Last July, I celebrated my 48th birthday (yes, I know that’s difficult to believe…ha!). My fiancé, Jim, took us all out to the Mediterranean Restaurant for my birthday dinner, and presented me with a handmade card detailing my birthday present – a romantic trip for two to Grand Manan that we would take in the fall. With three teens and a tween, couple time is limited and valuable for us!
Sometime in August, a couple from Lubec, Maine (Daphne and Gerald), was in our bookstore, and mentioned that they were in Grand Manan quite often. I explained that we were going there, and they gave me the names of a couple of places they liked to stay on the island. One was the Inn at Whale Cove Cottages. Jim made the reservation almost immediately.
We set out for our trip early on Friday morning, leaving our home about 7 a.m. Knowing there were cooking facilities available at our destination, we brought our cooler filled with food, enough for two nights away. The weather was grey and windy. Our trip to the ferry at Black’s Harbour was uneventful – we stopped for gas, and picked up some apple fritters nearly as big as my head at Robin’s Donuts. We got in line for the ferry…this was only my second time on the ocean in my life…I was a bit nervous!
Finally, the ferry arrived, and we drove onboard. We went upstairs, found window seats in the cafeteria, and settled down with tea and the Telegraph-Journal. The water was choppy that day, and we soon found ourselves getting headaches from staring into the waves, trying to catch sight of whales or dolphins. Jim felt a bit queasy, but I just felt unsteady, preferring to stay seated as we made the hour-and-a-half crossing.
We arrived at 11:30 a.m., and began looking for a suitable place to stop for lunch. We discovered Galloway’s Family Restaurant, quite close to the ferry terminal. Jim had the taco salad, and I ordered a chicken burger platter. Both dishes were excellent, reasonably-priced, and very filling! The fries were crispy on the outside, and soft on the inside…yummy! My coleslaw had apples in it, and was dusted with an herb that I couldn’t identify…but it tasted good, and disappeared quickly!
After lunch, we started exploring the island. We were fortunate to stumble on Zelda’s Bookroom, a small store I had heard about from friends where you leave the money for the books you buy on the kitchen table. We met the owner, Zelda Foote, who was a friendly lady in her 70′s, and her granddaughter. We bought four books, including “The Pilot’s Wife,” which Zelda recommended, and invited her to visit our store when she was in the Saint John the next time. Then we were off to find our accommodations.
We found a sign pointing the direction to Inn at Whale Cove Cottages at the end of Whistle Road. The Inn was about a mile up the road. A forested gravel lane led us down the hill to a group of unpretentious old buildings sided with cedar shakes. We headed for the door marked “Office” in the main house. A note under a paperweight signed “L.” advised that someone would be “Back at 3:30.” Since it was just past two, we wandered around the corner of the building toward the dining room, hoping to find someone there. The lounge leading into the dining room was an antique living room, complete with fireplace, cozy furniture, and a huge bookcase filled with old books, bestsellers of the late 1800′s and early 1900′s. I was HOME! In the dining room, we found tables neatly set for dinner, but no one in sight. We decided to do a little more reconnaissance of the island while we waited, and aimed the van back towards North Head.
For those who don’t know about Grand Manan, here’s a little background: Located in the Bay of Fundy between southwestern New Brunswick and Lubec, Maine, it’s an island of some 2500 people who live mainly on the eastern coast (the west coast is known for its 300-foot cliffs and high winds). There is no mall, no movie theatre, and not a sign of Tim Hortons anywhere. The only signs of the mainland are the Irving (gas bar)/Save-Easy (grocery store)/Greco Pizza located in one building, and the NB Liquor outlet down the road. The remainder of the businesses on the island are privately owned and operated. The local economy revolves mainly around the sea – fishing, dulse (dried seaweed that some people find tasty), and tourism. There is a community centre (which had a sign outside advertising a dance with a Saint John area band), a library/school, and Christian churches of nearly every denomination. One of my friends who comes from the island told me that the favoured evening activity for young people is driving, sometimes at high speeds – she advised that we stay in after dark.
As we drove around, I saw a sign for a used clothing store. We looked around for a while, but did not buy anything. The next stop was Save-Easy, where we got a tray of a dozen day-old Danish (half-price), some fresh mushrooms, some chips, and a carton of orange juice. After a stop for “necessities” (beer for Jim) at the liquor store, we went back to Whale Cove to find our host.
We got back to Whale Cove about 3:20, and Jim went into the office, hoping that someone would be there. No luck…he returned to the van shaking his head. We turned on the radio, and waited in the parking lot…3:30 came and went, and still no cars joined us. Finally I said, “Maybe they were just in another part of the house, and are back in the office by now.” Jim tried again. Five minutes later, he emerged smiling and victorious. “Our room’s up there,” he said, pointing to the hill behind the van. Back up the laneway we went, and found the driveway for our building. The sign on the front of the house read “Coveview.” We parked at the side of the house, and went around the back as per the instructions. The door to “John’s Flat” was unlocked, and we entered our island paradise…
The entryway into the living room was keyhole-shaped, with the pattern repeated in the ceiling – the architecture of the house was amazing…not an edge anywhere, everything was rounded off! The living room consisted of a sofabed, coffee table and two end tables, two antique chairs, a wooden table along the wall with chairs at each end and a bench at the side, a small TV with basic cable, a portable CD player (next time I will remember my music!), an old radio, two shelves of quality books (mix of new/old), magazines, and some tourist literature. The room was decorated perfectly: calm colours accented with tasteful lamps, a beautiful rug in the seating area, antique blue and white plates mounted on the wall, and good local art. Three large windows and two smaller ones allowed light to flow into the room.
Next was the kitchen: modern appliances (stove, fridge, microwave), and a stacking washer/dryer pair tucked into a closet. There was a toaster, blender, and even a cappucino/espresso machine (which I didn’t use because we’re not coffee drinkers – and I was a little afraid!). Open-concept wooden shelves were equipped with plates, bowls, mugs, glasses (drinking and wine), and serving bowls. The lower cupboards were stocked with various pots and pans, and the drawers held silverware, cooking utensils (even a rolling pin), dish cloths and towels, aluminum foil, etc. The shelf near the stove had some kitchen staples: olive oil, sugar cubes, some spices, and even a couple of cookbooks. A large clock was strategically placed over the stove – handy for those of us who don’t wear a watch!
The bathroom was medium-sized and spotless. The same rounded lines of the rest of the house were repeated there. The low sink/vanity had a stool where one could sit while doing one’s makeup, and a handy shelf underneath which held three rolls of toilet paper. This was much appreciated, as I can’t count the number of places I’ve stayed where there was only one extra roll, and you end up worrying about running out before you leave (there were also ample supplies of tissues and paper towels provided – thank you!). There was a sit-down shower in the bathroom, and a temperature control that allowed you to control the heated floor tiles! There were lots of fluffy towels/washcloths on the rack, and extra hooks to hang the wet ones.
On to the best room – the bedroom! We saw a king-sized bed with nature-toned linens, covered with lots of big pillows and a fluffy duvet. In the corner in front of three large windows was a jacuzzi big enough for two, that one had to go up steps to get into. A basket stood nearby with more soft towels, and there was a Ziploc bag with bath salts provided. An antique dresser, two bedside tables (one shelf held an oral history someone had compiled about Whale Cove Cottages – delightful reading), old lamps on doilies, more art and more books also occupied the room. On the wall was a portrait of the room’s namesake, John Buckley (the owner’s brother), inked in 1965 when he was a young boy.
Our time at Whale Cove went very quickly – we enjoyed having nothing pressing to do! We ate good meals (salmon/scallops the first night and steak/mushrooms the second), and read in the sun on our deck on Saturday (I even went to a yard sale that morning – didn’t find anything, but had a great walk!). We picked our way down the path to the beach (suggested that this walk be taken in the daytime – path has lots of roots to trip one up), and saw small dorys tied up. We drove to the ferry terminal on Saturday to pick up our ticket for the next day – thanks to Holly for the tip!
Our last day, Sunday, arrived before we were ready…we packed up the van, and went to the office to check out. We thanked our host, Laura Buckley, who promised to visit the bookstore next time she was in Saint John. We headed for the boat, making a small detour at the Swallow Tail Light Station to take pictures. There were lots more people making the crossing back to the mainland that day – we were glad we got there early. We stopped at a small gift shop near the terminal, and Jim bought me some silver shell earrings as a momento of our trip.
When it was 11:15, we were back in the van in the ferry lineup again. The crossing was calmer this time, but I still did not have my “sea legs” and spent most of the ride looking out the window in the lounge. Jim went out on the deck and took farewell pictures of our cottage as we headed out to sea…
We hope to go back to Grand Manan in 2011…can’t wait!