sips before handing the glass back and deciding to buy a bottle.
The last of the clouds had blown away as I headed west to Digby, my destination for the night. The latter part of the journey was uncomfortable, and at times nearly dangerous, as I was driving right towards the setting sun. The sunglasses clip which I wear over my glasses (I’d brought it from England) helped.
Audrey has stopped trying to take me off at every junction on a freeway, but this time did not tell me to take the off-ramp to Digby. But as it was well signed, I didn’t need her help.
I stayed in an inn which is around 150 years old. The building, and my room, were both charming. Across the road were views of the bay, although I arrived a bit too late for the best light on the moored boats.
Woke up to grey skies. After a lovely breakfast of French toast and bacon (with Nova Scotian maple syrup), I headed out for an island visit.
Digby Neck, as well as the two islands which follow on, Long Island and Brier Island, are the westernmost parts of Nova Scotia. These are narrow strips of land, known for whale watching in season. Ferries connect the islands to the mainland.
The schedule to Long Island stated that the ferry departed on the half hour from Digby Neck, and returned on the hour from Long Island. I aimed to be on the 10.30am ferry, but when I arrived just after 10am, I was waved on. The ferry moved almost before I’d had time to turn off the car’s engine and put on the parking brake. The crossing took only about five minutes before I was on the other side.
My destination was the Balancing Rock, a basalt pillar which rises from the shoreline. I managed to pass the turning, so I drove a bit further down the island, enjoying how remote it felt. When I turned around, a very clear sign lead me to the car park.
The 1.7km walk to the platform wound through woods and a bog. Many information plates explained the importance of the local flora, and the uses made of the plants by the First Nation inhabitants. A series of 285 steps (according to the information provided, I didn’t count them) led down to the viewing area. I must admit, although intriguing, I had thought the Balancing Rock was a bit larger than it turned out to be (seven metres).
The climb back up the steps was a reminder how sore my upper legs had been left by the river rafting experience. Back at the car park, I had a picnic lunch before heading back to the ferry. This time I waited around ten minutes, but yet again I was able to load early and we set off at 12.35pm. My car was at the front, and the movement of the waves made me more uneasy than the entire river rafting trip.
Once on the other side, with occasional rain adding to the grey, I decided to head to Annapolis Royal. My intention had been to check into my hotel there before wandering the streets.
Check in wasn’t until 3pm, so I went through the town to visit the Port-Royal Historic Site. This is a recreation of how the habitation might have looked when built in 1605, and was the first permanent settlement by France in North America. Although the buildings were closed for the season, the grounds are open all year around, so I walked through the site and admired the wooden reconstructions.
A short drive back brought me to my hotel, the Queen Anne Inn. I’d chosen it both due to location (walking distance into town) and the age (built in 1865). The exterior looked charming, and the interior was even more so, with various sitting rooms. My bedroom featured a four poster bed and comfortable armchairs as well as a chaise lounge.
I took camera and headed into town. Rain started in earnest. A few shops were open, and I popped inside. The old buildings were indeed lovely to see, even in the grey, and I also walked over to Fort Anne. This was originally established in 1629, and two of the original buildings remain: The 1708 stone powder magazine, and the 1797 Officer’s Quarters. The dykes are quite incredible, and laid out in a defensive star pattern.
After dropping off camera equipment at the hotel, I went out to a local restaurant for dinner. Starter was locally applewood smoked salmon, and main course Digby scallops in a light sauce with pasta and vegetables. I talked quite a bit to a woman seated at another table. A couple who were staying in rooms at the restaurant returned from a whale watching trip. They’d only had the one encounter, but this was a lengthy one with a humpbacked whale and calf, so they were very pleased.
It transpired that another couple were celebrating their wedding anniversary. So as I left, the woman to whom I’m been speaking was arranging with the restaurant to buy this couple a bottle of wine to help them celebrate. ‘I like paying it forward,’ she told me. I wonder if this is a Canadian thing, or unique to Nova Scotia?
Dire weather forecasts, threatening major rain and winds over the next two days. It was dry but grey when I headed out, and I took a few photos of the town before starting for Yarmouth.
The forecast proved to be correct. As I headed east, the rain started to come down. I drove to Yarmouth, and out to Cape Forchu Lighthouse. I ducked out to collect my camera from the car boot, soaking my clothing in the process. After taking photos through the car windscreen (which gave an interesting wavy effect to the images), I also took some from the lower car park, rolling down the passenger side window and remaining in the car to take those.
The first lighthouse was built in 1839. The current one was constructed in 1962. The area is supposed to be lovely to walk around, but I’ll have to accept the reports of others!
I decided not to risk another trip outside. The shorts I’d worn for the river rafting trip were in the car, and I wrapped the camera in those before placing it into a plastic bag and resting the bundle on the floor on the passenger side.
Time for lunch. I drove back to Yarmouth and decided it was time I investigated Tim Hortons, a restaurant chain which originated in Canada. My club sandwich was decent, the coffee excellent, and the rain had eased up slightly when I returned to the car.
I decided to transfer camera to backpack in the boot. When I liberated the camera from the shorts, I realised to my horror the error of my ways. Dry river silt had shed from the clothing to dust camera and lens. Sand is supposed to be destructive of camera equipment, and I couldn’t imagine that river silt would be any better. I hurriedly grabbed my lens brush and worked at removing it. I tilted the camera upside down to knock the silt from the lens. I think I might have got away with it, but we’ll see whether I’ve damaged the zoom lens.
The rain, and wind, picked up again. I drove on to Clark’s Harbour, my destination for the day. My intention, when I’d planned my holiday, was to visit the various beaches on the island. The weather convinced me otherwise. Around 3pm I arrived at my bed and breakfast. The owner greeted me, and as I brought in my luggage she made me a cup of peppermint tea. I settled into the guest lounge to catch up on emails. The woman’s Yorkshire terrier decided I was her new best friend, and at first curled up on my feet before deciding to jump up and rest on my armchair.
Wind and rain only became worse during the course of the evening. I was glad I didn’t have to go out again.
A change of bedroom was required later in the evening when water began to drip from a small leak in the ceiling. The owner was concerned that the builders hadn’t done a good job on her roof.
More rain and high winds greeted me as I left. Again, not a day to explore beaches. I drove to Barrington, where I photographed the lighthouse (now set in a park) and the woollen mill. The attractions were shut, of course, but there was free wifi and I sat in the car for a while, reading on my iPhone. I then drove on to Shelburne, my destination for the night. Wind gusts of up to 60mph (according to my weather app) pushed my car around on the freeway, and I gripped the steering wheel and prayed very very hard. I don’t like driving in windy conditions.
Once in Shelburne, I found a small restaurant and had a leisurely lunch. At 2pm checked into my motel. A small brew pub was in walking distance, so after putting my bags into my room I went for a visit. I decided to have the ‘flight’ which offered six tastings, including a cider. The waitress also brought me a small sample of an autumn brew which used pumpkins and chilli peppers. I tried a sip of this concoction—it made my eyes water and I quickly pushed it aside.
After a couple of pleasant hours, I returned to the motel and spent the afternoon working on this travel blog and planning my travels over the last few days of my holiday.
I decided to retrace my steps and return to Clark’s Harbour. At one of the beaches, the Hawk, a series of petrified tree stumps are revealed at low tide. The wind had dropped overnight, and the drive back was straightforward.
It was still rather blustery on the exposed beach. I had timed myself to arrive at low tide, but I saw no sand and no petrified trees. There was lots of seaweed, no doubt tossed up by the storm, so perhaps that hid sand and trees from sight. I took photos of Cape Sable Lighthouse, wearing my heavy jacket for the first time on the holiday. The present lighthouse dates back to 1924, and at 101 feet is the tallest in Nova Scotia.
As I returned to the main road, I glanced my rear view mirror and saw a deer cross the street behind me.
I drove part of what is called ‘The Lighthouse Trail’, following the road past small communities and the nearby coastline. A brief burst of sunshine emerged to cast light on Sandy Point Lighthouse, which is maintained by the local community.
After a small picnic lunch in the car (far too cold and windy to eat outside), I decided to leave the Lighthouse Trail for the most direct route to Lunenburg, my final destination for the day. The winds of the past two days had pulled down most of the bright tree leaves, and the bare branches added to my end of holiday feeling.
Lunenburg is only one of two urban communities designated as UNESCO World Heritage sites in North America (the other is Quebec). Many of the buildings date back to the 18th and 19th centuries. The British founded the town in 1753 and Protestant settlers were brought in from Europe to occupy the land.
I managed to find some street parking near my accommodation and I fed coins into the parking meter. (I was told by someone at the inn that I needn’t have bothered as ‘No one checks this time of year.’) After checking in and dumping my stuff, I packed just one camera and lens to roam the streets.
A few places were still open, but others were shut for the season. I came across a German family, and after we’d exchanged a few comments, I was quite pleased to be asked (in German) ‘Where in Germany do you come from?’ We noted that all of the buildings were wooden. ‘Except for the bank!’ the father pointed out.
I had dinner at the restaurant attached to the inn. Over seventeen Nova Scotian beers were on offer. I had a smoked porter, very nice, and I admired the view of the harbour as I tucked into a Lunenburg burger (beef with cheese, bacon, spinach, and lobster).
Last full day of holiday. The day started out grey, but was predicted to improve. I drove out to a viewpoint to photograph Lunenberg from across the bay. It was not far to Mahone Bay, my next destination, and I parked up and wandered. I found a place to photograph the three main churches (which are near the water) and waited until the sun broke through the clouds.
Lunch was at a nearby pub. The décor inside made me feel like I was in England, with wooden décor, beer mats, and a stag’s head. I ordered BBQ pork ribs and a small glass of stout.
On the way back to my car, I called in at Amos Pewter and talked to one of the women casting ornaments. She explained the process to be. By propping the camera over the top of the plexiglass screen I was able to take a few photos of her at work.
I made a brief stop at Chester and the nearby river for photography. As it was now mid afternoon, I decided to go on to my last stop, Penny’s Cove. The school buses were dropping kids off. I had read that cars must stop, travelling in either direction, when the buses stopped, but I had thought a bus would pull over to the side of the road. So I was caught out when the bus, on the other side of the road, simply halted in the road. As I drove past, the driver blared the horns at me and I realised I’d broken the law. I wanted to turn around and apologise, explaining that an English person like me didn’t encounter these yellow school buses at home!
A little while later I stopped at a viewpoint to look across a bay. A man emerged from his car to greet me. Next thing I knew, he was telling me about his problems with his supervisor at work and his worry that he might be laid off. The intensity of his delivery made me uncomfortable. I calmly returned camera to backpack, and said my goodbyes before climbing back into my car. I breathed a sigh of relief as I drove away.
My last stop was at Peggy’s Cove. Although a small village, it’s a major tourist attraction due to the lighthouse perched on a rocky outcropping. I visited the Swissair Memorial Site, which was built to commemorate the 1998 crash of Swissair Flight 111. All 229 people on board died when the plane came down around five miles from shore. By the time all clouds had disappeared and the bright afternoon sun shone on the monument and the nearby rocks.
Once at Peggy’s Cove, I parked and wandered down to the harbour before going over to the lighthouse. I managed to take photos without people in them, although I should imagine this was impossible in the main season.
My motel was only a few miles down the road. I checked in and took everything out of the car and into the room. Pouring myself a beer, I went outside to sit and admire the sun setting over the bay. A woman who has immigrated from South Korea to Canada joined me, and we had a long chat.
After darkness finally came, I went back to my room and worked my way through the Passenger Location Form, required of anyone planning to enter England. It was far more complicated than what I’d completed for Canada, and I struggled to make the camera on my laptop recognise the code for my vaccination. Finally I succeeded. I hoped that I’d entered everything correctly and I’d be allowed on to my flights back home.
Woke up to a sunny morning. I worked on packing, deciding to leave behind my guidebooks and my ancient travel kettle. At 10am I loaded up the car and headed to the airport.
Rental car was returned and marked as uninjured. I felt a bit of a pang as I said goodbye to George (as I’d named the hire car). He’d been a good steed.
My flight wasn’t for six hours yet, so I bought a coffee which I sipped very slowly to minimise mask wearing time. Four hours before flight time, I went to check in. My documentation was accepted. My check-in bag was 23.8 kg against the limit of 23kg, but the woman said ‘I’ll make it okay’ and let me off.
I had less than 90 minutes to change planes in Toronto. In the end, however, the flight for London departed 90 minutes late, so my rushing proved to have been unnecessary. The flight crew were far more relaxed about mask wearing than those on the flight out. I was able to take a long time over my drinks without hassle.
And so, on 31 October, I landed in a wet and windy London (the same storm I’d experienced in Nova Scotia?) and the holiday was over.
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