The idea of a holiday in Canada was one that had crossed my mind a few times in the past, without me ever getting past the vague planning stage. It always seemed too far away, too expensive, or just too much like hard work... but then back in early 2008, I happened to see
a mail from Condor offering cheap flights to destinations all over the world. Normally I wouldn't bother clicking on any of the links, but one line in particular caught my eye: "Fly to Halifax, Nova Scotia, for €99 per person". And there really were still seats available at that price - not during high season of course, but we'd heard that autumn on the eastern seaboard really is a great time to visit, so this was an offer we couldn't refuse. Should you be considering a visit to Nova Scotia, don't be put off by the idea of travelling outside of the traditional summer season. We had a fantastic time, enjoyed the brilliant scenery with warm and sunny weather in relative peace and quiet, and had the bonus of seeing the full palette of gorgeous autumn colours in the province
's extensive woodlands
In fact, there is a huge amount of stuff to see and do all over Nova Scotia, far more than we had time to fit in during our stay and it is now right up there at the top of the list of places to go back to, to try and fill in the gaps! It is the second smallest province in Canada
but enjoys a pleasant
cultural diversity, thanks largely to a history rich in upheaval and conflict. After the first Europeans arrived, the territory changed hands on several occasions and the various waves of immigration from the USA
(I was surprised to discover
this but immediately after independence, many loyalist settlers chose to move north of the border and set up home in the British colonies that were to become Canada), Great Britain, France
and various other European
nations have bequeathed a complex history of immigration that has led to this vibrant cultural mix, with the many small communities intent on preserving as much as possible of their heritage
The area was of course home to indigenous peoples before the first French settlers claimed it for their crown
under the name of 'Acadia' and the local government is now supportive of the rights of the the Mi'kmaq nation and their attempts to preserve their culture and language (for example, in Nova Scotia October is celebrated as Mi'kmaq History Month). We didn't have a chance to visit any of their historical centres in the province and I have to admit that the closest
we got to seeing anything of the Mi'kmaq people's culture was a visit to the shopping mall
outside Halifax that bears the name of the tribe...
Although the territory of Acadia passed to British control during the 18th century (leading to the scattering of the majority of the French population to the four winds, thus allowing English-speaking settlers to grab the best agricultural land), there is still an appreciable French-speaking presence in Nouvelle-Écosse that is fiercely protective of its language in particular, and is just now starting to make the most of tourists' interest in the varied history of the region.