Twelve years ago, I visited Nova Scotia for the first time with my family for my brother’s wedding on Cape Breton Island. Nova Scotia is a breathtakingly beautiful place, and it was as far removed from the growing urban sprawl and brick-and-cement metropolis that was (and is) Vancouver.
For one thing, most businesses were closed on Sunday (the way it used to be in Vancouver)–which we discovered upon leaving the airport. But at least it gave us the opportunity to tour in a leisurely manner, and find out just how different Nova Scotia was from the West Coast.
For another, the McLobster sandwich (what we called “the McLobbie”) was offered at McDonald’s. Lobster was a common choice for lunch and dinner. I certainly didn’t have any complaints about that, but I learned that my future sister-in-law, having grown up eating lobster virtually every day, was completely turned off the idea of ever eating it once she reached her majority.
Real estate prices hadn’t skyrocketed the way they had in Vancouver. A decent-sized, two-level house with a lot of land could be had for as little as $30,000-$40,000! Sobey’s and Tim Horton’s reigned supreme as the de facto supermarkets and coffee shops, respectively. Just about everywhere we went, we would see the signature fishing boats, boatsheds, crab pots, and harbours that one sees on postcards of Nova Scotia–the perfect photo opportunities, had we had something other than a 1.0MP digital camera on our hands. French is spoken here just as much as English is, although I don’t recall seeing any French-only business signs.
At every stop we made, it was clear that congeniality was in endless abundance. From our first stop at Peggy’s Cove on an overcast day to Halifax, Falmouth, Kentville, Truro (where we arrived, just in time to witness a tidal bore–which are natural phenomenon that happen like clockwork–right in the heart of town!) and Lunenberg, I was being called “dear” by complete strangers–which I found most endearing (no pun intended)–and people were more than willing to answer our most persistent questions with smiles. Red roads are common, and not just in the province of Prince Edward Island (where we also made a few stops — but that’s another story for another post, and another day).
We drove across both the four-year-old two-lane toll Confederation Bridge (another once-in-a-lifetime experience on the longest bridge over ice covered waters in the world), and the scenic Seal Island Bridge–which is, according to its Wikipedia profile, the third longest bridge span in the province– and connects Cape Breton Island to the mainland of Nova Scotia and crosses the Bras D’Or channel, a breathtaking sight that we could neither stop marvelling at nor talking about.
My brother booked the chalets of Glenora Inn (which sit on the hills above the Glenora Distillery) in Glenville for the wedding attendees. These log cabins feature a luxurious open architecture, two-level design, and are fully furnished with beds (on both levels), bathroom, and kitchen.
The actual day of the wedding (held on the verdant and manicured grounds of the distillery, which holds the dual distinctions of being North America’s first and Canada’s only distillery of single malt whiskey) was sunny without a cloud in the sky, but surprisingly chilly for a late June wedding.
Unbeknownst to us, we had a renowned fiddler play beautiful keilidhs just outside of the reception hall that evening (I thought it was just really awesome audio coming from the wallmounted speakers, until we walked out to the parking lot and discovered a sixty-something-year-old gentleman plying his craft to an audience of none. We were going to give him a little something for his troubles, but after that brief walk back from our rental vehicle, he had disappeared).
Also (compliments of my brother), about twenty of us sailed the mighty Bras D’or saltwater lake on a semi-cloudy morning (the day after the wedding), spotted the home of inventor Alexander Graham Bell, and did the “I’m King of the World” poses on the prow (Titanic the movie was still a huge draw, even two years after its theatrical release). We even took a turn steering–with the captain’s approval.
My only regrets were not having more time to visit the historic Fortress of Louisburg, or bike the incomparable Cabot Trail of Cape Breton Highland National Park. Nevertheless, I was glad to experience wonders both natural, manmade, old, and new in Nova Scotia and on Cape Breton Island.