We arrived in Halifax not knowing what to expect. We found it to be a vibrant city (about 500,000) with one of the best and busiest ports in the world and a long history of shipbuilding. Samuel Cunard, of Cunard Lines, was born in Halifax, and decided toward the end of the age of sail that people would want to travel long distances by steamship. His vision made him a very wealthy man.
Halifax harbor is so deep that it never freezes. During WW II, all of the convoys heading to Britain formed in Halifax. Today, Halifax is the site of huge container shipping operations as well as fishing.
The Halifax wharf area is delightful, and we really enjoyed the Maritime Museum. (George was doing his compulsory military service in the Navy when we met. Much of our courtship was spent on or around the water in Newport, R. I. George comes from a family of sailors, so this “bucket list” trip for him had a clear focus on water – preferably ocean.) There are numerous seafood restaurants, and while we didn’t have any meals that were spectacular, all were good.
We had decided to use Halifax as our base and take two day trips – the first along the “lighthouse trail,” and the second to Annapolis Valley and Nova Scotia’s eastern shore on the way to the ferry from Digby to St. John, New Brunswick.
On the lighthouse trail, we had to see Peggy’s Cove – the place everyone associates with Nova Scotia. I hadn’t realized that Peggy’s Cove is set on 20,000 year old rock formations that make it unique in my experience.
Seafood Chowder in Mahone Bay
From Peggy’s Cove, we drove on to Mahone Bay and then to Lunenburg – home of the famous racing ship and fishing vessel, the Bluenose – holder of the International Fishermen’s Trophy for seventeen straight years. Both Mahone Bay and Lunenburg are charming with a number of 18th century homes.
Before I moved to Canada, the only Annapolis I knew was the one in Maryland. During the Revolutionary War (or the War for Independence as they call it in the States), many people loyal to the British Crown moved quickly to Canada. The Annapolis Valley is known for its beauty, and it truly was gorgeous. Although the apple trees had passed their prime, there were still many blossoms, and the lilacs and cherry trees were in bloom.
Annapolis Royal is the site of the first Loyalist home. Fort Ann is a beautiful white building that looks more like a stately home than a military building, and it is set on a gorgeous bluff overlooking the Annapolis Basin. Annapolis changed hands between the British and French seven times before finally remaining British. Annapolis Royal is very small, and the main street only a few blocks long, so it can be seen in a short visit.
Scallops in Annapolis Royal
We had a very nice lunch in Annapolis Royal at the Restaurant Compose. Digby is a major scallop fishing center, and I decided I couldn’t pass up a chance to have scallops hopefully straight from the boat. They turned out to be delicious, and they were served with fried sliced potatoes. As a child, I loved my mother’s fried potatoes with their crunchy crust, and these were as good as hers, but I rarely find them since. The French make Pommes de Terre Anna that takes longer, and looks nicer with the concentric rings of sliced potatoes, but because when I last made it, the potatoes were layered with clarified butter and the resulting dish made more than was good for the two of us, I hadn’t done it since. I think it will be a future blog.
Information Centre à la Maud Lewis
On our way to the ferry between Digby and St. John, N. B., we made a brief stop at an information center in Digby that was painted with charming primitive scenes of people and animals. The lady in the center said that famous Canadian primitive artist, Maud Lewis, had lived in Digby. She was very crippled from juvenile rheumatoid arthritis, but covered the inside of her tony home with her marvelous paintings. Her entire home is now in the art museum in Halifax for people to enjoy. I definitely want to see that the next time we are there.
The ferry trip took three hours to cover the forty-five miles across that part of the Bay of Fundy. The Bay of Fundy is famous for its radical changes in depth with the tides (up to 32 feet in six hours). Similar to Mt. Saint Michel in France, when the tide goes out, it goes very far out, and you can walk along the ocean floor in Digby for 3 kilometres.
We finished our time in Nova Scotia with lovely memories, and a few additional pounds.