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Nova Scotia September 1999

Jeffrey and Margreta have talked about visiting Nova Scotia for a few years now. Finally they did it. Here are few moments and memories from the trip. The Nova Scotia tourism website provided a lot of valuable information and the tourist bureaus all around the province made this an easy trip to organize and enjoy.

Cape Breton

After arriving in Nova Scotia and staying in Halifax the first night, they headed straight for Cape Breton. The first stay on the island was at the bed and breakfast of a Rankin family member, a cousin to the Rankins music group. One big advantage to bed and breakfasts is getting to know local people and finding out about local events. That night, the Rankins recommended both a ceilidh in Inverness and a dance in Glencoe Mills. While Margreta and Jeffrey might have found the ceilidh on their own, the directions to traverse the unmarked dirt roads from Mabou to Glencoe Mills were invaluable. Jeffrey's parents had been in Nova Scotia and were most impressed with the stars at night in Cape Breton. A good guide to the music and events in Inverness County was the Inverness Oran newspaper.

Stopping along the Cabot Trail.
Photo of Margreta at a lookout on the Cabot Trail Photo of Jeffrey at a lookout on the Cabot Trail

The next day, after exploring a little around the Mabou area, Jeffrey and Margreta headed up the Cabot Trail. The Cabot Trail is part of the Cape Breton Highlands National Park. While one can drive for free on the highway, there is a small admission fee to take advantage of the amenities of the park. They found plenty of natural beauty on the trail, enjoying walks to the waterfalls and overlooks where you could see whales playing in the afternoon sunlight.

Photo of Margreta along the trail to the waterfall Photo of Margreta admiring a spider's work
Tree along one of the trails Margreta admiring a spider's work
Photo of Jeffrey at the stone house
Jeffrey at a Scots stone home for a shepherd.

Margreta and Jeffrey at some waterfalls in the Cape Breton Highland National Park
Photo of Jeffrey at a waterfall along the Cabot Trail Photo of Margreta at a waterfall along the Cabot Trail

The next night, Jeffrey and Margreta stayed in Ingonish Beach, just at the exit of the National Park. They drove around other parts of Cape Breton Island, viewing the rugged coastline of the Atlantic coast.

Along the Atlantic coastline of Cape Breton
Photo of Margreta at Atlantic coast Photo of Jeffrey at Atlantic coast

The next itinerary stop was St. Peter's and a Stone Mountain Music Festival that was listed in the "Doers and Dreamers" tourism guide. As Jeffrey and Margreta often don't follow the beaten path, Margreta navigated from Baddeck to St. Peter's through Orangedale. Unfortunately, they somehow ended up off the road planned and wound up at a dead end, probably near West Alba. Sometimes dirt roads aren't the way to go.

In St. Peter's, Margreta had booked a stay at the MacDonald Hotel and Dining Room based on it being listed in the "Taste of Nova Scotia 1999 Dining Guide". Unfortunately, the place had been sold in the spring to new owners who had turned the restaurant into a fish and chips joint. It was an interesting stay as the door handle fell off the door and didn't get fixed during the time of their stay. One of the disadvantages of the Doers and Dreamers guide is that it lists nearly all events in Nova Scotia and doesn't provide an indication of the quality of an event. Margreta and Jeffrey had some premonitions of trouble already at the Rankin B&B because they had never heard of the event. After a couple of hours of bad fiddle music and people trying to sign Texas style country western music, they figured they had had enough. That night, while in their room, music started to play from the bar below. The music was some good fiddle music and so they ended up spending evenings in the bar enjoying different musicians and doing a couple of dances.

Using St. Peter's as a home base, Jeffrey and Margreta traveled along the south end of Cape Breton. They stopped in Gabarus to enjoy the waterfront and fishing village. The lobster traps were all neatly stacked, waiting for the next season. From there they drove to Louisbourg.

Photo of Gabarus Harbour Photo of Jeffrey and lobster traps
Gabarus Harbour Lobster traps waiting for the next season

With only an hour before the Fortress of Louisbourg closed, Margreta and Jeffrey did a quick run around tour of the fort. There was enough there that they came back to enjoy the Fort at a more leisurely pace the next day. A National Historic Site, the Fortress is run like a reenactment of the 1744 settlement, with historically dressed interpreters and events. That evening a bobcat ran across the road in front of them as they drove to Sydney. In Sydney, they ate a very good Mexican pizza on the waterfront.

Fortress Louisbourg
Photo of Margreta feeding the goats Photo of reenactors conversing in Fortress Louisburg

Margreta and Jeffrey left their St. Peter's base and traveled along the south end of the Bras D'or Lakes. They stopped at a bakery near Gillis Mountain and drove to Iona. Crossing the bridge to Iona, Margreta noticed the eagle perched on the bridge. They walked on the bridge and admired the eagle, and spoke with the bridge attendant who was responsible to raise the bridge if any boats wanted to go through the strait. They also rode on a small ferry from Little Narrows across the St. Patrick's Channel. They stayed for the night in Baddeck and visited the Iona Highland Village the next day.

Photo of eagle on Barr Strait bridge Photo of Little Narrows ferry
Eagle on bridge Ferry at Little Narrows

It was getting near the time that Margreta and Jeffrey needed to head off of the Cape to other parts of Nova Scotia, but there was a ceilidh in Mabou and time on the island had been enjoyable. So they stayed one more night in Inverness County, at Rachel by the Sea B&B in Judique.

He step danced so fast both feet were off the floor at times - the Mabou ceilidh.
Photo of young man step dancing

North Judique fishing village - nearly every day in Cape Breton during our trip was sunny and warm.
Photo of the Judique North fishing village
Cape Breton humor.
Photo of a stop sign in the middle of the harbour

On the way from Judique to Mabou, Jeffrey and Margreta drove past a scene that didn't make sense. The next morning, they asked Rachel about it. She said that the stop sign had been there for years. It was representative of the sense of humor of the Cape Bretoners.

Nova Scotia Mainland

It was time to head towards other parts of Nova Scotia. Margreta had a quilt project she was working on and needed photos of sailing boats. So they headed to Mahone Bay and Lunenburg where boat building takes place. Lunenburg is also homeport of the Bluenose II, the schooner that is on the Canadian dime. They stayed at the Edgewater B&B in Mader's Cove and found a bakery that sold Nanaimo Bars. The next day in Lunenburg, Margreta found her sailboat.

Photo of sailboat in Lunenburg Photo of boat in quilt
The sailboat The quilt

From there, they headed up to Digby on the Bay of Fundy. Margreta wanted to go whale watching. One evening, Margreta and Jeffrey wandered along the waterfront in Digby and watched the scallop fishermen come in. They spoke with a former fisherman, now taxi driver about the fishing and the culture and which restaurant to get the best scallops. The "Doers and Dreamers" guide listed a Bear River Music Festival taking place in the area. They went for the evening singer-songwriter workshop and enjoyed the variety of local musicians. While the morning didn't look promising (fogged in), they drove out to Tiverton anyway and went on a whale watching tour. While they didn't see many whales, they did end up following a mother and child. 

Photo of whale in Bay of Fundy
Jeffrey and Margreta watched the whale from the safety of a boat, not a Zodiak
Photo of whale in Bay of Fundy Another whale photo
Whale as tail fin about to come up Whale cruising along, part of body visible through the water

Lighthouse near Tiverton.
Photo of lighthouse near Tiverton

They also drove west of Digby to explore some Acadian culture along St. Mary's Bay. Here were people who spoke French as their first language. Jeffrey and Margreta admired the cathedrals, like St. Bernard Church. While in the area, they also tried a local food called Rapure, a meat pie made with potatoes for gluten.

The next event they wanted to catch was "Fundy Folk" in Margaretsville. When they arrived at their B&B in Margaretsville, the owner warned them that they might not be able to get into the event, Fundy Folk tickets were often sold out. Jeffrey and Margreta got to the concert location early and waited to buy tickets. They got in. This was one event that was well worth the wait. That night, CBC also taped the concert. It was a special evening as ten local singer-songwriters had been commissioned to write a song based on one of several themes. Themes included "front porches", "in the mail", "leaning", "down the back stairs", "one straight row", "and shake it loose". Jeffrey and Margreta had heard some of the musicians  at the Bear River event, but some others were new and the commissioned songs had never been played before. Margreta enjoyed Don Osborne the most. At the B&B, the other guest was Pat Kipling of the Nova Scotia Arts Council. The morning breakfast was an enjoyable conversation about the concert and the talent of the local musicians and other artists in Nova Scotia.

From Margaretsville, Jeffrey and Margreta drove along the coastline of the Bay of Fundy and Minas Basin to picturesque towns like Morden and Harbourville. They drove along dirt roads and scared a beautiful black crane (we think, we're not birders) sitting on a bridge.

Harbourville on the Minas Basin. While the tides may not be as spectacular as years ago, it is still pretty impressive to see boats dry docked during part of the day and then floating on a tide later..
Photo of boats grounded due to low tide in Bay of Fundy

One thing that Margreta wanted to do before ending the vacation time was to ride a horse. Jeffrey was a good sport and rode too.

The riding experience
Photo of Margreta on a horse Photo of Jeffrey on a horse

On the last night in Nova Scotia, Jeffrey and Margreta stayed in Windsor in the most beautiful Bed and Breakfast of their whole trip. Purely by chance, they ended up at the Clockmaker's Inn B&B. As one other guest in the Inn said, this was like being able to sleep in the red roped off room at the museum. The provincial heritage property is furnished with antiques appropriate to the time. Margreta and Jeffrey had a four-poster bed with a fireplace in the room.

The Connelly's knew quilters in the area and arranged for Margreta and Jeffrey to see a quilt of Nova Scotia lighthouses by Audrey Goucher Millett that was hanging in the Windsor Museum. The Connelly's also called to see if Margreta could visit Janet Pope, a quilter/fiber artist in Hantsport. Jeffrey was moved by the images done by Robert Pope, Janet's brother, who died of cancer.

The backyard of Janet Pope's along the Minas Basin with the tide out.
Photo of Margreta in Windsor

From there Jeffrey and Margreta headed back to Halifax to catch their plane back to DC.

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