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Digby Pines: A grand hotel rises to the level of high tides
A grand hotel on the Bay of Fundy in Nova Scotia
Digby is known for two things not usually found on your standard travel itinerary.
First, it sits on the Bay of Fundy, which has the highest tides in the world, at times approximating a 52-foot drop between high and low tides, the latter resembling literal mudflats at your feet. In Digby, the difference measures a mere 20-30 feet of water. Impressive enough.
The Changing Tide Diner, Rising Tide Café, and Tidal Boatyards provide constant reminders of the cosmic peculiarities of the town. The other Digby phenomenon is that it is The Scallop Capital of the World. But more on that later.
The town is a combination of a working fishing village combined with a quiet tourist getaway where visitors and locals easily mingle. The Nothin’ Fancy Furniture Store sets an appropriate tone for the town.
The Evangeline Trail from Digby to Annapolis Royal, its nearby northern neighbor, is still reminiscent of the forest primeval immortalized in Longfellow’s poem by the same name. The “murmuring pines and the hemlocks” continue to line the road: Greenery so intense as to require a richer, deeper color to describe it.
Annapolis Royal is so steeped in Mi’kmaw (one of the First Nation people who initially inhabited Canada), English and French history, that even their gardens are considered historic, with floral arrangements dating back to the 16th century. The official name? Historic Gardens, of course, where horticultural practices of the Mi’kmaw are on display. So too are those of the early French settlers who found a way in the mid-17th century to harness those aforementioned tides through the use of dikes in order to make the land arable. The gardens dazzle visitors with a diversity of design, variety of blooms, and explosions of color that disperse splendor like multi-hued shrapnel.
Soft mauves spar with demanding purples, subtle yellows complement arrogant fuschias, perky pinks play against brilliant reds. Some flowers beg to be noticed while others preen and primp without guile, knowing they effortlessly capture your attention.
Fort Anne was the scene of major battles between the French and English
Across the street lies Fort Anne, a resplendent attraction in its own right, which saw multiple battles between the English and the French as control of the city changed hands seven times over 400 years between the two sides. As a travel writer, I have been the unhappy recipient of many a fort tour over many a year. I don’t particularly like forts. But, Fort Anne made me reassess the decades-long aversion. Covering 37 acres of land, every exhibit, sign, plaque, display kept me engrossed in the history and enmeshed in the past.
Visit to the Tidal Power Station. It is the first and only tidal plant in North America to generate electricity by harnessing those powerful waters of the Bay of Fundy. Think they learned anything from the Acadians who long ago tamed the tides for agricultural purposes? Seems like nature coming full circle.
The town places a heavy emphasis on preserving heritage houses, and there’s community outrage preventing the development of fast-food restaurants. No McDonalds will reign over Annapolis Royal.
Scallops are everywhere -- on pasta and pizza, in chowders and salads, in rolls and in wraps. On one dinner menu at Digby Pines, Scallops were served breaded, grilled, bacon-wrapped, pan-seared and as a salad add-on. I didn’t see any scallop ice cream but it’s probably because I didn’t look hard enough. Even the local Shell gas station got into the act by renaming itself “The Scallop Shell”… By this time, my eyes were definitely beginning to roll. And the last thing I wanted to eat was a scallop!
And yes, there are many other areas of interest around, but I chose, like the tides and the scallops, to remain local -- and happily returned to my bamboo-laden, hyper-allergenic, compost-craving, energy-saving room. It’s sure going to be hard to stay at a regular Holiday Inn the next time I travel: Where am I going to put my left-over pizza? For more information, visit www.digbypines.ca.
Photos by Victor Block, except hotel shots from Digby Pines.
Fyllis Hockman is a multi-award-winning travel journalist who has been traveling and writing for over 30 years — and is still as eager for the next trip as she was for the first. Her articles appear in newspapers across the country and websites across the internet. When not traveling, she is almost as happy watching plays or movies, working out, and sitting on a barstool next to her travel-writing husband.