After my previous post, we would have gotten off the ferry at the north end of Cape Breton Island, Nova Scotia. One of the first things we’d see is the “World’s Largest Fiddle” (60 ft. high), along the Sydney, NS harbor where the ferry lands. From there, if we don’t decide to stay locally, we’d make our way toward the Atlantic coast. If we make it past Isle Madame, where there is a provincial park, we’ll wend our way off Cape Breton Island and on to “mainland” Nova Scotia.
The coast is full of inlets, with only one road leading south, so we’d probably take double the travel time calculated by Google maps. We might stop to have a brief quarrel in Bickerton, then agree to spend the night in Spanish Ship Bay, just because I like the name. The next day, we’ll continue toward Halifax, perhaps renting our home for a month somewhere along the coast northeast or southwest of the city. That would give us access to anything we need in the way of services, including my monthly visit to a retina specialist, and still let us explore the Atlantic coast. Nova Scotia has been visited by Europeans since about 1597, when explorer John Cabot landed somewhere between Maine and Labrador, often thought to be Nova Scotia. This means that beach combing along the coast could yield anything from a fisherman’s boot lost in the previous month to a 16th century Venetian coin.
One of my favorite websites to check for places to visit is Atlas Obscura, where contributors report odd sights and experiences, and where I found the world’s largest fiddle. There are a number of these for Nova Scotia, including the Oak Island money pit, a spot that is said to hold a fortune in treasure for the person who can get to it. Many have tried and failed due to quicksand and other hazards, but hope springs eternal in a gambler’s heart, so people occasionally still try to figure out why no one has been able to get to the bottom of the pit. The Curse of Oak Island reality TV show claims to have found the secret of the treasure to be revealed in the final episode of their eighth season, available on Amazon Prime in 2021. I’ll have to tune in.
Nova Scotia has been occupied by native people for thousands of years. The Mikmaq are the most recent group, from late prehistory to the present. Some sites can be visited, though pre-European life was relatively simple, with survival the principal goal. The arrival of Europeans started construction of all kinds, and today
Nova Scotia is a colonial history buff’s delight, with a long record of being caught in the crosshairs of international politics. Toward the end of the 1700s, Acadian settlers were expelled for being allied with France, some of whom ended up in Louisiana as Cajuns. while British loyalists moved in from the former colonies after 1776. In the 1800s an influx of Scots escaping the Highland Clearances shifted the population toward Gaelic speakers. Every war seems to have pulled in this strategically located area. Ruined forts and fortifications intended to protect the coast can still be seen in many places.
Nova Scotia is also a great place for lighthouse aficionados. There is an excellent map that shows the 128 lighthouses and places that once had lighthouses. There are lists that tell you whether you can visit, drive by for a photo, whether the lighthouse is so remote you can’t even get a decent photo, or whether the lighthouse is no longer in existence. The map is very nice-looking as well.
Since we are nature lovers no longer capable of long wilderness hikes, and archaeology buffs but not necessary fans of old forts and other stony places, we’ll spend most of our month visiting the coast and admiring the crashing waves. We’d look for some of the birds that live in the northland (puffins!), and visit Halifax for markets and restaurants. We’d like to think that by the time we can get across the border into Canada, Nova Scotia will be ready for us.