We wake up well rested and ready for our first full day exploring Nova Scotia. The plan for the day is to drive east along the southern shore from Yarmouth to the capital city of Halifax. The coastline along the peach area of the map is our route. A search for better value in accommodations led us to select a Hampton Inn in Dartmouth, just across the bridge from Halifax, to spend the night.
Before we leave Lakelawn B&B in Yarmouth we consume an excellent breakfast of omelets, toast, juice, coffee, and fruit in a pleasant dining room with classical music playing in the background, and flowers blossoming in the rear courtyard. Completely satisfied, we confirm our return in eight days for one more night, and head down the road.
It's Thursday at around 8 am and the traffic in Yarmouth is light. Driving around Nova Scotia is very easy for Americans, the signs are clear, numerous and easy to follow. A few traffic lights made us stop and think, like the rapidly blinking green light that seems to signal a delayed green for opposing traffic. The GPS on Gloria's Subaru Legacy detects the speed limits and automatically translates from kilometers per hour to miles per hour.
Our first stop for coffee and sightseeing is the Tim Hortons in Barrington. Cape Sable Island across a causeway is listed as the southerly most point of Nova Scotia. This morning it's shrouded in fog and we decide to skip the drive to the point and take our coffee further down the coast. We discover that many of the Tim Horton's will accept American dollars, and their cash registers are programmed to give a reasonable exchange rate. Two medium coffees, paid for with a $20 bill result in $21 Canadian dollars and change. It feels like being paid to drink coffee.
Following a tip from the car GPS (the restaurant locator) our lunch stop is the village of Shelburne. We park on Water Street (also known as Route 3) and then walk down Dock Street to the Visitors' Center. Dock Street is flanked by a pleasant park that stretches to the waterfront. Neat lawns, comfortable benches, great views of boats in the harbor, a museum, bars, and restaurants make for a pleasant stroll.
We ditch the restaurant picked by the GPS and eat at the Sea Dog Saloon overlooking Shelburne Harbor. The day is sunny and warm, so much so that we retreat from the sunny deck to a table inside. It's June 1, early in the tourist season, and the outside deck is half full but the interior restaurant is nearly empty. About a third of the patrons are locals, usually the sign of good, reasonably priced meals. The food takes an inordinate amount of time to arrive, a point of pride according to the menu. The food is good, but not so special as to justify the wait. The staff are very pleasant.
After Shelburne we set our sights on the Old Town of Lunenburg further up the coast, but don't make it. We're noticing that Nova Scotia is just coming awake to the tourist season and some of the things we want to visit are not yet open for the season. We decide to check first and stop at a couple of locations that should have held Visitors' Centers. Unfortunately these were closed or consist of a kiosk not yet restocked for the season. We finally find an open Visitor's Center near Liverpool staffed by two bright and eager women. The friendly pair defy the stereotype of slow talking Canadians by presenting an enthusiastic overview of the wonders of the area delivered at an impressive speed.
Because the historic village of Lunenburg deserves more time than we have on this day, we decide to forge ahead and arrive in Halifax/Dartmouth early enough to do some exploring there.
Our clever change of plans places us in the middle of a traffic jam in Halifax that is worthy of New York or Boston at rush hour. After more than an hour making the crossing of Halifax Harbor, we arrive in Dartmouth with a fire engine on our rear bumper. Despite our best efforts to get out of the way, the truck follows us to the Hampton Inn Dartmouth and pulls up to the door. The call turns out to be a false alarm, but the inexperienced hotel staff don't appear up to managing the aftermath during which elevators don't work for hours, our room first won't open to our keys, and then won't lock, and the final straw, the hot water is off all night. The cold shower the next morning wasn't fun.
One mostly good experience in Dartmouth was Ela! Greek Taverna, a little Greek restaurant across the street from our hotel. The Greek dishes were outstanding except for the little problem of a piece of plastic wrap that got heated up along with my Mousaka. The thoroughly embarrassed waiter whisked the dish away, replaced it and deleted the item from our check--unnecessary, from my viewpoint, but a class act.
I don't know if the result of my bad attitude about this particular Hampton Inn, but the breakfast eggs had the texture of carpet underlayment. Disillusioned with that hotel, and city life, we cancel our plan to return to this hotel in two days for a longer stay, and instead book another B&B in the town of Truro about 100 kilometers north from which we will explore the north shore.