From the Cabot Trail in October to Bear River and towns built on stilts to drinking beer and singing ‘Barrett’s Privateers’ at the Lower Deck on the Halifax waterfront to looking in on Annapolis Royal, one of the most interesting townscapes in North America, this is the MUST list every Nova Scotian MUST have. From waterfalls you can literally enjoy to yourself to the hidden pleasures of a county fair, it is all here.
We also get Bluenosers from across the province to give us their MUST lists. They give us their five Nova Scotia smells . . . Best fish and chips . . . Best beaches . . .Scariest gravesites . . . Best Nova Scotian beers. This is the ultimate insider MUST list. If you love Nova Scotia, you simply MUST have the Nova Scotia Book of Musts.
About the Author
Allan Lynch is a freelance travel writer. He lives in Halifax.
Read an Excerpt
Nova Scotia Book of Musts
The 101 Places Every Nova Scotian Must See
By Allan Lynch
MacIntyre Purcell Publishing Inc.Copyright © 2009 MacIntyre Purcell Publishing Inc.
All rights reserved.
The Studio Rally
The Studio Rally takes you down country lanes and back streets into seaside studios and hidden workshops to discover where artists live and work. We see what influences and inspires, whether it's rural remoteness or the gregariousness of bustling communities.
The Studio Rally takes you off the beaten path and introduces you to people you ordinarily wouldn't meet. For example, you can experience the vivid canvas mats crafted by Jennifer MacPherson in her Margaree Valley studio or the sophisticated, funky folk art creations of William Roach in Cheticamp, or the elegant leather work of John Roberts in Indian Brook (his bags and buckets are stunning) to the wild mind of carver Barry Colpitts - his East Ship Harbour home is so unusual it was featured on television's Weird Homes.
Wayne Boucher sits in his Parker's Cove studio taking his view of the Bay of Fundy as the inspiration for his massive abstract paintings. In a home studio behind Mansor's Men's Wear in Amherst, Deanne Fitzpatrick hooks one-of-a-kind rugs. In Belliveau's Cove, next to Gary's Barber Shop, you'll discover the work of internationally-collected sculptor, ceramicist and painter Claude Chaloux.
From one tip of the province to the other, from shore to shore and everywhere in between, The Studio Rally is a great way to find unique treasures for ourselves, or get a jump on holiday shopping sans the crowds. In essence, the province becomes a huge market or bazaar, specializing in the finest creativity found anywhere. The rally is a perfect marriage between art and adventure.
Details:For information about The Studio Rally, look for maps at art galleries, coffee shops and tourist bureaus across the province or click on studiorally.ca.
American humourist Steve Wright said, "I took a cab to the drive-in.
A Night Out For $20 Or Less
It cost me $95 to see the movie."
It's a great line, but drive-ins are an amazing value now that they charge by the carload. Remember the old days of hiding friends in the trunk or under a blanket on the backseat floor to save on admission? For kids, drive-ins were a treat 'cause you got to stay up later since movies didn't start until dark. For teenagers, they were places for hot dates, or, if you didn't have a date, places to get (or start) hot gossip - like who was on a date.
Once the quintessential North American entertainment venue, marrying our love for cars and movies, drive-ins are an endangered species in Nova Scotia. Bridgewater, Kingston, Sackville, Halifax (which had three) and New Germany have lost their drive-ins. Before they become extinct, treat yourself to a retro-night at one the province's remaining three drive-ins in Cambridge, Westville and Sydney.
The Valley Drive-In, Cambridge, operated by the Lions Club, offers double-bills for $20 a carload. The canteen promises hand-cut French fries. The Empire Drive-In, Westville, charges $15.50 per car on weekends, less during the week. Double-bills become triple-bills on some weekends!
The Cape Breton Drive-In in Sydney offers a special treat; an all-night, dusk-to-dawn screening on the second weekend of October. It's their way of surviving Thanksgiving. These days, drive-ins broadcast the audio, so you don't wreck your car driving off with the speaker still stuck to the window. Before the snow flies, drive to a drive-in for a trip down memory lane.
Details:The Valley Drive-In is on Highway 1 between Berwick and Coldbrook. Take Exit 14 off Highway 101. Their movie line is 902-538-0772 or check out valleydrivein.com. The Empire Drive-In is located between Westville and New Glasgow, take Exit 21 off Highway 104. Open from May to September, it has a playground for the kids. For movie information call 902-396-3339 / 396-5175. The Cape Breton Drive-In, on Grand Lake Road, Sydney, operates from May to October. For movie info call 902-539-9922.
Music plays a big part in the social life of Nova Scotia. But it's not only ceilidhs, high-steppin' dancers and fiddlers. There is music beyond our Celtic roots. One of the longest-running, but lesser-known musical options is Musique Royale, a concert series that offers a different type of experience.
Musique Royale is the brainchild of a group spearheaded by John Grew, the former dean of music at McGill in Montreal, who hails from Oxford. He thought Nova Scotia needed a concert series of authentic early music presented in historic venues around the province, a way of matching this world music with our own heritage.
This idea captured the imagination of many volunteers who toil in often remote locations to make music possible, and of many high-calibre musicians who make themselves available to perform in unusual venues around the province. This ancient music is performed in approximately 20 venues each summer in places as farflung as Yarmouth to Cheticamp, Annapolis Royal to Lunenburg, Port Hood to Port Williams.
World-renowned musicians share their gifts with some of the province's smallest communities. Prince Edward Island's own Indian River Festival uses the slogan "music you hear with your heart," a sentiment equally applicable to Musique Royale. Give it a try - it's not at all stuffy. Rediscovering the beautiful music of the past, often played on period instruments, performed in impressive and intimate settings, is time-travel at its best.
Details:Musique Royale takes place from April to mid-September. For information call 902-634-9994 or log on to musiqueroyale.com.
New Year's Day Levees
New Year's Day in the ancient world was a holy time to celebrate last year's crop and sow seed for the next. In the 21st century, New Year's Day is a time to worship football at the alter of television, with its succession of Rose, Cotton, Orange and Gator bowls. Since football isn't a Nova Scotian tradition and imbibing is, many Bluenosers greet the year with gregarious gusto at New Year's Day levees.
Levees evolved from the practice of inviting nobles to the king's bedchamber at Versailles to watch him wake up. The royal bedchamber still has the elaborate railing which marked where the spectators stood. Eventually, this ritual developed into a men-only morning reception, a no-girls-allowed bastion that developed a seedy reputation thanks largely to an unlimited flow of booze: hair-of-the-dog gone bad.
The late political commentator and man-about-town, Harry Flemming, observed that when he started going to levees the only women who used to attend were female military officers (which were also a rarity). Today, it's still male dominated, but lots of women do attend, which has had the affect of moderating the spirit intake.
Flemming characterized the changes this way. "If you make the rounds, by one or two in the afternoon your alcohol intake would be small. Today, the levee is an opportunity to see people you mightn't otherwise see for the rest of the year." And it is precisely the serendipity of the casual encounter that is the new appeal of levees. And even if diluted, for many, the New Year's Day levees are a final holiday kick at the can of the social calendar, before burrowing into the reality of our long Nova Scotia winter.
Details:Check The Chronicle Herald and community papers for levee listings. If you spend New Year's Eve celebrating in Halifax, consider joining the lengthy levee circuit in the city, starting with the Lieutenant Governor's.
Flemming's rules of levee etiquette: dress is semi-formal; visits should be limited to one hour; and carry a stack of calling cards (business cards or something with your name on it works) since some levees, such as the Lieutenant Governor's, like to announce guests. If you leave your card at the Lieutenant Governor's, chances are good you'll receive an invitation to the annual garden party.
Savour the Taste
One of the first things Samuel de Champlain did at the Habitation was organize a dining society, the Order of Good Cheer, as a way to alleviate the monotony of the hard winters in the new world. Four hundred years later, we're still cheering up long winter nights with celebrations of food and drink. The biggest of those is Savour, organized by the Restaurant Association of Nova Scotia.
Savour has three main events. First, a food and wine festival observed across the province, which ranges from appetizers in an art gallery, to a wine-pairing cooking class in a grocery store, or a special dinner at a restaurant. Second, a week called Dine Out Nova Scotia, when participating restaurants offer three- or four-course menus at a fixed price, is a great way to test a new place or taste new dishes.
The third week is the Savour Food & Wine Show in Halifax, an extravaganza that rotates between the Marriott Harbourfront Hotel and Westin Nova Scotian Hotel, filling their ballroom and convention areas with the biggest buffet in the province. Admission provides three hours of unlimited sampling and sipping.
If you want more, check out Chefs for UNICEF at the World Trade and Convention Centre. Culinary teams from ten of Halifax's leading hotels, each team specializing in a different international cuisine, create a mouth-watering buffet. It's a fun way to nosh your way around the world. Champlain would be pleased.
Details:For information contact the Restaurant Association of Nova Scotia at 902-429-5343 or click on savourfoodandwine.com or 1-800-665-3463 toll free. To learn about the Chefs for UNICEF, watch the World Trade & Convention Centre site at wtcchalifax.com.
Whenever the tall ships fill Halifax Harbour with a forest of masts, people crowd the waterfront and dream of running away to sea. Now you can. In an age when erratic economics and terrorism have darkened travel, sailing on a tall ship is a ray of sunshine.
For adventurous souls, they now have a chance to answer the siren call of the sea. They can become a member of a hardy crew that weigh anchor, cast off lines, climb rigging, and drop sails. On a tall ship all that tacking and gibbing is part of the adventure. It's romantic and rugged, fun and fresh.
Until recently, Nova Scotians with a yen to set sail on a tall ship had to travel to foreign places. No more. Nova Scotia is home to a growing fleet of these ships. You can take two-hour cruises on the Bluenose II out of Lunenburg. In Halifax Harbour, three ships offer day tours, which are great ways to get your feet wet and see if you like sailing. For a real adventure check out the Picton Castle which does extended voyages - in the Atlantic and even around the world. You pay to be crew on the Picton Castle.
For an active but more cruise-like experience that fits into a holiday schedule, consider the SV Caledonia, operated by Halifax-based Canadian Sailing Expeditions. Caledonia is a 245-foot barquentine, with 17,000 square feet of sail, 32 cabins and 22 crew. It offers seven-day Lighthouses & Coastal Colours cruises in September along the South Shore. Be part of the new age of sail. There's no need to be left standing on a Halifax pier.
Details:For information about the Picton Castle call 902-634-9984 or click on picton-castle.com. For information about Canadian Sailing Expeditions, call 902-429-1474, 1-877-429-9463 or log onto canadian-sailingexpeditions.com.
Anne & Rita
Looking at all the minutiae of Anne's life on display at the Anne Murray Centre, you wonder if her mother ever threw anything out. One thing Anne might have liked tossed are photos from the seventies. The fashion industry and hairstylists from that period have much to answer for.
This embarrassment aside, the Anne Murray Centre is a must see and not just for fans. Like Pugwash, it's a place young Nova Scotians should visit because it shows what can be accomplished when you dream big.
Anne has been famous for so long that many Nova Scotians may be surprised by the extent of her accomplishments. She's appeared on the top television variety programs, has given countless sell-out concert tours, has sold tens of millions of albums and won every major music award. More importantly, she keeps reinventing herself so that her career continues decade after decade.
Our other gal who has done well, Rita MacNeil, has a more folksy approach to keeping in touch with her fans - her Big Pond tearoom. It's a place where everyone calls you "dear" as they pour big pots of tea and serve delicate crust-less sandwiches on Royal Stuart bone china. It's like church supper or a funeral without the unpleasantness of a body. Rita struggled for years, staying committed to her music, and like Anne Murray, Bluenose perseverance paid off. Both women stay connected to their hometowns in direct ways.
Details:The Anne Murray Centre, on the Main Street in Springhill, is open from mid-May to mid-October. Call 902-597-8614 or click on annemurraycentre.com. Information about Rita MacNeil and her tearoom are at ritamacneil.com.
Joyce Kilmer is famous for writing, "I think that I shall never see a poem lovely as a tree." I wonder how he would feel about chainsaws and tree stumps?
In the old days we chopped down dead tree trunks and dug up their roots. Today, several of our more clever communities have Paul Bunyanesque chainsaw artists turn dead trees into public art. Tree sculptures come from the philosophy of making a silk purse out of a sow's ear. You'll find artistic tree stumps scattered throughout the province, but the three main communities for arboreal art are Truro, Antigonish and Amherst.
In Truro, many of the grand elms which lined the streets became infested with Dutch Elm Disease. Rather than lose everything and be faced with naked streetscapes, the local Tree Committee, which manages the town's urban forest, hired an Acadian chainsaw artist to sculpt the tree trunks. The idea caught on and other individuals and businesses began turning their tree trunks into art.
The sculptures include animals, Girl Guides, the wrestling men depicted on the Stanfield underwear logo, former Premier Robert Stanfield, a World War II flying ace and an executive of the tennis club. Truro has a 48-page guide to its 32 tree sculptures on display along an 8.2 km route through town.
Antigonish has 18 sculptures in town and another five in the county. They also depict local people, as well as iconic characters from local history: a bagpiper, a highland dancer, a Scot and, in an ironic twist, a kilted caber tosser. There are curlers, an R.C.M.P. officer, the Thinker, a hockey player, farmers and soldiers.
Amherst has recently added four Fathers of Confederation - Sir Charles Tupper, Robert Barry Dickey, Edward Barron Chandler and Jonathan McCully - to their growing list of outdoor art.
Details:The local tourist bureaus in each town will direct you to the outdoor sculptures.
I've gone whale watching eight times and have seen whales only twice. The first five times were pleasant days on the water, but we didn't see anything bigger than a seagull. That's the challenge with nature - it works on its schedule, not yours.
When we actually did see whales, I had one of those I-wonder-if-this-is-a-good-idea moments. When I saw close up just how big a whale is, I wondered if our boat was too small and vulnerable. I found myself very concerned that our whale be in a good mood.
We're fortunate that we can whale watch virtually anywhere along the province's coast. But, if you have the time and are flexible, I recommend heading to the Bay of Fundy to look for the North Atlantic Right Whale. This whale is often described with the run-on term "rarerightwhale."
Rare is what it is, not it's name. In the 1990s, when there were only about 325 left, Deborah Tobin, a whale activist and author on Brier Island, told me the population was so low that researchers at Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution had compiled a directory identifying every Right Whale known to exist. This, she said, was the first time in world history that an entire species had been identified in a single book, which really illustrated how endangered the Right Whale was.
The good news is that Right Whale numbers are slowly growing, so that now there are about 400 and the Bay of Fundy is one of their main habitants. Since whale watching is such a popular Nova Scotian activity, why not pump up the experience by going out in search of Right Whales? You'll be one of very few people on earth to see them.
Details:The best Right Whale watching is off Brier Island, which is reached via two car ferries: first, from the mainland to Long Island, then Brier Island. Brierisland.org provides complete information about the ferry schedules, community, accommodations, whale watching, hiking, lighthouses and other wildlife.
Nova Scotia got into the wine business in a big way in the 1970s. Alas, a lot of what was produced then wasn't great. Some vineyards planted the wrong varieties of grapes, others had to undergo a learning curve in wine making. But we shouldn't be too hard on vintners, the seventies was a crap time for clothing, hairstyles and television, too.
However, now Nova Scotia produces damn good stuff. That's because our winemakers have matured, we have attracted accomplished newcomers to the province and different grapes have been cultivated. So it's time for Nova Scotians to get out and discover the fruits of our own vines.
Excerpted from Nova Scotia Book of Musts by Allan Lynch. Copyright © 2009 MacIntyre Purcell Publishing Inc.. Excerpted by permission of MacIntyre Purcell Publishing Inc..
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
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Table of Contents
ContentsHERE, THERE OR EVERYWHERE,
YARMOUTH & ACADIAN SHORES,
FUNDY SHORE & ANNAPOLIS VALLEY,
CAPE BRETON ISLAND,