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Maritime Provinces Fulfill Editor’s
Childhood Bucket List

Peggy’s Cove Halifax, Nova Scotia
Peggy’s Cove is an isolated village with just 38 residents!

On a trip a few months ago, we had the opportunity to spend a few days in the Canadian Maritime provinces. That’s been high on my wish list for many years, and the timing finally worked for us to see this faraway part of North America.

While I do not intend this to be a travelogue, there are a few specific parts of that trip I’d like to share with you.

Lighthouse at Peggy's Cove
The lighthouse at Peggy’s Cove outside of Halifax, Nova Scotia, stands at the edge of the Atlantic Ocean.

We spent one day touring Halifax, Nova Scotia. The most beautiful spot was Peggy’s Cove, with it’s 38 residents (and about that many tour buses!) It’s at the end of the road, with a shining white lighthouse on the edge of the Atlantic Ocean.

But the most interesting was the Titanic cemetery.

The White Star line, owner of the Titanic, which sank on April 14, 1912, was based in Halifax. After the disaster, the company eventually sent out boats to recover as many bodies as they could find.

Titanic graves at Fairlawn Cemetery in Halifax
The Titanic graves are a part of Fairlawn Cemetery in Halifax. Some individual families erected more elaborate headstones over the grave markers provided by the White Star line.

Two of these vessels were cable ships based in Halifax. The crews normally worked on the ocean, repairing the underwater telegraph cables connecting North America and Europe.

One of these vessels, the Mackay-Bennett, sailed on April 17 with a minister, an undertaker and a cargo of ice, coffins and canvas bags. The second cable ship, the Minia, had to first return to shore for supplies.

Many of the bodies were buried at sea, but 209 were brought back, some to be buried in Halifax, while the rest were sent back to their families. The bodies were numbered for identification purposes, and these numbers appear on the victims’ headstones, along with a name for those victims who were identified. The site is lovely, and each grave is marked with a white cross.

What we found somewhat disturbing was the class distinction that existed even in death. First-class passengers were buried in nice caskets; second-class passengers were buried in pine boxes; and third-class passengers and crew were buried in body bags! All were identified in this way by the clothes they were wearing. I left with unkind feelings toward the White Star line.

While we didn’t have an opportunity to antique shop in Halifax - one of the problems of being on a guided tour - we were dropped off at the waterfront which offered other shopping opportunities. There we discovered the Nova Scotian Crystal factory. It’s Canada’s only mouth blown, hand cut crystal and a terrific stop for anyone who loves things made of glass. (We brought home a paperweight.) Just around the corner was Amos Pewter, where handcrafted pewter items made in Nova Scotia are offered for sale. (Earrings and a necklace left with us there.)

A 55-foot steel fiddle highlights the waterfront on Cape Breton Island. Music is an important tradition for residents of this island.

On Cape Breton Island, we finally had a chance to visit an antique shop. Called Apple on the Wharf, it was located at dockside and was quite small - and so was selling mostly small items. We visited with the owners for quite a while, and compared notes. It was interesting that where we could compare pricing, we found that the Apple’s prices were almost exactly the same as we’d expect to find here in the Northwest. The owner and I agreed that there is almost no market for complete dinnerware sets, even the very beautiful ones. However, she had sold a set of Shelley dishes the previous week. (Shelley China is English made and usually quite expensive.) The only reason it sold, however, was it was bought by a grandmother for her granddaughter whose name is Shelley! The owners also shared an antique sign they’d recently seen: “We buy junk; we sell antiques.”

The wharf on Cape Breton Island features a 55-foot-tall fiddle, made of steel. Fiddling is a part of the heritage of those who live there, and Cape Breton Island music is a combination of Scottish and Irish music, with a little bit of French thrown in. We went to hear a Ceilidh (that’s pronounced kaylee,) one afternoon. There were three performers - one played a drum thing called a bodhran, another a synthesizer, and the third fiddled; and all three sang.

Finally, on Prince Edward Island, we took a tour that included the “Anne of Green Gables” house. I grew up with Anne, and I think my wish to visit the Maritime provinces probably started then.

Anne’s bedroom in the “Anne of Green Gables” house.
Anne’s bedroom in the “Anne of Green Gables” house.

Although Anne is a fictional character, this is about where the author, Lucy Maud Montgomery, lived. The property includes the places readers of the Anne books know, including the Lovers Lane, the Birch Hollow and the Haunted Woods. The interiors of the house and barn are like those described in the book, also.

This cow stands outside Cow’s Ice Cream parlor.
This cow stands outside Cow’s Ice Cream parlor. Some say it is the best in the world; we prefer some of our Northwest ice creams! But it’s important to check out “best ice cream” claims.

Back at the wharf area, husband, Ron, decided he needed to try Cow’s ice cream - some say it’s the best anywhere. It was very good, but I don’t think those who make the “best” claim have made it to the Northwest. I’ll keep Umpqua and Tillamook ice creams on my “best” list.

As is so often the case, there wasn’t enough time to see and do all we’d like to have done, but I’m glad to have finally had the chance to see at least something of this part of North America. Maybe another time, there’ll be a chance to do more antiquing.

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