Tuesday, July 7, 2009

Notes from the Maritimes

A whopping 72 hours after I had officially nabbed my diploma in Evanston, I was in Manhattan with my parents soaking up some theatre and headed of to the Maritimes! We waste no time in the Cheadle family. I will try to keep this post quite brief – just sharing some photos with commentary and such.  Our trip was broken up into four major sections: Cape Breton Island, Prince Edward Island, The Bay of Fundy, and The Nova Scotian South Shore - here's a little map in case you're not quite sure where all that is!

The first leg of our journey was on Cape Breton Island (the northern island off of Nova Scotia) where we drove and hiked portions of the Cabot Trail filled with green mountains dramatically jutting out of the North Atlantic (photo #1).  As we drove we stopped in small fishing villages like White Point (photo #2) to soak up the picturesque sights, enjoy delicious seafood, and talk to the locals.  Throughout our trip, but especially on Cape Breton Island we found the people to be incredibly open to conversation and very warm.  Stories of lobster fishermen's plight with a short nine-week season, sons and daughters headed off to the big city of Halifax or out West to Alberta to find jobs (dwindling quite quickly in Atlantic Canada), and Scottish and Acadian ancestors were told with matter-of-fact tones always laced with pride and a love for the place these people lived and their rich history.  It is also on Cape Breton that we experienced our first of two Scottish ceilidhs where fiddlers, step dancers, and story tellers gather and put on quite a show.  Cape Breton island is deeply rooted in its Scottish heritage with patches of Acadians here and there, many of whom maintain the French language thanks to centuries of isolation that ended only in the mid-twentieth century.  For a listen in on some past ceilidhs check out capebretonlive.com and click on the past shows link on the right hand side.  There is a plethora to choose from and I think you will really enjoy, so put on a tune right now while you read the rest of my post (I'm currently listening to #26, quite good)!  I was absolutely enthralled with the music and spontaneity of everything that goes on - certainly a highlight of the trip.

From Cape Breton we traveled on to Prince Edward Island, with landscapes of bucolic bliss through one car window and a blue ocean crashing against red soil topped by crisp green grass out the other - trully stunning.  Our time on Cape Breton consisted of visitng lighthouses, biking on the incredible Confederation Trail, another ceilidh, and a delicious lobster supper (photo #3) along with plenty of ocean-side relaxation.  As some of you may know, PEI is also the epicenter of all things Anne of Green Gables, being the birth place of author Lucy Maud Montgomery; however, we chose the path less traveled and avoided Anne-mania all together.  Sorry to any of you who were ready to hear every detail of the house at Green Gables (I know there are a few of you)...it ain't happening.

Our next quick stop was along the Bay of Fundy, site of the highest tides in the world often going up and down the height of a four-story building every day!  The Hopewell Rocks (photo #4) are a wonderful place to take in the dramatics of it all.  The photo here is at low tide when you can walk along the ocean floor surrounded by seaweed and rocks that are underwater for the majority of the day - a rather surreal experience.  While in New Brunswick, we also stopped by our second French Fort of the trip (the first being at Louisbourg on Cape Breton Island) at Fort Beausejour, taken over by the British and seeing a bit of action during the American Revolution as well.  I became intersted in the whole French-British North American rivalry while in Quebec last summer after visiting a wonderful museum focusing on French-America from Quebec to Louisiana, Guiana, and everywhere in between.  It was wonderful being able to delve even deeper into the history at these sites and by talking to a few Acadians we met along our journey.

To finish up the trip, we headed to the 'big city' of Halifax - home to everything young, hip, and chic in th e Maritimes while still maintaining its history and Maritime spirit.  Heading south along the shore from Halifax, we discovered more lighthouses such as the one at Peggy's Cove (photo #5) as well as towns that seemed they should have been on Martha's Vineyard, all culminating in a stop to Lunenburg, a UNESCO world heritage site.  The colors and architecture of the homes were quite a site to see and I really felt taken back to another age about a century or so prior to our own.  

Well there you have it, a rather stream-lined version of the first of my summer vacations.  What I will remember most from the Maritimes (besides perhaps the joy of eating mussels, fish, and lobster nearly nonstop) is simply the atmosphere created by the people - full of perserveance and kindness, always ready for a chat and a good time.  I hope that all of your summers are off to great starts as well!  Send me an email (n.g.cheadle@gmail.com) and let me know what's new with you - I'd love to hear.  


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