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Trip Report Nova Scotia - Why Did They Ever Leave??

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I’m finally getting around to my Nova Scotia Trip Report. Yep, it’s been a long time, but it’s finally done!

Last year, I decided to finally take a trip to Nova Scotia. My Grandmother’s family was from the Truro area, and before she died, she had talked about taking us all back there for a visit – we never did. So, 22 years later, I took that trip.

Photos can be seen at: http://www.toedtoesproductions.com/Photography/Canada_2008/index.html#1

Day 1 & 2: Destination Past

I arrived in Halifax at 11:30 a.m. (flew an overnight Air Canada flight into Toronto with a connection to Halifax). When I landed, the rain was pouring down in torrents. Everything looked grey. By the time I got my rental car (little booths outside the airport), I was soaked. The drive to the hotel was through forest and rock and was very nice even in the rain. I checked into the Bluenose Inn (Howard Johnson) on Bedford Highway for $89 per night and went looking for some lunch. I found a little diner up the road and bought some corn chowder to go and headed back to the hotel. The room was clean and efficient and sat up on the hill so I could see the Bedford Basin from my window. As I was a bit jetlagged and it was still raining, I decided to just hang out in the room for the rest of the day and organize things for the rest of the trip. Usually, my first day on a trip is spent at a local park or garden relaxing, so I hadn’t had anything really planned for the day.

The next morning, I got up and ready to see downtown Halifax. As I was getting my camera gear together, I tossed my house keys into my suitcase and then my toiletry bag and locked the suitcase lock. As I heard the lock go “click”, I realized that the suitcase lock key was with my house keys! Oops! Can’t stop and deal with it now, so off I went.

I drove out to Pier 21 and parked for the day. Parking is $10 for the entire day and FRED (Free Rides Every Day) the Bus stops right there. A cruise ship was docked that day, so Pier 22 was open with shops. A TON of Scottish stuff was on sale. I did a lot of looking, but didn’t see anything unique to Halifax or Nova Scotia.

It was raining on and off throughout the day, so I adjusted my plans to visit the indoor sites. I hopped on FRED and stopped at the Maritime Museum. The Museum was VERY interesting. I was reading “Curse of the Narrows: The Halifax Disaster” at the time and really enjoyed seeing the museum’s section on the disaster. After the museum, I walked along the wharf (it had stopped raining for the moment) and did some shopping and photography. As I walked along, the weather and the history really got to me and I switched my camera mode to black & white. I just felt it was the right format to shoot – I felt like I had stepped into the past. There was a small photo gallery on the wharf and I got a lot of inspiration from the photos – there was one framed print with four photos of the same old dry-docked boat in each season that was really nice. Then I headed over to the Art Gallery of Nova Scotia. They have a big exhibit on Maude Lewis and lots of folk art. I preferred the exhibit on Tom Forrestal and his unique framing perspective.

Next, I took FRED up to the Citadel. I had planned on getting off and taking some scenic shots, but it was raining again, so I decided to stay on the bus. Going around the Citadel, I felt like I was on a roller coaster. The driver was racing around the grounds trying to keep on schedule and I was seated on the side facing away from the building. Every curve we went around, I felt the bus leaning over the edge of the hill. Scary.

I did some more wandering and shopping and at the end of the day, I picked up my car and made a quick stop at Zeller’s for a new Ibex cotton flannel blanket and some bobby pins (needed to pick my suitcase lock, remember).

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    Day 3 & 4: Shining a Light on Nature

    The next morning, I got up and packed up the car and was soon on the road to Peggy’s Cove. On the way, I saw an old dry-docked boat along the side of the road and realized it was the one I saw in the photo gallery. I stopped and got some shots. I arrived at Peggy’s Cove early enough that there weren’t a lot of folks around, so I took a bunch of photos, climbing around the rocks to get different angles. As this is the most photographed lighthouse, I tried to find a slightly different view.

    I then headed towards Chester and Mahone Bay. On the way, I stopped at an antique shop at a house. I had a wonderful time chatting with the owners and watching the birds and squirrels in their backyard. I found some nice items to purchase and then headed back on my way to Chester and Mahone Bay. They were both very “quaint” and if you enjoy Niagara-on-the-Lake, you’d likely enjoy it here. I stopped quickly for a couple photos and then headed onward to Lunenburg. I first visited the Fisheries Museum. It was interesting, but not terrific. I ate a quick lunch across the road from the museum and then checked in at my cottage. I stayed at the Atlantic View Motel & Cottages. For $85 per night, I got a one-room cottage. The room comes with an outside grill, cooking utensils, dinnerware, toaster, coffee pot, etc. It has a little porch with a couple chairs that overlooks the lawn and out to the bay across the street. You can see the lighthouse at the edge of the bay. Right across the street, there was a manufactured nest with an osprey in it. I picked up some ketchup chips and all dressed chips at a local market and spent the rest of the evening taking photos of the osprey and snacking.

    As there was a lighthouse in the distance, and I could see the bay from my porch, I decided that getting up before sunrise was a worthwhile thing. I got up, wrapped my Ibex cotton flannel blanket around me and grabbed my tripod with camera attached (I set it up the night before) and went out onto the porch to wait for the sun. I got some nice photos of the sunrise, and at dawn, a doe and her fawn came wandering through the property grazing. I went back to bed for a couple hours and then got up for the day.

    I then headed out to The Ovens Natural Park for a day of outdoor activities. I hiked out to the Sea Caves and took a lot of photos. I even got one of some kayakers. I spent about a half day there and then headed down to Liverpool to see the Sherman Hines Museum of Photography (wouldn’t think I’d be interested, eh?)

    When I arrived at the museum, I rolled up my windows and grabbed my camera that had been laying on the passenger seat. OUCH!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! There was a bee on my camera and I grabbed it when I grabbed the camera. It stung me right on the finger joint. Luckily, the folks at the museum found a tweezer so I could get the stinger out of my finger.

    The museum itself was wonderful! There were so many cameras of all types and sizes. The photo exhibit of Sherman Hines’ work was amazing. I’m not a people photographer, but his photos made me think I might want to be one. :-d

    Afterwards, I had lunch at a local pizza place and then headed back to Lunenburg. I stopped and did some shopping for gifts and souvenirs, and then headed back to the cottage to drop off everything and take a quick rest. Then I headed down the road to the edge of the golf course. I waited there for the light to start changing and then I spent an hour or so taking photos of Lunenburg from across the water. This was definitely not a black & white moment.

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    Day 5 & 6: It’s a Whale of a Tale!

    The next morning I woke up early to check out the photo ops at sunrise, but it was too overcast, so I went back to bed. I got up a bit later and checked out and headed back down to Liverpool and then out RR8. I drove for miles without ever seeing anything – no birds, no people, no houses, no cars, no nothing but trees and the road ahead of me.

    As time went on, the clouds gave way to fog as I drove down 217 towards Digby. Then the fog cleared and it became a gorgeous day. I stopped at Sandy Cove for some photos and then headed to Brier Island. I stayed at Brier Island Lodge for $109 per night. The lodge sits on the top of the hill and the room was very nice. I got a nice hello from the resident dogs (German shepherds). After arriving, I hiked out to Seal Cove and spent all afternoon watching and photographing the seals. I had dinner at the lodge.

    The next morning, I drove out to Balancing Rock (on Long Island). There wasn’t anyone around – not even a car in the lot. I had all my camera gear with me and was getting ready to head out on the trail when I saw the sign indicating that the trail ends in like 120 steps. I decided I didn’t want to carry 22 lbs of camera equipment down and up hose steps, so I took my smaller belt pack and just the camera, filters, batteries, cards and a couple lenses (yep, that’s going light). There wasn’t a soul along the path or at the viewing platform at the end. I spent a good half hour enjoying it all to myself. A nice German couple came along about then and we had a nice chat. I spent a while longer taking more photographs and then started back along the path. Along the way, I met several folks along the way.

    NOTICE: When returning from balancing rock and passing folks along the trail, you MUST tell them that it was still balancing when you left it. They WILL ask, so just get it out of the way and tell them.

    I then headed to Tiverton and the Zodiac Whale Watching. As I was getting ready to pay, the owner Tom Goodwin came through and said to hold off because the weather was questionable. I hung out and waited as others came along for the trip. At 12:15, Tom gave us the OK and we suited up in the flotation suits. We felt like we were heading off into space. While getting suited up, one of the couples told me “it was still balancing when we left” – I had passed them on the trail to Balancing Rock earlier that day.

    We all climbed aboard the Zodiac and Tom sped us on our way. We go to see the “Tiverton Mountain Goat” on the cliff side (he ran away and now lives as a free mountain goat). We saw puffins floating along in the water – they are much smaller than I thought).

    Finally, we saw one whale and stopped to watch for a couple dives. Tom was telling us that it was a humpback and that they almost always lift their tails when going for a long dive. This whale decided to prove Tom wrong and never raised his tale.

    We moved on to find another whale. We found a couple more as well as a finback and watched them a bit. Then we headed off to two more. Tom recognized one of them from his fin shape – they call him Huggies and he has been there every year for the past 20 years, since he was a calf. He and his companion gave us some nice tail flips.

    On the way back in, we saw some seals swimming around. The ride itself was exhilarating and well worth the price – seeing the whales up close was priceless.

    I then headed back to the lodge for an evening of relaxation.

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    Day 7 & 8: It’s all in the Family

    The next morning, I checked out and headed through the Annapolis Valley to Truro. When I arrived in Truro, I stopped off at the Colchester Historical Museum & Archives to see if there was anything there on my family. I was hoping to find out where the family farm had been located. The folks there were very helpful but not hopeful that I would find the location. They had a big map of the farmsteads from the mid-1800’s posted. I started looking through some of the family files and found my family’s tree on a chart. As I looked at it, I said to myself “Yes, Mother. I know you had all this information, but I didn’t know if my sister had it or if it was still at the house, and I didn’t have time to go searching for it all.” The chart I found was sent in by my Mom years before… With her chart and the map, I was able to identify the family property. I got some directions to get there and headed off. I found the property and took some photos. The old farm is no longer there, but it felt good to stand on the land.

    I headed back to Truro and checked in to my room. I stayed at the Palliser Motel for $75 per night. It included a free breakfast buffet in the morning and a discount on dinner at the restaurant. It is also right next to the Tidal Bore.

    The next morning, I had breakfast and drove out to the cemetery where my family is buried. I found my great, great grandparents, great, great uncles and aunts, and great great, great grandparents. I spent some time in the drizzling rain visiting them. Then I headed back to the hotel (stopping on the way at Zeller’s to pick up a couple more Ibex cotton flannel blankets). I relaxed for a while and read, and then headed across the street to watch the Tidal Bore. It was very interesting to watch, but not a real “exciting moment”.

    I had dinner at the hotel and did some shopping in the gift shop (it was a nice gift shop).

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    Day 9, 10 & 11: A Fitting Farewell

    The next morning, I checked out and headed back to Halifax. On the way, I stopped at the Shubenacadie Wildlife Park. I walked around the park toting my wheeled camera bag (it’s 22 lbs, I’m not carrying it all the time) behind me. When I got to the cougars, they took a very big interest in my camera bag. One kept chittering at me and trying to stalk the bag. The grey wolves showed interest in the bag as well as the marset. The moose was hiding in the trees and the Sable Island horses were still in their shed. The magpie was very talkative. The raccoons were being very cute.

    After arriving back in Halifax (stayed at the Bluenose again), I went in search of a Harvey’s and had two veggie burgers – mmmmmmm good!

    The next morning, I headed downtown and parked at Pier 21 again. I walked all the way up the hill to the Museum of Natural History (wheeling my camera gear behind me). The museum was nice. Then I headed back to the waterfront and wandered around until cruise time on the Tall Ship Silva. As we cruised around the bay, the Snowbirds flew in. They were in town for an air show that weekend and were out practicing. It was rather cool to be sailing on an old sailing ship with jets flying overhead. As I happened to be on the Silva with a cruise ship outing, I got to benefit from their free buffet. Of course, I was the youngest passenger on the ship (and I’m not that young).

    Afterwards, I spent the rest of the day wandering and shopping, and then headed to Harvey’s for another veggie burger – mmmmmm good!

    The last morning, I packed up and checked out and headed to the airport for my trip home. I boarded the plane and we taxied out to the runway. As I looked out the window, there were several grandstands filled with people waving to us as we took off. It seems the air show was taking place on the same runway and in between commercial flights taking off, they would do the aerial ballet, etc. It was a wonderful farewell.

    All in all, I had a wonderful time. The people were very kind and the sights were beautiful. I can understand why my Great Grandfather used to say “why did we move away from there?!” Of course, like him, I’ve never spent a winter in Nova Scotia.

    All my research (except family stuff) was done prior to the trip. I took along my trusty “coupon holder” with all my notes, confirmations, etc. That holder is why I can rattle off prices 10 months later – it’s still all in there for referencing.

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    Souvenirs & Gifts – My favorite souvenirs are, as always, the Ibex cotton flannel blankets – I bought one in each size (twin, full and queen). I really liked the gift shop at Pier 21 and took a long time to pick out an amber ring there. In Halifax, I also bought a crystal mantel clock from Nova Scotian Crystal, and a pewter frame and some pewter keychains for family. In Peggy’s Cove, I bought a soapstone walrus for one niece (she collects soapstone animals). At the antique store (Copper Leaf Antiques), I bought a cast iron trivet, cast iron sheep doorstop and a glass jar for my Dad. In Lunenburg, I bought a sweatshirt (nice sweater knit material), a mini turtle statue and pirate shirt & hat for my nieces, and a flask for my sister. In Tiverton, I bought a whale statue and whale book for one niece. At the Palliser gift shop, I bought several necklaces for various family members and my pet sitter, a pewter puffin frame, a fleece jacket, and an atlas of Nova Scotia.

    Across the street from the Bluenose Inn in Halifax, there is a little pottery shop, The Clayworks. They make all their pieces right there in the shop and have some wonderful designs. I bought two mugs from them on my last night – one with a whale tail handle. You can find them online at www.clayworks.ca.

    Hotels – The Bluenose was actually very convenient even though not right in the downtown area. It was simple to get to and from the airport, and I found it easy to drive to Pier 21 and park for the day. There are several restaurants along Bedford Highway within easy reach, and the pottery shop across the street was enjoyable. There was a bathtub with shower, but the bathtub wasn’t full-size (about 2 feet shorter). The Atlantic View cottage was very nice. There was only a shower stall in the bathroom. There was no phone or tv, but with the osprey and bay across the street, who needs them. The Brier Island Lodge was a real gem. The rooms were big and comfortable. Full-size bathtub/shower combo. The restaurant on-site was convenient and it was an easy hike to Seal Cove. The Palliser Motel was very convenient with the restaurant and gift shop. The room included a full-size bathtub/shower combo.

    Meals – The corn chowder and garlic bread was from the Esquire Restaurant on Bedford Highway and cost $11.58. It was good. I ate a lobster wrap (I chose to not go veggie due to the location) at Murphy’s in Halifax. It was good but not worth the $19.49 cost. I preferred the 6” veggie sub heated at Big Red for $8.57. The veggie sub at the pizza place in Liverpool (didn’t write down the name) at $6.78 was one of the best. At Brier Island Lodge, I had scallops & chips for $20.06, and veggie nachos and butterscotch meringue pie for $14.71 (the pie was killer). At the Palliser, I had grilled cheese with mushrooms and onion rings for $15.80, and alfredo over linguini for $19.93. My favorite meals by far were the Harvey’s veggie burgers ($10.78 for two veggie burgers & soda, and $5.95 for one veggie burger & soda).

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    TT,
    Appreciate your affording me the opportunity to live vicariously through your trip report. NS and the maritimes are one of my favorite places in the world to visit and it was a treat to relive your trip(even if I now have an unnatural craving for corn chowder)

    Thanks!

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    Toed, outstanding report adn photos!! What a pleasure to read your great report and to see your fantastic photos. They are really great.
    I love puffins, so was glad to see that you had a picture of one.
    What a stroke of luck to see the Snowbirds and to get such a wonderful send off.

    I was getting worried as I read your report... Harvey's didn't show up til quite late in your trip. Glad you found one.

    I think I have to go to Zellers right now and see about these flannel blankets you keep talking about!

    I've got my coupon holder all ready for my next trip!!

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    Elle - Thanks. Glad I could help you out... sorry about the corn chowder. :-d

    Sally - Thanks. Isn't that always the case - visitors see more of a place than the locals ever do? :)

    I think it was just practical to move. The farm was run by my great, great grandparents and their surviving son (the youngest child) was going to take over; my great grandfather didn't know anything about farming and ended up in insurance, and he and my great grandmother and grandmother travelled clear across the U.S. over the course of out 6-8 years before settling down in California.

    Kodi - You think you were getting worried! I was just about ready to go berserk from withdrawals. The send off was pretty spectacular, I might say - it felt like my ancestors were all there to say goodbye. One thing I didn't include though, was that when the plane landed in Toronto, I said to myself "yes, I'm home!" And then I realized I wasn't home and still had another flight. Guess Toronto's in my blood good.

    Definitely check out the Ibex cotton flannel blankets - they are the absolute best. In fact, there's a commercial for Kaiser hospitals out here that shows a man holding his baby in the hospital room and the baby is swaddled in... wait for it... an Ibex cotton flannel blanket! It was obviously filmed in Canada because the hospitals there use the blankets (ours don't). They're cheap (under $30), meant to be washed in hot water and often (hospitals wash them daily), and softer than other blankets. Even Moose-dog loves our Ibex cotton flannel blankets. (Did I say Ibex cotton flannel blankets enough yet?)

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    TT: loved your Trip Report-it will help a lot of people-so glad you liked the Esquire, it is one of our favourites...and I totally agree with you about Ibex (there now we have all said it!)

    DH has now spent 2 winters in NS and DD, 7...I don't get to do this until retirement (2-4 years from now). However, as I grew up in Newfoundland, I think it will be a breeze...literally, a really stiff breeze!

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