blending an assortment of thoughts and experiences for my friends, relations and kindred spirit

blending an assortment of thoughts and experiences for my friends, relations and kindred spirit
By Alison Hobbs, blending a mixture of thoughts and experiences for friends, relations and kindred spirits.

Wednesday, June 28, 2017

More Acadia

Mavillette Beach

June 27th, 2017

Today's drive was up the coast to Digby and back, a super day! I know that other people will tell us we should have gone through Annapolis Royal to the UNESCO heritage site of Grand Pré to see the more famous Acadian territory at the far end of the Annapolis Valley, but why tire ourselves out when a more restful journey can be so satisfactory? This was our third day of sunny, bright weather, such luck!

Yesterday's hotel breakfast had not been worth repeating so we trotted across the road to Jungle Jim's where the food on offer was more appetising. Then we headed north along the "Evangeline Trail" (Rte. 1), which runs through all the little towns and villages on that part of the coast. The coves and headlands, churches, stores and fishing harbours along the road were named in a mixture of French and English: Port Maitland, Riviere des Saumons, Mavillette, Cape St. Mary's, St. Alphonse, L'Anse aux Ours, New Edinburgh, Brighton, Weymouth and so on. The Acadian flag and Vive l'Acadie! signs were in evidence everywhere, so I assume the locals are mostly Acadiens, with surnames specific to the region, Robichau, Doucet, Poirier, Leblanc, Comeau ... We heard the locals speaking; their dialect didn't ressemble any French I'd heard before. They say that even Quebecers have trouble understanding it. The roadside churches were either modest United Baptist or (the enormous ones) Catholic.

Catching a glimpse of the beach at Mavillette as we approached it, we pulled off onto the side road that led there, what a worthwhile detour! The tide had gone out leaving steaming sands, little waves breaking in the distance and big pebbles near the sand dunes where fragrant wild roses were in bloom, irresistible! We saw a motel and restaurant (Cape View) on the grassy hill above the bay and thought it would be good to stay or eat there. As it happened, we were at that very restaurant this evening, invited there by George and Heather, seeing that same splendid view through the windows as the dazzling sun began to drop behind the cape.

On our first visit to the beach we tore ourselves away to press on along the road as far as Digby where we guessed we'd find lunch and further interesting things to see. The most interesting thing was the arrival of the lobster boats after their fishing expedition this morning. The lobsters were still wriggling their claws as the buckets they were in were hoisted up to the white trucks waiting to weigh them and load them on the wharf. The white trucks then catch the twice-daily ferry to Boston, where there's a good market for them. The fishermen in their dark clothes looked as if they needed a wash and a rest now. The decks were rusty and untidy, but the men knew what they were doing with their ropes. They were dealing with freshly caught fish packed in crates of ice as well. We had learned about the lobster trade from the local bakery where the baker, from Quebec, chatted to me for a long time in French after his wife had made us nice sandwiches for lunch. We were the only customers. She was from Quebec too, but from the very far north.

Weighing the lobsters

View from the Memorial Garden, Digby

Bear River
We sat in the memorial garden looking out over Digby Sound before realising that our parking time by the lighthouse had long expired; we weren't penalised and visited the tourist information centre before we left town. George K had recommended we visit Bear River a short distance inland, so I asked about that. Bear River is in fact tidal and the village of that name used to have no less than five shipbuilding wharfs. Now it is a quiet place, all but deserted on a Tuesday afternoon in June, although this is where tourists (during the short tourist season of July to September) choose to tour the local wineries and arts and crafts studios. The white clapboard United Church with a creeper growing all over its front door, was for sale. The riverside houses are on stilts because the river rises and falls by 20ft each tide. The water was in when we came by; we sat by it in the shade of the garden by the war memorial, that used to be a graveyard, read the names of the local dead, and could see the remains of the wooden wharfs rotting underwater.

Chez l'Ami
In the second half of the afternoon we ambled our way back to Mavillette beach where we'd arranged to meet George and his wife, stopping opposite one of the massive Catholic churches with pro-life slogans on its notice board for an icecream cone from a roadside poutine shack called Chez l'Ami. We had time to see the lighthouse at Cape St. Mary too, before finishing our journey along the little beach road. The lighthouse is in need of a new coat of paint, but fully functional. We were surprised to find considerable, pointed cliffs on the point, that couldn't be seen from the other side.

Cape St. Mary lighthouse
We parked by the sand dunes again, near the Cape View restaurant, and I went down to the sand to take my shoes off and run to the waves (wavelets). As I did so, George and Heather reached the rendezvous as well, and Heather promptly came to join me with bare feet in the cold water. She says that it isn't usually warm enough for swimming in this area till September, although this year, her sister has already "been in". In the restaurant we sat by the windows, of course, and ate well with some beer for the men and wine for the women. On the back of the menu was quite a comprehensive history of the Acadians, which made informative reading. None of us ordered the Rappie Pie, a local speciality that involves squeezing the juice out of grated potatoes and "cooking the hell out of it" with two kinds of meat or meat plus fish, although we learned about it. I had the battered scallops, that tasted nice and fresh, while George kept us captivated with his story of survival after his plane once crashed in the forest, in the 1980s.

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