Nova Scotia, the ocean playground of Canada and home to the ethnic Scots, is supremely charming in its natural beauty and hospitality
10/3/2017 5:55:02 PM
|written By : Kamala Subramanian|
My husband and I are a retired couple who enjoy the privilege of holidaying abroad. Thanks to our children settled in foreign lands – one in the east, the other in the west.
Last summer we were on a holiday to Singapore. During the trip I had the opportunity of being a part of the first Asian Women Writers’ Literary Festival hosted by India Se. I was lucky to be introduced to many Asian women writers including Constance Singham and Josephine Chia, the renowned Singaporean writers.
Having been a student of history and literature, I got deeply interested in the works of these writers. Josephine Chia’s book, When a Flower Dies, captivated me as a historical novel written in simple yet effective language. The book gave a glimpse of the evolution and growth of Singapore from a small fishing village to one of world’s most developed nations. At the close of the book, I could feel the pulse of the Singaporeans, the emotional upheavals that they went through as they passed from one stage of development to another.
This year we visited our second daughter who lives in Halifax, Nova Scotia, known as the ocean playground of Canada. She had cleared the bar examination of Nova Scotia and the call to the bar ceremony was to be held on June 9. It was imperative that we be a part of the proud moment.
We planned a 70-day trip and, on May 10, flew to Halifax via London. As we landed at Stanfield International Airport and walked towards the immigration counter, we were welcomed by smiling officials. Moving out, we met our daughter and son-in-law who were eagerly waiting for us. The weather was cool, a light Atlantic breeze blew, and we did need to put on our light woollens to keep ourselves warm. As we set on our drive home, we saw lush green Christmas trees as never before on either side of the road. Intermittently, there were stretches of fresh-water bodies dotted with colorful boats – an enthralling sight.
During the weeks that followed, we discovered the beauty of Halifax as a port city with one of the world’s best natural harbours. Since my husband and I had spent most of our lives along the ports of Mumbai and Vizag, it gave us immense pleasure to walk down the Halifax pier and watch the big ships anchored. We enjoyed the ferry trips to Dartmouth on the eastern side of Halifax and also the rides down the shore on sail boats to catch a glimpse of Halifax from the sea.
No doubt, Halifax is rich in scenic beauty, but it surprised us to note that the city also had a great history. We decided to explore it. We gathered a lot of information about the important role it played during the two world wars on account of its strategic geographical location. We then visited the Halifax citadel, a natural historical site situated in downtown overlooking the harbour. It brought history alive with the sights and sounds of the 19th century Halifax Bastion. Here we witnessed the Highlanders’ parade and the bagpipers and drummers perform their favorite regimental tunes. We strolled through the army museum on the second floor which preserves the military history of Nova Scotia and Atlantic Canada. The town clock perched on the slope of the Citadel hill has been keeping time for the citizens and the garrison since 1803 when Prince Edward of Kent put it up.
We spent a whole afternoon at the Maritime Museum which exhibits the remains of the Titanic that sank 800 miles off Halifax. It was both interesting and informative. The museum with a variety of interpretive, interactive audio visual displays gave us a complete picture of the marine heritage of Nova Scotia.
On a sunny day we walked into the public garden, which has 17 manicured acres of Victorian Garden. We also saw the Province House, “an architectural gem” as Charles Dickens described it, and St Paul’s Church, the oldest place of worship in Canada.
By the end of the first month, we were intoxicated with the charming beauty and history of Halifax.
In 1621, King James I of England had granted the territory known as Acadia to one of his Scottish courtiers, Sir William Alexander of Menstrie. It was because of Sir William that Nova Scotia, i.e, New Scotland got its name. Many of the inhabitants of Nova Scotia are of Scottish origin.
Our daughter and son-in-law insisted that a trip to Atlantic Canada would be incomplete without driving into the valley and the Cape Breton Island. They organised a two-day trip to the Annapolis valley and, later, a five-day trip to Cape Breton, which coincided with the 150th Canada Day. These were breathtaking trips which touched our aesthetic and spiritual senses.
On June 17, we left for the Annapolis valley by car. It was a 200-km drive up and down the highway cutting across the largest Christmas tree farms in the world. On reaching the valley, the road wound its way through lush green meadows and corn fields dotted with beautiful farm houses. Spring had brought tulips, and every house had colourful tulips at the entrance and olive leaf wreaths hung on the doors. The beautifully laid roads cut across ranches with stables and quaint-looking cow sheds. Here we stopped to see the robust horses and the bossy black-and-white spotted cows grazing in the warm sunshine.
Finally, we arrived at our destination -- the ashram of Bhagavan Ramana Maharshi set in an idyllic spot in the lush green valley known as Paradise. Darleen, the manager of the ashram and a great devotee of the rishi, welcomed us to the cottage attached to the ashram. Darleen was as warm and serene as one could imagine. We stayed overnight in the cottage along with other inmates who had reached there for their weekend retreat. The following morning, we went to the ashram which, though at the other end of the world, had the same aura as the rishi’s ashram in Thiruvannamalai. After a quarter of an hour’s meditation, Darleen read out a few pages from the rishi’s book. This was followed by chanting of verses and singing of devotional songs.
We then treated ourselves to a delicious breakfast and later enjoyed a south Indian feast cooked by all the inmates gathered there. It was surprising to see Darleen, a genial person, freely taking part in the cooking. After lunch we drove to the ice-cream parlour in the valley. We were served farm fresh strawberry ice cream, the taste of which still lingers in our mouths. That evening, after an early supper, we drove 10 km to the sunset point, where we watched the scarlet sun go down the horizon. This was indeed a divine sight which has been seared in our hearts.
The next morning we left the valley, bidding goodbye to Darleen. We returned to Halifax, stopping only at Tim Horton’s for a quick breakfast.