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Ed Boitano: Nova Scotia

Nova Scotia in Four Days
Story by Ed Boitano
Photographs by Deb Roskamp

welcome sign, Cape Breton, Nova Scotia

he Old Town Clock sits on a grassy bluff, overlooking Halifax’s historic downtown waterfront. Erected in 1800 for the British garrison at the Citadel, it is the most important symbol of Halifax’s rich historical past. As I rested on the lawn below the octagon tower, I could see a hybrid city of elegant 18th-century architecture alongside modern buildings of glass and steel. Groups of tourist, locals and laughing school children strolled past me, while ships glided in the distance on the world's second largest natural harbor. As the September sun shone down, I realized I could sit there forever, or at least for the next four days - which was the short time allotted for my visit to this pristine part of Atlantic Canada - but this was not that type of trip, for my plan was to see as much of Nova Scotia as four days would allow me. Tomorrow I would rent a car and head north, but the rest of today would be devoted to exploring Halifax, the provincial capital of Nova Scotia. As the clock on the tower hit 2 pm, I realized it was time to get moving.

clock tower, Halifax

Day One

Established in 1749, Halifax was Canada's first permanent British town. Due to its proximity to the British Isles and the Caribbean, it has been Canada’s leading port city ever since its founding. Even today, as I wandered down narrow streets, now lined with galleries, pubs and sidewalk cafes, all roads seem to lead to the waterfront, where 19th-century privateers' warehouses have been transformed into boutiques and restaurants. An essential stop was the Maritime Museum of the Atlantic, which covers almost 140 years in the history of Nova Scotia. Special exhibitions are devoted to the Halifax Explosion of December 1917, the largest man-made explosion prior to the Atomic bomb; the sinking of the Titanic, which met her doom just 700 nautical miles east of Halifax; and the history of Sailing Ship Rigs

Dinner that night was on the waterfront for local scallops and a solid micro-brew. The whole city seemed to be out. Live music played from three different venues. It became obvious that this was a city filled with people who liked living here. Accommodations were at the elegant Lord Nelson Hotel, located across the street from The Victorian Halifax Public Gardens (circa 1867).

Day Two

Morning began with a tour of the Halifax Farmers’ Market, considered the oldest in North America. Once again it was a setting packed with happy Haligonians as well as the bounty of the season with items like local berries, fruit and maple syrup. I loaded my rental car with delicacies, knowing they would come in handy for the long day on the road.

view of Halifax street from car

The Town of Pictou is located on the stunning Northumberland Shore. Coined the "Birthplace of New Scotland," it is here that the first Scottish immigrants landed in 1773. After a stroll through the quaint little town, I drove over to the historic Pictou Lodge Resort, a quintessential Nova Scotia oceanside resort that features log cottages and its own private beach.

chairs on lawn along the Northumberland Shore

It had been a scenic, but taxing two-hour drive from Halifax, so I decided to make camp at the resort and conserve my strength for the next two days of driving. Besides, I overheard that the lodge’s restaurant was serving local crab and halibut that night.

Day Three

Today, I would have to put the peddle to the metal. My goal was to make it to the legendary Keltic Lodge on the world-famous Cabot Trail (named for Italian explorer Giovanni Caboto) by nightfall. I knew, though, that I would have to make two important stops. The Alexander Graham Bell Museum is located in the very New England-like town of Baddeck, where Bell was to make his vacation home in 1885. The museum is devoted to the life of this inventor of the telephone and significant figure in the education of the deaf. The other stop was the Gaelic College; spread over 350 acres of woodland overlooking St. Ann’s Bay. Founded in 1938, it is the only college in the world devoted to the study and preservation of the Gaelic language, and Celtic arts and culture. The college is so renowned that once while visiting Scotland’s Outer Hebrides, I found a number of locals were sending their children there to study Gaelic language and culture, much of which had been destroyed in Scotland by the English in the 18th century. They were literally traveling to the New World to learn about their own history, culture and language.

view of Ingonish Beach, Cape Breton

After a few more hours back on the road - thank heavens for the snack at the college - Cape Smokey came rising out of the sea and soon I was at Keltic Lodge. Resting on a peninsula, overlooking Ingonish Beach, this is one of those historic resorts that feature its own 18-hole golf course, swimming pool, tennis courts, kayaking and hiking trails. After touring the grounds, it seemed logical that a full lobster dinner in the Purple Thistle Dining Room was the appropriate way to end the perfect day, plus regain my strength for tomorrow's long drive.

replica of a Scottish crofter's hut, Cabot Trail

Day Four

Cape Breton Highlands National Park consists of 366 square miles of magnificent highlands and rugged coastal wilderness. Established in 1936 as the first national park in the Atlantic Provinces, it is for many the highpoint of a journey to Nova Scotia. The Cabot Trail runs through the park, offering seemingly endless hiking opportunities. On foot, I spotted whales, bald eagles and even a moose, swimming across a lake. From the car I enjoyed picturesque valleys and unforgettable vistas of the Gulf of St. Lawrence.

On the other side of the Park is the Acadian town of Chéticamp. La Société Saint-Pierre is a cultural center whose main objective is to preserve Acadian heritage in Cape Breton. The French-speaking Acadians pre-dated the arrival of the English, but most fled the area after the defeat of France by the English in the French and Indian War. Many headed down to Louisiana to an area now known as Acadiana, where the Acadian name evolved into Cajun. The center features traditional crafts and food items. I made a note that Acadian chowder, unlike New England chowder, consists of a clear broth. I followed it with a cheese sandwich and a local berry pie, wisely knowing that nourishment would be required for me to make through the rest of the day.

the Glenora Inn & Distillery on the Céilidh Trail

My final night of accommodations would be at the Glenora Inn & Distillery, located on Nova Scotia’s spectacular Céilidh Trail. The Glenora Distillery is the first single malt whisky distillery in North America. The distillery rests on a rural 300 acre site with buildings housing malt, kiln, milling production, warehouses, bottling and lodging facilities, constructed in a traditional style, similar to distilleries found in Scotland. Tours are offered as well as a sampling of their 12-year old heather and honey tasting "uisge beatha” (Gaelic for "water of life”). Single malt is a whisky produced exclusively from malted barley that is not blended with another whisky. After my tour and hearty seafood dinner, I was told to expect something special for there was to be a céilidh in the distillery’s pub. A céilidh is a traditional Gaelic musical social gathering that originated in Scotland. Céilidhs flourished in Nova Scotia, where Scottish immigrants would meet with friends for an evening of song, dance and generally whisky. Everyone in the room is invited to participate. I was pleasantly surprised to see one of the men sharing my table standup and sing a song in Gaelic. It was the perfect setting to enjoy a wee dram of Glenora’s water of life. I decided it best to book a room for the night in Glenora’s inn. After all, I needed to conserve my strength for the long drive back to Halifax to complete my five-day journey of Nova Scotia.

For further information about travel to Nova Scotia, contact (800) 565-0000 or go to NovaScotia.com.

Let Ed know what you think about his traveling adventure.

* * * * *

Mahalo for your article on Hawaii film locations. You should check out our new "The Hawaii Movie and Television Book" at: http://hawaiimtvbook.weebly.com/

--- Ed Rampell (Co-Author), Los Angeles, CA

* * * *

Hi! This is my first visit to your blog! We are a collection of volunteers and starting a new initiative in a community in the same niche. Your blog provided us useful information to work on. You have done a wonderful job!

--- Christian Louboutin, U.K.

* * * *

Cool site.

--- Donna Namaste', San Francisco, CA

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Great work as always.

--- S. Wyatt, Seattle, WA

* * * *

Hr. (Danish for sir) Ed,

Thanks so much for your article on Copenhagen, DK...loved it! Very well done actually I used to live in Christianshavn (just next to Christania) and Danish is my second language.

You really did a quite grand job and pulled me ALL of the way into your analogy and experience from my other home.

Just one detail that I thought might have been included.....the bakeries & cheese shops in the mornings in nearly every 5 or so blocks as they waft the incredible hypnotizing aromas of those amazing Danish specialties.

I most especially and absolutely love the fact that you included the "hyggeligt" element...wonderful!!

Another aspect of the Danish language that I have found interesting is that we only cuss to devil rather than the more typically religious icons and that love (elsker) is only very rarely used.

All-in-all you have me totally on your team and I will always look forward to your future writing.

Med venlig hilsen...(with kind regards).

--- Breeze

* * * *

Hi Ed,

Thank you for your article on the Cherokee Nation. I really appreciate the historical perspective and recognition of their contribution to American culture.

--- Nora Weber, British Columbia

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Another cool issue. You da' man. One question: Is that Mark Lindsay on the front page?

--- Brent, Seattle, WA

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This would be a fascinating place to visit. There is so much history within our reach that we don't often acknowledge in more than a token way. I am wondering if any individual or group has ever gone on a vision quest, or perhaps a memorial march, by retracing the path of the Trail of Tears? This would be a painful journey, for most, I imagine.

--- Sandra, Seattle, WA

Osiyo! From Cherokee Nation Cultural Tourism: What a great description of Kauai! The pictures are awesome and I loved reading your travel report! Keep pushin' on!

--- Lisa Long, Tulsa, OK

* * * *

I'm getting hungry again just reading your article! It's hot today and I could really use a shave ice right now.

Hope you're having a great day!

--- Melissa, Honolulu, HI

* * * *

Thanks so much for sharing! Wow. The beauty even from the few pictures here and your descriptions is breathtaking... I can't even imagine being there for real! The food looks and sounds exquisite, I'm not sure my kind of exquisite, but I do like to be adventurous on occasion :).Quite the story there.

--- Emily, Boise, ID

Great pictures!

--- Anna Harrison, Palmdale, CA

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Tough job, Ed! Thanks for sharing.

--- Brenda Hughes, Richland, WA

Ed, Tim from the team of Jack and Tim - Star Clipper. Great trip. Always enjoy your postings.

--- Tim & Jack, Washington DC

* * * *

Hi Ed,

I really enjoyed your story on the Empress of the North. I was an Assistant Cruise Director aboard her in 2004, and you gave me a treasured walk down memory lane with her.You might know this, but if not .... you can cruise the Columbia again late this summer and early fall. The Empress' sister boat, the Queen of the West, was purchased by American Cruise lines and will offer a Columbia River itinerary which almost mirrors the one my Empress used to travel. Just thought you'd like to know.

--- Paul Penta, 2004 Assistant Cruise Director, Empress of the North, Copperas Cove, TX

Ed, you are by far the most interesting of all the Boitanos. Your coverage is extensive and captivating. It's a real treat to read your blogs. Your article on the Baltic Sea Nations is no exception. But don't get me wrong, the other Boitanos have their own charm and perspective. Thanks for all your articles. I can see it's a work of art. I just now noticed your Dog Quotes --- what a great collection! Keep up the good work. Keep on sharing your travels! This is better than the more popular travelogues.

--- Peter Paul, South Pasadena, CA

Hi Ed,

How's life? Hope all's well in sunny Cal.

Having just received the latest issue of the Traveling Boy newsletter I popped back over to your site to take a look around and came across this article which I had not previously read: www.travelingboy.com/archive-travel-ed-baltic.html

Loved it! First of all, this is a part of the world that I absolutely adore so reading about it is always a pleasure. Secondly, I'm happy to see you crossing things off your Buck with such gusto! Myself, I have already been to Stockholm, Helsinki and Copenhagen, and Tallinn, St. Petersburg and Moscow are all on my Buck. After reading through the article I reminded once again why!

One of my favourite lines in the piece is:

"Granted, eight to twenty-fours in world-class cities like Helsinki and Tallinn hardly does them justice, but a sketch is always better than a blank canvas."

So very true. I'll take a sketch over a blank canvas any day! Besides, sketches often lead to full-blown paintings anyway.

Just wanted to let you know how much I enjoyed this story. Hope there are many more fun adventures awaiting you soon!

Cheers,

--- Ashley, Toronto

Thanks for a great trip, Ed - such a comfortable way to travel, particularly to several cities i knew very little about. I've had only one sea voyage - crossed to G.B. on the United States in the early 60s - no balconies, etc. on that ship, as she was prepared to be stripped down to carry troops in event of WWIII, but still luxurious in her own way.

Bumped into a documentary recently on PBS re the old lady who is now docked in Philadelphia, I believe with peeling paint on her sides and funnels and of course the interior stripped and auctioned off of everything...periodic moves to rehabilitate her, but so costly people back off. She was the largest and fastest - still is. Her record was 3 days crossing - we did it in a little over 5 (cruise speed I guess!). They showed regular passengers like the Duke and Duchess of Windsor who happened to be on board when I was, as well as gazillions of stars who traveled on her. Charles Boyer was the only one on my crossing - we were alone in the library one time, but I didn't say anything. He looked immersed in his pursuit of a book. The Windsors were tiny little people, as was M. Boyer (and this comment from a 5'2" observer!). How's that for an ancient history lesson? Anyhow seeing the ship like she is now made me almost teary - surprised myself somehow.

--- Brenda Hughes, Richland, WA

* * * *

I loved this article!! Kept me in rapt attention, felt like I explored part of the world myself ;) nice way to start my day, sounds altogether amazing and unforgettable!

--- Emily, Boise, ID

* * * *

Great writing!! Reading, education and fabulous locations! All around WOWS!

--- E Dava, Burbank, CA

What a wonderful assortment of travel destinations. I have always been drawn to islands, and as a Pacific Northwesterner, dream from time to time about settling in the San Juans someday (like a lot of us here visualize for ourselves). Hopefully, travel will occur before this particular dream comes to pass. I enjoy reading about the connections you have with the places you write about. I will visit that fishing village in Norway, someday, just because of the photograph. Who wouldn't, after seeing it. Thanks, Ed

--- Sandee, Seattle, WA

* * * *

Another great edition!

--- CG, Central California Coast

* * * *

Hi Ed,

I sailed into Sooke on my way to port Ludlow from Portland, Oregon in my sailboat few years back. It was interesting port. The entry is snake like channel with local fisherman's local markers only to guide you into the port.

--- Larry, Portland, OR

Wow. I want to go to Vietnam! It's beautiful! Those are amazing pictures!

--- Archie, Pasadena, CA

* * * *

Kudos to Mark Twain. He knows how to honor a dog, and kudos to Cedric for all he was and still is and kudos to you for another edition of www.traveling boy.com. Peace and Love,

--- Joel, Pasadena, CA

* * * *

Ed, I really enjoy your traveling adventures. Your stories are so well written and the photographs are amazing. Thank you for letting us in on your adventures. You bring the adventure to those of us who aren't able to go. Thank you.

--- Cheryl, Pismo Beach, CA

Amazing story and pictures. To think that 40 years ago we were all terrified at the prospect of going there... what a difference a few decades makes. Fantastic article!

--- Roger, Puyallup, WA

Thanks for your expert insight, Jeremy. Have you ever lived in New York? Don't tell me you are one of those tourists or former transplants. It's a very different experience when one lives here. Unlike Los Angeles, there really is a sense of community. New Yorkers love and care about their city... and, yes, their neighbors too.

--- Lisa - New York, NY

* * * *

NY sucks. It's now nothing more than a Disneyland version of its former glory. It city filled with tourists and transplants, and no longer the center of the universe. The WEST is the best. Everyone is moivng to the Coast. Even NY fashion designers check out the LA street scene before launching their new designs. Plus no one in NY knows real pizza. Take a trip to Naples sometime and try the real thing.

--- Jeremy - Los Angeles, CA

* * * *

The economic boom is what drove all the changes in New York. The mayors were in the right place at the right time, and to their credit, handled things well. It's easier to clean up the city and cut crime when you have more money to spend. The economic outlook for New York is bleak now with unemployment going up. Bloomberg already is short money and will be cutting services across the board. If things don't turn around, people may not be as friendly in a few years.The idea that New Yorkers are not nice is just a myth; people in L.A. are much more distant and shut-off.

--- Michael, Native New Yorker

* * * *

I think that overall, Manhattan has become friendlier in the last few years, not sure why but don't think Giuliani or Dinkins can take credit. There was definitely a surge of NYC solidarity following 9/11, and Giuliani was extremely popular during that period. When he supported Bush so strongly in the election that followed, his popularity plummeted, though. Bloomberg has definitely done a good job with making a lot of bike lanes, blocking off large areas of what was previously street and putting tables and chairs for pedestrian use. Not sure how this economic downturn will affect local attitudes, though....

--- Sue, New York

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This is the best. Keep them coming.--- Paul Ash

* * * *

Ed, thanks for putting the Holland button on your site.

By the way, your images really work! I opened the newsletter and was immediately tempted to click on an article. Love it. And also love the fact I can click on images in the articles to enlarge them. The short headline on the image makes me curious. Well done.

--- Bianca Helderman

* * * *

Thanks Ed, for this delightful view of this wondrous city! The first time I traveled with a husband to NYC years ago, it was for an Orchestral Conductor's conference. We lived in Newfoundland at that time, so you can imagine my shock of coming from isolation to the big apple!My heart began beating as I looked out of my hotel window at the figures of humans below, scurrying like ants, I was up so high. It wasn't the height, rather, the invisible buzz, that urgently beckoned me to go outside! But when I reached the sidewalk, the rush of pedestrians made me wonder "where's the party?" Friendly? Yes! I lived in NYC for 5 years with a later husband and loved every minute! Being an artist, I could not relax enough to paint, so I took up acting and worked with "Children In Need" a charity, instead and partook of everything NY had to offer from opera and Off Broadway plays and such to ballet and wholistic healings....a city full of everything one could imagine! I truly love NYC and years later am grateful to live in a quieter area of California so I may relax and paint and do my healing work...going back only to visit my delightful haunts. There is nothing like NYC!.

--- Yoka, Westlake Village, CA

Ed,

Great issue. Well done. They keep getting better! --- Grace Conlee Micetich, San Diego, CA

* * * *

I loved all of the traveling news! It’s good to know you are still out there in the world. --- Judy Vincent

Ed,

Thanks for getting me back on the Traveling Boy newsletter mailing list- I have missed it!

I do believe we need contributions of the ‘road less traveled’ in the US for those of us whose feet never leave the ground… Ahhhh… the Badlands... Two Medicine in Glacier… the Lava tubes in central Oregon… my next destination wish: Monument Valley.

--- Lorrie Sjoquist

* * * *

The photos and descriptions of this trip are wonderful. I love the idea of the slowed down pace of the train. Kind of a throwback to the "good old days." --- Larry Lombard, Puyallup, WA

I think you outdid yourself with the "Two Cities" article. I'm ashamed to admit that I knew so little about these two cities. I learned so much. Your article was jampacked with very interesting trivia. Surprised the Jazz greats and Walt Disney came from practically the same area. And those pictures --- especially the WWI museum --- what an incredible shot --- almost like out of somebody's Satyricon dream. Bravo!

--- Rod, Glendale, CA

What a great article! --- Michelle, Torrance, California

Ed,

The photos are spectacular. I can envision many a romantic novel inspired by these majestic sceneries. Makes me want to do a little more research on Norway. John Lenon must have been one of the converts when he wrote "Norwegian Woods."
--- Peter Paul, South Pasadena CA

* * * *

Peter,

Thanks for the kind words and taking the time to write. Indeed, Norway was paradise on earth, and I dream of returning again and again. You had a funny line about John Lennon being so inspired by the beauty of Norway that he composed the song, "Norwegian Wood." If I'm not mistaken, his reference to "Norwegian Wood" is just that: an inexpensive pine wood from Norway that was becoming popular in the UK. I did read somewhere, though, that "I Want to Hold Your Hand" was inspired by Norwegian fjord trek.

Thanks again… and please keep writing.

Ed

Ed,

Reading Peter's implication that "Norwegian Wood" was based on a trip that John Lennon took to Norway led me to do some research.

According to Paul McCartney at a press conference in Los Angeles: 'Peter Asher [brother of McCartney's then-girlfriend Jane Asher] had just done his room out in wood, and a lot of people were decorating their places in wood. Norwegian wood. It was pine, really, just cheap pine. But it's not as good a title, is it, "Cheap Pine"? It was a little parody, really, on those kind of girls who, when you'd get back to their flat, there would be a lot of Norwegian wood. It was completely imaginary from my point of view, but not from John's. It was based on an affair he had. She made him sleep in the bath and then, finally, in the last verse, I had this idea to set the Norwegian wood on fire as a revenge. She led him on and said, "You'd better sleep in the bath." And in our world, that meant the guy having some sort of revenge, so it meant burning the place down....'

Of course, just cause it's on the 'net doesn't mean it's true.

--- Jeff M, Tacoma, WA

Weird piece on Copenhagen (Cosy in Copenhaggen). Do you think now that Keefer’s in the slammer in Glendale for DWI he’s experiencing any hygge? I bet some of those jailbirds would like to see how touch he is.

--- Adam S., Glendale CA

I loved your intro and the way you set up the article. It immediately set the tone of an action-paced adventure. I imagined Annette as a spy in a trenchcoat feeding you top secret information. I'm surprised you didn't get lost. Do they speak English over there? Are the street signs in English? Does a GPS work over there?

I never heard of "hygge" but, like you, I think I've felt that sensation everytime the cold wind blows here in South Pasadena, CA. When I sit beside a warm fire, sipping my hot chocolate, I will remember this article. Thanks!

--- Peter Paul, South Pasadena, CA



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