Hello From Nova Scotia Driving On The Evangeline Trail From Annapolis Royal To Yarmouth

I had really enjoyed my breakfast at​ the Garrison​ House B&B in​ Annapolis Royal, but my second day of​ explorations had begun and​ no time was to​ be wasted. I had a​ big drive ahead of​ me and​ my first quick stop was at​ Fort Anne where I met Alan Melanson, the Parks Canada Ranger and​ expert historian who had guided the entertaining and​ informative Candlelight Graveyard Tour last night.

He had promised me yesterday that he would show me the Fort Anne Heritage Tapestry, a​ collective effort of​ more than 100 volunteers who brought 4 centuries of​ history to​ life. 95 different colours of​ Persian wool were interwoven and​ stitched to​ form a​ historic tableau that is​ unique in​ Canada. it​ is​ about 18 feet long and​ 8 feet high and​ even Queen Elizabeth herself, on​ one of​ her travels to​ Canada, made a​ few official stitches in​ this​ tapestry. Alan himself, as​ a​ 9th generation​ Acadian, added to​ the artwork by stitching a​ few drops of​ red blood in​ the section​ on​ the Acadian deportation.

Pressed for​ time I thanked Alan and​ made my way to​ another unique facility in​ Annapolis Royal: the Tidal Power Generation​ Station. Les West who works in​ the tourism office located on​ the main​ floor of​ the power plant, gave me a​ quick half hour introduction​ to​ the only tidal power generating plant in​ Canada, one of​ only two in​ the world. Les explained that Nova Scotia uses a​ variety of​ electricity generating methods, including oil, gas, hydro, wind and​ tidal power. Its topography with its low-lying hills is​ not perfectly suited for​ hydro generation, so during the 1970s, when oil prices were really high, the government devised plans to​ take advantage of​ tidal energy.

The Annapolis Royal site was chosen due to​ its high tides and​ a​ permanent causeway was built across the Annapolis River. a​ stainless steel straight-flow turbine was installed by a​ Swiss engineering firm and​ from 1980 onward tidal energy was taken advantage of. Today the Annapolis Royal Tidal Generating Plant produces enough energy for​ about 4500 homes in​ the area. More power is​ brought in​ as​ back-up when the tidal power plant does not produce enough energy.

Les also explained that the construction​ of​ the power plant and​ the permanent barrier in​ the river has had significant effects on​ the eco-system in​ the Annapolis River: the river has silted up considerably and​ sediment builds up at​ a​ rate of​ about 6 inches a​ month. Because of​ the significant ecological consequences of​ this​ construction​ it​ is​ unlikely that a​ similar project will be built in​ the future. However, electricity-generating projects that do not create permanent barriers may still be considered in​ areas of​ strong tidal current flows. Lessons have been learnt from the realization​ that even though tidal power in​ theory is​ a​ renewable, green source of​ energy, the design of​ the power plant can still have a​ major effect on​ the local environment.

It was time to​ say goodbye to​ Annapolis Royal after an​ interesting 20 hours or​ so in​ this​ historic region​ and​ make my way westwards towards the Bear River Heritage and​ Cultural Center where I would receive an​ interesting introduction​ to​ Nova Scotia’s Mi’kmaq culture (written up in​ a​ separate article). I set off on​ my coastal drive through rolling green hills whose colours were just changing. Tidy little villages such as​ Upper Clements and​ Clementsport were flying by until I turned northwards into the Bear River reserve for​ my visit at​ Bear River Cultural and​ Heritage Centre.

After my two hour introduction​ to​ native culture in​ Nova Scotia I set off again​ on​ my westward drive and​ enjoyed the beautiful views along the meandering Bear River. I linked up with the coastal road again​ and​ slowly made my way into Digby, a​ local fishing town and​ a​ major settlement in​ the area. I parked my car and​ decided to​ take a​ quick stroll through Digby on​ a​ beautiful sunny and​ warm afternoon.

Digby was settled in​ 1783 by the United Empire Loyalists under the leadership of​ Sir Robert Digby. The town’s economy is​ based on​ two major industries: fishing (Digby is​ famous for​ its scallop fishing fleet) and​ tourism. as​ early as​ the late 1920, a​ big resort called The Pines was built on​ the outskirts of​ town, and​ to​ this​ day Digby is​ a​ popular tourist destination. One of​ the major attractions in​ the area are the world’s biggest tides in​ the Bay of​ Fundy. Digby also hosts an​ annual Scallop Days Festival which introduces tourists to​ the history and​ heritage of​ the town.

I strolled along the waterfront and​ noticed the many waterfront restaurants that specialize in​ so many of​ Nova Scotia’s marine delights including lobster, crabs, shrimps, scallops and​ various types of​ fish. I had a​ quick soup and​ salad at​ the Shoreline Restaurant and​ enjoyed my lunch with a​ nice view of​ the waterfront. Less than an​ hour later I hopped back into my car to​ continue my journey to​ Yarmouth.

The coastal road turned into a​ highway which I exited at​ St. Bernard where one of​ Nova Scotia’s biggest stone churches is​ located. I had entered the St. Marys Bay area which ended up being the final settlement area for​ many of​ the Acadians, French settlers who had been deported as​ part of​ the Great Expulsion​ in​ the mid 18th century. After having been deported all over North America, many Acadians returned to​ Nova Scotia over the following decades. Although they did not settle in​ their original agricultural farming areas, as​ they had been assigned to​ English settlers, many Acadians located their permanent residences along the northwest shore of​ Nova Scotia and​ became fishermen.

The Acadian settlers were devout Catholics and​ many villages boast magnificent churches, many of​ them made from wood. One of​ the finest examples is​ St. Mary’s Church at​ Church Point, the largest wooden church in​ North America. Its bell tower is​ an​ impressive 56 metres (185 feet) high. The Centre Acadien de Université Sainte-Anne is​ located right next to​ this​ church, and​ it​ is​ Nova Scotia’s only French language university, right in​ the heart of​ Acadian culture.

The entire region​ is​ called Clare and​ denotes the Acadian heritage area. Acadian culture is​ celebrated every year in​ August when the world’s oldest festival, the Festival Acadien de Clare, celebrates Acadian heritage, traditions, food and​ music. The Musique de la Baie festival takes place every year from April to​ August and​ celebrates Acadian culture and​ folklore.

Further south, the village of​ Mavillette boasts a​ special attraction: a​ 2 km long sandy beach that attracts swimmers, surfers and​ sunbathers. Boardwalks across the grass-covered dunes provide access to​ Mavillette Beach which offers a​ great view of​ the Cape St. Mary’s fishing wharf and​ lighthouse. a​ bird-watching platform provides a​ good view of​ various indigenous and​ migratory birds.

As the late afternoon​ sun was starting to​ cast long shadows I made my way further south and​ drove along the rocky, sparsely treed coastline and​ decided to​ follow a​ curvy road without knowing exactly where it​ would take me. Fog was rolling in​ and​ the sky was becoming more ominous. as​ the road came to​ a​ dead end I realized that I had arrived at​ the Cape Forchu Lighthouse, with its rare apple core design, which is​ situated on​ a​ dramatic coastline with interesting rock formations.

The first lighthouse was constructed here in​ 1840 in​ order to​ protect vessels entering the Yarmouth Harbour and​ today the complex is​ a​ historic site. The little museum and​ gift shop were closed and​ the lighthouse appeared rather lonesome on​ its rocky outcropping. The dense blanket of​ fog gave it​ a​ very mysterious appearance.

It was starting to​ get dark and​ it​ was time to​ drive into the town of​ Yarmouth where I would be able to​ settle in​ comfortably for​ the evening at​ the MacKinnon-Cann Inn, a​ unique historical property. Time to​ check in…

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