I have three kids. Nice kids. But rambunctious. Prone to early mornings and bedtime bucking.
So when my mom mentioned an adult mother-daughter escape, I was already packing my bag.
What sealed the deal was the destination—a large, luxurious manor house called the DesBarres Manor Inn in Guysborough, NS, a seaside village quiet enough to hear the wind blow and waves break.
Located halfway between Halifax and Sydney, Guysborough is 25 minutes off the Trans Canada Highway.
It’s a little off-the-beaten tourist track. And that’s plenty fine with me. Its timeless beauty is the real deal.
Sea breeze drifts in off Chedabucto Bay and historic 19th century homes line the main street sit snugly on a sheltered harbour.
From the Halifax International Airport, head north on the Trans Canada Highway. Take Exit 37 approximately 20 minutes past Antigonish at Monastery. Turn south onto Hwy 16 and travel 25 minutes to Guysborough.
Alternatively, from Halifax, take the four hour drive following the scenic Marine Drive.
From Sydney, head towards Port Hawkesbury, crossing the Canso Causeway continuing on the Trans Canada to Exit 37 at Monastery and on to Guysborough.
The inn has been making waves itself as a gourmet getaway on Nova Scotia’s eastern shore, earning Wine Spectator Awards of Excellence, Nova Scotia Cuisine of the Year and Canadian Wine Annual’s Where to Eat and Stay in Atlantic Canada.
A rock-lined gravel drive leads into the elegant 10-room inn, a stately charmer on six acres of land just a street up from the waterfront on leaf-lined Church Street.
Built in 1837 as the home of Supreme Justice W.F. DesBarres, the intricately restored inn retains a period feel from the mile-high wood baseboards to the intricate craftsmanship of the crown moulding.
A hearth fireplace warms the dining room and rare maps and restored antiques are liberally sprinkled throughout.
The distinctive baritone of folk legend Stan Rogers plays as we push open the main doors.
The enticing smells of tonight’s dinner wafts down the hall as we plunk our bags down and smile at each other. I can feel the peace enter my soul.
In a go-go world, my mom and I rarely have one-on-one time to sit, laugh, and be pampered. We wander the common rooms, checking out board games, the deck, the bar, and decide to stay put.
Don’t get me wrong. There’s plenty to do here, between hiking, golfing and sea excursions. And a five-minute stroll leads down to the waterfront to two of the inn’s sister properties—the Skipping Stone Crafts and Gallery, where one can poke around the quality Nova Scotia gifts in the extensive 3,000 square foot space, located just a courtyard amble away from the Rare Bird Pub, a landmark in the huge historic former Jost Building.
Or, as many fellow guests are doing, we could order a gourmet picnic from the manor kitchen and head off exploring the countryside.
But not us. Not this weekend.
Ensconced in plush arm chairs, we flip though magazines, chat idly, sip afternoon coffee.
I even nap before supper.
Best Beds Ever
Our room is on the third floor, number 10, “Tory,” reads the nameplate after a local family with ties to the DesBarres’.
It’s a spacious stunner with two double beds, three windows, an antique desk, Victorian armchairs and an oak Victorian dresser.
Mom coos over the monogrammed waffle weave robes hanging on the bathroom door, the 600-thread-count sheets and the luxurious duvets with Matelasse covers.
I fall for what’s underneath: what shall forever be known as the “best beds ever,” snuggling under those luxurious linens (which, by the way, can be purchased at the Skipping Stone) to really unwind.
“You needed that sleep. You were exhausted,” my mom later says.
“Thanks Dr. Phil,” I joke.
Taste of Nova Scotia
When we make our way down for our 6:30 p.m. dinner reservation, we’re in luck.
Chef Janet Reddy is offering a Nova Scotia wine paired dinner that tonight starts with creamy seafood chowder with a dill dumpling paired with a full-bodied 2006 Jost Cote St. George, a semi-dry Nova Scotia wine with aromas of citrus, floral and melon that Mom pegs as her favorite.
We linger at our table by the fire, catching up as Chrissy, our waitress, arrives next with pecan-crusted North Atlantic salmon finished with a maple soy reduction served with rice pilaf and seared garden cherry tomatoes and broccoli.
It’s paired with Jost’s versatile Avondale Riesling Gold (my pick for the night). We finish with homemade apple crisp with Chantilly cream paired with a ruddy Nova Scotia port.
A group of friendly dinner guests kindly inform us of the Mulgrave Road Company theatrical production happening that evening in the nearby Chedabucto Place performance hall.
But tonight we’re learning the art of doing nothing—and we’re doing quite well.
When we finally leave the doors of the DesBarres Manor, I can’t stop smiling at how restored I feel.