Maritime Living in Halifax, Nova Scotia
Going away and spending time in a city outside of your own is just about my favourite thing. This year I was lucky enough to get out to Halifax, Nova Scotia for about five days and had a great time. I think there is something both awesome and important about exploring your own country, though in Canada (being the second largest nation in the world), it isn't always the easiest or cheapest thing to do. I have a whack of family in the maritimes and took full advantage over the course of the week - that is fantastic travel trip; go visit where you have family and friends. It is like killing four birds with one stone! Visiting loved ones, saving money, getting local insider info and having those extra creature-comforts of staying in a home as opposed to a hotel, motel or other budget friendly accommodation.
Having had several trips to Nova Scotia throughout my life this was not my first venture to Halifax, but there has always been something I loved about it. The beautiful ocean, the funky waterfront, the the cold (and tranquil) beaches, the fresh seafood and a salty crispness in the air. I think almost all of my travels to Halifax in the past came with a dense fog overtaking the city, but this trip was pleasantly surprised by the warm temperatures and clear skies.
We did some of the 'tourist' standards like the ocean-view drive to Lunenberg where we enjoyed the shops and had some lunch - scallops and chips from The Fish Factory - very tasty. Scallops might be one of my favourite things. We took the coastal drive back to Halifax, stopping in Mahone Bay for some more treats - fudge, ice cream and fresh baked goods. These little fishing towns are stocked with good things to eat, for both the seafood and sweet lover!
Even among all the wandering, I always find my favourite moments are when we just stop - stop looking for the next thing to do, or see or buy, but rather when we find a place to just sit for a moment. It is then that it all soaks in. I often enjoy those moments the most; where you sit, chat and just let the silence drift in and out naturally.
A totally new experience we had was the Magic Winery Bus in Wolfville - this was my favourite activity! For $25 you got a shuttle service on an old-school double-decker bus to four different wineries in the Wolfville area; Gaspereau, L'Acadie, Lucketts and Domaine de Grand Pre. Each winery offered at least one complimentary tasting and a bit of a tour (though some were more in depth than others).
The Magic Winery Bus was full of charm - the guide, Charlotte, was full of town history, musical stylings and a touch of humour. She went out of her way to ensure that everyone was taken care of and no one was forgotten. It was a nice "hop on hop off" style transit, the bus having one pick up at each vineyard an hour, giving just enough time to drink some wine, hear about the winery and look around.
Now, I will admit, the average age of the crowd was probably 65 - but there were the odd groups like us to even things out a little; a group on a 'ladies day out' and a few couples. We diverted from the 'herd' and decided to start on the second vineyard, wanting to break away from the masses - this was a great decision. Because we did this our first vineyard was a private tour, it was quiet and so detailed. The guide was so sweet and passionate about the wine, which was something we did not see duplicated the whole day. L'Acadie was my favourite tour and tasting - it was so interesting and the wines were delicious. I also loved that the vineyard was completely organic.
I also really loved Luckett's, mostly for the amazing dining experience! They have a great view of the valley, fantastic food and a very iconic red British phone booth in the middle of the vines, available for free calls in North America. This was very random to see, but I just loved it! I did manage to get some photos and make a phone call home to Bryan - we mocked English accents and had a quick laugh, as I tried to describethe lovely view. This was a fun touch that I appreciated.
We shared a baked brie with baguette, and for the main I had pan grilled snapper with capers and a mango caesar salad - just delicious!
Our last stop was Domain de Grand Pre - it had a very European feel with cobblestone walkways and a large courtyard. The tour and tasting was brief, but the location had its own charms. One of their recent specialties was an apple creme liquor which was quite delicious. I decided to take a risk and lug a bottle back in my suitcase (don't worry, it made it back unspoiled). A short 10 minute walk through the vineyard brought us to a UNESCO look-out point, the ocean and Blomidon cliffs in the background. This was a nice quiet moment with a beautiful view, sadly, because of our time limit I could not linger as long as I would have wanted.
We ended our afternoon by continuing our journey to Blomidon Provincial Park, a 40 minute drive from Wolfville. I did not get the opportunity to hike the trails, but I did get some time at their beautiful beach. We arrived early in the evening around 5pm or so and the tide was heading out - I don't know if I have ever seen so much beach before! The sand seemed to go on forever, the ocean lingering in the distance. The sand/clay was a rich burgundy colour, squishing between our toes sometimes being so dense it stuck to our feet like mud in the tread of a shoe. The cliffs rose high above our heads revealing its endless layers. The wind was very strong and oddly made it a bit challenging to walk - but it was again, nice to sit, to ponder, to just be.
Our last full day we enjoyed some time at Lawrencetown Beach, my cousin Cathy's special spot. It was another beautiful day and the ocean was warmer than expected - it was full of families splashing and relaxing and surfers warmed up in their wet suits looking for the next wave to break. (Surfing will be for another time!).
In the evening we ate at Salty's on the waterfront, sitting by the ocean and soaking in our last Halifax evening. We munched on crab dip and bacon wrapped scallops which were probably the best things I have ever tasted, finishing with my main course of crab cakes and greens. It was truly a great dinner; my sister Kristin, cousin Cathy, Uncle Bob and I strolled the waterfront. We grabbed a coffee and took some time to sit and enjoy the sunsetting.
Halifax is a wonderful little part of Canada that is definitely worth exploring, and there is so much to see and do a few short hours away. Because I have so much family there, I have the luxury of knowing that I will be there again to check out other parts of the province I missed this time around; surfing at Lawrencetown beach, kayaking the waterfront, taking a trip around Cape Breton and hiking the Cabot Trail - these are all on my Nova Scotia to do list.
Favourite activity of the trip: Magic Winery Bus Tour
Favourite piece of scenery: Blomidon Provincial Park
Favourite place to ponder life: Lawrencetown beach
Favourite eats: Scallops and crab cakes!