Travel Photographer / Writer
chasing the essence
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If Nova Scotia was a Lobster...
...it would look like this. Pincer claw on the left, 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 was a royal decree.
Never mind that 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 have long called this home.
Here's a suggested tour, both on and off the beaten path. As Nova Scotians might say, "Go way with ya!". In a good way.
Aka the open green claw (on the map above), Cape Breton gained notoriety in the U.S. with a tongue-in-cheek offer by a Cape Bretoner as a place of refuge for Americans who might want to switch the political scene for some island scenery.
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 1758, the fortress town is the largest historical reconstruction in North America. Kids love it!
Passing the sentries with the correct password is hungry work you can 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.
Visitors can be honourary cannoneers, wander through the streets with musicians, poke through authentically reconstructed buildings, prepare dinner as part of an 18th century camping experience and search for ghosts in the governor's residence. The fortress offers sleepovers indoors and out if you want to do your own sleuthing after dark. Tell tales around a campfire and fall asleep beneath a full moon silhouetting the ramparts.
Fate is so unpredictable. Beneath the stone chapel floor lies the body of Admiral Duc d'Anville who was commanding a large invasion force meant to destroy British North America when he suddenly died of a brain aneurysm.
Morning carries the aroma of freshly baked bread from a brick oven as gulls shriek in the distance, circling fishing boats still 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. Here was a man who never stopped thinking.
It would be wonderful if everyone could have lunch as our press group did with Bell's great grandson Hugh Muller and his wife Jeannie, a gracious and genial couple who reside on the Baddeck family estate.
It's an idyllic place. "This is home; we can't imagine living anywhere else." Continuing the Bell tradition of lively thought and talk, our table conversation ran from comparing 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 endeavours like this as unmanly. But award-winning woodcarvers like Acadian Bill Roach pursued their dreams. With the friendliest greeting, 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 (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 are part of the team, together with locally-sourced re-enactors, who bring history alive.