Nova Scotia, New Scotland, New Strategy

I’m not sure why I had so much anxiety about driving solo across the border in the Winnie.   I told myself I could turn around and come back at any time I felt too far outside my comfort zone, but so far, all my fears have been unfounded.  I don’t really miss the Tracker all that much thus far, given that I am doing more touring than parking.  I’ve been able to navigate with ease, and so far, internet access has been above expectations.

What's the first clue I am going to love Nova Scotia?

What’s the first clue I am going to love Nova Scotia?

Seems to be a theme here...

Seems to be a theme here…

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Before I left, I visited the AT&T store in Ellsworth, Maine to see if my 10 year old plan was worth updating.   I switched to their “Unlimited Plus” plan, which as the name implies, gives unlimited everything and no contract for only $15 more a month than what I was paying for 450 “rollover” minutes, no text plan, and 5GB of no-roam data.  I’m still scratching my head on how I missed that opportunity.   The only catch is, I can’t roam for two full consecutive months, or I will lose the roaming aspect.   But I’ll be back before that time period is up.   So far, the AT&T coverage has been better than I anticipated, as is wifi availability. I have done a little “black top camping” at the Walmarts as I move east, and even they offer a “wmguest” account.

The Trans-Canada Highway is so niceNo traffic, smooth sailing all the way to the end of Nova Scotia.

The Trans-Canada Highway is so nice. No traffic, smooth sailing all the way to the end of Nova Scotia.

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I’ve seen some of the smallest Walmarts ever in Nova Scotia. And not a single “No Overnight Parking” sign anywhere.

So with my new found confidence, I decide to revise my strategy a bit and head directly for Newfoundland on the most direct route possible.  I’ll take time to explore Nova Scotia and Prince Edward Island at a more leisurely pace on the way back. I am doing this for one reason only.  I want to see the icebergs.  When I was in Antarctica back in 2009, the ice turned out to be one of my favorite parts of the trip.  I’d like the chance to experience those big, beautiful bergs once again.  They are typically melted by mid-July, so time is fleeting.

As soon as I’m across the border, I call Maritime Atlantic to ask how soon in advance I need to make ferry reservations if I want to cross over to Newfoundland sometime within the next week.  Her answer, “Now!”   Still, I can’t get a reservation to accommodate the RV for five more days.  So I’ll head east across Nova Scotia and explore the eastern end until time for my ferry crossing.

North America's oldest single malt whiskey is distilled here at Glenora Distillery.

North America’s oldest single malt whiskey is distilled here at Glenora Distillery, since 1990.

You can decant your own with bottles provided.

You can decant your own with bottles provided.

There's a "ceilidh" taking place here too, featuring three young musicians in their Pub. Would have loved to have one of their craft drafts, but.....I'm driving!

There’s a “ceilidh” taking place here, featuring three young musicians in their Pub. Would have loved to have one of their craft drafts, but…..I’m driving!

I am embarrassed to admit my lack of geography knowledge when it comes to eastern Canada.  I’ve spent time in the Canadian Rockies in the west, but this is my first foray into the east.  I had no idea Nova Scotia meant “New Scotland.”   But as I approach Cape Breton with its lush rolling emerald green hillsides and steep rugged headland cliffs overlooking the blue-grey Atlantic, it’s certainly easy to understand the association.

The "highlands" become more prominent as I approach the national park.

The “highlands” become more prominent as I approach the national park.

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I position myself in the eastern end of Nova Scotia and decide to explore Cape Breton Highlands National Park while I wait for my ferry reservations.  There are two scenic drives that loop up and around the cape, the first of which is the Ceilidh Trail which skirts along the western side.  A Ceilidh (pronounced, “kay-lee,”) Gaelic name for “gathering” is a traditional Scottish jam session. Nova Scotia is home to the largest Scottish Gaelic speaking community outside of Scotland, and in fact there is a “Gaelic College” on the Cape whose mission is “To promote, preserve and perpetuate through studies in all related areas: the culture, music, language, arts, crafts, customs and traditions of immigrants from the Highlands of Scotland.”

The little hamlet of Judique has a beautiful venue for musical events. Notice the large examples of local "tartan" plaids hanging overhead.

The little hamlet of Judique has a beautiful venue for musical events. Notice the large examples of local “tartan” plaids hanging overhead.

More tartan samples.

More tartan samples.

The Celtic Music Interpretive Center in Judique. Unfortunately, this is a bit of a ripoff as all exhibit rooms require paid admission.

The Celtic Music Interpretive Center in Judique. Unfortunately, this is a bit of a ripoff as all exhibit rooms require paid admission.

One must purchase a meal or "tea" to listen to the music at the center....or stand in the corner. ;-)

One must purchase a meal or “tea” to listen to the music at the center….or stand in the corner. 😉 It’s not that I mind paying, but then call it a pub or restaurant, not an “interpretive center.” s

Cape Breton is also known for its traditional fiddle music brought to North America by Scottish immigrants.  I’m not a dancer, but Celtic music makes me want to break out in a Scottish jig. The fiddle is probably my second favorite instrument behind the violin.  When I took violin lessons, I asked my instructor “What’s the difference between a violin and a fiddle?”  His answer, “About two thousand dollars.” 

There seem to be music festivals taking place in this region throughout most of the year.  There is even a large brochure listing the music venues.  This week, it’s “Kitchen Fest,” with different musical events taking place across the cape. Fiddle, piano, bagpipes in each of the local pubs. Unfortunately, these are all in the evening. This is the first time I miss the Tracker, as I don’t want to drive the Winnie down the skinny cape roads after dark with moose-crossing signs at every milepost.

The next section of the scenic trails is the Cabot Trail, which loops directly through the Cape Breton Highlands National Park. I am a bit apprehensive as I want to get a campground in the National Park, but again, I have no reservations.  There are many campgrounds to choose from, but since I am without the Tracker, I want the campground closest to the Skyline Trail, the park’s “signature hiking trail.”  I whirl into the Cheticamp Visitor Center and ask about availability.  She says “I have two remaining spots!”   National Park 1, Winnie 1.

Canada's National Parks are free this year in celebration of their 150th Anniversary. Just show your Discovery Pass at the gate.

Canada’s National Parks are free this year in celebration of their 150th Anniversary. Just show your Discovery Pass at the gate.

Next up…The “world famous” Cabot Trail…

If it's not "world famous," it should be!

If it’s not “world famous,” it should be!

A whole lot of lupine shots coming up, but I can't get enough of these beautiful flowers!

A whole lot of lupine shots coming up, but I can’t get enough of these beautiful flowers!

The blossom part of the stalks are over a foot long.

The blossom part of the stalks are over a foot long.

There are many shades of purple, but the pink ones are more rare.

There are many shades of purple, but the pink ones are more rare.

They are as prolific as the Texas Bluebonnet in spring.

They are as prolific along the roadside as the Texas Bluebonnet in spring.

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18 thoughts on “Nova Scotia, New Scotland, New Strategy

  1. Hey, Suzanne,

    The Anne Murray Center in Springhill, NS, has its anniversary sometime in July. I do believe you can meet Anne in person as she attends the center to mingle with the visitors on the anniversary of her Center. (I met her backstage after a concert in 1989 :)

    • Thanks, Dorrin. Nova Scotia is behind me for a while, but I’ll be coming back thorugh, so I’ll be sure to research. Hope you and JJ are doing well!

    • Cinn, just about perfect. Shorts, teeshirts, and flipflops, and a sweater at night. Highs in high 70’s, lows at night in the low 60’s. Thanks for the question.

  2. Enjoy the accent of the Newfies, very distinct. They are the most friendliest people I have ever met. Be sure to try their screech. They love to brag about it.

    So happy that you have relaxed and let go of the driving issues. Just enjoy each moment as it comes. I give you a gold star for posting.

  3. So glad I didn’t attempt to “sell” you on Nova Scotia, it’s obviously going at you full-bore all on it’s own! I am feeling your pain – not having the Tracker for after-hours jaunts to remote “ceilis” (maybe try “boondocking” or as it might be called “freedom camping” thereabouts?)

  4. I have read with interest the adventures of many RV’ers as they enjoy this area, waffling back and forth if it is worth the effort to try to get there from the extreme opposite corner of the United States. As usual, your prints and prose scream at me to go!

    If you wish to go somewhere at night, might there be some way to arrange paid transportation? Perhaps the campground host(s) would know of a person or company who would provide such a service. Surely you are not the only visitor to arrive with just a full-blown RV and to then need auxiliary transportation.

    If enough visitors wished to go into “town”, so to speak, perhaps the campground owner could arrange a shuttle of some sort through their own contacts.

    Virtual hugs,

    Judie

  5. I’m so jealous you’re exploring Canada right now, it’s so beautiful! Can’t wait to see pictures of the icebergs! Nova Scotia is a just breathtaking. And it’s about time you upgraded that AT&T plan!

  6. How timely! I’ve decided I would like to go to Nova Scotia. I have always wanted to see Bay of Fundy. I had to sell my trailer (long story) but thinking I might be able to go in my truck-especially knowing the temps and that there are friendly Walmarts. I could sleep in my truck. How are the bugs. I have my son’s dog, now–Iassume that’s no problem if I stay out of the national parks. I may be pipe dreaming as I just had the idea to go the other day–and now you came along with a bunch of information.

    • Hi, Jack. There are mosquitoes at dusk, but they seem to be slower, dumber, and easier to swat than the little “fighter jets” in the south. The dog should be no problem in New Brunswick (best place to see the Bay of Fundy) or Nova Scotia. It’s difficult bringing pets to Newfoundland, though, because passengers are not allowed back down into their vehicles during the ferry crossing. Best of luck with your travels!

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