A short visit to Wolfville, Nova Scotia - a simpler version of Niagara-on-the-Lake?
WOLFVILLE, NOVA SCOTIA – Good wine. Lovely scenery. A very cute, small town.
There’s really only one main street in town. Lovely Acadia University (see photo) rises up on at one of the downtown, commanding a spot atop a small hill that looks out toward the tidal flats. When I was there, a group of kids were getting a tour and another group was playing a game of Frisbee on the spacious grass.
Down on Main St. (of course), there isn’t really a whole lot going on. But it’s still cute. I poked my head into Rainbow’s End, a large and endearingly disheveled shop that’s the perfec spot for picking up an old X-Box game or an Elton John cassette or a comic book or Margaret Atwood novel.
Lisa, who was working the afternoon shift at Tempest restaurant, told me the place reminds her of Niagara 20 or 30 years ago.
“There’s lots of opportunity here,” she said. “The white wines are way ahead of the reds. But it’s coming along.”
I stopped in at the very pretty Grand Pre winery and, to be honest, was underwhelmed. There’s a decent Seyval Blanc but the rest, to me, was forgettable and rather bland. I had better luck at Luckett’s, which sits on a hill a mile or so outside of town. The view looks out toward the red cliffs of Cape Blomidon, and there’s a bright red British phone booth in the middle of the vineyard. A worker insisted anyone can use the booth and it’s free to call anywhere in North America.
The white wines are decent, and the reds aren’t bad, either; usually a mixture of several varieties that grow well in this cool climate. Not award-winning, but enough to get me to buy one as something of a novelty for $20.
I didn’t want a big lunch, so I took the advice of my server at Grand Pre and opted for a burger and chocolate shake (they don’t serve fries) at the Evangeline Inn’s café, just steps from Grand Pre. It’s a fun, bright restaurant with nicely done hamburgers that they top with grilled onions, and they make about a dozen types of pie and tarts; everything from coconut to cherry to apple-rhubarb.
I then took in a brief tour at the Grand Pre national historic site (see photo at right). It’s a museum/park that’s dedicated to the forced exodus of the Acadians from these lovely shores in the 18th century.
They do a nice job explaining how it all happened – a sad chapter in our history – and where everyone was dispersed and how families were split up and how a few courageous Acadians resisted deportation. There’s a quite good 22-minute movie as well. I expected it to be like those cheesy commercials that try to tell us how interesting Canadian history is, but it was actually well done and moved along nicely and had some nuanced acting performances. Highly recommend. By the end, when some of the Acadians were returning home from exile and seeing their beloved land again, I was pretty choked up. Then again, I cry during Sleepless in Seattle so there you go.
There’s a lovely church on the grounds as well as a statue of Evangeline, the Acadian woman made famous in Henry Wadsworth Longfellow’s work.
Other treats in town include the Tangled Garden, which makes lots of lovely jams and has lovely gardens with a labyrinth and, when I was there, deep purple and pink and red tulips.
One of the top places to stay is the Blomidon Inn, a terrific old home that’s been turned in to a B and B. They’ve taken out most of the chintz and are exchanging it for more modern, cleaner looks. And they have all the amenities such as nice bathrooms and flat-screen TV’s.
But there’s still an old-home feel to it, and they have a huge variety of rooms and suites for offer. I didn’t have dinner, but it’s a popular destination in town. On top of that, there’s an enormous porch looking out over the front garden, with Cape Blomidon off in the distance. A fine spot to read the morning paper or snooze or sip on a Nova Scotia Propeller Ale. Or, do like I did and combine all three activities into one glorious hour in the late afternoon sun.
Dinner was at The Tempest, a sleek and modern spot just off the main street. They do a nice job with local scallops but my favourite was the seafood chowder, made with smoked haddock (a common ingredient in good chowder in these parts), local chorizo sausage and smoky paprika oil. Fabulous!
COMING MONDAY: A trip from Whitehorse up to Haines Junction in the Yukon.