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Exploring the Maritimes - NS, NB, Cape Breton and PEI

falling colour, rolling trees and green gables

overcast 13 °C
View Canadian Odyssey 2008 on tessab's travel map.

It is quite hard getting around the Maritime Provinces without a car, as most of the scenery is just that - roadside scenery without many specific 'attractions'. It also requires lots of time as the distances are fairly far... Although small in the context of Canada, the area is actually quite big, and there is a surprising amount to see - especially when the sun is shining and the leaves are falling! I hired a car with two other girls who I met travelling, and we headed off into the Maritime wilderness... People from the area are called 'Bluenosers' because they used to wear thick blue woollen jumpers, and in the cold and rain when they wiped their noses with their sleeves, the dye and wool would stick to their nose - turning it blue!

We left Halifax in a shiny new Toyota Corolla and headed off along the coastline towards Sherbrooke, travelling right along the shoreline in places, through tiny little fishing villages that were largely closed down for the season. The coastline is lovely - fractured and very weatherbeaten, but absolutely stunning; lovely and quiet.

The island of Cape Breton is renowned for the Cabot Trail - a 300km driving route around the western peninsula taking in some of the most stunning scenery on the island, and ranked as one of the top drives in the world. We had hoped to see some moose (as apparently they are "common" here) but had no luck. The scenery was beautiful - the area is known as the 'highlands' and has a very large Scottish / Gaelic community. I subsequently found out that geographically there is a link as well - the island used to be part of Scotland before the continents split! All the people here have very strange accents - Scottish with some Irish and a Canadian twang; and they found my South African accent strange! ;)

Prince Edward Island is a really unique place, it is completely rural, and very proud. Charlottetown (the capital) is a fairly small city (40 000) and entirely low-rise. Similar to Halifax, the best bits are those in the older areas, where the clapboard two to three storey houses and generous parks on the grid of roads are very lovely. I found Charlottetowns' relationship to the water very peculiar; it doesn't really have one. The most 'desirable' areas are firmly embedded within the town, and to get to the water one has to pass through an obvious industrial ring of cheaper land value, a lot of which is now being redeveloped as apartments with dubious architectural or urban merit.

As another university town, Charlottetown also has a very active nightlife, to which the profusion of pubs and bars testifies. The island is renowned for 'Cows Ice-cream', to which I paid the obligatory visit ;)

The highlight of my stay on PEI was the day we spent driving around towards the northern Gulf of St Lawrence shore and Cavendish, the home of Anne of Green Gables (fictional character created my Mary Laud Montgomery 100 years ago). Although the setting (an existing farm 'reconstructed' to more closely represent Montgomery's 'vision') is fake, it still has historical relevance as a domestic setting, and the walks through the surrounding countryside (forests and dells) were spectacular. Something that isn't mentioned in most of the tourist literature though, is that the neighbouring "Green Gables Golf Course" is in fact on the farm itself. I was very confused when I walked out of a lovely quiet squirrel and leaf filled dell onto a pristine green fairway.

To return to the mainland the following day, we decided to drive over the Confederation Bridge - the longest span over ice-covered water in the world, apparently. At this time of year there is no ice, but the 13km was certainly spectacular, if hairy, to drive. The lanes were very narrow, and as there was no shoulder the solid concrete barrier at the edge of the road felt very close...

We made our way through New Brunswick to the north-eastern Nova Scotian shore of the Bay of Fundy, which receives the largest tidal fluctuations in the world - 12m vertically! Throughout the area the eroded river banks are spectacular; bright red and each a small canyon of mud. We drove along all the backroads, and I was suprised at the change in feel from other parts of the Maritimes - a lot more smaller undulating hills and valleys, and the winding roads were quite lovely. The Canning 'Look Off' provided a fantastic view over the patchwork of autumn trees, fields and homesteads.

The next day we made an early (5:30am) start so that we could visit Lunenburg and Mahone Bay before returning the rental car by 10am... It was rushed, and nothing was open, but I'm glad that we made the effort anyway. Lunenburg is another UNESCO world heritage site, and the timber clapboard buildings along the tight roads were lovely.

I will expand upon this all at a later date...

Posted by tessab 17:52 Archived in Canada

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