Over the last year or so I have had a chance to explore a lot of Canada, starting with Victoria and Vancouver in the summer of 2005, continuing with a trip to the Canadian Rockies and Calgary earlier this year. I also took two trips to Ottawa: during Winterlude in February and during the world famous Tulip Festival in May of 2006. Then I continued on with a trip to Montreal where I had a chance to see the exuberant Canada Day Celebrations in a city that definitely knows how to party!
Naturally I report from Toronto on a regular basis, given the fact that I reside right here in Canada’s largest city. But I realized that one area was still missing: Canada’s East Coast! I had never been on Canada’s Atlantic Coast and it was about time to see some of the famous Maritime hospitality for myself.
So with the help of Tourism Nova Scotia I worked out a a whirlwind 5-day program that would expose me to many of the interesting spots that South-Western Nova Scotia has to offer.
Statue of Evangeline at the Grand Pré National Historic Site
I started with an introduction to the Grand Pré National Historic Site, in the heart of a former Acadian settlement area and location of the Great Expulsion. I had heard of the Acadian expulsion before, but this visit really gave me a good overview of this sad chapter in Canadian history.
Wayne Melanson educates me about early French settlers at Port-Royal
I continued onwards through the lush fertile fields of the Annapolis Valley and arrived in Annapolis Royal, one of the most historic towns on North America’s East Coast. My Acadian history lesson continued with a visit to the Port-Royal National Historic Site, a reconstructed 16th century French fort on the north shore of the Annapolis River. Tenth-generation Acadian descendant Wayne Melanson gave me a great introduction to early French history, while his twin brother Alan Melanson continued with Annapolis history during the locally renowned Annapolis Royal Candlelight Graveyard Tour. An informative and entertaining introduction to Nova Scotia history…
Alan Melanson’s theatrical talent shines during the Annapolis Royal Candlelight Graveyard Tour
Whenever I travel I also like to highlight and get to know local hospitality entrepreneurs, and the Garrison House Bed and Breakfast is one of the key hospitality establishments in Annapolis Royal. I interviewed owner Patrick Redgrave whose personal story illustrates how one Toronto wine merchant was drawn to Nova Scotia to start a completely new life for himself. I also had a chance to sample the cuisine of the Garrison House Restaurant, one of Annapolis Royal’s most distinguished restaurants.
View across the Annapolis River
On day 2 I started my trip along the Evangeline Trail, first stopping at the Annapolis Royal Tidal Generating Plant, one of only two such plants in existence in the world. From there I went on a beautiful driving tour along the Annapolis River to my next stop: the Bear River First Nation Heritage and Cultural Centre where I learned about the history and traditions of the Mi’kmaq People.
Handcrafted art at the Bear River First Nation Heritage and Cultural Centre
After a brief lunch in Digby I continued my southwesterly drive with several stops to see some of the beautiful churches in the St. Mary’s Bay region, which is an Acadian stronghold to this day. My arrival destination was Yarmouth, a historic shipbuilding and fishing town located on the western tip of Nova Scotia. I went on a self-guided walking tour through the downtown area which features a large number of beautifully restored Victorian heritage buildings.
Images along the Evangeline Trail
Day 3 started with delicious breakfast at the MacKinnon-Cann Inn, another restored Victorian mansion. I had a chance to interview the owners Neil Hisgen and Michael Tavares, both originally from the United States, who have brought back three Yarmouth Victorian mansions to their former architectural glory and Michael is currently working hands-on on restoring a fourth property. This interview chronicles their interesting evolution as hospitality entrepreneurs and architectural restoration experts.
The MacKinnon-Cann Inn, a Victorian Heritage building in Nova Scotia