Visiting the Canadian Maritimes
A long-time dream of mine had been a trip down east. I approached my mother and sister to see if they would like to do a girls trip, and we made arrangements for a bus tour of Nova Scotia, Prince Edward Island and New Brunswick. My mother Agnes, who was 83, my older sister Joanne, my daughter Lindsay and I set off by air from Edmonton and Lethbridge, Alta. We arrived in Halifax on September 19, 2015, and stayed in the beautiful Lord Nelson Hotel in the heart of the city. The tour company hosted a welcome reception with local wine and appetizers so that we could meet the others who would be sharing our adventure. There were folks from Australia, all parts of the United States and, of course, Canada.
After a good sleep, we set off early the next morning for a guided tour of the downtown, which included a stop at the cemetery where many of the unfortunate souls from the Titanic made their final resting place. We then drove to tiny, picturesque Peggys Cove on St. Margarets Bay for lunch, exploration and pictures. While driving back to Halifax, we passed a house that had been beautifully painted with a scene of a lighthouse and the ocean on its front. Even the tree in the yard was painted with yellow, pink and blue stripes. There is much pride of place evident in the homes of Nova Scotia and P.E.I. Yards were immaculately groomed and all the houses looked freshly painted.
Once back in Halifax, we stopped at the Citadel for the changing of the guards. The kilted guards stand in position for only an hour at a time; when they are relieved by the next guard, they convey their orders verbally. At the time the fort was built, most of the soldiers could not read or write, so all orders had to be memorized and passed along verbally. There are also large masts, like those on the big ships, within the fort that displayed flags showing what type of ship was coming into the harbour. Masts were set up in strategic places along the way to New Brunswick that would fly the same flags. This way, merchants of the day would know what type of ship had come in and could determine if they needed to go pick up provisions.
In the evening, we were off to Alexander Keith’s Nova Scotia Brewery for a tour and beer tasting. We enjoyed a lovely meal, singing and stories in the old-style pub. Our hotel faced the Halifax Public Gardens, a beautiful park filled with Victorian-era plants, so my sister and I wandered in through the gate for a brief look around.
After breakfast the next day, we boarded the sightseeing bus, only to find that our assigned seats had moved back three rows while the travellers on the other side of the bus had moved up three rows. This was done each day to encourage the group to introduce themselves, and new friends were made. We stopped at Jeddore Oyster Ponds and the Fisherman’s Life Museum, set in an early 1900s fisherman’s home, before landing at Sherbrooke Village, a re-created lumber town from the late 19th century with brightly painted houses. My daughter posed outside of the Temperance Hall, imagining herself to be a young Rachel Lynde from Anne of Green Gables.
On the road once again, we moved on to Cape Breton Island. A highlight of the day was the schooner tour of Bras d’Or Lake; we sailed near land once owned by Alexander Graham Bell. There are approximately 12 homes on this 800-acre estate; the only non-Bell family member living there is the caretaker. I was pleasantly surprised to find out that Mr. Bell and a son-in-law created the National Geographic Society. After a lovely sail, we turned to our hotel, the Silver Dart Lodge in Baddeck. It was so beautiful here, it felt like we were living in a postcard. Our rooms had large Adirondack chairs overlooking the lake so we could relax and enjoy the scenery.
The next day, we stopped at the Alexander Graham Bell Museum and learned a great deal about this amazing inventor. On the bus once again, we toured Cape Breton Highlands National Park, stopping in quaint Chéticamp for lunch on the pier. Back on the bus and now in the park, we stopped at a monument to Canadians who died overseas in serve of our country. We also stopped to stretch our legs, strolling on a wooden boardwalk through the bog. We drove on through the Appalachian mountain range and ended up at the ocean – my first dip in the Atlantic. It was not as cold as I had anticipated, but was quite refreshing.
The next morning, we took the ferry at Pictou, crossing the Northumberland Strait from Nova Scotia to P.E.I. For me, crossing the ocean was a thrill. Once in Charlottetown, we stopped at a park near our hotel featuring a memorial to the Irish settlers who had immigrated to that area. (Our hotel also claimed that the Queen of England had stayed there.) That evening, we visited the Prince Edward Island Preserve Company for a delicious dinner complemented by local wine.
The next morning, we frolicked in the ocean at Cavendish and then drove to Green Gables, stopping at the Fisherman’s Wharf for lunch. Then, we were off once again to the College of Piping in Summerside, where a renowned piper, a world-class Scottish dancer and a drummer entertained us. That evening, we four girls dressed up and visited the Homburg Theatre in Charlottetown to enjoy a play called Evangeline, about the expulsion of the Acadians from Canada, derived from the poem written by Henry Wadsworth Longfellow. This was one of the best productions that I have ever seen!
The next day, we crossed over the Northumberland Strait by way of the eight-mile-long Confederation Bridge. In Shediac, N.B., we boarded a lobster boat, where we were given a talk about the fishing industry and enjoyed a lobster lunch. Next we ventured to the scenic Hopewell Rocks on the Bay of Fundy. On our last evening, we had a farewell dinner at the Delta Hotel in Moncton with all the wonderful friends we had made. The last morning, we boarded the bus once again, stopping at a farmers market on our way to the Halifax airport.
This trip to the beautiful, picturesque east has only whet my appetite for more. I hope to take a more leisurely tour of that part of the country at another time with my husband and daughter. Why travel beyond the borders of Canada when we have such beauty and diversity right outside our front door?