Guest post: Awesome Amherst by L-A

Today, friends, we are in for another guest post treat. L-A, my long-time friend and boss over at Fashionable People, Questionable Things went on an unexpectedly epic road trip a couple of weeks ago to Amherst, Nova Scotia. She required very little convincing to make the transition from fashion and popular culture blogger to travel blogger. Join me in welcoming L-A to Bite-sized Travel! 

Unexpectedly Awesome: Amherst

With a sign outside of town that says, “Faith in our people. Pride in our products.” you’d be forgiven for wondering if you should stop in or drive on past Amherst. Honestly, if my friend Jen hadn’t taken me to her hometown for a visit, I’m not sure I would have stopped.

And that would have been a mistake. Because for all y’all driving past Amherst, let me stop you right there: this town is unexpectedly delightful.

The town itself is quite pretty. Sort of like the kinds of town I imagine existed and were bustling along a rail line in days of old. But there’s more to it than that. Here’s just a few of the highlights from my recent visit in early April.

Shopping

I know. Rural NS for retail therapy? But I’m not kidding. While everyone in Halifax was getting the sads over the closing of Margolian’s in Truro, I was smug in the knowledge that one still existed for my shopping pleasure.

No longer called Margolian’s, Dayle’s Department Store on Victoria St. has got an old-timey department store feel (clothes on the main level, household goods on the second, bargains in the basement), but is full of great name brand stuff. I picked up a seersucker Liz Claiborne blazer for $9.88. It was deeply discounted and there was no taxes. Which is pretty much the norm.  (I also hit up the Joe Fresh – where I could get a nautical striped dress that had been sold out in Halifax. Win).

Culinary Delights: deep fried at Bambino’s

Let me introduce you to the Deep Fried Garlic Finger.

I know. Words don’t even begin to describe this tasty treat from Bambino’s on Prince Arthur St.. Do yourself a favour and order the 9” deep fried garlic finger with donair sauce (which they make themselves).

We’re not even sure it’s on the menu and Jen may have had a hand in inventing it back when she was in high school.  This just adds to its allure for me.

Culinary Delights: Sugar Woods

I could devote an entire bite-sized post to the sugar woods.

Thanks to Jen’s many school trips to the sugar woods, she was able to explain how gravity and a lot of tubing (different colours for different sugar camps) gets the sap from the trees into a sugar shack. Once it’s there, some very delightful people turn it into things we can nom on.

Located on Old Fenwick Road (a highway that runs between Amherst and Springhill), there are three sugar camps – Thompson’s, Donkin’s and Ripley’s. Park on the side of the road and hike on in. We went to Donkin’s, because it’s Jen’s favourite, but she says they’re all quite good.

The whole joint smells fantastic. It’s like a small house full of pancake smells. We had maple taffy snow type treats, a cup of maple taffy, and then purchased maple cream (blocks and smaller candy sized ones), maple syrup and maple BBQ sauce. I maybe spent $20. I got an excellent sugar high and my pancakes since the visit have been extra delightful.

Remember, this is a seasonal thing. You’ve got to go in the spring when maple is still doing its thing. Sugar woods pro-tip: go when there’s still snow on the ground to get some of the taffy on the snow. And don’t wear nice shoes to walk down the road (it gets muddy).

Wildlife

Despite being an established and quite civilized town, we did get a few reminders that nature wasn’t all that far away. Like this adorable little critter who lives near Laurette’s Furniture Repair and Refinishing (the one near the Home Hardware and train tracks. He does good work, so maybe bring your old table with you on your visit to Amherst).

Later in the evening, out in the Maccan area, we were greeting by Bert and Ralph Raccoon (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=FXsjzcC4Jdw)  and their friends. [Krista here: Check out the video. The Raccoons was a classic Canadian animated program about three raccoons fighting against an industrialist aardvark. It's very Canadian.]  

Maccan is about 20 minutes outside of town and is worth the drive just to see the pretty areas surrounding Amherst. The beaches nearby are also worth checking out for the red sand and warm water you get in the Northumberland Strait (like PEI, but without needing to pay for a bridge)

Culture

One of my favourite things about NS is it’s folk art. Which is why I found the signs at the sugar woods to be so delightful.

If they were selling that sign, I’d be first in line to buy.

Pop Culture

I don’t know what it is about Cumberland County and Ron Swanson, but I sense there’s something about this place that is Ron Swanson-y. Why? Because I discovered one of the staff of the Municipality of Cumberland (http://www.cumberlandcounty.ns.ca/municipal-staff-give-back.html) looks like him. And because of this mural on Church St in Amherst.

If the Ron Swanson of Cumberland could go pose with this mural, it would really make my day. Possibly my year.

Where to stay

I stay with Jen’s mom, which isn’t an option for you (too bad. She makes awesome seafood chowder).  But the recommendation from a local is the Amherst Shore Country Inn. It’s about 20 minutes outside of town, near the beach.

Outside of Town

If you’re driving to Amherst, may I suggest some of the culinary delights outside of town. Such as the Big Stop in Aulac (I consider myself to be a Big Stop Aficionado), just across the border in NB.

There you can get a giant slice of chocolate cake with boiled icing.

And about 10 minutes west of Truro is Masstown Market, a must stop for Jen every time we visit Amherst.

Pro-tip: try the seafood chowder.

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