Two weeks in Nova Scotia

Old Nov 8th, 2017, 10:18 AM
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Two weeks in Nova Scotia

Thanks for the help I received on this forum and Trip Advisor in planning our trip. In the hopes of helping future visitors, here's our trip report (posted on both sites).

A bit of background: “we” is myself and my husband, early 50s and early 60s. One of us is a very picky eater, while the other will eat just about anything – foodies we aren’t! We’re not as active as we once were, due to some health issues last year, so our lodging choices were made with that in mind, particularly flights of stairs. Because of this, we have a handicapped placard, and were quite pleased with handicapped parking in Canada: the spaces were extra wide, instead of having one-side striping on one side or the other as in the U.S., which doesn’t always give the extra space needed to open doors wide. Also appreciated was the on-street handicapped metered spaces we found in practically every town.

We traveled the first two weeks of October, with the knowledge that this was the shoulder, or in some places, the off- season. I’ve reviewed all lodging and most restaurants on TA, so more detail can be found there.

We flew from Richmond to Halifax via Newark with no problems. Upon landing in Halifax, we got our rental car from Budget. The car was clean, with the exception of the back windshield, which was filthy. We stopped outside Halifax on the way to Mahone Bay for something to eat and to change some cash (no problem exchanging American $ to Canadian $ at TD Canada Trust).

We stayed 2 nights at the Bayview Pines Country Inn in Indian Point, a few miles outside Mahone Bay. The first night we ate in town at Oh My Cod, and had an enjoyable meal on the patio. Good food, but both our meals came with an enormous amount of French fries, which were mostly left uneaten. We wandered a bit after dinner, admiring the scarecrows of the Scarecrow Festival.

Day 2 was spent primarily in Lunenburg. After a good breakfast at the inn, we were off. Unfortunately, I was quite hobbled due to a poor bed, which curtailed our activities a bit and had me relying heavily on my cane. We spent some time in the Fisheries Museum of the Atlantic and then just wandered down the waterfront and relaxed. We had a good lunch at The Knot Pub. After lunch, we went over to the country club and got some good photos of the waterfront. Surprisingly, we didn’t go in any shops and had to scuttle plans to go to Blue Rocks, but it was still a great day. Dinner in Mahone Bay was a quick slice at Recardo’s Pizza. More time was spent with the scarecrows, though we didn’t go to any of the planned events due to mobility issues.

Day 3 was a travel day to Annapolis Royal. Another good breakfast, then a stop in town at Amos Pewter, and we were on our way on what was mostly the most mind-numbing segment of our vacation, Route 8!

We finally got to Annapolis Royal, starving and in need of food. There appeared to be little open, and one place that looked quite good was out for accessibility reasons. We went instead to the German Bakery, where we had the worst service and most over-priced meal of the trip for what we got. We then walked through Fort Anne for a bit, but it was Monday, and closed. Dinner was at Tom’s Pizzeria, which was another bad meal, albeit with much friendlier service. We stayed at the Annapolis Royal Motel. We spent a few hours just driving and admiring the scenery and stopping as the urge struck.

The next morning we went to the Historic Garden, which was just lovely. I’m glad it was, as otherwise Annapolis Royal wouldn’t have left a good impression. We were there for a couple relaxing hours, before heading out to Wolfville on Rt. 1. We were so glad we took this route instead of the highway, as we were delighted by the changing foliage, more quaint churches than you could shake a stick at, and most importantly, much-needed good food at Jonny’s Cookhouse in Berwick!

Our 2-night stay in Wolfville was at the Gingerbread House Bed and Breakfast (the highlight of our lodging). Dinner that night was at the Naked Crepe.

During our time in Wolfville, we looked at the pumpkin-people in Kentville, went to Luckett’s Vineyard even though we’re not wine drinkers, drove to Scot’s Bay and stopped at the Lookout on the way, and went to Hall’s Harbour for lunch. Scot’s Bay was fabulously wild, with no one around on the beach, very high winds, and the water churning away. On the way back, we stopped at Cape Blomidon, and I was sufficiently recovered to trek down toward the beach.

We then went to Hall’s Harbour, which was nice, but not as nice as expected. There weren’t any boats in the harbor, so I couldn’t get the high tide/low tide comparison photo. Dh had a lobster roll, and he said it was just okay. But any day admiring scenery on vacation is better than a good day at work, so all was well.

A good dinner was had at Paddy’s Brewpub, and then we were able to catch the sunset and low tide at Evangeline Beach, which was worth rushing through dinner for.

We sadly had to check out of the inn, and drive to Parrsboro for an interim night on the way to PEI. The plan was to use the area to head to Joggins Fossil Cliffs and also the Anne Murray Center, but fate intervened. We checked into the Sunshine Inn. We went out to FORCE, which was interesting and with great views. Dinner was at Harbor View restaurant, and was really good. We spent some time walking the shore at low tide.

This is when the trip went awry, as my husband dislocated his hip early in the morning. We wound up 45 minutes away, at the nearest open ER, in Amherst. He received excellent care, and the doctor managed to reduce the dislocation there, rather than sending us to a larger hospital in Truro, which is what we feared when we saw the size of the hospital. About 7 hours after the incident and with some healthy cash-back rewards on the credit card, we were on our way again, basically none the worse. Dh made use of my cane for the remainder of the trip, and I thankfully had gotten to the point where I didn’t need it.

Unfortunately, our experience with Canada’s health system scuttled our plans for Joggins and Anne Murray, and we were off to the bridge to PEI.

Our hotel for two nights in Charlottetown was the Holiday Inn Express. It was nice for us to be back in a known and comfortable element again: a chain hotel. Our first night was low-key after the excitement of the morning: we found a church and went to Mass, and then had dinner at Smitty’s.

Our full day on PEI was spent driving around the island. Unlike Nova Scotia, October is pretty solidly off-season. But the Anne of Green Gables national park was open, and that was the primary reason for the detour.

(An aside – the free entry to national parks in 2017 saved us a good bit of money, which was especially appreciated after the medical bills!)

But first, a stop in North Rustico, where we walked the boardwalk from the parking area to the harbor, dislocated hip not slowing him down except for the cane. This is a beautiful area, and we really enjoyed relaxing and sitting on benches, watching the water.

Then on to Anne. I don’t know if I would have enjoyed this part of the trip as much in the summer, given how touristy Cavendish is, but it was downright sleepy in October, which was perfect.

Back in Charlottetown, we headed in the other direction and went to the Blockhouse Point lighthouse. Great views, few people at the lighthouse, and spilled PEI potatoes along the road, it was a nice side trip. Dinner was a take-out pizza from Famous Pepper’s, eaten on a bench on the harbor. We later went to Cow’s out near the hotel for our second ice cream cone of the day.

We didn’t see as much as I had planned in Charlottetown, but due to the circumstances had to adjust our plans slightly. Maybe there’ll be another visit to see what had to be dropped from the itinerary.

We left the island the next morning, taking the ferry to Caribou. We stopped for lunch at Snow Queen in Antigonish, which was good. Then we continued on to Cape Breton, and Baddeck, where we stayed for three nights.

We were at the Silver Dart Lodge, and they provided excellent customer service when I emailed them about my husband’s hip problem, and asked about toilet height and grab bars in the bathroom, as he still needed to be careful with certain things. I figured we would just work with whatever the situation was, and was surprised to see that they had put a high seat on, as well as a removable bar on the side of the tub to provide extra security getting in.

It was late afternoon, we were tired and hungry, and we had tickets for a Celtic Colours concert that evening. We wound up getting sandwiches at the Farmer’s Daughter market and heading to the concert, which was wonderful, but a late night for us.

We changed our plans the next day, since the first bad weather of our trip was forecast for, and this day would be the only sunny day. So we had to do the whole Cabot Trail on that day.

(A note on the weather – amazing. I got more use from my capris and summery shirts than I thought I would. We had some rain in Cape Breton, and our final two days in Halifax turned quite cold, but overall it was great weather. In many of my photos, the sky is the same beautiful blue as the water.)

Overnight rain was still clearing out, and there was some fog, so we decided to head clockwise around the trail. Fall color was about at its peak, so to say it was a beautiful drive was an understatement. We spent some time in Cheticamp, but made a bad decision not to have lunch there. Instead, we stopped in Aucoin Bakery. Wow, excellent place! A baguette, blueberry turnover, and chocolate chip cookie in the back seat, we continued on the trail, stopping frequently. In Ingonish, we stopped at the Groovy Goat and sidetracked to see the Keltic Lodge. It was at this point we were hit with exhaustion. We were tired, we were hungry, and we wanted to get back to civilization! The drive from Ingonish was unending. Due to my brain fogginess, we missed the Englishtown ferry turn-off, so kept slogging on.

We finally got back to Baddeck, and then it was time to drive to Sydney for another concert – oh, no! The baguette long gone, we figured we’d get sustenance in Sydney. But it was Thanksgiving, we had trouble finding places on the fly, and the ones we did had long waits. We were able to get a table at Kiju’s, in the convention center where the concert was, but waited 15 minutes for someone to acknowledge us before finally leaving. We managed to tamp down our hunger with chips and a candy bar from the concert bar. After the concert, we hit Tim Horton’s before heading back to Baddeck.

The next day was rainy, as expected. We went to the Gaelic College in St. Ann’s, and saw the cultural demonstrations, which was an enjoyable way to spend a couple hours. Then we went to the Alexander Graham Bell museum, which was very interesting, but I found the layout of the exhibits to be annoying – everything was printed on long panels along which everyone creeped, so you were at the mercy of all the slow-reading people in front of you. Admittedly, I was cranky from driving overload the prior day. Despite this, it was a nice stop.

Lunch and dinner both were at the Yellow Cello, which we obviously enjoyed enough to return.

Breakfast the next morning was at the hotel, before heading out to Halifax. We stayed three nights at the Best Western Chocolate Lake, which was okay but I can’t recommend, as it seemed overall tired. We asked the front desk clerk where to head to find some restaurants, and he sent it to an area tied up with road construction and few choices. We had an unfortunate habit of having trouble finding places to eat on their vacation. After a terribly unsatisfying sandwich, we went back to the hotel and tried to get our bearings and find a dinner spot. Thankfully, we found Chain Lake Drive, with its abundance of choices.

We really weren't talen with Halifax. The hotel was in an out-of-the-way location, and Halifax roads seem like they hadn’t kept pace with the growth – no turn lanes, resulting in constant backups and missed green lights, a huge roundabout that frankly should be been a traffic light, and poor signage. We spent a wonderful morning touring the Citadel, which we both enjoyed a lot, and then we headed downtown. There was construction seemingly everywhere, parking was very hard to find, and the waterfront was interrupted with construction. We tried twice, on two different days, and realized we weren’t enjoying ourselves at all, so beat a hasty retreat. After almost two weeks in bucolic small towns, maybe we should have started in Halifax instead of wrapping up the trip there.

Our last full day, we got up early and went to Peggy’s Cove, beating the crowds, and then meandered back, stopping here and there, taking side roads.

We ate twice at Fredie’s Fabulous Fish, where dh declared the seafood chowder to be the best he’s ever had. He also liked the lobster roll, but not more than the chowder. We also ate a Jack Astor’s, and had a very nice dinner at La Piazza on Chebucto Rd. Our final night, we went down late to the hotel restaurant and indulged in dessert; the restaurant personnel were noticeably friendlier than the front desk people.

Nova Scotia and Prince Edward Island were both wonderful places to vacation, and we’ve talked about going back, perhaps during Celtic Colours again. This in itself is a testament to what a great time we had, since our philosophy is generally that there’s so much of the world to see that we don’t do repeat locations!
dreamer320 is offline  
Old Nov 8th, 2017, 04:57 PM
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Attempt to say thanks number 8.
xcountry is offline  
Old Nov 9th, 2017, 08:27 PM
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Thanks for the trip report - it sounds like a relaxing holiday. The Maritime provinces are on my bucket list, especially in the fall for the nice colours and scenery.
mdinbc is offline  
Old Nov 15th, 2017, 02:46 AM
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Glad you enjoyed the Maritimes. I live only one province over in Quebec and have friends there, so I will definitely make it back, but I can understand why you feel that even though you usually don't repeat locations, that this part of Canada is one to which you're considering returning.

I like Halifax, but since I don't drive while there, this may influence my opinion. I love the views of the harbour from Point Pleasant Park and the Citadel; I really hope the city doesn't continue to build skyscrapers as it has blocking the view of the water from the Citadel.

Best wishes,

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Old Nov 15th, 2017, 04:44 PM
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I somehow loved the detail in your report.

I had to go back and look at your original post, and I guess I'm not surprised that you had such a good initial sense of what you wanted, that I was not inspired to add much substance to what you wrote here in March.

A couple of times during my reading of your report I could actually picture myself there and vividly see what you were describing.

As I read, I could almost sense my own influence... probably nobody here mentions Parrsboro as often as I do, but alas, it wasn't likely my influence after all.

Even the improvised/hastened plans for the Cabot Trail sounded like something I endorse around here... as in: GO to the Cabot Trail at the first sign of clear weather while allowing 2 or 3 days from which to (randomly get) such an opportunity.

I've even referenced Scot's Bay in tandem with the world's highest tides churning all around.

Your generally-satisfying trip was so much the result of your own impressive preparation, to where you need only have gone through the motions and improvised with a few pizzas, an occasional holiday, and life thrown-in.

Good job on your report!
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