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Published: November 25th 2012
Reflections Falling for Nova Scotia's Autumn Colors
Three Churches, Mahone Bay
Landing in Halifax after flying into Toronto from Istanbul, we were exhausted yet determined to drive to The Bayview Pines Country Inn for a 4 night stay in Mahone Bay. With a 360 degree bird's eye view from this lovely B & B, friendly and helpful host and hostess, well-appointed rooms with comfy beds, and delicious breakfasts, it was the perfect spot for us to get over a hectic three week trip to Turkey and jetlag before heading back to work in Vancouver in a week's time! Before crashing (figuratively, not literally), we picked up our rental car at the airport and drove an hour and fifteen minutes along the highway under the cover of darkness - a challenge when you have been in transit for over 20 hours.
We have driven quiet country roads along rugged, wave-carved headlands and tranquil island-studded bays dotted by coastal villages full of historic charm, walked along wind-blown beaches and stopped at lighthouses, historic towns and weathered fishing villages to soak up the maritime lifestyle and hospitality in Nova Scotia for a total of 4 weeks over the past two summers in June, July, August and early
September. This was our first autumn visit to the Maritimes and expected misty weather if not pouring rain, low fog, cool temperatures, and stormy seas. To our surprise, we had fantastic weather to admire autumn colours under blue skies, to stroll the quaint towns of Mahone Bay, Lunenburg and Chester and to enjoy eating at a few of our favorite restaurants before spending two nights in Halifax with Canuck Junior who did not join us on our latest adventure. South Shore
Mahone Bay, nestled on a bay with hundreds of islands off a beautiful stretch of coastline, is known for the picturesque sight of the Three Churches and colourful 19th century architecture on the water’s edge that houses quaint shops and restaurants. Its beauty and serenity is best captured at the break of dawn on cool, crisp autumn days to no surprise to the local photographers we met. Admittedly, rising before the sun was easy being jetlagged!
Although we spent 4 nights in Mahone Bay, we drove into Halifax to spend time with Canuck Junior and her roommate over dinner, so we really only had two nights to enjoy dining at Mateus Bistro. Joanne's Deli, Market &
Bake Shop is our favorite spot for desserts and baked goods. Its banana cream pie is to die for, and Mama Canuck puts her life on the line as often as her diet permits! With the tourist season coming to an end, Joanne was preparing for their end of October closure and Mateus Bistro's opening hours were limited, so if you are planning to visit in late fall, be prepared for seasonal closures or reduced hours. Surprisingly, Top of Main was closed in the spring when the owner/chef was lured away; a real shame since having two fantastic restaurants in town was a real treat. Fortunately, Lunenburg is less than a 1/2 hour away where lots of great restaurants are open year round.
The Scarecrow Festival was underway with shops all decked out in autumn decor and the Father Christmas Festival was not far behind. In the late Fall until Christmas, our favorite stores (Suttles & Seawinds for clothing and quilts, The Teazer for giftware, The Tea Brewery for an amazing collection of teas, teapots and mugs, Zack & Nemo Mercantile for country furniture and giftware, Northern Sun Gallery & Gifts for jewelry and crafts, Amos Pewter for pewter
Joanne's Deli, Market & Bake Shop , Mahone Bay
jewelry and giftware, and the Mahone Bay Trading Company for an amazing selection of footwear) are great shops for early Christmas shopping. Although Suttles & Seawinds moves its quilts and quilting gear to their clothing store for the winter since the barn gets too cold and damp, fortunately, they opened the barn for us and two other quilt enthusiasts since they had yet to empty the barn of its treasures!
Sugar Bubbles, a bath bakery that looks more like a bake shop, sells a great selection of artistic hand-crafted soaps and bath products beautifully displayed in a quaint, colourful and aromatic shop. A new favorite shop to add to our list of shops not to be missed when touring the South Shore!
We prefer staying in Mahone Bay because it is halfway between Chester and Lunenburg and a day trip to Wolfville so it is perfectly situated to explore the South Shore from. On this trip, we headed to Lunenburg to soak up the atmosphere by walking along the 18th and 19th century streetscapes with well-preserved, colourful buildings that sneak up the steep slope rising from the waterfront and with stately Victorian homes that dot the tree-lined streets
New soap bakery in Mahone Bay!
Bluenose II, Nova Scotia’s sailing ambassador, a replica of the original Bluenose (1921-1946) depicted on the Canadian dime, has been undergoing a major restoration since 2010 on the Lunenburg waterfront, site of the original construction in the 1960s. We visited the site of the restoration in which was facinating. After being launched in Lunenburg Bay a mere three weeks before our visit, we were thrilled to be on the waterfront on the morning that they raised the masts on the schooner - a historic day! We can't wait to sail the bay in the future on the Bluenose II!
Besides roaming the streets, window-shopping and eating at our two favorite lunch spots, Magnolia's Grill and the Salt Shaker Deli, we visited the Ironworks Distillery, hung out at the Shop on the Corner and enjoyed chatting with the locals, including an artist who offered us a glimpse into the history that was being made with the restoration of the Bluenose II that was being captured by artists in the community.
Ironworks Distillery is a micro-distillery that took its name from the 1893 heritage building that it occupies. Formerly a marine blacksmith’s shop that produced ironworks for the
shipbuilding trade, including for the original Bluenose, it makes a perfect setting for this boutique distillery that specializes in small batches of premium fruitful spirits and liquors. After a short tour, we enjoyed tasting their Apple Vodka, Bluenose II Spiced Rum, Apply Brandy, Blueberry Liquor, and Cranberry Liquor, all made of natural, locally sourced ingrediants. The experience was well worth it and I'm sure once you have tasted their products, you won't leave empty handed! We didn't.
For culinary artists, there are two high-end cook shops that carry all the gadgets that fascinate us even though we have no idea what we would use them for in our kitchen. Finally, we met artist, Peter Matyas who spoke of his commitment of over two years to capturing the faces of those descendents of the Bluenose II shipyard workers that worked on its recent restoration. His work titled: 'Rebirth of the Bluenose II" is a testament to the passion he shared with us about the importance of the project in a community whose past shipbuilding prowess has been a distant memory. For cider enthusiasts, local Stutz Cider of Berwick, Nova Scotia, created a commemorative cider called Shipbuilder's Cider using Peter's painting
on its label. Accomplished photographer, Marc Doucette, also displays his photographs at The Bluenose II Restoration Images Gallery opened to feature their Bluenose II inspired artwork.
On this trip we only made a short stop in The Village of Chester to walk along the many paths that wind along the peninsula under sunny and blue skies and to check out an art glass shop that is becoming known across Nova Scotia and the World for its unique glassware, household fixtures, and works of art. Kiln Art's store in Chester offers the best selection of its fused glass giftware and at the best prices. A definite must see!
Check out our highlights and recommendations when touring the South Shore in our 2011 dated blog titled: Lunenburg and the Lighthouse Trail
since this trip was far too short!
The skies were blue and the sun shone for most of our time as we reacquainted ourselves with the landscape and the people who have captured our imagination! Looking across the rolling green hills, driving past quintessential Maritime scenes of coastlines lined with cottages and boat houses, soaking up the maritime air, and capturing the sight of misty seascapes and autumn backdrops to picturesque sites
World-class fused glass store in Chester
in the morning hours were a very soothing and relaxing way of recovering from the frenetic pace of Istanbul. Halifax
On our third visit to Halifax in as many years, we stayed at the Lord Nelson Hotel on Spring Garden Road which has a warm, but stately lobby and well-appointed rooms. Unlike the Marriott Courtyard which caters beautifully to families, The Lord Nelson caters to mature travellers and business clientele. When visiting Canuck Junior who is attending university in Halifax, we will definitely stay at the Lord Nelson which is close to Dalhousie University and Canuck Junior's apartment. Tips: Special rates offered to parents of Dalhousie students and hotel parking is expensive so take advantage of free street parking on Sundays and overnight. Just remember to wake up early enough to plug the meter on Saturdays and weekdays until you are ready to head off for the day!
We have spent a total of nine nights in Halifax and, as always, we enjoyed roaming the streets of Halifax that feature historical buildings and homes. For experiences and recommendations, check out our 2010 blog titled: Hail to Halifax
since we did not do much sightseeing on this trip, except to
walk around the formal 17 acre Victorian Halifax Public Gardens on a Sunday morning to enjoy the fall colours of the trees and the hardy floral displays.
Although we recommend touring the Halifax Farmer's Market on Saturday mornings, instead, the Travelling Canucks drove from Mahone Bay to Bayers Lake to shop for Canuck Junior's apartment. If you are looking for high quality Shaker and Arts & Crafts furniture, we discovered a family-run business advertised as Amish Furniture on Susie Lake Rd that is worth visiting if your budget permits! If you are setting up your college-aged offspring, then we recommend making the trip out to Bayers Lake and/or Dartmouth Crossing to buy everything needed to live on or off campus on every budget! Although most of our time was spent shopping with Canuck Junior at Bayers Lake and Dartmouth Crossing, we did enjoy drinking/eating at: World Tea House on Argyle St., Cabin Coffee on Hollis St. for great coffee, cinnamon buns and baked goods for breakfast, lunch or snack time; The Five Fisherman Restaurant & Grill on Argyle St. for great seafood; and Brooklyn Warehouse on Windsor St., a new hot spot for great food, service and atmosphere on
this trip. Spending time with Canuck Junior who has flown the coup and nested in Halifax, admiring the autumn colours, shopping in galleries and charming boutiques, and dining in fine restaurants amidst the beautifully preserved buildings of Mahone Bay, Lunenburg and Halifax made for a relaxing stop after travelling for 4 weeks. We definitely fell for Nova Scotia's autumn colours and experiences and plan to stopover in Halifax any chance we get!
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