Having just spent the past two weeks touring Nova Scotia and Prince Edward Island, we can t wait to tell you more about these drop-dead gorgeous Canadian provinces that are a mere two-and-a-half hour flight from Detroit.
But until all the memories are properly distilled and evaluated (and vetted), here are a few initial snapshots from that journey of just over 1,550 miles:
In the bad old days, flying out of Detroit Metro was always a particularly painful experience. But the new McNamara Terminal has changed that. And once through security, it s a surprisingly passenger-friendly place with space to breathe, efficient people-movers, abundant shopping opportunities, and affordable eateries. Even the departure gate for Halifax couldn t have been more convenient.
Our 50-seat Canadian Regional Jet was attended by a perky attendant with a grand sense of humor. Two hours literally flew by in one continuous round of laughter. Nova Scotia couldn t have asked for a better promoter.
Extreme coastal territories like the Canadian Maritimes are naturally susceptible to bouts of bad weather, and 2006 has been no exception. Two weeks of rain and fog would be quite enough to cool the ardor of even the most optimistic tourist, so when we were monitoring the Internet for several weeks prior to the trip and all we saw was rain, rain, and more rain, we were truly worried!
The day we arrived in Halifax it was still raining and blowing up a storm. But next morning, the travel gods relented. And, quite amazingly, they continued to smile for the better part of two weeks.
That s not to say we didn t get rained on or fogged in we did. But it served to demonstrate how the Nova Scotians really live. And, as the saying goes, it s so lovely when it stops.
So always anticipate bad weather and dress accordingly. Chances are, it ll stay dry for the duration.
Traveling in the Maritimes in the first part of June has one major advantage. The tourist season has hardly begun, so everyone s happy to see you. There s plenty of room in hotels and restaurants. You re not falling over fellow travelers, and large tour buses are few and far between.
If there is a downside, it s that some of the guides (university students hired for the season) haven t quite found their sea legs or their patter. And we remember one rather difficult outing on the Halifax Harbor Hopper an amphibious vehicle that tours both harbor and town when we suffered through the first day on the job of a rather overactive, chatty student.
Contrast this, however, with a fantastic architectural walking tour we had with the former head of the Halifax Tourist Board, Allan Doyle, who kept us in stitches for the better part of three hours while pointing out the highlights (and lowlights) of this most romantic and historically charged port city.
Despite the magnificent scenery, intriguing cultural history, fantastic seafood, amazing music, and innate friendliness of this almost island people, Nova Scotian tourism is going through bad times for several reasons.
The growing strength of the Canadian dollar and high taxes make it a pretty expensive place to visit. Several consecutive summers of rotten weather haven t helped, either. Add the high price of gasoline and the cancellation of a key ferry service between Portsmouth, Maine and Yarmouth, and you have a recipe for tourism disaster.
That s a dreadful shame because, in our experience, Nova Scotians work so hard to make you feel welcome.
The roads are extremely good. There are information centers in every town and village staffed by knowledgeable and enthusiastic locals.
The best free travel guide we ve ever seen or used is their 425-page Doers and Dreamers Guide that not only leads you around the province on color-coded itineraries like the Evangeline Trail, the Lighthouse Route, the Cabot Trail, and the Ceilidh Trail but is also packed with details about every possible accommodation, restaurant, attraction, campground, museum, historic site, tour operator, and outfitter.
Ask for one at 1-800-565-000 or www.nova.scotia.com. And start planning!