Looking for love in all the right places

It’s been raining since we arrived a few days ago. We are on vacation, running from museum to restaurant to little shop just to avoid the constant drizzle or downright downpour. We are in the Netherlands. The theme of the trip is a simple one: tulips and warm spring sunshine. The tulips and warmth have come and gone it seems and we have had to change our theme.

Trips with a theme are something of a ‘thing’ for my husband. We thought a trip to the region of Holland in mid-May themed on tulips and spring was a surefire thing. Mother Nature didn’t agree. Beware of any themed trip that relies on Mother Nature.

Riding high on a jam-packed damp double-decker tour bus, with fogged-up windows beside us and overhead, we reminisce about a themed road trip to the lush Annapolis Valley in Nova Scotia a few years back.

Husband had announced the theme for that road trip would be romance. To me, getting on the road before 9 a.m. on a Sunday is in direct opposition of that theme.

His perpetually cheerful ritual of packing up hasn’t changed since then. ‘Up and at ’em!’ ‘Let’s get at ’er!’ ‘Can I load this suitcase into the car?’ It wouldn’t matter the length of the trip, an afternoon spin or a10-day mission, the ritual is the same.

That trip would be an easy drive from Halifax to Windsor, the start of the storied Annapolis Valley. We were driving a comfortable, smooth-shifting and well-appointed Saab 9-3 SportCombi. Remember those?

First stop, historic Acadian village Grand Pré. This is the land of Evangeline, the fictional character immortalized by American poet Henry Wadsworth Longfellow. The ultimate tragic romance, the expulsed Acadienne searched her entire life to find the young husband from whom she was separated on her wedding day when the English stormed the area. I guess that’s pretty romantic.

Domaine de Grand Pré, where beloved grapes are crushed into award-winning wines, is a quick hour’s drive from Halifax. So, in no time, we are transported into the winery’s tranquil and fragrant Pergola, basking in dappled sunlight where many couples have vowed eternal love to each other. Good place to launch a ‘romance challenge.’

We drove back roads, following the Cornwallis and Annapolis Rivers, which have done a great job of carving the verdant Valley that feeds Nova Scotia.

We came into Bear River the back way, gliding the svelte Saab down a smooth road that dropped into the valley sculpted by the wide river. Bear River, sometimes known as the Switzerland of Nova Scotia, is an artist-packed community with houses built on stilts and clinging to hillsides, meandering roads and a pleasant feeling of remoteness.

Our destination was Digby, once voted the most romantic town in Canada. There are not many places in the world where you can stroll along the ocean floor, but it seemed the thing to do for the countless doe-eyed couples. I remember feeling unsettled thinking that, in a few hours time, with the unstoppable tides rolling in, the strolling pairs’ paths would be submerged under 10 metres of water. Not so romantic.

The Digby Pines Resort is a grand hotel on a hillside overlooking the bay known as The Raquette. Its setting and location did a fine job of injecting romance into a driving trip.

Dinner took a slight turn. My overzealous swirling sloshed red wine on the pristine white tablecloth. Strike one for romance.

Trying to recapture the mood, I reached across the table to taste some of husband’s salad. On the way back, I knocked my wine glass. Luckily, my plate of salad caught the glass and most of its contents.

The Maitre D’ kindly assured me that they “… have ways of removing red wine from carpets, not to worry.” Strike two.

Morning came and we were checking out the strong tidal currents of the Bay of Fundy off Brier Island. Those currents cause an abundance of plankton, a delicacy which attracts herring and mackerel, providing food for six different species of whales, porpoises, seals and dolphins. Birds by the thousands stop here every year on an ancient migratory path. Talk about animal magnetism.

That evening we were treated to soft evening light in charming Annapolis Royal, one of the most historically significant towns in Nova Scotia with over 150 heritage buildings, including the oldest wooden house in Canada.

The glimpse of sunlight above the crowded, rain-spattered streets of Amsterdam snaps me out of my reverie.

The glimmer lights up the tallest wooden windmill in Holland, the cheerful Molen de Gooyer, across the street. It was built in 1609 and is a registered National Monument.

We put away the memories of that romance-themed trip. We may not have a fun sporty Saab to carry us off into the sunset or an ocean floor on which to stroll before the tides thunder in but it’s not the weather or the place that makes a trip romantic.

We decide that sauntering under a big umbrella through the maze of narrow alleyways and up and down quaint bridges over bustling canals, way below sea level, is pretty romantic too.

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