This is part of a multi-part series on Canada’s beautiful province of Nova Scotia.
“Our biggest treasure is possibly being unearthed right now,” says our guide with the Friends of Oak Island of the South Shore of Nova Scotia. Although, I’ve never heard of it, the local lore of Oak Island apparently reaches far and wide in these parts. The island is shrouded in mystery (is something ever ‘shrouded’ in anything but ‘mystery?’) and evidence has shown there is buried treasure here…and lots of it. For hundreds of years, treasure hunters have ventured to Nova Scotia to try and recover the ‘booty’, but to this day, it still remains buried. Theories abound: pirates, the Knights Templar, the Freemasons, Francis Bacon, but no one is really sure who buried this so-called loot. But, what is already a tangible treasure to Nova Scotia is its beautiful landscape and ecosystem. An area spanning five counties of this province is known as the Southwest Nova Biosphere Reserve, which is a UNESCO moniker for a region of internationally recognized natural and cultural heritage.
As of this writing, there are 580 biosphere reserves in 114 countries around the world, all working toward a common goal:
- Reducing loss of biodiversity
- Improving quality of life
- Enhancing environmental sustainability
I am spending four days driving around the circumference of this tiny province of Nova Scotia, which is Latin for ‘New Scotland’. You know, it’s kinda like Maine, but more…east. Oh, and you need a passport.
Starting in the capital city, Halifax, I could feel the influence of the sea that affects this entire area. Originally inhabited by the Mikmaq and colonists from France, Britain, and later Germany, it has a great mix of European ‘salt-of-the-earth’ folks.
“I was born in a taxi cab on this very bridge in 1954,” my driver from the airport, Brian, fittingly tells me as we cross into the city on one of two suspension bridges that span Halifax Harbor. Born and raised right here, he continues to regale me with more information than I could ever retain. But, it’s not a surprising start to a trip in a place where the people are genuinely friendly and fiercely proud of their heritage and land. The capital of Nova Scotia has the second largest natural harbor in the world (after Sydney). As a popular port-of-call, about 150 huge cruise ships pull up here during the summer season.
100 year Titanic Anniversary
This April, Halifax will be commemorating the 100-year anniversary of the sinking of the Titanic. As the city with the closest port, Halifax has one of the most moving and intimate connections with the Titanic disaster and it played a key role during the tragedy’s aftermath. Some say, that after Belfast (where the Titanic was built), Halifax is the second most important Titanic city in the world. It has three Titanic cemeteries, twenty-four Titanic sites including the recovery locations, morgues, locales for the 1997 movie, the Maritime Museum of the Atlantic’s exhibit, and the Titanic scientific exhibit at the Bedford Institute of Oceanography, which has done ground-breaking research on the Titanic. Halifax is also the birthplace of Samuel Cunard – the father of the ocean liner.
In addition to their permanent Titanic exhibit, The Maritime Museum of the Atlantic will feature the photographic installation: An Earnest Price: 150 Grave Stories. Plus there will be a special temporary exhibition Cable Ships: Connecting Halifax to Titanic and the World which will include crew diaries and mementos from their experiences with the aftermath providing a touching reminder of the ship’s tragic end and the enormity of the disaster.
The Bedford Institute of Oceanography will have a special Titanic Exhibit focusing on the re-discovery of the ship on the floor of the Atlantic in 1991, plus guided tours by the scientist and advisor to James Cameron’s Titanic and the IMAX film, Titanica.
Film festival, concerts, and conferences to commemorate and recognize the Titanic centennial.
Two cruise ships, the Balmoral and the Azamara Journey, will be calling on Halifax as part of their Titanic memorial cruise itinerary.
The “Tattoo” is the world’s largest annual, indoor show. The two-and-a-half hour family show is fast-paced – every scene only lasts about 3-6 minutes, so there is no time to get bored with acrobatic acts, modern music, contemporary dancing, trampoline routines, cutting-edge videos, bagpipes, and military traditions. In addition to the usual spectacle, this year will include a special salute to the RMS Titanic.
Now in the heart of the city, we check into the Halliburton, a classic, colonial inn turned boutique hotel built in the early 19th century. Stories, the restaurant downstairs, is making a name for itself as a destination for locals and out-of-towners. But, I did not get to eat there. We dine just a few blocks walk down the street at the modern, clubby Steakhouse, Cut. It seems a bit of a contrast from our earthy inn and the rest of the low-key city with its upscale service. But I can’t complain as I savor every morsel of the tomato & bocconcini salad, the Atlantic smoked salmon, and my sake & miso rubbed Kobe-beef rib eye steak.
After dinner, I head over to Argyle street with its row of bars and meet up with a local friend and fellow travel blogger, Cailin, at one of the coolest named bars I’ve ever been to: the Economy Shoe Shop. After a few local beers, I head back to my inn for a cozy night’s sleep, ready to explore more.