I was fortunate enough to get a combined month’s worth of time off this summer, and it’s allowed Cathy and me to re-acquaint ourselves with some of our favourite parts of Nova Scotia.
This has rarely been more pronounced than in Guysborough County, which we’ve visited three times at two different parts of the summer. I had two brief drop-ins to Canso during the Stan Rogers Folk Festival, and the two of us spent a lovely afternoon drifting around Guysborough during the first day of that community’s Come Home Week celebrations.
We knew we couldn’t go wrong with The Rare Bird Pub, which has become a go-to spot for me, Cathy and my in-laws over the past decade. But we were also pleasantly surprised with our first visit to the Skipping Stone Gift Shop, which offers the expected colourful array of souvenirs but also provides a relaxed atmosphere to sit and enjoy hot or cold beverages, sweets and sandwiches, including comfy chairs and sofas and even board games to play.
Did I mention the hot beverages? Located across the road from the Full Steam Coffee Company, it’s no surprise that the Skipping Stone has several varieties of the made-in-Guysborough java. But I was amazed at the number of individual flavours on tap to sweeten or spice up your Fogarty’s Cove Medium Roast. (I tried Red Velvet. It’s the closest thing I’ve ever had to cake in a cup.)
Before this summer, I had only been inside the baked-goods section of another of Guysborough’s little gems, Days Gone By. Cathy and I were floored to find that the building also houses a restaurant, a gift shop and an expansive antique collection, from CorningWare dishes to vintage signs. We were there for half an hour and I’m sure we could have easily spent double or triple that time at Days Gone By. That may happen on our follow-up trip – and yes, there will be a follow-up trip.
This summer also gave us our second taste of Pomquet Provincial Beach, nearly three months after taking our first trip there as a couple in the spring. Cathy immediately fell in love with this section of the seashore, as it reminded her of her favourite portion of the Northumberland Strait, Pictou County’s Melmerby Beach. We felt months of dust and dreariness getting washed away by the waves that playfully bounced off our bodies on a sweltering July afternoon.
We’ve also had a couple of opportunities to get to Isle Madame this summer, with seaside sensations and casual coffee stops also framing these visits. A twilight trip to Pondville Provincial Beach gave us a refreshing opportunity to dip our toes in the surf but also to take in the diverse flora and fauna of the area. (Cathy, a long-time wildlife biologist, spotted an osprey nest, an eagle and a great blue heron over the course of this particular evening.)
Another brief visit, which allowed us to meet a rescued cat that we’re now fostering and may soon permanently adopt, also gave us our first real look at La Goelette a Pepe, the coffee shop that shares space with the Caper Gas location on Arichat’s High Road. I’ve ordered coffee from that location on three previous occasions but Cathy and I were bowled over by the welcoming atmosphere in the actual customer space.
Within a natural hardwood setting festooned with photographs and paintings celebrating Isle Madame’s history and culture, La Goelette a Pepe also features a small Cape Breton bookstore, a record player with several vinyl albums to choose from for your listening pleasure, and even several balls of yarn. (It welcomes a local knitting club once a week.) That’s a whole lot of appetizing local flavour, to say nothing of the fact that it’s the only non-Sydney spot I can name that serves pumpkin spice lattes before October.
In a similar vein, however, I must give a shout-out to the Downstreet Coffee Company on the main drag in Inverness. Cathy and I wound up there shortly after a medical appointment in mid-June and we were floored by the welcoming atmosphere, the terrific service and even the location, allowing customers a view of the traffic on Route 19 but also the Atlantic Ocean just over the hill. We’ll be back (and we’ll likely be having lunch when we return).
Among our other summer highlights: Good times at the Festival Acadien de L’Ardoise and Nicolas Denys Days in St. Peter’s, and a stop at an old favourite for both of us, The Green Thumb in Alma, Pictou County, on the way back from a medical appointment in Halifax.
And the summer’s not over yet…