Billie and I woke around 2 a.m. to catch a flight out of Cincinnati. We flew to New Jersey and then up the coast to Halifax. The day was clear, and the views were easily recognizable from the air; Manhattan, Cape Cod, the southern tip of Nova Scotia, including Long Island, and Brier Island all stood out.
I didn’t really know what to expect stepping off the plane. I had never been to Canada before. The first thing I noticed was a lightness… a lack of oppression. I noted it in my travel journal. I still wonder if the rest of Canada is this laid back. My first impression has left me with a desire to explore more of Canada.
I’m looking out the window like a kid on his first airplane ride. I’m eager, excited to see this strange new land. Approaching Halifax, I can see the ground. It is rocky, covered in low pine trees of some kind. A woman across the aisle comments on the beauty, “It’s the same every time I return.” She lives here. “It is home,” she says.
We spent the first day adjusting. We exchanged some cash at the airport and made our way to our lodging in Dartmouth which is across the harbor from Halifax. We had booked a house through Airbnb not really knowing the best location, but willing to take the risk in the spirit of adventure.
That evening, we ate dinner at May Garden Chinese Restaurant. Our waitress was a wonderful source of information as she kept returning to our table to point out each new idea that crossed her mind. She told us about the ferry that runs across to Halifax every half hour. She gave us a rundown of all the popular tourist destinations in the metro area along with some insider tips. Her suggestions included The Citadel, The Maritime Museum, the Public Garden, and Peggy’s Cove.
We ended up visiting all of them. I’m not typically looking for tourist locations when I travel. I like finding the little hidden gems away from other tourists, places the locals like to go. I like meeting the locals, and interacting with them. But still, some tourist locations are worth the visit. Peggy’s cove stands out. It was truly beautiful, but over-crowded, and later we would find another lighthouse, secluded and even more beautiful.
I am hungry. My feet hurt. We are walking to The Top of Citadel Hill. Travel is always an adventure, but it’s not always fun. There are personal struggles, and this trip is not an exception, and the personal struggles are more than just low blood sugar and aching feet. But the struggles are lessons, leading to insights, leading to richness in the texture of life, and that is why I love to travel.
Halifax was fun and interesting and gave us a chance to rest and get acclimated to Nova Scotia in general, but it wasn’t until we arrived in Freeport that this trip became something truly special. From Halifax, Freeport is three or four hours away via Harvest Highway. We were told that we should stop in Digby to pick up groceries because there is not a true grocery store out on the island.
The island is Long Island and Freeport is at its most distal end and entails one ferry ride to get to the island itself. Another ferry ride from Freeport takes you to Brier Island and the town of Westport. The two towns seem to act as one community.
We are waiting in a short line of cars to drive onto the ferry to Long Island. I’m excited. I have Billie snap a photo out the front window of the rental car as we drive onto the boat. I’m experiencing that wonderful sense of adventure and newness. As the ferry moves out into the water I am relaxed, and I am enjoying the view.
We stayed at another Airbnb, a small house, very rustic, peaceful. Freeport and Westport are essentially fishing villages, and we learned from the locals that the home is owned by the community, to serve as accommodation for artists in residence, but rented out to help fund that effort. The whole place, the house, the community, the water, the sky, the sounds, the lack of sounds… it is all so peaceful, and I could have stayed there for a very long time and been very happy, but we only had a few days.
I think the people were a highlight. We met a girl working at one of the only restaurants in the community. She was from Newfoundland. She was on a working vacation. She told us that she likes to travel, and this is how she helps to fund her journeys. She had been there for some time and told us about Seal Cove where we might be able see some actual seals. We drove to a trailhead and with our day packs, we hiked a few miles along the shore. We did see a few seal heads bobbing in the water at some distance, but never saw them lounging on the rocks.
But the peace was the real draw and the reason I would love to return there. Billie and I spent hours hiking and exploring the rocky coastline. At the far end of Brier island is another lighthouse. It is stunning. Peggy’s Cove is beautiful, but the lighthouse on Brier Island is in a class of it’s own. We were virtually alone out there. We did see another couple wandering around, but we were never close enough to make any contact with them. Instead, we wandered around, lounging on the rocks, soaking up their warmth and marveling at the lack of noise. There was nothing. No cars, no planes, no voices other than ours. Only the sound of waves crashing, wind blowing, and birds.
I am lying in the rocks at a place called Beautiful Cove on Long Island, Nova Scotia. My head is resting on my day pack, and Billie’s head is resting on my lap. The blue ocean is the only sound. We are thinking. We are making big decisions, each of us, in our own heads, we are deciding things about our lives, how we want to spend our time in the future, how we want to simplify, have more time for peace like this. In the morning we will head back to Halifax and catch a flight back to Cincinnati.