A Clamming Good Time Along Nova Scotia’s Acadian Shore

“Mom! Mom! I’ve found my own!!  I dug it all by myself!!” Madeleine yelled as she excitedly hopped over to me with a clam bigger than her hand – a quahog to be exact. 

After our last-minute escape to Baie Sainte-Marie, Nova Scotia in June I knew we were going to be back.  We’ve been on the hunt for a clam digging tour for a couple of years but were leaving a few short days before the season for clam digging was set to commence along the Acadian Shore.  Nous sommes revenus!

Last time we were in the area we stayed at the gorgeous Baie Saint-Marie Cottages. This time we were booked into the Au Havre du Capitaine in Meteghan.  Last minute reservations can lead to some errrr “interesting” accommodations.  This place was interesting in all the right ways.  The room was large and spotless.  The beds were comfortable and the breakfast certainly exceeded my expectations.  My mother came along with us, and her room even had a Murphy Bed which was like magic for the kids.

A Kite Nite event was happening at Mavillette Beach that evening.  This beach is stunning.  Picture 1.5 km of soft, white sand with warm, shallow waters.  Perfect for kids.  We lined up to borrow a kite – for FREE!  First up we had a parrot and an eagle kite.  It turns out that kite flying is a skill.  Who knew?  A specific skill that I don’t possess.  Thankfully, there were a couple of people from the rec department who knew what they were doing and were able to get the kites high in the sky.  Another one of the kites was an enormous whale.  It was the as big as a car.  The kids even got a turn to hang on to it.  It was so large that when Maddie was hanging on she nearly Mary Poppin’d herself right off of the beach.  Just when I thought this beach couldn’t get more beautiful, the sun started to set.  We couldn’t drag ourselves away until the last bit of colour had disappeared.

The next morning, we drove out to Belliveau Cove to meet our guide, the clam digging king – Jean Blinn.  The tide was low so we struck out onto the sandy flats with our tools to explore.  The tools consisted of a metal rake head, the type used for gravel, a shovel head and a sizing ring.  The soft shell clams need to be a minimum of 44 mm.  We examined the sand until we saw some holes about one half of an inch in diameter.  We pushed down on the sand beside the holes and since bubbles popped up through the hole it meant it there was a clam below and it was time to get dirty.  We pushed the rake straight down and pried up the sand.  Jackpot!  We pulled up two clams!  We meandered along the sand in search of bubbles for an hour pulling up clam after clam. Sometimes the bubbles surprised us and lead to a blood worm instead.  The boys loved the blood worms.  They also found a crab to check out and loads of scallop shells to keep, barnacles and all.  We walked out a little further to try our luck with the quahog (kō-ˌhȯg).  Quahogs are larger clams used to cook into recipes, not steamed like the soft shells.  It was a large quahog that Miss Maddie was so excited to find.  The joy from digging up that one clam all by herself lasted her all day long.  Before we knew it we had our pail full. Jean Blinn was the perfect guide.  He was a wealth of knowledge not only about clams but the area in general.  I love a good storyteller and Jean was the kind of storyteller that you can listen to all day long.  I hope someone has his stories written down somewhere.  We are certainly heading back to Belliveau Cove to try our hand at it again.  I can see how it can become addictive – and competitive.  Just one more!  It’s worth the trip for this experience alone.

We slipped into Chez Ami for supper.  We ordered the lobster roll.  Correction: Two very full lobster rolls and fries FOR $11.50!  We’d seen fried pepperoni on different menus in the area and were curious.  It’s honest-to-goodness chunks of pepperoni, deep fried with honey mustard dipping sauce.  Yum! 

It hadn’t slipped my mind that we were near the birthplace of Frenchy’s.  If you aren’t sure what Frenchy’s is, let me help you out.  Simply put, it’s a chain of thrift stores based in Nova Scotia.  That is far too simple though.  It’s an institution!  I love a good treasure hunt and Frenchy’s is my favourite “x” on the treasure map.  People take Frenchy’s road trips or the “Frenchy’s Circuit” as I call it.  This intriguing Saltscapes article details their history and some heartwarming Frenchy’s tales.  We’d heard through the grapevine that one of the local Frenchy’s had received a shipment from Wayfair.  We wasted no time getting there!  I immediately spotted a gorgeous, brand spankin’ new, white leather chair.  I was deep into a Frenchy’s trance, already picturing the chair in my living room when I remembered that I drive a Toyota Camry.  Bubble busted.  One person I’d met said they new Frenchy himself and that we could possibly go and meet him! However, I was forced to decline because you know what they say about meeting your heroes. Ha!

With that our clam digging, kite flying, lobster eating and Frenchy finding adventure was over.  We’re hoping to be able to sneak back up the Acadian shore for one last summer escape before heading back to Ontario and realities of sports, school and schedules. 

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