Nova Scotia: Part II

If the start of my eastern odyssey was about adventures (see Part I – July Fix) and the middle of my trip was about exhilaration (see January’s column), then the end of the holiday was very much about relaxation. I sailed back across the Gulf of St. Lawrence overnight and disembarked on a pitch dark, foggy morning in mid July. Despite my sleepy 5am craving for coffee, I skipped Tim Horton’s in hopes of finding something more local further on. I was rewarded when the most stunning sunrise welcomed me back to Nova Scotia at the Seal Island Bridge. I’m often asked if I miss the ocean now that I live in the mountains (I grew up on the shores of the Atlantic) but it’s the coastal sunrises and sunsets I miss most. That morning in Nova Scotia was one of the most brilliant I have ever seen.

After taking the tiny cable ferry at Englishtown and an hour of winding roads I was starting to lose all hope of breakfast, when I finally spotted an “open” sign glowing in the early morning gloom. I pulled in to the Dancing Moose Café just as the cook was switching on the kitchen stove. Over a breakfast of delicious fresh pannenkoek with bacon and apple, I watched the last day of the lobster harvest from my window table and wondered at having chanced on the #1 rated restaurant (Tripadvisor) on Cape Breton. The Dutch owner, Ton, shared stories of life on the Cabot Trail – fending off foxes and moose from his chicken coop and dealing with the ever-present weather, and sent me on my way with a chocolate muffin fresh from the oven.

I arrived in Ingonish just in time to join an interpretive hike on Middle Head. Once the private reserve of the owners of Keltie Lodge, this narrow headland is now managed by Parks Canada and offers beautiful sea views over Cape Smokey and Ingonish Island. The easy two-hour hike was all my sleep deprived legs could manage, but there’s many other trails nearby, both long and short. Continuing the drive along the Cabot trail, the views became more and more dramatic with each turn. The road is very steep in places, rising to the top of high cliffs only to plummet down to the coastline at the next turn. It made for an interesting drive and I was happy to pull off the road for dinner at Wreck Cove Point where I managed to devour an entire snow crab. The seafood is truly magnificent in the Maritimes, and I happily found my dining stride on this final stretch.

At Cheticamp I put up my tent and did nothing for two days. I sat on the deserted beach –acres of golden sand to myself in the middle of July! – and simply read my book or napped. I had eaten Digby scallops in Digby, seen icebergs and whales in Iceberg Alley, visited historic UNESCO world heritage sites including Louisbourg and L’Anse Aux Meadows, scarfed down fresh lobster and crab like it was going out of fashion, hiked one of Canada’s most beautiful National Parks at Gros Morne, had fun splashing around in kayaks and tidal rafts, and covered over 3500km in three of Canada’s provinces, but now I was here to relax, and so I did.

As is usual when I travel, I have learned of more places that I want to visit than I actually managed to get to, but isn’t that the whole point of travel? To be inspired? I certainly was, and you will be too. I hope you go.