Tuesday, July 17, 2012

Harbor Hopping in Nova Scotia

For quite a few years I used to take an international trip at least every 3-6 months.  My first passport was full to the brim of stamps and visas (may it rest in peace). This blog was updated a few times a week with expatriate shenanigans.  Unfortunately, once you move back home and get yourself [an amazing] big kid's job, priorities shift a little and the amount of trips dwindle.  I never imagined that it would be 18 months in between international trips for me, but here we are.  This isn't to say that I've been sitting idly by in New York (I'd lose my damned mind), I've actually seen quite a bit of the US that I hadn't before.  In the past 18 months after getting back from India I've spent some time in Vermont, Louisiana, Georgia, Colorado, and quite a few places in California.  Getting to know America better is always a good thing as this country is quite beautiful, and its people are extremely diverse.  Seeing different places makes you appreciate what you have as an American, especially when you can compare it to other international locations and what they might not have.  For me, I tend to realize moreso what America doesn't have compared to those places as well.  That all being said, I think I love America only in the context of those other locations and I desperately need to get out of it as much as time, money, and opportunity will allow.  I have the world's itchiest feet.

Hence -- Canada for a few days.  

Many Americans would scoff at Canada as an international destination because it's so close, and the cultures are *SO* similar it's just like going to another state.  I on the other hand, will vehemently defend that Canada feels as much a foreign country as anywhere else and Canadians are unique and awesome.  I just hate that I don't get a passport stamp when I go through customs.

Tuesday morning started like any other Tuesday.  Fighting with my snooze button, throwing on gym clothes, bitching about the heat/the subway/New York/New Yorkers to myself like your typical NYC crazy person, getting to work later than I probably should.  When I receive an email from my best friend with our usual "God I hate this place" banter we realize that Tuesdays come with United Airlines travel deals and neither of us having anything going on in the upcoming weekend and we've hit our tipping point.  As we're scrolling through the list of places that 99% of people would NEVER think to take a vacation to, we find 4 diamonds in the rough:  Trinidad & Tobago, Toronto, Montreal, Moncton, and Halifax.   Trinidad was a no brainer but the flight times were completely ridiculous.  Toronto/Montreal were feasible, but I had been to both and didn't know what we'd do there for a weekend, and I had no idea what in the world Moncton was.  Then, we settled on Halifax on reading this little blurb on Lonely Planet:
Halifax is the kind of town that people flock to, not so much for the opportunities, but for the quality of life it has to offer. Sea breezes off the harbor keep the air clean and parks and trees nestle between heritage buildings, cosmopolitan eateries and arty shops. Several universities keep the population young and the bars and nightclubs full. Stroll the historic waterfront, catch some live music and enjoy the best of what the Maritimes have to offer.
Done and Done.  Flight booked (for me, $90 + 17,000 United Miles) for Friday night to Monday afternoon.  AirBnB utilized for a place to stay and found an amazing house on the water and a cheap car booked through Budget Rental Car that came with a few upgrades (GPS was extremely necessary, in hindsight).  We lovingly referred to it as the Bouncy Castle - A Chrysler 300C.  Tack on a $30 Global Data Plan for 120mb on AT&T, a $20 Lonely Planet Guidebook (a travel must) and we were good to go.  I think the whole thing really took an hour, maybe two to plan.  And man - did it feel great to be out in the world again talking to people with different perspectives and wordly experiences.  There are just some conversations about travel you can't have in the United States for fear of sounding like an entitled douchebag.

Peggy's Cove, South Shore, Nova Scotia
In a total of two and a half days, we hit 6 towns in Nova Scotia: Halifax, Lunenberg, Mahone Bay, Chester, Peggy's Cove, and Wolfville.  The first 5 were all on the South Shore, and is considered to be the best Nova Scotia has to offer as far as views, restaurants, and people. >

 Wolfville was in the north in the Minas Basin in the Bay of Fundy, which is home to the world's most dramatic tides.  All of it was beautiful.  We ate extremely well the whole time.  Two notable restaurants:  The Bicycle Club in Halifax (Rated the best new restaurant in Halifax in 2012) and The Tempest (rated #13 of the Top 50 Restaurants in Canada) in Wolfville. 
Wolfville, Minas Basin, Nova Scotia
I'd absolutely love to go back.  The weather we perfect with high 80s during the day and low 60s at night, and there were so many opportunities for shopping, farmer's markets, hiking, driving, boating, camping, and all sorts of stuff that you could definitely keep yourself busy for awhile. An incredible amount of history for any history buff as well.  Next time you're looking for an easy getaway weekend trip -- Nova Scotia and it's gorgeous natural harbors may just be for you.

View from the Citadel in Halifax, overlooking the fog roll in in the Harbor above the Clock Tower