If Nova Scotia was a Lobster...
...it would look like this. Pincer claw on the left and open claw on the right. Not bad, eh? How many places can geographically replicate one of their gastronomic delights?
Nova Scotia is latin for New Scotland. According to the Nova Scotia Book of Everything, King James I of England (James VI of Scotland) claimed the land as part of Scotland back in 1621. How could this be possible when the Atlantic Ocean is between them? Simple. It's a royal decree.
The French already had a 16-year old colony and the Mi'kmaq people inhabited the region for 10,000 years before that. By taking a circle drive around the province you can see why people call this home.
Here's my tour, admittedly incomplete, both on and off the beaten path. As Nova Scotians might say, "Go way with ya!"
Aka the open green claw (on my map), Cape Breton recently gained notoriety with a tongue-in-cheek offer by a Cape Bretoner as a place of refuge for Americans escaping the political scene. The scenery of the island could be worth it.
The approach to the fortress of Louisbourg isn't complete without stopping at a pair of well-placed red chairs, courtesy of Parks Canada which manages the site. Built by the French in 1713, and demolished by the British in the 1758, the fortress town is the largest historical reconstruction in North America.
Passing the sentries with the correct password is hungry work that we heartily address at one of the period taverns. At a fortress rum tasting afterwards we learn (in keeping with educational lunches) that rum and lemon sugar water was a favoured drink of the upper classes.
A couple of our group celebrate birthdays as honourary cannoneers. Following the ceremony, we scramble around the fort, prepare a meal as part of an 18th century camping experience, search for ghosts in the governor's residence (the answer is a plausible yes), learn about a fateful invasion force meant to destroy British North America and led by Admiral Duc d'Anville who lies beneath the chapel floor after dying of a brain aneurysm, we tell tales around the campfire and fall asleep beneath a full moon silhouetting the ramparts.
Morning carries the aroma of freshly baked bread from a brick oven as gulls shriek in the distance, circling fishing boats plying the trade that founded Louisbourg over 300 years ago.
The Alexander Graham Bell National Historic Site at Baddeck is a glimpse into the mind of a genius. Most of us know the man for inventing the telephone, but Bell also experimented with hydrofoil boats, aircraft (The Silver Dart), kites and even children's stories. This man was constantly thinking.
We were thrilled to lunch with Bell's great grandson Hugh Muller and his wife Jeannie, a gracious and genial couple who reside on the Baddeck family estate. "This is home; we can't imagine living anywhere else." Continuing the Bell tradition of lively thought, conversation ran from a comparison of local chowders to shifting corporate responsibilities.
With the proliferation of folk art these days, you'd hardly know there was a time when men were discouraged from artistic endeavours like this as being unmanly. Luckily, award-winning woodcarvers like Acadian Bill Roach pursued their dreams. With a twinkle and a smile, Bill promotes his art and that of fellow artists at the Frog Pond Café and Sunset Art Gallery in Cheticamp.
Long long ago Cape Breton was part of Pangea, a supercontinent as high as Mount Everest. But life wears everything down and the dominant feature of the glacier-cut Cape Breton Highlands National Park is now the plateau with its microclimates. There's a lot to enjoy: driving tours, hiking, picnics, and camping in some unusual Parks Canada facilities or luxuriating in digs such as Keltic Lodge with its award-winning Purple Thistle Dining Room (and don't forget to ask about nearby evening ghost walks).
Special thanks to all the Parks Canada people on the ground — literally — and everywhere else. Kelly, Scott and Eric were a nice part of that.