Hello again to everyone and thanks for checking out this latest in my series of posts about my 2014 trip to the Maritime Provinces of Nova Scotia with my dear friend Lynne in a very old campervan / RV called Betsy who was rapidly becoming a very dear friend as well. If you wish to read the whole story from the beginning, you can do so here.
Apart from being very cosy Betsy had stood up remarkably well to Hurricane Arthur despite her great age and structural frailty in light of the fact that we had jerry-rigged her together to make her habitable.
Hurricane Arthur was like a politician, big on noise and wind and short on substance although there were serious problems with the power grid over large swathes of Nova Scotia and New Brunswick. Arthur had prompted us to stay in the Halifax Regional Municipality perhaps longer than we would otherwise have done but we had certainly not run out of things to see and do as I hope my previous posts have shown, but now it was time to get moving again.
If you want to see where we go then please read on.
We awoke for the last time in the excellent Shubie campground in Dartmouth, which is really recommended as a base to explore the Provincial capital and it’s environs and we had decided to head ENE, again following the coast and eventually Route 7, in the general direction of Cape Breton Island which Lynne was keen to show me as she said it was beautiful. She was to be proved entirely correct in that.
Like most travellers, I love maps and even in these days of the minutely detailed digital variety my dated Times World Atlas is still one of my most cherished possessions. Naturally, I have been studying the maps closely whilst writing these posts and with the strange way my mind works, I have come up with a notion which I am obviously going to share with you now.
I was trying to describe what portion of Nova Scotia we had seen and where we were headed and I think that if you look at a map of the Province of NS and rotate it anti-clockwise through 45° you would have, with a little imagination, a map of the island of Ireland with the four Provinces equating to the four areas which I had mentally already portioned the Province into.
There is the area Southwest of Halifax which we had already travelled, the central area Northwest to the road between New Glasgow and Truro, the portion Northwest of that again towards the Province of New Brunswick and, finally Cape Breton Island.
In my analogy we had already travelled round Munster, were now going to into Leinster, Cape Breton would be Ulster and the area towards MB, Connaught. I shall even risk your credulity even further and say that relatively Halifax is very approximately in the position Dublin would be and the main settlement on Cape Breton is Sydney which would not be too far from where Belfast is on the Ireland map. As a final flourish, apart from the Canso Causeway, Cape Breton is truly an island. Could the Strait of Canso be my analagous border between my home country of Northern Ireland and the Irish Republic?
Before you ask the obvious question, I am stone-cold sober as I write this and have not been taking hallucinogenics, my peripatetic brain does this all by itself. I know it is a bit of a stretch but it works for me and so enough of this and let’s get on the road and into “Leinster”.
We didn’t need to go through Halifax again and headed straight out of Dartmouth on the 207 which we had chosen in preference to the more direct 107 as it was the sea road as we had basically been following the coast all along and. We were certainly in no rush even if it was almost midday when we got going. Neither of us do early mornings!
About 25 miles along we came to the hamlet of West Chezzetcook and here is what I wrote about it.
“I don’t know why but the name of this place always makes me smile, there is undoubtedly some probably pretty puerile reason for that but it is just the way my mind works. Actually, the name derives from the Mi’qmak Indian “Sesetkook” or “Tceset-kook meaning “flowing rapidly in many channels”. So now you know.
There do not seem to be any real centres of population here but rather a fairly spread out rural community along the sea road (Highway 207) which lies about 25 miles East of Halifax. It really is another world from the city with gorgeous scenery and hardly another vehicle on the road. It is a delight to just cruise along and admire Nature’s beauty. We only did one thing in all the Chezzetcooks (West, East, Lake and Head of) and here it is.
A lovely living Museum.
“West Chezzetcook is well off the beaten path as most people heading East out of Halifax will use the more direct Highway 107 / 7 route but if you are not in a hurry I do recommend the very scenic Highway 207 which hugs the coast and has some lovely scenery. The Acadian House Museum lies just a couple of hundred yards off this Highway and Lynne and I decided to pop in and have a look, a decision we were certainly not to regret.
If you are looking for it on Satnav or whatever, the full address is 79 Hill Road, B0J 1N0.
So what is the Acadian House Museum? As the name suggests it is a Museum dedicated to the history of the Acadian people in this area where there are many of them.
If you do not know about Acadians from my other posts, they were French settlers in Canada who were eventually expelled by the British in 1755 during a conflict between France and Britain. Whilst many of them moved South to the present day USA and settled predominantly in Louisiana, some of them returned when they were permitted to and they are still clinging proudly onto their language and culture.
We went in to be greeted by three ladies (all in period dress) in the typically friendly manner I have come to associate with the Maritime Provinces in Canada and we paid our very reasonable $2 each. Should you be a family group the entire family costs a mere $5 although naturally donations are welcome (2014 prices).
They asked is if we would like a guided tour which sounded excellent and we were shown round the lovely old building which was built in the 1850’s and subsequently expanded. Built by a man called Joseph Bellefontaine (a very common Acadian surname in the area) it remained in the extended family right up until 1997 when it was bought by a local community group and sympathetically refurbished, eventually opening as a Museum in 2000.
The ladies were extremely knowledgeable about the building and had a wealth of anecdotes which really brought the whole place to life, it was utterly fascinating. There are so many wonderful artefacts here that it is difficult to know where to begin but a couple of my favourites were the lovely old stove and the moonshine still.
I had previously thought that prohibition was only in the USA but apparently the Nova Scotian Government introduced it in 1894 which led to a lively trade in rum-running from the West Indies and the making of illegal spirit closer to home. The Chezzetcook area was a very busy centre for both illicit activities.
As well as the excellent Museum in the house there is also a cabana which is basically a shed used variously for storing tools, wood or whatever as well as being a cold store during winter months. Although we did not visit it, there is a café called La Cuisine de Brigitte on the site open for breakfast and lunches. It has it’s own website.
This really is a superb place and I do recommend it. The ladies even insisted we stay for a cup of tea with them and we had a lovely chat about things over a brew. $2 for a guided tour and a nice cup of tea, now that is what I call a bargain.
Less than 20 miles further on we came to another brilliantly named settlement and another superb Museum, let me tell you about them with my original notes again.
Yet another flying visit.
“Musquodoboit Harbour has another one of the slightly odd sounding names that are so prevalent in Nova Scotia and which I rather like.
As is so often the case, this one derives from the language of the Mi’qmak indigenous people in the area and translates as “flowing out square” or “rolling out in foam” or “suddenly widening out after a narrow entrance at its mouth”. I have to say that the Mi’qmak vere very prosaic in their naming of places but they still sound pleasing on the ear.
So what can I tell you about this place then? Frankly not a whole lot as we were there for approximately one hour purely to visit the small but interesting Railway Museum that forms the sole piece in this section.
Straddling Highway 7, Musquodoboit Harbour lies approximately 30 miles East of downtown Halifax (direct route) and is part of the Halifax Regional Municipality. It is a small community of just over 2,000 souls in what is predominantly a rural area although it does have a hospital and Royal Canadian Mounted Police station along with many other social amenities which makes it somewhat of a centre for the area.
Small but interesting.
“To be perfectly honest, we hadn’t even planned to stop in Musquodoboit Harbour as we had started out a bit late from Halifax and already visited one Museum which meant that we hadn’t gone too far. Still, that is one of the delights of travelling without set plans as we were in a campervan (RV), you can just suit yourself and if you only make a few miles a day well so what?
What made us stop was that I had seen a sign for a Railway Museum and as readers of my other pages will know, I absolutely love railways and anything to do with them.
The railway has long since left the town and the railbed now serves as a leisure trail known as the Blueberry Run Trail but the rather charming red-painted wooden station which was completed in 1918 is still there and serves as home to the Railway Museum as well as the Tourist Office in season. It is a Registered Heritage Property within Halifax Regional Municipality.
Before you get to the building itself you will pass a couple of locomotives and a few bits of rolling stock, none of which you can apparently get into. I know that these type of projects need money and manpower but all the external exhibits here looked like they could have done with a bit of work which is rather a shame. My favourite was the monster snow-plough which is pictured here.
The Museum itself is not that large but there are certainly plenty of things to see here, mostly smaller artefacts with a few quirky things like a collection of typewriters and there is even a model railway layout. I think my favourite was a menu from the Cornwallis Hotel on the day of the Coronation of H.M Queen Elizabeth the Second in 1953. The most expensive item offered was a whole cold boiled lobster with all the trimmings for the princely sum of $2:10. I wish it cost that now!
The Museum was staffed by a very pleasant young person, presumably a student making a bit of holiday money and whilst there is no admission fee, donations are obviously most welcome. It won’t take long to look round here but if you have an interest in railways then it is certainly worth a stop.
We still weren’t 30 miles distant from where we had started and we were approaching a settlement called Head of Jeddore, again a corrupted indigenous name as Jeddore is phonetically a L’nu (Mi’kmaq) surname.
I have written much in previous posts about the friendly relations between the French Acadians and the local people but regrettably my countrymen did not seem to enjoy such a cordial interaction.
In 1722 the Abenaki, another local tribe, created a blockade around Annapolis Royal, where we have already been and took hostages all along the coast. The British retaliated by taking 22 Mi’kmaq hostage at Annapolis Royal. This was all part of what became known as Dummer’s War amongst many other names and which lasted until 1725 when a relative peace was brokered.
There were many atrocities on both sides and during one naval engagement here at Jeddore the British grenaded the indigenous boats and then shot the survivors in the water. They decapitated the corpses and put the heads on spikes outside Canso (up the coast a bit).
If you thought that scalping was only practiced by the indigenous people’s think again. The British were scalping their defeated enemies in what really was an unedifying period of our history in Canada.
Today, Head of Jeddore is a community of about 500 spread out along Trunk Road 7 and which is remarkably still in the Halifax Regional Municipality although it looked anything but municipal to me.
What brought us to another abrupt halt was not any mechanical failure on Betsy’s part but the sign you can see here. We simply had to take the short detour down the cul-de-sac and therefore strangely named Navy Pool Loop to have a look. It doesn’t loop anywhere, it just stops at the water’s edge!
Here is what I wrote about the museum.
Yet another excellent Museum.
“Whilst driving East along Highways 207 and 7 East from Halifax we had already visited two excellent Museums in the space of a very few hours at Chezzetcook and the Railway Museum and I was a little concerned that this might prove to be Museum overkill for one day but I need not have worried as we both thoroughly enjoyed it.
I am referring to the Fisherman’s Life Museum which is a very short distance off Highway 7. We parked up and walked past the barn that had some interesting old vehicles in it including a lovely antique sleigh.
Stopping briefly to pet some rather cute lambs we went past the “outhouse” complete with crescent moon aperture cut into the door and went to the main building where we were met by a very friendly lady. We did not have to pay as we had the Nova Scotia Museum Pass which offers admission to 27 different properties and represents excellent value if you are going to be visiting a number of them. Otherwise admission prices were very reasonable.
The house was once home to a chap called Myers, his wife and no less than 13 daughters (no sons). I would love to know statistically what are the chances of that.
It is furnished as it would have been in the early part of the 20th century and there seems to be a strong emphasis on local crafts such as rug making and particularly quilting with a very fine collection of contemporary quilts in one of the bedrooms. It appears the skill is still very much practiced in this area.
Other highlights for me included the old telephone and the organ in the parlour which is still functioning although none of us could actually play it!
As well as the main building you can have a look at the henhouse, the well, woodshed, dairy and even go down to the wharf and fish house where the good Mr. Myers would have conducted his summer occupation of fishing. In winter he worked in the woods.
Regrettably the weather that day was pretty dismal and we wanted to make a bit of progress so we didn’t bother with that. Unfortunately, because of the very nature of the place it is only partially wheelchair accessible.
I mentioned that the weather was bad and seemed to be getting worse, it really had closed in and Lynne had decided on a campsite for the night, which I shall tell you about later, but it was still some distance off and we certainly were not going to get anything like the late daylight we had enjoyed at these latitudes on fine days but some things have to be done and it was that time again.
A very good British pub.
“It was getting to about that time of the afternoon, after a long day of sightseeing mostly in Museums, the time of day I call “beer o’clock” and so we had decided to stop at the first pub we found which happened to be the Henley House pub and restaurant in Sheet Harbour.
The first thing I noticed was that in additon to the Canadian flag they were flying a Union flag and a Welsh national flag. I subsequently found out that the reason for this is that both the owner and chef are Welsh. Well, that made me feel right at home before I even crossed the threshold.
When we went inside we met with a very smart bar area although it seemed rather more set up as a restaurant than a bar. I have subsequently discovered that it is a recently (2009) re-furbished private dwelling and it is done to a very high standard indeed.
We perched ourselves at the bar and were greeted with typical Nova Scotian hospitality by the server. I ordered a pint of beer which was well-kept and served and Lynne had a soft drink as she had to drive.
There was a TV showing football (soccer) although a bit of a look round showed that they have regular live entertainment there with pub quizzes, karaoke, live music etc. as well. As it was “knocking off work” time I was a little suprised that we had the place just about to ourselves although it was a midweek evening and perhaps people here don’t drink so much in the week.
I did have a bit of a wander about outside and saw that the rear of the premises backs onto the Northwest Arm of Sheet Harbour proper although regrettably the pretty abysmal weather did not do it any sort of justice. It must be delightful on a good day.
The premises is wheelchair / stroller accessible, there is ample parking and the toilets are absolutely spotless.
Although we didn’t eat there the menu looked to have all the usual favourites on there and also mentions catering for customers requiring a gluten-free meal if that is an issue for you.
There is just one thing to beware of and that is that the premises is open seven days a week in July and August but at other times of the year it is only open Thursday to Sunday. All in all, this is a very fine pub and I have no hesitation in recommending it.
We didn’t stay too long as we had a campground to get to and eventually we arrived at St. Mary’s Campground on the outskirts of Sherbrook which had a beautiful situation on the St. Mary’s River, not that we could see it in the murk that evening. I’ll show you it later but I shall tell you now that regrettably, as of 2021, it appears to be permanently shut hence there is no website given.
Once checked in, it was just a matter of sitting tight with a few drinks, watching some of the TV series Lynne had on her computer and Fergy eventually getting his chef’s hat on and walking the three feet from the table to the galley!
Dinner that evening was another one of those leisurely protracted affairs as my images indicate that the starter was served at 2246 and the main at 0153 the next morning! It allows the digestive system to work properly, you see.
Having studied it over and over I am at a complete loss as to what that starter may have been but I reckon the main was grilled chicken, honey-glazed carrots (actually maple syrup glazed no doubt) and one of the flavoured mashes I am so fond of.
In the previous post I promised you probably the best experience of the whole trip and we were in the right location, had even driven through it but not yet explored it. I know, I am such a tease. If you want to find out what it is then stay tuned and spread the word.