My honey, Steve, grew up in the small community of Marion Bridge, on an island called Cape Breton, in the province of Nova Scotia. I’d never visited his hometown until recently, but a friend’s wedding was a perfect excuse to meet his childhood friends, see his old stomping grounds, and really be able to connect with his early life. Our original plan was to take Pooh back with us, our lovable Pomeranian that Steve adopted from his parents, who abruptly died 8 weeks apart in 2014. And Pooh is a very special character in the love story of Tina and Steve. One of the reasons we met was that we had both suffered losses that year, and grief was something that connected us. Steve and his mom had such a cool relationship and a special bond, a lot like I have with my own son, Alec. Taking care of Pooh after she died was something that made him feel more connected to her. But Pooh is a tough cookie, and doesn’t love everyone he first meets. I know this may sound whacky but he accepted me the instant we met, and to me, he was an extension of Steve’s mom - a connection with a really wonderful woman I’d never meet.
On August 1st, Pooh passed away unexpectedly and didn’t make it back to Cape Breton with us. Anyone with a pet knows how heartbreaking it can be to lose a special part of your family, but Pooh was much more than a pet to us, most of all to Steve. Pooh came into his life during his darkest times. They ventured into the unknown together, traveled the world, and gave each other love and purpose when they needed it the most. With our broken hearts, we packed our bags and headed back home the very next day. We weren’t sure what to expect, really. Steve’s returning to a place that was full of heartache only 4 years ago and to now return after losing Pooh was going to make this quite an interesting trip.
We decided to stay with Nolan and Shirley for the duration of our trip. Nolan is one of Steve's best friends growing up, and if anyone can lighten the mood, it's Nolan! The boys had made plans to spend an entire day on the lake for their annual fishing derby, so I decided to play tourist. I drove out to Louisbourg, a coastal town where Steve’s parents met, settled down and had kids, before moving inland to Marion Bridge. I decided to partake in the annual crab festival and had a pretty relaxing day strolling around, taking pictures and people watching. There was a sense of nostalgia walking around. Louisbourg is pretty special and has a nice balance of old historical east coast mixed with new world cafes and artisanal boutiques and shops. It is home of the Fortress of Louisbourg, an old military settlement dating back to the 1700's. The first European settlers from England and France would battle of the territory. The Louisbourg lighthouse is so picturesque and sits on a small cliff overlooking the ocean. There’s something about the ocean air that can be so healing, and I needed a few deep breaths to myself to process the loss and the memories. There’s a beautiful 5-mile trail, the Louisbourg Coastal Trail, that would’ve been great to try, but I didn’t pack the right shoes with me. I’ll have to go back one day, but better prepared and maybe a little more motivated.
A few days later, we ventured to the North side of the island to meet Steve's best friend from childhood, Brian. We settled in at the lovely Whale Cove Beach, a beautiful area on the Atlantic, surrounded by rugged cliffs. After an hour or so of coaxing me to get in the water, I decided to get in and I’m glad I did. The water was relaxingly cool, which was good for a warm-blooded creature like me.
If you ever find yourself in Nova Scotia, the Cabot Trail is a must. It’s a scenic coastal drive that was so stunning it blew my mind. We drove up, through and around the foggy yet beautiful highlands. The area is a huge nature lover’s playground: hiking, kayaking, camping, cycling, golfing, all the outdoor favorites are possible along this 186-mile highway. We didn’t stop for any activities but just the views were enough to satisfy something inside me. One particularly beautiful spot was the Green Cove lookout. My Android probably doesn’t do it justice but can I just say, it was absolutely spectacular!
Another stop we had planned to make was to Ingonish Beach. Unfortunately, it rained as soon as we arrived, so we didn't’ stay long but to take a few pictures. Before settling into our final stop, we were told that one hiking trail we must hike is the Skyline Trail. After we checked in and dropped off our bags, we drove about 10 miles out and hit the trail. It was a pretty easy but scenic hike, about 45 minutes each way. It's supposed to have a pretty epic sunset view, but unfortunately, it was cloudy the day we were there. The town of Cheticamp is where we stayed the night. It’s a little fishing village on the Cabot Trail on the west side of Cape Breton Island. I noticed right away the strong French influence of the town and was told that the main ethnic population was Acadian, then a quick history lesson about Acadians was given to me at dinner.
Being a tourist in Steve’s hometown was great, but the most special trip we made was to his parents’ house, and even writing this I’m still choking back tears. They’re currently renting it out to a family friend, Cindy and her family, who was gracious enough to not only let us visit but cooked dinner for us and gave Steve space and time to rummage through old photos, reminisce, and breathe it all in. It’s only the second time he’s been back home since his parents died, and it felt very special to me to be there with him. During this trip, I met his parents’ best friends who cooked a beautiful lobster dinner for us, Ruth and Bob. Everyone I met was so warm, kind, thoughtful and accommodating. I’ve only heard stories from Steve but it was so nice to be able to put faces to names - and Justin and Andrea’s wedding, which was the original purpose of our visit, was beautiful! It was full of family and friends who have a long history together and are all familiar with each other, in a small town kinda way and I dig it.
Going there was hard because our hearts had just been broken. Going back “empty handed” without Pooh was devastating. But I’m glad we did. In a weird kinda way, I felt like I was going home, too. Steve joked that we were going back to the land of grief as we knew it wasn’t going to be an easy trip to make, but we HAD to go through that pain...and when you go through it, you get this little reminder when you need it the most...that family and friends will always be there to lift you up, let you cry and make you laugh all at the same time! And this crazy group of friends did just that! Honestly, we could’ve used another week there because we don’t think I got enough!
This blog is dedicated to my little ball of love, Pooh Bear and all the new friends I made in Cape Breton.
Pooh Bear - I miss you love bug
Louisbourg, Nova Scotia
Ingonish Beach, Nova Scotia
Green Cove, Nova Scotia
Skyline Trail, Nova Scotia
More Cabot Trail Views, Nova Scotia
Home and Childhood Drive-Bys
Food and friends