We moved to Nova Scotia from Ontario when I was five. When family or friends came to visit, it went without saying that we would all pile in our blue Datsun to take them out to Peggy’s Cove to show off the awesomeness of our new province. And without fail, every single one of them was floored by the beauty they witnessed. Sometimes we even went on our own, sometimes in different weather than our visitors would experience.
In fact, some of my favourite memories of Peggy’s Cove happened in storms. I remember sitting inside the Sou’Wester Restaurant with my mother on days most visitors stayed home and we would have the place pretty much to ourselves.
It would be pouring and blowing hard, and we sat inside the cozy restaurant eating homemade vegetable soup and warm gingerbread. I remember even at that young age being humbled by the intensity of the storm all around us and the fury of the waves crashing on the rocks, and realizing that no matter how much we humans think of ourselves, the power of the ocean always puts us in our place.
I remember seeing the ocean as a little kid and being completely in awe. How big was it? Where did it end? What was in it, covered up by the miles and miles of indistinguishable surface? I would spend hours on the rocky shores of Prospect digging through seaweed to find creatures buried underneath, or crouching at the side of tide-pools staring at the bugs and tiny shrimp busily going about their days. I was totally at home leaping from rock to rock, and learned to scope out the easiest route ahead of me.
A few weekends ago, my friend Kathy and I drove out to Peggy’s Cove. We lucked into a beautiful sunny warm day so we took the back road through Prospect, Bayside, and Dover and I reminisced about school friends as we passed their childhood homes.
When we pulled into Peggy’s Cove, we were surprised that although it was still before June, the parking lot was full of cars and even a busload of tourists. We decided to head in to the Sou’Wester Restaurant to eat first and our timing was great; the bus was just gathering its happily tired cruise ship tourists to head back to the city. We got a window table right away and had a beautiful view of the water, rocks and the postcard-perfect lighthouse. One of the best aspects of the Sou’Wester is that every table has a view, and whether you’re looking at the picturesque village, the massive granite rocks or the cove, you just can’t help but stare.
Our lunch was fun and quintessentially Nova Scotian, and our server was super friendly, just the right person to greet tourists and visitors from around the world. In fact, we both noticed that all the servers were incredibly friendly and seemed like great ambassadors for our little province with big hospitality.
We had a hard time narrowing down our choices for lunch, and ended up ordering more than we needed. I started with the lobster crab potato cakes with red pepper mayo, while Kathy had the calamari. My lobster cakes were HUGE with big chunks of lobster meat, and served with a side salad, could easily have done as a light lunch on its own.
For our main courses, I opted for a classic lobster roll with sweet potato fries and Kathy decided to go for a large bowl of chowder. I’m not sure I could have fit another piece of lobster in that bun, and each piece was sweet and succulent. Kathy’s chowder was a good down-home bowl full of haddock and tender potato.
We really should have stopped there but our server convinced us to look at the dessert menu, resulting in warm blueberry grunt and gingerbread with vanilla ice cream arriving at our table. Both were delicious comfort foods, and reminded us of days gone by when there was time in the day to make homemade desserts.
In fact, I was inspired enough to bring blueberry grunt back to my repertoire, even on a weeknight. I clearly remember my mother making this very Nova Scotian treat when I was a child and wondering, who came up with this awful name?? Supposedly the “grunt “refers to the sound the dumplings make while they simmer in the blueberries, but I think it has more to do with the sound normally heard as people dig in to this slightly sweet, slightly tart bowl of fluffy goodness. Add a cup of tea and you’ve got a meal even a Cape Breton ma would be proud of.
We couldn’t visit Peggy’s Cove without climbing the rocks, so after lunch we headed off across the granite. The tidepools called out to me again but Kathy kept me moving towards the lighthouse. It made us smile watching the tourists scrambling around and we laughed overhearing the three little girls who were utterly convinced they had seen whales just offshore. And what was going through the mind of the young lady sitting on a rock completely absorbed in writing in her journal?
A visit to Peggy’s Cove and the Sou’Wester Restaurant is like visiting your grandmother’s house, bringing you right back to a time and place so clearly you can smell it. All of us have special places that jog those memories, and while we don’t always take the time to revisit them, the moments of reflection are definitely worth the effort.