Meandering Through Maritime Nova Scotia
Discovering Golf and Lifestyle Treasures
by Bill Nestor
|Humpback Whale watching in Nova Scotia, Canada.
In my younger days, traveling and freedom were synonymous. With fewer restrictions, carefree travel produced wonderful discoveries. During a recent trip to Nova Scotia, I did just that. Rather than schedule everything ahead of time I took more time to explore and gained a fresh perspective of the province, a place I had previously visited many times.
Choosing the path less traveled brought novel and unexpected finds- out of the way places to stay, some of the province’s 24 golf courses I didn’t know, traditional and nouvelle Nova Scotia cuisine, more time to relax and enjoy, and a better understanding of the people and the province. Touching the heart of the culture revealed an independent and entrepreneurial spirit that is very much alive, healthy and an integral part of the Nova Scotia lifestyle.
|The Keltic Lodge is a classic premiere property on ghe Atlantic Ocean.
The “something’s happening here” meter was really ticking after locating Pictou Lodge, an immaculate, out of the way classic resort at the water’s edge on the Northumberland Straits. The traditional lakeside log Rotunda and log cabin sleeping units may not be classified five star, but the entire resort is meticulously manicured, maintained and tastefully done. The lakefront style lodge harkens back to simpler days, depicting timeless elegance.
The main lodge features a high gloss finish with old style white caulking and a 12-foot wide fieldstone fireplace in the dining room. It was from the glassed porch area where I dined that I watched great blue herons wading at the shore and a bald eagle diving for fish as sunset took hold.
The meal, prepared by sous-chef Courtney McDonald, was exceptional. It included a seafood chowder starter with mussels, lobster, haddock, scallops, creamed potato, onion, tarragon and thyme---semi-rich, creamy and not too thick. The appetizer was catch of the day--succulent pan-fried Digby scallops. A Caesar salad, Nova Scotia rib lamb chops and local wine rounded out a splendid dining experience.
The recently completed available for rent, two-story cottages sit on a cove looking over to golf holes where deer roamed at first light. Add it up--setting, star-filled sky, solitude, food, ambiance, and service--Pictou Lodge was a great find. (www.pictoulodge.com)
|Highland Links golf course
Area Golf: Pictou Harbor Golf Club, Ocean Links at Brule Point, Fox Harb’r Golf Resort, Northumberland Links, Truro Golf Club, and Riverrun Golf Club.
Advance reservations are suggested at Fox Harb’r Golf Resort and Spa in Wallace. The five-star luxury resort combines fine dining, richly appointed and comfortable lodging, private beach, airstrip, and marina with a Graham Cooke traditional Scottish links and parkland style golf layout. All this on 1,100 secluded acres of dramatic, rugged seacoast. (www.foxharbr.com)
Cape Breton’s Cabot Trail offers many artist galleries, the Celtic Music Centre and Glenora Distillery. In the Baddeck area is the Alexander Graham Bell Museum, Bras d'Or Lake, and golf at Bell Bay Golf Club (www.bellbay.ca).
A stay at the Keltic Lodge Resort & Spa in Ingonish (www.Keltic-Lodge.com) with a round on the Stanley Thompson designed Highlands Links Golf Course, one of the perennial best courses in Canada, should not be missed. (www.highlandslinksgolf.com)
A preview of the province’s newest layout, The Lakes Golf Club in Ben Eoin, a Graham Cooke design planning to open for play in 2010, suggests it might be worth a stop. (www.thelakesgolfclub.ca)
Area Golf: Le Portage Golf Club, Dundee Resort/Golf Club, and Osprey Shores Golf Resort.
|Taking the hi-speed CAT ferry from Portland, Maine saved time, driving miles and personal energy.
Taking the hi-speed CAT ferry from Portland, Maine saved time, driving miles and personal energy. The four 9500 HP V20 engines propelled the CAT 189 nautical miles in 5.5 hours, impressive considering it’s moving a 320-foot long, 85-foot wide vessel with 775 passengers, 250 cars, or 14 motor homes when full.
The ship arrived at Yarmouth in time to tour the South Shore coast--Historic Lunenburg, home of the Bluenose and Lobster Boat Tours; the artisan town of Mahone Bay or colorful Peggy's Cove on St. Mary’s Bay. Unfortunately, the CAT ferry services from Portland and Bar Harbor, Maine to Yarmouth, Nova Scotia were terminated in 2010. Plans to start up again are being discussed. (www.catferry.com)
Chester Golf Club, White Point Golf Club, and Blue Nose Golf Cub.
An overnight at the ideally located downtown Delta Hotel in Halifax made a visit and meal with Avery Gavel, Sommelier at the Five Fisherman, very convenient. The chef prepared a delicious dinner of halibut with fresh beets and goat cheese. A recipient of Wine Spectator’s Award of Excellence 2005-2009, Five Fishermen cellars 250 varieties of red, white and rosé wines, a good selection of single malt scotch and variety of micro brew choices. All combined, it made for a tasty evening and a great night’s sleep. (www.deltahotels.com, www.fivefishermen.com)
Halifax area golf includes:
Granite Springs Golf Club, River Oaks Golf Club, Lost Creek Golf Club, The Links at Penn Hills, and Grandview Golf & Country Club.
|Chez Christophe has a Kitchen Party or two every week and regularly offers traditional and contemporary Acadian home-cooked meals.
Traveling through the Annapolis Valley to the ferry dock can take just a few hours. But with time out to visit a winery, cheese house, and joining in an old-fashioned Acadian kitchen party, the enjoyable journey took me two days.
A stop at Fox Hill Cheese Farm was a taste treat and also uncovered a great story. The future of Richard Rand’s fifth generation dairy farm was doubtful in 2002. His son wanted to continue operating the farm, but mounting debt made that possibility doubtful.
“Not sure if a knock on the door one day by a cheese maker going out of business was fate or providence,” shared Jeanita Rand, Richard’s wife and partner at Fox Hill Farm. “He asked, ‘are you the people who want to make cheese?’ We hired him as a consultant, learned the ins and outs of milk production for cheese making, purchased equipment, got licenses and retooled the operation.”
Since 2005 the family farm has been transformed. Fox Hill Cheese now produces and markets nine gouda, four havarti, and three cheddar cheeses plus feta and parmesan along with fresh curds, quark, natural yogurt and gelato.
“All cheeses are made from our own fresh, high quality milk which is drug and hormone free,” said Richard. The business is bustling with 70% of production sold at the on premise retail farm store that was packed the day I visited. The rest is sold at farmers markets and specialty shops in Nova Scotia. The production of pasteurized, non-homogenized bottled milk is also underway. (www.foxhillcheesehouse.com)
Nova Scotia's 12 vineyards are found in the Annapolis valley. The soil and microclimates in the region grow grapes and fruit that create delicious and unique varietals.
|Domaine De Grand Pre’ is a boutique winery focusing on developing their own varieties, styles and vineyard practices.
“Domaine De Grand Pre’ is a boutique winery. We have focused on developing our own varieties, styles and vineyard practices that will thrive in the local soil and oceanic climate. To achieve this, the winery has partnered with Agriculture Canada to develop hardy Nova Scotia grape varieties,” said president Hanspeter Stutz.
Grand Pre currently produces 21 varieties of red, white, rosé and sparkling wines, as well as natural Stutz hard apple cider. My only regret was not staying longer to dine at its Restaurant Le Caveau and savor more of the fine elixir. (www.grandprewines.com)
Restaurant Chez Christophe is known for its Acadian Kitchen Parties, an authentically unique cultural and culinary experience. The bottle of white, a gift from Grand Pre for Chef Paul Comeau, was fortuitous. Chez Christophe’s, on the Acadian French shore of St. Mary’s Bay in Grosses Coques, is a bring-your-own beer and wine eatery.
The chef-owned restaurant occupies a house originally built in 1837 by Comeau’s great, great grandfather. Traditionally, Acadian people gather to party in the kitchen to share food, drink and music. My table was next to the old cook stove in the Comeau family kitchen. In front of the stove were musicians playing guitar, base, violin/fiddle and a Cajun box. Throughout the evening, they hammered out tune after tune, telling ardent stories in song.
Applause from elsewhere made me realize there were more than just the 15 of us in the kitchen. Other rooms in the house also had diners listening to the music--a mix of Acadian and eclectic Celtic and Cajun folk and traditional tunes. Songs reverberated throughout the house, which took on a life of its own, expanding and contracting with the beat. Spontaneous song broke out, initiated by diners adding verse after verse and accompanied by the musicians. The Lovers’ Waltz was played for a newly married couple that danced to the tune while others joined in. The staff and locals danced steps that resembled clogging to some of the tunes
|Digby Pines Resort is a classic full service hotel, spa, and golf course destination.
Chez Christophe has a Kitchen Party or two every week and regularly offers traditional and contemporary Acadian home-cooked meals. At some point in the merriment, my meal was served--carrots, peas, and mashed potatoes with pork, lobster, shrimp and local large scallops topped with a spicy cream sauce. The traditional fare was delicious.
This truly authentic cultural and dining experience tickled my fancy and nurtured my soul. “Restaurant Chez Christophe is where the past and present meet, and locals blend with visitors to share our heritage and celebrate food, music, song, dance and life,” said Chef Paul. (www.chezchristophe.ca)
An old standby, Digby Pines Resort was as remembered - a classic full service hotel, spa, and golf course destination. I played in the morning before boarding the ferry in Yarmouth for passage home. After a quick stop in town to pack the cooler with sweet tasting, world famous Digby scallops, I bade farewell. (www.digbypines.ca)
|Digby Pines Golf Course Resort
Annapolis Valley golf:
Avon Valley Golf & Country Club, Clare Golf & Country Club, Digby Pines Golf Resort, and Ken-Wo Country Club.
I couldn’t have asked for more. Rambling about the Nova Scotia countryside discovering the backbone of the province was as good as it gets. Finding the real thing is sometimes not easy; at other times it’s difficult to know what’s authentic. This time there was no mystery; it was a genuine experience.
I’m sure Nova Scotia has many other unique and interesting treasures to discover, once off the highway and on a road less traveled. I can’t wait to return for more.
Bill Nestor writes about golf, travel and lifestyles from his home in Vermont.
For more information:
Nova Scotia Tourism
Guidebooks: Golf Nova Scotia, Golf Travel Guide (www.golfnovascotia.com)
Taste of Nova Scotia, Culinary Adventure Guide (www.tasteofnovascotia.com)
Dining Out by the Restaurant Association of Nova Scotia
Passport To Nova Scotia Wine Country
Wines of Nova Scotia (www.winesns.ca)
Some of these are available from Nova Scotia Tourism