South Shore Diaries 1: A two part travel story featuring two sisters.

Before I even arrived in Riverview, NB for a family reunion, my sister Sue and I had planned a five day jaunt to the South Shore in Nova Scotia - a long overdue girls trip to one of the most beautiful locales in Canada. As a "Haligonian" by birth, no trip home is complete for me without at least a "Halifax Run", which was to be the jumping off point of our tour.

With our accommodations pre booked in advance, all we had to do was pack and go.  This sounds way more simple than it actually was.

I opted not to take my behemoth of a suitcase due to limited trunk "real estate" so instead I re-packed everything into different tote bags, one being a Costco grocery bag (What!!?? They're huge!).  Result:  same amount but "softer", so easier to pack around.  Do the math on that.  Finally, we had everything we needed including our own booze supply and a lunch.

Once the car was packed, we had to use the bathroom about ten times before we even got out of the driveway.  A guy walking his dog around the block waved hi to us on at least three rotations before we left.

Not much to report as far as the drive into Nova Scotia went except that there is an unusually high count of road kill on the road from Moncton to Halifax...largely porcupines, raccoons and sadly, one deer with a very proprietorial crow hopping along beside it.  Plenty of moose crossing signs but nary a beast in sight.  Maybe next time...

Arriving at our first destination Halifax, we made our way to our hotel, the Westin Nova Scotian, in which we had a lovely room on the top floor overlooking a nearby park.  First things first, we refreshed by doing face masks and having a few gin and tonics.  Then we set about figuring out where to go to eat (and our outfits for the evening, of course).

Halifax is a wealth of cool places to go for a drink and or dinner especially around Argyle Street area and over the years I have discovered a few favourites, one being The Press Gang on Prince Street which is located in the oldest stone structure in Halifax, built in 1759.  Atmospheric, historical, great food and featuring really good live music, it is one of the first places I like to go when in Halifax.

Rounding off our evening after a lovely steak dinner, we popped into the Obladee Wine Bar on Barrington Street near our hotel.  Wonderful lighting, a very cool interior (modern with an antique edge which really played well with the original architecture) great wine and engaging bar tenders really made us feel like we were finally on vacation - tourists in our own native land.

The next day we were headed out to the South Shore but before that we stopped for lunch at one of Halifax's gems, The Henry House.  This place has been on my radar for many years and for some reason or another I had always missed it on my previous Halifax runs.  We were happy to find it open and ready for the business day so after some quick exploring of the interesting history of the building, we set upon the difficult task of choosing what to eat, while enjoying our location on the sunny patio.  Natch, we both opted for the fish and chips.  Hey, it's Halifax!  Our server was fun and attentive and eager to tell us more about the different dining and drinking options the building had to offer.  I especially liked the printed info sheet available for clients at the hostess station which explains who William Alexander Henry was and the history of his beautifully appointed stone house.  After our lunch we did a bit more exploring into the downstairs pub which used to be the original kitchen, the fireplace oven still in the brick wall.  An absolute pleasure to dine there and the fish and chips were the best damned fish and chips I can remember to date.  The subtle beer batter taste was virtuoso.  Ok, too much?  It was really good - trust me.  I'm a Haligonian.  Next time, I will have to try the Drawing Room which is an elegant upstairs bar in the Henry House which unfortunately was not open at the time and is more of an evening option.  Basically what I'm saying is that I need a whole day and a whole blog post just for The Henry House.

On the road toward our next destination, we reminisced about our childhood and the many trips we would take to places of interest in and around Nova Scotia as kids.  My sister had a few hair raising tales about our brother when he was little and from time to time would also point out the street where they lived before I was born and places she remembered going to as a child. 

Deciding on our route, we opted for the winding roads along the shore - the scenery did not disappoint.  Of course, a quick stop at Peggy's Cove was in order - this being a staple destination when we were younger.  Although it is really built up and mostly parking areas, lots of tour buses and fancy toilets now, there is still an undeniable charm to the place and a rugged beauty to the land which cannot be denied.  We snapped a few pictures, wolfed down a locally made ice cream and continued on. 

Our next stop was a night in Mahone Bay.  Sue had done her homework and booked us into a place she had stayed in on a previous trip with a friend, the aptly named Mahone Bay Bed and Breakfast.  Our host Scott Sager gave us a tour and a rundown of the history of the house, it being 152 years old.   Full of delightful nooks and crannies and uniquely appointed bedrooms, it also has a sunny living room and plenty of veranda space to kick back with a cup of coffee in the morning or a glass of wine in the evening - all with a view of the main street, a lovely garden and the comings and goings of the locals.  Homey luxury at its best.

After taking a quick look in a few of the craft shops, we headed down the street for a pint on an outdoor patio overlooking the river.  Then we set upon the difficult task of choosing where and what to eat...finally, we decided on the Mateus Bistro, which was in view of our B&B and boasted an excellent menu, not to mention friendly staff.  There is something about being on vacation and doing a road trip that really whets the appetite - more so when you know that the food you are about to partake of is locally sourced with plenty of fresh seasonal ingredients and made with care. 

We grabbed a seat outside on the deck and settled on a bottle of wine to begin with.  I think I really need to be a food taster because it is always hard for me to choose one thing from the menu.  But, I finally decided on the rotisserie chicken and it was amazing.  In fact, I told the server that it was "the best 'effing chicken dinner I've had in a while" which made her laugh.  About twenty minutes later she actually brought the chef out so I could "repeat what you told me" to him - a young hip staff, great crowd and a guy playing the piano singing Sinatra standards wafting out from inside the restaurant - all elements of a good atmosphere for fine dining.  Yes, our hats off and bibs on to owner and Executive Chef, Matthew Krizan for a most enjoyable evening and meal.

A glass of wine on the veranda back at the B&B was the perfect night cap to a fun day.  Feet up on the railing, watching the sky change from sunset to darkness, we bid goodnight to this beautiful little spot on earth.

What a great sleep!  Now to the business of breakfast which was included in our stay.  Wow.  Our breakfast deserves its own post, it was that impressive.  Served on Blue Willow china (if I'm not mistaken...), we started off with a crepe and fresh coffee.  Muffin tops, a variety of toasts and fresh juice and I thought we were done.  Nope.  The next course was the omelette with a freshly picked Pansy as part of the garnish.  Did you know Pansies are edible?  You do now.  Yes - a most satisfying and enjoyable way to start our new day.  Bidding adieu to the other guests and our host, we headed out.  Destination:  hit the beaches and a winery on our way to Lunenburg.  Oh and if you're wondering...yes, we managed to make use of the extensive wardrobe which we dragged along with us.  Stay tuned for the rest of our South Shore Diaries!

(to be continued - I just need to change my outfit).