With Canada Day just a couple days away, we Canadians have so much to be thankful for and proud of, every single year. But I have to say that this particular year has made me more proud than ever to call this country my home.
With Donald Trump spewing all sorts of venomous hatred on a daily basis to the south and Brexit across the pond, with the anti-immigration and xenophobic rhetoric of the Ukip party, it feels like Canada is being surrounded by insanity.
Credited in no small part to Justin Trudeau’s sunny ways leadership, Canada has welcomed more than 25,000 Syrian refugees over the past year. Some provinces, including my own, have significantly increased their population size. In fact, since they started arriving last year, New Brunswick has settled more Syrian refugees per capita than any other province, by about double the national average (CBC).
And for the most part, Canadians have not only allowed these people into our country, we have welcomed them. There were crowds at airports, holding signs of welcome, there were groups of people whose sole job was to make our new residents comfortable and to make their transition as easy as possible.
And our newest residents have already started improving the communities they live in. Stories poured out of Alberta when the wildfires devastated Fort MacMurray earlier this year, of refugees coming together in support, and giving what little they had to their neighbours and new friends who had lost their homes to the fire. Because they understand what it means to lose everything, and they wanted to help.
We live in a scary time. A time when there’s no way to know where or when terror will strike next. A time when even a night out dancing or going to the movies can end in a living nightmare.
Fear is a natural response. Fear usually keeps us safe; it keeps us from doing stupid shit, like jumping off a cliff (for most people). But sometimes fear holds us back. Sometimes it clouds our judgement, and closes our minds and hearts to the truth.
The truth is that our differences do make us stronger, not weaker, and they will help lead this country into the future.
We were afraid, but we didn’t let fear win. We refused to let thousands of people suffer a horrible fate, through absolutely no fault of their own.
We are Canadian. We welcome all.
I’m so proud to call myself Canadian, more than ever before.
And we have to believe that love is louder than all this noise.
The Smith’s are back from a whirlwind 6-day road trip of the western half of Nova Scotia!
What I love about vacationing at home is that it usually costs significantly less due to the decreased travel costs and you get to discover some really cool places in your own backyard that you might not have known were even there. In my case, I wanted to hit all the spots I’ve heard about and wanted to visit for years, but had just not gotten around to.
The first leg of our journey took us across the Bay of Fundy from Saint John, NB to Digby, NS. It was fun as neither me or my husband had ever traveled to or from Saint John by boat, and this offered a cool perspective of the city and the harbour.
The Fundy Rose is very well appointed and fast! We arrived in Digby is just under 2 hours.
Our first adventure in Nova Scotia was an overnight backpacking trip to Cape Split, a provincial park reserve that juts into the Bay of Fundy and features dramatic cliffs and incredible scenery. The drive was to the park was lovely and we stopped to take some photos at a lookout along the way.
When we arrived at the parking lot of Cape Split, our spirits fell a little to see it packed with cars – there were so many people! Undeterred, we set off with our backpacks, sure that many hikers would not be staying overnight and that we would soon have the place to ourselves. The hike is about 6km long and is easy to moderate with gentle uphill slopes. The trail is well marked; it would be very difficult to get lost along the way. It was extremely windy at the cliff edge when we arrived! I was afraid to get too close in case I lost my balance. It’s a long way down!
After setting up camp, we hiked down to a rocky beach where we sat on the rocks and took in the beauty of the Bay of Fundy. And our camping buddies got engaged! Congrats, Mahshid and Jason!
After spending a lovely evening on the cape, we parted ways with our friends who were heading back to Saint John and set out for Yarmouth. We were pretty tired after the backpacking trip and it was raining (a theme we would encounter for the rest of our trip) so we didn’t make many stops along the way. Once reaching Yarmouth, we had much-needed showers, strolled through the lovely Frost Park, had dinner and went back to the hotel to crash early.
The next morning after a quick breakfast in Yarmouth, we headed out to discover the South Shore. It’s a long but beautiful drive along this rugged coastline. We made a stop in Cape Sable Island to see The Hawk Beach, the most southerly point of Nova Scotia. The beach here is a stunning grey/white sand and is home to the tallest lighthouse in Nova Scotia, at 101 feet. The lighthouse is some distance from the beach so we couldn’t get up close but the stop was well worth it with the beautiful views it offers of the Atlantic Ocean.
By early afternoon we arrived at our next destination, Lunenburg, a picturesque port town and home to the Bluenose II. We quickly discovered that Lunenburg is a major tourist destination; the place was swarming with visitors, just like us, gawking at the brilliantly coloured buildings and snapping photos along the way. We were lucky that the sun decided to make a rare appearance, just as we were exploring the downtown area.
We quickly discovered Ironworks Distillery, a local company that makes spirits inside an former blacksmith’s shop. We sampled many of their delicious products and learned a little about the process, leaving with several bottles to take home. I would definitely recommend a stop here if you are in town.
We stayed the night at the Rum Runner Inn, a lovely spot right in downtown Lunenburg, which serves a gluten free fish and chips, so I was in heaven!
The next morning was gloomy and after a quick and delicious breakfast at The Savvy Sailor, we headed out for the small community of Blue Rocks, just a few moments from Lunenburg.
This might be my favourite place we saw along the way. It had true Maritime charm, even with the light drizzle and moody skies. This community is famous for the slate rocks that give it its ‘blue’ name.
After Blue Rocks, we headed for Halifax, where we visited with friends and did some shopping. We had a fantastic meal at The Bicycle Thief and did as much sight seeing on the waterfront as the rain would allow (not much, as it turned out).
The next morning we set out for my home county of Cumberland, stopping in Truro to check out Victoria Park. I had wanted to visit this park for some time, after seeing photos of the waterfalls and the daunting Jacob’s Ladder and it did not disappoint. I wish we’d had more time to explore more trails but we had to get on the road and the weather was pretty chilly (we’ll have to come back!).
The discoveries continued with my parents when we took a drive to the historic mining town of Londonderry. Once a bustling community of almost 5000 people, it’s now a collection of just a few homes. The town square is still well maintained though, where a few artifacts of the mine are preserved for visitors to see. It’s a reminder of what once was, and what is not likely to be again.
And that pretty much wrapped up our tour of the western half of Nova Scotia. We look forward to exploring the eastern half and Cape Breton later this year.
I would encourage everyone to be tourists at home, and to explore spaces in your own backyards. You never know what you might find.