By Craig Funston
Not sure if anyone really cares, but I was back east for eleven days recently. One of my daughters and her husband and kids live in Halifax. My wife and I were there for a long overdue visit, so we took in as many of the sights and sites on Prince Edward Island (PEI) and Nova Scotia (NS).
Quite frankly, I will get over the jet lag, but I may never get over the trip—all in a good way.
We got off to a bad start, mind you, and I was hoping that it wasn’t a harbinger of things to come: One, we weren’t assigned a seat, and ended up being the last two people on the plane; two, because of that, we sat in Row 32, which, in case you didn’t know, was right near the toilet. With my luck, I sat in the middle seat, with no way to stretch my legs. Every flush and grunt startled me, so it was a short night.
By the time we got to Halifax, guess what? I found the rain we’ve been missing here in Alberta: It was at the Halifax International Airport. I was never so glad to see such a torrent.
Our first major excursion was checking out PEI: Everything that is said about PEI is an understatement. The houses are neater and brighter, the sand is cleaner and whiter, and the people are more friendly and more accommodating.
We took the Confederation Bridge there and the ferry back. I was sorry to leave, but happy to reflect on it. I would move there in a heartbeat. The turn-of-the-century houses were breathtaking and enough to woo me over. They are occasional here but plentiful there.
And inexpensive! I could sell my acreage and buy two or three of them in most places.
Next stop was Cape Breton Island. We allowed ourselves only one day there—kids and grand-kids being a priority—so we checked out Sydney and Louisbourg (pronounced “loo-ee berg,” not “lewis berg”–French, you know). That could have been an all-day excursion on its own.
The fortress was a testimony to French ingenuity, British persistence, followed by French courage, then back to British aggression. No time or space to develop that thought, but I do have more fodder for my Socials 7-9 class.
They even had people in period costumes—just not sure which period, though. I think is was History.
Both my daughter (great-great-great-grandmother’s side) and son-in-law (great-great-great-grandfather’s side) have deep roots in Nova Scotia, having early ancestors landing in Truro and Lunenberg, respectively, in the 1760’s. (If you or yours have roots in either of these places, and your name sounds like Johnson or Mosher, we may be related.)
Hank Snow’s “I’ve Been Everywhere, Man” comes to mind when I think of our visits to Truro, Amherst, Halifax, Peggy’s Cove, Wolfville, Canning, Chester, and Lunenberg. Snow was a bona fide Nova Scotian himself and may have travelled the same routes as we did. Visiting those places made me want to sing.
I also know the French loved it: What’s a trip to the east without seeing that fortress at Louisbourg, after having relocated from Placentia, Newfoundland; or the fertile fields of Acadia, one of Canada’s most prolific crop garden spots? What we “British” did to the French was unconscionable. I made sure I wore my Irish t-shirt the whole time, just in case anyone was looking at me.
I even stuck a shamrock in my ear just for good measure. But I probably didn’t have to dye my hair green.
The downtown Halifax harbour was as funky, historical, and refreshing as any harbourfront I have been to. Okay, that’s not saying much, if you think in terms of Camrose, Two Hills and Grande Prairie. But the point is, there was live music, tourist traps, food markets, harbour cruises, and scores of two- hundred-year-old buildings surrounding the port.
You might say that it was a cheaper version of London, and a cooler version of Victoria.
The trip home was almost as eventful as the trip out there. We came home in two stages—Halifax to Toronto, then Toronto to Calgary. We were assigned different seats, so if we didn’t want to talk to each other, no one would notice it. I think we were on speaking terms; I just don’t recall talking about it.
On the second leg of the trip I sat beside someone who looked like “Abdul from Libya”–or so it seemed. I envisioned having a hijacker as a seatmate and going down in flames, landin’ in Brandon. I’m writing this, so I must have made it out alive.
What I just wrote is called race profiling (sorry), but in these days of 9-11, ISIS and “Black Lives Matter” anarchy, it’s hard not to think like that. But what do I know? I’m a third generation Irish immigrant, with green streaks in my hair.
If PEI were a woman, I’d marry her—but I’d have to divorce Alberta first. But that’s not going to happen anytime soon. Alberta’s been a great marriage, as such, for these past thirteen-plus years, and I’m not dropping her now.
But if it ever happens, you can blame it on the “Bossa Nova (Scotia).”