On the Road in Atlantic Canada
October 2, 2014
A week of beautiful vistas, plentiful seafood, great resorts, and fascinating people
The next morning, as breezes waft in from the Atlantic, Chester Rudolph takes me on a pontoon boat tour of Liscombe Bay, once a rugged center for logging and fishing but today a tourist destination for families looking for an active summer camp at upscale Liscombe Lodge.
On our way to Cape Breton, we stop at Sherbrooke Village, a living museum of early twentieth-century life with three streets of shops; blacksmith, boat builder, pharmacy, and a printer where a hand-fed press turns out recipes for such period delicacies as rose hip jelly and oat cakes.
Three for the Road
We take the causeway to Cape Breton Island, where we stop for lunch —goodies packed by the chef back at Liscombe Lodge — at Big Spruce Brewing in Nyanza. We are served three beer samples, ranging from a refreshing IPA to a lusty lager. Then we are back on the road.
Arrival at Keltic Lodge
We join Cabot Trail, with its drop-dead gorgeous views of forest and sea and its precipitous, winding roads high above the Atlantic. We descend into Ingonish Beach, where a narrow, rocky finger of land juts into the cove. This is the aerie of Keltic Lodge, and we will linger here for an extra day.
A Walk on the Headlands
The next morning, we explore the wooded trails behind the Keltic. The terrain is rocky, but we keep our ankles intact as we enjoy the views, the jumble of boulders, the skeletons of storm-tossed trees, and beds of flowers and berries to the sound of waves pounding the coast.
Parade of Lobster Sliders
It’s lobster for lunch on the deck, and then Ella heads for the spa in the afternoon. Whale watching? Done that. Golf? Tempting, but... Instead I opt for a Scotch tasting, with the very good Cape Breton whisky, Glen Breton; an added bonus. Long nap before oysters and salmon for dinner.
Sweet as Maple Syrup
We are up early for the day-long drive to Digby. En route, Quita Gray, owner of Sugar Moon Farm, demonstrates an IV tap of a maple tree, the source of maple syrup. Next, we pass through farms of Annapolis Valley, Evangeline Country, before pulling into Digby Pines Resort.
Diggin’ Digby Scallops
Digby, on the Bay of Fundy, is famous for scallops, and Pines’ chef Dale Nichols gives us a culinary highlight with his scallops Natasha: juicy scallops and juniper tomato cream topped with a sweet pepper salad and crispy leaks. As elsewhere, we drink Nova Scotian wines.
Rainy Day Algonquin
A three-and-a-half-hour ferry ride across Fundy takes us to St. John, New Brunswick. It is raining as we drive to St. Andrews-by-the-Sea and the newly renovated Algonquin, the most elegant venue of our trip. We spend a wet afternoon exploring the quaint town near the Maine border.
Before a salmon-and-crab-accented dinner at Braxton’s, we linger in the lounge, with its big-chair coziness and gas-fueled fireplace. Some guests opt for conversation, others dive into their vacation novels, but it’s a Manhattan for me and a gin and tonic for Ella as we debrief the day.
Chef Alex Haun of Savour in the Garden restaurant next door has invited me to forage for chanterelles in nearby woods, and we strike a lode of mushroom gold. Chef Alex whips out a skillet, and in minutes serves breakfast: chanterelles in wine and cream sauce spooned over fresh-baked bread.
Our last day on the road takes up across New Brunswick to Shediac, where the world’s largest lobster statue gives a hint of what’s for lunch at the charming Auberge Gabrièle. A few hours later, we check into the Westin Nova Scotian on the tourist-friendly Halifax waterfront.
First we stroll through the produce market next door to the Westin, then we admire the tall ship, Lord Nelson, just docked after a two-year voyage. In the background are the lighthouse and Fort Charlotte on Georges Island in the harbor.
At dinner, we go through the litany of seafood we have enjoyed on our magical tour of Atlantic Canada. We’ve not yet had mussels, and Ella opts for a platter of small but juicy bivalves and I order crab cakes. The next morning, it’s a fond farewell to our lovely week in Atlantic Canada.