It is always serendipitous when a guy operating a blog dubbed Peregrinations has a worthy peregrination to tell his handful of readers about. We went to the mainland to join good pals Carole and Garth in seeing how much trouble we might get into at the opposite end of Nova Scotia. A principal target was Shelburne County where in the immediate aftermath of the American Revolutionary War thousands of Americans who had sided with the mother country against their tea-partying American fellows decided to relocate to Nova Scotia, still a loyal part of the Empire.
Among the loyalist throng were some three thousand black people, virtually all of them slaves or descendants of slaves, whose support of Britain in the conflict against the folks led by Washington and Jefferson was rewarded with the promise of a better life in Nova Scotia. At Birchtown, main destination of the black loyalists, we visited the Black Loyalist Interpretation Centre and learned the extent to which the promise turned out to be a hollow one. Within just a few years, after enduring great hardship, many of the blacks accepted another dubious proposition—another relocation—this time to Sierra Leone in Africa.
On a sunny Wednesday we went to Cape Sable Island—as far removed-from-Cape-Breton part of Nova Scotia as you will find—to look for birds. The Hawk, perhaps the premier birding destination in all of Nova Scotia, afforded a few turnstones, whimbrels and ‘peeps’—even a rare Caspian tern—but the principal rewards of the Cape Sable junket had nothing to do birds. Garth and I both like to initiate conversation with total strangers. At the Hawk we relished an impromptu chat with a local lobsterman who edified us in spades about the particulars of lobstering in this corner of our fair province. In Clark’s Harbour I was amazed to find a bronze soldier atop the community war memorial. If you’d asked me if I knew all the bronze and soldiers of Nova Scotia I’d have said Yes, absolutely. I’d have been wrong.
History abounds in this part of Nova Scotia. At Barrington we connived to visit not just one museum but four, including the 1765 Barrington Meeting House, built in the aftermath of the Acadian expulsion by transplanted American Quakers and Planters. In the adjacent graveyard the visitor gets to contemplate death’s-head headstones dating back to the same period.
Having learned about one story of man’s inhumanity at Birchtown we headed to Pubnico to immerse in another. We spent an edifying half-day at La Village historique acadien, Lower West Pubnico. The village represents the life that the Acadiens had managed to rebuild for themselves more than a century after the infamous expulsion—Le Grand Dérangement—of the mid-18th Century. Our interpreters, all dressed in period costume, were uniformly terrific: Harry the Blacksmith, Sherman the Boatbuilder, Marcel the Fisherman, et al. What’s more they all seemed to share the same name—d’Entremont—tenth-generation descendants of the original main man among the pioneers of Pubnico.
Something impressive met the eye in Lower West Pubnico: the great fishing fleet moored at Dennis Point. The lobster boats are nothing like the pipsqueaks tied up at the Big Bras d’Or wharf near the summer cabin. The Pubnico boats—ship might be the better term—are huge, 28’ wide, more than 60’ long. As if that were not enough, Dennis Point also afforded an opportunity to spend a half hour aboard Bluenose II, which just happened to have dropped in for the day.
On Friday we forsook Shelburne County for its Lunenburg counterpart. Lunenburg town, one of Canada’s UNESCO World Heritage Sites, offers plenty to impress the eye and engage the grey matter of someone keen on history. And something to please the palate too. Niece Naomi gave us a hot tip: Saturday happened to be the day the annual blueberry festival unfolded at Parkdale in the northern reaches of the county. We went there, and for a lousy fifteen bucks a head got to pig out on an array of down-home Lunenburg County cuisine: Sausage and Sauerkraut, Pudding & Cheese, Hodge Podge, Smeltz Potatoes, Solomon Gundy—and more. Dessert was blueberry pie or blueberry grunt, take your pick. One of our quartet managed to inveigle our young attendant into delivering three desserts. Holy doodle!
The Parkdale feast was the capper of a trip festooned with great grub. I fear when I step on the scale back at the cabin I will not like the number staring me in the face. But what the heck, austerity, restraint and responsibility are not the sorts of attitudes to take into a September road trip with Garth and Carole. A year ago Gaspe was great; Shelburne-Lunenburg was superb this past week. What do we do next year? I know: let’s board a coastal supply vessel for a journey among the southern outports of Newfoundland. Who can say what seafood specialties await?