More opinions than horsepower

Our time in Nova Scotia was awfully interesting. I found it to be fascinatingly different from home in many ways, yet not so different in so very many more. Having said that there was nothing that occurred in the days in which we toured around that makes for a terribly fascinating story, no dramas or hiccups and no adrenaline pumping events.

I therefore find myself in the rather unusual position of having had a wonderful and stimulating time but without a whole lot to tell. Still, for the benefit of anyone who may be interested in what we did and what we saw and what we enjoyed by all means read on. If you feel otherwise, then this is your chance to walk away from your computer, switch off your phone, or tablet and wander outside and enjoy the sunshine.

We left Lockeport with some regret. Ten days of lounging around, reading, strolling, swimming, taking photos and watching DVDs was seemingly over before it began. Still, it was over so we piled into our Buick Encore and set off.

More opinions than horsepower – the Buick Encore

The Buick Encore, by the way, is a terrible car. Don’t get one. I hate cars that tell me what to do and the Buick Encore never misses an opportunity to tell you what to do. Don’t have the seatbelt on? Bing, Bing, Bing! Open the driver’s door without fully removing the key from the ignition? Bing, Bing, Bing. It drove me nuts.

Emma remarked that my capacity to continuously get annoyed rather than alter my behaviour made me less trainable than a dog. I wasn’t sure if that was a complement or an insult so chose take it as a complement. I think I just derived some pointless satisfaction at shrieking frustration to the uncaring universe.

In any case, we drove north in the car with more opinions than horsepower. Nova Scotia was substantially larger than I had anticipated. It was a three hour drive up to Peggy’s Cove, one of Canada’s most photographed sites and ‘an icon for the Maritime Provinces’. It’s pretty. Really pretty. A white lighthouse perched on a domed granite outcrop sticking out into the sea.

On the landward side is the pretty little cove itself, although that superlative doesn’t seem quite enough. Lobster boats take shelter moored beside rustic pastel coloured sheds and jetties. It’s idyllic. We spent a good two hours in the tiny village leaping about the granite boulders, eating ice cream and adding to the incalculable number of photos already taken. Unfortunately, our laptop died on us a few days later, before the photos had been uploaded to the ‘cloud’ and so we lost them.

This upset me. At one stage I took about 20 photos of the one same scene, adjusting the zoom and angle just so, to make sure I captured exactly what I was looking for. The light was good, the boats sitting just nicely, the granite boulders presenting themselves in just the right way. I got over it, eventually, but have nothing to show for my efforts so you’ll just have to use your imagination, or google up any of the other 3.5 billion photos that are likely to be available on the web.

From Peggy’s cove we drove to Halifax, to visit the Mountain Equipment Co-op store. Emma and I decided boots would be needed for our impending trek of the often times excessively muddy West Coast Trail on the opposite side of the country. So boot shopping we went. Oliver got over it quickly and made up his own little song of silent protest. It went something like this…

‘Here we are at the camping shop,
the camping shop,
the camping shop.
Here we are at the camping shop
and here we’ll stay all day’.

He sung it to a nice little ditty and in just a low enough voice and with just enough legitimacy to the sentiment to avoid my wrath for impertinence.

New boots in hand we piled back into the Buick Encore which infuriated me again for having a navigation system which wouldn’t allow you to enter a destination address. The icon was there, you just couldn’t click on it half the time. Fortunately, Emma is unusually talented in the ways of Google and associated maps and with thanks to her and not the Buick we made our way over a bridge over Halifax harbour and were off to the north. We stopped for the night at a very pleasant camp site nestled in amongst the trees. It was great, if eerily quiet. It was just us. Where was everyone?

The next day we made Cape Breton and camped at a campsite with a power outage, before making it to Baddeck and the start of the Cabbot Trail. All of Nova Scotia has been packaged up into tourist trails. We chose the route that headed around Cape Breton as our preferred trail up which to linger. We visited the Alexander Graham Bell National Historic Site, learnt about his invention of the phone, hydrofoils and obsession with tetrahedral kites. Afterwards, for lunch, we experimented with powdered hummus and decided it was pretty good.

Camping near Baddeck

A little further on we made it to the Cape Breton Highlands National Park. Here we took a walk, Emma and I in our new boots, out on Middlehead – a thin peninsula jutting kilometres out into the ocean. We spotted bald eagles and the cutest looking squirrels. Squirrels are, I suspect, to North Americans what eastern grey Kangaroos are to Australians – a dime a dozen. I however still think they are quite gorgeous.

Amy and I looked patiently through our lenses through the thick undergrowth and were very pleased with the outcome of our photographic endeavours.

Aren’t they cute!!

Along the way I also came to the somewhat upsetting realisation that I had purchased the wrong sized boot. ‘Well really, what kind of a fool buys boots a size too small’ I thought to myself as part of a thorough self-flagellation.

When we were underway again in the opinionated Buick, Emma decided it would be good to listen to an Anne of Green Gables story ahead of our visit to Prince Edward Island, home of Lucy Maud Montgomery and setting for the Anne of Green Gables tales. Amy was pleased, she has and had been listening to all seven of the audio books over and over again and was only too pleased for all of us to share her beloved tale.

To my surprise, I got right into it, although I think deep down I am a little jealous. With apologies to the literati out there and English teachers who will no doubt know far better than I, the remarkable thing about Anne of Green Gables is that it is thoroughly engaging yet very little actually happens. The language employed, the characters and the passionate description of the place in which they live is however more than enough to compensate. I was rapt.

Oliver less so. I think I heard a little ditty similar to the one from the camping store emanating from the back seat before he dived quickly back into an audio book of his own involving owls, magic ones of course.

We interrupted our story to eat lunch here
Climbed up a waterfall from the beach

It rained for two days solid as we rounded the top of Cape Breton. We camped at National Park HQ, attended the nightly ranger talks on geology of the area and coyotes. Apparently the rift valley that runs through this Park is the same rift valley between tectonic plates that we visited back in Iceland. Who would have thought? That was a nicely personalised experience of just how connected the world really is.

Life through the car window…

Between (and sometimes during) showers and down pours we went walking in the hills. On the sparsely wooded plateau of the Skyline Trail Amy was the first to spot the mighty antlers of a browsing moose. It was a little intimidating with no fence between it and us, but fortunately it had no interest in anything other than filling its belly and didn’t so much as flinch as we passed by.

Rain and backlighting aside – he is pretty cool
Skyline views
Amazing light on the water
Striking a pose
Cape Breton Highlands National Park

Prince Edward Island was next. We were a bit over making and unmaking camp each day by now, so decided just to spend three nights at the one place over on the ‘Green Gables Shore’. We continued our now well practiced routine of having a camp fire each evening and indulged ourselves in the North American delicacy called s’mores.

A s’more is a lightly toasted marshmallow sandwiched between two graham crackers and adorned with a liberal slathering of choc chips. You get the choc chips between the crackers by rolling the half toasted marshmallow over a plate of choc chips before completing the toasting process.

We did it without the choc chips the first couple of times before our North American cultural advisors, aka Peter, Andrea, Sydney and Tobin, informed us via pointed text message that it was an offense to Canadians everywhere to leave out the chocolate. They had a point. It was good without the chocolate, but it was significantly better with it. Obviously they are called s’mores because you always want s’more… obviously.

Cool National Parks beaver fire places
Not a tidy treat

I loved Prince Edward Island though I struggle to say exactly why. As Lucy Maud Montgomery once lamented

‘I had always a deep love of nature. A little fern growing in the woods, a shallow sheet of June bells under the firs, moonlight falling on the ivory column of a tall birch… all gave me… feelings which I had then no vocabulary to express’.

I still have no vocabulary to express, hence the afore mentioned jealousy. If you haven’t already, read Anne of Green Gables and you too will perhaps fall in love with the lovely island. It’s not mountainous, it has no spectacular ravines or tumbling waterfalls. It is rather a patchwork of forest and field, babbling brooks and lakes, red beaches, estuaries and sand dunes.

PEI scenery
Even the hay was interesting
Laneway in the PEI National Park
PEI National Park
Red sand at sunset
Cavendish beach sunset
Cavendish beach during the day
View from Cavendish beach
Trying to recreate a photo we took in Aus 5 years ago

When we weren’t eating s’mores we visited all things Green Gables including ‘the lake of shining waters’, ‘the haunted wood’ and ‘lovers lane’ and of course Green Gables itself which Emma’s cousin Jill later described as a ‘frumpy little house’. I guess it was really. Still, it inspired a tale which made Lucy Maud Montgomery a person of national significance and that somehow makes it rather special.

A carriage ride with Mathew around the Lake of Shining Waters 
Everything about LMM is celebrated and made into a tourist attraction
Green Gables
Lovers Lane
The Haunted Wood
Meeting Anne was a highlight for Amy
Someone had to do it!

We packed up after three nights at PEI and piled our stuff into the back of the Buick Encore. At least we did after I cursed and swore at it again because the boot wouldn’t unlock at the same time as all the other doors. You’d think I would have adjusted to that after ten days, but apparently not.

We drove straight to the Halifax Shopping Centre and on to the Apple store where we proceeded to spend the next three and a half hours. Oliver, Amy and I played all the various sample games on offer on the various MacBook’s, iPad’s and iPhone’s while Emma did serious techie stuff with the serious techie people. I dropped by occasionally to make unhelpful but well intentioned interventions, before disappearing back to the games again.

With another ‘good’ Andrea at the Apple Store


Amy and I also snuck out for a while to explain to the people at Mountain Equipment Co-op how it was that I had managed to buy a size nine pair of boots when I really needed a size ten. To my surprise, and great relief, this apparently was not a problem. I swapped them for a larger pair and we were on our way again.

To summarise, Buick Encores stink, moose and squirrels are good, Peggy’s cove is gorgeous but we can’t show you the photos, s’mores without chocolate are an offense to Canadians everywhere and I’m jealous that Lucy Maud Montgomery became of person of national significance by writing a story in which nothing happens.

Yep that about sums it up. Thanks for sticking with me. See you next time.


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