9 Reasons to Visit Liverpool, Nova Scotia

Just recently, the Region of Queen’s mayor, John Leefe, appealed to Paul McCartney to come to Liverpool, Nova Scotia for a quick trip and the former-Beatle could see his hometown’s namesake and sip beer overlooking a river named after Sir Paul’s famous Mersey. And although this never transpired maybe Paul will slip in at a later date when he has more time.

Here are my favorite reasons to visit Liverpool:

  1. Authentic Architecture: Many historic towns are restored to their former glory through excavating and following old plans. Liverpool doesn’t need to do this. The town has these old places in great abundance representing the 1700’s, 1800’s and prosperous early 1900’s when Liverpool was a prominent ship-building community.
  2. Beaches: Nowhere else in Nova Scotia can you find as many beaches within a 15 miles radius as around Liverpool.
  3. Fort Point Ligthhouse: One of the last great, working lighthouses in Nova Scotia the Fort Point light is also a museum.
  4. Simeon Perkins Museum: In the days of the privateers Simeon Perkins was a leader in outfitting privateer vessels and his original home along with artifacts is on display.
  5. Privateer Days: Usually around July 1st, this festival features pirates and a running gun battle with the King’s Orange Rangers and Liverpool privateers versus American privateers and pirates. Great action!
  6. Rossignol Cultural Centre: This is a celebration of history including aboriginal life, as well as having a very interesting outhouse museum.
  7. Sherman Hines Museum: View the photographs of one of the world’s finest photographers.
  8. White Point Beach Resort: One of eastern Canada’s top resorts with a full compliment of surfing, bike and kayak rentals.
  9. World Class Artists: Painter Roger Savage and folk artist Joe Winters lead a group of premier artists who sell their art all over the world.

In addition, Liverpool was the home of Thomas Raddall, one of Canada’s greatest fiction authors with books like “His Majesty’s Yankees”and “Hangman’s Beach.”

Cat Ferry Nipped at Yarmouth

Since 1998 the town of Yarmouth, Nova Scotia has welcomed the arrival of a ship with two hulls that runs on jet engines. An unusually fast ship the Cat Ferry cut in half the two-day trip from Bar Harbor, Maine to the southwest Nova Scotia town. This brought American tourists to Nova Scotia complete with cars, recreational vehicles or tour buses.

The Cat ferry began service 12 years ago and boasted between 100,000 and 150,000 passengers every year. However, in recent years that number has dropped to be low 76,000 and the service only servivied through government subsidies: $1.3 million in 2005; $2.5 million in 2007; and $4.4 million in 2008. In 2009 the service was given the astounduing sum of $12 million. This is a subsidy of around $158 a person.

Cat Ferry Nipped at Yarmouth
Cat Ferry Nipped at Yarmouth

This is not the first hit for Yarmouth. In the early 1990′s a series of industry closings hurt ther area so tourism played a big part in the economic well-being. A few years ago the venerable Prince of Fundystopped operations. This traditional ferry service brought people in from Maine on a more regular basis than the Cat and its demise hurt many accommodation operations including bed-and-breakfasts as well as hotels and restaurants.

It is not that the Cat was the “end-all-and-be-all” of tourism dollars coming to Nova Scotia. It is just one in a string of tourism losses for Yarmouth including a pullout by Starlink, an air carrier that started service from Yarmouth to Maine less than a year ago.

With the high Canadian dollar, American Homeland Security roadblocks and the economic hits in the U.S. tourists from the south as a dying breed. In addition, the improvement of roads in Maine and southern new Brunswick mean that trip from Halifax to Boston and vice versa is a lot quicker than it used to be and, even with high gas prices, a lot cheaper than taking the Cat.

The traditional gateway to the U.S. by water has now closed. But this does not mean that southwest Nova Scotia is doomed. The loss of the ferries just means that Nova Scotia has to change its campaign for drawing tourist dollars into the province. What worked in the 1990′s does not necessarily translate into revenue anymore.

And at $158 a visitor surely we can spend our money more wisely to get a bigger bang for southern Nova Scotia.

Yarmouth’s Ferry Tale

The decision this month by Nova Scotia’s government to end its subsidizing of the fast-ferry service from Bar Harbor, Maine to Yarmouth, Nova Scotia has left many tourism operators scrambling to reorganize their businesses.

For years a key tourism link between Atlantic Canada and New England has been the ferry. The “Scotia Prince” a  car-carrying cruise ship, was the mainstay of the ferry link until the Cat Ferry, a high-speed catamaran ferry, came into service. The “Scotia Prince” was pulled from service in 2004 and now the Cat has broken the link.

Today, the Canadian government announced today that it is looking into investing in a ferry service that will once again join Nova Scotia to the U.S. Peter MacKay, the Defence Minister and leading representative of the governing federal party for Nova Scotia, has commeced a study that is supposed to be ready by February.

What is evident is that there will be a seaborne link to Maine from here. And even though the new NDP government of Darrell Dexter announced that the province is pulling its support the key to the action was the line “in its present form. The Cat was a luxury, a functioning toy that could never replace the “work horse” function of the traditional, car-carrying “Scotia Prince.” It was expensive and its schedule messed up tour operators and accommodation businesses on the South Shore.

Whether he meant to or not, by pulling his government’s support for the expensive and highly-subsized Cat Ferry Darrell Dexter has succeeded in opening up the dialogue and forcing both the South Shore citizenry and the federal government to bring options to bear.

What I predict will follow is a better, most commercially-viable link that will revitalize tourism.

Hiking Tours in Nova Scotia

Here is a guest blog by popular travel blogger Rob Barham

If you want to hike in Nova Scotia, whether you are an experienced hiker or not, you can easily take a tour which starts and ends in Halifax, the capital of this ocean influenced Canadian province. Although the hike is primary, tours also include experiences that will give you insight into Canadian history and culture. It’s possible to get tours which transport your bags from point to point to save your back too if desired.

Accommodation on the trekking tours is typically at cozy Bed and Breakfast hotels where you will get a warm Nova Scotia welcome.

Nova Scotia is one of Canada’s maritime provinces and can easily be reached by a flight from the UK to Halifaxwhich only takes about 6 hours with a direct flight. Nova Scotia has a very diverse nature and is ideal for hiking adventures. Also recommended for active holidaymakers is cycling, kayaking, fishing and sailing.

Halifax
It is easy to find your way around Halifax and most of the city’s attractions are within walking distance. The harbour area is pleasant with old restored warehouse buildings. It is also where the Maritime Museum of the Atlantic has their home.

Local Highlights
Crystal Crescent Beach, about 40 km south of Halifax. From the beach you can see the lighthouse on Sambro Island, which is the oldest functioning in North America.

White Point Beach Resort, located by the sea. Our resort is full of history and was once (1928), a private hunting and fishing lodge. Today it is a well-functioning resort with many activities. Try the tasty lobster, which Nova Scotia is so famous for.

Kejimkujik National Park, enjoys a coastal landscape with tundra-like vegetation an dramatic rock formations along the beach. Look for seals and beautiful orchids. Go inland and explore the huge wilderness area with forests, many lakes and rich wildlife. You will walk in a in a relatively flat terrain between 300 years old trees.

Brier Island – Whale watching in the Bay of Fundy. An awe inspiring experience. There is no guarantee you will see them but there is a good chance you will see whales and dolphins.

Tips
If you have not bought any equipment for the hiking tour, you have a good opportunity here in Halifax. Canadians are good at “outdoor wear”, and you get great value for money on brands like The North Face and of course Canada Goose.

At night the city tour Ghost Walk of Historic Halifax is highly recommended. It need not be booked but the meeting place is to gather at the Old Town Clock, located halfway up the hill to the Halifax Citadel – an old British fort.

Rob Barham operates great travel sites such as voyage vietnam .co

Acadien Bus Lines

One of the easiest ways to get around Nova Scotia, New Brunswick and Prince Edward Island is Acadien Lines buses. For many years travel throughout Nova Scotia was hampered by inefficient sub-lines that rarely corresponded with the major carriers. This scared off bus travelers because the time and money spent did not equal the expectations of the sightseer.

Acadien Bus Lines
Acadien Bus Lines

For example, 10 years ago ferry travelers who took the bus to Yarmouth from Halifax were subject to a wild ride in an old coach. Upon their arrival they dumped off at a gas station almost a mile from the Prince of Fundy ferry terminal.

The bus service in Nova Scotia has been dramatically changed since then and Acadien Lines has played a big part. Th company dates back to 1937 when its buses were under the name SMT (Eastern) Ltd. In 1995, SMT acquired the trans-provincial Acadien Lines Ltd. and Nova Charter Services Ltd. which enabled the bus lines to offer its customers traditional shuttle transportation, package delivery, and charters for large groups.

In March 2004, Acadien Lines joined with Quebec-based Groupe Orléans Express, allowing complete coverage of eastern Canada. This means that travelers to Montreal can be connected to Halifax in a wide variety of routing including the townships and Gaspé regions of Quebec and rural New Brunswick.

Activity Sectors

The main activities of Acadien lines now includes:

  • Intercity passenger transportation throughout eastern Canada
  • Specific charter transportation including sightseeing tours
  • Intercity courier and baggage services
  • Bus station management
  • Coverage of New Brunswick, PEI and Nova Scotia as well as Quebec
  • Passport program

So if you don’t want to rent a car take the bus!

Is Nova Scotia RV Unfriendly?

A few years back I was accosted by an awful little man who owned a campground down the road. The reason? I had allowed a friend to park his RV on my acreage while he drove around Nova Scotia in his small car. He was from the west and wanted a break from the confines of his vehicle. In addition to bothering me this overzealous campground nut went to the local grocery store and banged on the doors of two RV’s from the U.S. who had parked for the evening.

I’m not an RV’er but I used to work in tourism and anything to do with tourism in the province interests me. Since then I have been doing research into this man’s claim that RV’s have to park in a registered campground. Here’s what I found on a sign at a Walmart.

“Section three (3) Article three (3) of the Tourism Accommodations Act states: “no person shall use, maintain, operate or manage a camping establishment or permit the use of any lands for the overnight parking or RV for the traveling or vacationing public unless there is a licence which is in force. 1994-95, c.9, s.3.”

I remember phoning up Doug Mathews of Tourism Nova Scotia and asking him about this ban and he was unapologetic. He gave me the impression that RV’ers were not important to Nova Scotia tourism and that they should camp in authorized camping areas to avoid “dumping their toilets in the ditches,” as he explained. He also said that they never bought gas here and “just a few groceries.” What an attitude for a paid employee of ours.

I don’t know if this attitude has changed at all but the law is supposed to be repealed in the spring. (Andrew Cornwall, the one who gave me the picture and wrote a study on the RV situation in Nova Scotia, has since informed me that the signs came down last fall and the law is supposed to be changed any time now)

It’s evident that he either has buddies in the Campground Association or they saw him robbing a bank.Because my RVing friends told me that in RV magazines and websites Nova Scotia has been chastised for this behavior toward RVers. And in the tourism economy we are going through right now (dismal) you would think that every RV coming here was sacred.

For Andrew Cornwall’s study, The Economic Effects in Nova Scotia
of the RV Overnight Parking Ban and Aspects of Campground Minimum Standards
, Click Here

The Silver Dart Flies Again

When the average person is asked about the accomplishments of Alexander Graham Bell he or she will probably lift up a cell phone. However in Canada he is known for his accomplishments with voice transmissin and providing the very first heavier-than-air air machine to ever fly in this country.  For over thirty years Bell spent his  summers in Baddeck, Nova Scotia, with his wife and family but he brought his work with him. This included the world’s first hydrofoil and an airplane built under his direction by the Aerial experimental Association in Hammondsport, New York.

In 1909, after successful tests in the U.S., Bell had his craft, dubbed The Silver Dart, disassembeld, crated and shipped to Nova Scotia for trials here. When assembeld the aircraft had a wingspan of 14.9 meters and weighed in at 390 kilograms including the pilot, who had to be careful about his weight.

On February 28th, the aircraft was dragged to the ice of Bras D’Or Lake by a team of horses. The plane was constructed of wood with a silk fabric covering over the wings and powered by a Curtiss, water-cooled engine that developed 40 horsepower. This engine sat on the back of the plane and the propellorwas desgned to push the craft.

The next day,  February 23rd, J.A.D. McCurdy, an engineer who worked with Bell, made history by piloting the first powered airplane a British subject within the British Empire.

If you fast-forward 100 years there is a former-Canadian astronaut, Bjarni Tryggvason, who just finsihed the trials of a modern Silver Dart.  Closely modeled after the original airplane Tryggvason got his version a few meters off the ground at a test run in Hamilton, Ontario. Now the “pilot to the stars” is packing up his craft and shipping it to Baddeck, Nova Scotia, to fly this crude machine into the very airspace where McCurdy thrilled Bell and a host of Canadian and foreign onlookers.

TIANS Against Halifax Historic Properties Redevelopment

The (Halifax) Historic Property core region is one of the most defining elements on the Halifax Waterfront. Any development that mitigates the authentic experience and preservation of this area would be very short-sighted and detrimental to tourism over the long term.

– Tourism Industry Association of Nova Scotia

It is now standard practice in big business to develop for the sake of development. In other words, ripping down the old and building the new seems to be the ultimate way to drive the economic engines. And if this isn’t happening then the economy is in recession.

During the past ten years Nova Scotia has lost dozens of historic buildings including two gas stations that date back to the 1920′s. But those are new compared to the buildings from the 1800′s that are suffering the wrecking ball. And why is this happening? Because the powers-that-be figure that tearing down historic buildings, ones that have been saved by previous administrations, is the only way to retain or gain a good tax base.

And what happens when the developers lose? They throw fits. This is because they have spent tens of thousands of dollars on architects and consultants so why wouldn’t they? The real problem is that there are no hard and fast rules about dealing with historical landmarks. The rules seem to change with each mayor:

1973: The city council formally supported the preservation of the Historic Properties ares north of Duke Street from Granville Street to the water. This recognition made Halifax a leader in preserving history.

2002: The Heritage Canad foundation, a national organization dedicated to preserving the architectural heritage and historic places of Canada, chose Halifax to host its conference. They found that vacationers want to visit historic areas and their preservation is vital.

2008: Armour Group wants to destroy the main buildings and keep the facades. This will take in the last original area of Halifax.

What TIANS is saying is that the Armour Group should not have been lead on to believe that they could destroy old properties for the sake of a new development. Armour Group and certain city councilors argue that there is not enough office space in Halifax. Actually, Halifax has over 1,000,000 square feet of vacant land in downtown Halifax.

There are a lot of stupid moves in Halifax planning. (The Cogswell exchange was one of them) Rather than destroy the heritage properties why not look at the available land? Because you know what happens to many buildings that are destroyed in Halifax? They become parking lots. And tourists can only park once.

Kat Gurholt – The Best Photographer in Nova Scotia

Judging by the title you’d have to say I was stretching things a bit. I mean everyone thinks that they know the “best” photographer in Nova Scotia. And Sherman Hines would probably have a few things to say about my ravings.

Sherman Hines is about the best scenic photographer in the world. For years he has honed his craft so that almost every standard depiction of Peggy’s Cove and the Bluenose schooner is either Sherman’s or a knock-off of his shooting style.

In that regard Kat Gurholt does a great Sherman. Not only does she get the shot and the lighting in the Sherm style she adds a few of her own spins like “messin’ with the fog” and switching to black-and-white. Kat released a coffee table book earlier this year with some fabulous shots of Nova Scotia from Blomidon to Halifax harbour. And while Sherman may still hold the crown for scenic shots Kat can also shoot people.

Whether its the recent Blue Man Group concert or a local bar band Kat’s got it down. She doesn’t necessarily study the shot but takes a steady stream of pictures adjusting the lighting and composition as she goes. In fact you have probably seen her bopping around in front of the band. In fact the guys in Acoustic Soul consider her their “personal photographer” although she will hit as many as five clubs in a night.

My favorite subject of her recent photos was the Nova Scotia International Tattoo. Kat got close and personal with a few of the bands and it looks like she’s marching with them!

Lats Tuesday Kat presented local celebrity and Beatles performer, Hal Bruce, with a hardcover coffee table book of his three Martime Beatle Events. She had collected the shots and arranged them in a form that a publisher could bind into a beautiful book. So she is not only the best photographer she is a giver of the first kind. In fact, she has also given me permission to use her shots in my blog.

To contact Kat: Actually, she is working for many projects covering Asia and Europe, as Voyage Vietnam photo but you can contact by her Twitter or Google +

“The Ocean” – VIA’s Train from Halifax to Montreal

When train travel is all but extinct compared to what it was 50 years ago the Montreal-Halifax route is a real crowd-pleaser. ”The Ocean” is a passenger train that runs 6 times a week each way between Montreal and Halifax.

“The Ocean” – VIA’s Train from Halifax to Montreal
“The Ocean” – VIA’s Train from Halifax to Montreal

On the Montreal-to-Halifax leg, “The Ocean” leaves Montreal in the evening and the traveler gets to see the townships along the St. Lawrence before drifting off to sleep. In the very early morning Chaleur Bay comes into view as the train heads south across New Brunswick. It stops in Moncton just before noon and arrives in the historic Halifax train station in mid-afternoon. Going back the “The Ocean” leaves Halifax in the afternoon and arrives in Montreal the next morning.

“The Ocean” – VIA’s Train from Halifax to Montreal

Economy Perks

Comfort Class: Economical. You can stretch out your legs, lean back into the headrest and at night, a service attendant will offer you a pillow and blanket.

Service Car: A service counter where all passengers can order refreshments, snacks and sweets. Also, there is a baggage compartment where extra or bulky items can be stored. In addition there is a special suite where persons with reduced mobility can travel in an environment specially designed to make their journey pleasant. As well, it serves as a lounge area.

Easterly Class

Passengers on Easterly Class have dinner in the evening and breakfast the next morning. Also included is entrance to the dome car for sparkling wine. Examples of the dining includes tasty Nova Scotia smoked salmon and crab appetizers as well as chicken breast with berry sauce, Prince Edward Island potatoes and Maritime vegetables. Dessert has been known to be scrumptious apple caramel cake topped with whipped cream. There is also a sleeper arrangement but it is rather spartan and this was the only part where we were disappointed.

VIA 1 Lounge: This is for 1st Class passengers. Dome Car: See the sights in a 360 degree view.

It is a great trip and many Americans can take it by first jumping the Amtrak from New York to Montreal.