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The Ovens – Riverport

1 Aug

A few weeks back, while touring Annapolis Valley, I came across a twitter photo of The Ovens.  Initially, I didn’t believe it was located in Nova Scotia.  It reminded me of pictures taken in the Mayan Riviera.   It was all turquoise waters flowing into waterfront caves.  Stunning.  So stunning that I tried to make Drew turn the car around from my beloved Annapolis Valley. Continue reading


The Chowder Trail: The Grand Banker & The Old Fish Factory

27 Jul

There have been some really brilliant things happening in the tourism industry in Nova Scotia recently.  From our NS wineries posts, readers will know that we’re big fans of the Winery Passport.  We’ve already visited ten of the twelve wineries featured, and after my mother’s guest post featuring Jost and trying Petite Rivière’s Tidal Bay, we’re eager to visit all twelve.

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Union Street Cafe & The Wick Pub – Berwick

19 Jul

While visiting the Annapolis Valley, we met up with some of Drew’s (and now my) family for lunch at the Union Street Cafe (@unionstcafe).  Located in Berwick, this conjoined cafe and pub captures your attention from the moment you walk in.  The rooms are dimly lit (in a comfortable rather than creepy way).  The colour pallet is made of soft greens, deep purples and dark, dark wood.

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Guest Post: Sunrise Trail

18 Jul

Editor’s note: I’m often compared to my father, but clearly I got my interests in writing and exploring from my mother.  @GillianWesleyNS and I were very pleasantly surprised when my mother sent us this post.  Thanks Mum, looking forward to more guest posts from you!


It’s a beautiful Friday morning, the sun is shining and the birds are singing.  Best of all I am off work for a three day weekend.  A good day to enjoy some of our beautiful countryside.  Called my Mum and she was game to go.  The male half of the Local Traveler’s grandmother is 86 and always a good traveler herself as he can attest to, having traveled with her to France a number of years ago.  Maybe that is another story to be told.

Our destination is Tatamagouche.  A nice little trip up the Sunrise Trail in northeastern Nova Scotia along Highway 6.   I packed my little “aim and shoot” thinking I would be the FIRST  guest blogger – thanks Mike Finley, I should have written my blog earlier in the week but you had a great post. Continue reading

Lysistrata, Temptress of the South

16 Jul
The set-up for Lysistrata

We weren’t able to take photos during the show, so I can’t show you the amazing period costumes…more reason to check it out for yourself!

In the event that you are the kind of person who skims articles, or only reads the 3-line Facebook summary, I am going to put the important stuff upfront. Go see Lysistrata.  If you like good theatre at all, or even if you have only a passing interest in theatre, or if you have anything akin to a sense of humour, you will love this play.

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Grand Pré National Historic Site

28 Jun

The Grand Pre National Historic Site is just off Exit 10 from Hwy 101, before you get to Wolfville.  For anyone familiar with Nova Scotian history (and if you attended school in Nova Scotia in grades 4-6 you better be or I’m going to have some serious words with your social studies teacher), this was the site of Le Grand Dérangement, or the Great Deportation, of the Acadiens in 1755.

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Glooscap Heritage Centre

18 Jun

If you’ve ever driven on Hwy 104 between Truro and Halifax, you’ve probably seen him.  That tall, dark hunk of rippling back muscles, Glooscap.  Glooscap is the hero of Mi’kmaq creation stories, whose feats range from giving the Mi’kmaq the canoe and fire to creating Five Islands in the Bay of Fundy.  What you may not have seen is that Glooscap (the statue) stands guard of the Glooscap Heritage Centre.

The Glooscap Heritage Centre (@glooscapcentre) teaches visitors about Mi’kmaq culture, past and present.  It features exhibits with stone tools, weavings, and beadwork.  There are also some interactive displays such as the multimedia guided tour through Mi’kmaq history and an audio Mi’kmaw alphabet guide.  Other great features are the gift shop and free workshops on subjects such as hand drum making.  Teachers should note that the centre has created some terrific, educational tours for schools.

Once you’ve checked out the exhibits, step outside to see the statue of Glooscap up close.  We learned that the statue was built to be 40ft tall to represent the tides in the Bay of Fundy.  There is a garden around the courtyard where berries and medicinal herbs are grown to supply the Millbrook First Nation.  All of the trees and plants are edible and were part of the traditional diet of the Mi’kmaq.

Rates are $6/adults, $3.50/children and $5/seniors.  There are special rates for families ($15), school tours ($3/student) and adult tours ($4/adult) and Millbrook Band members (free).  Tax is exempted if you present a valid status card before entering.

If you’re planning to visit in the near future, we recommend heading there June 21 for National Aboriginal Day.  The centre has a large celebration each year. For 2012, the day will feature guest speakers, music entertainment, dancing, singing, and more.  To see the current line-up of speakers and musicians, click here.


Annapolis Valley Wines

10 Jun

Or:  The Wolfville Walking Winery Tour

After our wedding (post coming soon), we had Thursday and Friday to get in a mini-Honeymoon.  We packed the car with what we would need for a potential camping trip around Guysborough and were as far as Fall River when we found out the Rare Bird Pub isn’t open for the season yet and a B&B we were interested in checking out was fully booked.  So, we did the natural thing, and turned around in the exact opposite direction to do an impromptu winery tour in the Annapolis Valley.

It was raining and getting to mid evening so we took refuge at the Evangeline Inn and Motel just off Exit 10 to Wolfville from Hwy 101.  Full post for Evangeline Inn coming soon.  The next morning we woke to a mixed sun and cloud sky and a map of the local wineries.  Looking for a little extra adventure, we mapped out a route to walk a circuit that would bring us to five wineries in a 20km loop.  We packed our bag with water and some snacks, grabbed the camera, and set off south along Grand Pré Road to Luckett Vineyards.

Within minutes we were rewarded for our decision to hoof it, greeted with sites like this unique churchyard wall and the countless shades of green in the Annapolis countryside.  We even saw a mother bird dog fighting in the air with one of her young.  All things that we wouldn’t have been able to notice as well if we were zooming by in the car.

Luckett Vineyards (3.3km from Evangeline Inn, restaurant on-site)

We had a moment of doubt in our decision to walk when we got to the massive hill that leads to Luckett Vineyards. Our doubt disappeared immediately after stepping onto their beautiful grounds.  Pete has really done a great job here, with an inviting veranda overlooking his vines.  He even set up a London-style phone booth in the middle of the field where you can make free calls to anywhere in North America.

It costs $7 to sample five wines here.  We were torn between their L’Acadie Blanc and their Tidal Bay (see here for the significance of Tiday Bay).  Pete has been criticized for putting his vineyards on a north-facing slope, but we found it did not detract from the quality of the wines in any way.  In fact, we found all five wines set the bar for the rest of the day. We’re excited to return in the winter to try the luge that is set up between the rows during ice wine harvest season. (@petestweetsNS)

L’Acadie Certified Organic Vineyards (4.3km from Luckett Vineyards)

The next leg of our hike was on relatively flat terrain.  It took us past Gaspereau Wool (post coming soon).  The grounds of L’Acadie Vineyards are pretty modest compared to Luckett, and this was matched by the owner, Pauline’s humble attitude.  She allowed us to try two of their sparkling wines for free, both of which were crisp and delightful.  The 2010 Vintage Cuvée slightly edged out the 2009 Vintage Cuvée Rosé.

While we were enjoying them, she told us about how she and her husband came across Canada from B.C. in a camper with the intent of setting up a vineyard in Nova Scotia and lived for a month on the beach while looking for the right land.  You can tell this is a labour of love for them, both in the way she spoke and in how the wine tasted. (@lacadiewine)

Gaspereau Vineyards (2.3km from L’Acadie Vineyards)

Next we set out for Gaspereau, taking us across the river of the same name (we hear there is great tubing here).  Our prize for reaching the halfway point of our journey was a free sampling of six of Gaspereau Vineyards’ impressive wines.

The girl working there asked us our wine preferences and took care to describe how each wine might appeal to us.  Her job was made easy by the quality of their wine.  There wasn’t one we didn’t like.  In the end, we went with their Marechal Fosh. (@gaspereauwines)

Muir Murray Estate Winery (5.8km from Gaspereau Vineyards, restaurant on-site)

The next leg to Muir Murray Winery was our longest so we broke it up with lunch at Paddy’s Brew Pub in Wolfville.  After the killer hill leading into town, we needed the break and the food.  We’ve covered Paddy’s before, but their new local focus on their menu made us update our post, so check it out here.

This was the part of our trip where we were really happy with our decision to walk.  By car, you would reach Muir Murray from downtown Wolfville along the Evangeline Trail.  On foot, we were able to step off the main road and take the Old Dyke Road along the water.  Our muscles and spirits were recharged walking on top of the old Acadian dyke, among tall blowing grass along the Bay of Fundy.  We saw several other pedestrians, both human and canine, and cyclists to boot.

Before long, we reached the yellow buildings of Muir Murray, and stepped inside to cool off.  Maybe it was because we’d been walking all day, but by this point we were preferring whites to reds.  However, it was their Atlantic Shore Rosé that stood out, especially when it was mentioned that it would make a great sangria.  Here we were able to each try three wines for free.  So we shared six! (@muirmurraywine)

A newborn kitten from one of the mama cats at Muir Murray.

An Ox enroute to the next winery

Domaine de Grand Pré (2.4 km from Muir Murray Estate Winery, restaurant on-site)

Our final winery of the day was Domaine de Grand Pré, and I really have to say, we saved the best for last.  Grand Pré stood out from these five for a few reasons.  Of the three that had Tidal Bay, this one was the best.  In fact, overall they had the best wine selection of the day.  Also, their grounds are spectacular.  It felt like we were on a Tuscan villa, and we would love to return to dine at their restaurant.  Finally, we enjoyed going downstairs to check out their wine museum.  Here we tried seven wines for $7, with their Tidal Bay and their Muscat coming out on top amongst stiff competition.  We were affably hosted by Catherine and Cacilia Stutz, wife of the winemaker. (@grandprewines)

A beautiful spot for some summer dining outside of the on-site restaurant Le Caveau

From here we only had 300m to return to the Evangeline Inn.  If you choose to retrace our path, we strongly urge to go in the same direction.  This will leave the shortest leg of the trip for the end, and make it easy for you to buy a bottle at Grand Pré to take with you.  We also suggest you consider cycling.

Taylor Head Beach

12 Nov

This secluded little beach seemed like such a hidden treasure, we almost didn’t want to write about it. But, as it turns out, Taylor Head beach is no secret for many Nova Scotians. Arriving before 10, we had the whole beach to ourselves, and what a beach. A picturesque rocky cove, with fine white sand and sky for days. The tide was low, so we were able to climb up onto a large rock, a move that almost left us stranded due to fast raising tides.

Another nice feature are the sheltered picnic tables. Just off the beach, this area is well shaded without compromising the view of the water.

The whole beach is surrounded by a provincial park, filled with well kept path ways, fire pits, picnic tables and descriptive signs of the marine wildlife. As we were leaving around 11 am, the crowds were just starting to arrive. With lots of camping nearby, and breathtaking views of land and sea alike, Taylor Head Beach is a must-see, especially for all the early birds out there.

Spirit Spa

24 Jul

While some may not agree with me (the male half of the local traveler included), I think that spas are a critical part of traveling and travel review. How often do travelers gush with excitement from their beachside couples massage, or the secluded little spa they found in ___(insert_exotic_local_here)___.

Many vacations have the goal of relaxation, and a good spa can do just that, whether locally or in Mexico. The other great thing about spa-travels is that each spa is so unique, that a visit can often mimic that exciting ‘new place’ feeling.

This weekend, I tried out Spirit Spa. Spirit is located on Hollis, attached to the Harbourview Marriott. For a downtown spa, Spirit does a good job making you feel as though you have taken a retreat from the city. Their two waiting areas are both equipped with iced cucumber water, herbal tea’s and sometimes a sweet treat. There is also a rooftop balcony, pool and two private steam showers. The steam showers are what sold me on Spirit. I arrived for my treatments 30 minutes early, and one of the staff showed me to the steam room. She brought me to my  locker, equipped with a fresh robe and flip-flops and proceeded to explain how the steam showers worked. She made it seem very straight forward, but somehow I still managed to get mixed up a bit with the settings and put the steam on way too low, leaving me with closer to a glorified shower than a steam. Still, the experience was heavenly. The area was also equipped with towels, shampoo and conditioner and a tropical scented body wash.

Spa-day Ready Locker at Spirit Spa

I opted to try the Organic Facial and a massage. The description said it was their most popular facial, and given my limited knowledge of spa services I thought it would be a safe bet. To be honest, I didn’t love the facial. Not because the treatment itself was bad, but because of the person performing it. She had made a comment a few moments in that the organic facial wouldn’t be strong enough to help my problem skin. She said we will do this facial today but for future visits I should look into a clinical one instead. It is completely possible that this was a justified comment, but in the moment it felt offensive – and made me question spending over $100 for a treatment that, according to her, wouldn’t help me. It made me very uncomfortable, and obliged to ask for further advice rather than sit in offended silence. With that said, I DO think that the facial helped my skin. I just wish that she had waited until after my treatments to gently discuss future treatments so that I wouldn’t have spent the full hour embarrassed and uncomfortable.

My second treatment was their knot again Massage. Leanne, my massage therapist, was great. She did a brief initial consult and then went straight to work, kneeding every knot and tension from my body.

Despite my somewhat negative experience at spirit, I would go there again. The atmosphere, pool, steam showers and location are a convenient get-away. That said, I probably won’t go back for any future skin services. There is a way to handle good advice, and in my opinion, that was not the right way to do it.