Monday, August 29, 2011

Vacation eats - Maritimes (part two)

The next day rain clouds rolled in and we realized how lucky we'd been to have the gorgeous weather we had at the lake. The remaining few days of our trip were pretty soggy. We stopped in Moncton for an arts and craft fair where we indulged in a bit of kettle corn and a brief visit with another of the family. We then continued on to Parlee Beach in Shediac where we'd been invited for a BBQ dinner by yet another family member. Mmm... ocean breezes and barbecued meat and potato salad... so good! We went for a walk down to the water and got soaked on the way back when it started raining. But it was a summer rain and somehow I didn't mind getting wet... I changed into the hoodie I'd brought along and was quite content to curl up with a mug of coffee while the others chatted. The smell of the ocean always has a strong effect on me, especially when paired with grey, drizzly weather. I find it incredibly comforting.

The next day proved to be even soggier than the day before. As we had originally intended to go fishing (a first for me), the weather had other ideas so we scrapped that plan and decided to go for a drive. We headed down into Nova Scotia and made it as far as Amherst where we stopped for a moment so I could pop into the bank. It was raining quite heavily now and as I scuttled back to the car, I passed a little cafe that looked quite inviting. A sign outside listed the day's specials, including seafood chowder, which naturally caught my eye. ;) Back in the car, we both decided a big bowl of soup sounded good on a rainy day like this, so we headed back to check it out. The cafe is called Bella's Cafe, located on Victoria Street in Amherst, NS. We took a quick look at the menu, but pretty much knew we were there for the seafood chowder. As it was late in the afternoon, we were lucky enough to get the last two bowls of the chowder:

Seafood chowder at Bella's Cafe in Amherst, Nova Scotia

While I usually prefer thickened chowders, this one had a thinner, creamy broth and was packed full of seafood. Shrimp, scallops, salmon, haddock and clams (all fresh) rubbed elbows with chunks of potato and other veggies. It was flavorful and fragrant and wonderfully satisfying on such a grey day. We both finished off our bowls quickly, and as I warmed my hands around a cup of coffee, B decided to indulge in some rhubarb crumble for dessert:

Rhubarb crumble at Bella's Cafe in Amherst, Nova Scotia

With our bellies full, we got back in the car but weren't ready to head back just yet. We wandered through Amherst and gawked at the huge, stately old houses along Victoria Street. Once through town, we looked at the map and decided we'd continue on to the coastal town of Pugwash. After miles of country (and sometimes dirt) roads and more rain, we came to Pugwash which turned out to be a quaint coastal village that seemed to rely on both fishing and tourism. An interesting little tidbit, the street signs are in both English and Gaelic:

Gaelic street sign in Pugwash, Nova Scotia

Being rather waterlogged at this point, we headed home for dinner. As a thank you to B's aunt and uncle with whom we had been staying, we took them out for dinner to a place called Mama George's in the tiny town of Norton nearby. It was a very simple, down-home diner kind of restaurant and while B had fish and chips again, I had the special which was the largest basket of fried clam strips I've ever seen in my life. Not the fanciest meal ever, but quite enjoyable none the less.

On our last day, we decided to hop in the car and drive out to Prince Edward Island for the day. We ended up in Charlottetown and wandered around for a while, browsing the very touristy shops that run along the harbour.

Charlottetown, Prince Edward Island

We stopped for lunch at a small spot called the Water-Prince Corner Shop at the recommendation of B's mom. B ordered a scallop burger while I decided to have one more try at a lobster roll. The shop was cozy and the walls were covered with memorabilia, such as a signed picture of Kelly Rippa. We watched as huge platters of seafood were brought out to other diners, such as bowls brimming with mussels and plates bearing whole boiled lobsters. When the food came, I was unfortunately disappointed again. While this lobster roll was better than the one I had in St John, it was nowhere near as good as the homemade ones we'd had. The roll was dry and tasteless, and while the lobster meat was tender, it was also watery and bland. Once again, the best tasting thing on the plate was the potato salad. Ah well, such is life.

The next day we gathered up our things and headed back home, this time taking the route up through New Brunswick and into Quebec instead of back through the States. The drive home was quiet, and we (barely) resisted the urge to stop in Nackawic to see the World's Largest Axe, or to drop in at Potato World for some souvenirs (I hadn't gotten to go to the Potato Museum in PEI, either!), though we did stop at Hotel Madrid for some gas where I was suitably amused by the Pee-Wee's Big Adventure-esque tackiness of the giant dinosaur sculptures, monster trucks and disgruntled elderly Russian tourists. Pfft, who says rural Canada is boring?? ;)

And there you have it... a low-key but thoroughly enjoyable (if a bit soggy) road trip to the Maritimes. We received so many invites to come stay from various relatives that we may very well plan to go back next summer for another visit. If we do, I'm already looking forward to trying out more of the seafood! ;)

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