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Digby Pines
Digby Pines:
Where Eco-Friendly Rises To
The Level of High Tides

Story by Fyllis Hockman
Photographs by Victor Block

ure, we are all now accustomed to hotel rooms admonishing us to leave the towels on the rack so they can be reused. And occasionally, we come across two waste baskets in the room, one for recycling paper. And we feel so good about ourselves when we do so.

We rarely encounter the European standard of motion-controlled hallway lighting. Or placing the room key into a slot that turns on the lights and AC when we enter, and turns them off when we leave. Too many Americans, it seems, prefer to have their rooms already chilled and lit when they return.

So the Green Suite at Digby Pines in Nova Scotia, Canada is an anomaly. Okay, so not really a U.S. phenomenon but close enough at least so that we can lay claim a little just by leaning over the border. And how often is a room on the itinerary of a property inspection simply because of its environmental attributes? I was virtually jumping up and down on the bamboo-infused bed linens with excitement at my newly discovered eco-friendly accommodations!

headboard made from a re-cycled door at the Green Suite, Digby Pines, Nova Scotia

Bamboo, it seems, is a natural fabric that is very hyper-allergenic so the fibers are used in the towels and sheets; bamboo shutters adorn the windows. The headboard is made from a re-cycled door. The cooling and heating system is more energy efficient than normal AC/heating methods. And a recycling trash bin is divided into four units – one each for paper, plastic, compost and garbage.

recycling trash bin is divided into four units

Now admittedly, I didn't know whether the saran-type wrap protecting the plastic cups in the bathroom should be put into garbage, paper or… maybe even plastic. But I loved having the choice and only regretted not ordering in pizza so I could at least have SOMETHING to compost. Much of the furniture was refinished or made with no carbon footprints and natural decorations of stone and driftwood and local artwork added pizazz to the room. The dual-flush toilet was just a bonus.

I cringed when I saw the 1200 watt hair dryer knowing how long it takes my 1875 watt version at home to dry my hair. I'm still at a loss to understand how the tiny implement managed to dry my hair in record time. There were a lot of other less-obvious and more scientific nods to environmental awareness and sustainability that cumulatively I knew made a huge difference. I was eco-humbled.

eco-decoration at Digby Pines

And fortunately, the eco-friendly efforts extended beyond the Green Suite. Low-level electricity is used throughout the hotel with an emphasis on natural light; the kitchen recycles to such a degree that nothing, I was told, even goes to a landfill; the chef grows his own herbs, and there's a green roof atop the spa that in addition to providing a home to a vast number of plants also impacts building sound and heat insulation, improves air quality, retains storm water as well as provides other environmental benefits. I wanted to jump up and down on the roof, as well!

spa with green roof

The spa, warm and quiet under its green roof, uses Aveda all-natural products which supposedly are the greenest on the market (Aveda apparently uses wind power to manufacture their products). The spa also has cork flooring, which not only helps with noise reduction, but is kind to the feet of masseuses and hairstylists standing for long periods of time. Happy feet those!

In cabins with fireplaces, compressed sawdust replaces wood because it has a zero percent carbon footprint. Natural gas has, of course, replaced oil, and there is even a "Green Team" comprised of staff members assigned to come up with new ways to save energy. The composting bin in the Green Suite was one of their ideas.

Digby Pines may not yet have equalled European standards but they're trying.

Of course, even the most eco-friendly of rooms is not enough reason to stay in one, so I ventured out to explore the immediate environs of Digby and Annapolis Royal.

Digby is known for two things not usually found on your standard travel itinerary. The Bay of Fundy has the highest tides in the world, at times approximating a 52-foot drop between high and low tides, the latter resembling literal mud flats at your feet. In Digby, the difference measures a mere 20-20 feet of water, but that's impressive enough! The Changing Tide Diner, Rising Tide Café, Tidal Boatyards and other similarly named businesses provide constant reminders of the cosmic peculiarities of the town. The other Digby phenomenon is that it is the scallop capital of the world. But more on that later.

mud flat at low tide, Digby Pines

The town is a combination of a working fishing village combined with quiet tourist getaway – even in the middle of the summer season, which resident businesses probably bemoan – where visitors and locals easily mingle. The Nothing Fancy Furniture Store sets an appropriate tone for the town.

The Evangeline Trail from Digby to Annapolis Royal, its nearby northern neighbor, is still reminiscent of the forest primeval immortalized in Longfellow's poem by the same name. The "murmuring pines and the hemlocks" continue to line the road. Greenery so intense as to require a richer, deeper color to describe it. The blue waters peeking through from the Bay of Fundy provide a welcome diversion.

Annapolis Royal, so steeped in Mi'kmaw (one of the First Nation people who initially inhabited Canada), English and French history, that even their gardens are called historic, with floral arrangements dating back to the 16th century. The official name? Historic Gardens, of course, where horticultural practices of the Mi'kmaw are on display. So too are those of the early French settlers who found a way in the mid-17th century to harness those aforementioned tides through the use of dykes in order to make the land arable. The gardens dazzle visitors with diversity of design, variety of blooms and explosions of color that disperse splendor like multi-hued shrapnel.

flowering plants at the Historic Gardens

Soft mauves spar with demanding purples, subtle yellows complement arrogant fuschias, perky pinks play against brilliant reds. Some flowers beg to be noticed while others preen and primp without guile, knowing they effortlessly capture your attention. I had to be dragged from display to display, unable to voluntarily extricate myself from all that beauty. But there it was again and again, at every turn, down every path.

Across the street lies Fort Anne, a resplendent attraction in its own right, which saw multiple battles between the English and the French as control of the city changed hands between the two 7 times over 400 years. As a travel writer I have been the unhappy recipient of many a fort tour over many a year. I don't particularly like forts. But Fort Anne made me reassess the decades-long aversion. Covering 37 acres of land that was not only battled over by the French and English but also occupied at times by the Mi'kmaw, the Scots and Acadians over a period of hundreds of years, every exhibit, sign, plaque, display kept me engrossed in the history and enmeshed in the past.

A visit to the Tidal Power Station brought me back to the eco-friendly present. Created in 1984, it is the first and only tidal plant in North America to generate electricity by harnessing the powerful waters of the Bay of Fundy. Think they learned anything from the Acadians who long ago tamed the tides for agricultural purposes? It felt like nature coming full-circle.

The town places a heavy emphasis on preserving heritage houses, and community opposition prevents the development of any fast food restaurants. No McDonalds will reign over Annapolis Royal.

Remember those scallops? Well, they're everywhere – on pasta and pizza, in chowders and salads, in rolls and in wraps. On one dinner menu at Digby Pines, they were served breaded, grilled, bacon wrapped, pan seared and as a salad add-on. I didn't see any scallop ice cream but it's probably because I didn't look hard enough. Even the local Shell gas station got into the act by renaming itself "The Scallop Shell"… By this time, my eyes were definitely beginning to roll. And the last thing I wanted to eat was a scallop!

Digby scallops sign

Though there are many other areas of interest around, I chose, like the tides and the scallops, to remain local – and happily returned to my bamboo-laden, hyper-allergenic, compost-making, energy saving room. It's sure going to be hard to stay at a regular Holiday Inn the next time I travel: Where am I going to put my left-over pizza? For more information, visit www.digbypines.ca.

Related Articles:
Nova Scotia in Four Days; 3 Things We Didn't Know About Nova Scotia; Traveling the Canadian Rockies in Style; Therapeutic Glimpses of Canada; 3 Things We Didn't Know About Ottawa

(Posted 11-3-2015)



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Let Fyllis know what you think about her traveling adventure.

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Feedback for Gullah Culture

I think a lot of the plantation enslaved Africans began with a variety of African languages and little contact with English speakers. Even today some of the speech patterns of modern descents of the enslaved hold onto this language or some of the patterns even after being away from the area for generations. That's what we heard in N Carolina.

-- Barbara, Mill Creek, WA

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Thank you for your extensive and accurate story of a remarkable, resilient culture!

-- Marlene O'Bryant-Seabrook, Ph.D. – Charleston, SC

And Marlene – thank you so very much for your comment. Nothing makes a writer feel better than hearing something like that!!!

Fyllis

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Nice story thanks, however there are also Gullah speak in southern Belize and Honduras coast to Trujillo, been all over both thanks.

-- Michael Johnson – Myrtle Beach, SC

Hi Michael,

Thank you so much for your comment. However, I think what you're referring to in the Belize/Honduras region is more accurately characterized as the Garifuna culture and language, which somewhat parallels the Gullah. If you'd like more information about that, please read my November 2011 story in travelingboy.com about the Garifuna.

Fyllis

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Toooooooo cooooooool Now I want to go to Florida!!!!

-- Kathy Marianelli – Columbia, Maryland

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Feedback for Ha Long Bay in Vietnam

I'm a Vietnamese and I can't help but went through all of your pictures. They are beautiful, both the couples and the natural sceneries. Vietnam is such a beautiful place, I love it. I have been to Ha Long Bay once, in fact, I have been too all places that you took pictures of. I love your pictures and certainly will comeback for more. Thank you for these wonderful images of Vietnam and its people.

-- Quyen

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Feedback for Family Magic in Orlando

Great article!!! Makes me want to go back and experience it ALL all over again.

-- Ariane – Chicago

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Feedback for Mohonk

I love your signature and the writing (in "Mohonk: Sumptuous Old-World Flavor Tastefully Wrapped in Casual Elegance")... but the place is a bit expensive... more like the Romney types! Is Vic a "photographer" or does he just take pretty good pictures?

-- John Strauss – Campton Hills, IL

Hi John,

Thanks so much for your kind comments. Much appreciated! Yes, I do know Mohonk is expensive -- as is true for so many of the fine resorts -- but it is a historical structure that has been in operation for so many years and offers so many activity options for the whole family without nickel and diming the guest, that for those who can afford it, it actually is somewhat of a bargain.

And no, Vic is not a "real" photographer as much as he is a travel writer in his own right, but sometimes, as he says, he does get lucky.

Again, thanks for your feedback.

Fyllis

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Feedback for the Road to Hana

We enjoyed seeing the Road to Hana from a helicopter! After you get to Hana you've still got to make the return journey. Thanks but no thanks!

-- Betsy Tuel – Rosendale, NY

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Feedback for Dominican Republic

Thank you, Fyllis, for this engaging tour. For years I thought the Dominican Republic was all-tourists, all-the-time. You just made me want to go there! (those waterfall adventures look like great fun)

-- Richard F. – Saugerties

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Feedback for Traveling the Canadian Rockies

We (our family) also took The Rocky Mountaineer (gold leaf) in early June 2011. Great memories! Great food! Great service! I am sorry to hear about this labor dispute, as clearly, the attendants were a HUGE part of the experience. They felt like friends by the end of the trip. Good luck to all employees!

-- Susie – Hana

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Hi Fyllis,

I am one of the locked out onboard attendants. I enjoyed reading your lovely writing based on the trip you took with the level of service that was delivered until June 22, 2011. It is misleading to share this review at this time. Many current guests are dismayed when they experience the low level of service which does not live up to what this blog post boasts. The company is not even responding to the complaints of their guests who have paid top dollar, and are now consistently ignored when they write to ask for a refund. If you do not believe me, go to Trip Advisor and read the recent reviews. There are a few good ones, and they are almost all from pre-lock out dates. Many of those are from complimentary trips and the company seems to be pressuring them to post positive reviews. If you are unaware of what is happening, please consider visiting a site which has many news stories and letters of support from guests and local politicians.

--- City: onboard – Vancouver

Can I ask when this article was written? One of the managers onboard would have been travelling on it for more than 6 years by now...last I heard Shauna was in Edmonton.

--- tnoakes – Edmonton, Alberta

Dear Whomever --

I am so very sorry to hear about the lockout and the bad feelings that have been engendered between management and employees. It was not a situation I knew anything about and realize the timing of my article indeed was unfortunate.

What I wrote about was based totally on my personal experience and only reflects my trip at that time. Please accept my apologies for the difficulties current and former employees are now experiencing and the apparent disparate levels of service experienced by me and more recent guests. It was not something I had any knowledge of.

Fyllis, TravelingBoy



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