This article is published in partnership with Tourism Nova Scotia, who sponsored this post. Tourism Nova Scotia are inviting us to dream now and travel later.
In 19 years in London, nearly 20, this will be the first year that I won’t have once left its boundaries. I have barely left my neighbourhood. Instead, my life was distilled to essentials and became very simple. That is a luxury I know. My work was affected but I didn’t lose my job. I don’t have kids to homeschool. I accept the changes, I understand the need to be still for a while and I am embracing it, as much as I can.
Short days and long dark nights give ample time to dream
Summer was easier, it was even lovely. Now it is winter. The days close early and my time outdoors is brief, if at all. As the days close further I withdraw and I start to daydream, as I love to do when I can steal a chance. I even dare to make plans. Loose plans, no dates. Expectations carefully managed. Plotting places I want to return to, people I want to see. Friends and family to reunite with.
It is a small tight list, built on top of my list of my lifetime, however long that will be. In there is a plan to visit Nova Scotia with friends. The idea of Nova Scotia was planted in my head many years ago by my father. Friends of his had relocated there, it sounded like a fascinating place. Then I made friends with Nova Scotians in London, and then more. They moved home and now I go to visit and explore, to soak up the culture, the terrific food and wine.
There is an easy familiarity between Irish people like myself and Nova Scotians. The same sense of fun, an easy-going attitude to life. The same love of story and song.
A sun soaked road trip to Cape Breton
My last trip there was in 2018. Three of us went on a Cape Breton road trip in the summer of 2018 and vowed to repeat it as soon as we could. We whizzed around Cape Breton in a friend’s car, driving the spectacular and internationally renowned Cabot Trail. Hiking in the day and drinking Nova Scotian wine in the evenings while we ate local lobster which I had cooked in our rented cottage. We sat outside and caught up, with spectacular sunset views over the mirror-smooth Atlantic.
It helps immensely when your friend and travelling companion is a renowned Nova Scotian sommelier and Canadian wine and cheese judge Heather Rankin of wine bar Obladee in Halifax, Nova Scotia. We ate and drank so well, putting the best of the province in our glass and on our plates every night. Nova Scotia has terrific seafood, not just lobster, and great produce and producers in general.
In the evenings we went to a local pub famous for live music and listened to traditional Nova Scotian music, saturated in the influence of my homeland, yet different. Nova Scotia is more than Irish in its influence, it is Scottish too, Welsh and French. Ultimately it is Nova Scotian, its own thing, and that is gorgeous. People got up and danced as the night went on. We chatted with friendly locals and laughed and, when I look back now, it is like through several layers of smeared window panes in dire need of a clean. It did happen, right?! Didn’t it?
Beluga whale watching in Cape Breton
On our last day, we went out on the water and we saw beluga whales. They came right up to our boat and watched us as we watched them. It was so beautiful. I have gone whale watching many times, only to be greeted by a vast sea unbroken by whales breaching. I saw enthusiastic porpoises, but rarely whales. Once, also in Nova Scotia I did see pilot whales, I heard them too. Another beautiful moment that stole my heart for a short while.
Such a fast trip to Cape Breton. We went out in a zodiac boat yesterday evening and saw two beautiful beluga whales. (That is me saying OH MY GOD on repeat 😂🐳). The shortest of trips with friends, next time definitely for longer. #explorecanada pic.twitter.com/CHt4RtlAcB
— Niamh Shields (@eatlikeagirl) July 5, 2018
Like Ireland, you don’t travel to Nova Scotia for the weather, but it doesn’t mean that you won’t enjoy it while you are there. You may be lucky and arrive in incredible weather as I did in the Summer of 2018. You may be unlucky and arrive on one of the foggy days, but are you even experiencing Nova Scotia without being immersed in one of those?
I have been lucky enough to visit Nova Scotia in all four seasons and I have many reasons to return. Not least, the many wineries producing excellent wines, distilleries and breweries too.
I hope that these stories and recipes inspire you to also dream now and travel later.
Lobster lovers need to make their way immediately to Nova Scotia’s South Shore. Better again, plan to go for the South Shore Lobster Crawl in Winter every year during lobster season when things get serious. Barrington is known as the lobster capital as locals will proudly tell you. There is even a Nova Scotia Lobster Day on the last Friday of every February.
Nova Scotia has huge potential for lovers of road trips. Plot your own, or follow mine. Here, from Halifax to Pictou, with a cooking class along the way.
Nova Scotia is home to some of the best lobster rolls in the world. Bring a taste of them home with this recipe.