Nova Scotia was the site of the first European settlements in Canada and was originally colonised by the French, who were later brutally ejected from the region by the British, but more about that story on another day. It is a maritime province and has a rich seafaring history, magnificent coastal scenery and is also a cultural and artistic centre with an extraordinarily long list of artists, crafts-people, musicians, authors and film makers who call it home. It is a beautiful place and I greedily wanted to see it all. I hope to get back again one day to spend more time there, but have some lovely memories of a couple of very special places which will have to keep me going until then.
On leaving Halifax we headed along the Lighthouse Route on the south shore region and enjoyed an all too brief stop at the picturesque fishing and craft village of Mahone Bay. Nova Scotia Tourism did us proud and managed to serve up a day that started romantically soft and misty – surely the very best light in which to see this charming little village. We wandered past what I am told is a very common site in the area – a US television film crew filming a series – and checked out the wharf, gazing wistfully at some of the delightful local buildings.
Mahone Bay is just about as pretty and as appealing as a small town can get. In fact it’s almost as though someone made a list of all the requirements for the ideal sleepy coastal town and went ahead and built it – and did a great job of it, too. The bay itself is beautiful and edged around with boatsheds, landings and the colourful clapboard homes of the area. I was completely seduced by the architecture around this region and couldn’t stop snapping pictures of all of the brightly painted, elegant timber homes. Of course, it is a coastal village and as such is popular with the boating fraternity. It is noted for it’s annual wooden boat festival which it now combines with a pirate festival, based upon the local legends of pirates in Atlantic Canada.
The town is a hub for a variety of craftspeople, many of whom have seductive little shops which line the main street. There are also antique stores, inns, romantic little restaurants and fascinating shops with loads of rooms full of deeply desirable, interesting little things. I found one or two, including the knitting store Have a Yarn and Zac and Nemo Mercantile, where I could have done the credit card some severe damage, but was saved by the fact that we only had limited time. Sigh. To be honest, I’d go back there just to spend a day or two in the stores.
Mahone Bay was also the first place I saw a couple of the local culinary treats – dulse (dried seaweed) and fiddleheads, which are the furled heads of a local fern. The former is an acquired taste as far as I’m concerned and the latter are a seasonal delicacy much anticipated by the locals who rejoice in their short season. We tried them a few days later and, while not unpleasant, they didn’t really rock my world either. Happily, I found some rather splendid butter pecan fudge which really did push all of my buttons – and all I can say is it’s just as well I can’t get my hands on it regularly.
Lambs’ Ears and Honey was a guest of the Canadian Tourism Commission and Nova Scotia Tourism.