To reach paradise, you drive from Moncton about four hours through some of the prettiest country the Maritimes offer.
You take the Trans-Canada past the village of Memramcook and the university town where my grandfather, dad and daughter once spent many happy and productive years. If you are peckish, you stop at the elegant and still exquisitely appointed Marshlands Inn in Sackville, New Brunswick, for a quick and supremely satisfying repast.
You rejoin the road at the Tantramar Marshes, where ancient Acadians once diked and dammed the land to eke out an existence from the brackish sea. You pass the glorious windmill farm near Amherst, where Don Quixote – if he were real and a long-haul trucker – might roll up to challenge the mighty blades spinning in the sun.
You move along with speed and alacrity until you reach Bible Hill, Nova Scotia, forge through until you are on Mount Thom, then descend into the vales of New Glasgow, Antigonish and Monastery, where the real deal describes itself this way: “Our Lady of Grace Monastery is home to the Contemplative Augustinian Nuns. Here, these religious sisters live out their lives consecrated to Our Lord where they pray for the Church and the whole world. The Monastery of Saint Lucy, which is the mother house is located in Rome.”
Still, on the Eastern Shore of Nova Scotia in the summertime, Rome seems far away. Paradise, on the other hand, is just around the corner.
You take the paved road through Lincolnville and arrive at the bustling outskirts of Bolyston, a town the Globe and Mail’s Kim Mackrael once described as “The pearl of the East.” In her 2011 piece, she enthused, “The tiny seaside village is perched on the northeast side of Nova Scotia, close to Cape Breton Island. Like many of its neighbours, Boylston suffered deeply following the collapse of the Atlantic fishing industry and the loss of thousands of jobs along the coast. These days, Boylston is experiencing a renaissance of sorts, one driven by people looking for a place to call home after they retire.”
Indeed, she reported, “Some of its residents have discovered the town only recently, while others are finding themselves drawn back home after a long absence. What they have in common is the sense of being instantly welcomed into the community. That’s why Marilyn McLean nominated Boylston as one of Canada’s great communities. She and her husband are. . .settling down after a life in the military.”
Said Marilyn: “Our neighbours are neighbourly; our darling doctor mends bones and brings hot casseroles until you can manage your crutches. You awaken after a monster snowfall to a freshly shovelled walkway. How can there be any better place on earth to live out one’s life?”
Added Ms. Mackrael: “On calm mornings in Boylston, the water by the wharf becomes as smooth as glass. Tourists driving through choose this spot to pull over and take photos of the boats as they bob gently beside the dock, casting colourful reflections across the water.”
That’s about right. I should know. My family settled these parts in the late 18th Century, fresh off the boat from Scotland. Our forbears and us have maintained “The Place” on the banks of Chedabucto Bay ever since. It’s a small, and yet somehow rambling, former farmhouse perched on 80 acres of prime rock-growing territory.
It really isn’t much, but it’s ours. And the view is, well. . .what you might expect from paradise.
As for me, I’m going for a long-missed drive down the road to down home.