On the way back down from Cape Breton, we stopped at one of the cooler attractions on the trip, Genora Distillery. It is the only single malt whiskey distillery in North America. The whole place was fascinating. The water comes from the local glen and they import all the peeted barley from Scotland to cook it up and age it on the western coast of Cape Breton. Moreover, since the delicate elixir hails from “New Scotland” it cannot be referred to as the real MacCoy, as it were, which was news to me. Still there is no blending with this “Not-Scotch,” as I liked to call it.
I have to seriously wonder who dreamed up the process to make whiskey, because it is a little crazy complicated. Moreover, Glenora’s variety was wicked expensive. I guess it has to be considering they were up and running for ten years before they really even had a product. Gallons of moonshine, year after year, distilled and loaded into oak barrels bought from Jack Daniels in Tennessee. It ran the first owners of the joint into bankruptcy. It was such a problem that the new owners started dripping off a little extra so that they could sell some of the un-aged alcohol, which is really little more than moonshine. Apparently, their “Silver,” as they call it, is quite popular with the locals, not to mention a whole lot more affordable.
We drove down the western side of the mainland once we left the island. One thing was for sure, for most of the journey, it was the road less traveled, and for good reason. Certainly, driving south along most of the Gloosap Trail was a little depressing. In fact, Ali quickly referred to it as the Gumdrop Trail (gumdrop is our code for bulls***). It seemed like it was one run down farm house after another, albeit with a few miles in between them. It wasn’t really until we got on the southern side of the Minas Basin, part of the Bay of Fundy, that things really turned up and got a whole lot more interesting. Our last couple of nights we stayed in the little town of Wolfville, which was a fantastic way to end our stay up North.
Home to wineries and apple orchards, the sleepy little town is also host to Acadian University and the Atlantic Theatre Festival. It was amazingly quaint and we had plenty of time to explore leisurely. We even took in a little theatre, which is beginning to be a regular occurrence when we are on trips. We saw an admirable production of Noises Off one evening, while there. Produced in the university’s theatre space, the professional production was good, not great. There were definitely moments of great humor and places where the cast was really firing the comic bits with precision, but it was a bit uneven.
Also, in Wolfville we got to visit a fantastic local winery. Gaspereau Winery hasn’t been operating for very long, but they have quickly assembled an impressive operation. For one, the place is gorgeous, from the vineyards to the main, little plant it may not be terribly big, yet it really is beautiful, as you can see. Plus, the tour they give was great. We got to taste nearly everything they produce, reds, whites, desserts, you name it. It was a good thing we ate before we arrived. The only thing we didn’t get to test for free was the ice wine, which is a rather expensive variety. I probably learned more on that tour about the subtleties of winemaking and the whole process involved with the different varieties, than I have on any other tour. The wine was pretty good, as well. So good, in fact, we bought a whole mixed case of the stuff. After a few purchases at the not-scotch distillery and the winery, Ali began referring to our honeymoon as the booze tour.
Our final stop in the Wolfville area was at Grand Pre, originally an Acadian stronghold, now a memorial to those who suffered during le Grand Dérangement, or Great Upheaval. After the British took control of the Canadian maritime provinces, they decided they weren’t so crazy about the French speaking folk that were inhabiting the area, along with the Natives. Interestingly, Acadians really didn’t consider themselves French, even though they spoke the language. They had been there so long and had good relations with the Natives. They generally considered themselves neutral to the storied conflicts between the two great European powers. Yet, in the mid 1700s, the Brits decided the Acadians looked French, spoke French, and were on land that was now a British colony, so they might as well be French. And that was simply no good. So the Brits seized the Acadian’s land, packed them all up on boats, and deported them to just about any place but France. Why strengthen the enemy, right?
Now I had recently gained a cursory familiarity with the le Grand Dérangement, at least the ethnic expulsion part, but that was about it. Also, we ventured through some Acadian areas last time we were in Nova Scotia, even getting a little insight from a local Acadian fisherman. What got more interesting to me was that this is where we in the States got all the Cajuns. I had previously wondered about this possibility. Little did I know that I was on to something, since one of the best receiving ports for the deportees would prove to be New Orleans. Some places, like some of the southern coastal colonies simply wouldn’t take them. When you think about it all makes perfect sense. The people from Acadia were often referred to simply as Cadians. So with time and some local Louisiana color and dialect the name and culture of the deportee Cadian morphed into the current Cajun.
So, Grand Pre is a memorial site, with a museum and memorial church that was constructed to emulate the style of church that would have been seen when the Minas Basin was part of what was Acadia. The exhibits were pretty cool and I thoroughly enjoyed the place, and Ali even let me read just about everything in the place. Plus, get a load of the post card good looks of the grounds.
Before we knew it our trip was over and it was time to head back to the States. All in all it was a pretty fun trip. We certainly drove a lot and the last leg to get back to the ferry in Yarmouth was a little long. We had to get up and get moving a whole lot earlier than either of us would have liked. Still we made it back to Maine and had time to wander around Portland for awhile before heading home. Like I said, one of the great things already proven is that Ali and I can find a way to have a pretty good time almost anywhere.