Kejimkujik National Park has featured here before and remains a favourite. But on this trip it’s the start rather than the destination for two days of discovery round the south-west coast of Nova Scotia.
My mother used to say all journeys should start with a good breakfast, (actually she said everything should start with a good breakfast), and mostly she’s been proven right.
She’d have thoroughly approved of starting the day in Maitland Bridge at The Wilder , the old eating place with the new look and the bright new owners on the #8 near Keji. Shannon and Lekas are in their first year of running a restaurant, but you wouldn’t know it from their good food or their growing reputation. Sitting on their little patio in the morning sunshine, an empty plate in front of me, it would have been all too easy to linger.
North from The Wilder the highway heads to Annapolis Royal which is also an old favourite, so on this trip the #8 was left behind, branching off on a lesser road through woods and tiny settlements to Virginia East, and from there across rolling farmland to Bear River. This is home to artists of all kinds, and in the season the town bustles with activity and visitors, but with the coast beckoning, this was not the day to stop and enjoy all it has to offer.
From Bear River a mainly dirt road runs virtually straight for 30km to Weymouth. In the dry summer heat any car, regardless of speed or care taken, kicks up a huge plume of dust that hangs like a vapour trail to mark the journey. At length the land falls away on the approach to Weymouth beside the mighty Sissiboo – it’s a big and beautiful river but only mighty here because its name seems to demand such an adjective.
Heading south on the old #1 out of pretty little Weymouth, the landscape instantly transforms from hills and river valleys to the gentle coast of St Mary’s Bay, now hidden in thick mist, now glittering bright and blue across the 10km to Digby Neck. And another transformation has also occurred in less than a few turns of the road: a new flag is in evidence.
With thoughts turning to a lunch stop, The Roadside Grill at Belliveaus Cove was a convenient stopping point. It’s more than convenient, it’s surprisingly bright and light, unsurprisingly welcoming, happily bi-lingual, and has great views to the ocean. Oh, and it serves excellent food – typically North American in quantity – at modest prices, just as it has been doing for many decades. A a little gem of a diner.
Travelling on, there is a sameness to much of the road, gentle rises and falls, and seemingly endless small communities of low rise buildings, now scattered, now clustered together. A notable exception is Église Sainte-Marie, visible from miles around – as befits the tallest wooden church in North America.
Before you realise it the tricolore has vanished, replaced by the red and white of the maple leaf. Every little cove, and there are many, has its picturesque harbour and collection of working boats, but there can be few more rewarding to wander round than Cape St Marys (webcam view from Cape View Motel). Like so many tiny ports, the signs of decay and former glories abound, yet look closer and you’ll find there’s life here and livings still being earned from the sea. The lobster boats bristle with technology as they wait in the harbour with the water gently slapping their hulls, the whole scene drifting in and out of focus as the mist ebbs and flows on the slightest of breezes. If you have the chance to chat with a local resident as I did, you’ll hear something of the history of the place along with stories you’ll hear nowhere else. The flag may have changed but the welcome is the same.
Overnight in Yarmouth could have been a disappointment, it is not the loveliest of towns. The economy – indeed that of the whole of the south-west – suffered a big dent with the closure of the international ferry service to Maine. Recovery still seems a distant prospect. Today the dock, the terminal, the loading ramps, not to mention the nearby hotels and businesses, all stand idle, holding their breaths while waiting for a day which may never dawn.
Yet it is difficult to find anywhere that has no redeeming feature and at least one business appears to be thriving: Rudders is a harbourside pub, nothing very clever in that, even if it does have the now-familiar Nova Scotian service and tasty food. So what’s special? Beer. Excellent beer brewed on the premises. Beer that looks and tastes like beer is meant to.
Which makes Rudders another little gem to round off a day that started at The Wilder all those kilometres ago.