I was scrambling around the house attempting to pack up for an overnight get-away. It was my wife Sara's birthday weekend so I wanted her to sit back and relax and I would handle all of the details. It quickly became evident that I am not the organizer in our relationship. Though in my defense, with the number of food allergies we have to contend with in our family (dairy, soy, gluten, corn, canola, cocoa, etc. etc.), packing is never the simplest of tasks. We departed about an hour later than anticipated - not bad I thought. Unfortunately, I don't think Sara found any peace in leaving the planning to me. It was just a matter of time before we discovered the first forgotten item. It was 15 minutes down the road where we stopped at the Bass River drug store to pick up some drinks for our picnic (first forgotten items). Then it was a quick visit to the Bass River General Store for a few treats for dessert (second forgotten items). We were en route to Driftwood Park Retreat in beautiful Advocate Harbour, and decided to stop at Partridge Island beach near Parrsboro to break up the trip a little bit. For such a gorgeous sunny day the beach was almost deserted. As we sat and had our picnic we scanned the shore, looking at all of the cool rocks. I spotted a patch of seaweed that had washed ashore and noticed that it was dried dulse. As a healthy local delicacy I thought I would shock the kids by eating a piece. They were a little grossed out at first, but it was Sara who appeared most concerned. "What if someone walked on it!" she said. I shared a small bite with the kids and told them that it would put hair on their chests (something my dad would always tell me when I was reluctant to try something new). But they didn't seem too motivated to try any more (especially Lienna). We strolled along the beach briefly before getting back on the road. At a certain point, as the tide came in, we got to see the "boiling pot" phenomenon described in Mi'kmaw legends of Glooscap. The water bubbles as it comes in across the rocks and actually looks and sounds like it is boiling.
The drive through Port Greville and Spencer's Island is full of steep hills, twists and turns, fields of wild blueberries and incredible views of the bay. One of the most impressive views in the province is of Cape D'Or Lighthouse near Advocate Harbour.
When we arrived, we didn't waste any time checking in. Our hosts at Driftwood Park Retreat (Su' and John) were extremely friendly and showed us to our two bedroom chalet named "Sunset Haven". We did a quick tour of our two-level accommodation and upon seeing the amazing view of Cape Chignecto from the upper deck we decided to head straight for the beach.
The beach was lined with an incredible fortress of driftwood that protected our private oasis. It was covered by smooth rocks tumbled by the extreme tides, with a strip of black sand that was perfect for walking. Sara and I enjoyed our surroundings while the kids decided to brave the chilly water. They were splashing about and having a blast!
Having the beach to ourselves was so relaxing that we didn't want to leave. But we had a 6pm dinner reservation at the Wild Caraway Restaurant to get ready for. I had heard so much about the Wild Caraway that I couldn't wait to experience it for myself. I had given the owners Sarah Griebel and Andrew Aitken the heads-up about our array of food allergies and they seemed un-phased by the challenge. This made us even more excited about dining out!
I would describe the Wild Caraway as fine dining in a bright and casual atmosphere. Sarah (with an "h") greeted us, showed us to our table, and sat down with us to discuss options to overcome our food allergy concerns. She made us feel totally comfortable that all would be taken care of. Jaden decided on pan fried haddock and fries, Lienna had chicken and roasted potatoes, Sara went with steak and I had local pan seared scallops. We decided to go all out and get appetizers and fancy drinks too. Jaden and Lienna had a fresh garden salad and a glass of elderflower and rhubarb lemonade. Sara and I tried the hearty seafood chowder and each had a unique mixed drink with names I don't recall (but they sounded intriguing).
While we were waiting for our appetizers we were treated to some pickled herring and sour cream to try. I am not a very adventurous eater, but I didn't want to discourage the kids from trying something new and I certainly didn't want to insult our hosts by leaving it untouched on my plate. So, like a food- challenge on the TV show Survivor, I popped it in my mouth. To my surprise, it was delicious! We all loved it. By the time we had polished off the scrumptious seafood chowder, and for me a tasty dinner roll made with flakes of dulse, we were stuffed! Panic began to set in as we realized that we still had a main course to go! As our server Sarah delivered our meals she explained that the greens mixed in my pasta and scallops had been harvested from the beach earlier that morning. Now that's fresh local ingredients! All of our meals were extraordinary.
I think I laughed out loud when asked about desert. I literally hurt from cleaning off my own plate and then helping Sara with hers. Oddly enough I had room for the spruce shortbread cookies that came with the bill and the kids devoured the two coconut meringue ones. They enjoyed them so much that a week later Lienna said she wished we lived closer to the Wild Caraway so we could get some more.
Sara and the kids went out to a set of hammocks outside while I paid the bill. I was so full that I figured if I got in one I'd never get back up! We drove down the road to the local "Rite Stop" store to pick up some juice for breakfast in the morning (item number three forgotten) and stopped along the way to take a photo of the fishing boats sitting in the mud along the wharf at low tide.
The sun was nearly setting by the time we returned to the chalets and got the kids to bed. Sara and I sat out on the deck and watched a family prepare a bonfire on the beach as the sky turned a brilliant pink. It was a fantastic end to a wonderful day.
In the morning the kids and I were up early and as tradition we decided to let Sara sleep in for her birthday. We hopped in the car and were off to the Eatonville Day-use portion of Cape Chignecto Provincial Park. I had been to the area last year kayaking, so I was excited to share this incredible place with the kids.
The drive was a little longer than I remembered as we bombed along the gravel road to get there. When we arrived we hiked to several look-out points high among the cliffs and marveled at the amazing scenery. It was a phenomenal morning but I was mindful of the time as I wanted to be back to wish Sara a happy birthday when she woke up. We cut our exploration short and returned to the chalet.
We finished up breakfast and Sara and I decided that coffee on the beach would be the perfect way to conclude our wonderful seaside getaway. As the coffee was brewed and I reached for the mugs my heart sank as I realized that I forgot item number four - milk for our coffee. Coffee-less, Sara watched the kids play on the beach as I offered to pack up for the journey home. The drive was even prettier on the return and we stopped at Five Islands for a picnic along the way. It wasn't until later that night that we discovered forgotten item number five: Sara's overnight case left hanging on the back of the bathroom door. I guess I'd be driving down the beautiful Parrsboro shore again, just a little sooner than I thought : )