This is the forest primeval. The murmuring pines and the hemlocks. From Evangeline by Henry Wadsworth Longfellow
The beauty of Nova Scotia isn’t tied to towering mountains or vast open spaces. It makes a quieter statement— a combination of water and coves and forests and highlands and valleys and villages that grows on you until you realize that you have arrived somewhere that is very special. Long after I had completed my 10,000-mile journey around North America, Nova Scotia continued to exist in my mind as one of the highlights. Our recent drive around the province as Peggy and I retraced my bike trek route reinforced this original impression.
Nova Scotia is Latin for New Scotland, which seems appropriate to me in that I find the beauty of the two areas similar in nature. Before it became Nova Scotia, however, it was known first as Mi’kma’ki reflecting the First Nation people who lived there, the Mi’kmaq. Afterwards the French settled the area and called it Acadia. In 1755, the British expelled most of the French as a consequence of their ongoing wars with France. Longfellow’s poem, Evangeline, is based on that expulsion. Many of the people who were deported eventually ended up in Louisiana where they became known as Cajuns (Cajun derives from Cadia).
After the Acadians were expelled, numerous Scots arrived from New England to help repopulate the area. They also came from Scotland where British policies were driving them out of the Highlands. Gaelic became a common language. Following the Revolutionary War, a number of people who had remained loyal to England during the conflict resettled in Nova Scotia. Included among them was a small population of blacks who had joined Britain’s cause as a way out of slavery. What all of this means is that Nova Scotia has several distinct cultures, which, it seems to me, coexist side by side in relative harmony.
Other than a day of bicycling in Death Valley, Nova Scotia was the only place on my bike trip where I had travelling companions. Jean Snuggs and Lindell Wilken had both gone to college together in Illinois before moving out to California. I met Jean on one of the 100-mile backpack trips I led in the Sierra Nevada Mountains of California. We had become good friends and eventually lived together. That arrangement had ended but we remained good friends. Both Jean and Lyndell were college track coaches and in excellent shape. If I recall correctly, they had also just finished bicycling the Oregon Coast. I was extremely glad I had a few thousand miles of bicycling behind me! Otherwise, it could have been a long and humbling seven days.
We didn’t linger in Halifax, which was too bad since it is a lovely city. But the open road called. We crossed over the Angus L. Macdonald Bridge, picked up Highway 7 and followed it up the East Coast to Liscomb, a distance of 100 plus miles. Highway 7 is known as the Marine Highway in tourist promotions for good reasons. It closely follows the Atlantic Ocean. Inlets, coves, small rivers and towns provide an endless kaleidoscope of scenery.
At Liscomb, Highway 7 took us inland across the peninsula to Antigonish. I have only a vague memory of Antigonish on my bike trip, which may mean that the lure of the renowned Cape Breton pulled us on past it. Peggy and I stopped, however, and the town with its St. Francis Xavier University was definitely worth the visit, as university towns often are. From Antigonish we picked up Highway 4 to Auld and the Canso Causeway. The Causeway, a 4500 foot engineering achievement that took some 10 million tons of rock to build, connects mainland Nova Scotia with the island of Cape Breton. It is where I will end today’s post. Next up: the fabulous Cape Breton and the Cabot Trail into Cape Breton Highlands’ National Park.
37 thoughts on “The Quiet Beauty of Nova Scotia… The 10,000-Mile Bike Trek”
Loved both the murals and the history lesson. Great work, Curt!
Thanks Paul! –Curt
My family came from here. Beautiful photos.
Had no idea Cindy. Where about? And thanks. –Curt
Loved the old car. I bet Nova Scotia is good trout territory.
With all of those gorgeous streams, you would certainly think so. I always like the old cars, Gerard. They seem more classy to me. –Curt
This is a great post Curt. Lovely pictures and poetic narrative and I adore the history.
Well thanks, Andrew. I always enjoy leaning something about the history of the areas I visit and usually wish I had time to learn more. –Curt
I am always interested about the influence of the old world on the new Curt.
The influence is never very far away, Andrew, but in places like Cape Breton with its Gaelic emphasis, it seems more direct. –Curt
I’ve never been to Nova Scotia, but it’s on the list! You entice me. Looking forward to Cape Breton.
You and Don would enjoy it, Alison. Nova Scotia is special but we enjoyed all of the Atlantic Provinces we visited. Working on Cape Breton! 🙂 Should be up in a couple of days. Once again, I truly enjoyed your travels in Egypt. –Curt
Love it. My son and husband were in Nova Scotia this summer. It looks so very beautiful.
Thanks, Sylvia. It is beautiful. Hope your husband and son had the same enjoyable journey through it I did. –Curt
Thank you once again, Curt. Nova Scotia is turning out to be a VERY unique place!
It certainly was for me, GP. Hopefully I am capturing a bit of its unique qualities. Thanks. 🙂 –Curt
You are for me!
Wonderful post. Reinforces my desire to visit NS.
Curt, love reading your posts! Beautiful descriptions of the places you visit….. supported with such lovely pics. Awesome is the word! :))
Glad you are enjoying the journey! And thanks much. 🙂 –Curt
Loved reading about the early names of Nova Scotia. I didn’t know so many went to Louisiana and the transformation of the name there. I remember reading Evangeline as a young girl and loving it, though I didn’t recognize the significance.
I remember reading Evangeline as well, Kayti. “The murmuring pines and the hemlocks” has always stuck in my head. 🙂 But not the rest. Thanks. –Curt
Nova Scotia has been on my list for a long time; I simply must stop putting it off. Interesting history – I had no idea about the Cajun connection!
You won’t be disappointed, Lex! It is still on my bucket list! And I have been there twice. 🙂 –Curt
Curt many of your photos I recognize as one of my uncles has a summer home near Antigonish. Nova Scotia is a fantastic destination. The people so friendly and the food so scrumptious. The scenery well that speaks for itself.
Your uncle is indeed lucky, Sue. And I agree with you totally on the friendly people and the good food! –Curt
I have always wanted to visit Nova Scotia, and your photos did not disappoint. Beautiful landscapes and fun murals. Fascinating history too.
Thanks Peta. Now all that is left is for you to visit. 🙂 –Curt
Have you seen the statue of Evangeline in Louisiana — in St. Martinville? I’ve been trying to find a way to write about that country, and the events that connect Nova Scotia and Cajun country forever — it’s just so big, I can’t quite find my way in.
I’d love to find my way to Nova Scotia, that’s for sure. The countryside is so beautiful, and the culture seems wonderfully rich. I couldn’t figure out why “Antigonish” seemed so familiar, and then I remembered. William Hughes Mearns wrote a poem with that title in 1899. It was based on tales of a haunted house in Antigonish-the-town, and I’ll be you remember this first verse:
“Yesterday, upon the stair,
I met a man who wasn’t there.
He wasn’t there again today,
I wish, I wish he’d go away…”
Yes, Linda, I do remember the poem. I saw a reference to it when I was doing research and should have looked it up! Thanks. Antigonish is such a strange word, it is derived from First Nation Mi’kmaq, and means ‘where the branches are torn off.’
I think I have seen the statue of Evangeline, or maybe I just saw a photo. Did you post one?
Nova Scotia is gorgeous, the people are friendly, and the culture is fascinating… all three reasons you should visit. –Curt
Thanks for the history lesson about Nova Scotia! Great post!
Thanks, Kelly. I’ve always loved history. I think it adds a lot to areas we visit. I minored in history at Cal. I sometimes think I should have majored in it… 🙂 –Curt
Really, really love Nova Scotia. It seems to be about 50 years, maybe 100, behind the rest of North America in terms of civilization, and that’s exactly why we love it. Our fave spot was Mahone Bay. Great photos of painted walls, too — don’t know that we saw those. Good eyes, Curt! — Rusha
I am with you Rusha on always enjoying areas that go back in time, and make an effort to retain their history. I didn’t get a feeling that Nova Scotia was ‘touristy’ although it is a great place for people to visit. The murals in Antigonish showed great imagination. They might not have been there when you went through. Thanks! –Curt
Part of what I loved about Nova Scotia was just what you said: It’s not touristy. It’s like a Throwback Thursday postcard! Old, quaint, and almost untouched.
“Old, quaint, and almost untouched”… hard to beat, eh. 🙂
Curt you took me way back many years when I was a very very young adult in my twenties. I visited Nova Scotia. It is a very quiet province. You reminded me of St Francis Xavier University in Antigonish where I visited my bestest friend who was studying there. I had an amazing time in Nova Scotia, but I felt it was only a place I would want to visit someday again, I wouldn’t stay forever, but it is so beautiful up there. Another thing I fell in love with are them big vintage wooden houses, they are amazing and beautiful. And me too, I drove through the Halifax Bridge hahaha. Thank you so much for the remembrance of such a lovely place. I love your blog. Keep it going.