Sunday, June 3, 2012

The twenty-first luminous thing...

...lupines! I have to make it lupines, as I've taken so many photos of them. And they do seem to have their own kind of illumination, spires of light growing wild all over the Nova Scotian countryside.

I took a walk by myself this morning after breakfast, down a trail running along where the Old Dominion and Atlantic Railroad used to run. I walked an hour to an abandoned lighthouse and back, through aisles of the ubiquitous and never-ending Nova Scotian trees, the path side and forests decorated with wildflowers. Occasionally the trees broke and I had a view of the Bay at high tide. The trail ended both at the lighthouse and at the Bear River, where I could see the highway 101 bridge. It was a quiet walk, everyplace here is so quiet, I heard my sneakers on the sandy trail, an occasional blackfly, some people gardening, a car going by on the highway every so often. It was a lovely immersion into the countryside here. I had glimpses of summer cottages, boats, backyards, wild places tucked away. I saw the sweet-scented phlox, garden-lupin (lupines), cow parsnips, azaleas, rhododendrons, purple columbines, and yellow goat's beard, as well as tiny blue and white flowers I didn't know and the ghosts of Queen Anne's lace. (Queen Anne has left her mark all over this province.)


These are photos from the walk, including lots of lupines, glimpses of the Bay, wooden garden structures, a blue-doored church, an abandoned lighthouse. This seems typical coastal forest habitat from what we've seen so far...

Back at the Inn and its lovely gardens of poppies, lupines, peonies, wegelia, lilacs, roses, irises...

Just a bit later we drove to Bear River, a small First Nation town on the Bear River, originally we're told "LeBere" River, named after Louis LeBere who first explored it. The town is built on stilts on the river, originally to work on enormous tall sailing ships who came up river with goods. When the tide comes in, the shops and restaurants seem to be floating on the water, and when it goes out, they're left high over mud flats.

We went to the Flight of Fancy, a craft shop whose owner, Rob, has for 13 years brought together the best work of Nova Scotian (and sometimes other Canadian) artisans. Now 72, he works there about ten hours a day while also traveling up to 600 miles to find stones on which to paint his detailed birds. You'll get some idea of his shop from the blurry photo below (oops), and a sense of him in his non-blurry photo!

After Flight, we wanted tea, and went over to Myrtle and Rosie's Cafe for cake and ice cream and tea...

Off then to the Bear River Winery. The legend goes that Louis LeBere (remember him?) planted in 1605 the grape vines he had brought from France along the banks of Bear River. He wrote home to say he'd planted the vines "along the river I explored," which is widely taken to mean this bank on this river.  That makes this winery, in some respects, the oldest in North America. Today the winery uses only the grapes it grows on its seven and a half acres to make its wine, in slender bottles with funky labels and names (Blackfly pinot noir, Yellowlegs chardonnay). Yes, we are bringing a few home! Nice people, from Nova Scotia and Richmond, Virginia.

Now off to Fort Anne in Annapolis Royal. But first, a geography refresher. The resolution here isn't great (thanks, wikipedia), but you'll see where Digby is on the west coast of Nova Scotia. Annapolis Royal, and thus Fort Anne, is along an inlet of the Bay of Fundy "up" the Bay from Digby (northeast, that is). Four thousand years ago, the Mi'kmaq (say "mikmaw) indians used this location as a stopping place in their voyages. In 1605, a few years before the English settled Jamestown, the French settled here. They also settled at a nearby town called Port-Royal. In 1613, an expedition from Jamestown, Virginia, burned Port-Royal, an attack marking the start of 150 years of conflict between Britain and France for control of the region. In 1621, James I of England issued Sir William Alexander the charter of New Scotland—Nova Scotia—granting him the lands of modern-day Nova Scotia, New Brunswick, the Gaspe Peninsula, and Prince Edward Island. In 1629, Sir William's son settled at the site of Fort Anne. It was a short-lived venture, but it gave Nova Scotia its name, flag and coat of arms. One of two copies of the original James I charter is on display at the museum at Fort Anne. The French returned a few years later, and expanded on the Scots' fort. Star-shaped forts like Fort Anne were widely built, they provided large areas of crossfire and were more easily defended.

The original fort was originally constructed of earth, with wooden retaining walls where needed. Many of these still remain, as do a few of the later buildings that have been excavated. The current cemetery is mainly British, but the Acadian (French) graveyard remains, although its wooden markers have long since eroded away.

Photos follow--the large white house is a rebuilt garrison house and houses s small museum.

Driving back to the Inn, we noticed the Bear River at low tide. Below are two photos of the Bear River at different tide levels: the top one is high tide, the bottom at low tide.

We had a quick rest at the Inn and then drove into Digby to have dinner and Mag Pyes. It's a charming small space run by Mag and Tony, and we had freshly caught halibut, a handful of scallops, and dessert. We'd forgotten our bottle of wine, but Mag and Tony had our back and produced a "secret" bottle of wine for us.

After dinner we saw the weather was getting ugly, turning the Bay green and whipping the flags around and spattering the windows with rain. We went back to the Inn where Rosie, the Inn dog, greeted us at the door along with Fred, a cat visiting for the week. We watched Rosie give Darren the innkeeper "high fives" for her dog biscuit.

The motto of the real Magpie family (England)

On this cute note, I'm off to bed. Abandoned rail lines, ancient forts, towns on stilts, the oldest wine in north america, and a wonderful dinner have left me exhausted!

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