Sharing a single bathroom among four people, especially when one of those people is a teenage girl, is a bit of a challenge, at least when you want to get moving in the morning and everyone has their own priorities. But we managed it nonetheless, and were actually checked out and on the road from Lunenberg by 8:30am this past Thursday. Less than a half hour later we had discovered the quaint Saltspray Cafe Chowder House in nearby Mahone Bay, where we enjoyed a hearty breakfast and friendly country service.
Our further travels took us over Route 12 to the other side of Nova Scotia, to the small village of Port Williams, and more particularly to the Foxhill Cheese Farm. We had already found a brochure for the Foxhill Cheese Farm at a Nova Scotia Information Center in Peggy’s Cove, but had the opportunity to actually meet one of the owners, Jeanita Rand, at the small farmer’s market in Lunenburg yesterday. Jeanita was full of information on cheese making, and we hoped to get a small tour at her farm today. And we were not disappointed.
But, before I wander off in the direction of dairy production, let me say that Nova Scotia does a brilliant job in promoting all that the province has to offer to tourists. There are numerous Nova Scotia Information Centers scattered around the province, in key tourist locations, staffed by very knowledgeable people, and filled with a variety of free maps, brochures, guides, and other useful materials. Among these is a thick tome called the Doers & Dreamers Guide, and it’s loaded with suggested accommodations, lists of attractions, national park listings, advertisements, and more. The Doers & Dreamers Guide is organized by provincial region, and each section includes a list of must-see attractions, must-do activities, calendar of events, and even rainy day activities. Many hotels also have these guides freely available. In any case, should you be visiting Nova Scotia, make sure to visit one of the Nova Scotia Information Centers and load up on all you need to explore this gem of the Canadian Maritimes.
Back to dairy existence… The signs to Foxhill Cheese Farm were clear and visible as we made our way up from Wolfsville through Port Williams, and we arrived to find Jeanita in full protective gear (gloves, apron, hair cover) at the farm store. After having us sample a variety of the cheeses – they make several varieties of Gouda, a Parmesan-like cheese they call Parmesran (so as not to infringe on the Parmesan trademark, and because Jeanita’s last name is Rand, so it’s a slight play on that), and German-style “quark”, a cheese that’s half way between sour cream cream cheese. They also make fresh gelato. And everything we sampled – and we sampled a lot of cheese and gelato – was very good. Jeanita also gave us a short tour and overview of the cheese-making process, and we are now inspired to at least make our own curds at home. We left loaded with a bunch of cheeses and gelato for the road.
After a stop at the Look-Off – a high point overlooking the entire Annapolis valley (a what a nice view it was!), we made our way to Hall’s Harbor, a place known for some of the most extreme tides in the world. When we got to Hall’s Harbor we found that the tide had mostly already gone out and a number of lobster fishing boat were literally high and dry. We lunched at The Lobster Pound, where we got to pick out our own lobsters, and then have them cooked for us while we waited in the petite dining area. The kids split a 2.75 pound lobster, Linda had a pound-and-a-half one, and I had one just over two pounds. It took about a half hour to cook them all, but the wait was worth it. We had an excellent though rustic meal.
Our next stop was at the Domaine de Grand Pre Winery, just a bit northeast of Wolfsville along Route 1, where we took a short tour followed by a tasting. Grand Pre is owned and operated by a Swiss-German family, and thus appears to run quite efficiently. The grape varietals they use, such as L’Acadie Blanc and Marechal Foch, are ones that are better suited to the shorter growing season available in Nova Scotia. They also produce three different eisweins (also known as icewine, a sweet dessert wine) – a Vidal, a Muscat, and an Ortega. One thing we found interesting what that their primary red wine production is using steel barrels, something which we found to make those reds rather less complex (and for us, not enjoyable). They do offer a couple of reserve reds which are oaked, and we enjoyed those quite a bit more. Part of the lack of development of the regular reds might have also been that the tastings involved rather young, 2007 vintages. We ultimately ended up with a collection of three aged, oaky Foch reserves (a 2001, 2003, and 2004), a bottle of the New York Muscat icewine, and a couple bottles of an apple-based apertif sweet wine (Pomme d’Or) which Krystyana thought might go well with cheese.
In terms of Nova Scotian wines, we have had a number of different reds from the Jost Winery (which we will not have a chance to visit during our current travels), and found those to generally be quite good. Grand Pre was a bit of a disappointment in contrast, however, as we had to work harder to find enjoyable wines.
From Grand Pre we took the scenic route between Windsor and Truro, along the coast. The countryside was beautiful as we enjoyed fall foliage and great ocean vistas. One of the stops along the way was at the lighthouse in Walton. The lighthouse might more appropriately be called a light-shack, as it’s very tiny, maybe 20 feet high. But it was cute. Walton also claims the distinction of being the place with the highest tides in the world. We’re not sure if this is true, but certainly our wanderings among some broken down piers near the lighthouse during low tide suggested tides were very high in this area, as we saw damp seaweed far above our heads on the pier. During this particular exploration we almost lost Bas to the mud. He had decided to investigate a few feet off the gravel we had wandered onto and ended up nearly losing his shoes due to the suction of the still very damp and thick mud where he stood. Krystyana and I had to pull him out gently so that his shoes stayed on his feet.
Our leisurely drive ultimately brought us to the Willow Bend Motel in Truro, and probably our least expensive room night of the entire trip, with a $125 “suite” featuring two queen beds and a queen sofa bed. The motel was in good condition, but Linda wasn’t wild about the location – halfway between a silo and the local bus station.
Let me digress a little here and say that one pleasant surprise so far has been that every accommodation we’ve had in Nova Scotia so far has included free Internet service, typically both wireless and wired. I usually prefer the later because I plug-in my Linksys wireless access point travel router and then can get a stronger wireless signal in our room for both the notebooks we are traveling with, but having the access be free is a nice little additional treat in any case – far better than the $10-15/day that many U.S. hotels we frequent charge for access (although with my Boingo membership, that’s usually waived).
Dinner options in Truro seemed a bit limited – lots of fast food, as well as a Chinese restaurant offering “Canadian Chinese Cuisine”. We ended up at Fletcher’s, a small diner offering what’s typically referred to as “hardy” food – loaded with starches and carbs, with bits of protein mixed in. Even the grilled haddock was covered in pancake batter (we managed to get some “naked” haddock). Reasonable prices, but low-carb oriented people (like us) should eat elsewhere.
Thus ended our Friday in Nova Scotia.