After meeting so many people from so many different countries in the International Language School, Accent Français in Montpellier, I knew I wanted to travel more to see the wonderful places they had described. I always liked the idea of visiting Canada, but didn’t know where to start as so many places appealed to me and it’s such a huge country. Thankfully, my good friend, Charlotte, lived in Nova Scotia and invited me to travel around the province she calls home.
Surrounded nearly entirely by water, Nova Scotia is the province of Canada that you have to experience, offering spectacular views across the Atlantic Ocean (often with chances for whale watching), and some of the oldest settlements in the country. Nova Scotians are incredibly proud of their Celtic history, which is shown in their folk songs, dance and language, so if you’re a Macdonald or Macnair you’ll find souvenirs with your name on easily; even more reason to visit Nova Scotia.
Cape Breton Island is situated to the north of the province and is home to the Cabot Trail, named after one of the first European explorers to discover the island. The Cabot trail loops its way around the Cape Breton Highlands National Park, providing the best scenic views of the island. A visit to the Cabot Trail is a multi-day experience, with stops along the way such as the Acadian village of Chéticamp and the white sandy beaches of Ingonish.
Lobster is a speciality for most places along the Cabot Trail, along with crabs, oysters, mussels and clams, all offered at reasonable prices and have been a key part in the industry of the island for thousands of years. All of this can be enjoyed at one of the many festivals or ceilidhs throughout the year.
Tucked away in the extensive woodland of the trail are beautiful waterfalls, the hidden gems of Nova Scotia. In my personal experience the best waterfall to visit is Mary Ann Falls (Ingonish), where you can go for a dip after a long hike, but make sure you’re fully covered for all activities so you don’t miss out!
Next on the trail is the incredible swimming spot Gypsum Quarry (Chéticamp), a collapsed mine surrounded by a forest, now a pure water natural swimming pool. After a swim in the quarry, wander up to the village of Chéticamp, where you can sample traditional Acadian food, such as Tourtière or Fricot, along with seafood choices.
Elsewhere on the island is Halifax, a lively city that you are most likely to either fly directly to or go through when visiting the island. Dominated by the hilltop citadel, the port city is considered a major cultural centre within the Atlantic provinces. Downtown Halifax is home to many of the museums the city boasts, and the new Halifax Central Library.
It also offers quirky food stalls, where you can try Canadian delicacies such as Poutine and a Beaver Tale (a Canadian Doughnut, don’t be alarmed). However, I would say the best place to get food in the city is Annie’s Place, a small all-day breakfast café offering homemade food, and you should definitely order a side of Canadian bacon.
So if you’re thinking of venturing across the Atlantic, why not visit Nova Scotia and enjoy the rich culture and history and experience the famous ‘Cape Breton hospitality.’ I would recommend going during summer as Nova Scotia experiences extreme winter conditions, and keep checking the FCO travel advice page for updates, such as the eTA which was introduced this year. Happy trails!