One of the joys of retirement from full-time work is to have the freedom of simply taking off for the day to go wherever my heart tells me. I say ‘heart’ because it’s so easy to keep listening to what the ‘head’ has to say which might be something like this: ” You need to clean the house, do the wash, and weed the garden.” Fortunately, my heart took over and spoke out one beautiful, sunny day last week. It simply said, “You need to get away from the house and Victoria Beach and do something different. You need to go to Mavillette Beach!” Hubby had also been working very hard at his part-time job in Annapolis and needed a break, too, so I tentatively broached my idea to him sensing that he already had lined up a myriad of things to do on his day off. At first he was reticent to deviate from his pre-planned day; however, he quite quickly began to see the benefits of taking some time out of his schedule to accompany me. We quickly accomplished some of our ‘must dos’ and were ready to start out on our journey by noon.
To give you some idea of just where we were headed, I’ll attempt to draw you a verbal map. Mavillette Beach is in the Municipality of Clare on the southwestern coast of Nova Scotia along the Bay of Fundy between Digby and Yarmouth. It is approximately a two hour drive from Victoria Beach where we live. To get there we took Rte. 1 which follows the Fundy coast passing through the typically Acadian villages of St.Bernard, Belleveau Cove, Grosses Coques, Church Point, Comeauville, Saulnierville, Meteghan River, Meteghan, St. Alphonse, and finally, Mavillette.
When driving through this area so rich in the Acadian culture (which is really not so different from the French culture in Quebec) you might be tempted to stop at some of the villages to not only admire the beautiful Catholic churches, but to also absorb its vibrant culture. Here you can hear a mix of English, French, and Acadian being spoken with perhaps the opportunity to hear some rousing Acadian music. I had heard about a little chapel commemorating the arrival of the first Acadians at Grosses Coques in the mid 1700’s so wanted to make a stop along the way since we weren’t in any great hurry.
The site of this tiny chapel has a long history going back to the Mi’kmaqs who buried their dead here. At that time it was an island. In the fall of 1755, an Acadian by the name of Pierre Belleveau and about one hundred others were the first to arrive here by boat after escaping Port Royal and the British. Most of them never survived what was noted as one of the worst winters ever. Today the modest graveyard is marked with simple white crosses and the tiny chapel which is a memorial to these hardy souls who are presumed to be buried here. Belleveau and his group were the forerunners of many more expelled Acadians to settle there. They helped establish what has today become a thriving shipbuilding and fishing area.
Whenever we find ourselves down in Clare, we always stop at the Comeau Farm Market in Meteghan for some fresh produce, their baked goodies, and homemade jams. It’s also a great place to grab a quick lunch in case you haven’t had time to bring a picnic. Here you can treat yourself to that famous rappie pie which is the king of Acadian cuisine.
We arrived at Mavillette about 3 o’clock to find the beach almost deserted. I counted about a dozen people there on this 1.5 km. of hard-packed sand. However, we weren’t too surprised as it’s always this way – at least whenever we have been there. It’s one of the reasons we go because where else in this crowded world can you find an almost deserted beach with flat sand, dunes, and a boardwalk! We parked our beach chairs right at the steps leading down to the beach with our nearest neighbours at least 100 feet away.
The attraction of this beach for me is not to swim because the water is never warm. This is the Bay of Fundy and it’s cold! For me Mavillette is simply the perfect beach for walking, so with my camera at the ready, I started out. I walked the entire beach snapping pictures of everything in sight since I knew this would be the beginnings of my next post. I could feel the stresses of life melting away as I became totally immersed in what I was seeing and doing. The healing quality of the sea, the wind, and the sun (in other words Nature) was beginning to take its effect. How could I have spent the whole summer neglecting her, I wondered?
After walking the entire beach, I headed for the road leading into this Provincial Park drinking in the rich, fall- like colours of the wild rose bushes with their rose hips the size of crab apples, and the dunes covered in marram grass which holds the sand in place. Once more, except for the odd car, I had the whole road to myself. Far off in the distance, I could hear and see a large machine busily placing rocks at the end of a spit. Before leaving, we drove out to Cape St. Mary’s to see find out what was happening. It looked as though another wharf was being built. I hoped this was another sign of the prosperity of the fishing industry in this area. At the present wharf, the many fishing vessels tied up there created a charming picture in the twilight of the setting sun.
Before our journey back to Victoria Beach, we decided we would have dinner somewhere along the way. Our first choice was to check out La Cuisine Robichaud in Saulnierville on the off-chance that we might get a table without having a reservation. This is probably the most popular restaurant in all of Clare so we knew our chances were slim. The minute we walked in the door we came face to face with a group of musicians offering up what is commonly called an Acadian Kitchen Party. Unfortunately, we were stopping by on a Thursday evening when a musical gathering like this draws people from all over, so it was packed! The friendly waitress suggested we wait for a table, but an hour or more was just too much for our empty stomachs so we continued on eventually stopping at a small grill near St. Bernard for a fish chowder and fillets. The meal was good but not nearly so good as what we might have had at Robichaud’s.
As we drove home, we both agreed that taking time out to visit Mavillette Beach was a wise decision. In fact, every time I visit this part of our province, I always vow to come back more often. Not only is there this wonderful beach, but also a culture which is over 300 years old and still thriving. Yes, I will have to try harder to keep my promise.
The little chapel at Grosses Coques
Catholic church of St. Alphonse
Three flags – Canada, Nova Scotia, Acadian
Pretty wave pattern
Wild rose bushes
Dune covered with marram grass
Bird lookout tower
Cape St. Mary’s
Boats at anchor in St. Mary’s harbour
Building a new wharf
Mavillette Beach from Cape St. Mary’s
Church at Saulierville on the Clare shore