A Rental Car And An Open Road
A Rental Car And An Open Road
Our flight touched down just ahead of schedule at Halifax's Stanfield Airport, and we had our bags within minutes in this efficient facility. The car rental kiosk was visible from the baggage carousel and we were on the road in short order. With two weeks in Nova Scotia, Canada, and a lofty goal of driving each of the cleverly-designated highway “trails” in the province, including overnight stays and a little sight-seeing, we put pedal to the metal and headed directly for Halifax.
Only about half an hour south along the rugged Atlantic Coast, Halifax is a stunning, historic city with a large sheltered harbor, and a blend of the four main cultures of Nova Scotia, native, British, French/Acadian and Black United Empire Loyalist. Our rental car, by choice, was a small one, and so parking on the narrow historic streets of Halifax was not a problem. Halifax is a pleasure for people who love to walk, and we toured on foot all day, wrapping up with a fabulous lobster dinner at a harborside restaurant, complete with a bottle of local L'Acadie Blanc wine.
The next morning we drove along the south shore of the province, the Atlantic coast, on the Lighthouse Trail. The shoreline is dotted with lighthouses, old and new, large and small. We stopped at Peggy's Cove, Mahone Bay (with its picturesque old churches lining the water), world-famous Lunenburg (home of the schooner, the Bluenose II), and Bridgewater, and then we continued south to Shelburne, where we parked our rental car for the night at the historic Cooper's Inn, right across the street from one of the oldest barrel-works (still functioning)in North America. We dined at the Charlotte Lane Restaurant, and slept like babies in the glorious ocean air.
It only took us an hour, our little rental car negotiating its way through the early day fog, to travel the Acadian Shores Trail and reach the southern tip of Nova Scotia and the town of Yarmouth, long a sea port, and still a busy fishing town. We toured the heritage district with its grand mansions and then tested our rental car on the winding, watery road that leads to the island of Cape Forchu, dotted with summer homes and lazy, sandy beaches. We spent the day enjoying the sand and surf, and the following day continued on that Trail to the town of Digby, world-renowned for its scallops. Lunch was right off the boat! Nearby Bear River is a town of wineries and artisans, and we lingered there until noon, and then proceeded north/east to the original white settlement in Nova Scotia.
Traveling along the Evangeline Trail, named after the heroine of Longfellow's poem of the same name, a tribute to the sad history of the Acadian people, we came upon Annapolis Royal; the entire town is a federally designated historic site, with old Fort Anne, a lighthouse and classic architecture. We also stopped at Port Royal, the first home of Champlain and his men when they arrived on these shores in 1604; this is one of the oldest residences in the new world.
Driving further along the Evangeline Trail we cut through the heart of the Annapolis valley, famous for its fruit, especially apples, and its many wineries, and stayed the night in beautiful Wolfville, home of Acadia University, the oldest institution of its kind in Canada. Our room, “The Annapolis” at the Gingerbread House Inn was quiet, elegant and even had a hot tub! Our rental car got its real test with a day-long drive along the Bay of Fundy coast, mostly on the Glooscap Trail, with a brief stop at Burntcoat Head, the location of the highest and lowest tides on earth, and then on into lovely downtown Truro.
The second week of our travels would see us tour the Northumberland Shore, the Ceilidh Trail, and drive the awe-inspiring Cabot Trail of Cape Breton Island. Because we mostly camped (Nova Scotia is littered with well-maintained provincial park campgrounds), and our rental car had sufficient room for all our gear, we were able to travel quite cheaply. The people of Nova Scotia are friendly and helpful, and gave us tips for places to visit that most tourists never experience. There are 11 universities in Nova Scotia, one of them French-language only; all offer accommodations in the dormitories during the summer months. If you stay in dorms and travel by rental car, eating at the quaint family restaurants and cafés along the way, it's a small price to pay for some of the most majestic scenery in the world.