Walking Nova Scotia – Cape to Cape Post # 2

The Project

Starting in May of 2023, I am walking from The Hawk on Cape Sable Island, the southern tip of Nova Scotia, to its northern tip at Cape North on Cape Breton Island, an 1100 km trek over about 7 weeks. This is the story of part of that journey. You can see the outline of the route here.

A big thank you to everyone who has bought me a coffee over the past year.  The Buy Me a Coffee service allows patrons like you to fund writers like me, to cover things like the costs of running this blog, new shoes and gear, and journeys like this.  If that sounds like a worthy idea to you, then go ahead – keep buying me coffees.

Where am I now?

Home, in Lunenburg, where the rain is washing the blossoms off of the crab apple tree to create a pink snowfall in the drive,

and Ann has just made chocolate chip cookies – yum! 

I started on May 18 at The Hawk on Cape Sable Island and have now walked all the way to Halifax, reaching the Ferry Terminal on June 2.  At time of writing (June 3), I’m home for a couple of rest/wait-out-the-rain days. 

Where have I been?

My plan all along was to walk this journey in stages.  On May 16 I did my final pack run-through to get ready, 

and on May 17 Ann and I drove down to Barrington Passage to be ready for the big beginning.  

So between May 18 and May 28, I did Stage 1, from The Hawk on Cape Sable Island (with the Cape Sable lighthouse behind my shoulder)

to Lunenburg, covering approximately 240 km over 10 days. I walked along the Shelburne, Queens, and Lunenburg county rail trails,

as well as many kilometers of roads, passing through Barrington, Clyde River, Shelburne, Lockeport, Sable River, Port Mouton, Summerville, Liverpool, East Port Medway, Broad Cove, Petite Riviere, and LaHave along the way.

And as it turned out, had I started my walk a week later, the massive wildfire in the Barrington Lake/Shelburne area would have stopped me right at the beginning.  It would not be the only time that the God of Fools looked out for me.

(To explain, I have to think that there must be at least one god of fools in many of the world’s mythologies and theologies.  Whomever/whatever that god(s) is/was/are/were, that’s my patron saint(s), my deus stultorum.  Let’s call him/her/they “Goff”.  I picture he/her/they wearing a befuddled frown and one shoe, with a broken lace.)

While I was walking from Liverpool towards home, and during my rest day in Lunenburg, news reports escalated about two wildfire situations, one behind me in the Shelburne area which had burned some of the areas I’d just walked through, and one ahead of me north west of Halifax that threatened to block my way to the city.

During my rest day, I looked at the fire situation, and decided to continue with the second stage, following my planned route as closely as I could between Lunenburg and Halifax. I wanted to follow the rail trail to Upper Tantallon and then detour south through the Chebucto peninsula’s wilderness areas to Peggy’s Cove and back towards the city, but the wildfire situation changed rapidly as I walked.

For the first 2 days of this second stage, I was able to follow the Rum Runners Trail, reaching East Chester and staying at Graves Island Provincial Park. After that, however, the provincial government closed access to the woods and trails, so it was road-walking the rest of the way.

That ruled out the detour to Peggy’s Cove, since I couldn’t wild camp in the wilderness areas.  And that in turn led me to come home each night instead of camping, in case the fire situation changed again and I had to stop entirely.  

Over 3 days, I walked along Hwy 3 between East Chester and Halifax, passing through Hubbards, Queensland, Ingramport, Upper Tantallon, Hubley, Timberlea, Beechville and finally Halifax, to reach the Ferry Terminal on June 2, 

having walked just under 120 km to get there in this chunk, and a total of about 360 kilometers so far over 15 walking days.

During the three days of the East Chester-to-Halifax portion, I relied on Ann as well as our neighbour Robert to drop me off and pick me up.  This included a very draining June 1 slog through the hottest June 1 on record in Nova Scotia, 34 sweltering degrees, while fire-fighters worked like heroes just 10 km north of the road I travelled, accompanied by the smell of smoke, its haze and grey columns clouding the sky.

Reaching Halifax felt anti-climactic under the circumstances.  I’m just happy to have been able to complete this part, but I can’t help feeling guilty that I was focused on my precious little Quixotic quest while people nearby were evacuated from their homes.

Where have I stayed? Any memorable meals?

So far, I’ve had a range of accommodations.  I’ve camped a couple of nights on Crown Land, once next to the Clyde River (in a spot now sadly burned out, as it happens) 

and once on the shore of Wilkins Lake.  

I’ve also camped at two provincial parks, Rissers Beach and Graves Island, and once at a private campground, Fishermans Cove at Hunts Point.  

And I had a fun night camping on private land at the invitation of Eric Southey, who is creating a glamping experience on his property.  There was still work in progress when I was there so he offered me a choice spot overlooking Port Medway.

As well, I had two great AirBnB stays, in a funky yurt in Shelburne

and in a great apartment where I could dry my gear

in Liverpool, with two wonderful hosts who could not have been more helpful, Vanessa and Shani respectively.

And finally, I had a warm and dry night in a cottage at the Lockeport Campground and Cottages, when I arrived on a very wet day with a tent site booked and changed it to the roofed accommodation so I could dry all my stuff.

As for eats along the way, I’ve had several memorable meals. Best of all was the one that Eric cooked when he invited me to share a dinner with himself and his partner Annie – homemade duck-egg tagliatelle with home-cured shad roe (in the style of Italian Bottarga) followed by spruce-tip and lemon mousse. Wowsa.

And the haddock bites from Seaside Seafoods in Hunts Point were great as well.  And the coffees that Andreas makes along with their fresh-baked pastries at the Main and Mersey cafe in Liverpool.  And the brie and apple with basil pesto sandwich at the Broad Cove Cafe.  And the breakfast burrito from LaHave Bakery.  And the fish burger from Katch which I enjoyed having finally reached Halifax, sitting in spots of rain on the waterfront boardwalk.  And the backpackers dried-food evening meal I had sitting by Clyde River watching the bats swoop low over water in the dusk of soft spring night.  And the morning oatmeal and coffee I made sitting by Wilkins Lake watching the sunrise.  All wonderful experiences.

Am I actually enjoying this?

Well, yeah, I am.  It’s hard, yet that’s part of the appeal for me.  I’ve met many people along the way to whom I’ve explained my journey, and they always ask the same question – “why?” 

The short answers are, first, to see if I can do it, and second, to explore the province.  The longer answer lies in the experience of a walking journey.  You see things and smell things and hear things while walking that you don’t experience in a car or even on a bike.  

Like the sweet fragrance of lilac that perfumed the neighbourhoods in Halifax as I passed through.  Or the tang of tar and creosote that rises from the old rail trestles you cross, especially on hot days. 

Or the shriek of ospreys, the cackle of crows.  Or the offbeat sights, like the many interesting ways in which people decorate their mail boxes. 

You need to be there – walking allows that.

What’s the best thing that’s happened so far?

Two things really.  One is the realization that almost every day, there will be at least one moment of perfect peace, perfect beauty.  (Perfect truth, if you agree with Keats).  Recognizing that moment, absorbing it, savouring it, has become my goal.  Live each day for that moment and embrace it.

The other is that the world is full of kind and lovely people.  I know you don’t read that in the papers, but walking through communities, along roads and trails, past shops and businesses, I get many waves and smiles every day, many good mornings and good afternoons, many chats and best wishes on my journey, and often many good conversations.  I like this province more and more as I walk it.  The finest kind, as that Maritime and New England expression goes.

What’s the worst thing?

OK, so there’ve been some niggles and nags, that’s life.  Walking most of the day in the rain between Shelburne and Lockeport comes to mind. 

Or sweltering in heat on another day.  Or coughing on car exhaust along a busy road.  All stuff I knew that I’d encounter and was more or less prepared for.

So, really, I’ve been lucky that (oh thank you God of Fools!) so far there’s only been one no-good-not-very-nice day, which featured a quadfecta of poopiness.  Walking between East Port Medway and Rissers Beach, on the penultimate day before I reached Lunenburg for a rest, I managed to shoot myself in the foot not once, not twice, not three times, but a full Golden Sombrero four times.

First of all, I took a wrong turn in Voglers Cove and didn’t pay attention while for more than an hour, I trudged 7 kilometers in zoned-out mode, up the wrong road.  After finally realizing my mistake, I was quick-stepping back down the road when I was bailed out by the kindness of a local, who picked me up and drove me back to Voglers Cove (see, the world is full of wonderful people.  And yes, my life is ruled by the God of Fools).

Later that day, I decided to walk the old “Bear Trap Road” from Broad Cove to Petite Riviere, only to discover that the road mostly isn’t there anymore, forcing me to scramble across rocks for several km (because I was too stubborn to turn around, natch!)

And then, when I finally arrived at Rissers Beach Provincial Park where I’d booked a seaside tent site, I discovered that when I’d changed my walk plan a few weeks earlier to shorten this stage by a day, I’d forgotten to change the park reservation I’d previously made – no reservation for you!   Fortunately, (God of Fools again – there’s a theme here), there was a site available – but to reach it I had to trudge another half km on top of an extra long, tough day due to 1 and 2 above.

And since the luck of the God of Fools cuts both ways, in trying to set up my tent, tired after a long and testing day, I accidentally tore a hole in the inner bug mesh of my still almost-new tent.  Arghh.

And yet, despite all that, I still had my moment of peace that day, when I got lost for a bit in the views over the water and the sound of the waves after finally coming off the “road” from Broad Cove and I stopped for a rest.  

Any other good stories?

OK, here’s one.  Following the Shelburne Rail Trail between Lockeport and Port Mouton, I passed through the Tidney River Wilderness Area.  I had planned to wild camp near the trail on crown land, hoping there would be a good spot near the Tidney River itself, but when I got there the area near the river was too low-lying and boggy and mosquito-ridden for even a tired hiker.

Plan B was to keep going, and going, and going, for another 4 km along the trail, hoping to find a flattish, dry spot where I could pitch up (while carrying the weight of an extra 2 liters of water in my reservoir that I grabbed at the river because I wasn’t sure where I’d get it if I had to camp in the woods).  

I finally noticed a rough trail leading towards Wilkins Lake, and followed it for about 300 muddy meters to reach the shore of the lake.  And was rewarded (say it with me – God of Fools!) with a perfect campsite – elevated, on dry ground and sheltered from the wind,

with a little beach below where the breeze swept away the mosquitoes.  

After an hour of setting up camp, finding a food-hang tree, getting water filtered, and making dinner, I was just lowering myself into my camp chair on the little beach with my food in my hands when …. I heard the snarling brrr of an ATV engine.  Two engines.  Three.  Coming closer.  “You’ve got to be effing kidding me”.  

Setting my food down, I walked back up to my campsite to find 3 machines carrying a total of 5 people coming along the trail, headed straight for me.  They stopped when they saw my tent, and I spoke to the guy in front.  “We like to come here to ride our machines through the water to wash off the mud”.  Of course you do, I thought.  That explained the ruts in the track, and unfortunately, also the litter of beer cans in the area.

They could see that I was camped and settled for the night, so one of them tried to go around my site through a deep-puddled gully, and promptly got himself horribly stuck.  And so for the NEXT 3 HOURS! the group swore and cursed, yelled back and forth, drank beer and smoked, and crashed through the bushes, crushing small trees, breaking winch cables, burning out an engine, and spewing mud in all directions, trying to pull this machine out.  They eventually called in reinforcements in the form of 2 more ATVs, because there just wasn’t enough noise from 3.

It was dark by the time they finally extricated their friend, and after apologizing for the disturbance, they slowly and mostly-soberly motored back up the trail.  My meal was cold by the time I ate it, and after the last fart of exhaust had faded in the distance, I took out my headlamp so that I could see to put things away and get ready for bed.  Click – nothing.  The batteries were dead.  I skipped brushing my teeth, had a quick pee nearby where I hoped there were no ticks, and crawled into my tent in pitch darkness, where I spent the coldest night of my trip huddled in layers of clothing under my quilt.  Arghh.

But after all that, the morning coffee and oatmeal sitting by the lake watching the sun burn the mist off the water was magical.  

Where next?

My original plan was to take the ferry to Dartmouth and follow the Salt Marsh Trail out towards Lawrencetown, and from there road-walk the rest of the way to Cape Breton. There, I planned to follow the Ceilidh Trail to Inverness, road-walk through Cheticamp to Cape Breton Highlands National Park, and follow hiking trails and the Cabot Trail through the Park to reach the coast road which would take me to the finish at Cape North.  Along the way I’d planned to wild camp a few times, and back-country camp at Fishing Cove in the Park.

However, with trail and woodland access closed for the whole province until June 25 (as of time of writing), I’m having to re-plan my route.  The next stage is still about walking the Eastern Shore from Halifax to Auld Cove to reach the causeway to the Island, and after that I still want to walk the length of Cape Breton Island to finish the journey. 

However, the wildfire restrictions will mean road-walking all the way, unless, as I hope may happen, the trail and woodland access restrictions are lifted sometime before I finish.  This is also changing some of my accommodation plans – no wild camping for now, and in Cape Breton Highlands National Park, access to the Fishing Cove hike-in backcountry sites is closed.   

The other thing that’s happening is that I’m applying some of the lessons of the first 2 stages, to shorten some of the daily distances.  I find that when carrying the full pack I’m good for around 20-25 km a day, whereas my original plan featured a few 30-35 km days.  My body is too tired at the end of the day to enjoy those long slogs, so best to cut them out.  

All this means I’m adding some extra days to the overall journey, so right now I am not sure what my end day will be.  But I’ll get there.


Here’s the original plan.  I have more or less followed it as written until part way through Step 9, where I had to move off the trail, skip steps 10-13, and just follow the road from East Chester and through Halifax (step 14).  Next up is Step 15, but for Step 16 I’ll follow route 207 instead of the trail.  After that, it’s still the plan as described.

  1. Start at The Hawk on Cape Sable Island, and follow coastal roads to reach Barrington Passage.  
  2. Pick up the Shelburne County Rail trail and follow it to Clyde River
  3. Then walk along the tedious Highway 103 to Shelburne
  4. Where you’ll get back onto the rail trail to walk to Lockeport
  5. And then from Lockport, continue following the rail trail through and past the Tidney River Wilderness area to reach Highway 3 at Summerville.
  6. Where you continue on the highway for a bit and then get back onto the rail trail to reach Liverpool
  7. And then continue on the rail trail up to around Port Medway, before exiting onto Route 331, the Lighthouse Route coastal road, to walk all the way to LeHave.
  8. From LeHave, take the ferry over the river and walk to Lunenburg on the local back roads, and then 
  9. From Lunenburg, take the Rum Runners Trail through Mahone Bay, past Chester, and on past Hubbards to Upper Tantallon, and then
  10. Detour south onto the Joshua Slocum Trail to reach old dirt roads through Five Bridges Wilderness Area to reach Glen Margaret, where you
  11. Pick up Route 333, the Peggy’s Cove Road, to walk down to the lighthouse, and then bear east towards Prospect to connect with 
  12. The Old Halifax road which takes you north back to Glen Margaret
  13. Where you connect onto the old St. Margaret’s Bay Road to walk east to Halifax
  14. And then walk through the city to the ferry terminal.
  15. There you catch the ferry over to Woodside in Dartmouth
  16. To reach the Shearwater Flyer rail trail, which takes you northeast to Lawrencetown
  17. Where you follow back roads to Porters Lake and then onto Highway 7 to reach Chezzetcook,
  18. And then keep following Highway 7, past Musquodoboit, Jeddore, Ship Harbour, Spry Bay, Sheet Harbour, Moosehead, Ecum Secum, and Liscombe, all the way to Sherbrooke.
  19. Where you turn onto Route 211 and follow the coast road northeast to Isaacs Harbour, and then 
  20. Branch onto Route 316 and follow that to Larry’s River.
  21. At Larry’s River, you follow (natch), Larry’s River Road north to reach Highway 16 outside Guysborough,
  22. And Highway 16 takes you to Boylston where you get onto Route 344, which
  23. Bears northeast and then north and then west, around the coast to Aulds Cove, where the TransCanada Highway Canso Causeway clambers across to Cape Breton Island.
  24. You feet fall onto the Celtic Shore Coastal Trail, and follow that all the way to Inverness.
  25. From Inverness, follow Highway 19 to Dunvegan and then branch onto Route 219 along the coast to Margaree Harbour.
  26. Pick up Highway 30 and follow that to Cheticamp, and Grand Etang where you’ll enter Cape Breton Highlands National Park.
  27. Follow hiking trails, including the Skyline Trail, northwards before rejoining Highway 30 again.
  28. Continue along that north until you reach Fishing Cove, and detour there down hiking trails to the water.
  29. Retrace your steps back to Highway 30 (the Cabot Trail) and follow it north to Pleasant Bay
  30. Turn the corner and follow the Cabot Trail east, up across the island past Big Intervale and Sunrise to reach the hamlet of Cape North (not the actual Cape North, just yet).
  31. Turn onto the Bay Saint Lawrence Road and follow that to Bay Saint Lawrence.
  32. Follow the Money Point Road to reach your goal, the lighthouse at Cape North!
  33. Walk back to Bay Saint Lawrence and meet your darling wife who will drive you to Baddeck for a well-earned rest

If all goes well, I’ll finish in early July 2023.  More blog posts to follow, of course.

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Favourite Walks

The other day, I was looking at the stats for this blog and checked to see what my most popular posts were. The answer was kind of interesting – of the top 20 posts on this blog, 19 of them are about different walks around Toronto. Collectively, those have generated more than 12,000 views.

That’s cool to think I’ve helped thousands of people enjoy walking around Toronto. Go TO!

The humbling part is that the majority of my posts have been about some particular scene or thought that’s occurred to me while walking. Those posts have been, how shall I put this, somewhat less widely viewed. Most of those have a handful of views (thanks Mom!) at best.

me contemplating the futility of my writing career ….

So this blog is helpful to people when I write about things that people want to look for – duh! – like gear reviews and walking routes and suggestions for places to try. Since we’ve moved out to the east coast, I’ve stayed away from those kinds of posts, because as a newcomer I didn’t want to claim any in-depth knowledge as yet.

Still, I do want to be helpful, so going forward I’ll try to include more like that featuring walks around the South Shore and Halifax, and other places in the Maritimes, and maybe some more back in TO whenever we are back to visit family.

To that end, check out my series called TO Walks and Maritime Walks, or my Gear Reviews, and see what those other readers have been browsing.

And if you want to help me out, you can buy me a coffee.


Out for a walk the other day, we came across something that I’d not seen before. A Nova Scotian artist named Angie Arsenault has created a little artists box of foraged inks made from natural ingredients – things like acorns and goldenrod and mountain ash roots – and put it on the trail beside the Lehave River in Bridgewater.

It’s called the Little Library of Foraged Inks, and it’s a fantastic find. We stopped and read her notes inside on how to use it

and came away smiling at the idea. It’s clever, it’s environmentally aware and awareness-raising, and most of all it’s fun. It’s a classic example of spreading joy through little acts of kindness.

It also reminded me of why I like to go for walks. I love to find these little things, sometimes man-made and sometimes natural, but either way always fascinating.

Life is full of goodness. Find some and share it.

About Town

I like walking around town here in Lunenburg, now that we’re a bit settled in. Several times a week I’ll do a bit of a wander, like a dog visiting his patch (though I promise I don’t mark my territory on lamp posts). If I go up the hill behind our house and then east along Lincoln Street,

I can wander past the art galleries and on towards King, and see if there’s a sale on a Stan’s Dad and Lad clothing store, or maybe some interesting specials at the Lincoln Street Diner, and the aroma of roasting coffee will tell me if the Laughing Whale is making a new batch.

And if I keep going past King and Prince and Hopson and Kempt and climb the hill on Lincoln towards Blockhouse Hill, I’ll go past a house that some folks are building that will be spectacular when it’s done, and sometimes they’ll be sitting out taking a break on their harbour-view deck. “Coming along”, I’ll shout, and we’ll wave to each other.

And then round the corner and up to Blockhouse Hill and round the park and up along Kempt a bit and then back west along say Townsend, past a few of the churches

and up and down the hills and along to Kaulbach, where I can swing right and walk up past the Hillcrest Cemetery entrance and take a turn past the wonderful Academy building,

and then swing back west along Lawrence and walk back to Kempt, and then go downhill past the Ironworks Distillery (yummm, smells like a new batch of rum is in the works) and left onto Montague Street.

And so back along Montague heading west a bit and then cut down onto Bluenose Drive and wander east along past public wharves and the dory boats and the Fisheries Museum, just mingling with the tourists.

Oh, the Bluenose is in port today.

And say, did I just hear a bit of German, and Farsi, and Hindi, and French, and Spanish. Plus those Yankee accents – oh yeah, must be that car with the New York license plates.

And speaking of license plates, is that car from Iowa? Haven’t see one of those all summer – COVID-19 is finally fading (fingers crossed) and the tourists are really back from all over.

And then keep going up into the Pioneer park and along the Harbour Walk – but look at that, someone has hung red dresses in the trees next to the historic plaques near the “pioneer” cemetery as a reminder that those early settlers didn’t arrive to an empty country and missing and murdered Indigenous women and girls are still missing and still missed and even a small town like Lunenburg cannot turn its back on history and social wrongs.

And then past that over to Falkland and left towards the park by the tennis courts where some older players are getting in a game, and then on past the arena and the curling club where the ice is now in and hockey and curling seasons are about to begin.

And past that around to the east through the basketball courts where some teenagers are having a game (yeah, the Raptor’s season starts soon!) and past the new Bluenose Academy and then down to Tannery Row and around back along Falkland and then up the Harbour Walk and then Montague towards home. A wave to John in the pizza shop, and a shout up to Robert our neighbour to the north who’s puttering about in the garden.

I like our little town. And I’m very grateful to be able to live here.

Happy Thanksgiving everyone.

Beach Walks

Portnoo Strand, County Donegal in Ireland

It snowed earlier today, and yesterday, and two days before that, and it’s -15 C with the wind chill. So naturally I’m thinking of walking on a beach.

Over the years we’ve been lucky enough to do that in many places. Some have my favourite walks have been on beaches – Sandbanks Provincial Park or Point Pelee National Park in Ontario; Hirtles Beach in Nova Scotia; Portnoo Strand in Ireland; Manley Beach in Australia; and dozens of other unnamed quiet little beaches in England, Ireland, Scotland, France, Italy, Greece, Portugal, Bermuda, Costa Rica, Mexico, the USA, and elsewhere in Canada.

Hirtles Beach, Nova Scotia

There’s something hypnotic about the sounds of water, the ruffle of wind in your ears, the splash on your legs and the crunchy grit between your toes. You get lost in the walk, on a beach. The heat through the soles of your feet shock-cooled in the water. The gulls you chase and the crabs you watch and the shells you search for. The perfectly shaped piece of driftwood. How did that shoe wash up here? Is that a seal? Do I have to go back?

I can’t help it – thinking about a beach helps make bearable walking in snow and slush. And soon, oh please soon, I’ll be walking on a beach again.

Holiday Walks

Every New Year’s Day, I try to get out for a walk. Partly it’s to mark the changing of the calendar, partly to reflect on the year past, and partly just to start the year right with some exercise in hopes of setting a pattern for the year.

And this year, what with things like pandemics, wars, floods, fires, hurricanes, and earthquakes, it seemed an especially appropriate thing to do, there being much to reflect upon. And yet, when I was actually out walking, I didn’t want to think about all those things.

Instead, I kept noticing little signs of hope, little reminders that slowly but surely things will get better, spring will return and with it warm skies. I walked past the swimming pool in nearly Eglinton Park and thought about sunshine to come.

I walked past the hill in the park and heard the shouts and screams of happy kids sledding and sliding down the hill, along with the rumble of a tractor resurfacing the ice on the outdoor rink.

There was just enough snow to stick to the trees, and it was still fresh enough in most places that it had that innocent sense of fun, and here and there I noticed little decorations that people had hung in the trees.

There are going to be dark days ahead, to be sure. But I wasn’t thinking about those days. I was just happy to be out for a walk.

Happy New Year.

Walks Past – Munich December 2013

2013 started out as a very good year. I turned 50 as did several other close friends, and we had a joyous laughter-filled and wine-fuelled collective birthday party in the spring. My wife and I celebrated our 25th wedding anniversary that year as well, in Paris, strolling hand in hand. And we had a couple of lovely little summer city breaks, to Montreal and to Chicago, where we explored and soaked up the sun.

And then the year went to shit, to be blunt. First my wife Ann was diagnosed with breast cancer late that summer, and just as she was recovering from a partial mastectomy, our dear friend Paul passed away suddenly in the autumn.

By late autumn, we were exhausted emotionally and physically, and desperately in need of a break. Since I had a business trip scheduled to Munich in early December, we decided to go as a family. And so, noses alive with the scents of Glühwein, we set out to explore the city.

I had been to Munich several times previously on business, and knew my way around somewhat. For my son and my wife, it was all new and all worth exploring. I had business meetings during the day, so they would go out exploring and quickly fell in love with the city, a feeling I shared. Munich is a great place to visit, any time of the year.

Then in the evenings we would go out together and wander through the glorious Marienplatz, alive with winter market stalls, humming with people, ringing with music, and redolent with cinnamon, cloves, and nutmeg from the spiced cakes, cookies, and drinks on offer.

After my meetings wrapped up, I had a couple of free days which we spent toodling about the city, visiting the markets, nosing into shops, and trying out our limited German – danke, bitte. One outing took us to the BMW Museum, where we had fun playing what if ….

Since my son was taking a few days away from school, his teachers had given him an assignment to look for historical features of buildings, especially gargoyles, so on another day we spent several hours wandering around with our noses in the air, looking up at churches to see who could spot the most freakish and frightening examples.

And of course, all that wandering about left us ready for warming cups of hot chocolate, which the many cafes were happy to oblige.

It was a magical few days, a relief in many ways, and a reminder that there are times when you have to simply seize the opportunities that arise along life’s journey. The events of the previous few months had taught us that carpe diem is the best way of dealing with the unexpected.

Over these past few weeks, as we lurch from lockdown to lockdown and huddle inside, waiting for spring and for a COVID-19 vaccine to open the world back up, I’ve been thinking about that trip once again. It helped us heal as a family then, and recalling it now is a reminder that despite the shocks and roadblocks that the world will put in our way, there are always little things that can brighten your mood.

Stay healthy, hug your family, smile at your neighbours, and enjoy the sun when it shines. Happy Holidays!

Hand-made card from my friend Fiona who has used her COVID cloistering to become a very good painter

South Shore Walks

Over the past few weeks, we’ve had a chance to revisit some old haunts in Nova Scotia such as Mahone Bay and Lunenburg. That’s reminded me of walks past in different places along the South Shore. Since I’m writing this on a rainy autumn day, it’s as good a time as any describe some of our favourite places for a walk.

Mahone Bay

We first visited Mahone Bay nearly 30 years ago. Back then, it wasn’t quite as touristy as it is now. There were a few nice little B&Bs, and a few shops. The draw was the view, both of the harbour and the bay, and also of the iconic row of 3 churches that sit side by side along the shore at the top of the inlet.

Since then, we’ve visited the town many times, and twice have stayed in vacation properties there. Those visits have given us lots of opportunities to wander about the town, taking in more than just the waterfront. On one of those visits, we were out for a stroll after dinner along the quiet back streets of the town, and nearly jumped out of our skins when we came upon a deer which was contentedly munching flowers in someone’s garden.

It’s that kind of town. If you visit on a sunny summer Sunday in mid-afternoon, you’ll think the place is busy all the time and crowded with tourists. But wait a bit past dinner time, or visit mid-week, and you’ll find that once the city tourists are gone, the little town’s charms are all the more evident and available as you poke about the shops and restaurants. A leisurely 30 minutes will pretty much cover the town, and it will be a relaxing way to get to know the place.


Lunenburg is most famous as the home of the Bluenose, the iconic schooner that graces a Canadian dime. Today, the Bluenose II is often in port, and you can tour the boat and even book a sailing cruise on her.

More than that, however, is the year-round town – the shops and services that the surrounding area depend on outside the tourist season. Because of that, we’ve visited many times. We love to wander up and down the steep streets that rise behind the harbour. You can spend an hour or so doing that and getting in a workout, and there’s also a lovely little walking trail that circles the town. That walking trail, by the way, also offers a way to walk Mahone Bay (about 10km), if you’re up for a longer hike.

Hirtles Beach and the Gaff Point Trail

Another favourite that we discovered more than 10 years ago is the Gaff Point Trail. It’s a short drive out of Lunenburg, south east towards Kingsburg. The Trail starts at the parking lot for Hirtles Beach, another favourite spot for splashing in the waves, and follows the Beach towards Gaff Point itself.

There, it loops around the tip of the point through forest and along the rocky shore, and provides fabulous views up and down the shore along with many spots where you can sit and just watch the waves and seabirds. We usually take a picnic when we go, and spend some time chilling. It’s about a 7.5km walk there and back so give yourself at least 2 hours, and if the weather is nice it’s great to kick off your shoes and splash along the water’s edge as you finish the hike. A pro tip is to do the walk at low tide so you can walk on the firm sand rather than along the rocky berm at the top of the beach.

Peggy’s Cove

Over our various trips to Nova Scotia, we had always skipped Peggy’s Cove. My parent’s had dragged me there as a reluctant 8 year old back in the early 70’s, and ever since I had written it off as overly-touristed and out of date. That changed on our most recent trip. It was just my wife and I, and without our own child (now 18!) in tow, and at an off-season time of the year, it seemed like a good time to visit and see what the fuss was about.

I have to confess I didn’t know what to expect, but choosing a sunny October day was wise, because it’s lovely to sit on the rocks near the famous lighthouse and listen to the sea and bask in the sun. The little town itself is quaint, if conscious of its touristy charms, and even though you’ve probably taken a million selfies it’s still fun to grab one here.


Over the years, we’ve been to Chester a few times and I have to admit that I could never quite warm to it. It’s a bit of an anomaly for the South Shore – it’s a touristy place but also a place with a lot of wealth. The annual Chester Regatta is a famous tradition, and it’s attracted sailors for generations. Many of them have the money needed to go with large yachts, so many of the homes in Chester reflect that. It feels a little like Cape Cod in the summer.

This year, visiting on a misty damp October day, it felt quite different. There’s a bit of a melancholy air to a resort town out of season. Many of the houses are closed up for the winter, and the town’s year-round residents can get together in peace. Walking up and down its quiet streets, we realized that it’s actually a lovely little place. The trick, it would seem, is to come off-season.

There are some little parks and shops downtown, and the harbour area is atmospheric as well. We brought a picnic and ate it in the wet, and that made it that much more savoury, staring over the water and listening to the gulls. I have to take back what I said about Chester in the past – it’s not the snooty place I thought it was.

Walkabout Halifax

Now that we’ve been out in Halifax awhile and are a week out of quarantine, we’ve been able to explore the city a bit.

So far, I like a lot of what I’ve seen.

Outside Seaport Market

We booked a rental home that’s in downtown Halifax, only a few blocks from Lower Water Street, and from the shops along Spring Garden Road.

My wife’s homemade apple pie for Thanksgiving dinner!

That’s allowed us to shop and explore in multiple directions – south through the residential neighbourhoods towards Pleasant Point Park, north up into the Hydrostone neighbourhood, east and along the waterfront, and a bit west towards the universities (our son is at Dalhousie).

It’s been a fun few days of wandering about. I’ve been to Halifax before – each time we came out to the east coast on vacation, we’d stay down along the South Shore at Mahone Bay or Lunenburg, and we’d always make a day trip into the city. Still, those excursions were short and confined to the touristy bits along the waterfront like the Maritime Museum or the Seaport Market or the Citadel.

Halifax Public Gardens

Now that we’re living here for a bit, we have a chance to settle into the life of the city. It’s been interesting for a few reasons. One thing we noticed right away is how courteous Halifax drivers and pedestrians are compared to Toronto. People wait for the pedestrian crossing signals! Cyclists actually stop at stop signs! Drivers politely wave pedestrians across the road at crosswalks! Who knew that somewhere actual courtesy and common sense existed outside the Big Smoke?

It’s also a lot quieter than Toronto. You don’t realize what the constant background hum of traffic is like until it’s not there. Come 6 pm, the streets are silent and sleeping with the windows open in the middle of the city is actually refreshing and calm. The only mildly loud thing once in awhile is the flight of helicopters overhead as they land across the harbour at the Shearwater RCAF base.

It’s also been interesting to see the way that people are dealing with COVID-19. In large part because of the mandatory quarantine for anyone arriving into Maritime Canada from anywhere else, the case count here is vanishingly small. Weeks go by with no new cases reported at all. Despite the lack of community spread, people are still wearing masks indoors as they shop, and often on the streets too, and there’s more or less no bellyaching about it. In fact, people are proud of their resilience and how they’ve handled COVID-19 so far, and they don’t want to undo all the sacrifices they’ve made by letting in any cases now. In the words of their Premier, Scott McNeil, if you have COVID-19 or even suspect you might, then “Stay the blazes home!”.

I’ve also been quite taken by the quiet charms of the east coast. People just seem more relaxed here, friendlier and less harassed than they do in the daily rat race of Toronto. Wandering a neighbourhood, you see people out for a walk but not in a hurry.

Plus, thank the stars, there is a wonderful lack of leafblowers and weed trimmers. I’ve explored various residential areas, including some relatively high income ones, and have barely heard those annoying noisemakers. There are trees here and the side streets are leafy and lovely, and yet they manage to live their lives without making a racket. Imagine that.

If I had to name a favourite walk so far, I’d say it was exploring the North End and Hydrostone.

We walked up their on a lovely sunny mid-October day. We found a great little pizza place that served excellent pies and a decent glass of wine. We circled Fort Needham park and explored the memorials to the Halifax Explosion victims. We nosed into shops and picked up some little treats. It reminds me a little bit of Leslieville in Toronto – lots of young families, some hipsterish little spots, and leafy quiet streets just off of busy roads. It’s just quieter, and you can get a house for well under a $1m, unlike anywhere in Toronto.

The grave of Alexander Keith with a tin of his eponymous ale

Canada’s east cost offers so much as a getaway destination, and Halifax as a gateway to it is a great place to start or end a holiday. Come out and explore, and you’ll love it too.

Gear – Swiss Army Knife

Over the past couple of years of walking I’ve gone through a fair amount of gear, so I thought I would share some feedback for stuff that’s tried and trusted. Hope it helps.

What is it?: Swiss Army Knife. The closest equivalent that I can see is the Tourist Model which has the same blades as mine and also includes a toothpick and tweezers.

How much?: Bought years ago – probably around $20 back then. The current price for the Tourist model is is $40 CAD

Where, when, how do I use it?: My recollection is that I bought this before we were married – so 33+ years anyway. I think I picked it up for my first trip abroad in 1987, and I know I had it for our honeymoon which we spent backpacking around the Greek islands.

Since then it’s been many places – Italy, France, Ireland, Scotland, England, Switzerland, Saudi Arabia, Kuwait, Madagascar, Germany, the Netherlands, Australia, New Zealand, the USA, and Canada, and possibly a few others. It travels with me everywhere. In the old days it could come in my carry-on bag, and these days it travels with the checked luggage.

It’s been used many times on picnics, which is probably my favourite use. Somewhere we have a picture of a picnic lunch in France, where the knife is sitting next to some pate, a baguette, and some tomatoes from the market – that’s how I visualize this knife. I’ve also used it countless times to open a bottle of wine, to trim a stray thread off my clothes before a business meeting, to cut open a package, and I think even once or twice to open a can.

It used to live in my briefcase, then it lived in my business suitcase, and now it’s in my everyday daypack. It’s been a small, often hidden, but handy part of my travels and it’s probably as much a good luck charm as it is a tool.

For me, any traveller needs something like this. It’s lightweight, versatile, simple, compact, and effective. It embodies a style and form aesthetic that I love – it does exactly what you would think it would do with simple efficiency and elegant ergonomics. I can’t imagine taking a trip without it, and even if I never travelled I would want one.

Would I buy it again?: Lord, I hope I never lose it. If I did, I’d buy something similar.

Disclaimer: This is not a “review”. I don’t go around sampling things, instead this is a summary of my own experience with a product I have used a lot. All opinions contained in this post are my own. I offer no warranties or assurances for your experiences with the same product. I bought the gear with my own money and have not received any form of compensation from the manufacturer. Take my feedback as given – caveat emptor.