By Alan Hariton
Tuesday August 14-Portsmouth, NH
Pulled into Portsmouth NH around 7:00. Stayed in Homewood suites near the airport. Room was a suite type room. One bedroom, toilet and shower in separate room, sink in main room. Separate room for kids. Pull out couch and we brought an inflatable. Had kitchenette with large fridge for our cooler.
Had lots of places to chose from for dinner. Portsmouth is a great little town. Would love to go back. We ate at a farm tapas place. Not Spanish per se but local farms offered food from there. It was called Moxy. We had a great selection of beer and drinks. Food was very good. Ordered shissito peppers with eggplant, potato dish that was really great. Mashed type potatoes squared with a cheese sauce on top. Pork belly dish with tomato and plum. Mini sliders. Fried Pickles, Heirloom tomato dish, make your own Ruben lettuce wrap.
After dinner we were advised to go to Annabelle’s ice cream. It did not disappoint.
Wednesday August 15-Central Maine To Acadia And Bar Harbor
Got up early and drove to Wells ME. Went to the Maine Diner which was featured on Diners, Drive-Ins and Dives. Jacob got a ridiculous lobster Eggs benny. Couldn’t eat it all. I finished the lobster. Anita and I both got veggie omelettes that we couldn’t finish and Jonah got a breakfast burrito and ate a 1/4 of it. Very good and very filling.
Drove 45 minutes north of there to Freeport ME home of LL Bean. Store is open 24 hours. 365 days a year. They have expanded since Anita and I have been there 26 years ago. The place is huge. Lots of outlets and shopping. After doing damage there, we continued up north to Acadia. Before crossing into Acadia we stopped in Ellsworth ME for lunch at a place called Governors. Thinking it was a safe bet we were glad for the entertainment. The crowd was an eclectic mix of elderly and a little white trashy. I don’t know a better way to put it. Food was mediocre but we got out alive. But before we left we went to the bakery where they had pastries the size of basketballs. So the super sugar content might have something to do with the savory crowd. I know I sound like an asshole here but I can’t help it.
Crossing over the bridge into Acadia, we decided due to timing to go for a hike I had read about that starts on the trail head in the Southwest harbor. All Trails app was great helping guide us the way. I highly recommend the app. It’s really great with many details about all the trails all over.
After the hike and mandatory photos on top, we made out way to the hotel in Bar Harbor. We are staying in the Hampton Inn which was located on a hill more in a residential area rather than downtown.
We checked in and got our room all set up. The basic room was more than big enough for us. KIng size bed with a pull out couch and lots of room for an inflatable bed.
Doing some reading about the many restaurants in the town, we decided to go to the Parilla section of the restaurant Havana. While Havana takes reservations, Parilla doesn’t. We put our name on the list and waited maybe 15 min.
Havana-Another tapas style place based on the local purveyors was hit and miss. The Parilla is the grill so most of the items there are grilled. Their specialty is the mix grill which consisted of three grilled shrimp, a sausage with stone ground mustard, carnitas, and jerk chicken. We ordered a tuna avocado salad which was really great. The dressing was bright and citrusy and there was a balsamic glaze off to the side for the tuna. Chips and dip had tortilla chips with three dips, guac, salsa and bean dip. Grilled Romaine Caesar salad was a like a grilled Romaine head of lettuce with a deconstructed plate of the items that usually go in the signature salad. We finished off the meal with the steak which was a hanger steak sliced and served with beans, guacamole and tortillas served fajita style. Steak while we asked for medium rare was served rare and we should have sent it back for a little more fire but the flavor was very good. We lastly got the Charcuterie plate which had a nice mix of cured meats. Nice selection of beers and mixed drinks. Walked around town and learned that the whole place shuts down at about 10 with a decent selection of kitchy local stores open to between 9 and 10. But at 10 the place is very quiet.
Went to bed when we got back because we had a busy early day ahead us the next day.
Thursday August 16th-Bar Harbor And Acadia
We were told a trip to Acadia is not complete without seeing the sunrise from the top of Cadillac Mountain. We were told sunrise is at 5:36 and we should be there an hour ahead if we want to get parking. So alarm set for 4:00 am and we were out the door about 4:20. Up to the top with beach chairs blankets and warm clothes (but could have used more) in 15 minutes. Lots of people already there scoping out sites for the big event. Some brought coffee, champagne and we even spotted a guy in a tallit saying his morning prayers and blowing the shofar at exactly 5:36. Sadly there was cloud cover but people got excited when a sliver of red sun snuck through the clouds. The entire event of watching the first sunrise for the United States was wonderful. While I wouldn’t say it was a religious experience, there was something spiritual and heart warming about the way sun greets the day. It’s very spiritual and makes you think from that point of view way up high about how special and peaceful things can be. Sadly Jacob didn’t make it out of the car so when we returned it seemed to be the consensus of the group to go back and go back to sleep. We were each tired but thought we could stay up, but maybe an hour nap would be a good catch up. 3 1/2 hours later we woke all feeling very rested and ready to start he day. Eventually getting out of bed and taking care of emails and such, we got out of the hotel at noon.
We made our way to Jordan’s which we have heard was one of the many culinary institutions in town. We were seated right away in the back of the restaurant which appeared to be a newer expanded part of the place. Sadly there is nothing to absorb the acoustics in the room and we found ourselves hearing every single word the busy servers were saying to each other. Either they were all extraordinarily loud or the room just bounced sound around. I think it was both.
They are known for their wild blueberry pancakes. Three of us got them and one got the strawberry pancakes. Again, we could have easily shared as they were huge and so delicious. I’m not usually a berry in my pancake guy, let alone pancake guy at all. But these were really good. Jonah actually got them with warm blueberry syrup and said it was great. We enjoyed them so much, we bought some pancake mix as well and got to hear some of the secrets to making them. Sorry we are not at liberty to share.
Walking around the town again in the early afternoon showed a very busy village. Lots of shopping and people milling around. We made our way to the Acadia National Park office annex downtown and purchased a pass for the park. While there are no rangers driving around making sure that all cars have passes, we knew it was the right thing to do to help support the amazing job the park rangers and people who service the park do. $30 per car for 7 days is a small token donation. I was happy to give to support to the great job they do.
We went back to the hotel to get some last minute hiking things and we were out to hit the trail. The one trail we did was called the Bubble and the north Bubble trail. 1.7 miles out and back was not terribly challenging for the kids and Anita. I had to pace myself but didn’t find it difficult. Just a lot of climbing but well worth it with the amazing views we had. After we were done, we made out way to the south end of Jordan pond to the Jordan Pond House where we were told that they were famous for their popovers. They were airy and fluffy and served with butter and strawberry jam. We also got a lobster roll because, well because why not. After nibbling we made our way outside to view the pond from the south side and realized why they called the mountains we hiked the bubbles. They look like two bubbles. We thought they should call them the boobs because they look like, well boobs. But I can see the rangers not wanting to call them that.
Trying to figure out what to do next we went back to the hotel to try to find a place for dinner tonight. We were thinking mega lobster but thought we would stay downtown and try some local stuff. So first a round of mini golf at Pirates Cove on the north end of the island. Got back to the hotel at 7:00 with a goal of all of us to be showered and dressed and ready to go out by 8:00 and I was surprised we made it.
I had heard a lot of people recommend the Thirsty Whale. It was a pub like place with pub like fare. We started off with fried pickles (yes there is a trend here with them). Jonah got the southwest burger, Jacob got the lobster roll and lobster bisque combo, Anita started with the bisque and I got the chowder. Which was really great. Anita and I both got the haddock salad which was a blackened piece of broiled haddock over a salad. I had heard many people talk about the fried haddock sandwich and I was about to get that but went with the healthier version and was so not disappointed. They said it was fresh and not frozen and it makes a world of difference.
We were told that we need to checkout Mount Dessert Ice Cream. It’s located in the center of town and they had a lot of very unique flavors. Khulfi which is a pistachio based ice cream, ginger which was very strong flavored ice cream, root beer float that Jacob got was really tasty. I got buttermint which is supposed to and did taste like the unsanitary mints you get in diners. They even described it that way. Fun place. They even had Vegan Avocado ice cream which I resisted trying.
Really a terrific day. Can’t wait to see what tomorrow brings.
Friday August 17th-St. John
We got an early start today from Bar Harbor with breakfast at the hotel which was standard Hampton Inn hotel breakfast fare. Fine enough to give a little fill up before driving quite a ways.
Waze (the app) took us through a fairly scenic and desolate route from Bar Harbor to our next destination of Saint John. Not much to see but trees, some lakes and at times nice rolling views. We crossed the border into Saint Stephen where we stopped to visit The Ganong Chocolate Museum which was quite entertaining. We learned a lot about the history of the company but really enjoyed the videos and photos of the employees at the factory. They named them all personally. ‘Here’s Bill Shaw Adding Cream to the copper Pot” It was like that everywhere. They certainly gave credit where credit was due. One of their claims to fame was the “Hand Dipped Chocolate” that showed a video of the ladies literally dipping the chocolates with their hands and making a design on the top of them. Their hands were covered in Chocolate. Now yes I do like chocolate as much or maybe not as much as the next person, but can you image having your hand in chocolate all day long, day after day? No you can’t lick your fingers because you have to make it for others. That would be gross. At the end of the tour there were two women behind glass still hand dipping that same technique today, and yes, their hands looked gross to me. No gloves, which I am ok with, but the feeling of liquid chocolate on your hands all day. Not for me. You Go Chocolate ladies.
After the Chocolate visit we continued on towards Saint John. We drove right to the Reversing Falls. This was really cool to watch and learn about. This area is in the Bay of Fundy. It has the largest tide swings anywhere in the world. Some areas as much as 50’. St. John has a fresh water bay that is higher in elevation topographically that feeds into the Bay of Fundy. But when the tide comes in towards high tide, the force of the water, combined with the underwater topography causes what is called a Reverse water fall. Its really fascinating to see the differences at low, slack and high tide. We went there to observe at a few different times and it’s really neat to see how different the tides are. They had an observation deck where you can see a pretty good distance and see the water rushing from a few angles. We ate at a small place next door to the observation deck called Cafe 14 1/2. I believe the name comes from the tide height above and below the slack tide level of water. It was ok. Jonah got a Cubano, Anita and Jacob got a burger and I got a smoked Salmon Salad and a local beer called Long Bay Amplify. It was a Kolsch type beer that was very refreshing.
Anita and the kids went zip lining from from the company Saint John Adventures. Right near the bridge and observation area fo the reverse falls, they went on 5 zips between 6 posts. Total time was 1 1/2 hours. Last zip had two people race over the water. Pretty cool to watch.
Tonight we are staying at The Hilton Saint John which is right on the water. Very convenient location and we got a junior suite that had a pull out couch and plenty of room for another inflatable bed. The room was good enough for us.
We walked around the corner and ate dinner at a restaurant called Lemongrass. Its an all over asian type of place. Of course we started with the national favorite Poutine that was done with jerk chicken. Three more apps consisted of Tom Yum Goong Thai Soup which was good and very spicy. They mentioned their Brussels Sprouts are life changing so we had to order them. They were delicious but life changing? Maybe a bit of an embellishment but we bought it. Last dish was called Money Bags-wonton wrappers with chicken, some veggies and deep fried with a thai chili sauce. So good. We ordered too much. Anita and I shared the Butter Chicken which was ok as we have a place near us that makes it so good. The other dish we shared was Drunken Noodles with pork. Flat rice noodles with pork had a pad thai like consistency that was tasty. Jonah got the Cambodian Noodles which were a lo mein type noodle with spinach tomatoes and bok choy and with beef. This was very tasty but Jacob’s golden Triangle Curry won the night. A mix of red, yellow and green curries poured over a mold of white rice had such depth of flavor I was very happy he couldn’t finish it. we have Thai for lunch the next day sitting in the fridge in the room as we speak.
Tomorrow it is supposed to rain so not sure how our day will go. But today was another fun one.
Saturday August 18th-Fundy Trail, Hopewell Rocks And Prince Edwards Island
Driving rainy day.
When we got up Saturday, it was raining as we had expected. Light at times then heavy as we loaded the car. Breakfast was included for two of us in our room rate so we paid for two additional rates at $20 a pop. We decided we would still go with our plans since we had to still make our way to Prince Edward Island.
Between the section of New Brunswick that we were in and Nova Scotia, lies the body of water called the Bay of Fundy. As mentioned before, this area of water gets the highest levels of tide changes on the planet. While driving we came upon some great rock formations and beach erosion. There were beaches that we stopped at that were all rocks. Some big, some small, some medium size but all the same rocks. It was really cool to see these waves of rock sections throughout the beach.
So after an hour of wet driving, we arrived at our first stop which was The Fundy Trail. Paid $21 US because we had no Canadian money yet and entered the park. It’s a great place to see a lot of great waterfalls and rock formations because of the tides and it has miles and miles of hiking trails. The entire park is 18 miles long but we only went as far as about 1/2 way to the Interpretive Center and the Suspension Bridge. The center is an information point that has some artifacts and people who work there to tell you about the area. We ventured out of the center and walked over the Suspension Bridge that goes over the big Salmon River. Only 10 people were allowed on the bridge as it wobbled all over.
Since it was raining we limited ourselves to just three things at this park. The bridge, Fuller Falls and a flowerpot rock formation at the front of the park. This was a very cool rock formation that stood probably 40’ high and had a few trees on top. The rocks were formed from the waves crashing around it and it actually looks like a tall flower pot. It’s really beautiful and probably would look nicer in the sun.
We left the Fundy trail and started on our 2 1/2 hour drive to Hopewell Rocks. This was towards the end of the Bay of Fundy so it sees up to 40’ tide changes. It was really coming down now but we saw the parking lot had a good amount of people there so we figured we came this far we should just go for it. Entrance fee was similar to Fundy Trail but we paid the extra amount to take a golf cart down the stairs to see the rocks instead of taking the very wet walk. We went into the visitor center and bought the Canadian flag ponchos, which Jacob managed to rip a huge hole in the hood right away.
Happily, a staff member was there to help by stapling it shut. Clearly she has seen this before. We took the 1 minute very wet golf card ride to the stairs that led us down to the beach. It was around 2:15 at this point and low tide had been at 12:30. There is a 3 hour window before low tide and 3 hours after low tide to see the rocks and walk on the beach. After that, the top of the beach is covered by around 15’- 20’ of water depending on where you are standing. The Flower pot rock formations here are spectacular. There are a bunch more down the beach but the ones right near the stairs are very dramatic. We walked down to the lower part of the beach where the water was moving in and you actually were able to see how fast the tide was coming in. You could look at a large rock on the ground and in a matter of a few short minutes, it was covered with water forcing you to retreat a little further. After being thoroughly drenched at this point, we got back to the car and started our drive to Prince Edward Island, which took us about 2 1/2 hours. When we finally arrived at the Charlottetown Inn and Conference Center, it was about 6:00 so it had been a long day. We have to say we were a little disappointed in the hotel as it is very very tired. Rooms had a musty smell, wall paper was stained and peeling in some parts and it just looked really tired. The indoor pool color didn’t make it that inviting as it gave off a murky color. I wouldn’t say it was unkept or dirty, just a poor color choice in my opinion.
We debated on moving out but thought we would discuss our options at dinner. We found a place just a few short blocks away called Row House Lobster, because Anita was craving lobster and Jacob is never one to say no. Selections of food were ok. Jonah and I got the mussels which were tasty. Anita got a salad and topped it off with a very small lobster tail. I got a large pork chop that was quite tasty and Jacob got what was called Lobster Lolly Pops which were large chunks of tails fried tempura style. He seemed to like it.
After dinner, we walked a block to the locals favorite Cows Ice cream. I was full from dinner but Anita and Jonah said the ice cream was really really good. Right next door is the Freak Lunchbox Charlottetown, which had a great selection of bulk candy that also had a lot of nostalgic candy and items that were very funny and cool to check out.
Tomorrow weather is supposed to be better again so hopefully we can continue with some outdoor fun.
Sunday August 19th-Basin Head Beach And Confederate Trail On Prince Edward Island
Today we decided would be our chill day. We started the day sleeping in a bit and then walked downtown for a late morning coffee and nibbles. We walked three blocks to Receiver’s Coffee, which we read about as having a pretty good coffee and breakfast scene. Small location on Richmond street that had outdoor seating if you were lucky enough to get it. The selection for this type of place was pretty good with an assortment of sweet and savory items. Kids got a ham slammy which was a green onion scone with ham and ground mustard. Ham looked hand sliced so yes I was jealous I didn’t get it. I instead got just some hearty toast with butter and an egg which was very good. Anita got a granola bowl which she said was very good and even spicy.
We decided today was beach day so we took our group to Basin Head Beach located near Elimira PEI. It was located at almost the farthest point east on the island. It took us a little over an hour to get there which was nice because we got to see more of the island.
The beach was nice and there was a pleasant breeze. Our day had about 70 degrees and partly sunny. One of the popular features at the beach is an inlet that has a bridge going over connecting the two sides. It’s popular for people to either jump from the sides or jump from the bridge that crosses it. There was a sign that said no jumping from the bridge or the sides and yet there were lifeguards there watching. Ah Canadian humor.
After about 3 1/2 hours at the beach we decided to head back but first head to the Confederate Trail for some biking. The Confederate Trail is a path that originated from abandoned railways and is now spread out all over the island connecting all points of the island to the the trail. In the summer, its for hiking, biking and pedestrian traffic only. In the winter its exclusively a snowmobile trail. So we took an hour long ride on the trail and got back to the car and drove back to the hotel.
Since we got back to the hotel late we were slow going to finally head out to dinner. Sunday night had limited options of places that are open for dinner so we basically had pubs to choose from. We decided to go to John Brown Richmond Street Grill on Richmond street, which was nice because we were able to walk there. They had a nice selection of beer and a really great selection of sandwiches and burgers. After going back and forth between some of the good sandwiches, Anita and I decided to go with salads again. Anita got a beet salad with Chicken and I got a Greek Salad with Salmon. Both salads were very large. Jonah wasn’t feeling good and asked for a bowl of Broccoli Cheddar soup which was the soup of the day. It was a Bucket of soup. Jacob chose the Southwest Nachos that were the size of Texas.
And that is how the day ended.
Monday August 20th-Halifax, Nova Scotia
Today had us waking up on a more casual side again. We went downstairs to breakfast that was included in our rate that was similar to a large chain type breakfast that was a smidge over continental style. Sufficient to get some energy into you but I’m sure given the option to pay, Dunkin would be better. But that is not what you went there for right? Right……
We packed our bags and packed the car. Took our bikes off the car and biked the Confederate Trail again as there was a trail head just two blocks from the hotel. We biked for about an hour and came back and loaded the car and started our trek to Halifax, our next destination. On the way off the island, we saw the Cow’s Creamery factory so we thought, let’s check it out. We had no real agenda. So we did the self guided tour and it was actually really cool. The whole company is actually very famous for their shirts which are take offs of your daily life like Cowflix, Diary of a Wimpy Cow, Moonions, Moocraft, Thomoos and Friends and so on. There are hundreds of them. Some very creative.
After the tour and of course after probably one of the top 3 milk shakes I have ever had, we continued off the island. They have a toll you have to pay when you leave the island only. They say it’s a round trip toll as they don’t charge you when you get on the island. But be prepared for it. $47.00 Canadian. Approximately $40 today USD. The toll plaza takes credit cards. Pretty fast and easy too.
On the way, we passed the exit for Oxford Canada which according to the signage, is the blueberry capital of Canada. We pulled over quickly making the split section decision to see what this was all about. We read that there was a big blueberry statue and saw it right away at a gas station. Our first comment was, “Is that it? it can’t be it? People really wouldn’t go for that would they”. So we went further into town, stopped at the big blue and blueberry adorned Adirondack chair that Jacob got a photo in. Locals were not happy that we were causing a slight traffic situation with the car parked where it was. We could see them seething, damn tourists. Which we were. As it turns out we looked online and discovered the statue was infact the one we saw. Sadly it made the whole day because we couldn’t stop laughing at it.
It took about 4 hours with stops for us to get there but when we rolled into Halifax, we were greeted with the scene of a fairly modern small city. A Cruise ship was docked right outside our hotel and departed an hour or so later after we left. We Checked into the Westin Nova Scotian which is an exact polar opposite to what we stayed at the night before. Yes I sound snobbish right now but I’m going to own up to it. It’s so kush. While I had a number of places that I wanted to eat, we were told we should check out The Bicycle Thief just a few blocks walking distance. So we got there at 7:30 and they said the first available time was 9:30 pm. so we decided to make a reservation for tomorrow night as it looked like a nice Italian place.
So we walked up the boardwalk that was teeming with people looking for another place. Sadly because our kids can be selective in what they eat, yes boys, I’m looking at both of you for this one, we exited the boardwalk searching for another location. We decided we wanted BBQ and found a place near the hotel called Boneheads BBQ. It was a small place that offered everything you would want in a BBQ joint. Best part, it was delicious and inexpensive.
Called it an early evening and looking forward to a day of sightseeing and biking locally tomorrow.
Tuesday August 21st-Halifax/Salt Marsh Trail And Peggy’s Cove
Very nice to sleep in a nice hotel again. We had a great room on a corner overlooking the bay and up the boardwalk. It was nice to have slept in a little.
We ventured out to The Wired Monk a nice coffee place that is local to Halifax. Nice coffee’s for Anita and I and the kids both got Breakfast Burritos. Jacob was feeling a little tired and said he would stay back.
Anita, Jonah and I went to The Salt Marsh Trail which was about 30 minutes away for more biking. Canada continues to impress me with its organized trails. This was a part of a trail that came from Dartmouth which is a pretty happening area across the bay from Halifax. There is ample parking at all the trailheads and there was even a guy there with a Florescent vest helping people who had questions about the trails. The trail was a gravel trail that was 12 miles long. There and back. If you wanted you could take the trail to others and really ride, run or walk to many other areas. But we decided to do the there and back route. When we got there, a couple was coming off the trail saying that we better have bug spray. As we were getting ready Jonah was already being attacked. For some reason I was not getting bit. We brought spray and covered us down but Jonah and Anita kept getting bit. So we started our ride. The Salt Marsh trail was a ride through a marsh (yes easy to name this one). It was quite nice to bike and look at the views. Jonah was still getting bit. I was not. I was also moving at a slower pace and hanging in the back of our small group. As I was riding and saying to myself I’m impressed I wasnt’ getting bit, A bee flew right into my mouth. Really, right in. While it was in there, it stung my lip three times and my tongue once. The only thing that kept me going at that point was the view someone could have had of me trying to get this stinging bee out of my mouth. Spitting, face smacking, hacking, swerving was all happening at the same time. My only regret is that no one saw this. It’s like someone slipping on ice and trying to catch themselves so they don’t fall. I’m sure it was absolutely hysterical. But no one saw it. As much fun as I had thinking how funny it looked, it didn’t last long as my lips slowly started to swell. Just a little. But enough to hurt cause a lot of spit to form in my mouth. So for the rest of the ride, I sporadically lubricated the path. Thankfully that was the worst of it. But the sting lasted most of the day.
After our adventurous ride, we went back and grabbed Jacob and went to the farmers market behind the hotel at the port. Sadly there weren’t many vendors there in the middle of week so we went to Tomavino’s Pizza, which was right next to Garrison Brewery. The pizzas were all personal size and were just ok. The Blonde Ale from Garrison’s was very tasty. It was a good lunchtime spot.
After lunch we started our trip to Peggy’s Cove which is supposedly a nice spot to visit when in Halifax. I had heard this is the place to go. It was an hour west of Halifax so it wasn’t that long a drive. As we got close, the landscape changed and it was more beautiful as we continued on. Large Granite racks were all over the pace in the middle of fields and along the shores of inlets and bays from the Atlantic. When we turned left in the direction of Peggy’s Cove, a small town emerged with small colorful homes along the bays of what was a small fishing village. As you got to the lighthouse area, the entire space was once big Granite rock formation. Rolling hills of rock formations were so much fun to walk on and sit on and watch the water coming in and crash on the rocks. Sadly we weren’t the only one ones who thought this was a good idea. It’s very crowded with people from all over. But that shoudn’t deter you from going. It’s so worth the trip. It’s really a magical place.
After spending some time there, we made it back to Halifax where we chilled before our dinner reservation at The Bicycle Thief right on the boardwalk. If I didn’t mention it before, the boardwalk is full of life and it goes for quite a ways. You can rent bikes there, go for dinner, get ice cream, enjoy art, even take in a show from a busker or two there.
Our meal at The Bicycle Thief was the most expensive one of our trip so far and it was good. But in our opinion not that good. Although Anita did discover a new drink that we will try to duplicate when we get home. The meal was an Italian meal and don’t get me wrong, it was good but not worth what we paid. Anita started with scallops and Jacob got shrimp. Both were very small but tasty appetizers. Jonah’s calamari appetizer was very good, lightly breaded and tasty but he was worried that he would get filled up on what was a large appetizer so he had Jacob help him finish it. I got the tuna tartar with pickled cucumber noodles. Yes it’s ordinary but I was looking for a bright flavor appetizer.
For mains, Jonah got a spinach and cheese, red pasta ravioli in a light cream sauce. Very tasty and very pretty but not very filling. He should have kept his calamari to himself. Anita got a lobster pasta in a light tomato cream sauce, I got the Spagettini Fruitti de Mer that had a lot of seafood in a tomato sauce. Very good. Jacob got the best dish which was a Cioppino which is a great flavorful Italian seafood stew. Sadly for him, happily for me, he didn’t finish it all. It was really a tasty dish but needed some pasta to add with the leftover broth.
We walked down the boardwalk quickly to find Sugah an ice cream place that everyone enjoyed on the boardwalk.
Halifax is a nice city that mixes the decor with old buildings and new buildings adding new charm to old nostalgia. It’s a place worth visiting in my opinion. I really enjoyed all the Maritimes we visited on this trip, that they really pay attention to the Pedestrian. In the states, people look for the yellow sign signaling that they HAVE to stop for someone who wants to cross the road. There are some signs here but for the most part, if someone is in an entrance to a crosswalk, everyone stops to let them cross. It doesn’t cost anything to be nice like that, and it really enlightened humanity here in my opinion. We could do better with a little Canadian hospitality in our lives. I’ll get off my soap box now.
Wednesday August 22nd-Whale Watch In East Ferry Then Yarmouth, Nova Scotia
Woke up to a foggy overcast morning. We couldn’t see across the bay this morning. We loaded up the car early and was advised to visit PG’s Grill for breakfast which is a block from the hotel. We parked in front and went in to a very low brow greasy spoon that was perfect for breakfast. Nothing fancy, just plain coffee, we each got eggs, toast, some sort of breakfast meat and home fries. Simple, tasty, good. Sometimes you need that.
We got on the road for East Ferry, Nova Scotia which is the end of the Peninsula just away from Digby, Nova Scotia. Our destination was Petit Passage Whale Watch. But first as it was a 3 1/2 hour trip, we had lunch at the Petit Passage Cafe. Jacob got a simply stated BLT, Jonah got a club Sammy and Anita and I got soup and split a Scallop roll. The Scallops were Digby Scallops and they were so sweet and falling out of the roll. Anita got the lentil soup and was pleasantly surprised with the addition of cinnamon to her soup. Interesting, and tasty. I got the seafood chowder and it was like a bowl of seafood and smidge of broth. It was very tasty.
The whale watch left at 1:30 with about 25 people aboard. During the off season of lobster fishing, Captain Craig runs two whale watch tours a day. It’s approximately 3 hours long and with the help of a network of other companies, they knew where to go to see Minke and Humpback whales. No more than 20 minutes out from the harbor we were near a few Humpbacks slapping their dorsal fins and tails. In all, we saw about 8 different whales and we were really close. Lots of tails seen when they dove down low but no breaching. But so cool to see them so close. As we were leaving because of rain, we saw in the distance about 5 breaches. Huge splashes and the whales were just about clearly out of the water. Sadly we were far away and if you weren’t looking in the right spot you missed it. But it was still so cool to see.
After what was a great trip, we drove just under two hours to Yarmouth, Nova Scotia where we are staying in the Best Western Mermaid Hotel so that we can catch the ferry to Portland Maine tomorrow. We want to be in line before 7 tomorrow morning as they said we have to check in before 7:15 even if we have a reservation to make sure we have a spot on the ferry. We found a seafood brewpub called Rudder’s which had a pretty good menu mix of seafood and pub fare. We got steamers and pork rib bites to start. Jacob got a mega burger and Jonah got a disappointing jalapeño pulled pork grilled cheese. Said too much sauce. Anita got scallops again as they are the local favorite and I got baked haddock. All very good pub food. I did finish off with a Caesar which is the drink of the maritimes. It’s on every menu. Basically it’s a Bloody Mary but it’s everywhere. So I had to get it. They said in everyplace we asked, they make it with Clamato. which I really like. Which is basically tomato juice with clam juice. Don’t make a face. It’s very tasty. Briney tomato juice….good. But as I suspected, it’s more of a breakfast brunch drink for me.
Off to bed as we have a early rise for the ferry tomorrow.
Thursday August 23rd-Ferry To Portland And Day In Portland
Very early morning today as we had to wake up early for the ferry. As it turned out, spoiler alert, we didn’t have to get up that early. We were advised that but I always err on the early so I don’t panic on the late. The Hotel had a fine breakfast included for us and they were ready for us and others at 6:00 am. We arrived at 6:15ish and was on our way to the ferry at 6:30.
At 6:32 we were at the ferry in line which there was none, to get into the staging area. We were asked to pull over for a random check of our car as customs says they have to check a few each trip. Lucky us. Took all of 5 extra minutes. No biggie. We got into a staging area and then moved to another. We saw people from all over. New York, New Hampshire, Pennsylvania, Connecticut even as far as Texas.
We loaded the ferry and were advised that we were not allowed to return to the vehicles until we were about to leave the ship so we took all we thought we needed. The main area of this large high speed ferry called Alakai or The CAT was on one level. They had an assortment of seating offers that were on a first come first serve basis. Many thick cushy first class reclining seats. Some smaller less cushy seating in sections with tables where families of four could sit playing card games or even a section with sofa like seating for six with a large coffee table. The there were three places to buy food and beverages. Coffee and breakfast was served and there were places that you could get snacks, sandwiches and even a place for alcohol. They had two movies that they played which were mostly kid movies but entertaining. I mean who can’t watch Despicable me 3.
There were three sections that had access outside. One of the three offered smoking while the other two were smoke free. This new high speed ferry made the crossing in 5 1/2 hours. The boat previous to this does it in 10 hours. The 10 hour one held almost twice as many people, had staterooms to rent, a few different sit down restaurants and even a casino. The 5 1/2 was perfect for us. Not cheap but nice to not drive for a change.
We arrived in Portland and our hotel was a mere minutes from the ferry. We are in The Residence inn by Marriott. Because of our Gold Status, we got upgraded from a large room and one bathroom to a two bedroom suite with two bathrooms. Very roomy for us.
Our room wasn’t ready so we parked our car and took the bikes off and biked into town. Portland is bustling this time of year. Lots of people milling around ducking in and out of shops and restaurants. We popped into The Thirsty Pig, which is the second Thirsty restaurant we have been to on this trip. This was mainly a beer and sausage and hot dog type of place. Nice rolling list of Maine Beers to offer. They had a decent space inside but we opted for the outside deck seating. Three levels of space that we enjoyed. You order at the counter and they give you a number. The food gets brought out to you.
After lunch we walked around and picked up some little things here and there. Around 5:00 our room was ready so we biked back, unloaded the car and chilled for a bit. Anita went for a swim and the kids and I just chilled.
We were advised by a friend of mine to check out The Great Lost Bear which was an excellent recommendation. It’s not downtown so its not filled with tourists. It’s more of a locals haunt. 80 beers on tap to chose from. And a huge menu to get even the pickiest eater something they would enjoy. We started with some wings and teriyaki mushrooms. Jonah and I got burgers, Jacob got a fried chicken Sammy and Anita got a philly cheese steak. We clearly had leftovers as the portions were huge.
Took the long way home to see the evening life of Portland. Quiet around 10:30 which was expected. But its cool to see that this place is big enough to offer so much but small enough to control it and not let it get out of control.
I think tomorrow some local hiking and biking will happen for our final full day on vacation.
Friday August 24th-Portland
When we parked the car in the outdoor lot last night (big truck with bikes can’t fit everywhere), we noticed that there was a paved trail right next door to the lot. I looked it up and it was part of a series of hiking and biking trails in town. We ate breakfast that was part of the hotel offer which was similar to any of the other hotel breakfasts. While not a super huge spread of luxury means that you would go out of your way for, it was really nice to have this feature at the hotels we stayed at. It took one less thing out of the equation to help start your day right.
We got up casually and went for an hour long walk along the water out and back. Weather was perfect this time of the year. The slightly cool morning got warmer by the time we left and we got to see a lot of runners and bikers and walkers.
We walked next to what they called the Narrow Track Railway which was a small but working railroad that at one point was a viable source of transportation in the town. Now it is just a ride back and forth for nostalgia.
We got back and did some emailing and the kids did some pre school paperwork that we have all be procrastinating getting done. I was done first and instead of waiting around for them to finish, I went next door to Shipyard Brewery to get a sample flight of beers. They had about 17 beers on tap and 6 sodas as they also make Eli’s Sodas. I got four beers that sounded interesting and they were all tasty. Some better than others. I talked with the tender and he told me that Portland has 30 breweries in town alone. It would be nice to go back and just try different beers. Would be a fun trip to make.
After a quick flight of 4 beers, I met the rest of the family and we drove across the Casco Bridge to South Portland where we parked the car and did some biking on the trails there. We first made our way to The Bug Light which is a small light house that looks over the harbor. While we were there, we saw our Ferry come in that we took the day before. The boat is huge. We continued our biking the other way and after about an hour had had it. So we packed up the car and made our way to town for lunch.
We had read about the touristy location called DiMilo’s On The Water which was literally a boat floating that has been converted to a restaurant. Yes it was touristy and expensive but we sat upstairs outside in a covered area enjoying the breeze and staying out fo the sun. Jacob continued with his lobster eating and got the lazy mans lobster and Anita got a lobster roll. Jonah got a Calamari Burger which we thought was a burger patty made out of calamari but it was a calamari topped hamburger. Looked really good. I stayed simple with a salad and cup of chowder. While we sat there we enjoyed the sites of the harbor and got to see the ferry leave which was again amazing to see this big ship move.
After lunch we walked around town a bit to wait for our Cousin’s to arrive who were spending the night in Portland. We went to The Holy Donut which is a potato based donut that people raved about. We got 6 and enjoyed them outside while we people watched outside on the sidewalk. They were good but I’m not a huge sweets fan so I can’t judge so well. Anita and the kids enjoyed them. We met our cousins at Portland Lobster Company which was a place we should have gone to instead. It was more laid back and casual and my cousin said the lobster roll was great. We walked around town after popping into some of the stores. It was now getting a bit late and we needed to get back to the hotel to shower and get ready for dinner.
We decided to meet an hour early for a drink at a place they heard was a fun place but it was small and without reservations it wouldn’t be good to go there as they don’t want a lot of people standing by the bar.
It was Eventide Oyster Bar which was around the corner from our hotels. There was a huge line out the door at this place as I don’t think they take reservations. We asked up front if we can go and just have a drink and we went in and got some drinks to start the night. The place is really hopping and they had a huge selection of oysters from the local waters on display as soon as you walked in.
After a few drinks we made our way to Fore Street which was also the address. I had read that it was one of the top places to eat in Portland and named the best farm to table restaurant in the city. The menu was very large and offered so many things to chose from. The front side of the menu were all appetizers. We chose two salads to share as well as a fresh tomato tart as it is still tomato season. One of the better dishes was the sautéd squid that was light and lemony. For the main dishes, most of us got the Halibut which was really great. Shared sides included garlic mashed potatoes, roasted cauliflower and roasted Broccoli. All were really tasty. Since there is so much to choose from, we need to go back again one day.
Saturday August 25th-Homeward Bound
Packed up the car and headed back to our home in Connecticut. Bummer!