DREAMSCAPES WINTER/SPRING 2024
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EMBRACING EVANGELINE IN NOVA SCOTIA
 
(2024 - Winter/Spring Issue)

Writer: LINDSAY DAVIES



While many stick close to Halifax, I left Nova Scotia’s capital city in my rearview mirror in favour of chasing the hues of amber and garnet along the open road this past fall. The GPS was programmed for southwestern Nova Scotia to a place known for a love ballad written for a girl named Evangeline. American poet Henry Wadsworth Longfellow penned the epic poem about two lovers separated in 1847, and ever since then, there’s been a tug at the heartstrings for this iconic story that continues to feed the imagination.

And there I stood in the idyllic village of Grand-Pré staring at a statue of Evangeline. As the golden sunlight peaked through the leaves the soft shadows danced on her smooth stone visage. I could not help but breathe a sigh of gratitude. Love, devotion and faithfulness have intersected for the fictional Evangeline. And like my road trip that led me to charming seaside towns, and idyllic countrysides, I encountered a Maritime hospitality from seafaring locals and salt of the earth residents that is as common as the sea around them.

If you are like me and seek those unique local experiences, a southwestern Nova Scotia road trip is sure to leave an indelible mark on your soul.

Follow the Road Less Travelled

Highway 101 may be the most direct route for the northern part of this western Nova Scotia loop, but trust me when I say you will want to take the road less travelled as you pass homesteads dotting the subtly sloping landscapes of Trunk Highway 1 a.k.a. the Evangeline Trail. Named after the iconic poem, you will hear numerous tales of Acadie along this route of gentle curves that lead you into the heart of the Acadian homeland. Learn about the Acadians as they arrived in the 1600s from Brittany, Normandy, Picardy and Poitou, France and settled in the Annapolis Valley, the stunning patchwork of vineyards and farmland we see today.

Experiencing Acadia

To truly appreciate Nova Scotia, you need to spend time learning about this vibrant culture and there is no better place than Grand-Pré. The UNESCO World Heritage Site encompasses the beauty of the southern Minas Basin, a lesser-known part of the ever-popular Bay of Fundy. I was blown away by the Acadians’ ingenuity as dykes they built transformed marshes into fertile farming, and later I was heartbroken to learn how families were separated during the Great Deportation in 1755.

When you visit the Grand-Pré National Historic Site, you’ll discover that Acadian pride is strong with waving flags in blue, white and red embossed with a bright yellow star to symbolize Mary, the patron saint of the Acadians. Around these parts, the Acadian flag and the sing-song Acadie French language are evident in the Annapolis Valley and southwest Nova Scotia.

Onwards to Canada’s First Historic Site

With the windows down so I could breathe in that sea breeze, I tried not to blink as I admired the charming dwellings nestled in the lush countryside en route to Annapolis Royal. Upon scaling Fort Anne National Historic Site’s bastion to absorb the sweeping panoramic views of the Annapolis River, it became clear why this was one of the most contested areas on the continent centuries ago. The Acadians, I learned, held their neutrality, especially since it changed hands 13 times!

What Do Leather, Books and Wine Have in Common?

In all honesty, not much unless you are in the coastal town of Annapolis Royal. Upon exploring this quaint and colourful seaside village, I heard rumblings of a waterfront wine bar. Though you can imagine my surprise as rows of crafted leather goods and book racks at an adjoining bookstore revealed a sliding barn door that led to the local watering hole, known as the Mad Hatter Wine Bar!

While I was tempted to settle in this cosy snug, there was a stunning waterfront oasis of tall trees, twinkling lights and lapping waves waiting for me. Paired with the cascade of colours across the horizon, the flight of local wines tasted that much sweeter—the perfect end to an exciting day on the road.

A Taste of Acadian Culture

Finding local food traditions is a big deal for me and as I travel, I appreciate how food is a great conduit in learning about others. What better way to experience another culture than with a local treat? Rappie Pie is a staple of Acadian cuisine and despite my earlier trips that went Rappie Pie-free, this baked potato and chicken pie was not going to elude me!

La Cuisine Robicheau in the Acadian community of Clare was my go-to as I feasted on this iconic dish alongside other seafood delights I selected with the help of other local diners. Yet another dose of that Maritime hospitality that warmed me to my core. The titter of both French and English was music to my ears as my mind, body and soul were filled to the brim—and ready to hit the Evangeline Trail once again.

Evangeline’s Southern Terminus

With rolling hills characteristic of the Evangeline Trail in my rearview, a wide smile overtook me as I rolled into Yarmouth on the westernmost shore of Nova Scotia. Main Street is a burst of colour with the iconic houses known as the “painted ladies of Main Street” shining bright as ever. Their warm tones basked in the sunlight. My first stop was at Sip Cafe for a late afternoon java break.

Afterward I was off on my last adventure to marvel at the iconic lighthouse named Cape Forchu. As the sun began to set, breathtaking shades enraptured its apple-core-shaped silhouette. The historic landmark served as a beacon of comfort for fishermen warning them of the rocky shores.

As Evangeline is a symbol of warmth for the Acadians, Cape Forchu warms hearts here. It’s true these markers have withstood the test of time, but now these local gems are ready for the next crop of road trippers to suss out and enjoy.

No question—Cape Forchu is the apple of my eye, and the perfect finale to one enchanting road trip around the storied southwestern shores of Nova Scotia.

Did You Know?

Grand-Pré is also home to Just Us! Coffee, Canada’s first organic fair trade coffee roaster, which is 100% small producer owned. This indie company also contributes to the local Mi’kmaq community by donating proceeds from their Wikunapu coffee beans for educational scholarships.

Did You Know?

If you do not want to commit to a full plate of Rappie Pie, you can enjoy a sampler for just $2!

 
 
 
 
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