Hello all, it’s been another interesting chunk of time… Cape Breton was specifically, and Nova Scotia in general, a breath of fresh air, figuratively and literally. Everywhere I stayed or went people said; “oh, you don’t have to lock your cars doors here” or when I sometimes expressed doubt about the wisdom of driving on remote roads alone they’d say; “don’t worry, if you break down, someone will help you, you’re safe here.” And it felt safe.
On my way south, I stopped at Belfast, Maine and liked it so much I had a hard time getting out of there as well. It’s a coastal town, pretty small, ocean and bay views abound. The downtown, about six square blocks of old brick buildings, is right at the harbor, with a small marina forming one boundary, a bridge another, hills to the backside, feels very settled and secure… good feng shui.
There are lots of craft/gift stores, a green store, good places to eat (the best slice of cheese pizza I’ve had in a while, for a buck) the downtown cute, but not cloyingly so, geared toward tourism in a low key way, things you might actually want to eat or buy. And lobster anything: refer magnets, Christmas decorations, hats, lamps, you name it, if you can turn it in to a lobster, they will. They had a great little library, a super co-op with real espresso drinks (oh, thank you, Lord) and even a tiny hospital. Driving around, there were simple white houses dotted along the hills outside of town, weathered shake sided houses and lots of white and brick homes in town., all very pristine looking.
Even in the middle of November I started seeing pickups with snow plows on them and could see that people really know how to bundle up here. I’m told -10 degrees isn’t unusual in January. But the windows are double pane, houses tight and wood stoves as backup for most… expect you could stay pretty snug.
Each little town around Belfast just as quaint and picturesque as the next. I just kept saying to the motel people, “I’m going to stay just one more night”.
There’s an LL Bean outlet a town or two over, People here do dress in LL Bean, red and black wool plaid vests, knit caps…no kids in big baggy pants or purple hair here. People said “Go to Reny’s if you need anything.” So I went a couple of times to Reny’s which is a Maine institution, a small chain founded by this guy, Reny, in 1949. I guess I’d describe it as a discount store. His philosophy was good stuff at cheap prices, pretty much anything a person might need to survive. When I was there, in addition to what you might expect, there were lots of long johns, wool socks, hats with ear flaps, Christmas decorations and New England gourmet food gift items. I have to say, Reny’s doesn’t look like much, but it was more fun to shop there than at the LL Bean outlet store. and way cheaper.
I finally forced myself out of Maine and about Springfield, MA I realized I’d returned to civilization as I know it when on the motel door there was a sign reading “after dark you must remove sunglasses and hoods before entering lobby.” Only lacking the requisite height measurement scale on the door frame. Welcome home.
I made it back to Harrisburg in time for my birthday (66) Grandparent’s Day at Judy’s preschool and Thanksgiving… more social life in one week than I might have in a year !!! On G’parents Day the Pre-pre kindergartner’s sang a song for an enthusiastic audience. Judy’s a little pro, she’s singing a song on stage with her class, I’m waving and acting all goofy like a proud grandma. She doesn’t even give a flicker of recognition but her teacher told me after that as she was walking off the stage she told her “I saw my grandma.” Perhaps this has more to do with the fact that I’m not allowed to scream or yell her name at older granddaughter Reba’s rugby games.
Getting ready to leave Harrisburg I was debating up to the last minute whether to go south or back north to Belfast, Maine. I did go south through Lexington, VA where I visited Stonewall Jackson’s house, (and there is a stone wall.). One more place on my list of places I’ve been and would like to go back to. I just loved the way people talked there… I forget that it’s the south… their talk is a bit slower and the words sound round, fat, even… But it doesn’t rise to the level of the real southern drawl for me, “day” would become “daay”.. and they speak in a quiet way, it’s just so nice. Also where I heard for the first time the term “Northern aggression” used in conversation. Apparently they are still sore about that deal.
Right now I’m at Spruce Pine, NC and have been here for a week. This is an interesting place on many levels and will share with you in a few days about this area.