Thursday, 11 July 2013

Nova Scotia couldn't keep me dry, but it kept me fed

Everyone hopes for perfect weather when they head out on vacation.  Things just seem more fun when it's warm and sunny out.  In the Maritimes, it seems that cloudy is a nice day.  Apparently no rain = nice day  So, after making that adjustment to my weather small-talk I was ready to head on East to the beautiful province of Nova Scotia. Where they tell you that if you don't like the weather, you need only wait 5 minutes before it changes again.  Or in my case, 7 days before it stopped raining. Whatever, are we on vacation, or are we on vacation?  Rain was not going to ruin this trip, it just altered it a little.

As you may have started to realize from my other posts, I enjoy an outdoor adventure or two as part of my vacation plans.  With rainy and foggy weather, outdoor activities aren't always as fun and sometimes they're just not possible.  So we had to get a little creative on finding things to do since things like whale watching, fishing and trekking were pretty much out of the question.

I'm lucky enough to have wonderful friends in Halifax who were able to make a few suggestions and willing to forgo a good night's sleep in the name of a good time. 

Maritime Museum - This is the perfect place for boat enthusiasts! There are dozens of model ships for you to admire and lots of artifacts to check out.  There is even a small section on the Titanic since Halifax was the closest city to the crash, they were very involved in the rescue efforts.  There are also exhibits on the explosion in Halifax Harbour and the Arctic Expeditions.  

Pier 21 - Many immigrants arrived in Canada through Halifax at Pier 21, my family included.  Shout out to the crew aboard the Nea Helis in 1953 for transporting my great uncles safely.  This museum is really well organized and they've done a wonderful job of maintaining the personal aspect of immigration.  After all, it is about the people. Around every corner you'll find a personal story or keep sake.  The only really unfortunate thing is that they don't really have access to any of the immigration records as those are still kept in Ottawa as they are not old enough to be considered public record.  The staff in the library is really helpful though and will answer your questions to the best of their knowledge.

The Halifax Citadel - This is how museum forts should be. It appeals to children and adults alike with different demonstrations going on all day.  The museum itself explores Canada's involvement in the two world wars as well the Korean War and their current efforts in Afghanistan.  They to an excellent job of displaying artifacts like uniforms and badges as well as weapons and art.  Something for everyone, I'd say. Outside the museum there's lots going on two.  Bagpipers, drummers, drill sergeants, rifle firing demonstrations, changing of the guard and a canon firing at noon every day.And who doesn't like a little canon firing before lunch?

Happy Hour: 
Argyle St. is the place to be!
The Fly Fisherman - Buck a Shuck oysters on Thursdays.  Sit at the bar and have a chat with Michael.  He doesn't like oysters himself, but he sure knows how to shuck 'em.  And if you like Caesars, they have a deal on those too.

Le Coq - Talk about tasty cocktails.  I could've had one of everything, but then I would've had to crawl home.

Durty Nellys - They pride themselves on being an "authentic" Irish Pub.  I think that's because their bar was actually made in Ireland. Apparently, it's quite the pick up spot in the evenings. I was there for the happy hour drink deal.  

The Bitter End - Martini deals and $4 apps on Tuesdays and Wednesdays.  How could you go wrong?  

There seems to be live music around every corner in Halifax and the bar scene is no exception.   
The Seahorse - The entrance to the Seahorse is nestled between two bar patios, so make sure you're paying attention, or you might miss the entrance to this subterranean bar, perfect for live music.  We had the pleasure of listening to the Monotones on this visit.  They were great fun and had all the people dancing and having a great time.  

Lower Deck- Just across from Cows Ice Cream on the harbour, you'll find the Lower Deck.  My Haligonian friends were super excited to spend Canada Day in this pub.  They had two live bands playing: Shaydid was playing inside and Shameless was playing on the outdoor patio.  Unfortunately, with all the dicey weather Halifax had been experiencing over the past few days, They didn't quite draw the crowd they were hoping for.  As the evening progressed, the crowd moved up to the second level and the party went from chillin' to live music to crazy dance party.  So fun! 

And when all is said and done and the bar lights come on, it's the perfect time to hit up one of the many donair spots in the city.  YUM-MY!

Day Trips:
We had rain on every one of our day trips and still managed to see and do some really fun stuff.  

Chester: We stopped for lunch and the Rope Loft, located right on the water.  Their patio is on the dock and would be awesome to sit on if it were warm and sunny.  Seeing as how it was cold and rainy, we sat in a cozy little booth indoors.  Have the cod fish cakes with chow.  "What's chow?" I asked.  I would describe it as being a green tomato relish of sorts and is typical Nova Scotian fare.  It was so good, we asked for more. 
There isn't too much to do in Chester, especially in the rain,  but we did happen upon a small candle shop that turned into our crafting hour as we were able to dip our own candles.  It was a really fun activity for a rainy Saturday afternoon. And now we also have some awesome souvenirs.  

The Hubbards: Here you will find camp grounds, trailor parks and cottages.  We rented a super cute cottage here for the weekend.  We seemed to be the only group of 30-somethings in the area as the patrons were mostly families with young children hoping for some beach time.  
The Shore Club is also here and we visited them twice.  One for a Motown dance party, and then again for a lobster supper.  The Saturday night festivities were really fun and brought together a mixed crowd of locals and tourists, young and old, inebriated and sober.  The band was really high energy and the crowd was engaged and singing and dancing along. We went back again the following evening for their lobster supper.  They have a Prix Fixe menu that includes a salad bar, all you can eat mussels, dessert and the lobster of your choice.  Oh, and they have 20 wines to choose from for $20 each.  Hell Ya!

Mahone Bay: This is a great spot to do some antique shopping.  We found some great stuff roaming around this town.  If you're looking for knick knacks, furniture or clothes, you'll probably find it here.  Oh and the waterfront is super cute. Mahone Bay is known for the view of the three churches in the center of town.  

Lunenburg: Home of the Bluenose and our first taste of Digby Clams.  We stopped in at the Dockside Inn to have a little lunch on the patio overlooking the harbour.  Digby clams are fried up like calamari, without being as chewy, so they get a thumbs up in my book.  The sky started to get dark again so we sought refuge in the Ironworks Distillery.  What a treat! They produce rum, vodka, brandy and a number of liqueurs.  I'm not normally a liqueur drinker, but these were so good I brought home two bottles: Saskatoon Berry (which we've discovered tastes really good with Whiskey and Gingerale) and Arctic Kiwi (I have yet to play with this one)

Peggy's Cove: On our way back to Halifax, we made a stop at Peggy's Cove and you guessed it, it was raining and foggy.  Nevertheless, the lighthouse on the rocks was an iconic sight to behold.  And in the foggy weather in the harbour was really eerie even with tourists abound. I think Peggy's cove was made for day dreaming.


Wolfville : Off to the other side of the island, home to Acadia University and wine making.  (I had no idea they made wine in Nova Scotia either.)  They actually have a clever logo of a lobster claw holding a wine glass.  It's pretty sweet.  Our first stop was at the Gaspereau Vineyards for a tour and tasting.  We tasted a lot.  For me, the Port wine was the star.  It was infused with Maple Syrup! The perfect combination for a Luso- Canadian such as myself. We brought a bottle of that home too.  Their sparkling was also remarkably tasty.  Bubbles on one side and maple syrup on the other.  I was a happy camper.  It still brings my taste buds joy just thinking about it. From there we headed off to the Luckett Vineyards for a picturesque lunch and a quick call home from their free phone booth in the field. 

A few key notes: 
1. Take a waterproof jacket.   I would've been in BIG trouble without it.  They have an average of 170 rainy days in Nova Scotia, so it's bound to happen at some point on your trip
2. The Harbour Hopper tour in Halifax is cool if only for the sesation of going from land to water in the same vessel.  Halifax is small enough that you can walk around fairly easily and you don't really learn too many more interesting facts about the city that aren't general knowledge.  BUT it is a great way to see the city if you have little ones as it is a very family friendly tour. 
3. The Bicycle Thief is a known restaurant in  Halifax by the water.  Go for drinks, but skip dinner. Our meals were salty and over cooked, but the cocktails were divine.
4. Mary's does really have the best cinnamon rolls.  Her bakery is in the same building as the Alexander Keiths Brewery and she is also at the Saturday Farmers' market.  
5.  Dragon's breath Cheese (you can find it at the Farmers' Market, if not at the grocer) Is really stinky and really strong, but soooooo good.  

And there you have it.  Nine fun, food and drink-filled days in Nova Scotia.  Next time I visit I'll hope for better weather and the opportunity to do some more exploring and get out on the water. Nova Scotia, you've left me wanting to come back for more.  How long do you think it'll be before those bottles are empty? 

(sound of clinking glasses and a big gulp)