All posts by asoffos

White Point Resort, Nova Scotia Stay

Part 3 of 3 (Continuation of Nova Scotia Summer Vacation)

We checked out of Homewood Suites in Halifax and began the trip to White Point Resort, Nova Scotia.  The plan was to take in the sights along the way.  The main attraction of the day was to visit Peggy’s Cove, about one  hour west of Halifax. It was another beautiful day in Nova Scotia.

When we arrived in Peggy’s Cove, there was already a line of traffic inching along the main road to the lighthouse.  Not knowing about the parking situation, we followed cars into the first lot that we came upon.  There was no parking available and cars were going in all directions.  As soon as feasibly possible, we got out of that lot and did some more inching along to the end of the road.  We were glad that we made the decision to search out additional parking.  There was a large lot at the top of the road and we soon found parking.  This parking was next to the lighthouse, a gift shop and restaurant.

We first decided to check-out the gift shop.  Afterwards, we walked over to the cliffs where the lighthouse was located.  Along the walkway, there was a bagpipe player playing music.

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We climbed the boulders and took pictures.  It was pretty clear when we arrived.  However, as time progressed, the fog began to roll into the cove.   We stopped in at a few of the shops along the way and visited the Welcome Center to read up on the history of Peggy’s Cove.  We spent about an hour and a half at this site.

Next, we headed to the Swissair Flight 111 Memorial, about 15 minutes away.  There a couple of parking lots were available and it was a very wide open, undeveloped area.  A memorial had been erected for those lost in the plane crash of September 2, 1998 off the Nova Scotia coast.  All 229 passengers and crew aboard perished.  The search and rescue response, crash recovery operation, and investigation by the Government of Canada took over four years.  It was determined that flammable material used in the aircraft’s structure allowed a fire to spread beyond the control of the crew, resulting in the ultimate crash of the aircraft.

 

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When we left the memorial, we decided to drive along the coast, through all the villages along the way.  After about two hours though, we decided that if we hoped to get to our destination before dark that we would need to nix the coastal road and take the highway the rest of the way.  It was a nice relaxing drive, but we had become a bit eager to reach White Point Resort.  Over the years, we had heard what a great vacation destination this resort provided in the exploration of southwest Nova Scotia.

Once we were on the highway, it took about an hour to arrive at the resort.  As we drove in, we passed their golf course, the cottages and the boat house, and then arrived at the lodge where check-in is located.  The lodge also houses  Elliot’s Restaurant, a bar area with live music, a gift shop, the indoor pool and hot tub, a sauna, game room and an outdoor pool.  It is a very lovely property overlooking wide expanses of beach and ocean. 

 

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Check-in was quick and we were provided with the keys and directions to our cottage .  We decided to check with the hostess at Elliot’s to see about making reservations for dinner.  Our request was accommodated.  It was suggested to us that if we planned to dine each evening at Elliot’s that we should consider making our reservations for the rest of the week.  By doing that, we could be assured of a table with an optimal view.  We decided to go ahead and reserve for the whole week.  At that point, we weren’t sure what our other dining options might be for the week.

Afterwards, we went downstairs to check out the indoor amenities.  Then, we walked outside to look at the beach and outdoor pool.  There were many cottages that ran along either side of the lodge that were direct oceanfront.  Shortly thereafter, we headed back to our car to drive over to our cottage. 

The timeshare cottages are tucked away around a lake about half mile from the lodge.  It is very quiet and secluded.  There are 12 cottages in the White Point Vacation Club.  We felt very fortunate to be able to exchange into this resort during July.

As we arrived and parked, Cottage 304 was very private with lots of trees surrounding it.  You couldn’t view any of the other cottages from your yard or the back of the cottage where the entry door was located.  The cottage had a nice large deck with a gas grill, Adirondack chairs and a fully planted flower box.  Over in the back part of the yard was a picnic table. 

 

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We were very excited upon entering our cottage and looking around.  Though it was just the two of us, there were sleeping areas for up to eight.  There were two bedrooms each containing two full size beds.  The kitchen was fully equipped.  The living area had a nice large sliding glass door and plenty of comfortable furniture for lounging around on.  A fireplace was available for use, along with a box outside full of firewood.  There was a large dining table that would seat up to six.  The cottage had a real homey feel to it and supplied everything that we needed for our week’s stay.

 

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After unpacking and briefly relaxing, we cleaned up and went back to the lodge to have dinner at Elliot’s.  When we arrived, we were seated shortly thereafter at a window seat on the side of the building.  A daily dinner buffet was offered, which included many items or guests could order off a somewhat limited menu.

 

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The next evening when we dined at Elliot’s we opted for the buffet, which offered breads, appetizers, salads, soups, cheeses, vegetables and potatoes, a fish, a meat and dessert.  We enjoyed our meal along with a bottle of wine. 

We had one other dinner at Elliot’s during our stay, but chose to cancel the rest of our reservations for the week.  We hoped to find other options nearby for dining since the choices at the resort’s restaurant were somewhat limited.   The next town over, Liverpool, had a couple of grocery stores and a Subway sandwich shop.  We picked up some subs and groceries, which gave us some of the variety that we were looking for that wasn’t available onsite at White Point.  We, after all, had a gas grill on our cottage deck that we ended up putting to good use for several meals.

The following day was nice.  After picking up groceries and lunch in Liverpool, we headed down to the resort’s beach to spend the afternoon.  While the water was too cool for swimming, laying on the beach and enjoying the warm air was quite nice.  While we were there, we watched participants of a surfing class offered by the resort out paddling in the water.  There were a couple of other folks on the beach enjoying the day.

 

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That evening, we hung out in our cottage, prepared a yummy meal on the grill and kept up-to-date on all the goings on with the primaries on TV.  The next day we had plans for a day trip to the seaport town of Lunenburg.  A walking tour of the town was offered there by one of the locals that we didn’t want to miss.  We find tours are a great way to pack a lot of information in about an area.

We awoke the next morning to another glorious day.  We had breakfast and prepared for the day ahead.  The temperature was in the low 80’s.  It was about an hour’s drive to the town of Lunenburg.  On the drive, we found ourselves in the middle of some construction traffic and were unsure whether or not we would be able to make the tour’s start time.  As we approached the town, we saw the Welcome Center and quickly stopped in to get directions to the tour site.  We drove on, hoping that we could find it easily and make the 1:00 pm start time.  We only had about 10 minutes and were told that it was about an eight minute drive.  No time for error.

Once we arrived in the area, we had to drive back and forth a bit, but eventually found the meeting spot.  The group was already gathered and we could tell the guide had already begun her tour.  We ran over and asked if we could join the group of about 12 and we were readily welcomed.   The guide was a young woman that had been a life-long resident of Lunenburg. 

Lunenburg is a UNESCO World Heritage Site, one of only two such urban sites in North America.  The one-hour walking tour offered an educational and fun introduction to the history, architecture, and culture of this fascinating community.  The guide made the sites come alive with cultural tidbits like superstitions, folklore, and local facts.  She also shared some unique personal stories and offered visitor recommendations for after the tour.  

The tour began at the Lunenburg Academy grounds and followed a gentle downhill route to the finale point on the waterfront near the Fisheries Museum of the Atlantic, shops, art galleries and restaurants.   To our small disappointment, the famous Bluenose II was not in port on our visit. 

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The Bluenose II is a replica schooner of the original Bluenose, an undefeated racing champion and Canadian icon.  As Nova Scotia’s sailing ambassador, Bluenose II is a proud representative of the province and it’s maritime heritage.  Bluenose II was launched in 1963 and has visited ports around the world, welcoming visitors and serving as a constant link to the glorious age of sail.   During our visit, the schooner was on one such visit.

After the tour, we asked our guide, Ashlee, for recommendations for a casual place offering seafood, overlooking the harbor.  She recommended the Fish Shack, which was a couple of blocks away.  Neither Steve nor I had ever had Poutine, which is a Canadian dish that originated in Quebec.  It’s made with French fries and cheese curds, topped with a light brown gravy.  Steve ordered the Poutine and I went with Fish and Chips.  We both enjoyed our lunch, seated outside, with views of the harbor.

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Afterwards, we checked out some of the shops along the downtown area; then made our way back to White Point Resort.

That evening, we again cooked out on the grill and kept up with the goings on with the election candidates.  We anticipated the next day’s trip to Kejimkujik National Park Seaside.  The weather was expected to be optimal for a day of hiking and exploring along the coast.

We awoke early to get started.  We packed a cooler of water, sandwiches and protein bars since the location was remote with no onsite services.  The seaside park was approximately a 45-minute drive to the west from the resort.

There was a graveled road one followed to get to the onsite parking.  After gearing up and leaving our vehicle, we wandered over to one of the trail heads with a wooden map at a shelter area showing different area and trails within the park. We headed out from there for our day of hiking.  There were cliffs to climb, beaches to explore, woods and fields to hike, and opportunities to enjoy what nature had to offer.  We spent several hours and passed few others during our time in the park.  We both really enjoy hiking and it was really an enjoyable outing with many varied landscapes and terrain.

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 We returned back to the cottage for rest and relaxation.  It had been an adventurous day.  We had a simple meal and went to bed early.  

The week was winding down and rapidly coming to an end.  However, having such a spectacular day at Kejimkujik National Park Seaside, we were eager to explore the main park located inland.  It was approximately two hours away, north of White Point Resort.  

Since we planned to hang out at the resort the last day before traveling back home, we decided to head over to the park the next day.

Once again, we awoke to clear skies, warm temperatures, the birds singing and a friendly chipmunk on the porch looking for food.  We ate a hardy breakfast, packed a lunch and supplies, and geared up for another full day of adventure.

Driving to the park was an easy and carefree ride.  Except for the one day that we encountered construction traffic going to Lunenburg, there was never any traffic delays on any of our road trips to see the surrounding areas.

When we got to the park’s Welcome Center, we spent some time inside looking at information on the history, cultural heritage and wildlife inhabiting the park.   The staff were welcoming and ready to assist us with our day’s activities.

“The main part of Kejimkujik was first established as a National Park in 1968, being recognized for its old growth forest, rare wildlife and traditional Mi’kmaq waterways. The park took its name from Kejimkujik Lake, which is a Mi’kmaq word believed to mean “tired muscles” – a reference to the effort it took to canoe across the lake. Keji’s canoe routes had been used by native inhabitants for thousands of years as they traveled between the Bay of Fundy and the Atlantic Coast. They also made their mark while on those journeys, leaving stone carvings, or petroglyphs, on slate outcroppings along the shore. These Mi’kmaq petroglyphs can be seen on guided tours and contain images of traditional Mi’kmaq life, including hunting, fishing and wildlife. “

Afterwards, we set off through the park, hiking  a few of the 15 different trails, through the forests and along waterways.  We spent several hours within the park.  Like Seaside, due to its vast area, we rarely encountered others on the trails.  It was very peaceful.  We enjoyed our packed lunch by one of the lakes, then completed our last hike of the day.  It was getting late and we wished to return back to the resort before dark.

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On our drive back, we encountered a black bear and her two young cubs crossing the road.  That was very cool to see.  Before I could adjust my camera to take a picture, they were gone into the woods.  That was the icing on the cake for a wonderful day in the park.

The next day, we slept in and made it a leisurely day around the cottage.  That evening we went up to the lodge and utilized the indoor pool, hot tub and sauna.  It was the perfect end to a perfect stay at White Point Resort and vacation in Nova Scotia.

Though we traveled to many areas within Nova Scotia, we really saw and experienced only a small portion of this beautiful area.  There was still so much more to see and do.  We hope to be able to return in the future to take advantage of exploring more of this Canadian jewel.   From what we experienced and what we’ve read about the missed areas on this trip, this northern territory deserves a return visit some day.

 

Halifax, Nova Scotia Stay

Part 2 of 3 (continuation of  Nova Scotia Summer Vacation)

The drive to Nova Scotia, from Wolfville, was quite visual from the highway.  There were continuous forests and different types of waterways to view throughout our 90 minute drive into Halifax.  It was quiet and relaxing as we drove along with only occasional cars passing or being passed.

However, as we approached Halifax, the traffic changed into congestion.  I believe some construction on a bridge impacted our journey into the downtown area.  I don’t know what happened because we were totally unprepared for a bridge toll.  We found ourselves in a lane that required a transponder and cars were rolling along. Steve slightly hesitated, panicked about what to do.  I told him to drive through and we’d take our chances.  To impact the traffic behind us while awaiting someone to come over to the unmanned booth could have potentially caused a riot.  We drove through the toll.  We weren’t arrested.  We weren’t fined.  Everyone behind us was able to go on their merry ways.    All was good.

After that blunder, we drove easily to Homewood Suites in downtown Halifax.  The hotel shared a parking lot and garage with Hampton Inn on the same property.  

While we mostly vacation in timeshare units on our travels, sometimes it is necessary to stay in hotels or inns for short stays or around an extended timeshare stay,  We do try to stay in accommodations that offer more than one room.  Steve and I have opposite work schedules back at home.  He’s an early-bird and I’m a night owl.  It takes a few days for us to get on the same schedule.  It’s nice to have a separate living area away from the bedroom.  It allows us not to disturb one another until we can mesh our sleep schedules.

Homewood Suites in Halifax was very nice and we were very happy with the location, views from the room and hotel amenities.  The staff was attentive and accommodating throughout our stay.  A hot breakfast was complimentary each morning.  Monday through Thursday, there is a light evening meal served complimentary also.

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After unpacking and settling in, we decided to take a walk through the downtown to locate the meeting point for a pub tour that afternoon.  It is “hilly” in downtown Nova Scotia.  Walking to the harbor area was all downhill, which made it an easy walk.  Halifax has a bustling downtown area.  There was lots and lots of construction going on.  We were glad that we opted to walk vs. trying to make our way through, looking for parking, while traversing the unknown.  Walking just made it easier.

When we got to the waterfront, we found ourselves at the site of the famous Alexander Keith Brewery.  Across from there, we discovered that the Halifax Jazz Festival was just getting underway.  We meandered along, checking out shops and activity in the channel, while looking for our meet-up point for the tour.

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We made all our tour reservations for Halifax prior to our trip. They all had to be prepaid with no short-notice cancellations available. Therefore, we wanted to ensure we didn’t miss our “Drink Halifax” pub tour with Taste of Halifax Food, Beer and Wine Tours.

It was an easy-to-find spot.  We were the first to arrive.  Shortly thereafter, another couple arrived, then the tour guide, and then a group of four.  It was a great number for the tour and everyone was fun and ready to have a good time.

Our first stop was the wine shop,  Bishop’s Cellar , where we had a wine tasting served with some small snacks.  We received information on the wineries where the wines were made including a couple we had visited while staying in Wolfville.

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Next stop, Temple Bar.  One of the bartenders greeted us, shared the history of the bar, and concocted a tasty beverage for each of us.

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All the tours of this type (including restaurant tours) visit locations within close proximity of one another.  There’s not a tremendous amount of walking.  There’s enough time between stops that the guide is able to share history and anecdotes along the way.

Stillwell Bar was the next pub that we stopped in.  They have a large chalkboard where all the beers for the day are listed.  There’s plenty of variety for anyone’s venture into the world of craft beers.  We were served three different beers on tap, along with some great munchies to enjoy with our libations.

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The last stop on the tour was the Auction House on Argyle Street.  It was established in a building built in 1765, just 15 years after Halifax was founded.  In the 1800’s, it was a fully functioning auction house. However, over the years, it experienced many changes in ownership. Today, the Auction House serves up great food, a wide variety of beverages, live music, wing nights, charity food auctions and more.  

Upon arrival, we were greeted and seated promptWe were each poured a generous glass of whiskey and served a couple of different appetizers.  

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At the end of the tour, the rest of the group wanted to continue on with enjoying the many pubs and restaurants in the nearby vicinity.  We declined due to it being a long day for us and knowing we had an early morning tour booked for the following day.  We said our “good-byes” and headed back to the hotel to unwind from the day and to get a good night’s sleep to prepare for our biking tour around Halifax.

The next morning, we enjoyed a hot breakfast at Homewood Suites prior to heading out for our tour.  Like the previous day, we chose to walk to the meeting location in order to avoid construction, traffic and potential parking issues.  And, again, was an easy walk to the harbor since the going is all downhill.

Our tour, which was pre-booked, prior to our arrival, was with I Heart Bikes.  They offer City tours, as well as bike rentals.  We chose to take the “All in One 4-Hour City Tour”, which was a medium-level tour.  

It was Steve and I, and we had a young local woman that led the tour. I love biking and this was a great way to see the many sights in the area, as well as get a history lesson.  It was a really fun tour and Izzy was a great guide that made the tour quite enjoyable.  Highlights of the tour included Halifax Harbour, Point Pleasant Park, the Public Gardens, Dalhousie University, Downtown Halifax,  and the Citadel.  Midway on the tour, we stopped into a local burrito shop for lunch.  It was tasty and we enjoyed the conversation with Izzy.

 

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I really enjoy gardens and the Halifax Public Gardens were gorgeous.  I would have loved to have had the opportunity to return and spend more time in this area.  However, timing did not allow for a return visit.

 

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I would highly recommend this tour if you enjoy the outdoors and biking.  Keep in mind, though, that downtown Halifax and the surrounding neighborhoods are hilly and there were a couple of spots that required uphill climbs.

We headed back to the hotel to get rested and cleaned up for our evening.  We, again, had pre-booked a tour for the evening.  We enjoy restaurant tours very much when we visit a new area.   We chose the “Night Out on Quinpool Food Tour” through Local Tasting Tours.

“….a delicious evening discovering history, diverse ethnic cuisines, and sweet treats.”  The tour included five substantial food tastings at much-loved, locally-owned restaurants in the vibrant Quinpool neighborhood.  Cuisine would be shared by Lebanese, Greek, Thai and Korean restaurateurs with cheese cake as a final treat.

How could one go wrong?  Well, we did.   Poor planning and being unfamiliar with the area, we managed to miss the tour.  We could have called the guide and caught up with the tour since they provided a phone number.  We arrived at the meeting stop a few minutes late and the group had moved on.  However, our “comedy of errors” continued to  rear its ugly head.  I left my “cell” at the hotel and Steve’s phone wasn’t charged.  We drove around trying to look for  a group walking around, but were never able to locate them. This was not our first time doing this.  We once missed a food tour in Miami Beach for all the same reasons.  The first expensive lesson should have been learned, but we did it a second time.  Great precautions will be set up in the future to avoid any more of these missed tours.

It made for a crappy rest of the night.  We ended up ordering pizza for dinner from one of the recommended pizza shops provided by the bike tour guide.

We ate our meal, went to bed, and anticipated a good trip west, along the coast, to White Point Resort, the next morning.  A stop was anticipated at Peggy’s  Cove, which is one of the most photographed areas in Nova Scotia.

(To be Continued)

 

Nova Scotia Summer Vacation

Steve and I had the good fortune to secure a very difficult timeshare exchange through Resort Condominiums International (RCI) into White Point Resort in Nova Scotia.  This is the only timeshare available in Nova Scotia.  Summer weeks rarely show up for exchange since this is the peak time to visit this Canadian province.

Nova Scotia and Canada weren’t necessarily on our radar for vacation this year when the exchange was initially made last year.  However, Nova Scotia was somewhere that we had never been and it was a great opportunity to visit a yet unexplored area in North America.

I had over a year to plan our trip, hoping to see and do as much as possible during our visit. Although we greatly enjoy many, many destinations, it’s hard to make return trips when there are so many undiscovered and exciting places yet to be visited.

Our vacations are rarely “sit back and chill”.  Though we do that, we are mainly focused on getting the most immersion that we can in the visited area while on vacation.  Perhaps, we will never pass through this area again.  Fortunately, we will have our pictures, memories and experiences as reminders of our 12-day stay in Nova Scotia.

We like to book tours.  For us, many things are great when striking out on our own; yet, we have found that booking tours helps us get more “up-to-speed” and gain insight, history and local flavor that could potentially be missed while trying to do it all!  Not all budgets can afford tours, especially when there are many members in the family.   Our household has downsized to the point that we can now take vacations with purchased tours added on.

A big part of the vacation, for me, is the planning and research.  I had no idea what was unique to Nova Scotia or what to expect.  It was very exciting to learn about the different areas and the top things to see and do.

We left Norfolk airport during a blistering span of 98+ degree days with high humidity.  We flew into Newark for a plane change, and then a quick two-hour flight into Halifax airport. Upon arrival, we breezed through Customs.  We had applied for Global Entry and made the trip to Washington DC for interviews prior to this trip.  The Global Entry really didn’t improve our movement through Customs in Nova Scotia due to the fact that there was no waiting.  The airport and lack of foot traffic was so much different from all the other airports traveled.

We added five days onto our trip prior to our stay at White Point Resort in order to see other areas of Nova Scotia which were too far out for day trips.  Even with 12 days in Nova Scotia, we didn’t begin to see all it has to offer to those visiting her shores.

Upon leaving the airport, we headed north to Wine country for a couple of days to visit the quaint town of Wolfville and to enjoy some of the fruits of the area.

We arrived at the Blomidon Inn, a beautiful stately mansion, which was converted to a Bed and Breakfast many years ago.  Visitors can stay in rooms within the mansion or in other accommodations onsite.  We chose the Perth Cottage.  It was a great choice for us with its beautifully carved king bed, large jetted tub, and private terrace.  We reserved the Romance Package, which included sparkling wine and chocolates delivered to the cottage and a romantic dinner for two. There were beautiful gardens to explore throughout the property.  From beginning to end, we were very pleased with our choice of this inn for our stay in Wolfville.

 

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As with most travel days, we found ourselves quite exhausted.  We visited a local café for dinner, then headed back to the inn for some relaxation.  We made it an early night in order to be rested for our wine tour scheduled for the next day.

There are many wineries in the Wolfville area, which can be toured on one’s own.  However, we chose to book a tour with Uncorked Nova Scotia!  The next morning, we enjoyed a light breakfast at the inn.  We were picked up at the inn in the tour van at 10:30 by our tour guide,  Lila, from Go North Tours .  There was a total of eight for the tour.  The other six were from different areas of Canada.  We were told that we were fortunate with the timing of our visit to Nova Scotia.  A couple that had been in the area the previous week told us that it was quite cold, with the need for coats, hats, scarves and gloves.  The weather was quite exceptional throughout our stay.  It was sunny with temperatures in the upper 70’s.

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Our tour included visiting three wineries, a cheese house and herbal gardens.  Lunch was included at one of the wineries during the tour.  First, we visited Planter’s Ridge.  It was a lovely vineyard and our favorite of the three wineries, both for the wonderful wines and the beautiful setting.

 

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Next we headed to the Fox Hill Cheese House for some great tastings of various types of cheese produced onsite.  We found the products delicious and picked up a sampler pack to enjoy on our vacation.  Throughout the tour, our guide offered up great history on the region that we might not otherwise have learned on our own.

 

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Our next stop on the tour was Grand Pre’ Winery.  This was a lovely estate winery.  We enjoyed wine tastings prior to our lunch at their onsite restaurant, Le Caveau.  Dining was out on the patio and our group sat together, each enjoying one of the two selections offered.  The meal and company was quite enjoyable.

 

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L’Acadie Vineyards was the next stop on the itinerary.  This vineyard is organic certified and s the premier producer of traditional method sparkling Nova Scotia wines.  We were given a brief education on the difference  between sparkling wines and champagne.  The short answer is that only sparkling wines produced in the region of Champagne, France, outside of Paris can be called Champagne.

The last stop on this enjoyable four-hour tour was Tangled Garden, which had acres of beautiful wildflower gardens, herbs and fruits.  Many different products were available for sampling and purchase, all produced onsite utilizing the herbs, fruits, flowers and plants grown in the surrounding gardens.

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We were dropped off back at the Blomidon Inn.  Lila was a very interesting lady and she made the tour quite enjoyable.  We were happy that we chose this particular tour for our time in Wolfville.  It provided a great sampling of the area and some of the different wineries and vineyards that provided great opportunities to taste a variety of wines unique to the area.

For our final evening at the Blomidon Inn, we had dinner at the inn’s restaurant.  We relaxed in our cottage for a couple of hours, as it had been quite a day.  The inn offered fine dining in a comfortable atmosphere.  Many of the original furnishings and artwork of the 19th century mansion were on display throughout the dining room, library and lobby.  As part of our Romance Package, we enjoyed a lovely four course meal.  While we dined, our chocolates and sparkling wine were delivered to our cottage.  It was a great ending to a great day.

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The next morning, we enjoyed another light breakfast in the dining room and took a final stroll through the gardens before checking out.  Next stop, Halifax, the Capitol of Nova Scotia.

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To be continued…….

 

 

Virginia Beach Neptune Festival 2016

For over 30 years, I have attended the annual Virginia Beach Neptune Festival.  It is one of my two favorite annual event weekends.  Except for two years, when hurricanes roared through the area, we have stayed at the oceanfront for the three-day Boardwalk weekend.

This year the Neptune Festival was held September 30 through October 2.  While the weather was iffy leading up to the events, we managed to enjoy our time over the weekend. 

I had arranged a week’s stay, through a timeshare exchange, into one of my favorite resorts in Virginia Beach, Four Sails Resort.  It’s the hidden gem at the north end of the Boardwalk.  All units are oceanfront.  The staff is wonderful.  There are complimentary bikes and WIFI, and it’s budget friendly.

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At the Virginia Beach Neptune Festival, one can enjoy strolling 12 blocks of art, crafts and food along the Virginia Beach Boardwalk. There are a multitude of other happenings to be enjoyed by all.  Scheduled annual events include the Neptune Festival Grand Parade down Atlantic Avenue, a fireworks extravaganza, Neptune’s Atlantic Regatta and Volleyball Tournament,  the 8K and 5K Neptune’s Run, and music at the various oceanfront stages. 

 

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While I immensely enjoy all these events, my absolute favorite is the International Sandsculpting Championship.  I take many pictures of the incredible works of art created out of sand.  Each year, I marvel at the displayed talent of these artists, who come from around the world to create their sculptures of sand.

This year was no different.  All were incredible.  Of course, there were favorites, but I found each one quite intriguing and awe-inspiring.   I arrived on Friday afternoon and took the opportunity to snap many pictures prior to the crowds arriving.

Below are some of my personal favorites from the championship.

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In closing, I’m already looking forward to next year.  Consider Virginia Beach’s Neptune Festival when making your vacation plans for a visit to Virginia Beach. Take it from me, you won’t regret it.  It’s fun, fun, fun and usually really great weather!

Festivals and Events in Virginia Beach

Festivals and events in Virginia Beach can make planning your beach vacation all that more exciting.  Combining a stay at the beach with a scheduled festival or event can really round things out.

Virginia Beach offers tourists and locals, alike, a diverse array of opportunities to enjoy the oceanfront beyond the beach.  Not to diminish the beautiful wide Virginia Beach coastline, because that’s the main draw and it’s awesome; but sprinkle in some fun and entertainment  on top of that and……wow!

Things have already started popping at the oceanfront.  Spring has arrived, with the promises of Summer sun and sand on the horizon.

Today and tomorrow, from 10:00 am – 4:00 pm is the 12th annual Atlantic Coast Kite Festival.  ” American Kite Association members from throughout the East Coast will present kite demonstrations, perform kite routines to music, and fly giant kites (up to 80 feet long) that include an octopus kite!  Kite vendors will be on site to sell various kinds of kites. ”

Next weekend is shaping up with several events at the oceanfront, which are sure to attract many to the beach.  Don’t forget, Mother’s Day is next Sunday, May 8.    An annual favorite, at the south end of the oceanfront, is Monsters on the Beach.  This is a family-targeted event held at 6th Street on the beach.  This is a ticketed event that will be held Saturday and Sunday.  It’s loud, fast and exciting fun for everyone.

Midway on the Boardwalk at the 24th Street Stage, the Virginia International Pan Fest will be held on Friday and Saturday.  “Fusing together the rhythm of steel bands, ocean breezes, and great international food, the breathtaking Virginia Beach oceanfront becomes an “island paradise” for the weekend.”

May 13-15 offers three big events scheduled along the oceanfront. Talk about something for everyone….Beach Music Weekend, Neptune Festival International Spring Wine Tasting and Pirate Party on the Beach.  Whether you’re swinging and foot-tapping to the sounds of the oldies right on the beach at 30th Street, or making your way through the tasting stations for wines from around the world at 31st Street Park, or getting your “aaaarrrrrrrggggghhhhh” on at the Pirate Party at 17th Street; you’re sure to find a good time.

May 20-22 offers three great events at the oceanfront and nearby.   At the 31st Street Stage, The Sonrise Music Festival features Top Christian artists offering a variety of musical genres including cutting edge Top 40, Hip Hop, Indie, and Inspirational music.

At the Virginia Beach Convention Center at 19th Street, Tidewater Comicon takes place  on Saturday and Sunday.  Tidewater Comicon is Virginia’s Largest Comic Book and Pop Culture Event featuring Special Media Guests that you know and love!

Head out to Pungo for Warbirds over the Beach, an annual WWII Air Show.  Experience hundreds of re-enactors, actual warplanes of these times and entertainment reminiscent of the 1940s.  See fighters and bombers of our armed forces patrol the countryside to protect our homeland from the Axis forces.

The Memorial Day Holiday arrives and officially welcomes in “The Season” with the Salute to Summer festivities at the oceanfront. Salute to Summer is an unabashed “Star-Spangled” salute to great music, fun in the sun, and the military men and women who have sacrificed their lives throughout our history.  Live, free entertainment on three outdoor stages features music presented by local and regional bands.

The 33rd annual Pungo Strawberry Festival can’t be missed if you are a fan of this delicious fruit.  Attendance is expected to reach 120,000 over the course of this two-day festival.  Not only does the Festival have all the strawberries you can eat, offered in over 50 different ways, you can participate in activities like a pie eating contest and strawberry bake-off.  Continuous entertainment will be showcased on three stages, along with a parade, and one of the largest carnivals on the East Coast.  The fun also includes  a multi-million dollar military display, pig races, youth art show, and arts and craft booths.

America loves the Military and Virginia Beach has a strong Military presence and loves to show its support.  Each year, Virginia Beach celebrates and honors them with a special festival; The Patriotic Festival.  It’s a great time for all!  Several national touring artists will be performing over this three-day event, June 3-5.

Sports Championships on the Beach!  Enjoy great athletic competition and the beach all-in-one!  June 10-12, Virginia Beach again hosts the North American Sand Soccer Championships at the oceanfront.  “Known internationally as the “Gran Prix” of beach/sand soccer, the NASSC is the premier amateur and pro/am beach/sand soccer event worldwide.  The festival offers many other sand sport competitions including a COED Flag Football Beach Bash, Beach All-Volley Tennis USA, Beach Wrestling, the North American SANDLAX Championships, Beach Field Hockey and Volley Futbol.

Since I just can’t make time every weekend to be at the oceanfront for all these great events and festivals, I do have to pick and choose. I try to mix things up, but there’s two annual festivals that I never miss.  The annual Boardwalk Art Show is one of my two “never miss” festivals.  In its 61st year, this festival is a four-day event held over Father’s Day weekend each year (June 16-19).  Over 300 artists display their works of art for viewing and purchase.  Food and entertainment are also offered throughout the four days.

June 24-25 brings Hardee’s Latin Fest to the Beach.  It is a celebration of the sights and sounds of the Latin experience.  “National performers electrify the diverse audience with high-energy tunes that move the crowd to dance under the stars.  All performances will take place on a giant stage on the beach at 24th Street. Vendors and cultural activities in the park will round out the festival.”  Go and get your groove on!!!

High Summer is upon us as July rolls in.  For all you rock ‘n rollers out there, Sandstock is a great annual festival that is a beach-inspired variation of Woodstock.  National and local tribute bands pay homage to some of the great rock bands of our time; Aerosmith, Bon Jovi, ZZ Top, Lynyrd Skynyrd, Fleetwood Mac, Chicago and more!  All shows are free to the public July 1-3.  Rock on!

Are you ready to get funky?  The FunkFest Beach Party lands on the beach August 26-28.  This annual festival features music generated over the years by influential legends such as James Brown, Sly and the Family Stone, George Clinton, and The Ohio Players.  Funk brings a strong rhythmic groove of electric bass and drums to the foreground.  The FunkFest Beach Party will take place on a stage on the beach at 24th Street.

The American Music Festival combines many genres of music for all to enjoy for three days over the Labor Day weekend (September 2-4) .  It is one of the largest outdoor music events on the East Coast. “The sounds of rock, jazz, country, R&B, and more flood the Virginia Beach oceanfront.  The American Music Festival brings together national, regional, and local acts to play on a gigantic stage erected on the beach at 5th Street, as well as stages in all the parks along the boardwalk. ”   In its 23rd year, past acts have included Tanya Tucker, Kansas, Doobie Brothers, Little Richard, Kool & the Gang, The Beach Boys, KC & The Sunshine Band, Foreigner, Isaac Hayes, Goo Goo Dolls, Hootie & the Blowfish, Journey, Zac Brown Band, Blue Oyster Cult, Sister Hazel, Boyz II Men, Stone Temple Pilots, ZZ Top, Train, and Sheryl Crow.

“Celebrating one of the most cherished musical genres of all time, Blues at the Beach features two days (September 9-11) of concerts on an outdoor stage.  Local, regional, and nationally-recognized Blues acts share the stage for a riveting and heartfelt tribute to the sights, sounds, and soul of the American experience.  Blues stars James Harman, Terry Garland, Billy Boy Arnold, and many like them, have presented standout performances at the Virginia Beach oceanfront.”

Earlier in my post, I shared that I had two personal favorites regarding festivals and events in Virginia Beach.  The first was the annual Boardwalk Art Show.  The second……drum roll, please…..the annual Neptune Festival Boardwalk Weekend and International Sandsculpting Championship.  If I had to pick only one favorite, then it would definitely be this end-of-Summer festival held at the end of September.  The weather is normally in the mid to upper 70’s and ocean temperatures are still warm.  Similar to the Boardwalk Art Show in June, over 240 artisans display handmade work from paintings and sculptures, to photography and glass work.  However, the added bonus for me, is the International Sandsculpting Championship.  I am absolutely amazed by this artistry.  It’s simply mesmerizing to watch the artists transform crystals of sand into magnificent sculptures.  The Neptune Festival Boardwalk Weekend runs September 30 through October 2.

Note:  We have weekly accommodations for many of these festivals and events.  Please see our Rental Inventory.

Beachwoods Resort Is Ready For Your Arrival

Beachwoods Resort amenities are complete and open for owner and guest enjoyment!

Many of you have contacted me over the Winter looking for updates on Beachwoods Resort and its indoor water park, The Splash Zone.  I am happy to report that all Beachwoods amenities are completed and open for use. Except for the outdoor pool area, which is seasonal; I had the opportunity to use all the other onsite amenities.

If you’ve read some of my past blog posts, you probably know that Steve and I have enjoyed attending the scheduled events for OBX Taste of the Beach.  It is held each March around St. Patty’s Day.  It’s a great time to visit the Outer Banks.  Early Spring can offer days suitable for beach time and outdoor activities.  There is little traffic and there are wide open spaces on the beaches.

This year, I was able to secure a four bedroom unit at Beachwoods through an RCI exchange.  This four bedroom exchange only cost one additional point over a one bedroom unit.  We didn’t need the space, but I had to go for it.

We were assigned Unit 3202 in Mud Turtle Circle, the furthest buildings from the amenities and front entrance.  These buildings (3000-3200) were the last to be built by the original developers.  This location made for a quick trip out the back gate to the beach.

Unit 3202 is on the top floor of the 3200 building.  A three bedroom unit is located on the first floor.  Both units in the building have the same configuration, except the top floor unit has a fourth bedroom, which is a loft area up a stairway with two twin beds.

The unit is large and all upgrades and renovations have been completed.  This is my first stay in a unit at Beachwoods that has been thoroughly renovated and furnished since the resort upgrades began in November 2014.

This March week on the deck this morning was as beautiful as it was last night.  Believe it or not; in the quiet of last evening and this morning, I could hear the crashing of the ocean in the distance.  The sounds emanating from the surrounding forest, ponds and swamp is beautiful to hear.  Different song birds intertwining with the music offered by a chorus of frogs and water fowl is delightful to the ears in the quiet.

I’m sorry you missed being here this morning on the deck of my cottage in the woods.  I know that this time of year plays a part in the quiet all around.  The surrounding maritime forest is a peaceful setting, in which to start the day and end the evening.

While I do enjoy a great Summer beach week, I find the off and shoulder seasons to be equally enjoyable. Unlike many years past on the Outer Banks, the area has extended the season for enjoying many activities, restaurants and shopping throughout the towns of North Carolina’s barrier islands.

The new Beachwoods Resort provides a four-season opportunity for enjoying the Outer Banks any time of year.

 

The Florida Keys: No need to leave the US to find a tropical paradise

Steve and I just returned from our fourth visit to the Florida Keys. Many, many years ago, early in our marriage, we did a day trip to Key West from the Miami area.  It is a beautiful drive through the Florida Keys, but this trip can make for a very long day with lots of driving. Most of the Overseas Highway is two lanes, which can cause traffic back-ups and longer than normal drive times.

We returned to the Florida Keys for the first time in 2012 for a week over New Year’s.  We stayed at our timeshare in Key Largo at Anchorage Resort & Yacht Club.  This small resort sets on Florida Bay.  It is a basic resort offering clean accommodations, great staff and beautiful views from each waterfront unit.  Each evening, breathtaking sunsets  can be enjoyed from the large screened lanai. During our stay, we again made a day trip through the Keys to Key West.  Though closer than Miami, it was still a very long day making the roundtrip drive from Key Largo.

Last year, we visited the Topsider Resort in Islamorada, staying in one of our timeshares.  The units at Topsider are individual pedestal cottages.  The resort sets on Florida Bay and offers a nice beach area and pier with complimentary boat dockage available.   Determined to see more of Key West, we decided to make another day trip down to the Southernmost Point, take a trolley tour and see some sights.  Islamorada is closer than Key Largo, but the time in Key West was too short before we found the need to begin the drive back to the resort.

This year we again stayed at the Topsider Resort in Islamorda.  However, we finally determined that day trips to Key West were never going to provide enough opportunity to see and experience Key West.  This trip included a Key West stay prior to heading up the Keys to Islamorada for our week at Topsider.  The three days and two nights in Key West allowed us to see many sites and take a fun food tour with Key West Food Tours.

Our accommodations in Key West were incredible. This was not a timeshare stay.  We stayed at the Atlantis House, which sets across from Rest Beach, the White Street Pier and a quick bike ride from Higgs Beach, the Southernmost Point and Duval Street.  I couldn’t imagine a better location or accommodations in Key West.  They may exist, but I’m not familiar with them.

The Atlantis House offers two private suites off of the residence of Steve and Kayla.  After checking in and being given a tour of the Master Suite and all it had to offer, as well as being provided with useful information; we never saw our hosts again.  However, we were encouraged to contact either of them if we needed anything. They have several great bikes for their guests to use, a beautiful tropical garden area with several quiet sitting areas, and units that anticipate the needs of their guests.  We wanted for nothing during our stay.  Steve and Kayla also offer tours and services as add-ons. Steve is a boat captain and Kayla is a massage therapist.

We stayed at the Atlantis House over the Valentine’s Day weekend. The Master Suite offers a very romantic setting for a couple.  The suite is very unique with many beautiful antiques and eclectic furnishings.  The large jetted tub and walk-in shower were heavenly. The little kitchen area offers a bar sink, refrigerator and microwave.

The weather was mid-70’s and sunny during our stay.  We rode the bikes all around.  They were very convenient and it was so enjoyable to get out in the fresh air and feel the sun.  The White Street Pier and Higgs Beach area were great places to enjoy the sunset each evening versus our previous sunsets at Mallory Square.  It was much more peaceful and enjoyable.

Before leaving Key West, we continued the Valentine’s celebration at Latitudes at Westin’s Sunset Key Resort.  To visit the restaurant requires a 10-minute boat ride across the harbor to the resort.  Seating for dining is available indoors, on the patio or on the sand.  The service was excellent and we both enjoyed our dining experience.  We waited about 20 minutes for the boat to return after we finished our lunch.

We had an enjoyable ride up to Islamorada.  We stopped and picked up a few supplies at the Publix in Marathon.  We arrived in time to enjoy a beautiful sunset from the pier at the resort.  Our unit is third from the water and offers nice beach and water views from the deck and living area.  Our week was mostly spent relaxing onsite and visiting a couple of nearby restaurants.  The onsite pool was heated perfectly and the hot tub was nice and hot.  There is nothing fancy about the resort or units at Topsider, but we sure have enjoyed our stays the last two years.

Next year, if you need a sunny, tropical break from the cold Winter days without leaving the great 48, consider the Florida Keys.  Our eight days there provided a welcome break and re-energized us until Spring arrives.

 

OBX Taste of the Beach 2016

This will be our fourth year staying on the Outer Banks and attending the OBX Taste of the Beach.  I’m so happy that I discovered this great four-day event back in 2013.  This event is in its 7th year.  Take a look at the posted events.  Never will you get such a wide and varied opportunity to experience the culinary and libation offerings of the Northern Outer Banks like you will during this four-day event.  No grocery shopping or cooking is involved during this getaway.  There are so many unique events and experiences specifically created by local restaurants, breweries, and wineries to showcase their best and most popular offerings.

We have our accommodations nailed down for that week.  We’ll be staying at the new Beachwoods Resort with upgraded, state-of-the-art amenities geared to the four-season vacationer.  We are looking forward to our first stay at this premier resort since the completion of the Indoor Water Park, Lakeside Lodge and Fitness Center.

Now for the really hard part; narrowing down the events to attend.   It’s really tough.  But it must be done…..and it should be done rather quickly now that all the events have been posted.  Some events have limited tickets and many well sell out very quickly.

I just finished going through the offerings.  I’m thrilled with the change to the Grand Tasting, which is held on the last day of the event.  This will be our first year being able to attend this event, which has been moved up in the day to start at 1:00 pm and end at 4:00 pm, allowing time for travel back home.

If you love visiting the Outer Banks and enjoy unique and fun culinary experiences, consider placing this fun event on your list of potential getaways.  Rates on lodging are at a discount during March, which provides the opportunity to put your vacation dollars towards some of these exciting events…..and avoid grocery shopping and cooking.  Now that’s a vacation!

Check our rental inventory for the Outer Banks and other vacation destinations.  If your desired dates or area of interest is not listed, please contact us and we would be happy to assist you.

 

The Shoulder Season: Finding Enjoyment and Discounts

The fact is not everyone can or wants to travel to destinations during the shoulder season.    Many families are tied to the school calendar, which can limit the ability to visit popular destinations during the weeks leading up to and following high season.  Other folks have limited opportunities for travel during the year and want the best chance at optimal weather for the area or just enjoy being in the thick of things during prime season.

However, during the shoulder season, the weather can still be optimal and the greatness of the area can more easily be explored with less traffic and fewer vistors.  Opportunities for discounted lodging and activities, and specials at restaurants with no waiting for a table, can be a real payoff.  In order to draw in locals and visitors to these vacation areas during the shoulder season, many destination hot spots have created events and festivities that highlight the area.

Lodging can be deeply discounted in the weeks leading up to the prime Summer weeks at the beach or the weeks following Labor Day.  Financially, a stay at the beach in July may not be in the budget; however, the appealing rates of Spring and Fall may afford the traveler an opportunity to take a vacation that might not otherwise be possible.

For the traveler that wishes to stay in an otherwise “off-limits” property due to the high nightly rates, more economical pricing during a shoulder season week may make that resort getaway a reality instead of a budget buster.

Our family does travel to vacation destinations during prime season.  When our sons were in school, we found we were traveling when “everyone” else was traveling.  We really didn’t have any other choice.  Now that no school-aged children are involved in our travels, we have more flexibility for when we can travel.   We can take advantage of those discounts, upgraded units and views, and seeing and participating in seasonal festivities during our shoulder season getaways and vacations.

Our next planned shoulder season getaway will be to the Outer Banks in March.   This will be our fourth year visiting in March in order to participate in the events at the annual OBX Taste of the Beach, a four-day culinary and libation event.  “This fun food festival event features wine tastings, cooking classes, special multi-course menu presentations, brewery tours, tapas crawls, cook-offs, showdowns and even progressive dinners.”

Not only do we enjoy this fun event, we also enjoy visiting the Outer Banks during a slower season and quieter time.   The Outer Banks has become more of a four season destination over the years.  Many businesses and restaurants used to close during the off-season and re-open in the late Spring.  Now, there is no lack of opportunities for things to see and do, with open restaurants to visit and1 enjoy a great meal during any season of the year.

We found a great rate on our accommodations for our March stay on the Outer Banks.  Though we don’t need the space, we found a rate that we couldn’t say “no” to when we booked one of the four bedroom units at the new Beachwoods Resort in Kitty Hawk.

If you have the flexibility to travel during shoulder season weeks, give a favorite destination a visit during a different time of the year and take advantage of discounts and new experiences.

See our rental inventory to view current availability or contact us for assistance in finding lodging for your upcoming vacation.

Time Spent Together Is Priceless

The following post reflects the sentiments of our family.  Timeshare ownership has afforded our family 30+ years of vacations.  Time spent together is indeed priceless.

Post by missycrews, TUG Member (December 29, 2015)

Looking back at 2015…Grateful for TS’s!

As is my habit at the close of a year, I take a look back to see what things went well, and what I hope to change for the new year. I usually involve the kids in this, too. The things that stood out to them? Things they want to repeat/not change? Our timeshare vacations! We own four weeks of timeshare, and we managed to be in a timeshare for 6 separate weeks in 2015! (Plus a long weekend at Memorial Day, and a couple of weekends spent with my parents at their exchanges.) I could not have done this without our timeshares.

We had an extra vacation week at Trade Winds Inn in Rockland for Feb break, a week at the Samoset for April break, Memorial Day weekend picked up as a last call at Bethel Inn, our home week at Cold Spring over the 4th, a week at Shawnee in late July, a week at Timber Creek in MO to visit family in August, and now a week here at Cold Spring once again.

We’re hoping for 6 weeks in 2016, too. We don’t go anywhere fancy (we’re not a Disney kind of family) but the time spent together is priceless. We love having room to spread out, enjoy meeting other families, have fun finding things to do that are off the beaten path. Yes, the maintenance fee for those four weeks is sometimes hard to pay.  But I do it every year, and then look forward to creating memories together with my family! Here’s to a great 2016 for all of you here on TUG, and here’s to many more wonderful vacations!