Monday, May 04, 2015
Monday, May 04, 2015
I’ve already mentioned on these pages that this is the year to visit Canada, with the exchange rate now $1.22 Canadian to the US Dollar. Recently I was in Manhattan at Canada Media Marketplace, where Canada’s finest PR representatives discuss what’s new in the country. This week, I’m going to share with you my top five story angles.
First up is Cabot Cliffs golf course set to make its debut in July in Cape Breton, Nova Scotia. Golf Digest has already called the Ben Crenshaw and Bill Coore designed course an instant classic. Here’s what they wrote: “It has eight glorious holes along the coast above the Gulf of St. Lawrence. One of them reminds us of Turnberry, another looks like it came from Pebble Beach, and yet another brings to mind Ballybunion.” Cabot Cliffs sister course, Cabot Links, opened 3 years ago and is already ranked as the 42nd best golf course in the world according to Golf Digest. This one might break into the top 10. If you’ve ever been to Cape Breton, you understand the allure. The seascape is spectacular, comparable to the cliffs of the Scottish Highlands. So it should come as no surprise that the golf is just as good as Scotland.
Friday, June 05, 2015
Next week, I’ll be blogging live from Nova Scotia. So please check in and also follow my Tweets @ActiveTravels. This will be my third trip in the past five years, but my first since I was middle-school student that I’ll be taking the ferry from Portland, Maine. I was excited to learn that the ferry started up again last summer, making it much easier for New Englanders and other northeasterners to make their way to the province. Nova Star Cruises now leaves Portland each evening at 8 pm EST and arrives in Yarmouth at 7 am AST the next morning. The ship departs two hours later and arrives back in Portland at 5 pm local time. I’ll be driving the southern loop on this trip, staring in Yarmouth and heading north to the picturesque seaside town of Lunenburg, the farming and growing wine region of Wolfville, then down to Digby to try those scallops. I’m also going to take full advantage of the favorable exchange rate with Canada, now $1.22 Canadian to the US Dollar. Look forward to describing the highlights of the trip next week!
Monday, June 08, 2015
With its slight mix of salt and fresh water, the 5-mile long Eel Lake is ideally suited for oyster farming. The clean, cool water is home to the premium Ruisseau oyster, high on the chef’s wish list of oysters in Toronto. On our first day in Nova Scotia, after the smooth and easy ride on Nova Star Cruises and a stroll around the stunning seascape of Cape Forchu Lighthouse, we met up with Colton D’Eon. Colton’s dad, a lobster fisherman, Nolan, started Eel Lake Oyster Farm with his wife Kim. Now the business is thriving with over 4,000,000 oysters in various stages of growth. Colton and another employee, Jed, took us out on their boat to show us the many rows of oyster beds. Through use of hydraulics, they pulled up one cage to show us how much one oyster had grown just in the past month, no longer dormant in winter. The oyster you typically suck down in a restaurant is approximately 3 years in age or 3 ½ inches in length. When harvest starts in the fall, Colton notes that there are often 100,000 oysters being shipped from their small plant. When we get back to the docks, Colton shucks one of his oysters and we quickly understand what all the fuss is about. The meat is tender, rich and sweet. But it’s that Eel Lake water, with its slight brine that enhances the flavor. Tours are open to the public, so be sure to schedule one for an intriguing glimpse into the life of a Nova Scotian oysterman.
Tuesday, June 09, 2015
When I think of the ideal Canadian property, I imagine a small timber lodge cut from rough-hewn spruce right next to a running river where you can walk out in waders and fly-fish for trout. A chunk of pristine wilderness thick in a forest of old growth pines, hemlocks, and stately birches, so far from civilization that the night sky twinkles brightly. A boutique resort that caters to your every whim, from dinners of fresh lobster and scallops probably caught off the coast of Nova Scotia that day, to a hot tub, sauna, massages, and guitar strumming around the fire pit at night. Throughout my years of Canadian travel, I must have stayed at over 250 resorts in the country, but it doesn’t get much better than the Trout Point Lodge. Less than an hour’s drive from where the Nova Star ferry arrives in Yarmouth, you drive down a long dirt road into the resort and soon hear the rushing water, welcoming you to the Tobeatic Wilderness Area. The only member of Small Luxury Hotels of the World in Atlantic Canada, expect to find wood everywhere—from the thick logs cut into the bathroom walls to wood floors in the rooms to a hot tub made from wood boards to the whimsical sauna, set in oversized wooden barrels. At dinner, you’re given a choice of activities to sample the next day, be it hiking with a naturalist, fly-fishing, mountain biking, or paddling one of the many nearby rivers and lakes. Then you head out to the fire pit and wait for the sky to shine. In 2014, Trout Point Lodge received certification as the world's first Starlight Hotel from the Starlight Foundation, and is considered by astronomers to be one of the finest places in North America to view the night sky. Peer into lodge's new Meade 10" telescope and you just might make out the rings of Saturn.
Thursday, June 11, 2015
One hour south of Halifax, the seaside community of Lunenburg is one of only two cities in North America dubbed a UNESCO World Heritage Site (the other being Quebec City). What UNESCO found fascinating was the fact that Lunenburg was a perfectly planned British colonial settlement, a 48-block grid designed in London and plopped down on the coast of Nova Scotia in 1753. They were also obviously impressed with the preservation because Lunenburg remains one of the most charming towns on the Atlantic coast. The British were successful in recruiting some 1400-plus people to Lunenburg, mostly of German and Swiss descendant, including the ancestors of my Lunenburg Walking Tours guide, Ashlee Feener, an 8th-generation descendent. We started our hour-long stroll through town at the highest point in Lunenburg, the former site of the citadel and now home to the castle-like Lunenburg Academy. No longer a public school, the Second Empire structure built in 1895 is now an international music academy attracting students from across the globe, the first hint that this storied fishing community has transformed into a cultural destination.
Those first descendants thought they were coming to Canada to farm but their shovels and ploughs soon hit rock. They looked to the sea and by the late 1800s, Lunenburg had become the fishing capital of Canada, with large schooners heading to the Grand Banks of Newfoundland and often returning after a summer with 100,000 to 300,000 pounds of cod. Ashlee led us down York Street to view a Victorian home with a Widow’s Watch, a cupola with bay windows that overlooked the sea, where a ship captain’s wife could hopefully her husband returning home. Next door was one of the oldest homes in Lunenburg, a gabled one-bedroom Cape Cod-style home currently on the market for $287,000. On Fox Street, the red Georgian-style Lennox Inn was built in 1791 and is the oldest continuously operating inn in North America. Another highlight of the tour was the stunning St. John’s Anglican Church, one of five churches in town. Walk inside to see the ribbed wooden roof that could only be built by shipbuilders who knew their way around the ribs of a hull. We walked past the multi-colored façade and gingerbread trim of the Mariner King Inn, where I’m happily spending the night. Our tour ended on the docks next to the recently resorted schooner, Bluenose II, Nova Scotia’s ambassador of the sea, a fitting tribute to Lunenburg’s past.
The ebullient Ashlee and her business partner, Shelah Allen, a mere 7th-generation descendent also offer haunted tours of Lunenburg and its many scary-looking Victorian homes at night. Go on either tour and you’ll be happy I sent you.
Monday, June 15, 2015
My last day in Nova Scotia was downright dreamy. Clouds and the early morning mist were swept away by blue skies by the time I arrived at the 6-bedroom Argyler Lodge. What a glorious locale! A mere 25 minute drive from where the Nova Star ferry arrives in Nova Scotia at Yarmouth, the Argyler sits on the shores of the vast Lobster Bay with spectacular views of the sea and islands. My sea kayaking guide, Matt Delong, soon arrived with two kayaks for us to explore the wide open water. Matt spent 5 years paddling in BC before returning back to his native Nova Scotia to take the fortunate few to treasured spots like this one. We spent the next three hours paddling a loop around the numerous islands—Nanny, Camp, Birch, Bonds, Potato, Gordons—viewing ospreys in their nest, a loon plunging into the water, and cormorants drying their wings on their rocks. The most spectacular part of the whole adventure was the fact that there was not one boat in this mammoth-sized bay. Not even another kayaker. Lobster fishermen finish the season in late May so their traps and boats were long gone.
3 hours later, we returned to shore where Chef Jonathan was already busy boiling water over an open fire for our night’s lobster bake. A picnic table was set for my sister and I, Luckett’s L’acadie Blanc on ice. Jonathan soon dumped everything into the pot including corn, potatoes, clams, mussels, and lobsters. The sun set behinds Gordons Island as we roasted marshmallows for our s’mores. Then the bright night sky lit up with stars. A perfect ending to a perfect week of travel around Nova Scotia.
Thursday, June 18, 2015
This is our combined June/July issue. Like many of you, we’ll be traveling with the kids once school ends in late June. This summer, we’re off to Istanbul and Cappadocia. We’ll report back on our adventures in the August issue. As many of you know, I just returned from a memorable week of travel in Nova Scotia. To give you a little taste of what I experienced in this Atlantic Maritimes province, our “News from the Road” feature is devoted to Nova Scotia. In mid-July, Lisa and I will be hiking, biking, and paddling our way to the four huts of the Maine Huts & Trails system, as discussed in our Quick Escape. Also in this issue, Lisa talks about her favorite hotels in Hong Kong, an outfitter we use in Asia to book trips to Bali, Vietnam, and Cambodia, and luggage that has its own GPS system, so you know exactly where it is at all times.
Next week I’ll be partnering with The Trustees of Reservations, the Massachusetts-based nonprofit conservation organization, to design Dream Day Itineraries for families based on their 112 locales in the state. So please stay tuned and also follow me on Twitter @ActiveTravels. Enjoy the weekend and stay active!
Wednesday, January 06, 2016
This past June, I took the Portland ferry to Nova Scotia with my sister, Fawn. This would be my fifth trip to the province and I wanted to focus on the southern half of Nova Scotia, south of Halifax. Over a week, we would stop in the charming seaside community of Lunenburg, one of only two cities in North America chosen as a UNESCO World Heritage Site, go clamming on Digby Flats, oyster farming at Eel Lake, stand-up paddleboard at the White Point Beach Resort, and spend a night at a quintessential Canadian property deep in the woods, Trout Point Lodge. But as I wrote in my original blog, the last day in Nova Scotia was downright dreamy.
A mere 30 minutes from where the Portland ferry arrives in Yarmouth is the 6-bedroom Argyler Lodge. The small inn sits on the shores of the vast Lobster Bay with spectacular views of the sea and islands. I would spend the rest of the afternoon exploring the wide open water with my sea kayaking guide, Matt Delong. Paddling a loop around the numerous islands—Nanny, Camp, Birch, Bonds, Potato, Gordons—we spotted ospreys in their nest, a loon plunging into the water, and cormorants drying their wings on their rocks. The most spectacular part of the whole adventure was the fact that there was not one boat in this mammoth-sized bay. Not even another kayaker. Lobster fishermen finish the season in late May so their traps and boats were long gone by the time we arrived in mid-June.
3 hours later, we returned to shore where Chef Jonathan, owner of the inn, was already busy boiling water over an open fire for our night’s lobster bake. A picnic table was set for my sister and I, Nova Scotian wine on ice. Jonathan soon dumped everything into the pot including corn, potatoes, clams, mussels, and lobsters. The sun set behinds Gordons Island as we roasted marshmallows for our s’mores. Then the bright night sky lit up with stars. Yes, dreamy and memorable.
Monday, April 04, 2016
Last June, I was fortunate to spend six days in Nova Scotia with my sister, Fawn. We took the Nova Star Ferry from Portland, Maine for the 11-hour crossing. The Nova Star ended its service last October and it was just announced last week that the much faster twin-hulled CAT would return, cutting time in half. The service will begin on June 15 and will depart Portland daily at 2:30 pm, arriving in Yarmouth at 9 pm. The ferry will depart from Yarmouth the next morning at 8 am, arriving back in Portland at 1:30 pm. The CAT will be able to carry some 700 passengers and 280 cars. I’ve been to Nova Scotia 3 times in the past 5 years, traveling from Yarmouth in the south all the way to Cape Breton in the north. It’s one of my favorite places to be in Canada, combining stunning scenery with incredibly fresh seafood and live foot-stomping music. I’m happy to design an itinerary of my favorite lodgings, restaurants, and activities for anyone who wants to take advantage of the current rate of exchange, US$1 to CAN$1.30.
Wednesday, June 01, 2016
A little over an hour west of Halifax is the growing wine region of Annapolis Valley. Once a footnote among grape-growing regions, the rolling green countryside now boasts 14 wineries that produce crisp cool-climate whites, decadent icewines, and Champagne-style sparkling wines that are attracting international attention. The college town of Wolfville is the gateway to the Annapolis Valley, where Victorian mansions have been transformed into bed and breakfasts. Similar to Napa or Sonoma Valley, an ideal way to see the wineries is via a bike, connecting the dots on quiet backcountry roads. Now Ciclismo Classico is doing just that, guiding a weeklong tour September 19-25, during the height of fall foliage. Along with Wolfville, you’ll be biking to another one of my favorite towns, Lunenburg. This seaside community is one of only two cities in North America dubbed a UNESCO World Heritage Site (the other being Quebec City). What UNESCO found fascinating was the fact that Lunenburg was a perfectly planned British colonial settlement, a 48-block grid designed in London and plopped down on the coast of Nova Scotia in 1753. Cost is $2795 per person and includes bike rentals, guides, lodging, and all the lobster, Digby scallops, and clams you can stomach.
Wednesday, June 29, 2016
“Probably not going to see a moose today,” said a park ranger at the beginning of the Skyline Trail. “It’s a hot day and they’re lying low in the brush,” he added. Not that it matters. The Skyline is one of the most glorious hikes in the Maritimes, a great overview of the breathtaking terrain displayed at Cape Breton Highlands National Park. Listening to bullfrogs and a woodpecker hammering away, we took a serene stroll through a boreal forest lined with buttercups. Every now and then we would get a glimpse of the sea in front of us and look back at the mountains and the carpet of forest. Then you reach the piece de resistance, a series of steps and platforms that reward you with magnificent vistas of the water and the circuitous road rising through the velvet green hillside that’s one of the best coastal drives in North America, the Cabot Trail. After our fill of the scenery, we made our way back down and said goodbye to the park ranger. Less than a 5-minute walk from our car, we heard loud ruffling to our left and spotted a mother moose and her two young calves chowing down on the foliage. Some days, you can get your icing on the cake.
That afternoon, we signed up for a zodiac tour with Captain’s Mark’s Whale and Seal Cruise in nearby Pleasant Bay and were treated to the bounty of sealife. Within 5 minutes from the dock, we spotted the graceful arch and fin of a minke whale, one of 40 minkes we probably found over a 2-hour span. Adding to the pleasure was a colony of gray seals popping their heads out of the water like periscopes, harbor porpoises, a bald eagle perched on a tree high atop a bluff, and the frightening tentacles of a lion’s mane jellyfish. Then we drove another hour on the Cabot Trail to the Keltic Lodge, where we downed pints of Big Spruce Regatta Red Ale while staring at the massive bluff they call Cape Smoky jutting out into the Atlantic. Not a bad day.
(Photos by Michael Berger)
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