The main street of Mahone Bay was quiet the next morning as we packed up the car to carry on to the next point of interest on our road trip. We were keeping a watchful eye on the weather - we had planned on stopping at one of the many beautiful South Shore beaches along our route (hey, I didn't lug around over $300 in bathing suits for nothing!). So far it had been lovely and warm but we could see a hint of grey creeping across the sky and felt that subtle taste in the air - wind, salt and a bit of rain perhaps? "No worries" I buoyantly said, "No matter the weather, there is always such romance and beauty along the shore - even in the rain!" (sun would have been awesome). Stopping to gas up and grab coffee first, we grabbed our trusty map and headed on down the road.
The beauty of the South Shore is that you can stop and see a bunch of places in a short period of time - they are that close together and besides, you have to use the bathroom anyway. We narrowed it down to a few places to hit - a place called Blue Rocks, the beaches, a bakery in LaHave and a winery (more on that later). Of course, you can't do the Shore route without stopping at Lunenburg, a beautiful spot on earth for sure. With it's colourful old houses and unique architecture, hills worthy of any cardio fitness program and food and booze worthy of a five star rating, it's a must see. Oh yeah, the scenery is pretty gorgeous too - not to mention, you can see the Bluenose II up close and personal.
Sue, being a crafty arts person, wanted to visit a few shops in Lunenburg where she had been before, namely knitting supply places and a really cool quilt art gallery and a distillery down near the wharf where they made locally sourced hand crafted spirits. However, the places in question didn't seem to be open at the time. Not having a specific schedule, we opted to grab a quick coffee, take a cursory glance down by the wharf, snap a few pictures and carry on. We'd see it "on the way back".
Since it was still fairly early in the day, we did a quick loop down to the Blue Rocks to check out this scenic wonder.....and the tide was in. I got a rough idea of why they are called "blue" though. So, we did a turn at the end of the road and backtracked to the highway. Next stop was a bakery Sue had been to in LaHave which was "to die for". This entailed taking a ferry - remember the ones where only a few cars fit and it is pulled across the river by a cable? Yup, that kind. Of course we got out and were buffeted by the wind which served to further wake us up after the coffee had worn off. This bakery had better be open.
Lunching on road trips can be interesting and doesn't have to be all about fast food. The bakery Sue mentioned, aptly named LaHave Bakery, was "all that and a bag of chips". Crowded with locals and tourists alike, there were line ups just for the coffee. Sue, meanwhile took note that all the craft shops in the vicinity were closed, natch. So, after ordering my lunch to go (which was delicious by the way!) we jumped back in the car and headed on. Next stop, Crescent Beach. Now I must tell you that the weather was getting increasingly cooler. Blustery but still pleasant, don't get me wrong. But we knew deep in our hearts that the luxurious beaching we had imagined wasn't going to happen. The whole reason we had planned two nights in our final destination Liverpool was to have easy access to the beaches. Why Liverpool, you ask? Because Lunenburg was booked up. Sensing a theme?
Crescent Beach is just that. A crescent of loveliness which is like a miniature tropical getaway if you squint. It's the only beach you can actually drive onto which we did. The wind by that time was biting and sharp and I was glad I had packed my alpaca sweater, However, I was bound and determined to at least stick my feet in the damned ocean (unlike my husband who has made it his mission to pee in every ocean of the world). I mean, I had made it all the way there after all. The beach was busy - mostly the local young set throwing footballs, having tailgate picnics and frolicking in the waves. Meanwhile, ships are wrecking off the coast, seals are swimming toward shore in a panic while the local are having the time of their lives. We made it to the waves, I stuck my foot in and I was done. My timbers were shivering so we hightailed it back to the car. Enough of that crap, didn't someone mention a winery?
Nestled in the LaHave River Valley of Nova Scotia is the Petite Riviere Vineyards, in one of the oldest grape growing regions in North America. This was our afternoon destination. Here, we found the welcome mat out and the hosts eager to attend to our wine-ing. Again, Sue had been there before and wanted to introduce me to the experience. I have never been on a winery tour, believe it or not. Although we didn't get out of the main room/shop/tasting area, it was a good place to start. The winery also has a lovely outdoor patio area which overlooks the vineyards. However, as mentioned above, the weather was not cooperating so the inviting Adirondack chairs remained empty - silent watchmen over the drumlin hills - while we held court inside, cozying up to the wine tasting menu and getting to know our hosts Maureen, Kelly and Nataya. Working our way down the menu, starting with a lovely white, then rose then moving onto the reds, I imagined myself in the 1630's enjoying wine (you know, in between the many hardships such as local warfare) from some of the first grapes produced in the area. The main building has such an antique old world feel to it, I really thought it was an original eighteenth century structure - it blends perfectly with the landscape and is an ideal setting for any special event.
We had a wonderful afternoon. Our hosts were a wealth of information, stories and wit. As the wine and conversation flowed, it seemed like we were all old friends. A lovely pairing indeed.
A medley of images from the Petite Riviere Vineyards. A red wine lover, my favourite turned out to be the very same wine I spotted on the menu and the last one I tasted, the 2011 Kissing Brook.
Our final stop of the day was the end point to our road trip, Liverpool. A quiet little spot these days but it boasts a romantic and adventurous past - still haunted in parts by the ghosts of its early inhabitants.
Pulling into the driveway of Lane's Privateer Inn, we were instantly charmed by this old mansion. Built in 1798 it is the original home of Captain Joseph Barss, Nova Scotia's most notable Privateer. It's one of the oldest houses in Liverpool and is well situated on the picturesque banks of the Mersey River where you can catch some spectacular sunsets from the expansive lawns down to the shore, or from a cozy table window side in the restaurant. It's been in the same family and run as an inn since 1962 - well established in every way....did someone say Privateer? We found a few handy printed sheets in our room detailing the history of Lane's Privateer Inn - the mansion itself, the original owner and the Lane Family and how they came to be the present owners. Since the 1940's there has been some kind of entrepreneurial activity in the mansion until it's final reinvention to "Inn". One of the printouts also had the weather report for the week - you guessed it, cloudy with a chance of showers.
So naturally the first thing I did when we dumped off our bags in our room was to explore. There are still original beams in the front rooms! Old fireplaces, uneven floors and charming decor was right up my alley as far as romantic imaginings of days gone by. Late afternoon and the perfect time for an afternoon beer in the pub/restaurant. Over the bar is a portrait of Captain Barss, the original being in a museum in Montreal. Still, every bit of his dark, smouldering good looks and dashing-ness was well captured. I really wanted to stumble upon some secret cache of gold during my stay there (but I didn't think the owners would take kindly to me digging up their yard). In between pints, wine and some of the best chowder I've ever eaten, I tried to ask reasonably mature questions about the history of the building and Captain Barss without sounding too juvenile. Honestly, sometimes my life is pretty much summed up by too many Nancy Drew books and Richy Rich comics with a pinch of real historical knowledge. As much as I know my history, I'm pretty much a snooping nine year old.
The weather really turned non-beachy while we were in Liverpool, but not to worry. We spent the time visiting landmarks and museums and in between, enjoyed local brew and great food, not to mention the warm hospitality and conversation offered by the delightful staff at Lane's.
One of the places we visited was the Fort Point Lighthouse which was also the private residence of the light keeper and his family well into the 1950's. The tiny, vertiginous ladder/stairway to the upper levels filled me with claustrophobia as I imagined this small dwelling being full of a family...you really need to see it, to climb those narrow steps to get the idea.
Spending a rainy afternoon at the nearby museum, the Rossignol Cultural Centre, we lost ourselves in the quiet halls of this former school. Full of local native history including an impressive collection of arrowheads and various other tools which were generously donated down through the years from past generations of Liverpoolians (is that the correct term?), there were also native baskets and wonderful Chestnut canoes. We also saw the very first model of the original Bluenose and lots more info regarding Privateering and Captain Barss. The Captain was beginning to feel like an old friend. Maybe because the area - especially the nearby Perkins House Museum - boasts a few ghosts...
After two delightful and busy days in Liverpool it was time to head home to Riverview, but not without another stop in Lunenburg. We wanted to go back and spend a little more time and have our lunch there. It was busy as usual but we managed to squeeze in a few sightseeing activities before we ate. We were also fortunate to see the thriving Lunenburg School of the Arts students out and about, easels set up along the sidewalks, painting and chatting with passers by. Another reason to never leave home without my sketchbook.
We parked at the top of one of the many steep hills which gave us a marvelous view of the lay of the land and the harbour. The houses are old but very well preserved - the oldest is from 1760. The architectural style in Lunenburg features a unique detail in many of the homes which has come to be known as "the Lunenburg Hump". This is a windowed gable over the front door which repeats in the back of the house. The purpose was to confuse the devil if he had designs on entering your home to take any of your family members. Another practice was to hide shoes in the wall upon construction of a house to ward off bad luck. This had been a custom for centuries, brought to the new land by European settlers. We visited one such home which was open to the public for tours, where the hosts were dressed in clothing from the era and doing various tasks such as spinning. In one room, a window in the wall showed a pair of child-size shoes in their hiding place. There is also a walking tour with the houses of interest numbered. Again, the hills are steep so if you are going there pack some good runners - you're going to get a work out even if you don't notice it happening. Colourful paint jobs, quaint gardens, a view of the harbour and ships, with many activities throughout the summer - Lunenburg is NOT to be missed on the South Shore journey. So, be prepared to stop for a while. You'll be glad you did!
We had lunch outside - the way fish and chips are meant to be eaten - at a picnic table which we shared with an elderly couple who were originally from Newfoundland. Our lunches were on trays, with the meal wrapped in red and white gingham paper and eaten with plastic cutlery - a bottle of wine (airplane size!) to go with. With pleasant company around and one of the finest views to my right, it was indeed well worth coming back to. Sometimes, simple is best.
The time to start our drive home had come - but not without a bathroom stop first (natch). There is a very well kept public washroom just past the wharf area. You won't believe what they've done with the place - beautiful hand painted tiles which were done by the kids of the local elementary school featuring the colourful houses of Lunenburg. A community project, there are 140 of these lovely tiles throughout the spacious washroom and each one is a unique vision of the child who painted it. They could pick whichever house they wanted to paint - some show the detailing of the doors, others feature the famed "Lunenburg Hump", another is of one of the beautiful churches up on the hill. Note to Lunenburg: are these going to be coasters and or fridge magnets any time soon???
I leave you, dear readers, with a few snaps of these charming tiles and perhaps an idea for future home renos. These would make quirky splashback tiles in a kitchen over a sink or stove...or perhaps as a feature in your own bathroom? And so, our road trip had come to an end. Driving home we opted for the shorter highway route which got us back to Riverview in about four hours. Mom was glad to see us home safe and sound - sometimes, being greeted by a loved one after arriving home from a journey is the best part! Be it ever so humble, there's no place like home.