The best city visited: Portsmouth NH (I know it’s not in ME or NS) – quite a surprise. How did they make it so livable? (This is not to take anything from Halifax NS, Fredericton, NB, or Concord NH, all of which were quite nice, or even Bangor ME, which surprised me by being not so bad.)
The worst city visited: Truro, NS. After visiting such a large number of wonderful places in the province, we made the mistake of turning off the road to go to see Truro. One of the world’s more depressing places, I am sure. And. to top it off, there is the town sculpture, which you see everywhere. I don’t know the full history – it appears that they are wooden sculptures hewn from elm trees lost to Dutch elm disease. But they are (to my inexpert eye), every one of them, awful.
The best restaurants: There were several. Surprisingly good Italian food at Piccolo in Ridgefield CT, with Eric and Marcella. A wonderful dinner at Pier 77 in Kennebunkport with Michelle, Jonathan, Nick, Margaret, Roger and Eileen. Brussels, a Belgian restaurant in Halifax, NS (on Granville Street; is it a coincidence that Granville Moore’s in DC is a Belgian restaurant with similar characteristics, like mussels, french fries and sauces?). Two delicious dinners at the Tempest in Wolfville, NS. The Old Port Sea Grill in Portland ME. And, surprisingly, John’s Pizza in Old City, ME, where we got a 12 inch veggie pizza and two drinks for $7.50. Impossible to pick the best. (And this ignores the delicious home made meals we had in Gloucester MA, Kennebunkport, and Hunts Point NS. and the party food at Jerry and Joan’s.)
The worst restaurant: This is an easy one – the Ramada Inn in Frederictown NB. The canned carrots at the Sunday night buffet were so bad that I wrote a note to the waitress with them. I probably should also mention Maggie McFly’s in Middlebury CT, and Angelina’s outside of Truro NS, although it’s possible with these two that things might have turned out differently if we had ordered differently.
The best antique store: An antique mall in Bangor ME.
The worst antique store: A small store near the LeHave River ferry to Lunenburg, NS, where they had fewer things than we have in our basement.
The best gift shops: The Amos Pewter and Kiln Art glass shop in Chester, NS, and the Catfish Moon gift shop in Annapolis Royal, NS.
The best tea shop: the fantastic Sawadee in downtown Halifax.
The best boat experience: Sailing off the coast of Kennebunkport.
The most boring boat experience: The car ferry from Portland to Yarmouth NS. Would the 5.5 hour trip been better if I had played the slot machines?
The best signs: The Holiday Inn marquee which simply read: “See us on Facebook”. The rural coffee shop somewhere in southern New Hampshire, which had a sign that said: “The best cup of coffee east of the Mississippi”. The gun store in northern Maine, which advertised: “Concealed weapons classes: how to carry a concealed weapon”.
The best shopping experience: The Farmers Market in Wolfville, which is very high on the sophistication scale (food, jewelry, crafts). And the Goodwill Store in Sanford ME, where Edie got a Donagel wool sweater in perfect condition, and I got a heavy cotton ribbed L.L. Bean sweater, also in excellent condition, each for $4.98.
The greatest natural phenomena: The tides on the Bay of Fundy, which we viewed (at high and low) at Kingsport NS, (22 – 29 foot tides), the extraordinary Joggins Fossil Cliffs south of Truro for the tides, the fossils and the setting, and the chimney at the Wolfville Nature Center, where every night, precisely at dusk, the chimney swifts swoop into the chimney for their night’s rest.
The best used book stores: John Doull in Halifax, The Odd Book in Wolfville, Yes Books in Portland, and Northwood Books in Northwood NH. The worst used book stores: the Travelers’ Restaurant in Union CT where you get a free book with every meal, or can look at the moldy books in the basement, and the bookshop in Brattleboro VT, where the marquee informs you that 75,000 books are inside, but where, once you go in, you realize that the books would be rejected at by Doull, Yes, Odd Book or Northwood.
The best finds: $2.36 Canadian, which I found on the grounds of the Catholic church in Lunenburg NS, a toy red lobster, found on the grounds of a funeral parlor in Wolfville, and a small model truck found in Liverpool NS.
The best museum: The Rossignol Cultural Center in Liverpool NS, which houses an enormous collection of fascinating collections, including (but not limited to) its Outhouse Museum (don’t believe me? Google it.)
The weirdest museum: The Nova Scotia Museum of Art, which (putting aside its great folk art collection) seemed to have a lot of very little, and whose exhibit on technology was unbelievable. They collected outmoded technology artifacts (such as old computer monitors, televisions, etc) from non-profits in the city, put them on shelves, and studied and tagged each of them, dividing them into three categories: can be fixed, can be used somewhere else as is, should be thrown out. They had a guy there analyzing each, wondering how he would get the job done on time.
The best entertainment: Ryan Clark’s engaging folk music at the Halifax Parade Ground, the Dream State Circus duo, who worked with flames and acrobatics as part of the Halifax Buskers’ Festival, and the Dukhs, a folk group, at the Tuesday night concert in Ridgefield.
The worst entertainment: The two athletic guys at the Buskers’ Festival who had an unfunny and tasteless acrobatic act and wore Union Jack underpants (they call themselves the English Gents), and the two guys singing (?) and playing (?) guitars on the streets of Portland, who made you want to cross the street — fast.
The best custom experience: Coming back to the US. Three minutes and a nice “Welcome Home”.
The worst custom experience: Off the ferry, driving through Canadian customs, which took us 45 minutes.
The most surprising things we learned: Everything about the Bay of Fundy (although we sort of knew about this), and the 1912 explosion in the Halifax Harbor which started a fire which claimed over 2000 lives. Also, the fact that many of the Acadians, after they were expelled by the British in the middle of the 18th century, returned, but not to NS; they came back to New Brunswick where approximately 40% of the population has an Acadian background. And the body collection mission sent out from Halifax after the sinking of the Titanic, and the hundreds of bodies which were brought back to shore; we visited the Christian and Jewish cemeteries where over 150 of them are buried in simple graves.
The most surprising weather: 90 degrees in New Brunswick.
The best places to stay: with our friends.
The oddest B & Bs: our Gloucester home with a room with a loft (“for the kids”) accessible by dangerous stairs leading to a dangerous loft, and the room over the garage in Wolfville, with the hot tub in the large bathroom, no cross ventilation and the antithesis of design all around.
The best ice cream: coffee with a hint of Kahlua and dark chocolate tips (Bart’s Ice Cream) at a coffee shop in Brattleboro NY.
The best botanical gardens: the Public Victorian Garden in Halifax, and the Historic Gardens in Anapolis Royal, NS.
Other notable things: the roughness of the South Shore of NS compared with the manicured agricultural valley near the Bay of Fundy; the number of trees in New Brunswick; the historical fishing industry, and how it has declined so much in so many places; the many colored painted lawn chairs all over NS; the strength of Acadia University (about which I knew nothing at all) in Wolfville, and its extensive botanical gardens, conservatory, and hiking trails.
Much more, of course, but that’s a lot for right now. We drove about 2350 miles all told. With the Prius, I think we got about 51 miles to the gallon. So, about $125 for gas, I guess. Not bad. With a normal car, it would have been twice that.