Hazy, Lazy Days of Summer in Pictou

We drove from Chester to Pictou arriving early Friday evening. We met our friend Katherine at North Nova Fisheries, a couple of roads from the home she shares with David and countless visitors. We picked up enough lobster for a dozen people and made our way to their place next to Caribou Provincial Park. That evening with friends from Nova Scotia and New Brunswick we celebrated Katherine’s birthday. We enjoyed just-caught lobster from the nearby deeps. The motto at North Nova is ‘Living the Dream’ and eating their lobster, we were. We were joined for the weekend by Bob Bean and Barbara Lounder from Halifax who brought their friend and NSCAD artist-in-residence from London, England, Denise Hawrysio and Beth Biggs, her husband Steve and their two children Buster and Tata.

The next morning Bob amused us by slithering out of his tent while we enjoyed breakfast overlooking the harbour.  We went en masse to Tatamagouche Farmers’ Market. The purchase of hand-milled soaps has been one of the sustaining reminders, these last few weeks, of our visit. We enjoyed date squares, fresh hot pretzels and local ice cream. We made a stop at the Pork Shop where we picked up dinner ingredients before continuing on to the Read by the Sea Writers’ Festival. We listened to Maritime authors read from their recent publications. As we left we saw David’s friends Leonard and Shelley working on their recently acquired building. The building is a former funeral home, embalming lab and casket showroom. They sure have their work cut out for them here. The eclectic collection of leftover chemicals, hoist, diagrams, coffins, pumps, tools, prêt-a-porter outfits for the deceased fascinated and horrified us. Leonard and Shelley are two of the most positive and energetic people you are likely to meet. This isn’t just a restoration project so much as an exercise in going forward with a project that they’ll finish without anticipating some big payoff. The couple expresses their personalities through hard work. This is also the case in their ‘Park,’ a passion project which they share with the community outside of Pictou. The ‘Park’ is several hectares of woodland, bog, beaver dam, pond with a meandering path and sculptures and curious installations scattered throughout. It is folk art, kitsch sculpture garden. We paid a visit to the Lismore Woolen Mill and Store where we picked up a lap blanket which nicely complements the décor in the van. It has come in handy a few times already! Then it was off to the beach where we happily swam in the temperate water. That night was round two of a big family style supper followed by fireworks and a performance on the guitar by David and his manager, Bob.

Sunday morning we were all moving a little slow and everyone was pretty willing hang around and answer our questions: 1. When you think of home what image comes to mind; 2. Where do you live? 3. Describe your most memorable holiday; 4. Where is your next vacation? (more on that later!)

After all this thinking and soul searching and sharing we sought out the beach once again. This time the swimming was a little more difficult because of the number of jellyfish. Nevertheless it was a gorgeous day and the water was super fine. By early evening everyone but us and Katherine and David had to head back to their respective homes in Halifax and Fredericton. We decided to head into Pictou for the last of the Pictou Lobster Carnival which is a celebration of the end of the lobster fishing season. We stopped at a pub to listen to a handful of performers before heading to the main stage to hear Dave Gunning and JP Cormier. It was a large, appreciative audience. The beautiful summer evening was eventually marred by the polluting pulp and paper mill. There was a pall of toxic, smokey air which blanketed Pictou. We were unable to stay to the end because we all felt unwell – burning eyes and lips, sore throats, sore chest. Ironically Dave Gunning has been leading the fight against the mill’s poor track record in managing and controlling their pollution levels. We found out the next morning that JP Cormier’s girlfriend’s toddler was rushed to hospital with breathing difficulties and yellow puss coming out of her ears following the concert. This was attributed to the pollution that night. We made our way back home, battened the hatches and had a lovely dinner. The air didn’t clear for the remainder of our stay.

Our last two full days in Pictou were spent working on our blog, planning our route, booking our ferry to Newfoundland, doing a little shopping at Grohmann’s Knives and the Fisher Supply Store in Pictou, having lunch at the historical Caribou Lodge, walking the length of nearby Melmerby Beach, visiting David and Katherine’s friend Maida’s Chateau, driving around Caribou Island, spending time on Waterside Beach and just spending quality time with our good friends. Katherine and David were supremely generous with their home and their time. We were completely recharged, laundered and ready for the next phase of our journey to Newfoundland.