Thursday, July 23, 2015

Walking Easily Through the Canadian Maritimes

Nova Scotia

Clouds settle over Halifax harbor.
Getting there by air can be a challenge. Flying into Halifax, you probably will step down the airplane steps and onto the tarmac. With luck it will be sunny and dry but Halifax is known for its fog banks that roll in obscuring everything, delaying flights and bringing cold, damp weather.

Factor in the friendly, hospitable natives, the beautiful coast and countryside, menus rife with lobster and it is well worth the wait and extra effort.

 VIA Rail, which comes into Halifax twice a week, is an alternative. You can go from Montreal up along the Gaspe Peninsula to Truro and Halifax, a pretty spiffy itinerary.
TIP: Stay at the historic but updated Westin Nova Scotian and you are a mere hallway away from the railway station to reception. Well located to see Halifax, too.


Halifax, the capitol, is a good place to start if you arrive by air or auto. The city is hilly but walkable, especially if you aim north to south or vice versa.

Start at the harbor, or harbour in Canadian. Here's where you will find boat tours, the ferries, shops, boutiques and the starting point for the looping on-off bus tours.
Tip: I recommend the Big Pink Bus, despite having to go up a few steep steps to reach the first level of the 1960s London Royal double-decker bus. Staff is very helpful and the narration is excellent.

Don't miss the Maritime Museum of the Atlantic or the Museum of Immigration at Pier 21.
Tip: Both have elevators and/or escalators.

A good downtown lunch spot is The Stubborn Goat, an excellent gastropub with innovative, delicious dishes perfect for sharing. Try the fiddleheads.
Tip: The Goat is on the level but not its bathroom which is downstairs.

Eastern Shore 

Liscombe Lodge, a couple hours drive away from Halifax, is where to go for isolated relaxation in a beautiful setting. The indoor pool is heated, there's a marina, plenty of trails and activities and the food is excellent. En route you will encounter the colorful home of folk artist Barry Colpitts and Black Sheep Gallery where his work and that of others is exhibited. Not far is Sherbrooke Village, a recreated 19th century port village where you can try your hand at everything from blacksmithing to costuming.
Tip 1: The Lodge is on the level but the ground around it can be hilly.
Cabin 4A
Tip 2: Ask for A4, the handicap accessible chalet. It has a ramp rather than stairs up to the deck, a walk-in shower and the view is great.

Digby visitor center is painted in the style of the late beloved folk arts Maude Lewis.
Digby and the Bay of Fundy Area

Digby docks.
 Known as the scallop capital of the world, Digby is home to a fleet that fishes for lobster as well. The town is quaint, there's a fun walking tour with "Admiral Digby" and it is surrounded by a plethora of little towns, coves, bays and places to visit.

To the north, Annapolis Royal claims to be the oldest permanent European settlement in North America (1605, two years before Jamestown, VA, an oops 40 years after St. Augustine, FL). It is a charming town with a Historic Garden for strolling, excellent restaurants and a ghost tour that many enjoy. To the south, you will find the Acadian Center, Rendez-vous de la Baie, and the tallest wooden church in North America.  All are on the famous Bay of Fundy complex.

Digby Pines Resort.
Tip1: Digby Pines Golf Resort and Spa, a historic haven for visitors since 1929, is an elegantly comfortable home away from home from which to explore it all. There is a striking pool and a nice spa, both down a slope from the hotel. The golf course is very hilly so get a cart. 
Tip 2: The "Stones, Steeples, Ships and Seafood" tour of Digby involves walking up a steep hill toward the end.

Tip 3: For good food in Annapolis Royal, Bistro East and Restaurant Compose (don't miss the strudel) are recommended.
Tip 4: If buying scallops to cook at home, the 10 to20 a pound size are what you want, according to native Digby resident and tour guide Greg Turner.

On the ferry to New Brunswick.
From Digby it is an easy two-hour or so ferry ride (with movie!) across the Digby Gut to St. John, New Brunswick.

New Brunswick

The Algonquin Resort.
The Algonquin Resort in St. Andrews-by-the-Sea opened in 1889 and this commanding Tudor-style hostelry added a golf course in 1894. It is an ideal spot from which to explore the wonderfully named Passamaquoddy Bay area. You could spend a day roaming beautiful and welcoming Kingsbrae Gardens, and don't miss waiting for the tide to recede for the drive to Minister's Island or sign on for a whale-watching excursion. Shoppers will love roaming the main street.
Tip 1: For great food, the sleekly sophisticated Braxton's at the Algonquin Resort and Rossmont Inn are highly recommended.
In search of whales on Passamaquoddy Bay.
Tip 2: Schedule your whale-watching excursion early; if you don't see any whales, you can do it again for free.
Tip 3: You will encounter a broad flight of steep steps at the front entrance to The Algonquin. Circle around to the side portico for an easier access.

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