Hello From Nova Scotia – Driving on the Evangeline Trail From Annapoli…

Hello From Nova Scotia – Driving on the Evangeline Trail From Annapoli…

I had really enjoyed my breakfast at the Garrison House B&B in Annapolis Royal, but my second day of explorations had begun and no time was to be wasted. I had a big excursion ahead of me and my first quick stop was at Fort Anne where I met Alan Melanson, the Parks Canada Ranger and expert historian who had guided the entertaining and informative Candlelight Graveyard Tour last night.

He had promised me yesterday that he would show me the Fort Anne Heritage Tapestry, a collective effort of more than 100 volunteers who brought 4 centuries of history to life. 95 different colours of Persian wool were interwoven and stitched to form a historic tableau that is rare in Canada. It is about 18 feet long and 8 feet high and already Queen Elizabeth herself, on one of her travels to Canada, made a few official stitches in this tapestry. Alan himself, as a 9th generation Acadian, additional to the artwork by stitching a few drops of red blood in the section on the Acadian deportation.

Pressed for time I thanked Alan and made my way to another rare facility in Annapolis Royal: the Tidal strength Generation stop. Les West who works in the tourism office located on the main floor of the strength plant, gave me a quick half hour introduction to the only tidal strength generating plant in Canada, one of only two in the world. Les explained that Nova Scotia uses a variety of electricity generating methods, including oil, gas, hydro, wind and tidal strength. Its topography with its low-lying hills is not perfectly suited for hydro generation, so during the 1970s, when oil prices were really high, the government devised plans to take advantage of tidal energy.

The Annapolis Royal site was chosen due to its high tides and a long-lasting causeway was built across the Annapolis River. A stainless steel straight-flow turbine was installed by a Swiss engineering firm and from 1980 onward tidal energy was taken advantage of. Today the Annapolis Royal Tidal Generating Plant produces enough energy for about 4500 homes in the area. More strength is brought in as back-up when the tidal strength plant does not produce enough energy.

Les also explained that the construction of the strength plant and the long-lasting obstacle in the river has had meaningful effects on the eco-system in the Annapolis River: the river has silted up considerably and hydroelectricity builds up at a rate of about 6 inches a month. Because of the meaningful ecological consequences of this construction it is doubtful that a similar project will be built in the future. However, electricity-generating projects that do not create long-lasting barriers may nevertheless be considered in areas of strong tidal current flows. Lessons have been learnt from the realization that already though tidal strength in theory is a replaceable, green source of energy, the design of the strength plant can nevertheless have a major effect on the local ecosystem.

It was time to say goodbye to Annapolis Royal after an interesting 20 hours or so in this historic vicinity and make my way westwards towards the Bear River Heritage and Cultural Center where I would receive an interesting introduction to Nova Scotia’s Mi’kmaq culture (written up in a separate article). I set off on my coastal excursion by rolling green hills whose colours were just changing. Tidy little villages such as Upper Clements and Clementsport were flying by until I turned northwards into the Bear River save for my visit at Bear River Cultural and Heritage Centre.

After my two hour introduction to native culture in Nova Scotia I set off again on my westward excursion and enjoyed the beautiful views along the meandering Bear River. I connected up with the coastal road again and slowly made my way into Digby, a local fishing town and a major settlement in the area. I parked my car and decided to take a quick stroll by Digby on a beautiful sunny and warm afternoon.

Digby was settled in 1783 by the United Empire Loyalists under the leadership of Sir Robert Digby. The town’s economy is based on two major industries: fishing (Digby is famous for its scallop fishing fleet) and tourism. As early as the late 1920, a big resort called The Pines was built on the outskirts of town, and to this day Digby is a popular tourist destination. One of the major attractions in the area are the world’s biggest tides in the Bay of Fundy. Digby also hosts an annual Scallop Days Festival which introduces tourists to the history and heritage of the town.

I strolled along the waterfront and noticed the many waterfront restaurants that specialize in so many of Nova Scotia’s marine delights including lobster, crabs, shrimps, scallops and various types of fish. I had a quick soup and salad at the Shoreline Restaurant and enjoyed my lunch with a nice view of the waterfront. Less than an hour later I hopped back into my car to continue my journey to Yarmouth.

The coastal road turned into a highway which I exited at St. Bernard where one of Nova Scotia’s biggest stone churches is located. I had entered the St. Marys Bay area which ended up being the final settlement area for many of the Acadians, French settlers who had been deported as part of the Great Expulsion in the mid 18th century. After having been deported all over North America, many Acadians returned to Nova Scotia over the following decades. Although they did not settle in their original agricultural farming areas, as they had been stated to English settlers, many Acadians located their long-lasting residences along the northwest shore of Nova Scotia and became fishermen.

The Acadian settlers were devout Catholics and many villages boast magnificent churches, many of them made from wood. One of the finest examples is St. Mary’s Church at Church Point, the largest wooden church in North America. Its bell tower is an impressive 56 metres (185 feet) high. The Centre Acadien de Université Sainte-Anne is located right next to this church, and it is Nova Scotia’s only French language university, right in the heart of Acadian culture.

The complete vicinity is called Clare and denotes the Acadian heritage area. Acadian culture is famous every year in August when the world’s oldest festival, the Festival Acadien de Clare, celebrates Acadian heritage, traditions, food and music. The Musique de la Baie festival takes place every year from April to August and celebrates Acadian culture and folklore.

Further south, the village of Mavillette boasts a special allurement: a 2 km long sandy beach that attracts swimmers, surfers and sunbathers. Boardwalks across the grass-covered dunes provide access to Mavillette Beach which offers a great view of the Cape St. Mary’s fishing wharf and lighthouse. A bird-watching platform provides a good view of various native and migratory birds.

As the late afternoon sun was starting to cast long shadows I made my way further south and drove along the rocky, sparsely treed coastline and decided to follow a curvy road without knowing exactly where it would take me. Fog was rolling in and the sky was becoming more threatening. As the road came to a dead end I realized that I had arrived at the Cape Forchu Lighthouse, with its scarce apple chief design, which is located on a emotional coastline with interesting rock formations.

The first lighthouse was constructed here in 1840 in order to protect vessels entering the Yarmouth Harbour and today the complicate is a historic site. The little museum and gift shop were closed and the lighthouse appeared rather lonesome on its rocky outcropping. The thick blanket of fog gave it a very mysterious turn up.

It was starting to get dark and it was time to excursion into the town of Yarmouth where I would be able to settle in comfortably for the evening at the MacKinnon-Cann Inn, a rare historical character. Time to check in…

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