Home Sweet Home – July 14

The Magic Wine Wine Bus Tour

*my apologies for this and subsequent blogs being over due. It’s been a busy trip so far.*

“What are we going to do before the wine tour?” We asked each other in the morning.

The wine bus would pick us up at the Wolfville Visitor’s Center so it made sense to park the car there and shop along the main drag. At one consignment shop, I bought a new purse large enough to organize my wallet, camera, lens, and laptop, yet another perfect Mary Poppins’s bottomless pit. I found it at an opportune time. My small day bag was a stretch to fit all of the above and with so much weight, the strap dug into my shoulder. I transferred everything on the counter right before the sale clerks eyes. She watched to the end, exclaiming when I neatly slid my phone neatly into a side pocket, “You even found a place for your phone!”

At the same store I bought a fantastic autumn duo flannel plaid shirt and wool knit vest. It was displayed together and I didn’t want to part with either of them. The lady (who I think was also the owner) was good enough to give me a bit of a discount on both. It will look very nice with warm black tights and high rubber boots for an outdoors, Kate Middleton look.

Shopping and lunch wasn’t enough to kill time so we found a bench in Wolfville park reading until it was time to go. Before I left Toronto I started, “The Life of Pi” I don’t know why I resisted it so long, maybe because it was all the rage. The writing is witty and humorous for such a serious situation you can’t help but laugh. I lounged on the grass atop my grandfathers CN red wool blanket under the trees and thought I have to discover a small park like this when I get back to TO. Greenwood for swimming, somewhere else for reading.

The wine bus is an antique double decker bus brought over from England. I don’t have to tell you, we sat at the top level. Robert, the driver, drove it from Halifax each morning, a two-hour drive, if that. It was very daunting being at the front. You’re in the overhang above the driver so it looks as though there isn’t enough room to clear the ditch on a sharp turn and it looks as though you will hit that tree sapling when the bus is parking even though you’re 3 feet away from it. But the low branches of trees whipped into the top window when the bus surged forth on its way from winery to winery. Because it was so hot this day, there was no thought of closing said window.

Domaine de Grand Pre was the first on the list. I had been here twice before. The last time with a group of photographers I took around the mainland. You know who you are. In my early days of tour guiding, I missed out on the opportunity of getting a tour and tasting from the lovely folks who work there, so we paid full price for tasters then. The tours of the vineyards and wineries are always interesting and indeed it was lack of research on my part. This time, though there were some differences of opinions, I found the Magic Wine Bus tour online and will recommend it to anyone.

Pete Luckett is a famous local fellow, at least we claim him as such because he was almost the first on the map for redefining grocery stores. When we first started Pete’s Frutique, the only other company he was in competition with at the time was Sobey’s. He originally came from England, originally setting up a fruit stand outside at a Nova Scotia Farmers market in the winter. He sold his stores, to concentrate on his vineyard. I’ve been to Luckett’s Vinyard twice before, last time with the same group of photographers who kicked up a big fuss about going just before I was to get on the highway heading back to Halifax. Each year I go, Luckett’s keeps getting better. The most predominant image of Luckett’s Vinyards is the old phone booth brought especially from Pete’s hometown that was literally around the corner from where he lived. He places it in the middle of the vineyard opening it up for the public, allowing them to make one long distance phone call to anywhere in North America. Forget the rose! One of the exciting developments this time around, was a Buried White and Buried Red. Buried, you say? According to our guide, the only other country who does this is Switzerland. Pete had built a vault 8 feet underground up the road to house oak casks of white and red that sit untouched for 3 to 4 years. I forget which. The resulting flavor is smooth, subtle, smoky and earthy resting on the tongue like a note of pleasant music. It was $38 a bottle and I bought the Buried White.

Sharing the Gaspereau Valley with Luckett’s Vinyards is L’Acadie. It’s all organic with an almost always cool breeze that comes down the slope. Because of this there are no insects. Sheep are allowed to graze in the early spring months before much of the vine is grown from the parent plant and eat the leaves, thus naturally fertilizing the soil. Admittedly, L’Acadie is not my favorite of wines, though I did have a nice red that was heavy and black in colour. This too had a nice earthy tone (you may be getting to know my tastes in wine by now.) when swirled around it clung to the edges and slowly slid down the glass. I didn’t buy anything here.

At each of the afore said wineries, we spent an hour. I thought to myself, great, what are we going to do for an hour? Time few buy however, and before we knew it, we were heading to the Gaspereau Winery to pick up the last of our group. At this last stop, the three of us didn’t have time for a last tasting, but only a quick run-in to get my Good Cheer Passport stamped and a taste of Baco Noir. Jeremy, our Magic Wine Bus tour guide, kindly cajoled the girl behind the tastings table. I admitted to him that I don’t like reds, but all the reds on this tour I’ve tasted thus far this year in Nova Scotia are far better than any of the Ontario red wines I’ve had in my 13 years of living there. But you don’t have to take my word for it. Wineries and Vinyards in Nova Scotia are still relatively young compared to some in Ontario, though Pelee remains my favorite from that province. Oh, and the Patio 9 Pink in Rockway. If they have it anymore.

Home Sweet Home – July 13th

Wolfville, Canning, Blomiden, Repeat

First the Rose´. Ever since I’ve had Patio 9 Pink and learned the LCBO doesn’t carry it anymore, I’ve been trying to find its equal. I’ve tried several Ontario wines; Lady Bug, Rose, and some bubbly sweet stuff. None of these I’ve been paying attention to what winery they’re from, though they are stacked in a holder in my kitchen in Toronto. Not like that’s going to help me now. The last rose´ wine I tried, however was from Muskoka Lakes Winery. I had one sip and declared that it was awful! I had another sip to make sure and after pulling face, I sipped once more for good measure. I have never tasted a wine so vinegary, tart and to put it mildly only good for cooking. But whoever heard of using a rose´ for cooking? Unless you were to make a salad dressing. I sincerely hope that the batch was bad and somehow it turned while enrute in the store or something. But I will not be recommending it to anyone, I’m sorry to say. What about Blomidon Rose´? Well, it was mildly floral in the beginning, but ended on a tart note, with the slightest hint of a vinegar. Keep in mind I’m comparing this with the Rockway Winery’s Patio Pink which was floral, very smooth with a mild, yet refreshing, taste of an English Blend tea. What can I say? Everything I’ve fallen in love with has been discontinued in stores. But I can always rent a car for the day and drive to Rockway. Hike some of the Bruce Trail and hit the winery.

There are two large dining room tables in the main house where Joan and her husband live. This is always set with antique cups and saucers. Breakfast is two slices of toast a poached egg in the middle, back bacon, coffee or tea, and juice. All for $3.50. You sit at one of the said tables with other guests who are willing to divulge who they are, what they do, why are the visiting, who their children are and ask the same questions in return which are always readily answered. This morning, I made some Muskoka coffee brought as a treat, thinking that Nova Scotia was not yet one with the Jones’s in this department. I was pleasantly surprised when Joan brought out a local blend that was pretty amazing. There is a Coffee Museum somewhere around here. If I remember, I’d like to visit it tomorrow, before or after out Magic Wine Bus tour. Then again we only have one more full day.

After breakfast we walked on an trail that ran atop one of the many dykes in Wolfville that were made centuries ago. They date back the the early 1700’s when a group of French Neutralist ,aka Acadians, came to Nova Scotia to settle. They made dykes to recede the ocean to create the fertile land we know today. There are many sections of the Annapolis valley you travel along where you technically are on the the ocean floor. We drove along one of these causeways on our way to Canning and eventually to Mount Blomidon. My main goal for traveling this way was to find boats docked at a warf at low tide. We passed one beyond Kingsport. I was blessed to be in the drivers seat today. I can tell you, I took full advantage of it. I stopped where I pleased though not so much as to piss my Mother or my Aunt off. Thankfully both understood and somewhat enjoyed the view or otherwise kept themselves preoccupied.

On the way back we stopped at Foxhill Cheese House, just outside of Port William’s. Their main line in the store at this time was about 8 different types of gouda, two types of cheddar and one feta. They had some of the cheeses cut for samples in dishes, when I came to the cheddar I was confused about which one was really the aged and which not. Perhaps the labels were mixed up. The 4 year old cheddar was so very creamy while the mild was dry and less moist. You’d think it would be the other way around. At least to us amateur cheese lovers. The girl at the counter was willing enough to give Mom and I a little tour. It was actually a talk. She brought us to a large window that looked into one of the processing rooms where another woman was cleaning up. When I asked our guide about the two cheddar cheeses, she said it was all a matter of how they processed it, though she wasn’t able to go into much detail and sadly, I forget most of what she said. It was another hot day. But what I do remember her saying about the milk is that they pasteurize it at a lower temperature so it doesn’t kill off all the bacteria, some of which, actually healthy to you. I use a similar example of hand sanitizer. If used excessively, it kills the good germs. She said that their milk is popular to those who may get ill from milk provided by larger corporations. An industry standard set long ago by the money grubbing bastards which diminished the sales of independent farms. Now they are making a come-back. One thing I’d like to point out and you can laugh at me for this, it won’t be the first time, is that there is a difference of taste between milk from Nova Scotia and milk from Ontario. Whatevs. Take it how you will.

At the begging of the trip, we all decided that we wanted to go to the Wolfville Farmers Market. There were’t many vendors. Most of them were food participating in the $10 meals. I can’t say for sure if this was for this particular Wednesday or every Wednesday. There was Pad Thai, Greek, Schnitzel, Moroccan, Pizza, and others. You pay your $10 and get something akin to Monopoly money in $2 increments. Salad and bread are free and after collecting this, you choose a vender for a main meal (we all chose to Moroccan) and another or the same for dessert. I had saffron chicken with rice that had cabbage, onion and chickpeas as a garnish. MMMMMMMMMmmmmmmmmm. When the owners asked how it was, I wasn’t kidding or exaggerating when I told them it was AMMMMMMMMMMAAAAAAAZING!!!!!!!!! Even Auntie Rie liked it and she it not the adventurous international foody type. Sorry Auntie Rie. I love you! We bought nothing more at the market, simply took our leftovers and left for Allen’s Motel where we ended the night with drinking, playing Phase 10 and golf.

At the end of the day we all agreed, that were we to live here, we would hover go to a grocery store, but travel from farm or farmers markets to buy our food. IN comparing them with Ontario prices, the cost to do this would’t be that bad at all!!

Home Sweet Home – Tuesday, July 12th

Halifax to the Annapolis Valley

I was glad to leave the heat wave that reached Toronto today. Flying above the mainland skimming over the Atlantic brought a relief of freshness to my mind. The cold air on the floor
of the plane may have played a part to that. By the time we reached the tarmac in Halifax, my feet were near icicles. Although I researched the temp (21), I was absolutely convinced I would have to trade my sandals for socks and sneakers. Boy, was I wrong.

A blast of humidity swept through the cabin as soon as the door opened. Some of us stood in the arm to await our larger carry ons. Certainly, the need to trade footwear was no longer prominent. It was then the need to change my attire. Black tights and a long sleeve shirt. When we arrived at Allan’s Motel I changed into a dress my Aunt gave me. A purple strapless dress with a hand painted flower to one side.

After checking into our Motel in Kentville (because everything in Wolfville was booked), we hoofed it back into Wolfville making a much of a bee line as we could to the NSLC, though I kept calling it the LCBO. Same thing, different province. Once in the store, I zig-zagged to the Nova Scotia section, picking up a rose from Blomidon Estate Winery, Rumrunner Rum from Glenora in Cape Breton and a Halifax beer, Propeller a hefeweizen. So begins my annual exploration of all the new local wines and craft beers which seems to have skyrocketed in popularity as the craft beer in Ontario has. It’s nice to know that Nova Scotia in some way can keep up with the Joneses. In your face Ontario!

At Paddy’s Pub and Brewery, I tried two beers made in house. A Smoked Porter which was very rich in body, but creamy. It was smooth, and in no way intrusive in taste. The waiter said it had a smoked apple taste. While I could taste the smokiness, I couldn’t taste the apple no matter how much I rolled it around my tongue. Taste buds are so relative and it also depends on what beer you’re into. The next half pint, I tried an Annapolis Valley Ale which was lighter, better suited to a hot day like today, rich in flavour, a strong after taste that may have been better if it was the first and only beer you had. What I liked most about the AVA, was the earthy woody flavour. During our ordering, I asked about a tour of the brewery upstairs. I didn’t think that it would have come into fruition as I was thinking about future tours, or coming back with friends. Sure enough, someone working downstairs gave us a five minute tour. She admitted she never did a tour before but there was only three of us and we peppered her with some questions, and hopefully made her feel comfortable enough. At least until she accidentally flipped the switch to the Yeast mill, letting forth a loud grinding noise that startled us all. The light switch was next to said mill switch. Fishcakes were great by the way.

Labor Day Weekend – Bruce Trail, Lions Head

Getting out of the city wasn’t as bad as all that. The most difficult thing about it was trying to find the Tim Horton’s where we were meeting Jeniffer and Amanda. Google said the Tim Horton’s was after the ESSO on Don Mills. But no, it was down the road a bit in a plaza without a Tim Horton’s sign. Sheesh! What’s a Tim Horton’s without a telltale sign? Back to Superstore to get groceries and finally we hit the road.

The entire weekend was absolutely beautiful. Nothing but sunshine everyday with heat, heat heat! The heat didn’t stop us when we arrived at the Peninsula Motel in Wiarton. After cooling down with a beer we hit the sand court equipped with a net that was midway between volleyball and badminton height. With the cooler close by, we kicked off our shoes, and started with badminton, one of my favorite court games (I’m not a sports person at all. Never played on a team in high school). We didn’t do too bad. All of us played well with the final score of 20/19. We tried (operative word “tried”) to play volleyball, but being so out of practice we made a hash of it, thus making it a very short lived game. Any part of the Bruce Trail was out this day. Meh, it was time to BBQ anyways.

Although we talked about doing more than one hike on this trip, Lion’s head to the Lion’s head look off turned out to be a 6ish (give or take) km hike. I wouldn’t recommend to anyone who just wanted to go on a casual hike. The distance truly was deceiving as much as the landscape was breathtaking. Jen and Amanda were the first back to the parking lot. When we met up with them they commented on how many people were ill prepared, wearing sandals, didn’t have water and brought along infants in Baby Bjorns. The terrain being so unstable in most areas I can’t imagine bringing along a baby incase I stumbled.

We took a break after that hike, each to our respective rooms to nap or whatever. I watched Shirley Temple’s, “Heidi” on Youtube. I’ve been re-watching all her movies lately, and man do they ever date themselves. Watching them as an adult is much more interesting than as a child. I don’t think I ever saw “Around the Corner” because I don’t remember Shirley at the head of a firing squad with a Tommy Gun at a gang of street boys. Even though they were just playing a game, it was bazaar to watch. She always played the nice girl.

The plan was to BBQ again that night, so we went to Foodland, picked up more supplies, drop them off, hitting the road again to the Singing Sands Beach for sunset. It was so gorgeous! The water at that beach was low showing little islands of sands with tufts of grass on top. Seeing this, I knew exactly how I wanted to shoot sunset. Not the ol’ set up the tripod; ready, aim… shoot (talking of firing squads). No, I was down on all fours getting soaked and sandy. But who the hell cares after looking at the images. I captured exactly what I wanted which was the colours broken up over the rivets of glossy sand, catching the reflecting sun instead of the sun itself, to catch the colours in the focused waves with the sand in the background.
Amanda + Costumes + Off Camera Flash Photography = Really Cool Photos. The tulle dress you see, I made a few years ago for exactly this vision, and it fit Amanda perfectly! Over the white sundress the end product looked quite whimsical. This impromptu ensemble was the first inspiration for Amanda’s wedding dress. I told her she could have it, as long as I get it back.

Before the sun went completely down, we had some lovely colours in the background even with the speed-light lighting Amanda up. Though it was just as interesting when the background was completely black, the tulle floating in the water as she posed was exquisite. Being a beautiful confident young woman, it wasn’t hard to direct her into a graceful pose. The only pose I wish I had got was impossible without a wide-angle lens and a ladder. I didn’t want to leave the beach, though it was getting way too late considering we haven’t had supper yet! Amanda wouldn’t have minded either it being a balmy evening and the shallow water still warm. We didn’t eat until 10:30pm as it was. We had a dinner and a show in my motel room looking at the photos we took from the Bruce trail and the beach.

I am so glad I had that rush at the beach. That something that was more than energy and inspiration, a passion that exuded from the body like sweat from an athlete doing what they love. Do you know what I mean? It came at such an opportune time when for a month or more, I’ve been studying for my TICO exam, updating my WordPress blog and website, getting my outings section of the Beach Photo Club together, and sewing. I didn’t pick up my camera in those weeks, so needless to say I was very excited about this trip to get out of the rut I was in.

To end the trip, we stopped at a dock at the end of Dryers Rd., hoping there would be some boats in the water to photograph. There were none. But that didn’t stop Amanda and I from jumping off the dock into the clear water of Georgian Bay. It’s the type of water were you can’t give yourself the chance to get use to the coldness. You have to dive right in. Once you’re in it’s like silk.

The last stop we made before bee-lining it home was Suable Beach. It wasn’t as packed as we would have thought. The wind was high, it was humid with a cool wind, but people were already heading home. Like I said, we bee-lined it home after that, not even a stoping at Tim Horton’s. Only gas. Norm had to be home by 4pm to watch Tiff movies and write about them in his blog.

When I post a weekend outing next time, I’ll clearly state – if you have to be home at a certain time, please let me know so I can make arrangements. Like rent a car separately then those of us in the “slow car” can meander. There are so many side roads that are beckoning when I go on a trip. I feel I’m forsaking them taking the main routs. Clearly, I’m a road less traveled gal.

Thanks everyone for coming on this trip. Had lots of fun!