Nova Scotia beckons

By Alberte Villeneuve-Sinclair

Alberte Villeneuve-Sinclair is the author of "The Neglected Garden/Le jardin négligé" and "Une prière pour Hélène". Her website is

I love Nova Scotia’s television advertisement. It beckons and I have wanted to go back to Nova Scotia ever since my dear friend and former teaching partner retired and moved to Beaver Harbour where her husband, Austin, was born and raised.

The perfect opportunity came up when a friend’s son came back from France and needed a ride home to Halifax where he has been studying at King’s College. We picked up the young traveler at Pierre Elliot Trudeau airport Sunday morning and headed for Sherbrooke, then on to the border where we crossed over to Maine, traveling up and down winding country roads. We had dinner in Bangor at the Sea Dog Brewing Station and Restaurant. Our young traveler has developed a keen interest in micro-breweries and wanted to try some local ale. I had a fine dinner of haddock and fries.

Afterwards, we headed straight for the U.S.-Canada border and crossed at St. Stephens on our way to Saint John, New-Brunswick. We arrived at our destination, the Country Inn, at one o’clock in the morning.

Early that morning, we hopped on the nine o’clock ferry from Saint John, across the Bay of Fundy to Digby, Nova-Scotia… a three-hour crossing. It was a sunny day and I really enjoyed this part of Nova-Scotia I had never before seen. Twice in the 70s, I traveled to the Maritimes but both times went down the Gaspé Peninsula to the coast of New-Brunswick and on to Prince Edward Island and Cape Breton. These Nova Scotia rolling green hills, well-managed farms with impeccably tilled fields and orchards were a lovely sight as we cruised along Highway 1 and 101 to Windsor where we stopped for lunch. I was amazed by the road construction in the province. Obviously, Nova Scotia has fared well during this recession.

We arrived in Halifax around 4 p.m. and promptly dropped our returning companion at his apartment and headed towards the Waverly Inn, a well-preserved, heritage inn filled with fine antique furniture. That night, we dined at the Five Fishermen Restaurant, a beautifully restored old building that served many purposes throughout the decades.

We decided to visit Peggy’s Cove and Lunenburg the next day. The cool but sunny weather made it a perfect day for taking in these world-renowned sites. My photo of Peggy’s Cove lighthouse is good enough to frame!

I fell in love with Lunenburg, the next place on our day trip! I love the architecture of its colourful homes, churches and businesses. After lunch, we walked over to the docks and watched as young people from the crew worked at varnishing the Bluenose’s deck. The Bluenose is impressive when it sets sail. I’ve had the privilege of seeing it twice before, once in Québec City and once in Kingston, Ontario.

Back in Halifax, we dined at Jane’s and my friend’s son invited his girlfriend to join us at “Il Mercato” where we shared sinful desserts. A fine finish to a lovely day! But the best was yet to come for this gardener… The next day, we visited The Public Gardens. Behind its impressive gates, lies a treasure-trove of magnificent flowerbeds, ponds complete with ducks and swans, fountains and a band shell. Each corner of the park is different. I hope my photos do justice to this lovely corner of the city of Halifax. (I use a 35mm camera, still.)

We then walked over to the Citadel, an impressive 19th-century fort manned by the 78th Highlanders Regiment. We were there for the noon gun salute and chatted with a couple from Portland, Oregon. They were starting a cross-Canada trek by train, a retirement dream. Last but not least, we visited St. Paul’s Anglican church.

After lunch, we headed for Beaver Harbour along the coast. Again, the drive was spectacular! Different, more rugged, dotted with small fishing villages and their connected businesses. We arrived in Beaver Harbour around 4:30. Jeannette and Austin prepared a lobster feast for us. Fresh from that day, the lobster was cooked in sea water. It was the sweetest, freshest lobster we had eaten!

Jeannette, born and raised in Ottawa, appreciates the slower pace of Beaver Harbour. After moving there, she honed her artistic skills. She now paints in acrylic and water-colour and sells her art and knitting at a local gallery. She offered me a beautiful birdhouse decorated with scenes from Beaver Harbour. Austin walks four kilometers every day and keeps in great shape. They both do volunteer work in the community. I think both Jeannette and Austin would agree with Catherine Morisset, a professional certified Life and Wellness coach who says, “This is the best kept health secret: you have control over your health and your life. You and only you, can make and keep small, positive changes that build upon your health and quality of life. And every step counts.” Jeannette and Austin are committed to making these healthy changes and keeping them up.

The next day, after a leisurely breakfast, we drove through Sheet Harbour, visited the renowned Krauch Smokehouse a local fish-smoking business in Tangier then headed for Liscombe Lodge where we had tea in the spacious dining-room, watched scores of tiny hummingbirds dart from one feeder to the next and bought a few items in the souvenir shop.

Then it was back to Beaver Harbour for an excellent mackerel dinner and some of Austin’s famous desserts. Jeannette and I went for a long walk so we could catch up with each others news, our conversation tempered at set intervals by the foghorn in the distance.

All good things must come to an end and it was time to go back to Ottawa. (Logan’s birthday would be celebrated on my return.) Our journey back took us inland to Moncton, Fredericton and Edmunston where we stopped for lunch. It was raining by then but nothing to prevent us from driving through “la belle province” and home to Ottawa, Ontario.

I must admit I was exhausted when I came home but the memory of this trip is still with me, not only the visual beauty and the new places I visited but also the warmth and hospitality of maritimers in general and, in particular, my dear friends Jeannette and Austin.

Our time together was inspirational; I came away re-energized. And on Thursday, when I went for my annual check-up, my doctor was pleased to tell me my blood pressure was very good! Must have been all that fish and fresh air! Now all I have to do is keep it up. Cheers!

12 June 2009 — Return to cover.