Sue and I headed out on Saturday 08/13/16 for an 8 day vacation and genealogical research project to Nova Scotia. We sailed out of Portland, ME on The CAT ferry to Yarmouth where we picked up a rental car and spent the night at The Lakelawn Motel and Cottages.
We selected Nova Scotia for our first exploration of Canada because Prince Edward Island is just a little too pastoral for my taste, and we didn't have the time to really investigate north of Halifax. We would like to go back, though, and see Cape Breton and the Sydney area at some point; this trip was more for Nova Scotia genealogical fun than anything.
Over the whole trip, we both preferred the south shore of Nova Scotia over the north shore. Because we really enjoy the type of scenery along the coast of Maine north of Portland, we found it very similar to driving east along the south shore of Nova Scotia.
The northern shore is predominately French (whereas the south is Scottish) and is more sparse with relatively no "quaint" fishing villages for tourists. It's on the Bay of Fundy, which is a pretty rough place to make a living, and everything there reflects that.
We came into Yarmouth on The Cat on Saturday 08/13/16, rented a car, and spent the night at The Lakelawn motel in Yarmouth. Sunday morning, we drove the shore road down "east" into Barrington Passage where Sue and I did some cemetery exploration for relatives. We stayed in Shelburne two nights so that we could do this research and just enjoy Barrington Passage, Barrington, and then down to Clarks Harbor as well as Port Clyde.
From there, we drove up to Liverpool to check for relatives grave sites there, and then over to the beautiful seaside villages of Lunenburg and Mahone Bay. Both are very pretty villages, and we enjoyed getting out of the car and walking the streets. But we both felt they were just too "touristy" for us. Not like 'gaudy touristy', but that just didn't seem to be the environment where we wanted to see overweight Earl in his AC-DC tee shirt, and his wife Betty in her chartreuse and pink momo dragging little screaming Tommy behind her....
As we drove into Mahone Bay, Sue spotted a rocky beach that mandated an immediate lock-up-the-wheels stop to investigate. While she was snapping pictures and looking for sea-glass, I had a call from my friend, student, and real estate agent Tom Toye. Sue got a shot of me on my cell phone putting a deal together to sell one of my properties. It was such a beautiful setting, and I was in such a fine mood, that I agreed to the buyer's price. Done deal. No tears.
From Mahone Bay, it was up to Chester where we stayed 2 nights. If we could get Medicare in Canada, we'd have bought a house in Chester and called it a day, that's how much we loved it! We had dinner out on the deck at the Sea Dog. What a terrific spot. It's right on the bay in the wharf area where all the boats are docked.
From Chester, we drove across the island and then down the northern shore. Since our goal was to get to Digby, where we would spend Thursday night, we didn't do the coastal route. Instead, we pretty much just stayed on the main highway, which was fine because I'm not sure it would have had the same sort of sea views that the southern shore did. We had selected Digby not only because it is a really beautiful and quaint area, we also had to have some of their famous Digby scallops. Digby has one of the largest scallop fishing fleets anywhere.
Friday, we drove down Digby Neck, taking 2 short ferry hops to get to Briar Island where we spent the night at the Briar Island Lodge. I had to pull Sue off of Briar Island! That's her kind of spot for sure, but just a little remote for me. But I had to go down there because that's the home of Joshua Slocum. There's not only a nice bronze memorial to him at the southern shore on Briar's Island, but the Island Museum on long island in Freeport has a whole room dedicated to him. A dream for me come true! As a kid, I not only read Sailing Alone Around The World about 5 times, but I actually built a planked scale model of the Spray. I'm a Slocum fan....
Saturday morning after breakfast at the lodge, Sue and I drove up the road to the Northern Lighthouse to walk along the shore to Seal Cove. It seemed to be a lot longer than we had been told, and so I hiked back to the car and drove back to the lodge while Sue pressed on along the trail which was supposed to end up at the lodge. Her walk was a success because she did see some seals wallowing in the small swells along the rocky beach of Seal Cove.
We headed out from Briar Island around 11:00 am, drove back up Digby Neck, made the turn around the top of Saint Mary's Bay, and then headed down the coast for Yarmouth on Route 101. We slipped off 101 just before Belliveaus Cove so we could drive along the northern shore on Route 1.
We just poked along, one time driving down to the wharf area in Saulnierville where we stumbled onto a beach that had literally thousands of sea gulls parked on the beach and flocking around a fish plant's water drain. Sue got a few shots of a seal that was vying for fish scraps pouring out of the pipe. We met a man and his wife who told us that most of the fish caught was used as feed for mink. He said that because mink demand was way down, the plants here had to lay off upwards of 800 people last year. I just can't imagine what that sort of thing has done to impact everyone in the area.
After checking back in at The Lakelawn, Sue and I played some backgammon before heading down to the harbor area for dinner. They were having some sort of music festival in the park by the ocean, and so we hung out there for awhile marveling at the dramatic drop in all of the docks at low tide.
We had a marvelous dinner at a little out of the way restaurant called the Shanty Cafe. We went there because of their support of folks with disabilities, there locally sourced and fresh foods, and the eclectic mix of Cuban and Indian food.
Sunday morning at about 7:45 am we dropped the car off at the lot adjacent to Canadian Customs, and boarded The CAT soon afterward. The ride over was smooth, though we were fogged in until getting close to Casco Bay. But the weather as we glided through Casco Bay was magnificent. The temperature, though warm in the bright sun, was cooled by the ocean breeze.
And we had ring-side, or I should say rail-side, views of the preparations for the last of the summer lobster boat races. We saw 6 huge ocean tugs leading the boat parade out into Casco Bay. Everyone tooted their boat horns as the lead tug did a series of water donuts for everyone. It was quite the spectacle.
Traffic on Route 95 was pretty heavy driving home, but dodged most of that by coming off and taking Routes 9 and 4 home. A great trip, but also great to get home.