“A child enters your home and for the next twenty years makes so much noise you can hardly stand it. The child departs, leaving the house so silent you think you are going mad.”
John Andrew Holmes
I was of two minds as to whether I should write about my recent trip to Nova Scotia, with my daughter Jessica. It’s certainly worthy from a photographic and historical standpoint. But I didn’t know much about the culinary adventures to be had and since we were there primarily touring universities I wasn’t certain I would have much to share with you beyond academia.
In the end, I decided I had enough to interest you in the area if you haven’t been, or to remind you of its beauty if you have.
Leaving Toronto before the break of dawn made for a wonderful comparison when we arrived in Nova Scotia. There aren’t what you’d call a lot of roads out there which is both charming and disarming in equal measure.
Nova Scotia and specifically Halifax is truly lovely and has much more to offer than I had time to see. From the 4 kms of boardwalk and an astounding number of restaurants to enjoy while there, the Maritime Museum (while fascinating also at the time of our visit PACKED with tour bus inhabitants of the slowest of slow-moving variety) the history, not least of which includes the Halifax Explosion the Titanic and the Old Burying Ground name a few of the attractions.
It cannot be left unsaid that Halifax will not to be outdone by St. John’s Newfoundland in terms of unfailingly friendly and hospitable locals.
We had gorgeous weather and were able to spend much of our time touring on foot, which is great in a city like Halifax as long as you don’t mind a few challenging hills!
And as a Torontonian I can add that touring city streets there was safe, safer than safe. I mean maybe I’m a bit jaded and should probably recognize that anywhere that is not Toronto is safe to tour city streets by foot, but these people are delightfully and almost weirdly polite if that’s a thing.
Within an hour or so of landing we found ourselves at the harbourfront enjoying lunch on a patio… and no we didn’t have mussels, although this did form part of our view.
I can pretty reliably be counted on to order lobster whenever and wherever possible, but it is a given when I’m in the Maritimes. I mean who doesn’t order a Lobster Chowder while at a restaurant called Salty’s on a patio on the Halifax Harbour?!
Next stop on our self-guided and rather random walking tour was the Old Burying Ground. I’m not sure why I have such a strong draw to cemeteries, but I can safely say that I’ve been to at least one in every place I’ve visited.
Past life believers please feel free to weigh in!
While we waited for our hotel room to be ready, we were lucky enough to discover that the Halifax Public Gardens was directly across the street.
At this point, I could easily have inundated you with photos from our hotel, The Lord Nelson, as it is a charming old beauty, but I thought you might be more interested in the food.
There was a lot of anticipation going to dinner on our first night. I’d heard such wonderful things about the restaurant. Clearly the “IT” place in Halifax.
I’m not going to name it (the hint should suffice no?) as I was underwhelmed. I will say that there was nothing specifically WRONG with it, it was just less than stellar. The food was fine, the service was acceptable, prices a bit steep, but I don’t feel the right to complain about that coming from Toronto. Overall it just didn’t WOW me. I won’t go into a list of complaints as I prefer to spend my time telling you about the other much more praise worthy places.
The view, however, was beautiful.
And of course I must share the food, ‘cuz it’s what I do!
Jess had the mushroom pasta and I (predictably) had the… wait for it…
Yup, the Lobster in Cognac Cream.
A generous portion of delicious lobster although the cognac appeared to be absent from this dish. It was FINE. And no, I do not mean that in a “you are looking FINE!” kind of way, but rather a “are you sure you’re not mad?” ” YES! I’m FINE!” kind of way.
I did like that they sold wine by the half bottle as my little one isn’t much of a wine lover.
She is, however, an appreciator of a meander in a good cemetery so there’s hope for her.
We made a special trip to the outskirts of town to visit the Titanic Memorial which is exceptionally moving and well worth the drive. Row upon row of stones with only the date marked. One cannot help but reflect upon their final hours while walking through a ship’s prow shaped memorial.
My Mum’s parents are also here and so the trip held a slightly more personal note for me.
After our tour of Dalhousie University, we treated ourselves to lunch at a spot chosen for the name alone… The Stubborn Goat.
I gotta say, this place more than made up for our less than thrilling dinner from the night before. Unlike horse racing, sometimes placing a bet based on name CAN be a winner!
I sent this picture of the menu to John (as he was unable to join us on our jaunt to the East Coast). He enthusiastically texted back “HALOUMI FRIES!” We had already placed our orders however so OBVIOUSLY we’ll have to make a return trip so he can order them!
The atmosphere is entirely charming with a definite funky vibe, service excellent and genuine, and the food… oh yesss!
Jess ordered the classic burger and I think it’s pretty obvious from its appearance alone that it was outstanding. She concurred after polishing it off in its entirety!
At the risk of being dreadfully boring, I ordered the Lobster Club ( I know I know, there are probably programs that could help me with this), with the added bonus of fries and truffle salt.
It’s also worth noting that The Stubborn Goat offered the best bread I was able to enjoy during the entire visit, and you all KNOW how bread obsessed I’ve been of late!
So THIS is what the inside of a lighthouse looks like! That is one MASSIVE lightbulb no?!
At this point, I have to hand over photography credit to my lovely daughter. As I was the driver for our day trip north to Antigonish to visit St. FX, she was left in charge of my camera.
I won’t deny she needed to be frantically urged (ok yelled at) occasionally to start shooting the gorgeous views we were witnessing, but ultimately she succeeded in capturing much of the beauty.
Two hours on the main highway between Halifax and Antigonish was quite possibly the prettiest stretch of highway I’ve ever been on short of perhaps the route through the Adirondack Mountains in Upstate New York. My reaction skills were tested what with all the taking my eyes off the road going on!
The trip to Antigonish was memorable not only for the drive but also the tour of St. FX, which is a stunningly beautiful university! Because of the peculiarity of the timing, however, (and the fact that outside of campus food, uhh no thanks, there aren’t a lot of dining choices in this tiny community) lunch was skipped. Sadness.
But “The Arms” at the Lord Nelson Hotel provided exactly the right solution. Their local cheese platter with roasted garlic and house-made jams were enjoyed as both lunch and dinner! When I included the MacMurray Pinot Noir, I was praised by the bartender with the compliment of “I love it when someone orders exactly the right combination!” Yay me!
Early morning mist provided us a most memorable send off the following day as we left a beautiful part of this breathtaking country.
Farewell Nova Scotia, I expect I’ll be seeing a LOT more of you in the coming four years.