BADDECK: BROADWATER INN
P & Family
We booked the “new” cabin at the Broadwater that is located on the shore road perhaps a quarter mile down the road from the Inn and the other cabins. It sits back from the road but has a beautiful view of the Bras d’Or and is pleasantly secluded and quiet. It is a short drive to all of the restaurants, Bell museum and other attractions in Baddeck.
I believe the owners acquired this cabin in 2007 and made some improvements in the form of replacing the windows and the doors – there is good cross-ventilation throughout. The fusebox and electrical lines were in what appeared to be an unfinished state behind the main door. The layout downstairs is “open” – large kitchen well equipped with dishes, glasses and everything you might need to cook in; dining table; pull-out sofa-bed, sitting area and satellite TV and audio. Upstairs are two smallish, but adequate bedrooms and a decent bathroom- shower only.
Overall, the furniture, particularly that in the living area, was insultingly cheap and random stuff, much of which could easily have been liberated from somebody’s cast-offs at the curb. This is not supposed to be “Animal House” – the tariff was around $185/day plus all those onerous taxes. There really is no excuse for this.
We also noticed that the water temperature was not, as you might expect, controlled by the hot and cold water knobs but rather by cabin poltergeists and vacillated between scalding hot and ice cold. Upon inquiry, we were told that the prior owner had installed some kind of device that ostensibly was supposed to protect his children from scalding and that, earlier in the year, sand or some other clogging element caused this phenomenon we experienced, but it had not reoccurred since then. Whatever. We were offered a move to a two-bedroom suite in the main Inn or $50 off. Because of the trouble to pack up and move our Clampett-like baggage and equipment, we settled for the $50, but were not really thrilled about it.
On our favorite topic- babysitting for dinner – the Innkeeper, like many others we had encountered during this trip, had no clue and no ideas or suggestions. Once again we were on our own and, through the local tourist bureau, we contacted the Inverary Resort in town where Debbie at the front desk kindly called her contacts and arranged for babysitting. Thanks Debbie, it worked out well.
We were not allowed to share in the breakfast at the Inn and so have no idea what it was like.
This cabin could really be a nice place and worth the money they charge for it. But it isn’t now.
CABOT TRAIL, MARGAREE VALLEY: THE NORMAWAY INN & CABINS
P & Family
After bumping your way down Egypt Road for a few miles, you will come upon the Normaway sign and a homey, old-fashioned, tree-lined drive that takes you back to the 1920s main building and cottages – the newer cottages are farther down the drive set out in two semi-circular drives.
Your Normaway experience will pretty much depend on your expectations and, mind you, I knew what I was getting into because I had been there before and nothing seemed to have changed in twenty years. Some on the island say that there is a reason why the “L” was left out of Normaway. I would be one of those, but that’s not all bad.
We made reservations on the phone for a 3-night package with one day of guided fishing. We asked for confirmation but were advised the Internet was down and, I guess, the fax machine was broken too. We reconfirmed on the phone before we left the States and the Internet was still down and the fax machine was still broken.
My wife, baby and I stayed in one of the newer (this is a relative term at the Normaway) cabins that had a covered porch with picnic table, decently comfortable bed, small bathroom, random sitting furniture and a giant whirlpool tub right next to the bed. Party anyone? The sink stopper was missing and the bathtub stopper didn’t fit. We had one glass and, after my wife cut her feet repeatedly on small glass shards in the bathroom, we guessed what happened to the other one. There was no phone in the cabin, which was fine with us; cell phones don’t seem to work at the Normaway either, but there is an old-fashioned telephone booth on the driveway that has a working phone if you need one. The cabin also had a cassette player dressed up in the form of a ’30s radio set. Yup, cassettes. No AC, and it was hot and damp for a couple of days.
No babysitter to be found by anyone on the premises and that raised our stress level considerably at the dinner hour. We were virtually rescued by Tanya, the extremely helpful and pleasant young woman, first day on the job at the front desk, who was charged with checking folks in, addressing whatever complaints or issues they had, booking dinner reservations, acting as seating hostess and, it turns out, carrying our baby around while we had dinner. If I didn’t see it, I wouldn’t have believed it. She also packed us a picnic basket dinner one night, course by course. We nominate Tanya as Normaway good-will ambassador of the decade, and owner Dave MacDonald is lucky to have her (Dave is also a very nice guy).
Anyway, the dinner menu looks quite good, but the results are not really so good except for the soups, the fresh fish and some deserts. I think a fair number of local residents frequent the Normaway dining room because it may be close to the only “fine dining” game with 50 kilometers in any direction. Dinner scheduling is also somewhat weird – it seemed that you either booked at 6:45/7 pm. or you couldn’t book and hoards of people sat at the same time. Breakfast is quite good and less crowded.
There is a communal ice machine and, not to be overlooked, you can use the laundry facilities. There are games and folk singing in the parlor most nights. No TV that I remember. Trails to be hiked, horses in the pastures and great scenery. Logistics interfered with the fishing, but the Margaree is right around the corner.
We liked the Normaway. It is reminiscent of an old woodsy camp, somewhat disheveled and disorganized, trying to keep up with the times in odd kinds of ways, producing edible but not good food and, overall, comfortable as your old slippers. Just don’t expect high-end lodging and gourmet fare. They’ve been ambling along for almost eighty years and I think they can do without the “L” for at least another twenty.
GUYSBOROUGH COUNTY: DES BARRES MANOR INN
P & Family
We arrived on a cloudy day in Guysborough, a very picturesque little fishing village whose industries have mostly faded away leaving only tourism (and a micro-brewery) as the only economic game in town. This is a well-kept place, with numerous 19th century homes (each with date and original owner plaque) and littered with 19th century churches of every conceivable denomination.
The DesBarres in sits one street above the “water” street and is a handsome converted house once belonging to a family of plutocrats and statesmen. Bill was on duty when we checked in and upgraded us to the “honeymoon suite” – OK, we had the baby with us, but it wasn’t as though the room was filled with hearts, velour, black lights and hot tubs or other “honeymoon” paraphernalia. Actually, the room (and others I peeked into) was large, very tastefully furnished, had a nice bathroom, good cross ventilation and a wonderful view out the back down the rolling hills. No AC but we didn’t need it. It had a nice decorative fireplace, too. We were very happy with this room.
Bill could not have been more helpful. He dragged the big red monster duffle up the stairs to the room; arranged a babysitter to cover us for dinner; did our laundry (no charge); gave us advice; procured ice and wine glasses; made cocktails; served dinner and was a very helpful one-man band in all respects. And he was new at the job! I hope they keep Bill stays on because he is the best.
Dinner at the DesBarres is gourmet. It is a relatively small dining room, so reservation times and menu selections are somewhat limited, but each of the courses was uniformly excellent. The wine list was the most extensive we saw in Nova Scotia and not vastly overpriced. All of this will cost you a pretty penny, so be prepared. Breakfast was also wonderful.
The DesBarres is exactly what we think a country Inn should be and our two days there were thoroughly enjoyable.
HALIFAX: COURTYARD HALIFAX DOWNTOWN
P & Family (baby 8mos)
Forget that this is a formulaic Marriott Courtyard property. It is new, the rooms are relatively large and well appointed and the beds are very comfortable. The staff is very pleasant and efficient. The location can’t be beat – one block from the harborfront and a few blocks from the park. It has great views from the rooftop terrace. Some rooms have private large balconies. Parking is a little steep at $19/day but when we showed up on a Friday, the desk man suggested that we could “feed a parking meter” on one of the many adjacent streets until 6 pm. when parking becomes free for the weekend – and we did. The only mystery to me is why this location was not snapped up by a high-end hotel brand.
PICTOU: EVENING SAIL BED & BREAKFAST
P & Family (baby 8mos.)
We checked in late due to a much-delayed arrival into Halifax and received a warm and pleasant greeting and introduction to the property. Our room was in a building adjacent to the main house and was set up like an efficiency apt. – small but competent kitchen, sitting area, comfortable enough bed and undistinguished bathroom. The room had sliding glass doors as the main entrance and one small window on the side.
We obviously kept the drapes covering the glass doors closed for the night, giving the room something like the feel of a tunnel. It was also hot and even the fan provided didn’t help that much. The furnishings could best be described as “eclectic” and had a yard-sale feel to them.
Overall, this is a pleasant place run by friendly folks, but I think the daily tariff was too steep for what we got.
Breakfast was served at 8:30 am. sharp and was quite good. The innkeeper promised that we would make the 9:30 ferry to P.E.I and we did, with plenty of time to spare.